Independence Day

July 3, 2013

Freedom, God's gift.  Let us give thanks.

Freedom, God’s gift. Let us give thanks.


Tomorrow we celebrate Independence Day. In reflecting on the concept of independence, the most obvious questions are independence from what and independence for what. The events of those early years of this young nation show to us a people choosing the immense challenge of crossing an unknown sea as a way to flee the oppressive governments of their respective nations. They chose to flee because in their hearts was not only a desire to live free but also a desire to seek a greater good, to achieve that for which they had been created: to love and serve God who gave them life and to care for those he placed in their lives; a simple, but profound desire to live in freedom, loving God and neighbor.

God, who creates all life and endows human persons with the freedom to choose to love Him in return, places in our hearts that desire to seek Him, to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him, who is the Way, The Truth and the Life. Life and freedom are inseparable; most especially the freedom to love God who is the Creator of all.

Here are prayers from the Mass for this day, in which the church prays for peace, justice and truth. May these prayers be a source of fruitful meditation which inspires us to courageous action in God’s name.

Father of all nations and ages, we recall the day when our country claimed its place among the family of nations; for what has been achieved we give you thanks, for the work that still remains we ask your help, and as you have called us from many peoples to be one nation, grant that, under your providence, our country may share your blessings with all the peoples of the earth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen (Opening prayer/Collect)

It is truly right and just, our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks…for we praise you as the God of creation, as the Father of Jesus, the Savior of the world, in whose image we seek to live. He loved the children of the lands he walked and enriched them with his witness of justice and truth. He lived and died that we might be reborn in the Sprit and filled with love for all people. (Preface)

May the love we share in the Eucharist, heavenly Father, flow in rich blessing throughout our land and by your grace may we as a nation place our trust in you and seek to do your will. Through Christ our Lord. (Prayer after Communion)

May God bless America.

Related items of interest:
Open Letter, dated July 2, from U.S. Catholic Bishops and Southern Baptist Convention on Conscience Protection:
http://usccb.org/news/2013/13-134.cfm
Holy Father Pope Francis: Religious freedom often affirmed, not always put into practice:
http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-religious-freedom-often-affirmed-not-always-p
The Manhattan Declaration and list of Religious leaders who signed it:
http://manhattandeclaration.org/man_dec_resources/Manhattan_Declaration_full_text.pdf
http://manhattandeclaration.org/man_dec_resources/list_of_religious_leaders.pdf

Joseph and Mary find Jesus teaching in the Temple

Joseph and Mary find Jesus teaching in the Temple

And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:50) In this last Sunday devotion to St. Joseph and the last time that we hear of St. Joseph in sacred Scripture, we locate him finding Jesus in the temple. Joseph and Mary find their son, after three days of heart-wrenching searching, in the temple. When they find Jesus, he is teaching of the Father.

This last devotion happens to fall on the Fifth Sunday of Lent. We have journeyed in this holy season of grace searching to find Jesus in a more personal way, to be closer to Him and to listen to Him speak to our hearts of the Father. In the temptation story in the gospel , we hear Jesus state to Satan: “It is written: the Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” (Mt 4:11) Jesus faithfully, continually, constantly points to the Father. Jesus is the way by which we come to know the Father whom we desire to worship and serve.

St. Joseph shows us that we need to continue searching until we find Jesus. We don’t know the agony St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother experienced in their three days of searching for the child of God that had been given to their care. We have in them examples of prayerful perseverance and sustaining hope that can encourage us in our journey of faith.

O faithful spouse of Mary, Mother of God, we ask your intercession in this time of discernment that we may be filled with perseverance in our prayer, worship, Lenten practices and seeking of Jesus. By your example, St. Joseph, may we come to know that fidelity and humble obedience to the Father’s will are ways of living with Jesus Christ. St. Joseph, you have led us through this holy season of Lent; be our constant companion, encouraging us by your courageous willingness to do whatever the Father asked of you.

