Friday, January 19, 2018

Enough exhortations!

We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent!
Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues.
I see that the world is rotten
because of silence.

St. Catherine of Siena

St. Wulfstan of Worcester

Wulfstan (Wulstan) was a native of Warwickshire, England.  After his priestly ordination, he became a novice at the monastery of Worcester where he edified all by the innocence and sanctity of his life. He was assiduous at prayer, often watching all night in church.

The first task assigned to him at the monastery was the instruction of children, then treasurer and eventually - though against his fierce resistance - he was made prior. In 1062, he was elected Bishop of Worcester.

Wulfstan was a powerful preacher, often moving his audience to tears.

To his vigorous action is particularly attributed the suppression of the heinous practice among the citizens of Bristol of kidnapping men into slavery and shipping them over to Ireland. St. Patrick who became the great apostle and patron of the Irish was such a slave in his youth.

After the Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror was initially uncertain about Wulfstan. But acknowledging his capacity and uprightness, Wulfstan was the only bishop William retained at his post under the new rule.

For the next thirty years Wulfstan rebuilt his cathedral, cared for the poor and put forth great effort in alleviating the harsh decrees of the Normans upon the vanquished Saxons. Whenever the English complained of the oppression of the Normans, Wulfstan told them: “This is a scourge of God for our sins, which we must bear with patience.”

The saintly bishop died on January 19 at eighty-seven years of age after washing the feet of a dozen poor men, a humble ritual he performed daily. He was canonized in 1203.
Photo by: Christopher Guy

Protectress of the Unborn: Our Lady of Guadalupe




Why “Patroness of the Unborn”?
Of all the many manifestations of Mary’s loving presence among us throughout the centuries, in this apparition alone does she appear to us in the manner of a pregnant mother. She holds within her the unborn Christ, proclaiming the sanctity and blessedness of life within the womb. Her reverence and tenderness communicate to us the joy and awe with which we must approach each embryonic life.
Since 1973, with the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade which gave legal protection to the monstrous sin of abortion, a parallel shedding of innocent blood has taken place. The unborn innocent victim is brutally tortured in that very place he was placed by God for his protection and development.
Today we find ourselves in the midst of an even more enormous and dramatic conflict between good and evil, the "culture of life" and the "culture of death." Just as Our Lady of Guadalupe freed the indigenous peoples of Mexico from their savage customs, so can she “crush the serpent’s head” here in America under the title of “Protectress of the Unborn.”
Let us not cease in crying out for her protection on behalf of our pre-born brothers and sisters. Only by imitating Our Lady’s respect for life from the moment of conception can we hope to inherit Life itself. Under her gentle direction we find not only shelter and rest, but confidence and strength to go forth to battle the evil of abortion in our land. Full of confidence in her power to obtain great victories from God, let us turn to Our Lady of Guadalupe.


A Brief Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe
On December 12, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary spoke to a humble native in his own Nahuatl tongue. The exact sound that met the Mexican’s ears was “Juanito, Juan Diegito.” It was an endearing expression that a fond mother would use for her child. English would render it: “Dear little Juan.”
She motioned Juan to come closer. Advancing a step or two he sank to his knees, overwhelmed by the loveliness of the vision. The beautiful lady requested that a shrine be built and dedicated to her on the Hill of Tepeyac. Speaking to him in the native language, Our Lady called herself “of Guadalupe,” a Spanish name meaning the one "who crushes the serpent."
Sadly, the bishop refused to believe that the Mother of God would appear to a poor, illiterate Mexican like Juan. Juan returned to the place of the apparition where Our Lady again appeared. She told him to return the next morning when she would give him a sign that would convince the bishop of the truth of her appearance and her request.
The following morning Our Lady told Juan to go to the top of the hill and gather Castilian roses that he would find there. Although he knew that only cactus grew there, he obeyed, and his simple faith was rewarded by the sight of beautiful roses growing where she had told him they would be.
He gathered them and showed them to Our Lady who rearranged them for him, placing them in his cloak or “tilma.” Juan returned to the bishop. As he opened his tilma, the roses fell to the floor. All who were present were startled to see an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe clearly imprinted on the tilma.
Today this image is still preserved on Juan Diego's tilma, which hangs over the main altar in the basilica at the foot of Tepeyac Hill just outside of Mexico City.
In the image, Our Lady is pregnant, carrying the Son of God in her womb. Her head is bowed in homage, indicating that she is not a goddess, but rather the one who bears and at the same time worships the one true God.

