Monday, April 30, 2007

St. Catherine of Sienna, Virgin, Doctor of the Church

The Middle Ages were drawing to a close and the brave new world of the Renaissance was springing to life when Catherine Benincasa was born. The place was Siena, and the day was the feast of the Annunciation, 1347. Catherine and a twin sister who did not long survive were the youngest of twenty-five children. The father, Giacomo or Jacopo Benincasa, a prosperous wool dyer, lived with his wife Lapa and their family, sometimes comprising married couples and grandchildren, in a spacious house which the Sienese have preserved to the present day. As a child Catherine was so merry that the family gave her the pet name of Euphrosyne, which is Greek for Joy and also the name of an early Christian saint. At the age of six she had the remarkable experience which may be said to have determined her vocation. With her brother she was on the way home from a visit to a married sister, when suddenly she stopped still in the road, gazing up into the sky. She did not hear the repeated calls of the boy, who had walked on ahead. Only after he had gone back and seized her by the hand did she wake as from a dream. She burst into tears. Her vision of Christ seated in glory with the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John had faded. A year later the little girl made a secret vow to give her whole life to God. She loved prayer and solitude, and when she mingled with other children it was to teach them to do what gave her so much happiness.
When Catherine was twelve, her mother, with marriage in mind, began to urge her to pay more attention to her appearance. To please her mother and sister, she dressed in the bright gowns and jewels that were fashionable for young girls. Soon she repented of this vanity, and declared with finality that she would never marry. When her parents persisted in their talk about finding her a husband, she cut off the golden-brown hair that was her chief beauty. As punishment, she was now made to do menial work in the household, and the family, knowing she craved solitude, never allowed her to be alone. Catherine bore all this with sweetness and patience. Long afterwards, in The Dialogue, she wrote that God had shown her how to build in her soul a private cell where no tribulation could enter.
Catherine's father at last came to the realization that further pressure was useless, and his daughter was permitted to do as she pleased. In the small, dimly-lighted room now set apart for her use, a cell nine feet by three, she gave herself up to prayers and fasting; she scourged herself three times daily with an iron chain, and slept on a board. At first she wore a hair shirt, subsequently replacing it by an iron-spiked girdle. Soon she obtained what she ardently desired, permission to assume the black habit of a Dominican tertiary, which was customarily granted only to matrons or widows. She now increased her asceticism, eating and sleeping very little. For three years she spoke only to her confessor and never went out except to the neighboring church of St. Dominic, where the pillar against which she used to lean is still pointed out to visitors.
At times now she was enraptured by celestial visions, but often too she was subjected to severe trials. Loathsome forms and enticing figures would present themselves to her imagination, and the most degrading temptations assailed her. There would be long intervals during which she felt abandoned by God. "O Lord, where wert Thou when my heart was so sorely vexed with foul and hateful temptations?" she asked, when after such a time of agonizing He had once more manifested Himself. She heard a voice saying, "Daughter, I was in thy heart, fortifying thee by grace," and the voice then said that God would now be with her more openly, for the period of probation was nearing an end.
On Shrove Tuesday, 1366, while the citizens of Siena were keeping carnival, and Catherine was praying in her room, a vision of Christ appeared, accompanied by His mother and the heavenly host. Taking the girl's hand, Our Lady held it up to Christ, who placed a ring upon it and espoused her to Himself, bidding her to be of good courage, for now she was armed with a faith that could overcome all temptations. To Catherine the ring was always visible, though invisible to others. The years of solitude and preparation were ended and soon afterwards she began to mix with her fellow men and learn to serve them. Like other Dominican tertiaries, she volunteered to nurse the sick in the city hospitals, choosing those afflicted with loathsome diseases—cases from which others were apt to shrink.
There gathered around this strong personality a band of earnest associates. Prominent among them were her two Dominican confessors, Thomas della Fonte and Bartholomew Dominici, the Augustinian Father Tantucci, Matthew Cenni, rector of the Misericordia Hospital, the artist Vanni, to whom we are indebted for a famous portrait of Catherine, the poet Neri di Landoccio dei Pagliaresi, her own sister-in-law Lisa, a noble young widow, Alessia Saracini, and William Flete, the English hermit. Father Santi, an aged hermit, abandoned his solitude to be near her, because, he said, he found greater peace of mind and progress in virtue by following her than he ever found in his cell. A warm affection bound her to these whom she called her spiritual family, children given her by God that she might help them along the way to perfection. She read their thoughts and frequently knew their temptations when they were away from her. Many of her early letters were written to one or another of them. At this time public opinion about Catherine was divided; many Sienese revered her as a saint, while others called her a fanatic or denounced her as a hypocrite. Perhaps as a result of charges made against her, she was summoned to Florence to appear before the general chapter of the Dominicans. Whatever the charges were, they were completely disproved, and shortly afterwards the new lector for the order in Siena, Raymund de Capua, was appointed her confessor. In this happy association, Father Raymund was in many things of the spirit her disciple. Later he became the saint's biographer.
After Catherine's return to Siena there was a terrible outbreak of the plague, during which she and her circle worked incessantly to relieve the sufferers. "Never did she appear more admirable than at this time," wrote a priest who had known her from girlhood. "She was always with the plague-stricken; she prepared them for death and buried them with her own hands. I myself witnessed the joy with which she nursed them and the wonderful efficacy of her words, which brought about many conversions." Among those who owed their recovery directly to her were Raymund of Capua himself, Matthew Cenni, Father Santi, and Father Bartholomew, all of whom contracted the disease through tending others. Her pity for dying men was not confined to those who were sick. She made it a practice to visit condemned persons in prison, hoping to persuade them to make their peace with God. On one occasion she walked to the scaffold with a young Perugian knight, sentenced to death for using seditious language against the government of Siena. His last words were: "Jesus and Catherine!"
