Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pope calls Christians to be 'living stones' of the Church

Pope Francis celebrates Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 6, 2014. Credit: Kyle Burkhart/CNA.
.- In his homily for Mass at the Santa Marta residence on Oct. 24, Pope Francis reflected on the call of Christians to perpetuate unity in the Church by being “living stones” built upon the “cornerstone of Christ.”

This creating of unity in the Church, the Pope said, recounting the reading from Saint Paul to the Philippians, “is the work of the Church and of every Christian throughout history.”

In addition, the Holy Father cited the Apostle Peter, who contrasts the Church – “a temple made of living stone” – with the Tower of Babel, which he described as the “temple of pride.” The first temple creates “unity,” he said, whereas the second symbolizes disunity and misunderstanding.

The task of every Christian, Pope Francis said, is “to create unity in the Church,” the temple built upon Jesus, who is the “cornerstone”.

Jesus is the “rock upon which the Church's unity” is built, the Pope said, adding that “there is no unity without Jesus Christ at its base: He is our certainty.”

It is the Holy Spirit who creates this unity, the Holy Father said. “For this reason, Jesus sent Him: to make the Church grow, to make it strong, to make it one.”

In order to be strong “bricks” of the Temple, Pope Francis said the faithful must first become “weak” through the virtues of humility, kindness, and generosity. The weaker we become through these virtues which seemingly serve no purpose, the Pope said, the stronger we become as “living stones” of the Temple.

Just as Jesus “was made weak” even unto the Cross, the Pope said, “He became strong.” On the other hand, “Pride [and] conceit are useless.”

In creating this Temple, Pope Francis said, the architect must lay out a ground plan. This plan is “the hope to which we are called: the hope of going towards the Lord, the hope of living in a living Church, made with living stones, with the strength of the Holy Spirit.” It is only with this hope as the “ground plan” that it is possible “to move forward in the unity of the Church.”

“We are called to a great hope,” he said. “Let us go there! But with the strength which Jesus' prayer for unity gives us; with the gentleness of the Holy Spirit, who is able to make living stones from bricks; and with the hope of finding the Lord who has called us to encounter him in the fullness of time!”

Homily for Today

Welcome to all, our seniors, those of middle age, our young adults, our teenagers and the children! Today, reflecting on the readings that we have just heard, I am going to preach on the subject of walking in the love of God.

The First Reading that we have just heard from the Book of Exodus [Ex. 22:21-27] spoke of the loving relationship that the Israelites men should have towards those who were under-privileged. The responsibility was upon the men because in those days, they were the authority over the families. The under-privileged were the aliens (the immigrants), those who were forced to leave their homes because of circumstances such as wars, plagues or famines.

The Lord reminded the Israelites that once, they too were as aliens while living in Egypt. Now, their Laws commands them to be warm and helpful to those who are less fortunate as they once were less fortunate. These binding laws are found throughout the Old Testament. [Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 1:16, 10:17-9, 14:28-9, 16:11-4; Jer. 7:6]

As we heard during the reading, the Israelite men were reminded of their loving obligation to take care of the needs of the widows and the orphans. God wanted their needs to be taken care of by those who were more fortunate. The Israelites were reminded that if the widows and orphans were neglected or abused and their cries reached out to Heaven, God would hear them and His anger would punish the aggressors. Their families would suffer the same consequences, their wives becoming widows, their children becoming orphans.

Applying God's command to today, we can start by assessing the needs of those who live in countries that are torn by wars. As we are aware, in those countries, many men die during the battles, leaving their families without a husband and father. God expects us to help the widows and orphans who are victims of war. He expects us to share with them the wealth that we have in order to make their lives more comfortable.

The First Reading continued with the issue of granting loans to others. Based on what is said in the Books of Leviticus [25:35} and Deuteronomy [23:20-1], the Sacred Scripture refer to loans that were made to one's own people. When a loan was made to one's countrymen, no interest was to be expected in return. But, when a loan was granted to a foreigner, interest could be charged. That way, the nation increased its wealth from the interest that was charged to the immigrants and tourists.

The people were reminded that if they abused the ancient Law and the victims of this abuse cried out to God in prayer, He would hear their cries and He would no longer answer the prayers of those who abused the Law. They would be denied the blessings that they had received in the past.

Today, this law would be similar to a brother, a sister, a parent, a child or a relative asking for a loan. In love, the loan should be given with joy without asking anything in return. Spiritually speaking, this Law goes beyond the biological family. It would also apply to the spiritual family that we belong to, the Body of Christ, the Holy Catholic Church. It would mean that when another Christian is in need, we should joyfully help him out without asking any interest in return. In love, we should lend or give from our hearts.

In the Second Reading, Paul reminded the Thessalonians [1 Thess. 1:5-10] of his living example among them for their sake so that they may grow in Christ. Paul's example is also the Lord's example. ("Be imitators of me as I am of Christ." [1 Cor. 11:1]) To fully live one's Christian life, it is necessary to "become imitators of God, as beloved children, to live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." [Eph. 5:1-2] The examples of St. Paul and many other Christians shined in the love of Christ so others may know the way of Christ. [1 Thess. 2:14; 2 Thess. 3:7-9]

Paul acknowledged that through persecution, the Thessalonians persisted in their living faith, receiving the Word of God with joy that was inspired by the Holy Spirit so that they could become as living models to others who heard about them in Macedonia and Achaia. These are the communities where Paul was residing when the good news about the Thessalonians reached him. Joy in the faith during persecution is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and true imitation of Christ. [2 Cor. 4:10; 1 Pet. 2:21; Phil. 3:10] Here, we also perceive how salvation comes through suffering. [Mt. 24:9-25]

As was the custom in those days when addressing the Church in writing, Paul emphasized how the people had abandoned their idols to serve the true living God. The word idol in this case meant the false gods that did not exist [1 Cor. 8:4-5], their worship being related to demons. [1 Cor. 10:20] True conversion in the living faith means to completely depart from the worship of idols in order to give oneself wholeheartedly in the service of God. In a true conversion, the Christian lives the love of God, truly being the Christian that he claims to be.

While many claim to this day to be true Christians, are they? Are they living their faith in Christ by imitating the example of Christ or St. Paul? Do they have a living FAITH as in F A I T H or a living FATE as in F A T E? If Jesus was walking on earth today, would He spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on Casinos, Bingos, gambling, VLT's, liquor, drugs, accumulating unnecessary wealth, etc...?

Many, drowning in their personal wealth, when they give tithe on Sunday, they give such a small portion of their income that it consist of about 1% of 1% of 1%. What is a contribution of $ 5.00 a week when the family income is two to four thousands dollars per month. Is such meagre offering sufficient to support the Church, its utilities, the small salary of its minister, the foreign missionary work of the Diocese, the Church contributions to foreign lands that are torn by war, etc... What St. Paul was telling us in the Second Reading is that he did not find or hear that the Thessalonians were obsessed with the idols of this world, its wealth and its pleasures, as many are in the world today.

Paul continued by saying that it is by living one's faith in Christ that we are rescued from the justice of God that will befall the unrepentant sinners. We do not know when this justice will come... it could be near or at a distant future. But we must always be ready. We must always be in harmony with God. Otherwise, we risk being the object of the wrath of God.

