Archive for March, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Real Strong Man

Medal of St Benedict

pewsitter has an article up on how there’s a surge in Satanism due to the rise of the internet,

Exorcism is the subject of a six-day conference being held this week at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome, which is under the Vatican’s authority.

“The internet makes it much easier than in the past to find information about Satanism,” said Carlo Climati, a member of the university who specialises in the dangers posed to young people by Satanism.

“In just a few minutes you can contact Satanist groups and research occultism. The conference is not about how to become an exorcist. It’s to share information about exorcism, Satanism and sects. It’s to give help to families and priests. There is a particular risk for young people who are in difficulties or who are emotionally fragile,” said Mr Climati.

Read more here:

www.telegraph.co.uk

This caught my attention today for two reasons. First, because today’s gospel reading from Luke 11: 14-43 teaches us that exorcism was part of Jesus’s ministry. It is the account of Jesus casting out a mute demon and it brought forth some interesting responses. One part of the crowd marveled, but it didn’t lead to faith, another part asked for a sign from heaven. I guess they thought He needed to do something bigger than cast out a demon. They accused Him of casting them out by the power of the prince of demons. Our Lord answers His critics by telling them, that a  house divided, cannot stand.

Satan would never allow division in his own kingdom. No, He tells them, it wasn’t Beelzebul, but,

by the finger of God

He casts them out and that the kingdom of God has come upon them.

Jesus then tells the parable of the strong man. Ah..this ‘ fully armed’ one guards his own palace and everything is safe …..until…..

one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him,

he takes away his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoil.

—Luke 11:22

The ‘one stronger’, is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who is King of Kings… Lord of Lords and the only one who can overwhelm the power of demonic forces.

Whether it’s full possession, capitol sins, oppression, or violence, Jesus alone, can overwhelm the evil. As I’ve blogged about, I have been the victim of violent crime. Maybe one day I’ll be strong enough to tell the story..But for now, I can tell you I’ve battled some ‘wicked demons’ as a result of an evil strong man who was literally fully armed. I looked him in the face and while I’ll never forget it, I pray for his deliverance.

Whatever your bondage is, Jesus is the answer.

The second reason this article piqued my interest was because of my 5th grade CCD class who have a lot of concerns about evil, the devil and if I’m sure Jesus is stronger. One child asked me if he could do a google search on Satanism.

Those questions were inconceivable  when I was in 5th grade. My heart breaks for the world these children are growing up in, but I  believe with everything in me their hope is to know their Catholic faith inside and out.

We have a lot work to do when it comes to catechizing our young people..and unfortunately many adult Catholics too.

Lord, use me.

I am small and so insignificant,

but I hunger to bring Your people

the hope of Your love and salvation.

O King of Kings, shine Your eternal light

upon this world of sin and darkness.

St Benedict, pray for us.

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   9:50 PM  |   4 comments
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Patroness of Oblates, St Frances of Rome

St. Francis of Rome

I don’t know how I missed her memorial on March 9th. I came across her name while reading one of my oblate books and now… I have a new friend.

She was;

One of the greatest mystics of the fifteenth century; born in Rome, of a noble family, in 1384; died there, 9 March, 1440.

Her youthful desire was to enter religion, but at her father’s wish she married, at the age of twelve, Lorenzo de’ Ponziano. Among her children we know of Battista, who carried on the family name, Evangelista, a child of great gifts (d. 1411), and Agnes (d. 1413).

—Catholic Encyclopedia

Frances expressed her commitment to Christ by caring first for her husband, children and extended family, then finally for Rome’s poor and sick.

Sometimes, she said, a wife must leave God at the altar to find him in her household management.

Just an aside…I’ve occasionally been guilty of reversing the correct vocational order of things. This is why I find her so inspirational.

She tended all four of her children personally as well as managing the Ponzaino family estate. Frances and her sister-in-law were very close and together they sought out Rome’s worst cases even during the turbulent years of civil war and plagues.

With her husband’s consent Frances practiced continency, and advanced in a life of contemplation. Her visions often assumed the form of drama enacted for her by heavenly personages. She had the gift of miracles and ecstasy, we well as the bodily vision of her guardian angel, had revelations concerning purgatory and hell, and foretold the ending of the Western Schism. She could read the secrets of consciences and detect plots of diabolical origin. She was remarkable for her humility and detachment, her obedience and patience, exemplified on the occasion of her husband’s banishment, the captivity of Battista, her sons’ death, and the loss of all her property.

