Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fr. Andersen: Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart in Gervais

Nov 27, 2012 Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

In the middle of the night on July 18th, 1830, a young postulant in the Sisters of Charity in Paris was awakened by a small boy who told her that our Lady was waiting for her in the chapel. She arose and followed the boy, worried about waking the other sisters and the Mother Superior, but no one stirred.

The Chapel was completely lit by candlelight when they arrived. The boy led her to the tabernacle and knelt there. Then the young postulant heard the rustling of silk, as of a lady walking in a fine gown and a beautiful young Llady, radiant in heavenly light, appeared. The Lady sat on a chair in front of the side altar and young Sr. Catherine Laboure knelt with her hands held in the Lady’s hands on her lap. The Lady told her that she was the Immaculate Conception and that the young sister must be vigilant because France would experience another period of bloody violence against the Church. She said that the convent would be spared and that Catherine must remain faithful and vigilant.  

The Lady later showed Catherine an image of herself with radiant streams of light coming from her fingers. This light represented the abundant grace of God which no one asked for. Our Lady told Catherine to strike a medal with this image of Our Lady standing on the ancient serpent, crushing his head, with streams of light coming from her fingers. All those who wore this medal and asked for the grace would receive it. Our Lady faded away leaving Catherine alone in the chapel with the little boy who escorted her back to her room. Then he disappeared.

Within a week, Paris saw riots in the streets. The bloodshed of the revolution returned. Churches were sacked and profaned, priests and nuns were murdered without mercy. But this convent on the Rue de Bac was spared and the medal was made and distributed. It was called the medal of the Immaculate Conception. Very soon, this medal came to be called the Miraculous Medal because reports began to flood into the convent about physical cures, conversions and miracles from those who wore the medal.

The most famous conversion is that of Alphonse Ratisbonne, an Austrian Jew, an agnostic and businessman. In 1842, Alphonse was preparing to marry and decided to travel to Malta before the wedding. He never made it to Malta and instead wound up in Rome. He had vowed that he would never go to Rome due to his intense hatred of the Catholic Church.

His brother George had converted to Catholicism and became a priest. This only intensified Alphonse’s hatred for the Church. While in Rome he met a newly converted Catholic, Baron Bussieres. Ratisbonne and Bussieres got into a great argument over the Catholic Church and Bussiere somehow convinced “the Jew to wear the new medal to Mary from Paris, as a dare. He was even able to convince Alphonse to write down the words to the MEMORARE, and repeat the prayer. Ratisbonne accepted the challenge with outright mockery. He allowed the Baron’s daughter to put the medal around his neck” (Lord, Bob and Penny. The Many Faces of Mary, p. 58).

“Our Lady then put a dying man, Comte de la Ferronays, in the path of Bussiere. They met at a dinner party in Rome. Baron Bussiere discussed Ratisbonne with the Comte, who promised to pray the Memorare for him at the Church of St. Mary Major. The Comte de la Ferronays went to the Church, and prayed twenty Memorares for the conversion of the angry Jew. After having prayed, he returned home, and died the same day” (Lord, 58-59).

Ratisbonne wanted to leave. He went to Baron Bussiere’s home to thank him for his courtesy, which was his custom, and to return the medal to him. Bussiere, not wanting to lose Alphonse, asked him to accompany him to the Church of St. Andrea’s, where Bussiere was to make funeral arrangements for Comte de la Ferronays. The fact that the Comte had prayed for Ratisbonne made him feel obligated to join his friend (Lord, 59).

While Baron Bussiere made arrangements in the sacristy, Ratisbonne wandered about inside the church. He had a feeling he should leave. As he turned towards the front door, a huge black dog blocked his way. The animal was vicious, baring his fangs. Ratisbonne was frozen in his tracks. He couldn’t move. Suddenly the dog disappeared. Directly in his path, at a side chapel, a brilliant light glowed. Ratisbonne looked up to see Mary standing there, above the altar, in the pose of the Miraculous Medal, which he still wore around his neck. He looked up at her. Her face was peaceful, but her eyes bore deep into his soul. He could not stand the brilliance of the light. He had to look away from her enchanting face, her captivating eyes. He looked at her hands, which, according to his own words, “expressed all the secrets of the Divine Pity”. She never said a word, but he “understood all” (Lord, 59).

The vision lasted but a few minutes; the effects a lifetime. When his friend emerged from the sacristy, he found Ratisbonne on his knees, sobbing. He insisted on being baptized immediately. The story spread all over Rome. In a matter of months, Alphonse Ratisbonne was baptized, received First Holy Communion, and was Confirmed. He went on to become a priest, taking the name Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne. He joined his brother (George) in Jerusalem to form the Daughters of Zion, whose ministry was to evangelize among the Jews” (Lord, 59).

