New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Friday, July 24, 2009

St. Sharbel Makhlouf - 24th July 2009

Today's saint is not of the Roman (Latin) Rite he is A Catholic of the Maronite rite.

Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in 1828, in Bekaa Kafra (North Lebanon). He had a true Christian upbringing, which had given him a passion for prayer. Then he followed his two hermit uncles in the hermitage of the St Antonious Kozhaya monastery and was converted to monastic and hermetical life.

In 1851, he left his family village and headed for the Our Lady of Maifouk monastery to spend his first monastic year, and then he went to the St Maron monastery in Annaya, where he entered the Maronite Order, carrying the name Charbel, a name of one of the Antioch church martyrs of the second century. On November 1st. 1853, he exposed his ceremonial vows in St Maron’s monastery - Annaya. Then he completed his theological studies in the St Kobrianous and Justina monastery in Kfifan, Batroun.

He was ordained a priest in Bkerky, the Maronite Patriarchate, on July 23rd, 1859. He lived 16 years in the St Maron's monastery – Annaya. From there, he entered, on February 15th, 1875, the St Peter & Paul hermitage, which belongs to the monastery. He was a typical saint and hermit, who spent his time praying and worshipping. Rarely had he left the hermitage where he followed the way of the saintly hermits in prayers, life and practice.

St Charbel lived in the hermitage for 23 years. On December 16th, 1898 he was struck with an illness while performing the holy mass. He died on Christmas' eve, December 24th, 1898, and was buried in the St Maron monastery cemetery in Annaya.

Few months later, dazzling lights were seen around the grave. From there, his corpse, which had been secreting sweat and blood, was transferred into a special coffin. Hordes of pilgrims started swarming the place to get his intercession. And through this intercession, God blessed many people with recovery and spiritual graces.

In 1925, his beatification and canonization were proposed for declaration by Pope Pious XI. In 1950, the grave was opened in the presence of an official committee which included doctors who verified the soundness of the body. After the grave had been opened and inspected, the variety of healing incidents amazingly multiplied. A multitude of pilgrims from different religious facets started flocking to the Annaya monastery to get the saint's intercession.

Prodigies reached beyond the Lebanese borders. This unique phenomenon caused a moral revolution, the return to faith and the reviving of the virtues of the soul.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

St. Bridget of Sweden - 23rd July 2009

The following is a commentary about St. Bridget by Dr. Plinio

Biographical selection:

St. Bridget (1303-1373) was a noble of royal blood from Sweden. In obedience to her father, she married Prince Ulfo of Nercia in 1316. She was the mother of eight children, including St. Catherine of Sweden. After Ulfo’s death in 1344, she dedicated her life to religion. In 1345 she founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior (the Bridgettines) at Vadstena.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

I remember only one episode from the life of St. Bridget. Therefore, since we don’t have a biographical selection properly speaking, I will comment on it.

She was a person with a very bad temperament with a propensity to irritation and explosions. She married a bad-tempered man who was also difficult to deal with. In her relations with her husband, she had to learn to dominate herself. After a great deal of effort, she reached that point. Then she made pilgrimages, sanctified herself, had meetings with Popes to report the visions she had received from Our Lord and Our Lady. She also became a nun and founded a religious congregation.

Because St. Bridget had learned to control her impulsive temperament, she thought she had entirely dominated it. But toward the end of her life, that strong passion in her temperament returned completely, just as it was when she was very young. This was a great trial for her, because she thought that the great fight she had made throughout her life had been lost because of some infidelity to God, and that she would have to restart from the beginning again.

So with this sense that everything before had been in vain, she restarted the fight, tamed her temperament once again, and died at peace with God.

Her biographers tell us that this trial was not a punishment for any spiritual failing, but rather a design of Divine Providence to make her even more perfect. So, God let her think that the great spiritual progress she had achieved was futile in order to test her love for Him, to see if she would become impatient and revolt or humbly recommence her efforts from the very beginning in obedience to His will.

This trial was an invitation for her, without her knowledge, to reach the apex of her spiritual life. We should realize this and be prepared should something similar happen in our lives.

Divine Providence very often asks us – either in our spiritual lives or in our works of apostolate – to face analogous situations that seem to make no sense to us. We have to walk toward walls without doors; we have to dive into oceans without bottoms. But when we walk with the spirit of true obedience to the will of God, at the last moment the doors appear and we can touch the bottom of the ocean with our feet, so that we can continue with the work we are called to do.

Our Lady does this with souls that she is preparing for the highest ends. She asks the person to walk through what makes no sense as a proof of love for her. How is this a demonstration of love? It is blind faith in what Divine Providence has asked from one. After passing through that trial, Our Lady and Our Lord give great graces to that person.

