Archive for the ‘St. Maximilian Kolbe’ Category

The Sorrowful Mysteries, Meditations on Vocation with the Saints

October 29, 2010

The 1st Sorrowful Mystery:
The Agony in the Garden

Years before Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Blessed Virgin Mary had an agony of her own, when the Archangel Gabriel came to announce to her that she would bear the Son of God. Mary was “greatly troubled,” and the angel sought to reassure her “Do not be afraid, Mary….” Even after the plan was presented to her, she must have been full of questions about her future, like “What will Joseph and my parents think?” But Mary answered, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word,” and because she said that, Jesus could say years later, “Father… not my will but yours be done.”

God has a plan for every life, and a calling, a “vocation,” meant for them. Accepting God’s plan for our lives can take great, trusting courage, but answering “Yes” to Him will do more good than we know. Let us pray for the grace, trust, and courage to say “Yes” to our own God-given callings.

The 2nd Sorrowful Mystery:
The Scourging at the Pillar

Father Damien went to the Hawaiian island of Molokai to minister the spiritual and bodily needs of lepers exiled there. Last year, in 2009, Father Damien was canonized a saint. But in 1889, six months after his death, the following letter was published in a Protestant Christian newspaper:

Dear Brother,

In answer to your inquires about Father Damien, I can only reply that we who knew the man are surprised at the extravagant newspaper laudations, as if he was a most saintly philanthropist. The simple truth is, he was a coarse, dirty man, headstrong and bigoted. He was not sent to Molokai, but went there without orders; did not stay at the leper settlement (before he became one himself), but circulated freely over the whole island (less than half the island is devoted to the lepers), and he came often to Honolulu. He had no hand in the reforms and improvements inaugurated, which were the work of our Board of Health, as occasion required and means were provided. He was not a pure man in his relations with women, and the leprosy of which he died should be attributed to his vices and carelessness. Other have done much for the lepers, our own ministers, the government physicians, and so forth, but never with the Catholic idea of meriting eternal life.

– Yours, etc., “C. M. Hyde”

Hyde’s comments are noted today only because they were so exquisitely answered in an open letter by Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island (1883) and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). Stevenson quite rightly wrote, “[If the world will] at all remember you, on the day when Damien of Molokai shall be named a Saint, it will be in virtue of one work: your letter to the Reverend H. B. Gage.” The whole reply, assessing Damien and rebuking Hyde, is worth your reading, but I will give you the closing words: “[Father Damien] is my father… and the father of all who love goodness; and he was your father too, if God had given you grace to see it.”

In yesterday’s gospel, Jesus asked, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” This is because when someone set about to do God’s will, the world, which opposes God, will attack that person. Criticisms will land on the just man like lashes on the back. Jesus said, “Woe to you when all speak well of you,” for ‘the world loves its own.’ If there is nothing very counter-cultural about your life, then you are not yet living out the Gospel as Christ calls you to do. Let us pray for the grace to be faithful to the Gospel, even at personal cost.

The 3rd Sorrowful Mystery:
The Crowning with Thorns

Once, when St. Maximillian Kolbe was a boy, his behavior began trying his mother’s patience. She said in exasperation, “Maximillian, what will become of you?” As St. Maximillian writes, “Later, that night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.” How bold of him to imagine, and how bolder still to ask, that he might receive them both. St. Maximillian would receive both crowns, as a holy Franciscan brother, and as a victim of the Nazis at Auschwitz, where he took the place of another innocent man who was condemned to die.

At yesterday’s Mass you heard that God, by His power, “is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine.” Yet we will receive little if we are too timid to imagine or ask much of Him. Let us pray for the grace to imagine and ask to be crowned by Christ with a life with far greater than whatever we would merely drift into on our own.

The 4th Sorrowful Mystery:
The Carrying of the Cross

In 1961, Gianna Molla was expecting another child. During her second month of pregnancy, a tumor developed in her uterus. She could have chosen to have her uterus removed—preserving her own life, but resulting in her baby’s death.  Instead, she chose to try having the tumor surgery removed. After the operation, complications continued throughout her pregnancy. Gianna told her family, “This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other—I want them to save my baby.” On Good Friday, 1962, Gianna gave birth to her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, but it was too late for the mother. St. Gianna Molla died one week later.

Naturally, we all hate to suffering, but if you were to ask St. Gianna Molla what was the greatest thing she ever did, the thing she least regrets and of which she is most proud, I bet she point to this final trial, carrying the cross for the life of her child. I suspect, that on the other side of death, we shall see how much good an offered suffering can do, and we will regret not having offered more. We should ask ourselves, would I rather live a great life, or merely an easy one. Let us pray for the grace to be a lasting blessing to others though the crosses that come our way.

The 5th Sorrowful Mystery:
The Crucifixion

We think of Mexico as one of the most Catholic countries there are, but in 1920’s, it was illegal to celebrate Mass there.  That did not stop priests like Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. from sneaking about to minister to people in their homes.  After many close calls, Fr. Pro was captured by police and condemned to death on false charges that he was somehow connected to a bombing assassination plot.

When he was led out for his execution by firing squad, Fr. Pro be blessed the soldiers, knelt and quietly prayed for a time. Declining a blindfold, he faced his executioners with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other and held his arms out in imitation of the crucified Christ and shouted, “May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, you know that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Just before the firing squad was ordered to shoot, he proclaimed, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) When the first shots failed to kill him, a soldier shot him point-blank. The government had a photographer on hand, capturing these moments for propaganda purposes, but soon after the images were published their possession was made illegal—a Catholic priest dying faithfully and bravely was an inspiration giving new life to a people oppressed.

At the end of the Rosary we pray, “O God… grant, we beseech Thee, that, meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.” If we are faithful to Christ, the mysteries of His life we be made manifest in our own. And if we are faithful to Christ, we will receive a glory similar to His own. Let us pray for the grace to live extraordinary lives in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

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The Glorious Mysteries, Meditations with the Saints

October 27, 2010

The 1st Glorious Mystery:
The Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead

St. John Bosco, an Italian priest, founded a famous school for boys in the mid-1800’s and is the patron saint of students. He is known to have worked many miracles, but one from 1849 stands out. Returning from a journey, he learned that Charles, a 15 year old student, had died. He went immediately to the teenager’s home where the family informed him that Charles had been dead for over 10 hours. The body was laid out in the living room, already dressed for burial.

Fr. Bosco asked everyone to leave except the mother and the aunt. After some time in silent prayer, he cried out: “Charles, rise!” Charles emitted a long sigh, stirred, opened his eyes, stared at his mother and asked, “Why did you dress me like this?” Then, realizing Fr. Bosco was present, he told him how he had cried out for him and how he had been waiting for him. He exclaimed, “Father, I should be in hell!” He told of how a few weeks before he had fallen into serious sin. Then he said he had a “dream” of being on the edge of a huge fiery furnace, and as he was about to be thrown into the flames, a beautiful lady appeared and prevented it. She said, “There is still hope for you, Charles. You have not yet been judged.” Then he heard the voice of Fr. Bosco calling him back.

Charles asked Fr. Bosco to hear his confession. After his confession, the mourners filled the room again, and Fr. Bosco said, “Charles, now that the gates of heaven lie wide open for you, would you rather go there or stay here with us?” A profound silence filled the room. Charles, with tears in his eyes said, “I’d rather go to heaven.” Then he leaned back on the pillows, closed his eyes and breathed his last.

Unless Jesus’ Second Coming happens first, each of us here will die, and rise. As we meditate on Jesus’ resurrection, let us consider how ready we are to meet Him.

The 2nd Glorious Mystery:
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.

St. Padre Pio is another Italian priest from not so long ago who also worked remarkable miracles. During WWII, Allied planes flew bombing raids over Italy. Almost all of the centers of the region were subjected to repeated bombardment, but no bombs ravaged the town of San Giovanni Rotondo. Every time the aviators approached that place, they saw a monk flying in the air who prevented them from dropping their bombs. Understandably, reports of this flying friar did not amuse the superior offices.

Bernardo Rosini, a general of the Italian Air Force, recounts this story: “One day, an American commander wanted to lead a squadron of bombers himself to destroy the German arms depository of war material that was located at San Giovanni Rotondo. The commander related that as he approached the target, he and his pilots saw rising in the sky the figure of a friar with his hands held outward. The bombs released of their own accord, falling in the woods, and the planes completely reversed course without any intervention by the pilots.”  

Someone told the commanding general that in a convent at this town, there lived a saintly man. At war’s end, the general wanted to go meet this person. “He was accompanied by several pilots… He went to the convent of the Capuchins. As soon as he crossed the threshold of the sacristy, he found himself in front of several friars, among whom he immediately recognized the one who had ‘stopped’ his planes. Padre Pio went forward to meet him, and putting his hand on his shoulder, he said, `So, you’re the one who wanted to get rid of us all!’”

As we meditate on the Ascension of Jesus, to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, let us pray that He would establish justice and peace, in this country and the whole world, in our time.

The 3rd Glorious Mystery:
The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

We usually don’t associate India with Christianity, but that nation has over 24 million Christians.  That’s about as many people as live in Texas, our second largest state. If you were to ask them how the faith reached their land they would point to St. Thomas the Apostle.

What led St. Thomas, who at first refused to even believe in the Good News, to travel over 2,500 miles to bring them the Gospel? It was not merely seeing the risen Christ. Jesus knew His disciples would need more to strengthen them then merely their memories of Him. St. Thomas journeyed because the Lord had sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to fill them with gifts, like wisdom, courage, and zeal.

If we are in the state of grace, God the Holy Spirit dwells in us too, and He wants to empower us with His gifts. As we meditate on the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, let us pray for whatever spiritual gift that we need the most.

The 4th Glorious Mystery:
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

No Church, in the East or the West, claims to contain the body of St. Mary. This is because “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This is because Jesus would not suffer Mary, His sinless, faithful beloved, to undergo corruption.

Death is a consequence of human sin, and without human intervention, as in embalming or mummification, our dead bodies will ordinarily experience its corruption. But, sometimes, the Lord preserves the dead bodies of his saints, to give a sign of their holiness, and to show that death is not all that awaits us.

Among the numerous saints whose incorrupt bodies you can still see today are:  St. John Bosco, St. John Vianney, St. Catherine Laboure (the visionary of the Miraculous Medal), St. Bernadette Soubirous (the visionary of Lourdes), and St. Maria Goretti.

As we meditate on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, let us pray for purity in our lives.

The 5th Glorious Mystery:
The Coronation of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth

Once, when St. Maximillian Kolbe was a boy, his behavior began trying his mother’s patience. She said in exasperation, “Maximillian, what will become of you?” As St. Maximillian writes, “Later, that night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.” St. Maximillian would receive both crowns, as a holy Franciscan brother, and as a victim of the Nazis at Auschwitz, were he took the place of another innocent man who was condemned to die.

Jesus crowns his holy ones. He wills that those who share in His sacrifice should also share in His glory. As we meditate on the Coronation of Mary, let us pray to accept whatever crowns of burden and glory the Lord wants to give to us.

Checkout Catholic Movies

July 14, 2010

Did you know the St. Vincent DePaul Society just two blocks from St. John’s (location) has a library of Christian movies, books, and CD’s free for checkout? Pick up the films below for a spiritually edifying and entertaining evening:

The Ten Commandments (1956, VHS, 219 min)
Moses faces Pharoah demanding “Let my people go!”
+ Charleton Heston, Yul Brynner, and a cast of thousands
+ Regarded as the greatest Biblical epic of all-time
+ In *Technicolor*!

For another film about a great shepherd of God’s people, I recommend…

John Paul II (2005, DVD, 180 min)
A dramatic biography about Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II
+ Regarded as the best drama about the Great Pope
+ Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) plays the young Wojtyla
+ Jon Voight stars as Pope John Paul II
— The latter half is better; I suggest skipping to the conclave

For another film about a character who becomes a new man midway into the film, I recommend…

Becket (1964, VHS,  150 min)
St. Thomas Becket’s conversion makes him King Henry II’s enemy
+ Good dialogue, verbal sparring
+ A great excommunication scene
+ Teaches that personal conversion is possible

For another film with another English Thomas crossing with another King Henry, I most highly recommend…

A Man for All Seasons (1966, DVD, 120 min)
St. Thomas More’s conviction makes him King Henry VIII’s enemy
+ Won Best Picture, Actor, Director, Cinematography
— This title can be mistaken for another starring Charlton Heston
+ Brilliant dialogue, drawn from More’s own words
+ My all-time favorite film, it’s almost perfect…
— Gives More a pride at heart inconsistent with his character
+ Teaches the awesomeness and the attractiveness of virtue

For another film about religious conviction not bowing to the politics of the age, I recommend…

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005, DVD, 117 min)
A German girl is arrested for writing against the Nazis during WWII
— Subtitled
+ The lead actress is captivating
+ Great verbal combat throughout the interrogation and trial
— Ends sadly, like A Man for All Seasons
+ Shows times can cloud truth, but that conscience still speaks

For another film about another Christian who heroically resisted the Nazis, I suggest…

Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz (1995, VHS, 76 min)
St. Maximilian Kolbe is a knight for Mary in a darkened age
+ All roles are interestingly played by one man, Leonardo Defilippis
— The recurring theme music is not bad, but overplayed
+ Satan’s speeches are enjoyable in a Screwtape Letters way
— A tad too preachy by way of the masonic, communist, Nazi foes
+ Presents the value and power of Marian devotion

For another film by Defilippis about a saint whose faith was a spiritual romance, I suggest…

John of the Cross (1997, VHS, 60 min)
A Spanish mystic seeks God and reform with St. Teresa of Avila
+ Leonardo and Patti Defilippis play all of the major roles
+ Gives a taste of John’s spirituality, quoting his Spiritual Canticle

For another film by Defilippis about a Carmalite Doctor of the Church, I suggest…

Therese (2004, DVD 96 min)
Thérèse of Lisieux’s story, the most popular saint of modern times.
+ Anyone with a fondness for her will gain from this movie
+ The lead actress, whom Providence led to this production, shines
— Criticized for not being as good as it should have been
— One gets no clear sense of her simple, “Little Way” spirituality
+ This film increases one’s love for this great, little saint

For another film about a holy nun’s experiences in the convent, I recommend…

Faustina (1994, DVD, 75 min)
Jesus tells a Polish nun, St. Faustina, to proclaim Divine Mercy
— Subtitled
+ A work of art of profound depth
+ Her love for Jesus and message of mercy are communicated well
+ Teaches that Jesus’ Mercy embraces all willing to receive it

For another film about supernatural phenomena and the value of suffering, I recommend…

Padre Pio: Miracle Man (2000, DVD, 214 min)
St. Padre Pio bears Christ’s wounds, reads souls, & battles Satan
— Subtitled; English is optional but its voices and dialogue are poor
— Long, 3 hours and 34 minutes, presented in two halfs.
+ Great scenes, like the actresses’ confession and His spiritual battles
+ Teaches, among other lessons, that holiness is manly

For another film about a Franciscan priest with amazing spiritual gifts, I recommend…

The Reluctant Saint: The Story of St. Joseph of Cupertino (1962, VHS, 104 min)
An unintelligent man rises to the heights of sanctity
— Black and white
+ Joseph is played handsomely and enduringly
+ Rather funny, if you are in a fun mood
— Runs about fifteen minutes longer than it needs to
+ Shows a little of the old ritual for exorcism, which is interesting
+ Teaches that God takes the weak and makes them strong

For another film about a simple mystic who was doubted in their day, I recommend…

The Song of Bernadette (1943, DVD or VHS 158 min)
St. Bernadette Soubirous’ sees Mary appear in Lourdes, France
— Black and white
+ Jennifer Jones, at her most innocent, in a Best Actress role
+ Vincent Price (Thriller) plays the skeptic
+ Teaches that God is still real and found among the small

For another film about the life of the Visionary of Lourdes, I recommend…

The Passion of Bernadette (1989, VHS, 106 min)
St. Bernadette Soubirous’ life after entering the convent
+ Sydney Penny reprises her role as Bernadette
+ Shows that humility is beautiful

For another film about a great French saint, I recommend…

Monsieur Vincent (1947, DVD, 114 min)
St. Vincent DePaul grows in his understanding and care of the poor
— Subtitled
— Black and white
+ Gritty, yet beautiful
+ Well crafted characters
+ Teaches us to love our neighbor as ourself

For another film about charity and our resposibility to the poor, I highly recommend…

Entertaining Angels: The Dorthy Day Story (1996, VHS, 112 min)
Dorthy Day’s journey from communist to Catholic humanitarian
+ Stars Moira Kelly (The Cutting Edge) and Martin Sheen
+ Heather Graham (Austin Powers 2) does surprisingly good acting
— Contains an historical, non-graphic nor explicit abortion subplot
+ Teaches that life’s meaning is in committed personal life

For another film with an American, pro-life message, I highly recommend…

Bella (2006, DVD, 91 min)
A man with emotional scars helps a friend through a crisis
— Not a true story
+ Rich characters
+ Shows that life is beautiful, in every sense of the word

For another film about escaping prisons of the heart, I recommend…

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002, VHS, 131 min)
A falsely-condemned Frenchmen escapes prison and plots revenge
— Not a true story
+ Stars Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) charmingly
+ Richard Harris (Harry Potter) portrays a good Christian
+ In a great scene, a fight to the death has a surprising end
+ Explores the Problem of Evil vs. Providence in a powerful way

For another film about an imposter who gradually becomes a real hero, I recommend……

Meet John Doe (1941, DVD, 122 min)
A feel good movie about American values and the little guy
+ This film is in the public domain; click above to watch it now
— Black and white
— Not a true story
+ Directed by Frank Capra (It’s A Wonderful Life)
+ Teaches about the enduring strength of the little guy