Saturday, May 5, 2012

Devotion for today: crown her as queen of heaven and earth

Why do Catholics have May Crowning?

The queen symbol was attributed to Mary because she is a perfect follower of Christ, who is the absolute 'crown' of creation. As the Order of Crowning states:

She is the Mother of the Son of God, who is the messianic King. Mary is the Mother of Christ, the Word incarnate. ... "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." [Luke 1:32-33] ... Elizabeth greeted the Blessed Virgin, pregnant with Jesus, as "the Mother of my Lord." [Luke 1:41-43] She is the perfect follower of Christ. The maid of Nazareth consented to God's plan; she journeyed on the pilgrimage of faith; she listened to God's word and kept it in her heart; she remained steadfastly in close union with her Son, all the way to the foot of the cross; she persevered in prayer with the Church. Thus in an eminent way she won the "crown of righteousness," [See 2 Timothy 4:8] the "crown of life," [See James 1:12; Revelation 2:10] the "crown of glory" [See 1 Peter 5:4] that is promised to those who follow Christ. In the United States, a custom developed that grew in popularity prior to the Vatican II council. In parishes, at Marian shrines, and at grottos, someone was chosen to place a wreath of flowers on Mary's image. This ceremony usually took place in May and often in the context of a Benediction, a special Rosary celebration, and sometimes at the closing of Mass. The practice continues in many parishes throughout the United States. Many parishes have found innovative ways to express their reverence for the dignity of Mary, the Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin (detail), by Van Eyck

Catholics honor Mary at home, too, crowning the true "May Queen's" statue with flowers at their family altars, and leaving roses (especially red and/or white) at her feet, for the entire month of May. If you don't have a statue of Our Lady, you can place flowers around a picture of her.  

And here is a beautiful astronomical coincidence for this time of year. If you go outside early in May, face east, and look directly up overhead, you will see a relatively faint "L" in the sky (assuming the sky is clear enough). This is the constellation Coma Berenices, a constellation, whether mythically or not, that was named after a Queen (actually, a Queen's hair, but that's another story). Anyway, the second brightest star in this constellation is called "Diadem" -- crown of royalty. So take your children outside, point out the star Diadem to them, and think of Our Lady, crowned in Heaven -- our Queen Mother who wants nothing more than for us to love her Son...

Regina Caeli
From 1743, this twelfth-century antiphon has replaced the Angelus in the Easter Season.

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son you merited to bear, alleluia,
has risen as He said, alleluia.
Pray to God for us, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
God of life, you have given joy to the world by the resurrection of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through the prayers of His mother, the Virgin Mary, bring us to the happiness of eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Devotion for today: a dynamic duo: St. James and St. Philip

 I know I am running a day late on these saints, and I apologize for that. They are so important for today’s world, however, that I would be remiss in not featuring them in this week of dynamic saints’ feasts days.

Scripture for meditation: Acts 8:4-8
The members of the church who had been dispersed went about preaching the word. Philip, for example, went down to the town of Samaria and there proclaimed the Messiah. Without exception, the crowds that heard Philip and saw the miracles he performed attended closely to what he had to say. There were many who had unclean spirits, which came out shrieking loudly. Many others were paralytics or cripples, and these were cured. The rejoicing in that town rose to fever pitch.

Scripture for reflection: James 2:14-17
My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them, “Good-bye and good luck! Keep warm and well fed,” but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that? So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless.

We learn in Lives of the Saints:  St. Philip, a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, was called by our Lord the day after St. Peter and St. Andrew. We learn from tradition that he was then a married man, and that he had several daughters, three of whom reached eminent sanctity. Like the other apostles, St. Philip left all things to follow Christ. His name is frequently mentioned in the gospels. After the Ascension of his Divine Master, St. Philip preached the Gospel in that part of Asia Minor called Phrygia, which was then a province of the Roman Empire. It is supposed that he was buried at Hierapolis in Phrygia.

