Saturday, October 31, 2009

How to Make a Good Confession

As a continuation of last Saturday's topic, here are some guidelines for making a good confession.

1. Don't wait til 5 minutes before confession ends to get in line, unless it absolutely could not be helped. Get to church in plenty of time.

2. Take the time to practice good dental hygeine before going to confession. It's a simple consideration that we should show our priests. I have an image of a priest from childhood hearing confessions with a hanky over his mouth and nose. Need I say more?

3. Be honest and don't hide anything from the priest. You may succeed in hiding your sins from Father, but not from Jesus Christ, on whose behalf and upon whose authority the priest hears our confessions. There are many faithful Catholics who do not make a good confession because they're so ashamed of something they've done they can't bring themselves to admit it. That's why we have confession - so we can be thoroughly cleansed. You won't be the first to admit to a particular sin and you won't be the last. It's all part of the humility of going to confession but also the joy that will be yours when you unload that burden you've been carrying.

4. Don't turn your confession into a therapy session. Offer no excuses or rationales for why you did what you did - simply admit your sins and acknowledge your sorrow for having offended God. If the priest needs to know more, he'll ask you. If something is truly troubling you and requires more time than a few minutes, best to schedule an appointment with your priest. If you wish to maintain anonymity, consider going to confession at a church that offers them frequently. There are likely to be fewer people in line, possibly giving the priest more time to hear your issues.

5. If I get to confession and the line is really long, I sometimes decide to forego confession at that time so as to give someone else the opportunity. My thinking is this: someone in a state of mortal sin needs to go to confession more than someone who isn't. This is a particularly courteous thing to do if Mass is scheduled immediately after confession and there is the chance that not everyone who is in line can have their confession heard before hand.

6. Along that same line, if the line is long and a Mass is approaching, as a courtesy I might let Father know approximately how many people are waiting for him.

7. Remember that this is YOUR confession - not your husband's or your mother's or your kids', etc. You are there to confess YOUR sins and take ownership for what YOU'VE done, not someone else. Don't confess a sin and then blame someone else for making you commit it. No one can make us do anything. We can exercise our free will for our own good or we can use our free will to do spiritual harm to ourselves. "The devil made me do it" isn't a valid excuse.

8. Remember that you should say or do your penance immediately after your confession, or as soon as you possibly can if there is some reason why you can't do it immediately. For instance, some priests will assign you to read a particular psalm for your penance and you may need to wait til you get home to read it in your Bible.

9. If you remember something you did after you leave the confessional, that sin is still forgiven PROVIDED you confess it at your next confession.

10. Remember to thank Father for hearing your confession and to assure him that he will be remembered in your prayers. Priests need prayers as much as, if not more than, everyone else.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Praying for Priests

I am passing this along at the request of Father Z as posted on his blog What Does the Prayer Really Say? Father asked if we could make a special effort on All Souls Day to remember to pray for the souls of deceased priests. This being the Year of the Priest, it would be especially significant to pray not only for those priests who are living but also for those who have departed from us. May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace, Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Deliver Us From Evil

There was a time when the Halloween season had me very cautiously flipping channels. I never knew when one of the cable movie stations would be airing "The Exorcist" and I didn't want the horrible images of a possessed young girl rattling around in my head. Now that I am older and more wiser in my spiritual life, this movie is of little consequence to me. The whole subject of demonic possession is fascinating but one that should be approached with extreme care and caution. Truly, the only thing we need to know is that evil does exist in our world and the best way to overcome it is to engage in a life of prayer, especially through devotion to Mary.

Some folks get a thrill out of being scared out of their wits. Read enough about exorcisms and it's hard not to be both curious and afraid. But it's important to remember that there are people in this world who do not even believe in the devil yet do his dirty work for him every day by living a life of grave sin. Possession of one's soul holds a much worse fate, one of eternal damnation, than does physical possession. Again, the best way to overcome vice is through prayer, especially the Rosary.

The chief Vatican exorcist, Father Gabriel Amorth, once said that every Hail Mary is like a hammer blow to the devil's head. Lay people should never, ever attempt to engage the devil in any way and only a priest who has the permission of his bishop can attempt an exorcism. However, praying the Rosary is something all of us can and should do every day. St. Michael is also a most powerful advocate in our battle against evil. In fact, a well-known exorcism took place in Philadelphia many years ago and what finally exorcised the demon was placing a blessed statue of St. Michael by the possessed boy's bedside.

