Rebuild My House


“Saint Francis Praying before the Crucifix at San Damiano,” Giotto, c. 1295, fresco

 
Francis was asked by Jesus to rebuild His house. Francis thought it referred to the chapel of San Damiano.
 
As time passed, after Francis had rebuilt San Damiano, his emptiness and his desire for truth continued to burn in his heart. It was only when his father dragged him to be judged by the Bishop that Francis realized that the house he was meant to renew was within him.
 
Francis stripped himself of his past when he returned to his father his money and everything he was wearing. Only when we strip ourselves of the past and the present do we realize how small and insignificant we are. When we strip ourselves of attachments, prejudices, opinions, material possessions, and past dreams and desires, we become like a vacant lot of land ready for a new building, a new house, a house where God is the master.
 
To realize that God is the master, we must realize our sinfulness. Sins that only God can blot away. No matter if we have been absolved in Confession, our attachment to sin has become part of the soil where God is to build His house. The previous house has been demolished and the surface of the field is clear, but beneath the top soil are the roots of sin, which, if not acknowledged, cannot be dug out like the weeds they are. Being absolved cleanses us of the eternal punishment we deserve, but the attached roots that remain must be acknowledged and God’s help must be begged to weed them out.
 
“Without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me and I in him, he is like a branch that is thrown away”.
– Jn 15:5
 
This is the most difficult truth that Francis had to face, if he was going to be raised as a living stone in Christ’s Church. It’s the lesson that Francis leaves for his followers. Live aware of the roots of sin in you, also remain aware of Christ’s presence through whom all things are possible.
 

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Mt 19:26

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” – Ps 118:22

 

“Nothing is impossible for God” (Lk 1:37). He is more powerful and closer to us than the roots of sin. When we 

see our nakedness, where the only thing left are the roots of sin, God is closer than those roots. Unlike the roots of sin, God is alive.

May the Immaculate always light our empty lot so that we may see our attachments to sin and her living Son always willing to clear the ground and help us build his house.


 

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A Rose is Not Without Thorns


St. Maximilian Kolbe once wrote:
Love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving. Without sacrifice, there is no love.

Today we celebrate someone whose short life was an embodiment of these words: St. Rose of Lima.

Born Isabel Flores in 1586 in Lima (Peru), she felt called by God from a very young age, consecrating herself to Him at the age of 10 and practicing great austerities which she offered as redemptive suffering. She wore a thick circlet of silver on her head which, unbeknownst to others, was studded on the inside like a crown of thorns.

Forensic reconstruction of the face of St. Rose (2015). Click for details.

She received Confirmation by St. Turibius with the name “Rose of St. Mary”, thus consecrating the nickname she bore from childhood. She bravely opposed her parents’ wishes in order to give herself entirely to Christ. With the eccentricity typical of many saints, she rejected the admiration of her beauty by cutting her hair and rubbing her face with pepper to produce disfiguring blotches.

Forbidden by her parents to become a nun, she imitated her model (St. Catherine of Siena) and joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. She then built and lived in a hermitage in the garden of the family home. A great penitent and mystic, she only left her hermitage to attend Church or to serve the needy – particularly the indios who suffered great discrimination.
In time, she set up a room in the family house where she cared for homeless children, the elderly, and the sick. She would say:

<<When we serve the poor and the sick we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus.>>

St. Rosa in her hermitage, source of engraving unknown. (Click for more)

On top of her penances and illnesses, she was often tormented by the devil, but she received reassurance by another Third Order Dominican from Lima: St. Martin de Porres. When someone brought her to the attention of Inquisition interrogators, they quickly affirmed that she was under the influence of divine grace. She had many visions of divine origin, including one in which the Lord called her “Rose of my heart“. She deeply and sincerely loved Christ, and once wrote:
<<Without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. The gift of grace increases as the struggle increases. Apart from the Cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to Heaven.>>
In 1614, severely ill, she was forced by her family to relocate to the house of a devout family who tended to her care (currently, her Monastery stands in this place). There she died 3 years later, aged 31. Her holiness was so well-known, that such crowds gathered as to cause her funeral to be delayed by several days. She was privately buried in the cloister of the Church of St. Dominic at her own request.

