Archive for the ‘Homilies’ Category

St. Charles Borromeo on the Season of Advent

Monday, November 28th, 2016

220px-carlo_borromeoFrom the Office of Readings:

“Beloved, now is the acceptable time spoken of by the Spirit, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation: the great season of Advent. This is the time eagerly awaited by the patriarchs and prophets, the time that holy Simeon rejoiced at last to see. 

This is the season that the Church has always celebrated with special solemnity. We too should always observe it with faith and love, offering praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the mercy and love he has shown us in this mystery. In his infinite love for us, though we were sinners, he sent his only Son to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to summon us to heaven, to welcome us into its innermost recesses, to show us truth itself, to train us in right conduct, to plant within us the seeds of virtue, to enrich us with the treasures of his grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life. 

Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us. This holy season teaches us that Christ’s coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all. We shall share his power, if, through holy faith and the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace and in obedience to Christ. 

The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace. 

In her concern for our salvation, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to teach us through hymns, canticles and other forms of expression, of voice or ritual, used by the Holy Spirit. She shows us how grateful we should be for so great a blessing, and how to gain its benefit: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of Christ as if he were still to come into this world. The same lesson is given us for our imitation by the words and example of the holy men of the Old Testament.” 

August 22nd: Feast of the Queenship of Our Lady

Friday, August 22nd, 2014
Icon of Our Lady Czestochowa venerated in the Rectory Chapel

Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa venerated in the Rectory Chapel

From an Advent Homily of St. Bernard of Clairvaux:

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving.  Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

A Homily for the Assumption of Our Lady

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

A GREAT SIGN APPEARED IN HEAVEN: A WOMAN CLOAKED WITH THE SUN AND HAVING THE MOON UNDER HER FEET (Apocalypse 12:1).

From the first moment of her Immaculate Conception, Mary is set apart from all other human beings.  She is designated by the Archangel Gabriel as the most blessed of all women, superlative in her holiness a well as in the role she was to undertake in becoming the mother of the Savior.  In assuming that role, she goes beyond the limits of nature so as to become unique: alone among all women she conceives and bears a child while remaining a virgin. Thus, from the beginning Mary stands for a kind of special creation; she is more than an outstanding individual. She is a symbol of the perfectly realized human person in God’s plan.  She does not need man for her fruitfulness; for her, God is enough.  She is fructified by the Holy Spirit of God who overshadows her.

In his first epistle to the Corinthians,St. Paul enunciates the source of grace that gave rise to Our Lady’s unique privileges when he speaks of her son’s resurrection and indicates some of the fruits of that mystery:

Now Christ has risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. . . . in Christ all are made alive. Each one in his order: Christ the first fruits, then those who belong to Christ, who believe in his coming. . . . The final enemy, death, will be destroyed (1Cor. 15:20… 26).

Our Lady’s privileges were merited by her Son’s anticipated passion and death, but only with her own participation.  She received her special graces as freely bestowed gifts of God, but she willingly accepted the sufferings that she understood would accompany her role as mother of the Savior.  Her suffering began even before she gave birth, when she found herself with child and defenseless before the prospect of being put aside by her husband. She learned through from that experience to place her trust wholly in God, for there was no way she could defend herself.

Mary’s capacity to open her heart to others and to have confidence in their potential goodness was greatly enhanced by her husband’s fidelity.St. Joseph, in putting his faith in God and heeding the voice of the angel in his dream, became the channel of grace by which Mary experienced the heavenly Father’s fidelity to her.  At the same time her gratitude to Joseph for his trust gave her a vast sympathy with all those in need.  She learned by her own anguish how fully she depended on God’s mercy, shown to her through the pure love and chivalry of St. Joseph.

However, it was through her relation with her Son above all that she grew in sympathy and mercy. Her share in the Lord’s passion commenced shortly after the birth of her Son when she was told that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart. She shared still more fully by compassion in the sufferings of our Lord during his active ministry when she learned of the increasing hostility of His enemies, and even more intensely when He was arrested, tortured and crucified. She found in the same Holy Spirit who had overshadowed her at the Annunciation, the strength of soul to remain standing at the cross until the end. What she suffered at that time surely surpasses imagination. But her faith and love were stronger than anguish and heart-rending pain so that she not only endured, but actively accepted her share in the Passion of her divine Son. Thus, in the Book of the Apocalypse is she fittingly seen as the woman who is attacked in the desert, suffering anguish at the birth of her child, that is to say, of the members of the persecuted Church, and threatened with the violent death of her Son. As the Apocalypse goes on to state it:

And being pregnant with child she cried out from birth pangs, and suffered heavily in giving birth…. And the dragon stood in front of the woman about to give birth so that when she brought forth the child, he might devour him.

