"I saw the sign”
I don’t know if the members of Ace of Base were Catholic, but if they were, they definitely could not help but see signs, for they would be surrounded by them, especially during Holy Week.
I originally meant to post this last Thursday, but, alas, it did not make it out of my draft file until now. 
So, a couple of nights ago, priests from around the Diocese of Sacramento gathered with my bishop, His Excellency Jaime Soto, at the beautiful Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament for the annual Chrism Mass.
At this special Mass (which in other [arch]dioceses takes place on Holy Thursday), the holy oils used in the sacraments are blessed or—in the case of the Sacred Chrism—consecrated.
As Catholics, we have a sacramental theology in which signs (i.e. things we use, words we say, and actions we do) have a deeper meaning than what may appear on the surface.  There is a physical reality and a spiritual reality, a visible component and an invisible component.
Ah, what mystery!
Since all of creation is the work of God’s hands and the product of His masterful design, everything on earth and in the heavens praises the Creator as the Church sings in the glorious canticle from the 3rd chapter of Daniel: 

“Bless the Lord all you works of the Lord.  Praise and exalt him above all forever.  Sun and moon, bless the Lord.  Stars of heaven, bless the Lord.  Every shower and dew, bless the Lord.  All you winds, bless the Lord.  Fire and heat…Dew and rain…Ice and snow…Lightening and clouds…Mountains and hills…Seas and rivers…You dolphins and all water creatures…All you birds of the air…All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord.”

Therefore, for us Catholics, we must always remember that matter matters.  God gave us His creation which He called good; He gave us our bodies to perceive the works of His hands; He taught us to use certain elements of His creation to worship Him, to sanctify ourselves and our world, and, in the case of the sacraments, to be used by His Church to dispense the fruits of Christ’s death and resurrection.
In the sacramental life of the Church, especially during the Sacred Triduum, the use of signs is abundant, for sometimes ordinary language is not enough, especially when we are trying to communicate the great moments leading to Jesus’ ultimate act of love and mercy for us.  And, since God Himself has taken on our flesh, He knew that we needed signs, so He gave us the Eucharist (which effectuates what it signifies), the cross, the water and Blood which flowed from His side, the empty tomb.  Sometimes signs speak more eloquently than words.  Signs communicate something about our faith; they help us encounter mystery.
One of these signs is olive oil.  In the Chrism Mass, the bishop blesses the Oil of the Sick (used in the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick) and the Oil of Catechumens (used in the Sacrament of Baptism); and he consecrates the Holy Chrism (used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, as well as in the dedication of a church and an altar).  Chrism comes from the Greek word for “anointing”, so by its literal meaning, chrism is closely connected with Christ, the “Anointed One”.
As part of the rite for the consecration of chrism, the bishop adds balsam or perfume.  Our lives of virtue, then, that ought to flow from the sacrament we have received should be our fragrant offering to God, a pleasing odor of sanctity.  How sensual, or, rather, sensory is the experience of the faith, that even the sense of smell is engaged in our liturgy! 
The rite also indicates that the bishop may breathe on the chrism as shown in the picture above.  Breath, although we may not often be aware of it, is a powerful sign of life.  It calls to mind the breath of life blown into the nostrils of Adam, the breath that Jesus exhaled upon His disciples, and the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit which blew upon the Apostles at Pentecost.  So, when the bishop blows upon the chrism, it is a sign of the Holy Spirit descending and consecrating the oil for its sacred, life-giving purpose.
Here is one of the prayers for consecrating the Holy Chrism; notice how even the prayer begins by recalling how oil and water are signs.

God our maker, source of all growth in holiness, accept the joyful thanks and praise we offer in the name of your Church. In the beginning, at your command, the earth produced fruit-bearing trees. From the fruit of the olive tree you have provided us with oil for holy chrism. The prophet David sang of the life and joy that the oil would bring us in the sacraments of your love. After the avenging flood, the dove returning to Noah with an olive branch announced your gift of peace. This was a sign of a greater gift to come. Now the waters of baptism wash away the sins of men, and by the anointing with olive oil you make us radiant with your joy. At your command, Aaron was washed with water, and your servant Moses, his brother, anointed him priest. This too foreshadowed greater things to come. After your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, asked John for baptism in the waters of Jordan, you sent the Spirit upon him in the form of a dove and by the witness of your own voice you declared him to be your only, well-beloved Son. In this you clearly fulfilled the prophecy of David, that Christ would be anointed with the oil of gladness beyond his fellow men. And so, Father, we ask you to bless + this oil you have created. Fill it with the power of your Holy Spirit through Christ your Son. It is from him that chrism takes its name and with chrism you have anointed for yourself priests and kings, prophets and martyrs. Make this chrism a sign of life and salvation for those who are to be born again in the waters of baptism. Wash away the evil they have inherited from sinful Adam, and when they are anointed with this holy oil make them temples of your glory, radiant with the goodness of life that has its source in you. Through this sign of chrism grant them royal, priestly, and prophetic honor, and clothe them with incorruption. Let this be indeed the chrism of salvation for those who will be born again of water and the Holy Spirit. May they come to share eternal life in the glory of your kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lastly, the Chrism Mass has a special connection with the priesthood.  Last Thursday night, the priests in the Diocese of Sacramento came home, in a sense, to the Mother Church of our diocese in a sign of unity to Bishop Soto, their spiritual father, and of fidelity to Christ, the High Priest.  Throughout the Mass, they would have recalled their ordination day and, according to the missal, would have renewed their priestly promises beginning with these words by the bishop, “Beloved sons, on the anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood on his Apostles and on us, are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?”
Then, after receiving the holy oils, they return with to their own parishes and use them in their priestly ministry to us their children.  So, this Holy Week, particularly on the date of your (arch)diocese’s Chrism Mass and on Holy Thursday, the traditional day when Jesus conferred the priesthood upon His Apostles and instituted the Eucharist, please remember to offer a prayer for your (arch)bishop and your priests, particularly the priest that baptized you and all those who heard your confession.
PRAYER FOR PRIESTS
Dear Lord, we pray that the Blessed Mother wrap her mantle around Your priests and through her intercession strengthen them for their ministry. We pray that Mary will guide Your Priests to follow her own words, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). May your priests have the heart of St. Joseph, Mary’s most chaste spouse. May the Blessed Mother’s own pierced heart inspire them to embrace all who suffer at the foot of the cross. May Your priests be holy, filled with the fire of Your love seeking nothing but Your greater glory and the salvation of souls. AMEN! Mary, Queen and Mother of priests, pray for us! Saint John Vianney, pray for us! 
(Photo:  from the parish blog of St. Andrew the Apostle in Waynesboro, PA.  I believe the above picture is a photo of Bishop Joseph McFadden of the Diocese of Harrisburg.)

"I saw the sign

I don’t know if the members of Ace of Base were Catholic, but if they were, they definitely could not help but see signs, for they would be surrounded by them, especially during Holy Week.

I originally meant to post this last Thursday, but, alas, it did not make it out of my draft file until now. 

So, a couple of nights ago, priests from around the Diocese of Sacramento gathered with my bishop, His Excellency Jaime Soto, at the beautiful Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament for the annual Chrism Mass.

At this special Mass (which in other [arch]dioceses takes place on Holy Thursday), the holy oils used in the sacraments are blessed or—in the case of the Sacred Chrism—consecrated.

As Catholics, we have a sacramental theology in which signs (i.e. things we use, words we say, and actions we do) have a deeper meaning than what may appear on the surface.  There is a physical reality and a spiritual reality, a visible component and an invisible component.

Ah, what mystery!

