Friday, April 30, 2010

Reminder: Tomorrow is the First Saturday of the Month

For those who are inclined, every Saturday morning following the 8am Mass at St. Paul's Church, the Most Holy Rosary is recited for the intention of all of our priests, followed by Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. St. Paul's is located on Christian Street between 9th and 10th Streets in the heart of the Italian Market, Philadelphia. Tomorrow is the First Saturday of the Month, which is traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She promised her protection and and special graces to all those who would, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, go to confession, Mass and receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary and, keep her company for a quarter of an hour by meditating on the Gospel mysteries of the Rosary.

Ways to Evangelize Without Ever Saying a Word

People love the idea of getting something of value for free. So I do my best not to disappoint them. I've developed the habit of leaving little booklets of spiritual devotion to St. Therese and St. Michael in churches, particularly if there is a candle stand at their statues. I take absolute delight in watching them disappear by the time I leave. It's a wonderful way to help spread devotion to your favorite saint, and for the giver, the monetary cost is nominal while the spiritual benefits to the taker are priceless.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Power of the Eucharist

I long ago came to the sad realization that I am a social klutz. Most of the priests and religious I know have more active social lives than I do, and truthfully, I'm not complaining about that. Since returning to the One True Faith, even my vacations are centered on where I can most easily get to Mass. I think this is somewhat frustrating to my husband at times, but he doesn't complain about it all that often. An occasional Phillies game with my daughter or visit to a restaurant for dinner is about all I can manage these days.

Last week and this week, certain activities at work have demanded my presence earlier than usual, and this means not getting to Daily Mass. Thankfully, this sort of thing doesn't happen very often because when I don't get to Daily Mass, the rest of my prayer routine is thrown off kilter. I've felt a bit lost the last two weeks, even though God does not demand that I get up with the roosters and venture out in the dark every morning to spend some quiet time with Him before the insanity of my day begins. Then I notice that, when I don't get to Mass, I get careless about other things too, like not watching my words as carefully as I should. Without the Eucharist as my daily focus, I fall off the wagon a bit, so to speak.

Now that the mandatory exercises at work have concluded, I'm hoping to climb back on the wagon and make amends for the times I slipped up. Maybe it's not normal not to want to socialize with other couples or "go out with the girls". I don't care. I know where I belong, and to Whom I belong. I liken the relationship between us and Jesus in the Eucharist to a plant that leans in the direction of the sun, as though it can't get enough of the sustaining energy of the solar sphere. You can attempt to train the plant to grow in any direction you want, but the sun will win that battle every time. We are drawn to the Eucharist in the same way. What happens to a plant when there is no sunshine? It's growth is slowed and it may even wilt and die.

When St. Therese was in the throes of her illness, she insisted on taking part in the spiritual exercises of her community, even though her participation left her utterly exhausted. It is recounted that she had to literally drag herself up the banister to her cell at night where she was so worn out, that it took her a full hour to dress for bed. " I do not count this too much to win one Holy Communion", she said. What a beautiful thought, and one we would all do well to embrace.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Enter Through the Sheep-Gate

Sometimes, I don't think I'm much smarter than the woolly little creatures known as sheep. Like a lot of herd animals, I can panic and lose my way. I stray from the rest of the flock. The Shepherd calls me to Him, and admittedly, I don't always obey the sound of His voice, even though I know It. And when that happens, I get myself into trouble. The Shepherd never abandons me, no matter how foolishly lost I am.

There are no shortcuts to holiness.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Another Beautiful Spiritual Bouquet

Last night, I bid farewell to my boss, who is a beautiful person inside and out. She is leaving to work at a hospital closer to home after only a year with us. Immediately upon her arrival to us last May, she and I discovered we were kindred spirits. We prayed together, talked about our respective faiths (she's Baptist) and pondered on what we thought God wanted of us. Her office was a "safe zone" where we could talk about religion in an institution where a handful of miserable people have found it offensive when anyone openly discusses their faith. Many of us were heartbroken when she announced she was leaving, but loving someone means wanting the best for them, and those of us who grew closest to her knew we had to be supportive of her decision.

Even though she isn't Catholic, I chose to give her decidedly Catholic going-away gifts. I gave her a sterling silver Rosary bracelet strung with Swarovski crystals and a copy of "Story of a Soul". Like a spouse who brings home flowers to his wife and when she is in need of a lift, The Lord sent me another bouquet last night. My boss loved the gifts I gave her. And then she told me. She's thinking of converting to Catholicism. Now, can you think of anything more likely to persuade someone than St. Therese in her own words? And as a lay Catholic, can you think of anything more joyful than the possibility of bringing a new lamb into the fold?

