Doing Our Part

00.159.134_PS1Here is a great homily our priest friend, Fr. Matthew, preached on today’s Gospel (John 6:1-15):

I am sure that you have all heard the story of the man who for years prayed to God asking that he might win the lottery, and, when nothing came of it, he complained bitterly, only to hear a voice from Heaven say ‘John, you have to meet me half way, at least buy a ticket.’ While fictional, it does demonstrate the theme of today’s readings: God works, God loves, God performs miracles, but, we have to do our part for that to happen. As a saint once said ‘pray as though it all depends on God, but work as though it all depends on you.’ Although we might be tempted to think that this is strange or wrong, it is actually quite beautiful. There has always been in the Church this tension between grace and free will. There have always been errors on both sides. In the early Church we had Pelagianism, which held that we could save ourselves through our own efforts, and then, as time went by, we had the opposite view in many different forms, culminating in the many forms of Protestantism, namely that we were so corrupted by original sin that absolutely no good whatsoever could come from us. Both of these views are tempting, and both are wrong. We cannot save ourselves, but, neither are we so corrupt as to be incapable of doing good. As St. Augustine said ‘God who created you without you will not save you without you.’

Our Gospel is amazing because it shows us the way in which Jesus’ love and concern is for the whole of the person, not only the soul. Of course he wants to save us, that is the whole reason that he came and lived amongst us; however, in taking on our human nature, really and truly, not merely as a costume that an actor might wear, he experiences in his own person, the limitations of humanity. Jesus knew what it was like to feel hunger, thirst and exhaustion. That is how he understood that the crowds who had journeyed so far to meet him were starving, not only starving for the Word of God, but also for bodily food. Then we have the next beautiful element of the Gospel: Jesus does not just go ahead and feed them, he asks for co-operation from the Apostles and from the crowd. Even though they are clueless and lacking in faith, remarking that they have not enough money to buy food for all, Jesus still works a miracle, because, the little they are able to do, they in fact do. This is always the way with Jesus: what we have is nothing compared to what he has, and yet, he expects us to do our part, in order that he might do his part.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has proclaimed an extraordinary Jubilee Year, the Year of Mercy, which will begin on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, who also happens to be the Patroness of these United States. We should all be grateful to our Holy Father, who is so concerned for our salvation, just like Jesus, whose representative he is, and do all that we can to prepare for this. The Pope has won hearts with his simplicity and his care and concern for the poor and the outcasts, like Jesus, he knows that salvation involves the whole person, not only the soul, but he is just as concerned for the spiritual health and well-being as he is the material well-being, even though, if you limit your knowledge of Francis to what the media says, you would never know that. The Church has long had a list of 14 Works of Mercy: seven corporal and seven spiritual. They are as follows:

The seven corporal works of mercy:

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To shelter the homeless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.

The seven spiritual works of mercy:

  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To admonish sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To comfort the afflicted;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.

Both of these lists are important, because, as an Italian Bishop who was formerly the Superior General of his religious order that took care of the orphaned and the sick once said to me, remarking on today’s Gospel ‘Matthew, you cannot save a soul with an empty stomach, even Jesus feeds the crowds before he preaches to them.’ The corporal works of mercy are like the role of John the Baptist: they remove the obstacles to receiving Jesus, they prepare the way of the Lord. Here and now, on Beaver Island, there are those who are hungry and those who thirst, those who have not got the proper clothes, or shelter, those who are sick and have so many more needs. I ask you in the name of Jesus, please do not turn your backs on those who are less fortunate than you are, sometimes God has the face of a beggar. Remember that we are all sons and daughters of God the Father, but some of us have to live in conditions that are unworthy of our Royal status. Do not be afraid to deny yourself a bit so that someone else can have more.

While you are thinking about the way in which salvation embraces the whole human person, even the basic bodily needs, never forget that we are not only our bodies, we are also our souls, and so, as Pope Francis has so often stated ‘the Church is not a Non-Governmental Organization, or a Charity, it is so much more.’ Do look after the material needs of those around you, because they are important, but don’t stop there. There are plenty of people and organizations that minister to the body, as Catholics we have a particular calling to minister to the soul as well. The spiritual works of mercy are in many ways tougher than the corporal, because you could be a bad person and still do charitable things, but, unless your faith is strong, and you are well-formed, you cannot instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, or admonish sinners in a way that is not harsh and judgmental. Also, unless you are very united to Jesus, you cannot possibly bear wrongs patiently or forgive offenses willingly. Fear not, you don’t have to do this alone. Jesus himself will feed you with the bread of life, his flesh and blood, which we will be reflecting on over the next several weeks.

