Category Archives: Daily Liturgy

DAILY LITURGY

 SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2017    TWENTY-SEVENTH WEEK IN O. T.       pinionmarc

Lectionary 142: 1) Isaiah 25:6-10a; 2) Ps 23:1-6; 3) Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20;                            4) Matthew 22:1-14 or 22:1-10.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101517.cfm

FOCUS:          We must be prepared to heed God’s loving call. Today’s readings provide both comfort and challenge. We are reminded that God is gracious and merciful, forgiving our sins and providing for our needs. But we must actively listen for his call and heed it when it comes, lest we be unprepared to enter the heavenly kingdom and join in the eternal wedding feast. The Lord invites us to a banquet (3), one of the favorite images of mes­sianic times (1). This banquet is spread before us (Ps) and can fully sat­isfy our needs (2), yet how often have we refused the Lord’s invitation to share in the riches prepared for us (3)?

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading, Isaiah celebrates the generous and merciful nature of God, who blesses his people with an abundance of good gifts and saves them from sin and death. In the second reading from Philippians, Saint Paul teaches that it is through our faith in Jesus that we draw strength. The Gospel parable finds a king inviting guests to his son’s wedding banquet, only to realize that most are not fit to join the celebration.

PN: 22 October is World Mission Sunday. Pastors should encourage their local communities to assist in the mission of the Church in spread­ing the gospel. The Mass for the Evangelization of Peoples (#18) may be used as found in the Roman Missal. For optional readings, see Lectionary, vol. IV, nos. 872-876, especially Is 60:1-6 [872.3] Rom 10:9-18 [873.4] Mt 28:16-20 [876.1]).

 

 

 

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Monday, October 16, 2017              MONDAY OF 28TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Optional Memorial: Saint Hedwig, Religious; Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin.

Lectionary 467: 1) Romans 1:1-7; 2) Ps 98:1-4; 3) Luke 11:29-32.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101617.cfm

FOCUS:          Let us follow Jesus on his terms. Just as the crowd wanted a sign from Jesus, people today demand proof – often a convenient excuse for unbelief. It seems we will follow Jesus, but only on our terms. Yet Jesus, himself, who died and rose for us, is our sign. The Ninevites heard the preaching of Jonah and repented. Are we willing to turn from sin and follow Jesus on his terms? Jesus is the sign of God’s presence (2), of God’s salvation (Ps). He is descended from David and is the Son of God (1).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In today’s first reading, Paul addresses the community in Rome, and reminds them they are called, by God’s grace, to be holy apostles. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus informs the crowd looking for a sign that they will be given only the sign of Jonah ─ that he himself is their sign.

Hedwig, †1243; born in Bavaria; duchess of Silesia and mother of seven children; peacemaker dedicated to the poor and prisoners; as a widow, retired to a Cistercian convent.

Margaret Mary, †17 Oct. 1690 at age forty-three; French Visitandine mystic who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a feast which helped free the Church from the spirit of Jansenism; promoted first Friday devotion.

 

 

 

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017       TUESDAY OF 28TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

OBLIGATORY MEMORIAL: Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr.

Lectionary 468: 1) Romans 1:16-25; 2) Ps 19:2-5; 3) Luke 11:37-41.                                                   Scripture for Saint’s Mass, see 660: Phil 3:17-4:1 Jn 12:24-26.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101717.cfm

FOCUS:          We are called to live in the truth. As we see in today’s Gospel, Jesus hated hypocrisy, and encouraged his followers to be kind to one another. External gestures are meaningless unless we have generosity of spirit and a genuine love for others. And our actions must attest to the greatness of our God.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The first reading reminds us that we are to worship the Creator, not the things he created. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches about hypocrisy, particularly in religious practices. He uses as an example the Pharisees’ practice of ritually cleansing hands and dishes while holding evil in their hearts.

Ignatius, † c. 107 under Trojan in Rome’s amphitheater; from Syria; Apostolic Father known as the second successor of St. Peter in Antioch; wrote seven letters to local communities on church unity and structure, esp., the monoepiscopacy; first to use the term “Catholic Church” as a collective designation for Christians; mentioned in the Roman Canon.

