Monday, November 17, 2014

FIGHTING FOR FAMILY FAITHFULNESS


 

The family is under violent attack! The stability and the future of the society depend on the stability of the family. God created man and woman to fall in love with each other, to cement their love and union with the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and then the most exalted gift of Holy Matrimony is the birth of the child.

Parents collaborate with God in bringing forth new life; this we call PROCREATION.  God indeed is the Creator and Lord of the universe. However, He calls man and woman to be united in Matrimony to collaborate with Him in bringing forth this new life. In the moment of conception God Himself intervenes infusing an immortal soul in that new human being that will live for all eternity. How sublime and noble is the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the formation of the human family!

We would like to offer a few concrete and concise suggestions so as to foster Holy Matrimony—between man and woman until death do they part. We hope and pray that Traditional marriage and family as ordained by God would receive renewed vigor and hope for the future of the child, the society and the salvation of the world and large.

1.    PREPARATION.  Athletes prepare before entering into performance. Future Doctors spend many years in preparation for their mission of sustaining life and healing sicknesses. Future priests spend long years in the Seminary studying Philosophy and Theology and Church discipline. Future Olympians prepare years before the Olympic Games actually start. Should not future married couples spend time and effort in studying the nature of marriage, the family, possible obstacles in the path so as to live out to the fullest extent possible their vocation of marriage? Parishes should provide for their prospect couples three invaluable tools: 1) Marriage-mentoring couples to give them spiritual and practical advice of how to live out marriage. 2) (NFP) NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING.  Couples should learn seriously the method and technique of Natural Family Planning. One of the principal reasons for tension in marriages, a dying of love and eventually separations is the contraceptive mentality. A woman who is forced by her husband to use contraceptives often feels used as an object and this causes much tension and bitterness in her heart. Couples should definitely learn NFP—the natural means to avoid children only if they have just and sufficient reason as Blessed Paul VI reminds us in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. 3) ENGAGED COUPLES RETREAT.  Making a weekend Engaged Couples Retreat can prove exceedingly useful for future marriage and family.  If this retreat is well-organized and well-done, then the couples will be given the tools to live out their marriage peacefully, faithfully, harmoniously and with abundant blessings upon their children.

2.    GENERAL CONFESSION.   Highly recommended for a couple shortly before receiving the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is to make a General Confession of the sins of one’s whole life.  Saint Ignatius of Loyola strongly exhorts those making the Spiritual Exercises to make a General Confession of one’s whole life. Equally important is that of a couple about to make the most important decision in their lives to start with a clean slate by confessing all of their sins, purifying their consciences, immersing themselves in God’s infinite mercy and experiencing the peace that goes beyond all understanding. New beginnings and a new life can be experienced by making a General Confession.  What a tragedy indeed it would be for a couple to receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in the state of mortal sin! Many marriages most likely experience constant tensions due to the couple starting off on the wrong foot by not being in the state of grace!   The Father of the Prodigal Son is always waiting for us with His arms opened!

3.    CHRISTOCENTRIC COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE. Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen of happy memory was one of the first tele-evangelists in the United States.  A great preacher and teacher he was; furthermore, Sheen was a prolific and profound writer. One of his classics on marriage is titled “It takes three to get married.”  Who are these three? Quite simply they are the husband, the wife, and the third and most important is Jesus. Jesus is the super-glue that holds all marriages together.

4.    SACRED-HEART TRANSPLANT.  Next, married couples should have frequent recourse to the Sacraments, but especially the greatest of all of the Sacraments—the Most Holy Eucharist.  In every Eucharist, consecrated Host, Jesus is truly present in His totality---Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. In the Body the noblest organ is the heart. Therefore, every time we receive Holy Communion we receive the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is a spiritual HEART-TRANSPLANT. There is no more efficacious manner to fortify love between a married couple then to receive Holy Communion together--- if at all possible, even on a daily basis! If done both husband and wife can love each other with the love of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. How sublime but how true!

5.    CONSECRATION TO THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY.  Man and woman that make the decision to marry until death do they part and to be open to having children and bringing them to heaven should invite Our Lady, Mary most Holy, the Mother of God, to be constantly present with them! They should consecrate their purity and their courtship to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. On the day of the wedding they should present the bouquet of roses before the image of Mary and consecrate their marriage and family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Then during the whole course of their married life they should make the firm decision to pray the most Holy Rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary every day of their family life. Saint Pope John Paul II in his spiritual masterpiece “The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary” exhorted forcefully that the most Holy Rosary be prayed especially for two intentions: 1) World Peace, 2) For the Family.  The famous “Rosary priest” Father Patrick Peyton coined these immortal sayings:  “The family that prays together stays together…” and “A world at prayer is a world and peace.” In conclusion, let us do all we can to foster matrimony and family. The future of the world passes through the family. May the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph be our guide and strength!

