Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Little Flower; wise beyond years, patron Saint of the missions

St. Therese of Lisieux

Image of St. Therese of Lisieux


Feastday: October 1
Patron of the Missions
Birth: 1873
Death: 1897

Generations of Catholics have admired this young saint, called her the "Little Flower", and found in her short life more inspiration for their own lives than in volumes by theologians.
Yet Therese died when she was 24, after having lived as cloistered Carmelite for less than ten years. She never went on missions, never founded a religious order, never performed great works. The only book of hers, published after her death, was an brief edited version of her journal called "Story of a Soul." (Collections of her letters and restored versions of her journals have been published recently.) But within 28 years of her death, the public demand was so great that she was canonized.
Over the years, some modern Catholics have turned away from her because they associate her with over- sentimentalized piety and yet the message she has for us is still as compelling and simple as it was almost a century ago.
Therese was born in France in 1873, the pampered daughter of a mother who had wanted to be a saint and a father who had wanted to be monk. The two had gotten married but determined they would be celibate until a priest told them that was not how God wanted a marriage to work! They must have followed his advice very well because they had nine children. The five children who lived were all daughters who were close all their lives.
Tragedy and loss came quickly to Therese when her mother died of breast cancer when she was four and a half years old. Her sixteen year old sister Pauline became her second mother -- which made the second loss even worse when Pauline entered the Carmelite convent five years later. A few months later, Therese became so ill with a fever that people thought she was dying.
The worst part of it for Therese was all the people sitting around her bed staring at her like, she said, "a string of onions." When Therese saw her sisters praying to statue of Mary in her room, Therese also prayed. She saw Mary smile at her and suddenly she was cured. She tried to keep the grace of the cure secret but people found out and badgered her with questions about what Mary was wearing, what she looked like. When she refused to give in to their curiosity, they passed the story that she had made the whole thing up.
Without realizing it, by the time she was eleven years old she had developed the habit of mental prayer. She would find a place between her bed and the wall and in that solitude think about God, life, eternity.
When her other sisters, Marie and Leonie, left to join religious orders (the Carmelites and Poor Clares, respectively), Therese was left alone with her last sister Celine and her father. Therese tells us that she wanted to be good but that she had an odd way of going about. This spoiled little Queen of her father's wouldn't do housework. She thought if she made the beds she was doing a great favor!
Every time Therese even imagined that someone was criticizing her or didn't appreciate her, she burst into tears. Then she would cry because she had cried! Any inner wall she built to contain her wild emotions crumpled immediately before the tiniest comment.
Therese wanted to enter the Carmelite convent to join Pauline and Marie but how could she convince others that she could handle the rigors of Carmelite life, if she couldn't handle her own emotional outbursts? She had prayed that Jesus would help her but there was no sign of an answer.
On Christmas day in 1886, the fourteen-year-old hurried home from church. In France, young children left their shoes by the hearth at Christmas, and then parents would fill them with gifts. By fourteen, most children outgrew this custom. But her sister Celine didn't want Therese to grow up. So they continued to leave presents in "baby" Therese's shoes.
As she and Celine climbed the stairs to take off their hats, their father's voice rose up from the parlor below. Standing over the shoes, he sighed, "Thank goodness that's the last time we shall have this kind of thing!"
Therese froze, and her sister looked at her helplessly. Celine knew that in a few minutes Therese would be in tears over what her father had said.
But the tantrum never came. Something incredible had happened to Therese. Jesus had come into her heart and done what she could not do herself. He had made her more sensitive to her father's feelings than her own.
She swallowed her tears, walked slowly down the stairs, and exclaimed over the gifts in the shoes, as if she had never heard a word her father said. The following year she entered the convent. In her autobiography she referred to this Christmas as her "conversion."
Therese be known as the Little Flower but she had a will of steel. When the superior of the Carmelite convent refused to take Therese because she was so young, the formerly shy little girl went to the bishop. When the bishop also said no, she decided to go over his head, as well.
Her father and sister took her on a pilgrimage to Rome to try to get her mind off this crazy idea. Therese loved it. It was the one time when being little worked to her advantage! Because she was young and small she could run everywhere, touch relics and tombs without being yelled at. Finally they went for an audience with the Pope. They had been forbidden to speak to him but that didn't stop Therese. As soon as she got near him, she begged that he let her enter the Carmelite convent. She had to be carried out by two of the guards!
But the Vicar General who had seen her courage was impressed and soon Therese was admitted to the Carmelite convent that her sisters Pauline and Marie had already joined. Her romantic ideas of convent life and suffering soon met up with reality in a way she had never expected. Her father suffered a series of strokes that left him affected not only physically but mentally. When he began hallucinating and grabbed for a gun as if going into battle, he was taken to an asylum for the insane. Horrified, Therese learned of the humiliation of the father she adored and admired and of the gossip and pity of their so-called friends. As a cloistered nun she couldn't even visit her father.
This began a horrible time of suffering when she experienced such dryness in prayer that she stated "Jesus isn't doing much to keep the conversation going." She was so grief-stricken that she often fell asleep in prayer. She consoled herself by saying that mothers loved children when they lie asleep in their arms so that God must love her when she slept during prayer.
She knew as a Carmelite nun she would never be able to perform great deeds. " Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love." She took every chance to sacrifice, no matter how small it would seem. She smiled at the sisters she didn't like. She ate everything she was given without complaining -- so that she was often given the worst leftovers. One time she was accused of breaking a vase when she was not at fault. Instead of arguing she sank to her knees and begged forgiveness. These little sacrifices cost her more than bigger ones, for these went unrecognized by others. No one told her how wonderful she was for these little secret humiliations and good deeds.
When Pauline was elected prioress, she asked Therese for the ultimate sacrifice. Because of politics in the convent, many of the sisters feared that the family Martin would taken over the convent. Therefore Pauline asked Therese to remain a novice, in order to allay the fears of the others that the three sisters would push everyone else around. This meant she would never be a fully professed nun, that she would always have to ask permission for everything she did. This sacrifice was made a little sweeter when Celine entered the convent after her father's death. Four of the sisters were now together again.
Therese continued to worry about how she could achieve holiness in the life she led. She didn't want to just be good, she wanted to be a saint. She thought there must be a way for people living hidden, little lives like hers. " I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by. Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new.
" We live in an age of inventions. We need no longer climb laboriously up flights of stairs; in well-to-do houses there are lifts. And I was determined to find a lift to carry me to Jesus, for I was far too small to climb the steep stairs of perfection. So I sought in holy Scripture some idea of what this life I wanted would be, and I read these words: "Whosoever is a little one, come to me." It is your arms, Jesus, that are the lift to carry me to heaven. And so there is no need for me to grow up: I must stay little and become less and less."
She worried about her vocation: " I feel in me the vocation of the Priest. I have the vocation of the Apostle. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth and this dream has grown with me. Considering the mystical body of the Church, I desired to see myself in them all. Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love!"
When an antagonist was elected prioress, new political suspicions and plottings sprang up. The concern over the Martin sisters perhaps was not exaggerated. In this small convent they now made up one-fifth of the population. Despite this and the fact that Therese was a permanent novice they put her in charge of the other novices.
Then in 1896, she coughed up blood. She kept working without telling anyone until she became so sick a year later everyone knew it. Worst of all she had lost her joy and confidence and felt she would die young without leaving anything behind. Pauline had already had her writing down her memories for journal and now she wanted her to continue -- so they would have something to circulate on her life after her death.
Her pain was so great that she said that if she had not had faith she would have taken her own life without hesitation. But she tried to remain smiling and cheerful -- and succeeded so well that some thought she was only pretending to be ill. Her one dream as the work she would do after her death, helping those on earth. "I will return," she said. "My heaven will be spent on earth." She died on September 30, 1897 at the age of 24 years old. She herself felt it was a blessing God allowed her to die at exactly that age. she had always felt that she had a vocation to be a priest and felt God let her die at the age she would have been ordained if she had been a man so that she wouldn't have to suffer.
After she died, everything at the convent went back to normal. One nun commented that there was nothing to say about Therese. But Pauline put together Therese's writings (and heavily edited them, unfortunately) and sent 2000 copies to other convents. But Therese's "little way" of trusting in Jesus to make her holy and relying on small daily sacrifices instead of great deeds appealed to the thousands of Catholics and others who were trying to find holiness in ordinary lives. Within two years, the Martin family had to move because her notoriety was so great and by 1925 she had been canonized.
Therese of Lisieux is one of the patron saints of the missions, not because she ever went anywhere, but because of her special love of the missions, and the prayers and letters she gave in support of missionaries. This is reminder to all of us who feel we can do nothing, that it is the little things that keep God's kingdom growing