St. James the Less, the author of the first Catholic Epistle, was the son of Alphaeus of Cleophas. His mother Mary was either a sister or a close relative of the Blessed Virgin and for that reason, according to Jewish custom, he was sometimes called the brother of the Lord. The Apostle held a distinguished position in the early Christian community of Jerusalem. St. Paul tells us he was a witness of the Resurrection of Christ; he is also called a “pillar” of the Church, whom St. Paul consulted about the Gospel. According to tradition, he was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, and was at the Council of Jerusalem about the year 50…. He was martyred for the Faith …in the spring of the year 62...and was given the surname “James the Just.” St. James (in his Epistle) realizes full well the temptations and difficulties (the young Church) encountered in the midst of paganism and as a spiritual father, he endeavors to guide and direct them in the faith. Therefore the burden of his discourse is an exhortation to practical Christian living.

Prayer:  Lord God, we enjoy celebrating the annual feast of Your Apostles Sts. Philip and James. Through their prayers let us share in the Passion and the Resurrection of Your Son and help us merit Your eternal presence. Amen. (Both selections taken from Lives of the Saints, Catholic Book Publishing Co. 1977)

My thoughts: If you have never taken the time to read the Epistle of St. James, now is the time to do it. St. James is a hard-hitter, and makes clear to all who read his letter that Christianity demands a high level of living. He is the author of the famous line “Faith without works is nothing”. He does not mince words, and, as a result, is most applicable to the times in which we are now living. You will also find him in the Gospels, as Jesus always took him along with Peter and John to the “big events”. His mother is said to have stood at the foot of the Cross with Mary. Philip is a powerful, spirit-filled man who also is found in the Gospels, but really comes to life in the Acts of the Apostles. He is always ready and willing to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and follows His directions without question. In one section, where he just baptized an Ethiopian eunuch, Luke tells us that Philip just disappears from view. Talk about having grace-filled powers! From the meditation for today you can see that he was so powerful that people were basically dancing in the streets wherever he preached. He was on fire for Christ. Are we? Maybe it is time to ask ourselves if we, too, can draw people to God by being who we are. Is there anything in our way of life, in our speech or in our actions that distinguishes us from the crowd? There should be. There should be a very counter-culture layer to our lives. Filled with the love of God, we should dispense mercy and love and truth wherever we go. Like the great saints of this week: St. Joseph the Worker, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Athanasius, and Sts. Philip and James, can we call ourselves the workers in Christ’s vineyard? The times are challenging, but we can rise above it all and bring our fellow sojourners back to the path that leads to Christ. Just take the time to study this week’s saints. You will become brave, bold and on fire!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Devotion for today: honoring St. Athanasius, “Father of Orthodoxy”

I know his feast was yesterday, but this Saint is too good to pass up.

Scripture for meditation: John 1:14, 8:58
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God…And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.”

Passage for reflection: from the Nicene Creed
Born of the Father before all ages, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father…”

F.A. Forbes writes: “Athanasius!” called out the holy old Bishop from his deathbed. There was no reply, for the Bishop’s young assistant had fled the city in fear of being chosen as his successor. “Athanasius!’ called out the Patriarch once more. “You think you can escape, but it shall not be sol” And with these words he died. Not long afterward, the Bishops met to choose a successor for the see of Alexandria. The Catholics of the city gathered outside, crying out, “Give us Athanasius! Give us Athanasius!” The bishops knew of no one better fitted for the office. Thus began the long and exciting episcopate of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt. A counselor to his bishop at the Council of Nicea in 325, his own tenure would include conflicts with the Roman Emperors, strange and false accusations from the Arian heretics, being exiled from his diocese no less than five separate times, hairsbreadth escapes from his enemies and secret visits to his faithful people – plus, the writing of the life of St. Antony of the Desert, his good friend and the Father of Monasticism both East and West. This…”Father of Orthodoxy” … was the man chosen by God to uphold the True Faith in a time of crisis and to pass on to us the Catholic teaching that Christ is truly God (Saint Athanasius, Tan Books and Publishing, 1998).

St. Athanasius fought the Arian heresy which stated that although Jesus was holy, He was not God.

