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Mother and Son

I wonder how many mother and son feast days there are in the Church calendar besides the obvious ones involving Jesus and His Mother? Elizabeth and John the Baptist? St. Basil and his mother, St. Emilia?

St. Monica and St. Augustine are remembered, side by side, mother and son, on today’s and yesterday’s calendar.

Monica died in 387 and was buried in the city of Ostia, which was the port city of Rome. The city was covered by the sands of time but can be visited today and is found in a remarkable state of preservation. Monica’s relics were brought to Rome in 1430 and placed in the Basilica bearing her son’s name. In 1945, some young boys digging a hole in Ostia found a fragment of her funerary epitaph which had been written on stone.

In his writings, particularly in his Confessions, Augustine pays great tribute to his Mother whose tears and prayers brought Augustine to the baptismal font in Milan where St. Ambrose welcomed him into the Church. Strangely enough, Augustine is not buried in Rome but rather in Pavia, Italy, though he died in North Africa where he was bishop of Hippo.

Pope Benedict XVI was greatly influenced by Augustine’s theology. We might even say Monica as well for Benedict was appointed Cardinal-bishop of the Augustinian Church of Sant’ Aurea at Ostia where Monica’s remains were originally interred. The Holy Father also chose to have a shell on his Papal arms which harkens back to a legend about Augustine. It seems Augustine came across a young boy using a shell to pour sea water into a hole in the sand. When asked what he was doing the boy replied, “I am putting the ocean into this hole!” When Augustine said that this was impossible the boy responded: so too it is impossible for Augustine to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

When we despair and lose heart over a loved one’s distance from the Faith, it is good to remember the words spoken by a bishop to Monica, who wept over the dissolute lifestyle of her son:

“It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.”

St. Juliana, Saint of Corpus Christi

This Sunday, at least in the Unites States, we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. As with all special feast days in the Church, this one has a special history that was highlighted by Pope Benedict XVI in a 2010 homily.

The impetus behind this celebration was St. Juliana de Cornillon (d. 1258) who as a young orphan lived with Augustinian Nuns in a convent where she later became a sister herself. Graced at the age of 16 with mystical visions, she saw a “moon in its full splendour, crossed diametrically by a dark stripe. The Lord made her understand the meaning of what had appeared to her. The moon symbolized the life of the Church on earth, the opaque line, on the other hand, represented the absence of a liturgical feast for whose institution Juliana was asked to plead effectively: namely, a feast in which believers would be able to adore the Eucharist so as to increase in faith, to advance in the practice of the virtues and to make reparation for offenses to the Most Holy Sacrament. ”

Bishop Robert Torote of Liège was the first to introduce the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in his diocese. Later other Bishops followed his example. Vision of St. JulianaPope Urban IV, the once Archdeacon of  Liège, in 1264 instituted the Solemnity of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Pentecost as a feast of  the universal Church. Pope Urban wrote, “Although the Eucharist is celebrated solemnly every day, we deem it fitting that at least once a year it be celebrated with greater honor and a solemn commemoration.”

This year, in fact, Pope Francis celebrated the feast on Thursday, May 30, 2013, while in the US we will celebrate it on Sunday, June 2, 2013. It was Pope Urban who asked St. Thomas Aquinas  to compose the texts of the Liturgical Office for this great feast which are still in use in the Church today. St. Julliana herself was canonized in 1869 by Pius IX.

Pope Benedict closed out his homily by saying : The Saints never failed to find strength, consolation and joy in the Eucharistic encounter. Let us repeat before the Lord present in the Most Blessed Sacrament the words of the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro te devote”: [Devoutly I adore Thee]: Make me believe ever more in you, “Draw me deeply into faith, / Into Your hope, into Your love”.

The Secrets of Fatima

The Feast of Our Lady of Fatima was celebrated this past Monday, May 13th, the 96th anniversary of the commencement of Our Lady’s appearances in Portugal to the three young peasant children: Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia.

It was on May 13, 1982, that Pope John Paul II was shot in a failed assassination attempt. His life was saved, he believed, because our Our Lady “guided the bullet’s path,” and saved his life when he was at the threshold of death. The bullet that was extracted from his abdomen now rests in a crown of our Lady in Fatima. Pope Benedict XVI visted the shrine in 2010. He prayed that the years leading up to the “centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.”

On Sunday night, Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro, the city that is hosting World Youth Day, July 23-28, consecrated this important event to Our Lady of Fatima.

