Saint John Paul II’s New Year prayer for world peace

The pontiff entrusted the New Year to Mary, asking her to guide the world toward a peace that endures.

The first few day of a new calendar year are typically filled with hope. The pope will frequently meditate on the theme of peace, praying that the upcoming year will finally see an end to violence throughout the world.St. John Paul II ended his 2003 homily with a particular appeal to the Virgin Mary, asking her to guide the world to that peace we all desire. It is a beautiful and short prayer, one that is always relevant as we continue to strive toward that goal.

May Mary help us discover the face of Jesus, Prince of Peace. May she support and accompany us in this new year; may she obtain for us and for the whole world the desired gift of peace! So be it!

It’s All Grace The Meaning of the Immaculate Conception MARCELLINO D’AMBROSIO, PH.D.

It’s All Grace The Meaning of the Immaculate Conception

MARCELLINO D’AMBROSIO, PH.D.

The Beatitudes rank high on the list of all-time favorite Bible passages.  But what is “beatitude,” anyway?   In the bible, a “blessed” person is someone who has received gifts of the greatest value, gifts that lead to true fulfillment and lasting happiness.

If I were to ask you to name the first beatitude, you’d probably say “blessed be the poor in Spirit.”  According to St. Matthew’s gospel you’d be right, but not according to Luke.  At the very beginning of his gospel, Luke reveals that the very first beatitude is uttered by a woman filled with the Spirit, speaking of another woman overshadowed by the Spirit.  Elizabeth says, “Blessed is she who has believed.” (Luke 1: 45).

Is Marian devotion important in Christian life?  This has been a bone of contention between Catholics and Protestants for nearly 500 years.

Let’s look at the evidence in just the first chapter of Luke.  First, the Angel Gabriel honors her with the greeting “Hail, full of grace” (Luke 1:29).  Then Elizabeth prophesies “blessed are you among women.”  Next the prophet John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice.  Then, in her response to Elizabeth, Mary prophesies “all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

But it is Elizabeth’s final words to Mary that provide the key to understanding why Mary is to honored, namely, her faith.

One of the battle-cries of the Protestant Reformation was “Faith Alone!”  One key conviction that united the many disparate strands of the Reformation was that it is impossible to earn God’s favor by our good works . . . that we rather we receive his love as a pure gift, a grace, through faith.

Now consider Mary.  Did she crisscross the Mediterranean planting Churches like Paul?  Did she give eloquent sermons like Stephen (Acts 7)?  Did she govern the Church like Peter?  No.  Her claim to fame is that she simply said yes to God.  She believed He could do as he said and would do as He said.

But true faith is not just intellectual conviction that God exists or that He can do thus and such.  Faith involves entrusting oneself, abandoning oneself to God, willing to submit to his will.  That’s why Paul talks about “the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26).  Mary surrendered her plan for her life, and yielded to God’s plan.  And she did this not once, but again and again, even when he left her behind to begin his public ministry.  And when that ministry led to the horror of Calvary, Mary’s faith stood its ground at the foot of the cross.

So Catholics honor Mary for being the perfect example of the greatest Protestant virtue.  Ironic isn’t it?  And the deepest meaning of that disputed doctrine, the Immaculate Conception, is that it was the grace of God working mysteriously from the moment of her conception that made possible Mary’s exemplary life of faith.  Even her faith is a gift of His grace.  It’s all grace, according to Catholic doctrine.

Mary, of course, knew this.  That’s why she responded to Elizabeth’s praise with the humble, exuberant prayer known as the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  She is like the crystal-clear pool that reflects the sun’s rays back to the heavens.  So no one needs to fear that honor given her will detract from the majesty of her divine Son.  She deflects all the praise given her right back to God, the source of her greatness.

So the answer is that Marian devotion is necessary in Christian life.  But what is true devotion to Mary according to the fathers of the Second Vatican Council?  Not sentimental piety or gullible preoccupation with every rumored apparition, but rather, imitation of her virtues, particularly her faith (Lumen Gentium 67).

By Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D.

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For info on his resources and pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 800.803.0118.

