COMMON PREFACE II

January 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

COMMON PREFACE II

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used on weekdays in Ordinary Time.

Salvation through Christ

St. Paul taught us that God desires all men to be saved and to come to know the truth (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). Some people today don’t even realize they need saving because they don’t realize they need God to be truly happy. They can’t put the finger on what’s going wrong in life. An author of the last century coined the expression “anonymous Christians” to describe people who unknowingly sought Christ but, for various reasons, didn’t have the opportunity to know him. Some went as far as to argue that for those people ignorance was bliss, and they’d find salvation simply following their consciences, not receiving the Gospel.

That’s not what Sacred Scripture teaches us: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). If Christ was the ransom for all of us, we should know him, seek him, and welcome him. He came to help us find him

“For in goodness you created man and when he was justly condemned, in mercy you redeemed him, through Christ our Lord.”

We may need God, but God never needed us. He created us out of no necessity whatsoever, and he didn’t have to save us from ourselves either. What greater gift can you receive than existence itself? If life seems to be a curse at times instead of a blessing it is due to sin, not God. Sin is an oppressive gloom that weighed on mankind for generations until Our Lord decided in his mercy to overthrow it. Some of that gloom accompanies us for the rest of this earthly life, but through Christ’s Resurrection we see the light at the end of our tunnel, and that should fill us with hope.

It’s no coincidence that a common symbol on vestments, altars, etc. in our churches and chapels is I.H.S.—it stands for Iesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus the Savior of Man. Let’s not forget it.


Realistic Idealism: Weekly Message for 1-9-18

January 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Weekly Message

Dear Fellow Digital Pilgrim, pax Christi:

A new year is underway. Again. We can’t help feeling a surge – even if only small and temporary – of optimism, or maybe even hope, at the start of a new year. The world around us is full of advice for New Year’s resolutions. Some of that advice is good, but none of it will do any of us any good unless we take it from a true Christian perspective. I like to call that perspective “realistic idealism,” or maybe, “idealistic realism.”

An ideal is a goal we strive to achieve or a standard we try to live up to. Having healthy and challenging ideals helps draw the best out of ourselves. Someone without ideals, without something to strive for, has lost a key part of their humanity. We are created and called to make an impact on the world, to grow and learn and flourish. Healthy ideals remind us of that fundamental direction of our lives here on earth,
our lives as pilgrims.

But ideals need to be tempered with reality. Being too idealistic can lead to perfectionism, to thinking that holiness (that’s the abbreviated name of the ideal of all Christians) consists of perfect performance. But it doesn’t. Christian maturity – growing and flourishing as friends and disciples of Jesus – flows from a loving relationship with God. It does not consist in a kind of Hollywood-esque flawlessness and impeccability.

For us who are intentionally pursuing a deeper relationship with God, New Year’s resolutions can be helpful, but in a sense they are nothing new. An intentional disciple of Christ regularly renews a commitment to follow him more closely – regularly resolves to give what God is asking and to receive what God is offering. And the best way, in my opinion, to keep our idealism properly tempered with reality is to focus always on keeping first things first: keep going deeper in our prayer life. That was the real reason I wrote The Complete Christian collection, three books of meditations that help you fill out your understanding of the Christian ideal while giving practical directions about how best to pursue that idea. The Better Part focuses on encountering Christ afresh each day. Seeking First the Kingdom focuses on what it means to follow Christ as his disciple. And Go! focuses on how we engage in the mission that Christ has given us to be his messengers in this world.

If you haven’t finalized your New Year’s resolutions yet, maybe you could resolve to work your way through those three books this year, either individually or together with a small group, a friend, or your spouse. After all, if our relationship with Christ is vibrant and growing, everything else will surely fall into place.

 

Happy New Year!

Yours sincerely in Christ,
Fr John Bartunek, LC
contact@rcspirituality.org


COMMON PREFACE I

January 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

COMMON PREFACE I

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used on weekdays in Ordinary Time.

