Monday, January 31, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI: The central message for the spiritual life

From Pope Benedict's catechesis on Saint Julian of Norwich:

Julian of Norwich understood the central message for spiritual life: God is love and it is only if one opens oneself to this love, totally and with total trust, and lets it become one's sole guide in life, that all things are transfigured, true peace and true joy found and one is able to radiate it.  

General Audience - December 1, 2010

The Seven Spiritual Weapons

From Pope Benedict XVI's catechesis on Saint Catherine of Bologna:

Saint Catherine of Bologna's Seven Weapons in the fight against evil, against the devil:

1. always to be careful and diligently strive to do good; 
2. to believe that alone we will never be able to do something truly good; 
3. to trust in God and, for love of him, never to fear in the battle against evil, either in the world or within ourselves; 
4. to meditate often on the events and words of the life of Jesus, and especially on his Passion and his death; 
5. to remember that we must die; 
6. to focus our minds firmly on memory of the goods of Heaven; 
7. to be familiar with Sacred Scripture, always cherishing it in our hearts so that it may give direction to all our thoughts and all our actions. 

A splendid programme of spiritual life, today too, for each one of us!

Dear friends, with her words and with her life, St Catherine of Bologna is a pressing invitation to let ourselves always be guided by God, to do his will daily, even if it often does not correspond with our plans, to trust in his Providence which never leaves us on our own. In this perspective, St Catherine speaks to us; from the distance of so many centuries she is still very modern and speaks to our lives. 

She, like us, suffered temptations, she suffered the temptations of disbelief, of sensuality, of a difficult spiritual struggle. She felt forsaken by God, she found herself in the darkness of faith. Yet in all these situations she was always holding the Lord’s hand, she did not leave him, she did not abandon him. And walking hand in hand with the Lord, she walked on the right path and found the way of light.

So it is that she also tells us: take heart, even in the night of faith, even amidst our many doubts, do not let go of the Lord’s hand, walk hand in hand with him, believe in God’s goodness. This is how to follow the right path! 

And I would like to stress another aspect: her great humility. She was a person who did not want to be someone or something; she did not care for appearances, she did not want to govern. She wanted to serve, to do God’s will, to be at the service of others. And for this very reason Catherine was credible in her authority, because she was able to see that for her authority meant, precisely, serving others. 

Let us ask God, through the intercession of Our Saint, for the gift to achieve courageously and generously the project he has for us, so that he alone may be the firm rock on which our lives are built.

General Audience - December 29, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI: "The more we love God and the more constantly we pray..."

 An excerpt from Pope Benedict's catechesis on Saint Catherine of Genoa:

"Dear friends, we must never forget that the more we love God and the more constantly we pray, the better we will succeed in truly loving those who surround us, who are close to us, so that we can see in every person the Face of the Lord whose love knows no bounds and makes no distinctions. The mystic does not create distance from others or an abstract life, but rather approaches other people so that they may begin to see and act with God’s eyes and heart."

General Audience of January 12, 2011

The Beatitudes

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  

a. The poor in spirit are those who, however great their wealth, dignity, learning, etc., acknowledge that in God's sight they are poor, and realize that their riches come from God. They are detached in heart and mind from worldly possessions, for love of God. Even in this life they are at peace, a foretaste of heaven.

b. Thus a rich man may in fact be poor in spirit, if he is not attached to his wealth, but spends it freely for good causes, and is willing to be parted from it at God's will. On the other hand a poor man is not truly poor in spirit, if he is not resigned to his poverty, but envies the rich, if he is poor against his will, or prides himself on some quality of his.

c. In general, the poor in this world's goods are also poor in spirit. They are saved from temptations into which the wealthy fall. This is one reason for seeking poverty voluntarily, according to Christ's counsel.

d. Our Lord often emphasized the difficulty of salvation when one is rich: "But woe to you rich! for you are now having your comfort" (Luke 6:24). "If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast and give to the poor, ... and come, follow me" (Matt. 19:21). "With difficulty will a rich man enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:23)

e. We are, however, expected to be industrious. Pauperism which is the result of laziness is not a virtue. Beggary which can be avoided is not beneficial either to the individual or to society in general. Each one is obliged to provide for himself and for those dependent on him.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth."

a. The meek are those who bear patiently all the contradictions of life, looking upon them as happening through God's Will or by His permission.

b. The meek shall have peace of heart and peace of life, loved and respected by all, and at death will "possess the earth" of the living, heaven.

c. Those are also meek who, though of a naturally fiery disposition, master their anger, impatience, or desires for revenge.

d. The meek man does not get angry or curse or seek revenge. He forgives his enemies, and even wins them by gentle words. He imitates Christ, Who said: "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (Matt. 11: 29). 

"Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted." 

a. Here the reference is to spiritual sorrow, grief for sin, one's own sins or the sins of others. It includes a longing amidst the sorrows of life for the joys and peace of heaven.

b. Mourning for sin is not sadness, for it is not incompatible with spiritual joy. Those who are most penitent feel most gladness upon their release from sin. But to sinners who do not mourn, these words of Our Lord should bring salutary fear: "Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep" (Luke 6:25). 

"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied." 

a. This refers to those who ardently desire the things of God, truth and perfect virtue, as well as to those who try to become better, more humble and pure, more closely united with God. 

b. Spiritual hunger and thirst is the craving for growth in holiness, a desire to be more pleasing to God, to make daily progress in doing His will. Even in this life they shall taste the joy of divine consolations; in heaven they shall enjoy the full abundance of heavenly bliss. 

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." 

a. The merciful are those who practice the works of mercy, corporal and spiritual, who help others not from human or natural motives simply, but from supernatural ones, from faith, from love of God.

b. To such people, Christ at the day of judgment will say: "Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in ..." (Matt. 25:34-35). 

"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." 

a. Only those who are not in habitual sin are clean of heart, and possess virtue. They will be rewarded with the vision of God in heaven; and even on earth by the great light given them.

b. There are several degrees of purity of heart: to the first degree belong those who are free from mortal sin; to the second belong those who are free from deliberate venial sin and all affection for sin; to the third degree belong those who are free from the least ill-regulated affection; to the fourth belong those who are free from the almost imperceptible stains that delay a soul's entrance into God's home; and to the last degree belong those Christians of such purity of life and thought, of such perfection of zeal and intention, that they habitually live for God alone, that they are perfectly united with Him, so that when they close their eyes in death they will fly straight into the Heart of God. 

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." 

a. Men who love peace and preserve it in themselves and among others are beloved by God.

b. We should also try to reconcile those who are not on good terms with each other. This is a superior degree of the second beatitude.

"Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

a. Those are blessed who suffer for Christ, religion, or some Christian virtue. They will receive an eternal reward.

b. Those who faithfully observe the entire law of God and defend the cause of His Church, procure His glory and save souls. In this world those who are active in preserving the rights of the Church are often ridiculed and persecuted; they will be especially blessed.

Our Lord preached the Eight Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon He taught something new in the world. Where people had always striven for riches, honors, and pleasures, Christ praised the poor, the humble, the suffering.

If we practice faithfully the doctrine of the eight beatitudes, we shall find the true path of perfection and be happy besides on earth.  

The Beatitudes contain in substance the law of God and all evangelical perfection.

From MY CATHOLIC FAITH (Most Rev. Louis Laravoire Morrow, STD) 

Pope Benedict XVI on Christian Unity

Wednesday General Audience 
January 19, 2011

Dear Brothers and Faithful, 
We are celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in which all believers in Christ are asked to unite in prayer in order to witness to the deep bond that exists between them and to invoke the gift of full communion.
It is providential that in the process of building unity prayer is made central. This reminds us once again that unity cannot be a mere product of human endeavour; it is first and foremost a gift of God which entails growth in communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

The Second Vatican Council says: “Such prayers in common are certainly a very effective means of petitioning for the grace of unity, and they are a genuine expression of the ties which still bond Catholics to their separated brethren. ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Mt 18:20)” (Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 8). 

The path that leads to the visible unity of all Christians lies in prayer, because, fundamentally, it is not we who “build” unity but God who “builds” it, it comes from him, from the Trinitarian Mystery, from the unity of the Father with the Son in the dialogue of love, which is the Holy Spirit; and our ecumenical commitment must be open to divine action, it must become a daily invocation for God's help. The Church is his and not ours. 

