Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Men in Black 3-what is a priest?

This weekend Men in Black 3 topped the charts as the nations #1 movie. Today is the 13th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I wear black. I may not take on aliens as they do in the movie but black is my color. Yesterday I wish I could have worn white-the sun was hot at East Hampton's Memorial Day parade. A friend of mine has a t-shirt that says "real men wear black." Who is the man who wears black? What is a priest? The catechism of the catholic church notes that (1536) "Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate." The Catechism then asks:"Why is this sacrament called Orders?"...."The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in Sacred Scripture, has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaonorum. Other groups also receive the name of ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows...Integration into one of these bodies in the Church was accomplished by a rite called ordinatio, a religious and liturgical act which was a consecration, a blessing or a sacrament. Today the word ordination is reserved for the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of bishops, presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond a simple election, designation, delegation, or institution by the community, for it confers a gift of the Holy spirit that permits the exercise of a 'sacred power' which can only come from Christ himself through his Church. Ordination is also called consecratio, for it is a setting apart and an investiture by Christ himself for his church. They laying on of hands by the bishop, with the consecratory prayer, constitutes the visible sign of this ordination." A lot of heavy language. I like the simple words of Vatican II: "The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ-Head of the Church-before the assembly of the faithful, bu also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice." (Lumen Gentium 10)Indeed, I feel most priestly when celebrating the Eucharist-mass. It is the highlight of my day. Whether it is just the Lord and myself, or there is a full church, or I am standing on the infield of Yankee Stadium before 60,000 (as I did at the mass with Pope Benedict XVI)-it is one and the same mystery. It is calvary. Do I understand it? No Do I believe it with all my heart, mind, and soul? yes. I will never forget a Mass I was celebrating at St. Joseph in Willimantic CT. I was not particularly recollected and I felt myself racing through the prayers. All of a sudden, as if someone else were taking over, I felt a complete change. The tone of my voice changed, I began to read more slowly and reverently, it was then that I realized someone else was in charge. We believe that someone else to be Christ. It is fairly common when concelebrating with other priests to feel a surge like an electric current, run through my heart and hands as I say the words of consecration. To be present at the death of someone is a special grace. I will never forget another moment in Willimantic where I was called to St. Joseph Living Center to annoint someone. I did not go willingly or with a smile. In fact I was grumbling that it wasn't even a parishoner. I had been called out late the night before and was feeling sorry for myself. Little did I know that one of the greatest graces of my priesthood was awaiting me. I went in, anointed the woman and said the prayers for the anointing of the sick. I was preparing to leave when a little voice inside said, "stay". I stayed and prayed the prayers of commendation for the dying. We Went through the Litany of the Saints. I read scripture and as I said the final prayer something very special happened. Just as I finished saying "may you meet the living Lord Jesus, your savior, face to face in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," she took her last breath. She was waiting! I felt that all the angels and saints were there. It was very touching. I went into the chapel and all I could do was weep. Christ was using me, a useless instrument, to do His work. I still marvel at how God works. People today say "what is wrong with the priesthood?" There is nothing wrong with the priesthood. God is still working in His Church. Pray that I may be a worthy servant and that I will always treasure the awesome gift of the priesthood. I remember each and everyone of you when I daily approach the altar. Peace!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Venerable Conchita on priests

Concepcion Cabrera de Armida is a saint for our time. She was declared venerable by Pope John Paul II in the Jubilee year 2000. It is said that her writings are almost as voluminous as those of St. Thomas Aquinas, the great doctor of the Church. She died on March 3, 1937 at the age of 75. As a mother she has a special role in the lives of priests and I do feel is very active in interceeding for them in heaven. Here are some difficult words that she shares from Our Lord regarding priests and priestly spirituality: " If souls lag along the road and their interior life is extinguished, it's the priest's fault. The gates of divine communication opened up for the mystical life, are closed. Why? Through apathy in My service, through dissipation of their lives, through their lack of mortification, through their lack of study in this domain, through absence of close and consciencious rapport with souls, through want of the spirit of sacrifice, because they do not love enough. Here are the motives, here the cause or rather the many causes which bring about and maintain these results: lack of prayer, of the interior life, or purity of soul, of intimate relations with Me; absence of love and devotion to the Holy Spirit, of union with God. The world opens at this moment a large breach in the hearts of priests and you know the number of vices which accompany this redoubtable enemy: an excessive contact with creatures chills their fervor, the neglect of external and interior recollection brings tepidity. Thence, where the world enters, thence the Holy Spirit departs. When the Holy Spirit leaves the heart of a priest, he is ruined, for if anyone has not only the need but the most imperious obligation to live and breathe the Holy Spirit, it is the priest. To the measure he departs, materialism penetrates. Woe to the priest who founders himself in matter, he can consider himself lost. This is so easy in a dissipated soul, in a heart which does not pray and is not mortified. Out of his infernal hatred for My Church, in a matter of such capital importance for so many souls and for the priest himself, Satan aims at her, his most poisonous arrows. He makes every effort to find the opening through which the world will enter into the priest's heart under any form whatsoever. After that, this unfortunate sould smoothly glides down the slopes toward sin." (Diary, Feb. 14, 1907) Conchita later shares some more challenging words for priests. They are words that should challenge the lay faithful as well: challenge them to pray and make sacrifices for priests and challenge them to promote priestly vocations by themselves living lives of holiness. Here Conchita shares the words of Jesus: " I want love in My priests. I want interior life. I want these consecrated souls to live most closely to Me. I want to banish apathy from their hearts and make them burn with zeal for My glory. I want to activate the divine life of so many souls who belong to me and who are failing. I want to destroy the indifference which paralyzes God's action and which deprives priests of My graces. The fire must be rekindled and this will be done only by the Holy Spirit, bu the divine medium of the Word, offering Him to the Father and asking for mercy." (Diary Sept 23, 1927). She continues the words of Our Lord: " I want a living, palpitating, clear and powerful reaction of the clergy through the Holy Spirit. A priest no longer belongs to himself. He is another Me and he must be all to all, but first of all by sanctifying himself, for no one can give what he does not have and only the Sanctifier can sanctify. So then, if he wants to be holy-as it is imperious he must-he must be possessed, impregnated by the Holy Spirit, since if the Holy Spirit is indispensible for the life of any soul whatsoever, for the soul of priests He must be their breath and very life. If priests are Jesus, should they not have the spirit of Jesus? And this Spirit, is He not the Holy Spirit? (Diary Oct 9, 1927) The Lord challenges priests to remember the words of the Bishop on the day of their ordination: "Let your life be modelled on the Lord's cross." The cross is the way of holiness for all...lay, consecrated religious, or priests. Here Jesus speaks to His priests through Conchita: "What is wanting to many of My priests is the spirit of mortification, love of the Cross, knowledge of the riches found in suffering. Many preach the cross but do not practice it (ouch-my words, Fr Nagle). They advise abnegation and self-renunciation and they do not even dream of practicing these virtues so necessary for priests, for sacrifice is one of the culminating points and is the base for transformation into Me who was a Victim from the very moment of My Incarnation to My death. To be acceptable to My Father, a victim must be pure and sacrificed. My entire life is reduced to this beautiful work which synthesizes the essence of the Christian and even more that of the priest....immolation! I was voluntarily immolated on earth and I continue this life of immolation on the altars. I came into the world to sanctify suffering and to take away its bitterness. I came to bring about the love of the Cross, and the most perfect transformation into Me must be brought about by loveing suffering, by painful love. Thus then, a priest who wants to assimilate himself to Me as is his obligation, must love sacrifice, must aspire to voluntary immolation, bu devoting himself, by renouncing his own self and sacrificing himself constantly on behalf of souls. Priest means one who offers himself and offers, who immolates himself and immolates. Priests must love the cross and be in love with Me crucified. I am their model." ( Diary, Jan 1, 1928) On this Pentecost Sunday 2012, we will leave with the words of Jesus to Conchita. Words for all priests to live by: " The Holy Spirit alone sanctifies priests. This divine Spirit alone raises them from the terretrial to the divine. He alone is capable of urging on, by His breath, priestly souls toward heroism, toward the sublimity of their vocation. He is the delicate and most pure link which eternally unites the Trinity. He is also the link, the sweet and loving chain, which must sweetly unite as all this His, priests with Me, to carry out the desire of My Father, Unity in Trinity, by the Holy Spirit. How much I desire the perfect reign of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who are Mine! This interior reign in the soul of My priests, must be His throne and nest. If they are other Christs, My priests must have My same Spirit, the Holy Spirit." Conchita, pray for all priests! Pray for this priest, and pray to the Mother of Priests!

