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Archive for February, 2010

The Priest is an Alter Christus, Bridging the Human and Divine

During this Year for Priests it is the intention of the Holy Father to educate the faithful’s understanding of what a priest is and to encourage priests to renew their own priestly identity.  On the Friday after Ash Wednesday Pope Benedict XVI addressed the priests of his diocese and referred to the priest as a bridge and mediator; his mission “unites and thus brings man to God, to His redemption, to His true light, to His true life”.

If the priest is a “bridge” bringing humankind into communion with the divinity, his soul must draw nourishment from constant daily prayer and from the Eucharist, said the Pope.  “A priest, who is above all other things a completely-fulfilled man, has a heart dedicated to “compassion”.  For St. John Vianney, patron of priests and of the Year for Priests, “the Priesthood is the love for the heart of Jesus”.

Below is a three part video produced by the Congregation of the Clergy in order to promote The Year for Priests. It is well done and pretty comprehensive.


He made us one with Him when He chose to be tempted by Satan

From a commentary on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop
In Christ we suffered temptation, and in him we overcame the Devil
Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer.  Who is speaking? An individual, it seems.  See if it is an individual: I cried out to you from the ends of the earth while my heart was in anguish.  Now it is no longer one person; rather, it is one in the sense that Christ is one, and we are all his members.  What single individual can cry from the ends of the earth? The one who cries from the ends of the earth is none other than the Son’s inheritance.  It was said to him: Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession.  This possession of Christ, this inheritance of Christ, this body of Christ, this one Church of Christ, this unity that we are, cries from the ends of the earth.  What does it cry?  What I said before: Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer; I cried out to you from the ends of the earth.’  That is, I made this cry to you from the ends of the earth; that is, on all sides.
Why did I make this cry? While my heart was in anguish.  The speaker shows that he is present among all the nations of the earth in a condition, not of exalted glory but of severe trial.
Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial.   We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.
The one who cries from the ends of the earth is in anguish, but is not left on his own.  Christ chose to foreshadow us, who are his body, by means of his body, in which he has died, risen and ascended into heaven, so that the members of his body may hope to follow where their head has gone before.
He made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan.  We have heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.  Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered death in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you.
If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil.  Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory?  See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him.  He could have kept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.

Concluding Prayer
Almighty God, grant that by this annual observance of Lent
  we may move forward in our understanding of the mystery of Christ
  and make it an essential part of our lives.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
  God for ever and ever.
Amen.

Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina

At the Holy Father’s Wednesday Audience earlier today, Pope Benedict directed our attention to the formula of the imposition of ashes, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”–or “Convert and Believe the Gospel”:

“Conversion means changing the direction of the path of our lives. (…) It is going against the current when the “current” is a superficial, incoherent, and illusory way of life that often drag us down, making us slaves of evil or prisoners of moral mediocrity. Nevertheless, through conversion we tend to the highest measure of Christian life, we trust in the living and personal Gospel who is Jesus Christ. He is the final goal and the profound path of conversion, the path that we are all called to travel in our lives, allowing ourselves to be illuminated with his light and sustained by his strength, which moves our steps”.
“With the distribution of ashes we renew our commitment to follow Jesus, letting ourselves be transformed by his paschal mystery so that we may conquer evil and do good, so that we can let our ‘old selves’, tied to sin, die and let the ‘new person’ be born, transformed by the grace of God”.

This evening (Rome time) the Holy Father gathered in the Benedictine monastery of S. Anselmo and processed to Santa Sabina, the first Stational Church of Lent.  Santa Sabina is a pristine Roman Basilica built in 422.  Pope Honorius III entrusted the basilica to the Dominican Order in 1219, three years after its founding.  Considered “Dominican Headquarters”, it’s walls have seen the likes of St. Dominic, St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope St. Pius V.


