Author Archives | Father Michael Van Sloun

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Superabundant Grace for the Married Couple

August 3, 2018

0 Comments

Wedding at Cana

Jesus attended a wedding feast at Cana at the beginning of his public ministry (Jn 2:1-11). Jesus wanted that couple, as well as every married couple, to have a wonderful life together and to be faithful in their love for each other. The bride and groom had looked forward to their wedding day with eager anticipation, and after exchanging their vows they were jubilant. Their family and friends were together. The festivities were in high gear. There was food and drink, singing and dancing, and smiles on every face. A wedding banquet is the greatest of all feasts.

Jesus knew that their marriage would be tested down the road. Every marriage is tested. The vows say, “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health.” Marriages are tested when one, the other, or both are sick; when faced with economic struggles; or when something else goes wrong. Furthermore, their union will be tested because of their inclination to sin, which leads to “discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation” (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1606). Jesus wants to provide divine assistance to every couple to help them deal with their tests successfully.

There was a signal of the tests looming in the future when the wine ran short. Everything had gone perfectly so far. Then a crisis! Would this misfortune wreck the celebration? Will the misfortunes that are sure to spring up over the coming years wreck the marriage? Can Jesus help? Mary was sure of it. She immediately turned to her son and said, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3), expecting that he would come up with a solution.

There were six stone water jars near the entrance. They were quite large. Each one held twenty to thirty gallons (Jn 2:6), twenty-five on average. Jesus asked the servers to fill them with water, which they did. It was a lot of hauling. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, twenty-five gallons weighs 208 pounds. The six stone jars contained one hundred and fifty gallons total.

With the water in place, Jesus asked a server to “Draw some out and take it to the headwaiter” (Jn 2:8). The water had become wine, all one hundred and fifty gallons. That is a huge amount of wine. It would amount to cases and cases of wine by today’s standards.

There are two details that are often overlooked. The average number of guests at a village wedding celebration ranged from one hundred to one hundred fifty, and the guests had been drinking freely all day (see Jn 2:10b). Some of the guests may have been a little tipsy, even though drunkenness was considered a disgrace in Jewish culture. Then Jesus provided an additional one to one and a half gallons of pure choice wine for every single person at the feast. Was Jesus encouraging excessive alcohol use? Did he not care if the party turned raucous? What was the Son of God who embodies virtue doing?

Jesus provided the guests with more wine than they could ever use. It was a superabundant supply that would never run out. The wine represents his grace. On the day the couple was married, Jesus showered them with his divine grace, spiritual blessings and assistance, and it would flow from him to them every day for the rest of their married lives. His grace is superabundant. It never runs out. It is available at all times, particularly when a couple is tested, so they can be faithful in their love for each other for the rest of their married lives.

Continue reading...

St. Peter Chrysologus

July 27, 2018

0 Comments

St. Peter Chrysologus

St. Peter was born in 380 AD at Imola, Emilia, Italy. He studied under Bishop Cornelius of Imola, and was ordained by him as a deacon.

The emperor Valerian III appointed Peter as archbishop of Ravenna, Italy, in 424, a position of considerable importance since Ravenna was the capital of the Western Empire and was one of the four most prominent cities of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries along with Rome, Constantinople, and Milan.

St. Peter was renowned as an exceptional preacher and teacher. The Empress Galla Placidia, the mother of the emperor, heard his first sermon and was so captivated that she became a major benefactor and strongly supported a number of his building projects.

St. Peter meticulously prepared his homilies. They were concise and focused, instructive and interesting, biblically-based, drawn particularly from the gospels, contained practical applications for how to live Christian life, and frequently included an invitation to conversion and repentance. He also spoke about the value of the Eucharist and encouraged the frequent reception of Holy Communion which he called “daily bread for our souls.” He kept his homilies short because he did not want to cause fatigue in the attention of his listeners. His delivery was energetic, engaging, and positive. In fact, at times he would preach with such passion, intensity, and fervor that he would lose his breath in his excitement.

As bishop, he challenged laxity in his diocese. He taught sound doctrine, corrected heretics, and upheld the primacy of the Pope and the teaching authority of Rome. He spoke out against paganism and pagan practices, particularly the evils of an annual local New Year’s Eve carnival with its drunkenness and debauchery, but did so firmly and respectfully and not in the harsh and condemnatory tone so typical of other Church leaders of that time. He is remembered for the famous quote, “He who delights in the devil cannot rejoice in Christ.”

