Category Archives: Lent

Holy Week: loving life as Jesus does…

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-by Nic Davidson and his wife joined the Church in ’08 after growing up in the Assemblies of God.

“I love life.

I enjoy being alive. I am not oblivious to the great gifts that God and others have given me. At least once a day, I get a small wave of giddiness at being allowed to receive the next breath or do some mundane act. So, I do love life.

I just wish I loved it more.

I rarely appreciate the magnitude of existing. I have so forgotten what a singular privilege it is to have a heartbeat that I let my heart settle. I settle down, like silt. I settle for less–less than I was made for. I settle scores–scores and scores of wrongdoings. I receive 23,000 breaths a day, all gifts, all miracles of biology, physics, and spirit, and what do I do with them? Occasionally, something true, good, and beautiful, but most often, something drab, gray, and short-tempered, aimed at the ones I’m supposed to love.

I love others.

I love my family, of course, and I also love to encounter a new face on a plane as we’re forced to cram our cramped thighs down next to each other for two hours. I often can’t help but grin like a fool at a random passerby, just because I catch a glimpse of his or her grandeur. So, I do love others.

I just wish I loved them more.

I do love them enough to care about the wrongs and ills that plague them–abortion, euthanasia, war, sex slavery, porn, divorce, refugees, and abuse; but I want to love them more, enough to care about their taxes, best friends, worst enemies, “likes,” and “unfriends.” I want to care about the gas station attendant more than I care about getting home to relax or moving on to the next thing.

I love this point in my life.

I am thankful for the endless times God’s hand–sometimes seen, sometimes unseen–has slalomed me through my days in order to bring me to this moment, complete with a family that loves me and a job that energizes me. I can’t think of any other time in my life that I would want to trade out for this one. So, I do love my “now”.

I just wish I loved it more.

I wish I were sublimely glad that I’m here on this planet, so my weeks and years could avoid boiling down to wishing I were elsewhere. I forget how to receive my minutes as a gift, so I feel cheated and wounded when someone takes an extra second of “my” time. I forget how to give, so everything feels like taking.

All said and done, I wish I were more like Christ. I wish I could encounter each person with the firm care that He does. Jesus, our Lover and our Leader, experienced the entire spectrum of human emotion, intellect, and will, and throughout each second, He loved. Every time He reprimanded someone or pushed their table over or was angry, He was, with each breath and each action, still deeply and eternally in love with that soul, still as compassionate as the times He healed, encouraged, and brought back to life.

I want to love and live like that.

I want to get angry at people in the right way, because I am, first, in love with them like Christ is in love with them. I want to see that they are good beings, so that I can truly look out for their well-being. I want to see the light of God within them to the point that I almost have to squint.

I want to love life so much that I’m willing to die.

I want to hold human existence in high enough esteem that I see the beauty and power in setting it down as a gift for others. I don’t want to be so busy saying “this is mine” that I miss out on the joy in saying “I got this for you.” I want to see and believe that loving someone else will always entail carrying them, but that it’s less like the weight of an unwanted hitchhiker and much and much more like giving a piggyback ride to a child or the weight of a spouse in the marriage bed.

In fact, the weight of human life is always, always good, even if it means nails, thorns, and tombs. Why? Because the pain brings redemption, the wounds turn to scars, and the tomb remains empty!

So, maybe I don’t love enough.

I don’t love the fact that life exists. I don’t love myself or others the way I was made to. I might not, at this moment, be climbing the heights of love that I was created for, but I do know that it was His love that brought me safe thus-far and that if He begins something, He’s faithful to complete it. In fact, that’s the beautiful message of this gospel of life (evangelium vitae)–that our seemingly feeble attempts at love, our lackluster stutter steps not only make Him proud, but that His strength is most evident in my weakness.

I may run slowly, but it will always be His mercy that finishes the race.”

Love, and loving life! His will be done! His Kingdom come!
Matthew

Good Friday – Adoration of the Cross, Crux Fidelis

CRUX fidelis,
inter omnes
arbor una nobilis;
nulla talem silva profert,
flore, fronde, germine.
Dulce lignum, dulci clavo,
dulce pondus sustinens!

Flecte ramos, arbor alta,
tensa laxa viscera,
et rigor lentescat ille,
quem dedit nativitas,
ut superni membra Regis
miti tendas stipite.

Sola digna tu fuisti
ferre saeculi pretium,
atque portum praeparare
nauta mundo naufrago,
quem sacer cruor perunxit,
fusus Agni corpore.

Aequa Patri Filioque,
inclito Paraclito,
sempiterna sit beatae
Trinitati gloria,
cuius alma nos redemit
atque servat gratia. Amen.