Since all of creation is the work of God’s hands and the product of His masterful design, everything on earth and in the heavens praises the Creator as the Church sings in the glorious canticle from the 3rd chapter of Daniel: 

Bless the Lord all you works of the Lord.  Praise and exalt him above all forever.  Sun and moon, bless the Lord.  Stars of heaven, bless the Lord.  Every shower and dew, bless the Lord.  All you winds, bless the Lord.  Fire and heat…Dew and rain…Ice and snow…Lightening and clouds…Mountains and hills…Seas and rivers…You dolphins and all water creatures…All you birds of the air…All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord.

Therefore, for us Catholics, we must always remember that matter matters.  God gave us His creation which He called good; He gave us our bodies to perceive the works of His hands; He taught us to use certain elements of His creation to worship Him, to sanctify ourselves and our world, and, in the case of the sacraments, to be used by His Church to dispense the fruits of Christ’s death and resurrection.

In the sacramental life of the Church, especially during the Sacred Triduum, the use of signs is abundant, for sometimes ordinary language is not enough, especially when we are trying to communicate the great moments leading to Jesus’ ultimate act of love and mercy for us.  And, since God Himself has taken on our flesh, He knew that we needed signs, so He gave us the Eucharist (which effectuates what it signifies), the cross, the water and Blood which flowed from His side, the empty tomb.  Sometimes signs speak more eloquently than words.  Signs communicate something about our faith; they help us encounter mystery.

One of these signs is olive oil.  In the Chrism Mass, the bishop blesses the Oil of the Sick (used in the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick) and the Oil of Catechumens (used in the Sacrament of Baptism); and he consecrates the Holy Chrism (used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, as well as in the dedication of a church and an altar).  Chrism comes from the Greek word for “anointing”, so by its literal meaning, chrism is closely connected with Christ, the “Anointed One”.

As part of the rite for the consecration of chrism, the bishop adds balsam or perfume.  Our lives of virtue, then, that ought to flow from the sacrament we have received should be our fragrant offering to God, a pleasing odor of sanctity.  How sensual, or, rather, sensory is the experience of the faith, that even the sense of smell is engaged in our liturgy! 

The rite also indicates that the bishop may breathe on the chrism as shown in the picture above.  Breath, although we may not often be aware of it, is a powerful sign of life.  It calls to mind the breath of life blown into the nostrils of Adam, the breath that Jesus exhaled upon His disciples, and the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit which blew upon the Apostles at Pentecost.  So, when the bishop blows upon the chrism, it is a sign of the Holy Spirit descending and consecrating the oil for its sacred, life-giving purpose.

Here is one of the prayers for consecrating the Holy Chrism; notice how even the prayer begins by recalling how oil and water are signs.

God our maker,
source of all growth in holiness,
accept the joyful thanks and praise
we offer in the name of your Church.

In the beginning, at your command,
the earth produced fruit-bearing trees.
From the fruit of the olive tree
you have provided us with oil for holy chrism.
The prophet David sang of the life and joy
that the oil would bring us in the sacraments of your love.

After the avenging flood,
the dove returning to Noah with an olive branch
announced your gift of peace.
This was a sign of a greater gift to come.
Now the waters of baptism wash away the sins of men,
and by the anointing with olive oil
you make us radiant with your joy.

At your command,
Aaron was washed with water,
and your servant Moses, his brother,
anointed him priest.
This too foreshadowed greater things to come.
After your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
asked John for baptism in the waters of Jordan,
you sent the Spirit upon him
in the form of a dove
and by the witness of your own voice
you declared him to be your only, well-beloved Son.
In this you clearly fulfilled the prophecy of David,
that Christ would be anointed with the oil of gladness
beyond his fellow men.

And so, Father, we ask you to bless + this oil you have created.
Fill it with the power of your Holy Spirit
through Christ your Son.
It is from him that chrism takes its name
and with chrism you have anointed
for yourself priests and kings,
prophets and martyrs.

Make this chrism a sign of life and salvation
for those who are to be born again in the waters of baptism.
Wash away the evil they have inherited from sinful Adam,
and when they are anointed with this holy oil
make them temples of your glory,
radiant with the goodness of life
that has its source in you.

Through this sign of chrism
grant them royal, priestly, and prophetic honor,
and clothe them with incorruption.
Let this be indeed the chrism of salvation
for those who will be born again of water and the Holy Spirit.
May they come to share eternal life
in the glory of your kingdom.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lastly, the Chrism Mass has a special connection with the priesthood.  Last Thursday night, the priests in the Diocese of Sacramento came home, in a sense, to the Mother Church of our diocese in a sign of unity to Bishop Soto, their spiritual father, and of fidelity to Christ, the High Priest.  Throughout the Mass, they would have recalled their ordination day and, according to the missal, would have renewed their priestly promises beginning with these words by the bishop, “Beloved sons, on the anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood on his Apostles and on us, are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?

Then, after receiving the holy oils, they return with to their own parishes and use them in their priestly ministry to us their children.  So, this Holy Week, particularly on the date of your (arch)diocese’s Chrism Mass and on Holy Thursday, the traditional day when Jesus conferred the priesthood upon His Apostles and instituted the Eucharist, please remember to offer a prayer for your (arch)bishop and your priests, particularly the priest that baptized you and all those who heard your confession.

PRAYER FOR PRIESTS

Dear Lord,
we pray that the Blessed Mother wrap her mantle around Your priests and through her intercession strengthen them for their ministry.

We pray that Mary will guide Your Priests to follow her own words, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). May your priests have the heart of St. Joseph, Mary’s most chaste spouse.

May the Blessed Mother’s own pierced heart inspire them to embrace all who suffer at the foot of the cross. May Your priests be holy, filled with the fire of Your love seeking nothing but Your greater glory and the salvation of souls. AMEN!

Mary, Queen and Mother of priests, pray for us!
Saint John Vianney, pray for us!


(Photo:  from the parish blog of St. Andrew the Apostle in Waynesboro, PA.  I believe the above picture is a photo of Bishop Joseph McFadden of the Diocese of Harrisburg.)

Palm Sunday in the Holy Land

Be encouraged!

Please go here and find the nearest 40 Days for Life vigil site.  Sign up for an hour or more, or just stop by for a few minutes.  At the very least, pray, fast, and offer your every day sufferings for the lives of our brothers and sisters who are destroyed in the womb, for their mothers who suffer greatly, and the doctors who cannot hear their cries.  Make this noble cause part of your Lenten sacrifice and spiritual preparation for Easter.

Countdown to St. Joseph’s Day:  2 days
Happy Feast of St. Patrick!  And with Laetare Sunday tomorrow, there is much rejoicing to be had in the Church in these next 48 hours!
Speaking of Laetare Sunday, as you know, it is one of the two days a year when priests wear rose vestments (the other day is Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent, and, by the way, don’t ever tell your priest that his vestments are pink).
This name for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is derived from the liturgy’s introit which in most churches has been replaced by the processional hymn at the start of Mass. 

Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae. (Psalm) Laetatus sum in his, quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus.
Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. (Psalm) I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. Glory be to the Father.

The introit is taken from Isiah 66 and Psalm 122.  In these scripture passages, the city of Jerusalem seen as an image of the Church.  Likewise, we see in Our Lady the purity, holiness, and splendor of the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 507 and 972, quotes Lumen Gentium in viewing Mary as a true icon of the Church.

At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church:  “the Church indeed…by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother.  By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life.  She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse.”
"In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come.  Likewise she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God."

