Sunday, March 31, 2013

Christ is Risen!

Indeed, He is Risen!

Annibale Carracci


There is joy in our hearts, as the long preparatory days of Lent are over, and we can once again sing "Alleluia!"

Remember always that the Christian religion is based not on a wise man's philosophy or on an ancient set of rules, but on one major historical fact:

Jesus of Nazareth truly lived, truly died, 
and truly rose from the dead.

If the Resurrection never happened, then Christianity is not true, and our faith is in vain.

But the truth is, Jesus Christ is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!

A blessed Easter season to all!



"Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important." -- C. S. Lewis



(I'll be back soon to finish out the Fulton Sheen series with his reflections on Easter!)



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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fulton Sheen, Part VI: GOOD FRIDAY. The Sixth and Seventh Words and the Virtues of Justice and Charity

Background and Part I, here.
Part II, here.
Part III, here.
Part IV, here.
Part V, here.


Continuing with Lenten meditations on the Seven Last Words and the Seven Virtues, by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.


The Fourth Word:
"It is consummated … Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."

The Corresponding Virtue:
Justice and Charity

Velázquez

Excerpts from Sheen's March 22, 1940 address:


This is Good Friday -- the day when freedom revolted against Truth, and nailed it to a Cross. It is not a history everyone likes to hear recalled, and generally those who most shrink from the sight of the Saviour on the Cross are the very ones who delight in the grotesque murder stories in our tabloids and follow with bold interest in the harrowing details of a sex crime. Why is it that the lover of horror cannot stand the sight of the Crucifix? Why is it that the fanatics of murder stories are so cold to the story of the world's greatest sacrifice? The answer is that unlike all other crimes the Crucifix is self-accusing. 



We can look on other scenes of injustice without feeling we are involved in them; but we cannot look on a Crucifix without feeling that we had something to do with it, either for better or worse; either as a robber brought before his victim for judgment, or as a drowning man brought before his rescuer for thanks.



In the Crucifix is symbolized the perennial crisis in the soul of every man, the choice between the illusory end of time and the imponderable ends of eternity. Here are focused all the microscopic conflicts of good and evil that go on in every conscience; or, to put it another way, every man's soul is Calvary written small. That is why the Crucifix is inescapable; we either shrink from it or we embrace it; but we are not indifferent to it. 

...

For those who are brave enough to look at the Crucifix there is a revelation of the moral order -- not a moral order based on abstractions, theories and hypotheses, but a moral order revealed in a Person of absolute goodness who has met the impact of human evil and sin. It is more like a mirror than a scene, for it reveals not something unrelated to us, but ourselves, our moral beggary, our perversities and our defeats. 

...

Like nothing else in all the world [the Crucifix] seems to ask the questions: "Where do you stand?" "Which side do you propose to take from this moment on -- My side, or the side of moneyed Judas, cowardly Pilate, crafty Annas, or lustful Herod?" We cannot escape an answer. If on that Cross were someone who himself had been wrong and failed and had compromised with goodness, we could plead and excuse. But here neutrality is impossible, because there is no question of something more good or less good -- there is only right and wrong.… We cannot be on both sides, anymore than we can be in Light and Darkness at the same time.



The [empty] Cross they can look at, for that might be only a symbol of the contradictions of life; but the Crucifix -- they call it 'horrible' when they mean it is accusing. They may run away from it during life, but they will meet it at the Eternal Judgment when the Son of Man shall come bearing the Cross in triumph in the clouds of heaven to render to every man according to his works. It is better to face it now. 



The modern mood of mutilating the Gospel, choosing some texts and ignoring others, makes men miss the purpose of the life of Christ. He came on earth not primarily to preach, but to redeem. He came less to live than to die. His mission was not one of mere benevolence, nor to create a revolution in politics or economics, nor to heal, nor to leave a humanitarian ethics -- all these were secondary to the one absorbing purpose of His life, the redemption of man. 



What happens often in the economic order, happened in the moral order; man contracted a bigger debt than he could pay. A sin against Divine Love is greater than man alone can repair. But if God undertook to forgive the debt through mercy, justice would have been unrequited. God of course could pay the debt of man's sin, but He could not in justice do it apart from man. 



