Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, hidden in the Mass

You will notice that, during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, while the choir chants the Agnus Dei, the priest will break the Host into three pieces. Two parts are left upon the paten, while one part (which is very small) is placed into the chalice of the Precious Blood. This is called the rite of “commingling”, because it is at this point that the Body and Blood of Christ are sacramentally mingled together – though the Lord is fully present in both the Host and the chalice, the one is the Sacrament of his Body and the other is the Sacrament of his Blood.
As the priest performs this rite he prays: “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.” There is, in the very rite itself, a direct connection between the commingling and salvation! St. Thomas Aquinas, following an ancient tradition, has shown how the whole Church is mystically present in this sacramental rite. Here, hidden in the rite of the Mass, we find a symbol of our two feast days – All Saints’ and All Souls’.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

After the Pharisee left the temple area, according to Flannery O’Connor

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Luke 18:9-4
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector.”  Luke 18:11
The Savior tells us that it was the tax collector who went home justified, not the Pharisee; but have you ever wondered what happened to the Pharisee once he got home? Did he ever repent? Flannery O’Connor offers a meditation on this parable in her short story Revelation – though the theme of the exaltation of the humble and the humbling of the mighty runs through many of her stories, this particular story is almost a direct re-telling of the Lord’s parable. The one great difference between the Gospel parable and O’Connor’s short story is that she allows us to see the mystery from perspective of the Pharisee, whom she brings to the very point of conversion.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The necessity of the prayer of petition

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Luke 18:9-4
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
While there are many lessons to be learned from the parable of the proud Pharisee and the humble tax collector, St. Augustine offers an insight regarding prayer that we might not immediately perceive. First, consider the parable itself.
The Pharisee, who had lived a righteous life, came to the Temple to give thanks to God. We easily recognize his error in despising others – he considers himself to be holier than all others, his great sin is pride. The humble tax collector, on the other hand, came to the Temple to implore the mercy of God – and he went home justified.
St. Augustine sees, in this parable, a central truth about prayer – “The fault of the Pharisee is not that he gave God thanks, but that he asked for nothing further” (cf. St. Thomas’ Catena Aurea). The tax collector prayed well because he asked for mercy and grace, while the Pharisee prayed poorly because he did not ask for anything. Here we learn that prayer cannot be merely praise and thanksgiving; for, while we are on earth, all true prayer involves petition.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why some prayers fail

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Luke 18:1-8
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
The parable of the wicked judge and the persistent widow offers a good opportunity to consider the importance and necessity of prayer. However, there is an objection which must be met: Why does God sometimes not answer prayers? If prayer is truly all powerful and if we are promised that we will receive whatsoever for which we ask, why do some prayers fail?
There are two principle reasons why God does not answer a prayer: either that for which we had asked is not helpful to us or would be misused by us, or we asked for something from God but we did not persevere in our prayer. This point about perseverance in prayer brings up a further question: Why does God not always answer prayers immediately, but instead requires us to persevere in prayer for a very long time?
You contend and war, and you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences. – James 4:2-3

Friday, October 15, 2010

What to look for in a spiritual director

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, October 15th
It is well known that St. Teresa had to overcome numerous difficulties in the spiritual life. Among these difficulties, finding a good spiritual director was particularly challenging – ultimately she became acquainted with St. John of the Cross, who at the age of twenty five became her confessor and director (she was fifty two at the time). And yet, in spite of these difficulties, St. Teresa insists that spiritual direction is part of the ordinary life of the Christian – something to which nearly every person should avail themselves at some point during their journey. In particular, the Church herself encourages all those who strive for a special perfection in the spiritual life to entrust themselves to a director – all the faithful are required to receive some direction in the spiritual life through at least a yearly confession.
Even if we admit the normalcy and occasional necessity of spiritual direction, there is yet the great difficulty of finding a spiritual director whom we trust. What are the characteristics of a good spiritual director? The Catholic Encyclopedia offers helpful guidance in this matter.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Lord has no need of our thanksgiving, and yet...

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Luke 17:11-19
Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
In the account of the cleansing of the ten lepers, of whom only one (the Samaritan) returns to give thanks, our Savior may at first appear to be dejected or hurt that the other nine have not thanked him. What shall we say to this – Is it possible that the Lord of heaven and earth, the King of the universe needs the thanksgiving and worship of man?
God does not rely on his creation
The forth weekday preface states: Lord, “you have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness but makes us grow in your grace.” We must insist that man’s worship of God does not increase God’s glory absolutely, nor does God require that worship for his own benefit.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to pray the Rosary well

From The Secret of the Rosary, by St. Louis Marie de Montfort

With purity of intention:
IT IS NOT SO much the length of a prayer, but the fervor with which it is said which pleases Almighty God and touches His Heart. One single Hail Mary that is said properly is worth more than one hundred and fifty that are badly said. Most Catholics say the Rosary, the whole fifteen mysteries or five of them anyway or, at least a few decades. So why is it then that so few of them give up their sins and go forward in the spiritual life? Surely it must be because they are not saying them as they should. It is a good thing to think over how we should pray if we really want to please God and become more holy. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

St. Francis, man of sorrows

October 4th, The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis is most especially remembered for his joy and good cheer. So many movies and books, as well as statues and paintings, have burned into our mind’s eye an image of St. Francis frolicking with the butterflies and playing with animals. The joy of this great saint has been a light to the nations for over 800 years – and it illumines even our own day.
Nevertheless, we will have misunderstood an essential characteristic of St. Francis, if we think of him only in his joys and consolations. In fact, the poor man of Assisi can probably be more truly characterized as a man of sorrows. If it is true that he spoke with the animals and sang to the sun, it is also true that he bore the marks of Christ’s Passion on his body – the holy Stigmata of our Savior.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Everything you ever wanted to know about your guardian angel

October 2nd, The Feast of the Guardian Angels
As we celebrate the feast of the guardian angels, we might become aware of the fact that we really know very little about our heavenly helpers. I am sure that most of us have many questions about our angel and how he works in the world – but where shall we ever find answers? At this point in our journey, rather than becoming discouraged or running off to many other sources, it would be best to place ourselves at the feet of the Angelic Doctor and hear what he has to tell us. The following question and answer study of the guardian angels is based on the Summa Theologica I, qq.50-64 (angels in themselves) and qq. 106-114 (angels in relation to creatures). ST I, q.113, is particularly enlightening, since it is a question devoted wholly to the guardianship of angels over human beings.

Friday, October 1, 2010

If men and women are equal, do the angels really want women to wear a veil at Mass?

October 2nd, The Feast of the Guardian Angels
Of all the scriptural passages which speak of the angels, perhaps the most confusing and difficult for our own age is the place in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in which he advises that women must wear a veil while in Church. He reasons that the man need not wear a veil, since his head is Christ; but the head of the woman is the man, therefore she must veil her head as a sign of submission. St. Paul concludes his argument with the rather surprising statement that it is “because of the angels” that the women must wear the mantilla.
In this discussion, I will care little for “political correctness”, since this could obscure the truth. Obviously, when speaking in various circumstances, I would adapt the language to fit the people; but, when discussing doctrine in a theological forum, it is necessary to write unambiguously. St. Paul has always been a great defender of the true vocation of the woman, while the feminism of our day is her great enemy!
I will first offer St. Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the passage; then I will consider what this reference to the angels really entails…

How St. Therese saved a murderer and inspired Mother Teresa

October 1, The Feast of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus
The following took place in 1887, when Thérèse Martin was fourteen years old.
“One Sunday when I was looking at a picture of Our Lord on the Cross, I saw the Blood coming from one of His hands, and I felt terribly sad to think that It was falling to the earth and that no one was rushing forward to catch It. I determined to stay continually at the foot of the Cross and receive It. I knew that I should then have to spread It among other souls. The cry of Jesus on the Cross – ‘I am thirsty’ – rang continually in my heart and set me burning with a new, intense longing. I wanted to quench the thirst of my Well-Beloved and I myself was consumed with a thirst for souls. I was concerned not with the souls of priests but with those of great sinners which I wanted to snatch from the flames of hell.