The Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne
Sixteen Carmelite nuns are commemorated on July 17 for their martyrdom gained in 1794 during the French Revolution. These sixteen were beatified in 1906, having been declared martyrs. The stunning faith of these women has inspired literary and artistic works which bring their story to the modern world, calling to mind the enduring faith and dedication which marked the souls of these cloistered nuns and in fact impelled them in their very lives towards their proffered holocaust.
The Great Example of Maria Goretti
Little Maria Goretti died at the tender age of eleven, but the many virtues she displayed in her short life and violent death give a powerful witness to all who venerate her.
The Holy Path to Heaven in Matrimony
The parents of St. Therese, “The Little Flower,” will become the first married couple to be jointly canonized as saints. Pope Francis has announced that he will canonize them during the World Synod of Bishops on the Family in October. Louis and Zelie Martin will be canonized not because they raised a saint, but because they lived their married lives for God first, and in doing so, happened to give the Church one of her greatest saints. (There is a movement for the causes of St. Therese’s sisters for beatification, as well.) Their feast day is the day of the marriage, July 12.
Pray for the Pope!
Almost twenty years ago I met Maria Esperanza on two occasions and two things stand out about those meetings: that she had a soft, airbrushed look about her, which I would almost describe as an aura, that spoke to me of her holiness, and that she repeated insistently, “pray for the Pope, pray for the Pope!” I can still hear her speaking those words, and her message is as urgent now as it was then, when the reigning pope was John Paul II.
God’s Servant First
When asked to support King Henry VIII in his hubristic move to declare himself supreme head of the church in England, Thomas More at first tried to maintain a neutral position by replying only that he was a faithful subject of the King. He was not, however, willing to take the required oaths repudiating the supremacy of the Pope and recognizing Henry’s divorce and remarriage, and this landed him in prison. Defending the Faith ultimately cost St. Thomas More his life, but he went as willingly and cheerfully to his martyrdom as he had approached life in general. He offered advice and prayers to some of the crowd gathered and bantered with his executioner, then proclaimed his final words, which memorialized him forever: he was dying “the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”
St. Anthony of Padua
“Good Saint Anthony, please come ‘round! Something is lost and cannot be found!” A familiar little prayer to one of the most beloved and invoked of Catholic saints, this simple line is an expression of faith and trust. When we ask a saint’s intercession, we are not being superstitious, nor looking for a magic trick. We are turning to a friend, one of the communion of saints that includes “those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n, 962). Those who are already with God are close to Him and intercede for us with an abundance of love. Saint Anthony of Padua is a Doctor of the Church, which is a title granted by the Pope to a select few saints who are recognized as extraordinary teachers of the Faith. We celebrate the feast of St. Anthony of Padua on June 13, and this year, precious relics from Padua will be brought to several churches in North Jersey during the week of June 10 through June 14. What an opportunity!
The Great Message of Fatima
On the thirteenth day of this month of May, a month dedicated to Our Blessed Mother, we venerate Mary under her title of Our Lady of Fatima. The Church celebrates an optional memorial on this day. The great message of Fatima is still very relevant today. The apparitions and visions call for a spirit of penance and prayer, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and her Rosary, by which she will triumph and bring peace to a world very much in need of her victory.
The Fulfillment of Forty Days
Forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God. This was the fulfillment of His work of redemption. When He elevated Himself, in His humanity, all the souls of the just who went before were brought with Him into glory. He intercedes always for us, and has opened for us the gates of Heaven. This is a fulfillment of the whole of salvation history. The New Testament fulfilling the Old, in which there are many types and foreshadows of this journey to fulfillment.
St. Rita of Cascia, Patron Saint of Impossible
One of the most widely venerated saints, and one of four patrons of impossible causes, is St. Rita of Cascia. A fourteenth century Italian woman, Rita’s life was tragic in many ways, but full of miraculous interventions which often were the fruits of her own obedience, prayers and trust. She is a model of patient suffering and active intercession.
Jubilee! Be Merciful!
Pope Francis has declared an extraordinary Jubilee! A Holy Year of Mercy is to be observed from the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015 until the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 20, 2016. A jubilee year has roots in Jewish tradition. Held every fifty years, the jubilee year was meant to right injustices, and bring comfort and pardon to the oppressed. The first Christian Jubilee was celebrated in 1300, and the frequency of subsequent jubilee years varied until a Papal Bull by Pope Paul II in 1470 decreed they be held every twenty five years. The most recent ordinary jubilee was celebrated by Pope John Paul II in 2000. An extraordinary Jubilee can be called for whenever the pope sees a special need. It is said that this event called by Pope Francis is meant for "’spiritual renewal’ and…to deeply mark the papacy as one of mercy and welcoming.” http://www.ansa.it/english/news/vatican/2015/03/18/vatican-reacts-to-jubilee-row_58a1b04b-791b-4f8d-9500-ac31a972165c.html A Papal Bull is expected to be released on April 12, outlining this surprising call for an extraordinary Jubilee.
Jesus Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!
