Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blessed Junipero Serra, Priest and Missionary

On July 1, we honor Blessed Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest and missionary, who converted thousands of native Americans.

Miguel Jose Serra was born on the island of Majorca (Spain), on November 24, 1713, and took the name of Junipero in honor of Saint Juniper, who had also been a Franciscan and a companion of Saint Francis of Assisi. In 1730, he entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained seven years later. A brilliant man who had earned his doctorate in theology, he taught philosophy and theology at the University of Padua for two years.At the age of thirty-seven, he arrived in Mexico City on January 1, 1750, and spent the rest of his life converting the people of the New World.

When Father Junipero Serra founded California's first mission in 1769, he was 56 years old and asthmatic, with a chronic sore on his leg that troubled him for the rest of his life, and he suffered frequently from other illnesses, as well. He stood just 5 feet, 2 inches, and, as a journalist later wrote, "He certainly didn't look like the man who would one day be known as the Apostle of California." Yet he endured the hardships of the frontier and pressed forward with remarkable determination to fulfill his purpose: to convert the Native Americans of California to Christianity.

In pursuit of that goal, Father Serra walked thousands of miles between San Diego and Monterey and even Mexico City. He traveled the seas, also; and by the time he died August 28, 1784, in Carmel he had founded nine missions, introduced agriculture and irrigation techniques, and the Spanish language. He had battled governors, bureaucrats and military commanders to secure a system of laws to protect the California Indians from at least some of the injustices inflicted by the Spanish soldiers whose practices often were in conflict with Father Serra's.

Father Serra had been a philosophy professor and distinguished preacher at the Convent of San Francisco in Mallorca, the Spanish island where he was born in 1713. He was 36 years old when he reached the port of Vera Cruz, Mexico, on December 8, 1749, and walked to Mexico City. ( It was during that journey of 24 days that an insect bite caused the sore on his leg that sometimes became so painful he had difficulty walking. )

He spent 17 years in missionary work in the Sierra Gorda in the present area of North-Central Mexico. In 1767 he became president of the 14 missions in Baja California, originally founded by the Jesuits, then turned over to the Franciscans.

At that time, faced with the threat of Russian colonization from the north, Spain had committed itself to pushing northward into what is now the American state of California. Russian America (Alaska) was only 800 miles away. Spain feared that Russia would push south and gain a firm foothold in Alta California. The Spanish military launched an expedition into California in 1769 under the leadership of Gaspar de Portola. Father Serra set out with them to establish missions.

Serra's blessing of the site of Mission San Diego de Alcala on July 16, 1769, marked the beginning of the European settlement of California.

Between the years of 1796 and 1784, Father Serra made six voyages by sea totaling 5,400 miles. He traveled by land the distance between Monterey and San Francisco eight times, Monterey and San Antonio 11 times, His longest journey by land was from Monterey to Mexico City. In total, he traveled well over 5,500 miles by land.

Father Serra arrived at Monterey aboard the sailing ship San Antonio on June 1, 1770. He celebrated the first Mass on June 3, 1770, on the shore of Monterey Bay, where we now find the city of Monterey.

He returned to San Diego to work on the mission there, then founded Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1776, the year of the American Declaration of Independence.

When Father Serra died in 1784, he had established nine California missions and baptized 6,000 Indians, about 10 percent of the California Native American population. Those nine missions grew to 21. Today, more than 60 percent of the state's nearly 26 million people live in areas surrounding the missions, and El Camino Real, the road that Father Serra traveled on a tour of the missions shortly before this death, established a major artery running much of the length of the state.

He was beatified September 25, 1988 by Pope John Paul II.


"All my life I have wanted to be a missionary. I have wanted to carry the gospel message to those who have never heard of God and the kingdom he has prepared for them."

~Bl. Junipero

Serran Prayer For Vocations

O God, Who wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he be converted and live, grant we beseech You, through the intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, Saint Joseph, her spouse, Blessed Junipero Sera and all the saints, an increase of laborers for your Church, fellow laborers with Christ to spend and consume themselves for souls, through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Catholics React to the Supreme Court's Decision on Gay Marriage; What We Do Now?

By Jean M. Heimann

"Harsh rhetoric (of those who oppose gay marriage) will continue because gay activists know the war on America is not over. Only this phase of the battle has been won. They are pushing on to create a new America. Bathing the White House in rainbow colors was just the initial re-branding of the nation. The next step will be changing the understanding of religious liberty. "
-- Al Kresta from his YouTube video (See bottom of the page.)

