Sunday, August 31, 2014

Today's Mass Readings - Sunday, August 31, 2014 with Reflection

1ST READING - Jeremiah 20:7-9
You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.
P S A L M - Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
R: My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
1 [2] O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water. (R) 2 [3] Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory, 3 [4] for your kindness is a greater good than life; my lips shall glorify you. (R) 4 [5] Thus will I bless you while I live; lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name. 5 [6] As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you. (R) 7 [8] You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. 8 [9] My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me. (R)
2ND READING - Romans 12:1-2
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call.
Matthew 16:21-27
21 Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. 22 Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” 23 He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” 24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”


It is scary to think that one can be totally successful by the standards of the world and yet fail to enter the Kingdom of God. The only way to prevent this from happening is to ensure that in every decision we make, we remember that we live in the world but we are not of the world. This is most evident in how we pay attention to advertising. Is there an advertisement that tells us to delay our earthly pleasures for the sake of better ones in the Kingdom of God? In fact, we are more likely see exactly the opposite: Get it while you can for it may not be here tomorrow!

       This “get it while you can” attitude is totally antithetical to the values of the Kingdom of God, which are always forward-looking and have eternal life as the motivation to guide us in the here and now. Jesus reminds us that it is useless to gain the whole world (now) and lose eternal life (future). We need to find the right balance between pursuing the things of the world and looking forward to receiving the promises of eternal life.

       It is not easy to find this balance as the world can be very insistent on its agenda. Advertising companies spend a lot of time and millions of dollars to try and obscure this goal and keep you from lifting your eyes from the ways of the world to those of heaven. This is why we need to be men and women of prayer and Scriptures. It is Scriptures that will form our hearts and minds in line with God’s standards and help us keep the advertising world’s agenda at arm’s length and in its proper place. Fr. Steve Tynan, MGL
REFLECTION QUESTIONS: How does advertising affect you? Do you tend to slip into the trap of focusing on worldly things rather than storing up for yourself treasures in heaven?
Holy Spirit, help me to embrace the life I am called to as a disciple of Jesus. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on the things that really matter as I go about my life in this world.

Sts. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, pray for us.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Never before in English — From St. Francis de Sales

From St. Francis de Sales

Never Before
Published in English!

This short, practical guide will develop
in you the soul-nourishing habits that lead to sanctity.

As he did for saints and sinners in his own time, St. Francis de Sales will stiffen your resolve and help you gain small victories over unruly passions, and restore in you a trusting confidence in Jesus Christ.

Soon you'll find yourself delivered from the chains of self-love as your soul opens to divine goodness and your heart is shaped into a fitting place for Christ to dwell and reign eternally.

If you find it difficult to live amid the clamor of the world with your eyes fixed on Christ alone, let St. Francis de Sales teach you how to live as a true rose among thorns as you learn . . .
  • What to do when you stop finding consolation during prayer
  • How to place yourself in the presence of God
  • How busy people should pray
  • Do you fear vice more than you love virtue?  A guide to discernment
  • How to be patient with your family
  • The dangers of too many devotions
  • How to know when your feelings are from God or the devil
  • What to do about repeated spiritual dryness
  • The three things you must do to be at peace
  • How to avoid thoughts that give us anxious and restless minds
Absorb the wisdom in these holy pages, and you'll soon make true progress on your spiritual journey and navigate with confidence the treacherous waters of our secular world.

Roses Among Thorns
by St. Francis de Sales

128 pages — List price: $11.95

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From the young St. Francis de Sales's heroic efforts to bring Calvinists back to the Faith comes this succinct, eloquent defense of the age-old practice of making the Sign of the Cross, which sixteenth-century Calvinists denounced as a Popish invention and many Protestants scorn even today.

Embodying the zeal of youth and the wisdom of age, this gentle jewel of Catholic apologetics traces the origins of the Sign of the Cross back to the Fathers of the Church, to the Apostles before them, and finally to our Lord Himself.

Along with St. Francis's other lucid explanations of our Catholic Faith and his undaunted love even for those who hated him, this modest book helped restore to their native Catholic faith tens of thousands of heretics who not long before were intent on killing him.
As they did for the Calvinists in St. Francis’s day, so in our day these pages will bring you a better understanding and a renewed love for the Sign of the Cross, that brief and lively exterior prayer by which, from time immemorial, God has been invoked by serious Christians before all of their endeavors.
Among the other things you’ll learn here:
  • Why now is always the right time to make the Sign of the Cross
  • Why God chooses to attach power to the Sign of the Cross
  • Why it is made on the forehead
  • How to convince skeptics to value and pray with it
  • Two uses of the Sign of the Cross: do you know both of them?
  • How the Sign of the Cross is the antidote to the Mark of the Devil
  • Errors in the claims of those who oppose this practice
  • The theological significance of the motions, vertical and horizontal
  • Two reasons it has particular power against the Enemy
  • Why you should make the Sign of the Cross publicly and often
Outside the Creed itself, there are few topics to which the Fathers testify as universally and unanimously as the pious practice of making, frequently and well, the Sign of the Cross. With the help of these holy pages, the saints’ love for it will enkindle yours. Soon you’ll be saying with St. Jerome, “With every work, with all of my comings and goings, may my hand make the Sign of the Cross!”
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Does Sanctity Smell Like?

