Living the Tradition of the Catholic Faith passed down through Apostolic succession from Jesus Himself.
Like the website, this is dedicated to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts.
However, this blog is also dedicated to my beloved parents:
To my Father who always said I had a book in me and to my Mother who never let me forget it! ;)
This blog is likely the closest I'll ever get to writing a book! ;)

BattleBeads has been featured in How-to-pray-the-rosary-everyday.com's "Rosary Promoter of the Month". To read the July 2010 interview, please visit here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday
by Rev. James Luke Meagher, 1883

The fast of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts till Easter Sunday. During this time there are forty-six days, but as we do not fast on the six Sundays falling in this time, the fast lasts for forty days. For that reason it is called the forty days of Lent. In the Latin language of the Church it is called the Quadragesima, that is, forty. St. Peter, the first Pope, instituted the forty days of Lent. During the forty-six days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, we are to spend the time in fasting and in penance for our sins, building up the temple of the Lord within our hearts, after having come forth from the Babylon of this world by the rites and the services of the Septuagesima season. And as of old we read that the Jews, after having been delivered from their captivity in Babylon, spent forty-six years in building their temple in place of the grand edifice raised by Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians, thus must we rebuild the temple of the Holy Ghost, built by God at the moment of our baptism, but destroyed by the sins of the past year. Again in the Old Testament the tenth part of all the substance of the Jews was given to the Lord (Exod. xxli. 29). Thus we must give him the tenth part of our time while on this earth. For forty days we fast, but taking out the Sundays of Lent, when there is no fast, it leaves thirty-six days, nearly the tenth part of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. According to Pope Gregory from the first Sunday of Lent to Easter, there are six weeks, making forty-two days, and when we take from Lent the six Sundays during which we do not fast, we have left thirty-six days, about the tenth part of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year.

The forty days of fasting comes down to us from the Old Testament, for we read that Moses fasted forty days on the mount (Exod. xxiv. et xxxiv. 28). We are told that Elias fasted for forty days (III. Kings xix. 8), and again we see that our Lord fasted forty days in the desert (Math. iv.; Luke ix). We are to follow the example of these great men of the old law. But in order to make up the full fast of forty days of Moses, of Elias and of our Lord, Pope Gregory commanded the fast of Lent to begin on Ash Wednesday before the first Sunday of the Lenten season.

Christ began his fast of forty days after his baptism in the Jordan, on Epiphany, the twelfth of January, when he went forth into the desert. But we do not begin the Lent after Epiphany, because there are other feasts and seasons in which to celebrate the mysteries of the childhood of our Lord before we come to his fasting, and because during these forty days of Lent we celebrate the forty years of the Jews in the desert, who, when their wanderings were ended, they celebrated their Easter, while we hold ours after the days of Lent are finished. Again, during Lent, we celebrate the passion of our Lord, and as after His passion came His resurrection, thus we celebrate the glories of His resurrection at Easter.

During the services of Lent we read so often the words: "Humble
your heads before the Lord," and "let us bend our knees," because it is the time when we should humble ourselves before God and bend our knees in prayers. After the words, "Let us bend our knees," comes the word, "Arise." These words are never said on Sunday, but only on week days, for Sunday is dedicated to the resurrection of our Lord. Pope Gregory says: "Who bends the knee on Sunday denies God to have risen." We bend our knees and prostrate ourselves to the earth in prayer, to show the weakness of our bodies, which are made of earth; to show the weakness of our minds and imagination, which we cannot control; to show our shame for sin, for we cannot lift our eyes to heaven; to follow the example of our Lord, who came down from heaven and prostrated himself on the ground in the garden when in prayer (Matt. xxvi. 39); to show that we were driven from Paradise and that we are prone towards earthly things; to show that we follow the example of our father in the faith, Abraham, who, falling upon the earth, adored the Lord (Gen. xviii. 2). This was the custom from the beginning of the Christian Church, as Origen says: "The holy prophets when they were surrounded with trials fell upon their faces, that their sins might be purged by the affliction of their bodies." Thus following the words of St. Paul: "I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephes. iii. 14)," we prostrate ourselves and bend our knees in prayer. From Ash Wednesday to Passion Sunday the Preface of Lent is said every day, unless there comes a feast with a Preface of its own. That custom was in vogue as far back as the twelfth century.

At other times of the year, the clergy say the Office of Vespers after noon, but an ancient Council allowed Vespers to be commenced after Mass. This is when the Office is said altogether by the clergy in the choir. The same may be done by each clergyman when reciting privately his Office. This cannot be done on the Sundays of Lent, as they are not fasting days. The "Go, the dismissal is at hand," is not said, but in its place, "Let us bless the Lord," for, from the earliest times the clergy and the people remained in the church to sing the Vesper Office and to pray during this time of fasting and of penance.

We begin the fast of Lent on Wednesday, for the most ancient traditions of the Church tell us that while our Lord was born on Sunday, he was baptized on Tuesday, and began his fast in the desert on Wednesday. Again, Solomon began the building of his great temple on Wednesday, and we are to prepare our bodies by fasting, to become the temples of the Holy Ghost, as the Apostle says, "Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you (I. Cor. iii. 16)?" To begin well the Lent, one of the old Councils directed all the people with the clergy to come to the church on Ash Wednesday to assist at the Mass and the Vesper Offices and to give help to the poor, then they were allowed to go and break their fast.