When the Miracle Doesn’t Come The absence of God’s miracles does not signify the absence of his love. Amber VanVickle

Carl Bloch, “Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane”, 1873

When the Miracle Doesn’t Come

The absence of God’s miracles does not signify the absence of his love.

Amber VanVickle

I remember distinctly a night that had a great impact on my soul, a night that led to a great searching and seeking.

It was late. I was sitting amid beeping machines around the hospital bed of my newborn daughter. She had just had extensive back surgery for severe spina bifida, only a few days old. She was more tubes and bandages than sweet baby-soft skin. I sat with a broken heart in quiet questioning to our Lord. We had prayed for a miracle that had not come, and the result had been nothing less than torturous — physically for our daughter, in every other way for us.

At this same time, a beautiful miracle had occurred for an acquaintance of ours. Like the miracles of old — a life-giving, awe-inspiring, faith-enriching healing. We rejoiced in it with all our hearts. A letter soon circulated that this miracle occurred, firstly, because of God’s great love for the couple. As I read the letter late that night, sitting next to my daughter, my heart broke even deeper. What did it mean for us that the miracle had not come? Did God not love us?

It’s easy for us to read the Gospel accounts and see only the thread of one miracle story after another. But there are hidden golden threads that seem too often unnoticed, and it seems as if our Lord utters them in quiet desperation: “You seek me… because you ate your fill of the loaves,” “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe,” and “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Perhaps the Lord is telling us that his love is not measured simply in the physical, in the miracles and the healings, but perhaps even more so, in the absence of those. That his love is shown, even more deeply, in the crosses, the trials and tempests of our lives, in the seeming absence of his power and love. That God permits sorrow and suffering for the very end of drawing us into himself, for an intimacy and sharing-in that could not be achieved any other way than through a share in his passion: “You seem, Lord, to give severe trials to those who love you, but only that in the excess of their trials, they may learn the greater excess of your love.”

Too often the spiritual life, that continuous road of handing our lives, hearts and wills to God, is depicted as an effortless adventure, that when we turn to God all will be well. Many times I’ve heard, “Just sit back and wait and see what the Lord does!” as if a firework show awaits around every corner. But as St. Teresa of Avila says, “They deceive themselves who believe that union with God consists in ecstasies or raptures, and in the enjoyment of him. For it consists in nothing except the surrender and subjection of our will – with our thoughts, words and actions – to the will of God.”

God is a consuming fire, a fire that “breaks, blows, and burns and makes us new,” as John Donne writes. God’s love is one that enflames but also one that purifies:

“For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid affliction on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us forth to a spacious place.”

The absence of God’s miracles does not signify the absence of his love but the very presence of it, an offering of it and invitation to greater intimacy, a sharing in his life so efficaciously achieved by the stripping and fire of the cross: as St. Teresa Margaret writes, “Since Your life was a hidden life of humiliations, love and sacrifice, such shall henceforth be mine.”

Perhaps the sadness and frustration we hear in the voice of Christ is because of his desire for true love, a love that flourishes in the dark valleys as well as the peaks of life, a love that is not dependent on getting “our fill of the loaves,” a love that is pursued and sought not because of signs and wonders but because of who he is, a love that is tested and tried and found pure and true. He gives us this opportunity of love through the cross and sufferings, even more so than his miracles. As St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus prays, “O Lord, you do not like to make us suffer, but you know it is the only way to prepare us to know you as you know yourself, to prepare us to become like you… because you wish that my heart be wholly yours.”

 

Amber VanVickle, a homeschooling mother, has a degree in English from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband Dave and their five children

Holy Communion Nourishes Your Supernatural Life by Father LAWRENCE G. LOVASIK    

Holy Communion Nourishes Your Supernatural Life

  1. LAWRENCE G. LOVASIK     

Holy Communion preserves and increases the supernatural life of your soul. In the Holy Eucharist, Christ becomes present so that He may abide bodily among us by His Real Presence in our taber­nacles, renew the Sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody manner on our altars, and nourish our souls in Holy Communion.