Deo Gratias!

Friday, April 23, 2010

God is in Control

Last week, I was reading an interview with a seminarian, soon to be ordained, in the Catholic Standard and Times and one of his comments was most timely. "God is in control." We don't always know why things happen, or even why they don't happen, but if submit ourselves to His will and forget ours, we should accept what comes to us and move on, right? We know that, so why is it such a struggle sometimes?

I got to thinking about how sometimes, I can draw an analogy between my prayer life and my days as a distance runner. To run long distances in a race with any success, you have to go on long runs, often long solitary runs, over many miles to acquire the necessary conditioning. Some days, you just don't feel like going out and every step feels like it might be your last. And then all of a sudden, you break the barrier and your steps start feeling lighter and it's not so difficult anymore. But what would have happened had you not gone at all every time you felt this way is that you would lose conditioning and fitness and eventually, you might give up altogether because of a few bumps in the road.

I think our prayer life is like this too sometimes. We just don't "feel" like it. This is something very hard to grasp sometimes, that we need to "feel" something. Perhaps the best offering we can make of all the things we do are those we don't feel. St. Therese often referred to insensible joy, which is joy that cannot be felt but which gives the inner peace that God loves you, and you are on the right path, and you have left everything in His hands. But like the distance runner, the wrong thing to do would be to hang it up. So don't. Ever.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More Trials, No Answers

This has been another difficult week. I am waiting for an answer on a matter which admittedly is not one of life or death but is very important to me. It's by no means a trivial matter. I feel like a blind person groping their way in the dark because answers are not forthcoming, there is no end in sight to this trial, and there has been no consolation in prayer for months. I don't know what God expects of me in a particular situation, nor do I understand why I can't just get an answer. Even if it's not the answer I want, at least I'll know how to proceed. I'm well aware of all my blessings in this life, and the few bright spots have been some of the truly miraculous answers to prayers for others. But honestly, I have never known such numbness and uncertainty and don't really know what to do about it. One of the best ways for us to take our mind off of our own problems is to pray for someone else who truly needs it. I would be happy to pray for any special intentions you may have.
God Bless!

Monday, April 19, 2010

In Thanksgiving to St. Therese for Her Glorious Intercession

As I've said many times, I rely very heavily on a special novena to St. Therese called "Joy in Suffering" which is available through Tan Books. I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the wonderful news I've heard recently for people for whom I prayed the novena. The purpose of sharing this is solely to give thanks to God and to St. Therese for her promise to send a shower of roses to earth. The shower is not a shower but a deluge!

Kiki, a little girl stricken with a very aggressive form of childhood cancer and given a very poor prognosis, has done so well her porta catheter for chemotherapy was removed, she's back in school, has grown back her hair and is in complete remission. She's taking gymnasitic lessons and is back to being a happy little girl doing the things that little girls her age do. I got goosebumps when I heard this today. Thanks be to God and thank you St. Therese.

Janet, stricken with a very aggressive brain tumor that is normally fatal within months of diagnosis, has survived for more than two years and is not needing to undergo any treatment right now, just close monitoring. Thanks be to God and thank you St. Therese.

Please remember these two ladies in your prayers and please also stop to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God and to St. Therese, who assured us that, because she never refused Him anything, He would refuse her nothing. If anyone would like to have this novena, write to me and I will be happy to send you one free of cost.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Good Shepherd

After I graduated from college too many years ago, I took a trip to England, and my favorite memory is from a day spent in the Lake District with the family that hosted me. As we were leaving the area where we had done some climbing, we heard a dog barking frantically at a shepherd, a salty old character in tweed cap and jacket with a walking stick. He followed the dog up the side of a hill and came down with a newborn lamb around his neck.

Just as that quaint old English gentlemen would not have left the area and ignored that barking dog, nor does Jesus leave us alone to fend for ourselves. The only difference is that we have to be willing to allow Him to lead us out of the dark places we inhabit when we give in to temptation, sin and despair. For reasons unknown to us, we are not always able to find consolation in prayer. Perhaps this is the most profound way in which Jesus allows us a share in His suffering. Did He not cry out to His Father from the cross in the pain of abandonment? When we are unable to pray, or find ourselves too unsettled, angry or saddened to pray, we have to remember that even though we may not always be able to feel His presence, He is there just the same. And there is no place so horrible or forbidding that He will not go after us, but only if we are willing to follow Him.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Loaves and Fishes

What is in this Gospel for us, aside from the awe we feel at the miracle of making much of little? My impression is that there is more here than meets the eye. That when we are willing to share what we have, even we think it is very little, amazing things happen. That which we give away in the name of Christ comes back to us a hundredfold.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI and Receiving Holy Communion.

I must admit I never gave too much thought to receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. That is, until a series of profanations against the Sacred Host took place in our church and our pastor urged us to consider receiving Our Lord in this manner. Oddly enough, I made my First Holy Communion in 1967 when reception in the hand had not yet been made an indult. When faced with the option of once again receiving on the tongue, all I could think of is what a klutz I am and how unfortunate it would be if I caused the Host to fall on the floor, etc. That's when I made the connection between then and now. Then, in 1967, we received Holy Communion kneeling at the altar rail. This made it easier for the priest to administer the Eucharist and I believe made the possibility of dropping the Sacred Host less likely. Now it's a bit trickier with the communicant standing.

At any rate, I gave in to my pastor's urging and now receiving on the tongue is the only way I will receive. Not content with this, I have at times instigated my very patient pastor to consider allowing us to kneel. He didn't need my urging at all, since the Holy Father had already established that he would only administer Holy Communion to the faithful on the tongue while they are kneeling. In addition to having us kneel for Holy Communion on the past two Holy Thursdays, Father also agreed to celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form every Sunday, where reception in the hand is not an option (but standing is for those unable to kneel). When he administers First Holy Communion to adults or children in the Ordinary Form, he has the ushers set up a kneeler just as they do in Rome for the Holy Father. I hope the beauty of this gesture does not go unappreciated.

By setting this beautiful example for his priests, Pope Benedict has quietly encouraged greater reverence for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. No wonder the enemy is intent on dragging him down. Please continue to pray for our Pope and for all of our priests and do all you can to let the world know how much you support Benedict XVI. Won't you consider reception on the tongue as one way to show your reverence for Jesus and your respect for His priests who, for lack of a better way to phrase this, represent Our Lord at every Sacrifice of the Mass?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Speedbumps On The Way Of The Cross

Today, I had a brief but amusing conversation with a priest friend about the events of this past week. He urged me not to be too hard on myself and then we talked a bit about our trials here on earth. "You know" he said "if you're finding life too easy and not hitting any bumps in the road, I think that's the time to be worried. To me, that means you're getting your reward now because you're not going to get one after you die!" That certainly helped me put the events of this past week in their proper perspective.

We also talked about some family members who love to take pot-shots at me for my faith. I am not one to hang a banner in front of my family and declare how pious and devoted I am. However, I put my faith first and that sometimes means saying no to certain social activities that coincide with Mass or devotions. Whenever I say or do something that doesn't meet a certain sibling's approval, I can always anticipate a remark like "Wow, that's so Christian of you" or "did you learn that in Church?" I always feel worse for the fact that the person stoops so low rather than how they are stinging me with their remarks. Father had an interesting perspective on this as well. "This is how people who have fallen away justify their own behavior and lack of faith. Ignore it." I do pray every day that these relatives and friends will undergo conversion, and I'm reminded that Jesus never promised that following Him would be without insults and attacks. The way we respond can go a long way in helping to turn someone around.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Joy in Suffering

Not to belabor the point, but this has not been the Lent, Holy Week and Easter I thought it would be. "Look at the friends you keep company with and you needn't wonder why" a little voice said to me. My God is one Who suffered and suffers still. My beloved saint perfected joy in suffering. A terrible Easter Sunday was followed by bad news on Easter Monday followed by even worse news on Easter Tuesday. It was getting pretty difficult to carry on as expected when out of the doom and gloom, some bright light. A not-at-all religious person confided in me that she was desperate for her sister, who has been stricken with an aggressive form of cancer. "My family is not very religious, but do you think you could pray for my sister?" Sure. And as I've done so many other times, I prayed and then forgot about it. So it was totally unexpected to receive the phone call today to tell me that the news was excellent and despite what the family had been told to brace for with the the latest round of tests, everything came back negative.

So, just when it seemed like I couldn't take another step with the cross, the hand that has so often come to my aid reaches down and takes the brunt of the load off of me with the gift of a prayer answered in a way that brought some much-needed joy. I started thinking about how my prayer life sometimes resembles labor. The pain may seem overwhelming at times and might even cause some irrational thinking and behavior. But once the fruit of that labor is realized, all of the pain is forgotten and gives way to the hope and joy of new life. Is it really that great of a price to pay when I think about the return?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What does it mean to put all our trust in Jesus?

