Tag Archives: saints

Taking Mary’s Hand

23 Oct

33 Days“Hold hands in the parking lot.”

If you spend any time with my family, you will inevitably hear my wife or me say these words to our daughter Maggie as we are coming out of the grocery store, restaurant, or even church. As her parents, we are well aware of the potential hazards that lie in wait as we make our way back to our van. Maggie’s temptation is to dart full speed ahead into the vast expansion of cars.

Could Maggie make it all the way to the van by herself in the midst of the busy parking lot? Perhaps, but we would rather not take the chance. Knowing our daughter, even if she did not get hit by a car, she would probably get lost. We don’t like either of those options. The safest, quickest, and surest path back home is for Maggie to take mom’s hand and allow mom to guide her back home.

That’s exactly what Marian consecration is all about. As children of God, we take the outstretched hand of Mary and let her guide us safely to our eternal home in heaven. In other words, we entrust the entirety of our life to Mary, the Mother of God. Our Blessed Mother promises to keep us safe from spiritual harm and prevent us from getting distracted and losing our way. Who wants to wonder around for hours trying to find the way?

Consecrating oneself and one’s family may sound like a difficult thing that requires a great level of already-attained holiness, but actually the opposite is true. It is a simple journey for the simple-hearted who simply want to be holy, not for those who already are holy. If it seems fancy and out of reach for you and the craziness of your busy life, then maybe it is exactly what the doctor ordered, or at least the physician of our souls. In the craziness of contemporary life, giving oneself to Mary is the way to go.

We love efficiency in America. We love a good deal. We love a guaranteed return on our investment.

Yes, Americans love efficiency. We place a high value on maximizing our effort. We have built some of the greatest factories that have mastered the way to bring about the standardization of quality products in the shortest amount of time.

With Marian consecration, Mary is the factory that turns all of her devoted children into “quality products.” What is the “quality product” that Mary produces? Mary turns her devoted children into “little Christs.” Mary accomplishes this much quicker than we can on our own because, simply put, she knows the end result much better than we do. The mother knows the Son, and knows how to help us be more like Him.

Yes, Americans love a good deal. With Mary, what is the great deal we receive, and what does it cost us to get it? We receive the promise of the sure guidance of the Queen of Heaven! In exchange, Mary simply asks us to place our trust in her. My little act of trust and commitment to the Mother of God gains me her prayers and maternal love. It would be crazy not to accept that deal!

Yes, Americans love a guaranteed return on their investment. With Mary, we have the guarantee from the Spouse of the Holy Spirit that she will honor the gift we make of ourselves and transform us into who God created us to be–and frankly, who we desire to be. Her track record is pretty good. To name a few, she multiplied the investment of four important saints in the recent history of the Church: St. Louis Marie de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.

I choose these four saints because they are the focus of Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book, 33 Days to Morning Glory. In his book, Fr. Gaitley takes the writings and insights of these saints and translates them into a common language for all of us to understand and implement into our daily lives.

On December 8, 2014, Archbishop Naumann is inviting and encouraging all Catholics of the Archdiocese to consecrate themselves and their families to Mary. The Archbishop is recommending this wonderful book by Fr. Gaitley as a means of preparation for the consecration day. If you get the book, which is only $2, you will see that the 33 days of preparation will change the trajectory of your life and family. If you have 10-15 minutes a day, you can do this! My wife, Libby, and I just used this book to renew our consecration to Mary this past August, and we found it refreshingly practical in its application to family life. It was like taking a breath of fresh air every day from the craziness of our schedules. It deepened our already good marriage, and it rooted us more deeply in our Catholic faith.

Think of it as a 33-day retreat that allows Mary to prepare you for a great awakening in your spiritual life and the life and a release of joy into your family.

Guest columnist Brad DuPont is a consultant for the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

St. Robert Bellarmine on the Eucharist

17 Sep

St. BobToday is the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine. In honor of his feast, I thought I would once again share with our readers this excerpt from St. Robert’s teaching on the Eucharist:

Take and eat: This is My Body. Weigh carefully, dear brethren, the force of those words. . . .

Suppose a prince promised one of you a hundred gold pieces, and in fulfillment of his word sent a beautiful sketch of the coins, I wonder what you would think of his liberality? And suppose that when you complained, the donor said, “Sir, your astonishment is out of place, as the painted coins you received may very properly be considered true crowns by the figure of speech called metonymy,” would not everybody feel that he was making fun of you and your picture?

