“I want to send you all to Heaven!”


“[A] lovely, subdued melody floated through the forest above the solitary and forsaken little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, just when a shepherd was passing by with his sheep. The shepherd turned pale and looked up at the fallen-in roof, but there was nothing to be seen. “Have they got an organ now?” he wondered. He pushed the little door open. All was dark and still within. Overhead the music was becoming more and more heavenly, as a hundred golden voices seemed to mingle in counterpoint. “Lord, how beautiful! It’s enough to make one want to die, it’s so beautiful!” he thought, for he was so moved that he could not utter a word. His heart told him what was happening…” 

From “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, Timmermans

August 2nd is coming along, and with it, two happy occasions – the “Great Pardon” (as the Portiuncula Indulgence is known in some places) and the “flocking” of the Franciscans of Life (regulars and externs) to the Motherhouse after a bit of a hiatus from community gatherings.

There will be a note of sadness, as our dearest brother Leo will not be with us for the first time…since his passing on May 26th of 2020. Four hundred years earlier, St. Philip Neri passed away on the very same day. Let’s pray for the repose of our dear brother Leo, and ask in a special way for the intercession of St. Philip, “Pippo Buono” as the Romans called him due to his kind and gentle disposition… All who knew our Brother Leo knew of his natural gentleness and kindness, which is what, perhaps, inspired our Superior to name him Leo at Novitiate, in honor of that first brother Leo, a gentle soul whom St. Francis used to call “ you little lamb of God”.

But this article – which from its prolixity you will most likely know is authored by brother Bernardo – is not so much about our community as it is about the Portiuncula Indulgence! We will go over the Porziuncola, “Santa Maria degli Angeli”, and then we will dig a bit more into the matter of indulgences – a matter of heavenly and motherly love – and its relationship to the wonderful Sacrament of Confession – so, please, stay with us!

On Saint Mary of the Angels, called Porziuncola (“little portion“)

 1704 illustration from “Collis Paradisi Amœnitas, seu Sacri Conventus Assisiensis Historiæ“, as found on p.107 of “The Story of Assisi” by Lina Duff Gordon

If we dig a bit, we find a nice summary by Pope Benedict XV on the salient points regarding this very special place, which we summarize below:

  • It is taught that in the days of Pope Liberius (IV century) pilgrims from Palestine brought here a fragment of the sepulcher of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that is to say, the place of the Assumption, and thus was the place named Saint Mary of the Angels.
  • Here St. Francis wrote the rule approved by Pope Innocent III (“admonished by divine vision”, writes Benedict XV).
  • Here Clare, the noble virgin of Assisi, having forsaken the world, was clothed in the poor Franciscan habit, and instituted the second Order.
  • Here also originated the Third Franciscan Order [note of clarification: that of the Penitents, whose ancient rule we follow].
  • By this place were the first Chapters of the Franciscan order, including the famous “Chapter of Matts” of Pentecost.
  • Here St. Francis, after refusing six times, finally agreed that he and the brothers would share a meal with St. Clare and the sisters. It is recounted that their souls glared so brightly that the people from the surrounding areas thought the forest was ablaze.
  • Here St. Francis had a vision of the Lord and Our Lady, and went to Perugia to implore Pope Honorius III in 1216 for a most extraordinary and unusual favor: “that anyone who comes [to the Portiuncola] confessed and penitent be absolved from the punishment and guilt from the day of baptism to the day and hour of entrance in said church”. Such an indulgence was unheard of in those days! Yet, three times did the Supreme Pontiff give his assent. Upon the Saint rejoicing and departing his presence, came the Pope’s affectionate remark and the Saint’s moving reply:
    • You simpleton, where are you going? What proof do you carry?
    • Your word suffices to me! I seek no further instrument, other than the Virgin Mary be the parchment, Christ the notary, and the Angels the witnesses!”.
      • There is a pious story coming from the nephew of one of the early brothers, who accompanied Francis back from Perugia to Assisi. They stopped to rest a while and, upon awakening, St. Francis said: “Brother Masseo,I tell you from God that the Indulgence that the Supreme Pontiff gave me is confirmed in heaven!
  • Here Francis stood by the entrance after returning from Perugia and, stretching his fatherly arms, said to all:

“I want to send you all to heaven!

I announce to you an Indulgence

which I obtained from the mouth of the Supreme Pontiff…”

St. Francis at the Portiuncola, 1226
  • Here Francis implored his Guardian and his brothers to take him to die. 
    • “No, no! To Our Lady of the Angels! – Francis begged – I want to die where I began!” (from “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, by Timmermans)
  • Here that he dictated his wondrous Testament: https://ofm.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Testament.pdf
  • Finally, here he died, naked on the floor (ref. Job 1:21), a broken, small 43-year-old man, marked with the Stigmata of the Lord he so loved, surrounded by his brothers who so loved him, under the loud warbling of hundreds of larks soaring heavenward…St. Francis of Assisi, whom Holy Church would call the Seraphic Father, the Alter Christus, but who, in his letters, introduced himself as little brother Francis….the little one….your servant…a worthless and weak man.

On the Great Pardon, or the Portiuncula Indulgence

One scholar wrote: 

“it seems incredible that a perpetual plenary indulgence with no attached condition of almsgiving or personal sacrifice should have been granted in favor of an obscure chapel in Umbria. Yet we have six sworn statements of contemporaries, regulations of the General Chapters of the Order, and 53 pontifical acts of the XIVth century either confirming it or defending it”.  

The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Jan., 1939), p. 466

This is just as St. Francis had told Pope Honorius: “If it is the work of God, He will make it manifest” – and this He has done – through His Church – through the centuries!

Of this plenary indulgence can benefit the faithful – for themselves or for a deceased as suffrage

(a) either by directly visiting Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Porziuncola shrine it contains (in Assisi)

or (b) by visiting, within the US (to our understanding) a minor basilica, a cathedral, or a parish church.

The conditions, to our understanding, are as follows:

  • Receive absolution in sacramental Confession
    • (in the time period including the 8 days before and the 8 days after the visit of the church)
  • Attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion within the same time period
    • (although it is convenient that this occur on the day the work is performed)
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Visit the church
    • …where they will renew the profession of faith through the recitation of the Credo (which, to our understanding, can be either the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed…).
    • …and they will recite a Pater (Our Father) to reaffirm their dignity as children of God received in Baptism
    • …and they will pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, condition which is satisfied by reciting one Pater and one Ave, although one may also recite any other prayer if recited for this intention. This would also be fittingly performed on the same day.

On Indulgences in general, and Plenary Indulgences in particular – or, how to gain one

To benefit from an indulgence, the person must be baptized, must not be excommunicated, and hopefully in the state of grace. Furthermore, one must have the general intention of gaining the indulgence, and of course carry out the works mentioned above.

