Saturday, July 30, 2016

Other Religions

While at work the other day, I overheard a coworker giving a non-practicing Catholic advise on how to incorporate New Age practices into their daily life so that they can improve themselves. We always tease each other, so I made a silly comment that no matter what he does, life stinks and he'd better get used to it. Hushing her voice, she commented that "the man who just spoke" is a really devout Catholic and people who are Catholic look at New Age stuff as voodoo (no, we don't - it's from the devil, like voodoo, but it's different from voodoo). She then said how Christians tend to think that God is in control of our lives (yep) and that if we do good things, he'll give us rewards (nope - at least Catholics don't think this; it sounds like Joel Olsteen stuff, or actually karma, which isn't Christian). She then went on, like so many others who don't know what they are talking about, preaching about how religion always gets in the way of us loving each other because we're trying to control each other and blah, blah, blah. She then started saying how she believes in all religions - the young man she was speaking to, having an analytical mind, said to her, "How can that be? A lot of religions contradict each other," to which she replied, "That's true - but if they all have things in common, like loving your neighbor and not killing and things like that, then that stuff is all true and there's nothing wrong with believing the truth, no matter what religion is preaching it."

She'd be shocked to learn that the Catholic Church preaches that same message.

We don't shy away from the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour and that he is in charge of everything, but because we know he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, as Author of All Truth, then what is true in other religions must be from this same Author. We believe that in the times of ancient Israel, God was preparing the Gentile world (especially through Greece and her influence on the Mediterranean peoples) for the arrival of the Messiah; this is why there can be found in Hellenism so much truth, which St. Thomas Aquinas used in his theology, even though it was pagan in origin.

In the Second Vatican Council's declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, the Council gave credit and words of praise to Judaism and Islam, citing the many things we have in common, encouraging the end of bigotry and violence towards Jews, and encouraging members of all religions to work towards peace and the common good by uniting with each other in those areas where we have similarities of belief. "In [the Church's] task of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations, she considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship" (NA, 1).

The Church goes on the highlight several of the major religions and their own struggle to contemplate God and his creation. [In] Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.

There you go. We reject nothing that is true and holy in these religions. There are many Catholics who reject this document, though, citing that it encourages syncretism, a conglomeration of religions, or the idea that all religions are the same; there are many fundamentalist Protestants who use the Church's respect for other religions as "proof" that the Pope is trying to establish the antichrist's "one world religion". For the human, it's very hard to "hate the sin, but love the sinner," so quite often you'll see people loving the sinner by respecting - even encouraging - their sinful behaviour (like with homosexuality). Or, if you respect another person's religion, that somehow you are not believing in your own, or you're quietly saying that the other person's religion is equal to yours; the Church rejects that simplistic idea.

Jesus Christ is Lord and his Church, which subsists in the Catholic Church, was established by Christ for the salvation of all men; there is no debate. However, the Church believes that we have a God of mercy. "Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience" (LG, 16).

Through our love for all people, our love should evangelize the world to the truths of Love Itself, and all peoples will flock to the Church - however, until that happens, if God wills it to happen, we should still strive to work together towards the common good. The Catholic Church has established the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, which works to promote mutual understanding, respect and collaboration between Catholics and the followers of others religious traditions; to encourage the study of religions; and to promote the formation of persons dedicated to dialogue. The Church also established the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews, as well as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in the hopes that through religious dialogue, Catholics and other people of good will can work together to promote peace, justice, the common good, charity, and solidarity with all those around us. It is only through knocking down the walls of prejudice and misconception that we can see that we're all not that scary, but that we have so much in common - again, not to say that there is no need to come to Christ, but that long before that day hopefully comes, we can still embrace each other as brethren and work together to create a world of peace, justice, and charity.

So, the Church actually teaches what my New Age coworker thinks is the idea of enlightened irreligious people. "[The Church] regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself. The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men" (NA,2).

On my bookshelves, packed with Bibles, Catechisms, school books, and oodles of Catholic books, you'll find the Bhagavad Gita, books on Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Islam (even the Quran), and other introductory books on Eastern religions, as well as books on the Protestant founders - not to say that all religions are the same, but in order to learn more about the people around me so that we can bond with our commonalities, end the prejudice between us, and work towards ridding the world of injustice, hunger, poverty, war, and other evils that Satan sows between men. The Church encourages this. We don't look at others like they practice voodoo. We don't reject everything other religions say because we refuse to listen to others or because we are trying to control the thoughts of others. Since becoming a Catholic, I've been blown away by how much the Church encourages dialogue with others - even to a fault - and we know dialogue is a two-way street where listening is just as important as speaking.

That's what the Church teaches. I only wish all these non-Catholic "experts" of the Catholic faith would just learn what we teach before complaining about what they think we teach - the world would be a better place.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Vote for Joe Schriner

The Democrats are the party of abortion and slavery; the Republicans are the party of war and corporate handouts. But third parties are mainly a waste of time; I've learned that first-hand - most states make it impossible to even appear on the ballot.

NJ is a blue state, which means no matter who I vote for, Hillary is winning NJ. So, if I vote for anyone else, it won't matter because anyone BUT Hillary would be a wasted vote. But I'll never vote for Hillary, a woman that should be in jail. A lady who is unqualified. A lady who is in the pocket of most of this nation's major banks and corporations. A lady who has never met an immoral stance she hasn't supported. A woman who gets an award named after the white supremacist who founded Planned Parenthood and calls the reward the greatest honor. A woman who will continue to destroy this country and base our foreign aid on which nations legalize gay "marriage", abortion, sterilization, and transgender policies.

