Category Archives: Spirituality

RIVERS OF LIVING WATER – Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal by Deacon Marty McIndoe

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the RIVERS OF LIVING WATER 2017 Catholic Charismatic Renewal Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh last month. This conference was designed to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Since it was the Catholic Charismatic Renewal that led me in to the Church back in 1972 and has fed me so well with its Spiritual Fruits, my wife and I decided we had to go celebrate. I am so glad that we did. The Conference ran from Thursday July 29th through Sunday July 23rd. Many thousands of people filled the Pittsburgh convention center with songs of praise and witness to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church today. Pittsburgh was chosen as the place to have the conference because the Renewal started near there.


From February 17th through the 19th in 1967, several Duquesne University students gathered at the ARK AND THE DOVE Retreat House (see picture) to experience more fully their Baptism and Confirmation. After considerable prayer, the Holy Spirit came down upon them there as in a New Pentecost. They experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This changed their lives dramatically and empowered them to go out and tell others and the Charismatic Renewal began, initially at Catholic Colleges and in local parishes. It quickly spread throughout the world so that today there are over 120 million Catholic Charismatics in the Church today. There were bus trips out to the Ark and the Dove Retreat house. My wife and I went and were so glad that we did. It is definitely a Holy Place (see pictures).

Top: Retreat House chapel where the students gathered to receive the Baptism in the Spirit.  Bottom:  Cross and Spirit placed on Retreat grounds to celebrate the 50th anniversary.  In the back you can see the DOVE house.  The large blue house is the ARK.

The Conference had large gatherings and masses for all those in attendance and included song groups that sung in English, Spanish and Haitian. There were workshops for all three languages to supplement the General Sessions. Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, from Brooklyn emceed the event. Msgr. is fluent in many languages and went back and forth in all the General Sessions. Msrg. Is a good friend of mine who actually prayed over my wife and I for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit while he was a seminarian. Bishop Sam Jacobs, and two other Bishops, were celebrants at the masses. The music and prayers of praise were outstanding.

Three bishops and many priests and deacons celebrated mass.

Another good friend of mine, Eileen Benthal, is a member of the English music group, Living Praise (see picture) that sang at the Conference. Being at the general sessions was like being in Heaven on Earth. Each general session had a keynote speaker. They included, Patti Masfield, Esther Garzon, Ralph Martin, Mario Castaneda, David Mangon and more. Father Dave Pivoka moved so many people with his homilies. Damian Stayne led a healing service where hundreds of people received miraculous healings. In the midst of so many things to do, the Conference planners took time to present a slide show featuring many of the early leaders of the Renewal. They also included, and honored, those who have died. Throughout all of the sessions, the power of God was continually being manifest. God was certainly at work.

Living Praise song group

The breakout sessions included many notable teachers and speakers such as my good friends, John and Theresa Boucher, Mary Healy, Sr. Nancy Kellar, Mary Beth McLanski Green, Vinson Synan, Michelle Moran, Fr. Bob Hogan, Dave Van Vickle, Alan Schreck, Dan and Caroline Dirkes and others. There was something for everyone. I attended a priest and deacon workshop by Bishop Sam Jacobs. He was fantastic.
On Saturday evening we had Eucharistic Adoration and then a Eucharistic procession out of the Conference, through the city streets to a park about a mile and a half away. Thousands of us went in the procession carrying lit candles. We started out of the Conference center going through their wall of water, which reminded me of Moses parting the Red sea (see pictures). It was a very moving experience and a sign of witness to the city.

We started our evening candlelit Eucharistic procession by passing through the walls of water at the Conference Center.  It reminded me of Moses dividing the Red Sea.

The Eucharis was carried under a canopy as we all sang songs of praise.

We closed the conference on Sunday by celebrating the Mass of Pentecost with Bishop Sam Jacobs presiding. The whole weekend was a witness to the Power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. I know that it invigorated me. God is so good.

The streets were alive with the sound of music.  This is outside our hotel.  The spirit of joy and praise carried on throughout the hotels and restaurants and city streets.

Several times, Popes have addressed the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Below you will find some of the most important quotations that have given the Renewal light and strength. ICCRS has published a book with all the messages and addresses which the Popes have given to the CCR: The book, “Then Peter stood up…” – Collection of the Popes’ Addresses to the CCR from its origin to the year 2012.

Pope Paul VI
“How then could this “spiritual renewal” not be “a chance” for the church and for the world? And how, in this case, could one not take all the means to ensure that it remains so? […] Nothing is more necessary for such a world, more and more secularized, than the testimony of this “spiritual renewal”, which we see the Holy Spirit bring about today in the most diverse regions and environments. Its manifestations are varied: deep communion of souls, close contact with God in faithfulness to the commitments undertaken at Baptism, in prayer that is often community prayer, in which each one, expressing himself freely, helps, supports and nourishes the prayer of others, and, at the basis of everything, a personal conviction. This conviction has its source not only in instruction received by faith but also in a certain experience of real life, namely, that without God, man can do nothing, that with him, on the contrary, everything becomes possible.”

Saint John Paul II, Pope
“The Catholic charismatic movement is one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council, which, like a new Pentecost, led to an extraordinary flourishing in the Church’s life of groups and movements particularly sensitive to the action of the Spirit. How can we not give thanks for the precious spirituals fruits that the Renewal has produced in the life of the Church and in the lives of so many people? How many lay faithful—men, women, young people, adults and elderly—have been able to experience in their own lives the amazing power of the Spirit and his gifts! How many people have rediscovered faith, the joy of prayer, the power and beauty of the Word of God, translating all this into generous service in the Church’s mission! How many lives have been profoundly changed! For all this today, together with you, I wish to praise and thank the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Benedict XVI
“What we learn in the New Testament on charism, which appeared as visible signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit, is not a historical event of the past, but a reality ever alive. It is the same divine Spirit, soul of the Church, that acts in every age and those mysterious and effective interventions of the Spirit are manifest in our time in a providential way. The Movements and New Communities are like an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society. We can, therefore, rightly say that one of the positive elements and aspects of the Community of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely their emphasis on the charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in having recalled their topicality in the Church.”

Pope Francis
“You, the charismatic Renewal, have received a great gift from the Lord. Your movement’s birth was willed by the Holy Spirit to be ‘a current of grace in the Church and for the Church’. This is your identity: to be a current of grace. […] You have received the great gift of diversity of charisms, the diversity which becomes harmony in the Holy Spirit, and in service to the Church. […] The Charismatic Renewal is a great force meant to serve the preaching of the Gospel in the joy of the Holy Spirit. […] You, the people of God, the people of the Charismatic Renewal, must be careful not to lose the freedom which the Holy Spirit has given you! […] I expect you to share with everyone in the Church the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit (a phrase we find in the Acts of the Apostles).

Lopsided Relationships by A.J. Avila

Lopsided Relationships by A.J. Avila at ajavilanovels

There’s an old saying that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get your Prince Charming.

That was certainly the case for me. One young man, with whom I had a summer romance, had to have everything his way. And I mean everything. A sandwich, for example, had to be made to his exact specifications: “First the mayonnaise, then the lettuce, then the meat, then the tomato, in that order only.” If the sandwich had all the same ingredients but the mayonnaise was next to the tomato, he absolutely refused to eat it.

This attitude of his drastically affected our relationship. Any behavior of mine that wasn’t completely up to his standards was cause for criticism. For example, he told me how rude I was for phoning him while he was watching television – as if I could have known what he was doing while I was dialing. Trust me, nothing makes a girl feel more special than being told talking to her is not as desirable as watching reruns of The Munsters.

One night, at the end of our date, we arrived at my home, only to find two police cruisers, their red and blue lights flashing, parked at my house. Desperate to find out if my family was okay, I jumped from his car and ran inside. Fortunately, it turned out the police had overreacted to my mother’s complaint about a neighbor. But would you believe my boyfriend griped that I hadn’t kissed him goodnight first? In fact, he told me, I should have spent at least five minutes making out with him before checking on my family.

The last straw was what he said when he was leaving at the end of summer to go back to college. He told me that if I wanted to hear from him, I needed to mail him a self-addressed, stamped envelope “because it’s too much work to get an envelope and a stamp together.” Guess I wasn’t worth even that much to him.

[SIDENOTE: Don’t you occasionally wish you could go back in time with the perfect retort? Only years later did it occur to me that I should have responded with “You’re right. It’s too much work. I don’t think I can manage it.”

If you’re wondering why I put up with such abuse for an entire summer, I can only say that like many young women, I was desperate to be loved. I was willing to endure an awful lot of bad for the little scraps of good I was getting. People do this far more than they realize. Consider: who hasn’t spent half an hour in the hot sun waiting in line for an amusement park ride that lasts just a few minutes? At the time the trade-off seems worth it.

Anyway, when I thought back on this relationship, it got me thinking about how we sometimes treat God the way this young man treated me. Instead of saying “Thy will be done” how often will we “eat the sandwich” only if it’s made exactly the way we want it? How many times do we tell God “Don’t bother me right now. I’d rather watch an inane television show” instead of communicating with Him through prayer? And, worst of all, how often do we insist that God kowtow to us by doing all the work of our relationship with Him while we just sit back and reap the benefits?

I know I’m often guilty of such behavior.

My relationship with God is already far too lopsided for me not to put into it the effort that I should.

In case you’re wondering whatever happened to my ex-boyfriend, I managed to track him down on Facebook. I saw that, not only is he still single, but the first post I read by him was a complaint about women.

Thank goodness I had enough sense to break up with him.

And thank goodness that, despite everything, God hasn’t broken up with me.

 

On Spending by AJ Avila

The Everlasting Gobstopper

On Spending by AJ Avila

Posted on May 24, 2017 by ajavilanovels

Occasionally I watch the television show Pawn Stars, shown on the History Channel. It can provide a fascinating look at historical objects, some of which are museum quality.

In a recent episode, the owner of the pawn shop (located in Las Vegas) took a trip to Los Angeles to procure more merchandise for his store. In particular he was searching for movie memorabilia.

But my jaw dropped at the amount of cash he doled out for one item: more money than my husband and I paid for our house. So what was it? The ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz? Perhaps Sam’s piano from Casablanca?

Nope.

For a measly $100,000 he bought the Everlasting Gobstopper prop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I’m not kidding.

I wish I were kidding.

Wait. It gets worse. The pawn store owner bought it for that price because he figures he can sell it at a profit. That’s right: he believes that somewhere out there is a person willing to pay even more for a brightly-colored thingamajig about the size of your big toe.

I puzzled over why someone would consider this item to have any worth. Personally, I wouldn’t pay 2¢ for it. What’s the value in owning such a thing? So you can show off to your friends that you’ve got the Everlasting Gobstopper and they don’t? Is this supposed to produce some sort of one-upmanship over your neighbors?

But even more – I was appalled because that money could do so much good elsewhere. What could a free clinic do with a check for that amount? Or your local crisis pregnancy center?

