Sunday, March 1, 2015

J.M.J. Our Blessed Mother possessed a "living faith," meaning that she believed actively all the truths revealed by God on the basis of His authority. If He revealed them, then that was enough for Our Lady.

Mary's was a dynamic faith. The profundity and fervor of that faith intensified with each passing day.
In his very helpful treatise entitled La Madonna (Padova: Gregoriana, 1966), Passionist Father Giacomo Pesce hailed the Ever-Virgin Mother of God as a "model of faith." Mary possessed a faith that was heroic, prudent and fruitful. But that is not all. Mary's faith was proven. Just as silver is tried in the fire and gold in the furnace, and the Lord tests hearts (see Proverbs 17:3), so the faith of Our Lady was tried and shown to be splendid!
Mary believed in her Pure Immaculate Heart that her Son Jesus was the Creator of the world even when He was weak and suffering in Bethlehem's rustic cave. She knew Him to be the King of Kings while she and her chaste husband Saint Joseph fled with the Child to Egypt in order to escape the treacherous grasp of the evil King Herod. She was convinced that He was the Omnipotent One despite His neediness and subjection to others. She acknowledged Him to be the "Joy of Paradise" notwithstanding His infant tears. She admitted that He was the wisdom and the strength of God although He grew in age, wisdom and grace before God and men. She confessed that He had descended from Heaven in order to conquer Satan and redeem humanity never mind His exhausting work as a carpenter at the side of His Foster-father.
Why did Jesus, who miraculously multiplied the bread and fish, not provide the Holy Family of Nazareth with a plethora of money? Why did Jesus, the true Messiah, stir up hatred and aversion against Himself? Why was Jesus the target of more spying than any murderer or thief? Why did the Father allow His Divine Son to be so mistreated? Why did the Father not permit the Sacred Divinity of His Son to be recognized? Why did the Father allow His Divine Son to take on the likeness of sinners even to His ignoble death on the Cross?
Father Pesce marveled at the incredible faith of Mary. "All these questions Our Lady heroically overcame. In all these terrible trials, the Virgin Mary repeated: 'Behold the handmaiden of the Lord!'" (page 303)
In capturing his own wonderment, Father Pesce names ours, too. "We admire the Madonna who did not vacillate during the most difficult hours; on the contrary, she became a very brilliant beacon for all Christians." (ibid.)
As sons and daughters of God the Father, brothers and sisters of God the Son and temples of God the Holy Spirit, we have inherited the magnificent faith of Mary our Spiritual Mother. With the abundant grace provided by the Lord, Our Blessed Lady went forward in faith. We treasure her example and seek to imitate it.
We rightly conclude with a prayer offered by Father Pesce: "Virgin Mary, we believe all that God commands us to believe. Reinvigorate our faith. Increase it in such a way that we believe with all our hearts." (page 304)
Mary, model of faith, pray for us!
(Published in Missio Immaculatae in the August/September 2006 issue on pages 14-15. Used with permission.)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

J.M.J. I find myself ‘hearing’ and getting thoughts regularly. How do I know if these thoughts are from God? For example, does it always mean that a thought of rebuking someone is from the devil?”

During the course of a day, each of us experiences many thoughts. Some thoughts are deliberate, while others are passing.

It can be difficult to know exactly what our thoughts mean and from where they come, especially those that seem to pass rather quickly through our minds. For example, I may be walking down the street past a bank and suddenly think: “I really could use the money in the bank to pay my bills. I know what I’ll do: I’ll go in and apply for a loan.”

Or I may think: “I need and deserve that money inside the bank. So, I’ll make plans to steal it.”

Another possibility: “I should be more grateful to God for the financial resources that He has given to me.”

All of the above seem to be passing thoughts.

The first possibility regarding the loan is neutral. It could be prudent or imprudent to act upon it.

The second possibility would be sinful to act upon.

The third possibility is virtuous and should be acted upon.

A passing thought then becomes deliberate upon further and more purposeful reflection. “I shouldn’t apply for a loan because then I’ll be burdened with a significant debt to pay. Perhaps I should limit my spending and then I won’t need a loan.”

Our thought processes often have many contours.

How do we judge the persistent thoughts that we have? We must discern their meaning. Are they thoughts that are pleasing to God? Do they lead me away from Him? Perhaps they are “neutral.”

How do we know whether our thoughts are from God? Spiritual writers suggest several things to do.