Of course, you couldn't pay me enough to vote for Trump, the man who wants to discriminate against Muslims and Latinos, who makes fun of disabled people, who never speaks in specifics, but only generalities, who has promised to expand torture, who has promised to commit war crimes, who has promised to increase the amount of nations with nuclear weapons, who has mismanaged his corporate money enough to go bankrupt several times but insists he'll make the right economic decisions as president, and who has suggested the suspension of several Constitutional rights to the thunderous applaud of his supporters.

So, since I consider myself "whole life" instead of just pro-life, I have found a "whole life" candidate I can support: Joe Schriner. Yes, it's a "wasted vote", but it's a vote I can live with. He's a "whole life" candidate, thoroughly motivated by his devout Catholic faith, and he continues the Catholic belief that government is there to protect people's dignity and allow them to be truly free to worship God and live without attacks to their rights, freedom, or dignity; as the Catechism teaches, "[Government authority] is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society...Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse...The common good concerns the life of all. It calls for prudence from each, and even more from those who exercise the office of authority. It consists of three essential elements: First, the common good presupposes respect for the person as such...Second, the common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself...Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order....The common good is always oriented towards the progress of persons: "The order of things must be subordinate to the order of persons, and not the other way around." This order is founded on truth, built up in justice, and animated by love."

His positions show him as a true candidate of social justice, from conception until natural death, which would best institute policies for the common good and in a Christian light.

So, that's that. I'll write his name in on the ballot on Election Day. True, it won't make a difference because Hillary will win NJ, and he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning, but at least I won't be cooperating with evil or voting against my conscience. And God help America, because whoever wins this year, we're going to be in deep [blank].

Sunday, July 24, 2016

And What Holiday Might That Be?

The marketing agents for Western companies are so opposed to offending people and are so dedicated to ignoring their Christian history - it makes my head spin. Every December we get to see commercials filled with jingle bells, Christmas trees, gifts being exchanged, houses decorated in Christmas lights, Santa Claus, reindeer...and then they say "Happy Holidays." And which holiday might that be? Or an even bigger insult, "Our Winter Event..."

I understand - and am sympathetic - towards the fact that there are others in the West who aren't Christians and others who aren't religious at all, but Christians continue to give up ground (again, I attribute this to our divisions). First we lost Halloween and now they are nearly done stealing Christmas away. I am fine with telling someone, "Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays," but I will never leave it at just "Happy Holidays." If I believe Jesus Christ is Lord and that he reigns now and forever, then I'm not going to deny that - I want to share that with everyone.

What made me finally complain is when I saw a Stella Artois commercial the other day; the beer was named after the Christmas star. The commercial stated, "Originally brewed to celebrate the holidays..." and one of the commercials showed the brewer noticing a shooting star - no, it wasn't a shooting star, but the Christmas Star.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Prayer for Fallen-Away Catholics to Come Home

After hearing about yet another person who used to be Catholic, but is now much happier as a Protestant, I couldn't help but feel moved by the Spirit to write a quick prayer for people such as this:

O Lord, Divine Mercy Itself, have mercy on those fallen-away Catholics that have left full communion; perhaps they've become Protestant, or schismatic, or left Christianity altogether. Please look into their hearts and forgive them, for surely they know not what they do, for had they learned of the great truth, depth, mercy, joy, love, hope, and beauty that is the Catholic faith, nothing in this world or the next could have ever moved them from the safety of her bosom. Please unite your Church and give peace and reconciliation to those whom have left. May we who are still faithful to the Church embrace those who left, always giving a warm welcome to our brothers and sisters. Open their hearts, and ours, that we may be one just as you prayed. All of this we pray in Jesus Christ's name, through Our Blessed Mother's intercession. Amen.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Plan of Life

I've always been meaning to craft a way of life that centers around the liturgical calendar, however I always find silly reasons not to follow through. I get these daily emails from Opus Dei that contain wisdom from St. Josemaria Escriva and yesterday's was all about establishing a plan of life. Now, as a Benedictine Oblate candidate, that is sort of my plan of life; Father Benedict, in his wisdom and moved by the Holy Spirit, made his Rule in a way that gave guidelines so that there could be a bit of wiggle room, depending on time, space, conditions, etc. So, I plan on continuing to integrate the Rule into my daily life, but seeing as how so much of the Rule is dedicated to how to run a monastery and how to pray the Office, I need to find other ways to fine tune what I'm learning through the Rule. In steps St. Josemaria Escriva; let's hear what he has to say...

The first danger is that following a Rule or a plan of life seems so...routine, which sucks, I know. And St. Josemaria councils us by saying, "This tying of one's life to a plan, to a timetable, you tell me, is so monotonous! And I answer: there is monotony because there is little Love." This is true; like with anything you do for the religious life, if you do it just to do it, as a form of discipline for instance, than it's destined to fail because it's not done out of love for Christ. Love has to be the main reason for any of this, if not the only reason for any of this.

