Thursday, May 31, 2012

Papal Intentions for June 2012

Let us join the Holy Father in praying for these intentions during the month of June:

General Intention: That believers may recognize in the Eucharist the living presence of the Risen One who accompanies them in daily life. 

Missionary Intention: That Christians in Europe may rediscover their true identity and participate with greater enthusiasm in the proclamation of the Gospel.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two New Doctors!

From the Vatican Information Service (VIS):
St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen to be Proclaimed Doctors of the Universal Church

Vatican City, 27 May 2012 (VIS) - After celebrating Mass this morning in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of Pentecost, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Regina Coeli with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Before the Marian prayer the Pope announced that on 7 October, at the start of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, he will proclaim St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen as Doctors of the Universal Church. "These two great witnesses of the faith lived in very different historical periods and cultural environments", he said. "Hildegard was a Benedictine nun during the height of the German Middle Ages, a true master of theology and a great scholar of the natural sciences and of music. John was a young diocesan priest of the Spanish Renaissance, who participated in the travails of the cultural and spiritual renewal of the Church and society at the dawn of the Modern Age".

The sanctity of their lives and the profundity of their doctrine mean that these two saints "retain all their importance. The grace of the Holy Spirit enabled them to experience profound understanding of divine revelation and intelligent dialogue with the world, two factors which represent the perennial goal of the life and activity of the Church".

St. John and St. Hildegard are particularly significant on the eve of the forthcoming Year of Faith, and in light of the new evangelisation to which the Synod of Bishops will be dedicating its attention. "Also in our own day, and through their teaching, the Spirit of the risen Lord continues to make His voice heard and to illuminate the path which leads to the Truth, which is the only thing that can make us free and give full meaning to our lives", the Pope said.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Pentecost by Jean Restout
Readings for May 27/ Pentecost Sunday:
Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
John 20:19-23

One of my favorite paintings of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is by the French painter Jean Restout. In the center of the painting in an elevated place is the Blessed Mother, her hands folded in prayer as the winds whirls around her and the tongues of fire descend. Around her are the Apostles and other disciples, who, unlike the Blessed Mother, are depicted running away, falling over each other, shrinking back from the Spirit and covering their faces in fear.

As I reflected on that image, I began to reflect on who beautiful it was both visibly, but also theologically. It is a long-held belief of the Church that Mary was highly favored by God and thus given certain graces that no other person in history received. She was free from sin from the moment of her conception until her assumption into Heaven, leading her to be open to the will of God entirely and perpetually. She stands joyfully to receive the Spirit because her ‘Yes’ to God at the Annunciation never really ended, but rather continues in all things. The depiction of the Apostles and other disciples is quite profound in that it shows the reality of our sinful state. In the midst of our days there is generally a peace and joy that abides in us as the Lord walks with us, but when we come face to face with God in a powerful way there is often within our hearts a certain fear or hesitancy.

If we look at the scriptures we can all discern that the Lord calls us to Himself for three reasons: 1) to purify us in His burning love so that we might 2) be sent out to continue His mission and so 3) remain with Him forever in Heaven. To be purified and sent means that it will cost us something and so when we encounter our God our hearts immediately begin to raise questions.

What will it cost me? What will the future hold for me? What about my plans? Am I strong enough to do what God wants? And ultimately, If I give myself wholly and entirely to Christ, will I be happy?

The questions come up because there is something in us that doesn’t trust God fully yet. Unlike the Blessed Mother who was perfectly receptive to all of God’s desires, we have places in our hearts that we are unsure we can open up just yet. If these words register at all in your heart, be at peace, for the disciples and first followers of Jesus were of that same heart and yet when they set fear aside and opened up their hearts they were filled with the Spirit and changed the world.

Today we celebrate Pentecost once more, rejoicing in the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the Church and the world. As we do so, we are reminded by St. Paul that “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” God has a plan in place for each of us and has planted the seed of gifts within our hearts. Like the disciples at the first Pentecost, may we too set aside our fears and reservations, that the Spirit might come and fill us as He did them and so produce within each of us the many gifts He has planted. May they bear much fruit, for His glory and the salvation of our souls and the souls of many others.

And so we conclude by praying that great prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ascendit Deus!