Imagine going for judgment before Christ and when He asks you what you did with your life, you explain that hey, you bought yourself the Everlasting Gobstopper!

Spending your money like that kind of sounds like a way to get yourself classified as a goat instead of a sheep, huh?

Anyway, I was feeling rather smug and superior about the whole business – when all of a sudden it occurred to me that I do exactly the same thing.

Except I do it in an even worse way. Oh, I don’t go out and waste a lot of moola on movie props. I waste something even more valuable.

I waste time.

Time is always more precious than money. Money I can always earn more of. I can’t earn more time.

In fact, my life is made up of time.

And how much of it have I spent playing video games or watching some inane television show? That’s time I could have spent doing something valuable like praying, especially for the conversion of sinners and for the souls in Purgatory.

When I stand before Christ for judgment, what am I going to say? Something like “Hey I spent a lot of my life on video games and stupid television shows”?

May I always remember that when I point my finger at someone, I have three fingers pointing back at myself.

After all, it’s not gobstoppers that are everlasting. It’s our souls.

 

About ajavilanovels

AJ Avila is the author of four Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Amaranth, Nearer the Dawn and Cherish.  Her website can be found by clicking here: AJ Avila Reflections

 

Growing Closer to Jesus through Eucharistic Adoration – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               There is no doubt that the mass is the source and summit of our faith.  I attend daily mass because I need the mass to help me grow spiritually in my life, and I also enjoy the whole experience of mass.  As Scott Hahn tells us, it is like heaven on earth at mass.  I usually get to mass at least 20 minutes early to just sit in front of the tabernacle and have some quiet time with Jesus.  This time is precious to me and enriches my prayer life.  Once a week I preside at a Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction service at a local chapel inside the Saint Joseph Prayer Center.  We expose the Blessed Sacrament from 1pm to 5pm every Tuesday so people can just stop in and spend time with Jesus.  I bring the Blessed Sacrament out at 1pm and stay for about one hour in prayer.  It is very powerful prayer.  I then come back around 4:30 and just before 5pm do Benediction.  When I bless the people with the monstrance, I can feel, and almost see, the power going out to them.  It is a wonderful experience.

               It seems to me that quite a few parishes have let Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction fall in to disuse.  I find that sad because it is such a great way to grow spiritually in our relationship with Jesus.  I have heard stories of parishes that have begun providing Adoration and Benediction and how it has helped their parishes.   I am writing this short post to hopefully encourage you, and your parishes, to take advantage of this great form of prayer.  Since not everyone is familiar with this, I will give a few definitions and some quotes from the Saints about it.  If you haven’t done Adoration in a while, please try it.  I believe that you will be glad that you did.

               ADORATION – time spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.  This could be as simple as going to church early and just sitting in prayer in front of the TABERNACLE (where the consecrated hosts are kept).  It could also be a simple Adoration where a CIBORIUM (container with consecrated hosts are kept) is placed upon the altar for people to adore.  A formal ADORATION is where a MONSTRANCE or OSTENSORIUM (ornate vessel that allows you to see the consecrated host) is put in a prominent place for adoration.  During formal Adoration services there are usually songs and prayers and scripture readings and incense, along with silence.

               BENEDICTION – This is usually done at the end of formal Adoration.  The bishop, priest or deacon picks up the MONSTANCE and blesses the people with it drawing the sign of the cross over them.  It usually ends with songs of praise being said or sung.

               When Jesus gave us the gift of the Eucharist, His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, He told us that It would bring us life.  I can attest that in receiving and adoring the Eucharist, I find the fullness of life.  Many Saint have talked about this.  Here are a few quotes from them (make sure you read the last quote):

“Christ held Himself in His hands when He gave His Body to His disciples saying: ‘This is My Body.’ No one partakes of this Flesh before he has adored it.” – St. Augustine

“If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ’s love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.” – St. Angela of Foligno

“What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation”  and

“…In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood.”  – St. Francis of Assisi

“How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.” – St. John Chrysostom

“I throw myself at the foot of the Tabernacle like a dog at the foot of his Master.” – St. John Vianney

“All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.” – St. John Vianney, Cure d’Ars

“God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar” and

 “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe

“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart…don’t listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love…  and

“Receive Communion often, very often…there you have the sole remedy, if you want to be cured. Jesus has not put this attraction in your heart for nothing” – St. Therese of Lisieux

“How I loved the feasts!…. I especially loved the processions in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. What a joy it was for me to throw flowers beneath the feet of God!… I was never so happy as when I saw my roses touch the sacred Monstrance…” – from St. Therese’s Autobiography: Story of A Soul

The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.” – Pope Saint John Paul II

THE BENEFITS OF DAILY MASS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               Attending daily mass is so important to me, and I have been reaping the benefits of it for several decades.  I am retired now and it is easy for me to attend the 9:00am mass, right after I am finished with the gym.  When I was working, I had to attend the 7:00am mass and then go to the gym and then to work.  Either way, I made the decision to go to daily mass and to go to the gym.  I figured I needed to be healthy both spiritually and physically.  It is hard to separate the two.  I would like to share with you some of the benefits I have seen by going to daily mass in hopes that you too will try to attend daily mass or that if you already do, you may find support for what you are doing.

1 – Being in the Presence of the Lord.  I try to get to mass about 20 minutes early so that I can just sit in His presence.  I offer Him praise and sit quietly listening for any Word he may give me.  So often I have grown in my love of Him and grown in my ability to learn to trust Him in all things.  Our God is an awesome God and His love for us knows no limits.  It is so good to be in His presence.  It is unbelievable how a short time alone before the Lord in the tabernacle can improve your prayer life all day long.

2 – Listening to His Word.  Every day at mass we have two readings and a responsorial psalm.  The first reading is usually from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the second reading is from the Gospels.  The Church does a wonderful job of presenting cycles of readings so that you basically go through all of the important parts of the whole bible in three years.  Sundays are set on a three year cycle and weekday readings are set on a two year cycle.  If you only attend Sunday mass, you do not get the fullness of the readings cycle.  Beginning each day listening to God’s Word and the homily about it can really impact you all day long.  The Church also follows different Liturgical Seasons such as Advent, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary time.  The weekday readings emphasize the importance of these Seasons on a daily basis.  Immersing yourself in God’s Word is power giving.

3 – Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Jesus made it extremely clear that if we want to be filled with the fullness of life, we need to eat His body and drink His blood (Read John Chapter 6).  I would have to say that His Body and His Blood fill me with graces constantly.   Sometimes there is a reason that I cannot attend the morning mass (snow, Doctor, etc) and when that happens, I feel such a loss.  We are used to taking daily multi-vitamins and daily coffee etc. to pick us up, but to me, nothing picks me up better that receiving Him at daily mass.  The strength given to me by that lasts all day and affects every part of the person that I am.  I believe that I have an abundant life because I receive my Lord every day in the Eucharist.

4 – Experiencing Community.   Daily mass has less people in it than does Sunday mass.  Because of this, you get to meet these people and share your lives with them.  I know this can be true of Sunday mass, but daily mass emphasizes it.  You learn of your fellow parishioners ups and downs and you share a better level of community.  In our parish, every Wednesday we go over to our parish center and share with each other what the readings of the day have meant to us.  We usually have about 20 attend and it is a wonderful experience.  Also, at daily mass you get to know the things that are happening as they happen, not one week later like at Sunday mass.  We always have people who are struggling with health and life issues and daily mass allows us to be more supportive, especially on the days that they need it the most.  Community is a very important gift.

5 – Know your Priests and Deacons.  Daily mass gives us more of an opportunity to know the clergy that support our parishes.  They also get to know you better.  There is usually more time for meeting with the clergy.  You can also get to appreciate the homilies that they give.  You can bring support to them, and they can bring support to you.

               In closing, I cannot emphasize enough how important daily mass is to me.  I feel that I am a much stronger Christian because of it.  I know that I am closer to the Lord, and hear His voice better because of it.  It is also wonderful to know that people all over the world are hearing the same scriptures and receiving the same Lord at the same time I do.  You certainly get a fuller appreciation of the gift that the Church is to the world.  There are so many great books on the mass, but one that really touched me is Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth”.  In it we see that we are really sharing in a little bit of heaven every time we attend mass.  I personally want to do that every day.

               I will end with some quotes that Dr. Taylor Marshall found about the Eucharist.  They say so much.  He says: These quotes remind me of the hidden mystery of the Holy Mass. I plan to review them before Mass during Lent. I’d encourage you to do the same if you also struggle with distractions. I may print them out on a card and put them in my missal:

  1. When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar. ~ St. John Chrysostom
  2. The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass. ~ St. Augustine
  3. If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  4. The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross. ~ Saint Thomas Aquinas
  5. Once, St. Teresa was overwhelmed with God’s Goodness and asked Our Lord “How can I thank you?” Our Lord replied, “ATTEND ONE MASS.”
  6. “My Son so loves those who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that, if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they’ve heard Masses.” Our Lady to Blessed Alan.
  7. When we receive Holy Communion, we experience something extraordinary – a joy, a fragrance, a well-being that thrills the whole body and causes it to exalt. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  8. There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  9. When we have been to Holy Communion, the balm of love envelops the soul as the flower envelops the bee. ~ Saint Jean Vianney
  10. It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass. ~ St. Pio of Pietrelcina

That last quote from Saint Pio is profound. The entire cosmos is sustained by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…

 

 

Advent Saints – St. Peter Canisius by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Saint Peter Canisius was born on May 8, 1521 in the Netherlands.  His father was the mayor of their town and his mother died shortly after his birth.  Peter’s father arranged for him to have an excellent education studying the arts, civil law and theology.  Although his father wanted him to marry a wealthy woman, Peter swore a vow of celibacy in 1540.  He studied with Saint Peter Faber and in 1543 entered the Society of Jesus.  He loved the Jesuits and considered his entrance date in to the order as his second birthday.  He loved the Church and was very concerned with what was happening in Germany in the Protestant Reformation.

Saint Peter spent a great deal of his time in trying to call Protestants back in to the Church.  He did this in a very loving and gentle manner.  He wrote to one of his Jesuit leaders, “It is plainly wrong to meet non-Catholics with bitterness or to treat them with discourtesy. For this is nothing else than the reverse of Christ’s example because it breaks the bruised reed and quenches the smoking flax. We ought to instruct with meekness those whom heresy has made bitter and suspicious, and has estranged from orthodox Catholics, especially from our fellow Jesuits. Thus, by whole-hearted charity and good will we may win them over to us in the Lord.”  His gentle manner and great preaching helped bring many Protestants back to the Church.

Saint Peter Canisius loved education and learning and was responsible for revitalizing many Universities.  He even founded new ones at Prague and Fribourg.  He was also very active in trying to publish Catholic writings.   He wrote and published a Catechism that was so popular that it was translated in to 200 languages and helped to launch the Catholic press.  Saint Peter was so regarded as a Theologian that he spoke twice at the Ecclesiastical Council at Trent.