Sixteen Years Ago…

Happy feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.  Sixteen years ago today I was beginning my religious life.  I didn’t have any idea what to expect, except that it would be difficult.  And I wasn’t wrong, but the joys and blessings are beyond what I could have imagined.  Here are a couple pictures from the day. They are fuzzy because they’re photos of photos, makes them look even older.  My pastor, Father Christopher Phillips came to concelebrate Mass that day and see me off.  That’s him with my mom and I.  Bishop Dermott Molloy was also there and after I received my postulant veil he gave me a blessing and said “Be faithful unto death.”  I pray to God that I will be.  He has since gone to his reward, but he was faithful unto death, pouring out his life for the Quechua people of Peru.

Eight years ago…

this is the final sizeEight years ago today, July 7, 2007, I made my solemn vows.  In some ways it seems like just yesterday, in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago.  Time is funny, it seems to move slowly and quickly at the same time.  The holy cards I made to remember the day bore the above image, along with this prayer, one of my favorites.  I had kind of forgotten about it until I was cleaning out a drawer and found a stack of my old holy cards.  I don’t know anything about this image of Our Lady and the Infant Jesus.  Sr. Grace Marie had it in her stash of religious art for making vow cards, and I have tried to find it elsewhere to learn something about it, but with no luck.  We had the best artwork in the monastery, and when I try to find it online I never can.

I don’t know the source of the prayer,  either.  I came across it in one of the sister’s prayer books, and I’ve tried to find it online but to no avail. It pretty much says it all, what we religious, and all Catholics, should be striving for: a pure heart that pours itself out like a libation for God.

O Holy Virgin, keep my heart as that of a child:  pure, fresh and wide and glad, transparent as a spring.  Give me a simple heart which will not retire within itself to savor its own sorrows; a heart magnanimous in giving itself, easily moved to compassion; a faithful, generous heart which does not forget any favor received, nor hold resentment for any injuries done to it.  Make my heart meek and humble, quick to forgive, and capable of bearing tranquilly all opposition; a heart which will love without expecting love in return, content to vanish in the hearts of others, sacrificing itself before the Presence of Thy Divine Son; a great and indomitable heart, that no ingratitude can close and no indifference weary; a heart tormented by the glory of Jesus Christ, wounded by His Love, with a wound that cannot be healed except in Heaven.

Our Lady of America, Pray for Us

USA7Happy Independence Day!  As we celebrate the birth of our nation, let’s pray for true independence for every soul: freedom from sin and all those things which keep us from loving God with our whole heart.

Below is a beautiful prayer to Our Lady of America, written by Sister Mary Ephrem, a Precious Blood Sister, to whom Our Lady appeared in the 1950s. The apparitions were approved, and actively promoted, by the former Archbishop of Cincinnati, Paul Leibold.  Our Lady called all Americans to turn from sin and live lives of purity, so that America could lead the world in purity and peace.  We know what you’re thinking – was Our Lady talking about the right country?  But with God all things are possible, and where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.  God’s grace is powerful, and when we cooperate with His plan by living in fidelity, there is no miracle He can’t perform.

Oh Immaculate Mother, Queen of our country, open our hearts, our homes, and our land to the coming of Jesus, your Divine Son. With Him, reign over us, O heavenly Lady, so pure and so bright with the radiance of God’s light shining in and about you. Be our leader against the powers of evil set upon wresting the world of souls, redeemed at such a great cost by the sufferings of your Son and of yourself, in union with Him, from that same Savior, Who loves us with infinite charity.

We gather about you, O chaste and holy Mother, Virgin Immaculate, Patroness of our beloved Land, determined to fight under your banner of holy purity against the wickedness that would make all the world an abyss of evil, without God and without your loving maternal care.

We consecrate our hearts, our homes, our Land to your Most Pure Heart, O great Queen, that the kingdom of your Son, our Redeemer and our God, may be firmly established in us.

We ask no special sign of you, sweet Mother, for we believe in your great love for us, and we place in you our entire confidence. We promise to honor you by faith, love, and the purity of our lives according to your desire.

Reign over us, then, O Virgin Immaculate, with your Son Jesus Christ. May His Divine Heart and your most chaste Heart be ever enthroned and glorified among us. Use us, your children of America, as your instruments of peace among men and nations. Work your miracles of grace in us, so that we may be a glory to the Blessed Trinity, Who created, redeemed, and sanctifies us.

May your valiant spouse, St. Joseph, with the holy Angels and Saints, assist you and us in “renewing the face of the earth.” Then when our work is over, come, Holy Immaculate Mother, and as our Victorious Queen, lead us to the eternal kingdom, where your Son reigns forever as King.

Amen.

Read Sr. Ephrem’s account of the messages of Our Lady, as well as those of Our Lord, St. Joseph, and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel.  They are beautiful messages and quite timely, as they speak of God’s desire for us to live in sanctifying grace, and for our families to be holy, modeled on the Holy Family of Nazareth.

By thy Holy and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, deliver us from evil.

Protecting Religious Liberty in Texas

the_village_weddingWe hope you have been reading the statements from the US bishops reaffirming their commitment to the Church’s teaching about marriage.  Civic leaders have been speaking out as well.  We are proud of our own Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, for his commitment to defend the religious liberty of all Texans and their belief that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.  Here is the statement he released after the Supreme Court handed down its decision to legalize so-called same-sex marriage:

The Supreme Court has abandoned its role as an impartial judicial arbiter and has become an unelected nine-member legislature. Five Justices on the Supreme Court have imposed on the entire country their personal views on an issue that the Constitution and the Court’s previous decisions reserve to the people of the States.

Despite the Supreme Court’s rulings, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains protected. No Texan is required by the Supreme Court’s decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage.

The Texas Constitution guarantees that ‘[n]o human authority ought, in any case whatsoever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion.’ The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion; and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, combined with the newly enacted Pastor Protection Act, provide robust legal protections to Texans whose faith commands them to adhere to the traditional understanding of marriage.

As I have done in the past, I will continue to defend the religious liberties of all Texans—including those whose conscience dictates that marriage is only the union of one man and one woman. Later today, I will be issuing a directive to state agencies instructing them to prioritize the protection of Texans’ religious liberties.

Pray for Gov. Abbott, and all civic leaders, that they may be guided by the Holy Spirit as they seek to protect and defend traditional marriage, the family, and religious liberty.

Prayer for the Governor and Civic Leaders

God of power and might, wisdom and justice,
through you authority is rightly administered,
laws are enacted, and judgment is decreed.
Assist with your spirit of counsel and fortitude
the Governor and other civic leaders of this great state.
May they always seek
the ways of righteousness, justice and mercy.
Grant that they may be enabled by your powerful protection
to lead their people with honesty and integrity.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Two Pillars

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 2.39.20 PMIt’s the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul! Today is one of our most favorite feast days of the entire liturgical year.  What hope it gives us to meditate on these two men – one a betrayer, the other a murderer – who became such loyal friends of Our Lord that we call them the two Pillars of the Church.  They witnessed to Christ, even to the shedding of their blood.  How differently one looks at martyrdom in today cultural climate.  It’s no longer a romantic idea from the distant past.  We see it on the news weekly, if not daily, as Christians in the Middle East are brutally slaughtered for confessing Christ.  And as the hostility toward Christianity escalates in our own nation, we should consider that white martyrdom may not be the only kind of martyrdom to which we are called.  May we be strengthened by the example and intercession of Saints Peter and Paul, who loved Jesus unto death.

Petitions to St. Peter and St. Paul

O holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, I choose you this day and forever to be my special patrons and advocates; thee, Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles, because thou art the Rock, upon which Almighty God hath built His Church; thee, Saint Paul, because thou wast fore-chosen by God as the Vessel of election and the Preacher of truth in the whole world. Obtain for me, I pray you, lively faith, firm hope, and burning love; complete detachment from myself, contempt of the world, patience in adversity, humility in prosperity, attention in prayer, purity of heart, a right intention in all my works, diligence in fulfilling the duties of my state of life, constancy in my resolutions, resignation to the will of God and perseverance in the grace of God even unto death; that so, by means of your intercession and your glorious merits, I may be able to overcome the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, and may be made worthy to appear before the chief and eternal Shepherd of souls, Jesus Christ, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth for endless ages, to enjoy His presence and love Him forever. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

V. Thou shalt make them princes over all the earth.
R. They shall be mindful of Thy name, O Lord.

Let us pray:

O God, Whose right hand raised up blessed Peter, when he walked upon the water and began to sink, and thrice delivered his fellow-Apostle Paul from the depths of the sea, when he suffered shipwreck: graciously hear us and grant, by the merits of them both, that we also may attain unto everlasting glory: Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen

(An Indulgence of 500 days.)

We found the above prayer here, and there are more beautiful prayers and information to be found there about today’s feast.

“Do not fear, only believe.”

Gabriel_Max,_La_Résurrection_de_la_fille_de_Jaïre_(1878)This has been a hard week for our nation. Followers of Christ may be tempted to lose hope, despair even, as the death knell of Western civilization tolls loudly throughout the land.  What are we to do, living in a time when Truth is turned on its head, when men call good evil, and evil good?  We know that God is unchanging, His Truth is unchanging, but we live in a culture that believes truth is about as stable as shifting sand, that’s more like quicksand under our feet.  Our task is to keep our feet planted firmly on the Rock, Who is Christ, and remain faithful in all things, especially remaining faithful to the teaching of the Church, and faithful to His Vicar, the Pope, and the Bishops in union with him.   Continue reading