Lent FAQ

Aggie Catholics posted some great Lenten resources and I encourage you to take a look.  If you have yet to give Lent much thought, don’t worry, there is still time to jump in.  Below is excerpted the Aggie post:

LENT FAQ

When Does Lent Start in 2010?
Lent starts on Ash Wed, Feb 17.  Easter Sunday is Apr 4.

What is Lent?
Lent is a time when the Catholic Church collectively enters into preparation for the celebration of Easter. Lent originally developed as a forty-day retreat, preparing converts to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. Lent is a season of conversion. Conversion is the process of turning away from sin and turning to God. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday (this excludes Sundays, which are not part of the 40 days) and ends on Holy Thursday, the first day of the Triduum, the three holy days before Easter.

So why aren’t Sundays part of Lent?
This is because Sundays are always a day of celebration of Christ’s passion and Resurrection, so we celebrate on these days.

Does this mean I can “cheat” on Sundays?
Since Sundays are not part of the penitential season, you do not have to practice signs of penitence on these days. But, there is no reason you can’t do them either. If you feel you are “cheating” then it isn’t helping! There are some others that believe that Sundays are a part of Lent, but I do not agree with their take. Since the Church has some conflicting information (different documents state different things) I think you should do what you feel is best regarding the Lenten season and Sundays.

Why forty days and not some other number?
Because 40 is a special number in the Bible. It signifies preparation for something special – as in the 40 day flood of Noah.
* Moses stayed on the Mount Sinai forty days (Ex 24:18),
* Jonah gives the people of Ninevah forty days to repent (Jon 3:4) – (there are many other Old Testament stories)
* We also see this with Jesus, before starting his ministry, he spent forty days in the desert in prayer and fasting (Matt 4:2).
So, as in the Bible, we spend forty days in preparing ourselves to rejoice at the Resurrection of our Lord at Easter.

So, what is Ash Wednesday all about?
Ash Wednesday is so named because this first day of Lent is where we are marked with ashes to show the repentance of our sins and mourning. This is also a Biblical sign that we live today. We can see this in several verses.
* One verse is – “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Dan 9:3)
* Other verses include: 1 Sam 4:12, Jon 3:6, Esther 4:1 and Matt 11:20-21
Today, ashes are still this same sign of repentance and mourning for our sins. They also represent our mortality. “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). We started as nothing and our bodies will become dust and ashes after our death. Reminding ourselves that nobody escapes physical death, we look forward to eternal life.

So, why are the ashes made into a cross on the forehead?
Because it is the ancient sign of being marked by Christ in our baptism. We are no longer our own, but Jesus Christ owns us. The book of Revelation tells us that all the elect will be marked by the sign of Christ – “On Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Rev 14:1)

Where do we get the ashes?
They come from burning the palms from last years Palm Sunday Masses.

Who can receive ashes?
Anyone can receive ashes on Ash Wed. While we have communion only for Catholics who are in good standing with the Church, all may receive ashes.

Is Ash Wed a holy day of Obligation?
No. But all Catholics are strongly urged to attend, because it is the start of the Lenten season.

Do we have to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wed?
Yes. This means that all Catholics from 14 and up are required to abstain from meat and Catholics 18-60 are required to eat only one average meal and two snacks without anything else. Children, the elderly and those who are sick are not obligated to do this.

Why fast?
Again, this is because we are called to by Jesus. By denying ourselves something good, we remember what the highest good of all is – GOD. We also practice self-discipline and self-mastery, which we need in order to achieve holiness. Jesus fasted in the desert and calls us to as well. * “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matt 6: 16) * “and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” (Luke 2:37)
Fasting also helps focus us in our prayer. *Yet when they were ill, I…humbled myself with fasting.” (Psalm 35:13)

Why abstain from meat?
Because of the spiritual discipline it provides. “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . ‘I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'” (Dan 10:1-3) We give up meat, which still today is a luxury in some parts of the world, as a good thing that we offer up in order to remember that Christ is better than food.

Why is fish not considered meat?
Because it was the food of the poor who could not afford meat, yet could catch fish to sustain them.