Her deeds of mercy, coupled with a growing reputation as a worker of miracles, now caused the Sienese to turn to Catherine in all kinds of difficulties. Three Dominican priests were especially deputed to hear the confessions of those whom she had prevailed on to amend their lives. In settling disputes and healing old feuds she was so successful that she was constantly called upon to arbitrate at a time when all through Italy every man's hand seemed to be against his neighbor. It was partly, perhaps, with a view to turning the energies of Christendom away from civil wars that Catherine threw herself into Pope Gregory's campaign for another crusade to wrest the Holy Sepulchre from the Turks. This brought her into correspondence with Gregory himself.
In February 1375, she accepted an invitation to visit Pisa, where she was welcomed with enthusiasm. She had been there only a few days when she had another of the spiritual experiences which seem to have presaged each new step in her career. She had made her Communion in the little church of St. Christina, and had been gazing at the crucifix, when suddenly there descended from it five blood-red rays which pierced her hands, feet and heart, causing such acute pain that she swooned. The wounds remained as stigmata, visible to herself alone during her life, but clearly to be seen after her death.
She was still in Pisa when she received word that the people of Florence and Perugia had entered into a league against the Holy See and the French legates. The disturbance had begun in Florence, where the Guelphs and the Ghibellines united to raise a large army under the banner of freedom from the Pope's control, and Bologna, Viterbo, and Ancona, together with other strongholds in the papal domain, rallied to the insurgents. Through Catherine's untiring efforts, the cities of Lucca, Pisa, and Siena held back. From Avignon, meanwhile, after an unsuccessful appeal to the Florentines, the Pope, Gregory XI, sent Cardinal Robert of Geneva with an army to put down the uprising, and laid Florence under an interdict. The effects of the ban on the life and prosperity of the city were so serious that its rulers sent to Siena, to ask Catherine to mediate with the Pope. Always ready to act as a peacemaker, she promptly set out for Florence. The city's magistrates met her as she drew near the gates, and placed the negotiations entirely in her hands, saying that their ambassadors would follow her to Avignon and confirm whatever she did there. Catherine arrived in Avignon on June 18, 1376, and was graciously received by the Pope. "I desire nothing but peace," he said; "I place the affair entirely in your hands, only I recommend to you the honor of the Church." As it happened, the Florentines proved untrustworthy and continued their intrigues to draw the rest of Italy away from allegiance to the Holy See. When their ambassadors arrived, they disclaimed all connection with Catherine, making it clear by their demands that they did not desire a reconciliation.
Although she had failed in this matter, her efforts in another direction were successful. Many of the troubles which then afflicted Europe were, to some degree at least, due to the seventy-four-year residence of the popes at Avignon, where the Curia was now largely French. Gregory had been ready to go back to Rome with his court, but the opposition of the French cardinals had deterred him. Since in her letters Catherine had urged his return so strongly, it was natural that they should discuss the subject now that they were fact to face. "Fulfill what you have promised," she said, reminding him of a vow he had once taken and had never disclosed to any human being. Greatly impressed by what he regarded as a supernatural sign, Gregory resolved to act upon it at once.
On September 13, 1376, he set out from Avignon to travel by water to Rome, while Catherine and her friends left the city on the same day to return overland to Siena. On reaching Genoa she was detained by the illness of two of her secretaries, Neri di Landoccio and Stephen Maconi. The latter was a young Sienese nobleman, recently converted, who had become an ardent follower. When Catherine got back to Siena, she kept on writing the Pope, entreating him to labor for peace. At his request she went again to Florence, still rent by factions, and stayed there for some time, frequently in danger of her life. She did finally establish peace between the city governors and the papacy, but this was in the reign of Gregory's successor.
After Catherine returned to Siena, Raymund of Capua tells us, "she occupied herself actively in the composition of a book which she dictated under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." This was the mystical work, in four treatise, called The Dialogue of St. Catherine.
Her health was now so impaired by austerities that she was never free from pain; yet her thin face was usually smiling. She was grieved by any sort of scandal in the Church, especially that of the Great Schism [The Schism lasted from 1378 to 1418, when Church unity was restored with the election of Pope Martin V.] which followed the death of Gregory XI. Urban VI was elected as his successor by the cardinals of Rome and Clement VII by the rebellious cardinals of Avignon. Western Christendom was divided; clement was recognized by France, Spain, Scotland, and Naples; Urban by most of North Italy, England, Flanders, and Hungary. Catherine wore herself out trying to heal this terrible breach in Christian unity and to obtain for Urban the obedience due to the legitimate head. Letter after letter was dispatched to the princes and leaders of Europe. To Urban himself she wrote to warn him to control his harsh and arrogant temper. This was the second pope she had counseled, chided, even commanded. Far from resenting reproof, Urban summoned her to Rome that he might profit by her advice. Reluctantly she left Siena to live in the Holy City. She had achieved a remarkable position for a woman of her time. On various occasions at Siena, Avignon, and Genoa, learned theologians had questioned her and had been humbled by the wisdom of her replies.
Although Catherine was only thirty-three, her life was now nearing its close. On April 21, 1380, a paralytic stroke made her helpless from the wait downwards, and eight days later she passed away in the arms of her cherished friend, Alessia Saracini. The Dominicans at Rome still treasure the body of Catherine in the Minerva Church, but Siena has her head enshrined in St. Dominic's Church. Pope Pius II canonized Catherine in 1461. The saint's talents as a writer caused her to be compared with her countrymen, Dante and Petrarch. Among her literary remains are the Dialogue and some four hundred letters, many of them of great literary beauty, and showing warmth, insight, and aspiration. One of the important women of Europe, Catherine's gifts of heart and mind were used in the furtherance of the Christian ideal.

