Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Saint Marianne Cope


The following comes from the American Catholic site:

Though leprosy scared off most people in 19th-century Hawaii, that disease sparked great generosity in the woman who came to be known as Mother Marianne of Molokai. Her courage helped tremendously to improve the lives of its victims in Hawaii, a territory annexed to the United States during her lifetime (1898).


Mother Marianne’s generosity and courage were celebrated at her May 14, 2005, beatification in Rome. She was a woman who spoke “the language of truth and love” to the world, said Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. Cardinal Martins, who presided at the beatification Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, called her life “a wonderful work of divine grace.” Speaking of her special love for persons suffering from leprosy, he said, “She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus. Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother.”

On January 23, 1838, a daughter was born to Peter and Barbara Cope of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany. The girl was named after her mother. Two years later the Cope family emigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York. Young Barbara worked in a factory until August 1862, when she went to the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York. After profession in November of the next year, she began teaching at Assumption parish school.

Marianne held the post of superior in several places and was twice the novice mistress of her congregation. A natural leader, three different times she was superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, where she learned much that would be useful during her years in Hawaii.

Elected provincial in 1877, Mother Marianne was unanimously re-elected in 1881. Two years later the Hawaiian government was searching for someone to run the Kakaako Receiving Station for people suspected of having leprosy. More than 50 religious communities in the United States and Canada were asked. When the request was put to the Syracuse sisters, 35 of them volunteered immediately. On October 22, 1883, Mother Marianne and six other sisters left for Hawaii where they took charge of the Kakaako Receiving Station outside Honolulu; on the island of Maui they also opened a hospital and a school for girls.

In 1888, Mother Marianne and two sisters went to Molokai to open a home for “unprotected women and girls” there. The Hawaiian government was quite hesitant to send women for this difficult assignment; they need not have worried about Mother Marianne! On Molokai she took charge of the home that St. Damien de Veuster [May 10, d. 1889] had established for men and boys. Mother Marianne changed life on Molokai by introducing cleanliness, pride and fun to the colony. Bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women were part of her approach.
Awarded the Royal Order of Kapiolani by the Hawaiian government and celebrated in a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mother Marianne continued her work faithfully. Her sisters have attracted vocations among the Hawaiian people and still work on Molokai.

Mother Marianne died on August 9, 1918 and was beatified in 2005 and canonized seven years later.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Remembering Blessed Laura Vicuña

Today the Salesians remember Blessed Laura Vicuña.  Laura Carmen Vicuña was born in Santiago, in Chile, on the 5th April 1891 to Joseph Domenico and Mercedes Pino. The Vicuña family were Chilean aristocrats, forced into exile by the revolution. They took refuge in Temuco in a poor house, but soon after Joseph Domenico died suddenly, and Mercedes had to take refuge with her two daughters in Argentina. They came to Junín de los Andes. Mercedes came to know the rather pushy Manuel Mora and accepted working for him, but also living with him.

In 1900 Laura went to board with her sister Julia Amanda with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians at their school. She was a model pupil: prayerful, listened to the Sisters, available to her companions, always happy and ready to make sacrifices.

The following year she made her first communion with the same fervour and ideals as Saint Dominic Savio, whom she had taken as a model. she entered the Children of Mary. While one of the Sisters was explaining the sacrament of marriage during catechetics, Laura began to understand her mother’s sinful state, and fainted. She also understood because during the holidays on the farm her mother made her pray in secret, and never went to the sacraments. From then on Laura increased her prayers and sacrifices for her mother’s conversion. During the holidays in 1902 Manuel Mora threatened Laura’s virtue; she firmly refused him, sending him into a rage.

She went back to school as a student assistant, because he would no longer pay her fees. With all her heart she asked if she could become a Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, but she was denied this because of her mother’s living in sin. She offered her life to the Lord for her mother’s conversion, became more self-sacrificing, and with the consent of her confessor, Fr Crestanello, made private vows.  Weak from sacrifices and from other sickness, she was hit by Mora for refusing him yet again. On her final night she confided: “Mamma, I am dying! For a long time I have asked Jesus, offering my life for you, so you will return to God... Mamma, before I die will I have the chance to see you repent?”. “Laura”, Mercedes answered, “ I promise I will do what you ask”.  With this joy Laura died the evening of the 22nd January 1904. 

