Monday, May 25, 2015

THE SUBLIME DIGNITY AND VOCATION OF THE PRIEST


St. John Paul II and St. John Vianney
 
 

Jesus said:  “The Harvest is rich but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers.”  Essential to the extension of the Kingdom and the salvation of souls is the Sacrament of Holy Orders, that we call the priesthood.

One of the greatest priests in the history of the Church, who spent close to forty years in the Parish of Ars France, spending from 13 to 18 hours on a daily basis in the confessional, reconciling souls to God, commented on the indispensable presence of the priesthood. This was the Saint John M. Vianney, known as the Cure of Ars (1786-1859). This saint knew the extraordinary value of the priesthood: “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy.”

Let us listen to the exact words of the Cure of Ars and then translate them into the application in our spiritual lives. Some of the words and quotations of the Cure of Ars are overwhelming in depth and beauty but of the utmost simplicity. Let us read and meditate and then apply: “O how great is the priest! If he realized what he is he would die… God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from Heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host. Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in the tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for the journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest—always the priest. And if the soul should happen to die (as a result of sin) who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again the priest. After God, the priest is everything. Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is.   Following will be a brief commentary on all the sublime functions the priest carries out so as to glorify God in heaven and for the salvation of the souls on earth.

All-encompassing power of Holy Mass
 
If there is no priest, then there is no Holy Mass; if there is no Holy Mass, then there is no consecration of the Sacred Host; if there is not consecration of the Sacred Host then there is no Holy Communion; then if there is no Holy Communion there is no Sacramental Presence of Jesus. That means that we become spiritual orphans. We become like a ship without a port, an arrow without a target, a scout without  compass, a dog without his master. We wander through life aimless and with no clear purpose.

The same great Saint made the following observation.  In all the key spiritual moments in our lives, who is present?  Baptism? Usually it is the priest who God uses as the instrument to transform that child into a son/daughter of God. Confession?  It is only the priest who is the means by which we are reconciled to God through the outpouring of the Blood of the Lamb that cleanses our souls and consciences of sin and guilt that weighs us down so heavily. Finally we can experience true peace of soul!  First Holy Communion? It was the priest who celebrated Holy Mass, confected the Eucharist and gave us the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus the Lord.

Confirmation?  It was the Bishop, who has the fullness of the priesthood, who confirmed us by which we were fortified by the presence of the Holy Spirit, ready to be soldiers of Christ to both spread and defend the faith. What about Holy Matrimony?  It was most likely the priest who sat down explaining the sublime vocation of Holy Matrimony, the importance of being faithful until death do we part and the importance of being open to life and bringing forth children into the world so that one day they will be eternal citizens of Heaven.

Anointing of the Sick? It is the priest that we spontaneously call when we see our grandmother, mother or any person’s health has so seriously declined that they might die. It is the priest who anoints them with holy oil by which they are strengthened to fight the good fight and unite their sufferings to the sufferings of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Death and burial? Who is present at the Funeral Mass praying for our loved one who has passed away and has gone to be judged by Jesus who will come to judge the living and the dead? We all must pass through the gateway of death and pass from the realms of time into eternity. It is the priest, acting in the person of Christ, while celebrating Holy Mass, who offers the Victim Jesus to the Father for the purification and salvation of this immortal soul.

Family problems?  Often when family problems set in who is it that the family will have recourse to as a means to work through these tangled and intricate and knotty problems?  Frequently it is the person of the priest who comes to mind. The priest becomes the listener, the sounding board, the counsellor as well as the consoler to save the family from capsizing and sinking into the depths of sadness and oblivion! It is the priest who, like a human sponge, absorbs all of the problems in his heart and offers them to Jesus the Eternal priest for healing and salvation.

Sorrows and sufferings of all sorts? When sorrows, sufferings, contradictions, and depression visits our homes and hearts, who is it that we seek out as a solution for problems that seem to be beyond the realm of solution? It is the priest!  It is the priest that listens to the problems. It is the priest who opens up his heart to hear and understand. It is the priest who is called to the ministry of compassion. Exactly what does this word compassion mean? Compassion means the willingness and the ability to suffer with those who suffer.

Like the Holy Father, the priest is a listener
 
Listening?  Who is the one we seek out to listen to our inner anguish and agony, because we know others either do not know how to listen or they simply do not want to listen attentively. It is the priest the one that we seek out to be heard, listened to and to be understood. How true this is!  Often we might come into the priest overloaded with moral, emotional, spiritual baggage that we know not where to dump it, to leave it and to be alleviated from this burdensome weight.  Then the priest receives us and invites us to be open and bare our hearts and reveal our tortured consciences.

Listening and healing. How often this is the scenario!  We unload all of our baggage and the priest is simply there to listen. We weep, cry, complain, get angry, and blurt out nonsensical ideas in our anguish and confusion. And the hands on the clock fly by—already 50 minutes and then an hour has flown by!  The poor priest has barely even opened up his mouth to say a word! After this session of unloading, we get up renewed, energized, with healing and hope. Overflowing in gratitude we tell the priest thanks a million times for having been of great help to resolve these—so to speak—impossible problems!