The renewal of all things in Christ

Adam and Eve were entrusted with a great spiritual patrimony for humanity, and they lost it at the Fall. A sinful world is a tired and withered world, a downward spiral of decay and corruption that leads to misery. Our Lord gives us the opportunity to renew our world: to leave sin and decay behind and live.

“In him you have been pleased to renew all things, giving us all a share in his fullness. For though he was in the form of God, he emptied himself and by the blood of his Cross brought peace to all creation. Therefore he has been exalted above all things, and to all who obey him, has become the source of eternal salvation.”

The renewal brought by Our Lord is not simply a reset; by assuming human nature he infuses it not only with something new but with something better. The Fall brought war and struggle to creation. Our Lord paid whatever blood debt that incurred on the Cross. Through the Cross, he has given us a great power for renewal. Let’s ask him to renew us.


Which Way in 18′?: Weekly Message for 1-2-18

January 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Weekly Message

Dear Friends in Christ,

Readers occasionally ask about the baptism of Our Lord. Why would Jesus need to be baptized, they ask, when he had no sin?

This same question occurred to John the Baptist. “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14).

Jesus’ submission to baptism was, among other things, a gesture of his great humility. He wanted to give us an example to follow.

Acknowledgment of our sinfulness, whether done during the penitential rite at Mass or in the confessional, helps us humbly stay on the right path.

Fittingly, Jesus’ baptism comes at the start of the liturgical year. Like a guidepost it points us in the right direction as we emerge from the Christmas season. For our encounter with the newborn Jesus prompts us, as it did the magi, to go “by another way” (Matthew 2:12).

Perhaps over the holidays there were tense family get-togethers that reminded us of our need to work harder on reaching out to relatives more lovingly. Or perhaps that one gift we hankered for left us bored by the end of Christmas Day.

These kinds of challenges and disappointments propel us even more to keep Our Lord at the center of our lives. For only he can fill our hearts with real joy.

To make more room for Christ, this is a good moment to see what we need to work on in the new year. Is there something the Holy Spirit is nudging us to embrace in 2018?

For inspiration you might want to do our Retreat Guide on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Sitting in the Side Pew in preparation for her feast this January 4th. She was one saint who was willing to change direction in life, sometimes in painful ways, for love of a Lord who walked so humbly among us.

Be assured of my prayers,

In Christ,
Father Edward McIlmail, LC
Ask a Priest contributor
contact@rcspirituality.org


PREFACE OF HOLY VIRGINS AND RELIGIOUS

December 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

PREFACE OF HOLY VIRGINS AND RELIGIOUS

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used for commemorating those holy souls who consecrated their lives to God in a special way.

The sign of a life consecrated to God

The Church on earth is often thought of as the Pilgrim Church, evoking the Old Testament image of the People of God on pilgrimage toward the Promised Land. It’s not uncommon in a pilgrimage to have people carrying banners or standards to rally those on the march, reminders and rallying points for moments of uncertainty. Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, taught that the consecrated life belongs to the life and holiness of the Church (cf. n. 44). Through the profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience consecrated persons become “a sign which can and ought to attract all the members of the Church to an effective and prompt fulfillment of the duties of their Christian vocation” (n. 44). Religious make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and become standard-bearers for everyone in the Church on pilgrimage toward the Promised Land of Heaven.

“For in the Saints who consecrated themselves to Christ for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, it is right to celebrate the wonders of your providence, by which you call human nature back to its original holiness and bring it to experience on this earth the gifts you promise in the new world to come.”

If a life consecrated to God is meant to be a sign, it is a sign of the spiritual goods that await the holy at the end of their earthly lives. It reminds us that this world doesn’t have the last word. In Saint John Paul II’s post-synodal exhortation on the consecrated life, Vita Consecrata, he described consecrated souls as an “eschatological sign”: a sign of the heavenly things to come (see n. 26).

