Saturday, December 8, 2012

Devotion for today: Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Speaking in Rome on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Benedict XVI said that Mary Immaculate helps us rediscover and defend what is inside people, because in her there is perfect transparency of soul and body. She is purity in person in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are fully coherent in her and with God’s will. The Holy Father said that Mary teaches us to open up to God’s action and to look at others as he does, starting with the heart, to look upon them with mercy, love, infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, scorned or exploited. Where sins increased, grace overflows all the more. Further the Pope said that he wants to pay tribute publicly to all those who in silence, in deeds not in words, strive to practice the Evangelical law of love which drives the world forward. He mentioned that there many such persons even in Rome. They are persons who work silently and do not make the headlines. They are men and women of all ages, who realize that it is not worth condemning, complaining or recriminating; that it is better to respond to evil doing good; to changes things; or better, to changes people, hence improve society.
Giving his reflections on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Father explained the title of “Immaculate” by referring to the book of Genesis and the account of the Annunciation given in the Gospel of St. Luke. He said that it is through woman that God Himself will triumph. That woman is the Virgin Mary from whom was born Jesus Christ who, with his sacrifice has defeated the ancient tempter once and for all. For this reason, in so many paintings and statues of the Immaculate, she is shown in the act of crushing a serpent under her foot. He further added that the Evangelist Luke shows us the Virgin Mary receiving the announcement from the heavenly messenger. She appears as the humble and authentic daughter of Israel, the true Zion in which God wishes to establish His dwelling. She is the branch from which the Messiah, the just and merciful King, will grow. … Unlike Adam and Eve, Mary remains obedient to the Lord’s will. With all of herself she pronounces her ‘yes’ and fully places herself at the disposal of the divine plan. She is the new Eve, the true ‘mother of all creatures’; that is, of everyone who, through faith in Christ, receives eternal life. The Pope concluded by rendering thanks unto God “for this marvelous sign of His goodness”, and by entrusting to the Virgin Immaculate “each one of us, our families and communities, the whole Church and the world entire”.
Not only was the Blessed Virgin Mary immaculate in her conception, but she remained faithful and immaculate to God to the end of her earthly life. Through the Immaculate Conception of Mary who fully cooperated with the Divine Plan of God, we are led to Jesus. The glorious Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a reminder that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the new Eve, our spiritual Mother, she who has become co-redeemer with Christ in our salvation by allowing her womb to become the humble instrument and Sacred Temple of the Living God. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us be thankful to the Immaculate Conception for answering her special calling that was instrumental to our salvation. Let us praise her for having remained immaculate to the end. Let us look up to her, a precious gem of the Holy Catholic Church, as a perfect model of virtues. Let us always remember that, by the grace of God, when we will be glorified to the fullness of our beings, we also will become immaculate in nature. Let us pray today to Mary our Mother to be with us, to guide us, to protect us through her prayers of intercession with her Son. Above all, let us ask her to help us to respond as generously to God’s call as she did and to be as faithful a disciple of her Son as she was.
Fr Eugene lobo S.J., Mangalore, India (
Bottom of Form

Ave Maris Stella  
Ave Maris Stella

Friday, December 7, 2012

Devotion for today: The Gloria – the song of the angels

Today we look at the joyful noise we make unto the Lord in praying the Gloria.

Scriptures for mediation: Luke 2:13-14: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.
Psalm 24:7,10 Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory.
Revelation 19:6: Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: 270: God is the Father Almighty, whose fatherhood and power shed light on one another: God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us ("I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty"): finally by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins. 271 God's almighty power is in no way arbitrary: "In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God's power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect."

Edward Sri instructs: By addressing the Lord as “almighty” and “heavenly King” in the Gloria, we praise him for his omnipotent reign over heaven and earth. Yet, as the Catechism explains, his omnipotence must be seen in the context of his Fatherhood – which is exactly what we do in the Gloria. We address him as “Lord God, heavenly King, almighty Father.” We do not stop with a mere mention of God’s power and kingship. We go on to praise him ultimately as our heavenly Father. If God were merely an all-powerful king, we might get the impression that he could be like a dictator who arbitrarily wields his authority to do whatever he wants. But God has what the Catechism calls a “fatherly omnipotence.” Just as a good father wants what is best for his children, God’s power is in perfect harmony with his loving will that always seeks what is good for us and that provides for all our needs. Recognizing how good our God is – seeing him as the loving Father who, though all powerful, freely chooses to share his goodness with us – we cannot help but worship, and give thanks and praise. Like lovers who tell each other over and over in varying ways, “I love you,” we express our love for God, saying, “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we give you thanks for your great glory.” Most interesting is the last line in which we praise God for his glory. This is an expression of pure praise – loving God not just for what he does for us, but for who he is, for his glorious goodness and love. (The Mass, Ascension Press, 2010)