FAITHFUL Cross!
above all other,
one and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peers may be;
sweetest wood and sweetest iron!
Sweetest Weight is hung on thee!

Lofty tree, bend down thy branches,
to embrace thy sacred load;
oh, relax the native tension
of that all too rigid wood;
gently, gently bear the members
of thy dying King and God.

Tree, which solely wast found worthy
the world’s Victim to sustain.
harbor from the raging tempest!
ark, that saved the world again!
Tree, with sacred blood anointed
of the Lamb for sinners slain.

Blessing, honor, everlasting,
to the immortal Deity;
to the Father, Son, and Spirit,
equal praises ever be;
glory through the earth and heaven
to Trinity in Unity. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

“Labor while it is yet day.” -St Ambrose, (340-397 AD), Doctor & Father of the Church

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“Give thanks, Brethren, to the Divine Mercy which has brought you safely halfway through the season of Lent. For this favor they give praise to God, thankfully and with devotion, who in these days have striven to live in the manner which they were instructed at the beginning of Lent; that is, those who, coming with eagerness to the Church, have sought with sighs and tears, in daily fasting and alms deeds, to obtain the forgiveness of their sins.

They, however, who have neglected this duty, that is to say, those who have not fasted daily, or given alms, or those who were indifferent or unmoved in prayer, they have no reason to rejoice, but rather, unhappy that they are, for mourning. Yet let them not mourn as if they had no hope; for He Who could give back sight to the blind from birth (cf. Jn 9), can likewise change those who now are lukewarm and indifferent into souls fervent and zealous in His service, if with their whole heart they desire to be converted unto Him. Let such persons acknowledge their own blindness of heart, and let them draw near to the Divine Physician that they may be restored to sight.

Would that you might seek the medicine of the soul when you have sinned, as you seek that of the body when you are ill in the flesh. Who now in this so great assembly were he condemned, not to be put to death, but to be deprived of his sight only, would not give all he possessed to escape the danger? And if you so fear the death of the flesh, what do you not fear more than the death of the spirit, especially since the pains of death, that is, of the body, are but of an hour, whilst the death of the soul, that is, its punishment and its grieving, has no end? And if you love the eyes of your body, that you soon will lose in death, why do you not love those eyes of the soul by which you may see your Lord and your God forever?

Labor therefore, Beloved Children in the Lord, labor while it is yet day; for as Christ Our Lord says, The night cometh, when no man can work (Jn 9:4) Daytime is this present life; night is death, and the time that follows death. If after this life there is no more freedom to work, as the Truth tells us, why then does every man not labor while he yet lives in this world?

Be fearful, Brethren, of this death, of which the Savior says: The night cometh, when no man can work. All those who now work evil are without fear of this death, and because of this, when they depart from this life they shall encounter everlasting death. Labor while yet ye live, and particularly in these days; fasting from delicate fare, withholding yourselves at all time from evil works. For those that abstain from food, but do not withhold themselves from wickedness, are like to the devil, who while he eats not, yet never ceases from evildoing. And lastly, you must know that what you deny yourself in fasting, you must give to heaven in the poor.

Fulfill in work, Brethren, the lesson of this day . . . lest there come upon you the chastisement of the Jews. For they said to the blind man: Be thou his disciple (Jn 9:28). What does being a disciple of Christ mean if not to be an imitator of His compassion, and a follower of His truth and humility? But they said this meaning to curse the man. Instead it is a truly great blessing, to which may you also attain, by His grace Who liveth and reigneth unto ages of ages. Amen.”

St. Ambrose, Sermon on Lent

Love,
Matthew

Stations of the Cross

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-Durward’s Glen (please click on the image for greater detail)

“God, deliver me from sullen saints!”St Teresa of Avila, OCD

Kelly, Mara, and I have been invited to enjoy Stations of the Cross at the beautiful Durward’s Glen Retreat this Good Friday. I am looking forward to it very much.

I have been much flattered in the past to be asked to lead the Stations of the Cross at Mundelein Seminary for the Old St Pat’s RCIA community. There is a funny story with that one. It is dark by the time we begin. I much favor traveling by foot to each station. The movement allows one to more fully and readily enter the Via Crucis. Parts of RCIA community were selected at random to read each station. There were innocent mispronunciations while I carried this very large, but not so heavy, cross. The mis-pronouncements made my start to laugh, I don’t know why, hysterically.

Well, laughter from the guy carrying the cross in the Stations of the Cross just do not go together! They don’t! No one could see the expression on my face because of the dim light, so I just HAD to bite my tongue/lip, while DYING, maintaining a solemn posture and presence. Each station a new mispronunciation would ensue, and I would DIE EVEN MORE!!!

