Author Archives: Father L

God has already appointed the hour of our death

Friends in Christ, in the gospel today we see that people were warning Jesus that he was in danger: ‘Leave this area, they said, because Herod wants to kill you.” But Our Lord is undaunted by such concerns. He says, ‘Go tell that old fox, I will accomplish my death at the time that is appointed, I will die in Jerusalem and not before.
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The Lord God knows our whole life, every moment, and the hour of our death, he knows it all. Whether the Lord wants us to live to be 52, or 103 years, its up to him.
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Nowadays, health foods and exercise clinics and natural pills and remedies and medical precautions and ADVICE – advice from everyone on how to keep from getting this disease or that and extend your life – well. We should prudently take care of ourselves, but things are really way out of hand. People are fixated on squeezing every last day out of life and avoiding any possibility of sickness. Is this the way to live?
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The martyrs laughed at death. For many centuries, when there was a crusade, thousands signed up to go, with excitement. Still today there are Marines and Navy seals and many soldiers who are ready to go and pay the price to defend the country. We can learn something from these: as the Church says, life and health is A good, but not the ultimate good. The saints teach us to live each day as our last. Do the things our doctor says, be prudent, and then we accept God’s will however and whenever he decides.
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Holiness is to do God’s will all the time, exactly as we know he wants it, well? If God decides we will die suddenly in an accident or gradually over years – next month or in 20 years, then? ‘Thy will be done!’ We WANT his will, because God’s will is the best. In this way we welcome our death however and whenever God gives it.
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St. Charles Borromeo was unhappy with a painting he saw in his house.  It was a skeleton with a sickle, representing death. He called for a painter and ordered him to erase the sickle and to paint instead a golden key; he thought we should be joyful at the thought of death, because death is the key to heaven.

St. Luke

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Luke. St. Luke was a Gentile, born as a slave in Antioch, Syria. He worked for a family helping them in their household, and because he was very bright, they sent him to learn about medicine; in this way they would have a medical doctor in their house to help them. And so he became a doctor.
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We don’t know the circumstances, but he would become a disciple of Jesus Christ. One tradition is, that he was one of the 72 disciples sent out by Christ to preach. That is why it is the gospel for today’s Mass, about the 72.
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St. Luke certainly accompanied St. Paul on his missionary journeys. St. Paul says in the reading today, that when so many had abandoned him, Luke was still there, so he was a trusted friend. Of all the writers of the New testament, we are pretty sure that all were Catholic priests – except St. Luke – him we don’t know. He wrote the Gospel of Luke, and also Acts of the Apostles. He is the only one to write so much about the Blessed Virgin, including details about the conversation with angel Gabriel and other details, even about what Mary was thinking.
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How did he get this information? No doubt from Mary herself. We know that St. Paul and St. Luke spent a lot of time around Ephesus. Mary lived there, in Ephesus, you can see her house. And so St. Luke must have visited the Blessed Virgin often, and this is the source of his information.
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Finally, we know that he was an expert artist. This is the case, because he is the only person we know who painted a picture of the Blessed Virgin, known as the Hodegetria. In the fifth century, the Empress of Theodosius II brought this painting of the Virgin to the city of Constantinople where it was revered for years. But in 1453, the invading Turkish Muslims sacked the city. They destroyed monasteries and churches – the most beautiful art in the Christian world, and at this time, St. Luke’s painting of Mary disappeared.
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Escaping Christian artists however, remembered that painting, and they set about creating copies as best they could. Different artists remembered it differently. The Black Madonna of Częstochowa is thought to be one of these copies. Also, many believe that Our Mother of Perpetual Help is another copy of the Hodegetria of St. Luke.
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St. Luke is the patron saint of doctors, of artists, of bookbinders, and bachelors.

