Thursday, July 31, 2014

Francis is the first Jesuit Pope... but St. Ignatius of Loyola was the first Jesuit

Pope Francis is the most popular Jesuit in the world, but what exactly characterizes his religious Order? The charism needs to be traced back to the founder of the Society of Jesus: St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Author: Why the Pope Leads the Way He Leads
"So the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius, created a series of spiritual exercises, a series of meditations that help people to think how they might follow Jesus in the circumstances of their own life.”

The spiritual exercises are a series of meditations and prayers that were developed by St. Ignatius. Since the motto of the Order is to do things for 'God's Greater Glory,' it's no wonder that the exercises were developed to strengthen one's relationship with God: Through self awareness and reflection, for example, doing away with inner restraints.

Author: Why the Pope Leads the Way He Leads
"Maybe I’m greedy and so I want to make choices that have to do with accumulating money for myself and so on or maybe I’m attached to my own fears. Like maybe the right or best thing to do now, would be to try a new career, or to take a little more risks in terms of how I talk to people about my values or religious beliefs, but because I’m attached to my own fears of making a mistake or looking foolish, I’m not free enough to do what I should be doing.”

We see the Pope reflect on these very teachings. From embracing a missionary spirit, to letting go of self imposed limitations based on fear. He has often says it's better to make mistakes than to have a closed off Church.

(September 2013)
"I'll say it one thousand times. I'd rather have a wounded Church than a sick Church.”

When he speaks of going to the frontier and reaching out to others, that too, can be traced back to the Jesuit mindset. They're known for being educators. As missionaries, Jesuits were the first to evangelize in parts of Latin America, India, Africa and the far East. But it's not just about being a missionary in far away countries. One can be a missionary at home.

Author: Why the Pope Leads the Way He Leads
"We have people who are alienated from the Church, who really haven’t had much exposure to religion. They don’t care about religion. Whatever it might be. So I think the way his frontier spirit manifests is that kind of focus.”

So when the Pope says he thinks like a Jesuit, more than likely, it's this type of formation he's referring to. On the Feast Day of St. Ignatius, Jesuits will celebrate their founder's legacy, which gave way to the first Jesuit Pope.

Related Posts:

St. Ignatius of Loyola: Knight for Christ

The legacy and spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola

The legacy and spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola

July 31st marks the Feast Day of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits. As Pope, Benedict XVI talked about the strong spirituality of the saint, who he described as a man who always put God first.

April 22, 2006
"St. Ignatius of Loyola was first and foremost a man of God. In his life, God was first. His greatest glory and his greatest service came first. He was a profoundly prayerful man from whom the daily celebration of the Eucharist was the heart and crowning point of his day. Thus, he left his followers a precious spiritual legacy that must not be lost or forgotten. Precisely because he was a man of God, St. Ignatius was a faithful servant of the Church, in which he saw and venerated the Bride of the Lord and the Mother of Christians. And from his desire to serve the Church in the most beneficial way possible, was born the special vow of obedience to the Pope, which he himself describes as "our first and principal foundation.”

The Order was established in 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola, and it currently has over 17,000 members throughout the world.

Related Post:

Novena to St. Dominic starts today

Pray the following prayers once a day for 9 days.

O renowned champion of the faith of Christ, most holy Saint Dominic! / You renounced the honor and dignity of an earthly principality / to embrace a poor, laborious, and mortified life / that distinguishes a disciple of Him Who said: / "If any man will come after Me, / let him take up his cross and follow Me."

O burning torch, consumed by the fire of divine love, / you incessantly labored to enkindle that sacred flame in the hearts of others. / Look down upon me from that throne of glory where you enjoy the reward of all your labors. / Obtain for me some sparks of that blessed fire to animate my soul / and encourage me under my crosses and trials / to be pleasing to God so that He may visit me.

O great Saint, / you regarded as nothing all the afflictions you endured / and all the toils you underwent for the promotion of God's holy cause. / Obtain, I beseech you / that the same ardent love which strengthened you, / may make sweet to me labors, humiliations, disgraces, / or what-ever other mortifications I may have to suffer for the Name of Jesus. / May I ever bear in mind that nothing can happen to me / but by the particular dispensation of a God Who is infinitely wise. / He knows what is best for my welfare. / He is infinitely powerful and consequently able to effect it. / Above all He is infinitely merciful and loving, / Who laid down His life for my redemption, / and continues daily to give new proofs of His love and bounty.

