Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Call from the Marian Helpers to Help Save the World

Starting on March 1st, we are to start Father Michael Gaitley's new book:  33 Days to Merciful Love:  A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy in order to finish right before Divine Mercy Sunday.  If you receive Marian Helpers magazine this information can be found in the Spring 2016 Issue on page 15. If you do not receive this wonderful magazine, ask to be put on their mailing list. But in the meantime, you can read the article HERE

The best part about our participation in this preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday (and year), is that the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy will be televising live this year on Divine Mercy Sunday via EWTN beginning at noon EST.  During that time period, we will all have a chance to consecrate ourselves together!

This book is being offered for any donation, even a dollar plus $5.25 to anyone in the continental United States. Sadly, this means the folks in Alaska and Hawaii must purchase the book either through Marian Helpers by clicking HERE  or any other reputable book seller.

To order your book, click HERE or call 1-800-462-7426 Product Code: B29F-33DML. Note: only one book per household.

Keep in mind, March 1st is less than 2 weeks away.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Father Damien Quote by the "Saint of Urakami"


by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          The restoration of the adult catechumenate (RCIA) by the Second Vatican Council and the return of the Easter Vigil by Pope Pius XII a decade earlier led to the recovery of the baptismal character of Lent.

Correct context

          In previous times Lent was about doing without treats, and concentrating on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

          The adjustments of postconciliar renewal have brought the observance of Lent into clearer focus by emphasizing that it is a season of catechumenate for all the baptized, when all review the meaning of  putting on Christ by our baptismal consecration, not only those who will be baptized or brought into full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil.

The Lenten liturgy

          The first days of Lent after Ash Wednesday and the following two weeks of Lent suggest a penitential spirit.  The prayers and readings of the Masses and Liturgy of the Hours ask us to examine our faithfulness to our Christian commitment.  Are we becoming more Christlike? 

          The tone shifts in the Gospels of the next three Sundays of Lent to reflecting on the meaning of baptism and how well we are imitating Christ:  Jesus and the woman at the well; Jesus curing the blind man; Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  They ask how we are responding to Christ’s call to partner with him. 

          These questions remind the already baptized to experience again a new catechumenate and preparation to join with Christ in his redemptive mission.

Today’s challenge

          In this third millennium Catholics are challenged to confront and correct a culture of secularism that rejects the biblical vision of the human person and human relationships.  Not an easy task, but it can be a great adventure when we live in the confidence of the Easter Vigil and realize that love is stronger than death. 

          The annual catechumenate of Lent prepares us to be missionary disciples of Christ who bring his redemptive grace to others because we have experienced it in our own lives through baptism.  Baptism is about going down into death with Christ and being raised up with him in glory.  Lent is about dying to self for the life of others, about knowing the deepest meanings of life are found in Jesus.  Activating our baptismal grace makes this possible.



Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

        For those of a certain age Lent raises memories of giving up something we enjoyed – candy, movies, and other things we liked especially.  The old sense of Lent saw this time as one of self-imposed penance and spiritual discipline.  The religious expression of the season took the form of the Stations of the Cross, daily Mass, and other devotional practices.  The general feeling that prevailed is that Lent was to be endured.

        A sense of prayer, sacrifice, and charity toward others are authentic hallmarks of the Lenten season.  We sense a genuine need to identify again with the suffering of Jesus.  The new challenge is to see all these practices and prayers in the light of the Church’s annual retreat in preparation for the Easter Triduum.  During those three days new Christians will be born from the font of Baptism, and all Christians will welcome them with a with an enthusiasm rekindled anew through reliving our own rebirth in Christ.

        Above all Lent is about the Sacraments of Initiation.  Baptism is about going down into death with Christ and being raised up with him to glory.  This death and rising can be celebrated only after it has been experienced and lived in the daily fabric of human life.  Lent is about dying to self for the life of others.  Lent is about dying to all human supports which blind us from seeing that true life is in God alone.  Lent is as serious as coming to know that the deepest meanings of human life are seen in Jesus, who fights every temptation to take the world by power, force, or the razzle-dazzle of miracles.

