Thursday, December 31, 2009


Te Deum Laudamus we sing at the end of year.

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One is my love. My perfect one is but one (Cant. 6:8)
I purpose therefore to take her to live with Me...knowing that she will be a comfort to Me in My cares and grief (Wisd. 8:9).
An angel of the Lord appeared to her and said: ...thou shalt conceive and shalt bear a Son (Judges 13:3).
Fear not, neither be you afraid (Deut. 1:29).
The Gentiles shall see thy just one, and all the kings thy glorious one, and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. And thou shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of God (Isa 62:2,3).

"I am the Mother of fair love." Mother of Christ, Mother of the Lord's anointed! What must have been the feelings of our Lady when she realized for the first time that she had actually been chosen to fulfill that office?
She, a little village maid of an out-of-the-way place of small account in the eyes of the world. How she must have wondered at God's ways! One can imagine wonderment to have been the predominant feeling next to her profound humility and self-abasement, a feeling that would break forth later, as we know it did, in childlike joy and thanksgiving: "My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."How often she would repeat those words when, after the birth of her divine Babe, she clasped Him to her heart, and murmured to herself: "My Beloved is mine, and I am His; His turning is towards me". Then, at other times, when, infant-like, He would grasp the folds of her dress with one little hand, and throw the other round her neck in the position so familiar to us in the picture of Our Lady of Good Counsel, how the words would well up in her mind: "His left hand is under my head, His right doth embrace me!" Familiar as she was with the Canticle of Canticles, she would see its fulfillment in many a little daily incident. When her divine Child joined with other little ones in games suitable to their age (for, as our Lord later did not disdain to be present at the festivities of a marriage-feast, we cannot think He would have held from innocent recreation in His early years) she would say: "My beloved is like a roe, or a young hart"; and when He turned His steps homeward, and she heard the sound of His voice, rejoicing, she would exclaim: "The voice of my Beloved: behold, He cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills." And many a time, when she watched Him through the window where she sat at her embroidery, by which, tradition tells us, she helped greatly to the support of the holy family, He would turn and give a loving look at His humble devoted Mother, she would think or say to St Joseph: "Behold, He standeth behind the wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices." When describing her Boy to those who had not been privileged to see Him, would she not almost unconsciously make use of the words of the same Canticle: "My Beloved is ruddy and white, chosen out of thousands. His head is as finest gold...His eyes are as doves...His cheeks are as beds of aromatical spices...His form as of Libanus, excellent as the cedars, His throat most sweet, and He is all lovely. Such is my Beloved...O ye daughters of Jerusalem"? One might go on multiplying such instances, as when the Holy Child would go down to eat the fruit of His apple-trees, or to the bed od aromatical spices to gather herbs for His mother, or when the two would wander forth into the field to see if pomegranates, vines, and other fruits of the earth were in flower or good condition; but enough has been said to show that the mind of the Mother of Christ was ever filled with her divine Son. "He was all in all to her." And can we not imitate her in this? He has told us how we can actually be as a mother to Him - by fulfilling His holy will - and we should strive to feed our minds with the thought of Him, His perfections, His beautiful ways, as Mary did, and so we shall never want to grieve Him by prefering our will to His. Can we not say to our Lady, in the words of the beautiful hymn, which of late has become so popular amongs us?

Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
What can I do for thee?
I will love thy Son with the whole of my strength,
My only King shall He be.
Yes, Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
This will I do for thee,
Of all who are dear and cherished here,
None shall be dear as He.

Mother of Christ, pray for us!

Credits: text after "My Queen and My Mother", painting of the holy family in their domestic surrounding is that of Rembrandt.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Holy Innocents

Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:10)

If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:19)

credits: Matteo di Giovanni and Tintoretto paintings of the Holy Innocents slaughter.

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Friday, December 25, 2009


Thoughtful words from Archb Fulton J Sheen on Christmas. Bishop Sheen was a professed member of the Carmelite Third Order and also the most renown preacher in the world of his time. His great love was the Catholic missions and he was well aware of the missionary power of Carmelite contemplatives such as St Therese. He exchanged many letters with Carmelite Sisters in New Albany, Indiana. In one of the letters, fully preserved in his Rochester archives, he writes very revealingly to the Carmelite prioress, "Your prayers and sufferings do more good than all our preaching and our heroic actions. We make the noise; we get the credit; we enjoy the consolation of a victory seen and tasted. You are responsible for it and yet you cannot see the fruits - but you will, on that day when the Cross appears in the heavens and every men is rewarded according to his works." He also wrote, "I want to cling on the Carmel for I love its love of Jesus. I refuse to give it up, and like the blind man of Jericho, I shall go on shouting out to you continually to cure my blindness and my ills." (after "Archb Fulton Sheen's St Therese: A Treasured love story").Text below adopted from "Advent and Christmas with Fulton J. Sheen" compiled by Judy Bauer.  

O come, let us sing to the Lord,  let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!...O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. (Psalm 95:1-7)

A Child is born. "To some He comes on this Christmas Day even in the remorse that follows "There is no room"; to some He comes when their hearts are saddened by a life that has been taken away, and can be gladdened only by a Life that is given; to some He comes when their hearts like conscious mangers cry out "Lord, I am not worthy"; to others He comes as their study of science reminds them that the only star worth studying is the Star that leads to the Maker of the Stars; to others He comes when their hearts are broken, that He might enter in to heal with wings wider than the world; to others He comes in joy amidst the Venite Adoremus of the angels; to others He comes because they are so young they can never remember another Christmas - but to each and everyone he comes as if he had never come before in His own sweet way, He the Child who is born, He....Jesus the Saviour, He Emmanuel, He, Christ at Christ's Mass on Christmas - MERRY CHRISTMAS!! (The Fullness of Christ)

Picture represents 'Nativity' by Antoniazzo Romano

"O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all other women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, who created the heavens and the earth, who has guided you...Your praise will never depart from the hearts of those who remember the power of God. May God grant this to be a perpetual honour yo you, and may He rewards you with blessings" (Judith 13:18-20).

As we gather about the crib of Bethlehem, we feel that we are in the presence of a new paradise of Beauty and Love, ...and the name of that Paradise is Mary....And if we could have been there in that stable on that first Christmas night, we might have seen that Paradise of the Incarnation, but we should not be able to recollect whether her face was beautiful or not...for what would have impressed us, and made us forget all else, would have been the lovely, sinless soul that shone through her eyes like two celestial suns...If we could have stood at the gates to that Paradise, we would have less peered at it as into it, for what would have impressed us would not have been any external qualities, though these would have been ravishing, but rather the qualities of her soul - her simplicity, innocence, humility, and above all, her purity...Christmas takes on a new meaning when the Mother is seen with the Babe. In fact, the heavens and the earth seem almost to exchange places. Years ago, we used to think of the heavens as "way up there". Then one day the God of heavens came to this earth, and that hour when she held the babe in her arms, it became true to say that with her we now "look down" to heaven. (Manifestations of Christ)

As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Corinthians 3:12-13)