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen in prayer
 
Prayer? How often have we felt totally overwhelmed with life and problems that seem to be a mountain in size and weight? We want help and we know only God can help us. Who then is it that we turn to with faith and trust to intercede on our behalf and to pray for us so that this problem will be resolved or at least we can cope with the problem better? It is the priest.  The priest becomes the intercessor or the mediator for us between heaven and earth.

Our Lady with the priest at Holy Mass
 
OUR LADY. Let us then turn to Our Lady who is the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, the Mother or all mankind, but especially she is the Mother of priests. Let us beg Our Lady to place her mantle of love and protection and comfort over all priests so that they would be protected from the fiery darts of the enemy, also that they would be protected from the devil of discouragement. Let us beg Our Lady to pray for priests that they would strive with all of the energy in their minds, hearts and souls to conform themselves to Jesus the High and eternal priest. May Our Lady’s prayers help them to recognize that Jesus is the High and Eternal priest—how lofty and sublime—but also that Jesus is very close to them as their best Friend in time and He will be their best Friend in heaven for all eternity.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

AGONY OF JESUS IN GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE


AGONY OF JESUS IN GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE

Jesus, the Son of Mary and the most High God, concludes the Last Supper where He has given us two great gifts, two Sacraments for our salvation: Holy Orders(The Priesthood), and the most Holy Eucharist. Let us beg Our Lady for the grace of an overflowing gratitude for these two great gifts--- Holy Communion and the means to transform bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood—Holy Orders (The Priesthood).

GARDEN WITH JESUS. Now let us beg Our Lady for the grace to accompany Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Adam and Eve committed Original sin in a Garden; Jesus would suffer intensely in another Garden so as to repair for the sins of Adam and Eve as well as all of humanity and each and every one of our sins in particular.

ENTER THE DEPTHS.  May Our Lady help us to enter into the Passion and suffering of Jesus her Son and Our Lord and God. Mary always had Jesus in her Immaculate Heart and constantly in her thoughts. Let us beg Our Lady for the same grace: to constantly be thinking of Jesus, what He is going through and what He wants of me.

JESUS AND HIS WEAK FRIENDS.   Jesus enters into the Garden and it is dark Darkness is symbolic of sin. Judas left Jesus and entered into darkness. He purposely has taken with Him three of His best friends—Peter, James, and John. He wanted them to be with Him in His suffering. COMPASSION. He wanted them to share now, at least to a limited degree, in His suffering. Compassion is the virtue that teaches us to suffer with those who suffer. Only second to Jesus was Our Lady capable of  such deep compassion. Our Lady had deep compassion,  a heart-felt suffering for Jesus in His agony.  His friends, however, failed Him by falling asleep.  How often have I fallen into sleep in my prayer; or worse yet: how often have I failed to get out of bed to pray when Jesus was inviting me into communion with Him in prayer? May Our Lady, through her powerful prayers, attain for us the grace to be faithful in prayer at all times, even when the going gets tough! Saint Ignatius teaches us that when we are in desolation we should be exceptionally faithful to prayer, meditation, examination of conscience and even do a little penance to conquer the desolation. This is spiritual warfare that we are engaged in until the end of our lives.

 

FERVOR IN PRAYER.   Jesus did not pray a mediocre, anemic, lukewarm, tepid or distracted prayer. On the contrary, Jesus prayed with all of His heart, mind, body, soul, and emotions. Jesus gave His all  in prayer. How often has my prayer been done half-heartedly, with little fervor and faith. I lack fire!  Jesus said that he came to cast fire on the earth and that He is not at peace until that fire be enkindled.  Paintings of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary depict them with their Hearts surrounded by thorns, but also fire is emanating from their hearts. FIRE.  What does this fire mean? What does this fire symbolize?  Very clearly it symbolizes an overflowing love for all of us, but also a fervor and passion for God through deep prayer.  When we pray let us humbly beg Our Lady for some of this fire.  On Pentecost (where Our Lady was present with the Apostles in prayer for nine days) the Holy Spirit came down in fire so as to enlighten the minds of the Apostles and also to set their hearts on fire with love of God and desire to save souls.

JESUS SWEATS BLOOD.   Jesus’ prayer was so intense that he actually shed big drops of Blood.  The Precious Blood that was given to Jesus through His most Holy Mother Mary came oozing out of His pores and trickling to the ground. This Precious Blood of Jesus was given to Jesus through the humanity of Mary. May Our Lady help us to nourish our souls constantly on the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus frequently in Holy Communion.

WHY THE SWEATING OF BLOOD. In the Garden Jesus became the Victim to repair for the sins of all of humanity as well as all of us individually.  Jesus as Victim took the sins of all of humanity upon Himself.  All of the sins of the world came raining down upon Jesus like a torrential downpour of rain. The sins of Adam and Eve, our first parents, the sins of the past, the present and even of the future rained down on the Body and soul of Jesus like a deluge. From this Blood came gushing forth from His Sacred Body.