Following the Ascension of Jesus she knew the sorrows of bereavement, having earlier on experienced the loss of her pure spouse,St. Joseph, and the loneliness of widowhood. Yet through all these years she remained full of faith and confidence in the victory of her Son while she maintained her lively hope that she would join Him in person in God’s time.  We celebrate today the occasion when that happy union took place.

For Mary’s Assumption carried her, body and soul, into the presence of her risen and glorified son. Deservedly she is known as the virgo fidelis, the faithful virgin. Fidelity in love proved stronger than the violence of deadly force.  In this fidelity, as in her humility, Mary followed closely in the footsteps of her Son. We in turn can best honor her today by imitating her in that loving faith that is constant in good times and in bad, in sorrow as well as in joy.  As we assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass tonight, may we so open our hearts to the glorified Son of God as to receive a share in that same divine favor that gave meaning and strength to Our Lady’s life, and which even now unites her to God in glory for all eternity.   Amen.

October 11th: The Year of Faith Begins!

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

POPE BENEDICT’S HOMILY AT OPENING MASS

OF THE

YEAR OF FAITH

  “Through Christ, God is the Principal Subject of Evangelization in the World”
 VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s homily given , at the Opening Mass of the Year of Faith and on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The mass was celebrated in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, fifty years from the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, we begin with great joy the Year of Faith. I am delighted to greet all of you, particularly His Holiness Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, and His Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. A special greeting goes to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences. In order to evoke the Council, which some present had the grace to experience for themselves – and I greet them with particular affection – this celebration has been enriched by several special signs: the opening procession, intended to recall the memorable one of the Council Fathers when they entered this Basilica; the enthronement of a copy of the Book of the Gospels used at the Council; the consignment of the seven final Messages of the Council, and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I will do before the final blessing. These signs help us not only to remember, they also offer us the possibility of going beyond commemorating. They invite us to enter more deeply into the spiritual movement which characterized Vatican II, to make it ours and to develop it according to its true meaning. And its true meaning was and remains faith in Christ, the apostolic faith, animated by the inner desire to communicate Christ to individuals and all people, in the Church’s pilgrimage along the pathways of history.

The Year of Faith which we launch today is linked harmoniously with the Church’s whole path over the last fifty years: from the Council, through the Magisterium of the Servant of God Paul VI, who proclaimed a Year of Faith in 1967, up to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, with which Blessed John Paul II re-proposed to all humanity Jesus Christ as the one Savior, yesterday, today and forever. Between these two Popes, Paul VI and John Paul II, there was a deep and profound convergence, precisely upon Christ as the center of the cosmos and of history, and upon the apostolic eagerness to announce him to the world. Jesus is the center of the Christian faith. The Christian believes in God whose face was revealed by Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter. Jesus Christ is not only the object of the faith but, as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews, he is “the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith” (12:2).

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ, consecrated by the Father in the Holy Spirit, is the true and perennial subject of evangelization. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). This mission of Christ, this movement of his continues in space and time, over centuries and continents. It is a movement which starts with the Father and, in the power of the Spirit, goes forth to bring the good news to the poor, in both a material and a spiritual sense. The Church is the first and necessary instrument of this work of Christ because it is united to him as a body to its head. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21), says the Risen One to his disciples, and breathing upon them, adds, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (v.22). Through Christ, God is the principal subject of evangelization in the world; but Christ himself wished to pass on his own mission to the Church; he did so, and continues to do so, until the end of time pouring out his Spirit upon the disciples, the same Spirit who came upon him and remained in him during all his earthly life, giving him the strength “to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” and “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19).

The Second Vatican Council did not wish to deal with the theme of faith in one specific document. It was, however, animated by a desire, as it were, to immerse itself anew in the Christian mystery so as to re-propose it fruitfully to contemporary man. The Servant of God Paul VI, two years after the end of the Council session, expressed it in this way: “Even if the Council does not deal expressly with the faith, it talks about it on every page, it recognizes its vital and supernatural character, it assumes it to be whole and strong, and it builds upon its teachings. We need only recall some of the Council’s statements in order to realize the essential importance that the Council, consistent with the doctrinal tradition of the Church, attributes to the faith, the true faith, which has Christ for its source and the Church’s Magisterium for its channel” (General Audience, 8 March 1967); thus said Paul VI.