Just as Mary gave her Son clothing and nourishment, the Church, our other Holy Mother, clothes us in the white garment of our Christian dignity and nourishes our souls with the Word of God and Bread of Life.
And who was the protector of Mary, her strong and tender guardian?  Of course, it was our beloved St. Joseph, the loving and faithful husband of Our Lady.  Thus, he who cared for Mary with all his heart, who was her most intimate companion and friend of the Sacred Heart is also the mighty protector and guardian of Holy Mother Church.
In officially naming St. Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church in his decree Quaemadmodum Deus, Bl. Pope Pius IX said (with my emphasis),

As almighty God appointed Joseph, son of the patriarch Jacob, over all the land of Egypt to save grain for the people, so when the fullness of time had come and He was about to send to earth His only-begotten Son, the Savior of the world, He chose another Joseph, of whom the first had been the type, and He made him the lord and chief of His household and possessions, the guardian of His choicest treasures.
Indeed, he had as his spouse the Immaculate Virgin Mary, of whom was born by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ our Lord, who deigned to be reputed in the sight of men as the son of Joseph, and was subject to him.
Him whom countless kings and prophets had desired to see, Joseph not only saw but conversed with, and embraced in paternal affection, and kissed. He most diligently reared Him whom the faithful were to receive as the bread that came down from heaven whereby they might obtain eternal life.
Because of this sublime dignity which God conferred on his most faithful servant, the Church has always most highly honored and praised blessed Joseph next to his spouse, the Virgin Mother of God, and has besought his intercession in times of trouble.
And now therefore, when in these most troublesome times the Church is beset by enemies on every side, and is weighed down by calamities so heavy that ungodly men assert that the gates of hell have at length prevailed against her, the venerable prelates of the whole Catholic world have presented to the Sovereign Pontiff their own petitions and those of the faithful committed to their charge, praying that he would deign to constitute St. Joseph Patron of the Church…
Accordingly, it has now pleased our Most Holy Sovereign, Pope Pius IX, in order to entrust himself and all the faithful to the Patriarch St. Joseph’s most powerful patronage, has chosen to comply with the prelates’ desire and has solemnly declared him Patron of the Catholic Church.

The Church faced many difficulties in the time of Bl. Pius IX:  Rome was seized by the Italian army, the Franco-Prussian War broke out, the First Vatican Council was suspended, and our Holy Father thought about taking refuge outside of the Vatican on a couple of occasions.
As I am sure you are all aware, Holy Mother Church is again under attack.  In his encyclical Quamquam Pluries, Pope Leo XIII remarks (again with my emphasis),

Now, Venerable Brethren, you know the times in which we live; they are scarcely less deplorable for the Christian religion than the worst days, which in time past were most full of misery to the Church. We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft; a relentless war waged against the Sovereign Pontiff; and the very foundations of religion undermined with a boldness which waxes daily in intensity...In circumstances so unhappy and troublous, human remedies are insufficient, and it becomes necessary, as a sole resource, to beg for assistance from the Divine power.
This is the reason why We have considered it necessary to turn to the Christian people and urge them to implore, with increased zeal and constancy, the aid of Almighty God…If, on innumerable occasions, she has displayed her power in aid of the Christian world, why should We doubt that she will now renew the assistance of her power and favour, if humble and constant prayers are offered up on all sides to her? Nay, We rather believe that her intervention will be the more marvellous as she has permitted Us to pray to her, for so long a time, with special appeals. But We entertain another object, which, according to your wont, Venerable Brethren, you will advance with fervour. That God may be more favourable to Our prayers, and that He may come with bounty and promptitude to the aid of His Church, We judge it of deep utility for the Christian people, continually to invoke with great piety and trust, together with the Virgin-Mother of God, her chaste Spouse, the Blessed Joseph; and We regard it as most certain that this will be most pleasing to the Virgin herself. On the subject of this devotion, of which We speak publicly for the first time to-day, We know without doubt that not only is the people inclined to it, but that it is already established, and is advancing to full growth…And as, moreover, it is of high importance that the devotion to St. Joseph should engraft itself upon the daily pious practices of Catholics, We desire that the Christian people should be urged to it above all by Our words and authority.

So, when Holy Mother Church is being attacked, when the souls of the faithful are at some greater risk, and when the powers of darkness appear to be tightening their grasp on the world, what have the popes urged?  "Go to Joseph" (Gen 41:55)!
Regarding our beloved Joseph’s role as Guardian of the Holy Family, Pope Leo XIII writes,

The special motives for which St. Joseph has been proclaimed Patron of the Church, and from which the Church looks for singular benefit from his patronage and protection, are that Joseph was the spouse of Mary and that he was reputed the Father of Jesus Christ. From these sources have sprung his dignity, his holiness, his glory. In truth, the dignity of the Mother of God is so lofty that naught created can rank above it. But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures. For marriage is the most intimate of all unions which from its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together. Thus in giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life’s companion, the witness of her maidenhood, the protector of her honour, but also, by virtue of the conjugal tie, a participator in her sublime dignity. And Joseph shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men. Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph, that He obeyed him, and that He rendered to him all those offices that children are bound to render to their parents. From this two-fold dignity flowed the obligation which nature lays upon the head of families, so that Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties. He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch’s jealousy, and found for Him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitternesses of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus. Now the divine house which Joseph ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits the scarce-born Church. From the same fact that the most holy Virgin is the mother of Jesus Christ is she the mother of all Christians whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the Redemption; Jesus Christ is, in a manner, the first-born of Christians, who by the adoption and Redemption are his brothers. And for such reasons the Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided specially to his trust - this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority. It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Father continues by employing some scriptural typology regarding the first Joseph (by the way, we witnessed another example of typology in today’s Gospel:  "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.")

You well understand, Venerable Brethren, that these considerations are confirmed by the ,opinion held by a large number of the Fathers, to which the sacred liturgy gives its sanction, that the Joseph of ancient times, son of the patriarch Jacob, was the type of St. Joseph, and the former by his glory prefigured the greatness of the future guardian of the Holy Family. And in truth, beyond the fact that the same name-a point the significance of which has never been denied-was given to each, you well know the points of likeness that exist between them; namely, that the first Joseph won the favour and especial goodwill of his master, and that through Joseph’s administration his household came to prosperity and wealth; that (still more important) he presided over the kingdom with great power, and, in a time when the harvests failed, he provided for all the needs of the Egyptians with so much wisdom that the King decreed to him the title “Saviour of the world.” Thus it is that We may prefigure the new in the old patriarch. And as the first caused the prosperity of his master’s domestic interests and at the same time rendered great services to the whole kingdom, so the second, destined to be the guardian of the Christian religion, should be regarded as the protector and defender of the Church, which is truly the house of the Lord and the kingdom of God on earth. These are the reasons why men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph. Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity; virgins at the same time find in him the model and protector of virginal integrity.

Finally, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Quamquam Pluries, our own beloved Bl. John Paul II invokes the intercession of the Church’s mighty Patron in his Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos.

This patronage must be invoked as ever necessary for the Church, not only as a defense against all dangers, but also, and indeed primarily, as an impetus for her renewed commitment to evangelization in the world and to re-evangelization in those lands and nations where-as I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation  Christideles Laici - “religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and…are now put to a hard test.” In order to bring the first proclamation of Christ, or to bring it anew wherever it has been neglected or forgotten, the Church has need of special “power from on high” (cf. Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8): a gift of the Spirit of the Lord, a gift which is not unrelated to the intercession and example of his saints.
Besides trusting in Joseph’s sure protection, the Church also trusts in his noble example, which transcends all individual states of life and serves as a model for the entire Christian community, whatever the condition and duties of each of its members may be.
As the Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council has said, the basic attitude of the entire Church must be that of “hearing the word of God with reverence,” an absolute readiness to serve faithfully God’s salvific will revealed in Jesus. Already at the beginning of human redemption, after Mary, we find the model of obedience made incarnate in St. Joseph, the man known for having faithfully carried out God’s commands.
Pope Paul VI invited us to invoke Joseph’s patronage “as the Church has been wont to do in these recent times, for herself in the first place, with a spontaneous theological reflection on the marriage of divine and human action in the great economy of the Redemption, in which economy the first-the divine one-is wholly sufficient unto itself, while the second-the human action which is ours-though capable of nothing (cf. Jn 15:5), is never dispensed from a humble but conditional and ennobling collaboration. The Church also calls upon Joseph as her protector because of a profound and ever present desire to reinvigorate her ancient life with true evangelical virtues, such as shine forth in St. Joseph.”
The Church transforms these needs into prayer. Recalling that God wished to entrust the beginnings of our redemption to the faithful care of St. Joseph, she asks God to grant that she may faithfully cooperate in the work of salvation; that she may receive the same faithfulness and purity of heart that inspired Joseph in serving the Incarnate World; and that she may walk before God in the ways of holiness and justice, following Joseph’s example and through his intercession…
Even today we have many reasons to pray in a similar way: “Most beloved father, dispel the evil of falsehood and sin…graciously assist us from heaven in our struggle with the powers of darkness…and just as once you saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God’s holy Church from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity.” Today we still have good reason to commend everyone to St. Joseph.