God could not pay our debt unless He became in some way involved in it. This the Son of God, Jesus Christ, did by becoming man, assuming a human nature like unto us in all things save sin. He did not merely substitute for us, nor take our place; there is an identification of Him with us. He is the Head of our sin-laden race. In a certain sense He and we are one Person -- the new Adam. Strictly speaking, Our Lord is man in an absolute sense, no just a man; His humiliation was not so much in assuming a human nature, but in making Himself one with us in the sinful conditions which we created. 



The Cross was not merely the outbreak of human passion -- it was the violent expression of anti-God. It was sin in its essence -- the attempted destruction of Divinity. Sin is self-mutilation, the destruction of personality -- when it takes the form of pride, it crowns Goodness with thorns; when it takes the form of dishonesty, it nails hands to a Cross; when it takes the form of hate, it blasphemes the dying; when it takes the form of lust, it crucifies. Nothing less than bloodshed could have been sin's worst crime and registered sin's deepest hurt.



Evil must work its power to the bitter end, use all its hatred, exhaust all its deceits, unsheathe all of its bloody swords, that being exhausted Goodness may be revealed as triumphant. And now that evil was spent in the final act of crucifixion, seeing that in Justice the last farthing was paid in the red coin of His blood and the mortgage against man paid back, He uttered His Cry of Triumph: "It is consummated … Father into thy hands I comment my spirit." All history, pagan and Jewish, looked forward to this moment; Heaven and earth were separated -- now they could be united. The Pontiff or Bridge-builder has spanned the shores of eternity and time, and the Bridge is the Cross. The last rivet has been put in place; the last nail driven; there is no "unfinished symphony"; with Him -- It is consummated.



It was the beauty and loveliness of the God-Man Christ which on the one hand made the crime so great, and on the other hand made the Divine forgiveness so final and so certain. That Figure on the Cross bore to the full not only the physical effects of sin which any man might suffer, and not only the mental effects of sin which all of us ought to feel, but the spiritual effects of sin which only He could feel because being sinless He was not part of it. Only the sinless know the horror of sin.



If you can stand the gaze of a Crucifix long enough you will discover these truths. First, if sin cost Him, who is Innocence, so much, then I who am guilty cannot take it lightly; second, there is only one thing worse in all the world than sin -- and that is to forget I am a sinner; third, more bitter than the Crucifixion must be my rejection of that Love by which I was redeemed. 





 



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I was moved to the depths of my soul today when I read my friend Karen Pullano's meditations on her own walk to Calvary -- enduring the deaths of two of her children. She hadn't consciously sought to write it for Holy Thursday, the beginning of the Passion, but Providence found it fitting: Jesus, I Trust in You



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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Learn your Faith, find your courage

As much as I regret that the lead up to Holy Week is being overshadowed by the incessant drumbeat of gay "marriage", that's how Providence would have it.

I just want to encourage all of you to find your voice. If you don't know your Faith well enough, learn your Faith. If you don't have courage to stand up or speak up, find your courage. Yes, it's scary, but our love for Christ is tested in the crucible, not in the comforts of life and the acceptance of men. We are Catholics. We should not care to be on the "right side of history", but rather on the right side of Truth.

Here is an excellent resource on how to engage the culture from Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco who was interviewed by USA Today:




AP

How I wish I had the eloquence and intelligence of this kind and thoughtful man of God.

Back soon, with (appropriately) some thoughts on the Cross, from the Venerable Fulton Sheen.




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Saturday, March 23, 2013

I have no words.

Just joy.



Vatican Radio


Vatican Radio


Update: For video, go here.





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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fulton Sheen, Part V: The Fifth Word and the Virtue of Temperance

Background and Part I, here.
Part II, here.
Part III, here.
Part IV, here.


Continuing with Lenten meditations on the Seven Last Words and the Seven Virtues, by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.


The Fourth Word:
"I thirst."

The Corresponding Virtue:
Temperance


Excerpts from Sheen's March 17, 1940 address:


Because our needs are limited, but our wants are unlimited, a virtue is necessary to restrain our inordinate appetites and desires -- and that virtue is called temperance. It has for its object the regulation of the sensible appetites by reason. The two strongest appetites in man are eating and drinking which sustain his individual life, and the sexual act which propagates his social nature. Excesses in these appetites are the sources of the two sins of gluttony and lust. Temperance is the virtue which moderates them for the sake of the soul.