During today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 22:34-40] Jesus was asked by the Pharisees what was the greatest Commandment. This question was reasonable since like today, the Law of those days contained 613 different Commandments. 248 of them were favourable while 365 were things that should not be done. And, when considering these different Commandments, they all had degrees of excellence or sinfulness. This is no different than the Laws of today, theft under $2,000.00 or over $2,000.00, murder in first degree or by manslaughter, one crime being more serious than the other.
br> Jesus answered by saying, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, this is the first and most important Commandment. It summarizes the first four of the Ten Commandments given to Moses. [Ex. 20:1-11] Placing God first in one's life means walking in faith and in the love of God.

The second greatest Commandment is, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." This Commandment summarizes the last six of the Ten Commandments given to Moses. [Ex. 2-:12-17] The second Commandment means that if we have the love of God within us, it should shine towards others. Love is meant to be shared, not to be selfishly kept to oneself.

Then Jesus said that on those two Commandments (Laws) hangs the Law and the Prophets. The words mean that in those two Commandments are found the entire revelation of the Old Testament. To have the love of God as Christ enjoyed it, our acts of love should be towards God first and then our neighbours. Our neighbours includes everyone, our families, our friends and even strangers. Our love for God must be greater than the love we have for our parents, our brothers and sisters, our spouse and even our children.

And the love that we have for our parents, our brothers and sisters, our spouse and our children should be equal to the love we have for everyone else because we are all one large Christian family through Jesus in the Body of Christ, the Holy Catholic Church. If we discriminate towards one person within the Body of Christ, then we do not have the love of God in us.

If we break the second commandment by not loving our neighbours as we love ourselves, then we do not love God. We may say that we love God, but in reality, we do not love God. For as Jesus frequently said, what you do to others, you do to Him. If you give someone a drink of water, you are giving a drink of water to Jesus. If you dress the naked, you are giving clothing to Jesus. If you feed the hungry, you are feeding Jesus. Through the second commandment shines the first commandment. If you love others by your actions, you love God. Why else would you care about the others? It is because you love God and your actions are actions of love, love in Christ Jesus.

My brothers and sisters, I ask that you reflect on these words this week. If your heart identifies areas of weaknesses that need to be corrected, pray to the Holy Spirit that He may come to you to sanctify you in Christ by the grace of the Heavenly Father so you may be transformed in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the grace of God work abundantly in each and everyone of you.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 ex 22:20-26

Thus says the LORD:
"You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.

"If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him.
If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body.
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate."

Responsorial Psalm ps 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R/ (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R/ I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R/ I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
R/ I love you, Lord, my strength.

Reading 2 1 thes 1:5c-10

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything.
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Gospel mt 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ten Lessons from St. Teresa of Avila


  Fr. Ed Broom, OMV (click to see his blog)

There are two weeks apart every year in the Church Liturgical Calendar that separate two marvelous, inspiring, and most lovable saints, who truly love us and want us to love them: Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Theresa of Avila.
Saint Therese Lisieux we celebrate October 1st; Saint Teresa of Avila we celebrate October 15th.  What do they have in common? Both are women, both are in the class of the few women Doctors of  the Church, both were great contemplatives, both were Carmelite nuns, but most important both were and are and will be for all eternity great lovers of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In this short essay we would like to pay tribute to Saint Teresa of Avila and highlight ten of her great contributions to the Catholic Church and to us as a model of holiness, that we are all called to attain.  Remember the words of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the context of the Sermon of the Mount: “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy.”(Mt. 5:48)   Being holy, arriving at sanctity of life, is not conditional, wishful thinking nor something that only a select group is called to, but all. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta challenges us with these stirring words: “Holiness is not the privilege of the few, but the duty of all.” Now let us lift our gaze to Saint Teresa of Avila who will point us to Jesus, our Lord, God, Savior and Faithful Friend.
1.    Prayer. One of the key hallmarks of the spiritual heights of Saint Teresa of Avila is the importance of prayer. Even though she struggled for many years she teaches us this basic but indispensable spiritual truth—Perseverance in prayer! Meditate upon her immortal words of wisdom and memorize: “We must have a determined determination to never give up prayer.” Jesus taught us this supremely important truth in the Parable of the insistent would and the Judge.  This widow, due to her dogged and tenacious insistence finally gained the assistance of this cold-hearted Judge. (Lk. 18:1-8). St. Teresa insists that we must never give up in prayer. If you like an analogy: what air is to the lungs so is prayer to the soul. Healthy lungs need constant and pure air; healthy soul must be constantly breathing through prayer—the oxygen of the soul!
2.    Definition of Prayer.  Saint Thomas Aquinas gives us simple but very solid advice: define your topic before you start to talk about it. By doing this you can avoid much confusion. Saint Teresa of Avila gives us one of the classical definitions of prayer in the history of Catholicism.  “Prayer is nothing more than spending a long time alone with the one I know loves me.” A short summary? Two friends loving each other! Jesus Himself called the Apostles friends—so are you called to be a friend with Jesus!
3.    Love for Jesus. Saint Teresa gives us a hint to prayer growth! This woman Doctor of the Church said that she found many graces by meditating upon the Humanity of Jesus. By spending time with Jesus, the Son of God made man and entering into colloquy with Him is a sure path to growth in prayer. Try it! Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in the Spiritual Exercises insists upon us in begging for this grace:“Intimate knowledge of Jesus  that we love Him more ardently and follow Him more closely.”
4.    Love for Jesus in His Sufferings. It seems to be a common denominator in many saints—the call to contemplate the love of Jesus through His sorrowful passion—Padre Pio, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Faustina and Teresa of Avila.  For Teresa, she had a mystical experience of “Ecce Homo”; she saw Jesus with His crowned Head and this moved her to a greater love for Jesus.
5.    Holy Spirit: The Divine Teacher in Prayer.  On one occasion the saint was really struggling with prayer and she talked to a Jesuit priest for advice on overcoming her struggle. His advice was simple and to the point, but changed her life! The priest insisted on praying to the Holy Spirit. From that point on, following this great advice to rely on the Holy Spirit, Teresa’s prayer life improved markedly!  Saint Paul to the Romans reiterates the same point: “In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”(Romans 8:26) Let us be led by the best of all teachers, the Interior Master of prayer, the Holy Spirit.
6.    Spiritual Direction.   To attain constant growth in the spiritual life, we must have some form of spiritual direction. Spiritual blindness, we all experience.  The devil can disguise or camouflage as an angel of light. And the higher we climb in the spiritual life the more subtle are the tactics and seductions of the devil—“who is searching for us a roaring lion ready to devour us.”(I Peter 5: 8-9) During the course of her life, Saint Teresa of Avila had recourse to several spiritual directors and some of these are now canonized saints: Saint John of the Cross (Carmelite), Saint Francis Borgia (Jesuit), Saint Peter of Alcantara (Franciscan), and finally, Jerome Gracian—a well-known Dominican scholar and theologian. True, all of us cannot have three canonized saints and a brilliant Dominican theologian to guide us, but we can and must all find some form of periodic spiritual direction.  Saint John of the Cross put it bluntly: “He who as himself as guide has an idiot as a disciple.”  Bingo!
7.    Conversion and Reform.  A major highlight in the life of Saint Teresa of Avila was the whole concept of conversion or reform. With Saint John of the Cross, she was the primary instrument that God chose to reform the Carmelite Order. However, Teresa was keenly aware of this truth: to convert others we must start with ourselves—this she worked on during the whole course of her life on earth! Jesus’ first words in preaching were: “Be converted because the Kingdom of God is ate hand.”(Mk.1:15) May we constantly strive for a deeper conversion of heart through the intercession of Saint Teresa of Avila.
8.    Spiritual Masterpieces—Her Writings Without doubt, one of the major contributions to the Church as well as to the world at large are the writings or spiritual masterpieces of Saint Teresa of Avila. One of her basic themes is that of the importance of prayer, and striving to grow deeper and deeper in prayer until one arrives at the Mystical Union of the spouse with Jesus the Heavenly Spouse. Anybody who takes his or her prayer life seriously should know of Teresa’s writings and spend some time in reading some of her anointed writings. What are her classics? Here they are: “Her life”, “The Way of Perfection”, “The Interior Castle”, “Foundations”. In addition to these texts/books, she also wrote many inspiring letters.  Want to become a saint? Read and drink from the from writings of the saints, especially the Doctors of the Church!
9    The Cross as the Bridge to Heaven.  Jesus said:  “Anyone who wants to be my follower must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Another common denominator in the lives of the saints is the reality of the cross. Saint Louis de Montfort would bless his friends as such: “May God bless you and give you many small crosses!” Saint Teresa lived with a constant friend—the cross of Jesus. Her health was always very fragile; she almost died while very young. Furthermore, for Saint Teresa of Avila to carry out the Reform of the Carmelite, she suffered constant attacks and persecutions from many nuns in the convent who preferred a more comfortable lifestyle, from priests (Carmelites) and from other ecclesiastics. Instead of becoming discouraged and losing heart, she joyfully trusted in the Lord all the more—anyway, it was His doing!
10.  Our Lady and St. Joseph.  During the whole course of her Religious Life, Saint Teresa of Avila loved the Blessed Virgin Mary—as is common in the lives of the saints, and hopefully your life! The title of her specific Marian devotion was Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  Never forget, in your love for Our Lady, to wear the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This is your external sign of consecration to Mary. Furthermore, Saint Teresa of Avila cultivated a tender and filial love to Saint Joseph. She attributed her recovery from a sickness that almost ended her life to the powerful intercession of Saint Joseph.  Also, every new convent that she established she gave the name of San Jose—Saint Joseph!
In conclusion, may the great woman Doctor of the Church—the Doctor of prayer—Saint Teresa of Avila, be a constant inspiration to you in your own spiritual pilgrimage to heaven. May she encourage you to pray more and with greater depth, arrive at a deeper conversion of heart, and finally love Jesus s the very center and well-spring or your life!