St. Peter was a prolific writer. One hundred and seventy of his homilies have been preserved, but most of his other writings have been lost. The Collect Prayer of the Mass says that he was “an outstanding preacher of your incarnate Word.” He died in Imola, variously reported as July 31 or December 2, 450.

In the Ninth Century St. Peter was given the added title “Chrysologus.” The Eastern Church had St. John Chrysostom, Greek for “golden-tongued,” the famous preacher of the East, so the West decided to claim for itself an eloquent, illustrious preacher of its own with a comparable title that means “golden-worded” or “golden speech.” Pope Benedict XIII declared St. Peter Chrysologus a Doctor of the Church in 1729.

Continue reading...

Mary and Joseph: the model married couple

July 20, 2018

0 Comments

Holy CoupleIf Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the Holy Family, then Mary and Joseph are the Holy Couple, and if the Holy Family serves as the model for Christian families, then Mary and Joseph serve as the model for Christian couples that are living the Sacrament of Marriage.

Before they lived together (Mt 1:18). Mary and Joseph were betrothed, a Jewish ritual ceremony in which the bride and groom dedicate themselves to each. The period of betrothal lasts approximately one year, a time when the bride and groom live apart, usually in their parent’s homes, and abstain from sexual relations. Mary and Joseph did not cohabitate before marriage, and the moral standard that they followed still applies to couples that intend to be married today. Decisions about living arrangements before marriage are not to be governed by apartment leases, home purchases, insurance coverage, work or school schedules, or concerns about compatibility, but rather by the conscious decision to reserve one’s self totally for one’s spouse, and to share the intimacy of marriage only after their commitment to love each other for life has been sealed by God in the Sacrament of Marriage and witnessed and ratified by the Christian community gathered at worship in church.

Joseph, “a righteous man”(Mt 1:19), and Mary, “favored one” (i.e., “full of grace”) (Lk 1:28). Even before they were married, Joseph already was a righteous man and Mary already was full of grace. They knew God’s laws and obeyed them, had an established pattern of upright living, practiced the virtues, prayed regularly, and had a strong desire to please God. It was their firm intention prior to marriage to set their union on the solid rock of their faith in God and their spiritual values. Every prospective bride and groom while a child, adolescent, or young adult, before dating or while dating, should spend their days making spiritual headway as devout believers and dedicated disciples, growing in wisdom, favor, and grace (see Lk 2:40), learning and obeying the Gospel, receiving the sacraments, and becoming good and holy people, so when they exchange their vows, their marriage will be anchored upon the foundation of their faith that is deep and solid and constructed over many years.

Obedient to angels. Joseph and Mary received appearances from angels. An angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife (Mt 1:20), to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt (Mt 2:13), and once harm had passed, to take Jesus and Mary and return to Israel (Mt 2:20), and in each instance, Joseph obeyed immediately without resistance or delay. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of the Son of God (Lk 1:31,35), and she replied, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). The angels were messengers of God and conveyed God’s will, and both Joseph and Mary trusted God and obeyed. Likewise a Christian couple, both before they are married and after, pay attention to God’s will, however it is conveyed, and without resistance or delay, obey promptly and completely.

[Joseph] took his wife into his home (Mt 1:24). Joseph and Mary began to live together at the angel’s bidding, and for them to establish a home, it also presumed that their betrothal had ended and that they were married within the Jewish faith. Wherever they were living, probably in Nazareth, they would have gone to the synagogue and exchanged their marriage vows before a rabbi according to the prescribed ritual in the presence of fellow Jews that were members of the local synagogue. Similarly a Catholic, when the engagement ends and before they live together, brings the marriage to a Catholic church, the couple exchanges their consent before a priest or deacon according to the Catholic form, and does so in the presence of their family, relatives, and friends who represent the local parish and the universal Church.

At home together. Mary and Joseph shared a beautiful mutual love. They were not married singles, individuals that happened to be living under the same roof, selfishly pursuing their own interests, with personal gain and fulfillment as their main objectives. Rather, Mary gave her life as a total gift to Joseph, and Joseph, in turn, gave his life as a total gift to Mary. Their love was selfless. Their approach was not, “What is in this for me?” and “What would make me happy?” but rather, “What would make my spouse happy?” They were not focused on compromise, “I get my way some of the time and you get your way some of the time,” but rather, “It is my aim to please you and promote your wellbeing all of the time.” They shared their lives completely. They communicated with each, shared their dreams and disappointments, joys and worries, ate meals together, willingly performed household tasks together, prayed together, and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.

