December 31, 2017

Epiphanies: A Reflection for the Epiphany of the Lord, Year B

Adoration of the Wise Men

By Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America

(Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-6; Matthew 2:1-12)

For Christians, the word Epiphany has a limited, specific meaning. If you look it up in a dictionary of Ancient Greek, you might be surprised to see how many meanings it has. Examples include: what something looks like; when something or someone comes into view; what is visible on the surface; the sensation created by someone. In short, something or someone is seen or noticed.

The Magi created a sensation when they arrived in Jerusalem. Before that, they saw a star come into view. They received an epiphany and then became one themselves when they appeared on the scene.

Another translation of the Greek word is simply Appearance, interchangeable with Apparition.

At La Salette, the bright globe of light the children first noticed revealed within itself a woman seated, her face in her hands, weeping. Thus begins the story of her epiphany, her Apparition. Mélanie and Maximin described what they saw. This created a sensation. We could paraphrase the words of the Gospel and say: The mayor was greatly troubled, and all the region around La Salette with him. And, like Herod, local authorities tried to hush everything up.

Epiphanies are not restricted to visual phenomena, however. Just as we say, “I see,” meaning “I understand,” there is more to an epiphany than meets the eye.

This is why we devote more attention to the message of the Beautiful Lady than to her appearance; why we study the history of the event, before and after September 19, 1846; why the lives of the two children matter; and why the Apparition is still an epiphany today.

Isaiah, as a prophet, experienced many epiphanies. St. Paul experienced one, on the Road to Damascus. As a result, both proclaimed the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation: “Nations shall walk by your light;” “The Gentiles are coheirs… copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

The Magi represented the Nations. They walked by the light of a star which changed the world.

New Year 2018 | Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Mary, Mother of God

January 1, 2018 

On this day the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, our Lady's greatest title. This feast is the octave of Christmas. In the modern Roman Calendar only Christmas and Easter enjoy the privilege of an octave. According to the 1962 Missal of Saint John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, it is the Solemnity of Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men. In this sense the Church's Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary. She is acclaimed and represented in the liturgy as the "Seat of Wisdom."(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 721.) Mary is the Queen of heaven and earth.

A plenary indulgence may be gained by reciting or singing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus on the first day of the year. This hymn is traditionally sung for beginnings of important undertakings, solemnly calling upon the Holy Spirit in prayer before endeavoring something new. "Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest; come with Thy grace and heavenly aid to fill the hearts which Thou hast made. O comforter, to Thee we cry, O heavenly gift of God Most High."

O God, who through the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary bestowed on the human race the grace of eternal salvation, grant, we pray, that we may experience the intercession of her, through whom we were found worthy to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. O Mother of God, pray for us.

Top Posts of 2017 | Feminine Genius Edition

In his 1995 letter to women, Mulieris Dignitatem, Pope Saint John Paul II makes reference to the unique characteristics of women as the feminine genius. Indeed, the creation of Eve was the capstone of the creation story. Even now, women are called to be the moral safeguards of their families, for society, and for the world.

A Catholic Wife Explains "Why I Don’t – and Won’t – Use Contraception"

A Catholic Wife and Mother on Living Chastely in Marriage and in the Single Life

The A-List Hollywood Actress Who Became Pro-Life Following Her Abortion

St. Catherine of Bologna’s Seven Spiritual Weapons Against Evil

Flannery O’Connor on Protestantism

St. Therese of Lisieux. Patroness of Missionaries

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Why It is Proper to Call Mary Queen

TOB Tuesday: Virginity for the Sake of the Kingdom

339 Years After Her Death, St. Teresa of Ávila Converted Edith Stein [St. Teresa Benedicta]

Happy New Year to one and all!

Homily for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, January 1, 2018, Year B

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Fr. Simon Francis Gaine O.P.
Regent of Studies, English Province of the Dominicans
Professor of Theology, Blackfriars Oxford, UK

Today’s Gospel takes us beyond the biological fact that Mary was a biological mother. It tells us more about her motherhood than that she gave birth. We learn how Mary, together with Joseph, had the baby circumcised when he was eight days old, introducing him into the covenant between God and the Jewish people. At the same time they gave the boy his name, Jesus, which means Savior, because he would save this people – and all peoples – from their sins. 

With these actions, we see Mary undertaking the ongoing work of being a mother, treasuring every moment of this motherhood in her heart, just as she had already treasured her Son since she conceived him in her womb. Mary’s motherhood is not simply to conceive and give birth as a biological fact. Together with Joseph, she has the responsibility of nurturing the one who gives life to all. Together with Joseph, she has the privilege of drawing the Word of God to speak human words in a human language, to oversee the growth in wisdom of the one who is true Wisdom and the Teacher of all. 

Together Mary and Joseph initiate the boy into the covenant he himself had made; their family life brings him experience of the law he himself had given Moses on Mount Sinai. And so in bringing up their child in the wisdom of God’s law, they will find him to possess a Power and a Wisdom they cannot comprehend. Mary had conceived a Wisdom in her womb that she cannot fully conceive in her mind. Eventually, when they find Jesus in the Temple, after losing him for three days, they will have to confess that the boy shows a Wisdom and a Power they simply cannot truly grasp, but must accept in faith. 

Just as Mary’s motherhood was a mystery to her from the beginning when an angel told her she, a virgin, would conceive, so her motherhood is again a mystery she can only ponder in faith. There is so much that Jesus has - the power to work miracles is but one - that does not come from her. When she asks him to provide wine at the wedding in Cana, he replies, ‘Woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ Jesus performs the miracle at his mother’s request, but this event doesn’t fully reveal what the relationship is between Mary and Jesus, because his power to work miracles comes not from his mother but from his Father who is in heaven. 

But the words ‘My hour has not yet come’ point us forward to the hour of the cross when Jesus will say to Mary, ‘Behold, your Son.’ It is here that the importance of Mary’s motherhood is fully revealed to us. Her motherhood did not give Jesus the power to work miracles, but it did give him a body in which he could suffer, and save us from our sins. The full meaning of the Mother of God is that Mary gave to an invulnerable God of miraculous power, the vulnerability of a body which could suffer, die and save. And so we honor her today, because it was she who gave us our Savior, the Mother of the Savior, the Mother of God.

For excellent homilies and related content see the Dominican Friars' website.