Her body lies in the chapel belonging to the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Bahía Blanca. At the centenary of Don Bosco’s death, this chosen daughter, who had given her life for the virtue dearest to the Master, was proclaimed Blessed by John Paul II, on the 3rd September 1988.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Jim Caviezel: Be warriors animated by faith!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Pope John Paul II's Prayer for Vocations

Holy and provident Father, You are the Lord of the vineyard and the harvest and You give each a just reward for their work. In your design of love You call men and women to work with You for the salvation of the world. We thank You for Jesus Christ, your living word, who has redeemed us from our sins and is among us to assist us in our poverty. Guide the flock to which You have promised possession of the kingdom. Send new workers into your harvest and set in the hearts of pastors faithfulness to your plan of salvation, perseverance in their vocation and holiness of life.

Christ Jesus, who on the shores of the Sea of Galilee called the Apostles and made them the foundation of the Church and bearers of your Gospel, in our day, sustain your people on its journey. Give courage to those whom You call to follow You in the priesthood and the consecrated life, so that they may enrich God's field with wisdom of your Word. Make them docile instruments of your love in everyday service of their brothers and sisters.

Spirit of holiness, who pour out your gifts on all believers and, especially, on those called to be Christ's ministers, help young people to discover the beauty of the divine call. Teach them the true way of prayer, which is nourished by the Word of God. Help them to read the signs of the times, so as to be faithful interpreters of your Gospel and bearers of salvation.

Mary, Virgin who listened and Virgin of the Word of God made flesh in your womb, help us to be open to the Word of the Lord, so that, having been welcomed and meditated upon, it may grow in our hearts. Help us to live like You the beatitudes of believers and to dedicate ourselves with unceasing charity to evangelizing all those who seek your Son. Grant that we may serve every person, becoming servants of the Word we have heard, so that remaining faithful to it we may find our happiness in living it.

Amen.

The Restoration of All Things in Christ


On the Restoration of All Things in Christ: the Era of Peace.
The video conference is given by Daniel O'Conner at the 2017 Divine Will Conference in Tampa, Florida. He speaks on what is found in the Magisterium of Pope St. Pius X and Pope Pius XI, and the Divine Will revelations given by Jesus to the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta. Dan finishes with what we can do to hasten this Coming of the Kingdom.

Trust in the Lord: Psalm 37


Psalm 37


Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,

for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil.

For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.

But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

The wicked plot against the righteous, and gnash their teeth at them;

but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that their day is coming.

The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to kill those who walk uprightly;

their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.

Better is a little that the righteous person has than the abundance of many wicked.

For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.

The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will abide forever;

they are not put to shame in evil times, in the days of famine they have abundance.

But the wicked perish, and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

The wicked borrow, and do not pay back, but the righteous are generous and keep giving;

for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way;

though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

They are ever giving liberally and lending, and their children become a blessing.

Depart from evil, and do good; so you shall abide forever.

For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his faithful ones. The righteous shall be kept safe forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

The righteous shall inherit the land, and live in it forever.

The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak justice.

The law of their God is in their hearts; their steps do not slip.

The wicked watch for the righteous, and seek to kill them.

The Lord will not abandon them to their power, or let them be condemned when they are brought to trial.

Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on the destruction of the wicked.

I have seen the wicked oppressing, and towering like a cedar of Lebanon.

Again I passed by, and they were no more; though I sought them, they could not be found.

Mark the blameless, and behold the upright, for there is posterity for the peaceable.

But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off.

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their refuge in the time of trouble.

The Lord helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saint of the day: Brother Andre


Today the Church remembers Saint Andre Bessette. His story is a remarkable one and he is a great example of faith and devotion that we might imitate today!

Alfred Bessette was born in Canada on August 9, 1845. He entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1870, taking the name of Brother Andre. He was assigned to be doorkeeper at the community's high school in Montreal. There he fostered devotion to Saint Joseph among the sick and otherwise afflicted and soon became known as the "Miracle Man" of Montreal.

With ever bigger crowds of the poor and needy gathering in front of the school. it soon brought protests from the students' parents and some community members. Bro. Andre, aware of this problem, asked in 1904 to build a small chapel on the hill beyond the school. This was the small beginning of the Oratory of St. Joseph that now stands there.

Bro. Andre died on January 6, 1937. His burial had to be postponed for several days until the last of more than three million people were able to pass by his bier and pay him homage. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982.

To learn more about Blessed Andre please look here!

Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord

The following comes from the Women of Faith and Family site:


The Church's celebration of Epiphany ("manifestation), the "twelfth night of Christmas," apparently originated in Egypt sometime during the third century, thus the Church's celebration of this feast predates even the celebration of Christmas itself.


Epiphany is traditionally celebrated in honor of Christ's birth, of the adoration of the Magi, and of the baptism of Christ's (also celebrated on the first Sunday following Epiphany), three manifestations of the Lord's divinity.