A home filled with love. Love is a virtue (1 Cor 13:13), it was the bond between Mary and Joseph, and it permeated their home. They were consistently kind and patient with each other. They were humble and modest; polite and respectful; supportive, positive, and encouraging; appreciative and complimentary; calm, composed, and self-controlled; able to see things from their spouse’s point of view; willing to give the benefit of the doubt; compassionate, forgiving, and reconciling; open, truthful, and honest; gentle and tender; generous and grateful; joyful, peaceful, and faithful. By practicing the virtues together, Mary and Joseph made God the center of their marriage. They had the wisdom to know that one spouse goes through the other to God. The more a spouse loves the other, the more the person loves God, and conversely, the less a person loves the other, the less the person loves God.

Mary conceived (Lk 1:31,35). God blessed Mary and Joseph with a miraculous conception. Even though the circumstances at the beginning of their marriage were awkward, and the child in the womb might have been considered a hardship or an inconvenience, Mary and Joseph embraced the new life, safeguarded it, remained unwavering in their love for each other, brought the child to full term, and were overjoyed at his birth. A Christian couple eagerly anticipates the prospect of having children, and if God blesses them with a miraculous pregnancy, even if not under ideal circumstances, the couple welcomes the new life, protects it from all harm, and does everything possible to insure the child’s birth.

[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son (Lk 2:7). When Jesus was born Mary instantly shifted into service mode when she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Married love is generous. Mary and Joseph’s marriage did not revolve around themselves, their pursuits, careers, hobbies, and standard of living. They knew that a child would require time, attention, and sacrifice, and they gladly dedicated themselves to the care of the child that God had entrusted to them. A Christian married couple is not only loving and generous with each other, but eager to share their ever-increasing love with their children.

Traveling partners. Mary and Joseph made one journey after another together. During their early years they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Bethlehem to Jerusalem, Israel to Egypt, Egypt to Judea, and Judea back to Nazareth. After they settled in Nazareth they made an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. In addition to the long journeys, they made many short trips, to the synagogue, the markets, and friends’ homes. The journey may have been to obey a government order, fulfill a spiritual duty, or for safety and security. Some were made at an easy pace, others made hastily and under great duress. No matter the situation, Mary and Joseph were inseparable, step by step, helping each other along the way, sharing each other’s burdens. Their marriage journey continued for many years and they were ever-faithful. A Christian wife and husband are traveling companions for life, helping each other wherever they may go, particularly when travel conditions are most difficult.

Synagogue and Temple. It was Mary and Joseph’s custom to go to the synagogue on the sabbath day (implied in Lk 4:16), and each year they went to the Temple in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (Lk 2:41). They were a church-going couple and worship was the centerpiece of their week. They attended sabbath after sabbath and faithfully obeyed God’s commandment (Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15). In the same way, a Christian marriage is in a spiritual partnership, and in addition to a wife and husband’s daily prayers together at home, they go to church every weekend, and their week revolves around the celebration of the Mass. It is their shared opportunity to give God praise and thanks for their blessings, to be nourished by Word and Sacrament, and to give and receive support from the other members of the community.

Continue reading...

The Unity Candle

July 10, 2018

0 Comments

The Unity Candle The Unity Candle is a three-candle display, all white in color, one larger pillar candle in the center, flanked by two smaller taper candles, one on each side. Ordinarily they are placed on a Unity Candle stand or a table draped with a cloth. The display is never placed on the altar. The placement may be somewhere in the sanctuary that does not obstruct the view of the altar, pulpit, presider’s chair, or the couple, or may be placed outside but near the sanctuary.

The ceremonial lighting of the Unity Candle is not a part of The Order of Celebrating Matrimony in the Catholic Church. It is not allowed in some dioceses and parishes because it is not included in the ritual, or because those present for the exchange of vows witness the complete Sacrament of Marriage, the sacrament is powerful and stands fully on its own, a symbol is anticlimactic following the real thing, and a symbol does not supplement or augment it.

In many dioceses and parishes, the Unity Candle ceremony is permitted. It is a relatively new tradition that has much sentimental value. It provides the couple an opportunity to act together immediately. The ceremony is elegant, beautiful, and a memorable moment.

When the Unity Candle ceremony is celebrated, it comes after the blessing and giving of rings and before the Universal Prayer or the Prayers of the Faithful. The taper candles usually are lit before the liturgy, often by the mothers, but also possibly by relatives or friends, or if no one is designated, by the sacristan, or the taper candles are lit as the first part of the ceremony itself. Then the bride and groom each take a lit taper candle, and together simultaneously light the pillar candle. The taper candles are returned to their holders and usually left burning. The larger center candle is a symbol that is interpreted in a number of different ways.

The Married Couple. The usual understanding is that one taper candle represents the bride, the other represents the groom, and that the pillar candle represents the bride and groom joined together as a married couple. While each retains their individuality, represented by the taper candles that continue to burn, “they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:8).

Jesus. The lighted pillar candle represents Jesus who is the light of the world (Jn 8:12). When the bride and groom light the pillar candle, they declare that Jesus is the center of their marriage, that they are joined together by him, that the sacramental grace that he supplies will sustain them and hold them together, and that they will individually and jointly follow his light.

The Sacrament of Marriage. The taper candles represent the baptismal candles of the bride and groom, as well as their faith in Jesus and their commitments to live their lives as his disciples. Baptism is the first Sacrament of Initiation. Then after the reception of Eucharist and Confirmation and the completion of the Sacraments of Initiation, the bride and groom indicate as they light the pillar candle that they intend to live out their baptismal faith as adults in the Sacrament of Marriage, their Sacrament of Commitment.

A New Family. The taper candles represent the immediate families of the bride and groom, their parents and siblings, and from their two families of origin, the pillar candle represents the new family that has begun with their marriage.

Continue reading...

John and Jesus: Remarkable Similarities

June 22, 2018

0 Comments

St. John the BaptistThe birth of St. John the Baptist features the one who is the precursor, the forerunner, the one who foretold the coming of Jesus, went ahead of him, prepared his way, pointed him out when he came, and proclaimed him to be the Son of God. The birth of John set the stage for the birth of Jesus, and the two of them have much in common.

John and Jesus were relatives. They both had annunciations: the angel Gabriel announced the birth of John to Zechariah; the angel Gabriel announced the birth to Jesus to Mary. They both had holy mothers: Elizabeth was righteous and filled with the Holy Spirit; Mary was full of grace and overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Both of their births were miraculous: Elizabeth was old, barren, and beyond her childbearing years; Mary was young, a virgin, and before her childbearing years. Elizabeth’s conception was the Lord’s doing; Mary’s conception was by the power of the Holy Spirit. John was not named after his father Zechariah, but given the name provided by the angel; Jesus was not named after his father Joseph, but given the name provided by the angel. Both escaped the massacre of the Holy Innocents: John was hidden in the Rock of Concealment; Jesus and his parents fled to Egypt.

John and Jesus had strong religious upbringings. John had good and holy parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah; Jesus had good and holy parents, Mary and Joseph. Both observed the Sabbath, John in the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth. Very little is known about their childhoods. John presumably was an understudy of his father Zechariah as a priest in the Temple; Jesus was an understudy of his father Joseph in the carpenter’s shop.

When John and Jesus appeared as adults, neither followed the professions of their fathers. John, instead of being a priest, left Jerusalem to become a desert prophet; Jesus, instead of remaining a carpenter, left Nazareth to become a preacher, teacher, and healer. John foretold the long-awaited Messiah; Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. John was the baptizer; Jesus was the one baptized. John was a servant of God and a light to the nations; Jesus was a servant of God and a light to the nations.

Both John and Jesus were bold preachers whose tongues were as sharp as a two-edged sword. John proclaimed a baptism of repentance; Jesus told the people to repent and turn away from sin. John chastised King Herod Antipas and Herodias for their adulterous relationship; Jesus chastised the scribes and Pharisees for being hypocrites. The king and queen were furious with John; the religious leaders were furious with Jesus. John was arrested and put in prison; Jesus was apprehended at Gethsemane and held overnight.

John, innocent though he was, was beheaded with a sword; Jesus, innocent though he was, was crucified and his side pierced by a sword. John died a young man at the age of 31 or 32; Jesus died a young man at the age of 33. John died a prophet’s or martyr’s death; Jesus died a savior’s or redeemer’s death. John’s disciples took his body and laid it in a tomb; Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took Jesus’ body and laid it in a tomb. John was given a place in heaven with the angels and saints; Jesus ascended to heaven where he is surrounded by the angels and saints. The similarities between John and Jesus are remarkable, and if John could live a life that was similar to Jesus in many ways, we are called to pattern our lives on Jesus.

