Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Moment With Brother: Friday Penance

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.

Barbara from Sydney wrote and asked:

“Brother, are we still supposed to give up meat on Fridays? I thought this was now optional except for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.”

Dear Barbara,

The canon law of the Church states in Can 1251: “abstinence from meat, or some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays unless a solemnity should fall ...”. This means that the Church has given the responsibility to the bishops of each country determine whether abstinence from meat is obligatory or optional. In a country like ours, where the bishops have indeed made Friday abstinence optional, Catholics who do not abstain from meat are still obliged to perform some form of penance. Except when Friday is celebrated as a solemnity (such as Christmas, All Saints, the Assumption etc.), each Friday is a day of penance. The Church through the Catechism teaches that “the seasons and the days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (lent and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice” (CCC, 1438).

Some countries still prescribe abstinence from meat products on Fridays, while in Australia (as we have mentioned) it has become optional (other than Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and ember days – special days of prayer and penance on the first Fridays of March and September). Many Catholics in Australia still observe the praiseworthy practice of meatless Fridays including religious orders such as our own. The practice points to the fact that on Fridays we are called to remember the sufferings (the Passion) of our Lord for our salvation and to offer up a sacrifice out of love for Christ. It is an act to show that we are sincere in our sorrow for sins, our own and those of the world. It is an act of reparation, such as what we offer to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on First Fridays. Our Lord suffered and died for each one of us. Our acts of penance show our love and our gratitude to Jesus, as well as our sorrow for sin and humanity’s indifference towards our Lord’s suffering for our salvation. Sadly, it seems, many Catholics have forgotten this.

The bishops of Australia therefore remind us: “Friday is a traditional day of penance and should be marked by:(1) Prayer – participating in the Eucharist, family prayer, visiting a Church, reading the Scriptures, making the Way of the Cross (Stations), praying the Rosary; (2) Self denial – abstaining from meat, sweets or dessert, giving up entertainment to spend time with the family, limiting food and drink in support of the poor; (3) Helping others – giving special attention to someone who is poor, sick elderly lonely or overburdened.” Personally, I think it would be good to try something from each category. Let’s remember that these beautiful practices of our faith are given to help us to draw closer to Christ our Lord, so that we can grow in love of Him and our neighbor, and come to salvation.

Finally, I offer some beautiful words from St. Clement of Rome: “Let us fix our eyes on Christ’s blood and understand how precious it is to His Father, for, poured out for our salvation, it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance.”

God love you,
Br. Louis Mary

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Thoughts on Today's Liturgy of the Word: Vocational Discernment

I usually don't write anything about my homilies, firstly because (mea culpa) I rarely write them.  But today's readings for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B (1 Samuel 3:3-10.19,Psalm 39; 1 Corinthians 6; John 1:35-42) reminded me of an important part of vocation discernment, i.e. the role of the intermediary. 

Let me explain: In the reading from the First Book of Samuel, Samuel is called three times by the Lord. He has no idea it is the Lord calling him, and it isn't until  Eli, who is High Priest, comes to this realisation, that Samuel is able to say "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." Eli helps Samuel to discern that this is the Lord speaking to him, and only then is Samuel able to really communicate with the Lord. 

The same happens in the Gospel reading.  "As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus." Would the disciples have followed the Lamb of God without the direction, the "mediation" of John the Baptist?  Sure the Synoptic Gospels give a different account of the call of the 12, but here, in John's version, it is John the Baptist's discernment of the will of God for these two disciples that inspires them the follow the Lamb. 

Eli and John the Baptist are intermediaries. 

What does that mean for us? 

That we too are called at times to do the same. 

Continuing with this theme of vocation I think it is so important for parents to be intermediaries.  That is, they are in a privileged position to help their children discern their vocation.  Rather that having the attitude of "no, you're not being called to the Priesthood or Religious Life," mums and dads need to foster in their children good discernment. "What is God calling you to do?" "How is God calling you?" "Go, and tell the Lord, Speak, your servant is listening."  Wouldn't this be a great way for parents to help their children discern the will of God in their lives.

And let us not forget the role of the priest, especially your Parish Priest, in helping to discern God's will.  We can help in such discernment, be it vocation to marriage, to the Priesthood and/or Religious Life.  We too needed the help of intermediaries.  I had my Parish priest and other friars to show me how God was calling me.  Up until then I was like Samuel, hearing a voice speaking to me, but unable to recognise it as God's voice.  Thank God that "Eli" was there for me!

We are called to be Eli and John the Baptist.  Let us ask the Good Lord for the humility to take on this role to bring others to such discernment, whatever it may be.

