Blessings Returned

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today's Mass Readings - Sunday, September 21, 2014 with Reflection

1ST READING - Isaiah 55:6-9
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near. 7Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.
P S A L M - Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
R: The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and highly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable. (R) The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works. (R) 17 The Lord is just in all his ways and holy in all his works. 18 The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth. (R)
2ND READING - Philippians 1:20-24, 27
20 Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. 22 If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. 23 I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. 27 Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.
Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again aroundnoon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ 9When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. 10 So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ 13 He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? 15 Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


The conversion of St. Paul was dramatic. Even those around him, who once knew Paul as a staunch defender of the Law persecuting Christians and now defending the Christian faith, were astounded to see the effect of grace upon his life. Paul was filled with passion for the Lord — Christ was the air he breathed and the fruit of his ministry. Paul established many faith communities and touched many lives through his teaching and ministry in the power of the Spirit.

       Today’s Second Reading speaks to us of the dilemma of Paul. Filled with passion for the Gospel and desire to be with the Lord, Paul knew within himself that God was in control of his life. If God wanted him to continue his work, then so be it. He had that eternal perspective and counted everything as loss compared to knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection.

       Paul reminds us of the simple truth to live the Gospel. But what does that exactly mean? The Gospel is Good News. The Good News is that Jesus has come to this earth to open heaven for us. Heaven’s door was once shut through the sin of Adam, the disobedience of man. The ministry and life of Jesus was a pleasing sacrifice to the Father because of the Son’s obedience. By His death on the cross, the Father was pleased with the sacrifice and rose Jesus from the dead. This is the good news: Jesus, who died, rose and will come again. This is the mystery of faith that we proclaim at every Mass.

       Paul instructs his converts to avoid anything unworthy of the Gospel. In other words, avoid evil thoughts, words and actions. To shun evil is to avoid selfishness. We desire to be fed with the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel is personified in Jesus. He is the Gospel per se. By surrendering ourselves to His power, to the inspiration of the Spirit, we seek to be filled with Christ and live the way He showed us. Fr. Brian Steele, MGL
REFLECTION QUESTION: Do you live the Gospel?
Lord, may I live according to Your Gospel. May I be good news to others, not bad news. Amen.

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, pray for us.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

What to do when God is silent

Does God ever
seem distant to you?

Do you wish He
spoke more vividly to you?

Do you know how to
respond when God is silent?

All too often,
God can seem
unresponsive and remote.

Even in those moments
of life when you need Him
the most, His silence can be deafening.

In the profound pages of
When God is Silent, Archbishop Luis
Martinez shows you how to trust God
even when you feel isolated and alone.

In these pages, Martinez
helps you realize that God
has actually been closest to you
when He seemed farthest away . . .

. . . and why He often
speaks to you only in silence.

Best of all, Martinez teaches you
the secret of true happiness, which
you can achieve even amid the troubles
that are inescapable elements of every human life.

With sober realism and simple
faith, this book will show you how
to discover — and then to take refuge
in — the comfort our Lord offers you,
even when He seems to sleep.

In these pages, you'll also learn:
  • Why Jesus must be silent in order to refine your love and purify your soul
  • A simple, effective, and gentle procedure for becoming holy in your daily life
  • The three paths to spiritual peace: are you taking them? Do you know what they are?
  • Two times that Jesus grieved — and what He teaches you in each
  • Three surprising things that promote your spiritual welfare — if you know how to use them
  • How the presence of Jesus in your life can transform your experience of suffering
  • The medicine of the spiritual life: why it must often be bitter
"A powerful masterpiece.
A great gem of Catholic spirituality."
Father Benedict Groeschel

"Anyone who wants to progress
in prayer will find graceful help here."
Bert Ghezzi

When God is Silent:
Finding Spiritual Peace Amid the Storms of Life

by Luis M. Martinez
144 pages - $11.95

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Most committed Christians don’t like to admit it, but all too many of us serve God solely out of a sense of duty, without ever approaching the burning love and intimacy that the saints have with Him.