"You should not let them become rigid rules, or water‑tight compartments. They should be flexible, to help you on your journey you who live in the middle of the world, with a life of hard professional work and social ties and obligations which you should not neglect, because in them your conversation with God still continues. Your plan of life ought to be like a rubber glove which fits the hand perfectly." The problem I've always gotten myself into is that I make things too strict, like a military order, and then I spend more time trying to track the way I live instead of just living my life. I do this very often with diets, for instance, where I make things so restrictive (no carbs, for instance, or counting points) and then I wind up spending most of my time policing myself instead of learning how to live within a boundary. It's as if instead of just playing in the backyard, I spend the whole time measuring the property line to make sure I don't venture out too far.

"Please don’t forget that the important thing does not lie in doing many things; limit yourself, generously, to those you can fulfill each day, whether or not you happen to feel like doing them. These pious practices will lead you, almost without your realizing it, to contemplative prayer. Your soul will pour forth more acts of love, aspirations, acts of thanksgiving, acts of atonement, spiritual communions. And this will happen while you go about your ordinary duties, when you answer the telephone, get on to a bus, open or close a door, pass in front of a church, when you begin a new task, during it and when you have finished it: you will find yourself referring everything you do to your Father God." Another mistake I always make, filling my day with way too many activities and prayers, which is always destined to fail. I need to be flexible, try my best, and not overload my day. But, as he explains, even the mundane things of our day - inspecting parts at work, the commute, trying to get 10,000 steps for exercise - all of that can be offered to God as prayer. Every aspect of our life can be liturgical, an offering to God, and not just those moments when we pray or sit in adoration (important as those things are).

So, here's a new attempt at having a plan of life:

Meals and snacks: As I've mentioned before, these will be the least processed as possible - organic, natural, real food. That shouldn't be that hard - basically most things in life are on my "to eat" list, with only some things being off limits - anything I buy in a box must also be organic, if a version is available (like organic mac and cheese, for instance). In keeping with the liturgical calendar, and trying to reduce my impact on the environment (and my wallet), I will stick with vegetarian meals throughout the week (except for fish in three meals a week, more than likely just adding tuna fish to my salads); the only exception is on a Solemnity or major feast day (like St. Benedict's) - because it is a special day, it calls for a special celebration, so that's when I'll enjoy some meat or poultry (although I won't go out of my way - perhaps I'll "celebrate" by going out for a meal instead of cooking something). Lent and Advent will be times of penance, so maybe the meals will get very simple or just be salads, with Sundays being very subdued (perhaps just a fish meal on Sundays and no meats). I'll figure that out as I go along. Either way, I'll use the liturgical calendar to assist me in crafting my meal plans and moderating my consumption of luxuries that I often take for granted.

Fasting: In keeping with the practice of my monastery, I will continue to improve my fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays and follow according to the law of the Church, with one full meal and two smaller meals as a way to fast. For these meals, I will, of course, abstain from meat. Obviously, I'll make changes when a Solemnity falls on a Wednesday or a Friday, as well as when Lent begins.

Drinking: I love a good beer. Or five. Again, I will do my best to save my drinking for Solemnities and major feast days, with the rest of the week enjoying water, tea, juice, and healthier stuff like that; although, as is recommended by many doctors, I will try to have a glass of organic red wine every day, if possible. This won't be that hard, due to the fact that these days I prefer to drink in public, so beer usually winds up sitting in my fridge for weeks on end. As for harder stuff, I will try to drink that even less (no more than one drink of any particular spirit in a couple days' time), only because it can't be that healthy for you.

Smoking: I still don't want to turn this occasional pleasure into a bad habit, so I continue to limit myself to just one day a week (tops) to enjoy a cigar or pipe.

Prayer: In keeping with my practice as an Oblate (and perhaps one day as a deacon), I will do my best to pray the Daily Office in the Morning and Evening; because Sundays are Solemnities, I will try to also pray Compline on Sundays and other Solemnities and major feast days. I also do my best (but don't obsess) to pray the rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet daily.

Mass: I've always wanted to attend daily Mass and, due to my new work schedule, I've lost all the flexibility I once had; basically, my best shot at going to daily Mass is at a little parish a few towns over, every night at 7pm. I will do my best to start this next week, but again, I'll be flexible about it. I still do my best to attend my Ordinariate parish at least two Sundays a month.

Adoration: Countless saints, popes, and theologians have written volumes about the benefits of spending time with the Lord, especially when he's exposed for Adoration in the Blessed Sacrament. Life is very busy and although I've always wanted to adore him for an hour daily, that just can't happen right now (perhaps later on in life, especially if I become a deacon). For now, I've had an inspiration to adore him on Thursdays, since we believe it was on Holy Thursday when our Lord asked his disciples, "Could you not spend one hour with me?" So, for now, I will do my best starting next week to spend one hour adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Exercise: I'm horribly out of shape and need to lose the weight. I'm limited, though, and can only do so much now due to terrible foot pain and body aches. So, I got a Fitbit and have tried to get through 10,000 steps a day, which is what is recommended as a minimum by the American Heart Association. I've nearly always failed, though, getting just around 4-5,000 steps a day during the weekdays and not even 2,000 steps a day on the weekends. So, I will do better and will start today, actually, to go out when it's not 10 billion degrees and humid and try to get 10,000 steps. Every day.