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, December 31, 2017, Year B

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Today we continue our Christmas celebration with a consideration of the Holy Family. This feast has the same first two readings every year but one of three different Gospels. The first reading is always the reading from Sirach about the honor that children should extend to their parents. The second reading is always the reading from Colossians about respecting each other’s position within the family. It is not a divine decree that women should be subordinated to men any more than was St. Paul’s admonition to slaves to be faithful to their masters is a divine endorsement of slavery.

In today’s Gospel Mary and Joseph present Jesus in Jerusalem’s Temple in fulfillment of their religious tradition. You parents can remember when your children were infants. You couldn’t wait to show them off to family and friends. You probably had a big celebration on that very special day when you went to your parish church and presented them to the Lord to receive his life in Baptism. They left the church on that day of their baptism still your children — but also the Lord’s. Mary and Joseph must have loved showing Jesus off just as you loved showing your babies off. They must have enjoyed the fuss that people made about him, just as you enjoyed people stopping by to see your babies and say a kind word or two to you.

When you first held your children, when you brought the baby home from the hospital, when you survived that first night when your baby would not get to sleep, you probably asked yourself, how will I, how will we, deal with the challenges this new life is going to bring? Perhaps you are still asking yourselves that question. Certainly there is not a parent here who has not wondered: how can I be the best parent possible? What will happen to my child during his or her life? What sort of person will he or she become?

Today the Church bids us to look to the Holy Family. They kept their union with God as the foundation and glue of their lives. This resulted in a tranquility that let them meet each challenge they faced…conquering the surrounding chaos instead of being destroyed by it.

This is why the constant battle that you parents fighting against sin in your lives is a responsibility you owe to your family, not a matter of individual choice. This is why the efforts you make to nurture and develop your prayer life, your union with God, is not a matter of your own individual relationship with God but is fundamental to the stability and the tranquility of your family.

You parents live in a society that does too much but not enough. Other forces tempt you to do too much. They convince you that if you are going to be good parents you have to have your kids in every activity possible, be a part of every organization you can, be the perfect homemaker, cook, provider, repairer, and referee. They convince you to do too much… but not enough. For many parents there is not enough time to develop the union with God that is the heart of your family. You try too hard… but not hard enough. You try to be the perfect parent in every way but sheer exhaustion results in your not being able to spend the time you need to spend in prayer. Your prayer time should not be something you throw into your day. It should be the ground upon which you build your day.

The sudden and unexplained collapse during the last fifty years of the institution we know of as family is a great mystery. Why, during these times, have so many young people simply begun living together as a family when they really were not? Fully one third of the children born in America today are born out of wedlock. The numbers of children who are being shaped and formed without a father and a mother living with them is staggering. Who are their grandparents, and how many sets of grandparents do they have, given the number of stepfathers and stepmothers they have? What sorts of values are being displayed in the lives of the adults with whom children live?

Much is said these days about the troubles within our American public-school system. While a lot may be wrong in the system, the chief thing that has gone wrong is the absence of genuine families in which the children are being raised. All too often they are not being raised with mom, dad, and siblings. Too many are being formed many hours of each week away from home. Schools cannot replace families. Do you know that 60% of the felons in our prisons don’t know who their fathers are?

And a lot is being said these days about so-called “family values”. What values? In what families? We are told that public schools are not supposed to teach morals and values and that these should be taught in the home. But what homes? And what is meant by the word “home”? Certainly not very many kids have the good fortune to be living in and raised in the traditional nuclear family. The nuclear family constitutes only 25% of the households in which children live these days!

Yet it was in my family that my character, personality and individuation were formed. I became an individual and a person with a distinct character because I lived in a family. For a family makes an individual, and individuals in turn constitute the family.

It is in our family homes that we learn a philosophy of life. It is there that we acquire principles by which we should live and relate to others. It is there, in the domestic church, that God is acknowledged, that prayer is learned, and devotion is formed. It is there that our soul is nurtured at the family altar, the family table in which we share a communion of food for the body, the mind and the soul.

It is in our family homes that our intellectual formation really takes place, where books are read, articles are discussed, and critical thinking is developed. It is there that we learn revere that which is above and beyond what is merely popular. For what is popular is ever-changing; it has no absolutes, nothing that lasts; only things that evaporate with the coming of the next new fad.

How can all of this vital formation happen if one is not being raised in a family? Without it education, religious devotion, and the formation of our hearts and souls in the art and skill of loving commitment… all collapse.

Is it any wonder, then, that our Church pays close and reverential attention each year at this time to all that it means to be family? For even God himself chose to come among us not as some sort of space alien that stepped off of a cosmic space ship, not as some sort of mysterious guru discovered in a mountain cave, but rather a member of a human family, with all that it entails.

So in thanking God for the gift of the Christ Child, let us also thank God for our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and the wonderful gift that we have been given, our family.

December 30, 2017

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux on the Holy Family

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus or "the Little Flower" was a 19th century French Discalced Carmelite nun. This beloved mystic experienced profound spiritual insights attained in prayer. Here is Saint Thérèse's reflection on the Holy Family that she shared with her fellow sisters:
What does me a lot of good when I think of the Holy Family is to imagine a life that was very ordinary… Little Jesus didn’t perform useless miracles…even to please His Mother. Why weren’t they transported into Egypt by a miracle which would have been necessary and so easy for God? In the twinkling of an eye, they could have been brought there. No, everything in their life was done just as in our own. How many troubles, disappointments! How many times did others make complaints to good St. Joseph! How many times did they refuse to pay him for his work! Oh! How astonished we would be if we only knew how much they had to suffer!
— St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Prayer for St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s Intercession

Almighty God, you open your Kingdom to those who are humble and to little ones, lead us to follow trustingly in the little way of Saint Thérèse, so that through her intercession we may see your eternal glory revealed. Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit. Amen. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, you did the ordinary with great love. Help us do the same.

Saint Sylvester I, Pope and Confessor

St. Sylvester I and Constantine

(In 2017, this feast is superseded by the Sunday liturgy.) 

December 31st is the optional memorial of Saint Sylvester I, the 4th century pope and confessor, whose papacy saw the end of the initial period of Christian persecution. He guided the Church during the reign of Emperor Constantine when the Arian heresy and the Donatist schism had lead to great discord. He convened the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea and oversaw the building of Rome’s magnificent Basilicas. Only a strong and wise man could have preserved the autonomy of the Church in the face of such a looming and powerful figure that was Constantine.