I almost stumbled in a depression in the grass while walking and this did not help. I am sure by the end, I was bleeding somewhere where I had bitten to stop myself from making sounds of hilarity during the Stations of the Cross. When they were over I had to return to my room to compose myself, lest anyone see me less than dour. 🙂

Have you ever done the Stations of the Cross, but thought perhaps you had been reading an airline flight schedule? There are odd versions of the Stations out there. Whether they’re disjointed, sappy, or downright heterodox, some booklets have caused people to think of the Stations of the Cross as not being worthwhile. Why bother with the “Catholic calisthenics” when the underlying point behind them is misrepresented?

What is the will of God?  The Cross is the will of God.

Kevin_Cotter
-by Kevin Cotter

“The Stations of the Cross are an ancient tradition in the Catholic Church going back to the fourth century when Christians went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Like many of our Catholic traditions, the Stations of the Cross can be rich, deep, and meaningful, but at the same time we can lose sight of their significance and how to relate them to our everyday lives.

1. They Allow Us to Place Our Trust in Him.

“The Cross of Christ contains all the love of God; there we find His immeasurable mercy. This is a love in which we can place all our trust, in which we can believe…. let us entrust ourselves to Jesus, let us give ourselves over to Him, because He never disappoints anyone! Only in Christ crucified and risen can we find salvation and redemption.” — Pope Francis, Address, World Youth Day, Way of the Cross, July 26, 2013

2. They Put Us into the Story.

“And you, who do you want to be? Like Pilate? Like Simon? Like Mary? Jesus is looking at you now and is asking you: do you want to help Me carry the Cross? Brothers and sisters, with all the strength of your youth, how will you respond to Him?” —Pope Francis, Address, World Youth Day, Way of the Cross, July 26, 2013

3. They Remind Us That Jesus Suffers with Us.

“The Cross of Christ bears the suffering and the sin of mankind, including our own. Jesus accepts all this with open arms, bearing on His shoulders our crosses and saying to us: ‘Have courage! You do not carry your cross alone! I carry it with you. I have overcome death and I have come to give you hope, to give you life’ (cf. Jn 3:16).” —Pope Francis, Address, World Youth Day, Way of the Cross, July 26, 2013

4. They Compel Us to Action.

“But the Cross of Christ invites us also to allow ourselves to be smitten by His love, teaching us always to look upon others with mercy and tenderness, especially those who suffer, who are in need of help, who need a word or a concrete action.” —Pope Francis, Address, World Youth Day, Way of the Cross, July 26, 2013

5. They Helps Us Make a Decision for or Against Christ.

“[The Cross] reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us. Let us remember this: God judges us by loving us. If I embrace His love then I am saved, if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by Him, but my own self, because God never condemns, He only loves and saves.” —Pope Francis, Address, Good Friday, March 29, 2013

6. They Reveal God’s Response to Evil in the World.

“The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if He is silent. And yet, God has spoken, He has replied, and His answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness.” – Pope Francis, Address, Good Friday, March 29, 2013

7. They Give Us the Certainty of God’s Love for Us.

“What has the Cross given to those who have gazed upon it and to those who have touched it? What has the Cross left in each one of us? You see, it gives us a treasure that no one else can give: the certainty of the faithful love which God has for us.” – Pope Francis, Address, World Youth Day, Way of the Cross, July 26, 2013

8. They Guide Us from the Cross to the Resurrection.

“O, Our Jesus, guide us from the Cross to the resurrection and teach us that evil shall not have the last word, but love, mercy and forgiveness. O Christ, help us to exclaim again: ‘Yesterday I was crucified with Christ; today I am glorified with Him. Yesterday I died with Him, today I live with Him. Yesterday I was buried with Him, today I am raised with Him’”.” – Pope Francis, Address, Good Friday, April 18, 2014

Love,
Matthew

Introduction to “The Sadness of Christ”, by St Thomas More

Sir_Thomas_More_family's_vault_in_St_Dunstan's_Church_(Canterbury)

“I am sorrowful, even unto death.” Mt 26:38

The History of the Passion closes the long list of works, both Latin and English, written by St. Thomas More. His imprisonment in the Tower lasted from April 17 , 1534, to July 6, 1535, the day of his martyrdom.

From the beginning he knew that he was never likely to regain his freedom and determined to make the best possible use of his time as a preparation for death. In all sincerity he expressed his satisfaction at obtaining so valuable a period of quiet and recollection for prayer and study.