On Monday, at the request of Pope Francis, his pontificate was entrusted to the Blessed Mother under her title of Our Lady of Fatima. Cardinal Jose Polycarp, the Patriarch of Lisbon, directed this prayer to Our Lady:

Grant (Pope Francis) the gift of discernment to know how to identify the paths of renewal for the Church,

grant him the courage to not falter in following the paths suggested by the Holy Spirit,

protect him in the difficult hours of suffering,

so that he may overcome, in charity, the trials that the renewal of the Church will bring him.”

It is remarkable how the recent Popes have placed themselves under the mantle of Our Lady of Fatima. Since her messages to the children have such pertinence for today, here is a reminder of what Our Lady said at Fatima:

Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.

Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.

I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day.

Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.

Prayer, penance, reparation, sacrifice. For our salvation and the salvation of the world.

 

 

 

A Visual Look at Holy Saturday

Before Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, he agreed to allow a viewing of the Shroud of Turin to be broadcast live across the world on RAI, the state television channel, on March 30 in commemoration of Holy Saturday for the Year of Faith.

Now, I read today, Pope Francis has recorded a voice-over introduction for the broadcast. There is also an app called “Shroud 2.0″ which enables people to explore the holy relic in detail on their smart phones and tablets.

Even more interesting is the release of a new book  called The Mystery of the Shroud by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist. According to their tests, the shroud dates from between the years 300 BC and 400 AD.

Holy Saturday is a day of anticipation. We ponder with gratitude the sacrifice of Our Lord who bore our sins on the Cross to redeem us from sin and death. And we await with joy and hope the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday. Forever will this day be linked in my mind to the image of the Shroud of Turin.

“The shroud, of course, reminds us of the passion, death and burial of the Lord, and then to Holy Friday, the day in which the Church remembers and celebrates the passion of Christ,” reflected Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin. “Holy Saturday is a day of silent prayer and meditation on the Lord’s death, but it is also a day of joyful waiting of the light of the Resurrection that will explode in the great celebration of the Easter vigil.” The shroud, he noted, “is a witness of this double mystery: It brings us back to the darkness of the tomb, but it also opens the way to receive the light that from it will emerge, in the event of the Resurrection.”

Pope Benedict gave a beautiful homily about Holy Saturday while on a visit to the Shroud in 2010. Here is an excerpt:

Holy Saturday is a “no man’s land” between the death and the Resurrection, but this “no man’s land” was entered by One, the Only One, who passed through it with the signs of His Passion for man’s sake: Passio Christi. Passio hominis (the Passion of Christ, the suffering of man).

….In this “time-beyond-time,” Jesus Christ “descended to the dead”. What do these words mean? They mean that God, having made Himself man, reached the point of entering man’s most extreme and absolute solitude, where not a ray of love enters, where total abandonment reigns without any word of comfort: “hell.”

Jesus Christ, by remaining in death, passed beyond the door of this ultimate solitude to lead us too to cross it with Him. We have all, at some point, felt the frightening sensation of abandonment, and that is what we fear most about death, just as when we were children we were afraid to be alone in the dark and could only be reassured by the presence of a person who loved us. Well, this is exactly what happened on Holy Saturday: the voice of God resounded in the realm of death. The unimaginable occurred: namely, Love penetrated “hell.” Even in the extreme darkness of the most absolute human loneliness we may hear a voice that calls us and find a hand that takes ours and leads us out.

Human beings live because they are loved and can love; and if love even penetrated the realm of death, then life also even reached there. In the hour of supreme solitude we shall never be alone: Passio Christi. Passio hominis.

A Tribute to Pope Benedict XVI

The National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors has posted a video tribute to Pope Benedict XVI in thanksgiving for his long service to the Church as priest, bishop, cardinal and pope. It is only two minutes long. The pictures are very touching and wonderful.

May God Bless Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict’s legacy will be felt for generations to come.

The National Catholic Register has an article about Pope Benedict XVI’s impact on priestly vocations. Under his watch, the number of priests ministering to the Church worldwide has risen by 6000 men. The Archdiocese of Washington’s new seminary is almost filled to capacity. Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md. has more vocations than they have seen in years.

When Pope Benedict assumed the papacy  in 2005, Michael Roche was working at an accounting firm. These words from the Holy Father gave him the courage he needed to pursue his priestly vocation: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. … Open wide the doors to Christ — and you will find true life.  “That was pivotal in my life,” the now-Father Roche told the Register. “I can’t say I had been afraid of Christ, but I was not convinced that a vocation to the diocesan priesthood could be lived in this day and age.” It could and it is.

To see Pope Benedict’s final Apostolic blessing on the crowd in St. Peter’s square (and I can’t write these words without a lump in my throat), click here.