Excerpt from the Athanasius Creed:

So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity is to be worshipped. He, therefore, who wills to be in a state of salvation, let him think thus of the Trinity.
But it is necessary to eternal salvation that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The right faith therefore is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man. He is God of the substance of the Father begotten before the worlds, and He is man of the substance of His mother born in the world; perfect God, perfect man subsisting of a reasoning soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who although He be God and Man yet He is not two but one Christ; one, however, not by conversion of the Godhead in the flesh, but by taking of the Manhood in God; one altogether not by confusion of substance but by unity of Person; for as the reasoning soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ.

My thoughts: If you want to read a true adventure story filled with death-threats, lies, narrow escapes, and dedication to the truth beyond belief, read the life of St. Athanasius (296-373 AD). Hated by the Arian Bishops who sought to destroy him, threatened by Emperors who wanted him dead, beloved by his people who knew the truth of their faith, Athanasius is a role model for those of us today who refuse to bow to lies in order to be politically correct. Athanasius would never allow the Arian Heresy to infuse the faith, yet the opposition he faced among his brother Bishops and the Emperor himself reminds us of today’s battles to secure our religious freedom. Let us turn to St. Athanasius for strength to defend the one, true Catholic Faith. For a good read, go to, or purchase the book I sighted above. St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, pray for us.

Prayer: Father, You gave us St. Athanasius, Your Bishop, to defend the Divinity of Your Son. Grant that we may enjoy his teaching and protection and grow continually in our knowledge and love of You, Amen. (Lives of the Saints, Catholic Publishing Book Company, 1977)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Devotion for today: St. Catherine of Siena

The feast of St. Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the Church, and an absolutely amazing woman, is April 29th. If you think you are busy, this is the saint for you.

Brief Biography: Catherine was born in 1347 to a wool dyer in the Fontebranda district of Siena. Caterina de Giacomo Benincasa, a precocious young girl, was the twenty-fourth of twenty-five children. Catherine’s passionate desire for truth and the knowledge of God motivated her very being, even in her youth….At fifteen, she defied her parents and refused their efforts to force her to marry, and at eighteen she obtained the Dominican habit….Much like Mother Teresa, Catherine devoted herself to taking care of the sick and indigent. However, during this period of ministering to society, she never gave up her contemplative life, and could often be found at home in her room teaching her followers about the Bible, theology, and God’s grace and truth. In 1370, Catherine had one of her most profound mystical experiences – her “mystical death.” For four hours she experienced ecstatic union with God, even though to outside observers she appeared to be dead. This experience led her to become more severe in her self-discipline, and enabled her to have a clear vision of the ways that she could introduce God’s truth to the world. From the time of her “mystical death” to her physical death, Catherine worked tirelessly in political and religious affairs…. In 1375…she received the stigmata, though by her own request these wounds were not visible (they were visible after her death).Catherine soon became involved in urging Gregory XI to move the papacy from Avignon back to Rome. During these years she was also active in preaching about clergy reform….After Gregory’s death, Urban VI replaced him as pope. Because many people opposed Urban when he was elected pope, Catherine foresaw the possibility that schism could occur in the Church. She began a furious letter-writing campaign in order to urge fidelity to the Church…. Sometime between 1375 and 1378, Catherine founded a women’s monastery outside of Siena in the old fortress of Belcaro. During these years she wrote The Dialogue.  In this, her most famous writing, she expressed many of her concerns about Church unity, personal austerity and devotion, love of neighbor, clergy reform, God’s grace and mercy, and the passionate search for God’s truth…. Her final years were filled with physical agony…at age 33…she died on April 29, 1380. (Little Talks With God, edited by Henry L. Carrigan, JR., Paraclete Press, 2001)

