New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Saturday, December 5, 2009

St. Sabas - 5th December 2009

Saint Sabas, one of the most renowned patriarchs of the monks of Palestine, was born in the year 439, near Caesarea. At the age of fifteen, in the absence of his parents, he suffered under the conduct of an uncle, and weary of the world’s problems decided to forsake the world and enter a monastery not far from his family home. After he had spent ten years in religious life, his two uncles and his parents attempted to persuade him to leave the monastery to which he had migrated in Palestine. He replied: “Do you want me to be a deserter, leaving God after placing myself in His service? If those who abandon the militia of earthly kings are severely punished, what chastisement would I not deserve if I abandoned that of the King of heaven?”

When he was thirty years old, desiring greater solitude, he began to live an angelic life so far above nature that he seemed no longer to have a body. The young sage, as he was called by Saint Euthymius, Abbot of a nearby monastery, dwelt in a cavern on a mountain near Jerusalem, where he prayed, sang Psalms and wove baskets of palm branches. He was forty-five years old when he began to direct those who came to live as hermits, as he did, and he gave each of them a place to build a cell; soon this was the largest monastery of Palestine. He left the region when certain agitators complained of him, for he considered himself incapable of maintaining good discipline. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sallustus, did not easily credit the complaints, and instead ordained Sabas a priest, that he might say Mass for his disciples — for they had been displeased by his lack of desire for that honor. He was at that time fifty-three years old. The Patriarch presented him to them as their father, whom they should obey and honor, and made him Superior of all the Palestine monasteries. But several monks remained obstinate, and Saint Sabas again went elsewhere, to a cavern near Scythopolis.

As the years passed, he was in charge of seven monasteries; but his influence was not limited to Palestine. The heresies afflicting religion were being sustained by the emperor of Constantinople, who had exiled the Catholic Patriarch of that city, Elias. Saint Sabas converted the one who had replaced Elias, and wrote to the emperor that he should cease to persecute the Church of Jerusalem, and to impose taxes on the cities of Palestine which they were unable to pay. In effect, the people were reduced to extreme misery. The emperor died soon afterwards, and the pious Justin replaced him. Justin restored the true faith by an edict and recalled the exiles, re-establishing the exiled prelates in their sees.

When Saint Sabas was ninety-one years old, he made the long journey to Constantinople to ask Justinian, successor to Justin, not to act with severity against the province of Palestine, where a revolt had occurred by the non-submission of a group of Samaritans. The emperor honored him highly and wished to endow his monasteries with wealth, but the holy Patriarch asked him to use the riches he was offering to build a hospice for pilgrims in Jerusalem, to decorate the unfinished Church of the Blessed Virgin, to build a fortress where the monks could take refuge when barbarians invaded the land, and finally, to re-establish preaching of the true Faith, by edicts proscribing the various errors being propagated. The holy Abbot lived to be ninety-two years old, and died in 531, in the arms of the monks of his first monastery.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Marian Prayer of St. John Damascene

Today, the root of Jesse has produced its shoot:
she will bring forth a Divine flower for the world.
Today, the Creator of all things,
God the Word,
composes a new book:
a book issuing from the heart of his Father
and written by the Holy Spirit,
who is the tongue to God.

O daughter of King David and Mother of God,
the universal King;
O Divine and living object
whose beauty has charmed God the Creator;
your whole soul is completely open
to God’s action and attentive to God alone.

All your desires are centered
only on what merits to be sought
and is worthy of love.
You harbour anger only for sin and its author.
You will have a life superior to nature,
but not for your own sake.
For it has not been created for you
but has been entirely consecrated to God,
who has introduced you into the world
to help bring about our salvation
in fulfillment of his plan,
the Incarnation of his Son
and the Divinization of the human race.

Your heart will find nourishment in the words of God,
like the tree planted near the living waters of the Spirit,
like the tree of life
that has yielded its fruit in due time,
the incarnate God who is the life of all things.

Your ears will be ever attentive to the Divine words
and the sounds of the harp of the Spirit,
through whom the Word has come to take on our flesh.
Your nostrils will inhale the fragrance of the Bridegroom,
the Divine fragrance with which He scented His humanity.