Because the Magi came form the Orient, many of the traditional foods served on this day are spicy. Spice cake is often baked for dessert, and entrees may include curry powder or other pungent spices.
Several lovely family customs are associated with Epiphany. It is on Epiphany that the Christmas creche is finally completed, as the figures of the three wise men at last arrive at the crib. In many families, the wise men are moved a bit closer to the crib every day from Christmas Day until Epiphany. Also, recalling the gifts to the Infant Jesus, many families exchange small gifts.


A time-honored custom (especially in France) is the baking of a cake with a bean or trinket hidden inside. The person whose cake contains the bean is made king of the feast. Processions of robed and crowned "wise men" to the manger are fun for little ones, and provide them with an opportunity to think of a good deed that they can offer as a gift to Jesus.


The blessing of the home is also a popular Epiphany custom. using specially blessed chalk (your parish priest will bless the chalk, if you ask, or use the prayer of blessing below), many households mark their entrance door with the year and with the inscription CMB, the initial Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the names of the three wise man in legend. The inscription also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means "Christ, bless this home." The popular form the inscription takes is 20+C+M+B+03. It remains above the doorway until Pentecost.


In England, Twelfth Night was traditionally celebrated with a drink called Lamb's Wool, made of cider or ale, with roasted apples and sugar and spices. It was the custom to bless apple trees on that night by pouring a libation of cider on them.  For more go here.

Friday, January 5, 2018

A New Year's Resolution: Charity in Discussion


The following comes from Dr. Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture:
When I reflect on my own interaction with critics over the past year, I recall those occasions when I was decidedly not conciliatory. And in surveying various discussion groups, including some consisting only of dedicated Catholics, I’ve overheard my share of vitriolic exchanges. We’ve come to expect a low level of social discourse in political discussion, led by political advertising and the verbal maneuvering of televised debates. But there is something wrong—something spiritually wrong—when the same problem afflicts religious discussions.
Hilaire Belloc wisely wrote that the grace of God is in courtesy. Nobody likes being ignored, ridiculed, insulted or otherwise abused. Everybody appreciates being treated with respect and listened to as if his ideas matter. And while not everyone has good ideas, everyone’s ideas do matter. They give us clues to the personality, to the strengths and weaknesses of a particular character, and—perhaps most important—to the needs of a brother or sister in a family that ultimately belongs to God.
But the Christian’s call goes far beyond the mere appearance of courtesy. Our Lord requires of us a courtesy motivated by something deeper, namely charity. We all know this, yet again and again, as soon we find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue, we tend to plug our ears and hold our noses—when we should be opening our ears and biting our tongues.
Sometimes, of course, we find ourselves under deliberate and even malicious attack. At CatholicCulture.org, we receive numerous messages through our Contact form in which “unregistered visitors” simply open fire on the Faith, the Church and those who write for the site. Sometimes it is wisest to ignore such messages, especially if the nature of the correspondence and the available time suggest that we will not be in a position to make a positive impact. Similarly, there will be times when any Catholic will have little choice but to extricate himself as politely as possible from an unpleasant personal confrontation.
But often we are faced with disagreements caused by approaching similar questions from different directions or backgrounds, in which animosity, if any, is largely incidental. In such cases, both charity and good sense demand that we hold our fire long enough to understand the values and principles which have led to a contradictory statement. We need to determine, first, whether we’ve missed something significant in either our own thoughts or, as is quite likely, in our own brief comments on the subject at hand. Second, we must discover the strengths and weaknesses of this rival point of view so that we can address the comments reasonably, and even generously.
And third, precisely as a matter of charity, we are called to discern the motivation of our would-be opponent so that we can figure out whether there is something incomplete, weak or broken which cries out for help and healing. Who knows if Our Lord might choose to bestow a grace here through an unworthy servant—through you or me—if we can but hold ourselves open for the task.
This readiness to be used as a means of grace is admittedly difficult to maintain. We are proud, which translates into an excessive attachment to our own ideas, along with a corresponding contempt for contrary ideas and those who express them. And because we are proud, we are also very prickly, taking offense easily, and prone to unseemly distress when contradicted. We seem to be able to recognize the absurdity of such reactions only when we have no stake in the game.
Those of us with dogmatic personalities—and that includes many who take the Faith seriously in a hostile culture—have an additional spiritual hurdle, because we so often confuse our commitment to God’s principles with our own self-importance as God’s spokesmen. This can lead to a habit of self-righteous indignation, as if we must denounce others in defense of Christ, though to be sure He has already indicated His complete willingness to suffer disrespect in order to win hearts. This is usually a case of the servant not really following the Master.
Moreover, we have a tendency to assume that because we know we are right about some things—namely, the dogmas of the Faith—therefore we must be right about everything. But because we have the privilege of accepting the truths of Catholicism, it does not follow that our pastoral preferences are infallible, or our political insight, or our social theories, or our ability to separate truth from falsehood in other fields, or even our spiritual perception. Why then do we pronounce as Catholics on virtually everything under the sun with the same certainty which we ought to reserve for the most basic precepts of the catechism? How easily do all men and women assume the rightness of their own judgments! But in Catholics, who ought to know that they depend at all times on the most generous gifts of God, this belief in our own perfection is a particularly offensive fault.
Here's a sobering thought: The next person to contradict us (or to contradict the Church) may actually be at an early stage of his own interior journey home. Now it just so happens that, for better or worse, in almost every discussion we ourselves represent home. A harsh word now may drive this person away. A good rule of thumb is that we need to know someone extremely well and have a pre-existing relationship with him if we are to be in any position to speak harshly, and then only as a last resort. We dare not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick (Is 42:3; applied to Christ in Mt 12:20). But I know I have done it. Have you?
Therefore, as we begin a new year and consider our own resolutions, I’d like to recommend that we all strive to discuss the issues that animate CatholicCulture.org with greater charity. I don’t mean so much on the website itself, for we have precious little opportunity for discussion here, except for just a bit of it in Sound Off! or via email. I am referring instead to the deliberate and persistent cultivation of charity in our discussions with those who are not part of the CatholicCulture.org family.
Our purpose—the purpose of all those who take seriously the issues presented through CatholicCulture.org—is to enrich faith, strengthen the Church and form Catholic culture. These tasks are, inescapably, oriented toward others. None of this can be done without love and, in most cases, the first opportunity to show love is in how we talk with others.
Charity in discussion: This could easily be the most important thing we accomplish in the New Year and beyond.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Feast of St. John the Evangelist