I think that's it. That's liveable. It's a routine, it's a plan of life, it's following the Rule, and it's not very overwhelming or restrictive - it is however a boundary I'm trying to draw around my life. Every step on my walk, every time I choose vegetables over meat, every time I pray the Office, every time I inspect a part at work, each moment is an offering to God, a prayer of the body. My meal plan, my exercise, my school work, my commute in horrible traffic - all an offering to God, all a prayer, to God through Mary. Holy Mary, Mother of God; St. Benedict; St. Josemaria Escriva: please guide me on this plan of life and the Rule of St. Benedict, that I may learn moderation and how to offer my life - my work and my prayer - to God with steadfast love and devotion. All this I pray in Jesus Christ's most glorious and holy name. Amen.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

The text below is from the Catholic Culture website.

Sacred Scripture celebrated the beauty of Carmel where the prophet Elijah defended the purity of Israel's faith in the living God. Today is the principal feast day of the Carmelite Order, [an] order devoted to the contemplative life under the patronage of Mary, the holy Mother of God. Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is worldwide, and most Catholics are familiar with the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, also known as the Brown Scapular.

Through the efforts of the crusader Berthold, a group of hermits living on Mount Carmel were organized into an Order after the traditional Western type about the year 1150. Oppressed by the Saracens, the monks slowly emigrated to Europe. During the night preceding the sixteenth of July, 1225, the Blessed Virgin is said to have commanded Pope Honorius III to approve the foundation. Since the Carmelites were still under constant harassment, the sixth General of the Order, St. Simon Stock, pleaded with the Blessed Virgin for some special sign of her protection. Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251, and gave him the scapular with the following words, which are preserved in a fourteenth century narrative: "This will be for you and for all Carmelites the privilege, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire." That is why the present feast is also known as the feast of the Scapular. The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was instituted for the Carmelites in 1332, and extended to the whole Church by Benedict XIII in 1726.

The scapular, as part of the habit, is common to many religious Orders, but it is a special feature of the Carmelites. A smaller form of the scapular is given to lay persons in order that they may share in the great graces associated with it. Such a grace is the "Sabbatine privilege." In the so-called Bulla Sabbatina John XXII affirmed that wearers of the scapular are soon freed from the flames of purgatory, at least by the Saturday after death. The confirmation of the Bulla Sabbatina was promulgated by the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences, July 4, 1908.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Our Lady of the Atonement & St. Agilof

Information on Our Lady of the Atonement has been taken from the website of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, as well as The Anglo-Catholic blog.

Fr Paul Wattson and an Episcopal nun named Mother Lurana founded a group of Franciscan Friars, all with the hope of reuniting with the Catholic Church.

Fr. Wattson, after celebrating the Episcopal Eucharistic service, knelt down in front of the altar and opened the Scriptures three times. The first passage was from the Gospel of St. John, where Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit must spring up in those who believe, like a well of Living Water (Jn 7:37-39). The second passage he read was from St. Paul's letter to the Romans (5:11) where he wrote: "... we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." The third passage he turned to was St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where he recalled the institution of the Eucharist (1 Cor 23-26). He took these passages to be God's way of telling him to found a religious order that would have the Holy Spirit as its guide, that their preaching should be about the atonement of mankind, and that the central way of obtaining grace for the atonement was through the Eucharist.

It took years and stops at several parishes before Fr. Wattson would come to Graymoor, NY where he and Mother Lurana would found the Society of the Atonement, a group of Franciscan friars within the Episcopal church. They all knew that the Lord wanted Christians to be one (Jn 17:21) and believed it was only a matter of time before they became united with the Catholic Church. Back in those days, this was a step that involved a lot of challenges - the Episcopalians in their lives rejected them, and the Catholics viewed them with suspicion. They wanted God's will to be done, though, and they became united to the Catholic Church on October 30, 1909 - October 30 is the day before what is commonly referred to by many Protestants as "Reformation Day".

The painting of Our Lady in their chapel portrays her wearing a red mantle, symbolizing the Lord's Precious Blood, of which she was the source (since he took his flesh from Mary); she wears a blue inner tunic and holds the Baby Jesus, who holds the cross, the symbol of mankind's atonement. Through this title, Our Lady is seen as Our Lady of Christian Unity. Fr Wattson, seeing Mary as the Mother of All the Baptized, wrote: "When we, therefore, give to our Blessed Mother the title of Our Lady of the Atonement we mean: Our Lady of Unity. As she sits enthroned, as the great wonder of heaven, wearing a crown of twelve stars, clothed with the sun, the moon her footstool, she presents to the universe the highest possible approach of a creature to intimate and exalted union with God. She is at one and the same time the most perfect and the most beloved Daughter of God the Father; she is the Mother of God the Son, and she is the spouse of God the Holy Spirit."

The Anglican Ordinariate has adopted this feast into its calendar, marking the first time that a Protestant-created Marian feast has appeared on the Catholic calendar, a testament to the Church's commitment to Christian unity. As the Second Vatican Council's decree on Christian Unity states: "Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren...Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church." The Anglican Ordinariate is often seen as a concrete example of what Christian Unity will look like - what has often been said is "reunion, not absorption" - Protestants have become Catholic, but many of our liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions have been "re-baptized" as Catholic, to be, as Pope Benedict XVI said, "a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared."

May we all be one as Jesus Christ prayed, and may Our Lady gently guide us all into a true and lasting unity. As Fr. Wattson wrote, "We must understand by virtue of our new birth into the Kingdom of God that the Blessed Virgin is our real mother and not merely a mother that has just adopted us. By baptism we are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ and by that process of incorporation we are also brought into relationship with the Blessed Virgin, which is intrinsically similar to the relationship which Christ has to the Blessed Virgin as his mother. The Blessed Virgin is not our stepmother. She is our real mother..."

