Thursday, October 12, 2017

October 24--St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop and Religious


St. Anthony Mary Claret was a 19th century superpriest! He served the poor as a diocesan priest; practiced medicine in an area ravaged by war; sent as an Apostolic Missionary to his home region; preached parish missions; heard confessions; gave retreats; founded a religious library in Barcelona; established the Claretian missionary order; appointed archbishop of Santiago, Cuba; erected a hospital and schools in Cuba; founded a women’s religious order; stabbed in an attempted assassination; named confessor to the Queen of Spain, exiled to France, where he finally died in 1870 at the age of 62; wrote 144 books; and more!

A priest once remarked that when he became a priest he got to wear a cape, indicating his joy at being a priest and the supernatural powers that were given to him. The cape he was referring to is a cope, which priests and deacons wear when handling the monstrance at adoration or during processions. We should think of priests as superheroes! They get to minister in persona Christi, “in the person of Christ”. When we see the priest consecrating the bread and wine into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ at the Mass, it is Jesus working through him. He is “another Christ”, alter Christus. What a privilege and grace! Priests hear confessions and forgive us through Jesus. Priests baptize, anoint, receive marriage vows, preach, console, exhort, encourage, and guide; all in the name of Jesus; all for the sake of his Body, the Church, so that we may come to know, love, and serve Jesus more fruitfully. Priests aren’t perfect, but who is? Pray for them. St. Anthony Mary Claret, pray for our priests.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

October 16--St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Religious

“From the depth of my nothingness, I prostrate myself before Thee, O Most Sacred, Divine and Adorable Heart of Jesus, to pay Thee all the homage of love, praise and adoration in my power.  Amen.” 

 So prayed today’s saint of the day, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. She entered religious life near the age of 24 in 1671. She had visions of Jesus in her youth, which she thought was normal. But after her entrance into the convent, she had visions in which Jesus wanted her to establish devotion to His Sacred Heart. She maintained a Holy Hour from eleven till midnight on Thursday before the first Friday of every month. He appointed the Friday after the feast of Corpus Christi as the feast of His Sacred Heart. She died in 1690 and was canonized in 1920.

First Friday devotions, Holy Hours, Devotion to the Sacred Heart; all of these can be attributed to God’s work through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is devotion to the love of Christ. “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16). All the love God has for us has been fully revealed through Jesus, who suffered, died, rose, and ascended into Heaven. God calls us to love him in return. We love him in himself through adoration, prayer, and reception of the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. But we also love him in one another through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. We are called to pray and work for the coming of the Kingdom of God. We would do well to follow St. Margaret Mary in her devotion to Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

October 10--St. Francis Borgia, S.J., Priest and Religious

One of his great-grandfathers was a pope, another great-grandfather was a king of Spain, a grandfather was a bishop, and his father was a duke in Spain. Quite a pedigree! And yet, he wanted to become a monk. Before he joined the Jesuits, St. Francis Borgia, also became a duke and viceroy in Spain, married, had eight children, was a member of the court of Emperor Charles V, and wrote Church music. Wow! After his wife died, he joined the Jesuits and eventually became the third Superior General of the order. He was an amazing administrator and founded the Gregorian University in Rome as well as advised popes and kings.

Each of us has many gifts that God has given to us. How do we use them? Do we improve them or waste them? If we have the gift of persuasion, do we use it to help people come to God and the truth? If we have the gift of wealth, do we contribute to the Church and the community? If we have the gift of business acumen, do we sell goods and services at a fair price for the benefit of the people who buy them? If we have the gift of intellect, do we use it to think clearly? If we have the gift of healing, do we use it to bring health to others? If we have the gift of athleticism, do we use it for building our team? “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jas 1:17). St. Francis Borgia used his gifts; use yours, to the glory of God.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

October 2--Memorial of the Guardian Angels

"Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
To whom God's love
commits me here,
Ever this day,
be at my side,
To light and guard,
Rule and guide.


When we speak of the Guardian Angels, many of us may think of the simple prayer cited above. But Guardian Angels are not cute little cherubs with apple cheeks looking after children. They look after each one of us, every day, every where. God gives us so many ways to follow him. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit within us. We have the gift of conscience. We have the gift of the Church and the Communion of Saints. And we have the gift of our Guardian Angels.