The theme chosen for this Year’s Week of Prayer refers to the experience of the first Christian Community in Jerusalem, as it is described in the Acts of the Apostles; we have listened to the text: “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). 

We must consider that in the past, at the very moment of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon people of different languages and cultures. This means that from the very first the Church has embraced people from different backgrounds and yet, it is that the Spirit creates one body precisely from these differences. 

Pentecost, as the beginning of the Church, marks the expansion of God’s Covenant to all creatures, all peoples and all epochs, so that the whole of creation may walk towards its true goal: to be a place of unity and love.

In the passage cited from the Acts of the Apostles, four characteristics define the first Christian community of Jerusalem as a place of unity and love. St Luke, moreover, does not only want to describe something from the past. He presents this community to us as a model, as a norm for the Church today, since these four characteristics must always constitute the Church’s life. 

The first characteristic is its unity, its devotion to listening to the Apostles’ teaching, then to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. As I have said, still today these four elements are the pillars that support the life of every Christian community and constitute the one solid foundation on which to progress in the search for the visible unity of the Church.

We first have devotion to the teaching of the Apostles, that is, listening to their testimony to the mission, to the life, and to the death and Resurrection of the Lord. This is what Paul calls simply the “Gospel”. The first Christians received the Gospel from the lips of the Apostles, they were united by listening to it and by its proclamation because, as St Paul says, “the Gospel... is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom 1:16). 

Still today the community of believers recognizes the reference to the Apostles’ teaching as the norm of its own faith. Hence every effort to build unity among all Christians passes through the deepening of our faithfulness to the depositum fidei passed on to us by the Apostles. A steadfast faith is the foundation of our communion, it is the foundation of Christian unity.

The second element is fraternal communion. At the time of the first Christian community, as it is in our day too, this is the most tangible expression especially for the external world, of unity among the Lord's disciples. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the early Christians had all things in common and those with possessions and goods sold them to share the proceeds with the needy (cf. Acts 2:44-45). 

This sharing of goods has found ever new forms of expression in the history of the Church. Distinctive among these are the brotherly relations and friendships established between Christians of different denominations.

The history of the ecumenical movement is marked by difficulties and uncertainties but it is also a history of brotherhood, of cooperation and of human and spiritual sharing, which has significantly changed relations between believers in the Lord Jesus: we are all working hard to continue on this path.
Thus the second element is thus communion. This is primarily communion with God through faith; but communion with God creates communion among ourselves and is necessarily expressed in that concrete communion of which the Acts of the Apostles speak, in other words sharing. 

No one in the Christian community must be hungry or poor: this is a fundamental obligation. Communion with God, expressed as brotherly communion, is lived out in practice in social commitment, in Christian charity and in justice.

The third element: essential in the life of the first community of Jerusalem was the moment of the breaking of the bread in which the Lord makes himself present, with the unique sacrifice of the Cross, in his unreserved gift of self for the life of his friends: “this is my body which will be given up for you... this is the cup of my blood.... It will be shed for you”. “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church” (John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 1). Communion in Christ’s sacrifice is the crowning point of our union with God and thus also represents the fullness of the unity of Christ’s disciples, full communion. 

In this Week of Prayer for Unity our regret about the impossibility of sharing the same Eucharistic banquet — a sign that we are still far from achieving that unity for which Christ prayed — is particularly acute. This sorrowful experience, which also gives our prayers a penitential dimension, must become the reason for an even more generous dedication on the part of all so that, once the obstacles that stand in the way of full communion have been removed, the day will come when we can gather round the table of the Lord to break the Eucharistic bread together and to drink from the same cup. 

Lastly, prayer — or as St Luke says prayers — is the fourth characteristic of the early Church of Jerusalem described in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Prayer has always been a constant attitude of disciples of Christ, something that accompanies their daily life in obedience to God’s will, as the Apostle Paul’s words in his First Letter to the Thessalonians also attest: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes 5:16-18; cf. Eph 6:18). 

Christian prayer, participation in Jesus’ prayer, is a filial experience par excellence as the words of the “Our Father” testify — the “we” of God’s children, brothers and sisters — a family prayer that addresses our common Father. Therefore, adopting an attitude of prayer also means opening ourselves to brotherhood. 