Continue reading...

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

June 22, 2018

0 Comments

St. John the BaptistThe birth of St. John the Baptist is one of only three births celebrated on the liturgical calendar. The birth of Jesus is celebrated on December 25; the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, is September 8; and the birth of St. John the Baptist, the prophet who announced the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, is June 24. It ranks as a solemnity.

The birth of St. John the Baptist was a momentous occasion. He was no ordinary child. Jesus said of John, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11).

John the Baptist ranks first among the prophets. All of the prophets that went before him announced that the Messiah was coming. The Baptist was blessed with the singular privilege to announce that the Messiah had come. He was the only prophet who pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29). He “ranks ahead of me because he existed before me” (Jn 1:30). “He is the Son of God” (Jn 1:34b).

The date for the feast is based on Luke’s Infancy Narrative. At the Annunciation the angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth had conceived and that she was in her sixth month (Lk 1:36), after which Mary visited Elizabeth and “remained with her about three months” (Lk 1:56a), presumably until John was born. June 24 is six months before the birth of Jesus.

St. Augustine saw a connection between June 24 and December 24, John and Jesus, the light, the summer and winter solstices, and their relative importance. Jesus said that John “was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light” (Jn 5:35). Later Jesus said of himself, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). John is the lesser light. Jesus is the greater light. St. Augustine observed that John was born after the summer solstice when light begins to decrease, Jesus was born after the winter solstice when light begins to increase, which correlates to John’s statement, “He must increase and I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

His birth is commemorated at the Church of St. John the Baptist in Ein Karem, a village in the hill country of Judea about four miles southwest of Jerusalem. The first church was built during the Byzantine Period, rebuilt during the Crusader Period, and then restored in 1885. There is a staircase along the north wall that descends to a lower-level crypt which is the cave traditionally regarded as the place where Elizabeth gave birth to John (Lk 1:57).

The Preface for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist is a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the blessings of the Precursor’s life. “For you consecrated him for a singular honor among those born among women. His birth brought great rejoicing; even in the womb he leapt for joy at the coming of human salvation. He alone of all the prophets pointed out the Lamb of redemption. And to make holy the flowing waters, he baptized the very author of Baptism and was privileged to bear him supreme witness by the shedding of his blood” (Roman Missal, 732).

Continue reading...

St. Romuald, Abbot

June 15, 2018

0 Comments

St. RomualdSt. Romuald was born in Ravenna, Italy, in 950, into the aristocratic Onesti family. When he was twenty, he witnessed his father Sergius kill another man in a duel, and deeply disturbed by what he had seen, fled to the nearby Benedictine monastery of San Apollinare at Classe where he became a monk to make expiation for his father’s sin.

St. Romuald quickly embraced the Benedictine Rule of Life, and he meticulously observed it in every detail with prayer, simplicity, and strict self-discipline. Some of the monks had grown lax in their spiritual lives and were offended when St. Romuald admonished them with his fraternal correction, and their antagonism toward him forced him to leave the monastery.

St. Romuald found a hermit named Marinus near Venice to serve as his spiritual director, and he spent the next ten years in a secluded location in an austere life of solitude, self-denial, prayer, and meditation, and made great headway in virtue and holiness.

St. Romuald’s father was so moved by his son’s example that he decided to enter the monastery of San Severo near Ravenna to atone for his sins. St. Romuald learned that his father was being tempted to leave the monastery and go back to his worldly ways, so he went in haste to attempt to persuade him to remain, and his father persevered as a monk until his death.

Ironically, after having left San Apollinare years earlier, in 998 Emperor Otto III appointed St. Romuald the abbot of the same monastery. He served only two years and then resigned in order to return to his life as a hermit at Pereum. Sometimes his prayer seemed dry, his spiritual energy low, and his outlook dark, and one day when reciting a Psalm he had a mystical experience of a bright light and the presence of God which propelled him for the rest of his life.

Even though St. Romuald was a monk and a hermit, it was also his desire to be a missionary and suffer a martyr’s death. The Pope approved his request to be a missionary to the Magyars in Hungary. As he made the journey northward he became seriously ill, was forced to abandon his plans, and returned to Italy to resume the monastic life.