EYES AND HEART OF MARY.  With the eyes and the Heart of Mary enter into the Sacred and sorrowful Heart of Jesus. With Our Lady try to console Jesus in His mortal agony.  Through Our Lady’s intercession beg the Lord Jesus pardon for all of the sins of the world. Beg Our Lady for true sorrow for your own sins of the past. Beg Our Lady for a heart filled with love and sorrow for the sins of your relatives, especially your spouse, your sons and daughters, even the sins of your parents and relatives. Draw close to Jesus through the eyes, mind and heart of Mary. Nobody ever knew Jesus better than His own Mother, Mary most holy.

INDIFFERENCE/APATHY. Unfortunately, one of the greatest sources of sorrow that pierced the Heart of Jesus in His Sacred Passion was the cold indifference of so many souls, and even many Catholics, worse yet, many souls who have consecrated their lives to Jesus and His Kingdom.   The Book of Revelation warns us with these stark words: “I know your works; I know that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were either hot or cold. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.(Rev. 3:15-16) What pierces the Hearts of Jesus and Mary profoundly is an attitude of coldness, indifference, apathy, a “Whatever” or “who cares” attitude towards God and His Kingdom. May Our Lady attain for us true repentance and a passion for Jesus and His Kingdom as well as for the salvation of immortal souls. One soul is worth more than the whole created universe.

ANGEL OF CONSOLATION. In the midst of the intense sorrow of Jesus that actually caused Him to sweat Blood, God sent Jesus consolation by sending Jesus and angel. Now in this graphic contemplation of Jesus in His agony beg Our Lady for the grace that you can be this angel of consolation to Jesus. Tell Jesus, through Our Lady’s prayers, that you truly love Him. Tell Jesus that you desire ardently to renounce all in your life that has offended Him. Beg Our Lord as you console Him to be more faithful to Him than you have ever been in your life. Beg Our Lady for the grace to grow in an ever deeper Friendship with Jesus.

Friday, May 22, 2015


TEN WAYS TO GROW CLOSER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

         


1.    DIGNITY AND DESTINY… Call to mind what happened on the day of your Baptism: became a temple of the Holy Spirit.

2.    PRAYERS.  Get into the habit of praying often to the Holy Spirit, before importance actions; the more important the action, the more time should we pray to the Holy Spirit.

3.    NOVENA—Make the novena to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost, the Birthday of the Church

4.    TITLES—get to know the different titles of the Holy Spirit. These reflect the various attributes and virtue of the Holy Spirit

5.    LITANY—Pray the Litany of the Holy Spirit/ the Sequence of the Holy Spirit so as to set our hearts on fire with the love of the Holy Spirit.

6.    DOCILITY—Try to be docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit; this is the key to holiness.

7.    READING—The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Tanquery (especially the Gifts), the Sanctifier, by Bishop Martinez from Mexico, and Jacques Philippe’s classic:  “The School of the Holy Spirit; finally, JPII encyclical

8.    GIFTS—Study the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as the fruits

9.    SAINTS-- Study the saints and you will see the powerful action of the Holy Spirit in their lives, i.e., St. Dominic Savio written by St. John Bosco.

10.MARY & THE Holy Spirit.  Meditate upon Mary’s relationship to the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

THE INSTITUTION OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST



MT. 26:26-28. / And also Jn. 6—Read and meditate…
 

Two of the greatest gifts that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ left for us as most powerful means to get to our eternal goal, heaven, were the most Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Jesus left us this great gift of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. The Last Supper was the first Holy Mass. Then the following day, Good Friday, Jesus left us another sublime and most consoling gift, and it was His most Holy Mother, Mary most Holy.  These were the words of the bestowing of this great gift: “Woman, behold, your son. Then he said to the disciple, Behold, your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (Jn. 19:26-27).

OUR LADY AND THE MASS AND EUCHARIST.   Most certainly Our Lady can help us to appreciate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the most Holy Eucharist and the reception of Holy Communion better. Mary always connects us, links us, and unites us with her Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. She nourished within her most pure body, her precious womb the Body and Blood of Jesus. We receive the Body and Blood of Jesus within our souls every time we receive Holy Communion. Of course Our Lady can help us to upgrade and improve our reception of the great Gift—Jesus—that was given to the world through Mary. Talk to Mary right now and beg her for greater faith, love and devotion for the Holy Eucharist. Implore Our Lady for an ardent desire and yearning to receive her Son Jesus in Holy Communion more frequently but also more fervently—with a more passionate love. Our Lady is listening to you right now!

