Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Striving Toward Mysticism

"It is normal for all Christians to strive to become mystics." This is what I heard in a talk on prayer this evening that nearly knocked me off my chair. When we think of a mystic, we assume the saint has extraordinary gifts, such as the stigmata. The speaker was actually referring to the mystic's unique prayer life of contemplation that all Christians should strive to emulate.

He presented the example of Eizabeth of the Holy Trinity (Elizabeth Catez). Elizabeth was born on July 18, 1880 in a military camp in the diocese of Bourges, France to Captain Joseph Catez and Marie Catez. Her father died when she was seven, leaving her mother to raise Elizabeth and her sister. Elizabeth was a strong-willed, exuberant, and popular young lady. She had a great reverence to God, and practiced a beautiful, but simple prayer life. She was a gifted pianist and had a talent for making friends, participating in a very active social life. At the same time, she never neglected those who were in most need of her gifts. She frequently visited the sick and taught catechism to children.

On August 2, 1901, she entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Dijon, France at the age of 21. She experienced great periods of spiritual growth, but also periods of darkness. She took her final vows two years later and became a spiritual director for many, leaving behind a legacy of letters and retreat guides.

She died on November 9, 1906, at the age of 26 from Addison's disease, a hormone disorder that causes painful and exhausting symptoms.

Her writings consist primarily of notes and summaries on her private retreats, prayers, and letters to her family and friends. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every Christian was the central focus which inspired her life and spirituality.

Favorite Quotes from Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

"It seems to me that I have found my Heaven on earth, since Heaven is God and God is my soul. The day I understood that, everything became clear to me. I wish to tell this secret to those whom I love so that they also, through everything, may also cling to God..."(Letter 122)


"I can't find words to express my happiness. Here there is no longer anything but God. He is All; He suffices and we live by Him alone." (Letter 91)


" I am going to Light, to Love, to Life!"

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Pro-Life News

Take Action on Plan B

The week before Christmas, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee recommended that the FDA approve the "morning-after pill" for over-the-counter sale. The pill prevents or terminates pregnancy after unprotected sex, which means it sometimes causes abortion. It also facilitates the cover-up of sex crimes and has unknown health effects on women and girls. Foolishly, this committee wants the FDA to allow stores to sell the pill right off the shelf like aspirin and candy bars.

Let's make our voices heard at FDA. E-mail or write a letter to FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan and give him the following reasons to oppose the over-the-counter sale of "Plan B," the morning-after pill:


1.. The FDA does not know if Plan B is safe for long-term or repeat use. The committee could produce no studies showing that the pill is safe for women.
2.. The FDA does not know if Plan B is safe for young girls. When asked if they could cite studies where the pill had been tested on adolescents, the committee had to answer "No."
3.. Birth control pills must be prescribed by doctors or other health care professionals because women sometimes have health abnormalities that could cause an adverse reaction to the pill. Plan B is a strong dose of birth control pill. It doesn't make sense to sell a higher dose of a potentially harmful drug without the oversight of a doctor.
4.. Making Plan B available at convenience and grocery stores would be a welcome tool for sexual predators who molest family members, students, or children of friends, as well as for adult "boyfriends" who commit statutory rape. Without the oversight of a medical professional, sexual predators will keep their crimes under the radar and continue victimizing girls.
5.. Tell Commissioner McClellan that you are outraged that FDA would even consider stocking this drug on shelves after their own advisory committee gave such a shabby report. The FDA is THE governing body for keeping Americans safe from dangerous substances and foods. We deserve better than a group of doctors who show no concern for women's health.
Address Your Letter To:

Commissioner Mark McClellan
U. S. Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville MD 20857-0001
1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332)

FDA Website http://www.fda.gov/



Sample Letter:


Please do not permit over the counter sale of Plan B!

Dear Commissioner McClellan,

I am writing to express my grave concern over the FDA's consideration of "Plan B" for over-the-counter sale.

