Monday, June 27, 2016
Today, June 27, the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I have had a long-time devotion to Our Blessed Mother under many titles, but began praying to Our Lady of Perpetual Help early in my childhood and continue to pray for her intercession today. She is such a sweet mother who always asks Jesus to grant me that which will draw me closest to Him.
The icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is perhaps the oldest actual icon of the Blessed Virgin. According to tradition, St. Luke wrote an icon of Our Lady while she was still living in Jerusalem. When she saw the beautiful icon of herself holding the Child Jesus in her arms, she blessed both the artist and his work proclaiming, "My grace will accompany this icon."
The passage of centuries has proven that Mary did not forget this promise. So numerous were the miracles and favors granted by means of this Holy Icon, Pope Innocent III in 1207 stated that Mary's soul seemed to have entered into this icon since it was so beautiful and so miraculous.
When St. Luke completed the icon, tradition tells us he gave it to his personal friend and patron, Theophilus. In the middle of the Fifth Century, St. Pulcheria erected a shrine in its honor in Constantinople. The icon remained there for a thousand years where it was venerated by countless Christians - kings and emperors, saints and sinners, rich and poor; and where it was the source of many graces.
The original icon disappeared from human history during the siege of Constantinople in 1453. Tradition tells us that, on the night before the fall of the Holy City, the Holy Mother of God, took both the icon and the Imperial Crown to Heaven! Many copies that existed at that time have been preserved to this day. The spirit and miraculous power of the icon still live in the present day icon. The Holy Mother of God still lives among us, anticipating needs, saving, ministering, mothering - leading us to the Throne of Her Son in the Heavenly Kingdom.
The Message of the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
The child Jesus has just seen the angels who have shown him the instruments of his Passion. St. Michael the Archangel holds the lance and gall-sop. St. Gabriel the Archangel holds the Cross and the nails. Frightened by the sight, Jesus has run to his mother’s arms so quickly that he almost lost one of His tiny sandals. It dangles from his foot. Mary holds Him lovingly but her eyes look at us - pleading with us to avoid sin and love Her Son.
His hands are in hers to show that, as a child, Jesus placed Himself in Mary’s hands for protection and to remind us that He now has placed into Her hands all graces, to be given to those who turn to His mother and ask.
The star on Mary’s veil shows her to be the one who brought the light of Christ to the darkened world - the beacon that leads the way to Heaven.
The falling sandal symbolizes a soul clinging to Christ by one last thread--devotion to Mary.
The golden background is symbolic of Heaven and shines to show the heavenly joy Jesus and His mother can bring to tired human hearts.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help is patron of the sick, police, paratroopers, and grocers. Pope Pius XII designated Our Lady of Perpetual Help as the national Patroness of the Republic of Haiti and Almoradi, Spain.
Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. You became not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but the Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as you loving children. Watch over us and take care of us. As you held the child Jesus in your loving arms, so take us in your arms. Be a mother ready at every moment to help us. For God who is mighty has done great things for you, and his mercy is from age to age on those who love him. Our greatest fear is that in time of temptation, we may fail to call out to you, and become lost children. Intercede for us, dear Mother, in obtaining pardon for our sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to call upon you, Mother of Perpetual Help. Amen.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Goodreads Book Giveaway
Learning to Love with the Saints
by Jean M. Heimann
Giveaway ends July 09, 2016.
See the giveaway details
Friday, June 24, 2016
Fr. Mike Schmitz explains that it is best to focus on one thing at a time when discerning a vocation. Not only is it most prudent to discern just one vocation at a time; it is also important to take discernment one step at a time. When we discern with this kind of care and commitment, the path God desires for us should become clear.
Today is the solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. How will you celebrate this great saint's birthday?
St. John the Baptist was a prophet filled with a fiery zeal for declaring Christ’s coming and the need for repentance. We know that he was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1, 15). Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he leapt with joy in his mother’s womb when he met Jesus for the first time, proclaiming the Gospel message in utero. When he was thirty, he preached on the banks of the River Jordan against sin and urged men to repent and be baptized "for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand." He attracted large crowds (“people of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem”) and led them to conversion. Like a lantern, he lit the way for many who were lost in the darkness. He led them to the Light (Christ) and out of the darkness of sin. We also know that the birth of St. John the Baptist occurs close to the summer solstice, and is known as the "summer Christmas." Thus, it is fitting that the day of his birth be celebrated by the lighting of fires.
