Saint of the Month: St. Mark Ji Tianxiang

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Watching EWTN’s daily Mass with my Mom, we learned about an unique Saint with a profound story and witness. My monthly NFP update involves drug reactions; therefore, I decided to chose a saint of the month that lived heroic virtue in the face of unthinkable odds. St. Mark Ji Tianxiang died a martyr and an active opium addict. How does an active drug addict barred from the sacraments become a canonized saint? Heroic virtue.

A once respectable Chinese Christian with resources and educational advantages during 19th century China, Ji’s successful medical career including caring for the poor pro bono. He was a leader in the Chinese Christian community- respected and admired. He developed a volatile, painful stomach ailment which he self-treated with the treatment of the period- opium. This approved medical treatment turned into a full-fledged addiction. His life circumstances deteriorated under the weight of his addiction.

Ji fought against his addiction. He attended confession regularly. The cultural mindset and misunderstanding of the 19th century that drug addiction was not a disease but rather a lack of will caused his confessor to doubt his intention to sin no more and his resolve to repent (without the resolve to sin no more & repent the confession is invalid.) Since he kept confessing the same sin, the priest doubted his resolve to do better. After a few years, Ji’s confessor instructed him not to return until he could fulfill the requirements for confession. Drug abuse is sinful behavior, but drug abuse also is a complex disease of the mind and body. A concept unknown in the 19th century.

Ji didn’t abandon his faith. He couldn’t remain sober, but he could still be present with Our Lord. For 30 years (yes, you read that right) . . . 30 years Ji went to Mass unable to receive the sacraments due to his opium addiction. For 30 years, he prayed for a martyr’s death for he believed in that way only could he be saved.

The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 broke out. Chinese nationalists known as the Boxers, or the Militia United in Righteousness, expelled missionaries and persecuted Christians across China. Thirty-two thousand Chinese Christians and 200 foreign missionaries were killed. Ji and many of his village’s Christians, including his son, 6 grandkids, and 2 daughter-in-laws, were rounded up by authorities based on their Christian belief. Even while waiting in prison for their execution, Ji couldn’t break his addiction. Still, he was granted a heroic sense of perseverance.

Once taken to their place of execution, he begged his captures to execute him last so none of his family members would die alone. He stood beside all nine members of his family as they were beheaded. He went to his death singing the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was canonized on October 1, 2000 by St. John Paul II.

St. Mark Ji Tianxiang is a beautiful witness to the profound mystery of God’s mercy and how our sufferings can be turned into something profoundly good. His testimony to unwavering perseverance in his faith should kindle a fire in all our hearts. His witness brings hope to those suffering from addictions. May we all rely and believe in Christ’s mercy like St. Mark Ji.

St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, pray for us.

Feast Day: July 9th

 

 

 

 

On the Christian Meaning of Suffering

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

BE NOT AFRAID. I decided to return once more to the 1984 Apostolic Letter written by St. JP II titled Salvifici Doloris: On the Christian Meaning of Suffering that addressed the ever present question of suffering: why, what, and how? God transformed even something not part of His original design for humanity (suffering, pain, death, dying, etc.) into a means for transcendence: faith, hope, and charity.

We fear suffering. I can emphatically state in my greatest moments of suffering and the  suffering of my loved ones, I felt closest to heaven- the veil was lifted. Our suffering, united with Christ, can become salvific. “Suffering seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is deep as man himself, precisely because in its own way that depth which is proper to man, and in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense “destined” to go beyond himself (3).”

We fear weakness. Weakness means vulnerability & lack of control. Christ chooses weakness as the vehicle for salvation. “To Suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God . . . In [Christ], God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering . . . and wishes to have his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self (74).”

We fear the acquisition of virtue. Striving is the key word when acquiring virtue. Virtue acquisition takes hard work and doesn’t always “pay-off” in this life. “Suffering contains a special call to virtue . . . and this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintain him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity liked to the awareness of the meaning of life (75).”

We fear purgation. Purgation leads to heaven. God calls you and I to redeem ourselves and the world in our little way. “The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly the words of this strange paradox: the springs of divine power gush forth precisely in the midst of human weakness. . . The more a person is threatened by sin, the heavier the structure of sin in which today’s world brings with it, the greater the eloquence which human suffering possesses in itself (89).”