Day 8 of our novena.  And look at the banner that the angel holds for all to see, Ite ad Ioseph (“Go to Joseph”, Genesis 41:55)

Countdown to St. Joseph’s Day:  2 days

Happy Feast of St. Patrick!  And with Laetare Sunday tomorrow, there is much rejoicing to be had in the Church in these next 48 hours!

Speaking of Laetare Sunday, as you know, it is one of the two days a year when priests wear rose vestments (the other day is Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent, and, by the way, don’t ever tell your priest that his vestments are pink).

This name for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is derived from the liturgy’s introit which in most churches has been replaced by the processional hymn at the start of Mass. 

Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae. (Psalm) Laetatus sum in his, quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus.

Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. (Psalm) I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. Glory be to the Father.

The introit is taken from Isiah 66 and Psalm 122.  In these scripture passages, the city of Jerusalem seen as an image of the Church.  Likewise, we see in Our Lady the purity, holiness, and splendor of the Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 507 and 972, quotes Lumen Gentium in viewing Mary as a true icon of the Church.

At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church:  “the Church indeed…by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother.  By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life.  She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse.”

"In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come.  Likewise she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God."

Just as Mary gave her Son clothing and nourishment, the Church, our other Holy Mother, clothes us in the white garment of our Christian dignity and nourishes our souls with the Word of God and Bread of Life.

And who was the protector of Mary, her strong and tender guardian?  Of course, it was our beloved St. Joseph, the loving and faithful husband of Our Lady.  Thus, he who cared for Mary with all his heart, who was her most intimate companion and friend of the Sacred Heart is also the mighty protector and guardian of Holy Mother Church.

In officially naming St. Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church in his decree Quaemadmodum Deus, Bl. Pope Pius IX said (with my emphasis),

As almighty God appointed Joseph, son of the patriarch Jacob, over all the land of Egypt to save grain for the people, so when the fullness of time had come and He was about to send to earth His only-begotten Son, the Savior of the world, He chose another Joseph, of whom the first had been the type, and He made him the lord and chief of His household and possessions, the guardian of His choicest treasures.

Indeed, he had as his spouse the Immaculate Virgin Mary, of whom was born by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ our Lord, who deigned to be reputed in the sight of men as the son of Joseph, and was subject to him.

Him whom countless kings and prophets had desired to see, Joseph not only saw but conversed with, and embraced in paternal affection, and kissed. He most diligently reared Him whom the faithful were to receive as the bread that came down from heaven whereby they might obtain eternal life.

Because of this sublime dignity which God conferred on his most faithful servant, the Church has always most highly honored and praised blessed Joseph next to his spouse, the Virgin Mother of God, and has besought his intercession in times of trouble.

And now therefore, when in these most troublesome times the Church is beset by enemies on every side, and is weighed down by calamities so heavy that ungodly men assert that the gates of hell have at length prevailed against her, the venerable prelates of the whole Catholic world have presented to the Sovereign Pontiff their own petitions and those of the faithful committed to their charge, praying that he would deign to constitute St. Joseph Patron of the Church…

Accordingly, it has now pleased our Most Holy Sovereign, Pope Pius IX, in order to entrust himself and all the faithful to the Patriarch St. Joseph’s most powerful patronage, has chosen to comply with the prelates’ desire and has solemnly declared him Patron of the Catholic Church.

The Church faced many difficulties in the time of Bl. Pius IX:  Rome was seized by the Italian army, the Franco-Prussian War broke out, the First Vatican Council was suspended, and our Holy Father thought about taking refuge outside of the Vatican on a couple of occasions.

As I am sure you are all aware, Holy Mother Church is again under attack.  In his encyclical Quamquam Pluries, Pope Leo XIII remarks (again with my emphasis),

Now, Venerable Brethren, you know the times in which we live; they are scarcely less deplorable for the Christian religion than the worst days, which in time past were most full of misery to the Church. We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft; a relentless war waged against the Sovereign Pontiff; and the very foundations of religion undermined with a boldness which waxes daily in intensity...In circumstances so unhappy and troublous, human remedies are insufficient, and it becomes necessary, as a sole resource, to beg for assistance from the Divine power.

This is the reason why We have considered it necessary to turn to the Christian people and urge them to implore, with increased zeal and constancy, the aid of Almighty God…If, on innumerable occasions, she has displayed her power in aid of the Christian world, why should We doubt that she will now renew the assistance of her power and favour, if humble and constant prayers are offered up on all sides to her? Nay, We rather believe that her intervention will be the more marvellous as she has permitted Us to pray to her, for so long a time, with special appeals. But We entertain another object, which, according to your wont, Venerable Brethren, you will advance with fervour. That God may be more favourable to Our prayers, and that He may come with bounty and promptitude to the aid of His Church, We judge it of deep utility for the Christian people, continually to invoke with great piety and trust, together with the Virgin-Mother of God, her chaste Spouse, the Blessed Joseph; and We regard it as most certain that this will be most pleasing to the Virgin herself. On the subject of this devotion, of which We speak publicly for the first time to-day, We know without doubt that not only is the people inclined to it, but that it is already established, and is advancing to full growth…And as, moreover, it is of high importance that the devotion to St. Joseph should engraft itself upon the daily pious practices of Catholics, We desire that the Christian people should be urged to it above all by Our words and authority.

So, when Holy Mother Church is being attacked, when the souls of the faithful are at some greater risk, and when the powers of darkness appear to be tightening their grasp on the world, what have the popes urged?  "Go to Joseph" (Gen 41:55)!

Regarding our beloved Joseph’s role as Guardian of the Holy Family, Pope Leo XIII writes,

The special motives for which St. Joseph has been proclaimed Patron of the Church, and from which the Church looks for singular benefit from his patronage and protection, are that Joseph was the spouse of Mary and that he was reputed the Father of Jesus Christ. From these sources have sprung his dignity, his holiness, his glory. In truth, the dignity of the Mother of God is so lofty that naught created can rank above it. But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures. For marriage is the most intimate of all unions which from its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together. Thus in giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life’s companion, the witness of her maidenhood, the protector of her honour, but also, by virtue of the conjugal tie, a participator in her sublime dignity. And Joseph shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men. Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph, that He obeyed him, and that He rendered to him all those offices that children are bound to render to their parents. From this two-fold dignity flowed the obligation which nature lays upon the head of families, so that Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties. He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch’s jealousy, and found for Him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitternesses of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus. Now the divine house which Joseph ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits the scarce-born Church. From the same fact that the most holy Virgin is the mother of Jesus Christ is she the mother of all Christians whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the Redemption; Jesus Christ is, in a manner, the first-born of Christians, who by the adoption and Redemption are his brothers. And for such reasons the Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided specially to his trust - this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority. It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Father continues by employing some scriptural typology regarding the first Joseph (by the way, we witnessed another example of typology in today’s Gospel:  "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.")