The FDA advisory committee does not know if Plan B is safe for women or young girls. When asked if they could cite studies where the pill had been tested on adolescents, the committee had to answer "No." Neither could they produce studies showing that the pill is safe for women over the long-term or with repeat use.

The pill also facilitates the cover-up of sex crimes. Making Plan B available at convenience and grocery stores would be a welcome tool for sexual predators who molest family members, students, or children of friends, as well as for adult "boyfriends" who commit statutory rape. Without the oversight of a medical professional, sexual predators will keep their crimes under the radar and continue victimizing girls.

In addition, Plan B is a strong dose of birth control pill, and those must be prescribed by doctors or other health professionals in order to protect women from potentially adverse effects. It doesn't make sense to sell a higher dose of a potentially harmful drug without the oversight of a doctor.

Finally, the pill sometimes terminates pregnancy, therefore can be considered an abortifacient in some cases. The FDA would be overriding parental consent laws in some states by facilitating the purchase of the pill unbeknownst to parents.

I am distressed that the FDA would even consider stocking this drug on shelves after their own advisory committee gave such a shabby report. The FDA's purpose is to keep Americans safe from dangerous substances and foods. We deserve better than a group of doctors who show no concern for women's health.

Please do not permit the over-the-counter sale of Plan B.

Respectfully,

Monday, December 29, 2003

The Feast of St. Thomas Becket

St. Thomas Becket was born in London, England in 1118. His father was a Norman knight, Gilbert, who had become a prosperous merchant in London; his mother was also Norman, and he had at least two sisters.

Thomas was noted for his piety, his strong devotion to Our Lady, and his generosity to the poor. Richly endowed by nature, he was tall, handsome, strong, and athletic, with dark hair, pale complexion and a prominent nose. His sight and hearing were unusually keen, he had an excellent memory, and he was a gifted speaker and debater.

He enjoyed playing field sports as a boy, and as a young man, his energy, his practical ability, and his initiative exceeded his wisdom and his judgment. He was educated at the Merton Priory in Sussex and at the University of Paris.

When he returned to England at twenty-one, he obtained an appointment as a clerk to the sheriff’s court, where he showed great ability. He was determined to make it on his own in the world now that his parents were both deceased.

After three years, he was taken into the household of Theobald, the Norman monk-archbishop of Canterbury. The young Thomas gradually climbed up the ladder of success via his charm, his generosity and his adaptability. He was ambitious, and refused no opportunity for advancement. He enjoyed having a "good time", but all agreed that his life both then and at all times was marked by purity and holiness. The archbishop assigned him the post of archdeacon, and, at the age of thirty-six, he was recommended by Theobald to the young King Henry as chancellor.

Henry II was a man of great ability and vigor with a genius for both leadership and organization, however, at the same time, he was self-willed, arrogant, demanding, and passionate. He was power-driven and was obsessed with obtaining complete control over every power in his kingdom. As his chancellor, Thomas had a personal fondness for Henry and devoted all his efforts to serve and please the young king. Thomas earned a great deal of money for his work and spent it lavishly on entertainment, on luxurious clothing, extravagant meals, and on hunting, and hawking. He never failed to work hard and act prudently on behalf of the king's interests. There is evidence that during this time he felt a deep inner dissatisfaction with himself and his worldly life.

In 1163 Theobald died, and the king secured the election of his friend, Thomas, as archbishop, confident that he would serve all his interests and meet all his demands. Thomas was reluctant to accept the office, and warned Henry that he might regret his decision. Eventually, he did agree to accept the office and when he did, something unusual happened. Thomas suddenly became an austere and very spiritual man, devoting himself wholly to the interests of the Church. He made it clear that he was now the faithful servant of the Holy Father.

A short time later, the inevitable clash with the king occurred. Henry reasserted all the rights of the monarchy, which had been claimed and exercised fifty years earlier. Since that time, however, the papacy had established the claim of the church to control matters such as the trial of clerics and the excommunication of offenders, and had asserted its right to hear appeals and decide all cases.

