Fr. Bryan Recommends
True Devotion to Mary
by St. Louis-Marie de Montfort
St. Louis de Montfort was a priest in France in the early 18thcentury. He’s best known for his works on Mariology, the study of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his two classic books, The Secret of the Rosaryand True Devotion to Mary. Reading True Devotionis the first step in the St. Louis de Montfort’s way of “Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.” The Total Consecration, following a 33-day preparation period, is a way of completing giving yourself over to Jesus through Mary. The Blessed Mother is always leading us to her Son, helping us to understand Jesus’ teachings, to grow closer to His Cross, and to be filled with His Holy Spirit.
However, even if you don’t intend to do the consecration, you may still want to read True Devotion. The book first teaches us why devotion to Our Lady is necessary for a Christian and what true devotion looks like and consists of. In the second part of the book, St. Louis covers consecration to Jesus, why we should do this devotion, Biblical precedents, the effects of the devotion in our lives, how we perform the devotions, and advice on how to receive Holy Communion devoutly.
We honor the saints because they are our elder brothers and sisters in the faith awaiting us in heaven and helping to guide us there. The guide us by their prayers for us and by the example they left us. Some of the saints, like St. Louis, left not only their example of holiness but also their own words to teach us how to live like they did. In True Devotionwe can learn from St. Louis de Montfort himself how to be devoted to God and to His Son Jesus Christ and the role that our Blessed Mother plays devotion to God.
On February 11, 1858, 13 year old Bernadette Soubirous was out collecting firewood with 2 other children. The others had run ahead and left Bernadette behind, and as she was preparing to cross the Gave River she heard a peculiar sound. Looking up, Bernadette noticed that one of the caves by the river bank was glowing with a golden light. She then saw a beautiful lady dressed in a pure white robe with a blue sash, a veil over her head, a rosary in her hands, and yellow roses at her feet. The Lady asked her to pray her rosary, and by the time she had finished praying the Lady had vanished.
She went back the next Sunday and saw the Lady again, and the next time she went back the Lady told Bernadette that she should return every day for 15 days. She asked Bernadette to pray for the conversion of sinners and to tell the priests to build a chapel on that site. She also told Bernadette to scrape away the soil in a particular spot, revealing the spring of water that is still there today. Bernadette was kept from going to the Grotto several times, but during the sixteenth apparition, on March 25, 1858, which is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when the Archangel appeared to Mary to announce the conception of Jesus in her womb, the Lady finally revealed her identity to Bernadette. She told her, “I am the Immaculate Conception,” revealing herself to be the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Bernadette didn’t understand what this meant, but others did, and people flocked to Lourdes in even greater numbers than before.
The finding of the spring of water and the miraculous healings that have resulted from it are proof that the apparition was true, and that the Lady really was the Mother of God. On one occasion in 1902 Dr. Alexis Carrell, an agnostic and a physician, accompanied the train bringing the sick to Lourdes as a favor to a friend, and out of professional curiosity about what was causing these stories of miraculous healings. On the train he met a girl, Marie Bailly, who was suffering from tuberculous peritonitis. He was standing right behind her when the Lourdes water was poured over her stomach and saw her physical symptoms, abdominal distension with large hard masses, gradually disappear. By the next day she was able to get up and dress herself, to eat without stomach pains, and to take the train ride back to Lyon. Subsequent testing showed her to be completely and inexplicably cured. It would take another 40 years for Dr. Carrell to fully accept the faith, but he would eventually return to the Catholic Church. In the meantime, he lost he job with the medical faculty of Lyons for defending the account of the event and being open to a miraculous explanation.
These miracles are an awesome proof of Our Lady of Lourdes, but we must remember that they point us back to Our Lady herself and the message that she gave to St. Bernadette. She told her to pray for the conversion of sinners and to urge people, “Penitence, penitence, penitence!” On the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the anniversary of her first appearance to St. Bernadette, let all remember to pray not only for cures of physical ailments, but also for conversion of heart for ourselves and for all sinners.