Some thoughts on "Conchita" and the spirituality of the Work of the Cross

Concepcion Cabrera de Armida ("Conchita") was a housewife, mother of nine, and a mystic. Although she lived from 1862-1937 in Mexico, her spirituality speaks to us today. God is outside of space and time and so are his saints. The information I will share with you below can be found in a book published by Alba House titled Conchita: A Mother's spiritual Diary. It is edited by M.M. Philipon, O.P. and was published in 1978. Conchita has a very special connection to priests. Her life was dedicated to praying for them and making sacrifices for them. She even had the great joy of seeing one of her own sons become a Jesuit priest. What was the stirring of this unique vocation? This is how she describes it. The year was 1889 and Conchita was twenty-seven, married, the mother of a family, a house mistress with an exacting and somewhat jealous husband. Nevertheless she made a retreat with Father Antonio Plancarte y Labastida. She says: "One day when I was getting ready with all my soul for all the Lord would ask of me, at a certain moment I clearly heard in the depths of my soul, without any doubt at all, these words which astonished me. He told me 'Your mission will be to save souls.' I did not understand how I would do this. It seemed strange and impossible. I thought there was question simply of sacrificing myselg for my husband an, my children and our servants. I made very practical resolutions, filled with fervor, redoubling my desire to love Him who is my love beyond measure. My heart had found its refuge and peace in solitude and prayer. But now I had to return to the world and my duties, having to pass through fire without burning myself, while at the same time this flame glowed more and more in my heart. The zeal to share with others the joy of what I had learned, devoured me and ardently increased." Saints do not always have the prudence that you and I may have. St. Francis of Assisi was known to throw himself in a thornbush when experiencing temptations against purity. Conchita received permission from her spiritual director to engrave the initials J.H.S. on her bosom on Jan 14, 1894. In her words:" No sooner had I done this than I felt a supernatural force which threw me, face down, on the floor, my eyes filled with tears and a burning flame within my heart. Vehemently and zealously I then asked the Lord for the salvation of souls: Jesus, saviour of souls, save them! save them! I remember nothing more: souls, souls for Jesus! That was all I desired...the ardor of my soul far surpassed the burning sensation of my body and I experienced an ineffable joy on feeling I belonged wholly to Jesus, just as a branded animal to its owner. Yes indeed, I belonged wholly to Jesus; to my Jesus who will save so many poor souls called to bring Him glory. Enraptured, I spent the rest of the day with an ardent desire of solitude and prayer but awaiting a visit I was to receive." What an expression of love. Jesus still needs people to work with Him in the work of saving souls. Are you willing to be His Apostle? Are you willing to unite yourself to the cross, surrender your will and let Him use you as He wishes? By virtue of our baptism all Catholic Christians are called to be saints. So many hear the call but out of fear or lack of encouragement come to the threshold of holiness and then draw back. Conchita did not draw back. What she shares next is extraordinary: Some time after the monogram, while Conchita was praying in the Jesuit church at San Luis Potosi, her native town, there suddenly appeared to her the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, illumining and enkindling from on high all the Works of the Cross. " I was meditating devoutly on God, when all of a sudden I saw a vast tableau of very vivid light, growing brighter and brighter at its center. A white light! And most surprising, above this ocean, this abyss of light with its thousand rays of gold and fire, I saw a dove, an all white dove, its wings spread, covering, I know not how, this whole torrent of light. I understood that there was here a vision most elevated and impenetrable, profound and divine. It left me with an impression of suavity, of peace, of love, of purity and of humility. How can the unexpressible be expressed? Two or three days after this vision-an inexplicable thing-I saw, one afternoon, in the same Jesuit church-a happy afternoon-I saw again a white dove in a large hearth whence flared brilliang and sparkling rays of light. The Dove, once again with its wings outspread, was perched at the center, and beneath it, at the bottom of this immensity of light was a large Cross, a very large one with a heart at the center (Aut 1, 211-213). The Cross seemed to float in a twilight of clouds of fire from within. From below the Cross there flared myriads of rays of light, which could be clearly distinguished from the white light of the Dove, and the fire of the clouds. They were like three different grades of light, how beautiful! The heart was alive, beating, human, but glorified, surrounded by a material fire which seemed to glow, and sparkle as in a hearth. Above it there flared other different flames, like tongues of fire of a higher quality or grade, I shall say. The heart was surrounded by luminous rays, longer at first and then becoming smaller, distinguishable from the flames which were below, and from the dim light and the most brilliant disc which encircled it. The flames which blazed up from the hearth ascended rapidly as if dispatched with great force, covering and revealing the tiny crosses fastened within the heart. The thorns which encircled the heart hurt us on seeing them as if they pressed against this so delicate and tender heart. I was able to describe all this because, many a time, day and night, this bery beautiful Cross was presented to me, though without the Dove. What does this mean? This is what I asked myself. What does the Lord wish? I rendered an account to my director. At first he told me to disregard this, then, inspired by God, I think he wrote me a letter for my soul in which he said: 'You will save many a soul through the apostolate of the Cross.' He never thought that this formula could designate the name of the Works of the Cross. As far as I was concerned, on reading this, I only know what I felt: this name must characterize the Work which the Lord began and of which I was now speaking." The Lord chose this young woman, married and the mother of a family, a simple lay person, to make us be mindful of the mystery of the salvation of the world by the Cross. "The Lord told me: 'The world is buried in sensuality, no longer is sacrifice loved and no longer is its sweetness known. I wish the Cross to reign. Today it is presented to the world with my heart, so that it may bring souls to make sacrifices. No true love is without sacrifice. It is only in My crucified Heart, that the ineffable sweetness of my Heart can be tasted. Seen from the outside, the Cross is bitter and harsh, but as soon as tasted, penetrating and savoring it, there is no greater pleasure. Therein is the repose of the soul, the soul inebriated by love, there its delights, its life.'"..." I was praying, when, all at once, there was presented to my interior view, a lengthy procession of nuns, bearing a great red cross...They passed along two by two, looking at me often on going by. Some days later the Lord told me: 'There will also be a Congregation of Men, after this foundation for women, but I will speak to you of this laterr, at a more opportune time.'" There are now (as of 1978) some four hundred nuns in Mexico, in Guatemala and in Spain. In a letter to Father Jose Alzoa, Jesuit provincial, Conchita has some amazing revelations: " The Apostolate of the Cross is the work which continues and completes that of My Heart which was revealed to Blessed Margaret Mary. I tell you that this does not mean only My external Cross as a divine instrument of Redemption. This Cross is presented to the world to bring souls toward My Heart, pierced on that Cross. The essence of this Work consists in making known the interior sufferings of My Heart which are ignored, and which constitute for Me a more painful Passion than that which My Body underwent on Calvary, on account of its intensity and its duration, mystically perpetuated in the Eucharist. I tell you, up to this day, the world has known the love of My heart manifested to Margaret Mary, but it was reserved for present times to make known its suffering, the symbols of which I had shown simply and in an external way. I say again, there must be a penetration into the Interior of this boundless ocean of bitterness and an extension of knowledge of it throughout the world for bringing about the union of the suffering of the faithful with the immensity of the sufferings of My Heart, for their suffering is mostly wasted. I wish for them to profit from it by way of the Apostolate of the Cross for the benefit of souls and for the consolation of My Heart." This Pentecost, let the Holy Spirit remind us of the sufferings of Christ. The sufferings of the heart who could only love. The Lord's own words to Conchita regarding the Holy Spirit should inspire one and all: "It is time that the Holy Spirit reign....and not a remote reign as something very sublime, even though it be so and there is nothing greater than He since He is God united and consubtantial with the Father and the Word. But it is necessary that he reign, here, right close, in each soul and in each heart, in all the structures of My Church. The day on which there will flow in each pastor, in each priest, like an inner blood, the Holy Spirit, then will be renewed the theological virtues, now languishing, even in the ministers of My Church, due to the absence of the Holy Spirit. Then the world will change, for all the evils deplored today have their cause in the remoteness of the Holy Spirit, the sole remedy. Let the ministers of My Church react, through the medium of the Holy Spirit, and the whole world of souls will be divinized." A big Amen to that! Happy Pentecost!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Conchita, Pentecost, and the Mexican Martyrs

