THE PUBLIC LIFE OF OUR LORD (The Sower)

As was usual with Him, Jesus took in the scene that rose up before Him, the people gathered on the shore, the hill with its richness and poverty rising up behind; for His purposes it was enough. And now He would make use of it in a new way. Hitherto He had taken the sights and materials about Him to illustrate what He had to teach; now He would reverse the process. Henceforth men must discover for themselves the meaning of His words. It was indeed a complete transformation; as they sat about, the disciples could not help observing it. Later they spoke of this day as one marking a distinct development; only then did they realize all it signified. Hence the solemnity with which the Evangelists open their description:

“The same day Jesus, going out of the house, sat by the seaside; and great multitudes were gathered together and hastened out of the cities onto him, so that He went up into a boat and sat in the sea. And all the multitude stood upon the land by the seaside. And he taught them many things in parables, and said unto them in his own doctrine: “Hear ye. Behold the sower went out to sow his seed; and whilst he soweth some fell by the wayside, and it was trodden down and the birds of the air came and ate it up. And other some fell upon rocky ground, where it had not much earth; and it shot up immediately, because it had no depth of earth. And when the sun was risen it was scorched, and because it had no root nor moisture it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it; and it yielded no fruit. And some fell upon good ground, and brought forth fruit that grew up and increased, and yielded some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold.”

Certainly a beautiful and peaceful introduction; an eclogue. There was a pause; the people waited for the rest. What is this? There was an expression on His face; a shadow of the sadness He had shown, that morning when He turned in anger on the Pharisees, seems to pass over Him now. He seems not happy, he seemed disappointed; clearly the men in such numbers before him, and the enthusiasm they professed, meant little to him at this moment. Still they waited for what He next would say, the doctrine He would draw from this story; they were surprised, they wondered what He might mean, when, with an abrupt conclusion,

“he cried out: he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

This is all that we are told; the sermon ended there. To the astonishment of the gathered crowd He stepped out of the boat, and made as if He would go. The sun had now sat behind the hill, and the shadows were gathering fast.

It had been a long day; they let Him go. The crowd broke up and saw its rest; some in town, most along the bank where the regular lapping of the waves inviting all the world to silence. To us after all these years, and after learning the interpretations given by the Master Himself, the meaning of the parable seems so clear as to the obvious. But if we take them apart, without any explanation whatsoever, it will easily be seen how mysterious, how like deep riddles, they must have appeared to those multitudes by the Lake of Galilee. Even to us there are parables still not finally interpreted; how much more must it have been to them! It was certainly a new beginning. Hitherto all that He had said had been plain and explicit, never more than in a culminating Sermon on the Mount. Now all was changed. He would have them discover for themselves; nay, He put before them doctrines which of themselves they would never interpret. The key to His meaning they would need to apply to a definite teacher; the teaching by parables was the founding of the authority of the teaching Church.

It was more. The time was passing fast, and the end of all was already beginning to loom in sight. He had much yet to do and say; above all He had to tell men of things that were in themselves beyond the reach of human understanding. That they might be able to accept these things though they would not understand them; that their faith in Him as Man, which was all that at present He had won, might rise to faith in Him as truly Son of God; for this a new mind was needed. It was necessary now that they should be trained to accept truths and doctrines which at first they would not grasp, truths which they could take only on the aithority of another. When they had become reconciled to this, then they would more easily receive the highest teaching of all that in no long time He would give them; teaching which, judged by their present human standard only, would be “a hard saying,” and wholly unacceptable. Thus step by step, without any harshness or compulsion, did Jesus lift up and train the minds of men to receive the full interpretation of Himself.

Some such realization as this came upon the Twelve after they had listened to the sermon by the sea. Jesus did not waste His words; He would not spend His time in just entertaining an interested audience. The picture He had drawn of the Sower and his Seed, though to many it seemed merely a picture, yet, because it came from Him, must have something deep beneath it. They discussed it with one another; His last words,

“He that hath ears to hear let him hear,”

had made them doubly serious; yet could they not agree among themselves what exactly it might mean. Nevertheless they knew that it was vital that they should understand. They had been chosen; He had expressly told them that soon He would send them out to teach others; for their better training He was keeping them with Him wherever He went. They would go to Him; they would confess their ignorance; they would ask Him to give them light.

