Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, August 6
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Mark 9:2-3
Do you see the glory of God in your life? Oftentimes this is a real struggle. We can easily become aware of all the problems we face and can focus in on them. As a result, it is often easy for us to miss seeing the glory of God in our lives. So do you see God’s glory in your life?
The feast we celebrate today is a commemoration of the fact that Jesus literally revealed His glory to three of the Apostles. He took them up a high mountain and was transfigured before them. He became dazzling white and radiant with glory. This was an important image for them to have in their minds in preparation for the very real image of the suffering and death Jesus was about to undergo.
One lesson we should take from this feast is the fact that the glory of Jesus was not lost on the Cross. Sure, His suffering and pain was made manifest at that time, but it doesn’t change the fact that His glory was still just as real while He suffered on the Cross.
The same is true in our lives. We are blessed beyond measure and God still desires to transform our souls into glorious beacons of light and grace. When He does this, we must strive to constantly see it. And when we suffer or face some Cross, we must never take our eyes off the glorious things He has done in our souls.
Reflect, today, upon the beautiful and profound transformation that God has done and continues to desire to do in your soul. Know that He wants you to fix your eyes upon this glory and forever remain grateful for it, especially as you endure any cross you are given.
Lord, may I see Your glory and the glory that You have bestowed upon my own soul. May my eyes forever remain fixed on that grace. May I see You and Your glory especially in difficult times. Jesus, I trust in You.
Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, August 10
Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, 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.” John 12:24
This is a catchy phrase, but it reveals a truth that is hard to accept and live. Jesus speaks directly about the need to die to yourself so that your life will bear abundant good fruit. Again, easy to say, hard to live.
Why is this hard to live? What is hard about it? The hard part begins with the initial acceptance of the fact that dying to yourself is necessary and good. So let’s look at what that means.
We begin with the analogy of a grain of wheat. That grain must detach from the head and fall to the ground. This image is one of complete detachment. That single grain of wheat must “let go” of everything. This image tells us that if we want God to work miracles in us, we must be ready and willing to let go of all to which we are attached. It means we enter into a true abandonment of our will, our preferences, our desires and our hopes. This can be very hard to do because it can be very hard to understand. It can be hard to understand that detaching from all that we want and desire is actually good and is actually the way that we become prepared for the new and much more glorious life awaiting us through the transformation of grace. Death to ourselves means we trust God more than the things we are attached to in this life. It means we believe that God’s plan is infinitely better than any plan we can come up with.
When the grain of wheat does die and enters the ground, it fulfills its purpose and grows into so much more. It is transformed into abundance.
Saint Lawrence, a third century deacon and martyr whom we remember today, presents us with a literal image of one who gave up everything, including his very life, so as to say “Yes” to God. He gave up all his wealth, and when commanded by the prefect of Rome to turn over all the treasures of the Church, Lawrence brought to him the poor and the sick. The prefect, in anger, sentenced Lawrence to death by fire. Lawrence gave up everything to follow His Lord.
Reflect, today, upon that which God may be calling you to let go of. What is it that He wants you to surrender? Surrendering is the key to letting God do glorious things in your life.
Lord, help me to let go of my own preferences and ideas in life that are not in accord with Your divine will. Help me to always believe that You have an infinitely better plan. As I embrace that plan, help me to trust that You will bring forth an abundance of good fruit. Jesus, I trust in You.
Embracing the Mother of God
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name.” Luke 1:46-49
These, the opening lines of our Blessed Mother’s glorious song of praise, reveal who she is. She is one whose whole life proclaims the greatness of God and rejoices continually. She is one who is the perfection of humility and, therefore, highly exalted by every generation. She is the one for whom God has done great things and the one whom God has covered in holiness.
The Solemnity we celebrate today, that of her Assumption into Heaven, points to God’s acknowledgement of her greatness. God did not allow her to taste death or any consequences of sin. She was Immaculate, perfect in every way, from the moment of her conception to the moment she was taken body and soul into Heaven to reign as Queen for all eternity.
The Immaculate nature of our Blessed Mother may be hard for some to comprehend. That’s because her life is one of the greatest mysteries of our faith. Very little was said of her in the Scriptures, but much will be said of her for all eternity as her humility is unmasked and her greatness shines forth for all to see.
Our Blessed Mother was Immaculate, meaning without sin, for two reasons. First, God preserved her from original sin at the moment of her conception by a special grace. We call this a “preservative grace.” Like Adam and Eve, she was conceived without sin. But unlike Adam and Eve, she was conceived in the order of grace. She was conceived as one who was already saved by grace, by her Son whom she would one day bring into the world. The grace that her Son would one day pour on the world transcended time and covered her at the moment of her conception.
The second reason our Blessed Mother is Immaculate is because, unlike Adam and Eve, she never chose to sin throughout her life. Therefore, she became the new Eve, the new Mother of all the Living, the new Mother of all who live in the grace of her Son. As a result of this Immaculate nature and her continuous free choice to live in grace, God brought her body and soul into Heaven upon the completion of her earthly life. It is this glorious and solemn fact that we celebrate today.
