Monthly Archives: May 2010

“OK, Who’s In Charge: Dad, Son, Or the One We Never See?!” – John 16:12-15†


This blog is a thought provoking, and fairly involved reflection on the topic of the Holy Trinity, and the role it plays in relationship to Jesus, and God the Father; and what role the Holy Spirit play in each of us?  I have a question for you to ponder prior to reading this reflection: 

Can we love one another as fully as Jesus loves us?

Try answering the question, and please let me know of your answer.  No grades will be given, and could be fun to find out how others think and believe.  Thanks, to all that read my blog.  Please share it with others.

Happy “Memorial Day” weekend to all Americans.  Please, please, please be safe; and also remember our fallen military, our retired and active duty soldiers, sailors and Marines, and those veterans that have passed from this world to the grace of eternal bliss in heaven.   

BONUS – Trivia: 
✪In 1868, “Decoration Day” (the predecessor of the modern “Memorial Day”) was observed in the United States for the first time.
✪In 1958 – Memorial Day: The remains of two unidentified American servicemen, killed in action during World War II and the Korean War, are buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
   

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
  

Today in Catholic History:

† 1252 – Death of King Ferdinand III of Castile (3rd Order Franciscan)
† 1416 – The Council of Constance, called by the Emperor Sigismund, a supporter of Antipope John XXIII, burns Jerome of Prague following a trial for heresy.
† 1431 – Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a heretic.

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

Love from the Heart: It is only from the depth of the heart that a real relationship with Jesus can arise.
    

Today’s reflection is about Jesus and the role of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity.   
  

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.  He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.  Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.  (NAB John 16:12-15)

     

Every time we make the “Sign of the Cross,” we are proclaiming a central tenet of the Catholic faith.  We are declaring our belief that God IS both one, AND three divine “Persons” in one God.  This unveils God as the one Holy Trinity of divine persons.  Making the Sign of the Cross is the one, unique statement and action that separates the Catholic faith from ALL other religions in the world.

Jesus knew the disciples disposition to knowing matters of faith and that they were slow to believe (Luke 24:25).  He knew that they could become overwhelmed with too much so fast, as they had been overwhelmed in the past.  Jesus also knew of the special gift and mission of the Holy Spirit since He, Jesus, is one with the Spirit in the Trinity.  When He said in today’s Gospel reading, “he … will declare to you the things that are coming,” it was not meant as a reference to new predictions, but to interpretations of what had already occurred, or had already been said. 

The Holy Spirit played (and still plays) an important role within the community of Christ.  The Holy Spirit made what Jesus said or did “understandable,” by associating His words and actions with Holy Scripture.  Interestingly, this is exactly what a “Sacrament” is defined as: the word of God in action.

The Holy Spirit did not make prophetic disclosures about the future, but simply guided the Church community’s maturity in its understanding of Jesus as the fulfillment of everything that had been promised in Holy Scripture.  The Holy Spirit was, and still is, the source of deeper understanding of the revelation of God!  The Holy Spirits function is to reveal Jesus, to draw us closer to Him, and to glorify Him.  This is how the Holy Spirit takes what the Father had given Jesus, and then declares it to the disciples, then and NOW!

So, where is God the Father in all this?  God is NOT a remote or secluded being, nor uninvolved deity: His very existence is about relationships.  The Trinity is more than just a model for togetherness.  It is also the power that helps us to live together.  If it is God’s nature to share his eternal life with us; and if we are created in His image and likeness, it must follow that we are meant to share our lives with each other as He shares His existence and presence with us.  Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians (12:12-14) that WE are the body of Christ, by writing, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.  Now the body is not a single part, but many.”

Can we love one another as fully as Jesus loves us?   As “Sanctifying Grace” matures in us, and we draw from God’s love for us, we grow in grace and hope; we allow truth to enter into us, and radiate from us; and we grow in the ability to love others as Jesus loves us.  Paul (obviously one of my favorite people ever) wrote in his letter to the Catholics in Rome (5:5), “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Jesus assures us that as we intensify our relationships with Him, the Father, the Holy Spirit, AND each other, our existence will start to mirror the very life of the three-fold Godhead: the Holy Trinity.  This IS the experience and joy of being a Catholic!

“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”

(thanks John)
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Ferdinand, king, III Order
   

Born near Salamanca, Spain, c. 1199; died in Seville, Spain, on May 30, 1252; canonized in 1671 at the request of Philip IV. He was a Franciscan III Order member.

Ferdinand was the son of Alphonso IX, king of León, and Berengaria, the oldest daughter of Alphonso III, king of Castile. His maternal grandmother was the daughter of Henry II of England, and her sister Blanche became the mother of Saint Louis of France.

The death of Berengaria’s brother, Henry, left her heiress to the throne of Castile in 1217, but she ceded her rights to the 18-year- old Ferdinand. He was a stern, but forgiving, ruler who ignored personal slights, and an excellent administrator. The archbishop of Toledo, Rodrigo Ximenes, was chancellor of Castile and his principal adviser for many years. Ferdinand married Beatrice, daughter of King Philip of Swabia in 1219.

Upon the death of his father in 1230, Ferdinand became king of León. There was opposition to this, for there were supporters of the claim of his two half sisters, but his union of the two kingdoms made a recovery from the Moors possible. He campaigned against the Moors without respite for 27 years, and his success won the great devotion of his people. He recaptured the greater part of Andalusia, including Ubeda, Cordova (1236), Murcia, Jaen, Cadiz, and Seville (1249).

It was in the battle of Xeres, when only 10 or 12 Spanish lives were lost, that Saint James (Santiago) was said to have been seen leading the host on a white horse. Saint James’s chronicle is a principal source for Ferdinand’s achievements. Ferdinand’s military efforts were not so much imperialistic in motivation as driven by a wish to save Christians from the dominance of infidels.

Although he was a warrior, it was said of him that “he feared the curse of one old woman more than a whole army of Moors.” In thanksgiving for his victories, Ferdinand rebuilt the cathedral in Burgos and converted the great mosque of Seville into a church. He restored to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella the bells that had been removed by the Moors.

Once the Moors and Jews submitted, he pursued a course of tolerance, while encouraging the friars to convert them. He was the founder of the famed University of Salamanca in 1243. He married Joan of Ponthieu on the death of Beatrice. By his second wife he was the father of Eleanor, wife of King Edward I of England. It is interesting to note that upon his death he was buried in the habit of a Franciscan friar in the cathedral of Seville. At his death he was popularly acclaimed a saint but canonical recognition took another 400 years.

King Saint Ferdinand is depicted in art as a crowned knight with a greyhound. He is dressed royal regalia, cross on his breast, and the dog at his feet (Roeder). He is the patron saint of persons in authority (rulers, governors, magistrates, etc.)–a result of his wise appointments; the poor and prisoners (over whom such persons rule); engineers (a result of his technical military skills), and the Spanish army.

