Sunday, February 1, 2015

J.M.J. Our Blessed Mother's constant practice of the virtue of obedience was nothing short of perfect. Her entire existence can be summed up in a simple but profound phrase: to do always the Will of God.

How may we characterize Our Blessed Lady's stellar obedience? Here are only a few of the many possible descriptions.

Mary obeyed always. No one can point to a moment from Her Immaculate Conception in the previously sterile womb of Her Mother Saint Anne to Her Coronation by the Most Blessed Trinity as the Queen of Heaven and Earth in which the Mother of God refused Her Good Lord anything. Her answer was always "yes"--"yes" to love, "yes" to sacrifice, "yes" to hardship. God had only to ask . . . and Mary's response was always the same: fiat--"Let it be done as You say."

Mary obeyed unhesitatingly. Our Lady needed no time for deliberation on whether to obey. She responded immediately and affirmatively to the Lord without delay. Her delight was to obey God with all rapidity.

Mary obeyed blindly. Mary never asked Herself: "Is this in my best interest?" "Would I be hampered if I obeyed?" Such self-seeking questions were the farthest removed from Her mind. She obeyed without selfish consideration of the future. She surrendered equally to both joys and sorrows.

Mary obeyed cheerfully. Who can imagine Mary with a "long face" when She was called to embrace some sacrifice? No, She was continually joyful in Her obedience, no matter what God required of Her. Mary's was a deep joy that never escaped He soul.

The reader can see where our discussion is leading us. If we wish to drawer closer to Jesus Christ, then we must take a page from His Ever-Virgin Mother's Immaculate Heart and obey as she did. Our obedience, too, must be always, unhesitating, blind and cheerful.

This task is not easy, to be sure. Rather, it demands much from each of us. Yet, obedience is possible! And it is necessary if, like Our Heavenly Mother, we are to inherit the Kingdom of God.

In our world where obedience is regarded as weakness and a lack of self-assertiveness, the example of Our Blessed Lady provides a necessary corrective. She is the beautiful model of obedience. She gladly exalted God's Will in Her life. We can even say that His Will became Her Will, so much did She yield to it.

In Her own stirring example, Mary reminds us that obedience to God is where our treasure and unending happiness lie. By clinging to His Will instead of our own, we grow in Sanctifying Grace, which is the very life of God.

Our Blessed Mother never tired of obeying Her Divine Son. She did everything She was asked by God. And all that She did was carried out with intense love for and gratitude to Her benevolent Creator.

We may ask ourselves: how was it that Mary understood the importance of obedience? What special insight did She have?

Having been filled with the Holy Spirit at the instance of Her Immaculate Conception, Our Lady knew what was proper and just. Her decisions were blest because She made them humbly and with reference to Almighty God and His Eternal Law.

Are our decisions blest? Yes, if they are made humbly and with reference to Almighty God. By our daily prayer, frequent and worthy reception of the Holy Sacraments (especially Penance and the Most Holy Eucharist), regular acts of charity and self-denial, our minds too become increasingly enlightened. Then, we see with the eyes of God and do as He wishes.

The virtue of obedience is within our grasp. We turn to Our Blessed Lady and seek Her intercession so that we may behave as She did. Our reward will be like Hers: Everlasting Life with the Most Blessed Trinity forever!

(Originally published in Missio Immaculatae International, English Edition, November 2006, pages 8-9. Reprinted with permission.) 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

J.M.J. When we think of Saint John Bosco (1815-1888), whose liturgical Memorial is today, we cannot help but to consider Our Lady under her glorious title, "Help of Christians" (Auxilium Christianorum).

Don Bosco, the founder of the Salesian Society, which takes its name from its Patron, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), witnessed the consecration of the mother church of the Salesians to Our Lady, Help of Christians on June 9, 1868. 

A brief article from The Catholic Encyclopedia offers a helpful historical view of the title "Help of Christians." The Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians is May 24th.