Now Our Lord promised to give us His flesh for our food. The bread which I shall give you, He said, is My flesh for the life of the world. If you argue that the bread may be looked on as a figure of His flesh, you are arguing like the prince and making a mockery of God’s promises. A wonderful gift indeed that would be, in which Eternal Wisdom, Truth, Justice, and Goodness deceived us, its helpless pensioners, and turned our dearest hopes to derision.

That I may show you how just and righteous is the position we hold, let us suppose that the last day has come and that our doctrine of the Eucharist has turned out to be false and absurd. Our Lord now asks us reproachfully: “Why did you believe thus of My Sacrament? Why did you adore the host?” may we not safely answer him: “O Lord, if we were wrong in this, it was You who deceived us. We heard Your word, THIS IS MY BODY, and was it a crime for us to believe You? We were confirmed in our mistake by a multitude of signs and wonders which could have had You only for their author. Your Church with one voice cried out to us that we were right, and in believing as we did we but followed in the footsteps of all Your saints and holy ones . . .

The Other Lawrence

21 Jul

St. Lawrence of BrindisiToday is the feast of St. Lawrence of Brindisi. When reference is made to a “St. Lawrence,” however, we are usually referring to the third-century deacon and martyr who is even mentioned in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I). This latter St. Lawrence, given his special patronage of those who barbecue, is indeed a fine summertime saint in his own right, but his feast isn’t till next month.

Today’s St. Lawrence (1559-1619) was a Capuchin Franciscan priest who led, even by secular standards, a most remarkable life. One commentator has gone so far as to call him “the greatest man and the greatest saint yet produced by the Capuchin Franciscan Order.” Surely the excellence of his preaching was recognized by Blessed John XXIII, who named him a Doctor of the Church in 1959.

In 2002-03, I published in Lay Witness a series of 12 articles on the Marian teachings of St. Lawrence of Brindisi. Most if not all of these are currently available in the Lay Witness archives. These particular writings were translated into English for the first time by Joseph Almeida, professor of classics at Franciscan University of Steubenville. To view these articles, click here and browse the 2002 and 2003 issues.

I’d like to close with the beautiful Opening Prayer for today’s feast:

O God, who for the glory of your name and the salvation of souls bestowed on the Priest Saint Lawrence of Brindisi a spirit of counsel and fortitude, grant, we pray, that in the same spirit, we may know what must be done and, through his intercession, bring it to completion. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Vocation of St. John the Baptist

24 Jun

nativity of john the baptistToday is the 13th birthday of my son Samuel John. It’s also the liturgical feast of the Birth (or “Nativity”) of St. John the Baptist. It’s one of the three birthdays set aside for special celebration in the Church, the others of course being the Birth of Jesus (Christmas) on December 25th, and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th (nine months after the Immaculate Conception).

I thought I would refer our readers to this 2007 article at Catholic Exchange on the birth of St. John the Baptist. I especially appreciate the author’s focus on St. John’s vocation as it unfolded throughout the life of the herald of the Messiah:

“John was given a mission, a vocation, while still a mere babe. It would be many years before he would carry it out. He still would have needed help preparing for it. John would have needed his mother and father to help him learn about the faith of his ancestors, in coming to know of the God of Abraham and His relationship with the people of Israel. He would have needed someone to help him learn his prayers and all that the Scriptures contained. In other words, I imagine Zechariah and Elizabeth had an important part to play in helping their son discern what God was calling him to do.”

This reflection reminds all of us who are Catholic parents of the immense dignity and responsibility we have as “vocation directors” in the home.

 

Lyre, Lyre, Sanctifier

9 Jun

St. EphremToday the universal Church celebrates the feast of St. Ephrem the Syrian, a fourth-century doctor of the Church.

Of all the doctors of the Church, St. Ephrem is the only one who was what we would today call a “permanent deacon.” With the establishment of the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in recent years, it seem especially fitting to take a closer look at St. Ephrem today.

Early in life, this fascinating saint attended the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325) and ran a catechetical school in Nisibis, which was in Syria. After the Persians annexed the area, Ephrem was a refugee, and he ended up as a monk and deacon in Edessa, in present-day Turkey.

