Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolutions for this new year

"To be joyful and to practice spiritual poverty. Joyful in spite of, or even because of, this prostration, discomfort, and lassitude into which my physical miseries sometimes plunge me. Serenity within, and always gentleness and smiles without, amiable when I feel bad-tempered, welcoming when I long for solitude, patient and cheerful when I feel weary and tense.

To be spiritually poor, detached from all that is purely human, and to the extent possible with the duties of my state, to practice a little [physical] poverty in what concerns me alone. Poverty of spiritual joys, of the heart, of life’s satisfactions, deprivation, abandonment.

At the same time, more tenderness of heart, more warm and supernatural affections, more sympathy for all, more compassion for those who suffer, more kindness and delicate attentiveness to my dear people. Not to repulse, scorn, or neglect anyone. Not to allow the slightest sign of bitterness or irritation.”

-- The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur by the Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur

Commemoration of St Sylvester I

"Sylvester was a Roman by birth, and his father's name was Rufinus.  During the fury of the persecutions, he hid himself upon Mount Soracte.  In his thirtieth year he was ordained Priest of the Holy Roman Church.  After the death of Melchiades, he succeeded him on the Papal throne, during the reign of Constantine, who had already by public decree proclaimed peace to the Church of Christ.  Sylvester betook himself so to stir up the Emperor to protect and propagate the religion of Christ that Constantine built many Basilicas, and magnificently adorned them.  Under this Pope was held the first Council of Nice, at which Arius was condemned ; which Council was finally confirmed by Sylvester.  After a life of holiness and tenderness towards the poor, he died in peace and was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla."

-- Biography from the 1911 Breviary (known as the St Pius X Breviary)
* Painting by Maso di Banco

"God’s Son did not disdain to become a baby. Although with the passing of the years he moved from infancy to maturity, and although with the triumph of his passion and resurrection all the actions of humility which he undertook for us were finished, still today’s festival renews for us the holy childhood of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary. In adoring the birth of our Saviour, we find we are celebrating the commencement of our own life, for the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body.
  Every individual that is called has his own place, and all the sons of the Church are separated from one another by intervals of time. Nevertheless, just as the entire body of the faithful is born in the font of baptism, crucified with Christ in his passion, raised again in his resurrection, and placed at the Father’s right hand in his ascension, so with Him are they born in this nativity.
  For this is true of any believer in whatever part of the world, that once he is reborn in Christ he abandons the old paths of his original nature and passes into a new man by being reborn. He is no longer counted as part of his earthly father’s stock but among the seed of the Saviour, who became the Son of man in order that we might have the power to be the sons of God.
  For unless He came down to us in this humiliation, no one could reach his presence by any merits of his own.
  The very greatness of the gift conferred demands of us reverence worthy of its splendour. For, as the blessed Apostle teaches, We have received not the spirit of this world but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which are given us by God. That Spirit can in no other way be rightly worshipped, except by offering him that which we received from him.
  But in the treasures of the Lord’s bounty what can we find so suitable to the honour of the present feast as the peace which at the Lord’s nativity was first proclaimed by the angel-choir?
  For it is that peace which brings forth the sons of God. That peace is the nurse of love and the mother of unity, the rest of the blessed and our eternal home. That peace has the special task of joining to God those whom it removes from the world.
  So those who are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God must offer to the Father the unanimity of peace-loving sons, and all of them, adopted parts of the mystical Body of Christ, must meet in the First-begotten of the new creation. He came to do not his own will but the will of the one who sent him; and so too the Father in his gracious favour has adopted as his heirs not those that are discordant nor those that are unlike him, but those that are one with him in feeling and in affection. Those who are re-modelled after one pattern must have a spirit like the model.
  The birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace: for thus says the Apostle, He is our peace, who made both one;because whether we are Jew or Gentile, through Him we have access in one Spirit to the Father." 

-- From a sermon by Pope St Leo the Great

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Greetings to the Child Jesus

"Hail, most loving little Jesus, sweetest love, far above all created love! I greet Thee, and in the desires of all Christendom I embrace Thee. Hail, most charming little Jesus, noble Child of Nazareth, full rose of Jericho, blooming flower from Heaven! Draw our hearts to Thyself and refresh them with Thy sweetness.

Hail, most lovable little Jesus, living Bread of Bethlehem, innocent Lamb of Jerusalem,  newly-born King of Judea! Receive us into the number of Thy chosen servants. Hail, most beautiful little Jesus, watchful Shepherd of the heavenly sheep, beloved fellow-Brother of all the children of men, delicate flower planted by the Holy Spirit in the virgin heart of Mary, bright daybreak rising out of the dark night to the joy of the whole earth!Drive away from us the darkness of sin.

Glory and praise be to Thee, tender, sweet little Jesus! From the depths of my heart I pray and adore Thee because for the love of me and of all mankind Thou wert willing to lie in the manger and to suffer such great poverty and misery. I thank and adore Thy tender limbs and Thy tender hands and feet, and I praise the inexpressible love which didst draw Thou forth from the bosom of the Heavenly Father, down to a poor and miserable stable.

Glory and praise be to Thee, noble little Jesus! I greet and praise Thee with the same fervent love with which Thy mother loved and praised Thee so intensely. Glory and praise be to Thee, most beloved little Jesus, sweet delight of eternal bliss. I greet and praise Thee with the same love which madst Thou leave Heaven and become a poor Child. Glory and praise be to Thee, most precious little Jesus, joy and honor of Thy Heavenly Father! I thank Thee through Thine Own sweet Heart which Thou hast revealed to the whole world through Thy birth. I greet Thee over and over again, most beautiful little Jesus, sweetest delight of the Father's Heart, refreshment of sick souls. I offer to Thee my own heart for Thine eternal glory and service.

Jesus, crown, love, joy, bliss of virgins! Thy love madst Thou the Son of a Virgin. May Thou be glorified and praised forever. Amen."

-- St Gertrude the Great

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Commemoration of St Thomas Becket

"Thomas Becket was born in around 1120, the son of a prosperous London merchant. He was well educated and quickly became an agent to Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, who sent him on several missions to Rome. Becket's talents were noticed by Henry II, who made him his chancellor and the two became close friends. When Theobald died in 1161, Henry made Becket archbishop. Becket transformed himself from a pleasure-loving courtier into a serious, simply-dressed cleric.

The king and his archbishop's friendship was put under strain when it became clear that Becket would now stand up for the church in its disagreements with the king. In 1164, realising the extent of Henry's displeasure, Becket fled into exile in France, and remained in exile for several years. He returned in 1170.

On the 29 December 1170, four knights, believing the king wanted Becket out of the way, confronted and murdered Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

Becket was made a saint in 1173 and his shrine in Canterbury Cathedral became an important focus for pilgrimage."

-- Biography from BBC


"If we who are called bishops desire to understand the meaning of our calling and to be worthy of it, we must strive to keep our eyes on him whom God appointed high priest for ever, and to follow in his footsteps. For our sake he offered himself to the Father upon the altar of the cross. He now looks down from heaven on our actions and secret thoughts, and one day he will give each of us the reward his deeds deserve.

As successors of the apostles, we hold the highest rank in our churches; we have accepted the responsibility of acting as Christ's representatives on earth; we receive the honor belonging to that office, and enjoy the temporal benefits of our spiritual labors. It must therefore be our endeavor to destroy the reign of sin and death, and by nurturing faith and uprightness of life, to build up the Church of Christ into a holy temple in the Lord.