He who refuses to forgive others breaks down the bridge over which he himself must pass, for everyone has need to be forgiven. The Divine Law is that only those who forgive will be forgiven. It is much easier to forgive the weak who have injured us or those who are beneath us in dignity than it is to forgive the powerful or the better or the nobler...In this truth is hidden the explanation of why the Divine who came to bring forgiveness to humans was crucified at the moment of greatest forgiveness. Though the Divine forgiveness comes to those who forgive, nevertheless, some say: "I cannot forgive myself". As Cardinal Newman answered: "No true penitent forgets or forgives himself; an unforgiving spirit towards himself is the very price of God's forgiving him." Of course, no person can forgive himself. He can only be forgiven by Him whom he has injured. (Walk with God)

May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and  body be kept sound and blameless. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

If Christ is the Prince of Peace...then how do we reconcile these other seemingly contradictory words of Our Lord: "Do not think that I come to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword"; and "Think you, that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no; but separation..."
The explanation of these apparent contradictions is to be found in the words He addressed to His Apostles the night of the Last Supper in which He made an important distinction between two kinds of peace: "My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, do I give unto you"; and "These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress; but have confidence; I have overcome the world." There is a difference, then, between His Peace and the peace of the world.
It is evident from these words that Our Lord offers a peace and a consolation that he alone can confer, a peace that comes from the right ordering of conscience, from justice, charity, love of God and love of neighbour. (The Cross and the Beatitudes)

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas with St Therese

After 'Just for today - Daily readings from St Therese and The Imitation of Christ' compiled by A Benedictine of Stanbrook Worcester

December 25th
(Christ). I am the Lover of purity, and the Giver of all holiness. I seek a pure heart, and there is the place of My rest. Make  ready for Me a large supper room and I will make the pasch with thee (Mark 14:15).

If Thou wilt have Me come to thee, and remain with thee, purge out the old leaven, and make clean the habitation of thy heart; for every lover prepareth the best and fairest room for his dearly beloved; and hereby is known the affection of him that entertaineth his beloved. (Imitation Bk 4, ch 12)

God, the divine Guest of our hearts, knows our poverty; all he asks, and expects to find, is an empty tabernacle. (St Therese 'Letters')

December 26th
Whosoever loveth, knoweth the cry of this voice. A loud cry in the ears of God is the ardent affection of the soul, which saith: O my God, my love, Thou art all mine, and I am all Thine! Give increase to my love, that I may learn to taste with the interior mouth of the heart how sweet it is to love, and to swim, and to be dissolved in love. (Bk 3, ch 5)

I experienced several transports of love; one, during my novitiate, lasted a whole week, during which time I seemed to make use of a borrowed body, and felt far away from this world, which was veiled from my sight. Yet I was not burned by a real flame, and could enjoy these delights without hope of their breaking my hold upon life; whereas if the other experience of which I told you, had been prolonged for a few instants, I would have died...Alas! I came back to earth, and immediately my soul became a prey once more to dryness of spirit. (Story of a Soul)

December 27th
The way of man is not always in his own power; but it belongs to God to give and to comfort when He will, and as much as He will, and to whom He will, and as it shall please Him, and no more.
Some, wanting discretion, have ruined themselves upon occasion of the grace of devotion: because they were desirous of doing more than they could, not weighing well the measure of their own weakness, but following rather the inclination of the heart than the dictates of reason. And because they presumtuously undertook greater things than were pleasing to God, there tehy quickly lost His grace.
They became needy, and were left in a wretched condition, who had built themselves a nest in heaven, to the end that being thus humbled and impoverished, they might learn not to trust to their own wings, but to hide themselves under Mine. (Bk 3, ch 7)

O divine Sun! I am happy to feel so small and weak in Thy presence, and my heart is at peace. I know that all the eagles of Heaven take pity on me and  protect me from the vultures - the fallen angels - whom I do not fear, as I am not destined to become their prey, but that of the divine Eagle.
O Word of God, my Saviour! as an Eagle Thou didst come down upon this land of exile, there to suffer and die, that Thou mightest carry upwith Thee the souls of men into the very bosom of Love, the Blessed Trinity. The Saints have done great things for Thee in the folly of their love, for they were eagles, but I am too little to attempt great things. and my folly is the hope that I shall  become the victim of Thy love; my folly is to count on the intecession of the ANgels and Saints that  may fly up to Thee with Thine own wings...
I cherish the hope that one day Thou wilt swoop down upon me and carry me up until I am lost, a willing victim, in the fiery heart of the furnace of  Love. (Story of a Soul)

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Advent with Archb Fulton Sheen

There was no room in the inn
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered...All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilea to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of david. he went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child...And she gave birth to her forst-born son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

"Mary is now with child, awaiting birth, and Joseph is full of expectancy as he enters the city of his own family. He searched for a place for the birth of Him to Whom heaven and earth belonged. Could it be that the Creator would not find room in His own creation?
   Certainly, thought Joseph, there would be room in the village inn. There was room for the rich; there was room for those who were clothed in soft garments...But when finally the scrolls of history are completed down to the last word of time, the saddest lines of all will be: "There was no room in the inn". No room in the inn, but there was room in the stable. The inn was the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world's moods, the rendezvous of the worldy, the rallying place of the popular and the successful. But there's no room for outcasts, the ignored, and the forgotten. The world might have expected the Son of God to be born in an inn; a stable would certainly be the last place in the world where one would look for Him. The lesson is: divinity is always where you least expect to find it. So the Son of God-Made-Man is invited to enter into His own world through a back door." (Bishop Sheen Catechism)

For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich (2Corinthians 8:9)

We must not make the sentimental mistake of thinking Our Lord was just a poor man. He was a rich person who became a poor man. Rich He was in His divine nature because He was God, and Lord of heaven and earth. And yet despite that richness he became poor, principally because He became man. That is poverty of the worst kind, because it is limitation. 
   He who was born poor in a stable could have been born rich in a palace by the Tiber. Roman legions might have guarded Him at His birth, instead of an ox and an ass. no one would have expected that he who made the gold of Caesar's throne would be born on a bed of straw; nor that He who made the warmth of the sun would be warmed by the breath of oxen; nor that He who owned the earth would be homeless on the earth. it is no wonder then that the first to come to His crib were the rich Magi and the poor Shepherds. Two things happened to them - the rich lost their avarice, for they gave their wealth to the poor; the poor lost their envy, for they learned that there is another wealth than that which the rich give away. (Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity).

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning; the patient in spirit are better than the proud in spirit. (Ecclesiastes 7:8).
Those who are patient stay calm until the right moment; and then cheerfulness comes back to them. Theyhold back their words until the right moment; then the lips of many tell of their good sense (Sirach 2:23-24).
Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliations be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation. (Sirach 2:4-5)

The Greek origin of the word patience suggests two ideas: one continuance, the other submission. Combined, they mean submissive waiting; a frame of mind which is willing to wait because it knows it thus serves God and His holy purposes. A person who believes in nothing beyond this world is very impatient, because he has only a limited time in which to satisfy his wants. 
Patience is not something one is born with; it is something that is achieved. Sight is a gift of nature, but seeing has to be won. So it is with self-possession and patience; such a virtue is developed by resistance and control. There are many who excuse themselves, saying that if they were in other circumstances they would be much more patient. It makes little difference where we are; it all depends on what we are thinking about. What happens to us is not so important, but rather how we react to what happens. Tribulations tries the soul, and in the strong it develops patience, and patience, in its turn, hope. (Way to inner Peace)

And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they carried Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord: as it is written in the law of the Lord ‘Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’,  and to offered a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons: And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do fro Him according to the custom of the law, he also took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen Thy salvation, Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel. (Luke 2:22-32)

There are some flowers that open in the evening; Simeon, the old man, was one of those flowers. Imagine the ecstasy of this old man when he embraced this child, and his first words were. "Now I am ready to die". He then speaks to the mother and notice how he looks backwards and forwards; he looks backwards to the people of God of which he was a priest and says, "This is the glory of thy people, Israel, this Babe." Then he looks forward, "This is the light which shall give revelation to the Gentiles." In other words, he saw in this Babe, the maker of a new covenant, but he also saw in Him a sigh to be contradicted by the very people to whom He came to bring salvation. So that this Christ who was born was not just someone who came by surprise; he's related to all of the people of God through the centuries. (The Bp Sheen Catechism)

...more to follow....