The evening had closed in and the Master had retired to His cottage to be alone. But the Twelve knew where to find Him; they also knew that, come when they might, their coming would never be taken as an intrusion. He might at times escape from others; there is never once a sign that He wished to escape from them, unless for their own sakes to keep them from sharing His danger. They could come to Him whenever they would; His love of their company, at the end, grew to a great reliance; to miss this trait, this ever-increasing love of, this trust in, this human dependence on the Twelve, binding them to Him by emptying Himself out before them till they know He was in need of their support, their companionship, their affection, is to miss another of the characteristic features of Jesus, at once the strongest and the weakest of men.

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Do Not Yield to Discouragement

An excerpt from Spiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli:

Expect often to feel disturbed and deprived of the holy and sweet solitude and precious liberty, because, from the emotions of your heart, a cloud of dust will sometimes arise, and it will give you much trouble on the road you have to travel. God permits this for your greater good. Remember that this is the war in which the saints have carried off crowns of great merit.

In all the things that disturb you, say, “Behold, Lord, Thy servant; let Thy will be done in me. I know and confess that the truth of Thy Word shall stand fast forever; and Thy promises are sure, and in them do I trust. Behold Thy creature; do with me what Thou wilt. I have nothing, my God, that holds me back. I am Thine alone.”

Happy is the soul that thus offers itself to its Lord every time it is troubled and disturbed. And if the struggle lasts long, and you cannot as quickly as you would wish bring your will into conformity with the will of God, be not on this account discouraged or bewildered. Persevere in self-oblation and in prayer, and you shall gain the victory.

See Christ’s conflict in the garden, and how His humanity recoiled from it, saying, “Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me.” But at once He placed His soul in solitude and, with a will free and detached, said with deep humility, “Yet, not my will, but Thine be done.” See and act according to this pattern. Do not move a step, when you find yourself in any difficulty, until you have raised your eyes to Christ on the Cross; there you will see written and stamped in large letters how you should act. Copy faithfully this example.

Be not dismayed if sometimes your love of self disturbs you. Do not leave the Cross, but return to prayer, and persevere in lowliness until you have lost your own will, and will only that God’s will may be done in you. And if, when you leave off praying, you have gathered only this one fruit, be contented; but if you have not achieved this, your soul will remain empty and hungry. Strive not to brood over anything, even for a short time, but strive to let God alone dwell in your heart.

Do not harbor a feeling of gall or bitterness toward anything or person, and do not let your eyes rest on the malice and bad example of others, but be like a little child, who has no consciousness of these bitter feelings, and passes through the midst of them without offense.

As it is our adversary, the Devil’s custom to seek to devour souls, he uses every possible means to lead us to forsake humility and simplicity, and to make us attribute something to ourselves, to our own industry and efforts, irrespective of the grace that is given to us, without which no one can name the name of Jesus.

And although of ourselves by the exercise of our free will, we can resist this grace, we cannot even receive it without its assistance. Thus, if any man does not receive grace, it is his own fault; but if he does receive it, he can do so only through the same grace — a grace, however, that is sufficiently bestowed upon all. Our adversary, then, would make us think and believe that of ourselves we are more diligent than others, and that we are better disposed for receiving the gifts of God. In this way, he would lead us to pride and make us forgetful of our own insufficiency, when unaided, and then would induce us to despise in our hearts others who do not do the same good works that we do.

Therefore, unless you are very watchful, and instantly turn with all promptness to humble, abase, and annihilate self, he will make you fall into pride…And if, in this manner, he ever gets possession of your will, he will make himself master of it and put into it all kinds of vices, to your great hurt and peril.

Therefore, the Lord warns us to watch and pray. It is indispensable, then, that you should use the utmost vigilance, in order to prevent the enemy from robbing you of so great a treasure as peace and quietness of mind; for with all his might he tries to deprive you of this repose and to make you live in continual unrest, knowing that such a state is fraught with danger and injury to your soul.

For if a soul is at peace, all things are done with ease, and great things are done well; hence, it willingly perseveres and surmounts all opposition with ease. On the other hand, if it is disturbed and unquiet, it does little, and does that little very imperfectly, and soon becomes weary, and, in fact, lives in a fruitless martyrdom.

If you wish, then, to come off victorious, and to foil the enemy when he attempts to destroy your labours, there is nothing about which you must be more on your guard than not to let your soul become disturbed, nor to consent even for a moment to any temptation to disquietude.