Your lips will savour the words of God
and will rejoice in their Divine sweetness.
Your most pure heart,
free from all stain,
will ever see the God of all purity
and will experience ardent desire for Him.

Your womb will be the abode
of the one whom no place can contain.
Your milk will provide nourishment for God,
in the little Infant Jesus.
Your hands will carry God,
and your knees will serve
as a throne for Him
that is more noble
than the throne of the Cherubim.

Your feet, led by the light of the Divine Law,
will follow Him along an undeviating course
and guide you to the possession of the Beloved.

You are the temple of the Holy Spirit,
the city of the living God,
made joyous by abundant flowers,
the sacred flowers of Divine grace.
You are all-beautiful
and very close to God,
above the Cherubim
and higher than the Seraphim,
right near God Himself!

I miss Christmas as it was

I moved to a new country 5 years ago. I moved in the month of October and the first big Catholic feast was Christmas. I have to say that I have never enjoyed Christmas at my newly adopted home and country. For some reason it is not the same it feels empty something is missing. While I have a more prayerful attitude to the incarnation and the whole God almighty coming down as a human and this is something i love thinking about, I still miss something from back home.
I feel empty on Christmas day its like a holiday but not Christmas. While back home we would all wonder what a white Christmas would be like, here where I have a white Christmas I dont feel like it is Christmas.
Back home we would chop down a branch of a tree, let it dry so the leave would fall and then wrap up the tree in cotton so that it would look like the branch of the tree was covere with snow we would then decorate the snow covered tree. Here we have snow and real conifer trees and yet I dont feel like its Christmas.
I dont know the failing I will admit is mine.
I do have a special treat for all of you who read my blog as we come to the last week of advent.

St. John Damascene - 4th December 2009

Biographical selection:

St. John Damascene, 8th century, was the grand vizir of the Caliph of Damascus. While he was holding this office, Emperor Leo the Isaurian began a campaign to destroy the Catholic statues, the beginning of the iconoclast heresy. In 726 he issued his first edict against the veneration of images.

John Damascene immediately took up his pen to defend this ancient practice of Catholics, just as before he had attacked the heresies of his time. Because of this defense, the hand that wrote it was chopped off , but the Virgin Mary appeared and reattached the hand.

He retired to the monastery of St. Sabas southeast of Jerusalem and died there as a monk dedicated to prayer and study. He wrote numerous works and beautiful verses. His style was vigorous and polemic. For example, writing against the Emperor he called him a new Mahomet, an enemy of Christ, and despiser of the Saints. He also attacked the sycophant Bishops, calling them slaves of their stomachs, disposed to compromise and lie.

Writing about the holy statues, he said:

“Regarding the Most Holy Mother of God, I confess her holier than the Seraphim and Cherubim, more sublime than Heaven, more elevated than all creatures, for she brought to light of day Christ our God.

“As for the Saints who combated for Him, I honor and venerate them, kissing their precious relics. In the Bible the sacred writer gives an account of the Incarnation of Christ. The sculptor pictures the glory of the Church from the first Adam to the birth of Christ. The writer and artist concur on the same truth. The Church benefits from both, but you, O heretic, venerate the book and destroy the statue. What an extravagance!

“If some ignorant person commits some excess in this matter, it is your fault. If someone makes the mistake of taking the image of Christ for Christ Himself, you should instruct him. This is why you are Bishops, priests and deacons. The true Shepherds and Doctors, the shining lights of times past, dedicated themselves to instructing the people for their good and salvation. But the Bishops of this century are preoccupied with horses, cows, sheep, flocks, fields and gold. They care only about accruing and spending money. They are very concerned about the body, but neglect their people and their own souls. It is as Scriptures says: The shepherds became wolves.

“Who should we follow now, St. Basil the Thaumaturge, or Bastilas the murderer of souls? The doctor or penance and salvation St. John Chrysostom or the doctor of disorder and perdition Tricarcade? Or perhaps Gregory, the profane patriarch of Constantine, plague of the people, who along with the head of the Empire cast out the venerable statues and holy doctrine of the Holy Church?