On this solemnity, one of the traditions for celebrating this feast is the lighting of fires. People light small fires, gather around them, jump through the flames, and sing traditional songs in praise of St. John the Baptist. This custom is based on the pre-Christian belief that people needed fires to clean purify, cure, and protect them from plagues, curses, and other dangers. In Spain, smaller fires are ignited in the streets of cities, with everyone donating an old piece of furniture or wood, while children jump over the flames. The Spanish people also light bonfires and set off fireworks. In Brest, France, the people throw lighted torches in the air. In other areas of France, they cover wagon wheels with straw, then set them on fire with a blessed candle and roll them down the hill slopes.
While all these traditions sound meaningful and like fun, I think that I will forgo the fire festivities during this very warm summer weather and settle on consuming some spicy Mexican food to celebrate this solemnity. That will be hot enough for me!
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Today, June 23, we honor St. Joseph Cafasso, an Italian priest who was a social reformer in Turin during the 19th century. He is the patron of prison chaplains, spiritual directors, and prisoners. He is known as the "Priest of the Gallows".
He was born on January 15, 1811 in northern Italy, about twenty miles from Turin. Joseph Cafasso was the third of four children. His parents, who were known for their charity to the poor, were small farmers who had to supplement their scanty income by working on neighboring farms.
Although he was born with a deformed spine, Joseph did not allow this defect to influence his desire to do penance. Even in his childhood he had certain days set apart for penance, and he fasted every Saturday in honor of Our Blessed Lady. He also attended daily Mass, at which he often served. He was gifted with a keen intellect and a good memory, and was first in his class at school.
He was ordained a priest in 1833 at the age of twenty-two. After Ordination, he was selected to be an assistant professor of moral theology at ecclesiastical college in Turin. He was a brilliant lecturer. His fame soon spread and attracted students not only from Turin but from the surrounding dioceses.
Jansenism was rampant at the time. A large number of the clergy were tainted with it; they held rigorous views and deterred people from approaching the sacraments, but their lives were far from virtuous. Father Cafasso was the apostle of hope and confidence and advocated frequent and even daily Communion. By correct explanation of the principles of moral theology, by preaching the mercy of God, and by training the young priests to work with him in the prisons among men considered by the Jansenists as unworthy of the Sacraments, he fortified them against the errors of that heresy.
When the College Rector became old and infirm, Father Cafasso took charge and was appointed as his successor when he died. There was a church dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi attached to the college, of which the Rector was Pastor. Father Cafasso had charge of the Church and spent long hours each day hearing Confessions in it.
Besides performing all his duties as Professor and Pastor, he found time for other forms of apostolate in Turin, including: teaching catechism to poor children, visiting the sick and the various prisons of the city, and giving missions and retreats.
The prisons in Father Cafasso's time were gloomy places infested with vermin. He visited each prison at least once a week, and some of them once a day, and spent long hours there, usually four or five hours at a time. He returned home each night bringing with him on his person, the vermin of the prison, which he jokingly called "living silver and moving riches."
He instructed the prisoners in the truths of religion, and not being in any hurry to leave, he did that work thoroughly. He prepared them for the Sacraments and heard their Confessions. There is no case on record in which he failed to convert even the most hardened sinners among them.
Father Cafasso, who was John Bosco's spiritual director, encouraged him to found the Salesians, to work with the youth in Turin. Joseph Cafasso died on June 23, 1860 at Turin, Italy and was canonized in 1947 by Pope Pius XII.
"We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more."
~Saint Joseph Cafasso
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
June 22 is the feast of Sts.Thomas More, martyr, and John Fisher, bishop and martyr. St. Thomas More was born in London, England and was Chancellor of King Henry VIII. He was a devoted, loving husband and father and a dedicated public servant.
St. John Fisher studied Theology in Cambridge and became Bishop of Rochester. He and his friend St. Thomas More gave up their lives in testimony to defend Church unity and the indissolubility of the sacrament of Matrimony. Both men had well-formed consciences and were willing to die for the Truth.
St. Thomas More
Thomas More was born in 1478, son of the lawyer and judge John More and his wife Agnes. He received a classical education from the age of six, and at age 13 became the protege of Archbishop John Morton, who also served an important civic role as the Lord Chancellor. Although Thomas never joined the clergy, he would eventually come to assume the position of Lord Chancellor himself.
More received a well-rounded college education at Oxford, becoming a “renaissance man” who knew several ancient and modern languages and was well-versed in mathematics, music and literature. His father, however, determined that Thomas should become a lawyer, so he withdrew his son from Oxford after two years to focus him on that career.