St. Ephrem is known as the “Lyre of the Holy Spirit” because of the beautiful hymns he composed. He is the most famous of the Syriac Fathers of the Church, and in addition to his hymns he wrote many works of a biblical and apologetic character. Continue reading

Son of Encouragement

13 May

A significant figure in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is St. Barnabas.

This saint is of particular significance to my family, as we named a child whom we miscarried 15 years ago Barnabas, and every year on his feast day (June 11) we especially remember the gift of this precious child, even though we never got to hold him in this life.

It’s intriguing that St. Barnabas, the companion of St. Paul, is honored by the Church as an “apostle,” even though he was not one of the Twelve (nor an official “substitute” like Matthias, whose feast we celebrate tomorrow). Surely as a first-generation Christian leader who was sent on missionary journeys to Cyprus, Perga, Iconium, and Lystria, and possibly even to Rome and Alexandria, among other places, his title is well-deserved (cf. Acts 14:14).

In Acts 4:36 we learn that he was given his name by the apostles, and that it means “son of encouragement.” Later, in the portion of Acts chosen for today’s Mass, we read that when St. Barnabas arrived in Antioch and found the faith alive among the people, he rejoiced and then, true to his name, he “encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:23-24).

We who are catechists, who strive to be good men and women, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith, do well to imitate St. Barnabas as we encourage our students and families to “remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart.”

We then hear that St. Barnabas went and tracked down Saul (St. Paul) and the two of them “for a whole year” devoted themselves to teaching “a large number of people”–presumably those who had already been “added to the Lord.” In other words, they devoted themselves to the noble work of catechesis. And their work bore great fruit: In Antioch the disciples were called “Christians” for the first time!

St. Barnabas, pray for us!

St. Isidore of Seville

4 Apr

IsidoreMany years ago, a young man for whom I served as Confirmation sponsor and his wife were expecting a baby this time of year. Their last name is “Wall.” When I suggested that they name their child after today’s saint, Isidore of Seville, this young man famously responded, “Isidore . . . a Wall?”

Not to be confused with St. Isidore the Farmer, St. Isidore of Seville was a learned bishop and doctor of the Church who lived around the turn of the seventh century.

One story associated with St. Isidore is that, despite his obvious intellectual gifts as an adult, he struggled as a young student. One day things got so bad for Isidore that he ran away from home and from school. His brother Leander, some twenty years older than he, was his teacher, and a very demanding one. (Leander would nonetheless eventually become a bishop and saint.) While Isidore sat by himself out in the woods, he watched some drops of water falling on a rock. Then he noticed that the dripping water had worn a hole in the hard rock! The thought came to him that he could do what the little drops of water did. Little by little, by sticking to it, he could learn all his brother demanded, and maybe even more.

In more recent years St. Isidore has grown in popularity because some people have suggested that he should be named the patron saint of the Internet. That’s because St. Isidore wrote a 20-book collection called Etymologies, or The Origins, in which he tried to record everything that was known in his time. It was considered the encyclopedia of all human knowledge for over 1000 years. His search to record knowledge and make it available clearly foreshadows the purpose of the Internet.

St. Isidore, pray for us!

Spirit-Filled Evangelizers

24 Mar

Pope Francis 4In the final chapter of his apostolic exhortation on the joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium, or “EG”), Pope Francis exhorts us to be bold, Spirit-filled evangelizers. He calls all of us to proclaim the Gospel “not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence” (EG 259). To that end, he shares with us his thoughts on the proper spirit of the new evangelization (EG 260), yet recognizing that his words of encouragement can only go so far. We must allow our hearts to be set on fire by the Holy Spirit! (EG 261).

The Holy Father offers some reasons for a renewed missionary impulse in our time. He is looking for a new generation of evangelizers who are truly willing to “pray and work” (EG 262). He especially encourages Eucharistic adoration, but then he expects the faithful to leave the adoration chapel ready to be a blessing to others in their need.

Every period of history poses its own unique challenges to those who would be missionaries. Yet there is much that we can and must learn from the saints of previous generations, “who were filled with joy, unflagging courage, and zeal in proclaiming the Gospel” (EG 263).

The Pope emphasizes that the primary reason for evangelization is the love of Jesus—a love that urges us to love Him more deeply in return and to share that love with others (EG 264). We need to implore His grace daily, begging that our love may not grow cold or lukewarm. We must spend time with Jesus. In that regard, the Holy Father especially encourages us to slowly contemplate the pages of the Gospel, reading it from the heart.

