Archive for the ‘Saints’ Category

January 23rd

January 30, 2011

This coming Tuesday (the 25th) is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.  The conversion of Saint Paul is, perhaps, one of the most famous conversion stories in the entire history of Christianity.  Paul, one of the most ardent persecutors of the early Christians, encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus and as a result of that encounter was completely transformed.  He went from trying to destroy the early Church to carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Our own personal faith is meant to be a journey with the Lord.  It is important to know our Faith and to learn about what the Church teaches and the reasons behind those teachings, but the real goal of our faith is to lead us to come in contact with the one in Whom we put our faith.  The Sacraments, the Church, the Scriptures, all devotions and prayers are meant to help draw us closer and closer to God; and whenever anyone truly encounters Christ they cannot help but be changed by the experience.

Conversion is not just a one- time experience: it is an on-going process.  Once we have encountered the Lord we have only just begun our journey.  Even after Saint Paul encountered Christ and began to proclaim the Gospel to the nations, he still spoke about the necessity of working out our faith with fear and trembling (cf. Philippians 2:12); even though he places all his confidence in Christ, he compares the spiritual life to a race and tells us that we have to strive so as to win the race.  (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24)

We have to work at our relationship with the Lord just as we have to work at our other relationships.  Of course our relationship with God is a freely given gift and when we turn towards God it is only in response to His invitation.  Nevertheless the fact remains that we have to make our best effort to love as Christ has commanded us to love; and we still have to do all that is in our power to avoid offending Our Lord through sin.

Let us all resolve to renew our effort to respond to the graces that God offers to us.  Lord, help us to draw ever closer to You!

God bless,

Father White

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November 14th

November 15, 2010

There are two rather unusual feast days that fall in the month of November.  Ordinarily feast days are occasions on which we celebrate a Saint, but these two feast days have us celebrate buildings.  On Tuesday of last week (Nov. 9) we celebrated the Dedication of Saint John Lateran, and this coming Thursday (Nov. 18) we will celebrate the Dedication of the Churches of Saints Peter and Paul.

It might seem strange, at first, to think about the fact that we are celebrating feast days for the dedication of buildings that stand across an ocean, but when we stop to consider the importance of what those Churches represent, it can begin to make more sense.

Saint John Lateran is the Cathedral of Rome.  Each diocese throughout the world has a Church where the Bishop resides which is known as the “Cathedral” of the diocese.  The word “Cathedral” comes from the Latin word for “chair” (“cathedra”).  The Bishop’s chair has traditionally been seen as the sign of his teaching authority.

The Pope is the Bishop of Rome and Saint John Lateran is his Cathedral.  The feast of the dedication of the Pope’s Cathedral is a celebration of the universality of our Church.  One of the ways that our Church is truly “One” is that we are all united under the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Pope.

This coming Thursday we will celebrate the dedication of the Churches of Saint Peter and Paul.  This feast day, too, is about more than the mere buildings.  (Although they are very beautiful buildings!)  These two Churches are dedicated to two of the most important Apostles.  Our Lord entrusted the Keys of the Kingdom to Saint Peter, a sign of entrusting Saint Peter with authority.  Saint Paul was the great Apostles to the Gentiles: he helped spread the Faith far and wide through his missionary journeys (which can be read about in Acts of the Apostles).  These two Apostles were very important for the early Church.  The feast of the dedication of the Churches dedicated to their honor calls to our minds the “Apostolic” nature of our Church (the fact that it was founded upon the Apostles).

On another note: In my last few articles, I attempted to explain the importance of praying for the souls of the faithful departed as well as indulgences.  I hope that those articles helped clarify rather than further confuse the issue.  If you have further questions on the topic of indulgences (or any other questions that you would like to see addressed in future bulletin articles) feel free to email them to me; I’ll do my best to answer them.

God bless,

Father White

 

October 31st

October 31, 2010

November is a month in which we remember, in a special way, the souls of those who have gone before us. Tomorrow (November 1st) is the Feast of All Saints, a day on which we celebrate all of our older brothers and sisters in the faith who fought the good fight and are now enjoying their eternal reward with God in Heaven. The following day (November 2nd) is the “Commemoration of All Souls.” All Souls Day is a day on which we call to mind, in a particular way, the need to pray for our deceased loved ones.

We know that our God is infinitely holy. Scripture tells us that nothing unclean can enter into His all-holy presence. (cf. Revelation 21:27) All Souls day reminds us to pray for our departed brothers and sisters, that they may be perfectly purified from any stain of past sins and behold God face-to-face.

The Church teaches us that all who die in a state of grace, yet are not perfectly purified from past sins, are assured of their eternal salvation; yet they still need to undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven. (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030) This final purification is known as Purgatory.