O tender father of the poor / who offered yourself for their relief when all other resources were exhausted, / obtain for me that true spirit of compassion for the suffering members of Jesus Christ, / which shone forth so conspicuously in your holy life. / May I, by the charity for those whom Jesus so dearly loves, / lay up for myself treasures in heaven, / where you now enjoy that which the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard. / The heart of man has not conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, / and who prove themselves His Disciples by the observance of His Divine precept / "love one another."

I praise and thank God for the high degree of sanctity / to which you, O Dominic, were raised,/ and for the special privileges by which He has distinguished you. / I call upon you by that gratitude / with which you will be penetrated for all eternity by your Divine Benefactor, / implore for me the grace to root out of my heart whatever is not agreeable in His sight, / especially that evil habit by which I most frequently offend Him. / Obtain likewise the favors I request in this Novena through your powerful intercession.

(Mention your intentions here)

O glorious Mother of God, / Queen of the most sacred Rosary, / you who loved Dominic with the affection of a mother, / and were most tenderly loved and honored by him, / look upon me for his sake with an eye of pity, / deign to join with him in presenting these petitions to your most Blessed Jesus. / I sincerely desire from this moment / to love Him with all my heart, and serve Him with all my strength, / and now place myself under your powerful protection / as a sure means of obtaining / all the graces necessary to serve Him faithfully here, / that I may eternally rejoice with Him hereafter. / Amen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

St. Ignatius of Loyola: Knight for Christ

July 31 is the memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, priest, and founder of the Society of Jesus.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491 in the Basque Country of Northern Spain to parents of distinguished families in that area. He was the youngest of 13 children and was called was called Iñigo. At the age of 15, he served as a page in the court of a local nobleman and later embraced a military career and became a valiant soldier.

Wounded in battle by a cannonball, which broke one leg and injured the other, he was taken prisoner by the French, who set his leg and eventually allowed him to go home to Loyola. He spent his time recuperating at the home of his brother. Confined to his sick bed , he was given pious books to read, which he grudgingly accepted. To his surprise, he enjoyed them and began to dream of becoming a "knight for Christ", pursuing the ideals of St. Francis and St. Dominic. He eventually promised to devote his life to being a knight for St. Peter if he recovered, which he did after nine months of convalescence.

Ignatius noticed that after doing good deeds for the Lord, he felt peaceful -- which he termed as a "consolation," but when he thought of being a successful soldier or of impressing a beautiful woman where he had initially felt enthused, he later felt dry. He called this a "desolation." Through this process of discernment, Ignatius was able to recognize that God was leading him to follow a path of service. Out of this experience he wrote his famous "Spiritual Exercises".

After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Many initially hated St. Ignatius because of his humble and austere lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted many followers at the university, including St. Francis Xavier, and soon started his order, The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. He travelled to Europe and the Holy Land, then settled in Rome to direct the Jesuits. His health suffered in later years, and he was nearly blind at death. He died of liver cancer at the age of 65.

Favorite Quotes:

"If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity."

"Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly."

~ Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Learn more about Ignatian Spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises. 

Prayers of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Litany In Honor of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Pope's Prayer Intentions for August

The Apostleship of Prayer announced the intentions chosen by the Pope for August.

The Pope's general intention is "that refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.”

For his mission intention, the Holy Father prays “that Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

St. Peter Chrysologus

Today, July 30, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Chrysologus, Early Church Father, Bishop, and Doctor of the Church. He was born (380) and died (450) in Imola in northern Italy. Peter's life was full of accomplishments.

An adult convert, he became a deacon, then a priest, and finally the Bishop of Ravenna in 433. He fought paganism, enforced reforms, and built several churches in his see. He performed many corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and lovingly guided his flock.

As a preacher, he was recognized for his simple, plain, and humble oratorical style—delivering sermons that reached all who listened. His eloquence earned him the name “Chrysologus,” meaning “golden-worded” in Greek. Known as "The Doctor of Homilies," Peter was renowned for his short, but inspired speeches; he is said to have been afraid of boring his audience.  In his homilies, Peter urged frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist, saying, “the Body of the Lord should be the daily food of our souls.” 176 of his homilies have survived; it is the strength of these beautiful explanations of the Incarnation, the Creed, the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary and John the Baptist in the great plan of salvation that led to his being proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1729 by Pope Benedict XIII.

