I have a new piece at Catholic Lane, which summarises a conference I attended over the weekend. Please do pray for the Christians throughout the Middle East, who are paying the ultimate price for fidelity to Christ.
Could you stop and say a prayer for a man named Terence, who is gravely ill? He has three young children who need him, and a family who loves him dearly. As always, God's most holy will in all things, but a miracle would be most welcome. Thank you.
Dale O'Leary is compiling years of work on same-sex attraction, combating the common myths and dissecting the studies that would have you believe something other than the truth. This is an excellent site to bookmark and share, especially in the coming months when the debate over relevant legislation will only get more heated. Dale's theory is that the data will always back-up Church teaching if collected properly. We might not understand everything yet, but there's abundant evidence over the centuries to trust the Magisterium -- on this and other matters of faith, and if we truly love, we must stand firmly in the truth.
I have taken the liberty of translating this piece in order to honour my patron saint:
On January 3, 2012, we mark the 1500th anniversary of the death of Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. For all Parisians, the name of the saint is associated with the mountain where she was buried and which remained throughout the centuries the radiant center of French intelligence. King Louis XV erected on the summit a beautiful basilica dedicated to Saint Geneviève (designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot) although the Revolution of 1789 desecrated the building, creating the Panthéon in which to house the "big men" ... But never mind.
This saint was Gallo-Roman, born of a Gallic mother and Frankish father in Nanterre between 420 and 423. As a child, around 429, she was noticed for her "piety and heavenly beauty" by Saint Germain, bishop of Auxerre, who was passing through, accompanied by Saint Loup, bishop of Troyes, on their way to fight the Pelagian heresy in Brittany. The prelate then hung around her neck a coin marked with a cross, a sign of her promise of virginal consecration. Shortly afterwards, the death of her parents forced her to move to Nanterre, first to live with her godmother in Lutèce,and subsequently to head a community there. Distributing as alms the money inherited from the vast estates of her parents, she subsisted on beans and barley loaves, performing extraordinary miracles, including healing many who were blind or lame. This attracted not only praise from the population, but led them to understand that they should place all their hope in God alone, for the pagans were too materialistic and the Christians too discouraged by the situation of their city which was prey to Visigothic invasions.
The fate of Lutèce was indeed precarious, being the last Roman enclave under the protection of the patrician Ætius, head of the Roman militia. And then it came to pass in 451 that the terrible Attila the Hun, known as the "scourge of God," appeared in Gaul at the head of 500 000 fierce warriors. On April 7th, he had put the people of Metz to the sword. At Lutèce, men spoke fleeing, and only Genevieve, aged twenty-eight, encouraged them to resist. She managed to convince a group of women to pray, fast and refuse their husbands as cowards if they did not resist. What women want ...
The fact remained that Attila, having failed to take Troyes which was strongly defended by its bishop, Saint Loup, rushed but not on to Lutèce, but to Orléans, where he met with the resistance of Saint Aignan, another intrepid prelate. One must remember that Ætius had been raised as a hostage of honor among the Huns and was therefore thoroughly familiar with the practices of the children of the steppes; and Attila, for his part, believed himself destined to seize the Roman Empire was fully aware of the Greco-Roman education. The confrontation in that sense took on a symbolic value.
The battle took place two weeks later, near Troyes in the Catalonian fields, where Attila was defeated but not crushed. Geneviève had contributed to the victory by helping the Gauls not to panic. Peace, though, was still quite uncertain. From 476, the puppet emperor Romulus Augustus was disposed towards Odoacer, the king of the Heruli who was allied with the Huns, and who would later entrust his imperial insignia to Zeno, the Eastern Roman Emperor. A barbarian entering Rome! A whole world was collapsing!
Geneviève did not lose hope: Rome was revived under the sign of the Cross! But the bishops of Gaul, who could no longer count on Roman order to save civilization, instead began to place their hopes in the Frankish kings, descendants of Merovingia. Although they were still somewhat pagan and cruel, at least they were less so than the other invaders, the Visigoths and Burgundians, whose religion was Arianism. If Childeric, a great admirer of Roman civilization, or his son Clovis born in 466, succeeded, since they had the stature to reunite Gaul -- providing the greatest potential for unity since Saint Martin -- this could provide the bulwark to advance a Christian kingdom that covered the Western Roman Empire! Geneviève would participate in the realization of this grand design.