St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres – author unknown

She was beatified in 1668 and canonized only 3 years later. She was proclaimed the Primary Patron of the New World, and was celebrated as the first canonized saint of the Americas.


 

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Published in: on August 23, 2022 at 2:05 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Joy of Heaven has entered Paradise!


Today we celebrate the glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God! Our Eastern brethren refer to this historical event as the Dormition of the Theotokos.

What a solemn moment in the history of humanity and in the economy of salvation! “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory“! (“Munificentissimus Deus“)

Humanity joins angelic choirs in singing with you:

<<O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?>>

1Cor 15:55

This was fitting, for Our Lady alone, “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin“. (“Ineffabilis Deus”, IT EN)

Of both historical events Our Lady herself gives witness when, appearing to little Bernadette (St. Marie-Bernard), identifies Herself with the words:

<<Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou!>>

[an official source here]

These words, this identity, becomes so near and dear to the heart of that great lover of God and knight of the Immaculate, Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, that he would write:

“It is a question of drawing nearer to [the Immaculata] through the will, of letting our wills become one with hers, just as her will is united in a most perfect way with the will of God. Beyond this nothing else is necessary. Let us intensify continuously, every day, every instant, our love for the Immaculata, and let us do our best so that others may love her as we do and even more than we do.”

KW 1212-1213

Indeed, Lord Jesus Christ, we praise and glorify you with the words of St. Ephraem:

“Certainly you alone and your Mother are from every aspect completely beautiful, for there is no blemish in you, my Lord, and no stain in your Mother”.

Hymn. B. Maria 13:5-6 (quoted by Rev. Matthew Mauriello in the Fairfield County Catholic on January 1996, in turn quoted here).

Truly St. Germanus wrote well when he wrote about the Immaculate:

“You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life”

 In Sanctae Dei Genetricis Dormitionem, Sermo I (quoted in Munificentissimus Deus)

“It was fitting” – writes St. John Damascene – that

“she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”

Encomium in Dormitionem Dei Genetricis Semperque Virginis Mariae, Hom. II, n. 14 (quoted in Munificentissimus Deus)

Holy Mother Church has traditionally ascribed the chant of Psalm 44:11-12,14 to the Holy Mass for the Assumption:

<<Hear, O daughter, and see;
turn your ear; for the King shall desire your beauty.
All glorious is the King’s daughter as she enters;
her raiment is threaded with spun gold. Alleluia, alleluia!>>
“Mary is taken up into Heaven:
the choirs of the angels rejoice! Alleluia!”

Audi, filia, et vide(courtesy of Corpus Christi Watershed)

There also exists a solemn Preface to the Blessed Virgin Mary that was traditionally chanted on this Solemnity, and is still occasionally used (known as “Preface I of the Blessed Virgin Mary” in the current editio typica of the Roman Missal):

It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father,
almighty and eternal God,
and to praise, bless, and glorify your name
on [the Assumption] of the Blessed ever-Virgin Mary

For by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit
she conceived your Only Begotten Son,
and without losing the glory of virginity,
brought forth into the world the eternal Light,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Through him the Angels praise your majesty,
Dominions adore and Powers tremble before you.
Heaven and the Virtues of heaven
and the blessed Seraphim
worship together with exultation.
May our voices, we pray,
join with theirs in humble praise, as we acclaim:

[Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts…]

Preface of the Blessed Virgin Mary (chanted in Latin by H.E. Archbishop Alexander Sample at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in 2018 )

Our Eastern brothers have some beautiful prayers and chants “remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary” that testify, if not directly at least indirectly, to this “day of joy” on which “mors stupebit et natura” in observing a human being rise in body and soul to the glory of Heaven… For lack of time and space, we shall only quote a couple:

<<It is truly proper to glorify you,
O Theotokos!
The ever blessed, Immaculate,
and the Mother of our God!

More honorable than the Cherubim,
and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim!
Who, a virgin, gave birth to God the Word!
You, truly the Theotokos,
we magnify!>>

Axion Estin (performed at St. Basil the Great Catholic Church)

<<Beneath your compassion we take refuge
o Virgin Theotokos!
Despise not our prayers in our need
but deliver us from danger,
for you alone are pure….
for you alone are pure…
for you alone are pure and blessed!>>

Beneath your compassion(performed at St. Basil the Great Catholic Church)

Let us rejoice and fully entrust Holy Mother Church, our souls, and the entirety of creation to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and, as St. Maximilian Kolbe reminds, us, “a loving mother [to whom God] entrusted the whole economy of mercy….. He made her so good that she is unable to abandon even the worst of sinners who has recourse to God’s Infinite Heart (KW 1248).

<<Arise, O Lord, into your resting place:

you and the ark, which you have sanctified>>

– Psalm 132

<<My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant!

[A]ll generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name!>>

– the Magnificat

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In My Father’s House There Are Many Mansions


We are now in November (where has the year gone??) and, as usual, we dedicate special prayers and penance for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. This year, Holy Mother Church graciously extends the related indulgences through November, just as it was done last year, for similar reasons. One of our brothers found out via the FSSP newsletter, and we gladly share here the good news. Please see below the details!

For those who want to understand the topic of indulgences a bit more, we suggest going over the relevant portions of our article on the Portiuncula Indulgence.

For those who don’t mind a bit more of reading, here is a link to a 7-page reflection, based on Sacred Scripture, on All Souls Day and All Saints Day, written by one of the brothers: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zGlBpOZPVp10OMppYT2lHk9_x2YQHopp/view?usp=sharing

click to zoom

Some details from the extended 2020 decree:
“a.- the Plenary Indulgence for those who visit a cemetery and pray for the deceased, even if only mentally, normally established only on the individual days from 1 to 8 November, may be transferred to other days of the same month, until its end. These days, freely chosen by the individual believers, may also be separate from each other;
b- the Plenary Indulgence of 2 November, established on the occasion of the Commemoration of all the deceased faithful for those who piously visit a church or oratory and recite the “Our Father” and the “Creed” there, may be transferred not only to the Sunday before or after or on the day of the Solemnity of All Saints, but also to another day of the month of November, freely chosen by the individual faithful.
The elderly, the sick and all those who for serious reasons cannot leave their homes […] will be able to obtain the Plenary Indulgence as long as they join spiritually with all the other faithful, completely detached from sin and with the intention of complying as soon as possible with the three usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), before an image of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary, recite pious prayers for the deceased, for example, Lauds and Vespers of the Office of the Dead, the Marian Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, other prayers for the deceased dearest to the faithful, or occupy themselves in considered reading of one of the Gospel passages proposed by the liturgy of the deceased, or perform a work of mercy by offering to God the sorrows and hardships of their own lives.
Finally, since the souls in Purgatory are assisted by the prayers of the faithful and especially by the sacrifice of the Altar to God (cf. Conc. Tr. Sess. XXV, decr. De Purgatorio), all priests are strongly invited to celebrate Holy Mass three times on the day of the Commemoration of all the deceased faithful, in accordance with the Apostolic Constitution “Incruentum Altaris“, issued by Pope Benedict XV, of venerable memory, on 10 August 1915.”
Below are some prayers from the Liturgy for the Saints and for the Holy Souls!

click to see full size

It Seems Fitting!


We have observed in the span of a few days, some major celebrations, namely the feast of our patron Saint Maximilian Kolbe OFM Conv., confessor and martyr, and the great Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady!