Fr. Bryan Howard
4thSunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – 3 February 2019
In one of the most famous and well-known passages in the Bible, St. Paul describes love in these words: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Love is at the very center of Christianity. After all, St. John in his first epistle says that God is love and that anyone who does not love does not know God. Those who love much are close to God, and those who fail to love are far away from God. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus describes the judgement after the second coming in terms of love, saying that those who will go to heaven are those who have fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, welcomed the stranger, cared for the sick, and visited the imprisoned. In other words, those who care for those who are most in need are doing the work of God.
When we look at the world around us it’s hard to take St. Paul’s claim that “Love never fails” seriously. There is hate, violence, selfishness, greed, and suffering all around us, and often even in our own hearts. In our more cynical moments we may think that St. Paul should have said, “Love often fails,” or “Love usually fails.” So, what does St. Paul mean? I think he means, first of all that choosing love is always the right thing to do, that no one can take God’s love from us, and that God is constantly offering us His love.
Love is always the right choice. The moral life is about making choices. God could have taken those choices away, made us always choose the right thing, but that wouldn’t be real love. Genuine love always comes from a choice to choose the good of another rather than your own good, especially when it costs you something. And deep down we know that’s true. We wish that we would always make the right choices; that we would always choose to exercise patience, kindness, generosity, courage, and gentleness. We know that it’s more important to be a good person than to be thought of as a good person. We sometimes get confused about what the right choice is and in those circumstances it’s important to go to God. If you have the time, it’s best to wait, spend some time in prayer, and ask God to give you guidance. If you have to make a choice right away, think about what God is asking you to do in this moment.
The best way to prepare for those moments is to have a well-formed conscience. Our conscience is the voice of reason inside of us that urges us to do the right thing and accuses us when we’ve done the wrong thing. You may hear people say that anything is okay as long as you follow your conscience. Well, many of the Nazis truly believed that what they were doing was for the greater good, does that make it okay? Or how about the Spanish Inquisition? Many of those people believed that they were protecting the Church, did that make it okay to torture confessions out of people? We have a moral responsibility to train our consciences to know what is truly wrong and what is truly right and to recognize good and evil. We’re experts at convincing ourselves that what we want to do is right, so we have to learn to be honest with ourselves about our own motivations. Everyone commits sins, but let’s never lie to ourselves about why we’re doing it.
Once we’ve formed strong consciences and trained ourselves to choose the good, then we can be confident that no one can take that away from us against our will. Mind control is science fiction. People may be able to influence your choices, but only you control what you choose. Even in the most dire circumstances, you are always able to choose the good. St. Paul tells us that neither danger, nor distress, persecution, hunger, or the sword can separate us from the love of God. Only sin, only our own free choice to act against God, can separate us from the love of God. Let us ask God to give us the strength that He gave to the prophet Jeremiah, recorded in our first reading today. That he may help us to stand against everything in society drawing us away from God and make us “a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land.”
It should give us great hope that God’s love never fails. Even in our sin and weakness, even when we do fall away from Him, God’s love for us never fails. He is always calling out to us, always calling us back to Himself, and always ready to forgive those who come to Him in penitence. If Jesus could look down from the cross upon the very people who put Him there, upon the Roman soldiers, upon the Jewish leaders and people, and, with great effort lifting Himself on the nails driven through His feet and wrists to draw a breath, ask God to forgive them. Then He can surely forgive us.
Are we willing to stand up for what is true and right and be counted, or do we go along to get along. Most of us don’t like arguing and fighting. We like to be liked, and we don’t like to be criticized. We can become very emotional about important issues. No one seriously argues about the best flavor of ice cream, but we do argue about politics and religion. Two weeks ago hundreds of thousands of people went to Washington, DC, to participate in the March for Life, and hundreds of thousands more participated in smaller marches for life in their own states, such as the Louisiana Life March in Baton Rouge. Some of those people paid a price for their willingness to stand up and be counted, such as the students from Covington Catholic High School who were targeted for who they were and what they believed in, but they kept their heads, exercised patience, and kept the situation from escalating to physical violence.
This is a good example of how to stand up for the faith. First, educate yourself. Make sure that you know why we believe what we do and are able to explain it to others. Second, live the faith. Don’t be embarrassed to visibly live the faith or be afraid of what people will think of you. Sure, some people may give you a funny look or call you a Jesus Freak, but that’s okay. That’s a small way of participating in the suffering of Christ and it brings you closer to Him. We should always care more about God’s opinion than those of other people. Third, don’t sink to the level of those who use physical or verbal violence against those who disagree with them. We don’t need to use violence if we stand in the truth.
