Saturday, June 30, 2012

Devotion for today: The First Holy Martyrs of Holy Roman Church

Today is the feast of the first Holy Roman Martyrs. A little history lesson will help us all better understand this feast, and apply it to today.

Nero's Persecution 64-67 A.D.
Nero's persecution was occasioned by an early morning fire on July 19, 64. It broke out in a small shop by the Circus Maximus and spread rapidly to other regions of Rome, and raged for nine days, destroying much of the city. This was the worst in a series of fires that beset the crowded city -- more than a million people, packed tightly into apartment blocks of wooden construction, among narrow streets and alleyways. Only two areas escaped the fire; one of them, the Transtiberum region, Trastevere, across the Tiber River, had a large Jewish population.
Nero was at his seaside villa in Anzio when the blaze began, but he delayed returning to the city. They say that when he heard the news, he began composing an ode comparing Rome to the burning city of Troy. His indifference to the suffering caused by the tragedy stirred resentment among the people. Rumors began that he himself set the fire in order to rebuild the city with his own plans. To stop the rumors, Nero decided to blame someone else, and he chose a group of renegade Jews called Christians, who had caused trouble before, and already had a bad reputation in the city. Earlier, about the year 49, the Emperor Claudius had banished some of them from Rome for starting upheavals in the Jewish synagogues of the city with their disputes about Christ.
Nero's Raging Sword
"Nero was the first to rage with Caesar's sword against this sect," wrote the early-Christian writer, Tertullian. "To suppress the rumor," the Roman historian Tacitus says, "Nero created scapegoats. He punished with every kind of cruelty the notoriously depraved group known as Christians." Just how long the process went on and how many were killed, the Roman historian does not say.
Christian Martyrs of Rome: The Early Christians of Rome
Who were the early Roman Christians? Most of them came from the large community of about 50,000 Jewish merchants and slaves who had strong ties to their mother city of Jerusalem. Even before Peter and Paul arrived in Rome, Jewish-Christians, clearly identified as followers of Jesus Christ, were found among the city's Jews. Indeed, these were the founders of the church at Rome; the apostles were among its foundation stones. By the time of the fire Rome's Jewish-Christians had become alienated from the larger Jewish community and were beginning to separate from it. Where they lived and met was well known. The authorities, following the usual procedure, seized some of them, brought them to the Prefecture and forced them by torture to give the names of others. "First, Nero had some of the members of this sect arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers were condemned -- not so much for arson, but for their hatred of the human race. Their deaths were made a farce." (Tacitus)
Mass Executions
Instead of executing the Christians immediately at the usual place, Nero executed them publicly in his gardens nearby and in the circus. "Mockery of every sort accompanied their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired." (Tacitus) Most thought Nero went too far. "There arose in the people a sense of pity. For it was felt that they (the Christians) were being sacrificed for one man's brutality rather than to the public interest." (Tacitus) 
Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in A.D. 68 at the age of thirty-one.
Wherever the Good News of Jesus was preached, it met the same opposition as Jesus did, and many of those who began to follow him shared his suffering and death. But no human force could stop the power of the Spirit unleashed upon the world. The blood of martyrs has always been, and will always be, the seed of Christians. (Excerpted from Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.)
Symbols: Red is the color for martyrs; red rose symbol of martyrdom; crown, symbolizing victory over death and sin; white horse with a white banner and cross and sword; fire or flames; palm, symbol of victory.
Prayer: Prayer after Communion in today’s Mass:
O God, who in your holy Martyrs have wonderfully made known the mystery of the Cross, graciously grant that, drawing strength from this sacrifice, we may cling faithfully to Christ and labor in the Church for the salvation of all. Through Christ our Lord.
My thoughts: False accusations? Scapgoating? Persecution of the faithful? Some things never change. Today is the day we pray for all martyrs, past and present, who are willing to forego earthly pleasures and acceptance in exchange for the kingdom and glory of God which awaits them in the next life. May we be as brave, bold and faithful.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Devotion for today: St. Peter the Rock; St. Paul the Evangelist

Today is the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the two “indispensible men” of the Catholic Church.