The fact that St. Max was martyred on the vigil of the Assumption and his body cremated in the ovens of Auschwitz is no coincidence. He spent his existence at the service of his Queen, striving to earn the two spiritual crowns She had offered him when just a boy – purity and martyrdom – and he once wrote to his brothers:

Would that my ashes might be scattered to the four winds in order to bring Jesus to souls, to bring to them the cause of His Mother and our Mary!

We invite you to read more about St. Max on our blog as well as on St. Max’s Parish website, but in this article we’d like to highlight the glory that is the Assumption (known in some places as the Dormition) of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Had you attended the 11 AM Mass this morning at St. Max, you’d have heard a wonderful theological sermon on the subject by our good friend and “out of the ordinary” preacher, Dcn. Pierre. You were right – I should have taken notes!

We will however do our best to celebrate the momentous occurrence with a few words.

Fr. Ludwig Ott wrote in his eminent work on Dogmatic Theology, “it seems fitting that Mary’s body, which was by nature mortal, should be, in conformity with that of her Divine Son, subject to the general law of death…” and, on that same note, St. John Damascene wrote:

It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.

“Encomium in Dormitionem Dei Genetricis Semperque Virginis Mariae, Hom. II, n. 14” (as quoted by Ven. Pius XII)

and, in a more “eastern” tone, bishop Theoteknos of Livia wrote:

It was fitting that the most holy body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinized, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory, should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in Glory, with her soul pleasing to God.

The Venerable Pius XII, who infallibly defined what the Church always believed on this matter in his Apostolic Constitution “Muneficentissimus Deus” on November 1st, 1950, also wrote in the same document:

Immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.

Such is a summary of a doctrine that was already believed and accepted by Christianity from the very beginning! Indeed Ven. Pius XII reminds us:

the liturgy of the Church does not engender the Catholic faith, but rather springs from it, in such a way that the practices of the sacred worship proceed from the faith as the fruit comes from the tree…it follows that the holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and sermons they gave the people on this feast day, did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and accepted by Christ’s faithful

It seems fitting. St. Paul makes it clear in his first letter to the Corinthians:

I delivered to you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: and that he was seen by Cephas; and after that by the eleven.

[…] if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain […] But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep […]

For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But every one in their own order: the firstfruits Christ, then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming.

Our Lord Jesus Christ never found more perfect believer in his coming that She who conceived Him in her immaculate womb, so much so that Christ Himself found it fitting to underscore this aspect of the Immaculata’s glory:

A certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: “Blessed is the womb that bore thee…” But He said: “Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it!”

Luke 11:27-28

This is emphasized in today’s Gospel readings in the words of St. Elizabeth:

How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!

This blessing, this glory, is in primis of Our Lady, the perfect disciple. In imitation of Christ, she died, was buried, rose again, and she was seen by so many witnesses (we bear in mind in a special way St. Francis, St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Bernadette…though so many from the very early days of the Church attest to Her visits and support…).

Yet, a most kind mother, and in perfect alignment with the divine economy, she wills us to be her imitators in her belief until that glorious day when we, too, will be reunited to our glorified bodies and rejoice with the angels and the saints, God willing.

What Deacon Pierre stated this morning, St. Ambrose made extremely clear in one of his own homilies:

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit after con­ceiving a son; Mary was filled before. “You are blessed,” said Elizabeth, “because you have believed.”

You too are blessed because you have heard and be­lieved. The soul of every believer conceives and brings forth the Word of God and recognizes his works. Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to glorify the Lord. Let her spirit be in each of you to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one Mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ by faith. Every soul free from contamination of sin and inviolate in its purity can receive the Word of God.

from the Little Office of the B.V.M.

Oh, Immaculata, beloved mother, who in your great sorrow consoled your Lord and Savior on the way to Calvary, rejoice and be glad, for today He in His great joy consoles you on the way to Eternity! Pray for us, your children, your servants! We are all yours, o Mary, this is our fiat to you, o Immaculata, that through your intercession we poor sinners may be made fit instruments to extend the kingdom of Christ!

Image edited by one of our brothers, based on the icon of the IV Station of the Cross at St Maximilian Kolbe Parish

“remember me, your poor mother…”


Today many Franciscan communities celebrate as a Solemnity the feast of our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, Virgin.

(holy card courtesy of the Poor Clares of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery)

Born of a noble family, she chose to follow the example of her townsman St. Francis, wishing to follow the Lord with her whole heart in an austere life of poverty, but rich in the practice of charity and loving care.

She professed vows in the hands of Saint Francis on March 18, 1212, thus founding the “second order”, whose nuns would be first known as Poor Ladies. (In her honor, in 1263 Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Poor Ladies to the Order of Saint Clare.)

St. Damiano – where Christ had deigned to speak to St. Francis – was eventually the chosen residence of their first community. St. Clare was joined by her sister Agnes and even by her own mother!

Much could be said about their spiritual relationship to the other Franciscan orders, and to how she encouraged and supported St. Francis (particularly after he received the Stigmata, whose secret he kept from all but a few…)….of her miracles…of how she protected Assisi…but perhaps she would like us to remember in particular her Franciscan devotion to holy poverty, whom Franciscan scholars point out as the foremost characteristic of her spirituality.

When Cardinal Ugolino (Pope Gregory IX) imposed the Benedictine rule on them, for years she strived to have a rule in the spirit of Saint Francis for her sisters, and her rule was approved by Pope Innocent IV two days before her death, the privilege of “highest poverty” being the final gift in this earthly life by her Divine Spouse…she died at the age of 60 on August 11, 1253.

“The Apostolic See usually acquiesces in the pious and honest wishes of those who ask that a kindly favor be given them. Therefore, beloved Daughters in the Lord, inclined to your prayers, we confirm with the same apostolic authority the Rule and way of life of your Order…”

“Solet Annuere (1245)”, Pope Innocent IV

At her funeral, Pope Innocent IV insisted the brothers perform the Office for the Virgin Saints rather than the Office for the Dead…indeed, she was formally canonized just two years later by Pope Alexander IV, who would call her “Clara claris praeclara meritis“, “a clear mirror of example”, and would say of her: “O clarity of blessed Clare to be admired!

O blessed poverty who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her!” – she would write. And to her Divine Spouse she would say: “Contempt of the world has pleased You more than honors, poverty more than earthly riches“.

She wrote several letters to St. Agnes of Prague, who was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. St. Agnes of Bohemia (as she is also known) refused marriage proposals from the kings of Germany and England, and from the Holy Roman Emperor himself – all for the sake of following in the footsteps of Christ! Her family financed the construction of a monastery in Prague, where she entered with seven other ladies in 1236. Pressured to be elected Abbess, she insisted she be called “senior sister” and often cooked for the sisters. She died on March 2nd 1282, was beatified in 1874, and was canonized in 1989. To one such letter belongs the title of this article, specifically found in today’s Office of Readings:

“Happy indeed is she who is given the grace of sharing this holy way of life, of clinging to it with every fiber of her being…behold the poverty of him who was laid in the manger…What wondrous humility! What astonishing poverty! Note the countless toils and sufferings he endured to redeem the human race…As you meditate in this way remember me, your poor mother, and know that I have inscribed your happy memory deeply on the tablets of my heart”

from a Letter of St. Clare to St. Agnes of Prague

I wish to close this post with some of today’s antiphons. They are, in themselves, a powerful summary of our Holy Mother’s life.

Clare was concerned with the things of the Lord to be holy in body and spirit……she wore and humbled her body with fasts…she accounted all else rubbish therefore she found better and more permanent possessions. She spurned the world’s perishable glory to gain Christ.

The hand of the Lord strengthened her, she will therefore be blessed forever. She cast all her care upon God. She hoped in him and he came to her assistance.

Come, let us adore Christ the king whom Clare loved with all her heart.

Proper offices of franciscan saints and blessed in the liturgy of the hours

“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