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Mystery of Advent

The mystery of the coming of Jesus or Advent is at once simple and threefold. It is simple, for it is the same Son of God that is coming; it is threefold, because He comes at three different times and in three different ways. 'In the first coming', says St Bernard, 'He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, he comes in spirit and in power; in the third, he comes in glory and in majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third." (Fifth sermon for Advent).  
Peter of Blois, in his third Sermon of Advent, gives the following explanation of this threefold visit of Our Lord: "There are three comings of Our Lord; the first in the flesh, the second in the soul, the third in the judgment. The first was at midnight, according to these words of the Gospel: At midnight there was a cry made, Lo the Bridegroom cometh! But the first coming is long since past, for Christ has been seen on the earth and has conversed among men. We are now in the second coming, provided only we are such as that He may thus come to us; for He has said that if we love Him, He will come to us and will take up His abode with us. So that this second coming is full of uncertainty to us; for who, save the Spirit of God, knows them that are of God? They that are raised out of themselves by the desire of heavenly things, know indeed when He comes; but whence He cometh, or whither He goeth, they know not. As for the third coming, it is most certain that it will be, most uncertain when it will be; for nothing is more sure than death, and nothing less sure than the hour of death...So the first coming was humble and hidden, the second is mysterious and full of love, the third will be majestic and terrible. In His first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly; in His second, he renders us just by His grace; in His third, He will judge all things with justice. Int His first, a lamb; in His last, a lion; in the one between the two, the tenderest of friends" 

The holy Church, therefore, during Advent, awaits in tears and with ardour the arrival of her Jesus in His first coming....The Church aspires also for the second coming, the consequences of the first, which consists, as we have just seen, in the visit of the Bridegroom to the bride. This coming takes place, each year, at the feast of Christmas, when the new birth of the Son of God delivers the faithful from the yoke of bondage, under which the enemy would oppress them (Collect for Christmas Day). The Church, therefore, during Advent, prays that she may be visited by Him who is her head and her Spouse; visited in her hierarchy, visited on her members, of whom some are living, and some are dead, but may come to life again; visited, lastly, in those who are not in communion with her, and even in the very infidels, that so they may be converted to the true light, which shines even for them...The expressions of the liturgy which the Church makes use of to ask for this loving and invisible coming, are those which she employs when begging for the coming of Jesus in the flesh; for the two visits are for the same object. In vain would the Son of God have come, nineteen hundreds years ago, to visit and save mankind, unless He come again for each one of us and at very moment of our lives, bringing to us and cherishing within us that supernatural life, of which He and his holy Spirit are the sole principle. 
But this annual visit of the Spouse does not content the Church; she aspires after a third coming, which will complete all things by opening the gates of eternity. She has caught up the last words of her Spouse, "Surely I am coming quickly"(Collect for Christmas Day); and she cries out to Him, "Ah! Lord Jesus! come!" (Apoc 22:20). She is impatient to be loosed from her present temporal state; she longs for the number of the elect to be filled up, and to see appear, in the clouds of heaven, the sign of her Deliverer and her Spouse "The nuptials of the Lamb are come, and His wife hath prepared herself." (Apoc 19:7).
(After the chapter 'The Mystery of Advent' from 'The Liturgical year', by Dom Prosper Gueranger.)

The mystery of Our Lord's three comings in the words of His Saints for our pious reflection:

The Nativity of Our Lord
"O Little Jesus, my only treasure, I abandon myself to every one of your adorable whims. I seek no other joy that that of making you smile. Grant me the graces and the virtues of your holy Childhood so that, on the day of my birth into Heaven, you may recognise me as your little spouse" (St Therese)

"O Lord, you have created for me the skies scattered with the stars, for me the earth, the mountains, the streams, and all the beautiful things on earth. Still, this did not satisfy you, to show me close up that you loved me tenderly, you came down from the purest delights of Heaven to this tarnished and tear-ridden world." (St Maximilian Kolbe)

"The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. You have made their gladness greater; you have made their joy increase. For there is a Child born for us, a Son given to us, and dominion is laid on His shoulders; and this is the name they give Him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah)

To all who did accept Him, He gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the name of Him who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man, but of God Himself. The Word was made flesh, He lived among us, and we saw His glory, the glory that is His as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth." (St John)

Awaiting Our Lord's coming
"Jesus said, 'When the Son of Man comes in His glory, escorted by all the angels, he will take His seat on the throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before Him and He will be assembled before Him and He will separate men from one another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats, the sheep on His right hand, the goats on His left. The the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you whom your Father has blessed, take for your heritage the Kingdom prepared for you. For I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcome me, naked and you clothed me, visited me when I was sick or in prison....For as long as you did this to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me" (Matthew 28: 1-46)

"It was not any cleverly invented myths that we were repeating when we brought you the knowledge of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; we had seen His majesty for ourselves. he was honoured and glorified by God the Father when He said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; He enjoys my favour...You should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the day of God to come. We are waiting for what He has promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home' (2Peter 1:16-18, 3:12-14)

"The Kingdom of God is within you,' says the Lord. Turn with all your heart to the Lord and forsake this wretched world and your soul will find rest. Learn to despise outward things and give yourself to things inward and you will see the Kingdom of God come to you. Give Christ free entrance into your heart and keep out everything, which impedes His coming." (Thomas a Kempis)

"This is a sacred season, the time of the Lord's favour, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation for which the patriarchs and prophets prayed and longed for with all their hearts. We must celebrate it fittingly, giving praise and thanks to the eternal Father for the mercy He shows in this mystery of the coming of His only begotten Son."
"The Church uses the rites of this season, its hymns, songs, and utterances of the Holy Spirit to show us that our hearts should be as prepared now for the Coming of Christ Our Lord as if He were still to come into this world." (St Charles Borromeo)

"Pray that the best portion of your life may not be overshadowed by idle fears. We have only life's brief moments to spend for the glory of God, and well does Satan know it. That is why he employs every ruse to make us consume them in useless labour.'

"My God, far from becoming sad at the sight of my miseries, I come to you with confidence, recalling that 'those who are well do not need a doctor, but the sick do.' Tomorrow, with the help of your grace, I will begin a new life in which moment will be an act of love and renunciation." (St Therese)

Joyfully awaiting the Saviour

"Listen now House of David; are you not satisfied with trying the patience of my God too? The Lord Himself therefore will give you a sign. it is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel" (Is 7:13-14)

"Send dew from above you heavens and let the skies pour down upon us the rain we long for, Him the Just One: may He, the Saviour, spring from the closed womb of the earth...The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see the salvation of our God" (Is 45:8)

"A Shoot springs from the tree of Jesse, a Scion (of David's royal House) thrusts from his roots; on Him the Spirit of the Lord rests...He does not judge by appearances...but judges the wretched with integrity, and with His equity gives a verdict fro the poor of the Land....The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them...The infant plays over the cobra's hole; into the viper's lair the young child put his hand. They do no harm on all my holy mountain, for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters swell the sea" (Is 11:1-16)

...more to follow...

