What Does the Catholic Church Say About Gun Control?

Abortion. Euthanasia. Sacramental marriage. Artificial birth control.  

Bullets

There is no question where Holy Mother Church stands on these issues. She frequently sounds the clarion call to remind us of our moral obligations in murky, godless societies. 

But what about gun control? Is there an undeniably clear Catholic position? Does your gun control position affect your salvation?

Let's examine why this remains, for both theological and practical reasons, undefined moral ground.

1.   Mother's Wisdom

Holy Mother Church is indeed a wise Mother. Mothers who want their children to succeed do not allow their children to make their own rules; rather, they model and enforce boundaries which will allow the children to learn in a safe environment before branching out alone.

Once the children have demonstrated their ability to make wise decisions, mothers might allow children to discern the best choices for their lives, within certain bounds.

Holy Mother Church, in situations such as gun control and reasons to avoid pregnancy through Natural Family Planning (that's another blog post for another day!), also allows an individual with a properly formed conscience, to prayerfully decide what is the right choice for himself or his family.

If, as a Catholic with a well-formed conscience, you decide to own a gun for protection, sport, or hunting, you are free to do so without moral implications. If you choose otherwise, that is also an acceptable choice. Catholics of good will can (and do) disagree on this topic. What matters is intent: how do you intend to use the gun?

2.   Do Forks Make Us Fat?

Ten_Commandments_Catholic

Our most basic morality begins with the Ten Commandments we learned as we prepared for First Reconciliation and deepens from there. Number Five, 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' is, literally, written in stone.

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, rifles, handguns, IEDs, bombs, forceps did not exist. But humans had already started killing each other (remember Cain and Abel?), with bare hands and any other primitive methods available to someone with a desire to commit murder. 

Regardless of the method, killing is wrong. If you utilize your weapon of choice in a just way (in self-defense, to save the lives of others, to hunt food), you are within the moral boundaries established by God and His Church. The fact that pre-meditated murder is always unjust does not change regardless of how it occurs. Fr. Jerry Pokorsky states:

"Those killed by a butter knife, an AK-47, or a neutron bomb are equally and indifferently dead. In each case, the resort to arms will be judged just or unjust by the same moral criterion."

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Jesus will judge whether the reason the victim died was a just one, regardless of the weapon used.

That leads us to the next logical question: if killing is wrong, regardless of how it occurs, how does this reflect on the instrument used to take the life of another human being?

Are knives evil, since they can be used to stab another person to death? 

Are ropes evil, since one could strangle another person or oneself with a length of it? 

Are handguns evil, since they could be used to shoot another person? 

Are assault rifles more evil than less powerful weapons? 

Further, Fr. Pokorsky offers this:

"Guns are not intrinsically evil. On the contrary, the Catechism teaches not just the right but the duty to use lethal force, if necessary, to defend oneself and those towards whom we have a responsibility.  The same right to life that condemns mass murder requires the use of a gun to wound or kill if necessary to save life. Keeping guns away from mass murderers is obviously a moral duty, but guns in themselves are not intrinsically evil, unlike abortion."

3.   What Do Solidarity and Subsidiarity Have to Do with Gun Control?

Soladarity

According to Catholic Social Teaching, solidarity and subsidiarity are two foundational social, cultural, and economic principles

Solidarity means that we're all in this together. We have an obligation to love and care for both our neighbors next door as well as the poor in Africa. 

Subsidiarity means that the smallest possible entity should solve problems. The federal government should not control issues that states can handle, states should not micromanage what individual communities should direct, and on down the line. 

These two principles seem contradictory; they serve to balance one another as well as the power of top institution and of individuals and families. 

How could these principles apply to the gun control debate? Solidarity may indicate that we have a duty to protect all Americans, not just our families and neighbors, and that working to pass federal and state laws to keep weapons out of the hands of those who would endanger the lives of any American ensures the common good.

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 already prohibits the sales of firearms to the mentally ill, substance abusers, minors, criminals, yet there seem to be holes in enforcement of these laws, especially in vulnerable populations such as gun-free school zones. Subsidiarity may suggest that the lowest level of power which could effectively accomplish this goal be the one to enact these rules. 

Pope St. John Paul II elaborated on the balance between solidarity and subsidiarity:

The “principle of subsidiarity” must be respected: “A community of a higher order should not interfere with the life of a community of a lower order, taking over its functions.” In case of need it should, rather, support the smaller community and help to coordinate its activity with activities in the rest of society for the sake of the common good.

This leads to further deliberation:

  • What level of government could regulate the sales of guns most effectively without quashing the rights of those who should lawfully be able to purchase firearms? 
  • Do American society and individuals both benefit from the prohibition of the sale of certain categories of firearms? 
  • How can we exercise common sense to protect law-abiding citizens and their rights while still protecting communities from criminals and homicidal maniacs? 

4.   Is Prayer Enough?

One of the most common responses when there is another shooting is an outpouring of prayer for the victims, families, and communities affected. We as Catholics pray for recovery for the victims, eternal rest for the dead, healing and comfort for the affected families and towns. Some may ask: is prayer enough? Catholic writer Michael Sean Winters posits that we can do more than pray to prevent future man-made tragedies:

We should not jeer at the ability of prayer to ground solidarity, nor at the power of belief to, over time, heal the wounds that death inflicts. In the face of a natural disaster, there is little else we humans can do. But these mass shootings are not natural disasters, and prayer and belief, though essential, are not enough, because there is something morally bankrupt about mourning the dead, incident after incident, without also taking steps to ensure that it is harder to carry out another such attack in the future.
Police with gun

There are tangible steps that individuals, communities, and government at various levels can take to thwart large-scale shootings. Those who feel convicted to work on large-scale solutions might consider: 

  • Working to improve mental health screenings, insurance coverage, and treatments.
  • Properly enforcing of current firearm laws
  • Seeking to fortify and tighten security measures for children attending school.

Others may feel called to cultivate within their own families and circles of influence the value of natural law, non-violence, open communication to solve problems, preventing substance abuse, and sanctity of all human life.

These steps, both large- and small-scale, may work concurrently to help families send young people into the world to constructively solve personal and societal problems, effectively cutting off the weed of societal violence at its roots. 

Let's continue the discussion as Catholics of good will. 

Tell us, what are your thoughts on gun control?

Why is Prayer So Powerful?

​Channeling the Power of Prayer ...

Catholic Pop Quiz! Who said the following?

"Where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. Love — the word — it brings nothing. I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul."

Shockingly, Saint Teresa of Calcutta - the modern icon of self-sacrifice and devotion to Jesus and the poor – lived in a state of spiritual darkness for more than 50 years and shared these tortuous thoughts with her spiritual director in 1957.

Why did Mother Teresa persist in her many hours of scheduled daily prayer when she felt complete emptiness and isolation? For the same reasons that you and I should make prayer the anchor of our days and of our lives.


"The rosary is a sort of machine gun and atomic bomb; namely, a weapon far superior to all the weapons of modern warfare in overcoming the enemy of God." – Servant of God Joseph Kentenich

1. It's Weaponized

Satan loathes nothing more than prayer. The Power of Prayer unites us to the Father; the Devil separates us from the Father. When we pass time with God, we are actively avoiding evil. Prayer strengthens us in our daily battles against the Devil and temptation.

Our lives are one enormous spiritual war, and prayer gets us battle-ready. Through the power of prayer, we summon the Lord to our aid and prepare ourselves to overcome the onslaught of enticement the Devil reigns down on us at every turn.


"… for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses" (2 Corinthians 10:4).

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2. It's About Relationship

When you are cementing a friendship or falling in love, investing time in the relationship is the only way to get it off the ground. The same applies to getting to know God. Why would we want to spend eternity with Someone we ignored during our entire earthly lives?

"For prayer is nothing more than being on terms of friendship with God." – Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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Fr. Mike Schmitz, a dynamic, down-to-earth college chaplain with an online following through Ascension Press, shared a perfect illustration of why time with God matters. He recounted a time when his father was building a backyard shed. Instead of simply building it himself (which would undoubtedly have been easier and more efficient), he invited his six children to help him. 

This time together allowed the children to see how their beloved dad labored, allowed Dad to see his children learn and work together, and gave dad and kids the opportunity to create something meaningful together.

This example of a human father warmly inviting his children to spend time with him reminds us of our Heavenly Father always seeking and beckoning His children to spend time with Him.

3. It Increases Humility

One simple meditation to ground one's ego, shared once by a wise confessor, is:

 "God is God, and I am not."

Folded Hands Power of Prayer Pray - Rosary Faith Cross

Coming to God and kneeling at His feet brings us to a place of humility. Prayer reminds us of the Creator: creature relationship. We, as the creatures, can approach our Creator with everything. Praise, thanksgiving, needs, intercession on behalf of others.

When we consciously pause throughout the day to recognize that we are completely dependent on God for every heartbeat, each breath, the lives of our children, the food and clean water, out of His Divine Providence, the natural reaction is one of humble gratitude.

When we are the center of our own universes, our own self-importance explodes to grandiose proportions - and quickly! Prayer brings back balance.

"Prayer, humility, and charity toward all are essential in the Christian life: they are the way to holiness." – Pope Francis

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4. It Improves Focus


Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Instagram. Texts. E-mails.

We live with unrelenting distraction which bombards our ears, eyes, brains 24-7.

If we allow it.

"Fasting detaches you from this world. Prayer reattaches you to the next world." -Venerable Fulton Sheen

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The Deceiver loves nothing more than our frenetic pace, perpetual distraction, and dopamine highs because they relegate prayer to the bottom of the barrel.  We need silence to hear God's voice speaking in our hearts, and we require quietness to wholeheartedly funnel our thoughts toward the Lord. Remember Mother Teresa's simple summation of the domino effect of silence:

"The fruit of Silence is prayer. 

The fruit of Prayer is faith.

The fruit of Faith is love.

The fruit of Love is service.

The fruit of Service is peace."

How do we attain that first step, silence, in a world that won't stop talking? Carve it out and create it. Find a time of day which is most conducive to a tiny retreat into peace and block out all electronics and distractions.