Finally, always speak the truth with charity. In the phrasing of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, we must “Love in Truth.” Speaking the truth in an uncharitable way can be harmful, but to fail to speak the truth at all is not charitable either. It’s precisely because we love our neighbor that we stand up for the truth, so that they might see what is true and live it out in their lives. Ideas have consequences, and the things we believe affect our lives. We may suffer consequences for what we believe, but we place our trust in Jesus and remember His words, “Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:11-12).
Fr. Bryan Howard
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – 27 January 2019
Today’s second reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians describes St. Paul’s theology of the Church as the Body of Christ. St. Paul explains that we are all united with Christ through our baptism in the one Holy Spirit of God using the analogy of the human body. Together, we are the Body of Christ because we are united with Christ and, therefore, we are united with one another through Jesus Christ. Just like many different parts, the limbs and fingers and toes and organs, make up a human body, so we make up the body of Christ. If all you have is an arm, then you don’t have a body, you have an arm. So, we cannot be the Body of Christ alone, it is only when we are united with the Church that we form the Body of Christ.
He probably came up with this analogy by reflecting on the first time that he saw Jesus, which we just celebrated on Friday with the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Paul was on a journey from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus there when he suddenly saw a blinding light and heard a voice speak from the light. He heard a voice speaking from the light, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He asked who he was, and the voice replied, “I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.” Notice that Jesus didn’t ask, “Why are you persecuting my followers?” He asked, “Why are you persecuting me?” This may have helped St. Paul to realize just how deeply the followers of Jesus are connect to Jesus Christ.
St. Paul goes on to explain how the different members of the human body all play different roles, but they are all essential to the functioning of the body. As he says, “But God so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” In the Body of Christ we each have a role to play, a function to fulfill. Not everyone has the same spiritual gifts and not everyone has the same talents and abilities, but when we are united as one Church we have all of the spiritual gifts and all of the talents and abilities that we need to build up the Body of Christ and fulfill the mission of the Church on earth.
The study of the saints is a great example of this. None of the saints had all of the spiritual gifts, but each saint had a role to play. Some, like St. Thomas Aquinas, were gifted scholars and teachers. Some, like Pope St. Gregory VII, were gifted administrators. Mother Teresa had a deep love for the poor. St. Frances Xavier had a great missionary zeal. The martyrs, like St. Thomas Moor, display the courage to stand up for the faith in the face of persecution. One of my favorite saints is St. Germaine Cousin. She didn’t write scholarly works or die for the faith or start religious orders; she was just a shepherdess. However, she lived out the faith in her ordinary, daily life to the fullest extent. The people of her little town in France remembered her kindness, generosity, and fidelity, and eventually her story caught the attention of the outside world and she was canonized.
We are all called by God and given spiritual gifts to fulfill some role in the Church and in the world. What is God calling you to do? Most of us shouldn’t expect some deep, mystical answer to that question. What are your gifts, talents, and abilities? What do you have to offer? God gave you these gifts so that you might use them. So, how are you using them? We all have something to offer, something to contribute. We all have a part to play in the mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel, to make disciples of all peoples, and to bring souls to God.
This is what we do every time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We gather together as one Body, each bringing what they have to offer and giving it to the Lord, and receiving back the graces they need to go back out into the world and keep doing God’s work. This is symbolized in the offertory. The gifts of bread and wine are brought up from the congregation and by members of the congregation. The priest received them, places them on the altar, and offers them to God on behalf of all of the people. You should spiritually place on that paten with the unleavened bread and in that chalice with the wine everything that you have to offer to God. Place on the altar your gifts, your talents and abilities, your prayers and your hopes, your sacrifices and sufferings. Place all of yourself on the altar for the priest to offer to God on your behalf, and ask the Lord to transform you, like He transforms the bread and wine into His Precious Body and Blood. Then when you receive Communion ask Him to strengthen you with His Spirit so you can go out and keep doing His work.