Help Me

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in Jesus Christ,
In 1983, Ann Marie Cosgrove was going with her boyfriend to an abortion clinic. She writes about her experience. She says, if I went through with the pregnancy and had the baby, there was no guarantee that my boyfriend John was going to stick around. So I felt that I just had to make this decision and then move on with my life.
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John accompanied me to that place. Secretly, I remember wanting so much, just to hear him say – to have him turn to me and say: ‘Let’s just leave.’ I waited. He never said it. The counselor told me that there would be some sadness, but that it would go away. But it doesn’t.
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The next thing I knew, I was on the table. I was so scared that I started to shake. I looked up toward the ceiling and said, ‘God forgive me for what I am doing.’ When the doctor started the machine, I said ‘Help me.’ I felt darkness enter me as my baby’s life was being ripped away. I remember thinking that I would never be the same.
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From there, my life spiraled down. I started drinking, smoking crack cocaine. Whatever relationship I had with John ended the day my baby died, he hadn’t protected my family.
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Friends in the Lord, this is how the devil works. He lures us into sin little by little to try to destroy our life and the life of others. With Anne, it began with immodesty and sex before marriage; had she listened to Jesus’ commandments and remained pure, none of the rest would have happened. The devil tries to lead us, first by small sins, then big ones, until we don’t even remember where a Catholic Church is. He wants to pull us away from God.
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But Jesus never gives up on us; as long as we are alive, he wishes for us to return to him and begin again. One drop of his blood can destroy even the biggest sins, but we have to turn back to him.
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Christ has given us the rescue sacrament, to bring us back, it is called Confession. Our parish tries to offer confessions a lot, because we want to help people. People go to confession every month because they want to keep doing better; they confess their venial sins, sometimes mortal – because they want to convert their heart more to Jesus Christ.
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Other people confess because they are in big trouble; they are far from Jesus and have been living a life of sin. These people are like so many in the Gospels, who wish to leave the evil path, and walk the path of hope. When they experience the mercy of Jesus, they go away overjoyed and ready to live again.
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They are like the leper in the gospel today who Jesus healed. This man has this terrible disease, but Christ’s power takes it away, cures him. The disease is a symbol for sin. But Jesus does not heal him directly; he tells them, ‘Go, show yourself to the priest.’
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The Lord does this still now. He wants us to go to the priest, confess our sins, and hear the words of forgivness: ‘Go,show yourself to the priest.’ And the priest will say, ‘I absolve you of your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the  Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’
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How does it feel to come back to Jesus? To know that you can begin again? To be cleansed of your sins? Listen to Anne Marie Cosgrove tell the rest of her story: She says, ten years later, my mother was dying. My little brother began to pray the Our Father. Mom prayed with us and then she died. In that moment, I felt God calling me back. I remember telling God. ‘My plans aren’t working, I give up. I want the life you have planned for me.’
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On what would have been my mother’s birthday, I discovered the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I prayed it; I felt the mercy of Christ. She says, I went to the priest for confession, knelt down and said, Bless me Father for I have sinned, ten years ago I had an abortion. That was the beginning of my new life. She says, I told Jesus, ‘After what you did for me, I’ll go anywhere and do anything for you. I love you.’
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Friends, this is October, it is Respect life month. We pray for an end to this sick thing called abortion, that doesn’t help anyone: it kills a baby and wounds a mother.
And we pray to Mary. Mary, help those who have done very bad things; help them to find the mercy of Christ and live again. And Mary, pray for us, that we ourselves will follow only the path of Jesus and of goodness, because that is the path to heaven.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. John of  God]