75 years later, a young Franciscan seminarian named Br. Maximilian Kolbe heard this story about Alphonse Ratisbonne and it inspired him to promote the wearing of the Miraculous Medal for the conversion of souls and as a sign of total consecration to Mary. He formed the “Militia Immaculata” “to win all souls for Christ under the patronage of Mary Immaculate” (Kalvelage, Marian Shrines of Italy. 6). In 1917, Fr. Kolbe celebrated his first Mass after ordination at "The Altar of the Apparition" at St. Andrea Delle Frate in Rome where Alphonse Ratisbonne had seen Our Lady and converted.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Government Was Created by God: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais

November 25th, 2012

Domini Nostri Iesu Christi Regis Universorum (Christ the King)

This week is the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year. Each year begins liturgically with birth and ends with death. At the beginning of the Liturgical Year, December is the month of Christmas, which celebrates the Nativity, or birth of Jesus Christ. At the end of the Liturgical Year, November focuses on the Four Last Things: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and Judgment. Now, as we end the year, we meditate upon the end of all things. At the end of time, Christ the King will return to Judge all the nations. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast of Christ the King in 1925 to highlight the importance of recognizing Jesus Christ not only given to man “as our Redeemer, but also as a law-giver, “to whom” he said, “obedience is due” (Quas Primam ¶14). When we consider Christ as Judge, it is not only as Judge of all individuals, but Judge of all nations, including our own. By this, Pope Pius XI refers to the social reign of Christ the King. Obedience is due to Christ by lawmakers, governors, presidents, kings and all rulers everywhere. The reality in our day, as it was in the days of Pope Pius XI, is that there are many governments in the world that are atheistic, or are hostile to religion.

But governments are made up of individuals. Each individual is a creature of God. God created man for society. So society is also a creature. Government is an expression of the order which characterizes God. All acts of God bring order where there is chaos. Disorder or chaos are not of God. Where there is disorder and chaos, there is no peace. Where there is order, there is peace. So government is a means for bringing order out of chaos. Government is not an invention of mankind. Government was created by God. The very word “hierarchy” means sacred rule, or sacred order.

Authority in any hierarchy comes not from man, but from God. This is also true for secular government. “Those invested with the power to govern in the State derive their authority not from people who elected them, in the case of a democracy, but from God” (Davies. 22). Pope Leo XIII wrote that Christ’s “empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons…but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ” (Annum Sacrum. 1899). Pope Pius XI wrote: “In Him is the salvation of the individual, in Him is the salvation of society” (Quas Primas. 1925). All those whom God has created and given life have a responsibility to give back to God what He has a right to receive from us. The rights of God demand that all creatures worship and obey Him. Since the state is also a creature of God, the state also owes to God worship and obedience to the natural law created by God.
In this, we are not talking about the relationship between the state and the Catholic Church, but rather the relation between the state and Christ the King (cf. Davies 37). The state is given to govern all temporal secular matters. The Church is given to govern all sacred and spiritual matters. They should be distinct but should work together for the common good. A purely secular nation is not good for the welfare of the people. Law can be no law unless it conforms to the law of God.

We can see this if we look to the atrocities committed by atheistic nations such as Soviet Russia, Communist China, or Nazi Germany. One of the difficulties encountered at the Nuremberg Trials was that Nazi officials had acted according to the laws of Germany. Everything they did was legal according to the laws of the German nation. How could an international tribunal convict them of crimes against humanity? There had to be a higher standard for law above that of a particular nation. The court had to appeal to the natural law in order to determine that an objective moral code existed in order to prosecute the Nazis. The Natural Law is that which is laid down by God. The first principle of the natural law is to do good and avoid evil.

Legislators have no right to enact civil laws which conflict with the natural law, even if a majority of the people wishes them to do so. All authority in Church, State, and the family derives from God, as Our Lord pointed out to Pontius Pilate (22). Therefore a law is not a law if it conflicts with the natural law. The Natural Law is known by reason alone. Catholics are bound to the natural law, but also to divine law. Divine Law is revealed. It cannot be known by reason alone. So we as Catholics live under the rule of Christ the King. We must give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. We must give to God what belongs to God. We understand that a law which allows for something sinful does not allow us to commit that sin. The extermination of Jews under the Third Reich was legal in the 1930s and 40s. But it is not lawful according to the Divine Revealed Law of God. Therefore it was never lawful to exterminate Jews regardless of what German law dictated. Likewise, the extermination of unborn children is lawful in the United States, by means of abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, but it is not lawful according to the Natural law or the Divine law. Therefore, regardless of its “legality” according to the secular law, it is not lawful at all.
Our citizenship is in the United States and we should be patriotic and law-abiding citizens. But our citizenship is also in Heaven. We are responsible to be law-abiding citizens of heaven and its laws. Christ is our King. He is the King of all individuals and all nations. He will come to Judge the living and the dead. Let us live our lives now according to His laws. Let us be good citizens and help our nation to serve the common good according to Christ’s laws.  