Pray for us, blessed St. Joseph,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Almighty God,
In your infinite wisdom and love
you chose Joseph to be the husband of Mary,
the mother of your Son.
As we enjoy his protection on earth,
may we have the help of his prayers in heaven,
particularly as we discern our chosen-ness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Note: On March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, we will join billions throughout the world in celebration of the installation Mass of the Holy Father Pope Francis. The fatherhood of St. Joseph and of Pope Francis is food for meditation on this day. As St. Joseph was the earthly father of Jesus Christ, Pope Francis is the earthly father of the Church, the Bride of Christ. Both men are chosen by God to be fathers; one the father of His Son, Jesus who is Truth; and the other, the father of His Church which is the “pillar and bulwark of truth.” (1Tim 3:15) Thanks be to God for His love and mercy that provides for us such a mystery of salvation.

Joseph and Jesus, a Father's care

Joseph and Jesus, a Father’s care

We can imagine St. Joseph’s joy when hearing of Herod’s death. Now they can return home to family and friends. They can root their family life in the Jewish tradition and establish a stable trade. They can have a normal family life. Dutifully, he takes the child Jesus and Mary to the land of Israel. But this is not to be their home; fearing Archelaus, Herod’s son, St. Joseph listens to the guidance of an angel and they move again. This time to Nazareth in the district of Galilee. Finally, their wandering ends. Here the child Jesus grows in strength and wisdom as he learns the carpenter’s trade.

Over and over, St. Joseph obediently moves his family – protecting and caring for them – fully accepting his responsibility as spouse and father. How many times he must have knelt in prayer; beseeching the Father’s help and pleading for a permanent, safe home. Maybe by St. Joseph’s example, Jesus learned to seek a place of solitude for prayer. Psalm 31, which we sang in today’s celebration of the Holy Mass, may have been a psalm St. Joseph prayed often:

In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, incline your ear to me, make haste to deliver me.
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.
Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your kindness.
Take courage and be stouthearted, all you who hope in the Lord. Ps 31: 2-3, 3-4, 17, 25

Are we in constant prayer with God? To know the Father’s will, we have to be in dialogue. Jesus Christ shows us by his life that we need to pray. It was part of his life to seek solitude for prayer, to pray constantly, and to lead his disciples to prayer. Let us pray for each other as we discern how to live out our love of Christ and respond to the Father’s will.

O glorious St. Joseph, how you must have marveled at the child Jesus learning to pray by your side. You show us the necessity for constant prayer and the grace that is given for each part of our journey of faith in love. Following your example of obedience and trust, may we freely and generously go where the Father’s will calls us.

Pray for us, blessed St. Joseph,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Almighty God,
In your infinite wisdom and love
you chose Joseph to be the husband of Mary,
the mother of your Son.
As we enjoy his protection on earth,
may we have the help of his prayers in heaven,
particularly as we discern our chosen-ness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

st.joseph and older jesus

We may ask ourselves: ‘What is God calling me to do with this life He has given me? How should I serve Him?’ At some point, the question may become more specific: ‘Am I called to consecrated life?’ Here is when we wonder if we can leave our current way of life and take a step of faith into the unknown, placing all our trust in God. St. Joseph shows us that God will provide whatever we need for the journey He places before us. In his sleep, the angel tells Joseph to ‘take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you to return’. So Joseph goes where the Lord directs him, leaving behind the familiar, friends, work, home – all but the child Jesus and Mary.

In Matthew’s gospel, we hear Jesus say: “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on it…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Mt 6:25, 32b-33) In His words, Jesus tells us what Joseph knew in his heart.

A ‘yes’ to consecrated life is that step of faith into a land unknown, but in the company of our Lord Jesus and Mary, the Mother of Divine Hope. St. Joseph shows us how to trust. And we have Jesus’ assurance that our Father will care for our needs.

O St. Joseph, head of the Holy Family, your faith encourages us to believe that all things are possible with God. Placing all your hope in Him, you set aside the normal family life and moved in haste to an unknown land. Pray for us, St. Joseph, that we may have the courage to respond to God’s call with boldness and confidence.