(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
   

 

Prologue to Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule, Chapter 1:
    

We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to Him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).

We are mothers, when we carry Him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to Him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).

 

 

“My Toe Has Sinned, But My Nose Is Clean!”-†


“In the solemn celebration of Pentecost we are invited to profess our faith in the presence and in the action of the Holy Spirit and to invoke his outpouring upon us, upon the Church and upon the whole world. Let us make our own, and with special intensity, the Church’s invocation: ‘Veni, Sancte Spiritus!’ ” Pope Benedict XVI Homily of Pentecost 2010
     

Today in Catholic History:

† 1601 – Birth of Antoine Daniel, Jesuit missionary and martyr (d. 1648)
† 1651 – Birth of Louis-Antoine, Cardinal de Noailles, French cardinal (d. 1729)
† Feast Days in the Church: Augustine of Canterbury, Venerable Bede, Saint Julius the Veteran, Pope John I, Hildebert, Bruno, Bishop of Würzburg, Eutropius, Mother’s Day in Bolivia (Día de la Madre) and Sweden (Mors Dag), Children’s Day in Nigeria
    

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

The difficulty does not arise so much from the mere fact that good and evil are mingled in roughly equal proportions; it arises chiefly from the fact that men always differ about what parts are good and what parts are evil.  – G.K. Chesterton

Today’s reflection is:

Why does all personal sin have social consequences?  Do I think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a positive celebration of the mercy of God?

     

Sin and its consequence on society: what an interesting subject.  I guess the first thing to discuss is what exactly is “sin” and “evil.”    Catholic resources say that is a “moral evil.”  Now we have to determine what is meant by evil and in particular moral evil.  It seems Catholic Theologians like to make things fairly difficult for other Catholics to understand at times.

So, being a good Catholic, I stopped with the religious resources at this point, and went to the secular dictionary instead.  A much easier definition of sin is:

“A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when it is a deliberate disobedience to the known will of God.  Sin causes a condition of estrangement from God as a result of this disobedience.  Sin is usually something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.”

Evil is defined as:

Something morally bad or wrong, or wicked; causing ruin, injury, pain, or some other type of harm.  Evil implies a deficiency in perfection, hence it cannot exist in God who is by nature, “all good.”  

On earth, only the human race can display moral evil, as we are the only intelligent beings.  Animals and plant life have no capabilities to be intrinsically evil.  Animals and plants are only respondents to nature, and do not have “free-will.”

God gave free-will to only two of His creations: humans and angels.  This grace of free-will is a two edged sword.  One side brings us just this much closer to the divinity of God than all other creation, but its other side takes one away from God in the belief they ARE “gods” also!

Free-will is a concept and action of how we internalize and conform to right and wrong.  We either agree and conform, or disagree and do not conform to the natural and divine laws of God.

The angels were the first to fall on this sword, when a third of the angels tore themselves away from God, and were doomed to Hell.  As God is pure good and perfect in all ways; these “fallen angels” now have no good in them, and are pure evil.

Adam and Eve were made perfect and good by God because God cannot make anything other than good.  Adam and Eve’s own free-will led them to sin.  With that first sinful act, humanity lost all hope of perfection since non-perfect people simply cannot make perfect offspring.  Makes me wonder what would have happened if Cain and Abel were born prior to the “apple” incident?

When humans and angels know of God and His law, and then deliberately refuse to obey, “moral evil” results.  Sin is nothing more than a morally bad act; an act not in accordance with reason as informed by the divine law, and which is known to us by the dictates of our own conscience (angel on one shoulder, and devil on the other).

In every sinful act two things must be considered, the substance of the act and the want of conformity.  The Catholic Church has divided sin into two fundamental categories: “venial” and “mortal” sins.  Venial sins are relatively minor and could be forgiven through sacramentals or sacraments of the church.  For those Catholics that “do” go to church, this is done at the very beginning of each and every mass.  Mortal sin destroys grace, and separates the soul from God.  Mortal sin creates a threat of eternal damnation for the individual unless absolved through the “Sacrament of Penance.”

The most objectionable sins (vices) are called the “Seven Deadly Sins,” also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins.  They are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

Now that we know what sin and evil are, we can discuss how ones personal sins have consequences on groups such as family, community, and society as a whole.

All Catholics are part of a community.  If one part fails, it has a direct result on the other parts.  If you stub you toe, your entire body suffers.  The brain has trouble concentrating for a short time, and you body has trouble walking or hopping for a period of time as well.  This is the same for the Church community also.  Any injury to one part injures all.

The body can be healed.  We have medicines, Band-Aids, and even physical therapy to help us heal in body; but what about our soul?  It can be healed as well.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation needs to be looked as the “healing” sacrament it is, instead of as punishment for our transgressions.  We did away with cod liver oil decades ago, and in the church we have also done away with the medieval attitudes and practices associated with having our sins forgiven. 

Confession (yes, I’m an old-timer) is a very pleasant experience.  I nearly laugh as I watch people walk into the “confessional” looking like they are about to get a prostate exam, and exiting as if they had won a large and priceless prize.  In actuality, they did!  They won the prize of being sinless and nearer to God, and assured (if only temporarily) of a place in eternal oneness with God in heaven.  The act of confessing sins to Christ (in the person of the Priest) is a very open and fluid experience now.  There is a formula, but the priest will easily help you through the process.  It is truly NON-painful, and makes one so happy inside and out.  I have actually laughed “in the confessional,” over the exchange between the priest and I (my childhood St. Joseph Nuns are turning over in their graves at the thought of humor involved in confession).  If you haven’t gone in a while, you honestly do not know what you are missing: a pleasant experience; and eternity in heaven!

 “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.”

     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Augustine of Canterbury (d. 605?)
    

In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless.

Augustine again set out and this time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester.

Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors

Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Truly Augustine of Canterbury can be called the “Apostle of England.”

. (From http://www.americancatholic.orgwebsite)

 

Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule, Chapter 1:
   

All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.

Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).

“St. Francis Got It Right – For All Of Us!”†


Today in Catholic History:
† 709 – Death of Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne
† 735 – Death of Bede, English historian and monk
† 1085 – Death of Pope Gregory VII
† 1261 – Death of Pope Alexander IV
† 1452 – Death of John Stafford, Archbishop of Canterbury
† 1521 – The Diet of Worms ends when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, issues the Edict of  Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.
† 1606 – Birth of Charles Garnier, French Jesuit missionary (d. 1649)
† 1887 – Birth of Pio of Pietrelcina, Catholic saint (d. 1968)
† Liturgical Feast days: Saint Urban’s Day (d. 240), Saint Bede the Venerable (d. 735), Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Saint Bruno of Würzburg, Saint Frederic, Saint Pope Gregory VII (d. 1085), Saint Hildebert, Saint Reinolf, Saint Marie-Madeleine-Sofie Barat (d. 1865)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
      

While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart. – Francis of Assisi
    

******
  

Today’s reflection:  How do we explain that we are called to develop a spirituality and lifestyle “in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi”?