The following comes from Catholic.org:

St. John, the son of Zebedee, and the brother of St. James the Great, was called to be an Apostle by our Lord in the first year of His public ministry. He became the "beloved disciple" and the only one of the Twelve who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion. He stood faithfully at the cross when the Savior made him the guardian of His Mother. His later life was passed chiefly in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. He founded many churches in Asia Minor. He wrote the fourth Gospel, and three Epistles, and the Book of Revelation is also attributed to him. Brought to Rome, tradition relates that he was by order of Emperor Dometian cast into a cauldron of boiling oil but came forth unhurt and was banished to the island of Pathmos for a year. He lived to an extreme old age, surviving all his fellow apostles, and died at Ephesus about the year 100.

St. John is called the Apostle of Charity, a virtue he had learned from his Divine Master, and which he constantly inculcated by word and example. The "beloved disciple" died at Ephesus, where a stately church was erected over his tomb. It was afterwards converted into a Mohammedan mosque. 

John is credited with the authorship of three epistles and one Gospel, although many scholars believe that the final editing of the Gospel was done by others shortly after his death. He is also supposed by many to be the author of the book of Revelation, also called the Apocalypse, although this identification is less certain.

Saint John the Evangelist and the Cave at Patmos




The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Son of Zebedee and Salome. Fisherman. Brother of Saint James the Greater, and called one of the Sons of Thunder. Disciple of Saint John the Baptist. Friend of Saint Peter the Apostle. Called by Jesus during the first year of His ministry, and traveled everywhere with Him, becoming so close as to be known as the beloved disciple. Took part in the Last Supper. The only one of the Twelve not to forsake the Saviour in the hour of His Passion, standing at the foot of the cross. Made guardian of Our Lady by Jesus, and he took her into his home. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the lake of Tiberias, he was the first to recognize Him.
During the era of the new Church, he worked in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. During Jesus’ ministry, he tried to block a Samaritan from their group, but Jesus explained the open nature of the new Way, and he worked on that principle to found churches in Asia Minorand baptizing converts in SamariaImprisoned with Peter for preaching after PentecostWrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation. Survived all his fellow apostles.
Traditional stories:
  • Emperor Dometian had him brought to Romebeatenpoisoned, and thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, but he stepped out unharmed and was banished to Patmos instead. This is commemorated by the feast of Saint John before the Latin Gate.
  • When John was en route to preach in Asia, his ship was wrecked in a storm; all but John were cast ashore. John was assumeddead, but two weeks later the waves cast him ashore alive at the feet of his disciple Prochoros.
  • When John denounced idol worship as demonic, followers of Artemis stoned him; the rocks turned and hit the throwers.
  • He prayed in a temple of Artemis; fire from heaven killed 200 men who worshipped the idol. When the remaining group begged for mercy, he raised the 200 from the dead; they all converted and were baptized.
  • Drove out a demon who had lived in a pagan temple for 249 years.
  • Aboard ship, he purified vessels of sea water for drinking.
  • Ceonops, a magician, pretended to bring three dead people come to life; the “people” were actually demons who mimicked people so the magician could turn people away from Christ. Through prayer, John caused the magician to drown and thedemons to vanish.
  • Once a year his grave gave off a fragrant dust that cured the sick.