Temperance must not be confused either with Puritanism, which because of the abuse of a thing would take away its use; nor with license which would interpret all restraint as an infringement of liberty. Rather there is a golden mean, as revealed in Our Lord's first miracle at Cana where he changed water into wine to satisfy the individual appetite and blessed the married couple for the satisfaction of the creative instinct.  There is no consolation here for those gloomy souls who would kill the joy of living, nor for those frivolous souls who would isolate pleasure from the end of living, namely, the salvation of the soul. 



[T]he material exists for the spiritual. Christ expressed a physical thirst for a spiritual reason, namely, the fulfillment of a prophecy as a proof of His Divinity [Psalm 68:22]. In like manner, every material thing on the earth, from salt to flesh, is a means, not an end -- a bridge, not a goal of life. 



Because temperance teaches us that the earthly exists for the heavenly, the motive of a Christian is far different from the motive of a pagan. Take two persons who by cutting down on their food lose twenty pounds each. Materially, twenty pounds off a pagan is the same as twenty pounds off a Christian. But the motive in each case is quite different … The pagan diets for the sake of his bodily appearance; the Christian fasts for the sake of his soul. Each receives his corresponding reward, either the praise of men who love leanness or the praise of God who loves virtue. The tragedy of so much dieting, from a Catholic point of view, is how much restraint goes to waste. That is why one of the first questions in our [Baltimore] Catechism is: "Of which should we take more care, our soul or our body?" And the answer is: "We should take more care of our soul, for 'what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his immortal soul?'"



The basis of the Catholic secret of temperance and discipline is exchange. All life is founded on exchange … We get light in exchange for heat; bread in exchange for a dime. If you want to be an expert in mathematics you have to give up being an expert in tennis; if you want to give your body all its satisfactions, you have to give up the joys of the soul. 



A saint is always joyful, but our modern pleasure-hunter is always melancholy. He is not really happy, because he laughs too much. The laughter is artificially stimulated from the outside by a stooge with a wise-crack; it is not a joy that proceeds from the inside because of a duty fulfilled out of love of God. Happiness comes from self-possession through temperance, not from self-expression through license. 



Loving enemies out of a divine intention is worth more than loving friends out of a personal satisfaction. The philanthropists who give millions to erect art museums, libraries, and playgrounds out of purely humanitarian reasons will not further their eternal salvation as much as the poor widow who gives a nickel to a poor man on the street because in his need she sees the poverty of Christ. 



It is not what is given that profits unto salvation; it is why it is given. That is why a friendly meal given to an enemy in the name of Him who loved us when we were His enemies, is worth more on the day of our judgment than a 50 million dollar hospital given to perpetuate a family name. There is no injustice in this. Each gets the reward he wanted: In one instance, the love of Christ; in the other, the memory of men.



Great sacrifices without love are worthless for the soul; nor because they are great does it follow they were done with love; it is the motive that matters -- do them out of love of God!




Venerable Fulton J. Sheen



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Friday, March 15, 2013

Quick Takes: What else? Pope Francis!


Reuters




1) I was born during the reign of Pope Paul VI, and his was the name I remember being spoken at mass during the Eucharistic prayer: "Paul our pope, Francis our bishop…." I heard it hundreds of times as a child in Tucson, Arizona, and it still sounds the most familiar to me in some ways.

When Popes John Paul I and John Paul II were elected in quick succession in 1978, I was too young to care much. Although I was eleven and I must have seen some coverage, I don't even have a memory of those conclaves or outcomes.

When Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, I was a joyful revert of ten years, and I knew and loved Cardinal Ratzinger as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (in other words, he was the guy in charge of doctrinal clarity and purity). When the white smoke came, I waited for what seemed an eternity and then -- along with tens of thousands in St. Peter's Square and millions around the world -- I screamed in elation when I heard the name "Ratzinger" announced. He was "our guy", the one so many of us had hoped for! Incredible joy!

On Wednesday, I stood in front of the TV once again, ready to burst after the hour-long wait that had come after the white smoke was seen. Finally, the name was announced and… and… wha…..? Who? Huh? I was totally stunned, confused. I had no idea what I had just heard (except that he had chosen the name "Francesco", or was it "Franciscum"? -- Francis). This was nothing like 2005, and the crowd in the Square seemed a bit perplexed, too. Finally, looking to social media, I saw a news flash someone had posted to facebook: Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina. I still had no clue. Then… a Jesuit? A slight bit of alarm, then trust. And of course, now, two days later, I am totally, utterly in love with Francis the Humble (who frankly looked as stunned and confused as the rest of us as he stood on that balcony in the first moments of our acquaintance!).




