Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blessed Margaret of Castello

Just wanted to share this because it was very moving to me.  Be sure to check our Seraphina's post below!

Blessed Margaret of Castello, O.P.



It was 9 June 1558. The coffin was carefully opened, leaving the official witness awe-stricken. He clothing had crumbled to dust, but the body was perfectly preserved. It was immediately evident to all that she had been a dwarf, her body measuring only four feet long. Her head was rather large, out of proportion with the rest of her thin body. The forehead was broad, with the face tapering to the chin; her nose, quite prominent; her teeth, small… even… serrated at the edges. The hands and feet were small. The right leg measured an inch and a half shorter than the left, which caused her to walk with a limp. The arms were crossed in front of the body, with the left arm and hand being slightly raised without support. Following a thorough and rigorous examination by a team of physicians, the body was reclothed in the Dominican habit and placed in a new coffin.


The birth of a deformed child is a traumatic experience for most parents. After the initial shock, grace and compassion conquer outright rejection. This was not so with Margaret’s parents. Blessed Margaret of Castello was born dreadfully deformed. She was a dwarf, totally blind, hunch-backed and so lame she could hardly walk. Her father immediately ordered the child to be kept out of sight.


Afraid that the child would be seen if she remained in the castle, her father built a small cell next to the parish church in the forest. He thrust the unfortunate child into the cell and ordered the mason to wall up the doorway. Margaret was only six years old.


When she was seventeen, her parents took her on pilgrimage to Citta-di-Castello to the tomb of the saintly Franciscan Friar, Giacomo, who-they hoped-would miraculously cure her. When that tactic failed, the heartless parents abandoned her.


Left there to herself, Margaret was befriended by beggars, only to become one herself. Not long afterward, she joined the Mantellate, the first unmarried woman to become a Dominican Tertiary. Thereafter, several well-to-do families in turn gave her a home. Wherever she went, she brought peace.


Margaret was remarkable for clarity of mind and for infused contemplation. She willingly embraced her cross because she saw suffering through the eyes of faith. She did not know why God permitted her to have so many afflictions; but what she did know, was that He never permits one single misfortune without good reason. Margaret often wondered why people pitied her since she viewed her suffering as the expression of Christ’s love for her and her means to gain heaven.


Pain made Margaret compassionate, sensitive and understanding toward others. She visited prisoners, helped the sick, comforted the dying.


In spite of her handicap, Margaret was always joyful and courageous. She never became bitter, never complained, never reproached others, never lost heart. Rather, Margaret sought and found her strength in prayer and the sacraments. In every adversity, she turned to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Dominic…there to find the courage to go on. And Margaret did go on…to achieve an intimacy with the Lord known only by those who love Him uncompromisingly.


The body of Blessed Margaret, which has never been embalmed, now lies under the high altar of the Church of St. Domenico at Citta-di-Castello, Italy. The arms of the body are still flexible; the eyelashes are present; the nails are in place on the hands and feet. The coloring of the body has darkened slightly, and the skin is dry and somewhat hardened; but by all standards, the preservation can be considered a remarkable condition, having endured for over six hundred fifty years.


Had she been conceived today, Margaret surely would have been a victim of abortion or left to die at birth…and what a tragedy that would have been!!! A tragedy for Margaret. who would have been deprived of the opportunity to suffer for Christ and thereby achieve the heights of sanctity; a tragedy for the Church…who would have been deprived of such an extraordinary daughter; for each of us…who, handicapped as we are by prejudice, by greed, by indifference, by cold-heartedness, or by whatever form it may take, would have been deprived of one with whom we can identify…of one who could truly show us that the only deformity abhorrent to God is the deformity of sin.


As an unwanted deformed child would she not be ‘the saint’ for our time…a special patron of the outcasts…the patron of the UNWANTED? Will you not join in a crusade for her canonization: She will never fail to help those who invoke her.


At the new Parish my husband and I are attending, the Rosary is said before Sunday morning mass, and after each daily mass. I was reflecting today on how wonderful of an experience it is to partake in this form of prayer with a group of people, as well as having it integrated (as far as time chunks) into the time I take out of my day for Mass.

Also, in similar regards, I have taken to praying more of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This, is in part, due to my desire to name my daughter Faustina (if I have a daughter), but I am also finding that it is a good way to spend about ten minutes of your day in prayer.