"The invocation Auxilium Christianorum (Help of Christians) originated in the sixteenth century. In 1576 Bernardino Cirillo, archpriest of Loreto, published at Macerreta two litanies of the Bl. Virgin, which, he contended, were used at Loreto: One a form which is entirely different from our present text, and another form ('Aliae litaniae B.M.V.') identical with the litany of Loreto, approved by Clement VIII in 1601, and now used throughout the entire Church. This second form contains the invocation Auxilium Christianorum. Possibly the warriors, who returning from Lepanto (7 Oct., 1571) visited the sanctuary of Loreto, saluted the Holy Virgin there for the first time with this new title; it is more probable, however, that it is only a variation of the older invocation Advocata Christianorum, found in a litany of 1524. Torsellini (1597) and the Roman Breviary (24 May, Appendix) say that Pius V inserted the invocation in the litany of Loreto after the battle of Lepanto; but the form of the litany in which it is first found was unknown at Rome at the time of Pius V (see LITANY OF LORETO; Schuetz, 'Gesch. des Rosenkranzgebets', Paderborn, 1909, 243 sq.).

"The feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, was instituted by Pius VII. By order of Napoleon, Pius VII was arrested, 5 July, 1808, and detained a prisoner for three years at Savona, and then at Fontainebleau. In January, 1814, after the battle of Leipzig, he was brought back to Savona and set free, 17 March, on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, the Patroness of Savona. The journey to Rome was a veritable triumphal march. The pontiff, attributing the victory of the Church after so much agony and distress to the Blessed Virgin, visited many of her sanctuaries on the way and crowned her images (e.g. the 'Madonna del Monte' at Cesena, 'della Misericordia' at Treja, 'della Colonne' and 'della Tempestà' at Tolentino). The people crowded the streets to catch a glimpse of the venerable pontiff who had so bravely withstood the threats of Napoleon. He entered Rome, 24 May, 1814, and was enthusiastically welcomed (McCaffrey, 'History of the Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Cent.', 1909, I, 52). To commemorate his own sufferings and those of the Church during his exile he extended the feast of the Seven Dolors of Mary (third Sunday in September) to the universal Church, 18 Sept., 1814. When Napoleon left Elba and returned to Paris, Murat was about to march through the Papal States from Naples; Pius VII fled to Savona (22 March, 1815), where he crowned the image of Our Lady of Mercy, 10 May, 1815.

"After the Congress of Vienna and the battle of Waterloo he returned to Rome, 7 July, 1815. To give thanks to God and Our Lady he (15 Sept., 1815) instituted for the Papal States the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, to be celebrated, 24 May, the anniversary of his first return. The Dioceses of Tuscany adopted it, 12 Feb., 1816; it has spread nearly over the entire Latin Church, but is not contained in the universal calendar. The hymns of the Office were composed by Brandimarte (Chevalier, 'Repert. Hymnolog.', II, 495). This feast is the patronal feast of Australasia, a double of the first class with an octave (Ordo Australasiae, 1888), and in accordance with a vow (1891) is celebrated with great splendor in the churches of the Fathers of the Foreign Missions of Paris. It has attained special celebrity since St. Don Bosco, founder of the Salesian Congregation, 9 June, 1868, dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians, the mother church of his congregation at Turin. The Salesian Fathers have carried the devotion to their numerous establishments."

God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.

Saint John Bosco, Educator of Youth, pray for us.

Friday, January 30, 2015

J.M.J. As we conclude National Catholic Schools Week, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all who seek to carry out the Christ-inspired mission of our Catholic schools in our Diocese.

Students and their families . . . administration, faculty and staff . . . bishops, priests, deacons and parishioners . . . religious institutes that have sponsored Catholic schools . . . diocesan leadership . . . volunteers . . . donors both Catholic and non-Catholic . . . the list is significant.

With the mind of Christ and His Church as the backdrop, Catholics schools instruct the intellect and form the will of students. What more considerable contribution to the lives of the students could Catholic schools make?

May Mary, the Mother of the Risen Lord, bless our Catholic schools and all those who are involved in them. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

J.M.J. Yesterday's Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas spurred me to think again--as if we could ever stop!--about the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Here is something that I wrote some years ago.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote years ago that while Jesus could have chosen to leave anything--financial security, a promise of earthly contentment, etc.--as a "last will and testament" to His Apostles during the Last Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday, He decided to leave behind the very best gift possible: Himself. And the world has never been the same.

The Most Holy Eucharist is the real, true and substantial Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Son of God and Son of Mary. How fortunate we are to have the Most Blessed Sacrament near us.

The Church would not be the Church without the Most Holy Eucharist. And the Holy Spirit inspires the Faithful to be aware that the Church adores the Father in Jesus living in the Holy Eucharist through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do I know what the Holy Eucharist is? Can I explain this "Sacrament of Sacraments" to another?

Can I identify persons in my life who seem (or, if deceased, seemed) to be on "fire" for the Holy Eucharist? Who are my Eucharistic "heroes" and "heroines"?

How do I prepare myself to receive Holy Communion? Am I aware of the obligation to fast for one hour from food and drink (medicine and water may be taken) before receiving the Most Blessed Sacrament?

Do I confess any and all previously unconfessed mortal sins to a priest within the Sacrament of Penance before going to Holy Communion?

Do I notice any difference in my thoughts and behavior after receiving Holy Communion? Am I reverent and silent whenever I am close to the Tabernacle?

Have the years of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ made me less self-serving and more generous towards the outcast, lonely, forgotten and dying?

If I were to stop availing myself of the Most Holy Eucharist, would I remain charitable and joyful? Can I exist without Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament?

Have I ever contemplated the link between the Eucharistic Jesus and the Mother of God?

Do I spend time in adoration of the Holy Eucharist whether reserved in the Tabernacle or exposed in the Monstrance?

Our response to the Most Holy Eucharist is quite simple: adoration, love and conversion. How pleased the Risen Lord Jesus will be when His needy sons and daughters finally cooperate and allow His Body and Blood to bring about their genuine happiness in this life as well as in the next.

"O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, All praise and all thanksgiving, be every moment Thine."

Jesus, Living in the Most Blessed Sacrament, have mercy on us! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

J.M.J. This Hymn written by Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225?-1274), whose Memorial is today, is a meditation in itself. Let us be grateful to God for it--and for our Catholic Faith.

Adore Te Devote

I devoutly adore You, O hidden Deity,
Truly hidden beneath these appearances.
My whole heart submits to You,
And in contemplating You,
It surrenders itself completely.
Sight, touch, taste are all deceived
In their judgment of You,
But hearing suffices firmly to believe.
I believe all that the Son of God has spoken;
There is nothing truer than this word of truth.
On the cross only the divinity was hidden,
But here the humanity is also hidden.
I believe and confess both,
And ask for what the repentant thief asked.
I do not see the wounds as Thomas did,
But I confess that You are my God.
Make me believe more and more in You,
Hope in You, and love You.
O memorial of our Lord's death!
Living Bread that gives life to man,
Grant my soul to live on You,
And always to savor Your sweetness.
Lord Jesus, Good Pelican,
wash me clean with Tour Blood,
One Drop of which can free
the entire world of all its sins.
Jesus, Whom now I see hidden,
I ask You to fulfill what I so desire:
That the sight of Your Face being unveiled
I may have the happiness of seeing Your Glory. Amen

Mary, Mother of Our Eucharistic Lord, pray for us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

J.M.J. The following powerful prayer is known as the "Prayer to be Merciful to Others" by Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska and is found in the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (#163).

O Most Holy Trinity! As many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, as many times as my blood pulsates through my body, so many thousand times do I want to glorify Your mercy.

I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me.

You Yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy. The first: the act of mercy, of whatever kind. The second: the word of mercy — if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The third: prayer — if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically.

Mary, Mother of Mercy, pray for us.

Monday, January 26, 2015

J.M.J. In his monthly column that appears in The Bishop's Bulletin (January 2015, page 3), the Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, D.D., the Bishop of Sioux Falls, shares:

"Each morning before I get up from bed, I pray: 'Almighty God, I thank You for this day and for preserving me during the night. Forgive me my sins, especially the sins of pride, selfishness and self-centeredness. Help me to use this day well and for Your glory. I pray for all those who have asked for my prayers, those who need prayers, and those who do not have anyone to pray for them, especially the Poor Souls in Purgatory.'

"Then I stand up and begin the day, ready to enjoy or confront whatever comes my way knowing that Mary watches over, St. Joseph protects and Christ walks with me as He does with you."

What a great way to start each day! The Holy Family is close to those who desire to follow God.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

J.M.J. From the "I do not believe that I have ever heard that before but wish that I had" category:

Saint Thomas Aquinas, whose liturgical Memorial is this Wednesday, January 28th, wrote in his Summa Theologica (III, q. 83, a. 4, ad 9) that the "Angel" mentioned in "The Roman Canon" (Eucharistic Prayer I) of the Mass is really Jesus Christ before He became incarnate.


Here is the part of the Canon called the Supplices:

"In humble prayer we ask You, Almighty God: command that these Gifts be borne by the Hands of Your Holy Angel to Your Altar on high in the sight of Your Divine Majesty, so that all of us, who through this participation at the Altar receive the Most Holy Body and Blood of Your Son, may be filled with every Grace and Heavenly Blessing. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)"

Saint Thomas believed that, in this passage, which is addressed to God the Father, "Your Holy Angel" is the Second Parson of the Most Blessed Trinity before He became flesh by the Holy Spirit in the Chaste Womb of the Ever-Virgin Mary.

The Angelic Doctor penned: " . . . by the Angel we are to understand Christ Himself, Who is the "Angel of Great Counsel" (Isaiah 9:6: Septuagint), Who unites His Mystical Body with God the Father and the Church Triumphant."

Absolutely awesome!  

O Lady, pray that we may understand!

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

J.M.J. You may have seen Radio Replies (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1979) by the Reverends Leslie Rumble, M.S.C., and Charles Mortimer Carty. This is a collection in three volumes of various questions and answers regarding Catholic belief and practice.

From the First Volume, #775 (page 161):

"Why call Mary a virgin, seeing that she was a mother? The linking of the two terms in an insult to reason.

"The assertion that an omnipotent God is limited by the natural laws, which He Himself established, is an insult to reason. Jesus, the child of Mary, was conceived miraculously without the intervention of any human father, and was born miraculously, Mary's virginity being preserved throughout. I do not claim that any natural laws were responsible for this event. I claim that God was responsible, and the only way that you can show that the doctrine is not reasonable is by proving that there is no God, or that He would not do what Catholic doctrine asserts."

Friday, January 23, 2015

J.M.J. We thank God for His abundant Blessings, especially for those of the last few days. Several come to my mind.

1. The Holy Mass offered by Bishop Swain in the presence of thousands of Catholic School students from our Diocese.

2. The participation of several dozen persons from our Diocese in the annual "March for Life" in Washington, D.C.

3. The arrival of our c.d. of the recitation of the Most Holy Rosary by the sixth grade class of Christ the King School, Sioux Falls.

Please add to this list!

May we be like Our Lady and never cease thanking Our Lord, "Because He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name." (Saint Luke 1:49)

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May Our Lord and Our Lady richly bless the Very Reverend Justin M. Wachs, J.C.D., on this his Birthday.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

J.M.J. On this the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, we ponder the conclusion of Evangelium Vitae, the March 25, 1995 Encyclical of Saint John Paul II.

"105. The angel's Annunciation to Mary is framed by these reassuring words: 'Do not be afraid, Mary' and 'with God nothing will be impossible' (Lk 1:30, 37). The whole of the Virgin Mother's life is in fact pervaded by the certainty that God is near to her and that He accompanies her with His providential care. The same is true of the Church, which finds 'a place prepared by God' (Rev 12:6) in the desert, the place of trial but also of the manifestation of God's love for His people (cf. Hos 2:16). Mary is a living word of comfort for the Church in her struggle against death. Showing us the Son, the Church assures us that in Him the forces of death have already been defeated: 'Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life's own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign'.