We walk by faith, not sight, but that doesn’t mean we stop using our senses.
In the Eucharist, we taste and see that God is good. We hear the word of God in prayer and at the liturgy. We are even touched by God through the sacraments (see Lumen Fidei).
This goes for all of our senses, even the sense of smell. In fact, there perhaps may be no better example of how our sensory life can be completely entwined with the spiritual life than then sense of smell. To even suggest this today may seem odd, if not downright off-color or inappropriate. But it wasn’t so in early Church, as this homily from St. John Chrysostom on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man well illustrates:
Thou art a spiritual soldier; but such a soldier does not sleep on an ivory bed, but on the ground; he does not use scented unguents, for this is the habit of sensual and dissolute men—of those who live on the stage, or in indolence; and it is not the odour of ointment that thou shouldst have, but that of virtue. The soul is none the more pure when the body is thus scented. Yea, this fragrance of the body and of the dress may even be a sign of inward corruption and uncleanness. For when Satan makes his approaches to corrupt the soul and fill it with all indolence, then also by means of ointments he impresses upon the body the stains which mark its inner defilement.
Chrysostom is making an argument on a moral, practical level and also on a spiritual one. His comment reflects the ancient Church’s strong association of cosmetics with immorality. The sentiment is well captured by Tertullian, in criticizing Roman decadence in his Apology:
I see, too, that neither is a single theatre enough, nor are theatres unsheltered: no doubt it was that immodest pleasure might not be torpid in the wintertime, the Lacedaemonians invented their woollen cloaks for the plays. I see now no difference between the dress of matrons and prostitutes.
For Chrysostom, the sweetness of virtue was preferable to that of the perfumes. On the practical side, his advice amounts to a kind of an abstinence from the olfactory pleasures—a kind of mortification of the body. Put bluntly, Christians who followed his advice would not smell as good as their pagan peers. This may not have been a big deal for them, but for some monks, the smell associated with their extreme asceticism became both a potential public nuisance and also had significant spiritual ramifications, as Brown University scholar Susan Ashbrook Harvey reveals in her book Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination (University of California Press, 2006).
Harvey recounts the story of one Syriac monk, Simeon the Stylite, so named because he spent the last 37 years of his life atop a pillar or stylite. Before his pillar-dwelling days, Simeon was a member of a monastic community. As a novice, he bound a rope around his waist so tightly that it caused bleeding. Simeon left the rope in place for a year, eventually causing his flesh to rot. The stench was so severe that he was eventually expelled from the community, according to accounts cited by Harvey.
When he moved to the pillar, the severe, foul-smelling asceticism continued. One ancient hagiography describes in detail what happened when he suffered an infection in his foot:
And when he received power over him on one of those days as he stood praying, a severe disease smote him in his left foot. While he was wishing for the evening to come, it was filled with ulcers; and when the next, day dawned, it burst and emitted foul odor and was alive with maggots. Matter and a disgusting smell came from the loot, and maggots fell out of it upon the ground. So powerful and bad was the stench that not even half way up the ladder could one ascend except with distress. Some of his disciples who forced themselves to go up to him could not ascend until after they had put on their noses incense and fragrant ointment. He suffered this way nine months until nothing was left of him except the breath only.
Then something wonderful happened. One king came to visit, in a story recounted by Harvey. Standing below the rotting saint he saw a worm fall from one of his gangrenous wounds. The king picked it up. When he opened his hand, it had turned into a pearl.
Harvey sees the worm-pearl incident as a metaphor for what was happening to the saint’s body, including how it smelled. When Simeon at last had passed one of his followers climbed up the pillar to retrieve the body. But instead of the stench, he is greeted by a fragrant aroma that intensifies as the funeral is held. And here is the theological significance to all this, as explained by Harvey:
The saint’s body in its foul-smelling corruptibility signifies the fallen human condition. Simeon’s labors are the willing endurance of humanity’s utter sickness, and through his labors redemption will be achieved. Just as the worm transmute[d] to the priceless pearl, so, too [did] Simeon’s stench ultimately transform into the astonishing fragrance of divine incorruptibility (Scenting Salvation, 191; one feels the need to add that this redemption would have been through grace, not human labors apart from grace).
In Catholic tradition, this is known as the “odor of sanctity” that has sometimes been detected around the bodies of saints. The only two saints that are known to have had visible stigmata—Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio—both reportedly gave off a sweet smell from their wounds. When St. Polycarp was burned to death, his scorched body smelled of frankincense. And St. Teresa of Avila’s grave smelled like perfume for nine months after her death.
If it sounds like we have strayed far into the most peripheral and trivial matters, it’s worth noting that the odor of sanctity has a biblical foundation. In 2 Corinthians 2:15, St. Paul writes, “For we are the good odour of Christ unto God, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.” Likewise he writes in Philippians 4:18 that he has received “an odour of sweetness, an acceptable sacrifice” from them. This is all part of the imitation of Christ, as St. Paul explains in Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness.”
There is a larger point here. The story of Simeon illustrates how we are saved. We are not saved from our bodies; rather, the whole man, body and soul, is saved. Put another way: we are not saved from bad smells; rather, the sense of smell is saved, as Harvey suggests. The stench of decay—both an actual consequence and also a metaphor for the fallen state of our nature—is converted to the sweetness of incorruptibility in Christ.