It’s no coincidence that the first form of consecrated life was consecrated virginity: “[Consecrated life] does this above all by means of the vow of virginity, which tradition has always understood as an anticipation of the world to come, already at work for the total transformation of man. Those who have dedicated their lives to Christ cannot fail to live in the hope of meeting him, in order to be with him forever” (n. 26). In eternity, as Our Lord reminded us, we’ll no longer give or be given in marriage (see Mark 12:25; Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:34-35). Consecrated persons live that state in advance through a special spiritual gift of Our Lord and encourage everyone to live chastity according to their state of life (single, married, etc.) with Heaven in mind.

The consecrated life is a foreshadowing of the future kingdom of Heaven. Through consecrated life, we’re all helped to put material possessions, talents, plans, and relationships in their proper perspective. If the Christian life seems hard consecrated persons remind us that with God’s help we can accomplish much more than we think. It’s no coincidence that the evangelical counsels are called “counsels”: they are Our Lord’s advice for holiness, and consecrated persons remind us that this advice is not only good for them but for us, even though we don’t all apply that advice in the same way.

Let’s all consider the example of the consecrated souls now in Heaven who can help us put the things of this world into perspective in order to gain the good things of the world to come.


The Day After?: Weekly Message for 12-26-17

December 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Weekly Message

Dear Friends in Christ,

It’s not too late to wish you a Merry Christmas, and that is the subject of this e-mail: we have just under two weeks to wish each other Merry Christmas. I hope that beautiful liturgies were celebrated with your participation yesterday, gifts and hugs were exchanged in abundance, and your day could be summarized as “joy,” but Christmas is an eight-day feast, and the Christmas Season, albeit brief, extends into the start of the New Year.

A birthday is usually celebrated and gone, but Our Savior’s birthday should give us pause, because, in a way, it also reminds us of a different kind of birthday that he has ushered in for every person who believes in him: a birth into eternal life. Today we celebrate St. Stephen as the first martyr. It may seem strange that we would celebrate a martyr during the octave of Christmas, much less that we celebrate three (St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist—more on him in a minute, and the Holy Innocents), but we celebrate the martyrs because the day of their martyrdom, according to an ancient Christian tradition, is called their dies natalis, the Latin expression for “birthday.” Through their witness they are born anew in Christ: the day of their death is the day of their birth. With Our Lord’s birth the possibility of a new life in him is also born for us.

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate the Feast Day of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. St. John is considered a white martyr: he was actually, according to tradition, miraculously spared from physical martyrdom while imprisoned. St. John’s example reminds us of the reason for martyrdom, which is not death: love for Christ. The dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, says martyrdom is the supreme witness to love for Christ: “From the earliest times…some Christians have been called upon—and some will always be called upon—to give the supreme testimony of this love to all men, but especially to persecutors. The Church, then, considers martyrdom as an exceptional gift and as the fullest proof of love” (n. 42). The disciple “Christ loved” did not shy away from showing his love for Christ too, no matter what trouble it got him into.

The Holy Innocents remind us that persecution was not long in coming for the sake of Christ. We too may suffer for giving witness to Our Lord and our love for him, but putting our love for Christ into action, not matter what he consequences, is the path to our birth into eternal life. That may not translate into martyrdom, but it will translate into joy.

Merry Christmas!
Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
author, Finding the Plug
contact@rcspirituality.org


PREFACE OF HOLY PASTORS

December 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

PREFACE OF HOLY PASTORS

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used for commemorating holy bishops and priests.