Indeed, many believers don’t even think it’s possible to attain to the heights of holy love that built the great cathedrals and fired the martyrs to give their lives for their Lord.

In Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God Fr. Kilian Healy (who was once the superior general of the Carmelite order worldwide) explains clearly and warmly that God is constantly calling you to intimate friendship with Himself.

Here you’ll find simple, practical ways to think of God continuously, to converse with Him intimately, and to please Him at all times. You’ll learn to see God in creation and to hear Him when He speaks to you (as He’s doing right now, even as you read this line).

Finally, you’ll discover how to offer each day to God in concrete and fruitful ways, and to seek Him always. With Fr. Healy’s help, you’ll master these and other secrets of the holy ones — secrets that will raise your heart exultantly to God and will help you to welcome Him more fully into your soul.

Your soul will awaken to God in a myriad of ways as you learn:
  • Three ways you can offer God everything in your life
  • The one thing you must do, or you will never develop genuine intimacy with God
  • How you can become more aware of God dwelling within you — and see the events of your life the way He sees them
  • Three ways God is present to you right now: how to become fully aware of each
  • And much more that will help you walk continuously and joyfully in the presence of our loving God!

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Think about....

Be meek. Do not allow challenges to make you loud.
Be loving. Do not allow pain to make make you hate.
Be kind. Do not allow bitterness to steal your compassion.
Be merciful. Do not allow your failure to harden your heart. 

Stay steadfast though the rest of the world may doubt. 
Believe in yourself, but believe that everything you are
able to do is by God's grace.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let Christ Be Your Model in the Spiritual Life

There are very few Christians, even among those who are es­pecially consecrated to God, who have a right idea of what true virtue is. Almost all of them imagine it to consist in a cer­tain routine of piety and in fidelity to certain exterior prac­tices. If with this they have at intervals some emotion of sensible devotion, without taking care to discern whether these emotions come from God or from their own efforts, they at once conclude that they are really virtuous.

Nevertheless, they are subject to a thousand faults and im­perfections, of which they take no heed themselves and which anyone else would try in vain to make them conscious of. They are narrow-minded, scrupulously exact in their practices of devotion, full of esteem for themselves, extremely sensitive and touchy, obstinate in holding their own opinions, puffed up with self-love, constrained and affected in their manners; there is nothing true, nothing simple, nothing natural about them. In their own hearts, they prefer themselves to all others, and often they despise, condemn, and persecute really holy persons and true piety, of which they know nothing.

Nothing is more common in Christianity than this false and pharisaical virtue. Those who are really good have no greater enemies than those who are pharisaical; and if we wish to describe them in a few words, we may say it was persons only pretending to be holy who crucified Jesus Christ, and they still crucify Him every day in His most perfect imitators. As soon as anyone really gives himself to God and begins to lead an in­ner life, he is sure to draw upon himself, first of all jealousy and criticism, and then persecutions and calumnies of every kind, from these devout Pharisees.

If we wish to understand what true virtue is, we must con­template it in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is our one great example; He gave Himself to us for that reason; He was made man so that holiness might be sensible and palpable to us. All sanctity that is not formed and modeled on His sanctity is false. It is displeasing to God. It may perhaps deceive men, but it is useless for Heaven.
Let us, then, make Jesus Christ our study; and so that we may know Him thoroughly, and express His life in ourselves, let us continually ask Him for light and grace.

Jesus’ piety was interior

Jesus Christ made piety to consist in our interior disposi­tions, the religion of the heart; not in vain, fleeting feelings, but in sincere and efficacious resolutions, always followed by execution; a disposition of an entire devotion to God, a con­tinual annihilation of self, and a boundless charity toward others.

Every instant of His life was consecrated to the accom­plishment of these three dispositions. He neglected no obser­vance of any point of the law; but, at the same time, He declared, both by word and example, that this observance was only of value when it proceeded from an inner principle of love, and that the practice of the letter of the law alone, with­out the interior spirit, made slaves, and not children of God.

