Catholic Curiosities

The other day I picked up a pamphlet about a Novena to St. Jude in the back pew of Church.  To those who work for the Church this is a regular occurance.

It’s a sort of chain-letter kind of thing:

      1. Make this Novena to St. Jude
      2. Publish in a newspaper the results OR leave a copy (or LOTS of copies) of this novena in Church

Lots of church vestibules constantly see these sorts of things, sometimes with stern warnings to not remove the novena material and so forth.

Why do some Catholics do such a thing?  Well, in a word, superstition.  There are lots of superstitious things that well-meaning (although mistaken) Catholics do.

For example, even more popular than the St. Jude Novena (NEVER KNOWN TO FAIL, BY THE WAY!) is the goofy practice of burying a statue of St. Joseph in order to sell your home (HE WORKS FASTER IF YOU BURY HIM UPSIDE DOWN!).

And, of course, often enough the home is sold, or the novena request is granted, thus reinforcing through lived experience and the resulting word-of-mouth how effective such activities are.

Thankfully Joseph and Jude are both Jewish; so they can smile when I say, oy vey!

Leave the propaganda at home and just pray the novena, people.  And for God’s sake quit burying St. Joseph in the ground – not only disrespectful, but a violation of the First Commandment for sure, and likely the Fourth Commandment to boot.

Categories: Catechetics, Educational, Saints | Leave a comment

Snowy? Retreat

I’m anxious for the week to move along, as I’m attending our Knights of Columbus annual retreat this weekend.  Each year Fr. Foster Council 9518 of Ralston, NE hosts a retreat in the middle of winter at the  Creighton University Retreat Center in Griswold, IA.  The retreat center is a former Boy Scout Camp, and has been enhanced, expanded, and improved for many years under the direction of Fr. David Smith, SJ.  The center is owned and operated by the Jesuits of Creighton University, in Omaha, Nebraska.

Our Council believes that the work we do must be grounded in a genuine spirituality.  The Knights of Columbus aren’t just do-gooders; they are Catholic gentlemen seeking to serve Christ among us in a variety of ways.  Find out more about the Knights of Columbus here.

I’ve attended the retreat for many years, and have always been delighted by the wildlife encountered during the weekend.  The main chapel, named after Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, features floor-to-ceiling windows along the south side.  I’ve yet to attend Mass there without seeing deer moving through the forest.  I’m hoping to encounter some this weekewinter-retreat1nd, too.

Retreats are important for anyone serious about the spiritual life.  It’s important for us to tithe some of our time each year to listen to the voice of the Lord, and to draw close to God in a pronounced and unhurried manner.

I remember being in Rome during the Jubilee (Holy) Year 2000 – signs were posted at all the basilicas reminding everyone (in multiple languages) that a pilgrimage is about an interior journey of the heart, not just a physical vacation of the body.

If you haven’t been on a retreat lately, take some time to schedule one right now.  It’s a New Year’s Resolution worth keeping.  If you’ve never been on a retreat, drop me a line for some suggestions, or contact your diocesan family life office.  They can share with you what is available in your area.

Please pray for me this weekend, I’ll be like a deer longing for running water . . .

Categories: Jesuits, Saints, Theology | Tags: , | 3 Comments

The blood of the martyrs . . .

In his work Apologeticum written in 197 Tertullian included this famous line, “the blood of the matyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Chapter 50)

 Nothing could be more true, and the truth of his famous line is shown in both today’s feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, as well as Friday on the feast of the [Jesuit] North American Martyrs.

 Last night during RCIA I shared with the class the vast size of the Catholic Church, and how it all began with the immediate followers of Jesus, the Apostles.  Many of the early Christians were martyrs, and at given times of Roman persecution, MOST of the Christians were martyred.

The incredibly high number of those willing to give their lives for their belief in Jesus Christ is awe-inspiring.  It’s also historical proof of the validity of the Gospel.  One or two fanatics might follow a false messiah, but thousands and thousands of them attest to the truth.  The truth of the Son of God, and what He did for all the world.

