A Grateful Death

    Thursday, August 28, 2014, 6:25 PM [General]

    A Grateful Death

    When we think about death,  we often think about what will happen to us after we have died.  But it is more important to think about what will happen to those we leave behind.   The way we die has a deep and lasting effect on those who stay alive.  It will be easier for our family and friends to remember us with joy and peace if we have said a grateful good-bye than if we die with bitter and disillusioned hearts.

    The greatest gift we can offer our families and friends is the gift of gratitude.  Gratitude sets them free to continue their lives without bitterness or self-recrimination.

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    St Monica , mother of Augustine

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014, 7:44 AM [General]

    The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism.

    Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

    When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.

    In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste.

    She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.

    Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his Confessions.

    Today, with Internet searches, e-mail shopping, text messages, tweets and instant credit, we have little patience for things that take time. Likewise, we want instant answers to our prayers. Monica is a model of patience. Her long years of prayer, coupled with a strong, well-disciplined character, finally led to the conversion of her hot-tempered husband, her cantankerous mother-in-law and her brilliant but wayward son, Augustine.
    When Monica moved from North Africa to Milan, she found religious practices new to her and also that some of her former customs, such as a Saturday fast, were not common there. She asked St. Ambrose which customs she should follow. His classic reply was: “When I am here, I do not fast on Saturday, but I fast when I am in Rome; do the same and always follow the custom and discipline of the Church as it is observed in the particular lo locality in which you find yourself.
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    Mother of my Lord...

    Friday, August 22, 2014, 6:27 PM [General]

    Pius XII established this feast in 1954. But Mary’s queenship has roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship. We can also recall that in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in court.

    In the fourth century St. Ephrem (June 9)  called Mary “Lady” and “Queen.” Later Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the 11th to 13th centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.” The Dominican rosary and the Franciscan crown as well as numerous invocations in Mary’s litany celebrate her queenship.

    The feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In his 1954 encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, Pius XII points out that Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection and because of her intercessory power.

    As St. Paul suggests in Romans 8:28–30, God has predestined human beings from all eternity to share the image of his Son. All the more was Mary predestined to be the mother of Jesus. As Jesus was to be king of all creation, Mary, in dependence on Jesus, was to be queen. All other titles to queenship derive from this eternal intention of God. As Jesus exercised his kingship on earth by serving his Father and his fellow human beings, so did Mary exercise her queenship. As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king till the end of time (Matthew 28:20), so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth.
    “Let the entire body of the faithful pour forth persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men. Let them implore that she who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers may now, exalted as she is in heaven above all the saints and angels, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints. May she do so until all the peoples of the human family, whether they are honored with the name of Christian or whether they still do not know their Savior, are happily gathered together in peace and harmony into the one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity” (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 69).
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    The Assumption of Mary...

    Saturday, August 16, 2014, 6:51 PM [General]


    This discussion of the Catholic Doctrine of Mary's Assumption, defined by Pope Pius XII as a dogma of faith, originally appeared as an article on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary in Our Sunday Visitor.


    I once asked a college theology class if anyone could explain the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary.  A student replied, “yeah, that’s the teaching whereby the Catholic Church ‘assumes’ that Mary is in heaven.”


    There’s a bit more to the dogma of the Assumption than that.  The Church does not just “assume” that any canonized saint in is in heaven.  Rather, it authoritatively declares that a person is in glory and should therefore be honored in liturgy and imitated in life.   Our church calendar is filled with saints' days.


    But why a particular day for each saint?  The first evidence for this goes back to 155AD, to a bishop named Polycarp.  The account of his martyrdom notes that after his execution, the faithful collected his bones, more precious than gold, and put them in a place of honor where every year they gathered to celebrate the anniversary of his death as a sort of “birthday” into eternal life.   Celebrating Mass in the catacombs over the relics of the martyrs' led to the practice of putting relics in the main altar of every church.  Eventually saints who did not die a martyrs death were also commemorated on their heavenly “birthday” and their relics were accorded great honor.


    From very early times, August 15 has been observed as the “birthday” of our Blessed Lady.  On this greatest of all Marian feasts we celebrate the greatest moment of her life – being permanently re-united with her son and sharing his glory.


    All the saints experience the “beatific vision” upon their entry into heaven, and we celebrate this on every saint’s day.  But there is something unique about Mary’s day.  The Catholic Church teaches authoritatively that it is not just Mary’s soul that was admitted to God’s glory, but that at the end of her earthly life, Mary’s body as well as her soul was assumed into heaven by the loving power of God.