Monday, November 10, 2014

DO YOU LIVE TO EAT OR EAT TO LIVE???




This is a key question as the Holiday Season quickly approaches: “Do you live to eat or eat to live?” If you eat to live then you are practicing the moral or cardinal virtue called “Temperance”.  But if you live only to eat, Saint Paul calls this the god of the belly or classical spiritual theology term this as the Capital sin of Gluttony!

A concise and easy to remember definition of Gluttony is the following: “Gluttony is a disordered desire to eat and drink.” The key word is disordered!  Indeed we must eat; otherwise we will die—this is common sense! However, the problem is in the disorder in the manner of eating!

Indeed there is a real epidemic of over-eating and gluttony in USA. Articles have been written in the past years of obesity among so many in the country. There have also been articles written on the danger that obese children will incur in their near future!

High cholesterol, high blood-pressure, diabetes, possibility of heart attacks and strokes, intestinal problems and ulcers—are just a few of the negative side-effects of those who are living a gluttonous life-style. There is a saying that rings true:  “There are more in the cemetery for gluttony than for wars!”  We are digging our graves with our teeth.

Gluttony can manifest itself in a great variety of manners, but when all is said and done it is an eating disorder. What might be some ways that gluttony manifests itself? First of all simply over-eating or eating too much! Others might fall in to gluttony by eating too quickly or voraciously! Still others might be gluttonous in the sense that they eat at any time and place and have no sense of order in their eating habits—they might be the perpetual nibblers, having as distant cousins the rabbits! Then there is the class of glutton that eats only what he wants, the food that he likes, the food that damages his health(in disobedience to his doctor), rather than eating the healthy food that he knows he should consume. This too is gluttony!  Then there is the glutton who drinks too much—this too is gluttony, as well as the person addicted to drugs!  In other words, the sin of gluttony is much more extensive that might meet the naked eye!

REASONS FOR GLUTTONY?   They are many! In the USA one of the primary reasons for gluttony is the simple availability of food and eating.  Wherever you turn in any small, moderate or big city you are bombarded with Restaurants, all competing among themselves to get customers.

Then there is the “All you can eat buffet”.  We all know what these places are and the temptation that comes with entering the door!  The temptation is very simple! This “All you can eat buffet” gives you an incredible price: Tuesday night is all you can eat for only $4.99!  Wow!!! So what happens? Before you enter you promise that you will control your appetites! But then after finishing your 2nd huge platter, you reason: “Well I paid for it; why not go back and get my 3rd or 4th platter, even though after your 2nd you are already stuffed and your pants buckle have no further holes to adjust your bulging waist-line! Against reason and common sense you go to town!  That very night and the following morning you regret having over-eaten and all of the Alka-Seltzer you down cannot remedy your wrong choice!

Another reason for giving in to the sin of gluttony is what we might call the “Law of compensation” and it is this!   When you are experiencing, what St. Ignatius calls a state of desolation—sadness, discouragement, tepidity, lack of faith, hope and charity, and life seems to have no glimmer or meaning—that is the time when the devil will tempt you at your weak point.  And your weak point might be simply this—to seek refuge in the pleasure of the palate and the place at the table or the raid of the Refrigerator! Give it whatever term you like!

In other words, explained theologically, the human heart has been made to be filled with God and indeed only God can fill our deepest yearnings. Saint Augustine in his Confessions coined the classic: “O Lord you have made our hearts for thee and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”  In other words there is an empty hole in our hearts placed there by God Himself. If this empty hole is not filled by a love for God then it will be filled with another God and that can be as Saint Paul calls it “The god of the belly.”

The Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas, gives it another twist.  This superb Doctor of the Church points out that either we will fall in love with the true God or we will fall in love with the false god. And that false god can be one of many, but it could be the god of gluttony! In other words, it is idolatry.

Put simply, if we put any person, place, thing, object or even idea above the One true God, then we have fallen into the sin of idolatry. Indeed how easy it is to take our eyes of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to go after false gods. Never forget: our God is a jealous God and will take 2nd place to no person, place or thing. He is a jealous lover!

In conclusion, if you have fallen into gluttony never become downhearted, discouraged, or lose hope! Our God is a patient, loving, kind, compassionate and merciful God. Indeed the Psalmist asserts: “Our God is slow to anger and rich in forgiveness.”  Let us pray as the Holiday season approaches in which we give thanks to God for all His wonderful gifts, we rejoice at the Birth of Jesus the Lord and usher in the New Year under the loving gaze of Mary Mother of God that we would practice the virtue of temperance. In sum, let us not live to eat but eat to live! And as such the glorify God in our mortal bodies which are destined for eternal glory!