So, what are the other days of fast and abstinence?
Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence – Friday was the day Christ died.

So, why do people “give up” things during Lent?
While we are not required to “give something up” we are required to do something penitential. Lent is a great time to break a bad habit and give it to the Lord. These sins and vices we should not take back after Lent. It is also a time to give something up that is good during this season. This is why people give up something they enjoy. In doing so we can draw closer to God by our temporary sacrifice. We should find an appropriate balance of giving something up and not completely cutting ourselves off of good things. We will find our need for God if we do it correctly.

What else then IS required during Lent?
The Church asks us to increase our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is assumed that we are already doing these things and should merely increase them.


Lent Begins

Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, we begin the holy season of Lent.  Reflecting on the meaning of Lent and doing the usual deliberation on my “Lenten Plan”, I found the Church already gave us a clue in this past Sunday’s Gospel:

And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases;
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man!
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
“But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. “Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
LK 6:17, 20-26

Notice how Luke’s Beatitudes are different than the ones we are accustomed to hearing in the Gospel of Matthew (blessed are the poor, blessed are the hungry).  Jesus does not refer to the poor or the hungry in generic terms here, but “He lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are YOU poor…blessed are YOU that hunger'”.  And likewise Jesus directed a stern warning to the disciples: “Woe to YOU…”.  Jesus speaks directly to His disciples, and in turn speaks directly to us.  If we are rich and full now–the terms Jesus used connote ‘absolute capacity’ or ‘completion’–we have no room for God or desire for fulfillment in Him.

Lent, therefore, is a holy season to examine ourselves and purge those things in us which leave little or no room for God, and renew our desire for holiness.  Pope Benedict in his Lenten Message instructs us:

Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. 

During the holy season of Lent, we are called to increase our normal practice of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.  What are these practices and what can we do to prepare for the Solemn Feast of Easter?  More to come.


For Kids: Curb Violence on TV-Stick to the Roman Martyrology

My wife and I are very conscious of what our young children watch on television and pretty much stick to commercial-free, rated-G programming.  We don’t subscribe to the thought that adult content goes ‘over their heads’.  So what captivates their attention and thirst for action?  The Lives of the Saints.  The last several days have presented us with some greats:  St. Agatha, St. Paul Miki and companions, St. Apolonia, St. Scholastica, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Eulalia.

After reading to my children the accounts of the early Christian Martyrs Agatha, Appolonia and Eulalia, they were enthralled and even told their friends and teachers.  Harsh interrogations, burned with hot irons and torches, flesh torn with hooks, rolled in burning coals and broken glass, teeth smashed out: all signify greater purpose, supreme love of God above all, and teach us virtue.  The Lives of the Saints are a treasure trove for all of us which captivates our attention, inspires us toward virtue and love of God.

Such graphic tales (and pleasant ones as well) elicit great questions from children and offer a unique opportunity to teach them about our Faith.  Why did these young women undergo such torture and death?  Upon hearing the account of St. Benedict’s vision of his twin sister’s (St. Scholastica) soul turning into a dove and flying heavenward: What is a soul?  Why is it invisible? Oh, that’s what lives forever with God in Heaven after our body dies!

The very reason the Church honors men and women with Sainthood is to provide us with examples of how to live a Christian life, how to love God, and ways to grow in virtue.  Who are our heroes?  Who do our children seek to emulate?  Ditch Sponge Bob and Hanna Montana and pick up Butler’s Lives of the Saints!


Fireworks for Our Lady of Lourdes

Today is the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.

In 1858, in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes in southern France, Our Lady appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, a young peasant girl.

She revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception, asked that a chapel be built on the site of the vision, and told the girl to drink from a fountain in the grotto.  No fountain was to be seen, but when Bernadette dug at a spot designated by the apparition, a spring began to flow. The water from this still flowing spring has shown remarkable healing power, though it contains no curative property that science can identify.

