Tis the season…. of ADVENT!

This time of year brings out one of my greatest frustrations– the rush to reach Christmas whilst passing over Advent, as though time would move faster. Advent is probably the most under-appreciated and most forgotten liturgical season. Advent and Lent are similar liturgical seasons in that both demand an attitude of repentance (in preparation for the celebration of the coming Christmas/Easter). However, Advent is  less somber than Lent and is a season of joyful expectation. It’s also a season of waiting and patience. We join ourselves to those in the Old Testament who awaited the coming of the Messiah. Though the length of Advent is short, it’s impact is great. And while at the time of the writing of this post, Christmas is but a week away, let me remind you: IT IS STILL ADVENT! So whilst you rush around to finish your Christmas shopping and prepare for your Christmas traditions, take a few moments to remember that Christmas is not about anything other than the Incarnation of the Son of God. Nothing else matters. Nothing. So if your plans are going to keep you too busy to bear in mind that great truth, then trim your plans so you can focus on what really matters: the Infant born to bear our transgressions and pour out His Precious Blood for us.

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear…
O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who orders all things mightily,
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go…
O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty, and awe…
O come, O Rod of Jesse free,
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave…
O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery…
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight…
O come, Desire of nations, bind,
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of peace…

Good reads for Advent:
the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, especially in light of the “O Antiphons
The Incarnation Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus Living in Mary by John Saward

Happy Feast of All Saints!

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Church Triumphant– all those glorious Saints in Heaven, whether canonized or not, who have fought the good fight of faith and won. It’s a great day to pray the Litany of the Saints. Praying the Litany of the Saints always brings to mind the first verse of Hebrews 12, and when reading Hebrews 12, I call to mind the Litany of the Saints…

“And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. For think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds.”

Hebrews 12:1-3

We are not alone in the battle for sanctity. We are surrounded by the witness of those who have gone before us and left us examples of heroic virtue in faith and holiness. We look to them for guidance, strength, and encouragement knowing that we can do all things by the grace and merit of Jesus Christ.

So today, pray the Litany of the Saints… ask the Saints to intercede for you… and read up on the lives of the Saints!

Good Reads for All Saints Day:
Any biography on the lives of the Saints
Saints Who Raised the Dead by Fr. Albert Hebert
Mysteries, Marvels, Miracles: In the Lives of the Saints by Joan Carroll Cruz

The Real Story of Halloween…

… Or “All Hallows Eve” (i.e., the evening of All Hallows– All Saints–Day) as it was traditionally known, is a Catholic holiday which unofficially recalls the reality of Hell and the despair of the damned. This ‘scary’ subject is the source for the scary/gory/evil ideas about Halloween which popular culture has turned into a celebration–not of triumph over evil– but a celebration of it. Is Hell a scary topic? Of course, but along with the reality of Hell and the punishment of the damned Catholic parents (and all in charge of handing on the Faith) are responsible for teaching the end of the story… namely, Our Lord’s words, “… rest assured for I have conquered the world.” (cf. John 16:33).

Instead of dressing up as secular/profane characters, today would be a good day to dress up as Saints and talk about their virtues and holiness. Instead of gorging on commercial candy, make some Italian ‘Ossi di Morto’ cookies (bone cookies), sugar skulls, toasted pumpkin seeds, “Soul Cakes” (doughnuts), etc.  and celebrate the triumph of Jesus Christ over sin and death (… and Hell) and the fact that through Him we can also be spared the eternal torment of damnation.

Lastly, since it is the last day of October (the month of the Rosary) pray a Rosary today for the conversion of unbelievers and the lukewarm.

Reads for Halloween:
The Dogma of Hell: Illustrated by Facts Taken from Profane and Sacred History by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, SJ
(TAN Books has an edition that also includes How To Avoid Hell by Thomas A. Nelson)
Hell and its Torments by St. Robert Bellarmine
Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Life Everlasting by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Ossi di Morto Cookie Recipe (taken from FishEaters)

1 1/4 cups flour
10 oz almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 oz pine nuts
1 TBSP butter
A shot glass full of brandy or grappa
The grated zest of half a lemon
Cinnamon
One egg and one egg white, lightly beaten

Blanch the almonds, peel them, and chop them finely (you can do this in a blender, but be careful not to over-chop and liquefy).

