Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?


Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."

To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."


As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."


Seven Last Words: Perfectly Unfinished

Posted by Jacob

As I wrote in my post on Ash Wednesday, I will be meditating on the Seven Last Words of Christ during Lent each Wednesday, ending on Good Friday.


Lent is a time of solemn contemplation of the Passion of Christ. We may choose to meditate, contemplate, or pray on His suffering for us. One way in which me might do this is through devotion to His Seven Last Words—the seven final phrases uttered by Christ as recounted in the Gospels. These Seven Last Words of the Passion of Christ are understood only in light of the true one Word of Life and Resurrection—the phrases uttered by Jesus before His death take on new life and new meaning following the glory of His resurrection. We sit with the pain and loss of crucifixion during Lent, but look forward to the brightness of new life on Easter.



The Seven Last Words


1. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) (link)
2. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) (link)
3. “Woman, Behold your Son. Behold your mother.” (John 19:26-27) (link)
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34) (link)
5. “I thirst.” (John 19:29) (link)
6. “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)





It is finished.” (John 19:30)

The first four statements of Jesus on the cross fill us with a sense of the beginning of something, the becoming of the kingdom. We start with the fact that we are forgiven, continue to the experience of happiness, of paradise, even today, and recount the rebirth of the family of God, here on earth—all at the foot of the cross! We are left with a profound sense of hope, in spite of the pain and desolation of the crucifixion, and then reminded of the Lord’s unending longing for us.

And then Jesus speaks and says, “It is finished.”

Is this the moment of despair for us? Is this the moment of hopelessness?

The answer must be a resounding no! Jesus does not say, “I am finished.” He says, “It is finished,” and in doing so, completes His work on earth. It is not the whimper of failure or the agony of defeat. It is a cry of victory! In Jesus’ last words, He tells us that His work on earth is done, and ours is just beginning. He has, through his sacrifice on the cross, shown us a perfect, enduring love—a love unlike any other—and in the process granted us the eternity to experience that love.

21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus is finished. He has come into the world, preached, been tortured and humiliated, and now He is ready to die, knowing that He has saved us. As they nailed Our Savior to the cross, our sins were pounded into the wood as well. He carried those sins up the steep climb to Golgatha, and held them in His heart, suffering for all mankind. And in doing so, he redeemed us. He showed us perfect love—a love that we can never be separated from.

38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Upon the cross, having fulfilled the prophesies, having died for our sins, Jesus is victorious. His work is finished. But we are unfinished. We are not perfect. We cannot even begin to approximate the perfection of God’s love for us. But we are called to keep trying. That is not to say that we can improve upon Jesus’ earthly work of salvation—there is no way we could. He exchanged our sinfulness for His life, and we are all the better for it. Because of what He finished, we will remain “unfinished”—perfectly unfinished—until we join the Lord in heaven and we are completed by His grace. At that time, we, too, can shout victoriously, “it is finished!” confident in the Lord’s love for us, acceptance of us, and His pleasure in our faith. Our time on earth may be finished, but we will have accomplished the Lord’s plan for us, and will have eternity to share in His perfect love in heaven.

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:7-12)

March 31: Saint Stephen of Mar Saba

Posted by Jacob

Today, March 31, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Stephen of Mar Saba (725-794). Stephen was a nephew of John of Damascus who spent a half-century as a monk in the convent of Mar Saba overlooking the Kidron Valley in the West Bank, east of Bethlehem. Entering the monastery to train with his uncle when he was just 10 years old, Stephen was the youngest to do so (as traditionally, men were not allowed into the monastery until they were old enough to grow a beard.)


Saint Stephen trained under the tutelage of his uncle for nearly 15 years, after which, at age 24, Stephen was ordained. For eight years, her served his community as guestmaster and cantor. It is said that while he was celebrating mass on one occasion, Stephen raised the Eucharist, intoning the words, “Holy things to the holy.” Holy legend tells us that his cell was bathed suddenly in glorious light, and that from that moment on, whatever he prayed for during the Eucharist was granted. He came to be known as the “Wonderworker” due to his miraculous intercessions.

Despite the respect of his brothers, and those who sought him out, Stephen felt drawn to the contemplative life, wishing to live in complete isolation as a hermit. His request was denied by his Superior, as he wished him to remain available for those seeking his miraculous intercessions and council. Stephen agreed to a compromise, living an isolated life during the week, and making himself available for spiritual counseling on weekends. He hung a sign on the door of his cell that read, “Forgive me, Fathers, in the name of the Lord, but please do not disturb me, except on Saturdays and Sundays." Despite his desire for isolation, Stephen’s gracious demeanor, humility, and piety made him an excellent spiritual counselor to his brothers and those who visited.

Stephen eventually left the monastery, living a life of solitude and isolation in the desert around the Dead Sea. After fifteen years, he allowed others to visit him, many of which came for miraculous healing. He loved all of God’s creatures, and is often depicted surrounded by animals, with whom he was said to have special communion with. So was his love, he gathered worms from the ground around his dwelling, lest they be trampled by visitors.