And in order that you may know the better how to guard yourself against the wiles of the enemy, make it a certain rule in this case that every thought that discourages you and lessens your love and confidence toward God, is a messenger from Hell, and therefore to be driven away and banished from your presence without an audience. For the office of the Holy Spirit is none other than always to unite the soul on all opportunities more and more closely with God, enkindling and inflaming it with His sweet love, and with fresh confidence in Him; whereas the work of the Devil ever points in the opposite direction and consists in the employment of all means in his power, such as inordinate fear, exaggeration of our natural weakness; and scruples as to the dispositions for Confession, Communion, or prayer, so that by these suggestions he may render us distrustful, fearful, and restless. The absence of warm feelings in our devotions, of delight in our prayers and other exercises, he uses as an opportunity for producing impatient sadness, construing it into a sign that all is lost, into a reason for discontinuing our spiritual exercises, and finally into a ground for despair, so that, do what we will, we think it will be in vain and fruitless. Thus, sadness and fear go on increasing until we imagine that we are forgotten by God.

But this is not the truth…Many blessings come to the soul through bitterness and dryness of spirit, when it is received with humility and patience. If we understood this, doubtless when we were visited in this way, we would be less disturbed and afflicted by it, because we would regard it, not as a token of our Lord’s hatred, but, rather, of His great and special love, and we would receive it as a signal grace that He conferred upon us…

Whether the trouble and temptation arise from the Devil, or from men, or on account of sins, in whatever way, it is always God who gives it to you, even though it reaches you through various channels, as it pleases Him; since it is only the evil of the pain that reaches you, and this is always ordered for your good. Even though, however, the evil of the fault itself — for example, an act of injury or insult committed by your neighbour— is contrary to God’s will, He makes use of it for your benefit and salvation. Therefore, instead of giving way to sadness and discontent, you should give thanks with inward joy and gladness, doing everything that lies in your power with perseverance and resolution, without losing time and, with that loss, the many and great rewards that God wills that you should gain by this opportunity He presents to you.

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House of Gold

Our Lady's litany,  officially known as the Litany of Loreto, is the only approved Marian litany in the Church.  Litany is a series of short petitions and exhortations sung or said by the deacon or priest, and to which the people respond by the Kyrie eleison: Grant this, Lord: to Thee, Lord. The Litany originated in Antioch in the fourth century and from there was taken to Constantinople and through it to the rest of the East. From Constantinople the Litany was taken to Rome and the West. Pope Gelasius I (492-96) introduced into the Mass an intercession of litanic character, the nine-fold Kyrie eleison which still survives in the traditional Mass.

The chosen invocation of Our Lady for the Archconfraternity of Saint Stephen is House of Gold.  Pure as gold, both inside by Her fullness of grace and level of charity, and outside by the perfect practice of all virtues, the Immaculate Mother of God is most fittingly invoked as the House of Gold.  In addition and most supremely, it is into this pure golden dwelling that the true Son of God became incarnate.

For those who serve at the altar in the House of God and who revere His most holy Mother, the title is most apt to inspire the true quest for excellence in serving both at the altar and in the world as befits soldiers of Christ.

Following is an article which expresses another aspect of this title :

Mythology tells the story of old King Midas who was given the unique privilege of turning whatever he touched into gold. At first he used his gift with all the enthusiasm of a child, skipping about his palace and gilding its walls and furniture. But he had to be released from his magic touch when he found that he could not eat golden food, and when he saw his beautiful daughter changed into a statute of gold because he embraced her.

God alone has the true Midas-touch which he uses to adorn souls. Gold is a symbolic meaning; since it has always been considered precious, it is been chosen as the symbol of charity, the greatest favour and gift God has given to man. At the time of baptism every soul is gilded with this virtue, which thenceforth may be polished and brightened by use or tarnished or taken away by sin.

In Mary the virtue of charity is found in such abundance that we rightly salute her as House of Gold.

1.  Mary loved God with her whole heart and soul and strength. Not for a moment did she lag in the practice of her love. She displayed it in the observance of her daily duties. Even her routine household chores became golden as a result of her love for God; she minted each moment of the day into the gold of a good work which would obtain for her higher measure of sanctity, a more advanced place in heaven. Full of grace, full of God’s love, at the announciation, what must have been the greatness of her grace and love at the moment of her death? God took flesh of her because she had prepared her heart as a golden tabernacle. When He took her to Himself, He found her a house of gold.

2.  Mary loves us with the tender love of a mother. We can measure the amount of her love for us by the greatness of her love for Almighty God. In the second great commandment of the law, we are told to love our neighbour as ourselves. But Christ gave an even deeper meaning to our love for neighbours when He commanded: “Love one another even as I have loved you.” Mary’s love for us was similar to Christ’s. Because her faith was strong, she saw in each of us the image of God, and she loved the God-in-us with all her heart and soul and strength. Witness her kind consideration in her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, her tender vigilance at the marriage feast of Cana, her zealous charity as she stood beside the cross of her dying Son. Only in a House of Gold there be such a splendor of love!

