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.

 

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.

God’s Grandeur

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

During this morning’s thunderstorm we lost power – right in the middle of breakfast the lights flickered and went out, and so we finished our meal by candlelight.  The rain stopped soon after, but the power stayed off for a couple more hours, so the best solution was to go outside, where there was plenty of light that required no batteries or matches.  I love to go outside after a rain – everything about the world seems more vibrant.  When the hum of our electric-centric lives gets disrupted I go outside and find that everything is still running on course.  Below are some pictures from after the rain.  I took them with a very inexpensive and simple macro lens but they offer a peek into the complex and tiny world we often overlook.  God’s grandeur indeed, reflected in the smallest things.

I was so pleased to get this on video – I wonder how heavy that water drop must seem to this little fly?

If you appreciate dewy insects, too, you might enjoy these professional pictures which are much more detailed than mine.

Death and Redemption

mary-eve-tree-life-death-1 Remember o man that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou return.  These words we heard on Ash Wednesday, as our foreheads were signed with ashes, come back to mind today, as the Mass readings present the entrance of death into the paradise God had created.  We were made for life, and for deep communion with God and one another, but the disobedience of Adam and Eve opened up a chasm between God and man which could only be bridged by Our Lord’s Passion and Death.  We were not made for death, but when man’s rebellion brought death into the world, our merciful Father gave us a new path to life through the Blood of His Son.

the-hague-mmw-10-f-17-73rWe tend to shy away from thinking about death, our own death or that of our loved ones, but it is something none of us can escape.  Continuing the practice of the Romans, Christians in past ages made a point to consider the reality of death as part of their spiritual practices.  Memento Mori (remember death), was a common phrase, stamped on holy cards and carved on ivory skulls.  Meditating on the fact that we will one day stand before the throne of God to make an account of our lives gives us pause to consider the course we are on and where it will lead us.

Just yesterday my great-uncle, Milton, passed away at the hour of mercy, surrounded by prayer and family. (Please pray for the blessed repose of his soul, and comfort for his family.)  The grace of a happy death is a grace indeed, and one we should all pray for, but we begin that journey now, with every choice we make.  To assist and support a dying person is one of the greatest works of mercy and charity we can perform, helping them prepare for the most important moment of their entire life: the moment when they step out of time and into eternity, the moment their soul stands before God’s judgement seat.  Reading the prayers for the dying is a sobering experience.  Death often seems like such an abstract, a vague cloud hovering at the edge of our lives or in the back of our minds.  Death takes on a more definite character when I consider that I do not know the day nor the hour, but at the appointed time God, Who created me, will command my soul to His judgement seat where I will make an accounting of my life to Him.

245f0f93d70d3d8278c84bf0a0ead49b-jpgOur Lord is a just judge, but He is also merciful, and in His Church He gives us all that we need to attain eternal life – and not just eternal life, but a deep and transformative relationship with Him here and now as well.  May we take full advantage of the graces of this penitential season and re-commit ourselves to following Our Lord closely on the path of life.  We may sometimes lose our way; we may, either willfully or by mistake, take a wrong turn, but as soon as we realize that Jesus is no longer in sight we can run to confession and plunge our souls into the cleansing water of mercy and forgiveness.  Death is the fate  of all men, but it is not the end.  We make our choice now by the choices we make each day, so let us choose for God.

In Case You Missed It…

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Merry Christmas!  Hopefully you are still celebrating on this fourth day of the Christmas Octave.  Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, one of the many important feasts celebrated during these Christmas days.  In the monastery this was an occasion to sing the very beautiful (musically, anyway, despite the tragic subject matter) Coventry Carol.  It written in 1534, just missing the Late Middle Ages, but we can talk about it in this post since   we have a copy it being performed by the Mediaeval Baebes (ha, ha).  It is traditionally sung acapella, as you will hear, which makes it so haunting.  

