Saturday, November 10, 2012

Faith Is Possible Only Through Communion With The Church

The widespread tendency today to relegate the faith to the private sphere contradicts its very nature. We need the Church to confirm our faith and to experience God’s gifts: His Word, the Sacraments, the support of grace and the witness of love. In this way, our “I” taken up into the “we” of the Church – will be able to perceive itself as the recipient of and participant in an event that far surpasses it: the experience of communion with God, who establishes communion among men.
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI has named the current year of October 2012 through November 2013 "The Year of Faith," in which he is encouraging all Catholics to learn the beliefs and dogma of the Church and deepen their faith. The Holy Father has been giving a very profound series of talks in explaining how we receive faith and how it affects our lives.

In a talk given on October 31 in St. Peter's Square, Our Holy Father explains how essential the Church is to our faith, and that we cannot have faith unless we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ.   As he tells us, we cannot be "lone wolf" Christians or in any way separated from Christ's Mystical Body, The Church. Christ told us that he is the vine and we are the branches, and we have no life apart from him.  That translates to His Mystical Body, the Church.  We can have no faith apart from Christ's Church:
I cannot build my personal faith on a private conversation with Jesus, for faith is given to me by God through the community of believers, which is the Church. . . .Our faith is truly personal only if it is also communal.
Our union with God and the Church begins with our baptism, the sacrament which erases the original sin inherited from our first parents. We receive faith at baptism when we receive the Holy Spirit:
[T]his new birth, which begins at baptism, continues throughout the whole course of life.


The Holy Father tells us that just as we are brought into communion with the Church at baptism, we must continue in the Church or we will lose our faith:
I would like to emphasize that it is within the ecclesial community that personal faith grows and matures.
The Holy Father emphasizes that faith can be found only in the Catholic Church, the one and only Mystical Body of Christ.  All truth comes through the Catholic Church, and all faith comes through the Catholic Church:
The Church is the mother of all believers. ‘No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother’ [St. Cyprian]” (n. 181). Therefore, faith is born in the Church, leads to her and lives in her.
Pope Benedict makes it clear the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, has always been the place where faith was "transmitted" and through which we enter into Christ's death and resurrection:
From her earliest days, then, the Church was the place of faith, the place where the faith was transmitted, the place where, through baptism, we are immersed in the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, which frees us from the prison of sin, gives us the freedom of children and introduces us into communion with the Trinitarian God.
Below is the translation of the Holy Father's talk from zenit.org:

ON THE ECCLESIAL NATURE OF FAITH
 No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother.

VATICAN, OCT. 31, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in St. Peter’s Square. Today the Holy Father continued with the second reflection in his new series of catecheses on faith.

* * *
Dear brothers and sisters,
We continue on our journey of meditation on the Catholic Faith. Last week I explained that faith is a gift, for it is God who takes the initiative and comes to meet us [faith is not something we can get by ourselves or "work up"by ourselves, it is a gift from God]. Thus faith is the response whereby we welcome him as the stable foundation of our lives. It is a gift that transforms our existence, for it allows us to see through the eyes of Jesus, who works in us and opens us to love for God and for others.
Today I would like to take another step forward in our reflection, beginning once again with a number of questions: Is faith only personal and individual? Does it only concern my own person? Do I live my faith alone? Certainly, the act of faith is an eminently personal act that takes place in the most intimate depths of our being and signals a change in direction, a personal conversion. It is my life that is marked by a turning point and receives a new orientation.
In the liturgy of Baptism, at the time of the promises, the celebrant asks for a manifestation of faith, and he puts forward three questions: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? Do you believe in Jesus Christ his only Son? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? Historically, these questions were addressed personally to the one who was to receive baptism, before immersing him three times in water. And today, too, the response is in the singular: “I believe”. But my belief is not the result of my own personal reflection, nor the product of my own thoughts. Rather, it is the fruit of a relationship, of a dialogue that involves listening, receiving and a response. It is a conversation with Jesus that causes me to go out of my self-enclosed “I” in order that I may be opened to the love of God the Father. It is like a rebirth in which I discover that I am united not only to Jesus but also to all those who have walked, and who continue to walk, along the same path. And this new birth, which begins at baptism, continues throughout the whole course of life.
I cannot build my personal faith on a private conversation with Jesus, for faith is given to me by God through the community of believers, which is the Church. It numbers me among the multitude of believers, in a communion which is not merely sociological but, rather, which is rooted in the eternal love of God, who in himself is the communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - who is Trinitarian Love. Our faith is truly personal only if it is also communal. It can only be my faith only if it lives and moves in the “we” of the Church, only if it is our faith, the common faith of the one Church.