Only in the “we” can we say “Our Father”; so let us open ourselves to brotherhood which comes from being children of the one heavenly Father and from being disposed to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Dear brothers and sisters, as disciples of the Lord we have a common responsibility to the world. We must undertake a common service; like the first Christian community of Jerusalem, starting with what we already share, we must bear a powerful witness supported by reason and spiritually founded on the one God who revealed himself and speaks to us in Christ, in order to be heralds of a message that guides and illumines people today, who all too often lack clear and effective reference points. 

It is therefore important to increase day by day in reciprocal love, striving to surmount those barriers between Christians that still exist; to feel that real inner unity exists among all those who follow the Lord; to collaborate as closely as possible, working together on the issues that are still unresolved; and above all, to be aware that on this journey we need the Lord’s assistance, he will have to give us even more help for, on our own, unless we “abide in him”, we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5).

Dear friends, we are once again gathered in prayer — particularly during this Week — together with all those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God: let us persevere in prayer, let us be a people of prayer, entreating God to grant us the gift of unity so that his plan of salvation and reconciliation may be brought about for the whole world. Many thanks.


Pope Benedict XVI: A Lofty Level of Christian Life

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, speaks about Saint Joan of Arc during his January 26, 2011 weekly Papal Audience catechesis. Here's a paragraph that strikes me most:

Dear brothers and sisters, with her luminous testimony, St. Joan of Arc invites us to a lofty level of Christian life: to make prayer the guiding thread of our days; to have full confidence in fulfilling the will of God, whatever it is; to live in charity without favoritisms, without limits and having, as she had, in the love of Jesus, a profound love for the Church.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


O glorious St. Paul, who from a persecutor of Christianity, became a most ardent Apostle of zeal; and who to make known the Savior Jesus Christ to the ends of the world suffered with joy imprisonment, scourgings, stonings, shipwrecks and persecutions of every kind, and in the end shed your blood to the last drop, obtain for us the grace to receive, as favors of the Divine mercy, infirmities, tribulations, and misfortunes of the present life, so that the vicissitudes of this our exile will not render us cold in the service of God, but will render us always more faithful and more fervent. 

V. Pray for us, Saint Paul the Apostle,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

Let us pray

O God, Who has taught the multitude of the Gentiles by the preaching of blessed Paul the Apostle: grant unto us, we beseech You, that we who keep his memory sacred, may feel the might of his intercession before You. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Prayer Source: Raccolta, The — A Manual of Indulgences by Sacred Penitentiary Apostolic, Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1957.


Antiphon: You are the Vessel of election, Saint Paul the Apostle, the Preacher of truth in the whole world.

V. Pray for us, Saint Paul the Apostle.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, Who, of Your Divine mercy, did instruct Your blessed Apostle Paul what he should do that he might be filled with the Holy Spirit; by his admonitions directing us and his merits interceding for us, grant that we may serve You in fear and trembling and so be filled with the comfort of Your heavenly gifts. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Tu es vas electiónis, sancte Paule Apóstole, prædicátor veritátis in univérso mundo.

V. Ora pro nobis, sancte Paule Apóstole.
R. Ut digni efficiámur promissiónibus Christi.


Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui beáto Apóstolo tuo Paulo quid fáceret, ut implerétur Spíritu Sancto, divína miseratióne præcepisti; eius dirigéntibus mónitis et suffragántibus méritis concéde, ut serviéntes tibi in timóre et tremóre, cæléstium donórum consolatióne repleámur. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum. Amen. 

Prayer Source: Raccolta, The — A Manual of Indulgences by Sacred Penitentiary Apostolic, Benziger Brothers, Inc. , 1957.

(From Catholic Culture [with revisions]) 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Prayer for Perseverance in the Catholic Faith