Scripture for meditation: Matthew 16:18-19
“I for my part declare to you, you are ‘Rock’, and on this rock I will build my church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it. I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

Scripture for reflection: Acts 9:3-6
As he traveled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed about him. He fell to the ground and at the same time heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, sir?” he asked. The voice answered, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Get up and go into the city, where you will be told what to do.”

Fr. Robert Barron tells us: But the two indispensible people, the ones without whom the Church never would have emerged and survived, are Peter and Paul. Why these two? Peter was the head of the apostles, the one appointed by Jesus to lead the new Israel; he was the unwavering witness to the resurrection, the rock. And Paul was the first Christian theologian, the one who grasped the full implication of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and who therefore helped the Christian movement to become a worldwide phenomenon. Due to their centrality, Peter and Paul are not merely of historical interest; they live on as determining archetypes in the community of Jesus to the present day….Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, said that Peter and Paul are enduring archetypes in the life of the Church. Peter, who led the original band of the twelve, stands for office, structure, hierarchy, and headship – all those ways that the Church is ordered to achieve its purpose. Every priest, bishop, pastor, and pope is, in this sense, a descendant of Peter. And Paul, who went out to the nations as an evangelist to the Gentiles, stands, Balthazar says, for mission, the engagement of the culture and proclamation. Every missionary, teacher, preacher, and theologian is, in this sense, a son or daughter of Paul. Without the Petrine discipline, the Pauline work would be unfocused and continually in danger of dissolution. Without the Pauline energy, the Petrine work would devolve into cold management and ecclesiastical bureaucracy. The two together, in tensive harmony, have propelled the church through the centuries and around the world (Catholicism, A journey to the Heart of Faith, Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, 2011).

Prayer: Praise to you, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in your great mercy have given us new birth and hope through the power of Christ’s resurrection. Through the prayers of the apostles Peter and Paul may we who receive this faith through their preaching share their joy in following the Lord to the unfading inheritance reserved for us in heaven. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.
My thoughts: God has a plan for everything. It takes our cooperation to make His plan viable. Peter had denied Jesus during His passion, yet because he sought forgiveness and did not give up on himself as Judas did, he went on to become the head of Christ’s Church. Paul participated in the murder of Christians, yet when he was knocked off his horse, he did not deem himself unworthy to proclaim the Good News, but instead he allowed himself to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be used by God to spread the gospel far and wide, affecting people even today by his many letters. We are the Peters and Paul’s of today’s world. God needs us just as he needed the two “indispensible men” of His early Church. We all believe we are unworthy of the call, and can sometimes fall into our sinfulness as an excuse for inaction. But that is wrong. We are indispensible to God’s plan for today’s world. We must acknowledge our weaknesses and seek forgiveness. Then we must become brave and bold, and allow God to use us as He sees fit. Prayer, study and action will make us the “indispensible” men and women of today.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Devotion for today: St. Irenaeus, a saint for today

Today is feast of St. Irenaeus, who fought the heresy of his day “with moderation and courtesy”, giving all of us an example to follow.

Scripture for meditation: 1 John 1:1-2
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of Life, for the Life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, that was with the Father and was made visible to us.

Scripture for reflection: John 20:21
So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you."

St. Irenaeus tells us: "The Father is above all, and He is the Head of Christ; the Word (Logos) is through all things and is Himself the Head of the Church, while the Spirit is in us all, and His is the living water which the Lord gave to those who believe in Him and love Him, and who know that there is one Father above all things and through all things." (Against the Heresies, by St. Irenaeus)

