Ranch Walk

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As the sun by its rays adorns the leaves and branches of plants with colors and keeps each vigorous in its proper species, so the grace of God by its illumination adorns man with virtues, enkindles in him the fire of love, makes him beautiful in God’s sight and brings his nature to perfection without inflicting any injury.  

                                                                                             -St Joseph of Cupertino

Today was the perfect day for a long walk on the ranch!  On our calendar it was the feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino, an extraordinary saint known for mystical experiences which caused him to levitate often, but even more than this, he was deeply humble and joyful despite much suffering.

A compilation of some of his thoughts and sayings, which we read during the Office of Readings, yields some real gems.  Providentially, he mentions plants, fruit and birds – all of which I found on my walk.  In addition to the pomegranate I also cut a small bunch of mustang grapes – they’re pretty tart but it’s kind of exciting to nibble on “wild” food.  Still have to find out the names of all these lovely plants and flowers that populated my walk today.FullSizeRender-1

A reading from the thoughts and saying of Saint Joseph of Cupertino
(G. Pariscianti: S. Giuseppe da Cupertino alla luce dei nuovi documenti, Osimo 1963)

      The three most important things for a religious are: to love God with all his heart, to praise him continually, to be a light to others by his good example. No one intent on living a spiritual or religious life can ever reach perfection without the love of God. He who has love is rich even though he may be unaware of his riches, and he who does not have love is indeed very unfortunate. As the sun by its rays adorns the leaves and branches of plants with colors and keeps each vigorous in its proper species, so the grace of God by its illumination adorns man with virtues, enkindles in him the fire of love, makes him beautiful in God’s sight and brings his nature to perfection without inflicting any injury.

     Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own. When a man trains himself to acts of virtue it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this. The will is what man has as his unique possession. God is therefore most pleased if man renounces his own will and places himself completely in God’s hand.

     As a fruit tree bears most fruit when it is carefully tended, so man proceeding along the way of God must always grow and advance in virtue so that he can bear the choicest fruits of sanctity, give an example of virtue to draw others and lead them safely to the way of the Lord. To bear sufferings and misfortunes patiently for the love of God must be considered a special grace which God grants to those who love him.

     As our Lord Jesus Christ endured so many bitter sufferings for our sake so God wants us also to share in his sufferings. Surely, if you are gold, tribulation will purify you of dross; if you are iron, your rust will be scoured off.

     Consider the birds of the air; they come down to the ground to get food but swiftly fly back into the air. Similarly the servants of God must stay on the earth only as long as is necessary and soar up quickly again to heaven in spirit to praise and glorify God. Note too how careful birds are not to land in muddy places and how they avoid tumbling into the dirt. In like manner men must not involve themselves in things that defile the soul but soar aloft again in spirit to glorify the Most High God by their holy deeds.

Prayer
O God, Who didst purpose to draw all things unto Thy Son when He was lifted up from the earth: mercifully grant that we, by the merits and example of Thy seraphic Confessor, Joseph, being lifted above all earthly desires, may be worthy to come unto Him: Who with Thee livest and reignest world without end.  Amen.

More Than A Martyr

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He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.     -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Sin may seem exciting, but the truth is, it’s dull.  It dulls the faculties God gifted us with when He created us.  The more we sin, the more numb we become to its effects on our intellect, our will, and our senses.   Because Our Lady was free from sin, even from the stain of original sin, her capacity to feel emotion was so much keener than ours.  Her capacity to love, to feel joy and to feel sorrow and compassion were far beyond what we experience.

Our Lady’s martyrdom is foretold by Simeon, as Luke tells us:

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. (Lk 2:34-35)  

Her martyrdom reached its apex on Calvary, as she watched her Divine Son suffer and die upon the Cross for sinful mankind, and then finally, the sword prophesied by Simeon pierced her soul.

Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus—who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours—gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.     -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Because of her special role in revealing the thoughts of men’s hearts by her suffering, Fr. Chad Ripperger, an exorcist who speaks often about spiritual warfare, says that Our Lady of Sorrows can help us especially when we are trying to uncover the root cause of our sins but seem to blocked.  When there is something holding us back from entering into a deeper relationship with God, we can ask Our Lady of Sorrows to intercede and show us what we’re missing.  For more on this, you can listen to his talk on Our Lady of Sorrows (he speaks about how she can help reveal hidden knowledge of ourselves at about 9:28 into the talk).