The witness we honor today (martyr is the Greek word for witness) was killed in 107.  He was sent a message to come back to Rome and face accusations.  He knew he would be killed, but he went anyway.  He took his deacons with him, and wrote letters to various churches on the journey.  He faced his death with bravery and an unwavering dedication to his Savior.

The North American Martyrs were eight Jesuit missionaries slaughtered for their belief in Christ by Huron and Iroquois Indians in the middle of the 17th century.  The very same fortitude that brought Ignatius to the Coliseum animated these Jesuit missionaries as they preached the Gospel in the New World.  Even though separated by over 1,500 years, the intensity of belief, and the willingness to give up everything for their Lord, links these witnesses together forever.

Pray for us, holy witnesses to the Truth – your example inspires awe in us on this very day!

Categories: Catechetics, Jesuits, Saints | Leave a comment

San Benedetto

Today is the feast of our holy father among the saints Benedict. St. Benedict is the father of western monasticism. His Rule, written about 1,500 years ago is still used by Benedictine men and women today in their monasteries.

St. Benedict is particularly meaningful to me, as the seminary I attended was run by the Benedictine monks of St. Meinrad, in southern Indiana. Learn more about St. Meinrad Archabbey here.

(photo shows the Basilica of St. Benedict in Nurcia, Italy – note the statue of San Benedetto in the foreground)

The Rule of St. Benedict outlines the manner of life in a monastery, including details about how to pray, eat, keep silence, work, welcome guests, admonish wayward members and embodies the Benedictine motto ora et labora which translates “pray and work.”

The job of a monk is to pray. Pray for the world. Pray to God. Pray for all the needs of the Church. Pray for those in need. To take literally St. Paul’s exhortation to “pray without ceasing.” That is the job of the monk.

It is my belief that the world continues to function simply from the prayer of holy monks and nuns. Without their prayers, our world would be drastically different than it is now. The gift of one’s life spent in prayer for the world is the highest gift a person can give. By dying to self (control over their lives) these holy brothers and sisters can then devote their very lives to the service of God, in each and every thing they do throughout the day.

Working in the kitchen of the monastery, cultivating grapes, praying the Divine Office, creating vestments, writing icons or tending to animals. Whatever activities occur during the day, they are done for the sake of the kingdom, everything is done for God.

Thanks to you, holy brothers and sisters of St. Benedict – your very being glorifies God and your humble work edifies the world. Blessed are your hands that do the work of our Lord Jesus Christ in your everyday tasks.

Categories: Catechetics, Saints | Leave a comment

We Love You Terri

Last night I spent the evening with two remarkable people, Bob & Mary Schindler. They traveled to Omaha on the feast of All Saints to deliver a talk at Pro Sanctity’s annual Call to Holiness program.

As you probably remember, they are the parents of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, who was deprived nutrition and hydration on March 18th and died thirteen days later. View more info about Terri here.

I was so moved by the spirituality and love exhibited by these two people, as they shared the story about their beloved daughter.

How fitting it was to celebrate Terri’s life on this glorious feast. You see, All Saints Day is the day to celebrate and honor every saint.

For those unfamiliar with the Catholic teaching on the Communion of Saints – this is simply the belief that those in heaven can and do pray for us here on earth.

People oftentimes narrowly construe the term saint to only mean those canonized saints. But that is not the teaching of the Church. Everyone in heaven is a saint – that’s what the very term means. Canonization is simply a declaration by the Church that a given individual IS in heaven, and thus a saint.

God created you and desires for you to live with Him forever in heaven. Our job on this earthly sojourn is to prepare ourselves for that everlasting reality with God.

And through the exercise of our free will, we either walk in the way of our Lord Jesus or not. We either prepare ourselves for life eternal or not. We either make use of the gifts, called sacraments or mysteries that Jesus left us or not.

And we use the talents God graced us with to bring about the kingdom here on earth or not.

Michael Schiavo, George Felos and George Greer used their talents to end Terri’s life – pure and simple. They will be held accountable for their actions when they meet our Lord Jesus at the Particular Judgement.

The Schindler’s use their talents to raise awareness and advocacy so others do not have to endure what they did. They assist other families with hope, with support and with love. They produce a quiet whisper of life & love to a culture of death.

There is no doubt whatsoever to me that Terri Schindler-Schiavo is in heaven, with our Lord. She is a saint.

St. Terri, pray for us all – help us to learn from the ultimate sacrifice you paid – a sacrifice not unlike our Lord Jesus paid. An innocent life taken from us all. We love you, Terri!

Categories: Catechetics, Commentary, Politics, Prolife, Saints | 2 Comments

Week of Witnesses

This week is one filled with witnesses. A week of red vestments at the liturgy. A week of powerful examples for us all to model our lives after.

The Greek word for ““witness”” is martyr, and the liturgical calendar this week features three feast days of martyrs:

  • Monday, Oct 17th St. Ignatius of Antioch
  • Tuesday, Oct 18th St. Luke
  • Wednesday, Oct 19th Saints John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues & their companions

St. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch (Peter was the first), and the person that first used the term “Catholic” to describe the Church. Like most of the Apostolic Fathers, he was martyred for his faith in Jesus. He was killed by animals in the Flavian Amphitheatre, more commonly known as the Coliseum in 107.

St. Luke was both an Evangelist, writing a the Gospel attributed to him, as well as the Acts of the Apostles, and a companion of the Apostle Paul. He gave his life in witness to our Lord Jesus in Greece, where he was crucified, probably on an olive tree.

Saints John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions were French Jesuit missionaries serving in Canada from 1625 to 1649, when they were were martyred — some tortured to death, others decapitated. This group of eight Jesuits became known as the North American Martyrs, and were canonized in 1930. The names of the companions were: John de la Lande, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, Anthony Daniel, Rene Goupil and Noel Chabanel.

Some people might think that the days of the martyrs are long gone. That most of the martyrs came during the early formation of the Church, and the ensuing persecutions by various Roman emperors. While it is true that many were martyred during these times; unfortunately the days of the martyrs are anything but over.

There are more martyrs of the 20th century then any previous century in the life of the Church. Thousands of new martyrs have offered their lives even in these latter days, primarily in Africa and Asia. Christianity is persecuted in many countries even today, with torture being used commonly against Christians.

Take a moment and pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer so badly because of their belief in Christ; they need our prayers and support. How beautiful a world it will be when all are afforded religious freedom. Until that day we will continue to have fearless role models that make present today the same fire and fervor that Ignatius, Luke and the Canadian Jesuits exhibited.

Pray for us, holy martyrs of God!

Categories: Catechetics, Etymology, Jesuits, Saints | Leave a comment

Angels Watching Over Me

Angel is the Greek word for “messenger.” Today is the feast day of Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, archangels.

Much confusion exists about angels today – fueled mainly by a movement within the country toward a so-called “spirituality.” Not the traditional definition of the word, but rather the hijacking of the term by those who profess something along these lines:

  • I think that all religions are more or less the same
  • It doesn’t matter where (or if) you go to church, as long as you live a moral life and believe in Jesus
  • Therefore – I prefer to call myself not religious but rather, spiritual

The short-comings of such thoughts are many – but I think at the core this is driven by a disordered fascination with individualism that is rampant in America today. These old-fashioned denominations are okay for some, but I have some personal, unique insight that just can’t be met by them. I’ll do my own thing – I’ll journey with God in my own way.

And in typical American style, this spirituality movement has been snatched up by clever marketers who make all sorts of angel stuff these days. Books, prints, statues and the like. Lots of the materials available are quite poor theologically (by any denominational viewpoint).

As you go about your day ponder these thoughts about angels:

  • Angels do not have bodies – they are spirits possessing intellect and free will – only in encounters with humans in Scripture do they assume the use of a body
  • Sacred Scripture identifies nine choirs of angels – angels, archangels, virtues, powers, principalities, dominations, thrones, cherubim and seraphim
  • Angels are often depicted as “fairies” assisting people with decisions and such – this is not the nature of an angel
  • Angels are incredibly powerful – MUCH more powerful that humans – an angel could will that the earth smash into the sun and it would happen
  • Angels are not God – they are God’s messengers – sometimes tragic things happen to people, that is the nature of free will in a fallen world, not because your guardian angel wasn’t looking out for you

Categories: Catechetics, Etymology, Ranting, Saints | 1 Comment

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