About St. Irenaeus: The writings of Irenaeus give him an honored place among the Fathers of the Church for they laid the foundations of Christian theology and, by refuting the errors of the Gnostics, kept the youthful Catholic faith from the danger of corruption by the subtle, pessimistic doctrines of these philosophers( Gnostic is the name applied to a fluctuating set of Eastern dualist beliefs, older than Christianity, though they took over features from Christianity in the course of their spread westward. The Docetists of Ignatius' day may be regarded as a branch of the Gnostics. In general the latter took the view that the creator of the gross world of matter, the God of the Old Testament, was a dark and brutal deity, forever at war with the pure and spiritual God of light, depicted in the New Testament, from whom Jesus had been an emanation. Jesus, therefore, only appeared to be born and die and could never have suffered contamination by mortal flesh. The Gnostic movement, with its denial of Christ's humanity, vexed the Church in one form or another for several centuries. In the Middle Ages it was known as Manichaeism).Irenaeus was born, probably about the year 125, in one of the maritime provinces of Asia Minor, where the memory of the Apostles was still cherished and where Christians were already numerous. His education was exceptionally liberal, for, besides a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, he had an acquaintance with Greek philosophy and literature. Irenaeus had also the privilege of sitting at the feet of men who had known the Apostles. Of these the one who made the deepest impression on him was St. Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna…. He became the Bishop of Lyons, France, and identified himself with his flock so completely as to speak habitually the native tongue instead of Latin or Greek, and to encourage all priests to do likewise. The spread of Gnosticism in Gaul led Irenaeus to make a careful study of its tenets, not an easy matter since each Gnostic teacher was inclined to introduce subtleties of his own. He was, Tertullian tells us, "a curious explorer of all kinds of learning," and the task interested him. His treatise <Against the Heresies>, in five books, sets forth fully the doctrines of the main dissident sects of the day and then contrasts them with the words of Scripture and the teachings of the Apostles, as preserved not only in sacred writings but by oral tradition in the churches which the Apostles founded. Above all, he cites the authoritative tradition of the Church of Rome, handed down from Peter and Paul through an unbroken succession of bishops. In his theological works Irenaeus especially shows the influence of St. Paul and St. John. A humble, patient man, he writes of controversial matters with a moderation and courtesy unusual in this age of perfervid conviction….The date of the death of Irenaeus is usually given as about the year 203. According to a late and dubious tradition he suffered martyrdom under Septimius Severus. His book <Against the Heresies> has come down to us entire in its Latin version; and an Armenian translation of his <Exposition of Apostolic Preaching> has lately been discovered. Though the rest of his writings have perished, in these two works may be found the elements of a complete system of Catholic theology. (This was taken from “Lives of the Saints”’ published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc. and was provided courtesy of

Prayer: Father, you called St. Irenaeus to uphold your truth and bring peace to your Church. By his prayers renew us in faith and love that we may always be intent on fostering unity and peace. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (Opening prayer for the Mass in honor of St. Irenaeus.)

My thoughts: It is good for us to remember that the Catholic Church has always been under attack for its beliefs. Here we see St. Irenaeus fighting the heresy of Gnosticism as early as the 100’s. What is important for us to learn is that he always presented his knowledge with dignity and respect. He was extremely learned, yet he was also very humble. When we defend our faith, we first of all need to know what we are talking about. Secondly, we need to respect the other side, always presenting our defense with a calm and loving attitude. Jesus did that in His time, St. Irenaeus did it in his, and we must do it in ours. Learn your information from good solid Catholic teachers and writings, ponder it until you understand it yourself, and then make your case in convincing but respectful terms. It is the way of all great defenders of the faith.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Devotion for today: Fear not, for I am the one who helps you"

Today we continue our look at the worldwide persecution of Christians.

Scripture for meditation: Isaiah 41:11-13
Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

China arrests Catholic priests, church members as campaign intensifies posted by Rob Kerby, Senior Editor (
Priests and church members in China’s immense underground Catholic Church were arrested this weekend in the community of Tianshui — as the Chinese government continues its persecution of Christians. Among those rounded up were the administrator of the underground diocese, Father John Baptist Wang Ruohan, retired Bishop Casmir Wang Milu, Father John Wang Ruowang, as well as several other priests and dozens of parish lay leaders, according to sources. Bishop Wang and the two Wang priests are all brothers. They are being held in different places and subjected to political indoctrination sessions designed to break their will. The Chinese government prohibits Chinese Catholics from having any contact with the Pope or the rest of the worldwide church – and insists they participate in a government-run Catholic church not recognized by Vatican. The vast majority of Chinese Catholics have refused, instead worshipping in makeshift “house churches” with priests and bishops ordained by the church in Rome.... According to observers, the arrests are designed to forcibly convince members of the underground – which has more priests than the government-run church — to prevent an underground priest from being elected bishop. The government had already been attempting to slow growth in the underground church by preventing the election of underground priests, arresting several diocesan administrators. In recent months, two other priests were arrested, possible candidates to be bishop. Two weeks ago, Chen Hailong, underground priest of the diocese of Xuanhua was released after his arrest in April. During his 4 months detention he was abused physically as well as mentally and coerced to join the government-run church, which is called the “Patriotic Association” and sever his ties with the Vatican. About the same time as Chen’s release, Wang Chengli, an underground priest of 48 years who is the administrator of the diocese of Heze serving Canzhou and Shandong, was arrested. Under pressure to sever his ties with the Vatican, he was left for days without food or water. The Catholic Diocese of Tianshui asks for the prayers of Christians worldwide for the release of their priests and faithful.