The archbishop and his king were in constant conflict, and affairs reached a crisis when the king demanded that Thomas agree to the Constitutions of Clarendon (1164). This document stated that all the customs of the past were now contrary to the law of the Church and the practice of the papacy. Thomas hesitated, and for a moment gave way, thus breaking the solidarity of the bishops in their resistance. Then, at a council at Northampton in 1164 he reasserted his opposition and in face of threats of death or imprisonment, he escaped at night and crossed to France to seek the pope.

The archbishop was in exile in France for the next six years, while he and the king and Pope Alexander III attempted to settle the controversy and restore peace to the church in England. Meanwhile Thomas, at the abbey of Pontigny and elsewhere, devoted himself to prayer and penance in what may be called a 'second conversion' from piety to sanctity.

When an uneasy peace was established in 1169, Thomas returned in triumph to Canterbury. Almost immediately, the French king enraged by the archbishop's refusal to withdraw some censures, let words slip out that were taken to be a command to kill the archbishop as a traitor. Four knights crossed the Channel, and on the afternoon of December 29th appeared in the archbishop's hall intent on picking a quarrel. Thomas met them with respectful argument, but refused to budge from what he declared was justice and obedience to the pope. The knights became enraged and donned their armor, while the archbishop entered the cathedral, refusing to allow the doors to be locked. The four knights rushed upon him and tried to drag him from the church. He resisted, and they cut him down with their swords. His last words were: 'I accept death for the name of Jesus and for the Church.'

The murder shocked the conscience of all Europe; miracles were announced immediately; the archbishop was canonized as a martyr by Alexander III in 1173; the king did public penance at his tomb, and much of what St Thomas had worked for all his life was accomplished by his death.


My Favorite Quotes from St. Thomas Becket:

"Many are needed to plant and water what has been planted now that the faith has spread so far and there are so many people...No matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what is planted is the faith of Peter and unless he agrees to his teachings."

"Remember the sufferings of Christ, the storms that were weathered...the crown that came from those sufferings which gave new radiance to the faith...All saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown."

"Hereafter, I want you to tell me, candidly and in secret, what people are saying about me. And if you see anything in me that you regard as a fault, feel free to tell me in private. For from now on, people will talk about me, but not to me. It is dangerous for men in power if no one dares to tell them when they go wrong."
(Thomas was talking to a friend on his way to his ordination.)








Sunday, December 28, 2003

Feast of the Holy Family

I keep hearing the lyrics of a Carole King song in my head. "It's too late, now. It's too late, though we really did try to make it." I suppose that song dates me, although it wasn't until the late 70's that I actually did get to see her perform on stage at my alma mater. What does this have to do with the Feast of the Holy Family?

Forgiveness and healing of families has been on my mind for the past few days. Holiness is a real possibility and needs to be a goal that we strive for in our families. Unlike the secular families today, who focus on the importance of altruism for the sake of maintaining one's social status in the community or helping others because it makes us feel good inside, the Catholic family loves one another because it is what God has commanded us to do, and the fruit of that love is so bountiful that it cannot be contained within the family unit, but overflows into the community of both believers and non-believers.

This sounds great idealistically, but with the craziness of life nowadays, with the hectic life styles families lead, each one on their own individual schedule, when is there even time to talk with one another? Then when there is a little time available, what do we end up doing but sitting down in front of the TV watching some mindless movie or sitcom or each playing with our own new tech toy. I am certainly not knocking technology, but there are times when we need to work together, share meals together, play together, and, most importantly, pray together. Mother Teresa tells us: "Love begins at home. That's why it is important for the family to pray together, and they will stay together and love one another. Then it will be easier to be a fountain of love for one another."

I also believe that the father and mother in a family need to demonstrate that love to their children by their surrender to one another, their respect for one another, and by the forgiveness they show toward one another. When forgiveness is needed, it needs to be done expediently, in a kind, gentle, and loving manner, which is certainly an exercise in humility. Frequent prayer and family participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation can go a long way.