The name Ash Wednesday comes from the ceremony of putting
ashes on the heads of the clergy and the people on this day. Let us understand the meaning of this rite. When man sinned by eating in the garden the forbidden fruit, God drove him from Paradise with the words: "For dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return (Gen. iii. 19)." Before his sin, Adam was not to die, but to be carried into heaven after a certain time of trial here upon this earth. But he sinned, and by that sin he brought upon himself and us, his children, death. Our bodies, then, are to return to the dust from which God made them, to which they are condemned by the sin of Adam. What wisdom the Church shows us when she invites us by these ceremonies to bring before our minds the dust and the corruption of the grave by putting ashes on our heads. We see the great men of old doing penance in sackcloth and ashes. Job did penance in dust and ashes (Job ii. 12). By the mouth of His prophet the Lord commanded the Jews "in the house of the dust sprinkle yourselves with dust (Mich. i. 10)." Abraham said, "I will speak to the Lord, for I am dust and ashes (Gen xviii. 27)." Joshua and all the ancients of Israel fell on their faces before the Lord and put dust upon their heads (Joshua vii. 6). When the ark of the covenant was taken by the Philistines, the soldier came to tell the sad story with his head covered with dust (I Kings iv. 12).

When Job's three friends came and found him in such affliction, "they sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven (Job ii. 12)." "The sorrows of the daughters of Israel are seen in the dust upon their heads (Lam. ii. 10)." Daniel said his prayers to the Lord his God in fasting, sackcloth and ashes (Dan. ix. 3). Our Lord tells us that if in Tyre and Sidon had been done the miracles seen in Judea, that they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes (Matt. xi. 21; Luke x. 13). When the great city will be destroyed, its people will cry out with grief, putting dust upon their heads (Apoc. xviii. 19). From these parts of the Bible, the reader will see that dust and ashes were used by the people of old as a sign of deep sorrow for sin, and that when they fasted they covered their heads with ashes. From them the Church copied these ceremonies which have come down to us. And on this day, when we begin our fast, we put ashes on our heads with the words, "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and into dust thou shalt return (Gen. iii. 19)."

In the beginning of the Church the ceremony of putting the ashes on the heads of the people was only for those who were guilty of sin, and who were to spend the season of Lent in public penance. Before Mass they came to the church, confessed their sins, and received from the hands of the clergy the ashes on their heads. Then the clergy and all the people prostrated themselves upon the earth and there recited the seven penitential psalms. Rising, they formed into a procession with the penitents walking barefooted. When they came back the penitents were sent out of the church by the bishop, saying : "We drive you from the bosom of the Church on account of your sins and for your crimes, as Adam, the first man was driven from Paradise because of his sin." While the clergy were singing those parts of Genesis, where we read that God condemned our first parents to be driven from the garden and condemned to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, the porters fastened the doors of the church on the penitents, who were not allowed to enter the temple of the Lord again till they finished their penance and came to be absolved on Holy Thursday (Gueranger, Le Temps de la Septuagesima, p. 242). After the eleventh century public penance began to be laid aside, but the custom of putting ashes on the heads of the clergy became more and more common, till at length it became part of the Latin Rite. Formerly they used to come up to the altar railing in their bare feet to receive the ashes, and that solemn notice of their death and of the nothingness of man. In the twelfth century the Pope and all his court came to the Church of St. Sabina, in Rome, walking all the way in his bare feet, from whence the title of the Mass said on Ash Wednesday is the Station at St. Sabina.
_______________________________

The Mystery of Lent
from the Liturgical Year, 1870


Le
nt is filled with mystery. During the Septuagesima Time the number seventy recalls to our minds the seventy years of the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, where, after having purified themselves from their sins by penance, they returned again to their country and to their city of Jerusalem, then they celebrated their Easter. Now the holy Church, our Mother, brings before our minds the severe and mysterious number forty, that number which, as St Jerome says, is always filled with self-denial and with penance (In Ezech., c. xxix). When the race became corrupt, God wiped out the sin of man by the rain of forty days and forty nights upon the world, but after forty days Noah opened a window in the ark and found the water gone from the earth. When the Hebrews were called from the land of Egypt for forty years they fasted on manna, wandering in the desert, before they came to the promised land. When Moses went up the Mount of Sinai, for forty days and nights he fasted from food before he received the law graven on tablets of stone. When Elias came near to God, on Horeb, for forty days and nights he fasted (St. Augustine Sermon). Thus these two, the greatest men of old, whom the hand of the Lord hath raised up to do His mighty will, Moses on Mount Sinai, Elias on Mount Horeb, what do they figure but the law and the prophecy of the Old Testament pointing to the fast of forty days and nights of our Lord in the desert? Like shadowy forms they prefigured the Son of God, Who first established Lent when the Christians, His disciples, fast, following the example of our Master, when they keep the Lenten Services of the Church.

Let us follow our Lord in His Lent in the desert. "At that time," says the Gospel. When? The moment after his baptism, to show that the Christian after baptism must prepare for a life of self denial. When? Thirty years before, on the same day, the three Magi adored him, a little child in the manger. When? One year from that day, at his mother's request, he changed the water into wine. At that time, by contact with his most holy body, the waters of the earth received the power of washing the souls of men from sin in baptism. St. John the Baptist had preached penance from the banks of the Jordan. Now Christ was to preach penance from the sands of the desert. John had lived in fasting on locusts and wild honey from his twelfth year (Math. iii. 4). He alone was worthy of baptizing our Lord. Now Christ is led by the Spirit into the desert. By what spirit? By the Holy Spirit, to show that those who fast and do penance during Lent are led by the Holy Ghost. To show that the Church was led by the Holy Ghost in commanding all her children to fast during Lent. Into the desert He is led by the Holy Spirit, with the burning sun of Judea above His head by day, and the parched sands beneath His limbs by night; into the desert He is led, where the hot air burns His hallowed cheek, and the burning sands give way beneath His feet; into the desert He is led, where below Him stretches the Dead Sea, beneath whose stagnant, slimy waters lie the remains of Sodom, Gomorrah, Salem and the cities of the plains destroyed by God for their sins. Here comes our Lord to do penance and to fast for the sins of mankind. Here comes our Savior to keep the first Lent.

Not far from the banks of the Jordan rises a mountain harsh and savage in its outlines, which tradition calls the Lenten mountain (Gueranger, Le Careme, p. 46). From its rugged heights flow down the streams which water the plains of Jericho. From its rocky sides is seen the valley of the

Dead Sea. From its inhospitable crags stretches out the gloomy expanse of that spot where once the five smiling cities of the plains sat amid the fertile land, but now, of all places of the earth, marked with the curse of God for the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. There came the Son of God to establish Lent. There came the Savior to show by penance how to gain our everlasting crown by fasting for our sins. There, deep amid the desert fastness, in a cave formed by the ancient upheaval of the mountain, there He found a home. There He fasted forty days and forty nights. No water cooled His burning tongue, no food repaired His weakening strength. The wild beasts of the wilderness were His companions. The heat of the simoon from the burning desert poisoned the air He breathed. The hot sands burned His feet. The rocks became His bed. Such was the beginning of the Christian Lent.

"After He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards He 
was hungry;" for His nature was human, like ours. "And the tempter came." He prepared Himself for temptation by fasting, to show us that we must prepare ourselves by fasting for the temptations of this life, to show that by fasting and by penance we are to overcome the enemies of our salvation. He was not hungry till at the end of His forty days of fasting, to show that He was God, for no one can fast for that time without being hungry. At the end of forty days He was hungry, to show that He was man, with all the weakness of our nature. Our nature had been badly hurt by Adam eating the forbidden fruit. Christ came to restore our nature to its lost inheritance in heaven, and He begins His public life by fasting. And now, at the end of that fast, the devil, who was the cause of our fall, found Him weak and hungry. He came to tempt Him in the desert, as he came to tempt our first parents in the garden. Let us draw near and see the temptation of our Lord.

The devil had seen Him baptized in the Jordan, he had heard the words of the holy Baptist point Him out as the "Lamb of God." He had heard the words of the Father in heaven call Him His beloved Son. He had seen the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, with outspread wings overshadow Him. He says to himself, "Can this be the Son of God, this weak and hungry Man?" The demon is in doubt. He comes near to the person of Jesus Christ. He could not enter into His members as he can in ours, and tempt Him. He could only tempt Him from without, as he tempted our first parents from without. Coming near, he says, "If Thou be the Son of God, command these stones to be made bread." Mark well the words. It is a temptation of pride. "If thou be the Son of God," here is a chance to show your power. Long before the same demon came to our Mother Eve, and said, "In what day soever you shall eat thereof ... you shall be as gods." The temptation of pride. Thus He was tempted by being asked to eat, like our parents in the garden. Thus He was tempted by pride, as our mother Eve was tempted of old.

This life is a continual battle against temptation, and the Church, made up of the clergy and of the people, is like a great and powerful army in ceaseless battle array against our enemies. For that reason Lent is called the fighting time of the Church. For that reason, in the offices of the breviary we say the psalms, wherein is recalled that battle of the Christian against his old enemies, the powers of hell.

We are coming near to the sad sight of the death of our Lord. We are to see that rage of the Jews against Him which ended by His death on the cross. The Church prepares us beforehand, by celebrating certain feasts on each of the Fridays of Lent, which are like so many preparations for the tragedy of Good Friday. The Friday following the first Sunday of Lent we celebrate the memory of the holy Lance and Nails which pierced His Sacred Flesh; or, in some cases, the feast of the Crown of Thorns He wore upon His head. The Friday of the second week we say the office of the Linens, which Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped around His body when dead and laid in the tomb. On the third Friday we commemorate the memory of the five Wounds of our Lord; while the offices of the fourth Friday are devoted to the memory of the most precious Blood shed for our redemption (Brev. Rom.).