We now turn to the one who convoked the Second Vatican Council and inaugurated it: Blessed John XXIII. In his opening speech, he presented the principal purpose of the Council in this way: “What above all concerns the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be safeguarded and taught more effectively […] Therefore, the principal purpose of this Council is not the discussion of this or that doctrinal theme… a Council is not required for that… [but] this certain and immutable doctrine, which is to be faithfully respected, needs to be explored and presented in a way which responds to the needs of our time” (AAS 54 [1962], 790,791-792).

In the light of these words, we can understand what I myself felt at the time: during the Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time, yet it can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today. Therefore I believe that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this, is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man. But, so that this interior thrust towards the new evangelization neither remain just an idea nor be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression. This is why I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the “letter” of the Council – that is to its texts – also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them. Reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead, and allows what is new to be welcomed in a context of continuity. The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change. If we place ourselves in harmony with the authentic approach which Blessed John XXIII wished to give to Vatican II, we will be able to realize it during this Year of Faith, following the same path of the Church as she continuously endeavors to deepen the deposit of faith entrusted to her by Christ. The Council Fathers wished to present the faith in a meaningful way; and if they opened themselves trustingly to dialogue with the modern world it is because they were certain of their faith, of the solid rock on which they stood. In the years following, however, many embraced uncritically the dominant mentality, placing in doubt the very foundations of the deposit of faith, which they sadly no longer felt able to accept as truths.

If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not to honor an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! And the reply to be given to this need is the one desired by the Popes, by the Council Fathers and contained in its documents. Even the initiative to create a Pontifical Council for the promotion of the new evangelization, which I thank for its special effort for the Year of Faith, is to be understood in this context. Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path. The first reading spoke to us of the wisdom of the wayfarer (cf. Sir 34:9-13): the journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise wayfarer is one who has learned the art of living, and can share it with his brethren – as happens to pilgrims along the Way of Saint James or similar routes which, not by chance, have again become popular in recent years. How come so many people today feel the need to make these journeys? Is it not because they find there, or at least intuit, the meaning of our existence in the world? This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith: a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, taking with us only what is necessary: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics – as the Lord said to those he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3), but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago.

Venerable and dear Brothers, 11 October 1962 was the Feast of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. Let us entrust to her the Year of Faith, as I did last week when I went on pilgrimage to Loreto. May the Virgin Mary always shine out as a star along the way of the new evangelization. May she help us to put into practice the Apostle Paul’s exhortation, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom […] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:16-17).    Amen.

 

May 31: Feast of the Visitation

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

FROM OUR HOLY FATHER, POPE BENEDICT XVI

MAY 31, 2008

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin and the memory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Therefore, everything invites us to turn our trusting glance to Mary. To her, also this evening, we addressed the ancient and ever actual pious practice of the Rosary.

The Rosary, when it is not a mechanical, traditional form of repetition, is a Biblical meditation that allows us to trace the events of the Lord’s life in the company of the Blessed Virgin, pandering them, like her, in our heart.

In many Christian communities during the month of May there is the beautiful custom of reciting the Holy Rosary in a more solemn way in families and in parishes. Now, that the month is ending, may this good habit continue. Rather, may it continue with more commitment so that, at the school of Mary, the lamp of faith may shine ever more in the hearts and homes of Christians.

In today’s Feast of the Visitation the liturgy has us listen again to Luke’s Gospel passage that recounts Mary of Nazareth’s journey to the home of her elderly cousin Elizabeth.

A new chapter begins

Let us imagine the Virgin’s state of mind after the Annunciation, when the Angel left her. Mary found herself with a great mystery enclosed within her womb; she knew something extraordinarily unique had happened; she was aware that the last chapter of salvation history in the world had begun.

But everything around her remained as before and the village of Nazareth was completely unaware of what had happened to her.

Before worrying about herself, Mary instead thought about elderly Elizabeth, who she knew was well on in her pregnancy and, moved by the mystery of love that she had just welcomed within herself, she set out “in haste” to go to offer Elizabeth her help. This is the simple and sublime greatness of Mary!

When she reaches Elizabeth’s house, an event takes place that no artist could ever portray with the beauty and the intensity with which it took place.

The interior light of the Holy Spirit enfolds their persons. And Elizabeth, enlightened from on high, exclaims: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:42-45).

These words could appear to us out of proportion with respect to the real context. Elizabeth is one of the many elderly people in Israel and Mary is an unknown young woman from a lost village of Galilee. What can this be and what can they accomplish in a world where other people count and other powers hold sway.

Overturning thrones

Yet, once again Mary amazes us; her heart is limpid, totally open to God’s light. Her soul is without sin, it is not weighed down by pride or selfishness. Elizabeth’s words enkindle in her spirit a canticle of praise, which is an authentic and profound “theological” reading of history: a reading that we must continually learn from the one whose faith is without shadow and without wrinkle.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”. Mary recognizes God’s greatness. This is the first indispensable sentiment of faith. It is the sentiment that gives security to human creatures and frees from fear, even in the midst of the tempest of history.