It is important to remember that this purification is different from forgiveness. Sin has a double consequence: sin damages our relationship with God, but sin also entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures. (cf. CCC 1472) When we confess our sins, God forgives us; yet we still must be purged of our inordinate attachments. We can be purified either in this life, or we can be purified in the next. We can be forgiven only in this life: which is why it is important to make regular use of the Sacrament of Confession. Saint Augustine once wrote: “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”

It is always good to pray for our deceased loved ones; the Church has us pray for the faithful departed at every Mass. (There is a prayer for them in every Eucharistic Prayer.) Praying for the dead assists them in the purification of their souls. Even if our loved ones have already attained the Beatific Vision, our prayers are never wasted; our prayers can help others who are in need.

The Church encourages us to visit cemeteries and pray for the deceased, especially on the first eight days of November. A plenary indulgence, applicable to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray for the faithful departed on any and each day from November 1st to the 8th. [A plenary indulgence is the full remission of the temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven. (cf. CCC 1471) More on this next week.]

Let us remember to pray for the souls in Purgatory, especially in this month dedicated to that purpose. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

God bless,

Father White

October 17th

October 14, 2010

This Monday is the Feast day of Saint Luke.  Saint Luke was the author of the Gospel according to Luke as well as the Acts of the Apostles.  We know some things about Saint Luke from Scripture itself.  From some of the letters of Saint Paul, we learn that Saint Luke accompanied Saint Paul on some of his missionary journeys.  We also know from Scripture that Saint Luke was a physician. (cf. Colossians 4:14)  It is uncertain what happened to Saint Luke after the second imprisonment of Saint Paul.

Saint Luke is one of the most extensive writers of the New Testament.  His Gospel is longer than the others; his two books, taken together, are as long as all of Saint Paul’s Epistles; the Book of Acts alone exceeds the length of the other (non-Pauline) books of the New Testament put together.

The Gospel of Luke is one of two Gospels that contain a genealogy of Jesus Christ.  The genealogy that can be found in Saint Matthew’s Gospel only traces Jesus’ family tree back to Abraham.  (Saint Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience, and therefore he is concerned with showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises that God made to Abraham.)  Saint Luke, on the other hand, wrote to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience and he traced Jesus’ bloodline all the way back to Adam and Eve in order to show that the Salvation that Jesus offers is for the entire human race.

The Acts of the Apostles (the second book written by Saint Luke) recounts the activity of the early Church after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven.  In Acts, Saint Luke shows how the Good News began to be spread throughout the world.

In Christian art we often see the four Gospel writers depicted as a man (Saint Matthew), an ox (Saint Luke), a lion (Saint Mark) and an eagle (Saint John).  These symbols are derived from various prophetic visions in the Old Testament as well as from the Book of Revelation.  The reason that the ox is used to symbolize Saint Luke is because his Gospel begins with an account of an Old Testament priest, Zechariah (the father of Saint John the Baptist), going to the Temple to offer sacrifice (oxen were just one example of the sacrifices offered in the Temple in Jerusalem).

If someone who never read the Bible wanted to begin, Saint Luke’s Gospel is an excellent place to start.  Saint Luke tells the whole story of Jesus Christ, from the Annunciation to the Ascension.  One of the things that the Gospel of Saint Luke focuses on in a particular way is the mercy and compassion that Jesus has for sinners.

A good way to celebrate the Feast of Saint Luke is to read your favorite part of his Gospel on his Feast.  Also remember to invoke his powerful intercession.  Saint Luke, pray for us!

God bless,

Father White

October 10th

October 14, 2010

The month of October has many great feast days in it.  The month began with the feast of St. Therese (the “Little Flower”), then there was the feast of the holy Guardian Angels; Saint Francis of Assisi’s feast day was this past Monday.  This week we will celebrate the feast day of St. Theresa of Avila, a great mystic and a female Doctor of the Church.  Before the month is over we have the feast of Saint Luke (the Gospel writer), as well as the feast of two of the Apostles: the feast of Saints Simon and Jude.

The Church celebrates the Saints in the liturgical calendar as a way of putting their lives before us as models of virtue.  It is good to learn about the Saints; the lives of the Saints make great spiritual reading.  Their heroic virtues inspire us to imitate them and their holiness compels us to seek holiness ourselves.

The Church also gives us feast days in order to remind us that we are united to those who are in Heaven.  The Saints in Heaven are still part of the Church; they are still members of the mystical body of Christ.  Traditionally, those members of the Church on earth were referred to as the “Church militant” and those in Heaven were known as the “Church triumphant.”  We continue to confess our belief in this reality when we say, in the Apostles’ Creed, that we believe in the “Communion of Saints.”