Saint Sylvester, a native Roman, was chosen by God to govern His Church during the initial years of her temporal prosperity and the triumph over her persecuting enemies. Pope Melchiades died in January, 314, and Sylvester was chosen as his successor. He governed the Church for over twenty-one years, ably organizing the discipline of the Roman Church, and taking part in the debate surrounding Arianism and the Council of Nicaea to which he also sent his official delegates.

During his consequential pontificate were built the great churches founded at Rome by Constantine  the Basilica and baptistery of the Lateran, the Basilica of the Sessorian palace (Santa Croce), the Church of St. Peter in the Vatican, and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs. No doubt Sylvester helped towards the construction of these churches. He was a friend of Emperor Constantine, confirmed the first General Council of Nicaea (325), and gave the Church a new discipline for the emerging era of tranquility after centuries of bloody persecution. He also established the Roman school of singing. On the Via Salaria he built a cemeterial church over the Catacomb of St. Priscilla, and it was in this church that he was buried when he died in Christ, on December 31, 335.

Numerous legends dramatize his holy life and ministry, especially how he freed Constantine from leprosy by baptism; how he killed a ferocious dragon that was contaminating the air with his poisonous breath. Such legends were intended to portray the effects of baptism and Christianity's triumph over idolatry. For a long time the feast of Saint Sylvester was a holy day of obligation. The Divine Office observes: Pope St. Sylvester called the weekdays feria, because for the Christian every day is a "free day" (the term is still in use; thus Monday is feria secunda).

Come, O Lord, to the help of your people, sustained by the intercession of Pope St. Sylvester, so that, running the course of this present life under your guidance we may happily attain life without end. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen. Pope St. Sylvester, wise and able leader of God's holy Church, intercede for us.

Feast of the Holy Family

Fight into Egypt

December 31, 2017 

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is the model for all Christian families. Beginning in the 17th century, devotion to the Holy Family spread throughout the Church. In 1893, Pope Leo XIII approved the feast of the Holy Family; composing part of the Divine Office observing it. Since ancient times, the Coptic Church has celebrated this memorial in light of the flight into Egypt. Succeeding Pontiffs have affirmed the feast as an efficacious means of reminding Christians of the sanctity of the family and it's essential role in disseminating and preserving the Faith.

The example of the Holy Family at Nazareth is a template for the restoration of family life and a safeguard against diabolical, present-day efforts to redefine or end the institutions of marriage and the "Domestic Church" as ordained by God. For Mary and Joseph, having God Incarnate in their midst was an unrivaled joy.

Looking at the Holy Family, we see the love, the protection, and the diligent care that they gave to the Redeemer. We can not fail to feel uneasiness, perhaps a shameful thought, for the times in which we have not rendered the appropriate care and attention to the Blessed Eucharist. We can only ask for forgiveness and do penance for all the sacrilegious acts and lack of respect that are committed against the Blessed Eucharist. We can only ask the Lord, through the intersession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, for a greater love for their Son Incarnate, who has decided to remain here on earth with us every day until the end of time.

Prayer to the Holy Family

Almighty God and Father, who was pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

December 29, 2017

Plenary Indulgence Available New Year's Day

Holy Spirit

A plenary indulgence may be gained by reciting or singing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus on the first day of the year. This hymn calls on the Holy Spirit's guidance, protection and blessing before endeavoring any new venture. In addition to its place in the Pentecost liturgy, the Veni Creator Spiritus is devoutly recited as the opening prayer for Church councils and synods. [Listen to it in Gregorian chant.]

Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on New Year's Day:

◗ Recite or sing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus on the first day of the year.
◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Pope's intentions.
◗ Worthily receive Holy Communion [ideally on the same  day].
◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of New Year's Day.
◗ For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even  venial sin [or the indulgence is partial, not plenary].

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator Blest

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.


Veni, Creator Spiritus

Veni, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.

Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.

Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.

Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.

Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.

Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula. Amen.

Sources: Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs by Francis X. Weiser, S.J., Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York, 1958 and the Enchiridion of Indulgences by the 1968 Decree of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary.

The Incarnation is a Celestial Blessing for Mankind

Father Pius Parsch

God became Man. Utterly incomprehensible is this truth to our puny human minds! That the eternal God whom heaven and earth cannot contain, who bears the world in His hand as a nutshell, before whom a thousand years are as one day, that this eternal, omnipotent God should become Man! Would it not have been a tremendous condescension if for the redemption of mankind He had simply sent an angel? Would it not have proven His loving mercy had He appeared for a mere moment in the splendor of His majesty, amid thunder and lightning, as once on Sinai? No, such would have shown far too little of His love and kindness. He wanted to be like us, to become a child of man, a poor child of poorest people; He wished to be born, in a hostile surroundings. Cold wind, hard straw, dumb animals — these were there to greet Him. The scene fills us with amazement; what other can we do than fall down in silence and adore!

In heaven only will we comprehend the profound implications of Christ's redemptive acts, surely one of the exquisite joys of celestial blessedness. But some points Mother Church allows us to anticipate here below. She, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, is ever the recollected woman "who meditates on all the words of God and keeps them in her heart." She tells us: God became Man that we might share His divine nature. Isn't that mankind's long-cherished dream? "You shall be as God, knowing good and evil," Satan whispered into man's ear in paradise; and his whisper was believed. What a miserable betrayal! Indeed, man experienced good and evil, but he had not turned divine. Thousands...of years of dreadful distance from divinity, with nought but failure in scanning the skies! Not by pride can man become God, but by submission, humility.

Bethlehem gave the great revelation. God put on the beggar's garb, became a tiny, crying Babe in order to show man how to become divine. In paradise a fallen angel had promised: Eat of this fruit and you will be like God. He ate and became a prisoner of hell. On Christmas night another angel... stands before man, offers him a Good and says: Eat of this and you will be like God. For the divine Food, the Flesh of the incarnate Son of God, makes us "partakers of the divine nature."

Adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Father Pius Parsch.