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St. Agilof was a bishop in Cologne, Germany. Although the circumstances of his death are not clearly documented, he is believed to be a martyr (d. 770). He is entombed in the Cathedral of Cologne. Agilof was largely ignored for many years, but recently has been venerated once again. Agilof’s feast day is July 9. His designation as a saint precedes the practice of canonization by the Pope.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Blessed Eugene III & St. Edgar the Peaceful

Today's Benedictine is Blessed Eugene III, pope, and the historical saint of the day is St. Edgar, king of England. These biographies are combinations of bios from several different internet sources, jumbled together to offer an attempt at a complete story.

Blessed Eugene (aka Eugenius) III was born near Pisa, Italy, in the twelfth century. He was baptized Peter. St. Antoninus, whose feast day is May 10, called Pope Eugene “a great pope with great sufferings.”

Pope Eugene had been Father Peter, a priest in Pisa, when he felt the call to become a Cistercian monk. He went to Clairvaux, France, and joined the monks there. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was the superior. His feast day is August 20. Peter chose “Bernard” for his religious name. He did this because of his great esteem for St. Bernard.

St. Bernard sent his namesake, Bernard, to become the superior of a monastery in Rome. Pope Lucius II died in 1145. That is when a most unusual thing happened. The cardinals elected Abbot Bernard to be pope. The abbot was not at the meeting because he was not a cardinal. He was shocked. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was surprised too. He felt sorry for Bernard. He wrote an open letter to the cardinals: “May God forgive you for what you have done,” he said. “You have involved in responsibilities and placed among many people a man who fled them both.”

Bernard chose to be called Eugene III. His time as pope brought him many difficulties. The Roman senate threatened to oppose him if he did not let them keep stolen property. A man who had been previously excommunicated went to Pope Eugene and asked forgiveness. Soon after, he fell back into his old ways. He even joined a faction that was directly against the pope. Pope Eugene had to leave Rome a few times because of the dangers surrounding him. When this happened, he would find peace and strength at a monastery. Then he would have the courage to go back and face his difficult task again. He wore his Cistercian habit and lived simply. No matter how hectic his life was, he always had the heart of a monk. One of his fellow monks wrote to St. Bernard of Clairvaux about Pope Eugene: “There is no arrogance or domineering way in him.”

During nearly the whole of his pontificate, Eugene III was unable to reside in Rome. Hardly had he left the city to be consecrated in the monastery of Farfa, when the citizens, under the influence of Arnold of Brescia, the great opponent of the Pope's temporal power, established the old Roman constitution, the Commune of Rome and elected Giordano Pierleoni to be Patrician.

Eugene sent Nicholas Breakspear (later Adrian IV) to Scandinavia to reorganize the church there. Eugene III held synods in northern Europe at Paris, Rheims, and Trier in 1147 and 1149 that were devoted to the reform of clerical life. He also considered and approved the works of Hildegard of Bingen.

Eugenius, like others of western Europe, was shocked by the fall of Edessa, the capital of the first crusader state, in 1144. While in France (1147) he urged King Louis VII the Young to lead a crusade for the liberation of Edessa, naming Bernard as its preacher. The Second Crusade, most impressive of all in scope, ended in failure.

Eugenius returned to Italy in June 1148 and in July excommunicated Arnold, who denounced Eugenius as “a man of blood” and spread the revolt against him. Away from Rome under its hostile new Senate during much of his reign, Eugenius held many councils. He concluded the Treaty of Constance (1153) with the Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, fixing conditions for his imperial coronation, but the Pope died before Frederick could come to Italy.

Pope Eugene died on July 8, 1153 and was beatified in 1872 by Pope Pius IX on the account of his sanctity.

Edgar of Wessex was born circa 942, the second son of Edmund the Elder Saint Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury. He was sixteen when he ascended the throne on the death of his elder brother, Edwy in October 959.

In common with his brother Edwy and others of his predecessors in the House of Wessex, Edgar was a very small man, recorded as being less than five feet tall, although possessing great personal magnetism. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes him as being handsome and speaks highly of his achievements.

Edgar had been educated by Ethelwald, Abbot of Abingdon, a friend of St. Dunstan's. His coronation, which took place at Bath in 973, was the first to be described in detail in the annals of English history and on this ceremony, all future coronations of English Kings, up to the present day, have been based. King Edgar maintained the peace established by earlier kings of the House of Wessex.

Following his coronation, Edgar travelled north to Chester, where he held court in a palace in a place now known as Edgar's field near the old Dee bridge in Handbridge. There he was met by eight sub-Kings of Britain whom he had summoned. Among them was Kenneth, King of Scots and his son Malcolm, King of the Cumbrians, Maccus, king of several isles and five others, named Dufnall, Siferth, Huwall, Jacob and Juchill. In a demonstration of the power of Wessex, Edgar was rowed up the River Dee to the Monastery of St. John the Baptist, by all eight sub-Kings, attended by a great concourse of nobles. The entire occasion represented an assertion of Saxon supremacy over the Celts of England, Scotland and Wales. Most historians today, however, doubt this event ever took place, or if it did, the rowers were either not kings, or were indeed kings, but did not engage in this activity as a symbol of subjugation.

