The Audacity of a Believer: On the Memorial of St. Martha

marthaMany of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”—John 11:19-22

Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, often gets a bad rap for having been much concerned with food prep and housework when Christ came to visit.

But on the feast of this earliest of Christians, the Gospel draws our attention to a more admirable trait than her hospitality: her unwavering faith in God.

In John 11, we read that Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, has died. The Lord waits four days to return to Bethany, two days after Lazarus has been interred. Not waiting for Him to enter the house, the Gospel tells us Martha went out to meet Christ.

Her greeting, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” carries not a hint of accusation or resentment; instead a fervent belief in the power of God emboldens Martha. In response, Christ tells Martha her brother will rise again.

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, through he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?

Martha believes.

For most of us, it takes far less than the death of a loved one to weaken our faith in Christ.  How many of us, facing bitter disappointments or uncontrollable circumstances, can pray as Martha prayed, with perfect detachment: “Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

July 23 – Feast of St. Bridget of Sweden

At age seven Bridget received a vision of being crowned by the Blessed Mother. At ten, her mother brought her to a mission at a nearby church, where the priest preached about the sufferings of Jesus. This made a deep impression on her. That night she suddenly woke up and saw Jesus crucified. When she asked who had done this to Him, He replied, “Those who hate Me and forget My love.” From that day on, she focused her prayers on the sufferings of Christ, a practice which often moved her to tears.

The holy and selfless lives of her parents and their intense prayer life created within Bridget a strong spiritual disposition. She desired to enter the convent, but her father wanted her to marry and chose for her a husband. Despite her initial unwillingness, Bridget’s spiritual director advised her to obey her father and marry. At age fourteen, the incredibly beautiful Bridget married the devout Ulf (“Wolf” in English), Prince of Nercia. Ulf was eighteen.

Excerpted from Fr. T. G. Morrow’s book Who’s Who in Heaven. For ordering information, visit our website.

The 2014 Catholic Press Awards

The Catholic Press Association has released its list of 2014 winners for the best in Catholic publishing.

Catholics United for the Faith is proud to announce our CPA winners from this year:

Drawn From Shadows into Truth: A Memoir by Fr. Ray Ryland Best Biography (First Place)

Faith Basics: Pocket Catholic Dictionary by Leon J. Suprenant Best Reference Book (Honorable Mention)

“The Art of Living” by Ted Sri Best Regular Column (First Place)

Congratulations to all of the 2014 winners!

June 13 – Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

Anthony, along with the other Franciscans and the Dominicans, was given the task of correcting the errors of both the Waldensians and the Catharii. The sincere faith and simple life of the Franciscan and Dominican preachers gave power to their words. And they always obeyed the bishops and priests.

Anthony traveled simply, staying with his Franciscan brothers wherever he went. If there was no friary, he often slept outdoors with a rock to support his head. Providence soon brought him to the north Italian town of Rimini, where the Catharii were very strong. Two years earlier a saintly bishop preaching there had barely escaped with this life. When Anthony first arrived, however, as humble and poor as the Catharii, he was barely noticed. In fact the Catharii convinced the people not to go out to hear him at all.

That all changed when Anthony decided that is would be easier to preach to the fish in the nearby river tan to Rimini’s hard-hearted villagers. So, according to the legend, he began calling out, “Hear the word of God you fishes of seas and rivers, since the heretics refuse to listen.” Fish of all kinds came together before him near the bank, with their heads turned in his direction.

Anthony invited them to thank God for their existence, the water where they lived, and their food. He noted how they had been spared during the flood, and had given nourishment to Jesus more than once, as mentioned in the Gospels, and thus had been favored by God. The fish seemed to listen as he called to them loudly, “Blessed be God, since the fishes of the water give Him more honor than the heretics, and the animals who have no reason pay more attention to His word than unbelieving man.”

Those walking by noticed and began to listen. Seeing his crowd grow, Anthony continued to explain the faith to the fish, hoping in this way to teach the people gathered there as well. Many became convinced of the Catholic faith by this event, and afterward many more came to hear him and were converted.

Excerpted from Fr. T. G. Morrow’s book Who’s Who in Heaven. For ordering information, visit our website.