At first, it may seem disconcerting. You may feel fidgety, as though you should be doing something or looking at something. But as you build the habit, you will find yourself craving that time alone with God. A vital component of any conversation is silence. If we jabber throughout prayer, when does He have a chance to get a word in edgewise?

Be a good conversationalist and allow the Lord time and space to reply. Our Lord Himself instructs us,


"…when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret" (Matthew 6:6)

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"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words" (Matthew 6:7)

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Robert Cardinal Sarah's compelling new book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, will alert you to the internal and external noise in your life and will motivate you to gain control over your focus and your priorities.

Simply put, Jesus didn't recommend that we pray.

He didn't suggest that we pray.

He clearly instructed us to pray and even helpfully provided us the perfect prayer, the Our Father. Not only did Jesus tell us how to pray, He modeled it by living constantly in deep communication with The Father. You can take the first step to a powerful prayer life with the "Jesus prayer":

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Start now!


We think these items below are strong influences in strengthening your prayer habits.

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Pray For Me Laminated Prayer Cards

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Dark Cherry Wood Standing Crucifix

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Men's St. Benedict Black Wood Rosary

Men's St. Benedict Black Wood Rosary

How Catholics Celebrate The Feast Of The Most Precious Blood Of Jesus

Precious Blood of Christ - Catholic Faith Store
Precious Blood of Christ - Catholic Faith Store

Blood has different meanings across different cultures and religions and in the Catholic Faith, the most precious blood of Jesus is a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice. We celebrate the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ every month of July.

What Does the Blood of Jesus Represent?

realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb. - 1 Peter 1:18-19

The blood of Jesus is mentioned many times in the Bible and it manifests in many traditions in the Catholic Faith such as in transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during the celebration of the Eucharist. There are many symbols and meanings associated with the blood of Jesus and one of them is redemption.

We are born with a sinful nature and have fallen short of God’s holy standard. God’s holiness requires our sinful nature to be punished and this punishment comes in the form of eternal death. Nothing we can do can let us earn salvation, even if we comply with the laws of the Old Testament by making animal offerings or even the sacrifice of our own lives.

All this sounds hopeless and depressing but this only makes Jesus Christ’s sacrifice more meaningful. Jesus was sent to the cross in order to take our place. As Catholics, we therefore look upon the blood of Jesus as a symbol of our redemption from the wages of sin.

Jesus Christ came to offer us His own life, the one pure and everlasting sacrifice that can save us from damnation. His blood is powerful enough to forgive and cleanse us from sin. Blood is our life force and Jesus’ blood represents His unconditional love for us. He is giving us His essence so we can share eternity with Him and our Heavenly Father.

How Do Catholics Celebrate the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus?

Catholic doctrine teaches us that the blood of Jesus Christ is part of His sacred humanity. His humanity and blood are worthy of our adoration because these unites Jesus with the Divine Word. We venerate the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Wounds of Our Lord for these same reasons.

Precious Blood of Christ - Catholic Faith Store
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. - Matthew 26:26-28

​Apart from being a symbol of forgiveness and our cleansing from sin, the blood of Jesus also divinized Mary, the Mother of God. Therefore, anyone who wishes to become a child of God, must also become a child of Mary by receiving the blessed Eucharist which is the body and blood of Christ.

During the month of July, we celebrate the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. Pope Pius IX instituted this celebration in 1849 and it has since been observed around the world for centuries. The feast day offers a great opportunity for us to reflect on what the blood of Jesus means for us in our personal lives and walk of faith.

Our sinful nature has separated us from God’s holy presence and it is only through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that we are washed away from sin and reconciled with our Father. Through Christ, we can finally come boldly into the presence of our Almighty Father to pray and worship Him.

 

For the month of July, let us do just this and make an effort to start living our lives as though we are worshipping and giving praise to God through our every word, action and thought.


The blood of Christ is also a powerful reminder of the healing power of forgiveness. This month, let us go to confession and ask forgiveness for our sins. Let us have a repentant spirit and resolve to become better versions of ourselves. In the same way, let us also have a heart of forgiveness. Just as God forgave us unconditionally for our transgressions, we must also let go of any resentments and vindictive feelings that we have toward anyone.

How do you plan to celebrate the feast of the most precious blood of Jesus this month?

Behind the Scenes of History at the Vatican – Hereford Cathedral Choir Perform at Papal Mass

​First Anglican choir to sing at Papal Mass in 500 Years

​Pope Francis' ecumenical program of outreach to encourage church diversity has included an invitation to Hereford Cathedral Choir to make history by being the first Anglican choir to sing at a Papal Mass since the English Reformation in the 16th century.  The choir performed alongside the choir of the Sistene Chapel at Saint Peter's Basilica on June 27th, 2018.  The event is part of the ​program leading up to the Holy Mass held on June 29th, 2018 for the feast day of Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  The Holy Mass ​was one of the biggest events of the year at the Vatican and the choir also performed there in Saint Peter's Square.

​We're extremely fortunate to have a behind the scenes look through amazing photographs taken by Tenor Choral Scholar Mark Murphy Laseter, who has kindly given us permission to profile them. Mark will shortly be moving on to study for his Masters in Sacred Music at the University of Notre Dame.

Hereford Cathedral Choir and the Sistene Chapel Choir

​A truly historic occasion for both choirs

​Breathtaking majesty of the Vatican

​Orderly prayerful line waiting to ​go into St. Peter's square

​Michelangelo's famous paintings on the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel

Hereford Cathedral Choir at the Vatican

​Members of Hereford Cathedral Choir at the Vatican

​Cardinals ​making their way to the Chapel

Mark Murphy Laseter Saint Peters Square

​Mark's selfie!

Hereford Choir Member Running Late

Member of Hereford Cathedral Choir running a little late!

Choral Procession

​Choir heading to the Holy Mass

​His Holiness Pope Francis

​Mark was fortunate enough to capture wonderful photographs of His Holiness Pope Francis before he led the Holy Mass at Saint Peter's Square, The Vatican.

Pope Francis arrives for Mass of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Pope Francis arrives for Holy Mass

​The embrace of mutual friendship and respect

​Holy Mass of Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul

​You can ​watch the entire Holy Mass in Saint Peter's square for the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul held on June 29th, 2018, courtesy of the Vatican.

​The transcript of the homily of His Holiness Pope Francis at the Holy Mass and Blessing of the Sacred Pallium for the New Metropolitan Archbishops on the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles​.

View homily

​Do you agree with Pope Francis in reaching out to other denominations and inviting them to participate in Holy Mass?


​All photographs reproduced by kind permission of Mark Murphy Laseter.

​Statement by Hereford Cathedral - Official Hereford Cathedral visit statement and Choir Perform For The Pope

​News article by BBC News - BBC News report about Hereford Cathedral Choir visit to Rome

What is the Bread of Life?

Communion Bread Wine

Bread. We live for bread. We pine for it, especially if we are deprived of it. Have you ever been on a low-carb diet? Or perhaps you avoid gluten. The cravings for bread can feel intense. Bread, in some form or fashion, is a staple of virtually every culture, and has been since antiquity. Ovens unearthed almost 2000 years after Mt. Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii contained loaves of carbonized bread, the staple of the ancient Roman diet.  It was the sustenance of the Jewish people, hungry in the desert as they fled from Egypt in Old Testament accounts.

What food did Almighty God provide for them every morning? Bread.

What did Christ multiply for the hungry crowds who had gathered to hear Him teach? Bread.

Jesus's Shocking Truth - Bread is the Staple of Life

Following the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in the Gospel of John is one of the most flabbergasting passages in the Bible, especially when studied through the eyes of a first century Jew. The Gospels portray Jesus as a pull-no-punches straight shooter, and His use of the phrase "Amen, amen" is always a red flag to carefully heed the Truth He is about to reveal. Jesus, preaching in a synagogue, makes a jaw-dropping claim, choosing this basic staple of life - bread - to demonstrate how He nourishes us for eternity:

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” 

These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?"

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?" (John 6:47-61)

Bishop Robert Barron and others, when commenting on this discourse, have highlighted that the original Greek word used for "eat" in the passage literally means "gnaw," so the Jews listening to Jesus make this claim were likely rather revolted.

Why? Isn't Jesus just speaking metaphorically?

No. The Jewish audience clearly understood that Jesus's words were 100% literal. He wasn't employing allegory, metaphor, or spiritual symbolism. He unabashedly meant that they must gnaw on His flesh to have life within them. The Jews in the synagogue at that moment - Scriptural experts and followers of Jesus - understood the implications of His words and rejected this teaching as too difficult to accept.

As St. John Chrysostom (Doctor of the Eucharist) reminds us, "You may not doubt the truth of this; you must rather accept the Savior's words in faith; since He is truth, He does not tell lies."

Words Matter

Consider the exegesis of these Church Fathers on the transubstantiation from bread to Body:

Transubstantiation
  • St. Cyril of Jerusalem: "Now that you have had this teaching and are imbued with surest belief that what seems to be bread is not bread, though it has the taste, but Christ's body, and what seems to be wine is not wine, even if it appears so to the taste, but Christ's blood."
  • St. Cyril of Alexandria: "He used a demonstrative mode of speech, `This is my body' and 'This is my blood,' to prevent your thinking that what is seen is a figure; on the contrary what has truly been offered is transformed in a hidden way by the all-powerful God into Christ's body and blood. When we have become partakers of Christ's body and blood, we receive the living giving, sanctifying power of Christ."
  • St. Cyril of Jerusalem: "Since Christ Himself has said, 'This is My Body,' who shall dare to doubt that It is His Body?"

When the Lord speaks, it is different from when you or I speak. We may not always tell the truth. We may not always select the right words for the situation. Our words lack Divine power.

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But when words pour forth from the lips of Jesus, they ARE Truth.

They are the PERFECT words.

They ARE power.

As Catholics, we, like the first century Jews, wholly believe Jesus when He said: This is My Body. This is My Blood. Simply by uttering the words, Jesus makes it so. Only God Himself can transform the substance of simple bread into His very Body. Only God can transfer that authority down through each of His priests so that He can feed us 2000 years later.