St. Francis, to me, was a simple, humble, and obedient servant to His heavenly father, our Lord Jesus Christ.  He did not start out his life that way.  Francis was born into a lifestyle of, at minimum, near nobility.  He was expected to take over the family business, to be a battle tested knight of fame, and to be a town leader.

It didn’t work out that way.  He was brought up on theft charges from his father; Francis disowned his earthly father and family; and Francis became a subject of jokes and ridicule by his own town’s residents, for a time.

Francis was a “ladies man,” a party person, and probably not that much of a Christian for the start of his young adult life.  Then a “Saul to Paul” event happened: Francis was captured and imprisoned, subsequently becoming infected with tuberculosis.  He had to recuperate for a year after his release and return to his home.  During that time, Francis was able to reflect on his life and future, and on Jesus’ divinity.

He strolled throughout the countryside, coming across a worn, weathered, and dilapidated old church in the outskirts of Assisi.   On praying at the strange looking crucifix (the San Damiano Cross), Jesus spoke to him saying, “Repair my Church!”  Francis took it literally; begging, buying, and bartering for bricks to fix the structure of the building. 

In the process, he not only rebuilt the little chapel, he rebuilt the family of the church: its people, at the same time.  Devotions and followers increased at a dramatic rate.  His spirituality and lifestyle was noted locally, and in Vatican City.  Why: because of his devotion, simplicity, love, faith, trust, and openness to all, without any earthly expectations.

 Francis saw all creation as sacred simply because God created everything, and what God made had to be good and worthy of reverence.  Love and peace were Francis’ mantra; there was no room for any hatred whatsoever in his heart.  Francis, who once would give a wide birth to a leper, now not only hugged but kissed, bandaged, and fed these people of degradation to society.  

He tried to convert to Muslims several times, once meeting with a high leader in the Islamic faith who was impressed with the beauty and faithfulness in Francis’ words and simplicity.   He started three branches of the Franciscan family, all still strong within the Church family: Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox.  Francis’s “Rule” is one of only a few recognized by the Church, and is still used as a basis for many congregations.

St. Francis may have not physically written the following prayer, but it is attributed to him.  St. Francis definitely did LIVE all aspects of this prayer spiritually and physically.  Please stop after each line of the prayer and reflect on its meaning; it’s a powerful prayer.

Francis walked in the footsteps of Jesus for sure; painfully at times, but faithfully.  He is an example of how we are to live our lives.  If I can live my life in only a small portion of the way Francis did, what a gift would I give to the earth, its people, and to God!

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi
   

It would be easy to concentrate on the mystical experiences God gave this saint, rather than on her life. In fact, it would be difficult to do differently, so overwhelming were those gifts from God. The temptation for many modern readers (including the author) would be to see little to identify with in these graces and walk away without seeing more. The other temptation would be to become so fascinated with these stories that one would neglect to dig deeper and learn the real lessons of her life.

But Mary Magdalene de Pazzi is not a saint because she received ecstasies and graces from God. Many have received visions, ecstasies, and miracles without becoming holy. She is a saint because of her response to those gifts — a lifelong struggle to show love and gratitude to the God who gave her those graces.

In fact Mary Magdalene saw her ecstasies as evidence of a great fault in her, not a reward for holiness. She told one fellow sister that God did not give this sister the same graces “because you don’t need them in order to serve him.” In her eyes, God gave these gifts to those who were too weak to become holy otherwise. That Mary Magdalene received these gifts proved, in her mind, how unworthy she was.

Born in Florence on April 2, 1566, Mary Magdalene (baptized Catherine) was taught mental prayer when she was nine years old at the request of her mother. Her introduction at this age to this form of prayer which involves half an hour of meditation did not seem to be unusual. And yet today we often believe children incapable of all but the simplest rote prayers.

At twelve years old she experienced her first ecstasy while looking at a sunset which left her trembling and speechless.

With this foundation in prayer and in mystical experience, it isn’t surprising that she wanted to enter a contemplative monastery of the Carmelite Order. She chose the monastery of St. Mary’s of the Angels because the nuns took daily Communion, unusual at the time.

In 1583 she had her second mystical experience when the other nuns saw her weeping before the crucifix as she said, “O Love, you are neither known nor loved.”

Mary Magdalene’s life is a contradiction of our instinctive thought that joy only comes from avoiding suffering. A month after being refused early religious profession, she was refused she fell deathly ill. Fearing for her life the convent had her professed from a stretcher at the altar. After that she experienced forty days of ecstasies that coexisted with her suffering. Joy from the graces God gave were mixed with agony as her illness grew worse. In one of her experiences Jesus took her heart and hid it in his own, telling her he “would not return it until it is wholly pure and filled with pure love.” She didn’t recover from her illness until told to ask for the intercession of Blessed Mary Bagnesi over three months later.

What her experiences and prayer had given her was a familiar, personal relationship with Jesus. Her conversations with Jesus often take on a teasing, bantering tone that shocks those who have a formal, fearful image of God. For example, at the end of her forty days of graces, Jesus offered her a crown of flowers or a crown of thorns. No matter how often she chose the crown of thorns, Jesus kept teasingly pushing the crown of flowers to her. When he accused her, “I called and you didn’t care,” she answered back, “You didn’t call loudly enough” and told him to shout his love.

She learned to regret the insistence on the crown of thorns. We might think it is easy to be holy if God is talking to you every day but few of us could remain on the path with the five year trial that followed her first ecstasies. Before this trial, Jesus told her, “I will take away not the grace but the feeling of grace. Though I will seem to leave you I will be closer to you.” This was easy for her to accept in the midst of ecstasy but, as she said later, she hadn’t experienced it yet. At the age of nineteen she started five years of dryness and desolation in which she was repelled by prayer and tempted by everything. She referred to her heart as a pitch-dark room with only a feeble light shining that only made the darkness deeper. She was so depressed she was found twice close to suicide. All she could do to fight back was to hold onto prayer, penance, and serving others even when it appeared to do no good.

Her lifelong devotion to Pentecost can be easily understood because her trial ended in ecstasy in 1590. At this time she could have asked for any gifts but she wanted two in particular: to look on any neighbor as good and holy without judgment and to always have God’s presence before her.

Far from enjoying the attention her mystical experiences brought her, she was embarrassed by it. For all her days, she wanted a hidden life and tried everything she could to achieve it. When God commanded her to go barefoot as part of her penance and she could not walk with shoes, she simply cut the soles out of her shoes so no one would see her as different from the other nuns. If she felt an ecstasy coming on, she would hurry to finish her work and go back to her room. She learned to see the notoriety as part of God’s will. When teaching a novice to accept God’s will, she told her, “I wanted a hidden life but, see, God wanted something quite different for me.”