We are bound, as was Mary, to the law of love. But has the gold of our love lost its gleam because of our frequent deliberate sins. Have we even changed our souls from a house of gold into a miserable hovel of an iniquity by an unconfessed, unrepentant sin?

Mary, House of Gold, make our hearts like unto thine in love for God and neighbour!

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THE PARISH AND THE SPIRITUAL LIFE

A summary from Fr. McMahon’s sermon, Jan 27, 2019

“Peace is the tranquility of order.” St Augustine

a)      Pastor is appointed to serve the common good; his decisions are not personal, but in pursuit of peace, order, and the sanctification of those souls entrusted to his care.

b)      Our united goal must be to foster generosity toward Almighty God in ourselves, in our family, in our parish, and even in society at large. We want all souls to serve our King being generous in time, energy, money, etc.

c)      Cleaning the church is both a practical necessity (things need to be clean) as well as an opportunity for generosity in performing a corporal work of mercy. Please consider joining a cleaning crew.

 

·        Catechism

Catechetical instruction is essential for every Catholic at every age; the pastor, your spiritual father being responsible for your souls, must ensure you are receiving continued education in the Faith.

a)      Attendance at weekly catechism is obligatory. Those unable to attend must speak directly with the pastor.

b)      Do not take coffee or food “to go”, those refreshments are offered for attendees of the class.

 

·        Decorum

a)      Vestibule is the antechamber of the church, a place of preparation and dismissal:

i)       This is where coats should be removed, etc, to avoid distracting yourself and others within the church.

ii)      Silence should be observed here both before and after Mass. Please use the basement rooms to visit.

iii)    Children remain the responsibility of their parents on church property. Please continue to monitor them throughout, and ensure they also observe the silence proper to the vestibule.

b)      The respect for God and the Holy Mass demand proper, becoming, and modest dress for all Faithful.

c)      Children should be able to keep the silence and stillness of the church during Mass. A sudden cry or disturbance from a small child or baby is understandable, but continual baby noises and talking is disrespectful and distracting to others.

 

These may seem like small things in themselves, but they show an attitude of respect for the house of God and charity to others.

 

·        Pew Use

a)      Please keep the last three (3) pews available for parents with small children. This allows them a place nearer the doors for those suddenly necessary exits.

b)      Pews in the transept (the sides, behind the line of the Communion rail of the Sanctuary) are not to be used.

i)       Exceptions may include single-Mass Sundays, Good Friday, Midnight Mass, etc. Please see an usher

 

·        Gratitude

a)      Our Lord’s Passion and Death will be re-acted before you in the Holy Mass… If you cannot come 10-15 minutes beforehand to properly prepare, how will you save your soul?

b)      The Rosary is a beautiful preparation for Mass, but not necessarily as a community. Silent prayer prepares the soul for the great Sacrifice of the Mass. 

c)      Thanksgiving, especially after receiving Holy Communion, is necessary if you truly believe Jesus Christ is here and has come into your soul. Where do you need go in such a hurry that you cannot give 10-15 minutes to a proper Thanksgiving following Mass?

Sancta Sancte Tractanda Sunt

(Holy things must be treated in a holy manner)

·       Confessions

a)      Once a month Confession is a minimum for a good Catholic.

b)     This sacrament should be treated as something special and also needs appropriate preparation and thanksgiving. Children, especially, should be guided through a thorough preparation.

c)      Confessions for second Mass on Sundays will now be from 9:00 – 9:55am. Come early!

d)     Nota Bene: Thursday through Saturday are at times noted in Mass & Sacraments schedule.

“When your soul moves from mortal sin to the State of Grace, this is a greater Divine action than the creation of the whole universe.” — St. Augustine

 

·       Holy Communion

a)      Approach with an appropriately recollected manner.

b)     Tilt head back, mouth open, tongue out while priest is at person before you. This is to avoid knocking the Host from the priest’s fingers and also, this will speed up the general distribution of Communion.

c)      No elbows on the Communion rail.

d)     Do not make the sign of the cross immediately after reception, you may strike the paten or the ciborium.

 

·       These seem like purely practical points, but we act as we believe and we believe as we act. There is an element of natural courtesy and supernatural charity.

a)      We must strive for the honour and glory of God in all things.

b)     We must internalise our love of Almighty God for the sake of ourselves, our family, our parish, and society.

c)      A Catholic’s whole existence falls under the auspices of the Blood of Christ through the Baptismal Character. The way we dress, act, talk are all reflections of our internal beliefs.