Saint Peter Canisius was also a man of the people.  He traveled around preaching and teaching and converting many souls.  He has been called the 2nd Apostle of Germany.  He ministered to many who were sick with the plague.  Before his death in 1597, it is estimated that he covered over 20,000 miles on foot or horseback.  After his death, there were many reports of miracles attributed to those who prayed for his intercession.

 

Quotes from St. Peter Canisius:

Let my eyes take their sleep, but may my heart always keep watch for you. May your right hand bless your servants who love you.

May I be united with the praise that flows from you, Lord Jesus, to all your saints; united with the gratitude drawn from your heart, good Jesus, that causes your saints to thank you; united with your passion, good Jesus, by which you took away our guilt; united with the divine longing that you had on earth for our salvation; united with every prayer that welled from your divine heart, good Jesus, and flowed into the hearts of your saints.

For the sake of obtaining that eternal life no works of piety ought to seem too hard to a true believer, no toil too heavy, no pain too bitter, no time spent in labor and suffering too long or too wearisome. For if nothing is sweeter or more desirable than this present life which is so full of calamities, how much more desirable must that other life be deemed which is so far removed from all sense of evil or fear of it, which will in every conceivable way always abound in the unspeakable and unending joys, delight and happiness of heaven.

Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.

We are to pray as though everything depended on God, but work as though everything depended on us, we do have a free will.

If you have too much to do, with God’s help, you will find time to do it all.
 

Advent Saints – St. John of the Cross by Deacon Marty McIndoe

St John of the Cross

               St. John of the Cross was born in 1542 in Spain.  He learned self sacrificial love from a very young age.  His father came from rich Nobility but fell in love with a commoner.  His father married this common young daughter of a seamstress and in doing so gave up all of his wealth and titles of nobility.  Unfortunately, his father died when John was quite young, and John’s mother had to work hard and sacrifice a great deal in order to feed her family.  They lived a very poor existence.  

               John did well in school, but when sent to an apprenticeship, he didn’t do well.  He then began working in a hospital for the poor and cared for patients with incurable illnesses and mental health problems.  He ministered to these patients learning that from poverty and suffering he could find the beauty of God.

               John joined the Carmelite order but desired a more prayerful place then they had.  He desired to reform the order to its previous rules.  He met St. Teresa of Avila and together they worked to reform the order.  Unfortunately, some of his brother Carmelites felt threatened by this reform and they locked St. John in a cell and beat him regularly.  There was only one tiny window in the cell but even in that unbearable dark, cold and desolation, his love and faith of God brought him comfort.  He composed many poems in this cell.  After some time, he finally escaped and went on to another monastery.  Because of all the sufferings he had during his lifetime, he began calling himself John of the Cross.  His love for Jesus and the Cross gave him the power to write many poems and books and other writings.    Today the Church considers him a Mystic, and his writings reflect his mysticism.  Some of his writings are, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel”; “The Dark Night of the Soul”; “The Spiritual Canticle”; “O Living Flame of Love”;”A Collection of Spiritual Maxims” and several letters and poems.  All of these are considered spiritual classics.

               I have put together some of his quotes:

“Strive to preserve your heart in peace; let no event of this world disturb it.”

“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”

“The soul that is quick to turn to speaking and conversing is slow to turn to God.”

“It is best to learn to silence the faculties and to cause them to be still so that God may speak.”

“Who teaches the soul if not God?”

“What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.”

Faith “is like the feet wherewith the soul journeys to God, and love is the guide that directs it.”

“Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.”

“Take God for your spouse and friend and walk with him continually, and you will not sin and will learn to love, and the things you must do will work out prosperously for you.”

  

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

christ-the-king-statue1

Christ The King statue in Świebodzin, Poland.  This is the largest statue of Jesus in the world (yes, even larger than Rio de Janeiro).  It is 33 meters (over 108 feet) tall.  One meter for each year of Jesus life.  Note the gold crown.

               The last Sunday of the Church liturgical Calendar is celebrated as the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  Although Christians have celebrated Jesus as the King of Kings since the very beginnings and the Jews have celebrated the Messiah as the coming King long before Jesus, this Feast is relatively new.  Pope Pius XI instituted this Feast in 1925 in his encyclical QUAS PRIMAS and it was first celebrated in 1926.  Pope Pius XI instituted this Feast as a result of changes that were occurring throughout the world.  There was a rise of both Communism and non-Christian dictatorships that tried to keep their people from worshiping God and following the Church.  There was a large growth of secularism that had people questioning the role of God and the Church in their lives.  People were simply denying Christ and doubting His authority and existence, as well as doubting the Church’s power to continue Christ’s authority. 

               The truth of the matter is, this seems to be occurring again today.  People are putting Jesus aside and are not going to Church.  Even our own government has tried to take away the Church’s authority over its people.  God has been taken out of our government, and schools and courts.  That is why this Feast is so timely even today.  Our recent Presidential elections have shown a great divide in our country and some people seem lost.   The problem is, our hope should not be fully in who is leading our country.  Our hope should be in the Lord.  I saw a sign before the elections that really brings this home.  It said:

nomatterwhoispresidentjesusisking

 

               Today’s Feast day celebrates that very thought, and much more.  Let us look at what Pope Pius XI hoped to accomplish in celebrating this feast:

1 – That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas 32).

2 – That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas 31).

3 – That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feas, as we reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas 33)

               The first two of these are a constant battle.  We need to make sure that the State recognizes our rights to freely worship God as we are called to do.  The second is also difficult.  We must elect leaders who can give respect to Jesus.  The third, and last, is where we ourselves need to work the hardest.  We MUST see Jesus as King of everything that we are.  He must reign in our hearts, minds, wills and bodies.  Today individualism has been so embraced that for many, the only authority is the individual self.  They reject the idea of Jesus as ruler.  Many see the title of King or Lord as archaic and borrowed from oppressive systems of government.  Certainly some Kings have been oppressive, but Jesus surely is not that kind of King.  He himself said in Mark 10: 42-45, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” and Jesus replied in John 18: 36-37, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

               Jesus certainly knew the oppressive nature of some Kings and in contrast to them he showed His role as King as one of humble service and commanded all His followers to do the same.  He tied His Kingdom to His own suffering and death.  He will come again as King to judge the nations.  However He showed us that His Kingdom is one of love and mercy and peace and forgiveness.  Jesus turned around the concept of Kingship.  We know that when we make Him King of all that we are and all that we do, we will experience that Kingdom.

               Let us all strive to make Jesus our King.  Here is a prayer that may help us in doing that:

Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King

Most sweet Jesus,
Redeemer of the human race,
look down upon us humbly prostrate before you.
We are yours, and yours we wish to be;
but to be more surely united with you,
behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today
to your Most Sacred Heart.
Many indeed have never known you;
many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you.
Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus,
and draw them to your Sacred Heart.
Be King, O Lord,
not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you,
but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you;
grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house,
lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.
Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions,
or whom discord keeps aloof,
and call them back
to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith,
so that soon there may be
but one flock and one Shepherd.
Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance
of freedom and immunity from harm;
give tranquility of order to all nations;
make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry:
Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation;
to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.
Also known as “Iesu dulcissime, Redemptor”

 

 

ASSISI, THE HOME OF ST. FRANCIS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Back in 2004 I was blessed to be able to make a retreat in the beautiful, and old, city of Assisi in Italy.  It was wonderful.  Assisi has the charm of being unchanged since the middle ages.  It also has a true sense of PEACE about it, unlike I have seen anywhere else.  It is certainly a most wonderful place to visit.  I want to share with you some pictures I took there.  God bless you and may St. Francis always lead you to Jesus and the true PEACE that only He can give.

italy-103

A statue of St. Francis found in the grounds of nearby La Verna, a place he loved to retreat to.

 

69170005

Looking from the top of the mountain down on to the city of Assisi.  This old section of Assisi was never developed over because the new city was built below it.

 

69190009

Assisi was actually originally a Roman city.  Here is a Roman temple built before the birth of Jesus.  This is in the town square and was a temple to Minerva.  In the 300’s the Christians made  it in to a church now called Mary over Minerva.  I was blessed to assist at mass inside here.

 

69190010

The Church of Mary over Minerva with the middle aged church tower built next to it.  This tower was present at the time of Francis.

 

69190015

One of the city gates built by the Romans

 

69190016

The Church of St. Claire.  This church contains the remains of St. Claire as well as the original cross of San Damiano that spoke to Francis telling him to “Rebuild my Church”.

 

69190023

One of the many small, but beautiful streets of Assisi.

 

69190025

A bell tower of St. Stephen’s church.  A place that Francis loved to visit.

 

italy-033

Another quaint street of Assisi.  Great food throughout the city (typical of Italy).  One restaurant that we ate in existed in the time of Francis.  It had a Plexiglas floor that allowed you to see the Roman ruins it was built upon.

 

italy-099

Since Assisi is built on a mountain side, many of its streets consist of stairs.

 

69190032

The large Church built over the grave of St. Francis.  It is absolutely beautiful inside.

 

69190029

The outside lawn shows the Franciscan Tau symbol as well as the PAX symbol.  St. Francis was all about the cross and peace.

 

69190030

The actual grave of St. Francis.  The front wall was removed to be able to see his stone coffin.  We had mass here.

 

69190035

Another quaint street of Assisi.

 

69200003

We walked down from Assisi to the Church of San Damiano, as Francis so often did.

 

69200004

On the walk down, we saw the beautiful olive groves with a farmer burning off clippings.

 

69200005

The Church of San Damiano.  It was originally built in the 900’s but had fallen in to ruin by the time of St. Francis.  He loved to go there to pray.  One day the cross inside spoke to him telling him to rebuild the church.  Originally, Francis took this to mean physically rebuilding and he started that.  Later he realized that he was told to rebuild (spiritually) the whole Church.

 

69200008

The cloisters of San Damiano.

 

69200015

Looking up to Assisi from the Church of San Damiano.   Beauty and Peace and God’s Spirit fill all around here.

I hope that this pictorial view of Assisi has helped you to appreciate the beauty of the place St. Francis called home.  If you haven’t been there yet, I hope you get a chance to go.  May our good Lord bless you with His peace.

Is The Bible Alone The ‘Word Of God’? by Matt Nelson

bible1

When it comes to Christian doctrine the word “alone” is a very heavy word; for it comes with the burden of proving an absolute statement. Words matter—especially divinely revealed words; and correct interpretation of those words matter most of all.

We have to be especially careful with biblical phrases or passages that we hear and pray often. These can become so cliché that we fail to think about what they really mean and glaze over them without thinking about them. Remember: we are to love God with all our mind (Lk 10:27) and therefore we should never stop allowing the written Word of God to penetrate deeper into our intellect, the site of understanding. As Frank Sheed often reminded his readers, every new thing we learn about God is a new thing to love about God.