"Since same-sex marriage is now recognized as a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Constitution, those who oppose it can only be characterized as bigots animated by an irrational prejudice. To be sure, Justice Kennedy and his colleagues assure us that those who have religious objections to same-sex marriage will be respected, but one wonders how such respect is congruent with the logic of the decision. Would one respect the owners of a business who refuse to hire black people as a matter of principle? Would not the government, in point of fact, be compelled to act against those owners? The proponents of gay marriage have rather brilliantly adopted the rhetoric of the civil rights movement, precisely so as to force this conclusion. And this is why my mentor, the late Francis Cardinal George, so often warned against the incursions of an increasingly aggressive secular state, which, he argued, will first force us off the public stage into privacy and then seek to criminalize those practices of ours that it deems." -- Father Robert Barron 

The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision on marriage is not a surprise. The surprise will come as ordinary people begin to experience, firsthand and painfully, the impact of today's action on everything they thought they knew about marriage, family life, our laws and our social institutions. The mistakes of the court change nothing about the nature of men and women, and the truth of God's Word. The task now for believers is to form our own families even more deeply in the love of God, and to rebuild a healthy marriage culture, one marriage at a time, from the debris of today's decision.
+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia

 "Today, five unelected judges decided to redefine the foundational unit that binds together our society without public debate or input." --Rick Santorum, Former Senator

Official Statement from Courage:

For nearly 35 years, Courage International has provided authentic pastoral care to men and women who experience same-sex attraction and who have made a free choice to embrace the call of Jesus Christ to live chastely in harmony with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Some of our members follow this call in loving marriages to a person of the opposite sex, while many others live chaste celibate lives, accepting the many heroic sacrifices that this requires in a spirit of cheerful, generous self-giving. Our members are a daily inspiration to the chaplains who serve them, and to the whole Church.

Mindful of the guidance of Pope Francis, and the priorities set for the Church by the Synod on the Family, Courage remains committed to ministering to this underserved community and, through the EnCourage apostolate, to those who love them. We are daily inspired by their joyful embrace of chastity and of the freedom that it gives them to love authentically, and believe that their compelling stories are a powerful witness to others.

Here is the official response from the USCCB:

Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.

What do we do now?

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.

I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions. 

Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.

-- Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). 

"So what do we do? We continue to put forth our point of view winsomely, invitingly, and non-violently, loving our opponents and reaching out to those with whom we disagree. As St. John Paul II said, the Church always proposes, never imposes. And we take a deep breath, preparing for what could be some aggression from the secular society, but we take courage from a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. The Church has faced this sort of thing before—and we’re still standing." -- Father Robert Barron

My response: Pray for the conversion of our country! Continue to place our country in the hands of Mother Mary to be presented with our small sacrifices to Jesus. Love others and pray for them. Live lives of holiness that bear witness to the truth. Pray the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as often as possible. Christ's Church has survived 2000 years and will prevail over evil. We have the victory through Him!

Image Source

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sts. Peter and Paul, Co-founders of the Church

June 29 is the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, who are the co-founders of the Church - the solid rock on which it was founded. Both were martyrs for the faith.

Saint Peter by Paolo Emilio Besenzi 

St. Peter

Peter's original name was Simon. He was a fisherman and the brother of Saint Andrew, the apostle who led him to Christ. As an apostle of Christ, Simon was renamed "Peter" (in Hebrew Kephas) or "rock" by Jesus to indicate that Peter would be the rock-like foundation on which the Church would be built.

Peter's house often became the scene of miracles, since Jesus would stay there whenever He was teaching in that locality. Together with his brothers John and Andrew, Peter belonged to the first of Jesus' disciples.

After the Ascension, Peter took the leading role that Christ had assigned to him and became the first Pope. He served as the first Bishop of Rome and died there as a martyr in 64 a.d. crucified with his head downward, as he was not worthy to die in the same manner as Christ.

Peter is the author of two letters, the first encyclicals. St. Peter is buried beneath the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica on the Vatican Hill in Rome. A visitor to the Vatican Basilica can go into the crypt, which is the floor of the original church built by the Emperor Constantine.

Prayer to St. Peter

O Glorious St. Peter, because of your vibrant and generous faith, sincere humility and flaming love our Lord honored you with singular privileges and especially leadership of the whole Church. Obtain for us the grace of a living faith, a sincere loyalty to the Church, acceptance of all her teachings, and obedience to all her precepts. Let us thus enjoy an undisturbed peace on earth and everlasting happiness in heaven.