If there is a long-standing hurt within a family, and one person is unwilling to forgive or to communicate with the other, I recommend daily prayer for that individual. The best time for me to do that kind of intercessory prayer seems to be right after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, when his flesh and his blood become part of me and we are united as one. I feel closest to Him then. It is during this time that My Love cannot refuse me, if what I ask is in accordance with His holy will.

It's really never too late. I have witnessed family relationships that were torn apart become healed after fifty years. I have seen miraculous healing where family members have returned to the faith after long periods of absence. The power of prayer is awesome! All it takes is a little humility, faith the size of a mustard seed, perseverance, and a heart full of love -- love for God and for one another.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Happy Feast Day of St. John!

What a beautiful day to celebrate! Simply because I was blessed to be named after this dear saint, whose name means "God is gracious", and belong to the Community of St. John, is no reason for me to show the least bit of favoritism toward him. I would have loved him anyway (I hear a song somewhere in the back of my head with those lyrics), because he was the "beloved" disciple. He alone reclined upon the chest of Jesus at the Last Supper. He was the only apostle to remain with Jesus at the Foot of the Cross at Calvary along with the Blessed Virgin Mary and other holy women. While standing there, beside Mary, St. John was personally assigned by His Master to be the "son" of Mary-- to care for her, to love her, and to comfort her in her grief-- and Mary to be John's Mother. [ "Woman, behold your son." Behold, your mother." --John 19:26,27] Obediently, John took her into his home and lovingly cared for her.


Represented by an eagle who soared high in his elevated stages of contemplation, St. John was the supreme Doctor of Divinity in Nazareth. His spiritual life never remained at the horizontal level (He wasn't one to lie around the beach and soak in the rays.), but he was definitely a spiritual mountain climber and was forever reaching even more elevated peaks at the vertical level.

Also, St. John was not one to just sit around basking in the limelight of Jesus' love, priding himself on being the "beloved" one -- the "special son"-- but really acted on the love and the special graces God had bestowed on him. He was a gifted writer and this is reflected in his gospel and three epistles. His gospel is a highly literary and symbolic masterpiece which begins with a prologue that is unforgettable, presenting us with the major themes and motifs of the gospel.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him and without Him nothing came to be. What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; and the light shines in the darkness, and the light has not overcome it." [--John 1: !-5] I fall in love with Jesus all over again every time I read from John. It's not that I am "out of love" with Jesus, but John returns that first love that I had with My Savior upon studying His Word.

He was one of the "movers and shakers" in the early Church and was constantly spreading the good news to others. He founded many churches in Asia Minor and baptized many converts in Samaria. I believe that he was probably one of the first active / contemplatives in the Church, as he made time for both contemplation and activity in the world.

His followers never tired of hearing him preaching about the love of Jesus and love for one another. His constantly encouraged them: "My dear children, love one another."

For more information on him, check out these links: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08492a.htm
http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=228
http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/saintj13.htm

As the third millennium of Christianity begins, new Christian communities are appearing. Among these is the religious family of the Brothers and Sisters of Saint John. Lay people also consecrate themselves as Oblates of the Community, supporting the work of the Brothers and Sisters.

"The Community of Saint John wants to be a community of children of the Father and of friends of Jesus, gathered together by the Holy Spirit, in order to live a fully evangelical life in the footsteps of Christ in intimate communion with Him : a life of adoration and contemplation intimately close to Mary." (Rule of Life)

To learn more about the Community of St. John, link up here:
http://www.stjean.com/EN/Jeu_accueil.php3

A Few of My Favorite Quotes from St. John

"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."
~ John 6: 54-56


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" I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you should also love one another. This is how all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
~ John 13:34

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"I am the way and the truth and the life."
~ John 14:6




Friday, December 26, 2003

Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men!

This theme and these words has been going through my head for the past few days. Could it be the recurring lyrics of Christmas carols that I have been hearing lately in the middle of the night? All musicians hear music when it isn't playing. I think it is something much more that and it's a message that is so important for all of us to ponder when there is so much chaos, violence, and unrest in our world today.