May God inspire our actions and bless our sincere efforts.

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Your Spirit Will Find Joy in Communion - Part 2

Such is the brevity of this life that, if we had to arrive at the knowledge of truth in general, and of divine truth in particular, only by the proofs of reason, be well assured we would know very few truths. But it is God’s will that much our knowledge should come by intuition. He has endowed us with an instinct by which, without the faculty of reason, we are able to distinguish good from evil, truth from falsehood. He has given us natural inclinations and antipathies. Thus, in our efforts to know our Lord, we first feel His goodness, and then we arrive at His other qualities, more by contemplation, by sight, and by instinct than by reason.

A great many people habitually make the mistake of talking to too much in their thanksgiving after Communion, that highest of prayers. By overmuch speaking, they render their Communion ineffective. Listen to our Lord a little after Communion. This is not the time to seek, but to enjoy. This is the time when God makes Himself known through Himself: “And they shall all be taught of God.” How does a mother teach her little child what endless love and tenderness she has for him? She is content to show her devotion that she loves him. God does the same in Communion. Remember that one who does not receive Communion will never know the Heart of our Lord or the magnitude of His love. The heart makes itself known through itself alone; we must feel it beating.

Sometimes you have no experience of your spiritual joy in Communion. Wait. Although the Sun is hidden, it is within you; you will feel it when you need to — be sure of that. What am I saying? Already you feel it! Are you not at peace? Are you not desirous of glorifying God more than ever? And what is that but the throbbing of the Heart of our Lord within you?

Lastly, the manifestation of our Lord in Communion makes His presence and His conversation indispensable to the soul. The soul that has known Jesus Christ and has enjoyed Him takes pleasure in nothing else. Creatures leave it cold and indifferent because it compares them with Him. God has left in the soul a need that no person, no creature, can ever satisfy.

Moreover, the soul feels a constant desire for Jesus and for His glory. Ever onward, without pausing to enjoy a moment’s rest: that is its motto. Its only longing is for Jesus, who leads it from clarity to clarity. Our Lord being inexhaustible, whoever receives Him can neither be sated nor exhaust Him, but desires only to plunge deeper and deeper into the abysses of His love.

Oh, come and enjoy our Lord often in Communion, if you wish truly to understand Him!

“Beware of abusing this privilege,” someone will say. Do the elect go to excess in their enjoyment of God? No! They never enjoy Him too much. Taste the Lord, and you will see. After you have received Communion, you will understand.

How sad that people will not believe us! They wish to judge God only by faith. But taste first; afterward you shall judge. And if the incredulous would but prepare themselves to receive Jesus Christ worthily, they would understand sooner and better than by any amount of persuasion and reasoning. Besides, the ignorant person who receives well knows more about it than the savant, however learned, who does not go to Communion.

To summarize briefly, I say that the intelligence finds its supreme happiness in Communion and that, the more often one receives, the happier one is spiritually. God is the only source of happiness; happiness is in Him alone, and He has reserved the right to bestow it through Himself. And well it is for us that we must go to God Himself to find happiness! In this way, we do not devote ourselves to creatures or find in them our highest good. Happiness is not even in the bestowal of the priest. He gives you a share in the fruits of the Redemption, cleanses you from your sins, and gives you the peace of a clear conscience; but happiness and joy he cannot give you.

Mary herself, who is the Mother of Mercy, will lead you back to the right way and will appease the anger of her Son, whom you have offended; but God alone will give you joy and happiness. The angel said to the shepherds, “I bring you good tidings of great joy; He who is its cause and its source, your Savior and God, is born to you.”

Oh, come, let us rejoice! This Savior is still on the altar waiting to flood our hearts, upon His entrance therein, with as much joy and happiness we are able to bear, in anticipation of the unspeakable and everlasting delights of the homeland of Heaven.

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Your Spirit Will Find Joy in Communion - Part 1

God desired to nourish our spirit, so He gave it His Bread, the Eucharist, announced by Holy Scripture: “He will feed them with the Bread of life and understanding.”

Now, there are no greater joys on earth than the joys of the spirit. Contentment of heart is less lasting because it is based on feeling, and feeling is apt to be inconstant. True joy is of the spirit and consists in the quiet knowledge of the truth.