Jesus requires us to celebrate and re-present His sacrifice as often as possible in this unbloodied form so that He can feed us throughout time ("Do this in memory of Me."). Jesus did not mean to feed his Apostles only once at the Last Supper, but desires to satisfy our eternal craving with His Body, from generation to generation.

Jesus expressed His deep longing to feed the physically hungry in His midst with simple bread while He walked the earth, but even deeper is His desire to continually feed our souls and His Church and to save us through true Communion with Him: consuming and becoming one with Him through the Bread of Life.

Are you aware of the power of the Holy Eucharist? How do you feel when Jesus says to you “whoever eats this bread will live forever;”?


These gifts serve as a wonderful reminder of the beauty of the Holy Eucharist.

Saint Josemaria Escriva and Opus Dei

Holiness Through Ordinary Life

st josemaria escriva

Rinsing dinner plates. Helping your children understand decimals and fractions.  Cooking a pot roast for a homebound neighbor.  Slogging away at the office computer from 9-5 every day. 

Do you ever feel as though the tasks are unending?  Are you on auto-pilot? Is there a sense that your contributions to this world are unnoticed and worthless in the grand scheme of things?

Saint Josemaria Escriva will upend and uplift your perspective on daily life, all the while staying right in the life you have right now.

The Life of Saint Josemaria Escriva

Josemaria was a bright, hard-working little boy with a sunny disposition. His home life was bustling and joyful, with five siblings and happy, faithful Catholic parents. His life shifted suddenly when his three sisters all died at a young age and his family, suffering financial hardship from the father's job less, needed to move to a different town in Spain to find work.

Josemaria Escriva Medal

Interactions with discalced Carmelites in his new town attuned him to the voice of God asking him in his heart what sacrifices he could make.  Despite his suffering, he maintained the buoyant attitude and industriousness which had made him successful as a young boy, and he applied these gifts to his studies in the seminary and in law school. 

"Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it." -Saint Josemaria Escriva

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As he walked his path to heaven, Josemaria felt the Lord strongly directing him toward encouraging sanctity in everyone, in his or her own state in life. Like another modern saint, St. Teresa of Calcutta, who advocated 'Doing small things with great love,' Fr. Escriva also promoted the perspective that each one of us, regardless of our vocation, can devote our daily duties and sufferings to God, and that is each person's conduit to holiness. We can't get to heaven by following the path laid out for someone else; we must walk – no, embrace! – the path put before us by the Lord. 

Work of God

Opus Dei expansion map

In a dedicated effort to promote this newfound ministry, Josemaria Escriva began an organization for laity and priests formally entitled Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross but commonly known as Opus Dei (Latin for 'Work of God'). The mission of Opus Dei was the same in 1928 as it is today: to establish Christian values in the secular world. 

The organization had expanded to 80 countries by the time St. Josemaria died in 1975 and has reached 90,000 members today, a tribute to the desire of people to live their Catholic faith fully intertwined with every aspect of their lives. The Opus Dei website describes what it means to strive for sanctity through one's daily work:

It means working like Jesus Christ – working hard and well, honestly, and fairly, in order to love and serve God and other people. People who do that are making their work holy and helping to sanctify the world from the inside. They are making the Gospel present in all their activities, whether brilliant or humble and hidden. In God’s eyes, what matters is the love people put into their work, not its success in terms of money or fame.

Virtues Embodied by Our Saint

Saint Josemaria

St. Josemaria Escriva, like all of our beloved saints, is an exemplar of many of the virtues we aim to perfect in our own lives. A model of joyfulness, determination, vision, and faith, he embodied the true gladness that comes from living the Gospel. St. Josemaria nurtured his own interior life by spending a tremendous amount of time with the Blessed Sacrament and sought the guidance from our Lord in those precious hours. Despite a life filled with painful loss and many roadblocks in his way, our saint persevered through his own shortcomings in following the path he had discerned was his path to heaven. 

"A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.” - Saint Josemaria Escriva

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Notable leaders must have clear vision, and as founder and leader of this worldwide spiritual organization, St. Josemaria exercised his charisma and energy for God's glory, building this movement one person at a time. 

How Can You Sanctify Your Life?

St. Josemaria and Opus Dei have one goal: to help you become a saint. 

Not through missionary trips halfway across the world. Not through massive charitable donations and selling the clothes off your children's backs. Not through quitting your day job to become a hermit. 

He calls you to unite your interior life with your secular life, to break down the wall between your daily tasks and your prayer life. There is an appealing practicality to this approach. 

Many busy mothers, for example, bemoan the fact that caring for many small children leaves little time to go on retreats, to spend time at Adoration, to attend prayer groups at their parishes. But sensible St. Josemaria would encourage (as his was a ministry of encouragement, to quote an Opus Dei priest, Rev. Msgr. Peter Elliott) those hardworking women to find God in their kitchens, in their neighborhood nature walks with their little ones, in their gardening. 

"Great holiness consists in carrying out the little duties of each moment." - Saint Josemaria Escriva

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God does not require us to abandon our work or our families to find Him; rather, we find Him in the MIDST of work and family. St. Paul exhorts us to 'Pray without ceasing,' and St. Josemaria offers us a way to pragmatically find a way to do just that as we fulfill our quotidian tasks. 

Comment on this post by sharing with others your seemingly mundane tasks that turn into moments of holiness. Is it when you garden, wash the dishes, walk the dog?

Seek Him in the simplest of things!


These products will serve as daily reminders to uplift your perspective on daily life:

Saint Josemaria Escriva Medal

Saint Josemaria Escriva Rosary Heirloom Squared Crucifix

Early Teachings on Infant Baptism

Early Teachings on Infant Baptism | Catholic Faith Store
Early Teachings on Infant Baptism | Catholic Faith Store

The practice of infant baptism in the Catholic Faith has garnered some criticism especially from fundamentalists who believe that baptism should be reserved for adults and older children.

To fundamentalists, a person can only be baptized if he has experienced being born again which is only possible when he accepts Jesus Christ’s gift of salvation.

Ever since the New Testament era, the Catholic Church has viewed baptism differently. Here are some of the early teachings on the sacrament of infant baptism.

The Sacrament of Baptism

Peter [said] to them, “Repent and be baptized,* every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:28

The sacrament of baptism is derived from the Greek word, baptizein which means to “plunge” and to “immerse.” To plunge into the water is a meaningful act that symbolizes one’s total surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are immersed into the water, we are acknowledging His burial and death and as soon as we are raised out of it, we are symbolically resurrected, rising up with Christ as a new and resurrected creature.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church considers water baptism as the first sacrament and the gateway to the other sacraments. It is an act of forgiveness, spiritual rebirth and initiation into the church.

The Catholic Church teaches that baptism is required in order to receive eternal life. Baptism accomplishes several things such as the remission of sin which includes both original sin and actual sin. Baptism is said to be the gateway to life in the Holy Spirit and it gives us access to the other sacraments.

Baby's Baptism Standing Cross

Catholic Teachings on Infant Baptism

Original sin taints every one of us, not just adults but infants as well. Children, therefore, should not be exempted from the sacrament of baptism and must be given the gracious opportunity to experience restoration to a state of grace which is possible through baptism.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1250:

Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.

Cross Baby Pin

Criticism against infant baptism is not new. Since the Middle Ages, groups such as the Waldenses and Catharists rejected the practice, calling it invalid. The Catholic Church has maintained its stand, however, that the sacrament of baptism is not just for adults but for infants as well.

Nowhere in the bible does it say that baptism is restricted to adults only. In fact, even Jesus asserted that no one should hinder children from coming to him.

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  Luke 18:13-14

Furthermore, early accounts in the Bible mention that entire households have been baptized. There is no reason to believe that infants were not included in the ritual. One example is the account of a woman named Lydia in Luke.

Silver Baptism Shell

One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.  Acts 16:14-15

The Catholic Church upholds infant baptism as a precious gift from God. The church also teaches that an unbaptized child who passes away will either end up in hell or in purgatory. With respect to these children, we must trust in God’s mercy and pray earnestly for their salvation.

The Grace of Infant Baptism

Early Teachings on Infant Baptism | Catholic Faith Store

Infant baptism is not just a centuries old tradition of the Catholic Faith, it is a symbolic act that beautifully captures the grace that God bestowed upon us, His beloved children. Through baptism, all sins are forgiven and we are reborn as a new creature in Christ.

​Baptism makes us a part of the church, the Body of Christ and leaves us with an enduring spiritual mark. For those of us who have been resurrected in Christ, there is nothing that will keep us from entering the Kingdom of God.

What meaning does infant baptism have for you? How do you live out this blessing that God has given to you?

What is the meaning of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart?

Catholic Imagery

Sacred Immaculate Heart

Catholicism is rich with stunning, faith-inspiring iconography as reminders of the Truths of our Faith.

Holy Scripture inspired many of the world's most recognizable and beloved artistic masterpieces. Think of Michelangelo's Pieta and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Da Vinci's Last Supper, Bouguereau's L'Innocence-- created by gifted artists imbued with God-given talent.

Some of the most striking images are not man-made but given by the Lord Himself: the Shroud of Turin, Our Lady of Guadalupe's miraculous image on Juan Diego's tilma, the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The image of the Sacred Heart consists of His Heart, wounded by the lance in His Passion, and precious drops of blood; it is surrounded by a crown of thorns, a cross, and is aflame.

Honored alongside the Sacred Heart is Mary's Immaculate Heart, consisting of her contemplative, maternal heart, wreathed by a crown of roses, pierced with a sword, and alight with fire.

History of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts

Before we examine what each aspect of the images represents and how the hearts are both similar and different, it would do us well to understand how these devotions took hold in the Catholic Church, and why they are so firmly embraced, even centuries later.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Print

Sacred Heart Print

The devotion to the Sacred Heart began with devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Jesus and to His Passion. His physical suffering on behalf of all of humanity, the shedding of His precious Blood for us, and His burning love for mankind – all of these parts of His Passion deserve a special recognition, an intense attention. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), an instrumental proponent of devotion to the Sacred Heart, explained why Jesus wants us to meditate on His Sacred Heart:

“This gracious Captain desires that the face and eyes of His devoted soldier should be lifted up to those wounds, that his soul may stand erect and he may draw from the sight strength unshakable. For gazing on those wounds he shall not feel his own….The martyr stands fearless and in triumph…where then is the soul of the martyr? It is safe; it is on the rock; it is in the Heart of Jesus, whose wounds were opened to let it in.”