There are a great many bishops in the Church, but would to God we were the zealous teachers and pastors that we promised to be at our consecration, and still make profession of being. The harvest is good and one reaper or even several would not suffice to gather all of it into the granary of the Lord. Yet the Roman Church remains the head of all the churches and the source of Catholic teaching. Of this there can be no doubt. Everyone knows that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to Peter. Upon his faith and teaching the whole fabric of the Church will continue to be built until we all reach full maturity in Christ and attain to unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God.

Of course many are needed to plant and many to water now that the faith has spread so far and the population become so great. Even in ancient times when the people of God had only one altar, many teachers were needed; how much more now for an assembly of nations which Lebanon itself could not provide with fuel for sacrifice, and which neither Lebanon nor the whole of Judea could supply with beasts for burnt offerings! Nevertheless, no matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what he plants is the faith of Peter, and unless he himself assents to Peter's teaching. All important questions that arise among God's people are referred to the judgment of Peter in the person of the Roman Pontiff. Under him the ministers of Mother Church exercise the powers committed to them, each in his own sphere of responsibility.

Remember then how our fathers worked out their salvation; remember the sufferings through which the Church has grown, and the storms the ship of Peter has weathered because it has Christ on board. Remember how the crown was attained by those whose sufferings gave new radiance to their faith. The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown."
-- From a letter by St Thomas Becket

Monday, December 28, 2009

Feast of the Holy Innocents

"A tiny child is born, who is the great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.

Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life though you are seeking to kill Life himself.

Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace - so small, yet so great - who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God's adopted children.

The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. The cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory."
-- From a sermon by St Quodvultdeus
** The painting is by Giotto

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A note on the liturgical calendars

As most, if not all of you know, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI issued the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum on 7 July 2007. In it His Holiness unquestionably opened the way for all priests to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass in its 1962 form, and use of the 1962 Roman Missal, without having to request permission from anyone. This letter, in part, responds to the desires of the many faithful who love the Traditional Latin Mass and did not have access to it. In my diocese, unfortunately, there isn't a single Church offering this Mass (yet). I'm hoping and praying that this will change soon so that those of us who enjoy worshiping in the traditional form may do so. (Anyone care to join me in prayer?)

For the most part, I follow the Carmelite Proper Liturgical Calendar and the General Liturgical Calendar in the blog. The 1962 Liturgical Calendar includes several feasts that are not observed in the General Calendar (and vice versa). I will not get into a discussion here as to why there is a difference between the two calendars. But, in order to take advantage of the literally and spiritual wealth of the Church and foster devotion, I will be incorporating readings commemorating (at least) some of these traditional feasts. As such, you may notice a difference here and there in the feast of the day in the blog and the one observed in your diocese. I'll try to offer a note pointing out any differences between the calendars to minimize confusion. My hope is, rather than confuse you, offer a wide variety of excerpts, particularly from Carmelite writers (followed by the Fathers of the Church and other Catholic works), to provide and encourage spiritual reading, and perhaps provide a meditation point.

I normally schedule several blog entries about 2-3 weeks in advance since I don't always have time to check my e-mail or go online. Thus, I may inadvertently miss a memorial (hopefully not a solemnity or feast!).

(May you) Enjoy your reading!

Feast of St John Apostle and Evangelist

For a biography from Rev Alban Butler's The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints visit this site.                                                    "Our message is the Word of life. We announce what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes. what we have touched with our own hands. Who could touch the Word with his hands unless the Word was made flesh and lived among us?

Now this Word, whose flesh was so real that he could be touched by human hands, began to be flesh in the Virgin Mary's womb; but he did not begin to exist at that moment. We know this from what John says: What existed from the beginning. Notice how John's letter bears witness to his Gospel, which you just heard a moment ago: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.

Someone might interpret the phrase the Word of life to mean a word about Christ, rather than Christ's body itself which was touched by human hands. But consider what comes next: and life itself was revealed. Christ therefore is himself the Word of life.

And how was this life revealed? It existed from the beginning, but was not revealed to men, only to angels, who looked upon it and feasted upon it as their own spiritual bread. But what does Scripture say? Mankind ate the bread of angels.

Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible also to the eye, and so heal men's hearts. For the Word is visible to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already possessed the means to see the flesh, but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal the part of us by which we could see the Word.

John continues: And we are witnesses and we proclaim to you that eternal life which was with the Father and has been revealed among us - one might say more simply, "revealed to us."

We proclaim to you what we have heard and seen. Make sure that you grasp the meaning of these words. The disciples saw our Lord in the flesh, face to face; they heard the words he spoke, and in turn they proclaimed the message to us. So we also have heard, although we have not seen.

Are we then less favored than those who both saw and heard? If that were so, why should John add: so that you too may have fellowship with us? They saw, and we have not seen; yet we have fellowship with them, because we and they share the same faith.

And our fellowship is with God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. And we write this to you to make your joy complete - complete in that fellowship, in that love and in that unity."

-- From the tractates on the first letter of John by St Augustine

** Painting by Juan De (Vicente) Juanes

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Feast of St Stephen Martyr

"Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today, we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier. Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin's womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

Our King, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvelous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.

And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen's weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.

Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exults, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephens death, and Stephen delights in Paul's companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen's love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul's love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey's end.

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fasts to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together."

--From a sermon by Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe

** Painting by Fra Angelico

Friday, December 25, 2009

O Little Child!

"O Little Child! my only Treasure. I abandon myself to your Divine Whims. I want no other joy than that of making you smile. Imprint in me your childish virtues and graces so that on the day of my birth into Heaven, the angels and saints may recognize your little bride."

-- The Prayers of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux



Litany to the Infant Jesus

Lord, have mercy, Lord, have mercy,
Christ, have mercy, Christ, have mercy,
Lord, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.
Infant Jesus, hear us,
Infant Jesus, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven,
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Ghost,
Holy Trinity, One God,
Infant Jesus,
         Response: Have mercy on us.
Infant, very God,
Infant, Son of the Living God,
Infant, Son of the Virgin Mary,
Infant, begotten before the morning star,
Infant, Word made flesh,
Infant, Wisdom of your Father,
Infant, Purity of your mother,
Infant, only Son of your Father,
Infant, First-Born of you mother,
Infant, Image of your Father,
Infant, Creator of your mother,
Infant, Splendor of your Father,
Infant, Honor of your mother,
Infant, equal to your Father,
Infant, subject to your mother,
Infant, Joy of your Father,
Infant, Riches of your mother,
Infant, Gift of your Father,
Infant, Offering of your mother,
Infant, precious fruit of a virgin,
Infant, Creator of man,
Infant, Power of God,
Infant, our God,
Infant, our Brother,
Infant, perfect Man from your conception,
Infant, ancient in wisdom from your childhood,
Infant, Father of ages,
Infant, of days,
Infant, giving life, and nourished at the breast,
Infant, Eternal Word, and making yourself dumb,
Infant, weeping in the crib,
Infant, thundering in heaven,
Infant, terror of hell,