Excerpt from The Dialogue (Catherine posed questions to God and received responses which are recorded in this book): “Know, dearest daughter, how, by humble, continual, and faithful prayer, with time and perseverance the soul acquires every virtue. It should persevere and never abandon prayer, either through the illusion of the devil or its own fragility. That is, it should never abandon prayer either on account of any thought or movement coming from its own body, or on account of the words of any creature. The devil often places himself upon the tongues of creatures, causing them to chatter nonsensically, with the purpose of preventing the prayer of the soul. All of this the soul should pass by, by means of the virtue of perseverance.” (ibid)
Prayer: O Saint Catherine of Siena, God our Father enkindled the flame of holy love in your heart as you meditated on the Passion of Jesus His Son. Moved by His grace, you devoted your life to the poor and the sick, as well as to the peace and unity of the Church. Through your intercession, may we also come to know the love of Jesus, bring His compassion to all, and work for the unity of His Church. We ask this in Jesus' Name and for His sake. Amen.

My thoughts:  St. Catherine of Siena is not for the faint of heart. She was probably one of the strongest, boldest, most active, most prayerful and most influential woman of her time. To grasp at the powerful ways God used her, read a fascinating account of her life at Her book, cited above, only serves to solidify that this saint was truly loved and used as a messenger by God. I find her so inspiring because of all she accomplished by the time she died at age 33, but mostly because of her profound love for God and her passionate desire to bring all souls to Him. She had received vivid visions of hell, and knew that she wanted no one to suffer there. May we all take inspiration from St. Catherine of Siena, and dedicate our lives to the saving of all souls for Christ.

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.

Patroness Against Miscarriages
Patroness of Fire Prevention

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Devotion for today: feast of St. Joseph the worker

Scripture for meditation: Matthew 13:55
Is not this the carpenter’s son?

Scripture for reflection: Matthew 1:24
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.

Rev. Hugo Hoever, S.O.Cist., Ph.D. tells us: In an address to the Catholic Association of Italian Workers, May 1, 1955, Pope Pius XII proclaimed May 1 (May Day) the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. He thus imparted special religious significance to an observation that had been strictly secular – the proper feast of labor throughout the world – and one that had been used by the enemies of the Church to further their evil designs. Henceforth, May Day is to be “a day of rejoicing for the concrete and progressive triumph of the Christian ideals of the great family of labor. Acclaimed in this way by Christian workers and having received as it were a Christian baptism, the first of May, far from being a stimulus for discord, hate and violence, is and will be a recurring invitation to modern society to accomplish that which is still lacking for social peace.” Thus the humble carpenter of Nazareth, who was the support and guardian of the Divine Child and His Virgin Mother on earth, is now honored above all other men as the personification of the dignity of the manual laborer and the provident guardian of the worker’s family. (Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1977)

Prayer: Lord God, You have created all things and imposed on man the necessity of work. Grant that, following St. Joseph’s example, and under his protection, we may accomplish the works You give us and obtain the rewards You promise. Amen.

My thoughts: St. Joseph was a good father and provider. We know little of him from the Bible, but what is written speaks volumes. He was quickly obedient to the messengers God sent him surrounding the birth of his Son; he was a carpenter, a laborer who used his hands to provide for his family. He was honest and upright, and God-fearing. For all these reasons, he is the model for all of us to follow as we spend our days in work and toil. Being obedient to God is hard work; using our gifts and talents to make the world a better place is hard work. Yet when the going gets rough and we feel we can’t go on, let us look to St. Joseph for help and inspiration. By doing his job quietly and well, he provided a safe home for the redeemer of the world. Our work is just as valuable to God. Let us dedicate every day spent in labor to Our Father’s will, so that one day we may hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Now enter into my kingdom.”

Our prayer to God: Preface of Joseph, husband of Mary (from the Mass for St. Joseph the Worker)
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks as we honor St. Joseph. He is that just man, that wise and loyal servant, whom you placed at the head of your family. With a husband’s love he cherished Mary, the virgin Mother of God. With fatherly care he watched over Jesus Christ your Son, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ the choir of angels and all the powers of heaven praise and worship your glory. May our voices join with theirs as we proclaim: Holy, holy holy...

Monday, April 30, 2012

Devotion for today: Shepherd me, O Lord

Scripture for meditation: John 10:11-15
I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.

Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M. tells us: The image of Christ as our Good Shepherd has always appealed to human nature. One of the earliest paintings of Christ in the Roman catacombs represents him as carrying an injured sheep on his shoulders. This is a manifestation of love which touches our innermost feelings. We do not mind being likened to sheep in this context. There is something guileless about a sheep, and at the same time a lot of foolishness. Does not this describe the vast majority of men, even many of those who openly oppose Christ? Is there not something very sheep-like about the man who, because God gave him a limited intellect, thinks he knows all things and needs no further help from God? The sheep who thinks it knows as much, and even more, than the shepherd and sets out to fend for itself, is no more foolish than the man who thinks he can do without God's revelation and God's Church. Indeed we all act like sheep on many occasions, when it comes to the things that concern our spiritual welfare. We often ramble off from the flock to nibble at little bits of forbidden pasture. However, we have a Shepherd who understands us, one whose patience and love are infinite. He is always ready to go after us when we stray too far; his voice is constantly reaching out to us in missions, retreats, sicknesses, crosses and other various ways. How many times have we already felt his loving grace calling and helping us back to the safety of his fold? If (man) truly loves God, he must truly love his neighbor and must want him to have a share in his own good fortune. He knows there is welcome and room in heaven for all men, and he knows that the greater the number there the greater will be God's eternal glory. He will strive then by every available means to help his neighbor into Christ's fold. After good example, prayer will be his most potent weapon. Day in, day out the devout Christian must pray for the conversion of his fellowmen who are wandering aimlessly in the barren desert of this life far from God. He must also learn all he can about the truths of his faith in order to be able to help honest enquirers. He must also cooperate with any parochial or diocesan societies for the propagation of the faith, insofar as his family and financial state allow him. The sermon preached by our Savior nearly two thousand years ago is still echoing and re-echoing around the world, calling on his faithful flock to do all in their power to help those other children of God who are still outside the fold. Do not shut your ears to this call of Christ today. Give him a helping hand by helping your fellowman to see the light of the true faith.
Excerpted from The Sunday Readings,

 Prayer: Psalm 23: 1-6
 The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

My thoughts: I like the way Father O’Sullivan describes us as sheep, wandering away to nibble at forbidden fruits. Sheep, as we all know, are blind and fairly stupid. They honestly must follow the shepherd in order to live. That describes us perfectly. We think we know so much about the truth, life and our futures, yet we do not have intimate knowledge of anything. Who can predict the car accident that changes his life? Who foresaw the stroke that limited his body forever? Who knew that one comment in the public eye would end a career? We honestly don’t know anything about our futures, but God does. He gave us a way to follow, and He is always beside us to guide us back onto it. We must, in turn, help our fellow man to find this wonderful shepherd, to trust that He honestly knows more about life than they do, and to turn their lives over to Him. Then let us all dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Devotion for today: Song of Life

Song of Life

The Roman statesman Seneca wrote that wherever there is a human being,
there is an opportunity for a kindness. No selfless act is insignificant.

A traveler on a dusty road
Strewed acorns on the lea;
And one took root and sprouted up,
And grew into a tree.
Love sought its shade at evening time,
To breathe its early vows;
And Age was pleased, in heights of noon,
To bask beneath its boughs.
The dormouse loved its dangling twigs,
The birds sweet music bore,
It stood a glory in its place,
A blessing evermore.

A little spring had lost its way
Amid the grass and fern;
A passing stranger scooped a well
Where weary men might turn.
He walled it in, and hung with care
A ladle on the brink;
He thought not of the deed he did,
But judged that Toil might drink.
He passed again; and lo! the well,
By summer never dried,
Had cooled ten thousand parched tongues,
And saved a life beside.

A nameless man, amid the crowd
That thronged the daily mart,
Let fall a word of hope and love,
Unstudied from the heart.
A whisper of the tumult thrown,
A transitory breath,
It raised a brother from the dust,
It saved a soul from death.

0 germ! 0 fount! 0 word of love!
0 thought at random cast!
Ye were but little at the first,
But mighty at the last.

Charles MacKay