Lourdes has become the most famous modern shrine of Our Lady and has as many as 6 million pilgrims every year. 67 miraculous cures have been officially recognized and confirmed and one miraculous healing is reported every week.  For more info click  here and here.  Below is a clip from the fireworks display in honor of the Memorial.


The Japanese Martyrs

From an account of the martyrdom of Saint Paul Miki and his companions, by a contemporary writer (Office of Readings)

The crosses were set in place.  Father Pasio and Father Rodriguez took turns encouraging the victims. Their steadfast behaviour was wonderful to see.  The Father Bursar stood motionless, his eyes turned heavenward.  Brother Martin gave thanks to God’s goodness by singing psalms.  Again and again he repeated: “Into your hands, Lord, I entrust my life.”  Brother Francis Branco also thanked God in a loud voice.  Brother Gonsalvo in a very loud voice kept saying the Our Father and Hail Mary.

Our brother, Paul Miki, saw himself standing now in the noblest pulpit he had ever filled.  To his “congregation” he began by proclaiming himself a Japanese and a Jesuit.  He was dying for the Gospel he preached.  He gave thanks to God for this wonderful blessing and he ended his “sermon” with these words: “As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you.  And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way.  My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me.  I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death.  I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.” 

Then he looked at his comrades and began to encourage them in their final struggle.  Joy glowed in all their faces, and in Louis’ most of all.  When a Christian in the crowd cried out to him that he would soon be in heaven, his hands, his whole body strained upward with such joy that every eye was fixed on him.
 
Anthony, hanging at Louis’ side, looked toward heaven and called upon the holy names – “Jesus, Mary!” He began to sing a psalm: “Praise the Lord, you children!” (He learned it in catechism class in Nagasaki.  They take care there to teach the children some psalms to help them learn their catechism).
 
Others kept repeating “Jesus, Mary!” Their faces were serene.  Some of them even took to urging the people standing by to live worthy Christian lives.  In these and other ways they showed their readiness to die.
 
Then, according to Japanese custom, the four executioners began to unsheathe their spears.  At this dreadful sight, all the Christians cried out, “Jesus, Mary!” And the storm of anguished weeping then rose to batter the very skies.  The executioners killed them one by one.  One thrust of the spear, then a second blow.  It was over in a very short time.

Hear our prayer, O Lord our God:
  fill our minds with veneration of you
  and make us love all men as we ought.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
  God for ever and ever.
Amen.

St. Agatha: Patron Saint of Breast Cancer

Saint Agatha has been venerated as a virgin and martyr since the time of her death in AD 251.  Besides the Blessed Virgin Mary, she is only one of seven women saints commemorated in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer 1) and as early as the fifth century had two churches in Rome dedicated to her.  Born in Sicily to a noble family, Agatha was a devout Christian who dedicated her virginity to God.  Pursued by Quintianus, a prefect or governor, she rebuffed his advances.  He had Agatha arrested for being a Christian and forced her to renounce Christ.

Her documented legend speaks of the brutal interrogations and torture she endured at his hand.  When she refused she was imprisoned in a brothel, then a prison, stretched on the rack, burned with red hot irons and had her breasts cut off.  She had a apparition of St. Peter as a physician and was miraculously healed of her wounds.  Four days later upon further interrogation and to the surprise of her torturers, she was condemned to death by rolling her naked body in broken glass and hot coals.  At the very moment of her final torture a great earthquake struck the region.  Immediately before her death Saint Agatha was heard praying, “O Lord Jesus Christ, good Master, I give You thanks that You granted me victory over the executioners’ tortures.  Grant now that I may happily dwell in Your never-ending glory”.   
For more reading, go here and here.
Saint Agatha is the patron saint of breast cancer and victims of sexual assault.
 

Prayer to Saint Agatha

O Heavenly Father,
Who raised Agatha
to the dignity of Sainthood,
we implore Your Divine Majesty
by her intercession
to give us health of mind,
body and soul.
Free us from all those things
which hold us bound to this earth,
and let our spirit, like hers,
rise to your heavenly courts.
Through Jesus Christ,
Your Son, our Lord,
Who lives and reigns
with You, forever. Amen
.