His biographer and disciple Leontius wrote about Stephen: "Whatever help, spiritual or material, he was asked to give, he gave. He received and honored all with the same kindness. He possessed nothing and lacked nothing. In total poverty he possessed all things."

Saint Stephen of Mar Saba was likely persecuted near the end of his life, as the Islamic faith began spreading through the region. The Saracens, spreading that faith, attacked many of his brethren, and many monks of Mar Saba were slain. Despite this growing threat, his heart remained strong in service to the Lord. While the details of his death are unknown, Stephen left behind a life rich with faith and miracles, a legacy of faith, and several hymns which demonstrate endurance in times of sadness.


Art thou weary, art thou languid,
Art thou sore distressed?
“Come to Me,” saith One, “and coming,
Be at rest.”

Hath He marks to lead me to Him,
If He be my Guide?
In His feet and hands are wound prints
And His side.


Hath He diadem, as monarch,
That His brow adorns?
Yes, a crown in very surety,
But of thorns.


If I find Him, if I follow,
What His guerdon here?
Many a sorrow, many a labor,
Many a tear.


If I still hold closely to Him,
What hath He at last?
Sorrow vanquished, labor ended,
Jordan passed.


If I ask Him to receive me,
Will He say me nay?
Not till earth and not till Heaven
Pass away.


Finding, following, keeping, struggling,
Is He sure to bless?
Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs,
Answer, Yes!




Day 90 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Endurance; Those serving the Lord; Our brothers of the Islam faith tradition.
Requested Intentions: For Healing (A); The blessing of children (S); Safety of travelers (J); Improved family relationship with the Lord, using gifts for His glory (L); For a restorative, faith-deepening Lent for all those who are struggling (L).

March 30: Saint Peter de Regalado

Posted by Jacob

On March 30, we remember Saint Peter de Regalado (Regalatus, 1390-1456), a Franciscan friar, ecstatic, miracle worker, and pious man of God. Peter was born in Valladolid, Spain, the son of a wealthy, noble, and virtuous family. From an early age, following the death of his father, Peter was educated in the ways of God by his mother, a devout Catholic. At the age of ten, Peter sought entrance into the local Franciscan Order, which he attained three years later at the age of 13.


Peter quickly established himself as a pious man of God, obedient, and charitable. He embraced the reformation of the Order, himself becoming one of the strongest proponents for an increase in poverty. Despite preferring to spend his days in quiet contemplation, fasting, and prayer, Peter was soon appointed Superior at the convent of Aguillar, and eventually over all the Spanish convents of the Franciscan Order. Through his example, the friars lived lives of asceticism and charity, praying and growing closer to the Lord.

Saint Peter de Regalado was a man of many talents. His charity knew no bounds, and miracles were said to have resulted from this. While he himself went hungry as penance every day, eating only a bit of bread and water, the convents never ran out of food for the needy. Peter observed Lent year round, fasting and abstaining, and encouraged his brothers to do the same. He was graced with the gifts of prophesy, bilocation (meaning he appeared simultaneously in more than one place!), ecstatic visions, and miracles.

Years after his death, the body of Saint Peter was exhumed, and found to be incorrupt. Numerous miracles have been reported at this tomb. Saint Peter de Regalado was a man of rules. He strictly observed the rules of the Franciscan Order, in many cases reforming them to increase the ascetic life through his pious example. Yet, beyond these rules, Peter maintained an ever-growing love and charity for the poor. His penance was for himself, and for those in need, and he graciously gave of himself to all who needed help. Saint Peter de Regalado reminds us that being Christian is more than “following the rules.” It also means turning away from oneself, gazing into the eyes of others, and there, finding God.


Jesus,

You are the Word-- to be spoken;
The Truth-- to be told;
The Way-- to be walked;
The Light-- to be shone;
The Joy-- to be shared;
The Bread of Life-- to be given;
The Hungry-- to be fed;
The Naked-- to be clothed;
The Homeless-- to be taken in;
The Sick-- to be healed;
The Lonely-- to be loved;
The Unwanted-- to be wanted;
The Little One-- to be embraced.


Lord Jesus, you are with the poor and needy around us.
Help us to be your hands, feet, and voice to them. Amen.



Day 89 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Those who are poor and suffering.
Requested Intentions: For Healing (A); The blessing of children (S); Safety of travelers (J); Improved family relationship with the Lord, using gifts for His glory (L); For a restorative, faith-deepening Lent for all those who are struggling (L).

March 29: Saint Armogastes and Companions

Posted by Jacob

Today, March 29, we remember Saint Armogastes (born, unknown; died circa 460) and Companions on his feast day. Together with Saints Saturus and Archinimus, Saint Armogastes was subjected to a life of torture, hard labor, and exile for his faith.


Armogastes and his companions were high officers and personal servants to Theodoric, son of the Vandal king Genseric. They lived and worked in the royal court, but were also Orthodox Catholics. King Genseric, too, had once followed the faith, but as time went by, became more and more attracted to Arianism, the heretical doctrine that Jesus Christ was not divine. Upon acceptance of this doctrine, he ordered his family and court to renounce their faith and embrace Arianism. In the process, he waged war on Christian lands, conquering Spain, North Africa, and Italy, and eventually invading and looting Rome itself.