"The Lamb Who was slain is alive, bearing the marks of His Passion in the splendor of the Resurrection. He alone is master of all the events of history: He opens its 'seals' (cf. Rev 5:1-10) and proclaims, in time and beyond, the power of life over death. In the 'new Jerusalem', that new world towards which human history is travelling, 'death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away' (Rev 21:4).

"And as we, the pilgrim people, the people of life and for life, make our way in confidence towards 'a new heaven and a new earth' (Rev 21:1), we look to her who is for us 'a sign of sure hope and solace'.

bright dawn of the new world, 
Mother of the living, 
to you do we entrust the cause of life 
Look down, O Mother, 
upon the vast numbers 
of babies not allowed to be born, 
of the poor whose lives are made difficult, 
of men and women 
who are victims of brutal violence, 
of the elderly and the sick killed 
by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son 
may proclaim the Gospel of life 
with honesty and love 
to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace 
to accept that Gospel 
as a gift ever new, 
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude 
throughout their lives 
and the courage to bear witness to it 
resolutely, in order to build, 
together with all people of good will, 
the civilization of truth and love, 
to the praise and glory of God, 
the Creator and lover of life."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

J.M.J. Today, on the Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, the Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, D.D., the Bishop of Sioux Falls, welcomes almost 4,000 Catholic school students to the Sioux Falls Arena for Holy Mass in another one of the special commemorations on the occasion of the 125th Anniversary of the Diocese of Sioux Falls.

Saint Agnes, faithful daughter of the Queen of Martyrs and the Virgin of Virgins, pray for us!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

J.M.J. Our Lady and the Church is a highly esteemed work by the Reverend Hugo Rahner, S.J. Originally published in 1961, it was reprinted in 2004 by Zaccheus Press in Bethesda, Maryland.

Here is a little taste from pages 61-62.

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"How lovable she is, this mother of ours! Let us offer thanks to the Father and to Christ our brother, that we have been granted to be children of Mary our Mother, of our mother the Church. And let us say it once more: there can be no contradiction between a tender devotion to Mary and a deep love of the Church. We can always be ready to exclaim with Ambrose, in a transport of delight about belonging to the Church:

Where is there a woman like to the 
Church in multitude of children? 
A virgin in her mysteries, 
a mother of the nations, 
so fruitful is she that the Scripture says of her:
'Many are the children of the desolate, 
more than of her that hath a husband' (Isaiah 53:1).
The Church stands untouched by evil,
and fruitful by the Spirit."

Monday, January 19, 2015

J.M.J. With January 22nd in view, I have been thinking much about the pro-life cause. We must never forget that real love and respect for human life in the womb requires a rejection of contraception.

The Intercession of Our Lady, the Untier of Knots, is desperately needed if preborn life and the openness to conception are to return to our world. 

Here is an article that I wrote over a decade ago.

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The coming of the end of the year can effect personal reflection not only on the past twelve months but also on one's entire life.

Such self-examination may lead one to a fresh attempt for authentic holiness, convinced that this indeed is God's will.

Real conversion is possible even in areas the sinfulness of which is disputed. Take the issue of contraception. Although the Catholic Church is crystal clear on this subject, specific segments of our society are either ambiguous or outright supportive of this supposed "human right."

It is asserted repeatedly that a substantial majority of Catholic women of child-bearing age in the United States avail themselves of some form of artificial contraception. The same could be readily maintained for other, if not all, Western countries.

Birth control has become in many quarters the unspeakable issue. "Leave it alone" is the standard approach, even among certain Catholics.

Yet, the Church unhesitatingly teaches that every instance of the marital act must be open to the transmission of human life. This doctrine is unchangeable and binds all persons because it is derived from the Natural Law, whose tenets pertain to everyone regardless of creed, race, nationality or language.

