Category Archives: Saints

Homily on the Holy Family by Pope Paul VI

Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God’s Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning. And gradually we may even learn to imitate him.

Here we can learn to realize who Christ really is. And here we can sense and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth: the places, the tenor of the times, the culture, the language, religious customs, in brief everything which Jesus used to make himself known to the world. Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning. Here we can learn the importance of spiritual discipline for all who wish to follow Christ and to live by the teachings of his Gospel.

How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth! How wonderful to be close to Mary, learning again the lesson of the true meaning of life, learning again God’s truths. But here we are only on pilgrimage. Time presses and I must set aside my desire to stay and carry on my education in the Gospel, for that education is never finished. But I cannot leave without recalling, briefly and in passing, some thoughts I take with me from Nazareth.

First, we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God.

Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplifying its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings; in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children—and for this there is no substitute.

Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognize its value—demanding yet redeeming—and to give it proper respect. I would remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character, however, derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the purpose it serves.

In closing, may I express my deep regard for people everywhere who work for a living. To them I would point out their great model, Christ their brother, our Lord and God, who is their prophet in every cause that promotes their well being.

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Christ’s Agony in the Garden, A Reflection, Part 2

I would like to continue sharing Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s reflection on Christ’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, which now focuses on the meaning of finding the Apostles asleep.  I pray that it will help you in your reflections during Lent.

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In between the sins of the past which He pulled upon His soul as if they were His own, and the sins of the future which made Him wonder about the usefulness of His death — Quae utilitas in sanguine meo — was the horror of the present.

He found the Apostles asleep three times.  Men who were worried about the struggle against the powers of darkness could not sleep — but these men slept.  No wonder, then, with the accumulated guilt of all the ages clinging to Him as a pestilence, His bodily nature gave way.  As a father in agony will pay the debt of a wayward son, He now sensed guilt to such an extent that it forced Blood from His Body, Blood which fell like crimson beads upon the olive roots of Gethsemane, making the first Rosary of Redemption.  It was not bodily pain that was causing a soul’s agony; but full sorrow for rebellion against God that was creating bodily pain.  It has been observed of old that the gum which exudes from the tree without cutting is always the best.  Here the best spices flowed when there was no whip, no nail, and no wound.  Without a lance, but through the sheer voluntariness of Christ’s suffering, the Blood flowed freely.

Sin is in the blood.  Every doctor knows this; even passersby can see it.  Drunkenness is in the eyes, the bloated cheek.  Avarice is written in the hands and on the mouth.  Lust is written in the eyes.  There is not a libertine, a criminal, a bigot, a pervert who does not have his hate or his envy written in every inch of his body, every hidden gateway and alley of his blood, and every cell of his brain.

Since sin is in the blood, it must be poured out.  As Our Lord willed that the shedding of the blood of goats and animals should prefigure His own atonement, so He willed further that sinful men should never again shed any blood in war or hate, but would invoke only His Precious Blood now poured out in Redemption.  Since all sin needs expiation, modern man, instead of calling on the Blood of Christ in pardon, sheds his own brother’s blood in the dirty business of war.  All this crimsoning of the earth will not be stopped until man in the full consciousness of sin begins to invoke upon himself in peace and pardon the Redemptive Blood of Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Every soul can at least dimly understand the nature of the struggle that took place on the moonlit night in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Every heart knows something about it.  No one has ever come to the twenties — let alone to the forties, or the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies of life — without reflecting with some degree of seriousness on himself and the world round about him, and without knowing the terrible tension that has been caused in his soul by sin.  Faults and follies do not efface themselves from the record of memory; sleeping tablets do not silence them; psychoanalysts cannot explain them away.  The brightness of youth may make them fade into some dim outline, but there are times of silence — on a sick bed, sleepless nights, the open seas, a moment of quiet, the innocence in the face of a child — when these sins, like spectres or phantoms, blaze their unrelenting characters of fire upon our consciences.  Their force might not have been realized in a moment of passion, but conscience is biding its time and will bear its stern uncompromising witness sometime, somewhere, and force a dread upon the soul that ought to make it cast itself back again to God.  Terrible though the agonies and tortures of a single soul be, they were only a drop in the ocean of humanity’s guilt which the Savior felt as His own in the Garden.