O God, who didst will that in the passion of thy Son a sword of grief should pierce the soul of the blessed Virgin Mary his Mother: Mercifully grant that thy Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Patience In Tribulation & Grace in Everything

St Thomas More bids farewell to his daughter Margaret.

Give me, good Lord, a full faith, a firm hope, and a fervent charity, a love to the good Lord incomparable above the love to myself; and that I love nothing to Thy displeasure, but everything in an order to Thee.

 

Because they trust in God, rather than themselves, the martyrs face death with courage.  Today we celebrate the faithful husband, father, and statesman St. Thomas More.  Follow this link to find read his writings, including his religious writings.  Below are a couple of his writings, written near the time of his death.

Here is his last letter, written to his daughter Margaret, with whom he was very close, the day before his execution.  

Monday, July 5th, 1535.—

MY GOOD DAUGHTER:
Our Lord bless you, my good daughter, and your good husband, and your little boy, and all yours, and all my children, and all my god-children, and all our friends.  Recommend me when ye may, to my good daughter Cecily, whom I beseech Our Lord to comfort.  And I send her my blessing, and to all her children, and beg her to pray for me.  I send her a handkerchief; and God Continue reading

Father & Son

It’s kind of appropriate that Corpus Christi and Father’s Day have fallen on the same day this year.  In addition to thanking our earthly fathers for their love and care, we can also thank our Heavenly Father for giving us the gift of His Only Son.  Had He not been so immeasurably generous in sending His Son to die for our sins, not only would we not have been saved, but we would never had the joy of being joined to Christ in the intimacy of Holy Communion.  The Eucharist is deeply tied to Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection – indeed we find all three in the Holy Eucharist and at each Mass.

While our sins would have made it impossible for us to share in the life of God, Jesus Christ was sent to remove this obstacle. His death was a sacrifice for our sins. Christ is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). Through his death and resurrection, he conquered sin and death and reconciled us to God. The Eucharist is the memorial of this sacrifice. The Church gathers to remember and to re-present the sacrifice of Christ in which we share through the action of the priest and the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, we are joined to Christ’s sacrifice and receive its inexhaustible benefits...The eternal high priest Jesus offers the perfect sacrifice which is his very self, not something else…Jesus’ act belongs to human history, for he is truly human and has entered into history. At the same time, however, Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity; he is the eternal Son, who is not confined within time or history. His actions transcend time, which is part of creation. “Passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation” (Heb 9:11), Jesus the eternal Son of God made his act of sacrifice in the presence of his Father, who lives in eternity. Jesus’ one perfect sacrifice is thus eternally present before the Father, who eternally accepts it. This means that in the Eucharist, Jesus does not sacrifice himself again and again. Rather, by the power of the Holy Spirit his one eternal sacrifice is made present once again, re-presented, so that we may share in it.

-From the USCCB’s The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Basic Questions and Answers

So even if you have no father to send a card to today, or perhaps you do but your relationship is broken, don’t lose sight of the most important relationship you can have with a parent:  Your relationship with God the Father.  He longs for our hearts, that we might call upon Him with complete trust and confidence in every trial.  He wants to give us life in the Family that is the Holy Trinity, no matter what our family situation is here on earth.

God’s whole plan for our salvation is directed to our participation in the life of the Trinity, the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our sharing in this life begins with our Baptism, when by the power of the Holy Spirit we are joined to Christ, thus becoming adopted sons and daughters of the Father. It is strengthened and increased in Confirmation. It is nourished and deepened through our participation in the Eucharist. By eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist we become united to the person of Christ through his humanity.  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56)…By being united to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we are drawn up into the eternal relationship of love among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…The ultimate promise of the Gospel is that we will share in the life of the Holy Trinity. The Fathers of the Church called this participation in the divine life “divinization” (theosis). In this we see that God does not merely send us good things from on high; instead, we are brought up into the inner life of God, the communion among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the celebration of the Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”) we give praise and glory to God for this sublime gift.                              -USCCB

Being adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, we sometimes describe Jesus as the Sun around which our whole universe revolves.  This is really what each soul is called to, no matter their state in life.  While no past age was perfect, and trials, struggles and sin have been present from Eden until now, past ages did have a greater love for the Holy Eucharist.  They made Him the center of their lives, as He is the center of the Church, and this Kingdom-building bore fruit that changed the course of history and set the west apart (read How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, by Thomas E. Woods, for a great explanation of just what I’m talking about).