Combine all the ingredients except the egg in a bowl, mixing them with a spoon until you have a firm dough. Dust your hands and work surface with flour, and roll the dough out between your palms to make a “snake” about a half inch thick. Cut it into two-inch long pieces on the diagonal. Put on greased and floured cookie sheet, brush with the beaten egg, and bake them in a 330-350 oven for about 20 minutes. Serve them cold. Because they are a dry, hard cookie, it is good to serve these with something to drink.

(I made these cookies last year along with some (poorly crafted) sugar skulls, and they are relatively easy to make and rather tasty!)

Corpus Christi

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque
Laus et iubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio.
Amen.

V. Panem de caelo praestitisti eis. Alleluia
R. Omne delectamentum in se habentem. Alleluia

Oremus: Deus, qui nobis sub sacramento mirabili, passionis tuae memoriam reliquisti: tribue, quaesumus, ita nos corporis et sanguinis tui sacra mysteria venerari, ut redemptionis tuae fructum in nobis iugiter sentiamus. Qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum.

Amen.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! oe’r ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor blessing,
Might and endless majesty.

Amen.

V. Thou hast given them bread from heaven Alleluia
R. Having within it all sweetness Alleluia

Let us pray: O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament left us a memorial of Thy Passion: grant, we implore Thee, that we may so venerate the sacred mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, as always to be conscious of the fruit of Thy Redemption. Thou who livest and reignest forever and ever.

Amen.

“Every Consecrated Host is made to burn Itself up with love in a human heart,”

~St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars

“It is not possible to “eat” the Risen One, present under the sign of bread, as if it were a simple piece of bread. To eat this Bread is to communicate, to enter into communion with the person of the living Lord. This communion, this act of “eating”, is truly an encounter between two persons, it is allowing our lives to be penetrated by the life of the One who is the Lord, of the One who is my Creator and Redeemer.

The purpose of this communion, of this partaking, is the assimilation of my life with his, my transformation and conformation into he who is living Love. Therefore, this communion implies adoration, it implies the will to follow Christ, to follow the One who goes ahead of us. Adoration and procession thereby make up a single gesture of communion; they answer his mandate: “Take and eat”.”

~ Pope Benedict XVI, Corpus Christi homily 26 May 2005

“In today’s celebration of the Eucharist, the Son of God has also been given to us. Those who have received Holy Communion, in a special way, carry the Risen Lord within themselves. Just as Mary bore him in her womb — a defenceless little child, totally dependent on the love of his Mother — so Jesus Christ, under the species of bread, has entrusted himself to us, dear brothers and sisters. Let us love this Jesus who gives himself so completely into our hands! Let us love him as Mary loved him! And let us bring him to others, just as Mary brought him to Elizabeth as the source of joyful exultation! The Virgin gave the Word of God a human body, and thus enabled him to come into the world as a man. Let us give our own bodies to the Lord, and let them become ever more fully instruments of God’s love, temples of the Holy Spirit! Let us bring Sunday, and its immense gift, into the world!”

~Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 9 September 2007

“In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.”

~St. John Chrysostom, Catechesis

“If Christ did not want to dismiss the Jews without food in the desert for fear that they would collapse on the way, it was to teach us that it is dangerous to try to get to heaven without the Bread of Heaven.”