Pray for us, blessed St. Joseph,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Almighty God,
In your infinite wisdom and love
you chose Joseph to be the husband of Mary,
the mother of your Son.
As we enjoy his protection on earth,
may we have the help of his prayers in heaven,
particularly as we discern our chosen-ness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

PresentationattheTemple

Here is the scene for this fourth devotion to St. Joseph. It is the time for the purification, Joseph and Mary bring the infant Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as it was written in the law of the Lord. Simeon is in the Temple when they arrive, he takes the child in his arms, blesses God and proclaims his great canticle. Joseph and Mary marvel at what is said by Simeon. Simeon blesses Mary and further proclaims that the child is “set for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and a sword will pierce through your own heart also.” (see Lk2: 35)

How does St. Joseph comprehend this? This child is the “salvation, the light for the revelation of the Gentiles, the cause of the falling and rising of many.” What can this mean, salvation is for the Jewish people, the chosen race, how can this child be the light for the Gentiles? This is a lot for Joseph to ponder and understand. But then Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce her heart. Will Mary be wounded? How will this come about? How can Joseph protect his wife from what must sound like an assault? We can begin to see what more is being asked of St. Joseph. His fear he keeps in his heart, but by his presence, he assures Mary that he will care for her and the child. As he experiences concern for his family, he also knows the joy of the coming salvation just foretold.

I imagine that many of us have been in the position of St. Joseph, standing by a loved one when they receive shocking and disbelieving news. Maybe a diagnosis of cancer or Alzheimer’s, or the loss of a job, or the death of a child – even though we may not be able to protect them from the pain and sorrow, we give them hope. St. Joseph is the sign of the silent, sure, faithful presence of hope.

O protector of Mary, Mother of Jesus, you know the joy of salvation and pain of loving someone who has been given a message of suffering. You take unto yourself her pain and let it be transformed in a visible sign of hope. By your witness and your intercession we ask to also be witnesses of hope for the glory of God. St. Joseph, stand by us on this journey.

Pray for us, blessed St. Joseph,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Almighty God,
In your infinite wisdom and love
you chose Joseph to be the husband of Mary,
the mother of your Son.
As we enjoy his protection on earth,
may we have the help of his prayers in heaven,
particularly as we discern our chosen-ness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Joseph names his son Jesus.

Joseph names his son Jesus.

The third devotion of St. Joseph is anchored in this passage from Sacred Scripture:

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Lk2:21)

I pray that we will be inspired by St. Joseph’s fidelity and humility. St. Joseph fulfills his first religious obligation and has his son circumcised. Thus God’s covenant with Abraham is fully realized in Jesus, through the faithfulness of Joseph. The Divine Plan of Salvation is held in the work-worn, calloused hands of Joseph, a righteous simple man who gives honor to the law and to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph.

The Hope of the world, just 8 days old, is given the name Jesus; “the name above every other name” (Phil 2:9b). In giving this name, Joseph declares his legal fatherhood and proclaims Jesus’ mission: “You shall call the child Jesus for he will save his people from their sins”. (Mt 1:21)

By virtue of his faithfulness, Joseph holds in his hands the Savior of the world. Through this righteous man’s fidelity, the Savior of the world is placed in our hands every time we receive the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. St. Joseph’s decision to follow God’s will leads to our partaking of the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. Will our lives lead others to know God’s life-saving Hope?

O humble spouse of Mary, who faithfully obeyed the law of God, by your inspiration, may we receive the grace to respond to God’s call with fidelity and confidence. We place our hands at the service of Hope and our trust in the Holy Name of Jesus, at which ‘every knee shall bend, in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God, Jesus Christ is Lord’. (Phil 2:10)

Pray for us, blessed St. Joseph,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Almighty God,
In your infinite wisdom and love
you chose Joseph to be the husband of Mary,
the mother of your Son.
As we enjoy his protection on earth,
may we have the help of his prayers in heaven,
that we may be freed from all sin and die rejoicing with
the holy name of Jesus in our hearts and on our lips.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

St. Joseph, Obedient Sentinal

February 10, 2013

st. joseph and infant jesus

This second devotion of St. Joseph is encapsulated in the events of the infant’s birth in abject poverty and the angels heralding the child born on the glorious night: the sorrow of the birth in poverty and the joy of angelic exultation at the birth. St. Joseph, the guardian of the infant ‘foretold of the ages’ stands as the privileged witness of the birth of the Son of God. This will be one of many events where St. Joseph will be the quiet, obedient sentinel. From the devotion:

Journeying to Bethlehem for the census in obedience to the orders of legitimate authority, Joseph fulfilled for the child the significant task of officially inserting the name ‘Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth‘ (see Jn 1:45) in the registry of the Roman Empire. This registration clearly shows that Jesus belongs to the human race as a man among men, a citizen of this world, subject to laws and civil institutions, but also Savior of the World.