Monday, November 3, 2014

REMEMBER THE LAST THINGS AS IMPORTANT THINGS




In the context of the Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius invites his retreatants to meditate upon the Last things; however these last things should be among the most important things in our spiritual life.

In Spiritual Theology the technical word is “Eschatology” which means the study of the “Last Things.” Some authors write about the “four” last things; but we would like to add a fifth.

What then are these “five” last things? Here they are for your reflection and meditation:  Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell and yes Purgatory. There we have the big five! Let us give a brief reflection in these last things which are indeed very important things!

1.    DEATH.  Death is the most certain of the human condition, but it is also the most uncertain.  Why this somewhat paradoxical statement? For this reason alone! No person who enters into the human scene can avoid the reality of death. Whether we are small or tall, fat or skinny, intelligent or quite the opposite, rich or poor—the phantom of death respects nobody, absolutely nobody!  The richest person who walks planet earth as well as the poorest indeed will end up in the same place: six-feet beneath the ground! Saint Ignatius of Loyola in his famous meditation titled Principle and Foundation teaches us how to confront the inevitable reality of death. He reminds us:  “We should not prefer a long life over a short life; health over sickness, riches over poverty, honor over humiliations. Rather, we should choose the means that is most conducive to the end for which we were created—the eternal salvation of our soul. (Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, #23)  In other words, what is most important is not a long life, but a holy life.  St. Catherine of Siena reminds us:  “The two most important moments of our lives are now and at the hour of our death.”  Sounds like the last part of the Hail Mary! Therefore, we should do all in our power to live honest, dedicated and holy lives so as to die a holy death. Then we will be saved and be with the Lord for all eternity.   Let us start right now and strive to always keep our mind, hearts and souls fixed on heaven—our eternal destiny!

2.    JUDGEMENT.  At the moment we die, we will pass into our JUDGMENT. It is Jesus who will be judging all of us. We pray in the Creed or Profession of faith every Sunday:  “He (Jesus) will come to judge the living and the dead.” Our Judgment is the moment of truth! We can lie and deceive others, lie to our relatives and friends and loved ones; we can even lie to ourselves. This is all unfortunately true! However, the best of liars and deceivers cannot lie to Jesus who is the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life. Indeed Judgment is the moment of truth.  All that we have ever done in our life will be presented before our eyes together with Jesus. Nothing will be hidden. Not only will we see our actions, omissions, words, but we will even see our thoughts as well as the most intimate secrets and intentions of our hearts!  Indeed this is the moment of truth. If you like Judgment can be compared to “Movie day”.  The huge white screen will be set up; both you and Jesus will be seeing the film. You and just you will be the principal actor in this history and drama of your life. Obviously, the mere thought of our upcoming judgment before Jesus the Lord should shock us into reality and motivate us to renounce all that is dishonest, dirty, underhanded, and deceitful in our lives— knowing full well that this will be shown in graphic detail before the eyes of God Himself!

3.    HELL.   It is a teaching of the Catholic Church the existence and reality of Hell. Hell is an eternal abode of suffering and torment that never ends—it is forever and ever and ever! There are various sufferings. (Read the Diary of Mercy in my Soul of St. Faustina # 714) What are some of the sufferings mentioned: 1) Perpetual remorse of conscience; 2) No possibility to change, but forever fossilized in evil; 3) The presence of Satan perpetually as well as the other devils; 4) A fire that burns the soul but does not consume it, ignited by the just anger of God; 5)A putrid and suffocating smell that causes nausea; 6)Cries of despair and hatred against God of the damned.7) The worse suffering indeed is the loss of God for whom we were created for all eternity!  In addition to these tortures, every soul will be tortured in the way that he abused his body and senses in this world.  The classical work of Dante in his work “The Divine Comedy” depicts this in a masterful way! Who goes to hell?  The person who has died in the state of mortal sin without repentance has merited due to his own fault this eternal separation from God. Our Lady of Fatima warned the world that many souls are lost because not enough people pray and sacrifice for sinners. Also, Our Lady said that most souls are lost due to sins against the virtue of purity. Look at the world around us and see how true were the words and prophecy of Our Lady of Fatima!!!

4.    PURGATORY.  Every year after the Solemnity of All Saints, November 1st the Church commemorates “All Souls day” (November 2nd).  This is the day specified to pray for the souls in Purgatory. What is Purgatory? Different from Heaven and Hell, Purgatory is a temporary place. It is designed for those souls who have died in the state of sanctifying grace, yet are not perfect in love. Only those souls who have been perfected in love, without any stain on their souls can have admittance and entrance into Heaven. These are souls that have at present venial sins still on the wedding garment of their souls; or they have not sufficiently expiated or made up for some of their past sins—venial or mortal! Only the absolutely pure of heart will enter heaven. Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure of heart, they will see God.” (Mt. 5: 8).We can help the souls in Purgatory! How?  In many ways!  Prayer, fasting for them, sacrifices, acts of charity—all of these are means to help in the purification of our brothers and sister detained in Purgatory. Nonetheless, the most powerful prayer and means to alleviate the sufferings of our brothers in sisters, who are patiently waiting for the Lord’s time is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. On one occasion Pope Saint Gregory the Great offered a month of consecutive Masses for a friend of his who died and only after the whole month of Masses were offered did his friend return to the saintly Pope and tell him that he had reached heaven! We can never mistake by praying for the souls in Purgatory, even more important, to offer Masses for them. They will be eternally grateful for this gesture of charity.