She held Childeric in high esteem, and upon his death in 481 she turned her affections towards the young Clovis, then aged fifteen, and who was soon to slay Syagrius, distant successor of Ætius, who was merely an embarrassing shadow. Clovis was preparing to enter Lutèce, which he envisioned as his capital, but Geneviève tried to forbid him, insisting that he should be baptized. And yet we know that her wish had to wait until Queen Clotilde became her friend and Remi, bishop of Reims, could convince the young king to be baptized at Rheims at Christmas 496.
Despite her advanced age - she was to live to be over ninety - Geneviève remained the confidante of the royal couple, and the most revered person in Lutèce, which subsequently began to be called Paris. Clovis had begun construction on the Mount of the Basilica of the Holy Apostles, where he himself was buried in November 511. Geneviève joined him on January 3rd, 512. Queen Clotilde was to join them much later, in 544. But Geneviève, patron saint of Paris, continues from her mountain to protect the capital against all the modern "scourges of God" can not be invoked too often.
The parallels with our own time could not be more obvious, and I encourage women everywhere to take even more seriously their ability to instill courage by means of prayer, fasting and living the feminine genius. Bonne fête!
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a brilliant French philosopher and mathematician who offered a suggestion to those who struggled with faith. Since reason cannot be trusted and faith cannot be proven, there is a choice: to believe or not to believe. Weighing the cost of being wrong in either choice, he argued that it is far safer to believe (and enter oblivion after death) than to reject God (and risk eternal damnation). Furthermore, living as though one believed is a gesture that cannot go unnoticed by God, who will surely provide the grace of sincerity in due time.
This concept came to mind as I considered how difficult it is to teach our children to prioritize virtue and the sacramental life. It has ever been thus, as the familiar story of Saint Monica reminds us, but today's saint inspired me to twist Pascal’s “wager” into a slightly different form.
In reading about today's saint, Basil (330-379), I learned that his mother raised three children honored by the Church: Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and their sister, Saint Macrina; two other brothers were bishops. His grandfather was martyred for the faith, and both parents were known for their piety. Nevertheless, Basil writes of his early life:
Much time had I spent in vanity, and had wasted nearly all my youth acquiring the sort of wisdom made foolish by God. Then once, like a man roused from deep sleep, I turned my eyes to the marvelous light of the truth of the Gospel, and I perceived the uselessness of ‘the wisdom of the princes of this world, that come to naught.’ I wept many tears over my miserable life, and I prayed that I might receive guidance to admit me to the doctrines of true religion.
Think for a moment of how rich their family life must have been, and how many times young Basil had heard accounts of persecution and courage. Surely he was offered excellent moral formation and enthusiastic catechesis—and yet he still proved vain and foolish for a time.
This brings me to my variation on Pascal, which may help parents find peace in this new year. Either God exists or he doesn’t. If he does—as witnessed by the resurrection of Our Lord—then he loves your children dearly, is intimately familiar with their inner journey, and passionately wants them to be with him for eternity. Moreover, our omniscient and omnipotent God offers abundant graces specifically to make this happen—but do we really believe that? Do we pray as if we believe that?
Conversely, if God doesn’t exist, then all that we’ve been trying to teach our children is virtually useless (other than the earthly benefits that some moral guidelines provide).
Basil said that his eyes were opened one day when read the Gospel—but surely he had beeen familiar with the Gospel message since infancy. What must have transpired upon that particular reading of Scriptures was that “in the fullness of time,” he embraced the graces won by Christ (and for which his extended family, living and dead, must have begged).