Icon of the Ascension
Readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension:
Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47:2-3, 6-9
Ephesians 4:1-13 (or 1:17-23)
Mark 16:15-20

At the surface level, it can seem a bit odd for us to celebrate the day when the Lord Jesus left Earth to ascend to Heaven. I have to admit that in some sense, I'd really like Jesus to have an office building where we could set up appointments and he could tell us exactly what to do and solve our problems. But the reality is that as much as I’d like to have Jesus here with us to speak face to face, it is truly for our own good that He Ascended into Heaven. St. Paul reminds us that ‘he ascended’ points to the reality that Christ first descended to be with us and that He is now returning to Heaven “that he might fill all things.”

Christ ascended because He knows that our true fulfillment is found only in Heaven. As wonderful as this life is, we weren’t made to remain here. So, the Lord ascends into Heaven to prepare a place for us and awaits our arrival, for as the Collect, or opening prayer, today said: where the head has gone before in glory, the body is called to follow in hope.

But He does not simply sit at the right hand of the Father twiddling His thumbs waiting for each soul to arrive at the heavenly gates. He is actively interceding for us and pouring out His grace through the hands of the Blessed Mother upon the whole world. In one of the Easter prefaces before the Eucharistic Prayer we hear that Christ is “the priest, the altar and the lamb of sacrifice.” As a priest, He offered Himself as a lamb in the altar of His flesh. All of this was so that we might be redeemed and be able to join Him in the Heavenly Banquet for which we were created. And so He continues to stand at the right hand of God the Father – symbolically a place of honor – and continues to offer Himself as priest, altar and lamb to the Father as payment for our sins. This is the grace of the Ascension – that Christ stands before the Father reminding the Father of the extent of His love for us on Earth and pouring out grace for us to continue the journey toward Heaven.

Truly God is with us, much more than simply in the flesh. For He is alive in our hearts in and through the Holy Spirit, drawing us day by day to that ultimate union where we will behold the glorious face of God for all eternity.

And a little lagniappe....

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pentecost Novena

Pentecost by Jean Restout
Today begins the Pentecost Novena, modeling our own prayer after that of the Apostles who spent nine days praying for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. The prayers (found HERE) are relatively short and incredibly powerful.

Also, the New Theological Movement blog has a nice little write-up on novenas and the theology of the number nine HERE.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Receptivity to Love

Readings for Sunday, May 13/ Sixth Sunday of Easter:
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Psalm 98:1-4
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

Before my seminary days, when I was dating, my mom would often lament the fact that she would one day be replaced by another women – my future wife – and would be sure to tell me, “Brent, just remember. Momma loved you first. And Momma loved you best.” After I entered the seminary, she happily told me that if she had to be replaced by another woman, Mother Church was definitely the most satisfying choice from her point of view.

At the time I thought it was a bit funny to hear my mom say these things, but I also knew that there was truth in what she spoke to me. With those words she was letting me know of her unconditional love for ‘her baby boy,’ as I’m introduced even to this day. In spite of all the things that I did wrong and all the trouble that I got myself into as a child and adolescent – and even now as an adult! – she never stopped loving me and she never quit showing it. I think this is a beautiful illustration of one of the most essential attributes of women – their receptivity.

Women, by their nature, are more receptive to things that men. The women in my family can recount events and details that I would never think to notice in the moment, much less ten years down the line. They can tell when something is going on and have an incredible sense about what it is and how to deal with it. But I think most of all, they are more receptive to the God who created us all. By default, women are more open to the love that God pours out upon us and are thus compelled to share that love. Love is compelled to share itself with others. And that is one of the greatest gifts of women to the world: signs of the unconditional love of our God and models of how to share that love with others.

While some in the world think that God is some tyrant who is constantly seeking to condemn and judge us, the truth is the exact opposite. God is a Father, a friend and love itself. And He desires that our joy be complete by remaining in that perpetual outpouring of His unconditional love. As St. Paul says, nothing in the world can separate us from the love of Christ. But the reality is that we must choose to remain in that love. It’s a conscious choice we must make and live.