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles" by Valentin de Boulogne

 St. Paul 

 Paul, known as Saul (his Roman name) before his conversion, was the son of Jewish parents who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, was raised as a Pharisee. A tent-maker by trade, Saul hated and persecuted Christians as heretics and even participated in the stoning of Stephen the martyr.

On his way to Damascus to persecute another group of Christians, Saul was knocked to the ground and struck by a heavenly light, when God gave him the message that in persecuting Christians, he was also persecuting Christ Himself. This profound experience led to his conversion to Christianity. He was baptized, changed his name to Paul, and became traveling and preaching. He met Peter in Jerusalem and was introduced to the Christian Community by Barnabas.

Paul was eventually seized by the Jews and accused of condemning the Law. After being held as a prisoner for two years at Caesarea, he appealed to Caesar and was sent by sea to Rome (60 A.D.). Shipwrecked and delayed on the island of Malta, he arrived at Rome in the spring of 61 and passed the next two years in confinement before being released.The last years of the saint's life were devoted to missionary work. In 66 he returned to Rome, was taken prisoner, and beheaded a year later. His fourteen letters are a precious legacy.

We learn through the selection of these men to lead the Church, Christ teaches us that he chooses ordinary men and women to do his work and to be His leaders. Peter was a simple fisherman whom he chose in an official way, while Paul was a tent maker chosen in a very unconventional manner. Both men were imperfect - Peter denied Jesus three times; Saul persecuted Christians before his conversion. Neither of the men were trained in their work for the Lord, but God provided them with all the graces necessary to spread the Good News. Christ works in a powerful way through weak, imperfect people, if we come to him with humble hearts and surrender to His will. "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12, 10)

Prayer to the Apostle Paul

Glorious St Paul,
Most Zealous Apostle,
Martyr for the Love of Christ,
give us a deep faith,
a steadfast hope,
a burning love for our Lord
so that we can proclaim with you
‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’

Help us to become apostles
serving the Church with a pure heart
witnesses to her truth and beauty
amidst the darkness of our days.

With you we praise God our Father
‘To Him be the glory, in the Church and in Christ
Now and for ever’.

Related:  Lessons from Peter and Paul

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

On June 27 we commemorate Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I have had a long-time devotion to Our Blessed Mother under many titles, but began praying to Our Lady of Perpetual Help early in my childhood and continue to pray for her intercession today. She is such a sweet mother who always asks Jesus to grant me that which will draw me closest to Him.

The Icon

The icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is perhaps the oldest actual icon of the Blessed Virgin. According to tradition, St. Luke wrote an icon of Our Lady while she was still living in Jerusalem. When she saw the beautiful icon of herself holding the Child Jesus in her arms, she blessed both the artist and his work proclaiming, "My grace will accompany this icon."

The passage of centuries has proven that Mary did not forget this promise. So numerous were the miracles and favors granted by means of this Holy Icon, Pope Innocent III in 1207 stated that Mary's soul seemed to have entered into this icon since it was so beautiful and so miraculous.

When St. Luke completed the icon, tradition tells us he gave it to his personal friend and patron, Theophilus. In the middle of the Fifth Century, St. Pulcheria erected a shrine in its honor in Constantinople. The icon remained there for a thousand years where it was venerated by countless Christians - kings and emperors, saints and sinners, rich and poor; and where it was the source of many graces.

The original icon disappeared from human history during the siege of Constantinople in 1453. Tradition tells us that, on the night before the fall of the Holy City, the Holy Mother of God, took both the icon and the Imperial Crown to Heaven! Many copies that existed at that time have been preserved to this day. The spirit and miraculous power of the icon still live in the present day icon. The Holy Mother of God still lives among us, anticipating needs, saving, ministering, mothering - leading us to the Throne of Her Son in the Heavenly Kingdom.

The Message of the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The child Jesus has just seen the angels who have shown him the instruments of his Passion. St. Michael the Archangel holds the lance and gall-sop. St. Gabriel the Archangel holds the Cross and the nails. Frightened by the sight, Jesus has run to his mother’s arms so quickly that he almost lost one of His tiny sandals. It dangles from his foot. Mary holds Him lovingly but her eyes look at us - pleading with us to avoid sin and love Her Son.