The Eucharist is not only a sacrifice, but a sacrament as well. As a sacrifice, it relates in the first instance to God; as a sacrament, to ourselves. Through the Blessed Sacrament God bestows upon us the grace by which we obtain supernatural life and are saved.

By the imparting of divine grace, God has made it possible for us to share His own nature and His own vital activity. The life of God calls for appropriate food. The Bread of Angels has become, through transubstantiation, the food of man. This Bread, the product of our Savior’s love and power, is the only food that is wor­thy of the Father who gives it and the adopted children who re­ceive it from His hands. It produces wondrous effects in those children. The first and principal effect is that it gives divine life to the soul.

Holy Communion is the Body of Jesus under the form of bread, received as food. With His Body, He gives also His Soul, His divin­ity, His merits, and His grace. All that He is, all that He has, He makes your own. No being on earth is richer and more honored than you are when you bear in your heart your God and Savior. You could not ask for more. Christ could not give you more.

Because Jesus Christ Himself is the very essence of this sacra­ment, it follows that the Holy Eucharist is the most sublime and greatest of all sacraments, not only in dignity but also in power. Holy Communion is the most intimate union of ourselves with Christ, and therefore it must excel all other sacraments in power to sustain and increase the supernatural life within us. It is justly called the Blessed Sacrament.

This article is an excerpt from Fr. Lovasik’s The Basic Book of the Eucharist. Click image to learn more.

Through the Eucharist, you share in the life of God

God is the source of life. From all eternity the Father gives Himself to the Son. Together the Father and the Son give them­selves to the Holy Spirit, sharing with Him Their one divinity.

The eternal Son of God, in His limitless love for our fallen race, became incarnate that men might have life, and might have it more abundantly. At the time of the Incarnation, most of the children of Adam had ceased to live the supernatural life and had devoted themselves to the pursuit of vain honors, deceitful riches, and sinful pleasures. They had ceased to recognize the glorious dignity to which they were called — that of children of God — and had sunk to the lowest depths of sin.

The only-begotten Son of God then condescended to become man so that He might raise man to God. He descended to the depths of humiliation so that He might raise man to a most exalted dignity, to the sharing of God’s own life. It was not enough for Him to offer to God’s offended majesty that atonement which only a divine Person could adequately pay and to merit for man the super­natural life Adam had forfeited, but in His undying love for men, Jesus bequeathed to us a marvelous gift that was to feed and foster the supernatural life within our souls, adorn them with holiness, and thus perfect us more and more in our glorious dignity of divine sonship. This wondrous gift is the living Flesh and Blood of the Word Incarnate, substantially present in the consecrated Host.

The reception of the Blessed Sacrament is of supreme impor­tance to every soul Christ has redeemed. According as that heav­enly banquet is rightly partaken of, or neglected, man will enjoy throughout eternity the fulfillment of the supernatural life in the Beatific Vision of God, or will be excluded from Him.

God wants to give you a share in His divine life. Before doing so, however, He gave His life in all its fullness to the sacred hu­manity of Jesus because of its union with the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. This divine life then extends from Christ, the Head, into the Body of the Church. The members of this Body are the faithful who in turn share in that intimate life of the three Di­vine Persons.

Christ is the Mediator through whom grace comes to all men. By His sacrifice on the Cross, He has merited this divine life that mankind had lost by sinning. Jesus gives you His divine life and unites you with God through the sacraments, especially in Holy Communion, for it is the sacrament of union.

St. Augustine prays, “Other priests offered for themselves and for their people; this Priest, not having sin that He should offer for Himself, offered Himself for the whole world, and by His own Blood entered into the holy place. He, then, is the new Priest and the new Victim, not of the law but above the law, the universal Advocate.”

The Bread of Life is food for your soul

The first effect of Holy Communion is life. All the sacraments either impart supernatural life to the soul or develop it in the soul where it is already found. They do this for certain purposes. For in­stance, the sacrament of Penance raises the soul from death to life; Confirmation bestows on it a special strength to fight against its external enemies. But the Eucharist is concerned with the super­natural life itself. Its function is to intensify and strengthen that life. St. Thomas writes, “We should consider the effects of the Eucharist with regard to the manner in which the sacrament is con­ferred, as it is given in the form of food and drink: thus all the effects that material food and drink produce for the corporal life — that is, to sustain, to cause growth, to repair loss, and to delight — this sacrament produces them also for the spiritual life.”

Holy Communion is a sacrament, and hence, like all the other sacraments, it is a sign instituted by Christ to give grace. Like all the other sacraments, Holy Communion also is designed to give that precise grace of which it is a sign. Baptism, for example, is a symbolic bath; it contains and confers the grace of spiritual cleans­ing from sin. Confirmation is an anointing; it brings with it the grace of spiritual maturity. It makes its recipient firm in the Faith, anointed for the spiritual battle like an athlete of old.

Holy Communion is a sign of nourishment; hence, it is meant to bring to the soul the graces of spiritual nourishment. Holy Communion is meant to do for the soul what material food does for the body, and that is to preserve life and protect it. Material food enables you to continue living and protects you from fatal disease; Holy Communion preserves the spiritual life of your soul and protects you from the spiritual disease of mortal sin.

In His discourse after the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus stresses this fact five times. “I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven; if any one eats of this Bread, he will live for­ever; and the Bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my Flesh. . . . Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” The sharing of divine life means that God lives in you and you in Him, and that as God the Son has by nature the same life as the Father in its infinite fullness, so you share it by grace.

Our Lord compared the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar with the manna given to the Jews, because the Holy Eucharist was intended to be the daily spiritual food of Christians, just as manna had been the daily food of the Israelites in the desert.

Manna is like the eucharistic Bread, the Body and Blood of our Lord, which comes from Heaven to feed our souls during our life on earth, until we arrive at last in Heaven, our eternal home, the land of promise. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the Bread which comes down from Heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.”

It is in the midst of a meal, under the form of food, that Jesus chose to institute the Eucharist. He gives Himself to you as the nourishment of your soul: “My Flesh is food indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed.” In the Our Father, he taught us to say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This refers to Holy Communion. Like the manna, the Eucharist is bread come down from Heaven to give life by nourishing grace within your soul. The life of your soul is supported and developed by eating the “Bread of Life,” much in the same way as the life of your body is supported by eating your ordinary meals. Just as it is necessary to supply your body with food every day, so you must nourish and feed your soul, since obviously the soul has no less need of spiritual nourishment than the body has of material nourishment.

Jesus has prepared for you this great feast of the Holy Eucha­rist — the food of the soul. If you receive Communion only seldom, you become a prey to temptation and sin, and, growing weaker spiritually, you may fall into mortal sin. Many Catholics have good health and are blessed with the material goods of this world. They are very much alive physically, but are dead spiritually.

Therefore, Jesus comes not only to visit you in Holy Commu­nion, but to be the food of your soul, that receiving Him you may have life — the life of grace here below, the life of glory hereafter.

This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr. Lovasik’s The Basic Book of the EucharistIt is available as a paperback or ebook from your favorite bookstore and online at Sophia Institute Press.

Tolkiens lost Christmas poem to the Virgin Mary The poem was recently discovered and highlights Tolkien’s deep Catholic faith.

Tolkiens lost Christmas poem to the Virgin Mary

The poem was recently discovered and highlights Tolkien’s deep Catholic faith.

Fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien, best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, has very few published works that explicitly reference his Catholic faith.

Tolkien commented on his popular series, “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” However, the presence of his Catholic faith in his published stories was primarily subtle, something underneath the surface that acted as a firm foundation.

This is why it was surprising for Tolkien scholar Wayne Hammond to discover a poem that was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was originally published in the 1936 annual of Our Lady’s School in Oxfordshire and simply entitled, “Noel.”

According to Our Lady’s headteacher Stephen Oliver in an interview for The Guardian, “Noel is a beautiful and unusual take on the Christmas story, set in a wintry landscape. The focus is on Mary, which may be why Tolkien wrote the poem for the school magazine, given that we are dedicated to Our Lady.”

Here is an excerpt from the poem by Tolkien, which serves as a perfect meditation for the Christmas season (The entire poem can be accessed on this website).

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come

New Year’s Resolutions for Concerned Catholics: A Few Suggestions COMMENTARY: May 2020 be a year full of grace for everyone. We’ll all need it. George Weige

New Year’s Resolutions for Concerned Catholics: A Few Suggestions

COMMENTARY: May 2020 be a year full of grace for everyone. We’ll all need it.

George Weigel

During and after the grim martial law period in the early 1980s, many freedom-minded Poles would greet each other on Jan. 1 with a sardonic wish:

“May the new year be better than you know it’s going to be!”

As 2020 opens, that salutation might well be adopted by Catholics concerned about the future of the Church, for more hard news is coming. So let’s get some of that out of the way, preemptively, before considering some resolutions that might help us all deal with the year ahead in faith, hope, and charity.

Financial scandals in the Vatican will intensify. It’s been clear for some months now that the dam of secrecy, masking irresponsibility (and worse), is cracking. So expect more disturbing revelations about corrupt self-dealing, misuse of charitable funds, stupid investments, and general incompetence behind the Leonine Wall.

Vatican diplomacy will continue to disappoint. And the disappointed will include all who care about the human rights the Church proclaims in its social doctrine. Over the past six years, Holy See diplomacy has failed in Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Burma, Cuba, China, and Venezuela. 2020 seems unlikely to see a more robust Vatican defense of human rights. But it will likely witness more extreme Vatican positions on climate change and migrants; that absolutism will help shrink the space for devising a reasonable approach to these issues, as it’s done in the past.

A report on the career of Theodore McCarrick will likely be issued by the Holy See. The report will please no one. Amidst the cacophony that will follow its release, it will be important to remember three salient truths about this tawdry business: Psychopaths fool people, even wise and holy people; McCarrick was a psychopath; and McCarrick fooled lots of people for decades, including his many former friends on the port side of Catholicism in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Aggressive and politically motivated state attorneys general will continue to issue reports on historic sexual abuse cases. The response from cowed Church leaders will be tepid, at best. And what will get lost again — as it got lost after the now-paradigmatic Pennsylvania attorney general’s report — are two realities ignored by too many media outlets, too many institutions with responsibility for the safety of the young, and too many Catholics: that the Catholic Church today is arguably the safest environment for young people in the country; and that, from bitter experience, the Catholic Church has learned some things about creating safe environments from which the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, public schools, and public school teachers’ unions could all learn

And the suggested resolutions?

Resolve to be a missionary disciple at the retail level. Amidst these and other troubles, concerned Catholics constantly ask me, “What can I do?” To which I always respond, “Between now and next Easter, try and bring at least five disaffected Catholics back to Sunday Mass, and try to introduce at least one unevangelized person to Christ.” Retail evangelization is essential to authentic Catholic reform; it’s also deeply satisfying.  Let’s get on with it, irrespective of the troubles.

Resolve to limit your exposure to the Catholic blogosphere. In 2019, many Catholic websites went bonkers. There is no need to click on sites that specialize in all-hysteria or all-propaganda all-the-time. If you want reliable Catholic news, visit the websites of Catholic News Agency and the National Catholic Register. If you want sane commentary on the turbulent Catholic scene, go to the websites of Catholic World Report, First Things and The Catholic Thing. That’s more than enough for anyone. Limiting your blogosphere browsing to these sites, while ignoring the hysteria-mongers and propagandists, will lower your blood pressure while keeping you well-informed.

Resolve to intensify your prayer for the vindication of Cardinal George Pell. This innocent man’s false conviction will be contested before Australia’s High Court in the first quarter of 2020. Pray that justice is done, that Australia’s reputation as a country governed by the rule of law is restored, and that the cardinal is enabled to resume his crucial role in Catholic affairs.

Resolve to deepen your spiritual life by serious spiritual reading. A good place to be start would be a recently published book by Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, Grace in Season — The Riches of the Gospel in Seventy Sermons.

Resolve to thank the good priests and bishops you know for their service. They deserve it.

And may 2020 be a year full of grace for everyone. (We’ll all need it.)

Amen!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  George Weigel is the distinguished senior fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by the Denver                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Catholic, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver