Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reflections for the 2nd Week of Lent

The Transfiguration
Adapted from Plain Sermons by Practical Preachers, Vol. II(©1916)
Homily by Rev J. J. Hurst
Nihil Obstat: Remegius Lafort, S.T.D
Imprimatur: John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

The Little Flower and the Linnet
Adapted from Talks for Children
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (© 1948)

Temporal Duties to Parents
"This is My Son, My Chosen; listen to Him!" St. Luke, 9:35.
Adapted from Talks on the Commandments
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (© 1948)

Trials before Pilate and Herod
"Master, it is good that we are here..." St. Luke, 9:33
Adapted from Talks on the Creed
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (© 1946)

2nd Sunday of Lent - Evil
"...a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened..." St. Luke 9:34.
Adapted from Prayers, Precepts and Virtues
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1949)

Alter Christus-Devotion to the Passion of Our Lord
Adapted from Alter Christus, Meditations for Priests
by F.X. L'Hoir, S.J. (1958)
Meditation 27.

Gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Lent

From: Luke 9:28b-36

The Transfiguration

[28b] [Jesus] took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. [29] And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. [30] And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, [31] who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. [32] Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. [33] And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah" -- not knowing what he said. [34] As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. [35] And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" [36] And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

28-36. By His transfiguration Jesus strengthens His disciples' faith, revealing a trace of the glory His body will have after the Resurrection. He wants them to realize that His passion will not be the end but rather the route He will take to reach His glorification. "For a person to go straight along the road, he must have some knowledge of the end--just as an archer will not shoot an arrow straight unless he first sees the target [...]. This is particularly necessary if the road is hard and rough, the going heavy, and the end delightful" (St. Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologiae", III, q. 45, a. 1).

Through the miracle of the Transfiguration Jesus shows one of the qualities of glorified bodies--brightness, "by which the bodies of the saints shall shine like the sun, according to the words of our Lord recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew: 'The righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father' (Matthew 13: 43). To remove the possibility of doubt on the subject, He exemplifies this in His transfiguration. This quality the Apostle (St. Paul) sometimes calls glory, sometimes brightness: 'He will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body' (Philippians 3:21); and again, 'It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory' (1 Corinthians 15:43). Of this glory the Israelites beheld some image in the desert, when the face of Moses, after he had enjoyed the presence and conversation of God, shone with such luster that they could not look on it (Exodus 34:29; 2 Corinthians 3:7). This brightness is a sort of radiance reflected by the body from the supreme happiness of the soul. It is a participation in that bliss which the soul enjoys [...].

This quality is not common to all in the same degree. All the bodies of the saints will be equally impassible; but the brightness of all will not be the same, for, according to the Apostle, 'There is one glory of the sun, and another of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead' (1 Corinthians 15:4f)" ("St. Pius V Catechism", I, 12, 13).

See also the notes on Matthew 17:1-13; 17:5; 17:10-13; and Mark 9:2-10; 9:7.

31. "And spoke of His departure": that is, His departure from this world, in other words, His death. It can also be understood as meaning our Lord's Ascension.

35. "Listen to Him!": everything God wishes to say to mankind He has said through Christ, now that the fullness of time has come (cf. Hebrews 1:1). "Therefore," St. John of the Cross explains, "if any now should question God or desire a vision or revelation, not only would he be acting foolishly but he would be committing an offense against God, by not fixing his gaze on Christ with no desire for any new thing. For God could reply to him in this way: 'If I have spoken all things to you in My Word, which is My Son, and I have no greater word, what answer can I give you now, or what can I reveal to you that is greater than this? Fix your eyes on Him alone, for in Him I have spoken and revealed to you all things, and in Him you will find even more than what you ask for and desire [...]. Hear Him, for I have no more faith to reveal, nor have I any more things to declare'" ("Ascent of Mount Carmel", Book 2, Chapter 22, 5).
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.

Principles and Practices - February 28

A Soul In Grace

St. Catherine of Siena was often favoured by God with holy visions. One day He showed her the beauty of a soul in the state of grace. It was so beautiful that she could not look on it; the brightness of that soul dazzled her.