When will it happen? Will it ever happen? Is it possible in this life or will it become only a reality in the next life? I believe that God can and does use each of us to be instruments of His peace in this life. We can radiate peace to others when we ourselves carry that inner peace in our hearts. How do we acquire that peace? I believe that obtaining peace is not something that happens to us overnight, but it is a process of spiritual growth obtained through discipline and the acceptance of special graces God offers us.

Peace is more than a "fuzzy moment" or a nice feeling that comes over us. It is a deep faith that gives us strength in the midst of the prolonged and unending trials we face throughout a lifetime. It is a calm trust and daily surrender our entire being -- body, mind, and soul-- to Jesus and Mary, so they can transform everything we do into something beautiful. Jesus was the sacrifice, the oblation who gave Himself totally for us to bring us eternal love, eternal peace, and eternal joy. He offers Himself daily to us. He awaits us -- a prisoner in the tabernacle--He patiently waits for us to come and whisper sweet words of love, or to just sit patiently and watch and wait with Him until He speaks. He desires our company and longs for us to spend time -- just a few moments with Him-- to bless us and give us a glimpse into that inner serenity that all of us crave. It is the empty hole within us that only He can fill.

May the Christ Child fill your heart with the peace of His presence this Christmas and throughout the New Year!

Jill Stanek's Christmas Message

A special lady, who has made a major impact in the pro-life battle is Jill Stanek.
With her permission, I would like to share her special Christmas message with you. I hope it touches your heart as it did mine.

STANEK: The Embryonic Jesus Story
http://www.illinoisleader.com/news/newsview.asp?c=10872

Wednesday, December 24, 2003
By Jill Stanek (Jill@illinoisleader.com)


OPINION -- At this time of year we focus on Christ’s birth and His conception nine months prior by the Holy Spirit in the fallopian tube of a virgin.

But there is another fascinating incident the Bible describes about the beginning of Jesus’ human life. It is the Embryonic Jesus Story.

Luke 1 tells about the first person besides Jesus’ mother and earthly father who recognized He was extraordinary.

That person was Jesus’ cousin John - while John was yet a fetus, and while Jesus was but an embryo.

When John was a preborn six-month-old, his Aunt Mary came to visit his expectant mother Elizabeth, her cousin. Mary was newly pregnant with Jesus.

Luke 1:41 says when Mary greeted Elizabeth, John kicked. Elizabeth told Mary, “The instant I heard your voice, my baby moved in me for joy!”

Elizabeth then prophesied, “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child that you will have. I feel blessed that the mother of my Lord is visiting me.”

John was later known as John the Baptist. Jesus said John and his role were foreseen in Malachi 3:1, “I am sending my messenger ahead of you to prepare the way in front of you.”

Amazingly, John began preparing the way for Jesus at the tender age of six fetal months.

Actually, that was also prophesied. Before John was even conceived, the angel Gabriel told his father Zechariah, "He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born‚…. He will go ahead of the Lord…. He will prepare the people for their Lord" (Lu. 1:15-17).

On a practical level, we learn from these Scriptures that preborn babies hear, display emotion, communicate intuitively with their mothers, and even launch their life’s work.

Science has corroborated babies hear as early as 20 weeks (which the Bible knew 2,000 years ago), and most mothers say they bond with their preborn babies.

But can fetuses really show emotion and begin fulfilling their destiny? Skeptics will say I extracted too much from these passages.

But this wasn’t the first Biblical account of fetuses displaying dispositions.

Genesis 25 tells about Rebekah and the twins she was carrying, Jacob and Esau. Verses 21-22 say, “When the children inside her were struggling with each other, she said, ‘If it is like this now, what will become of me?”

The Lord answered her, “Two countries are in your womb. Two nations will go their separate ways from birth. One nation will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (verse 23).