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Feast of St Thomas the Apostle

"Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God". (John 20:28)

How much love and patience Our Lord showed to Thomas, who was well aware of the Resurrection prophecies, who knew exactly what the Apostles witnessed, who saw all the people around him rejoicing at the great news and yet he could not believe! He even wanted to challenge the Lord and set his terms: "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). But Jesus treated Thomas only with patience and compassion. He does not admonished or rebuked him but instead He came with words of peace. And indeed He stands in front of Thomas ready at his disposal letting Thomas to see and examine the wounds with meekness and patience saying: "Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing" (John 20: 27). Exactly with the same patience and forbearance the Lord reacts to endless attacks and wickedness of atheists and infidels, obstinacy and blindness of Jews, schism, heresy and all the misery and sins of the world. Can we behave like Our Lord even in remotely parallel situation, when our credibility or orders are challenged, when we are ignored or even ridiculed? Possibly we will try to excuse and justify quite opposite reaction, wondering why we cannot win the hearts of those around us, family, friends, superiors. Someone made quite a good comment on the situation in modern world saying that nowadays simple domestic authority is usually enforced by endless orders, bans, prohibitions, but how ineffective really that could be. For in practice, a good example is most effective way. If someone is too strict with his subjects or employees he can end up surrounded by two-faced hypocrites. We should try our best to follow the Lord's example which enable us to win the hearts of others more easily by good example and loving attitude than by artificial and self-imposed authority. And indeed, Our Lord's love and patience won Thomas' heart who was converted and confessed: "My Lord, and my God" (John 20:28). Let us keep these moving words in our hearts, in particular during Mass when the Host is elevated after consecration. Do not cast the eyes down, but as St Pius X desired and granted indulgence for those faithful who with simple, deep faith and trust look into the Redeemer's eyes confessing in their hearts: "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28).

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Fourth Sunday of Advent - click for link

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Monday, December 14, 2009

The exercise of the Presence of God in prayer - advice and inspiration for the coming feast of St John of the Crosss

I have changed the mode of this post into expandable one for the readers convenience. The post is updated as often as possible in the month of November, dedicated to Saint John of the Cross. We celebrate his feast-day on 24th of November, therefore, we may reflect on the exercise of the presence of God, the practice of great importance in mental prayer and recollection. Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa were expert on the topic. Another Carmelite Saint, Lawrence of the Resurrection, was also renown for his devotion to the practice of the presence of God.

The presence of God is the application of the soul to God, conceived in an intellectual or imaginary manner. Therefore, following this twofold manner of conceiving the thought of God one may distinguish twofold presence of God, imaginary and intellectual. For example, if one should represent to oneself sensible things by means of corporeal images, as are, for example, the circumstances of the Passion of Christ, this would be an imaginary presence of God: but reflecting on on intellectual things, such as the goodness, greatness and justice of God, this would be an intellectual presence of God, as nearly all is accomplished by the understanding without the help of the imagination. The exercise of the presence of God is suitable to all parts of mental prayer; wherefore ascetical authors generally speak of it as the first rule to observe in order to meditate well. St Teresa also recommends it as the first act of mental prayer:

"...After having humbled yourself before God", she says, and made the sign of the cross, try without delay, since you are alone, to find a companion, but what company is more preferable to that of the divine Master?"(Way of perfection, 27).
"The soul may represent to herself Jesus Christ as if He were before her. This is an excellent method to make progress in a very short time. This practice of always having Jesus Christ present to the mind, is useful in all states of prayer. it is sure means by which to derive profit in the first state, to arrive in a short time at the second, and to guard against the illusions of the demon in the last". (Life, 12)
St John of the Cross begins by laying down the dogma of Faith, on which this holy exercise is based: God really dwells in the soul.
"God can be present in the soul in three different ways. First is His essence. This essential presence of of God is the lot not only of holy and virtuous souls, but also of those that are criminal and enslaved in mortal sins, and even of all creatures. God communicates being and life to them all; without Him, they would cease to exist and fall back into nothingness. The soul, therefore, never loses this presence. By the second kind of presence, which is sanctifying grace, God dwells in the soul and takes His delights there. All souls do not enjoy this presence; those that fall into mortal sin are deprived of it, and nobody can know, in a natural and certain manner, that he possesses it. Finally God makes Himself present in the soul by the effects of spiritual love, which become perceptible in pious souls in many different ways, filling them with consolations, delight and joy. Nevertheless, this kind of spiritual presence is veiled, like the preceding kinds, in which God does not show Himself such as He is, because the condition of this miserable life does not permit of it. The essential presence of God endows the soul with natural existence; His spiritual presence raises her to perfection." (Spiritual Canticle, St.I)

The soul is therefore assured that God is always present to her at least by His essence.

"In truth, the Word, the Son of God, dwells essentially with the Father and the Holy Ghost in the most intimate depth of the soul, where He hides Himself. The Prophet Isaiah addressing himself to the Lord, says: 'Thou art truly a hidden God' (45:15), God therefore dwells in secret in every soul, hidden in their substance. But He dwells there under very different conditions. He is in solitude with some, while with others He is not alone: He abides with pleasure here, but there He remains only with repugnance; with the one He is in His own house where He both reigns and governs at the same time, while with others He is as a stranger, in the house of another, in which He is not given the right to command or to act.
It is in the soul that has retained the least sensible appetites and natural taste that God dwells more perfectly alone, that he enjoys most consolation, and that He is more really as in His own house, where He directs and governs all things according to His good pleasure. He dwells there in a secrecy the more absolute as He is there more alone. Thus in that soul in which there are neither appetites, nor imaginations, nor forms of creatures, the Well-Beloved dwells in impenetrable secrecy. he causes her to enjoy a union closer and more intimate in proportion as she is more perfectly purified, more wholly disengaged from all that is not God. "
(Flame of Love, St 4)
Thus the soul that wishes to find God, must separate herself from all that is created, by her affection and will, and enter into herself by a recollection so profound that all creatures may be to her as if they did not exist. This is the reason why St Augustine (Sol. 40:31) speaking to God, as we read in the book of his Soliloquies, says: "I found Thee not, O Lord, outside myself: I was deceived in thus seeking Thee: I sought Thee not aright, since Thou wast in my interior". God is therefore hidden in the soul; it is there we must seek Him, with faith and with love, without wishing to find either satisfaction or joy in any created thing. Faith and love will be your guides; they will guide you by unknown paths, to the retreat where God dwells. (Spiritual Canticle, St I)
O most beautiful of the creatures of God, who desires so ardently to know the place where your Beloved is, in order to seek for Him and to unite yourself to Him, you are yourself the retreat where He shelters, the dwelling place where he hides Himself: a thing most consoling and calculating to fill with joy; your Beloved, your treasure, your only hope is so near you that he dwells with in you, and, in truth, you cannot be without Him. has not the divine Spouse declared: "The kingdom of God is within you'? (St Luke 17:21). And His servant St Paul adds: "You are the temple of god (2Cor 6:16). No, God never goes away from the soul, even when she is in mortal sin, much less when she is in the state of grace. How advantageous it is for her to understand this consoling truth! What more can you wish for or seek outside yourself, O Soul, since you possess in yourself your riches, your pleasures, your satisfactions, your satiety, your kingdom, that is to say, your Beloved, the object of your desires and search? Be glad and rejoice wit Him in your interior recollection, since He is so near you. Love Him, desire Him, adore Him and go not outside yourself to seek Him; that would distract you and fatigue you in vain, and you would not enjoy Him more certainly, more promptly, nor more intimately. (Flame of Love, St 4:3)

A sublime vision with which God favoured St Teresa, confirms the doctrine of Saint John of the Cross.

