Monday, August 22, 2011

The Feast Day of Saint Stephen of Hungary (August 16)

I found this one of my favorite readings from the Office of Readings and so I am posting it on my blog:
From the admonitions to his son by Saint Stephen

My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and apostolic faith with such diligence and car that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession. Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church.  Indeed, in the royal palace after the faith itself, the Church holds second place, first propagated as she was by our head, Christ; then transplanted, firmly constituted and spread through the whole world by his members, the apostles and holy fathers. And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient.

However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians lest a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.

My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at every time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow-countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you. By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness. Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak.

Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life, that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death.

All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown and without them no one is fit to rule her on earth or attain to the heavenly kingdom.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saint Dominic, pray for us (Written on August 8th)

August 8th was the feast day of Saint Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and a very special Saint for me. Why, you may ask? Well, you see the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) were all around me during my time of finding myself and finding Jesus. My godmother was at the time discerning to go back to the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and the parish that I experience my first Mass was a Saint Patrick’s Church in Columbus, Ohio where it is run by Dominican Friars, I was then taught by the Dominican Friars in RCIA and my home parish is the same parish.
So, I have been around Dominicans since my first thoughts of conversion. But, why would I want to not look at the Franciscans or Carmelites or even Jesuits? There is a very good answer, when I was going through my conversion; I studied a lot to understand of the Catholic faith. It was then afterwards my devotions to prayer-life, study, and defending the faith seem so much a part of me and then learning about Saint Dominic from his biographies and learned about those in his Order from the Friars to the Laity. But, I think Pope Benedict XVI said it quite wonderfully on what made this Holy man so great.

Saint Dominic de Guzmàn

By Pope Benedict XVI

General Audience: Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last week I presented the luminous figure of Francis of Assisi; today I want to talk about another Saint of the same period who made a fundamental contribution to the renewal of the Church of his time: St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, also known as Dominican Friars.

His successor at the head of the Order, Bl. Jordan of Saxony, gives a complete picture of St. Dominic in the text of a famous prayer: “Your strong love burned with heavenly fire and God-like zeal. With all the fervor of an impetuous heart and with an avowal of perfect poverty, you spent your whole self in the cause of the Apostolic life” and in preaching the Gospel. It is precisely this fundamental trait of Dominic’s witness that is emphasized: he always spoke with God and of God. Love for the Lord and for neighbor, the search of God’s glory and the salvation of souls in the lives of the Saint always go hand in hand.

Dominic was born at Caleruega, Spain in about 1170. He belonged to a noble family of Old Castile and, supported by a priest uncle, was educated at a famous school in Palencia. He distinguished himself straight away for his interest in the study of Sacred Scripture and for his love of the poor, to the point of selling books, that in his time were a very valuable asset, in order to support famine victims with the proceeds.

Ordained a priest, he was elected canon of the Cathedral Chapter in Osma, his native diocese. Although he may well have thought that this appointment might bring him a certain amount of prestige in the Church and in society, he did not view it as a personal privilege or as the beginning of a brilliant ecclesiastical career but, rather as a service to carry out with dedication and humility. Are not a career and power temptations from which not even those who have a role of guidance and governance in the Church are exempt? I recalled this a few months ago during the consecration of several Bishops: “We do not seek power, prestige or esteem for ourselves…We know how in civil society and often also in the Church things suffer because many people on whom responsibility has been conferred work for themselves rather than for the community” (September 16th, 2009).

The Bishop of Osma, a true and zealous Pastor whose name was Didacus, soon spotted Dominic’s spiritual qualities and wanted to avail himself of his collaboration. Together they went to Northern Europe, on the diplomatic missions entrusted to them by the King of Castile. On his travels Dominic became aware of two enormous challenges for the Church of his time: the existence of people who were not yet evangelized on the northern boundaries of the European continent, and the religious schism that undermined Christian life in the South of France where the activity of of certain heretical groups was creating a disturbance and distancing people from the truth of the faith. So it was that missionary action for those who did not know the light of the Gospel and the work of the re-evangelization of Christian communities became the apostolic goals that Dominic resolved to pursue.