Furthermore, grasping the true teaching of Christ and the apostles aids us in our own growth in holiness and assists us in becoming the most effective evangelists we can be. St. Paul writes:

“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim 4:16, KJV)

So is the Bible the Word of God? Yes.

Is the Bible alone the Word of God? Not according to the Bible.

For one, Jesus himself is the Word of God made flesh (Jn 1:1). But the Scriptures also reveal God’s Word to be something both spoken and written, something passed on by word of mouth and by letter (see 2 Thess 2:15).

All Christians can agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God; for the Scriptures are theopneustos (God-breathed) according to Paul (2 Tim 3:16). But as I’ve mentioned above, God’s Word does not come to us merely by the Bible alone.

Sometimes the divine word travels directly from God’s mouth to man’s ear, such as it did to Abram in the Book of Genesis:

“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (Gen 15:1)

These words are in the Scriptures now but at the time they were not; instead God’s holy Word was spoken directly to Abram in a vision.

The risen Christ appears to St. Paul and speaks to him after his conversion; but there is no direct transcript of this encounter between Paul and the Lord in the Scriptures. Surely, however, the words spoken by Christ directly to Paul can be considered “God-breathed.” Consider also when God speaks to Jesus—his beloved Son in whom he is well-pleased—at his baptism in the Jordan (Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11).

Here’s what I’m getting at: God’s inerrant Word comes to man in different ways than merely in writing. That the Bible is the sole rule of faith was never the view of the early Christians for, just like St. Paul and the apostles, the early Church writers held that tradition was to be revered and upheld for the sake of orthodoxy (or correct belief).

St. Ireneaus, and a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John the apostle, affirmed tradition on many occasions—especially when addressing the heresies of his time. He writes:

“With this church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree—that is, all the faithful in the whole world—and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition.” (Against Heresies, 3:3:1–2)

Now let’s get this straight: when Jesus gets after the Pharisees for their “traditions of men” he is not condemning all traditions; he is condemning religious traditions that directly contradict the Word of God and the Christian way of love.

Apostolic tradition is a whole different ball game.

Protestants might be tempted to respond by saying, “Fine! But what Ireneaus means by “apostolic tradition” is the Scriptures.” But that’s a groundless assertion. No early Church writer ever affirmed this notion of sola scriptura. No passage in the Bible affirms that only the Bible is to be considered apostolic tradition (in fact, the Bible directly contradicts this as you’ll see). And finally, most of the early Christians had no access to the Gospels and epistles of the apostles (or copies of them), and the New Testament Scriptures were not even formally determined to be inspired until the fourth century. The gospel of Jesus Christ was primarily communicated to the earliest Christians by preaching!

Often Catholics are criticized by Protestants because they put sacred tradition on the same footing as sacred Scripture. Catholics assert that Scripture and tradition “flow from the same divine wellspring.” But this insight into the status of tradition has its roots in the Bible. In fact, tradition is something that comes to man from God in both written and oral form—the Bible itself is a tradition, for its contents are not declared in Scripture but rather have been discerned by the Church itself with the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is an interesting (and often overlooked fact) that both Catholics and Protestants put their trust in the discernment of the Catholic Church in this matter of the “inspired” contents of the Bible.

St. Paul explicitly refers to oral and written tradition in his second letter to the Thessalonians:

“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thess 2:15)

And in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul refers to the word of God as something passed on by word of mouth (and not just by letter):

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thess 2:13)

And HERE Paul refers to the oral tradition passed on as the Word of God. Similarly in 1 Peter, apostolic preaching is referred to as inspired by God:

“‘[T]he word of the Lord abides for ever.’

That word is the good news which was preached to you.” (1 Pet 1:25)

Again, the point is that God’s inerrant Word (his divine and errorless revelation) comes to man in several ways and this is evident in the Bible, especially through the writings of St. Paul.

The Word of God is always perfect and without error; but it is not always in writing.

God can speak his Word directly to man interiorly. He can speak through visions or miraculous encounters. God speaks to man through the Scriptures. And God speaks to man through the sacred oral tradition of the Church (the foremost example being the “tradition of the New Testament books.”

G.K Chesterton saw the practicality of tradition, both in religious belief and in society. He wrote famously:

“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.”

In other words, the voices of those who have died before us matter; and especially the voices of the apostles. Christians thus have a duty to interpret the Scriptures in unison with the tradition of the apostles, for they have looked him in the eyes and heard him speak; they have watched God move among man. It was the apostles, and them alone, that could say:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” (1 Jn 1:1)

Check out Matt’s website at: http://www.reasonablecatholic.com

 

12 Facts about Saint Padre Pio by Deacon Marty McIndoe

padrepio

The incorrupt body of Saint Padre Pio.

1 – BIRTH AND FAMILY:  Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione in Pietrelcina, Italy on May 25, 1887. He was the fourth of eight children of Grazio Maria Forgione and his wife, Maria Giuseppa De Nunzio.  His family was very religious and attended daily mass.

2 – SHEPHERD AND CAPUCHIN PREPARATION:  In his youth, Padre Pio tended a handful of sheep. At the age of ten he contracted typhoid fever and nearly died. After his recovery he wished to become a Capuchin friar, and his father thereafter spent several years in sailing back and forth to America (a common practice at that time) to obtain work in order to finance more schooling for Padre Pio, in preparation for the priesthood.

3 – CHILDHOOD VISIONS AND VICTIM OF DIVINE LOVE:  In childhood Padre Pio experienced paranormal visions with such frequency that he took the episodes for granted and assumed that others experienced similar phenomena. He confided this information only later in life to a priest and was surprised to learn that such occurrence is rare. Padre Pio also suffered from a desire to be a “victim of divine love,” a religious concept whereby a person wishes intensely to endure constant and severe suffering, to atone for the failings of mankind.

4 – BECOMES A FRANCISCAN (CAPUCHIN):  On January 6, 1903 at the age of 16, he departed to the town of Morcone to join the friary of Saints Philip and James of the Capuchin Order of the Friars Minor, a “mendicant” order. (Capuchins live in poverty by design; they own nothing and live essentially as beggars in the world.) To symbolize their poverty Capuchins never shave their faces and never wear shoes—only open leather sandals. They never wear hats but attach brown woolen hoods to their garments. They spend a significant portion of each day in prayer, maintain long periods of silence, and always travel in pairs. At the friary, Padre Pio lived in a cell furnished with a table, chair, washstand, and water jug; he slept on a cornhusk mattress. He received the Capuchin garments in a ceremony on January 22, 1903. On that day the former Francesco Forgione adopted the name of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.  As a symbol of austerity, Capuchin friars never used surnames, thus for legal purposes Padre Pio signed his name as “Padre Pio of Pietrelcina al secolo Francesco Forgione.”  He took the name of “Pio” in honor of Pope Pius I, whose relic he often saw at his local chapel.

5 – SUFFERING SERVANT ORDAINED A PRIEST:  Throughout his lifetime Padre Pio suffered from a severe but undiagnosed stomach disorder that caused persistent pain and vomiting. Beginning in December of 1908 his superiors sent him home on numerous occasions. Inexplicably the symptoms disappeared each time he departed the friary; transfers to friaries at other locations failed to alleviate the symptoms. At the age of 23 he traveled from his hometown of Pietrelcina to the cathedral of Benevento in Morcone. There Archbishop Paolo Schinosi ordained Padre Pio as a Roman Catholic priest on August 10, 1910.

6 – RECIEVES STIGMATA:  Padre Pio developed marks of stigmata initially in 1910 at San Nicandro.  A doctor examined Padre Pio and diagnosed tuberculosis of the skin. Following the medical diagnosis Padre Pio returned to his hometown for a time. On October 28, 1911, he moved to the friary of San Nicandro at Venafro, where Padre Agostino was vicar. Padre Pio was personally humiliated by the painful markings and kept his hands hidden at all times. The wounds disappeared for a time, only to reappear more acutely nearly a decade later.  The Stigmata reflects the wounds of Jesus on the cross.  The hands and feet and side all bleed.   Padre Pio was the first Priest to receive the Stigmata (St. Francis of Assisi was a Deacon).

7 – VISIONS AND BI-LOCATION AND LEVITATION:  Padre Pio received visitations from the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and angels. In addition to the visitations and stigmata, Padre Pio was reportedly prone to bi-location phenomena, appearing in two locations simultaneously. The most remarkable of these reported incidents occurred on January 18, 1905 shortly before midnight. Padre Pio was in the choir at the friary when, according to his description, his mind traveled to a location in Udine where a child was being born prematurely just moments before the death of her father. In 1923 he met the girl and “recognized” her. The girl’s mother recalled very clearly the death of her husband and the vision of a Capuchin monk in Udine on the night when the girl was born.  Also, Padre Pio had been observed levitating during a period of prayerful ecstasy.

8 – PADRE PIO AS AN ARMY PRIVATE:  With the outbreak of World War I in November 1914, many Capuchins were drafted into the Italian army. Padre Pio was drafted into the 10th Company of the Italian Medical Corps in Naples, under the name of Private Francesco Forgione. His stomach discomfort continued, and army doctors diagnosed chronic bronchitis. They granted him a medical leave of absence, and he returned to Pietrelcina.

9 – STIGMATA FOR LIFE:  Beginning in August 1918, Padre Pio developed permanent, painful stigmata that bled intermittently for the next 50 years and disappeared only a few days before his death. A series of doctors examined the wounds of Padre Pio and verified the existence of the condition, but left no written comment or explanation. Luigi Romanelli, chief physician of the City Hospital of Barletta, examined the priest’s wounds five times over the course of one year. Professor Giuseppe Bastianelli, physician to Pope Benedict XV agreed that the wounds indeed existed but made no other comment. Angelo Maria Merla of San Giovanni Rotondo noted that the wounds were not tubercular in origin. The wounds bled severely at times, although medical examiners reported no fever, nor anemia or change of blood pressure associated with the condition. According to witnesses the wounds of Padre Pio emitted a distinctively fragrant odor, and all other abrasions to Padre Pio’s body healed normally during those years, including an incision to repair a hernia.  As with the earlier incident, Padre Pio felt humiliation at the visible stigmata, but stated nevertheless that he welcomed the pain for all mankind; his greatest wish was to die.

10 – POPULARITY, VATICAN INTERVENTION AND PROPHECY OF A FUTURE POPE:   Padre Pio became very popular with the people he encountered.  They began to see that he was capable of performing miracles.  Many healings were attributed to him.  His popularity became a source of concern for the Church and the Vatican began to restrict his activities to minimize public interaction. Padre Pio himself was uncomfortable with his newfound popularity and the attention he received because of his stigmata. A Church investigation into his stigmata concluded that his condition was not faked.  By 1934, the Vatican began to change its attitude towards Padre Pio and he was again allowed to perform public duties. He was allowed to preach, despite never being officially licensed by the Church to do so. Pope Pius XI encouraged people to visit him.  In 1947, Fr. Karol Wojtyla visited Padre Pio who prophetically told him he would rise to the highest post in the Church.” Fr. Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II in 1978.