St. Romuald subsequently moved to the monastery at Monte di Sitrio. During those days he chastised a young local nobleman for his immoral behavior, and in retaliation, the aristocrat falsely accused Romuald of a scandalous crime. Incredibly, the monks believed the false allegation, imposed a severe penance, and excommunicated him. He suffered this terrible hardship in silence for six months, and then, prompted by God in prayer, he broke silence, repudiated the unjust sentence, and resumed his ministry.

St. Romuald spent the rest of his life establishing monasteries and hermitages in northern and central Italy, particularly at Fonte Avellana and Camaldoli near Arezzo in Tuscany. He also founded a religious order, the Camaldolese monks and hermits [O.S.B. Cam.], and wrote a new rule of life based upon the Benedictine Rule. He combined the cenobitic life, a common life in religious community, with the eremitical life, the solitary life of a hermit. The monks assembled each day for Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, and some meals, and spent the remainder of the day in solitude. St. Romuald died alone in his cell at Val di Castro, Italy, on June 19, 1027.

Continue reading...

Special Prayers and Blessing for Fathers

June 14, 2018

0 Comments

Jesus and Joseph

Special Intercessions. After the Creed, the Universal Prayer, that is, the Prayer of the Faithful or Bidding Prayers, are offered. Typically, this series of intentions begins with a petition for the needs of the Church, for public authorities and the salvation of the whole world, for those burdened by any kind of difficulty, and for the local community. In any particular celebration, these intentions may be concerned more closely with the particular occasion (see No. 70, General Instruction of the Roman Missal). Father’s Day is such an occasion.

Father’s Day Intercessions. The Book of Blessings offers three intercessions for Father’s Day (No. 1732, page 648). They can be adapted or modified as desired. These prayers can be used at Mass, at home when the family is gathered together, such as at the dinner table, or by an individual praying alone. These intercessions are suggestions. Parishes, families, and individuals are encouraged to write or offer other petitions that prayerfully express their hopes, concerns, and appreciation for their fathers.

First Intercession. For our fathers, who have given us life and love, that we may show them respect and love, we pray to the Lord.

Second Intercession. For fathers who have lost a child through death, that their faith may give them hope, and their family and friends support and console them, we pray to the Lord.

Third Intercession. For fathers who have died, that God may bring them into the joy of his kingdom, we pray to the Lord.

Special Blessing. The Book of Blessings also offers a blessing prayer that can be offered at the end of Mass or at other liturgical services (No. 1733, page 648). It can also be used by a family at home, and it can be modified from plural to singular for one father.

Father’s Day Blessing Prayer. God our Father, in your wisdom and love you made all things. Bless these men, that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Continue reading...

The Immaculate Heart of Mary

June 7, 2018

0 Comments

Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a popular topic among spiritual artists, and this devotion has inspired countless paintings, stained glass windows, and sculptures. While art pieces vary, there are common elements found in most renditions.

The Heart. The heart symbolizes love, and the red color is a second symbol for love. The heart-love connection has a rich biblical heritage: Moses told the people, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Dt 6:5); Jeremiah explained that God writes his covenant on our hearts (Jer 31:33); and Ezekiel relayed God’s promise to take away our stony hearts and replace them with natural hearts (Ez 36:26). The heart is the center of human emotions and feelings, wisdom and insight, desire and motivation, joy and sorrow, courage and fear. Mary’s heart was pulsing with love for her son Jesus.

The Sword. Mary’s sword originates with Simeon’s ominous prediction: “And you yourself shall be pierced by a sword” (Lk 2:35). The sword is a symbol of Mary’s passion and suffering, pain and sorrow, while for Jesus and art pieces of his Sacred Heart, the crown of thorns is his symbol of suffering. Another distinguishing characteristic is the sword’s point of entry. For Mary, the sword enters the top, usually from the right, and exists the bottom, usually at the left, although this is not a hard and fast rule. For Jesus, whose heart was pierced by the soldier’s lance (Jn 19:34), the sword entered from the bottom, presumably from the left side, and exited from the top right. The sword often represents Mary’s first sorrow or dolor, Simeon’s prophecy, but more often than not, it represents all Seven Dolors, including the Flight to Egypt, the loss of the Christ-child in the Temple, Mary’s piteous encounter with Jesus on the road to Calvary, the crucifixion, the removal of Jesus’ body from the cross, and Jesus’ entombment.