The presence of holy Pastors in the Church

In the Old Testament, the kings of Israel were described by the Lord as the shepherds of Israel, and a lot of them did a rotten job, using their position for their own gain at the expense of their flocks (see Ezekiel 34). In the light of this, the Lord promised that he himself would come to shepherd Israel. He also promised that he would send Israel shepherds after his own heart (see Jeremiah 3:15). Our Lord fulfilled this promise by laying down his life for us, his sheep, as the Good Shepherd (see John 10). He also entrusting his flock to the care of Peter and the other apostles, apostles who would later appoint successors who would continue the pastoral care of Our Lord’s flock: hence our “pastors” were born, not monopolizing their flocks, but caring for them as the flock of the Good Shepherd so that his pastoral care and concern would continue leading us to greener pastures.

“For, as on the festival of Saint N. you bid your Church rejoice, so, too, you strengthen her by the example of his holy life, teach her by his words of preaching, and keep her safe in answer to his prayers.”

It’s no coincidence that bishops all bear a shepherd’s crook as a symbol of their pastoral office. Sometimes the sheep need the stick, sometimes they need the hook, but the greatest results and respect come when the pastor leads by example. When we consider saintly bishops like Martin of Tours or saintly priests like St. John Vianney, we see pastors whose holiness lit the way for their flocks and continue to light the way for us.

When pastors preach they know that it is not their word that their flocks need, but, rather, the Word. They preach the Word of God and help us all put it into practice, applying it to the ever-changing challenges that arise in human history. Sometimes they preach it through their martyrdom, like St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, or their compassion, like St. John Bosco, because Our Lord did not just speak with words, but with actions, laying down his life for his sheep.

When St. Paul at Miletus bid farewell to the men who would soon shepherd the Church at Ephesus he warned them that, “…after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock…” (Acts 20:29). Pastors know that if not for them wolves would quickly ravage their flocks. Every Sunday pastors celebrate the Eucharist with their flocks and then send them back out into the world, exposed to countless spiritual dangers, but fortified by the Word and the sacraments. Saint John Paul II often prayed intensely for his flock and kept a large sheaf of papers in his kneeler containing all the prayer intentions people had sent him. Every pastor prays the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day not only for the Church but for the world.

Even when their earthly ministry has ended these saints continue to pray for us, inspire us with their example, and teach us the Word through their imitation of the Good Shepherd. Let’s help all our pastors lead us to greener pastures and pray for them as well.


Fearless Feasting: Weekly Message for 12-19-17

December 18, 2017 by  
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Dear Fellow Digital Pilgrim,

What I really want to say to you is very simple: Merry Christmas!!!

As a consecrated woman in Regnum Christi, I have followed God’s call to give myself entirely – body, soul, and spirit – to the Lord and the service of his Kingdom. And so, every Advent and Christmas, when we contemplate Christ’s total gift of himself through the Incarnation, my heart is moved, touched, and renewed in a special way. Somehow, gazing at the beautiful face of the Christ child never gets old for me. It reassures me that God’s love really is real, palpable, and within my grasp. It makes me want to consecrate my life to him all over again. Like the Wise Men from the East, I just never get tired of kneeling before baby Jesus, wrapped in his Mother Mary’s loving arms, and worshipping him.

And it is my sincere hope that some of the joy Jesus has given to my heart over the years will also bubble up in your heart this Christmas. All of our services and products here at RCSpirituality.org are meant to remind you of God’s real presence and interest in your life, and to expand your experience of all that he wants to give you.

I also want to thank all of you who have been supporting us this year, and for the past few years, with your prayers and donations. We are more convinced than ever that evangelizing the Digital Continent is a worthy enterprise, but we couldn’t do anything at all about it without your support.

All of us here at RCSpirituality.org will be remembering our digital pilgrims and missionaries in our prayers this Christmas in a special way. So lift your eyes to the Star of Bethlehem and let the glory of the Lord fill you with joy, so you can fearlessly celebrate our newborn Lord to the full this Christmas, holding nothing back.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Yours sincerely in Jesus,
Lucy Honner, CRC
Director, RCSpirituality Center
lucy@rcspirituality.org


PREFACE II OF HOLY MARTYRS

December 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

PREFACE II OF HOLY MARTYRS

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used for commemorating the saints who’ve sacrificed their lives for Christ.