Finding the Apostles asleep the third time, the Savior did not ask again if they could watch one hour with Him; more awful than any reprimand was the significant permission to sleep:

Sleep and take your rest hereafter;
As I speak, the time draws near
When the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.
(Matthew 26:45)

The fatigued followers were allowed to sleep on until the last moment.  Their sympathy was needed no longer; while His friends slept, His enemies plotted.

 

Christ’s Agony in the Garden, A Reflection, Part 1

By tradition, Catholics reflect only on Christ’s Sorrowful Mysteries during Lent.  I wanted help to recall the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was praying in sorrow until he started to sweat blood.  I would like to share with you this reflection from Archbishop Fulton Sheen in his book, “Life of Christ.”

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This was the moment when Our Blessed Lord, in obedience to His Father’s will, took upon Himself the iniquities of all the world and became the sin-bearer.  He felt all the agony and torture of those who deny guilt, or sin with impunity and do no penance.  It was the prelude of the dreadful desertion which He had to endure and would pay to His Father’s justice, the debt which was due from us: to be treated as a sinner.  He was smitten as a sinner while there was no sin in Him — it was this which caused the agony, the greatest the world has ever known.

As sufferers look to the past and to the future, so the Redeemer looked to the past and to all the sins that had ever been committed; He looked also to the future, to every sin that would be committed until the crack of doom.  It was not the past beatings of pain that He drew up to the present, but rather every open act of evil and every hidden thought of shame.  The sin of Adam was there, when as the head of humanity he lost for all men the heritage of God’s grace; Cain was there, purple in the sheet of his brother’s blood; the abominations of Sodom and Gomorrah were there; the forgetfulness of His own people who fell down before false gods was there; the coarseness of the pagans who had rebelled even against the natural law was there; all sins were there: sins committed in the country that made all nature blush; sins committed in the city, in the city’s fetid atmosphere of sin; sins of the young for whom the tender heart of Christ was pierced; sins of the old who should have passed the age of sinning; sins committed in the darkness, where it was thought the eyes of God could not pierce; sins committed in the light that made even the wicked shudder; sins too awful to be mentioned, sins too terrible to name: Sin, sin, sin!

Once this pure, sinless mind of Our Savior had brought all of this iniquity of the past upon His soul as if it were His own, He now reached into the future.  He saw that His coming into the world with the intent to save men would intensify the hatred of some against God; He saw the betrayals of future Judases, the sins of heresy that would rend Christ’s Mystical Body; the sins of the Communists who could not drive God from the heavens but would drive His ambassadors from the earth; He saw the broken marriage vows, lies, slanders, adulteries, murders, apostasies — all these crimes were thrust into His own hands, as if He had committed them.  Evil desires lay upon His heart, as if He Himself had given them birth.  Lies and schisms rested on His mind, as if He Himself had conceived them.  Blasphemies seemed to be on His lips, as if He had spoken them.  From the North, South, East, and West, the foul miasma of the world’s sins rushed upon Him like a flood; Samson-like, He reached up and pulled the whole guilt of the world upon Himself as if He were guilty, paying for the debt in our name, so that we might once more have access to the Father.  He was, so to speak, mentally preparing Himself for the great sacrifice, laying upon His sinless soul the sins of a guilty world.  To most men, the burden of sin is as natural as the clothes they wear, but to Him the touch of that which men take so easily was the veriest agony.