11- INTERNATIONAL FAME:  Padre Pio became internationally famous. He was known for his piety, charity and the quality of his preaching. He famously advised, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”  Besides his stomach problems and stigmata, he had other illnesses as well, including cancer which was miraculously healed after just two treatments.  However his arthritis, which plagued him in his later years, never went away.

12 – DEATH AND SAINTHOOD:  Padre Pio died of an apparent heart attack at the friary of Our Lady of Grace in the Italian village of San Giovanni Rotondo on the morning of September 23, 1968. Over 100,000 people attended his funeral.  After his death, the friars and other associates were eager to begin the lengthy process of canonization, whereby the mystic might be named a saint of the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II beatified the memory of Padre Pio at a Mass on May 2, 1999 in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, as a final step in preparation for sainthood.  Pope John Paul II recognized Padre Pio as a Saint on June 16, 2002.  Over 300,000 people attended.  His feast day is September 23. He is the patron of civil defense volunteers, adolescents, and the village of Pietrelcina.

Based on information from encyclopedia.com and Catholic.org.  Photo by Doug Lawrence

 

 

 

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross by Deacon Marty McIndoe

israel-534

In the very center of the picture, under the altar, is a hole where you can reach down and touch the rock of Calvary where the Cross of Jesus was placed.

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

               On September 14th we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  This remembers that St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, discovered the True Cross in the year 326.  We must remember that shortly after Jesus was crucified, the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem.  They wanted to remove all access to the holy sites.  The early Christians venerated the Holy Sites, especially Calvary and the Tomb.  To eradicate the influence of Christianity, Hadrian leveled the top of Mount Calvary and erected a temple to the pagan goddess Venus. He also cut away and leveled the hillside where Jesus tomb stood and built a temple to the pagan god Jupiter Capitolinus.  Ironically, this destruction actually preserved the sacred sites.

               In 312 the Emperor Constantine issued the edict of Milan making Christianity legal.  His mother, Helena was a convert and was given permission to go to the Holy Lands to try to locate the original holy places.  Christian zeal motivated St. Helena.  The historian, Eusebius described her as follows: “Especially abundant were the gifts she bestowed on the naked and unprotected poor. To some she gave money, to others an ample supply of clothing; she liberated some from imprisonment, or from the bitter servitude of the mines; others she delivered from unjust oppression, and others again, she restored from exile. While, however, her character derived luster from such deeds … , she was far from neglecting personal piety toward God. She might be seen continually frequenting His Church, while at the same time she adorned the houses of prayer with splendid offerings, not overlooking the churches of the smallest cities. In short, this admirable woman was to be seen, in simple and modest attire, mingling with the crowd of worshipers, and testifying her devotion to God by a uniform course of pious conduct” (The Life of Constantine, XLIV, XLV).

               With the help of the local bishop, St. Macarius, and a learned Jew named Judas, they discovered three crosses hidden together in a cistern.  The plaque (titulus) which said, “Jesus Nazaranus Rex Iudaeorum” was found with the three crosses.  Surely one of those three had to be the true cross.  The three crosses and the titulus were removed from the cistern.  A woman, dying from a terminal disease, was brought to the spot by St. Helena.  She touched the crosses, one by one. After she touched the third cross, she was cured, thereby identifying the true cross.  Most importantly, St. Ambrose preached that when St. Helena found the true cross, “she worshiped not the wood, but the King, Him who hung on the wood. She burned with an earnest desire of touching the guarantee of immortality.”

               Constantine then built a large shrine to mark the place of Calvary and the tomb of Jesus.  It has been modified over the ages, but the current structure dates back to the time of the Crusaders.  Thanks to the Romans for building temples over the exact places of Calvary and the Tomb, we today know their actual location.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit leading St. Helena, we have the True Cross.

               St. Paul said “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” 1 Corinthians 1:23.  We continue to preach Christ crucified.  We honor and exalt the cross of Christ because it is through the cross that we have been redeemed.  Jesus was highly exalted upon the cross by God and continues to be by His Church.  Let us all lift high the cross of Jesus.

THE PASSION OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The_Head_of_Saint_John_the_Baptist_on_a_Charger

The Church calendar is filled with many celebrations of the Saints and Holy Ones who went before us.  Usually the celebration date is scheduled on the day that person died.  We do that to recognize that the death day is the day the Holy One entered in to heaven.  In the Church calendar we celebrate the birthday and the death day of only three people.  The first is Our Lord Jesus Christ.   The second is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The third is St. John the Baptist.  It certainly doesn’t surprise us that we celebrate Our Lord’s birthday or Our Blessed Mother’s birthday.   The fact that we celebrate ONLY one other’s birthday and death day tells us how important St. John the Baptist is to the Church.  On June 24th we celebrate the feast day (birthday) of St. John the Baptist, and on August 29th we celebrate his Passion (death day).

Jesus himself says this about St. John the Baptist, “among those born of women, there has risen no one greater that John the Baptist”.  So who then is this very special person?  John is recognized by the Church to be the Last of the Old Testament Prophets, and the first of the New Testament.  His own birth was quite miraculous, like many of the prophets that preceded him.  His parents were well beyond the normal child bearing years.  An angel, Gabriel, appeared to John’s father, the priest Zechariah, and foretold his miraculous birth.  Gabriel told Zechariah that John would be “great before the Lord” and would be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from within his mother’s womb”.  Even his name, John, was divinely inspired.  It means, “The Lord is Gracious’.  When the Blessed Virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John.  As soon as Mary spoke, John the Baptist leaped within his mother’s womb.   The word translated “leaped” is the same word the Old Testament used when telling us that David danced before the Ark of the Covenant.  David leaped and danced before the Ark of the Old Covenant and St. John the Baptist leaped before the Ark of the New Covenant (Mary).  Truly, as the angel said, John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from within his mother’s womb.

John was certainly a man who was quite different from most.  Scripture says that as a child he grew and became strong and then lived in the wilderness until the day of his manifestation to Israel.  St. Mark tells us that he was clothed in camel’s hair and ate locust and wild honey.  This was the same as Elijah the prophet.  St. Mark also tells us that the appearance of St. John the Baptist was connected with Isaiah; he says, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare the way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”.  When John made his appearance, the people recognized him as a prophet and they came out to him in large numbers.  He had numerous disciples who followed him.  He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand and the people had to repent.              He baptized people as a sign of repentance.  Jesus came to John to be baptized and John protested saying that it is He who should be baptizing.  Jesus convinced John to baptize him, and he did and we have the beautiful  Trinitarian theophany where the Holy Spirit is seen and God the Father’s voice is heard saying, “This is my beloved son”.

John was quick to say that he must decrease while the Lord must increase.  He told his disciples to follow Jesus.  John was the one who called Jesus, “The Lamb of God”.    John was known for speaking out the TRUTH, no matter what the consequences were.  This is what finally brought about his passion.  John had publically rebuked Herod the Antipas telling him that his marriage to Herodias, his brother Phillip’s wife, was unlawful.  Herod threw him in prison but did not want to kill him because Herod knew that John was a Holy prophet and that the people loved John.  Herodias hated John and, through some trickery with her daughter, was able to have the king behead (if you don’t know the story, read Matthew 14: 1-12).  John’s disciples came quickly to claim his body and then immediately went to tell Jesus.  It is interesting to note that Amiens Cathedral in France claims to have the skull itself.  The history of it appears to make it quite probable.  In 2010, archeological digs in a fifth century Cathedral of St. John, found parts of a body buried in a marble box under the main altar.  Carbon dating shows these bones to be of a first century Middle Eastern man.  They may very well belong to St. John the Baptist.  In 2012, National Geographic covered this.

So why is St. John the Baptist so important to us?  Personally, especially for today, the example he set in always standing for the truth, no matter what the consequences, is extremely important.  Also, the fact that he did everything he could to try to prepare people for the coming of the Lord should resound within us.  We too, are called to prepare people to be ready for the coming of the Lord, either by their first encounter with Him, their many encounters with Him, their encounter with him at death, or his second coming in glory.

I would like to share a prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for Aug 29th.  “God our Father, you called John the Baptist to be a herald of your Son’s birth and death.  As He gave His life in witness to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess our faith in your Gospel.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, for ever and ever.”

 

Mount of the Transfiguration: In Pictures by Deacon Marty McIndoe

A few years ago my wife and I had the honor of visiting the Mount of the Transfiguration  (Mt. Tabor) in the Holy Lands.  It is a fairly large mountain that has at the top the Church of the Transfiguration.   This is where Jesus was transfigured in glory in front of Peter, James and John as well as Moses and Elijah.  It is a very beautiful, and holy place.  I would like to share some of the pictures that we took.  God bless.

Israel 317Ruins of earlier monastery greet you on the way to the Church.

Israel 314The Church of the Transfiguration.  Note the three towers reflecting Peter’s call to build a shelter for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

Israel 318Note the beautiful stonework of the entrance.

Israel 319When we first came in the chapel was being used for mass by several priests.

Israel 328Note the details in the back of the altar.  Everything inside was beautiful and filled with light.

Israel 333The main mosaic of the Transfiguration.  It is brighter and more beautiful in person.  The camera did not do it justice.

Israel 334The three windows, one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah shine in on the mosaic.  On the Feast of the Transfiguration, Aug 6th, each year, the sun lines up to shine through all three windows to focus on Jesus in the mosaic.   They say it is breathtaking to see.

Israel 339Outside of the Church you can see the fairly modern monastery and retreat center on the left, as well as the ruins of older ones on the right.  This site has been venerated since the first century.  My good friend, Msgr. James McNamara told me that he has spent a week on retreat in the monastery.  What a Holy place to spend a retreat.

Israel 335Looking down from the Mount of the Transfiguration  So much beauty.

We were not there to see the Glory of Jesus in the transfiguration, but someday we hope to see Him in Glory.  God is good.

A Lesson at the Library by A.J. Avila

childrens-room-library-for-blog

One of the more exciting things about having children is introducing them to the wonders of the world. Watching them make discoveries for the very first time often shows us what we’ve lost growing up.

For example, I wanted some more reading material, so my husband and I stopped by our local public library with our firstborn, who was all of two years old. Sure that watching Mommy browse the shelves in the adult section was far too tedious for a toddler, I suggested my husband take our daughter into the children’s room. Our library boasts three large aquariums there, vibrant with colorful tropical fish. Certainly she would find that more entertaining.

I figured I had hit it on the nose when about fifteen minutes later, she came back into the main section of the library, bobbing with excitement. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” she squealed, grabbing my hand. “Come see!”