To Margaret Roper, his beloved daughter, he wrote of his appreciation of the grace of God that ‘hath also put in the king towards me that good and gracious mind, that as yet he hath taken from me nothing but my liberty, wherewith (as help me God) his grace hath done me great good by the spiritual profit that I trust I take thereby, that among all his great benefits heaped upon me so thick I reckon, upon my faith, my imprisonment even the very chief.’ 1

Similarly on another occasion he said to her: ‘They that have put me here ween they have done me a high displeasure.’… ‘I find no cause, I thank God, Meg, to reckon myself in worse case here than in my own house. For methinketh God maketh me a wanton and setteth me on his lap and dandleth me.’ 2

He had spent long years in writing against the new heresies the controversial books which form the bulk of his English works, but now, although occasional references to current controversies are still to be found, his chief preoccupation is to prepare himself, and his family, too, for the inevitable separation of death. Thus did he write the Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation and the History of the Passion.

Devotion to our Lord’s passion was familiar to him. ‘Every year on Good Friday,’ writes Stapleton, ‘he called together the whole of his family into what was called the New Building, and there he would have the whole of our Lord’s passion read to them, generally by John Harris. From time to time More would interrupt the reading with a few words of pious exhortation.’ 3 It may well be that in the present work we have echoes of those exhortations. Another clue to their contents may perhaps be provided by More’s words to Tyndale: ‘Who can speak of Christ’s passion and speak nothing of His mercy?’ 4

Pico of Mirandula, whom More in his early years had chosen as a model, upon his death-bed gazed upon the crucifix, ‘that in the image of Christ’s ineffable passion, suffered for our sake, he might, ere he gave up the ghost, receive his full draught of love and compassion in the beholding of that pitiful figure, as a strong defence against all adversity, and a sure portcullis against wicked spirits.’ 5

More, too, wished his last thoughts to be with his crucified saviour. To Cromwell, who examined him concerning the new statute by which the king was declared supreme head of the Church, he replied: ‘I have fully determined with myself neither to study nor meddle with any matter of this world, but that my whole study should be upon the passion of Christ and mine own passage out of this world.’ 6

From the number of references to our Lord’s passion in the letters which he wrote during his imprisonment it is clear that he kept this resolution faithfully. Thus speaking of his death he says : ‘The fear thereof, I thank our Lord, the fear of hell, the hope of heaven, and the passion of Christ daily more and more assuage.’ And in the same letter: ‘I beseech Him to…give me grace and you both in all our agonies and troubles devoutly to resort prostrate unto the remembrance of that bitter agony which our Saviour suffered before His passion at the mount. And if we diligently do so, I verily trust we shall find therein great comfort and consolation.’ 7 In another he writes of the fall of St. Peter who ‘fell in such fear soon after, that at the word of a simple girl he forsook and forswore our Saviour,’ and takes warning to himself by the example. 8

The Dialogue of Comfort, written at the same time, bears similar witness to the constant preoccupation of his mind with our Lord’s passion. It is not too much to say that the moving passage on the subject in the last chapter is the grand climax towards which everything else in the book leads. ‘If we could and would,’ he writes, ‘with due compassion conceive in our minds a right imagination and remembrance of Christ’s bitter painful passion, of the many sore bloody strokes that the cruel tormentors with rods and whips gave Him upon every part of his holy tender body, the scornful crown of sharp thorns beaten down upon His holy head, so straight and so deep that on every part His blessed blood issued out and streamed down, His lovely limbs drawn and stretched out upon the cross to the intolerable pain of His forebeaten and sore beaten veins and sinews, new feeling, with the cruel stretching and straining, pain far passing any cramp in every part of His blessed body at once, then the great long nails cruelly driven with hammers through His holy hands and feet, and in this horrible pain lift up and let hang, with the peise (weight) of all His body bearing down upon the painful wounded places, so grievously pierced with nails, and in such torment (without pity, but not without many despites), suffered to be pined and pained the space of more than three long hours, till Himself willingly gave up unto His Father His holy soul, after which yet to shew the mightiness of their malice after His holy soul departed they pierced His holy heart with a sharp spear, at which issued out the holy blood and water whereof His holy sacraments have inestimable secret strength: if we would, I say, remember these things in such wise, as would God we would, I verily suppose that the consideration of His incomparable kindness could not in such wise fail to inflame our key-cold hearts, and set them on fire in His love, that we should find ourselves not only content, but also glad and desirous, to suffer death for His sake that so marvellous lovingly letted not to sustain so far passing painful death for ours.’ 9