Infant, Joy of Paradise,
Infant, dreaded by tyrants,
Infant, desired by the Magi,
Infant, exiled from your people,
Infant, King in exile,
Infant, Destroyer of idols,
Infant, Vindicator of the glory of God,
Infant, strong in weakness,
Infant, powerful in abasement,
Infant, Treasure of Grace,
Infant, Fountain of Love,
Infant, Author of the blessings of heaven,
Infant, Repairer of the evils of earth,
Infant, Head of the angels,
Infant, Stem of the patriarchs,
Infant, Word of the prophets,
Infant, Expectation of nations,
Infant, Joy of the shepherds,
Infant, Light of the Magi,
Infant, Salvation of children,
Infant, Hope of the just,
Infant, Teacher of doctors,
Infant, First-fruits of the saints,
Be merciful,
          Response: Spare us, O Infant Jesus,
Be merciful,
          Response: Graciously hear us, O Infant Jesus.
From the bondage of the children of Adam,
          Response: Infant Jesus, deliver us.
From the slavery of the devil,
From the corruption of the world,
From the lust of the flesh,
From the pride of life,
From the immoderate desire of knowledge,
From the blindness of mind,
From the perversity of will,
From our sins,
Through your most pure conception,
Through your most humble birth,
Through your tears,
Through your most painful circumcision,
Through your most glorious epiphany,
Through your most devout presentation,
Through your most innocent conversation in the world,
Through your most holy life,
Through your poverty,
Through your sorrows,
Through your labors and travails.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
          Spare us, O Infant Jesus,
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
          Graciously hear us, O Infant Jesus,
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
          Have mercy on us, O Infant Jesus.
Infant Jesus, hear us,
Infant Jesus, graciously hear us.

O Lord Jesus, who allowed the greatness of your incarnate divinity and most sacred humanity to be born in time, to become a little child, and to suffer bitter death, grant that we may acknowledge infinite wisdom in the silence of a child, power in weakness, majesty in abasement, so that adoring your humility and littleness on earth we may contemplate your glories in heaven. We ask this of you, who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns God, forever and ever. Amen.


"Everything is Mystery in this holy season. The Word of God, whose generation is before the day-star, is born in time - a Child is God - a Virgin becomes a Mother, and remains a Virgin - things divine are commingled with those that are human - and the sublime, the ineffable antithesis, expressed by the Beloved Disciple in those words of his Gospel, THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH, is repeated in a thousand different ways in all the prayers of the Church;- and rightly, for it admirably embodies the whole of the great portent which unites in one Person the nature of Man and the nature of God.

The splendour of this Mystery dazzles the understanding, but it inundates the heart with joy. It is the consummation of the designs of God in time. It is the endless subject of admiration and wonder to the Angels and Saints; nay, is the source and cause of their beatitude.

A word upon the symbolism of the colours used by the Church during this season. White is her Christmas Vestment; and she employs this colour at every service from Christmas Day to the Octave of the Epiphany. To honour her two Martyrs, Stephen and Thomas of Canterbury, she vests in red; and to condole with Rachel wailing her murdered Innocents, she puts on purple: but these are the only exceptions. On every other day of the twenty she expresses, by her white Robes, the gladness to which the Angels invited the world, the beauty of our Divine Sun that has risen in Bethlehem, the spotless purity of the Virgin-Mother, and the clean heartedness which they should have who come to worship at the mystic Crib.

During the remaining twenty days, the Church vests in accordance with the Feast she keeps; she varies the colour so as to harmonize either with the red Roses which wreathe a Martyr, or with the white Amaranths which grace her Bishops and her Confessors, or again, with the spotless Lilies which crown her Virgins. On the Sundays which come during this time - unless there occur a Feast requiring red or white or, unless Septuagesima has begun its three mournful weeks of preparation for Lent - the colour of the Vestments is green. This, say the interpreters of the Liturgy, is to teach us that in the Birth of Jesus, who is the flower of the fields,we first received the hope of salvation, and that after the bleak winter of heathendom and the Synagogue, there opened the verdant spring-time of grace."

-- The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas eve

"Joseph was on his knees. Mary held out firm hands, lifting up her son... wrapped in swaddling clothes, lifting him up adoringly, the fate of the world reposing in the chalice of her hands.

Even in the first instant of seeing the child Joseph was aware of something extraordinary different about him. Somehow he knew that this newborn baby... whose expression was of such potent innocence and affection, had come into the world to get nothing and to give everything."

-- The Greatest Story Ever Told by Fulton Oursler

Photo from a scene of the 2007 film The Nativity Story

Christmas Eve: joyous anticipation

"Christmas Eve is unique among all vigils. Joyous anticipation fills the hearts of both child and adult, and all the Christian world has tried to express this sentiment in a superabundance of images, customs and traditions. It would be impossible to consider all of them. Not only nations but even individual families have devised splendid little customs to celebrate Christmas. Let us first of all outline briefly the spiritual foundation for these customs as it is found in the Mass, Office and Martyrology of Christmas Eve.

The entire liturgy of Christmas Eve is consecrated to the anticipation of the certain and sure arrival of the Saviour: "Today you shall know that the Lord shall come and tomorrow you shall see His glory" (Invitatory of Matins for the Vigil of the Nativity). Throughout Advent we have seen how the preparation for Jesus' coming became more and more precise. Isaias, John the Baptist and the Virgin Mother appeared throughout the season announcing and foretelling the coming of the King. We learn today that Christ according to His human nature is born at Bethlehem of the House of David of the Virgin Mary, and that according to His divine nature He is conceived of the Spirit of holiness, the Son of God and the Second Person of the Trinity.

The certitude of His coming is made clear in two images. The first is that of the closed gate of paradise. Since our first parents were cast forth from the earthly paradise the gate has been closed and a cherubim stands guard with flaming sword. The Redeemer alone is able to open this door and enter in. On Christmas Eve we stand before the gate of paradise, and it is for this reason that psalm 23 is the theme of the vigil:

"Lift up your gates, O princes,
Open wide, eternal gates,
That the King of Glory may enter in...."

The Introit, Offertory, and Communion of the Mass are entirely consecrated to this image. The second image is that of the Blessed Mother. The last historical development of the season of Advent is expressed in the Gospel of today. The great suffering and doubt of St. Joseph concerning his spouse is allayed by the reassurance of an angel. He who is to be born is not of Joseph but truly of the Holy Spirit: "She shall conceive a child and you shall give Him the name of Jesus (Saviour), for He shall ransom His people of their sins.""

-- True Christmas Spirit by Rev Edward J Sutfin

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

See that the day is coming

Wake up from your sleep,
see that the day is coming;
and give lodging to Mary
that the floor doesn't know her.

Alone she comes and without refuge
of any creature,
only a man tired
of seeing people so severe.

Today you have good fortune,
receive her in Carmel;
see that the day is coming,
wake up from your sleep.

-- Bl Anne of St Bartholomew, ocd
translated by ocdsister


Bl Anne wrote this poem, probably between 1612-1614, for her community to celebrate Advent and the coming of Christmas. The second verse of the last quatrain states "receiver her in Carmel." You may not be in Carmel, but you can receive the expectant Mary (and Joseph) in your heart.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Love begins at home

"If we really want to love others, we must first begin to love one another in our own home. Love begins at home, and so from here - from our own home - love will spread to my neighbor, in the street I live, in the town I live, in the whole world."

-- Bl Mother Teresa of Calcutta, extract from instructions to the sisters, 1988

Monday, December 21, 2009

Could the love of God do more for man?