To Priests: "You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have"

For the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John’s Seminary in Boston invited Dominican Fr. Romanus Cessario, OP to preach to the seminarians.  Fr. Cessario is a professor of dogmatic and moral theology at St. John’s, as well as an author and editor (I am a former student, though he doesn’t cite that in his credentials)

The “must-read” full text of the homily can be found here…below are excerpts (my emphasis):

Study for the Catholic priest remains a contemplative act. We do not read theology books to discover the knack of doing this or that, we do not ponder divine truth so that we can acquit ourselves of professional responsibilities, we do not undertake study even to develop the high-end skills of management or technology. We study so we can pray. The study of theology and the practice of contemplative prayer flow from the one and the same act of divine faith whereby we accept the Truth about God. For the priest, contemplative study provides the inexhaustible and irreplaceable source of everything that he does. No short cuts are available. No one is exempt. The Church developed a Latin adage to capture this basic truth of priestly formation. Nemo potest dare quod non habet. You can’t give what you do not have.
[…]
For the Catholic priest, especially the diocesan priest, the separation of study and prayer brings catastrophic results. No one more than the priest needs the experience of contemplative study. The reason is the Headship that the Church confides to the priest. The priest is not ordained to see about the practical details of programs and everyday activities. He is ordained to preach from the abundance of his heart. The only way that the priest’s heart obtains the abundance of divine truth that the world needs so desperately is through the prayerful study of divine truth. He needs to absorb it, to penetrate it, to make it his own, like breathing in and breathing out. St. Thomas recognized that study does not come easy. Like every good action, study requires a virtuous formation to ensure that our study achieves the desired effect.

Lay people as well ought to adopt the habitus of study and spiritual reading.  Making time is half the battle…episodes of Jersey Shore may be relaxing entertainment but will not improve the quality of your life…I’m pretty certain of that.  I came across a great quote from Fr. Larry Richards (from a video on the Archdiocese of Boston “Confession site”): “If you dropped dead right now and God offered to give you ‘what you love the most’ for all eternity, would it be Him?”  Happy reading.


Year for Priests First Thursday Indulgence Reminder

 Here’s a reminder for tomorrow:

original post
During the Year for Priests which began on June 19, 2009 and will end on June 19, 2010, the gift of special Indulgences is granted as described in the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, published on 12 May. The instructions for priests and for the faithful are as follows:
A. Truly repentant priests who, on any day, devoutly recite at least morning Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed for public adoration or replaced in the tabernacle, and who, after the example of St John Mary Vianney, offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the sacraments, especially Confession, are mercifully granted in God the Plenary Indulgence which they may also apply to their deceased brethren in suffrage, if, in conformity with the current norms, they receive sacramental confession and the Eucharistic banquet and pray for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions.
Furthermore the Partial Indulgence is granted to priests who may apply it to their deceased confreres every time that they devoutly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a holy life and to carry out in a holy manner the offices entrusted to them.
B. The Plenary Indulgence is granted to all the faithful who are truly repentant who, in church or in chapel, devoutly attend the divine Sacrifice of Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest, for the priests of the Church, and any other good work which they have done on that day, so that he may sanctify them and form them in accordance with His Heart, as long as they have made expiation for their sins through sacramental confession and prayed in accordance with the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions: on the days in which the Year for Priests begins and ends, on the day of the 150th anniversary of the pious passing of St John Mary Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month or on any other day established by the local Ordinaries for the benefit of the faithful.


Archdiocese of Boston is "Leaving the Light On for You"

This upcoming Lenten season Cardinal O’Malley and the Archdiocese of Boston is inviting everyone to return to the practice of frequenting the Sacrament of Penance.   Beginning Wednesday, February 24th, and continuing every Wednesday throughout the season of Lent, every Church and Chapel in the Archdiocese will be open from 6:30-8:00 PM for Confession.  They have launched a website with excellent resources (videos and documents) on how to make a proper confession, an examination of conscience, and focused examinations for married couples, priests and religious and teens.

