The month of November is the last month of the liturgical year. We’ll begin a new liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent, which is November 28 this year, as we prepare for Christmas. However, the end of the liturgical year coincides with the beginning of winter. As the trees begin losing their leaves, animals go into hibernation, and the weather gets colder (which it may or may not do here in Louisiana), the Church spends the month of November focusing on the last things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. These are the last things or the final things that we experience, and we have to take them into account. Some say that “you only live once,” so “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” If you only live once, and you know neither the day nor the hour, then you should focus on the important things of life, the things that really matter, like faith, family, and friendship. To begin this month, I thought I’d share some famous last words that we can use as fuel for meditation and contemplation:
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:58-59)
-- St. Stephen, deacon and martyr
“This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”
-- St. Andrew Kim Taegon, martyr
“Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a poor sinner, a poor sinner.”
-- St. Bernadette Soubirous, religious sister
“Let me go to the house of the Father.”
-- Pope St. John Paul II
“May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies! Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)”
-- Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ, martyr
“If all the swords in England were pointed against my head, your threats would not move me. I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.”
-- St. Thomas a’ Becket, bishop and martyr
(While gazing on a crucifix) “Oh! I love Him! My God, I love you!”
-- St. Therese of Lisieux, religious sister
“Your will be done. Come, Lord Jesus!”
-- St. Augustine of Hippo, bishop
Question: Who Made God?
Answer: The above question came from one of our second graders in the Parish School of Religion and was asked while I was visiting the classes last Tuesday evening. There was a follow up question from another student, “How does God create?” These are good and profound questions, and can lead us to better understand the nature of God.
The short answer is that no one made God because He has always existed. God is eternal, without beginning or end. The long answer begins with looking at the world around us. In our experience we know that everything has a beginning and that everything is eventually destroyed. Someone made the computer I’m typing this on and the paper that it’s printed on; likewise, the tree that paper came from grew from a seed that came from another tree, and so on for everything. Logically, we know that this can’t go on forever, into eternity. There has to be something outside of this chain of causes, which isn’t explained by something else but which explains its own existence.
Have you ever set up a chain of dominoes and then knocked them over? The dominoes represent the universe and the person represents God. God sets up the dominoes and then starts the whole chain, but He isn’t simply another part of the chain, He’s present at every part of it. Another way to think of it is like a library. When you go to the library to borrow a book, if they don’t have the book they can borrow it from another library. What if that library doesn’t have the book? Then they could borrow it from another library, and that library from another, and so on. However, unless someone actually has the book, then you’re never going to get it. In a similar way, we receive our existence from others, and they received their existence from others, and so one, but there has to be someone who simply is and possesses existence in themselves. Therefore, God reveals Himself to Moses as, “I AM WHO AM” (Exodus 3:14), and St. Paul said, “For in Him we live, and move, and exist” (Acts of the Apostles 17:28). God is the One who IS, and He is the cause of our existence. In the Catholic Tradition St. Thomas Aquinas described God as Ipsum Esse Subsistens, or Subsistent Being Itself, because God’s very nature is to exist while His creation (everything besides God) could not exist.
There’s a joke about a scientist who told God that we don’t need Him anymore, because we can even make life through our scientific knowledge. So God invited the scientist to go ahead and show Him what he could do. The scientist then reached down to gather some clay to form into a person, but God stopped him, saying, “Get your own clay.” When we make something, a painting, or a chair, or a garden, we make it out of stuff that already exists. We make a painting with a canvas and paint, a chair from wood, wicker, or plastic, and a garden from seeds or saplings. God is capable of making things in this way, but He can also create things directly, from nothing. God can both give something existence and give it form.
This particular bulletin article might not be interesting to everyone, but I hope it will be to some people, and I hope I’ve done justice to these ideas and explained them well. I also hope that we can all respond with gratitude for the sheer gift of existence, which can come from God alone.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Once a month I’ll write an article answering a question from a parishioner on the Church, the Mass and sacraments, the Bible, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, spiritual theology, or anything related to Christianity. Either write your question down and put it in the collection basket, or email me at email@example.com.
