Sunday, November 29, 2009

Books I'm Reading (1): Redeemer in the Womb

Have you ever thought about the nine months Jesus spent in the womb of His mother? I must admit that I had not given it a great deal of thought, although I understand clearly that at the moment Mary said her Fiat to the Archangel Gabriel---ultimately to God, "The Word became flesh."

This book is pro-life. It focuses on the months before Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. I first read Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus Living in Mary by John Saward two years ago during a diocesan Advent retreat for Directors of Religious Education. During Advent this year I will reread it as one piece of my personal "spiritual makeover" in preparation for Christmas.

Here is what the back cover says that perfectly describes the book's contents:

This book is a unique and profound theological meditation on the nine months the God-man spent in His Virgin Mother's womb. Drawing on Christian philosophy, poetry, liturgy, as well as the Fathers and great theologians of the Church, Saward shows that faith in the Incarnation commits the believer inescapably to the defense of the unborn child. He invites the reader, in the light of Christ, to rediscover the beauty of his own, and every human being's, first few months of existence.
During Advent I will post some of the insights I am gleaning from this read. Admittedly it is profound, but those are the kinds of reads I like. I tend to read slowly and savor everything.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

'Tis the Advent Time of the Year

The liturgical season of Advent begins at sundown today. We light the first candle of our Advent wreaths.

The season of Advent resets the clocks and calendars of Christian worship. Annually we leap into another gospel tradition and maneuver into a familiar yet foggy cycle. [The new cycle is C, and the Gospel is Luke.] Sounds and signs of dubious direction surround us. Slipper and pajama sizes, not the quiet beauty of our noble tradition, often preoccupy us. We are easily left with the shallow, the cliche.

Advent summons us to the beginning. The lavishness of God's compassion and mercy frame yet another year for us. With the arrival of Advent's first Sunday, we attend to this mystery one more time. Clearly, we are a people who origins and destiny make us curious yet apprehensive about the day of the Lord's coming. Our tradition proclaims this as both an event already accomplished in human history and an event moving toward fulfillment in the future---our future. Our worship, fashioned of word and sacrament, insists that our encounter with the day of the Lord occurs concretely in the struggles and tension, choices and decisions of human living. Through the ages, poets, teacher, storytellers, mystics, rabbis, saints, political activists and martyrs of the justice of the gospel---all these, most of them ordinary people, have handed on to us words and images that identify and describe this encounter with the day of the Lord. ~ From An Advent Sourcebook edited by Thomas J. O'Gorman.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Keys to Theology: Contemplation and Pursuit of Understanding

The following is an excerpt from the Catholic News Service News Briefs of today's online edition. As is so often the case the Holy Father stresses the importance of both human understanding and faith.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although there are different approaches to the study of the Scriptures, theology is rooted in contemplation based on faith and the pursuit of understanding, Pope Benedict XVI said at his weekly general audience. Illustrating the lives and teachings of two 12th-century theologians from the St. Victor monastery in Paris, the pope spoke Nov. 25 about the different ways Christian thinkers have sought truth from the Bible. Hugh of St. Victor, who was a respected teacher at the abbey until his death in 1141, emphasized the importance of the literal or historical sense of the Scriptures "as the basis of theology's effort to unite faith and reason in understanding God's saving plan," the pope said. His student, Richard of St. Victor, "stressed the allegorical sense of the Scriptures" as a means to present spiritual teachings to the faithful, the pope said. Their examples "remind us that theology is grounded in the contemplation born of faith and the pursuit of understanding," Pope Benedict said.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Today We Celebrate Three Holy Lives

Who are the three? They are Saints Clement I and Columban, and Blessed Miguel Augustin Pro.