How beautiful it is to sing the Alleluia again on Easter! The historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is, as Dr. Ludwig Ott says, “the greatest of all Christ’s miracles, and as the fulfillment of prophecy, the strongest proof of the truth of His teaching.” If the resurrection is not
true, then nothing of which Jesus spoke and taught are of any value. Jesus Christ was not a good and holy teacher or prophet, but rather the Son of God, the Redeemer, the long awaited Messiah, who suffered for each of us, died the most innocent Man, and opened the gates of Heaven to us.
A Saint for the Family In Our Times
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla died in 1962, at the age of 39. I became acquainted with her saintliness fifteen years later in 1977, a year before the Holy See was petitioned to open the cause for her canonization. A small group of religious sisters visited the Catholic school where I was a student, and told the story of an Italian woman who was a mother, a physician and a model for the pro-life mission, having chosen to refuse a medically indicated abortion, and died shortly after her fourth child’s birth. Fifteen years later, that story would return to my mind over and over, but I could not recall the name of the saintly woman. With the advent of the internet, I began to search for more information about her, using the little details I knew to try to find her name. I was driven, but unsuccessful. In October, 1999 the relics of St. Therese were brought to Philadelphia, and I attended the special occasion. In the throngs of pilgrims, a man thrust a holy card into my hand. Upon glancing at the picture and the name of then Blessed Gianna, I knew at once that this was the woman whose identity I had been attempting to discover! Such a serendipitous encounter!
The corporal works of mercy are those actions that the Church calls on us to perform towards the welfare of the physical person. One of the seven corporal works of mercy is to visit the imprisoned. This month of February, the Pope's universal intention, that is to say the intention that the Pope asks all of us to remember in our prayers, is for prisoners, "That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity."
While Our Lady appeared at Lourdes to St. Bernadette Soubirous over one hundred fifty years ago, her message and her miracles resonate still. The untold numbers of miraculous healings related to Lourdes have led to the February 11 feast of Our Lady of Lourdes being proclaimed World Day of the Sick in 1992 by then Pope Saint John Paul II. On this date each year, the Church calls us to pray in a special way for those suffering illness as well as for their caregivers. Pope Francis exhorts us this year to enter into the "wisdom of the heart," a gift of God which allows us find salvation in our sufferings and to make of ourselves a gift in the mission of the Church towards those who suffer.
Lent. Ashes on Ash Wednesday, abstinence from meat on Fridays, fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, sacrificing, praying, giving alms. Does that cover it? What does Lent mean to you? Pope Francis calls it a "time of grace" (2 Cor 6:2). In his Message for Lent 2015, he examines the ways that Lent can be a time of renewal for the whole Church, for the smaller communities of parishes, and for each individual. Our world is sorely in need of renewal and we are each given a part to play in bringing about that change. That does not mean to look for something to give up that will help you reach your weight loss goal. The sacrifice called for in Lent is one of self-mortification, a way to discipline ourselves, to put to death those habits or obsessions that call us away from God and our neighbor.
Does God guide you by your dreams? One can find a plethora of books on interpreting dreams. A quick search on Barnes and Noble website provided almost three thousand choices! They can range from serious psychological works to the truly bizarre, best left untouched. While it is not wise to go searching too much for meanings to your dreams by which to live your life, we do know that God has often used dreams to speak to people, or to reveal Himself to them. By taking
a conservative approach, one can pay attention to what God might reveal to us in our dreams. It is best to leave interpretation and any idea of prophecy of dreams to those specially disposed to receive such extraordinary promptings, under the scrutiny of Church authorities. Proper discernment is also necessary. A true mystic will be known by profound humility, only sharing their extraordinary experiences reluctantly, under obedience.
Saint Sebastian, whose feast is celebrated on January 20, was a third century Roman soldier, who is known as a patron of athletes, archers, and soldiers and of a holy death. He has the distinction of having been "martyred twice." Sebastian showed supernatural character in offering himself as a victim in order to bring more souls to God.
A spiritual friend is a great gift of God. God does not intend for any of us to be alone. Jesus tells us He will be with us always. He exhorts us to love one another, and gives the promise in Matthew 18:20, that when two or three are gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of them, a figure of the Trinity. Threaded throughout the Scriptures are types of holy friendship; Jesus Himself had very many friends. Examples of spiritual friendship abound in Catholic tradition as well. In the Roman Catholic calendar, January 2 is the feast of two great doctors of the Church, Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, memorialized together because of their great friendship.
"The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." ~Tertullian, Apologeticum, 197 AD
Protomartyr St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is commemorated on the day after Christmas, December 26. In this way our minds are turned towards the love the Savior brings, love which St. Stephen shows us in a most exemplary way. Jesus came as a Babe, but He came to die in ransom for us. We are called to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, even to the offering of our lives. St. Stephen readily gave his life and with great charity, prayed for his executioners as he submitted to them, just as his Divine King had done. His death is not a sad event, for it was his birth into eternal life!