Going beyond the surface, Mary “sees” the work of God in history with the eyes of faith. This is why she is blessed, because she believed. By faith, in fact, she accepted the Word of the Lord and conceived the Incarnate Word. Her faith has shown her that the thrones of the powerful of this world are temporary, while God’s throne is the only rock that does not change or fall.

Her Magnificat, at the distance of centuries and millennia, remains the truest and most profound interpretation of history, while the interpretations of so many of this world’s wise have been belied by events in the course of the centuries.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us return home with the Magnificat in our heart. Let us bring the same sentiments of praise and thanksgiving of Mary to the Lord, her faith and her hope, her docile abandonment in the hands of Divine Providence.

May we imitate her example of readiness and generosity in the service of our brethren. Indeed, only by accepting God’s love and making of our existence a selfless and generous service to our neighbour, can we joyfully lift a song of praise to the Lord.

May the Blessed Mother, who invites us this evening to find refuge in her Immaculate Heart, obtain this grace for us.

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ARTWORK: The Visitation of Elizabeth by Mary by Brigid Marlin

In the painting, Elizabeth’s mature age is represented by the tree with fruit behind her, while behind Mary is a young tree in flower. The mysterious knowledge of the coming of Christ is first known by the unborn John the Baptist and then by his mother Elizabeth.   Thus the sacred things are revealed first to the innocent one who represents the mysterious inner life within us all.  (For more information on the artist, go to www.brigidmarlin.com).

 

EXCELLENT HOMILY ON CHRIST THE KING

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Our Dean (Brookings-Madison Deanery), the Very Rev. Shane D. Stevens, V.F., sent me his excellent homily from this past Sunday, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King (in the Calendar of 1969, Ordinary Form).  I publish it here with his permission and for your edification.  Father Stevens is Pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in DeSmet, SD, St. Paul in Iraquois and St. John in Arlington.  He is a graduate of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, PA and St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, CO.  Father was ordained a priest by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Paul Joseph Swain, Eighth Bishop of Sioux Falls, in May, 2007, at St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls, SD.  Father’s wbesite is:  http://kingsburycatholic.org

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November 21, 2010

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King

The Last Sunday in Ordinary Time

HOLY GOSPEL: St. Luke 23:35-43

 “Jesus Christ is the King of Hearts”

 My Dear People in Christ!

Today the Church celebrates the solemn feast of Christ the King.  The Church concludes Her liturgical year, with a clear reminder that in the whole history of the world, there is no king like that of Jesus.

For some reason we Americans are fascinated by royalty.  I am not sure why? Maybe it is because we choose a different form of government other than a monarchy.  Just this past week, Prince William, the son of the late, Princess Diana, proposed marriage to a Miss Kate Middleton.  I woke, and after my morning prayers, was amazed at the amount of time dedicated to the subject. It would seem that we are still intrigued by the notion of royalty.

Even the Israelites in the Old-Testament had the desire for a king.  They looked about the neighboring countries and saw them led by a king.  A king would lead them into battle, and take care of their needs.  God warned them that if they persisted in wanting a king, that He would grant their desire, but at a great cost.  God wanted to be their king, to lead them into battle, to take care of their needs, to protect them.  Sadly they got what they wanted. Their first king was Saul. He turned out to be greedy, vindictive, and paranoid.  Then they had King David, and he was flawed.  He was an adulterer and murderer. King David did penance and was forgiven by God, but not without much suffering. Next was King Solomon.  He was the wisest of all men, and people came from far and wide to seek his advice and wisdom. 

How different it is with Jesus!  Jesus, the son of David, a son of a royal household.  His throne was not of marble, set high in a palace, but rough wood, the wood of the cross.  His crown was not of gold, but made of thorns.  His court consisted of not a retinue of thousands, but two thieves. One who mocked, and one who asked to be remembered in His Kingdom. 

My dear people, we most likely will not ever enjoy a noble title.  The Queen of England will not probably call us one day and give us the title of Duke, or Duchess, Sir this, or Lady that.  (In fact the only Queen in my family was an old German shepherd my dad had when I was a boy, her name was Queeny.)  No, we have a more precious title and that is Christian.  At our baptism we were created sons and daughters of God, and anointed: priest, prophet and king! Yes, you are a member of a Royal Family! 

No king, no queen in history no matter how great, or grand can say these most holy, hopeful words, “This day you will be with me in Paradise”!

May Christ the King, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Life, know us, as He knew that Good Thief!   Amen!

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.