MARIAN APPARITIONS AND THE HOLY EUCHARIST. How fascinating indeed it is that in the three most famous Marian Apparitions—of course approved by Holy Mother Church—had a very strong Eucharistic thrust. What are these three most famous Marian Apparitions? In chronological order they are the following:

1)    Our Lady of Guadalupe—in the City of Mexico: four Marian apparitions took place in the year 1531.  Our Lady asked through her servant Saint Juan Diego that a Church be built there in Tepeyak. Why the Church?  For this simple reason: so that Holy Mass would be celebrated and the people could receive Jesus, the Son of Mary, in Holy Communion. Millions of pilgrims come every year! Many come to visit Our Lady and many come to the Basilica to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. As Mary’s womb contained Jesus, the Tabernacle is the House of Jesus now; the Tabernacle is the living heartbeat of the Church. Mary helped to form the Sacred Heart of Jesus in her womb for nine months.

2)    Our Lady of Lourdes—in a mountain-region in France. Our Lady appeared to a simple, humble, sickly little girl BERNADETTE SOUBIROUS. The apparitions were many—18 in total. Our Lady asked that a Church be built there. Many miracles have occurred in Lourdes.  However, of greatest importance: most of the miracles occur at dusk during the course of the Eucharistic procession outside the Church. The same Jesus, the Son of Mary, who healed so many people of their sicknesses is still healing people today, if they entrust themselves to both Jesus and Mary. Why not turn to Mary and Jesus right now and beg for the grace of healing. Why not beg Our Lady, “Health of the Sick” that through her prayers to Jesus you might be healed. Beg Our Lady for the healing of your total person. Beg Our Lady for the healing of your past memories that come back to torture you in the present. Implore Our Lady’s prayers to heal your soul wounded by past sins; some of these are gaping wounds. Ask Our Lady for the grace to break with past bad habits—possibly vices—that have the power to enslave you. Ask Our Lady to heal your body that possibly in the past you have used more to sin and offend God then to glorify His Holy Name! Healing comes most powerfully through Our Lady’s prayers that lead us to Jesus present in His Church which is His Mystical Body; but most especially the healing comes through Confession and the worthy reception of Holy Communion, the Body (given by Mary) Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus.

3)    Our Lady of Fatima—took place in a small town in Portugal, Fatima. Our Lady appeared to three small shepherd children—Jacinta, Francisco and their cousin Lucia de los Santos. Before Our Lady appeared to the children, the Angel of Portugal appeared. Strikingly, the last appearance of the Angel was marked with a Eucharistic miracle that changed the lives of the children. Suspended in the air on high, above the Angel could be seen the Chalice which contained the Precious Blood of Jesus, the Son of Mary; then below the Chalice could be seen the large Host that the priest lifts up in Holy Mass during the consecration. The Angel told the children to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus that was already so much offended; in other words, the angel wanted them to make a Communion of reparation for the sins against the Holy Eucharist. This they did. Jacinta and Francisco took from the chalice—a prophecy of their early deaths. Lucia received the Sacred Host.  Then Our Lady appeared to the three children on six consecutive occasions. Our Lady asked that a Church be built there. Why the Church? Once again the response is the same: to honor, love and adore Jesus—the Son of Mary—who descends from heaven in every consecration and descends into human hearts every time they receive Holy Communion.  To love Mary is to love her Son Jesus and to love Jesus is to love His Mystical Body which is the Catholic Church. To love Jesus most is to have an ardent and burning desire to receive Him into our hearts, minds and souls in Holy Communion.  Saint Paul says: “Put on the mind of Christ…” then St. Paul says: “You have the mind of Christ.”  Mary formed the mind of Jesus within her womb for nine months. We have the mind of Christ when we receive Holy Communion worthily. Beg Our Lady as well as Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco for the grace to receive Jesus with great love, devotion fervor as well as frequency in Holy Mass and Holy Communion.

Saint Pope John Paul II has made this wonderful connection between Our Lady and Holy Communion.   The spiritual giant, St. Pope John Paul II says that the “Yes” (Fiat) of Mary in the Annunciation is similar to when we say “Amen” before receiving Holy Communion. The result is the same: receiving Jesus into the very depths of our souls. Let us beg Our Lady for a greater hunger and thirst to receive Jesus the Bread of Life. Amen.

(Suggestion: view the movie “The greatest miracle”/ “El gran milagro”). This can help to supplement your meditations on this wonderful theme of Mary and the Holy Eucharist.

Monday, May 18, 2015

THE MOST IMPORTANT BUT FORGOTTEN PERSON—THE HOLY SPIRIT



It was a laborious and strenuous two years of Confirmation teaching.  I had the teen boys, a group I really worked hard to prepare them for the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Right around the corner awaited the Bishop to confirm my little flock. Knowing that often the Bishop would ask spontaneous questions to the candidates, I wanted to make sure that my boys at least knew enough on the Person of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, as a teacher, I could be in trouble!

Therefore, in one of the last classes I launched the all-important question to my prospect confirmandi:  “Who is the Holy Spirit?” This question met with a resounding and penetrating silence in my ears! Thinking that possibly they were distracted I pitched out the question the second time: “Who is the Holy Spirit?” To my chagrin, the question was met with the same terrifying silence! Well, I thought, maybe they did not hear me properly, so I decided to beg the question a third and final time: “Who is the Holy Spirit?”  One boy, seeming to be camouflaged in the back seats of the classroom, opened up his mouth and said clearly and bluntly: THE BIRD!!!