Saint Clement I
Not very much is known of Saint Clement. In the Liturgy of the Hours it says:
Saint Clement, the third pope to rule the Roman Church after Saint Peter, reigned toward the end of the first century. He wrote the famous epistle to the Corinthians to strengthen and encourage peace and unity among them.
When I was studying in Rome back in 2006 I visited the Basilica of San Clemente, which isn't too far from the Colosseum. The guidebook, which I still have, has this to say about him:
Very little is known about the life of this early Pope, although he was not unknown to writers in the century after his death. Thus St. Irenaeus (c 130-200) describes him as a contemporary of Saints Peter and Paul, while Origen (. 185-c.254) goes further and identifies him with the Clement to whom St. Paul refers as a fellow-laborer (Phil. 4:3). According to recent research his writing betrays a Jewish background, and it has been suggested that he may have belonged, perhaps as a Jewish ex-slave, to the household of the martyr Titus Flavius Clemens, a cousin of the Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.).

At all events he is the undoubted author of a celebrated Letter to the Corinthians which was written c. 96 in the name of the Roman Church to deal authoritatively with disturbance in the Church at Corinth, where presbyters had been deposed. Issuing a call to repentance, Clement insisted in the name of the Apostles that the presbyters in question should be reinstated and legitimate superiors obeyed. The effect of this appeal is remarkable, and indeed is one of the earliest witnesses to the authority of the Church of Rome. For we find that the Letter was so highly regarded that it was being read publicly at Corinth with the Scriptures about 170, and still in the sixth century.
Legends have developed around this saint. You can learn about some of them here:

Saint Columban
In the Liturgy of the Hours the following is written about Saint Columban
Saint Columban was born in Ireland before the middle of the sixth century. He was well trained in the classics and theology. After entering the monastic life, he went to France and founded many monasteries which he ruled with strict discipline. After being foced into exile, he went to Italy and founded the monastery of Bobbio. He died in 614.
At St. Peter's Basilica in Rome there is a chapel named in honor of Saint Columban. Not only did I attend Mass there, but I had the privilege of proclaiming the reading for that day to all present. So, I guess it would be true to say that I proclaimed God's Word in St. Peter's Basilica!

More details of his life can be found at this link:

Blessed Miguel Augustin Pro, S.J.
Miguel Pro is not yet a saint. One more miracle must be attributed to his intercession before he will be canonized. Here is what the Liturgy of the Hours says about him:
Miguel Pro was born near Zacatecas, Mexico on 13 January 1891. In 1911 he entered the Society of Jesus; his studies took him to the United States, Spain and Belgium, where he was ordained in 1926. On his return to Mexico he carried out his priestly ministry secretly, because of the religious persecution. Eventually his zeal attracted the unfavorable attention of the authorities; he was arrested on false charges and was condemned to death. The sentence was carried out by shooting on 23 November 1927. Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 25 September 1988 at St. Peter's in Rome.

When I was studying Spanish in 2003 in Guadalajara I visited Zacatecas. There I bought a comic book style biography of Miguel Pro written in Spanish. It was very enjoyable reading and good practice for learning Spanish. Many people are unaware of the severe persecution of Catholic in Mexico in the early 20th century. It seems so ironic because Mexico is a very Catholic and Christian country. This saint's last words were "¡ Viva Cristo Rey !"

There is a lot of interesting information about this saint at this website:

Remembering the Holy Souls

November is the month of the Holy Souls. The holy souls in this photo are my mother and maternal grandparents who are interred at St. Joseph cemetery in River Grove, IL. Although each of them died quite awhile ago, it was just this week that the tombstone was places on their grave sites.

Until I saw this recently installed stone I didn't know my grandpa was so much younger than my grandma. Dates are interesting! Grandpa Lucas died when I was exactly 4 months old. I like the Celtic cross. It represents The Faith, theirs and mine, and my Irish roots.

My dad happens to be interred at St. Joseph's as well.

I've been trying to remember to pray more this month for the Holy Souls.

SANCTE PATER: Verses I Never Saw

Marcus Grodi, the host of The Journey Home, has written an essay that tells how new interpretations of familiar Bible verses were life-changing experiences.
One of the more commonly shared experiences of Protestant converts to the Catholic Church is the discovery of verses “we never saw.” Even after years of studying, preaching, and teaching the Bible, sometimes from cover to cover, all of a sudden a verse “we never saw” appears as if by magic and becomes an “Aha!” mind-opening, life-altering messenger of spiritual “doom”! Sometimes it’s just recognizing an alternate, clearer meaning of a familiar verse, but often, as with some of the verses mentioned below, it literally seems as if some Catholic had snuck in during the night and somehow put that verse there in the text!