June 9 – Feast of Bl. Anna-Maria Taigi

Born in Siena, Italy, on May 29, 1769, Anna was the daughter of a pharmacist named Louis Gianetti. her mother, Maria Santa, was a devout Catholic from a poor family. Due to the failure of Louis’s business when Anna was six, the family moved to Rome’s Monti quarter. From that time on they were quite poor. Anna was raised to pray the Rosary and work hard. Because they were poor, Anna attended school only long enough to learn how to read. She never learned to write.

As Anna grew older, she became more and more attractive. By age seventeen she began spending extra time adorning herself, reading romantic books, and attending dances. While she loved the attention she received and all the parties, Anna didn’t forget her faith, even attending weekday Masses at times. Soon she began to see the dangers in her beauty, combined with her continued partying, and decided it was time to marry.

Anna’s mother dreamed her daughter would marry a prince and bring the family to his castle, but instead the one God sent was a servant of the Chigi Palace–Domenico Taigi. He was quite religious, a man who tried to be honest and avoid sin. A prince, however, he was not. Rough and lacking in good manners, Domenico was stubborn and blustery. They were married on January 7, 1790.

The couple moved into two rooms on the ground floor of the palace where Domenico worked. Anna again fell into vanity, dressing in fancy clothes, rings, and necklaces–now, supposedly, to please her husband.

Before long Anna realized that she had become too worldly; she wanted to please others more than God. Perhaps she was moved to convert by the words of Scripture: “Let not your be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine robes, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Pet. 3:3, 4). Her soul was at stake. She decided she must change.

Excerpted from Fr. T. G. Morrow’s book Who’s Who in Heaven. For ordering information, visit our website.

On World Communications Day: Is the Internet a Gift from God?

Sunday June 1, 2014 is the 48th World Communications Day in the Universal Church.  Pope Francis’ message on this year’s theme, “Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter,” can be found in full here

Pope_Francis_Holy Internet Batman! Gift from God? I thought they said Al Gore invented the Internet!
Pope Francis released a 2014 World Communications Day message saying that the Internet is “something truly good, a gift from God.”  Are we looking at a media-savvy Pope? Or is this a variation of a “can’t beat ‘em so join ‘em” kind of resignation? Maybe even a new marketing angle for the Catholic Church to attract the young and tech-savvy?

I dug deeper. World Communications Day was the only official day of celebration proclaimed during a world-wide gathering of bishops and cardinals in Rome in 1963. The first World Communications Day message was released on January 24, 1967. January 24 was picked because it is the day the Catholic Church celebrates another festival: that of Saint Francis de Sales, who is acknowledged by Catholics as the patron of writers and journalists, and so a patron of the communications media. (And here we thought January 24 was significant because it was the day Apple Computers launched their first Macintosh personal computer. But that was January 24, 1984, many centuries later.)

Then there’s the question of origin regarding the “gift from God” phrase. Digging deeper still, you can find this phrase repeated multiple times throughout the Catholic Church’s more than 78 years’ worth of media documents and communiques, all conveniently Google-able online and searchable at www.vatican.va. You’ll find this phrase about media as “gifts from God” implicitly and explicitly expressed in all the Catholic Church’s official documents about the media, from the first document released in 1936 to today. We have to pause for a moment to consider the scene in 1936, since I bet many of you reading this aren’t old enough to remember what it was like back then. In 1936, most folks didn’t know what a television set was, let alone own one. 1936 was before Orson Welles’ broadcast of his landmark, media-shaking War of the Worlds drama that scared folks silly. And it was during a time in our history when the media was viewed suspiciously as a tool for propaganda. Despite all this, the Catholic Church held out that media is a “gift from God”.

There’s an elegant simplicity to the Pope’s 2014 message too: as much as the media connects so many of us, the media can’t magically unite us in solidarity. That’s a human task, not a technological one. Pope Francis writes: “Often we need only walk the streets of a city to see the contrast between people living on the street and the brilliant lights of the store windows.  We have become so accustomed to these things that they no longer unsettle us.” Maybe it’s the visual contrast he uses or maybe it’s simply his own personal, lived experience expressed in so many words, but something about this statement is disturbingly familiar..

If we can choose to ignore the people around us, how much easier it becomes to ignore the human person behind the login name or behind the online avatar. Or the irony of how all this connectivity with people far off can cut us off from people close by.