Reflect, today, upon your understanding of our Blessed Mother. Do you know her, understand her role in your life and continually seek her motherly care? She is your mother if you choose to live in the grace of her Son. Embrace that fact more deeply today and choose to make her an even more important part of your life. Jesus will be grateful you do!
Lord, help me to love Your mother with the same love You have for her. As You were entrusted to her care, so I desire to be entrusted to her care. Mary, my Mother and Queen, pray for me as I have recourse to you. Jesus, I trust in You.
Our Blessed Mother: The Queen of All Saints!
Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 22
The following is an excerpt from My Catholic Faith!, Chapter 8:
The best way to conclude this volume is to reflect upon the final and glorious role of our Blessed Mother as the Queen and Mother of all the saints in this new age to come. She already played an essential role in the salvation of the world, but her work is not over. By her Immaculate Conception she became the perfect instrument of the Savior and, as a result, the new Mother of all the living. As this new mother, she undoes the disobedience of Eve by her continual free choice of perfect cooperation with and obedience to God’s divine plan. At the Cross, Jesus gave His mother to John, which is a symbol of the fact that He gave her to all of us as our new mother. Therefore, insofar as we are members of the Body of Christ, members of the Body of her Son, we are also, by the necessity of God’s plan, children of this one mother.
One of the Dogmas of our faith is that upon the completion of her life on Earth, our Blessed Mother was taken body and soul into Heaven to be with her Son for all eternity. And now, from her place in Heaven, she is given the unique and singular title of Queen of All the Living! She is the Queen of the Kingdom of God now, and she will be Queen of this Kingdom for all eternity!
As Queen, she also enjoys the unique and singular gift of being the mediatrix and distributor of grace. It’s best understood like this:
- She was preserved from all sin at the moment of her Immaculate Conception;
- As a result, she was the only fitting human instrument by which God could take on flesh;
- God the Son did take on flesh through her by the power and working of the Holy Spirit;
- Through this one divine Son, now in the flesh, the salvation of the world came about;
- This gift of salvation is transmitted to us through grace. Grace comes primarily through prayer and the sacraments;
- THEREFORE, since Mary was the instrument through which God entered our world, she is also the instrument through which ALL grace comes. She is the instrument of all that resulted from the Incarnation. Therefore, she is the Mediatrix of Grace!
In other words, Mary’s act of mediation for the Incarnation was not just some historical act that took place long ago. Rather, her motherhood is something that is continuous and eternal. It is a perpetual motherhood of the Savior of the world and is a perpetual instrumentality of all that comes to us from this Savior.
God is the source, but Mary is the instrument. And she is the instrument because God wanted it this way. She can do nothing by herself, but she doesn’t have to do it by herself. She is not the Savior. She is the instrument.
As a result of this, we must see her role as glorious and essential in the eternal plan of salvation. Devotion to her is a way of simply acknowledging what is true. It’s not just some honor we bestow upon her by thanking her for cooperating with God’s plan. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment of her continual role of mediation of grace in our world and in our lives.
From Heaven, God does not take this from her. Rather, she is made our Mother and our Queen. And a worthy Mother and Queen she is!
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears! Turn, then, O most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
No Duplicity or Guile
Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle, August 24
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” John 1:47-49
At first read of this passage you may find yourself needing to go back and read it again. It’s easy to read this and think you missed something. How is it that Jesus simply told Nathanael (also called Bartholomew) that He saw him sitting under the fig tree and that was enough for Nathanael to reply, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” It’s easy to be confused about how Nathanael could jump to such a conclusion from the words Jesus spoke about him.
But notice how Jesus described Nathanael. He was one with “no duplicity.” Other translations say he had “no guile.” So what does that mean?
If one has duplicity or guile it means they are two-faced and cunning. They are skilled in the art of deception. This is a dangerous and deadly quality to have. But to say the opposite, that one has “no duplicity” or “no guile” is a way of saying that they are honest, straightforward, sincere, transparent and real.
As for Nathanael, he was one who spoke freely about what he thought. In this case, it was not so much that Jesus put forth some form of convincing intellectual argument about His divinity, He said nothing about it. Instead, what happened was that this good virtue of Nathanael, of being without duplicity, enabled him to look at Jesus and realize that He is “the real deal.” Nathanael’s good habit of being honest, sincere and transparent enabled him to not only reveal who Jesus is, but it also allowed Nathanael to see others more clearly and honestly. And this quality benefited him greatly as he saw Jesus for the first time and was able to immediately comprehend the greatness of who He is.
Reflect, today, upon how free you are from guile and duplicity. Are you also a person of great honesty, sincerity and transparency? Are you the real deal? Living this way is the only good way to live. It’s a life lived in the truth. Pray that God helps you grow in this virtue today through the intercession of St. Bartholomew.