His hands are in hers to show that, as a child, Jesus placed Himself in Mary’s hands for protection and to remind us that He now has placed into Her hands all graces, to be given to those who turn to His mother and ask.

The star on Mary’s veil shows her to be the one who brought the light of Christ to the darkened world - the beacon that leads the way to Heaven.

The falling sandal symbolizes a soul clinging to Christ by one last thread--devotion to Mary.

The golden background is symbolic of Heaven and shines to show the heavenly joy Jesus and His mother can bring to tired human hearts.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help is patron of the sick, police, paratroopers, and grocers. Pope Pius XII designated Our Lady of Perpetual Help as the national Patroness of the Republic of Haiti and Almoradi, Spain.

Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. You became not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but the Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as you loving children. Watch over us and take care of us. As you held the child Jesus in your loving arms, so take us in your arms. Be a mother ready at every moment to help us. For God who is mighty has done great things for you, and his mercy is from age to age on those who love him. Our greatest fear is that in time of temptation, we may fail to call out to you, and become lost children. Intercede for us, dear Mother, in obtaining pardon for our sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to call upon you, Mother of Perpetual Help. Amen.


Friday, June 26, 2015

7QT: Goodbyes, Blogs, Bonfires, and Books

1.  Our pastor, Father Daryl (right), and our associate pastor, Father Max (left), have both been re-assigned to other parishes and this past Sunday, June 21, Father's Day. our parish held a going away reception for both. They are very gifted and dedicated servants of the Lord and I will miss them both -- especially our pastor who has been with us for 16 years.

 Here I am with Fr. Daryl, our pastor.

Here I am with Fr. Max. We look a bit ethereal in this photo, don't we?

2. I love bonfires! Read about the connection between bonfires and the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist HERE.

3. This past week, we celebrated the feasts of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher.  Both men gave up their lives in testimony to defend Church unity and the indissolubility of the sacrament of Matrimony. Both men had well-formed consciences and were willing to die for the Truth.

4. How did you spend your Father's Day? Read these inspiring quotes to bring a little joy to your day.

5.  We are gearing up for Independence Day here and celebrating our freedoms, especially our religious freedom, while we still have it. Here is how our diocese is celebrating the Fortnight for Freedom this year.

6. If you are not already familiar with the Indie Catholic authors, here is a great chance to get to know them better. They have a summer sale event going on now and are sponsoring a book giveaway until 12 A.M. Saturday, June 27.

7.  Just for fun, check out these photos of my cantankerous 12-year-old calico cat: 

"Does this make me look fat?"

"Am I still being photographed? How would you like me to pose now?"

Have a wonderful weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

St. William of Vercelli, Hermit, Abbot, and Founder

The saint of the day for June 24th is St. William of Vercelli, hermit, abbot, and founder of a religious congregation known as the Hermits of Monte-Vergine.

William was born to noble and wealthy parents in Vercelli, Italy in 1085. He lost his father and mother in his infancy and was raised by a relative. At age fifteen, he made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. When he returned, he became a hermit in Naples and lived there on an uninhabited mountain in solitude. However, he became famous after he worked a miracle, curing a blind man. His desire to live a contemplative life and to focus on God was interrupted; consequently, he moved to another mountain.

On this mountain, he built a beautiful church in honor of Our Lady. His holiness attracted  many followers and, in 1119, he established the Congregation of Monte Vergine, or Mount of the Virgin. These sons of Our Lady lived in great poverty. Some of the monks began to complain that the rule was too strict and the lifestyle was too austere. They desired better food and a less strenuous schedule. To resolve the problem, William  assigned a new prior to the monks. Then he and five faithful followers set out for southern Italy, where they founded another monastery, with the same strict lifestyle. Saint William founded several more monasteries, both for men and women, in various places in the kingdom of Naples. He assisted King Roger I of Naples in practicing all the Christian virtues of a worthy sovereign, and in gratitude, the king had a house of the Order built at Salerno directly across from his palace, to have him near for spiritual advice. William retired to his monastery of Gugieto, where he died, and was buried in the church.

When Saint William died, he had not yet written a Rule for his religious; his second successor, Robert, fearing the dissolution of a community without constitutions, placed them under that of Saint Benedict, and is regarded as the first abbot of the Benedictine Congregation of Monte-Vergine. William is the patron saint of Irpinia.


St. William,
You were a father to your monks
and a shepherd to your people.
Pray for us that we might have our sight restored --
that we might see
with the eyes of
our hearts and souls,
God's presence in and around us.
Teach us to nourish our spiritual
journeys with prayer
so that we too might be instruments
of God's light and love to others.
In the spirit of St. Benedict help us
to be people of hospitality who let
our work become prayer.
Let us find God in each other.