Immaculate Heart of Mary Print

Immaculate Heart Print

The devotion to the Immaculate Heart was becoming popular around the same time as the Sacred Heart devotion but was more muted. The visions of Mary appearing to St. Catherine Laboure in the 1800s and the subsequent propagation of the Miraculous Medal intensified devotion to the Immaculate Heart. St. John Eudes, a priest in the 1600s who had a deep passion for the both the Sacred and the Immaculate Hearts and wrote extensively on both, firmly espoused the connectedness of the two devotions – that one was not complete without the other.

"The Heart of Jesus is of course distinct from that of Mary and surpasses it infinitely in excellence and holiness. Yet God has so closely united these two Hearts that there has never been and never will be a closer union. "Thus the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Heart of Mary. These two Hearts are but one Heart ... which was given to us by the Blessed Trinity and by our Blessed Mother, so that we, the children of Jesus and Mary, might have but one heart with our Heavenly Father and our holy Mother and that we might love and glorify God with the same Heart, a Heart worthy of the infinite grandeur of His Divine Majesty" (The Kingdom of Jesus).

What do the Images Symbolize?

The images themselves demonstrate the many similarities between the hearts and the sufferings of our Lord and our Blessed Mother, but also differences quite specific to their particular sufferings.

Sacred Hearts

Both hearts are aflame, but the Sacred Heart's burning love is directed toward humanity, and the physical suffering portrayed in His image is for the sake of mankind: the lance wound in the heart, the crown of thorns, the drops of blood. Throughout His physical suffering, Christ remained committed to the Father's mission for Him. This draws our focus to the intense human suffering endured by our Lord on our behalf.

The Immaculate Heart's fire illustrates the burning love Mary has for God the Father and for her Son. Mary's heart, pierced with a sword to remind us of the sorrows she endured silently in her lifetime as Jesus's mother, is ringed with a wreath of roses. The flowers symbolize that, throughout her spiritual suffering, Our Lady remained committed to the humility, obedience, and purity for which we revere her.

How Can We Show Devotion to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts?

There are several ways to honor the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, all of which deepen our fervent dedication to the Faith and shower us with special graces.

When she appeared to the children at Fatima, our Lady bade them to dedicate five First Saturdays to her each year. This practice includes going to Confession, receiving the Eucharist, praying the rosary, and meditating on the mysteries of the rosary for 15 minutes. In addition, we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary every June 8.

The entire month of June is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The third Friday after Pentecost is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (May and June are rich with Solemnities!). Year-round, we can follow our Lord's own instructions to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque: go to confession and receive the Eucharist at Mass on nine consecutive First Fridays. Christ also promised abundant blessings to families who consecrate their homes to His Sacred Heart through an enthronement ceremony.

There are many unique ways to celebrate these feast days, in addition to observing the First Fridays and First Saturdays and consecrating your home and family. You may enjoy incorporating cuisine and handicrafts into your celebration, especially as you create liturgical traditions for your children. These devotions will aid you in meditating on the lengths Jesus went to for your salvation, on our pure Mother Mary, and on making reparation for the pain our world continues to inflict on them through our sin and lukewarmness.


Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart Pendant

Sacred Hearts Medal

Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary Visor Clip

Sacred Hearts Visor Clip

The Sacred Hearts Print

Sacred Hearts Print

The Sacred Hearts Keepsake Box

Sacred Hearts Keepsake Box

History of the Catholic Charismatic Movement

Charistmatic Movement | Catholic Faith Store
Charistmatic Movement | Catholic Faith Store

The Catholic Church encourages us to build a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and live out the gifts of the Holy Spirit through a spiritual movement known as the Charismatic Movement. When the Holy Spirit came to the disciples during Pentecost, he presented gifts that they could use for sharing the good news of salvation and building the Kingdom of God. These gifts include speaking in tongues and healing of the sick.

The Biblical Foundation of the Charismatic Movement

In about 33 AD, Jesus told his disciples to await the “promise of the Father” in Jerusalem. He also told them that they would be “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” The disciples then reverently prayed together for the next nine days.

On the ninth day, the Holy Spirit came to the disciples and gave them gifts that would help them live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. These gifts would also help keep them steadfast in the midst of a hostile and sinful world.

Through the Holy Spirit, the Church has grown from a small and close-knit group of believers into the most influential and miraculous community in the world. Even until contemporary times, God continues to touch the hearts and souls of people through the work of His children.

The Charismatic Movement is one manifestation of this and a powerful means for the Catholic Church to keep the passion of the people alive.

19th Century

Pope Leo XIII

The charismatic renewal of the present day has roots in the 19th century. Between 1895 and 1903, Blessed Elena Guerra, the foundress of the Oblate sisters of the Holy Spirit in Italy, wrote 12 letters to Pope Leo XIII in which she asked him to encourage greater devotion to the Holy Spirit among Catholics.

As a response to her request, Pope Leo XIII published an encyclical about the Holy Spirit called Divinum Illud Munus in 1897. He also urged the Church to pray the Novena for Pentecost at the beginning of the new century.

A novena is a prayer said for nine days which recalls how the early Christians prayed for nine days between Christ’s Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Early 20th Century

The 20th century was highlighted by a pentecostal revival shared within the protestant community. These events at the start of the charismatic renewal are important for uniting individual believers and the global church.

On January 1, 1901, Pope Leo XIII prayed to the Holy Spirit and sang the Veni Creator Spiritus by the Holy Spirit window in St. Peter’s Basilica. On the same day, at the Bethel College and Bible School in Kansas, the Holy Spirit came upon a group of Protestants who had been praying to receive the Holy Spirit just as the early disciples did. One of the students, Agnes Ozman, started speaking in tongues, a miraculous experience often considered the first of its kind at that time.

More and more people started welcoming the Holy Spirit to come to them through miracles, deliverance and gifts of evangelization. The shared experience of passion and love for God is at the core of the charismatic renewal and one significant way that bridged Catholics and Protestants together.

Mid to Late 20th Century

Pope John XXIII

The revival of the Pentecostal experience continued in the lives of many people for decades. Pope John Paul XXIII prayed for “a new Pentecost” in 1962 just as Pope Leo XIII prayed for a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1901.

To prepare for the Second Vatican Council, Pope Leo XIII prayed for God to renew His wonders in the present day through a new Pentecost. The Second Vatican Council emphasized the importance of the “universal call to holiness” and Jesus’ call for every Christian to live “to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”

The Council also taught that it is Jesus who gives both the call and the ability to fulfill it because it is Jesus who "sent the Holy Spirit upon all men that He might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and all their strength and that they might love each other as Christ loves them."

In 1967, a group of Catholic students from Duquesne University came together for a retreat. Just as what happened to the disciples during the Pentecost, the group of students experienced a life-changing moment with the Holy Spirit. This miraculous event came to be known as Duquesne Weekend and became the start of the “new Pentecost” that Pope Leo XIII had been praying for.

Over the years the Holy Spirit continued to inspire the formation of new communities and movements. Many religious leaders from parishes to the Vatican started shepherding those who were touched by the renewal. One of them was Cardinal Suenens who helped spread and nurture the understanding of the Holy Spirit’s workings as well as the significance of the charismatic experience within the universal church.

An office for the Charismatic Renewal was established in 1978 as a response to the growing need for guidance that came with the rapid growth of the movement. It is known today as the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services or ICCRS and it is responsible for promoting a “culture of Pentecost” throughout the Church.

In 1997, the bishops of the United States issued a document about the charismatic renewal titled Grace for the New Springtime in support of the Charismatic Movement. The bishops looked at the renewal as a means of helping people respond to Jesus’ call for holiness. The movement has been a strong way of reaching out to people and helping them experience the power of God in their lives.

The Charismatic Movement Today

Charistmatic Movement | Catholic Faith Store

On June 1, 2014, Pope Francis attended the Catholic Charismatic Renewal conference in Rome, a gathering which drew about 50,000 people. He addressed the crowd and asked them to pray for him. The people responded using the gift of tongues. He then thanked the charismatics and told them he felt “at home” with them.

Today the Charismatic Movement has touched the lives of countless people across the world and across different religious denominations. As of 2013, the movement exists in more than 230 countries and has over 160 million members.

The Charismatic element of the Catholic Church manifests in the present day through healing services, evangelization and outreaches. In Catholic Charismatic gatherings, the Holy Spirit’s presence is felt through healings and miracles. Ultimately, the mission of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is to make believers understand the totality of the declaration of the gospels which is possible through a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Are you ready to welcome the Holy Spirit into your life?​

Why is Mary Important to Catholics?

​The Importance of Mary

Even a brief snippet of a Marian song gives the listener a sense of how much Catholics revere and are devoted to Mary, the Blessed Mother. Many non-Catholic denominations paint Our Lady as simply an unknowing young girl who carried our Lord in her womb as a vessel carries water, and after the Nativity of Jesus, her usefulness was complete.

MaryWithJesus

The Catholic understanding of the importance of Mary is so deep, rich, beautiful, and Biblically-based. Catholics are blessed to have a fullness of understanding of her role in salvation as well as a personal relationship with her. The lyrics of some of the most-loved Marian hymns shed light on why Mary is not only warmly loved and respected as a mother figure, but also why, theologically, Marian dogmas are sound and foundational to the Catholic Faith.

Immaculate Mary, thy praises we sing,
Who reignest in splendor with Jesus our King.
(Immaculate Mary)

When Our Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico in the year 1531, during the throes of the Protestant Revolt, she introduced herself as "The Immaculate Conception". Mary, the future Mother of God, was conceived without the stain of original sin so that she would be worthy to carry within her and to raise the Son of God. In His infinite wisdom, The Almighty would not have chosen a sinful woman to carry and raise His Son, and so He deemed that her soul would be preserved from sin. Like Jesus, she knew temptation because she was human, but she did not possess the inclination to succumb to the allure of sin. This made her a fit Mother and example to our young Savior, as she raised Him with St. Joseph. When the angel Gabriel first greets Mary in the opening chapter of the Gospel of Luke, his greeting "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28), indicates that she because she was full of God's grace, there was no room for sin in her soul. In a fascinating modern twist, scientists have found that DNA from unborn babies migrates across the placenta during gestation and into the mother's body through nursing and takes up residence in the mother's blood and brain for the remainder of her life. The connection between the Immaculate Conception and Jesus deepens: the Blessed Mother retained in her pure body the actual DNA of her Son for her lifetime. That is astounding to consider!

