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.

Prayer for Priests

the-savior-juan-de-juanesPrayer for Priests

O Jesus, I pray for your priests;
for your faithful and fervent priests,
your unfaithful and tepid priests;
for your priests laboring
at home or abroad
in distant mission fields;
for your tempted priests;
for your lonely and desolate priests,;
for your young priests;
for your sick priests;
for your dying priests;
for your persecuted priests;
for the souls of your priests
in purgatory;
for all your priests worldwide.
Above all,
I recommend to You the priests
dearest to me –
the priest who baptized me;
the priests who have absolved me
from my sins;
the priests who presided at Masses
I attended;
all the priests to whom I am indebted
in any way.
O Jesus,
keep them close to Your heart,
and bless them abundantly
unto eternity.
Amen.

Some more prayers for priests can be found here and here.

Listening to Jesus

A+Prayer+for+those+at+seaWe are happy to share with you today’s homily from our friend Fr. Matthew Furgiuele, priest of the Diocese of Gaylord.  Today’s Mass readings can be found here.

There is a very important lesson for us in today’s readings, especially in light of the ongoing Synod on the Family, as well as the upcoming changes to the process for a declaration of nullity. If you get your information about the Church from the media, and even if you listen to some priests, bishops and cardinals, you might get the impression that things are in flux, and that great changes are upon us. This is not the case and it cannot be the case. As Benedict XVI said, and as Pope Francis himself has repeated numerous times, “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” Christianity is not a theory, it is not an ideology, it is a way of life, but it is one which is based on a concrete, living, breathing model: Jesus Christ. As we were reminded during the great Jubilee of 2000, Jesus Christ is the same ‘yesterday, today and forever’. The truth cannot change because it is not an abstraction, it is a person. For our faith to have meaning, both for ourselves and for our society, we need to return always to the source: Jesus.

Wisdom is very much linked to prayer, as we see in our first reading, the sacred author prays for wisdom and receives it as a gift. Prayer is necessary for wisdom because Christ is the source of wisdom, and so, we obtain wisdom not by great learning, and not even by experience, but through a relationship. Prayer at its core is dialogue with God, and, most especially with the second person of the Trinity, Jesus. The more we know Jesus, the wiser we become, for it is in knowing Him that we grow in wisdom. As we grow closer to Christ, we see more clearly how everything else pales in comparison, and we see that He alone can satisfy the longing of our hearts. All of creation is good, but nothing created can compare to the Creator. It is not that things lose their value, it is that we value them in the proper perspective: can this or that bring me closer to Christ?  If so, it is not merely good, but good for me.  If it cannot, then, while it may retain its inherent goodness, it is not good for me. There are very few things that are bad in and of themselves; it is usually not the thing itself which is bad, but the inappropriate use of it. Jesus is the One who can teach us how to make proper use of the goods He has provided us in creation.

Deep down we all know that we cannot fool God, but, instinctively, we also know that we cannot fool ourselves. The author of Hebrews knew this so well, and he warned his audience not to play games. This reminds me a lot of the Sheryl Crow song “If It Makes You Happy” in which she says, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad. If it makes you happy, then why are you so sad.” I also think of a poster that one of my co-workers has in her cubicle in Gaylord: “People be like, ‘Only God can judge me.’  I be like, ‘That should scare you.’” There is a great crisis facing the Church, the family and the world, and it is a crisis of listening. We are all so afraid to listen, because deep down we know what God has to say to us. Again, it comes back to the need for prayer: if you don’t spend time with Jesus, then you cannot hear what He is saying, or, if you hear it, you distort it. God is not like we are, He is able to reconcile opposites: in Jesus Justice and Mercy come together: the Cross was the Justice of God, but Christ suffering it became the Mercy of God. In Christ Paul was able to say that when he was weak, then he was strong. One of the most consoling things of all time are the words of today’s Gospel: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.

All things are possible for God.” Nothing is impossible for God, so, if it does not happen, it means that we are getting in the way. It is amazing how difficult it is for us to let go and to trust in God, instead of ourselves. I see this in confession all the time, people who struggle and struggle and never seem to make any progress, because they continue to try to do it alone, and so experience over and over the sad reality that, by their own strength, holiness is impossible.

In our Gospel today we see a wonderful example of someone who talks to Jesus but is not able to listen to Him. The rich young man is a good man, he does keep the commandments, and he even recognizes that avoiding sin is necessary, but not enough, and so, he approaches Jesus and he asks Him what must he do to have eternal life. Jesus knows that the man speaks truthfully, and so He looks lovingly upon him, and He tells him “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” We have a tendency to think that this was something extraordinary on the part of Jesus, that it is not meant for everyone, but that is not true. Each and every one of you, if you truly speak to Jesus, will hear Him tell you exactly the same thing. Riches are not necessarily material goods, each and every one of us has riches, because we have so many graces and talents from Jesus. The point is not that we have to get rid of our gifts and talents, that would be absurd; rather, the point is that we are all, each and every one of us, called to listen to Jesus and to make sure that every thought word and deed of ours flows from our relationship with Him, and so is according to His desire for us. This is different for each and every one of us, because we are all unique; however, what is common is that we are all called to be disciples of Christ, and to make sure that nothing we do is contrary to that. This is where change is not possible: because Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, it cannot be the case that something which was Christ-like two hundred years ago is no longer so; neither could it be the case that something which was once an obstacle to being a disciple is now a means of fidelity to the Gospel.

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.

Praise God for prayers answered!

saint_raphaelThis morning we found out that a dear friend was gravely ill and would undergo surgery today.  Please thank God with us, the surgery was successful!  He still has a long way to go, so please join us in praying to St. Raphael for his continued recovery, wisdom for the doctors and nurses, and comfort and strength for his beautiful family.

Novena Prayer to St. Raphael

Glorious Archangel Saint Raphael,
great prince of the heavenly court,
you are illustrious
for your gifts of wisdom and grace.
You are a guide of those who journey
by land or sea or air,
consoler of the afflicted,
and refuge of sinners.
I beg you,
assist me in all my needs
and in all the sufferings of this life,
as once you helped
the young Tobias on his travels.
Because you are the medicine of God,
I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities
of my soul and the ills that afflict my body.
I especially ask of you the favour

(Make your request here…)

and the great grace of purity
to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

St. Raphael,
of the glorious seven
who stand before the throne of Him
who lives and reigns,
Angel of health,
the Lord has filled your hand
with balm from heaven
to soothe or cure our pains.
Heal or cure the victim of disease.
And guide our steps when doubtful of our ways.

 

Why pray for the holy souls in purgatory?

A baroque painting of Mary as the protectress of the poor souls in purgatory in the pilgrimage church of the Holy Trinity in Weihenlinden, Bavaria. The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon? Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God’s time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too[40]. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.      

-From Spe Salvi, by Pope Benedict XVI

Click here to read the rest of the encyclical.

A Prayer to St. Joseph

One quick post on this last day of October, the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary.  We came across this prayer by “accident” which, of course, was completely Divine Providence.

Pope Leo XIII wanted this prayer to St. Joseph to be added to the recitation of the Rosary during the month of October.  Though that was in 1889, there’s no reason we can’t also add it to our Rosaries today.  In these times, when the priests and bishops of the Church are under such attack by satan, why not offer this prayer to St. Joseph (the Protector of the Universal Church) for their protection, courage and growth in personal holiness.   As St. Joseph was chosen by God the Father to guard and protect the Word made flesh, may priests and bishops always be guardians of God’s Word, and of Jesus in the Eucharist, where He is just as vulnerable and defenseless today as He was in His Infancy.

To thee, O blessed Joseph, do we have recourse in our tribulation, and having implored the help of thy thrice-holy Spouse, we confidently invoke thy patronage also. By that charity wherewith thou wast united to the immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly affection with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray, that thou wouldst look graciously upon the inheritance which Jesus Christ hath purchased by His Blood, and assist us in our needs by thy power and strength.

Most watchful Guardian of the Holy Family, protect the chosen people of Jesus Christ; keep far from us, most loving father, all blight of error and corruption; mercifully assist us from heaven, most mighty defender, in this our conflict with the powers of darkness; and, even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the supreme peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; keep us one and all under thy continual protection, that we may be supported by thine example and thine assistance, may be enabled to lead a holy life, die a happy death, and come at last to the possession of everlasting blessedness in heaven. Amen.

And since it is All Hallow’s Eve, if you’re looking for a post about that, Taylor Marshall has a couple good ones here and here.