You well understand, Venerable Brethren, that these considerations are confirmed by the ,opinion held by a large number of the Fathers, to which the sacred liturgy gives its sanction, that the Joseph of ancient times, son of the patriarch Jacob, was the type of St. Joseph, and the former by his glory prefigured the greatness of the future guardian of the Holy Family. And in truth, beyond the fact that the same name-a point the significance of which has never been denied-was given to each, you well know the points of likeness that exist between them; namely, that the first Joseph won the favour and especial goodwill of his master, and that through Joseph’s administration his household came to prosperity and wealth; that (still more important) he presided over the kingdom with great power, and, in a time when the harvests failed, he provided for all the needs of the Egyptians with so much wisdom that the King decreed to him the title “Saviour of the world.” Thus it is that We may prefigure the new in the old patriarch. And as the first caused the prosperity of his master’s domestic interests and at the same time rendered great services to the whole kingdom, so the second, destined to be the guardian of the Christian religion, should be regarded as the protector and defender of the Church, which is truly the house of the Lord and the kingdom of God on earth. These are the reasons why men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph. Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity; virgins at the same time find in him the model and protector of virginal integrity.

Finally, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Quamquam Pluries, our own beloved Bl. John Paul II invokes the intercession of the Church’s mighty Patron in his Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos.

This patronage must be invoked as ever necessary for the Church, not only as a defense against all dangers, but also, and indeed primarily, as an impetus for her renewed commitment to evangelization in the world and to re-evangelization in those lands and nations where-as I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Christideles Laici - “religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and…are now put to a hard test.” In order to bring the first proclamation of Christ, or to bring it anew wherever it has been neglected or forgotten, the Church has need of special “power from on high” (cf. Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8): a gift of the Spirit of the Lord, a gift which is not unrelated to the intercession and example of his saints.

Besides trusting in Joseph’s sure protection, the Church also trusts in his noble example, which transcends all individual states of life and serves as a model for the entire Christian community, whatever the condition and duties of each of its members may be.

As the Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council has said, the basic attitude of the entire Church must be that of “hearing the word of God with reverence,” an absolute readiness to serve faithfully God’s salvific will revealed in Jesus. Already at the beginning of human redemption, after Mary, we find the model of obedience made incarnate in St. Joseph, the man known for having faithfully carried out God’s commands.

Pope Paul VI invited us to invoke Joseph’s patronage “as the Church has been wont to do in these recent times, for herself in the first place, with a spontaneous theological reflection on the marriage of divine and human action in the great economy of the Redemption, in which economy the first-the divine one-is wholly sufficient unto itself, while the second-the human action which is ours-though capable of nothing (cf. Jn 15:5), is never dispensed from a humble but conditional and ennobling collaboration. The Church also calls upon Joseph as her protector because of a profound and ever present desire to reinvigorate her ancient life with true evangelical virtues, such as shine forth in St. Joseph.”

The Church transforms these needs into prayer. Recalling that God wished to entrust the beginnings of our redemption to the faithful care of St. Joseph, she asks God to grant that she may faithfully cooperate in the work of salvation; that she may receive the same faithfulness and purity of heart that inspired Joseph in serving the Incarnate World; and that she may walk before God in the ways of holiness and justice, following Joseph’s example and through his intercession…

Even today we have many reasons to pray in a similar way: “Most beloved father, dispel the evil of falsehood and sin…graciously assist us from heaven in our struggle with the powers of darkness…and just as once you saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God’s holy Church from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity.” Today we still have good reason to commend everyone to St. Joseph.

Day 8 of our novena.  And look at the banner that the angel holds for all to see, Ite ad Ioseph (“Go to Joseph”, Genesis 41:55)

Here is your Lenten Jam of the Week:  Undo by Rush of Fools

I’ve been here before
Now, here I am again
Standing at the door
Praying You’ll let me back in

To label me
A prodigal would be
Only scratching the surface
Of who I’ve been known to be

Turn me around, pick me up
Undo what I’ve become
Bring me back to the place
Of forgiveness and grace
I need You, I need Your help
I can’t do this myself
You’re the only one
Who can undo what I’ve become

I focused on the score
But I could never win
Trying to ignore
A life of hiding my sin

To label me
A hypocrite would be
Only scratching the surface
Of who I’ve been known to be

Turn me around, pick me up
Undo what I’ve become
Bring me back to the place
Of forgiveness and grace
I need You, I need Your help
I can’t do this myself
You’re the only one
Who can undo what I’ve become

Make every step lead me back to
The sovereign way that You

Turn me around, pick me up
Undo what I’ve become
Bring me back to the place
Of forgiveness and grace
I need You, I need Your help
I can’t do this myself
You’re the only one who can undo
You are the only one who can undo
You’re the only one who can undo
What I’ve become

Hot Cross Buns:  The dessert for the desert!  It’s my dad’s favorite Lenten treat; he normally gets some every year just before Holy Week.
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns! If you have no daughters, Give them to your sons One a penny, Two a penny, Hot Cross Buns!
If you’re interested, here is a recipe for these yummy Lenten rolls (though, not necessarily the one used for the bun in the picture).

Ingredients
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 (1/4 ounce) packages)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus as needed
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour (13 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup currants, plumped in the microwave and cooled
1 egg beaten, for brushing
For the icing/glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon finely gated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Directions



Combine the water and milk in a medium saucepan and warm over low heat until about 100 degrees F (but no more than 110 degrees). Remove from heat and sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar and flour over the surface of the liquid. Set aside without stirring, until foamy and rising up the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.
Whisk the butter, egg yolk and vanilla into the yeast mixture.
Whisk the flour, the remaining sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon to make a thick, shaggy, and slightly sticky dough. Stir in currants. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and elastic, about 8 minutes. Shape into a ball.
Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put dough in bowl, turning to coat lightly with butter. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour 30 minutes. (If you have a marker, trace a circle the size of the dough on the plastic, and note the time to help you keep track.)
To form the rolls: Butter a 9 by 14-inch baking pan. Turn the dough out of the bowl and pat into a rectangle about 16 by 8 inches. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, about 2 ounces each, with a pizza wheel or bench scraper. (If you don’t have a scale, divide the dough in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise. Cut each of those four sections into 3 equal-sized rolls.)
Tuck the edges of the dough under to make round rolls and place them seam-side down in the prepared pan, leaving a little space in between each roll. Cover the pan with buttered plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the rolls rise almost to the rim of the pan and have more than doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Remove the plastic wrap and brush the tops of the buns with beaten egg. Bake rolls until golden brown and puffy, and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the rolls registers 190 degrees F, about 25 minutes.
For the glaze: Stir together confectioners’ sugar, milk, lemon zest and vanilla until smooth. Transfer icing to a zip bag or pastry bag, and make a small cut in the corner of the bag. Ice buns in a thick cross shape over the top of the warm buns.

Hot Cross Buns:  The dessert for the desert!  It’s my dad’s favorite Lenten treat; he normally gets some every year just before Holy Week.

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

If you’re interested, here is a recipe for these yummy Lenten rolls (though, not necessarily the one used for the bun in the picture).

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 (1/4 ounce) packages)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus as needed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (13 ounces)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup currants, plumped in the microwave and cooled
  • 1 egg beaten, for brushing

For the icing/glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely gated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Combine the water and milk in a medium saucepan and warm over low heat until about 100 degrees F (but no more than 110 degrees). Remove from heat and sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar and flour over the surface of the liquid. Set aside without stirring, until foamy and rising up the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Whisk the butter, egg yolk and vanilla into the yeast mixture.

Whisk the flour, the remaining sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon to make a thick, shaggy, and slightly sticky dough. Stir in currants. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and elastic, about 8 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put dough in bowl, turning to coat lightly with butter. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour 30 minutes. (If you have a marker, trace a circle the size of the dough on the plastic, and note the time to help you keep track.)