Long Live Christ the King!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks Be to God!

Thanks be to God for our one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church!

Thanks be to God that we may enjoy the fullness of the Truth!

Thanks be to God that we live in a time such as this!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November: Praying for the Dead

It’s still November, and it’s still an especially good time to pray for the dead!


It’s a good time to get in the habit of praying for the dead on a daily basis, and not just in November. There are some nice traditional prayers to pray for the dead each day of the week.  Go here to access them.

Here are some interesting excerpts from a couple of other blogs – be sure to go and read the whole post at the link provided.

“Can the Poor Souls Pray for Us?” posted by Fr. Ryan Erlenbush, New Theological Movement

In the month of November, it is fitting that we think on the poor souls in purgatory. While it is a matter of faith that the saints can pray for us, and likewise that we can pray for the poor souls, there is no little question as to whether the souls in purgatory can pray for us. While there is much popular devotion today – which seems also to be supported by the experiences of certain more recent saints (for example, St. Pio) – by which the faithful invoke the intercessory power of the holy souls, it is good to recognize that the majority of the tradition is decidedly against this possibility.
Granting that nearly every Church Doctor has either implicitly or even explicitly held that the poor souls cannot pray for us, is there any ground for imploring their intercession?

“A Month for Real Charity” posted at La Nueva Primavera (The New Springtime)

Every day, people do heroic acts to help others. Firemen rescue people from burning buildings. Police rescue victims from their persecutors. Missionaries deliver food, clothing and education to the poor. Yet, one of the greatest areas of need remains ignored: The fate of the poor souls.

Purgatory is a fact. Catholics are REQUIRED to accept Purgatory as a dogma of their faith.

You never hear it preached? It's still there.

You don't like to think about it? It's still there.

How can a merciful and loving God permit such a thing?


Here’s the De Profundis – the traditional psalm/prayer said for the dead (from Fish Eaters)

Out of the Depths / De Profundis
English version:

Latin version:
Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord: Lord hear my voice.
De profúndis clamávi ad te, Dómine: Dómine, exáudi vocem meam.
Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
Fiant aures tuae intendéntes: in vocem deprecationes meae.
If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
Si iniquitátes observaveris, Dómine: Dómine, quis sustinébit.
But there is forgiveness with Thee: because of Thy law I wait for Thee, O Lord.
Quia apud te propitiátio est: et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Dómine.
My soul waiteth on His word: my soul hopeth in the Lord.
Sustinuit ánima mea in verbo ejus: sperávit ánima mea in Dómino.
From the morning watch even until night let Israel hope in the Lord:
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem: specret Israel in Dómino.
For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plentiful redemption.
Quia apud Dóminum misericordia: et copiósa apud eum redémptio.
And He shall redeem Israel, from all their iniquities.
Et ipse redimet Israel, ex ómnibus iniquitátibus ejus.

Note: This partially indulgenced prayer is Psalm 129, one of the 7 Penitential Psalms, the others being Psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, and 142.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Homily: Generational Afflictions and Graces

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart in Gervais, OR, for Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Dominica XXXIII Per Annum, Anno B

A glorious future awaits us. We are called to heaven. But God has warned us through the prophet Daniel of tribulation to come. Our Lord Himself tells us that before His glorious second coming, there will be tribulation. And “after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” (Matt 13:24ff).

But there are many things that must happen before “heaven and earth will pass away.” We do not know the time for His coming, but He warns us to be vigilant at all times. “When you see these things happening, know that he is near” Not only must each of us be vigilant and open our eyes and ears to these things that are happening, but as a Catholic people, we must be vigilant, especially when we see that the moral and spiritual state of American society has fallen and is falling so quickly. The moral foundation of thousands of years of Judeo-Christianity has all but crumbled in the last 50 years. These are the signs of the times that we must be paying attention to. How did this happen? What were the warning signs and what are the warning signs today?

I do not mean to give a complete answer to these questions, but I recently read an article by Fr. Chad Ripperger called “The Sixth Generation” (Latin Mass Magazine, Summer 2012, pp. 34-38) in which he explores the last six generations and what each has, or has not, passed on to the next. In this article, he says that “Each generation has a ‘vocation’ of a sort”, meaning that they are “called by God to accomplish certain tasks, fight off certain evils, achieve certain perfection, etc. God assigns an angel to protect that generation and sometimes the angel is one who is given to help the generation overcome the problems it faces.” (35). “But demons, by the permissive will of God, also afflict a generation.” Fr. Ripperger refers to these demons as “generational spirits” (35).