St. Peter Chrysologus Quotes:

"He is The Bread sown in the Virgin, leavened in the Flesh, molded in His Passion, baked in the furnace of the Sepulchre, placed in the Churches, and set upon the Altars, which daily supplies Heavenly Food to the faithful."

"Today Christ works the first of his signs from heaven by turning water into wine. But water [mixed with wine] has still to be changed into the sacrament of his blood, so that Christ may offer spiritual drink from the chalice of his body, to fulfill the psalmist's prophecy: How excellent is my chalice, warming my spirit."

"Anyone who wishes to frolic with the devil cannot rejoice with Christ."

“Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself.”

"Mildness overcomes anger,
meekness extinguishes fury...
patience is the scourge of impatience,
gentle words vanquish quarrelsomeness,
and humility prostrates pride."


You made Peter Chrysologus an outstanding preacher of your incarnate Word. May the prayers of St. Peter help us to cherish the mystery of our salvation and make its meaning clear in our love for others. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Quotes on Joy

"Joy, with peace, is the sister of charity. Serve the Lord with laughter." -- St. Pio of Pietrelcina

"We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us." -- St. Philip Neri

“Let anyone who comes to you go away feeling better and happier. Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile. Joy shows from the eyes. It appears when we speak and walk. It cannot be kept closed inside us. It reacts outside. Joy is very infectious.” -- Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

"Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls." -- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

"We are at Jesus’ disposal. If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that’s all right, everything is all right. We must say, 'I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.'  And this is our strength. This is the joy of the Lord." -- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

"A heart filled with joy is more easily made perfect than one that is sad."  -- St. Philip Neri

"For one pain endured with joy, we shall love the good God more forever." -- St. Therese of Lisieux

"Christian joy is a gift of God flowing from a good conscience."  -- St. Philip Neri

"Spiritual joy arises from purity of the heart and perseverance in prayer." -- St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, July 28, 2014

St. Martha

By Jean M. Heimann

July 29 is the feast of St. Martha, Virgin (who died in France around 80).

Mary and Martha lived with their brother Lazarus at Bethany, a village not far from Jerusalem. They are mentioned in several episodes in the Gospels.

On one occasion, when Jesus and His disciples were their guests (Luke 10:38-42), Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to Him while her sister Martha busied herself with preparing food and waiting on the guests, and when Martha complained, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part.

When Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, had died, Jesus came to Bethany. Martha, upon being told that He was approaching, went out to meet Him, while Mary sat still in the house until He sent for her. It was to Martha that Jesus said: "I am the Resurrection and the Life." (John 11:1-44)

Again, about a week before the crucifixion, as Jesus reclined at table, Mary poured a flask of expensive perfume over Jesus' feet. Mary was criticized for wasting what might have been sold to raise money for the poor, and again Jesus spoke on her behalf. (John 12:1-8)

On the basis of these incidents, many Christian writers have seen Mary as representing Contemplation (prayer and devotion), and Martha as representing Action (good works, helping others); or love of God and love of neighbor respectively.

Martha and Mary were sisters, related not only by blood, but also by religious aspirations. They stayed close to our Lord and both served him harmoniously when he was among them. Martha welcomed him as travelers are welcomed. But in her case, the maidservant received her Lord, the creature her Creator, to serve him bodily food while she was to be fed by the Spirit.

No one of you should say, "Blessed are they who have deserved to receive Christ into their homes!" Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh. He did not in fact take this privilege from you. As he says, "Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me."

~ from a sermon by Saint Augustine

Patronage: Butlers; cooks; dietitians; domestic servants; homemakers; hotel-keepers; housemaids; housewives; innkeepers; laundry workers; maids; manservants; servants; servers; single laywomen; travellers.

Today's Lesson

Christ’s correction of Martha teaches us that the active life can be good, but it always lies in the shadow of the contemplative. In other words, before we can be fruitful, we must first be prayerful. Both the active and contemplative lifestyles are important in our lives. Some vocations require more of one than the other, but we all need to make the time to pray, meditate, and contemplate. However, we must continue to give emphasis to both in our lives, as they are interdependent on one another.

