Chaplain’s Corner – Beheading of John the Baptist (August 28, 2016)

On August 29 the Church celebrates the Beheading of John the Baptist. This is a most poignant feast for our time, in which God’s law concerning marriage is so often broken and ignored. St. John the Baptist was martyred for defending God’s law concerning marriage and this makes him a great example and help to all in our time who undertake the same joyful task.

The story of John’s beheading begins with the sinful and invalid marriage of Herod the Tetrarch with Herodias, the lawful wife of Herod’s brother, Philip. Herod had divorced his own wife, whose name was Phasaelis. Herod, therefore, had committed adultery in entering into “marriage” with Herodias; neither he nor Herodias were free to marry. How many Catholics and non-Catholics in our time have committed this same sin and live in this same situation!
John the Baptist is the biblical model for how the Church responds pastorally – with true love – to persons who contradict Jesus’s teaching that “whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.” Herod was quite fond of John and loved to hear him preach, more out of curiosity and admiration than out of a desire for the truth. John did not let this friendship with Herod compromise his love for God and so he told Herod and Herodias the plain truth of their situation: they were living in adultery and they had to separate if they wanted to stop offending God and avoid eternal damnation.
Herod was perplexed by John’s teaching because he was a weak man. We might imagine he was the kind of person who knows what the right thing is but lacks the moral courage to carry it out. Herodias, on the other hand, was full of malice and hated John. She wanted him dead because of his call to repentance. She saw him as the enemy of all her desires, especially for the power that comes with being the legal wife of the tetrarch. In her hatred for John, she prevailed upon Herod to imprison him.

Chaplain’s Corner – Octave of the Assumption of Mary (8/21/16)

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The Octave of the Assumption of Mary, which we are celebrating now, culminates tomorrow with the traditional feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (in the modern calendar, it’s the Queenship of Mary). It’s beautiful that the Church honors our Mother’s glory by venerating especially her Heart. This veneration is the reason why August is traditionally called the Month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This feast of Mary’s Heart is the octave feast of the feast of her Assumption into Heaven, which means the two feasts are connected in the logic of the Sacred Liturgy.

The truth of Mary’s Assumption means that her physical Heart is in Heaven, glorified in its resurrection and ascension in her Son. Mary is the first to share in her Son’s Resurrection and Ascension. She followed where He went first. Her Heart, which was always in Heaven by faith, hope, and love, is now in Heaven by glory. As we saw last Sunday, she had first suffered and died with Him in her Heart. We celebrate on August 22 that she has also risen with Him!

Each Christian is invited by grace to this same sharing in Jesus’s Resurrection and Ascension. We are all called and empowered to live, like Mary, with our hearts already in Heaven by faith, hope, and charity, so that they can one day be in Heaven in glory. This is the key to happiness even in this life: to have our treasures and hearts already in the Heavenly happiness that never passes away. We are called by Jesus to live like Mary, suffering and dying with Him so as to rise with Him.

Chaplain’s Corner | August 14, 2016 (late post)

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NB: We have been remiss in posting couple of our Assistant Chaplain’s corner articles owing to a very busy summer schedule, so our apologies for the late post:

Tomorrow the Church celebrates the great feast of the glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This celebration marks the day on which our Blessed Mother was raised from the dead and taken up in her glorified body into Heaven. This is a historical feast (meaning the event of her Assumption happened on the very date of August 15). The Church of Jerusalem commemorates Our Lady’s death on August 13 and celebrates a Marian Triduum leading up to the celebration of her resurrection on August 15. With this feast, we joyfully proclaim the truth of our Catholic faith that there are two glorified bodies in Heaven, that of Jesus and that of Mary!

The feast of the Assumption, then, is a kind of Marian Easter. It is a celebration of Blessed Mary’s sacred role as the New Eve, the Helpmate of the Redeemer, the true disciple of Jesus Christ, the one who kept His Word perfectly and did His Will always. She is our great model and example in her discipleship and she receives the reward of her fidelity in her glorious resurrection and assumption into Heaven. In her glory, she is also an example to us, for we hope to follow her in receiving our own resurrection unto glory on the Last Day.