Stephen Beale


Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on and A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Think about....

If wealth is the secret to happiness, then the
rich should be dancing in the streets; but 
only poor kids do that.

If power ensures peace of mind, then officials
should walk unguarded; but those who live
simply sleep soundly.

If beauty and fame bring ideal relationships
then celebreties should have the best 
but those who are in God deeply has the 
most fulfilled relationships.

The real essence of Life is having CHRIST
in us....

Peace and Love!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why Catholics make the Sign of the Cross

Cogito - Fr. Russell A. Bantiles

Rev. Fr. Russell Bantiles

I DON’T pretend to sound very original here for there’s nothing new under the sun. But I only wish to reecho for wide diffusion the points of Bert Ghezzi in an article published a few months ago in Our Sunday Visitor (3-25-2013) (See

According to Ghezzi, there are six ways “in which making the ancient sign opens Catholics to life-transforming graces.” In his book The Sign of the Cross: Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer (Loyola Press, 2004), the author shares how making the sign with more faith and reverence helps him experience its great blessings. “I did not think much about it, but after a year I noticed that I seemed to be doing measurably better in my Christian life. I was praying with more passion, resisting my bad inclinations somewhat more effectively, and relating to others more kindly,” he said.

So, here are the six oftentimes overlooked reasons why we, Catholics, make the Sign of the Cross:

First, the Sign of the Cross is a profession of faith. It is an abbreviated form of the Apostle’s Creed. Have you noticed the Trinitarian structure of the Creed that we pray every Sunday and on Solemnities? To profess our faith is quite urgent today when the society seems to disregard the place of God in our lives. “When we sign ourselves, we are making ourselves aware of God’s presence and opening ourselves to His action in our lives,” Ghezzi notes.

Second, making the Sign of the Cross is a reminder and renewal of our baptism. What happened in our baptism? St. Paul says that in baptism we died sacramentally with Christ on the cross and rose with Him to a new life (Cfr. Rom 6: 3-4; Gal 2:20). When we make the sign, we ask the Lord to renew the graces we received in Baptism. We also acknowledge that through Baptism we become one with the Body of Christ, the Church; thus, we are co-redeemer with Him.

Third, the cross is a mark of discipleship. Pope Francis, in his first homily, emphasized the importance of the cross to Christ’s disciples. He said, “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.” “By tracing the cross on our bodies, we are denying that we belong to ourselves and declaring that we belong to Him alone,” Ghezzi explains. As Catholics, are we going to deprive ourselves of this manifestation of our belongingness to Christ?

Fourth, if the Sign of the Cross is a mark of authentic discipleship, it is because it is a manifestation of our acceptance of suffering. Because Jesus chose to suffer for us, He is telling us that suffering—being a normal part of disciples’ life—has a new redemptive and redeeming meaning. Thus, when we mark our bodies with the sign, we embrace lovingly whatever physical, spiritual or moral pain that comes as a consequence of our faith. However, it is not embracing suffering for its own sake. Catholics are never sadists. We take joy in suffering because it purifies us and it unites us to our Lord.

Fifth, the Sign of the Cross is a move against the devil. The devil thought mistakenly that he had won a great victory when Jesus died on the cross. “Instead, the Lord surprised Him with an ignominious defeat,” Ghezzi observes. The cross, therefore, becomes a symbol of the devil’s defeat and the Christians’ victory. I remember a saying that goes, “When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.” Making the sign of the cross does not only remind us of our victory over the devil, it also reminds the devil of his ultimate defeat.