One day, while we were all assembled in the choir for the minor Hours, it pleased God to favour me with the following grace. Being profoundly recollected, I saw on a sudden my soul under the form of a bright mirror, without sides, without back, top to bottom, but brilliant in every part. In the centre our Lord Jesus appeared to me, as He usually does; yet I saw Him in all the parts of my soul as if He were there reflected; and this mirror of my soul, in its turn, I know not how, imprinted itself wholly in our Lord by an ineffable communication, but all full of love. I can affirm that this vision was very advantageous to me, and is still does me the greatest good every time I recall it, especially after communion. By means of the light that was given me, I saw how, from the moment a soul commits a mortal sin, this mirror is covered with a thick cloud and remains extremely black; so that our Lord cannot be represented nor seen therein, although He is always present in as much as He gives it existence. As to heretics, it is as if the mirror were broken, an incomparably greater misfortune than if it were merely obscured. There is a great difference between seeing this and saying it: one can only with great difficulty explain such a thing. I repeat, I have derived the most precious advantages from it; but how often also have I not been penetrated with sorrow, by the remembrance of the offences by which I have so often obscured my soul, and deprived myself of the sight of so good a Master.
This union is excellent, in my opinion, to teach persons who are habitually recollected, to consider our Lord in the most intimate part of their soul. The advantage of such a method is visible: it makes us find God in ourselves, without its being necessary to raise ourselves by our thoughts to heaven, thus sparing us an effort which fatigues the mind, distracts the soul, and makes us gather less fruit. (St Teresa Life Ch 40).

Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa add that there are souls arrived at a very high perfection, who constantly feel within them this real presence of God.

To the soul that has reached this high perfection, God is not hidden; she has perfect consciousness of Him, and ordinarily finds in Him ineffable delights. God resides without repugnance with those others, who are not yet arrived at perfect union; but as they are not yet entirely disposed for this eminent  favour, He dwells in the secretly. Moreover, ordinarily, they do not feel His presence, which is manifested only at certain intervals. (St John of the Cross 'Flame of Love' St 4, v3)

The first time that Saint Teresa experienced this presence of God in her soul, she was seized with astonishment, because she was ignorant of this doctrine of the real presence of God in us, and yet she could not doubt that she truly felt God in her soul. This is how she relates it:

I know a person (the Saint alludes to herself) who knew not that God was in all things by His essence, presence and power, and who, after being favoured by the grace of which I speak, believed it in the most unshaken manner. In vain did one of these half-learned men, of whom she asked who God was in us, and who knew not more than she herself before she was enlightened, asnswer her that God was in us only by His grace; she would not at all believe this answer, so sure was she of the truth. Afterwards she enquired of truly learned people, and as they confirmed her in her belief, she was very much consoled by it. (St Teresa, Interior Castle, 5th Mansion, Ch. I).

You must not think that this certitude has anything corporeal for its object, as in the case of the real though invisible body of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. No, nothing of the kind; there is question here only of the Divinty. But how, you may ask me, can we have so great a certitude of what we do not see? To that, I can only answer: it is one of the secret of the Omnipotence of God into which it is not for me to penetrate. Yet I am sure I speak the truth. Regarding these spiritual things, we are not to seek for reasons to know how they happen. Our mind not being capable of understanding them, we should torment ourselves uselessly. Let it suffice us to consider that the power of Him who works these wonders is infinite.
On this subject, I call to mind what the Spouse of the Canticle says: "The King introduced me into his cellars of wine". You see she does not say she entered them of herself. She again says "that she went everywhere seeking her Beloved." In my opinion, this mysterious winecellar is the centre of our soul, into which God introduces us when He pleases, but into which all our efforts could never give us entrance. I repeat that it belongs only to God to bring us there. The only concurrence He asks of us is, a will entirely submissive to His. O my daughters, what great things we should see, if we always kept our eyes open to our vileness and our misery, and if we learned to understand to understand that we are not worthy to be the servants of this great God whose perfections and marvels overwhelm our understandings! May He be praised for ever! Amen (St John of the Cross, 'Flame of Love', St 4, 2).

In her commentaries upon the "Our Father", at these words: "Who art in heaven", Saint Teresa develops admirably the doctrine of Saint John of the Cross.

"Let us follow the lesson of our divine Master, and see what he understands by these words: "Who art in heaven." Take great care, my daughters, not to think that it is of little importance to know what is in heaven, and where we must go to seek our tender and adorable Father. It is on the contrary of the greatest importance for those of distracted minds, not only to believe the truth contained in these words, but also to neglect nothing in order to have an experimental knowledge of it; for it is one of the considerations most apt to arrest the understanding and to bring the soul to recollection.
You already know that God is in every place: now, as wherever the king is, there is the court, so wherever God is, there is heaven. You can receive as an undoubted truth, that where His divine Majesty is, there will be found also all glory.
St Augustine tells us that after having long sought for God in the objects that surrounded him, he found Him at last within himself. Meditate upon this saying profoundly; for it is eminently useful to a soul that has difficulty in recollection, to understand such a truth: - to know that it is not necessary for her to rise herself to heaven to commune with her divine Father, and to find near Him her delights, nor to speak loudly to be heard by Him. He is so near to us that he hears the least movement of our lips, even the most secret word. We have no need of wings to seek Him; let us go into solitude and enter into ourselves; it is there He dwells. (St Teresa, "Way of perfection" Ch 29)
...more to follow...

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI message on the Feast of Immaculate Conception

...."What immense joy, we have, dear friends, for mother Mary Immaculate! said Pope Benedict. Whenever we experience our fragility and the suggestion of evil, we can turn to Her, and our heart receives light and comfort.

The Pope urged everyone to remember "during the trials of life that in which faith and hope are shaken, that we are Her children and that the roots of our existence lie in the infinite grace of God."....

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Our Lady of Guadelupe - Ora Pro Nobis! - click for link

"Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything."(Words of Our Lady to Juan Diego)

'Chronology of Events (1474-2002)' related to the Miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe HERE
Link to visit Our Lady of Guadelupe - Patroness of Americas website HERE

...The miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an unquestionable display of God's love and mercy for the Mexican and American people. As She converted the hearts of the Aztec Indians, so let Her convert our modern, worldly hearts to turn to Her and Her Son. Let us ask her help to restore modesty and decency and especially to bring about the end of the modern sacrifice of innocent humans to the altar of self-love, abortion. Let us foster devotion to this Noble Virgin and Mother in our life and the lives of others. Contemplating her, let us remember the following words of a prayer composed by Pope Pius XII, in which he declares the Virgin of Guadalupe the Empress of all the Americas: "For we are certain, that as long as you are recognized as Queen and Mother, Mexico and America will be safe."....

