Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Parish, Violet, Louisiana. My concert was here–two weeks before Katrina pushed over 30 feet of water and Category 4 winds through the church. This photo was taken 7 months later…

WHEN we traveled to some of the worst areas of hurricane-damaged Louisiana recently, we saw two kinds of houses: the ones made of wood, and those of brick.

Some wooden houses had been razed to the ground. There was nothing left but a few splinters of lumber. On the other hand, the brick houses in Katrina’s path were gutted, with broken windows and damaged roofs. But the houses stood. Or rather, withstood.

How can a person possibly withstand the forces he meets in this life–the forces of death, of illness, of unemployment, of uncertainty, of hatred, of temptation?

Listen carefully,

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? ...faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. –James 2:14

Good works are like bricks. Faith is the mortar (what is one without the other?)

The one who builds his life with these, will testify how one can not only survive the painful forces of this life, but even bear them in peace and joy.

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing... If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love... I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. –Jn 15:5, 10-11

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse.... –Mt 7:24-25

Stain Glass

The new stained glass windows depicting the Eucharistic miraculously survived.

Shell

ARE not some of the best things in life hidden?

The coolest, cleanest water is usually found deep within the ground. Gold, silver, and precious jewels are disguised by rough stone and minerals. Nebulae, birthing stars, and colorful galaxies can only be seen with telescopes. Then there is the pearl within the oyster; the milk within the coconut; the nectar within the flower.

But do we recognize the great gift that lies hidden within suffering?

When we are ill-treated by a co-worker or a store clerk, do we recognize the opportunity to die to self? When small irritations befall us, do we see this as the occasion to grow in virtue? When we feel dry and desolate, do we recognize this as the moment to exercise faith?

The spiritual life is reflected in nature. For beneath the bland, rough, and unremarkable surface of the present moment, lies the Pearl of Grace to transform us.

...although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. –Matt 11:25

Pearl

Fr. Elijah Novel

ANOTHER word which has been lingering beneath the surface of thought these past few weeks is “TOTALITARIANISM”.

Totalitarianism occurs when the state demands complete subservience of its subjects, which includes the realm of morality.

Pope Benedict has warned of this growing “dictatorship of relativism.” But so has a lesser known prophet, Michael D. O’Brien, in his series of “novels”: the Children of the Last Days. (If you are looking for powerful Catholic novels with an authentic and tested prophetic message, start here.)

This totalitarianism–though as yet unorganized in terms of formal governance–is beginning to openly express itself in localized policies, such as companies and school boards penalizing staff members who oppose homosexuality. Like a cancer, this dictatorial mentality is now moving into law as governments pass nebulous “hate crime” statutes. The next steps will be to strip the Church of official (and tax) status; then to silence the pulpit; then finally, open persecution–which may in fact be the Persecution. Continue reading

THIS week, as nature in our part of Canada unfolds in extraordinary beauty, I continue to hear the words:

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

VIGIL.

I woke up with this single word, sitting there before my spiritual eyes. It comes from the Latin vigilia, which means “awake”.

Then a strange definition appeared clearly before me:

“to watch the birth of a new era.”

The Skin of Christ

 

THE great and pressing crisis in the North American Church is that there are many who believe in Jesus Christ, but few who follow Him.

Even the demons believe that and tremble. –James 2:19

We must incarnate our belief–put flesh on our words! And this flesh must be visible. Our relationship with Christ is personal, but not our witness.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. –Matt 5:14

Christianity is this: to show the face of love to our neighbour. And we must start with our families–with those whom it is easiest to show "another" face.

This love is not an ethereal sentiment. It has skin. It has bones. It has presence. It is visible… It is patient, it is kind, it is not jealous, nor pompous, nor proud or rude. It never seeks its own interests, nor is it quick-tempered. It does not brood over injury, nor rejoice in wrongdoing. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. (1 Cor 13:4-7)

Can I possibly be the face of Christ to another? Jesus says,

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit. –Jn 15:5

Through prayer and repentance, we will find the strength to love. We can begin by doing the dishes tonight, with a smile.

Mary, Majestic Creature

Queen of Heaven

Queen of Heaven (c.1868). Gustave Doré (1832-1883). Engraving. The Vision of Purgatory and Paradise by Dante Alighieri. PMA:J99.1734.