Lastly, making the Sign of the Cross manifests also our victory over the flesh. The flesh is the sum of all disordered inclinations that we experience within as a result of the original sin: envy, jealousy, sensuality, anger, etc. When we sign ourselves, we express our decision to “crucify” the desires of our flesh and to live according to the Holy Spirit. Ghezzi likens it to “tossing off a dirty shirt or blouse.” “Making the sign,” he says, “indicates our stripping ourselves of our evil inclinations and clothing ourselves with the behaviors of Christ (see Col 3: 5-15).”

Knowing these reasons and keeping them in mind whenever we make the Sign of the Cross, either in opening or closing a prayer or in entering a church, is one step towards living seriously our spiritual life as Catholics. This Year of Faith could be the best time to start doing it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Church Under Attack

Five Hundred Years That Split the Church and Scattered the Flock

by Diane Moczar - published by Sophia Institute Press, 2013
A Book Review by Father John McCloskey
Blessed John Henry Newman once famously wrote, "To go deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." Similarly, I would say that to read about the never-ending persecution of the Catholic Church over the last 500 years should convince any sincere seeker of religious truth that if Christ founded a Church, then it surely is the Catholic Church. Even today, Catholics are martyred every day because they refuse to deny their faith.
Historian Diane Moczar has come out with another interesting contribution to popular Church history: The Church Under Attack: 500 Hundred Years That Split the Church and Scattered the Flock. Her previous books on this topic includeIslam at the Gates and Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know.
Moczar's latest book first recounts that great tragedy of the 16th century, misnamed the Protestant Reformation, in which men such as the German Martin Luther, the English Henry VIII and the French John Calvin all in one way or another used the power of the state to persecute the Church and wage bloody wars, rending Christendom.
For each of the centuries discussed in the book, Moczar examines the major historical developments, including the wars, economic growth and major cultural and political events of concern to the people then living. Naturally, she also discusses the condition of the Church in each period, including the kings, explorers, adventurers and (most importantly) the male and female saints of the times and the apparitions of Our Lady.
Here is a summary of her approach in the first chapter (which is then replicated in the rest):
Catholic thought in the 16th century was dominated by the idea of reform long before Luther got going and even more as the Counter-Reformation was in full swing. Once the Counter-Reformation moved into high gear in the latter half of the century, it triggered a spectacular cultural movement in which new forms of art and music were placed at the service of the faith.
The 16th and 17th centuries ushered in new styles of painting, architecture, sculpture and music. The Baroque masterpieces are as lavish as the Calvinist churches were prim and plain. Catholic writings of the period are among the classics of Western civilization: The mystical poetry of St. John of the Cross, the works of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Thomas More's Utopia and St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life are among many that reflect the energy of a revitalized Church. It now seems that Shakespeare was a closet Catholic living during the Elizabethan persecution in England (in which, it seems, some of his relatives were hanged, drawn and quartered), and, certainly, Catholic themes and veiled criticisms of tyranny occur in his plays.
Studying the Catholic history of the last several centuries can enlighten and inspire us as we struggle with brave hearts through the challenges our own era of Catholic history places before us: the "culture of death" and the taking away of our religious liberties.
Whether we are entering into a new civilization of love and truth or tumbling into a dark age of persecution, only God knows.
Either way, you will be well prepared, thanks to this book.
First appeared in National Catholic Register, August 2014.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Today's Mass Readings - Sunday, August 24, 2014 with Reflection

1ST READING - Isaiah 22:15, 19-23
15 Thus says the Lord to Shebna, master of the palace: 19 “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. 20On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; 21 I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. 22 I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. 23 I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.”
P S A L M - Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8
R: Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple. (R) I will give thanks to your name, because of your kindness and your truth. 3When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me. (R) The Lord is exalted, yet the lowly he sees, and the proud he knows from afar. Your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands. (R)
2ND READING - Romans 11:33-36
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? 35 Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid? 36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:13-20
13 Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. 


This is a classic question about faith that will say a lot about our relationship with Jesus. Anyone who desires to be a disciple of Jesus must answer this question and then make sure that his life reflects his response. There are many aspects to any relationship, and the same is true for our relationship with Jesus. Depending on the individual, the focus could be one of many things and that focus will reflect the style and character of his relationship with God.

       In the same way, our life experiences shape not only our image of God but our character as well. It is important to recognize this as it helps us develop the necessary compassion in our relationships with others. If someone grows up without a father-figure, perhaps due to death, then it will be difficult for him to understand someone who talks about the Father’s love for His children. We need to be compassionate and wise enough to recognize this kind of difficulty that we will surely meet in our ministry.

