Saturday, February 16, 2008

Just for Today, February 17

My God and my All! Enough is said to him that understands; and it is delightful to him that loves to repeat it often.

Oh! when will this blessed and desirable hour come, when Thou shalt fill me with Thy presence, and become to me All in All?
-Bk. III, ch. xxxiv.

My soul is filled with the Will of God, so that nothing can penetrate it, but remains on the surface as oil floats on water. If my soul were not already filled, it would be at the mercy of passing joys and sorrows, which succeed each other so swiftly. But these emotions scarcely touch me, and I always enjoy deep peace.
-The Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une Âme)
For more information, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - February 17

To establish ourselves in a virtue it is neces­sary to form good and practical resolutions to perform certain and determined acts of that vir­tue, and we must, moreover, be faithful in exe­cuting them.

-St. Vincent de Paul
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for February 17, The Brevity of Time

"It is amazing how fast times passes at Carmel," Mme. Louise de France, a sister of Louis XV, wrote from the monastery of St. Denis, Nov. 30, 1781, "the years are days and the days are moments."

If Mme. Louise de France had not experienced it herself, the inscriptions on the walls of the cloister would have reminded her of it.

"Courage my soul, time is short."

"Only eternity is long."

"Pain lasts only a moment, the reward is eternal."

One day a discouraged novice confided to Mme. Louise, then Mother Therese de Saint-Augustin, "Ah! I can't continue here any longer." And the prioress replied: "Yes, my child, always sweep­ing, always polishing, always restraining self, always mortifying self, we will persevere, you and I, until death."

What beautiful poise! What realization of the true value of things! Hold on! that expression has made a fortune. It is the key to many situations; it explains every victory, in the struggle against self as well as those in the battlefield.

Hold on. Life here below is so short. A shadow, a breath, an instant that we can scarcely grasp. St. Paul stresses it in his letter to the Corinthians, (I, vii, 29); it is the familiar refrain of Ecclesi­asticus. Mme. Louise said further, "When I am tired, I look at the cloister yard where my body will rest until the Last Judgment. This thought gives me courage and I no longer think of heat or cold."

Shall I ever meditate sufficiently on the brevity of time? I have only one life and it is short, despite the monotony of its days. Therefore I ought to rejoice, if as these days slip swiftly by, God gives me the opportunity of doing something for Him that costs.
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

Gospel for Saturday, 1st Week of Lent

From: Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus and His Teaching, the Fulfillment of the Law (Continuation)

(Jesus said to His disciples,) [43] "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. [45] So that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."


43. The first part of this verse--"You shall love your neighbor"--is to be found in Leviticus 19:18. The second part--"hate your enemy"--is not to be found in the Law of Moses. However, Jesus' words refer to a widespread rabbinical interpretation which understood "neighbors" as meaning "Israelites". Our Lord corrects this misinterpretation of the Law: for Him everyone is our neighbor (cf. the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37).

43-47. This passage sums up the teaching which precedes it. Our Lord goes so far as to say that a Christian has no personal enemies. His only enemy is evil as such--sin--but not the sinner. Jesus Himself puts this into practice with those who crucified Him, and He continues to act in the same way towards sinners who rebel against Him and despise Him. Consequently, the saints have always followed His example--like St. Stephen, the first martyr, who prayed for those who were putting him to death. This is the apex of Christian perfection--to love, and pray for, even those who persecute us and calumniate us. It is the distinguishing mark of the children of God.

46. "Tax collectors": the Roman empire had no officials of its own for the collection of taxes: in each country it used local people for this purpose. These were free to engage agents (hence we find reference to "chief tax collectors": cf. Luke 19:2). The global amount of tax for each region was specified by the Roman authorities; the tax collectors levied more than this amount, keeping the surplus for themselves: this led them to act rather arbitrarily, which was why the people hated them. In the case of the Jews, insult was added to injury by the fact that the chosen people were being exploited by Gentiles.

48. Verse 48 is, in a sense, a summary of the teaching in this entire chapter, including the Beatitudes. Strictly speaking, it is quite impossible for a created being to be as perfect as God. What our Lord means here is that God's own perfection should be the model which every faithful Christian tries to follow, even though he realizes that there is an infinite distance between himself and his Creator. However, this does not reduce the force of this commandment; it sheds more light on it. It is a difficult commandment to live up to, but along with this we must take account of the enormous help grace gives us to go so far as to tend towards divine perfection. Certainly, perfection which we should imitate does not refer to the power and wisdom of God, which are totally beyond our scope; here the context seems to refer primarily to love and mercy. Along the same lines, St. Luke quotes these words of our Lord: "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36;cf. note on Luke 6:20-49).

Clearly, the "universal call to holiness" is not a recommendation but a commandment of Jesus Christ.

"Your duty is to sanctify yourself. Yes, even you. Who thinks that this task is only for priests and religious? To everyone, without exception, our Lord said: `Be ye perfect, as My Heavenly Father is perfect'" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 291). This teaching is sanctioned by chapter 5 of Vatican II's Constitution "Lumen Gentium", where it says (40): "The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life (of which He is the author and maker) to each and every one of His disciples without distinction: `You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect' [...]. It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society."
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lenten Reflection: The Teaching of Christ

"No longer do I call you servants, because the servant does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." St. John, 15:15.

For a moment tonight let us peek in at the door of the upper room where our Lord celebrated the Last Supper. Listen closely to His beautiful ser­mon to the apostles. It is His last talk before His passion. How tender, how loving, how assuring, how solemn His thoughts. He tells them not to be troubled; He tells them to keep His commandments, especially to love one another; He declares that He is the vine and they are the branches; again He urges them to love one another; and then in His most tender tones, Jesus assures them:

"No longer do I call you servants, because the servant does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."

Christ speaks those same words to you, as if He were to say: "I have taught you the truths of God. I have preached to you about heaven and your heavenly Father. I have shown you the will of God. By word and example I have pointed out the path to God."

Christ was a Teacher
The Son of God came to this earth not only to save us and give us an example of all goodness, but also to teach us the eternal truths, to instruct us in the things that are forever true. That Christ was a Teacher is clear from His life:

"Now it came to pass when Jesus had finished giving instructions to his twelve disciples, that he passed from there to teach and preach in their towns." St. Matthew, 11:2.

In the sermon on the mount we read:
"And opening his mouth he taught them" St. Matthew. 5:2.

Crafty enemies tried to get rid of Christ in His own town of Nazareth. The Bible tells us about it:

"But he, passing through their midst, went his way. And he went down to Capharnaum...and there he was teaching them on the Sabbath. And they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority." St. Luke, 4 :30-32.

Teacher to come
The Old Testament prophets hailed the future Redeemer as a Teacher of truth. Moses had told the chosen people: "The Lord thy God will raise up a prophet of thy nation and of thy breth­ren like unto me: him shalt thou hear."

Like Moses, Isaias also foretold that the coming Redeemer would deliver men from sin and from error.

"The spirit of the Lord is upon me," cried Isaias, "because the Lord hath anointed me: he hath sent me to preach a release to the captives, and deliv­erance to them that are shut up; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God: to comfort all that mourn."

Christ Himself read this passage in the synagogue at Nazareth. Folding the book, He declared:

"This day is fulfilled this Scripture in your ears."
Christ also said:
"For this was I born, and for this came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth."
And St. Matthew reports:
"The people were in admiration at his doctrine for he was teaching them as one having power, and not as the scribes and Pharisees."

Christ taught dogmas
But why, you might ask, are you emphasizing the point that Christ was a Teacher? Because there are some misinformed individuals and groups who falsely maintain that Christ did not teach anything definite, that He was just a sort of super Good Fellow, who told people to be good, but who had no definite teachings or truths to give them.

Some benighted so-called Bible Christians even hold that Christ never taught any dogmas or doc­trines. The most hasty reading of the Bible belies that ignorant statement. Such people make this silly statement to undermine the influence of the Catholic Church, which is practically the only religious group with a defi­nite body of teachings that fit together. To that Church Christ made the promise that He would keep her from all error.

Newman wondered
Every intelligent person knows the story of that brilliant convert to the Church in the nineteenth century, Cardinal Newman. One of the keenest minds of all time, he read and studied and prayed himself into the true fold. As a small boy he once asked his mother:

"Mother, what church is the oldest church?"

"Oh," she admitted, "the Roman Catholic Church is the oldest Church."

"And why," asked the little fellow, "why is the Roman Catholic Church not the true church?"

"Because it left the truth in the fifth century," she answered.

"Oh, then, mother," he exclaimed thoughtfully, "the gates of hell prevailed against the Church of Christ, didn't they?"

That is the very thing Christ promised would not happen. And actually it did not happen. The Divine Teacher has given the assurance that His Church would never be subject to error in faith and morals. The Catholic Church is still teaching what Christ taught. Like Christ, she teaches defi­nite doctrines.