We fear true compassion. Our culture & society throws around the term compassion. What is compassion? Compassion comes from the Latin root com (with) and pati (suffer). Together compatior means “to suffer with.” Compassion means “to suffer with” another person. “We could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one “I” on behalf of other people, especially to those who suffer (92).”

In the Gospels, Jesus repeats dozens of times, “BE NOT AFRAID.” It’s time to let go of the fear associated with suffering, death, & dying. And focus on living. Life is beautiful in all its forms & functions. It’s time to relearn how to suffer with each other. In the words of a man who understood and lived suffering: “In the messianic programme of Christ, which is at the same time the programme of the Kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a “civilization of love (96).” Let us go forth and build a civilization of love . . .

Monthly Devotion: The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred-Heart-of-JesusThe Sacred Heart of Jesus Devotion

From 1673-1675, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque at her Visitation convent in Paray-le-Monial, France. Christ’s heart (his flesh) represents and recalls His immense human and divine love for us. Jesus communicated prayers and guidelines for the devotion and requested reparation for sins. For example, many Catholics witness a larger congregation at First Friday Mass or Eucharistic Adoration on First Friday. The First Friday devotion of Mass, Communion, and Adoration was requested by Our Lord in honor of His Most Sacred Heart.

On the Feast of Corpus Christi 1675 Jesus told St. Margaret Mary: “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it spared nothing, even going so far as to exhaust and consume itself, to prove to them its love. And in return I receive from the greater part of men nothing but ingratitude, by the contempt, irreverence, sacrileges and coldness with which they treat me in this sacrament of love.”

Jesus shared the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the remedy. In the mid-1600s, the Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion joined the continuing legacy of God’s love and mercy. Christ provided another devotion, another opportunity for an outpouring of His divine love and mercy. The Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion asks us to slow down and ponder the fathomless and bottomless depths of Christ’s love for us.

Picture a human heart, which Jesus Christ shared in common with every human being past, present, and future. This beating organ provides life to our bodies as the Sacred Heart of Jesus provides life to our souls.

In 1899, Pope Leo XIII dedicated the world to the Sacred Heart. On September 15, 1985. Many images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus appear alongside the Immaculate Heart of Mary image. St. John Paul II coined the term “The Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.”

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my Trust in You!


Morning Offering to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Oh my, Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day. For all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart. In union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. In reparation for my sins, for the intention of all my family, friends and relatives, and in particular for the intention of the Holy Father. Amen.

-Laudate App


Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to thee I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honoring and glorifying thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to thee and to do all for thy love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease thee.
I take thee, O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and inconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be thou, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God thy Father, and screen me from his anger, which I have so justly merited. I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in thee, O Heart of love, I hope all from thine infinite goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist thee.
Imprint thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget thee or be separated from thee.
I beseech thee, through thine infinite goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon thy Heart; for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of thy devoted servants.
Amen.
– EWTN.com

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae: An Encyclical of Hope

 

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July 25, 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the prophetic and controversial Encyclical of Pope Paul VI Humanae Vitae or “On Human Life.”  Most people refer to his beautiful encyclical as the “contraception” encyclical. During a period of social, cultural, and religious turmoil surrounding the purpose and place of family, relationships, and procreation, Pope Paul VI released an reaffirmation of the truth: the Catholic Church would not support the use of artificial birth control or other reproductive technologies that could undermine family life and human dignity. But this was radical for the many influences adamant the Catholic Church would join their Protestant Christian brethren in accepting and normalizing artificial birth control.

What people miss by generalizing this prophetic document are the tenants of what eventually would be known as St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” or “Love and Responsibility.” This document expresses the profound nature of marriage between a man and woman, the marital embrace, and fruits of marital love. Love that is FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL, and FRUITFUL. After an exploration into love and marital love, Pope Paul VI warns of the dangers of artificial birth control and the consequences society would reap by accepting it. Towards the end of this document lies a call to action for medical practitioners and researches pleading for medical advancement regarding reproductive medicine, health, wellness. That is where my story with Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae most intimately begins.

Because of Humanae Vitae, we have the Pope Paul VI Institute and Creighton Natural Family Planning Method. We also benefit from NFP spin-offs like the Marquette Method. Because Pope Paul VI had divine inspiration and the guts to swim against the cultural tide, almost fifty years later, I had a fighting chance of health and wellness as a young woman in my mid-twenties. My friends have a fighting chance of healing from infertility. Or my mom from developing reproductive cancer. Or loved ones maintaining a pregnancy after miscarriages. One of the more hidden messages of Humanae Vitae is hope- hope in what seems like impossible odds.