       Many of the events that influence our formative years are out of our control. They happen to us and are not caused by us in any way, shape or form. This may not sound just, but it is a fact of life. And it should enlighten us and make us aware of how our actions may unwittingly affect the lives of others. Let us be a little more discerning of the moral decisions we make. Fr. Steve Tynan, MGL
REFLECTION QUESTION: Jesus stands before us every day and asks us how we want to relate with Him. What is your answer to that question?
Holy Spirit, help me to open my heart and mind to the will of God for my life. Help me to understand how He wants to relate to me that I may make a better response to Him.

St. Bartholomew, Apostle, pray for us.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

How to keep your husband happy, your house clean, and your kids Catholic

Holly Pierlot pounded
her fist on the kitchen table
and yelled at her husband . . .

"I can't take it anymore!"

Mothering and
homeschooling had
overwhelmed her.

The house was dirty, the laundry undone.
She couldn't find time to have fun with
her children or to go out with her husband.

Holly felt frustrated,
discouraged, misunderstood, and alone.

Yes, she still loved Philip and she did love God,
but she'd come to resent Philip's freedom
and she almost never found
time for prayer.

Today, almost
everything is better.

Holly still homeschools,
but the house is cleaner, she gets
more done, and the kids are happier.

There's less stress,
less strife, and less housework.

Holly's been healed of past wounds
that troubled her soul
and her marriage.

Best of all,
she spends at least an hour
each day in prayer and
time each evening with Philip.

Holly brought about these changes
with what she calls her Mother's
Rule of Life, a pattern of living that combines
the spiritual wisdom of the monastery with the
practical wisdom of motherhood.

Holly's Rule is not just another set of schedules;
it's a way for Christian mothers to answer
God's call to holiness.

With the help of your own rule,
you can get control of your household,
grow closer to God, come to love your husband
more, and raise up good Catholic children.

In these wise, practical pages,
Holly shows you how.

Are you ready to be
a better wife and mother?

Are you hungry for more order in your life?

Do you yearn for greater union with
your family, your husband, and God?

With your own Mother's Rule of Life,
you'll transform motherhood and its burdens
into the joyful vocation it is meant to be.

Learn from Holly Pierlot how to create a Rule
that's right for you and your family. Then
use that Rule to help draw you,
your husband, and each of your
children into Heaven!

A Mother's Rule of Life:
How to Bring Order to Your Home & Peace to Your Soul

by Holly Pierlot
$18.95 - 224 pages

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This unique spiritual guide will help you grow holier and more prayerful as you perform the most menial household chores — not in spite of those chores, but in the midst of them.

Written especially for women in charge of households, Holiness for Housewives will help you better understand and respect your vocation as a homemaker — and discover in it your own God-given path to sanctity.

This handy guide will show you how to:
  • Find meaning in even the most boring work
  • Pray in the midst of a bustling household
  • Bear the stress of those long days in which the work never seems to end
  • Develop a greater awareness of God's presence — even amid the diapers and the dirty dishes
  • Learn to rely more on your will and less on your emotions, when life seems to be an endless round of drudgery
  • Handle your burdens and sorrows with prayers that are especially fashioned for homemakers
Let Holiness for Housewives show you how to find and savor the lasting pleasures that await you in your noble, God-given vocation as a wife and mother!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why We Must Pray

Dom Hubert van Zeller 

Why do people not pray enough? The answer is partly because they do not want to make the effort to begin, and partly because they do not know how to go on once they have begun. A lot of this difficulty would be cleared up if people would only understand that prayer comes from God, is kept going by God, and finds its way back to God by its own power. All we have to do is to lend ourselves to the process as generously as we can, and not put any obstacles in the way.

Our Lord is the light of the world, and by His light we are shown how to start and how to go on. The best way to think of it is to look upon our Lord’s prayer as an all-powerful dynamo that sends out spiritual strength day and night, unceasingly. From this dynamo our souls are charged, and when the batteries have got­ten run down, we come again and again, every time we pray, to be recharged.

Without prayer we are in darkness, but in God’s light we see light.

Our Lord has said that we have not chosen Him but that He has chosen us. It is the same in this matter of prayer. We are not so holy or so clever that we can make prayer. Prayer is a grace. Prayer is so spiritual that it has to be made by God. God brings our prayer out of us by pouring His prayer in. We are just the bellows: His is the breath of life. When our Lord speaks of the Spirit breath­ing and the Light shining, He is speaking of His life in us.