On a side note, my Parish priest made the comment that he prays the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day at 3 o'clock in Polish because - after all - God is Polish.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Perpetual Adoration

Our state has one perpetual adoration chapel.  It just happens to be about 30 minutes from our house.  I have signed up to sit in the chapel from 5-6 AM on Thursdays.  This is good for several reasons; 1) It brings me a lot of peace, 2) It allows me to do the Liturgy of the Hours regularly, 3)  It allows me to do some spiritual reading, and 4) It structures my day and gets me out of bed early!  

I hope everyone's Lent is going well and we are all ready to celebrate the great feast of Easter.  If you are struggling with your spiritual life or commitments (lenten or otherwise), I encourage you to go spend some time with the Blessed Sacrament.  

Monday, March 23, 2009

St. Francis of Assisi

I recently finished reading "St. Francis of Assisi" by Johannes Jorgensen, a Danish author.  Overall, the book was a good treatment/overview of the Life of St. Francis.  There were two major downfalls to the book, however.  One was that it tended to get boring at certain points; the author spends a great deal of time on some points in St. Francis's life and breezes over others.  The selection of how much time to spend on different events seemed fairly arbitrary to me.  Secondly, the author tends to have a hard time sorting out what might be thought of as "legendary" events in the Life of St. Francis and those that actually happened.  This might not be his fault because he bases a lot of his research on the older texts describing the saint's life.  Overall, it's a good book to pick up if you are interested in learning a bit more about Francis.  

Miserably Failing

Limited access to the internet and other issues have caused me to miserably fail at trying to post every day during Lent.  I also decided that it might be better to stop this and post some better quality posts when I really had something to say.  I'm getting behind on my book reviews and have a couple that I wanted to post - something I hope to do later today.  

I guess this is a sign to quit looking at the past and start pressing on towards the future.  

Friday, March 13, 2009

Second Week of Lent - Friday

Last year:

Sometimes as Christians we can be a bad reflection of the Church and of Christianity in general. This can lead others to have a bad opinion of Christ and the Church, and we have to be careful about that. It is our responsibility to lead lives that will turn people towards God and not away from him. At the same time, there will be people who will live their lives or teach things contrary to what God wants, but still be Christians. Jesus himself said he would separate the chaff from the wheat at judgement, in context of those in the Church. Let's be a good example to others and also not get discouraged when others don't live up to our expections but remember that they aren't our benchmark. 

During this day of lent (whatever day you read this), say a prayer for those who are more needy than us.

Speaking of reflecting on the Church, I had the opportunity to have an awesome "Bible Study" with a young woman today.  She was talking about a lot of anti-Catholic sentiment she had grown up with.  Because of a lot of great resources she has at her disposal and the good efforts of some other Catholics she is very much considering joining the Catholic Church but knows it will strain her relationship with her parents who she probably relies on for college.  Pray for her - but this also shows what a good example of some Catholics can do.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Second Week of Lent - Thursday

Last Year:

Sometimes we struggle with anger. This anger might be justly or unjustly brought on, but we need to remember in the end to forgive and love the person who has made us angry. We shouldn't forget that we make others angry sometimes as well, and that by all human standards God should be more angry than anyone about the way we act. Let's learn to live together and love each other better.

Just another topic for me to reflect on how my anger has developed over the last year.  Again, I think I can say that the sacraments have brough me great accomplishments in this realm.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Second Week of Lent - Wednesday

Last year:

Today, I'd just like to post a section of scripture that I've been studying very hard for the last few months: John 6:27-71 (NAB): 27 Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." 28 So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." 30 So they said to him, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34 So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. 36 But I told you that although you have seen (me), you do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, 38 because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. 39 And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it (on) the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day." 41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven," 42 and they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" 43 Jesus answered and said to them, "Stop murmuring among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets: 'They shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 51 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." 52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" 53 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. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 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. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." 59 These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. 60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" 61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? 62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. 65 And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." 66 As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. 67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" 68 Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." 70 Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?" 71 He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve.
John 6 continues to inspire me. The depth of this teaching is overwhelming, and I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is the most powerful Chapter in the New Testament for Catholic apologetics - especially to explain our view of the real presence of Christ to Protestants. Jesus's message that the only way to have life is to eat his body and drink his blood is mind boggling - and I'm not sure I have a complete grasp of it still.

Second Week of Lent - Tuesday

Last year:

The poor are something I have struggled with my whole life and only recently began to have pity and love for. Probably because of my background (social and prior-religious), I've always looked on the poor as people who needed to do better for themselves...not someone we should look after. Now I realize that we should do everything we can to help them and love them like Christ did. What are some things we can do for the poor?

Pray for them.

Fast for them.

Give the money from our fasting to them for food/water/clothing/shelter.