So, as fascinating as this subject is, it's best to occupy one's mind with holy thoughts, such as prayer, spiritual reading and especially reading about the lives of the saints. One other caution. At this time of year in our city, it's commonplace to see guides dressed in colonial garb leading tourists on a "ghostwalk" through historic cemeteries. Of course the hope is to actually encounter a ghost. Well, be careful what you wish for, because you may get it and when you appropriate something that doesn't belong to you, you go down a dangerous path. You don't know what you might awaken and what spiritual harm it may bring to you. Evil needs your cooperation. Don't offer it a portal into your body or soul by engaging in seances, palm readings, Ouiji boards and other activities that are in direct contradiction to our faith.

Thanks to Father Z and his blog for inspiring me to write about this.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Family Holy Hour Sunday Nov. 1st at St. Monica's Church

This coming Sunday Nov. 1st, there will be a Family Holy Hour with Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament, chanting of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, silent adoration and Benediction. This will take place at St. Monica's Church (upper church) at 7 pm. St. Monica's is located at 17th and Ritner Streets in South Philadelphia and Father Ronald Check cordially invites everyone to come. Remember! "the family that prays together, stays together." With all of the mindless drivel that occupies our time on television, here is an opportunity for families to end the weekend with the Lord and put all their petitions before Him with love, in adoration.

Monday, October 26, 2009

All God's Children

Today I came home from work early to look after my son, who is laid up in bed with what is probably the Swine flu. I was having some soup for lunch when I read about the little girl who died last week at the hands of her abusive parents. Her father killed himself in prison yesterday and her stepmother, who is also alleged to have participated in this child's abuse, is in a women's correctional facility. Despite the best effort by school nurses to protect little Charleeni Ferreira, authorties failed to detect any credibility to the abuse allegations and as a result, failed miserably in their duties to protect this child. Charleeni died of infection as the result of a collapsed lung and was found to have a fractured hip and a head injury that was masked by a hair weave. A 10-year-old child walking around on a FRACTURED HIP! It just defies belief that one human being could treat another, especially a child, in this way. There are also allegations of sexual abuse.

Today, a friend posted something on her Facebook page about the horrors of birds who died as a result of ingesting plastic. Everyday on Facebook it's commonplace to read pleas to adopt dogs and cats who face euthanasia if they do not soon find a home. There are heart-tugging photos of dogs that have been beaten and scarred for life by cruel owners. It is wonderful that people care enough to give them a home, but it's still a very sad commentary on our society that there is more effort made to defend animals than there is our own children, whether those children are in-utero or already born. Is it any wonder people will do what they do to animals when they can do what they do to human beings and get away with it?

I thought the city had seen the end of its horrific failure to protect children when the case of Danieal Kelly came to light. If the city pursued child abuse in the same way it does parking violations, it would be some safe haven for children. Instead, children, who through no fault of their own, are born into less-than-ideal situations, are at the mercy of less-than-fit parents and an inept agency that has run out of excuses and justificaiton for existence. I cannot imagine the outrage of those school nurses who KNEW something was wrong and had their pleas disregarded.

Last week, another tragedy gripped the country, that of the little Florida girl who had a falling out with her older sister on the way home from school and made the fatal mistake of walking ahead, never to be seen alive again. I can't imagine the guilt the older sister must feel. I can only hope her mother wrapped her arms around her and told her how much she loved her. I pray this poor child understands that it is not her fault the world is crawling with evil that preys upon innocent life. Hearing that little Somers' body was dumped in a landfill filled us with revulsion and rightfully so. Where is the same revulsion for the 50,000,000 little bodies discarded as nobodies like some infectious medical waste? Shame on us.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Power of Prayer

For the past several years, I have tried to set aside time once a month to pray a novena to St. Therese for 9 days. This novena is a most powerful prayer and while it takes about 15 minutes a day to pray it, it is a very small investment for the return, if I may speak of prayer in those terms. You might think it would be a challenge to come up with a different intention to pray for every month but you'd be surprised how easily several come to mind. Sometimes, I pray the novena for someone I don't see very often or hear much about. It isn't until I hear of some suprising news about them that I recall having prayed the novena for them.

