Saturday, June 23, 2012

Let us pray for religious freedom.

Novena To
Our Lady of Hope

I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth; in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come to me all that desire me and be filled with my fruits (Sirach 24:24-26).
O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Grace, Hope of the world.
Hear us, your children, who cry to you
Let Us Pray
O God, who by the marvelous protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary has strengthened us firmly in hope, grant we beseech You, that by persevering in prayer at her admonition, we may obtain the favors we devoutly implore. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Prayer to Our Lady of Hope
O Mary, my Mother, I kneel before you with heavy heart. The burden of my sins oppresses me. The knowledge of my weakness discourages me. I am beset by fears and temptations of every sort. Yet I am so attached to the things of this world that instead of longing for Heaven I am filled with dread at the thought of death.
O Mother of Mercy, have pity on me in my distress. You are all-powerful with your Divine Son. He can refuse no request of your Immaculate Heart. Show yourself a true Mother to me by being my advocate before His throne. O Refuge of Sinners and Hope of the Hopeless, to whom shall I turn if not you?
Obtain for me, then, O Mother of Hope, the grace of true sorrow for my sins, the gift of perfect resignation to God's Holy Will, and the courage to take up my cross and follow Jesus. Beg of His Sacred Heart the special favor that I ask in this novena.
(Make your request.)
But above all I pray, O dearest Mother, that through your most powerful intercession my heart may be filled with Holy Hope, so that in life's darkest hour I may never fail to trust in God my Savior, but by walking in the way of His commandments I may merit to be united with Him, and with you in the eternal joys of Heaven. Amen.
Mary, our Hope, have pity on us.
Hope of the Hopeless, pray for us.
No matter what the trial, always have hope… and joy!!! Pray this novena for nine day, or more if you wish!
    Picture of Our Lady of Hope
Devotion to Our Lady of Hope is one of the oldest Marian devotions. The first shrine bearing that title was erected at Mezieres in the year 930.
On January 17, 1871, Our Lady of Hope appeared in the French village of Pontmain. There she reveals herself as the "Madonna of the Crucifix" and gave the world her message of "Hope through Prayer and the Cross." The basilica built at Pontmain by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate is one of the great French pilgrimage places, noted for its miracles of grace.
The Oblate Fathers introduced the devotion to America in 1952. Novena devotions are maintained at the Shrine of Our Lady of Hope, Oblate Fathers' Novitiate and Infirmary, Tewksbury, Massachusetts.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Devotion for today: the king's good servant, but God's first

Today is the feast of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. Let us take a look once again at St. Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers.

Scripture for meditation: Galatians 6:14, Philippians 1:21-23
The world is crucified to me, and I to the world. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. I wish to be dissolved and be with Christ.”

Scripture for reflection: Matthew 6:10
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

St. Thomas More tells us: But as I was saying, to avoid falling into grave sin we must throw off not merely a cloak or gown or shirt or any other such garment of the body but even the garment of the soul, the body itself. For if we strive to save the body by sin, we destroy it and we also lose the soul. But if we patiently endure the loss of the body for the love of God, then just as the snake sloughs off its old skin (called, I think, its “senecta”) by rubbing it against thorns and thistles and, leaving it behind in the thick hedges, comes forth young and shining, so too those of us who follow Christ’s advice and become wise as serpents [Mt 10:16] will leave behind on earth our old bodies, rubbed off like a snake’s old skin among the thorns of tribulation suffered for the love of God, and will quickly be carried up to heaven, shining and young and never more to feel the effects of old age (The Sadness of Christ, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, 1993).

St. Thomas More was Chancellor of England for only thirty-one months. He resigned on May 16, 1532, the day after Henry VIII and Cromwell manipulated the Parliament to take away the traditional freedom of the Church, a freedom that had been written into English law since the Magna Carta. At issue was the survival of the Church as well as the nature of law and the scope of the state’s legitimate authority (my comment is this: sound familiar?). Imprisoned in the Tower of London for fifteen months before his execution, More was heavily pressured by his family and friends to sign the oath accepting Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church in England. More steadfastly refused but never expressed animosity towards those who complied (my comment: we, too, must face opposition with dignity).  During this time, he wrote a number of devotional and exegetical works, including A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, A treatise on the Passion, and The Sadness of Christ. That More was God’s servant first and foremost was readily seen in his life of prayer and penance (my comment: note that he prayed. That is where he got his strength). From the time he was a young man, More started each day with private prayer, spiritual reading, and Mass, regardless of his many duties (my comment: prayer first, always prayer). He lived demanding mortifications in his characteristically discreet and merry manner (my comment: you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar). He generously cared for the poor and needy, and involved his own children in this same work (my comment: remember yesterday’s discussion… prayer, study, action). He had special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, to frequent meditation on the Passion, and to the rosary. More was executed on July 6, 1535 and canonized on May 19, 1935. He has become a symbol of professional integrity, famous for the balanced judgment, ever-present humor (my comment: as you stand up for religious freedom, keep your sense of humor. It keeps the enemy wondering what you are up to), and undaunted courage that led him to be known, even in his own lifetime, as the “man for all seasons.” (Gerard Wegemer, Introduction to The Sadness of Christ by St. Thomas More, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, 1993).