The Ideal Teacher
Our Lord was the ideal Teacher, because He was God. As God Christ knew all things. No teacher could ever say that. With all their learning pooled in one brain, the learned of all times and all places could not match the unlimited knowledge of the God-man. He knew in every detail not only what He was teaching, but also whom He was teaching. He knew every question from every angle. He knew just how every word and every idea was being received by His hearers. Would that we had some such gift.

Christ Taught as God
When you or I make a statement, especially if it be something new or something different from what has been believed, we must prove it, or at least refer to someone greater than ourselves as authority. Thus, when the prophets taught they always made it clear that they were simply repeating what God had told them. They were merely the mouthpieces of God.

Jesus, however, speaks in the first person. He begins His sermons with, "I say to you." That He had power not only to preach and explain the law, but also the power to make and change the law, we see from the changes He made in the Old Law and the new teachings He gave to men. From His words we see that Christ is the Lawmaker Himself. No wonder the people exclaimed after His sermons: "This man speaks as one having power."

Church with Authority
To His Church Christ gave the same right to speak with authority. Where today is there any church that speaks with the power and authority of the Catholic Church?

Some years ago a professor in one of our best known universities joined the Catholic Church, after years of study. When asked the reason for his conversion to Rome, he replied:
"Because the Catholic Church is the only one that speaks and acts with real authority."

His questioner raised this objection:
"Think of it, you have surrendered your will and your judgment to an organization."

"Not to an organization," the professor answered, "but to God."

But his questioner insisted:
"Why could you not submit your will and judgment to God in our church?"

"Because," explained the professor slowly and thoughtfully, "because God always speaks with authority, and the only Church in the world that so speaks is the Roman Catholic Church."

Indeed, just as Christ spoke as one having power, so His Church speaks as one having power.

What are some of Christ's Teachings?
What are some of Christ's teachings? First of all Jesus taught us that we have a Father in heaven, not a far-away, vague being, a sort of cloud floating around in the sky, an uncertain someone who is all might and majesty. No, Christ spoke of a loving Father to whom we should pray, "Our Father, who art in heaven."

Jesus taught us that He himself is God, that He and the Father are one, that He has come to tell us about heaven, to win it back for us, to give us an example, to suffer and even to die for us.

Again and again Christ repeated that man must give an accounting to God, that man must appear before Him, the Judge, that there is a life with­out end beyond the grave, a life that can be everlastingly happy or eter­nally sad.

To these essential truths Christ added a code of morals, making clear what is right and what is wrong. Lastly, but of immense importance, Jesus established a Church and told us that He would be with that Church for all time.

How dis Christ Teach?
We might illustrate Christ's method of teaching by the manner in which He brought out one truth, the principal truth of the lessons He taught. Note how Christ tried to teach the Jews that He was God.

In the beginning He merely hinted at it. He knew that the chosen people were expecting a rich and powerful Redeemer, not a poor carpenter's son. Christ, as it were, let them in gradually on this truth. He took into account their preju­dices and false ideas. Gradually He led them to the truth, but, oh, how He insisted, once He told them the big truth that He was God.

Sublime yet simple
Christ taught as One having power, so that the people marveled at His doctrine. Yet, He taught so that all might understand. He used plain, homely words, and illustrated His meaning with signs and parables and comparisons. His teaching is so sublime that no human mind could have originated it; yet so simple that the most unlettered can learn its funda­mentals.

His Example
A powerful help in His teaching was His example. More effectively than words His life prompted men to embrace the truth and follow the path of virtue. Christ not only told us; He showed us. That is the test of a true teacher.

Besides His example, His practicing what He preached, there was some­thing else that gave weight to the words of Christ, namely, the wonders and miracles He performed.

He could and did give a lesson on forgiveness and then back it up with curing a man who was sick 38 years with paralysis. At a word He could cure one man or ten men of leprosy. From this stand­point alone, it is sheer folly to compare Christ with Socrates, or even with the greatest of the prophets, Moses and John the Baptist. He had no spe­cial doctrines for special friends. He told His apostles and disciples to preach to the whole world everything He had told them.

That teaching, furthermore, worked the greatest of miracles - it changed the face of the earth, it changed the hearts of men for the better.

Jesus further showed His superhuman wisdom by foretelling future events, which God alone could know. Three times He foretold His passion and resurrection. He predicted the triple denial of St. Peter, the treason of Judas, the destruction of Jerusalem, the scattering abroad of the Jews, and the growth and continuation of His Church.

Christ's prophecies were no mere guesses. Christ Himself gave us the reason for His prophecies:
"I tell you now before it comes to pass, that when it has come to pass you may believe that I am he." St. John, 13:19.

They tried to catch Him
The wisdom of Christ is also shown in those situations in which His enemies tried to snare Him. On several occasions the scribes and Pharisees set a trap to snare Him in His speech. They knew that His conduct was always above criticism, so they attempted to surprise and upset Him in some statement that they could use against Him. On everyone of these occasions, Jesus not only escaped the snare, but He sent His critics away confused and embarrassed.

God or Caesar
An example will make this clear. You remember the time when the scheming scribes asked our Lord whether it was lawful to give tribute, that is, to pay taxes to Caesar or not. That was a devilish question, when you know the circumstances.

Secretly the majority of Jews rebelled against paying taxes to the Romans. The Roman authorities, on the other hand, considered it treason to oppose the payment of these assessments. If Jesus said that it was lawful to give tribute, He would make enemies of the Jews. If He answered that it was unlawful to render the tribute, the Roman offi­cials would treat Him as a traitor. Jesus called for a coin of tribute, asking: "Whose are this image and the inscription?"

"Caesar's," they answered.

Then Christ declared:
"Render, therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." St. Matthew, 22:21.

They had not asked about God. Perhaps, they did not even think of God. But Jesus, in His wise reply, reminded them that they owed the tribute of keeping God's law in their dealings with their fellowmen. It was not only a clever and complete answer, it was a norm, a principle for the duties of citizenship in all ages and nations to come.

Incidentally, it is the norm we Catholics follow in all relations between Church and State. We have no double allegiance. We give to the State what belongs to the State, and we give to God what belongs to God. That is what Christ told us to do.

The wisdom of the Divine Teacher is without question. Although Jesus never attended school, yet "He taught as one having power." His hearers were forced to inquire:
"How come this man by this wisdom?" Even His enemies had to confess, "never did man speak like this man."

And ever since, even those who deny that Christ is the Son of God, admit to His superhuman wisdom and holiness. For example, Renan, a radical freethinker, speaks of Christ as "that sublime person, who presides per­petually over the destiny of the world."

Tortured for His Teachings
The sincerity of Christ in His teaching is shown in His willingness to suffer for what He taught. Jesus always had something definite to say and He said it - clearly, courageously. He would not stop teaching until His own blood would drown His voice.

In proof behold our Lord before Annas, a man grown old in wickedness, who twenty years before had been high priest, a man whose heart had been hardened instead of softened by the years. With devilish triumph Annas questions Christ about His doctrine and teaching. Jesus answered him:

"I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why dost thou question me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold, these know what I have said." St. John, 18:20,21.

For that answer Jesus received a cruel blow. One of the servants, a coward if there ever was one, in order to please the high priest and win favor for himself, rushed up to the Redeemer and gave Christ such a fearful blow on the cheek that our Lord staggered. At the same time this fawning friend of the Jewish leader cried out:
"Is that the way thou dost answer the high priest?"

Christ showed the cruelty and injustice of it by responding:
"If I have spoken ill, bear witness to the evil; but if well, why dost thou strike me?" St. John, 18:23.

A blow upon the cheek, a blow of the fist, a blow of an iron-clad fist on the holy, heavenly face of Christ, that face which angels yearn to see. This blow was meant, not so much for the person of Christ. It was a blow at His teachings.

Attacked Today
That miserable minion of a miserable leader did not like what Christ taught. He knew that his master, Annas, did not like Christ's teaching. He knew that the court did not like it. Not having sense or wit to answer or refute, the coward put his answer in the form of a blow. History tells of many such cowards, of men who could not answer the teachings of Christ with facts or reason, so they took to blows, blows in the face of Christ's followers.

That cowardly soldier has many imitators today in the form of certain teachers, writers, columnists, politicians, dictators, and even so-called min­isters of the Gospel...who rain blow after blow on the Catholic Church because it will not change Christ's teaching.

Dying for Dogma
Annas sent Christ to Caiphas, the high priest of that year. Among other things Caiphas asked:

"I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God."

Jesus answered:
"Thou hast said it. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting, at the right hand of the Power and coming upon the clouds of heaven." St. Matthew, 26:63.

The high priest tore his garments and shouted: "He has blasphemed; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"

"He is liable to death," was the verdict. St. Matthew, 26:65.