To date, I've prayed for a co-worker struggling with infertility, a cousin battling brain cancer, another cousin battling colon cancer, two relatives struggling with addictions, and countless other people in need of prayer. On Friday, I was stunned to learn that a relative who has been in and out of jail and battling drug addiction was in a halfway house and expected to be released in December. He's been cleaner than he has for many years and doing remarkably well. I was embarassed that I didn't know about this sooner so I could offer thanks to St. Therese for her glorious intercession. When my mother relayed the news to me about this relative, I told her how I had prayed to St. Therese on his behalf. I was disappointed in her response. "You know" she said "you should really save your powerful prayers for emergencies". I had to remind her that God is not a politician with a limited tolerance for doing favors but a loving Father of infinite mercy who wants His children to come to Him with their needs.

Prayer is not always easy for me. I'm the poster-child for adult ADD when it comes to concentrating on the words I'm saying, and I often catch myself drifting somewhere else. I wouldn't dare to presume that I pray any harder than anyone else. What I do have in my favor is the complete confidence that God listens and wants to give us things, especially those things that will help us better conform to His will. I also know that we can do nothing without Him, whatever else we might think, and that when we call to Him, He doesn't see a wretched sinner but a child who is much loved. I also know that prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments are the most powerful weapons we have against sin and vice. Yet they are often the last resort for the desperate rather than a steady diet for the faithful.

Remember that saying, God helps those who help themselves? It's true. We can't just sit back and do nothing and expect God to handle everything. There are those situations, however, when the only way we can help ourselves is to pray and we should never lose sight of this.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sacrament of Reconcilation

Back in the good ole days when I was growing up, Saturday was the only day that confession was offered. You would get to church by 3 pm and wait in line for your turn. There was no marker on the outside of the confessional to tell you which parish priest would be hearing your confession so you never knew what to expect until you were "in the box". Some priests were patient and understanding, others not so much. The other notable difference was "back then" the confessionals were set up so as to allow two people to enter, one on either side of the part where the priest sat. It got tricky sometimes. I remember thinking I was next when in fact I was not and getting a severe reprimand for starting my confession while the poor priest was listening to the person on the other side. It wasn't funny at the time, but it is now, with the years that have passed putting the event in its proper perspective.

I think that the way the Church handles confession now as opposed to then is actually a change for the better. In some busy parishes, confessions are heard every day except Sunday. I am always saddened to hear that one of the major reasons people do not want to convert to Catholicism is because they don't want to go to confession. They don't know what they are missing. First off, it is nearly unheard of today to come across a priest who is harsh or insulting. If a person presents themselves in the proper disposition, approaching the sacrament with honesty, humility and a sincere sorrow for having offended God, they may certainly expect to have their sins heard and forgiven with kindnes and mercy. After all, it is not the priest who forgives our sins but Jesus, Who invested that authority in His priests. I can personally attest to the incredible feeling of lightness that comes with unloading my sins in the confessional. What others dread, I see as one of the most supreme gifts left to us by Our Lord.

Sometimes, a person will tell me they don't see the point in going to confession if they're going to commit the same sin again. The way to look at that is so long as you realize the sin is wrong, and you really do repent of having committed it, it's ok. Remember that Jesus fell three times on His way to Calvary. He knows that we, too, will fall many times and the mercy He extends to us is infinite. Going to confession isn't an instant fix for our failings in life but it is a means by which to obtain the graces necessary to overcome them.

Last week, on the feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the priest celebrant shared this incident that happened when St. Margaret was receivng revelations from Our Lord and shared them with one of her spiritual directors. The priest told her to ask Jesus: What was the most offensive sin I committed in my youth? When St. Margaret Mary relayed the question to Jesus, His answer was: I don't recall. St. Therese once said that even if she had commimtted the most horrible sin she could possibly could, it would be like throwing a single drop of water into a blazing furnace because of the infinite mercy and love Our Savior has for us. Mother Angelica once observed "It is a kind of sin against God to assume that our sins are greater than His mercy."