    There is no eyewitness account of this actual event recorded in the Bible.  Come to think of it, though, no one witnessed the actual resurrection of Jesus either.   The evidence was an empty tomb and eyewitness reports that the Risen Lord had appeared to them.


    Interesting parallel here.  There is a tomb at the foot of the Mt. of Olives where ancient tradition says that Mary was laid.  But there is nothing inside.  There are no relics, as with other saints.  And credible apparitions of Mary, though not recorded in the New Testament, have been recorded from the 3rd century till today.


    Mary is not equal to Christ, of course.  Jesus, though possessing a complete human nature, is the Eternal Word made flesh.  Mary is only a creature.


    But she is a unique creature, the highest of all creatures.  This is not just because she was born without the handicap of original sin.  Eve and Adam were born free of sin as well, but it did not stop them from sinning as soon as they had the chance.  Mary instead chose, with the help of God’s grace,  to preserve her God-given purity throughout the whole of her life. 


    The bodily corruption of death was not God’s original plan.  It came into the world through sin, as St. Paul says “the sting of death is sin” (I Cor 15:56).  So it is fitting that she who knew no sin should know no decay and no delay in enjoying the full fruits of her son’s work.  It is fitting that she who stood by Christ under the cross should stand by him bodily at the right hand of the Father.  “The Queen stands at your right hand, in gold of Ophir” (Ps 45).  Enoch and Elijah, who the Old Testament says were assumed into heaven, were surely great in God’s eyes.  But they do not begin to compare with the immaculate mother of His Son.


    We too, one day, insofar as we accept God’s grace, will stand at His right hand.  But Paul says that “all will come to life again, but each one in proper order” (I Cor 15:23).  The Redeemer, of course, blazes the resurrection trail.  But who is to be first among his disciples?  The one who is last is first, the Lord’s humble handmaid who did no more than say yes, and keep saying yes, and whose soul magnified not herself, but the Lord.

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    Weakness of men ...

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014, 7:54 AM [General]

    “Christ, like a skillful physician, understands the weakness of men. He loves to teach the ignorant and the erring he turns again to his own true way. He is easily found by those who live by faith; and to those of pure eye and holy heart, who desire to knock at the door, he opens immediately. He does not disdain the barbarian, nor does he set the eunuch aside as no man. He does not hate the female on account of the woman’s act of disobedience in the beginning, nor does he reject the male on account of the man’s transgression. But he seeks all, and desires to save all, wishing to make all the children of God, and calling all the saints unto one perfect man” (Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist)

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    The Miracle

    Sunday, August 3, 2014, 4:42 PM [General]

    y that claimed what really happened is that bystanders took out food they were hiding under their cloaks and shared it.  Jesus’ preaching inspired the melting of selfishness, and this was the true miracle according to this preacher.


    My teens would call such preaching hopelessly lame!


    This was a needy crowd.  They could not feed themselves or each other.  They could not heal themselves or each other.  Jesus was moved with pity and was ready to provide them all that they needed.  The apostles wanted to send them away to fend for themselves.


    And this hits upon the grain of truth contained in the lame interpretation we’ve just mentioned.  Though this story is about truly supernatural, miraculous action, it is not about God creating something out of nothing.  He says to the apostles “you give them something to eat yourselves.”  He had to be joking, they must have thought to themselves.  They had nothing, or almost nothing.  Just five loaves and two fish–scarcely enough to serve as an appetizer for themselves, never mind the crowd.  But the apostles sheepishly complied when Jesus ordered that they surrender their scanty food supply.  He blessed this meager offering and the miracle happened.  It was not only enough, but after thousands had eaten their fill, there was more left over than what they’d started with in the first place.


    Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Miracle of the Loaves and FishIt never ceases to amaze me at how much energy we put into making excuses.  “I don’t even earn enough to feed my own family, how can I be expected to give?”  “I haven’t studied the faith enough to be a religious education teacher.”  “I trip over my words when I try to explain my faith–I’ll just evangelize through good example.”


    Our financial resources, talents, and holiness are clearly inadequate to meet the needs of a hungry and confused world.  But what else is new?  This gospel commands us to offer these resources anyway, trusting that He will multiply them.  Who could have guessed how God would multiply the loaves and fishes offered by an Albanian nun named Teresa when she walked into the slums of Calcutta to minister to those dying in the streets?  Imagine if she had said “No, Lord, this is beyond me.”  Imagine if Peter had not reconsidered after saying “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8).  Imagine if the apostles had saved the five loaves and fish for themselves instead of offering them to the crowd that wouldn’t have been satisfied with them anyway.