Pope Benedict XVI on the Holy Family

The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

Reflecting on the Feast of the Holy Family Pope Benedict XVI observed:

"When he was 12 years old, [Christ] stayed behind in the Temple and it took his parents all of three days to find him. With this act he made them understand that he 'had to see to his Father's affairs.' …This Gospel episode reveals the most authentic and profound vocation of the family: that is, to accompany each of its members on the path of the discovery of God and of the plan that he has prepared for him or her. Mary and Joseph taught Jesus primarily by their example: in his parents he came to know the full beauty of faith, of love for God and for his Law, as well as the demands of justice, which is totally fulfilled in love. From them he learned that it is necessary first of all to do God's will..."

— Pope Benedict XVI

Prayer to the Holy Family

Lord Jesus Christ, who, was made subject to Mary and Joseph, did so consecrate domestic life by Your ineffable virtues, grant that we, with the assistance of both Your Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, may be taught by the example of Your holy Family and may attain to its everlasting fellowship. In Your name we pray. Amen.

December 28, 2017

Flannery O’Connor on the Glorified Body

Flannery O’Connor

From 1955 until her death, Flannery O’Connor maintained a correspondence with Betty Hester, a personal friend with whom she discussed various issues including God, the Church and theology. The following quotation is from a letter to Hester written days before O’Connor’s passing at the age of 41, on August 3, 1964.
For me it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, [and] destruction are the suspension of these laws. I am always astonished at the emphasis the Church puts on the body. It is not the soul she says that will rise but the body, glorified.
— Flannery O’Connor

St. Augustine's Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. [and so to renew the world.]

Saint Thomas Becket on God’s Enemies

St. Thomas Becket's Martyrdom

Saint Thomas Becket was a 12th century English archbishop and martyr who chose Christ and Christ's Church over the King. This courageous act of fidelity and deep seed devotion would ultimately lead to his martyrdom. Facing the enemies of the Church and forces opposed to God, Becket remained faithful.
Do you not know that the largest trees, which have required years to grow, are cut down in one hour? It is foolish to look for their fruits and yet to be unprepared for their fall. Let it be your consolation, then, that God's enemies, however honorable and exalted they may have been, shall nevertheless fade away like the smoke.
— St. Thomas Becket

Prayer for St. Thomas Becket's Intercession

Almighty ever-living God, who gave Saint Thomas Becket the courage to give up his life for the sake of your holy Church, grant, through his intercession, that, in renouncing our life for Christ in this world, we may see God face to face and experience his eternal Beatitude in heaven. Help us to remain steadfast in our love and constantly praise you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

Saint Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr

The Martyrdom of Thomas Becket

Optional Memorial - December 29th 

There was a time in England when being a friend of the king could easily lead to martyrdom. Such was the case of Saint Thomas Becket, whose 12th-century conflict with Henry II would result in his murder at the hand of the king’s men in the Cathedral at Canterbury. In so doing Becket went from being "a patron of play-actors and a follower of hounds" to become an heroic "shepherd of souls."

Born in 1118, Thomas was appointed Archdeacon of Canterbury in 1154, and became Lord Chancellor of England the following year. When the Archbishop of Canterbury died in 1162, King Henry II saw an opportunity to solidify the crown’s control of the Church, and made his good friend Thomas the next archbishop.

But Thomas, who had accepted the position reluctantly, turned out to be more loyal to his Church than to his king. After thwarting the king once too often, Henry reportedly said, "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" Taking this as an order from their sovereign, four knights left for Canterbury, where they murdered Thomas as he prayed in the cathedral the night of December 29, 1170.

Thomas Becket was canonized as a martyr in 1173, and King Henry himself did penance at Becket’s tomb. Numerous miracles were attributed to the new martyr and his tomb became a destination for incessant pilgrimages. So much so that Geoffrey Chaucer, father of English literature, in 1387 began to write the "Tales of Canterbury", inspired by the path of faith that was made towards the place where the archbishop died. It remained a major pilgrimage site until another English king, Henry VIII, ordered it destroyed in 1538, during the English Reformation.

O God, who gave the Martyr Saint Thomas Becket the courage to give up his life for the sake of justice, grant, through his intercession, that, renouncing our life for the sake of Christ in this world, we may find it in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. St. Thomas Becket, help us be ever faithful.

December 27, 2017

St. Augustine on the Feast of the Holy Innocents

Massacre of the Holy Innocents

On this feast, holy Mother Church honors the memory of Bethlehem’s innocent children slaughtered by the wicked monarch, Herod. Their blameless lives bear witness to Christ who was also persecuted by a world which would not receive Him. St. Augustine tells us that Herod’s evil was surpassed by the love of God.
Today, dearest brethren, we celebrate the birthday of those children who were slaughtered, as the Gospel tells us, by that exceedingly cruel king, Herod. Let the earth, therefore, rejoice and the Church exult — she, the fruitful mother of so many heavenly champions and of such glorious virtues. Never, in fact, would that impious tyrant have been able to benefit these children by the sweetest kindness as much as he has done by his hatred. For as today's feast reveals, in the measure with which malice in all its fury was poured out upon the holy children, did heaven's blessing stream down upon them.
— St. Augustine

Collect Prayer for the Feast of the Holy Innocents

O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day, not by speaking but by dying, grant, we pray, that the faith in your which we confess with our lips may also speak through our manner of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Massacre of the Holy Innocents

Although Christmas is a joyous season celebrating the birth of the Infant Savior, it is nevertheless a holiday tinged with sadness. After all, it is the beginning of a journey, the sacred life of Christ, which must pass through Good Friday in order to reach the glory of Easter Sunday. For Christians, the Passion of Our Lord is foreshadowed by the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a somber commemoration that is solemnly observed a mere three days after the Incarnation, on December 28th.

While the number of these holy innocents is unknown, some Biblical scholars speculate that there may have been as few as six, the reason for their death is what causes the Church to venerate them as martyrs. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Herod, the king of Judea, was "greatly troubled" by the news, delivered to him by the Wise Men, that a different "king of the Jews" had been born. Insecure as he was on his throne, any threat to his power was cause for alarm. When the Magi did not return after their visit to the Christ Child, Herod's fury and jealousy knew no bounds. In an attempt to murder the tiny king, he ordered the slaughter of all male children under the age of two in the town of Bethlehem. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled into Egypt, and the Holy Innocents died in the Christ Child’s stead.

Prayer to the Holy Innocents

Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.

Holy Innocents, you were killed because one man was filled with hatred, pray for those who hate that God may touch their hearts and fill them with love.