The Blessed Raymond, her confessor, asked ­her to describe to him, as far as she was able the beauty of the soul she had seen. 'My father,' she answered, 'I cannot find anything in this world that can give you the smallest idea of what I have seen. Oh! if you could but see the beauty of a soul in the state of grace you would sacrifice your life a hundred times for its salvation! No, nothing in this world can bear any resemblance to it.

'I asked the angel who was with me,' she continued, 'what had made that soul so beautiful, and he answered me: 'It is the image and likeness of God in that soul and the Divine Grace which made it so beautiful.'

-From her Life.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, February 27


[continued from yesterday]

...To such one can only suggest a kind of prayer, a model upon which the soul may work for itself, climbing to God by means of a ladder of its own making.

The method is to hold its thoughts steady, taking one at a time without confusion, letting one lead to another naturally, and as slowly as the soul will go, that it may draw from each step all the fruit that it may be able.

As an example, let us take a prayer of appeal to Our Lady. The soul comes into her pres­ence. It is conscious of her, conscious of itself, conscious also of the hunger that is gnawing at its heart.

Then spontaneously the expres­sions come, one succeeding the other, very slowly but very easily, crystallising each new feeling as it takes form, and holding it till the soul is satisfied.

In this way the prayer may take some such shape as the following:
Mary, full of grace,
Mary, Mother of God:
Mary, my Mother,
You are God's perfect creature,
You know me well,
And love me very fondly,
As a mother her most sickly child,
As a mother her most wayward child,
I am weak and sickly,
I am self-willed and wayward,
I want to do better,
I want to be true,
Of myself I am unable,
My wilfulness is too much for me,
My circumstances beat me,
You want to help me, I know,
And you are able,
What, then, prevents you?
Is it anything in myself?
It can be nothing in you.
But what can I do?
I cannot mend myself,
Do it for me,
Take away what hinders you.
I am sincere,
If I am not I want to be,
Take me at my word,
Be a mother to me,
Firmly but gently,
Let me see truly,
Make me be true,
Make me act truly,
Make me worthy of you;
and the prayer will then conclude with a Hail Mary, a Salve Regina, or any other form of prayer according to the choice of the soul....

[continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Friday, February 26, 2010

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.

Principles and Practices - February 27

The Finest Contribution

Good example is the finest contribution any father can make to the 'boy problem.'

-A. F. K.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, February 26

[continued from yesterday]

...This method is usually better than the last, chiefly because there is less danger of wander­ing, one act naturally leading to another.

But that this form of prayer may be made most fruitfully, it is always well that some plan be made beforehand of the road we pro­pose to follow.

Thus, before Communion, one may say to oneself:
"To-day I will exer­cise myself in Faith, Hope and Charity;"
in a visit to the Blessed Sacrament one may pro­pose:
"I will make Acts of Humility, Con­trition, and Love in His Presence;"
on a jour­ney, in a tram-car, during an empty ten minutes, one may begin:
"I will make an act of the presence of God to me, and of my pres­ence to Him, and let my heart speak to Him as my companion."
We need not always keep to the arrangement; but such preparation as this is splendid training, not only for prayer, but also in the an important matter of self control in all things.

Still there are some with whom even this form of prayer will not always be satisfying. There come times when no outward words will sufficiently express the depth of feeling in the soul; it must speak for itself or not at all. Especially is this the case when one is im­pressed with the sense of one's own nothing­ness, or when the misery of sin, especially of one's own sins, is deeply realised, or again, as a reaction to, or consequence of this, when one yearns towards a better way of living, greater truth and greater self-surrender....

[continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gospel for Friday,1st Week of Lent

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.

Principles and Practices - February 26

Little by Little

It should be encouragement and consolation to know that we may get merit and please God very much by going forward little by little. He considers not the gift of the lover but the love of the giver.

It is the intention, the inward devotion with which we perform our actions that pleases our Father's heart.

If He wished to have us leap up the height He could give us the strength to do so; if He wished us to fly He could provide us with wings.

-E. Garesche, S.J.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, February 25


IN our last essay on this subject we made an attempt to let souls understand that often enough the chief hindrance to progress in prayer is just our own way of praying; we cling sometimes too much to our adopted forms of prayer, good as they are in them­selves, and so chain down the mind and heart, preventing them from raising themselves spontaneously to God.