These things all fall in line well with Lent. We can also do things like volunteer to help them fix their houses, volunteer at food pantries and donate food, be involved in education in rural poor regions.

I think this is one area that I have made some significant improvement since last year - but I still have a long way to go.  We had the wonderful experience of working with the poor last year for a service trip we took for a week.  That really helped me feel more for the poor and develop a love and care for them.  At the same time, I think over the last few months that has faded somewhat and my providing for the poor has only kicked back up a notch since we have entered Lent.  

Second Week of Lent - Monday

Last year:

I've been doing a little reading about the similarities between the Jewish and Christian form of liturgical worship, and I've found it rather fascinating. I'm not sure, but there may be a good book out there that discusses the similiarities between the two. It seems that (naturally) early Christians took the Jewish form of liturgical worship (readings, responsorial psalms, public participation by responses to the priest, etc.) and adapted it to suit the purposes of Christians. This is the way Christ worshipped in the 1st century, and it was brought into the Church. One of the best ways to see it in the Bible is to look at the Book of Revelation where the activities going on in Heaven are much like a Catholic service today. I havn't been to a Jewish worship service (and I have heard that they differ from place to place), but a Catholic friend of mine was telling me that he went to one here in Morgantown and was really shocked by the similarities in worship. It's really a neat historical look at how Christian worship has developed over the years (although of course many Protestants since the 16th century or so have begun to reject the liturgical form of worship, and that's a whole historical study in and of itself that is very interesting!) Anyone seen any good history books on the evolution of Christian worship from the basic Jewish forms in the 1st Century to the broader Protestant movements of today? Feel free to recommend them if you have.

I found two books since this post and read them.  The first is Mike Aquilina's "Mass of the Early Christians".  The other is Scott Hahn's "The Lamb's Supper".  Both I would highly recommend because they explore the links between the liturgy and what the early Christians did as well as Sacred Scripture.  I still have not found any that dealt purely with the Jewish/Christian liturgical similarities, but it has been hinted at in many of the Holy Father's writings.  

First Week of Lent - Saturday and Second Sunday of Lent

I deleted the Saturday and Sunday of last Lent before I got to copy them over to this blog....  just wanted to mention that my wife and I changed parishes (and diocese) recently.  Please pray for our new parish and our family that we can all do some good in the area and learn to grow in love with them.

First Week of Lent - Friday

Last year:

Have you ever had an evening when you are in the mood to pray, think about God, and study, but everything in the world seems to distract you from it? That was this evening for me. It seems like today every door was closed for me to spend time with God, but then it helped me realize something. Sometimes distractions can actually help us think about what is keeping us from being closer to God. Some of these distractions are part of our vocation (wife, children, jobs, etc.), some of these are other responsibilities (pets, chores, etc.), some are sinful (greed, lust, gluttony, etc.), but most of them are purely entertainment (movies, music, sports, etc.). I think in many cases we can use these distractions to also help us draw closer to God. Spend time in prayer with your wife/husband and children, use pets to think about God's blessings and creation, listen to music that helps you contemplate God. Even with things like lust, when it occurs, take time to pray for the object of that desire. We should look at our distractions as an opportunity to slow down our lives and become closer to God in whatever way is possible.

I can definitely say that this is one area in which I have not improved over the last year.  Distractions still seem to find me all the time when I am trying to pray.  It seems like sometimes we look for something we'd rather be doing........this is definitely something I need to reflect and work on; re-examining myself next year to see if any improvation has been made.

First Week of Lent - Thursday

Last year:

Happy Saint Valentine's Day!

Let's think about something a little different related to Valentine's Day and love today. Valentine's Day was named after 2 different early Christian martyrs who both died because of their faith in Christ. So, how does that relate to love? In three important ways:

1) Think about (pray if you'd like) your love for God. Is it as strong as those martyrs? Think about how great their love of God must have been to die for their belief.

2) Think about God's love for you.

3) If you are married, remember that you are to love your spouse as Christ loves the Church. 

I guess I could add a couple more to think about this year:

4)  What about your relationship with your children?  Do you love them as your Heavenly Father loves you?

5)  Do you love your neighbor as yourself?  Could you use the Lenten time to give alms to help your neighbors in distress?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

First Week of Lent - Wednesday

Last year:

Yesterday was my birthday. More importantly, today is the 14th year anniversary of my baptism. One Lord, One Body, One Faith, One Baptism, One Church. Blessed be God Forever! On your baptismal birthday, invite someone over and praise God for your salvation!