Theodoric, ever the faithful son, submitted to his father’s request, but his servants refused. Led by Armogastes, they professed their belief and faith in Christ, and for that, were tortured in efforts to recant. Saturus’ wife begged him to acquiesce, but he responded using the words of Job: "You have spoken like one of the foolish women. If you loved me, you would give me different advice, and not push me on to a second death. Let them do their worst: I will always remember our Lord's words: 'If any man born to me, and hate not his father and mother, his wife and children, his brethren and sisters, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.'"

Armogastes was bound to an upside-down cross repeatedly, but miraculously, each time the binding broke, freeing him. He was then hoisted aloft by one foot, and left to hang, but again, was saved. Along with his companions, the kind ordered him beheaded with an axe, but was advised by his Arian priests that killing the servants might lead to their veneration as holy martyrs. Instead, Armogastes, Saturus, and Archinimus were sentenced to hard labor at the mines of Byzacena. They persisted in this back-breaking work for years, never losing faith, until they were spared. Armogastes and Saturus were sent to herd cattle in Carthage, where they finished their days. Archinimus was liberated, but spent the remainder of his days begging, having lost everything.

Armogastes, Saturus, and Archinimus lived at a time of great strife within the Church. Their employer and king had renounced the divinity of Christ, along with almost 50% of priests at the time. And yet, these three men remained faithful and confident in their Lord, their fidelity rewarded only with suffering and punishment. Throughout all, however, even in the exhaustion and darkness of the mines of Byzacena, they never lost hope. Their faith and confidence inspires us today to stand firm in our own beliefs, to not compromise our faith for acceptance by others, and to witness to the world the saving power of Jesus Christ!



A Prayer For Steadfastness

Jesus, help us to hear Your words and obey them. When the rains fall, the floods rise, and the winds blow we may be shaken but we will not crash, for our hope is in the One who walks on water and calms the tempest seas. Jesus, You are the Solid Rock upon which we stand when all other ground is sinking sand. Amen.




Day 88 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Steadfastness; Courage in the Lord; Those who are tortured or imprisoned.
Requested Intentions: For Healing (A); The blessing of children (S); Safety of travelers (J); Improved family relationship with the Lord, using gifts for His glory (L); For a restorative, faith-deepening Lent for all those who are struggling (L).

Marian Mondays: Charity

Posted by Jacob

Marian Mondays is a weekly post focusing on Our Blessed Mother, Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth. In this post, we explore her life, her special mission, her sanctity, and the Biblical bases for the beliefs of the Church.


We pray with Mary. We experience her practically, emotionally, and rationally. We feel confident in the truth of her existence. We realize that she is unique, chosen for a special purpose by the Lord. We recognize the importance of her name. But what of her Christian virtues? We hold Mary, the Mother of God, up as the first disciple of Christ, as in her agreeing to serve as the vessel of the Incarnation, she became the first Christian. She believed in her Son. And as we will see, she lived His teachings, even before He taught them, such was her connection to the Lord. She exhibited fully the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.

Last week, we briefly looked at the great hope of Our Blessed Mother, Mary, and the week before that, we considered her unending faith. As we continue our preliminary exploration of the virtues of the Mother of God, we turn to charity, the greatest of the virtues, more commonly referred to as “love.”


Our Blessed Mother is the perfect example of Christian charity. In fact, she is the first to embody this virtue, as Christian charity began on earth when she accepted the mission of the Lord during the Annunciation. In that moment, Mary received the love of the Lord in her heart, herself becoming the vessel of Christian love on earth until the birth of Christ. She heard the call of the Lord, and she obeyed—obedience which led to her completion and sanctification.

We are all called to obedience to the Lord, and to His commandments. It is only through this obedience that love grows, becoming abundant and free, and living within us as Christ lives within us. The Blessed Mother, in her bowing to God, in her acceptance of her mission, in her obedience, made this possible. By becoming the vessel of the Incarnation, by literally having Christ living inside of her, so, too, may we welcome the love of God into our hearts.

The love and charity of Mary grew throughout her life, throughout the life of Christ, despite the fact that His ministry was a source of suffering and pain for her. Repeatedly, Mary lost her son—the center of her being, her reason for living—as He traveled from her, growing further and further and more distant each time. We imagine that each of these cases, and in each of the seeming rebukes she received (discussed briefly here), created a growing pain in her heart—the sword that Simeon foretold as she presented her newborn in the Temple. But without exception, Our Blessed Mother filled that part of her heart with love, with the charity of the Lord, and faithfully and hopefully journeyed alongside her Son to the cross.

It was there that she became the mother to us all, as Jesus linked her to the disciple He loved, just as He linked her to the people He loved so much that He gave His life. As He hung on the cross, bleeding for all of humanity, He gave us all the precious gift of her love.

26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)

Just as the disciple Jesus loved took Mary into his home, so, too, do we take her into our homes, our hearts, as we meditate on her virtues. We feel confident in Mary’s living the Christian faith, modeling for all times the hope, faith, and charity of a universal mother.