The United States awaits the opening of For Greater Glory next Friday, June 1. It promises to be a very informative movie and a timely one as well. The story revolves around the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico and has a top notch crew of actors and actresses. Did you ever wonder what sort of a person runs into a burning building? Remember the firefighters and emergency personnel who were running up the stairs of the Word Trade Center on 9/11? Remember the soldiers who went into enemy territory to capture and kill Osama Bin Laden? What type of a person does such a thing? A person of great heroism and a person of great passion. This is what the church needs from Catholics right now. It is time to live the life of faith of the martyrs. Listen to the story of one priest who arrived in Vera Cruz Mexico on August 14, 1914. Father Felix Rigiuer was the confessor and spiritual director of a mystic named Concepcion Cabrera de Armida ("Conchita"). Conchita was the eneducated mother of nine who would go on to write some incredible doctrinal works-all dictated to her by Our Lord. The preface to the book Conchita by M.M. Philipon, O.P. notes: " The laity in particular is called today to witness before the whole world to an outstanding holiness. Does not God give us an example of this in this mother of nine children on her way to the altars? Conchita lived on earth, simple and joyous among her own, wholly given over to God in the secret recesses of her soul in which dwelt the Holy Spirit, living in an intense apostolic splendor radiating from the horizons of the church, creatrix of a new style of holiness accessible to all." Which brings us back to Fr Felix. Conchita had shared with him her dreams of four new religious communities in 1904. Fr Felix was sent back to France and now, in the midst of a terrible persecution of the church, he is returning. Listen to Fr. Philllipon's, O.P, words: "God had placed close to Conchita a saint. When not having seen her for ten years, Father Felix was to see her again, his first words were simply: 'I have not changed my opinion about the works of the Cross.' On his return to Mexico, at the very moment of his disembarking at Vera Cruz August 14, 1914, he met some Mexican bishops who (driven out by the persecution) were going to leave on the same ship. They knew him and loved him. They did not hide their amazement upon seeing him disembark, but Father courageously responded: 'The Lord wants me to found His work during the agony of the nation.'" Listen to the heroic first hand accounts of this saintly woman. They serve as a historical backdrop for the movie For Greater Glory: "August 15. A day of anguish. They intend to requisition la Casa de la Cruz (the convent of the contemplatives), to be used as general quarters and as a lodging for officers. Today some twenty thousand Carranzistas arrived. Some three or four times more are to come. I felt in my soul a mortal sadness, as if Satan had entered Mexico. It was a terrible oppression. It is the scourge of God. The war unleashed against the Church , is accentuated. My spiritual director had to go into hiding. A persecution, a frightful one, draws near. God has put nearby us some neighbors, members of the government, who love the sisters and offer to save them....August 17 Things get worse every day. Horrible blasphemies, outrages, deaths, rapes and pillaging of homes occur. Gunfire is heard throughout the day. We are afraid to go out. A holocaust of priests exists. Religious have been expelled. The goods of the church are going to be confiscated. There are forced loans and a thousand other pitiful things.'" Needless to say, these are pretty dramatic accounts. Here are more of her words: "Today we begin another month of a thousand anxieties. Puebla has been overtaken by the anti-clericals. They have profaned this Cathedral so dear to my heart! They expelled the canons and burned the confessionals. They have taken over the Episcopal palace and committed thousands of vexations against the priests. Outrages and horrors are everywhere! When I complained to the Lord about what was happening to Peubla, He told me: 'The trial will pass.'" On May 26, 1927 Conchita wrote to a friend: "We already have a great number of martyrs in Mexico who are granting us favors. God be blessed! He knows how many there are. We must adore his designs. For God, everyone is a means which he uses and how often it pleases Him to accomplish things counter to all human means in order to make His glory shine out all the more. It is the hour of suffering and of prayer but we must also adore His delays, accept with love his designs, and hope against all hope for the triumph and peace that He, without any doubt at all, will bring us. Mexico will not lose the faith as long as it remains devoted to Mary." In the midst of these trials the Lord spoke to her firmly: "Offer yourself as a victim for my priests. Unite yourself to My sacrifice for gaining them graces. It is necessary that in union with the Eternal Father, you accomplish your priestly role, offering Me to My Father for obtaining from Him grace and mercy for the Church and her members. Recall how often I have asked you to offer yourself as a victim, in union with the Victim, for my beloved Church? Do you not see that you are all Hers? Precisely on account of this special union which binds you to my church, you have the right to share in Her anguish and the sacred duty to console her be sacrificing yourself for Her priests." What an immense gift! In the midst of tremendous persecution of the Church God sends a woman who offers shelter and protection for priests. Even more amazingly, her priest confessor, Fr. Felix returns to start the Work of the Cross and the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit! His life always in danger, Fr. Felix celebrates mass in the home and offers spiritual conferences and guidance to people who are suffering. What a model for priests today! I will conclude with the words of Our Lord to Conchita regarding the Holy Spirit. This Pentecost, let His words penetrate our hearts for an outpouring on the Spirit in the United States: "It is time that the Holy Spirit reign. And not a remote reign as something very sublime, even though it be so and there is nothing greater than he since He is God united and consubstantial with the Father and the Word. But it is necessary that He reign, here, right close, in each soul and in each heart, in all the structures of My church. The day on which there will flow in each pastor, in each priest, like an inner blood, the Holy Spirit, then will be renewed the theological virtues,now languishing, even in the ministers of My church, due to the absence of the Holy Spirit. Then the world will change, for all the evils deplored today have their cause in the remoteness of the Holy Spirit, the sole remedy. Let the ministers of My Church react, through the medium of the Holy Spirit, and the whole world of souls will be divinized. he is the axis around which revolve the virtues. There is no virtue without the Holy Spirit. The decisive impulse for raising up My church from the state of prostration in which she lies, consists in reviving the cult of the Holy Spirit. Let His place be given Him, that is, the first in intellects and wills! No one will be lacking anything with this heavenly wealth. The Father and I, the Wor, We desire an ardent and vitalizing renewal of His reign in the Church." Amen Conchita is now a Servant of God and her cause for beatification is proceeding. Fr Felix is not venerable and passed away on January 10, 1938. Conchita died in 1937. Although war and terror waged around them both, the cross proved to be the fertile soil for a new pentecost. M. M. Philipon, O.P. concludes his book Conchita with these words: " Yes, Conchita's prophetic mission is that of recalling to the modern and materialistic world, avid for liberty, that it will be saved only by a NEW PENTECOST and by the GOSPEL OF THE CROSS. This new pentecost, this sanctifying action of the Spirit, must begin with the priests and extend itself to the entire People of God, as on the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and on the whole community assembled in the Cenacle. 'I want to come back to the world in my Priests. I want to renew the world of souls on manifesting Myself in My priests. I want a powerful impulse in My Church on infusing upon Her the Holy Spirit as on a new pentecost.' (Diary, Jan 5, 1928)But the Holy Spirit cannot descend on the world save by Christ's Cross since both missions, that of the Spirit and of the Son, are inseparable. 'The Holy Spirit will reign the day when My sacrifice of suffering will also reign; the Cross in hearts. In so far as the Cross will not reign in souls, the Holy Spirit, He too will not reign.' (Diary, May 26, 1901) May Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church, intercede that this progidy of Pentecost be renewed, and that the Church, this 'people brought together by virtue of the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit' carry out the design of love which springs from the Father: may She truly be the Holy Church!" Conchita, pray for us! All you Mexican martyrs, pray for us! May the Holy Spirit reign in every heart that reads these words!

Monday, May 21, 2012

would Jesus cheer for I'll have another?