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Feast of St Juan Diego - click for link

Thousands of people gathered in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe July 31, 2002, for the canonization of Juan Diego, to whom the Blessed Mother appeared in the 16th century. He became the Church’s first saint indigenous to the Americas. First called Cuauhtlatohuac (“The eagle who speaks”), Juan Diego’s name is forever linked with Our Lady of Guadalupe because it was to him that she first appeared at Tepeyac hill on December 9, 1531. The most famous part of his story is told in connection with the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12). After the roses gathered in his tilma were transformed into the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, however, little more is said about Juan Diego. In time he lived near the shrine constructed at Tepeyac, revered as a holy, unselfish and compassionate catechist who taught by word and especially by example. Juan Diego was beatified in 1990 and twelve years later he was proclaimed a saint.

“Similar to ancient biblical personages who were collective representations of all the people, we could say that Juan Diego represents all the indigenous peoples who accepted the Gospel of Jesus, thanks to the maternal aid of Mary, who is always inseparable from the manifestation of her Son and the spread of the Church, as was her presence among the Apostles on the day of Pentecost” (from beatification homily).

Adopted from 'American Catholic'

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009


'Immaculate Conception' by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

 The Gospel says that a father left his house early one morning to find hired hands to work in his vineyard. Weren't there people already in that vineyard? Yes, Mary was there; she was born in that vineyard. And what is the vineyard? It is grace.

Yes, Mary was born in it, since she was conceived free of sin. As for us, we were called to it, the Father went looking for us; but Mary was always in it. Oh, such a beautiful worker! She is pure, unspoiled. The Good Lord could have created a more beautiful world than this one, but he could not have created a more perfect creature than Mary.
'St John Vianney and The Immaculate Conception' - after A Moment with Mary)

...God Ineffable -- whose ways are mercy and truth, whose will is omnipotence itself, and whose wisdom "reaches from end to end mightily, and orders all things sweetly" -- having foreseen from all eternity the lamentable wretchedness of the entire human race which would result from the sin of Adam, decreed, by a plan hidden from the centuries, to complete the first work of his goodness by a mystery yet more wondrously sublime through the Incarnation of the Word. This he decreed in order that man who, contrary to the plan of Divine Mercy had been led into sin by the cunning malice of Satan, should not perish; and in order that what had been lost in the first Adam would be gloriously restored in the Second Adam. From the very beginning, and before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for his only-begotten Son a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, he would be born into this world. Above all creatures did God so loved her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight. Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully....

...And indeed it was wholly fitting that so wonderful a mother should be ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness and so completely free from all taint of original sin that she would triumph utterly over the ancient serpent...

..The Church made it clear indeed that the conception of Mary is to be venerated as something extraordinary, wonderful, eminently holy, and different from the conception of all other human beings -- for the Church celebrates only the feast days of the saints...

..All are aware with how much diligence this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God has been handed down, proposed and defended by the most outstanding religious orders, by the more celebrated theological academies, and by very eminent doctors in the sciences of theology. All know, likewise, how eager the bishops have been to profess openly and publicly, even in ecclesiastical assemblies, that Mary, the most holy Mother of God, by virtue of the foreseen merits of Christ, our Lord and Redeemer, was never subject to original sin, but was completely preserved from the original taint, and hence she was redeemed in a manner more sublime....

...Even the Council of Trent itself, when it promulgated the dogmatic decree concerning original sin, following the testimonies of the Sacred Scriptures, of the Holy Fathers and of the renowned Council, decreed and defined that all men are born infected by original sin; nevertheless, it solemnly declared that it had no intention of including the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, in this decree and in the general extension of its definition....

...And indeed, illustrious documents of venerable antiquity, of both the Eastern and the Western Church, very forcibly testify that this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin, which was daily more and more splendidly explained, stated and confirmed by the highest authority, teaching, zeal, knowledge, and wisdom of the Church, and which was disseminated among all peoples and nations of the Catholic world in a marvelous manner -- this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine....

...These ecclesiastical writers in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced his merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind -- words by which he crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent and wondrously raised up the hope of our race, saying, "I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed"[Gn 3:15] -- taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold: That his most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of both against the evil one was significantly expressed. Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot....

...This sublime and singular privilege of the Blessed Virgin, together with her most excellent innocence, purity, holiness and freedom from every stain of sin, as well as the unspeakable abundance and greatness of all heavenly graces, virtues and privileges -- these the Fathers beheld in that ark of Noah, which was built by divine command and escaped entirely safe and sound from the common shipwreck of the whole world; [Gn 6:9] in the ladder which Jacob saw reaching from the earth to heaven, by whose rungs the angels of God ascended and descended, and on whose top the Lord himself leaned' [Gn 28:12] in that bush which Moses saw in the holy place burning on all sides, which was not consumed or injured in any way but grew green and blossomed beautifully;[Ex 3:2] in that impregnable tower before the enemy, from which hung a thousand bucklers and all the armor of the strong;[Sg 4:4] in that garden enclosed on all sides, which cannot be violated or corrupted by any deceitful plots;[Sg 4:12] as in that resplendent city of God, which has its foundations on the holy mountains;[Ps 87:1] in that most august temple of God, which, radiant with divine splendors, is full of the glory of God; [Is 6:1-4] and in very many other biblical types of this kind. In such allusions the Fathers taught that the exalted dignity of the Mother of God, her spotless innocence and her sanctity unstained by any fault, had been prophesied in a wonderful manner....

...In like manner did they use the words of the prophets to describe this wondrous abundance of divine gifts and the original innocence of the Virgin of whom Jesus was born. They celebrated the august Virgin as the spotless dove, as the holy Jerusalem, as the exalted throne of God, as the ark and house of holiness which Eternal Wisdom built, and as that Queen who, abounding in delights and leaning on her Beloved, came forth from the mouth of the Most High, entirely perfect, beautiful, most dear to God and never stained with the least blemish....

....When the Fathers and writers of the Church meditated on the fact that the most Blessed Virgin was, in the name and by order of God himself, proclaimed full of grace [Luke 1:28] by the Angel Gabriel when he announced her most sublime dignity of Mother of God, they thought that this singular and solemn salutation, never heard before, showed that the Mother of God is the seat of all divine graces and is adorned with all gifts of the Holy Spirit. To them Mary is an almost infinite treasury, an inexhaustible abyss of these gifts, to such an extent that she was never subject to the curse and was, together with her Son, the only partaker of perpetual benediction. Hence she was worthy to hear Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, exclaim: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."[Luke:1:28]...

After Apostolic Constitution "Ineffabilis Deus" issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854.