The Living Teacher
It remains for us to recognize the considerate care with which God has preserved His teachings in His Church, the Catholic Church. Realizing this fact we want to thank God again and again for making us the heirs of His truth.

Thank God for permitting you to sit at the feet of the living teacher, His Church, and to hear the living word as it is poured from living heart into living heart by God's divinely appointed and divinely guided teacher, the Catholic Church, the voice of Christ in our own day. Amen.
Adapted from With Christ Through Lent
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1951)

When "Social Justice" Becomes Scandal

From a dear Wisconsin friend, we learn:

A Catholic Church in Hudson, Wisconsin, Diocese of Superior, to to host FIVE pro-abortion politicians for a Social Justice forum, February 23, 2008.

St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Hudson, Wisconsin, Social Justice Conference "Healthcare 2008--Addressing Disparity Through Policy, Programs and Individual Actions."

Hudson Star Observer article
Invited politicians and/or representatives: U.S. Senators Kohl, Feingold; U.S. Rep. Ron Kind; Wisc. Senator Sheila Harsdorf; Wisc. Rep. Kitty Rhoades (voting records listed below).

The Wisconsin State Assembly has passed legislation mandating that all Wisconsin hospitals, including religiously-affiliated hospitals, must inform any self-described victim of sexual assault of “emergency contraception” and must provide it upon her request.

Two of the five pro-death politicians invited to this forum, Wisconsin Sen. Harsdorf and Wisconsin Rep. Rhoades (a Catholic and parishioner of St. Patrick's), voted pro-abortion, anti-Catholic, on this bill. The other U.S. representatives, U.S. Senators Kohl and Feingold, are both pro-death, both voting for partial-birth infanticide; U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, pro-death and voted for partial-birth infanticide.

Please respectfully e-mail or call Fr. Parr (pastor, St. Patrick's) and Bishop Christensen and ask them to uphold the USCCB statement that states: "the Catholic community and Catholic institutions" should not honor those "who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" with awards, honors, or "platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

Contact Father John Parr at: 715-381-5120x102; e-mail:
Contact Bishop Christensen, Diocese of Superior, at: 715-392-2937x105, e-mail: Pat Wildenberg at
Click here for more information, documentation and history: Catholicism: One True Faith

It's get out the vote time, so some "Catholics" put party before faith, and choose to call it "Social Justice." Those who support and promote the murder of the innocent unborn deserve no platform regardless of the topic of their "talks."

Their words ring hollow because they deny justice to the defenseless unborn and deprive them of their most basic right - the right to life. Catholics who promote (and allow) this kind of activity cause grave scandal among the faithful - pray for their sorry souls, especially during this Lenten season.

Just for Today, February 16

Ah! how little is their love of God, how weak is their devotion, who so easily put off the sacred communion! How happy is he, and acceptable to God, who so lives and keeps his conscience in such purity, as to be ready and well-disposed to communicate every day, if it were permitted, and he might do it without being noticed.
-Bk. IV, ch. x.

During those long and trying weeks I had the un­speakable happiness of receiving Holy Communion every day. Even after the epidemic of influenza had ceased, I was still allowed to continue doing so for several months, although I had not asked for a privilege which was not granted to the rest of the Community.
- The Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une Âme)
For more information, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - February 16

God refuses no one the gift of prayer. By it we obtain the help that we need to overcome dis­orderly desires and temptations of all kinds.

-St. Alphonsus
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for February 16, Three Types of Communities

In a letter to a Sister of the Visitation at Monial, Claude de la Colombiere observed that there is worldliness in religious communi­ties.

There are, of course, truly fervent communities:
"I know your religious institute thoroughly," he wrote, "I have found souls of such high sanctity among your Sisters that I have never known greater virtue."

There were, it seems, at the time of Claude de la Colombiere, communities whose fervor was only mediocre. Exterior irregulari­ties were rare, but the interior spirit was marred by a lack of generosity.

"Religious houses are filled with persons who keep their Rule, who get up on time, who go to Mass, to prayer, to confession and to Communion because it is the custom, because the bell rings and the others go. The heart has almost no part in what they do. They are absorbed in their own little ideas and plans, and are in­different to the things of God."

Finally, to quote again Claude de la Colombiere, "there are com­munities in which the religious thrive on aversion, murmuring, and revolt against the superiors; they disregard faults against poverty, consistently make light of little things, confess their sins in a des­ultory manner so that even on leaving the confessional they go around breaking silence, grumbling and murmuring for an hour after, and two or three years later we still notice no progress; the lax are till lax and the irregular are still irregular."

To what category do I belong? What do I contribute to the sanctity of the whole community, my parish, my family, my friends?

"Grant, O my God, that with all the intensity of my love for You and for my superiors, I may never do anything that would retard the progress of the community or diminish its fervor, and its spirit of service and love. On the contrary, may all that I do tend to holiness, fratemal love, and generosity towards You."
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

Gospel for Friday,1st Week of Lent

Old Calendar: Saints Faustinus and Jovita, martyrs

From: Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus and His Teaching, the Fulfillment of the Law (Continuation)

(Jesus said to His disciples,) [20] "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

[21] "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' [22] But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. [23] So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there before the altar and go; first to be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [25] Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; [26] truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.


20. "Righteousness": see the note on Matthew 5:6 (see below). This verse clarifies the meaning of the preceding verses. The scribes and Pharisees had distorted the spirit of the Law, putting the whole emphasis on its external, ritual observance. For them exact and hyper-detailed but external fulfillment of the precepts of the Law was a guarantee of a person's salvation: "If I fulfill this I am righteous, I am holy and God is duty bound to save me." For someone with this approach to sanctification it is really not God who saves: man saves himself through external works of the Law. That this approach is quite mistaken is obvious from what Christ says here; in effect what He is saying is: to enter the Kingdom of God the notion of righteousness or salvation developed by the scribes and Pharisees must be rejected.

In other words, justification or sanctification is a grace from God; man's role is one of cooperating with that grace by being faithful to it. Elsewhere Jesus gives the same teaching in an even clearer way (cf. Luke 18:9-14, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector). It was also the origin of one of St. Paul's great battles with the "Judaizers" (see Galatians 3 and Romans 2-5).

21. Verses 21-26 gives us a concrete example of the way that Jesus Christ brought the Law of Moses to its fulfillment, by explaining the deeper meaning of the commandments of that Law.

22. By speaking in the first person ("but I say to you") Jesus shows that His authority is above that of Moses and the prophets; that is to say, He has divine authority. No mere man could claim such authority.

"Insults": practically all translations of this passage transcribe the original Aramaic word, "raca" (cf. RSV note below). It is not an easy word to translate. It means "foolish, stupid, crazy". The Jews used it to indicate utter contempt; often, instead of verbal abuse they would show their feelings by spitting on the ground.

"Fool" translates an ever stronger term of abuse than "raca"--implying that a person has lost all moral and religious sense, to the point of apostasy.

In this passage our Lord points to three faults which we commit against charity, moving from internal irritation to showing total contempt. St. Augustine comments that three degrees of faults and punishments are to be noted. The first is the fault of feeling angry; to this corresponds the punishment of "judgment". The second is that of passing an insulting remark, which merits the punishment of "the council". The third arises when anger quite blinds us: this is punished by "the hell of fire" (cf. "De Serm. Dom. in Monte", II, 9).

"The hell of fire": literally, "Gehenna of fire", meaning, in the Jewish language of the time, eternal punishment.

This shows the gravity of external sins against charity--gossip, backbiting, calumny, etc. However, we should remember that these sins stem from the heart; our Lord focuses our attention, first, on internal sins--resentment, hatred, etc.--to make us realize that that is where the root lies and that it is important to nip anger in the bud.

23-24. Here our Lord deals with certain Jewish practices of His time, and in doing so gives us perennial moral teaching of the highest order. Christians, of course, do not follow these Jewish ritual practices; to keep our Lord's commandment we have ways and means given us by Christ Himself. Specifically, in the New and definitive Covenant founded by Christ, being reconciled involves going to the Sacrament of Penance. In this Sacrament the faithful "obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offense committed against Him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins" ("Lumen Gentium", 11).

In the New Testament, the greatest of all offerings is the Eucharist. Although one has a duty to go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, an essential condition before receiving Holy Communion is that one be in the state of grace.

It is not our Lord's intention here to give love of neighbor priority over love of God. There is an order of charity: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. This is the great and first commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38). Love of one's neighbor, which is the second commandment in order of importance (cf. Matthew 22:39), derives its meaning from the first. Brotherhood without parenthood is inconceivable. An offense against charity is, above all, an offense against God.