Thou shalt not kill. – Exodus 20:13
The Sacred Scriptures depict life, especially human life, as being holy, sacred, set apart for God. God created everything that exists as good, but when He created humanity He did something different; He created mankind “in our image, after our likeness” (Gn 1:26), and breathed life into us Himself (Gn 2:7). The Bible goes on to depict all of humanity, whatever nation we come from, as one family. All of humanity comes from our common first parents, Adam and Eve, and all murder is seen through the story of Cain and Abel (Gn 4), which was fratricide, brother killing brother. Later, murder and warfare in the world leads to the great flood (Gn 6:11), so that God begins again with Noah and his family, once again depicting all of humanity and the many nations of the world coming from one common family (Gn 10). In the Biblical perspective murder is wrong because every life comes from God, is created in His image and likeness, and therefore possesses human dignity. We’re called to treat one another as brothers and sisters, not competing for resources, honor, or power, but cooperating with one another and treating others as we would have them treat ourselves.
Murder is defined as directly destroying an innocent human being (CCC 2258). Murder is inherently evil and can’t be justified under any circumstances. When someone tries to justify murder they’ll usually argue that it doesn’t fit some part of that definition. They may say that it’s not directly destroying the life because they were “only following orders” or “they made me do it.” They may say that no one is truly innocent. Finally, they may argue, as the Nazi’s did, that their victims aren’t truly human or that they’re less than us in some way.
God wants us to have peace with one another, but He also understands that life isn’t that simple. The Bible clearly shows instances of legitimate self-defense, for example in David and Goliath (1 Sam 17:41-54) or Sampson and the Philistines (Jdg 16:23-31). However, we must keep in mind what the Catechism says:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful...Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s. Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge. – CCC 2264-65
Therefore, we have a right to protect ourselves form harm by driving someone off or retendering them unable to harm us, but killing someone when we don’t have to is not legitimate self-defense. This is not a defense of killing someone in an honor duel or over an insult, but in defense of our person or those whom we’re responsible for. Notice that I’m talking about Christian morality, not civil law. The law in your area may be more or less restrictive on the right to self-defense.
The purpose of this reflection is simply to give the basics of Church teaching on the 5th Commandment, and to give us some things to reflect on. We do have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in the world, to treat one another with respect and dignity, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. For a more complete look at the 5th Commandment, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church numbers 2258 through 2330.
Prayer is conversation with God. Through prayer we open ourselves to God in humility and seek to know and love Him more. Prayer ought to affect our entire lives, not be isolated to one corner of our life. It ought to result in growth in virtue and love. Through prayer we begin to see the areas in our lives where there are barriers to growth in holiness or we fail to follow the example of Christ and then we ask God to help us do something about it.
As another priest, Fr. Robert Cooper, said, “Prayers go up and graces come down.” There are some graces that God is going to give us no matter what, there are some that we won’t receive as they aren’t meant for us, but there are many graces that we’ll only get if we ask for them in prayer. Through prayer we can receive consolation, which is the joy, peace, or calmness of mind and soul that comes from God. We can also receive insight into the mysteries of God and the working of the Holy Spirit. We can grow in humility, holiness, faith, and hope. The ultimate purpose of prayer, and the way we know if it’s working, is growth in love or charity.
There are several different types of prayer, and different spiritual authors break them down in different ways. Liturgical Prayer is communal prayer according to a set rite, i.e., Mass and Benediction. Vocal Prayer is prayer using words, which can be silent or aloud, rote (according to a formula) or using our own words. Meditation, as the Catechism says, “is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking (CCC 2705).” Meditation can be rational or imaginative and uses the Bible, theological or spiritual books, sacred images, nature, experiences in our lives, and the mysteries of God, and other things. Contemplative prayer, though very difficult to describe, is the prayer of lovingly gazing on God, completely surrendering to Him, and inviting Him into our lives. It is sometimes called the Prayer of Quiet, but true contemplation isn’t so much what we do, but letting God take over and pray within us. Prayer, like conversation, always includes both speaking and listening, but we should try to ere on the side of listening to what God has to say to us rather than telling God what we have to say to Him.