During the early ages of the Church, Lent was the time when the catechumens, that is, the newly converted Christians, prepared for baptism by fasting and by penance, before they were washed from their sins by the waters of regeneration on Holy Saturday. For many months they had been instructed for that holy rite by the saints of old, and in the Lenten Season they redoubled their penance and their prayers. Again, Lent was the time when the public penitents, those who were guilty of great sins, purged themselves from their crimes by public penance. From Ash Wednesday, when they were driven from the church, like Adam from Paradise, in sackcloth and in ashes, in tears and in fasting, they wept at the doors of the churches, till received again into the bosom of their mother, the Church, by confession and Communion on Holy Thursday. Because the people are no more saints like those of the early ages, although the Church in her motherly indulgence has changed these laws, still their traces are found in the ceremonies and the services of the Latin Rite.
Prayer


O my God! Who art all love, I thank Thee for having established the fast of Lent to purify my conscience, to strengthen my virtue, and to make me worthy of approaching Thy holy table. Grant me the grace to keep the fast as a Christian. I am resolved to love God above all things, and my neighbor as myself for the love of God; and, in testimony of this love, I will join fasting with prayer and alms. Amen

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Be of Strong Heart During Lent


A Letter from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Next Wednesday, Feb. 18, we begin the season of Lent, the time when we prepare ourselves to celebrate the Easter Mystery. It is a time of preparation which over the centuries has taken many different forms.
Bishop DiMarzio's Bio

In the Message for Lent that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has issued this year, he has taken the theme: “Make your hearts firm.” (Jas 5:8) The season of Lent is the time when we are asked to firm up our faith, when we are to give special attention to training our will so that we can love God all the more. The phrase “make your hearts firm” has special meaning to me because five-and-a-half years ago I underwent quadruple bypass surgery. One of the wonderful gifts one receives following this surgery is a red heart-shaped pillow which is needed to hold tight to your chest whenever you cough since you do feel that you are coming apart. Quadruple bypass surgery entails breaking the sternum, commonly called the breastbone, for the surgery. It takes many months for that bone to heal and to this day I still feel the wires which were put in place to keep it together.

The pillow has a special meaning, as it is called the “Brave Heart Pillow.” Yes, your heart must be brave to undergo that type of operation. And so it is with Lent, we have that brave heart, for without brave hearts we will have wills that are weak and we will not be allowed to follow the will of God. As Pope Francis says in his Lenten Message, “As a way of overcoming indifference and our pretensions of self-sufficiency, I would invite you all to live this Lent as an opportunity for engaging in what Benedict XVI called a formation of the heart (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 31). A merciful heart does not mean a weak heart. Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. A head which lets itself be pieced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters. And, ultimately, a poor heart, one which realizes its own poverty and gives itself freely for others.”

Many times we see Lent as a time of mortification and that is good. To mortify means to kill, killing or deadening our wills through a set of good practices such as fasting, doing good works and trying to rein in our disordered appetites which hinder the full integration of our human person and to freely respond to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this entails doing the things we do not want to do, which is the greatest kind of mortification. St. Paul tells us, “So then, my brothers, we have no obligation to human nature to be dominated by it. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the habits originating in the body, you will have life.” (Rm 8-13) How important it is that we acquire good habits. It is unfortunate that bad habits are much easier to acquire. To change our bad habits into good habits is something that we all can work on during Lent.

The Lenten tradition of 40-days of preparation has its roots in the Old Testament. In the Book of Deuteronomy, 9-18, we hear that Moses falls prostrate before Yahweh and spent 40 days and 40 nights with nothing to eat or drink on account of all the sins which the people of Israel had committed. They had broken His Covenant and Moses tried to restore the Covenant by his personal fasting.

In the First Book of Kings, we hear of the Prophet Elijah who on his journey to Horeb, where he was to encounter God, ate and drank to be strengthened for his walk of 40 days and 40 nights to reach Horeb. And so we see that fasting can be positive or negative in preparing us for the journey of Lent. We can abstain or we can do good works.

Perhaps our greatest example, however, is the Lord, Himself, who we hear on this First Sunday of Lent being tempted in all of the synoptic Gospels. We see that the temptations that the Lord undergoes all have something to do with our human nature, and all of the temptations come from the devil. We know that He is tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread, as we are to satisfy our basic human needs and natural desire for pleasure. We see how Jesus was tempted to jump into the pinnacle of the Temple with the promise that God would save Him, testing God’s providence in enhancing the human pride that comes from testing God. And finally, Jesus is tempted to bow down and worship the devil, to make a concession so that Jesus can have the whole world as His Kingdom. Through the course of our lifetime, we experience ourselves all of these temptations in some way.

And so, we return to the practices of Lent and the mortification which I mentioned previously. We must deaden the will to the wrong appetites, enabling us to be active in doing certain good works and passive in accepting the contradictions and the difficulties of our daily life.

At times, we need to mortify our interior senses. Sometimes our intelligence, or imagination, leaves us daydreaming and wasting time and not being able to get rid of a thought which leads us nowhere. Exteriorly, this is fasting which sometimes helps us to be more cognizant of our relationship to God and enables us to be more positive by giving up something and seeking God in our lives.