How do our Guardian Angels help us? They could guide us to make good choices. They may look over us and protect us from evil. They definitely pray to God for us. Jesus said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father" (Mt. 18:10). We may not be aware of their presence, but they know us. Won't it be great to know our Guardian Angels as they know us? We will eventually. We should thank them for their guardianship. We should also thank God for his benevolence in providing us a soldier to always be at our side, "To light, to guard, to rule, to guide."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

September 26: Bl. Paul VI, Pope

Bl. Pope Paul VI is a much-misunderstood pope. He was elected after the death of Pope St. John XXIII in 1963 and continued Vatican II. He then implemented the reforms until his death in 1978. The reforms of Vatican II included reforming all the sacraments so that they were better understood and celebrated by the people; the understanding of who we are as Church; what the Church’s relationship with the world is; and relations with non-Catholic Christians and non-Christians.

Bl. Pope Paul VI also served the Church during the times of great social upheaval and changes in social and sexual mores throughout the world. He issued his last encyclical, Humanae Vitae to help the Church and the world deal with many issues concerning sexual behavior and family life. Many in Europe and America opposed it. It condemned artificial birth control as intrinsically evil on the grounds that it is opposed to the generation of life in the act of contracepting, which is contrary to Catholic Church teaching as well as natural law. Sacramental marriage is about being in union with God as well as one’s spouse: “Love is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner's own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself” (8,9).

Bl. Pope Paul VI also reaffirmed other doctrines of the Church, including a male priesthood, which was declared dogma by St. John Paul the Great in 1994. He may have been misunderstood, but that is the lot of prophets, and Blessed Pope Paul VI is our modern-day prophet.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

September 17: St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

There are 36 Doctors of the Church, men and women who have demonstrated exceptional qualities in explaining the faith for their times and ours. Today’s saint is one of them, a bishop and cardinal of the Church in the 16th and 17th centuries, helping the Church reform herself after the Protestant Reformations. St. Robert Bellarmine was a Jesuit who, as an archbishop of Capua in Italy, supported the reforms of the Council of Trent. He originally taught theology in Belgium and Rome. Later, he became theologian to Pope Clement VIII and even received votes to become pope. He wrote two catechisms for the Church, which helped the Church explain the truths of the faith in a time of great confusion and different theologies.

St. Robert Bellarmine is the patron saint of both catechists and catechumens. Catechists teach the faith to believers. Catechumens are those who are being initiated into the Church and need teaching in the faith. It is appropriate that St. Robert be patron of both groups as they are linked together, one sharing the faith, the other receiving the faith.

We are catechists when we share our faith with others. When we witness to the love of Jesus in our lives we teach most effectively. But we are also catechumens in the sense that there is so much to learn about Jesus and about his love for us and how we can live that love in our lives. Jesus commanded in Mt. 28:19-20 to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” As St. Robert Bellarmine followed these directions, so may we.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

September 15: Our Lady of Sorrows

Mary has more feasts dedicated to her than any other saint. That is due to her perfection in loving and obeying the will of God in her role as Mother of God. But we must not forget that before her Assumption into Heaven, she dealt with the evils that beset her Son, and transformed them by the grace of God into gifts that she presented to God the Father. She is Our Lady of Sorrows. There are seven sorrows attributed to Mary: 1. The Prophecy of Simeon in Luke 2:34-35; 2. The Flight into Egypt in Matthew 2:13; 3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem in Luke 2:43-45; 4. The meeting of Mary and Jesus on the road to Calvary (not in Scripture); 5. The Crucifixion of Jesus in John 19:25; 6. The Descent from the Cross in Matthew 27:57-59; and 7. The Burial of Jesus in John 19:40-42.

Each of these events caused great suffering to Mary, but she bore it uniting it to the suffering that her Son would, and did, undergo. At the visit of the shepherds Luke comments: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 1:19). Suffering happens to us all. But Jesus transformed suffering into joy; his Passion and Death into Resurrection and Ascension. And just as the Mother of God joined her suffering to her Son, so too may “we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears” to her and through her to her Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ. We suffer pain, turmoil, rejection, illness, abandonment, separation, misunderstanding, fear, and eventually death. But these do not have the final say! Jesus Christ is our salvation! Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.