We need to remember that “Not everyone in a particular generation will be affected by the particular generational spirit of that generation.” But we can identify how each generation has been afflicted and what they have passed on to the next generation. First, let us “go back to the generation which came of age during and shortly after World War I; this generation became known as the ‘Lost Generation,’ a term popularized by Ernest Hemingway…” (35). Some of this generation “indulged in hedonism…[but] most members of this generation followed the traditions of their parents, especially in the area of religion” (35). “(T)his is the generation that could suffer without complaining.” They suffered through World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. For this generation, “suffering was such a part of life that to talk about it was like talking about the rate of growth of the grass outside. Life was suffering…and so one simply did not talk about it” (35). Here lies the problem. The generation spirit can be identified as a “spirit of non-communication.” That generation simply did not talk to their children or communicate to them the ability to embrace their cross, nor to appropriate one’s suffering for virtue’s sake, in the way that they actually did it.

So their children, the so-called “Greatest” Generation, who grew up in the Great Depression and fought in World War II, “did not embrace their cross in the manner that their parents did. They fought the Second World War, but they came back determined that ‘this would never happen again.” They knew how to deny themselves, but did not want to pass this on to their children. Their generational spirit was a lack of mortification” (36). They knew how to work hard. They knew how to sacrifice. They knew how deny themselves but “their goal was not to attain spiritual perfection by the perfection of virtue. Rather it was to obtain something materially better, primarily for their children. They indulged their children” (36).

Their children were the baby boomers born after World War II. This generation was completely different from any that had come before. As a generation, they were indulged. Their parents “did not pass on the traditions of their fathers which required discipline and self-denial” (37). So, they engaged in “various forms of intemperance.” drugs, immorality, pleasure, pride. It is said that, aside from those who went to Vietnam, the only hardship this generation encountered was annoyance at their parents. “[I]ntemperance led to indocility. Docility is the virtue by which a person is able to be easily led by someone who knows more or who is above him. Due to the fact that the appetites, when left to themselves through intemperance, will not tolerate being denied, the Baby Boomers became indocile because to be led, again, requires self-denial” (37). “Also, intemperance affects judgment by making one think that what is, in fact, sinful is morally acceptable. Saint Thomas observes that one of the effects of lust is hatred of God because He forbids the use of the generative faculty in a disordered way. Hatred of God is simply the extreme of indocility in which one must put away what one wants in order to do what is right” (37). What their parents, “the ‘Greatest’ Generation failed to realize is that by not embracing their cross, one of the greatest crosses they would have is to watch their [Baby Boomer] children who would be undisciplined, disrespectful to authority, and licentious” (37). Remember that as I speak of each generation that there are certainly many families and many individuals from each generation that did not conform to these generalities. So, these are broad societal observations to help us see the path more clearly.

“The children of the Baby Boomers [born from the late 60s into the early 80s] are known as ‘Generation X’ and ‘Generation Y’…This generation is also known as the ‘Me Generation’ because (they) are noted for their narcissism. They are often hallmarked by their entitlement mind set. The generational spirit of Generation X and Generation Y is a spirit of amorality or the absence of religiosity. The members of this generation are often hallmarked by nice personalities, somewhat easy to get along with, and are not mean spirited” (37). They are not necessarily immoral, but rather amoral. In other words, they are not concerned with the morality or immorality of something. “They tend not to see the point of religion and this was the generation that was first allowed ‘to choose which religion’ it would follow” (37).

Their children are commonly referred to as “Generation Z.” These children were born in the 1990s up through the mid-2000s. “This generation is one that is completely plugged into technology. It is the generation that has gone without a coherent moral code, religious doctrine, or societal norms. This generation is also the one that was left at daycare where no moral training was ever given them. Unlike Generations X and Y, who may have been spanked or reprimanded when they did something wrong, even though not much was taught to them as to why it was wrong, this generation received no moral formation at all from their parents. If they did receive moral formation, it tended to be what is in the general culture today where sins are often described more in terms of how one hurt the environment than how one offended God” (37). “What they consider acceptable… is the inverse of what the ‘Greatest’ Generation would have considered acceptable, everything from living together as a norm before marriage to viewing same-sex ‘marriage’ as a ‘non-issue’ because they cannot see why others are hung up with it. This does not bode well, because the younger members of this generation are starting to show the signs of a spirit that will become full blown in the next generation” (37-38).

The Sixth Generation (pause) are those born within the last 5-7 years and continuing for another decade or so. “This generation will have a spirit that is not like any of the other generations” (38). It is a spirit of paganism, fueled by the licentiousness and depravity passed down from the last couple of generations. There is also the vice of curiosity. This is not meant in the way of “someone who simply wants to learn more. Rather, (curiosity) is used to indicate an intellectual vice in which a person seeks after knowledge that is not suited to his state in life. We need only look to the drastic rise in the practice of witchcraft, curiosity in the occult, and the popularity of Harry Potter, the Twilight saga, and other vampire and werewolf movies (cf. 38). “The trajectory of moral depravity and curiosity in occult matters will result in the next generation wanting or actually having open worship of other ‘gods’”(38). This is a bleak picture that I have painted. These are the signs of the times. When the fig tree’s branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that that He is near, at the gates.