St. Thomas More’s prayer for his enemies: Almighty God, have mercy on N. and N., etc, and on all that bear me evil will and would harm me. And by such easy, tender, and merciful means as Your infinite wisdom can best devise, grant that their faults and mine may both be amended and redressed; and make us saved souls in heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with You and Your blessed saints. O glorious Trinity, grant this for sake of the bitter passion of our sweet Savior, Christ. Lord, give me patience in tribulation, and grace in everything to conform my will to Yours, that I may truly say: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Devotion for today: prayer, study, action: the tripod of the spiritual life

Today we look at St. Aloysius Gonzaga, patron saint of youth, whose story teaches us the foundation of the spiritual life. Today is his feast day.
“I am a piece of twisted iron. I entered religion to get twisted straight.” St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Aloysius is the Latin form of Gonzaga's given name, Luigi. In English, the equivalent form would be Louis. The Gonzaga name is well known in Italy. Aloysius Gonzaga was born at Castiglione near Mantua, Italy, in 1568 to a celebrated family of wealth and prestige. As the first born son of his father, Ferrante, and his mother, Marta, he was in line to inherit his father's title of Marquis. He grew up amid the violence and brutality of the Renaissance Italy and witnessed the murder of two of his brothers. In 1576, Aloysius' parents sent him to attend the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco de'Medici, in Florence. Later, accompanied by his parents, he traveled to Spain to join the court of Philip II in Madrid.
In Spain, Aloysius decided he wanted to join the newly founded religious order, The Society of Jesus. His father resisted his decision and there followed a struggle of wills that continued after his return to Castiglione in 1584. But Aloysius eventually prevailed. Renouncing his right to the title of Marquis and to the vast wealth he was destined to inherit, he entered the Society of Jesus in Rome on November 25, 1585. During his early studies in Rome, he would regularly go out into the streets of the city to care for victims of the plague. He himself contracted the disease as a result of his efforts for the suffering and died on June 21, 1591, at the age of twenty-three, six years short of his ordination as a Jesuit priest. Even before his time as a Jesuit, Aloysius was known for his love of prayer and fasting. He received his First Communion from St. Charles Borromeo. As a Jesuit at the Roman College, he continued to devote his time to prayer and practices of austerity. His spiritual director was Robert Bellarmine who later was canonized and declared a doctor of the church. When Robert was dying, he asked to be buried next to the grave of Aloysius. Today, they rest next to each other in the church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Rome. Pope Benedict XIII canonized Aloysius in 1726, and three years later declared him to be the patron of youth in the Catholic Church, an honor later confirmed by Pope Pius XI in 1926 (

Scriptures for meditation: 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Psalm 199:11, Proverbs 28:27,
“Pray without ceasing.” “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”  He who gives to the poor suffers no want, but he who ignores them gets many a curse.”

My thoughts: We have a solid spiritual life if it is based on the tripod of prayer, study and action. Our lives, however, must follow that order. Without praying first, we are not allowing God to direct our study and action. Without study of God’s word, we have no direction for understanding good verses bad, and without action, we are full of God’s direction and understand His will but do nothing with it. St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s brief life shows us the power of the tripod. By prayer and fasting he was able to discern God’s will for his life. By constant study and direction he learned the way to bring God’s mercy and love into the world, and by his action, he comforted many sick and dying people. We may not  literally take ourselves into plague-riddled cities to bring Jesus to the hurting, but we do figuratively do just that every time we step out our doors into a society which is sick and dying because they have lost the path to God. We can be like St. Aloysius by caring more for others than we do for ourselves, by testifying to the truth of surrender to God’s will, which brings Authentic Freedom, and by prayer, prayer and then prayer. God loves us and wants us to know Him and His plan for heavenly living. “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” St. Aloysius, patron saint of youth, pray for us.

Prayer: Prayer to Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Patron of Youth
Dear Christian youth, you were a faithful follower of Christ in the Society of Jesus. You steadily strove for perfection while generously serving the plague-stricken. Help our youth today who are faced with a plague of false cults and false gods. Show them how to harness their energies and to use them for their own and others' fulfillment—which will redound to the greater glory of God. Amen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Devotion for today: embrace your cross

Scripture for meditation: Matthew 16:24
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

Scripture for reflection: Matthew 20:22
But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to Him, "We are able."