As Pope Francis has stated, "Even in our Christian life dear brothers and sisters, prayer and action are always deeply united. A prayer that does not lead to concrete action towards the poor, sick, in need of help, is a sterile and incomplete prayer." But he added with equal emphasis "when we pay more attention to doing in the service of the Church, when we give more weight to objects, functions, structures, and forget the centrality of Christ, when we do not reserve time for dialogue with Him in prayer, we risk serving ourselves and not God present in the poor."

A Prayer to St. Martha

O blessed St. Martha, your faith led Jesus to proclaim, “I am the resurrection and the life”; and faith let you see beyond his humanity when you cried out, “Lord I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” With firm hope you said, “I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him”, and Jesus called your brother Lazarus back from the dead. With pure love for Jesus you welcomed him into your home.

Friend and servant of our Savior, I too am “troubled about many things”. (mention your intentions) Pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love, and that Jesus, who sat at your table, will hear me and grant me a place at the banquet of eternal life. Amen.

Pope: Stop the war, enough is enough!

As the conflict continues in Iraq, Ukraine and the Gaza strip, the Pope made an urgent appeal for peace during the Sunday Angelus, calling for leaders to stop the violence and work towards peace.

"Today, my thoughts turn to three areas in crisis: the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine. I ask you to join me in prayer, so that the Lord may grant these populations and their leaders, the wisdom and strength to move forward, with determination, towards a path of peace.”

With thousands of people out in the Square, the Pope also addressed the suffering children face in these bloody conflicts.

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Never resort to war! Never war! Above all, I think of all the children who are robbed of their hope for a better life and a decent future. Killed children, wounded children, mutilated children, orphans, children who play with remnants of war, instead of toys. Children who don't know how to smile. Please stop! I ask you with all my heart. It's time to stop. Stop it please!”

Since July 28th marks 100 years since the start of World War I, the Pope asked that people look back at history, so they don't repeat the same mistakes.

"As we remember this tragic chapter, let's not make the same mistakes, but rather, may we learn from history. May the lessons of peace and of  patient and courageous dialogue always prevail.”

Precisely to mark 100 years since World War I, Pope Francis also talked about Benedict XV, who at the time, was Pontiff. He wrote his first encyclical on peace, promoting the need for dialogue and cease fire among the countries in conflict.

St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception: First Woman Saint of India

Today, July 27th, the Church celebrates St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, the first woman saint of India.

Annakkutty (little Anna) was born on August 19, 1910, in Kudamaloor, a village in Kerala, India, to Joseph and Mary Muttathupadathu, the youngest of five children. She was baptized eight days later at Saint Mary's Church in Kudamaloor.  Her mother died while Annakutty was still an infant. She was raised by her maternal aunt, and educated by her great-uncle Father Joseph Muttathupadathu.
Annakutty made her first Communion on November 27, 1917. In a letter to her Spiritual Father in November, 1943, she wrote: "Already from the age of seven I was no longer mine. I was totally dedicated to my Divine Spouse.”

At the age of 13, Anna was badly burned on her feet when she fell into a pit of burning chaff. This accident left her permanently disabled.

At the age of 20, Anna joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation.  During this time, she worked as a temporary teacher at a primary school, where the children loved her for her gentleness and joyfulness. One year later, she received the postulant's veil and took the name Alphonsa in in honor of St. Alphonsus Liguori.  Sister Alphonsa made her permanent vows on the feast of St. Clare on August 12, 1936.

Sister Alphonsa suffered from typhoid fever and numerous health problems. In December 1936, she was reportedly cured from her ailments through the intervention of Saint Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, and enjoyed some improvement for a few years, but in 1939, she was struck by a severe attack of pneumonia, which left her weakened.  In 1940, a thief entered her room in the middle of the night. This traumatic event caused her to suffer amnesia and enfeebled her again. Her state of mental incapacity lasted for approximately one year, during which time, she was unable to read or write.  In 1945 she had a violent outbreak of illness. A tumor, which had spread throughout her organs, transformed her final year of life into a continuous agony. Gastroenteritis and liver problems caused violent convulsions and vomiting up to forty times a day. She stated: "I feel that the Lord has destined me to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering... I consider a day in which I have not suffered as a day lost to me".