Despite his legal and political orientation, Thomas was confused in regard to his vocation as a young man. He seriously considered joining either the Carthusian monastic order or the Franciscans, and followed a number of ascetic and spiritual practices throughout his life – such as fasting, corporal mortification, and a regular rule of prayer – as means of growing in holiness.
In 1504, however, More was elected to Parliament. He gave up his monastic ambitions, though not his disciplined spiritual life, and married Jane Colt of Essex. They were happily married for several years and had four children together, though Jane tragically died in childbirth in 1511. Shortly after her death, More married a widow named Alice Middleton, who proved to be a devoted wife and mother.
Two years earlier, in 1509, King Henry VIII had acceded to the throne. For years, the king showed fondness for Thomas, working to further his career as a public servant. He became a part of the king's inner circle, eventually overseeing the English court system as Lord Chancellor. More even authored a book published in Henry's name, defending Catholic doctrine against Martin Luther.
More's eventual martyrdom would come as a consequence of Henry VIII's own tragic downfall. The king wanted an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, a marriage that Pope Clement VII declared to be valid and indissoluble. By 1532, More had resigned as Lord Chancellor, refusing to support the king's efforts to defy the Pope and control the Church.
In 1534, Henry VIII declared that every subject of the British crown would have to swear an oath affirming the validity of his new marriage to Anne Boleyn. Refusal of these demands would be regarded as treason against the state.
In April of that year, a royal commission summoned Thomas to force him to take the oath affirming the King's new marriage as valid. While accepting certain portions of the act which pertained to Henry's royal line of succession, he could not accept the king's defiance of papal authority on the marriage question. More was taken from his wife and children, and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
For 15 months, More's wife and several friends tried to convince him to take the oath and save his life, but he refused. In 1535, while More was imprisoned, an act of Parliament came into effect declaring Henry VIII to be “the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England,” once again under penalty of treason. Members of the clergy who would not take the oath began to be executed.
In June of 1535, More was finally indicted and formally tried for the crime of treason in Westminster Hall. He was charged with opposing the king's “Act of Supremacy” in private conversations which he insisted had never occurred. But after his defense failed, and he was sentenced to death, he finally spoke out in open opposition to what he had previously opposed through silence and refusal.
More explained that Henry's Act of Supremacy, was contrary “to the laws of God and his holy Church.” He explained that “no temporal prince” could take away the prerogatives that belonged to St. Peter and his successors according to the words of Christ. When he was told that most of the English bishops had accepted the king's order, More replied that the saints in heaven did not accept it.
On July 7, 1535, the 57-year-old More came before the executioner to be beheaded. “I die the king's good servant,” he told the onlookers, “but God's first.” His head was displayed on London Bridge, but later returned to his daughter Margaret who preserved it as a holy relic of her father.
St. Thomas More was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI. The Academy Award-winning film “A Man For All Seasons” portrayed the events that led to his martyrdom.
St. Thomas More is patron of adopted children; the diocese of Arlington, Virginia; civil servants; court clerks; difficult marriages; large families; lawyers; diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee Florida; politicians; politicos; statesmen; step-parents; and widowers.
St. John Fisher
John Fisher was born at Beverly, Yorkshire, England in 1469. He was chaplain to the mother of Henry VIII and chancellor of Cambridge University before being elevated to the bishopric of Rochester in 1504. He counted Thomas More among his friends. John Fisher and his friend Saint Thomas More gave up their lives in testimony to the unity of the Church and to the indissolubility of marriage. John Fisher opposed the divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and the constitution of the so-called Anglican Church. Because he refused to swear an oath affirming the supremacy of the king as Supreme Head of the church of England, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. There he received the title of Cardinal granted him by Pope Paul III. He was condemned to death by torture, but this penalty was changed to beheading because the 66-year-old Cardinal was ill and too weak to endure torture. He was martyred on June 22, 1535 and buried in the churchyard of All Hallows, Barking, without rites or a shroud. His head was exhibited on London Bridge for two weeks as an example, then thrown into the River Thames. His relics are kept in Saint Peter's Church in the Tower of London. He was beatified in 1888 and canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.
St. John Fisher is the patron of the Diocese of Rochester, New York.
"I condemn no other man’s conscience: their conscience may save them, and mine must save me. We should remember, in all the controversies in which we engage, to treat our opponents as if they were acting in good faith, even if they seem to us to be acting out of spite or self-interest."