To form the rolls: Butter a 9 by 14-inch baking pan. Turn the dough out of the bowl and pat into a rectangle about 16 by 8 inches. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, about 2 ounces each, with a pizza wheel or bench scraper. (If you don’t have a scale, divide the dough in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise. Cut each of those four sections into 3 equal-sized rolls.)

Tuck the edges of the dough under to make round rolls and place them seam-side down in the prepared pan, leaving a little space in between each roll. Cover the pan with buttered plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the rolls rise almost to the rim of the pan and have more than doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Remove the plastic wrap and brush the tops of the buns with beaten egg. Bake rolls until golden brown and puffy, and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the rolls registers 190 degrees F, about 25 minutes.

For the glaze: Stir together confectioners’ sugar, milk, lemon zest and vanilla until smooth. Transfer icing to a zip bag or pastry bag, and make a small cut in the corner of the bag. Ice buns in a thick cross shape over the top of the warm buns.

For your Lenten Friday:  At the Cross

O Lord, You’ve searched me
You know my way
Even when I fail You
I know You love me

Your holy presence
Surrounding me
In every season
I know You love me
I know You love me

At the cross I bow my knee
Where Your blood was she’d for me
There’s no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Your glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now

You go before me
You shield my way
Your hand upholds me
I know You love me

You tore the veil
You made a way
When You said that it is done

And when the earth fades
Falls from my eyes
And You stand before me
I know You love me
I know You love me

It’s Friday.  Time for Stations!

Here’s how the Parish of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs prays the Via Crucis.

We’re not even half way through Lent, and this Season’s particular struggle to grow in faith and love is perhaps one of the most difficult I’ve ever faced.  If the Accuser and his fallen stars have been harassing you a lot lately, take courage and know that you’re not alone in this battle for sanctity.  Thank God for confessors, Our Lady, and Archangels with swords.
O St. Michael the Archangel, Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, pray for us!
(Photo:  Place Saint-Michele, Paris; on our pilgrimage to France and Germany for World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne)

We’re not even half way through Lent, and this Season’s particular struggle to grow in faith and love is perhaps one of the most difficult I’ve ever faced.  If the Accuser and his fallen stars have been harassing you a lot lately, take courage and know that you’re not alone in this battle for sanctity.  Thank God for confessors, Our Lady, and Archangels with swords.

O St. Michael the Archangel, Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, pray for us!

(Photo:  Place Saint-Michele, Paris; on our pilgrimage to France and Germany for World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne)

"Jesus takes three of them with him up the mountain and reveals his divine glory, the splendor of Truth and Love. Jesus wants this light to illumine their hearts when they pass through the thick darkness of his passion and death, when the scandal of the cross will be too much for them. God is light, and Jesus wants to provide his most intimate friends with an experience of this light that lives in him. Thus, after this event, he will be an interior light in them, able to protect them from the assaults of darkness. Even in the darkest night Jesus is the lamp that never goes out. St. Augustine, summing up this mystery with a very beautiful expression, says: “That which is for the eyes of our body the sun that we see, [Christ] is for the eyes of the heart” (Sermo 78, 2: PL 38, 490).
Dear brothers and sisters, we all have need of interior light to overcome life’s trials. This light comes from God, and it is Christ who bestows it, he, in whom dwells the fullness of divinity (cf. Colossians 2:9). Let us climb the mountain of prayer together with Jesus and, contemplating his countenance full of love and truth, let ourselves be filled interiorly by his light. Let us ask the Virgin Mary, our guide in the journey of faith, to help us to live this experience in the time of Lent, finding every day some moment for silent prayer and for listening to the Word of God.”
-Pope Benedict XVI, part of his Angelus address on 3/4/12

"Jesus takes three of them with him up the mountain and reveals his divine glory, the splendor of Truth and Love. Jesus wants this light to illumine their hearts when they pass through the thick darkness of his passion and death, when the scandal of the cross will be too much for them. God is light, and Jesus wants to provide his most intimate friends with an experience of this light that lives in him. Thus, after this event, he will be an interior light in them, able to protect them from the assaults of darkness. Even in the darkest night Jesus is the lamp that never goes out. St. Augustine, summing up this mystery with a very beautiful expression, says: “That which is for the eyes of our body the sun that we see, [Christ] is for the eyes of the heart” (Sermo 78, 2: PL 38, 490).

Dear brothers and sisters, we all have need of interior light to overcome life’s trials. This light comes from God, and it is Christ who bestows it, he, in whom dwells the fullness of divinity (cf. Colossians 2:9). Let us climb the mountain of prayer together with Jesus and, contemplating his countenance full of love and truth, let ourselves be filled interiorly by his light. Let us ask the Virgin Mary, our guide in the journey of faith, to help us to live this experience in the time of Lent, finding every day some moment for silent prayer and for listening to the Word of God.”

-Pope Benedict XVI, part of his Angelus address on 3/4/12

LADY’S NIGHT - “Ave Regina Caelorum”

I don’t know how your Lent is going, but it’s been quite a struggle for me, though a joyful struggle.  It is a struggle because I realize that I need a lot of work in my pursuit of holiness, and, to make matters worse, the enemy isn’t helping.  My trek towards Easter, however, is also joyful because I know that the suffering associated with my sincere desire for conversion, including the pain of having to fall constantly and drag myself out of the mud time and time again, are worth the effort.  Jesus gives value to all suffering.  He not only makes bearing my cross tolerable, but He also makes it sweet.

Our Lady as well has been a big help to me.  She guides my steps, calls me out of the mud when I’m tempted just to give up and join the many others wallowing in the filth, and, I truly believe that Mary shields me, the weakest of her sons, from the full assaults of the enemy.  Our Mama is also constantly sending me her maternal consolations that I may not grow too weary in the desert.

So, to aid in your Lenten battle, here is the Ave Regina Caelorum, the Marian Antiphon that is traditionally sung after Night Prayer after the Feast of the Presentation until Easter.  Use it well, and use it often. 

May the Mistress of the Angels give you strength against the enemy!

(By the way, this is probably going to be my last Lady’s Night post…on a Saturday.  I originally intended to have Lady’s Night every Saturday, the day of the week dedicated to Our Lady.  However, it seems that I’m usually tired or busy [and too lazy to prepare the post earlier and then cue it up to be posted on Saturday night].  Thus, I’m thinking about moving Lady’s Night to Sunday.)

Ave, Regina Caelorum,

Ave, Domina Angelorum:

Salve, radix, salve, porta

Ex qua mundo lux est orta:

Gaude, Virgo gloriosa,

Super omnes speciosa,

Vale, o valde decora,

Et pro nobis Christum exora.

V/.  Dignare me laudare te, Virgo sacrata.

R/.  Da mihi virtutem contra hostes tuos.

Oremus: Concede, misericors Deus, fragilitati nostrae praesidium: ut, qui sanctae Dei Genitricis memoriam agimus; intercessionis eius auxilio, a nostris iniquitatibus resurgamus. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.  Amen.

Hail, O Queen of Heaven

Hail, O Lady of Angels

Hail! thou root, hail! thou gate

Through which the Light rose over the earth.

Rejoice, O glorious Virgin,

Lovely beyond all others,

Farewell, most beautiful maiden,

And pray for us to Christ.

V/.  Allow me to praise thee, O holy Virgin.

R/.  Give me strength against thy enemies.

Let us pray: We beseech thee, O Lord, mercifully to assist our infirmity: that like as we do now commemorate Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, Mother of God; so by the help of her intercession we may die to our former sins and rise again to newness of life.  Through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Quaerere Deum, To Seek God

For your Friday recollections, here is a video of a day in the lives of the Benedictine monks at the Monastery of San Benedetto.

Papa Benedict spoke on temptation at the Angelus last Sunday (with my emphasis):
Dear brothers and sisters!

