What Makes a Good Christian – Saint John Bosco – January 31st

 

st. john bosco kneeling

In this day and age where many are falling away from the Faith at an alarming pace… particularly our young people, it would be a wise idea for us to read up on this holy saint, Saint John Bosco. He devoted his life to serving the Lord. Even back in his day he realized that many of the young boys were falling out of good grace with the Lord and that many of them were going to suffer the fires of hell if they did not amend their ways. He had many dreams in which God allowed him to be shown the future and what would be the fate of these boys if they did not amend their sinful ways.

As I was reading through the daily readings in The Magnificat, I came across the daily meditation which was written by Saint John Bosco. I thought it would be a good idea to print it here. We are living in a day and age where so many people have different ideas of what it means to be a good Christian. So much so, that the Truth often gets lost in the shuffle. Saint John Bosco was a priest who took it as his duty to teach the Faith to everyone. His primary goal in doing so was to save souls for the Lord. Please read the following excerpt, allowing yourself to meditate on the words of this holy saint. When you’re done, ask yourself…are you a good Christian? Do you think Saint John Bosco’s message is still relevant to us today? Let me know what you think. God bless.

The true Christian obeys his parents, his masters, and his superiors, because he recognizes in them if not God Himself, then those who take His place. The true Christian, whether eating or drinking, will imitate Jesus at the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee and at Bethany. He will be sober and moderate, aware of other people’s needs, and more concerned with spiritual nourishment than with the material sustenance of his body.

The good Christian must deal with his friends as Jesus Christ dealt with Saint John and Lazarus. Let him love them in the Lord and for the Lord’s sake; let him confide to them the secrets of his heart, and, if they stray from the path of virtue, let him try his utmost to return them to the grace of God.

The true Christian must suffer privations and poverty with resignation, like Jesus Christ who did not even have a place to rest His head. He must learn how to endure adversity and calumnies, as Jesus endured the scribes and the Pharisees, leaving vindication to God. He must learn how to bear insults and abuse, as Jesus Christ did when his face was spat upon, slapped, and reviled in a thousand ways at the praetorium.

The true Christian must be ready to accept spiritual anguish, as Jesus did when betrayed by one of his disciples, denied by another, and abandoned by all.

The good Christian must be willing to accept patiently every persecution, sickness, and death itself, like Jesus Christ who- with a crown of thorns, lacerated by flogging, pierced by nails- gave up His soul serenely into the hands of His Heavenly Father. – Saint John Bosco

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How God’s Truth Led to the Conversion of St. Paul

 

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Unfortunately, we all seem to know someone who doesn’t like the Catholic Church. Either a little…or a lot. Some will even go as far as to say that they hate it. And honestly, they really might. So many people don’t like what they don’t understand. They say they don’t like how the Church is structured… or the hierarchy. Perhaps it is just the parish priest they don’t care for …or maybe they don’t like the pope. Some people don’t like giving their money to an institution that  has more wealth than them. I used to know someone who always hated parting with his money during the collection… he seemed to have a great disdain for tithing… Still others look at the Church and Her rules as an infringement on their freedoms. Yet, these are the very ones who do not know what freedom really is... they do not recognize the Truth....and how that Truth, really does set you free… Perhaps it’s the sacrament of confession that separates so many from the Catholic Church… After all, it does take a bit of humility to admit you’re wrong… and to confess your sins…and seek forgiveness…

The list of reasons is long, and the extent of the excuses are many. There are numerous reasons why people fall away… or turn away from the Faith…but perhaps, for no other reason more so than the sin of pride. Most people who turn away from God are full of themselves… They have their own ideas of what is right and wrong. They don’t want to be told what to do. They want to make their own decisions… They think they have no need for God. And they definitely don’t need a religious institution intruding in their affairs. They have themselves. They  have their pride. Like I have said before, it is nothing new. It is the same story over and over… Yet, God keeps calling them. God keeps proving to man that He is the Truth. That He is the Way. He knocks them off their high horse and forces them to face the Honest to Goodness Reality that He is the Truth. That’s exactly what happened with one of the holiest saints ever, St. Paul, or Saul, as he was called, before he got knocked off his high horse.

