Friday, October 16, 2009

October 16, 1978

On October 16, 1978, Karol Jozef Wojtyła was elected the Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. Pope John II the Great, pray for us!

The Life of Karol Wojtyla who became Pope John Paul II - the Great. 1930s' Poland. 10-year-old Karol Wojtyla has dreams, many dreams. One by one they are shattered. First, by the loss of his beloved mother and brother. Then, by the outbreak of the war and the death-fleeing human exodus which ensued. And finally, by the first signs of the Jewish persecution. These events will mark the start of Karol's long journey from worker, to poet and teacher. A journey full of encounters that eventually leads him to become a priest and finally, in 1978, to become the man we all now know, a man who has marked an era, a man who has made history as Pope John Paul II. With an extraordinary soundtrack by multi-award winner Ennio Morricone.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Feast of St Faustina

Today is the feast of St. Faustina Kowalska - Apostle of Divine Mercy.

The Rosary has been described as "The Weapon" against the devil and his weapons of heresy, impiety, and apostasy, "A Compendium of the Gospel" where one prays in meditation of the life and faith of Christ He offers His disciples, and "The Psalter of Our Lady" - a legitimate substitute for the praying of the Divine Office (the Liturgy of the Hours) for those who for whatever reason are incapable of praying the Church's official psalter and sacrifice of praise.

The Rosary is also an instrument of prayer for paying the Jesus Prayer - "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The message of The Divine Mercy is simple. It is that God loves us - all of us. And, he wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy.

The Divine Mercy message is one we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC: [A.] Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world. [B.] Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. [C.] Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.

Wooden bead rosary. Rope Chain. Brass crucifix
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Love Your Enemies

Today's First Reading: Colossians 3:12-17

Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one Body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


Today's Gospel: Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful. “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

Commentary: Why do we Christians disregard this fundamental commandment: to love our enemies? The Gospels and the New Testament letters are clear, we are to not only love those who love us back but we are to love all people, especially those who are unloved, unlovable, and who do not love us in return. This is what distinguishes human love from divine love. As Chesterton says, "Charity mean pardoning the unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all."

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

For Love or Money?

Wealth, too, is treacherous: the proud, unstable man -- He who opens wide his throat like the nether world, and is insatiable as death, Who gathers to himself all the nations, and rallies to himself all the peoples -- Shall not all these take up a taunt against him, satire and epigrams about him, to say:



Woe to him who stores up what is not his: how long can it last! he loads himself down with debts. Shall not your creditors rise suddenly? Shall not they who make you tremble awake? You shall become their spoil! Because you despoiled many peoples all the rest of the nations shall despoil you; Because of men's blood shed, and violence done to the land, to the city and to all who dwell in it.

Woe to him who pursues evil gain for his household, setting his nest on high to escape the reach of misfortune! You have devised shame for your household, cutting off many peoples, forfeiting your own life: For the stone in the wall shall cry out, and the beam in the woodwork shall answer it! Woe to him who builds a city by bloodshed, and establishes a town by wickedness! Is not this from the LORD of hosts: peoples toil for the flames, and nations grow weary for nought! But the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the LORD'S glory as water covers the sea.

Woe to you who give your neighbors a flood of your wrath to drink, and make them drunk, till their nakedness is seen! You are filled with shame instead of glory; drink, you too, and stagger! On you shall revert the cup from the LORD'S right hand, and utter shame on your glory. For the violence done to Lebanon shall cover you, and the destruction of the beasts shall terrify you; Because of men's blood shed, and violence done to the land, to the city and to all who dwell in it.

Woe to him who says to wood, "Awake!" to dumb stone, "Arise!" Can such a thing give oracles? See, it is overlaid with gold and silver, but there is no life breath in it. Of what avail is the carved image, that its maker should carve it? Or the molten image and lying oracle, that its very maker should trust in it, and make dumb idols? But the LORD is in his holy temple; silence before him, all the earth!

Habakkuk 2:5-20;
cf. Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings
Wednesday of 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Gospel: Luke 6:20-26

And raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.

The Rule of Transitus Oblates of the Last Martyrdom
Work, Money, Possessions [No.27-29]

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St Peter Claver

St Peter Claver (1581 - 1654) was born in Catalonia and studied at the University of Barcelona. He became a Jesuit; and while he was studying philosophy in Mallorca, the door-keeper of the college, Alfonso Rodríguez, saw that his true vocation was to evangelize the New World, and encouraged him to fulfil that vocation. (Rodríguez was later canonized on the same day as Peter Claver himself).

He arrived in Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, in 1610, and after his ordination six years later he became ‘the slave of the Negroes forever’, labouring on their behalf for 33 years, attending to both their spiritual and material needs. The slave trade was repeatedly condemned by the Popes; but it was too profitable to be stopped and on the whole the local church hierarchy kept quiet about it, much as they did in North America in the 19th century.