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Chaplain’s Corner | August 7, 2016 (late post)

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NB: We have been remiss in posting couple of our Assistant Chaplain’s corner articles owing to a very busy summer schedule, so our apologies for the late post:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods” is surely the most overlooked commandment by practicing Catholics today. In our gospel last Sunday in the Ordinary Form, Jesus made sure we couldn’t miss His liberating teaching about our proper relationship to riches. “Take heed, and beware of covetousness,” Our Lord says in response to the brothers who are fighting over the inheritance, “for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.” Our Savior’s teaching on covetousness is strikingly practical. He wants us to know that life cannot be about riches, either now or after death. St. Cyril of Alexandria reminds us that “…covetousness is unprofitable…” because “as the Lord says, You shall build houses of hewn stone, and shall not dwell in them.”

This inability of riches to bring us true and lasting happiness is illustrated in the parable Our Lord tells in the second part of our gospel. Here we have the rich man who, after an abundant harvest, tears down his barns to build new ones, so that he can store all his grain for himself, to sustain him in what he imagines will be long-lasting comfort and security. Jesus gives us the delusional interior dialogue that the man had with himself: “And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” Theophylact of Ohrid comments that Jesus gives us this interior dialogue “to rebuke the motives of the covetous, who seem to heap up riches as if they were going to live for a long time. But will wealth ever make you long lived?” Sure enough, just as the covetous man is putting the finishing touches on his new barns, he hears those dread words from God Almighty: “You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you: then whose shall those things be, which you have provided?” This is a sobering wake-up call for all us.

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Chaplain’s Corner -St. John Mary Vianney

On Thursday, we celebrate the feast of the patron saint of parish priests, St. John Mary Vianney, the holy Cure’ d’Ars. John Vianney was a diocesan priest in France in the 19th century. The spiritual environment in which he worked was as challenging as ours today. France had been ravaged by the Revolution and the persecution of the Church ensuing from it. John Vianney did not have an easy pastoral task and his parish was pretty much dead when he arrived there.

Among his many saintly qualities, St. John loved in particular to hear confessions. He transformed his little parish in Ars largely by making himself available for confessions. By the end of his life, he was hearing 16 hours of confessions per day! His feast day is always a marvelous opportunity for us to grow in Continue reading

Chaplain’s Corner – St. James the Greater

Tomorrow,  July 25, 2016, the Church celebrates the feast of the first Apostle to suffer martyrdom, St. James, the brother of John, the son of Zebedee and Salome (St. Joseph’s niece and St. Cleophas’s daughter), nicknamed by Our Lord, along with his brother, Boanerges, the Sons of Thunder. St. James is called “the Greater” to distinguish him from the other Apostle of that name.

James was one of the most beloved Apostles. It is Peter, James, and John who are privileged to be present at the healing of the daughter of Jairus, the Transfiguration, and the Agony in the Garden. These intimate experiences with Jesus prepared James to become the first Apostle to shed blood for Jesus.

James lived only 11 years after Pentecost. He was probably only 40 years old when Continue reading

Chaplain’s Corner – Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Church celebrates the great feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16th. It was on July 16, 1251, that the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock to entrust to him her Brown Scapular, with the promise that “those who die wearing this habit will not suffer eternal fire.” This feast commemorates the apparition and the love and protection of Mary signified by the Scapular.

The Scapular is the ancient Jewish garment worn underneath the clothes to signify that the Jew belonged to Continue reading

Chaplain’s Corner – Precious Blood of Jesus

July is the Month of the Precious Blood of Jesus. We celebrated this feast in the Extraordinary Form on July 1. The Blood of Jesus is the special object of our meditation and devotion this month, as Our Lady is in May and the Sacred Heart of Jesus is in June.

The Blood of Jesus began as the blood of Mary. We can venerate Mary’s holy blood, made Continue reading

Chaplain’s Corner – Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul

On Wednesday, the Church celebrated the august solemnity of the Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, both of whom were martyred in Rome on June 29 in the year 67 A.D. We are still in the octave of this feast and we continue to celebrate this very ancient festival of the Roman Church. Indeed, it is a celebration of Rome herself!

