A joyfully Franciscan view of Catholic life, inspired by St. Clare (Santa Chiara) of Assisi!

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Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare) was born in 1194. It is said that when her mother had Chiara in her womb, an angel appeared to her and said, "your child will be a light that will illuminate the world!" Hence, her mother named the child Chiara, which means "light. As G.K. Chesterton put it, St. Clare was a romantic figure just like Juliet was. However, instead of running away from her family in order to be with an earthly man, Clare gave up everything and ran away from her family for the love of her Savior!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Frank Parater and the Sacred Heart

I was at the hospital today having an ultrasound test on my own heart, and I realized that today was the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus! You can find an excellent write-up on the Sacred Heart here, including a reflection by St. Bonaventure.

In February, readers of my blog may recall my post on Frank Parater, Servant of God. One of the distinguishing features of Frank Parater's spirituality is his strong devotion to the Sacred Heart. He developed this devotion after serving at the Visitation Nuns' monastery in Richmond Virginia, where there was a picture of the Sacred Heart over the mantle. Frank retained this devotion to the Sacred Heart until his death in 1920. He said a litany to the Sacred Heart each day while in seminary, and in his letters, he frequently begged for the intercession of the "Cor Jesu." His ultimate act of devotion to the Sacred Heart can be found in his "Act of Oblation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus," written months before his untimely death. Frank writes:

"I have nothing to leave or to give but my life and this I have consecrated to the Sacred Heart to be used as He wills. I have offered my all for the conversion of non-Catholics…This is what I live for and in case of death what I die for."

A full article that further delves into Frank's devotion to the Sacred Heart can be found here.

Inscribed on Frank's Holy Card is his timeless words: "Remember, the Sacred Heart never fails those who l0ve him." Inspired by Frank Parater's beautiful life and courageous death, may we share in his love of the Cor Jesu.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Lessons of St. Thomas More

Today is the feast of St. Thomas More, who is one of my most cherished Saints. I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the overall story of his life and courageous death, so I won’t bother summarizing it. If you’re unfamiliar with St. Thomas More, you can read about his life and writings here.

Many tend to focus on More’s martyrdom as the central point behind his status as a Saint. Nonetheless, it is the way in which he carried himself throughout his entire life that is particularly relevant today- he is an exemplary model for Catholic laypeople who have secular occupations. Indeed, some Catholics nowadays incorrectly assume that people who go into fields that are stereotypically seen as “corrupt”- such as law or business- have selfish intentions behind their choice of an occupation: this is why some Catholics gave me a lot of “flack” for being a business major as opposed to majoring in something that they deemed to be a “higher calling.” However, Thomas More realized that the legal profession- albeit a “secular” occupation- had an important place in society. Hence, he made his work sacred by offering his best efforts up to God, taking time out of his job to pray each day, and intentionally shunning the unethical behavior that was prevalent in the legal system at his time. Likewise, we Catholics who work in secular professions can follow More’s example by integrating our prayer life with our jobs and displaying virtues such as patience and temperance in the workplace. As a Third Order Franciscan, More was always sure to uphold the ideals of St. Francis by never allowing himself to be motivated by the high salary that came with his status as a lawyer.

While he ultimately became a Third Order Secular Franciscan, More seriously discerned becoming either a Carthusian or Franciscan priest. While still practicing as a lawyer, More chose to undergo his discernment by living at the Carthusian Charterhouse in London. Here, the monks led one of the most ascetic lifestyles possible for contemplatives. While at the monastery, More lived in a solitary cell, wore a hair-shirt to “tame his flesh,” and observed the rules of silence and of fasting, for the monks ate only twice a day and without meat. More took over three years to discern his vocation by living with the Carthusians. Ultimately, More realized that God was calling him to a life as a married layman.

More was happy to have finally discovered God’s will for him, but also was a bit frustrated that he had spent three years of his life seriously considering the religious life only in the end to have been called to do something completely different! However, More’s careful and prayerful discernment was essentially an act of love towards God, the monks, and the Church. As John Farrow puts it, “For the true ascetic, and this More was, it was sacrifice to leave the tranquility of the cloister, to reject the mysteries of contemplative life.” However, had he gone against what God wanted for him and followed his own will, he would have been doing the Church a great disservice. Moreover, God chose to place More where he was most needed- as a dedicated Catholic whose life in the workplace and as a husband and father was a living testament to Christ.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day....for Priests!