First, we should pray. Prayer is our communication with the living God. We invoke the Holy Spirit to give His wisdom to us so that we may know what Our Lord wants of us and how we should respond to His grace.

Second, we should receive the Sacraments. We should avail ourselves of Confession and Holy Communion as often and worthily as possible.

Third, we should turn to Our Lady. The Mother of God knows our human condition and what God desires better than we.

Fourth, we should study. Take up our Holy Bible, pick up our copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, consult the lives of the Saints. The riches of the Church are immense. They are there for our inspiration and education.

Fifth, we should seek counsel. We may select a spiritual director or have recourse to a family member or friend whose advice is sound.

Is a thought of rebuking someone always from Satan? It could be that such a thought is a temptation to become angry. On the other hand, there are situations in which one must issue a word of challenge—even a rebuke—to another because of the circumstances. But here, we must go slowly because it is easy to fall into self-deception.

Virgin most prudent, pray for us.

Friday, February 27, 2015

J.M.J. "I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces. I want to do God's Holy Will, not my own!" This inspiring motto for daily living was expressed by Francesco Possenti (1838-1862), known in the religious life as "Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother." This youthful Saint, touched profoundly by the Holy Spirit, exemplified the burning desire to embrace the Lord's plans--regardless of the cost--rather than his own.

For various reasons but especially due to his remarkable abandonment to Divine Providence and to the care of his beloved Madonna, Saint Gabriel, whose Feast is February 27, is an excellent companion for us during Lent.

Francesco Possenti was born on March 1, 1838 in Assisi, Italy, one of thirteen children. His early life as a young adult was marked with a strong love for "the world": theatre and hunting were among his pursuits.

Having decided that the Lord had other designs for him, Francesco entered the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, commonly referred to as the "Passionists." He spent his days in prayer, sacrifice and contemplation of the Sacred Passion of Jesus and the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. In time, Gabriel received Minor Orders in preparation for the Holy Priesthood.

Gabriel cultivated a tender affection for the Mother of God. He wrote:

"Love Mary! . . . She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful Heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity."

This religious died of tuberculosis in the Abruzzi region of Italy on February 27, 1862, just two days shy of his 24th birthday.

Many miracles were attributed to Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother after his death. In fact, the extraordinary Gemma Galgani (1878-1903), who one day would also be raised to the glories of the Altar, was healed and consoled by his intercession and even his mysterious presence in several visions.

On May 31, 1908, Pope Saint Pius X (1903-1914) beatified Gabriel. On May 13, 1920, Gabriel was canonized by Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922), who exhorted young men and women to pattern themselves after his sterling example. And in 1959, Pope Blessed John XXIII (1958-1963) named him the Principal Patron of the Abruzzi region.

Saint Gabriel's love for Jesus and Mary as well as his continual surrender to the Divine Will is a challenge to all of us who are spending these forty days of Lent in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our efforts are meant to make us, like Saint Gabriel, more conformed to the Crucified Christ Who laid down His life for each of us.

Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, pray for us! 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

J.M.J. Q. “What if I cannot find a suitable godparent for my child? At pre-Baptism class, the instructors advised me to find godparents who will make good examples of the Catholic Faith for my daughter. I’m not very active in church and don’t know many friends who are good, practicing Catholics. My relatives, to my knowledge, are not living the best Christian lives either. I’m sure there are good Catholics who live their faith well, but as I don’t know them personally. And even if I found one of them to be my child’s godparent, will it have any effect?"

A. The question you raise is, sadly, not uncommon.

The Code of Canon Law tells what the Church expects of godparents (or “sponsors”) for Baptism (and Confirmation).

Canon 872 informs us that the sponsor “assists an adult in Christian Initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for Baptism. A sponsor also helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with Baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.”

Canon 873 declares: “There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.” (Hence, only one sponsor is absolutely required, but if there are two, one is to be male and the other, female.)

And Canon 874 asserts: §1. “To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must: 1° be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function; 2° have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the Diocesan Bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause; 3° be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on (that is, who attends Holy Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; if married, enjoys a marital union that is recognized by the Catholic Church; if unmarried, does not cohabitate with a person of the opposite gender); 4° not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared; 5° not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized. §2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the Baptism.” (Hence, only a practicing Catholic can be a sponsor. A non-Catholic Christian may be a “witness.”)

You are humble about your lack of receiving the Sacraments (that can change now!) and that your friends and relatives don’t practice their Catholic Faith. You have escaped the trap that has ensnared many parents: the tendency to choose relatives as sponsors mainly because they are relatives, not because of their stellar Catholic lives.