Jesus strove for the eternal, not the temporal

Jesus Christ always looked upon this present life as pass­ing away; as a pilgrimage, a time of trial, simply designed to test our love for God. The things that are eternal were His constant occupation. He gave to nature what was absolutely necessary, without going beyond. Although He possessed noth­ing and was always dependent on Providence for His simple bodily wants, He was never uneasy about the morrow, and His delight was to experience the effects of poverty.

Jesus Christ embraced by His own free choice that which men accept with the greatest difficulty and to which they submit only out of necessity. He did not absolutely condemn riches, but He preferred poverty. He did not condemn the rank and marks of honor that God Himself has established among men, but He taught us that an obscure condition, bereft of every kind of consideration, is more pleasing to God and more favorable for salvation; and that to think ourselves better than others because we are born great, noble, or powerful, or are in a position of authority is an error and the source of countless sins. With the exception of the simple natural pleasure that the Creator has attached to certain actions, and the use of which is limited by the severest rules, He has absolutely scorned every other kind of pleasure, especially those which men seek with the greatest eagerness, and, as far as He Himself was concerned, He renounced even the most innocent plea­sure. Hard work, apostolic labors, prayer, and the instruction of His disciples and the multitude filled up every moment of His life.

From Fr. Grou’s The Spiritual Life

Jesus was a model of simplicity

Jesus Christ was simplicity itself, always the same, without any affectation in His speech or actions. With the authority of God-made-man, He taught the most sublime truths and things that had before been unknown. But He propounded His doctrine in a simple, familiar manner, without any pomp of human eloquence, and so that all minds could understand Him. His miracles, divine in themselves, are still more divine from the way in which He wrought them. He wished that the account of the evangelists should agree with the perfect sim­plicity of His own life. It is impossible to give in a simpler man­ner than they have done the account of a life, and of words and actions, that bear on them the very impress of Divinity.

Jesus was merciful

Jesus Christ had a most tender compassion for sinners who were sincerely humble and repentant for their sins. “I came for sinners,” He said, “and not for the just,” who trust in their own justice. The publican who stood afar off, Mary Magdalene, the woman taken in adultery, and the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob were all treated by Him with a kindness and tenderness that astonishes us. But the pride of the Pharisees, their hypocrisy, their avarice — these were the objects of His most severe censure and malediction. The sins of the mind and the spirit, the very sins to which the falsely devout are more subject than any others, are those which He condemned with the greatest severity, because they are a sign of more blindness of the mind and more corruption of the heart.

Jesus Christ bore with a never-failing gentleness the faults and the roughness of His disciples. According to our way of thinking, what must He not have suffered at having to live with men so imperfect and so ignorant of the things of God?

Dealing with our neighbor is perhaps one of the most difficult things in this life; even the saints have felt how much it cost them. And the nearer they are to God, the more they need to lower themselves to others, as it were, to unbend, to conceal and excuse in others a thousand faults that they see and feel more keenly than anyone else. And this is a point on which their practice must be continual, and it all depends on how they acquit themselves with regard to it as to whether they will make virtue amiable or displeasing to others.

Jesus accepted suffering

Jesus Christ suffered every kind of persecution at the hands of His enemies, but He never gave way. He only opposed to them His innocence and virtue, and He always confounded them by His spotless life. When the hour came that He al­lowed Himself to fall into their hands, He permitted their evil passions to act and looked on them as instruments of divine justice. He kept silence when He saw them so obstinate in their malice. He sought not to justify Himself, although it would have been so easy. He allowed Himself to be condemned. He allowed them to enjoy their imaginary triumph. He pardoned them; He prayed for them; He shed His blood for them. This is the most sublime and the most difficult height of perfection.

Whoever aspires to true sanctity, and to be guided in every­thing by the Spirit of God, must expect to suffer from the tongues of men, to bear their calumnies and sometimes their persecutions. In this, above all things, we must take Jesus Christ as our model. We must suffer, for His sake, as much as we can, in the interests of truth. Our only answer to calumny must be the innocence of our life; we must keep silence when it is not absolutely necessary to speak. We must leave the care of our justification to God, if He sees fit to justify us. We must stifle in our heart every feeling of resentment and bitterness. We must try to soften our enemies by every kind of charitable actions. We must pray to God for their pardon; and we must try to see, in all they make us suffer only the accomplishment of God’s designs upon us.