Prayer: St. Thomas More, Patron of Religious Freedom, Pray for Us
(Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved)
O God our Creator, from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as your people and given us the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society. We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith. Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome—for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

My thoughts: We all believe that this type of persecution can never happen to us. It can and it will if we do not stand up and declare that Religious Liberty is a right of every human being, and that no government should force religious people to go against their faith to satisfy political dictates. The Church has always prevailed. We must never lose hope.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Devotion for today: “my spirit is overwhelmed within me”

Today we continue to look at religious persecution in today’s world, this time in Iran.

Scripture for meditation: Psalm 143:3-4, 9
For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead. Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart is appalled within me. Deliver me, O LORD, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.

Iranian Christians Face Government Persecution
Posted by aquinas on 2/21/12 • Categorized as Faith

Iranian Christians Face Government Persecution
Posted by aquinas on 2/21/12 • Categorized as Faith

Iranian Christians remain cautious about the practice of their faith as officials raided another house-church and arrested six to ten members of the congregation Feb. 8. Church-houses are used for Christians to secretly come together and worship God.
The identity of only one of those arrested Feb. 8, Mojtaba Hosseini, is known. Authorities arrested Hosseini in 2008, along with eight other Christian converts, on charges of being Christians, according to Mohabat News. “I guess they have been watching Hosseini since then,” an Iranian Christian said. Although Christianity along with Judaism and Zoroastrianism, is an officially recognized religion in Iran, Christian groups frequently face disadvantages. Religious institutions, including schools, hospitals and churches, need to be owned and managed by a Muslim, for example. Authorities have prohibited musical worship and Bible distribution at the Central Church of Tehran, the largest and most visible Assemblies of God church in the country. Last December, officials enforced a policy under which only invited guests could attend a Christmas service at the church, and in December 2009 the church succumbed to intense pressure by authorities to discontinue its Friday services, which had attracted the most converts to Christianity. Before the Iranian revolution, nearly four times as many Christians lived within the country. Now, however, Christians make up less than one percent of total population of Iran. Christians who stayed practiced their faith in their home. This practice arose because non-Christian Iranians often persecute Christians. Many of these atrocities are accounted in The Voice of the Martyrs, a website created to reveal the problems Iranian Christians face. “The church is exploding in terms of numbers, but it is coming with a price. The people are arrested, they’re harassed, they’re persecuted, in some cases they are beaten severely. It is not an easy pathway,” Todd Nettleton, a member of Voice of the Martyrs, said.

Prayer: Prayer to St. Michael, the Archangel
St. Michael the archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snare of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the divine power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen

My thoughts; When we live in the relative comfort of freedom, we really don’t stop to think about the rest of the world. Today we see that just trying to be a practicing Christian can have grave consequences in countries such as Iran. Let us never take our religious freedom for granted, and let us pray fervently for that freedom to reach around the world. Jesus Christ – set the captives free.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Devotion for today: Christianity attacked in all parts of the world

Today we begin a series on the religious persecution going on around the world. Pray for religious freedom for all mankind.