Most importantly, however, for the indulgence to be plenary and not partial, it requires the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin

This has been historically considered the most complex of the conditions: no man, however holy, can call himself free of sin, but many can honestly call themselves free of affection towards sin, to the best of their knowledge!

In 2004, the Apostolic Penitentiary used the following language:

…as long as they are totally free from any desire to relapse into sin…

https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/tribunals/apost_penit/documents/rc_trib_appen_doc_20041225_miraculorum-maximum_en.html

On SpiritualDirection.com (an apostolate of the Avila Institute by our kind friend Dan Burke) , Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC writes (we paraphrase!):

“The requirement is not “freedom from all sin“, rather, that “there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce”.

A person should know if he’s in compliance, because an attachment implies a refusal to fix a situation – as when sometimes, deep down, we don’t want to let go of certain sins, even if “small”.

This is quite different from weakness, or habitual sin that is being battled…to souls in these situations, the Church is ready to aid!”

Confession, Reparation…and Indulgences – or, how they are closely related!

Pray to the good Lord to take away any desire, albeit small or hidden, for sins both grave and venial, and go as far as to bring forth in your heart a salutary hatred of sin, remembering that God is all-good and all-loving and that even the smallest sin displeases him. 

After all, what is an indulgence if not but a “continuation” of the Sacrament of Penance? That is to say, “a remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven”? 

We know that the matter of sacramental Confession is the acts of the penitent: contrition, confession and satisfaction.

say NO to sin!

We should strive to a perfect contrition (CCC 1452) and perfect contrition builds more and more on detachment from sin, first from the “great” sins and then from the “small” ones! A devout soul, then, should not find much difficulty in complying with the requirement to be detached from all sin. The rest of us should simply keep working our way there, knowing that it is entirely up to us to not want to sin, while it is entirely a gift of God to bless us with the grace needed to overcome sin. “Without me – says the Lord – you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), but He also says, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), and later, to St. Paul, “my grace is enough for you” (2Cor 12:9).

In the form of the Sacrament, “I absolve you, assuming the penitent did not put any obstacles, such as willfully lying or withholding, or later failing to do any satisfaction, but rather that the penitent had a sincere sorrow for their sins and a firm resolution to avoid them in the future, all their sins from the very moment of Baptism (or from their last Absolution) till that moment are forgiven and remitted through the power of the Keys – even sins that you may have forgotten to mention!

The pains of Purgatory in a painting by Fontebasso

Yet, such forgiveness and remission of sin does not imply the forgiveness of the temporal punishment due to every sin.

Sin carries both a stain and a punishment. When the stain is cleansed from the soul by sacramental absolution, the temporal punishment is not always remitted, except through the remedy of satisfaction, by avoiding near occasions of sin, resolving to sin no more, and doing works of penance. Such satisfaction also atones to our Mother the Church, whom we often forget is injured by our sins, and it also deters others from sin by way of example.

Last but not least, temporal punishment is the reason for Purgatory…the ecclesia dolens… Someone reported that St. Padre Pio once said: “let us do our Purgatory here on earthby accepting everything from God’s hand“. (ref. Job 1:21…again…)

Interiorly, satisfaction heals the wound caused by sin. St. Bernard taught that “the stain is removed from the soul by God’s mercy, while the wound is healed through the remedy of penance…and even then, some scar remains”.

In this we see the great love and care of Holy Mother Church, Bride of Christ and as such minister of Redemption, custodian of that great treasury of expiatory works of Christ and the Saints! By granting an Indulgence, our Mother the Church is coming to our help in ridding us of the temporal punishment we have accumulated by our sins – or, when we apply the indulgence to a faithful departed, to help us help one another!

St. John Paul II summarized this wonderfully in 1999:

“[indulgence] is a sensitive subject, which has suffered historical misunderstandings […]

The starting-point for understanding indulgences is the abundance of God’s mercy revealed in the Cross of Christ. The crucified Jesus is the great “indulgence” that the Father has offered humanity through the forgiveness of sins […]   in the logic of the covenant, which is the heart of the whole economy of salvation, this gift does not reach us without our acceptance and response. […] 

[I]t is not difficult to understand how reconciliation with God, although based on a free and abundant offer of mercy, at the same time implies an arduous process which involves the individual’s personal effort and the Church’s sacramental work.

For the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism, this process is centered on the sacrament of Penance, but it continues after the sacramental celebration. The person must be gradually “healed” of the negative effects which sin has caused in him (what the theological tradition calls the “punishments” […] Precisely for the sake of complete healing, the sinner is called to undertake a journey of conversion towards the fullness of love.

The temporal punishment itself serves as “medicine” to the extent that the person allows it to challenge him to undertake his own profound conversion. This is the meaning of the “satisfaction” required in the sacrament of Penance.

The meaning of indulgences must be seen against this background of man’s total renewal by the grace of Christ the Redeemer through the Church’s ministry.

The Church has a treasury, then, which is “dispensed” as it were through indulgences. This “distribution” should not be understood as a sort of automatic transfer, as if we were speaking of “things”. It is instead the expression of the Church’s full confidence of being heard by the Father when – in view of Christ’s merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints – she asks Him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace. In the unfathomable mystery of divine wisdom, this gift of intercession can also benefit the faithful departed […]

We can see, then, how indulgences, far from being a sort of “discount” on the duty of conversion, are instead an aid to its prompt, generous and radical fulfilment. This is required to such an extent that the spiritual condition for receiving a plenary indulgence is the exclusion “of all attachment to sin, even venial sin” […]

Therefore, it would be a mistake to think that we can receive this gift by simply performing certain outward acts. On the contrary, they are required as the expression and support of our progress in conversion. They particularly show our faith in God’s mercy and in the marvellous reality of communion, which Christ has achieved by indissolubly uniting the Church to himself as his Body and Bride.”

St. John Paul II, PP – General Audience – 29 Sep 1999
“Virgo Ecclesia Facta” – the Church is our loving Mother

The Case for the Mask – on God’s Care for our Health


The Christmas season is upon us, and I find myself with a few days of “vacation” allowing me to reflect on a number of issues I ordinarily entrust entirely to the Divine Providence. Br. Jay always teaches us, “do not get upset at things you cannot control, focus on preserving interior peace at all times”. Yet these days I have meditated upon some such matters – matters “great, too difficult for me”, if only to remind myself that I am not – and should not – be in control.

During this process, which also involved some online reading, I stumbled upon an article trying to make a case against wearing masks in times of Covid through the arguments of faith and philosophy. I have heard and overheard many arguments for or against masks over the past year, but never had I seen such a bold attempt, and I was moved to address it here. Life calls out to life, and I feel urged to speak in defense of it, inasmuch as I am keenly aware that not wearing masks (among many other precautions) directly increases the spread of this deadly virus.