It was the Pope, to whom the Bishop Didacus and Dominic went to seek advice, who asked Dominic to devote himself to preaching to the Albigensians, a heretical group which upheld a dualistic conception of reality, that is, with two equally powerful creator principles, Good and Evil. This group consequently despised matter as coming from the principle of evil. They even refused marriage, and went to the point of denying the Incarnation of Christ and the sacraments in which the Lord “touches” us through matter, and the resurrection of bodies. The Albigensians esteemed the poor and austere life in this regard they were even exemplary and criticized the riches of the clergy of that time. Dominic enthusiastically accepted this mission and carried it out with the example of his own poor and austere existence, Gospel preaching and public discussions. He devoted the rest of his life to this mission of preaching the Good News. His sons were also to make St. Dominic’s other dreams come true: the mission, ad gentes, that is, to those who do not yet know Jesus and the mission to those who lived in the cities, especially the university cities where the new intellectual trends were a challenge to the faith of the cultured.

This great Saint reminds us that in the heart of the Church a missionary fire must always burn. It must be a constant incentive to the first proclamation of the Gospel and, wherever necessary, a new evangelization. Christ, in fact, is the most precious good that the men and women of every time and every place have the right to know and love! And it is comforting to see that in the Church today too there are many pastors and lay faithful alike, members of ancient religious orders and new ecclesial movements who spend their lives joyfully for this supreme ideal, proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel!

Many other men then joined Dominic de Guzmán, attracted by the same aspiration. In this manner, after the first foundation in Toulouse, the Order of Preachers gradually came into being. Dominic in fact, in prefect obedience to the directives of the Popes of his time, Innocent III, and Honorius III, used the ancient Rule of St. Augustine, adapting it to the needs of apostolic life that led him and his companions to preach as they travelled from one place to another but then returning to their own convents and places of study, to prayer and community life. Dominic wanted to give special importance to two values he deemed indispensable for the success of the evangelizing mission: community life in poverty and study.

First of all Dominic and the Friars Preachers presented themselves as mendicants, that is, without vast estates to be administered. This element made them more available for study and itinerant preaching and constituted a practical witness for the people. The internal government of the Dominican convents and provinces was structured on the system of chapters which elected their own superiors, who were subsequently confirmed by the major superiors; thus it was an organization that stimulated fraternal life and the responsibility of all the members of the community, demanding strong personal convictions. The choice of this system was born precisely from the fact that as preachers of the truth of God, the Dominicans had to consistent with what they proclaimed. The truth studied and shared in charity with the brethren is the deepest foundation of joy. Blessed Jordan of Saxony said of St. Dominic: “All men were swept into the embrace of his charity, and, in loving all, he was beloved by all…He claimed it his right to rejoice with the joyful and to weep with the sorrowful”.

Secondly, with a courageous gesture, Dominic wanted his followers to acquire a sound theological training and did not hesitate to send them to the universities of the time, even though a fair number of clerics viewed these cultural institutions with difference. The Constitutions of the Order of Preachers give great importance to study as a preparation for the apostolate. Dominic wanted his Friars to devote themselves to it without reserve, with diligence and with piety; a study based on the soul of all theological knowledge, that is, on Scared Scripture, and respectful of the questions asked by reason.  The development of culture requires those who carry out the ministry of the Word at various levels to be well trained. I therefore urge all those, pastors and lay people alike, to cultivate this “cultural dimension” of faith, so that the beauty of the Christian truth may be better understood and faith may be truly nourished, may be better understood and faith may be truly nourished, reinforced and also defended. In this Year for Priests, I ask seminarians and priests to esteem the spiritual value of study. The quality of the priestly ministry also depends on the generosity with which one applies oneself to the study of the revealed truths.

Dominic, who wished to found a religious Order of theologian-preachers, reminds us that theology has a spiritual and pastoral dimension that enriches the soul and life. Priests, the consecrated and also all faithful may find profound “inner joy” in contemplating the beauty of the truth that comes from God, a truth that is ever timely and ever alive. Moreover the motto of the Friars Preachers contemplata aliis tradere helps us to discover a pastoral yearning in the contemplative study of this truth because of the need to communicate to others the fruit of one’s own contemplation.

When Dominic died in 1221 in Bologna, the city that declared him its Patron, his work had already had widespread success. The Order of Preachers, with the Holy See’s support, had spread to many countries in Europe for the benefit of the whole Church. Dominic was canonized in 1234 and it is he himself who, with his holiness, points out to us two indispensable means for making apostolic action effective. In the very first place is Marian devotion which he fostered tenderly and left as a precious legacy to his spiritual sons who, in the history of the Church, have had the great merit of disseminating the prayer of the Holy Rosary, so dear to the Christian people and so rich in Gospel values: a true school of faith and piety. In the second place, Dominic, who cared for several women’s monasteries in France and in Rome, believed unquestioningly in the value of prayers of intercession for the success of the apostolic work. Only in Heaven will we understand how much the prayer of cloistered religious effectively accompanies apostolic action! To each and every one of them I address my grateful and affectionate thoughts.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the life of Dominic de Guzmán spur us all to be fervent in prayer, courageous in living out our faith and deeply in love with Jesus Christ. Through his intercession, let us ask God always to enrich the Church with authentic preachers of the Gospel.

