Friday, April 14, 2017

Pope speaks of Humanity's shame in Good Friday Service

Thousands of people, including nuns, families with toddlers, and young tourists, endured exceptionally tight anti-terrorism checks to pray at the Good Friday procession at the Colosseum, where Pope Francis expressed shame over humanity's failings.
Francis, wearing a plain white coat, presided over the traditional, evening Way of the Cross procession from a rise overlooking the popular tourist monument as faithful took turns carrying a tall cross and meditations were recited to encourage reflection on Jesus' suffering and crucifixion.
After the 90-minute-long procession ended, Francis, in a quiet voice, read a prayer he composed that alternated expressing shame for humanity's failings and hope that "hardened hearts" will become capable of forgiving and loving.
With Easter two days away, Francis said faithful look to Christ "with eyes lowered in shame and with hearts full of hope."
Such shame, he said, derives from "all those images of devastation, destruction, shipwrecks, that have become routine in our lives." Hundreds of thousands of migrants have endured hardships at the hands of human traffickers to try to reach Europe, which has increasingly been rejecting them, and thousands of them have perished at sea during the last few years.
Evoking wars and conflicts, as well as attacks on Christian minorities, Francis also voiced shame for "the innocent blood spilled daily by women, children, immigrants, and persons persecuted because of the color of their skin, or for the ethnic or social group they belong to, and for their faith" in Jesus.
The pontiff also made a reference to clergy's handling of sex abuse of minors, saying: "shame for all those times that we bishops, priests and other clergy scandalized" the church.
Hours before the evocative, candlelit ceremony, pilgrims underwent the first of two rounds of security checks that started while they still were blocks away from the ancient arena. There was a heavier-than-usual police presence keeping watch on every aspect of the event.
Anti-terrorism measures have been heightened for large public crowds after several vehicle attacks in Nice, Berlin and other European cities.
Police opened handbags and backpacks. They checked computers, and, in at least one case, asked an Italian woman to open a package. It turned out to be a tray of pastries, and the woman good-naturedly offered one of the sweets to the officer.
Streets surrounding the Colosseum were closed to traffic, armored vehicles blocked intersections, bomb-sniffing dogs were used and police checked chemical toilets with scanners for explosives near the Colosseum.
"I believe that we have a situation in which we Europeans have to unite and take the issue of security very seriously," Jose de Laoz, a businessman from Spain, said while the security sweeps were conducted near the Colosseum.
Terrorism's repercussions were being felt in Christian communities across the Mediterranean. In Egypt, Coptic churches announced that Easter services would be limited to prayers, without festivities. The measure was taken after twin bombings killed 45 people at churches on Palm Sunday.
In Rome, the Good Friday gathering was calm as participants, estimated by Vatican security to number 20,000, clutched candles in the silence of a warm night. Some parents hoisted children on their shoulders so they could watch. Many people kept their eyes fixed on a towering cross, studded with lit candles glowing against the Colosseum's ancient stone.
Hours earlier at the Vatican, Francis prostrated himself in prayer during a Good Friday service in St. Peter's Basilica. The 80-year-old pope lay for several minutes before the central altar.
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Patricia Thomas contributed to this report.

The Meaning of Suffering - Holy Week with Fr. Mike Schmitz

Saturday, April 8, 2017

What does God want me to do - Lent with Fr. Mike Schmitz



Father Mike Schmitz offers some clarity regarding God’s will in our lives. He directs us to the story of Israel’s desert wanderings in the Old Testament and the Annunciation to Mary in the Gospels, describing how even the tribes of Israel and Mary had to be content with the uncertainty of God’s will at times. Father Mike also teaches how we can discern God’s will even in the silence.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

3 Steps to unceasing prayer - Lent with Fr. Mike Schmitz




First Thessalonians 5:17 says to “pray constantly,” but how do we do that? In this video, Fr. Mike Schmitz suggests a three-step approach used by St. Francis de Sales. These steps can be difficult or easy, but the important thing to remember is that simply inviting God into every moment is as good a way to pray as any.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