Joseph’s obedience gives Jesus his human birthright. But St. Joseph must have been very aware that his obedience to civil authorities in complying with the census led to the Savior being born in poverty. What loving father would not be in anguish in similar circumstances! But his faithful obedience was soon rewarded as he witnessed the angels’ hymn of glory to God, heard the shepherds’ story and saw the magi kneeling at the child’s feet. What loving father would not be in grateful awe at the wonder of God!

O Obedient Sentinel of the son of Mary, you show us that the way of obedience is an avenue of grace and joy. By our baptism, we are called to loving and faithful obedience, with Christ as our model. The obedience of Christ is an embrace of the Father’s will to serve unto death. Within the Pascal Mystery, obedience leads to hope. May all of us follow your example and respond to the Father’s will as disciples ‘chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Sprit for obedience to Jesus Christ’. (1Pt 1:2)

Pray for us, blessed St. Joseph,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Almighty God,
In your infinite wisdom and love
you chose Joseph to be the husband of Mary,
the mother of your Son.
As we enjoy his protection on earth,
may we have the help of his prayers in heaven,
particularly as we discern our chosen-ness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

st joseph and jesus
Dear Friends in Christ,

Today I began a Seven Sunday’s Devotion to St. Joseph for those who are discerning their vocation in life. This devotion is prayed on the seven Sundays before his feast day, March 19. Here is a brief excerpt from today’s devotion:

In the course of that pilgrimage of faith which was his life, Joseph, like Mary, remained faithful to God’s call until the end. While Mary’s life was the bringing of fullness of that fiat first spoken at the Annunciation, at the beginning of his own ‘annunciation’ he said nothing; instead he simply did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. (Mt 1:24). And this first ‘doing’ became the beginning of ‘Joseph’s way’.

I pray that we listen to God’s call in our life and then act in faith, placing our trust in Him who made us and loves us. May St. Joseph guide and guard us on this journey. As he did not know where the Lord would lead him, we also step out into the unknown, full of hope in Jesus Christ who promised ‘I am with you always, until the end of the age’. (Mt 28:20b)

O Chaste spouse of Mary, great was the trouble and anguish of your heart when you were considering quietly sending away your inviolate spouse; yet your joy was unspeakable when the surpassing mystery of the Incarnation was make known to you by an angel. By your complete self-sacrifice, you expressed your generous love for the Mother of God and your humble obedience to God. Through your example, may we be generous in our response to the Lord‘s promptings in our hearts.

Pray for us, blessed St. Joseph,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Almighty God,
In your infinite wisdom and love
you chose Joseph to be the husband of Mary,
the mother of your Son.
As we enjoy his protection on earth,
may we have the help of his prayers in heaven,
particularly as we discern our chosen-ness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

All Children are Loved by God

All Children are Loved by God

Most Rev. Joseph Strickland, Bishop of Tyler, is asking that all Catholics join in prayer on Tuesday, January 22, 2013, the 40th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the United States. Wherever you are at noon on Jan. 22, please pause to pray 40 Hail Mary’s that our society may move to a greater respect for the sanctity of life and an end to abortion. Let us support each other in prayerful thanksgiving for the truth that God revealed to us and let us call our neighbors to support the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

Here is a sitge where you will also find a Novena – Nine days of prayer, penance and pilgrimage, which is part of a pastoral initiative to help build a culture that is favorable to life, marriage and religious freedom. http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/january-roe-events/nine-days-of-prayer-penance-and-pilgrimage-marking-the-40th-anniversary-of-roe-v-wade.cfm
More information can be found at http://www.usccb.org/life-marriage-liberty.

You can also text “9days” to 99000 and the USCCB will send you daily messages/readings for the novena beginning January 19.

I ask all brothers and sisters in Christ and people of good will to join us in prayer at noon on January 22, using the prayer of your choice for the end of abortion and the respect for all life. You may find the novena a convenient and inspiring way to surround January 22 with prayer.

May God bless our nation –
Mother Susan Catherine, DDH

The Lord bless you and keep you:
The Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Num 6:24-26)
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving power among all nations. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee! (Ps 67: 1-3)

Amen. Alleluia.

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