On this Sunday of Lent we meet Jesus who, after having received  baptism in the Jordan River from John the Baptist (cf. Mark 1:9),  undergoes temptation in the desert (cf. Mark 1:12-13). St. Mark’s  narration is concise, lacking the details that we read in the other two  gospels of Matthew and Luke. The desert of which he speaks has different  meanings. It can indicate a condition of abandonment and solitude, the  “place” of man’s weakness where there are no footholds or certainties,  where temptation is the strongest. But it can also mean a place of  refuge and rest, as it was for the people of Israel, who had escaped  from Egyptian slavery, where one can experience God’s presence in a  special way. Jesus “remained in the desert for 40 days, tempted by  Satan” (Mark 1:13). St. Leo the Great comments that "the Lord wished to  face the tempter’s attack to defend us with his help and to instruct us  with his example" (Tractatus XXXIX, 3 De ieiunio quadragesimae: CCL  138/A, Turnholti 1973, 214-215).
What can this episode teach us? As we read in the book “The Imitation  of Christ,” "as long as he lives man is never entirely free from  temptation … but it is with patience and with true humility that we  become stronger than every enemy" (Liber I, c. XIII, Città del Vaticano  1982, 37), the patience and humility of following the Lord every day,  learning to build our life not apart from him or as if he did not exist,  but in him and with him, because he is the font of true life. The  temptation to remove God, to create order in ourselves and the world by  ourselves, counting on our own resources, is always present in human  history.
Jesus proclaims that “the time is accomplished and the kingdom of God  is at hand” (Mark 1:15), announces that in him something new is  happening: God addressed man in an unexpected way, with a unique and  concrete nearness, full of love; God becomes incarnate and enters into  the world of man to take sin upon himself, to conquer evil and being man  and the world back to God. But this announcement is accompanied by the  request to correspond to a great gift. Jesus, in fact, adds: "convert  and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15); it is the invitation to have  faith in God and every day to convert our life to his will, orienting  every action and thought of ours to the good. The time of Lent is the  propitious moment to renew and strengthen our relationship with God,  through daily prayer, gestures of penance, works of fraternal charity.
We supplicate Mary Most Holy with fervor that she accompany us on our  Lenten path with her protection and help us to impress in our heart and  in our life the words of Jesus Christ, to convert ourselves to him. I  also entrust to your prayers the week of retreat that I will be begin  this evening with my collaborators in the Roman Curia.

Papa Benedict spoke on temptation at the Angelus last Sunday (with my emphasis):

Dear brothers and sisters!

On this Sunday of Lent we meet Jesus who, after having received baptism in the Jordan River from John the Baptist (cf. Mark 1:9), undergoes temptation in the desert (cf. Mark 1:12-13). St. Mark’s narration is concise, lacking the details that we read in the other two gospels of Matthew and Luke. The desert of which he speaks has different meanings. It can indicate a condition of abandonment and solitude, the “place” of man’s weakness where there are no footholds or certainties, where temptation is the strongest. But it can also mean a place of refuge and rest, as it was for the people of Israel, who had escaped from Egyptian slavery, where one can experience God’s presence in a special way. Jesus “remained in the desert for 40 days, tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:13). St. Leo the Great comments that "the Lord wished to face the tempter’s attack to defend us with his help and to instruct us with his example" (Tractatus XXXIX, 3 De ieiunio quadragesimae: CCL 138/A, Turnholti 1973, 214-215).

What can this episode teach us? As we read in the book “The Imitation of Christ,” "as long as he lives man is never entirely free from temptation … but it is with patience and with true humility that we become stronger than every enemy" (Liber I, c. XIII, Città del Vaticano 1982, 37), the patience and humility of following the Lord every day, learning to build our life not apart from him or as if he did not exist, but in him and with him, because he is the font of true life. The temptation to remove God, to create order in ourselves and the world by ourselves, counting on our own resources, is always present in human history.

Jesus proclaims that “the time is accomplished and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15), announces that in him something new is happening: God addressed man in an unexpected way, with a unique and concrete nearness, full of love; God becomes incarnate and enters into the world of man to take sin upon himself, to conquer evil and being man and the world back to God. But this announcement is accompanied by the request to correspond to a great gift. Jesus, in fact, adds: "convert and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15); it is the invitation to have faith in God and every day to convert our life to his will, orienting every action and thought of ours to the good. The time of Lent is the propitious moment to renew and strengthen our relationship with God, through daily prayer, gestures of penance, works of fraternal charity.

We supplicate Mary Most Holy with fervor that she accompany us on our Lenten path with her protection and help us to impress in our heart and in our life the words of Jesus Christ, to convert ourselves to him. I also entrust to your prayers the week of retreat that I will be begin this evening with my collaborators in the Roman Curia.

Last week I wrote a post about Archbishop Dolan being made a Cardinal and about seeing him at World Youth Day this past summer in Madrid.  Well, His Eminence was back at New York’s iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Ash Wednesday and for special welcoming celebrations this past weekend. 

Thanks to Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia for this very moving, deeply profound, and surprisingly personal video of Cardinal Dolan’s homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent.

(Note:  the main part of his homily begins at 5:30.)

"[It’s] all about God; it’s not about me.  It’s all about Jesus and His Church; it’s not about me.  It’s His dominion; it’s not mine.  It’s His Kingdom; it is not ours.  It is His will not mine that needs to be done.  And to Him and Him alone be the honor and the glory."

A.M.D.G.

LADY’S NIGHT - “Mater Misericordiae”
I know that I’m a day late for this Lady’s Night, but any night can be Lady’s Night, I think.  In any case, I’m sure Our Lady doesn’t mind. 
Well, we have just entered into Lent last Wednesday, our great retreat in the desert:  a special holy time and liturgical season when God calls out to us, "return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD your God" (Joel 2:12-13).  Indeed, rather than being another time to make a New Year’s resolution to eat less or exercise more, Lent provides us with an opportunity for conversion.  Particularly, we are encouraged to approach the Sacrament of Penance in order to aid our spiritual progress through this Lenten season in preparation for Jesus’ Resurrection at Easter.
Some of you, like me at times, may be hesitant to go to Confession.  And that is why, my brothers and sisters, that I am truly grateful for:
1.  God’s Divine Mercy,
2.  Our Lady,
3.  and confessionals with screens
Amen?
The photograph above is a picture that I took of a statue, a gift of one of Peter’s Successors, that stands in front of the House of the Virgin Mary, Meryemana, the sacred place in Ephesus where, it is said, St. John lived with Our Lady.  I choose this particular image for Lady’s Night because our Blessed Mother is depicted with her arms open. 
It is a gesture which reflects her openness to the will of God at the Annunciation. 
It is a posture she might have used when she embraced her Infant King in Bethlehem or the Child Jesus she found in the temple. 
Likewise, it is an imitation of our crucified Lord to Whom her life and mission have always been so closely united.
And for us, poor sinner, when we see Our Lady with open arms, we cannot help but think of the Father, recklessly extravagant in mercy, catching that first glimpse of his Prodigal Son walking on the road towards home.
So, too, Our Mother of Mercy opens wide her arms to embrace her sons and daughters who are ready to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.  She sees the great pain and hurt caused by sin—even though we have freely chosen the suffering as we have chosen the sin—and she desires nothing but to comfort us, enfolding us under her mantle. 
On seeing us so far away from her Son, our merciful Mother stretches her arms to us and cries out, "Come, my child.  Behold your Mother who loves you most tenderly despite your crimes.  I cannot condemn you, for you are my little one.  Run into my arms!  How greatly I long to hold you close to my Heart!  Take my hand, and let us go to Jesus."
In the Salve Regina, we pray, “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy….”  The great son the Church and lover of Mary, St. Louis Maria de Liguori, meditated on this exact phrase in his amazing work, The Glories of Mary.  In it he wrote the following with my emphasis:

