Thursday, November 26, 2020
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Thursday, November 12, 2020
This past Friday, Governor Cuomo’s new COVID-19 restrictions went into effect in the state of New York. The state believes that the increase of cases is particular to certain areas of life: bars, restaurants, gyms, house parties. Because of the colder weather leading people to gather indoors, where the virus can spread more easily, the state decided to put the new restrictions in place to avoid a second wave. Throughout this pandemic, governments and individuals have been precise and firm in preventing exposures to the virus, willing to sacrifice many aspects of life for the sake of bodily well-being.
One of my favorite spiritual writers is St. Alphonsus Ligouri: bishop, theologian, philosopher, Patron Saint of Vocations, and a Doctor of the Church. A single line in his book, Preparation for Death: Considerations on Eternal Truths, gives a succinct, yet complete, summary of what we see during this global pandemic:
“When there is question of the body, men speak rationally; but when the soul is concerned, they speak like fools.”
This pandemic has shown that as a culture, we are spiritual fools.
To clarify, I am not saying that implementing health precautions to prevent a COVID-19 resurgence while reopening our society is necessarily wrong. However, the fact that corporeal well-being has received such an intense priority in our culture over that of the soul reflects a greater crisis. We are body and soul; physical health is an important and integral part of human life. However, our culture seems to be indifferent to the words of Christ:
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10:28)
Corporeal well-being is important, but not of the highest importance. Illness ultimately is temporary. The secular world has pushed off eternal questions, only focusing on the reality of this life. This is a serious problem: living with corporeal well-being as our priority is a prescription for misery. Because secular culture is only concerned with the flesh, their only ultimate concern is, and can only be, the unavoidable reality of death (Romans 8:6). From this, the necessary reaction is chaos and fear. One doesn’t need to observe the current state of affairs for long to see the truth of that claim.
Many are beginning to realize that when we severely limit this life in the name of saving it, something about our human experience is undermined. Saving this life is not our ultimate purpose, it is impossible to do so. We are wired for something deeper in our human experience: eternity. The beauty of this life is our ability to freely work towards our ultimate purpose: the salvation of our soul, being unified with God – who is the source of all being. St. Alphonsus Ligouri says:
“The peace of a soul that is united with God surpasses all the pleasures that the senses and the world can give.”
We don’t need to, nor should we, disregard corporeal well-being. However, we need to realize that bodily health is ultimately meaningless when concern for our eternal souls is abandoned.
An active awareness in this life of eternal matters puts our corporeal struggles and joys in their proper perspective. The greatest possible danger is the destruction of our soul. While the virus can destroy the body, it cannot destroy the soul. A life of sin, which is contrary to our soul’s deepest desires, can. Sin “blinds the understanding, and deprives the soul of reason” (St. Alphonsus Liguori). While the secular culture may not grasp this reality, we people of faith do. We understand that “although we are in the flesh, we do not battle according to the flesh” (2 Corithians 10:30).
We should use the experience of this pandemic for reflection: do we avoid the dangers of sin with the same intense effort that our culture avoids COVID-19? Do we avoid near occasions of sin as intensely as our culture avoids being exposed to the virus? Are we as persistent in going to confession to cleanse our soul as our culture is about using hand sanitizer? Are we ready to eliminate things from our life that make us sin as willingly as our culture eliminates things deemed to be COVID-19 risks? Are we more careful to not fall into mortal sin than our culture is with getting the virus?
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more important than the salvation of our souls. Getting into heaven is not a walk in the park, Christ makes it very clear that it is difficult to do so (Matthew 7:13-14). Ultimately, as the Venerable Fulton Sheen said, “Sin, in its fullness, is the rejection of Christ.” The secular culture has gone above and beyond, sacrificing almost every aspect of life, for the sake of preventing exposure to COVID-19. We must recognize not only our ability, but that it can also be necessary for us to go to similar measures to avoid sin (Mark 9:43-45). We should tremble more at the possibility of falling into mortal sin over being infected with this virus. None of us are perfect, all of our souls need attention and care. Let’s have the same precision and intensity with our souls as we have with COVID-19: don’t be a spiritual fool.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
We ask for healing for the veterans who have been wounded, in body and soul, in conflicts around the globe.
We pray especially for the young men and women, in the thousands, who are coming home from Iraq with injured bodies and traumatized spirits.
Bring solace to them, O Lord; may we pray for them when they cannot pray.
We ask for an end to wars and the dawning of a new era of peace,
As a way to honor all the veterans of past wars.
Have mercy on all our veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq,
Bring peace to their hearts and peace to the regions they fought in.
Bless all the soldiers who served in non-combative posts;
May their calling to service continue in their lives in many positive ways.
Give us all the creative vision to see a world which, grown weary with fighting,
Moves to affirming the life of every human being and so moves beyond war.
Hear our prayer, O Prince of Peace, hear our prayer.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Saint Martín de Porres was noted for tireless work on behalf of the poor, establishing an orphanage and a children's hospital. He maintained an austere lifestyle, which included fasting and abstaining from meat. His devotion to prayer was notable even by the pious standards of the age. Among the many miracles attributed to him were those of levitation, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures and an ability to communicate with animals.
St. Martin de Porres became the patron saint of hairdressers because hairdressing was one of the duties he performed for his brothers in the friary.
Check him out, doesn't he look like the guy who played Jesus in Madonna’s Like A Pray music video?
St. Martin de Porres was born at Lima, Peru, in 1579. His father was a Spanish gentleman and his mother a black freed-woman from Panama. At fifteen, he became a lay brother at the Dominican Friary at Lima and spent his whole life there-as a barber, farm laborer, and infirmarian among other things.
I wonder what I have to do to get canonized as a modern day saint?
“Since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century.
What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.
Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?
When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.
Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend.
God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.”
--Pope Benedict XVI
Greeting to Catholic Pupils of the United Kingdom
St Mary's College, Twickenham
17 September 2010
Monday, November 2, 2020
The prayers of All Saints Day highlight our belief that we continue to be in relationship with those who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith. It is not only a matter of our honoring the holy lives these brothers and sisters led but also of acknowledging that they who are already with the Lord continue to be concerned for us and our welfare.
That the very work of God can be manifest in our lives calls us to the responsibility of living in a way that the love of God be transparent in our deeds and relationships. Finally, our prayer on All Saints Day reminds us that when we share at the altar of the Lord's table we have a foretaste of the banquet the saints share forever in the reign of God.
The church calendar sets aside many days to honor the most famous of saints. November 1 is the day for us to remember and honor those saints whose lives made headlines not in the daily papers but in the hearts of those they served and touched. All of us know such saints in our own lives - some who have gone home to the Lord and some who are still with us.
Happy All Saints Day to all!