Thy name is our power, thy virtues our light,
Thy love is our comfort, thy pleading our might. 
(Immaculate Mary)

Mary, Queen of Saints, is the exemplar of virtue. Her very being is a living example of all the virtues we try to practice, though we often stumble.  Humility, the cornerstone virtue for Christians, the virtue opposing the sin of pride, is magnificently embodied by the Blessed Mother. Throughout the Scriptures, she consistently put the will of God first and thought of herself last. She surrendered her will and her very life to His hands, without complaint and without bragging of her special place in Salvation History. She kept silent and pondered these things in her heart.

Our life, our sweetness, here below, O Maria!
Our hope in sorrow and in woe, O Maria! 
(Hail, Holy Queen)

The love Mary had and always will have for Jesus is beyond what our imaginations can fathom. Now try to understand how much she loves you! Our Blessed Mother loves and cares for each of us like we are one of her very own. Approach Mary with the same comfort with which you approach your earthly mother. And if your own mother is not in your life any longer, perhaps due to estrangement or death or some other painful circumstance, go to Our Lady that much more fervently. If you ask her, she will wrap you in her mantle and hold you close. Just as Simeon predicted in the temple to Mary at the Presentation of Jesus, she indeed suffered so much sorrow by being the Mother of God. She knows intimately the pain we experience, and she comforts us in our own sufferings. Lumen Gentium explains this eloquently,

"By her motherly love, she takes care of the brothers of her Son who are still in pilgrimage and in dangers and difficulties, until they be led through to the happy fatherland."

Advocate and loving mother,
Mediatrix of all grace
. (Daily, Daily Sing of Mary)


Christ is the One Mediator, and Mary's fiat at the Annunciation is the channel through which Christ's graces flows. Her free-will answer of "Yes!" to God provided the means for Christ to be incarnated and to be our singular Redeemer. Peggy Frye explains the relationship between Redeemer and Mediatrix of All Graces:

"Whether or not we would have a mediator was dependent on Mary’s "yes." Had there been no "yes" from Mary, there would have been no mediator. Thus the graces that come through Jesus may be said to come to us, in a secondary way, via Mary—not as the origin of the graces, but as a conduit."


To put it simply, Mary always leads us to Jesus. The closer we grow in our relationship with Mary, the closer she will bring us to Jesus. Even Martin Luther, leader of the 16th century's Protestant Revolt, voiced full-throated agreement with Marian dogma:

"One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace . . . Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ . . . Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God"​ (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521).

As the Queen of Heaven, in eternal joy with her Son, no one is a more reliable and powerful intercessor on our behalf than Mary. Just as she first quietly interceded for the wedding hosts in Cana to save them the embarrassment of running out of wine, she quietly intercedes for us, if we so much as approach her and request it. It is the reason Mary is the focus of so much Catholic jewelry - wearing her close brings you closer to Jesus.

To Jesus through Mary!

What is Pentecost Sunday?

Pentecost Sunday

If you've finished off all the Easter candy (even the ones you hid from your children!), it's time for another sweet treat: a birthday cake. On May 20 of this year, we celebrate the birthday of the Catholic Church. This holy day, Pentecost Sunday, is so vital to the mission and existence of the Church that is falls directly behind Easter and Christmas in importance. Why?

Surprising Origin of Pentecost

Pentecost was an important celebration for ancient Jews long before the coming of Christ. Translated as 'fiftieth day' in Greek, it originated as a harvest observance 50 days after Passover.  In the newly formed Christian Church, 50 days after Easter, the Holy Spirit descended to strengthen workers for His Divine harvest. It is even mentioned in Acts of the Apostles as one of the first feast days of the Church:

"Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus in order not to lose time in the province of Asia, for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if at all possible, for the day of Pentecost" (Acts 20:16).

What happened on Pentecost that made it so important in the early Church and why do we still celebrate it today?

Put yourself into this scene:

pentecost-2

The Apostles, Mary, and other followers all gathered in one place to pray continuously after Jesus had ascended to heaven. They had been praying for nine days, which is the basis for the Catholic devotion called a novena (nine days of prayer for special intentions or needs). What were they praying for, as sheep who were suddenly without their Shepherd? Probably protection, guidance, courage, not to mention wisdom, understanding, fortitude. The Holy Spirit answered their prayers by joining them in dramatic fashion on the tenth day.

Power of the Spirit

"When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim" (Acts 2:1).

This scene was so astonishing that the crowds out in the street accused the Apostles of being drunk early in the day. The Holy Spirit can inspire that kind of radical change when we open up to Him and ask Him to work in our lives, as the Apostles and Mary spent nine days fervently doing.

The Holy Spirit Brought Gifts to the Party

The Holy Spirit didn't just make a dramatic entrance to the Church's birthday party, but He brought gifts. Seven gifts, to be exact: 

Gifts-Holy-Spirit


These are seven dispositions which Jesus Christ embodied perfectly and which we can only hope to achieve with the help of the Holy Spirit, who helps us to grow in holiness.

Catholic Math

To the seven gifts, we must add the seven virtues, and together these prepare the soil of our hearts for the blooming of the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit. Seven + seven does not equal 12 in arithmetic class, but in Catholic math, it works out divinely! What are the seven virtues?

1. Prudence 

2. Justice 

3. Temperance 

4. Courage 

5. Faith 

6. Hope

7. Charity

Virtues are good habits. When we strive to grow in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to improve our practice of the virtues, our lives become a living outpouring of the 12 fruits of the Spirit:

charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.

Unity + Diversity

Why does the Holy Spirit distribute such a variety of gifts among the faithful? Because although we are all made in the image and likeness of God, we are all unique. We each have a specific mission and are enabled with the gifts we need to fulfill that mission in the growth of the Kingdom. Pope Francis stated beautifully that,

"The Holy Spirit creates diversity in unity, because in every time and place He gives and nurtures different charisms and graces. And he does so in a way that 'effects true union, according to God’s will, a union that is not uniformity, but unity in difference.'" 

Further, the Pope explains that:

“This is how the word of God describes the working of the Spirit: first He rests on each and then brings all of them together in fellowship. To each He gives a gift, and then gathers them all into unity."

We are each blessed with the gifts we need for the mission, but when we join our gifts with those of others on the same journey, then our diversity and union collaborate powerfully and synergistically.

The Best Leaders Delegate

A young, contemplative parish priest once described Jesus as the epitome of a good leader. Effective leaders do not take all the work upon their own shoulders. Instead, they delegate tasks to the workers best equipped for each job. When Jesus took physical leave of His Apostles and followers, He did not do so without leaving instructions for and passing the baton to His chosen earthly leaders. He had already bestowed on them the Authority to continue His Church and the power to forgive sins, to heal the sick, to cast out demons. The coming of the Holy Spirit sealed the Apostles, Mary, and His other followers with the strength they would need to carry out the singular task of the Church: to evangelize to the ends of the world during a dangerous time.

Ascension

Pentecost Lives On

Pentecost was an event in history, but what happened on Pentecost continues daily.

When we ask the Holy Spirit for His gifts to do God's will, Pentecost lives on.

When we practice the seven virtues in concert with our God-given gifts, Pentecost lives on.

When others see Christ anchoring our daily lives through the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost lives on.

When young men and women receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, Pentecost lives on.


Keep the flame of Pentecost alive in the world by fearlessly spreading the Good News to a world which desperately needs to hear it!

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What Can Saint Isidore the Farmer Teach Us?

Saint Isidore

The patron saint of farmers was a lousy farmer? How is that possible? The life of Saint Isidore the Farmer is a vivid reminder that the Lord works in mysterious ways.

What are the four most important lessons we can learn from this ordinary man who became the extraordinary patron saint of farmers, peasants, day laborers, rural communities?

1. The busier you are, the more you need to pray.

Prayer

We are busy.

Too busy.

So busy that prayer time gets pushed farther down the to-do list.  St. Francis de Sales's popular quote and St. Isidore's life remind us that,

"Every one of us needs a half an hour of prayer each day – except when we are busy. Then we need an hour."

Saint Isidore had his priorities in the right order. As a hired hand who had worked on Juan de Vergas's farm since his teen years, Saint Isidore started his day, every day, with Holy Mass, and then often stayed at the church after the Mass had ended. This did not win him the praise of his co-workers, who often complained to the landowner that Isidore was lazy and wasn't doing his fair share of the work. Isidore wasn't worried about getting his work done, though: the Lord regularly sent angels to do Isidore's work for him while He was at Mass.

Not only that, but the angels often plowed the fields alongside Isidore, who was flanked on each side by a heavenly helper as he worked in constant prayer. Three rows were tilled as Isidore walked his singular row. 

plow

Even today, Spanish communities depend on the intercession of Saint Isidore to provide a plentiful harvest and healthy animals.

Imagine the shock on his disgruntled workmates's faces as their pre-occupied Isidore finished his daily work even though he had put in fewer hours than they.

"So the last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16).

2. The Lord elevates the humble.

Isidore, born to a poor but pious Catholic family in Spain, never sought a life of honor, power, or wealth. He was content to work the land; nay, he loved the land! As we see throughout history, the Lord chooses the humble and works through them to let His glory shine. The 400+ miracles associated with Saint Isidore, both during his earthly life and after he went to heaven, demonstrate how Isidore, in his poverty of spirit, gave himself completely to the will of the Father, depending on Him for all and trusting in His Providence unwaveringly, and allowing Him to work Divinely through his humanity.