Passio Christi, conforta me , prays St. Ignatius, ‘Passion of Christ, strengthen me.’ It was from his meditations upon our Lord’s passion that St. Thomas drew the strength to suffer martyrdom. To the very end it was his comfort and his support. Thus he set out upon his last journey up Tower Hill with a cross in his hand, and in his reply to the good lady who offered him wine showed how his thoughts were with Him who died for us upon the cross. ‘Christ in His passion,’ he said, ‘was given not wine, but vinegar to drink.’ 10

1 English Works , 1557, p. 1442 E.
2 Roper’s Life of More , E.E.T.S., p. 76.
3 Life of Sir T. More , Eng. trans., p. 96.
4 E.W. , p. 408, B.
5 ibid., p. 8, F.
6 ibid., p. 1452, A.
7 ibid., p. 1431, E. and H.
8 ibid., p. 1442, G.
9 E.W., p. 1260, E.
10 Stapleton, l.c. 209.

Sir Thomas More’s Psalm on Detachment

(Written while imprisoned in the Tower of London, 1534)
Give me Thy grace, good Lord:
To set the world at nought;
To set my mind fast upon Thee,
And not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths;
To be content to be solitary,
Not to long for worldly company;
Little and little utterly to cast off the world,
And rid my mind of all the business thereof;
Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me displeasant;
Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for His help;
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labor to love Him;
To know mine own vility and wretchedness,
To humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God;
To bewail my sins passed,
For the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity;
Gladly to bear my purgatory here,
To be joyful of tribulations;
To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life,
To bear the cross with Christ;
To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand;
To make death no stranger to me,
To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell;
To pray for pardon before the Judge come,
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me;
For His benefits uncessantly to give Him thanks,
To buy the time again that I before have lost;
To abstain from vain confabulations,
To eschew light foolish mirth and gladness;
Recreations not necessary — to cut off;
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss
at right nought for the winning of Christ;
To think my most enemies my best friends,
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.
These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasure of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it
gathered and laid together all upon one heap.

-from Complete Works of St. Thomas More , vol. 13 (Yale University Press, 1976), pp. 226-227). Modernized in Sadness of Christ and Final Prayers and Instructions (Scepter Press, 1993), pp. 148-150).

Love, and praying, wishing for you a blessed & spiritually fruitful Lent,
Matthew

The temptation we face to come down from/put down our Crosses…

Cross-FS

“Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.” – Mt 16:24

As life goes along, rather light-of-foot/quickly/ too quickly, if you ask anyone with a few years under the belt, this temptation grows stronger as we grow weaker, more feeble, more tired, more infirm.

An elderly woman in a wheelchair once commented, respectfully, to a much younger priest, when the priest reminded her of the Passion of Our Lord in regards to her own troubles, “Yes, but He was only thirty-three.” I, myself, have harbored such thoughts, and I am only middle-aged.

msgr_charles_pope
-by Msgr Charles Pope

“One of the most remarkable aspects of the crucifixion of Jesus is the humble reserve He displayed. As God, He had the power to end His suffering and humiliation in an instant. He had already reminded Peter, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Mt 26:52-54)

And now, as Jesus hung on the Cross, Satan and the crowds give Him one final temptation: the call to come down from the Cross:

“Those who passed by hurled insults at Him, shaking their heads and saying, “You Who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! Come down from the cross, if You are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked Him. “He saved others,” they said, “but He can’t save Himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue Him now if He wants Him, for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with Him also heaped insults on Him.” (Mt 27:39-44)

The temptation is to pride and power, comfort and ease, to anything but the Cross. They seem to taunt Him by saying, “Since God is powerful, if You were God, You would have the power to come down and not be overpowered by Your enemy.”

The temptation is very crafty and very worldly. To the worldly-minded, the demand makes sense. In effect, they are saying, “If it’s faith You want from me, You can have it if You’ll just come down from the cross. Then I’ll be impressed; then I’ll believe.” In effect and truth, the tempters want to be saved on their own terms.

Why does Jesus stay on the Cross? For three reasons, at least:

1. Humility – Jesus is out to overcome Satan. In the world, we seek to overpower our foes. Does it work? No. Usually the cycle of violence just continues and in fact often gets worse. We think, “If I can just yell louder and outwit or outgun my opponent, I’ll win the day.” Yes, but there’s more to life than one day. The next day your opponent returns with louder and wittier arguments and bigger guns. And the cycle of violence goes on. It is an endless power struggle.

But as was once said, Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that. And I would add that here at the Cross, pride cannot drive out pride, only humility can do that.

And therefore, although the crowd and Satan try to coax Jesus into a power struggle, the Lord chooses the only weapon that is truly effective against pride: humility. Humility is like kryptonite to the Devil!