So OK, now that we have established that you SHOULD go to confession, how do you go about it, particularly if it's been awhile? First, be honest with the priest in telling him how long it's been since the last time. Then, tell him your sins. I try to keep things as brief and general as possible. The reality is that there are fewer priests to hear confessions and Father may not have time for long explanations. If he needs to hear more, he'll ask you. Remember approximately how many times the sin was committed. When you are finished, say that you are sorry for these and all the sins you've committed in life. Father will offer a brief counsel,give you a penance, ask you to say the Act of Contrition(more on that in a moment) and then give you Absolution of your sins. Some priests prefer to have you pray the Act of Contrition while they say the prayers of Absolution but this is not generally the case. I always like to say thank you and God Bless you to the priest before exiting. A small but greatly appreciated gesture. It is best to do or say your penance immediately, rather than put it off

Usually, penance consists of saying prescribed prayers such as "ten Hail Mary's and two Our Fathers". Some priests will want you to read a particular psalm, pray a decade of the Rosary, or perform some act, such as doing something nice for a person you may have offended.

For the love of all that is God's, please do not let the Act of Contrition deter you from going to confession. The priest will help you say it if you can't remember. I will print one at the bottom of this post that you can print and take with you, which is perfectly acceptable to do. At St. Rita's the friars have the Act of Contrition posted right there on the confessional so you can read it if necessary.

You can do this, and you should do this, so get going. St. John the Evangelist Church at 13th and Market Streets offers confessions Wed. thru Saturday from 3:15 until 5:00pm. St. Rita's at Broad and Ellsworth offers confessions twice daily from Monday thur Saturday, at 11 am and again at 4 pm.

Here is an Act of Contrition you can print and take with you:

Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee. I detest all my sins because of thy just punishment but also because I've offended thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of they grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.

No more excuses, just do it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Divine Love Prayer

I do not know the author or origin of this prayer but after I heard it, I had to learn it because I wanted to say it all the time. It was taught to me by the very holy Father Jim Galligan, OSA, before he retired from active ministry. Father Jim would recite the first part of the prayer at Benediction and those of us in the congregation would say the response. I later found out that the prayer can also be recited on ordinary Rosary beads by saying each part of the nine-part prayer 10 times, followed by a Glory Be. Or, it can simply be recited upon reception of Holy Communion.


Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

I adore You and I praise You in union with the nine choirs of angels

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

Burning with love for me, inflame my heart with love for You

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

Thy Kingdom come

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

Make us one in mind, heart and will with You, the Father and the Holy Spirit

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

Gentle and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

Through the infinite value of each Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, offered now and until the end of time, have mercy on us and on the whole world

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus

Thank you for the personal love You have for me in the Blessed Sacrament

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

With all my heart, I love You

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

I put all my trust in You


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Traditional Latin Mass

This coming Sunday, Oct. 25th, St Paul Church at 10th and Christian Streets in Philadelphia will begin offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form every Sunday at Noon. This Sunday marks the Feast of Christ the King according to the Traditional Calendar and the Mass will be a high sung solemn Mass. At one time, permission was required from the bishop of the diocese for Mass to be celebrated in the Extraordinary Form, but Pope Benedict has relaxed this restriction much to the joy of those who either grew up with Mass or came to love it out of a desire for a more reverent and solemn form of worship. Mass in the Extraordinary Form is also known as the Traditional Latin Mass because the readings, responses and propers are chanted in Latin. The homily is given in English.

While it takes a little while to become familiar with this form of the Mass, it's not complicated. At the few TLM's I've been fortunate enough to have assisted at, there was adequate instruction given beforehand to prepare the congregation for what to expect. Unlike the Novus Ordo (the Ordinary Form of the Mass) the people receive Holy Communion kneeling at the altar and reception in the hand is not permitted. Also, the Communicant does not respond "Amen" - instead, the priest says this before placing the Sacred Host on the person's tongue. I have noticed a greater sense of reverence in the manner in which people dress and in their silence and prayer before and after Mass. It is not required that women cover their heads but those who long to do so will feel quite comfortable wearing a mantilla or other head covering to the TLM.