Our enthusiasm for evangelization is based on the conviction that the Gospel responds to a universal hunger for God (EG 265). We must sustain this conviction by constantly renewing and savoring our own friendship with Jesus. The Pope pointedly notes that a true missionary never ceases to be a disciple. Further, he warns that “a person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain, and in love will convince nobody” (EG 266). A missionary must be willing to set aside all other motivations and agendas and “evangelize for the greater glory of the Father who loves us” and who sent His only Son to redeem us (EG 267).

God saves us as a people, and His love extends to all. Evangelization must entail entering others’ lives. We simply can’t be evangelists if we don’t have a passion for God’s people (EG 268). Rather than keep ourselves at arm’s length, Our Lord wants us “to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others” (EG 270).

The Holy Father stresses that we must truly become men and women “of the people” (EG 271) and not their critic or enemy. He quotes several Scripture passages that exhort us to live humbly and peaceably with others, always seeking to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Living this way is not an “extra” or part of our “job,” but rather part of our deepest identity 24/7 (EG 273). Every person has inestimable dignity and value, and therefore every person is eminently worthy of our giving (EG 274).

We must avoid getting caught up in the pursuit of selfish comforts or pleasures, which the Pope says can easily occur when we do not have a deep spiritual life (EG 275). When that happens, we lose hope and are fooled into believing that things are not going to change—even though Jesus Christ has definitively triumphed over sin and death!

Instead, Christ must always be the wellspring of our hope. We do well to remember that the Resurrection is not merely an event in the distant past, but rather is an ongoing reality that has power in the present (EG 276). If we rely on our own steam rather than the power of the Resurrection, we will grow weary and eventually give up (EG 277). While we don’t always see tangible results from our evangelistic labors, the Pope says we have an interior certainty that God is always mysteriously at work, allowing our efforts to bear fruit in His good time (EG 279-80).

The Pope concludes this section with some reflections on the missionary power of intercessory prayer, through which we seek the good of others (EG 281). Authentic prayer opens us up to others, leading us to be grateful for the gift of others (cf. Romans 1:8), as we become more conscious of what God is doing in their lives. Our prayer frees us from self-absorption and opens us to others’ needs (EG 282). Our prayers of intercession allow God’s power, love, and faithfulness to shine ever more clearly in the midst of His people (EG 283).

The Beloved Disciple

27 Dec

Over 20 years ago I attended St. John (the Evangelist) Seminary in Southern California. On the parking circle there was a huge statue of St. John holding a pen in his hand. And that makes sense, since John wrote five of the 27 books of the New Testament: his Gospel, three letters, and the Book of Revelation. But the seminarians jokingly suggested that St. John was actually holding a dart that was aimed at the office of the rector of the seminary.

So much for private interpretation!

The Church has always identified the Apostle John as the author of the fourth Gospel and as the “beloved disciple” described in that Gospel. This common belief is richly reflected in the Church’s liturgy.

That’s why the universal Church celebrates today the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. The readings, prayers, and antiphons unmistakably reflect the belief of the Church concerning these issues. For example, one of the antiphons for morning prayer on this feast day provides: “John, the apostle and evangelist, a virgin chosen by the Lord, was loved by the Lord above the others.”

There are sound biblical and historical arguments as well for the identification of St. John as the author of the fourth Gospel and the “beloved disciple.” Continue reading

Creation Matters

4 Oct

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most beloved saints in all of Christendom, and now the patron saint and inspiration of our new Holy Father.

No religious figure is as closely tied with nature as St. Francis. He is the patron saint of animals, zoos, ecology, the environment, and peace, among other things. When we think of him, we’re more likely to call to mind “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” and not an apologetics debate or Church politics. I like to think there’s a little St. Francis in all of us–hence the recurring joke that even God doesn’t know how many Franciscans there are in the world.

So today is a great day to look at some of the issues that resonate with our “inner Francis.” For example, where do we stand as Catholics when it comes to going “green”? And what about animal rights? PETA surely seems to be over the top, but don’t we condemn cruelty to animals? What principles should form our approach to the environment? To the animal kingdom? WWSFS? (What would St. Francis say?) Continue reading