        When Lent begins on Ash Wednesday we are signed with ashes in the form of a cross because we live under and in that sign.  The sense of Lent as preparation for Christian initiation and its renewal is clearly proclaimed in the Sunday readings.  Our practices of prayer and charity lead us to the renewal of our baptismal promises in solidarity with the catechumens who will unite themselves with the Church through Baptism.  This is our special time of opportunity to enter more deeply the mystery of our faith, the Paschal Mystery.  Holy Thursday is the last day of Lent.  With the celebration of the evening  Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Lent ends and the Christian community enters into the annual celebration of the Passover of the Lord and unbounded joy.

        Lent launches the neophyte on the journey to our eternal destiny and re-commissions the initiated.  Lent commissions us and energizes us.

                        “Look upon us as we enter these Forty Days
                bearing the mark of the ashes,
                and bless our journey through the desert of Lent
                to the font of rebirth.
                May our fasting be hunger for justice;
                our alms, a making of peace;
                our prayer, a chant of humble and grateful hearts.
                All that we do and pray is in the name of Jesus.
                For in his cross you proclaim your love
                for ever and ever.”


by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

        To see Lent only as a period of spiritual practices, penances, and self-imposed deprivations would be distorted and limited.  Some understand Lent solely as a time of painful spiritual exercises accepted more or less willingly.  But with reflection and by following attentively the Lenten celebrations brought to us by the Church and its liturgy, we come to recognize that Lent is a paradigm of Christian life.  We come to recognize the wisdom of St. Benedict’s admonition that the lives of Christians and of the Church “ought to be a continuous Lent.”  Lent is a reminder of our baptismal consecration to live as other Christs in our circumstances.

        Lent is an important time of the liturgical year aimed at redressing Christian life.  The works of Lent – prayer, almsgiving, fasting – do not have their value in themselves, as the Scriptures proclaim on Ash Wednesday and the following Thursday and Friday.  All actions have a God-centered motive and aim.

        In encouraging us to a greater emphasis on private and liturgical prayer, the Church does so to help us to recapture during Lent  their rightful place in Christian life at all times.

        Almsgiving and sharing practiced during Lent are part of a movement of conversion regarding the use of goods.  Far from jealously and selfishly keeping material goods for themselves, Christians learn to possess them not as possessing them.  They manage their possessions as good stewards, with constant concern for those less fortunate.  This is not an occasional practice either.  The ideal continues to be relevant at any time there is a need.

        Primarily, fasting concerns restricting our bodily intake of food and drink.  Whatever value is assigned to seasonal or even habitual fasting, fasting is essentially an attack on uncontrolled appetite for earthly goods of all kinds.  We are called to learn to restrain our greed for earthly goods, and to have concern for the needs of others (Is 58: 6-9).  People yield easily to such an appetite, especially in countries where over-consumption is a matter of course.  Not to curb the search for bodily and material satisfactions is pagan.  Christians seek to rectify their behavior in order to balance their everyday lifestyle in harmony with their faith and hope.  The pagans think we should eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.  But the dead are raised, and now we know that Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep (1Cor 15). 

        The lessons from Scripture proclaimed during Lent help us raise our eyes to God and His plan of salvation, to Christ and His mystery that brings this plan to realization, to its fulfillment here and now in the Church and in the world.  Of course, this can be said of all seasons of the liturgical year.  What characterize Lenten liturgies are the density, the wealth, and the strength of the texts.  Especially challenging are the Gospel readings for Christian initiation, the selected apostolic catecheses, and the remembrance of the most significant steps of salvation history.  In this way Lent proves to be catechumenal for all baptized persons and not only for those preparing for baptism.  With special insistence Lent repeats the never-ceasing call: “Become what you are.” 

        Lent is a paschal journey because it leads us to the Easter celebrations.  It has a fixed place in the liturgical calendar, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Thursday before the evening Mass.  But Christian life is wholly paschal because it is an exodus toward our eternal Father.  From this point of view, Lent is a parable of the lives of Christians and a paradigm of the Church.  What is experienced intensely for forty days must give new and enduring dynamism to our lives in all the days of the Lord.


Monday, February 08, 2016

Things to Do this Lent

Here are some suggestions that may help you grow spiritually this Lent.  Of course, the best suggestion I can give you is to try to attend Holy Mass daily and pray the Holy Rosary daily and/or with your family.

1.  Drink only water during the week and Saturday.  Save your juices, carbonated beverages, etc. for Sunday.

2.  Meditate on Jesus' words:  "I thirst" and refrain from drinking even water for at least five minutes or so, especially when you are very thirsty.