4 Resons for Fasting



Why do we fast? Fr. Mike explains that it’s not about getting more love and attention from God. Fasting is about self-mastery, discernment, sacrifice, and being a co-redeemer with Jesus. In this video, Fr. Mike dives deeper into these four reasons, helping you make the most of your fasting this Lent.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Lent - A season of Repentance





Lent is a season of repentance, prayer and fasting. The season lasts for 40 days, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter. The season reflects the 40 days Jesus spent in prayer and fasting in the desert before starting his public ministry. Lent is also observed by many other Christian denominations.

Lent begins the morning after Madi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras was traditionally a day of reasonable indulgence prior to the beginning of the 40 day period of prayer and fasting.

The morning after is Ash Wednesday, a day when Catholics engage in prayer and fasting and attend Mass to receive ashes on their heads as a sign of penance. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent.

Resistance to temptation is an important spiritual exercise, practiced during Lent. Many faithful will make a Lenten sacrifice, giving up something dear for the 40 day period, so they will be capable of filling themselves with Christ instead.

In addition to giving something up, others may take on additional responsibilities, chores, or penances.

Fasting is standard practice. In simplest form, Catholics will fast by abstaining from meat on Fridays. Fish is permitted as a substitute. Few people actually skip meals, instead they substitute fish or vegetarian dishes on Fridays for meat dishes. It is common for some to dine in restaurants on Fridays, instead of preparing the meal at home. Restaurants often serve clam chowder and fish on Fridays to cater to Catholics. However, the piety of these events is dubious, since people are making only a marginal sacrifice, and they are not genuinely fasting at all.

Regardless of how a person chooses to keep their Lenten fast, the practice is regarded as highly personal. It is generally inappropriate for others to judge the piety of another’s practice. It is also inappropriate to make a contest of one’s piety.



Sundays are not part of the Lenten fasting period. Instead, Sundays are excepted because they are celebrations of the resurrection of Christ. Each Sunday is a mini Easter. Therefore, it is appropriate for people to partake of whatever they may have given up for the 40 days of Lent. For example, a child that gives up sweets for Lent, may freely partake of them on Sundays during Lent.

Special prayers are offered during Lent. The Stations of the Cross, which follow Christ from his condemnation to his entombment, are practiced as a form of devotion. Some Catholics pray the Sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary instead of the traditional joyful mysteries on Sundays during Lent, but there is no official rule, and Catholics are free to pray whichever mysteries they choose.

The colors of Lent are purple, which is the traditional color of penance and mourning, as well as the color of royalty, which symbolizes Christ’s status as our king.

The last week of Lent is known as “Holy Week” and it begins with Palm Sunday, one week before Easter. On Palm Sunday, the faithful recreate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, by welcoming him with blessed palms. Often the priest, or a volunteer from the congregation, will play the part of Jesus in a ceremonial procession.

On Holy Thursday, the Last Supper is celebrated.

On Good Friday, the trial, suffering, and crucifixion of Christ is commemorated.

Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent and the beginning of Easte

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1 - Commemoration of Deceased Salesians

In the celebration of the Eucharist the memory of our deceased confreres is not only an act of suffrage, but also an act of thanksgiving to God for having given to his Church so many generous men who have responded to the voice of the Lord by committing themselves to work with Saint John Bosco, in the practice of the evangelical counsels, for the benefit of the young.
As our fathers and brothers, they have passed on to us a precious heritage. Some of them are still fresh in our memory; others are held in benediction; and there are those whose humble and hidden lives are recorded only as names in the Necrology.
Rather than recount the praises of their virtues, this holy assembly wishes to recognize the good they were able to carry out in the Church through God's grace. This is an attitude which stems spontaneously from faithful and grateful hearts also, when we remember those with whom we have worked, believed, hoped, suffered and loved; they are an incentive to us to continue with fresh enthusiasm in our own vocation.
The redeeming death of Christ has enlightened for us the mystery of death, and so the prayer texts invite the faithful to make a profession of faith in the Father whose mercy knows no limits, and who has promised unending happiness to those who seek first the kingdom of heaven.
In entrusting our deceased confreres to the Father, the giver of life, who sustains all things by his providence, the assembly recalls that they have spent their lives in the service of the Gospel, following the way marked out by Saint John Bosco; and that they worked in the vineyard of the Lord carrying out their pastoral ministry in the service of the young.
For them, as they await the coming of the Lord, the assembly asks the reward promised to faithful servants: pardon, joy, eternal light and peace and a reawakening to the glory of the resurrection,' so as to enjoy for ever the vision of God's countenance.
But their memory, in the sacrifice commemorating the death and resurrection of
Christ, is also a motive for supplication that every confrere may continue faithfully on
his own pilgrimage in the Church at the service of the Gospel.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton



Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was the first native born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church.

Born two years before the American Revolution, Elizabeth grew up in the upper class of New York society. She was a prolific reader, and read everything from the Bible to contemporary novels.

In spite of her high society background, Elizabeth's early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew a little older, the Bible was to become her continual instruction, support and comfort -and she would continue to love the Scriptures for the rest of her life.

In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous. Elizabeth wrote in her diary at first autumn, "My own home at twenty-the world-that and heaven too-quite impossible."

This time of Elizabeth's life was to be a brief moment of earthly happiness before the many deaths and partings she was to suffer. Within four years, William's father died, leaving the young couple in charge of William's seven half brothers and sisters, as well as the family's importing business.

Events moved quickly from there with devastating effect. Both William's business and health failed. He was finally forced to file a petition of bankruptcy and, in a final attempt to save William's health, the Setons sailed for Italy, where William had business friends.

Unfortunately, William died of tuberculosis while in Italy. Elizabeth's one consolation was that he had recently awakened to the things of God.

The many enforced separations from dear ones by death and distance served to draw Elizabeth's heart to God and eternity. The accepting and embracing of God's will - "The Will," as she called it - would be a keynote in her spiritual life.

Elizabeth's deep concern for the spiritual welfare of her family and friends eventually led her into the Catholic Church.

In Italy, Elizabeth captivated everyone by her kindness, patience, good sense, wit, and courtesy. During this time Elizabeth became interested in the Catholic Faith and, over a period of months, her Italian friends guided her in Catholic instruction.

Elizabeth's desire for the Bread of Life was to be a strong force leading her to the Catholic Church.

Having lost her mother at an early age, Elizabeth felt great comfort in the idea that the Blessed Virgin was truly her mother. She asked the Blessed Virgin to guide her to the True Faith and officially joined the Catholic Church in 1805.

At the suggestion of the president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Maryland, Elizabeth started a school in that city. The school had originally been secular but once news of her entrance to Catholocism spread, several girls were removed from her school. It was then Seton, and two other young women who helped her in her work, began plans for a Sisterhood. They established the first free Catholic school in America. When the young community adopted their rule, they made provisions for Elizabeth to continue raising her children.

On March 25, 1809, Elizabeth Seton pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, binding for one year. From that time she was called Mother Seton.

Although Mother Seton became afflicted with tuberculosis, she continued to guide her children. The Rule of the Sisterhood was formally ratified in 1812. It was based upon the Rule St. Vincent de Paul had written for his Daughters of Charity in France. By 1818, in addition to their first school, the sisters had established two orphanages and another school. Today, six groups of sisters can trace their origins to Mother Seton's initial foundation.

Seton's favorite prayer was the 23rd Psalm and she developed a deep devotion to the Eucharist, Sacred Scripture, and the Virgin Mary.

For the last three years of her life, Elizabeth felt that God was getting ready to call her, and this gave her great joy. Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. She was beatified by Pope John XXIII on March 17, 1963 and was canonized canonized on September 14, 1975 by Pope Paul VI.