If the God who pours Himself out like a libation for our salvation is not the center of our universe, the measuring rod by which we measure all we think, do, say, and desire, then we end up with man as the center, and the result is what we have today, a society of selfishness, which puts myself and my own needs before all else.  This way of thinking is at odds with what Jesus teaches us about Himself, His Father, and the Holy Spirit.

This “sublime gift” that is the Eucharist has spurred the saints to pour out their lives and the martyrs to lay down their lives; it has inspired the composition of the most beautiful sacred music; it has driven the construction of awe-inspiring churches and cathedrals, marvelous buildings that, despite their age, still speak to us of the majesty of God.  One of these masterpieces, St. Peter’s Basilica, so overwhelmed a friend of mine that he sent a postcard saying “the fact that man could build an edifice like this is proof to me of God’s existence.”

Love of the Holy Eucharist has been the catalyst for man to create so much beauty throughout the ages, and still there is nothing we can build, sculpt, paint, or compose which even touches the splendor of this mystery:  that God is hidden beneath the veil of bread and wine; that the Eternal Word Who became Incarnate in Mary’s womb is also present in every tabernacle, silent and humble and hidden, just as He was at the Incarnation, and He wants to feed us with Himself.  May God give us the eyes of faith to see and believe.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! o’er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.
To the Everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from Each eternally,
Be salvation, honour, blessing,
Might, and endless majesty.
Amen.

 

Sardines & Lillies – St. Anthony Customs

Boas festas de Santo Antonio! None of us speak Portuguese, so If that’s not exactly correct you can blame Google translator.  On this blessed feast of our city’s patron saint we learned a few new things.  First off, we heard in the homily today that because he was such an eloquent preacher and drew such large crowds (some 30,000 people gathered to hear his last sermon), people used to sleep overnight in the churches so they would be sure of getting a spot.  Don’t you wish we had that problem today?

In Lisbon they celebrate a sardine festival around his feast day, commemorating the famous miracle where he preached to the fishes and they listened.  There is also a custom in some places of blessing lilies on his feast day, a symbol of his purity, as you often see in paintings or statues of him.  There’s even a blessing for lilies which you can find here.  There are so many customs and traditions we could list that surround St Anthony we could fill a book.  He is one the Church’s most beloved saints, a great preacher and miracle-worker.

There’s a great online source here where you can read many of his sermons.  This is nice because sometimes we know more about the miracles a saint performed than about the words they spoke, and reading his homilies where he unlocks scripture reminds one of the Church Fathers.

Here is an excerpt from a homily he preached on Pentecost.  He compares the poison tongues of Adam, Eve and the serpent to the cleansing tongues of fire on Pentecost.  And of course he had no idea when he was preaching that nearly 800 years after his death his own tongue would be preserved incorrupt, a testament to the holiness of this Franciscan preacher who proclaimed the Truth of Christ to all he encountered.

(A sermon on the three tongues: of the serpent, of Eve and of Adam; and on the four natures of fire, and their meaning: From the four winds there came.)
3. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon everyone of them; because it was by tongues (namely those of the serpent, Eve and Adam) that death entered into the world [cf. Wisd 2.24]. The tongue of the serpent was poison to Eve, the tongue of Eve poisoned Adam, and Adam’s tongue tried to turn the blame back on God. The tongue is a cold organ, surrounded by moisture; thus:  It is an unquiet evil, full of deadly poison [Jas 3.8], than which there is nothing colder. Therefore the Holy Spirit appeared in tongues of fire, to apply tongues to tongues, fire to deadly poison.