[Note on Matthew 5:6 states:
6. The notion of righteousness (or justice) in Holy Scripture is an essentially religious one (cf. notes on Matthew 1:19 and 3:15; Romans 1:17; 1:18-32; 3:21-22 and 24). A righteous person is one who sincerely strives to do the Will of God, which is discovered in the commandments, in one's duties of state in life and through one's life of prayer. Thus, righteousness, in the language of the Bible, is the same as what nowadays is usually called "holiness" (1 John 2:29; 3:7-10; Revelations 22:11; Genesis 15:6; Deuteronomy 9:4).]
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Just for Today, February 15

Son, if thou placest thy peace in any person for the sake of thy contentment in his company, thou shalt be unsettled and entangled. But if thou hast recourse to the everlasting and subsisting truth, thou shalt not be grieved when a friend departs or dies.

In Me the love of thy friend must stand; and for Me he is to be loved, whoever he be that appears to thee good, and is very dear to thee in this life. Without Me no friendship is of any strength, nor will it be durable; nor is that love true and pure of which I am not the author.
-Bk. III, ch. xlii.

I have had to drink many a bitter chalice on account of my sisters. David spoke truly when he sang: Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together (Ps. cxxxii). But this union is consummated only at the price of much suffering. I did not enter Carmel in order to live with my sisters; on the contrary, I foresaw what a source of suffering they would be if I made up my mind not to give way to nature.

Theologians speak of the religious life as a martyrdom. Natural affection is not destroyed; as it becomes purer and more super­natural, it grows stronger, and it is with this affection that I love you, dear Mother, and my sisters. I am very happy to be allowed to fight for the King of kings with my family, but I should be quite content to be trans­ferred by Him to some other field of action. A command would not be necessary; a hint, a mere look would be enough.

As I realized that separation is a possibility, even at Carmel, I accustomed myself to live in Heaven; I accepted the prospect of exile among a strange people not only for myself, but for my beloved sisters. When our foundation, the Carmel of Saigon, asked for two of them, the question of sending them out was seriously entertained. The thought of the difficulties they would have to face, broke my heart, but I would not have said one word to keep them back.
-The Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une Âme)
For more information, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - February 15

After the flower comes the fruit: we receive, as the reward of our fatigues, an increase of grace in this world, and in the next the eternal vision of God.

-Bl. Henry Suso
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for February 15, Gos's Good Pleasure

"Cost what it may, God must be satisfied." This was the mo­tivating principle of Claude de la Colombiere's practical program of holiness. Many writers give this as the best possible motto:
Comply with God's wishes, satisfy Him and please Him. You are my All, O God.... If You are satisfied, that is all that matters.

In the majority of cases, my seeking to please God will be iden­tical to doing violence to myself. A child once asked, "Why is it so hard to be good?" As a result of original sin, virtue imposes its price on nature; it is much easier to follow our inclinations than to try to conquer ourselves, "to conquer oneself through violence," as Psichari said.

It is not, however, the intensity of effort that gives an act its merit, but it is the intensity of the love animating the one who acts. The more saintly we are, the less difficulty we experience in acting, yet our merit increases because our love increases. Mary, who felt no difficulty in serving God, enjoys a great reward because she had great love.

It is true, however, if there is an obstacle to overcome we must show greater love. The degree of difficulty involved indicates the possible merit; it does not create merit.

Whether my duty offers difficulties or not, I shall put all my love in it. I matter little; God's good pleasure is everything.

"Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, who encouraged St. Margaret Mary in the pursuit of virtue, teach me the secret of giving without reserve, of disengaging my love from every interest, of thirsting to please God alone."
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

Not all political issues of equal value, says Bishop DiMarzio

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- A "hierarchy of values" exists, which means not all political issues are of equal value, said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn.

"Our faith must inform our political decisions," he said, and Catholic voters are obliged to distinguish "between moral evil," such as abortion, "and matters of prudential judgment," such as tuition tax credits.
In his talk, the bishop referred primarily to issues in New York state. He described as "a most radical abortion bill" legislation proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer and known as the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act.

The bishop said it would legalize partial-birth abortion, a procedure which he noted the late U.S. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, D-N.Y., described as "near-infanticide."
Actually, it is infanticide, not "near-infanticide." There is no other way to describe it - living, innocent, defenseless babies being murdered at will with the approval of the State - What we have become?

"Only in circumstances that are extraordinarily hard to contemplate may a Catholic voter support a proponent of so great an intrinsic moral evil," the bishop said.
Politicians who support and promote the gruesome evils of abortion are unworthy of any consideration by any Catholic and by any other rational human being.

Bishops' survey looks at U.S. Catholics' practices, views

No surprises here, folks...merely confirmation of observable data:

...nearly three-quarters of American Catholics say they are somewhat or very familiar with church teachings on marriage...

I have this bridge for sale...

Those were among the results of a nationwide survey commissioned in April 2007 by the U.S. bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family Life on U.S. Catholic attitudes and practices regarding marriage. The survey was carried out in June 2007 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University via the Internet polling firm Knowledge Networks and was made public Feb. 11.


The report said marriage patterns among U.S. Catholics were similar to those for all Americans...

Among those currently married, nearly a third (30 percent) had not been married in the church or had their marriage "convalidated," or formally blessed by the church...

In other words, living in a state of grevious sin.

Asked for their views on the general acceptability of divorce, more than three-quarters of U.S. Catholics (76 percent) said it was "acceptable in some cases" and another 17 percent said it was "acceptable in all cases." Only 7 percent said divorce was "not acceptable in any case."

The followup question that does not appear in this article should ask whether remarriage is acceptable after divorce...

The survey report divided respondents into four generational groups:

the pre-Second Vatican Council generation, ages 65 and over in 2007, who made up 19 percent of the respondents;

the Vatican II generation, ages 47-64, 31 percent;

the post-Vatican II generation, ages 26-46, 40 percent;

and the millennial generation, ages 18-25, 10 percent.
And we have this gem:

"Agreement with church teachings is ... often relatively high among the oldest Catholics. ... To a lesser extent this is also true of the millennial generation," the report said. "Agreement with church teaching is sometimes lowest among the generation of Catholics who came of age during the changes associated with Vatican II and among post-Vatican II-generation Catholics."

Really??? Some of us know of this firsthand - and we didn't need a "study" to tell us this...

For the rest of the story, click here.

Gospel for Feb 14, Memorial: St Cyril, monk and St Methodius, bishop

Gospel for Thursday. 1st Week of Lent
Old Calendar: St. Valentine, priest and martyr

From: Matthew 7:7-12

The Effectiveness of Prayer

(Jesus told His disciples,) [7] "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. [8] For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. [9] Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? [10] Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? [11] If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

The Golden Rule

[12] "So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets."


7-11. Here the Master teaches us in a number of ways about the effectiveness of prayer. Prayer is a raising of mind and heart to God to adore Him, to praise Him, to thank Him and to ask Him for what we need (cf. "St. Pius X Catechism", 255). Jesus emphasizes the need for petitionary prayer, which is the first spontaneous movement of a soul who recognizes God as his Creator and Father. As God's creature and child, each of us needs to ask Him humbly for everything.

In speaking of the effectiveness of prayer, Jesus does not put any restriction: "Every one who asks receives", because God is our Father. St. Jerome comments: "It is written, to everyone who asks it will be given; so, if it is not given to you, it is not given to you because you do not ask; so, ask and you will receive" ("Comm. in Matth.", 7). However, even though prayer in itself is infallible, sometimes we do not obtain what we ask for. St. Augustine says that our prayer is not heard because we ask "aut mali, aut male, aut mala." "Mali" (= evil people): because we are evil, because our personal dispositions are not good; "male" (= badly): because we pray badly, without faith, not persevering, not humbly; "mala" (= bad things): because we ask for bad things, that is, things which are not good for us, things which can harm us (cf. "De Civitate Dei, XX", 22 and 27; "De Serm. Dom. In Monte", II, 27, 73). In the last analysis, prayer is ineffective when it is not true prayer. Therefore, "Pray. In what human venture could you have greater guarantee of success?" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 96).

12. This "golden rule" gives us a guideline to realize our obligations towards and the love we should have for others. However, if we interpreted it superficially it would become a selfish rule; it obviously does not mean "do utdes" ("I give you something so that you will give me something") but that we should do good to others unconditionally: we are clever enough not to put limits on how much we love ourselves. This rule of conduct will be completed by Jesus' "new commandment" (John 13:34), where He teaches us to love others as He Himself has loved us.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lenten Reflection: Lust, the Third Capital Sin

"O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory: for the memory thereof is immortal: because it is known both with God and with men.

"When it is present, they imitate it: and they desire it when it hath with­ drawn itself, and it triumpheth crowned forever, winning the reward of undefiled conflicts."
Wisdom, 4:1-2.