Yes, this encyclical is an encyclical of love, but from that lesson in sometimes a very challenging and difficult school of love bears the fruit of other virtues such as faith and hope. Thinking about the past three years of my Naprotechnology treatment, though riddled with severe physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain, tears flow while I write this in gratitude and joy. I am beautifully broken and my journey of reproductive health and wellness is far from over. Amid the pain, suffering, and uncertainty, I found my dignity instead of loosing it.

Through the lens of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, I’ve experienced a glimpse into the profound nature of my womanhood and femininity and even a deeper insight into masculinity and manhood. My medical treatment is filtered through the lens of Christ viewing me as a good and godly creation. Beautiful in His sight. All because one little man in a white cassock (and a few others) inspired by the Holy Spirit swam against the tide and upheld authentic love instead.

Pope Paul VI, please, pray for us! Amen.

 

 

 

“The Vanier Way”

The Vanier Way Qoute

My mom and I watched a documentary on EWTN recently called the “Vanier Way.” A group of students from the Canadian Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School: “visit the L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France, and immerse themselves in the culture as they partake in workshops in pottery, mosaics, and gardening.” (@EWTN) These disillusioned high school students visit Parisian and French cultural, religious, and historical sights as well as immersing themselves in a few different L’Arche communities around the Paris area. The students were more moved by the L’Arche community than the Eiffel tower. Why? Because they experienced authentic love and joy. They experienced real truth and beauty amid the broken, outcast, and “undesirables” of society.

“L’Arche was not my project, but God’s.”- Jean Vanier

The students are blessed to interact with the Founder Jean Vanier who established the first L’Arche community in the late 1960s outside Paris after visiting local asylums. A female friend suggested the term “L’Arche” or “The Ark” in English indicating a community where people with intellectual disabilities could create a new family and no longer hide in the shadows of society. In 1970, the first L’Arche community opened in India. In 1972, the first USA L’Arche home was founded in Erie, PA. Theologian and priest Henri Nouwen lived his last 10 years at a Toronto’s Daybreak L’Arche home. As the founder states, “L’Arche’s first seeds were planted in the earth of the Roman Catholic Church. Through God’s grace, other seeds were planted in other soils. . . L’Arche became ecumenical.” All L’Arche communities have a religious dimension to their community even in communities with those of severe intellectual disabilities. “Some communities are one religion, others are inter-denominational or inter-faith. Members are encouraged to grow in their spiritual journeys, and people who are not affiliated with a particular religious tradition are also welcomed and respected in their freedom of conscience.”

“Without this spiritual dimension and growth in holiness, L’Arche could become simply another group home. It would lose what makes it unique.”- Jean Vanier

The beauty of the documentary lies in the reactions of the high school students interacting with members of the community, how they process those interactions, and the transformative seeds planted. Another beautiful aspect is the insightful and authentic observation and story telling quality of Jean Vanier who speaks with a spiritual depth, peace, and humility few people evoke. He warns about the impact of social media (guilty here) and the power of “the tyranny of the Group.” And provides interacting on a human level with “the other” as an antidote against “the tyranny of the group.” These human interactions, absent of cell phones and social media shake us up and out of ourselves and illuminate the lies and pressure we follow so blindly with or without question.

The heart of the Vanier Way is simply the recognize and live in accordance with the profound recognition of the intrinsic dignity of every human being from conception to natural death regardless of form or function. Our job is to love. Love and be loved in return. To love without measure or degree. To love the lovable and unlovable. And to allow love to transform us and inform us. “Freedom exists for the sake of love.” – St. John Paul II

“Our community life is beautiful and intense, a source of life for everyone. People with a disability experience a real transformation and discover confidence in themselves; they discover their capacity to make choices, and also find a certain liberty and above all their dignity as human beings.” —Jean Vanier

May God bless you and keep you! You are more precious than you believe!

To learn more about the United State’s L’Arche community: LINK

To learn more about the  International L’Arche community: LINK

 

Embracing Chastity with Body & Soul

chastity

Everyone is called to chastity. Not everyone is called to abstinence, but all people are called to embrace chastity. What is chastity? An orientation towards God, His divine plan, and the good of the other by practicing a chaste love in the actions of our body and a purity of the heart, mind, and soul. Chastity can include abstinence (refraining from marital sexual behavior outside of marriage.) However, chastity must be practiced within a marital relationship too.