This weekend coming out of mass a woman said "I hope your horse wins!" I wasn't sure if I liked the phrase but I got a good laugh. We both got a good laugh. So, would Jesus cheer for "I'll have another" in a race against "Rousing sermon?" Apparently the two are supposed to meet in the Belmont Stakes June 9th. My guees is that Jesus would cheer for both. The Catholic approach to faith is not either/or it is both/and. This unnerves some people who can't live with the diversity of worship and traditions. We are not saved by faith or works we are saved by both. We don't view scripture as opposed to tradition we view them both as a harmonious whole. In contrast to the joy-less Christianity that St Teresa of Avila bemoaned we must boldly put forward the true face of Jesus. A Jesus that is fully human and fully God. And, I might add, a God that is playful. Playful? Isn't that sacreligious? Nope. Psalm 2:4 says: "The one enthroned in heaven laughs." Laughs? yep. Friends have told me wonderful stories about the outdoors. One friend was in a tree stand when he saw three young raccoons climb a small tree (it was more like a shoot). As the first one got to the top of the shoot the tree began to droop. Eventually it arced over until the first one got off, leaving the other two stranded. The tree then stood up and flung the other two yards away. Another friend tells the story about sitting in a tree stand when he saw a group of turkeys approaching. The turkeys didn't know he was there. They flew up into the trees nearby and one was apparently a little heavy and broke the branch. There was quite a commotion. Things then quieted down and my friend slowly began to descend. All of a sudden, as if they were speaking to one another, the turkeys started gobbling. "Heh, who picked this place", "I didn't pick it did you?" "How come you didn't notice that human?" He said it was like something out of a Far Side cartoon. Where did this playfulness come from? I used to see ducks try to land on the pond only to find that the top layer was frozen....you should have seen them skidding across the top! They would often get close to the waterfall and sometimes would slide over and have to fly back up. Then there were the otters joyfully jumping in and off of the ice flows and back into the water. Here are the words of John Eldredge author of Outlaw who asks the question: "Is Jesus really playful?": "I was sitting out back yesterday morning sipping coffee, watching the young chipmunks chase one another at breakneck speeds across the deck. One clever daredevil, hoping to get the advantage, jumped up on the fence rail and continued the chase from above, leaping at the last moment upon his littermate like a Hollywood stuntman. This morning one of them adopted a new strategy. The little rascal found an ambush spot, clinging from the side of the house, where he waited for his playmate to wander by unawares; he then pounced, and the two somersaulted off the deck and into the grass, squealing. Only to dash off and do it again. And again. Now-what does this tell us about the personality of Jesus, created these little dynamos with striped masks and boundless enthusiasm? What do they say about his heart? Polar-bear cubs will hurl themselves down snowy hillsides headfirst and upside-down, just for fun. Spinner dolphins love to romp in the bow-wake of a boat, cavorting, leaping into the air and, well, spinning. Otters play tag. Our horses play tug of war with a stick-which is really quite funny when you think of how nobly a horse likes to carry himself. Who gave your puppy his impishness, as he snatches your slipper and races around the house with you in tow? God is more playful than we are." Jesus' first miracle was to change water into wine. Six stone water jars each containing 20-30 gallons of water suddenly became wine. And I am sure not just any wine. Apparently Jesus served the best wine last! Here is another great excerpt from Eldredge's book: "Last Christmas a friend sent me a gift; it was a coffee mug with a classic picture of Jesus on it, and below the famous line 'Jesus saves.' When you pour hot drinks into the mug, the imagery changes-Christ no longer has a beard, and the expression says, 'Jesus shaves.' My son Luke asked me hesitantly, 'what do you think Jesus thinks about that?' Let me ask you, my reader-what do you think? Remove Jesus from the equation for the moment-how do you feel about people who must always be serious, who deemand that everyone around them always be serious? And what about sour types who can never, ever tolerate a playful tease? Can Jesus enjoy a joke at his own expense? If not, what kind of person is he? I told Luke, 'I think he thinks it's hysterical. But we have to hide the mug when certain members of our church stop by. Laughter is from God. This one quality alone might save us from the religious veil that forever tries to come in and cloud our perception of Jesus. Keep in mind now-Isaac means laughter. And who was it that gave him this unforgettable name? It was the Lord." Meister Eckhardt says that you and I were created out of the laughter of the Trinity. I think it is pretty fair to say Jesus would love the story of "I'll have another." When no one else wanted him as a 1 yr old he was purchased at auction for $11,000. He has now won the first two crowns of the Triple Crown. In fact his story and the way in which he has come from behind in both wins is truly, I believe, "a rousing sermon." Many people reject the Lord and reject the faith because of the religiosity of believers. Times haven't changed. It was the professional religious, the Scribes and Pharisees, who persecuted Jesus and put him on a cross. Even the strictest religious order, the Carthusians, know the importance of relaxation, fellowship and laughter. The great silence in their monastery is broken on Sundays and the monks are free to speak and take a walk outside. St Bruno commented that if too much pressure is put on a stick it will bend at first, but eventually it will snap. So it is with us. This weekend I shared the story of Frank Llod Wright at mass. One day he and his uncle were walking through a snow covered field. They were headed to a house. But along the way Frank veered off and stopped by a barn to see the animals. Then he went over to a pond and took a look at that. Then he saw a fort off in the distance. He went out of his way to see that. When he finally caught up to his uncle across the snow covered field,his uncle said, "Now Frank. I want to teach you a lesson. Look back at our footsteps in the snow. Mine came straight here. I never ventured off and I arrived here much quicker than you. But Frank, look at yours. You zig-zagged all over the place and wasted so much time stopping all along the way." Frank Llod Wright said that was one of the best lessons he ever learned. But he took it in just the opposite way from what his uncle intended. His philosophy was, " I still arrived at the same destination, but I enjoyed all the sights along the way." Take time to enjoy the "joy on the journey." Laugh. Play. We give God glory when we do so. Would he cheer for "I'll have another?" You betcha!

And Peter stood up....

A year ago on World Communications Sunday Pope Benedict XVI encouraged priests: "For God's sake....blog" His words of encouragement are words that inspired me to start writing back in January. On this day I would like to share the concluding paragraph of Carl Anderson's book A Civilization of Love. Carl Anderson is Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbs. These are his words: "On October 7, 1979, I stood on te grass of the Mall in Washington DC with humdreds of thousands of other Catholics to join John Paul II as he said Mass for the last time on his first visit to the United States. I still remember clearly the sky beginning to darken, the pope's green vestments blowing in the wind, his hand resting on his silver pilgrim's cross, the Capitol Dome behind him; and then the heavily accented Polish voice that would grow so familiar as the years went on:'All human beings ought to value every person for his or her uniqueness as a creature of God, called to be a brother or sister of Christ....And so, we will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.' And then he went on, repeating his refrain, saying we would stand up to protect children, marriage, the family, the environment, the poor, and finally, 'When the sick, the aged or the dying are abandoned in loneliness, we will stand up and proclaim that they are worthy of love, care and respect.' Of course we were all standing." One of the unique traits about Pope John Paul II is that just as "Peter stood up" (Acts 1:15), Pope John Paul II also "stood up" for the rights and dignity of human persons. He stood until he could stand no more. The first Peter may have fled the cross but Pope John Paul stood for many years in the balcony at St Peter's and with the suffering masses at the world day for the sick. Friends of mine happened to be in Rome during the Jubilee year 2000 and they commented on how he individually greeted all the sick who were presented to him. This was not on human strength alone. He, too, was a very sick man at that point. Where did he get this strength? It came from prayer. I have a picture from a mass I was able to attend in his private chapel in January 2001. The Picture is taken from behind the altar and you see the pontiff deep in prayer with concelebrating priests and invited guests behind. At this mass I was handed a copy of the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennion Ineunte. In this letter Pope John Paul asserts that "our Christian communities must become genuine 'schools' of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly 'falls in love'". Because we live in such an active society we may think of something that needs to be done...a new program etc. The Pope says no. Here are his thoughts: "To make the church the home and the school of communion: that is the greatest challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God's plan and respond to the world's deepest yearnings. But what does this mean in practice? Here too, our thoughts could run immediately to the action to be undertaken, but that would not be the right impulse to follow. Before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of commuion, making it the guiding principle of education wherever individuals and Christians are formed, wherever ministers of the altar, consecrated persons, and pastoral workers are trained, whereveer families and communities are being built up. A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart's contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as 'those who are a part of me'. This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and meet their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship. A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a 'gift for me.' A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to 'make room' for our brothers and sisters, bearing 'each other's burdens' (Gal 6:2)." All of this comes from prayer. When we realize who we are in prayer we recconnect with God who never stops saying: "You are my beloved son, You are my beloved daughter." We recognize our own dignity and love ourselves in a Godly way which then enables us to see that same dignity in others. Want to stand up for justice, human rights, the unborn, the poor? To stand up you must first bow your head in prayer and kneel before the God of the universe and listen for the still small voice that the prophet Elijah heard on Mount Carmel

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Year of Faith-Vatican II 50 years later

On October 11, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI will initiate a "Year of Faith" which will conclude with the feast of Christ the King, Nov., 2013. Why a "year of faith?" First, it is an opportunity for the church to reflect on the gift of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 1962). Second, in Pope Benedict's words: "what the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the Word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end." The opening statement of Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World) still speaks to us today, fifty years later. It reads: " The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men, of men who, united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, press onwards towards the kingdom of the Father and are bearers of a message of salvation intended for all men. That is why Christians cherish a feeling of deep solidarity with the human race and its history." Ever wonder why there are so many pronouncements of the church on matters of sexuality, bioethics or even the economy and the environment? It is because these are our concerns they are the concerns of Christ and the church as well. Pope John Paul II was Cardinal Wojtyla at the time of this publication but he was one of the key writers of the document. Solidarity is a word that should jump at us. Remember Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement in Poland? Solidarity was a spark that lead to recognizing the rights of workers-a recognition that in large part led to the overthrow of the communist government. Jesus Christ is interested in our joys our hopes and our anguish, so is His Church on earth. The introduction reads as follows: " At all times the church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, she should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which men ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other. We must be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings, and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live." How do these words speak to us today? Think of the national discussion on healthcare, the concerns raised about religious liberty, the Defense of Marriage Act, the specter of terrorism. These are all social issues experienced by people like you and I every day. Does the Church have the answer? Some say no. They regard the Catholic Church as an obstacle to progress. They also believe the church's teaching on marriage and family are antiquated. Then there are the 8,000 people gathered in Rome who are on fire for the faith and who represent various church movement that are experiencing tremendous growth. What is the source of all conflict in the world? Is it just a question of a political philosophy? Lumen Gentium gives the answer at the end of the introduction. It states: "The dichotomy affecting the modern world is, in fact, a symptom of the deeper dichotomy that is in man himself. He is the meeting point of many conflicting forces. In his condition as a created being he is subject to a thousand shortcomings, but feels untrammeled in his inclinations and destined for a higher form of life. Torn by a welter of anxieties he is compelled to choose between them and repudiate some of them. Worse still, feeble and sinful as he is, he often does the very thing he hates and does not do what he wants. And so he feels himself divided, and the result is a host of discords in social life. Many, it is true, fail to see the dramatic nature of this state of affairs in all its clarity for their vision is in fact blurred by materialism, or they are prevented from even thinking about it by the wretchedness of their plight. Others delude themselves that they have found peace in a worldview now fashionable. There are still others whose hopes are set on a genuine and total emancipation of mankind through human effort alone and look forward to some earthly paradise where are the desires of their hearts will be fulfilled." There we have it. Man is divided. The living God speaks from the cross "I thirst." As Mother Teresa said, it is not a physical thirst, but a thirst for love, a thirst for souls. If "Jesus Christ fully reveals man to himself" how do we look when compared to Him in a mirror? Do we see a loving Savior who speaks to us through creation and through the world, or do we see the Almighty Judge who has come to condemn us? How we answer that question will determine what we see when we look into that mirror. As G K Chesterton once observed, Christianity hasn't been tried and found wanting. Christianity hasn't been tried. Jesus Christ is the answer. The Catholic Church has the answer.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Religious Liberty and For Greater Glory