Letter to Gregory XI
In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Most holy and most reverend my father in Christ Jesus: I Catherine your poor unworthy daughter, servant and slave of the servants of Christ, write to you in His precious blood; with desire to see you a good shepherd. For I reflect, sweet my father, that the wolf is carrying away your sheep, and there is no one found to succor them. So I hasten to you, our father and our shepherd, begging you on behalf of Christ crucified to learn from Him, who with such fire of love gave Himself to the shameful death of the most holy cross, how to rescue that lost sheep, the human race, from the hands of the demons; because through man's rebellion against God they were holding him for their own possession.

Then comes the Infinite Goodness of God, and sees the evil state and the loss and the ruin of these sheep, and sees that they cannot be won back to Him by wrath or war. So, notwithstanding they have wronged Him—for man deserves an infinite penalty for his disobedient rebellion against God—the Highest and Eternal Wisdom will not do this, but finds an attractive way, the gentlest and most loving possible to find. For it sees that the heart of man is in no way so drawn as by love, because he was created by love. This seems to be the reason why he loves so much: he was created by nothing but love, both his soul and his body. For by love God created him in His Image and Likeness, and by love his father and mother gave him substance, conceiving and bearing a son.
God, therefore, seeing that man is so ready to love, throws the book of love straight at him, giving him the Word, His Only-Begotten Son, who takes our humanity to make a great peace. But justice wills that vengeance should be wrought for the wrong that has been done to God: so comes Divine Mercy and unspeakable Charity, and to satisfy justice and mercy condemns His Son to death, having clothed him in our humanity, that is, in the clay of Adam who sinned. So by His death the wrath of the Father is pacified, having wrought justice on the person of His son: so He has satisfied justice and has satisfied mercy, releasing the human race from the hands of demons. This sweet Word jousted with His arms upon the wood of the most holy Cross, death fighting a tournament with life and life with death: so that by His death He destroyed our death, and to give us life He sacrificed the life of His body. So then with love He has drawn us to Him, and has overcome our malice with His benignity, in so much that every heart should be drawn to Him; since greater love one cannot show—and this He himself said—than to give one's life for one's friend. And if He commended the love which gives one's life for one's friend, what then shall we say of that most burning and perfect love which gave its life for its foe? For we through sin had become foes of God. Oh, sweet and loving Word, who with love hast found Thy flock once more, and with love hast given Thy life for them, and hast brought them back to Thy fold, restoring to them the Grace which they had lost!
Holiest sweet father of mine, I see no other way for us and no other aid to winning back your sheep, which have left the fold of Holy Church in rebellion, not obedient nor submissive to you, their father. I pray you therefore, in the name of Christ crucified, and I will that you do me this grace, to overcome their malice with your benignity. Yours we are, father! I know and realize that they all feel that they have done wrong; but although they have no excuse for their crimes, nevertheless it seemed to them that they could not do differently, because of the many sufferings and injustices and iniquitous things they have endured from bad shepherds and governors. For they have breathed the stench of the lives of many rulers whom you know yourself to be incarnate demons, and fallen into terrible fears, so that they did like Pilate, who not to lose his authority killed Christ; so did thy, for not to lose their state, they maltreated you. I ask you then, father, to show them mercy. Do not regard the ignorance and pride of your sons, but with the food of love and your benignity inflict such mild discipline and benign reproof as shall satisfy your Holiness and restore peace to us miserable children who have done wrong.
I tell you, sweet Christ on earth, on behalf of Christ in Heaven, that if you do this, without strife or tempest, they will all come grieving for the wrong they have done, and lay their heads on your bosom. Then you will rejoice, and we shall rejoice, because by love you have restored the sheep to the fold of Holy Church. And then, sweet my father, you will fulfill your holy desire and the will of God by starting the holy Crusade, which I summon you in his name to do swiftly and without negligence. They will turn to it with great eagerness; they are ready to give their lives for Christ. Ah me, God, sweet Love! Raise swiftly, father, the banner of the most holy Cross and you will see the wolves become lambs. Peace, peace, peace, that war may not delay that happy time!
But if you will wreak vengeance and justice, inflice them on me, poor wretch, and assign me any pain and torment that may please you, even death. I believe that through the foulness of my iniquities many evils have occurred, and many misfortunes and discords. On me then, your poor daughter, take any vengeance that you will. Ah me, father, I die of grief and cannot die! Come, come, and resist no more the will of God that calls you; the hungry sheep await your coming to hold and possess the place of your predecessor and Champion, Apostle Peter. For you, as the Vicar of Christ, should abide in your own place. Come, then, come, and delay no more; and comfort you, and fear not anything that might happen, since God will be with you. I ask humbly your benediction for me and all my sons; and I beg you to pardon my presumption. I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God—Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.

(Letters of Saint Catherine of Siena, translated by Vida D. Scudder. 1906)
Taken from "Lives of Saints with Excerpts from their writings"
Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc. New York,
Nihil Obstat: John M. A. Fearns, S.T.D., Censor Librorum
Imprimatur: +Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York
August 7, 1954

The image is "St. Catherine of Siena Besieged by Demons", tempera on wood, about 1500, National Museum in Warsaw

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Third sunday after Easter


Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine's The Church's Year

The Church continues to rejoice and praise God for the Resurrection of Christ and sings accordingly at the Introit of this day's Mass:

Shout with joy to God all the earth, alleluia: Sing ye a psalm to his name, alleluia. Give glory to his praise, alleluia, allel. allel. (Ps 65) Say unto God: How terrible are thy works, O Lord! In the multitude of thy strength thy enemies shall lie to thee. Glory & c.

O God, who showest the light of Thy truth to such as go astray, that they may return to the way of righteousness, grant that all, who profess the Christian name, may forsake what­ever is contrary to that profession, and closely pursue what is agreeable to it. Through etc.

EPISTLE (1 Peter 2: 11-19)
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims to refrain yourselves from carnal desires, which war against the soul, having your conversation good among the Gen­tiles: that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may, by the good works which they shall, behold in you, glorify God in the day of visitation. Be, ye subject therefore to every human creature for God's sake: whether it be to the king as excelling, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of the good: for so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God. Honor all men: Love the brotherhood: Fear God: Honor the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thanks‑worthy, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

St. Peter here urges the Christians to regard themselves as strangers and pilgrims upon this earth, looking upon temporal goods only as borrowed things, to which they should not attach their hearts, for death will soon deprive them of all. He then admonishes them as Christians to live in a Christian manner, to edify and lead to truth the Gentiles who hated and calumniated them. This should especially be taken to heart by those Catholics who live among people of a different religion; for they can edify them by the faithful and diligent practice of their holy religion, and by a pure, moral life lead them to the truth; while by lukewarmness and an immoral life, they will only strengthen them in their error, and thus inure the Church. St. Peter also requires the Christians to obey the lawful authority, and therefore, to pay all duties and taxes faithfully, because it is the will of God who has instituted lawful authority. Christ paid the customary tribute for Himself and Peter, (Matt 17: 26) and St. Paul expressly commands that toll and taxes should be paid to whomsoever they are due (Rom 13: 7). St. Peter finally advises servants to obey their masters whether these are good or bad, and by so doing be agreeable to God who will one day reward them.

Grant me the grace, O Jesus! to con­sider myself a pilgrim as long as I live and as such to use the temporal goods. Give me patience in adversities, and so strengthen me, that I may willingly obey the lawful authority, though its laws and regulations should come hard and its tribute press upon me.

GOSPEL (John 16: 16‑22)
At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: A little while, and now you shall not see me: and again a little while, and you shall see me: because I go to the Father. Then some of his disciples said one to another: What is this that he saith to us: A little while, and you shall not see me: and again a little while, and you shall see me, and, because I go to the Father? They said therefore: What is this that he saith, A little while? We know not what he speaketh. And Jesus knew that they had a mind to ask him, and he said to them: Of this do you inquire among yourselves, because I said: A little while, and you shall not see me: and again a little while and you shall see me. Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but when she hath brought forth the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. So also you now indeed have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice: and your joy no man shall take from you.

What is the meaning of Christ's words: A little while and you shall not see me; and again a little while and you shall see me?
St. Chrysostom applies these words, which Christ spoke to His apostles a few hours before His passion, to the time between the death of Jesus and His Resurrection; but St. Augustine, to the time between the Resurrection and the Ascension, and then to the Last judgment at the end of the world, and he adds: "This little while seems long to us living, but ended, we feel how short it is." In affliction we should console ourselves by reflecting, how soon it will terminate, and that it cannot be compared with the future glory, that is awaiting eternally in heaven him who patiently endures.

Why did our Saviour tell His disciples of their future joys and sufferings?
That they might the more easily bear the sufferings that were to come, because we can be prepared for suf­ferings which we know are pending; because He knew that their sufferings would be only slight and momentary in comparison with the everlasting joy which awaited them, like the pains of a woman in giving birth to a child which are great indeed, but short, and soon forgotten by the mother in joy at the birth of the child. "Tell me" says St. Chrysostom, "if you were elected king but were obliged to spend the night preceding your entrance into your capital city where you were to be crowned, if you were compelled to pass that night in much discomfort in a stable, would you not joyfully endure it in the expectation of your kingdom? And why should not we, in this valley of tears, willingly live through adversities, in expectation of one day obtaining the kingdom of heaven?"

Enlighten me, O Holy Spirit! that I may realize that this present life and all its hardships are but slight and momentary, and strengthen me that I may endure patiently the adversities of life in the hope of future heavenly joys.