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-10-37-19-amIn case you missed last week’s episode of A Good Habit, you might want to take a listen, as we discussed Christmas in the Middle Ages with the Modern Medievalist, James Griffin.  I was so looking forward to this show since we were privileged to have James in studio with us, but I was kept at home by a nasty cold and laryngitis.  The first time I ever missed a show in three and a half years and it had to be this one…It was a great episode, and really could have gone on for another hour or two, since there were so many subjects they didn’t screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-10-43-34-amget to, like the Boar’s Head Feast (which I don’t know anything about, but I did find this engraving of it, and I know the MM could probably write a fascinating blog about it).  After you whet your appetite listening to the show, you’ll want to add his blog, Modern Medievalism, to your favorites and grab a cup of coffee, there are lots of fascinating articles to read there and you will always find something to interest you.  Keep an eye on it, and perhaps he will add some posts on Christmas in the Middle Ages that he didn’t get to on the radio.  You may have heard James on our radio show earlier this year to discuss Requiem Masses and other topics related to praying for the dead, but here’s another link that will be of interest to you as well: His appearance on Radio Maria to discuss lay piety in the Middle Ages.

The Woman & the Dragon, Life & Death

guadelupeAnd a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:  And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.

And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems:  And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. (Rev 12:1-4)

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live  and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deut 30: 19-20)

Recently we’ve been talking about spiritual warfare – the war between satan and Saint Michael, the war between the prince of this world and the Kingdom of God.  It becomes even more tangible when you see the occult connection between a party’s platform and their personal life, as we saw in recently released emails regarding “spirit cooking” (if you don’t know what that is, look it up, it’s not just “performance art”).

I think sometimes we hear phrases like “culture of life” and “culture of death” and we can grow deaf to their full meaning.  When the Church speaks of the life vs death culture war we are engaged in, this is actually what She is talking about, this battle between the dragon, who wants to devour the Child, and the Woman, who represents both Our Lady and the Church, who gives birth to the King of kings and so defeats the dragon.  When you hear the Church say that we must put the life principles above all other issues, and at the top of that is the right to life of the unborn, She knows what She’s talking about. One political party has been called the Party of Death by many Catholics and Christians because of their unwavering commitment to abortion on demand and their alignment with anti-life principles. This naturally moves into attacks on religious liberty, two obvious examples are the court cases filed by EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor in response to the HHS Mandate. They, and many, many other Catholic and religious groups, want to continue operating without violating their deeply held religious convictions (convictions which one candidate stated publicly “have to be changed”)  by being forced to provide contraceptive coverage to employees.

St. Ignatius urges us to “wake up”, to be aware of evil within and without, in our own hearts and in the world around us.  We do ourselves, our country, and countless innocent children, born and unborn, a great disservice if we shut our eyes to the evil which is being revealed.  We might feel discouraged, we might feel hopeless but we actually have so many reasons to hope.  Jesus Christ is our first hope; He has defeated death and the kingdom of death, and we are united with Him in our baptism, and can be united to Him daily in Holy Communion.

jesus2He has given Our Lady to us as a mother and protector, and it’s her job to crush the serpent’s head.  She is working, and it may be that her time of triumph is quite close.  Remember the vision of Pope Leo XIII? On October 13, 1884, he was standing at the foot of the altar after Mass when he overheard two voices in conversation, that seemed to come from near the tabernacle.  A harsh voice said “I can destroy your Church.” A gentle voice replied, “You can? Then go ahead and do so.” The wicked voice said it needed more time, 75-100 years, and more power over those who would give themselves to his service. The gentle voice acceded saying, “You have the time, you have the power.  Do with them what you will.”  After hearing this conversation the Holy Father immediately went and composed the prayer to St. Michael which he requested  be recited after every low Mass.  Exactly 33 years later, on October 13, 1917, Our Lady’s final apparition to the three children in Fatima took place and the miracle of the sun was witnessed by tens of thousands of people.  Our Lady called for prayer and sacrifice for peace, for the conversion of Russia.  She foretold suffering and war if her message was not heeded, but that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph.

Perhaps the 100 year reign of satan is in its final stage, and that is why he reveals himself so blatantly now – he knows the end is near and he’s pulling out all the stops.  We don’t know what will happen this week, but we can be sure of a few things.  Firstly, that we must pray, pray, pray and fast for God’s Will to be done, for hearts to be converted, and for evil to be expelled from our nation.  We must vote according to the Church’s teachings on the non-negotiable issues: the dignity of human life from conception to natural death; the dignity of marriage and the family, the building block of every society; and religious freedom, including the rights of parents to educate their children. We must trust in God and speak the Truth – it is a weapon, a sword, Our Lord tells us, and a powerful weapon it is.  Truth is not just an opinion or a thought, it’s actually a Person:  Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  When we speak in truth we are united to Him.  In prayer, especially through meditating on His life in the Rosary, we come  to know Him more deeply, and to be conformed more and more into His image.  Our Lady can teach us so much about her Son, and we need to stay close to her through the Rosary.

It’s become commonplace in our culture for people to deny God, but also to deny the reality of evil.  It’s even tempting for those of us who believe in God to deny evil at times because it is so frightening.  But seeing evil so starkly presented can be an occasion for souls to turn to good, to turn to God.  Our Lady will triumph, we can be certain of that, and she is already working in the hearts and minds of many who don’t yet know her or her Son.  Continue to pray for the protection of all the truth-tellers who are putting their life and work on the line, we are so grateful to God for their courage.

I love listening to the Rosary with Fr. Groeschel which airs on EWTN.  In his meditations for the sorrowful mysteries we hear that whenever good confronts evil there is suffering.  Right now this confrontation is happening on a grand scale in our country.  And there will be suffering.  We don’t really know what that might look like, but we must keep in mind that we worship a Crucified Savior.  He saved us through the Cross, and we are called to follow in His footsteps.  Suffering, even dying, is not the worst thing that can happen to us.  Sin and spending eternity without God are what we should fear.  Put on the armor of God, pray, support all those who fight with the sword of Truth by your prayers and sacrifices – I’m sure many of them aren’t familiar with spiritual warfare, but they are committed to truth and transparency.  We can aid them in the fight by intercessory prayer.

When Our Lady of America spoke to Sr. Mildred Neuzil she said that America was called to be a beacon of purity for the entire world.

“I wish it to be the country dedicated to my purity. The wonders I will work will be the wonders of the soul. They must have faith and believe firmly in my love for them. I desire that they be the children of my Pure Heart. I desire, through my children in America, to further the cause of faith and purity among peoples and nations…I do not promise miracles of the body, but of the soul.” … “Pray and do penance, my sweet child, that this may come to pass.” (Diary, Pgs. 10-15.)

America is consecrated to the Immaculate Conception, she who was conceived free from original sin, the Purissima.  May she intercede for our nation and make it pure, God-fearing, and committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.  May she build in each of our hearts a culture of life.

Our Lady of Unity

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Shine on us, dear Lady, with thy bright countenance, like the sun in his strength, O stella matutina, O harbinger of peace, till our year is one perpetual May. From thy sweet eyes, from thy pure smile, from thy majestic brow, let ten thousand influences rain down, not to confound or overwhelm, but to persuade, to win over thine enemies. O Mary, my hope, O Mother undefiled, fulfil to us the promise of this Spring.

-Bl. John Henry Newman

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It was 20 years ago that I became a Catholic, and a couple years after that, when I first began attending the parish named after her, that I first came to know the Mother of God as Our Lady of the Atonement.  But even then, it wasn’t until I entered the monastery in Alabama that I actually began to take a greater interest in her.  I think it started with homesickness, and a longing for everything I was missing from Texas.  But then I came to know her story in much greater depth when I stumbled upon a book called Our Lady and Reunion, in the cloister library.  Imagine my surprise when I opened it up to find Our Lady of the Atonement herself, looking up at me from the title page!IMG_6982

It’s been almost 15 years since I’ve read the book, but one thing that that’s always stuck with me is something that Cardinal Newman wrote about Our Lady’s role in the return of England to the Catholic faith.  Our Lady of the Atonement is the Mother of Unity – this is what her title denotes the At-One-Ment of man with God, and with all men in the Church founded by Christ.  It’s all there, even in the beginning of devotion to her under this new Continue reading