"When men adore Christ, they truly adore God. Christ is Emmanuel, that is, God-with-us. In Christ we can, so to speak, see the face of God. It is His human face, it is true. But even this vision is a foretaste of the beatific vision of God which is the inheritance of all those who are members of Christ's Body, the Church. It is their inheritance because Christ is the perfect Mediator between God and me. He stands between God and men - He mediates between them - because He brings God's gifts to men and He takes men to God. As man, He is the perfect Mediator because He occupies a position midway between God and men. As man He is not God, and so He stands below God. But as a man possessing the fullness of grace, knowledge and power, He stands above men. He is thus in a perfect position to mediate between God and men. And this is what Christ is doing ceaselessly for men in and through His Body, the Church.

The Incarnation is God's answer to the misery of men without God. God stoops to man to raise him to Himself. 'And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all things to Myself.' Man has only to accept freely Christ as his Mediator. Not even Christ saves a man against his will. Because man is proud, God has stooped down to him. Since man is disobedient, God has given him the example of the perfect obedience of Christ. A man is ignorant and in error, God has given him Christ, the perfect Teacher. Could the love of God do more for man? 'By this hath the charity of God appeared toward us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him'."

-- My Way of Life: The Summa Simplified for Everyone by Walter Farrell, OP, STM, & Martin J Healy, STD

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Jesus, Guest of our hearts

"I saw our Lord Jesus poor, sad, suffering and searching for lodging, and He said to me: 'I am searching for a lodging, a home and nobody wants to receive me. As soon as I present Myself, they chase Me away. Even you sometimes drive Me out from your heart... Oh, if only I could find someone who would but work solely for My glory, I would do everything for him!"

-- Thoughts: Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified compiled by Reverend D Buzy, SCJ

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It is delightful to contemplate the manner of His visible coming

"It is delightful to contemplate the manner of His visible coming, for His "ways are beautiful, and all his paths are peace/ 2 "Behold," says the Spouse of the Canticles, "he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills." 3 You see Him coming, O beautiful one, but His previous lying down you could not see, for you said : " Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest/ 4 He lay feeding His angels in His endless eternity with the vision of His glorious, unchanging beauty. But know, O beautiful one, that that vision is become wonderful to thee ; it is high, and thou canst not reach it. Nevertheless, behold He hath gone forth from His holy place, and He that had lain feeding His angels hath undertaken to heal us. We shall see Him coming as our food, Whom we were not able to behold while He was feeding His angels in His repose. " Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills." The mountains and hills we may consider to be the Patriarchs and the Prophets, and we may see His leaping and skipping in the book of His genealogy. " Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob," etc. From the mountains came forth the root of Jesse, as you will find from the Prophet Isaias : "There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him." The same prophet speaks yet more plainly : "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us." He Who is first styled a flower is afterwards called Emmanuel, and in the rod is named the virgin.""
-- From a sermon by St Bernard of Clairvaux

Friday, December 18, 2009

The King is coming

"Something important is going to happen soon. The King is coming, He is at hand 'Come Lord and don't delay!' The Liturgy grows more and more urgent as we approach the great day.

I must answer this pressing and joyful invitation of the Lord with my life. It is joy that is to come yet it is already within us as we prepare to receive it.

Something great is going to happen soon, because Jesus comes at Christmas. Something great is going to happen soon within me, because I am going out to meet Christmas. 'The Lord is coming, go out to meet Him:' we have just sung this. I am going out to meet Christ to find Christ, and it will be something important, great, but the news of something infinitely greater, of the definitive meeting with Christ 'who will not delay.'

I am going to finish my rosary and ask our Blessed Lady to make Christmas a Christmas for everyone, especially for those who don't know why it is they are suffering."

-- At School with the Suffering Christ: The Diary of Canon Casimir Formaz by Fr Casimir Formaz

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Comment Moderation

Dear Readers,

Last night, for the first time since I started the blog, I completely deleted a person's comment for being inflammatory and anti-Catholic. I posted a comment mentioning that I would turn on comment moderation if such comments continued. The person decided to post yet again another anti-Catholic comment. I went ahead and deleted it early this morning, but I did so that everyone can see that I will delete inappropriate messages from this blog. Since I wish to avoid further protestant or any kind of spamming, I have turned on the comment moderation feature. I welcome readers and comments from Catholics as well as people of other or no faith, but I will not tolerate anti-Catholic comments. This is not the forum for them. There are plenty other social and theological commentary blogs available where such views may be expressed (always with charity and courtesy, though). I am grateful to all the readers who have been kind and respectful in their comments, whether they're posting personal opinions, asking questions, or encouraging me to continue blogging.

I would like to invite all of you to pray for this zealous - and unfortunately discourteous - human being. 

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.
V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray. O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord.


Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.
V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.

Oremus. Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere; et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.


Sooner or later wretchedness will be transformed into burning charity

"The three aspects of the spiritual life - the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious outpourings of the Holy Spirit - recall the image of the fire and the log used by St John of the Cross.

When the fire approaches the log it first lights it up and warms it. That corresponds to a joyful mystery. We are warmed by the love of God revealed to us. When the fire comes closer, the wood begins to blacken, smoke, smell bad, and give out tar and other unpleasant substances. This is the sorrowful outpouring: the soul has the painful experience of its own wrtchedness. This phase lasts until the purifying fire has completed its work and the soul is totally transformed into a fire of love. Here is the glorious outpouring, in which the soul is strengthened in charity, the fire Jesus came to kindle on earth.

The lesson of this imagery is very optimistic: we should not fear the times when we feel crushed by our wretchedness. We should abandon ourselves trustingly to God sure that sooner or later wretchedness will be transformed into burning charity. St Thérèse of Lisieux wrote to her sister, Marie du Sacré-Coeur: 'Let us keep far from everything that shines, let's love our littleness... then we will be poor in spirit, and Jesus will come and look for us. However far away we are, he will transform us into flames of love.'"

-- Interior Freedom by Fr Jacques Philippe

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

We are in the arms of his mercy

"We are in his hands, we are in the arms of his mercy, what is there to fear?"

-- From the writings of Bl Mary the Angels
translated by ocdsister

Memorial of Bl Mary of the Angels

"Mary of the Angels was born in Turin on January 7, 1661, the last of eleven children of the Count John Donatus Fontanella di Baldissero and of Countess Mary Tana di Santana. When she was fourteen, her father had already died; and she had to overcome resolutely the opposition of her mother in order to enter the monastery of the Discalced Carmelite nuns of St Christine, which had been founded on April 30, 1639, by the princes of Savoy. On November 19, 1675, she gave up her name of Marianna and was clothed in the religious habit; on December 26,1676, she made her religious profession. Long years of indescribable sufferings, borne with heroic serenity, refined her spirit even to mystical transformation in God. The renown of her holiness imposed itself on the esteem and confidence of her sisters in Carmel and her fellow-citizens. She obtained papal dispensation to be elected prioress at the age of thirty-three, and was confirmed in the same office three more times. She was also entrusted with the office of mistress of novices; and in 1702 she founded a new Carmel at Moncalieri.