I have been describing broad trends in the secular world around us. We are part of that world; affected by it, but not bound to it. We are in the world, but not of it. It can be a discouraging picture out there. But in here, all is bright with heavenly light. The Holy Spirit is at work among the young generation today. Many who are coming of age today recognize the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith in all its richness. They readily see how the rejection of traditional, orthodox Catholicism has deprived them of their spiritual inheritance, but they are claiming it back. Each generation is called by God to accomplish certain tasks, to fight off certain evils, and to achieve certain perfection. The Holy Spirit is now giving this generation what was not passed down to them. They are receiving Catholic tradition and they love it. Some among their elders are dumbfounded. They say, “How can the young generation love what we discarded?” 

The Popes have continually called us to restoration and Pope Benedict is a reformer denouncing the abuses that have been inflicted upon the Church falsely in the name of Vatican II. The youth are leading this reform and revival. We as a Catholic people need to see this as an olive branch from God. We need to encourage our youth to embrace discipline, obedience, and docility in the face of God and Catholic tradition. The restoration of the Catholic faith and culture, of Catholic liturgy, and sacred music from the devastation of the last 50 years is our source of hope for the future of the world and especially for the future of America. And so we must be vigilant and not lose hope. “God will not abandon man; extraordinary graces appear to be given to the children of the younger generation which have rarely been seen” (Ripperger 38). 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cardinal Burke: Holy Communion

Cardinal Burke is speaking here about receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue.

(Thanks to Richard at "Linen on the Hedgerow")

Sacred Music and Evangelization

From Catholic News Service: Pope Benedict tells a choir group on pilgrimage in Rome that sacred music can be an effective means of the new evangelization.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This is My Body: Homily by Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais for Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Dominica XXXII Per Annum, Anno B (Veteran’s Day)

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Christ the High Priest. St. Paul uses the word ‘oblation’ when he speaks of the ‘offering’ that Christ has made once for all. This word ‘oblation’ is used quite a bit in the texts of the Roman Missal. What is an oblation? It is a type of sacrifice. We can contrast an oblation to a holocaust. Both are sacrifices. But a holocaust is a whole burnt offering where nothing remains and the victim of sacrifice is completely destroyed. An oblation, however, is an offering that is shared with God. It is not completely destroyed. The Mass is called an oblation. In Eucharistic Prayer #3, the priest says, “Look we pray upon the oblation of your Church.” We intend to offer something specific to God and He gives us back what we offered, but what He gives back is far greater than what we offer.

We originally offer bread and wine. The oblation is placed on the altar. The large host is placed front and center because it is the first thing offered: the body. Directly behind the host is placed the chalice of wine. This is the next thing offered: the blood. They are intentional offerings: the key word spoken in the consecration is the word “Hoc.” “Hoc est enim Corpus Meum” For THIS is my Body. The same with the chalice. The word “Hic” also meaning ‘this’ is essential because it identifies the gift which is intentional. THIS is the gift. “His est enim Calix Sanguinis Mei” For THIS is the Chalice of my Blood. The widow was intentional when she said “THIS is my life.” THIS is everything I have and I give THIS to God. She understood THIS to be an oblation. God would not abandon her. God would share it with her.
You see, everything we have comes from God. We offer back to Him what He has given to us. This is a beautiful concept which originates in nature. This concept is called ‘exitus et reditus’. It originates from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, and through the Church Fathers such as Augustine and Aquinas it has come into mainstream Christian theology. Exitus is Latin for exit. Everything that comes from God exits heaven and comes to us. Reditus is the word that means to return. That which has come to us, or exited from heaven is meant to return to heaven. God gives and we receive. We give back to God and He turns around and gives it back to us. Water is a natural example of exitus and reditus. Water comes down from the clouds. It collects on the earth and then evaporates back up into the sky. It collects in the clouds and then comes back down yet again and again and again.

But when humans receive a gift from God it is not enough to just offer back what we received. We must improve the gift by our work and our talents. What we offer back to God should be better than what He originally gave to us. So if God gives wheat, we don’t just offer wheat back to Him. That was what Cain did. No, we offer back to him bread. Bread is intentional and it takes human artistry. If God gives grapes, we offer back to him wine which is intentional and it takes human artistry. And when God receives a gift from humans, it is not enough for Him to turn around and give it back unchanged. No, the gift has to reflect the giver. Wheat and grapes reflect the artistry of God the Creator. Bread and wine reflect human artistry using these gifts of nature. Transubstantiation reflects the artistry of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist reflects the artistry of Jesus Christ. It is an entire self-offering on the part of the Son of God. It is intentional on His part. It is intentional on our part. This is an oblation.