"God is opposed to the proud but gives Grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

3. The Lord provides for those who give from their poverty.

Isidore wasn't only poor in spirit. As a farmer, Saint Isidore wasn't a wealthy man and barely scraped by with his wife (also a canonized saint!) as it was. But he was known for his unending generosity to the unfortunate. St. Maria Torribia, anticipating that her kind-hearted husband would frequently bring home hungry locals, learned to always keep a pot of stew simmering on the stove. 

Saint Isidore & Saint Maria Torribia

One night, when Isidore brought home more folks than Maria had planned for, his wife sadly told Isidore that she wouldn't have enough to feed everyone. When Isidore told her to peer into the almost-empty pot, she discovered more than enough to feed their poor guests. There are also many accounts of Isidore feeding local animals from a miraculously refilled grain bag. The Lord consistently multiplied Isidore and Maria's charitable efforts.

"Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness" (2 Corinthians 9:10).

4. There is honor in work.

God Himself is the Ultimate Worker, the Divine Laborer. We can look to our Creator to see that work is a worthwhile and honorable endeavor, but especially so when we offer our toils to Him.

Work

Regardless of the career or job you have, as a cardiologist, a heavy crane operator, a grocery store cashier, or a farmer, "… whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Not only did Isidore happily do back-breaking work that many today would consider lowly, but he prayed constantly from sunrise to sundown, a living reminder of St. Paul's exhortation to

"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Learn more about Saint Isidore the Farmer's life here.

Find an ordinary saint to mentor you on your path to sainthood.

The Lord sends us saints from diverse lifestyles to inspire us to embrace lives of holiness no matter our vocations. We can all recount the stories of saintly priests, nuns, kings, queens, martyrs, virgins. But He also provides us shining examples of devotion in ordinary people, like us, who lived their lives with remarkable purity, devotion, and humility.

Grant we beseech You, merciful Lord, through the intercession of St. Isidore, farmer and confessor, not to let us be vain with the wisdom of the world, but by his merits and example, let us in all humility always do what is pleasing to You. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

-catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/prayers/view.cfm?id=829

The Story of Saint Isidore

The Story of Saint Isidore (May) | Catholic Faith Store
The Story of Saint Isidore (May) | Catholic Faith Store

Who is Saint Isidore?

Saint Isidore is the patron saint of farmers and rural communities. Born in Madrid, Spain, in the year 1110, he came from a poor family and spent many years working as a farm hand on the De Vargas estate beginning from his childhood. Isidore was very prayerful and devoted to attending Mass and receiving the Holy Eucharist.

Isidore married Maria, a sweet and pious maid servant and together they had a son who died in his youth. Their deeds and devotion are an inspiration for couples everywhere.

 

In spite of personal hardships, both Isidore and Maria were generous and willing to help needy neighbors and people living in poverty-stricken areas. 


Isidore died on May 15, 1170, a day declared as his feast day. He was canonized on March 22, 1622, the old Roman Rite American feast day. The remains of Isidore and his wife are buried in the main altar of the cathedral of Madrid.

Although Maria was not officially canonized as a saint. She is honored as a saint throughout Spanish countries. Her head is carried in solemn processions during times of drought.

It is certainly meaningful for us Catholics, especially if we belong in a farm family, to l the simple and saintly couple who, like farmers are “partners with God,” in sharing food and shelter with the world.

What Was Saint Isidore known for?

Saint Isidore loved working on the good earth and possessed immense integrity of character. He was diligent and meticulous in the way he carried out his farming practices. Because of his gentleness and compassion, domestic animals were often endeared to him.

Many wondrous things happened to Saint Isidore as he worked on the fields. His Master De Vargas watched two angels help Saint Isidore while he plowed the field.

 

This is where the saying “St. Isidore plowing with angels does the work of three farmers” originated.

Reflections on the Life of Saint Isidore

The farmer is the steward of the earth and everything on its surface. He works hard on the fields and is not just accountable for himself but also the needs of the community. The farmer must make sure to produce enough for himself and for others that are depending on the fruits of his labor.

Hard work is not enough to work successfully as a steward of the earth. Farmers also need to be sensitive and careful so as not to disrupt or cause significant damage to nature. They need to be compassionate to the animals that help them make their work possible. Being a farmer, therefore, requires patience, perseverance and focus.

We don’t have to be farmers to emulate the life and example of Saint Isidore. As workers, we can find inspiration in the honesty and sensitive way he performs his work. 


Great things in life require patience, hard work and devotion. Saint Isidore upheld these qualities in everything that he did and so he is a wonderful role model for when we need motivation to persevere.


Whenever we feel discouraged in our work or feel that our responsibilities are too heavy a burden, we can read and reflect on the life of Saint Isidore. We can get lots of inspiration and insight from his story and life.

Prayer to Saint Isidore

Use this prayer as inspiration if you need help with any areas in your life that require hard work.

The Story of Saint Isidore (May) | Catholic Faith Store

Good Saint, we are told that your devotion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was so great that you would rise before it was light in order to be able to attend Mass before beginning your work in the fields. Obtain for us, we pray you, some of that loving devotion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There it is that the fruits of our farm labor, bread and wine, are brought and offered to God by the priest. Then, in the consecration, Christ Himself, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, becomes present on our altars under the appearances of this same bread and wine. And in what was the altar bread, He comes to us to be the very food of our souls. If we deeply realize the value and beauty of Holy Mass, we will be very happy to attend as often as we possibly can.

Help us to understand that in the Mass we offer ourselves to God with Christ by the hands of the priest. There we can bring to God all that we do, and offer it to Him in union with His Holy Sacrifice. The oftener we do this now, the happier we shall be hereafter. Good Saint Isidore, bless us and our labors, that we may some day reap the reward of good works with you in heaven. Amen.

Source: “1956 Rural Life Prayerbook” (National Catholic Rural Life Conference)

How to Keep the Faith Alive in Young Catholics After Confirmation

How to Keep the Faith Alive in Catholic Youth After Confirmation

Much like Easter, Confirmation suffers a mental ‘exit point’ for many young Catholics. As Easter is looked upon as the end of parent-imposed Lenten fast, some Catholic children treat Confirmation as the end of having anything to do with going to Mass or living a Christian life.

Many Catholic parents, teachers and spiritual directors do their best to combat this attitude. It is our responsibility to remind our children that confirmation isn’t the end of their relationship with the Church but the beginning! It is at this point in their lives that they receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and keeping the spirit alive is to be nurtured throughout their life.

What can we do to keep the Holy Spirit alive and well in our young Catholics? It will take more than tut-tutting and finger-wagging. Keep in mind that using your authority to enforce the faith may very well backfire. Embracing the Holy Spirit on their own, both in Confirmation and beyond is the goal.

A good place to start is to engage young Catholic children in activities that help them exercise the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that had been bestowed upon them in Confirmation.

Reading Scripture and Spiritual Books (Knowledge and Understanding)

Knowledge in this sense is not the knowledge of scientific facts but the knowledge of the spirit and how God sees things.

Help your children seek the knowledge of God. Activities like Bible study classes are an excellent method for nurturing this type of knowledge. Through reading Scripture, your children can regularly affirm why we Catholics do what we do. It also nurtures the gift of Understanding as we try to understand the teachings of the Church in relation to the Bible.

The faith is also abundant with the written works of many devout and spiritual saints. Read catholic based literature, from the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, these are just some of the resources you can share to your kids as they grow older in their faith. Wisdom from the saints can provide many solid answers to the tougher questions in life they will eventually ask.

Practical suggestions:

  • Join or start a Catholic Bible study for your age group.
  • Start a family book club and include the lives of saints
  • Talk casually about matters of faith, driving to school, at dinner time, before watching TV together.

Sharing Faith through Evangelizing and Works of Charity (Wisdom, Counsel and Fortitude)

Sharing the faith with others might seem like a big task for young kids but introducing them to the idea is better than keeping them sheltered. It is usually after Confirmation that growing children are more and more confronted with the reality that not everyone is Catholic.

This is where the gift of counsel can be most effective but also needs the most nurturing. We live in world where misguided souls muddle the difference between truth and lies. They take the things of evil and confuse them with good. People wind up with a distorted understanding of God’s truth that leads them astray and into a life of sin.

Participating in evangelical efforts helps expose children to teachers and missionaries who have experience reaching out to the lost and the unchurched. Their testimonies can serve as great examples of fortitude, where the glory of God is proclaimed even in the face of those who oppose it.

Often, evangelical efforts are also coupled with acts of charity. Charity is an exercise in the gift of wisdom, which is the ability to value spiritual things over worldly goods.

If attachment to earthly wealth is contrary to this wisdom, then it only makes sense to strengthen in through acts of selfless giving.

Practical suggestions:

  • Find and join your parish youth groups
  • Organize ways for catholic youth to come together in a group activity (a trip, a dance, a speaker, a movie night). Include pizza, it works every time!
  • Join a parish ministry and do good for the community.
  • Help out on Sunday before or after church in the day care area or with the meet and greet after service.
  • Ask you parish director of religious education if there are opportunities to volunteer for First Communion / Reconciliation preparation classes.
  • Lead by example and show your enthusiasm for going to Mass on Sunday.

Prayers and Adoration (Piety and Fear of the Lord)

Lastly, encourage solemn activities like a regular hour of Eucharistic Adoration. The atmosphere of being in the Real Presence can strengthen your children’s sense of awe for God.

All Catholics young and old must always remember that God is love and all that is good. Sin is what separates us from Him and offends Him. The state of separation is always terrible and nurturing this sense of awe for God’s goodness is greatly cultivated in prayerful activity.

Because when the awe and fear of the Lord is strong, so is the willingness to obey and revere Him. This reverence is the gift of piety. It is something born from embracing the relationship one has with the Father. It is what differentiates genuine religious acts from empty acts of merely outward religiosity. Engaging in activities like novenas or praying the Rosary are an exercise to keep this gift alive in one’s heart and keep it far from being mere routine.

Practical suggestions:

  • Ask your child to prepare and lead the family prayer before meals.
  • Pray the rosary as a family.
  • Organize teens to pray the rosary together before or after Mass once a week.
  • Create family time and make a regular Holy Hour in Eucharistic Adoration.
  • Encourage your child to pray for the Saint’s intercession when they are having a difficult time with something (friendships, schoolwork, health issues…)

Take note that these are but some of the many ways you and your children can try as you keep the Holy Spirit alive long past Confirmation. The main point, however, is this: Just as exercise keeps the body healthy, exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit does the same for the soul. Keep on striving to understand the gifts of the Holy Spirit and focus on ways to use them to live a good, Christian life.