Her tiny hand cradled in mine, I allowed her to usher me into the children’s room, but to my surprise, she dragged me past the fish tanks and to the shelves of Easy Readers. “Look!” she cried, pointing. “They have books here!”

Books? At the library? Who would have thought?

Smiling at her enthusiasm, I suggested we examine them. What a wonderful idea! As we pulled title after title off the shelf, I sat back on my heels, enjoying her delight at opening them and exploring the wonders inside.

Then I came up with an even better idea. “Let’s take some of these home with us!”

Immediately her grin transformed into horror. Definitely not the reaction I was expecting. Puzzled, I racked my brain for the reason. Slowly it dawned on me that she thought taking the books would be stealing. Even worse, she thought her own mother would be complicit in such a terrible crime.

I explained that we wouldn’t be keeping the books. We would take them for a while, then bring them back.

That, apparently, was even worse somehow. Her lower lip trembled, and I could see she was on the verge of tears.

My pleas that this is what a public library is all about fell on deaf ears. I even offered to ask the librarians at the desk if it was okay to borrow some of the books.

“No, Mommy,” she choked. “Don’t!”

Well, I certainly didn’t want her very first trip to a library to be such a negative experience. “Okay,” I said softly. “Let’s put the books back.”

Only doing that placated her suffering.

In Romans 2:15 St. Paul declares that the law is written on our hearts. Apparently, it’s written so well even a two-year-old can see it.

Yet . . . how many of us are so horrified at sin as my toddler was that day? Do we become so inured to evil, so callous, that we don’t see the heinousness of it as we once did? It’s there every day, in our newspapers and on our television screens, yet don’t we just go on sipping our coffee as if nothing has happened?

Maybe Jesus hit it on the nose more than we realize when He told us we need to be born again and become like little children.

Maybe one of the reasons is so we can recapture seeing the world, and the evil in it, the way we once did.

 

Find A.J. Avila at Reflections on My Catholic Journey – https://reflections911.wordpress.com/author/ajavilanovels/

A.J. Avila lives in San Bernardino with her husband. She is the author of three Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Nearer the Dawn, and Amaranth, which are available on Amazon Kindle with all net profits going to charity. (You can learn a bit about those by reading the synopses on Amazon.)

The Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office or Breviary) by Deacon Marty McIndoe

liturgy-of-the-hours

The church has given us so many tools to help us to grow in our faith. One of those tools is the Liturgy of the Hours.  This form of prayer is sometimes known as the Divine Office or The Hours or The Breviary.    The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “The hymns and litanies of the Liturgy of the Hours integrate the prayer of the Psalms into the age of the church, expressing the symbolism of the time of day, the liturgical season, or the feast being celebrated. More over, the reading from the Word of God at each hour, with the subsequent responses and readings from the fathers and spiritual masters at certain hours reveal more deeply the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, assist in understanding the Psalms, and prepare for silent prayer.” (CCC 1177).  As a person who has prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for over 40 years now, I can tell you that it is an extremely good way to grow in our Catholic spirituality.  As an ordained deacon, I am required (just as all bishops, priests, sisters and brothers) to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  I do not consider it a burden, but rather an extremely uplifting way of Growing In Our Catholic Faith.  Though not required of lay people, it is something that I would highly recommend.

Along with the celebration of the mass, the Liturgy of the Hours is one of the oldest prayer forms in the Church.  As a matter of fact, the reciting of prayers at different hours of the day and evening goes back into our Jewish roots. In the Psalms we find expressions like, “I will meditate on You in the morning”, and “I Rose at midnight to give praise to Thee” and “evening and morning and at noon I will speak and declare and He shall hear my voice.”  It also says “seven times a day I have given praise toThee.”  The early Christians continued the practice of the devout Jewish people by praying different hours of the day. As a matter of fact, in the book of Acts we learn that the Apostles prayed at midnight and at mid-morning (Terce) and at midday (Sext) and at mid afternoon (None). The prayers at this time consisted of the reading and chanting of the Psalms, the reading of the Old Testament, and then the Christians began adding readings from the Gospels and Acts and the Epistles.  The prayers we do today are very much like what the Church has done from the beginning.  By the fifth century, the Office consisted of Lauds (Morning Prayer), Prime (first prayers), Terce (Mid-morning Prayers), Sext (Midday Prayer), None (Mid-afternoon Prayers), Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Complin (Night Prayer).  We still have these prayer times with some minor modifications.  See the following list for today’s Liturgy of the Hours.

Current Roman Catholic usage focuses on three major hours and from two to four minor hours:

  • The Officium lectionis or Office of Readings (formerly Matins ), major hour
  • Lauds or Morning prayer, major hour
  • Daytime prayer, which can be one or all of:

* Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer
* Sext or Midday Prayer
* Non or Mid-Afternoon Prayer

  • Vespers or Evening Prayer, major hour
  • Compline or Night Prayer

 

The praying of the Liturgy of the Hours only takes a few minutes (about 15+ for the major hours) but is worth every minute you put in to it.  The Liturgy of the Hours can be prayed individually or in a group.  Usually when in a group it is prayed antiphonally, alternating from left to right sides of the Church.  Parts of it can also be sung.  However, praying it privately can be a real help in your own spiritual growth.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about the Liturgy of the Hours:  From #1174 “The mystery of Christ, his Incarnation and Passover, which we celebrate in the Eucharist especially at the Sunday assembly, permeates and transfigures the time of each day, through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, “the divine office.”  This celebration, faithful to the apostolic exhortations to “pray constantly,” is “so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God.”  In this “public prayer of the Church,”  the faithful (clergy, religious, and lay people) exercise the royal priesthood of the baptized. Celebrated in “the form approved” by the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours “is truly the voice of the Bride herself addressed to her Bridegroom. It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body addresses to the Father.”

So, you are probably asking yourself, “how do I pray the Liturgy of the Hours”.  It used to be that you had to buy the Four Volume book set, or abbreviated one volume set, but today we have it available on the Internet and through smart phone apps.  I own the Four Volume Set and used to use that continually.  However, about four years ago I started using the Ibreviary app and I love it.  There are also websites to help you pray it on a full sized computer or tablet.  Instead of listing these out, there are so many, I would suggest you search on “liturgy of the hours”.  You won’t be disappointed in what you find.

Prayer is at the heart of our relationship to God.  The Liturgy of the Hours is one of the best forms of Prayer that I have found.  I pray it every day, along with my rosary and attendance at daily mass.  All of these bring us closer to the God who loves us so much and wants us to have an abundant life.  Please try praying this beautiful prayer form.  It isn’t just for the Clergy and Religious.  It is for lay people too.  God bless you in your journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Divine Mercy and our Youngest Canonized Saint – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

StMariaGorettiJPIISt. Pope John Paul II visits the remains of St. Maria Goretti in 1979

Maria Goretti was born on October 16th, 1890 in Italy.  She came from a very poor family that struggled to make ends meet.  Her father died when Maria was nine years old leaving her mother and siblings to tend the farm so that they could live.  Maria stayed home and watched the youngest child as the others worked.  Even though it was a difficult life for all of them, they were faith filled people.

A young man, Alessandro Serenelli, was a neighbor and he began make sexual advances towards young Maria.  She kept putting him off telling him that it would be a mortal sin and that she would have nothing to do with his sexual advances.  Finally, after several months of this, he attacked her forcibly trying to rape her.  This little eleven year old girl fought off this 20 year old large boy.  He finally told her that he would kill her if she didn’t give him what he wanted.  She told him that she would rather die than commit this terrible sin.  Alessandro tried strangling her and she fought him and he then stabbed her eleven times.  When she then tried to make it to the door, he stabbed her another three times.  The youngest child in the house began screaming and Alessandro ran away.

When Maria’s siblings and mother got to her, she was still alive.  They immediately took her to the hospital, but the damage was so severe that they were not able to help her.  The doctor working on her said to her, “Maria, think of me in paradise”.  She responded, “I will think of you gladly.”   The next day, Maria told her mother that she forgave Alessandro and wanted to see him in heaven with her.  Shortly after, Maria died while holding a crucifix and staring at an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Alessandro was arrested shortly after the incident.  He not only admitted the attempted rape and murder, but also said that he had been trying to seduce her for quite some time.  Because of his age he was sentenced to thirty years in prison, instead of life imprisonment.  A priest came to visit him in prison and Alessandro went in to a rage and began howling and lunging for the priest.  After that, Alessandro hardly ate and was nervous and filled with despair.  It was then that Maria appeared to him in a vision and told him that she forgave him.  She was surrounded by lilies, the flower symbolic of purity.  From that moment on, Alessandro was a changed man.  Real peace entered his heart and he was an ideal prisoner.  After serving his thirty year sentence, Alessandro went to a Franciscan Monastery and they accepted him as a lay brother.  He went to visit Maria’s mother to ask her forgiveness.  Marie’s mother said that if her daughter could forgive him, she would also.  They actually attended Christmas mass together in the local parish church and Alessandro spoke before the people acknowledging his sin and asking for God’s forgiveness and the pardon of the community.

Forty years later, on June 24, 1950, Maria was canonized in St. Peter’s basilica in Rome.  Alessandro, now firmly converted to the Lord, attended the canonization.   He died on May 6, 1970 in the Capuchin convent of Macerata.  A few years before that, Alessandro wrote that Maria was sent to him to guide and save him.  He said that her words of both rebuke and forgiveness were etched in his heart.  He called Maria his light, and his protectress and he anxiously awaited seeing her and her mother in heaven.

Maria is considered a virgin and a martyr because she gave up her life to keep God’s commandments.  I think that her outpouring of mercy and deep care for the one who offended her show us a glimpse of the Divine Mercy that God pours out on us.  For an eleven year old, she accomplished so much.   God’s Divine Mercy triumphs in His Saints.

 

Independence Day – A Great Beginning, by the Grace of God by Deacon Marty McIndoe

20150201_145250The cross marks the spot where the first mass was celebrated in what would become The United States of America (St. Augustine, Florida).  This happened 211 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence (1565).

            The final stanza of our National Anthem, “The Star-spangled Banner”, has the phrase, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.”  In 1864 the phrase, IN GOD WE TRUST, began appearing on our currency.  In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Congress made the phrase IN GOD WE TRUST our National motto.  When you read any of our original documents, from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution to the Bill of Rights you can see that the “fathers” of our country saw the need for God in the everyday workings of the people and the government.  Unfortunately today people and the government are turning further and further away from the recognition of God’s work within our country and within our personal lives.  This troubles me greatly.  I thought that for this Independence Day we could look at some quotes from our founding fathers.  After the quotes are listed, I have a link to a post written by my friend, Rich Lamm entitled, 7 Awesome Fact About Charles Carroll, A True American Catholic and Patriot.  This is found on the Epic Pew website, one that I really enjoy.  Make sure that you follow the link at the end of the article to check it out.  It is fascinating.