The widow in the gospel was intentional in what she gave. She gave everything she had to God. She did not just reach in her pocket and throw in from her surplus. She was intentional in giving God all she had. That is trust! But didn’t God give everything to her in the first place? What does she have to lose? She trusts that God will give far more back to her because of her generosity. That is how exitus et reditus works. We have to multiply and improve upon the gifts, talents and treasure that God gives us. He expects that of us. But He will also multiply and improve what we give to Him and He will give it back to us.

Ultimately what God wants is for us to offer everything to Him as the widow did. He wants us to offer our very lives to Him. What have we to lose? He gave us everything in the first place. If we offer all to God, we will not be the losers. We will win everything including eternal life. This is at the heart of the religious life and the accompanying vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Those are very difficult things to surrender, but they are at the heart of a complete self-offering.

The most beautiful words we can say to God are the same words He has spoken for us in this Mass: THIS is my body. I offer THIS to You my Lord and my God. THIS is my health. THIS is my family. THIS is my livelihood. THIS is everything I have. I have nothing left to offer but I trust in You; I offer it to You, my beloved Savior Jesus Christ. Have mercy on me a sinner. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Importance of Praying for the Dead: Fr. Andersen

This is Fr. Eric Andersen’s homily from All Souls' Day.

Given at Sacred Heart/St. Louis in Gervais on November 2nd, 2012

Omnium Fidelium Defunctorum
All Soul’s Day is a reminder of the importance of offering Holy Mass for the dead and of obtaining plenary indulgences for the souls in purgatory. How powerful is the Mass on behalf of the dead? Here is a story about St. Teresa of Avila to illustrate:

“On the Feast of All Souls, Don Bernardino de Mendoza had given a house and beautiful garden, situated in Madrid, to St. Teresa, that she might found a monastery in honor of the Mother of God. Two months after this, he was suddenly taken ill, and lost the power of speech, so that he could not make a confession, though he gave many signs of contrition. ‘He died,’ says St. Teresa, ‘very shortly afterwards, and far from the place where I then was. But our Lord spoke to me, and told me he was saved, though he had run a great risk; that mercy had been shown to him because of the donation to the convent of His Blessed Mother; but that his soul would not be freed from suffering until the first Mass was said in the new house. I felt deeply the pains this soul was enduring, that although I was very desirous of accomplishing the foundation of Toledo, I left it at once for Valladolid on St. Lawrence’s Day.

“One day, whilst I was in prayer at Medina del Campo, our Lord told me to make all possible haste, for the soul of De Mendoza was a prey to the most intense suffering.

“I immediately ordered the masons to put up the walls of the convent without delay; but as this would take considerable time, I asked the Bishop for permission to make a temporary chapel for the use of the sisters which I had brought with me. This obtained, I had Mass offered; and at the moment I left my place to approach the Holy Table, I saw our benefactor, who, with hands joined and countenance all radiant, thanked me for having delivered him from Purgatory. Then I saw him enter Heaven” (Schouppe, Purgatory. pp. 232-233).
This account written by St. Teresa herself points out to us the necessity not only to pray for the dead but to have Masses offered for them. Many people believe that everyone automatically goes straight to heaven. But the Church has never taught that. The Church does not teach that today. The only person whom we know went directly to heaven was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her path was direct because she never committed one sin in her entire life. Therefore she would not have even passed through purgatory because she did not need purifying. That is what Purgatory is: a place of purification. Purgatory is not a second chance.  
All those who are going to heaven pass through purgatory as preparation for Heaven. That is why we call them the holy souls. They are holy. St. Paul tells us why in his First Letter to the Corinthians.

“For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ. On this foundation you can build in gold, silver and jewels, or in wood, grass and straw, but whatever the material, the work of each builder is going to be clearly revealed when the day comes. That day will begin with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If his structure stands up to it, he will get his wages; if it is burnt down, he will be the loser, and though he is saved himself, it will be as one who has gone through fire.  
Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.”

St. Paul is speaking to Christians about the very real possibility that those who were temples of God are not guaranteed salvation. They must pass the test. This feast reminds us then to consider our own final end. God has given us our faith and the sacramental life so that we can go to heaven and be with Him forever. We are not called to go to purgatory, but to heaven.  
Let us treat our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit and live our lives in a way that aims for heaven. Let us not be satisfied with merely getting into purgatory. Sure, we know that if we are in purgatory, we are on our way to heaven, but why shoot for purgatory? Let us aim for heaven. And let us pray with charity for those holy souls in the Church suffering in purgatory. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Love of God, Fear of God

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart- St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon (my emphases)

Nov 4th, 2012

Dominica XXXI Per Annum, Anno B

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
Blessed Agnes of Langeac, a French Dominican nun of the 17th century, was known, as prioress for “recommending to her religious respect and fervor in their relations with God, reminding them of these words of Holy Scripture, Accursed be he that doth the work of God with negligence [Jeremiah 48]. A sister of the community named Angelique died. The pious Superior was praying near her tomb, when she suddenly saw the deceased sister before her, dressed in the religious habit; she felt at the same time as though a flame of fire touched her face. Sister Angelique thanked her for having stimulated her to fervor, and particularly for having frequently made her repeat during life these words, Accursed be he that doth the work of God with negligence. “Continue Mother,” she added, “to urge the sisters to fervor; let them serve God with the utmost diligence, love Him with their whole heart, and with all the power of their soul. If they could but understand how rigorous are the torments of Purgatory, they would never be guilty of the least neglect” (Schouppe, Purgatory, pp. 137-138).