Some still might think it was easy for her to be holy with all the help from God. Yet when she was asked once why she was weeping before the cross, she answered that she had to force herself to do something right that she didn’t want to do. It’s true that when a sister criticized her for acting so different, she thanked her, “May God reward you! You have never spoken truer words!” but she told others it hurt her quite a bit to be nice to someone who insulted her.

Mary Magdalene was no pale, shrinking flower. Her wisdom and love led to her appointment to many important positions at the convent including mistress of novices. She did not hesitate to be blunt in guiding the women under her care when their spiritual life was at stake. When one of the novices asked permission to pretend to be impatient so the other novices would not respect her so much, Mary Magdalene’s answer shook this novice out of this false humility: “What you want to pretend to be, you already are in the eyes of the novices. They don’t respect you nearly as much as you like to think.”

Mary Magdalene’s life offers a great challenge to all those who think that the best penance comes from fasting and physical discomfort. Though she fasted and wore old clothes, she chose the most difficult penance of all by pretending to like the things she didn’t like. Not only is this a penance most of us would shrink from but, by her acting like she enjoyed it, no one knew she was doing this great penance!

In 1604, headaches and paralyzation confined her to bed. Her nerves were so sensitive that she could not be touched without agonizing pain. Ever humble, she took the fact that her prayers were not granted as a sure sign that God’s will was being done. For three years she suffered, before dying on May 25, 1607 at the age of forty-one.

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
         

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #25:
    

Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

 

“It’s a Birthday Party, and My Head’s On Fire, My Head’s On Fire!”-Acts 2:1-4†


Pentecost Sunday: Today is a Feast day marking the birth of the Catholic Church through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated fifty days after Easter.  Red is the liturgical color worn by the priest at mass today.  This color recalls the tongues of flame in which the Holy Spirit descended to the disciples of Jesus on that first Pentecost.  The color also reminds us of the blood of martyrs; those believers who [by the power of the Holy Spirit] held firm to their faith, even at the cost of their lives.

Pentecost is historically and symbolically related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot, which commemorates God giving Moses the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus.  Shavuot was celebrated on Wednesday, May 19th this year, and will be on Wednesday, June 8th in 2011.

Today in Catholic History:

† 1430 – Joan of Arc is captured by the Burgundians while leading an army to relieve Compiègne.
† 1498 – Girolamo Savonarola is burned at the stake, in Florence, Italy, on the orders of Pope Alexander VI.
† 1533 – The marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon is declared null and void.
† 1967 – Death of Lionel Groulx, French Canadian priest and historian (b. 1878)
† Liturgical Feats/Memorials: Aaron the Illustrious in the Syriac Orthodox Church, Saint Desiderius, Saint Guibert of Gemblours
   

Quote or Joke of the Day:
  

Sainthood is not reserved for monks living cloistered lives of private prayer, or for martyrs who gave up their bodies to the cruelest forms of brutality. Sainthood is a state of grace for all who avail themselves of God’s holy fire of heart, allowing it to burn, burn, burn, right through to the core.”  – Liz Kelly May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, Loyola Press
   

Today’s reflection is about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit.
     

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.  (NAB Acts 2:1-4)
   

The Easter season concludes with today’s liturgical celebration.  Pentecost was the beginning of the Church: its birthday.  When I was little, and saw those famous paintings and icons of the Holy Spirit (as flames) coming down on the Apostles, I thought why would God do this?  It would burn their heads!  I now know that the Apostles, with those tongues of fire on top of their heads, represent the candles at the birthday party.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Seriously, what is Pentecost all about; what is all the fuss?  The answer is simple: to see Jesus in an entirely new and exciting way.  When we pray, or when we are together at mass, Eucharistic Adoration, or any other liturgical event, The Holy Spirit wants to reveal Jesus to our hearts.  The Holy Spirit wants to show us Jesus’ love, majesty, divinity, mercy, and power.  Through the fire of the Holy Spirit, the things that keep us from Jesus are burned away.

Jesus actually defeated death, and was declared “Lord over heaven and earth!”  By sending the Holy Spirit, He fulfilled His promise to send an advocate, (a helper also called the Paraclete) who would enable His believers to be witnesses to Christ’s “good news,” and to be the reconciling presence in the world.  There is an important connection between the gifts of peace and forgiveness, and the working of the Holy Spirit.

In today’s reading, it is written, “… there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind…”  The words “wind and spirit” are also mentioned in John 3:8 (The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit).  The word “wind” is translated from the Greek word “pneuma” (and the Hebrew word “ruah”) meaning both “wind” and “spirit.”  Could it be that the sound of a great rush of wind is a sign of a new action from God in regards to salvation history?  I might look at spring storms a little different in the future.

The tongues of fire have always been a curiosity of mine.  This type of “fire” is also mentioned in Exodus 19:18 (Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the LORD came down upon it in fire …) where the fire symbolizes the presence of God initiating the “covenant” on Mount Sinai.  Here the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, acts upon the Apostles and disciples by preparing them to proclaim the “new covenant,” with its gift of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus commissioned His disciples to continue the work that He had begun: to teach, to forgive sins, and to baptize.  Jesus wants all His followers to be agents of peace and harmony amongst all peoples, and in all places of the world.  This can only be done through the actions of the Holy Spirit working through us, in us, and with us.

To speak in different tongues (languages) is a form of ecstatic prayer, in praise of God.  We may know it as “charismatic” prayer.  Interpreted in Acts 2:11 as speaking in foreign languages (both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God), it symbolizes the worldwide mission of the church.  Everyone speaking differently wasn’t to confuse the masses of people; it actually helps bring all peoples of the world together under one large umbrella:  the Catholic, or universal Church.

To live as a disciple of God through, with, and in the Holy Spirit, is a gigantic privilege.  He brings us peace, and works through us to teach Christ’s message.  Along with this privilege comes a huge responsibility as well.  As the Apostles and early disciples had done centuries ago, we are still expected to spread the “good news” of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and of His coming again soon.  Are we willing to surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit?  Are we eager and willing to bring His “good news” to this wounded and hurting world?

Today is the perfect day to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, and to share the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation with others in your life.  Find a place and sit quietly.  Reflect on your need to forgive, and upon concerns you may have with giving and accepting forgiveness.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to help bring you peace through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Ask the Holy Spirit to burn away everything that keeps you from Jesus.  After all, heart burn is a good thing in this case. 

The following prayer may help in finding the Holy Spirit, and in kindling that fire inside you.