Some Catholic dioceses have tried to instruct engaged couples about the meaning of the Church's teaching and their corresponding duty to obey God's Law in the context of their pre-marriage programs. But what about the forgotten men and women who, for example, used contraception three decades ago and never repented? They, too, are to be taught the truth.

Let us not forget to pray for those who are presently contracepting, those tempted to and those who have previously. I authored the following prayer with those persons in mind.

Prayer for the Conversion of 
Those Who Have Used Contraception

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family of Nazareth, assist those who are currently using contraception, those intending to, and those who have previously and have not repented. Help them to see that the conjugal embrace is sacred and meant for procreation and for deepening the communion between husband and wife. Enlighten them to know that contraception is a refusal to surrender to God's will for marriage and the family. Convince them to understand that contraception in our society ensures that abortion will remain, the virtue of chastity will be rejected, and the fidelity and self-giving necessary in marriage will be neglected. Inspire all to obey our Creator and to accept the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church that every instance of the conjugal act is to be receptive to the possible transmission of human life. Direct those who have contracepted to seek pardon from the Lord so that hope and charity may reside in their souls. May they realize that forgiveness, manifested in the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion, is possible and that their genuine atonement for this sin is the desire of the Almighty Who loves us. O Holy Family of Nazareth, guide us always! Amen."

(Copies of this Prayer for personal use and for distribution are available from New Hope Publications, New Hope, KY 40052.) 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

J.M.J. The Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, D.D., the Bishop of Sioux Falls, provided for me another good example a couple of days ago.

He welcomed to his house the employees of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls who work in the Diocesan Pastoral Center.

After we partook of the refreshments, the Bishop humbly told me that he neither eats nor serves meat on Fridays. 

In our age when self-denial seems quite limited, we thank God that Bishop Swain has reminded us of its importance.

Abstinence from meat on Fridays is a longstanding and exemplary custom. We do it because we love Jesus Christ and embrace His Passion and Death!

May Our Lady and Saint Joseph protect Bishop Swain--truly a good and faithful servant.

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Thanks to "Rome Reports," we have two fascinating views of the Holy Father's unexpected early departure yesterday from the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord in Palo in The Philippines.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

J.M.J. On this Saturday, which is always the "Day of Mary" and today the Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot, we ponder the Holy Father's words from his visit on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Madhu, Mannar in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"We are in our Mother’s house. Here she welcomes us into her home. At this shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, every pilgrim can feel at home, for here Mary brings us into the presence of her Son Jesus. Here Sri Lankans, Tamil and Sinhalese alike, come as members of one family. To Mary they commend their joys and sorrows, their hopes and needs. Here, in her home, they feel safe. They know that God is very near; they feel His love; they know His tender mercy, the tender mercy of God.

"There are families here today which suffered greatly in the long conflict which tore open the heart of Sri Lanka. Many people, from north and south alike, were killed in the terrible violence and bloodshed of those years. No Sri Lankan can forget the tragic events associated with this very place, or the sad day when the venerable statue of Mary, dating to the arrival of the earliest Christians in Sri Lanka, was taken away from her shrine.

"But Our Lady is remaining always with you. She is the mother of every home, of every wounded family, of all who are seeking to return to a peaceful existence. Today we thank her for protecting the people of Sri Lanka from so many dangers, past and present. Mary never forgot her children on this resplendent island. Just as she never left the side of her Son on the Cross, so she never left the side of her suffering Sri Lankan children.

"Today we want to thank Our Lady for that presence. In the wake of so much hatred, violence and destruction, we want to thank her for continuing to bring us Jesus, Who alone has the power to heal open wounds and to restore peace to broken hearts. But we also want to ask her to implore for us the grace of God’s mercy. We ask also for the grace to make reparation for our sins and for all the evil which this land has known.

"It is not easy to do this. Yet only when we come to understand, in the light of the Cross, the evil we are capable of, and have even been a part of, can we experience true remorse and true repentance. Only then can we receive the grace to approach one another in true contrition, offering and seeking true forgiveness. In this difficult effort to forgive and find peace, Mary is always here to encourage us, to guide us, to lead us. Just as she forgave her Son’s killers at the foot of his Cross, then held His lifeless body in her hands, so now she wants to guide Sri Lankans to greater reconciliation, so that the balm of God’s pardon and mercy may bring true healing to all.