On June 1 a movie will be coming out titled "For Greater Glory". The movie highlights the religious persecution of Catholics by President Calles. For greater insight and further information there is a Lighthouse Catholic Media CD by Patrick Madrid titled "Battle for the Faith in Mexico: Viva Cristo Rey." What many people may not know is that President Calles was a 33rd degree Freemason. The very first thing he did as President is turn a Catholic parish into a masonic temple. Modern Americans may think Freemasonary is a benevolent social organization. It is anything but. Its roots are strongly anti-Catholic. It was the protests of Freemasons outside the Vatican in 1917 that inspired St. Maximilian Kolbe to start the Militia Immaculata. Notice the year 1917 again? There is a very disturbing photograph in the current Columbia magazine of the Knights of Columbus. It is a picture of Catholics hanging from telephone poles along railroad tracks. The caption notes: "The media fallout from theis photograph was so negative that President Calles later ordered the Secretary of War to hang people away from the train tracks in the future." Here is a continuation of Maria de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda's article in Columbia magazine titled: "The untold story of the Knights during the Cristiada." "In 1926, anti-Catholic pressure increased under President Calles. The Calles law called for uniform enforcement throughout the country of the constitution's anti clerical articles. It threatened severe sanctions for violators and for goverment officials who failed to enforce the law. 'As long as I am president of the Republic, the constitution of 1917 will be obeyed,' Calles vowed, saying that he would not be moved by the 'wailing of sacristans or the groans of the over-pious.' Dr Patrick Foley, editor emeritus and founder of the journal Catholic Southwest: A Journal of History and Culture, emphasized that Knights-both lay members and clergy-led the opposition to this law. 'Many of the Knights were attacked simply because they were....singled out by the government as opponenets of the radical socialist views of the government,' he explained, adding that the Knights involvement 'was seen most prominently in heroic individual actions of Knights, both overt and underground.' Aware of President Calles' anti-clerical policies, Pope Pius XI condemned the 'cruel persecution' and 'great evils' of the Mexican Government in his 1926 encyclical Iniquis Afflictisque. The pope also highlighted the work of the Order: 'First of all we mention the Knights of Columbus, an organization which is found in all states of the Republic and fortunately is made up of active and industrious members who, because of their zeal in assisting the Church, have brought great honor upon themselves.' Although the Knights as an organization did not provide support to the Cristeros' military efforts, it remained a target for the Mexican government, explains historian Meyer. 'The K of C headquarters in Mexico was attacked, ransacked and its records destroyed. Soon the Knights of Columbus in Mexico was forced underground.' As was the case wit Yocundo Duran, simply being a Knight was considered subversive, since one had to be a practicing Catholic to join-which revealed public allegiance to the Church. In August 1926, the New York Morning World published a questionaire that the Mexican government gave to all of its employees, whether at the federal, state, and municipal levels. The first question: 'Are you a Knight of Columbus?' At the 1926 Supreme Convention in Philadephia, Supreme Knight James A. Flaherty denounced the Mexican government's persecution and condemned the U.S. government's silence on the issue. In Mexico, the initiatives of the Supreme Council did not go unnoticed. At a meeting of the Mexican legislature held Nov. 25, 1926, legislators discussed various articles in the November issue of Columbia magazine and cited remarks made at that Supreme Convention. Addressing the assembly and his radio listeners during the legislative session, Deputy Alejandro Cerisola accused the Knights of instigating rebellion and of 'unpatriotic activities' to 'betray the country.' He labeled the Catholic clergy and the Knights of Columbus as enemies and characterized Supreme Knight Flannery as 'a vile slanderer and vulgar liar.' Cerisola then condemned the proposals made at the convention, 'as it proves that we are right in thinking that the Mexican clergy is crazily attempting to retake power over the country's political situation.'.......According to Meyer, more than 200,000 people from every socioeconomic background were killed or martyred by 1930. On May 21, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized 25 martyrs-including six Knights-from the Cristiada period. Thirteen more Mexican martyrs-including three Knights-were beatified in Guadalajara, Mexico on the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2005." All told, according to Wikipedia, between 1926-1934 40 priests were killed. One of the most well known was Blessed Miguel Pro (SJ) who was shot on November 23, 1927 simply for performing his religious duties. There was a supposed truce in 1935 but President Calles insisted on complete state monopoly of education, suppressing all Catholic education and introducing secular education in its place. In Calles' words: "We must enter and take possession of the mind of childhood, of the mind of youth." It was not until the election of Manuel Avila Camacho in 1940 that the outright persecution of the church ended. What are we to learn from this? Religious liberty is precious. It should not be taken for granted. Just south of our border in Mexico we have a living reminder of what can happen when unscrupulous leaders take control of a country. Pray for the success of the movie "For Greater Glory". Do research on the Cristiada and pray for religious liberty in our country. May God be praised in all His Works!

Religious liberty II

1917 was a very significant year in World History. Pope Benedict XV was imploring the world for peace. The United States had just entered World War I, Lenin was ascending to power in Russia and in Mexico a new constitution was drafted which set the stage for an era of persecution that lasted more than two decades. In April of 1917, Mexican bishops living in San Antonio prepared a letter of protest, affirming that the new constitution "destroys the most sacred rights of the Catholic Church, of Mexican society, and of Christian individuals." Sound familiar? The Catholic Bishops in the US are saying the same thing about the HHS mandate. Warren Carroll, a reknowned historian and founder of Christendom College has written a book titled 1917: Red Banners/White mantle. This is what he has to say: " That evening Woodrow Wilson stood before a wildly cheering Congress to bring the United States of America into the war that was destroying the world. His justification was twofold: first, that Germany had already made war on the United States by its submarines (the American merchantman Aztec had been torpedoed off Ushant, at the tip of France, only the day before); secondly, to 'make the world safe for democracy' and more, to impose democracy on the world. The American political system was to be the standard of right and justice. There was in Woodrow Wilson a deep need to include more than considerations of immediate practical and military necessity in calling for U.S. entry into the war-a need to proclaim for that entry some transcendent purpose, some universal and noble goal. But such a purpose and goal was precisely what this ghastly war had always lacked. Wilson's attempt to invent one was to have immensely destructive consequences, especially for those nations and peoples whose traditions did not harmonize with what Americans regarded as 'democracy.' Yet he acted, then, in the utmost good faith, summing up the agony of his decisions and the visualization of the good he dreamed of flowing from it, toward the end of his address:'It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilizations itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest out hearts-for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.' The principal historical consequence of WWI was to be the establishment, as far into the future as human eyes can see, of the most fearful, pervasive, far-flung tyranny in the history of mankind-a tyrrany so gigantic and so evil that, in the end, only the Mother of God in person can conquer it." Pope Benedict XV was imploring the world for peace but to no avail. Here are his words from May 5, 1917. Here are his words as recorded in Warren Carroll's book: " To Mary, then, who is the Mother of Mercy and omnipotent by grace, let loving and devout appeal fo up from every corner of the earth-from noble temples and tiniest chapels, from royal palaces and mansions of the rich as from the poorest hut-from every place wherein a faithful soul finds shelter-from blood-drenched plains and seas. Let it bear to her the anguished cry of mothers and wives, the wailing of innocent little ones, the sighs of every generous heart: that her most tender and benign solicitude may be moved and the peace we ask for be obtained for our agitated world." Eight days later she appeared on Sunday May 13, 1917. Here are Carroll's words: "It was a glorious spring day in the heart of Portugal. Lucia and Jacinta and Francisco, having been to Mass at the little parish church at Fatima, had taken their sheep to pasture in the grassy depression among the hills called the Cova da Iria. As they played happily, there came out of the cloudless, deep blue sky a brilliant flash of light-and then, in a few minutes, another. There was no thunder, only the flashes. The children, frightened, were running away, when they stopped short upon seeing before them, atop a small evergreen tree about three feet tall, a ball of light, within which stood a Lady clad in white which Lucia later described as 'more brilliant than the sun dispensing light. It was 'not sad, not happy, but serious' Her hands were joined in prayer; a rosary was suspended from her right hand. The children were within two yards of her. 'Don't be afraid' she said.'I won't hurt you.' Her voice was low, musical, gentle. They would never forget the lovely sound of it.' 'Where does your Excellency come from?' asked Lucia, greatly daring. 'I am from Heaven' 'And what is it you want of me?''I come to ask you to come here for six months in succession, on the thirteenth day at the same hour. Then I will tell you who I am and what I want.' She promised all three of them that they would go to Heaven; but then she asked them: 'Do you wish to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings that He may please to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and to ask for the conversion of sinners?' 'Yes, we do.' 'Then you will have much to suffer. But the grace of God will be your comfort.' She opened her hands. The radiance grew, seeming to penetrate their very souls, 'making us see ourselves in God more clearly in that light than in the best of mirrors,' as Lucia described it later. So far, everything the Lady said had concerned the children personally-their calling their salvation. Now, in her last words to them this day, the Mother of God addressed the immense crisis that had brought her from Heaven: 'Say the Rosary every day, to obtain peace for the world, and the end of the war.'" Our Lady of Fatima's words were prophetic. The children did suffer but eventually the war did end. Her peace plan from Heaven is a peace plan all of us should follow. The historic parallels between 1917 and 2012 are striking. Once again, the church is facing persecution. Yesterday in the New London Day there was a hostile op-ed piece attacking Bishop Cote and the Catholic church. It was rife with errors. The main contention was that church teaching on contraception was not accepted by many moral theologians and that it was a teaching that actually husts the poor. Nothing could be farther than the truth. An overwheming majority of Catholic Bishops have spoken out against the HHS mandate and interested readers may wish to do some research on the AIDS epidemic in Uganda. Visit www.catholic.com and do a search for "ABC's of an epidemic". This is an article which outlines that only abstinence, being faithful, and "C" Catholic teaching, not contraception, was effective in drastically reducing the spread of AIDS. It will open your eyes. As for hunger and poverty, the problem is not more children. The problem is greed. Most women who have abortions admit that it is financial concerns for the future that motivate their decisions. Instead of turning to God who is the "source of all good gifts" they trust in themselves. This is the problem with the contraceptive mentality. At its root it violates love because it denies the radical self-gift of one to another. In 1917 it was Freemasonry and socialist ideology which looked to seize upon class conflict to achieve its ends. Nothing has changed. There still are forces that are radically opposed to the truth proposed by the Catholic Church. If the church in the United States of America is to prosper and have a future we need to heed the words of Our Lady of Fatima who appeared to three children in the midst of similar conflict. Her words? "Pray the rosary every day, to obtain peace for the world...."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The untold story of the Mexican martyrs