"You shall lament and weep" (John 16:20)
That Christian is, most foolish who fancies that the happiness of this world consists in honors, wealth, and pleasures, while Christ, the eternal Truth, teaches the contrary, promising eternal happiness to the poor and oppressed, and announcing eternal affliction and lamentation to those rich ones who have their comfort in this world. How much, then, are those to be pitied who as Christians believe, and yet live as if these truths were not for them, and who think only how they can spend their days in luxury, hoping at the same time to go to heaven where all the saints, even Christ the Son of God Himself, has entered only by crosses and sufferings.

O good Jesus! who hast revealed, that we can enter heaven only by many tribulations, (Acts 16: 21 ) hast called them blessed who in this world are sad, oppressed, and persecuted, but patiently suffer, and who hast also taught us, that without the will of Thy Heavenly Father, not one hair of our head can perish (Luke 21: 18) I therefore submit entirely to Thy divine will, and beg Thy grace to endure all adversities for Thy sake, that after this life of misery I may enjoy eternal happiness with Thee in heaven.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Virgin most charitable, pray for us!

The Holy Scriptures give us good account of Our Blessed Mother goodness and charity. She was not obliged to accept the Divine offer to become the Mother of God. But she accepted it wholeheartedly in spite of spiritual and temporal sacrifices and crosses that came with it and the only motivation for her 'fiat' was our salvation. Soon after she is on her way to visit and help her elder cousin, Elisabeth, who is also expecting a child. In Cana, she persuades her Son to make His first miracle and to rescue their hosts from humiliating situation. It is believed, that through her intercession and prayers, the good thief was granted the grace of conversion, and surely it is thanks to her loving care, that so many sinners have experienced the magnificence of salvific grace of conversion. While still on earth Our Immaculate Mother was giving so many proofs of her gracious charity towards sinners, how much more she cares for her poor children up there in Heaven? From there she can see our every need and want. St Bernard says that her charity is beyond any measure. These words are very consoling. We are obliged to give back to Our Blessed Mother as much love as we possibly can and have always recourse to her charity, begging her always in union with the Church to remember us and intercede for us before the throne of God for His mercy to forgive our sinfulness.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me." (John 10: 14).

The Good Shepherd can recognize His sheep through Baptism and faithful keeping of Baptismal promises. During ceremony the priest asks specific questions: "Do you renounce Satan"? And the answer is: "I do!". And again: "Do you renounce all his pomps and works?" And again the answer is: "I do". We solemnly renounce Satan, his pomps, works and vanities. All that is separating us from God. There cannot be any agreement between God and the devil. And if we choose God and renounce Satan, then Our Lord rightly says: "No man can serve two masters.
" (Mt 6, 24). Whenever Satan tempts us we must reject him with words and mind of Christ: "Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matt 4:10). We renounced all perverse and delusive delights, honours and riches, all ridiculously expensive, fashionable clothes, food, jewelry. All these cannot fit with the imitation of Christ who: "hath not where to lay his head" (Matt 8:20). Through Baptism we renounce the world and its ruler, we renounce sin, in particular the mortal one, for: "he that committeth sin is of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning" (1 John 3:8). The main and most malicious of Satan sins were pride, envy and lie. How do we keep our Baptismal promises then? After we do our own careful examination of conscience let us keep in mind the Apostle's helpful advice: "Be subject therefore to God, but resist the devil, and he will fly from you. " (James 4:7)

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Sunday, April 22, 2007


Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine's
The Church's Year


Because of the joyous Resurrection of Christ, and the graces flowing to us on account of it, the Church sings at the Introit of the Mass:

The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord, alleluia; by the word of the Lord the heavens were established, alleluia, alleluia. Rejoice in the Lord, ye just: praise becometh the upright. (Ps. 22) Glory be to the Father, &c.

O God, who in the humility of Thy Son hast raised up a fallen world; grant to Thy faithful a perpetual joyfulness; that whereas Thou hast rescued them from the perils of eternal death, Thou mayest bring them to the fruition of everlasting joy. Through &c.

EPISTLE (1Pet 2: 21‑25.)
Dearly beloved, Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Who, when he was reviled, did not revile; when he suffered, he threatened not; but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly; who his own self bore our sins in his body upon the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live to justice: by whose stripes you were healed. For you were as sheep going astray: but you are now converted to the shepherd and bishop of your souls.

St. Peter teaches the Christians patience in misery and afflictions, even in unjust persecution, and for this purpose places before them the example of Christ who, though most innocent, suffered most terribly and most patiently. Are we true sheep of the good Shepherd if at the smallest cross, at every word, we become angry and impatient?

O Lord Jesus! grant me the grace to follow Thee, my good Shepherd, and not to complain and make threats whenever I am reprimanded, reviled or persecuted for justice sake.

GOSPEL (John 10: 11-16.)
At that time, Jesus said to the Pharisees: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth; and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep: and the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling, and he bath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.

How has Christ proved Himself a good Shepherd?
By sacrificing His life even for His enemies, for those who did not yet love Him, (1 John 4: 10; Rom 5: 8.) and could not reward Him. He has besides given Himself to us for our food.

How are we to know if we are among the sheep of Christ, that is, His chosen ones?
If we listen willingly to the voice of the Shepherd in sermons and instructions, in spiritual books and conversations; are obedient to it, and especially give ear and follow the rules of the Church through which the Good Shepherd speaks to us, (Luke 10: 16.) "for he," says St. Augustine, “who has not the Church for his mother, will not have God for his father;" if we gladly receive the food of the Good Shepherd, that is, His sacred Body and Blood in holy Communion; if we are patient and meek as a lamb, freely forgiving our enemies; if we love all men from our heart, do good to them, and seek to bring them to Jesus.

Who are the other sheep of Christ?
The Gentiles who were not of the fold of Israel, whom Christ sought to bring by His disciples, and now by their successors; into His fold. To these sheep we also belonged by our ancestors. O how grateful we should be to God, that He has brought us into the fold of His Church, and how diligently should we conduct ourselves as good sheep!

When will there be but one fold and one shepherd?
When, by the prayers of the Church and by her missionaries, all nations shall be converted to the only saving Church, constituting then one Church under one head. Let us pray that this may soon come to pass.

O Lord Jesus! Thou Good Shepherd who on the cross didst give Thy life for Thy sheep, grant us, we beseech Thee, by Thy death, the grace to be faithful to Thy voice and teachings like obedient lambs that we may one day be numbered among Thy chosen ones in heaven.

I lay down my life for my sheep. (John 10:15.)

What has Christ obtained for us by His death?
The remission of our sins, the grace to lead a life pleasing to God in this world, and eternal happiness in the next, for which we now firmly hope, with secure confidence may now expect, and most assuredly will obtain, if we do not fail on our part.

In what does eternal happiness consist?
In the beatific vision of God, which includes the most perfect love of Him, by which those who are saved become, as it were, one with Him, possessing in this union everything that they can possibly desire.