3.  Eat only meat on Sundays.  During the week, practice abstinence from meat.

4.  Unite yourself with the starving people around the world by eating what you have in your refrigerator or cupboards/pantries.  Necessity is the mother of invention they say.  I can almost promise you that you will come up with good and tasty recipes with the grains, beans, canned fish, vegetables you already have on hand, when you know you cannot go shopping for what you want.

5. Shop only when necessary.  That goes for food, clothes, cleaning supplies, and so forth.

6. Take advantage of sales and buy food to share with your church's outreach or homeless shelters.  If you want to stick with shopping only when necessary, then go through your own pantry and share your food with others in need.

7.  If you are not in the habit of eating meals with your family at the table, at least try to eat dinner together, at the table.

8.  Catholics celebrate Mardi Gras for a reason.  It used to be customary to cook with the oils, butters, sugars on Fat Tuesday and abstain from using them during Lent.  Try to abstain for fats, sugars, and too much salt, during the week during Lent.

9.  Make a holy hour of Adoration at least once a week during Lent.

10.  Refrain from watching mindless television shows such as sitcoms, suggestive movies, etc. during Lent.  Watch spiritual movies, family classics and Catholic programming instead.

11.  Instead of just giving up one thing during Lent, try to sacrifice different treats such as snacks, movies, plays, dinners, lunches and drinks,  and give the money you save to Aid to the Church in Need.

12.  Prepare a little reading nook in either your bedroom or somewhere quiet.  You will need a comfortable chair, a little table and if possible and ottoman.  Place some good Catholic books you want to read on the little table, along with a journal and a nice pen.  Place a fragrant candle on the little table too.

13.  Spend at least 1/2 hour a day doing spiritual reading.  See list of recommended reading below.

14.  If you are on any social networking sites, start sharing about God's mercy.  You can quote from various the saints, St. Faustina's diary, Pope Francis, and the Holy Bible. There are endless sources for God's mercy.

15.  Make more acts of charity, either spiritual or corporal, at least once a day.

16.  Send a note or email to someone you hurt and apologize.  If you cannot do that, say a prayer or request a Mass for that person.

17.  Go through your home and try to see what is essential and what is not.  In the book A Song for Nagasaki, the author writes about Dr. Takashi Nagai's love of huts.  According to the writings of Buddhism, the Yuima Sutra,  "You best meet the Supernatural, if you make your heart like a hut, that is empty of everything but the bare essentials."  Dr. Nagai, a convert to Catholicism must have related it to God, He is our supernatural.  I just thought it was a very beautiful thing, to clear out anything that keeps us from God and only keep the bare essentials.  So, why not start with our own homes.

18.  Practice devotion of the Stations of the Cross each day at Church.  If this is not possible, at least try to make it on Fridays when most parishes hold them for the faithful.  Two I would recommend are The Way of the Cross with excerpts from St. Faustina's Diary as well as St. Alphonsus Liguori's traditional Way of the Cross.  I believe you can order a little booklet containing both from the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy. You can also call them at 1-800-462-7426.

19.  Keep a spiritual journal.  The format I use is as follows:  +JMJ+ on top as well as the Feast of the Day or the Saint of the Day.  Then Ex of C:  Examination of Conscience:  I write down all my sins and failings of the previous day.  Then I ask our Blessed Mother in writing, to help me overcome these faults.  I thank her and I tell her how much I love her.  I also take notes when I read and jot down excerpts, quotes or prayers that help me spiritually.

20.  Try to do everything required of your daily duty with love, patience and even if it is something mundane like washing dishes, wash those dishes the best you can.  Do it for God.

21.  Give up breakfast or lunch, or both on Fridays during Lent.  Better yet, also during the week.

Spiritual Reading Recommendation:

A Song for Nagasaki by Father Paul Glynn
The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Victories of the Martyrs by St. Alphonsus Liguori
The Holy Eucharist by St. Alphonsus Liguori
The Port of St. Bonaventure (Father Solanus Casey) by James Patrick Durum
He Leadeth Me by Father Walter Ciszek, S.J.
The Road to Damascus (Stories of Conversion) edited by Father John O'Brien
The Life of Faustina Kowalska by Sister Michelenko
The Secret Fiary of Elisabeth LeSeur

Also, the Holy Bible, available free with the EWTN app for your ipad and the Diary of Sister Faustina.

May you and your loved ones have a very blessed Lenten journey.