Fr. Longnecker asks the question: is Hugh Hefner in hell?

Is Hugh Hefner in Hell?

Hugh Hefner
Hugh Hefner
Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine is dead.
The Catholic Church teaches that at the moment of death the eternal destiny of each soul is determined. You go up or you go down.
Hugh Hefner led a life that was not only sexually self indulgent, but it objectified women, glamorized sin and caused millions to dive into sin with carefree abandon. He not only hurt women, but helped in the breakdown of marriage, the destruction of the family and contributed to the culture of contraception, abortion and death. Predictably, he is being hailed as a trailblazer, a man ahead of his time, an entrepreneur and a great American.
“Playboy” was an apt name because his hedonistic lifestyle encouraged millions of men to treat sex as play time and to remain boys–addicted to adolescent fantasies about sex. A man who sold women? Entrepreneur is one name. I can think of a few others. A trailblazer? What he did may have been daring, but it was not new.
But let’s cut to the chase. The man is dead. The question remains– is Hugh Hefner in hell?
It’s not for me, or anyone to determine that. Any soul, at any time, up to the last moment may experience the grace of repentance and faith. He was ninety one. In his final years of old age did he have regrets? Did he turn to the light? We don’t know. We can hope.
Saint Faustina had a private vision in which every soul, and the point of death, saw the merciful Christ who asked three times, “Do you love me?” and only the souls who refused his love three times would depart into the dark.