What are the necessary means of obtaining eternal happiness?
The grace of God, that is, His continual assistance; the practice of the three divine virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity; the keeping of God's commandments; the frequent use of the holy Sacraments, and constant prayer. These means must be diligently employed, for "God who", as St. Augustine says, "created us without us, will not save us without us," that is, without our cooperation.

What may especially enable us to hope for eternal happiness?
The infinite mercy and goodness of God, who from all eternity has loved us more than an earthly mother, and. because of this love did not even spare His only-begotten Son, but gave Him up, for our sake, to the most bitter death. Will He then deny us heaven, He who in giving us His Son, has given us more than heaven itself? The fidelity of God: He has so often promised us eternal happiness, and in so many texts of Scripture so clearly explained that He wishes us to be saved, that He must keep His promise, for He is eternal truth and cannot deceive. (Heb 6: 18) He says not yes today, and no tomorrow, there is no change in Him, nor shadow of alteration. (James 1: 17) The omnipotence of God, who can do all that He pleases, whom no one can oppose or prevent from doing what He will; if we have confidence in a rich and honest man who assures us he will assist us in need, how much more should we hope in the goodness, fidelity, and omnipotence of God!

When should we make an act of Hope?
As soon as we come to the use of reason and, are sufficiently instructed concerning this virtue and its motives; in time of trouble or of severe temptation against this virtue; when receiving the holy Sacraments; every morning and evening, and especially at the hour of death.

The same thing is to be observed in regard to acts of Faith and Love.

Our Lord by Bernini, picture taken in St Sebastian Outside the Walls Basilica in Rome

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

"He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you." (John 20:21)

How meaningful are these words and how great mission. So great that St John Chrysostom once said Our Blessed Lord in this way elevated the minds of His disciples and granted them power through the Father and His own mission. And remarkably, before He sent the Apostles to evangelize the world He demonstrated the glorious wounds on His hands and side as if to instruct them: "Do what I did out of obedience, even to the death". The Master call was followed by thousands of priests, who tirelessly served the Lord for the salvation of souls, and many of them became martyrs! During Ordination ceremony, Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, says to every priest: "I send you". Therefore, ordained Catholic priest can honestly face the faithful and like Moses solemnly declare: "HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you." (Exodus 3:14). Let us meditate on the power Our Blessed Lord gives to the priest. He gives him the highest possible power: "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you" (John 20:21). It is the whole divine authority of the Eternal Father in these words. There is nothing more powerful. When we think about it we can only feel respect for Catholic priest. For there is Christ and God the Father who support him. Let us restrain from noticing some ordinary human weaknesses in priests, but instead let us focus the eye of faith on Christ the Lord in them. We should not tolerate slanders or detractions so often used against Catholic priesthood, and we can be sure that the Lord will recompense our good efforts to defend them: "With all thy soul fear the Lord, and reverence his priests. With all thy strength love him that made thee: and forsake not his ministers. Honour God with all thy soul, and give honour to the priests, and purify thyself with thy arms" (Ecclesiasticus 7:31-33)
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side." (John 20:20)

Oh, how privilaged were disciples looking at the most precious wounds of the Lord! But someone can ask: "Why Our Lord kept the wound scars in His glorified body?" St Bernard explains that Our Lord preserved the wounds to proclaim triumph of the Resurrection to God's Angels, to witness reality of His Resurrection to the Apostles, and His accomplishment and suffering during the Last Judgment. St Bernard also says that Good Captain wants us, the soldiers, to keep focused on His wounds to console and strengthen the souls in suffering, for in this way only we can be indifferent to our own pains. The wounds of Our Lord then teach us wisely how to suffer. It is impossible for us sinners to avoid suffering if Our Blessed Lord who is so impeccable and perfect, suffered so much. Let us trust in Him in every oppression! He will help and console those who suffer gladly persecution, wound and oppression for His sake. St Paul says: "Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities." Why? - " that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (2 Cor 12:9). It is better to live in persecution and oppression with the Lord than in comfort and luxury without Him. Our Blessed Lord calls: "A little while" (John 16:16). It is nothing indeed to endure pain and distress for a short moment for Christ's sake than to suffer eternal condemnation and separation from Him. Let us carry our little crosses with gladness. A good disciple should follow the Lord's example. Let us remember that eternal triumph and happiness will come after, just as it came to Our suffering Lord: "That our hope for you may be steadfast: knowing that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation". (2 Cor 1:7)
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Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you." (John 20:19)

The greeting is very special and means much more than ordinary greeting, for peace is the fruit of redemption. Satan had once destroyed peace between God and His creatures, he snatched it away from human heart and worked very hard to make this separation firm and stable. However, the God-Man has come and through His Redemptive work reconciled Heaven and earth. For Christ: "preached peace to you... For by him we have access... to the Father" (Ephesians 2: 17,18). The prophet has foretold Christ as a Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6) who said: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid."(John 14:27). We need to remeber that after original sin there was no peace on earth whatsoever. But some taste of it could already be found:"Much peace have they that love thy law" (Ps 118:165). If you can honestly say: "Lord, my God, there is nothing separating us, there is no mortal sin!" you are a very happy person, and you are the child of peace. The Apostle says: "Let us not be made desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying on another." (Gal 5: 26). We should certainly avoid also any self-seeking, for it destroys inner peace. We should not get overwhelmed by successes nor be discouraged by mishaps, but in everything we should act for God and have our minds focused on Him, for this is the only way to attain inner peace. Let us keep away from people who propagate separation from God for this causes interior, exterior, temporal and eternal unrest. Day after day its range and intensity will grow steadily in the victim. In the former country of Bolsheviks for example, people were greeting each other with satanic-like mockery: "There is no God", and the answer followed:" for ever and ever". Those who wanted to get a job or succeed with their career had to confess firm unbelief in the existence of eternal soul and God, or at least to be able to conceal any such beliefs effectively. Some zealous communists even decorated themselves with tatoos proclaiming God's nonexistence. This reminds us what is said in Revelation: "And he shall make all, both little and great, rich and poor, freemen and bondmen, to have a character in their right hand, or on their foreheads. And that no man might buy or sell, but he that hath the character, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." (Apocalipse 13: 16-17). Very scary prognosis for Christian Europe. And nobody seems to take any notice or maybe people do not want to see anything worrying. How important is then the existence and agenda of Catholic Action: "Therefore let us follow after the things that are of peace; and keep the things that are of edification one towards another" (Rom 14: 19).
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Sunday, April 08, 2007


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Rev. Fr Leonard Goffine's
The Church's Year

In the Introit of this day's Mass, the Church compares the opening of the entrance into heaven which has been effected by the death and Resurrection of Christ, with the entrance of the chosen people of Israel into the Promised Land, which was effected by Josue:

The Lord hath brought you into a land flowing with milk and honey, alleluia: let then the law of the Lord be ever in your mouth, alleluia, alleluia. (Exod:13) Give glory to the Lord, and call upon his name: publish his works among the Gentiles. (Ps. 104) Glory be to the Father, &c.