To our eyes, it seems that the Lord is defeated. But in His humility, the Lord is doing more damage to Satan than we could ever imagine. He stays on the Cross to defeat Satan’s pride by His own profound humility. Jesus does this despite Satan’s desperate attempts to engage His pride, and entice Him into a power struggle.

2. ObedienceIt was disobedience that got us into trouble in the first place. And it will be obedience that restores us. Adam said, “No.” Jesus, the New Adam, says “Yes.” It is not essentially the suffering of Jesus that saves us; rather, it is His obedience. And Jesus’ suffering is part of that obedience.

Jesus decides to obey His Father, no matter the cost. Isaiah says of Jesus, “He suffered because He willed it.” (Is 53:7) St. Thomas says that if Jesus had suffered and gone to the cross, but not willed it, we would not be saved. Jesus Himself said, “No one takes my life from me, I lay it down freely. (Jn 10:18) St John Cassian says, “We are saved by the human decision of a divine person.”

Jesus went to the Cross and decided to stay on the Cross in obedience. And it is by His obedience, by His will to obey and to save us, that we are saved.  (AMEN!!!  AMEN!!! AMEN!!!  Praise Him, Church!!!)

3. To save ME!!! – On a more personal level, we can also see (based on what has already been said), that Jesus decided to stay on the Cross to save ME. No, really, ME!! If He had come down, I WOULD NOT be saved; you WOULD NOT be saved. We might have been impressed; we might have even had a kind of faith. But it would not be a SAVING FAITH.

Pure and simple, Jesus decided to stay on the Cross and to endure mockery, shame, pain, and death, in order to save a poor sinner like me. An old gospel song says:

When Jesus hung on Calvary, people came from miles to see
They said, If you be the Christ, come down and save your life

But Jesus, sweet Jesus, never answered them
For He knew that Satan was tempting

If He had come down from the cross, my soul would still be lost
If He had come down from the cross, my soul would still be lost

He would not come down from the cross just to save Himself
He decided to die just to save me.”

“I am still more, with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, far worse beatings, and numerous brushes with death. Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?”
—2 Corinthians 11:23-29

Love,
Matthew

Spiritual Deep Cleaning

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deep-cleaning

megantwomey
-by Megan Twomey

“I am not a natural deep cleaner. Extensive projects that involve organizing minutiae, inordinate scrubbing, and rubber gloves are just not my thing. Now I’m the first person to be stressed when my house looks a mess. In fits of cleaning, I tear through the house like a hurricane tidying stray toys, wiping down counters, and shepherding dirty laundry into the hamper. I will pull out the vacuum minutes before guests arrive or re-arrange the shoes by the back door for the hundredth time. Yet, when it comes to making sure things are really and truly spotless, inside and out, I often shirk. I can honestly count the number of times I’ve cleaned the outside of my windows on one hand. I recently cleaned the inside of my fridge in a moment of Lenten intensity, and, let me tell you, it had gotten pretty bad. It’s easy to ignore the dirt and mess that few see and focus on creating a tidy appearance to passersby.

Often I find myself falling into the same trap spiritually: ignoring the real deep problems in my soul and concentrating on keeping myself looking spiritually clean. Jesus pointed out this problem in the Pharisees; in fact, He called them “whited spelchures” for following the exterior law while neglecting to have charity in their hearts (cf. Matthew 23:27). That is a very serious accusation: to be rotten at the core while appearing morally upright. I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of spiritual sloth (acedia, a deadly sin), but all of us can suffer from it, even those who are honestly seeking holiness.

It took me almost all forty days to realize that I had taken the easy spiritual road this Lent. Instead of really examining what in my life was keeping me from getting closer to Christ, I made a few resolutions and sacrifices that would be easy to identify. I did not earnestly search my soul for the areas of selfishness and sin that were hindering my spiritual life. Then, I wondered why I didn’t seem to be making any spiritual progress.

The thing about Lent is that when we remove things from our life, we are meant to replace them with Christ. We sacrifice things that in our suffering we are brought closer to the suffering Christ, but also that we may find that the things of this world for which we hold affection are poor substitutes for spiritual things.

I forgot that this Lent. I gave up sweets and mostly replaced it with…whining about needing more sweets. I found several weeks in that, had I really done some serious examination, there was something else with a hold on me. I had been using social media as more than an occasional outlet for connecting with world.

Whenever I found myself with a free or quiet minute, I was checking, scrolling, and reading every post I came across. With access to a smart phone, I was trying to escape the things I didn’t want to face in my life. When I found myself impatient with my kids for interrupting an article I was reading or wasting valuable time with my husband on the computer, I knew that a fun tool had become a problem.