The article, when read according to the light of the Catholic faith and not someone’s political agenda, actually helps those who strive to be good Christians to understand a few important things, in spite of its flawed conclusions. There are a few key points I wish to quote and go over, not for argumentation but merely for the sake of reflection.

 

(0) “There is not a consensus among doctors and scientists, at the end of 2020, about the infectious nature of [Covid-19] or the efficacy of wearing masks.”

In other words, there is debate about how helpful it is, due to the question of how exactly does the virus work. However, there is no debate as to the fact that masks help. It is a basic tenet of the Faith that people should clearly do what they can to help others, even when it is burdensome to themselves. The crown of thorns was much more burdensome to wear.

 

(1) “It is wholly un-Christian to consider any other human person first as a threat to oneself. Man is called to love his neighbor and to be in communion with him.”

When we encounter our brothers and sisters, we should not consider them a danger to us. Our attitude should be one of love and communion.

Furthermore, we are not called to be apprehensive when we see another human being – unless there is an overt threat to our safety. We are not considering the person to be a threat – the threat is there, invisible, and it is the threat that we single out as a danger, not the person. This is not unlike an early Christian who may have felt fear when seeing an approaching Roman soldier – not so much in his person but in the potential threat of persecution and death. And do not reply that “perfect charity casteth out fear“, for the Good Lord himself “began to fear and to be heavy” at the prospect of His Passion, so much so that he sweat blood, yet He remained firm in the Father’s will, teaching us that it is natural to fear danger, and there is supernatural merit in facing it with God’s help.

 

(2) “Charity is any action we do for God or do for others for the sake of God. If we do not act for the sake of God, the action, while good, is not charity. Is charity actually the reason why many wear masks?

When encountering our brothers and sisters, a loving attitude of communion is reflected when we think that perhaps I may be a carrier unbeknownst to all – even me – and wearing a face mask lowers the risk that my coughing or sneezing or even just talking would expose my neighbor to a potentially deadly disease. My wearing a mask says to my neighbor ” I love you, therefore I am doing something to care for you“. It is both a physical and a spiritual act of charity – physical inasmuch as it aims to protect my neighbor’s health, spiritual inasmuch as I am acting out of love of God and neighbor. I am certainly grateful when a surgeon wears gloves, so let us be grateful when we see each other wearing a face mask.

 

(3) “Masks indirectly promote thinking of others in terms of oneself. ‘You are not wearing a mask; you are a danger to me. You are making me feel uncomfortable by failing to wear a mask.’

Yet a good Christian does indeed focus on himself rather than others, inasmuch as he is called to a personal obedience of God’s will. I must not focus on whether the other is not wearing a mask, but on whether I am. For it is my duty to help, nay, even to lay down my very life for my neighbor. Let us not forget that just yesterday we commemorated St. Stephen, whose last words were to the Father regarding his unjust oppressors, who were killing him: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!” In spite of the “discomfort” that they made him feel, the Protomartyr acted towards them in faith and love.

Does our neighbor’s failure to act on wearing the mask make us feel uncomfortable? I would say that all manners of sin (should) make us feel uncomfortable, whether the sin is an objective reality or a mere subjective understanding of our mind. We see this very clearly in the many occasions when men are scandalized by the actions of the Lord or the Apostles, whom they thought were contravening the Law, and never does the Lord or the Apostles rebuke them, but always do they instruct them to an objective and orthodox understanding of things. Sin is only that which offends the Divine Will, not the will of men. When I see my neighbor failing to wear a mask, and I am stirred to discomfort in what appears to be sin (considering that this act of omission exposes others to potential dangers and also scandalously manifests one’s potential lack of care and concern for neighbor) I must first and foremost be reminded of the Lord who once said: “Do not judge! Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly”… My attitude must also be devoid of all pride: just because I happen to be wearing a mask while others fail to do so (or advocate against it), I must not imitate the proud man who says “O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men”, but rather I must obey the Divine Precept that commands us, “when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.”

 

(4) “Physical health is neither the primary nor the sole determinant of a man’s actions. There are more important realities than bodily health, especially spiritual health.”

Yet it is written, “The light of thy body is thy eye”, and also, “know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own?”. The preservation of physical health is part of the Lord’s Holy Will, as he said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. It is not above the spiritual health, it is wholly part of spiritual health.

Hence, Christ on the Sabbath allowed His Apostles to contravene the law and pick grains, for they hungered, and the Divine Teacher manifested that in the eyes of God, such an act was fully lawful, as it was already manifested in the days of King David.

The Incarnate Word once rebuked Satan’s temptation by declaring that “Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” Yet after He Himself having spoken to the people, He said to the Apostles, “I have compassion on the multitudes, because they continue with me now three days, and have not what to eat, and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” And lo, He went and performed the astounding sign that is the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes.

Let us not forget other equally wholesome examples such as the Passover Meal, the provision of Manna in the desert, the splitting of the rock to provide water, and many other ways in which God’s Divine Providence has time and again tended to the care of our physical health.

Therefore, a man’s duty to preserve physical health becomes wholly aligned with the Lord’s will when done out of love of God and neighbor and out of reverence for deeper, invisible spiritual realities inherent to man being both flesh and spirit by the Divine Will.

If you are not fully convinced of this argument, consider that consuming wine at a wedding is not a health nor a nutritional necessity, yet the good Lord deigns to provide wine at Cana in a miraculous way, thus meeting a much simpler need – yet we know that there was a profound spiritual significance to His action.

Let us also remember that we do not need to see, hear, or walk in order to go to Heaven – yet, time and again the Lord has mercifully healed such merely physical needs, and the Blessed Virgin herself deigned – and still deigns – to intercede for the healing of many at the miraculous spring of Lourdes.

Holy Church herself was gifted by Christ with a Sacrament specifically intended to heal the physical health: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well”. Clearly, there is a deep relationship between physical and spiritual health. “For which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or ‘Arise and walk’?”

 

(5) “When one looks at the body, to the exclusion of the face, one encounters an object, a thing, rather than a person. Objects are meant to be used; that is, to be used as a means to an end. Persons are primarily subjects to be known and loved.”

We must always encounter and commune with our brothers and sisters in the way God intended us to: as our brothers, human beings with a body and

a soul. Different cultures and standards lead to wearing more – or less – articles of clothing, and it has been one of the sharpest thorns of modern secular culture to promote objectification by means of the removal of clothing, whereby most contradictorily to the original tenet, it is the lack of coverage and not its presence, which leads to objectification. When we encounter a fellow human being, whether he or she wears a mask or not, whether he or she wears something that makes us feel uncomfortable or not, we always approach them with the same love that Christ modeled for us. Why, I have no doubt that on his first encounters with the Touareg – their face fully covered by the tagelmust and their voice absent or altogether incomprehensible – Blessed Charles de Foucauld still managed to commune with them in the love of Christ, so much so that he became known to them as “the Christian Marabout” (“holy man”).