To my relief, I rested a bit more in peace, at least one of them articulated one of the most eloquent and known symbols of the Holy Spirit—not so much “The Bird”, but the Dove. But at least he was close; at least in the ballpark!

In Ephesus Saint Paul once launched the same question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit.”  Their response was a little bit worse than my Confirmation students:  “We did not so much as know that there is a Holy Spirit.”(Acts 19:1-9)

For many the Holy Spirit is the forgotten member of the most Holy Trinity. We pray to the Father, at least the Our Father; the Son Jesus, we read the Gospels and know Jesus at least partially, but how many of us know of the Holy Spirit, much less pray to Him and have devotion to Him? I imagine very few across the board! Indeed, He is the forgotten Person of the Blessed Trinity.

This being the case how can we know, love and cultivate a deep friendship with the Holy Spirit, who is so important because the Holy Spirit is God; He is the third Person of the most Blessed Trinity. Countless are ways that we can grow deeper in our relationship with the Holy Spirit, but we would like to mention just a few, three will suffice!

1.    LEARN ABOUT HIM. Two sources I would suggest! First, read and meditate attentively the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES. A fascinating book attributed to Saint Luke is one of the best action books of the New Testament. But also it is known as the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. The reason for this is that there are so many references to the action of the Holy Spirit throughout the whole inspired text. As you read underline texts and passages that mention the Holy Spirit and note His manner of proceeding and talk to Him as an intimate Friend. Then read the spiritual masterpiece of the modern author Jacques Philippe:  “The School of the Holy Spirit.” The essence of holiness is to learn to be docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

2.    FRIENDSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.  Get in the habit of talking frequently to the Holy Spirit. You can pray a formal prayer or hymn to the Holy Spirit or talk to Him in your own words. Note also your relationship to the Blessed Trinity. God the Father is your “Dad”; In Hebrew He is known as “Abba”—meaning “Daddy”. Jesus is your older Brother. What an honor to have Jesus as your elder brother starting at the moment of Baptism. Then who exactly is the Holy Spirit for you?  To be theologically exact the Holy Spirit is your BEST FRIEND.  How consoling this truth. In concrete this means that you are never alone;  you do not have to experience a crushing loneliness so characteristic of the modern world. In any time and place you can stop and talk to this loving Friend who you can discover in the very depths of your heart, the very depths of your soul—of course, if you are in the state of sanctifying grace.


3.    DOCILITY TO THE HOLY SPIRIT.   The Holy Spirit is the best of Friends, but at the same time He is the most demanding of Friends. This means that the Holy Spirit will inspire you often with heavenly touches that are called inspirations. At times the Holy Spirit will move you against the grain, go against your will, and even nudge you in the direction of the cross. Do not resist His heavenly beckonings!  An interesting story is related by the famous and highly respected modern writer Jacques Philippe in his literary masterpiece “The School of the Holy Spirit”.  In essence this is the account. Fr Jacques returns home from a retreat and exhausted, with the only desire to retire to his room and rest for the night. However, something happens. Within Father Jacques he hears the gentle bit insistent invitation to do something small but important for God. What to do?  The inspiration was to not to go to his room immediately; rather, the Holy Spirit as nudging him to go to the chapel and to make a short visit to Jesus present in the most Blessed Sacrament. After possibly a bit of resistance Fr. Jacques capitulated and pays Jesus a short but fervent visit before retiring to his room. Consequently he retires, falls asleep and gets up the next day with consolation and ready to start afresh new apostolic initiatives. Question? What most likely would have happened if Fr. Jacques were to have resisted the invitation? I think we all know what would have happened to us! Getting to sleep would have been close to impossible, tossing and turning all night with our conscience pricking away at us; due to the lack of sleep cranky and irritable the whole day! What do you think?  In sum, our attitude and response should be that of the young Samuel in the Temple: “Speak O Lord for your servant is listening.”   We must be docile, open and responsive to Our Best Friend—the Holy Spirit.

Finally, a closing note of paramount importance! Draw close to Our Lady and she will draw you close to the Holy Spirit. Our Lady is the Daughter of God the Father, the Mother of God the Son, but she is also the Mystical Spouse of the Holy Spirit.  For this important reason Saint Louis de Montfort asserts forcefully: “Those who love Mary, the Holy Spirit flings Himself into their souls.”  If we desire a New Pentecost in our lives and a divine invasion and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, then the key is a true, filial and loving devotion to Mary. Let us pray this short but fervent prayer: “Come Holy Spirit come through the Heart of Mary.”

Monday, May 11, 2015

TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD JESUS




(Mt. 17:1-13/Mk. 9:1-13)

Read and pray over very attentively the Biblical passage of the Transfiguration—the 4th Luminous Mystery. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you in a very special way. Be docile, open and willing to listen to the Word of God. Our Lady pondered meditated deeply the Word of God and she can help you to do the same!