Marriage is NOT the fulfillment of lust. Marriage is NOT the fulfillment of pornography. Marriage IS the fulfillment of love- Christ’s love for us. Marriage mirrors Christ’s relationship with us and His love for the Church. Marriage and the marital embrace between a man and woman mirrors the eternal exchange of love between the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity: God the Father. God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. A love that is self-giving and self-sacrificial. A love that lasts. A love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

Hannah, I’m not married. Well, neither am I. Chastity isn’t solely a sexual ethic or a list of dos and donts. Instead, chastity is an ethos- a change of the heart which transforms and animates our very being and behaviors stemming from Our Love of God and the recognition that we ourselves and others are created in the image and likeliness of God.

This week my accountability partner and I are embracing the virtue of chastity and turning away from lust. To practice chastity involves self-discipline and self-denial. Turn towards God, Our Lady, the angels and Saints in times of weakness and temptation. Denying yourself the entertainment of lustful thoughts and temptations is the beginning. With spiritual maturity, you must pray for, intercede for, and even fast for those that awaken lustful thoughts and habits. We must first transform ourselves and move outwards. How many women or men in sexually provocative or exploitative situations are being prayed for, interceded for, and fasted for? Not enough.

Speaking from personal experience chastity has always been my goal. Not always attained but always the ideal. When I have fallen away from chastity, I experience fear, shame, hopelessness, despair, disappointment, division, pride, etc. In past relationships, I’ve felt the insidious pressure of having my morals slowly stripped away followed by a sinking feeling in my heart and rising fear of exploitation. I’ve experienced when the person who “cares” for you enters the room and internally feeling, “what part of my soul will die today?” (by the way, if you are in this position, run far far away towards God, don’t look back, and take the time to heal.) My dating and relationship legacy is minimal. But it doesn’t take long for lust and objectifying behavior to creep in.

Whenever I practice chastity whether as an individual or in a relationship, I feel free. A freedom that requires taking responsibility for my actions and the impact of my actions gave on others (including my relationship with God.) Chastity opens me to love not lust or the byproduct of lust- fear. I feel capable of expressing and receiving love instead of dishing out a hearty dosage of fear and objectification. Lust is suffocating and enslaving. The worries or anxieties fade away. The constant battle between God, myself, and the other subsides. The room clears snd makes space to learn and experience authentic love. My body, soul, and heart no longer feel divided, in constant turmoil, and filled with uncertainty. Instead of feeling divided, my heart, soul, and body unite more closely with God and His plan. A fullness and richness (a warmth and light) replaces the bleak yet fleeting pleasures that fill the void of lust.

Where do I start?

  1. If you are Catholic, go to reconciliation. Experience authentic love within the confessional. Christ wants to share His love with you (His healing and forgiveness.)
  2. Sin no more! Resolve to sin no more and amend your life. Surround yourself in a culture of chastity (friends, media, entertainment, dialogue, etc.)
  3. Develop a daily prayer life. Learn to dialogue with God. Call on Our Lady’s powerful intercession. Meditate on the lives of the Saints. Read scripture.
  4. Identify areas of temptation (near occasions of sin). Know thyself. Know your limitations and weaknesses. Don’t play with fire. Don’t even strike the match.
  5. Fast- whether from food or other pleasures or enjoyments. Fasting develops spiritual muscles. Fasting allows you to rely on God more than yourself. Self-denial and discipline counteracts lust and pride.
  6.  Offer moments of temptation to Our Lady and/or God. Pray for yourself and the untwisting of your heart. Pray for the awareness of the gift of authentic sexuality. Praise God for this gift! Pray for the victim of your lust. Recognize their God-given dignity.
  7. Love- practice authentic love in your thoughts, words, deeds, and actions. Let people witness Christ’s love through you. Put the good of the other before your own desires and passions.

Prayer for Chastity

Lord, help me to accept and receive my sexuality as a gift from you. Grant me the grace to resist the many lies that distort this divine gift and help me to live my sexuality according to the truth of self-giving love. Grant me purity of heart so that I might see the image of your glory in the beauty of others, and one day see you face to face. Amen.

 

 

Suffering in Silence: Life with Autoimmune Disease

For those unfamiliar with autoimmune disease either personally or by association, the best description I can give is your immune system, which keeps you healthy, begins attacking healthy cells – your body essentially attacks itself. There are a multitude of autoimmune diseases: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Celiac’s Disease, Scleroderma, Psoriasis, Sjogren’s syndrome, Ploymyalgia rheumatica, Pernicious Anemia, Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, Chrohn’s Disease, Vascultitis, etc.

According to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association (AARDA,) over 50 million Americans are affected by autoimmune diseases with over 80 types of known autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disease can run in families and 75% of those suffering from an autoimmune disease are women. African-American, Hispanic, and Native Americans have an increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease.

As with many diseases, autoimmune disease can have stages from systemic to remission. As a point of clarification, I’m not officially diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. My entire life I have lived with a loved one who has multiple autoimmune diseases. I also have friends with autoimmune diseases, especially conditions that became prevalent after college.

My blog post isn’t just an autoimmune disease awareness post, but an exploration into living with those silently suffering with these diseases.

 

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What Can Aggravate an Autoimmune Disease?

 

  • The Dignity of the Human Person: “A person is an entity of a sort to which the only proper and adequate way to relate is love.”- St. John Paul II, Love and Responsibility. Tragically, our culture maintains a mostly utilitarian and social Darwinist approach to the dignity of the human person- if you can’t quantify the worth by the socially accepted rubric it ain’t there. I’ve witnessed the very real, painful struggle of a loved one clinging to their intrinsic worth and dignity while the world feeds them lies about how they are a burden on their family, loved ones, community, and society. A person is person regardless of form or function. Even the sickest or most deformed and seemingly inconvenient person is a child of God and reflects some aspect of the divine. Love bears all things and believes all things. Love rejoices in the truth.
  • People vs. Things: As the graphic above depicts, everyday life can be life threatening to a person with an autoimmune disease, especially a person facing a systemic autoimmune disease. Don’t even get me started about the inundation of artificial fragrances and bath/beauty/home products in North America creating a toxic environment. People don’t want to live in bubbles, but when the outside world is toxic, your options can be limited. Our home may be hypoallergenic and fragrance free, but we chose that long before it became a life-threatening need. Sometimes the process is arduous, expensive, and inconvenient or seemingly hopeless. But by choosing the person over a lifestyle and the things that make a lifestyle, we gain more than we “loose” in inconvenience, appearances, and expense. Our lifestyle may not be “sexy” or “glamorous” but it’s worthwhile and authentic.
  • A Person Isn’t a Tool: “You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.”- Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. A person isn’t a utility knife once rusty or broken you either repair or discard. Sometimes you can’t “repair” or “fix” a person, but you can suffer with a person (i.e., compassion.) Life with autoimmune disease or living with a person with an autoimmune disease isn’t easy and can be hard- the best type of hard. The lifestyle requires and demands mental/emotional/spiritual energy, staunch courage, creativity, perseverance in adversity, and loads of divine grace. Having a decent sense of humor and a level of abandonment in Christ helps too. But I found many people who struggle and suffer with an autoimmune disease have an immense capacity for joy and hope.
  • Learning About Yourself/Learning to Adapt: I went to dinner with my friend who is a Licensed Massage therapist and works with patients who have autoimmune diseases. She listened to my story (my family’s story and the difficulties we were facing.) She paused and stated, “You want to be frustrated with a person with an autoimmune disease when you can’t plan anything or commit to anything with certainty, but you can’t be. It isn’t their fault because no-one can predict how and why and what may happen hour by hour. And they are the one’s who suffer with this daily. How frustrating it must be for them.” She captured a rare truth. Living with a person suffering with an autoimmune disease is an exploration into one’s self (a mirror of sorts): your motivation, your priorities, your definition of commitment and relationships, your worldview, your sense of humor, your selfishness and selflessness, your compassion and empathy or the lack-there-of, your faith and the importance faith in your daily life, your humility, your pursuit of virtue versus vice, and whether you have the courage to live in the world but not conform to the world.

Thank you for reading and your support!

 

St. Lidwina, patron saint of chronic pain and chronic illness,  pray for us!

 

 

 

I Am the Bread of Life

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Photo Credit: Prince of Peace/ Steubenville

From Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II’s World Youth Day homily on Sunday, August 24, 1997 in Paris, France:

“Rabbi, where are you staying?” Each day the Church responds: Christ is present in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of His death and resurrection. In and through the Eucharist, you acknowledge the dwelling-place of the Living God in human history. For the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Love which conquers death. It is the Sacrament of the Covenant, pure Gift of Love for the reconciliation of all humanity. It is the gift of the Real Presence of Jesus The Redeemer, in the bread which is His Body given up for us, in the wine which is His Blood poured out for all. . . Dear young friends . . . For Christ is now answering your own question and the questions of all those who seek the Living God. He answers by offering an invitation: This is My Body, take It and eat. . .