 

Samuel Adam

As the Declaration of Independence was being signed, 1776, Samuel Adams declared:

“We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”

~ Samuel Adams (1722 – 1803) is one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

 

George Washington

“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

~ George Washington (1789 – 1797), first President of the United States

 

Thomas Jefferson
3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event.”
Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237.

“I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.”

The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385.

 

John Hancock
1st Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. … Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.”
History of the United States of America, Vol. II, p. 229.

 

James Monroe
5th U.S. President

“When we view the blessings with which our country has been favored, those which we now enjoy, and the means which we possess of handing them down unimpaired to our latest posterity, our attention is irresistibly drawn to the source from whence they flow.  Let us then, unite in offering our most grateful acknowledgments for these blessings to the Divine Author of All Good.”
–Monroe made this statement in his 2nd Annual Message to Congress, November 16, 1818.

 

John Quincy Adams
6th U.S. President

“The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth.

Never since the foundation of the world have the prospects of mankind been more encouraging to that hope than they appear to be at the present time. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made ‘bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God’ (Isaiah 52:10).”
Life of John Quincy Adams, p. 248.

William Penn
Founder of Pennsylvania

“I do declare to the whole world that we believe the Scriptures to contain a declaration of the mind and will of God in and to those ages in which they were written; being given forth by the Holy Ghost moving in the hearts of holy men of God; that they ought also to be read, believed, and fulfilled in our day; being used for reproof and instruction, that the man of God may be perfect. They are a declaration and testimony of heavenly things themselves, and, as such, we carry a high respect for them. We accept them as the words of God Himself.”
Treatise of the Religion of the Quakers, p. 355.

 

Benjamin Rush
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution

“The gospel of Jesus Christ prescribes the wisest rules for just conduct in every situation of life. Happy they who are enabled to obey them in all situations!”
The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, pp. 165-166.

“Christianity is the only true and perfect religion, and that in proportion as mankind adopts its principles and obeys its precepts, they will be wise and happy.”
Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical, published in 1798.

I know there is an objection among many people to teaching children doctrines of any kind, because they are liable to be controverted. But let us not be wiser than our Maker.

“If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into all the world would have been unnecessary.

The perfect morality of the gospel rests upon the doctrine which, though often controverted has never been refuted: I mean the vicarious life and death of the Son of God.”
Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical, published in 1798.

 

John Witherspoon
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Clergyman and President of Princeton University

“While we give praise to God, the Supreme Disposer of all events, for His interposition on our behalf, let us guard against the dangerous error of trusting in, or boasting of, an arm of flesh … If your cause is just, if your principles are pure, and if your conduct is prudent, you need not fear the multitude of opposing hosts.

“What follows from this? That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind.

“Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy of his country.”
–Sermon at Princeton University, “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men,” May 17, 1776.

 

Alexander Hamilton
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution

“I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor.

I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.”
Famous American Statesmen, p. 126.

 

Patrick Henry
Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”
The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii.

“The Bible … is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed.”
Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, p. 402.

Certainly the majority of the founding fathers were Episcopal or Protestant.  However, many Catholics also added to the building of our country.  As a matter of fact, two hundred and eleven (211) years BEFORE the Declaration of Independence was signed, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales celebrated the first Catholic mass on what was to become American soil.  He did this in St. Augustine, Florida (see picture).  One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was Charles Carroll, Catholic and Patriot.  Check out his story at the Epic Pew site by clicking here:  http://epicpew.com/7-fact-charles-carroll-true-american-catholic-patriot/

God bless you and God bless America!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What God Has Joined Together – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

KTWeddingEarlier this year I presided at the wedding of my Godson (through RCIA) and his lovely wife.

My wife and I just celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary.  So far, for June, I have presided at three different weddings.  I really enjoy presiding at weddings because I love to see the joy of the couple and I know how important weddings are to the Church.  I thought it would be a great time to look at this gift that God has given us in Marriage.  For us as Catholics, the Church tells us that The Sacrament of Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Church.  We then immediately know that, as a Sacrament, it is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace.   This Sacrament of Marriage is one part of the two “Mission” sacraments, along with the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  We speak of having a vocation to Holy Orders (Bishop, Priest or Deacon) and/or a vocation to Matrimony.  In actuality, deacons can have both.   They both are so important in the mission of the Church.  Remember that Vocation literally means a calling from God.   Let us look at this special calling from God when we discern that we are called to be married.

Unfortunately today the Church has seen a drop in the number of people who want to get married in the Church.  So many young people have pushed God to the side in their lives and a Church wedding isn’t that important to them.  I find this to be sad, as I believe very strongly that when a couple enters in to the Sacrament of Marriage, it is a forever gift of Divine Grace to them.  I certainly would not want to say that people who marry outside of the Sacrament are not helped out by God in their marriage.  God works through all things.  However, those people who know what Sacramental Grace is all about, would definitely want to have the Sacrament of Marriage.  I also know that the Church, because it holds this Sacrament up so high, makes it somewhat hard to receive it, if the right conditions are not met.  Those who have had a previous marriage know that they must first deal with that previous marriage by either annulment or “defect of form”.  Each case varies so much that it is impossible to cover it all in this article, but your local priest or deacon will help you.

In the book of Genesis we hear how God first creates man and the animals but then sees that man needs something more than animals to fulfill his life.  It is then that He creates woman from the very side of man (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh).  Genesis also clearly states that God is VERY pleased with what He has created.  Genesis also tells us that when God created man and woman He created THEM in His very image.  For me, that means that if I really want to see the image of God, I cannot look at just a man or just a woman.  I need to look at both of them to see His image.  A man and woman joined together in marriage reflect who God is.  The love and care and concern and nurturing and fruitfulness of their relationship reveal God himself.  God created us as equals, but also quite different.  As the French say, Vive la difference (literally, long live the difference).  We cannot help but to see that the idea for marriage between a man and a woman comes to us directly from God at the very beginning of creation.

Our God is a God of LIFE!  He decided that we would join in with Him in co-creating Life.  He made the difference between man and woman a means of bringing forth new life.  Anyone who has been pregnant or been around someone who is pregnant cannot help but to be in awe at this gift of life.  When a man and woman come together to bring forth life, they are living their own source and summit of their marriage (yes, I know these words are often used concerning the Eucharist which is the high point of our Christian life and worship).  It is definitely the high point of their call.  However, just like God, married life should be totally surrounded by LOVE.  A man and woman who are called by God to come to the Sacrament of Matrimony are called by the great LOVE that they have for each other.  It is this LOVE, which is the very essence of God that brings LIFE in to a marriage.

Life in a marriage is much more than just having children, although that is certainly important.  Life in a marriage means that the man and wife help to bring LIFE to each other, every day.  They are there to help each grow in relationship to each other and in relationship to God.  They are there to support and encourage each other and to assist each other in the ministries that God calls them to.  In my marriage, each of us has different ministries.  Some we do separate from each other, and some we do together.  No matter what, we support each other in our ministries.  Certainly one important ministry is raising our children.  This is a joy filled, but difficult, endeavor.  We need each other to assist one another and support one another.  But, we also need to have time alone for each other.  When I do marriage preparation (Pre-Cana), I always tell the couples that they need to have time alone with each other.  There should always be some kind of “date night”.  I know that this is sometimes difficult to do, but we really need to do it.  Let grandparents or aunts and uncles or friends come in to watch your children while you go out.  If money is tight, you don’t need to spend a lot.  Sometimes a walk on a beach or in the woods, or downtown, is all you need.  The Church realizes that the family is the basic building block of the Church and the bond between the man and woman is the basic building block of the family.  We also know that marriage is a rich symbol of the relationship that Jesus, the groom, has with his Church, the bride.  When we see man and wife loving each other and caring for each other and supporting each other, we can see what Jesus does for the Church.

I don’t think that it is an accident that the first miracle recorded in the Gospels that Jesus performs is the turning water in to wine at the Wedding Feast of Cana.  Jesus, in doing this, shows us that with him we can have the very best wine, not just some lower grade.  With Jesus in our marriage, we can have the very best marriage.  One that people will recognize as a gift from God.  Jesus talks about marriage in his Gospels.  He recalls the Genesis account on the creation of woman and said that “therefore a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH”.    He then tells them that “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.”  This is why the Church takes such a tough stand on divorce.

Marriage, as good as it is, is still difficult at times.  Having two different people living together in the same space and having to make important decisions is not easy.   That is where God’s grace comes in.  I have no doubt in my mind that if my wife and I hadn’t invited Jesus in to our marriage, we would not be together today.  Now, after 47 years of marriage, I can tell you that even counting the difficult times, it is the best thing that I have done.  I give thanks to God for the way He works through both of us and I pray that you, in your marriage, will open yourselves up to inviting Jesus in more and more each day.  With Jesus, marriage can be full and sparkling and enjoyable, like the very best wine.

 

The Mass Is Profoundly Biblical by Karlo Broussard

Israel 481A photo I took inside the cave of St. Jerome.  This is located beneath the Church of the Nativity.  Beginning in 386, St. Jerome spent 30 years putting together the first full Bible, the Vulgate.  He lived in this cave to be as close to where Jesus was born as possible while working on the Sacred Scriptures.  His version was used up until the 20th Century.

 

Are Catholics Bible Christians? A Catholic who ponders this question may think, “Well, I know that Protestants call themselves Bible Christians, and Catholics don’t really use that terminology; so I guess I would have to answer ‘No.’” However, Catholics should respond to such a question with an immediate “Yes.”

As Catholics, we are 100 percent Bible Christians—that is to say, the Catholic Church believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God and, as such, according to the Second Vatican Council, the Bible “stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life” (Dei Verbum 21). Therefore, Catholics are indeed Bible Christians—and there is perhaps no other aspect of the Catholic faith that exemplifies this more than the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Familiarity with God’s word leads one to conclude that the Catholic Mass is not a foreign experience from the Bible. In fact, its structure, its words and gestures, and even its built-in theology are embedded in the pages of sacred Scripture. An examination of this “Bible blueprint” leads to the discovery that Catholic worship is truly a biblical style of worship.

The introductory rite

The Christian can recognize the biblical nature of Catholic worship in the first prayer of the Mass, the sign of the cross. The language of the prayer comes directly from Matthew 28:19, where Jesus commands his apostles to go out into all nations and baptize them “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The gesture, a cross over the body, is implicitly found in the book of Ezekiel when the prophet receives the following instruction: “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it” (Ezek. 9:4). The mark given was meant to label those among the faithful remnant of God’s people who abhorred the abominations to the Lord and spare them from God’s wrath and judgment.

The significance for the gesture of the cross is that the word for mark in Hebrew is simply the Hebrew letter, taw, which is shaped like an X or plus sign. The Greek version is the letter tau, which is T-shaped, like the Franciscan cross. So the Catholic practice of making the sign of the cross not only reminds the Christian of the cross of Christ, which won the gift of salvation, but in light of the biblical tradition it also serves to be a visible expression of fidelity to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ and separation from the evil ways of the world.