Pope Francis' closing synod speech received with standing ovation

Pope Francis departs the Vatican's Synod Hall, Oct. 16, 2014. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
Pope Francis departs the Vatican's Synod Hall, Oct. 16, 2014. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

.- Pope Francis' address at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family, delivered Saturday, was responded to with a four-minute standing ovation on the part of the bishops attending the Vatican meeting.

In the Oct. 18 speech, the Pope thanked the bishops for their efforts, and noted the various temptations that can arise in such a synod setting. He encouraged the bishops to live in the tension, saying that “personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace.”

“Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parrhesia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the 'supreme law,' the 'good of souls; (cf. Can. 1752).”

In conclusion, looking forward to the 2015 synod, which will also be on the family, Pope Francis said, “now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

Please find below the full text of Pope Francis' address, according to the provisional translation provided by Vatican Radio:

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,
With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.
From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.
I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!
I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”
And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:
  - One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.
  - The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”
  - The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
  - The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.
  - The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…
Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.
Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parrhesia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).
And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.
The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.
Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.
And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.
We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of   their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.
His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”
So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).
Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.
One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].
May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!
[The Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given.]
Thank you, and rest well, eh?

Homily for Sunday

"Give to God the things that are God's." [Mt. 22:21] What a powerful statement! Good morning everyone! I pray to the Lord Jesus that by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual meaning of today's readings shall enrich all of you as I have been enriched through them.

Beginning with the First Reading from the Book of Isaiah, [Is. 45:1, 4-6] the Lord God addressed His anointed one. As spiritual children of God, having been anointed during the Sacrament of Baptism, we can all welcome this message as if it was intended for each and everyone of us.

During this reading, we heard the Lord God speaking of His almightiness. By His infinite power, nations had been subdued and kings stripped of their robes. Doors had been opened for His anointed one and the gates shall not be closed. This parallels what the Lord God has done for each and every one of us through the anointment of our Baptism. He gave us all a new creation that He guards jealously, [Jas. 4:5] protecting it against the claws of Satan. Through our Baptism, He has opened the doors to Heaven for us to enter, promising never to close them. The promise of the New Covenant is forever. God, unchanging in His nature and promises, shall never take away from us the promise of salvation. If we fall short of persevering in our living faith that leads towards salvation, it will be because of our own free will.

The Lord God proceeded to say that for the sake of those He loved, His servant Jacob and Israel His chosen, He calls us by our names. Though we do not know Him, He surnames us. How true it is that we know very little about God the Father. For His formless nature mystifies our human perception. What we do know of Him, it is through Jesus Christ who "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." [Col. 1:15] Even though we do not know God as we should know Him, He still calls us by our individual surnames, each and everyone of us being known to Him. It is just awesome to think that God remembers each and everyone of our names, knowing us personally.

Then, the Lord God proceeded to say that He was the Lord. There is no other god beside Him. These words echo the words of the First Commandment. "I am the Lord your God... you shall have no other gods before me." [Ex. 20:2-3] We belong to Him and He wants us!

Next, the Lord God said that although we did not know Him, He arms us. Spiritually speaking, He gives us the spiritual weapons that we need to defeat the enemy. To ensure that we would walk in the light, He gave us our salvation through Christ. He gave us the Holy Catholic Church to continue the apostolic work of Jesus. He gave us the Sacrament of Baptism so we may be born again through faith in Christ, water and the Spirit. He gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation so we may maintain our righteousness in His sight. He gave us the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist so we may enjoy the Living Bread that leads us to the Kingdom of God. And the list continues... How numerous are His Divine blessings for each and every one of us!

Having reminded us of our blessings, the Lord repeats once more that He is the Lord and that there is no other. No one can do what He has done. No one can even come near doing all what He has done for each and everyone of us. Praise be His Most Holy Name!

Moving on to the Second Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, [1 Thess. 1:1-5] we learn more about the greatness of God. The reading began by identifying who the writer was. Besides Paul, there was Silas. Silas [Acts 15:22] was one of the leaders of the Jerusalem community who was sent to Antioch after the Council of Jerusalem. [1 Pet. 5:12] Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother and Greek Father. He joined Paul and Silvanus at Lystra [Acts 16:1-3] and helped Paul in his ministry for a great period of time.

The Letter to the Thessalonians was addressed to the Church as a whole. By uniting God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the introduction of the Letter, Paul was confirming the Divinity of Christ. Applying his regular greeting and blessing, [2 Thess. 1:2] Paul prayed that grace and peace would be with the Thessalonians.