St. Francis and the Stigmata

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and while there are a million things we can say about this great saint, I thought today we could speak of his having received the stigmata. In the older liturgical calendar, there was even established a special feast on September 17th to recall the stigmata of St. Francis.
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Stigmatists are those whose bodies bore wounds similar to Christ’s. Most had 5 wounds on hands, feet, and side, while others had only a wound on the shoulder from where Christ carried the cross. Although some suspect that St. Paul had the stigmata,  St. Francis is the first we know of with certainty, but then many other holy men and women.
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It was in the early hours on the feast of the Holy Cross, in the year 1224, when Francis was on Mt. Alverna in prayer. He had a hermitage there. Suddenly, all of the mountain seemed to be on fire; the bright flames which shined in the night, illumined the surrounding mountains and valleys more clearly than if the sun were shining over the earth.
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This mysterious light shone through the windows of houses in the area. Shepherds who were there, witnessed it. They were full of fear when they saw the mountain aflame; they would later tell the Franciscans, it lasted for over an hour. What was the cause of this firey mountain? It was at that moment that Francis saw in a vision, Christ-crucified, in the appearance of a 6-winged seraphim on the cross. He did not understand what this vision meant; still, he was filled with happiness because the Savior showed him a kind and gracious look.
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When the vision ended, his heart was burning with love of God. As Francis was trying to understand what he had seen, the marks of the nails began to appear on his hands and feet, just as he had seen them earlier, in the crucified Lord. The heads of the nails appeared on the inner side of his hands, and some pieces of flesh took on the appearance of the ends of the nails, bent backward. He tried to hide these from the brethren, but they noticed the blood and the great pain he had when walking. Not only did Francis have these stigmata, which became well-known, but he had also the gift of healing. He lived only 2 years after this, dying at the age of 45.
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St. Francis began his life as a spoiled, rich boy, who thought only of enjoying himself, but he responded to God’s call. Later he would say: ‘If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.’

Your Guardian Angel

Friends in Christ, at each Holy Mass, we offer Jesus Christ and ourselves with him, to Our Father in heaven. Mass is the supreme act of worship on earth, offered to God. We offer Mass with Jesus – his life, death, and resurrection – but we also offer with the angels who are present at each Mass.
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We begin Mass in the Confiteor, invoking the angels. We offer praise in the Gloria, words given to us by angels. We sing Holy, Holy, Holy with the angels, and in Eucharistic Prayer I, we see that it is a great Angel, who brings the Sacrifice of Our Savior to God in heaven.
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St. John Chrysostom says that “When Mass is being celebrated, the Sanctuary is filled with countless Angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar.” But let us see, that among all the angels worshiping God with us, also present are our own Guardian Angels. In fact, today, October 2nd, is the feast of the Guardian Angels!
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Belief in angels is an important teaching of the Catholic Faith. In Ludwig Ott’s famous book on the Faith, it says in paragraph 26: ‘In the beginning of time, God created angels out of nothing,’ De Fide. Now that expression, ‘De Fide,’ means of the faith, it is a dogmatic, unchangeable teaching that God created angels out of nothing.
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In the next paragraph, 27, it says: ‘The nature of the angels is spiritual, De Fide.’ So this is also a Dogma; that unlike human beings, which are composed of body and soul, the nature of the angels is purely spiritual. As St. Paul says, ‘We do not wage war against flesh and blood, but against – the demons, the bad angels, which are pure spirit.
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Part of the importance of understanding angels, is to help us understand ourselves. Man is composed of body and soul, and although the soul leaves the body at death, the soul is not a human being; we do not become finally, spiritual substances like angels, rather, we await the resurrection of our bodies.
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The bible mentions angels 273 times. But we would point even moreso to our Jewish ancestors. The Jews had a strong devotion to angels and Jesus would often refer to angels. Now we said that October 2nd is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. Referring to this, Ludwig Ott, in his book says, in paragraph 30: ‘Every one of the faithful has his own special Guardian Angel from baptism. Sententia certa’ – theologically certain. And so this is part of the general belief of the Church.
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St. Gemma saw her guardian angel almost all the time. Her Guardian Angel would kneel down next to her, and pray with her. She once fell ill on the floor but her angel picked her up and put her in bed; and this angel told her that everyone should fight against temptation,  so that they will one day see the beauty of Paradise.
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So, we are guarded and assisted by our own special angel, and this is supported in the Sacred Scriptures. In the Holy Gospels Our Lord will say, ‘Do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Jesus says, ‘their angels.’ And in this, he certainly refers to the Guardian Angels of those children. Also, in Acts of the Apostles chapter 12, when those in the house did not believe it was actually Peter knocking on the door, they merely said: ‘It must be his angel.’ The early Christians presumed a Guardian Angel for each person.
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Many believe that our angel has unique characteristics suited just to us, or, one might say that our angel has a personality matched to ours. Padre Pio saw and spoke to his angels with familiarity. Once his angel seemed to delay in coming to his assistance. ‘Why did you delay in coming!, he yelled at the angel. ‘I decided to punish my angel,’ he said; so I did not look him in the face. But the poor angel came to me almost crying, he grabbed me so I looked at him, and saw he was sad. The angel said: ‘I am always close to you. I watch over you always; my affection for you will not end even when you die.’
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In my last parish, I was one day speaking of angels with the children in the school, and a young child off-handedly said: ‘Father, at Mass the other day there was an angel standing next to Fr. Jerry.’ Later, at breakfast, I said to Fr. Jerry, ‘A child said he saw an angel standing next to you at Mass.’ Smiling, he said: ‘Does that surprise you?!
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We should pray to our angel each day, many times, because God thought to create a special helper for us.
Finally, we conclude by going to the Blessed Virgin. Mary is called the ‘Queen of Angels;’ may this Queen send forth the holy angels to guide and protect us, that safe from the Enemy, we will be ever-faithful to Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Thomas Aquinas]