Holy Innocents, you experienced a violent death, pray for all who are affected by violence that they may find peace and love.

Holy Innocents, your parents grieved for you with deep and lasting sorrow, pray for all parents who have lost young children that God may wrap a warm blanket of comfort around them.

Holy Innocents, those around you certainly felt helpless to prevent your deaths, pray for all who feel helpless in their circumstances that they may cling to God for courage and hope.

Holy Innocents, you who are now in Heaven, pray for all of us that one day we may join you there to bask in God's love forever. Amen.

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, December 31, 2017, Year B

The Holy Family's Flight into Egypt

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

(Note: I have chosen the readings from Sirach and Colossians)

It is my custom on the feast of the Holy Family to offer “words of wisdom” for family life. Underlying them is what I call the Snowflake Principle: People are like snowflakes, no two are alike. Clearly, God loves variety. We need to respect God’s variety, respecting one another, “bearing with one another,” as St. Paul writes. We need to minimize our faults and capitalize on our strengths.

Other principles:

2. Elbows and Toes. 

You can’t rub elbows with the same people day in and day out without sometimes stepping on each other’s toes. We need to be realistic about family life, learn to say “of course,” and “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” Tensions inevitable. What happens after is what really matters.

3. I’m nobody, who are you? (from a poem by Emily Dickinson).

We need a sense of honest humility, a sense of humor about ourselves, including the very difficult notion that we are not the center of the universe.

4. Remember to forget. 

Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, when reminded of a serious offense she had once received, answered, “You know, I distinctly remember forgetting that.” We need to let go, really let go, of ancient offenses.

5. The Home principle.

In “The Death of the Hired Man” (a poem by Robert Frost), the wife of a farmer tells her husband that a former worker has returned. The farmer doesn’t want him because the worker had walked out on him at the height of the harvest. The conversation continues as follows:

Wife: "He has come home to die."

Husband: "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

Wife: "I should have called it something you somehow haven't to deserve."

There is a difference between a house and a home, between living together and encouraging life. A few years ago Pope Francis addressed the employees of Vatican City, and said: “Take good care of your family. Family is a treasure, children are a treasure. Young parents need to ask themselves whether they have time to play with their children, or whether they are too busy to spend time with them.... Play with your children. It’s so beautiful. This is how you sow the seeds of the future.”

The cruelest part of bullying is that is says: “You don’t belong!” We all belong. We all have our rightful place. We don’t have to deserve it.

6. Avoid Funagalo language. 

In the first volume of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the father of the main character remembers his days of working in the mines. "They taught us Funagalo, which is the language used for giving orders underground. It is a strange language.... It is a language which is good for telling people what to do. There are many words for push, take, shove, carry, load, and no words for love, or happiness, or the sounds which birds make in the morning."

It is easy for practical concerns to take over in our dealings with others; so much needs “doing.” We can be too tired for anything else. We need to share more than work-related ideas and plans, but love of the arts, for example, and anything else that brings light into our life, even – why not? – our faith.

7. “Somebody’s Got to Do it”

There are some things I can’t do, or won’t do. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be done. I can encourage those who are passionate about things that don’t move me or, at the very least, I can get out of the way!

But sometimes it ends up I am actually the somebody that’s got to do it! In Jeremiah 1:4-8 we read:
The word of the Lord came to me thus: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. "Ah, Lord God!" I said, "I know not how to speak; I am too young." But the Lord answered me, Say not, "I am too young." To whomever I send you, you shall go.

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the princess Cordelia tells her father, “I love thee according to my bond.” She means she loves him exactly as she ought. For the King, that isn’t good enough, and he disowns her. He doesn’t realize till it is too late how deeply she really loves him.

Family life requires, more than anything else, that we love each another according to our bond, exactly as we ought.

The starting point is to recognize how deeply we are all accepted and loved by God. If we can then learn to accept and love ourselves and others as we and they are accepted and loved by God, our families will be transformed.

December 26, 2017

New Year's Resolutions for Catholics 2018

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Icon

◗ Pray more

◗ Read Scripture

◗ Keep holy the Sabbath

◗ Sin less

◗ Go to confession frequently

◗ Attend Eucharistic adoration

◗ Eat less

◗ Honor your father and mother

◗ Spend less

◗ Spend more time with family

◗ Read a Psalm a day

◗ Live more simply

◗ Find a patron saint

◗ Go on a spiritual retreat

◗ Find a good Catholic smartphone app [and use it]

◗ Add a new devotion to your prayer routine [Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Novenas, etc.]

A New Year's Prayer

Almighty God, who through the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary bestowed on the human race the grace of eternal life, grant, we pray, that we may experience the intercession of her, through whom we were found worthy to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, be especially blesses in this new year. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.

Three Prayers to Saint John the Apostle

Saint John the Apostle

Prayer to Saint John the Beloved Disciple

O Glorious Apostle, who, on account of your virginal purity, was most beloved by Jesus as to deserve to lay your head upon His divine breast, and to be left, in His place, as son to His most holy Mother; I beg you to inflame within me a true and ardent love towards Jesus and Mary. Obtain for me from our Lord that I, too, with a heart purified from earthly affections, may be made worthy to be ever united to Jesus as a faithful disciple, and to Mary as a devoted son, both here on earth and eternally in heaven. Amen. St. John, the beloved disciple of our Lord, pray for us.

Hymn of Praise to St. John the Evangelist

An exile for the faith
Of thy Incarnate Lord,
Beyond the stars, beyond all space,
Thy soul imprisoned soared:
There saw in glory Him
Who liveth, and was dead;
There Judah's Lion, and the Lamb
That for our ransom bled.

There of the Kingdom learnt
The mysteries sublime;
How, sown in martyrs' blood, the faith
Should spread from clime to clime.
The Holy City, bathed
In her dear Spouse's light,
Pure seat of bliss, thy spirit saw,
And gloried in the sight.

Now to the Lamb's clear fount,
To drink of life their fill,
Thou callest all; O Lord, in me
This blessed thirst instil.
To Jesus, Virgin-born,
Praise with the Father be;
Praise to the Spirit Paraclete,
Through all eternity. Amen.