Way back in the year 303 a mother and her daughter were kneeling at an Italian grotto near Catania in Sicily, the spot where the remains of the Virgin-Martyr St. Agatha were buried. The mother's name was Eutychia, a wealthy widow, who was suffering from a hemorrhage. The daughter's name was Lucy, who was beautiful beyond words, and who had vowed her virginity to God, despite the desire of her mother to marry her to a charm­ing and accomplished young man. Both were praying that the Lord would cure the elder woman's ailment. Secretly Lucy was asking light and wis­dom that her mother might see things her way. Long and fervently they had prayed when suddenly St. Agatha appeared to Lucy and told her:
"Your faith has come to your mother's aid. The Lord Jesus Christ will through you render Syracuse illustrious because by your virginity you have prepared for Him a pleasant dwelling in your heart."

Both prayers of Lucy were answered. Her mother was healed in body and also in heart, consenting to Lucy's desire to consecrate herself entirely to the Lord, and dispose of her wealth to the poor.

Meanwhile the young man to whom she had been betrothed, in his anger and disappointment, reported to the pagan governor that Lucy was a Chris­tian and an enemy of the gods of Rome. The Roman governor called our heroine before him, and was struck with her marvelous beauty.

"If you want to save your life, worship our gods," commanded the governor. "I do not worship devils," was Lucy's firm and calm reply.

Cleverly but vainly the governor tried to shake her constancy. When he asked her how she could answer him so clearly and fearlessly she told him that it was the "spirit of the Father" in her, explaining that they who lead a chaste and holy life are the temple of the Holy Spirit. A devilish and brutish plan leaped into the mind of the pagan governor. He would place this innocent girl in a house of impurity, where her innocence would be taken from her by force. Without flinching Lucy declared:
"If you order me to suffer violence against my will, I shall not only lose my chastity but will win a double crown."

"Take her away," cried the governor, "take her away."

But the rough soldiers could not move her from the spot. Fuming and furious, and blind to the miracle, the governor ordered a fire built about her, but the flames did not harm her. Then he ordered a soldier to draw his sword and stab her. The pure blood of the virgin-martyr St. Lucy spurted over the shining whiteness of the marble floor.

In this traditional story of the martyrdom of St. Lucy there is an even greater contrast than that between her red blood and the white floor. It was the striking contrast between her snow-white purity and the bloody lust of her persecutors.

1. Lust, the third of the capital sins, means an immoderate love of fleshly pleasure. It is an unregulated and uncontrolled desire for impure satis­factions. It is a vice that creeps into every walk of life. The fact that people are married does not free them from the fetters of lust, or at least from the danger of lustful desires.

2. This sin is directly opposed to the sanctity of God, who created the human body for a holy purpose, and who makes the body of a Christian His dwelling place, as St. Lucy so firmly and clearly explained to her pagan judge.

Through the Sixth and the Ninth Commandments God has forbidden all forms of lust. The Sixth Commandment forbids all sins of impurity with another's wife or husband, which is the strict meaning of adultery, and it also forbids all other external acts of impurity with ourselves or with others. The Ninth Commandment forbids all interior sins, whether of thought or desire, which are contrary to chastity.

We sin against this Ninth Commandment when we purposely and knowingly cause or keep impure thoughts or desires. This applies not only when we have an impure thought and desire to carry out some impurity, but also when we take pleasure in a thought and do not desire its accomplishment, and even when we are conscious of such thoughts or desires and wilfully neglect or refuse to put them away.

3. Every sin of lust is a mortal sin, when committed with sufficient knowledge and with full consent of the will. Some sins of lust are more grievous than others, because they are more unnatural, more hateful and more condemnable. Impurity is a capital sin:

A. Because God has forbidden impurity of all kinds by His Sixth and Ninth Commandments as well as by frequent, direct condemnation of lust through the pages of Sacred Scripture.

B. Because God has punished in terrible and dreadful ways the sin of impurity. Read the story of­
i. The deluge that covered the earth in Genesis, 7:11.

ii. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis, 19:24.

iii. And the death of 24,000 Israelites in Numbers, 25:9.

C. Because it reduces man to the level of a selfish, unthinking beast, putting the lower brute passions above the higher part of man.

D. Because it is considered by all men as a most shameful sin. The very fact that the lustful seek darkness and secrecy is a proof of the shame and disgrace that attaches to this vice.

4. Rightly can we call impurity a capital sin, when we consider its dread­ful and certain consequences:

A. Unlike almost all other sins, which affect only one or the other power, such as the mind, the will, or some of the senses, lust ruins man's entire being, body and soul, and becomes the one constant thought and brutish aim of his existence.

B. Lust drives a man to every other kind of sin in order to satisfy his immoderate craving for sexual pleasure. It causes lying, slanders, stealing, murder, marital unfaithfulness, and disregard for lawful authority. Every day the news brings you proof, glaring, positive proof that lust is the source of a host of other sins.

C. Impurity ruins the dignity of the human being. Whoever does not look at the sexual appetite through the eyes of God's law, sinks to the level of a brute. And whoever gives himself to the practice of unnatural impurities such as homozexuality, sinks lower than the brute. Lust makes man a slave. It weakens will power and destroys health.

D. Impurity undermines human society by poisoning the very source of life, namely, marriage and the family. These are built, as society is built, on moral purity and strength. When impurity becomes nationwide, it destroys, as it did so terribly and so decisively ancient Rome.

E. Impurity causes the loss of more souls than any other kind of sin.

i. It is the easiest to commit, especially in our age of unlimited freedom and license.

ii. It is the hardest to abandon, because it affects the entire crea­ture - his body and his soul.

iii. It blinds the intellect. The mind that is impure cannot concen­trate and cannot think clearly, because impurity is constantly present and over-powering.

iv. It hardens the heart. The urge to immoderate sexual satisfac­tion becomes so strong that the normal, healthy emotions of the heart are smothered.

v. It creates a distaste for religion, a disgust for prayer, a weak­ening and final loss of faith, and impenitence at the last. Just as lust causes many to leave the Church, so it causes many to stay out of the Church. We recall the incident of the last cen­tury that took place in the parlor of Chateaubriand, the famous French author. His guests for the most part were unbelieving scientists, authors and painters. They spoke of religion only to say that it was impossible for an educated man of modern times to be a believer. Chateaubriand stood up and spoke:

"Gentlemen, place your hands upon your hearts. Would you not become believers, if you could live pure lives?"

In our day many would have to answer "Yes" to that question. They would become believers, if they could lead pure lives; rather, if they wanted to lead pure lives. Ask those who leave the Church, and if they are honest, most will declare that at bottom their stumbling-block was impurity.

vi. Lust causes some of the most loathsome, painful diseases, and has caused more deaths than all the wars of history. Look at the social and sexual diseases so common in our country today, sapping the strength of our manhood, destroying the health of families, causing untold misery and expense. Unfortunately this disastrous result of impurity is the only one considered by some individuals. It is not a sufficient deterrent to lust. Speak­ing of the impure man Job declares:

"His bones shall be filled with the vices of his youth, and they shall sleep with him in the dust." Job, 20:11.

5. Lust shows itself in various ways:
A. It is lust purposely and knowingly to cause or to keep impure pictures in the mind.

B. It is lust to read impure, sexy books and magazines or to watch such shows on TV.

C. It is lust knowingly to attend movies that are morally objectionable.

D. It is lust to hear and repeat sexy stories, and talk of sexual things for the pleasure of it.

E. It is lust to touch oneself impurely, or to cause impure feelings in oneself by reading, or by looking at impure pictures.

F. It is lust to touch another sexually, or to arouse impure feelings in oneself or in another by prolonged, passionate kissing, by touching another's body in improper places, or by impure conversation, con­duct, or dress. Too many have the mistaken idea that the only serious sin of lust is going the limit.

G. It is lust to use any artificial and unnatural method of birth control.

6. There is only one way to overcome this capital sin of lust, and that is to develop the opposite virtue of chastity. Chastity is that virtue which keeps us pure in body and soul before God and man.

It is a virtue that makes men like to angels. It is even called "the angelic virtue." It gives a soul great power with God: it keeps the mind clear; it warms the heart; it strengthens the will; it provides a fertile field and nourishment for all the other virtues. It even works miracles, as we saw in the story of St. Lucy, whom the soldiers could not budge physically when they were commanded to take her to a place of sin. Purity has a positive influence over human beings, even drawing the admiration of the impure. It gives a deep and lasting interior peace, and fills the heart with true love for God and man.

7. Such a necessary, excellent, and beautiful virtue is certainly worth striving for. What are the means? You have heard them time and again from the Church, but perhaps in this serious time of Lent when we see our Lord suffering in body and soul for the impurities of the world, when we see Him stripped and beaten and bleeding, when we behold Him nailed to a tree for the lusts of men, perhaps at this time we will consider more seriously not only the wickedness of lust, but the wonderful beauty of purity.

A. The first step to purity is to really want to be pure. If we really want to be chaste over half the battle is won. The trouble is that many want to eat their cake and have it in this matter. They want to be pure and impure at the same time. Make your choice, a deter­mined choice.