5.    HEAVEN—OUR TRUE HOME! Before leaving this earth to return to the Heavenly Father Jesus made a most consoling promise. He said:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am you also might be.  In my Father’s house there are many mansions; if it were not so I would not have told you.” What a consoling message: Jesus has already prepared a place for you and for me in heaven. Our hearts should long for heaven.  May the Psalmist’s words be the most earnest yearnings of our heart: “As the deer yearns for the running waters so my soul yearns for you my God.” We should have a true fear of the Lord with respect to the reality and possibility of hell. However, we should have an ever greater longing for heaven our true home. Call to mind the happiest day, or the happiest hour of your life. Now magnify this joy a billion times; then add to this eternity, forever and ever and ever.  This is only a mere glimpse of what heaven really is. Saint Paul expressed the ineffable character of heaven with these words:  “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” And also: “The sufferings of the present cannot be compared to the glory that awaits the sons and daughters of God.”  Let us lift our eyes, mind, heart and soul to Our Lady who is Queen of Angels, Queen of Virgins, Queen of Martyrs, Queen of Confessors, and Queen of all the angels and saints and beg that through her most powerful intercession that one day we all might be a jewel in her heavenly crown so as to contemplate and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for all eternity. Amen

Monday, October 27, 2014

TEN WAYS TO PREPARE FOR A HOLY DEATH!

Stairway to heaven
The most important moment in our life is the very moment that we die. This will 
determine our destiny for all eternity. Either we will be saved or damned. Either we will be with God for all eternity or we will be lost for all eternity. The best way for all of us to have a holy death is to right now and until we die prepare for a holy and happy death. Hopefully these short but poignant ten sign posts can help you to make the right decisions so that when you die the Lord Jesus will be your Savior waiting to open up the eternal gates of Heaven to receive you!

1.    Live each day of your life as if it were your last; indeed it could be. Jesus warns us: “He will come like a thief in the night.”  Be prepared!

2.     NO TO SIN; YES TO GOD!  Sin leads to sadness, slavery and death. Let us renounce sin at all costs and turn to God who gives life. Jesus said:  “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life.”

3.    DO WHAT YOU ARE DOING!  This is a key concept of the saints. It means to live the Sacrament of the Present moment and always strive to do your duty and obligation with the best of intentions—meaning for the honor and glory of God!  

The Prodigal Son returns
4.     FALL? GET UP!  If you fall into sin, which will happen because we are all sinners, then get up right away. Never put off your conversion for tomorrow; rather move on your conversion immediately—before the sun goes down!

5.     LOVE!  Aim always for the greatest of all virtues: love! Jesus clearly tells us what is the greatest of all commandments and it is a double commandment: to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. But the second part is to love our neighbor intensely as we love ourselves. With reference to a holy death, Saint John of the Cross teaches us:  “In the twilight of our existence, we will be judged on love.” Led us aim for a more intense and burning love every day! Like the Virgin Mary let us die of love!

6.    BRING OTHERS TO HEAVEN. Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen gives us great advice on how to get to heaven. “If you want to get to heaven, then take somebody to heaven with you.”   Jesus says, “By their fruits they will be known.” Our desire should be to love what God loves and God loves the salvation of immortal souls. Hopefully this will by our ardent and all-consuming desire!

The glory of Heaven--  a mere glimpse!
7.    THINK OF HEAVEN!  Of enormous value in attaining a holy and happy death is the constant thought of gaining heaven but also the meditation on actually what heaven is!  Saint Paul gives us a mere glimpse with these inspiring words:  “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” Do this!  Think of the happiest two hours of your life, multiply that by a million times and then add eternity to it--- meaning forever and ever and ever…. You have a mere taste or mere glimpse of the glory of Heaven that awaits you!!!

8.     TELL JESUS WHAT YOU WANT!  From the depths of your heart talk to Jesus and express to Him the greatest desire of your heart and it is this: that you want to grow to love Him more and more each day, but that you want to love Him in heaven for all eternity.  Tell Jesus this, but remind Him every day. Ask your Guardian Angel to come to your aid!