When considering many conversion stories, one is baffled by what exactly supplies the critical piece for a soul—the “aha moment!” as it were. For some it may be a passage in a book, for others it’s a seemingly inconsequential passing comment, for others it may be a particularly scenic view. Rather than seeking “a silver bullet” (as so many parents do, accompanied by handwringing, tears and anxiety—revealing our lack of faith) perhaps we should embark on a year of trust, for the graces are there. Without a doubt, peaceful parents who pray and sacrifice with confidence are placing the surest bet of all. In the words of Padre Pio, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”
Sts. Joachim and Anne, A Family Prayer
Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Your Blessed Mother Mary and Good St. Joseph we ask You to bless, protect and guide our family. Humbly we approach Your Eucharistic throne of grace and pray that You mold us into a Holy Family. By the power of the Holy Spirit please help us to do the will of Our Heavenly Father, during our earthly sojourn, for Your honor and glory and the salvation of souls. Help us to lead others to You in the Most Blessed Sacrament. At the end of our journey please gather us together, again, that we may be a family in Your heavenly paradise and with the angels and saints sing Your praises for eternity.
This morning's homily by Bishop Robert C. Evans (aux. Providence, RI) reminds us of two gifts: the Church that guides us towards God, and Our Lady who shows us how to prepare for all things, especially the unforseen. May this New Year be filled with abundant graces for you and your loved ones!
The Church marks the beginning of the calendar year with the observance of Mary, Mother of God. It is a title that we may easily take for granted, so familiar has become the phrase. However, we should never cease to be surprised, even astonished at the claim that a creature has given birth to her Creator, that a mortal human being is mother to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
As we begin the Year of Our Lord 2012, we cannot know what awaits us, our families, even our world. We hope and pray for the best, we prepare for the worst. I suggest that a reflection on Our Blessed Mother, inspired by her title “Mother of God,” can provide us with two guideposts to accompany us throughout the coming year.
Before Mary could indeed become Mother of God, she had to be prepared for the role by God’s preserving her from the stain of Original Sin, for how else could the sinless Savior enter a sin-filled world? We know this as the Immaculate Conception, for from the first moment of her existence in the womb of Saint Anne she was immune from Adam’s sin. We are not so fortunate, for every human being conceived is done so by inheriting that darkening of the intellect and weakening of the will that results from Original Sin. It is only with baptism that this inheritance is eradicated--although the scars, so to speak, remain. Mary, however, was immune from this state of alienation from her Creator. She instinctively knew and thoroughly wished to do God’s will. In this we cannot hope to imitate her.
However, Mary while being so in tune with God’s will was not preserved from experiencing difficulty in fulfilling it. After all, she earned the title, “Mother of Sorrows.” Weeks after Jesus’ birth, the Holy Family was instructed to flee into Egypt due to King Herod’s attempt to kill the child. Even on the day Jesus returned to his home town and preached in the synagogue, no doubt Mary being present, she witnessed His being dragged out of the synagogue and brought to the edge of a cliff in an attempt to kill him. Within three years, she would find herself at the foot of her Son’s Cross.
In other words, like Mary we too may find obstacles put in our path as we seek to do God’s will. During this coming year, we will have to make choices between good and evil, right and wrong. We are members of a Church that distinguishes right from wrong so clearly and so insistently that some criticize the Church for this certitude. However, when we stop to remember that there is a heaven where happiness, peace and joy will last forever, and that there is a hell, where suffering, punishment and alienation will last forever, and that the judgment about our destiny will depend on what we have done or failed to do in this life, then should we not be grateful for a Church that lights the straight and narrow road to eternity and is not reluctant to teach, correct and reform us?
In order to remain on that straight and narrow road to salvation, we must live in God’s friendship, which we know as the state of grace. Failure to do so by disobeying the Commandments or refusing to heed the moral law results in our becoming alienated from God, and the consequences of Original Sin, that darkening of the intellect and weakening of the will, will aggravate our separation from God to the point where we can become spiritually deaf and blind to Him. Let us resolve in 2012 never to part ways with God but to be encouraged by Mary who while she always wanted to do God’s will nevertheless faced obstacles in doing so.
Finally, in today’s Gospel we hear how Mary kept all these things in her heart, and reflected upon them. Some twelve years later, after finding the Child Jesus in Temple after three days of anxious searching, we read once again that Mary reflected on these things in her heart. Permit me to suggest that during this new year we too take time to ponder the mysteries of our faith, to pray to God which is always listening as well as speaking, so that we too can be renewed and refreshed, and even surprised by how much God loves us and cares for us. Remember, God is never distant from us; only we can widen the gap separating us. Let 2012 be the year we close that gap and never let God out of our sight or our hearing!