 

 

 

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017            SAINT LUKE, EVANGELIST – FEAST

Lectionary 661): 1) 2 Timothy 4:10-17b; 2) Ps 145:10-13, 17-18; 3) Luke 10:1-9.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101817.cfm

FOCUS:          Like Saint Luke, we are called to bear witness to Jesus. Today we celebrate one of the four evangelists whose Gospel is included in the canon of Scripture. Yet every Christian is called to be an evangelist. Like Saint Luke, we are called to bear witness to Christ ─ to be ready to share his message of God’s mercy and salvation. We are called to be faithful to the work God has called us to do. Luke, a gentile companion of Paul (1), proclaimed the good news through his gospel (2), making known God’s kingdom of love (Ps) for all, especially the lowly and the poor.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading, Saint Paul refers to Luke as a faithful companion in the journey and mission to proclaim the Gospel. In Luke’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs, directing them to share his peace and proclaim the Gospel with those they encountered.

Luke, †1st c.; Syrian physician from Antioch and companion of St. Paul; authored (c. 70-85) Acts of the Apostles and a gospel for gentile Christians which speaks of God’s mercy, universal salvation, love of the poor and the marginalized, absolute renunciation, prayer, and the Holy Spirit; represented by a winged ox (cf. Ezekiel 1); patron of the medical profession, painters, artists, sculptors, and butchers.

PN: A “Health Care Mass,” might be appropriately celebrated near the Feast of St. Luke honoring doctors, nurses, medical technicians, hospi­tal administrators, and emergency personnel in appreciation for their service to the local community. Suggested Mass formulary, when per­mitted: For Giving Thanks to God, #49B.

 

 

  

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Thursday, October 19, 2017        THURSDAY OF 28TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

OBLIGATORY MEMORIAL: Saints John de Brebeuf And Isaac Jogues,                                               Priests, And companions, Martyrs

Lectionary 470: 1) Romans 3:21-30; 2) Ps 130:1-6; 3) Luke 11:47-54.                                                   Scripture for Saint’s Mass, see 662: 2 Cor 4:7-15 Mt 28:16-20.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101917.cfm

FOCUS:          We enter into a right and true relationship with God through faith in Christ. In the New Testament, the Greek words for faith and belief occur nearly five hundred times. Saint Thomas Aquinas says, “In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace.” We do not simply believe that God is; we have faith in God and in his son, Jesus Christ, and that faith has an impact on how we live our daily lives. We are saved by God’s gracious mercy (Ps), not by our own doing (1). Such a gift may be rejected, as was Jesus by many of his contemporaries (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading, Saint Paul tells his readers that while all humans have sinned, God has made it possible for them to regain a right relationship with him through faith in Christ. In the Gospel, Jesus has harsh words for the Pharisees and scholars of the law because they are hypocrites. Their hostility toward him increases.

French Jesuit and oblate missionaries to the Hurons and Iroquois of North America, t 1642-1649; Isaac was tomahawked to death by Iroquois on 18 Oct. 1646 near Albany; John was savagely mutilated and slain 16 Mar. 1649 near Georgian Bay; other martyrs were Antony Daniel, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Gamier, Noel Chabanel, and oblates Rene Goupil and Jean de la Lande; secondary patrons of Canada.

In the USA, the optional Memorial of St. Paul of the Cross, Priest, is perpetually transferred from 19 to 20 October.

 

 

  

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Friday, October 20, 2017          FRIDAY OF 28TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Optional Memorial: Saint Paul of the Cross, Priest.

Lectionary 471: Romans 4:1-8; 2) Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11; 3) Luke 12:1-7.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102017.cfm

FOCUS:          As authentic Christians, we must resist the temptation to live our faith only externally. Jesus’ warning should instill in all of us a healthy fear of giving in to hypocrisy. The temptation to care only about external appearances and what people think of us is a very real one. We should all strive to be authentic Christians because as Christ promises, in the end the truth will come to light. “Blest are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt” (1, Ps). God watches over us, and so we have nothing to fear (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he assures them that if their faith is great, then they will be justified by it. In Luke’s Gospel, we hear Jesus warning his Apostles against hypocrisy, and he calls them to have courage in time of persecution. He also reminds them that everything done in secret will be revealed.