Definitely worth a look! (website here)


The Mendicant Friars Necessary Today

Pope Benedict has dedicated these past Wednesday Audiences to teaching about the great mendicant friars, St. Francis and St. Dominic.  These two pillars of renewal were called by the Spirit to transform the “dramatic and disquieting situation of the Church at that time, with her superficial faith that neither formed nor transformed life, her clergy little committed to its duties,…and the interior decay of her unity due to the rise of heretical movements”.

At last week’s Wednesday Audience Pope Benedict dedicated his catechesis to St. Francis of Assisi, referring to him as “a true giant of sanctity who continues to enthrall many people of all ages and religious beliefs”.  The Holy Father mentioned Pope Innocent III’s dream in which he saw the Basilica of St. John Lateran about to collapse, but a ‘small insignificant friar’ held it up to prevent its fall.  Pope Innocent recognized the friar to be Francis.  “Innocent III was a powerful Pontiff, who possessed profound theological culture as well as great political power, but it was not he who renewed the Church.  It was the ‘small and insignificant’ friar, it was Francis, called by God.  Yet important to recall that Francis did not renew the Church without the Pope or against the Pope, but in communion with him.  The two things went together: Peter’s Successor, the bishops and the Church founded on apostolic succession, and the new charism that the Spirit had created at that moment to renew the Church”.

At today’s audience Pope Benedict heralded the life and legacy of Saint Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers.  Shortly before his birth in Caleruega, Spain in 1170, his mother, Bl. Juana of Osma, dreamed that a dog leapt from her womb carrying a torch in its mouth and seemed to set the world ablaze.  Dominic “distinguished himself for his interest in the study of Sacred Scriptures and his love for the poor”.  After his ordiantion to the priesthood and election as a canon of the cathedral of Osma “he did not consider this as a personal privilege, nor as the first step in a brilliant ecclesiastical career; rather, as a service to be rendered with dedication and humility.  Do not career and power represent a temptation to which even those who have roles of leadership and government in the Church are not immune?” the pope asked.

Upon traveling on diplomatic missions St. Dominic became aware of “the existence of peoples still un-evangelized,…and of the religious divides that weakened Christian life in the South of France, where activity of certain heretical groups created disturbance and distanced people from the truth of the faith”.  Dominic was asked by Pope Honorius III “to dedicate himself to preaching to the Albigensians” and he “enthusiastically accepted the mission, which he undertook through the example of his own life of poverty and austerity, through preaching the Gospel and through public discussions”. 

It was Dominic’s itinerant apostolic life, rooted in “solid theological formation”, “founded on Holy Scripture but respectful of the questions raised by reason” that sparked renewal in the Church.  Pope Benedict teaches that “Christ is the most precious treasure that men and women of all times and places have the right to know and love!  It is consoling to see how also in today’s Church there are many people (pastors and lay faithful, members of ancient religious orders and of new ecclesial movements) who joyfully give their lives for the supreme ideal of announcing and bearing witness to the Gospel”.  He encouraged everyone, “pastors and lay people, to cultivate this ‘cultural dimension’ of the faith, that the beauty of Christian truth may be better understood and the faith truly nourished, strengthened and defended.  In this Year for Priests, I invite seminarians and priests to respect the spiritual value of study.  The quality of priestly ministry also depends on the generosity with which we apply ourselves to studying revealed truths”.

Pope Benedict concluded, “With his sanctity, he shows us two indispensable means for making apostolic activity more incisive; firstly Marian Devotion, especially the praying of the Rosary which his spiritual children had the great merit of popularizing, and secondly, the value of prayers of intercession for the success of apostolic work”.

Pray for all Franciscans and Dominicans, an increase in vocations to their consecrated life, and a renewed fidelity to their great founders’ calling to make the most precious Treasure known, loved and defended.

Saint Francis and Saint Dominic pray for us!