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Bridget of Sweden, FEAST DAY JULY 23

Although officially a patroness of Europe and Sweden, St. Bridget could also be unofficially called the "Patroness of Failure," as much of what she set out to do in her lifetime did not come to fruition until after her death. Such setbacks, however, did not deter her from pursuing what she felt God was calling her to do; in her own day, she lived out what Blessed Mother Teresa would say centuries later: "God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful."

St. Bridget of Sweden was born into a family of wealth, position and, thanks to her parents, deep piety as well. In 1310, at about the age of seven, she began to have visions of Christ's Passion, which affected her deeply and served as her spiritual guide for the rest of her life. When she turned thirteen – as was customary for the time – she was married to Ulf Gudmarsson; the marriage proved to be a happy one, and together the couple had eight children, all of whom survived childhood.

When the King of Sweden, Magnus Eriksson, married the young Blanche of Namur, he asked his kinswoman, Bridget, to come to Court with her family to serve as Lady-in-Waiting to the new queen. For years, Bridget not only fulfilled those duties, but sought to exert a Christian influence over Magnus. Although never reforming as completely as Bridget had hoped, the king donated land and buildings to Bridget to be used as a monastery for the religious order she eventually founded.

In 1344, Bridget's beloved husband, Ulf, died after the two made a long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Now a widow whose children had grown, Bridget arranged her worldly affairs and waited for God to tell her what the next phase of her life would entail. What He asked was that she found a religious order for women that would help revive a decaying Church, as this was the time of the Avignon Papacy (1309 - 1377) when, due to adverse political conditions, the pope resided, not in Rome, but in southern France.

Bridget had barely begun organizing the new monastery when God had a further request of her; she was to depart from Sweden, journey to Rome, and remain there until she could persuade the pope to leave France (and France's political influence over Church affairs). She and her daughter, Catherine of Sweden, who would become a saint in her own right, set out during the Holy Year of 1350; they both hoped that, while on this journey, they could also secure papal approval for their new religious order.

It would be twenty years before such approval came. In the meantime, despite financial and physical hardship, both Bridget and her daughter spent their time caring for the poor in Rome. For her part, Bridget continued to experience visions, which focused on both the Passion of Christ and the reform of the Church. These latter messages were not particularly well received by those in power, and Bridget was often harassed for attempting to curb their abuses.

Bridget would never see her beloved Sweden again, nor did she see the return of the pope to Rome – that would not happen until 1377, four years after her death in 1373. She would also never set eyes on the convent she had begun, although her remains were brought there for burial in 1374. Yet despite all the seeming failures in her life, Bridget was still a success, inasmuch as she always sought to do God's will. Her feast day is celebrated July 23.

 

Source. for this article:

www.americancatholic.org
www.catholiconline.com

Schreck, Alan. "Catholic Church History from A to z." Ann Arbor, Michigan Servant 2002.
"Saint Bridget of Sweden." CatholicSaints.lnfo. 27 January 2016.
Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Bridget of Sweden." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York Pobert Appleton Company, 1907.

Red, White, Blue, and Catholic

By Stephen P. White. Missouri: Liguori Publications, 2016. 96 pages. Paperback $9.99, at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Every four years, Americans are reminded of a great gift that we have been given, namely, the right to choose those who will represent us at the highest levels of government. This is never a privilege to be taken lightly; I still remember, as a young child, my grandfather, who was a first generation American and a veteran of World War I, reminding everyone he met on Election Day that it was not only their right, but their sacred duty to "get out and vote."

In addition to being Americans, nearly 70 million of us are also Catholic, or identify as Catholic. Even taking into account those who are not yet old enough to cast a ballot, that's a substantial percentage of the electorate, about 32 million or one quarter of the voters in the 2012 election; the question is, does being a Catholic have any bearing on who we vote for and how we live out our other responsibilities as American citizens?

In his new book, "Red, White, Blue and Catholic," Stephen White explores these questions. Though not a very long read – it is only 96 pages of actual text – he manages to hit enough high points to engage the reader in some very probing self-analysis. And although he certainly talks about presidential politics, he reminds us that we are citizens every day of the year, not just on the "first Tuesday following the first Monday of November" in even-numbered years.

Anyone looking for a simple "checklist" of who and what to consider in the voting booth will have to wait until the last chapter – number six – for a summary of that information. In the first chapter, White outlines the Catholic understanding of both politics and civil society; "[T]he four permanent principles of Catholic social teaching [are] dignity of the human person, solidarity, subsidiarity, and the common good" he says. It is crucial that he begins here because without the cohesion provided by this discussion, all the rest could simply be a series of potentially disjointed issues. Once that foundation has been laid, he goes on to discuss things like marriage and family, truth (as opposed to relativism), economics, and finally freedom and the law.

Throughout the book, White emphasizes that we cannot simply be bystanders to this process of representative government; we must, as both citizens and as Catholics, be active participants at every level of society. "In the United States today," he says, "we often blame our social ills on our laws and our politicians. Although they are far from being blameless, we must not shy away from taking a hard look at ourselves to understand the real challenges facing our nation. We need virtuoso citizens. In Christian terms, we need disciples. More than that, we need citizen saints."

Although his approach is not complex or opaque, Stephen White's book is never-the-less not a quick and easy browse – rather, it will cause the reader to slow down, reread passages (and even whole pages), highlight text and underline and jot questions in the margin, and that is perhaps its greatest strength. To be fully appreciated, it's going to demand a little work. By the last page, not only will voting become (hopefully) a more thoughtful process for the reader, but the whole way we conduct ourselves as Catholic Americans will take on new meaning and new importance. As White says at the end, "There is nothing we can do to better serve and defend our democracy than to live every single day as good and faithful Catholics."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephen P. White is a fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D. C. A graduate of the St. Patrick's Evangelization School in London, England, he studied politics at the University of Dallas and philosophy at the Catholic University of America.

White's work focuses on applying Catholic social teaching to a wide spectrum of contemporary political and cultural issues. A regular contributor to CatholicVote.org, his work has also appeared in the National Review Online, Magnificat, the Catholic Herald (UK), TheCatholicThing.org and FirstThings.org.

Since 2005, White has been coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society, a three-week seminar on Catholic social teaching, which takes place in Krakow, Poland, and places emphasis on the thought of St. John Paul II.

"This book 'Red, White, Blue and Catholic' is written out of love for both Church and country," he says in his introduction. "This is a book written to argue and defend what it presumes at the outset: that being a good citizen is an integral part of Christian discipleship and that the greatest contribution we can make as citizens is to live our Catholic faith wholeheartedly and without reserve.'

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Biblical preaching and healing the culture

If Catholics in the United States are going to be healers of our wounded culture, we're going to have to learn to see the world through lenses ground by biblical faith. That form of depth perception only comes from an immersion in the Bible itself. So spending 10 or 15 minutes a day with the word of God is a must for the evangelical Catholic of the 21st century.

Biblical preaching that breaks open the text so that we can see the world, and ourselves, aright is another 21st-century Catholic imperative.

There is far too little biblically based catechetical preaching, at which the Fathers of the Church in the first millennium excelled, today. The Church still learns from their ancient homilies in the Liturgy of the Hours, but the kind of expository preaching the Fathers did is rarely heard at either Sunday or weekday Masses. It must be, though, if the Church's people are to be equipped to convert and heal contemporary culture. For the first step in that healing process is to penetrate the fog, see ourselves for who we are, and understand our situation for what it is.

How might biblical preaching help us do that?

Take the recent Solemnity of the Ascension as an example. The essential truth of the Ascension is that it marked the moment in salvation history at which humanity–glorified humanity, to be sure, but humanity nonetheless–was incorporated into the thrice-holy God. The God of the Bible is God-withus, Emmanuel. But, with the Ascension and Christ's glorification "at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb 1:3), humanity is "with God." If the Incarnation, Christ's coming in the flesh, teaches us that God is not distant from us, and if the Passion teaches us that God is "with us" even in suffering and death, then the Ascension teaches us that one like us is now "with God," and indeed in God. Which means that humanity is capable of being sanctified, even divinized.

Eastern Christian theology calls this theosis, "divinization," and it's a hard concept for many western Christians to grasp. Yet here is what St. Basil the Great, one of the Cappadocian Fathers of the Church, teaches about the sending of the Holy Spirit, promised in Acts 1:8 at the Ascension: "Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations–we become God." What can that possibly mean?

It means that, through the gift of salvation, we are being sanctified: we are being drawn into the very life of God, who is the source of all holiness. And it means that our final destiny is not oblivion, but communion within the light and love of the Trinity. Why? Because the glorified Christ, present in his transfigured humanity to the first disciples in the Upper Room, on the Emmaus Road, and by the Sea of Galilee, has gone before us and is now "within" the Godhead, where he wishes his own to be, too.

Wonderful, you say. But what does that have to do with healing 21st-century culture?

Everything.

At the root of today's culture of happy-go-lucky hedonism, which inevitably leads to debonair nihilism, is a profound deprecation of the human: a colossal put-down that tells us that we're just congealed star dust, a cosmic accident–so why not enjoy what you can, as soon as you can, however you like, before oblivion? Why take your humanity seriously–including that part of your humanity by which you are constituted as male or female? You can change whatever you like; it's all plastic and it's all meaningless, because the only meaning of our humanity is the meaning we choose for it.

Christian faith offers a far nobler vision of the human condition than this dumbed-down self-absorption. Where do we find that nobler humanity exemplified? In the Ascension, and the incorporation of Christ's human nature into the mutual love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And where the Master has gone, the disciples are empowered by grace to follow.

That's what should have been preached on the Solemnity of the Ascension. That's the kind of preaching we need, day after day and Sunday after Sunday.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

ST. FRANCIS CARACCIOLO FEAST DAY JUNE 4

It would have been easy for St. Francis Caracciolo to be a name dropper; born at Naples into Italian nobility in 1563, he was related on his mother's side to the great St. Thomas Aquinas. But the word that described him best was humility, for it was this virtue that guided him throughout his life.

When he was 22, Francis developed a skin condition resembling leprosy; he vowed that, if he was cured, he would devote the rest of his life to God. When the condition disappeared, Francis made good on his promise; he sold everything he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, and went to Naples to study for the priesthood.

While there, he became cofounder of a religious order, the Congregation of the Minor Clerks Regular. Members of this new order took the usual three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, to which they added a fourth–that they would not actively seek positions of authority either within the Church or the order itself. Even though elected superior several times, Francis kept that vow by doing whatever menial tasks the members needed.

Francis, the patron saint of Naples, died of natural causes in 1608. His feast day is June 4.

Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org
www.catholiconline.com

Paoli, Francesco. "St. Francis Caracciolo." The Catholic Encyclopedia.Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909.

"Saint Francis Caracciolo," CatholicSaints.Info. 29 May 2015.

Schreck, Alan. Catholic Church History from A to Z. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.

 

 

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ST. JUSTIN MARTYR, FEAST DAY JUNE 1

It is ironic, perhaps, that it was the witness of the martyrs that helped inspire the conversion of St. Justin from paganism to the Christian faith; it was because he clung to and defended that faith that his own life would end in martyrdom in 165.

Though his exact birth date is unknown, scholars surmise that he was born into a pagan family sometime around the year 100. As a young man, he was drawn to the study of philosophy as a way of discovering truth, and he spent a great deal of time reading and contemplating the works of Plato. As profound as those works were, they did not satisfy his desire to fully understand the most basic and important questions he was asking about life.

It was a chance meeting on a beach that led him toward the answers he was seeking. There he fell into conversation with an old man who shared with him the message of Jesus Christ. This, coupled with the witness of the Christian martyrs, convinced him that the truths he sought could be found, not in the speculations of philosophy alone, but in the person of the Word made Flesh–Jesus of Nazareth.

Justin, however, did not abandon his intellect or his intellectual pursuits. He simply put them to use defending his newfound faith, writing Christian apologies (a word which means, in a theological sense, explanations of the faith) for both Jews and Romans. He was able to combine the best elements of Greek philosophy with Christian theology to both defend Christianity and correct erroneous assumptions about it. Some of those errors–such as believing that Christians were "cannibals" because they spoke of "eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ"–we would find preposterous today. However, in Justin's time, such misconceptions were believed and his writings did much to dispel these misunderstandings. Two of his "Apologies," one each written to the Roman emperor and to the Roman Senate, as well as a "Dialogue to the Jew Tryphon" have survived.

When Marcus Aurelius became emperor in Rome in 161, an era of increased persecution of Christians began. Among those martyred for the faith was St. Justin, whose name would even come down to us with the cognomen "Martyr." One of Christianity's greatest apologists, Justin Martyr is honored as the patron saint of philosophers. His feast day is celebrated June 1.

 

Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org
www.catholiconline.com

Lebreton, Jules. "St. Justin Martyr." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

"Saint Justin Martyr," CatholicSaints.Info. 8 August 2015. 

Schreck, Alan. Catholic Church History from A to Z. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.

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Reflections on Parenting

Each year we celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day. More than just a Hallmark holiday whereby we send cards of greetings, these special Sundays hold great meaning to parents and children alike. It is a way to honor those who give life.

It is within the family unit that children first experience love and learn to love themselves and others. Pope Francis emphasized this when speaking with a group of parents in Rome recently. "Dear parents, your children need to discover by watching you that it is beautiful to love another," he said.

We can agree that the American family has changed profoundly in recent decades. What constitutes a family? A mom, dad and children? Multi-generational family structure? Single parenthood? Today, even if the household is comprised of two parents, it can be tough. Work schedules often compete with family needs. Parents striving to provide for their families, while remaining present to their children, are working against the clock. Both employer and employee must value family time: meaning that a balance must be reached in agreed importance and financial compensation.

The challenge of single parenting is compounded by the demand that all responsibility will be provided by a single person. Routine tasks and day-today obligations can become overwhelming. Doing it all requires great love.

Many families rely on childcare providers to offer a safe environment for their children. Be it full-time, part-time, afterschool centers, these are the places where children form friendships within a family-like atmosphere. In order for daycare centers to be outstanding places for children to develop socially, providers must be appreciated and compensated.

Today's families experiencing the stress and strain around issues of time, childcare, finances can take great solace in the example of the Holy Family. The family actually started with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy "conceived by the Holy Spirit." There was an extended separation while Mary visited and cared for Elizabeth; a period of homelessness and economic uncertainty in Egypt, a trip back to Nazareth and even a 12-year-old Jesus apparently lost. We can ask the Holy Family for help and intercession as we deal with serious struggles today.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us each show appreciation and respect for all of those who are raising the next generation–parents, teachers, coaches and others. Let us also be aware and inclusive of those who need our help but are often without a voice. Consider volunteering in your parish, school, local hospital or other organization dealing with children and their needs. Your gifts are needed. Ask for the Lord's guidance as to how you might be able to help in these others by demonstrating mercy and compassion.

Deacon Pete Gummere, M.S., M.A. serves at Corpus Christi Parish. He is a bioethicist and an adjunct faculty member at Pontifical College Josephinum, where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology in the Josephinum Diaconate Institute.


Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 19, 2016

Zechariah 12: 10-11, 13:1; Psalm 63;

Galatians 3: 26-29; Luke 9: 18-24

"O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water." (Ps 63:2)

"Then [Jesus] said to all, 'If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" (Lk 9:23)

It is rather ironic–or maybe not ironic at all and simply God's plan–that these readings would be assigned to this particular Sunday in June. This weekend in the Diocese of Burlington Bishop Coyne will ordain Mr. Joseph Sanderson to the transitional diaconate and Deacons Matthew Rensch and Curtis Miller to the priesthood. Following their ordinations, Deacon Sanderson and Fathers Rensch and Miller will either assist at or celebrate Masses of Thanksgiving at which these readings will be used. How these readings speak to those of us in Holy Orders! Both quotes above are great beginning points for those to be ordained priests and a reminder for someone like me who is already a priest.

The journey to the priesthood begins when the candidate realizes his "flesh pines and...soul thirsts" for God. While all people experience this call, the one to enter Holy Orders realizes in the depths of his heart and soul that God has called him to enter an ordained relationship with him. "This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit," says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1581), "so that he may serve as Christ's instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church . . . "

The priest feels drawn into a life in which he gives himself totally, body, mind, heart, and soul, to Christ and his Church. Through the priesthood, he satisfies the thirst of his soul as recounted in Psalm 63. This relationship with Christ then overflows into service to God's people. It is a total giving of one's self, and thus it is a joyful life marked by simplicity, obedience, and celibacy. The heart, mind, body, and soul are given to God.

Jesus makes it clear that anyone who wishes to follow him must "deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow [him]." On Good Friday, the priest holds the wooden cross for all to venerate. He knows from his own prayer that it is only through the cross of Jesus that salvation and redemption will come to God's people. The individual crosses of the people must come to the cross of Christ, which is a window to resurrection and hope. The priest has given his life for that cross, and now leads others through it. A priest's life is not a career. He does not seek advancement or career opportunities. His life is set before him. He sets out to minister in the places the Church needs and directs him, as that is how he knows and hears God's will. The priest knows it is not about him, but about Christ and his Church.

The celebrations of the sacraments are the center of the priest's life. His life comes together fully in those moments. He has felt God's call into a deep, unique relationship with him that is marked by prayer. He celebrates the sacraments in humility as he himself is in need of the forgiveness and healing of those same sacraments he provides for God's people. He does so in the person of Christ, for it is Christ who baptizes, forgives sins, and anoints through the priest. It is Christ's body and blood that is made evident upon the altar in the Eucharist.

