Sunday, April 23, 2017

St. Faustina's Prayer to be Merciful

O Most Holy Trinity! As many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, as many times as my blood pulsates through my body, so many thousand times do I want to glorify your mercy. I want to be completely transformed into your mercy and to be Your living reflection O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of your unfathomable mercy pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor. Help me O Lord that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors souls and come to their rescue. Help me O Lord that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings. Help me O Lord that my tongue may be merciful so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all. Help me O Lord that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon my self the more difficult and toilsome tasks. Help me O Lord that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor. Help me O Lord that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May your mercy O Lord rest upon me. You yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy. The first; the act of mercy of whatever kind. The second; the word of mercy – if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The third; prayer – if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically. O my Jesus, transform me into yourself, for you can do all things.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 9

Ninth Day of Divine Mercy Novena (Easter Saturday) Divine Mercy Novena - Ninth Day - Prayer for Ninth Day of Divine Mercy Novena Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 8

Divine Mercy Novena - Ninth Day - Prayer for Ninth Day of Divine Mercy Novena Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 7

Divine Mercy Novena - Seventh Day - Prayer for Seventh Day of Divine Mercy Novena Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your mercy. These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy; and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God: Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory. Amen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 6

Divine Mercy Novena - Sixth Day - Prayer for Sixth Day of Divine Mercy Novena Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart." Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father's favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them: Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 5

Divine Mercy Novena - Fifth Day - Prayer for Fifth Day of Divine Mercy Novena Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son's Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 4

Divine Mercy Novena - Fourth Day - Prayer for Fourth Day of Divine Mercy Novena Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Easter Exultet

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven, exult, let Angel ministers of God exult, let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King's triumph! Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness. Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice, arrayed with the lightning of his glory, let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples. (Therefore, dearest friends, standing in the awesome glory of this holy light, invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God almighty, that he, who has been pleased to number me, though unworthy, among the Levites, may pour into me his light unshadowed, that I may sing this candle's perfect praises). (Deacon: The Lord be with you. People: And with your spirit.) Deacon: Lift up your hearts. People: We lift them up to the Lord. Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. People: It is right and just. It is truly right and just, with ardent love of mind and heart and with devoted service of our voice, to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten. Who for our sake paid Adam's debt to the eternal Father, and, pouring out his own dear Blood, wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness. These, then, are the feasts of Passover, in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb, whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers. This is the night, when once you led our forebears, Israel's children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea. This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin. This is the night that even now throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace and joining them to his holy ones. This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld. Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed. O wonder of your humble care for us! O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son! O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer! O truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour when Christ rose from the underworld! This is the night of which it is written: The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness. The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty. On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants' hands, an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church. But now we know the praises of this pillar, a flame divided but undimmed, which glowing fire ignites for God's honour, a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light, for it is fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious. O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human. Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle, hallowed to the honour of your name, may persevere undimmed, to overcome the darkness of this night. Receive it as a pleasing fragrance, and let it mingle with the lights of heaven. May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death's domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 3

Divine Mercy Novena - Third Day - Prayer for Third Day of Divine Mercy Novena Most Merciful Jesus, from the treasury of Your mercy, You impart Your graces in great abundance to each and all. Receive us into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart and never let us escape from It. We beg this grace of You by that most wondrous love for the heavenly Father with which Your Heart burns so fiercely. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon faithful souls, as upon the inheritance of Your Son. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, grant them Your blessing and surround them with Your constant protection. Thus may they never fail in love or lose the treasure of the holy faith, but rather, with all the hosts of Angels and Saints, may they glorify Your boundless mercy for endless ages. Amen.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Saturday

From the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday: Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ Christ answered him: ‘And with your spirit.’ He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’ I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden. See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree. I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you. Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 2

Divine Mercy Novena - Second Day - Prayer for Second Day of Divine Mercy Novena Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service, that they may perform worthy works of mercy; and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard—upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Divine Mercy Chapet

Divine Mercy Sunday Divine Mercy Sunday, we are encouraged to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet:

Here's How: Make the Sign of the Cross Pray the Opening Prayers The second prayer is repeated three times:"You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.""O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You!" (three times) Pray the Our Father Pray the Hail Mary Say the Apostles' Creed Pray the Prayer "Eternal Father" On the Our Father bead before each decade, pray the following prayer: "Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. Amen."Pray the Prayer "For the Sake of His Sorrowful Passion" Ten Times On each of the Hail Mary beads in each decade, pray the following prayer: "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."Repeat Steps 6 and 7 On each of the next four decades of the Chaplet, repeat steps 6 and 7 (pray the Eternal Father, followed by ten "For the Sake of His Sorrowful Passion"). Pray the Concluding Doxology Three Times After you have prayed all five decades of the Chaplet, pray the following prayer, which is repeated three times: "Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world." (three times)Pray the Closing Prayer After the doxology, pray the following final prayer: "Eternal God, in Whom mercy is endless, and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us, and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments, we might not despair, nor become despondent, but with great confidence, submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy Itself. Amen."End With the Sign of the Cross

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 1

Divine Mercy Novena - First Day - Prayer for First Day of Divine Mercy Novena Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Communal Penance Services

This Lent, after much consideration and prayer, I have decided not to offer Communal Penance Services in the Area Faith Community of Apostles Ss. Peter and Paul. First, a little discussion about the forms. The normal form of Reconciliation is Form I - private confession and absolution. This includes everything, and celebrated between the penitent and confessor. Form II, primarily celebrated during the penitential seasons or retreats, is a prayer service with individual confession and absolution. The final form, which the Church does not see as common, but allowed, is Form III with a prayer service and the priest praying the prayer of Absolution over the entire assembly. sometimes called General Absolution.
In the past, I offered several Penance Services with Individual Confession and Absolution (Form 2). True, these were well attended, at least at St. Peter. I tried in several ways to make it clear that it was a penance service with individual confession. Despite this, no more than a quarter would come for individual confession. The rest attended the prayer service and left without receiving the Absolution. All the same, rumors were around that we offered "General Absolution". There was a large amount of confusion.
While the Church allows General Absolution in "grave necessity”, this usually means that those who attend these services are in imminent danger of death (such as war or natural catastrophe) during which they would not have ample opportunity to receive forgiveness of their sins. Should they survive, however, they are to go to a priest all the same and confess all mortal sins. The Church provides a model for these types of celebrations, but mainly because of the emergency nature of the emergency. No matter, the Church teaching is clear that the valid reception of Absolution requires that the individual is willing to confess of all serious sins. If the willingness to confess all mortal sins was lacking, the person would not receive the sacrament. Someone who attended a penance service with General Absolution is required to go to private confession (either Form I or Form II), before returning to a General Absolution service. Further, the Church’s documents note several times that Form 3 is not to become the norm, and that all confusion is to be avoided. Further, in the past, Bishop Nienstedt, and currently Bishop LeVoir both have affirmed the teaching that General Absolution not be used in our local circumstances. Without the Bishop's permission (except, of course, in those extreme cases), a priest does not have the authority to offer General Absolution. I am concerned that my offering even Form II services led to confusion that participants who left without entering the confessional have received the sacrament. My hope by not offering Form 2 services is that I can ‘reset' our perception and appreciation of the Sacrament. That is why I am offering only Individual Confession and Absolution (Form 1) this Lent.
The Church teaches that it is necessary to confess all mortal sins at least once a year (in order to receive Eucharist worthily). This means that the penitent is to confess ALL sins he or she remembers, not just one or two. If one purposely does not confess a mortal sin, one does not receive the sacrament validly. Some have shared anecdotes of penance services where the presider requested only one or two sins be confessed, and then proceed to either general absolution or private absolution. The protector of the sacraments, the Church, does not envision this 'form' of confession. At issue, in part is the nature of the confession - it is not part, but whole. By way of analogy, one could go to a medical doctor because of itchy skin, the main issue that is obviously a problem. If the doctor is not diligent, she or he might be too quick to prescribe an ointment for the itchy skin and fail to look further, perhaps find the itch is due to cirrhosis and possibly cancer of the liver. As far as coming to a Form II service and leaving without Absolution is like drawing up a bath, sticking your finger in and rejoicing in such a delight, and promptly draining the tub.

Hints for the Sacrament of Reconciliation
Be Prepared: Examine your conscience, and if it helps, make a written list. All serious or mortal sins (with the elements of a.) Serious act, b.) full knowledge, and c.) full desire) are to be confessed. Less serious sins should also be confessed to the best of one's ability. This examination can be done at home or even on the way to Church!
Be Prompt: do not wait until the last minute to come in to the confessional, especially if no one is in line.
Be Brief/succinct: You usually don’t have to go into the details or circumstances of the sins – just confess them.
Be Specific: Name the sins. “I did a bad thing” is going to require more.
Be Personal: Do not confess anyone else’s sins, but only your own.
Be Honest/Sincere: Share your sins as brutally honest as you can.
Be Consistent: Come on a regular basis, at least during Lent and Advent, bi-Monthly, or monthly.
Be Not Afraid: Know that the confessor is a sinner as well, and that even he has to go to confession!

How to Go to Reconciliation:
Before going to the Sacrament, examine your conscience for sins. As you enter, you may have the option of using the screen or going face-to-face. If you chose the screen, kneel. If face-to-face, sit down. Father may greet you with a handshake or other gesture.
Order of Penance Greeting: The priest says something to the effect of: May the Holy Spirit be with you as you confess your sins. R.: Amen.
“Revelation of State of life”: If you are unknown to the priest, he may ask some questions to help him help you. This should include when you last received the Sacrament and a little about yourself if needed. If it helps, Say, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been (how long) since my Last confession. These are my sins…” Confession of Sin: you tell the priest all of the sins of which you are aware (be as thorough as you can.)
If you wish, end your confession with, “For these and all sins I cannot truthfully remember, I ask penance and absolution.”
Acceptance of Satisfaction: The priest will give a penance, most of the time a prayer or Scripture which will help you live in the grace you are about to receive in the sacrament and serve as a sign that you are sorrowful for your sins.
Prayer of Sorrow/Act of Contrition: you say a prayer out loud which tells of your sorrow for sin. This prayer can be spoken from the heart, or it can be one of many acts of contrition. For example:
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy.
Absolution of sin: The priest extends his hands over you and says the Prayer of Absolution, to which you respond: Amen. Conclusion: The priest says: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good… R. His mercy endures forever. The Lord has freed you from your sins, go in peace. R. Thanks be to God.
At this, you are free to go to do your penance.

While I acknowledge there is fear about the Sacrament, this fear is not of God. When we face the fear, confess our sins in the great and healing Sacrament, we find freedom, healing, and peace. When we confess all of our sins with our mouth, not just consciously, we rob Satan of his power over us and receive assurance of forgiveness. Sadly, Satan deceives us that our sins will be inconsequential until we commit them, and then he enjoys telling us their consequences. The Lord knows the consequences of our sins, and forgives, but only when we are truly contrite and sorrowful. Individual confession also provides a great remedy for dealing with venial sins, especially if the confessor has time to address the roots of the sins. This allows us to grow in holiness. I hope that all of us may make frequent use of the sacrament.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Prairie Catholic Article: through the Cross

Lent is a season to reflect and ponder the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. The liturgical destination of our Lenten journey is the Sacred Triduum, when we celebrate the giving of the Eucharist, the Cross, and the Resurrection. It is tempting to ignore Good Friday, to view it as something simply ‘gotten’ through or around. Easter Sunday is easy to celebrate with joy. The gift of love that Christ leaves in the Eucharist as well as the model of charity in the washing of feet is happy. But it is Good Friday that ties these days and themes together and gives them their power to change our lives. Good Friday is difficult because we do not like the Cross or always understand what it truly means. We try to avoid it because it symbolizes suffering, sacrifice, and pain. Ultimately, Lent is about remembering that there can be no resurrection without the Cross.

It is the Cross that marks our lives on this earth. We are marked with the Cross at our baptisms; and this is renewed with each Sign of the Cross. Jesus instructs us to take up our cross daily. This is not an optional activity for a few followers, nor one that is a one-time deal, or when convenient, or on a limited schedule. Every disciple has cross, and it is part and parcel with following Jesus.

The cross is not light, in discussing or in fact. Crucifixion was cruel, slow, and methodical. People could be dying on the cross in excruciating (literally from the cross) pain for days. As one of our Eucharistic Prefaces (Preface III of Ordinary time) states, the Father “fashioned the remedy out of mortality itself”. When Jesus embraces and dies on the cross, He takes upon Himself the entire burden of the world’s sins. By His innocence and obedience, He puts sin and death to death. The Church Fathers and countless saints spoke of the cross and resurrection in terms of the re-creation story. Adam and Eve, by their disobediently taking of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge, cause sin to enter the world. In the Crucifixion, Jesus stretches out His hands not to take but to give. He is revealed as the New Adam, the Blessed Mother Mary as the New Eve who stands beside her Son. This makes the Cross the Tree of Life. How Jesus dies is not just incidental, a matter of convenience, simply chosen because crucifixion was the current tool of capital punishment by the Roman government. It was God the Father’s plan, His ultimate choice, from before all time. He intended that the wood of the Cross be the means of our salvation.

Jesus willingly gave His life, so that we could see how ugly our sins are to the Father by our looking at Jesus on the Cross. In the cross, he fulfills the promise of the Eucharist, the most blessed fruit of Tree of Life, which brings us eternal life in the Resurrection. But we must ponder our sins and allow them to be put to death, along with our own. We cannot go around the cross – we must go through it.

Instead of avoiding the Cross this Lent, we are to take up our cross and follow. He will put our sins to death. We submit ourselves in obedience to Him, and are to receive often and well of the fruit of Tree of Life: Jesus, the Eucharist. By doing so, we return to the Garden for which we were created, where we will walk with the Lord for the rest of eternity.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A season for unity

The season of Lent is one of intense preparation for the celebration of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The season has its roots in the ancient Church as adults preparing to be baptized and received into the Church entered the season as a sort of 40-day retreat, following the example of Jesus himself as he fasted in the desert. It is marked by three spiritual practices in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, as well as some Protestant Churches: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as encouraged by Jesus (Matthew 6). What was good for those newly entering the Church was then seen as supremely good for all members, newly baptized and those whose baptism may be a distant memory. Fasting from food, and perhaps even certain foods such as meat, forces our wills to submit our bodies to a higher good as we are reminded that God is the giver of all sustenance, and body and soul experienced greater union. Prayer unites our souls and spirits and raises them to the Heavenly Father. Almsgiving, giving of money or acts of charity to the less fortunate, unite us to one another. Instead of isolating us, Lent is really about uniting us: us to ourselves, to each other, and to God. It makes sense, too. Christ’s Resurrection is the salvation of humanity from sin and death. It is the re-creation of the entire universe through His obedient self-sacrifice on the Cross. It undoes the ‘Fall’ of creation. As we read in the Creation account, sin entered the world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and because of their sin, the rest of humanity is born into original sin where we are separated from the God who lovingly created us. The serpent lied when he said they would not die. Certainly physical death was not immediate, but death is more than physical (the separation of body and soul) – it is any separation. Man and woman were no longer comfortable in their own bodies, but were ashamed of their nakedness. Man and woman blamed each other and the serpent for their moral failures. They desired to hide from God. These Lenten practices seek to undo them. While it is through the sacrament of Baptism that we put to death this original sin, we still deal with its effects. The Lord desires to give us the grace to live united. Lent is about seeking greater union with Holy Trinity of the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us to live in such a way that we bring unity to the world that has been divided by sin and death. May we live this Lent well, and come to greater union with Christ, one another, and even our own selves this Easter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s day. From the appearance of many stores, though, it seems like we have been celebrating it since a few days after Christmas. Sadly, that is only symbolic of what many might understand of Valentine’s day - a secular and commercialized ‘filler’ for the period in between Christmas and Easter, between the toys and the candies. But, as a Catholic, I recall that it is really more, though it is true that we do not commemorate it as such any longer. Instead we celebrate the memorial of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, the two brothers credited with sharing the faith with the Slavic nations. St. Cyril is the designer of the Cyrillic alphabet which bears his name as a result. Part of the reason that the Church no longer commemorates St. Valentine is that there is a confusion about which saint of at least two is really commemorated, and that so many legends have come to surround these Ss. Valentines. According to most, the one honored was a Catholic priest of Rome who was imprisoned for the radical action of teaching about the natural and sacramental nature of marriage. The emperor claimed for himself the right to the first ‘encounter' with the soon-to-be married women of Rome, and St. Valentine clandestinely witnessed the marriage of many young couples to protect their virginity and chastity. It is said that even in prison, he continued his bold defense of marriage as the intimate union of man and woman, in a free, full, faithful and monogamous relationship. He saw that marriage in the Christian sense was a direct result of the teaching of Christ, but that the practice of the emperor having his way with would-be wives was against even the natural order. For this bold proclamation, he gave his life. The love of his life was Christ, a chaste, but nonetheless intense, love. The love he defended by his death was a marital love between man and woman. How far detached, therefore, we have become in our secularized celebrating of this man of faith. It is separate from the love of Christ, often marked with a thinly veiled lust, and is no longer referencing lifelong, marital relationships. Maybe this is because we have lost an understanding of marriage and love itself. Perhaps, it is as many recently are saying, that the real vocational crisis in the Church is the vocation of marriage. These next days between now and St. Valentine’s day, instead of focussing solely on all the hearts and cards, chocolates and roses, we can examine our loves. Would St. Valentine recognize it as from Christ? Would it please the Lord? Perhaps, too, instead of all the stuff, we focus and truly prepare to give our hearts to the beloved, whether it be to a significant other, especially one’s spouse, or the Beloved of every heart, our Lord Jesus Christ.

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?