Let it never be for­gotten that spontaneous prayer, straight from the heart, however feebly it be worded, is always better than prayer of form, and is always likely to lead to higher things.

Fixed forms are good, and are even necessary, because often enough the soul is unable to express itself; but when it can express itself, then let it do so, speaking to God face to face so far as it is permitted.

We come now to a second consideration which naturally follows from the first, and it is this: If our own expression of our hearts in prayer is better than any other, and if our own expression of ourselves never wears out or becomes a mere form whereas other kinds, however good, are liable to be outgrown, it becomes important that the soul should train itself in self-expression in prayer, so that suffi­cient words may come spontaneously to it.

This is one of the great values of ejaculatory prayers, and of short phrases from the Scrip­ture, such as
"My Lord and my God,"
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,"
"For thou, O Lord, art sweet and gentle, and of much mercy to all who hope in thee,"
"Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee;"
phrases such as these crystallise our thoughts, and the heart when it endeavours to leap up to God finds in them an easy and spontaneous form of speech.

These, then, should be collected and often used; and there is no man or woman in the world, however "unspiritual," however preoccupied with busi­ness, but can practise this method, anywhere, everywhere, and realise its benefit.

For some, indeed, this form of prayer, once adopted, abundantly suffices; it leads of itself to almost everything else. For others it is easier to train the soul in self-expression by means of definite acts of faith:
"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief;"
of hope:
"In thee, O Lord, I have hoped, let me not be con­founded for ever;"
of humility:
"Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof;"
of contrition:
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee;"
and so on....

[Continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gospel for Thursday, 1st Week of Lent

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.

Principles and Practices - February 25

Guard Against the Danger

Our faith is the basis of the whole fabric of religion, and a Christian is bound to take every precaution for keeping his faith pure and unalloyed. We must not let errors against the faith sink into our minds even materially - a thing which may happen without actual malice by merely reading a contaminated book. I hope I am not scrupulous, but in matters of faith laxity is fatal.

The day may come when what you read now might cause you a great disquietude. We all have need of peace of mind.

-Antonio Rosmini.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, February 24


[continued from yesterday]

...Not always time! And yet the old woman was lying there all day long and every day, often with no one to visit her for hours together!

"Why, what do you do with your time?" the lady naturally asked.

" Well, Madame," said the poor victim; "when I first broke my thigh and was told I should never rise from my bed again, I just thought I would give myself to my prayers. So I arranged some prayers that I would say every day, and some I would say at intervals; and to make them go better I would say them very slowly. But soon the 'Our Father' began to grow and grow, until now it some­times takes me the whole week to get through it. Oh, Madame, if people only knew what was in the 'Our Father'!"

And here the poor, uneducated old woman broke into an exposition of the prayer, the nature of the Fatherhood of God and His attitude to us His children, such, as the lady herself told me, as might have come from the lips of the most highly trained saint and theologian.

And perhaps they did; but from a saint and theologian trained in God's own school, the school of prayer combined with welcome suffering. Which, incidentally, reminds us of two other truths: first, that suffering is not wholly evil, however much we may fear it; and second, that prayer and suffering are seldom far removed, but that both give strength, and depth, and fruitfulness to one another.

[Tomorrow begins "Some Hints on Prayer, Part II]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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.

Principles and Practices - February 24


Let us set our thoughts on things above, and in His own time God will set our affections there also.

From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, February 23

[continued from yesterday]

...and I think He would hear them more tenderly.

Hence the first practical hint to be given to one who sincerely wishes to learn how to pray is that we should be faithful to our time of prayer rather than to our words.

Prayer can­not easily be measured by words; it is measured best by earnestness of purpose, depth of meaning, and intensity of feeling; and by feeling is not meant our sentiment, but the reality behind it that abides in the heart. This is the method by which, on his own con­fession, St. Aloysius Gonzaga grew to be so great a man of prayer; he began with the form, like the rest of us, gradually the form was made to yield to the feelings of his heart which it evoked, in the end we find him writ­ing and developing forms of his own.