The wonders of God in the victory of the Martyrs

No one is obliged to seek martyrdom. It is a heroic act of sacrifice and holiness. Our Lord himself didn’t have to die on Calvary; he chose it for love of his Father and for love of us. Each martyr represents an amazing victory: the victory of making life a complete offering to God by laying it down for him, and the victory of God’s grace in that generous soul. For those called to martyrdom the act itself is a crowning achievement of the grace of God with which they’ve cooperated since the first stirring of the Holy Spirit lead to their Baptism, then to the other sacraments, to prayer and sacrifice, to a desire to share the experience of Christ that had become their true joy, to the test of how deep their love for Christ went through an opportunity for extraordinary spiritual heroism.

“For you are glorified when your Saints are praised; their very sufferings are but wonders of your might: in your mercy you give ardor to their faith, to their endurance you grant firm resolve, and in their struggle the victory is yours, through Christ our Lord.”

When we praise the saints for their witness and holiness we don’t just give glory to them, but to Our Lord. If you lay down your life for a cause you underscore its importance and draw attention to it; it’s more important than your own life. We are precious in the eyes of God, his adopted children, yet still his creatures. The Creator is more important than the creature, but when the Lord looks down upon his martyrs he doesn’t simply see creatures carrying out a necessary function for the sake of their Creator, but a son or daughter giving it all for love of their Father.

He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son fulfilling the promises he had made, but, in the end, didn’t let Abraham go through with it. He didn’t spare his own Son, and his Son offered himself willingly to show the greatest love. Martyrdom is not easy; it implies suffering, faith, endurance, and struggle on our part, as well as fidelity to God’s grace.

In our own struggles for holiness, we may not face everything a martyr would, but we can count on God as well to help us love him and others, both as he and they deserve. Let’s not shy away from any special invitations to sanctity that Our Lord extends; they may not be to the point of shedding blood, but they will give him glory and help us grow in love.


The Aroma of Hope: Weekly Message for 12-12-17

December 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Weekly Message

Dear Fellow Digital Pilgrims, pax Christi:

Even before I became a Christian, I enjoyed the Advent season. The Christmas spirit of hope-filled anticipation touched everything during those cold, snowy weeks leading up to December 5th. And I think that’s still the case, even in our more and more secularized culture. Many of us keep trying to promote the real “reason for the Season”, but even folks who haven’t met Jesus can smell and savor the aroma of Christian hope around this time of year.

That’s the power of hope. And when our own hope in God’s omnipotence, faithfulness, and providence is strong, we become like the season of Advent. We spread the aroma of encouragement, even joy, in everything that we do and wherever we go.

Here at RCSpirituality.org, we are working hard to keep giving you resources that can nourish your hope. Many of you have already taken up our 22-Day Advent challenge, and I am sure you are already feeling some of its benefits. (There is still time to sign up, even if it won’t be the full 22 days for you.) Many of you have gone back to rewatch some of our Advent and Christmas Retreat Guides (and if you haven’t seen our newest, The Christmas Apostle: An Advent Retreat Guide on St John the Apostle, I highly recommend it). I would encourage you to share some of these resources with folks you know who may be missing out on the special graces God wants to give us during this season.

And today, when we commemorate Our Lady of Guadalupe, named Empress of the Americas, we can renew our hope with special vigor. Back in 1531, Mary appeared to a humble native American in Mexico, St. Juan Diego. She asked him for a favor or two, but she also reassured him amidst the sufferings and uncertainties of his own journey. Her words to him are just as applicable to us, and can give a powerful boost to our hope in the Lord. I leave you with them, assuring you of my prayers for a fruitful and grace-filled Advent and Christmas:

…Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightens you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing: do not let it disturb you. Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you…

God bless you and keep you!
In Him,
Fr John Bartunek, LC
contact@rcspirituality.org

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