You see, Saul was a Jew who was educated to become a Pharisee, he observed Jewish Laws and Jewish traditions. He was very religious, and very strict in his observances… perhaps more so than any of his peers. But when God became Man, with the name of  Jesus Christ, and instituted His Church… the Catholic Church, Saul looked upon Christ as a blasphemer and at these followers of  Christ as heretics…he saw them as men who hid in shadows and conspired against the Jewish Faith… Which was his faith. He despised the fact that they chose to follow this so called Messiah. When, in his eyes, they would be better off preparing themselves for the coming of the true Messiah…the one that would re- establish the Kingdom of Judah. The One that would dominate and conquer. In Saul’s view, Jesus Christ had done none of this. In his view, Jesus Christ had failed.

In fact, Saul saw Jesus as an enemy of the Jew… After all, he had conquered none and worse yet, He had allowed Himself to be put to death on a Cross.  Saul felt that these Christians were deviating too far from the old laws… the old Jewish laws…and he didn’t like it. In fact, he hated it because it changed the faith he had known all of his life. And it incensed him…and his heart boiled over with hate… blinding him to the Truth. Because of this hatred, he grew to hate all Christians. He even plotted to kill them. And when Stephen, who was a Christian, was caught, and imprisoned, Saul was among the men who planned his death.  He was there as the first stones were thrown, killing Stephen, thus making him the first Christian martyred for the Faith.

Saul’s crimes didn’t end there. He spoke out against the teachings of Christ and  was  one of the worst blasphemers and enemies of Jesus’ newly founded Church. And he was self righteous about the whole affair. You see, in Saul’s mind, he was the good soldier…he was serving God how he wanted to serve Him, not how God wanted him to serve. But God is good and full of mercy and He knew that Saul had to be converted. And we read in the Book of Acts 9:3-9 the following:

On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.
– Acts 9:3-9

As Saul had headed for Damascus, he was full of his self pride. He was sure that everything he was doing against the Christians was what God wanted…His pride had blinded him to the Truth… and as he rode like a celebrated king upon his horse surrounded by his soldiers, he had no idea what God really wanted...then in a brief instant he got the surprise of his life.

For suddenly from out of the east, a huge ball of fire erupted in the sky, and with a thundering roar, a wall of bright light stretched before him… scorching his eyes… blinding him at once. He was thrown from his horse, dazed and confused, he hit the ground with a thud. His companions immediately ran to his aide…but Saul was muttering…As he lay on the dirt road, he appeared to be speaking to someone who they could not see. As Saul continued his muttering they looked around and saw no one. Had the fall damaged his head? He had lost his composure, and seemed to have lost his mind. His soldiers could not hear the voice that rattled Saul. They were not aware that God was speaking directly to Saul. They had no idea that it was God’s voice in the thunder. All they heard was the roar. They were unaware that God was there, knocking the pride right out of Saul, so that he could find his way back to the Lord. All they knew was that they were afraid…and that they had to help Saul get out of the road.

As the flash of light burst around Saul, he had heard a loud voice call to him unmistakably asking him: “Saul, Saul, why do thou persecute Me?”

The flash of light had been so intense that Saul could see nothing but flashes of white…and flashes of red…as if had been staring into the bright sun….he was blind! Immediately he was thrust from his ‘high horse’ and recognized the voice of God. Falling back to his knees he humbly asked, Who art thou, Lord?”

With a clarity that could come from none other, God responded, I Am that Jesus, Whom thou has persecuted.”

The Truth God spoke was pure…it was Light...It was as if Saul had been living in darkness his whole life and suddenly he could see the Light… He could see that he had been attacking the very God whom he claimed to love and adore. It was a very humiliating experience for Saul. And as he knelt on that dusty road to Damascus, Saul was made to realize that every time he punished a Christian…every time he shackled a follower of Christ…he was actually punishing Christ…he was actually shackling Christ. He felt the burden of the Truth as It pierced his heart like a sword…it pained him to the very core of his being…but it was still the Truth, and even though it pained Saul immensely it was still the Truth and it hurt.

saint paul on the roadAs he lay there in the road…a crumbled shell of his former prideful self, he felt himself drained of all his strength…all of his own power was seeped from him until he could do nothing but surrender to the love that had filled his heart. God had taken away everything… and then God replaced it with Everything! Saul was spent. Moaning, he cried out to the Lord,

“Lord, what will Thou have me do?