Thankfully, Lent is not the only time we can make changes in our spiritual life and it is never too late to turn to Christ. I took a long look at my behavior and headed to confession as soon as I could. The sacrament of confession is the perfect opportunity to start on that spiritual deep cleaning we often ignore.  (Ed. Drag yourself there, kicking & screaming, if only inside, if you must, but go!!!!!  All you have to do is get yourself in front of the priest.  He will, or should be, a MAJOR help from that point forward.  Hey, he does this for a living!!!  You are not the first, very likely, you won’t be the last, very likely, and you are not the worst, almost certainly.  I would also bet whatever major hangup you have to lay on him, it’s probably not the first time he’s heard that one, just my strong suspicion.  Just.  He’s a professional.  He can handle it.  Let him take over.  It’s his thing.  Let go!!!  Give it to JESUS!!!)

There’s a reason the Church requires yearly confession and encourages it much more often: it forces us to examine our consciences thoroughly, to admit out loud the things that keep us from God, and to turn toward Christ for spiritual rebuilding. A good confession can put us back on track and remind us not to settle for the appearance of holiness. When we peer deep into our souls and search out the things that are keeping us from pursuing Christ, we can begin the difficult but worthwhile task of working with the Holy Spirit to put our souls in order.  (No substitutes!!!  Do it!!!)

The condition of your soul is a project that will take more than a weekend and more than a liturgical season, it is a lifetime pursuit.  AMEN.  AMEN.  AMEN.  The Saints have told us that the road to perfection isn’t easy and that it looks different for every soul. (Which is EXACTLY WHY THEY are such excellent guides and companions!!!)  Some are purified by great trials and others, like St. Therese, take a little way of daily sacrifice. Whatever our spiritual journey, we are all called to examine our souls, to root out sin, and seek after Christ with all we have. When we pursue true holiness, it will require everything of us, but our Savior deserves nothing less.”  AMEN.

Love,
Matthew

Lent, Suffering, & Offering it Up!!!

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liana_mueller
-by Lliana Mueller

“Lent causes suffering. The small (perhaps large to us) sacrifices that we make are meant to bring us closer to the cross. They are meant to bring us to greater reliance on Jesus instead of whatever it is we’ve chosen to give up. We can also “offer up” our myriad annoyances and sufferings, or the fact that we’ve committed not to eating chocolate and there is a chocolate birthday cake in the break room. These offerings can benefit our loved ones or the greater world. Your current suffering might involve feeling constantly exhausted due to the demands of caring for young children that don’t sleep through the night. Maybe you’re a student spreading yourself thin with academics, jobs, and extracurriculars. No matter your current state in life and the challenges that have come with it, at any given moment there is always someone suffering much, more more.

Naturally, we try to avoid suffering. It isn’t pleasant. When we’ve experienced one setback after another, or a day when absolutely every moment seems filled with a disaster, it’s easy to feel “woe is me.” We are human and need to process our frustrations, and at times may need to take steps to change a situation. But the moment we begin to dwell on the negatives is the moment where selfishness creeps in and we become the most important person. We forget the sufferings of so many brothers and sisters, both within our own circles and throughout the entire world. Instead of spiraling into bitterness about the sufferings that we have been asked to carry, or even put upon ourselves in some way, what if we remembered the suffering of someone else? What if we “offered it up,” benefitting another human being? In the process, we, too, can become better people.

Let’s take a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Though this paragraph is about illness specifically, I believe it can apply to suffering in general and how it hinders or helps us.
“Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.” (¶1501, Catechism of the Catholic Church)

As I gripe about car problems and issues at work, I forget that having a job and a car are luxuries. A stable job that allows one to support a family shouldn’t be a luxury, but sadly these days it is. Poverty is a stark reality for millions of people throughout the world. Jobs that will support a family in third world countries are scarce, and many times when food is available, parents make the choice to feed their children and go without. Some people walk hours to their jobs that barely pay. Many in the United States involuntarily rely on public transit systems that can be unreliable and add large amounts of time to a commute, and that may force them to stand outside in sub-zero temperatures in order to keep a roof over their family’s head. Most of what we complain about is actually a blessing, and too often we forget that.

As we finish up this Lent and walk into Holy Week, let’s finish strong. Let’s allow our small burdens to mature us and also, in some way unknown to us, benefit our suffering brothers and sisters. May we embrace the cross and have a greater realization of Jesus’ love for us, as well as the immense sufferings that so many people throughout the world carry daily.”