I Am the Living Bread” (Jn 6:51). The message of John’s Gospel completes the liturgical picture of this great Eucharistic mystery that we are celebrating today… The words of John’s Gospel are the great proclamation of The Eucharist, after the miraculous multiplication of bread near Capernaum. Anticipating as it were the time even before the Eucharist was instituted, Christ revealed what it was. He spoke thus: “I Am the Living Bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever; and the Bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My Flesh” (Jn 6:51). And when these words brought protests from many who were listening Jesus added: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in me, and I in him.” (Jn 6:53-56).

“Asked if the Madonna had been present at Mass, he answered: “Yes, she placed herself to the side, but I could see her, what joy! What paradise…” Has she attended only once, or is she always present? “How can the mother of Jesus, present on Calvary at the foot of the cross, who offered her Son as victim for the salvation of souls, be absent at the mystical Calvary of the altar?” Is our Lady present at all of the Masses that are being celebrated in the world? “Yes.” Do the angels also attend? “The whole celestial court is present.”

— St. Padre Pio 

“Always remain close to the Catholic Church, because it alone can give you true peace, since it alone possesses Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the true Prince of Peace.”
–St. Padre Pio
“When you approach the tabernacle remember that he has been waiting for you for twenty centuries.”
–St. Josemaria Escriva

“If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”
–St. Maximilian Kolbe

“The culmination of the Mass is not the consecration, but Communion.”
–St. Maximilian Kolbe

“Christ held Himself in His hands when He gave His Body to His disciples saying: ‘This is My Body.’ No one partakes of this Flesh before he has adored it.”
–St. Augustine

“With all the strength of my soul I urge you young people to approach the Communion table as often as you can. Feed on this bread of angels whence you will draw all the energy you need to fight inner battles. Because true happiness, dear friends, does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we have only if we are pure in heart and mind.”
–Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
“We must understand that in order ‘to do’, we must first learn ‘to be’, that is to say, in the sweet company of Jesus in adoration.”
–Pope John Paul II
“Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration.”
— St. Theresa of Calcutta

 “Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart…don’t listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love…

— St. Therese of Lisieux

Now you shall consider My love in the Blessed Sacrament. Here, I am entirely yours, soul, body and divinity, as your Bridegroom. You know what love demands: one thing only, reciprocity…(1770)
–St Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul

“When we go before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament we represent the one in the world who is in most need of God’s Mercy.” We “Stand in behalf of the one in the world who does not know Christ and who is farthest away from God and we bring down upon their soul the Precious Blood of The Lamb.”

– St. John Paul II

Catholic or Bust

“But Who Do you Say That I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Matthew 16:15-16.

Have you ever listened to conversion stories? Many Catholic converts tell passionate anecdotes about their spiritual journey to Catholicism. Conversion stories run the gambit. Many converts felt a tug or pull towards Catholicism throughout their lives. Many converts recall times of keen resistance to the faith or frustration with the pull towards the Faith of Our Fathers. After critically studying Catholicism from Scripture to Tradition to Magisterium, some converts note “aha!” moments or “Nooooo . . . Anything but. . . Fine!!” moments. Some fell into Catholicism like a delightful bubble bath or breathed a sigh of relief walking into the home they always sought. Some stumbled into Catholicism for less profound reasons but continue practicing anyways. Others suffered and survived persecution to became a member of the Church.

Catholicism for me was like breathing air both a subconscious and conscious act. Faith came easily to me as a child. Maintaining that childlike trust of faith not easy. As a child, the world was a spiritual place where you used all five senses to experience its beauty, mystery, and truth. Faith was my sixth sense. Catholicism is a fleshy, tactile, and sensual religion that matches how a child explores, experiences, and discovers the world. In many ways, elements of Catholic liturgy and ritual that give some the heebie jeebies reflect a childlike wonder and exploration of the spiritual realm. We use all five senses to seek, worship, experience, and connect with God and the divine.