Mortification has been described as the drawbridge that enables us to enter into the castle of prayer, because prayer is the ultimate goal of mortification. We are not masochists as Christians, yet we know that without mortification we will not find the true happiness which is ours on Earth. Only the person who understands mortification, who can live simply and enjoys the good things of life, will understand how to accept the suffering that is part of every human life. Another spiritual author said that a day without mortification is a day lost because we have not united ourselves to God.

Finally, Jesus came to the cross having prepared Himself for 33 years. His disciples who are most intimate with Him, do not understand the mystery of the cross, not until the Resurrection.

And so it is with us, as we put out into the deep of Lent, we will not understand the meaning of our mortification, our suffering, our good works. Only at the time of the Resurrection, this Easter for us, will we understand the deeper meaning of why we have undergone this period of preparation that is so much part of our faith which at the same time enlivens and challenges our faith.
From the Tablet

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Our Lady of Lourdes February 11th & Day of the Sick




Traditional prayer card, unknown artist
" I am the Immaculate Conception"

History | Readings | Litany of Our Lady of Lourdes | Lourdes Hymn
Homily of Pope John Paul II at Lourdes, August 15, 2004 |
Plenary Indulgence for the 150TH Anniversary of Lourdes [2008]


History of Our Lady of Lourdes
: The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in southern France is the most visited pilgrimage site in the world -- principally because of the apparent healing properties of the waters of the spring that appeared during the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a poor, fourteen-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux.
The first apparition occurred February 11, 1858. There were eighteen in all; the last took place July 16, of the same year. Bernadette often fell into an ecstasy during these apparitions, as was witnessed by the hundreds who attended the later visions, though no one except Bernadette ever saw or heard the apparition.

The mysterious vision Bernadette saw in the hollow of the rock Massabielle, where she and friends had gone to gather firewood, was that of a young and beautiful lady. "Lovelier than I have ever seen" said the child. She described the Lady as clothed in white, with a blue ribbon sash and a Rosary hanging from her right arm. Now and then the apparition spoke to Bernadette.

One day, the Lady told the girl to drink of a mysterious fountain within the grotto itself, the existence of which was unknown, and of which there was no sign. But Bernadette scratched at the ground, and a spring immediately bubbled up and soon gushed forth. On another occasion the apparition bade Bernadette go and tell the priests she wished a chapel to be built on the spot and processions to be made to the grotto. At first the clergy were incredulous. The priest said he would not believe it unless the apparition gave Bernadette her name. After another apparition, Bernadette reported that the Lady told her, "I am the Immaculate Conception". Though the girl was unfamiliar with the term, the Pope had declared the doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary in 1854.

Four years after Bernadette's visions, in 1862, the bishop of the diocese declared the faithful "justified in believing the reality of the apparition" of Our Lady. A basilica was built upon the rock of Massabielle by M. Peyramale, the parish priest. In 1873 the great "national" French pilgrimages were inaugurated. Three years later the basilica was consecrated and the statue solemnly crowned. In 1883 the foundation stone of another church was laid, as the first was no longer large enough. It was built at the foot of the basilica and was consecrated in 1901 and called the Church of the Rosary. Pope Leo XIII authorized a special office and a Mass, in commemoration of the apparition, and in 1907 Pius X extended the observance of this feast to the entire Church; it is now observed on February 11.

Miracles at Lourdes

Pope Benedict's address on the Day of the Sick

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Seeking God in the Silence



“Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence…”
∼ T.S. Eliot, Ash-Wednesday

One of the truly awful torments of modern life, from whose myriad aggressions no one is entirely safe, is noise. More and more, it fills the space that was once marked by that silence whose absence we seem increasingly not to notice. Nor even, it seems, to mind, so accustomed have we grown to ever higher and more intrusive levels of din. Indeed, so often are we in flight from silence, so quickly do we turn up the volume, that one might think the work of suppression part of a larger strategy to deflect the emptiness of our own lives. Thus the ambient noise allows us not to think, to leave unattended the whole inner life, which we might otherwise activate, were there only enough silence to encourage the exercise.



“We are no longer able to hear God,” warns Pope Benedict, “when there are too many different frequencies filling our ears.” Where the decibel levels are so screamingly shrill as to drive all the silence away, it is no surprise that his presence goes undetected. So where does one go to escape the din? And if such places actually exist, will it cost very much to stay? For how long? The writer Pico Iyer, author of a number of studies on the subject, tells us that he regularly disappears into the silence, sequestering himself every three or four months in a small monastic cell about a thousand feet above an ocean. Why does he do it? He goes, he tells us, “to become another self, the self that we all are if only we choose to unpack our overstuffed lives and leave our selves at home.”


It is obviously something very important to him, this entering into the silence. Where, effectively removed from the noise and the clutter of the daily round, he ventures with the utmost daring, “to lay claim to a mystery at the heart of me.” And I know just what he means, having myself spent a number of days in a comparable state of silence; I too found it wonderful and welcoming. Of course, unlike Mr. Pico, who finds himself seasonally ensconced in a monastery whose faith he does not share, I can’t imagine a setting both silent and yet without recourse to God. Except for the fact that Mr. Pico is free to come and go as he pleases, his situation strikes me as not much different from solitary confinement in a prison. The silence is undeniably there, all right, but it leads to a fixation on the self that seems, well, solipsistic.