O God, who by the Paschal solemnity, hast bestowed remedies on the world, continue, we beseech Thee, Thy heavenly blessings on Thy people, that they may deserve to obtain perfect liberty, and advance towards eternal life. Through.

LESSON (Acts, 10: 37-43)
In those days, Peter standing, up in the midst of the people said: You know the word which hath been published through all Judea: for it began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached, Jesus of Nazareth: how God anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things that he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed, hanging him upon a tree. Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest, not to all the people, but to witnesses pre-ordained by God: even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose again from the dead. And he com­manded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is he who was appointed by God to be judge of the living and of the dead. To him all the Prophets give testimony, that by his name all receive remis­sion of sins, who believe in him.

St. Peter concludes his sermon on the Resurrection with the declaration, that all who believe in Christ will through Him receive forgiveness of their sins. To obtain this remission a faith actuated by love is necessary, which will manifest itself in the exercise of good works. Endeavor to have this faith, if you wish to obtain the forgiveness of sin and eternal happiness, for without good works faith is dead, and forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation are promised only to those who possess an active faith.

GOSPEL (Luke 24: 13-35)
At that time, Two of the disciples of Jesus went the same day to a town which was sixty furlongs from Jerusalem, named Emmaus; and they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that while they talked and reasoned with themselves, Jesus himself also drawing near went with them: but their eyes were held that they should not know him. And he said to them: what are these discourses that you hold one with another as you walk, and are sad. And the one of them, whose name was Cleophas, answering, said to him: Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and bast not known the things that have been done there in these days? To whom he said: What things? And they said: Concerning Jesus of 'Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in work and word before God and all the people: and how our chief priests and princes delivered him to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we hoped that it was he that should have redeemed Israel: and now besides all this today is the third day since these things were done. Yea and certain women also of our company, affrighted us, who before it was light, were at the sepulchre, and not finding his body, came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who say, that he is alive.
And some of our people went to the sepulchre and found it so as the women had said, but him they found not. Then he said to them: O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory? And be­ginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things that were concerning him. And they drew nigh to the town, whither they were going: and he made as though he would go farther. But they constrained him, saying: Stay with us, because it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent. And he went in with them. And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight. And, they said one to the other: Was not our heart burning within, us; whilst he spoke in the way, and opened to us the scriptures? And rising up the same hour they, went back, to Jerusalem and, they found the eleven gathered together, and those that were with them, saying: the Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way and how they knew him in the breaking of bread.

Why did Christ appear as a stranger to these two disciples?
Christ conformed himself to their state of mind; for these disciples, as it appears, did not yet believe that He was, God, although He had often declared that He was; and proved it beyond contradiction; they regarded Him as a prophet and doubted His Resurrection. They looked at Him up to this time only with their outward eyes., that is, without faith in His divinity, and therefore the Saviour did not reveal Himself to their soul. It is thus that God generally proceeds towards us. He makes Himself known to us and gives us His-graces in proportion to our faith, hope, love, and fidelity.

Then Christ did not suffer voluntarily, but by compulsion, since He says: Ought not Christ to have suffered?
Christ gave Himself voluntarily up to death, as said by Isaias; (53: 7) but at the same time He was obliged to suffer, that the decree of His Father, and the prophecies might be fulfilled; that our redemption, which required the price of His death upon the cross, might be effected; and that we might learn from His example to enter heaven by suffering.

How did Christ expound the Scriptures to these disciples?
It is probable that He showed them how His passion and death were foretold and prefigured in various ways; that He was sold like Joseph, and that His scourging was prefigured by the blood-stained coat of Joseph. He probably drew their attention to the ram which was ensnared in the thorn bush, and His crowning with thorns; He carried His cross to Mount Calvary as Isaac, loaded with the wood on which He was to be sacrificed; was deprived of His clothes and derided in His nakedness, as Noah by his son. His crucifixion was prefigured by the serpent Moses set up in the desert. The animals prepared for sacrifice in the Old Testament, and especially the Paschal lamb, were types of Him, who, like them, was killed and sacri­ficed on the cross, without having His bones broken; finally, Jonas who was three days in the whales and then came forth again, imaged Christ's death, burial; and resurrection. He showed them, also, how clearly David and Isaias fore­told and described His passion.

Why did Jesus appear to be going farther?
To give them an occasion of showing their love for Him a stranger, whom they did not recognize as God; and also to give them an opportunity of practicing a work of charity, for it is pleasing to God that we hospitably invite and entertain strangers. Thus did Abraham and Lot entertain angels in the form of strangers, and saints in the New Testament have done likewise to Christ Himself.

How did the disciples recognize Him in the breaking of bead?
Because, as the holy Fathers believe, He gave them then His sacred body as He did to the apostles at the Last Supper, the description of which they had undoubtedly heard.

What else have we to learn from this gospel?
That when we have received Christ at Easter in the Blessed Sacrament, we should beg Him to stay with us, for the evening of our life draws near.

O Jesus, the evening of our life is drawing nearer and nearer: remain with us by virtue and through the effects of Thy Blessed Sacrament that we, who like the disciples going to Emmaus, are in need of constancy and understanding, may have our faith strengthened by Thy most holy body, become fixed in hope, and so united with Thee in love that nothing can ever again separate us from Thee. Amen.

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"Who saith to them: Be not affrighted; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here" (Mark 16: 6)

Today we celebrate Easter. The Churches are full of joyful singing. The Bride of Christ rejoice today with the whole Christian world: "This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us be glad and rejoice therein" (Ps 117: 24). In ancient Church on this day Christians greeted each other with special Easter greeting: "Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!"
There is only one tomb in the world where the inscription could read: "He, who has risen from the dead" instead of usual: "May He rest in peace". Let us rejoice and be glad for Our Blessed Lord's suffering and pains has ended. Betrayal, torture, death...all is finished, for ever:"Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him" (Rom 6:9). Let us rejoice and be glad, for Our Risen Lord has given us by His triumph over death, the new proof of soul's immortality. He says thus to us with gentle admonition: "You live twice, not only once! Not everything ends with the death! Your hard work is not for vain".
Let us rejoice and be glad for Easter is the cradle of Christian faith. Jesus' Resurrection is the signature and final credibility stamp of His teaching which was proven by this act beyond any doubt, as St Paul says: "And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain" (1 Cor 15: 17). He has risen by His own divine power, that is why His teaching, His Church, the faith and promises he has given us are all divine. With joyful gladness let us celebrate Easter feast in accordance with St Paul's words: "Therefore let us feast, not with the old leaven" - that is far from non-Christian, pagan customs and peculiarities - "nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness; " - that is with no guile, hardened hearts or persistent sin - "but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor 5: 8).
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Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine's
The Church's Year


What is the festival of Easter?
Easter, in Latin Pascha, signifies passing over, and has the following historical origin: Under Pharao, King of Egypt, the Jews in that country groaned under intolerable bondage. God had mercy on His people, and the hour of deliverance came. By His com­mand the first-born of all the Egyptians was killed by an angel. The Jews had been ordered by God to be ready for emigration, but first to kill a lamb, eat it in their houses in common, and sprinkle the door­posts with its blood. And the angel of death, by order of God, passed the doors sprinkled with the blood of the lamb, and did no harm to any child of the Israelites, whilst he slew all the first-born sons of the Egyptians. In grateful memory of this passing their doors, the Jews observed the festival of Easter, the Pasch, or Passover. After the death of Jesus, the apostles introduced the same festival into the Church in grateful remembrance of the day on which Jesus, the true Easter Lamb, took away our sins by His blood, freed us from the angel of eternal death, and passed us over to the freedom of the children of God.