I saw a Dairy Queen ad a few days ago, which features a group of Sisters giving a priest a "Fathers Day" cake.

This delightful ad reminded me of the need to recognize these wonderful spiritual "fathers" who serve us so well!

So send your favorite priest a "Father's Day" cake or send him an e-card from Franciscancards!

Happy Father's Day to all of our fathers!

Friday, June 16, 2006

"Franciscansploitation": Nacho Libre

Now I've heard about Franciscans breaking into the rap industry (Fr. Stan Fortuna)....but Franciscans dabbling in WWF style wrestling? The film Nacho Libre starring Jack Black, which comes out today, takes this wrestling idea and runs with it....unfortunately, it seems to have tripped.

The premise of the film is that a Franciscan Friar from Mexico (Jack Black) enters a "Lucha Libre" wrestling contest in order to raise money for his monastery.....and impress a nun. (Just a note to all of the wonderful Franciscan Friars out there: you've already impressed us women!...you don't need to cast aside your habits for spandex wrestling unitards in order to prove yourselves, as this movie suggests )

Despite my hopes of the film turning out to be inocuous, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops movie reviewers (think former Legion of Decency) have given the film a rating of "O"- For Morally Offensive. This is the same rating that they gave to The DaVinci Code. Translation: you should NOT see this movie!

Here is an excerpt from the USCCB's full review:

Director and co-writer Jared Hess' unfunny follow-up to "Napoleon Dynamite" is utterly lacking in charm, wit or taste. Beyond the pervasive crude humor, the puppy-love relationship of its protagonists, both in religious orders -- regardless of whether they've taken "final vows" -- precludes recommendation. The "vows" reference, by the way, comes midway through the movie, but seems merely calculated to make the relationship more acceptable. Though their intimacy only goes as far as Nacho coming to Sister Encarnacion's room to eat toast, and going out on a "date" where at one point he pulls her toward him for protection from advancing tough guys, the flirtation is unseemly, going beyond Hollywood's past restraint in showing leading men chastely bonding with their clerical co-stars: "The Singing Nun," "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison," and "The Nun's Story" come to mind.

In closing, don't contribute to "Franciscansploitation" by going to see this movie....go rent The Flowers of St. Francis instead.

Also....brown habits are so much more slimming than spandex wrestling pants, no?

Monday, June 12, 2006

St. Anthony's Feast Day

My blog might have to be kicked off the "Franciscan blogroll" unless I make a most in honor of who is one of the most important Saints.....Saint Anthony. I'm making this post a day in advance because tomorrow, on St. Anthony's Feast Day, I will be on a plane en route to CT.

St. Anthony is one of my favorite Saints and is what one book described as the most popular Saint in the world.

Below is a biography of this wonderful Franciscan:

Saint Anthony was canonized (declared a saint) less than one year after his death.There is perhaps no more loved and admired saint in the Catholic Church than Saint Anthony of Padua, a Doctor of the Church. Though his work was in Italy, he was born in Portugal. He first joined the Augustinian Order and then left it and joined the Franciscan Order in 1221, when he was 26 years old. The reason he became a Franciscan was because of the death of the five Franciscan protomartyrs -- St. Bernard, St. Peter, St. Otho, St. Accursius, and St. Adjutus -- who shed their blood for the Catholic Faith in the year 1220, in Morocco, in North Africa, and whose headless and mutilated bodies had been brought to St. Anthony’s monastery on their way back for burial. St. Anthony became a Franciscan in the hope of shedding his own blood and becoming a martyr. He lived only ten years after joining the Franciscan Order.So simple and resounding was his teaching of the Catholic Faith, so that the most unlettered and innocent might understand it, that he was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946. Saint Anthony was only 36 years old when he died. He is called the “hammer of the Heretics” His great protection against their lies and deceits in the matter of Christian doctrine was to utter, simply and innocently, the Holy Name of Mary. When St. Anthony of Padua found he was preaching the true Gospel of the Catholic Church to heretics who would not listen to him, he then went out and preached it to the fishes. This was not, as liberals and naturalists are trying to say, for the instruction of the fishes, but rather for the glory of God, the delight of the angels, and the easing of his own heart. St. Anthony wanted to profess the Catholic Faith with his mind and his heart, at every moment.He is typically depicted with a book and the Infant Child Jesus, to whom He miraculously appeared, and is commonly referred to today as the "finder of lost articles." Upon exhumation, some 336 years after his death, his body was found to be corrupted, yet his tongue was totally incorrupt, so perfect were the teachings that had been formed upon it.