There is one thing that Pope Benedict XVI did not mention, was that Dominic actually founded the women convents first for he believed in “prayer warriors”, but he founded them not only in France, Rome, but in Bologna. I thought it was interesting and yet fitting of how powerful the role of the cloister women were to St. Dominic and to the foundation of the Order at the beginning and now at the present time, but I think he would never expected the many laity followers to the Order, I truly believe he is smiling and praying for all his sons and daughters religious or laity.

St. Dominic, pray for us.

One Day Retreat

This was written on July 31st, 2011.
Today is the retreat and I seem to be more enclosed within myself. Sometimes I think when I am most enclosed it is the reason of contemplation and if I truly feel that I need to go to confession. Confession is something I treasure as much or as equally as I love receiving the Eucharist.

I do not go as often, which I need to work on (St. Catherine of Siena Chapter of the Dominican Laity recommends once a month and my spiritual director suggested it as well to me). One of the greatest joys is when you are told to “go in peace, for you have been absolved of your sins”. There is a light feeling where the weight of sin has been.

The focus on today’s retreat is based upon the defense of Mary. Our Chaplain for the Laity chapter, Fr. Thomas, OP split the talk about the defense of Mary into two. How would we defend Mary, the Mother of God from those who claim that she was just chosen for giving birth to Jesus Christ and nothing more, that she was not sinless, well Fr. Thomas’ talks focused how we can defend Our Lady through Scripture.

Defending the Catholic faith is something very much a part of the Dominican spirituality, for it was Saint Dominic who fought against heresies with his example, words, and knowledge. It would be very odd for his sons and daughters (those in the order, like me I am a daughter of Saint Dominic) to not study and defend.

The first talk of the retreat was “A Trajectory Approach: To Reading the New Testaments and the Catholic teaching about Mary, the Mother of God”, which was a little pamphlet with texts from the New Testament in chronological order of when they were written. One thing that I really took to heart was after he was pointing out a verse in the Gospel of Luke and he said this:

God-like action (hope, faith, and charity)

Removal of Sin principal


Truly merited


Amicus (Become friends of God)

That spells out “Gratia” which is “Grace” and Mary had all that for when the “angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:26-28)

She had all that Fr. Thomas listed above. But something else with those verses was “Hail full of grace” is a past tense, which means it has been fulfilled. Also Fr. Thomas noted that Mary had a name change from Mary to “Full of Grace”, and it is not a job (as many of our protestant brothers and sisters consider Mary’s role), but an office. But, also her blessedness was possible because she believed, “she was more blessed in faith than the role of mother” (St. Augustine).  For it was not only as a mother, but her faith that she was there in the beginning and the end, but she was in between, for she never left His side.

One of the last things that I had a profound awe was when Fr. Thomas explained something from the Gospel of John when Jesus hands His mother to the beloved, but nameless disciple. Every time we seen that beloved, but nameless disciple it is meant to place our name, for we are His beloved disciples, the Children of God. I found that important that means that Mary is truly Our Mother, because He handed her to us. What a great honor to have her as our Mother.

Between talks was a time of silence, which I took that time to go to Confession and then write and just think about the Lord and Mary. I thought about how when I first really took the step towards the Lord, I knew that Mary was “Mom” and I have always called her as such and when I am scared or fear that the Lord hates me, Mary is that Mom who whispers who tells you not to give up on Him, for He doesn’t hate you.

The Second talk about dealing with Typology of Mary by comparing the Old Testaments and the New Testaments with regards of certain things, for example look up Genesis 3:20 and then look up John 19:25+. “One brought death by listening to the angel, while one brought life by listening to the angel” as Fr. Thomas said, but also included that Mary is considered (and I truly believe) the second Eve and the ark of the convent.

But, not only did he (Fr. Thomas) speak about Typology, but he also did another memorization thing for us about Mary:

Mother of God

Assumed in Heaven

Redeemed in Anticipation

Yeshua (Jesus) her only Son

These are the four doctrines of Mary, just thought that was really cool.