"To whom should we listen? The ensemble of venerable Patriarchs who spoke at the first six Councils or these hypocrite prelates who introduced adulterous dogmas in the Church, which were never confirmed by any Patriarch and are proscribed by the Letters of Synods?”

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

Some prior observations will help us to better understand this selection. In the Muslim world, the Caliph was a mixture of pope and emperor. He was a religious leader who at the same time exercised temporal power. The grand vizir was the equivalent of a prime minister. He was the man appointed by the caliph to administer the government. Normally the caliphs would not deign to associate with the people, who were considered unworthy to even be in their presence. It was the grand vizirs who represented them; they were the face of the caliph for the public.

St. John Damascene, then, was the grand vizir of the Caliph of Damascus. At that time the caliphs permitted Catholics to practice their religion and hold important public offices in that Muslim state. There was, therefore, this paradox: a Saint who was protected by a Muslim Caliphate and who attacked a heretic who was head of the Catholic Byzantine Empire.

Emperor Leo the Isaurian was the one who initiated the campaign against the statues. It was the Iconoclast heresy, which means those who destroy icons and statues. Leo the Isaurian was a pre-figure of the Protestants. Among other errors, he sustained that it was wrong to venerate statues. On his orders, the heretics burned and destroyed countless statues in the Byzantine churches.

In this most beautiful text of St. John Damascene, you see the indignation of a soul of fire against error. The excerpt demonstrates that the indignation of St. John Damascene was filled with love for the truth. He vigorously proclaims the truths he defends.

In this text there are some very valuable arguments. For example, when he addresses the Iconoclasts, he points out the inconsistency of their position of destroying the statues but venerating the Bible. The Bible, he argues, describes personages in words, that is, it gives a literary representation of the person. The artist, taking his inspiration from that description, paints a picture or sculpts a statue. Therefore, if one takes a stand against the statues of persons, he should also be against the Bible that describes them. Otherwise his position is contradictory. He would accept the literary description but condemn the artistic figure representing the former. It is a simple but iron-tight argument presented with great literary beauty.

In another argument against the heretic bishops and clergy, he says: “If an ignorant person commits some excess in this matter, it is your fault. If someone makes the mistake of taking the image of Christ for Christ Himself, you should instruct him. This is why you are bishops, priests and deacons.”

You can see that the heretics of those times used the same sophism of Protestants who would later affirm that Catholics adore statues and Our Lady. When the heretic bishops and clergy asserted that the statues should be destroyed to avoid such excesses, St. John Damascene replied: “You are in charge of the instruction of the people. If there is some excess in the veneration of statues, it is because you did not fulfill your duty. Therefore, to be consistent, if you want to condemn someone, you should condemn yourselves, and instead of censuring and breaking the statues, you should correct yourselves.” Again, it is a simple, strong logic that leaves no exit for the adversary.

We should not be surprised that the heretic Emperor ordered the hand of St. John Damascene to be chopped off. The heretic could not face this iron logic of the Saint, so Leo the Isaurian took this violent measure to stop the Saint from attacking him. But Our Lady – who is the destroyer of all heresies - restored his hand so that he could continue to write against the enemies of the Church.

A final important consideration is that St. John Damascene - with this spirit of fire and Catholic mentality - was chosen by the Caliph to be his grand vizir. The Caliph was a Muslim and an enemy of the Catholic Church; notwithstanding, he had the good sense to admire the honesty and capacity of St. John Damascene and appointed him to govern his temporal possessions.

Now let me ask you this: Do you imagine it would be possible today for a man with the mentality of St. John Damascene to ever be made prime minister of Russia? Or even a head of one of our Western States? Could he be prime minister of England or president of the United States? He would certainly not be accepted. Why?

Because the revolutionary mentality of the people today is much worse than the mentality of the enemies of the Church was in the 8th century. This comparison makes us understand how low we have sunk and how bad the revolutionary mentality is. Normally we are blinded by this revolutionary mentality and we do not realize how perverse it really is.

This example shows how hostile the modern world is to the Catholic cause, and how bad the progressivists are who are trying to adapt the Church to this world.

Let us pray to St. John Damascene and ask him to give us the mentality he had in order to destroy the Revolution just as he destroyed the Iconoclast heresy in his time.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Basilica of Bom Jesus - Goa India

Old Goa, built in 1605, and now declared a World Heritage Monument. The church houses the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of Goa, who died while on a sea voyage to China on December 2,1552. The following year, while transferring his remains to Goa, in accordance with his wishes, it was found that the saint's body was as fresh as the day it was buried. This miraculous phenomenon continues to attract the devout of all lands and an Exposition or public viewing of his body every ten years attracts lakhs of pilgrims. During the 450 years of Portuguese rule in Goa, St. Francis Xavier was believed to have afforded protection to the rulers who handed over their symbols of office to the saint during every changeover of the office of Governor General. The Saint had miraculous healing powers, which were experienced by the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad when he came for the Exposition of 1878.

St. Francis Xavier - 3rd December 2009

Not many of my readers know this but St. Francis Xavier is one of my favourite saints. He is buried in India in Goa which is where my ancestors come from. In addition to this, I did my university studies at St. Xavier's in Bombay which was run by the Jesuits. Thus I am very fond of St. Francis Xavier.

Francis Xavier, Apostle of India and Japan and perhaps the greatest missionary of the Church since Saint Paul, was born on April 7, 1506 near Sanguesa in Spain. After completing his preliminary studies in his own country, he went to Paris, France in 1525 and entered the College of Sainte-Barbe. In 1526, he met Pierre Favre and a warm friendship sprang between them. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) resided at this same college. He won the confidence of the two young men and they were the first to join with him in the formation of the religious order. They made their vows on August 15, 1534, binding themselves to the service of God.
Francis Xavier went to Venice, Italy and there he was ordained to the priesthood on June 24, 1537. After ordination, he served for a brief period in Rome.
On April 7, 1541, Francis departed for India as the Jesuits’ first foreign missionary. He landed in Goa and immediately began to learn the language, preach, minister to the sick and compose a catechism. His success there was most notable. Multitudes flocked to hear him, and he won many converts to the faith. He also faced many hardships. He had less success with the Brahman sect and a years’ worth of work among them resulted in only one convert. Francis Xavier’s converts in India were persecuted mercilessly and were often abused by the Protégées officials and merchants.
On April 17, 1549, he set sail for Japan filled with great zeal at the prospect f introducing Christianity to this country. After an apostolate of two years and three months, the Christian community in that nation numbered some two thousand and continued to grow rapidly.
He then set his sights on China. He arranged passage there on a merchant ship in August of 1552. The ship reached the desolate island of Sancian (Shang-chwan) near the Chinese coast not far from Canton. While there, Francis was seized with a fever on November 21, 1552. He grew weaker and died on December 3, 1552. He was buried the following day. After more than two months, the grave and coffin were opened and his body found incorrupt. His body was taken back to Goa, India and is enshrined in the Church of the Good Jesus.
Francis Xavier was beatified in 1619 and canonized a saint of the Catholic Church in 1622. In 1748 he was named the Patron Saint of the Orient. In 1904 he was declared the patron saint for the Propagation of the Faith and in 1927 named the patron of missions. Francis Xavier is also the Patron Saint of all Navigators.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blessed Rafal Chylinski - 2nd December 2009

Blessed Rafal Chylinski was pious youth, his family nicknamed him "the little monk." After graduating the Jesuit college in Poznan, Melchior joined the cavalry, and was made an officer within three years. In 1715, against the advice of his brothers in arms, Melchior joined the Conventual Franciscans in Kraków, took the name Rafal, and was ordained in 1717. He was known for simple and candid sermons, generosity, and as a great confessor. He was born in 1694 at Buk, Poznan, Poland as Melchior Chylinski, and died in 1741 at Lagiewniki, Poland; the Conventual church there became a place of pilgrimage.

The sermons preached by Rafal were powerfully reinforced by the living sermon of his life. The Sacrament of Reconciliation can help us bring our daily choices into harmony with our words about Jesus’ influence in our life

During the beatification homily, Pope John Paul II said, "May Blessed Rafal remind us that every one of us, even though we are sinners, has been called to love and to holiness" (L'Osservatore Romano, 1991, vol. 25, number 19).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent reflections for Week 1

The twofold coming of Christ by St. Cyril of Jerusalem

We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.
In general, whatever relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future.
At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.
We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
The Saviour will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. At his own judgement he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent.
His first coming was to fulfil his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity.
The prophet Malachi speaks of the two comings. And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple: that is one coming.
Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing.
These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Saviour has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.
That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.

Prayer to the Holy Name of Jesus

Since, then, O my Jesus! Thou art the Saviour Who hast given Thy Blood and Thy life for me, I pray Thee to write Thine adorable name on my poor heart; so that having it always imprinted in my heart by love, I may also have it ever on my lips, by invoking it in all my necessities. If the devil tempts me, Thy name will give me strength to resist him; if I lose confidence, Thy name will animate me to hope; if I am in affliction, Thy name will comfort me, by reminding me of all Thou hast endured for me. If I find myself cold in Thy love, Thy name will inflame me by reminding me of the love Thou hast shown me. Hitherto I have fallen into so many sins, because I did not call on Thee; from henceforth Thy name shall be my defense, my refuge, my hope, my only consolation, my only love. Thus do I hope to live, and so do I hope to die, having Thy name always on my lips.
Most holy Virgin, obtain for me the grace of invoking the name of thy Son Jesus in all my necessities, together with thine own, my Mother Mary; but let me invoke them always with confidence and love, so that I may be able also to say to thee as did the devout Alphonsus Rodriguez: "Jesus and Mary, may I suffer for You; may I die for You; may I be wholly Yours, and in nothing my own!" O my beloved Jesus! O Mary, my beloved Lady! give me the grace to suffer and to die for Thy love, I will be no longer mine own, but altogether Thine; Thine in life, and Thine in death, when I hope by Thy help to expire saying, Jesus and Mary, help me!

Jesus and Mary, I recommend myself to Thee; Jesus and Mary, I love Thee, and I give and deliver up to Thee my whole soul.

St John Of Vercelli - 1st December 2009

John was born near Vercelli in northwest Italy in the early 13th century. Little is known of his early life. He entered the Dominican Order in the 1240s and served in various leadership capacities over the years. Elected sixth master general of the Dominicans in 1264, he served for almost two decades.
Known for his tireless energy and his commitment to simplicity, John made personal visits—typically on foot—to almost all the Dominican houses, urging his fellow friars to strictly observe the rules and constitutions of the Order.

He was tapped by two popes for special tasks. Pope Gregory X enlisted the help of John and his fellow Dominicans in helping to pacify the States of Italy that were quarreling with one another. John was also called upon to draw up a framework for the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. It was at that council that he met Jerome of Ascoli (the man who would later become Pope Nicholas IV), then serving as minister general of the Franciscans. Some time later the two men were sent by Rome to mediate a dispute involving King Philip III of France. Once again, John was able to draw on his negotiating and peacemaking skills.

Following the Second Council of Lyons, Pope Gregory selected John to spread devotion to the name of Jesus. John took the task to heart, requiring that every Dominican church contain an altar of the Holy Name; groups were also formed to combat blasphemy and profanity.

Toward the end of his life John was offered the role of patriarch of Jerusalem, but declined. He remained Dominican master general until his death.

Monday, November 30, 2009

St. John Damascene - 4th December 2009

Prayer to St. Andrew the Apostle

O glorious St. Andrew, you were the first to recognize and follow the Lamb of God. With your friend, St. John, you remained with Jesus for that first day, for your entire life, and now throughout eternity. As you led your brother, St. Peter, to Christ and many others after him, draw us also to Him. Teach us to lead others to Christ solely out of love for Him and dedication in His service. Help us to learn the lesson of the Cross and to carry our daily crosses without complaint so that they may carry us to Jesus. Amen.