Thursday, December 26, 2013

St. Stephen, 1st Deacon and Martyr

St. Stephen, the first Deacon and the Church's first martyr for Christ, whom St. Luke calls "a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," was stoned to death by order of the Jewish Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, and among those taking part was Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul. Stephen's name means "crown," and he was the first disciple of Jesus to receive the martyr's crown. The apostles had found that they needed helpers to look after the care of the widows and the poor. So they ordained seven deacons, and Stephen is the 1st and most famous of these.
God worked many miracles through St. Stephen and he spoke with such wisdom and grace that many of his hearers became followers of Jesus. The enemies of the Church of Jesus were furious to see how successful Stephen's preaching was. At last, they laid a plot for him. They could not answer his wise argument, so they got men to lie about him, saying that he had spoken sinfully against God. St. Stephen faced that great assembly of enemies without fear. In fact, the Holy Bible says that his face looked like the face of an angel.

The saint spoke about Jesus, showing that He is the Savior, God had promised to send. He scolded his enemies for not having believed in Jesus. At that, they rose up in great anger and shouted at him. But Stephen looked up to Heaven and said that he saw the heavens opening and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

His hearers plugged their ears and refused to listen to another word. They dragged St. Stephen outside the city of Jerusalem and stoned him to death. The saint prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Then he fell to his knees and begged God not to punish his enemies for killing him.

And TODAY ...
Professing the Christian Faith Demands the Heroism of the Martyrs
On the day after the solemnity of Christmas, we celebrate today the feast of St. Stephen, deacon and first martyr. At first glance, to join the memory of the "protomartyr" and the birth of the Redeemer might seem surprising because of the contrast between the peace and joy of Bethlehem and the tragedy of St. Stephen, stoned in Jerusalem during the first persecution against the nascent Church.
In reality, this apparent opposition is surmounted if we analyze in greater depth the mystery of Christmas. The Child Jesus, lying in the cave, is the only-begotten Son of God who became man. He will save humanity by dying on the cross. 

Now we see Him in swaddling clothes in the manger; after His crucifixion, He will again be wrapped in bandages and placed in the sepulcher. It is no accident that the Christmas iconography sometimes represents the divine newborn Child lying in a small sarcophagus, to indicate that the Redeemer was born to die, He was born to give His life in ransom for all.
St. Stephen was the first to follow in the steps of Christ with martyrdom: like the divine Master, he died forgiving and praying for his executioners (cf. Acts 7:60). During the first four centuries of Christianity all the saints venerated by the Church were martyrs. 

They are a countless multitude, which the liturgy calls "the white army of martyrs," (martyrum candidatus exercitus). Their death was not a reason for fear and sadness, but of spiritual enthusiasm, which always gave rise to new Christians. For believers, the day of death, and even more so, the day of martyrdom, is not the end of everything, but rather the "passage" to immortal life, it is the day of the final birth, the "dies natalis." Thus is understood the link that exists between the "dies natalis" of Christ and the "dies natalis" of St. Stephen. If Jesus had not been born on earth, men would not have been able to be born for heaven. Precisely because Christ was born, we are able to be "reborn."
Also Mary, who took the Redeemer in her arms in Bethlehem, suffered an interior martyrdom. She shared His Passion and had to take Him, once again, in her arms when they took Him down from the cross. To this Mother, who felt the joy of the birth and the anguish of the death of her divine Son, we entrust those who are persecuted and those who are suffering, in different ways, for witnessing and serving the Gospel. 

With special spiritual closeness, I am also thinking of the Catholics who maintain their fidelity to the See of Peter without giving in to compromises, at times even at the cost of grave sufferings. The whole Church admires their example and prays that they will have the strength to persevere, knowing that their tribulations are a source of victory, though for the moment they might seem to be a failure.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL - PEACE TO THOSE OF GOOD WILL!

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

 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

“Be Careful with the Precious Gift of Your Faith . . .  Believe in the Truth of the Gospel”
Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
St. Paul takes up this theme that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will encourage and strengthen our hearts to perform every good work, even if that means we have to endure the slow martyrdom of our daily lives or the quick martyrdom of death.

Christ “will deliver us from perverse and wicked people,” and why do we need to be delivered? Because as St. Paul reminds us; “not all have faith.” This may shock you or it may not, but there are some who claim to be Christian that are nothing more that wolves in sheep’s clothing. Some who claim to be Catholic and are faithless, lazy, lukewarm – good for nothing but burning to paraphrase Jesus and these people want nothing more than the demolition of the Christian community and destruction of the male sacramental priesthood of Jesus Christ.

This evil has become so widespread into today’s culture that it has even infused itself onto the Church. Even we priests, have to be on guard against our brother priests who have lost the faith and who have become so inculturated with society’s evils to the point that it is questionable if they Catholic anymore.

I remember being at a retreat for young women, and the Mother Superior of the Convent, pleading with these young ladies to be careful when they go home.

She said, “you will need to find a good, holy, prayerful priest – who has the faith – to talk too.”
She continued, “Don’t trust any priest, and any priest will not do because all priests aren’t good or holy or prayerful or even have the faith anymore – search for a good one when you get home.”

What great advice!! Advice we all need to start taking to heart!!

Times have changed and the Church has been infested by a whole host of sinful, corrupt, and evil clerics - be careful with the precious gift of your faith that God has given you – protect it, cherish it, and nourish it and don’t expose it to the evils of this world.

St. Paul instructed us that if we want to increase our faith, then we must “continue to love God and our neighbor and believe in the truth of the Gospel – then we need not fear anything – not even death because with Christ we can endure and overcome all things.” In the scriptures it says 365 times; “Do not be afraid.” Once for each day of the year – shouldn’t that give us courage to face each and every day regardless of the outcome.

With God’s grace – we can endure those people who hate us, we can endure those who want to kill us, even endure the painful search for what is real and true or endure the search for a good priest who still has the faith to leads us and can act like a fearless man of God.

Because God is the God of the living – He will watch over us, protect us, and leads us home to Himself as long as we are willing to remain faithful to Him even in the midst of persecution, suffering and even martyrdom.

We hear part of the story of seven wise, brave, young [Maccabes] brothers – who gave up their earthly lives to obtain a heavenly ones. May we too have the courage to be faithful – and in that courage – to truly live holy lives and to endure whatever God may send us for it is always for our greater good.


By: Fr. Daniel E. Doctor through Courageous Priest