B. Avoid the occasions. Avoid as you would a contagious disease those places, people, situations, which led you into sin in the past, or which tempted you severely, or which you have heard are usually the cause of sin.

They tell the story that Gene Tunney, the former heavyweight champion boxer of the world was being tendered a party by some New York admirers. The hall was filled. After the banquet they put on a floor show, a feature of which was a number of scantily dressed girls. At once Tunney, the champion, rose, reached for his hat, and declared for all to hear:

"Gentlemen, I did not come to be insulted. These things are against all decorum and decency, and I will not be a part of them. You will have to excuse me. Good-night."
He left the hall. Soon others followed and in a short time there was no one left to watch the shady show. Tunney never showed himself more of a champion than when he left this occasion of sin and delivered a telling blow for chastity.

C. Have a humble attitude in the matter, realizing that without God's grace you cannot be chaste. Realize and repeat the words of Wisdom:
"And as I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, except God gave it, and this also was a point of wisdom, to know whose gift it was." Wisdom, 8:21.

D. Along with this humble attitude, have confidence in God. With God's help you can count on victory. Never forget the words of St. Paul:
"God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength but with the temptation you may be able to bear it."1 Corinthians, 10:13.

E. The soul who wishes to be pure must pray. God will give His help to those who ask it. It would be revealing to know how little, if at all, impure people pray. Here's a suggestion: have some short prayer for purity which you will say frequently and regularly. For example:
"Immaculate Heart of Mary, make my body pure and my soul holy."

A prayer to the Infant Christ, to St. Anthony, or to your patron or favorite saint, should be ever in your heart and often on your lips. Say that prayer often in your untempted moments, so that when temptation comes, your favorite appeal to God will rise at once from your heart and you will get the help you need. All too often we
throwaway our best weapon, prayer, just when we need it the most, that is, when we are tempted. A crucifix, a holy picture, your Rosary will be priceless reminders and helps in this regard.

Regular habits of prayer are helpful and necessary. Morning and evening prayers need not be lengthy, but they do need to be regular and fervent. If the couple who practice birth control would kneel down and pray together each evening, they would soon abandon their lustful practice.

If those keeping company would say a prayer to­gether, they would not fall into sin so easily. If individuals would pray at those times and places when they know they often commit personal sins, solitary sins, they would soon overcome the habit. An excellent practice, used by thousands with effect, is that of saying three Hail Marys every day for the virtue of purity. Try it.

F. Another essential for purity is penance or self-denial. People who never deny themselves things which are lawful, can never develop the will power to say "No" to what is unlawful, especially when it is prompted by the powerful passion of lust. What penance are you doing during this Lent? If you are lax in penance, you are having trouble in being pure. Think of what the great saints did to remain pure. St. Paul did hard manual labor to overcome temptations to impurity; St. Jerome cut his breast with a stone and studied the difficult language of Hebrew; St. Anthony of the desert worked the soil and lived on bread and water; St. Benedict rolled himself naked in a thorny bush; St. Bernard jumped into an icy pond; St. Francis of Assisi toiled and prayed, and threw himself into a thorn bush. If saints went to such lengths to preserve holy purity, how can you expect to be pure unless you practice some penance?

G. Keep busy, first with the duties of your state in life, your job, your school work. Have something definite to do in your free time. On dates and in the company of others plan what you will do. It makes social life more interesting and more safe.

H. Receive the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion as fre­quently as possible. You cannot approach the table of the Lord fre­quently and remain impure. Either you will give up Communion or you will give up your sins of sex.

I. Choose the best, the healthful, the wholesome in the matter of read­ing, recreation, companions, sports and social activities. Drop the book and drop the companion who cause you impure temptations.

8. With the inspiring example of St. Lucy before you, an example that has been repeated throughout the centuries, an example which you will find all around you, if you look closely and wisely, with her example and the help and protection of God, you can make yourself worthy of the praise of the Book of Wisdom:
"O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory." Amen.

Adapted from Lent and the Capital Sins
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1952)

Just for Today, February 14

Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity, besides loving God and serving Him alone. This is the highest wisdom: by despising the world to tend to heavenly kingdoms.
-Bk. I, ch. i.

Many of the young and wealthy people I met at these house-parties are now dead. I sometimes remember their fine country houses and beautiful grounds, and think how useless all their possessions are to them now.

Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, besides loving God and serving Him alone. Perhaps Our Lord wished me to see the world before my First Communion, so that I might choose freely before I bound myself to Him.
-The Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une Âme)
For more information, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - February 14

God's way in dealing with those whom He in­tends to admit soonest after this life into the pos­session of His everlasting glory, is to purify them in this world by the greatest afflictions and trials.

-St. Ignatius
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for February 14, Love Inspires Knowledge

If I must have at least a slight knowledge of a person to love him, it is certain that the love this knowledge inspires will incite me with a desire to know him even better.

The more I love Our Lord the more I will desire to know all I can about Him; to know what He was thinking and doing at Beth­lehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Gethsemane and Calvary; why he performed this deed, spoke this word, worked this miracle. A bet­ter knowledge of each detail will incite my affection to greater ardor.

My increased love will stimulate a holy curiosity. From height to height I will go, and to what sublime knowledge may I not hope to attain? Knowledge increases love and love urges me on to even greater knowledge.

"O Lord, awaken in me the dynamic power of desire. Your servant St. Augustine said: 'My God, grant that I may know myself, that I may know Thee!' I say with him: 'May I know myself, that I may know You.' I long to love You. I love You already, but how very little! Intensify my love, and however weak it may be, reward it with an ever increasing desire to love You more."
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

Clinton Rally at Catholic University Sparks Controversy

Archbishop blasts 'unspeakable crime' of abortion

As Senator Hillary Clinton brings her struggling Presidential campaign to Texas, her visit is sparking controversy ahead of four rallies in the largely Hispanic southern portion of the state today, 1200 WOAI news reports.

Clinton is set to hold a campaign rally at Greehey Auditorium of St. Mary's University, a Catholic institution, prompting San Antonio Archbishop Jose H. Gomez to respond to Catholics who have expressed concerns about Clinton's pro choice political stance.

"Our Catholic institutions must promote the clear understanding of our deep moral convictions on an issue like abortion, an act that the Church calls 'an unspeakable crime' and a non negotiable issue." [said Archbishop Gomez].
Another in a long list of so-called Catholic colleges to avoid...

Must be part of her Faith and Family Values Tour...

Bishops Boycott Notre Dame over Play

Doctrine meeting moved due to Vagina Monologues

Lenten fast re-branded as 'Christian Ramadan'

Dutch attempt to appeal to youth knowledge of Islam

Local Opinions

From the editorial commentaries sections of the Post Pispatch, we read these recent letters under the title, Church and priest should be left in peace.

Spiritual link

Regarding "Lines drawn in meeting between Burke, priest" (Feb. 6): I find it laughable that Archbishop Raymond Burke claims his goal is to "safeguard the unity of the Catholic Church and protect the souls of the faithful." In fact, it is Archbishop Burke and the Catholic Church that should "seek reconciliation" with the "souls of the faithful."

If Archbishop Burke truly were concerned with the souls of the members of St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church, there would be no issue. The original issue was one of finances. The Archdiocese was not profiting from St. Stanislaus. This is typical of the Catholic Church's antiquated attitudes in the modern world.

It is telling that Archbishop Burke claims "responsibility to safeguard the unity of the Catholic Church." It apparently is not his responsibility to lead by the example of Christ. I guess Catholic operational policy now supersedes that of the message of its purported founder, which was about the spiritual inclusion of anyone who wanted to attain salvation. From my understanding, the members of St. Stanislaus simply wish to continue to worship according to the Catholic beliefs with which they've faithfully lived their lives.

Unfortunately, they are concerned about the validity of their worship under the guidance of the Rev. Marek Bozek, who has been most Christ-like in his willingness to stand against the hypocrisy of the institutional status quo.

My advice to the parishioners of St. Stanislaus is to continue practicing their faith with Rev. Bozek because "what God has enjoined ... let no man tear asunder."

Rev. Bozek, I imagine, is a priest because he felt God call him. No overblown bureaucrat can remove that spiritual link.

Dan McVey | Poplar Bluff, Mo.

After reading the first paragraph, it becomes painfully obvious that Mr McVey's understanding of the situation is terribly flawed for the facts of the case clearly show that the rebellion began, not with Archbishop Burke, but this responsibility rests solely with the Board of St Stanislaus and, more recently, with the hired, sans-faculties, priest, Marek Bozek.

Mr. McVey errs again by claiming that the "original issue was one of finances." The orginal issue stems from the fact that proper safeguards were not put in place at the time of the civil incorporation of the parish which would have prevented lay members of the Board from appropriating to themselves the final authority in financial matters, and relegating the Pastor to act only in an advisory capacity.