And the same may be said of many others, conspicuous saints of prayer on the one hand, and on the other hidden souls of prayer who know God and His Christ by an intimate experience all their own. Let us take an example. Not so long ago a certain lady, who gave much of her time and her wealth to the poor, chanced in her rounds to come across an old woman in a humble cottage, who had been bed-ridden for years.

She sat by the sufferer's side, gave her what comfort she could, and then asked her about her prayers.

"Do you say your rosary every day?" she asked.

"Every day? Bless you no, not every day, Madame; I haven't always time," was the answer.

Not always time! And yet the old woman was lying there all day long and every day, often with no one to visit her for hours together!...

[continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gospel for Tuesday, 1st Week of Lent

Optional Memorial: St Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr
(Preference Given to Liturgical Season)

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 purpose.

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 nodefects, 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.

Principles and Practices - February 23

Generosity Always Repays

The more you do for God, the more He will do for you, and every step you advance n the right road will fill your heart with fresh peace and consolation. That very perfection of which people are so much afraid, for fear it should be an irksome restraint, is only perfection in so far as it increases the will to do right.

And in proportion as our work increases, weari­ness and tedium disappear; for one is never wearied of doing that which one likes to do. When one does an irksome thing out of strong love, that love softens the hardship and makes one willing to suffer.

From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, February 22

[continued from yesterday]

...The answer should be clear; keep the time, not the form of words; if I speak heart to heart with God even for two minutes my prayer is deeper, and will tell more deeply on me, than the words of another; and I shall learn soon how from that small beginning God will draw me forward and teach me more. If I am true to the appointed time I need not fear the danger that the objection suggests; and when I find that my mind wanders, or my heart is cold and unmoved, then I can always fall back upon my set prayers to fill up the time that remains.

Only let us be simple and genuine in our prayer, and we shaIl soon discover the value of this "liberty of the children of God"; for forms of prayer, excellent and constantly use­ful as they are, are best when they suggest this deeper praying of our own, not when they chain us down to their repetition.

Even the best prayers, if merely repeated and not delayed upon, will in time become a weary formula; and which of us has not gone through the experience of out-growing some form of prayer, and yet sometimes we are afraid to set it aside?

But such prayerfulness 'as is here suggested is always alive; and if the form is in consequence less often said, it has given way to something far more fruitful. I would rather say, "Jesus, I love you," for an hour, if I could mean it all the time, than repeat or read the most perfect act of love composed by the greatest saint or the most consummate poet.

My words would be fewer, and weaker, and more stammering; but Jesus would know that at least they are mine and no other's, the words of
An infant crying in the night,
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry;
and I think He would hear them more tenderly....
[continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gospel for Feb 22, Feast: The Chair of St. Peter, Apostle

From: Matthew 16:13-19

Peter's Profession of Faith and His Primacy
[13] Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of Man is?" [14] And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." [15] He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" [16] Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." [17] And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven. [18] And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. [19] I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven."

13-20. In this passage St. Peter is promised primacy over the whole Church, a primacy which Jesus will confer on him after His Resurrection, as we learn in the Gospel of St. John (cf. John 21:15-18). This supreme authority is given to Peter for the benefit of the Church. Because the Church has to last until the end of time, this authority will be passed on to Peter's successors down through history. The Bishop of Rome, the Pope, is the successor of Peter.

The solemn Magisterium of the Church, in the First Vatican Council, defined the doctrine of the primacy of Peter and his successors in these terms:
"We teach and declare, therefore, according to the testimony of the Gospel that the primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church was immediately and directly promised to and conferred upon the blessed Apostle Peter by Christ the Lord. For to Simon, Christ had said, `You shall be called Cephas' (John 1:42). Then, after Simon had acknowledged Christ with the confession, `You are the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Matthew 16:16), it was to Simon alone that the solemn words were spoken by the Lord: `Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the powers of Hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven' (Matthew 16:17-19). And after His Resurrection, Jesus conferred upon Simon Peter alone the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over His whole fold with the words, `Feed My lambs....Feed My sheep' (John 21:15-17) [...]

"(Canon) Therefore, if anyone says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not constituted by Christ the Lord as the Prince of all the Apostles and the visible head of the whole Church militant, or that he received immediately and directly from Jesus Christ our Lord only a primacy of honor and not a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction: let him be condemned.