We can pray about anything, because we can bring anything to God. Some common things include prayers of petition, asking God for something, intercession, praying for someone else, thanksgiving for the blessings we’ve receive, and praising God for His glory and majesty. When you pray, try to find a place that’s suited to prayer, with quiet and privacy, a time that you can dedicate to prayer with few distractions, and then stick with that time. Of course we have to be flexible and take care of things as they come up, but if we can stick with a certain place and time for prayer, then it will soon become a part of our routine to give that time to God.
Prayer can be difficult. We may often be distracted in prayer, or suffer times of dryness when we simply don’t feel God’s presence or seem to get anything out of our prayers, or even suffer difficulties in life or setbacks in the spiritual life that make prayer seem pointless. Remember that even the saints experienced all of these things, and they tell us to persevere, to push through, and not to let any obstacle keep us from the Lord.
The Church and the Bible give us an entire treasury of prayer, and their are some things that are non-negotiable, like the Bible and the Mass, but there isn’t just one way to pray, and it can be fruitful to try different ways of prayer, different devotions, and different spiritualities, like Benedictine or Carmelite spirituality, but we must remain faithful to the Church. Learn what the Church teaches and stay away from anything that leads away from that, even if it seems in other ways to be fruitful, because God gave us the Church specifically to guide us in our relationship with Him, so that we might grow in holiness through fidelity to the truth.
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may have a long life upon the land, which the Lord your God will give to you. - Exodus 20:12
The Fourth Commandment is one of the three commandments that are expressed positively. Instead of “thou shalt not,” it tells us something that we are obligated to do. God has willed that we should honor Him above everyone and everything for having created us from nothing, and after Him we should honor our parents first for having given us life, and then other people who are in positions of authority over us. It is also the first commandment with a promise for those who keep it; God says that they will “have a long life in the land.”
Honor doesn’t mean blind obedience. If anyone in authority over us, even our parents, tells us to do something that is contrary to the Law of God or teaches us something that is contrary to what God has revealed, then we have an obligation to disobey them because God must come first. However, when respect for our parents and for civil authorities doesn’t contradict God we ought to respect them for God’s sake and in His name. Just as parents have an obligation to love and care for their children, so children have an obligation to respect their parents and be grateful for the sacrifices they make for them. When parents and civil authorities respect the Law of God and the Commandments and we honor them in God’s name there will tend to be peace and prosperity among families and communities. When either side fails it brings great harm to communities and individuals.
God, and the Church in His name, calls on families to care for the children of the family, the elderly, sick and handicapped, and for the poor within their own families. Since we all struggle at times, the Church calls on families in a community to help one another in times of need. Finally, society should make it possible for families to care for their own and to care for one another. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives of interfere in its life (CCC 2209).” The principle of subsidiarity states that issues should be dealt with locally, at the nearest level, whenever possible. When we are close to one another we can see what’s going on and come up with solutions to fit the specific need and respect the people and families involved.
The Bible is a book about family. It begins, in Genesis 1 and 2, with the creation of the world and the marriage of Adam and Eve, it continues by telling the story of Adam and Eve, their children, and their descendants, and concludes in Revelation 19-22 with another marriage, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and the marriage of Christ and the Church. God wants us to see one another as family. Therefore, the Catechism says, “In our brothers and sisters we see the children of our parents; in our cousins, the descendants of our ancestors, in our fellow citizens, the children of our country; in the baptized, the children of our mother the Church; in every human person, a son or daughter of the One who wants to be called ‘our Father.’ In this way our relationships with our neighbors are recognized as personal in character. The neighbor is not a ‘unit’ in the human collective; he is ‘someone’ who by his known origins deserves particular attention and respect (CCC 2212).”
Question: Is making the sign of the Cross an act of prayer?