Palm Sunday: Joy!

Posted by Jacob

Today, Palm Sunday, we celebrate the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. We, as the disciples of the Lord, are filled with joy—a joy that arises from Jesus, coming to meet us, wherever we are; coming to forgive us, whatever we have done; coming to die for us, that we might live.



28After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30"Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.' "
32Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"
34They replied, "The Lord needs it."
35They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
40"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:28-40)


The Gospel on Palm Sunday is the start of the Passion of Christ—beginning with His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, taking Him through the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, to the Agony in the Garden, and through the sorrowful mysteries leading up to His death on a cross. Entering into the city, Jesus knew all of this. He knew what lied in store for Him, just as we not know what he suffered willingly for us. And that is the source of our joy. The love of God was such that he thirsted for us, thirsted so much so that he gave His life. And we joyously greet Him, when He comes to us.

But what do we do next? Just as the residents of Jerusalem—the very residents that line the streets with their cloaks and palm branches, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah—turn on Jesus. They turn their backs on Him. They turn away from Him. How many times have we done the same? And yet, the Lord keeps calling to us, coming to us. He rides peacefully into our lives in victory and triumph over death, and we only need accept Him—not with palms and procession, but with joy in our hearts.

Pope Benedict XVI, on Palm Sunday in 2007, spoke of this joy, the joy of the suffering Christ. He said, “In the Palm Sunday procession we join with the crowd of disciples who in festive joy accompany the Lord during his entry into Jerusalem. Like them, we praise the Lord with a loud voice for all the miracles we have seen, how he gives men and women the courage to oppose violence and deceit, to make room for truth in the world; to bring about reconciliation where there had been hatred and to create peace where enmity had reigned. The procession is first and foremost a joyful witness that we bear to Jesus Christ, in whom the Face of God became visible to us and thanks to whom the Heart of God is open to us. Thus, the procession of the Palms is also a procession of Christ the King: we profess the Kingship of Jesus Christ, we recognize Jesus as the Son of David, the true Solomon, the King of peace and justice. We submit to him because his authority is the authority of the truth. The procession of the Palms – as it was at that time for the disciples – is primarily an expression of joy because we are able to recognize Jesus, because he allows us to be his friends and because he has given us the key to life. This joy, however, which is at the beginning, is also an expression of our “yes” to Jesus and our willingness to go with him wherever he takes us.”

We follow Jesus, on this joyous occasion, wherever He takes us. And in the coming week, He takes us with Him, on His journey to the cross. He takes us with Him, including our sins. And there, on the cross, He hangs them so that we might not be weighted down by our transgressions, and instead, meet Him joyfully at the glory of the Resurrection!

Wishing you all a blessed Holy Week.





Day 87 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Joyful hearts in the face of sorrow; Preparation for Holy Week.
Requested Intentions: For Healing (A); The blessing of children (S); Safety of travelers (J); Improved family relationship with the Lord, using gifts for His glory (L); For a restorative, faith-deepening Lent for all those who are struggling (L).

March 27: Saint Francis Faa di Bruno

Posted by Jacob

March 27 marks the feast day of Saint Francis Faa di Bruno (1825-1888), priest and scholar. Born to nobility in northern Italy, the last of 12 children, Francis joined the Sardinian army, intending to make a career of military life. Having been appointed as an officer, captain-of-staff, his intellect and character soon attracted the attention of his superiors, including the King, Victor Emmanuel II. Desiring a tutor for his children, the king asked Francis to serve at that post, which he graciously agreed to do. However, given the anti-Catholic sentiment of the time, and the fact that Francis was a vocal member of the Catholic community, the king was forced to choose a different tutor.


This experience, however, convinced Francis that military life was not for him. Instead, he resigned his commission, and decided to pursue a degree in mathematics. Francis traveled to Paris, where he studied at the Sorbonne under the Catholic savant Cauchy. He was described as: “tall and not always well dressed, but he was simple and good natured. He was of a solitary disposition and spoke seldom (and not always successfully in the classroom). He cultivated music and was said to be a good pianist…admired, not only for his genius, but also for his religious fervor and his philanthropy.”

After graduation from the Sorbonne, Francis returned to Turin where he earned a doctorate in mathematics. He was a gifted mathematician, and contributed greatly to the field. However, he was also drawn to philanthropy, causes of social justice, and service to others. In Turn, he met and grew to appreciate Saint John Bosco, who had established a number of schools and residences for boys in need of learning a trade. Inspired by the great saint, Francis entered the seminary and was ordained a priest. He then established the Society of Saint Zita (Suore Minime di Nostra Signora del Suffragio), a religious order dedicated to helping young women in need of help and education. He served unmarried mothers, maids and domestics, prostitutes, and anyone in need of help, providing not only lodging but education and skills training. Saint Francis established lodging houses for the poor, ill, and elderly, himself ministering to those in need every day. From his mathematics success, having published several books, he used his earnings to finance his charity.