Edgar the Peaceful married twice, his first wife, Elfleda was divorced to enable him to marry Elfrida, daughter of Ordgar, ealdorman of Devon and Edgar's mistress, she was the widow of Ethelwald, Ealdorman of East Anglia and a woman of notorious reputation. She was said to have been the King's lover before the death of her first husband.

He reputedly killed Earl Ethelwald, his rival for Elfrida's affections, in 963, near present-day Longparish, Hampshire, after Ethelwold advised the king against marrying the beautiful Elfrida, but then married her himself. The event was commemorated in 1825 by the erection of Dead Man's Plack. Edgar had Elfrida crowned Queen at Bath Abbey on 11th May, 975. The first instance of a consort being referred to as Queen since Judith of France, widow of Ethelwulf and his son Ethelbald.

In a popular move, Edgar recalled St Dunstan (pictured right) from exile, who returned in triumph and was appointed Bishop of Worcester, in 959 he became Bishop of London, before Edgar finally made him Archbishop of Canterbury in 961.

Dunstan managed to exert some control over the King's policies. Acting on the advice of Dunstan, Edgar raised his companion Oswald to be Bishop of Worcester. Another friend of Dunstan's, Edgar's former tutor, Ethelwald of Abingdon, was made Bishop of Winchester. This trio were to dominate the English church for the remainder of the King's reign, which brought forth a great religious revival throughout his kingdom.

Edgar had many mistresses, one of these was the beautiful Wulfrida, whom he carried off from Wilton Abbey, it is unsure if she had actually taken her vows as a nun. For this the King was forced to do pennance for seven years, purportedly having to fast twice a week. He had 4 children in all, by his first wife Ethelflaed, he had two sons, the eldest Edward, succeeded him as King of England, and Edmund. An illegitimate daughter, Edith or Eadgyth, born to by Wilfrida, was educated at Wilton Abbey and was cannonised after her death in 984. A third son, born to Queen Elfthryth suceeded his half-brother Edward as Ethelred II.

William of Malmesbury, reporting on Edgar's slightness of height and build, records that at a banquet that followed the meeting at Chester, Kenneth, King of Scots, commented jokingly that it seemed extraordinary to him how so many provinces should be held by "such a sorry little fellow."

Under Edgar, the union of England under one dynasty was firmly established. Highly conscious of the importance of sea-power, the king had built up a navy of 3,600 ships by the time of his death, which were used to guard England's shores from the incursions of the Danes.

King Edgar kept peace in the Danelaw largely by a policy of non-interference and displayed his neutrality by ravaging the Saxons of Thanet for alleged ill-treatment of York merchants.

The years of peace enjoyed by Edgar made it possible for him to make changes in England's administrative structure and it was Edgar who divided England into shires, each of which were divided into hundreds. His laws were much respected by future generations, he greatly encouraged trade and protected the currency. He was severe on those that withheld church dues and a great believer of monastic reform.

King Edgar the Peaceful, or the Pacific as he is sometimes referred to, died at the summit of his power, at Winchester, the ancient capital of Wessex, on 8th July, 975, at the age of only thirty-three and was buried at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset.

That Edgar is canonized at all is perhaps his greatest miracle, given his domestic relations.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

St. Willibard

Whenever I check the Catholic Culture website for the saint(s) of the day, they also provide the saints according to the 1962 calendar, as well as historical saints of the day (where they used to be widely celebrated on these days, but might have been removed from the universal calendar over the centuries). I find the historical saints very interesting and I've decided to capture some of them here, mainly the ones that affected the UK and Ireland. Please, go to Catholic Culture's website and enjoy all they have to offer - they have PLENTY more than just saints of the day!

I also wanted to start incorporating a collection of saints that has been provided to me through a decent little book entitled 'Reaching For God'; it is a book that we are using as Oblate candidates and in the back there is a calendar of many Benedictine saints and Blesseds - one day I was looking at it and thought, "How wonderful if I could find some info on them and learn about them!" So, I'll start posting them daily, as well. I figured there are countless blogs and websites out there that offer biographies of great saints, but there isn't a lot of info about those saints that helped shape cultures and nations, inspiring past generations, but are now forgotten. This in NO WAY is an attempt to reject the reformed calendar of the Church! It's just to browse the history of saints and praise the Lord for doing his work through so many people, giving us unlimited examples as to how we should live.

As is often the case, all this text is from the Catholic Culture website.

St. Willibard was son of the holy king St. Richard, and was born about the year 704 in the kingdom of the West-Saxons, about the place where Southampton now stands. When he was three years old his life was despaired of in a violent sickness; but when all natural remedies proved unsuccessful, his parents carried him and laid him at the foot of a great cross which was erected in a public place near their house, according to the custom in Catholic countries to this day. There they poured forth their prayers with great fervor, and made a promise to God that in case the child recovered they would consecrate him to the divine service. God accepted their pious offering, and the child was immediately restored to his health. St. Richard kept the child two years longer at home, but only regarded him as a sacred depositum committed to him by God; and when he was five years old placed him under the Abbot Egbald, and other holy tutors in the monastery of Waltheim.

The young saint, from the first use of his reason, in all his thoughts and actions seemed to aspire only to heaven, and his heart seemed full only of God and his holy love. He left this monastery about the year 721, when he was seventeen years old, and his brother Winibald nineteen, to accompany his father and brother in a pilgrimage of devotion to the tombs of the apostles at Rome, and to the Holy Land. They visited many churches in France on their road; but St. Richard died at Lucca, where his relics are still venerated in the church of St. Fridian, and he is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on the 7th of February. The two sons went on to Rome, and there took the monastic habit.