2) One exciting result of this papal election that no one seems to be talking about: Finally modern-day folks will come to know the difference between Francis (masculine) and Frances (feminine). It is about time! Whew! And of course, after an explosion of Catholic baby boys named John Paul and Benedict, we will see the Francis boom coming now!


3) My favorite quote from Pope Francis' first homily:

“We can walk all we want, we can build many things, but if we don't proclaim Jesus Christ, something is wrong. We would become a compassionate NGO and not a Church which is the Bride of Christ.”

Amen, Papa! We are not social workers, as Mother Teresa used to say. We work for and through and because of Jesus Christ, for love of Him and for the salvation of souls. It's what the secular world cannot understand. Teach them, Francis!


4) George Weigel has, to my mind, written one of the most interesting post-Conclave pieces. Especially interesting is the account on page three of how some of the "progressive" Cardinals may have used Cardinal Bergoglio (against his will) in the 2005 Conclave, in order to derail a Ratzinger papacy. Fascinating stuff:



Oh, and for anyone tempted to believe the smears about Pope Francis' complicity with the military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s, please check with Amnesty International for the facts. JoAnna put it succinctly:




5) One thing is sort of nagging at me. All this talk of the humble Francis makes me terribly protective of our wonderful Pope Emeritus Benedict, who -- despite what the media and dissident Catholics would have you believe -- is a deeply, beautifully humble soul as well. He is gentle, kind, thoughtful, a brilliant intellect and teacher, and a misunderstood introvert. I imagine him following the news and feeling pained at the implications that only now do we have a humble Pontiff. Silly me, I know he is too holy for that kind of nonsense ("Hey, look at me! I'm humble too, people!!"), but it's just my own daughterly affection for him that makes me want to say it.


6) Want to relive some of the excitement of Wednesday? Here it is in under two minutes:


So much more to say, so many emotions, so much joy and hope. Overall, I'm exhausted, aren't you? What a blessed, beautiful week. And what the non-Catholic world doesn't know is that our new Papa Francis is their Papa Francis, too. He loves us all and is charged with bringing us all to sanctity, to live forever in Heaven in the Heart of the Trinity. We are so blessed.


7) With such a champion of the poor on the Throne of Peter, let us not forget the poor orphans this day. Today, let me introduce you to Griffith, a four-year-old boy in an Eastern European orphanage:

Click my photo for more information!

Griffith is described as "a very nice boy!" with minimal hydrocephalus. He needs and deserves a family of his own. Please consider adopting him as your son, or help spread the word. And pray.


Also, a reader of the Bubble and a friend of the orphans, Kate Daneluk, has offered a free Lenten song download for your children, no strings attached. Go to this link and grab the song:


Explore her site a little to see what else Kate is up to this Lent (check out the adorable video). Any homeschoolers and parents or godparents of littles will love her unique and educational music ministry!

And on that happy note (get it?), have a wonderful weekend, and thanks to Jen for hosting!







Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam! Francis!



Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, a Jesuit, becomes the first pope from the Americas! Many blessings, dear Papa!

AP/FoxNews

This was a total shock to me. I had no idea who he was! But the more I learn, the more I love Pope Francis. Faithful, humble, intellectual, a theologian (with a master's in chemistry), openly rebuked by his nation's president for speaking out against sexual sins and homosexual public policy agendas. Preferential treatment for the poor. Personal comfort to AIDS patients. Wishes to evangelize Rome! Seems Marian in his devotions, annoys the dissenting Jesuits. Warm and gentle smile. Looks a bit like Pope Pius XII, no?

My heart overflows with joy for our new Pontiff.

May God protect and guide him.

I welcome your thoughts on our new pope, Francis, as we all get to know him!






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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

As the Conclave begins...

… how about some information on how it all works!

For an incredible amount of detailed information, all presented clearly and in an aesthetically pleasing manner, go here:




And if you prefer a short video, Catholic News Service has produced a beautiful five-minute summary of what happens in the Conclave:




For even more, my friend Tom Perna has compiled a great set of resources on his blog, here.