My thoughts: If you buy any book in this Year of Faith, buy Edward Sri’s The Mass. This is but a brief excerpt from his teachings on the Gloria. Our Mass is filled with such beautiful prayers like this one, and yet the faithful generally offer nothing more than a rote recitation of this glorious prayer. Look how rich and historic the first few lines of the prayer are! And we haven’t even gotten to the part about Jesus! As this prayer is omitted from the Mass during Advent, say it silently in private instead and allow your heart to join with the angels as they sing:

Prayer: The Gloria (highlights are the new translation)
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you, we bless you,
we adore you, we glorify you,
we give you thanks,
for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: have mercy on us.

For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Devotion for today: Lord, have mercy

Today we renew our understanding of God’s mercy, as we ask for it at every Mass we attend.

Scriptures for meditation: Isaiah 33:2: Lord, have mercy on us: for we have waited for thee: be thou our arm in the morning and our salvation in the time of trouble.
Tobit 8:10:   Sarah also said: Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, and let us grow old both together in health.
Mark 10:46-48: And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho, with his disciples, and a very great multitude, Bartimeus the blind man, the son of Timeus, sat by the way side begging.
Who when he had heard, that it was Jesus of Nazareth, began to cry out, and to say: Jesus son of David, have mercy on me. And many rebuked him, that he might hold his peace; but he cried a great deal the more: Son of David, have mercy on me.
Luke 18:13  And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner.

The Catechism of the Catholic Churches reminds us: 2667: This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is the invocation, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners." It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light. By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior's mercy.

Blessed John Paul II states: Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father's readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ.

My thoughts: The Kyrie, or Lord have mercy invocation, has tremendous power in our lives. At this time in the Mass we offer to God all of our sins, our ailments, our family problems, and our current state in life. We ask Him to have mercy on us. We plead for sight, physical for some, spiritual for most, as Bartimeus did. We plead for mercy on our sins, as the publican did. In the Old Testament it was common for the people to ask for God’s mercy when they had gone astray. Let us take this opportunity at every Mass we attend to place all of our miseries at the foot of the Cross, confident that the Triune God will have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and heal our weaknesses. Then let our hearts be filled with peace and joy and eagerness to unite ourselves to God as He comes to us in the rest of the Mass.

Prayer: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Devotion for today: through my most grievous fault

Once we have called to mind our sins, we ask forgiveness before God and man

Scriptures for meditation: 1 Corinthians 11:27-28
 It follows that if one of you eats the Lord's bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord's body and blood. So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup.
James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:1435 Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.

Edward Sri tells us: In the Confiteor, we confess our sins not only “to almighty God” but also “to you my brothers and sisters.” The prayer thus follows the exhortation of James to “confess your sins to one another” and it highlights the social effects of sin. Our sins affect our relationship with God and with each other. The Confiteor also challenges us to consider seriously four areas in which we may have fallen into sin: “In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do.” These four points serve as an excellent examination of conscience…. Finally let us consider two points about the new translation of this prayer. Both improvements more adequately reflect the Latin text of the Mass and help underscore the seriousness of sin. First, instead of simply saying, “I have sinned” at the beginning of this prayer, we now say “I have greatly sinned.” This reflects David’s repentant words to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing” (1 Chr 21:8). Second, instead of simply saying “through my own fault,” we repeat it three times while striking our breasts in a sign of repentance: “…through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” This repetition more fully expresses sorrow over our sins. When we are at fault over something small, we might simple say to the person whom we have wronged, “I’m sorry.” But if it is a more serious matter and we deeply feel sorrow over our actions, we sometimes apologize several times and in varying ways: “I’m so sorry…I really regret doing that…Please forgive me.” This line in the liturgy helps us recognize that sinning against God is no light matter. We must take responsibility for whatever wrong we have done, or the good that we should have done but failed to do. Therefore, at Mass, I do not simply offer an apology to God. In the Confiteor, I express heartfelt contrition and humbly admit that I have sinned “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”(The Mass,Ascension Press, 2010).