Answer: This was more of a recommendation for an article than an actual question, but let’s take the opportunity to reflect on the Sign of the Cross. We make the Sign of the Cross when we enter and exit Church, when we cross in front of a Church, at the beginning an end of prayer, and probably more times that I’m forgetting. Making the Sign of the Cross reminds us that we’re in the presence of God, calls to mind the central mysteries of the faith, and prepares us to pray. In fact, it is itself a prayer and something that we shouldn’t just take for granted.
The three central mysteries of the faith are the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Paschal Mystery, and all three of them are called to mind when we make the Sign of the Cross. We literally sign our bodies with the Cross. The Cross is the instrument through which the Lord offered His life to the Father for our salvation, and so the Cross has come to represent our salvation through the death and Resurrection of the Lord. Signing ourselves with the Cross shows that we belong to Christ. In the Rite of Baptism the priests, parents, and godparents sign the infant on the forehead with the sign of the Cross as the priest says, “N., the Church of God receives you with great joy. In her name I sign you with the Sign of the Cross of Christ our Savior.” Likewise, bearing the Cross is the sign of a follower of Christ, as the Lord said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me (Mk 8:34).”
The Cross of Christ also points to another great mystery of faith, the Incarnation. The Lord was only able to take up His Cross and be nailed to it because He had already taken on a human nature. In Himself, God is impassable, meaning unable to suffer, because He is pure existence in Himself. In the Incarnation the Son of God, coequal with God, took on a human nature without ceasing to be God. The person of Jesus Christ is both God and man; as man He is able to suffer the death of the Cross, and as God He was able to transcent the grave. As man He was able to offer atonement for our sins, and as God He is able to make the perfect offering of Himself. As St. Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be seized. Instead, he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man, and accepting the state of a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death (Phil 2:5-8).”
Every time we make the Sign of the Cross we invoke the Most Holy Trinity, showing that we are speaking and acting “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We call on God Himself and recognize that God is three person united in one Divine Nature. The Sign of the Cross shows that the three great mysteries of the faith, the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection, are all united in the one Mystery of the Faith. When you make the Sign of the Cross and call upon the Holy Trinity bring all of this to mind. Thank the Lord for the gift of salvation through His death and Resurrection, praise the Lord for His awesome Incarnation, and life your thoughts to God Himself.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Once a month I’ll write an article answering a question from a parishioner on the Church, the Mass and sacraments, the Bible, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, spiritual theology, or anything related to Christianity. Either write your question down and put it in the collection basket, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In our society we force people to go to school for a certain number of years during childhood. Have you ever considered how strange that is? We’ve decided as a society that we want everyone to have a certain amount of education, becuase it’s better for them and it’s better for society as a whole. People who are educated more often live longer, get better jobs, have less health problems, go to jail less, and have more stable families. It was normal in the not too distant past, like all thoughout the 19th century and during the Great Depression, for children to begin working as soon as they could. We now consider it normal to put off working, and thus making money, and even to pay extra money to go to school, because it prepares us for life.
Religious Education, of course, is different. No one is legally forced to get religious education, at least in the United States. It’s something that we choose to do. So, why would someone choose to learn more about God, the Bible, and the teachings of the Church, for themselves or for their children?
There are some practical reasons. We want our children to be baptized, receive First Communion, and receive Confirmation. Without Baptism and First Communion we can’t fully participate in the life of the Church, and without Confirmation we can’t be Godparents. These are valid reasons, and I’ll accept any reason that gets someone in the door; however, we also want to convince people to continue with religious education after the formal classes end through spiritual reading, personal prayer, Bible studies, Catholic online resources, and, most important, Sunday Mass. Here are three reasons this is not just important, but necessary, for all of us.
If regular school is supposed to prepare us for life, then religious education is supposed to prepare us for heaven. We dedicate between 8 and 20 years of our lives to school to prepare for 80-100 years of life. The afterlife will last far longer than that, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll end up in heaven. The Lord Himself said, “Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it! (Mt 7:13-14),” and “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth (Rev 3:15-16).” We can’t take our salvation for granted, but must “with fear and trembling work out your salvation (Phil 2:12).”
