Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Lord is a Warrior; Feast of St. Michael

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Today is the feast day of the three archangels named in the canon of Scripture: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. While I love all three, I’m partial to one.

When I was confirmed by Bishop Patrick Zurek, he anointed me saying, “Archangel Michael, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” I chose this name because I knew that the anointing at Confirmation has its roots in the ancient anointing of warriors before battle, and Confirmation would launch me into spiritual warfare with Michael’s name on my forehead.

His name means “Who is like unto God?” for this was his battle cry at the dawn of creation. God had created the angels and given them an eternal choice: loving Him or rejecting Him. Lucifer was the angel who championed the cause against God, and in response, Michael shouted his battle cry. The Book of Revelation recalls:

Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. (12:7)

Michael’s battle cry echoes through eternity as the polar opposite to Satan’s prideful rejection of God. In his humility, Michael proclaims that no one is just like God—no one is greater, more beautiful, or more true. In his name, we also see that Michael’s role as a mighty warrior indeed is ‘like God’—a reflection of His might:

The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. (Ex. 15:3)

Revelation also describes Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, as a warrior riding on a white horse, leading “the armies of heaven” (19:14). Scripture tells us that Michael is a prince (Daniel 10:13, 21) of the King and continues to rebuke Satan (Jude 1:9).

Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII (one of my favorite popes) wrote a prayer in honor of St. Michael, which I pray often. Pope Leo was compelled to write this prayer after experiencing a sudden vision—in the middle of a meeting with the conference of Cardinals—during which he saw Satan and his legion of demons trying to destroy the Church. But, in the midst of the battle, Archangel Michael came and cast Satan and the demons into hell.

At one time, the short version of Leo’s composition was prayed after Mass. This has lost popularity in recent decades, but I would encourage you to pray it yourself. In 1994, Blessed Pope John Paul II requested the faithful to again pray the Prayer to St. Michael in the battle of our times “against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians, “Draw strength from the Lord and from his mighty power” (Eph 6 10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Rev. 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St Michael throughout the Church. […] Although today this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it, and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world. [Bl. P. John Paul II, Regina Caeli, 24 April 1994]

Short Form of the Prayer: St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen. (To read Leo’s complete prayer, click here.)

Exorcists always note that Satan has no power on his own; all power and might come from the Creator. This is what Michael reminds us: in order to possess true might, we must reflect the humility of God.

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I was there with John Paul II! – Feast Day of Padre Pio

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On June 13, 2002, 500,000 pilgrims gathered in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to join Pope John Paul II proclaim Padre Pio of Pietrelcina a saint! I was privileged with the honor to organize a pilgrimage from San Antonio for Padre Pio Parish. There were around 30 from San Antonio that journeyed to Rome for this historical event. As we stood for several hours in St. Peter’s Square waiting for John Paul II to begin Mass, I began to think about my experience with Padre Pio.

Tom, my husband, and I had visited San Giovanni Rotondo several years before. This is a small town along the east coast of Italy. It is where Padre Pio lived most of his life as a Capuchin Friar in a monastery, praying, offering daily Mass and hearing Confessions daily for several hours. He died in 1968, so he is considered a modern day Saint!

When visiting his monastery, we were able to see his ‘cell’ (room), personal belongings such as his habit, shoes, prayer book, Bible and rosary. His cell was simple, but it gave witness to Padre Pio’ simple and humble life!

We met one of the Friars, someone who knew Padre Pio and lived with him in the monastery. As we heard him speak about his friend, his love for Padre Pio was very evident. He blessed us using one of Padre Pio’s gloves. You see, Padre Pio was the only and first priest in the history of the Church that was blessed with the Stigmata (the wounds of Christ in his body). Gloves were used to cover the bleeding wounds in Padre Pio’s hands, thus making the gloves a sacramental. It was truly a blessing for us, who knew about Padre Pio’s love for Christ, to have received this ‘holy opportunity.’

I will never forget that pilgrimage to Rome in June 2002. It was well worth standing for hours in the summer heat of June, in the midst of the crowd of thousands. Hearing John Paul II’s words about Padre Pio, united in prayer and with much joy with a ‘spiritual friend’ in Heaven and with so many persons from all over the world who knew this “humble, prayerful servant of God”!

