Catholic Exchange: Why Study the Works of Saint Augustine?

Saint Augustine, whose feast day is celebrated by the universal Church on August 28th , is “the greatest Father of the Latin Church”, according to many Popes, but in this instance Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He was a man who underwent a radical conversion, and whose intellect and skill as a pastor and theologian, left a profound impact on Christianity as a whole and Western civilization. In Saint Augustine, the undercurrents of Western Culture, its philosophical and theological influences, and the past and present meet in his works. His additions to Catholic thought in both philosophy and theology continue to shape the minds of members of the Church and non-Catholics alike. His Confessions are still considered one of the greatest works of literature in Western civilization. He is read in the classrooms of both secular and Catholic universities. Pope Paul VI said of him, “It may be said that all the thought-currents of the past meet in his works and form the source which provides the whole doctrinal tradition of succeeding ages.”

Augustine was born in Tagaste in the Roman Province of Numidia in Africa on November 13, 354. His father, Patricius, was a pagan and his mother, whom we know as St. Monica, was a devout Christian. There is little doubt that the fervent prayer, fasting, and devotion of St. Monica had a great influence on St. Augustine’s eventual conversion to Christianity. As is often the case on the journey to truth, Augustine’s life was impacted through the works of a non-Christian, in this instance, the pagan Cicero. When Augustine went to study in Carthage, he read Cicero’s, Hortensius. In hisConfessions, Augustine explains his response to Cicero, “The book changed my feelings…every vain hope became empty to me, and I longed for the immortality of wisdom with an incredible ardor in my heart.”

After reading Cicero, Augustine began to read Scripture because he came to believe that Jesus Christ was the only answer. He knew that while the wisdom of Cicero was a starting place, it was incomplete and erroneous in many areas. Augustine’s first introduction to Scripture did not go well. He found it unsatisfying and the Latin style of the translation of Sacred Scripture was lacking in many regards. He was deeply disappointed in his first reading and study of Scripture.

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Catholic Exchange: Ecclesia de Eucharistia, St. John Paul II on the Eucharist

Today is the feast of St. John Paul II. On this day, it is fitting to look at his writing on the Holy Eucharist since it was the center of his life and it is the center of the Church. His devotion to the Eucharist was evident to those who were at Mass with him or who saw him during Eucharistic Adoration. Jason Everet quoted an observer in his book St. John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, “He lingered lovingly over every syllable that recalled the Last Supper as if the words were new to him.” He would follow the words of Consecration with profound genuflection. Everet goes on to explain that John Paul became a priest precisely because of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, “For me, the Mass constitutes the center of my life and my every day…nothing means more to me or gives me greater joy than to celebrate Mass each day and to serve God’s people in the Church.” It should come as no surprise given his great love for the Holy Eucharist, that he devoted an encyclical to the topic.

On April 17, 2003, which was Holy Thursday, then Pope John Paul II promulgated his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church. It is a rich, profound, and beautiful reflection on the theological connection between the Eucharist and the Church. It is an encyclical worth reading and praying with over and over again. It begins:

The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfillment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity.

Ecclesia de Eucharistia 1

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Catholic Exchange: St. Therese of Lisieux Teaches Us to Live Simply in Great Love

St. Therese of Lisieux was born on January 2, 1873 in Alencon, France. Her parents Louis and Zelie Guerin Martin are to be canonized by Pope Francis later this month. They had nine children, but only five survived to adulthood. The survivors were all girls and eventually every single one would enter into religious life. Therese did struggle early on with her health, but she became stronger as time went on. Therese and her sisters were greatly blessed in the pious home their parents kept. They lived simply, but in great devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady. Zelie died of breast cancer when Therese was four years old and it began the saddest years of her life. She became overly sensitive and cried easily. This would be her battle for ten years, when at fourteen, she found the grace and strength to overcome this oversensitivity and truly began to live her journey of spiritual freedom.

Louis Martin sacrificed and served his daughters in order to provide what they needed after their mother’s death, including spiritual and emotional support. Therese often went on picnics, fishing, walking, to visit the Blessed Sacrament, and on vacations with her father. He called her his “little queen” and while he doted on her, he did so without spoiling her. In turn, she greatly admired and loved her father. This relationship between Therese and Louis played a foundational role for her future in religious life.

Therese had desired to be a nun starting at the age of three. It became a certainty at the age of fourteen and she was convinced that it was time to enter the convent. It was difficult for Louis to give up all of his daughters to the convent, but he knew Therese’s vocation and while sad, he supported her decision. Her age was not an issue for the nuns, but she had to convince her uncle and the bishop that she was mature enough to enter into religious life. She had no answer by the time Louis took Celine, her sister, and her on a pilgrimage to Rome. While there on November 20, 1887 they had a papal audience. They were forbidden from speaking to the Holy Father, but Therese could not resist. She knelt before the holy father with tears streaming down her face and said: “Holy Father, I have a favor to ask you….In honor of your jubilee, permit me to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen.” The people in attendance were stunned and irritated by her outburst, but the Holy Father responded: “Well, my child, do what the superiors tell you!” St. Therese was not deterred. “Oh! Holy Father. If you say yes, everybody will agree!” He said, “Go, go, you will enter if God wills it.” She would have persisted, but a priest and guards had her removed. Such was the determination of Therese to enter the convent. She left Rome dejected, sure that she had failed in her mission. She did not know that her zeal had impressed many. While she experienced opposition, her dream became a reality, and at the age of fifteen she entered the Lisieux Carmel.

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Liturgical Living: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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I am slowly starting to incorporate the liturgical calendar into our lives.  My husband and I did not grow up that way, so we are learning as we go.  Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Since I work in pro-life ministry and help women in crisis pregnancy, she is very dear to me as the Patroness of the Unborn, and the Americas.

 
For this Feast Day, I am going to make a Mexican (an American version, really) Taco Salad for dinner.  I like tailoring meals to feast days.  Perhaps I will cook more authentic meals once I get the hang of remembering certain feast days.  We will then read the story of St. Juan Diego (whose feast day is December 9th) and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It is a beautiful story.  I actually have a friend who went to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a pilgrimage this week.  What a blessing for her!
 
I will also dedicate my daily Rosary to her and to the protection of the unborn and healing for victims of abortion.
 
Since I am new to liturgical living, I will keep things simple.  Do you have traditions for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe?  I am always looking for ideas.  Advent blessings!  Our Lady of Guadalupe, ora pro nobis.