When referring to the TLM, many people mistakenly say that the priest celebrates Mass with his back to the congregation. On the contrary; with the congregation, Father offers prayers facing the Cross and the Tabernacle. This is known as ad orientem posture and if you think about it, would we really want Father to turn his back on Our Lord?

While everything but the homily is chanted in Latin, those who are not familiar with the language need not worry. I was able to pick up a very inexpensive but helpful booklet that has the prayers for the TLM in both English and Latin for less then $10 at the Carmelite Monastery. At the few TLM's I've assisted at, books were printed and given out that contained all of the prayers and readings as well.

The TLM has been referred to by some as the closest we can get to Heaven while on Earth. Come see for yourself.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pray for a Catholic Politician

Back in May, I was fortunate to be able to join Cardinal Justin Rigali and many of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for a pilgramage to the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. On the bus trip home, little cards were handed out, each of which bore the name of a seminarian at St. Charles Seminary. The idea was for us to pray for whichever seminarian whose card we received. I was thinking of this the other day when the card fell out of my Magnificat and something occurred to me. This is the month both dedicated to the Rosary and to the protection of life from conception to natural death.

It is wonderful to pray for priests and seminarians by name. Certainly, they need our prayers for the strength, patience and guidance to see their vocation to its completion. But wouldn't it be something if all of us could pray for one of our wayward Catholic politicians in the same way we pray for priests by name? Certainly, these public figures are every bit in need of our prayers, especially those who have fallen away from their faith in the interest of garnering votes. If all of us made a sincere effort to devoutly pray at least one Rosary a week, preferably a day, for the intention of a Catholic politician who is not living his/her faith out in accordance with the Church's teachings on life - imagine the graces! Perhaps anyone who reads this blog will consider this effort and start to pray by name for Vice President Joe Biden that he may convert to a culture of life and publicly renounce any legislation that does not protect all life, especially the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday, Our Little Heaven on Earth Day

In her autobiography, The Story of A Soul, St. Therese recalled how much she loved Sundays during her childhood. She called them her "little heavens" and on this day she especially made an effort to adore God. At the end of the day, when her dear Marie and Pauline were getting her ready for bed, she would ask "Are the little angels flying all around me"? as she believed they would if she had spent the day in a manner pleasing to God.

For too many people, Sunday is just another day. How filled the Church is when attendance is mandatory for First Holy Communion or Confirmation, and how quickly the pews thin out once those sacraments have been dispensed. There is time for sports, time to shop, time for just about everything but God. Some folks traipse in late and are the first to barge down the aisle before Father. Sad. In His revelations to Saint Faustina, Our Lord lamented that it was these lukewarm souls that pained Him most. Others feel they are doing God a favor if they show up on Christmas and Easter, and still others make all kinds of excuses about why God doesn't care. Well, He does. Isn't that heartbreaking that a God Who loves us so much is so little loved in return?

My prayer is that those who are away, as I once was, will realize God's love for them and return to Him with all their hearts. Then they, like St. Therese, can experience the joy of heaven on earth.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Silence is Golden

Yesterday, I spent a litle time in Adoration following Mass and if I didn't get up and leave when I did, I would have had to go back to confession. It began with a gentlemen behind me not only answering his cell phone but standing at the back of the chapel and carrying on a conversation that was clearly not of an urgent nature.
Next, the woman across from me, who also neglected to heed the sign warning her to turn off her cell phone, allowed hers to ring rather loudly while she prayed her Rosary, making no effort to silence it. Following that, a distraught man rushed in searching for his lost Missal. He asked the cell-phone lady if she'd seen it and she proceeded to answer him in what a teacher might call an "outside voice." Following that, her cell phone rang yet again and this time she got up and went outside the chapel to answer it. At this point, an elderly gentlemen blew his stack and chastised everyone for their lack of reverence. "Put the damn things on vibrate" he said, and then he immediately apologized to Our Lord for swearing in front of Him.

It's like that some days. You set out trying to spend some time in prayer, and wind up commiting a sin against charity. I would venture to guess that in the past year, clearly half the sins I've committed have been in church, either for judging someone or for wanting to throttle someone who wouldn't be quiet. It's a tough call sometimes. Do you continue to watch the Lord disrespected, or do you take a chance committing a sin against charity and speak up?

