Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Prayer Request

Please remember in your prayers Philip Johnson, a seminarian from the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina. Philip—who is a “diocesan brother” of one of my best friends from college—is fighting inoperable brain cancer. Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh has requested that his entire diocese pray a novena to the Immaculate Conception on Philip’s behalf.

Here is the novena (which is a beautiful way to begin Advent, by the way), in case any blog readers would like to “jump on”:

Father all-powerful and ever-living God,
You chose the Immaculate Virgin Mary,
the mother of your Son, to be the mother and help of all Christians.

As she endured her bitter agony
at the cross of her Son, she was consoled by you
with the hope of His resurrection.

Now, in heaven
she consoles with a mother’s love all who turn to her with faith,
until the day of the Lord dawns in glory.

(The Memorare:)

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
That never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection,
Implored your help or sought your intercession,
Was left unaided.

Inspired with this confidence,
I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother;
To you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful

O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
Despise not my petitions,
But in your mercy hear and answer me.

(We Pray:)

O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
We are filled with confidence that your prayers on our behalf
Will be graciously heard before the throne of God.
Bring our seminarian, Philip Johnson, healing, peace, courage and strength
As he shares in the suffering of your Son.
O Glorious Mother of God,
In memory of your joyous Immaculate Conception,
Hear our prayers and obtain for us our petition.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Feast of St. Cecilia

Today is the feast of St. Cecilia, an early consecrated virgin and martyr, whose name is one of the many included in the Roman Canon (a.ka. Eucharistic Prayer I). Her memorial is the first of a series of consecrated virgin saints’ feast days which will continue throughout the winter months.

Although St. Cecilia was a consecrated virgin “living in the world”—which makes her one of my spiritual “sisters”—she is also the patroness of the Nashville Dominicans, as well as (I believe) a patroness for second Order cloistered Dominican nuns.

And so, shamelessly “borrowing” from the Nashville Dominicans’ vocation website, here is a brief but lovely biography of today’s saint:
Cecilia’s story is well guarded by long-standing tradition, which presents to us a young Christian girl with an undying faith in an era when faith was an unpopular and dangerous virtue. Born to pagan parents, and perhaps converted through the instrumentality of a Christian nurse, Cecilia was raised in a noble Roman home during a time of persecution.

We are told that, according to custom, Cecilia’s parents arranged for her to marry a young patrician named Valerian. Cecilia, however, had already vowed her virginity to God, desiring to root herself even more deeply in her Baptismal consecration. On her wedding night, she resolutely explained her vow to Valerian, whose initial anger and confusion were transformed into conversion under the influence of his wife’s strong faith and the instruction of the Christian bishop. Valerian and Cecilia subsequently helped to convert Valerian’s brother Tiburtius, and the three became known for their works of charity and their lives of Christian virtue.

Though arrested and threatened with execution because of their practice of Christianity, Valerian and Tiburtius refused to deny their faith. They were cruelly martyred, but not before they had succeeded in converting their executioner, who had been profoundly affected by the steadfast example of the other young men. Cecilia’s arrest soon followed. Despite the fact that the Roman prefect attempted to persuade her toward more “politically correct” behavior, Cecilia refused to submit. After a failed attempt to suffocate her in a heated bath in her own home, an executioner was sent to behead her.

Three blows mortally wounded Cecilia, yet failed to kill her immediately, and she survived for three days. We are told that, even in her dying condition, she continued to offer the witness of a vibrant faith, hope and charity that would not die. Cecilia bequeathed her possessions to the poor and her home to the Church, to be used as a house of worship.

In 821 A.D. Pope Paschal I had Cecilia’s body removed from its burial place in the Catacomb of St. Callistus—where it was found incorrupt—and reinterred under the altar in the Basilica of St. Cecilia. Almost seven centuries later, in 1599, the titular bishop of the basilica, wishing to enlarge and decorate the structure, excavated beneath the altar and opened Cecilia’s coffin as well as her husband’s. All present were deeply moved when they saw Cecilia’s body, still perfectly incorrupt, lying on her right side as naturally as if she were asleep. The sculptor Stefano Maderno was commissioned to carve the saint in this position of her martyrdom.

To His glory, He who is glorified in His saints would not allow “His beloved to know decay” (Psalm 16)—a sign to all virgins consecrated to Christ, of their Spouse’s enduring love. ... Cecilia’s music is the eternal heavenly call, which sounds in the soul despite the noise and pressures of the world, inspiring the bride to an unshakeable vow of love even unto death.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Archbishop Dolan on the Communion of Saints

(Image: Christ as the vine with many braches, cf. John 15:5.)
In honor of today’s Solemnity of All Saints, here is the most recent post from Archbishop Dolan’s blog, “The Gospel in the Digital Age.” Emphases, in bold, are mine.
The Greatest Family of All

If it were not so sad, it would only evoke the response of a yawn. I’m talking about the most recent Hollywood star who was “raised a Catholic” but now, as an “enlightened, liberated” adult, has shed his or her faith for some toney, exotic “New Age” movement. I watched her tell the talk-show host how she had left the faith of her family because it left her so “isolated” and “out of touch” with the cosmos. Seems her new religion is big on the “inherent harmony of the universe,” which provides a valuable sense of unity for her. She finds it provides her a real feeling of closeness to all of those who have gone before her and are now in eternity, and a union with all her brothers and sisters throughout the world who share her belief.

This is new? Was she home with the measles when the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints was covered in her religion class? We Catholics have believed in this “inherent harmony of the universe” for two millennia, and at the heart of our faith is a sense of union with God, with the faithful departed, with the saints in heaven, and with all of our brothers and sisters in the Church throughout the world.

Of course, this wonderful doctrine of the communion of saints comes to mind these pleasant days of fall. November 1st is All Saints Day, as we praise God for all those citizens of heaven, all members of the “Church triumphant” who now reign with Christ the King in paradise. On November 2nd we observe All Souls Day, as we remember with reverence and gratitude those who have died, whether they are now with Jesus in heaven, or await their goal of heaven as they undergo a period of purification in purgatory, members of the “Church suffering,” who deserve our prayers. We on earth then comprise the “Church militant,” as we continue to persevere in grace, fighting the ancient enemies of sin, Satan, and selfishness.

Thus, we belong to the greatest family of all, the communion of saints, and are intimately united to all who share residence in the household of the faith. The limits of time and space fade away in this deep unity, and never do we feel alone or isolated. All creation is in harmony under Christ the King, whom we hail the last Sunday of this month of November.

I can only pray that our friend in Hollywood rediscovers this ancient doctrine of the Church, and that we of the “Church militant” use this upcoming month of November to honor the saints, pray for the dead, and savor the sense of communion with Christ the King and all His disciples which comes from belonging to the Church.