St. Thomas a Kempis tells us: Jesus has many lovers of His kingdom of heaven, but He has few bearers of His Cross. Many desire His consolation, but few desire His tribulation. He finds many comrades in eating and drinking, but He finds few who will be with Him in His abstinence and fasting. All men would joy with Christ, but few will suffer anything for Christ. Many follow Him to the breaking of His bread, but few will drink a draft of the chalice of His passion. Many honor His miracles but few will follow the shame of His Cross and His other ignominies. Many love Jesus as long as no adversity befalls them, and can praise and bless Him whenever they receive any benefits from Him, but if Jesus withdraws a little from them and forsakes them a bit, they soon fall into some great grumbling or excessive dejection or into open despair. But those who love Jesus purely for Himself, and not for their own profit or convenience, bless Him as heartily in temptation and tribulation and in all other adversities as they do in time of consolation (The Imitation of Christ, Doubleday, 1955).

Prayer: Speak Lord, for I, Your servant, am ready to hear You. I am Your servant: give me wisdom and understanding to know Your commandments. Bow my heart to follow Your holy teachings that they may sink into my soul like dew into the grass. Speak, therefore, to me… for I, Your servant, am ready to hear You. You have the words of eternal life; speak them to me for the full comfort of my soul and give me amendment of all my past life, to Your joy, honor and glory, everlastingly (Thomas a Kempis).

My thoughts: Times are really hard today for Catholics who want to remain faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium. Society is telling us to follow a way of life which in the short run makes us happy and in full control of our lives. The Church is reminding us that the way of Christ is for the long run. The path for a good life has been laid out by Him. Happiness is only measured to the degree that we surrender our lives, and all control over it, to Him. We won’t make many friends declaring this truth. Thomas a Kempis tells us Christ knows this. His friends are many when the going is easy and life is smooth. His followers are few when the road is rough and suffering is the order of the day. Now we must ask ourselves if we are true followers of Jesus, or “fair weather” friends. We may not have wanted to be born into this time of conflict; we may have been happy to follow Jesus when we were not really challenged about our faith. God in His infinite wisdom, however, in the fullness of His time, chose right now to have us exist in His world, and for a good reason. He wants us to drink of His cup with Him, to pick up His cross with Him, and to share in His abuse as He brings the truth to light. He picked us because He knows He can count on us. We are tough and able. He made us ready for the fight. It isn’t easy, but standing up for truth never is. Look full into the face of Christ as He hangs on the cross, and make your decision. Follow Him, proclaim the truth, and you will set today’s captives free. Walk away, and that’s ok. He will wait for you, patiently and lovingly, wait for you, always. You see, He needs you, and He loves you, and He will never, ever give up on you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Devotion for today: are you a cheerful giver?

Scripture for meditation: 2 Corinthians: 6-9
Let me say this much: He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Everyone must give according to what he has inwardly decided; not sadly, not grudgingly, for God loves a cheerful giver. God can multiply his favors among you so that you may always have enough of everything and even a surplus for good works, as it is written: “He scattered abroad and gave to the poor, his justice endures forever.”

Scripture for reflection: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Sarah (a former volunteer for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta) tells us: “I’m convinced that the external cheerfulness is the manifestation of an inward joy that they [Missionaries of Charity] feel. I know that anyone who works with them is aware of the time they spend in the chapel on their knees, and they are very happy because of it. Their happiest time is when they pray – they look forward to it, they are eager to pray and to refuel and they are equally eager to come out of that refueling and give away the energy they receive. This is not fanaticism; it is a genuine joyful desire to share what they have. Just as they don’t keep any of the material things that they have: anything that’s given to them, clothing or food or money or whatever it may be – paper bags, rubber bands, you name it -  they give it away. Everything that comes in goes out.”
(Mother Teresa: A Simple Path by Lucinda Vardey, Ballentine Books, NY, 1995)

Prayer: God Give Me Joy by Thomas Curtis Clark
God give me joy in the common things, in the dawn that lures, the eve that sings;
In the new grass sparkling after rain, in the late wind’s wild and weird refrain;
In the springtime’s spacious field of gold; in the precious light by winter doled.
God give me joy in the love of friends, in their dear home talk as summer ends;
In the songs of children, unrestrained; in the sober wisdom age has gained.
God give me joy in the tasks that press, in the memories that burn and bless;
In the thought that life has love to spend, in the faith that God’s at journey’s end.
God give me hope; for each day that springs; God gives me joy in the common things!