The list of these surprise verses is endless, depending especially on a convert’s former religious tradition, but the following are a few key verses that turned my heart toward home. This article is a reprint from the topic I covered on the July 31, 2006 broadcast of The Journey Home on EWTN.

Go to the following link to read his selection of 10 Biblical verses, Proverbs 3:5-6; 1 Timothy 3: 14-15; Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; Matthew 16:13-19; Revelation 14:13; Romans 10:14-15; John 15:4 and 6:56; Colossians 1:24; Luke 1:46-49, and his commentaries on each: SANCTE PATER: Verses I Never Saw

H/T: New Advent

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Becoming a Canonized Saint

A saint is someone who has died and gone to heaven. To become any kind of a saint a person must lead a holy life. How that life looks varies from saint to saint. Many saints were terrible sinners who had a conversion experience. Some were martyrs who died professing their faith. Some were more or less holy throughout their lives, living lives of discipleship and heroic virtue.

Some saints are canonized by the Catholic Church. My friend Eileen listed the five steps necessary for canonization, and these were published in our church bulletin today. I added my own comments in brackets.

1) At least five years should have passed since the death of the candidate. [Very seldom are exceptions made to this and usually it's a lot longer.]

2) The bishop of the diocese in which the person whose beatification is being requested begins the investigation.

3) Acts and documentation are passed to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and if the cause for sainthood is advanced, the Pope makes the decision to proclaim the candidate Venerable. [That's a title.]

4) When the requested miracle is proven through canonical investigation, the cadidate is beatified and receives the title of Blessed.

5) For canonization, another miracle is needed attributed to the intercession of the Blessed and having occurred after beatification. With canonization, the Blessed acquires the title of "Saint."

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Fr. Solanus Casey, and Dorothy Day are three U.S. citizens whose causes are currently being investigated.

Eileen recommends reading about Saint Gianna, an Italian mother, who was canonized May 16, 2004 with her husband and children in attendance. See: This is a beautiful website.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Prayer of Gratitude

There is a narrative in Luke's Gospel about Jesus curing ten lepers when he was traveling to Jerusalem through Samaria and Galilee. The lepers pleaded for Jesus to have pity on them. Jesus didn't even ask them what they wanted from him. Rather, he told them to go and show themselves to the priest. So off they went.

But on the way to the priest one of the ten realized he had been healed. He wholeheartedly glorified God. He also returned to Jesus and fell at his feet thanking him. This healed man was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked where the other nine were, because all of them had been healed. He noted that only the foreigner had returned to give thanks. Then he told the Samaritan to go and that his faith had saved him.

This appeared in Magnificat as the "Meditation of the Day" for November 11th.

What the Leper May Have Prayed

Lord Jesus Christ our God,
the God of boundless mercies and compassion,
whose love for mankind is indescribable and immeasurable,
I fall before your glory with fear and trembling as I offer you thanks
for all the good things you have granted me, your unworthy servant.

I glorify you, praise you, and sing to you,
the only Lord, Master and Benefactor.
Again, falling before you, I offer thanks to your unspeakable compassion
and pray that from this day forth, as before,
you continue to work you wonders for me,
that thus I may grow in love for you and for my neighbor.

Deliver me from all evil and need.
Grant me peace, and make me worthy, all the days of my life,
to offer thanks to you and to cry out and sing
to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and unto ages of ages.

From an Orthodox Prayer Book

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Evening Prayer Practice

It is part of all Catholic spirituality to pray in the evening. Often this is done right before going to sleep, but may be done any time after sunset. Evening prayers vary, but usually include prayers of praise and thanks, as well as an examination of conscience and a prayer expressing sorrow for sin and repentance.