The following came from Gloria TV:


Continuing our look at the Greek Island of Patmos, we walk through the Chora, a UNSECO World Heritage village of cubic whitewashed homes and narrow, crooked pedestrian lanes surrounding the monastery. Then we enter the Cave of St. John where the Evangelist wrote the Book of the Apocalypse, the final chapter of the Bible. A final look around the seaside village then we re-join our Louis Cruise ship, Cristal.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Night Heaven Came to Earth

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
It was night. The shepherds were keeping watch with their sheep in the fields.
They lived in a time of epic and empire, the greatest the world had yet seen. But here, in this land of balding hills and boulder-strewn fields, in a small town in a backwater region, about the most exciting thing these shepherds could expect was a stray wolf striking at their flock.
They were about to witness the most unexpected event in the history of the world.
First came the angel. He appeared not above them, not suspended in the air, but standing right next to them. The angel had to make way for something far greater.
Then the divine splendor of God Himself shone all around them, like a giant halo encircling a hilltop.
An angel was one thing. But this was too much for them. They were reportedly “struck with great fear.” Or, as the original ancient Greek text of the account puts it, they feared with great fear. So begins the Annunciation to the Shepherds as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, in the second chapter.
The shepherds had good reason to be afraid. Luke describes the divine splendor that shone all around them as the “glory of the Lord.” This is the same language that described the cloud that had descended upon Mt. Sinai, where Moses met with God. Then the glory of the Lord could be seen even at a distance, appearing to the Israelites far below as a “consuming fire” (Exodus 24:17). Here’s how Exodus 19 further describes the scene:
On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar, so that all the people in the camp trembled. … Now Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the Lord had come down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently (Exodus 19:16, 18).
Moses spoke and God answered him in thunder (Exodus 19:19). So dangerous was the presence of God that the Israelites were ordered to come no closer than the foot of the mountain, lest they be struck dead.
As fearsome as this was, to both Moses and the Israelites, both had time to prepare for this encounter with God in His glory. Moses had conversed through the God through the burning bush. And the Israelites had seen the power of God at work in the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.
But these shepherds on their night watch never saw it coming. The consuming fire, the cloud glowing with lighting and grumbling with thunder—they had no time to prepare for such a wonder.
But that wasn’t even the big news of the night.
The angel tells them he has “good news” of “great joy” for all of humanity. We can only imagine what is going through the shepherds’ heads at this point. Of one thing we can be assured: the angel had a captive audience. If he proclaimed something of greatness for the whole of humanity, it was pretty believable in that moment.
Then comes the news of an even more extraordinary event: For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

God’s Surprising Christmas Gift

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
Our God likes to surprise us, to break the mold, to reveal his awesome power in ways that we could never have anticipated. The virgin birth of Christ is one of the most surprising and yet splendid events in history—the greatest of Christmas gifts! This Sunday’s reading of a short passage from Isaiah (7:10-14) is one of the most controversial and yet crucial passages of the whole Bible. It prophesies the virgin birth of Christ during a moment of international political crisis.

Historical Context

The Assyrian empire is expanding and conquering. Pekah, the king of Israel, and Rezin, the king of Syria make an alliance against Assyria, the dominant superpower of the time. They want the kingdom of Judah, led by King Ahaz, to join the coalition, but he refuses. Afraid that their two-king alliance won’t be strong enough to withstand the Assyrians, these two kings seek to conquer Judah and set up their own puppet king as the third member of the coalition. At this historical moment when the kingdom of Judah is under threat, the prophet Isaiah speaks these words to King Ahaz. The two allied kings have mustered an army and come to conquer the kingdom of Judah, depose Ahaz and set up a puppet king on the throne. No wonder Ahaz is scared!

