Thursday, March 26, 2009

Seek Always the Face of the Lord

Today, Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent, from the Introductory rites for the Mass

"Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength, seek always the face of the Lord." Psalm 104:3-4

May the Holy Face be known and loved by all throughout the world.

"That God whose face we recognize in a love which presses 'to the end' (cf. Jn 13:1)
– in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen." Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Holy Mother of God Bless your Servant Pope Benedict XVI

O Our Lady of Guadalupe, mystical rose, intercede for holy Church, protect the sovereign pontiff Benedict XVI, help all those who invoke thee in their necessities, and since thou art the ever virgin Mary, mother of the true God, obtain for us from thy most holy Son the grace of keeping our faith, sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life, burning charity and the precious gift of final perseverance. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus Disfigured and Transfigured in Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

About Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
Mohawk (1656-1680)

from the website
Kateri Shrine of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in the Mohawk Indian Village at Ossernenon (now Auriesville in upstate New York) to a Mohawk chief and a Christian Algonquin mother.

Kateri was orphaned at the age of four when both her parents and her brother died in a smallpox plague. Kateri survived the disease, but it left her face badly scarred, her eyesight impaired, and delicate for the rest of her life. Kateri was adopted by her aunts and an uncle, a chief of the Mohawk Turtle clan who bitterly opposed Christianity. When she was about ten, the Turtle clan moved to the north bank of the Mohawk River, near what is now the town of Fonda, New York.

In 1667, the Jesuits missionaries Fremin, Bruyas, and Pierron, accompanying the Mohawk deputies who had been to Quebec to conclude peace with the French, spent three days in the lodge of Tekakwitha's uncle. Kateri received her first knowledge of Christianity from the Jesuits. When Kateri was eighteen, Father Jacques de Lamberville arrived to take charge of the Mohawk mission. Kateri secretly began instructions in the Christian faith. Her uncle finally relented and gave his consent for Kateri to become a Christian, provided that she did not try to leave the Indian village. Kateri received baptism from Father Jacques de Lamberville on Easter Sunday April 5, 1676. Kateri practiced her Christian faith unflinchingly in the face of almost unbearable opposition. The following year after being threatened because of her faith, she fled with the assistance of Christian Indians to the Mission of St. Francis Xavier, a settlement of Christian Indians in Canada on the St. Laurence, near Montréal. The village in Canada was also named Caughnawaga (Kahnawake). On Christmas Day 1677, Kateri made her first Holy Communion and on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1679 made a vow of perpetual virginity. She also offered herself to the Blessed Mother Mary to accept her as a daughter. Here she lived an ascetic life, winning the name Lily of the Mohawks for her charity, heroism, and piety. Kateri taught prayers to children and worked with the elderly and sick. She was known for her gentleness, kindness, and good humor.

During the last years of her life, Kateri endured great suffering from a serious illness. Kateri died on April 17, 1680 shortly before her 24th birthday at Caughnawaga, Canada. Witnesses at her deathbed, including Father Pierre Cholenec, reported Kateri’s face suddenly changed within fifteen minutes of her death. The pockmarks from smallpox completely vanished and her face shone with radiant loveliness. She was buried at Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada.
Upon her death, devotion to her began immediately to be manifested by her people. Several people, including a priest who attended Kateri during her last illness, reported that Kateri appeared to them and many healing miracles were attributed to her. Fifty years after Kateri's death the first convent for Indian nuns was established in Mexico and they pray daily for Sainthood for Blessed Kateri. Many pilgrims visit her grave in Caughnawaga where a monument to her memory was erected by the Rev. Clarence Walworth in 1884. Councils of Baltimore and Quebec have petitioned for her canonization.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native North American and layperson recommended for canonization as a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Kateri was designated as Venerable in 1943 and was declared Blessed (beatified) on June 22, 1980by Pope John Paul II. Her feast day is celebrated on July 14th. If the Pope names Blessed Kateri a Saint, she will become the first Native American Saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Breastplate of St. Patrick

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, is truly a Lenten saint. Two of the most important locations associated with him in Ireland are places of penitential pilgrimage: Croagh Patrick and St. Patrick's Purgatory. His feast day, March 17, falls squarely in the middle of Lent. However he is also a saint of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the novena in her honor begins on his feast day. He is also an Easter saint because it was on Easter that the great victory for Christ over the forces of Irish paganism was won by his courageous intervention. Read the following account from the Catholic Encyclopedia which ends in the text of the inspired prayer known as "The Breastplate of St. Patrick" As we meditate on the Holy Face it is a truly appropriate prayer. (confer

"St. Patrick arrived at the hill of Slane, at the opposite extremity of the valley from Tara, on Easter Eve, in that year the feast of the Annunciation, and on the summit of the hill kindled the Paschal fire. The druids at once raised their voice. "O King", (they said) "live for ever; this fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished." By order of the king and the agency of the druids, repeated attempts were made to extinguish the blessed fire and to punish with death the intruder who had disobeyed the royal command. But the fire was not extinguished and Patrick shielded by the Divine power came unscathed from their snares and assaults. On Easter Day the missionary band having at their head the youth Benignus bearing aloft a copy of the Gospels, and followed by St. Patrick who with mitre and crozier was arrayed in full episcopal attire, proceeded in processional order to Tara. The druids and magicians put forth all their strength and employed all their incantations to maintain their sway over the Irish race, but the prayer and faith of Patrick achieved a glorious triumph. The druids by their incantations overspread the hill and surrounding plain with a cloud of worse than Egyptian darkness. Patrick defied them to remove that cloud, and when all their efforts were made in vain, at his prayer the sun sent forth its rays and the brightest sunshine lit up the scene. Again by demoniac power the Arch-Druid Lochru, like Simon Magus of old, was lifted up high in the air, but when Patrick knelt in prayer the druid from his flight was dashed to pieces upon a rock.

Thus was the final blow given to paganism in the presence of all the assembled chieftains. It was, indeed, a momentous day for the Irish race. Twice Patrick pleaded for the Faith before Leoghaire. The king had given orders that no sign of respect was to be extended to the strangers, but at the first meeting the youthful Erc, a royal page, arose to show him reverence; and at the second, when all the chieftains were assembled, the chief-bard Dubhtach showed the same honour to the saint. Both these heroic men became fervent disciples of the Faith and bright ornaments of the Irish Church. It was on this second solemn occasion that St. Patrick is said to have plucked a shamrock from the sward, to explain by its triple leaf and single stem, in some rough way, to the assembled chieftains, the great doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. On that bright Easter Day, the triumph of religion at Tara was complete. The Ard-Righ granted permission to Patrick to preach the Faith throughout the length and breadth of Erin, and the druidical prophecy like the words of Balaam of old would be fulfilled: the sacred fire now kindled by the saint would never be extinguished.

The beautiful prayer of St. Patrick, popularly known as "St. Patrick's Breast-Plate", is supposed to have been composed by him in preparation for this victory over Paganism. The following is a literal translation from the old Irish text:

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Christ Our Head

One of the books which has most influenced me and helped me to understand my Christian life is St. John Eudes' The Life and Kingdom of Jesus in Christian Souls. The 1946 edition published by P.J. Kennedy and Sons, New York, includes a beautiful introduction by the Servant of God Bishop Fulton Sheen, whose cause for beatification is advancing. Bishop Sheen writes "If we were forced to summarize the spiritual teaching of St. John Eudes in one sentence, it would be this: Cease to be self-determined, begin to be Jesus-determined."

It seems to me that St. John Eudes is a masterful writer who explains the teaching of St. Paul on the Mystical Body of Christ with great power and simplicity. Here are some examples from St. John Eudes' writing:

"Jesus Christ, at the same time God and man, is all in all things, according to the inspired words of St. Paul: Omnia in omnibus Christus (Col. 3, 11). He must be in all Christians in a special manner, as the Head is in all the members and the spirit in its body; therefore your particular care and preoccupation must be to work at this formation and establishment of Christ within you, that He may live and reign there, so that He may be your life, your sanctification, your strength, your wealth, your glory and your all: or rather, that He may live in you, and in you be hallowed and glorified, and establish the Kingdom of His Spirit, of His Love and of His other virtues."

"Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, King of angels and of men, is not only your God, your Saviour and your Sovereign Lord, but is also your head and you are "members of his body," as St. Paul says: "of his flesh and of his bones" (Eph. 5,30). You are consequently united with Him in the most intimate union possible, that is, the union of members with their head. You are united with Him spiritually by faith and by the grace He gave you in Holy Baptism. You are united with Him corporally in the union of His Most Sacred Body with yours in the Blessed Eucharist. It necessarily follows that, just as the members are animated by the spirit of the head, and live the same life, so you must also be animated by the spirit of Jesus, live His life, walk in His ways, be clothed with His sentiments and inclinations, and perform all your actions in the dispositions and intentions that actuated His. In a word, you must carry on and perpetuate the life, religion and devotion which He exercised upon earth."

Isn't the Holy Face of Manoppello a tremendous sign and symbol of this teaching of Christ the Head of the Mystical Body?

Friday, March 6, 2009

"I See the Light of the 21st Century in Your Eyes"

Immortal words from Pope John Paul II addressed to a group of young people attending one of the first World Youth Days in the 1980's: "I see the light of the 21st Century in your eyes".