9.    PURGATORY AND SUFFERING.  Why not ask the Lord Jesus to give you your Purgatory here while on earth??? It is so true the saying:  “Pay now or pay later!!!” Indeed much better to pay here while on earth then to pay in the fires of Purgatory after we die. How can this become a reality? Simple but hard at the same time! We all have to suffer and in many ways: physically, emotionally, economically (many of us), socially, and spiritually. Why not offer your suffering for the conversion of sinners, the purification of the souls in Purgatory but also that this suffering on earth would serve to be your Purgatory on earth to allow you to go quickly to heaven? Many of us never thought of this but God does not want us to go to Purgatory; rather, He wants us to go straight and directly to heaven, nonstop! Let us be honest, heaven is closed not due to bad will on the part of God, but due to our own pride, selfishness, egotism and resistance of God’s grace. Why not beg to correspond to God’s graces and accept your sufferings in this life so as to be united with God immediately upon death, which means eternal life!

10.MARY: THE QUEEN OF ANGELS AND SAINTS. The saints all agree on this spiritual maxim: “Mary is the quickest, most secure, and the most efficacious pathway to Jesus and to heaven.” Why not turn right now to Mary and beg for the grace to go to heaven.  Ask Mary in prayer what  is the major obstacle in your life that is blocking your free access to Jesus and heaven. Then beg our Lady for the grace to overcome that obstacle or spiritual detour on the Highway to Heaven.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR A HOLY AND HAPPY DEATH


Saint Joseph dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary
 
 

The great, mystic, lover of Christ, lover of the Church and Doctor of the Church,  Saint Catherine of Siena says that the two most important moments in our lives are: right now and then even more important the moment of our death. This sounds very much like the last part of the prayer that Our Lady loves most, the Hail Mary:  “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

The moment we die is so important because it will determine for all eternity(that means forever and ever and ever…)where we will remain, our eternal and immortal destiny! We will be there for ages on end!

Without hem or haw or beating around the bush, let’s say it bluntly: HEAVEN OR HELL!  Either we will be a permanent resident in our Heavenly Palace or in Satan’s torture chamber; we call this HELL!!!  True, this is a very sobering and stark reality.  There exists no other reality! Among the many tactics of the devil is a false concept of what happens after we die; we would like to renounce and reject this New Age idea!

As followers of Jesus Christ, we reject with a determined purpose and mind-set the reality of Reincarnation  or as the Greek philosophers called it the transmigration of the soul. This is to say, we believe in the reality that life is a battle and a testing ground .  The final test depends on whether or not we end our lives loving God and dying in the state of sanctifying grace or not. We reject firmly the false notion that we have many chances to make it to heaven. If you like  it is kind of like the lotto game, whereas  if you miss once you can try again, or like a Baseball batter who gets three strikes before he strikes out.  Reincarnation postulates that we have many chances and will come back in the next life as another being.

 
We do not want to strike out for all eternity!!!


As followers of Christ we believe in the following with respect to our final end!  God creates us out of love; He loves us with an infinite and unchangeable love. He wants to be loved in return. However, love is a two-way street that demands a response of love! This implies freedom or liberty. Now freedom can be either used to render God honor and glory and praise; or freedom can be abused. The nature of sin is simply that: the abuse of the freedom that God has given to us! God never coerces our will or forces us ever, but respects our freedom till the very end.

Love for God is not measured so much by feelings and emotions and sentiments. Rather, love for God can be measured by our willingness to obey God in all that He asks of us; this often implies the cross and suffering. Why? Because to deny our own will is exceedingly difficult due to our innate pride that we carry with us from the moment of our conception with the effects of Original Sin.  Jesus put it clearly:  “If you love me then keep my Commandments.”  Once again:  “Not all who say Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father.”  Satan denied God’s will saying: “I will not serve.”  Likewise, Adam and Eve said “no” to God by eating from the forbidden fruit. May we say “yes” to God in obedience and attain our ultimate goal---HEAVEN!

Three short suggestions that could prove invaluable in our spiritual life so that we can arrive safely home to heaven. The only thing that really matters in life is to get to heaven. Jesus said:  “What would it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul. What can a man exchange for his immortal soul?”

1.    NO TO SIN!!!  Our mortal enemy number one is SIN.  The two worst things in the world are the following and the last is by far the worst: committing a Mortal sin, dying in mortal sin! Saint Dominic Savio’s motto was” “Death rather than sin.” If you have the tragedy of committing a mortal sin, never despair but trust in the infinite mercy of God. However, run to the confessional as soon as possible and do not delay. It is so true that God’s mercy is infinite and it is His greatest attribute. Still to postpone, hold-off and procrastinate in renouncing our mortal sin is the sin of presumption. By presumption we mean we are presuming that God is going to give us a longer life. On this point there is no security!  We could die this day, this hour this very second—only God knows the day and the hour! A good confession is dying to sin and rising to new life. It is the celebration of the Paschal mystery in our own life: we die to sin by confession and rise to new life in the state of grace through repentance, confession, and absolution. Praise God for His infinite mercy!