On Sunday, when we recite the “Creed” [the “I believe”] during the Holy Mass, we express ourselves in the first person, but we confess the one faith of the Church as a community. The “I believe” that we profess individually is joined to an immense choir spanning time and space, in which each person contributes, as it were, to a harmonious polyphony of faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this with great clarity: “’Believing’ is an ecclesial act. The Church’s faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers. ‘No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother’ [St. Cyprian]” (n. 181). Therefore, faith is born in the Church, leads to her and lives in her. This is very important to remember.
At the beginning of the Christian adventure, when the Holy Spirit descends with power on the disciples on the day of Pentecost, as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:1-13), the nascent Church receives strength to carry out the mission entrusted to her by the risen Lord: to spread the Gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God, to every corner of the world, and to guide every man to an encounter with the risen Christ and to the faith that saves. The Apostles overcome every fear in proclaiming what they have heard, seen and personally experienced with Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they begin to speak in new languages, openly announcing the mystery they had witnessed.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we are then told about the great speech Peter addressed on the day of Pentecost. He begins with a passage from the prophet Joel (3:1-5), refers it to Jesus and proclaims the core of Christian faith: He who had been bountifully good to all, and was attested to by God with miracles and mighty works, was crucified and killed, but God raised him from the dead, establishing him as Lord and Christ. Through him, we have entered into the definitive salvation announced by the prophets, and whosoever shall call upon his name shall be saved (cf. Acts 2:17-24). Many of those who heard Peter’s words felt personally challenged; they repented of their sins and were baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2: 37-41).
Thus begins the Church’s journey. She is the community that carries this proclamation through space and time, the community of the People of God founded on the new covenant in Christ’s blood, whose members do not belong to a particular social or ethnic group but who are men and women from every nation and culture. The Church is a “catholic” people that speaks new languages and is universally open to welcoming everyone, that transcends every border and breaks every barrier. St. Paul says: “Here there is not Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians3:11).
From her earliest days, then, the Church was the place of faith, the place where the faith was transmitted, the place where, through baptism, we are immersed in the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, which frees us from the prison of sin, gives us the freedom of children and introduces us into communion with the Trinitarian God. At the same time, we are immersed in a communion with other brothers and sisters in faith, with the entire Body of Christ, and in this way we are brought forth from our isolation. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reminds us: “God does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness” (Dogmatic Constitution,Lumen Gentium, 9).
Again recalling the liturgy of Baptism, we may note that at the conclusion of the promises whereby we renounce evil and respond “I believe” to the central truths of the faith, the celebrant declares: “This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church and we glory in professing it in Christ Jesus Our Lord”. Faith is a theological virtue given by God but transmitted by the Church throughout the span of history. Again St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, states that he has handed on to them the Gospel, which he himself had also received (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3).
There is an unbroken chain in the Church’s life, in the announcement of God’s Word, in the celebration of the Sacraments, which comes to us and which we call Tradition. It provides us with the guarantee that what we believe in is Christ’s original message, as preached by the Apostles. The core of this primordial announcement is the event of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection, from which the entire patrimony of faith flows. The Council says: “The apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time (Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 8). Thus, if Sacred Scripture contains God’s Word, the Tradition of the Church conserves and faithfully transmits it, so that men of every age may have access to its immense wealth and be enriched by its treasures of grace. In this way the Church, “in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes” (ibid.).
Lastly, I would like to emphasize that it is within the ecclesial community that personal faith grows and matures. It is interesting to observe that in the New Testament the word “saints” refers to Christians as a whole - and certainly not all of them had the necessary qualities to be declared saints by the Church. What, then, was intended by the use of this term? The fact that those who had faith in the Risen Christ and lived it out were called to become models for others, by putting them in contact with the Person and the Message of Jesus, who reveals the Face of the living God. This is also true for us: a Christian who allows himself to be gradually guided and shaped by the Church’s faith - despite his weaknesses, limitations and difficulties - becomes, as it were, a window open to the light of the living God that receives this light and transmits it to the world. In the encyclical Redemptoris missio, Blessed John Paul II affirmed that “missionary activity renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!” (no. 2).
The widespread tendency today to relegate the faith to the private sphere contradicts its very nature. We need the Church to confirm our faith and to experience God’s gifts: His Word, the Sacraments, the support of grace and the witness of love. In this way, our “I” taken up into the “we” of the Church – will be able to perceive itself as the recipient of and participant in an event that far surpasses it: the experience of communion with God, who establishes communion among men. In a world in which individualism seems to regulate human relationships, causing them to become ever more fragile, faith calls us to be the Church, i.e. bearers of God’s love and communion to all mankind. (cf. Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 1). Thank you for your attention.
[Translation by Diane Montagna]
* * *
The Holy Father is saying many things in this short talk, and it is well worth reading more than once.  Each time I go through it, I get something new.   But the main message seems to be that faith is a result of communion with the Church.  Faith is not a private matter:  "The widespread tendency today to relegate the faith to the private sphere contradicts its very nature."  Jesus did not die so that we could be islands unto ourselves.  He has given us the gift of faith so that we can spread it to others.  The parable of the talents tells us that the one who hoards what he has been given will lose it.  We must not hide away from the world and cower in fear, especially as times become more and more evil.  Christ is the Savior of the world.  He is the one who takes away the sins of the world and unites us to the Trinity.  However he works through his church - which is you and me.  Christ has made us the light of the world, the salt of the earth.  But we must stand together.
In a world in which individualism seems to regulate human relationships, causing them to become ever more fragile, faith calls us to be the Church, i.e. bearers of God’s love and communion to all mankind.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Post Mortem: America On The Road To Calvary