—Catholic Encyclopedia

Despite how ‘heavenly minded’ she was, Frances made everyone feel like her best friend, attracting many people especially younger women who looked up to her.

With her husband’s full support, in 1424, she organized a group of women as, ‘ The Oblates of St. Mary.’ They lived at home following the Rule of St Benedict

without vows and sharing France’s passion for the sick.

On the death of her husband (1436) she retired among her oblates at Tor di Specchi, seeking admission for charity’s sake, and was made superior. On the occasion of a visit to her son, she fell ill and died on the day she had foretold. Her canonization was preceded by three processes (1440, 1443, 1451) and Paul V declared her a saint on 9 May, 1608, assigning 9 March as her feast day. Long before that, however, the faithful were wont to venerate her body in the church of Santa Maria Nuova in the Roman Forum, now known as the church of Santa Francesca Romana.

I’ve met many women throughout my 26 years of marriage, who have more than entertained the idea that perhaps they made a mistake in their choice of vocation…myself included. It’s OK if my husband reads my confession. He already knows, bless his heart.

What I’ve learned in the 5 years since coming home to my Catholic faith, as well as in my call as an oblate, is how wrong I was to assume that and how right God was in not allowing my childhood dream of becoming a nun to come true.

Frances of Rome should be named patron of wishes that don’t come true.

By submitting faithfully to God,

she received even more than she had wanted—-

the blessings of both married and religious life.

—Voices of the Saints,

Bert Ghezzi

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. ( Psalm 37:4)

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   9:07 PM  |   2 comments
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to Pray in the Midst of a Fiery Furnace

Today’s first reading of the Mass:

Daniel 3: 25, 34-43 (NAB)

You remember the story in the Old Testament book of Daniel about the great god/king, Nebuchadnezzar, who ordered everyone to worship the golden statue and the refusal of the 3 young Israelite captives to pamper his ego and bow to a pagan god. The king ordered them all thrown into a fiery furnace which was so hot, the flames slew the men who threw them in. But, from within the flames comes the prayer of Azariah, a holy young man, whose confident cries in the midst of the flames has something to teach me about prayer.

For starters, he’s not casting his fist to the heavens blaming God for allowing him to suffer such injustice. Rather his bold prayer comes from the humble recognition of the sins of his people,

For you are just in all you have done to us,

and all your works are true and all your ways are right,

and all your judgments are truth.

—Daniel 3: 4 (RSV)

Second, seeing the shame and disgrace of their desperate condition, having been given into the hands of lawless enemies, he appeals to the Holy name of God, His great mercy, and the covenant with his ancestors.

For your name’s sake do not give us up utterly,

and do not break your covenant,

and do not withdraw your mercy from us,

for the sake of Abraham your beloved

and for the sake of Issac your servant

and Israel your holy one,

to whom you promised

to make their desendants as many as the stars of heaven

and as the sand on the shore of the sea.

—Daniel 3: 11-13

Do you really think God needed to be reminded of what he promised?

No. It’s for us to remind ourselves in the heat of our own furnace who God says He is and what He has promised us as His children.

Next, is a cry for the pain of his people who have been brought low by their sins,

At this time there is no prince, or prophet

or leader,

no burnt offering , or sacrifice, or obaltion,

or incense,

no place to make an offering before you to find mercy.

—vs. 15

We learn that even though it all looked hopeless, the circumstances did not destroy this young man’s faith because he cries out for the strength to follow God with his whole heart;

Yet with a contrite heart and humble spirit

may we be accepted as though it were with burnt offerings

and rams and bulls….

and may we wholly follow you,

for there will be no shame for those who trust in you.

And now with all our heart we follow you and seek your face.

—vs. 16-18

What an amazing prayer of trust and confidence. He knows that whatever happens, if they hold on to their faith in God, they will not be put to shame,

and that witness can even inspire their oppressors.

To Nebuchadnezzar’s astonishment when he looks into the furnace, he sees,

4 men loose walking in the midst of the fire

and they are not hurt;

and the appearance of the fourth is like

the son of the gods.

vs. 25

After the men emerge from the flames, with not a hair of their head singed or even the smell of fire upon them, guess who changes his tune and confesses the God of the three men in the furnace?

This kind of humble faith in the midst of fiery trial is a lifelong journey.

As I continue on the journey of Lent…

Lord, help me imitate this prayer of boldness and confidence in You despite my circumstances.

Teach me to follow You and seek Your face,

for there is no shame for those who trust in You.

+PAX

*note:  the numbering in the RSV is different for Daniel 3 and this is the version I use for study.


posted by Caroline  |   5:38 PM  |   1 comments
Monday, March 28, 2011

God of My Gladness and Joy

Triptych of the Cleansing of Naaman:

by Cornelis Engelbrechtsen

2 Kings 5:1-25

Luke 4:24-30

Yesterday, it was a spiritually thirsty Samaritan women at a well, not aware of her desperate need until Jesus revealed her sin and offered her a drink from

the spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Today, it’s Naaman, a respected, valiant commander of an army…whose leprosy had made him a desperate man. Actually, both were desperate, one had lived a scandalous life; 5 marriages and living with a man who wasn’t her husband, the other had reputation, but an incurable disease.

Life has a way of bringing us to our knees. It will force us to submit and admit that our humanity is designed to need God. Our nature is designed to thirst for God, but it is our sins of omission and commission, that keep us from turning to Him who longs to bring us to His Holy mountain.

I consider myself very blessed that I was afflicted as a child. I knew my need very early in life and in my desperation called out for Him in my youth. Later, in my adult life, tragedy and trauma were my close companions. I was brought low enough to despair of life. In that valley of decision, I turned to the living God and He,

made my feet like deers feet,

and set me secure on the heights.

—Psalms 18:33

There’s a popular tee shirt I see a lot of kids wear these days..

I doubt they realize the spiritual significance of what they so boldly proclaim. Sometimes I just want to walk over to one and ask if they realize affliction isn’t a prize to advertise, but the condition to take you to the very One your thirsting for.

My soul thirsts for the living God.

When shall I come and behold the face of the living God.

—Psalms 42

When, not if. It’s a promise.

We know, we are sure; indeed, we have certitude that we will go to the altar of God, the God of my gladness and joy! It is this joy that reaches out from the future to grasp our hearts and lead us forward even in this present moment of longing and yearning.

—St Vincent Archabbey

This is the call of Lent. To face that we are a thirsty people who need the Savior to deliver us from our leprosy of sin.

As the readings of the Mass progress, we see the shadow of the cross beginning to stretch across Jesus’s ministry. We are like the people of the synagogue in the gospel today, when we don’t like to hear the truth about ourselves. They wanted to hurl Jesus off a cliff when he reminded them that rejecting the prophets had been part of their past history. God healed a pagan leper and fed a foreign widow. Israel had both, but in His boundless mercy, God chose the very ones to whom the Israelites should themselves have been introducing to Almighty God. It was their job to reveal

there is no other God, but the Lord,

—Isaiah 45: 5

and that He is the God of our gladness and joy. I’ve been having some truths about myself revealed to me this Lent. I don’t like it.

But, I will ‘let my tears be my food’, in order that I be led to the altar of God who is my gladness and joy.

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   5:33 PM  |   6 comments
Sunday, March 27, 2011

Let the Hearts That Seek the Lord Rejoice

Music of the Church
“Laetetur Cor Quaerentium” Gregorian meditation

Let the hearts that seek The Lord rejoice
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgements he uttered.

—Psalm 105: 3-5

Today is holy to the Lord Your God. Do not be sad,

and do not weep; for today is holy to our Lord.

Do not be saddened this day,

for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.

—Nehemiah 8: 9-10

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   3:06 PM  |   2 comments
Friday, March 25, 2011

Mary, Star of Hope

Philippe de Champaigne

The Annunciation, ca.1644

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

“When God called Mary “full of grace” the hope of salvation for the human race was enkindled: a daughter of our people found grace in the Lord’s eyes, he chose her as Mother of the Redeemer. In the simplicity of Mary’s home, in a poor village of Galilee, the solemn prophecy of salvation began to be fulfilled: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gn 3: 15). Therefore the Christian people have made their own the canticle of praise that the Jews raised to Judith and that just a little while ago we prayed as a Responsorial Psalm: “O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth” (Jdt 13: 18). Without violence but with the meek courage of her “yes”, the Virgin freed us, not from an earthly enemy but from the ancient adversary, by giving a human body to the One who was to crush his head once and for all.”

“This is why Mary shines on the sea of life and history as a Star of Hope. She does not shine with her own light, but reflects the light of Christ, the Sun who appeared on humanity’s horizon so that in following the Star of Mary we can steer ourselves on the journey and keep on the route towards Christ, especially in dark and stormy moments.”

—Papal Homily at Shrine of Mary “De Finibus Terrae”,

14 June 2008

Pope Benedict XVI

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   3:46 AM  |   0 comments
Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blessed is the Man Who Trusts in the Lord

Jeremiah 17:5-10

Absolute truths are unacceptable in a culture of relativism, but God offers us a choice between the way to blessing or the path of a curse and not because He’s a tyrant.

Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his arm,

whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub

in the desert and shall not see any good come……

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose trust is in the Lord, He is like a tree planted by water,

that sends out it’s roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes,

for it’s leaves remain forever green….

—Jeremiah 17 :5-10

Jerusalem was divided into two camps in Jeremiah’s day. Those who trusted in man to save them from their Babylonian oppressors, and those whose hope was in the Lord. The prophet of God faithfully gave them the message from the Lord; obey the commandments, don’t make alliances with foreign nations just to save your skin…trust in the Lord. He is your great deliverer.

They chose the power of man and it turned out to be their doom.

How hard is it to trust in a God who has loved us from the beginning of time and who sent, His only Son, Jesus, to set people free?

Through His mighty prophets He promised of old that He would save us from

our enemies from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers

and to remember His Holy covenant…..

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall

break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,

and guide our feet to the path of peace.

—Canticle of Zechariah

Is it really so hard to love a God like this? If you read on a little farther in today’s first reading, we might have a clue as to why.

The heart is deceitful above all things,

and desperately corrupt;

who can understand it?

I the Lord search the mind and test the heart,

to give every man according to his ways,

according to the fruit of his doings.

—vs. 9-10

It seems that despite at all the technological advances of our day we have not evaded serious problems in our society, nor have we found a way for man to engineer an escape from the wickedness of our hearts. We should be using all the knowledge God blesses us to discover, but if we forget that our identity is in Him, if even as a church, we keep trying to invalidate the tested revealed Word of God, we like Israel of the Old Testament… are sealing our doom.

My son is in a Catholic college but has a  professor this semester who doesn’t like to color in the lines when it comes to church teaching. She messes with Scripture and twists it to meet her personal views. She has been off base on several occasions. I’ve seen the material she’s teaching from. My son knew something was off, so we’ve been communicating back and forth throughout the year..

What’s liberation theology ?

Where can I find what the popes say on Socialism?

What is the central message of Jesus’s teaching?

Does the church teach a literal hell?

Where’s that Scripture about the Real Presence?

Relativism has made it’s way into the church because we’ve been entertaining one worldly approach after another..We’ve trusted in man, rather than the Lord.

There are absolutes. Throughout the centuries the church has declared them. Her priests may falter, her people may sin, but she is the pure Bride of Christ.

The sin of Judah, the Scripture says, was ‘written with a pen of iron’,

with the point of a diamond it was engraved on the tablet of their heart.

—Jeremiah 17:1

God alone knows the heart and because He does, He alone can heal it.  We are blessed when we trust in Him.

Heal me Lord, and I shall be healed;

save me and I shall be saved.

vs.14

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   4:32 PM  |   2 comments
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Balancing Act

Arrange all things, so that the strong have something to yearn after,

and the weak have nothing to run from.

—RB 64:19

Before I met with my spiritual director the other day, I asked the Lord,

What should I share with her this week?

God is always faithful to show me myself.

Tell her your out of balance.

Ouch!  I think I knew that, but apart from the help of the Holy Spirit, I would not have caught it soon enough. I’m so good at just pushing through and forcing myself to do what I know I have to do before suddenly realizing I’m out of steam.

Now, as a Benedictine however, just pushing on doesn’t work anymore. I have an inner sense when things are out of focus.

Balance is hard to put in words, I think you just have to learn to live it.

I’ve seen great examples of it from the brothers at the abbey. One in particular who is 92. I met him in the hall one Sunday as we were heading to Mass. I stopped to greet him and as we talked I asked how he stayed so young and healthy.

Everything in moderation, my dear.

Benedictine spirituality is very careful to articulate how there must be time for everything;

Prayer, work, silence, companionship, solitude, reading.

We get out of balance when we spend too much of our time in one activity.

The person who can’t shut the door to work, will soon burn out. Too much

solitude makes us self absorbed. Too much play makes is fools. Too much sleep and food

and we become lazy. Too much activity and our souls become threadbare.

—Benedict’s Way,

An Ancient Monk’s Insight to a Balanced Life

How are you doing? Maybe it’s time to stop and evaluate how you’re spending your time.

Ask the Lord to show you where the extremes are and what steps you can take to put the scales back in balance.

I’m a work in progress, so I’m praying with you.

For everything there is a season,

and a time for every matter under heaven.