The light-minded and coarse of soul enjoy nothing spiritually. Even pious souls that lack recollection will never experience spiritual joys. Frivolity of spirit is the greatest obstacle to the reign of God in the soul. If you wish to taste the sweetness of God and enjoy His presence, you must lead a life of recollection and prayer. Even so, your meditations will never yield true happiness if they are not based on Communion, but will only leave you with the sense of perpetual sacrifice.

Jesus Christ exercised the prerogative that was His to give us experience of true joy through Himself alone. The soul that only seldom receives Communion gives God no opportunity to dwell in it in a completely efficacious way. The one, on the contrary, that receives Him frequently will be longer and more often in His presence and, seeing Him and contemplating Him freely, will learn to know Him well and will end by enjoying Him.

In Communion, we enjoy our Lord in our Lord Himself. It is then that we have our most intimate communion with Him — a communion from which we gain a true and profound knowledge of what He is. It is then that Jesus manifests Himself to us most clearly. Faith is a light; Communion is at once light and feeling.

This manifestation of Jesus through Communion enlightens the mind and gives it a special aptitude for discerning more and more clearly the things of God. Just as the elect receive the power to contemplate the being and the majesty of God without being blinded, likewise Jesus, in Communion, increases our ability to know Him, and to such an extent that there is a vast difference in a person before and after Communion.

Take a child before his First Communion; he understands his catechism in the literal sense, word for word. But after Communion, his mind is, as it were, transformed; the child understands then, and feels, and is eager to know more about Jesus Christ. He is fortified and disposed to hear whatever truths you teach.

Can you explain this phenomenon? Before Communion, you hear about Jesus Christ and you know Him; you are told of His Cross, of His suffering. Doubtless you are affected and are even touched with compassion. But let these same truths be presented to you after you have received Communion, and oh, how much more deeply your soul is moved! It cannot hear enough; it understands much more perfectly. Before Communion, you contemplate Jesus outside you; now you contemplate Him within you, with His own eyes!

It is the mystery of Emmaus re-enacted. When Jesus taught the two disciples along the way, explaining the Scriptures to them, their faith still wavered, although they felt inwardly some mysterious emotion. But by their participating in the breaking of the bread, immediately their eyes were opened, and their hearts were ready to burst with joy. The voice of Jesus had not sufficed to reveal His Presence to them. They had to feel His Heart; they had to be fed with the Bread of understanding!

Second, this joy of spirit, this manifestation of Himself that Jesus gives us by Communion, awakens in us a hunger for God. This divine hunger draws us into the sweetness of His Heart, into the sanctuary of His Spirit. More by impression than by reason, it gives us knowledge of Him. It gives us a powerful attraction to the Eucharist and everything connected with it and enables us to enter with ease into Jesus Christ.

This ease, this attraction, mysterious to some extent, is the special grace of Communion. It is the spirit of kinship with God. From where, do you think, does that similarity of feeling, of acting, of morals in a family come, if not from family spirit, from family love, which unites all members in mutual affection? Such is the bond of earthly kinship.

Through Communion, we gain entrance into the love, into the Heart, of our Lord; we catch the spirit of His love, His own understanding, His own judgement. Is not the first grace of Communion, in fact, a grace of recollection that enables is to penetrate into Jesus Christ and commune intimately with Him? Yes, intimately. One who does not receive Communion knows, by faith, only the vesture, the outward appearance of our Lord. We can know Jesus Christ well only by receiving Him, just as we perceive the sweetness of honey only by tasting it. We can say, then, with a great saint, “I am more convinced of the truth of Jesus Christ, of His existence, of His perfections by a single Communion than I could be by all the reasoning in the world.” 

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The Bread of Life Gives You Strength

Holy Communion  by Saint Peter Eymard

It was Jesus who adopted the name Bread of Life. And what a name! He alone could give it to Himself. An angel charged with naming our Lord would have given Him a title consonant with His attributes, such as Divine Word, or Lord, or the like — but Bread: such a name he would never have dared to give to his God!

Bread of Life! Ah, but that is the true name of Jesus; in it is the whole Christ, in His life, in His death, and after His Resurrection. Crushed on the Cross and sifted like flour, He will have after His Resurrection the same properties for our souls as material bread has for our bodies; He will be in truth our Bread of Life.