 

 

(6) “Man communicates most profoundly with his face—with words, looks, facial expressions. [The mask] muffles the human voice; it hides the human smile; it obscures the deeply human facial expressions which are integral to forming human friendships.”

The Holy Father with Mr. Oreste Tornani

Yet the Seraphic Doctor recounts in his Vita Maior [p.1 c.1] that one day St. Francis met a leper and “felt sick at the sight of him”. Given this sharp description and the knowledge most of us have of the terrible progression of Hansen’s disease, it is fairly possible that the leper no longer had what we commonly describe as a face, or at least was unable to produce facial expressions beyond terrible distress. Yet Bonaventure recalls that Saint Francis “remembered his resolve to be perfect and the need to overcome himself first”, and proceeded to show brotherly love to the sick man.

This story, as do many others – I am reminded of the entire life of St. Damien of Molokai – show that the burden is on us to perceive, understand, and treat our neighbor with love, rather than blaming them – or their lack of facial expressions or voice – for “obstructing the development of genuine community“, as that article does (perhaps inadvertently).

The Holy Father with Mr. Vinicio Riva.

Let us strive in these difficult times to show ourselves ever more empathetic and comprehensive towards one another when we do not have the luxury of being able to expose our face without risk to our health – an experience quite common in places of extreme heat or cold, or in general in the field of healthcare.

 

 

In conclusion, let us cast aside – if only for a moment – all manner of ecclesial or secular politicking, and be reminded that it is but a small act of love to wear a face mask and keep a 6 ft distance from our neighbors during times of pandemic. It is on us to embrace these measures out of love of God and neighbor and to strive to show even more love and care than under usual circumstances to our brothers and sisters who – no doubt about it – live in a world that is making of fear one of its primary movers.

Please forgive any imprecisions in my writing – these are merely my thoughts – and please pray for the end of this health crisis through the special intercession of St. Joseph most obedient, terror of demons, patron of the Church,  mirror of patience. By the will of the Holy Father, we are now in his year, so let us reach out to him, now more than ever!

Br. Bernardo D’Carmine, a sinner.

St. Joseph, Pray For Us

 

Light In The Darkness


My mother always said, “Darkness can never conquer light.”  Looking at the world today things look dark if we don’t seek out the light.

Covid-19 has done more than making some people sick and kill others.  It has thrown families into crisis.  Some mourn a loved one.  Others wonder about an elderly relative in a nursing home where visitors are not allowed.  Spouses spend hours sitting, praying, and wondering if their partner is ever coming off the ventilator.  Patients struggle to breathe.  Their bodies ache.  They have lost all sense of taste and even of smell.  The endless coughing does not allow them a peaceful night’s sleep.

We must also consider how this virus has impacted the lives of healthcare professionals. They do not lose their humanity.  Many have loved ones, including spouses, parents, children.  Upon entering nursing school or medical school, they never dreamed that their lives would be on the line.  Those things happened to people in the armed forces, not to healthcare professionals.  

Long days on your feet were to be expected, but caring for more than ten patients was not a common occurrence among nurses.  There was little fear of taking home a virus that could literally kill one of your children or elderly loved ones. As the number of nurses, doctors, medical technicians, and others contracted the virus, the workload became heavier.  Instead of 12-hour shifts, some people were putting in 18-hour shifts.  Yet, these people have spouses, children, parents, and even pets at home, waiting for them.   

When your loved one is a patient in a hospital, a resident in a lockdown nursing home, a nurse, physician, or technicians, one doesn’t always enjoy a good night’s rest, wondering, worrying.

Also, the loss of income to many workers has stretched their resources beyond their means.  When businesses are locked down, real people are home paying bills and buying groceries, with no idea when they will go back to work and bring home a paycheck.   People who have worked hard all their lives to open a small retail store are now paying bills with no income.

Then there is also violence, looting, and confrontations on our streets.  This has been one of the most active hurricane seasons in decades.  Wildfires have left thousands of people homeless.  Terrorism and military posturing have not taken vacations.

People wonder: “where is God in all of this?  If God is so loving and merciful, why are so many people suffering?  Does prayer really produce results?”  Some are angry at God.  They feel abandoned.

Given the picture of the world today, it is very natural to question one’s faith.  God does not get angry because we doubt, or because we are angry at Him.

We find answers to our questions of faith when we reflect on the lives of men and women of faith such as: Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe who died in a concentration camp to save the life a family man; Saint Teresa of Calcutta who left home at the age of 18 to become a missionary in one of the poorest countries in the world. 

Then there are spouses and parents such as Saint Gianna Beretta Molla who chose to give her life rather than abort her preborn child.  She delivered this child and died shortly after. 

Speaking of people with strong faith, I can never forget what the Blessed Mother said to Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, as she lay, dying of very painful bone disease, at the age of 35: 

I cannot promise you happiness in this life, only in the next.

Christ never promised us that life in this world was going to be painless.  As we enter the Christmas Season, we must meditate on the fact that the Son of God was born with a price on His head.  Herod was looking to kill the little boy.  His parents had to flee with Him into Egypt.  Despite the threat of infanticide and later execution on a cross, God chose to be born into a world that offered Him no exemption from suffering and loss.

God chose to be born into a world filled with suffering and loss of many kinds.  He navigated through this world always remembering that nothing is impossible for the Father.  Let us never forget that God brought light into the world at a stable in Bethlehem and later at the resurrection from the dead. 

Christmas is a commemoration of the time when God broke into the darkness of humanity to bring the light of faith, hope and charity.  It is also a time of anticipation.  Christ promised that He would return to judge the living and the dead.  He will return to shed light on our sins and our acts of love.

Christ said the greatest act of love man can do is to lay down his life for his neighbor.

The chaos, fear, conflicts, and confusion that we’re experiencing can be moments of light if we reach out to those who suffer.  We don’t have to give them anything. The shepherds who went to the manger to see the divine infant didn’t come bearing gifts.  They were poor themselves.  But they brought the greatest gift of all: support, love, and companionship to a young family in trouble.

Catholics in Crisis or Crisis among Catholics


During the last 75 years a seed has been planted and nurtured that has confused many Catholics, disappointed others, and persuaded others that much must change within the Catholic Church.  The intensity of the confusion has increased since the closing of the second Vatican council, approximately fifty-years ago.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds us: “For even as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . For the body is not one member, but many,” (1Cor 12:12-13a, 14).

The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ; but it’s also a human body. “Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.” (1 Cor 12:27).  The body of Christ is free of any stain.  It is perfect in every sense. There is nothing that man can do to soil Christ’s body.