Noted as a saint by those who knew him, and venerated locally, Saint Francis Faa di Bruno was officially canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988. He is remembered for a quick, scientific mind, the perfect example of the Church’s simultaneous commitment to scientific rigor and faith. Saint Francis, who did not become a priest until 51 years of age, reminds us that it is never too late to change our lives, to look beyond ourselves, and to open our hearts to others. The plan of God knows no human timeframe. We need only place our faith in Him, and answer His call, regardless of our own plans! Saint Augustine reminds us of this in his Confessions: "Too late, have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved Thee! Thou wast with me, and I was not with Thee; I was abroad, running after those beauties which Thou hast made...Thou hast called, Thou hast cried out, and hast pierced my deafness. Thou hast enlightened, Thou hast shone forth, and my blindness is dispelled. I have tasted Thee, and am hungry of Thee. Thou hast touched me, and I am afire with the desire of thy embraces."

What is the Lord calling us to do today and in the future?


(Today is the last day of my 45 day Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes. May her peace and intercession continue for all of you who have submitted prayer requests, or held them in your hearts. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us who have recourse to thee!)


 
 
 
 
 
Day 86 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Steadfast faith; Those unable to worship due to fear of persecution.
Requested Intentions: For Healing (A); The blessing of children (S); Safety of travelers (J); Improved family relationship with the Lord, using gifts for His glory (L); For a restorative, faith-deepening Lent for all those who are struggling (L).
Special Intentions (Day 45 of 45-day Novena to Our Blessed Lady of Lourdes): The intentions of all those who read this blog, whether submitted or retained in the quiet of their hearts; Penance, Penance, Penance for sinners; For all those who are suffering.

March 26: Saint Margaret Clitherow

Posted by Jacob

On March 26, we celebrate the feast day of Saint Margaret Clitherow (1555-1586), English saint and martyr. Saint Margaret lived and died during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and a time of great persecution of Catholics in England. At that time, priests were not allowed to reside within the country, and those sympathetic to the Catholic faith, celebrating Mass, or providing shelter to priests were found guilty of treason. For many, however, the faith continued undaunted, the celebration of Mass held more important than the danger of discovery.


Margaret was born in Middleton, England, to faithful Protestant parents. Intelligent, funny, and attractive, Margaret grew up in the Protestant faith, and was married at 18 to a butcher, John Clitherow. Together, they had three children, and were content to live a respectable middle-class life. Margaret demonstrated a keen mind for business, and frequently assisted her husband in the butcher shop. She was known for her kind heart and warm smile.

Margaret found herself dissatisfied with the Protestant faith, and eventually converted to Catholicism, instructing her children in the way of the Church. Her confessor, after her death, wrote of her conversion that Margaret "found no substance, truth nor Christian comfort in the ministers of the new church, nor in their doctrine itself, and hearing also many priests and lay people to suffer for the defense of the ancient Catholic Faith." Margaret’s husband did not convert, but was respectful of her faith, and allowed the children to be raised Catholic. Their eldest son left England, and moved to France to enter the seminary.

Despite the risk of discovery, Margaret had a “priest hole” built in her home, where visiting clergy could hide if a raid should occur. She further built a hidden cupboard to hide vestments, missals, Eucharist and blessed wine. In Margaret’s attic, still preserved for the visiting faithful to see, a hole was cut between her home and the neighbor’s home, to allow an escape route for priests, should it come to that. Margaret stated, in defiance of the laws of the time, “by God's grace all priests shall be more welcome to me than ever they were, and I will do what I can to set forward God's Catholic service." She organized celebrations of Mass, and hired a Catholic tutor for neighborhood children of the faith. It was through this tutor that she came to be discovered.

One afternoon, while the tutor was instructing the children, the police raided the house. The tutor escaped, and the authorities found children studying, but convinced of treason, they questioned the children until one broke down in tears, revealing the cupboard of hidden items. Margaret was immediately arrested, and the children were removed from their homes, placed with devout Protestant families. Margaret would never see her children again. Moved by her life, however, her younger son became a priest, and her daughter, a nun.

Margaret was taken before the court and accused of treason. It was customary for those accused to plead guilty, resulting in a less severe penalty. Margaret, however, refused to plead, both out of conviction that she had done nothing wrong and concern that her children might have to testify in a trial. She stated, "I know of no offense whereof I should confess myself guilty. Having made no offense, I need no trial." The court was outraged, and sentenced her to the maximum penalty for failing to plead guilty—death via crushing. Margaret was informed, “You must return from whence you came, and there, in the lowest part of the prison, be stripped naked, laid down, your back on the ground, and as much weight laid upon you as you are able to bear, and so to continue for three days without meat or drink, and on the third day to be pressed to death, your hands and feet tied to posts, and a sharp stone under your back.” Ten days from the sentencing, Margaret was executed.

Prior to her execution, visited by a friend in prison, Margaret remained faithful and eager to meet her Maker. She said to her friend, "The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise."

The night before her execution, Margaret sewed her own death shroud. She prayed through the night, for the Church, for the pope, for all the persecuted clergy, the faithful, and her accusers. In the morning, she was led to dungeon, had a cloth tied around her face, and was laid down on a sharp rock approximately the size of a fist. A heavy door was placed upon her, and then rocks were piled atop the door until the weight broke her spine. She never cried out, but was heard to continually pray, “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy upon me.” Saint Margaret Clitherow died after approximately 15 minutes of torture. Following her death, her executioners were reprimanded by Queen Elizabeth I, who insisted that women should not be executed. Margaret’s body was buried with common criminals, but not before her hand was severed. It remains today, incorrupt, in the chapel of the Bar Convent in York.

Saint Margaret Clitherow was a practical woman, remembered for her humility, hospitality and her humanity. She was a wife and mother, she worked in her husband’s butcher shop, she was concerned with the education of her children. Margaret was also a fearless protector of the faith, risking her life to instill in her children the message of Christ. Her courage and unwavering faith inspires, reminding us how quick we are to doubt, to take the easy way, to bow before pressures in our lives. We look to Margaret Clitherow as a model of steadfast love and obedience to the Lord. Can we say the same of ourselves?






Day 85 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Steadfast faith; Those unable to worship due to fear of persecution.
Requested Intentions: For Healing (A); The blessing of children (S); Safety of travelers (J); Improved family relationship with the Lord, using gifts for His glory (L); For a restorative, faith-deepening Lent for all those who are struggling (L).
Special Intentions (Day 44 of 45-day Novena to Our Blessed Lady of Lourdes): The intentions of all those who read this blog, whether submitted or retained in the quiet of their hearts; Penance, Penance, Penance for sinners; For all those who are suffering.

Our Lady of Lourdes: The Sixteenth Apparition

Posted by Jacob

For twenty days, since the fifteenth apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes on March 4, 1858, Saint Bernadette had not returned to the grotto. Having fulfilled her initial promise to pray the Rosary at the grotto every day for a fortnight, she no longer felt drawn there, and so, Bernadette stayed home. However, on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel had declared Mary as “full of grace,” Bernadette felt the irresistible invitation to return to the grotto.


Throughout the first fifteen visitations, the Blessed Virgin had brought a message of prayer, penance, poverty, and participation to all people, through the most unlikely of messengers, Bernadette Soubirous. Through these posts, we continue our journey with Saint Bernadette as we encounter Our Blessed Mother through her eyes, memories, and words. The first fifteen visitations occurred in February and March 1858 (February 11, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, and March 1, 2, 3, and 4). Our Lady of Lourdes implored us all, saying, “Penance, Penance, Penance. Pray to God for sinners.” Our Blessed Mother further invited Bernadette to drink and bathe in the muddy water of the grotto, after which a clear flowing spring came forth where none had existed before. Our Lady of Lourdes commanded, “Go drink in the spring and wash yourself there,” something that faithful pilgrims continue to do each day. (For personal reflections on my experience at Lourdes, see here, here, here, and here).

Prior to the fifteenth visitation, Bernadette’s local priest, by all accounts both brave and young, had requested that she both find out the name of the lady appearing to her, and ask her to perform a miracle—making a wild rosebush bloom during the height of winter. Bernadette had conveyed both of these requests, but the beautiful lady, the aquero, had simply smiled back. No name was given. No miracle occurred. More than 7,000 people who had gathered on March 4th were disappointed. While Bernadette didn’t return to the grotto for 20 days, many people continued to journey there, praying, and hoping for a miracle.

On the evening of March 24, as Bernadette lay in bed trying to sleep, she again felt the irresistible urge to return to the grotto. She was up before the sun, and with her parents, made her way to the grotto as Massabielle. They were surprised to find a large crowd gathered.

Bernadette prayed the Rosary in earnest, washed and drank from the spring, and kissed the ground as penance for sinners. She was again graced, for the sixteenth time, by the appearance of Our Blessed Mother. Summoning her courage, Bernadette asked the beautiful lady her name, but received no answer. She then asked three more times, each time more anxious than the last, but eager to please the local priest and authorities. On the fourth try, Bernadette inquired, “Mademoiselle, would you be good enough to tell me who you are?”

The beautiful lady smiled, and then moved her Rosary beads from her clasped hands, placing them over her right arm. She unfolded her arms, extending them toward the ground, and then raised them to fold at her breast. Raising her eyes to heaven, the beautiful lady proclaimed, “Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou.” I am the Immaculate Conception.

Our Blessed Mother spoke to Bernadette in the local dialect, but she did not know the words. Anxious that she might forget what was said, and relieved that she finally had an answer to give to Father Peyramale, Bernadette hurried to the parish church to convey the news. All the way there she repeated the words over and over out loud, to ensure that she wouldn’t forget. When she reached him, she repeated the words, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

Father Peyramale was astonished. He asked Bernadette what those particular words meant to her, but she just shook her head. They had no meaning. He knew that she hadn’t yet learned her catechism, and therefore understood that she had know way of knowing that the Blessed Mother was conceived without sin. Furthermore, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception had only been proclaimed four years earlier by Pope Pius IX. In his account, Father Peyramale remembers sending the child from the room, locking the door, and weeping with joy and wonderment at the fact that a poor, uneducated child had been the messenger of the Mother of God.