The priest has felt the need of Christ in his own life. He has given his life for that relationship. He now brings that relationship to each person he meets in celebrating the sacraments, healing God's people. Indeed, he is an icon of Christ, for it is through him that the faithful see Christ, the one to whom the priest is configured through Holy Orders.

Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois is the principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington. Msgr. Bourgeois may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (See official on page 3.)

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Miracle at Janet's Mountain

By Richard L. Hatin. West Virginia: Headline Books, Inc., 2015. $23.28 paperback, $4.99 Kindle or Nook. 448 pages.

When I first met the author of "Miracle at Janet's Mountain," he was doing a book signing and waving a light saber at the Barnes and Noble on Dorset Street in South Burlington. As it turned out, the store was hosting a special Star Wars promotion that day, and Hatin was more than willing to participate in the celebration, even though his newest work is a far cry from the adventures of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

To call "Miracle at Janet's Mountain" a feel-good book doesn't quite do it justice, although most readers will feel very good while reading it. As its title implies, it is about a miracle–several of them, in fact–and what can happen when people are brought face to face with a direct intervention from the divine.

There are some strong positives in this story. To begin with, the main character, Janet, the woman through whom the miracles take place, has Down syndrome. Though in her early 30s, she lives at home with her parents and works as a bagger at the local supermarket. When she is not helping her favorite cashier, Mrs. Wannamaker, Janet has a special place she goes to in the meadow adjacent to her family's home. A relatively small granite outcropping, it has never-the-less become known in the family as "Janet's Mountain," and it is where she loves to go to draw.

It doesn't take long for the miraculous events to begin. Janet has an encounter at her mountain with a "pretty lady" who looks vaguely familiar to her. Running back to the house, she retrieves a holy card with a picture of the Blessed Mother on it. Showing it to her new friend, Janet remarks that not only does she look like the lady on the card, but "You even look like the statue at church." Mary–for indeed, it is the mother of Jesus–then tells Janet that she has come to her because God has chosen her to do a very special job.

Suffice it to say that the story progresses from there. There are miracles and healings, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is how various people react to and are changed–or not–by their encounters with this remarkable young woman and what she allows God to do through her. The author has managed to include just about every segment of society we would expect to become involved in such an event. The Catholic Church and its representatives, for instance, have very different reactions to what has happened (along the way, the reader will no doubt learn something about the Church's protocol for dealing with such things.) The media, so prominent in every other part of our lives, is omnipresent here also–in fact, we get a glimpse of what Jesus' life might have looked like had he been born into a world of 24/7 cable news. People, both supporters and protesters, show up in the thousands, and a famous televangelist also becomes part of the story.

The only flaws are minor, grammatical ones (there are a number of places, for instance, where the author switches tenses from one sentence to the next, and some details are over-explained). But overall, both the story and the tone in which it is told reminded me very much of the late Father Joseph Girzone's "Joshua" series. If you are familiar with and liked those books, you will very likely enjoy this one as well.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Hatin was born in Burlington, Vermont. He attended local elementary and high schools and graduated from St. Michael's College in Colchester in 1971, where he earned a bachelor's in English Literature.

In 1974, Hatin joined the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, working for the New England Office of Community Planning and Development. He retired from that position as Deputy Director in 2010, at which time he turned his attention to writing.

Since then, Hatin has published two other books of fiction in addition to "Miracle on Janet's Mountain." "Evil Agreement" was released in 2012, and "Deadly Whispers," which won an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles, Great Southeast and San Francisco Book Festivals, was published in 2013.

"My first and greatest passion is to explore the eternal conflict of good versus evil," he said of his writing. "As a young child I was hooked on stories from the Bible. I was schooled early on that 'good always triumphs over evil'" although, as he also noted, "evil may lose in the end, but it sure can produce a great deal of pain until it's defeated."

Currently, Hatin lives in Hooksett, N.H. with his wife, Anne Marie. Together, they have three sons and three granddaughters.

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Joan of Arc, FEAST DAY MAY 30

Both the world and the Church have changed so much in the past 600 hundred years that many parts of the story of Joan of Arc sound very foreign to us today. Yet, despite the obvious differences in culture, there are two things regarding this saint that remain constant–the first is her willingness to respond to God, and the second is her commitment to persevere in that response no matter what the cost.

Protecting Religious Freedom

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ."

From the First Amendment to the Constitution

Religious freedom is no trivial or mere theoretical issue. It has a direct impact on every person regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof and is an essential dimension of social justice.

Religious freedom is under attack nationally and here in Vermont.

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