The Serpent’s Head Is Crushed
When Mary first appeared to Blessed Juan Diego, Mexico had been in the hands of Christian leaders for only a short time. Human sacrifice, where the blood of innocents was often spilled to appease the thirsty demons of the old rite, was still practiced. The Aztec priests executed annually at least 50,000 inhabitants of the land — men, women and children — in human sacrifices to their gods. In 1487, just in a single four-day ceremony for the dedication of a new temple in Tenochtitlan, some 80,000 captives were killed in human sacrifice. The same practices, which in most cases included the cannibalism of the victims’ limbs, were common also in earlier Mesoamerican cultures, with widespread Olmec, Toltec and Mayan human sacrificing rituals.
Children were said to be frequent victims, in part because they were considered pure and unspoiled. The early Mexican historian Ixtlilxochitl estimated that one out of every five children in Mexico were sacrificed. Into this cavern of darkness and ignorance, our Lady of Guadalupe brought a message of maternal compassion:
“I am the merciful Mother, the Mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate their suffering, necessities, and misfortunes.”
By 1541, just ten years after the apparitions, there were ten million Indians who had been converted from paganism. Before Our Lady’s coming the missionaries were able to pour the saving waters of Baptism upon the heads of only one million natives, and most of these were orphaned children, victims of war, whom the loving missionaries had adopted and educated. Such a mass conversion was an unprecedented phenomenon, the likes of which had never been witnessed in any country of the world.
How much our nation still needs her message of compassion! Let us together pray for the assistance and protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her face radiates the very light of God, while her example reveals authentic femininity. She shows unparalleled compassion to the poor and defenseless, but unyielding power and triumph over the evil one and his cohorts.



Thursday, January 18, 2018

Life without struggle

To live without faith,
without a patrimony to defend,
without a steady struggle for truth,
that is not living, but existing.

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassatti

St. Prisca

There are actually three St. Priscilla’s who lived in the first few centuries of the Church – all of whom were martyrs – and two of them share the same feast day of January 18! It is the virgin martyr St. Prisca that the Church primarily celebrates today though.

Prisca was born of a noble family in Rome during the reign of Claudius II. Most likely a Christian from birth, she was arrested during the persecutions when she was a young teenager and brought before the Emperor for questioning. Despite her youth, Prisca courageously proclaimed and upheld her Catholic Faith, even though she knew that by doing so in those days was ultimately the pronouncement of her own death sentence.

She suffered terrible tortures, one of which was being taken to the arena to be devoured by wild beasts. Rather than devour her though, the lions are said to have licked her feet! Finally, she was taken outside the city walls and beheaded. Legend tells us that when she was martyred, a great eagle appeared above her and protected her body for several days until the Christians were able to retrieve it.

The young martyr was buried in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla - the catacomb named after the St. Priscilla, wife of a Roman senator, who shares the same feast day of January 18 with the child-martyr, Prisca. She is said to have opened her home near the catacomb to Christians and to have befriended St. Peter who used her home as his headquarters in Rome. She was martyred during the reign of Emperor Domitian. As an interesting fact, there is probable speculation that this St. Priscilla was a family relation of the child-martyr St. Prisca, who is buried in her catacomb.

The third  St. Priscilla was a disciple of St. Paul and wife of the Jewish tentmaker, Aquila.

St. Margaret of Hungary

Margaret of Hungary was the daughter of King Bela IV, a champion of Christendom, and Maria Laskarina, a pious Byzantine princess. Bella IV being the brother of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Margaret was the saintly Queen of Hungary’s blood niece.

King Bela and his queen, worried about an impeding Tartar invasion, vowed to dedicate to God the child they were expecting. Bela was victorious over the Tartars, and little Margaret was taken to the Dominican monastery at Vezprem at the age of three.