Saint Paul also tells us that we are individual members of that same body, just as the different members, organs, and systems are individual parts of the human body.  Millions of people suffer from different conditions. For some there is a cure and there are other conditions that can only be stabilized until such time as someone discovers a cure.  People suffer from malnutrition or obesity; these are conditions that can be remedied with proper nutrition and exercise. 

Others suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, COPD, cancer, brain damage and many other conditions for which we have yet to find a cure.  But do we deny the child with juvenile diabetes education, the opportunity to engage in sports, to have friends and to be part of a family and community? Diabetes is the product of a deficient pancreas.  It is not an indicator of a deficient person.

Senior citizens in our families often suffer from hypertension.  High blood pressure does not stop them from being loving parents and grandparents or from making significant contributions in life.  The same is true for many other conditions. A dysfunctional organ is not a sign of a deficient body. The essential value of the body is not lost because of a health problem or disability.

The same is true of the Body of Christ.  Individually, we are organs and systems in in His body.  Just as the human body does not lose its value and dignity because of a health problem, so too the Body of Christ does not loose its sanctity and essence because some organs are flawed.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Christ is greater than the sum of those who make up His Mystical Body, even when some or many are malfunctioning.

Even though there is a lot of misinformation about the Faith and there is an attempt by some to modify the Faith of the Mystical Body so as to make it more palatable to the world and to people of other faiths, the glory and sanctity of Christ’s body is not affected.  The individual parts that make up the body are confused, heretical, misinformed, incompetent, or afraid to stand up for truth.

However, Christ’s Body, the Church, is not confused, heretical, misinformed, incompetent, or afraid the proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Sometimes, it may seem that the Church has lost its essence, which is its sanctity and connection to the head, which is Christ himself. Such a feeling must be dealt with as we deal with biological, physiological, and psychological challenges.

We should never ignore the malfunctioning parts of the body.  On the contrary, we must try to compensate for the dysfunctions of the members of Christ’s body by standing up for the truth, living our Faith as it has been handed down to us from the apostles.  Believing that which has been revealed by God, rather than believing the novelties that men try to claim are of divine inspiration.

Archbishop Charles Chaput once said that confusion is the work of the devil, not the work of the Holy Spirit.  These words are true. That which comes from the Holy Spirit sheds light on our Faith, strengthens us in the Faith, makes clear waters that seemed cloudy.

Anything that contradicts the Faith that has been handed down to us by the Apostles, anything that confuses the faithful rather than shed light in our lives, and anything that introduces something new to the dogmas of the Church, does not come from the Holy Spirit.  At best, it comes from man and, at worst, it comes from Satan himself.

Satan is the great accuser.  But he can only accuse us of our weaknesses.  He does everything in his power to confuse and misguide the believer to cause him to fall so that he may accuse him at the final judgment.  Often, he uses those who should be the pillars of the Faith to misguide us. Let us always remember that popes, bishops, priests and religious are products of their origins, formation, and experiences.  They can make mistakes, even with the best intentions. Only when the pope invokes infallibility does he decree and define free of error. These are not everyday occurrences.

We must always be respectful and helpful.  To complain without helping to make right that which is wrong is just aggravating a situation.  To ridicule, speak badly about a member of the hierarchy, or point fingers, only triggers anger and destroys trust.  The devil loves these kinds of self-righteous protestations.

Do not follow what is inconsistent with the Faith, but do not do harm either. 

There are many ways that one can defend the Faith without becoming a pawn of the devil.  He loves confused Catholics and never stops adding to the confusion. But we have a free will, free intellect, and the fullness of truth.  The only way that we can lose is if we give up our freedom and ignore the truth handed down to us for more than two thousand years.

Published in: on February 11, 2020 at 11:20 AM  Leave a Comment  

A FRANCISCAN CONTEMPLATES ON THE CHRISTMAS CRECHE


[Versión en Español]

advent2016d

Dear Family:

As the Christmas season quickly approaches, I felt that I should publish an uplifting blog post on the meaning of Christmas and so forth.  The more that I thought about it, the fewer words came to mind.  I guess that much of what I can say about Christmas has been said much more eloquently. It’s difficult to come up with something different.   So, I thought I’d share a theology through history; which I learned from St. Augustine and Joseph Ratzinger.

For those who don’t No automatic alt text available.know, the first recorded Christmas crèche was created by St. Francis of Assisi, after his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Some historians place this around the year 1223.  For 794 years the Franciscan family has represented the nativity scene, as St. Francis understood it.

This is important.  His point of reference was what he saw in the Holy Land, what he read in Sacred Scripture and the description that was handed down by oral tradition.  This does not mean that that st josephFrancis’ representation of the Nativity is wrong.  On the contrary, it is the most reliable representation of the birth of Christ, because St. Francis pulled from several sources, including what he saw with his own eyes in the Holy Land.  The more input one has into an event, the more points of consistency and the more differences between the narratives.  Let’s be careful!  We’re talking about differences in the narratives, not contradictions.  None of the narratives of Christ’s birth contradicts the other.  Each contains a piece of information that is not mentioned in another source:  biblical, oral tradition or art.  They fit together like pieces of a puzzle. This makes St. Francis’ representation of the Nativity one of the most reliable in history.  He combined all of the sources that he knew, filling in the blanks in one source, with information from another source.  One may ask himself, “Why is Brother telling us this?”

WP_20151220_001Every year, churches and homes display the nativity using different artistic mediums.  Unfortunately, some displays, even though they are beautiful, include elements that are not historical, such as Santa venerating the newborn Messiah or little towns, complete with trains.  Even more common, is the addition of snow or the figures of the Magi venerating the newborn King.

When St. Francis recreated the first crèche he did it for some very solid spiritual and devotional reasons.

Joseph fatherhoodFirst:  It was virtually impossible for Christians to enter the Holy Land on pilgrimage to the important sites in our salvation history.  Many Christians had forgotten parts of the Christmas story and some people had added or deleted from the original story.

Second:  Many Europeans were illiterate.  The few that could read often lacked enough proficiency in Greek and Latin need to understand Sacred Scripture.  These contributed to the birth of myths about the Nativity.  When one replaces fact with imagination, one runs the risk of misunderstanding what God is revealing about himself.  Francis’ live representation of the Nativity as he learned from personal experience and the various sources helped him, his brothers and the world to see the wonder of Christmas, in all its purity, simplicity, humility and clarity.

Third:  St. Francis lets us see that the Son of God came into the world as a real human being from a human womb and “took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men”, except sin, [those men being the peasant shepherd who spent nights caring for the master’s sheep in caveCatholic, Christ, Christian, Churchs and huts unfit for a king].  From the moment that the Second Person of the Trinity broke into human history, he entered the world as a peasant who shared the lot of shepherds.  It’s important to remember that the shepherds worked for someone else. They did not own the sheep.  Jesus clearly reminded us that he had come to do the will of the One who sent him, not his will and that he is the Good Shepherd, meaning that he doesn’t own the sheep.  The Father owns the sheep.  We belong to the Father.