Sara, the wife of Abraham, was unable to have children. Notwithstanding, Abraham trusted God’s promise that a great people would come from him. Finally, in their old age a son was born - Isaac, the son of the promise. Then, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It made no sense. But Abraham prepared to carry out the will of God. You know the rest. God did not want the immolation of Isaac; what He wanted was to test Abraham’s love for Him. In the Old and New Covenants we find many other men of God who faced similar spiritual trials, even though they were men specially chosen by God.

Since ours is a great vocation to fight against the Revolution, especially the Revolution inside the Church, we should be prepared to face great tribulations in this specific point. All the efforts we made throughout our lives may at one point seem useless and futile. Our Lord and Our Lady - who called us to carry out this vocation - will be preparing us for greater things. We should not be surprised if this will happen.

Let us ask St. Bridget, who suffered this trial at the end of her life, to prepare us to accept such tests without revolt, protest or complaint. And may Our Lady find us worthy to receive similar tribulations.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

St. Mary Magdalene - 22 July 2009

Biographical selection:

Commenting on St. Mary Magdalene, the Roman Martyrology says that after Our Lord expelled the devils from her, she became so perfect that she was worthy to be the first person to see Him resurrected.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

The famous episode in a banquet where St. Mary Magdalene washed the feet of Our Lord Jesus Christ with perfume reveals some facets of her personality and her position in the Church.

We know that she was a sister of Lazarus. According to the traditions and documents of that time, he was a person of high society, because he had a rank of a prince and was very wealthy. He had been a prince of a small people who had been incorporated into the Jewish nation, and still had the title and honors of a prince even though he no longer played a political role. Therefore, he and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, were persons of a high social level.

However, Mary Magdalene strayed from the good path and became a public sinner. She repented profoundly and became a model of two different things: contemplation and penance.

Her contemplation was marked in contrast with the active life of Martha, who censured Mary for not caring about the needs of the house but only about staying close to Our Lord listening to Him and admiring Him. Our Lord told her: “Martha, Martha, Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.” She represents pure contemplation, unlinked to the active life.

Her repentance, her penance, and her perfect fidelity prepared her to stand with Our Lady and St. John at the foot of the Cross. Her penance was so perfect and the pardon she received so great that she achieved an extraordinary union with Our Lord. Studying her case, some serious theologians even raised the hypothesis that perhaps penance is more beautiful than innocence.

In the episode of the banquet, she represented penance, contemplation and complete detachment from worldly goods. To the contrary, Judas represented treason, hatred dissimulated under the pretext of charity, and attachment to material things. The opposition between Mary Magdalene and Judas could not be more flagrant.

After that episode, the opposition continued. She, the repentant sinner, was faithful and stood at the foot of the Cross. He, the damned Apostle, was the one who delivered Jesus Christ to be crucified. She was the first to witness the Resurrection of Our Lord and His ascension to Heaven to meet the Eternal Father; the impenitent Judas hanged himself in despair and hurled himself into Hell to meet the Devil. The antitheses are strong and expressive. On one hand, in Mary Magdalene, we see repentance, pure contemplation and detachment from worldly goods. On the other hand, in Judas, we find final impenitence, total attachment to money and cupidity for worldly goods.

St. Louis Grignion of Montfort distinguished two types of human psychology: those who are like Jacob and those like Esau. St. Mary Magdalene is characteristic of one with the spirit of Jacob: she had a superior soul turned toward heavenly things and indifferent to the things of this world. Judas, the opposite, was a type like Esau. He not only sold his birthrights for a plate of lentils, but much worse, he sold his Savior for thirty coins.

Fra Angelico painted the scene of the kiss of Judas delivering Our Lord to the Jewish soldiers. He painted Our Lord’s head surrounded with a golden halo, and Judas’ head with a black halo. He wanted to express that Judas was the son of iniquity, the damned Apostle whose spirit was one of sin and darkness, while Our Lord’s was filled with sanctity and light. We could apply this to the contrast between St. Mary Magdalene and Judas. One had a golden halo, the other a black halo.

When St. Mary Magdalene repented, she completely rejected all those things that had induced her to sin. In her case, this constituted the brilliant things of life. As penance she distanced herself totally from such things, she completely detached herself from them. To achieve such detachment she abandoned all links with the active life and became a pure contemplative. Her contemplation, therefore, was born from penance and detachment. It made her understand the excellence of heavenly things and how every created thing was made to serve and glorify heavenly things. So, nothing could be more consistent for her than to take a very valuable perfume and pour it on the divine feet of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

What had induced the despicable Judas to be attached to money, which led him to hate Our Lord? Yes, I say hate, because no one betrays the Man-God as he did only for a profit. What induced Judas to steal the alms collected for the poor? No one can know for sure, but one can raise a hypothesis.

When Our Lord was preaching His doctrine, Judas was probably thinking about other things, for instance, about the prestige of the Pharisees in Jerusalem and how he would like to do something to impress them. So, he wanted to become rich and have a parallel career in order to be considered an important man by the Pharisees. He started to think about these things of this world and fell into sin, he started to steal money. This habit made him more and more hostile to Our Lord. The process continued to the final extreme, where Judas handed over Our Lord to the ones he admired and wanted to impress, and also to make some money.