The Holy Archangels

Friends in Christ,  Today is the Feast of the Holy Archangels.  I often ask the children, what are the three angels whose names we know? They are these: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael – the three great archangels.
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We know of Gabriel, because he is not only mentioned in the Book of Daniel, but he is the angel who visited Zechariah and Mary at the nativity. No greater honor could be accorded an angel, than to communicate the message of the Incarnation of God into the world. Many believe Gabriel continued to be involved with the Holy Family, appearing to the shepherds, speaking to St. Joseph in his dreams, and so forth. The venerable Mary of Agreda was a mystic, who writes of the appearance of Gabriel: He was that of a most handsome youth of rarest beauty, she says. his face emitted resplendent rays of light, his bearing was grave and majestic. He wore a diadem of exquisite splendor, his clothes glowing in various colors.
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Now as to Raphael, we know this angel from the Book of Tobit. Raphael brought healing to Tobit, and helped his son Tobias, and so St. Raphael is the ‘healing’ angel. St. Anthony Mary Claret often called on St. Rafael. On a difficult journey, he asked Raphael to help him; Raphael presented himself as a young man and acted as a guide, leaving him only at meal-time. And the end of the journey he disappeared. St. Raphael is the patron of doctors and travelers.
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Finally we read today about St. Michael, in the Book of Revelation, who battles with the devil. He is mentioned also in the Book of Daniel where he is called one of the ‘chief princes.’ It says that Michael will defend the people at the time of the anti-christ. St. Michael therefore is viewed as a great defender of the Church and, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, it is St. Michael who, at the end of the world, will combat and destroy the anti-Christ. St. Francis of Assisi had a great devotion to St. Michael, and kept a 40 day fast leading up to his Feast day, and Joan of Arc was spoken to often by St. Michael.
It is an excellent tradition that we have at our parish, to pray to St. Michael at the end of each weekday Mass.

Trust God in our Fears

Friends in Christ, Today the first reading is from the Book of Job. Job has many problems: tragedy, sickness – and he has been trying to figure out why God allows such things to happen to him. At one point he really comes to some wisdom. He says that God is all powerful; God makes mountains tremble – he causes earthquakes which make even huge buildings shake or collapse; God commands the sun to rise and to set, and he commands the stars. It is God who made the constellations in the heavens, and who does such marvelous things which cannot be fathomed. And if God is so great as to do all this, and much more, who am I to say to God, ‘What are you doing?’ Who am I to question God’s plan?
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Job, like us in our own life, wrestles with the question of why does God allow pain, suffering, incomprehensible things to happen? The Book of Job asks, ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ He wrote this so long before Jesus would come; before Christ would stretch out his arms in love, suffering with us, and for us.
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God came into our world in Jesus, not to take away suffering, but to enter into it, to make it salvific, to give it meaning. Job did not know that when we suffer, God is suffering with us. When sadness fills us, Jesus feels exactly what we feel – with us. Job did not know this. But his insight, his wisdom, is good. God has done such incredible marvels, just look at creation, he says. Look at the power and wonder of creation. We cannot make a planet, or even a butterfly, but for the Lord it is simple. God is clearly very great. Then can’t we trust him? How can we doubt him, or question his ways?
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A little boy needed some surgery, it was the only way to make him better. He was being taken down the hall on the gurney to surgery, and his father was walking along with him. The boy cried and cried, ‘Why daddy, why are you doing this to me?’ What can the father say? The child can’t understand. The father can only say: ‘Trust me.’ I love you, and so trust me.’
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This is what our Father-God says to us in our troubles, and pain, and problems: ‘I know you can’t understand. ‘ But just trust me.’ I am with you in this.