Love & compassion,
Matthew

Faith means to stay – the Faithful, momentary Sorrowful Mother

keep-calm-for-i-have-overcome-the-world

Jn 6:68

This 13th-century hymn is variously attributed to Gregory I, Bernard of Clairvaux, Pope Innocent III, St. Bonaventura, Jacopone da Todi, Pope John XXII, and Pope Gregory XI, and others; translated from Latin to English by Edward Caswall (1814-1878). It was the liturgical sequence for the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin (Sept. 15 and the Friday before Palm Sunday). It is no longer used on the Friday before Palm Sunday and is optional on September 15, but it continues to be sung at the Stations of the Cross during Lenten services. It was not admitted as a liturgical sequence until 1727, and musical settings are more numerous after that date.

Stabat Mater Dolorosa is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns of all time. It is based upon the prophecy of Simeon that a sword was to pierce the heart of Our Lord’s mother, Mary (Lk2:35).

Prayer:

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had pass’d.

Oh, how sad and sore distress’d
Was that Mother highly blest
Of the sole-begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs;
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
Whelm’d in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?

Bruis’d, derided, curs’d, defil’d,
She beheld her tender child
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above;
Make my heart with thine accord.

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ our Lord.

Holy Mother! pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourn’d for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request
Let me share thy grief divine.

Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swoon’d
In His very blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment day.

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defence,
Be Thy cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.

Latin

Stabat Mater dolorosa
Juxta Crucem lacrimosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.

Cujus animam gementem,
Contristatam et dolentem,
Pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Mater Unigeniti!

Quem maerebat, et dolebat,
Pia Mater, dum videbat
Nati paenas inclyti.

Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si videret
In tanto supplicio?

Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
Dolentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suae gentis
Vidit Jesum in tormentis,
Et flagellis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem natum
Moriendo desolatum,
Dum emisit spiritum.

Eia Mater, fons amoris,
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac, ut tecum lugeam.

Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum,
Ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo valide.

Tui nati vulnerati,
Tam dignati pro me pati,
Paenas rnecum divide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
Crucifixo condolere,
Donec ego vixero.

Juxta Crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociare
In planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum praeclara,
Mihi jam non sis amara:
Fac me tecum plangere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem
Passionis fac consortum,
Et plagas recolere.

Fac me plagis vulnerari
Fac me cruce inebriari,
Et cruore Filii.

Flammis ne urar succensus
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus
In die judicii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
Da per Matrem me venire,
Ad palmam victoriae.

Quando corpus morietur,
Fac, ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria.

Love,
Matthew

Vexilla Regis = “Let Royal Banners fly!”

Jesus-Crucifixion

Vexilla Regis was written by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609 AD) and is considered one of the greatest hymns of the liturgy. Fortunatus wrote it in honor of the arrival of a large relic of the True Cross which had been sent to Queen Radegunda by the Emperor Justin II and his Empress Sophia. Queen Radegunda had retired to a convent she had built near Poitiers and was seeking out relics for the church there. To help celebrate the arrival of the relic, the Queen asked Fortunatus to write a hymn for the procession of the relic to the church.

The hymn has, thus, a strong connection with the Cross and is fittingly sung at Vespers from Passion Sunday to Holy Thursday and on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The hymn was also formerly sung on Good Friday when the Blessed Sacrament is taken from the repository to the altar.

Abroad the royal banners fly,
The mystic Cross refulgent glows:
Where He, in Flesh, flesh Who made,
Upon the Tree of pain is laid.

Behold! The nails with anguish fierce,
His outstretched arms and vitals pierce:
Here our redemption to obtain,
The Mighty Sacrifice is slain.

Here the fell spear His wounded side
With ruthless onset opened wide:
To wash us in that cleansing flood,
Thence mingled Water flowed, and Blood.

Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song, of old:
Unto the nations, lo! saith he,
Our God hath reignèd from the Tree.

O Tree! In radiant beauty bright!
With regal purple meetly dight!
Thou chosen stem! divinely graced,
Which hath those Holy Limbs embraced!

How blest thine arms, beyond compare,
Which Earth’s Eternal Ransom bare!
That Balance where His Body laid,
The spoil of vanquished Hell outweighed.

Fragrant aromatics are thrown,
sweetest nectar is sown,
Dearest fruit of tree!
Be my noble victory!

Hail wondrous Altar! Victim hail!
Thy Glorious Passion shall avail!
Where death Life’s very Self endured,
Yet life by that same Death secured.

O Cross! all hail! sole hope, abide
With us now in this Passion-tide:
New grace in pious hearts implant,
And pardon to the guilty grant!

Thee, mighty Trinity! One God!
Let every living creature laud;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost deliver,
O guide and govern now and ever! Amen.

Translation from “The Psalter of Sarum”: London 1852.

Love,
Matthew