Paul of the Cross, † 18 Oct. 1775; born in Liguria; renowned preacher and founder (1720) of the Passionists [C.P.], today numbering about 2,160 members, who combine the apostolate of retreats and missions with penitential monasticism.

 

 

  

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Saturday, October 21, 2017          SATURDAY OF 28TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Saturday in honor of BVM

Lectionary 472: Romans 4:13, 16-18; 2) Ps 105:6-9, 42-43; 3) Luke 12:8-12.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102117.cfm

FOCUS:          As we acknowledge God before others, that is how God will acknowledge us. We are called to faithfulness. We are called to preach the truth of Christ to a world that may not want to hear it. In our humanity, we worry about what we should say or do. We would like words in advance, but are reminded that the Holy Spirit will provide the words when we need them. The Lord is faithful to his covenant (Ps), to Abraham and his seed (1). A sign of such love is the Spirit, who sustains and supports us (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In Romans, Saint Paul notes that righteousness is promised to Abraham and his descendants through faith, not observance of the law. In the Gospel from Luke, Jesus teaches that those who preach in his name will be rewarded and those who deny him will be denied. In defense of the faith, the Holy Spirit will provide the words.

 

  

 

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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2017     TWENTY-NINTH 28TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 145: 1) Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 2) Ps 96:1, 3-5, 7-10; 3) 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b;                         4) Matthew 22:15-21.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102217.cfm

FOCUS:          Let us strive to be people of faith, hope and love. In the second reading, Saint Paul gives thanks to God for the assembly of Christians at Thessalonica, who were proving to be faithful disciples. The Gospel Paul preached to them, and the Gospel we hear today, is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit; let our lives bear witness to its truth and power. The Lord is king (Ps) and there is no other (1). We are to render to God, therefore, fitting praise and service, as is God’s due (3). God’s word to us, in turn, is a matter of power and strength, to be lived with conviction of heart (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The prophet Isaiah writes of God who knows us, loves us and calls us by name. We are reminded that there is no other God besides him. Saint Paul, beginning his Letter to the Thessalonians, affirms their work of faith and love, saying he knows they were chosen by God. In Matthew’s Gospel, the Pharisees hope to trick Jesus with their question about paying taxes. Jesus tells them to pay to Caesar what is his, and to give to God what belongs to him.

World Mission Sunday

 

 

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FAITH CATHOLIC ONLINE; PAULIST ORDO – 215-219.                                                                                                                                                                       MAGNIFICAT for the 28th Week In Ordinary Time .

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Reflection – Sunday, October 15, 2017

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Those who were first invited to the wed­ding feast refused, giving their work priority. We have been invited to the Eucharistic banquet. Our prayer lives prepare us for this feast. As we pray, we grow closer to God and our need for Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is nurtured. Prayer and sacrament ready us to feast in the Kingdom.           Daily Prayer 2017, LTP, page 323.

 

 

 

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Reflection – Monday, October 16, 2017          Weekday   

With this letter, Paul writes to a com­munity he did not found and has not met. In essence today we hear his intro­duction to them. Paul not only tells of the importance of his faith but acknowl­edges the honor of the community. He tells them that they have received the grace of apostleship and are called to be holy. Our hospitality to another acknowledges that they are a child of God. Our faith is shared through our words and actions.                                                          Daily Prayer 2017, LTP, page 324.

 

 

 

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Reflection – Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Ignatius of Antioch was born in Syria and made a bishop in the first decades of Christianity. In 107 AD, the Roman Emperor Trajan began persecution of the Christians in Antioch. They were given a choice to renounce the Lord or be killed. Ignatius chose martyrdom. He was taken to Rome to be executed. Ignatius too was unashamed of the Gos­pel. On the journey to his death, he wrote seven letters encouraging the early churches to be faithful during this time of persecution. He met his death bravely, seeing it as a sign of his faith.                                                     Daily Prayer 2017, LTP, page 325.