Everyday, at least twice, I pray that I put all my trust in Jesus. And sometimes, it would probably be more accurate for me to pray "Lord, I SHOULD put all my trust in You, please help me to understand and accept this." Without going into gory detail, I will simply say this was probably the worst Easter Sunday of my life, at least in terms of conventional expectations for how the day should have been spent. And I can't say that my Lent was much better. I am finding out that the more I pray, the less my life resembles what I think it should be or what I'd like it to be. And sadly, I'm finding out that I still lack the detachment from self that would enable me to be more open to whatever the Lord sees fit to send me. My own will continues to stand in the way of union with Christ. I know that the way to Jesus and the Father is the Way of the Cross, and the more closely we identify with Christ, the greater the sufferings. I seem to meet these new miseries with varying degrees of "joy". Today I was tempted to ask Jesus not to love me so much because I'd reached a point where I didn't think I could handle any more bad news. It was just one of those days where I lacked the ability to trust that this seemingly bad news was something God knows is for my own good. I won't stop praying the words "Jesus, I put all my trust in You." I will also pray for greater faith to pray these words with more conviction.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday

As many of you know, and which yours truly neglected to mention previously, the Novena leading up to Divine Mercy Sunday began on Good Friday. Here is a partial listing of observances and devotions that will take place at some of our area parishes on Sunday, April 11th, Divine Mercy Sunday.

St. Monica's Church at 17th and Ritner Streets, Philadelphia
A Holy Hour will take place between 3 and 4 pm in the Upper Church with Exposition and Benediciton of the Most Blessed Sacrament and chanting of the chaplet of Divine Mercy

St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church at 9th and Watkins Street, Philadelphia
Procession, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Veneration of the Divine Mercy Image at 3 pm followed by the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Rosary, quiet adoration, Benediction at 5:25pm and Mass at 6pm. Confessions will heard throughout the day.

Divine Mercy Parish 67th and Chester Avenue, Southwest Philadelphia
Bishop Timothy C Senior will celebrate a Solemn Pontifical Mass at 11am for the parish's patronal feast. A reception will follow with opportunity to greet the Bishop.

Remember that a plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly receive Holy Communion, go to confession and venerate the image of the Divine Mercy on this Sunday. The usual conditions of no attachment to sin and the offering of prayers for the intention of the Holy Father apply. Our Lord promised His immeasurable graces and mercy even to the most hardened sinner who would just once recite the Chaplet to Divine Mercy.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

He is Risen!

A Happy and Holy Easter to all. St. Therese called Sunday our day of Heaven on Earth, and perhaps on this most joyful of Sundays, we have an even better glimpse of what awaits us.

Holy Saturday

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as the controversy surrounding the Pope continues to swirl, keep your minds and hearts fixed firmly on one thing: Christ died so that an imperfect world could one day have perfection in Him. Without Him, there is nothing but death, no matter how much the allurements of this world try to disguise that fact. If we, who know how the story ended (really, not how it ended, but how it began) despair over the trials and tribulations of this world, we allow the world to rob us of the joy that is ours in Christ's victory over death and sin. For a people of faith, could there have been a worse trial than having the Master arrested, beaten, dragged, ripped apart and tortured on a cross? The early Christians were thrown to wild animals. Today, the lions don't devour our flesh but try to discourage our hope and our faith. They can only succeed if we let them. On this day when we contemplate the repose of Christ in the tomb, we must ignore the constant drumbeat in the media against the Church and the Holy Father. Nothing that is of this world can change the Truth that is Jesus Christ, Who suffered on this earth so that we could share Eternal Life with Him. This is what it means to take up your cross and follow Him. In the words of St. Therese, for each little pain borne in this life, God will repay us all the more with joy in Eternity.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Could You Not Stay Awake With Me One Hour?

Tonight, after the Mass of The Lord's Supper, many of our Catholic churches will remain open for visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The Ciborium, having been removed from the main tabernacle, will be moved to a side altar to signify the time Jesus spent in prison before His condemnation to death on the cross. If possible, make some time for yourself with Jesus this evening. Bring to Him all that ails you, weighs you down, discourages and defeats you. He took all our sins with Him to the cross. He waits to take them from us still. As St. Therese once referred to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the Prisoner of Divine Love, under the guise of consecrated Bread, longs for our visits to Him, especially on the night when we commemorate the institution of the Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist. Will we be like Peter, James and John and give in to our drowsiness, ignoring His agony, or will we be like St. Therese, a victim of holocaust to His Merciful Love?