Do you have any practical suggestions you can share with our catholic community? We’d love to hear from you!

Saint Pius V Saved Europe with the Rosary!

Pope Saint Pius V, born Antonio Ghislieri, was ruler of the Papal States and head of the Catholic Church from January 8, 1566 until he passed away on 1572. The venerated saint had little care for titles, or personalities, and was renowned for persecuting 8 French bishops and excommunicating Elizabeth I of England for heresy and persecution of English Catholics. Ghislieri stood against nepotism too, which was displayed after rebuking his predecessor, Pope Pius IV, in person for requesting to subsidize a nephew from the papal treasury and make a 13-year-old member of his family into a cardinal.

He was also the one responsible for assembling the alliance of Catholic states to fight off the Ottoman Empire's advancement in Eastern Europe. In 1571, the Battle of Lepanto took place at the Gulf of Patras, where ships from opposing sides aimed cannons at each other and fired them off. Although the Holy League was outnumbered, they were able to defeat the Ottomans, a victory that Pope Pius V attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and went ahead to inaugurate the feast of Our Lady of Victory.

Biography

Antonio Ghislieri was born on January 17, 1504 in Bosco in the Duchy of Milan, Italy. By the time he reached the age of 14, he entered the Dominican Order and took on the name Michele. He passed from the monastery of Voghera to that of Vigevano, then to Bologna. Ghislieri was ordained priest in 1528 inside the city of Genoa and was appointed by his order to Pavia, where he conducted sermons and lectured for a total of 16 years. Pope Pius V was able to submit thirty propositions against the Protestant Reformation and in support of the papal chair.

He eventually became master of novices and was chosen prior of more than one Dominican priory on several occasions. Pope Pius V was a reformist and would often be seen traveling on foot without a cloak in deep silence, in a state of penance, fasting and passing the long hours of the evening in prayer and meditation. Ghislieri would also talk to his companions all about God, insisted on discipline and endeavored to cultivate the practice of monastic virtues, during a time of great moral laxity. He was later made Bishop of Sutri by Pope Paul IV and was chosen as inquisitor of the faith in Lombardy and Milan.

He was a soldier of Christ in a time of insurrection and rebellion, when in a spiritual sense, martial law was proclaimed."

Pontificate

Pope Pius V's pontificate witnessed him deal with the spread of Protestant axioms in the West, Turkish armies advancing from the east and with the internal reform of the Church. One of the first things he did was to reduce the cost of the papal court and matched it in the same manner of the Dominican Order to which he previously belonged to. He then followed it up by asserting the liturgy of the Mass in particular, and the ceremonial in general. Compelling residence among the clergy was also one of his tactics to ensure that morality and discipline in Rome shall be restored.

Holy League and the Battle of Lepanto

The Holy League's forming was arranged by Pope Saint Pius V to battle the advancing forces of the Ottoman Empire. The two opposing forces eventually met on October 7, 1571, an encounter in the middle of the sea and be named the "Battle of Lepanto." The combined fleet, under Don John of Austria, of the Holy League won and was able to push the Ottoman Empire back. This event is what led the saint's canonization because he knew the battle was over, even though he was at Rome at the time.

It is reported that when the battle reached its end, Pius stood up and went to a nearby window and gazed towards the East. After a while, he turned around and proclaimed, "The Christian fleet is victorious!" and cried tears of thanksgiving.

He then instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, to honor the victory. Pius V financially aided in the construction of Malta's capital city, Valetta, by sending his military engineer Francesco Laparelli to organize its construction.

Passing and Consecration

Pope Saint Pius V passed away on May 1, 1572 of what is believed to be caused by cancer. Antonin Cloche, Master of the Orders of Preachers, started the process of Pius V's canonization in 1696. He was beatified by Pope Clement X in 1672 and was eventually canonized by Pope Clement XI, on May 22, 1712.

The Saint’s feast day was then inserted in the General Roman Calendar in year 1713 and is celebrated on the 5th of May, with the rank of "Double." But the date was changed on 1969 and was moved to April 30, one day before his death anniversary. Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman also declared that "St. Pius V was stern and severe, as far as a heart burning and melted with divine love could be so ... Yet such energy and vigor as his were necessary for the times. He was a soldier of Christ in a time of insurrection and rebellion, when in a spiritual sense, martial law was proclaimed.

Who is Saint Catherine of Siena?

Saint Catherine of Siena was a theologian who possessed a strong connection to the Catholic Church, a tertiary of the Dominican Order and a Scholastic Philosopher. She was born and raised in Siena where at a young age dedicated her life completely to God at a young age. Although her parents disapproved of her choice, she eventually joined the Sisters of the Penance of St. Dominic. Soon after taking her vows she received a mystical phenomenon called stigmata and experienced a mystical marriage.

The Life of Saint Catherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena

Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa was born on 25 March, 1347 in Siena, Italy. At the time of her birth Siena was suffering from an outbreak of plague called the Black Death. At the age of five or six years old, while she and her brother were traveling home from visiting a married sister she received her first vision of Christ. The vision was of Christ seated in glory, along with the apostles Paul, John and Peter. By the time she was seven years old, Catherine vowed to offer her life up to God.

Saint Catherine continued to experience visions. One of which led her to join the Dominican order, it was a vision from Saint Dominic himself! Her mother, Lapa Piagenti disapproved of Catherine’s religious desires and tried to sway her daughters decision to become a nun by taking Catherine on a trip to the baths in Bagno Vignoni. Catherine became very unwell at the baths experiencing pain, fever and a rash. So troubled was her mother by this illness that she accepted Catherine’s desire to join the “Mantellate," the local association of Dominican treaties. 

Lapa visited the Sisters of the Order, convinced them to let her daughter join and within days, the Saint was cured of her ailments. She rose from bed and wore the Third Order of Saint Dominic's black and white habit.

The Mystical Marriage

One of the events that made Saint Catherine of Siena both popular and controversial is the Mystical Marriage with Jesus. She explains her penned letters that by the time she reached the age of 21, she had received not the rings of gold and jewelry, but the ring of Christ's foreskin. 

The Saint mentions the foreskin-as-wedding ring theme in her letter number 221, which equated to the wedding ring of a virgin that has a foreskin. She also claimed that her own wedding to Christ was something that could not be seen, something that was entirely invisible.

Mystical Marriage

Saint Catherine's Travels and the Stigmata

It is said that Christ told her to abandon her withdrawn life and venture into public life. This was what led her to go back and live with her family again, helping the poor and the ill. She cared for the poor and ill in homes or in hospitals. As a result of her work Saint Catherine attracted a group of followers. 

She began to travel with her followers to central Italy, advising people that rebirth and penitence could only be done through "the total love for God." She later arrived at Pisa on 1375, to strongly influence the city, and Lucca, away from forming an alliance with the anti-papal league. 

It was on that same year when she received the stigmata.

Saint Catherine's Surviving Works

Saint Catherine wrote several works during her lifetime. Sadly, some of them have been lost. The surviving pieces have been translated and preserved. So impressive were her writings that she is highly regarded in the ranks of mystics and spiritual writers in the Church. Her spiritual writings are immensely respected, along with her political boldness to "speak truth to power," which was considered to be extremely exceptional for a women of her time. 

Her works include:

Dialogue of divine providence

The Dialogue of Divine Providence

• Catherine's Letters - The letters are treated as an early work of Tuscan Literature. More than 300 of the letters survived, a third of which were addressed to women. The other letters she sent were addressed to the Pope, which she simply addresses as Papa, instead of using the term "Holiness." A couple of them to her confessors, members of the Visconti family of Milan, Raymond of the Capua, the infamous mercenary named John Hawkwood, the kings of Hungary and France, and various religious figures.

• The Dialogue of Divine Providence - It is theorized that work on "The Dialogue of Divine Providence" started in October 1377 and was probably finished by November 1378. It is a dialogue between God himself and a soul who "rises up" to God. It is also speculated that she may have written it during a time of ecstasy, but it is highly probable that Saint Catherine may have re-edited multiple passages.

• 26 Prayers - 26 prayers have also survived, all written by the Saint herself, mostly written during the last eighteen months of her life.

Saint Catherine's Final Days

Saint Catherine practiced abstinence in many forms, most notably with food. She received the Holy Eucharist on a daily basis. Her extreme fasting was seen as unhealthy by her own sisterhood and clergy. Even blessed Raymond of Capua told her to eat properly, but she said she couldn't, referring to her inability to eat as an illness.

By the start of 1380, the Saint could no longer swallow water nor eat and on February 26 of the same year, she had lost the use of her legs. She passed away on April 29, 1380 at the young age of thirty-three. She was buried in the Roman cemetery of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva near a pantheon. Her head was parted from her body and inserted into a gilt made of bronze and is displayed in the Basilica of San Domenico, Siena. Her final words were "Father, into Your Hands I commend my soul and my spirit."

Prayer card

Honor St. Catherine of Siena with this beautiful prayer card and medal combination. Get yours here

Who is Saint Mark the Evangelist? Why is he Portrayed as a Winged Lion?

Saint Mark

Saint Mark the Evangelist wrote the second gospel, the Gospel according to Mark. He is one of the four evangelists who penned the good news of Jesus.

Not only did Mark write the Gospel, he also founded the Church of Alexandria, which is referred to in early Christianity as one of the most important episcopal sees. 

In his lifetime he evangelized the word of Christ not only in writing but by traveling great distances as a Christian missionary alongside Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas.

Little is known about the day of his birth, but it is confirmed that he was born in Cyrene, Libya. 

Saint Mark and the Winged Lion

Bible:

Saint Mark is symbolized as the winged lion. Early Christians used creatures as symbols of the four Gospels and likened the Four Evangelists to the bible’s “original creatures”. The connection between these creatures and the Evangelists grew over the centuries in the written word as well as in art.