I once read an interview with Hugh Hefner in which his sophisticated facade dropped for a moment and he revealed that he was a lonely child with a distant, un affectionate mother. If I remember the interview correctly he had a stuffed bunny to keep him company. So go figure. Analyze that one.
Maybe those who would condemn Hugh Hefner can see beneath the celebrity fornicator a lonely little boy looking for love. Maybe when he came face to face with the source of Love he said “Yes, this is what I have been looking for all my life…”
On the other hand, St Faustina was no softy when it comes to hell, and we’re not to conclude that everybody will say yes to Jesus’ invitation. FAustina  warns soberly about the reality of hell and shares her vision of it. If you want to read what she saw go here.
Now, some have speculated that the choice St Faustina visualizes is the summary of all the soul’s choices on earth. If Hugh Hefner rejected his Christian upbringing and turned from the Beautiful True Love of Christ every time he was exposed to it in his earthly life, the hope that at the end he would make a different choice seems remote.
We don’t know. It is God’s mercy not our condemnation that matters.
Hugh Hefner’s death gives the opportunity to ask why the Catholic Church condemns pornography and the Playboy lifestyle.
“What’s wrong with looking at pictures of pretty ladies?” you might well ask. Continue Reading
Image Creative Commons via Bing


I didn't see this coming; Cardinal Burke is back

Pope Francis reappoints Cardinal Burke to Apostolic Signatura

His appointment comes three years after he was removed as prefect
Pope Francis has reappointed Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke to the Apostolic Signatura, nearly three years after removing him as prefect.
The Holy See announced Saturday morning that the American cardinal had been appointed to the Vatican’s highest court along with Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli, Archbishop Frans Daneels and Bishop Johannes Willibrordus Maria Hendriks.
Cardinal Burke served as prefect of the court for six years before being removed in 2014 and appointed cardinal patron of the Order of Malta, a largely ceremonial post. It was highly unusual at the time to remove such a high-ranking cardinal without assigning him comparable responsibilities elsewhere.
He has since become a strong defender of traditional Church teaching and was one of the four cardinals who signed the ‘dubia’ requesting clarification on Amoris Laetitia.

Pope Francis October Prayer Intention


Workers and the Unemployed.

That all workers may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.

**Remember to pray all month long in October with this prayer intention of Pope Francis

Friday, September 29, 2017

He taught us that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ

St. Jerome

Image of St. Jerome


Feastday: September 30
Patron of archaeologists, Biblical scholars, librarians, students and translators
Birth: 342
Death: 420

Before he was known as Saint Jerome, he was named Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus. He was born around 342 AD, in Stridon, Dalmatia. Today, the town, which ceased to exist in Jerome's time, would likely be in Croatia or Slovenia.
The young Jerome was educated by Aelius Donatus, who was a famous Roman grammarian. From him, the young Jerome learned Latin and Greek. Little else is known of his childhood other than his parents were probably well-to-do and Christian. Despite their efforts to raise Jerome properly, the young man behaved as he chose.
Around the age of 12 or so, Jerome traveled to Rome to study grammar, philosophy and rhetoric. It is likely that due to his training in rhetoric, he may have considered a career in law. By his own admission, he quickly forgot his morals. While he was not studying, Jerome pursued pleasure. In particular, he pursued women, even though he knew his behavior was wrong.
To alleviate the feelings of guilt he often felt afterwards, Jerome would visit the crypts in Rome and imagine himself in hell. He did so every Sunday, even though he was not a Christian. Jerome succeeded in frightening himself, but not in changing his ways.
Fortunately, Jerome had as a companion, Bonosus, who was a Christian influence. His influence is part of what persuaded Jerome to become a Christian and change his ways for the better.
In or around the year 366, Jerome decided to become a Christian and was baptized by Pope Liberius.
Now interested in theological matters, Jerome set aside secular matters to pursue matters of the faith. He traveled with Bonosus to Trier where there were schools for him to gain ecclesiastical training.
In 370, he traveled close to home, ending up in a monastery at Aquileia. The monastery was overseen by Bishop St. Valerian, who had attracted some of the greatest minds in Christendom. While in Aquileia, Jerome met Rufinus and the two men became friends. Rufinis was a monk who became renown for his translations of Greek works into Latin. Jerome himself was developing his skills as a translator, a skill he developed during his time in the Roman catacombs, translating the inscriptions on the tombs.
Following his time in Aquileia, Jerome traveled next to Treves, Gaul where he began to translate books for his own use. His goal was to build a personal library.
After a time in Gaul, he returned to Aquileia in 373. While there, Jerome and his friend Bonosus had a falling out and decided to part ways. Bonosus departed for an island in the Adriatic where he would live as a hermit for a time.
Jerome traveled to the east, bound for Antioch by way of Athens.
In 374, Jerome finally reached Antioch, after making several lengthy stops along the way. While in that city, Jerome began writing his first work, "Concerning the Seven Beatings."
During that same year, disease made Jerome ill while taking the lives of some of his companions. It is unclear what disease was responsible, or if different illnesses had taken his friends. During his illness, Jerome had visions which made him even more religious.
Jerome went into the desert to live for four years, living as a hermit southwest of Antioch. He was frequently ill during this time.
After he emerged from his hermitage, Jerome was quickly embroiled in conflicts within the Church at Antioch. This was not something Jerome wanted to be associated with. Jerome made clear that he did not want to become a priest, preferring instead to be a monk or a hermit. But Church officials in Antioch as well as Pope Damasus wanted him to be ordained. Jerome relented on the condition he would not be expected to serve in any ministry and would still be allowed to pursue his monastic life. He was subsequently ordained.
Making the most of his freedom as a priest, Jerome traveled to Constantinople where he studied under St. Gregory of Nazianzus, who was renown as a great theologian.
After St. Gregory left Constantinople in 382, Jerome traveled to Rome for a council of the Church and met Pope Damasus. Following the council, Pope Damsus kept Jerome in Rome and made him his secretary.
While serving as secretary to the pope, Jerome also promoted the ideal of aestheticism to everyone around him. Included in this group were women of the city of Rome who wanted to live saintly lives.
Pope Damasus died in 384, and this exposed Jerome to criticism and controversy. Jerome was a sarcastic man of great wit. He became unpopular because of his attitude and made a number of enemies. While Pope Damasus was alive, he could shield Jerome from criticism, but now Jerome faced the vengeance of the enemies he made. Both prominent pagans who resented his promotion of the faith and fellow Christians who lacked his wit attacked him with vicious rumors. Among the rumors were accusations that he was behaving inappropriately with the woman we now know as Paula. At that time, she was one of his students in aestheticism.
Paula was a widow with four children who deeply mourned the loss of her husband. Jerome provided counseling and instruction to her and she became a lifelong friend and follower of Jerome, assisting him in his work.
Eventually, Jerome decided to return to the Holy Land to escape the calumny in Rome. He headed east and arrived in Antioch in 386. Shortly after, Jerome was met by Paula, her daughter, and several other followers. The group went first to Jerusalem, then on to Alexandria, Egypt. They settled in Bethlehem and had a monastery built there which included dormitories for women.
Jerome was a hard worker and he wrote extensively defending the virginity of Mary, which some clerics dared to question. He also engaged in several debates against various other heresies including a lengthy battle with his old friend Rufinus. Jerome was easily upset, and even the venerable St. Augustine exchanged words with him. Eventually, Jerome and Augustine repaired their relationship and were able to correspond as friends and colleagues.
Of all the things that made Jerome famous, nothing was so legendary as his translation of the Bible. Jerome began work while he was still in Rome under Pope Damasus. He spent his entire life translating the scriptures from Hebrew and Old Latin.
In the year 404 Paula died, later to become a saint of the Church. Rome was sacked by Alarc the Barbarian in 410. These events distressed Jerome greatly. Violence eventually found its way to Bethlehem disrupting Jerome's work in his final years.
Jerome died on September 30, 420. His death was peaceful and he was laid to rest under the Church of the Nativity. His remains were later transferred to Rome.
Saint Jerome is the patron saint of archaeologists, Biblical scholars, librarians, students and translators.
His feast day is September 30