If we share our Lord’s life, we must also share His prayer. This is the wonderful thing about being a member of His Church — that we are part of His Body and part of the service He offers to the Fa­ther. He draws our service out of us by establishing Himself in our souls. We have the infinite merits of His life, death, and Resurrec­tion to call upon at every moment of our lives. We cannot please God more than by calling upon them in the particular service of prayer.

Or you could put it this way. If you love someone very much, what is it that pleases you most about that person? You will surely answer, “Being loved back.” It is knowing that the other person feels as you do; it is seeing in another the same thing that is terribly important to you. Now, God is love. What He wants to see in you is the love He has put there. And He wants to see it expressed — He wants it to show. And that is why He wants you to pray.

Perhaps you think of prayer as wanting something from God when you pray. Up to a point, this is right: you want mercy, strength to resist temptation, answers to particular petitions, graces of one sort or another. But it would be more true to say that God wants something out of you when you pray. What He wants out of you is a generous response to the prayer of His own, which, as we have already seen, He has put there.

He who has created all things, who owns heaven and earth, wants something that you alone among all the millions of human beings who have been born into this world can give. He wants your own, particular, personal, direct, here-and-now service. No­body else can give it instead of you: it is yours alone to be given to Him alone. Your service of prayer is seen by God as a single thing by itself. You can either give it or refuse it.

By giving it, you give the best that is in you — because it is His own love that you are returning to Him — and by refusing it, you waste the greatest chance that God can offer you. When you pray, you are using your human powers to their highest possible limit — in fact, you are using them beyond their highest possible limit be­cause in prayer they are being carried along by grace — and when you have decided to give up prayer, you have thrown away the one really solid support that you can depend upon in this life.

Our prayer is spiritual (or it would not be prayer at all), but it is also bound up with these fallen natures of ours, which we cannot es­cape. For as long as we live on this earth, we shall have to be con­tent with a weighted prayer, a prayer that we can never quite handle as we would like, a gritty and earthy prayer that has to be constantly lifted up and sent on its way more directly toward God.

But however weighted down our prayer may be, it is at least a prayer. It is an effort, and has made a start. If we can honestly say we are trying, we can just as honestly say we are praying. So long as I am really trying to please God in my prayer (or in anything else, for that matter), I am pleasing Him. All He asks is that I should try to serve Him. The moment I try, I am in fact succeeding. I do not have to feel that I am doing it well, and that my prayer is pleasing God, because feelings are likely to be quite wrong about the good­ness or badness of our prayers. All I have to be clear about is that I am making the effort. 

How We Should Pray
From van Zeller’s Prayer and the Will of God.

After reading what has been said so far, you may feel like some­one who has been told how necessary swimming is and then has been thrown into the water without being told how to keep afloat. To know how important prayer is — and religiously, you cannot keep afloat without it — will not be much good to you unless you go on to the next step, which is to learn how to go about it.

Having taken in what is called the principle of prayer, we now have to think about the performance.

Now, whether the performance is an outward one, bringing you together with other people to pray in a church, or whether you are praying on your own, the worship you give must be yours. It is person-to-Person. Even a ceremony in which everyone takes part (such as the Mass) is, underneath the printed words, a private con­versation between you and God. What is called “liturgical” prayer is God’s revelation of Himself made public — a revelation that in­vites a personal as well as a public return from those who are join­ing in. As if nobody else were there, God is revealing something of Himself especially to you.

The fact that in public worship other people are there makes your response to God all the more pleasing to Him. He wants the members of His Body to be together in prayer and charity — all doing the same thing, but each in his own way. That is why there are churches and congregations. If He wanted a purely private de­votion out of us, God would allow us to do all our praying at home. The truth is He wants both: He wants us to pray as part of a crowd because we are united to one another in the family of His Church, and He wants us to pray by ourselves because members of a family can often get closer to their Father when the others are not around.

You will notice that I have called prayer “God’s revelation of Himself,” which asks you to reveal yourself to Him in return. You may wonder at the word revelation, because when you are pray­ing, you do not seem to notice anything of the kind. But a revela­tion does not always mean a blinding flash, the discovery of an important truth, the understanding of a mystery or a secret. Cer­tainly it means something learned, something unveiled and im­parted. When we pray, we come to know God better. We come to see by faith beyond the curtain that hides Him from us. Our knowl­edge, faith, and love are increased in the act of prayer. It does not happen suddenly, or even noticeably, but it does happen.

Say you were to stand in front of a painting, a masterpiece. If you were ready to take in what you saw, you would gain in knowl­edge. Your knowledge would make you like the picture. Your lik­ing for the picture would make you understand a little about the artist who painted it. So, altogether you would be a lot better off, in regard to art, from having stood for a while in front of a master­piece and gazed at it. The perfection of the work would have re­vealed itself to you.