 

 

 

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Reflection – Wednesday, October 18, 2017           Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

Scholars are pretty certain that the Luke noted in this reading was a Gentile Christian who wrote for other Gentile Christians. We honor him for writing the Gospel that bears his name and the Acts of the Apostles. Without his Gos­pel account and Acts, a perspective of the Gospel and the history of the early Church would be lost. We give thanks for his testimony.                 Daily Prayer 2017, LTP, page 326.

 

 

 

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Reflection – Thursday, October 19, 2017

Memorial of Sts. John de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs

In the 1600s, Europeans conquered, settled, and explored the Americas. The Jesuits were part of the explorers, seek­ing to bring the Gospel to Native Amer­icans. This European immigration is a complex history, as is the missionary activity that accompanied it. The North American Martyrs were a mixture of priests and lay ministers, all working toward the common goal of evangeliza­tion. The saints we honor today labored with various Native American tribes. They taught and translated and in the end were tortured and killed. Yet, it was through their efforts that Christianity took hold in North America.                Daily Prayer 2017, LTP, page 327.

 

 

 

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Reflection – Friday, October 20, 2017             Weekday

Why is Abraham remembered four mil­lennia later? Is it because of all he did? Is it because of his accomplishments? No, it is for he who is a man of faith. Works are often rooted in self-impor­tance. We accomplish something, and we have pride in that. However, this is not why Abraham is accounted as righ­teous. It is because he trusted God enough to choose him. God, in turn, blessed him.            Daily Prayer 2017, LTP, page 328.

 

 

 

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Reflection – Saturday, October 21, 2017        Weekday

Paul returns to his common themes of the law and faith. The law does not pro­vide salvation, righteousness, or justifi­cation. All of these come through faith. Law has its place but so does mercy. In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis quotes Thomas Aquinas regarding mercy. “The foundation of the New Law is in the grace of the Holy Spirit, who is manifested in the faith which works through love” (37).                  Daily Prayer 2017, LTP, page 329.

 

 

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Reflection – Sunday, October 22, 2017

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Pharisees and Herodians try to trap Jesus. In essence, they are attempting to set the stage for Jesus’ conviction of treason. They want to twist his words to use against him. As on other occa­sions, Jesus does not fall into the trap. Instead, he tells his questioners to give to give the emperor what is due and to return to God what is his. We might reflect on what we recognize as God’s and how we treat those gifts. In the encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis reminds us of the reverence that St. Francis regarded creation. “He felt called to care for all that exists” (11). We too need to care for what belongs to our Creator.         Daily Prayer 2017, LTP, page 330.

 


 

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                                                        Faith Catholic Online  October 15-22.

                                                         Daily Prayer 2017, pages    316-323.

                                                                    Ordo pages 215-219.

 

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The Prophecy Fulfilled before Our Eyes  —         Pierre-Marie Dumont

Who still reads the great French prophets of the 201h century? Who still reads Peguy, Claudel, Bernanos, Saint-Exupery? Each, from his viewpoint, railed against the coming of the same abomi­nation: “their” civilization was dying. While this civilization ought to have been perfected, so that the Kingdom of God on earth could truly grow, all that had constituted its genius was soon to vanish. Materialism, hedonism, self-preoccupation (today it would be called “personal development”) was about to submerge beauty, goodness, and truth, along with the true Faith and the ancient virtues. The sign of the coming of the end of this world was that terrifying metropolises were already reducing rural, pastoral civili­zation to objects fit to fill their museums. Since then, this prophecy has been fulfilled. The fertile ground that nurtured our civilization has gone. Villages have been deserted. Human relationships have been virtualized. Faith and devotion are fading. The moral com­pass that, far from constraining free men, once guided them, has been distorted. The poor, humble and proud, with that magnificent nobility celebrated by Thornton Wilder, have disappeared from the social landscape.

. . . .the Word of God would no longer immediately touch hearts and minds. He who, directly or indirectly, has never worked the good earth by the sweat of his brow, never experienced seedtimes and harvests, never tended sheep or saved a stray lamb, finds himself de facto distanced from the Gospel and its parables. Let us not be saddened: we find ourselves spurred on to deepen our understanding of the Word of God, to improve our prayerful reading of it—and let us not forget that our Lord Jesus Christ remains present to the world even until his return in glory. But why not take advantage of our vacations in the countryside to rediscover, with a touch of nostalgia, a drop of the sap that nourished the fervor of our fathers in faith?    Magnificat, July 2016, page 432.

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Novena Prayer for Voting – Judy Butler

O Spirit of Wisdom, enlighten our hearts and minds,
As we prepare to choose our leaders.
Guide those who seek office,
Those who have power to influence others, and
Those who cast votes.
Protect the rights of all citizens.
Give us insight and good judgment to overcome all that divides and degrades us.
Grant that all may set aside self interest in favor of the Common Good.
O Spirit of Wisdom, seep into our souls,
Renew our democracy.
In God we trust.
Amen

 

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An Independence Day Prayer

We pray you, 0 God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.

Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare,

that they may be enabled, by your powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy, all our fellow citizens throughout the United States, that we may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law; that we may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Grant this, we beseech you, 0 Lord of mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

ARCHBISHOP JOHN CARROLL

Archbishop Carroll (†1815) was a priest for the Society of Jesus, and the first bishop of the United States.

Magnificat, July 2016, pages 62-63.

 

 

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Ordinary Time      (As of May 23 Ordinary Time Continued)

Wasted time is not a prized commodity in American society. We are a people ruled by the clock. Time is money because time is to be filled with purposeful controlled activity which is productive of things which can be sold. We are convinced that we must be in control of time. The last thing the productive American would want to do is waste time playing around with realities that do not pro­duce a saleable commodity.

But the Creator of heaven and earth is described by the scriptures as the original and the best of players. Creative activity is playful, and creative people do not feel that what they do is a job. Creative peo­ple also have a sense that their creativity and all that they fashion in the creative spirit are gifts they have received. The Christian can speak of this and the contemplative vision which sees all reality as gift or grace. Our thankful response we call worship or eucharist.

We cannot speak of Ordinary Time without speaking of Sunday. The every seven-day celebration of the Lord’s Day is the basic struc­ture upon which the Church Year is built. The great liturgical sea­sons of Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter are more expansive cele­brations of particular aspects of the one paschal mystery which we celebrate every Lord’s Day. These special seasons focus our atten­tion upon critical dimensions of one mystery, a mystery so over­whelming that we are compelled to separate out its various ele­ments for particular attention. These seasons in no way minimize the critical importance of the Sunday celebration throughout the rest of the year. Ordinary Time is not very ordinary at all. Ordinary Time, the celebration of Sunday, is the identifying mark of the Christian community which comes together, remembering that on this first day of the week the Lord of Life was raised up and creation came at last to completion. Sunday as a day of play and worship is a sacrament of redeemed time. How we live Sunday proclaims to the world what we believe about redeemed time now and for ever.

What happens in our churches every Sunday is the fruit of our week. What happens as the fruit of the week past is the beginning of the week to come. Sunday, like all sacraments, is simultaneously a point of arrival and departure for Christians on their way to the fullness of the kingdom. This is not ordinary at all. This is the fabric of Christian living.

Taken from the Saint Andrew Bible Missal, reprinted with permission of William J. Hirten Co., Inc., Brooklyn, New York, Brepols IGP. 0 1982. All rights reserved.

Paulist Ordo pages 30 and 31 and 125.

 

 

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What can I do to fast in communion with others?

Prayer is always joined to fasting. Fasting triggers in this season a remembrance to pray for those being brought to the font, to full communion or to reconciliation. Only after we have shared the absence can we come with full hearts to the paschal banquet.