While watching the results of the election on Tuesday night, I was also following the reactions of others on Twitter.  I stayed mostly with those who had a Catholic point of view.  It does provide comfort to know that I'm not alone in my horror at what is happening to our nation.

When it was announced that President Obama had won Ohio and as a result had won a second term, the immediate reaction of those I was following on Twitter was doom and gloom, and I have to admit I felt the same way.  There were two tweets, though, that helped me to remember that our Lord is still in charge.

One was from Sr. Helena Burns:

On the bright side: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of new Christians."

This is a quote from 2nd-century Church Father Tertullian, which was made at the time when Christians were being heavily persecuted and martyred by the Roman Empire.  As Tertullian alluded to, the Roman Empire did not destroy Christianity by martyring Christians but on the contrary, the martyrdom of Christians helped the Church grow even stronger.

The other tweet was from Father Daren J. Zehnle:

Fr. Daren J. Zehnle ‏@Daren_J_Zehnle
¡Viva Cristo Rey! ¡Viva!

Anyone who saw the movie earlier this year, "For Greater Glory", knows exactly what Father Zehnle is alluding to. "Viva Cristo Rey", which means "Long Live Christ the King", was the rallying cry for Catholic Mexicans in the 1920's who were being persecuted and martyred by the Masonic Mexican government.

Blessed Miguel Pro shown here with his arms outstretched
imitating our Lord on the Cross as he was being
executed.  Blessed Miguel shouted "Viva Cristo Rey!"
as the guns were fired at him.
Now why would the thought of martyrdom at the hands of an evil government fill me with hope?  And am I saying that we as Catholics will face this kind of persecution right here in the United States of America?  

I think we all tend to forget that elections are not just about winning and losing and which party gets to take over.  Elections give us the pulse of the people.  The way in which people vote tells us what they believe, what is important to them, where their priorities are.

This week a majority of Americans again voted for a president who is not just pro choice, but actively pro abortion, who feels that a woman has a right to abort her baby right up to the time of birth, and if the baby should somehow survive the abortion, the baby should be left to die.  He has spread abortion around the world and even has the government, which means you and me, paying for abortions for those in the military.  He has, of course, provided for abortions and contraception through his health care plan.  In fact, Obama supports and promotes contraception as a good and necessary part of life, and has started a war against the Catholic Church which opposes this belief.

Americans voted for the first president in our history who openly supports homosexuality and same sex marriage.  He has said he will not support the law of the land - the Defense of Marriage Act - in direct defiance of his vow to uphold and defend the laws of the United States.