"Now, what Christ the Lord, Supreme Shepherd and watchful guardian of the flock, established in the person of the blessed Apostle Peter for the perpetual safety and everlasting good of the Church must, by the will of the same, endure without interruption in the Church which was founded on the rock and which will remain firm until the end of the world. Indeed, `no one doubts, in fact it is obvious to all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, Prince and head of the Apostles, the pillar of faith, and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Redeemer of the human race; and even to this time and forever he lives,' and governs, `and exercises judgment in his successors' (cf. Council of Ephesus), the bishops of the holy Roman See, which he established and consecrated with his blood. Therefore, whoever succeeds Peter in this Chair holds Peter's primacy over the whole Church according to the plan of Christ Himself [...]. For this reason, `because of its greater sovereignty,' it was always `necessary for every church, that is, the faithful who are everywhere, to be in agreement' with the same Roman Church [...]

"(Canon) Therefore, if anyone says that it is not according to the institution of Christ our Lord himself, that is, by divine law, that St Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of St Peter in the same primacy: let him be condemned.

"We think it extremely necessary to assert solemnly the prerogative which the only-begotten Son of God deigned to join to the highest pastoral office. "And so, faithfully keeping to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, for the glory of God our Savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion, and for the salvation of Christian peoples, We, with the approval of the sacred council, teach and define that it is a divinely revealed dogma: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks "ex cathedra", that is, when, acting in the office of shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he defines, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, possesses through the divine assistance promised to him in the person of St. Peter, the infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals; and that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are therefore irreformable because of their nature, but not because of the agreement of the Church.

"(Canon) But if anyone presumes to contradict this our definition (God forbid him to do so): let him be condemned" (Vatican I, "Pastor Aeternus", Chaps. 1, 2 and 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.

Preparing for Lent, The Example of Christ

"Unto this, indeed, you have been called, because Christ also has suffered for you, leaving you an example that you may follow in his steps." 1 Peter, 2:21.

Some years ago a clergyman in Topeka, Kansas, wrote a book called "In His Steps." It attempted to show how people living today can and must walk in the way that Christ has trod. It brought the example of our Lord right down to the lives of modern business men, the modern laborer, the modern mother, the modern journalist. The book was a best seller. People liked the idea of putting the life of Christ into present-day language and modern application.

Although the book gave us nothing new, it did make very up to date one of the all-time classics, "The Following of Christ." And it did pose an all-important question:
"What would Jesus Christ do under each condition which confronts the man of today?"
Prior to this a British author had come out with a work entitled, "If Christ Came to Chicago?" Both authors were accused of a lack of reverence. Yet, there is no irreverence in trying to find the steps of Christ in twentieth century life. There is no disrespect in asking ourselves:
"What would Christ do in my position? How would Jesus act in this situa­tion? What would Jesus do today and now?"
That is one reason the Son of God came to this earth - to give us an ex­ample which we might follow. One of the principal reasons for Lent is the chance to do just that in a special way at a special time.

Why Lent? Why do we fast and deny ourselves, why do we attend spe­cial services, say more prayers and better prayers for forty long days? We do it because Christ did it.

"Unto this, indeed, you have been called, because Christ also has suf­fered for you, leaving you an example that you follow in his steps."

The same Spirit that led Christ into the desert, leads us into the land of self-denial. The same Spirit that called Christ, is calling you, for we read:
"Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led about the desert by the Spirit for forty days, being tempted all the while by the devil." St. Luke, 4:1.
Listen to that same call. Answer that call. Follow His example, for -
"Yet on the plains of common life
"Through all the world of men,
"The voice that once said, 'Follow Me,'
"Speaks to our hearts again."
Picture Christ in the full bloom of His manhood, starting out into that barren, desolate desert. No tree to cast a shade; no spring to quench the thirst; no couch on which to lie; nothing of what the body craves - nothing but burning sand, jagged rocks and thorny bushes. No sign of life but the howling of wild beasts.

Into this wilderness went our Master. There, away from the maddening crowd, away from all that would turn His mind to things of sense, in sol­emn stillness Jesus speaks to His heavenly Father. There He remains for forty days, forty days of the most rigorous fasting, forty days of conversa­tion with His Father, forty days without the simplest comforts of the body.