~St. Jerome

“If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”

~St. Maximilian Kolbe

“By a beautiful paradox of Divine love, God makes His Cross the very means of our salvation and our life. We have slain Him; we have nailed Him there and crucified Him; but the Love in His eternal heart could not be extinguished. He willed to give us the very life we slew; to give us the very Food we destroyed; to nourish us with the very Bread we buried, and the very Blood we poured forth. He made our very crime into a happy fault; He turned a Crucifixion into a Redemption; a Consecration into a Communion; a death into Life Everlasting,”

~Bishop Fulton Sheen, This is the Mass

“The Blessed Eucharist means nothing to a man who thinks other people can get along without It. The Blessed Eucharist means nothing to a communicant who thinks he needs It but someone else does not. The Blessed Eucharist means nothing to a communicant who offers any charity ahead of this Charity of the Bread of Life.”

~Father Leonard Feeney, Bread of Life

Good reads for the feast of Corpus Christi:
The Blessed Eucharist: Our Greatest Treasure by Fr. Michael Muller, CSSR
Eucharistic Miracles by Joan Carroll Cruz
God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (/Pope Benedict XVI)

Pentecost

“Know you not, that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”

1 Corinthians 3:16

Here is the tract from Holy Mass today:

VENI, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.
COME, Holy Ghost,
send down those beams,
which sweetly flow in silent streams
from Thy bright throne above.
Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.
O come, Thou Father of the poor;
O come, Thou source of all our store,
come, fill our hearts with love.
Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.
O Thou, of comforters the best,
O Thou, the soul’s delightful guest,
the pilgrim’s sweet relief.
In labore requies,
in aestu temperies
in fletu solatium.
Rest art Thou in our toil, most sweet
refreshment in the noonday heat;
and solace in our grief.
O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.
O blessed Light of life Thou art;
fill with Thy light the inmost heart
of those who hope in Thee.
Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.
Without Thy Godhead nothing can,
have any price or worth in man,
nothing can harmless be.
Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.
Lord, wash our sinful stains away,
refresh from heaven our barren clay,
our wounds and bruises heal.
Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.
To Thy sweet yoke our stiff necks bow,
warm with Thy fire our hearts of snow,
our wandering feet recall.
Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.
Grant to Thy faithful, dearest Lord,
whose only hope is Thy sure word,
the sevenfold gifts of grace.
Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium,
Amen, Alleluia.
Grant us in life Thy grace that we,
in peace may die and ever be,
in joy before Thy face.
Amen. Alleluia.

Good Reads for Pentecost:
The Holy Ghost Our Greatest Friend by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan
Swift Victory by Fr. Walter Ferrell, OP and Fr. Dominic Hughes, OP

Happy Feast of the Ascension

“The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach, Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up. To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And eating together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth. For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence.

They therefore who were come together, asked him, saying: Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? But he said to them: It is not for you to know the times or moments, which the Father hath put in his own power: But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were beholding him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments. Who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem…”

Acts 1:1-11

Divine Mercy Sunday!

Jesus, I trust in You!
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday to you! Today is the great feast of Divine Mercy (or Low Sunday/Quasimodo Sunday…(yes, the Hunchback took his name from the day on which he was found)/Dominica in albis depositis (“Sunday of putting away the albs”)). Traditionally, it is the day the newly baptized (at Easter) put away their baptismal robes.

Since 2000 (officially), it has been celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. It comes from the Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, a polish nun in the 1930s. Our Lord appeared to her and under the direction of her spiritual director St. Faustina wrote down her revelations in a Diary (i.e., Divine Mercy in My Soul). Regarding today’s feast her Diary says,

On one occasion, I heard these words: My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.* [our emphasis] On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will I contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. (Diary 699)

Today, you may gain a plenary indulgence (the  remission of the temporal punishment due to sin) under the usual conditions (Confession, reception of the Eucharist, and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father… all the while being free from any and all attachment to sin–even venial sin). It is the Sunday that proclaims the mercy of God through the story of doubting Thomas and the institution of the Sacrament of Confession:

Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.

He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord.

But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.

Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God. Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed. Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.

John 20: 19:31, Douay-Rheims version

Merciful Jesus, I trust in You!

Some reads for Divine Mercy Sunday:
Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska by St. Faustina
Frequent Confession by Dom Benedict Baur
Dives in Misericordia encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II on mercy