The child thrived in her new surroundings. By age four she had memorized the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At age ten she was moved to a convent built for her by her father on an island – today named Margaret Island – on the Danube near Buda and there she professed her vows at age twelve.

King Ottokar II of Bohemia having seen Margaret at eighteen years of age, ignoring her religious habit, sought her in marriage. A dispensation would have been possible in this case, and King Bela seemed to favor the prospect for political reasons. Yet, Margaret adamantly refused declaring she would have no other bridegroom than Jesus Christ, and would rather cut off her nose and lips.

Margaret’s was a life of astounding penance, prayer and charity toward the poor. To avoid preferential treatment in the convent because of her royal rank, she sought the most menial tasks to the point that a maid once said that she was humbler than a servant.
Her body worn out by the fatigue of long hours of labor, fasting and prayer, Margaret died at the age of twenty-eight on January 18, 1270. The virtuous princess was universally venerated as a saint from the time of her death.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Rachel, Why Do You Cry?

By Andrea F. Phillips

A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and great mourning;
Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted... Matt 2:18

Watching a pro-life documentary the other day, I was deeply moved as girl after girl, woman after woman, and professional after professional gave heart-wrenching testimonies of the emotional, spiritual and psychological devastation our women, our modern “Rachels,” undergo in this culture of abortion.
How did we get here? Why in the name of freedom, liberation, rights and choice are girls and women so battered?

“It Wasn’t My Choice”
One professional said, “Women are offered abortion in the name of ‘choice,’ yet the overwhelming answer to the question, “Why did you do it?” is, “It wasn’t my choice.”
And another young woman, her face a torrent of tears said, “Everyone pushed me. And, in the end, I killed my child so everyone else could feel free.”

What We Have Lost
As a young girl, Dad took me out to the garden bench one morning. It wasn’t every day that I got to have a private interview with my father, so I fixed my brown eyes on his face, and missed nothing of what he said. He spoke of young womanhood, and of beauty as something proceeding from the soul, rather than from a lot of make-up, clothes and trinkets. He spoke of the Blessed Mother as a model for girls, a woman true to her inner star, contrary to what the world promoted.
Child that I was, I only captured fragments of his meaning, except that I knew that some things in my life were about to go the way of the TV–out the window. But I wasn’t worried. Dad knew best.
As it turned out, my sisters and I were homeschooled. We painted paper dolls, studied art and music, learned cooking and baking, raised a garden, loved the library, read lots of books, put on marionette shows, watched select movies, played with friends, learned our Catholic Faith inside out, and frequented the Sacraments–a life-style the world called “restrictive.”

Meeting the World
And then the time came to start driving and working.
At my first job, I worked with women who wore little, swore plenty, and headed for bars after work. There were the stories of boyfriends, and sex, and cheating, and divorce, and drugs and alcohol, and hangovers.
Then little sister came home one day wide-eyed from nursing school.
“We studied STDs today, and you will not believe the amount of such diseases every single one of those girls have had. I felt like an angel.”
And then there was another sister taking English in college. One day the professor showed the class pictures of obscene sculptures claiming that these were the artist’s way of dealing with the “Catholic Church’s obsession with sex.” Up shot her hand, “Sorry, Sir, but it seems to me that you are, rather, talking of the artist’s obsession with the subject?”

Thanks, Mother Church!
In our “sheltered” Catholic home, while we were taught about the “birds and the bees,” the subject was only one among many. Though in our “restrictive” lifestyle we learned the moral code that regulated sexual behavior, we handled rising hormones by steering our thoughts and desires to positive, engaging activities, prayer and the Sacraments.
Interaction with boys was always in familial, communal settings, and while marriage was a great, exciting ideal, we were taught that it was the most serious commitment we’d ever make–and thus we must prepare.
We dressed modestly not out of prudishness but because there was nothing more precious than a girl’s body, latent seat of life–and what was sacred was veiled. Yet mother, in her common sense and good taste, taught us style, and to use make-up to enhance, rather than to cover; jewelry to add, rather than to glare.
Far from “sheltered” or “restricted,” I remember at fifteen feeling cherished, respected – free. To arrive at my wedding aisle anything but a virgin was unthinkable. I had a mind full of ideals, a heart full of God’s life-giving principles, and a soul on fire with idealism. I wanted to be an asset to the world, to use my talents to help build something beautiful.