Learning more about God and growing in the faith will also help us in this present life, and not only in the life to come. The lives of the saints are evidence that living a life of faith brings great joy. It’s not an easy life. The spiritual life is about learning to set aside our own wants and desires and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in life, to follow God’s commands, and to follow the Lord’s example of sacrificial love. For these are the things that make life worth living and bring the greatest joy. Mother Teresa is probably the best example of someone who lived a life of extreme sacrifice for the sake of the poorest of the poor, and yet exuded such great joy and zeal for life. As St. Catherine of Sienna said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
We want to learn more about God not only to live a good life and get into heaven, but because we love God. When you love someone or something you dedicate yourself to it. If you have a hobby you spent time learning about it, practicing it, and sharing it with other people. If you love a person you want to spend time with them, learn about them, and work for their good. Practicing a hobby or being with someone you love is its own reward. These things, as good as they are, only reflect the goodness of God. In an even greater way God is Good in Himself. Love of God is its own reward, because He is the summum bonum, the highest good or ultimate goal, which we were all created for and without which we cannot ever be satisfied. This, ultimately, is why religous education must be voluntary, and why it must continue even after formal religous education classes have ended.
Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day. Six days shalt thou labour, and shalt do all thy works. But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy god: thou shalt do no work on it... For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it. - Exodus 20:8-11
The third commandment finishes out the section that deals primarily with our relationship with God, while the fourth through tenth commandments deal primarily with our relationship with our neighbor. Love of God and love of neighbor always go together; they’re inseparable. The sabbath is the seventh day, Saturday, which is when Jews and certain Christian groups like the Seventh Day Adventists observe this commandment. Catholics and most other Christians observe the sabbath on the first day of the week, Sunday. Sunday is the day that the Lord rose from the dead, all of the Lord’s appearances after His Resurrection took place on Sundays, and the early Christian community always gathered for Mass on Sundays, which they called the Lord’s Day, or the eighth day. The Jewish Sabbath was on Saturday because that was the seventh day of creation, when the Lord rested, so they rested on the seventh day to give thanks to God for the creation of the world and for their lives. We celebrate on the eighth day, Sunday, to show that God did something new when Jesus rose from the dead, a new creation, if you will, and to give thanks to God for bringing us to life in Christ.
On the Christian Sabbath, Sunday, we are required to do two things, go to Mass and refrain from servile labor. This is the time for us to turn our attention away from the way we make a living, our jobs, and towards the things that make life worth living, our relationships with God and with our families. It’s a day of renewal for our bodies and for our souls. We’re required, if possible, to avoid work, or servile labor, on Sundays. The rule of thumb is to abstain from work that hinders you from fulfilling the purpose of the day, worshipping God and true recreation. For example, if gardening is your job, then don’t garden on Sundays, but if it’s your hobby then it’s okay. Fulfilling family obligations or important services, like healthcare professionals and other necessary jobs, are excused from the day of rest. Some people may have jobs that require them to work on Sundays; in that case it’s not a sin to work on Sunday, but don’t let it become a habit of ignoring the Sabbath, but do whatever you can to keep the Lord’s Day holy. Remember that everyone has a right to their day of rest, so avoid things that require others to work on Sundays.
There are at least three reasons that God commands us to rest on the Sabbath. As the Lord said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” After all, God doesn’t get tired, so He didn’t need to rest on the Sabbath, but He also knows that we do need time to rest, recuperate, and refocus on what matters in life. Second, the Sabbath rest requires us to put our faith in God. We could work seven days instead of six and make more money and get more done. Instead, we give one day a week to God. On that day we serve God (the Hebrew word for worship also means serve) instead of ourselves or other people. By taking one day off we’re telling God that we trust Him to provide enough for ourselves and our families. Finally, in respecting the Lord’s Day we give everyone a public witness to our faith in God and show that our faith should affect our lives in a real and demonstrable way.