Obama has given us the largest intrusion of government into our personal lives in the history of this country in his healthcare plan.  He constantly engages in class warfare, pitting the rich against the poor, painting the rich as evil hoarders of their own money.  He promotes socialism, pure and simple, and believes that the government has a right to take money from one group to give to another.

Barack Obama has a strong tendency to be on the side of those who are anti-Christian.  For example, he has actively supported the anti-Christian government in Egypt, which has been literally crucifying Christians under Sharia law.  He even invited  Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the White House this past September while the media dutifully made no mention of the atrocities being committed in Egypt.

President Obama did get us out of Iraq (for the most part), but he did it by following the path already laid out by George Bush.  However, we are still deeply involved in Afghanistan where military personnel continue to die, and our military has  spread to Libya, Syria and other regions.  In fact, Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is the first US President to go to war under the flag of a foreign power when he unilaterally and illegally engaged in military combat in Libya under the authority of NATO, as reported in the New York Times.  He never once went to Congress to get authorization for this action, in direct conflict with the War Powers Act.  According to the New York Times in June 2011:
It has now been over three months since the first NATO bombs fell on Libya, yet President Obama has failed to request Congressional approval for military action, as required by the War Powers Act of 1973.  The legal machinations Mr. Obama has used to justify war without Congressional consent set a troubling precedent that could allow future administrations to wage war at their convenience — free of legislative checks and balances.

President George Bush was castigated because he allowed waterboarding to be used against terrorist suspects.  I am certainly not supporting that method, but at least no one died or was even seriously injured as a result of waterboarding.  Yet Americans voted for Barack Obama who routinely kills terrorist suspects, including American suspects such as Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric in Yemen suspected of being part of Al Qaeda.  al-Awlaki was never formally charged, and certainly never given a trial.  The president made a unilateral decision to kill him, and no one questioned that.  This is not the only instance of Obama killing Americans.  This past May, the New York Times ran an article about the president's "Secret Kill List":
This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.
The article goes on to state:
Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.


It is no surprise that a man who is so cavalier about killing unborn children would also have no qualms about murdering Americans he unilaterally and without due process of law deems unfit to live.

These are just a few of the troubling facts about Barack Obama.  Yet he received 50% of the American vote and will be our president for the next four years.  He will now be in charge of the country without the restraint of having to run again.  Many say that because he received barely 50% of the vote, only about 2 million more votes than Mitt Romney, Obama does not have a mandate from the American people.  Does anyone feel that will stop him from following the path he has started?  There is nothing now to hold him back from doing exactly what he wants to do, as an article from Reuters says:

Obama - now unfettered by not having to face voters again - is in position to pursue an ambitious agenda that could leave his mark on government for a generation or longer, including a move to revamp the nation's immigration laws.

Some analysts believe Obama is likely to spend much of his second term "locking down the achievements of his first term," including ensuring that "we will have a functioning national healthcare system," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

There were other results of this election that were also very troubling.  For the first time voters legalized same sex marriage.  This happened in four states - Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington.  Two states legalized the recreational use of marijuana - Colorado and Washington.  One ray of hope was that physician assisted suicide was narrowly defeated in Massachusetts, but this will only delay what will also inevitably be the law of the land.  I doubt that we will recognize our nation by 2016.  I can barely recognize America now.

Most politicians and media tried to make us believe that this election was all about the economy and material wealth. But it actually goes much deeper than that. This is election was about where we as a nation will put our trust.  Would we trust in God or would we put our faith and hope in a godless government that promises heaven but delivers hell? I am certainly not saying that Mitt Romney was the answer to our problems. I have more disagreements with Romney than agreements. But he would not lead us as directly on the godless path of destruction that Obama is walking. Barack Obama has promised us heaven, but all he will deliver is hell. By the time the people who support him figure that out, it will be too late.

This election was all about making a choice between serving and trusting in God, or serving and trusting in man-made government.  It is clear what the majority of Americans chose.  The Apostle Paul describes far too many of us in Philippians 3:18-19:

For many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; Whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things.

Mitt Romney made a statement in September about a large portion of the American public for which he was slammed by liberals as being insensitive and uncaring.  In case you were on Mars and didn't hear it, this is what he said:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.
Representative Ron Paul gave an answer to all those people who think the government's role is to take care of them:
Mr. Paul, who is retiring after 12 terms in the House, said voters on Tuesday rejected Mitt Romney because he had opposed the government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.

"The people in the Midwest voted against him: 'Oh, we have to be taken care of!' So that vote was sort of like what we are laughing at in Greece," Mr. Paul said.

"People do not want anything cut," he said. "They want all the bailouts to come. They want the Fed to keep printing the money. And they don't believe that we've gone off the cliff or are close to going off the cliff. They think we can patch it over, that we can somehow come up with some magic solution. But you can't have a budgetary solution if you don't change what the role of government should be. As long as you think we have to police the world and run this welfare state, all we are going to argue about is who will get the loot."
As Christians, we look to our Lord for our needs.  We know that we cannot and should not rely on human government to take care of us.  The strength of America in the past has been the people's willingness to do the hard work necessary to achieve their dreams, and look to their God to supply what they could not.  This is what we pray in the most perfect prayer ever given to us, The Lord's Prayer:

Our Father Who Art in Heaven
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Thy Kingdom Come
Thy Will Be Done
On Earth As It is In Heaven
We no longer ask for God's will to be done in our lives.  We no longer look for the Kingdom of Heaven because we have been given the Kingdom of Man.  America is now bowing down to a government who promises to take care of us in every circumstance so that we barely have to even think for ourselves.  But a government that becomes a nanny state also makes all of our decisions for us.  We pay for the "security" given to us by the government by giving up our liberty and autonomy.  That is why Obama feels he has a right to tell the Catholic Church that they must violate their own teachings.  When the government takes care of you, the government owns you.  We have, in effect, become the slaves of government. 


Many Americans are no longer willing to work for their dreams or to trust in their Creator to supply their "daily bread."  They have bought into the socialist line fed to them by Barack Obama and the Democrats that the government can and should provide all their needs, and not only the necessities of life, but even such things as contraception and abortion, not realizing that this will lead to our ultimate destruction.   

The results of the 2012 election in the United States tell me that people have rejected God.  They have said as the Jews said at the time of Christ's passion, "We have no king but Caesar." We will pay very dearly for our decision to give the government so much control over our lives.  The National Defense Authorization Act is a law that allows the president to order the military to arrest any American at any time without a charge and indefinitely detain us without trial.  We already know that Obama has no qualms about killing Americans that he deems a threat of whatever kind.  Who will be counted among those threats in the future? Will it be the Catholic Church because they dare to defy his unconstitutional laws? 

I can't predict the future, but it doesn't take a prophet to know that we are living in a godless, secular society that cares nothing about God or Godly values.  We have allowed tens of millions of our children to be legally killed in the womb, we are legalizing homosexuality and same sex marriage, we are legalizing destructive drugs, we allow immoral and pornographic entertainment into our homes.  We rarely pray as a nation and when things go wrong, we look to the government to take care of us instead of praying to our Creator.  And now that same Creator is allowing the seeds of destruction to come into full bloom.  Godless secularism has taken over and it's not going to let go until this country is completely destroyed.  There is no turning back now.  I know this seems like a doom and gloom message, but it is reality. 

Many millions of people were praying and even fasting and doing everything they could to win back this country from Obama and all of the other secularists. But it was not to be. The majority of people have determined the path our nation is on, and those of us who resist that path will pay a heavy price for standing up for our beliefs. But resist we must, for our own salvation and for the salvation of others.

Yes, I do believe there will be martyrdom in the United States of America. It is happening throughout the world and it is coming to our nation as well. But the tweets from Sister Berns and Father Zenhle, while they may appear ominous, actually give me great hope because it tells me that we will eventually win the war against the enemies of God.  But it will literally take our blood to do so.   Just as our Lord was willing to bare his back to the whip, and just as he willingly and even joyfully took up his cross and walked the road of Calvary to the place of redemption, so we must be willing to do the same.

To quote Bette Davis, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."  For Catholics, this means centering our entire lives on our faith.  Our Holy Father has named this the Year of Faith, a time to truly discover and learn our faith and make it the central, motivating factor in our lives.  That is the answer - the only answer - to the evil that surrounds us.  A couple of weeks ago here in the northeast, we were all bracing for Hurricane Sandy.  We knew she was coming and we knew there was nothing we could do to stop her.  We have a spiritual storm of unparalleled intensity coming our way in the United States and the entire world, and although our actions may mitigate it, there is no longer anything we can do to actually stop it.  But we have already been given the victory if only we will remain faithful.


Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from Christ's side, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints
and with Thy angels
Forever and ever
Amen



¡Viva Cristo Rey! ¡Viva!




Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote: We Can't Sit It Out

Today is Election Day in the United States of America.  As Americans and as Catholics, we have a responsibility and a duty to vote.  I had seriously thought about sitting this one out because I absolutely cannot vote for Barack Obama and I am highly skeptical of Mitt Romney.  But this one is just too important. And it is about more than the presidential race.  We also must consider our local races.  There are many good candidates running for office, men and women who support Godly traditional values and morals.  They need our support and our vote.

We are in the middle of a great spiritual war.  The sides are clearly delineated.  As Blessed John Paul II told us, it is the Culture of Death versus the Culture of Life.  I don't believe the results of the election will necessarily change the course of our nation, but it can certainly mitigate the damages and perhaps give us more time so that we can hopefully change the road that we are on.  If Barack Obama and the Democrats are given four more years, the United States of America as we know it will cease to exist. That is not hyperbole.  It is that serious.  Americans voted for the Culture of Death in 2008, and we have seen the disastrous results:  a ruined economy, a more deeply divided country than we have ever seen, greater dependency on the government, and for Catholics, a direct attack on our Church, our beliefs and our way of life.  I'm not trying to sound like a Republican attack ad on the Democrats, but those are the facts.

So pray about your choice, and then get out there and vote.  Do the right thing.


I have copied below an Election Prayer which National Catholic Register reposted from Catholicvote.org:
CatholicVote.org has released "An Election-Year Prayer" by Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican: 
O Lord Jesus Christ, you alone are the Way, the Truth and the Life.
In your Church, you show us the way, you teach us the truth, and you give us your life. 
Grant, we humbly beg you, that, always and in all things, we may be faithful to you in your holy Church and to your vicar on earth, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. 
Grant also, we beg you, that, in these times of decision, all who profess to be Catholic and who are entrusted with the sacred duty to participate in public life may, by the strength of your grace, unwaveringly follow your way and faithfully adhere to your truth, living in you with all their mind and heart, for your greater glory, the salvation of souls and the good of our nation. 
Amen. 
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, pray for us. 
St. Thomas More, patron of religious freedom, pray for us.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Meditation On the Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Redemption of the Redeemer


Yesterday, November 3, was the First Saturday of the Month. The First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. After showing the three children a vision of hell she said, "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace... I shall come to ask for... the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays..." The First Saturday devotion is as follows:
It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity.
I'm late on this one, but I have developed a tradition of sharing my monthly meditation here, and I don't want to make an exception this month.

This month I have chosen the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary - The Presentation of our Lord at the Temple.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph, the spouse of Mary, were devout Jews who lived strictly according to the laws handed down to the Israelites by God.  One of those laws is found in Exodus 13:2:
Sanctify unto me every firstborn that openeth the womb among the children of Israel, as well of men as of beasts: for they are all mine.
From chabad.org.pl, a Jewish website:
The Torah specifically instructs that a woman's first-born male male is required to serve in the central place of worship. However, the Torah then presents a change in plans: the Levites are chosen to replace the first-born male Israelites as the workers in the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Israelite parents were required to take their firstborn male child to the temple and then redeem him, which means to buy the the child back:
To legitimately excuse the Israelite first-born male from direct service to God, the child's father is required to buy his son from the Kohen for the redemption price of five shekels, with five silver dollars serving as an appropriate substitution in modern times.
Luke 2:23-24 tells us the redemption price at the time of Jesus:
As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons:
Circumcision of Christ by Albrecht Dürer
Many people confuse the presentation of our Lord at the temple with the time of Christ's circumcision.  The circumcision took place 8 days after Christ's birth which, assuming that Christ was born on December 25, would correspond to January 1.  That is why January 1 has always been a holy day in the Church's calendar.  Unfortunately, the new calendar of the church has changed this day to "The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary," which obscures the original meaning of January 1.  The circumcision is the first shedding of Christ's Precious Blood, picturing the time when he would shed His Blood on the Cross to redeem the world.