And of course, for ongoing television coverage of the Conclave, tune in to EWTN (check your local listings!).



While we wait, here's comic relief for those of us who are happy that the next pope will be (gasp!) Catholic, but who are suffering through the dissenters' oft-expressed (if fruitless) hope that he will be something else. Some clever and hilarious Lutherans seem to understand certain ironies and absurdities better than many Catholics:






Now, my fellow Catholics, I know we are all incredibly excited, full of nerves perhaps, and on the edge of our seats! We know above all that our job now is to pray. This is a hushed and reverent time, and it's a sacred, fearsome business that the Cardinals are about.


If I could reach the Cardinal Electors with any words of solace and strength, it would be these, which are directed to all of us in the Body of Christ:






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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fulton Sheen Part IV: The Fourth Word and the Virtue of Faith

Background and Part I, here.
Part II, here.
Part III, here.


Continuing with Lenten meditations on the Seven Last Words and the Seven Virtues, by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.


The Fourth Word:
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

The Corresponding Virtue:
Faith


Excerpts from Sheen's March 10, 1940 address:


[Y]ears ago, many who did not have faith knew what they disbelieved and why; today those who do not have faith do not even know what they disbelieve. Having abandoned all certitudes they have no standards by which to judge even their own agnosticism. 



Faith is not, as too many believe, an emotional trust; it is not a belief that something will happen to you; it is not even a will to believe despite difficulties. Rather faith is the acceptance of a truth on the authority of God revealing. It therefore presupposes reason.

...

You cannot start a religion with faith, for to believe someone without a reason for belief is credulity and superstition. The principal cause for the decline of religion in America is the irrational and groundless character of belief. Unless the foundation is solid the superstructure soon totters and falls. Try out the experiment and ask those who call themselves Christians why they believe and the majority of them will be found unable to give a reason. 



Since Truth is life, it must like a living babe be accepted in its entirety. Just as we are not falsely broadminded about life and accept a child on condition he has no arms or only one eye, so neither can we say we will believe Christ when He talks about the lilies of the field and not believe Him when He talks about the sanctity of the family. It is all or nothing.

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[T]he condition of becoming a Catholic is the total, complete, and absolute submission to the authority of Christ and its prolongation in the Church. A Catholic may be defined as one who has made the startling discovery that God knows more than he does.



Faith then is related to reason as a telescope to the eye. A telescope does not destroy vision, but opens new worlds hitherto closed to it. We have the same eyes at night as we have in the day, but we cannot see at night because we lack normally the additional light of the sun. Let two minds with exactly the same education, one without and the other with faith, look on a piece of unleavened bread in a monstrance. The one sees bread; the other sees the Eucharistic Lord. One sees more than the other because he has a light which the other lacks -- the light of faith.



[Jesus experienced] isolation and abandonment. "Why hast thou forsaken me?" … And yet it was not abandonment, for it was  prefaced by: "My God, my God!" The sun does not abandon its task to light a world because temporarily overshadowed by a cloud. Even though these misty shapes hide its light and heat, we still know a day of dawning is near. Furthermore the Fourth Word was a verse from a Psalm of faith which ends: "He hath not slighted nor despised the supplications of the poor man. Neither hath he turned away his face from me: and when I cried to him, he heard me" (Psalm 21:25).



Faith does not mean being taken down from a cross; it means being lifted up to heaven -- sometimes by a cross.



Scripture states that when they crucified Christ, darkness covered the earth. That is exactly the description of our modern world. If the darkness of despair, the black-outs of peace, make our world wander blindly, it is because we have crucified the Light of the World.



It may even be that our woes are the last stage of sin. For a century or more, governments and people have abandoned God; now God is abandoning them. It is a terrible punishment when a just God strikes; but it is more terrible when He does not, but leaves us alone to our own devices to work out the full consequences of our sins. 



We are at the end of a tradition and a civilization which believed we could preserve Christianity without Christ, religion without a creed, meditation without sacrifice, family life without moral responsibility, sex without purity, and economics without ethics. We have completed our experiment of living without God and have proven the fallacy of a system of education which calls itself progressive because it finds new excuses for sins. Our so-called progressiveness, did we but realize it, is like unto the progressive putrefaction of a corpse. The soul is gone, and what we call change is only decay. How stop it except by reversing the process by which we drove God out of the world, namely by relighting the lamp of faith in the souls of men?