Saturday I participated in an adult education opportunity about spirituality. Among the helpful handouts was one called "An Examen," which is a formal examination of the soul or conscience, made daily by Jesuits and some other Roman Catholics. I really liked it and want to share it with you. I don't think it matters whether or not you are Catholic.

An Examen

Recall you are in the presence of God. Place yourself in the presence of God. Become aware of God being resent to you, looking at you, as someone whom God loves.

Review the day with gratitude. Thank God for the gifts of the day, for the gifts and graces you received, for life itself, and the people who have graced you and touched you.

Ask for the Holy Spirit's help. As the spirit to help you appreciate and understand what has been happening in your life today. Ask for a deep appreciation of God's presence in the people, happenings, and events of your life today.

Review how you are living today. Recall the events of your day, and allow God to surface positive memories from the day. What today left you feeling content, full, excited? Can you see God loving you and laboring for you in these moments? Allow God to surface negative or unsettling memories from the day. What today left you feeling frustrated, empty, hurt? What left you feeling off balance? What person or area needs more attention? Can you see God in these moments, inviting you to grow?

Look with hope toward tomorrow. Given these memories, pay attention to any desires or hopes for the day to come. Talk to God friend-to-friend about whatever is in your heart. Round off the examen with the Lord's Prayer.

Monday, November 2, 2009

One of the Things I Love about Being Catholic: Catholic Funerals

I'll stay Catholic as long as it means I can have a Catholic funeral. Okay, that's not the only reason I'll stay Catholic, but it helps---especially if there's an Irish touch to it.

Today, All Souls Day, I attended the funeral Mass of my friend and fellow Lay Carmelite, Mary McComb. It's quite significant that her funeral Mass was held today, because this is the one day in the universal Church, when, in every parish throughout the world, a Mass is celebrated in remembrance of those who have died and gone before us to eternal life. That's a lot of prayer!

Some of the last words I heard from Mary were an intercessory prayer she said at our Lay Carmelite Day of Recollection. She prayed that her husband Bill and her 4 children, all of whom preceded her in death, would be in heaven so they could all be together. Now Mary is usually quiet during our intercessory prayer time, so the fact that she made this prayer struck me as significant. I thought to myself, "Mary knows something." When I shared this with my other fellow Lay Carmelites during today's reception meal, many of them remembered that and said they were thinking the same thing.

A half hour before the funeral Mass began, we prayed the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary for Mary. Five of us Lay Carmelites took turns for each decade of the Rosary. The theme of the Glorious Mysteries is Resurrection. It was so apropos as preparation for a Catholic funeral, because it is a celebration of immortality and the Resurrection of the dead.

Our pastor, Fr. John Cantwell, was fond of Mary. She and Bill welcomed him when he arrived as pastor by taking him around our town and the other local areas and telling him the history. Fr. C. loves history.

Here are some of the memories that were told about Mary, but I can't remember all of them.
  • Mary came to daily Mass every day. And on the weekend she came to all three parish Masses, one on Saturday evening and two on Sunday morning.

  • When Bill was living the two of them would rise very early and drive around the perimeter of Placerville praying the Rosary as the went. En route they stopped at the City Hall, the Courthouse, the local hospital, the Police and Fire Stations, and Schools as they prayed. They ended at Church where they remained for morning Mass.

  • Every Friday Mary changed the holy water fonts located at every door of our Church. She disposed of the old, soiled water; washed the container; and placed fresh holy water in each one. [Catholics bless themselves with holy water when entering Church as a reminder of their baptism, which is the entrance into the life of Christ.]
  • Mary was the lemonade lady. When the Ladies' Society had social events or funeral receptions, Mary prepared the lemonade. No one else was allowed! But today someone else prepared it.
  • Mary had the faith. Yes, she had a hard life. I can't think of anything more difficult than to bury one's own child. Can you? She buried four of her eight children, two before her husband Bill died, and two since then. There are two benches in our Church courtyard in commemoration of the first two who died.