Pope Francis on the Archangels

The Archangels: “Our Fellow Travelers”
Pope Francis in Mass at Santa Marta on September 29, 2017

Santa Marta © L'Osservatore Romano
Santa Marta © L'Osservatore Romano
Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are “our traveling companions” and have an “important” role in the journey of Christians towards salvation, Pope Francis said in his homily at Mass at Santa Marta on September 29, 2017, the feast day of the archangels.
“The Lord sends them to accompany us on the way of life,” the Pontiff recalled, who defined the Archangel Michael as the one who “fights the devil.” He fights the “great dragon,” the “ancient snake”, who seduces “the whole inhabited earth,” the Pope added, whose homily was reported by the Vatican Radio.
“The Great Michael”, commissioned by God, fights (and defeats) the devil. It helps us on our way to Heaven to make war, “not to be seduced.”
Archangel Gabriel is the one who “brings good news”. He has indeed brought the announcement of salvation “to Mary, to Zachariah, to Joseph,” and to help Christians never forget the Good News, that “Jesus came with us” to save us.
Archangel Raphael “walks with us,” said Francis, who recommended asking him to offer protection from the “seduction of making the wrong step.”
The Pontiff has thus formulated the following threefold prayer or supplication: “Michael, help us in the struggle”, “Gabriel, bring us news, bring us the Good News of Salvation” and finally “Raphael, take hold of the hand and help us on the Path.”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Feast Day of the Archangels

Today is the Archangels’ feast day!

Today is the Feast Day of the Archangels!

September 29 traditionally was set aside as the Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel. (The word “saint” simply means “holy.”) Then the Church made it the feast day of all the Archangels.
Three Angels are named in the Bible:
  1. Michael: in Hebrew, the name means “Who is like God?”.
  2. Gabriel: in Hebrew, the name means “God is my might”.
  3. Raphael: in Hebrew, the name means “God has healed”.
Notice that all three names end with “El” — which means God, in Hebrew. Thus, each Archangel’s name ending in “el” means they are “of God.”
The word angel, in Greek, is angelos; in Hebrew, malach; in Arabic, mala’ika — which all mean “messenger.”
Angels are incorporeal (bodiless) spiritual beings who act as messengers and intermediaries between God and humanity. St. Augustine said that although angels are defined by their function as messengers or message-bearers, their activities are not limited to just this function. Created by God to serve Him, angels fulfill any and all tasks assigned to them.
my angels2In other words, being an angel or messenger simply denotes one of their functions, not their nature. St. Thomas Aquinas maintained that each angel is unique, a species unto itself — truly a mind-boggling idea.
Major philosophers — such as Thomas Aquinas, René Descartes, John Locke, and most recently, the American philosopher Mortimer Adler — have put forth compelling reasons for the existence of Angels. (For the conversion of Adler, a Jew, to the Catholic faith, see the moving account, “A Philosopher-Pagan Comes Home.)
Theologians maintain there is a hierarchy of Angels, due to the fact that in Genesis 3:24, Isaiah 6:1-7, Ezekiel 1, 10, Romans 8:38, Ephesians 1:21, 3:10, 6:12, Colossians 1:16, 2:10, 2:15, allusions are made to “seraphim,” “cherubim,” “thrones,” “dominions,” “mights,” “powers,” and “principalities” in the “heavenly places.”
Dionysius the Areopagite and St. Thomas Aquinas delineated three hierarchies of Angels, with each hierarchy comprised of three orders:
  • 1st hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones.
  • 2nd hierarchy: Dominions, Virtues, Powers.
  • 3rd hierarchy: Principalities, Archangels, Angels.
Of the nine angelic orders, five are sent by God for external ministry among bodily creatures, as indicated by their names of Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels—all of which refer to some kind of administrative or executive office. Of these five orders, only the last three minister to human beings:
  • Principalities are in charge of the whole of humanity.
  • Archangels minister to nations — their leaders and those persons whom God tasks with special work to do on Earth.
  • Angels, the last order, are God’s messengers to and guardians of individual human beings.
That leaves the orders of Virtues and Powers who, by logical inference, minister to other bodily but nonhuman creatures. The latter would include the non-human animals, such as our pets, whom St. Bonaventure called “creatures without sin” — which is a happy thought indeed!

St. Gabriel, the Archangel

Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary. The Annunciation by Sandro Botticelli, 1485.
Gabriel’s name means “God is great.” The angel Gabriel appears to at least three people in the Bible:
  • To the prophet Daniel (Daniel 8:16).
  • To the priest Zechariah to foretell and announce the miraculous birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19).
  • To the Virgin Mary to tell her that she would conceive and bear a son (Luke 1:26–38). As the angel of the Annunciation, Gabriel is the one who revealed that the Savior was to be called “Jesus” (Luke 1:31).
St. Gabriel is recognized as the patron saint of messengers, telecommunication workers, and postal workers.

St. Raphael, the Archangel

st-raphael1The angel Raphael‘s name means “God heals.” This identity came about because of the biblical story that Raphael “healed” the earth when it was defiled by the sins of the fallen angels in the apocryphal Book of Enoch.
Raphael appears, by name, only in the Book of Tobit. , where he, disguised as a human named “Azarias the son of the great Ananias,” accompanies Tobiah, the son of Tobit, in his travels. When Raphael returns from his journey with Tobiah, he declares to Tobit that he was sent by the Lord to heal his blindness and deliver Sarah, Tobiah’s future wife, from the demon Asmodeus. It is then that the angel makes himself known as “the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tobit 12:15).
Although only the archangels Gabriel and Michael are mentioned by name in the New Testament, the Gospel of John 5:1-4 speaks of a healing pool at Bethesda where “An angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond; and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under.” This passage is generally associated with St. Raphael, the Archangel.
St. Raphael is the patron saint of travelers, the blind, bodily ills, happy meetings, nurses, physicians and medical workers. He is often pictured holding a staff and either holding or standing on a fish.

St. Michael, the Archangel

The name “Lucifer” means “Morning Star,” “Son of the Dawn,” or “Light Carrier.” For that reason, theologians believe that Lucifer was a high-order Angel, most likely the highest order — a Seraphim. Aquinas thought him to be “probably the highest of all the angels.” But Lucifer admires and loves himself more than his Creator and thinks himself to be “as God.” And so, swollen with narcissism and grandiosity, Lucifer rebelled, taking a third of the angelic beings with him.
StMichaelTheArchangelA lower-order Angel, full of courage and love of God, rallied together two-thirds of the angelic ranks against Lucifer and the other apostates, in the First War that began the enduring conflict between good and evil. As related in Revelation 12:7-9:
Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. 
That braveheart’s name is Micha-el, which means “Who is like God?” — Michael‘s battle cry.
St. Michael the Archangel is the prince of the heavenly armies and the most beloved of all the angels. He is mentioned in Daniel 10:13,31; 12:1 (where he is said to be the prince of the people of Israel); in Jude 9 (where he disputed with the devil about the body of Moses); and in Revelation 12:7 (where he led the heavenly armies against those of the “great dragon”).
Described in Revelation 10:1 as a “mighty angel…with a halo around his head; his face was like the sun and his feet were like pillars of fire,” St. Michael is generally portrayed by artists as wearing full armor and carrying a sword or lance, with his foot on the neck of a dragon. (Pictures of the martyred St. George are often similar, but only Michael has wings.)
Michael has four main titles or offices. He is:
  • Patron of the Chosen People in the Old Testament.
  • Patron saint and defender of the Church.
  • The Angel of death, who assists Jesus in the final judgment (thus, Michael is sometimes depicted with a scale).
  • Leading the good angels against the fallen angels or demons. For that reason, Christians consider St. Michael the most powerful defender of God’s people against evil. As such, Michael is also the patron saint of soldiers and policemen. (For the Prayer to St. Michael, go here.)
All of which is why St. Michael, the Braveheart of Angels, is my most favorite saint, whom I admire and love with all my heart. He is my commander in chief. As you can see from this blog’s masthead, he is also the protector of Fellowship of the Minds.

Happy Feast Day, St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael!

Thank you for inspiring us with your humility, courage, goodness, and love for God.
Thank you, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for creating the marvelous Angels!