Fourth: The Son of the Father takes on a second nature, human nature.  He becomes the Son of Man, without forfeiting his divine nature as the second person of the most Holy Trinity.  When we look at the infant in the crèche, like St. Francis, we must let our eyes, hearts and minds focus on what we see, not on the beauty of the figures and the display, but on the more sublime beauty. From the fall of Adam, God planned to send one who would crush the head of Evil.  Because man exists in time and space, the first covenant was to be fulfilled in time and space.

When St. Francis created the first live Nativity scene outside of Palestine his intention was as simple as it was deep.  We must look at the nativity scene and go past the beautiful image of the Baby Jesus.  Let us contemplate on the mystery of our redemption.  God becomes a human peasant to show us the true meaning of humility before God Image may contain: 1 personand man.  Unless we are born again as servants, instead of masters, we shall not find Christ among us.

Jesus was conceived in an obscure village in Judea, was born away from his parental home, in Bethlehem instead of Nazareth, or Jerusalem where the Hebrew kings were traditionally born and raised.   He enters Jerusalem as a king to be executed as a common criminal between thieves.

Are we willing and ready to serve and guide the common man of today, as Jesus was, when he broke into human history?

May all of our family, friends, and brothers have a Christmas that transcends beyond the world that we know and reaches for the Star that approaches from the East.

Br. Jay and the Franciscans of Life

Published in: on December 20, 2017 at 10:54 AM  Leave a Comment  

THE WITNESS OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE


Statue at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish, sculpted by Sr. Margaret Beaudette, S.C. – (c) Jim Davis, Florida Catholic

Those who have heard the name Maximilian Kolbe, immediately remember the friar who gave his life in Auschwitz.  He took the place of an innocent man whom the Nazis wanted to execute as an “example” to others of what happens when prisoners escape.  Nazi logic is as dull as the edge of a butter knife.

They believed that a prisoner had escaped, because they could not find him.  They decided to make an example to discourage escaping; but their victim was an innocent man who had not attempted escape.

Maximilian contemplated this insane scenario.  Insane, because there was no logic to the proposed execution. This irrational sentencing to death of an innocent man was unlikely to discourage any further attempts to escape.  On the contrary, it had the potential to encourage more attempts.  Those present understood that their chances of survival were probably greater if they tried to escape.  If they did get caught and killed by the guards, their death had some meaning.  To be executed to deter further attempts to escape, when one had never attempted to do so, was irrational.

The man whom they chose to execute was a husband and a father.  He cried, not for his life, but for that of his family.  An intact family would soon be deprived of its father, because a group of men with no moral conscience, no sensitivity and no respect for human life were about “console” their wounded pride, because they failed to capture the escaped convict.  The execution of this innocent man was really a ruthless act to appease their disturbed pride.

“Jesus stepped forward… ‘I am he…let these go’ ” (Jn 18)

God had graced Maximilian with intelligence, a conscience, courage, love for all men, a spirit of detachment from all things of this world, and an unwavering trust in the Immaculate.  The Holy Spirit energized the graces that the Father had poured into Maximilian through the cross of His son.  There was no need for time to consider the consequences. Maximilian stepped forward and volunteered to replace the innocent husband and father.

This is God’s moment of glory in the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, for all to see.  In an instant that required no time and no consideration of the facts, the power of grace, as strong as the wind of a hurricane and burning like flairs from the sun jolted Maximilian.  The rest was up to his will.  He could choose to ignore grace or surrender to the supremacy and wonder of God, knowing that his earthly life was about to come to a cruel and unjustifiable end; but a new life was about to begin.

Maximilian freely chose martyrdom.  But martyrdom is not the choice of a godless man.  God offers martyrdom to those who have lived their lives in His grace and are spiritually solid enough to tolerate martyrdom. They love as they have been loved.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1) – Foto (c) ANSA

We honor Maximilian Kolbe and we look to him as a model, not as a hero who gave his life for another man.  Such heroism happens more often than we think.  But Maximilian’s choice was much more than an impulse to protect a life.  Maximilian’s choice was free cooperation with the Love who had loved him first.

Unless we are aware of the presence of the Beloved in our lives and return love for love, we will never have the courage to freely lay down our lives for pure love.

Such courage comes from grace that is not merited by man, but freely offered by God to some souls.  The soul becomes aware of the rule of grace. At the right moment in time, that soul freely and lovingly places itself under the shield of grace and accepts martyrdom.  For this, man must live in the presence of Christ.  Always linked to him through the Immaculate.

“The conflict with hell cannot be engaged by men…the Immaculate alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan. Assumed into Heaven, the Mother of God now requires our cooperation. She seeks souls who will consecrate themselves entirely to her, wh o will become in her hands effective instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spreading of the Kingdom of God upon Earth.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe. [drawing (c) Franciscans of Life]

Saint Clare and the Monstrance


ST CLAREOne the 11th of August, the Church remembers St. Clare of Assisi, the first woman to follow Francis of Assisi.  We consider her the spiritual mother of the Franciscan family.

We picture St. Clare holding a monstrance.  The reason being that when Assisi was under siege, St. Clare protected her monastery from the invaders by holding up the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament.  St. Clare never saw a monstrance.  The first monstrance does not appear until the 16th century.  Clare lived during the 13th century.

But this story tells us a great deal about this woman and about her strong Eucharistic Spirituality.  This event, her writings and her long hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from her sickbed, through a small window that allowed her to see the tabernacle in the monastery chapel, reveal a woman in love with Jesus Christ and to whom Christ was a real person physically present.

We’re often pensive about our favorite athlete, artist, actor, musician, political figure or even a friend or family member.  They are present in our mind, even if we never meet them.

Julian_Corpus_Christi

Digital Artist – Julian Rivera

For information on how to acquire a copy of this beautiful poster, contact us at franciscansoflife@gmail.com

Jesus, on the other hand, is often forgotten, even by Catholics who believe that he is physically, substantially and spiritually present in the Holy Eucharist.  The Apostles handed down to us what they received from Jesus himself, his body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine, but truly different from bread and wine in substance.  The substance of what we see is Christ, alive and physically present.  In every tabernacle around the world, Jesus Christ is physically and wholly present.  Clare knew this.

St. Francis of Assisi often said that he saw nothing of the physical presence of Christ, in this world, except in the Eucharist.  He reminded his sons and daughters to adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament francis and clareand to behave with grave reverence in the presence of a tabernacle.