An Anti-Woman Culture
Unfortunately, “beautiful” is not what awaited the majority of my gender, for the culture of “emancipation” is, ultimately, battering to women.
As my life went on, with everything “free,” from free love to women’s lib, I witnessed the breakdown of the last vestiges of modesty and dignity in fashions; the destruction of the last ethical barricades. With these trends came teen pregnancy, failed contraception, abortion, STDs, anorexia, bulimia, substance abuse, and suicide.
As a result of all this “liberation,” countless girls became the sad victims of the “culture of emancipation” turned “culture of death”–many as young as eleven or twelve–about the age I was when Dad talked to me on that garden bench.
Generous souls started organizations such as Rachel’s Vineyard and countless other institutions. Their goal: to either convince single moms to have their babies, or to provide support for them, after family, friends or boyfriends dropped them off at abortion clinics, and the psychological, emotional trauma of the aftermath threatened to engulf them.
Gently, with heart-warming charity, these organizations seek to pick up the crushed, crumpled, tear-stained forms and, speaking to them of love and forgiveness, endeavor to return them to their beautiful, confident, glowing selves.

Woman’s Nature v. Lies of the Culture
A woman is made amazing. Hers is a nature so lofty that she instinctively understands that love is nurturing, and is, therefore, sacrificial. All she asks is to love and be loved so she can love forever. And what is greater, more selfless, stronger, more inspiring and propulsive than sacrificial love?
Hers is a mind so quick and intuitive, that she perceives things way before they’ve been spelled out. A true woman has the natural combination that is the spark of genius: heart and intuition.
But the culture lies to today’s growing girl. The culture tells her she must be ashamed of her femininity, and of her maternal instinct. She is told that compared to men, her femininity is weakness, and in light of the culture, her maternal instincts misguided. Unless she succeeds in the corporate world, she is a failure, and homes and children are only for the under-achieved woman.
Logically thus, since her body is not necessarily or primarily made to give life, but for pleasure and sexual satisfaction, she is told to show it off, to use it to her maximum “advantage”– out with the blushing bride, in with the voyeur.
But what the culture never tells the growing girl today is that the blushing bride calls man to his noblest; the “voyeur” to his basest. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “So goes the dignity of women, so goes the dignity of a nation.”
My mother’s version was, “Girls, sit on your mountain top and if he is worth his salt, he will climb it.”
What has more power–the ability to command or the ability to influence? Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand, eminent Catholic philosopher and lady, answers genially: “Command changes actions. Influence changes beings.”
And what is a woman’s greatest genius but that of influence? And what is the greatest secret of that genius but true, disinterested, sacrificial love that doesn’t care for recognition but for results: the good of those she loves.

To Dry Rachel’s Tears
It is time fathers again become teachers, guides and protectors of their daughters and give them the religious/philosophical principles that will aid them to choose husbands wisely. It is time fathers take their daughters to the garden bench; better still, on occasional dates to show how a gentleman treats a lady. It is time fathers take the initiative of countering the culture of death with the life-giving culture of Christ.
This Christ-centered enculturation must be done intelligently, insightfully, with common sense, but also with strength. Above all, it is time fathers give their daughters the supreme example of faith and virtue, first by example and then by doctrine. To a girl, a godly father is indeed, next to God. Brown, blue or green eyes will be raised to his face unflinchingly seeking to be convinced by his conviction.
It’s time mothers teach their girls modesty, purity, culture, manners, the arts of the home, and their priceless worth as the pearls of great price of society. It’s time the “lady” (layman’s term for “princess”) returns. It’s time that again a nation follows the dignity of its women. It’s time that knights again climb mountain tops to meet their ladies.
It’s time that we teach our daughters and sons how to prepare for founding Christian homes, homes where every baby is welcomed, cherished and raised, and yes, then yes, no child will be left behind.
It’s time that we stand in the gap for the preciousness of our young women, and teach our girls to see through the great LIE, and then, only then will our Rachels no longer cry.