My thoughts: Two lines in the above passage really jumped out at me: “they are eager to pray and to refuel” and “everything that comes in goes out.” Have you noticed lately how many energy drinks are on the market today; how many ways have been touted that will help us refuel and regain our energy? That is because our society disregards the impact of a solid and faithful prayer life. The Missionaries of Charity look forward to their prayer time. They know that it is in front of the Blessed Sacrament that they will find the strength and joy to do what they do with an open and loving heart. Few of us give 100% of ourselves to any one person or cause; most of us hold back on the sharing of our time and talent. Imagine being so filled with joy that we give it all away! Imagine living a life where all we have inside of us – our love, our joy, our gifts and talents – were laid out for others to experience! We would be so filled with thanks to God for everything; we would acknowledge everything as a gift from Him, and we would wake up every morning so eager and joyful to share it all. Stinginess, selfishness, obsessive worry over our money, careful protection of our time would disappear. The lonely would be visited; the sad and depressed would be befriended, and children without homes would find shelter with us. Just imagine a world that joyful! Well, my friends, it starts today, and it starts with us. Have time on your hands? Volunteer at a shelter, or a home for children and mothers suffering from abuse. Visit an elderly person or give them a call; seek out the charities in your area and give one night a week to making life a little easier for others. Too busy? That’s fine. Then start with your own prayer life. Get it in shape. Find the joy the world is hiding from you, the joy that can only be found in Christ. Then pray for this lost and hurting world. It is a good thing to do.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Devotion for today: Don’t worry; your Father will take care of everything…

Now that the secular celebration of Father’s Day is over, let’s contemplate the Biblical approach.

Scripture for meditation: Matthew 10: 29-31
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Scripture for reflection: Jeremiah 20:10-13
For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him." But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O LORD of hosts, who tries the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to thee have I committed my cause. Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio tells us: Father’s Day invites us to ask a very important question – what does it mean to call God “Father?” To call God “Father” does not mean to say, of course, that he is an old man with a white beard. Only the second person of the Blessed Trinity wedded himself to a male human nature in the womb of Mary. The Father and the Holy Spirit are pure Spirit and transcend male and female, masculine and feminine (CCC 239). This is no new insight brought to Christianity by the feminist movement. It has always been taught that the word “Father”, applied to God, is used by way of analogy. Analogies tell us something very true despite being imperfect. Until recently, the father was recognized by Western society as origin, head and provider of the family. To call the first person of the Trinity “Father” means that he is the origin and transcendent authority of all and cares for the needs of all. But we all instinctively know that a father who just pays the bills and barks orders is not enough. We expect a dad to have an intimate, affectionate relationship with his children, to spend “quality time” with them. To call God “Father” means, then, that he is near to us, intimately concerned with us, fond of us, even crazy about us. He is not the distant, clockmaker God of Thomas Jefferson and the Deists. This aloof God of the philosophers created the world to run by virtue of its own natural laws so that he could withdraw and occupy himself with more interesting pursuits. No, the God whom Jesus calls Father cares about us and knows us intimately…. He loves us more than we love ourselves and knows us better than we know ourselves... evil is still at large in the world, and evil brings trials and tribulations. Our Father will not shelter us from these anymore than He sheltered Jeremiah or Jesus. A good father doesn’t protect his children forever from the harsh realities of life, but helps them as they progress through various stages of development to face the challenges and grow through the difficulties. Scripture says that even Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb 5:8-9). How much more do we need to learn and mature, and some learning can only take place through suffering. So as a true Father, he loves us too much to take us out of the fray. But there’s one thing we can be sure of--He’ll never leave us to fight our battles alone. (

Prayer: God our Father,
in your wisdom and love you made all things. Bless these men, that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord. (The Book of Blessings)

My thoughts: I love the idea that God is “crazy about us.” We tend to think of God as being too busy or too stern to be crazy about us; but that is not the case! A good father loves his children enough to meet their needs, protect them from harm, and teach them to lead good lives. Then he takes the time to enjoy and love them as though they were the only children on earth. Well, isn’t that exactly what God does for us? When we are discouraged by the world today, let us run to our Father, as Jeremiah did. When we feel lost or abandoned, let us remember what Christ tells us, that God knows how many hairs are on our heads! That is not abandonment! That is a Father who knows His children. Life isn’t easy. Sometimes we have to wait a long time for the answer to our prayers, and sometimes we have to suffer the punishment that comes with our actions. But isn’t that, too, what a good Father does for his children? Stay close to God in these troubling times, reform your lives to follow the rules your Father set for you, leave your pride at the door and tell your Father you are sorry for your sins, and then love Him with all your heart. That is how much He loves you.