St. Matthew

Friends in Christ, Today is the Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle. Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors were looked down upon because of their shady lives.
The meeting of Christ and Matthew is a most beautiful one, for we learn as much about Matthew, as we do about the heart of Christ. Fr. Goodier in his book, relates to us the scene of the gospel:
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One cool morning in Capernaum, Jesus and his disciples pass down a main street; past shops and venders. At the corner is a man seated at a low table with paper and a metal box with coins. This was the customs collector, the future St. Matthew. Matthew had his sins. He had not always been fair; his life had shadows of which he was not proud. Yet inside his heart, was a distant longing; a yearning to leave his sins and to be happy again. Deep down, he yearned to be a child again, and to be good. But alas, his destiny was to be what he is; it was his lot to live with sinners, these were the cards he was dealt in life.
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Yet that cool morning, writes Father Goodier, Matthew’s eye caught the distant approach of the Master, of whom he had heard. He recognized the men with him: he had dealt with them in business before. As he watched Jesus coming up the street, a desire rushed into his soul. For a moment, he wished that he could be where they were, with Christ; but this was not his lot in life.
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With thoughts like these running through his head, he turned his eyes back to his work. But what was this? Jesus came and stood at his counter. He didn’t dare look up. Jesus stood and waited, a touch of gentle humor lighting up his face. Matthew could endure it no longer; he raised his eyes and looked to those which were looking down at him. Jesus’ eyes caught his, and as with so many others before him, Matthew realized – that Jesus knew him.
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To see the eyes of God, is to see your Creator; it is to look into the eyes of the one who knows everything about you; and to know that you are loved. And there is no more wonderful sound in the world, than the words which Matthew heard that day: ‘Follow me.’
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Bursting with an unknown happiness, he immediately arose and followed him. The joy of that day never left St. Matthew, who spent his life serving his Master, even as a martyr.
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The Venerable Bede says, Our Lord spoke that day to Matthew by the invisible impulse of grace, and he still speaks to us in this same way, each day