Where, during this time, was Christ's holy soul?
In Limbo, that is, the place where the souls of the just who died before Christ, and were yet in original sin, were awaiting their redemption.

What have we to expect from the resurrection of Christ?
That our bodies will rise again from death. (Rom 8; 2) For if Christ our head is alive, then we His members must also become reanimated, because a living head cannot exist without living members.

What is meant by the Alleluia sung at Easter time?
In English Alleluia means Praise the Lord, and expresses the joy of the Church at the Resurrection of Christ, and the hope of eternal happiness which He has obtained for us.

Why does the Church on this day bless eggs, bread, and meat?
To remind the faithful that although the time of fasting is now ended, they should not indulge in gluttony, but thank God, and use their food simply for the necessary preservation of physical strength.

At the Introit the Church introduces Christ, her Head, as addressing His Heavenly Father in these words:

I arose, and am still with thee, alleluia; thou hast laid thy hand upon me, alleluia: thy knowledge is become wonderful, allel., allel. Lord, thou hast proved me and known me: Thou bast known my sitting down arid my rising up. (Ps 138: 18, 5,6) Glory be to the Father, etc.

O God, who on this day, through Thine only-begotten Son, didst overcome death and open unto us the gate of everlasting life; as by Thy prompting grace Thou dost breathe on the desires of our hearts, so do Thou ever ac­company them with Thy help. Through &c.

EPISTLE (1 Cor 5: 7-8.) Brethren, purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened: for Christ our pasch is sacrificed. Therefore let us feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

St. Paul here exhorts us that we should at this time remove by a good confession and true penance the leaven, that is, the sins we have committed, and partake of the Paschal lamb in holy Communion with a pure, sincere heart; as the Jews were on this day com­manded to eat the Paschal lamb with unleavened bread, abstaining on this day from the old leaven. During the octave of this festival repeat often with the Church: "Alleluia! Praise to the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endureth forever. Alleluia! This is the day the Lord has made, Alleluia! Let us rejoice therein, Alleluia! Our Paschal Lamb is Christ who sacrificed Himself for us, Alleluia!"
GOSPEL (Mark 16: 1-7) At that time, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James and Salome, bought sweet spices, that, coming, they, might anoint Jesus. And very early in the morning, the first, day, of the week, they come to the sepulchre, the sun being now risen. And they said one to another: Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And looking, they saw the stone rolled back, for it was very great. And, entering into the sepulchre they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed with a white robe, and they were astonished. Who saith to them: Be not affrighted; you seek Jesus of Nazareth; who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here; behold the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples, and Peter, that he goeth before you into Galilee: there you shall see him, as he told you.

Why did the holy women desire to embalm the body of Jesus with spices?
Because it was the custom of the Jews to embalm the dead, and as the Sabbath was so near and the time so short that they could not do it before the burial, these pious women procured the spices, and immediately after the Sabbath, hurried in the early morning to the sepulchre, to perform this act of love. We are taught by their conduct, that true love is never indifferent or slow, and what is agreeable to God it does without hesitation.

Why did the angel send the women to the disciples, and especially to Peter?
Because the disciples were to announce the Resurrec­tion of Christ to the whole world, and they were now much saddened, and disturbed because of His death. Peter was the head of the apostles, and on account of having three times denied our Lord, he was greatly dejected and faint of heart, and was, therefore, above all to be comforted.

What encouragement does the Resurrection of Christ give us?
It encourages us to rise spiritually with Him, and live henceforth a new life, (Rom 6: 4) which we do if we not only renounce sin, but also flee from all its occasions, lay aside our bad habits, subdue our corrupt inclinations, and aim after virtue and heavenly things.

I rejoice, O my Jesus, that Thou hast victoriously risen from death. By Thy triumph over death, hell and the devil, grant us the grace to subdue our evil inclinations, walk in a new life, and die to all earthly things. Amen.


It is certainly true that Christ, by His death on the cross and by His resurrection, has rendered perfect satisfaction; and effected man's redemption (Heb 9: 12); but we must not imagine that there is no further need of doing penance, or of working out our salvation. For, as the children of Israel, though freed from Pharao's bondage, had to fight long and against many enemies in order to gain the Promised Land, so also must we, though freed by Christ from the servitude of the devil, battle against our enemies to the end of our lives to obtain the promised, heavenly land, for no one is crowned unless he has prop­erly fought (2 Tim. 2:5). We must apply the merits of the redemption and satisfaction of Christ to our soul by the frequent reception of the holy sacraments; by imitating His virtues; by patiently bearing our trials and suffer­ings, and by a penitential life. The pious Angelus Silesius very appropriately writes:

"God is a Lamb that avails yon not, my Christian,
If you become not also a lamb of God.
The cross on Golgotha redeems not from evil,
If it is not also erected in thee;
The dear Christ's death aids you not, my Christian,
Until in Him and for Him you also have died:"

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

"And Jesus crying out with a loud voice, said: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And saying this, he gave up the ghost." (Luke 23, 46)

he last words of Jesus on the Cross, terrible words for those foolish men who deny eternal life and immortality of souls. These words will help us to understand better the purpose of our pilgrimage on earth, to realize that our priority is not the world with its pleasures and riches but eternity, Heaven and God!
"Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!". These words show us the way of dying, for Our Lord calls the Father who awaits His Son. This reality will help the Christian soul to detach itself from the world. Our Redeemer calls His Father not to defend His dignity, nor for protection, money or wordly possessions - but to give up His Spirit. St Augustine says that Our Lord recommends in this way to His Father all those who will raise through Him again, the members of His Church. Let us to be sure we belong to Jesus by rejecting all that is wordly, sinful and sensual. Our Blessed Lord died on the Cross for us to live, to recognize and acknowledge Him as our Lord and Master who offered Himself up for us. It is utmost disgrace and ingratitude to deny this by apostasy or atheism. He died on the Cross but at this moment His triumph begins, we already want to sing: Alleluia! Happy Easter! Before we leave the Cross and Our Sorrowful Lady, let us make resolution to embrace our crosses with gladness and gratitude, which unable us one day to participate and enjoy with Jesus and Mary the eternal happiness in Heaven: "yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him." (Rom: 8, 17).