Catholic means: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. You’re a part of something much greater than yourself as a Catholic yet an unique individual too. Every church housing a tabernacle or altar offering the Sacrifice of the Mass is a home regardless of the location, rite, or language. As a Catholic you’re more aware that you’re an intricate and important thread in a elaborate tapestry of all the faithful both living or dead whether in heaven or purgatory. We receive immense grace from the Sacramental life of the Church, the Communion of Saints, the Holy Trinity, and the intercession of Our Lady. And, yes, we can trace our founder to Jesus Christ and an apostolic succession based on scripture and guided by the Holy Spirit despite concupiscence and human involvement.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” John 20:29.

But THE ULTIMATE REASON is the source and summit of the Catholic Faith: The Eucharist, i.e., the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The reason Catholic Christians are not and cannot be just another Christian denomination.

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Because of our bold claim as Catholics, our lives radically change or should radically change. If we are what we consume and if what we consume is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we become not only a part of the Body of Christ, but the Body of Christ. With that efficacious grace and transformation, we go out into the world and proclaim the Good News! Everything changes or should change: our thoughts, words, deeds, actions, relationships, priorities, hopes, dreams, goals and pursuits. The Faith changes how we: dress, educate, drive, work, socialize, worship, approach sexuality, manage life challenges, celebrate, mourn, suffer, suffer with, marry, procreate, raise children, etc. Etc.

The Eucharist isn’t a magic circle that absolves us from pain, suffering, and trials. Au Contraire! The world rejected Christ and still rejects Christ. As Christians, especially Catholic Christians, we understand our world, our fellow believers, our families, our peoples, our cultures, etc, will reject, ostracize and persecute even kill us too.

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.– Luke 12:51-53

“Thy word’s thy ship not thy home.”- St. Therese of Lisieux. St. John Paul said living the faith would be hard-  potentially a white or red martyrdom. But at the end of it all, when the world turns away, when your friends, family or loved ones turn away or turn you in, the grace and peace of truth carries one through. Even through the profound hurt and pain of rejection and persecution, salvific hope and trust remains- a divine purpose and plan.

It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.

-St. John Paul II. Vergata Prayer Vigil at World Youth Day 8/19/2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. John Vianney, Pray for Our Priests

st john vianney
St. John Vianney

My friend and I recently finished praying the Novena to St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests and seminarians. From his childhood during the French Revolution France, which forced he and other Catholics to worship in hiding, or deserting the Napoleonic army, to his academic difficulties in seminary, St. John Vianney exemplifies patient perseverance. Known as the Cure of Ars, Father Vianney dedicated most waking moments of his life to the salvation of souls and the conversion of sinners. Sometimes he spent up to 14-16 hours in the confessional. A dynamic confessor, Father Vianney is amazing reminder of the vital importance of the sacrament of reconciliation in the sacramental life of the Church, especially in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. His Feast Day is August 4th.

Each day the novena reflected on an aspect of St. John Vianney’s life and ministry outlining a theme to reflect and ask for the grace to be transformed and informed in whatever our respective vocations may be whether priest/religious, married, or generous single.

  1. Complete Trust in God
  2. True Love of Neighbor
  3. Horror of Sin
  4. Confessor of Souls
  5. The Real Presence
  6. Exquisite Purity
  7. Desire for Heaven

At the conclusion of the novena (thanks to praymorenovenas.com,) the daily reflection challenged the participant to express gratitude to a priest for their service to the church and remind us pray for seminarians and priests. Why? Because as Catholics, we believe in the power of intercessory prayer and that we live in communion with each other. Our prayers matter. Our prayers shape lives. Encourage vocations. Provide courage of conviction in moments of doubt or confusion. And remind each respective vocation that we can’t have one without the other. We are part of the Body of Christ. . . . the Vine and the Branches, etc. Furthermore, priests whether they live in accordance or not, have a tremendous obligation and responsibility to the Church, the members of the Church, and leading by example. Jesus Christ is epitome of the priestly vocation, an example that our priests are called to strive for. And, therefore, need all the prayers they can get. May we all strive to emulate Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the words of St. John Vianney & St. John Paul II:

“St. Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest — always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.”

St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars

“The priestly vocation is essentially a call to sanctity, in the form that derives from the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  Sanctity is intimacy with God; it is the imitation of Christ, poor, chaste and humble; it is unreserved love for souls and self-giving to their true good; it is love for the church which is holy and wants us to be holy, because such is the mission that Christ has entrusted to it.  Each one of you must be holy also in order to help your brothers pursue their vocation to sanctity.”
St. John Paul II, (Rome, Italy, October 9, 1984)