If they could but understand… they would never be guilty of the least neglect. This story is an example of motivation by fear. Where there is a fear of punishment, we are more likely to do what we are supposed to do. In the past, the Church often motivated people by emphasizing fear of punishment; the fear of going to hell, or the fear of languishing for centuries in purgatory. As a result, people obeyed the law of God. They obeyed the Ten Commandments, abstained from meat every Friday, went to Confession every Saturday and Mass every Sunday. They avoided committing mortal sin for fear of going to hell. Society itself upheld a high moral standard because that was the way people lived. God commanded it and people obeyed…out of fear… and out of love for God.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI changed the law that requires abstinence from meat on Fridays. He lifted the pain of mortal sin attached to this law, but he did not lift the law itself. Catholics today are still obliged to abstain from meat every Friday during the year, but now we are obliged by love. We are no longer obliged by fear. We are obliged by love. Perhaps it was naive to believe that Catholics would continue this practice out of love. Many Catholics today do abstain from meat every Friday, but I would guess that most do not. It is not a mortal sin to eat meat on Fridays except during Lent. Since it is a mortal sin during Lent, most Catholics observe this law. They do so out of fear. But why do they not do so out of love?
Let me clarify the issue. We can eat meat on Friday as long as we are doing something else that is penitential. Catholics are obliged to do penance every Friday. Canon Law specifies that this means abstaining from meat, but in the United States, we can choose another penitential practice instead, especially if a person is a vegetarian and already avoids meat. If a woman is pregnant, she is excused from this law, even during Lent. But recently the Bishop’s Conference in England ruled that there is no other option anymore for the people of England. Abstinence from meat is now mandatory every Friday throughout the year. There has been talk among the US Bishops Conference of doing the same thing in the United States. This is not a step back because Vatican II never changed the discipline. The discipline remains in place for the entire world and has always been in place since the first century (cf. Didache)

But Catholic culture has changed in practice in this regard. It is nobody’s fault here in this community. We inherit what is passed down to us. But if we look at the Church’s teaching, we see that Catholic culture actually has not changed. Perhaps we just become distant from Catholic culture when we stop practicing it. If there is no fear, can we respond out of love?  The gospel says, ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Was Paul VI naive when he said that we should do it out of love instead of fear? Did he know that millions of Catholics would not be willing to continue this out of love?

Now the question before us is this: Does love motivate us to do what we are supposed to do? Or must there be fear in order for us to obey the law of God? When I was growing up in the late 1970s and 80s, all we were taught was that God loved us. But it was a vacuous, meaningless love, and frankly I think many of us got tired of hearing about it. It became boring. It asked nothing of us in return. That kind of love doesn’t mean much because there is no sacrifice, no demands, no betrayal, no cross. We had no fear of God and no fear of consequences for our sins.

If we look at our society today, it is alarming to see how far things have fallen in the last 50 years. In many ways, there is complete disregard for the law of God. In the Church, we see so much dissent from Church teaching, widespread disrespect for the Holy Eucharist, and overall negligence toward the work of God. Remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah that Blessed Agnes of Langeac taught: Accursed be he that doth the work of God with negligence. When we hear it that way, it puts the fear of God in us.
Maybe both love and fear are necessary to motivate us. This is something for each of us to think about and pray about. For some God’s love is all they need to be fervent and zealous in their faith. For others God’s love does not motivate them. What will it take to get us to heaven? Sr. Angelique said: “If they could but understand how rigorous are the torments of Purgatory, they would never be guilty of the least neglect.”

Something for us to think about and pray about. Let us respond out of love to the law of God in the way we live our lives, in the way we spend our money, in the way we vote. Let us love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all our strength. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pray for the Presidential Election

Pray for God's will to be done in the upcoming election!

Michael Voris has been doing a weekly update on how the presidential race is shaping up, from the perspective of the electoral vote. In the latest installment (embedded below, and worth watching) he concludes:

Romney SHOULD win by every measure there is, but we have to consider that as St. Paul says, we are not fighting a temporal war, but a spiritual one – against principalities and powers.

People supporting Obama are not supporting him because of his sterling economic policies; they are supporting him because of his ideological stances – as was made abundantly evident during the Democratic Convention, when one child-murdering supporter and sodomy supporter after another walked up to the podium and hailed this man.