Thursday morning Papal preaching

Santa Marta: Have the Courage to “Accuse Yourself”
“To Tell the Truth about One’s Life”

Mass at Santa Marta © L'Osservatore Romano
Mass at Santa Marta © L'Osservatore Romano

During the Mass, which Pope Francis celebrated in the Chapel of Saint Martha’s Residence in the Vatican on September 28, 2017, he invited to have the “courage to “accuse oneself. It’s about not being afraid to “tell the truth about our life,” because the Lord “forgives.”
In his homily, reported by Vatican Radio in Italian, the Holy Father commented on the day’s Gospel (Luke 9:7-9), where Herod sought to see Jesus. He “felt in himself” something that wasn’t “curiosity” but “remorse in his soul . . . in his heart.” He wanted to see Jesus to be reassured.”
Remorse of the conscience isn’t “only remembering something” but “a wound,” “a hidden wound, that’s not seen,” which is the result of something “bad” that man has done in his life.
Sometimes, the Pontiff observed, one “doesn’t see it, because one is used to bearing it and one is anaesthetized. But it’s there, “inside. And “when that wound hurts, we feel remorse. Not only are we conscious of having done wrong, but we feel it: we feel it in our heart, we feel it in our body, in our soul, in our life.”
Putting us on guard against “the temptation to cover it up so as not to feel it any longer,” the Pontiff exhorted to “have the courage,” to “learn the science, the wisdom of accusing oneself. I accuse myself, I feel the pain of the wound, I do everything to know from where that symptom comes and then I accuse myself.”
It’s “a grace to feel that our conscience accuses us, tells us something,” he said. “We must – permit me the expression – ‘baptize’ the wound, that is, give it a name. Where do you have your wound? ‘What should I do, Father, to bring it to the fore?” First of all, pray: ‘Lord, have pity on me for I am a sinner.’ The Lord listens to your prayer. Then examine your life. ‘If I don’t see how and where this suffering is; where it comes from; that there is a symptom, what should I do? Ask for help from someone who can help you . . . to bring the wound to the fore and to give it a name.’”
To give the wound a name, that is, “I have this remorse of conscience because I did that, concretely . . . it’s true humility before God and God is moved in face of what is concrete.
Concluding, Pope Francis invited to “not be afraid of remorse of conscience,” not to seek to “cover it up, to put makeup on it, to dissimulate it, to hide it,” because “”it’s a symptom of health.” It’s necessary “to make the truth come out,” it’s thus that one heals.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Good King Wenceslaus looked out...

St. Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia 

Image of St. Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia


Feastday: September 28
Patron of Bohemia, Czech state, Prague
Birth: 907
Death: 935

Patron saint of Bohemia, parts of Czech Republic, and duke of Bohemia frorn 924-929. Also called Wenceslas, he was born near Prague and raised by his grandmother, St. Ludmilla, until her murder by his mother, the pagan Drahomira. Wenceslaus's mother assumed the regency over Bohemia about 920 after her husband's death, but her rule was so arbitrary and cruel in Wenceslaus' name that he was compelled on behalf of his subjects to overthrow her and assume power for himself in 924 or 925. A devout Christian, he proved a gifted ruler and a genuine friend of the Church. German missionaries were encouraged, churches were built, and Wenceslaus perhaps took a personal vow of poverty Unfortunately, domestic events proved fatal, for in 929 the German king Heinrich I the Fowler         (r. 919-936) invaded Bohemia and forced Wenceslaus to make an act of submission. This defeat, combined with his pro-Christian policies, led a group of non-Christian nobles to conspire against him. On September 28, 919, a group of knights under the leadership of Wenceslaus' brother Boreslav assassinated the saint on the doorstep of a church. Virtually from the moment of his death, Wenceslaus was considered a martyr and venerated as a saint. Miracles were reported at his tomb, and his remains were translated to the church of St. Vitus in Prague which became a major pilgrimage site. The feast has been celebrated at least since 985 in Bohemia, and he is best known from the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslaus.

So I missed this important feast day for Blessed Pope Paul VI

Blessed Paul VI

<em>Pope Paul VI</em> | photo by Ambrosius007
Image: Pope Paul VI | photo by Ambrosius007

Blessed Pope Paul VI

Saint of the Day for September 26

(September 26, 1897 – August 6, 1978)