Baby Saint Scholastica!

My dear Saint Scholastica loves to surprise me in the funniest ways! I had prayed before her alter at St. Benedict's Catholic Church this morning, and this evening I was searching the web for holy cards when I ran into the most wonderful thing.....

Now, if God ever blesses me with children and blesses me with a girl, I plan on naming her Scholastica. However, I'm frustrated over how neglected this beautiful name is nowadays! I was so happy when I saw my Scholastica featured as the "host" of the following DVD on the rosary for babies and toddlers.....

Holy Baby! Seven Prayers In Seven Languages

'The Rosary Project is inspired by Pope John Paul II's 2002 call for the faithful to "Confidently take up the Rosary again... in the context of their daily lives." The Pope said youth would take up the Rosary if given a pastoral approach "which is positive, impassioned and creative..." He implored, "Do not let this appeal of mine go unheard!" The first in a series of Holy Baby! DVDs - "Holy Baby! Seven Prayers in Seven Languages" - gives parents a positive, impassioned and creative tool that introduces infants and young children to seven foundational prayers of the Rosary in seven major languages of the world. The show is hosted by Baby Scholastica, a three dimensional animated cartoon character inspired by the scholarly Saint Scholastica, twin sister of Saint Benedict and champion of prayer, education and bold faith in God and Scripture.

"... an engaging, simple, vivid introduction to prayer for toddlers and young children. It's beautifully done with age-appropriate songs and music. This is a wonderful aid for families who want to begin their children on a walk with the Lord."- Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Denver

"Very well done, My 1-year old loved it! I'd never seen him sit and watch anything before."- Tom Hoopes, Editor of the National Catholic Register

Here is another article about this wonderful DVD.

Parents......please consider buying this for your babies!

Friday, June 09, 2006

On Being "Half-Catholic"

Last week I just completed my marathon of the magnificent miniseries Brideshead Revisited and during the course of the eleven-hour series, I heard one of the characters use the term "half-Catholic." Upon ruminating on this, I decided that the term could be used to describe myself....I'm too Catholic to be accepted by the mores of our secular society, but somehow despite my sincerest efforts, I'm not seen as "Catholic enough" to be accepted by many other Catholics. Thus, not being accepted by either end of society, I wind up being isolated somewhere in limbo.

I'm sure that this phenomenon happens to many Catholics who are completely faithful to the Church, but are still excluded by their communities. I tend to think that Francis and Clare were individuals who experienced this. Indeed, both Saints found that they could no longer accept the mores of their societies. However, at the same time, they didn't exactly "fit in" with their contemporaneous religious communities. For instance, even though she lived with Benedictine nuns for a time, St. Clare realized that this way of life simply was not for her. Likewise, when presented with the option of becoming a priest, Francis recognized his own unworthiness. Instead, both Saints used creative fidelity to forge their own way of following Christ. However, their initial rejection by their society must have been very frustrating for them at first...and perhaps they can comfort me and all of the rest of us who find that we are being similarly overlooked.

One thing that helped me in dealing with these feelings is an excerpt from my current reading project, St. Therese's Story of a Soul:

I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.- St. Therese of Lisieux

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Joy of Pentecost: St. Benedict Parish

Happy Pentecost to everyone! It's certainly a happy one for me, as it's not every day that I get to attend an extraordinarily beautiful Holy Mass.

The parish that a friend and I attended this morning is called St. Benedict Catholic Church, and it is without a doubt the best thing about the town of Richmond, Virginia. This parish has the benefit of being both warm and welcoming and having a beautiful, reverent liturgy. In an age in which most Catholic parishes try to bring you as "down to earth" as possible with the style of liturgy, the liturgy at St. Benedict's made my thoughts transcend to a higher level. With the help of the lovely choir, the entire congregation chanted all of the Latin plainchants, including the Veni Creator Spiritus. Moreover, the wonderful pastor, Fr. James Kauffmann, gave a wonderful homily in which he explained how Catholicism forces us to celebrate Christ's presence in the here and now. He also noted how, despite the diverse backgrounds of the parishioners, they are all united by a common language- Latin.

At the end of mass, I was overjoyed to discover that the church has a beautiful side altar to one of my favorite Saints- Saint Scholastica!

Please look at the St. Benedict website here- I just pray that God will lead me to a wonderful parish like this in CT.

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