We don’t know at what point in her life Clare’s faith in the true and proximate presence of Christ matured.  We know that she paid close attention to everything that Francis taught.  Francis’ admonitions regarding the awe that is due to the Blessed Sacrament and the unquestioning conviction that Christ is with us at all times and in all places, were not lost on Clare.

Many may ask, what did Clare achieve? Clare entered the Monastery of San Damiano at the age of 18 and never left it, not even upon her death.  Her body is still there.

Clare was not the foundress of great works of charity, education or a spiritual teacher as were Catherine, Teresa of Avila, Hildegard, and Therese.  However, she left us something that many Catholics overlook.

She left us an example of faith in the physical presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  She of one who, like the Virgin Mary, has no doubts about God’s promises.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live,  (Jn 14:18-19).

CHALICE 2

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

The life of Clare of Assisi challenges every Catholic to seek Christ in their lives, in the Holy Eucharist and everywhere.  When we can’t go to Christ, he comes to us.  We must make him the first love of our lives.

Everyone we love, we love because God loved us first.  Without Christ’s love, spouses wouldn’t love each other, parents and children would be simply housemates, and siblings may or may not be friends.   I can love because, Jesus Christ, who is Love made flesh, is closer than my deepest thoughts. His love for me pours out to others.

Clare understood this and shared it with the world.  It’s her legacy to the Church of her time and to the Church today.  In her letters to St. Agnes of Prague, a nun of her order, Clare wrote

Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in this world for Him.  And then, Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!  Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!  Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance.

12313767_1724552867778905_4437807418574257125_n

Today, it seems that taking life is easier and requires less moral reflection than bringing a life into the world.  We have forgotten the sanctity of life; but God never forgets.  His

divine nature co-exists with human nature in Jesus Christ, ever present among us.  Let us look upon him and place our desires and needs in his divine substance.

As we continue our mission to proclaim the Gospel of Life, we must always remember Jesus.  The Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity became human, died, rose from the dead and remains with us.   Like Clare, trust Him to defeat every form of evil.

 

Divine Mercy Sunday – Remember Me


As we approach the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, it is important that we understand what the Lord Jesus meant when he spoke about mercy, in the Scriptures and to Sister Faustina.

There are some very conservative Catholics within the Traditionalist community who do not trust Sister Faustina’s visions and dialogue with Jesus.  At the other extreme, many Catholics focus solely on the humanitarian dimension of the Gospel and on the hot button issues of today; these Catholics have watered down God’s Mercy.  They have interpreted God’s mercy to mean the same as “good works”.  Neither group leaves room for God to be God.  God must do and speak according to a script as they conceive it.  In the end, both groups deny God’s freedom.

The extreme conservative asks for a reason behind Mercy Sunday.  After all, we have the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  The other extreme likes Divine Mercy Sunday, because it’s new and because it says what they want it to say about good works and it affirms their presumption of God’s forgiveness and mercy; so, they believe.

Original “Divine Mercy” painting prepared under the guidance of Sr. Faustina and her Spiritual Director

The truth is that God’s mercy is infinite and available to anyone who asks for it.  The infinity of God’s mercy should comfort us.  God’s mercy is infinitely greater than his creation.  Man is his crown jewel and we know that God is infinitely greater than man.  Sin is of man’s doing, not God’s doing.  Since it is man who sins, then man is superior to sin or greater than sin.  This greatness does not relieve him of his responsibility.  On the contrary, it points to man’s sinful will and his obligation to atone and ask for mercy.

God’s mercy is infinite.  Man is God’s creation.  God is infinitely greater than man.  Sin is man’s creation.  Man is greater than sin.  If God is infinitely greater than man, then he is infinitely greater than sin.  The only sin that God cannot forgive is the one that we believe surpasses God’s power to forgive.  Such a mindset places the supremacy of sin over the breadth and scope of God’s mercy.  Believing that this is the case, the sinner fails to confess his sin, express contrition and ask for forgiveness.

First painting of the Sacred Heart (1780, Batoni), disapproved by Congregation of Rites. The Sacred Heart was first depicted alone. The Congregation of Rites approved these for private devotion, but required the visible figure of the Heart represented externally on the breast of Our Lord for public exposition and veneration.

To benefit from God’s mercy, man must have something to offer in exchange.  He offers contrition and a resolve not to sin again. Some will say, “I know that I’m going to fall again.  I’m human,” or “I have an addiction to a certain sinful behavior.”  This is not the time to worry about this.  We must focus on the present moment and surrender ourselves to God as we are.  We are sinners.  We are contrite and willing to do penance.  We ask for absolution, particularly in the confessional.  From that moment, we are free of sin.

We must never live recklessly, but we must not live in fear of the “next time I sin.”  The more we worry about the next time, the more likely we are to fall sooner.  The enemy has a way of taking advantage of our fears and using them against us, to the point that what we believe to be moral caution is a temptation; because our minds are not free of a particular sin.  We must place ourselves in the hands of the Immaculate and go forward, doing whatever he asks us to do in the present moment.

Not only is God’s mercy infinite, but it is always available.  God never tires of forgiving us.  It is we who tire of begging for forgiveness.  Let us take the example of the “good thief”.  At the eleventh hour he said to Jesus, Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  The first two words say it all.  “Remember me”.  He believed in Christ’s mercy, even though he was about to die and no time to atone for his sins.

Painting of Christ and St. Dismas, the “Good Thief” – unknown author

Why does he request that Christ remember him?  Because deep in his heart he knows that Christ’s mercy is available for the asking, even when Christ himself was about to breathe his last dying breath.  Christ was on the cross to save the world, not to condemn it.  The Cross is the greatest sign of God’s mercy.

Only the perfect man can offer the perfect act of atonement for humanity’s sins.  Human parents could not conceive a perfect son.  However, God the Holy Spirit and Mary of Nazareth can and did do conceive such a perfect son.  He is Jesus Christ, the God-Man, the incarnation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  Out of mercy, God becomes man.  From his side, he poured blood and water, his humanity and his divinity, poured out of mercy for us.  It was not for his benefit.  Who in human history, besides the Immaculate Conception, has no need to appeal to God’s mercy?

Divine Mercy Sunday is neither a feel-good day for our acts of charity and compassion for our neighbor; nor is it a replacement for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  Mercy Sunday reminds us that we can trust Jesus, because he poured himself on the cross out of mercy for us and to prove the veracity of his sacrifice, he rose on the third day.  On Mercy Sunday, it is Jesus who speaks the words of the good thief, “Remember me.”  To which we respond, “Jesus I trust you.”

Depiction of the Sacred Heart attributed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (c. 1685).

At the Foot of the Cross with Our Mother


If we believe what we pray and we pray according to our belief, is it reasonable to imagine that at the hour of our death, or that of a loved one, Mary will remain silent?  Is it reasonable to think that she will not intercede for every soul as it leaves the body?  Is it even imaginable to think that she is far away from any of us?