Apply this to standing before God in prayer. Without having a vision or hearing a divine voice, without perhaps noticing at all what has been going on, you have been taking in something of God. Every time you pray, whether you are aware of the effect it is having upon you or not, you develop in the knowledge and love of God. God so imparts Himself to us in prayer, so “reveals” Himself, that we come away from it with the whole religious side of our na­tures enlarged and strengthened.

So what it all amounts to is that what God does for us in prayer is infinitely more important than what we do for Him in prayer. We cannot increase His knowledge and love of us in prayer — be­cause He knows us through and through already, and loves with an eternal and infinite love — but He can increase our knowledge and love of Him. This is prayer’s particular grace: that we under­stand more, and therefore want to worship more. In his light we see light, and, seeing, are drawn to praise.

But to go back for a minute to the art gallery, it is obvious that you will not learn much about art, or come to have a liking for it, if you stand in front of the picture with your eyes shut. Or with your eyes open but with your mind closed. You have to look, you have to be ready to understand whatever the picture is supposed to mean. So also in prayer. You have to focus on God. You have to be ready to receive whatever He intends for you.

This is where the practical side of prayer begins — when you ask yourself, “How do I focus on God? .. . How do I get ready for what He intends?. . . How can I be sure of what He intends?” Al­ways remembering that prayer is a matter of faith, and therefore a matter of operating more or less in the dark, we have at least cer­tain lines to go upon which were given us by our Lord Himself. Fortunately, we are not left entirely to ourselves, and to see where our help lies, we must turn to the next chapter.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Dom van Zeller’s Prayer and the Will of God, available from Sophia Institute Press.

By Dom Hubert van Zeller

Dom Hubert van Zeller (1905–1984) lived a life of spiritual adventure and holy renunciation. He was born in Egypt when that nation was a British protectorate, and entered the Benedictine novitiate at age nineteen. His soul thirsted for an austere way of life; at one point he even left the Benedictines to enter a strict Carthusian monastery. However, he soon returned to the Benedictines. A talented sculptor as well as a writer, his artworks adorn churches in Britain and the United States

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Getting Ready for Campus Life

by Father John McCloskey

Are your children heading back to college soon, or perhaps about to enter freshman year? Are you worried about how they will be able to buck the tide and remain faithful Catholics (or revert after being lured away) in the ultra-secularized environment of a non-Catholic college?

It may already seem too late to reverse wrong turns, but this is not necessarily so. The Enemy knows that tempting us to despair and to accept the inevitable is half the battle. In reality, hope springs eternal because God's faithfulness – accompanied by his bountiful graces – is without end. So don't despair! Ever.

Here are some ideas that, taken to heart, might help both you and your students prepare for their return to campus.

1. The best advice – make it non-negotiable, if possible – is that they seek a dorm or rooming situation that is segregated by sex.

Alas, the deck is already stacked against Catholic college students who live in co-ed dorms, where the culture's amoral and largely anti-religious current is likely to be at its strongest. May St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother be their protection!

2. Here's a truly radical thought: The purpose of dating is to find the person you wish to marry, the one who will become the father or mother of your children. Catholic parents should already have conveyed this perspective to their children; if not, don't hesitate to open a thought-provoking, countercultural conversation that may plant the seeds of proper dating choices and behavior. That means your children should be ready to terminate a dating relationship if, and as soon as, they realize this is not the person with whom to share a lifetime and a family.

3. As long as you and your children are talking about dating behavior, pass on the time-honored practices that can help clear sex-fogged adolescent minds and psyches enough for young people to judge how worthy and compatible the person they are dating may be.

These dating rules include never allowing yourself to be alone in a closed room or parked car with your date. Plan activities that will provide opportunities for growth in knowledge of God, each other, and self. Make a regular practice of worshiping and praying together. Dress modestly. Regardless of who "pays" for the date, no one "owes" anybody anything. Avoid actions that cause sexual arousal – including forms of dancing and extended exchanges of affection that are designed to cause it. In short, help each other to say "no," and give each other the chance to discover – and possibly fall in love with – a person you may one day decide to give yourself to for the rest of your life.

4. Ask your collegians if they have ever read the entire Catechism of the Church. Encourage them to do so (ideally, in those pre-college years that make it easier to impose required reading and pop quizzes). One cannot practice a faith that one does know.

5. Along the same lines, encourage them to frequent the Catholic campus ministry, both to receive the sacraments and to grow in the faith. Newman Centers, for instance, are now generally sound in their teaching – Deo gratias, after decades of confusion! And students will also find there others who are more or less serious about keeping and deepening their faith. Even nowadays, many college students meet their future spouses at college: What better place to begin a lifetime of faithful love than a sound Catholic center.