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History of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and Franciscan Champions of the Dogma

"It is unjust to pass over the immense share which... the Order of St. Francis of Assisi, has had in the earthly triumph of our blessed Mother, the Queen of heaven and earth. As often as this feast of the Immaculate Conception comes round, is it not just that we should think with reverence and gratitude on him, who was the first theologian that showed how closely connected with the divine mystery of the Incarnation is this dogma of the Immaculate Conception? First, then, all honour to the name of the pious and learned Blessed John Duns Scotus"  [Dom Prosper Gueranger "The Liturgical Year"]

Bl John Duns Scotus - defender of the dogma of Immaculate Conception

On clicking HERE we will find a brief biography of Bl. John Duns Scotus, Franciscan Priest and Theologian of the Thirteenth Century. Next to St. Bonaventure, Bl. John is perhaps the most important and influential theologian in the history of the Franciscan Order. He was the founder of the Scotistic School in Theology, and until the time of the French Revolution his thought dominated the Roman Catholic faculities of theology in nearly all the major universities of Europe. He is best known for his theology on the Absolute Kingship of Jesus Christ, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his philosophic refutation of evolution. He was a student of another great Franciscan theologian and Mariologist, William of Ware, who set forth an argument based on God's ability to do anything and the fittingness of doing it. William of Ware argued that God could create a sinless being: "What he could do, it was fitting that He should do so and from this it follows that He did do it; for the Son should honor the Mother".

Bl John Duns Scotus was a faithful student of William and taught at prominent Universities of Oxford and Paris. He argued that the most perfect form of mediation would be to preserve another from sin. According to Scotus, this is what Christ did: "The most perfect mediator exercises the most perfect act of mediation possible with respect to some person for whom he mediates; therefore Christ had the most perfect form of mediation possible with respect to someone for whom He was Mediator. But for no one did He exercise a more excellent form of mediation than for Mary....But this would not be so if He had not merited to preserve her from original sin." And also: "It is a more excellent benefit to preserve a person from evil than to permit him to fall into it and then deliver him from it."

John Scotus maintains that Mary has received a greater redemption from Christ rather than less redemption: Mary would have had the greatest need of Christ as Redeemer; for by reason of her procreation, which followed the common mode, she would have contracted original sin had she not been kept from it by the grace of the Mediator, and just as others are in need of Christ for the remission, by his merit, of sin which they have already contracted, so Mary would have been in still greater need of a Mediator preventing her from contracting sin."  Scotus' arguments are based on God's sovereign power. To read the fascinating history of the dogma of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, follow the LINK

In a biography of Blessed John, written by the Franciscan Friars, we read about the occasion when the Immaculate Conception herself appeared to the theologian: "During the night of Christmas, 1299 at the Oxford Convent, Bl. John, immersed in his contemplation of the adorable mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, was rapt in ecstasy. The Blessed Mother appeared to him and placed on his arms the Child Jesus who kissed and embraced him fondly. This was perhaps the occasion which inspired Bl. John to write so profoundly and fluently on the absolute primacy of Christ and the reason for the Incarnation. Christ's Incarnation, which is decreed from all eternity even apart from the Redemption, is the supreme created manifestation of God's love.

It was also in Paris that Bl. John came to be called as the "Marian Doctor" after he championed the privelge of Mary's Immaculate Conception. In England, Bl. John taught the truth of this Marian privilege without any opposition. But at Paris the situation was reversed. The academic body of the University admitted only the purification of Mary in the womb of Her mother St. Anne, like St. John the Baptist. Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Parisian Masters, were not able to solve the problem of the universality of original sin and of  the efficacy of Christ's Redemption. They thought that even the Blessed Virgin Mary was included in this universality, and therefore subject to contract the original stain even if only for an instant, so that she may also be redeemed. Scotus in his attempt to introduce and teach a theological position different from that upheld by the university, had to appear in a public dispute before the whole academic body, at the risk of expulsion from the university if he failed to defend his doctrine. Bl. John Scotus prepared himself for the event in prayer and recollection and in total confidence to the Immaculate Virgin, the Seat of Wisdom.

When the fixed day of the dispute arrived, on leaving the convent, he passed before a statue of Our Lady and with suppliant voice entreated her: "Allow me to praise You, O Most Holy Virgin; give me strength against your enemies." Our Lady responded with a prodigious visible sign: the head of the statue moved and bowed slightly before him. It was as if to say: "Yes I will give you all the strength you need."

Two Papal legates presided over the dispute. Then with powerful dialectic and with deep and subtle reasoning, Bl. Scotus refuted all the objections of the learned men in attendance, undermining the foundation of every argument contrary to Mary's Immaculate Conception. Bl. John Scotus pointed out: "The Perfect Redeemer, must in some case, have done the work of redemption most perfectly, which would not be, unless there is some person, at least, in whose regard, the wrath of God was anticipated and not merely appeased." Bl. John triumphed. From that day the University of Paris took up the same cause to defend this privilege of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We need to remember today another devoted servant of Immaculate Mary, St Maximilan Kolbe, founder of Militia Immaculata. Short biographical note may be found HERE
I will conclude this post with beautiful words from St Maximilian: "Truly, the Immaculate is the work of God and, like any work of God, she is less than Him, without comparison, and she depends completely on her Creator. However, she is God's most perfect, and simplest work. According to Saint Bonaventure, God could have created a larger, more perfect world, but He could never have made anything worthier than Mary."

Text based on various sources.

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More details on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary HERE

We knew thee to be free from stain
As is the sun's white beam;
We knew God's Mother must be great 
Above what we could dream - Fr Faber

And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Apoc 12:1)

Behold, thou art fair, O my love; behold, thou art fair. (Cant 1:14)

Thou was perfect in thy ways from the day of thy creation. (Ezec 27:15)

Thou wast in the pleasures of the paradise of God, and every precious stone was thy covering: the sardious, the topaz, and the jasper, the chrysolite, and the onyx, and the beryl, the sapphire, and the carbuncle, and the emerald; gold the work of thy beauty...Thou wast a cherub stretched out, and protecting, and I set thee in the holy mountain of God. (Ezec 27: 13, 14)

Thou art all fair, O My love, and there is not a spot on thee. (Cant 4:7)

WHAT a joy it must have been to the angels and the whole heavenly court to see Mary's soul, which had gone forth radiantly fair from the hand of Creator, return to Him, after a sojourn of sixty or seventy years in this wicked world, not only unspotted by a single stain, but with its beauty and brilliancy increased to an almost incredible degree! And might not Mary have said, what Judith said to the ancients of Israel:  "As the same Lord liveth, His angel hath been my keeper both going hence and abiding there, and returning from thence hither; and the Lord hath not suffered me, His handmaid, to be defiled, but hath brought me back to you without pollution of sin, rejoicing by His victory for my escape and for uor deliverance"? Yes, dearest Mother, thy joy is threefold. Thy sinlessness is a triumph for God's power and goodness, an honour for thyself, and a glory for the whole human race. Thou art indeed the glory of thy people. And we, what can we say of ourselves? Though we were not, it is true, conceived without sin, did we not received a spotless robe of grace at our baptism? Have we not had one of God's angels ever at our side throughout life? Shall we be able to give back our souls unstained to their Creator, and adorned with many graces?
O sinless Mother, obtain for us that, at any rate, they may be washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and purified by tears of contrition. God has said that, though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow, if we cease to do evil and learn to do well. So, Queen conceived without sin, pray for us that we, as children of the Church, Christ's spotless Bride, may have a holy emulation to keep souls unsullied by actual sin, wilful sin. Help us to conquer our evil inclinations, to do penance for the past, that when invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb in the heavenly kingdom, we may be found clothed with the nuptial garment and adorned with the virtues befitting our state.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Raccolta's Novena Prayer for the Feast of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary starts today, 29th Nov - 7th Dec - click for link

Praying Novena in honour of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the great tradition in the RC Church and pleasing to God. There are several version of this Novena, shorter Novena Prayer or a longer Novena Prayer. It may be of interest to mention that in France, the Great Novena to the Immaculate Conception is held annually since 1936. For more info about this Novena Prayer click HERE

Click for link toAdvent-Seasonal Devotion

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Second Sunday of Advent

THE Office of this Sunday is filled, from beginning to end, with the sentiments of hope and joy, with which the soul should be animated at the glad tidings of the speedy coming of Him who is her Saviour and Spouse. The interior coming, that which is effected in the soul, is the almost exclusive object of the Church's prayers for this day: let us therefore open our hearts, let us prepare our lamps, and await in gladness that cry, which will be heard in the midnight: `Glory be to God! Peace unto men!'