Lord, help me to be free of duplicity and guile. Help me to be a person of honesty, integrity and sincerity. Thank You for the example set by Saint Bartholomew. Give me the grace I need to imitate his virtues. Jesus, I trust in You.
Fidelity in Suffering
Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist, August 29
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. Matthew 6:25-27
This sad story, of the beheading of John the Baptist, reveals much to us. It reveals, above all, the mystery of evil in our world and God’s permissive will in allowing evil, at times, to flourish.
Why did God allow St. John to be beheaded? He was a great man. Jesus, Himself, said that there was no one born of woman greater than John the Baptist. And, yet, He allowed John to suffer this great injustice.
St. Teresa of Ávila once said to our Lord, “Dear Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!” Yes, God has clearly allowed those whom He loves to suffer greatly throughout history. What does this tell us?
First of all, we should not forget the obvious fact that the Father allowed the Son to suffer greatly and to be murdered in a horrific way. Jesus’ death was brutal and shocking. Does this mean the Father did not love the Son? Certainly not. So what does this mean?
The fact of the matter is that suffering is not a sign of the disfavor of God. If you suffer and are given no relief by God it is not because God has abandoned you. It is not that He doesn’t love you. In fact, the opposite is most likely true.
John the Baptist’s suffering is, in fact, the greatest sermon he could have preached. It’s a witness to his unwavering love of God and his wholehearted commitment to the will of God. The “sermon” of John’s passion is powerful because he chose to stay faithful to our Lord despite the persecution he endured. And, from God’s perspective, John’s fidelity is infinitely more valuable than his continued physical life or the physical sufferings he endured.
Reflect, today, upon your own life. At times we carry some heavy cross and beg our Lord to take it from us. Instead, God tells us that His grace is sufficient and that He wishes to use our sufferings as a testimony of our fidelity. So, the Father’s response to Jesus, His response to John and His response to us is a call to enter into the mystery of our sufferings in this life with faith, hope, confidence and fidelity. Never let the hardships of life deter you from your fidelity toward the will of God.
Lord, may I have the strength of Your Son and the strength of St. John the Baptist as I carry my own crosses in life. May I remain strong in faith and filled with hope as I hear You calling me to embrace my cross. Jesus, I trust in You.
Happy Birthday Blessed Mother!
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” Matthew 1:23
We all love to celebrate birthdays. Today is the birthday celebration of our dear mother. In December we honor her Immaculate Conception. In January we celebrate her as the Mother of God. In August we celebrate her Assumption into Heaven and there are many other days throughout the year where we honor a unique aspect of her life. But today is simply her birthday celebration!
Celebrating her birthday is a way of celebrating her personhood. We celebrate her simply for being herself. We do not necessarily focus in on any of the unique, beautiful and profound aspects of her life today. We do not necessarily look at all she accomplished, her perfect yes to God, her coronation in Heaven, her assumption or any other specifics. All parts of her life are glorious, beautiful, awe-inspiring and worthy of their own unique feasts and celebration.
Today, however, we simply celebrate our Blessed Mother because she was created and brought into this world by God and that alone is worth celebrating. We honor her simply because we love her and we celebrate her birthday as we would celebrate the birthday of anyone we love and care for.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that Mother Mary is your mother. She truly is your mother and it’s worth celebrating her birthday in the same way that you would celebrate anyone’s birthday who was a member of your family. Your honoring of Mary, today, is a way of solidifying your bond with her and assuring her that you desire her to be an important part of your life.
Happy birthday, Blessed Mother! We love you dearly!
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Precious Jesus, through the heart of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, our Mother, we trust in You!
The Glorious Cross of Our Lord!
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14
“And 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 may have eternal life.” John 3:14-15
What a glorious feast we celebrate today! It’s the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross!
Does the Cross truly make sense? If we could separate ourselves from all we have learned about the Cross of Christ and just look at it from a secular and historical perspective, the Cross is a sign of great tragedy. It’s connected to the story of a man who became quite popular with many, yet was vehemently hated by others. In the end, those who hated this man arranged for His brutal crucifixion. So, from a purely secular point of view, the Cross is an awful thing.
But Christians do not see the Cross from a secular point of view. We see it from the divine perspective. We see Jesus lifted up on the Cross for all to see. We see Him using horrible suffering to eliminate suffering forever. We see Him using death to destroy death itself. Ultimately, we see Jesus become victorious on that Cross and, therefore, forever we see the Cross as an exalted and glorious throne!
Moses’ actions in the desert prefigured the Cross. Many people were dying from snake bites. Therefore, God told Moses to lift up the image of a snake on a pole so that all who looked upon it would be healed. And that’s exactly what happened. Ironically, the snake brought life instead of death!
Suffering occurs throughout our lives in various ways. Perhaps for some it’s daily aches and pains from ill health, and for others it may be on a much deeper level, such as an emotional, personal, relational or spiritual one. Sin, in fact, is the cause of the greatest suffering, so those who struggle deeply with sin in their lives suffer deeply from that sin.