Joyful until the last moment, Sister Alphonsa quietly brought her earthly journey to a close in the convent of the Franciscan Clarists at Bharananganam on July 28, 1946 at the age of 35. She was proclaimed Blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1986 and was elevated to sainthood on October 12, 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Incidents of her intervention began almost immediately upon her death, and often involved the children in the convent school.  Hundreds of miraculous cures have been reported through her intercession, many involving straightening of clubbed-feet, perhaps because of her having lived with deformed feet herself.

Patronage: against bodily ills, against illness, against sickness, against the death of parents, sick people

Saint Quote:  “Grains of wheat, when ground in the mill, turn in to flour. With this flour we make the wafer of the holy Eucharist. Grapes, when crushed in the wine press, yield their juice. This juice turns into wine. Similarly, suffering so crushes us that we turn into better human beings.”  -- St. Alphonsa

Pope Benedict XVI on St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception

In the homily for her canonization, Pope Benedict recalled Saint Alphonsa's life as one of "extreme physical and spiritual suffering."

"This exceptional woman ... was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father", the pope stated. "By accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, and by adorning herself with the garment of God's grace through prayer and penance, she conformed her life to Christ's and now delights in the 'rich fare and choice wines' of the heavenly kingdom."

"(Her) heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance in the midst of deep suffering remind us that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial", the pope stated before the ceremony ended.

Image Source

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Snippets: Catholic Carnival

Welcome to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival! We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. To join us, go to RAnn's blog, This That and The Other Thing.

Question of the week: Do you use Facebook?  Do you promote your blog on Facebook?  Why or why not?

My Answer: I have been on Facebook since 2008. When I first joined Facebook, I did so with the intention of connecting with family and friends, as well as promoting my blog. It was a very effective way of getting new followers! I continue to promote my blog there and am still getting new followers daily as a result. I plan on posting a fan page there soon to promote my writing and my new book, Seven Saints for Seven Virtues.

My posts this week include the following:

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor of the Church

Fr. Barron on Intentional Discipleship

St. Mary Magdalene: "Apostle to the Apostles"

Caryll Houselander: God's Giving Hands

St. Bridget of Sweden: Mystic and Visionary

Pope John Paul II and Gianna Beretta, patron saints of the World Meeting of Families

St. Sharbel (Charbel) Makhlouf, Miracle-Worker

St. James the Greater: A Son of Thunder

Humanae Vitae, the most debated encyclical in modern history

Saints Joachim and Anne

Have a blessed week!

Image via Pinterest.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Saints Joachim and Anne

June 26 is the memorial of St. Joachim (whose name means "Yahweh prepares") and St. Anne (whose name in Hebrew means "grace"), the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandparents of Jesus. Tradition has it they first lived in Galilee and later settled in Jerusalem where the Blessed Virgin Mary was born and raised.

Joachim and Anne were a rich and pious couple who had been married for a long time, but found themselves childless. The couple prayed fervently for a child and promised to dedicate their first born to the service of God. An angel appeared to Anne and told her, "The Lord has looked upon thy tears; thou shalt conceive and give birth and the fruit of thy womb shall be blessed by all the world". Joachim also received the same message from the angel. Anne gave birth to a daughter whom she called Miriam (Mary), who was conceived without sin. As a child, Mary was taken to the temple and her parents suffered great sorrow but at the same time joy for fulfilling the vows they had made to the Lord.

We know very little about the lives of Joachim and Anne, but we do know that they must have been outstanding people to have been entrusted with raising the Mother of God.

St. Anne is the patron saint of the province of Quebec, where the well-known shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, (the site of many miracles) is located. She is patroness of women in labor and those who have difficulty conceiving; she is represented holding the Blessed Virgin Mary in her lap, who again carries on her arm the Both Joachim and Anne are the patron saints of grandparents.

Devotion to St. Anne dates back to the sixth century in the Church of Constantinople and the eighth century in Rome. St. Joachim was honored very early by the Greeks, who celebrate his feast on the day following the Blessed Virgin's birthday.