Material bread nourishes and sustains life. Lest we faint away, we must keep our strength by taking food, of which bread is the very essential. It is more substantial to our bodies than any other nutriment and sufficient alone for life. The soul, in its natural life, must live forever; it has received that immortality from God. But the life of grace received in Baptism, and regained and renewed in the sacrament of Penance, that life of sanctity, more noble by far than the natural life, cannot be maintained without sustenance; and its principal nutriment is the eucharistic Jesus. The life restored by holy Penance will be brought to fruition in some sort by the Eucharist, which will cleanse us from our affections to sin, will blot out our daily offenses, will give us strength to carry out our good resolutions, and will remove from us the occasions of sin.

The Lord said, “He that eateth my flesh hath life.” What life? The life of Jesus Himself. “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.” In fact, food imparts its own substance to him who eats of it. Jesus will not be changed into us; He will transform us into His own image.

Our very body will receive in Communion a pledge of resurrection, and, even in this life, it will be more temperate, more obedient to the soul. It will but take its rest in the tomb, conserving the eucharistic seed, source of a more splendid glory for it in the day of eternal reward.

But we eat not merely to sustain life; we eat to gather as much energy as the work of life demands; it is hardly prudent and certainly insufficient to eat merely in order not to starve. The body must labor, and it will have to expend in its toil not its own substance — which would soon destroy it — but the superfluous strength it has drawn from good. It is a truism that we cannot give what we do not have; there, the man condemned to work hard without receiving sufficient food each day will soon lose his strength.

Now, the more we desire to come near to God and live a virtuous life, the more we must expect combat; consequently, we need to gather more and more strength in order not to be vanquished. For all these struggles of the Christian life, the Holy Eucharist will give the necessary strength. Without the Eucharist, prayer and piety soon languish. The religious life is nothing but a continual crucifixion of our nature and, of itself, holds no attraction for us. Without strong and gracious help, we do not willingly accept the Cross. Generally speaking, piety without Communion is dead.

Baptism, which bestows life, Confirmation, which increases it, Penance, which restores it — none of these is enough; these sacraments are only preparation for the Eucharist, which is their fruition and their crown.

Jesus said, “Follow me,” but that is difficult; it takes effort and demands the practice of the Christian virtues. We must remember that he alone who abides in our Lord will bear much fruit. And how shall we abide in Him if not by eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood?

Possessing Jesus within us, we are two persons, and the burden, so shared, is light. Therefore did St. Paul say, “I can do all things in Him who strengthened me.” And He who so strengthened him is the same who lives in us — Christ Jesus.

Whatever its appearance, moreover, bread possesses a certain attraction. The proof is that we never tire of it. Who has ever turned against bread, even when all food seemed tasteless? And where, pray, shall we find substantial sweetness if not in that honeycomb, the Holy Eucharist?

So it follows that piety which is not frequently nourished by Holy Communion has no sweetness; it is not rooted in, nor animated by, the love of Jesus Christ. It neither attracts us nor appeals to our love. It is harsh, austere, and rude. It would go to God by the way of sacrifice alone — a good way, surely, but how difficult it is not to give way to discouragement! The bow, bent too far, might break. Those who follow this road win much merit, without doubt, but they miss the heart and sweetness of sanctity, which are found only in Jesus.

You want to progress without Communion? But Christian tradition is against you! No longer say the Our Father, since you ask in that prayer for your daily Bread, the Bread you think to do without!

Without Communion, one is constantly in the heat of the battle. One knows only the difficulties in the acquisition of virtue, not the sweetness of its practice — the joy of working, not simply for oneself and moved solely by the hope of reward, but purely for the glory of God, from love of Him, from affection, like little children. He who receives Communion finds it easy to understand that having received much, he must give a great deal in return. That is piety — intelligent, filial, and loving piety. Besides, even in the severest trials, Communion makes the soul happy, filling it with tender and loving joy.

The height of perfection is to remain united with God in the midst of the most violent interior temptations, and it is when you are most tempted that God most loves you. Yet, in order that these storms may not overwhelm you, learn to return frequently to the divine fountainhead to renew your strength and to purify yourself more and more in that torrent of grace and love.

Receive Communion therefore! Eat the Bread of Life if you wish to live well, if you wish to obtain sufficient strength for the Christian combat, if you wish to possess happiness even in the thick of misfortune.

The Holy Eucharist is the Bread of the weak and of the strong. To the weak, clearly, it is necessary; but to the strong likewise, since they bear their treasure in fragile vessels and are threatened on every hand by desperate enemies. Let us, then, take care that we have a guard, a sure escort, fortifying food for our journey; this will Jesus be, our Bread of Life.

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Desire for Perfection

"Make and keep yourselves holy,” God commands us, "because I am holy." (Lev. 11:44; 19:2) "You are to be perfect, adds Jesus Christ, "even as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48).

