Saturday, February 24, 2018

How do we measure our love of God?

God wishes to be served
to the last breath, to the exhaustion of the last drop of strength,
and He multiplies our capacities for suffering and doing
so that our dedication may reach the extreme limit
of the unforeseeable, the improbable, the miraculous.
The measure of the love of God is
to love Him without measure, said Saint Francis de Sales.
The measure of fighting for God consists
in fighting without measure, it may be said.

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

February 24 – First Christian King Among the English

St. Ethelbert, King of Kent

Born, 552; died, 24 February, 616; son of Eormenric, through whom he was descended from Hengest.
He succeeded his father, in 560, as King of Kent and made an unsuccessful attempt to win from Ceawlin of Wessex the overlordship of Britain. His political importance was doubtless advanced by his marriage with Bertha, daughter of Charibert, King of the Franks. A noble disposition to fair dealing is argued by his giving her the old Roman church of St. Martin in his capital of Cantwaraburh (Canterbury) and affording her every opportunity for the exercise of her religion, although he himself had been reared, and remained, a worshiper of Odin. The same natural virtue, combined with a quaint spiritual caution and, on the other hand, a large instinct of hospitality, appears in his message to St. Augustine when, in 597, the Apostle of England landed on the Kentish coast.

In the interval between Ethelbert’s defeat by Ceawlin and the arrival of the Roman missionaries, the death of the Wessex king had left Ethelbert, at least virtually, supreme in southern Britain, and his baptism, which took place on Whitsunday next following the landing of Augustine (2 June, 597) had such an effect in deciding the minds of his wavering countrymen that as many as 10,000 are said to have followed his example within a few months.

Thenceforward Ethelbert became the watchful father of the infant Anglo-Saxon Church. He founded the church which in after-ages was to be the primatial cathedral of all England, besides other churches at Rochester and Canterbury. But, although he permitted, and even helped, Augustine to convert a heathen temple into the church of St. Pancras (Canterbury), he never compelled his heathen subjects to accept baptism. Moreover, as the lawgiver who issued their first written laws to the English people (the ninety “Dooms of Ethelbert”, A.D. 604) he holds in English history a place thoroughly consistent with his character as the temporal founder of that see which did more than any other for the upbuilding of free and orderly political institutions in Christendom.

When St. Mellitus had converted Sæbert, King of the East Saxons, whose capital was London, and it was proposed to make that see the metropolitan, Ethelbert, supported by Augustine, successfully resisted the attempt, and thus fixed for more than nine centuries the individual character of the English church. He left three children, of whom the only son, Eadbald, lived and died a pagan.
STUBBS in Dict. Christ. Biogr., s.v.; HUNT in Dict. Nat. Biogr., s.v.; BEDE, Hist. Eccl., I, II; GREGORY OF TOURS, Historia Francorum, IV, IX; Acta SS.; BUTLER, Lives of the Saints, 24 Feb.

E. Macpherson (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Lent: Historically and Practically



Lent is a 40-day preparation for Easter, a period reminiscent of the 40 years the Israelites wondered in the desert, and of the 40 days Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed and fasted in the wilderness.
On both accounts, and in view of the Lord’s redemptive passion and death, Lent is a period marked by a spirit of penance, something for which Our Lady of Fatima insistently asked in her apparitions to three shepherd children in Portugal, 1917.

History and Facts
Though there are indications that the custom of a 40-days’ fast before Easter goes back to the apostles, there is no conclusive evidence. Nevertheless, by the year 339 history records St. Athanasius encouraging his hearers to keep a 40-days’ fast, a custom he claimed was being practiced all over Europe.
In the Middle-Ages, the Church-ascribed Lenten fast was severe, including all forty days, and the consumption of meat and dairy forbidden. Throughout the centuries there have been consecutive relaxations, following a better understanding of different human needs.
Today, though still binding for Catholics under pain of serious sin, the Lenten precept is mild requiring abstinence from meat only on Ash Wednesdays and all Lenten Fridays, including Good Friday. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, there is also a fast added to the abstinence from meat. This fast consists of two small meals (not to equal a full one), and a full meal.
Beginning with Ash-Wednesday, Lent involves forty weekdays excluding Sundays (the practical application being that everything we “give up,” we can have on Sundays).

Spirit of penance, the practical “ropes” for the spiritual life

The Catholic Church, in her genius for using matter to convey a spiritual message, begins Lent by using ashes, a custom retroactive to the Middle Ages when penitents poured blessed ashes on their heads to show sorrow for sin–in turn, a practice as ancient as the Old Testament. 
Ash Wednesday and the ceremony of receiving blessed cinder is generally respected, and esteemed, remaining popular today. Even lax Catholics attend, and wear the cross-like smudge with pride. 
On Ash Wednesday “all we sinners” stand in line in a packed church, patiently waiting our turn to be blessed with the ashes and hear the words, “You are dust and to dust you shall return”; or the more modern version of, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. ” The traditional version, being in line with the theme of ashes, is more to the point. 
Another great, popular practice is “giving up” something. In honor of the penitential nature of the 40 days ahead, we relinquish a fond item or habit: candy, coffee, smoking, etc…indeed, a wholesome, holy habit. 
But just as any habit can become so habitual we no longer remember the reason for first adopting it, or the deeper meaning of the exercise, so with holy habits. 
Mother Church never recommends anything on a whim, but intends all for our present good and ultimate salvation. Thus, the reason for giving up something we like is to help discipline our weak natures. Discipline strengthens the will and helps turn it to the practice of virtue. Indeed, mother Church teaches that mortification and sacrifice are indispensable for salvation. 
Just as a soldier is not made by thinking of becoming one, but by lifting the weights, strapping on the boots, and marching the march, so with the spiritual-combat.

Two aspects to penance
There are two aspects to salutary penance, a “negative” aspect and a “positive” aspect.
The “negative” or “taking away” aspect involves letting go of something, such as the above mentioned. But just as important as sacrificing a material good is sacrificing a spiritual ill, such as a sin, a fault or working on a particular defect like cursing, bickering, a short temper, etc.
Just as crucial is to practice some “positive” or “putting in” penance: attending Mass more than once a week, visiting the sick or lonely, volunteering time at the parish, reading a good spiritual book or praying a Rosary with the family.
A good priest once recommended we look at Lent as the Spring Cleaning of our year. Thus keeping Lent makes for a good program for a good life. Lent is a time to re-read the “owner’s manual”, to tune our “engines”, and to refurbish our “vehicles” not only for the journey of 40 days, but for the journey of life, the right life–and the right eternity.



WOC Devotional Set Flag


Books recommended for Lent:
  • The Spiritual Combat by Don Lorenzo Scupoli
  • Characters of the Passion by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
  • The Mystical City of God by Sister Maria of Agreda

St. Praetextatus

Praetextatus became the bishop of Rouen, France, in 549. The thirty-five years during which he occupied the position of bishop were riddled with troubles involving the Frankish monarchy, a result of which was a time of exile for the saint.
Among the players of this political drama was Fredegund, mistress of King Chilperic, a murderous woman responsible for several deaths in the royal family. Fredegund despised Praetextatus and opposed his return from exile, but a council in Rouen overruled her interference and reinstated the holy bishop to his see.

“The time is coming when you shall revisit the place of your exile.” She threatened the saint shortly before his death. “I was a bishop always, whether in exile or out of exile, and a bishop I shall remain; but as for you, you shall not always enjoy your crown.” He said, as he urged the queen to convert.

The wicked queen refused to reform her life, and in 586 as Praetextatus was offering Holy Mass, Fredegund had an assassin stab him under the arm. The mortally wounded bishop managed to drag himself to the altar and receive Holy Communion before he died.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Easiest way to pray

Prayer is the conversation
of a child with its Father; of a subject with his King;
of a servant with his Lord; of a friend with the Friend
to whom he confides
all his troubles and difficulties.

St. John Vianney

St. Polycarp

Polycarp, a holy man and bishop of Smyrna, was part of the group of early bishops. When heresy arose in Asia, violence toward Catholics arose with it, and Polycarp was persuaded by his friends to go into hiding.

Eventually Polycarp was found and arrested. When his persecutors arrived at his hideout, he went to them and served them a meal, asking for a short time to pray before being taken away. Polycarp was sent to trial, where his captors tempted him with freedom and tried to convince him to denounced Our Lord. “Fourscore and six years I have served Him and He hath done me no wrong,” he said, “how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

Soon after this, in the year 155, Polycarp was burnt at the stake – though there was no odor of burning flesh: instead a smell of incense was in the air. When the fire seemed to do him no harm, a spear was thrust into his side, killing him. A dove flew out of the wound, and Polycarp’s blood quenched the fire, causing part of his body to remain intact. However, his remains were later burned to ash because the heretics feared other Catholics would revere the body as a relic.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Why does God conceal Himself?

In times of desolation,
God conceals Himself from us
so that we can discover for ourselves
what we are without Him.

St. Margaret of Cortona