Your pastor undoubtedly knows someone in your parish who would be an excellent sponsor. He may recommend a married couple to be your child’s sponsors. Invite them to your house so that they can meet your family.

Eventually, these sponsors will love your child. They will participate in your child’s life at special times by their prayers, good example and, if possible, their presence.

Does a godparent have an effect on a child? Certainly—either for good or ill. But the Church envisions that by ardent prayer and inspiring example, a sponsor will heartily encourage the child to follow Jesus Christ to Everlasting Life.

Mother immaculate, pray for us.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


The Catechism of Hockey 
by Alyssa Bormes, 
with a Foreword by Dale Ahlquist 
(Minneapolis: The American Chesterton Society, 2013, 203 pages, paperback, $14.95.

The Catechism of Hockey Study Guide 
by Alyssa Bormes and Crystal Crocker (

Clever. Convincing. Catholic.

In The Catechism of Hockey, Alyssa Bormes ostensibly presents the rudiments and nuances of the famous sport of ice hockey, all the while really offering a look at a reality that is more lasting and, yes, more important: the Catholic Church—the chaste Spouse of the Master.

Weaving hockey and its peculiarities with the ancient-but-ever-new doctrines and practices of the Church, our authoress has performed for readers a real service, especially, perhaps, those who have little familiarity with the Bride of Christ and her salvific teachings.

So much information is present within, but much more than sheer information. There is explanation and analysis added to the facts that are bound to aid those who wish to explore what it means to be a Catholic.

Consider this passage about the importance of accepting Jesus Christ and His mandates:

"Jesus is not a Man who wasted words; He is the Word. He gave us the rules, the Deposit of Faith, and a Church to safeguard it. The Church is His Bride; He loves Her. His love was the love of self-sacrifice, not exploitation. When we take advantage of our close personal friendship with Christ, we exploit that friendship. When the rules are discarded, even if by His close personal friends, the Faith is degraded. Its status becomes precarious and chaotic. Eventually it is not even the Faith anymore. The Faith has died. But the Faith is for life." [page 69]

Are we conscious of the magnificent gifts that Christ has given to us through His Church?

"We take hockey pilgrimages, but what of spiritual pilgrimages? Have we taken our children to a Marian shrine? Have we taken them to a side altar to St. Joseph? Whose relics are in the altar at our parish, and what do we know of that Saint? Why do we call Therese the Little Flower, and why do we call Aquinas the Doctor of the Eucharist? Do we have any idea where our parish priest celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving and have we ever visited that parish to give thanks for his vocation?" [page 117]

Is Eternal Life even something we think about, much less strive for?

"The eternal crown of glory is available to all of our sons and daughters. It is available to children with and without physical or mental prowess. It is available to those with physical and mental handicaps—perhaps, in a sense, it’s even more available to them.

"It is a great glory in hockey when our sons seek its ultimate reward, the Stanley Cup. This glory is amplified upon winning the Cup.

"It is a greater glory when our sons and daughters seek their final reward, the Eternal Crown of Glory. This glory is amplified upon being given the crown.

"“‘Come,’ says my heart, ‘seek God’s face’; Your face, Lord, do I seek!” (Psalm 27:8)" [page 153]

Miss Bormes has done an admirable job in taking a popular athletic enterprise and using it to ponder the meaning of membership in the only Church that the Son of God and Son of Mary founded.

The Catechism of Hockey and The Catechism of Hockey Study Guide, with which Crystal Crocker assists, are highly recommended and are sure to educate, give mirth, encourage and inspire.

No one who uses these texts could be ruled to be offside, but those who do not may expect an extended stay in the penalty box.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

J.M.J. The great Dominican theologian Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, in his valuable treatise entitled The Mother of The Savior and Our Interior Life (Dublin: Golden Eagle Books Limited, 1948), tackled the alluring subject of Blessed Mary's Queenship. In what way, he asked, is Our Lady Queen?

Jesus Christ is King of all human persons and all creatures, including the Angels (both good and fallen) because: A.) His Sacred Humanity is joined to the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity; B.) He has the fullness of grace in His soul; C.) He won victory over Satan, sin and death.

Thanks to Jesus and Mary's stunning cooperation with Him here on earth, Mary possesses authority and power and, hence, is Queen. Father Garrigou-Lagrange, whose most famous pupil was a brilliant and prayerful young Polish priest named Karol Josef Wojtyla (we know him best as Saint John Paul II), wrote that Mary's Queenship may be seen in part as follows.

1. As the Mother of God, Our Lady shares in the dignity of her Divine Son. She would not be the Mother of the Lord without Him. As Jesus is the King, Mary is the Queen who shares in Christ's universal Kingship. "Our Blessed Lord owes it to Himself to recognize His Mother's title in gratitude." (page 235)

2. Jesus is the King of the Universe "by His fullness of grace and by the victory which He won over Satan and sin by His Humanity and His obedience unto death . . . But Mary was associated with His victory over Satan, sin, and death by her union with Him in His humiliations and sufferings. She is therefore really associated with Him in His Kingship." (ibid.)

Since Jesus is our true and only King, He has many powers: to establish the New Law that is a fulfillment of the Old Law; to propose revealed truths; to grant sanctifying grace and the virtues to souls; to judge the living and the dead.

Due to her Queenship, Mary has various roles: to distribute the graces that Christ won for us by His salvific Death on Calvary; to give good example of the living out of the virtues.

Father Garrigou-Lagrange asserted: "Mary has a radical right to universal Queenship by the fact of her Divine Motherhood, but the divine plan was that she should merit it also by her union with her suffering Son, and that she should not exercise it fully before being crowned Queen of all creation in Heaven. Her royalty is spiritual and supernatural rather than temporal and natural, though it extends in a secondary way to temporal affairs considered in their relation to salvation and sanctification." (page 236)

Our Lady as Queen has a specific relationship to each "division" of the Church--the Church Triumphant in Paradise, the Church Militant on earth, and the Church Suffering in Purgatory. In fact, the Madonna's Queenship "extends to the demons too who are obliged to recognize her power, for she can make their temptation (power to tempt human persons) cease, can save souls from their snares, and can repulse their attacks." (page 237)

It is clear to us that the Queenship of Mary the Mother of God is universal for, as Father Garrigou-Lagrange contended: "There is no region to which it does not extend in some way." (ibid.)

O Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Possessor of the Universal Queenship for the Eternal Glory of God and the Everlasting Salvation of Souls, pray for us! 

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What exquisite art relating to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Loreto! (Courtesy of "Rome Reports.")

Monday, February 23, 2015

J.M.J. Edward N. Peters is both a civil attorney and a canon lawyer. Recently, he discussed via his blog, "In the Light of the Law: A Canon Lawyer's Blog" ( three realities that are often misunderstood--and even misrepresented. 

We Catholics should clearly comprehend celibacy, continence and chastity.

Celibacy is the chosen, deliberately made, resolve not to enter marriage. Celibacy is not simply ‘being single’ (else, every child is a ‘celibate’), but rather, it means having chosen to live single either for a while (e.g., till I finish grad school, or till my ailing mother dies) or for life (e.g., I have been ordained or I took permanent religious vows). Celibacy can be chosen for good reasons (e.g., I wish to follow the Lord more freely, or I wish to serve as a nurse in poor countries) or for bad reasons (e.g., I despise people and refuse to share my life with anyone), but, standing alone, celibacy means only that a choice not to enter marriage has been made and is being observed. Such a person, and only such a person, is properly called ‘celibate’.

That being understood, single persons, whether single because of circumstances (e.g., I have not yet met Miss Right, or my husband died last year) or because they are celibate, are restricted in the sexual activity they can engage in. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but those restrictions include what we will call “continence”. But when discussing celibacy, keep in mind that it is a chosen way of life, a way of life that has certain consequences, yes, but fundamentally, a way of life.
Continence is the choice not to engage in sexual relations. Again, the element of choice is important because simply not having sex does not necessarily mean that one is ‘continent’. A castaway on a desert island might have no food to eat but we would not say he is ‘dieting’, why? because ‘dieting’ implies that one makes a choice about not eating. Now, a single person (again, whether single by circumstances or because one is celibate) is required to exercise, among other things, continence. But married persons, too, might observe continence. Mary and Joseph are the classic examples: they were not, repeat not, celibate; they were, repeat were, continent.
Sometimes you will run across the phrase “periodic continence” or even notions like ‘selective continence’. I avoid these terms, because, continence, carefully considered, is usually tied to a state of life (chiefly, being single, but other possibilities exist) and hence  continence is of long (often permanent) duration; per se continence is not a response to circumstances in life. Example? a married couple might decide to give up conjugal relations during Lent, but the better description of their choice, because it is temporary, is “abstinence”; likewise a couple who avoids relations at certain times of the month as part of natural family planning—such couples are abstaining, not, properly speaking, observing continence. And to describe sexual fidelity to one’s spouse as ‘selective continence’ is just creepy.
Chastity is the exercise of that virtue whereby one’s sexual powers are used properly and in accord with one’s state in life. A non-married person (again, whether single or actually celibate) is chaste by observing, among other things, continence; but a married person is chaste by engaging in conjugal relations! In both cases it’s the same virtue at work—chastity, the proper use of one’s sexual powers—but the actions are obviously quite different. Similarly, if a married person does with a third-party exactly what is done with a spouse, that would be unchastity, even though the actions appear the same.
In short: the Church teaches that everyone is called to observe chastity at all times; she holds that all single persons are called to observe continence; and she recognizes that some single persons laudably choose celibacy as a way of life.

Mother inviolate, pray for us.

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Please pray for Pope Francis, who is making his Annual Retreat this week:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

J.M.J. These forty days of Lent are so many treasures that afford us fresh opportunities for prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Good habits begun during Lent under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can stay with us throughout the rest of the year.

How we need to be purified by Jesus so that we can live as He has equipped us and desires us to live!

I received a prayer and a meditation that reminded me that the Lord expects much from me. And that which He expects is truly realizable when I surrender to His ever-abundant grace.

Mr. and Mrs. Brian (Karyn) O'Neel submitted the following prayer, "A Morning Resolve." (I am unaware of the identity of the author.)

A Morning Resolve

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity and self seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust and a childlike faith in God.

In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating and sleeping which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.

And as I cannot in my own strength do this, nor even with a hope of success attempt it, I look to Thee, O Lord God, my Father, in the name of Jesus my Savior, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

And Anna Brizzi, a member of the Secular Institute named the Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculate, forwarded this meditation. (The author is given as William Arthur Ward.)

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling within them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.

Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal Truth.

Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.

With the help of Jesus Christ granted through His Ever-Virgin Mother, we will meet the spiritual challenges set before us. 

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A very inspiring story from "Rome Reports." The Church has not declared this young man to be a martyr, but perhaps one day She may.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

J.M.J. The lives of the Saints are filled with examples of how holy men and women, boys and girls gave up every attachment and sought ardently to follow only the Almighty's sagacious will. Their maxims continue to serve as a beacon today for those who sincerely strive to become more alive in Jesus.

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (d. 1968), otherwise known as "Padre Pio," was the Stigmata-bearing Italian Franciscan Capuchin friar saluted for his heroic surrender to the divine plan. He has inspired untold millions the world over to take stock of their relationships with the Lord. This will allow them--with God's grace--to purge what does not belong and ask for His strength to build upon the riches that He has already given.

A young, devout Catholic wife and mother of six gave me a copy of "Padre Pio's 10 Guidelines to a Perfect Spiritual Life." These apt principles appeared in Leaves magazine. Such advice offered by one of the twentieth century's most revered priests and religious is a useful "examen" for all, regardless of age, education, wealth or race.

1. Put your trust in Christ as your personal Savior. It is not enough to "go through the motions" (for example, attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, etc.). One must be truly converted to the Lord and live deeply the reality expressed by Saint Francis of Assisi: "Deus meus et omnia" ("My God and my All").

2. Know that you have no righteousness of your own. As Catholic theologians teach, the grace of God is "gratuitous." We do nothing to earn the love of Christ, although we are constantly to avail ourselves of it through prayer, sacrifice, the Sacraments, acts of charity, devotion to Our Blessed Mother, etc.

3. Remember that really good works are inspired only by Christ. When Pope John Paul II was told by a journalist that Mikhail Gorbachev credited the stunning collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe to him, the Holy Father meekly quoted Sacred Scripture: "We are useless servants; we do as the Master directs us." Lack of humility often ruins even the best of good works.

4. Recognize that Satan is a real individual, bent on destroying you, but do not fear him. Pope Pius XII once stated that we err whenever we give either too little or too much attention to the influence of the Prince of Darkness. The wiles of the evil one are unquestionably present, but those who remain close to Jesus need not be afraid.

5. Always pray to God and say in every circumstance, "Thy will be done." Life is filled with joys and struggles. A key to spiritual growth, spiritual writers attest, is the vital recognition that God never allows more than one can shoulder--provided that one implores the necessary grace.