So on what terms of incarceration do I spend my silent stretches? Well, the last time around, it was the result of an invitation to speak to a community of Cistercian monks, who had asked me to come and give a series of conferences on the spiritual life. Here are men who take the vocation of silence with utter seriousness. Their monastery, located high in the mountains outside Salt Lake City, had been founded in 1947 by a handful of Trappists from Gethsemani, Kentucky, determined on building a contemplative outpost in the heart of Mormon country. It was the aftermath of the Second World War, and among the GIs returning home, many having experienced firsthand the futility and horror of battle, there were some, a heroic few, who sought enlistment in a discipline more demanding even than the Marine Corps. It was holiness they were after. Unending intimacy with God. But it had to be pursued in a setting surrounded by, immersed in, silence. How else could they seek and find that Sounding Silence of which all the great mystics speak? There, amid the stillness, they would, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “be still and still moving / Into another intensity / For a further union, a deeper communion….”


And so it happened that a small contingent of resolute young men belonging to the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, headed west in search of God. Throwing up a couple of Quonset huts for themselves, they set about in the spirit of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the order’s most celebrated member, to rediscover the joys of twelfth-century religious life.


So what was it like living among medievals in a world rendered blessedly mute save for the movement of the wind outside, the lovely lilt of music and prayer inside? It was as if time itself had stood still. Will heaven be like this? I wondered. In his moving encyclicalOn Christian Hope, Pope Benedict provides a glimpse—a sudden, luminous glint, as it were—of the joys that may await us on the other side of silence.


To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality—this we can only attempt. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists … such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.


And while we do not as yet possess this life, we nevertheless feel ourselves drawn to it in the silence that beckons, soliciting us by its benign and gentle grasp to let go, “to put off” (again, the words of Eliot come to mind):


Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.


Can this happen without silence? Is it possible to acquire this repose of the soul, never mind how imperfect, unless there is silence? Certainly we long for it, and even in the midst of its noisy absence we feel ourselves drawn towards it; but without some conscious effort to create a space for it, nothing will happen. “A condition of complete simplicity,” is how Eliot describes it. And the cost, he asks? It can never be less than everything.


And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


So, yes, it will take some getting used to, this business of finding time for silence. A lifetime at least. But the effort will be worth it, providing as it must the setting for that necessary and salutary cultivation of the soul on which the life of holiness depends. And what really is silence but a whole world in which the spirit is set free to commune, not simply with its own deepest self, but with God himself. He Who Is.


Which is pretty much what the twenty or so monks living in Utah have been about all these years. Of that original group that began sixty or more years ago, not many have survived, and those who have, along with a handful of others who signed on later, all looked pretty long in the tooth to me. The abbot, for example, a most agreeable young man in his early seventies, told me the average age was just over eighty. I’d have put the figure rather higher than that. (Between conferences, I will confess, I could never be quite sure if anyone would survive.) Still, it was the oldest ones, those closest to the end of their journeys, who impressed me most. I think of dear Brother Felix, for example, who, God willing, must be in his late nineties by now. What a lovely man he was! Bent and gnarled by age and illness, his sight virtually gone, I watched him day by day moving in a sort of rhythmic silence from station to station, in a Via Dolorossa that had become his life.


And what will the fate of the monastery be, if fresh recruits cannot be found? Will God supply the need? He surely did seven centuries ago when the charism of Cistercian life found concrete expression in over five-hundred abbey churches strewn about the countryside of Northern Europe by the year 1300. Another one-hundred-and-fifty arose in the following century. “It’s a matter for prayer,” the Abbot says, his voice bespeaking a confidence borne of his own intense life of prayer.


All things being possible with God, I’d put my money on the monks. After all, isn’t prayer the thing they do best? And inhabiting, as they feel themselves obliged to do, a whole world of silence, the perfect medium for the life of prayer could scarcely be improved upon. Yes, I do believe God will reward such faithfulness to prayer with renewed life and vocations.

Monday, February 2, 2015

February 2nd - Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

February 2nd is the Feast of the Presentation, often called Candlemas, which commemorates the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the presentation of Christ in the temple, which took place 40 days after His birth as Jewish law required. According to Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a boy was considered unclean for seven days. Also, she was to remain 33 days "in the blood of her purification."

Luke tells us, quoting Exodus 13:2,12, that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem because every firstborn child was to be dedicated to the Lord. They also went to sacrifice a pair of doves or two young pigeons, showing that Mary and Joseph were poor.

Once in the temple, Jesus was purified by the prayer of Simeon, in the presence of Anna the prophetess. Simeon, upon seeing the Messiah, gave thanks to the Lord, singing a hymn now called the Nunc Dimittis:


Lord, now you let your servant go in peace,
your word has been fulfilled:
My own eyes have seen the salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Simeon told Mary, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." Simeon thus foreshadowed the crucifixion and the sorrows of Mary at seeing the death of her Son.