God’s Faithfulness and Human Foolishness

Despite Ahaz’s previous unfaithfulness, the Lord pledges to save Judah, David’s kingdom, from the peril posed by the two-king alliance. The Lord wants to reassure Ahaz by offering a divine sign of the king’s choosing as confirmation of the prophet’s word. Rather than responding to the Lord’s invitation with a request, Ahaz pretends to be pious by saying he does not want to “tempt the LORD” (a citation of Deut 6:16). Of course, the Israelites had tested the LORD during the wilderness wanderings, and provoked his judgment. But here, the Lord is offering the king a sign not as an insincere trick to get him to sin, but as a powerful antidote to his lack of faith. Ahaz refuses to ask, showing his obstinance, his unwillingness to be converted even by a miracle. 2 Kings 16:7-8 tell us what Ahaz does instead: he makes an alliance with the powerful Assyrians against Israel and Syria. In fact, he pledges allegiance to Assyria and sends silver and gold from the Temple itself to firm up the offer. The Assyrians accept Ahaz as an ally and launch a counterattack against both kings’ capitals: Damascus and Samaria. Eventually, the Assyrians will break their agreement with Judah and come to attack it as well (2 Kings18).

Two Key Words

Two Hebrew words that underlie this text are important to know: almah and immanuel. The first word,almah in Isaiah 7:14, is translated as “virgin” by the New American Bible. This Hebrew word is a general purpose word for “young woman” (e.g. Gen 24:43) and there is actually another word, betulah, that specifically means “virgin” (e.g. Gen 24:16).  However, the ancient pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, translates almah in Isa 7:14 as parthenos, which means “virgin” in Greek. So when Matthew’s gospel quotes this passage in reference to Christ (Matt 1:23), it is quoting from the Septuagint Greek and showing that the prophecy was understood to be about a virgin birth, not just any birth.
The other key word is well known to us Catholics: immanuel. It is really a compound of two Hebrew words: immanu, meaning “with us”, and el, meaning “God.” So of course, the translation is “God with us.” This name for the child of the virgin indicates that God will come to dwell with us through this special child.

Two Fulfillments?

While Isaiah 7:14 mainly prophesies the virgin birth of Christ, one must ask whether Ahaz received a sign from God at all. The Lord asked him through the prophet to request a sign and since he does not, tells of a sign to be offered anyway. It would seem odd for the sign not to come to fulfillment at all for some 600 years. Did Ahaz receive a sign in his lifetime?
If you read the rest of Isaiah 7, you’ll see that the promises of the Lord here are not a bed of roses. Since Ahaz refused to accept the Lord’s blessing, the Lord will bring judgment upon his kingdom by means of Egypt and Assyria (7:18). Though Ahaz’s enemy kings will be brought low before the child is grown up (7:16), places that used to be fertile farmland will get covered in briers and thorns (7:24-25). God’s judgment is coming upon the kingdom of Judah.
Immediately following in chapter 8 is a description of the birth of Isaiah’s son named Maher-shalal-hashbaz, “one who hastens to plunder, one who hurries to loot” (8:3). The Lord promises that before he can talk, Damascus (Syria’s capital) will be despoiled by Assyria (8:4). This lines up with his promise about Immanuel in 7:16—that Israel and Syria will be deserted before he is grown up. And indeed, this prophecy is addressed to “O Immanuel” (8:8).
This is a little complicated, but I think what we can see here are two fulfillments. On the one hand, Isaiah begets a boy who is a concrete sign of judgment for Ahaz. This first “Immanuel” is conceived by natural means and born of a young woman. On the other hand, the prophecy points to a greater, more significant fulfillment—the birth of a son to the Virgin Mary by the power of God, to the birth of the everlasting Immanuel, to the birth of Jesus himself. While the first Immanuel (Maher-shalal-hashbaz) is a sign of God’s temporal judgment on his people for their unfaithfulness, the final Immanuel is a sign of God’s salvation, rescuing his people from the darkness of their own sin and establishing his reign in their hearts.
The great surprise of the virgin birth, when God intervenes in human history in an unprecedented and powerful way, sets the stage for the great salvation which the Baby of Bethlehem will win for us at Calvary. The greatest of all revelations begins with the most surprising of Christmas gifts, the virgin birth.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Unwrap the Gift of Silence

The following comes from The Anchoress:


The silence of which we sing so wistfully at Midnight Mass, is at an all-time premium at Christmas; it is so difficult to find a silent night, let alone sit within one and become immersed in it, that the possibility of a seasonal soothing of the heart—a quieting of the grief of the world—seems the stuff of illusion and myth.

Christmas has, in too many ways, become the equivalent of an overdone theme-park vacation. By its end, one is knock-kneed with exhaustion and desperately in need of a genuine opportunity to rest.