~ St. John Fisher
you confirm the true faith
with the crown of martyrdom.
May the prayers of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
give us the courage to proclaim our faith
by the witness of our lives.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Lord Jesus, You came to heal our wounded and troubled hearts. I beg You to heal the torments that cause anxiety in my heart; I beg You, in a particular way, to heal all that are the cause of sin.
Lord Jesus, You know my burdens. I lay them all on Your Good Shepherd's Heart. I beseech You -- by the merits of the great, open wound in Your heart -- to heal the small wounds that are in mine. Heal the pain of my memories, so that nothing that has happened to me will cause me to remain in pain and anguish, filled with anxiety.
Heal, O Lord, all those wounds that have been the cause of all the evil that is rooted in my life. I want to forgive all those who have offended me. Look to those inner sores that make me unable to forgive. You Who came to forgive the afflicted of heart, please, heal my own heart.
Heal, my Lord Jesus, those intimate wounds that cause me physical illness. I offer You my heart. Accept it, Lord, purify it, and give me the sentiments of Your Divine Heart. Help me to be meek and humble.
Heal me, O Lord, from the pain caused by the death of my loved ones, which is oppressing me. Grant me to regain peace and joy in the knowledge that You are the Resurrection and the Life. Make me an authentic witness to Your Resurrection, Your victory over sin and death, Your living presence among us. Amen.
Monday, June 20, 2016
by Jean M. Heimann
The saint of the day for June 21, Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591), was the firstborn in a highly wealthy and influential Italian noble family. His father was a famous mercenary soldier. Aloysius assumed adult responsibilities at an early age. He began his training as a soldier and courtier at the age of four and, when he was only eight, served in the court of Grand Duke Francesco I de’Medici. While serving in the court, he studied in Florence, where he received an excellent classical education.
In Florence, Saint Aloysius became ill with kidney disease, and in the process of recovery spent time in spiritual reading and prayer. At the age of nine, Gonzaga made a private vow of chastity.
At the age of twelve, he returned home to his father’s castle, where he met St. Charles Cardinal Borromeo, who gave him his first Holy Communion. Shortly thereafter, Aloysius began to teach catechism to young boys. Much to the displeasure and anger of his father, Aloysius stated his intention to become a Jesuit. His father was obstinately opposed to the idea, both because he wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, and because, by becoming a Jesuit, Aloysius would give up all rights to his inheritance. However, Aloysius was adamant, and at the age of 18, he signed away his legal right to his family properties and title.
At the age of seventeen, Aloysius entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rome and at the age of 19, he took vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. While he was ordained a deacon at the age of 20, he never became a priest.
In Rome, his spiritual adviser was St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, who counseled him to reduce his long hours of prayer and severe penances. Instead, St. Robert asked him adhere to the Jesuit rule of regular hours of prayer and simple acts of self-control and self-denial and to spend time counseling his companions. In 1590, Aloysius, suffering from kidney problems and other physical ailments, received a vision of the Archangel Gabriel, who told him that he would die within a year. When a plague broke out in Rome in 1591, Aloysius actively cared for the plague victims and, within a few weeks, contracted the disease himself. He received the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and recovered, but, in another vision, he was told that would die on June 21, the octave day of the Feast of Corpus Christi that year. His confessor, St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine administered Last Rites, and Aloysius died on June 21, 1591. He was 23 years old.
Aloysius Gonzaga was beatified by Pope Gregory XV in 1621 and canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.
He is the patron saint of: AIDS care-givers, AIDS patients, Catholic youth, Jesuit students, sore eyes, and teenagers.
"There is no more evident sign that anyone is a saint and of the number of the elect, than to see him leading a good life and at the same time a prey to desolation, suffering, and trials."
"He who prays most receives most."
-- St. Aloysius Gonzaga
Being alone isn’t supposed to be scary. In this video, Fr. Mike Schmitz shows us how solitude can be an invitation and doesn't have to lead to loneliness. God himself has revealed to us how he is a relationship of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Made in his image, we are also made for relationship—with God and with one another. When we feel alone, it is because we were made to give ourselves to others as God gives himself to us.
June 29 is the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, who are the co-founders of the Church - the solid rock on which it was founded. St. Paul is the patron of evangelists and St. Peter is the patron of the papacy. They were both "fishers of men" who put out their nets and reeled in many men to Christianity. Let us pray that we may imitate them in sharing the Good News with others.