And when virtue can thus sustain itself in contempt, in opprobrium, in ill treatment, then we may look upon it as per­fected, as consummate virtue. Therefore, God generally re­serves this trial to the last. Blessed are those who pass through it! When Jesus Christ comes in His glory, they will have a share in it proportionate to their share in His humiliations. To desire such a state as this, to accept it when it is offered to us, to bear it patiently and with joy when we find ourselves in it — this can only be the effect of grace, and of an extraordinary grace. As for us, let us rest content in our lowliness; let us never think we can attain of ourselves to anything so high; and let us only ask of God that human respect may never cause us to abandon His interests.

image: Xuanlu Wang /

Editor’s note: This article is a chapter in Fr. Grou’s The Spiritual Life, which is available from Sophia Institute Press. 
Fr. Jean Nicolas Grou (1731–1803) lived through times of tremendous turmoil, first as a Jesuit novice when Jesuits were surpressed, and later during the French Revolution. In his book, The Spiritual Life, are the fruits of his sufferings and prayers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Five Simple Ways Catholics Can Make a Difference

Randy Hain

Photograph © by Andy Coan

“Think about the possibilities if we all made a sincere daily commitment, no matter how small, to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us.”

Do we sometimes feel overwhelmed in the face of the relentless assault on the Church, our beliefs and our families by the media and modern culture? Is it difficult to stand up for what we believe? Do we ever feel like we can’t make a difference? Many Catholics I encounter are struggling through daily battles to live out their faith and protect their loved ones… all in the midst of very difficult economic climate. It would be easy to throw in the towel and give up or remain silent, but that is not an option for us. We are called to do more. We are called to be holy: “Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification.’” (Lumen Gentium, Second Vatican Council, 39)

Part of our challenge is getting past feeling overwhelmed. We are not able to tackle everything at once, so let’s make it simple and focus on what we can do. We need to work on ourselves and pursue lives of personal holiness. Our ultimate destination is Heaven and we need to live our lives on earth in a way that will help us get there. So, what can we do?

First of all, we can’t stand on the sidelines and watch. We also must believe that one person can make a difference; consider the examples of Pope St. John Paul II, St. Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, St. Josemaria Escriva and St. Paul to name a few. Our brave acts, no matter how small or large, can have a profound influence on others if we are simply willing to make the effort.

At times it seems we have lost our way and forgotten or ignored the teachings of the Church. Maybe we have forgotten to put our trust in God and rely on Him. “Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.” (Ephesians 6:10-13) I love the thought of putting on the “armor of God” as we fight the battles ahead! 

5 Simple Ways Catholics Can Make a Difference

I am involved with a group of Catholic business leaders that meets every month. When we first started gathering in 2007, we had dreams of taking on the world and making a real difference through our Catholic faith! But we soon realized that we had much work to do in getting our spiritual lives in order. We understood after much prayer and reflection that we had to be humble and work on surrendering and conforming to Christ before we could make a positive difference in the lives of others. Here are five simple ways we have learned to make a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us: 

  1. Knowing what is necessary for spiritual growth. We will not grow in our faith without daily prayer. We have to make prayer time a priority and stop making excuses. “The first rule for prayer, the most important first step, is not about how to do it, but to just do it; not to perfect and complete it but to begin it. Once the car is moving, it’s easy to steer it in the right direction, but it’s much harder to start it up when it’s stalled. And prayer is stalled in our world.” – Peter Kreeft 
  2. Remember we are called to lead lives of holiness. As unpopular and out of step with our modern culture as this may be, we are all called to become saints. “The call to holiness is rooted in Baptism and proposed anew in the other Sacraments, principally in the Eucharist. Since Christians are reclothed in Christ Jesus and refreshed by his Spirit, they are ‘holy.’ They therefore have the ability to manifest this holiness and the responsibility to bear witness to it in all that they do. The apostle Paul never tires of admonishing all Christians to live ‘as is fitting among saints’ (Ephesians 5:3).” 
  3. Live as a Catholic; speak as a Catholic. We can’t be Cafeteria or Cultural Catholics. We are called to live authentic Catholic lives and be true to our beautiful faith. “To acknowledge God before men is to be a living witness to his life and to his words. We want to fulfill our daily tasks, to carry out everything we do, according to the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and we should be disposed to make our faith transparent in every one of family and professional obligations. Let us stop and think for a moment our work, of our colleagues, of our friendships: are we seen as people whose lives are totally consistent with our faith?” 
  4. We can’t serve God AND the world. We can’t have it both ways. There is no way to pursue a life of holiness and worry about chasing illusory pleasures and the things of this world that don’t matter. We can’t serve God and the world at the same time. 
  5. Be a light for Christ to others. One of the most profound ways to affect others is to radiate joy and let people see Christ at work in us. Our personal example can be the catalyst that helps lead someone into the Church. “Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16) 

Where Catholics are Called to Serve

The world needs Catholics to make a difference. How? Where have we been called to serve? Some of us are prayer warriors, silently praying in earnest for Mother Church, the sick, an end to abortion and for the souls in Purgatory (among other things). Some of us are called to the married or single life and still others are called to serve Christ in the public square. Others are called to the priesthood and religious life while some are missionaries serving the poor and unwanted of the world. Wherever we are called, we have countless opportunities each day to serve Him in our words and deeds. We should live out our calling with joy and know that our positive example will have an impact on the behavior and faith of others who are silently watching us.

As much as I try to give up my anxiety and fear in prayer, I am worried about the future of our country, the world and the Church. I am inclined toward action and getting involved to make a difference, but I struggle sometimes to know how to apply my efforts. I have come to realize that I can best serve our Lord and His Church by being devoted in the practice of my Catholic faith and setting a good example. I need to be diligent about my prayer life as well as speaking up for what I believe. I have to be humble, loving and remind myself that all of my efforts are for His greater glory and not my own.

Consider the wisdom in this quote from one of my favorite writers, Francis Fernandez, and his wonderful series of books, In Conversation with God:

“However, God does not ask the majority of Christians to shed their blood in testimony of the faith they profess. But he does ask of everyone an heroic steadfastness in proclaiming the truth through his life and words in environments which may be difficult and hostile to the teachings of Christ. He asks them to live fully the Christian virtues in the middle of the world, in whatever circumstances life has placed them. This is the path that the majority of Christians will have to tread – Christians who have to sanctify themselves through living heroism in the duties and circumstances of each day. Today’s Christian needs the virtue of fortitude in a special way. This virtue, as well as being humanly so attractive, is indispensable given the materialistic mentality of so many people today; it is a mentality that prizes comfort and has a horror of anything that smacks of mortification, renunciation or sacrifice. So every act of virtue contains within it an act of courage, of fortitude; without it we cannot remain faithful to God.”

I find myself just as challenged as most people to live an authentic Catholic life in the world today. But, I know we are called to try and make a sincere effort. I also know we are not alone and Christ stands ready to help us if we go to Him in prayer with our desires. The key is to leave the sidelines and get started. Our efforts may be listening to a lonely and depressed coworker, saying a prayer for a friend seeking employment or spending quality time with our family. Maybe now is the time to volunteer for a parish ministry. Whatever we do, let’s do it to glorify Christ, put our fears aside and truly serve Him. Think about the possibilities if we all made a sincere daily commitment, no matter how small, to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us.

The world would be transformed.

Take a look at Randy Hain’s fifth and newest book, Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men (Emmaus Road Publishing). The book is available through,, Barnes&Noble or found in your local Catholic bookstore. His sixth book, Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic (Servant Books) is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be available November 21st.
About the Author

Mr. Randy Hain is President of Serviam Partners Consulting/Coaching ( and actively serves on a number of non-profit boards in the Atlanta community. He is the Senior Editor for the Integrated Catholic Life™ which he co-founded with Deacon Mike Bickerstaff in 2010. Randy is a co-founder of the Annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference, the Catholic Business Cafe and leads the St. Peter Chanel Faith at Work Ministry.