St. Justin Martyr’s First Apology was written in the second century AD, about 100 years after Christ, to explain Christianity to the non-Christians. Talking about the Mass, it says, “But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration. And this food is called among us Eucharistia, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.”
Question: Where did the Rosary come from?
Answer: The Rosary is perhaps the most common prayer of the Catholic faithful throughout the entire world, and the daily Rosary and family Rosary are recommended as among the most salutary prayers for growth in holiness. If you pray the Rosary, you’ve probably noticed how difficult it is to form a habit of praying the Rosary every day, and to truly meditate on the prayers when you do pray it. As a friend of mine from seminary, now Fr. Travis Burnett, said, “The Rosary is so difficult to pray because it’s so powerful. The devil doesn’t want us praying it.”
The Rosary was originally connected with the Psalter, the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. The ancient Jewish practice of praying the psalms was retained by the early Christians, and was eventually taken up by the monastic communities, especially the Benedictines. They would pray all 150 psalms in a daily or weekly cycle. This practice spread and is now mandatory for all priests and religious. The Laity, however, often couldn’t participate as they usually didn’t have a copy of the Bible (which were copied by hand and extremely expensive) and may not have been able to read anyway. So, even early in Church history people starting reciting 150 Hail Mary’s or Our Father’s every day, which was known as the Angelic Psalter, like the Davidic Psalter in the Bible.
During the Middle Ages, between the 12th and 15th centuries, this practice developed into the modern Rosary. There were several different forms of praying it and many different collections of mysteries. It was probably during this time that it gained the name “The Rosary.” Roses were connected with the Blessed Mother, and the main prayer of the Rosary became the Hail Mary, which were said to be as roses given to the Blessed Mother as each one was prayed. The Rosary was preached and promoted during this time as a way to learn and promote the faith, to ward of heresy, and to grow in the spiritual life. St. Dominic, famously, is said to have had a vision of the Blessed Mother while he was preaching against the Albegensian and Cathar heresies in southern France and Spain. It was latter preached also by Blessed Alan de la Roche in the 15th century for the conversion of sinners. In the 16th century it began gaining popularity in Eastern Europe after the Muslims conquered Constantinople in 1453 and began their invasions of Hungary and the Balkans.
In 1570, the Ottoman Turks invaded the island of Cyprus to take it from the Republic of Venice, who were the main power holding them in check in the Mediterranean Sea. They appealed to the Holy Father, Pope St. Pius V, for help, and he organized an alliance of Catholic states, including Spain, Portugal, Venice, Genoa, and the Knights of Malta. By the end of September the fleet was ready to set out, so the Holy Father asked all of the faithful to pray Rosaries and implore the intercession of the Blessed Mother for victory. On October 7, 1570, the the Catholic fleet of around 250 ships met the Muslim fleet of around 350 ships near Lepanto, Greece. The Catholic fleets flagship the Real, under the command of Don Juan and flying a blue banner of Christ crucified, met the Ottoman flagship the Sultana, under the command of Ali Pasha. It came down to hand to hand combat, and in the fighting Ali Pasha was killed and the Ottoman flagship captured, causing a breakdown of morale and discipline in much of the fleet. The fighting was fierce, but by the end of the day the allied victory was complete. The Catholic fleet had lost only 12 galleys and had 8,000 dead, but they had sunk 50 Ottoman galleys, captured 117 galleys, and freed 15,000 slaves. Pope St. Pius V received news of the victory on October 22 and celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving in St. Peter’s Basilica. The victory was attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Mother and a feast to Our Lady of Victory was added to the calendar on October 7, the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, which is still celebrated every year as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
To bring the history of the Rosary up to date, Pope St. John Paul II added a set of mysteries, the Luminous mysteries, to the Rosary in 2002 in the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae. The mysteries take us through the life of Christ, from His birth in the Joyful Mysteries, to His Passion and death in the Sorrowful Mysteries, to His Resurrection in the Glorious Mysteries. The Luminous Mysteries complet the life of Christ by inviting us to meditate on His public ministry. In the letter, Pope St. John Paul II describes the purpose of the Rosary, saying, “With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty of the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 1).”
Fr. Bryan Howard
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – 22 August 2021
As Christians we know that the foundation of civilization, culture, and society, what makes and builds up communities, is the family. There are a lot of impulses in American society right now that attack the very foundation of the family, and that affect each one of our families. There’s the desire to individual autonomy, which means not having to answer to anyone else or be responsible for anyone else. We see this in the way that families can become like people who happen to live under the same roof, each one having their own life, never eating together or even sitting down to talk and spend time with each other. Another danger for families is consumerism, which is the desire to have more and more things, so that things start to become the center of our lives instead of people. Another danger is the tendency to see disagreeing with what I believe as an attack on my person, which leads to us vilifying people, even family members. Have you noticed how everyone is Hitler, now?
Not everything is doom and gloom, of course, and there’s always hope. Everything I just mentioned is big cultural phenomena, but when I look at particular families I inevitably find reason to hope. The Christian view sees the family as the school of faith and the school of love. Where do we learn about God’s love for us? God loves us unconditionally, He never takes back His love, no matter what we do, and He wants the good for us; He wants to help us become whom we are meant to be. We first experience this type of love in the family. Love isn’t something that we’re born with; it’s something that we learn. In the family we learn to share, to share our toys, our candy bar, our chores, our problems and our successes. We learn that people are more important that objects. We learn to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Our family is where we learn to pray, to bring our problems to God, and to thank Him for our blessings. When we see our parents make God a priority in their lives by setting aside time for Church and individual prayer and making time to pray as a family, that tells us that God is worth taking time for.
Parents, you are responsible for your children, who are the future of our society. They are the future Christians and future Americans. Your success or failure as parents affects their lives, their children, and their children’s children, for generations. You can impact hundreds, if not thousands, of people for the better and for the worse. Don’t outsource your responsibility to anyone, not to the government, a school, or even the Church. Study after study shows that children whose parents are involved in their education do better in school and in life. Likewise, children whose parents take them to Church weekly, especially the Father, are more likely to keep the faith and pass it on to their children. There simply is no substitute for mom and dad.
So, husbands and wives, if you want to make a strong and stable home for your children, then you have to strengthen your marriage. The best thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul lays out the Biblical view of marriage, which Dr. Scott Hahn summarizes in this way, “Paul sees marriage as a loving partnership between spouses of equal dignity.” The model for your marriage is the love that Christ showed for the Church when He gave His life for her.
St. Paul begins, “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Marriage isn’t supposed to be a dominance hierarchy or a competition to see who will wear the pants in the relationship, but a partnership where each one acts for the good of the other out of love. When you enter the sacrament of Matrimony, then living a holy marriage is your path to heaven. Marriage is called a sacrament of service, because you don’t get married for yourself, but out of love for your spouse, and therefore both husband and wife are called to serve one another. St. Paul compares the wife to the Church and the husband to Christ, because their relationship should look like the love Christ has for the Church and the Church has for Christ. Does Christ dominate the Church as a tyrant? No, He gives His life to exalt the Church and glorify her. Does the Church try to use Christ for her own ends? No, the Church glorifies Christ and seeks to grow in union with Him. So, husbands and wives shouldn’t try to dominate one another or use one another, but to grow in union through loving service of one another in a partnership of life.
The Biblical vision of marriage isn’t just difficult, it’s humanly impossible. That’s why our marriages and families, as important as the are, aren’t the highest good. Every family needs to be directed towards Christ. How can you love one another as Christ has loved us unless you first receive His love yourself? Therefore, the most important thing that a family can do for one another, is to come to Church together, as a family, to approach the altar as a family, and to receive the ultimate sacrament of Christ’s love, the sacrament of Christ’s death and Resurrection in the Most Holy Eucharist.
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.