He brought fresh food to the slave-ships as they arrived, instructed the slaves and baptized them in the faith, followed their progress and kept track of them even when they were sent to the mines and plantations, defending them as well as he could from oppressive slave-owners. He organized teams of catechists who spoke the many languages spoken by the slaves. He worked in hospitals also, looking after lepers among others, and in prisons.

Naturally he made himself unpopular by his work: as his superior said, ‘unfortunately for himself he is a Catalan, pig-headed and difficult’. Opposition came from both within the Church and outside it, but there were always exceptions. For instance, while many fashionable ladies refused to enter his city churches because they had been profaned by the presence of the blacks, a few, such as Doña Isabel de Urbina, became his strong and lifelong supporters.

At the end of his life he fell ill with a degenerative disease and for four years he was treated neglectfully and brutally by the servant whose task it was to look after him. He did not complain but accepted his sufferings as a penance for his sins.

See also: Catholic Encyclopedia and Wikipedia

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Stand Upon Our Watchtower [St Bernard]

We read in the gospel that when the Lord was teaching his disciples and urged them to share in his passion by the mystery of eating his body, some said: This is a hard saying, and from that time they no longer followed him. When he asked the disciples whether they also wished to go away, they replied: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

I assure you, my brothers, that even to this day it is clear to some that the words which Jesus speaks are spirit and life, and for this reason they follow him. To others these words seem hard, and so they look elsewhere for some pathetic consolation. Yet wisdom cries out in the streets, in the broad and spacious way that leads to death, to call back those who take this path. Finally, he says: For forty years I have been close to this generation, and I said: They have always been faint-hearted. You also read in another psalm: God has spoken once. Once, indeed, because for ever. His is a single, uninterrupted utterance, because it is continuous and unending.

He calls upon sinners to return to their true spirit and rebukes them when their hearts have gone astray, for it is in the true heart that he dwells and there he speaks, fulfilling what he taught through the prophet: Speak to the heart of Jerusalem. You see, my brothers, how the prophet admonishes us for our advantage: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. You can read almost the same words in the gospel and in the prophet. For in the gospel the Lord says: My sheep hear my voice. And in the psalm blessed David says: You are his people (meaning, of course, the Lord’s) and the sheep of his pasture. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Hear also the prophet Habakkuk in today’s reading. Far from hiding the Lord’s reprimands, he dwells on them with attentive and anxious care. He says: I will stand upon my watch-tower and take up my post on the ramparts, keeping watch to see what he will say to me and what answer I will make to those who try to confute me. I beg you, my brothers, stand upon our watch-tower, for now is the time for battle. Let all our dealings be in the heart, where Christ dwells, in right judgement and wise counsel, but in such a way as to place no confidence in those dealings, nor rely upon our fragile defences.

A sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux;
cf. Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings
Tuesday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

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Letter & Spirit of the Law [Andrew of Crete]

‘The fulfillment of the law is Christ himself, who does not so much lead us away from the letter as lift us up to its spirit. For the law’s consummation was this, that the very lawgiver accomplished his work and changed letter into spirit, summing everything up in himself and, though subject to the law, living by grace. He subordinated the law, yet harmoniously united grace with it, not confusing the distinctive characteristics of the one with the other, but effecting the transition in a way most fitting for God. He changed whatever was burdensome, servile and oppressive not what is light and liberating, so that we should be enslaved no longer under the elemental spirits of the world, as the Apostle says, nor held fast as bondservants under the letter of the law.



This is the highest, all-embracing benefit that Christ has bestowed on us. This is the revelation of the mystery, this is the emptying out of the divine nature, the union of God and man, and the deification of the manhood that was assumed. This radiant and manifest coming of God to men most certainly needed a joyful prelude to introduce the great gift of salvation to us. The present festival, the birth of the Mother of God, is the prelude, while the final act is the fore-ordained union of the Word with flesh. Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages.

Justly, then, do we celebrate this mystery since it signifies for us a double grace. We are led toward the truth, and we are led away from our condition of slavery to the letter of the law. How can this be? Darkness yields before the coming of the light, and grace exchanges legalism for freedom. But midway between the two stands today’s mystery, at the frontier where types and symbols give way to reality, and the old is replaced by the new. Therefore, let all creation sing and dance and unite to make worthy contribution to the celebration of this day. Let there be one common festival for saints in heaven and men on earth. Let everything, mundane things and those above, join in festive celebration. Today this created world is raised to the dignity of a holy place for him who made all things. The creature is newly prepared to be a divine dwelling place for the Creator.

From a discourse by Saint Andrew of Crete;
cf. Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings
Feast of the Birth of Mary (September 8)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Blessed Are The Poor [Leo the Great]

Thus says the LORD: See! I will restore the tents of Jacob, his dwellings I will pity; City shall be rebuilt upon hill, and palace restored as it was. From them will resound songs of praise, the laughter of happy men. I will make them not few, but many; they will not be tiny, for I will glorify them. His sons shall be as of old, his assembly before me shall stand firm; I will punish all his oppressors. His leader shall be one of his own, and his rulers shall come from his kin. When I summon him, he shall approach me; how else should one take the deadly risk of approaching me? says the LORD.



You shall be my people, and I will be your God. See, the storm of the LORD! His wrath breaks forth In a whirling storm that bursts upon the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not abate until he has done and fulfilled what he has determined in his heart. When the time comes, you will fully understand. At that time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the tribes of Israel, and they shall be my people.

Thus says the LORD: The people that escaped the sword have found favor in the desert. As Israel comes forward to be given his rest, the LORD appears to him from afar: With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin Israel; Carrying your festive tambourines, you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; those who plant them shall enjoy the fruits. Yes, a day will come when the watchmen will call out on Mount Ephraim: "Rise up, let us go to Zion, to the LORD, our God."

For thus says the LORD: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The LORD has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, The mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born. - Jeremiah 30:18-31:9

Blessed are the poor in spirit



There is no doubt that the poor find it easier than the rich to receive the blessing of humility; for gentleness goes with poverty just as pride more commonly goes with riches. Nevertheless, very many rich people find that their wealth does not swell them up with pride: rather, they do good and benevolent things with it. For these people the greatest treasure is what they spend in relieving the distress and hardship of others.

In the virtue of humility men of every kind and every standing meet together, because though they differ in their means they share a common purpose. Their inequality of wealth makes no difference if they are equal in spiritual blessings.

What kind of poverty, then, is blessed? The kind that is not in love with earthly things and does not seek worldly riches: the kind that longs to be filled with the blessings of heaven.

After our Lord himself, the Apostles have given us the best example of this greatness of heart in poverty. When their Master called, they instantly left behind all that they possessed, and from catching fish they turned swiftly to fishing for men. Their example inspired many to emulate their faith and so become like them: it was at this time that these first sons of the Church were of one heart and there was one spirit among believers. With all their possessions stripped away they received the riches of eternal blessings, and through the Apostles’ preaching they rejoiced at having nothing that the world could give and possessing all things with Christ.

So it was that when the blessed apostle Peter was going up into the Temple and the cripple begged him for alms, he replied I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk! What could be higher than this lowliness? What could be richer than this poverty? He cannot give the support of money but he can give the gift of a restored nature. From the womb his mother brought him forth a cripple; by a word Peter raises him up to health. He did not give the image of Caesar stamped on a coin but he restored the image of Christ in the man himself.

The man who was given the power to walk was not the only one to receive help from this rich treasure. From the same act of miraculous healing Five thousand men received the gift of faith in the Apostle’s teaching. The poor man who could give nothing of what he was asked for restored one lame man to his feet but also healed the hearts of thousands: he found them lame and brought them to be lithe and agile in Christ.



St Leo the Great, Sermon on the Beatitudes;
cf. Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings
Friday of the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Body of Christ as a Temple [Origen]

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.



It seems to me that Jesus meant the Jews in this episode to stand for sensual men and those desirous of carnal and sensual things. These Jews were angry at his expulsion of the people who were turning his Father’s house into a market. So they asked for a sign to justify these actions, a sign that would show that the Word of God, whom they refused to accept, was acting rightly. The Saviour’s reply combines a statement about the temple with a prophecy about his own body, for in answer to their question: What sign can you give to justify your conduct? he says: Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.

Indeed, I think that both the temple and the body of Jesus can be seen together as a type of the Church. For the Church is being built out of living stones; it is in process of becoming a spiritual dwelling for a holy priesthood, raised on the foundations of apostles and prophets, with Christ as its chief cornerstone. Hence it bears the name “temple.” On the other hand, it is written: You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it. Thus even the harmonious alignment of the stones should seem to be destroyed and fragmented and, as described in the twenty-first psalm, all the bones which go to make up Christ’s body should seem to be scattered by insidious attacks in persecutions or times of trouble, or by those who in days of persecution undermine the unity of the temple, nevertheless the temple will be rebuilt and the body will rise again on the third day, after the day of evil which threatens it and the day of consummation which follows. For the third day will dawn upon a new heaven and a new earth when these bones that form the whole house of Israel are raised up on that great day of the Lord, when death has been defeated. So the resurrection of Christ, accomplished after his suffering on the cross, embraces the mystery of the resurrection of his whole body.

For just as that physical body of Christ was crucified and buried, and afterward raised up, so in the same way the whole body of Christ’s holy ones has been crucified and lives no longer with its own life. For each of them, like Paul, makes his boast of nothing else but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which he has himself been crucified to the world, and the world to him. But each Christian has not only been crucified with Christ and crucified to the world; he has been buried with Christ too, as Paul tells us: We have been buried with Christ. But as though already in possession of some pledge of the resurrection, Paul goes on to say: And we have risen with him.

From a commentary on John by Origen;
cf. Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings
Wednesday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

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