She revealed her charity for her neighbor and for her country by continual prayer, by her life of immolation, by her delicacy and care in receiving and consoling everyone. Members of royalty were among her admirers and confidants. She obtained from the Lord the end of the war and the liberation of Turin in 1696. Ascribing that grace to the intercession of St Joseph, she had the joy of having him proclaimed a patron of the city, with a solemn triduum at St Christine's. A few years later she turned to the Blessed Virgin to obtain again the liberation of Turin from the imminent danger of siege and invasion on the part of the French troops. On September 7, 1706, the united forces of Duke Victor Amadeus and Prince Eugene of Savoy gained a decisive victory, as the blessed had foretold.

To celebrate this victory, the famous votive temple at Superga was built.

Mary of the Angels lived as a true daughter of St Teresa of Jesus, zealously upholding the full observance of the rule and the counsels. She was distinguished by an unsullied purity — such as to be compared with St Aloysius Gonzaga, to whom she was related on her mother's side — by her intense love of suffering, by her apostolic zeal, by her continual suffrages for the souls in purgatory, by a very tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin and to St Joseph. She was enriched by God with extraordinary charisms. She died at Turin on December 16, 1717, leaving behind many letters and some spiritual autobiographical accounts (unedited).

The canonical processes were begun in 1722. On May 5, 1778, Pius VI proclaimed the heroicity of her virtues; and on April 25, 1865, Pius IX declared her a blessed. Her body rests at Turin in the church of St Teresa, the work of the architect Juvenal Delponte, under a magnificent altar, opposite the monumental chapel of St Joseph, the masterpiece of Philip Juvara. Her liturgical feast is celebrated by the Discalced Carmelites on December 16, with the rank of an optional memorial."

-- Saints of Carmel by Fr Louis Saggi, OCarm

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From Mary's virginal womb came forth all holy splendors

“The one who was born of the Father before all centuries in time, clothed in humanity, leaving this Most Holy Virgin after his birth much more pure and holy; that if before he [Christ] was born of her she was most pure, as immensely in her were growing the worthiness and plenitude of graces, as the rivers that enter the sea most full of her, that would be so close and joined to God this grace of the Incarnation of the Divine Word and birth from her, made flesh, taken from her most pure flesh, so much more it [the Incarnation and birth of Christ] increased an immense sanctity and greatness when it was thus achieved, in effect, this infinite good, for which by God was elected this Lady and perpetual Virgin.

He was born of her taking the dowry of subtlety; the one that gives to the glorious bodies in heaven, he took it for himself here, as it was just and due to the new birth [Christ is the new Adam], according to the humanity of the Incarnate Word, Only Son of God, and appeared the kindness and humanity of God Our Savior, not by the works of justice that we did but according to his infinite mercy he made us saved; the incomprehensible Word of God appeared covered with the veil of the flesh of a beautiful child, more [beautiful] than all the sons of men wrapped [in clothes] by his Mother Most Holy, the One who extended the Heavens that He created and the earth, and all that sustains it; reclining Him in a manger and holding Him in her virginal arms, sustaining Him with her virginal breasts provided by Heaven with the milk to nourish the Creator of all; from her virginal womb also came forth all holy brilliance [splendors, glories], for this holy birth was all filled with resplendent glory, as birth of God Humanized [made Man]; thus said St John: The Word became flesh and we beheld his glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

-- Cecilia del Nacimiento: Obras Completas translated by ocdsister

Mother Cecilia of the Nativity (Cecilia del Nacimiento) lived in the late XVI thru early XVII century Spain. She’s a disciple of the famous Fr Tomás de Jesús. She had an excellent theological and literary formation. This literal translation preserves Mother Cecilia’s style of long sentences, and “old Spanish” poetry and transpositions. Her works are very deep and, consequently, not easy to translate in an “easy flow” fashion. I have inserted some words in brackets to make this passage a little easier for you to read. I suggest you read just one phrase, no more than two lines, at a time. Just one of her phrases is theologically rich enough to “keep you busy” for a while. Though well known in Carmel (especially throughout Spain), to my knowledge, her works have never been translated into English.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Solemnity of St John of the Cross

"St. John of the Cross stands as one of the most important mystical philosophers in Christian history. He was born at Hontoveros, Old Castile, 24 June, 1542; died at Ubeda, Andalusia, 14 Dec., 1591. The son of poor silk weavers of Toledo, John was born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez in Fontiveros. John's father died when the boy was quite young, leaving his mother, a member of a lower social class, to raise him alone. John was sent to the poor school at Medina del Campo, whither the family had gone to live, and proved an attentive and diligent pupil; but when apprenticed to an artisan, he seemed incapable of learning anything.

Thereupon the governor of the hospital of Medina took him into his service, and for seven years John divided his time between waiting on the poorest of the poor, and frequenting a school established by the Jesuits. He entered the Carmelite Order in 1563, continuing his studies at the University of Salamanca, where he began to teach while still a student. After being ordained in 1567, John met St. Teresa of Avila, another of the great mystics of the Christian tradition.

Following Teresa's lead in attempting to reform his Order, John, in 1568, initiated a very severe form of monasticism in a tiny farmhouse. These monks went so far as to go barefoot, indicating their commitment to poverty, lending to them the appellation of "Discalced" or "shoeless." Over time, a rift arose between the traditional Carmelites and John's Discalced Carmelites, leading in 1576 to John's arrest and imprisonment. During this period of imprisonment, John wrote much of the poetry that would provide his greatest contribution to later generations.

Eventually, the rights of the Discalceds were recognized, and John took on various roles of leadership within the order. After some fifteen years of leadership, he died in 1591, leaving behind a number of remarkable works of Christian mysticism: Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, and the Spiritual Canticle of the Soul."
-- Biography taken from Poem Hunter

Holy Father John of the Cross, pray for us!


"Oh, then, soul, most beautiful among all creatures, so anxious to know the dwelling place of your Beloved so you may go in search of him and be united with him, now we are telling you that you yourself are his dwelling and his secret inner room and hiding place. There is reason for you to be elated and joyful in seeing that all your good and hope is so close as to be within you, or better, that you cannot be without him. Behold, exclaims the Bridegroom, the kingdom of God is within you [Lk. 17:21]. And his servant, the apostle St. Paul, declares: You are the temple of God [2 Cor. 6:16].

It brings special happiness to a person to understand that God is never absent, not even from a soul in mortal sin (and how much less from one in the state of grace).

What more do you want, O soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction, fullness, and kingdom - your Beloved whom you desire and seek? Be joyful and gladdened in your interior recollection with him, for you have him so close to you. Desire him there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and wearied thereby, and you shall not find him, or enjoy him more securely, or sooner, or more intimately than by seeking him within you. There is but one difficulty: Even though he does abide within you, he is hidden. Nevertheless, it is vital for you to know his hiding place so you may search for him there with assuredness. And this, soul, is also what you ask, when with the affection of love you question: "Where have you hidden?""

-- Spiritual Canticle by St John of the Cross

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Participate always in the divine praises correctly and vigorously

“…I exhort you to participate always in the divine praises correctly and vigorously: vigorously, that you may stand before God with as much zest as reverence, not sluggish, not drowsy, not yawning, not sparing your voices, not leaving words half-said or skipping them, not… in a weak and broken tone, but pronouncing the words of the Holy Spirit with… resonance and affection; and correctly…”

-- On the Song of Songs by St Bernard of Clairvaux

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
Mystical Rose,
make intercession for the holy Church,
protect the Sovereign Pontiff,
help all those who invoke thee in their necessities,
and since thou art the ever Virgin Mary
and Mother of the true God,
obtain for us from thy most holy Son
the grace of keeping our faith,
sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life,
burning charity
and the precious gift of final perseverance.