In Saint Bernadette’s own words: “At the end of fifteen days, I asked her name three times in a row, and it was only when I dared to ask a fourth time that she told me. Until that moment, her two arms had been extended, but now she folded her hands together at her breast, and, raising her eyes to heaven, she said, ‘I am the Immaculate Conception.’ These were the last words she said to me. So once again, I went to Monsieur le Cure to tell him that she had said she was the Immaculate Conception. He asked me if I were absolutely sure and I said yes. In fact, in order to be sure not to forget these words, I had repeated them to myself the entire way back!”

Saint Bernadette would see Our Lady of Lourdes only twice more, and she would not hear her voice again. But, through her faith, the message of Lourdes was revealed for all. She without sin reminds us to return to the word of God through poverty, penance, prayer, and participation. We embrace our poverty of spirit, not denying our gifts or talents, but acknowledging that they are precious gifts of our Lord and Savior. This leaves us open to the word of God, willing to answer His call, and advance His glory, not our own. We strengthen our hearts of prayer, finding praise and thanksgiving to the Lord in not only our quiet moments of contemplation, but in our moments of service and witness to others. We offer penance for our sin and for those of others, not just in sacrifice and acts of penance, but true conversion of heart and return to God. This penance involves remembering what the price of allowing sin into our lives is, what we lose from separation from our Lord. It also calls us to forgiveness, both of ourselves and of others. And lastly, we are moved to participation not just in pilgrimage, but as active members of our faith community, the Church. This pulls us from isolation or individual worship, and reminds us that we are members of the Church, and we share a communion with one another, with the saints who have gone before us, and with Our Blessed Mother.



O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Thou are all fair, O Mary.
And the original stain is not in thee.
Thou art the glory of Jerusalem.
Thou art the joy of Israel
Thou art the honor of our people.
Thou art the advocate of sinners, O Mary.
Virgin, most prudent, Mother, most tender, pray for us.
Intercede for us with Jesus our Lord.
In thy conception, Holy Virgin, thou wast immaculate.
Pray for us to the Father Whose Son thou didst bring forth.
O Lady! Aid my prayer. And let my cry come unto thee.
Amen

Pray for us, Our Lady of Lourdes, the Immaculate Conception.
Pray for us, Saint Bernadette.

The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation

Posted by Jacob

Today, March 25, we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation, the first Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary. The Annunciation, the message of the Lord delivered by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, is the first step that Jesus takes towards earth. It is the first step in the reclaiming of sin, sin which began with Eve, the first mother of the nations. It is the miraculous precursor to the Incarnation, the life and death of Christ, and our eternal salvation. The Annunciation is at once a moment of calm acceptance, and like most of the event in the life of Our Blessed Mother, a moment of deeply troubling foreshadowing, of fear, and of danger. And yet, led by her hunger for the Lord, and her faith in His protection, Mary offers herself unreservedly. “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” she says. “Let it be done to me according to His word.”




26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."


29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."


34"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"


35The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God."

38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1: 26-38)

We like to think of the Annunciation as a peaceful event, and that is generally how it has been painted—Gabriel standing in the doorway offering peace, Mary sitting serenely, bathed in golden light, a gentle smile on her face. But if we think about the events depicted in Luke’s Gospel, this depiction seems unlikely.

The arrival of Gabriel tore Mary’s world apart. She was greatly troubled by it. She was being asked to do the impossible, something that would cause her great pain, humiliation, and even potential death. The punishment for pregnancy out of wedlock was stoning in Mary’s day, and even if Joseph were to stand by her, it would require them leaving their home, packing up their lives, heading into the danger of foreign and unfamiliar lands. Mary’s life would change dramatically and completely.

And yet, with the exception of a very practical question, she accepts immediately, without hesitation. The faith of Our Mother is almost tangible in this moment, hanging in the air between she and Gabriel, forever changing the world.

So, too, it can be with us. We are called each day by the Lord to live lives of faith and service to others. Of course, we know this call because of the life and preaching of Jesus, He whom Mary brought forth in virginity, having accepted the message of an angel. But we do not possess the faith of Our Blessed Mother, nor do we share her unwavering confidence and hope in the Lord. All too often, our call to service is too difficult for us, too scary, too inconvenient. And instead of accepting the Lord with all of our heart, we turn away. We say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” We say, No.”

But the Lord keeps calling us. He may even send “angels,” in the personages of those we encounter. And at some point, we will be moved to answer the call, to overcome our fears and anxieties, to trust completely in the Lord. In that moment, our hearts becoming the dwelling places of Jesus, and we, too, become vessels of Jesus. As Saint Augustine wrote in his Sermons, “You who are astonished at what is wrought in Mary’s body, imitate it in your soul’s inmost chamber. Sincerely believe in God’s justice, and you conceive Christ. Bring forth words of salvation, and you have given birth to Christ.”