2.    LIVE EACH DAY AS IF IT WERE OUR LAST!  The saints lived by this axiom! Listen to these wise proverbs.  “Do not put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”—especially conversion from sin to the love and following of Christ.  The Rule of Saint Benedict exhorts us:  “Think about death twice a day.” This is a holy reminder of our mortality and the shortness of life. The Psalmist admonishes us with these words on the ephemeral character of the human plight with these words:  “Our life is like the morning flower that rises in the morning but dries up and dies in the evening.” Finally, a modern Chilean Jesuit Saint Father Alberto Hurtado coined this impressive adage:  “There are two places where we can rest: the cemetery and heaven.” Wow!!!  In other words, let us work hard now because we have all eternity to rest with God. Finally Jesus Himself in the Parable of the Rich fool, sharply rebukes the rich man for accumulating and saving and living it up because that very night he would be destined to die and where will all of his possessions go? Today, probably to Uncle Sam or Obama care! But “Who” cares about that!!!
Breathe forth from your soul the Hail Mary
 

3.    BREATH OF OUR SOUL: THE HAIL MARY!!!  Beyond doubt love for Mary is key to growing in love for Jesus, in growing in sanctifying grace, living purity, and persevering in grace and attaining to our eternal reward in heaven. Saint Louis de Montfort asserts:  “Mary is the quickest, shortest and the most efficacious path to Jesus.” In other words, she is the shortcut to the Heart of God and Heaven. As breath is essential for the functioning of the lungs; so prayer is essential for the life-breath of the soul. Now the prayer that Mary loves most is of course the HAIL MARY! Better yet, Mary loves the Rosary or even many Rosaries! The more we say the Hail Mary and the Rosary with love and devotion, the more Mary loves us in return.  Finally, in those last moments of our life, when often the devil launches his last attack upon our soul, the Blessed Virgin Mary will be there to defend us against the evil one so that we can die in the loving embrace of Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph.  Simply the name of Mary makes all tremble, as we are reminded by Saint Louis de Montfort! 

In conclusion, let us calmly look at the purpose and meaning of our life, our immortality which means that one day we will die, and humbly beg for the grace to renounce sin in all forms, colors shapes and types; let us live each day loving God totally and live each day as if it were our very last. Finally, let us live constantly in the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary praying the Hail Mary with our soul the way the lungs breath in and out air! If done, our eternal destiny will be HEAVEN!!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

DEATH AND THEN WHAT???


 At funerals all too often you hear:  “Well, he is no longer suffering!” And, “Now he is in a much better place.”  And another common saying:  “Now he is in heaven with the Lord in glory!” Although the persons who have expressed these common niceties were most probably moved with good will and the best of intentions, they could be far off the target! Why this straight-forward and possibly startling remark? It is for this reason: the reality of PURGATORY!

Among the many heresies floating around in many catholic circles is that everybody goes to heaven and right away! In other words, simply being a baptized catholic and nothing more is a sure passport to heaven. No need for any intermediate state of purification; with death, the gates of heaven are open and the flight is non-stop and one way! The pearly-gates are opened and the Lord is ready to embrace forever!

Not only is this a false theology, but it is highly dangerous and damaging for the state of the deceased. Why? If all are totally convinced that “Uncle Harry” is rejoicing with God, the angels and saints meriting the fruits of his faith in God and earthly labors, then what is the purpose and reason for praying for him? No sense in praying for the saints in heaven, nor the condemned in hell, but only those detained in Purgatory.

Souls in the fire of Purgatory
 
It has been sound and solid Catholic teaching over the centuries that only those who are perfect in charity, have no impurities and imperfections on their souls and have done due reparation for the sins of their past will have access to  their Heavenly abode.  The Book of Revelation expresses this with the utmost clarity: “Nothing impure can enter the Kingdom of God.” Jesus reiterated this in the Sermon on the Mount, in one of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure of heart; they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)

The point is this: none of us have the authority to canonize unofficially any person that has passed from this life to the next life! By doing so in proclaiming that such a person is in a better place, is no longer suffering, is in the eternal and everlasting hills of peace and joy is presumptuous, wrong, and simply  false-compassion. Worse yet, we are taking over the role of the Holy Father, the Pope. Only the Pope himself has a right to canonize or to declare that such a person is definitely in heaven.  And there is only one Pope—it is not you nor is it me!

Pope Saint Gregory the Great
 
Speaking about Popes and Purgatory, there is a story very apropos of the topic of Purgatory and the importance of much prayer for the dead.   The story can be found in the life of one of the greatest Popes in the history of the Church. In fact, rarely does the church add to the name of the Pope “The Great”. The Pope that we are referring to is POPE SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT! (540-604)

On one occasion the Pope was talking to one of his friends on the topic of the after-life and the importance to pray for the dead!  The substance of their talk was the following: whoever died first, then the survivor would make it a point to pray for the deceased.

It happened that the friend of Pope Saint Gregory passed away first. Shortly after his death, his friend appeared to Gregory suffering intensely the pains of Purgatory.  He certainly did not seem to be in “a better place” or was “not suffering” as so many presume today!!! Quite the contrary his suffering was very intense to put it mildly!

That being the case, Pope Saint Gregory made a concerted effort to pray for his friend so as to alleviate his pains and to deliver him as soon as possible from Purgatory!

By far the most powerful prayer in the universe is the HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS! Therefore, Pope Saint Gregory the Great, being of course a priest started to offer Masses for the intention and purification and relief of his dear friend. This the Pope did with the best of intentions!

What do you think happened?   This holy Pope, canonized and known to be one of the greatest of all Popes in two millennia, offered a Mass, Masses, weeks of Masses, and finally a whole month of Masses for the delivery of this one soul—who probably was not such a bad guy according to world criteria.  However, it was only after a full month in which the Pope offered Masses for him every day that he was finally delivered and had full access to heaven.

True, after the month, the Pope’s friend appeared to him in glory, thanking him profusely for the many prayers offered that served to purify him of his sins, diminish his intense suffering and gain full entry to the Kingdom of Heaven.

GERGORIAN MASS.  This is the history and origin of what we call THE GREGORIAN MASS.   This Mass, or rather a long line of consecutive Masses, is offered for the deceased (it can also be offered for the living…) for the purpose of purifying the soul of the deceased, alleviating his intense suffering, and gaining for him access to heaven as soon as possible. Indeed it is a great act of charity to pray for the dead. They can no longer merit for themselves and are totally dependent upon the mercy of God, but also the prayers, sacrifices, fasting, and Masses that could and should be offered on their behalf.

 
An Augustinian saint, Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, is often depicted in art as celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. However, the religious art-work displays the saint consecrating the Chalice—the Precious Blood of Jesus. Then Purgatory can be seen below and the angels descending into the fiery pit of Purgatory and leading them to their heavenly abode. It was noted that one of the primary reasons why Saint Nicholas wanted to become a priest was because he wanted to deliver as many souls from Purgatory to heaven through the celebration of the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In conclusion, let us pray fervently for the dead; let us pray fervently and constantly for the souls in Purgatory. Let us not fall into the modern theological error in believing that everybody goes immediately to heaven. This is dangerously erroneous and false-compassion as well as presumptuous!

Our Lady's power to help the souls in Purgatory
 
Finally, pray, and pray and pray for the souls in Purgatory. However, offer the greatest prayer in the universe for the souls in Purgatory—the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.   The Prayer in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy connects us directly to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and its power to purify and save: “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world…”  May Our Lady, Mother of mercy, attain for us all a quick entrance into Heaven!

Monday, October 13, 2014

WHAT TYPE OF CATHOLIC ARE YOU???



Jesus gives us the Parable in which the King sends the invitation the wedding feast of his son and many make up excuses to beg out of the Banquet. Apparently they have other obligations more important and pressing, they insult the Kings servant and even kill some of them.  The King, infuriated, kills them and then destroys their cities. Not giving up and tenaciously persistent, the King sends out more servants, but this time he goes out to the hedge groves and allies and brings them in to the banquet. One is not properly dressed and has no justification; he is cast out of the Banquet hall. Jesus ends with these stark words: “Many are called but few are chosen.”  Parables of Jesus are human stories with divine messages. They challenge us to leave our complacency and to follow Jesus all the more authentically.

Let us look objectively at the society and the Catholic Church today and see where we are at. True there are a big number of Catholics, at least “baptized Catholics”, more than a billion. However, how many are really living out their faith.

Being a priest for more than 28 years and having worked in various countries—Europe, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and USA I would like to make these observations as to the reasons why so many Catholics, like the Parable above just cited, have almost countless excuses for simply not coming to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which in terms of the Parable is bowing out of the Wedding Banquet of the King and His Son!

Invite even from the streets!
This pastoral observation will serve to help us who are laboring strenuously in the Vineyard of the Lord to work zealously but in the right direction to save souls for the Eternal King.   In other words for us to bring back the wandering and lost souls we must know them, the reason why they have left and give a remedy or solution to the problem. Of course a deep reading of Pope Francis’
“Joy of the Gospel” will be of immense help in our work in bringing back the wandering sheep into the fold.   Remember the challenging words of Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the flock and our Model and example: “The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few.”  

Not properly dressed for the Wedding Feast!
Following are reasons why the sheep have wandered away from the flock—why these have left the practice of the faith and reception of the life-giving Sacraments!