St. Paul was beheaded on the Via Ostia. His sacred head bounced three times on the ground, from each of which bounces flowed a miraculous spring of water. The Monastery of the Three Fountains now stands at the holy site. St. Peter was crucified upside down on the Vatican hill in the Circus of Nero. He was buried nearby. His basilica stands now above his tomb and place of his martyrdom is within the walls of Vatican City, to the left of the facade of St. Peter’s.

One of the hymns for the feast day sums up beautifully the essence of this celebration: “O happy Rome, who have been consecrated by the glorious blood of the two Princes!” Every Catholic – even those who belong to the Eastern churches – is a Roman Catholic because of today’s feast. Ss. Peter and Paul consecrated the Church of Rome. Their blood made of the Eternal City the new Jerusalem, with St. Peter consecrating the Vatican Hill as the Calvary of this new holy city.
Today’s feast reminds us of why we are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. St. Ignatius of Loyola famously wrote, “To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it…” Ignatius knew the meaning of this feast. He knew that Jesus really lives in His Church and in His Vicar, the Successor of St. Peter, who is the Bishop of Rome. One is also reminded on this feast of the great consolation of St. Teresa of Avila at the end of her life: “I am a daughter of the Church.” She knew she had no greater cause for hope in Jesus’s Mercy.
Today let us rejoice in being Roman Catholics. Let us pray for the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, and for the Church of Rome. We are called today to have in our hearts the love for Jesus Christ with which Peter and Paul shed their blood. Jesus had made their blood holy and so their blood consecrated Rome. We find this holiness, therefore, in the Church built on St. Peter.
Reverend Joseph Previtali

Chaplain’s Corner | St. John the Baptist

On Friday, the we joyously celebrated the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The Church celebrates the birth of only three saints: Our Savior, Our Lady, and the Precursor of the Lord. Usually, we celebrate the feast of a saint on the day of his death, which is his “dies natalis” into Heaven. The feast of John’s Nativity teaches us first of all that John is already holy at his birth. Indeed, John was sanctified by Jesus through Mary when he was six months old in his mother’s womb and, recognizing the Bridegroom of Israel, leapt for joy at the sound of Our Lady’s voice. John is made holy, consecrated as a prophet, and already acknowledges Jesus, while he is still in the womb. This is Jesus’s first miracle of grace, whereby John is given a passing share in the beatific vision in order to have the use of reason in the womb. Thus, he knows and loves his Savior and the Friend of the Bridegroom rejoices to hear the Bridegroom’s spiritual voice.

Many marvels mark the mystery of the Nativity of the Baptist. John is born on the longest day of the year, at the summer solstice. From the time of his birth, the days get shorter. Jesus is born on the shortest day of the year, at the winter solstice. From the time of His Birth, the days get longer. This is the cosmic meaning of the powerful mission statement of St. John: “He must increase; I must decrease.” John exists entirely to point out Jesus. He is His Precursor, who goes “before the Lord to prepare His way, to give His People knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.” John’s birth and Jesus’s Birth are united liturgically in the use of the identical Alleluia tone for both the Nativity of John and Christmas Day Mass.

John is born to declare, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sins of the world!” We marvel at the beauty of the birth of this holy baby, consecrated a prophet from his mother’s womb. We recall that St. Elizabeth is advanced in years as she gives birth to this miraculous child of hers, with her elderly husband, St. Zechariah, standing by, mute with incredulity. His tongue will be loosened in eight daysby his son’s intercession after Zechariah confirms that his name is John. Blessed Mary is there as well at the birth of the Baptist, as is Jesus in her womb. We can imagine the immense charity of Our Mother in assisting her elderly cousin. We marvel at the similarity and contrast between these two holy women: the aged barren wife of many years and the youthful pure Virgin of Virgins.

Like Jesus, John is born finally to give his life in martyrdom. We recall on the feast of his birth that he will die (we celebrate this on August 29) because he preached in defense of God’s law for marriage. In light of the attack on marriage in the United States, we are inspired by John to commit ourselves to the same love for Jesus. The Church rejoices with John to declare herself ready to die for the smallest part of Jesus’s beautiful saving teaching. She knows she will be hated by the Herod and Herodias of today. Her members beg John’s intercession that each one of us will be willing to shed our blood rather than remain silent about God’s holy plan for human sexuality. St. John the Baptist, holy in your birth, holier still in your death, pray for us!

 

Reverend Father Joseph Previtali