Prayer for the Help of the Holy Spirit

“O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive; into my mind, that I may remember; and into my soul, that I may meditate.  Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy.  Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end.  May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy.  Amen.”

Saint Anthony of Padua

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. John Baptist Rossi
   

This holy priest was born in 1698 at the village of Voltaggio in the diocese of Genoa and was one of the four children of an excellent and highly respected couple.  When he was ten, a nobleman and his wife who were spending the summer at Voltaggio obtained permission from his parents to take him back with them to Genoa to be trained in their house.  He remained with them three years, winning golden opinions from all, notably from two Capuchin friars who came to his patron’s home.  They carried such a favorable report of the boy to his uncle who was then minister provincial of the Capuchins that a cousin Lorenzo Rossi a canon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin invited him to come to Rome.  The offer was accepted and he entered the Roman College at the age of thirteen.  Popular with his teachers and with his fellow pupils he had completed the classical course with distinction when the reading of an ascetical book led him to embark on excessive mortifications.  The strain on his strength at a time when he was working hard led to a complete breakdown which obliged him to leave the roman College.  He recovered sufficiently to complete his training at the Minerva, but he never was again really robust.  Indeed his subsequent labors were performed under the handicap of almost constant suffering.

On March 8, 1721 at the age of twenty three he was ordained and his first Mass was celebrated in the Roman College at the altar of St. Aloysius Gonzaga to whom he always had a special devotion.

His fame came from his work as a confessor and as his ministry to the sick.

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)

 

Tomorrow (May 24th) is celebration of the “Dedication of the Patriarchal Basilica of Our Holy Father St. Francis at Assisi, and Commemoration of the Transfer of the Body of St. Francis”

This feast and commemoration are observed by all the branches of the Franciscan Order.  When St. Francis died in 1226, he was buried in the Church of St. George in Assisi (now a chapel in Santa Chiara, and the shrine of the original San Damiano crucifix.)  Two years later St. Francis was solemnly canonized, and the building of San Francesco at the other end of the town was begun.  In May, 1230, the body of the saint was transferred to the new church; and in 1253, on the anniversary of the transfer, Pope Innocent IV consecrated the Church of San Francesco.  Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) raised it to the rank of a patriarchal basilica and papal chapel.

   (From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #23:
   

Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.

Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.

Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

 

♬“If I Could Talk To The Animals; Just Imagine It!”♬ – St. Francis Did!†


It is a beautifully “WET” Thursday is Hazelwood (St. Louis) Missouri today.  The fresh air, the birds singing in the distance, and the lack of the pitter-patter (actually it is “thump-thump”) of my teenage children’s feet as they are now in school makes for an awesome day.  Three more days left of Eastertide and till the birthday of the Catholic Church.

 

Today in Catholic History:
† 325 – The First Council of Nicaea – the first Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church – is held.
† 1277 – Death of Pope John XXI (b. 1215)
† 1470 – Birth of Pietro Bembo, Italian cardinal (d. 1547)
† 1593 – Birth of Salomo Glassius, German theologian (d. 1656)
† 1825 – Death of Papaflessas, Greek priest and government official (b. 1788)
† 1927 – Birth of Franciszek Macharski, Polish Cardinal
† Feast and Memorials: Saint Bernardine of Siena, Saint Lucifer, Saint Austregisilus, Saint Ivo of Chartres, Abercius and Helena

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains un-awakened.
     

Today’s reflection:
    

What is the difference between showing respect for animals and treating them as if they are humans?  Do humans and animals have equal rights?
   

Probably the one big thing all people remember about St. Francis is that he was around animals.  If there is a statue of St. Francis in your garden or on your stoop, it probably has him with birds, deer, a wolf, or other animals surrounding him.  There are even many great stories about St. Francis’ encounters directly or indirectly, with animals found in nature.

It is true he loved animals.  He was even known to feed them with food literally out of his own mouth.   Our Seraphic Father (St. Francis) considered all creation, including people, animals,  flowers and trees, and even the various weather patterns as divine gifts from God, for us to enjoy, use, and to care for.

Secular Franciscans Rule # 20 states to “respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.”  Let’s tear this rule down to its elements.

We, as Christians, MUST respect all creation that lives, or inspires us to live.  Sounds simple, but the rule also says inanimate, meaning creation not in a physically live state; or not active, energetic, or lively.  To me this means to respect everything God has created, and God doesn’t make anything bad: it becomes bad only because of free-will and choosing that path of life.

Weather; rain as an example, is a good thing for us and the earth.  It cleans and refreshes the ground.  It gives us the necessary resources we need to survive.  Sometimes lightening occurs with the rain, and people see this as bad.  Lightening burns the ground, and scourges the earth.  It is a destroyer of the flora and fauna of an area.  We need to remember that with this death, comes a new life.  An area destroyed, within a few years, is thriving with a new growth of trees, grasses, and animal life.

It is everyone’s responsibility to remember that God gave us special gifts He did not give to any other earthly creation: a soul, and the responsibility to care for His creations.  We are to be good stewards of this planet.  Exploiting our resources is not only wrong: it is against God’s role for us, and is a sin against nature and divinity.

Does this mean we need to treat all creation as divine and Godly?  Absolutely NOT!  Only the Trinitarian God is divine, and deserves our worship.  But God’s creation does need to be respected, and appreciated for what they are:  God’s creation, for us to use and enjoy wisely.  Our Catechism of the Catholic Church even covers many aspects of animal rights, and proper use of earthly resources.  I will only print two for this article: #323- Divine providence works also through the actions of creatures. To human beings God grants the ability to cooperate freely with his plans.  And In 2416 –  Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

Call to mind a time when you were outside, and felt the presence of God in the beauty of His awesome creations.  I believe we all need to take time out from our busy schedules, and renew our appreciation of our earth.  Go outside, sit in a chair, and put yourself in God’s presence.  Reflect not only on the beauty and wonder of nature, but reflect on your responsibility as God’s instrument on earth.

In the 1970’s, there was a famous commercial saying, “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute!”  Then came the famous and still frequently used, “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!”  I think all of us know what the proper things are to help the world, and each other.  We just have to realize that ecology, recycling, and resource management MUST be a priority.  For those that pray the Liturgy of the Hours, a prayer in it says, “Come let us worship God who holds the world and its wonders in his creating hand.”

Instead of a closing prayer, I would like to offer this little known poem from St. Francis of Assisi:
    

Not To Hurt

“Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals)
Is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough.
We have a higher mission:
To be of service to them whenever they require it. ”
   

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Bernardin of Siena 1380-1444
 

St. Antoninus, archbishop of Florence, begins the biography of Bernardin with the words, “The grace of God, Our Saviour, has appeared in His servant Bernardin, who shone like a bright star in a dark night, and with the heavenly brilliance of his virtue and doctrine frightened away the darkness.”