Catholic Community Radio
WGNO 690 AM
As you may or may not be aware, a few years ago Catholic Community Radio out of Baton Rouge expanded to New Orleans and opened a radio station here, 690 AM. They have local programming, like The Church in the Homeand Lagniappe Theology, and programming from EWTN radio, like Catholic Answers Liveand Kresta in the Afternoon. They also broadcast the Mass from St. Louis Cathedral at 11:00 AM on Sundays and noon Monday through Friday. The weekday Mass is followed by the Rosary.
I just recently learned that they also have an app for iPhone and Android. You can listen to the live radio broadcast through the app, but you can also watch videos that they’ve uploaded of their broadcasts. It also has a news section, a section for the readings for the daily Mass, the broadcasting schedule, and an alarm clock function so you can wake up to Catholic radio. It’s well designed, attractive, and easy to use.
Someone shared with me that they had recently started paying attention to the lyrics of their favorite songs and found that many of them were about terrible things or encouraging immoral behavior. I know another person who used to be a big Billy Joel fan until she realized what the lines about Catholic girls in Only the Good Die Youngis about. A least with Catholic Community Radio you can be pretty sure that what you’re listening to is helping to build you up as a person and as a follower of Christ.
Fr. Bryan Howard
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – 20 January 2019
Have you ever been reading a book or newspaper article or watching a movie and come to a section that made you think, “Why is this even in here? What purpose does it serve? What’s the point?” It would be easy to think that about today’s Gospel of the Wedding Feast in Cana. The Gospel of John begin with a theological explanation of who Jesus is as the Son of God and Word-Made-Flesh; then, John begins to talk about the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, and the gathering of the first disciples. Then, he takes what seems to be a random tangent and talks about a wedding feast that Jesus happened to attend with His Mother and first disciples. The Gospel of John is the only one that records this event. I think the reason that this story was placed here, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, is to show us that if we invite Jesus into your life, and place our trust in Him, then we will be transformed, as Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”
I remember hearing a homily once where the priest said that Jesus had to make more wine for the wedding feast because He and His disciples had crashed the party, but I guess that priest didn’t read the Gospel very carefully, because it specifically says that Jesus and his disciples were invited. Jesus is always inviting us into a relationship with Himself, but He will never force Himself on us, we have to return the invitation. What happens because Jesus was invited to this wedding feast? Jesus doesn’t just make some wine, He tells the servers to fill the 6 stone water jars for the Jewish ceremonial washings and turns that water into wine, 120 to 180 gallons of wine. That’s a lot of wine, and it’s not just any old wine. The headwaiter says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
We are the wine. Jesus wants to help us to be more and better than we are now; better than we ever thought we could be. It takes the humility to admit that we need to be better, that we have problems, faults, and sins, and that we need help to overcome them. We know that when we sin, it always leads to pain, either immediately or in the long term. It has every time in the past and there’s no reason to think that it won’t every time in the future, and yet we continue to sin. God wants to transform us through His grace and to set us on fire with love for Him and for everyone around us, but we have to let Him do it. I’ve experienced what His grace can do in my life. When I’m praying and going to confession regularly, I’m a better priest and a nicer, more patient person. When I’m not, I struggle more, because, in our pride, sometimes we think we can do it all ourselves, without God’s help.
There’s another meaning in this passage, as well. I skipped over the part that usually draws people’s attention first, Jesus’ response to the Blessed Mother mentioning that they have no wine. Now, she obviously know that He’s going to help, since she tells the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Which, by the way, it what the Blessed Mother always tells us, “Trust Him! Follow Him! Do whatever He tells you.” Listen again to what Jesus actually says, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” First, everyone asks why He calls her “woman.” In English that sounds insulting, but it isn’t insulting in Aramaic, the language Jesus was probably speaking in. What I want you to notice is that Jesus references His “hour.” His hour refers to the hour of the crucifixion and the events that happen around it. More clearly, Jesus is saying, “This isn’t the time for me to perform a miracle with wine. That will come later.” This miracle of turning water into wine is pointing directly to the only other time that Jesus performs a miracle with wine, which is at The Last Supper, when He changes wine into His blood, saying, “Take this, all of you, and drink of it, for this is the chalice of my blood of the new Covenant which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.”