Nine things that Pope Francis called upon Vatican Employees to do:

They apply to us all…

  1. “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
  2. “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention, and love.”
  3. “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”
  4. “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity, and worldly decadence.”
  5. “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”
  6. “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”
  7. “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred, and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.
  8. “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”
  9. “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker… the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”

It is a good list: It’s clearly rooted in Catholic teaching, but presented in a way that other Christian denominations can embrace as well. I am reasonably sure that all of us can find on this list at least one or two resolutions that speak to areas in which we really need to grow during this Lent.

Have a good week and I’ll see you in church!

Monsignor Jack 1-3-5


 

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HOW THE CHURCH HAS CHANGED THE WORLD

Speaking the Painful Truth  —       Anthony Esolen

HOW THE CHURCH HAS CHANGED THE WORLD

Speaking the Painful Truth  —       Anthony Esolen

THE TWO WOMEN WERE FINALLY ALONE. The room WaS Spartan, with a single wooden bed, a desk, some schoolbooks, fishing tackle kept in a corner, and a couple of skiing poles. A photograph was mounted on the wall, of two tanned young men in a skiff, with the spires of Stockholm in the background. It was a boy’s room, but the boy had left home to join the Swedish army. It was May, 1940.

“Sigrid,” said her friend Alice, “I have bad news for you.” She had given Sigrid a day to rest from her journey across the mountains from Norway, in a truck packed so tight with soldiers and refugees, Sigrid—a middle-aged woman with some heft to her, and a countenance that looked as if she would brook no foolishness—had to sit on the lap of one of the men. The atmosphere in the truck had been tense, with Swedish boys expressing their eagerness to fight along­side the Norwegians against the Nazi invaders, and elder men telling them to shut up. News from the war front was also unrelievedly bad. Hitler had overrun Belgium and the Netherlands, and the German armies were pushing on to­ward Paris, the jeweled queen of European civilization.

“Please, tell me quickly,” said Sigrid. She had had three children. One, a daughter, had died as a very young woman. Her sons Anders and Hans were still in Norway. The elder, Anders, had a commission as captain in the Norwegian army.

“Your son Anders fell in the fighting at Segelstad bridge. He was brave, Sigrid, so brave,” said Alice, trembling. Sigrid, however, set her face like flint. Of Hans, they still knew noth­ing. A few days later they received a visit from a soldier who had been under Anders’ command. The Norwegians had tried to make the Nazi advance northward as costly as pos­sible, taking positions near bridges and mountain passes, and holding off hundreds of Germans with handfuls of men and a few machine guns here and there. Had Norway been made ready for the assault—had there not been Nazi toadies like Quisling in the highest positions in government—Hitler would have regretted sending Germans into that nation of strong, self-reliant, upright, and brave men and women.

“And Anders, you know,” said the soldier, “was so incom­parably kind.” The word he used was snill. Sigrid Undset said that the word was untranslatable. It named a virtue—kind­ness—but with a quiet manner, undemonstrative, reserved; not burdening your victim with your goodness.

Hans arrived shortly after, and he and his mother con­tinued on their flight to freedom, from Sweden to Moscow, from Moscow by a nine-day train ride to Vladivostok, from there to Korea and imperial Japan, from Japan via the Grover S. Cleveland to San Francisco.

♦ WHO SUE WAS ♦

Sigrid Undset, for my money, is the greatest woman nov­elist who ever lived. Unlike George Eliot, one of her two chief competitors for that distinction, she does not rely upon the structure of Christian morality without the Christian Faith. In her stories set in modern times, Undset shows how frail that morality must be, unless we recognize our personal frailty and our desperate need for the grace of Christ. Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) had lost the Methodist faith she was brought up in; Undset had gained the Catholic Faith she was not brought up in. Unlike Jane Austen, her other competitor, she was not the comfortably stationed daughter of an Anglican clergy­man, who could therefore take faith for granted and write about Christian morals and manners in the England of her time. Undset, when she entered the Catholic Church, knew she was entering into two thousand years of history, and so her greatest works, the trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter and the tetralogy The Master of Hestviken, are set in medieval Norway, Catholic but still with remnants of the old pagan ways. They are national in the best sense: they celebrate the difficult virtues of her people and the beauty of a forbidding land, with its summer so wondrous yet so heart-breakingly short, its wildflowers, its mountains and fjords and ravines, its lonely lichen-topped outcrops of rock, its sudden green valleys, and its brave men wresting the means of life from the rich and cold and dangerous seas.