The great saint descended from the old knightly family of the Albizeschi of Siena, and was born on September 8, 1380, in the town of Massa, a dependency of Siena, where his father was governor. When Bernardin was only 7 years old, he had lost both his parents, but he was reared in the fear of God by devout relatives. He evinced a great love for the poor, with whom, as a little boy, he gladly shared his food. He attended divine services with the most edifying devotion, and listened to sermons with such attention that he could repeat them to his companions.

He loved purity above all the virtues. While he attended the secondary school in Siena, he could not hear an unbecoming word without blushing for shame, so that those who spoken it themselves blushed. When any indecent conversation was going on among his companions, they stopped as soon as they saw him coming. “Be still,” they said, “Bernardin is coming.”

While the holy youth was otherwise very meek, he was friendly to all, he could nevertheless grow extremely angry if decency was violated. A prominent citizen once purposely told him something indecent in the open market place. Bernardin gave him a resounding slap in the face, and amid the laughter of the bystanders the disgraced citizen had to withdraw.

With his great love for purity, Bernardin united a tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin, whom he used to call his beloved. Out of devotion to her he daily visited an image of Mary just outside the town of Siena; he prayed there especially to learn his vocation. The Mother of Grace, who had protected him in the world, now led him to the sanctuary of the convent. In the quiet little convent of St. Mary Colombaio, which St. Francis himself had founded. Bernardin received the holy habit on the feast of the Nativity of Mary in the year 1402. On the same feast in the following year, he made his profession, and after he was ordained and appointed to preach, he also gave his first sermon on the feast of Mary’s nativity.

Since, however, Bernardin’s voice was very weak and hoarse, he seemed ill-fitted for the office of a preacher. Yet here, too, his beloved Mother helped him. AT her intercession his voice suddenly became so powerful and melodious that he became one of the most distinguished missionaries.

Now he journeyed all over Italy in order to announce to the people the virtues and vices, and the reward of the former and punishment of the latter. In many places such depravity existed that he found it necessary to preach sermons which he himself called sermons for heathens. The effects, however, were so astounding that Pope Pius II compared him with the Apostle of the Gentiles and called him a second Paul. After he had shaken their truths, he poured into them the soothing oil of the sweet name of Jesus, our Saviour and Redeemer, and preached on Mary, the Mother of Mercy.

His blessed ministry induced many towns to seek him as their bishop. This Siena, Ferrara, and Urbino petitioned in turn for this privilege, and the pope offered Bernardin the episcopal dignity. But with unchanging humility, he declined every time. He remained among his religious brethren whom he encouraged in religious perfection.

Rich in merits and virtue he died at Aquila on May 20, 1944, Pope Nicholas V canonized him 6 years later, whereupon the citizens of Aquila built to his honor a beautiful church with a magnificent marble tomb.

 (From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #20:
    

The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

“Marriage is the ultimate lover’s triangle!” – a Reflection†


Just a few more days of Easter left.  Easter season actually ends on the Sunday of Pentecost.  Today’s blog is one of my most humorous reflections on marriage, being a parent, and encouraging vocations.  I hope you enjoy reading it, and please, please comment.

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

Whatever you give a woman, she will make it greater.  Give her your love, she will give you a baby.  Give her a house, she will give you a home.  Give her groceries, she will give you a meal.  Give her a smile, she will give you her heart.  She multiplies & enlarges what she is given.  So if you give her crap, be ready to receive a ton of sh@#… 
   

Today’s reflection:
   

How do the graces from the Sacrament of Marriage help parents?  How do we help be “attentive to the vocation of each child”?
  

On December 1st, 1990, I prayed one of the most beautiful and important prayers any man can pray.  It is probably the shortest prayer known, but also one of the most important prayers of evangelization ever.  With this prayer came a life of significant sacrifice and love.  The prayer:  I DO!  I love my wife, the most beautiful woman in the world (in my eyes). 

We’ve experienced good times and bad, but between the three of us, we’re doing a good job.  And yes, I did say the three of us.  When I entered into the covenant of marriage with my wife Jeanine, we both also entered into a covenant with God.  Marriage is the ultimate lover’s triangle; and the only lover’s triangle approved by the Catholic Church. 

For me, marriage is easy, as long as I remember three simple phrases, and don’t go outside these responses: 1)Yes Dear, 2)I Love You, and 3)Have you lost weight lately?  Don’t get me wrong; I wear the pants in the family.  My wife, Jeanine, just tells me which ones to put on.

Now, it is time for some serious discussion about marriage and children.  I love my wife more and more every day.  We have been married for nearly twenty glorious years.  There have been some bad days, and unhappy events in our marriage, but we got through those trials with God’s help; and through lots of prayer.  Jeanine is so much a real part of me that I literally cannot imagine how I lived without her in my life.

Our four boys (Jeanine could not get the girl thing right) are a gift from God.  They each have their own distinct personalities, which collide quite often recently as they are teenagers; and the youngest is nearing this period in his life.  I see humor in the “hormone” fluctuations running rampant in our household.  I also get frustrated with the emotions and attitudes that are often displayed.  I wonder if God is doing this as a form of penance for our sins, or if He just wants a good laugh from time to time?

Living in a small home, privacy is a premium.  I take this as a blessing because it is easy for us to observe our children closely, and for our children to watch a Catholic marriage through the good times, and bad periods.  They see my wife and I kiss (which still totally grosses them out to this day) and say “love ya” multiple times daily.  They see us discuss household bills, education issues, parish matters, etc.  And they occasionally see us discuss with emotion (some may say argue), but luckily this is fairly a rare occurrence.

The key to marriage and raising children is communication and love.  I believe the only arguments we have had, dealt with a lack of communicating in some way or form.  Arguments and disagreements are a normal occurrence in marriage, and in ANY worthwhile relationship: how you handle these disagreements is what matters.  One can “shut down” or run away from the disagreement, which causes the eventual dissolving of the tie between the two.  Or, the two can work out the problem, and create a solution.  The first is the easy approach, but the second is the mature, and I believe, Christian approach to loving each other.

Jeanine and I have really only two rules when it comes to arguing: it must be done privately, and we cannot go to bed angry.  I have occasionally gone to bed unhappy and even possibly hurt; and I remember a couple times of not sleeping at all that night, but this rule works, and have brought us closer to each other.  God is always with us, and seems to help us find solutions to our problems when we asked.

Our children know that “vocation” does not mean ONLY being a priest or brother.  They see and participate in vocations regularly.  Our sons know marriage is a vocation equal to any other vocation.  Their serving mass is a participation in a vocation for their status in life: they are serving the Lord in a small and humble way.  My two oldest are “helpers” in the PSR (Parish School of Religion) program at our Church.  They do this in a volunteer way to help others learn about our faith and religion: another vocation.