The name Candlemas comes from the activities associated with the feast. It came to be known as the Candle Mass. In the Western Church, a procession with lighted candles is the distinctive rite. According to post Vatican-II discipline, (if possible) the beeswax candles are to be blessed somewhere other than where the Mass is held. Often your local parish will hand out candles, or you may bring your own, to be blessed before the procession. These may be saved for later use in your home. After an antiphon, during which the candles held by the people are lighted, there is a procession into the church. During the procession to the church, the Nunc Dimittis is sung, with the antiphon "Lumen ad revelationem" (Luke 2:32). This procession into the church for Mass commemorates Christ's entrance into the temple. 


Since Vatican II, the feast is reckoned a feast of the Lord (as opposed to a feast of Mary), and officially designated "The Presentation of the Lord."

The reading from Malachi tells us that God will send his messenger to prepare the way and that, suddenly, the Lord himself will appear. This reminds us of John the Baptist’s preaching. St Paul, in the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, tells us that Christ had to become human in order to fully represent us before God the Father. In our gospel passage from St Luke, we see Mary and Joseph going to the Temple with the infant Jesus to be purified. There, they meet Simeon and also Anna who both speak of the child as being salvation for all the nations. Simeon praises God and says that he can now rest in peace for he has seen the Savior. Though he was the Son of God and himself God, Jesus was still brought up in the faith and with respect to the Law of Moses. (Reflection on readings from Irish Carmelites)


History of the feast

Egeria, writing around AD 380, attests to a feast of the Presentation in the Jerusalem Church. It was kept on February 14th. The day was kept by a procession to the Constantinian basilica of the Resurrection, with a homily on Luke 2:22-39. However, the feast had no proper name at this point; it was simply called the 40th day after Epiphany. This shows that the Jerusalem church celebrated Jesus' birth on the Epiphany Feast (as is common in some Eastern Churches today). In regions where Christ's birth was celebrated on December 25th, the feast began to be celebrated on February 2nd, where it is kept in the West today. In 542, the Emperor Justinian introduced the feast to the entire Eastern Roman empire in thanksgiving for the end to a great pestilence afflicting the city of Constantinople. Perhaps this is when Pope Gregory I brought the feast to Rome. Either way, by the 7th century, it is contained in the Gelasianum Sacramentary. Pope Sergius (687-701) introduced the procession to the Candlemas service. The blessing of candles did not come into common use until the 11th century. While some scholars have asserted that the Candlemas feast was developed in the Middle Ages to counteract the pagan feasts of Imbolc and Lupercalia, many scholars reject this, based on Medieval documents. While the feast does coincide with these two pagan holidays, the origins of the feast are based in Scriptural chronology. Some superstitions developed about Candlemas, including the belief that if one does not take down Christmas decorations by Candlemas, traces of the holly and berries will bring about the death of the person involved. In past times, Candlemas was seen as the end of the Christmas season.

Candlemas Day was also the day when some cultures predicted weather patterns. Farmers believed that the remainder of winter would be the opposite of whatever the weather was like on Candlemas Day. An old English song goes:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Go winter, and come not again.

Thus if the sun cast a shadow on Candlemas day, more winter was on the way; if there was no shadow, winter was thought to be ending soon. This practice led to the folklore behind "Groundhog's Day," which falls on Candlemas Day.

Today, the feast is still celebrated on February 14th in some Eastern Churches, including the Armenian Church, where the feast is called, "The Coming of the Son of God into the Temple." Most churches celebrate it on February 2nd.

And finally a Reading From a sermon by Saint Sophronius, bishop which is the suggested second reading from the Office of Readings for the feast:

Let us receive the light whose brilliance is eternal

In honour of the divine mystery that we celebrate today, let us all hasten to meet Christ. Everyone should be eager to join the procession and to carry a light.

Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendour of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.

The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.

The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God.

The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendour, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendour.

Through Simeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.

By faith we too embraced Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel. Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honour.
The blessings of candles, symbolic of Christ the Light to all peoples, is observed on this feast is a poignant reminder that the great feast of the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior means something as it fails to reduce God-becoming man to sentiment or ethics. Taken by the faithful to their homes, the blessed candles are a reminder that Jesus Christ is indeed "Light from Light, True God from True God." The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple emphasizes in yet a more radical way the manifestation of the Christ child at Epiphany celebrated a few weeks ago. This feast, like the Christmas-Epiphany cycle, proclaims Jesus as Lumen gentium (the Light of the world). He is the true foundation of our lives. At the singing of the Canticle of Simeon (see above) the Church puts on our lips the words of Scripture instructing us that Jesus is "The light for the revelation of the Gentiles: and for the glory of Thy people Israel."