Nor were proper safeguards put in place which would prevent the revision of the bylaws so that they would in any way be in conflict with the norms of the Roman Catholic Church.

Steps had been attempted thoughout the years to bring the situation under control and bring the parish in conformity with the norms of the Church. Financial irregularities began to surface as early as 1943 when Cardinal John Glennon was Archbishop and he addressed the issue. Then again, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Cardinal Joseph Ritter addressed other aspects of the irregular situation at the parish. The attitude of the Board became oprogreessively more adversarial in subsequent years.

For Mr. McVey to claim otherwise is inaccurate, to say the least. He also attempts to "school" the Archbishop on how to follow the example of Christ while urging him to abdicate his responsibility to follow the mandates of Christ's Church. Apparently, McVey is claiming that ecclesiastical leaders should sanctify but not govern, and teach what's easy and while foregoing that which is difficult.

McVey also claims that "the members of St. Stanislaus simply wish to continue to worship according to the Catholic beliefs with which they've faithfully lived their lives." The use of the adjective "faithfully" comes across as sad and laughable, since the actions of rebellion and schism can hardly be considered as "faithful."

McVey also unwittingly, it appears, tenders another joke when he claims that Marek Bozek "has been most Christ-like in his willingness to stand against the hypocrisy of the institutional status quo." The example of Marek Bozek is far from that of Jesus Christ - Our Lord gave us an exemplary, indeed perfect, example of humility and obedience - virtues which escape Bozek. Christ never called a press conference to rally His supporters to rebel against lawful authority. He did, however, throw the money changers, et al, from the temple for debasing His Father's house - an example worthy of following, especially as it regards local heretics and schismatics.

McVey's advice to the parishioners of St Stanislaus is ill-suited for the good of their souls. Why would any professed Catholic choose to follow the lead of a media-hungry, disobedient, excommunicated priest whose sacraments are either invalid of gravely illicit? It's truly mind boggling.

Next comes two more letters, equally demonstrating similar confusion, ignorance or willful disinformation. One can't help but wonder if any of these first three letter writers is Catholic, and if any one of them is, why?

The last letter shows a Christian understanding of the matter and demonstrates the truly patient and charitable efforts Archbishop Burke has undertaken to encourage the lost sheep back into the fold of Christ's Church.

No authority
In 2005, Archbishop Raymond Burke excommunicated the Rev. Marek Bozek. That expelled Rev. Bozek from the Catholic Church. How does the archbishop presume to exact further punishment upon a priest who, according to Archbishop Burke, no longer is a member of the church, and therefore, no longer under the authority of the archbishop?

This effort at on-going punishment smacks of revenge. The archbishop said that Rev. Bozek "recognizes he needs to repent" because he has "offended God." Rev. Bozek's "offense" is to minister to devout Catholics who have been rejected by their archbishop for not surrendering their property to him. God is not offended by someone ministering to those in need. The only one offended by this act of compassion and justice is Archbishop Burke. By claiming that God is offended, it appears that Archbishop Burke, who is angry and offended, is confusing himself with God. Archbishop Burke has expended endless hours and energy to subjugate a small group of the faithful and their shepherd. Where is his outrage against the real evils of our world: war, poverty and the abuse of children by pedophile priests? God surely must be offended by his refusal to take action.

Connie Doty | Arnold

Fulfilling a purpose
Now Archbishop Raymond Burke presumes to know the mind of God? The Rev. Marek Bozek has not offended God; he has offended Archbishop Burke, and Archbishop Burke can't tolerate someone who does not recognize his power or submit to his control. Instead of worrying about who controls St. Stanislaus, why not recognize that the church is thriving and people are coming to know Christ? I thought that was the purpose of the church.

Jim Holstein | St. Peters
I suppose one of four (following) isn't bad for the times in which we live. I'm grateful that such a good letter actually made it into the Post.

Act of charity
Are people aware of the vow of obedience to the bishop that every priest makes at his ordination? Are people unaware that the Rev. Marek Bozek went absent without leave from his former parish? Are people unaware Rev. Bozek was appointed pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church by a board of directors, not by Archbishop Raymond Burke, as required by canon law?

These are clear-cut cases of disobedience. Why support a renagade instead of a bishop who is obeying canon law? Absolutely nothing can condone the mutinous behavior of the St. Stanislaus board of directors. If you use the analogy of this behavior to the military code of conduct, Rev. Bozek and this board of directors deserve to be court martialed for insubordination and mutiny. God bless Archbishop Burke for giving Rev. Bozek an opportunity to repent. It is an act of charity to discipline him for breaking his vow.

Betty Gravlin | Florissant
Letters here.

Gospel for Wednesday, 1st Week of Lent

From: Luke 11:29-32

The Sign of Jonah

[29] When the crowds were increasing, He (Jesus) began to say, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. [30] For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. [31] The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. [32] The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here."


29-32. Jonah was the prophet who led the Ninevites to do penance: his actions and preaching they saw as signifying that God had sent him (cf. note on Matthew 12:41-42).

[Note on Matthew 12:41-42 states:
41-42. Nineveh was a city in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) to which the prophet Jonah was sent. The Ninevites did penance (John 3:6-9) because they recognized the prophet and accepted his message; whereas Jerusalem does not wish to recognize Jesus, of whom Jonah was merely a figure. The queen of the South was the queen of Sheba in southwestern Arabia, who visited Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-10) and was in awe of the wisdom with which God had endowed the King of Israel. Jesus is also prefigured in Solomon, whom Jewish tradition saw as the epitome of the wise man. Jesus' reproach is accentuated by the example of pagan converts, and gives us a glimpse of the universal scope of Christianity, which will take root among the Gentiles.

There is a certain irony in what Jesus says about "something greater" than Jonah or Solomon having come: really, He is infinitely greater, but Jesus prefers to tone down the difference between Himself and any figure, no matter how important, in the Old Testament.]
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Just for Today, February 13

Woe to them that disdain to humble themselves willingly with the little children; for the low gate of the heavenly kingdom will not suffer them to enter therein.
-Bk. III, ch. lviii.

All my life I have remained a little child. My only occupation has been to please Our Lord by gathering flowers of love and self-sacrifice to give Him.
-Esprit de Sainte Therese
For more information, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - February 13

Should we fall a thousand times in a day, a thousand times we must rise again, always ani­mated with unbounded confidence in the infinite goodness of God.
-Ven. Louis of Granada
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for February 13, Knowledge Inspires Love

I cannot bestow my affections freely upon persons or things be­fore I have come to know them well. Love implies knowledge.

Love is inflamed in the heart and grows more profound in propor­tion as the endearing traits and noble characteristics of the beloved unfold themselves.

In his study of the states of prayer, Bossuet declares, "I propose as a foundation that the principle of real adoration is true knowl­edge. Prayer is an act of the reason." He does not mean that it is solely an act of reason, since, he says elsewhere, "Knowledge must turn to love"; to love is to desire the beloved. But it is a known fact that the heart is not inflamed and the will is not fixed until the reason has been enlightened.

I must be alert and make every effort to acquire a better under­standing of my faith. If my spiritual life is not based upon doc­trine, it is completely out of balance and lacks a firm foundation. It totters easily and when fervor cools, the whole spiritual edifice topples because the principles which should have served as its basis do not exist.

I thank God for the solidity of the religious training I have re­ceived and continue to receive through my participation in com­munity life. I will lovingly study my faith and seek to understand more thoroughly its important dogmas together with the moral and spiritual obligations which they impose.

I will try to know Our Lord better both in His human nature and His Mystical Body, that is as He was during His life in Palestine and as He now exists in the members of His Church. The great marvel of Catholicism is that it not only teaches doctrine but also requires the gift of oneself to a Person, the Person of the Savior. The more I know Jesus, the more I shall love Him. I will neglect nothing that would help me to know Him better.
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

A Challenging Truth: The Day the Birth Control Died (Part 2)

"Everyone does it, so what's the big deal?" Taking the pill, getting "fixed", getting a shot of Depo-Provera...there's a myriad of choices for contraception. The expectation in today's modern society is that everyone uses artificial birth control at some point in their lives, be they married or not. Right?

Many years ago, I would have agreed with all of the above. I was not a rebellious Catholic, just an ignorant one. But the guilt of my ignorance rests on more shoulders than just mine. I was surrounded by contraception Catholics who discussed their birth control as easily as they spoke of which brand of toothpaste they used. And then there was the Catholic clergy. There was nary a homily I heard that even hinted of the Catholic teaching on human sexuality....
More by Patti Maguire Armstrong at CatholicExchange here.

Gospel for Tuesday, 1st Week of Lent

Old Calendar: Seven Founders of the Servite Order, confessors

From: Matthew 6:7-15

An Upright Intention in Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting (Continuation)

(Jesus said to His disciples:) [7] "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. [9] Pray then like this: Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. [10] Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. [11] Give us this day our daily bread; [12] And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors; [13] And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [14] For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father also will forgive you; [15] but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."