We have encouraged our children to explore various vocations, and have taught them to be open to where the Holy Spirit may want to lead them.  A couple of my kids have shown an interest in the priestly life, and we have encouraged this interest, but we have learned to NOT push too hard.  If it is right for them, they will find it.

Someday in the future my children will have a vocation.  Be it a priest, a brother, a member of the SFO like their father; or as a police officer, doctor, or as an astronaut.  Wherever the Holy Spirit leads them, and they are happy in their vocation, and they are productive to society and the church; it will be an answer to our prayers.

“Gracious and loving God, you have blessed us with the privilege of becoming Parents.  We ask that you provide us with all that we need in accepting this awesome responsibility.  We pray that we will be open to your spirit who is our source of strength, as we witness to our children your love for each of them, and your desire for them to be happy and to live a full life.

We ask your help so we may guide and encourage our children to believe that they each have a special calling and to use their gifts and talents for others.

We pray, Heavenly Father, that our children will discover and respond enthusiastically to your desire for them, whether it be to the vocation of single, married, ordained or consecrated life.

We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Prayer by Mrs. Dorothy Foss
© USCCB. All rights reserved.

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Felix of Cantalice 1515-1587

   

In 1515, in the Italian village of Cantalice, in the beautiful valley of Rieti, Felix was born of humble but pious peasants. As a boy he tended cattle, and later he became a farm laborer. Being so much amid God’s free nature, his heart was attracted to God, who gracious ministering to us human beings he had daily before his eyes.

Neither did the hard work make him coarse and worldly-minded, as sometimes happens, but he was gentle and kind towards everyone. When he came home at night all tired out, he still spent much time in his little room engaged in prayer, to which for that matter he applied himself also while at work. It grieved him that he could not attend holy Mass on weekdays. He would indeed gladly have consecrated his whole life to the service of God, but he could see no way of carrying out his desire until one day an accident showed him the way.

Felix had to break to the plow a team of young oxen that were very wild. The oxen shied, and when Felix tried to stop them, they ram him down, dragging the sharp plowshare across his body. Peasants ran to the scene, certain that they would find the man dead, but Felix arose unharmed, with only his jacket rent. But he went straight to his employer and begged to be released from his service. The little he possessed he gave to the poor, and went to the nearest Capuchin convent, where he humbly begged for admission. After careful trial, his request was granted.

Now Felix felt like one newly born, as if heaven itself had opened to him. It was the year 1543, and Felix was 28 years old. But in his novitiate he was yet to experience the burden and the struggles of this earthly life. The devil attacked him with violent temptations of all kinds. He was also seized with a lingering illness, which made it appear that he was unfit for convent life. But patience, steadfast self-control, prayer, and candor toward his superiors helped him secure admission to the vows, which he took with great delight.

Soon afterwards he was sent to the Capuchin convent at Rome, where, because of his genuine piety and friendly manner, he was appointed to the task of gathering alms, which he did for all the next 42 years until his death. With his provision sack slung over his shoulder, he went about so humbly and reserved in manner that he edified everybody. When he received an alms, he had so cordial a way of saying Deo Gratias – thanks be to God – that the people called him Brother Deo Gratias. As soon as he got back to the convent and delivered the provisions, he found his way to church. There he first said a prayer for the benefactors, then he poured out his heart in devotion especially before the Blessed Sacrament and at the altar of our Lady. There he also passed many hours of the night, and one time the Mother of God placed the Divine Child in the arms of the overjoyed Felix.

He was most conscientious in observing every detail of his role and vows. He did not wait for the orders of his superiors; a mere hint from them was enough. Although always in touch with the world, he kept careful guard over his chastity in every word and look, that Pope Paul V said he was a saint in body and soul.

Poverty was his favorite virtue. Because out holy Father St. Francis forbade his friars to accept money in any form, Felix could not be prevailed upon to accept it under ant circumstances. How pleasing his spirit was to God was to be proved in a remarkable way. Once on leaving a house, Felix slung his sack over his shoulder, but felt it weigh so heavily that it almost crushed him. He searched the sack and found a coin which someone had secretly slipped into it. He threw it away in disgust, and cheerfully and easily took up his sack again.

Almighty God granted for Felix extraordinary graces. Many sick persons he restored to health with the Sign of the Cross. A dead child he gave back alive to its mother. In the most puzzling cases he was able to give helpful advice. Honored by the great and lowly, he considered himself the most wretched of men, but earned so much more merits with God.

Finally, the day arrived when Felix was to gather the board of his merits. He died with a cheerful countenance while catching sight of the Mother of God, who invited him to the joys of Paradise. It was on the feast of Pentecost, May 18, 1587. Pope Urban VIII beatified him, Pope Clement XI inscribed him in the register of the saints in 1709.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm.,
© 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #18:

   

Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.

“On a Cloud and a Prayer!” – Acts 1:8-11† A unique reflection on the ascension of Jesus, as seen through my warped mind.


I hope all have a splendid and peaceful day celebrating with the Lord in some way.  After all, it is “His” day.

I also want to thank a dear friend in helping me “put to pen” some of my thoughts and reflections for this blog.  John H., you have helped me in more ways than you can imagine.  You are a true friend, and a reflection of Christ on earth.  Thank you.
   

Today in Catholic History:
   

†  583 – Death of Saint Brendan, Irish navigator (b. 484)
† 1265 – Saint Simon Stock, English saint (b. 1165)
† 1611 – Birth of Pope Innocent XI (d. 1689)
† 1657 – Andrzej Bobola, Polish Jesuit missionary (b. 1591)
† 1920 – In Rome, Pope Benedict XV canonizes Joan of Arc as a saint.
† 1943 – Holocaust: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ends.
† Feasts: Saint Brendan the Navigator, Saint Germerius, Saint Honoré of Amiens, Saint Andrew Bobola, Saint Ubaldus, Saint Peregrine of Auxerre

Quote or Joke of the Day:
    

If Jesus didn’t rise, an even greater miracle happened:12 relatively uneducated guys changed the world & were martyred to protect a lie.〜 Unknown
        

Today’s Meditation:
    

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.  While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”  (NAB Acts 1:8-11)

 

The Apostles are finally going to understand all that Jesus had taught them.  They are finally going to get a divine power to teach, lead, forgive, and heal (In ten days: at Pentecost).  But they are to receive this grace at a price.  They, as all Christians then and now, are charged by Jesus to be witnesses to their faith.  As priests of today still do, by the miraculous mark on their soul, these men were to leave their old lives behind and take up the mantle of Jesus: and to follow in His footsteps; including the good and the bad times. 
     

Jerusalem was the city of destiny in the Gospel of Luke; the place to be, and to come.  In Acts, Jerusalem was also the place where salvation was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This city was the starting point for the mission of the Christian disciples for destinations to “the ends of the earth.” Jerusalem was the place where the apostles were situated, and thus the focal point in the early days of the Church community.  The “ends of the earth” for the people of Jerusalem at this time in history probably meant Rome from a geographical viewpoint, and to the gentiles from a doctrinal view.
   