St. John the Baptist, Bonfires, and “Summer Christmas”

Today is the solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. How will you celebrate this great saint's birthday?

St. John the Baptist was a prophet filled with a fiery zeal for declaring Christ’s coming and the need for repentance. We know that he was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1, 15).  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he leapt with joy in his mother’s womb when he met Jesus for the first time, proclaiming the Gospel message in utero. When he was thirty, he preached on the banks of the River Jordan against sin and urged men to repent and be baptized "for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand."  He attracted large crowds (“people of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem”) and led them to conversion. Like a lantern, he lit the way for many who were lost in the darkness. He led them to the Light (Christ) and out of the darkness of sin. We also know that the birth of St. John the Baptist occurs close to the summer solstice, and is known as the "summer Christmas."  Thus, it is fitting that the day of his birth be celebrated by the lighting of fires.

On this solemnity, people light small fires, gather around them, jump through the flames, and sing traditional songs in praise of St. John the Baptist. This custom is based on the pre-Christian belief that people needed fires to clean purify, cure, and protect them from plagues, curses, and other dangers. In Spain, smaller fires are ignited in the streets of cities, with everyone donating an old piece of furniture or wood, while children jump over the flames. The Spanish people also light bonfires and set off fireworks.  In Brest, France, the people throw lighted torches in the air. In other areas of France, they cover wagon wheels with straw, then set them on fire with a blessed candle and roll them down the hill slopes.

While all these traditions sound like fun, I think that I will forgo the fire festivities and settle on consuming some spicy Mexican food to celebrate this solemnity.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

St. Joseph Cafasso, Apostle of Hope

Today, June 23, we honor St. Joseph Cafasso, an Italian priest who was a social reformer in Turin during the 19th century. He is the patron of prison chaplains, captives, and prisoners.

He was born on January 15, 1811 in northern Italy, about twenty miles from Turin. Joseph Cafasso was the third child of a family of four. His parents, who were known for their charity to the poor, were small farmers who had to supplement their scanty income by working on neighboring farms.

Although he was born with a deformed spine, Joseph did not allow this defect to influence his need to do penance. Even in his childhood he had certain days set apart for penance, and he fasted every Saturday in honor of Our Blessed Lady. He also attended daily Mass, at which he often served. He was gifted with a keen intellect and a good memory, and was first in his class at school.

He was ordained a priest in 1833 at the age of twenty-two. After Ordination, he was selected to be an assistant professor of moral theology at ecclesiastical college in Turin. He was a brilliant lecturer. His fame soon spread and attracted students not only from Turin but from the surrounding dioceses.

Jansenism was rampant at the time. A large number of the clergy were tainted with it; they held rigorous views and deterred people from approaching the sacraments, but their lives were far from virtuous. Father Cafasso was the apostle of hope and confidence and advocated frequent and even daily Communion. By correct explanation of the principles of moral theology, by preaching the mercy of God, and by training the young priests to work with him in the prisons among men considered by the Jansenists as unworthy of the Sacraments, he fortified them against the errors of that heresy.

When the College Rector became old and infirm, Father Cafasso took charge and was appointed as his successor when he died. There was a church dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi attached to the college, of which the Rector was Pastor. Father Cafasso had charge of the Church and spent long hours each day hearing Confessions in it.

Besides performing all his duties as Professor and Pastor, he found time for other forms of apostolate in Turin, including: teaching catechism to poor children, visiting the sick and the various prisons of the city, and giving missions and retreats.

The prisons in Father Cafasso's time were gloomy places infested with vermin. He visited each prison at least once a week, and some of them once a day, and spent long hours there, usually four or five hours at a time. He returned home each night bringing with him on his person, the vermin of the prison, which he jokingly called "living silver and moving riches."

He instructed the prisoners in the truths of religion, and not being in any hurry to leave, he did that work thoroughly. He prepared them for the Sacraments and heard their Confessions. There is no case on record in which he failed to convert even the most hardened sinners among them.

Father Cafasso, who was John Bosco's spiritual director, encouraged him to found the Salesians, to work with the youth in Turin. Joseph Cafasso died on June 23, 1860 at Turin, Italy and was canonized in 1947 by Pope Pius XII.


"We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more."

~Saint Joseph Cafasso