    “But,” you may protest, “Isn’t this miracle story about the Eucharist?”  Absolutely.  In the Eucharist we bring the very ordinary work of our hands, bread and wine, and join to this the offering of our very ordinary lives.  Through the invocation of the Spirit and the Word of God, this offering is transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, the Bread of Life and the Cup of eternal salvation.  We offer him the work of our hands and our broken humanity, and he transforms these things into perfect humanity and life-giving divinity.  And with this he not only feeds us but empowers us to feed the whole world.


    Pope John Paul II, The Year of the Eucharist, Loaves of the Loaves and FishThis transformation, this multiplication is a supernatural marvel that is the source of other marvels.  In fact, if we were to unpack just a fraction more of the miraculous power contained in the Eucharist, we, the Church and the world would be forever different.


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    Prayer helps...

    Sunday, July 27, 2014, 6:25 AM [General]

    Even though our emotional and spiritual lives are distinct, they do influence one another profoundly.  Our feelings often give us a window on our spiritual journeys.  When we cannot let go of jealousy, we may wonder if we are in touch with the Spirit in us that cries out "Abba."  When we feel very peaceful and "centered," we may come to realise that this is a sign of our deep awareness of our belovedness.

    Likewise our prayer lives, lived as faithful response to the presence of the Spirit within us, may open a window on our emotions, feelings, and passions and give us some indication of how to put them into the service of our long journey into the heart of God.

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    Decisions ...

    Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 9:33 PM [General]

    Inspirational Snippet: Fear is a feeling, but trust is a decision. God eagerly helps us to make that decision

    It takes time for me to make a decision that will impact the lives of many .I think I am older and wiser today and i know there is a need for a life change . I want it to start with  retreat of a week or two .That has proved beneficial in the past .

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    Mountaintop experience ...

    Saturday, July 12, 2014, 9:41 PM [General]

    The journey to the mountaintop is usually longer than we plan or imagine. A short trip sometimes takes so long we never reach the goal. The mountaintop experience we hope for remains elusive.

    If we are walking with Jesus, our eyes shouldn't be fixated on the goal anyway. Awareness of the presence of Jesus is the real objective, the daily objective, the moment by moment objective.

    If our joy depends on what's ahead instead of Who is beside us, we will never reach the mountaintop, possibly not even the ultimate heavenly mountaintop. And we will miss the experiences of heaven that Jesus gives us on the footpath of today's portion of the journey.

    Joy is found in the adventure of traveling wherever Jesus leads us. The ups and downs we traverse together become more fruitful and beneficial than a straight and smooth path.

    If the goal is God-inspired, we will be rewarded for persevering toward it even when we don't obtain it. God doesn't ask for the completion of every plan; He asks to be the Lord of every plan. And in that are many different and surprising rewards

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    Song of Songs most celebrated in all of literature

    Monday, July 7, 2014, 5:47 AM [General]

    The Old Testament has many beautiful stories of marriage, all of them stressing that blend of steadfastness and tenderness which should characterise married love, as it characterises God's love for His people. Such are the espousals and marriage of Abraham and Sarah, of Isaac and Rebekah, of Jacob and Rachel. The Book of Ruth describes, with touching simplicity, the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. The Book of Tobit has the charming story of "love at first sight" between Tobias and Sarah, and of their prayerful preparation for marriage and their married bliss. Tobias, we are told, "fell so deeply in love with Sarah that he could no longer call his heart his own" (Tobit 6:18). Tobias prays to God: Be kind enough to have pity on (Sara) and on me and bring us to old age together (Tobit 8:9).

    40. The Song of Songs is one of the most celebrated love songs of all literature. It is a long lyrical celebration of the joy of the mutual love between a young man and a young woman; and yet it is simply an elaboration of the earliest love song which we find in Genesis, the song sung by Adam when he was first introduced to Eve. The stress laid in Genesis on the unbreakable union of the first man and woman in marriage is re-echoed in the Song of Songs: My beloved is mine and I am his. (Song of Songs 2:15)

    Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is strong as Death, jealously relentless as Sheol. The flash of it is a flash of fire, a flame of the Lord himself. Love no flood can quench, no torrents drown. Were a man to offer all the wealth of his house to buy love, contemptall he would purchase {Song of Song 8:6-7}

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