“The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgment, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression.” Even this sentiment hits too close to home. It’s too easy to let the time slip by when we’re online. Whether at work or at play, we know we ought “to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm.  This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen.” Listen to others, and listen to ourselves, sometimes to just be, for our own sanity if nothing else.

Again, the same positive message about media from the Catholic Church: “The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people…. As I have frequently observed, if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first.” It’s not about “bombarding people with religious messages” he says, but about “patiently and respectfully” being a true friend to both that person we meet online and to Jesus Christ.

Dr. Eugene Gan is faculty associate of the Veritas Center, Professor of Interactive Media, Communications, and Fine Art at Franciscan University of Steubenville in the United States, and author of Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Media (available in paperback and e-book).

“Apparent Departure was in Truth the Beginning of a New Newness”

ascension

Pondering St. Luke’s description of  Christ’s disciples immediately after the Ascension–”[They] returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Lk. 24:52)–Pope Benedict XVI  commented: “That does not quite correspond to our normal psychology.”

How can it be that the disciples were full of joy when once again their Lord and Master was going where they could not immediately follow?

After the excruciating separation and loss experienced on Calvary, then three days of incomparable grief, the event of the Resurrection surpassed and conquered the sorrow within them. And for forty days the disciples walked with Him in the midst of His glory.

In what seems counterintuitive to human experience, as the Lord departed from them, His followers were ignited by joy. “Jesus has indeed gone away this time,” Benedict taught, “not into death, but into life.”

Having opened up the Scriptures for His friends, having shared the Eucharistic supper with them, and promising the presence of the Holy Spirit, Christ the Lord ascended into heaven with His disciples gazing both upward and outward.

Their hearts must have been lifted higher as they longed to be drawn closer to their Beloved, but having been instructed by Him to make disciples of all nations, their steps were quickened; the task was urgent.

Inspired by the joy of the first disciples, may we who have studied Christ’s Word, partaken in the Eucharist, and experienced the power of the Holy Spirit be faithful to the Great Commission, keeping our focus toward the Ascended Lord and our feet firmly on the ground.

And may the joy that was the identifying feature of those disciples approaching Jerusalem also be the mark we bear in the world today.

 

“Have a Firm Heart”

In his daily Mass yesterday, Pope Francis encouraged people to “have a firm heart, fixed on the Holy Spirit”.  How many of us find this difficult, but instead are swayed by every passing change, trial, or happiness in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I often subconsciously think that if I let our Lord truly be the center of my life, my heart, and let the Holy Spirit guide me, then my “fun” will be all over. I fear that He will see my attachments to things and strip them away from me, and I will be left living a life of abject misery with no joy. However, when we’re so focussed on holding onto something, it can get in the way of us truly enjoying it, because all we’re thinking about is “what if I lose it”. In surrendering all our dreams, and our hearts to our Lord, we place them in the hands of a Father who is love itself; a Father who wants to give us the whole world, but we’re too-busy to receive it because our hands are full of the fleeting pleasures we want.

Let go, though, let go, because even those fleeting pleasures will be returned to you (if they are good, and contribute to your true happiness and virtue) – except because they are now from God they will no longer be fleeting, but having been tested in His purifying love will be strong and endure. Then we can enjoy them without fear of losing them, but resting in the gift that He has given us.

Underlying all of this is the tinge of sadness that recognises that life in this world is fleeting, and good things come and go. However, that should encourage us to accept the sorrow with Whiteface_Mountainthe joy; take each moment as it comes and let those joyous moments take us to the top of the nearest mountain. However, don’t become despondent when life looks bleak and a secret sorrow burrows into your heart; have faith in a loving Father, and know that just as the Crucifixion and death of our Lord lasted for a finite time, so too, will your sorrow pass away. And we really only appreciate the deep joys when we have also known the dark valleys. Many years ago, a priest said something that, as a young child really sunk in, and I’ve never forgotten: “without Good Friday there would be no Easter Sunday”. Obvious, yet something that continually revolutionises my experience of suffering, as well as joy. When we are going through a valley, that means there must be a mountain up ahead.

Let us pray, that as Pope Francis exhorts us, we will have firm hearts, resting in the Spirit. So that come what may, we will move forward in the assurance that we are loved, and so share that love with others. Then, like St. Paul, we will be able to share the Love of God with all those around us, and hopefully bring many more to know that same Love!

Read the article here.