Excerpt from the message of Pope Benedict XVI for World Youth Day 2009

"Just as he once encountered the young Paul, Jesus also wants to encounter each one of you, my dear young people. Indeed, even before we desire it, such an encounter is ardently desired by Jesus Christ. But perhaps some of you might ask me: How can I meet him today? Or rather, in what way does he approach me? The Church teaches us that the desire to encounter the Lord is already a fruit of his grace. When we express our faith in prayer, we find him even in times of darkness because he offers himself to us. Persevering prayer opens the heart to receive him, as Saint Augustine explains: "Our Lord and God ... wants our desire to be exercised in prayer, thus enabling us to grasp what he is preparing to give" (Letter 130:8,17). Prayer is the gift of the Spirit that makes us men and women of hope, and our prayer keeps the world open to God (cf. Spe Salvi, 34)."

When we contemplate the Holy Face we see Jesus, Jesus sees us and we see ourselves in Jesus.

Come, Let us Walk in the Light of the Lord

"The face of Christ is the face of light that tears open the obscure mystery of death: it is the proclamation and pledge of our glory, because it is the face of the Crucified and Risen One. On it, the Church, his Bride, contemplates her treasure and her joy"

Pope John Paul II - August 6, 2002

"Christianity is born and continually draws new life from this contemplation of the glory of God shining on the face of Christ".

"In the human face of the Son of Mary we recognize the Word made flesh in the fullness of his divinity and humanity. The greatest artists of East and West have striven to capture the mystery of that Face. But it is the Spirit, the divine Iconographer, who etches that Face in the hearts of all who contemplate him and love him."

Pope John Paul II - January 6, 2001

"The basic task of every Christian is to be, first and foremost, one who contemplates the Face of Christ"

Pope John Paul II - 'On the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary'

"To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the 'programme' which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his Body and Blood. The Church draws her life from Christ in the eucharist; by him she is fed and by him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a 'mystery of light'. Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: ' their eyes were opened and they recognized him'"

Pope John Paul II - Ecclesia de Eucharistia

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fr. Mark Kirby's Teaching on the Holy Face

One of the most beautiful websites of all is Fr. Mark Kirby's on the Holy Face of Jesus: It is notable and remarkable that Fr. Mark began his website precisely on the day of Pope Benedict XVI's historic visit to the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello: September 1, 2006.

Prior to establishing his website Fr. Mark published several articles on the Holy Face of Jesus which I highly recommend.
Fr. Mark is without a doubt one of the most acute living commentators on devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Fr. Mark:

"It is a sign of the times that the youngest bishop in the United States, and the first to be born in 'are you ready' the 1960's - should have chosen for his episcopal motto the phrase, Vultum Christi contemplari, 'To contemplate the Face of Christ'. Bishop Alex Sample, ordained for the diocese of Marquette, Michigan last January 25th chose a motto that echoes the repeated and insistent invitations of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II to contemplate the Face of Christ. This was his vision for the Church of the new millennium. 'Our gaze is more than ever firmly set on the face of the Lord' (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 16)."

"Face and person are synonomous, not only by reason of the Greek etymology, but even more because there is nothing more personal, nothing more precious, nothing dearer than the face of a loved one. The psalmist's cry, 'I long to see your face' (Ps 26:8) is the cry of every lover to his beloved, the cry of child to parent, and of friend to friend. The most poignant moment in the rites of death and burial comes when the face of the deceased is covered for the last time. We cherish photographs of those we love, but what is a photograph without a face? The relationshiops that we call 'heart to heart' never tire of the 'face to face'."

"When the history of the pontificate of John Paul II is written by a generation to come, there is no doubt that his insistent and consistent focus on the Face of Christ will emerge as a grand spiritual theme, a recurrent motif, and a spiritual gift to the Church. Over the years, John Paul II's personal fascination with the Face of Christ has become a pastoral imperative. Already in 2001, he drew the eyes of the Church to the Face of Christ. At the closing of the Holy Year on January 6th of that year, he said: 'Christianity is born, and continually draws new life from this contemplation of the glory of God shining on the face of Christ."

"The Greek prosopon means person as well as face and countenance. The Holy Father's (John Paul II) repeated invitations to contemplate the Face of Christ are, in fact, invitations to know Christ in the most deeply personal way. In the 'new civilization of love,' the restoration of the sacredness and dignity of the human person begins with the contemplation of the Face of Christ."

"In his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II drew the eyes of the Church to the Face of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. he coined a new phrase, one not encountered before in his writings or in the teachings of his predecessors, "the Eucharistic Face of Christ." Thus did Pope John Paul II share with the Church his own experience of seeking, finding, and adoring the Face of Christ in the Eucharist."