Sunday, July 31, 2011

St John Vianney

St. John Vianney, (Patron of priests) Feast Day - August 4. Universally known as the "Cure of Ars."

Let us reflect on the life of St. John Mary Vianney, patron of priests. St. John was a member of the Secular Franciscan Order, hence his particular interest

St John Mary Vianney was ordained a priest in 1815.

Three years later he was made parish priest of Ars, a remote French hamlet, where his reputation as a confessor and director of souls made him known throughout the Christian world. His life was one of extreme mortification.

Accustomed to the most severe austerities, beleaguered by swarms of penitents, and besieged by the devil, this great mystic manifested a imperturbable patience. He was a wonder worker loved by the crowds, but he retained a childlike simplicity, and he remains to this day the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ.

He heard confessions of people from all over the world for the sixteen hours each day. His life was filled with works of charity and love. It is recorded that even the staunchest of sinners were converted at his mere word. He died August 4, 1859, and was canonized May 31, 1925.

St John Mary Vianney was born into a peasant family in the small town of Dardilly on 8 May 1786. He spent much of his childhood working in the fields and tending the flocks, such that at the age of 17 he was still illiterate. His path to priesthood was therefore quite difficult.

A man with vision overcomes obstacles and performs deeds that seem impossible. St John Vianney was a man with vision: He wanted to become a priest. But he had to overcome his meagre formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies.

His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue. But his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, the saint was ordained.

Situations calling for “impossible” deeds followed him everywhere. As pastor of the parish at Ars, St John encountered people who were indifferent and quite comfortable with their style of living. His vision led him through severe fasts and short nights of sleep. (Some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.)

With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls. Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home.

His work as a confessor is St John Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day.

Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But St John Vianney had no thoughts of retirement. As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God’s people. Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil.

Who, but a man with vision, could keep going with ever-increasing strength? In 1929, Pope Pius XI named him the patron of parish priests worldwide.

Recommending liturgical prayer, St John Vianney would say, “Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.”

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16

Pope Benedict XVI on Our Lady of Mount Carmel

By a happy coincidence, this Sunday is July 16, day in which the liturgy remembers the Most Holy Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Carmel, high promontory that rises on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, at the altitude of Galilee, has in its folds numerous natural grottoes, favorites of hermits.

The most famous of these men of God was the great prophet Elias, who in the 9th century before Christ, courageously defended the purity of the faith in the one true God from contamination by idolatrous cults. Inspired in the figure of Elias, the contemplative order of Carmelites arose, a religious family that counts among its members great saints such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of the Child Jesus and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in the world, Edith Stein).

The Carmelites have spread in the Christian people devotion to the Most Holy Virgin of Mount Carmel, pointing to her as a model of prayer, contemplation and dedication to God. Mary, in fact, before and in an unsurpassable way, believed and felt that Jesus, the incarnate Word, is the culmination, the summit of man's encounter with God.

Fully accepting the Word, "she happily reached the holy mountain" (Prayer of the Collect of the Memorial), and lives forever, in soul and body, with the Lord. To the Queen of Mount Carmel I wish to commend today all the communities of contemplative life spread throughout the world, especially those of the Carmelite Order.... May Mary help every Christian to meet God in the silence of prayer.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Moment With Brother: The Lord's Day

From time to time, readers of our humble publication, The Little Troubadour, write in for advice of the friars. Their questions or troubles often concern things that affect us all. Over the past year I have dedicated some space in our magazine to answer these questions. I thought it might be helpful to share them here as well.

Katrina from Southport writes,

Dear Brother,

Why do we as Catholics observe Sunday as the Lord’s Day? Friends of mine who are now Seventh Day Adventists tell me that as Catholics we are not following the Word of God.

Dear Katrina,

We again see that when we separate the Sacred Scriptures from the authority of the Church, which is its authentic interpretation and helps us to understand it correctly, that we are at risk of distorting the meaning of the Bible for us as Christians.

The third commandment of God is: “remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Originally this referred to the seventh day, the day on which God rested after the work of creation. Our Jewish brothers and sisters continue to keep Saturday as the Sabbath day.

But for Christians, the Sabbath was changed (by the authority of the Church given to it by Christ) from Saturday to Sunday, to recall the Resurrection of our Lord from the dead on Easter Sunday and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday, when the Church began the mission of the proclaiming the Gospel. Sunday, as ‘the first day of the week’ (Mark 16:2), “recalls the first creation; and as the ‘eighth day’, which follows the Sabbath, it symbolizes the new creations ushered in by the Resurrection of Christ. Thus, it has become for Christians the first of all days and of all feasts. It is the day of the Lord in which he with his Passover fulfilled the spiritual truth of the Jewish Sabbath and proclaimed man’s eternal rest in God” (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 452). So the obligation of heeding the law of God has not changed, but through God’s redemption of the world he has providentially re-ordered this observance to reflect the fulfillment of the Old Covenant through the New Covenant in Christ.

As Christians we are called to keep Sunday as a holy day, “by refraining from those activities which impede the worship of God and disturb the joy proper to the day of the Lord or the necessary relaxation of mind and body” (Compendium, 453). Sadly, our society has made Sunday like any other day. Many forget the Lord’s Day and engage in unnecessary activities which disturb our rest. We mow the lawn, pull out the leaf blower and wash the car. Sunday is to be a day of rest and worship. We are called to abstain form unnecessary work. Of course there are people who are employed on Sundays and this is unavoidable in our society, especially in occupations of essential service to the community. But if we can cut the grass or paint the house on another day, then we should leave Sunday as a day to relax, to enjoy the gifts of God, to recreate and give thanks to Him through our participation at Holy Mass.

In coming to Mass, we should be conscious that we are celebrating our new creation in Christ. We come dressed for the occasion, and yet too frequently we come as if dressed for the football or the beach. It is to our shame that in poor countries people still wear their ‘Sunday best’ to church (which is often their only decent clothing) in order to show fitting respect for God. Being human, a unity of body and spirit, we worship God not only with mind and soul, but also with our bodies. We should therefore be modest in our dress. While our easy going nature as Australians is a great quality, we must be careful that this does not become laziness and irreverence towards God, nor scandalous through a lack of courtesy towards others.

Such matters concerning a proper observance of Sunday were addressed by Bl. Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter to the Church Dies Domini. It might be a good idea for us to read this so that we can all give due respect to the Lord’s Day and keep it holy.