In Revelations 4:7 we read: 

“And the first living creature resembled a lion, and the second living creature resembled a calf, and the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature resembled a flying eagle.”

Animal   

Gospel Author

Gospel

The Lion

Saint Mark the Evangelist

Gospel According to Mark

The Lamb

Saint Matthew

Gospel According to Matthew

The Ox

Saint Luke

Gospel According to Luke

The Eagle

Saint John

Gospel According to John

Lion Symbol:

The lion symbolizes the resurrection of Christ the King. We look upon the lion as the king of beasts and as courageous. As Christians we too are called upon to be courageous and to spread the good news of Christ.

Relics:

Parts of Saint Mark’s relics are conserved in the city of Venice. Venice so loved Saint Mark that he is their patron saint. The symbol of the city of Venice is a winged Lion holding the bible.

Winged Lion

Legend:

There is also a Christian legend which describes Saint Mark being thrown to the lions, only to have them neglect him. Not even attacking and outright refusing to harm the Saint. The usually aggressive lions ended up sleeping at his feet, while the Saint gently petted them. Impressed and perplexed by this sight, the Romans decided to release him and let him be.

History of Saint Mark the Evangelist

Honor Saint Mark with this beautiful pendant. Get Yours Here

Saint Mark is the son of Mary of Jerusalem and was the cousin of Saint Barnabas. Mark first encountered Saint Peter during the second year of Emperor Claudius in Rome. Peter took Mark as his interpreter and travel companion. Mark was responsible for writing down Peter's sermons. With Peter's preaching, he was able to compose the Gospel of Mark, before leaving for Alexandria in the third year of Emperor Claudius' rule. 

Saint Mark then lived in Alexandria, Egypt for many years and had established the Church of Alexandria while staying there. He died as a martyr on April 25, 68 A.D., from being dragged through the streets of the very city. 

His feast day is celebrated on April 25.

We find Saint Mark portrayed as holding the bible and writing the gospel. Often we find him accompanied by a Winged Lion.

5 Excuse-Proof Ways to Getting to Sunday Mass

Easter Sunday may be over but the Easter season has only just begun! Maintaining a weekly Mass attendance is probably more important than ever

Still, the temptation to make excuses will be strong. What if you live in a country that’s not predominantly Catholic? What if family circumstances get in the way? What if your job is compromised?

Well, one thing’s for sure. You can’t expect your faith to grow without a challenge. Since the early days of the Church, tackling adversity has always been a part of being a Catholic. 

Fortunately, finding ways to always get to Sunday Mass on time is a lot easier than hiding from Roman soldiers.

#1. Generally, avoid jobs that require work on Sundays.

In our turbulent, fast-paced world, there is a sad trend among young adults who are too willing to work for a bigger buck less they ‘fall behind’ in terms of income. Yet as stated in Scripture, you cannot “serve two masters.” You cannot serve God and Mammon. If you must choose between going to Mass on Sunday and going to work for a bonus, choose the Mass.

The good news is that many businesses around the world still stick to the rule-of-law of having a designated working week while giving weekends off (this includes even workaholic-prone countries like Japan). For others, it is just simply another iteration of giving at least one day off each week. Make that day Sunday for you.

The same applies even if you are running a small business. If a large restaurant chain like Chick-fil-A can be closed on Sundays and still be successful, then the same can easily apply to you. Again, don’t be too quick to sacrifice your Sunday for the sake of a bigger paycheck. What’s the point in storing riches on Earth if you have none in heaven?

#2. Live close to your local parish church (and its community).

Naturally, the less time you spend heading to Mass, the more time you will have for it. At first glance, this might seem easier for those in Catholic countries. But, it can be less of a struggle if you simply know where to find the closest parish church is.

A good way to start is knowing what archdiocese has jurisdiction in your area, followed by a diocese. (In the U.S. alone, a large archdiocese covers several states!) After you find it, start narrowing it down to the one closest to your neighborhood.

One way is to simply search the archdiocese online. After all, there are no shortage of Catholic resources on the internet. It is very likely that the parish church itself already has website so don’t hesitate to look them up!

And once you do, don’t just treat it like a place to drop by and then leave. Familiarize yourself with the community. Because more likely than not, you will be a familiar face to them during regular mass attendance.

#3. Stay up-to-date on your parish church schedule.

If you already know where your parish church is, then you should also know what schedule they keep. They will most likely post this on the bulletin or any place where attendees can easily see.

Depending on the rites, the church will hold a mass once every hour with half-hour breaks in between. The schedule might also change if it’s for an occasion (such as Pentecost Sunday, Christmas Eve or Ash Wednesday).

By knowing the schedule of your parish church, you can be more flexible. Going to Sunday Mass doesn’t mean you have to be so rigid that you can only attend in the morning, afternoon or evening. Sunday is a day of rest after all. While it’s never good to put off Mass on Sunday, it is just as bad to intentionally make a schedule that is difficult to keep. (There are other ways to do penance. Your Sunday schedule doesn’t have to be one!)

#4 Make Sunday Mass a good part of your day off.

Following-up on #3, it is also good to treat Sunday mass as something to look forward to on your Sunday off from work. Attitude is certainly a solid step towards building good habits and attending Sunday Mass is no exception.

One method you can try is to integrate the community life of your parish in your Sunday activities. Maybe they host a Bible study session over there or an adoration chapel you can spend time in. Alternatively, you can use the mass as a spiritual activity to start bonding time with your family.

It is good to view Sunday as not only a day of rest for God but as a day of rest between you and Him. Sunday Mass should be more than just a chore or a routine you do. It should be treated as something to look forward to as you strengthen your relationship with God.

#5. If all else fails, attend an anticipated or vigil mass.

This is a last resort for a very good reason. The anticipated mass (or vigil masses) are reserved for those who cannot attend Mass for reasons genuinely outside their control.

They may be new converts trying to adjust their work life to new life in the Church. They could also be from very poor families whose only means of livelihood involve work on Sundays. To treat is as a ‘mass of convenience,’ would be contrary to the spirit that sought to institute these masses in the first place.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong if the above conditions apply to you. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we should always give special care to those who need it most. The mass is a beautiful celebration and you should always attend it as best as you can.

All in all, the methods here can be quite practical and certainly do away with the idea that attending Sunday Mass is a rigid, routine affair. Then again, seeing Mass for its truly glory and solemnity is probably the best way to always be there on time!

What’s your advice to other Catholics for making Sunday Mass a habit worth keeping?

Jewelry Size Guide – How to Select the Right Size Pendant

​Shopping online can be a little confusing at times with one of the most difficult things to perceive being size. Jewelry shopping falls into this category and we’d like to help you choose the ​correct size pendant with a bit of information on pendant measurements. You can use this handy jewelry size guide to help you.

Pendant Size Chart Thumbnail
Pendants compared to a quarter

Charm size: These pendants are very small, think charm bracelet size. Cham size will typically be purchased for a young child or for an adult looking to add a charm dangle to an existing piece of jewelry. Common sizes include 3/8 inch, ½ inch, and ¼ inch height.

Small size: Small sized charms will work well for petite women and teen girl as they are not so small to be a charm size and not too big to be overpowering for a smaller person to wear. Common sizes include 9/16th and 5/8 inch height.

Medium size: These are the traditional sizes most women will choose to wear. They also work well for teen girls and smaller youth boys. Common sizes include 11/16 inch, 13/16 inch, 3/4 inch and 7/8 inch heights.

Large size: A larger pendant is considered anything higher than 7/8 of an inch. These medals are ideal for men to wear. The taller the man the larger the pendant to match his body size. Any pendant taller than an inch is considered Extra-large. Common heights include 15/16 inch, 1 inch and above in height.

Please note that the Catholic Faith Store includes the loop at the top of the pendant in the measurement of the height of the pendant.

Compare pendants to quarter, nickel and dime

Necklace Length Guide

What size necklace should I get? That’s an excellent question! Choosing the right chain length for your pendant is easy when you follow a few basic suggestions.

The most basic question most devotional pendant wearers consider is where they want the pendant to fall. Do you want to show your medal or keep it tucked away?

Many men, for instance, prefer to wear a Miraculous medal or a crucifix tucked inside their shirt and to have it rest between their color bone, near to their heart.

Women mostly prefer to show their medals and select much shorter chain lengths. Women too select longer chain options, so there is no right or wrong length, just where you want your pendant to be placed, father up or lower down your neck and chest.

A few things to consider when choosing your chain is your neck, height, body type, and face shape.

Your Neck

If you have the time, take a moment a measure the circumference of your neck, especially if you intend to purchase a shorter choker length (16” or less). With a soft tape measure, wrap it around your neck, note the measurement and then add two inches to that. This is the shortest chain option you should consider, and it will be above the collarbone.

  • check
    Most common women’s chain length is 18”
  • check
    Most common men’s chain is 24”
  • check
    Youth sized chains are typically 16”

Your Pendant

Balance is important when selecting a chain length. A small pendant will look odd with a long bulky chain and a large pendant should be worn with a chain heavy enough to maintain the pendant and chain without breaking.

Your Height

For Women

For Men

Petite:

In general, the shorter you are, the shorter your chain length. Petite women below 5’4” should consider chains between 16 and 20 inches.

Choker:

Choker Length is fine for any man as long as it fits his neck. Popular for beaded necklaces so they can sit above a crew neck t-shirt.

Average:

Average height women between 5’4” to 5’7” can wear a necklace of any length. With the most common being 18”.

Teen / Shorter Men

20" NECKLACE A common length for men which falls right at the collarbone. Again, please measure your neck as larger necks cannot wear a 20” chain. Pendants will hide under a crew neck or shows completely with a low v-neck or unbuttoned dress shirt.

Tall:

Tall women who are 5’7” or above can also wear any length necklace. Longer chain style necklaces look best on taller women as they accentuate a tall frame.

Average to Tall

24" NECKLACE is longer and commonly used to keep religious or meaningful pendants under the shirt and closer to the heart. Falls just above the sternum.

27” to 30” NECKLACE is extra-long and many larger men prefer these lengths for their devotional jewelry.

Ultimately, choosing a necklace length is a personal decision but if you’re still not sure what will work best for you, please contact us. We’re happy to help!

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