1917 was a very difficult year in the world. Throughout Europe and Russia there was economic unrest and a series of anti-clerical laws swept the land. Marxism was on the rise and even Portugal experienced the unrest. In the midst of this turmoil Our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917 beginning on May 13. Our Lady of Fatima is as relevant today as she was back then. She gave us the peace plan for the world which included the importance of prayer, sacrifice, and consecration to the immaculate heart of Mary. The story I will share now is borrowed from this month's Columbia magazine by the Knights of Columbus. Maria de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda is the author and the title of the article is "The Untold story of the Knights during the Cristiada." As you read the story consider the current political situation in the United States. The President through the HHS mandate is trumping religious liberty and asking Catholic institutions to violate their consciences on contraception/abortificients/ and sterilizations. Here is her story: "On an ordinary January day in 1927, as Yocundo Duran walked home in Chihuaua, Mexico, he crossed paths with Federal Gen. Miguel Valle, who was walking out of a local tavern. The general recognized Duran and had one of his soldiers detain him and ask 'Are you a Knight of Columbus?' Duran confirmed that he was a Knight and asked whether there was any evil in it. Considering this an indictment, Valle pronounced Duran a subversive Catholic and ordered him shot on the spot. Duran's body was later delivered to his family in a bricklayer's cart. Scenes like this were not uncommon in 1920's Mexico, as the Mexican government led one of the most violent anti-Catholic persecutions in the 20th century. During this period the Knights of Columbus became a symbol of all things Catholic: a hopeful sign to Mexican Catholics and a seditious organization in the eyes of government leaders. Just five years after the first Knights of Columbus council was established in 1905, the country was catapaulted into a long period of armed conflict, now called the Mexican revolution. But what started as a fight against the established autocratic order evolved into a multi-sided Civil war with each competing faction claiming legitimacy. Although Catholicism had been part of Mexico's history for nearly 400 years, the Catholic Church was perceived as hostile toward the revolution, resulting in an unstable and anti-religious social and political environment. A new constitution, which included several anti-clerical articles, was drafted in 1917, setting the stage for an era of persecution that lasted more than two decades. In April 1917, Mexican bishops living in San Antonio prepared a letter of protest, affirming that the new constitution 'destroys the most sacred rights of the Catholic Church, of Mexican Society, and of Christian individuals.' Despite these challenges, the Order in Mexico not only survived this period; it thrived. Membership grew from 400 Knights in 1918 to almost 6,ooo in 51 Councils just six years later. Between 1926 and 1929, an open rebellion took place against the government's new persecutory laws, which were formulated and strictly enforced under Mexican President Plutarco Elia Calles. Resistance to the 'Calles law' started peacefully, in the form of signed petitions, economic boycotts and demonstrations. But in August 1926, sporadic uprisings sparked the beginning of the Cristero War, or Cristiada. The rebels took their name from the Battle cry Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!) To the Mexican government, this pronouncement-often the last words of Cristeros before their deaths-was more than a declaration of faith; it was an act of treason. About 70 Mexican Knights were among the Cristeros who died while standing up for their faith. During this time the government seized Catholic schools and seminaries, expropriated Church property, and outlawed religious education. It closed Catholic hospitals, orphanages and homes for the elderly. It also banned public monastic orders, expelleled foreign born clergy and prohibited public worship. Priests and nuns were barred from wearing religious garments, from voting, and from criticizing the government or commenting on public affairs either in writing or in speech. if charged with a violation of the law, they were, like Duran, often denied a trial. Mexico's bishops were expelled and many of the clergy were exiled for years; those who remained or returned in secret were forced to work and minister 'underground.' Many seminarians were also exiled to Spain or the United States." To be cont. It is said that those who are ignorant of history are doome to repeat it. We are blessed to have religious liberty here in the United States. However, any and all attempts to infringe upon these sacred rights should be fought forcefully and vigorously. The HHS mandate of the ACA is such an attempt that must be forcefully fought. There is simply too much at stake.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Franciscan Crown Rosary

Unable to have a May crowning in your parish? Not to worry. There is a wonderful tradition that goes back to the year 1442. A pious novice in the Franciscan Order was told by his novice master that he would not be able to crown the statue of Mary. Disheartened, he began to pray the rosary in front of the statue. Much to his surprise, Our Lady appeared to him with encouraging words. She told him not to be distressed but that he could honor her by praying the "seven joys of Mary." They are 1) the anunciation, 2) the visitation, 3)the birth of Jesus, 4) the adoration of the Magi, 5)the finding of Jesus in the Temple, 6)the resurrection of Jesus, and 7)Our Lady's glorious Assumption into heaven. The novice master who was observing the novice in prayer saw an angel place a crown of roses on Our Lady's head after each decade of the rosary. This is a wonderful devotion and shows how we can take our thorns and turn them into beautiful roses. For further information you can do a google search for Franciscan Crown Rosary. The rosary can be prayed on a usual five decade rosary or a specially made 7 decade rosary. Have a lot of thorns in your life? Let Mary turn those thorns into a wonderful crown of roses!

Why do Catholics crown images of Mary?