“There were also times when the water was rough and the wind against us,as in the whole history of the Church, and the Lord seemed to sleep. But I always knew that the Lord is in the boat, and I always knew that the boat of the Church is not mine, not ours, but it is His. And He will not let her sink, it is He who leads it, certainly also through the men he has chosen, because so He has willed it. This was and is a certainty, that nothing can obscure. And that is why today my heart is filled with gratitude to God because He has never left me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.”

His final words from Castel Gandolfo….

Dear friends, I’m happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of creation and your well-wishes which do me such good. Thank you for your friendship, and your affection. You know this day is different for me than the preceding ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8 o’clock this evening and then no more.

I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth. But I would still … thank you … I would still with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength, like to work for the common good and the good of the church and of humanity. I feel very supported by your sympathy.

Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the church and the world. Thank you, I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. Blessed be God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all!”

It is 1:11 PM on Thursday, February 28, 2013. The doors at Castel Gandolfo have just closed, the papal flag has been taken down. Pope Benedict XVI’s life of prayer has begun.

Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter

Pope Benedict XVI & Fr. John Berg, Superior General

It has been awhile since I looked at the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter’s website so I was happy to see that they have the largest class of tonsurandi in their history. The term tonsurandi was new to me so I was glad that they provided an explanation. The Rite of Tonsure is administered early in the second year of formation, and is the point at which a seminarian is invested with the cassock and surplice.

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, an IRL Affiliate, was founded in 1988 in Switzerland, though they established their Motherhouse in Wigratzbad, Germany, shortly thereafter. They were blessed in 1990 to have a visit from the then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, who celebrated mass in the Traditional rite and has been a good friend to them from their beginnings. I’m sure they will miss his paternal support.

In a statement released after the announcement of Pope Benedict’s abdication the Fraternity said: “We offer our sincere gratitude to the Holy Father for his tireless efforts to guide the barque of St. Peter along the path set out for Her by God. We thank him, in particular, for his kindness and paternal solicitude, especially on behalf of the faithful attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite, which he universally restored to its honored place in the Church by his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum in 2007.”

The Fraternity seminary in the Unites States, one of two that they operate, is located in Denton, Nebraska, which when it opened in 2000 welcomed 50 seminarians! They have many parishes throughout North America and Europe and Australia as well as missions in Nigeria and Brazil. Today, they have an astounding 397 members (11/2012) according to their website.

We Will Miss Him

“I ask that you continue to pray for me and for the next Pope”

Pope Benedict XVI

The Lost Sheep and the Shepherd

I was thinking about the image of a shepherd’s crook recently and remembered a homily that I heard long ago about the symbolism of the crosier (pastoral staff) as conferred to a bishop when he receives his Episcopal consecration. The priest said that the crook was used by shepherds to draw in wayward sheep that had left the flock.  The image that came to mind was a sheep standing on the edge of a precipice with the shepherd drawing him back to safety, maybe unbeknownst to the sheep. The Catholic Encyclopedia says that the episcopal staff is the symbol of that doctrinal and disciplinary power of bishops in virtue of which they may sustain the weak and faltering, confirm the wavering in faith, and lead back the erring ones into the true fold.

When I was in the Holy Land driving around the desert in a rental car with a friend and a priest in tow, we passed a gas station in the middle of nowhere that was a popular stop for trucks. The noise and the fumes were tremendous. But in the corner of the gas station parking lot was a shepherd and around him, in a perfect concentric circle, were his sheep. You couldn’t have gotten a piece of tissue paper between them, they were packed in that tightly together .

What struck me was that they couldn’t have been terrorized because then they would have been dashing about in a frenzy. The shepherd must have given them a command and so they formed in around him. They had perfect trust in their shepherd to protect them in what had to be a hostile and unnerving environment.

I thought of that image yesterday when I heard of Pope Benedict’s retirement. My first reaction was one of anxiety— Who would be our shepherd? I realized how much I had come to trust in this shepherd. The Lord said, “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:33).

In the Gospel of Matthew, it says:  “When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:26).  Jesus also said to Peter: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). This was the thought that comforted me as we await the announcement of our new shepherd. God will not abandon His Church. May God grant Pope Benedict the days of prayer he so longs for.

Merry Christmas

(Jesus) was sent by God the Father to save us above all from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history: the evil of separation from God, the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God and to take his place, to decide what is good and evil, to be the master of life and death (Genesis 3:1-7). This is the great evil, the great sin, from which we human beings cannot save ourselves unless we rely on God’s help, unless we cry out to him: “Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us!”