Holy Mary,

Mother of God,

Pray for us, sinners,

NOW,

And at the hour of our death.

Amen!

The idea that the Mother of God would ignore our prayer for the soul of a loved one and for our own is irrational.

It is reasonable to feel the pain of loss that Mary felt watching her son die on the cross.  Who can watch a son or daughter die and not feel as if the heart is being ripped out of her?  “Many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:35).

The Immaculate Mother of God was not spared the pain of loss.  However, she chose to hurt and trust at the same time.“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word,” (Luke 1:38).

The Sacred Scripture never says that the Blessed Virgin Mary didn’t suffer.

And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold your father and I have sought you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48).

Feeling concern and anxiety for a loved one does not have to conflict with the Faith.  Suffering, for oneself or a loved one, is the most noble sign of our humanity.  Only the man who reaching his full stature as a human being can suffer for another and trust that Christ will always respond to his mother’s intercession.

“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them (Luke 2:51).

 “When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’

 His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’   Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’

 And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So, they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew),” (John 2:3-9).

With a single sentence, the Immaculate convinces her compassionate Son.

It is important to remember that the “reception” at a Jewish wedding lasted an entire week.  Mary intercedes when they have run out of wine.  They had been drinking for a while, maybe more than a day.

If the Immaculate can open the door to her son’s heart for people who were drinking, having fun, and probably not paying much attention to Him, we can rest in the certainty that she has the key to the Sacred Heart of Christ.  No one who asks her to “pray for us sinners” will be denied her intercession.  Our Lord Jesus Christ will always hear his mother’s prayers and do whatever is for the greater glory of his Father and the salvation of souls.

Those who have not spoken to the Immaculate in a very long time (or never) can always begin today.  She is the mother with the Immaculate Heart.  She forgives!  She understands human weakness.  She has seen man’s lack of faith for centuries.  And she has been a witness to man’s greatest acts of cruelty and injustice.  Despite this, Mary allows us to take her into our very human homes, as sinful as they may be.

She needed only the word from her Son to crush the head of the Serpent that haunts us all. From that moment forward, she remains in our home as Mother.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home”(John 19:26-27).

The Immaculate Mother whom we contemplate at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday, is our Sorrowful Mother.  Her sorrow is caused by the sins that her Son must carry on his back and the penance that he must do purely out of love, not because he was guilty of any fault of his own.

There is a difference between a sorrowful mother and a pitiful mother.  The latter is one for whom we feel sorrow because she’s an imperfect and perhaps a mother who has not owned her maternity. Mary, on the other hand, is the mother who feels the pain of sin inflicted on her innocent Son.  She feels the weight of man’s sinfulness.  She experiences great sorrow, not for herself, but for the sinner redeemed by the suffering servant that she brought into the world.

There is no room in her Immaculate Heart for anything else than love, crushed by sorrow but never extinguished.  This makes it possible for her to enter our homes as Mother and mediate for us the graces that her Son earned through His most sorrowful Passion, till we reach that perfection of charity which is the perfect fulfillment of Our Lady’s one and only commandment: “Do whatever He tells you”. Let us make this our meditation as the Holy Week begins.


O Mary, conceived without sin,

pray for us that have recourse to you,

and for all those who do not have recourse to you,

especially the enemies of holy Church

and those recommended to you“.

-Prayer of the Knights of the Immaculate

David and John


How-The-Human-Nervous-System-WorksDuring Lent, many of us agonize over what we should sacrifice during this holy period in preparation for the celebration of Easter.  Chocolate seems to be the most common “expiatory lamb.”

I’ve always wondered how giving up chocolate is a real penance.  I realize that for some people, chocolate is addictive, as is smoking for others.  But is the idea of penance to make ourselves miserable for misery’s sake or is the idea of penance to offer God something in atonement for our sins?

If we look at the Old Testament, David dressed in sackcloth and ashes as a sign of atonement and

paris_psaulter_gr139_fol136v

NATHAN REBUKING DAVID FOR HIS SIN

was excoriated by Nathan.  But it was a sign.  His atonement included much more than making a fashion statement.  David fasted.  He dealt more justly with his people, especially those whom he had offended.  He offered the animal sacrifice prescribed in the law.  Above all, he prayed.  Many of the psalms are the product of David’s intense life of penitential prayer.  David has become the model penitential man for the Jewish and Christian people.

 

Another personality that jumps out at us as a model penitent is John the Baptist.  The New Testament tells us that he came dressed in animal skins and ate bugs.  Yuck!  He preached conversion from sin.  His fight against sin cost him his head when he pointed out that Herod was living in an adulterous relationship with his sister-in-law.  David and John are still relevant penitent models.

musc3a9e_de_lille_p-_f-_de_grebber

JOHN REBUKING HEROD ANTIPAS

David teaches us that atonement for sin goes beyond, “I’m sorry.”  There are consequences that the responsibly contrite person must assume.  This was the king who walked through his kingdom in sackcloth and ashes, dressed as a pauper instead of royal robes.  This was the king who humbled himself before his people admitting that he had sinned against God and against man.  He tried to do something to make it up to both God and man.  David understood and taught that true penance must cost us something and that it should offer a gift to God and man; but it had to be a gift that came from the penitent’s heart, not from his wallet.

John, on the other hand, had no sin for which to atone.  But he knew that many people around him needed to atone for sin.  He did penance for those who didn’t do penance for themselves.   Essential to a penitent life is to bear witness to the Truth.  John proclaims,

caravaggiosalomelondon

“Behold the Lamb of God, and I must decrease so that he can increase.”  By decreasing, John, like David before him, surrenders the glory that comes from attention and admiration and directs it to God.

Our life should be an on-going Lent.  But during the Great Lent, 40 days before Easter, let us be truly sorry for our sins.  David and John are our models of penance.  We must present ourselves to the world, not in the best possible light, but as we really are, men and women who struggle with human weakness and sin, one hour at a time. True penance reaches out to those around us, especially those who are most in need of our compassion, the man and woman involved in abortion, the adolescent who is rebelling out of control, the neighbor who has lost a loved one, lost a job or is in deep financial crisis.  The person whom we fear is also worthy of our love and prayer, especially those who engage in acts of terrorism, those who molest children, or those who abuse their spouses.

In our family, there is always the one person who is the thorn in the side.  We must have the courage of

dscf1003

THE INEVITABLE THORN

John and denounce his or her sin.  But we must also have the humility of David and admit that we too are sinners. Finally, let us not forget to proclaim the Truth.  God forgives and embraces a humble man.  Humility is being who we are in the sight of God.  Nothing else.

 

Published in: on March 2, 2017 at 12:23 AM  Leave a Comment