Since the Council of Nicaea in 787 the church has allowed for the veneration of images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints. Pope Pius XI in a papal letter noted that the practice of crowning of images of the Blessed Virgin Mary can be traced to the late 16thc and has become a common practice in the West. Scripturally Catholics understand Mary to be the woman of Revelation (12:1-2)-" A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." If Mary is Queen of Heaven, as Catholics believe, then certainly it is fitting that we honor her in her month. In our parish the children will present a bouquet of roses on a statue of Mary. It is a beautiful custom and a fitting way to honor our Heavenly Mother. Scott Hah, a convert to the Catholic faith, has written a wonderful book titled "Hail Holy Queen." In this book he speaks about his own misgivings about Mary as he came into the faith. Her are his words: " Some non-Catholic charge that all these Marian dogmas add up to Mary worship-idolatry pure and simple. There was a time in my life when I thought so. As a young evangelical, I even passed out tracts identifying mary with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, whose worship is described by the prophet Jeremiah (7:18;44:15-17). Marian devotion, I believed, was nothing more than goddess worship smuggled into Christianity by long-ago pagans who feigned conversion. I was wrong, of course-first of all, in my belief that catholics 'worship' Mary. In truth, the church gives her honor and veneration as the greatest of saints, whild reserving adoration and worship for God alone. Indeed, the early Christians who were most vigorous in their Marian devotion were equally vigorous in denouncing any local remnants of goddess worship. I was wrong, too, in condemning the title 'queen of heaven'just because it was once applied to a pagan goddess. Anti-Christians use this very argument to discredit the claims of Jesus Christ. Call it the comparative-religions approach. It runs like this: many ancient pagan myths told of a 'son of a god' born of a virgin who came to earth, died, and rose from the dead; therefore the 'Jesus myth' is nothing but a late and very successful copycat. On the contrary! From great Christians like C S Lewis I learned that such parallels between Christianity and paganism are best understood as a preparation for the gospel-God's way of giving even the gentiles a hint (Lewis called these premonitions strange dreams) of a glorious future that would one day be theirs." Catholics who pray the rosary will quickly make the identification between the fifth glorious mystery (the coronation of mary) and the tradition of the May crowning. It still may be troubling to non-Catholics. A scripture passage often cited is also in the book of Revelation when the beloved disciple bows to the angel and the angel reprimands him. Revelation 19:10 says this: " I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'Don't! I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brothers who bear witness to Jesus. Worship God. Witness to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Sounds a little like Jesus saying to the Samaritan woman " true worshippers worship in spirit and in truth" right? For those who wish to explore the subject further Catholic Convert Orestes Brownson does a wonderful detailed analysis of an understanding of the word worship. In fact his book is titled, provocativelly, saint worship. It is a good read. To summarize his thought we need to understand that since the Protestant Reformation took away any understanding of the mass as sacrifice, Christian denominations do not have a sacrifice and hence, technically speaking do not have what Catholics understand to be worship. This is where the confusion comes in. For instance, all of the liturgical prayers of the mass are directed to God, the Father. We have churches dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, we have votive masses where we commemorate the blessed virgin mary and the saints, but in each and every mass (eucharistic celebration) the prayers are directed to God the Father through the Son (the priest). A priest is one who offers sacrifice. The mass is a sacrifice ( an unbloody sacramental re-presentation of what took place on Calvary) and hence is our worship. If one does not have a sacrifice to offer than any form of prayer can be interpreted as worship, hence the misunderstanding. So prayers to a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary are not worship, they are just that, prayers. Honoring the Queen of Heaven through a coronation ceremony is a wonderful way to put "flesh" on what we believe. We are fulfilling the commandment of God who tells us to honor our mother and father. Should we not also honor our heavenly Father and our heavenly Mother? Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for the unity of Christians. Pray to your son, Our Lord and King, that we may restore you to your rightful place in the lives of Christians.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Our Lady, Queen and Mother

August 22 is the feast day of the Queenship of Mary. In this month dedicated to her honor it might be helpful to see why she is so significant in the life of every Christian. Edward Sri has written an article titled "Treat her like a Queen-The Biblical call to Honor Mary as Royal Mother." The article is in the book Catholic For a Reason II edited by Scott Hahn and Leon J. Suprenant, Jr. Sri notes: "You probably have seen this many times before. You're watching a big football game on national television, and some star player scores a clutch touchdown. His teammates quickly surround him jumping up and down together for a grand celebration of male bonding in the end zone. At the height of the celebration, when the TV zooms in for a close-up, you see him look into the camera and scream two words: 'Hi mom!' Youv'e got to womder: Many of these football players probably have wives or girlfriends at home watching them on TV. Why don't these guys say 'hi'to them/ Why is it that mom always seems to receive the special attention? We find a similar situation in ancient Israel. Even then, mothers were singled out for special treatment by their sons, especially in the royal household of the kingdom of Judah. Among all the ladies in the kingdom, there was no one more honored than the king's mother. Even the king's wife could not compete with the prestigious role of the mother. What made the mother of the king so special? In the Davidic monarchy, as well as other ancient kingdoms in the Near East, the king's mother held the most important office in this royal court. She influenced political, economic, and liturgical affairs in the kingdom, and she played a key part in the process of dynastic succession. What is most striking, however, is the fact that she even ruled as queen. It was not the king's wife who held the queenship, but his mother. (Just ask Raymond from the show Everyone loves Raymond!...my interjection...0) The great preeminence of the king's mother may seem odd from our modern Western perspective. Today, we generally think of a Queen as being the wife of a king. However, when we consider the fact that most ancient Near Eastern kings practiced polygamy and had large harems,the idea of a queen Mother makes a lot of sense. Think of King Solomon who had 700 wives (1 Kings 11:3). Imagine the chaos in the royal court if all 700 wives were awarded the Queenship! But since each king had only one mother, one can see the practical wisdom in bestowing the queenship upon her. This background is crucial for understanding what the bible teaches about Mary's queenship. If we searched the scriptures for a royal woman like the queens in modern western monarchies, we won't find her. Yet, once we grasp the biblical concept of Queen Mother, Mary's royal office will jump off the pages of the New Testament and call us to a profound relationship with our Queen Mother in the Kingdom of Jesus. In the Davidic Kingdom, when a new king assumed the throne, his mother was given the special title gebirah, which in Hebrew means 'great lady' or 'queen.' As Queen Mother, she possessed the second most powerful position in the kingdom-second only to the king himself. Since the Queen mother was both the wife of the previous monarch and the mother of the current king, she stood as a symbol of the king's royalty, tying him to his father's royal blood. In this sense, she guaranteed the legitimacy of the king's place in the dynastic line of succession....(On the throne the Queen mother represented the King's continuity with the past, the visible affirmation of God's ongoing plan for His people, the channel through which the Lord's dynastic promise to David was fulfilled) A number of Old Testament passages reflect the important role of the Queen mother in the Davidic Kingdom. For example, take the Books of 1 & 2 Kings. These books tell about the various monarchs who ruled over the Israelites. Strkingly, almost every time the narrative introduces a new King in Judah it mentions the Queen mother as well, highlighting her role in dynastic succession...............Probably the best example of the queen mother's importance would be that of Bathsheba, the wife of David and mother of Solomon. A number of scholars have noted the preeminence of Bathsheba's position in the kingdom once she became queen mother during Solomon's rule. Compare, on one hand, the humble attitude of Bathsheba as spouse of King David, and on the other hand, her majestic dignity when she becomes mother of the next king, Solomon. When she was simply the spouse of King David, Bathsheba approached the king like most subjects in the kingdom would: She bowed with her face to the ground and honored her husband David when she entered his royal chamber (1 Kings 1: 16-17, 31). But something different happened when her son Solomon assumed the throne and she became the queen mother. Notice the glorious reception she received when meeting with her royal son. (So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then she sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king's mother; and she sat on his right. Then she said, 'I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.' And the king said to her,'Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.) (1 Kings 2: 19-20) The account reveals the sovereign prerogatives of the Queen Mother. Before, when she was just the spouse of the King, she had to bow before David. Now, as queen mother, it is the King who rose and bowed to greet her! But that's not all. After this royal greeting, King Solomon did something even more remarkable. He gave his mother Bathsheba a seat at his right hand. This was not a simple courtesy of offering his mother a chair. This action was charged with royal symbolism. In the Bible, the right hand is the ultimate place of honor. For example Psalm 110 describes how the Messiah will sit at God's right hand and rule over all nations. Similarly, the book of Hebrews portrays Christ as sitting at the right hand of the Father, ruling over all creation, exalted above all angels and saints (Heb. 1:13) As such, Solomon does not offer the Queen mother any ordinary seat. Rather, he gives her the most powerful position he could offer in the entire kingdom. Sitting at the king's right hand, the queen mother clearly has a unique share in the king's royal authority." Wow! What does this mean for us on our pilgrimmage to the heart of the Father. It means that Mary, our Queen Mother, is no mere saint among saints. If we take this biblical view we see she clearly has authority in the spiritual realm. After all, was not our salvation dependent upon the free answer of the virgin? In a marvellous homily St. Bernanrd of Clairvaux speaks about how Adam, Eve, and everyone who had died were waiting for her simple answer: what will it be? Thanks to her Fiat! salvation is now possible for all who open themselves to her Son. The deference that is shown is also telling. In the persons of the Trinity no one ranks first. I realize that boggles our modern minds which are so accustomed to paradigms of power. In the royal court, however, it is the mutual deference which defines the relationship. Also, the king loses nothing of his power in conferring some of his authority upon His mother. In fact, it increases it. It is like C S Lewis' definition of the love of friendship. He defines it as the most inclusive of loves. Lovers are face to face he says. It is an exclusive relationship. Friends, however, are side by side looking out. When they see another friend coming they say "come join us!...your presence will increase our joy and our love." This is how it is in the Communion of Saints. Dante in his Paradiso compares heaven to a yellow-petalled rose with all the saints on the petals singing their praises to God. As you come to the inner most chamber you will find Our Lady. Do not be afraid that giving honor and homage to Our Lady will somehow take away from the honor due to God Alone. She keeps nothing for herself. In honoring her you honor the Queen Mother. We know how Solomon honored his mother. We know how Jesus honored his mother when her gave her to us at the cross "Behold, your mother." Give her all your prayer intentions, your hopes, your aspirations and rest assured you have a mother and queen who will due anything to make you become ever more like her son, Jesus Christ!