Randy is a prolific writer and frequent presenter on a number of topics including faith, family, Catholic men’s issues, fatherhood, faith/work integration, careers, authenticity, leadership and human capital.

Looking for a Catholic Speaker? Check out Randy’s speaker’s page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.

His first book, The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work, was released in late November, 2011 by Liguori Publications. The book provides practical advice on how to integrate the Catholic faith with our work and offers inspiration through the examples of real Catholics in the workplace. The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the Reader’s Choice Awards.

His second book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith was released by Liguori Publications in November, 2012. Randy’s third book, Something More: The Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, was released by Liguori in February, 2013. His fourth book, LANDED! Proven Job Search Strategies for Today’s Professional, from Serviam Press was released in December 2013.

His fifth book, Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men was released by Emmaus Road Publishing on May 12th, 2014. Look for Randy’s sixth book, Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic to be released by Servant Books in late November 2014 (now available for pre-order). All of his books are available through Amazon, B&N, and local bookstores.

A convert to the Catholic Faith in 2006, Randy and his wife have been married for 19 years and have two teenage sons.

Monday, September 15, 2014

9/11, Belloc, and Islam

by Father John McCloskey

As another sad anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States arrives, it's clear that we are nowhere near the end of this conflict between the radicalized Muslim world and the Christian (and post-Christian) population. There seems no reason why the jihad of a relentlessly committed sector of Muslims may not continue for decades more.
While Catholics in America are also engaged in legal, political, and social battles to defend our religious liberties, those of us keeping track of the news in non-mainstream religious ghettos are increasingly horrified by the state of religious liberty elsewhere, and particularly in the Middle East.
The place where our Savior was born and lived has been under attack, as have surrounding countries such as Syria and Iraq, where many Christians are being driven from their ancestral homelands or even undergoing martyrdom. While we pray for peace in all countries where people of other faiths too are suffering persecution, naturally, what lies uppermost in our minds and hearts is the tragedy and exile of Christians with ancient roots in this biblical part of the world.
The modern-day revival of religious conflict between Muslims and Christians is not the main topic of this column, however. The Church, both Greek and Roman, has been in conflict with Islam (the supposed religion of peace) on and off for over a thousand years now.
Within the first century or so following Mohammed's death, Islamic forces swept across the Near East and Northern Africa, jumped the strait of Gibraltar to conquer almost all of Spain, and were threatening France. The medieval Song of Roland is a poetic account of the key defense of the Frankish army against Muslim forces in this area, while in Spain tales of El Cid celebrate the early part of Spain's Reconquista, a centuries-long pushback by Christian Spain that barely concluded as Columbus's began his voyage to the New World.
After 9/11, no one should be surprised to learn that Islam is turning the West's superiority back on itself. What is surprising is that a lone historian saw this coming in the 1930s. The great Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc, friend of G.K. Chesterton and a prolific historian, was prescient as no other writer about the resurgence of Islam in our own era.
Here are just of the more salient passages from his work on the threat of Islam to the West:
"We shall almost certainly have to reckon with Islam in the near future. Perhaps if we lose our Faith it will rise."
"The future always comes as surprise. . . .but I for my part cannot but believe that a main unexpected thing of the future is the return of Islam."
"And in the contrast between our religious chaos and the religious certitude still strong throughout the Mohammedan world. . .lies our peril."
"There is nothing inherent to Mohammedanism to make it incapable of modern science and modern war."
"[Islam] still converts pagan savages wholesale. . . .No fragment of Islam ever abandons its sacred book, its code of morality, its organized system of prayer, its code of morals, its simple doctrine. In view of this, anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to ask himself whether we shall not see in the future a rival of Mohammedan political power, and the renewal of the old pressure of Islam on Christendom."
You can read more in this same vein in The Essential Belloc: A Prophet for Our Times, edited by Scott Bloch, Brian Robertson, and myself.
Like Spain's long but successful resistance to Islam, and the great sea victory at Lepanto that saved Southern Europe, the Eastern end of Europe also resisted repeated attacks by Muslim forces. One of the most dramatic of Christian Europe's victories occurred quite late, in 1683. A terrific movie was made two years ago in Europe about this historic victory for the Faith and the West: The Day of the Siege. It recounts the successful resistance of a small contingent of cavalry in Vienna against 300,000 Ottoman Empire soldiers.
Briefly, the film begins after the First Siege of Vienna, a century and a half before the 1683 battle, and brings viewers through the various conflicts between European Christianity and Turkish Islam that led up to the September 13, 1683, battle. It then depicts the second siege of Vienna and the assault of Ottoman Turks led by Kara Mustafa and stopped by King Jan III Sobieski.
Let us pray to God for the conversion of Muslims – or at the very least that they make use of reason (as recommended by our Emeritus Pope Benedict in his Regensburg lecture) for tolerance and peace!
And remember that we Catholics are called to holiness, which in many parts of the world today (and perhaps soon in our own) includes our readiness to sacrifice our lives for our Faith.
It is happening in the Middle East and, yes, it can happen here.
St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us!
First appeared in The Catholic Thing in September, 2014.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross - Today's Mass Readings - September 14, 2014 with Reflection