This prayer was approved and enriched with an indulgence of five hundred days by Pope Pius X at all audience held on August, 1908, and was included in the official edition of approved indulgenced prayers (1950).


"Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything."

-- Words of Our Lady to Juan Diego

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Memorial of St Maravillas of Jesus

Maria Maravillas (pronounced Mah-rah-vee-jazz) was born at Madrid in 1891. She entered the El Escorial Carmel, Madrid on 12th October 1919. In 1924 she was inspired to found a Carmel at Cerro de los Angeles, alongside the monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From this foundation followed nine others in Spain and one in India. She always gave first place to prayer and self-sacrifice. She had a true, passionate zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Even while living a life of poverty in the cloister she helped those who were in need, initiating apostolic, social and charitable works. In a particular way she helped those of her own order, priests, and other religious congregations. She died in the monastery of La Aldehuela (pronounced Lah Al-the-oo-ellah), Madrid, on 11th December 1974. She was canonized on 4th May 2003 in Madrid.

-- From the Discalced Carmelite Offices Proper


"Yesterday, Sunday, on climbing the stairs to go to the upper choir for the sung Mass, I was quite recollected, yet without any particular thought, when I heard clearly within me, My delight is to be with the children of men. These words which made a strong impression on me, I understood were not for me this time, but rather in the nature of a request the Lord was making me to offer the whole of myself to give him these souls he so much desires. It is hard to explain, but I saw clearly, that a soul which sanctifies itself becomes fruitful in attracting souls to God. This so deeply moved me that I offered with my whole heart to the Lord all my sufferings of body and soul for this purpose, despite my poverty. It then seemed to me that this offering was right, but what was strictly important was to surrender myself, wholly and completely to the divine will, so that he could do what he desired in me, and likewise I would accept the pain along with the pleasure. I seemed to understand that what pleased him was not the greatest sacrifice but rather the exact and loving fulfillment in the least detail of that will. In this I understood many things I find hard to explain, and how he wished me to be very sensitive in this fulfillment, which would carry me a long way in self-sacrifice and love.

I offered myself in such a way that nothing would excuse me, not even hell (if there you can love the Lord), but then I am so cowardly. The Lord will remedy that, since I can do no more than commit myself to Him in all my misery. I began experiencing this as a desire to commit myself for souls and to be faithful for this purpose: thinking about what he had done for them, it seemed he was saying to me I could not do much, but he could, with my help. On feeling this immense desire of the Lord for the salvation of souls, it seemed so amazing that nothing remained but to be committed to God so that He could carry out all his work in the soul and thus make it, despite its poverty, capable of giving him what he desires. Each time it became clearer to my soul so that nothing of my own remained important, except that the Lord alone be glorified.

What a treasure the Lord has given me in allowing me to live in Carmel! Here, everything is arranged with such simplicity, yet in such a way that, living it to the full, you can do everything. How can we live in the House of the Virgin, pleasing the Lord with her, yet not imitating her, as the Holy Mother desired? I felt that this is the Carmelite’s way, imitating Mary, how we must grow less, to be truly poor, self-sacrificing, humble, nothing. I felt quite deeply how Jesus gives us in his own life continual examples of sacrifice, of humiliation, of making ourselves small, yet we do not understand. I felt his mercy and zeal for souls in this way, that here is the strength that can take hold of our life through his mercy. By his grace, may I, who am so absolutely poor in everything, be well able to imitate him in this with more ease than other creatures.

I seemed also to understand that these lights were not given only for myself, but also for guiding my sisters. The sole thing I do, many times in the day, is to say to the Lord that I wish to live only to love him and to please him, that I desire all that he wishes in the way that he wills."
-- From the letters of St Maravillas of Jesus, ocd
St Maravillas of Jesus, pray for us!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Only love can overcome and draw good out of evil

“No circumstance in the world can ever prevent us from believing in God, from placing all our trust in him, from loving him with our whole heart, or from loving our neighbor. Faith, hope, and charity are absolutely free because if they are rooted in us deeply enough, they are able to draw strength from whatever opposes them! If someone sought to prevent us from believing by persecuting us, we always would retain the option of forgiving our enemies and transforming the situation of oppression into one of greater love. If someone tried to silence our faith by killing us, our deaths would be the best possible proclamation of our faith! Love, and only love, can overcome evil by good and draw good out of evil.”

-- Interior Freedom by Fr Jacques Philippe

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Have compassion, O Lord, on the creatures thou hast made

"My Lord and my God, how truly hast thou the words of eternal life wherein we may find whatever we stand in need of, if we will but be at the pains of searching for it. But what wonder is it, if we forget thy sacred words, in that state of folly and spiritual misery into which our sins have cast us? O my God, thou Creator of the Universe, in whose presence all that thou hast yet created is no- thing in comparison with what thou art able to create: Thou, omnipotent God, who canst do infinitely more more than I am able to understand, make me the subject of thy infinite power, and grant that thy words may never be effaced from my mind.

Thou has said, Come to me all you that labor and are oppressed and I will refresh you. What can we wish for, what can we ask for more than thou hast here promised us? And why are worldlings lost but for seeking, elsewhere than in thee, for their comfort and repose? Alas, my God, how wretched and blind are those who seek for repose out of thee? Have compassion, O Lord, on the creatures thou hast made: Remember that we are strangers to ourselves, that we know not what we wish for, and that we wander far from the happiness we are in search of. Give light, O God, to souls. We are in a still more deplorable deplorable state of blindness than the man born blind was, whom we read of in the Gospel : for he earnestly wished and prayed for his sight, but we are in total darkness, and are contented to remain so. How desperate, alas, is our condition! Here, O my God, is need, at the same time, of thy omnipotent power, and of thy inexhaustible mercy.

Thou Lord of my heart, and only true God, how great a favor do I now presume to ask thee! It is no other than that thou wouldst deign to love those who do not love thee, that thou wouldst open to those who do not so much as knock, and that thou wouldst afford a cure to those who are delighted with their malady, and who studiously endeavour to encrease it. Thou hast said, my God, that thou didst come on earth, to call sinners. These, O Lord, are in the real sense sinners. Do not have regard to our blindness, but cast thine eyes on the streams of blood thy Son has poured forth for our salvation. Make the light of thy mercy shine forth through the thick cloud of our sinful passions. Consider us, O God, as the work of thy hands, and save us for thy mercy's and goodness' sake."

-- The Exclamations of the Soul to God by St Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.

If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: "She will crush your head," and "You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world." Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Allow me to praise you, O Sacred Virgin. Give me strength against your enemies. Amen.

-- St Maximilian Kolbe

Mater Immaculata ora pro nobis!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Memorial of St Ambrose

The life of St Ambrose of Milan, (Sant'Ambroggio de Milano in Italian) is a particularly fascinating story. He was born around 339 in what is now France, the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul. Following his his father's footsteps, Ambrose embarked upon a career in law and politics and by 370 AD, he had become the Imperial governor of Northern Italy. When the episcopal see of Milan became vacant in 374, the people demanded that Saint Ambrose be made their bishop. The neighboring bishops and the Emperor convinced him to accept this call as the will of God, and so the catechumen Ambrose was baptized and ordained first deacon, then priest, then bishop, all in a single week!

This politician-turned churchman was profoundly aware of his lack of preparation for this great responsibility and so set himself immediately to prayer and the study of Scripture. His deep spirituality and love of God's Word married together with the oratorical skill acquired in law and politics made St. Ambrose one of the greatest preachers of the early church.
St Ambrose proved to be a fierce opponent of heresy, paganism, and hypocrisy. He battled to preserve the independence of the Church from the state and courageously excommunicated the powerful Catholic Emperor Theodosius I for a massacre of innocent civilians in Thessalonica. St Ambrose also had a significant impact on sacred music through the composition of hymns and psalm tones that are known to this day as Ambrosian chant. Besides numerous sermons and treatises on the spiritual life, Saint Ambrose is responsible for two of the first great theological works written in Latin, De Sacramentis on the Sacraments and De Spiritu Sancto on the Holy Spirit.

Around 385, an ambitious professor of public speaking named Augustine came to hear Saint Ambrose preach in order to study his technique, and in the process, was attracted to the Catholic faith. In 386 Augustine was baptized by St Ambrose and went on to become bishop of Hippo in North Africa. Ambrose and his pupil, Augustine, together with St Jerome and St Gregory the Great, make up the four original Doctors of the Latin Church. Saint Ambrose, the great bishop of Milan, died on Holy Saturday (April 4) in the year 397 AD. His feastday in the Roman calendar is December 7, the day he was ordained bishop.

-- Biography by Marcellino D'Ambrosio, PhD


"Dear brethren, God's love is calling us to the joys of eternal happiness for the salvation of our souls. You have just listened to the reading from the Apostle in which he says: Rejoice in the Lord always. The joys of this world lead to eternal misery, but the joys that are according to the Lord's will, bring those who persevere in them to joys that are enduring and everlasting. The Apostle therefore says: Again I say: rejoice.

He urges us to find ever increasing joy in God and in keeping his commandments. The more we try in this world to give ourselves completely to God our Lord by obeying his commands, the greater will be our happiness in the life to come, and the greater the glory tat will be ours in the presence of God.

Let your moderation be known to all men. That is to say, your holiness of life must be evident, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men. It must give an example of moderation and self-control to all your contemporaries on earth and serve also as a memorial of goodness before God and men.

The Lord is near; have no anxiety. The Lord is always near to all who call upon his help with sincerity, true faith, sure hope, and perfect love. He knows what you need, even before you ask him. He is always ready to come to the aid of all his faithful servants in every need. There is no reason for us to be in a state of great anxiety when evils threaten; we must remember that God is very near us as our protector. The Lord is at hand for those who are troubled in heart, and he will save those who are downcast in spirit. The tribulations of the just are many, and the Lord will rescue them from them all. If we do our best to obey and keep his commandments, he does not delay in giving us what he has promised.

But in every prayer and entreaty let your petitions be made known to God, with thanksgiving. In time of trouble we must not grumble or be downhearted; God forbid! We must rather be patient and cheerful, giving thanks to God always in everything."
-- From the Liturgy of the Hours

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Parents and children are meant to be a source of mutual grace

“[There are many parents] who judge themselves to be failures … (or who at least wonder whether God sees them that way). Many Catholics are confused and upset because their grown children, in spite of receiving a Catholic education and a good example from their parents, have left the Church or remain only as nominal members, but no longer practice the Faith. Inadequate catechesis, youthful rebellion, the allurements of the world, the bad influence of peers and role models, selfishness, and laziness all play their part. Sometimes parents themselves fail not by living out their Faith in a genuine, committed way; but even living out their Faith sincerely is no guarantee that their children will remain true to the Faith.

If you mourn over a grown child who has let go of or rejected the Faith, it may console you to know that even some of the saints had this struggle or disappointment. They, more than anyone, knew the importance of teaching their children to love God and neighbor. Some of them succeeded; others failed.

One of [St Elizabeth Ann Seton’s’] two sons lived an immoral life, in spite of her ceaseless prayers and sacrifices on his behalf.

The sixth-century queen St Clotilda, widow of the Frankish king Clovis, suffered greatly as a result of her sons’ quarreling over the royal throne; one of them was killed in battle, and another tried to secure the throne for himself by murdering his nephews (Clotilda’s grandsons).

Something similar occurred several centuries later in the life of St Matilda. The widow of King Henry I of Germany, she was the mother of St Bruno (who caused her little trouble) and of Emperor Otto I and Prince ‘Henry the Quarrelsome’ (both of whom caused her considerable grief). Matilda, perhaps unwisely, favored Henry, which caused Otto to treat her poorly. Henry, instead of being grateful for her support, also treated her badly. The one thing the two brothers agreed on was that Matilda was much too generous to the poor and to the Church. She ignored their complaints, treated them with patience, and eventually died with the affection and respect of the common people.

Children can cause their parents grief by ignoring God’s call, but sometimes these roles are reversed. In the eleventh century, the future St Anselm, discerning a religious vocation, wanted to enter a monastery at the age of fifteen; his father strictly forbade this. Anselm rebelled by going to the opposite extreme: he abandoned religion altogether and lived in a carefree, irresponsible manner. Thus, an unsupportive parent was partly to blame for a youth’s rebelliousness. Fortunately, Anselm later repented and thereafter answered his calling.

It’s God’s will that parents raise their children in righteousness and help prepare them for their spiritual pilgrimage. This means that parents must have a living faith, and as St Francis Xavier observed, ‘No man ever really finds out what he believes until he begins to instruct his children.’ Our children are precious to us, for they have been entrusted to us by God. We want the very best for them, and so it’s only natural for us to be distressed if they ignore or reject their moral and religious upbringing. In such a case, the Lord wants us to remain loving and accepting toward them, but also unceasing in our prayers and unyielding in our Faith.

Parents and children are meant to be a source of mutual grace and encouragement, helping one another to come closer to God. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Your children may have caused you grief by their unrestrained lives or their leaving the Church. But the example of St Monica speaks of the need to persevere in hope and in prayer. God can work miracles of grace at an instant’s notice and in the most unexpected ways, and He rejoices in those loving parents who seek to cooperate with Him on their children’s behalf.”

-- Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems by Fr Joseph Esper

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Memorial of Bl Bartholomew Fanti

"Born at Mantua in an unknown year, Bartholomew was already a priest on Feb. 28, 1452, in the Mantuan Congregation of the Carmelites (approved by the Pope ten years before). He began to take part in the confraternity of Our Lady, existing in the Carmelite church; on Jan. 1, 1480, he became the confraternity's spiritual Father and rector and also wrote its rule and constitutions. It is certain that he dedicated himself completely to this ministry until his death, which occurred on Dec. 5, 1495.

He is represented with a small group of novices, to whom he is speaking fervently of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In fact, this was his particular devotion, as set in relief by his biographers — together with his very tender devotion towards the Virgin. Some would make Bl. Baptist a novice of Bl. Bartholomew, but it seems that the latter never exercised the office of novice-master. On the other hand, Bl. Baptist did his year of probation at Ferrara, and not at Mantua, in 1463-84. The rule written by Bl. Bartholomew, in twelve brief chapters, is very simple and concise, and in its style resembles that of the first Order of Carmelites. Bartholomew also composed the statutes of the Company of Carmel and a register of notable events. (These writings have been published, with an exhaustive introductory examination, by Gratian of St. Teresa, in Ephermerides Carmeliticae, VIII /1957/, pp. 94-186, 407-38).