The contrast between Sigrid Undset’s love of country and the pranked-up nationalism of Hitler and his blustering warmongers could not be greater. She despised the Nazis. Other people, not nearly enough, saw their evil; Undset saw also their stupidity and their cowardly ingratitude. For among the invading German soldiers, the Norwegians recognized quite a few whom they had taken into their homes as little boys, back in the famine years after the First World War. She was outspoken about it, and so she, like Dietrich von Hildebrand in Austria, was on the first page of the Nazi list of people to be murdered.

Wherever she went, Sigrid Undset tried to find what vir­tues she could in the peoples she encountered. Germans, alas, were the exception. She had to fight her hardest to treat that people with forbearance. For her, the essence of the German spirit was expressed in the terrifying fable of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. The “hero” took his vengeance against the ungrateful people of Hamelin by turning their children essentially into rats, marching off to their death. I forgive the mother of a fallen son her anger.

Undset held out hope for the great successor of European civilization, the United States. Even if Europe should fall (she was writing in 1941), the United States would carry the torch of that civilization’s commitment to brotherhood, equality, and democracy, understood as the natural flower­ing of the Christian Faith.

♦ RETURN TO THE FUTURE ♦

That’s the name of the book that describes her trek from Norway to the United States. It also describes her hope for the world. The future must be a return: a recovery of the Christian Faith in nations that had lost it, and a flourishing of the human good that man experiences as one of the blessings of that faith.

Should Germany be defeated, the victors must resist with all their might the temptations of hatred and vengeance. How hard that would be, Undset shows us in her own per­son. But, she says, “hatred and thirst for revenge are sterile passions.” They engender nothing. They only destroy. “The most miserable poverty, the most unthinkable filth and squa­lor, the indescribable stench of refuse and decomposition which I saw and smelled everywhere in Soviet Russia are surely the fruit of the acceptance by Russia’s revolutionary heroes of a hate-consumed old German Jewish writer named Karl Marx and their identification of their future goals with his dreams of revenge against everything that happened to awaken his enmity.”

Undset was no sentimentalist. It is true, she was a woman with a woman’s eye for the delicate and the beautiful; she is fond of describing flowers, handsome dress, lovely hair; the fine straw-roofed houses of even the poor in Japan; the tasteful Japanese temples; the reverent ceremonies of prayer she witnessed from the worshipers of Shinto. She has a woman’s scorn for the garish, grubby, slipshod, and gross: nine days on a Russian train with no running water and no flush toilets; Soviet stores with nothing to sell; water that had to be boiled before you could drink it; Soviet offi­cials content to bury themselves and their petitioners under a mountain of paper. Totalitarian systems fail on their own miserable terms: they deliver poverty instead of wealth, con­fusion instead of order, misery instead of happiness, family dissolution rather than strength, dependence rather than self-reliance, cowardice rather than courage.

So much the more should the West return to its roots in the Christian Faith. That Faith is not an ideology, but the antidote to ideology. It tells the truth about God and man.

Nowadays we construct social policies as if God were irrelevant, and as if everything that the wisest pagans had to say about man, and likewise the Christian Gospels that soar beyond the pagans, could be dispensed with. Yet we pretend that, if we were alive in Germany during the time of Hitler, we would not have gone along with the popular wave of the future, as the Nazis styled themselves. No, we’d have seen through it. Quisling did not. Knut Hamsen, like Undset a Nobel laureate, did not. Undset did. The Faith—un­compromised, uncontaminated with the current prevailing ideologies—gave Sigrid Undset eyes, and heart, and a pen to write words as if etched in stone by fire.

(Anthony Esolen is professor and writer-in-residence at Thomas More College in N.H., translator and editor of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House), and author of The Beauty of the Word: A Running Commentary on the Roman Missal (MAGNIFICAT).   Magnificat, October 2017, pages 211-115.

 

 

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