God commanded Saul, Arise, enter the city, and there it will be told thee what thou art to do.”

Submitting to the power of God, he lay there on the road. Like a humbled old man, his body was bent and ruined. He no longer resembled the boasting Pharisee he had been but a few moments ago. He could not even stand on his own power and had to be carried into Damascus like a poor and humbled beggar. He floundered about in complete darkness… his sight was gone…the pupils of his eyes burnt from the bright flash of Light… He was afraid… and the words he had heard from God filled him with much fear and trembling. As he was carried to a house and lay to rest upon a mat, he knew that all his former dreams were gone… Everything he had thought was true… were merely lies he had told himself to continue behaving the way he did.

His mind fell into a pit of darkness and if not for the great love of the Lord…he would have surely fallen into an abyss of utter despair! Even then, there were moments when he felt that God had left him, and as he suffered on his mat, while his family tried to care for his physical body, God was working on the conversion of his soul. It was painful. At moments, Saul thought he would surely die. But God is kind and merciful. He allowed Saul to see the errors of his ways, he showed him Who Jesus really was…He showed him what it meant to be a Christian. The Truth was revealed to Saul in such a way that his heart was converted forever. He was a changed man and would never be the same.

saint paul eyes

After three agonizing day in total darkness…when Saul was at the point where he felt himself  about to be completely crushed by the heaviness in his soul, he repented…and he turned to the Lord in complete humility…begging Him…for forgiveness. Then, falling asleep, he dreamt. In the dream he saw the figure of a man approaching him. The man touched his eyes…and the veil was removed…his sight was returned to him! The figure told him that God had chosen him to be filled with the Holy Spirit. There was much work to do…

Immediately he awoke, as he sat up he felt the scales fall from his eyes! God had not abandoned him. He was healed. And even though he had spent his years working to persecute the  Christians, God was now calling him to suffer persecution for Him. After being drug to the pits of darkness, and emptied of his pride and arrogance, Saul accepted his new vocation. He united himself to the Will of the Lord and worked tirelessly doing God’s work.

He worked to evangelize the Jewish people he had recently been a part of. He told them,

“I had come to persecute Him and to blaspheme Him; but now I have seen His power. He is the Lord, the Son of God. Be Baptized, if you wish to be saved. Jesus is the Christ.”

Later, Saul changed his name to Paul and went on to become one of the most important figures in the Apostolic Age. He traveled extensively. He built Churches and preached the Truth that in fact,  Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. He wrote many epistles and over half of books in the Acts of the Apostles were written by St. Paul. He continued to work tirelessly for the conversion of many throughout the lands. He was captured and imprisoned in Rome. Finally,he suffered martyrdom under the reign of Emperor Nero.

As we contemplate the conversion of Saint Paul, let us pray that we may always be open to God and His Truth in our life. We may think we are doing what God wants, we may feel that we are on the ‘right path,’ or that we can find happiness deep inside our own souls. But that is only true if we allow God to empty us of ourselves…This can be a painful experience… one that takes a lifetime to accomplish….But we must humbly ask… beg Him… to convert us… and to fill us with Himself.

 

 

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Marching for Life – January 22nd

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March for Life – St. Augustine 2018

This year marks the 45th year of legalized abortion throughout the United States from Roe vs. Wade…it is a sad reminder that our legal system… The system put in place to protect the citizens of the United States... and often proclaimed to be one of the best in the world…has failed to protect millions of unborn babies from being ripped apart and killed. Regardless of the countless lies…. There is nothing in this law that protects anyone. It is a law that sanctions the murder of the innocent. Herod would be proud.

“Thou shall not kill...” Do you recognize this? It’s one of the Ten Commandments. As Catholics… as Christians…we are obligated to follow God’s laws. We are obligated to March. Not just on the 22nd…not just in St. Augustine or up in Washington D.C. No, we are called to March into the battle fields every day. Our cities and towns are filled with abortion mills where they prey upon those who are often confused and hopeless… offering them a violent way out… a way that only further damages the soul. If you have been paying attention to the news, you know that these places have been caught selling the actual body parts of the babies they have aborted…and throwing the other parts away like trash… We need to march the sidewalks around these hell holes …offering prayers and counseling…. It’s really quite barbaric to  think that this atrocity is protected by law…

We are lied to and told that these abortion laws protect women… empower them somehow… But the Truth is…There is nothing empowering about having a human life ripped from your body.  Abortion kills babies…Abortion hurts women. That is the horrible truth. These very women who are hurt, are often abandoned once the abortion is done… Many wind up in hospitals…many wind up depressed….they are suffering… we need to march with them… Comfort them with Christ’s love and compassion, allowing God to be our guiding voice. We have to be strong. Who else will stand up to this evil?  We had better pray.

Of course there are pro-life clinics where young women can turn to for real help when they are faced with a ‘crisis’ pregnancy… These places do great work, but they are often in dire need of funding and volunteers. This is another marching ground we should frequent…The world is a violent place for the innocent… the devil is preying on the vulnerable and young…we need to march…we need to become a voice for the voiceless as well as Light for the hopeless…There is a world of hurt out there waiting for help… waiting for hope.

This will be a difficult task… but we are the army of God. We are His Church Militant upon the earth. And if we truly want to end this atrocity we must march…not only on this day of remembrance… No, we must put on our boots…and we must march everyday for life.

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Following the Straight and Arrow – Saint Sebastian – January 20th

There have been some pretty tough times in the history of the Catholic Church, perhaps none so much as the the period known as the Great Persecution, which happened under the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Wanting to renew the worship of Roman gods, he was determined to put an end to Christianity and return the people to their former pagan ways. As a means of achieving this end, Christians under his rule were persecuted more severely than at any other time. Many were forced to make sacrifices to pagan gods, and when they refused, they were tortured, beaten and killed… it was a very difficult time to be Christian. Yet it is precisely at difficult times like these, that God will pour His Spirit into just souls that are willing to give Him everything… willing to use the very blood that runs through their veins in order to condition the land so that the Faith may flourish and grow, spreading to others…That brings us to Saint Sebastian, and how he used the gift of his life to convert many others to the Christian Faith.

Sebastian was the son of Christian parents. His father was a noble man, so Sebastian had all the comforts that his family’s nobility could afford. By the time he was a young adult he had seen plenty of Christians persecuted.  Even though he had an aversion to military life, he joined the Roman Imperial Army so that he could minister to the prisoners. He also saw it as an opportunity to try and convert the Roman soldiers. Of course, throughout it all, he would remain under the guise of being the perfect pagan… one could argue that he was the ultimate undercover operative for Christ.

 

Sebastian had a gift for healing and could often bring healing to those who suffered, just by praying over them, and doing the Sign of the Cross. Because of this gift, his reputation spread. With God’s influence, he was even able to convert the Governor of Rome, Chromatius. Not only was he a successful undercover agent for the Lord, he had a strong work ethic and was promoted to Captain in the Praetorian Guard.  He was tasked with the specific duty of being the personal body guard of Emperor Diocletian. And for awhile, things went along as usual…so well, that Diocletian even developed a fondness for Sebastian… never suspecting that Sebastian was leading a double life… as a devout Christian pretending to be the perfect pagan. But after Sebastian healed a woman who had been mute, Sebastian’s cover was blown and Diocletain learned that one of his most trusted guards was in fact a Christian. This outraged the Emperor, not only was he furious that Sebastian was a Christian, he was also mad that Sebastian had been able to gain his confidence while living this double life, and working against his plans of returning Rome to her former pagan glory....

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The devil strains every nerve to secure the souls which belong to Christ. We should not grudge our toil in wresting them from Satan and giving them back to God.- Saint Sebastian

Letting his pride guide him, he demanded that Sebastian immediately be put to death. He had his soldiers strip Sebastian of his clothing and then had him tied to a tree. He ordered the soldiers to shoot arrows into Sebastian…hoping to inflict tremendous pain into his once trusted companion. It seems that the Emperor was trying to choose a most agonizing way for Sebastian to be killed.

After the Roman soldiers had used Sebastian as a target for their archery…and he hung from the tree, seemingly lifeless... the soldiers left his body tied where it was and returned to the Emperor to tell him that Sebastian was dead. After his body was abandoned, a woman named Irene came to remove the body for burial, but to her great surprise, Sebastian was still breathing. She immediately called for help and gathered up his damaged body and carried him to her house where she nursed him back to health.saint sebastian and saint irene

Instead of hiding from the Emperor, as soon as Sebastian was able, he went to find Diocletian and let him know what he thought of his cruelty. He hid in a passageway, and as Diocletian approached, he stepped into the emperor’s path, startling the Emperor who momentarily fell into a state of shock at seeing Sebastian, whom he thought had died. But once he recovered, he ordered that Sebastian be put to death again, this time he ordered that he be clubbed to death. The guards seized the willing martyr and led him to his death. Clubbing him in a public square so that all could see…and more importantly so that all could verify that he was in fact dead.

sebastian being clubbed

After Sebastian was clubbed and his death was verified, his body was thrown into the sewers that ran along the city. After the Romans left, a Christian woman named Lucia, retrieved his body from the filthy sewers and buried it near near the catacombs under Rome. About eighty years after his death his remains were moved again, this time a cathedral was erected over his burial site, it is one of the seven principal Churches in Rome.

Saint Sebastian is often invoked for protection against the plague. Because in Roman times, the people thought that the petulance was being shot down from the heavens by angry gods who were shooting arrows of disease into the people. Millions of people were affected by the plague and died. In their desperation,the people constructed an altar and prayed for Saint Sebastian’s intercession, almost immediately the great plague came to a miraculous end. Saint Sebastian’s intercession has proven quite powerful for many areas that suffered from the plague, so much so, that he is often sought after in hopes that his intercession with God, will save the ravaged lands from the dreaded plague.

Saint Sebastian lived his life as a true soldier for the Lord. Oftentimes risking great danger or the threat of death to bring God’s hope and healing to those who were suffering in prisons. It takes great courage to constantly be putting oneself in such close contact with danger. It shows us that Saint Sebastian was totally committed to doing God’s Will in all things. We may never have to risk as much, but as Christians we should always be looking for ways to spread God’s Word. We should be actively working to  convert and comfort those who have lost their way…those who have lost their hope. It may make us uncomfortable at first… but just think, if Saint Sebastian was able to give it all back to the Lord… just what might God want from us?

 

 

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Saint Anthony Abbot – The Rich Man and the Kingdom of God

Matthew 19: 16-22

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony,
19 honor your father and mother,’and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
How many times have you heard this Gospel, or one of the other Gospels that are a variation of the  same story? Quite a few, I suppose…we all have, if we attend Mass, or even if we just read the Gospels. It seems to be one that comes up several times in the Liturgical year. It has an important message for us. We are reminded that we are not to seek our treasures of this world…but rather, seek those things that we shall find in the next… However, many of us do spend much of our lives working to  accumulate many earthly treasures, things we want…not out of necessity, but out of desire. Most of these ‘treasures’ we’d rather not give up… And unfortunately, many of us easily identify with the young man’s dilemma, and understand why it was such a difficult choice.
Do you ever ask yourself how easy it would be to walk away  from Jesus’ challenge? Do you ever think about how you would honestly respond if  Jesus found you at home with all of your belongings and actually asked you to give away everything. What if He came tonight and wanted you walk away from all of your possessions…Unfortunately, many of us would respond in the same way as the young wealthy man. After all, our things our important to us…. we have worked hard for them…we have spent not only our time and our money, but also our energy accumulating them…Some of us, measure our self worth by our stuff….Surely, Jesus doesn’t expect us to give away everything….. does He?
anthony abbot saint
Saint Anthony thought so, and when his parents died when he was around 18 years old, he heard the Gospel of Matthew read during Mass… At once, he was inspired not only to say he was a Christian... he wanted to become a Christian as well…Just like the one Jesus spoke about in the Gospel. When  his parents died, Antony inherited over 300 hundred acres of land and a sizeable about of money. Almost immediately, he gave to the poor; most of what was left to him, selling the house and land, keeping just enough to make sure that his younger sister would be well cared for at a nearby convent. But Anthony himself wandered out to the desert and found his home there, alone with the wild, harsh elements and the animals. He prayed and fasted surviving on bread and water. He worked hard and devoted his life to living entirely for the Lord. He wanted to live the challenge Jesus had given the rich young man … and he did.
Even though Anthony was trying to live a prayerful life, he was often attacked by demons and devils who tried unsuccessfully to drive him away from his devotion to the Lord. The devil cannot stand when a person dedicates themselves to the Lord, and St. Anthony suffered much at the hands of the evil one. He tried to seduce him with pleasures, and when that didn’t work he attacked his ego…and his mind. At one point, he was even physically beat and thrown around by demons. It was a tough battle for Anthony, but with constant prayer, he was able to over come the temptations that were laid before him. At one point he was so exhausted that he cried out to God, asking Him why he did not save him. It was then that God replied to the saint, that He had been with him all along, but He was watching him do battle, and since he had succeeded, that God would never abandon him.
Anthony continued to live an ascetic lifestyle, which means he practiced self denial, often fasting and denying himself any comfort. He lived alone for many years, separating himself from the world and all of her distractions. Moving every so often as to escape the crowds of people who searched for him, wanting to imitate him. Although after living in the desert for many years, he heard about Saint Paul and went to find him. When he found St. Paul, the two men talked and shared stories with one another. At some point a black crow flew over head and dropped a  loaf of bread for the men to eat. Saint Anthony was astonished to hear that this crow came every day, and brought St. Paul a half a loaf of bread for him to eat, but this day he had brought a whole loaf for the men to share.
saints anthony and paul
Saint Anthony enjoyed his time with the Saint and planned to visit him again, but when he arrived at St. Paul’s cave the next day, he found that Saint Paul had died while in prayer…saddened, St. Anthony cried out to the Lord, wondering how he would bury his friend. At his cries, he immediately heard a loud roar from outside, as he ran outside to see what was making the noise and was met by two lions. Though they were rather large in size, they were as gentle as lambs, and intended Saint Anthony no harm. The two lions dug a whole so that he could bury St. Paul and disappeared.
Saint Anthony continued to live an austere monastic life in the desert, depriving himself of human companionship and worldly pleasures for many more years. Finally reaching his just reward when he was over one hundred years old. He died on January 17th where he lived as a hermit in Mount Qolzoum. On his tomb, which is now the object of veneration by the faithful, a church and a monastery were built; his relics were brought to Constantinople in 635, then to France between the 9th and 10th centuries.
As we contemplate the life of this holy saint, and meditate on the message that prompted him to leave all of his belongings behind… we must realize that the message found in Matthew’s Gospel  is not just an abstract idea… but a call meant for each and every one of us… Not just those saints of old… In our desire to simplify our life, we should read more about these austere men who lived their days united to God. We should be looking into the lives of Saint Anthony the Abbot and Saint Paul, not only for inspiration, but for intercession as well. That with God’s mercy and grace, we may somehow gain St. Anthony’s zeal for a simpler, more  unencumbered relationship with God… a relationship that is void of the many worldly distractions that occupy so much of our daily lives. And that with God’s help, we too, may respond to His call with the same level of enthusiasm that St. Anthony had when he left his worldly treasures, and walked the path that would eventually lead to his eternal reward… instead of walking the path of the young man who could not leave his possessions behind. Let us pray for the courage to follow the Lord, regardless of the cost.
Prayer from Catholic Novena Prayer to Saint Anthony

St. Anthony the Abbot, the ancient and noble saint, we honor you as our intercessor and model of Christian love and total abandonment. In your love and dedication to the Lord, you left everything and followed our Lord to the desert.

The Church honors you greatly for your devout and austere way of life; a life dedicated to God and humanity. By your devotion to the master, you vanquished the evil one and with your eloquence, you rebuffed the heretics.

Because of your close friendship with God, the early church invoked your intercession with great benefit for the salvation of souls and against the onslaught of all kinds of diseases and sicknesses.

May we who strive to follow the same Lord and Master, have your special intercession and help against the onslaught of the evil one and against all temptations of the flesh, sicknesses, epidemics and pandemics and every kind of division and heresies, both within and against the Church of God and be able to lead a life of close union with Jesus our Lord.  Pray that we may be a true witness to the grace of Baptism, renewed at every Eucharistic encounter and respond to His constant call and invitation by leading a life of austerity and self sacrifice, a life dedicated and devoted to God and His holy will. we ask this in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Gospel of John- 2:1-12- The Wedding Feast at Cana – January 14th, 2018

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John 2:1-12

The Wedding at Cana


On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brethren and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

In the Traditional calendar of the Holy Mother Church, Sunday’s Gospel reading comes from John 2: 1-12. Called the Fourth Gospel, it is probably the most beautifully written of the Four Gospels. From the opening line, we are taken back to the Old Testament and the Book of Genesis. Both start with the line, “In the beginning…”  But whereas the Book of Genesis reveals the story of mankind’s  pride and disobedience which lead to sin, the 2nd Gospel of John reveals the story of holiness and redemption. By obeying His Mother, Jesus brings forth the manifestation of His divine nature, thus embarking on the path that would lead to man’s salvation.

The correlations between the Old and New Testament doesn’t end there. When Jesus turns the water in wine, it reminds us of Moses, who turned water into blood.

moses turning water to blood.jpg

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.”

20) Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21) The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.

 

This was Moses first sign, or plague, that was sent from God so that the Egyptian Pharaoh would let His people go. This sign, sent from God, through Moses, was to let the Israelites  know that with Him, they would be free. When Jesus obeyed His Mother and turned the water into wine, it also represents to us, that Jesus, Who is God made Man, came to free His people, once again. This action, of turning the water into wine was symbolic in the anticipation that Jesus would take the waters, which represent life, and turn them into wine which represents joy… that Jesus would later take wine and turn it into eternal life…eternal joy … by turning it into His Blood during the Last Supper…It was then that Jesus would turn the Bread and wine into His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist, thus giving Himself to the world, as the Perfect Sacrifice.

This Gospel is filled with so much symbolism and foreshadowing that it is worth reading and meditating upon the entire Gospel of John. As I conclude this post, there is one final point that I want to address, and that is the importance of Mary’s role in all of it. Her role is that of  Co- Redemptix for all of mankind. It begins with her Immaculate Conception in the womb of her mother, Ann, and continues right on until Jesus is hanging on the Cross, uttering His Last Words to John, “Behold thy Mother.

Theology teaches us that Mary knew from the moment of her conversation with Gabriel…from Her Yes... Her fiat… that her heart would be pierced, because she had  the foreknowledge that Jesus was going to suffer immeasurable pain and be put to death on The Cross for the salvation of mankind. Yet, here we are, witnessing Mother and Son, as guests at a wedding party, celebrating the joyous occasion. Jesus’ hour has not yet come.

wedding at cana

The wedding party has run out of wine, and Mary, feeling a sense of compassion for the young couple, prompts Her Son, Jesus, to do something. She does this knowing full well that it will fulfill a part of the Epiphany promise that Christ’s Divine Nature would have to be revealed to mankind, in essence,  this action would begin His walk towards Calvary. Knowing all of this, Mary does it anyway, embracing the Cross that would surely follow. Unlike Jesus Who is Divine, Mary is purely human. In body, and in Nature. She is just like one of us…except that She was Immaculately Conceived, but She is still a Mother…a mother who suffers and feels pain, and she is doing what God wants of her…leading her Son, the New Adam, on His path to redeem what our first parents had lost in the garden of Eden. It must have filled Her heart with sorrow and pain…knowing….what lie ahead, but still humbly obeying the Will of God. Let us pray:

Dear Lord, You prepared the Blessed Mother for Her role in the salvation of man, by keeping her spotless from the moment of her conception. Even though we are marked by the stain of sin,  Help us, as we seek to follow her example of humility, so that we may imitate Her love and obedience and place our Trust in You Oh Lord. We ask this through  Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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Speaking the Truth of Christ – Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Saint Hilary of Poitiers

They didn’t know who they were.” These are the timeless and priceless words of Saint Hilary who was describing the vast number of people who had fallen under the heretical belief that Jesus was not divine. This was known as the Arian heresy of the fourth century, and it threatened the very existence of Christ’s Church … which by the way, was the Catholic Church…Sadly, these very words can be applied to many Catholics today… many Christians today, who have lost their sense of what is Truth… who have lost their sense right and wrong… who have lost their sense of moral absolutes.

It seems the more things change the more they stay the same…the year was 315 and  Hilary Poitiers was born into a pagan family. He was educated in the Greek and Latin classics and was raised without any significant Christian influence. Like many others of his time, he poured over the classics and then studied the Bible…merely as an opportunity to expand his knowledge. It was through the Bible that the goodness of God and His graces…poured into Hilary and soon he was led on a journey towards the Truth. His conversion had begun, and soon he abandoned his pagan ways and was baptized into the Faith. It wasn’t until he read Sacred Scripture that he realized that    Christianity was in fact, compatible with philosophy and the sciences. From that realization, his life would never be the same… He would become a priest and then go on to be named Bishop, courageously defending the Truth, even when he was greatly outnumbered… even by those who were supposed to be working for the same cause! At one point, so many bishops were confused by the Arian heresy, that they had Hilary exiled to distant lands. But the people there loved Hilary and learned much from the brilliant teacher of Theology, and he never gave up… and did everything within his power defending the Truth…not only with his preaching and talks but with his writings as well. He ultimately succeeded, and years after he died, he was declared a saint as well as a Doctor of the Church.

We should ask ourselves, “What does God want from us?” How many times have we sat listening  to the very same Word of God and not even batted an eye? Or flinched… or moved an inch?? Remember, these are the very same Words that have converted thousands... hundreds of thousands of men, often convincing them to leave their worldly possessions  behind to follow Christ. We have to ask ourselves, What then, are we doing wrong that we cannot be moved into action? Do we merely proclaim that we are ‘Christian’, without honestly believing it…I mean…be- living it?

The world today is riddled with heretical thoughts… and ideas. There are so many “Christian” congregations that waste so much time spewing hatred against the True Church of Christ than on His actual  teachings… And these thoughts are not just springing from ‘Protestant’ communities which have already rejected some of  Christ’s teachings and broken away from the Mother Church, No, some of these heretical thoughts actually have their roots from within the Catholic Church. It is quite blasphemous, really. Sects who go around proclaiming ‘the gospel’ all the while slandering the very institution that Our Lord created. Does anyone even recognize the Truth anymore? Much like the days of St. Hilary, some proclaimed ‘church leaders’ are deceiving man, and leading them with lies. Sadly, many are so corrupt in their hearts that they don’t understand the  damage they are doing…

But, like I said before, this is nothing new, the devil has hated God from the moment he refused to honor Him in heaven…and it has been a downward tumble ever since. If we don’t keep our hearts and minds pure… and focused on what is True, all kinds of deceit and manipulations can creep into our souls, affecting the very way we worship and pray. A favorite motto of St. Hilary’s was:

Ministros veritatis decet vera proferre, “Servants of the truth ought speak the truth.”

Let that one sink in...As Christians, we are called to be bearers of such Truth. If as Christians we continue to look the other way… continue to let it be someone else’s problem… everything will fall apart. This is our battle…this is our ‘fight.’There is a popular quote from Edmund Burke that states: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” I believe that he was speaking more of political evils of his time, but it applies to what is happening now, as well. Most Christians have become so comfortable with letting someone else do all the work. We are lazy…and like the easy wide road…even if we know where it leads…. Heck, many ‘Christian’ communities teach that once saved always saved. .. There is no accountability for their actions or their in-actions, all the while they go on living their lives in sin, pretending that their salvation is a given…this simply is not true! Our salvation is from God…won for us by Jesus Christ, but it means that we have to unite ourselves to Him…we have to empty ourselves …completely…and allow Him to fill our very souls, otherwise we will never get to heaven. And this my friends…is a daily struggle…it is not a ‘one and done!’

We must speak the Truth not only with charity but clarity as well. In all matters… particular those matters which concern the salvation of souls. This involves those heresies that are spreading throughout the Church. We must refuse to allow lies to be spread…we must delve into the history of our wonderful Holy Mother Church and seek not only inspiration, but intercession as well, from the great number of men and women who now rank among the saints in Heaven. These were the ones who were able to live their life in a way that was pleasing to the Lord. We must learn to read the Sacred Scriptures like a saint…allowing it to move us…change us…fill us with the very Word of God and convert our soul for the work of the Lord and the salvation of the world.

Let us pray.

Father, there are heresies that continue to plague the Church today. Many of the same ones that show up throughout the different ages. Unfortunately the heresy of Arianism continues to rear its ugly head  in different forms today.  Grant us the grace that we may be as courageous and bold in our defense against such false teachings as Saint Hilary, and never grow weary of pursuing and defending truth.  We ask this in the powerful name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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