A Christmas snow, like the one we’ve just had, does wonders to cull the silence. A few inches of white powder brings an unusual and welcome softening of sound—in cities, the hum of traffic is muffled; in the suburbs even the broom of the ubiquitous snowblower is reduced to a faint and unobtrusive whir, one that remains mostly beneath the surface of one’s awareness.

In such a silence, if you have turned off the television and tempted your child away from his games with a good book, you can hear other things: the chatter and call of cardinals who have found the birdseed; the crack of a log in the fire; hot coffee being poured into a cup; the ticking of your last non-digital clock; the rhythmic breathing of tired child (or parent) who has dozed while reading; the soft thud of a book sliding to the floor.

You can hear life, forced into a slow-down; life less deliberate; life lived as it was for centuries, before the busy inventiveness of the last five decades: life acquiescent to uncontrollable nature, and hunkered-down.

We have allowed silence to become a gift forgotten, one we only consent to unwrap when all of our alternative bows and strings have been unraveled, and our diversions have been utterly played out. Our inability to be silent puts our minds and our souls at a disadvantage, because it robs us of the ability to wonder, and if we are not wondering at the impossible perfection of the world in its creation—if we are not wondering at spinning atoms and Incarnations—then we are lost to humility, and to experiencing gratitude.

And, without gratitude, we cannot develop a reasoned capacity for joy.

One of the most attractive things about G.K. Chesterton was the unending sense of surprised delight he had for all creation, the world and everything in it. He found newspaper ink to be as wonderful as beach glass, which—it went without saying—was as marvelous to him as any good cigar. He was as awe-struck and grateful for the world as a teenager in love, and he wondered about the unconditional gift of days that God had given him. He asked with astonishment, “Why am I allowed two?”—a great question in an age where we expect unending, medically-engineered days.

Chesterton was joyful, because he was grateful; he was grateful because even within his busy life, he was allowed the leisure of silence, with which gift, he was able to wonder. And, as St. Gregory of Nyssa is credited with saying, “only wonder leads to knowing.”

If we cannot wonder, how can we presume to know the Timeless and Eternal God? Without wonder, how may we know ourselves? How do we remember that time is a construct to which we must not become enslaved?

By what means shall we know that, when we are so deeply immersed in the seasonal pronouncements of Madison Avenue, where Christmas begins (at the latest) in early November and ends on December 26, whence commences Valentine’s Day? In all times and seasons the media-message is a weirdly incongruous (and John Lennonesque) amalgam of “be here now” and “serve yourself.”

Read the rest here.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Everything Exists to Praise God













God is good and these images are an amazing expression of his glory! The following comes from Spirit Daily:

Christmas joy. Christ Mass joy. The liturgy well-spent brings Christmas to us every day.

At least at this time of the year, we think to praise God -- or should as this day the Holy Innocents praise Him. We should do so every day of the year.

We must also think of the deceased. At this time, we are most able to assist the souls in purgatory.

One day, we will know the joy of reuniting with or meeting all of our ancestors back to Adam.
In the crystallization of Christmas is that special connection to what is beyond this earth, and a joy it is that we will encounter it!

"I just went to Spirit Daily and the Hubble telescope picture and oh, my goodness, it takes my breath away," wrote Linnie Smith of Michigan, one of those who "died" and returned.

"In part of my near-death experience I saw planets and stars -- gee, I can't tell you, but when I see pictures like that I'm home again.

"I heard the turning of the planets. An angel told me it was the harmony of harmonies, the symphony of symphonies. I can still hear them.

"You see: everything exists to praise God. Everything. We just can't hear it.

"One time, after my near-death experience, I was praying and looking out the window at the tree line. As the trees were gently swaying in the wind my eyes were opened to see liquid lines moving with the breeze upward toward God. The scripture came to mind: the trees of the field will clap their hands."







Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pope Paul VI and a Miracle for Sainthood

Blessed Pope Paul VI may be on his way to canonization!  The following comes from La Stampa:

In a special issue entitled “It will be the year of Paul VI Saint”, the weekly magazine of the diocese of Brescia, La voce del popolo, writes that on 13 December, theologians of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope Montini, after a first free go-ahead had been given by the medical consultation of the Vatican Congregation itself. At this point it is necessary that the cardinals of the Congregation and, finally, the Pope express themselves on the same miracle.  

The miracle regards the birth of a girl from Verona called Amanda, who in 2014 had survived for months despite the fact the placenta was broken.  
Pope Francis beatified his predecessor on 19 October 2014, concluding the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.  