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

1ST READING - Numbers 21:4-9
With their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!” In punishment the Lord sent among the people seraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the Lord and you. Pray the Lord to take the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord said to Moses, “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who has been bitten looks at it, they will live.” Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

P S A L M - Psalm 78:1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38
R: Do not forget the works of the Lord!
Hearken, my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable, I will utter mysteries from of old. (R) 34 While he slew them they sought him and inquired after God again, 35 remembering that God was their rock and the Most High God, their redeemer. (R) 36 But they flattered him with their mouths and lied to him with their tongues, 37 though their hearts were not steadfast toward him, nor were they faithful to his covenant. (R) 38 But he, being merciful, forgave their sin and destroyed them not; often he turned back his anger and let none of his wrath be roused. (R)

2ND READING - Philippians 2:6-11
Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. 7Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. 9Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Cross you have redeemed the world.

John 3:13-17
13 Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.



If non-Christians would hear the name of today’s feast, they would shake their heads in bewilderment. After all, the cross was the instrument the Romans used for the most shameful death they could inflict on a criminal. No Roman citizen, even the worst criminal, could be crucified. It was too shameful for a Roman.

       No wonder that in the first centuries, the Christians did not use the cross as the symbol of their religion. Once the practice of crucifixion had been abolished and Emperor Constantine had claimed that he won a victory with the sign of the cross, the shameful instrument became the sign of victory. After all, there on the cross, Jesus had defeated sin, Satan and death.

       Today, we find crucifixes not only in churches but also in the homes of Catholics. Many young people wear a cross around their necks, more often as a decoration than as a profession of faith in Christ crucified.

       In many churches, the Risen Christ dominates the assembly, a Christ without the cross. Of course, His resurrection is the foundation of our faith, but without the cross there would be no resurrection.

       In his very first homily after his election, Pope Francis said something very important: “When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess a Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord. I would like for us all, after these days of grace, to have courage, precisely the courage, to walk in the Lord’s presence, with the cross of the Lord; to build the Church upon the blood of the Lord, which was poured out on the cross; and to confess the only glory there is: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will go forward.”

       I pray that our preachers read and follow these words of the Holy Father so that they do not mislead the people but lead them in the way Christ proposes: through the Cross to eternal life and happiness. Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD

REFLECTION QUESTION: Do you get enthusiastic about talks and books about prosperity or do you willingly accept your daily cross, knowing that you follow Christ?

Lord, the cross is uncomfortable, but You want us to follow Your example. For only by taking up the cross will we also taste the joy of the resurrection. Thank You for this reminder.

St. Notburga, pray for us.

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