Note that fire has four natures: it burns, it cleanses, it warms, it gives light. Similarly the Holy Spirit burns away sins, cleanses hearts, shakes off sloth and enlightens ignorance.Fire is by nature incorporeal and invisible, but when it takes on a bodily form it appears in various colours, according to the materials in which it is burning. In the same way, the Holy Spirit cannot be seen except through the creatures in which he operates.
Note that the scattering of tongues came about at the tower of Babel. As pride scattered,so humility gathered together again. In pride is division, in humility concord. See how theLord’s promise was fulfilled:

I will not leave you orphans; but I will send the Spirit, the Paraclete
[cf. Jn 14.18,26]

who speaks for everyone as their Advocate. Coming on behalf of the Word, he came with tongues. The tongue represents knowledge expressed in words, and the two elements cannot be separated. So the Word of the Father (that is, the Son) and the Holy Spirit are inseparable, being indeed of one Nature.
Come, spirit, from the four winds and blow upon these slain and let them live again. [Ezek 37.9]

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Spirit gave them to speak. Behold the sign of fullness. The full vessel overflows, and fire cannot be hidden. They spoke with every tongue; or else,though they spoke with their own (Hebrew) tongue, they were understood by all as if they spoke the proper tongue of each. The Holy Spirit, sharing with each as he will [cf.1Cor 12.11], breathes his grace where, how, how much, when and on whom he will. May he deign to breathe it on us, he who this day breathed his grace on the Apostles in tongues of fire. To him be always praise and glory, through everlasting ages. Amen

Monday – The Holy Spirit

As we mentioned last week, it’s a tradition that each day of the week is dedicated to a particular devotion – and Monday is the day devoted to the Holy Spirit.

Here are some prayers to the Holy Spirit, taken from the Prayer Book of the Library of Catholic Devotion. These books were published in 1959 and aren’t currently in print, but if you can find an old copy I would encourage it. I have loved this prayer book for many years, and my family especially likes to use the prayers for the dying found in this book.

For the Grace of the Holy Ghost

Come, Holy Ghost, Sanctifier all powerful, God of love, Thou Who didst fill the Virgin Mary with grace, Thou Who didst wonderfully transform the hearts of the Apostles, Thou Who didst endow all Thy martyrs with a miraculous heroism, come and sanctify us. Illumine our minds, strengthen our wills, purify our consciences, rectify our judgments, set our hearts on fire, and preserve us from the misfortune of resisting Thine inspirations. Amen.(Indulgence of 500 days)

For a Pure Heart

May our hearts be cleansed, O Lord, by the inpouring of the Holy Spirit, and may He render them fruitful by watering them with His heavenly dew.

(Roman Missal Indulgence of 500 days)

Consecration to the holy ghost

O Holy Spirit, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always submissive to Thy heavenly inspirations and to the teachings of the holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory forever. Amen.
(Indulgence of 500 days)

For Light

O Holy Spirit, Spirit of truth, come into our hearts; shed the brightness of Thy light upon the nations, that they may please Thee in unity of faith.

For the Grace of God

O Thou plenteous source of every good and perfect gift! bestow abroad the consoling light of Thy seven-fold grace over our hearts! Yea, Spirit of love and gentleness: most humbly we implore Thine assistance! Thou knowest our faults, our failings, our necessities, the dullness of our understanding, the waywardness of our affections, the perverseness of our will. When, therefore, we neglect to practice what we know, visit us, we beseech Thee, with Thy grace; enlighten, God, our minds, rectify our desires, correct our wanderings, and pardon our omissions, so that, by Thy guidance, we may be preserved from making shipwreck of faith, and keep a good conscience, and so, at length, we may be landed in the safe haven of eternal peace. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For the Help of the Holy Ghost

We beseech Thee, O Holy Spirit, descend with Thy light and consolation into our souls; enlighten our understanding, and consecrate the hearts which Thou has sanctified as Thy temples.  O Holy Ghost, come and bring us God’s blessing and peace; console us and all the afflicted; encourage and strengthen the weak; instruct and support the wavering; arouse sinners to penance, and enkindle in their cold hearts the fire of divine love and filial confidence in Thee, that all men, in peace and joy, may thankfully praise and adore Thee, together with the Father and the Son, one God, world without end.  Amen.