In 1516 the body of Bl. Bartholomew was transferred from its tomb in the church to the chapel of Our Lady, and in 1598 it was placed under the altar. After the suppression of the convent, which occurred in 1783, it was transferred to St. Mark's and from here, about ten years later, to the cathedral, where it reposes still today, incorrupt, in the chapel of the Crowned Madonna.

The decree of confirmation of cult was ratified by St. Pius X on March 18, 1909; the memorial is celebrated on Dec. 5."
-- Saints of Carmel by Fr Louis Saggi, OCarm
Bl Bartholomew, pray for us!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Preparing for the birth of Christ

“To prepare myself for Christmas by prayer and work and by furthering my interior life.

To call upon Christ upon the bottom of my heart to make me life fully my spiritual life and to work in me so complete an interior renewal that others shall feel its influence.

To act above all through this divine influence that lives in me, and to ask the blessed Master to enlighten other souls through me.

Christmas: feast of humility and sweetness and love, feast of the little ones and of the poor. One of the three great stages in the Redemption.”

-- The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur by the Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Memorial of St Francis Xavier

Saint Francis Xavier (April 7, 1506 - December 2, 1552) was a pioneering Christian missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order). The Xaverian Brothers are named after him. The Catholic church considers him to have converted more people to Christianity then anyone else since St. Paul.

Early life

Xavier was born Francisco de Jaso y Azpilcueta in the Castle of Xavier (modern Spanish Javier, Basque Xabier) near Sangüesa and Pamplona, in Navarre, Spain. He sprang from an aristocratic Basque family of Navarre. In 1512, Castile invaded Navarre. Many fortresses were devastated, including the family castle, and land was confiscated. Francis' father died in 1515.

At the age of 19, Francis Xavier went to study at the University of Paris, where he received a licence ès arts in 1530. He furthered his studies there in theology, and became acquainted with Ignatius Loyola. Along with Ignatius, Pierre Favre and four others, Xavier was one of those who on August 15, 1534 bound themselves by a vow at Montmartre and formed the Society of Jesus.

Missionary work

Francis Xavier devoted much of his life to missions to remote countries. As King John III of Portugal desired Jesuit missionaries for the Portuguese East Indies, he was ordered there in 1540. He left Lisbon on April 7, 1541, together with two other Jesuits and the new viceroy Martin de Sousa, on board the Santiago. From August of that year until March 1542, he remained in Mozambique, and reached Goa, India, the capital of the then Portuguese colonies, on May 6. His official role in Goa was Apostolic Nuncio. He spent the following three years operating out of Goa.

On September 20, 1542, he left for his first missionary activity among the Paravas, pearl-fishers along the east coast of southern India, north of Cape Comorin. He then exerted himself to convert the king of Travancore to Christianity, on the west coast, and also visited Ceylon. Dissatisfied with the results of his activity, he turned eastward in 1545, and planned a missionary journey to Macassar, on the island of Celebes, in today's Indonesia.

After arriving in Malacca in October of that year and waiting there three months in vain for a ship to Macassar, he gave up the goal of his voyage. He left Malacca on January 1, 1546 and landed on Amboyna, where he stayed until mid-June. He then visited other Molucca Islands, including Ternate and More. Shortly after Easter 1546, he returned to Ambon Island, and then Malacca.

In December 1547, in Malacca, Francis Xavier met a Japanese nobleman from Kagoshima called Anjiro. Anjiro had heard from Francis in 1545 and had travelled from Kagoshima to Malacca with the purpose of meeting him. Following their conversations, Xavier decided to travel to Japan.

He returned to India in January 1548. The next fifteen months were occupied with various journeys and administrative measures in India.

Then due to displeasure at the unchristian life and manners of the Portuguese, which impeded proselyting work, he went forth once again into the unknown Far East. He left Goa on April 15, 1549, stopped at Malacca, and visited Canton. He was accompanied by Anjiro, two other Japanese men, the father Cosme de Torrès and Brother Juan Fernandez. He had taken with him presents for the "King of Japan", since he was intending to introduce himself as the Apostolic Nuncio.

Xavier reached Japan on August 15, 1549. He landed at Kagoshima, the principal port of the province of Satsuma, on the island of Kyushu. He was received in a friendly manner and was the host of Ajiro's family until October 1550. From October to December 1550, he resided in Yamaguchi. Shortly before Christmas, he left for Kyoto, but failed at meeting with the Emperor. He returned to Yamaguchi in March 1551. There he was permitted to preach by the daimyo, but not knowing the Japanese language he had to limit himself to reading aloud the translation of a catechism.

Memorial to St. Francis Xavier, Hirado, Nagasaki, Japan

Ultimately his sojourn was fruitful, as attested by congregations established in Hirado, Yamaguchi, and Bungo. Xavier worked for more than two years in Japan and saw his successor-Jesuits established. He then decided to return to India. During his trip, a tempest forced him to stop on an island near Guangzhou, China. There he saw the rich merchant Diégo Pereira, an old friend from Cochin, who showed him a letter of Portuguese being held prisoners in Guangzhou asking for a Portuguese ambassador to talk to the Chinese Emperor in their favor. Later, he stopped at Malacca on December 27, 1551 and was back in Goa by January, 1552.

On April 17 he was again under way, together with Diégo Pereira, leaving Goa on board of the Santa Cruz and aiming for China. He introduced himself as Apostolic Nuncio, and Pereira as ambassador of the King of Portugal. Shortly thereafter, he realized that he had forgotten his testimonial letters as an Apostolic Nuncio. Back in Malacca, he was confronted by the capitan Alvaro de Ataide de Gama, who now had total control over the harbor. The capitan refused to recognize his title of Nuncio, asked Pereira to resign from his title of ambassador, named a new crew for the ship, and demanded that the gifts for the Emperor be left in Malacca.

In early September 1552, the Santa Cruz reached the Chinese island of Shangchuan, 10 km away from the southern coast of mainland China, near Taishan, Guangdong, 200 km south-west of what later became Hong Kong. At this time, he was only accompanied by a Jesuit student, Alvaro Ferreira, a Chinese man called Antonio, and a Malabar servant called Christopher. Around mid-November he sent a letter saying that a man had agreed to take him to the mainland in exchange for a large sum of money. Having sent back Alvaro Ferreira, he remained alone with Antonio.


On November 21, he fainted after celebrating a mass. He died on the island on December 2, 1552, at age 46, without having reached mainland China.

-- Biography from BiographyBase


"Many times I am seized with the thought of going to the schools in your lands and of crying out there, like a man who has lost his mind, and especially at the University of Paris, telling those in the Sorbonne who have a greater regard for learning than desire to prepare themselves to produce fruit with it. Thousands upon thousands, and millions upon millions are waiting to hear God’s Word - and I felt that not one student is willing to say ‘Here I am, Lord. What do you want me to do?’ like Samuel in the Bible. Send me wherever you will, and if need be, even to the Indies. Thousands would be converted if there were enough workers!"

-- From a letter by St Francis Xavier written in 1544 from India