“Rumors are so insistent and the next steps so fast to take, that everything indicates 2018 as Blessed Paul VI’s canonization year”, writes the diocesan newspaper of Brescia. The last official stage took place last December 13 in the theological commission. The miracle attributed to the intercession of John Baptist Montini about the healing of a fetus in prenatal age in 2014 was approved. The expectant mother native from Verona, at risk of miscarriage, a few days after the beatification of Montini in Brescia, went to the Sanctuary “delle Grazie”, to pray to the newly beatified Pope.  

Subsequently, a child in good health was born. After the doctors and theologians’ recognition, there are still a few more steps to be taken: the passage in the commission of cardinals, the final approval of the Pope and that of the Consistory with the official announcement and the definition of the date. But at this point, it is more than a hope. The month of October could be the right one. From 3 to 28 October in Rome, the 15th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on young people will be celebrated and will gather in the Vatican prelates from all over the world. What better opportunity to canonize in front of such a large portion of the College of Bishops, the other pontiff, after Saint John XXIII of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council? It will most likely take place on one of the first three Sundays of October, even if the most accredited date today seems to be the 21. Indeed, sooner or later, in 2018 Paul VI will be Saint! We praise the Lord to Whom we entrust the year that will come”. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Isaiah: The Prophet of Christmas

The following comes from Catholic Exchange:


More than any other, Isaiah is the prophet of Christmas.
Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.
Those are Isaiah’s words and they have become as much a part and parcel of the Christmas story as the three kings of Orient, the inn with no room, and the herald angels singing. Isaiah’s prominence is reflected in the liturgies for Christmas. There are four liturgies for Christmas: the vigil, the night, the dawn, and the day Masses, and Isaiah is the Old Testament reading for all of them. (The Mass readings are listed here.)
Readings from Isaiah will continue to dominate this Christmas season. Isaiah is also very much a prophet of Advent. The voice of one crying out in the wilderness—the memorable epithet of John the Baptist—is taken from Isaiah.
Writing hundreds of years beforehand, just what was it that Isaiah saw? A fleeting glimpse of the truth? A few details from an otherwise impenetrable story?
To the contrary, Isaiah seems to have grasped not only the whole story of Christ—remember that he is also very much the prophet of the Passion—but also its theological and spiritual depths. Among the many texts of Isaiah read during the Advent and Christmas seasons, a number of particular themes about the truth of the Incarnation stand out.
Something wholly new. See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? So Isaiah 43:19 declares. Isaiah trembles with excitement at this sense of something wholly new and unexpected. The end of Isaiah 52, which is read for the Christmas day Mass, speaks of nations startled and kings standing speechless. They shall see what has not been told them, shall behold what they never have heard(Jewish Study Bible translation). A whole new world will come into being—one far removed from the trials, strife, and suffering of ours. It will be a world where swords will be beaten into plows and the lion will lay down with the lamb.
Longing of the world. While Isaiah foresaw the coming salvation as something wholly new, it was also something for which the world had been longing. This is especially suggested by recurring images of fresh water being poured out upon or bubbling up from dry desert lands. For example, Isaiah 44:3 prophesies that I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground, streams upon the dry land. Likewise, Isaiah 35:1declares that the desert and the parched land will be glad. And then there’s this inIsaiah 25:9And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited.
Abundant life. Along with images of flooding deserts there are also those that indicate a newness and abundance of life. The virgin will conceive and the barren woman with no children will rejoice at suddenly finding herself to have many. God will make thewilderness rejoice and blossom such that it will become even like a second Eden. Do not these motifs of abundant life call to mind the words of Jesus Himself in John 10:10I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The light of the world. Isaiah is filled with images of light breaking in on the darkness. At the midnight Mass we read the beginning of Isaiah 9The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone. In Isaiah 42:9, this image is combined with the motif of prisoners who are being freed to suggest light that liberates. In order to convey the completely unexpected and miraculous newness of such light, Isaiah 42:16 then discusses this motif in terms of the healing of the blind: I will lead the blind on a way they do not know; by paths they do not know I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them.
From the gospels we know that the light that dispels the darkness of evil and leads us to God is Jesus. He is the light that frees us from our sins and heals our spiritual blindness. Indeed, even Christ describes Himself in John 8:12 as ‘the light of the world.’
Overwhelming joy. In Isaiah 52:8Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy. For they see directly, before their eyes, the Lord’s return to Zion. According toIsaiah 25:9We shall rejoice and be joyful in his salvation. This sense of overwhelming joy pervades Isaiah. The very heavens and earth will break out in joyful song. Even the wildernessthe barren woman, and the ruins of Jerusalem will rejoice.