The Kentucky Derby

I could not help but notice that one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby has the name "I'll have another!". Funny name. In this month dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, it is worth remembering that the miracle at Cana was the first of Jesus' miracles. Wine has always been a symbol of joy in scripture and heaven is portrayed as the wedding feast of the lamb. If Jesus' first miracle was to change water into wine then we see here a distinctly Catholic approach to the world. We are, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, to use moderation in the proper ordering of goods-this includes food, drink, the arts, entertainment, etc. Curious isn't it that Jesus was accused of being a drunkard and a sinner. I think it is fair to say he knew how to have a good time. And by the way- the amount of water he changed into wine .....six stone water jars each containing 20 to 30 gallons of wine! Weddings back then were known to last for several days. Joy. One of Mary's titles is cause of our joy. St. Teresa of Avila used to say "God save us from sad faced saints". Joy and laughter is the topic of Fr. James Martin's new book Between Heaven and Mirth!. In this book he details the importance of joy and laughter in the life of a Catholic Christian. It makes one ponder the wonderful passage in Isaiah 55: "All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David." (Is 55:1-3) This passage is titled the invitation to grace. Just as Jesus changes water into wine so too does he give us his grace, freely. Romans 5:15 states, "The gift is not like the transgression. For if by one person's transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many." This is great news. Some people are caught in the trap of seeing God as a mathematician. One sin, One demerit. One act of Charity, one merit. Zero-Sum, right? No. Phil Yancey in his amazing work "What's so Amazing About Grace" highlights some wonderful stories of people who came in touch with the Amazing Grace of Jesus Christ and had their lives permanently changed. Do you want some Amazing Grace? Come to Jesus, the stone rejected by the builders who has become the cornerstone. "I'll have another!" A big amen to the God who chose the miracle of joy-changing water into wine at a wedding-as his first miracle!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pope John Paul II, Mary, and authentic feminism

"Women's Rights!" the headlines roared in Sunday's Hartford Courant. The story detailed political speakers and activists who were speaking at a rally on Saturday. Sunday's Editorial page had another hostile op-ed piece against the Catholic Church alleging discrimination of women. In the midst of a political season where the "war on women" appears to be the phrase of "choice" (pun intended) perhaps we can re-examine just what the Pope teaches about the role of women in the church and the importance of Our Lady as the "woman" par excellence. Today is May 1. It also happens to be the first anniversary of Pope John Paul II's beatification. On August 15, 1988, Pope John Paul II released an Apostolic Letter titled "on the dignity and vocation of women". It is brilliantly written. He points out, right at the beginning, that at the center of salvation history is a woman. I guess, you may say even more dramatically, all of salvation history was dependent upon the answer of "this woman-Mary." Here are his words: "A woman is to be found at the center of this salvific event. The self-revelation of God, who is the inscrutable unity of the Trinity, is outlined in the Anunciation at Nazareth. 'Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High...''How shall this be, since I have no husband?...''The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God....For with God nothing will be impossible.' (Lk 1: 31-37. It may be easy to think of this even in the setting of the history of Israel, the chosen people of which Mary is a daughter, but it is also easy to think of it in the context of all the different ways in which humanity has always sought to answer the fundamental and definitive questions which most beset it. Don we not find in the Anunciation at Nazareth the beginning of that definitive answer by which God himself 'attempts to calm people's hearts?' It is not just a matter here of God's words revealed through the prophets; rather with this response 'the word is truly made flesh'(Jn 1:14). Hence Mary attains a union with God that exceeds all the expectations of the human spirit. It even exceeds the expectations of all Israel, in particular the daughters of this Chosen People, who, on the basis of the promise, could hope that one of their number would one day become the mother of the Messiah. Who among them, however, could have imagined that the promised Messiah would be 'the Son of the Most High'? On the basis of the Old Testament's monotheistic faith such a thing was difficult to imagine. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, who 'overshadowed' her, was Mary able to accept what is 'impossible with men, but not with God' (Mk 10:27)" Hence, Mary has been put right at the center of the human drama. Extraordinary! Hence, too, as Pope JP II notes at the end of this letter, "the church gives thanks for all the manifestations of the'feminine genius' which have appeared in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations, she gives thanks for the charisms which the Holy Spirit distributes to women in the history of the People of God, for all the victories which she owes to their faith, hope and charity: she gives thanks for all the fruits of feminine holiness." I don't think too many people have read this letter. If not they would not be so quick to throne stones at the church. Jesus was radical in his treatment of women and the church is still radical: He and the church uphold the inviolable dignity of women. As the Pope notes in the letter "It is universally admitted-even by people with a critical attitude toward the Christian message-that in the eyes of his contemporaries Christ became a promoter of women's true dignity and of the vocation corresponding to this dignity. At times this caused wonder, surprise, often to the point of scandal. 'They marvelled that he was talking with a woman.' (JN 4:27), because this behavior differed from that of his contemporaries. Even Christ's own disciples 'marvelled.' The Pharisee to whose house the sinful woman went to anoint Jesus' feet with perfumed oil 'said to himself, if this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner' (Lk 7:39) Even greater dismay, or even 'holy indignation' must have filled the self-satisfied hearers of Christ's words. 'The tax collectors and the harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you.'" (Mt 21:31)." Whether it was his conversation with the samaritan woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery Jesus always and everywhere challenged the status quo. The church still does so today. Holiness is the radical challenge to the world's view of feminism. It was a woman, a mystic, St. Catherine of Siena, who was able to make peace between the Popes in Rome and Avignon. We all know the great story of the warrior Joan of Arc. Who does not marvel at the strength of St Teresa of Avila or more recently the heroic witness of St. Gianna Beretta Molla-a doctor, an enthusiastic lover of outdoor sports, and a mother who heroically said to the doctors treating her for a tumor-"Save the child!" How about the words of another saint, St. Therese of Lisieux: "Like the prophets and doctors of the Church, I should like to enlighten souls. I should like to wander through the world, preaching your Name and raising your glorious cross in pagan lands. But it would not be enough to have only one field of mission work. I should not be satisfied unless I preached the Gospel in every quarter of the globe and even in the most remote islands. Nor should I be content to be a missionary for only a few years. I should like to have been one from the creation of the world and to continue as one till the end of time. But, above all, I long to be a martyr. From my childhood I have dreamt of martyrdom, and it is a dream which has grown more and more real in my little cell in Carmel. But I don't want to suffer just one torment. I would like to suffer them all to be satisfied. Like you, my adorable Jesus, I want to be scourged and crucified. I want to be flayed like St. Bartholomew. Like St. John, I want to be flung into boiling oil. Like St. Ignatius of Antioch, I long to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, ground into bread worthy of God. With St. Agnes and St. Cecilia, I want to offer my neck to the sword of the executioner and, like Joan of Arc, murmur the name of Jesus at the stake. My heart leaps when I think of the un-heard tortures Christians will suffer in the reign of Anti-Christ. I want to endure them all. My Jesus, fling open that book of life in which are set down the deeds of every saint. I want to perform them all for you!" Hardly sounds like the woman who has become known as the "little flower"! What about St. Margaret Cliterow, the pearl of York? She was executed in York, England for inviting Catholic priests into her home to say mass during the penal laws under Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). Her only words when she refused to recant " My desire is to die as a member of the Catholic Church. My cause is God's, and it is a great comfort to me to die in His quarrel; flesh is frail, but I trust in my Lord Jesu, that He will give me strength to bear all troubles and torments which shall be laid upon me for His sake." Where did these women get their strength? They looked to Jesus. This is the source of all true liberation. It is where men discover who they are as men and women discover who they are as women. As the Second Vatican Council noted: "Jesus Christ fully reveals man to Himself." This is how Mary models for each of us Christian discipleship. I will close with the words of Fr. Dwight Longenecker, author of More Christianity: Finding the Fullness of the Faith. Fr Longenecker is a convert. Like all converts Mary can sometimes be a stumbling block. They believe that Catholics somehow diminish Jesus by praying to Mary. Here are his words: "Catholic Christianity is More Christianity, not mere Christianity. Time and again I have showed that Catholics do not believe differently than other Christians. We affirm everything other Christians affirm. We simply cannot deny some of the things they deny. When it comes to the Blessed Virgin Mary, this is especially true. All traditional Christians affirm the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all believe he really was true God and true man. This is 'mere Christianity' if you like. Catholic Christians affirm the Incarnation too, but we also pay devotion and honor to that singular and extraordinary young girl through whom the Incarnation became possible. Because of the Incarnation we honor Mary, and by honoring Mary we praise God for the Incarnation. Without her yes to God our Lord would not have been born. As a result we not only give thanks to God for her, but we also realize that because of her submission to God's will each one of us has a Savior....In solidarity with most Christians everywhere, and in all times, Catholics are joyful in our homage to Mary. We are not ashamed to call her the Mother of God, because in that title we recognize her son as God incarnate. We delight to call her blessed because as we do we join with the Saints who also recognized her as uniquely filled with the grace of God. We ask for her prayers and call on her as our mother because Jesus himself gave her that role from the Cross. In honoring Mary we honor her son, and through her prayers and love we come to know her son better." From the time of Jesus through today the Catholic church has honored and valued the "feminine genius" of women. The Church models an "authentic feminism" which is rooted in Christ and sees true liberation as liberation from sin. Mary is the role model par excellence. In this month devoted to Mary why not take some time to get to know her better. Like all the saints, she is not some dead figure. She is truly alive! Let her be your Mother!