Today's image is by Velazquez

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Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine's
The Church's Year


Why is this day called Holy Saturday?
Because on this day Jesus, the Holy of holies, rested in the sepulchre, and because the Church today blesses the new fire, the Easter candle, and the baptismal water. Why is fire struck anew, blessed, and the lamps and candles in the Church lighted from it? In ancient times it was customary to strike a new fire every day, bless it, and light the candles from it, and later this was done every Saturday; in the eleventh century this ceremony was restricted to Holy Saturday. The fire is struck from a stone to indicate, that Christ is the light of the world, and the Stone which the Jews rejected has now become the Corner stone of His Church; (Ps 117: 22) that the divine Son, the light of the world, was apparently extinguished at His death, but at His resurrection shone anew; that all those who witness this ceremony today be spiritually enlightened hereafter. This fire is blessed, because the Church blesses every thing that is used for divine service, and because the light and fire represent Christ, who brought the fire of love upon earth with which to enkindle our hearts. (Luke 12: 49)

What is represented by the triple candle?
The triple candle represents the most Holy Trinity of which the second Divine Person came down upon the earth as the true light. For this reason the priest (or deacon) sings at the lighting of each candle: Lumen Christi, Light of Christ, and kneeling, three times humbly adores the Triune Deity, and especially Christ the true, divine Light. The chanter responds: Deo Gratias .

What does the Easter candle signify?
It is an emblem of Christ who has risen from death. Christ the true Light leads us from the bondage of Satan into the freedom of the children of God as the pillar of fire led the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt. The five holes in the candle represent the five wounds of Jesus by which mankind was healed (1 Pet 2:24), and the five grains of frankincense signify the spices with which the body of our Lord was embalmed.

Why are all the candles and lamps lighted from the triple candle?
To show that Christ was begotten by the Father of Light from all eternity, and is therefore true God from true God, true Light from true Light, from whom enlightenment is diffused over all men (2 Cor 4:6).

To what do the twelve prophecies refer which are read before the blessing of the baptismal font?
They have reference to Christ in whom the predictions contained therein were verified. The number corresponds to the twelve apostles, who announced their fulfillment to the world.

Why is the baptismal water blessed with so many ceremonies, and what is its signification?
The baptismal water is blessed with so many ceremonies that a different effects of baptism may be shown, and that the holy Sacrament may be administered and received with more reverence and devotion; it signifies the blood of Christ by which our souls are purified.

What is the meaning of these ceremonies?
The priest with his hand parts the water in the form of the cross, to illustrate that God gives to it the virtue of regenerating all those born in original sin, making them children of God through Christ who died on the cross. He touches the surface of the water with the palm of his hand, to show that the Holy Ghost is over this water as at the creation, and bestows many graces on those who are baptized. He blesses it, signing it three times with the sign of the cross, because the water receives its sin-cleansing power only through the sufferings and the merits of Christ, from the Father, by the cooperation of the Holy Ghost. The baptismal water is thrown by the priest towards the four parts of the earth, because the grace of baptism should reach all nations. The priest breathes on the water three times in the form of a cross, as the Creator breathed into man the breath of life; Christ breathed upon the apostles the divine Spirit who by His grace and power revives and sanctifies those who are baptized. The Easter candle, (emblem of Christ, risen from the dead) is dipped three times into the water each time deeper, to show that the baptized should become more and more enlightened through the light of Christ's doctrine, more and more penetrated by its divinity, more and more purified from sin. The people are sprinkled with this water to remind all those present who have received sanctification in baptism, and have lost it by sin, that they should strive to regain it by true repentance. Finally, oil and chrism are mixed with the water as a sign that the grace of the Holy Ghost of which these are figures, is given through the water to those who receive this Sacrament; and also, that the baptized should, after baptism, devote themselves to the service of Christ, the Anointed One, and unite themselves in love to Him.

Why is the baptismal water blessed only on this day and on the Saturday before Pentecost?
Because in early times converts were baptized only on these days; and because the risen Saviour is the example of a soul sanctified by the Holy Ghost in baptism.

How should we assist at the blessing of the baptismal water?
With sentiments of sincere gratitude for the grace of baptism; with the firm resolution of preserving our baptismal innocence, or if we have lost it, of gaining it by penance. We should renew our baptismal vows especially on this day by saying the apostle's creed, making acts of faith, hope, love, and contrition; and renounce anew the devil, all his pride, and all his suggestions.

Why does the priest prostrate himself after blessing the baptismal water, and rise again after the litany of the saints has been chanted?
To most humbly ask God, by the intercession of the saints, that He would give to all men the grace of baptism, that as all men have been dead and buried in sin, so they may rise with Christ as new creatures to grace and eternal life.

Why are the altars decorated on this day?
Because the Church, the beloved bride of Christ, desires to announce in advance to her children the glad tidings, that the Lord has risen from the dead; she decorates herself therefore, and causes the bells to peal and joyous hymns, to resound. It also has reference to the glorious, incorruptible body with which Christ adorned Himself at His Resurrection.

Why is there no Introit in this day's Mass?
The Introit of the Mass was formerly an entire psalm which was sung while the people were assembling in church; but as in early times the people on Easter were already assembled to assist at the ceremonies, no Introit was sung at the Mass. The Church observes the same practice, although she abolished the night vigils on account of the abuses to which they gave rise.

O God, who makest this most sacred night illustrious by the glory of the Resurrection of our Lord, preserve in the new offspring of Thy family the spirit of adoption, which Thou hast given them; that being renewed in body and soul, they may serve Thee with purity of heart. Thro' the same &c.

EPISTLE (Colossians 3: 1-4)
Brethren: If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God: mind the things that are above, not the things that are on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then shall you appear with him in glory.
After the epistle the priest sings three times: Alleluia as a joyful exclamation over the Redeemer's triumphant victory.

St. Paul places Christ's, resurrection before us as the example and, motive of the spiritual resurrection from sin, which should be effected in us by the holy Sacraments at Easter. With Christ we should die to the world, and live hidden in Him, if we desire to rise at the Last Day with Him in glory, and be acknowledged before all men by Him as His own.

GOSPEL (Matt 28: 1-7)
In the end of the Sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week,came Mary Magdalen, and the other Mary, to view the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven: and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men. And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid. And going quickly, tell ye his disciples that he is risen: and behold, he will go before you into Galilee; there you shall see him. Lo, I have foretold it to you.

What are we to learn from this gospel?
That we, too, will receive the plenitude of divine grace and heavenly blessings, if like these pious women we seek Christ early, that is, by making a good intention before we begin our work.

Why is there no Credo or Agnus Dei said, nor the kiss of peace given, and why are short vespers said after communion?
Formerly, the Credo or confession of faith was said by the newly baptized, the Agnus Dei was sung in the litany of the saints, and these are therefore omitted in the Mass. The kiss of peace is, not given, because Christ had not yet said to His disciples: Peace be with you. Short vespers are said after the priest's communion, because this day, is a type of the eternal Sabbath in heaven which has no Vespers, that is, evening. Do not omit on this day to thank our Lord for the many graces He has given us through His passion and death. If in the evening the solemn ceremonies of the resurrection are held, assist at them and there make the repeated resolution to rise from the sleep of sin and begin a new life with Christ.

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