1.    BAD EXPERIENCE.   Some wandering Catholics complain of having left the Church because they had an ugly experience with some other catholic that deeply hurt him. Priests (themselves), Deacons, Parish Secretaries, catechists, and simply practicing Catholics who have given bad example can alienate other Catholics that might be fragile or weak in the faith. A harsh and cutting word, a snide remark, a sarcastic gesture, being aloof and cold, a sharp rebuke—any one of these gestures done to a fragile soul could be the last straw that broke the camel’s back! This could be sufficient to expel this person from the practice of the faith. How to remedy this fatal flaw? Kindness and charity! Saint Augustine was once asked three times on what should be practiced towards others and the great saint said these words: Kindness, Kindness, and once again Kindness! Saint Francis de Sales coined a classic:  “You can catch more flies with a tea spoon of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.”
Catholic asleep at Mass!
 

2.    SCANDAL IN THE CHURCH.   It cannot be side stepped the painful and true reality of scandals in the Church that have been brought to light, especially over the past 10 to 15 years, that those who have chosen to serve the Lord as priests, some Religious and even Bishops have failed the Lord! Instead of giving example as Good Shepherd to the Sheep have been transformed into ravenous wolves to the flock! Obviously this scandal pierces the Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd and has wreaked havoc in the flock. What can we say to repair for and to remedy such a serious blow to the Church? First, we beg for pardon and forgiveness to the world at large as the past recent Popes have done clearly and publically. Also, we must pray for future priests, but only those who are firmly committed to celibacy 100%, to love for Jesus as the center of their lives and to a fiery apostolic zeal to save souls and to go in search for the lost sheep.
Addictions-- internet!

3.    DISTRACTIONS IN THE MODERN WORLD.   On one occasion a Pastor came from Africa to the USA and he was asked what he thought was the greatest impediment in USA for the spreading of the Word and the Kingdom and the African Pastor, even without much thought, blurted out one word: DISTRACTIONS!  Interesting observation from a foreigner! What exactly did he mean? The following: T.V., radio, sports, movies, parties and picnics, the Mode, the Internet and the Electronics media, casinos and horse-races and gambling, and finally: “It is Miller time!” Not that all of these pursuits and entertainments are down- right sinful. However, how easy it is to be so totally absorbed and immersed in these diversions that on Sunday Holy Mass has been forgotten or relegated to a secondary place of importance. As one well-known priest put it:  “In the USA Sundays have become like another Saturday.”
Couples living together in sin!
 

4.    IMMORAL LIFE-STYLE.  Frequently disgruntled and angry Catholics will point their condemning finger of judgment against the Catholic Church for the church’s many failures, but in the heart of hearts of all too many today there is a serious personal problem. It is this: an inability to come to terms with and live out the demanding sexual morality that the Church has taught the past 2000 years! Our Lady of Fatima said in 1917 that many marriages are bad, modes will enter the world (most likely referring to dress codes) that will gravely offend God; finally, Our Lady said that most souls are lost and go to hell because of sins against the virtue of purity. With respect to leaving the Church, Mass and the Sacraments, many young people (and some not so young!!!) have decided to simply live together in free union or to simply have a civil-marriage. In the eyes of Jesus and His Bride the Church this is objectively wrong and choosing to live in a permanent state of mortal sin. This being the case, this couple has willfully severed themselves from the life-giving Vine. Jesus said: “I am the Vine and you are the branches; my Father cuts off the branches that do not bear fruit.” (Jn. 15) These couples, due their living condition that they freely chose, can no longer receive Jesus, the Bread of Life, in Holy Communion. This being the case, when going to Holy Mass and Communion time has arrived, many other people are getting up to receive Holy Communion and they are forced to stay in the pew—like spiritual “bench-warmers” (Sports image) and watch the others receive Jesus, the living Bread who came down from heaven to give us life and life in abundance. In time, feeling uncomfortable not being able to receive, this couple decides to either leave the Church or possibly go to some Protestant Church, where they can have free access to receiving  in the Communion service that may be available once a month. “Bye, bye Catholic church!  Welcome Protestant Church!” A possible remedy?  Why not invite this estranged couple to meet with a priest who could outline the conditions to have their marriage blessed in the Church so that they can be in full-communion with the Church. Also, invite them to some dynamic and well-prepared weekend marriage retreat to get the ball rolling down the right hill!!!
Honey, come' on!  Let's go to Mass!!!

Conclusion, we have just explained a few reasons for the enormous exodus from the Catholic Church in the past few decades. Our intentions is with this article to encourage fervent and zealous followers of Jesus to seek out these lost sheep and bring them back to the arms of the Good Shepherd. God-willing another article will follow to explain other reasons why many leave the Catholic Church and how we can bring them back to the loving embrace of the Father!