On one occasion, when two people spoke in "outside" voices in the chapel, I did shush them. I got a lecture from the woman about being holier-than-thou and then she talked more and even louder. Another time, I respectfully asked a group of ladies to please take their conversation outside out of reverence for the Exposed Blessed Sacrament. They were very nice, apologized, and left the chapel. No one wants to be a cop, but the last place I want to hear a cell-phone or inane chatter is in Church. There is absolutely no conversation so important that it has to take place in front of Jesus in the Eucharist.

I think our priests need to help this situation a little with frequent reminders that the sacred silence must be kept in the Lord's Presence. And all of us can help by setting pristine examples for others.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of The Church

Today is the feast of one of my very favorite saints. In all humility, I feel I probably identify more with her than any other saint because of everything she juggled. In the back of my breviary is a prayer that was found in her breviary after her death. But of the many profound writings she left behind, my favorite phrase is a simple one that I will paraphrase here: " Let the only thing you fear be separation from God."

Teresa aspired to martyrdom at an early age. However, as she grew older, she wasn't exactly on fire with love for the Lord. Shortly after entering the convent, she fell ill with a mysterious illness and was paralyzed and near death. It took nearly 3 years before she was well enough to return to the Carmel. Teresa was disturbed by the laxity that was rampant in her Carmel and many other convents in Spain. Some sisters went so far as to wear make-up and jewelry with their habits and were known to socialize with gentlemen more frequently than they prayed. Still, it wasn't until she was in her 40's that Teresa underwent her conversion. Praying before the crucifix, she observed that Our Lord "was poor and naked, and so I, too, wanted to be poor with Him". From that point onward, she reformed the Carmelite order and traveled throughout Spain to start many foundations.

St. Teresa was also a mystic who experienced ectasies and levitation. There are almost comical accounts of her gripping the Carmel grille to avoid levitating. Sometimes she fell into ectasies in meetings and other public places and she begged the Lord to spare her from them, which He did. She referred to Our Lord as "Your Majesty" and He, in turn, called her "Daugther". She wrote many spiritual books including Interior Castle, La Vida ( her autobiography) and the Way of Perfection.

St. Teresa was often not well, but she didn't let that stop her from her work to found Carmels and hermitages throughout Spain. She found herself on the wrong side of the Inquisition but managed to elude harm. She was known to wear nettles for bracelets and a hair shirt under her habit. I have a little saying of hers in my kitchen. "The Lord Walks Among the Pots and Pans". In other words, even the most mundane tasks can be offered as prayer. She once remarked "Heaven preserve us from stupid nuns" and was renowned for her ability to quickly determine whether a young woman truly had a vocation as a Carmelite. At a meeting in her Carmel, which was anticipated to be contentious because of some opposition to her and her reforms, she completely disarmed her critics by placing a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Prioress' chair. Overwhelmingly, the nuns voiced their love and support for her.

St. Teresa died of internal bleeding. Upon her death, the Carmel was filled with the perfume of flowers. She was buried at the Carmel in Avila. St. Teresa is the first woman to be declared a Doctor of the Church.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our Lady of Fatima

Today marks the anniversary of the "Miracle of the Sun" in Portugal in 1917. Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared to 3 shepherd children with a message of prayer and penance, promised a miracle to the faithful who came to Cova de Iria hoping for a glimpse of the glorious apparition seen only by the children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. On this day, which began with heavy rains, soaking the people and turning the ground to mud, the sun appeared to hurl towards the earth, sending the crowds into sheer terror. Then, just as suddenly, it veered back towards its place in the sky.

When atheists and blasphemers start in on me because of my faith, I urge them to read about the events of Fatima, not because of the miracle of the sun but because of the improbability of 3 ignorant uneducated children fabricating such a tale. The political climate was such that it was dangerous to be a Catholic and there was nothing to be gained by inventing a tale of a beautiful lady appearing to the children and urging them to spread her message to consecrate Russia to her, pray the Rosary and make many sacrifices for the salvation of sinners. The apparitions began on May 13th and occured on the 13th day of each subsequent month. Sister Lucia died on the 13th of the February. Pope John Paul II, who credited the Virgin of Fatima with saving his life, was shot on May 13th, the Feast of Fatima. As St. Therese once said, for those with faith the size of a mustard seed, our Lord moves mountains. I think it would very difficult to hear the story of Fatima and not at least be moved to ask some questions.