The processes of both, Mary Magdalene and Judas, are logical. One has the logic of the golden halo; the other, the logic of the black halo. The pathway of a woman who was in sin and became a saint crossed the pathway of an Apostle who was in grace and became a traitor.

What was the most profound reason why one repented and other fell into despair? In my opinion it is because of their different relations with Our Lady.

St. Mary Magdalene was always close to Our Lady, helping her and giving her support, above all at the supreme moment when her Son was crucified and died on Calvary. Judas, however, was cold toward Our Lady. Catharine Emmerick says that before the treason was consummated, Our Lady, who knew what he was planning, approached Judas and spoke with him for a long time, trying to convert him. He rejected everything, and the Gospel affirms that after the Last Supper, the Devil entered his soul.

The woman who had warm and close relations with Our Lady became one of the greatest saints of the Church, who in Heaven certainly is very close to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The Apostle who was cold toward her became the son of perdition, who was pictured by Dante inside the very mouth of Satan in the deepest place of Hell.

This contrast has many lessons. The principal one is for us to be as close as possible to Our Lady, no matter what our situations are, whether we be in the state of grace or in sin.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Saint Lawrence of Brindisi - 21 July 2009

Saint Lawrence of Brindisi is the Apostolic Doctor and the doctor of conversions and missions. He lost his parents at an early age and was educated by his uncle. Brindisi was first sent to the Conventual Franciscans for his early education. His parents named him Julius Caesar. In many respects, his presence was as a leading general as the famous Julius Caesar of Rome. As appointed chaplain-general, he led armies during European battles and skirmishes. The crushing defeat of the Turks was attributed to Lawrence. Emperors, kings, popes, dukes and heads of state requested his support. He gave advice to generals, rallied the troops and led many missions carrying the cross of Christ as his effective sign and weapon.

Our saint labored for the church, his Franciscan Religious Order-the Capuchins, his country, those who supported religion and all that Christ was sent to save. God would have sent the Savior of the world, according to St Lawrence, even if Adam had not sinned. That is how much God desires to share eternal love with us even before we possess it later in eternity. God is, in a sense, impatient, when it comes to love. He is an impetuous, impressive and impassionate Lover first and foremost. God's Savior role came after sin entered into the soul of humankind.

According to this champion doctor, the Father would have sent his Son if no original sin occurred. Perhaps his main goal in his lifetime was to provide, preach, and expose missions. It has been said that Lawrence was one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christianity. Lawrence realized fully that the Savior had been sent. His efforts were to talk, convert and help people to be saved. In addition, for Lawrence, the Son was sent to save all with no exceptions. We too, according to the degree of our faith, have the same mission as Lawrence. We are called and chosen to assist others as they need our help and according to our gifts.

Lawrence was gifted with remarkable talent, intelligence and, most of all, language ability. He spoke eight languages fluently. He served others through his preaching and missions. He led missions against other religions and anywhere Catholicism needed support. He performed reconciliation efforts against heretics all over Europe and always with empathy, sensitivity and compassion.

In times past, religions would have been exceedingly hostile against others. Persecutions, wars, and even brutual punishment among brothers, sisters and families within the same religion happened. Times have changed hopefully if we have learned anything about authentic love. Charity and love must supersede all other religions. Reverence not only for all religions but now we must have a whole new faternal attitude toward all people, nationalities, race, gender, and elimination of sordid bias, prejudice and discrimination must be the new Christian motif of all future generations.

Respect for Hinduism, Buddist, Jainist, Muslims, Sikh, Baha'i, Sinto, African Native, Zoroastrian, Native American, Jewish and Christianity, to name but a few major religions, must be the obligation for all decent human beings.

Saint Lawrence was a biblical scholar and the pope requested him to preach to the Jews. He spent much time in conversion attempts. His language abilities were flawless and wherever he spoke the people thought he was a native of that place. The rabbis felt he was a Jew who had become a Christian.

This amazing Franciscan wrote extensively filling many volumes including his sermons, which were always substantiated by scriptural quotations. His brilliance was matched with great human compassion and administrative skills. He was quickly elected to the highest office in his religious order, minister-general. He was responsible for the Capuchin's growth and geographical expansion.

St Lawrence was appointed papal emissary. He was a powerful peacemaker. His positions took him to many foreign countries. He was so influential that he was asked to settle royal quarrels, be a diplomat and work for pacification and healing among many nations.

Our saint burned himself out with goodwill for those whom he served. He realized how deeply God loved all creations in sending Jesus Christ. He felt we too should ask to be sent, as our Brother, to help others. This made sense to Lawrence’s way of thinking because humankind had sinned and committed original sin. His main goal was to give mission (talks and instructions about the faith) to change hearts and be drawn back to God. This is conversion. He decided early to be God's messenger and active minister.

For More about this doctor of the Church please refer to this web site