Tuesday, February 5, 2013

St. Agatha: Patron Saint of Breast Cancer

Saint Agatha has been venerated as a virgin and martyr since the time of her death in AD 251.  Besides the Blessed Virgin Mary, she is only one of seven women saints commemorated in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer 1) and as early as the fifth century had two churches in Rome dedicated to her.  Born in Sicily to a noble family, Agatha was a devout Christian who dedicated her virginity to God.  Pursued by Quintianus, a prefect or governor, she rebuffed his advances.  He had Agatha arrested for being a Christian and forced her to renounce Christ.

Her documented legend speaks of the brutal interrogations and torture she endured at his hand.  When she refused she was imprisoned in a brothel, then a prison, stretched on the rack, burned with red hot irons and had her breasts cut off.  She had a apparition of St. Peter as a physician and was miraculously healed of her wounds.  Four days later upon further interrogation and to the surprise of her torturers, she was condemned to death by rolling her naked body in broken glass and hot coals.  At the very moment of her final torture a great earthquake struck the region.  Immediately before her death Saint Agatha was heard praying, "O Lord Jesus Christ, good Master, I give You thanks that You granted me victory over the executioners' tortures.  Grant now that I may happily dwell in Your never-ending glory".   
For more reading, go here and here.
Saint Agatha is the patron saint of breast cancer and victims of sexual assault.
Prayer to Saint Agatha

O Heavenly Father,
Who raised Agatha
to the dignity of Sainthood,
we implore Your Divine Majesty
by her intercession
to give us health of mind,
body and soul.
Free us from all those things
which hold us bound to this earth,
and let our spirit, like hers,
rise to your heavenly courts.
Through Jesus Christ,
Your Son, our Lord,
Who lives and reigns
with You, forever. Amen

Monday, March 26, 2012

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

From a good Discalced Carmelite and friend...

From a homily given at Holy Hill on the 5th Sunday of Lent.

This season of Lent is something of a school that educates and prepares our hearts to celebrate the great mysteries of our salvation—the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, Son of God and our Savior.  Each Sunday of Lent is another LESSON that tells us something of WHO Jesus is and WHY He came into the world.  Let me just offer a recap.  The first Sunday of Lent Jesus is led into the desert to be tempted by the devil, to experience his human weakness in solidarity with us, and to glorify His Father by suffering in His weakness.  The second Sunday of Lent Jesus is revealed during the Transfiguration as the Beloved Son of God the Father and the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.  Peter, James and John and we ourselves are told: “LISTEN TO HIM.”  The third Sunday of Lent Jesus cleanses the Temple and reveals Himself to be the NEW Temple and the means of offering true worship to God.  Last Sunday, we had the beautiful passage in the Gospel of John where Jesus tells Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life.”

And so we come to this fifth Sunday—the Sunday before his triumphant entry into Jerusalem where he’ll be crucified.  Some Greeks want to “see Jesus”—they are not Jews but Gentiles—foreigners drawn to see Jesus… and it is THIS moment when Jesus declares that His “Hour” has come.  In John’s Gospel, the “Hour” is both the time of Christ’s Passion AND His exaltation.  Jesus tells us explicitly HOW He will be glorified and how He will glorify the Father… It is through His death on the CROSS.

Jesus tells us, “The Son of Man did NOT come to be served, but TO SERVE.”  To give His life for the MANY.  Why?  Is it because SOMEONE has to PAY?  Well, it is true that Jesus alone restores TRUE justice where our sins have offended GOD.  …But let us remember that it is not blood and suffering that God requires for the salvation of the world, BUT rather A HEART THAT LOVES OBEDIENTLY, even unto death.

“Son though He was, Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered.”  The Son of God lived a human life, united with us, and offered to God a heart that LOVED until death.  “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  And so Jesus says to all of us today, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”  Jesus comes to understand that His life is the grain of wheat that will die to produce much fruit.

We, too, must give of ourselves—more than likely NOT to be literally crucified—but maybe it is to be patient with those who greatly annoy us, maybe it is to still desire good to those who have mistreated us, maybe it is to LIVE TODAY for God even if we have FAILED to live for Him for the past week.  Jesus says: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”  If you were baptized into Christ Jesus, then you TOO are a SEED that must die to itself so that FRUIT may be produced and GOD glorified.

Brothers and sisters, in today’s Gospel Jesus gives us a THEOLOGY for Good Friday—it is that He, the Son of God made flesh, will give His life for us to glorify His Father and to REVEAL the greatest love the world has ever known.  And what is the FRUIT of this love: LISTEN.  “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”  That is, WHEN JESUS REVEALS the FULLNESS of GOD on the CROSS, every HUMAN HEART will awaken and be drawn to this LOVE.

This is the meaning of our first reading from Jeremiah: God is making a new covenant... In the former covenant God has to show us to be our Master, but in the NEW and ETERNAL covenant, God “places His law within us and writes it upon our hearts.”  The Lord says about His CROSS: “All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.”

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who climbs the wood of the cross in order to call all His scattered SHEEP to Himself and to lead them to the Father.

WHAT must we do in reply?

Let us LOOK at the CROSS and consider the love of Christ for us.  As our shepherd Jesus asks for the obedience of our hearts.  Jesus never asks anything of us that He has not ALREADY DONE Himself.  He calls us from the CROSS to give of our lives in LOVE.  And if we love as He has loved, we will come to understand from experience that death is NOT the end—beyond the CROSS the Savior leads us to the Resurrection.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Great Lenten Resources

Aggie Catholics has a great post on tons of Lenten info, readings, videos, etc...worth a peak.

Ash Wednesday

And so, Lent begins and as usual my grandiose intentions of a well planned lenten season have failed before it even started.  This holy season is an invitation to return to the basics of our spiritual life--and perhaps I've stumbled upon the first lesson: don't over-complicate the simple.  Just resolve to focus on the three simple practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Fr. Barron explains it well:

Pope Benedict's Ash Wednesday Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, the beginning of her Lenten journey towards Easter. The entire Christian community is invited to live this period of forty days as a pilgrimage of repentance, conversion and renewal. In the Bible, the number forty is rich in symbolism. It recalls Israel’s journey in the desert, a time of expectation, purification and closeness to the Lord, but also a time of temptation and testing. It also evokes Jesus’ own sojourn in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry, a time of profound closeness to the Father in prayer, but also of confrontation with the mystery of evil. The Church’s Lenten discipline is meant to help deepen our life of faith and our imitation of Christ in his paschal mystery. In these forty days may we draw nearer to the Lord by meditating on his word and example, and conquer the desert of our spiritual aridity, selfishness and materialism. For the whole Church may this Lent be a time of grace in which God leads us, in union with the crucified and risen Lord, through the experience of the desert to the joy and hope brought by Easter

Cardinal Dolan on Ash Wednesday

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christus Mansionem Benedicat 20 + C + M + B + 12

Adoration of the Magi - Fra Angelico (ca. 1455)
May Christ Bless This House!
For most of the world , today is the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the 12th Day of Christmas, or "little Christmas".  For dioceses of the United States we celebrate the Solemnity this Sunday.  The three magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, followed the star to Bethlehem to adore the new born King.  They brought gifts of gold because the Child was a King, frankincense because the Child was God, and myrrh because the Child was destined to be a sacrifice.  Since before the middle ages, Catholics would bless their houses by inscribing with blessed chalk the initials of the three kings above their doorways.

This tradition symbolizes the family's commitment to welcome Christ into their homes throughout the year.  We don't have to look back very far (40 years ago but some ethnic parishes continue this today) when priests would wander through the parish neighborhoods-holy water and chalk in hand-blessing homes and marking the portals.  In our home we continue this tradition and celebrate the Epiphany with food, gifts, chalk and a little holy water.  Santa gifts get top billing on Christmas day but on the Epiphany we each exchange a small present with one another.  The highlight of our celebration is the house blessing.  The children process holding candles to each of their rooms and take turns sprinkling them with holy water.  Fights usually ensue so we have to plan in advance who gets to do what (the boys share a room).  Dad inscribes the initials and each child can mark the crosses.  Mom (the reader) stands by with holy water/fire extinguisher.  We do all the doorways of the house but some customs only do the main entrance.  "More is better" is my motto.  Though we don't bake a 3 kings cake (even Dora the Explorer has an episode on this) we have a festive meal.

It is traditions like these which build our Roman Catholic Identity.  When we know who we are we can more effectively share the gift with others.

Here is one form of an Epiphany House Blessing:

V.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
A.  Amen

V.  Peace be to this house and: to all who dwell here, in the name of the Lord.
A Blessed be God forever.

VA reading from the holy gospel according to St. John
AGlory to You, o Lord.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be….. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3.14)
After the prayers of the blessing are recited, each room of the home is sprinkled with holy water. The year and initials of the Magi are inscribed above the doors with the blessed chalk (Casper, Melchior and Balthasar with the first two numerals of the year preceding the C and the last two numerals of the year placed after the B).

20 + C + M + B + 12

As you inscribe the initials say:  “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means “May Christ bless this house”.)

V.  Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of your law. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our love for each other may go out to all. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
A.  Amen.

Blessing the Chalk
If you cannot obtain blessed chalk, it is permissible for the head of the household to bless chalk to be used.  Here is a simple formula:

V. Our help is the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.

Let us pray.

Bless, O Lord God, this creature chalk
to render it helpful to your people.
Grant that they who use it in faith
and with it inscribe upon the doors of their homes
the names of your saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar,
may through their merits and intercession
enjoy health of body and protection of soul.
Through Christ our Lord.

And the chalk is sprinkled with Holy Water.