"Finally, we want to ask Mother Mary to accompany with her prayers the efforts of Sri Lankans from both Tamil and Sinhalese speaking communities to rebuild the unity which was lost. Just as her statue came back to her shrine of Madhu after the war, so we pray that all her Sri Lankan sons and daughters may now come home to God in a renewed spirit of reconciliation and fellowship.

"Dear brothers and sisters, I am happy to be with you in Mary’s house. Let us pray for one another. Above all, let us ask that this shrine may always be a house of prayer and a haven of peace. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Madhu, may all people find here inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation, justice and peace for all the children of this beloved land. Amen."

Friday, January 16, 2015

J.M.J. Yesterday, the topic on "Morning Star" was "Our Lady and Grace."

During the program, I mentioned the reality that Our Lady is present to us during Holy Mass. In his April 17, 2003 Encyclical, which was his last and treated of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Saint John Paul II wrote of Mary's closeness to us during the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Thanks to Missy for sharing this incredibly beautiful prayer by Blessed John Henry Newman that appears in Father Hardon's Catholic Prayer Book with Meditations.

"With Mary At Mass:

"O most Blessed Virgin, Mother of gentleness and mercy, I, a miserable and unworthy sinner, fly to thy protection with every sentiment of humility and love; and I implore of thy loving kindness that thou wouldst vouchsafe graciously to be near me and all who throughout the Church are to receive the Body and Blood of thy Son this day, even as thou wert near they sweetest Son as He hung bleeding on the cross. Aided by thy gracious help, may we worthily approach this august Sacrament.

"O holy Mother, stand by me now at Mass time, when Christ comes to me, as thou didst minister to thine Infant Lord, as thou didst hang upon His words when He grew up, as thou wast found under His cross. Stand by me, holy Mother, that I may gain somewhat of thy purity, thine innocence, thy faith, and He may be the one object of my love and my adoration, as He was of thine. Amen."

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A very Happy Birthday to the Reverend Anthony J. Urban.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

J.M.J. I loved Thursday as a schoolboy because it meant that Friday was close (and Thursday's lunch menu at school was usually favorable).

I love Thursday as a priest because if there is no obligatory liturgical celebration, then I am free to offer the Votive Mass of "Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest" or of "The Most Holy Eucharist."

Who can forget the attention that Saint John Paul II gave to the "Woman of the Eucharist" in his final Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, dated April 17, 2003 (Holy Thursday)?

"57. 'Do this in remembrance of Me' (Lk 22:19). In the 'memorial' of Calvary all that Christ accomplished by His passion and His death is present. Consequently all that Christ did with regard to His Mother for our sake is also present. To her He gave the beloved disciple and, in him, each of us: 'Behold, your Son!'. To each of us He also says: 'Behold your Mother!' (cf. Jn 19: 26-27).

"Experiencing the memorial of Christ's death in the Eucharist also means continually receiving this gift. It means accepting – like John – the one who is given to us anew as our Mother. It also means taking on a commitment to be conformed to Christ, putting ourselves at the school of His Mother and allowing her to accompany us. Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist. This is one reason why, since ancient times, the commemoration of Mary has always been part of the Eucharistic celebrations of the Churches of East and West.

"58. In the Eucharist the Church is completely united to Christ and His sacrifice, and makes her own the spirit of Mary. This truth can be understood more deeply by re-reading the Magnificat in a Eucharistic key. The Eucharist, like the Canticle of Mary, is first and foremost praise and thanksgiving. When Mary exclaims: 'My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior', she already bears Jesus in her womb. She praises God 'through' Jesus, but she also praises Him 'in' Jesus and 'with' Jesus. This is itself the true 'Eucharistic attitude'.