My thoughts: I am reading an excellent book right now, titled “Forming Intentional Disciples". The author, Sherry Weddell, does extensive research into why so many Catholics have left the Church, and one of the biggest reasons one group in the study gave for leaving was that the liturgy was not lively and exciting.  I think it is clear in our study of the Mass that this is not the place to come to be entertained. It is the place to come to meet God. It is the place where the curtain is torn in two and heaven and earth unite in the Eucharist. If we are going to face our Lord and Savior, then we must be clean. Pride will always cause our backs to go up at the thought that we are pitiful sinners, but we are, and when we ask God to forgive us, He does. He doesn't want any of us to exist in our dirty souls; He wants us clean, and close to Him. “Ask and you shall receive”, He tells us. So ask for forgiveness, and it is yours. Confess your sins, and you are forgiven, and prepare to meet God. Lively and exciting? How about live-giving and exalting!

Prayer: Confiteor:
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault,
through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Devotion for today: For we are guilty of sin

We now enter into the penitential rites of the Mass.

Scriptures for meditation: Exodus 19: 90-11
 The Lord also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: 1431: Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).

Fr. Robert Barron explains: Immediately after the greeting the priest invites everyone in attendance to call to mind his or her sins. This simple routine is of extraordinary importance. G.K. Chesterton once remarked, “There are saints in my religion, but that just means men who know they are sinners.” For the great English apologist, the relevant distinction is not between sinners and non-sinners, but between those who know their sin and those who, for whatever reason, don’t. The heroes of the faith – the saints – are precisely those who are ordered toward God and who therefore have a keener appreciation of how far they fall short of the ideal. Saint John of the Cross compared the soul to a pane of glass. When it is facing away from the light, its smudges and imperfections are barely noticeable, but when it is directed at the light, every mark, even the smallest, becomes visible…. Therefore as the Liturgy commences and we stand within the embrace of the Trinitarian love, we mimic the saints and become, perforce, not less but more aware of our sins. In doing so, we offer a corrective to the pervasive cultural tendency toward exculpation. “I’m okay and you’re okay,” we tell ourselves. But to subscribe to such a… sentiment is, ipso facto, to prove that one is not facing into the clarifying light of God. (Catholicism, Image Books, 2011)

My thoughts:  When the priest asks us to call to mind our sins, he is asking us to perform a task which goes back to the Old Testament. Before the Word of God could be heard by the people, God instructed Moses to have them cleanse themselves. Before we can even think of coming into contact with God in this holiest of mysteries, we must acknowledge our sins to ourselves before we can ask God to forgive them. Have you ever been with someone who had offended you, yet acted like nothing happened, and just expected you to go on in the relationship ignoring the hurt and offense that stood between you? It is the same thing with us and God. We know we have hurt Him, He knows we have hurt Him, and now we have the opportunity to force our prideful selves to look closely and admit the sin. It is a wonderfully freeing act to get the sin on the table so it can be forgiven. Only then can we come into the full glory of the Mass.

Prayer to examine one’s conscience:
Dear God, please help me to know my sins, and to see where I may have offended you in my thoughts, words, deeds and acts of omission. Holy Spirit, fill me with humility so that I can be honest with myself to see the wrongs I have committed, and to be willing to hand them over to God for forgiveness. Help me to wash clean the garment of my soul. Amen (Sandy Bertini)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Devotion for today: The Lord be with you…

In our year of faith study of the Mass, we now look at the beautiful greeting which welcomes us into the holiness of the Mass.

Scriptures for meditation:  Ruth 2:4: And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem; and he said to the reapers, ‘The Lord be with you!’ And they answered, ‘The Lord bless you.’ 

1 Chronicles 22:11,16: Now, my son, the Lord be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the Lord your God, as he has spoken concerning you…. The Lord be with you!

2 Tm 4:22: The Lord be with your spirit.

Phil 4:23: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: 446 In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the ineffable Hebrew name YHWH, by which God revealed himself to Moses, is rendered as Kyrios, "Lord". From then on, "Lord" becomes the more usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel's God. The New Testament uses this full sense of the title "Lord" both for the Father and - what is new - for Jesus, who is thereby recognized as God Himself. 451 Christian prayer is characterized by the title "Lord", whether in the invitation to prayer ("The Lord be with you"), its conclusion ("through Christ our Lord") or the exclamation full of trust and hope: Maran atha ("Our Lord, come!") or Marana tha ("Come, Lord!") - "Amen Come Lord Jesus!"