Novena Prayer (Pray for nine consecutive days)
Holy Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul, I choose thee this day and forever to be my special patrons and advocates. Thou, O Blessed St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles because thou art the Rock upon which Almighty God has built His Church. Thou, O Blessed St. Paul, because thou were chosen by God as a vessel of election and preacher of truth to the whole world.
Obtain for me, I humbly pray thee, lively faith, firm hope and burning charity; complete detachment from myself, contempt of the world, patience in adversity, humility in prosperity, attention in prayer, purity of diligence in fulfilling the duties of my state in life, constancy in my resolutions, resignation to the Will of God and perseverance in the Grace of God even unto death so that by means of thy intercession and thy glorious merits I may overcome the devil and be made worthy of the promises of Christ, enjoy His presence and love Him forever with thee in time and eternity.
Our Father......Hail Mary....Glory Be
Today is the feast of St. Florence, also known as St. Florentina, a cloistered nun and abbess. She was the founder of a religious community.
St. Florentina was born in the middle of the sixth century in Cartagena, Spain. Her family was very devout and actively involved in living out their faith and in promoting Christianity. Florentina was the sister of three bishops: Leander, Isidore of Seville, and Fulgentius. All three brothers are saints.
Florentina’s parents died when she was young; therefore, her older brother Leander became her guardian. Leander had been a monk, prior to becoming a bishop, and it was through his encouragement that Florentina embraced the cloistered life. She consecrated her virginity to God, associated with other consecrated virgins, and formed a religious community. They took up residence at the monastery of St. Maria de Valle near Ecija (Astigis), where her brother Fulgentius was bishop.
Leander wrote the rule of life for her order. Florentina entered with great zeal into the spirit of the religious life, and was celebrated as a saint after her death. Her younger brother Isidore dedicated his work "De fide catholica contra Judæos" to Florentina, which he wrote at her request. Florentina died around 636 of natural causes and is venerated as the patroness of Partido de Campana, Argentina.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Celebrating Father's Day (the third Sunday in June) is a tradition in the United States. This is a day for the entire family to go to Mass and to pray for fathers and grandfathers.
Today is a day to be thankful for fathers and all that they do and have done for us. As I remember my own father who went Home to His Heavenly Father several years ago, I remember how much he loved me, my mother, and our entire family. He was a wonderful provider for our family, of course, and to this day I can hear his voice saying, "Never miss a day of work." And, he never did.
But more than that, I remember how he led our family in the faith - how he always drove us to Mass and insisted that all seven of us arrive there at least fifteen minutes before Mass began (This wasn't easy with five women and only one bathroom in the house.) I remember how he was actively involved in the Holy Name Society and the Knights of Columbus, and how he led us in the holy rosary and encouraged us to sing "Immaculate Mary" and "Holy God" on road trips. (It certainly kept us from arguing with one another). I remember how he built a beautiful grotto to Our Blessed Mother out of some stones he collected. He planted the beautiful roses that grew in front of that gorgeous grotto and he nurtured them with loving care.
I love the things that he taught me: how to cook French toast, how to plant and care for a garden, how to dig up night crawlers and fish, how to peel potatoes (one of the tasks he performed in the Army), and how to appreciate beauty in nature and in the simple things in life.
I am thankful for all the times he was patient with me: when I styled his thick, wavy hair with my brush and comb into every imaginable hairdo of the day, while he was watching his baseball games; and when I (along with my 3 sisters) spent an hour in the bathroom trying to look beautiful.
I remember all the fun we had: playing baseball as a family, going on picnics in the park, cooking out in our own backyard, having weenie roasts and bonfires. I loved the stories my dad would tell me about his childhood, growing up on a farm, his time in the Civil Conservation Corps and in the Army, and the stories of how he and my mom (the city girl) first met and fell in love.
One of the things that I loved about my dad the most was how much he loved my mom. He was physically affectionate toward her and never afraid to tell her how much he loved her. Of course they had arguments like all couples do, but they forgave one another and made up. They were married for 50+ years and I will never forget the deep love and devotion he had for her. As they got older, he cared for her physical needs when he himself was suffering from lung cancer.
I am most thankful that he and my mom prayed for me daily, especially that I would find a good Catholic man to marry. Today I am thanking God for both fathers - both manly men, both strong in their Catholic faith.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!
Happy Father's Day to my dear husband, Bill!
Happy Father's Day to all fathers! Have a blessed day!