6. Explain that they are not at college primarily to "get a good job" (and mean it – the job-related pressure many young people understandably feel is reinforced by spoken and unspoken messages from their parents).

Although someday soon they will have to begin earning their own way (ideally, shortly after graduation!), they should realize that their college years may be their only opportunity to dig seriously into areas like history, literature, music, art history, and culture. Even if they are budding engineers or pre-med students, they should not neglect the humanities, which, rightly taught, offer a perspective that will enrich their lives in ways that business study never will.

7. Depending upon their gifts and abilities, encourage your children to consider professions that can directly influence souls, such as teaching, politics, or the media (and I hope you are also encouraging them to be open to exploring a vocation to the priesthood or religious life – it is all too easy for the "still, small" voice of God to be drowned out in today's culture).

I should reveal that I am on the advisory board of the Cardinal Newman Society, which has a wonderful Guide to Authentic Catholic Colleges. No, these are not Ivies or "elite" names, BUT your college student will get a much better education in living his or her faith than at a more prestigious but morally and philosophically bankrupt Ivy – or selective tech college. And after four years spent building a solid educational, moral, and religious foundation, your son or daughter can always move on to one of those elite universities for post-graduate work.

From there we can hope they will prosper as strong Catholic professionals, and become able and willing themselves to evangelize for our faith in the workplace and among their family and friends.

First appeared on The Catholic Thing in August, 2014.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

7 steps to stronger, more secure passwords

Associated Press 


NEW YORK — Rarely does a week go by without news of another hacking incident. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that a Russian crime ring had amassed some 1.2 billion username and password combinations. 

The Times report, based on information from Milwaukee-based Hold Security, called the data “the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials.” Hold’s researchers did not identify the origins of the data or name the victim websites, citing nondisclosure agreements. The company also said it didn’t want to name companies whose websites are still vulnerable to hacking, according to the Times report. 

A representative for Hold Security could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon. 

Security threats have long been part of online life, but the increased attention on them makes now a good time to review ways to protect yourself. 

If there’s reason to believe any of your passwords might have been compromised, change them immediately. One of the best things you can do is to make sure your passwords are strong. Here are seven ways to fortify them: 

• Make your password long. The recommended minimum is eight characters, but 14 is better and 25 is even better than that. Some services have character limits on passwords, though. 

• Use combinations of letters and numbers, upper and lower case and symbols such as the exclamation mark. Some services won’t let you do all of that, but try to vary it as much as you can. “PaSsWoRd!43″ is far better than “password43.” 

• Avoid words that are in dictionaries, even if you add numbers and symbols. There are programs that can crack passwords by going through databases of known words. One trick is to add numbers in the middle of a word — as in “pas123swor456d” instead of “password123456.” Another is to think of a sentence and use just the first letter of each word — as in “tqbfjotld” for “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” 

• Substitute characters. For instance, use the number zero instead of the letter O, or replace the S with a dollar sign. 

• Avoid easy-to-guess words, even if they aren’t in the dictionary. You shouldn’t use your name, company name or hometown, for instance. Avoid pets and relatives’ names, too. Likewise, avoid things that can be looked up, such as your birthday or ZIP code. But you might use that as part of a complex password. Try reversing your ZIP code or phone number and insert that into a string of letters. As a reminder, you should also avoid “password” as the password, or consecutive keys on the keyboard, such as “1234″ or “qwerty.” 

• Never reuse passwords on other accounts — with two exceptions. Over the years, I’ve managed to create hundreds of accounts. Many are for one-time use, such as when a newspaper website requires me to register to read the full story. It’s OK to use simple passwords and repeat them in those types of situations, as long as the password isn’t unlocking features that involve credit cards or posting on a message board. That will let you focus on keeping passwords to the more essential accounts strong. 

The other exception is to log in using a centralized sign-on service such as Facebook Connect. Hulu, for instance, gives you the option of using your Facebook username and password instead of creating a separate one for the video site. This technically isn’t reusing your password, but a matter of Hulu borrowing the log-in system Facebook already has in place. The account information isn’t stored with Hulu. Facebook merely tells Hulu’s computers that it’s you. Of course, if you do this, it’s even more important to keep your Facebook password secure. 

• Some services such as Gmail even give you the option of using two passwords when you use a particular computer or device for the first time. If you have that feature turned on, the service will send a text message with a six-digit code to your phone when you try to use Gmail from an unrecognized device. You’ll need to enter that for access, and then the code expires. It’s optional, and it’s a pain — but it could save you from grief later on. Hackers won’t be able to access the account without possessing your phone. Turn it on by going to the account’s security settings.