My memories of celebrating today's feast as a child are very vivid. My home parish held a novena to St. Anne nine days prior to her feast day and I remember going to church every evening with mom to the devotions. I was always in awe of how my mom and the other women in our small French community were so devoted to St. Anne. When mom asked which of us kids wished to accompany her, I always volunteered -- it was a special treat and a privilege to participate in this summer evening novena praying the beautiful devotions in the quiet, candle lit church that smelled of incense and sweet perfume. It was so meditative and mystical --at times I could almost feel St. Anne's holy presence in the contemplative setting. I also remember feeling a sense of joy and accomplishment when it was over -- as if I had helped mom in achieving something special for our family and for the Lord.


Great and glorious patriarch, St Joachim, and good St Anne, what joy is mine when I consider that you were chosen among all God’s holy ones to assist in the fulfillment of the mysteries of God, and to enrich our earth with the great Mother of God, Mary most holy. By this singular privilege, you have become most powerful with both the Mother and her Son, so as to be able to obtain for us the graces that are needful to us.

With great confidence I have recourse to your mighty protection, and I commend to you all my needs, both spiritual and temporal, and those of my family. Especially do I entrust to your keeping the particular favor that I desire and look for from your intercession.

And since you were a perfect pattern of the interior life, obtain for me the grace to pray earnestly, and never to set m heart on the passing goods of this life. Give me a lively and enduring love for Jesus and Mary. Obtain for me also a sincere devotion and obedience to Holy church and the sovereign pontiff who rules over her, in order that I may live an die in faith and hope and perfect charity. Let me ever invoke the holy Names of Jesus and Mary. And may I thus be saved. Amen.

Humanae Vitae, the most debated encyclical in modern history

Paul VI published seven encyclicals in his 15-year pontificate.

The last one was Humanae Vitae, perhaps one of the most debated documents in the recent history of the Church.

Pontifical Gregorian University
"For him, the intense debate over this document was so shocking that from 1968 until his death, he never published another encyclical. He wrote other documents, apostolic exhortations, letters, constitutions, but never an encyclical.”

In 1968, the United States and much of the Western World were undergoing dramatic changes in their cultural and social landscape.

The newer generations of students from the late 1960's rebelled against their parents' values, especially in the areas of morality and sexuality.

Pontifical Gregorian University
"Paul VI had to implement the changes of the Second Vatican Council in the middle of a wider crisis. It went beyond the Church, it was a social, political and cultural crisis.”

Paul VI decided to write Humanae Vitae. The document sheds light on responsible parenthood and addressed moral issues such as the use of contraceptives among Catholics. In it, the Pope wrote that the "unitive significance and the procreative significance are both inherent to the marriage act.”

The Church expected opposition from non-Catholic sectors in society, but was astounded by the push back from many Catholics themselves.

Pontifical Gregorian University
"Something like this had never happened within the Church. There was criticism of many encyclicals from the 1800's from liberal sectors, but never a widespread response from within the  Church. Theologians, the people of God, even bishops rejected his Magisterium.”

Paul VI warned about the possible consequences this new life style could have on the family. Consequences such as infidelity, a loss of respect towards women, and the use contraceptive methods as a state policy.

In an interview published this past March, Pope Francis said that Humanae Vitae was prophetic and the Paul VI had the "courage to go against the majority,” and "defend moral discipline.”

The topic for the Pope's very first synod will precisely be the family. It's little surprise then that Paul VI will be beatified on October 19, the last day of the Synod.

Read Humanae Vitae

St. James the Greater: A Son of Thunder

Today, July 25, is the feast day of St. James the Greater. St. James, known as the Greater, in order to distinguish him from the other apostle James, our Lord's cousin. St. James the Greater was one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, the son of Zebedee and Salome, the brother of John the Evangelist, and, like him, a fisherman. James and John came to be called "Boanerges" ("Sons of Thunder") -- a name given to them by Jesus Himself -- due to their passionate preaching style and their evangelical zeal.

James the Greater and his brother John were mending the nets on their boats on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus called them to follow Him to become "fishers of men." With Peter and John, he witnesses the cure of Peter's mother-in-law, the raising of Jairus' daughter, Jesus' Transfiguration, and Christ's Agony in the garden of Gethsemani.

In his own ministry, James spread the gospel message to Samaria, Judea, and Spain. He returned to Jerusalem, where he was beheaded by the sword under King Herod Agrippa I in the year 44, becoming the first of the apostles to be martyred.