[We must not] abandon creeds, and water down the milk of religion to a point where it would no longer nourish. The Catholic Church for one would never do that, because since its truths are God-made they cannot be man-unmade. We are trustees not creators of faith. 



[T]o all, may there come the full-visioned understanding of how souls are won to truth by the Cross. As the poet puts it:
"I slipped His fingers, I escaped His feet,
 I ran and hid, for Him I feared to meet.
 One day I passed Him, fettered on a Tree,
 He turned His Head, and looked, and beckoned me. 
"Neither by speed, nor strength could He prevail.
 Each hand and foot was pinioned by a nail.
 He could not run or clasp me if He tried,
 But with His eye, He bade me reach His side. 
"For pity's sake, thought I, I'll set you free.
 'Nay -- hold this cross,' He said, 'and follow me.
 This yoke is easy, this burden light,
 Not hard or grievous if you wear it tight.' 
"So did I follow Him Who could not move,
 An uncaught captive in the hands of Love."
         -- Elizabeth Cheney 





Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fulton Sheen, Part III: The Third Word and the Virtue of Prudence

Background and Part I, here.
Part II, here.


Continuing with Lenten meditations on the Seven Last Words and the Seven Virtues, by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.


The Third Word:
"Woman, behold thy son…. (Son) behold thy mother."

The Corresponding Virtue:
Prudence


Excerpts from Sheen's February 25, 1940 address:


[T]hough men failed in this crisis [the Lord's Passion], there is no instance of a single woman failing. In the four trials the voice heard in His defense was that of a woman, Claudia Procul the wife of Pontius Pilate, warning her husband not to do anything unjust to that just man…. On the way to Calvary, it is the woman who offers consolation, first Veronica wiping away the blood and sweat from His Sacred Face … then the holy women to whom the Prisoner turned suggesting that only such multiplied mercies and charities as their own could avert catastrophe for their children…. Again on Calvary it is woman who is fearless, for there are several of them at the foot of the Cross. Magdalene, among them as usual, is prostrate. But there is one whose courage and devotion was so remarkable that the Evangelist who was there indicated that she was "standing." That woman was the Mother of the Man on the Central Cross.



Since He was the second Adam undoing the sin of the first, Mary would be the new Eve proclaiming the glory of womanhood in the new race of the redeemed. The woman Eve would not be so cursed that her most glorious daughter could not undo her evil. As a woman had shared in the fall of man, so woman should share in his redemption. 



Mary is a creature, human, not Divine. We Catholics do not adore Mary. That would be idolatry. But we do reverence her. And to those Christians who have forgotten Mary, may I ask if it is proper for you to forget her whom He remembered on the Cross? Will you bear no love for that woman through the portals of whose flesh, as the Gate of Heaven, He came to earth?



The gift of Mary was extremely prudent because it took cognizance of the difference between two faculties: The intellect, which knows, and the will, which loves. The intellect always whittles down the object to suit itself. That is why the intellect always insists on examples, explanations, and analogies. Every teacher must accommodate himself to the mentality of his class, and if the problem which he is presenting is abstract and complicated, he must break it up into the concrete, as Our Lord described the mysteries of the Kingdom of God in parables. 

But the will never works that way. While the intellect pulls down the object of knowledge to its level, the will always goes out to meet the object. If you love something, you lift yourself up to its level; if you love music you subject yourself to its demands, and if you love exploring you meet its conditions. We tend to become like that which we love…. It follows that the higher our loves and ideals, the nobler will be our character.




Our Divine Lord gave us His Mother as our mother. Too beautiful a treasure to keep only for Himself, He willed to share her with us. She was to become our Mother in the supernatural life of the Kingdom of God as really as a woman is our earthly mother in the human order. In giving her to us, He was equivalently saying: "Never do anything of which your Heavenly Mother would be ashamed." The nobler the love, the nobler the character; and what nobler love could be given to men than the woman whom the Saviour of the world chose as His own Mother?

...


Why is it that the world has confessed its inability to inculcate virtue in the young? Very simply because it has not co-related morality to any love nobler than self-love. Things keep their proportion and fulfill their proper role only when integrated into a larger whole. Most lives are like doors without hinges or sleeves without coats, or bows without violins; that is, unrelated to wholes or purposes which give them meaning…. The modern emphasis on sex is a result of tearing a function away from a purpose, a part away from a whole.