Because our Savior spent those forty days in penance, we try to do the same. For us, for you and for me, He fasted and prayed and suffered. But He wants us to do our share. He wants us to follow Him. He wants us to follow the call of the Spirit. He tells us:
"If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." St. Matthew, 16:24.
Oh, yes, gladly we sit with Jesus at the marriage feast of Cana, gladly we stand with Him at the seaside, eagerly we crowd about Him as He multi­plies the loaves and fishes, as He heals our ills and forgives our sins. Why is it we can be brave and friendly with Him as He teaches and heals and blesses, and then - then desert Him when He starts out for the wilderness?

No such fair-weather friends will we be! Rather, we will enter on these desert days, these days of Lent, walking in the footsteps of our Lord, shar­ing His great pains in a little way, imitating His strict fast according to our ability, praying and speaking to God from our narrow hearts.

For forty days our Lord fasted. He ate nothing. For this reason Mother Church asks those who can to fast also, to cut down on food and drink, in imitation of Jesus.

But, kind Mother that she is, the Church realizes that many of us, weak children of Adam, working for our bread in the sweat of our brow, or even worse, not being able to work when we want to, cannot keep the strict fast from food.

Accordingly she dispenses those who work hard, the sick and convalescent, and others who have some valid excuse. However, do not take it upon yourself to dispense yourself. Ask your priest either in or out of the confessional to dispense you and to give you some other penance as a substitute. Too often lukewarm Catholics excuse themselves from fasting and then do no penance at all. Everybody must do some penance.

There is another form of fasting, spiritual fasting. What a lovely way to fast, you may say. Lovely, but not so easy. By spiritual fasting I mean fasting from sin. This fast we must keep all year, and all our lives, but par­ticularly during this season of penance. Fast from sin, cries the Church, fast from sin.

We can fast with our eyes. Do sexy and suggestive scenes find their way through your eyes into your soul? Are your glances at the opposite sex occasions, serious occasions, of sin to you? An impure picture, be it in newspaper, magazine or book, be it in photograph or print or TV, that you take into your heart through your eyes is a breaking of this spiritual fast.

Here is a test: Would I read this passage or dwell on this picture if my mother or father, or my one and only were at my side? If you would not read it then, do not look at it now - or later. Even if no human being sees you, God does see you. Think of Christ in the desert giving up the sight of every­thing pleasant and lawful for you. For His sake give up the sight of what is unlawful.

It is in this spirit that many followers of Christ give up movies during Lent, even good movies. They do penance with their eyes.

There is also a fasting with the tongue. Not merely abstaining from food and drink or certain tasty things like candy, but abstaining from filthy lan­guage, from suggestive stories and speech, from cursing and swearing, and from uncharitable talk. When such words come to your tongue, swallow them. Tell our Lord, who was silent in the bitter silence of the desert forty days - tell Him that you will choke back the wrong word for His sake. Fast with your tongue.

Let your ears join in this fast. Close them to the kind of talk I just men­tioned. Open them to the word of God. Open them to the commands of your parents or superiors, the advice and instruction of your teachers, the corrections of your true friends and of your spiritual leaders, your priests and your bishop. Make your ears do penance by listening to Lenten sermons. The value of doing penance with your eyes and ears and tongue is pointed out by St. Francis de Sales:
"Believe me, the mortification of the senses - of the sight, the hearing, the tongue - is more beneficial than to wear a chain of iron and a hair-shirt."
Before you leave the presence of God tonight, tell Him just how you are going to fast this Lent. Don't simply say: "O God, I'm sorry for my sins. I will do something to make up. I will do something to share in the suffer­ings of Christ."

No, be definite; be practical. Tell our Lord:
"O Lord, I am sorry for my sins. To prove my sorrow I will fast with
my eyes by cutting out all unlawful reading and shows, and also by not looking at movies which might even be lawful. I will fast with my tongue by stopping all unkind and indecent speech. I will fast with my ears by closing them to what is impure and unkind, and opening them to what will do my soul some good, to Your voice and the voice of those who serve You."­
Then ask God to help you keep your resolve. Often repeat your resolution. Every morning and evening make your promise again. With the help of Christ who spent forty similar days in checking His ears, His eyes, and His tongue, you will be making a fast that is pleasing to Almighty God and profitable to yourself, here and in the happier life to come.