"At the same time Mary recalls the wonders worked by God in salvation history in fulfillment of the promise once made to the fathers (cf. Lk 1:55), and proclaims the wonder that surpasses them all, the redemptive incarnation. Lastly, the Magnificat reflects the eschatological tension of the Eucharist. Every time the Son of God comes again to us in the 'poverty' of the sacramental signs of bread and wine, the seeds of that new history wherein the mighty are 'put down from their thrones' and 'those of low degree are exalted' (cf. Lk 1:52), take root in the world. Mary sings of the 'new heavens' and the 'new earth' which find in the Eucharist their anticipation and in some sense their program and plan. The Magnificat expresses Mary's spirituality, and there is nothing greater than this spirituality for helping us to experience the mystery of the Eucharist. The Eucharist has been given to us so that our life, like that of Mary, may become completely a Magnificat!"

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

J.M.J. Today, when we remember Saint Joseph, as we do each Wednesday, please read the following from The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 15 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912) about Saint Joseph Vaz from Sri Lanka who was canonized by Pope Francis in Colombo, Sri Lanka today. 

"A Goanese priest, Apostle of Ceylon [Sri Lanka], b. at Goa, 21 April, 1651; d. at Kandy, 16 Jan., 1711. His parents were Christians of the Konkani Brahmin caste. He learned Portuguese in Sancoale, his father's village, and Latin in Baulim, his mother's village, studied rhetoric at the Jesuit college and philosophy and theology at the College of St. Thomas Aquinas, Goa, was ordained in 1676, and became a favourite preacher and confessor. Hearing of the oppressed state of the Catholics of Ceylon under the Dutch, Father Vaz desired to go to their rescue, but was for the time being appointed Superior of the Kanara Mission, a post which he occupied for three years. On his return to Goa in 1684 he spent his time preaching in the villages, and joined the Oratorians then recently established in Goa, of which congregation he was soon made superior. In 1686 he obtained permission to give up this office and to proceed to Ceylon. On landing at Jaffna he found a strong Calvinistic propaganda going on in the island, and the Catholic religion proscribed and under persecution. He was therefore forced to wear disguise, and to do his work in secret. Afterwards, taking up his residence in a village called Sillale where the Catholics were numerous and resolute, he succeeded in reviving the spirit of the faithful. But this aroused afresh the vigilance of the Dutch, and he was forced to change his quarters for Putlam, where he worked with great success for a whole year. He then fixed on Kandy, the capital of a native independent state, as his centre of operations. Being on his arrival denounced as a Portuguese spy, he was quickly put into prison, where, however, the Catholics gained access to him, thus enabling him to continue his good work. In the end he won the favour of the king, regained his liberty, and began to extend his operations to other parts of the island.

"About 1699 several Oratorians and other priests were sent to help him in his labours. The news of his success having reached Rome, Mgr de Tournon, the papal legate, was directed to enter into communication with him. The legate conceived the idea of erecting Ceylon into a diocese with Father Vaz as first bishop, but the latter dissuaded him from this. In his later years Father Vaz had much to suffer from declining health, and in 1710 was unable to leave Kandy. The subject of his beatification was first urged upon the consideration of the Holy See about 1737 by Dom Francisco de Vasconcellos, S.J., Bishop of Cochin, who also claimed jurisdiction over Ceylon. The process was begun in Goa, and a number of miracles were registered. But the non-fulfilment of certain essential formalities led Benedict XIV to cancel the proceedings, with an order, however, that they should be re-instituted. In South Kanara, he is generally known as Venerable Father Joseph Vaz. Mgr Zaleski, Delegate Apostolic of the East Indies, wrote of him in 1894, that he has 'unfortunately been almost entirely forgotten. In Europe and even in India, there are still some who remember his name, and in Ceylon, the theatre of his Apostolic labours, his name is still mentioned by the older generation; but the rising generation hardly know what they owe to him. And yet, his is a name that ought to endure for ever'.

"[Note: In 1995, Joseph Vaz was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Colombo, Sri Lanka.]"

Mary, Queen of All Saints, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, pray for us.

Saint Joseph Vaz, pray for us.