Crowd at St. Pio's Cannonization

Padre Pio said

“Let us do good while we still have time, and we will render glory to our heavenly Father, sanctify ourselves, and give good example to others.”

Take a look at this website of the Shrine of St. Padre Pio in San Antonio, the only Catholic Church in the United States named after the Saint:
www.shrineofpadrepio.com

P.S. Interested in going on pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo, Rome, and Assisi? The pastor of the Shrine of Padre Pio, Msgr. Pat Ragsdale, has asked us to organize a special pilgrimage in Fall of 2012. Contact us if you’re interested, and we’ll stay in touch: (210) 521-3377

Follow me! – Who, me?!

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The ruins of Capernaum, with the white stone synagogue built over the 1st-century synagogue

Today is the Feast Day of St. Matthew, when the Church remembers St. Matthew, one of the Lord’s Apostles and his conversion. It occurred in Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee where Matthew worked as a tax collector (yes, that was not a popular job; most tax collectors in those days were known to ‘cheat’ from others).

Jesus while in Capernaum sees “a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me. And he got up and followed him.” (ref. Matthew 9:9). I always found this passage intriguing…how someone who hears the words of Jesus to follow him, gets up, leaves everything and follows Him!

Saint Bede, in one of his homilies explains it very well:

Jesus saw Matthew not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of man. … Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, hand incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.

We can take those same words from Saint Bedes’s homily directed to us: “Jesus sees you/me! When we experience the gaze of the Son of God, our Savior, how can we not be changed? Whether that gaze is an experience at a retreat, an encounter in prayer, by meeting someone, on pilgrimage or even through trials and suffering. The gaze of Christ can reach our interiority and flood our minds with the light of grace.

Victory on Calvary: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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The altar at Calvary in Jerusalem; Rock of Calvary can be seen below the glass.

When Tom and I were in Jerusalem for the first time (we have journeyed to the Holy Land several times), we purchased a large hand-carved olive wood crucifix for our home—and two small ones with a tiny piece of calvary embedded in the bottom of the cross. These small crosses are unique; they can be only be obtained through the Franciscans in Jerusalem. Often when we pray in our Center’s chapel, “Gethsemane” holding these crucifixes in our hands as a reminder of our Lord’s love, his Passion and Death on the Cross, and ultimately his victory.

The Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar celebrates THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS on September 14th. In the Liturgy of the Hours we read,

How radiant is that precious cross
which brought us our salvation
In the cross we are victorious
Through the cross we shall reign
By the cross all evil is destroyed
Alleluia!

Today, take time to pray before the Crucifix, whether standing or kneeling. As you look upon this glorious sign of God’s love for us, listen to the words of Saint Paul from 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.
Rather, 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.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Conversion ain’t pretty or easy.

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Violent imagery is central in today’s first reading (Col. 3:1-11).

No one in their right mind likes to think about putting anyone or anything to death. But St. Paul clearly teaches the Christians in Colossae,

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly…

His words remind us of the brutal crucifixion of Jesus, who was put to death for our sins. Paul instructs that, through baptism, we “have died” and “have been raised with Christ.” But have taken the effort to truly put to death these things within us?

immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry…anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language…lying to one another…prejudice and discrimination

The reading reminds me of a powerful classic film released in 1953, The Robe. In it, we meet Marcellus, a Roman soldier who assisted in Christ’s crucifixion. He comes to believe that Jesus’ robe has put a curse on him, since he is tortured with the guilt of his actions. The Roman emperor gives him a commission: find & destroy the robe, and discover the names of Jesus’ followers.

In Marcellus’ journey, he encounters small Christian communities and even some apostles. They influence his eventual conversion to follow the Man whose death had haunted him for years. How was he able to radically convert? Marcellus learns about the Resurrection and the Love that Christ has for him.

By our own power or strength, our own virtue or talents, we cannot take off our old self or put to death our sinful tendancies. We must let Christ live in us. Christ’s power over sin and death will empower us to defeat those enemies. As Paul says, Christians

have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,
circumcision and uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

Here is Marcellus hearing the Resurrection story for the first time, in The Robe: