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.

 

In Case You Missed It…

shepherds_bow_-_google_art_project

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.

Prayers for Paris

9190483_f520As more details unfold from Paris, we pray for those who have been killed in the terror attacks, for those injured, and for all who are suffering.

Prayer for Victims of Terrorism

Loving God,
Welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism.
Comfort their families and all who grieve for them.
Help us in our fear and uncertainty,
And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love.
Strengthen all those who work for peace,
And may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts.  Amen.

In 1638, King Louis XIII consecrated himself, his family and the nation of France to Our Lady of the Assumption, as a way to thank her in advance for the birth of an heir to the throne (his wife was two months pregnant at the time, and she did give birth to a son, the future Louis XIV).  Here is part of the royal edict consecrating France to Our Lady: Continue reading

The Great War

Gassed, by John Singer Sargent

The world marks a sad anniversary today, the beginning of the Great War.  Tragically, the war to end all wars was not.  World War II gets a lot of attention in the media, being fresher in our minds, but World War is worth pondering.  This excellent video from Catholic News Service, which we first found here at Rorate Coeli, sheds a lot of light on the role the Great War played in the disintegration of Europe and Christianity.  Then, as in recent wars, the lone voice of the pope, crying out for peace, went unheeded. If hindsight is 20/20, the century that has passed since the outbreak of the war has given us ample time to understand its far-reaching effects, and often unanticipated, effects.

A Pope Under Our Lady’s Mantle

Almighty God and his holy Mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs…These great souls filled with grace and zeal will be chosen to oppose the enemies of God who are raging on all sides. They will be exceptionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Illumined by her light, strengthened by her food, guided by her spirit, supported by her arm, sheltered under her protection, they will fight with one hand and build with the other… By word and example they will draw all men to a true devotion to her and though this will make many enemies, it will also bring about many victories and much glory to God alone. 

– St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin

Today is the feast day of Bl. Pope John Paul II.  Only last year was it approved as an optional memorial in the US, and next year it will be celebrated as the feast of Saint John Paul II.  For those of you who pray the liturgy of the hours, the proper texts for today’s optional memorial can be found here.

The Little Flower Basilica will be celebrating a Solemn Mass for his feast day today at 5:30pm.  If you are in the San Antonio area it would be a nice way to end the day, commemorating this great saint who visited San Antonio in 1987.  Just recently we visited Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in St. Hedwig, outside of San Antonio.  This beautiful church, built by Polish immigrants in 1868, has, as you can imagine, a fervent love for John Paul II.  They are actually the guardians of the Papal chair which the pontiff used during his historic visit to San Antonio.  It was a privilege for us to offer up a prayer while standing before a chair used by the 263rd successor of St. Peter, one of the greatest saints of our time.

O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind. Who lives and reigns.

Salus Populi Romani

The image known as Our Lady of Czestochowa is most likely familiar to all of you – it is attributed to St. Luke.  In fact, over the centuries, many, many images of Our Lady have purportedly been painted by the evangelist himself, but the one we want to share with you today, in honor of his feast day, is the Salus Populi Romani (Health of the Roman People, or Protectress of the Roman People) to which our present holy father has a special devotion.

The icon is housed in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. St. Luke is said to have painted the image on a tabletop which belonged to the Holy Family, while listening to Our Lady herself recount stories of her Son’s life.  St. Helena brought the icon from Jerusalem to Constantinople.  In the painting, Mary’s eyes fall upon us, the viewer, and we are held in her gaze.  Jesus, whose hand is raised in blessing, looks to her, blessing those whom His Mother looks upon with tender mercy.

Many miracles have been associated with the ancient image, particularly when it is honored in procession.  Pope St. Gregory the great processed with the icon in the sixth century, imploring an end to the Black Plague.  St. Pius V carried the image in procession in 1791 begging Our Lady for a victory in the naval battle of Lepanto.  Victory was indeed granted through her intercession, and today that miraculous trouncing of the Turkish fleet is celebrated each year on October 7th as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, formerly known as Our Lady of Victory.  In 1834 Pope Gregory XVI honored Our Lady’s icon with a procession, pleading for an end to a cholera epidemic.