Jesus willingly came to earth to share our human condition. Jesus has two natures: the Divine (He is God), the Human (He is man). The union of the two natures is the Incarnation. It was through Our Lady’s “Yes” that Jesus came down from heaven to earth and took on a human body.(Lk. 26-38)

FORMATION OF JESUS’ BODY.  It was Our Lady, Mary most holy, who formed the sacred Body of Jesus within her womb during the course of nine months. Our Lady formed Jesus, giving to Him from her own body and substance His Blood, veins, arteries, eyes, lungs, and even His most Sacred Heart.

SACRED HEART OF JESUS. It was Our Lady who formed the most Sacred heart of Jesus within her most pure womb for nine months. Turn to Our Lady and beg her to form your heart. Beg Our Lady to intercede for you with her most powerful prayers to purify, to mold, to recreate your heart so that it can become more and more like the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May we be able to say the words of Saint Paul, as a result of the intercession of Our Lady: “No longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me.”

FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS.  One of the many lessons that flow spontaneously from the TRANSFIGURATION of Jesus is that of human friendship.  Jesus ardently desired to enter into deep friendship with these men who chose—especially Peter, James and John. These were the three that accompanied Jesus as he ascended the mount of the Transfiguration. At the Last Supper Jesus will call them FRIENDS!

WALK AND TALK WITH JESUS.   Jesus walked and talked to His Friends. Jesus wants to walk and to talk to you right now. Jesus wants to enter into a very deep friendship with you right now.

MARY AND FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS.  There was nobody on earth, nor even in heaven, aside from God Himself, that ever had a deeper friendship with Jesus than His Mother Mary most holy.

MARY KNEW JESUS IN THE WOMB.  Nobody knew Jesus better than Mary. As mentioned earlier Mary formed Jesus within her womb during the course of nine months. No greater intimacy exists in this world, on a human level, than a baby being formed in the womb of his own mother.

MARY KNEW JESUS AS A CHILD.  Jesus spent most of His life on earth with both St. Joseph and Mary in their home of Nazareth. Mary watched Jesus, contemplated Jesus, talked to Jesus, listened to Jesus, contemplated His face and His very eyes. This happened for thirty long years. Turn to Mary, as you strive to enter into deeper Friendship with Jesus, and beg her to help you to get to know Jesus better and better. Stop and talk to Our Lady now with total confidence. She is your mother and you are her child.

OUR LADY OF THE WAY/ SANTA MARIA DEL CAMINO. There is a very well-known song in both Italian and Spanish with the title:  “Santa Maria del camino”—Our Lady of the way!  As Jesus climbed the Mount of the Transfiguration and made His way to the top, to the summit, the Apostles walked with Him side by side. In your travels in life beg Our Lady to accompany you, to be with you, to never abandon you. Mary will always point you to Jesus. Mary will help you to climb with Jesus and enter into deep union with Him.

 CALVARY AND MARY.  Jesus climbing is symbolic of our climbing our own CALVARY. We should never presume to have the strength to carry our cross by ourselves. Our Lady can help you every step along the way.  Life without Jesus and Mary can be very sad, depressed and even bitter. That is why we cry out to Mary in the prayer the Hail Holy Queen… “Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope.”

PILGRIM PEOPLE.  We are pilgrim people heading towards our eternal destiny—which is heaven.  As we climb the mountain towards our eternal destiny—heaven—Mary can guide us, help us encourage us, and comfort us. Spend some time now to talk to Mary about your past journey of life… Talk now to Mary about your present journey… Talk to Mary about your future journey—your future pilgrimage in life.

STAR OF THE SEA.  The great Marian Doctor Saint Bernard depicts this powerful image. The SHIP at sea is being assaulted by constant waves. The wind is beating mercilessly against its rudder. The waters are starting to enter in with a real danger of losing the ship, of the ship capsizing and eventually sinking. Then all of a sudden a beautiful star breaks through the night clouds and glimmers forth. This star seems to be pointing towards the shore. The captain, with great confidence, looks deep into the star and decides to follow it. The waves subside, the storm calms down, the winds abate. With almost unspeakable peace and swiftness the ship is already arriving safely at the shore. The ship, captain and all the members are saved! Thanks to the STAR OF THE SEA.

LIFE AND THE STAR OF THE SEA—OUR LADY STAR OF THE SEA. In the midst of the tempests, storms, afflictions, trials, temptations constantly present in life, we must lift our gaze to Our Lady, star of the sea. She will safely direct us to the port of salvation, to our eternal home which is heaven.

MOUNTAIN TOP/SHORE.  Both the mountain top of the Transfiguration as well as the shore are symbolic for heavenly rest at the end of the journey, by sea or by land. Jesus wants to walk with us, talk with us, be with us and to accompany us the whole way.  Our Lady also wants to keep us close to her on this perilous journey.

DISTRACTIONS AND TEMPTATIONS. It is all too easy to give up the climb of the high and challenging mountain; it is all too easy to sink in the waves of our own sensuality and selfishness and to give up the fight. For that reason we want to call out to Mary who will always lead us to Jesus.  The devil has a mortal fear of Mary and even her Holy Name. Why not in moments of temptation to call upon the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

TRANSFIGURATION’S MANY MESSAGES.  The mystery of the Transfiguration has many powerful and deeply spiritual messages. The one that we have chosen is FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS AND MARY!!!

IGNATIAN NOTE.  The Virgin that  Saint Ignatius of Loyola had special devotion to was “La Madonna de la Strada”—literally translated: “Our Lady of the street”, loosely translated: “Our Lady of the way.” In the Jesuit Mother House in Rome this beautiful image can be found!

JESUS AND MARY: YOUR BEST FRIENDS. In concluding your journey, your climb, your sea-journey with Jesus and Mary, spend some closing moments opening up your heart to its very depths and talk to Mary. Tell her all that is going on right now in your life. Ask her to be with you always, every step along the way until your reach heaven. The quickest path to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

FIGHTING AND SUFFERING FOR CHRIST




The Bible teaches us in very clear terms: If you want to follow the Lord be prepared for battle. Jesus warns us time and time again:  “Whoever wants to be my follower must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”(Lk. 9:23)

Not only the cross but Jesus promises persecution for those who have decided to follow Him without hesitation, stutter or stammer, without reservation! The last of the eight Beatitudes, in the start of the Sermon on the Mount is “blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake; theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Ironically and paradoxically as it might seem: living out fully the first seven beatitudes culminates in an award—the eighth beatitude, persecution for the sake of Christ. Still Our Lord encourages us to rejoice because an eternal reward, that of Heaven is waiting for us. (The Beatitudes: Mt. 5:1-12)

Immature Catholics, many new to the faith, erroneously believe that by becoming a Catholic-Christian life will be a joy ride and a bed of roses and a perpetual springtime, or an endless honey-moon.  Quite the contrary!  Jesus Himself laid out the groundwork and battlefield.    Those who will be persecuting us, and possibly with the greatest frequency, will be our own family members.  

Jesus said:  Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother in law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.” (Mt.10: 34-36)

This being the case in the battle arena to please God, to save our own immortal soul as well as to be an instrument to save other souls, let us look objectively at the reality of what we might coin “Family persecution”—that is to say, persecution from our own family members because we have determined with a determined determination to follow Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The persecutions are many, some rather subtle, others blatant and persistent!

Often this persecution comes after we ourselves have gone through a radical personal conversion. In my experience as a priest for close to thirty years is the reality of two catalysts—means of deep conversion to Christ.  The first is a total and deep consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The second is the deepening in meditative and contemplative prayer through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.  Having persevered through these two spiritual “Boot-camps” and by living out these intense spiritual programs a true and ardent fire is enkindled in the heart. As Jesus highlighted on fervor: “I have come to cast fire to the earth and I am not in peace until that fire be ignited.”(Lk.12: 49)  The last words that St. Ignatius said to St. Francis Xavier, as the ardent Apostles was sent off to convert thousands of souls in India and even Japan were:  “Go set all on fire.”

The following are common “family-persecutions” for those who have been set on fire for Jesus through Marian consecration and Ignatian contemplative prayer! These are common areas of attack from family members.

  1. MASS AND CHURCH.   You feel a magnetic drawing to come to daily Mass and to receive the Bread of life in Holy Communion. So much is the fervor for Holy Mass that you cannot live without it. As oxygen is to the body and lungs, so are Holy Mass and Holy Communion to your soul. However, family members will start to complain:  “You are turning into a monk!” and: “You are going overboard!” Persecution is underway!
  2. MARIAN DEVOTION AND THE ROSARY.  Consecration to Mary, if done with true sincerity, sets our hearts on fire for Our Lady and her wishes. Saying a Rosary is little. Those who love Mary at times feel inclined to pray more than one Rosary a day.  Studies show that the last few Popes would pray as many as three Rosaries a day, such was their love for Our Lady and her favorite prayer—the beautiful bouquet of roses, fifty in total that we call “The Rosary”.  Family members, aware of the fact that you prayed a Rosary earlier in the day will object—“Why another Rosary; one is more than enough!” There is a divine and human disconnect. Those who think according to the flesh cannot understand nor perceive the person who is led by the spirit!  These are two different wave-lengths; and they will not connect!
  3. FREQUENT CONFESSION.  Going   through a radical conversion often results in a deeper and more refined formation of the conscience. What did not bother you before your conversion now bothers you immensely. Why?  If you like, follow this analogy!  If you are walking in darkness you will not be able to see the spots, coffee marks, or stains on your white shirt. But once you walk under the sun and are exposed to pure light even the smallest spots can be detected. Such is the delicacy of the conscience of the person who has gone through a radical conversion to Jesus and Mary. Therefore, once you are heading off to confession every two or three weeks your husband might start to ask and complain—“What did you do???”  And “Why are you going to confession so often? Twice a year was your normal process; now why almost every other week!” Scrupulosity has gotten the best of you! You are getting a little bit nutty!
  4. T.V. SHOWS AND MODERN MOVIES.  Before it was all but normal to sit there in front of the T.V. and watch programs, movies, comedies, etc. This was done to accompany your spouse for the purpose of at least bonding. Now you simply cannot! Indecent images and scenes, commercials that are all but pornographic, language that would make the walls blush, not to mention sarcasm and insults to all that is sacred, are so rampant on T.V. that your conscience will no longer permit you from viewing such trash. By doing so you are condoning evil.  As a pastor and spiritual counsellor I use this acid test.  If you are sitting down and viewing such and such a show, if Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph were to walk in the door as your guests, do you think that they would sit down next to you on the couch and view those programs joyfully??? Do you think the Holy Family would applaud such viewings??? St. Elizabeth Anne Seton (1774-1821) had a vision of a black box that would enter the American homes and destroy the families. Could this vision have been a prophecy of the T.V and modern computer with the Internet? What do you think?
  5. PARTIES AND THE SOCIAL LIFE.  Before you were an extroverted socialite! Weekends were jam-packed with pool parties, social engagements, wild-dancing and drinking--- in a word relaxing, having fun and living it up. This was done with your husband and maybe kids.  Now at the parties with immodest dress, dirty jokes, excessive drinking and unending gossip as well as constant attacking of the Church and all that is sacred, in conscience you feel obliged to renounce many of these social engagements that were normal a part of your social weekend fabric! Now your husband calls you the following: antisocial, a deadbeat, a party-pooper, a kill-joy, a dour and sour and sanctimonious ascetic! He might go far as to say: “Wake up and smell the coffee; be with it!  Be modern and do not to be living as a relic of past centuries!”  Consequently you suffer. The person that you love most makes you suffer most because there is a spiritual disconnect! The person that you honestly pledged to love the most has turned into the person that makes you suffer most!
  6. DRESS.  Before dressing according to the times was part of your life-style and you had no qualms of conscience. After your consecration to Mary you are keenly aware of your dress-code. You are aware of the fact that you are a daughter of God, temple of the Holy Spirit, daughter of Mary, as well as, in the words of St. Paul, “an ambassador of Christ.” Provocative, low-cut, seductive and alluring dress attire can no longer square with your conscience. Once again, most possibly your husband is constantly irritated at your new life-style. He launches sarcastic remarks of this style: “You appear to be an archaic fossil or relic of the Middle Ages. You would win first prize as an advertisement for Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Come on—move in to at least the 19th century!” This can cause you intense and constant pain; this indeed is Family persecution.
  7. EXTRAVAGANT MEALS. Before it was all but common to dine in exotic, elaborate, extravagant and of course expensive Restaurants. Now your mode of living is much more simple, frugal, Spartan, and Christian! Why squander exorbitant sums of money on unnecessary food and much will be uneaten and trashed anyway!  So many children will go to bed hungry this very night, not to mention many will even die of  hunger.  Here it comes again! Your loved will coax you on with these or similar words: “Eat, drink and be merry!” and “You have one life to live: live it up.” Or “It is Miller time!”  And of course:  “Relax and chill out; you are too stressed out!” Of course nothing wrong with a gourmet and nourishing meal. However, it is easy to go to extremes with the body!
  8. TALK.  The greatest desire of your heart is God and all that refers to God! Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Therefore, your conversation often focuses around God and all that refers to His Kingdom and glory as well as the salvation of souls. Family members start to complain. “Why don’t you change the tune?”  And then here it comes: “Do not be a fanatic! Be normal!” Finally, “Stop preaching to us!”
  9. GOSSIP.  As a sequel to the last point on Talk is that of gossip. Before making the Marian consecration and going deep in prayer through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, you had no qualms to going out with the lady-friends or friends in general and shooting the breeze. Talking and talking and talking without too much reflection were par for the course. As the Bible teaches unequivocally: the person who talks too much will sin in his speech. Now your words are said preceded by reflection with the desire to please Jesus and Mary and to bring souls closer to God. The past gossipy friends notice your difference and no longer feel comfortable with you. Net result of this: end of this friendship. Jesus said that we cannot serve God and mammon at the same time. The Word of God teaches us also that God is a jealous lover—meaning, He does not want gossipy lips and mouths!
  10. IMAGES.  Before your radical conversion the home was surrounded with paintings and adornments that were not necessarily sinful, however somewhat pagan. Now your desire is for the images of Divine Mercy, Our Lady, Saint Joseph and the classical catholic art of the past 2000 years! Once again your husband comes home from work and views another religious painting and explodes:  “You are turning our home into a religious museum, worse-yet, a Gothic Cathedral! I feel as if I am living in a monastery!”

In conclusion, Jesus indeed promised persecution. The disciple is not greater than the Master. If the Master suffered and persecuted for the Truth, so will His friends and disciples. However, we should be filled with an over-flowing peace, joy and consolation. Why?  Because we are following in the footsteps of the Master and His promise is the greatest: THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN!!!! Those who patiently suffer with the Lord persecutions—and family persecutions with all that entails—will have a great recompense in the Kingdom of God for all eternity! “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”(Mt. 5:12)