...

The level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. What they are, men will be, for, to repeat, love always goes out to meet the demands of the object loved. Given a woman like the Mother of Our Lord as our supernatural Mother, you have one of the greatest inspirations for nobler living this world has ever known.



Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Mother



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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fulton Sheen, Part II: The Second Word and the Virtue of Hope


Urgent note: Please pray for a wonderful friend and member of our Bubble family, Karen Pullano, who lost her beautiful daughter Anna in a car accident this weekend. The family has already suffered the loss of their four-year-old Mikey to brain cancer a few years ago, and they are asking for your prayers today as they prepare to bury a second beloved child.

Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon her.

May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

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Background and Part I of this series can be found here.

Continuing with Lenten meditations on the Seven Last Words and the Seven Virtues, by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

The Second Word:
"This Day Thou Shalt Be With Me In Paradise."

The Corresponding Virtue:
Hope


Excerpts from Sheen's February 18, 1940 address:


[W]e speak of the virtue of Hope to differentiate it from the emotion of Hope. The emotion centers in the body and is a kind of dreamy desire that we can be saved without much effort. The virtue of Hope, however, is centered in the will and may be defined as a divinely infused disposition of the will by which with sure confidence, thanks to the powerful help of Almighty God, we expect to pursue eternal happiness, using all the means necessary for attaining it. The virtue of Hope lies not in the future of time, but beyond the tomb in eternity; its object is not the abundant life of earth, but the eternal love of God.



[Jesus was crucified between two thieves.]

As one gazes on that spectacle of three crosses silhouetted against a black and frightened sky, one sees in prospect the future judgment of the world; the Judge in the center and the two division of humanity on either side: The Sheep and the goats; the blessed and the lost; those who love and those who hate; for the end shall be as the beginning, except that Christ shall appear for the final judgment not on the cross of ignominy but in glory in the clouds of heaven.



In a single moment a soul with a genuine fear of God can come to a greater understanding of the purpose of life than in a life-time spent in the study of the ephemeral philosophies of men. That is why death-bed conversions may be sincere conversions. The hardened soul disbelieves in God until that awful moment when he has no one to deceive but himself. Once the spark of salutary fear of God had jumped into the soul of the thief from the flaming furnace of that central Cross, fear gave way to faith.



Two thieves there were: One who loved and one who hated. Each was on a cross. Neither the good nor the bad can ever escape the cross. One thief was saved; therefore let no one despair. One thief was lost; therefore let no one presume. The two extremes to be avoided then are presumption and despair. Presumption is an excess of hope and despair is a defect of hope.



What we all have to realize is that when we sin we turn our back on God. He does not turn His back on us. If we are ever to see His face again we must turn around, that is, turn from sin. That is what is meant by conversion…. God cannot save us without that conversion; if we die in our unrepentant sin we are forever turned away from God. Where the tree falleth, there it lies. There is no reversal of values after death. We cannot love sin during life and begin to love virtue at death. The joys of heaven are the continuance of the Christ-like joys of earth. We do not develop a new set of loves with our last breath.



If He forgave the thief and Magdalene and Peter, why not you? What makes many in old age sad is not that their joys are gone, but that their hopes are gone. Your earthly hopes may decrease with the years, but not heavenly hope. Regardless of the sinful burden of the years, God's mercy is greater than your faults. Only when God ceases to be infinitely merciful and only when you begin to be infinitely evil, will there be reason for despair; and that will be never.



If you insist that you are disgusted with yourself, may I say that you can come to God even by a succession of disgusts? What does your disgust mean except that everything earthly has failed you? That is one of the ways God makes you feel hunger for the Divine. Do you not crave food most when you are hungry? Do you not want water most when you are thirsty? Your own disgust, if you knew it, is the distant call of Divine Mercy. If then the  poverty of your merits makes you shrink from the Divine Presence, then let your needs draw you to it. And that, incidentally, is why we Catholics find comfort and solace in the Sacrament of Penance. When we are disgusted with our sins we can go into a little booth called a confessional box, unload our misery, have our sins washed away, and start life all over again. I know a thousand psycho-analysts who will explain sins away, but that is not what we want. We want them forgiven.



The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen




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