Christ went into the desert not only to do penance, but also to pray. As we follow our Savior into the wilderness we see Him day after day going without food, without drink, without any human comfort. We also see Him frequently raising His magnificent eyes to heaven. Often we come upon Him kneeling beside a rock or a tree, talking to His heavenly Father. The greater part of those forty days Christ spent in prayer. Would you be Christ's follower? Then you too must pray, especially during Lent.

The best prayer is Holy Mass. It is the best prayer and the best sacri­fice combined. It is the uniting in one service all the sufferings, all the teachings of our Lord. No one can measure the value of a single Mass. Yes, we Catholics appreciate the Mass. Most of you deserve a pat on the back for your faithfulness to Sunday Mass.

But, during Lent we want to do more. Many of you can come during the week. It will mean sacrificing some sleep, but I know you will make that sacrifice once you bring home to yourself this fact: Jesus spent forty days without a decent place to lay His holy head, and I don't love Him enough to give up a little sleep for Him.

Mass reminds us of the desert; Mass is the Last Supper all over again; Mass is Gethsemane; Mass is the passion; Mass is Calvary; Mass is the cru­cifixion; and Mass is Easter Sunday - all made present to us again.

In that first Lent Christ not only did penance and prayed, He also thought and meditated. Meditation is simply prayer without words, prayer of the soul and mind and heart. It is talking to God with the tongue of the spirit, and hearing Him answer with the ears of the soul.

Meditation is for the sanest and most sensible people, even though it sends the soul soaring through the skies. Thought is necessary in the ma­terial world. It is even more needed in the spiritual world. On every ship there must be someone to think out the problems and map the course and see that the ship pursues that course. Otherwise the vessel drifts aimlessly and will never make port.

Everyone of you is captain of your own ship - your soul. Either you will sail it or wreck it. To meet the problems of every day you must think. I once heard a great psychiatrist of the University of Chicago declare abou't thinking:
"People who think two minutes a month, will be the leaders."

Yes, men who meditate will be masters of their souls. Am I asking you to spend hours doing nothing but sit with your head in your hands, gazing over the ocean of thought? No, but I am asking everyone of you to sit down each day - and think. Sisters and priests have a definite time set apart daily for spiritual thinking. Here is how to do it.

Read a paragraph or two from a religious book or pamphlet. Close the book and think about what you read. Thinking means putting two or more ideas side by side. We have just heard that Lent is a time of penance and prayer in imitation of Christ Himself. On the one hand we have the in­spiring picture of Christ, the thought of His prayer and His penance. On the other, stand we, a distressing thought, with our poor prayers and our paltry penances. Compare yourself with Christ and you are thinking.

Picture Christ in the desert comparing His life there with the life His heavenly Father wanted Him to lead. Jesus spent days in this spiritual thinking. We can surely spend a few minutes each day thinking about God and ourselves, and how we stand with God, in the light of the Great Ex­ample, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master.

To think you should have quiet, you ought to be alone. You ought to be alone often, because alone you came into the world, alone you leave it, and alone, pitifully alone, will you stand before the Supreme Judge. To get acquainted with yourself, you must be alone with yourself, at least alone with your thoughts. Don't fear that being alone with your thoughts is to be lonely. A certain poet puts it: "Alone, but yet not lonely."

And that keen convert, Cardinal Newman, tells us: "I am never less alone than when alone."

Get acquainted with yourself. Talk to you. That is thinking, that is meditation, that is what Jesus did in the desert, and that is what He wants us to do during part of these forty days.

Let us do a little thinking about what happens on Ash Wednesday. When the priest puts ashes on your head, he speaks the solemn, serious words: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."

Ashes tell us more loudly than words that death will reduce our bodies to a little handful of dust or ashes. Ashes remind us that this body, no mat­ter how beautiful, no matter how brawny, no matter how healthy, will break down, will wither and die and turn to ashes.