My Intellectual and Spiritual Pride

As I go through Chapter 28 of Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange’s book on the interior life, I find myself horribly exposed to my intellectual and spiritual pride.  I was aware that pride was my root sin, but I did not realize how badly I suffered from it.  It’s odd: I’m disappointed with myself, but I’m also filled with joy to discover this flaw.  I want to be perfect, as Jesus is perfect; but, I know I’m not, yet.  By His grace, I was able to remove the big rocks on the field of my soul.  My intellectual and spiritual pride is hidden, like garden cutworms, potato tuberworms and other soil-dwelling pests.  Now, with the light of the Holy Spirit shining on my wounded soul, I can see how these hidden types of pride have infested the garden of my soul and blinded me from seeing these truths about myself:

  • I believe that I have through my own efforts what I have received from God
  • I believe that I have merited what I have gratuitously received
  • I attribute to myself goods I lack, (i.e. great learning, strong faith, heroic charity), when I do not possess it
  • I wish to be preferred to others and depreciate them

I felt the loving finger of God pointing at me when I read this passage:

Some finally, who are theoretically in the truth, are so satisfied to be right, so filled with their learning which has cost them so much, that their souls are, as it were, saturated with it and no longer humbly open to receive the superior light that would come from God in prayer.  Intellectual pride, even in those who are theoretically right, is a formidable obstacle to the grace of contemplation and to union with God.

I thank the Holy Spirit for the grace and consolation in knowing this fatal flaw in my soul.  How can I grow in Christian perfection with these soul-dwelling pests eating the crops planted by the Holy Spirit?  So, while I am truly disappointed with myself, I am also happy to experience this grace.  What a mercy to know that I’m still a sinner!

St. John of the Cross, pray for me.  Your words have brought me to shame:

When beginners become aware of their own fervor and diligence in their spiritual works and devotional exercises, this prosperity of theirs gives rise to secret pride — though holy things tend of their own nature to humility — because of their imperfections; and the issue is that they conceive a certain satisfaction in the contemplation of their works and of themselves.

From the same source, too, proceeds that empty eagerness which they display in speaking of the spiritual life before others, and sometimes as teachers rather than learners.  They condemn others in their heart when they see that they are not devout in their way.  Sometimes also they say it in words, showing themselves herein to be like the Pharisee, who in the act of prayer boasted of his own works and despised the publican (Luke 18:11)….  They see the mote in the eye of their brother, but not the beam which is in their own.

If you are reading this, pray for me.  Pray that I do not imitate Christ in the wrong way.  Pray that I bear with the equality of our fellow men & women, that I do no wish to impose my domination on them.  Pray that I live with them in humble submission to the divine law.

St. Francis de Sales on the Interior Life

St. Francis de Sales
St. Francis de Sales

When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.

Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfills all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.

The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it.

Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.

It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.

Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.

Sermon on the Feast of St. Thomas

This is a sermon given by St. Gregory the Great (a.k.a Pope Gregory I, 540-604) on the Memorial for St. Thomas the Apostle (which happens to be today, this year).  St. Gregory is a Doctor of the Church and was proclaimed a saint by popular acclaim after his death.  Even the Protestant reformer John Calvin considered him a good Pope.

St. Gregory the Great

Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. He was the only disciple absent; on his return he heard what had happened but refused to believe it. The Lord came a second time; he offered his side for the disbelieving disciple to touch, held out his hands, and showing the scars of his wounds, healed the wound of his disbelief.

Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events? Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed?It was not by chance but in God’s providence. In a marvellous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection.

Touching Christ, he cried out: My Lord and my God. Jesus said to him: Because you have seen me, Thomas, you have believed. Paul said: Faith is the guarantee of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. It is clear, then, that faith is the proof of what can not be seen. What is seen gives knowledge, not faith. When Thomas saw and touched, why was he told: You have believed because you have seen me? Because what he saw and what he believed were different things. God cannot be seen by mortal man. Thomas saw a human being, whom he acknowledged to be God, and said: My Lord and my God. Seeing, he believed; looking at one who was true man, he cried out that this was God, the God he could not see.