Born near Brescia in northern Italy, Giovanni Battista Montini was the second of three sons. His father, Giorgio, was a lawyer, editor, and eventually a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. His mother, Giuditta, was very involved in Catholic Action.
After ordination in 1920, Giovanni did graduate studies in literature, philosophy, and canon law in Rome before he joined the Vatican Secretariat of State in 1924, where he worked for 30 years. He was also chaplain to the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students, where he met and became a very good friend of Aldo Moro, who eventually became prime minister. Moro was kidnapped by the Red Brigade in March 1978, and murdered two months later. A devastated Pope Paul VI presided at his funeral.
In 1954, Fr. Montini was named archbishop of Milan, where he sought to win disaffected workers back to the Catholic Church. He called himself the “archbishop of the workers” and visited factories regularly while overseeing the rebuilding of a local Church tremendously disrupted by World War II.
In 1958, Montini was the first of 23 cardinals named by Pope John XXIII, two months after the latter’s election as pope. Cardinal Montini helped in preparing Vatican II and participated enthusiastically in its first sessions. When he was elected pope in June 1963, he immediately decided to continue that Council, which had another three sessions before its conclusion on December 8, 1965. The day before Vatican II concluded, Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras revoked the excommunications that their predecessors had made in 1054. The pope worked very hard to ensure that bishops would approve the Council’s 16 documents by overwhelming majorities.
Paul VI had stunned the world by visiting the Holy Land in January 1964, and meeting Athenagoras, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in person. The pope made eight more international trips, including one in 1965, to visit New York City and speak on behalf of peace before the United Nations General Assembly. He also visited India, Columbia, Uganda, and seven Asian countries during a 10-day tour in 1970.
Also in 1965, he instituted the World Synod of Bishops, and the next year decreed that bishops must offer their resignations on reaching age 75. In 1970, he decided that cardinals over 80 would no longer vote in papal conclaves or head the Holy See’s major offices. He had increased the number of cardinals significantly, giving many countries their first cardinal. Eventually establishing diplomatic relations between the Holy See and 40 countries, he also instituted a permanent observer mission at the United Nations in 1964. Paul VI wrote seven encyclicals; his last one in 1968 on human life–Humanae Vitae–prohibited artificial birth control.
Pope Paul VI died at Castel Gandolfo on August 6, 1978, and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. He was beatified on October 19, 2014.

Two Catholic clerics explain why they signed the "filial correction"

Bishop Gracida and Fr Andrew Pinsent: Why we signed the filial correction

Two signatories explain why they took the unusual step of 'correcting' the Pope
Since the filial correction was published on Sunday, more than 80 signatories have added their names to the original 62. Here two of those new signatories, a bishop and a priest-academic, explain their reasons:
Bishop René Henry Gracida
A number of friends have asked me why I chose, last Sunday, to sign the filial correction. Frankly I am surprised that anyone would need to ask, because the answer is so simple and, I hope, self-evident: I love the Church.
I love the Church as the mystical body of Christ. I love the Church as the community of faithful men and women, young and old, liberal and conservative. It pains me to see people suffer, even as I personally suffer, in the present crisis that afflicts the Church.
The filial correction is so well-written, so respectful, so comprehensive, so detailed in explaining the basis for objecting to the seven areas of heterodoxy bordering on heresy, that I would expect many of my brother bishops to be happy to sign it. Perhaps naively, I thought that my signature might encourage more bishops to make their views public, and perhaps some will, but many are timid and fearful of retaliation by Rome.
As I have said before, I take hope from the precedent of the fourth century, when – according to Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman – the majority of bishops were either Arian or Semi-Arian. It was the laity that supported the Pope and St Athanasius and helped them win the condemnation of Arianism. The laity of our time, who are suffering so greatly as a result of bad leadership, or no leadership, deserve to see more bishops announce their support of the correction.
I have also been asked what I believe will happen if no answer is given to the correction or the dubia. I regret that I must respond that I do not believe that there is anything then that men can do; a resolution of the crisis depends entirely on Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Bishop Gracida, now retired, has been an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Miami, Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee and of Corpus Christi
Fr Andrew Pinsent
I signed the filial correction not due to a lack of filial respect for the Holy Father, but because of the gravity of the situation.
The correction is a next step, consistent with the teaching of Jesus Christ (Matt 18:15-17) and St Paul confronting St Peter (Gal 2:11), that follows a series of unanswered petitions since 2015. These have included one with nearly 800,000 signatures from 178 countries and including 202 prelates prior to the ludicrously manipulated family synod; the appeal of the 45 scholars and clergy to the College of Cardinals to repudiate possible heretical readings of Amoris Laetitia; the dubia of the four cardinals, whom the Pope did not even have the courtesy to meet; and the statement of the confraternities representing thousands of priests worldwide.
As Prof Josef Seifert warned recently, before being sacked for making this warning, we are facing the risk of the total destruction of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. I would add that the contradictions now being introduced deny reason itself and are catastrophic for the Church’s mission of offering salvation to souls. Since I have given my own life to the priesthood exclusively for the salvation of souls, I had to add my name to the correction.
Fr Pinsent is Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford University

Wednesday General Audience with Pope Francis

GENERAL AUDIENCE: Pope: ‘Let’s Hope Firmly, Confidently in His Promises’

Official Summary of the Catechesis — September 27, 2017
General Audience
Here is the Vatican-provided English-language summary of the Pope’s address at the General Audience this morning:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on Christian hope, I would now like to reflect on the importance of combatting all that threatens our hope. As the ancient story of Pandora’s box teaches us, hope remains as the treasure enabling mankind to face with trust in God’s providence every evil let loose in this world. In our own day, hope motivates so many of our brothers and sisters forced to leave their homes in search of a better life, but also those who welcome them, “sharing the journey” with them and trusting in a better tomorrow. Hope is especially the virtue of the poor. As the mystery of Christmas teaches us, God came into this world among the poor, to bring the good news of our salvation. Hope is also the virtue of the young, who deserve not to be robbed of it by an often soulless and materialist society. Hope’s greatest enemy is spiritual emptiness, the “noon-day devil” that tempts us to stop fighting and to yield to discouragement. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to hope more firmly in his promises, confident that his victory over the world will fill our hearts with joy as we face the future and all that it has in store for us.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America. Today marks the start of the worldwide Caritas campaign “Share the Journey”, to assist families forced to migrate. I encourage you to support this praiseworthy initiative as an expression of our solidarity with our many brothers and sisters in need. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The patron Saint of the poor, charitable organizations and the Society named for him that does great work