And let those of us who believe remain committed to praying the Rosary daily and offering many penances and sacrifices to save souls from falling into Hell.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Little Levity Pt II

This morning, I woke up bleary-eyed and exhausted from staying up too late watching baseball. I nearly didn't make it to Mass at all. As it was, I walked in during the Kyrie. In fact, I'm ashamed to admit this, but I had to FORCE myself to turn off the television during the Red Sox/Angels game to pray my Rosary. Vet appointments and other responsibilities prevented me from carrying out my usual Friday devotions according to my normal routine. Had the Phillies been playing, it would have been even harder to concentrate on prayer. I'm ashamed to admit this but I doubt I am alone.

On Sundays, it often takes every bit of willpower I have to turn off a football game and head down the street for a little time in Adoration. Worse, I used to plea-bargain. "Lord, I'll turn off the game and talk to you for a litle while. How about you let the Cowboys beat the Giants in the meantime?" It's nothing to be proud of and perhaps I shouldn't even joke about it, but I was thinking of my sports addiction during the homily this evening. A young man who has lead an other-wise good life asks Jesus what more he must do to get to Heaven. I put myself in that man's place.

First, I think there is almost nothing among my earthly possessions that I couldn't give up easily. Jewelry means nothing to me; money has no value, tho I clearly recognize the problem of going without any. My furniture is all second-hand. I like the computer but if push came to shove, I'd survive without it. But baseball and football? These would be difficult to give up. Would I? I'd like to think I would. And clearly, I could put myself to the test by turning off the game at a critical point and engaging God in prayer.

Last year, one of the St. Patrick Missionary Fathers came to speak to us at Mass. I swear he was a pupil of Therese, tho he never said so. Anyway, he asked us to consider making some small sacrifices and offer them in prayer on behalf of those he served in the mission. One of his suggestions was to turn off the Phils when the bases are loaded and go to bed without knowing the outcome. I can tell you I've tried this. But it's difficult not to know the score when you live withing earshot of Citizens Bank Park. It's decidedly quieter after a loss and even when I've succeeded in turning off the game, I strain my ears to hear the din from the ballpark. Pathetic. But it's something to work on.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lord, What Have I Done For You Lately?

One of the many benefits of getting caught in St. Therese's little web is that it causes you to pause and think about how your every action might serve God. Come to a stop sign when you're in a hurry and a lollygagger is trying to cross the street, you wave them on. You know you were in line before the pushy person who edges in ahead of you, you let them go. You get the picture. Some days, I have to really struggle to come up with a single thing I've done for God. Which leads me to this: today is Friday, a penitential day in the life of the Church. Growing up, meat was forbidden on Fridays. Now, it is permitted, provided we perform some act of mercy or perform some penance. It's a small thing to give up, given the expanse of meatless food choices we have now compared to when I was growing up in the 60's. Still, it requires some effort, particularly when invited to eat at someone's home.
Last Friday I served fried fish for dinner and my son asked me why because it wasn't Lent. Even though it may not seem like a big sacrifice, it at least gives us pause to stop and think on Fridays about why we will not eat meat.

(I wrote this last night and forgot to post it, hence it's a day late)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Our Lady of the Rosary

Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Once called a poor man's Psaltery (there are 150 psalms and there are 150 Hail Mary's in the Rosary) the Rosary is a Marian devotion that encourages us to meditate on the mysteries of the Gospel. There are 15 promises Mary made to those who faithfully and devoutly pray the Rosary. The Rosary, like other sacramentals, should never be viewed as an amulet or magic charm. What it is is a weapon against sin and vice and the temptations of the devil. It doesn't take very long to pray the Rosary - 20 minutes at most. Surely, everyone has 20 minutes to give to Our Lord through Mary. I keep a Rosary with me at all times so I can pray it whenever I want - walking to and from work, exercising - the Rosary can be prayed just about anywhere. It's a small investment of time for a very large return. As Saint Louis de Montfort once said, "One day, our Lady will save the world through the Holy Rosary."