As you may know, this past week the priests of our diocese went to Lafayette to a series of conferences by Fr. Ronald Knott, a priest of the diocese of Louisville, KY. In one of his conferences he looked at each of us and told us that one of the hardest days of his 42 years of priesthood was the Monday after his ordination. Ordination day on Saturday was full of excitement with the ceremony taking place and the reception afterward. Sunday was the big day to celebrate Masses of Thanksgiving and rejoice in the gift of priesthood. But on Monday he woke up and the honeymoon was over. There were no more parties, no more celebrations; he was simply faced with an incredibly difficult parish assignment and dozens of obligations that were far less exciting than ceremonies and after-parties. He was faced with a choice: either call it quits and walk away from all that was in front of him or to choose to remain a priest out of love for his people, despite the sufferings that would be part of that choice. He chose to remain.

St. Therese of Liseux
In a similar way, each one of us must make the conscious choice each day to get up and remain in the love of Christ Jesus by choosing to love those that He places in front of us that day. This will entail some suffering on our part, as St. John reminds us: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Love manifests itself by placing the needs and desires of others ahead of ourselves, which means that we must take a back seat. The beautiful thing is that if it is truly love that compels us, the suffering will be a joy to us because of the love that flows through us. St. Therese beautifully put it this way, “I can no longer suffer, for all suffering is sweetness.” She knew that suffering was simply love being poured out of ourselves for the good of the other.

As we celebrate today the great gift of our mothers and those who have been like mothers to us, may we be thankful for their outpouring of love upon us and be mindful of the God who seeks to have us remain in His love by doing the same to others.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Transformation Takes Time

Acts 9:26-31
Psalm 22:26-28, 30-32
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

One of the most difficult things about the spiritual life is that we’re not in control. We can try and try to make progress in holiness and feel as if we’re only spinning our wheels. Confessions can seem to be mere a time to repeat the same sins as the previous time and we become frustrated because of the apparent lack of change, or at least the length of time that the changes take. Today’s reading from Acts makes a beautiful response to this sentiment in the person of St. Paul. Three years after his dramatic conversion to Christ, St. Paul comes to Jerusalem in hopes of joining the disciples in spreading the Gospel. His boldness, abrasiveness, and previous history bring the whole Church in Jerusalem into a state of unrest until they sent him away. It seems that the instantaneous conversion of St. Paul from sinner to saint wasn’t so instantaneous after all, being that three whole years later he still had no positive impact on things within the Christian community. It took several more years before God’s grace was able to transform him into the saint that God desired him to be. And the same goes for us today.

The culture in which we live is not a big supporter of taking time to do things. Things ought to come how we want them and when we want them, even in our spiritual lives. But the reality is that the spiritual life takes a great deal of time to grow; after all Jesus’ descriptions of the kingdom were things like mustard seeds, fields producing crops, and merchants patiently waiting to find that one pearl that would sustain him for the rest of his days. The spiritual life is about diligence in moving forward.

Caravaggio's The Martyrdom of St. Matthew
Anyone who has ever been in my office knows that I love books. One of the books that I’m currently reading, entitled Caravaggio, - about one of my favorite artists, Michaelangelo Carravaggio. The thing that interests me most about the book is that it describes the technique, history, and theology of each of his paintings. One of the first paintings that he was asked to do on a large scale in a chapel in Rome was one of St. Matthew’s martyrdom. I was struck by the fact that he painted the entire thing several times. He painted the image and the whole scene, then decided that it was not yet perfected so he began to change things here and there, painting an entirely new center portrait of St. Matthew, and ultimately changing the whole view scene. The one who had commissioned the painting was a bit frustrated at the length of time that it took, but when the finished product was revealed it was stunning and has been a great source of prayer and contemplation for all who look upon it. It wasn’t done in a day, and it wasn’t completely perfect the first time. It took a long process and many months to get things to be as the creator desired.

In the midst of our own spiritual life, are we willing to let God take His time in bringing us to perfection? Like St. Paul, we can try to push things before they are ready and cause more harm than good, settling for a half-finished product. But this is not what the Lord desires and I am certain this is not what any of us desires either. We must be patient, but this doesn’t mean we are inactive. Growth in the spiritual life takes our effort as well. As branches on the vine, we must remain rooted in Christ through daily prayer and the sacraments, drawing our life from Him. As branches, we can’t see the change that takes place within us as the life of the vine continue to nourish us and produce fruit within us, but over time we can notice a difference. Notice new leaves, a new shoot here and there, a cluster of grapes that have begun to ripen. But for this to happen we must be men and women of prayer. Not necessarily in great ascetical works or lengthy vigils as many of the saints have done, but at least in the little things of the day – a chaplet or rosary on the way to or from work, a few moments in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, waking up 10 minutes early in the morning to be able to pray with the scriptures for the day. These and so many other things will enable us to truly remain in Christ and He in us.