St. Vincent de Paul

Image of St. Vincent de Paul


Feastday: September 27
Patron of charities; horses; hospitals; leprosy; lost articles; Madagascar; prisoners; Richmond, Virginia; spiritual help; Saint Vincent de Paul Societies; Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory; Vincentian Service Corps; volunteers
Birth: 1581
Death: 1660
Beatified By: August 13, 1729, Rome, Papal States by Pope Benedict XIII
Canonized By: June 16, 1737, Rome, Papal States by Pope Clement XII

St. Vincent de Paul was born to a poor peasant family in the French village of Pouy on April 24, 1581. His first formal education was provided by the Franciscans. He did so well, he was hired to tutor the children of a nearby wealthy family. He used the monies he earned teaching to continue his formal studies at the University of Toulose where he studied theology.
He was ordained in 1600 and remained in Toulose for a time. In 1605, while on a ship traveling from Marseilles to Narbone, he was captured, brought to Tunis and sold as a slave. Two years later he and his master managed to escape and both returned to France.
St. Vincent went to Avignon and later to Rome to continue his studies. While there he became a chaplain to the Count of Goigny and was placed in charge of distributing money to the deserving poor. He became pastor of a small parish in Clichy for a short period of time, while also serving as a tutor and spiritual director.
From that point forward he spent his life preaching missions to and providing relief to the poor. He even established hospitals for them. This work became his passion. He later extended his concern and ministry to convicts. The need to evangelize and assist these souls was so great and the demands beyond his own ability to meet that he founded the Ladies of Charity, a lay institute of woman, to help, as well as a religious institute of priests - the Congregation of Priests of the Mission, commonly referred to now as the Vincentians.
This was at a time when there were not many priests in France and what priests there were, were neither well-formed nor faithful to their way of life. Vincent helped reform the clergy and the manner in which they were instructed and prepared for the priesthood. He did this first through the presentation of retreats and later by helping develop a precursor to our modern day seminaries. At one point his community was directing 53 upper level seminaries. His retreats, open to priests and laymen, were so well attended that it is said he infused a "Christian spirit among more than 20,000 persons in his last 23 years."
The Vincentians remain with us today with nearly 4,000 members in 86 countries. In addition to his order of Vincentian priests, St. Vincent cofounded the Daughters of Charity along with St. Louise de Marillac. There are more than 18,000 Daughters today serving the needs of the poor in 94 countries. He was eighty years old when he died in Paris on September 27, 1660.He had "become the symbol of the successful reform of the French Church". St. Vincent is sometimes referred to as "The Apostle of Charity" and "The Father of the Poor".
His incorrupt heart can be found in the Convent of the Sisters of Charity and his bones have been embedded in a wax effigy of the Saint located at the Church of the Lazarist Mission. Both sites are located in Paris, France.
Two miracles have been attributed to St Vincent - a nun cured of ulcers and a laywoman cured of paralysis. As a result of the first, Pope Benedict XIII beatified him on August 13, 1729. Less than 8 years later (on June 16, 1737) he was canonized by Pope Clement XIII. The Bull of Canonization recognized Vincent for his charity and reform of the clergy, as well as for his early role in opposing Jansenism.
It has been reported that St. Vincent wrote more than 30,000 letters in his lifetime and that nearly 7,000 had been collected in the 18th century. There are at least five collections of his letters in existence today.
The feast day for St. Vincent, the patron of all charitable societies, is September 27th.

Tuesday morning Papal Homily

Santa Marta: “Lord, What Do You Think?”
Familiarity with Jesus

Santa Marta © L'Osservatore Romano
Santa Marta © L'Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis encouraged Christians to live the “familiarity” with God in his homily during the morning Mass he celebrated at Santa Marta in the Vatican on September 26, 2017: “Lord wherever you are, by subway, in the kitchen, and ask “Lord, what do you think?”
In his homily quoted by Radio Vatican in Italian, the Pope commented on the Gospel of the day (Lk 8: 19-21), in which Jesus declared, “My mother and my brothers are those who listen to the word of God and put it into practice. “More than being” disciples, “the relationship with Jesus is not “formal”,” educated “or “diplomatic”: it must be “familiarity with God and with Jesus.”
The pope said, “to enter the house of Jesus: to enter into this atmosphere, to live in this atmosphere, which is in the house of Jesus. To live there, to contemplate, to be free, there. Because children are free, those who dwell in the house of the Lord are free, those who have familiarity with Him are free. ”
Familiarity with Jesus is “to remain with Him, to watch Him, to listen to His Word, to seek to put it into practice, to speak with Him,” he continued, “to make this prayer along the way ‘But, Lord, what do you think?’ It’s familiarity … Always. The saints had them. Saint Therese is beautiful, because she said that she found the Lord everywhere, she was in familiarity with the Lord everywhere, even in the midst of cooking pots.”
Those who do not live are this way are “children of the slave,” they are Christians but they do not dare to approach, they do not dare this familiarity with the Lord, and there is always a distance between them of the Lord, the Pope said. Familiarity consists in “dwelling” in the presence of Jesus, not in keeping a distance that assigns “you there and me here.”
“Let us ask this grace for all of us, to understand what familiarity with the Lord means,” concluded the Pope.