The Roman Church makes the Station today in the basilica of Holy-Cross-in-Jerusalem. It was in this venerable church that Constantine deposited a large piece of the true cross, together with the title which was fastened to it by Pilate's order, and which proclaimed the kingly character of the Saviour of the world. These precious relics are still kept there; and, thus enriched with such a treasure, the basilica of Holy-Cross-in-Jerusalem is looked upon, in the Roman liturgy, as Jerusalem itself, as is evident from the allusions made in the several Masses of the Stations held in that basilica. In the language of the sacred Scriptures and of the Church, Jerusalem is the image of the faithful soul; and the Office and Mass of this Sunday have been drawn up on this idea, as the one of the day. We regret not to be able here to develop the sublime beauty of this figure; and must proceed at once to the passage, which the Church has selected from the prophet Isaias. There she tells her children how well founded are her hopes in the merciful and peaceful reign of the Messiah. But first let us adore this divine Messiah:

Come, let us adore the King, our Lord, who is to come.

From the Prophet Isaias; Ch. 9

And there shall come forth a branch out of the rod of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the Spirit of knowledge and of godliness: and he shall be filled with the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears: but he shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. And justice shall be the girdle of his loins, and faith the girdle of his reins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: the calf and the lion and the sheep shall abide together, and a little child shall lead them. The calf and the bear shall feed: their young ones shall rest together: and the lion shall eat straw like an ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp: and the weaned child shall thrust his hand into the den of the basilisk. They shall not hurt, nor shall they kill in all my holy mountain: for the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the covering waters of the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulcher shall be glorious.

How much is contained in these magnificent words of the prophet! The branch; the flower that is to come from it; the Spirit which rests on this flower; the seven gifts of this Spirit; peace and confidence established on the earth; and, throughout the world, one brotherhood in the kingdom of the Messias! St. Jerome, whose words are read by the Church in the lessons of the second nocturn of this Sunday, says that the branch which cometh forth from the root of Jesse, is the blessed Virgin Mary, who had contact with no shrub or plant; and that the flower is the Lord Jesus, who says in the Canticle of canticles: `I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valley.' In every ago of the Christian Church, this wonderful branch and its divine flower have been objects of enthusiastic veneration. In the middle ages the tree of Jesse, with its prophetic branches, was carved on the cathedral porches, was painted on the windows, was embroidered on the hangings of the sanctuary, and the melodious voice of the priests sang its praises in the beautiful responsory composed by Fulbert of Chartres, and put to music by the devout king Robert.

R. The root of Jesse gave out a branch, and the branch a flower; * and on the flower resteth the holy Spirit.

V. The Virgin Mother of God is the branch, her Son the flower. * And on the flower resteth the holy Spirit.

The devout St. Bernard, commenting upon this responsory in his second Advent homily, says: `The Virgin's Son is the flower, a flower white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands; a flower on whom the angels love to look; a flower whose fragrance restores the dead; a flower, as himself assures us, of the field, not of a garden: for the flowers of the field bloom without man's care, no man has sown their seed, no man has cultivated them. Just so the Virgin's womb, a meadow verdant in an endless spring, has brought forth a flower, whose beauty will never droop, whose freshness will never fade. O Virgin, branch sublime, to what a height art thou grown! Even up to Him that sitteth on the throne, even to the Lord of majesty. It was sure to be so, for thou castest deep down the roots of humility. O plant of heaven indeed! precious above all, holier than all. O tree of life indeed! alone worthy to bear the fruit of salvation.'

And of the holy Spirit and His gifts, what shall we say? They rest and are poured out on the Messiah only to the end that they may flow from Him upon us; He needs them not; but we alone need wisdom and understanding, counsel and fortitude, knowledge and godliness, and fear of the Lord. Let us ask with instance for this divine Spirit, by whose operation Jesus was conceived and born in Mary's womb, and let us beg of Him to form Jesus within our hearts. But let us not forget to rejoice at those other glorious things which are told us by the prophet, of the happiness, and peace, and delights, which are to be on the holy mountain. The world has been looking so many ages for peace; it is now coming. Sin had caused enmity and division everywhere; grace will bring unity. A little Child will be the pledge of an alliance between all nations. The prophets have foretold it, the sibyl has announced it, and in Rome itself, buried as it is in paganism, the prince of Latin poets has sung the celebrated poem, which, after all, is but the voice of the old tradition: `The last age foretold by the Cumean Sibyl, is at hand; a new race is being sent down to earth from high heaven. The flock shall no more fear the fierce lions. The serpent shall be no more: the treacherous plant, which yielded poison, shall grow no more.'

Come then, O Messiah, and restore to the world its primitive peace; but remember, we beseech Thee, that it is in the heart of man that harmony has been broken more than elsewhere in Thy creation: cure this heart, enter into possession of this Jerusalem, which Thou lovest, though so unworthy: she has been too long captive in Babylon; lead her out of this strange land. Build up her temple again, and make the glory of this second temple to be greater than that of the first, by having Thee to dwell in it, not in figure, but in the reality of Thy adorable Person. The angel said to Mary: 'The Lord God shall give unto thy Son the throne of David His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.' What can we do, O Jesus, but say with Thy beloved disciple, at the close of his prophecy: `Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!'

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew; Ch. 9.

At that time: When John had heard in prison the works of Christ, sending two of his disciples, he said to him: Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another? And Jesus making answer, said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the Gospel preached to them: and blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me. And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitude, concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings. But what went you out to see? A prophet? Yea, I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.
Thou art He that was to come, O Jesus! We look for no other. We were blind, Thou hast enlightened us; we were lame, Thou hast made us walk; the leprosy of sin disfigured us, Thou hast cleansed us; we were deaf to Thy words, Thou hast given us hearing; we were dead in sin, Thou hast given us life again; we were poor and had none to care for us, Thou hast come to us with every aid and consolation. These have been, and will again be, the blessings of Thy visit to our souls, O Jesus! A visit, silent but wonderful in its work; which flesh and blood cannot understand, but which faithful hearts feel is granted them. Come, my Saviour, come to me, Thy condescension, and familiarity with such poverty as mine, shall not scandalize me; Thy workings in the souls of men are proof enough that Thou art God. He alone, that created souls, can heal them.

After the symbol of faith has been chanted, when you see the priest is about to make the offering of the bread and wine, unite with the Church in asking to be filled with life by the divine Guest, who is so soon to be with her.

Today's picture is Samuel van Hoogstraten "St. John the Baptist in prison receives Christ's answer"(Matt 2:2,6)
Text after Dom Proper Gueranger "The Liturgical Year"

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