Saint Paul then proceeded to give thanks to God in prayer for all the blessings that the Thessalonians had received. He mentioned their work of faith, their labour of love and their steadfastness of hope in Jesus Christ. The labour of love is a reflection of active charity. As such, the prayer of thanksgiving to God embraces the virtues of faith, hope and charity that had been bestowed upon the Thessalonians.

Continuing with his Letter, Paul emphasized that it was not just his words that transformed the Thessalonians, but the "power" of the Holy Spirit. Giving credit where it rightfully belongs, Paul made it clear that it was the Holy Spirit who was responsible for all the spiritual manifestations of righteousness.

Paul is a holy example to all of us. He shined as a saintly model who always acknowledged that there is only One God and we should always remember that.

Continuing to the Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 22:15-21] our attention is drawn towards the few who did not shine very much, if at all, in the eyes of God. Our attention is drawn to the Pharisees who were siding with the Herodians to trap Jesus with a question. Their intent was to have Jesus side with either the Pharisees or the Zealots. Consequently, this would cause some friction with one of the parties.

You see, the Herodians supported Herod's succession of rulers. They were extremely loyal to Rome. The Zealots rejected the fact that they were subjected to a foreign power. They wanted the Romans out of their lives. The Pharisees believed as the Zealots but they did not believe in using force to obtain independence. Any answer to the question that was given to Jesus was bound to cause friction with either one of the parties. But Jesus perceived their malice.

Jesus was asked, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?" Jesus asked for a coin and said, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" The New Testament translation of the Latin Vulgate says, "Whose image and inscription is this?" [Mt. 22:20] They answered, "The emperor's." So Jesus told them to give therefore to the emperor the things that belong to the emperor and to God the things that are God's.

To fully understand this tricky question, it is necessary to know and understand what related to the minting of Roman coins. The right to mint a coin proved sovereignty. The Roman Government minted their own coins and jealously guarded this sovereignty, making it an act of rebellion to mint any coins other than under the Roman authority. As such, since the coins were minted by the Roman Empire, they belonged to its Government.

To condemn the paying of taxes would have meant to disagree with the occupancy of the Romans. To agree to pay taxes would have meant to support their occupancy of the land.

Now, one may wonder how this Bible passage relates to the other two readings. It does so through the word "image." Give to God the things that are God's.

Earlier, I spoke of all the blessings that God has given each and every one of us. In Roman 8:29, we learn that "those whom God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn within a large family." In 1 Cor. 15:49, we learn that "just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of Heaven." 2 Cor. 3:18 tells us, "And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." And Col. 3:10 tells us, "clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator."

As the Book of Genesis teaches us, man was created in the image of God. Having lost that original image through the disobedience of Adam, God placed in motion a progressive Divine Plan to once more transform us into His glorious image. That is why God gave us so many gifts and blessings. That is why Christ died for us. That is why we are being transformed into the image of Christ through faith, hope and charity.

Belonging to God, we are called to become in His image. We are called to actively maintain our gifts by living our faith in Christ. We are called to give to God what belongs to God so it will not be said, "In their case the god of this world has blinded them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." [2 Cor. 4:4]

Today's message my brothers and sisters is, let us appreciate what God has given us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, let us preserve our gifts and blessings with all our souls, our minds, our spirits, our hearts and our strength. In the Most Holy Name of Jesus, let us keep these gifts stainless so that one day, when we will appear before the Lord God, we will proudly give Him back what He gave us. Then, we will rightfully inherit the assurance of our salvation.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 is 45:1, 4-6

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
whose right hand I grasp,
subduing nations before him,
and making kings run in his service,
opening doors before him
and leaving the gates unbarred:
For the sake of Jacob, my servant,
of Israel, my chosen one,
I have called you by your name,
giving you a title, though you knew me not.
I am the LORD and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.
It is I who arm you, though you know me not,
so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun
people may know that there is none besides me.
I am the LORD, there is no other.

Responsorial Psalm ps 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10

R/ (7b) Give the Lord glory and honor.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R/ Give the Lord glory and honor.
For great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
awesome is he, beyond all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are things of nought,
but the LORD made the heavens.
R/ Give the Lord glory and honor.
Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
give to the LORD glory and praise;
give to the LORD the glory due his name!
Bring gifts, and enter his courts.
R/ Give the Lord glory and honor.
Worship the LORD, in holy attire;
tremble before him, all the earth;
say among the nations: The LORD is king,
he governs the peoples with equity.
R/ Give the Lord glory and honor.

Reading 2 1 thes 1:1-5b

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians
in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace.
We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers,
unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love
and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,
before our God and Father,
knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God,
how you were chosen.
For our gospel did not come to you in word alone,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

Gospel mt 22:15-21

The Pharisees went off
and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
"Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion,
for you do not regard a person's status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?"
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
"Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax."
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?"
They replied, "Caesar's."
At that he said to them,
"Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God."

A Prayer for Today

"Lord, because you have made me, I owe you the whole of my love; because you have redeemed me, I owe you the whole of myself; because you have promised so much, I owe you all my being. Moreover, I owe you as much more love than myself as you are greater than I, for whom you gave yourself and to whom you promised yourself. I pray you, Lord, make me taste by love what I taste by knowledge; let me know by love what I know by understanding. I owe you more than my whole self, but I have no more, and by myself I cannot render the whole of it to you. Draw me to you, Lord, in the fullness of love. I am wholly yours by creation; make me all yours, too, in love." (Prayer of Anselm, 1033-1109 century)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Homily for Today

Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass. My heart rejoices every time that I see a large gathering of believers who joyfully come to the House of the Lord. Such a gathering confirms that the grace of God is working in each and everyone of you by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus. I pray that the merciful grace of the Lord will continue to flourish abundantly in your lives for years to come.

Today's readings from the Book of Isaiah, [Is. 25:5-10] the Letter of Paul to the Philippians [Phil. 4:10-14, 19-20] and the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 22:1-14] speak of an invitation to the Great Feast of the Lord Jesus. Summarizing these readings, the first one is prophetic in nature. It speaks of the Great Feast that is to come. The Second Reading echoes how God provides for our needs. The Third Reading tells us that God calls everyone but few answer His calling.

The reading from the Book of Isaiah is a prophecy regarding the promised salvation that was to come, it having been fulfilled through the Blood of Jesus Christ. This is confirmed by keywords that are used, these being, "On this mountain" [Is. 25:6] and "he will swallow up death forever." [Is. 25:7]

"On the mountain" is a figure of speech that is traced to pre- Israelite, Canaanite literature, representing a glorious heavenly banquet of eternal happiness. This prophetic passage expresses the longing of the people for the days of the absolute triumph of God over the enemies of His chosen people and the Messianic banquet that will follow in the Kingdom of God.

"He will swallow up death forever" means that the sentence of death that is found in Genesis 3:19 will be cancelled out. Eternal life, in the sense of eternally enjoying the beatific vision of God, shall be given back to the people.

The gift of eternal life and the rejoicing of God's children in the great banquet has been fulfilled through the Blood of Christ when Jesus gave up His life on the Holy Cross for the sins of the world. Since then, commemorating the Last Supper, God's children participate daily on a worldwide basis in the Holy Mass, the great banquet, to receive Christ through the Church Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Death has been conquered, life being given to God's children through Jesus, the Bread of Life.

The Second Reading appears to be wondering off the subject of the great banquet. But, indirectly, it fits perfectly with today's other two readings. The reading shines in Divine Providence, showing how the Lord God provides for His children.

In this Letter, Paul showed his deep appreciation towards the Philippians who were concerned for his distress (Imprisonment, see Phil. 1:12) and who sent him assistance. He was greatly touched by the love that was being manifested by the Philippians. While Paul expressed that he was not in need of these gifts, nor sought them out, he accepted them as an expression of the Philippians' concern for him, such being pleasing to God.

From Paul's words, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." [Phil. 4:13] we can perceive his complete trust in the Lord to provide for his daily needs. Paul had learned to be content with whatever he had. He had learned the secret of being well fed, this referring to spiritual food. He found strength in the Lord Jesus. While Paul had to endure for awhile, he saw the grace of God that came with such suffering. He endured all what was being sent his way for the sake of the spreading of the Gospel. [Phil 1:12] When compared to the eternal reward that awaited him, the momentary sufferings were nothing.

Before closing with a liturgical formula of praise to God, [1 Thess. 1:3; 3:11, 13; Eph. 5:20] Paul shared his personal conviction that God would fully satisfy the needs of the Philippians.

Reviewing the reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we perceive that there is a spiritual meaning involved. We are no longer at a Great Feast but at a Royal Wedding Feast. It is a Wedding Banquet that the Father gives for His Son. The Son is Jesus. The Bride is the invisible Kingdom of God on earth, the Mystical Body of Christ that is made visible through the Holy Catholic Church. The Holy Catholic Church had its beginning in Jerusalem on Pentecost Day when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. [Acts 1:4, 2:4]

All of this is confirmed through the Book of Revelation. "And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more...'" [Rev. 21:2-4]

From the Old Testament, we learn that the first guests who were invited to the Wedding Banquet were the Jewish people and their leaders, they being God's chosen people. Having rejected God's invitation, the Lord sent out His invitation to the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people.

The invitations were sent out to all, the good and the bad. These generous invitations echoe the abounding love and mercy of God that reaches out towards all, forgiving the sins of those who will sincerely repent of their evil ways in order to embrace a life of righteousness.

Today, the invited Gentiles are all those who have received the Sacrament of Baptism. Having been born again through faith in Christ by water and Spirit, they qualify as children of God if they persevere in their living faith until the end.

The necessity to persevere in the living faith is confirmed by the reference to the wedding robe. In those days, the proper garment to wear at a wedding was a clean white robe. The Book of Revelation tells us that those who are dressed in white are the worthy ones [Rev. 3:4] and the martyrs. [Rev. 6:9-11, 7:9, 13-4] Those who conquer, they will be clothed in white robes, and their names will not be blotted out of the book of life. Jesus will confess their name before the Heavenly Father and before the angels. [Rev. 3:5]

The mentioning of the good and bad is also symbolic of the condition of the Church throughout its history. Enduring until the Judgment, it is composed of sinners, some who persevere in their living faith and some who choose not to do so.

What is clear from this reading is that those who do not persevere, their punishment will be instant and severe. While all are called, not all answer their calling by the grace of God, some rejecting the invitation, some not accepting it fully. Not being adorned with a white robe that identifies them as children of God, those who neglect their salvation shall be thrown out in outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In a few moments, we shall continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass. The Holy Mass is the Great invisible Wedding Feast that is opened to all those who have been baptised and who live their faith in Christ. These are the children who have been called by the Father of spirits [Heb. 12:9] to be united with Christ in One Holy Body to receive the Living Bread. The Living Bread, the Holy Eucharist, assures each and every one of us our salvation as long as this Church Sacrament is received in a state of grace. For it is very offensive to God to come to His Feast and receive the Living Bread while in a state of sin. Such a sinful act would parallel the guest who was not wearing a white wedding robe.

Let us continue to praise and worship the Lord for having blessed us with this great Feast through Christ our Lord.

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 is 25:6-10a

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
"Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!"
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

Responsorial Psalm ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R/ (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Reading 2 phil 4:12-14, 19-20

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel mt 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?'
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen."

or mt 22:1-10

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
'Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast."’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Be on your guard – the devil never rests, Pope Francis warns

VATICAN CITY, October 10 (CNA/EWTN News) .- In his homily on Friday Pope Francis encouraged faithful to guard their hearts by doing a daily examination of conscience, saying that we if we don't, we risk letting the devil in rather than the Lord.

“Guard the heart, as a house is guarded, with a key. And then watch the heart, like a sentinel: How often do wicked thoughts, wicked intentions, jealousy, envy enter in?” the Pope asked his Oct. 10 Mass attendees.

The devil, he cautioned, “never leaves that which he wants for himself,” which are our souls.

Pope Francis began his reflections by turning to the day’s Gospel reading from Luke, Chapter 11, in which Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of demons, and in which he describes how when an evil spirit leaves a person, it comes back with more and makes the person worse off than before.

Satan never leaves us alone, he said, explaining that after Jesus was tempted in the desert, “the devil left Him for a time, but during the life of Jesus he returned again and again: when they put Him to the test, when they tried to trap Him, in the Passion, finally on the Cross.”

“Can you do it? Let me see!” are phrases that hit home for all of us, the Bishop of Rome noted, observing how the devil not only tempts Jesus in this way, but also each of us.

We need to guard our hearts, he said, otherwise “So many things enter in. But who has opened that door? Where do they enter from?”

“If I do not realize (how much) enters into my heart, my heart becomes a (town square), where everything comes and goes.” It becomes “A heart without intimacy, a heart where the Lord cannot speak and cannot even be heard,” the Pope explained.

He then drew attention to how in the Gospel Jesus says that “He who does not gather with me scatters,” saying that the meaning of “gather” in this sense means “To have a gathering heart, a heart in which we know what happens.”

A practice “as old as the Church, but good,” that we can perform in order to help us achieve this type of heart, he noted, is the examination of conscience.

“Who of us, at night, at the end of the day, remains by himself, by herself and asks the question: what happened today in my heart? What happened? What things have passed through my heart?” the pontiff probed, saying that if we don’t do this we fail to guard our hearts well.

To guard our heart is “a grace,” the Pope explained, because by doing it we guard not only ourselves but also the Holy Spirit who dwells inside of us.

“We know – Jesus says clearly – that the devil always returns. Even at the end of life, He, Jesus, gives us an example of this,” the Bishop of Rome pointed out. So we must be constantly attentive to what is happening in and around us.

Pope Francis concluded his homily by encouraging all to “stand in silence before ourselves and before God, and at the end of the day ask ourselves: ‘What happened today in my heart? Did anyone I don’t know enter? Is the key in its place?’”

By doing this we will defend ourselves from the wickedness of the devil, and “from that which we could do if these demons, who are very clever and at the end would cheat all of us, even if they enter.”

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fr. Benedict Groeschel passes away at 81

 Father Benedict Groeschel. Credit: EWTN.

Truly somebody who helped me in my faith. Even though I never met him in person, I was with him every Sunday when he was on television. May God rest his soul!

.- Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, author, former EWTN host, and one of the founders of the Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, passed away at 11:00 p.m. on Oct. 3. He was 81 years old.

“The Catholic Church and the Franciscan family lost a giant today,” the friars said in an Oct. 4 statement, expressing deep sadness at Fr. Groeschel’s loss as well as relief “that God has set him free from the physical and mental suffering he has experienced over the past decade.”

Fr. Groeschel was one of eight Capuchin friars in New York City who helped found the Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in 1987. The community is committed to poverty and evangelization.

Known for his love of the poor, he founded the St. Francis House for the homeless and Good Counsel Homes for pregnant women in crisis. He also directed Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont, New York, and taught at the Dunwoodie seminary.

In addition, he became known as an author and preacher. For more than 25 years, he appeared on EWTN, hosting “Sunday Night: Live with Father Benedict Groeschel,” among other programs.

“The world knew Father Benedict as a priest, teacher, evangelist, retreat master, and a steadfast defender of and advocate for the Catholic Church that he loved so much,” the friars said, adding that while his religious family saw these traits, “we were also blessed to know him as a father who cared for each of us, a father who was always accessible when we needed him and always glad to see us when we came to visit.”

“Fr. Benedict was a brother and a father to everyone he encountered,” the friars continued. “In a world often overwhelmed with darkness, he was a man filled with hope, a hope that he shared with both the rich and poor alike.”

Noting his deep desire to serve the poor, his community also recalled his selflessness, wisdom, and trust in God’s providence, as well as his deep faith and love.

“Those who knew him well understood that it was simply his nature to be so. He poured himself out for others no matter what the cost – and sometimes the cost to him was very great. To have known him was to have been helped by him and even loved by him.”

In 2004, Fr. Groeschel was hit by a car, suffering intracranial bleeding and a heart attack, as well as having both legs, both arms and several ribs broken. His secretary said at the time that it would “take a miracle” for the priest – who was 70 years old at the time – to survive. He praised God for his recovery from the accident.

Fr. Groeschel stepped down as host of EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime television in September 2012, after he made statements in the National Catholic Register suggesting that a minor is “the seducer” in “a lot” of sexual abuse cases, and that many abusers on their first offense should not go to jail “because their intention was not committing a crime.”

He subsequently apologized for the comments, as did his religious community, the National Catholic Register and EWTN, who stressed that the priest’s physical health and mental clarity were both declining, noting that this comments did not reflect his life’s work.

Fr. Groeschel is survived by his sister, several nieces and nephews, 115 religious brothers and priests, and 31 religious sisters, according to his religious community.

Funeral information was not immediately available. A Facebook memorial page was made public on the morning of Oct. 4.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Fr. Benedict,” said Fr. John Paul Ouellette, community servant for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

“He was an example to us all. His fidelity and service to the Church and commitment to our Franciscan way of life will have a tremendous impact for generations to come.

Michael Warsaw, chairman of EWTN, in an Oct. 4 statement recalled how Fr. Groeschel “played an enormous role in the work of EWTN, hosting numerous programs and being a frequent guest on the Network for nearly three decades.”

“Like Mother Angelica herself, Father Benedict was an iconic presence on EWTN,” Warsaw said. “His grey beard and Franciscan habit were known to Network viewers around the world and he had a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals who knew him only through his television and radio presence.”

Recalling that the priest was “a strong and vocal supporter of Mother Angelica during “many of the most difficult days in the history of EWTN,” Warsaw said that the network “is what it is today, in part, because of the encouragement and commitment of Father Benedict.”

“While we will miss him, we are also confident that he has achieved his final goal of life everlasting with the Father. May this good and faithful servant rest in peace.”

Homily for Today

Good morning! Your presence here today reminds me of a passage in the Gospel of John, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink." [Jn. 7:37-8] I gather that because you are here, you are all thirsty for the Word of God. I ask for the grace of God in the Most Holy Name of Jesus that by the power of the Holy Spirit, I will be able to fill that thirst as you receive the spiritual drink that I am about to relate to you as a humble instrument of the Lord. Then, hopefully, you will go forth to share the richness of the Word of the Lord with others so out of your "believing heart shall flow rivers of living water." [Jn. 7:38]

Today, when listening to the readings, we heard similarities between the First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 5:1-7] and the reading from the Gospel of Matthew. [Mt. 21:33-43] Both spoke on the same subject in different ways. The Book of Isaiah referred to this subject as "The Song of the Unfruitful Vineyard" while the Gospel of Matthew referred to it as "The Parable of the Wicked Tenants."

When carefully reviewing these two readings, two meanings can be perceived from what was read. While both meanings are prophetic, the first is worldly in nature, the second being spiritual in nature, transcending all times. Both of these meanings will be reviewed so you may gain a broader insight on the Word of God.

To understand who the Wicked Tenants were in the Parable that Jesus gave, it is necessary to know who Jesus was speaking to. When Jesus gave the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, He was prophetically addressing the chief priests and the Pharisees who were present. This truth is supported by the details that are found in the different Gospels on the subject of the Passion of Jesus where we learn that it was the chief priests and the Pharisees who condemned Jesus to death.

The vineyard represents Israel, the chosen people of God that had been freed from captivity, led to the land of promises and received endless blessings from the Lord. The landowner is the Lord God who owns the chosen people. They are His people.

When we are told that at harvest time, the landowner sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce, we are told that when God expected righteousness from His people in return for His blessings, He sent the prophets. The tenants, the chief priests and Pharisees, seized the prophets, beat one, killed another and stoned another. All the prophets that were sent by God, one by one, received equal treatment. [Mt. 23:29-31]

Finally, the landowner, God, sent His only beloved Son Jesus to them, saying, "They will respect my Son." Rather than believing and accepting the teachings of Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah, the chief priests and the Pharisees plotted against Him also and killed Him. Why did they plot against Jesus and kill Him? It is because the chief priests and the Pharisees saw the crowds of thousands of people who were following Jesus to hear His Word. They saw the influence that Jesus had on the people. They witnessed the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus. They feared the arrival of the Kingdom of God that Jesus was preaching, a Kingdom that would take away their dishonest positions of glories and honours.

When Jesus stated that the tenants had said, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance," He was speaking of the manner in which the law of those days was applied. When a heir died without having made a legal will, his property was considered unoccupied land that went to the first person who claimed it. If tenants were on the land, they had the first opportunity to claim the property by their right of occupation.

Now Jesus, being the rightful King of kings and Lord of lords, held the inherited right as the Son of God to rule in the Kingdom of God. [1 Tim. 6:15] What the chief priests and the Pharisees did not realize is that the Kingdom of God that Jesus was preaching about was not of this world. [Jn. 18:36] It is within the person, being spiritual in nature! [Lk. 17:20-1] Fearing that Jesus would take away their positions of glories and honours, they plotted to kill Jesus in order to preserve their elevated places among the Jewish people.

Following what has just been said, Jesus made two prophetic statements. First of all, quoting Psalms 118:22-3, Jesus stated that the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. He, that the chief priests and Pharisees were rejecting, was to become the cornerstone of Christianity, the Holy Catholic Church, the firstfruit of many to follow, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is He who rules in the eternal Kingdom of God.

Secondly, Jesus stated, "Therefore, I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom." Here, Jesus was prophesying that the Gentiles would be admitted into the Kingdom of God, the Holy Catholic Church, the Body of Christ. Looking back in history, we can now say that all these things have come to pass. But what about the spiritual meaning of the Parable, the meaning that transcend all times?

Spiritually, Jesus was prophesying about this age and the standard that we must meet to inherit the Kingdom of God. The landowner is Jesus Himself. He has established His Holy Catholic Church on earth and He has left this world to sit at the right hand of the Father. [Acts 2:33] In charge of His Church, He left tenants to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit. [Gal. 5:22-3] The tenants are those who have been admitted into the Body of Christ, having been baptized, having received the promised gift of the new creation, [Ezek. 11:19, 18;31, 36:26; Jer. 24:7; Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17] the new heart and human spirit [Zech. 12:1; 1 Cor. 2:11] of the godly seed. [1 Pet. 2:3; 1 Jn. 3:9] They are the holy priesthood, [1 Pet. 2:5] the children of God who will inherit the eternal Kingdom.

One verse in Matthew 21:33 is very important. It says that the landowner LEASED the land to the tenants. It does not say that He gave it to them. He LEASED it. When something is leased, something is expected in return. Equally, those who qualify to become the children of God, are expected to become shining lights [Mt. 4:16] in the world. They are expected to shine in the love of Christ towards all. They are expected to grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. These spiritual qualities are what the Heavenly Father expects His children to present to Him in return for His blessings in acknowledgement and appreciation of the gift of life that God has given them through the Blood of Christ.

We then come to the passage about the slaves. Who are the slaves? As God the Father sent slaves who were the prophets in the days of the Old Testament, Jesus also sends slaves in the world today. These slaves, as the prophets who answered their callings and did God's work, are today's ministers of the Word of God. They are the priests, the Bishops, the Cardinals, the Pope. They are the slaves of righteousness in Christ. [Rom. 6:15-8]

As in the days of the Old Testament, nowadays, many reject the Word of God. And they also reject those who are being sent by the grace of God to teach the truth by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Name of Jesus. Going beyond sending His slaves, as the landowner sent His Son to the tenants, Jesus also sends someone who proceeds from Him. He sends the Holy Spirit. [Jn. 15:26] But as Jesus was rejected and killed, many today are rejecting the sanctifying works of the Holy Spirit, dulling their spiritual minds [Mt. 13:15; Acts 28:27; Heb. 5:11] to the extent that they can no longer hear the Divine Voice within their hearts. By rejecting the indwelling Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit, they end His Holy indwelling within them. This spiritual suicide is no different than killing the Holy Spirit.

While rejecting the Holy Spirit, they still expect to receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of God that belongs to the true children of God that persevere in their living faith. They ignore that faith without works is dead! [Jas. 2:26] They are like the robbers who entered Heaven by another way. [Jn. 10:1] They have accepted the Holy Catholic Church Sacrament of Baptism, professed their faith in Christ and the teachings of the holy and apostolic Church, received God's gift of the new creation... [Ezek. 11:19, 18;31, 36:26; Jer. 24:7; Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17] but rejected the Holy Spirit. They expect to be saved by their own human power, by living a good life without the absolute necessity of the Church Sacraments and perseverance in the Christian faith. They believe beyond any doubt, without the power of the Holy Spirit, that the eternal glory and honours that awaits the children of God is theirs. Like the chief priests and the Pharisees, all that those wretches will receive is a miserable death.

But what about those who were baptized and received God's gift of the new creation, the new spirit [Zech. 12:1; 1 Cor. 2:11] of the godly seed? [1 Pet. 2:3; 1 Jn. 3:9] We do not know the fullness of the wisdom of God, nor do we claim to know it. At the same time, the Holy Bible teaches us, not only in today's reading, but also in the Parable of the Talents, [Mt. 25:28] that God will take away from them what they have received and give it to others.

In the Book of Baruch, we find evidence that those who are in hell, they have lost the gift of the new creation that they have received from God during the Sacrament of Baptism. Hear these words, "O Lord, look down from your holy dwelling, and consider us. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see, for the dead who are in Hades, whose spirit has been taken from their bodies, will not ascribe glory or justice to the Lord..." [Bar. 2:16-7]

Those who are saved are those who do not reject the cornerstone, Jesus Himself, our Divine Redeemer. They walk in the grace of God, joyfully allowing the Holy Spirit to sanctify them in Christ. How is that accomplished? St. Paul answered that question during today's Second Reading. [Phil. 4:6-9]

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. In all what you do, make sure that it is true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable. With your spiritual minds, think of spiritual things that are worthy of notice and praise. Keep on doing the things that you have learned since your childhood, received and heard from those who have brought you the Word of God and imitate the example of those who live their Christian lives. Through such holy living, may the peace of God be with you all.

Today's Gospel Reading ended with the words, "Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be... given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom." [Mt. 21:43] The fruits of the Kingdom are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. They are "love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things." [Gal. 5:22-23]

Opposing the fruits of the Holy Spirit are "the works of the flesh... fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like these... those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God." [Gal. 5:19- 21]

The fruits of the Kingdom are like a checklist. We can easily read what is permissible and what is not permissible, asking ourselves after each word and answering either "Yes!" or "No!" Do I shine in love towards everyone? "Yes!" or "No!" Do I make peace with others and encourage others to make peace? "Yes!" or "No!" Do I display patience in all things, at home, at work, with my peers? "Yes!" or "No!"

This week, let us all take a few moments to review our status before God, asking ourselves if we will inherit the Kingdom of God. If we fall short of manifesting the holy ways of God, let us renew our commitment to persevere in our living faith in Christ through a sincere repentance and the reception of the Sacraments. May the grace of God be with each and everyone of you as you assess your spiritual status in the eyes of God.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 is 5:1-7

Let me now sing of my friend,
my friend's song concerning his vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside;
he spaded it, cleared it of stones,
and planted the choicest vines;
within it he built a watchtower,
and hewed out a wine press.
Then he looked for the crop of grapes,
but what it yielded was wild grapes.

Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard:
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I had not done?
Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes,
did it bring forth wild grapes?
Now, I will let you know
what I mean to do with my vineyard:
take away its hedge, give it to grazing,
break through its wall, let it be trampled!
Yes, I will make it a ruin:
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
but overgrown with thorns and briers;
I will command the clouds
not to send rain upon it.
The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his cherished plant;
he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed!
for justice, but hark, the outcry!

Responsorial Psalm ps 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

R/ (Is 5:7a) The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
A vine from Egypt you transplanted;
you drove away the nations and planted it.
It put forth its foliage to the Sea,
its shoots as far as the River.
R/ The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Why have you broken down its walls,
so that every passer-by plucks its fruit,
The boar from the forest lays it waste,
and the beasts of the field feed upon it?
R/ The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R/ The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
O LORD, God of hosts, restore us;
if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.
R/ The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Reading 2 phil 4:6-9

Brothers and sisters:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.

Gospel mt 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
"Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
'They will respect my son.'
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
'This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"
They answered him,
"He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times."
Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit."

October, the month dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary

It was for the protection of her children that Mary, the Mother of God,
gave the world her Rosary, that priceless jewel of her most tender love.
She told St. Dominic, "Preach my Rosary and there will be much fruit." For
centuries the Rosary has proven to be a great and marvelous power against
evil and a true solace in times of stress. Many popes have exhorted the
faithful to take up their beads and pray the Rosary.
Pope St. Pius V said that the spread of the Rosary would dispel the
darkness of heresy and the light of the Catholic Faith would shine forth in
all its splendor.
Pope Gregory XIII assured us that the Rosary was instituted to implore the
intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to appease the anger of God.
Pope Pius IX said, "Have courage, my dear children! I exhort you to fight
against the persecution of the Church and against anarchy, not with the
sword, but with the Rosary, with prayer and good example." He regarded the
rosary as a conquering weapon.
Pope Leo XIII placed great confidence in the favors obtained through
devotion to the Rosary. In his encyclical, Supremi Apostolatus Officio, he
said, " . . . it has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in
troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in her
maternal goodness; showing that the Catholic Church has always, and with
justice, put all her hope and trust in the Mother of God."
Pope Pius X said, "Of all prayers the Rosary is the most beautiful and the
richest in graces; of all it is the one which is most pleasing to Mary, the
Virgin Most Holy. Therefore love the Rosary and recite it everyday with
In 1917 the Virgin Mother of God showed the modern world her power and
favor with God with the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. In the months leading
up to the miracle, Our Lady repeatedly urged Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco,
to pray the Rosary. They learned from her the grave importance of the
Rosary. She told them that God wanted the world to establish devotion to
her Immaculate Heart: "If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved,
and there will be peace. I shall come to the world to ask that Russia be
consecrated to my Immaculate Heart, and I shall ask that on the First
Saturday of every month Communions of reparation be made in atonement for
the sins of the world."
Our Lady warned that there would be grave consequences if her requests were
not granted: "Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, raising
up wars and persecutions against the Church, many will be martyred, the
Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated."
She told the children that if what she asked was not done, the world would
suffer. . . "The war is going to end; but if people do not stop offending
God, another and worse war will break out in the reign of Pius XI." Her
warning went unheeded. The Second World War began in 1938 with the invasion
of Austria during the reign of Pius XI, just as she had predicted.
Despite the horrors which then rained upon the world, those who sought to
fulfill Our Lady's requests were covered spiritually and even physically
with the mantle of her protection. In days of darkness and sorrow miracles
bloomed and the power and excellence of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed
Virgin Mary was made known.
At 8:15 in the morning on Monday August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was
dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The people of Hiroshima and the world would
never be the same. The intense heat and radiation spread immediately and
engulfed all those in its path. Over 80,000 people were killed instantly.
Thousands more would die later from radiation poisoning. Men, women and
children endured incomprehensible suffering. The temperature at the center
of the blast was said to be as hot as the surface of the sun. The heat
evaporated metal, melted glass, and ignited clothing miles away. Eight
square miles were reduced to ash in resulting fires. Those whose flesh had
not melted away, faced horrible suffering in a variety of symptoms as the
radiation destroyed the cells in their bodies.
Hiroshima was obliterated in seconds, but beneath the mushroom cloud, in
the midst of horror, a miracle would rise from the ashes of destruction and
bear witness to the power of the Rosary and the truth of the Promises of
Our Lady of Fatima. Just blocks from the epicenter, the Church of Our Lady
of the Assumption was in ruins. However, the rectory next door, which
housed eight Jesuit priests, was still standing. Four of the priests were
in the rectory when the bomb dropped. They were showered with glass and
debris. Four other priests were in the surrounding vicinity but, they too,
survived the initial blast.
After their rescue, army doctors explained to them that their bodies would
begin a fatal deterioration due to radiation exposure. The doctors were all
astounded when, after examining all eight of the priests, there were no
findings of elevated radiation. They exhibited absolutely no ill-effects
from the bomb! Over two hundred scientists were said to have examined them
and none of them could offer any explanation for their survival. The
priests had not only survived the blast, they lived for decades in
relatively good health.
Fr. Hubert Schiffer, who had just returned to the rectory after saying Mass
that morning, supplied the answer on television years later. He said the
reason they had survived the nuclear holocaust was because, "In that house
the rosary was prayed every day. In that house, we were living the message
of Fatima." Secular scientists were all in agreement that the priests
should have died but, they could not agree on the reason for their
miraculous survival. They walked by sight and not by faith.
On August 9, 1945, three days after the atomic bomb was dropped on
Hiroshima, the U.S. dropped another one nearly 200 miles away, on Nagasaki.
That city had been the center of Japanese Catholicism ever since St.
Francis Xavier established its first mission church in 1549. For hundreds
of years thereafter, Nagasaki streets ran red with the blood of her
At 11:02 A.M. on that fateful morning in 1945, there were so many Catholics
in line for confession, that two priests were hearing them inside the
Urakami Cathedral. All were killed, and the largest church in the Orient
was demolished. Of the more than 100,000 people who died in Nagasaki,
nearly 10,000 of them were Catholic. One might wonder why they were not
protected as the priests in Hiroshima. If we walk with the faith of those
many Catholic Japanese, we learn that they were protected.
Dr. Takashi Nagai, lived in Nagasaki with his wife, Midori, and their two
children. Midori was a descendent of the early Catholic martyrs and a
devout Catholic. That morning Dr. Nagai had been at the hospital where he
worked. After the bomb was detonated he spent an agonizing two days,
helping the wounded before he could search for and find his wife, (the
children were not in Nagasaki that morning).
His home was a pile of ash and in those ashes he found the charred remains
of his beloved wife. He knelt and tenderly began to gather what was left of
her. In the bones of her right hand, the chain and cross of her rosary had
melted. Rather than spewing forth anger, Dr. Nagai bowed his head in
prayer, "My God, I thank you for permitting her to die while she prayed.
Mary, Mother of sorrows, thank you for having been with her at the hour of
her death. . . Jesus, You carried the heavy cross until You were crucified
upon it. Now, You come to shed the light of peace on the mystery of
suffering and death, Midori's and mine. . ." Dr. Nagai later said that
while his wife's remains were resting in his arms, her voice seemed to
murmur: "forgive, forgive."
Dr. Nagai found strength in meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary. He
later wrote: "Men and women of the world, never again plan war! . . . From
this atomic waste the people of Nagasaki confront the world and cry out: No
more war! Let us follow the commandment of love and work together. The
people of Nagasaki prostrate themselves before God and pray: Grant that
Nagasaki may be the last atomic wilderness in the history of the world."
In the miracle of survival that was granted to the priests of Hiroshima and
in the miracle of the faith that gave strength to Dr. Nagai in Nagasaki we
witness the firm reliance and confidence granted to souls dedicated to the
Rosary. In these miracles the Promises of Our Lady of Fatima are truly
confirmed . . .
". . . The weapon which our Father gave
Each hand shall fearless wield:
Who bear our Lady's Rosary
Need neither sword nor shield"
With dauntless faith the ranks they face
Of error and of sin,
And, armed with those blest beads alone,
The victory they will win. . ."*