About two years after this, Winibald having been obliged to return to England, St. Willibald, with two or three young Englishmen, set out to visit the holy places which Christ had sanctified by his sacred presence on earth. They added most severe mortifications to the incredible fatigues of their journey, living only on bread and water, and at land using no other bed than the bare ground. They sailed first to Cyprus and thence into Syria. At Emesa St. Willibald was taken by the Saracens for a spy, was loaded with irons, and suffered much in severe confinement for several months, till certain persons, who were charmed with his wonderful virtue, and moved with compassion for his disaster, satisfied the caliph of his innocence, and procured his enlargement. The holy pilgrims expressed their gratitude to their benefactors, and pursued their journey to the holy places. They resolved in visiting them to follow our Divine Redeemer in the course of his mortal life; and therefore they began their devotions at Nazareth. Our saint passed there some days with his companions in the continual contemplation of the infinite mercies of God in the great mystery of the incarnation; and the sight of the place in which it was wrought drew from his eyes streams of devout tears during all the time of his stay in that town. From Nazareth he went to Bethlehem, and thence into Egypt, making no account of the fatigues and hardships of his journey, and assiduously meditating on what our Blessed Redeemer had suffered in the same.

He returned to Nazareth, and thence traveled to Cana, Capharnaum, and Jerusalem. In this last place he made a long stay to satisfy his fervor in adoring Christ in the places where he wrought so many great mysteries, particularly on the mountains of Calvary and Olivet, the theaters of his sacred death and ascension. He likewise visited all the famous monasteries, lauras, and hermitages in that country, with an ardent desire of learning and imitating all the most perfect practices of virtue, and whatever might seem most conducive to the sanctification of his soul. The tender and lively sentiments of devotion with which his fervent contemplation on the holy mysteries of our redemption inspired him at the sight of all those sacred places, filled his devout soul with heavenly consolations, and made on it strong and lasting impressions. In his return a severe sickness at Acon exercised his patience and resignation. After seven years employed in this pilgrimage he arrived safe with his companions in Italy.

The celebrated monastery of Mount Cassino having been lately repaired by Pope Gregory II., the saint chose that house for his residence, and his fervent example contributed very much to settle in it the primitive spirit of its holy institute during the ten years that he lived there. He was first appointed sacristan, afterwards dean or superior over ten monks, and during the last eight years porter, which was an office of great trust and importance, and required a rooted habit of virtue which might suffer no abatement by external employs and frequent commerce with seculars. It happened that in 738 St. Boniface, coming to Rome, begged of Pope Gregory III. that Willibald, who was his cousin, might be sent to assist him in his missions in Germany. The pope desired to see the monk, and was much delighted with the history of his travels, and edified with his virtue. In the close of their conversation, he acquainted him of Bishop Boniface’s request. Willibald desired to go back at least to obtain the leave and blessing of his abbot; but the pope told him his order sufficed, and commanded him to go without more ado into Germany. The saint replied that he was ready to go wheresoever his holiness should think fit. Accordingly he set out for Thuringia, where St. Boniface then was, by whom he was ordained priest. His labors in the country about Aichstadt, in Franconia and Bavaria, were crowned with incredible success, and he was no less powerful in words than in works.

In 746 he was consecrated by St. Boniface bishop of Aichstadt. This dignity gave his humility much to suffer, but it exceedingly excited his zeal. The cultivation of so rough a vineyard was a laborious and painful task; but his heroic patience and invincible meekness overcame all difficulties. His charity was most tender and compassionate, and he had a singular talent in comforting the afflicted. He founded a monastery which resembled in discipline that of Mount Cassino, to which he often retired. But his love of solitude diminished not his pastoral solicitude for his flock. He was attentive to all their spiritual necessities, he visited often every part of his charge, and instructed all his people with indefatigable zeal and charity. His fasts were most austere, nor did he allow himself any indulgence in them or in his labors on account of his great age, till his strength was entirely exhausted. Having labored almost forty-five years in regulating and sanctifying his diocese, he died at Aichstadt on the 7th of June, 790, being eighty-seven years old. He was honored with miracles, and buried in his own cathedral. Pope Leo VII. canonized him in 938. In 1270 the Bishop Hildebrand built a church in his honor, into which his relics were translated, and are honorably preserved to this day; but a portion is honored at Furnec in Flanders.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Call to Chastity

Archbishop Charles Chaput has made headlines because of his comment that Catholics who are actively gay or are divorced and remarried should abstain from sexual relations in order to receive the Eucharist. Predictably, the secular world is foaming at the mouth.

What did Archbishop Chaput say? First, I think we need to go back to the beginning - to Christ.

We believe Jesus Christ elevated marriage to a Sacrament; he defended the origin of marriage, as a man cleaving to his wife, leaving his family to become one flesh with her. St. Paul said this Sacrament represents the great mystery of Christ and his Church. Theologians and saints through the ages have described marriage as an icon of the Holy Trinity; as the man and woman bond in great love, they bring forth another person, a child - likewise, the great love of Father and Son can only be manifested as another person, the Holy Ghost (an oversimplification, yes).