(Fr.Benedict M. LaVolpe OFM Conv, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 14, 2012)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pope Benedict: Homily on the Epiphany

Here is the full translation in English of Pope Benedict's homily at the Mass for the Epiphany of our Lord celebrated in St Peter's Basilica on Friday January 6th:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The Epiphany is a feast of light. “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Is 60:1). With these words of the prophet Isaiah, the Church describes the content of the feast. He who is the true light, and by whom we too are made to be light, has indeed come into the world. He gives us the power to become children of God (cf. Jn 1:9,12). The journey of the wise men from the East is, for the liturgy, just the beginning of a great procession that continues throughout history. With the Magi, humanity’s pilgrimage to Jesus Christ begins – to the God who was born in a stable, who died on the Cross and who, having risen from the dead, remains with us always, until the consummation of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). The Church reads this account from Matthew’s Gospel alongside the vision of the prophet Isaiah that we heard in the first reading: the journey of these men is just the beginning. Before them came the shepherds – simple souls, who dwelt closer to the God who became a child, and could more easily “go over” to him (Lk 2:15) and recognize him as Lord. But now the wise of this world are also coming. Great and small, kings and slaves, men of all cultures and all peoples are coming. The men from the East are the first, followed by many more throughout the centuries. After the great vision of Isaiah, the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians expresses the same idea in rather sober and simple terms: the Gentiles share the same heritage (cf. Eph 3:6). Psalm 2 puts it like this: “I shall bequeath you the nations, put the ends of the earth in your possession” (v. 8).
The wise men from the East lead the way. They open up the path of the Gentiles to Christ. During this holy Mass, I will ordain two priests to the episcopate, I will consecrate them as shepherds of God’s people. According to the words of Jesus, part of a shepherd’s task is to go ahead of the flock (cf. Jn 10:4). So, allowing for all the differences in vocation and mission, we may well look to these figures, the first Gentiles to find the pathway to Christ, for indications concerning the task of bishops. What kind of people were they? The experts tell us that they belonged to the great astronomical tradition that had developed in Mesopotamia over the centuries and continued to flourish. But this information of itself is not enough. No doubt there were many astronomers in ancient Babylon, but only these few set off to follow the star that they recognized as the star of the promise, pointing them along the path towards the true King and Saviour. They were, as we might say, men of science, but not simply in the sense that they were searching for a wide range of knowledge: they wanted something more. They wanted to understand what being human is all about. They had doubtless heard of the prophecy of the Gentile prophet Balaam: “A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (Num 24:17). They explored this promise. They were men with restless hearts, not satisfied with the superficial and the ordinary. They were men in search of the promise, in search of God. And they were watchful men, capable of reading God’s signs, his soft and penetrating language. But they were also courageous, yet humble: we can imagine them having to endure a certain amount of mockery for setting off to find the King of the Jews, at the cost of so much effort. For them it mattered little what this or that person, what even influential and clever people thought and said about them. For them it was a question of truth itself, not human opinion. Hence they took upon themselves the sacrifices and the effort of a long and uncertain journey. Their humble courage was what enabled them to bend down before the child of poor people and to recognize in him the promised King, the one they had set out, on both their outward and their inward journey, to seek and to know.
Dear friends, how can we fail to recognize in all this certain essential elements of episcopal ministry? The bishop too must be a man of restless heart, not satisfied with the ordinary things of this world, but inwardly driven by his heart’s unrest to draw ever closer to God, to seek his face, to recognize him more and more, to be able to love him more and more. The bishop too must be a man of watchful heart, who recognizes the gentle language of God and understands how to distinguish truth from mere appearance. The bishop too must be filled with the courage of humility, not asking what prevailing opinion says about him, but following the criterion of God’s truth and taking his stand accordingly – “opportune – importune”. He must be able to go ahead and mark out the path. He must go ahead, in the footsteps of him who went ahead of us all because he is the true shepherd, the true star of the promise: Jesus Christ. And he must have the humility to bend down before the God who made himself so tangible and so simple that he contradicts our foolish pride in its reluctance to see God so close and so small. He must devote his life to adoration of the incarnate Son of God, which constantly points him towards the path.
The liturgy of episcopal ordination interprets the essential features of this ministry in eight questions addressed to the candidates, each beginning with the word “Vultis? – Do you want?” These questions direct the will and mark out the path to be followed. Here I shall briefly cite just a few of the most important words of this presentation, where we find explicit mention of the elements we have just considered in connection with the wise men of today’s feast. The bishops’ task is praedicare Evangelium Christi, it is custodire et dirigere, it is pauperibus se misericordes praebere, it is indesinenter orare. Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going ahead and leading, guarding the sacred heritage of our faith, showing mercy and charity to the needy and the poor, thus mirroring God’s merciful love for us, and finally, praying without ceasing: these are the fundamental features of the episcopal ministry. Praying without ceasing means: never losing contact with God, letting ourselves be constantly touched by him in the depths of our hearts and, in this way, being penetrated by his light. Only someone who actually knows God can lead others to God. Only someone who leads people to God leads them along the path of life.
The restless heart of which we spoke earlier, echoing Saint Augustine, is the heart that is ultimately satisfied with nothing less than God, and in this way becomes a loving heart. Our heart is restless for God and remains so, even if every effort is made today, by means of most effective anaesthetizing methods, to deliver people from this unrest. But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either, until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth. God is restless for us, he looks out for people willing to “catch” his unrest, his passion for us, people who carry within them the searching of their own hearts and at the same time open themselves to be touched by God’s search for us. Dear friends, this was the task of the Apostles: to receive God’s unrest for man and then to bring God himself to man. And this is your task as successors of the Apostles: let yourselves be touched by God’s unrest, so that God’s longing for man may be fulfilled.
The wise men followed the star. Through the language of creation, they discovered the God of history. To be sure – the language of creation alone is not enough. Only God’s word, which we encounter in sacred Scripture, was able to mark out their path definitively. Creation and Scripture, reason and faith, must come together, so as to lead us forward to the living God. There has been much discussion over what kind of star it was that the wise men were following. Some suggest a planetary constellation, or a supernova, that is to say one of those stars that is initially quite weak, in which an inner explosion releases a brilliant light for a certain time, or a comet, etc. This debate we may leave to the experts. The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world. And we may add: the wise men from the East, who feature in today’s Gospel, like all the saints, have themselves gradually become constellations of God that mark out the path. In all these people, being touched by God’s word has, as it were, released an explosion of light, through which God’s radiance shines upon our world and shows us the path. The saints are stars of God, by whom we let ourselves be led to him for whom our whole being longs. Dear friends: you followed the star Jesus Christ when you said “yes” to the priesthood and to the episcopacy. And no doubt smaller stars have enlightened and helped you not to lose your way. In the litany of saints we call upon all these stars of God, that they may continue to shine upon you and show you the path. As you are ordained bishops, you too are called to be stars of God for men, leading them along the path towards the true light, towards Christ. So let us pray to all the saints at this hour, asking them that you may always live up to this mission you have received, to show God’s light to mankind."

Source: Vatican Radio

On the Epiphany

The Magi,the three wise men, were not men of faith.

Yet they followed the star, they came to find the Christ Child, to pay homage, to bear gifts of significance.

Why did they travel afar?

They came in trust. They had trust.

How much more should we, we people of faith, trust?

Do we put our complete trust in Our Lord or do we trust Him only when things go our way?

Let us learn a lesson from the Magi.

Let us trust Our Lord in the times of frankincense, in the times of gold...and yes, even in the times of myrrh.

(From a homily on the Epiphany, January 8, 2012, St Joseph's, Springvale, Fr Benedict M. LaVolpe, OFM Conv)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Most Holy Name of Jesus

January 3rd

Optional Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

Today the Church celebrates the optional memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite this feast is celebrated on January 2. In the liturgical revisions of Vatican II, the feast was removed, though a votive Mass to the Holy Name of Jesus had been retained for devotional use. With the release of the revised Roman Missal in March 2002, the feast was restored as an optional memorial in the Ordinary Form on January 3.

The Church reveals to us the wonders of the Incarnate Word by singing the glories of His name. The name of Jesus means Savior; it had been shown in a dream to Joseph together with its meaning and to Our Lady at the annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel.

Devotion to the Holy Name is deeply rooted in the Sacred Scriptures, especially in the Acts of the Apostles. It was promoted in a special manner by St. Bernard, St. Bernardine of Siena, St. John Capistrano and by the Franciscan Order. It was extended to the whole Church in 1727 during the pontificate of Innocent XIII. The month of January has traditionally been dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus.

According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus which is kept on the First Sunday in the year; but if this Sunday falls on January 1, 6, or 7, the feast is kept on January 2.

The Tenth Day of Christmas

Holy Name of Jesus
This feast marks no progress in the development of the Church year. It merely embellishes the occasion just observed when the Child received the Name Jesus as had been foretold by the angel. The feast is meant to impress on us Christians the dignity of the Holy Name. It is a relatively new feast, stemming out of devotional piety. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to find in it some liturgical or ancient Christian dogma. What did a name signify originally? The name should express the nature of a thing. Thus Adam in paradise gave the animals names in accordance with their being. Among the Jews God's name expressed His essence, Yahweh, i.e., I (alone) am who am (and cause all else to be). The Jews had the highest respect for the name of God, a reverence that finds continuation in the Our Father: "Hallowed be Thy Name."

Persons who played prominent roles in the history of salvation often received their names from God Himself. Adam — man of the earth; Eve — mother of all the living; Abraham — father of many nations; Peter — the rock. The Savior's precursor was given the name God assigned him. According to divine precedent, then, the name of the Redeemer should not be accidental, of human choosing, but given by God Himself. For His name should express His mission. We read in Sacred Scripture how the angel Gabriel revealed that name to Mary: "You shall call His name Jesus." And to St. Joseph the angel not merely revealed the name but explained its meaning: "You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." The Messiah should not only be the savior, but should be called Savior. With Jesus, therefore, the name actually tells the purpose of His existence. This is why we must esteem His name as sacred. Whenever we pronounce it, we ought to bow our heads; for the very name reminds us of the greatest favor we have ever received, salvation.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Sunday, January 1, 2012

M.I. Prayer Intentions for January 2012

Immaculate Virgin Mary, my Mother, I consecrate myself to you this day, and forever, so that you may dispose of me as you wish for the salvation of souls. I ask you only, my Queen and Mother of the Church, that I may co-operate faithfully with your mission in the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. I offer to you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day:

That united with your Son we may bring His peace to our world.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you, and for all who do not have recourse to you, especially for the enemies of Holy Church and those recommended to you.