We do not know how this will turn out, but we do know this: IF Obama wins, and the pace of social and cultural destruction quickens – which it most certainly will – none of it will be happening without God in Heaven allowing it.

Obama winning may in fact be His judgment on a wicked and perverse generation…not OUR judgment on who is best to occupy the White House.

This program is from ChurchMilitant.TV

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Souls Day: Praying for the Dead

Every year on November 2, Catholics in our local parish go to Mass and then visit the local Catholic cemetery. When we first moved here, I went to the Mass, but I never went to the cemetery; for one thing, it was usually a cold, windy day, and I didn’t want to brave the weather. For another thing, I simply did not understand the significance of that visit.
Now, with the experience and wisdom (ha!) gained in my whole almost-ten years of being a Catholic, I do understand – at least a little more – about that visit to the cemetery. I learned several years ago that one can gain a plenary indulgence for visiting a cemetery and offering prayers for the dead on All Souls’ Day (and actually, on any day from November 1 to November 8).  I even learned what a plenary indulgence is.

How did I learn this? Well, it was not from attending Mass on All Souls’ Day and hearing the priest talk about sin, indulgences, prayers for the dead IN PURGATORY, and the like. If anything, all I ever heard about the dead was that they were in heaven praying for us. Purgatory? Well…let’s just think happy thoughts about heaven.

No, I learned about indulgences from my spiritual director, who explained to me what they actually were, and who recommended a book, A Modern Guide to Indulgences, by Dr. Edward Peters. I read the book and found that, like all authentic Catholic teaching, the whole concept of indulgences and purgatory and praying for the dead was integrated, logical, and simply beautiful.

That visit to the cemetery after Mass on All Souls’ Day is not just something we do to “honor the memory” of the dearly departed. We don’t go there just to put flowers on graves and shed a few tears for the family and friends we’ve lost – which does nothing for the dead, but simply gives us opportunity to indulge our own sentimentality.

No, there is much more to it than that.

We go there to pray for their very souls. We go because there is sin in our lives, and there was sin in theirs, and we do not know whether or not these souls have gone to heaven. The Church tells us that almost certainly the deceased are in purgatory, being…well…purged…as the word tells us! They are being prepared to enter the court of the King of the Universe. And we can help them. We must help them, because they can no longer help themselves. That’s why praying for the dead is a spiritual act of mercy.

Even when I have heard people talk of purgatory, it’s been in a sort of off-hand, dismissive way, as if purgatory isn’t all that bad, and hey, you’re on your way to heaven if you at least have made it to purgatory, so no big deal. But then I read another book (I have been told by more than one person that I read too many books): Hungry Souls, by Gerard J. M. Van Den AardwegThis book makes it very clear that purgatory is real…and painful. Yes, painful. Having every one of your sins laid bare, made excruciatingly present in your mind in the sight of God…well, that’s pain. There’s lots more about the pains of purgatory in Hungry Souls. Read the book.

So…about that visit to the cemetery: through this act, we can gain graces which are passed on to the souls in purgatory, and we also gain graces for ourselves because of the act of mercy in which we participate.

There’s a catch, though. Indulgences don’t come by wishing. There’s work involved. If you read about particular partial or plenary indulgences, you will often see the phrase “under the usual conditions”. What are the “usual conditions”?

For a partial indulgence, one must:

·         Be baptized
·         Be in the state of grace
·         Have the intention to obtain the indulgence
·         Perform the works or offer prayers correctly

And for a plenary indulgence, one must:

·         Meet all the requirements of a partial indulgence
·         Not be excommunicated
·         Have no affection for sin, not even venial sin
·         Receive the sacrament of reconciliation and Holy Communion and offer prayers for the pope’s intention within 8 days before or after the indulgenced day

A true appreciation of indulgences brings one to the realization that:

·         Sin exists (!)
·         Sins must be forgiven in order to be indulgenced; that means going to confession.
·         People who die do not automatically go to heaven, no matter how much we love them!
·         Indulgences can only be granted through the Catholic Church

And finally, it is very important to know that to obtain an indulgence, one must have the intention to obtain it. I’ve noticed that older prayer books often suggest a prayer to this effect: “I wish and purpose to gain today all the indulgences which it is possible for me to gain.” When I pray that prayer, I automatically think about how long it’s been since I went to confession, because that will have some bearing on whether or not I qualify for a plenary indulgence. And both confessing my sins and obtaining an indulgence (whether for myself or for someone else) are good for my soul.

I think that if all the faithful had a greater appreciation of indulgences, there would be more visits to the confessional. I think there would be fewer funeral Masses that sound like beatification ceremonies, and more that sound like the prayer for God’s mercy that they are supposed to be.

My conclusion: The effort to obtain indulgences leads to more prayer, more awareness of sin, prayers for the dead, and the salvation of our souls. Sounds like a good thing.  Too bad we don’t hear more about it from our priests and bishops!

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis.