Saturday, April 29, 2017

St. Catherine of Siena: "If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!"

The Pope pretty much said the same thing in Cairo today: "Live lives ablaze with charity."

It reminds me of what the Bishop of Maradi said a few years ago after rioters set fire to nearly every single church in Niger: “They set fire to our churches, but our hearts are still ablaze with love for them. Christian or Muslim—God wishes good fortune for all people.”

So.  Once again, as Pope Francis said today:  "Do not be afraid to love everyone, friends and enemies alike, because the strength and treasure of the believer lies in a life of love!" - VR

"Consider God's charity. 
Where else have we ever seen someone
 who has been offended 
voluntarily paying out his life 
for those who have offended him?"
  - St. Catherine

Friday, April 28, 2017

In the footsteps of St. Francis ...

St. Francis in the court of the Sultan.

Pope Francis arrived in Egypt today.

A mission of peace.

In 1219 Francis and one friar companion made their way across Saracen lines during the Fifth Crusade to meet the Sultan of Egypt, Malik-al-Kamil.  They were arrested/escorted, some sources say they were also beaten and dragged before the Sultan - if, true, St. Francis certainly found 'perfect joy' in such treatment and rejoiced to suffer for the Name, even desiring martyrdom.  The Sultan, impressed by the courage of the Saint, befriended St. Francis, and approved of his sincerity and enthusiasm, and gave him safe passage to the Holy Land, as well as permission to preach.  It is said Francis preached the Gospel - even offering to walk through fire, speaking of the love of God and the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit, without ever attempting to insult the teachings of Islam or the Prophet Mohammed.
"Upon his return home, Francis advocated a revolutionary new way for his friars to interact with Muslims, Moses said. "Rather than preach at them, he said, they could just live peacefully among them and even ‘be subject’ to them. So here he is reaching out not just to the sultan but to Muslims in general." - source
May St. Francis accompany and protect the Holy Father as he too visits Egypt on his mission of peace and love.  Like his namesake, Pope Francis walks in peace through the midst of them, without armor.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

St. Gianna, Pray for us.
Feast Day April 28

She was open to life ...

Which is why she married and gave birth ... and gave birth ...  and gave birth.  She loved, and she was open to life.  She wasn't canonized for refusing an abortion, or for dying as a result of foregoing a procedure that could save her life but endanger the child's life, she was canonized for her heroic charity, which preferred the life of her child over her own.

This is what being open to life means.

St. Gianna's holiness is also marked by her devotion to the duties of her state in life - the ordinary way of sanctity for Christians.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How Our Lady protects her images ...

"...the fresco has inexplicably remained suspended in the air 
close to the wall of the chapel in the church of 
Our Lady of Good Counsel for over five hundred years."

The translation of the icon of Our Lady of Shkodra

One outward aspect of devotion to the Blessed Virgin is offered in and through the reverence we show to her in the veneration of her images.  They re-present the glories of the Blessed Virgin accorded to her by the Holy Trinity, or emulate her appearance in her life on earth, or as she has appeared to visionaries throughout history.  We also demonstrate our devotion in and through the respect shown images and sacramentals blessed by the Church.  As the Catechism explains:
2132 The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone:
Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.

Today the Holy Father once again recognized the miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Counsel for the occasion of the 550th anniversary of the Madonna of Shkodra’s arrival in the Church of Genazzano near Rome, Italy.
The celebration takes place on 26 April at the National Shrine of Shkodra in Albania.  It commemorates the arrival of the Madonna of Shkodra at the Madonna of Good Council Church in Genazzano after the Albanian sanctuary was destroyed by the Ottomans in 1467. - VR

The story of Our Lady of Shkodra
The history of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Counsel is available on several websites, so I will not go into great detail here. 
In 1467, on the 25 of April, during celebrations for the feast of San Marco in Genazzano, Italy, a cloud was seen covering a 5th century church dedicated to Our Lady. Shortly after the cloud lifted, the townsfolk, summoned by the church bells, discovered a delicate fresco of Our Lady and the Child Jesus, it was painted upon a very thin piece of unsupported plaster, and floated in a small niche of the church. Later it was revealed the image had been transported by angels from Scutari, Albania, because the region was coming under Islamic control.
"One day during the siege of Shkodra (Scutari) two escaping Albanians stopped at the Church to pray to Zoja e Bekueme (Our Lady of Good Counsel) for their safe journey. While praying fervently, they suddenly noticed the painting moving away from the wall.... The two Albanians, Gjorgji and De Sclavis,"followed the painting, as if it were a bright star, all the way to Rome, where the image disappeared. They heard rumors that a miraculous image had appeared in Genazzano. They ran to the nearby town and there discovered the painting of their beloved Zoja e Bekueme." The two "settled down and made Genazzano their home." - Source

Happy feast day.  Pray for the Holy Father as he prepares to go to Egypt.

I am all thine.

The Blessed Virgin, mother of gentleness and mercy, 
never allows herself to be surpassed in love and generosity. 
When she sees someone giving himself entirely to her
 in order to honor and serve her, 
and depriving himself of what he prizes most 
in order to adorn her, 
she gives herself completely in a wondrous manner to him.
 She engulfs him in the ocean of her graces, 
adorns him with her merits, 
supports him with her power, 
enlightens him with her light, 
and fills him with her love. 
She shares her virtues with him 
— her humility, faith, purity, etc. 
She makes up for his failings and becomes his representative with Jesus.
 Just as one who is consecrated belongs entirely to Mary, 
so Mary belongs entirely to him.”
St. Louis de Montfort

Sometimes you just have to be vulnerable ... 'yet we try to hide our poverty for as long as we can and to pretend we are strong' ...

God's ways are not our ways; God's choices are not the choices of society.
God chooses 'the poor, the weak, the needy',
those who recognize their poverty -
not just a material poverty but an inability to cope with life,
a feeling of powerlessness and not knowing what to do.
A mother who just lost a child is poor.
A man whose wife left him is poor.
A man who lost his job is poor.
The man who learns he has cancer is poor.
The - pope - who senses his body is growing older and weaker is poor.
People who are faced with difficult family situations are poor.
The problem is we refuse to admit our weakness, our needs, our poverty
because we are frightened of rejection.
We have been taught to be strong, to be 'the best'. to win in order
to become 'someone'.
Since society tends to marginalize those who are weak
we think that weakness means rejection.
So we try to hide our poverty for as long as we can
and to pretend we are strong;
 - self-sufficient -
we build up an appearance of being in control.
We need to hear that gentle, inner voice of God who tells us:
'You don't need to pretend.
You do not need to hide your weakness.
You can be yourself.
I didn't call you to l'Arche or to another form of community
first of all to help others
or to prove that you were generous or efficient.
I called you because you are poor,
just like the ones you came to serve,
and because the Kingdom of God is promised to the poor.' - Jean Vanier

Monday, April 24, 2017

Why people don't go to church on Sunday ...

Justin McClain's post on categorizing The 20 Types of People You'll Meet At Mass.  That's why.

In the case of #16, you won't meet him - you'll just see him.  Otherwise you ignore him - unless you are #9 - but you will still not speak to him.

I hope Mr. McClain didn't compose his post in his head during Mass.  What?

I know the post is meant to be humorous, but it misses.  Over the years, one of the most popular excuses I hear from family and friends as to why they don't go to church is summed up in McClain's post on the 20 types of people you will see at Mass.  The most common excuse for avoiding Mass is this:  "People are there to size one another up, see what they are wearing, talk about what they do or don't do, and categorize them."  I know otherwise faithful Catholics who have skipped Mass because of something as silly as a bad hair day.  People might talk if you don't fit 'Sunday best' requirements.  Then there are those who back slap and shake hands at Mass but ignore you in the grocery store.  What's up with that?  But I digress.

So anyway.  Go to Mass to pray, to worship - but stop eyeing your neighbor.  In big cities, like New York or Chicago, or at any urban parish, things are more diverse, and people are less likely to get into this type of petty speculation.

I think I must live here.

Decades ago, a friend of mine who cut my hair told me I was losing my hair - at the whorl - or crown of the head.  He said it was thinning.  "No it's not" I told him.  "You are going bald and you think everybody else is too."  Then he showed me in the mirror.  "That doesn't mean I'll be bald!"  Over the years, he informed me of additional hair loss - so I never ever looked at the crown of my head again.

I never permit photos of myself.  So I think I still look like I did in my twenties, until I catch a glimpse in the mirror.  Which is why I may have to cover all my mirrors as people do at Shiva.


Talk of a de-facto schism.  I'm against it.

BTW - I still have hair on the top of my head.  It is not gray, but sandy blond.  I put on a little weight, but I'm so not fat.  I'm as old as I feel think I am - although now instead of thinking in my head I'm in my twenties - I think it's more very early thirties.

I tell people I'm in my seventies and they are always so amazed at how young I look.

For someone who always believed he was ugly - my mom liked to tell us that to save us from vanity I guess - I certainly got by on my looks .... now that I'm old, I have nothing.  Oh wait - I'm not old.

Sitting Shiva.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Of all the 'conditions' necessary to receive the graces of Divine Mercy ...

Jesus, I trust in you.

"I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners."

Some argue that the plenary indulgence attached to the devotion may only be gained in and through the usual requirement, while others insist that the promises of Our Lord for those who approach him on the Feast of Mercy are fulfilled with or without fulfilling the requirements for a plenary indulgence.

Sounds confusing, right?  

We can become so scrupulous over rules and conditions, and I'm often reminded that some mystic once had a revelation that few souls receive the Jubilee indulgence - plenary indulgence - because they are not completely detached from venial sin.  Who even knows that except God?  What is needed is trust.  One can will to be completely detached, even from unknown sins and/or attachment to venial sins - one can make a sincere and genuine act of contrition.  Those who insist upon conditions and dispositions of soul, either as a means of criticism, or in an effort to discourage the smoldering wick of hope in a soul, are limiting God's mercy.  Although there are canonical requirements to obtain the complete remission of sin - those who always hold up such precautions run the danger of completely missing the deeper meaning of the Divine Mercy devotion.  They can also discourage the ne'er do wells of the spiritual life from trusting the message of Divine Mercy.  The devotion to Divine Mercy is the foot in the door of salvation.  Christ's invitation is really a 'come as you are' invite.  "Come to me, all you who are heavily burdened and weighed down ..."  He came to call sinners - those who are well do not need a doctor - the dejected do.
On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. - Jesus to Faustina
Yet, even without these requirements, our Lord's invitation to those most in need of mercy stands out in a singularly unique manner.  He told St. Faustina to go throughout the world, extending his invitation to come to him, to come to his image, depicted for her, and revealed for us, as the Divine Mercy, signed with the prayer, "Jesus I trust in you!" He promised unimaginable graces to those who turn to him: "My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity."

But back to my original point.  It seemed to me this morning that the one, great condition necessary to obtain the graces of the Divine Mercy, is of course, trust.  The other may be to show mercy to others.  To forgive from our heart.  To genuinely forgive, and forgive, and forgive.  Over and over.  To show, to have mercy upon others ... unto folly.  To will to do so and to try to do so ... that is - to 'practice' showing mercy to others.  To become a channel of mercy.

Prayer to be Merciful to Others
[This prayer gives us a true measure of our mercy, a mirror in which we observe ourselves as merciful Christs. We can make it our morning invocation and our evening examination of conscience.]

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, 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 myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, 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, I know, 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 (163). - St. Faustina

Divine Mercy Sunday