7-8. Jesus condemns the superstitious notion that long prayers are needed to attract God's attention. True piety is not so much a matter of the amount of words as of the frequency and the love with which the Christian turns towards God in all the events, great or small, of his day. Vocal prayer is good, and necessary; but the words count only if they express our inner feelings.

9-13. The "Our Father" is, without any doubt, the most commented-on passage in all Sacred Scripture. Numerous great Church writers have left us commentaries full of poetry and wisdom. The early Christians, taught by the precepts of salvation, and following the divine commandment, centered their prayer on this sublime and simple form of words given them by Jesus. And the last Christians, too, will raise their hearts to say the "Our Father" for the last time when they are on the point of being taken to Heaven. In the meantime, from childhood to death, the "Our Father" is a prayer which fills us with hope and consolation. Jesus fully realized how helpful this prayer would be to us. We are grateful to Him for giving it to us, to the Apostles for passing it on to us and, in the case of most Christians, to our mothers for teaching it to us in our infancy. So important is the Lord's Prayer that from apostolic times it has been used, along with the Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Sacraments, as the basis of Christian catechesis. Catechumens were introduced to the life of prayer by the "Our Father", and our catechisms today use it for that

St. Augustine says that the Lord's Prayer is so perfect that it sums up in a few words everything man needs to ask God for (cf. "Sermon", 56). It is usually seen as being made up of an invocation and seven petitions--three to do with praise of God and four with the needs of men.

9. It is a source of great consolation to be able to call God "our Father"; Jesus, the Son of God, teaches men to invoke God as Father because we are indeed His children, and should feel towards Him in that way.

"The Lord [...] is not a tyrannical master or a rigid and implacable judge; He is our Father. He speaks to us about our lack of generosity, our sins, our mistakes; but He also does so in order to free us from them, to promise us His friendship and His love [...]. A child of God treats the Lord as his Father. He is not obsequious and servile, he is not merely formal and well-mannered; he is completely sincere and trusting" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 64).

"Hallowed by Thy name": in the Bible a person's "name" means the same as the person himself. Here the name of God means God Himself. Why pray that His name be hallowed, sanctified? We do not mean sanctification in the human sense--leaving evil behind and drawing closer to God--for God is Holiness Itself. God, rather, is sanctified when His holiness is acknowledged and honored by His creatures--which is what this first petition of the "Our Father" means (cf. "St. Pius Catechism", IV, 10).

10. "Thy Kingdom come": this brings up again the central idea of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--the coming of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is so identical with the life and work of Jesus Christ that the Gospel is referred to now as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, now as the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 9:35). On the notion of the Kingdom of God see the commentary on Matthew 3:2 and 4:17. The coming of the Kingdom of God is the realization of God's plan of salvation in the world. The Kingdom establishes itself in the first place in the core of man's being, raising him up to share in God's own inner life. This elevation has, as it were, two stages--the first, in this life, where it is brought about by grace; the second, definitive stage in eternal life, where man's elevation to the supernatural level is fully completed. We for our part need to respond to God spontaneously, lovingly and trustingly.

"Thy will be done": this third petition expresses two desires. The first is that man identify humbly and unconditionally with God's will--abandonment in the arms of his Father God. The second that the will of God be fulfilled, that man cooperate with it in full freedom. For example, God's will is to be found in the moral aspect of the divine law--but this law is not forced on man. One of the signs of the coming of the Kingdom is man's loving fulfillment of God's will. The second part of the petition, "on earth as it is in Heaven", means that, just as the angels and saints in Heaven are fully at one with God's will, so--we desire--should the same thing obtain on earth.

Our effort to do God's will proves that we are sincere when we say the words, "Thy will be done." For our Lord says, "Not every one who says to Me, `Lord, Lord' shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven." (Matthew 7:21). "Anyone, then, who sincerely repeats this petition, `Fiat voluntas tua', must, at least in intention, have done this already" (St. Teresa of Avila, "Way of Perfection", chapter 36).

11. In making this fourth petition, we are thinking primarily of our needs in this present life. The importance of this petition is that it declares that the material things we need in our lives are good and lawful. It gives a deep religious dimension to the support of life: what Christ's disciple obtains through his own work is also something for which he should implore God--and he should receive it gratefully as a gift from God. God is our support in life: by asking God to support him and by realizing that it is God who is providing this support, the Christian avoids being worried about material needs. Jesus does not want us to pray for wealth or to be attached to material things, but to seek and make sober use of what meets our needs. Hence, in Matthew as well as in Luke (Luke 11:2), there is reference to having enough food for every day. This fourth petition, then, has to do with moderate use of food and material things--far from the extremes of opulence and misery, as God already taught in the Old Testament "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food which is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, `Who is the Lord?' or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God" (Proverbs 30:8).

The Fathers of the Church interpreted the bread asked for here not only as material food but also as referring to the Blessed Eucharist, without which our spirit cannot stay alive.

According to the "St. Pius V Catechism" (cf. IV, 13, 21) the Eucharist is called our daily bread because it is offered daily to God in the Holy Mass and because we should worthily receive it, every day if possible, as St. Ambrose advises: "If the bread is daily, why do you take it only once a year [...]? Receive daily what is of benefit to you daily! So live that you may deserve to receive it daily!" ("De Sacramentis", V, 4).

12. "Debts": clearly, here, in the sense of sin. In the Aramaic of Jesus' time the same word was used for offense and debt. In this fifth petition, then, we admit that we are debtors because we have offended God. The Old Testament is full of references to man's sinful condition. Even the "righteous" are sinners. Recognizing our sins is the first step in every conversion to God. It is not a question of recognizing that we have sinned in the past but of confessing our
present sinful condition. Awareness of our sinfulness makes us realize our religious need to have recourse to the only One who can cure it. Hence the advantage of praying insistently, using the Lord's Prayer to obtain God's forgiveness time and again.

The second part of this petition is a serious call to forgive our fellow-men, for we cannot dare to ask God to forgive us if we are not ready to forgive others. The Christian needs to realize what this prayer implies: unwillingness to forgive others means that one is condemning oneself (see the notes on Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:21:21-35).

13. "And lead us not into temptation": "We do not ask to be totally exempt from temptation, for human life is one continuous temptation (cf. Job 7:1). What, then, do we pray for in this petition? We pray that the divine assistance may not forsake us, lest having been deceived, or worsted, we should yield to temptation; and that the grace of God may be at hand to succor us when our strength fails, to refresh and invigorate us in our trials" ("St. Pius V Catechism", IV, 15, 14).

In this petition of the "Our Father" we recognize that our human efforts alone do not take us very far in trying to cope with temptation, and that we need to have humble recourse to God, to get the strength we need. For, "God is strong enough to free you from everything and can do you more good than all the devils can do you harm. All that God decrees is that you confide in Him, that you draw near Him, that you trust Him and distrust yourself, and so be helped; and with this help you will defeat whatever hell brings against you. Never lose hold of this firm hope [...] even if the demons are legion and all kinds of severe temptations harass you. Lean upon Him, because if the Lord is not your support and your strength, then you will fall and you will be afraid of everything" (St. John of Avila, "Sermons, 9, First Sunday of Lent").

"But deliver us from evil": in this petition, which, in a way, sums up the previous petitions, we ask the Lord to free us from everything our enemy does to bring us down; we cannot be free of him unless God Himself free us, in response to our prayers.

This sentence can also be translated as "Deliver us from the Evil One", that is to say, the devil, who is in the last analysis the author of all evils to which we are prone.

In making this request we can be sure that our prayer will be heard because Jesus Christ, when He was on the point of leaving this world, prayed to the Father for the salvation of all men: "I do not pray that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil one" (John 17:15).

14-15. In verses 14 and 15 St. Matthew gives us a sort of commentary of our Lord on the fifth petition of the "Our Father".

A God who forgives is a wonderful God. But if God, who is thrice-holy, has mercy on the sinner, how much more ought we to forgive others--we sinners, who know from our own experience the wretchedness of sin. No one on earth is perfect. Just as God loves us, even though we have defects, and forgives us, we should love others, even though they have defects, and forgive them. If we wait to love people who have no defects, we shall never love anyone. If we wait until others mend their ways or apologize, we will scarcely ever forgive them. But then we ourselves will never be forgiven. "All right: that person has behaved badly towards you. But, haven't you behaved worse towards God?" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 686).

Thus, forgiving those who have offended us makes us like our Father, God: "In loving our enemies there shines forth in us some likeness to God our Father, who, by the death of His Son, ransomed from everlasting perdition and reconciled to Himself the human race, which before was most unfriendly and hostile to Him" ("St. Pius V Catechism", IV, 14, 19).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.