Collect Prayer for the Feast of St. John the Apostle

O God, who through the blessed Apostle John have unlocked for us the secrets of your Word, grant, we pray, that we may grasp with proper understanding what he has so marvelously brought to our ears. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

St. John "the Beloved Disciple", Apostle and Evangelist

St. John next to our Lord at the Last Supper

Feast Day - December 27th 

Saint John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee and Salome, was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus. John was called by our Lord in the first year of His ministry. He is also known as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos and the Beloved Disciple. John's older brother and fellow Apostle was Saint James the Great. Jesus referred to the brothers as "Boanerges," meaning "sons of thunder." John was the longest living Apostle and the only one that did not receive the crown of martyrdom.

Together with Peter and James, John witnessed the raising Jairus’ Daughter, the Transfiguration of Christ, the Olivet Discourse and the Agony of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. John was the disciple who reported to Jesus that they had "'forbidden' a non-disciple from casting out demons in Jesus' name." Jesus stated in reply, "There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. He who is not against us is on our side."

John and Peter were the only two apostles sent by Jesus to make preparations for the final Passover meal, the Last Supper. During the meal, John sat next to Jesus, leaning on him rather than lying along the couches. John was the only one of the Apostles who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion. He stood faithfully at the cross when the Savior made him the guardian of His Mother.

After the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, John spread the Good News of Christ. His authoritative position in the Church is evidenced by his visit with Saint Peter to Samaria to lay hands on the new converts there. John was banished sometime in the late 1st century, during the reign of Emperor Domitian, after being plunged into boiling oil in Rome and suffering neither death nor ill effects. It was said that all those present who witnessed the miracle were converted to Christianity.

John authored the Gospel bearing his name as well as the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. In his Gospel, the phrase "the disciple whom Jesus loved," or "the Beloved Disciple" is used five times, but is not used in any other New Testament accounts of Jesus. In his Eclesiastical History, Eusebius states that the First Epistle of John and the Gospel of John are agreed upon as John's, but that the authorship of John’s second and third epistles are uncertain.

During a wave of Christian persecution, John was exiled to the island of Patmos. There, he wrote the Book of Apocalypse, but afterward returned to Ephesus. In his extreme old age, he continued to visit the churches of Asia. Saint Jerome relates that when John unable to preach, he was carried to the assembly of the faithful by his disciples, addressing them, "My dear children, love one another."

St. John died in peace at Ephesus in the third year of Trajan, the hundredth of the Christian era, or the sixty-sixth from the crucifixion of Christ. According to Saint Epiphanus, John was born into eternal life at ninety-four years of age. He is the patron of love and authors. He is often depicted in art as the author of the Gospel with an eagle, symbolizing "the height he rose to in his Gospel." In other icons, he is shown gazing up into heaven and dictating his Gospel to his disciple.

December 25, 2017

Why the Martyrdom of St. Stephen is Still Relevant Almost 2,000 Years Later

The Martyrdom of St. Stephen

The persecution of Christians is worse now than at any time in history. According to some estimates, every five minutes, a Christian is martyred for his faith. More and more, those who believe in Christ are endangered, singled out for hate and systematic genocide. Worldwide, Christians have experienced more persecution in the last five years than in the previous six hundred years combined. Those in the West are besieged by a militant secularism that is openly hostile to Christianity.

With the astonishing escalation in Christian persecution unseen seen since the 1st century, the heroic death of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, after nearly two millennia, speaks to the Church today. Art critic William Newton, writing for The Federalist, considers several interesting works of art that tell the story of St. Stephen, in "Saint Stephen’s Day Is A Moment To Reflect On Our Witness And Immortality". The works span much of the so called "Dark Ages", and reflect the various genres and styles of the period. They are remarkably united, however, in testifying to the courageous martyrdom and lasting witness of the Protomartyr:

"Although St. Stephen may have been the first martyr to suffer and die for his belief in Christ," Newton observes, "he was not nor will he be the last. Daily we are confronted with news stories of Christians all over the world being deprived of their rights, liberty, and their very lives, simply because they are Christians."

"St. Stephen’s life, then as now, is a wake-up call for those whose faith has become compromised or lukewarm, and a challenge to those who believe they can stamp out Christianity altogether, whether at the edge of a sword or by the stroke of a pen. His determination to persevere in his actions and to speak out in defense of his beliefs created a powerful example for others to follow." Newton continues, "His example appealed as much to the Christian artists living centuries ago who created these works of art as it does to those Christians living today who can take a moment to admire them, and reflect upon the story they tell."

A Widening Christian Genocide

Aid to the Church in Need is a papal charity of the Catholic Church, supporting the Catholic faithful and other Christians where they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. The organization recently published its report Persecuted and Forgotten? 2015-2017, detailing how Christians are oppressed for their Faith. The report explains how "an eradication of Christians, and other minorities, was – and still is – the specific and stated objective of extremist groups at work in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region, including Egypt." The report claims that the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they desperately needed as the genocide got underway and expanded.

It also observes, "At a time in the West when there is increasing media focus on the rights of people regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality, it is ironic that in much of the secular media there should be such limited coverage of the massive persecution experienced by so many Christians." The Christian communities in India, China, Ethiopia and Sudan have experienced greater persecution as well. Let us pray for all our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to live in true safety.

Prayer For Persecuted Christians

O God of all the nations, the One God who is and was and always will be, in your providence you willed that your Church be united to the suffering of your Son. Look with mercy on your servants who are persecuted for their faith in you. Grant them perseverance and courage to be worthy imitators of Christ. Bring your wisdom upon leaders of nations to work for peace among all peoples. May your Spirit open conversion for those who contradict your will, that we may live in harmony. Give us the grace to be united in truth, and to always seek your will in our lives. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

Our persecuted brothers and sisters in faith face intimidation, torture and death for being disciples of Christ. We must assist them, if only in prayer. Our prayers are always efficacious no matter how dire the situation or the fact God does not always grant our petitions. To help visit and

Top Ten Posts of 2017

Here for your consideration are the top ten articles that appeared on Big 'C' Catholics in 2017 [plus two honorable mentions]. We are most grateful for the patronage of all of our readers. Thanks for helping to make this site what it is.

Thanks to our top referrers Canon 212 and Spirit-Digest, both excellent sites.

Twelve Things About Saint Thomas Aquinas That Every Catholic Should Know

The Difference Between Love and Tolerance

These Words of Ordination Should be the Personal Credo of Every Catholic

Announcing the New Evangelization Award for Excellence in Catholic Blogging 2017

Blessed John Henry Newman on the Pastoral Office

What It Means to Be a Christian

Jesus' Golden Rule Perfects Aristotle’s Golden Mean

"Progressive" Catholics Are Heterodox Catholics

By What Vision? The Attack on Marriage and Family

Pope St. Pius X, Undaunted Champion of the Faith

The Church’s "Great" Popes Lived Out Heroic Virtue

339 Years After Her Death, Saint Teresa of Ávila Converted Edith Stein [Saint Teresa Benedicta]

Saint Stephen, Archdeacon and Protomartyr

Saint Stephen the first Christian martyr

Feast Day - December 26th 

It is an interesting point about human nature that we desire to know the truth — as long as it confirms what we, ourselves, already believe and do. That is why it is often dangerous to be a prophet, a speaker of the real truth as God sees it. The words of such a person are not always greeted with joy, but often with anger, suspicion, indignity and sometimes, even violence. Such was the case of Saint Stephen, whose story is told in the Acts of the Apostles, chapters six and seven.

We know very little of Stephen’s life prior to this mention in the Scriptures, but much can be inferred about him from what is written there. At this time, in the very early history of the Church, there were practical issues that had arisen that needed to be addressed. One of these concerned charitable efforts, namely, the distribution of alms to the Hellenist, or Greek-speaking Christian widows; it was alleged that they were being neglected in favor of those who spoke Hebrew.

Realizing that they required help in the day-to-day work of the nascent Church, the Apostles directed the community to select "seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom" to do this part of the Church’s ministry. Of these deacons, the person appointed to lead them, Stephen, is the only one mentioned by name.

Stephen proved to be adept at serving the everyday needs of the people, as well as a powerful preacher of Christ. Scripture goes so far as to say that he "worked great wonders" among them, which suggests he may also have been a healer and miracle worker. So effective and convincing was he that he soon aroused the ire of members of the Roman Synagogue, who engaged him in debate about the new faith. His interlocutors presumed that they would cast doubt on his teaching. To their dismay, Stephen handily won the debate, converting numerous others to such a degree that, like Jesus before him, plans were made to have him killed.

Because they could not prevail in their argumentation, Jewish leaders, Scripture tells us, persuaded others to testify falsely that they had heard Stephen commit blasphemy against God. Arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, Stephen spoke eloquently in his own defense, recounting the history of Israel and her repeated acts of idolatry and disobedience against God. His words, especially when he pointed out that his accusers, "always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors," aroused the crowd to anger. They bound Stephen and dragged him outside the walls of the city to punish him for the sin of blasphemy as the law prescribed — which meant stoning him to death.

As he died, Stephen, told the onlooking crowd that he could see Jesus on high, "standing at the right hand of God." Before receiving the crown of martyrdom, Stephen uttered the words that the Savior Himself had said from the cross. "Lord Jesus," he cried out, "receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

Interestingly, another man, who would soon become an Apostle and martyr for Christ, was standing as an approving witness to the actions of the crowd. That man was Saul, who would eventually have his own profound experience of Jesus and become known as Saint Paul. Stephen is called the "protomartyr," or first martyr of the Church. He is the patron of bricklayers, deacons, and Hungary. Grant, Lord, we pray, that we may imitate what we worship, and so learn to love our enemies, for we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

Homily for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, [Christmas] December 25, 2017, Year B

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

All of the shopping, all of the rushing about, all of the busy-ness of Christmas is now over. Today the streets are deserted. A quiet and peaceful stillness lays over all. Now the religious meaning of Christmas is allowed to emerge from beneath all of the mall music, the shopping, and the frantic preparations for this day.

But to what do we turn our attention? To peace on earth toward men of good will? Yes, and something more. To the sharing of love with family? Yes, and something more. To joining together with the ones we love? Yes, but more. Christmas is more than having a lovely time, more than family sharing, more than the so-called “happy holidays.”

We celebrate today what so many are looking for. We focus our attention today on that which will give peace to many who are lonely, uneasy with themselves, and who are searching for meaning in their lives.

The centerpiece of the Mass, the essence of Catholicism, and the core of our belief is what we consider today. The only essential and ultimately important reality is the joining of humanity with divinity. This joinder is the genius of Christianity and the core of Catholic devotion. It is that which unites liberal and conservative, saint and sinner, European and American, black and white. God and man at table are sat down.

The birth of Jesus Christ is not the birth of one religious prophet among many, one founder of a religion among many, the birth of one good man among many others. It is rather the joining of humanity with divinity.

In a few short moments we will make it all happen again. All over the world, in the Vatican as well as in Baghdad, in Jerusalem as well as in Cairo, Catholics celebrate the Incarnation… God becoming human flesh. We don’t say that our humanity is perfect. It certainly is not. We do say, however, that we are loved so much by God that He has become one of us. We are loved and being redeemed sinners. In every Mass, God becomes one with us.

The long tradition of a sinners’ church is perhaps the most commanding reason for the survival of Catholicism. Catholic theology is by no means a theology of the elite and the elect. Nor is our theology one of predestination. However much our understanding of hell may be dim, we all recognize that it is still quite possible for one to lose his or her soul… or to save it.

The salvation of a sinful humanity, a sinful humanity that constitutes the Church, is the saving grace of our Church. Today a savior has been born for us, Christ the Lord. He was born, lived, and died as one of us. He is Emmanuel – God with us – in every aspect of human living.

He was born in very humble circumstances. He lived a modest life. Thirty years of His life were lived in hidden obscurity; in the ordinary daily life we all live as members of a family. He never stormed the places of power; He ran for no political office; He refused riches, and more importantly He refused to succumb to the temptation of His own popularity. He lived with ordinary people and He chose very ordinary men to be His apostles. His proclamation was uttered in simple words, in parables of universal appeal in their simply clarity. Finally He died a shameful death, the death of a crucified criminal, alone, quite helpless, and apparently defeated.

What, then, do we celebrate? After all, He did not give us a free ticket through life, a life free of loss, pain, and suffering. We still have to rise each morning and face days loaded with pain, loneliness, and self-doubt. We worry, we fear, and we are uncertain.