Scripture for meditation: Corinthians 5:6-10
Brothers and sisters: we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each my receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

ASIA/LAOS - Converted to Christianity? Two soldiers discharged
Savannakhet (Agenzia Fides) - At the end of May 2012, Khamsorn and Tonglai, two members of the security forces in the village of Alowmai in the district of Phin, part of the province of Savannakhet, converted to Christianity. Soon after, their families followed them. The choice was not appreciated by the village chief, who reported their conversion to the police chief of the sub-district of Chudsume. They reaffirmed their right to do so, as all Laotian citizens enjoy freedom of worship. Dissatisfied, the village chief reported the story to the military command of the District of Phin, head of the security forces in the district.  On 14 June 2012, the command of the military district decided to permanently discharge Khamsorm and Tonglai from active service in the security forces, by withdrawing uniforms and weapons. The dismissal took place as a result of their decision to embrace the Christian faith. "Kahmsorn and Tonglai faithfully served the nation and the citizens who reside in their village: now they are punished and disgraced because of their Christian faith," said the NGO "Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom" (HRWLRF) in a note sent to Fides. The NGO appeals to the government of Laos to respect the human rights and religious freedom of the citizens of Laos, guaranteed by the Loatian constitution, and demands the reinstatement of Khamsorn and Tonglai in active service among the security forces. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 22/6/2012)
Prayer: Prayer for Religious Liberty
Almighty God, Father of all nations, for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus. We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty, the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good. Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties; by your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land. We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness, and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign, one God, forever and ever. Amen (The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC)

My thoughts: Religious freedom is worth fighting for. When it is gone, the consequences are enormous. Fast and pray and speak up so that what is happening in Laos will stop, and those types of punishments will cease in all nations of the world.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Devotion for today: heal me, O Lord!

Today’s gospel readings center on the healing power of Jesus Christ. Let us take time to tap into this fount of mercy and love ourselves.

For Healing
Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to You. Allow your healing hand to heal me. Touch my soul with Your compassion for others. Touch my heart with Your courage and infinite love for all. Touch my mind with Your wisdom, that my mouth may always proclaim Your praise. Teach me to reach out to You in my need, and help me to lead others to You by my example. Most loving Heart of Jesus, bring me health in body and spirit that I may serve You with all my strength. Touch gently this life which You have created, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer for Healing
Lord, look upon me with eyes of mercy, may your healing hand rest upon me, may your life-giving powers flow into every cell of my body and into the depths of my soul, cleansing, purifying, restoring me to wholeness and strength for service in your Kingdom. Amen.

Prayer for Healing
O God who are the only source of health and healing, the spirit of calm and the central peace of this universe, grant to me such a consciousness of your indwelling and surrounding presence that I may permit you to give me health and strength and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for the Dying
Most merciful Jesus, lover of souls, I pray you by the agony of your most sacred heart, and by the sorrows of your Immaculate Mother, to wash in your most Precious Blood the sinners of the world who are now in their agony, and who will die today.

Heart of Jesus, once in agony, have mercy on the dying.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul. Assist me in my last agony, and grant that I may breathe forth my soul in peace with you. Amen.

Prayer for the Sick
Omnipotent and eternal God, the everlasting Salvation of those who believe, hear us on behalf of Thy sick servant, N., for whom we beg the aid of Thy pitying mercy, that, with his bodily health restored, he may give thanks to Thee in Thy church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Devotion for today: The Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptists

Why Do We Celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist?

The nativity of Saint John the Baptist is a sacred reminder of the fact that I need born in my life every day:

·         Someone who leaps with joy before the presence of the Lord making me want to live my own relationship with Jesus with greater ardor and fervor

·         Someone to prepare the way of the Lord and to give me knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of my sins

·         Someone who turns my attention away from my distractions and preconceptions so that I will behold the Lamb of God as the true desire of my heart

·         Someone who models for me that there is no greater joy in my life than for Jesus to increase and for me to decrease, especially as regards my self-reliance, my self- assertion, my self-importance

·         Someone who is a burning and shining lamp whose radiance gives light to my path and courage to my heart, making me want to live for others

·         Someone so committed to the truth that he is willing to lay down his life for the Truth-become-flesh, witnessing to me that all true happiness comes through self-sacrifice

·         Someone whose sanctity proclaims that there is no man born of woman greater than he is but that I can share his greatness if I love Jesus as he did.

·         In the tender compassion of our God, the Dawn from on high has broken upon us through the birth of John the Baptist.

(Father Peter John Cameron, O.P. Magnificat, June, 2012, P.O. Box 822, Yonkers, NY, 10702 or to subscribe)