A pessimistic thought, cries the worldling. Why cloud life with such a gloomy idea? But is this such a gloomy thought? No, because we followers of Christ know for certain that the body dies, but the soul lives on; the body is mortal but the soul is immortal; the body rots but the soul takes on a new brilliance, a higher and better life. Ash-Wednesday brings m mind those sobering lines of Grey's Elegy, or Song in a Country Churchyard:
"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
"And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
"Await alike the inevitable hour­
"The paths of beauty lead but to the grave."
In mock beauty these lines tell us that rather distressing truth: You must die. You must go back to the earth from which you came. But, beside these lines of Grey, we place the hopeful, uplifting lines of Longfellow, which tell us the soul lives on:
"Life is real, life is earnest,
"And the grave is not its goal.
"Dust thou art to dust returnest
"Was not spoken of the soul."
As Jesus finished His forty days of prayer and penance, He was tempted three times. Some say He was tempted constantly during that first Lent. You, too, can expect to be tempted during Lent, tempted to go back on your Ash-Wednesday promises, tempted to go back on your Lenten resolutions, tempted to give up fasting, tempted to go back to your sins, tempted to quit attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion frequently or even daily.

Do you want to be a true follower of Christ? Then, like our Lord, brush those temptations aside. To do this, think of Christ in the desert and beg for the grace and strength to walk in His footsteps, for He has left you an example that you may follow in His steps.

The Magnificent Christ! Who so powerful, so royal, so humble, so he­roic, so loving, so unselfish as the King we follow? What can keep us from giving Him our love, our service, our devotion? With St. Paul -
"I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things pres­ent, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans, 8:39.
We will follow Him; we will be true to Him. Like Judas, we may have betrayed Him; like Peter, we may have denied Him; like Magdalen, we may have offended Him; like Pilate, we may have condemned Him; like Herod, we may have insulted Him. But, all is forgiven and forgotten. We are going back to Him, to Christ, not to a Caesar or Napoleon, not to a Hitler, a Mussolini or a Stalin, no, but back to Christ, to swear loyalty to Him, to follow Him, cost what it may, for He - Christ - Christ alone is our leader. Amen.
Adapted from With Christ Through Lent
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1951)

Principles and Practices - February 22

The Need of Reflection

We must reflect upon what we are told in the Gospel, ponder over it again and again, digest it, as it were. If this be properly done, the seed of the Divine Word will germinate in the soul; it will thrive and produce fruit. Many persons are not much impressed by the mere hearing of religious truths, particularly if they have often heard sermons upon these subjects; their ears become dulled. When a person takes up his abode near a milway, he hears at first every train that comes and goes, especially at night he is awakened by the noise of the passing cars. But gradually they no longer disturb him; he hardly hears them, and sleeps peacefully in spite of the noise; he has become accustomed to it.

-Father Celestine, O.M.C.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, February 21

[continued from yesterday]

...For clearly what is one's own is better than what we substitute in its place; even if our words are more faulty, or our expression more vague, what comes hot from the heart is better than all else. When we read the New Testament, and hear the poor man on the road­side merely crying: "Lord, help me!" or St. Peter breaking down with: "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee;" or St. Thomas paralysed into his: "My Lord, and my God!" or Our Lord Jesus Himself unable to do more than repeat the self-same words: "Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me;" then we know that we are listening to the truest prayer. And when in like manner in our own turn we find our own hearts crying out to God, whether in faith, or love, or hope, or contrition, or oblation, or anything else, then we should know that our prayer is of our best, even a minute of which crying is more precious than another prayer of many words.

The first hint, then, to be given to one who would make progress in prayer is that the soul should not confine itself so as to be tied down to a formula however good. Suppose, for example, that I am accustomed to take a quarter of an hour, in preparation for or thanksgiving after Communion; and suppose that to fill up this time I have a fixed set of prayers which I repeat. I may some day find, and if I try I most certainly shall find, that while repeating the prayers, or even before, I am impelled to dwell on one word, or one idea, or one strong feeling of the heart; I am drawn to say "Jesus!" in welcome, and to dwell upon the name, or to be sorry that I receive Him so poorly, or whatever else; shall I entertain this feeling at the expense of my set of prayers, or must I keep my rule and say them?...
[continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918