What we celebrate is the fact that God has become very much a part of His creation. God has entered the process of creation with us. He is not simply alongside of us, He is part of us as we struggle to bring order out of chaos, as we suffer in world straining to be born anew, living in a frenzied drive to bring perfection to a world that is far from perfect.

God and man are now conjoined. God is not dead nor doth He sleep. His is not aloof. He is not “out there in the cosmos” living in grand and disinterested isolation from us. What we celebrate is that God is living out, with us, through us, and within us, the full measure of human suffering. He is saving us within all that we face. Unto us a savoir is born. He is Christ, the Lord!

This is the cup of my blood, He tells us. Take it and drink it. Take my life and mingle it with yours. Take and drink the life-supporting and live-giving blood that is mine. It is now yours… and your blood is now mine. Sinful blood, human blood, sinful flesh, human flesh, your flesh and mine are now joined. God and man at table are sat down.

And so today we celebrate the centerpiece of all Catholic theology… the foundation of the Eucharist and its core meaning… the central dogma of all who call themselves Catholic.

It is the one thing that gives me hope in world filled with destruction, desolation, and terror. It is the one shining brilliant star shining above a world that seems terribly dark. It is the one tongue of fire, light, and warmth blazing in a world that seems to have gone cold in its darkness. It is the most tremendous source of hope I have, it is that which is the keystone of my faith and which I share with you today… HOPE! Hope because of Jesus Christ.

Back in 1970 a Belgian Cardinal by the name of Suenens was asked the question: “Why are you a man of hope even in these days?” He answered:

“Because I believe that God is new every morning, I believe that God is creating the world today, at this very moment. He did not just create it in the long ago and then forget about it. That means that we have to expect the unexpected as the normal way of God’s providence at work.

I am hopeful, not for human reasons or because I am optimistic by nature, but because I believe in the Holy Spirit present in His Church and in the world – even if people don’t know His name. I am hopeful because I believe that the Holy Spirit is still the Creating Spirit, and that He will give us every morning fresh freedom, joy, and a new provision of hope, if we open our soul to Him.”

And so we celebrate today the fact that just as God came to the Garden of Eden to search out Adam and Eve, so also did He come to us in Christ to search us out and fill us with God’s Holy Spirit. And we celebrated the stupendous reality that He comes to us in every Holy Communion to be made flesh in your flesh, and so mingle His blood with yours and thus to search out and enter into your heart.

This is God’s Christmas gift to you. What will you give to Him? Will you give Him the gift of yourself and your love?

December 24, 2017

Reflection on the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Mass at Midnight

Isaiah 9:1-6; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

“While [Mary and Joseph] were there, the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes
and laid him in a manger, because there was no room... in the inn.” (Lk 2:7)

One of my favorite childhood memories of Christmas is sitting on the floor in front of my grandmother’s fake, silver Christmas tree, mesmerized by its changing colors every few seconds. As of yet I hadn’t noticed the spotlight on the floor with a rotating cover that was blue, red, and yellow, each color giving way to the next as the cover rotated over the spotlight illuminating the tree. I just sat there by the hour watching that tree!

Christmas was my grandmother’s favorite time of year. Among her prized possessions was her mother’s Nativity scene. I remember it sprawled out on top of her massive Zenith console television (remember those?). My great-grandmother had purchased that set at the local “five and dime,” as my grandmother called the store. Her manger scene is a great reminder to anyone who sees it that the meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ.

In addition to its high place as a family heirloom, I love this Nativity scene. Frankly, it has seen better days. Some of the faces of the statues have worn off, there are a few broken legs and arms here and there, and all the pieces are in desperate need of a paint job. Over the years, many have offered to restore the set to its original state. I have yet to allow anyone to touch it. Why? A careful study of it gives one the true sense of Christmas.

I smile when I see modern Nativity scenes in our church buildings and homes that are so perfect ... perfectly shaped figurines ... perfectly painted and color coordinated ... in perfect settings, of course ... with perfect, adoring animals throughout. I doubt whether the actual birth of Christ was that ideal! The real story as recounted in the Gospels is of Jesus born in a manger because there was no room in the inn. Jesus was born homeless, and I am sure the manger was far from a modern, sterile birthing room in a hospital. It is highly doubtful it was clean and it was certainly open to the elements. Mary and Joseph had just traveled across the desert; it is doubtful they tidied up before Mary gave birth.

The broken pieces and chipped figurines of my inherited Nativity scene remind me that Jesus was born in the midst of the human condition of suffering, poverty, and homelessness, all part of his life at his birth. And that’s good news for us — for it means that our Savior has felt first-hand the realities of the human condition. In his suffering, poverty, and homelessness, he knows the human story. Our lives are like those figurines — chipped and broken. Into that reality God enters the world as the newborn child, Jesus. But Jesus’ story doesn’t end at that manger! His life will culminate at his death and resurrection. The cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday will be the reason for his birth. Through those events, Jesus has brought hope to the human family, reminding us that suffering and poverty will not have the final say, but light, peace, joy, and hope will. That which is chipped and broken will be fixed. And that, my friends, is the meaning of Christmas!

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Christmas 2017 | The Nativity Of Our Lord

For when peaceful stillness encompassed everything 
and the night in its swift course was half spent, 
Your all-powerful Word O Lord, 
leapt down from Your royal throne. Alleluia.

— Wisdom 18:14-15

O God, who marvelously created and yet more marvelously restored the dignity of human nature, grant that we may share the divinity of Him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son, Jesus Christ; who...reigns with you. 

— From the Divine Liturgy of the Nativity of the Lord

Almighty God, who sent Your only Son to redeem creation, on this feast of Our Lord's Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with worship and glad rejoicing. Loving Father, we duly praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people. He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us. He is the Savior of the world. May we imitate Him in every way. We ask this in Our Lord's most holy name. Amen.

Dear Readers,
May the peace and joy of Christmas be with you, 
now and always. A blessed Christmas to all.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for January 2018

Pope Francis' coat of arms Please remember the Holy Father Pope Francis' intentions in prayer throughout the month of January:

Evangelization: Religious Minorities in Asia

That Christians, and other religious minorities in Asian countries, may be able to practice their faith in full freedom.

Specific Intention - To be Announced

Pope Francis has decided to keep one monthly prayer intention. He is no longer proposing an urgent prayer intention. Each Sunday on which he gives an Angelus address, he will request prayers for specific people and situations that are of deep concern to him and to the universal Church.