Another part of the introductory rite that parallels the biblical blueprint is the greeting. The priest says, “The Lord be with you,” and the congregation responds, “And with your spirit.” The first thing to note is the biblical origin of the language. It comes from 2 Timothy 4:22: “The Lord be with your spirit.” Like the sign of the cross, the theological significance of the phrase “the Lord be with you” lies in the Old Testament. Throughout salvation history such language is never used for ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. It always signifies a unique vocation and mission that will impact the whole history of Israel and ensure God’s protection and help in carrying out that mission.

For example, when an angel calls Gideon to defend God’s people from a foreign invasion, the angel says, “The Lord is with you” (Judg. 6:12). The angel Gabriel greets Mary with the same phrase (Luke 1:28). When applied to our liturgical experience, this greeting signifies that the laity has access to the power of God to carry out its unique vocation in the Father’s plan of salvation: to be “witnesses to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Similarly, when the congregation responds, “And with your spirit,” it acknowledges that the priest too has a unique vocation within the Father’s plan of salvation: to make the cross of Christ present on the altar.

The Confiteor, which is the prayer that begins “I confess to almighty God,” is also rooted in biblical tradition. An examination of the biblical texts in the Old Testament reveals that the act of verbal confession was an essential part of public worship for ancient Israel. When the Israelites renewed their covenant with Yahweh through the priest Ezra after returning to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile, they “stood and confessed their sins” (Neh. 9:2). Leviticus 5:5 states that the penitent must verbally confess his sins as a part of the ritual for the guilt offering.

A final prayer of the introductory rite that can be seen as constructed from the biblical blueprint is the Gloria. The very first line is a direct quote from the Bible: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” These are the same words the angel addresses the shepherds with to announce the birth of the Messiah (see Luke 2:14, Douay Rheims Version). The titles that the prayer ascribes to God are also found in the Sacred Page, such as “almighty” (cf. Ps. 68:14, 91:1) and “heavenly king” (cf. Ps. 98:6, 99:4; Is. 43:15). In reference to Jesus, the language of “only begotten Son” comes from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten [Greek, monogene] Son” (NAB). The title “Lamb of God” comes from John 1:29; “Holy One” is found in Revelation 3:7 and 16:5; and “the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 8:5 and Philippians 2:11.

The Liturgy of the Word

The next part of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Word, many of whose parts are embedded in Scripture. First of all, the very act of proclaiming the Word of God within the context of liturgy goes back to the book of Exodus. In the liturgical ceremony for the ratification of the Sinaitic covenant Moses “took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people…” (Ex. 24:7). The Israelites then responded in faith by saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (Ex. 24:7).

This corresponds to the liturgical practice of responding to the biblical readings with the words, “Thanks be to God.” It is a form of the New Israel’s response of faith to the New Covenant. Therefore, the liturgy, as the natural habitat for the proclamation of the God’s word, is an essential element of the blueprint for the worship that Israel, both old and new, must offer to God.

A few of the prayers and gestures surrounding the gospel reading also have biblical precedence. One such prayer is the alleluia (Hebrew, “God be praised”) and finds its roots in the Jewish Hallel Psalms (Ps. 113-118), which are prayed in the Jewish Passover liturgy to give praise to Yahweh for deliverance from Egypt in the Exodus.

The alleluia is also found in John’s heavenly vision of the wedding supper of the Lamb at which the angels praise God for his work of salvation through Jesus and announce the coming of the Lamb for his wedding feast (cf. Rev. 19:1-9). Therefore, the Catholic prayer of alleluia prior to the Gospel reading signals the celebration of a new Passover and a participation in the heavenly marriage feast of the Lamb.

While praying the alleluia, one will notice that the congregation stands for the reading of the Gospel. This calls to mind Nehemiah 8:5, where the whole assembly stands when Ezra, the priest, begins to read from the book of the covenant as they renew the covenant with Yahweh after returning to Jerusalem from exile. Just as the assembly of Israel stood for the reading of the old Law of Moses, Christians stand for the reading of the new Law of Jesus as found in the Gospels.

Another detail worthy of mention is the priest’s private prayer before the altar as he approaches the ambo: “Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your Gospel.” This request calls to mind the cleansing of Isaiah’s lips in Isaiah 6:6-7, which takes place prior to his prophetical proclamation of the word of the Lord to Israel. The priest, like Isaiah, requests the cleansing of his lips before proclaiming the word of the Lord to the New Israel, the Church.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist

As the Mass moves into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, one continues to recognize a construct of prayers, gestures, and practices that allude to the Bible. For example, the bread and wine calls to mind the sacrifice of thanksgiving offered by the priest-king Melchizedek in Genesis 14:14-16. It is against this Old Testament backdrop that Jesus, whom the author of Hebrews identifies as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:10), offers bread and wine at the Last Supper.

Therefore, the offering of bread and wine in the Catholic Mass signifies that the sacrifice soon to take place is one like Melchizedek, namely a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Greek, eucharistia), and is offered by a priest of the order of Melchizedek, i.e., the priest who acts in persona Christi.

Another Bible passage that may come to mind during the offertory prayers is Daniel 3:39-40 (NAB), where Azariah prays while standing in the midst of the fiery furnace, “But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly.”

This passage serves as a possible background for the prayer for acceptance of sacrifice, which reads, “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you.”

Along with the prayers of offertory, the priestly act of washing hands models the biblical tradition. According to Leviticus 30:18-21, Moses instructs the Levitical priests to wash their hands in the bronze basin located next to the altar of sacrifice outside the tabernacle before entering to perform their priestly duties. The Catholic priest washes his hands because he is about to enter the heavenly tabernacle that is made present in time and space when he confects the Eucharist.

An additional ritual worthy of highlight is the priestly offering of incense. For any Jew, this calls to mind the altar of incense located in the Holy Place of the wilderness tabernacle and in Solomon’s Temple at which the Levitical priest would minister. Furthermore, St. John describes in the Book of Revelation presbyters, i.e., priests, offering golden bowls of incense in the heavenly sanctuary (cf. Rev. 5:8). Therefore, the offering of incense in the Catholic Mass is one of common practice among the people of God throughout salvation history and signifies that the Catholic faithful mystically participate in the worship of the heavenly Temple.

The next major prayer that contains elements directly derived from the Bible is the Sanctus. The threefold acclamation of God’s holiness—holy, holy, holy—is found in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah describes his vision of the heavenly throne room and how within it he sees and hears the angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Is. 6:3). Similarly, St. John sees the same thing when he is given access to the heavenly throne room of the Lamb. He writes in Revelation 4:8, “And the four living creatures . . . day and night . . . never cease to sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” Perhaps this makes sense out of the preface before the prayer of the Sanctus:

“And so, with angels and archangels, with thrones and dominions, and with all the hosts and powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim.”

The Sanctus is thus a sign to the Catholic faithful that they are sacramentally entering into the heavenly sanctuary to join their voices with the heavenly beings.

The words of institution

Next in the lineup are the words of institution, which unfortunately cannot be given a full exegesis due to the limited scope of this article. However, a few points cannot go without mentioning.

First, the words “This is my body . . . this is my blood” find their origin in the Last Supper narratives of the Synoptic Gospels and St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (see Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Cor. 11:24-25).

Secondly, the phrase “the blood of the new and eternal covenant” is a combination of Luke’s account, in which he records Jesus to say “the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20) and Matthew’s version, in which Jesus is recorded saying, “For this is my blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:28).

It is Matthew’s Gospel that most explicitly makes the connection to the Old Testament tradition. If a Jew heard the words “the blood of the covenant,” he would immediately call to mind the ratification ceremony of the Sinaitic covenant in Exodus 24, where Moses says, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Ex. 24:8). Therefore, Jesus’ words at the Last Supper signify that it is the ratification ceremony for the New Covenant. It is this New Covenant ceremony that Catholics mystically share in and are present at in the celebration of the Eucharist.

A final prayer that is necessary to establish as part of the Bible blueprint is the anamnesis of Eucharistic Prayer IV, which reads, in part, “we offer you his body and blood, the sacrifice acceptable to you which brings salvation to the whole world.” This offering of Jesus in sacrifice rings a sound of horror to the Protestant ear, considering that Hebrews 7:27 states, “He [Jesus] has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily; . . . he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”

Is the Catholic Church re-crucifying Jesus and consequently among those that the letter of Hebrews speaks of in 6:6: “they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.” The key to answering this question lies in the Catholic doctrine that the Eucharist makes present the one and same sacrifice of Christ in the here and now behind the signs of bread and wine (cf. CCC 1366-1367). Therefore, the sacrifice of the Mass is not a re-crucifixion of Jesus.

But the question remains: Is this theological construct biblical? The answer is yes! The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as “a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord” (Heb. 8:2). In other words, Jesus’ priestly ministry continues forever in the heavenly realm (cf. Heb. 7:25). Now, because “every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices” (Heb. 8:3a) “it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer” (Heb. 8:3b).

What does Christ offer to the Father in the heavenly sanctuary as high priest? The offering cannot be anything less than his sacrifice on the cross, since that was his definitive priestly act. Therefore, the Bible blueprint reveals the one and same sacrifice of Christ on the cross being made present in the heavenly sanctuary in an unbloody manner. Such a conclusion is also supported by the fact that St. John describes Jesus appearing in the heavenly sanctuary as a slain lamb (cf. Rev. 5:6).

Thus the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is forever made present before the Father and is not restricted to time and space. Consequently, that same sacrifice can be made substantially present in the here and now in an unbloody manner every time the faithful liturgically remember the sacrifice of Christ in the anamnesis.

So, in conclusion, embedded in the sacred pages of God’s divine word is a blueprint with which God’s holy people, the Church, can construct a form of worship that is truly pleasing to the Lord. The Mass and the Bible are inseparable, and together they orient the Catholic faithful toward the destiny to which all humans are called: heaven.

Karlo Broussard

Apologetics Speaker

Karlo Broussard, a native of Crowley, Louisiana, left a promising musical career to devote himself full-time to the work of Catholic apologetics. For more than a decade he has traveled the country teaching apologetics, biblical studies, theology, and philosophy. Karlo has published articles on a variety of subjects in Catholic Answers Magazine, is a regular guest on Catholic Answers Live, and is an active blogger at \http://www.catholic.com

Karlo holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology from Catholic Distance University and the Augustine Institute, and is currently working on his masters in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He also worked for several years in an apprenticeship with nationally known author and theologian Fr. Robert J. Spitzer at the Magis Center of Reason and Faith.

Karlo is one of the most dynamic and gifted Catholic speakers on the circuit today, communicating with precision of thought, a genuine love for God, and an enthusiasm that inspires.

Karlo resides in Murrieta, CA with his wife and four children. You can view Karlo’s online videos at KarloBroussard.com. You can also book Karlo for a speaking event by contacting Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200.