In a nutshell, the Church says of the observance of the feast of the Presentation:

"The feast of February 2 still retains a popular character. It is necessary, however, that such should reflect the true Christian significance of the feast. It would not be proper for popular piety in its celebration of this feast to overlook its Christological significance and concentrate exclusively on its Marian aspects. The fact that this feast should be "considered [...] a joint memorial of Son and Mother" would not support such an inversion. The candles kept by the faithful in their homes should be seen as a sign of Christ "the light of the world" and an expression of faith. (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 123)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Jan 1st Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

 On January 1, the Church commemorates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God - the greatest title of Mary. This feast in the oldest Marian feast of the church of Rome and it celebrates Mary's vocation to be the mother of Jesus Christ. Through Mary, Jesus Christ entered this world, taking on human flesh and a human soul. Jesus is true God and true man. In His person are united both a divine nature and a human nature. Mary is in every history with Jesus and by her intercession we obtain all necessary graces to our life. Besides, being the Mother of God, Mary assumed the mother of all humanity working and helping all those who seek her. So when we look at the image of the Virgin Mary we felt an encouragement in our heart which fortifies our spirituality and comfort our soul. It is the fragrance of the immense and grandiose love.

"So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told. When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception."  ~Luke 2,16-21

Meanwhile, January 1 also marks the jubilation of the New Year and every faithful exchange new years greetings as an expression of hope for a peaceful new year. Along with this, the date has been designated as “World Day of Peace”. As a deep aspiration for peace, this particular day is reserved for intense prayer for peace, education towards peace and those values inextricably linked with it, such as liberty, fraternal solidarity, the dignity of the human person, respect for nature, the right to work, the sacredness of human life, and the denunciation of injustices which trouble the conscience of man and threaten peace.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!


Let us bow down before Him - the CHRIST,
The One Who gave Himself as Ransom for our souls! 



The only One that WOULD, the only One that COULD.
Oh come let us adore Him, but not just today, and not just halfheartedly ... but every day and with all our hearts!

Christmas itself bespeaks peace and love. It's a time when we stop, even if just for a brief moment and recognize each other as brothers and sisters of the same family. All one in the Body, for that is what we truly are if we call ourselves Christians. We, for the most part, set aside petty differences and some, by the grace of God, hurts and resentments that have festered for years and even decades. This is the magic of Christmas. The Grace, Love and Peace that He gives freely if we but look in His direction and receive it. 
Let everyone's prayer be to have this not just today, but always and forever! 
Please let our prayer for this next year be for those that have lost their way, strayed from the path and not only forgot the precious Gift of Christmas, but the reason and the Path to Easter Sunday that leads to Eternal Happiness. Pray for those in mortal sin that are in so much darkness, they can't even SEE the light, let alone what surrounds them in this valley of tears. 

Let our daily prayer be: 
"Eternal God, thank You for sending Your only begotten Son to the world to offer us a way back to You. That He suffered and died for our sins is too hard for our human intellect to fully understand and we cringe to know our own sins put Him there. But we beg You Father to accept our continuous prayer; united to the Perfect & Holy Passion of Jesus, we offer You our joys, sorrows, breaths, heartbeats and tears to strengthen the faithful, renew the lukewarm, restore the fallen away and convert the proud. Merciful Father, Whose tender Love has no bounds, grant, in Your Goodness and Mercy that we always embrace Your Perfect Will in all things with a joyful heart. Please cover us with the Precious Blood of Jesus in which we trust and rely. Send the Holy Spirit to renew our souls and our land that it may bring You honor and glory and we may, once again, be a nation under God! Bring us daily closer to the Sacred & Immaculate Hearts and increase our Faith that we may always strengthen each other, in Jesus' Name. Amen."

Let this new year renew in our souls the fervent hope that all be saved and none be lost. Let us remember always to pray and do penance for those in our families and all we hold dear that have fallen away to renew and SHARE their Faith with all who cross their path, as we should. Pray especially for those whose hearts are good but necks are stiff; those who do good for others but for whatever reason have turned away from formal practice and are too proud to search for the Truth; for those who feel they have been hurt (real or perceived) by God and have hardened their hearts towards Him ... and for those that satan has convinced that they're 'good enough' to get into heaven as they are, putting worldly things first rather than eternal things. 

Above all else: PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!!!

Ephesians 6:12: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood; but against principalities, powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."


"The date is December twenty-fifth, but to the humble man, it is Christmas; the manger is a throne; the straw is royal plumage; the stable is a castle; and the Babe is God. He found Power because He was weakness, and the Infinite, Immense and Eternal God, because He was little – for it is only by being little that we ever discover anything big. He lies upon straw on earth and yet sustains the universe and reigns in Heaven; He is born in time, and yet He existed before all time; Maker of the stars under the stars; Ruler of the earth an Outcast of earth; filling the world, lying in a manger. And yet the proud man sees only a Babe. The humble, simple souls, who are little enough to see the bigness of God in the littleness of a Babe, are therefore the only ones who will ever understand the reason of His visitation. He came to the poor earth of ours to carry on an exchange; to say to us, as only the Good God could say: You give Me your humanity, and I will give you My Divinity; you give Me your time, and I will give you My eternity, you give Me your weary body, and I will give you Redemption; you give Me your broken heart, and I will give you Love; you give Me your nothingness, and I will give you My All. Thus the birthday of the God-Man is the children’s day, in which age, like a crab, turns backwards, in which the wrinkles are smoothed by the touch of a recreating hand, in which the proud become children, and the big become little, and all find God."  ~~(The Eternal Galilean)