The struggles between the boys began en utero. The younger Jacob was born ‚"with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel.” Jacob later claimed Esau’s birthright, and God changed his name to Israel. The hostilities between the stronger Israelites and the weaker Edomites came to pass. Jacob’s prenatal propensity for "struggling" lasted his entire life. He once even physically wrestled God (Ge. 32:22-32).

Genesis 38:27-30 tells about another set of fetal twins: “As [Tamar] was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, ‘This one came out first.’ But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, ‘Is this how you burst into the world!’ He was named Perez (Bursting Into). After that his brother was born with the red yarn on his hand. He was named Zerah (Sunrise).”

Tamar's firstborn son, Perez, became an ancestor of God’s firstborn son, Jesus (Mt. 1:3, Lu. 3:33).

Yes, a person’s mark on the world begins prenatally. David said in Psalm 22:10,“From the womb you have been my God.” Conversely, Psalm 58:3 says, “Even inside the womb wicked people are strangers to God.”

That said, God offers redemption and wants the best for us. Just as he told Jeremiah in 1:5, he tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.”

God’s plan for each egg, sperm, embryo, fetus, baby, child, and adult are beyond our human capacity to comprehend. Ecclesiastes 11:5 says, “Just as you don’t know how the breath of life enters the limbs of a child within its mother’s womb, you also don’t understand how God, who made everything, works.”

The angel Gabriel made another prediction to Zechariah about his son John, saying, “He will change parents’ attitudes toward their children.”

This prophecy brings me comfort. I pray John’s part in the Embryonic Jesus Story will do just that regarding some attitudes previously accepting abortion.

© 2003 Illinois Leader.com

Used with permission.

_________

What are your thoughts concerning the issues raised in this commentary? Write a letter to the editor at letters@illinoisleader.com, and include name and town.


Jill Stanek

Jill Stanek became a leader in the Illinois conservative movement when she fought to stop "live birth abortion" after witnessing one as an RN at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn. Jill was asked to President Bush's signing of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in August 2002. In January 2003, Jill was named by World Magazine as one of the 30 most prominent pro-life leaders of the past 30 years. She continues to press for Illinois to become a state where unborn and newly-born babies are safe. Jill is also pro-life coordinator for Concerned Women for America of Illinois and a public speaker around the country.

Monday, December 22, 2003

December 23, 2003

Today is the feast of St. John of Kanty or Cantius (1390 - 1473) in Poland. He was a distinguished professor at the University of Krakow and a benefactor of the poor. As an ordained priest, he was appointed to a lectureship at the University. However, jealous rivals managed to get him removed from his teaching postion, and he was assigned to work as a parish priest. He was a model pastor and won the love of his parishioners, who wept when he returned to the University as professor of Scripture. He held this position for the rest of his life, and became famous for his teaching, his humble life of poverty, and his extreme generosity to those in need. One of his favorite sayings was:"Fight all false opinions, but let your weapons be patience, sweetness, and love. Roughness is bad for your own soul and spoils the best cause."

When he died at the age of 63, he was mourned by all, and was already known as being instrumental in many miracles. He was cannonized in 1767.

Right away, this saint impresses me because he made the best of an unexpected and an undesirable situation. In fact, he excelled in the situation God had placed him. He lived a life of poverty and humility and gave the money he saved to the poor. He genuinely loved people and they could not help but love him. He effectively utilized the virtues of love, sweetness, and patience to conquer deception. This is so needed in our world today, especially in the pro-life movement. 'Won By Love' is a wonderful book written by Norma McCorvey (Roe in Roe vs. Wade) in which she describes how the love of the pro-life workers won her heart and soul for Christ.

Eagerly, we await the coming of Love into the world. It has been a penitenal Lent as we have prepared our hearts for His entrance. With hope-filled hearts, we await the birth of Our Lord and Savior. How I wish I had more to offer Him than this simple heart of mine. I give it willingly and wholly because I know that Mother Mary will present it to Him as a precious jewel -- a beautiful pearl.