"Thou shalt behold enthroned the Queen / To whom this realm is subject and devoted."

WHILE contemplating Jesus in the Glorious Mysteries last night, I was pondering on the fact that I always picture Mary standing up while Jesus crowns her Queen of Heaven. These thoughts came to me…

Mary knelt in profound adoration of her God and Son, Jesus. But when Jesus approached to crown her, He pulled her gently to her feet, honoring the Fifth Commandment "Thou shalt honor thy mother and father."

And to the joy of Heaven, she was enthroned their Queen.

The Catholic Church does not worship Mary, a creature like you and me. But we honor our saints, and Mary is the greatest of them all. For not only was she Christ’s mother (think about it–He probably got His nice Jewish nose from her), but she exemplified perfect faith, perfect hope, and perfect love.

These three remain (1 Cor 13:13), and they are the largest jewels in her crown.

THESE five rays of light, emanating from the heart of a Christian,
can pierce the darkness of unbelief in a world thirsting to believe:
 

St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi, by Michael D. O’Brien

 

POVERTY OF STATE

POVERTY OF SELF

POVERTY OF SIMPLICITY

POVERTY OF SACRIFICE

POVERTY OF SURRENDER

 

Holiness, a message that convinces without the need for words, is the living reflection of the face of Christ.  —JOHN PAUL II, Novo Millennio Ineunte

POVERTY OF SURRENDER

Fifth Joyful Mystery

Fifth Joyful Mystery (Unknown)

 

EVEN having the Son of God as your child is no guarantee that all will be well. In the Fifth Joyful Mystery, Mary and Joseph discover that Jesus is missing from their convoy. After searching, they find him in the Temple back in Jerusalem. Scripture says that they were "astonished" and that "they did not understand what he said to them."

The fifth poverty, which may be the most difficult, is that of surrender: accepting that we are powerless to avoid many of the difficulties, troubles, and reverses that each day presents. They come—and we are astonished—especially when they are unexpected and seemingly undeserved. This is precisely where we experience our poverty… our inability to understand the mysterious will of God.

But to embrace God’s will with docility of heart, offering as members of the royal priesthood our suffering to God to be transformed into grace, is the same docility by which Jesus accepted the Cross, saying, "Not my will but yours be done." How poor Christ became! How rich we are because of it! And how rich the soul of another will become when the gold of our suffering is offered for them out of the poverty of surrender.

The will of God is our food, even if at times it tastes bitter. The Cross was bitter indeed, but there was no Resurrection without it.

The poverty of surrender has a face: patience.

I know your tribulation and poverty, but you are rich... Do not be afraid of anything you are going to suffer... remain faithful until death, I will give you the crown of life. (Rev 2:9-10)

POVERTY OF SACRIFICE

Presentation

"The Fourth Joyful Mystery" by Michael D. O’Brien

 

ACCORDING to Levitical law, a woman who has given birth to a child must bring to the temple:

a yearling lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering… If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves…" (Lev 12:6, 8 )

In the Fourth Joyful Mystery, Mary and Joseph offer a pair of birds. In their poverty, it was all they could afford.

The authentic Christian is also called to give, not only of time, but also of resources—money, food, possessions—"until it hurts", Blessed Mother Teresa would say.

As a guideline, the Israelites would give a tithe or ten percent of the "first fruits" of their income to the "house of the Lord." In the New Testament, Paul does not mince words about supporting the Church and those who minister the Gospel. And Christ places pre-eminence on the poor.

I have never met anyone who practiced tithing ten percent of their income who lacked anything. Sometimes their "granaries" overflow the more they give away.

Give and gifts will be given to you, a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap" (Lk 6:38)

The poverty of sacrifice is one in which we view our excess, less as play money, and more as "my brother’s" next meal. Some are called to sell everything and give it to the poor (Mat 19:21). But all of us are called to "renounce all our possessions"—our love for money and love of the things which it can buy—and to give, even, from what we do not have.

Already, we can feel our lack of faith in God’s providence.

Lastly, the poverty of sacrifice is a posture of spirit in which I am always ready to give of myself. I tell my children, "Carry money in your wallet, just in case you meet Jesus, disguised in the poor. Have money, not so much as to spend, as to give."

This kind of poverty has a face: it is generosity.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the Lord: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?  (Mal 3:10)

...this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood. (Mar 12:43-44)