So what is Jesus’ answer? His answer is to turn our gaze to His Cross. We are to look at Him in His misery and suffering and, in that gaze, we are called to see victory with faith. We are called to know that God brings good out of all things, even our suffering. The Father transformed the world eternally through the suffering and death of His only Son. He also wants to transform us in our crosses.
Reflect, today, upon the Cross of Christ. Spend some time gazing upon the crucifix. See in that crucifix the answer to your own daily struggles. Jesus is close to those who suffer, and His strength is available to all those who believe in Him.
The Sorrowful Heart of Our Blessed Mother
Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15
“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35
What a profound, meaningful and very real feast we celebrate today. Today we try to enter into the profound sorrow of the heart of our Blessed Mother as she endured the sufferings of her Son.
Mother Mary loved her Son Jesus with the perfect love of a mother. Interestingly, it was that perfect love she had in her heart for Jesus that was the source of her deep spiritual suffering. Her love drew her to be present to Jesus in His own Cross and sufferings. And for that reason, as Jesus suffered, so did His mother.
But her suffering was not one of despair, it was a suffering of love. Therefore, her sorrow was not a sadness; rather, it was a profound sharing in all that Jesus endured. Her heart was perfectly united with her Son’s and, therefore, she endured all that He endured. This is true love on the deepest and most beautiful level.
Today, on this memorial of her Sorrowful Heart, we are called to live in union with the Blessed Mother’s sorrow. As we love her, we find ourselves feeling the same pain and suffering her heart still experiences as a result of the sins of the world. Those sins, including our own sins, are what nailed her Son to the Cross.
When we love our Blessed Mother and her Son Jesus, we will also grieve over sin; first our own and then the sins of others. But it’s important to know that the sorrow we experience over sin is also a sorrow of love. It’s a holy sorrow that ultimately motivates us to a deeper compassion and deeper unity with those around us, especially those who are wounded and those caught in sin. It also motivates us to turn from sin in our own lives.
Reflect, today, upon the perfect love of the heart of our Blessed Mother. That love is capable of rising above all suffering and pain and is the same love God wants to place in your heart.
Lord, help me to love with the love of Your dear Mother. Help me to feel the same holy sorrow she felt and to allow that holy sorrow to deepen my concern and compassion for all those who suffer. Mother Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Responding to the Call
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, September 21
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9
St. Matthew was a wealthy and “important” man in his day and age. As a tax collector, he was also disliked by many of the Jews. But he showed himself to be a good man by His immediate response to Jesus’ call.
We do not have many details to this story, but we have the details that matter. We see that Matthew is at work collecting taxes. We see that Jesus simply walks by him and calls him. And we see that Matthew immediately gets up, abandons everything, and follows Jesus. This is quite a conversion.
For most people, this sort of immediate response would not happen. Most people would have to first get to know Jesus, be convinced by Him, talk to their family and friends, think, ponder and then decide if following Jesus was a good idea. Most people go through a long rationalizing of God’s will before responding to it. Is that you?
Every day God is calling us. Every day He calls us to serve Him radically and completely in one way or another. And every day we have an opportunity to respond just as Matthew did. The key is to have two essential qualities. First, we must recognize the voice of Jesus clearly and unmistakably. We must, in faith, know what He says to us when He says it. Secondly, we must be certain that whatever Jesus calls or inspires us to do is worth it. If we can perfect these two qualities we will be in a position to imitate the quick and total response of St. Matthew.
Reflect, today, upon your willingness to imitate this Apostle. What do you say and do when God calls each day? Where you see a lacking, recommit yourself to a more radical following of Christ. You will not regret it.
Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels, September 29
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51
Yes, angels are for real. And they are mighty, glorious, beautiful and magnificent in every way. Today we honor three of the multitude of angels in Heaven: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
These angels are “archangels.” An archangel is the second order of angels just above the guardian angels. In all, there are nine orders of celestial beings that we commonly refer to as angels and all nine of these orders are traditionally organized into three spheres. The entire hierarchy is traditionally organized this way:
Highest Sphere: Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.
Middle Sphere: Dominions, Virtues and Powers.
Lower Sphere: Principalities, Archangels and Angels (Guardian Angels).
The hierarchy of these celestial beings is ordered in accord with their function and purpose. The highest of the beings, the Seraphim, were created solely for the purpose of surrounding the Throne of God in perpetual worship and adoration. The lowest of the beings, the Guardian Angels, were created for the purpose of caring for humans and communicating God’s messages. The Archangels, whom we honor today, were created for the purpose of bringing messages of great importance to us and to accomplish tasks of the highest importance in our lives.
Michael is well known as the archangel who was empowered by God to cast Lucifer out of Heaven. Lucifer is traditionally thought to be of the highest sphere of celestial beings and, thus, being cast out by a lowly archangel was quite a humiliation.
Gabriel is well known for being the archangel who brought the message of the Incarnation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
And Raphael, whose name means “God heals” is referred to in the Old Testament Book of Tobit and is said to have been sent to bring healing to Tobit’s eyes.
Though not much is known of these archangels, it’s important to believe in them, honor them and to pray to them. We pray to them because we believe God has entrusted them with a mission to help us bring healing, fight evil and proclaim the Word of God. Their power comes from God, but God has chosen to use the archangels, and all celestial beings, to accomplish His plan and purpose.
Reflect, today, upon your knowledge of the angels. Do you believe in them? Do you honor them? Do you rely upon their powerful intercession and mediation in your life? God wants to use them, so you should truly seek their help in your life.
Lord, thank You for the gift of the Archangels whom we honor today. Thank You for their powerful work in our lives. Help us to rely upon them and to love them for their service. Archangels, pray for us, heal us, teach us and protect us. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Little Flower
Memorial of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, October 1
Today our Church honors Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Thérèse died at an early age of twenty-four in 1897. She was canonized only twenty-eight years later in 1925. In 1997, one hundred years after her death, Pope John Paul II declared her to be a Doctor of the Church. She felt called to enter the cloister at an early age, entering the Carmelites at age fifteen. Her nine years within that cloister produced an abundance of good fruit for the entire Church.
One particular story from the autobiography of Saint Thérèse reveals her discovering her vocation. During her time in Carmel she had a holy desire to serve Christ in many ways. At times she longed to be a missionary, to go forth preaching the Gospel and to make a true difference in the world for Christ. One day as she was pondering her own calling and vocation she came to the realization that her mission was to be the heart of Christ. Some are called to be His hands and feet, others His mouth, but she was called to be His heart, she was called to be love. And in discovering her call to be love, she realized she was called to be all things, in that love is the greatest calling of all.
Jesus needs laborers for His vineyard. He needs all of us to commit to doing His will. Most of all, He needs people who are committed to imitate Saint Thérèse by being His heart in a loveless world. He needs the witness of deep and sincere charity more than anything.
Reflect, today, upon your own calling to be Christ’s heart. Do you see yourself as one who brings His love into the world? Have you said “Yes” to this holy vocation of charity? Be His heart and watch Him transform others through the love manifested through that Sacred Heart.
Lord, I do desire to bring forth Your love into the world. I desire to be Your heart and, thus, to be all things. Shine within me and help me to be an instrument of Your perfect mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.
Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels, October 2
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Matthew 18:10
We honor, today, our glorious Guardian Angels! They are treasures and helpers beyond what we could imagine.
A few days ago we honored the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. In that reflection we looked at the hierarchy of celestial beings created by God. Though the Guardian Angels are on the bottom of that list, they are no less glorious and magnificent than the host of other celestial beings.
Guardian Angels are traditionally said to have been created for the sole purpose of serving us in our needs. Yes, God could have chosen to care for us directly without the use of angels, but He didn’t. He chose to create angels as mediators of His grace and care.
It’s fair to say that our Guardian Angels love us with a perfect love. They know us, care for us and desire deeply that we become holy. Their primary purpose is to get us to Heaven and to draw us into the heights of sanctity. How do they do this?
They do it by mediating God’s grace to us. The word “angel” means messenger. Thus, our angels play a central role in communicating to us the will and mind of God. They can speak all that God wants to say to us. They are also protectors in that they bring grace from God to particular situations in life to fight against evil and to help us do good.
Reflect, today, upon the gift of your own guardian angel. This celestial being was created for the sole purpose of caring for you and getting you to Heaven. Speak to your angel, today. Rely upon your angel’s intercession and allow this holy angel to communicate to you God’s abundant grace.
A Most Powerful Prayer
Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7
As we honor Our Lady of the Rosary today, it’s a good opportunity to reflect upon this powerful prayer. The best way to reflect upon the power of the Rosary is to turn to the saints. Below you will find a number of sayings from the saints of God regarding the Rosary. Reflect upon them and let them speak to your heart.
“Never will anyone who says his Rosary every day be led astray. This is a statement that I would gladly sign with my blood.” – Saint Louis de Montfort.
“Of all prayers the rosary is the most beautiful and the richest in graces…love the Rosary and recite it every day with devotion.” – Saint Pius X.
“How beautiful is the family that recites the Rosary every evening.” – Saint Pope John Paul II.
“The Rosary is my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and its depth.” – Saint Pope John Paul II.
“The Rosary is a priceless treasure inspired by God.” – Saint Louis de Montfort.
“There is no surer means of calling down God’s blessings upon the family… than the daily recitation of the Rosary.” – Pope Pius XII.
“The Rosary is the most excellent form of prayer and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.” – Saint Pope Leo XIII.
“Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” – Blessed Pope Pius IX.
“If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.” – Pope Pius XI.
“Our Lady has never refused me a grace through the recitation of the rosary.” – Saint Padre Pio.
“The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” – Saint Francis de Sales.
“One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.” – Saint Dominic.
Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist, October 18
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:2-3
Today we honor Saint Luke the Evangelist. Saint Luke wrote one of the four Gospels, was a companion of Saint Paul to whom he was very dear, traveled far and wide preaching the Gospel, and ultimately gave his life as a martyr. He was first imprisoned for two years and after his release was said to have been crucified near Achaia while he continued his missionary activities.
Saint Luke was originally from Antioch, a city known for its high culture and learning. He was a physician, was well educated and was of high social standing. The fact of his social standing and education reveals that he went through a martyrdom of another form prior to being physically martyred. The martyrdom he went through came in the form of choosing Christ over social notoriety and prestige.
When faced with the Gospel, Saint Luke could have easily seen the mission given to him by Christ as one which interfered with his comfortable life in Antioch. He would have quickly understood that choosing to follow our Lord and accepting the invitation of being sent to preach the Gospel required much sacrifice. However, he made the decision to give up everything so as to fulfill the mission given to him by our Lord. God used Saint Luke in many ways and especially used his education as an instrument through which the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the Word of God.
Like Saint Luke, we are all called by God to follow Him unreservedly and to be sent on a unique mission of the proclamation of the Gospel. Each calling is different but each calling must be absolute and undeterred. We must offer our talents, preferences, future and our very lives to Christ so that He may use us as He wills. Following Jesus will always require some form of martyrdom, but whatever form of martyrdom we are called to embrace will produce much good fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Reflect, today, upon this intelligent and gifted disciple of our Lord. Rejoice in the gift that Saint Luke gave us in the Gospel, but also commit to follow our Lord to the same degree as this disciple. You, like Saint Luke, are being called to abandon all to the mission of the Gospel. Do not hesitate to say “Yes.”
Lord, as we honor this great evangelist, Saint Luke, help me to imitate his wholehearted commitment to the Gospel. Use me, dear Lord, as an instrument of Your Holy Word and give me the courage to lay my life down without reserve. Jesus, I trust in You.
Praying All Night
Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles, October 28
Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. Luke 6:12
It’s a fascinating thing to think about Jesus praying all night. This act on His part teaches us many things just as it would have taught His Apostles. Here are a few things we can take from His action.
First, it may be thought that Jesus did not “need” to pray. After all, He is God. So did He need to pray? Well, this is actually not the right question to ask. It’s not a matter of Him needing to pray, rather, it’s a matter of Him praying because His prayer goes to the heart of who He is.
Prayer is first and foremost an act of deep communion with God. In Jesus’ case, it’s an act of deep communion with the Father in Heaven and with the Holy Spirit. Jesus was continually in perfect communion (unity) with the Father and the Spirit and, thus, His prayer was nothing more than an earthly expression of this communion. His prayer is a living out of His love of the Father and the Spirit. So it’s not so much that He needed to pray so that He could stay close to them. Instead, it was that He prayed because He was perfectly united to them. And this perfect communion demanded an earthly expression of prayer. In this instance, it was prayer all night long.
Second, the fact that it was all night long reveals that Jesus’ “rest” was nothing other than being in the presence of the Father. Just as rest restores us and rejuvenates us, so the all night vigil of Jesus reveals that His human rest was that of resting in the presence of the Father.
Third, what we should take from this for our own lives is that prayer should never be underestimated. Too often we speak a few prayerful thoughts to God and let it go at that. But if Jesus chose to spend the entire night in prayer, we should not be surprised if God wants much more from our quiet time of prayer than we are now giving Him. Don’t be surprised if God is calling you to spend much more time every day in prayer. Do not hesitate to establish a set pattern of prayer. And if you find that you cannot sleep some night, do not hesitate to get up, get on your knees, and seek the presence of God living within your soul. Seek Him, listen to Him, be with Him and let Him consume you in prayer. Jesus gave us the perfect example. It is now our responsibility to follow that example.
As we honor the Apostles Simon and Jude, reflect, today, upon your own calling to follow Christ and act as His apostle to the world. The only way you can fulfill this mission is through a life of prayer. Reflect upon your prayer life and do not hesitate to deepen your resolve to imitate the depth and intensity of our Lord’s perfect example of prayer.
Lord Jesus, help me to pray. Help me to follow Your example of prayer and to seek the presence of the Father in a deep and continuous way. Help me to enter into a deep communion with You and to be consumed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I trust in You.
All Saints Day!
Solemnity of All Saints, November 1
Today we honor those holy men and women who have gone before us in faith and have done so in a glorious way. As we honor these great champions of faith, let’s reflect upon who they are and what role they continue to play in the life of the Church. The following excerpt is from Chapter 8 of My Catholic Faith!:
The Church Triumphant: Those who have gone before us and now share in the glories of Heaven, in the Beatific Vision, are not gone. Sure, we do not see them and we cannot necessarily hear them speak to us in the physical way they did while on Earth. But they are not gone at all. St. Thérèse of Lisieux said it best when she said, “I want to spend my Heaven doing good on Earth.”
The saints in Heaven are in full union with God and make up the Communion of Saints in Heaven, the Church Triumphant! What’s important to note, however, is that even though they are enjoying their eternal reward, they are still very much concerned about us.
The saints in Heaven are entrusted with the important task of intercession. Sure, God already knows all our needs and He could ask us to go directly to Him in our prayers. But the truth is that God wants to use the intercession, and therefore, the mediation of the saints in our lives. He uses them to bring our prayers to Him and, in return, to bring His grace to us. They become powerful intercessors for us and participators in God’s divine action in the world.
Why is this the case? Again, why doesn’t God just choose to deal with us directly rather than go through intermediaries? Because God wants all of us to share in His good work and to participate in His divine plan. It would be like a dad who buys a nice necklace for his wife. He shows it to his young children and they are excited about this gift. The mom comes in and the dad asks the children to bring the gift to her. Now the gift is from her husband but she will most likely thank her children first for their participation in giving this gift to her. The father wanted the children to be part of this giving and the mother wanted to make the children a part of her receiving and gratitude. So it is with God! God wants the saints to share in the distribution of His manifold gifts. And this act fills His heart with joy!
The saints also give us a model of holiness. The charity they lived on Earth lives on. The witness of their love and sacrifice was not just a one time act in history. Rather, charity is living and continues to have an effect for the good. Therefore, the charity and witness of the saints lives on and affects our lives. This charity in their lives creates a bond with us, a communion. It enables us to love them, admire them and want to follow their example. It is this, coupled with their continuing intercession, that establishes a powerful bond of love and union with us.
Lord, as the saints in Heaven adore You for eternity, I beg for their intercession. Saints of God, please come to my aide. Pray for me and bring to me the grace I need to live a holy life in imitation of your own lives. All saints of God, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Holy Souls in Purgatory
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day), November 2
As we celebrate the Commemoration of All Souls, let’s reflect upon our Church teaching on Purgatory. The following excerpt is from Chapter 8 of My Catholic Faith!:
The Church Suffering: Purgatory is an often misunderstood doctrine of our Church. What is Purgatory? Is it the place we have to go to be punished for our sins? Is it God’s way of getting us back for the wrong we’ve done? Is it the result of God’s anger? None of these questions really answer the question of Purgatory. Purgatory is nothing other than the burning and purifying love of our God in our lives!
When someone dies in God’s grace they are most likely not 100% converted and perfect in every way. Even the greatest of saints most often would have some imperfection left in their lives. Purgatory is nothing other than that final purification of all remaining attachment to sin in our lives. By analogy, imagine that you had a cup of 100% pure water, pure H2O. This cup will represent Heaven. Now imagine that you want to add to that cup of water but all you have is water that is 99% pure. This will represent the holy person who dies with just some slight attachments to sin. If you add that water to your cup then the cup will now have at least some impurities in the water as it mixes together. The problem is that Heaven (the original cup of 100% H2O) cannot contain any impurities. Heaven, in this case, cannot have even the slightest attachment to sin in it. Therefore, if this new water (the 99% pure water) is to be added to the cup it must first be purified even of that last 1% of impurities (attachments to sin). This is ideally done while we are on Earth. This is the process of getting holy. But if we die with any attachment, then we simply say that the process of entering into the final and full vision of God in Heaven will purify us of any remaining attachment to sin. All may already be forgiven, but we may not have detached from those things forgiven. Purgatory is the process, after death, of burning out the last of our attachments so that we can enter Heaven 100% freed of everything to do with sin. If, for example, we still have a bad habit of being rude, or sarcastic, even those tendencies and habits must be purged.
How does this happen? We do not know. We only know it does. But we also know it’s the result of God’s infinite love that frees us of these attachments. Is it painful? Most likely. But it’s painful in the sense that letting go of any disordered attachment is painful. It’s hard to break a bad habit. It’s even painful in the process. But the end result of true freedom is worth any pain we may have experienced. So, yes, Purgatory is painful. But it’s a sort of sweet pain that we need and it produces the end result of a person 100% in union with God.
Now since we are talking about the Communion of Saints, we also want to make sure to understand that those going through this final purification are still in communion with God, with those members of the Church on Earth, and with those in Heaven. For example, we are called to pray for those in Purgatory. Our prayers are effective. God uses those prayers, which are acts of our love, as instruments of His grace of purification. He allows us and invites us to participate in their final purification by our prayers and sacrifices. This forges a bond of union with them. And no doubt the saints in Heaven especially offer prayers for those in this final purification as they await full communion with them in Heaven. It’s a glorious thought and a joy to see how God has orchestrated this entire process for the ultimate purpose of the holy communion to which we are called!
Lord, I pray for those souls going through their final purification in Purgatory. Please pour forth Your mercy upon them so that they may be freed of all attachment to sin and, thus, be prepared to see You face to face. Jesus, I trust in You.
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, November 9
Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” John 2:13b-16
Jesus was angry. He drove the moneychangers from the temple with a whip and overturned their tables as He rebuked them. That must have been quite a scene.
What’s key, here, is that we must understand what sort of “anger” Jesus had. Normally when we speak of anger we mean a passion that is out of control and, in fact, controls us. It’s the loss of control and is a sin. But this is not the anger Jesus had.
Obviously, Jesus was perfect in every way, so we must be very careful not to equate His anger with our normal experience of anger. Yes, it was a passion for Him, but it was different from what we normally experience. His anger was an anger that resulted from His perfect love.
In Jesus’ case, it was love for the sinner and His desire for their repentance that drove His passion. His anger was directed at the sin they were engrossed in and He willfully and intentionally attacked the evil He saw. Yes, this may have been shocking to those who witnessed it, but it was, in that situation, the most effective way for Him to call them to repentance.
At times we will find that we also must be angered by sin. But be careful! It’s very easy for us to use this example of Jesus to justify losing control of ourselves and entering into the sin of anger. Righteous anger, as Jesus manifested, will always leave one with a sense of peace and love for those who are rebuked. There will also be an immediate willingness to forgive when true contrition is perceived.
Reflect, today, upon the righteous anger God may want to put into your heart at times. Again, be careful to discern it correctly. Do not allow yourself to be deceived by this passion. Rather, allow the love of God for others to be the driving force and allow a holy hatred for sin to direct you to act in a holy and just way.
Lord, help me to cultivate in my heart the holy and righteous anger that You desire I have. Help me to discern between what is sinful and what is righteous. May this passion and all my passion always be directed at achieving Your holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.
A Grateful Heart
Thanksgiving Day, United States
Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Luke 17:17-18
Happy Thanksgiving! Though Thanksgiving Day is not specifically a Catholic holy day, it certainly goes hand in hand with our life of faith. Spiritually speaking, we all know that gratitude is central to the Gospel message. Thanksgiving Day presents us with the perfect opportunity to look at this particular aspect of our faith. We are called to be eternally and deeply grateful. How grateful to God are you?
Perhaps we all struggle in various ways with gratitude. It’s fair to say that we will never be grateful enough until we are perfected in Heaven. But, for now, it’s important to look at gratitude and to try to let it increase in our souls.
First, we will never be grateful unless we see clearly all that God has done for us. It’s so easy in life to focus in on all the struggles we face and, as a result, to get down, depressed, frustrated and even angry at times. What’s far more challenging is to look beyond the crosses and burdens we face each day to see the abundance of grace and mercy given to us by our Lord. Unless we see that mercy and grace, we will struggle greatly with authentic gratitude.
So on this Thanksgiving Day, reflect upon this simple question: Do I see all God has done for me? Do I see His abundance of mercy alive in my life? The Gospel passage above reveals that Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one of the ten returned in gratitude. Are you like one of the nine who failed in gratitude? If so, you most likely struggle with seeing all the true and abundant blessings from God. If you can humbly admit you struggle with total gratitude, you will have taken the first step to seeing more clearly and the first step to fostering the deeper gratitude you ought to have. Being grateful means you see the truth clearly. Be open to that truth and God will change your life as He fills you with joy!
Lord, please do fill my heart with an abundance of gratitude. Help me to turn my eyes to Your infinite grace and mercy. Help me to see beyond the struggles of life and the burdens that get me down. In place of these, help me to become increasingly aware of all You have done for me and all that You continue to do. Jesus, I trust in You.
Preparation for Advent
Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle, November 30
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18-20
What a wonderful feast we celebrate today as we prepare to begin our Advent season. We honor St. Andrew the Apostle who gives us a perfect example of how to begin our coming Advent celebration.
This passage above reveals a lot for us to ponder. Andrew, along with his brother Peter, was a fishermen. Both of these fisherman were hard at work, when suddenly this stranger, Jesus, walked by them and called to them. They immediately left their livelihood and followed after Jesus.
Don’t miss what happened here. Specifically, there are two things that happened: 1) Jesus walked by these two fishermen and said, “Come after me.” 2) In response, these two men immediately “left their nets and followed Him.”
This story of the call of St. Andrew is quite appropriate for the beginning of Advent because Advent must be a time when Jesus calls us anew. It must be a new beginning and a new conversion for us. As Advent begins, we should hear Jesus call to us, “Come after Me!” We should hear Him invite us with an invitation to give ourselves completely to His divine plan and purpose. Listen to Him. Do you hear Him calling?
Our response, at the beginning of Advent, must be the same as St. Andrew. We must, without hesitation, leave everything to follow Him. What exactly does that mean? It means that we must let go of anything and everything that keeps us from responding to Christ. It means we must be ready and willing to do whatever Jesus asks of us. And we must be ready to do it the moment He asks.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that Advent is a time to start anew. It’s a time to let yourself be called to Christ. Listen to Him calling you and respond to Him with your whole heart.
Lord, I love You above all things. Help me to hear Your gentle yet firm voice calling me to follow You. Give me the courage I need to respond to Your gentle invitation with complete abandonment. May this Advent be a time of new beginnings and deeper resolve to follow You. Jesus, I trust in You.
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