As we now proceed to the celebration of the Eucharist, may we who receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord today renew our commitment to being branches that are full of His life as the Lord renews His commitment to transform us and bear within us much fruit.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Facebook and Bikinis?!

Loved this post from Mary over at Young and Catholic blog:

4 Reasons to Keep Bikini Pictures Off Facebook 
Even though the weather in my neck of the woods as of late would seem to indicate otherwise, the calendar is telling me that summer is just around the corner.  You know what that means: Beach Season!
If you recall, last summer was My First Summer Without a Bikini, and honestly, I haven’t looked back (and am even a little surprised that it has only been a year since I stopped wearing bikinis).  Even still, I remember and understand the desire girls have to show off that new beach body and especially that new summertime swimsuit.  And in the age of Facebook, what better way to show off than by uploading a picture?  It seems harmless, and everyone else does it anyway…
But before you upload those pictures this summer, you may want to check out these 4 reasons to reconsider the bikini pictures:
1)   Because EVERYONE that you are friends with (and more, depending on privacy settings) can see these pictures.
Let’s stop and think about this for just a minute.  Think carefully of all 812 of your friends.  I’m sure you will come across at least one person that you wouldn’t want staring at you in a bikini.
To put it another way: imagine putting on your bikini and knocking on the front door of random Facebook friend—we’ll call him “Bob”—‘s house, and then just saying, “Feel free to stare at me.  I’m just going to stand here smiling.”
Are you sufficiently creeped out?  Unfortunately, that’s really not much different than what you’re doing by posting that “super cute” bikini picture of yourself on Facebook.
(If you’re having trouble thinking of who looks at your Facebook, here are some ideas to start you off: Uncle Jim, that kid you went to highschool with, the random guy you added because he kind of looked familiar but you’re not really sure you know in real life, potential employers, your lab partner, etc.)
2) Because the good guys (i.e. – the guys you want to date) will choose to “hide” those pictures from their newsfeeds anyway
We ladies can be so naïve.  That picture we took at the beach with our friends last Saturday?  We see it as a great shot of us with our friends just having a good time, looking cute in our new bathing suit, and are thankful those crunches have paid off because our abs look darn good.  We even often post these pictures with the hopes of catching the attention of that cute guy from school.
This is so misguided though.  Assuming the guy you’re interested in is a good guy trying to do the right thing, he will not want to objectify you by reducing you to a mere collection of body parts.  But asking a guy not to reduce you to a collection of body parts and then presenting him with an image of basically nothing but body parts is sending some seriously conflicting signals.  (That picture is not inviting him to admire your beautiful smile…)
In other words, if the guy that you want to see this picture is a good guy with some discipline, he is going to hide the picture from his newsfeed because it’s an occasion of sin that he is wise enough to eliminate (and I have this on the authority of some pretty spectacular dudes).  If he’s not, well then he’s just going to objectify you without a second thought.  It’s a lose-lose situation.  Either way, you’re definitely not getting the kind of attention you want.
3)   Because you’d never post a picture of yourself in your bra and underwear on Facebook
Right?  Of course right.  Let’s stop pretending that a pictures of us wearing material covering the exact same amount of skin looks any different.
4)   Because your beauty is more than your body
Like I said, you will definitely attract attention from guys by posting pictures of yourself in your bikini, but they’re not going to be focused on your beautiful smile or your magnetic personality.  Don’t believe me?  Just check out the comments on anyone of you or your friends’ current bikini pictures.  I’ll bet they all read something along the lines of, “Dayyyum, girl!” and use words primarily like, “hot,” or “sexy.” You’ll be hard-pressed to find a “beautiful” or a “lovely,” but isn’t this the kind of attention we want far more than being referred to as, “hot”?
It’s a cheap way to get attention, and let’s face it: it’s beneath you.  You’re beautiful, and you don’t have to post a half-naked picture of yourself on Facebook to prove it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Papal Intentions for May

Let us join with Pope Benedict XVI in praying for these intention especially during this month of May:

General Intention: That initiatives which defend and uphold the role of the family may be promoted within society.

Missionary Intention: That Mary, Queen of the World and Star of Evangelization, may accompany all missionaries in proclaiming her Son Jesus.