Mike Aquilina tells us: …The greeting…is more than a “Hi, how are ya?” It’s an important moment highlighting the Spirit’s power to transform not only the elements offered in the Mass, but also the communicants who partake of the sacrament…. St. John Chrysostom… held that the congregation’s response, “And with your spirit,” is an implicit profession of faith in the power of the sacrament of holy orders. Chrysostom’s claims demand our closest attention:  “If the Holy Spirit were not in this your common father and teacher, you would not, just now, when he ascended this holy chair and wished you all peace, have cried out with one accord, ‘And with your spirit.'Thus you cry out to him, not only when he ascends his throne and when he speaks to you and prays for you, but also when he stands at this holy altar to offer the sacrifice. He does not touch that which lies on the altar before wishing you the grace of our Lord, and before you have replied to him, ‘And with your spirit.' By this cry, you are reminded that he who stands at the altar does nothing, and that the gifts that repose there are not the merits of a man; but that the grace of the Holy Spirit is present and, descending on all, accomplishes this mysterious sacrifice. We indeed see a man, but it is God who acts through him. Nothing human takes place at this holy altar.” One 20th century commentator, Maurice Zundel, spoke of it as a rallying cry. The priest issues it as a summons whenever the Church is about to do something new in the liturgy — launch the Mass, proclaim the Gospel, make the offering, or dismiss the faithful to be Christ to the world. At every new beginning in our Mass, we draw nearer to the divine mystery. We draw closer than Moses was on Mount Sinai, closer than the high priest had been in the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple. We need the Lord to be with us. We need the Spirit of Christ as we advance. Because that’s the only way we can be safe, so close to the divine fire. In our sacramental liturgy, the things of nature are elevated to supernatural significance. It happens with bread. It happens with wine. It happens with common words. They can speak with power that’s supernatural, and they can effect what they signify. They don’t need great pomp to do this. But clarity and completeness can only help. Liturgical formality is, of course, no guarantee of congregational reverence. It’s funny that in another long passage where St. John Chrysostom analyzes the meaning of “And with your spirit,” he also decries the irreverence he witnesses in church every Sunday. In the old days, he pointed out, the houses became churches; now, he said, the churches have become mere houses, where Christians behave with casualness and carelessness, heedless of the divine mystery in their midst. He continues in an imploring tone, “When I say, ‘Peace be unto you,’ and you say, ‘And with your spirit,’ say it not with the voice only, but also with the mind; not in mouth only, but in understanding also.” That should be our rallying cry today. May the Lord indeed be with us!

My thoughts: Although we are examining the expression “The Lord be with you…” as it appears at the beginning of the Mass, its importance to our faith cannot be understated. Take, for example, the fact that it appears five times in the course of a Mass. We say it in the introductory rites, at the Gospel, at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, in the Communion rite and, in the concluding rites. The new translation makes it perfectly clear what is happening at this moment: the priest is calling the Lord into our lives, and we are acknowledging His presence in the priest. Let us ponder the beautiful and powerful event occurring at this age-old utterance, and remain throughout the Mass in a posture and attitude worthy of being in the Lord’s presence.

Prayer: Prayer for Priests (St. Catherine of Siena)
[Father,] I beseech You, direct the hearts and wills of the servants of Your Bride, the Holy Church, unto yourself so that they may follow the poor, bleeding, humble, and gentle Lamb of God on the way of the Cross. Make them angels in the shape of men; for after all, they have to administer and distribute the Body and Blood of Your Only Begotten Son! Amen (

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Devotion for today: Your redemption is at hand

The First Sunday in Advent

Gospel Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
Jesus said to his disciples:
"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man."

The Season of Advent is therefore a season of vigilant waiting, that prepares us to welcome the mystery of the Word Incarnate, who will give the ‘Light’ to the womb of the Virgin Mary, but essentially this time prepares us not only to welcome this great event but to incarnate it in our lives. We could say that the true light enters the world through the immaculate womb of Mary but it does not stay there. On the contrary, this light flows out into our dark, obscure, sinful lives to illuminate them, so that we can become the light that illuminates the world. For this reason, let us live this time of waiting not only to celebrate a historical memory but to repeat this memory in our lives and in the service of others. To wait for the Lord who comes, means to wait and to watch so that the Word of Love enters inside us and focuses us every day of our lives.

Prayer:  Collect from the First Sunday in Advent:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.