—Ecclesiastes 3:1

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   12:45 AM  |   6 comments
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Love Is Not Resentful

This was one of my reading assignments for my next oblate meeting. What a beautiful message from the Holy Father on the call to forgiveness as we journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. It’s not that long, and worth taking time to read.

MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER

JOHN PAUL II

FOR LENT 2001

Love is not resentful (1 Cor 13:5)

1. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mk 10:33). With these words, the Lord invites the disciples to journey with him on the path that leads from Galilee to the place where he will complete his redemptive mission. This journey to Jerusalem, which the Evangelists present as the crowning moment of the earthly journey of Jesus, is the model for the Christian who is committed to following the Master on the way of the Cross. Christ also invites the men and women of today to “go up to Jerusalem”. He does so with special force in Lent, which is a favourable time to convert and restore full communion with him by sharing intimately in the mystery of his Death and Resurrection.

For believers, therefore, Lent is the appropriate time for a profound re-examination of life. In today’s world, there is much generous witness to the Gospel, but there are also baptized people who, when faced with the demanding call to “go up to Jerusalem”, remain deaf and resistant, even at times openly rebellious. There are situations where people’s experience of prayer is rather superficial, so that the word of God does not enter deeply into their lives. Even the Sacrament of Penance is thought by many to be unimportant and the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is seen as a mere duty to be performed.

Read More:

www.vatican.va


posted by Caroline  |   12:11 AM  |   0 comments
Sunday, March 20, 2011

Our Firm Foundation of Hope

Genesis 12:1-4

2 Timothy 1:8b-10

Matthew 17:1-9

I have a lot of accountability in my life. I design it that way because I’m just an ordinary woman who loves Christ with all my heart and soul…and I know better than to put any confidence in my flesh. ( Philippians 3:3)  My whole family reads this blog, including my husband and children…Whatever I write I always know it will pass their eyes. When I’m low they lift me up, when I lose confidence they remind me of what my true motive should be, when I dance around what really needs to be said, they challenge me not sell out the real reason I’m even writing. But most assuredly, I can count on them to help me get over myself.

It’s not about you, Mom, just write.

So, today I’ll just say it– in love.

When I think about how fast the world is spinning out of control and how cable news seems permanently headlined,”News Alert”

I have one train of thought;

Let’s tell as many people as we can about the love of Christ and how He can transform their lives.

In some circles I get accused of being so heavenly minded, I’m of no earthly good. “You don’t live in the real world” they tell me.

Whatever. I’ll let them discuss the theology of that while I take the testimony of Christ’s transfiguring love to the oppressed and hopeless…

The great reason for the Transfiguration was to to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of His disciples,

and to prevent the humiliation of His voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed

the surpassing Glory that lay concealed.

With no less forethought, He was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of the Holy church. The whole

body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as His gift. The members of that body were

to look forward to a share in that Glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.

—Leo the Great

Office of Readings 7

This world is falling apart, literally at the seams, and if you keep focused on it, your hope will fall apart with it. The greatest battle going on among true Christians today is the battle for our hearts. Who or what do we really trust?

People will not find security in gold no matter what it costs per ounce these days.

Nor will they find hope in political or social engineers who think they can rescue the world with some new world order. Why? Because this world will never be in order and it’s passing away.

It is Christ alone who gives us our only firm foundation for hope.

So how does that translate into my daily life, people ask?

If for this life only, we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men to be most pitied.

—1 Corinthians 15:19

In my opinion, this is where the church has become weak… OK, where it is failing.

It’s so busy fighting it’s own scandals the people in the pews are dying. I meet them every Sunday.

They don’t have a relationship with the living Savior; they don’t know how to seek His kingdom first and trust that all their other needs will be met.

Unless we reorient the focus of our lives on Christ we will not have the strength needed in the coming days to cope with the problems we will face in the world.

Do not love the world, or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

For all that is in this world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father

but is of this world. And the world passes away and the lust of it;

but he who does the will of God abides forever.

—1 John 2:15–17

The Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration shines out of His body, the glory of hope for mankind. His voluntary suffering on the cross is our Exodus– cancelling our debt of sin and giving us the free gift of salvation which opens for us a place with Him in heaven.

The future is not in our hands, but the promises of God are. These are what we must come to know by heart and walk by faith not sight. (2 Cor 5:7)

It’s not our ability to cope with these problems we encounter, but God’s ability through us.

This is our help, our strength and encouragement. This is our firm foundation of hope.

Time for me to go to my editors.

May God bless all of you.

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   5:02 PM  |   4 comments