  • Mary will be inurned in St. Patrick Cemetery Mausoleum, in our parish cemetery. She will be near her husband and children. Father said Mary sometimes lamented that the ground by their grave sites was uneven and it was hard to grow grass there. So he promised to level the ground for Mary. [The mausoleum is a recent addition, so I'm not sure Bill is in it.]

Mary was one of a kind. She wore her heart on her sleeve, yet she had a backbone and was strong.

I loved the music that was chosen for her funeral Mass. All, but one, were familiar to me. The one I didn't know did have a familiar tune. It was the words that were new. It's called, "O Loving God," and it is sung to the tune of "O, Danny Boy."
O loving God, we send you daughter home to you,
home to a place of everlasting love, to join there
with the angel choirs and blessed saints, and to be-
hold your glorious holy face.

Receive her soul and
let eternal light shine, eternal light forever on her
soul, so she may be forever in your dwelling place,
and be at rest in peace until we meet her there.

O loving God, have mercy and forgiveness
upon your servant's now departed soul, and may you
grace and love enfold her evermore, so she may
dwell in paradise at last.

Back to refrain.

(Copyright: 2004 by Paulette M. McCoy and published by OCP)
Yes, I definitely love a Catholic funeral! And I recommend planning out the kind of funeral you want to have before it happens. I feel motivated to start planning mine soon.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Annotated Bibligraphy of the Saints


I compiled the following list of books about saints two years ago when I gave a workshop for religious educators for the Diocese of Sacramento called "Saints Alive!". The list has an intermingling of books that are for adults as well as those for children. They are listed alphabetically by authors and include a very brief summary of the book. I also included websites for information about saints.

This bibliography is a list of some fine books about the saints. Only those with which I am personally familiar have been listed. It is certainly not exhaustive, and I recommend that you do your own research and find books and other resources that appeal to you.

Saints Alive Annotated Bibliography

Amadeo, Diana M. Holy Friends: Thirty Saints and Blesseds of the Americas. Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2005. [suitable for children to read]

Each entry consists of an attractive one-page illustration showing the saint in action. The biographical sketch of two to three pages gives the saint’s country of origin, the highlights of the saint’s life, and ends with information about the date of canonization or beatification, the date of the saint’s feast day, and a short intercessory prayer to that saint.

Bentley, James. A Calendar of Saints: the Lives of the Principal Saints of the Christian Year. U.K.: Little, Brown and Company, 1997.

This book contains brief biographical entries for every day of the year. These saints are from different periods of history and every walk of life. It has lavish illustrations, many in full color.

Burns, Paul. Butler’s Lives of the Saints: Supplement of New Saints and Blesseds,Volume 1. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2005.

This volume covers all those canonized or beatified since late 1999 to the end of 2003. Some are generally well known, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Padre Pio, and Pope John XXIII. Others are obscure and know only in a particular locale or by their religious congregation.

Craughwell, Thomas J. Catholic Cardlinks: Patron Saints. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 2004 [suitable for children to read]

This is a series of cards, linked together with a screw, that profile 48 saints, some famous, others more obscure, who Catholics have called upon when they were in need; for example, struggling in school or not sleeping well because of nightmares. There are saints for boys and girls (and adults) who like to draw, write, play sports, saints for anyone who likes dogs, cats, birds even whales!

Elie, Paul, ed. Contemporary Writers on the Saints. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1994.

This book is a compilation of a series of essays about particular saints, like St. Joseph, St. Perpetua, St. Jean de Brebeuf and more, written by such contemporary writers as Martin E. Marty, Kathleen Norris, and Avery Dulles, S.J., and more.

Ellsberg, Robert. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witness for Our Time. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997. Study Guide copyright 2004 by Robert Ellsberg.

Excellent compendium of a variety of holy people, not limited to those who are canonized, and including Mahatmas Gandhi, Julian of Norwich, Martin de Porres, and Mary Magdalen, to name a few. It was the winner of the 1998 Christopher Award.