The presentation of our Lord at the temple, when the Redeemer was redeemed, is called Candlemas and is celebrated on February 2, which is 40 days after the birth of Christ.  Father Michael Cummins explains why this feast day is called Candlemas and its significance in our lives:
Just as Joseph and Mary carried the infant Jesus (the light of the world) into the temple so we now, through our baptisms, carry the light of Christ within us.
This is why we process with candles on Candlemas, to picture carrying the True Light, Jesus Christ, to the world.

Procession at Candlemas
So Mary and Joseph, in accordance with the command of God to the Israelites, brought the 40-day old Jesus, the Light of the world, to the temple.  Luke 2:21-22 and verse 25:
And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb.
And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: 
The first announcement to the world that the Savior had come occurred at the time of Christ's birth when the angel announced it to the shepherds in the field and to the wise men who journeyed from the East to see this great King.  The old man, Simeon, was used by God to once more announce that the Saviour had been born and was among us, and our Lord was here for everyone, not just the Jews:  "A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."

From Luke 2:25-32:
Simeon holding the child Jess
And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him.

And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.  And he came by the Spirit into the temple.
And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said:
Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Neither Joseph nor Mary fully comprehended this great message of Simeon (verse 33):
And his father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him.
Joseph and Mary had to accept on faith what they were told, as so often we must do.  Often we will not understand unless and until we obey.

And then Simeon went on to give a disturbing message to Mary, the mother of Jesus:
And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.

St. Alphonsus Ligouri told us that this was beginning of  Mary's sorrows which she carried with her for the next 33 years right to the time of her Son's crucifixion:
Abraham suffered great affliction during the three days he passed with his beloved Isaac, after he knew that he was to lose him.
Oh God! not for three days, but for thirty three years, Mary had to endure a like sorrow.  Like, do I say?  A sorrow as much greater as the Son of Mary was more lovely than the son of Abraham.
The blessed Virgin herself revealed to Saint Bridget, that while she lived on earth there was not an hour when this grief did not pierce her soul. “As often,” she continued, “as I looked on my Son, as often as I wrapped Him in His swaddling clothes, as often as I saw His hands and His feet, so often was my soul overwhelmed as it were with a fresh sorrow, because I considered how He would be crucified.”
As often as she put on Him His clothes, she reflected that they would one day be torn from Him, that He might be crucified, and when she beheld His sacred hands and feet, and thought of the nails that were to pierce them, as Mary said to Saint Bridget: “My eyes filled with tears, and my heart was tortured with grief.” (Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, from The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
This mystery of the presentation of Jesus is included in the Joyous Mysteries of the Rosary because it pictures the redemption of the Redeemer, who is bought from God the Father and given to His mother in order to redeem the world from Satan, the enemy of God who held mankind captive from the time of our first parents.  Certainly there can be no more joyous message than this, that the Saviour has come to redeem the world from death and destruction.  But it comes at a very great price for both Christ and His mother, who must carry this heavy burden every moment of every day for the rest of Christ's physical life.

As St. Alphonsus Ligouri told us, the patriarch Abraham carried the burden of having to sacrifice his son, Isaac, for three days, and then was relieved of the burden at the last moment when an angel of the Lord stopped Abraham from carrying out this command of the Lord.  Abraham then received his very much alive and unharmed son into his arms, and a lamb was substituted in place of Isaac.  This lamb, of course, pictured our Savior, Jesus Christ.  


Our Blessed Mother carried this heavy burden for 33 years compared to 3 days for Abraham, and then, unlike Abraham, she had to watch her beloved Son be mercilessly crucified with no relief whatsoever.  At the end, our Blessed Mother received into her arms the bloody, disfigured, mutilated and lifeless Body of her Son and our Savior.  

When we contemplate this mystery of the Rosary, we should certainly think of the joyous message that Simeon gave us:  "my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."  But we must also remember that it was also at this point that our Lady's sorrows began when. as she and Joseph were redeeming Jesus from God the Father, she was at the same time willingly and unselfishly giving her perfect and beautiful Son to world so that He could redeem us.  Truly, if Abraham is the father of the faithful, how much more is Mary the mother of the faithful?  Has any human being ever walked in faith more than she did, or suffered more than she did, literally walking every step of Calvary with our Lord, beginning before he was able to walk, when he was just a small babe in arms. 



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