We are obliged, therefore, to make every possible effort to advance in holiness.  Sad experience teaches us, however, that it is very difficult to reach the level of sanctity to which we are called by God, and that it is impossible to achieve absolute perfection, which God alone possesses.  Why, then, does God place before us such an inaccessible goal?  Simply because, although He knows that we cannot attain the perfect holiness which is to be found in our heavenly Father, He wants us to desire it with all our hearts and to do our best to approach as near to it as we can.

This desire for sanctity should dominate all our actions. It may be impossible for us completely to achieve Christian perfection, but we should always strive towards it.  All our actions and affections should form a ladder which will enable us to climb nearer to this ideal.  If the desire for perfection dominates our entire lives, it will one day dominate and brighten the supreme moment of death.  If we lack this desire, we shall fall into a state of tepidity and of indifference to spiritual realities which will inevitably end in sin.

The Son of God ardently desired our welfare and happiness.  It was for this that He became man, preached His doctrine, gave us the Sacraments, and suffered and died on the Cross.  "I have greatly desired," He said on the eve of His passion, "to eat this passover with you" (Lk. 22:15).  He desired this because He wished to leave us Himself really present in the Blessed Eucharist as nourishment for our souls.

The entire life of Jesus Christ was a yearning for our everlasting salvation.  Can we remain cold and unmoved in the presence of such infinite goodness?  Surely we cannot.  Our lives also should be a continual and ardent yearning for perfection, inspired by gratitude as well as by an appreciation of our own true interests.

There are two kinds of desire. (1) There is passive desire, such as that of St. Augustine when he kept repeating that he wished to be converted on the morrow.  Hell is full of people who desired exactly that. (2) There is also efficacious desire, which is that of the man who intends to employ the necessary means of putting his resolution into practice.  This is the kind of desire by which we should be animated.  It may be that we shall encounter many falls and obstacles before we can carry out our resolutions, but the important thing is not to lose heart.  We must keep going forward with the help of God and, at least at the hour of death, our efforts will crowned with success.



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The Great Antiphons

(excerpts from The Liturgical Year, vol 1 by Dom Guerenger)

On December 17, the Church enters upon on the seven days which precede the Vigil of Christmas, and which are known in the liturgy under the name of the Greater Ferias. The ordinary of the Advent Office becomes more solemn; the antiphons of the psalms, both for Lauds and the Hours of the day, are proper, and allude expressly to the great coming. Every day, at Vespers, is sung a solemn antiphon, consisting of a fervent prayer to the Messias, whom it addresses by one of the titles given Him in the Sacred Scriptures.

In the Roman Church, there are seven of these antiphons, one for each of the greater ferias. They are commonly called the O’s of Advent, because they all begin with that interjection…

The canonical Hour of Vespers has been selected as the most appropriate time for this solemn supplication to our Saviour, because, as the Church sings in one of her hymns, it was in the evening of the world (vergente mundi vespere) that the Messias came amongst us. These antiphons are sung at the Magnificat, to show us that the Saviour whom we expect is to come to us by Mary. They are sung twice, once before and once after the canticle, as on double feasts, and this to show their great solemnity. In some Churches it was formerly the practice to sing them thrice; that is, before the canticle, before the Gloria Patri, and after the Sicut erat. Lastly, these admirable antiphons, which contain the whole pith of the Advent liturgy, are accompanied by a chant replete with melodious gravity, and by ceremonies of great expressiveness, though in these latter, there is no uniform practice followed. Let us enter into the spirit of the Church; let us reflect on the great day which is coming; that thus we may take our share in these the last and most earnest solicitations of the Church imploring her Spouse to come, to which He at length yields.

I.          — O Wisdom, that proceedest from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end mightily, and disposing all things sweetly! Come and teach us the way of prudence.

II.           — O Adonaï, and leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush, and gavest him the law on Sinaï; come and redeem us by thy outstretched arm.

 III.          — O Root of Jesse, who standest as the ensign of the people; before whom kings shall not open their lips; to whome the nations shall pray: come and deliver us; tarry now no more.

 IV.          — O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel! Who openest, and no man shutteth: who shuttest, and no man openeth; come, and lead the captive from prison, sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.

V.           — O Orient! Splendor of the eternal light, and Sun of justice! Comw and enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

VI.          — O King of Nations, and their desired One, and the cornerstone that makest both one; come and save man whom thou formedst out of slime.

VII.          — O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expectation and Saviour of the nations! Come and save us, O Lord our God!

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