There are two sacraments in which the Church views them as "sacraments of service" - Holy Orders and Matrimony. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony are directed toward the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in Church and serve to build up the People of God." These sacraments of service have particular actions associated with them. For the priest, some of the actions are hearing confessions, offering Mass, and consecrating the bread and wine at the altar. For the married couple, some of the actions are having sex, raising a family, and passing on the faith to their children.

For the married couple, sex is a normal and healthy action of the married couple. One of the reasons why the Church has always taught that sex outside of marriage is fornication or adultery (depending on whom it's with) is because we have taken sex from its normal environment - the action of a loving, committed, married couple - and have divorced it from its place, putting it in another setting. If God intended "from the beginning" that man and woman be married (if called to that vocation), then we can assume that God intended "from the beginning" that sex was an activity reserved for marriage; obviously because the act of procreation is involved and God's first commandment to the new couple was, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth..."(Gen 1:28). God, through his revelation to the Jewish people and through the 2,000 year teachings of the Catholic Church, has consistently taught that sex is a gift of self between the married couple. God created it, Christ protected it, St. Paul showed us how we represent the marriage between Christ and Bride, the Church.

As each Christian denomination abandoned these timeless teachings, the Catholic Church is left standing alone. One by one, Christians started to embrace contraception, cohabitation, divorce, divorce and remarriage, pornography, and now homosexuality. But the teachings of the Church remain the same - sex is reserved for the married couple. It's like if I tried to consecrate the bread and wine during Mass - it's just not my role. I'm not able to do it, even if I think I should be allowed and even if I say the same words and perform the same actions.

And so, we're all called to chastity; if married, we remain loyal to our spouse and if single, we abstain from sexual relations with others. Straight and gay, married or single, we're all called to chastity.

But when we've committed mortal sin, we've offended God by our actions. Like it or not, God said fornication, adultery, sodomy, homosexuality - it's all mortal sin; we endanger our eternal life if we engage in these actions without repentance. That goes for me, too. We're all in the same boat. Now, this isn't a big deal - believe it or not, life is more than getting laid, although to hear the secular world talk, it's the only thing on their minds! My parents had a show on of a pregnant woman getting medical treatment for a gunshot wound and they were worried about the baby being harmed; thankfully, they found out with a sonogram that the baby was healthy. But they added, "He's really well-endowed!" Gee, thanks for that info. Even in the midst of trying to save two lives, there apparently is always time to admire someone's genitalia.

The point is that in our culture of hook ups, porn, contraception, and the acceptance of any consensual sexual relationship as legitimate, a call to chastity seems pretty counter-cultural - and insane. So, what Archbishop Chaput is saying (which is no different than what others, even Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, has said) seems to be extreme and judgmental to many secular ears.

But if we take the Bible seriously, that fornication, adultery, and other sexual sins are sins that can lead to our eternal damnation, then what Archbishop Chaput is saying is just a defense of 2,000 years of Christian morality, which came from an even older Jewish tradition, all taught by God. For the Catholic, if we repent of our sin, that means we've rejected it and turned away from our sin and towards God; it means we, by God's grace, are trying to change. And if you turn to God with a contrite heart and a repentant spirit, confessing your sins to God, he absolves you from your sins - we hear this at every Confession. We are clean again, if we're sincere. And so, if sex outside of marriage (in the case of all people), sex with members of the same sex (homosexuals), and sex with a married person (those who are divorced and remarried) are mortal sins, it is very logical to say, "Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist. Such individuals are encouraged to approach the Sacrament of Penance regularly, having recourse to God’s great mercy in that sacrament if they fail in chastity."

It basically boils down to this, as Catholics. Christ told us what the Kingdom of Heaven was like, didn't he? He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Mat 13:44-45). He is telling us that the Kingdom of Heaven is of great value. It is such a great value that a person should be willing to "sell all that he has" in order to obtain it. And yet, if we're told we need to give up sex in order to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven, do we hear the voice of Christ, echoing in the modern day, or do we grind our teeth and shake our fists and growl, "Who are YOU to tell me how to live my life?! How dare you judge me?!" To me, it's the voice of Christ, but in the modern era. It's Jesus speaking through Chaput, telling us how valuable the Kingdom of Heaven is and how much we should want to obtain it. I recommend reading the entire letter of the Archbishop instead of reacting to the spin of the secular media. I also recommend Benedict XVI's letter, which also encouraged this option of "living as brother and sister". Lastly, I recommend reading the Catechism's section on the Sixth Commandment, which covers chastity and human sexuality. All of this is focused on the human person and the dignity we should have before God and man; if we reduce ourselves to be mere sexual creatures out to fulfil our passions, then we've missed our mark and are not being treated as the dignified people God intends us to be. Find the great freedom and peace that exists through living a chaste life.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Optional Memorial of Saint Junipero Serra

From the Catholic Culture website:

In 1776, when the American revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. Born on Spain's island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of Saint Francis' childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was thirty-five, he spent most of his time in the classroom-first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of Saint Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero's desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero's left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross, often life-threatening, the rest of his life. For eighteen years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two conquistadores-one military, one spiritual-began their quest. Jose de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the nine-hundred-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for Saint Joseph's day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luis Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra's death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous "Regulation" protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a "Bill of Rights" for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts — a move that has brought cries of "injustice" from some moderns.

Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight until dawn. He baptized over six thousand people and confirmed five thousand. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized Junipero Serra during his visit to the United States on September 23, 2015.