Besides being great examples, the Saints are also powerful intercessors for us in Heaven.  The Letter to the Hebrews says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.  (cf. Hebrews 12:1)  The Saints are not just historical figures: they are alive and they accompany us on our journey through this life.  The Saints are our older brothers and sisters in Christ.  We can ask them to pray for us.  We can have a relationship with them.  We all probably have our own favorite Saints and there are many patron Saints for various situations with whom we are probably familiar.  It is also good to learn about the other Saints as their feast days come up and invoke their intercession as well.  Saint James says that the prayer of a righteous person avails much.  (cf. James 5:16)

The Saints are in Heaven continually worshipping God and interceding for us.  They pray for us; they want us to love God as much as they do; they want us to follow God’s will for our lives and they desire that we be united with them, one day, in Heaven.  All holy men and women, pray for us!

God bless,

Father White

Solemnity of All Saints

November 3, 2009

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.  Yet so we are.”

We are all children of God by virtue of our Baptism, and therefore we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Today we celebrate all the Saints in Heaven.  This Solemn Feast is meant to remind us of our brothers and sisters who fought the good fight on earth and now, side by side with the Angels, surround the throne of God in Heaven and continually sing His praises.

In our First Reading this morning, we hear that the Saints whom we are celebrating today are from every nation, race, people and tongue.  The Saints we celebrate today are from all walks of life: some were married, some were priests and religious, still others were single.  Some lived to see old age, some died when very young.  Some were tortured and killed for the Faith.  Some lived quiet lives of solitude.  What they all share in common is that they were all outstanding in holiness.  The Saints lived lives of heroic virtue and witnessed, by the way that they lived in the world, to God’s love.

Their heroic lives can and should inspire us to be more faithful ourselves.  This month would be a great time to read about a Saint.  We are all called to be Saints.  Reading the lives of the Saints can help encourage us in the pursuit of that goal.  Saint Ignatius of Loyola experienced a great increase in fervor by reading the lives of the Saints.

Saint Ignatius was a soldier, who was wounded in battle.  He was hit in the leg by a canon ball.  He ended up spending a lot of time in a hospital bed recovering.  Prior to his injury, he had enjoyed reading fictional stories of knights and chivalry.  While bedridden during his recovery, he asked for some books to help pass the time.  The only books that the hospital had available were some books on the lives of the Saints.

Saint Ignatius was reluctant, but because there weren’t any other books about, he began to read the lives of the Saints to escape boredom.  These stories from the lives of the Saints greatly inspired Saint Ignatius.  They made him feel that he wanted to do the things that the great Saints had done.  These books lifted his mind and heart to God.

Saint Ignatius later reflected on the difference between how works of fiction affected him and how the lives of the Saints affected him.  He came to realize that although reading fiction stirred up his imagination, it left him feeling empty afterwards.  The excitement he experienced in a good fiction book, quickly went away.  The lives of the Saints, on the other hand, were not only exciting; they also drew him closer to God.  When he finished reading the lives of the Saints, he continued to have a sense of peace and joy.

The Saints can be a great help to us.  Their lives of the Saints can inspire us; the Saints also pray for us from Heaven.  They want us to be there with them, and they intercede for us with God.  Some Protestants accuse Catholics of praying to the Saints and thereby give to the Saints the worship that belongs to God alone.  Let us be clear, when we answer such objections.  We worship God alone, but we honor the Saints who are in Heaven.  When we honor them, we honor God Who has done great things through them.  We do not pray to them; we ask them to pray for us.  The Letter of Saint James tells us that the fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much.  (cf. James 5:17)  The Saints were certainly righteous, and so their prayers are very efficacious.  They are in Heaven, and in Heaven they behold God face to face.  Their prayers are perfect.  They do not suffer from distractions in prayer, as we here on earth do.  Furthermore, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Why would they not pray for us?

The Church calls the relationship between the Saints and us the Communion of Saints.  We are all members of the Body of Christ.  We are called to be Saints.  The Saints want us to fulfill God’s will: they want us to be Saints.  Their lives on earth inspire us, and their prayers for us in Heaven assist us as we journey through this valley of tears.  The Letter to the Hebrews calls them the great cloud of witnesses, which surround us.  (cf. Hebrews 12:1)  Let us remember to often ask the Saints to pray for us, and thank God for the gift that He has given to us in our brothers and sisters in the Faith.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the Saints.  May their lives inspire us to an ever-greater holiness; may their prayers gain us Your constant help and protection.

All holy men and women, pray for us!

Amen.