Tradition tells us the remains of St James were brought to Spain some time after his martyrdom and a chapel was built over it. Santiago de Compostela in Galicia grew in importance and has become the greatest pilgrimage site in western Europe.

Patron: Against arthritis; against rheumatism; Antigua, Guatemala; apothecaries; blacksmiths; Chile; Compostela, Spain; druggists; equestrians; furriers; Galicia, Spain; Guatemala; horsemen; knights; laborers; Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Nicaragua; pharmacists; pilgrims; Pistoia, Italy; rheumatoid sufferers; riders; soldiers; Spain; Spanish conquistadors; tanners; veterinarians.

Prayer to St. James the Greater

O Glorious St. James, because of your fervor and generosity Jesus chose you to witness his glory on the Mount and His agony in the Garden. Obtain for us strength and consolation in the unending struggles of this life. Help us to follow Christ constantly and generously, to be victors over all our difficulties, and to receive the crown of glory in heaven.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

St. Sharbel (Charbel) Makhlouf, Miracle-Worker

Today, July 24, is the feast day of Saint Sharbel (Charbel) Makhlouf, a Maronite Catholic monk from Lebanon. Sharbel is known for his great devotion to contemplative prayer and has been called "the hermit of Lebanon" and "the Wonder Worker of the East."

Saint Sharbel was born in 1828 in the small mountain village of Beqa-Kafra, Lebanon. His family was poor, but pious and had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. As a child, Sharbel tended the sheep in the fields, where he built an outdoor shrine to Our Lady, spending hours in prayer. As he matured, he also spent time reading Scriptures and  Thomas a Kempis's “The Imitation of Christ,”which was was his favorite book.

At the age of twenty-three, he left his family to enter the Lebanese-Maronite Monastery, Notre-Dame de Mayfouk, later transferring to the Monastery of St. Maron monastery in Annaya. He received his religious habit and  took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. Sharbel was ordained in 1859. The priest-monk lived and served in the monastery for 19 years, showing great devotion to the life of prayer, manual work, and contemplative silence.

He spent the last twenty-three years of his life in solitude at a hermitage near Annya. Saint Sharbel suffered a stroke on December 16th, 1898 while celebrating the Holy Liturgy. He was reciting the prayer, “Father of Truth, behold your Son, a sacrifice pleasing to you. Accept this offering of Him who died for me.” He fell to the floor holding the Holy Eucharist in his hands. He died on Christmas Eve, 1898.

Sharbel was known for his mortification, obedience, and chastity. He was gifted with  occasional levitations during prayer, and he had great devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament. He celebrated Mass close to noon so as to devote the morning to preparation, and the rest of the day to thanksgiving. In all things, Sharbel maintained perfect serenity. His charity and kindness endeared him to all, both Christians and Muslims.His tomb has been a site for pilgrimages since his death. Numerous healings of the body, heart and mind have been obtained through his intercession. Hence, he is known as the Miracle-Worker.

He was beatified in 1965 by Pope Paul VI and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1977.

When Sharbel was canonized, Bishop Francis Zayek, head of the U.S. Diocese of St. Maron, Bishop Zayek wrote: “St. Sharbel is called the second St. Anthony of the Desert, the Perfume of Lebanon, the first Confessor of the East to be raised to the Altars according to the actual procedure of the Catholic Church, the honor of our Aramaic Antiochian Church, and the model of spiritual values and renewal. Sharbel is like a Cedar of Lebanon standing in eternal prayer, on top of a mountain.”

A Prayer for the Intercession of St. Sharbel

O Merciful Father, through the Holy Spirit, you chose Saint Charbel as a voice crying in the wilderness. His monastic life is an example to Your Church. In the Scriptures he discovered Your Holiness as Word Made Flesh, and darkness gave way to light. In the Eucharist he encountered Your Divinity as Bread of Life, and the poverty of this world gave way to the treasures of Your Kingdom. In prayer he experienced Your Silence as Mystery Present, and loneliness gave way to communion. Through the Virgin Mother he embraced Your Son as Lover of Mankind, and hostility gave way to hospitality. We now beseech You, through his intercession, to change our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, and to grant our special request …. We give praise to You, Your Only Begotten Son, and to Your Holy Spirit. Amen.