Mother of Conversion
Until Hernando Cortes conquered Mexico City in 1521, and the Franciscans were able to evangelize, the Aztecs had oppressed the region's Indian tribes and held many thousands of bloody human sacrifices to their gods. Cuauhtlatoatzin ("the talking eagle") was a man of fifty, a Chimichimeca of the area that is now Mexico City, when he was baptized Juan Diego in 1525. He and his wife were among the very first Catholic couples of the New World. By 1531, Juan Diego was a widower living with an elderly uncle. With strong faith, he traveled fifteen miles by foot to the Catholic church to assist at Mass on the Feast of Immaculate Mary Ever Virgin, which the Spanish Empire celebrated on December 9 in those days.
Advent: Already? Or all ready?
Already?? The stores start preparing for the "holiday" shopping rush as they are clearing out the Halloween décor. Radio stations convert to all "holiday" music as we get close to Thanksgiving. The idea is to start decorating, celebrating and, most importantly, spending as soon as possible in anticipation of Christmas. And, by Christmas day, everyone has had enough and cannot wait to "put it away" and turn off the Christmas music. We have lost the meaning of Advent and the joys of Christmas!
The Church teaches that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit on earth, and is destined to be resurrected by Jesus on the last day. It is for this reason that the Church requires a proper burial, even in the case of cremation.
With great prescience, Pope Pius XI, as recently at 1925, established the original feast of Christ the King as an antidote to cultural and nationalist battles against religion. Knowing what the Church was facing, he offered a sign of hope for Christians, and a reminder of the supremacy of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. The culture of our era has raised secularism to the status of a religion, in direct opposition to Catholic culture. The whims of the state have supplanted the natural law, instilled in each of us by God, as the new height of authority. Those who dare to express or exercise their Christian religious beliefs are mocked, subjugated, even persecuted. The Judeo Christian values which once formed the foundation of a fair society are now denigrated. The shaky foundation upon which today's society is built is like sand, shifting by the caprice of materialistic, secular forces. Authority has been diminished by the lack of integrity of those in authority, who have cast God out of the public realm.
Pray for your Dead
Most of us are touched by the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives. It is one of the inescapable four last things: death, judgement, heaven and hell. We grieve the loss, mourn the passing of the loved one, but frequently in this era, we extol the one who has died, and promptly enshrine them in heaven. In this confused era, it is even often said that they become guardian angels to those they have left behind! This is an error, and one which is grossly uncharitable to the dead whose judgment found them not quite pure enough to enter eternal life in God's presence. Yet.
Month of the Most Holy Rosary
The month of October is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary, and it is good to recall how it came to be so, especially in these times when extreme factions of Islam seek to overtake and convert the world to an Islamic Shariah state.
The Divine Mercy Mission of Saints Faustina and Pope John Paul II
The lives and missions of Sts. Faustina and Pope John Paul II are intertwined and connected in so many mystical ways. These culminated in his death on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina was the secretary and apostle of Divine Mercy; Pope John Paul II brought her mission to light and was instrumental in establishing the Church wide practice of the devotion and the Feast of Divine Mercy called for by Jesus. His involvement began well before his papacy, however.
St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church
Declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970, Teresa of Avila, whose feast is celebrated on October 15, is often called the Saint of Common Sense. A mystic who experienced many visions and ecstasies, Teresa was grounded in reality. Her numerous writings attest to her deep understanding of human nature and of the necessity of following a simple path towards holiness. She taught of humility and charity, detachment, and perseverance in prayer. She experienced the ways of the world and the temptations that are common to all people of every era, so that she was equipped to understand human frailty and encourage her nuns, her followers and readers through the centuries along the path to holiness.
Pray, Hope and Trust
So often, we believe that our experience is unique, that we are alone in facing the struggles that clutter our lives, or that times were simpler, safer and more pleasant in the past. Parents in this postmodern, digital age might lament the many dangers that threaten our children, dangers that we consider new and unique to our age. We pray for our children with an urgency and something that almost verges on despair, as we see the many ways the world tempts them away from the Faith and into dangerous lifestyles.
A Visit from the Pope?
Chances are, we who live in suburban Philadelphia will have a wonderful opportunity to see our Holy Father Pope Francis and receive his blessing in person next year!
Hail, Holy Queen
August is the month we dedicate to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned Queen of heaven and earth. The Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15 and the Queenship of Mary, memorial, on August 22. The dogma of the Assumption was declared in 1950 and emphasizes that our belief that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven without suffering death's bodily corruption, has been a part of the deposit of faith since the time of the apostles. As Catholics, we are bound to believe those teachings that are proclaimed dogma. Mary died, but her death was gentle and sweet and she was immediately caught up to be welcomed into her true home in heaven. There she never tires of tending to the needs and welfare of each of us, her subjects.
Consecration Prayers of St. Maximilian Kolbe
Immaculata, Queen and Mother of the Church, I renew my consecration to you for this day and for always, so that you might use me for the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus in the whole world. To this end I offer you all my prayers, actions and sacrifices of this day.
Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden
We celebrate St. Bridget's feast on the day of her "birth into heaven," July 23. Having received the Last Rites on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen, St. Bridget died the next day, following the Consecration during a Mass being said at her bedside. This holy woman of the fourteenth century left an amazingly rich legacy, including the holiness of her entire life, mystical revelations, profound prayers dictated to her by Jesus, and even another saint for the Church: her daughter, St. Catherine of Sweden.