Father Benedict Groeschel wrote a wonderful book of Rosary meditations called "Chain of Hope". I find such readings helpful when I have difficulty meditating on the sacred mysteries without distraction. It's good to know that even some of the holiest saints struggled with praying the Rosary as they should. St. Therese said of her own inability to remain focused "..when alone (I am ashamed to admit) the recitation of the Rosary is more difficult for me than the wearing of an instrument of penance. I feel I have said this so poorly!... For a long time I was desolate abou this lack of devotion, which astonished me because I love the Blessed Virgin so much that it should be easy for me to recite in her honor prayers which are so pleasing to her. Now I am less desolate. I think that the Queen of Heaven, since she is my Mother, must see my goodwill and she is satisfied with it."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

St. Bruno and the Carthusians

Today is the feast of St. Bruno, who founded the Carthusian order of monks. If you have an opportunity, try to see the documentary "Into Great Silence" which chronicles the daily prayer and work lives of the monks of the Gran Chartreuse in the French Alps. The "fathers", as they refer to themselves, eat just one meal in common - on Sundays - and spend the rest of their time in solitary silence, gathering only for Mass and to keep the Hours. In fact, it was exhausting just to watch them pray the Midnight Office. Once a week, the fathers also take a walk, forbidden by their Rule to stop at any public place along the way for food or drink. I find it comforting to know that somewhere in this world, which has so often rejected the Son of God, there is a place where He is first and foremost in the hearts and minds of men who, by their silent contemplation of the Word, try to make amends for the multitude who do not know or love Him.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

St. Therese on the Priesthood

"I feel in me the vocation of the Priest. With what love, O Jesus, I would carry you in my hands when, at my voice, you would come down from Heaven. And with what love would I give you to souls! But alas! while desiring to be a priest, I admire the humility of St. Francis of Assisi, and I feel the vocation of imitating him in refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood."

St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Francis of Assisi

Although the Sunday liturgy takes precedence over the feast days of saints, today is, nonetheless, the date on which the church normally observes the feast of St. Francis. Typically, we see St. Francis depicted with birds or other animals gathered around him, and some churches observe this day by blessing animals used as pets or in service.

One of my favorite quotes is attributed to St. Francis, and it is the inspiration for how we should try to live our lives. "Preach the Gospel often and everywhere; when necessary, use words." This is a succinct way of telling us to let our actions speak louder than our words. We can pay all manner of lip service to the precepts of the Gospel, but we are defined not by what we say but by what we do. St. Francis embraced poverty, not only of body but of spirit as well. He assumed the lowest position in society in imitation of Christ, who "humbled Himself to share in our humanity so that we might one day share in His Divinity". Although renowned for his preaching, St. Francis' humility prevented him from seeking ordaination to the priesthood, hence the name Franciscan Minors. At the end of his life, he suffered from blindness and the wounds of the Stigmata, which he received on the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross.

So, while we present our precious little pets for a special blessing today, let us also ask St. Francis to assist us in imitating him so that we, too, might imitate Christ, who was born into the world in abject poverty and remains with us in the guise of bread and wine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

St. Therese of Lisieux, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

St. Therese, in her own words.

On Humility:

"Now, that I am about to appear before the good God, more than ever do I understand that there is but one thing necessary: to work solely for Him, and to do nothing for self or for creatures."

On Mortification:

"I had accustomed myself never to complain when anything of mine was taken; and when unjustly blamed, I chose rather to remain silent than to defend myself."

On Zeal:

A novice on her way to the laundry one day went at a slow pace through the garden looking at flowers as she passed. St. Therese, who followed walking quickly, soon overtook her and said: "Is this how one hastens who has children(souls) to support, for whose sustenance she is obliged to work..."

On Prayer:

"My whole strength lies in prayer and sacrifice, these are my invincible arms; they can move hearts far better than words. I know it from experience."

On Love:

"Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing."

On Answering Prayer:

Under what name should we pray to you when you are in Heaven, they asked. She answered humbly: "You will call me "little Therese."

"You will look down on us form the heights of Heaven, will you not"? they asked.
"No, I shall come down. After my death, I shall let fall a shower of roses."