O my Redeemer, will that terrible moment ever come, when but few Christians shall be left who are inspired by the spirit of faith, that moment when Thine indignation shall be provoked and Thy protection shall be taken from us? Have our vices and our evil lives irrevocably moved Thy justice to take vengeance, perhaps this very day, upon Thy children? O Thou Author and Finisher of our Faith, we conjure Thee, in the bitterness of our contrite and humbled hearts, not to suffer the fair light of Faith to be extinguished in us. Remember Thy mercies of old; turn Thine eyes in compassion upon the vineyard planted by Thine own right hand, and watered by the sweat of the Apostles, by the precious blood of countless Martyrs and by the tears of so many sincere penitents, and made fruitful by the prayers of so many Confessors and innocent Virgins. O Divine Mediator, look upon those zealous souls who raise their hearts to Thee and pray without ceasing for the maintenance of that most precious gift of Thine, the true Catholic Faith. We beseech Thee, O God of justice, to hold back the decree of our rejection, and to turn away Thine eyes from our vices and regard instead the adorable Blood shed upon the Cross, which purchased our salvation and daily intercedes for us upon the altars. Ah, keep us safe in the One, True, Holy Catholic Faith. Let sickness afflict us, vexations waste us, misfortune overwhelm us! But preserve in us Thy holy Faith; for if we are rich with this precious gift, we shall gladly endure every sorrow, and nothing shall ever be able to change our happiness. On the other hand, without this great treasure of Faith, our unhappiness would be unspeakable and without limit! O good Jesus, Author of our Faith, preserve it pure within us; keep us safe in the bark of Peter, faithful and obedient to his successor and Thy Vicar here on earth, that so the unity of Thy holy Church may be maintained, holiness fostered, the Holy See protected in freedom, and the Church universal extended to the benefit of souls. O Jesus, Author of our Faith, humble and convert the enemies of Thy Church; grant true peace and concord to all of the remnant Catholic faithful; strengthen and preserve us in Thy holy service to the end, that we may live in Thee, and die in Thee. O Jesus, Author of our Faith, let us live for Thee, and die for Thee. Amen. (St. Clement Mary Hofbauer) (500 days, once a day)



Prayer for the Conversion of our Brethren

Reading                                Mark 16:15-20

And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

Prayer of the Day

Let us pray.

Eternal God, Creator of all things, remember that the souls of unbelievers have been created by You, and formed to Your own image and likeness.  Behold, O Lord, how to Your dishonor hell is being filled with these same souls.  Remember, O God, that for their salvation Your Son Jesus Christ underwent a most cruel death.  Permit not, O Lord, that Your divine Son be any longer despised by unbelievers; but be appeased by the prayers of the Saints and of the Church, the Spouse of Your most holy Son, and forgetting their idolatry and unbelief, grant that they may at last come to acknowledge Your Son Jesus Christ, who is our Salvation, Life and Resurrection, through whom we have been saved and redeemed; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer for Catholic Missions

Let us pray.

O God, Who would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, we beseech You, send forth laborers into Your harvest, and grant them with all boldness to preach the Word that Your Gospel may everywhere be heard and glorified, and that all nations may know You, the One True God, and him whom You have sent, Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord. Amen.



Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews

Reading                                Romans 11:25-36

Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins."

As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.

Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

"For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"
"Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen.

Prayer of the Day

Let us pray.

O God, who manifest Your mercy and compassion towards all peoples, have mercy upon the Jewish race, once Your chosen people. You selected them alone out of all the nations of the world to be the custodians of Your sacred teachings. From them You raised up prophets and patriarchs to announce the coming of the Redeemer. You willed that Your only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour should be a Jew according to the flesh, born of a Jewish maiden in the Land of Promise. Hear the prayers we offer You today for the conversion of the Jewish people. Grant that they may soon come to a knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah foretold by their prophets, and that they may walk with us in the way of salvation. Amen.

Prayer of the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion

O God of all goodness, and Father of mercies, we beseech You, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and by the intercession of the Patriarchs and holy Apostles, to cast a look of compassion upon the children of Israel, that they may be brought to the knowledge of our only Saviour, Jesus Christ, and may partake of the precious fruits of the Redemption. Amen.

V.  Our Lady of the Atonement, intercede for us.
R.  That there may be fulfilled the prayer of thy Divine Son: “That all may be one.”

Prayer to St. Paul

O holy Apostle, Paul of Tarsus, from Your glorious place in heaven look down upon the race that you loved so well. True it is that many of them remained deaf to your words of truth, and that some of them even stirred up persecution against you and your fellow believers. But you were so devoted to your people that you willed to become a castaway for the sake of their conversion. Now that you are glorious in heaven, obtain for your brethren the grace of repentance and conversion, so that they may finally take their rightful place in the great family of the Catholic Church. Amen.

V.  O Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, pray for us.
R.  That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.