When Jesus comes into our lives He brings the Cross with Him. He transforms us through the power of His blood that was shed for us and through His Resurrection, and the only road to the Resurrection is through the Cross. From the very beginning of His ministry Jesus was plotting a curse straight to Calvary and to the Crucifixion. Jesus invites us, “Take up your Cross and follow after me.” We take up our Crosses in reaching out to those who are in need, in patiently enduring suffering for the sake of righteousness, and in willingly embracing suffering for the good of someone we love.
At the end of every day we stop for a few minutes, find a quiet place (if that’s possible), and ask ourselves, “What graces did God give me today? How did I respond to those graces? How can I do better tomorrow?” It won’t happen all at once, but if we keep responding to the invitations of the Lord, Jesus will transform us by bringing, more and more, the fire of His love into our lives.
You’ve all heard of the seven deadly sins, pride, sloth, lust, anger, gluttony, greed, and envy, but you may not have heard of the unofficial eighth deadly sin. In the tradition of the Benedictine monks, they add one sin to the list of seven deadly sins, the “sin of monks,” but which can afflict all of us, murmuring or complaining. If you follow social media, you may have noticed that the big thing right now is that people are resolving, in this new year, to be more positive. People noticed that last year was marked by negativity and complaining, and they’re tired of it; they want to turn over a new leaf in this new year. However, we can’t let this new resolution to stop complaining turn into complaining about other people being negative and complaining.
Murmuring, or grumbling and complaining, is so damaging to the monastic life because it’s contagious. It spreads from one person to the next sapping people’s energy and motivation. The purpose of the monastic life is to for the brothers, or sisters in a convent, to strive to help each other to grow in holiness, and it’s very hard to do that when you’re always complaining about one another. Complaining does the same thing in our lives and families and in the communities that we belong to. Instead of helping to build one another up we bring one another down.
The remedy to any sin is to find out what the opposite virtue is and to try to grow in that virtue, and the opposite of complaining is gratitude. When we grow in gratitude for the gifts in our lives, for the good in the people around us, and for the blessings that God gives us, then we naturally complain less. Let’s all challenge ourselves to be more grateful. Every time we find ourselves complaining about something, stop and think of one thing that you’re grateful for that day, and thank God for it. In that way we replace the deadly sin of murmuring with the life giving virtue of gratitude.
Since today is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I’ve been thinking a lot about baptism. John the Baptist said about Jesus, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt. 3:11). The only thing necessary for baptism is to use real water, to intend to do what the Church intends, and to use the formula, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” However, there are other rites and symbols in a Catholic baptism which the Church uses to show us what’s happening in baptism, such as the water, the white garment, and the candle.
Water is necessary for the baptism to be valid, but it isn’t used on accident. We use water because water does physically for the body what baptism does spiritually for the soul. Water is used to clean things because almost everything dissolves in water, and baptism “cleans,” or purifies, the soul since it removes all traces of sin, both personal sin and original sin. Water is also necessary for life. We need to drink water to live, our bodies are filled with water, and we are born from water. In baptism, we’re reborn through water into the family of God and given the new life of the Holy Spirit.
After the person is baptized they are clothed in a white garment. As this is done the celebrant prays, “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity…bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.” This visibly shows the cleansing of the soul that happens in baptism and reminds us not to stain ourselves by falling back into sin.
Then someone, usually one of the godparents, lights the baptismal candle from the Paschal Candle, which is lit for every baptism. The Paschal Candle, or Easter Candle, represents the resurrected Christ. At the Easter Vigil Mass the Paschal Candle is lit outside and then brought into the Church in procession, representing Jesus Christ returning to the Church after His death on the Cross on Good Friday. As St. Paul tells us, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm. 6:3-4). The baptism candle therefore represents the Resurrection of Jesus Christ giving new life to the soul of the baptized and the hope for our own resurrection to eternal life in heaven.
There are other rites in the Rite of Baptism, like the two anointings and the ephphatha (and yes, that’s spelled correctly), but I chose to reflect on these three to show us that baptism is supposed to be about being cleansed of our sins and anything that is not of God and receiving the new life of the Holy Spirit. May we all live out the grace of baptism in our lives.
I don’t have a full text types up for this homily, but I wanted to share the resource I used for it. Most of the information in the homily came from a handout that I got at a retreat for priests that I went to a few years ago. The retreat was by Fr. Michael Champagne, CJC.
You can download the page 1 HERE and page 2 HERE.
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.