But maybe you fear that Mary simply will not intercede for certain sinners because their crimes are so terrible. Or maybe we ought to feel awe before a Queen so holy and exalted!
This is not the case at all, says St. Gregory the Great. The holier she is, the greater is Mary’s compassion for sinners who come to her with the determination to do better.
Kings and queens, because they are invested with majesty, do inspire awe and make their people fear to come near them. But how can any poor sinner fear to approach this Queen of Mercy? She inspires no terror, shows no severity to anyone, but is so tender and gentle!
….
Then St. Bernard asks: “Who are the most logical candidates for mercy if not the miserable? And since you are the Queen of sinners, it follows that I am the first of your subjects. So how can you help showing me mercy, O Lady?”
Have pity on us then, Queen of Mercy, and remember our salvation.
Accordingly St. Gregory of Nicomedia exclaims: "O Blessed Virgin, never say that, because our sins are too numerous, you cannot help us. No matter how numerous they are, they can never outweigh your power and your compassion."
…
Suppose a mother (says Adam, the Abbot of Perseigne) knew that her two sons had a mortal hatred for each other, and that each was planning the other’s murder. Would she not do everything in her power to make peace between them? Any good mother would consider it her duty to do this.
Mary acts in the same way, for she is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of human beings. When she sees a sinner at enmity with Jesus, she cannot bear such a state of things —- she does all in her power to reconcile them.
This kindest of Ladies demands only one thing —- that sinners recommend themselves to her and be determined to change their ways. When she finds sinners at her feet imploring mercy, she does not fix her attention on their crimes, but she looks only at the motive that brings them to her. If the motive is good, and even though they have committed every conceivable sin, this most loving Mother takes them in her arms to heal the wounds of their soul.
She is not only called the Mother of Mercy. She is the Mother of Mercy. And she proves herself such by the loving tenderness with which she helps us all…
In the Second Book of Samuel (14:6) we read how that wise woman of Tekoa addressed King David: “Your majesty, I had two sons, and to my misfortune one killed the other, so that I have now lost one and justice demands the life of the other, the only one that is left. Have mercy on a poor mother and let me not lose both my sons.”
In a similar way we may imagine Mary pleading with God, when His justice is directed against a sinner who has recommended himself or herself to her.
"My God, I had two sons, Jesus and Mankind. mankind took the life of Jesus on the Cross, and now your justice would condemn the guilty one. O Lord, my Jesus is already dead. Have pity on me; if I have lost the one, do not let me lose the other also.”

You can read his entire reflection on the first part of the Salve Regina here.
If you are in the state of sin, as I was until recently, do not hesitate one moment to go to Confession.  Take courage and find comfort in your Mother who is so merciful.  Fly into her arms, for she desires to embrace you.
"Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).

LADY’S NIGHT - “Mater Misericordiae”

I know that I’m a day late for this Lady’s Night, but any night can be Lady’s Night, I think.  In any case, I’m sure Our Lady doesn’t mind. 

Well, we have just entered into Lent last Wednesday, our great retreat in the desert:  a special holy time and liturgical season when God calls out to us, "return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD your God" (Joel 2:12-13).  Indeed, rather than being another time to make a New Year’s resolution to eat less or exercise more, Lent provides us with an opportunity for conversion.  Particularly, we are encouraged to approach the Sacrament of Penance in order to aid our spiritual progress through this Lenten season in preparation for Jesus’ Resurrection at Easter.

Some of you, like me at times, may be hesitant to go to Confession.  And that is why, my brothers and sisters, that I am truly grateful for:

1.  God’s Divine Mercy,

2.  Our Lady,

3.  and confessionals with screens

Amen?

The photograph above is a picture that I took of a statue, a gift of one of Peter’s Successors, that stands in front of the House of the Virgin Mary, Meryemana, the sacred place in Ephesus where, it is said, St. John lived with Our Lady.  I choose this particular image for Lady’s Night because our Blessed Mother is depicted with her arms open. 

It is a gesture which reflects her openness to the will of God at the Annunciation. 

It is a posture she might have used when she embraced her Infant King in Bethlehem or the Child Jesus she found in the temple. 

Likewise, it is an imitation of our crucified Lord to Whom her life and mission have always been so closely united.

And for us, poor sinner, when we see Our Lady with open arms, we cannot help but think of the Father, recklessly extravagant in mercy, catching that first glimpse of his Prodigal Son walking on the road towards home.

So, too, Our Mother of Mercy opens wide her arms to embrace her sons and daughters who are ready to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.  She sees the great pain and hurt caused by sin—even though we have freely chosen the suffering as we have chosen the sin—and she desires nothing but to comfort us, enfolding us under her mantle. 

On seeing us so far away from her Son, our merciful Mother stretches her arms to us and cries out, "Come, my child.  Behold your Mother who loves you most tenderly despite your crimes.  I cannot condemn you, for you are my little one.  Run into my arms!  How greatly I long to hold you close to my Heart!  Take my hand, and let us go to Jesus."

In the Salve Regina, we pray, “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy….”  The great son the Church and lover of Mary, St. Louis Maria de Liguori, meditated on this exact phrase in his amazing work, The Glories of Mary.  In it he wrote the following with my emphasis:

But maybe you fear that Mary simply will not intercede for certain sinners because their crimes are so terrible. Or maybe we ought to feel awe before a Queen so holy and exalted!

This is not the case at all, says St. Gregory the Great. The holier she is, the greater is Mary’s compassion for sinners who come to her with the determination to do better.

Kings and queens, because they are invested with majesty, do inspire awe and make their people fear to come near them. But how can any poor sinner fear to approach this Queen of Mercy? She inspires no terror, shows no severity to anyone, but is so tender and gentle!

….

Then St. Bernard asks: “Who are the most logical candidates for mercy if not the miserable? And since you are the Queen of sinners, it follows that I am the first of your subjects. So how can you help showing me mercy, O Lady?”

Have pity on us then, Queen of Mercy, and remember our salvation.

Accordingly St. Gregory of Nicomedia exclaims: "O Blessed Virgin, never say that, because our sins are too numerous, you cannot help us. No matter how numerous they are, they can never outweigh your power and your compassion."

Suppose a mother (says Adam, the Abbot of Perseigne) knew that her two sons had a mortal hatred for each other, and that each was planning the other’s murder. Would she not do everything in her power to make peace between them? Any good mother would consider it her duty to do this.

Mary acts in the same way, for she is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of human beings. When she sees a sinner at enmity with Jesus, she cannot bear such a state of things —- she does all in her power to reconcile them.

This kindest of Ladies demands only one thing —- that sinners recommend themselves to her and be determined to change their ways. When she finds sinners at her feet imploring mercy, she does not fix her attention on their crimes, but she looks only at the motive that brings them to her. If the motive is good, and even though they have committed every conceivable sin, this most loving Mother takes them in her arms to heal the wounds of their soul.

She is not only called the Mother of Mercy. She is the Mother of Mercy. And she proves herself such by the loving tenderness with which she helps us all…

In the Second Book of Samuel (14:6) we read how that wise woman of Tekoa addressed King David: “Your majesty, I had two sons, and to my misfortune one killed the other, so that I have now lost one and justice demands the life of the other, the only one that is left. Have mercy on a poor mother and let me not lose both my sons.”

In a similar way we may imagine Mary pleading with God, when His justice is directed against a sinner who has recommended himself or herself to her.

"My God, I had two sons, Jesus and Mankind. mankind took the life of Jesus on the Cross, and now your justice would condemn the guilty one. O Lord, my Jesus is already dead. Have pity on me; if I have lost the one, do not let me lose the other also.

You can read his entire reflection on the first part of the Salve Regina here.

If you are in the state of sin, as I was until recently, do not hesitate one moment to go to Confession.  Take courage and find comfort in your Mother who is so merciful.  Fly into her arms, for she desires to embrace you.

"Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).