The Rose(s). A rose is a sign of love. If there is only one rose, it represents the singular love that one is to reserve for God alone. If the heart is circled with white roses, they symbolize Mary’s purity, sinlessness, and holiness; but if the roses are red they signify Mary’s deep love for Jesus her Son. The Christmas rose reminds us of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus, while a single rose can stand for Mary herself since she is known as the Mystical Rose. A blooming rose is occasionally used as a sign of Messianic expectation, the people’s deep desire for the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah (Is 35:1). It may also represent beauty and paradise.

The Flame. There usually is a flame at the top of the heart with one or more tongues of fire. It symbolizes zeal and devotion, and it further underscores Mary’s fervor, loyalty, and affection for her Son. The radiating heat is a reminder of the intensity of Mary’s warm love.

The Flower. There may be a flower sprouting from the burning flames. If so, the white petals are another sign of Mary’s purity, sinlessness, and holiness; while the green stem and leaves are signs of the new life and growth that bud forth due to Jesus’ resurrection. If the flower stem is bent down, it is a sign of Mary’s deferential reverence for her Son, but if it is standing tall, it is a sign of her glorification that came when she was assumed to heaven, took her place at the right of God’s throne, and crowned Queen of Heaven above and the Church below.

Continue reading...

Pentecost

May 17, 2018

0 Comments

PentecostThe Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is a solemnity, the highest ranking liturgical feast, and it celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. It serves as the grand and glorious conclusion to the fifty-day Easter Season, seven continuous weeks that celebrate the greatest mystery of the Christian faith, the Resurrection. It brings the Paschal Mystery to completion.

Special Liturgical Features. The vestments are red which symbolize the Holy Spirit. There are two special Masses for Pentecost, a vigil Mass for Saturday evening and the Mass during the day for Sunday. A sprinkling rite is optional. There is a Sequence between the second reading and the gospel which may be sung or proclaimed. Infant baptisms are highly appropriate within the celebration of the Mass. There is a special solemn blessing for the dismissal that ends with a double Alleluia. The Easter Season is finished at the conclusion of Evening Prayer or Vespers at which time the Easter Candle is removed from the sanctuary and taken to its regular place, usually near the Baptismal font. If Evening Prayer is not celebrated, the Easter Candle usually is moved after the last Mass.

A Magnificent Moment. Pentecost recalls how the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the form of a strong driving wind and tongues as of fire which parted and came to rest on each of them. Immediately they were filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:1-4). It was an outpouring of the Spirit on each apostle individually and the Church collectively. The Spirit imbued the apostles with great love, led them to the truth, set their faith ablaze, and filled them with great zeal. This immeasurable grace was the birth of the Church. Through the Spirit the Church is sanctified or made holy, and by the power of the Spirit each person is united to Christ and the peoples of every nation, race, and language are unified in the profession of one faith. The annual celebration of this feast makes the graces first bestowed upon the apostles available to every believer in every subsequent generation.

C+ Apostles in Need of Improvement. The apostles were average performers at best and they needed to make major upgrades. Jesus spent countless hours with them. He gave them his warm friendship and personalized instruction, invited them to be his companions and performed amazing miracles before them. In spite of this, the apostles were terrified during the storm at sea, failed to understand the parables, were unable to expel some demons, fought among themselves over who was most important, and abandoned and betrayed their Master. They were unable to comprehend who Jesus was or what he expected of them. Even after the Resurrection they remained bewildered, isolated, afraid, and silent.

The Transformative Moment. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit galvanized the apostles’ faith. It was a metamorphosis of epic proportions. The apostles emerged from the cocoon of the Upper Room completely remade. They were on fire with love for Jesus! Once fearful, they became bold and courageous. Once silent, they became assertive and outspoken. Once cautious, they took tremendous risks. Once followers, they became leaders. Once weak, they performed great and mighty deeds in Jesus’ name. Once concerned with safeguarding their own lives, they became willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of Jesus and the gospel.

Catch the Spirit! The Holy Spirit that transformed the apostles on the first Pentecost has the power to transform each of us. The Spirit outpoured on the first apostles is also outpoured on us in the celebration of Pentecost, the sacraments, prayer, and multiple other ways. Pentecost is an invitation to be bold! Catch fire! Shed inhibitions! Love! Forgive! Share! Serve! Speak the truth! Do great and mighty deeds! Make the name of Jesus known and loved!

Continue reading...