What follows is reason for great joy: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts one we have not seen in the flesh. We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works. The true believer practices what he believes. But of those who pay only lip service to faith, Paul has this to say:  They profess to know God, but they deny him in their works.  Therefore James says: Faith without works is dead.

Sermon by St. Anthony of Padua

The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. Gregory says: “A law is laid upon the preacher to practice what he preaches.” It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.

But the apostles spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself! For some men speak as their own character dictates, but steal the words of others and present them as their own and claim the credit for them. The Lord refers to such men and others like them in Jeremiah: So, then, I have a quarrel with the prophets that steal my words from each other. I have a quarrel with the prophets, says the Lord, who have only to move their tongues to utter oracles. I have a quarrel with the prophets who make prophecies out of lying dreams, who recount them and lead my people astray with their lies and their pretensions. I certainly never sent them or commissioned them, and they serve no good purpose for this people, says the Lord.

We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. Likewise we shall request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith, so that our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God.

Another Miracle for St. Anthony of Padua

Praise God!  Glory to Him and bless the Communion of Saints!  And, (oddly enough), God bless United Airlines.

This past Saturday, I lost my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite on my flight from SFO to Las Vegas.  I did not think I would ever see it, again.  I filed a claim, but they didn’t give me a claim number.  So, I assumed my claim would go into the ether and be forgotten.

St. Anthony of Padua | Doctor of the Church

When I went to Mass on Sunday at the Guardian Angel Cathedral of Las Vegas, I prayed to St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost articles.  I asked that if it was God’s will, that St. Anthony would help intercede for me and ask God to help me find my Kindle, again.

Continue reading Another Miracle for St. Anthony of Padua

St. Josemaria’s 17 Signs of a Lack of Humility

I definitely lack humility.  Praise God for a saint like Jose Maria Escriva!  His wisdom is such great consolation.  By looking at this list, I can see where I can grow spiritually.

St. Peter’s List | Article | St. Josemaria’s 17 Signs of a Lack of Humility

Allow me to remind you that among other evident signs of a lack of humility are:

  1. Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say
  2. Always wanting to get your own way
  3. Arguing when you are not right or — when you are — insisting stubbornly or with bad manners
  4. Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so
  5. Despising the point of view of others
  6. Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan
  7. Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honour or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own
  8. Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation
  9. Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you
  10. Making excuses when rebuked
  11. Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you
  12. Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you
  13. Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you
  14. Refusing to carry out menial tasks
  15. Seeking or wanting to be singled out
  16. Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige…
  17. Being ashamed of not having certain possessions…

St. Josemaria, pray for us!

St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

From “Give Us This Day,” May 2012, page 249:

Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, Founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, (1779-1865)

Madeleine Sophie Barat was born in a small town in Burgundy.  Following the French Revolution and the suppression of religious orders, Catholic education in France had virtually ceased.  Madeleine’s older brother Louis, a one-time seminarian, took her education under his care, schooling her not only in the classics, but biblical studies, Church history, and theology — a typical seminary program.  Fortunately, she took happily to this strict regime.  Later, when she told her spiritual director that she wished to become a Carmelite, he informed her that her true vocation was otherwise: to found an order dedicated to the education of young girls.

In 1801, with two other women, Madeleine opened a small school in Amiens.  The work grew and from these seeds emerged the Society of the Sacred Heart.  Madeleine became superior at the age of 23, an office she would occupy for 62 years.

Mother Madeleine spent much of her life traveling.  She established an astonishing 111 houses, operating in 12 countries in Europe and North America.  By the time of her death in 1865 there were nearly 4,000 members of her society.  She played an enormous role in the resurgence of Catholicism in France; her contribution to the education of young women and their role in society was beyond reckoning.  She was canonized in 1925.

“The Creator alone can work in souls.  The less we put of ourselves, the more Our Lord works.  That is why He generally chooses those who are of little worth, mere nothings, as His most precious instruments.” — St. Madeleine Sophie Barat