Grace

18th Sunday after Pentecost
Friends in Christ, In the year 1604 in Belgium, there were two students who lived a life of sin. One night, in the midst of their evil ways, one of them, named Richard, decided to go home. As he was about to get in bed, he remembered that he had not said his usual 3 Hail Marys, as was his custom since his youth, and so he did – and went to sleep. He was suddenly awakened by a violent knocking, and through the closed door came his friend from that night, deformed and hideous, his body of flame.
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Who are you? Richard cried in terror, you seem to be like a devil. The unfortunate creature exclaimed, I am your friend, I am damned. I was killed last night in the street and my soul is in hell. You too were doomed, but your prayers preserved you. He then disappeared.
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Richard fell on the floor, thanked Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, and vowed to change his life. Knowing that he had received a great grace, he acted – he became a missionary; he went to Mexico, and then studied in the Philippines in Cebu, where he was ordained a priest. In 1613 he went to Japan where Catholics were being martyred by Buddhists. On September 10, 1622, Richard was martyred in Nagasaki, Japan, tortured by slow burning in fire. A hero for the Faith, Richard of St. Anne, in 1867, was declared Blessed by the Church.
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A question for us to consider today is, in God’s plan, why was it that one of these men was damned, and the other became a great witness for Christ? The mystery of all of this is the mystery of grace and free-will. Today in the Epsitle, St. Paul says, ‘I give thanks to God always for you, for the grace of God that is given you in Jesus Christ. ‘By it, he says, in all things you are made rich in Him; nothing is wanting to you in any grace.
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Although many categories of grace exist, the two main types of grace are Actual grace and Sanctifying grace. Now Actual graces, are all those supernatural helps that we get from God. These can be promptings to do the right thing, sudden insights, or glimpses of God’s hand in our life. An Actual grace could be a sudden prompting with guilt for a sin, or an impulse moving us to confess. Anything that is a special intervention by God – and we often notice them – to bring us either away from sin or another step toward holiness. A priest hears about these often, because people will often notice God acting, in some specific way.
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The thing about grace however, is that it is a help, a gift, offered to us. Grace waits for our free will, and sometimes courage – to follow. God gives every person sufficient grace – sufficient opportunities – to be saved; but we must act on these graces. In the case of Richard’s friend, for sure God gave him opportunities in his life to follow grace, but he rejected them and became hardened in his sin, silencing his conscience.
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Blessed Richard himself, at least responded to grace sometimes; for example, he was given the thought, ‘I should say my prayers before bed.’ And it sounds as if he at least had not given that up. Now while God gives everyone sufficient grace to be saved, he pours untold graces on certain individuals. Once Richard began cooperating with God’s grace, look what the Lord did with him! – And this is the spiritual life; listening and responding to God’s invitations.
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In the gospel today, there is this sick man that Jesus not only healed, but forgave his sins – can there be a greater Actual grace, than to have the Son of God heal you and forgive you!? Yet some, in Christ’s day, by their hardness of heart, rejected grace.
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Actual graces can be external or internal. A person who is troubled, not knowing where to turn – is handed a book seemingly at random by a friend – he is changed. An external grace. A mother knows she must speak to her daughter about something difficult – and suddenly finds the words and courage to say it – an internal grace.
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Actual graces are one of the major types of grace; these are the helps to our spiritual growth, either internal or external. But the goal of all these helps from God is the other type of grace: Sanctifying grace. This grace is with the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit that makes us holy, that makes us pleasing to God. This is the grace we receive at conversion, at baptism, in the sacraments, in justification.
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But grace is not a fluid or a gas; if we think of Jesus, who unites in himself, God and Man, Divinity and Humanity – if we think of Christ, ‘Divinizing’ humanity, his Mystical Body – then Sanctifying grace is the divinization of man, it is making us like-to-God, uniting us with God through Jesus.
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We cannot have a union with God if we are not like God. A cat can have no ‘relationship’ with a plant. A woman cannot marry her dog or have a romantic relationship with an animal. For a human creature to have a relationship with God – well, this would normally be ridiculous, we are so very different from God! But sanctifying grace begins to divinize us, to make us like God, so that it is possible to enter an intimate union with Him.
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Sanctifying grace therefore, is nothing else than the divine life which flows from Christ into us. Father Emile Mersch says, that as the body is in the process of formation here on earth, it’s divinization is also in formation. Therefore it must include the power of formation and growth – analogous to Actual graces – and an initial level of life that must increase, analogous to sanctifying grace.
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As we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ, it is God’s will that divinization would flow from Christ to the whole body, that is ourselves. If we wish to grow in the likeness of Christ, we must therefore act on each Actual grace that is offered to us.
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Mary is called the universal channel of grace. St. Peter Damien calls her ‘the Treasurer of divine graces.’ Let us then invoke this Mother often. We can pray 3 Hail Mary’s before bed, or call on her anytime, to obtain every heavenly help and grace from Christ her Son.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton]