Can you just picture Jesus standing on a cloud, with a lovingly coy smile on his face, and His arms outstretched in a way of blessing; as He slowly moved in an upward direction until no longer visible to the naked eye?  There is a major amount of symbolism involved with this scene from Catholic history.
    

The first symbol is the cloud.  The cloud is composed purely of water; in a shapeless and ever-changing form.  This water moves throughout the cloud in a continuous and living manner, reacting to each other by either combining with other water molecules or by repealing other water molecules.  Sounds like a typical Catholic parish to me.  Isn’t it interesting that the blood of Jesus washed away our sins, giving us redemption and salvation; and the living water of Baptism, just as the living water of Jesus’ cloud, rises us up to the kingdom of heaven.
     

Next, I wish to delve into the image of Jesus’ rising to heaven: the Ascension.  Jesus’ ascension into heaven, body, blood, soul, and divinity is as of yet beyond my comprehension, but one I do take as a matter of faith.  Until Jesus, and later Mary; heaven was, and still is, a timeless, and measureless abode for the souls of the “righteous,” that have been perfected either while still on earth or in purgatory.  Again, I believe Jesus and Mary are in heaven “body, blood, and soul,” but I cannot explain how at this time.
   

Jesus rose to heaven on His own power.  Mary on the other hand did not. Although Mary was a living saint; the first disciple of Jesus; and the first Christian, she was still purely, and only human; whereas Jesus was totally human and totally divine (another mystery of faith).  Mary did not ascend to heaven, as many Catholics mistakenly believe. 
    

Our blessed Mother, our Queen, was “assumed” into heaven through the action of the Holy Spirit.  So, on August 15th, the day we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, please remember two things.  First, this feast is about Mary entering heaven and ruling with Jesus as our heavenly Queen, and as His (God’s) Queen Mother.  And secondly, Mary was brought “body, blood, soul, and humanity” to heaven by God for her dedication, purity, and a holy life worthy of God’s graces.  All we have to do is be humbly dedicated to Jesus, and lead a worthy life of pure love, as a gift which is heaven.  Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?!
   

The Apostles, and I am sure some of His disciples as well, were standing in awe at witnessing Jesus ascending to heaven.  They were probably wondering what to do now without their leader physically with them.  All of a sudden two men (I believe they are angels) are standing next to them.  Dressed in the color of purity and love, they inquisitively ask, “Wats U lookin at?!” (Sorry for the slang phrase.  I am using it for descriptive purposes.)
     

There is another thing I noticed about these two “angels” appearance to all to all these men of faith.  I believe this is one of only a very few appearances of angels in the Bible that did not cause some type of “fear factor” among the witnesses involved.  I wonder why?  Is it because they were already in some type of “mental overload” as to be unaffected by these heavenly beings?  Or, was it because these “men in white” comforted and calmed all present by telling them that Jesus would be returning in the future?
     

I think we Catholics, as a whole, are still standing in awe and looking at the sky for help.   We just need to remember that Jesus is still present with us, as He was present to these early Christians.  Since our struggles are really no different than those of the first Christians; the awesome fact that He loves us can keep us comforted and calmed in our times of stress, and in our trials of human life.  Finally, the members of the first Church were probably no different than today: a combination of sinners and saints.
     

We are all part of a great and divine phenomenon: Christianity.  Take heart, smile, and listen to our Church leaders.  They are inspired by the Holy Spirit when in communion with the Magisterium of the Church.  And Jesus is never wrong!
    

“Lord Jesus, give me a generous heart to those I meet.  Please make me your instrument on earth.  Amen”
          

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:    St. Margaret of Cortona 1247-1297

This Magdalen of the Franciscan Order came into the world in the year 1247 at Laviano near Cortona in the province of Tuscany. When she was 7 years old, she lost her pious mother. She was neglected by her careless father, who married again within a short time, and her unsympathetic stepmother death harshly with her, so that when Margaret was 18 years old, she left home to earn her bread among strangers.

She was possessed of rare beauty, and ere long this became a snare for her. For the space of 9 years she gave herself up to a life of sin and scandal. Then one day she waited a long time in vain for her accomplice in sin to return home to the place where she lived with him. Presently his dog came to her whining and tugging at her dress. She followed the animal into the heart of the forest, and there she suddenly stood before the blood stained corpse of the unfortunate man; his enemies had murdered him.

At the appalling sight, Margaret was stunned like one struck by lightening. Filled with terror she asked herself, “Where is his soul now?” Then and there she firmly resolved in future to be even greater in penance than she had been in sin. Like the prodigal son she returned repentant to her native town of Laviano.

In a penitential garb, her hair cut short, a cord around her neck, she knelt at the door of the church and publicly asked all the congregation to forgive the scandal she had given. Many people were edified at this public humiliation, but her stepmother was all the more embittered at it. She. as well as Margaret’s father, forbade her to enter the parental home again. This reception severely tempted Margaret to return to the road of vice, but God’s grace sustained her.

Led by divine grace, she repaired to Cortona, made a contrite general confession to a Franciscan there, and submitted to the spiritual direction of her confessor. In a poor little hovel she now lived a secluded life, in penance, tears, and prayer, earning her scanty nourishment by hard manual labor.

Again and again she begged for the habit of the Third Order, that she might be recognized by all the world as a penitent. But not until 3 years had elapsed and she had been severely tried, was her wish granted. She received the habit in 1277. Now her fervor increased, and it is almost incredible what rigorous penances she practiced from then on. Day and night she wept over her sins, and often sobs so choked her voice that she could not speak. Satan made use of every wile and snare to cause Margaret to relapse, but prayer, mortification, and humiliation successfully put him to flight.

When finally, after uninterrupted struggling, she had triumphed over every earthly inclination, God assured her that her sins were fully pardoned and granted her special proofs of His knowledge of the innermost secrets of hearts. In many an instance, even when people came from great distances, she recalled grievous sins to their mind, while her exhortations and prayers were instrumental in bringing about conversion. Many souls were released from purgatory upon her prayers. Almighty God wrought many miracles through her even in her lifetime. Health was restored to the sick, a dead boy was raised to life, and at her approach evil spirits shuddered and left those whom they possessed.

Finally, after 23 years of rigorous penance, in the 50th year of her life, God called the great penitent to the Beatific Vision on February 22, 1297. Her body is preserved in a precious shrine in the Franciscan church at Cortona which bears her name. It is incorrupt even at the present day and frequently emits a pleasant perfume. Several popes have confirmed the public veneration accorded her. Pope Benedict XIII canonized her amid great solemnity in 1728.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #16:
  

Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.