6. Love the cross. There is no getting around the inevitable: anyone really desiring to be like Christ must accept suffering. As Venerable Fulton J. Sheen once said, Christ without the cross is a terrible caricature.

7. Offer every action up to God. Saint Teresa of Avila, the valiant reformer of the Carmelites, taught that even picking up a scrap of paper for love of God is pleasing to him. The smallest good works, prayers and mortifications must never be underestimated.

8. Never worry. It has been said that at the end of many persons' lives, a real regret exists for all the times that confidence was lacking. Do we really believe that God is our loving Father?

9. Aspire to the heavenly prize. Why are some believers spiritually "edifying" for others? Because their intense desire for God and for Everlasting Life is so obvious. Those who want to go to Heaven above anything else exhibit a contagious joy and trust in the Lord's faithfulness.

10. Rejoice in the Lord. Authentic happiness comes from the Almighty. With so many undeserved blessings from His gentle hands, how can we be anything but content?

Padre Pio's counsels ring true, no matter the era or place. Sanctity is possible for everyone! With the help of the Redeemer, we can and will be holy. Unending life with the Godhead is our promised reward when we seek to love and imitate the Crucified and Risen Jesus.

Virgin most renowned, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, pray for us.

Saint Peter Damian, pray for us.

(This slightly-edited article originally appeared in the May 1, 1994 issue of Catholic Twin Circle on page eighteen.) 

Friday, February 20, 2015

J.M.J. The practice of self-denial has long held a prominent place in Christianity. Believers have always been called to imitate the Crucified Savior by acts of mortification. Especially during Lent, penance is emphasized and takes its rightful place among the other two Lenten works: prayer and almsgiving.

Although self-denial is not solely connected to mortification of the palate, penitential practices often center around the appetite for food and drink.

Food and drink have been much abused by sectors of humanity for centuries, but our society seems to have taken the misuse to new extremes. Gluttony is often presented as harmless. Advertisers frequently proclaim that people must eat and drink a lot in order to be happy, well-liked, successful, etc. It is no exaggeration to say that, in some quarters, the operative norm is: The more you put away, the better.

Countering the notion of gluttony, the Church demands fasting and abstinence from meat on certain days during Lent. She also indicates that some penance should be performed on every Friday of the year.

The Cardinal Virtue of Temperance should always be fostered, regardless of the liturgical season. Those who strive to be disciples of Jesus are called at all times to be disciplined in food and beverage intake.

Certainly, Temperance helps regulate the consumption of food and drink. But it is also concerned with "attachment" to these items; the Virtue of Temperance assists us in not becoming a slave to either.

Saint Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860) has a special meaning for those who are practicing temperance. This Italian priest, known for his exemplary holiness and outstanding discipline, served as the Rector of the Ecclesiastical College in Turin, Italy. In his dealings with the seminarians, he frequently exhorted them to be careful about how they approached the table.

The saintly cleric warned that overeating was not the only fault regarding food. He frequently mentioned the five failings of the table that need to be battled: eating infrequently, eating too quickly, eating too much, eating over-eagerly and eating over-deliberately.

In each case, food loses its proper place. The table either assumes a greater influence than it should have or it is nearly dismissed as being of little value.

A priest from the Archdiocese of Turin learned a valuable lesson about the proper place of food on one occasion in which he ate with Saint Joseph. That priest, known for his penchant, in his own words, "to pounce on the food and devour it with too much dispatch," was asked by the Saint if he remembered the five dangers regarding eating.

Without hesitation, the young priest rattled off the list.

He concluded, "Then I realized what I had been doing, blushed and profited by the lesson."

More than one spiritual writer has counseled that every meal should be an occasion of mortification: we should always leave the table a little hungry or thirsty. In this way, we not only share in the hunger and thirst of Christ on Calvary but also help prevent ourselves from becoming gluttons and drunkards.

God has associated pleasure with eating. The Eternal Son of the Father took part in banquets during his public ministry.

Yet, Lent reminds us of the necessity of self-denial. Any penance we do now by limiting our food and drink consumption gives us a new insight into the beauty of the same and their limitation in bestowing happiness.

All food and drink pale in comparison with our souls' delight: the Body and Blood of Christ. May our fasting, abstinence and new approach to food during these days of Lent help us to adore more intensely and love more ardently the Christ of the Eucharist who gave up His life for us.

(Slightly adapted from an article that appeared in the Catholic Twin Circle on March 26, 1995 on page eighteen.)