The Annunciation is a moment of joy in the life of Mary, in the life of the Church, in our own lives. May we strive to imitate the gracious acceptance of Our Blessed Mother, her loving faith and hope in the Lord, and her unyielding confidence in His protection, mercy, and plan.


Lord Jesus Christ,

Eternal Word,
You became Incarnate as man
in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
You, through whom the universe was created,
began your earthly course,
in the womb of a humble and chaste Virgin.
At the annunciation of this miracle,
Mary responded in faith:
"let it be done to me
according to your word."
May we who are made new creatures
by your grace,
respond with such faith,
when you call us to your service. Amen

Day 84 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Ears that hear the call of the Lord; Hearts that follow.
Requested Intentions: For Healing (A); The blessing of children (S); Safety of travelers (J); Improved family relationship with the Lord, using gifts for His glory (L); For a restorative, faith-deepening Lent for all those who are struggling (L).
Special Intentions (Day 43of 45-day Novena to Our Blessed Lady of Lourdes): The intentions of all those who read this blog, whether submitted or retained in the quiet of their hearts; Penance, Penance, Penance for sinners; For all those who are suffering

Seven Last Words: Longing

Posted by Jacob

As I wrote in my post on Ash Wednesday, I will be meditating on the Seven Last Words of Christ during Lent each Wednesday, ending on Good Friday.



Lent is a time of solemn contemplation of the Passion of Christ. We may choose to meditate, contemplate, or pray on His suffering for us. One way in which me might do this is through devotion to His Seven Last Words—the seven final phrases uttered by Christ as recounted in the Gospels. These Seven Last Words of the Passion of Christ are understood only in light of the true one Word of Life and Resurrection—the phrases uttered by Jesus before His death take on new life and new meaning following the glory of His resurrection. We sit with the pain and loss of crucifixion during Lent, but look forward to the brightness of new life on Easter.



The Seven Last Words

1. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) (link)
2. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) (link)
3. “Woman, Behold your Son. Behold your mother.” (John 19:26-27) (link)
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34) (link)
5. “I thirst.” (John 19:29)
6. “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)




“I thirst.” (John 19:29)

The first four statements of Jesus on the cross fill us with a sense of the beginning of something, the becoming of the kingdom. We start with the fact that we are forgiven, continue to the experience of happiness, of paradise, even today, and recount the rebirth of the family of God, here on earth—all at the foot of the cross! We are left with a profound sense of hope, in spite of the pain and desolation of the crucifixion.

And then Jesus said, “I thirst.” It is the shortest of the seven last words. It is the most human. In this moment of physical pain, Jesus embraces the totality of His humanity, including his torture and death. And in that moment, we know that God understands our physical pain, our emotional pain, our spiritual pain—because He endured it, in human form, for us.

As David Tracy (Professor of Catholic Studies and Theology) wrote, “The symbolism of John, even in the words of his Jesus’ “I thirst” is unmistakable to any attentive reader of John’s rhythmic, meditative, iconic account of the death of Jesus. And yet the words of Jesus’ “I thirst” are not merely symbolic. “I thirst” is the cry of a dying man whose mouth is parched in the moments left from his approaching death-- a death of shame and tortured pain. The cry of Jesus disrupts even John’s profoundly symbolic and all too continuous account with a moment of unmistakably human-- all too human-- pain.”

But we would never, in a million years, be able to endure that kind of pain. We would never be able to suffer what Jesus did for us. Throughout the Gospel depictions of the Passion of Christ, we read about the terrible pain he suffered—the scourging at the Pillar which left 39 ragged, bleeding gashes; the crowning with thorns, sharp spikes cracking through His skull into brain; the brutal carrying of a heavy cross for miles up a steep hill in the blazing sun; and nearly three hours, hanging on a cross with nails through His hands and feet, before he says, “I thirst.” These are human words, but He is also divine.

Throughout the torture, throughout the Passion, Jesus does not complain, he does not cry out. It isn’t until he is close to death that He shouts—not a death whisper, not a gasp—“I thirst.” This physical and emotional strength should not exist at that moment, but in His pain, we see the glory of the Lord, the power and strength of our God. We see that His ways are not our ways. We see that anything is possible.

And we see beyond the human suffering, the need for water. In the two simple words of Jesus, we hear the true call of God. He loves us so much that He yearns for us, He longs for us, He thirsts for us.

He longs for our love, the love that Jesus taught us to share with one another, and direct toward the Lord: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27). As we continue our Lenten journey, we contemplate our own humanity, our own love, and our own thirst for the Lord.



1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?


3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"


4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.


5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and 6 my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.


7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.


8 By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.


9 I say to God my Rock,
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?"


10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"


11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
For I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42)



Day 83 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Thirst for the love of God.
Requested Intentions: For Healing (A); The blessing of children (S); Safety of travelers (J); Improved family relationship with the Lord, using gifts for His glory (L); For a restorative, faith-deepening Lent for all those who are struggling (L).
Special Intentions (Day 42 of 45-day Novena to Our Blessed Lady of Lourdes): The intentions of all those who read this blog, whether submitted or retained in the quiet of their hearts; Penance, Penance, Penance for sinners; For all those who are suffering.