"God wills the interdependence of creatures....Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other." - CCC No. 340

"All this talk of consenting adults, rights of privacy, and civil liberties is counterproductive when it presents the individual as an isolated, self-contained unit, free to act without reference to the rest of society. Such a view of the human person is false." - Day by Day with the Catechism. 

Prayer: Christ, teach us to need our neighbors, to seek and give help, that we might come to know the blessings of unity.

This year, I must admit that I am probably more excited about the upcoming anniversary of my confirmation and the completion of my first year as a Catholic in full communion with the Church.  That is actually on March 23 - Easter was really early last year.  I'm also looking forward to my child's baptism this fall.  What spiritual gifts I have been blessed with over the last year!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

First Week of Lent - Tuesday

Last year:

Creator of my Life, 
renew me: bring me to new life in you. 
Touch me and make me feel whole again. 
Help me to see your love 
in the passion, death and resurrection of your son. 
Help me to observe Lent 
in a way that allows me to celebrate that love. 
Prepare me for these weeks of Lent 
as I feel both deep sorrow for my sins 
and your undying love for me.

Unfortunately, I don't remember where this came from.  This was a deep subject for me last year because I thought of "celebrating that love" as taking my first Eucharist.  This year, that line is more to me a looking forward to celebrating the ressurection of our savior at Easter.  Through this period of time, I can examine myself and try to fix problems and sin in my life, preparing myself for my own bodily resurrection at the end of time.  Lent is like my lifetime - darkness before the dawn when I first meet Christ in Heaven - the real Easter feast that will last forever.

Monday, March 2, 2009

First Week of Lent - Monday

Last year:

Tonight we started a Bible study in Matthew. Just wanted to point out a few really neat things. First, notice that Matthew's gospel will point to so many similarities among the Old Testament. Notice that Joseph receives his messages in dreams, and is told to take his family into egypt to protect them (just like Joseph in Genesis). Behold the massacre of the infants (like Exodus). See how Jesus has to come out of Egypt (like Moses in Exodus). Notice how John the Baptist parallels Elijah. See how his relationship with Herod and Herodias is much like Elijah with Ahab and Jezebel? Even the gospel readings I gave you from yesterday link the temptation of Christ to Adam and Eve's temptation in the Garden. 

Simply Beautiful how the writer of Matthew relates all of Christ's early years to the Old Testament for the Jewish Population!

This post has to be overshadowed by a big change that is going on in our life.  So, instead of reflecting on what I wrote last year, I'd like to mention that my wife and I are most likely going to be changing parishes within the next week or so.  Please pray for us to find a parish that will uplift our lives as a family, be good for our children, and one that we can contribute our own gifts to.  

Sunday, March 1, 2009

First Sunday of Lent

Last year:

Today's public readings were:

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7: 
Romans 5:12, 17-19
Matthew 4:1-11

The wonderful thing about this selection of readings is how they flow together. Look at the Genesis reading and note how man makes the decision to sin, being tested by the Serpent, and the consequences of this sin (death). Romans 5 is the perfect bridge here, detailing how death came by Adam, but life by Christ. Then, the Matthew passage deals with Christ being tempted in the wilderness by Satan. Only this time, he passes the test. I never really put the three sets of verses together, but looking at it now, it really is a beautiful thing to use the Romans scripture to bridge between Genesis and Matthew, Death stemming from Adam and Life from Christ....

Something I am coming to a greater understanding about than last year is the tie between these verses and Lent.  As we spend out "40 days in the wilderness of Lent" this year, let's try to resist the temptation to fail at our promises and visit the Holy Sacrament often in order to combat Death and receive Life through Christ our Lord.

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Last year:

Last night was the first Stations of the Cross of this Lenten Season. Seraphina and I spent a lot of time talking last night about different things. I think it is good to reflect on which station makes you sad. Seraphina felt that the three times Jesus falls were the sad ones. I felt like the stripping was the sad one. I always think it is so terrible the way we treated him on Earth, and the stripping is about as low as I can see anyone going. 

So, what stations of the cross make you sad? What Bible verse(s) make you sad? Angry? Happy? I think it's important to reflect on how the Bible moves us to prayer, fasting, charity and how these emotions move us to do certain things.

This year obviously I am more familiar with Stations of the Cross.  I still feel basically the same about the stripping of the garments.  That still kind of tears me up - thinking about Christ allowing himself and his shame to be openly exposed - but not because he had to but because he wanted to for us.  

We used meditations from St. Alphonsus for last Friday.  I highly recommend checking them out if possible.