Most recently, Pope Francis had the icon brought from St. Mary Major to the Vatican, to be venerated during the special prayer service for peace in Syria and the Middle East.  The fact that Pope Francis brought the actual icon, not a copy, is quite telling – it speaks not only of his love for Our Lady, (about which friends from his past have already shared many stories), but also of his abiding trust in her maternal intercession.  Our Lady, Protectress of the Roman People, is a mother who comes to her children in their need, meets them where they are, and brings healing and peace.

It isn’t hard to understand how the image of a mother and queen who assists her children, not from her throne, but side by side with them, would resonate with the heart of Pope Francis, who has the tender heart of a pastor, a “shepherd with the odor of sheep”. It seems to fit perfectly with the Holy Father’s emphasis on encounter, something which has shaped his life and mission since he experienced a life-changing encounter with God’s mercy in the confessional at age 17.  It was at this time that he first recognized God calling him to the priesthood, though it would be several years before he would finally pursue his vocation by entering the Society of Jesus.  That idea of an encounter with mercy is what lead him to choose the Episcopal motto miserando atque eligendo (more on that here) when he was made bishop.

The icon of Salus Populi Romani has long been associated with the Jesuits, who spread this devotion around the world, being the first to obtain permission from the pope to duplicate the image for their houses of study.  In fact, it is sometimes called “the Jesuit Madonna”.  Their founder, the great St. Ignatius of Loyola, also had a devotion to Our Lady’s icon, and it was at St. Mary Major that he celebrated his first Mass, on Christmas night in 1538.

There is also an interesting link between devotion to Salus Populi Romani among the Jesuits, and the devotion of Our Lady of the Knots, which a very famous Jesuit has recently popularized.  But we’ll save that story for another time.  Instead, we’ll leave you with the words of Pope Paul VI, who, the same day he proclaimed Mary Mother of the Church, (at the closing of the third session of Vatican Council II in 1964) offered this prayer to the Madonna at St. Mary Major.

With a spirit full of trust and filial love, we raise our glance to you, despite our unworthiness and our weakness. You who have given us Jesus, the source of grace, will not fail to help your Church, at this time when she is flowering because of the abundance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and is committing herself with renewed zeal to her mission of salvation.

A Unique Church

Throughout the history of the Church, missionary priests have spread the faith to many lands and peoples. But the story of the Church in Korea is unique, because the seeds of the faith were sown by the laity and fostered by the laity, without any priests.  Indeed, without even the Mass. The first Korean convert was baptized in China in 1784, then returned to his native land where he founded the first Christian community.  Twelve years after the first light of faith was kindled there, a Chinese priest secretly entered the country to find 4,000 Catholics who had never set eyes on a priest. Later, two Chinese priests were sent, whose ministry was brief, and then forty years passed before the Paris Foreign Mission Society began sending priests and missionaries to Korea.

Thousands and thousands of martyrs shed their blood for the faith in various waves of persecution – over 10,000 to be exact, of whom 103 (people of diverse ages and walks of life) have been canonized.  Today the Church honors their fidelity to Christ, and we also pray for those Korean Christians who continue to risk their lives in the practice of their faith.  South Korea has one of the most vibrant Christian communities in Asia, second only to the Philippines.  But in North Korea, Christians are forced to practice their faith in secret.  Let us pray especially for them today.

O God,
who have been pleased to increase
your adopted children in all the world,
and who made the blood of the Martyrs
Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon and his companions
a most fruitful seed of Christians,
grant that we may be defended by their help
and profit always from their example.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Below is an excerpt from the final exhortation of Andre KimTaegon, the first native-born Korean priest, who was beheaded in 1846.

My brothers and sisters, my dearest friends, think again and again on this: God has ruled over all things in heaven and on earth from the beginning of time; then reflect on why and for what purpose he chose each one of us to be created in his own image and likeness. In this world of perils and hardship if we did not recognize the Lord as our Creator, there would be no benefit either in being born or in our continued existence. Continue reading