__________. The Saints’ Guide to Happiness. New York: North Point Press, 2003.

In our contemporary culture there are many books that try to answer the question, “What is happiness, and how might we find it?” This book attempts to answer these questions by offering a series of lessons with the saints as our guides. These lessons are about living life, work, love, suffering, and more.

Gallery, Philip D. Can You Find Saints?: Introducing Your Child to Holy Men and Women. Cincinnati, Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2003. [suitable forchildren to read]

This is a clever picture book in which children are invited to search for the saints using clues. For each search and picture there is a corresponding parent’s guide in a second part of the book. The authors emphasize the virtues of each saint.

__________. Can You Find Followers of Jesus?: Introducing Your Child to Disciples.
Cincinnati, Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2000. [suitable forchildren to read]

This book is similar to the previous one. The focus is on realizing our place in God’s plan of spreading the Gospel message to all people. Mary, the apostles, St. Paul, Lydia, the Gospel writers, St. Patrick and Pope John Paul II and many others are featured.

__________. Can You Find Bible Heroes?: Introducing Your Child to the Old Testa- ment. Cincinnati, Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1998. [suitable forchildren to read]

This book is similar to the previous two. The emphasis is on the Jewish culture into which Jesus was immersed. The holy people are the men and women whom Jesus and his friends would have considered heroes. Noah, Joseph, Moses, Orpah, Ruth, David, and Jesus himself are included.

Ghezzi, Bert. Voices of the Saints: A Year of Readings. New York: Image Books/Doubleday, 2000.

This is a unique book because it can be used in a variety of ways. Names are in alphabetical order, but it also has a day-by-day numbering system, notations with each entry that help the reader explore the lives in historical order, an index which highlights interesting themes, and a calendar of saints’ days. Each entry also contains and excerpt of the saint’s writings and/or a prayer by or about the saint.

Glavich, S.N.D., Kathleen. Saints for Children: Stories, Activities, Prayer Services. Mystic, Connecticut: Twenty-third Publications, 1997.

This book features the lives of twelve popular saints. It has an appealing account the saint’s life and good works. The author emphasizes the saints’ virtues and tells how they may practice these virtues in their own lives. The activities and prayer services are suitable for middle graders. There is a brief and simple explanation of the canonization process in the introduction.

Gordon, Anne. A Book of Saints: True Stories of How They Touch Our Lives. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

This author portrays the humanity of the saints through stories of their everyday lives, and attempts to show that they were just a little different from ordinary people who also act with love and kindness for others.

Martin, S.J., James. My Life with the Saints. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2006.

James Martin, a Jesuit priest, and an associate editor of America Magazine, has led, like you and I, a thoroughly modern life within the American culture of the United States. In this book he shows how at every step along the way special friends—the saints of the Catholic Church, have accompanied him. He persuasively shows how the saints can be our friends as well. This book has won the 2007 Christopher Award for books for adults and the 2007 Catholic Press Association First Place Award in Spirituality Books.

Rock, Lois. Saintly Tales and Legends. Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2003.[suitable for children to read]

Beautifully illustrated book of folk tales and legends that inspire the imaginations of children and which explore a world of saints and angels, like St. Nicholas, St. Christopher, St. Germaine, and St. Bakhita.

Self, David. The Loyola Treasury of Saints. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2003. [suitable for children to read]

This book has a collection of engaging saint stories that demonstrate their virtuous lives of faith, courage, and compassion. Selections include saints from the time of Jesus to the present day. Many selections have sidebars with relevant factual information that illuminates our understanding. The artwork is outstanding. There is a section at the end with biographical notes and a calendar of saints.

The Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio. Saints and Feast Days: A Resource and Activities Book. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2004.

This book is a collection of single page biographies of saints that is organized by their feast day dates from September through August. Each biographical sketch is followed by up to five suggested activities and space for catechist notes. There are reproducible blackline masters at the end of the book.

Woodward, Kenneth L. Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn’t, and Why. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

This book explains in detail the process of canonization, the Church’s method of declaring someone a saint.


Catholic Forum:

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Catholic Pages Directory:

Catholic Saints, Blesseds, Angels, Incorruptibles:

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