Love God with all your heart

17th Sunday after Pentecost
Friends in Christ, for 20 centuries, saints and mystics and poets, have puzzled over what happened in the mind of Judas. After Judas betrayed Christ, he gave back the money and hanged himself. But this is not the behavior of an ordinary greedy man. The typical miser loves nothing but money, and would have never even thought of giving back the money, much less of ending his life.
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Judas was greedy, but he was something else besides. There was inside of him, two loves. One, the love of money, and the other love was something else – another love, which flamed up, after his betrayal. We cannot find any other object for this other love except for Jesus. Judas felt a love for Christ, but the flame of this love was tainted with a shadow, his heart was divided. So says Father Ricciotti, in his book ‘The Life of Christ.’ 
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The Gospel today tells us the Greatest Commandment: ‘Thou shall love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, thy whole soul and thy whole mind.’ The mystery of the divided heart in Judas is a mystery which repeats itself through history. I knew a young man who felt called to the priesthood; but his heart was so attached to other things – pleasures, comforts, desires of this life – Year after year he lived with a heart torn by two loves, a tortured heart; comforts and desires of this life won out.
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Very few people, actually, love God with their whole heart.[i] Most love their relatives, their friends, their sports, more – God must even compete with love of pets!  Of these St. John says, they do not have life, they are dead. 1 John 3:14 – ‘He who does not love, abides in death.’
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We are commanded to love God with our WHOLE heart, not part of it. Not holding on to our favorite sin, or vice, or habit. To love God totally, is to seek to become a saint. To become a saint, is to love God totally. And this is to find happiness: total love of God IS happiness.
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And love is not an emotion or high-sounding words, it is in the will. Thomas Aquinas’ sister asked him, ‘How can I become a saint.’ His reply: ‘Just will it.’   In other words, ‘Do it!’ A person loves God, not by what he says, or even how many prayers he can say. It is whether he does everything in his life for the sole purpose of pleasing God.
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This week will be the feast day of St. Joseph Cupertino, the Flying Saint. For him, over 70 documented cases of levitation. Once, the Spanish Admiral and his wife visited the Franciscans, and Joseph went to see them in the Church. But entering, he noticed up high, the statue of Mary, and overcome with emotion, he flew 30 feet over them to the statue. Everyone was speechless.  He once saw a lamb, and thinking of the Lamb of God,  filled with love, he took it in his arms and floated up into the air. Joseph would often say, ‘Have a good intention in everything you do,’ do all for God.
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To love God with all our heart, is to do everything, always, with the intention of pleasing God. The most insignificant action done in order to please the Lord, is of infinitely greater value than many impressive works done without this motive.[ii]
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Inside of each person we may say, there are two wills. The superior will and the sensual will. These two war against each other. The sensual will is the appetites, the flesh, the passions, desires. These war against the superior will in us, our mind. St. Paul says, I see another power in me making war against my mind.[iii]
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So there is above, God’s will, calling us to good; and there is our superior will, which wants God, and to praise and please him; but then there are the lower appetites, the sensual will, which lures us to choose against God. This is the war of the two loves.
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Yet who is more worthy of our love than God? Our dear Father in heaven, who is so infinitely powerful that he can make planets and suns, and so infinitely good, as to send his Son to die for us. St. Augustine says that God has a greater desire to do good to us than we have to receive it. And even if the most revolting sinner on earth were to repent of his sins, Our Father instantly pardons and embraces him. Who is more deserving of our love? No one.
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We should then examine ourselves: do we love God with our whole heart? What is it that drives us? What is it that we really desire the most? This is what we love. I know people who when they hear about some blasphemy, or some filthy artwork by a freak artist against Christ, or some mockery of the Church, they will say, ‘O, that’s a shame.’ Or when told that the government has made laws against Christ’s Church, her freedom of religion, they will say, ‘well, it doesn’t concern me.’ Yet say one word against their favorite sports team, and they will become outraged, and leap to its defense, with many reasons and explanations – to defend their love. Disagree with some over the latest fashion or criticize their favorite movie star, and they will boil with passion.
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You don’t have to scratch very deep, to find a person’s love. When someone offends the object of our love, or hinders us from obtaining it – when you see a person aroused to anger over the thing dear to their heart – then you will find what they love, and many times it is not God. Jesus said, ‘Your treasure is where your heart is.’
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So where is our heart? Is it entangled in useless things, giving God second or even 3rd place? The heart of the Blessed Virgin was never entangled in other loves; ‘Mary, you are called ‘Mother of Good Counsel.’ Counsel us, your children, and untangle our hearts, that we will love God with our whole heart, and soul, and mind.

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Entrusted to the prayers of St. Nicholas

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[i] Ideas here are borrowed from ‘Sermons of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, p. 345.

[ii] Spiritual Combat, p. 28-30.

[iii] See Romans 7:23