Thursday, March 28, 2019
Mid-Lent Thursday Exhortation from the Mozarabic Rite

Cathedral in Seville, Spain

Today, Thursday in the Third Week of Lent, is the happy mid-point of our Lenten observance. For those of us who are observing the time-honored custom of fasting, today is the 20th day of the Great Fast. We have 20 more days to persevere in penance to prepare ourselves for Holy Easter.

Have you grown lax? Have you not made as much spiritual progress as you hoped? Have you not done enough fasting, enough abstinence, enough penance, enough spiritual reading, enough extra praying, enough extra Masses, or enough almsgiving?

There is no reason to fret if you have grown lax. Now is the time for us to renew our vigor and march forward to Easter with greater resolve to make reparation for sins.

The Mozarabic Liturgy offers for us this day a beautiful exhortation that Dom Gueranger in his "Liturgical Year," shares in the Volume on Lent, Page 290:
Looking forward, dearly beloved brethren, to the hope of the Passion and Resurrection of the Son of God, as also to the manifestation of the glory of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: resume your strength and courage. Be not daunted by the labour you have to go through, but remember the solemnity of the holy Pasch, for which you are so ardently longing. One half of holy Lent is over: you have gone through the difficulties of the past, why should you not be courageous about the future fast? Jesus who deigned to suffer fatigue for our sake, will give strength to them that are fatigued. He that granted us to begin the past, will enable us to complete the future. Children! He will be with us to assist us, who wishes us to hope for the glory of His Passion. Amen.

Dom Gueranger also notes the following regarding today's mid-Lent point in the Roman Rite:

This day brings us to the middle of Lent, and is called mid-Lent Thursday. It is the twentieth of the forty fasts imposed upon us, at this holy season, by the Church. The Greeks call the Wednesday of this week Mesonestios, that is, the mid-fast. They give this name to the entire week, which, in their liturgy, is the fourth of the seven that form their Lent. But the Wednesday is, with them, a solemn feast, and a day of rejoicing, whereby they animate themselves to courage during the rest of the season. The Catholic nations of the west, though they do not look on this day as a feast, have always kept it with some degree of festivity and joy. The Church of Rome has countenanced the custom by her own observance of it; but, in order not to give a pretext to dissipation, which might interfere with the spirit of fasting, she postpones to the following Sunday the formal expression of this innocent joy, as we shall see further on. Yet, it is not against the spirit of the Church that this mid-day of Lent should be marked by some demonstration of gladness; for example, by sending invitations to friends, as our Catholic forefathers used to do; and serving up to table choicer and more abundant food than on other days of Lent, taking care, however, that the laws of the Church are strictly observed. But alas! how many even of those calling themselves Catholics have been breaking, for the past twenty days, these laws of abstinence and fasting! Whether the dispensations they trust to be lawfully or unlawfully obtained, the joy of mid-Lent Thursday scarcely seems made for them. To experience this joy, one must have earned and merited it, by penance, by privations, by bodily mortifications; which is just what so many, nowadays, cannot think of doing. Let us pray for them, that God would enlighten them, and enable them to see what they are bound to do, consistently with the faith they profess.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Catholics Look to a Unified Ireland Post-Brexit

While out celebrating the life and work of St. Patrick, I picked up a copy of The Irish Herald published on the West Coast (Volume 57, No. 07). As I sat drinking my Guinness I was rather intrigued by the headline story as Northern Ireland may not be as non-Catholic as Americans may think.  Here were some interesting excerpts from that piece:
Support for uniting Ireland has risen dramatically on both sides on the Irish border in large part because of the calamitous Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016. While jingoistic British politicians were urging their public to leave the European Union and enter the promised land of a 'free and independent' UK, precious little consideration was given to the impact such a move might have on either the south or the north of Ireland. The more things change the more they stay the same... 
Since the partition of Ireland in 1921, Catholics in the north have been subjected to human and civil rights abuses and have been treated as second class citizens. The GFA [Good Friday Agreement] was supposed to end all that but intransigence from the unionist body politic, notably from the Democratic Unionist Party, the largest unionist party, has prevented many important remedies contained in the GFA from becoming reality. 
In 1921 the Catholic population of the six counties that make up 'Northern Ireland' was a mere 35 percent, and it was that way by design. The partition was never supposed to end. The border, which has become the singular focus of the entire Brexit exercise, is proof of that. All 310 miles of it, winding it's way through farms, parishes and townlands, was drawn up in the way which would exclude the most Catholics. The intention was undeniable. Lord Carigavon the North's first Prime Minister proudly declared as his slogan: 'A Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people.' 
But as they say, nothing lasts forever. Shifting demographics have put the unity question at the top of the agenda. In the last census Catholics (who predominantly favor a united Ireland) made up 45 percent of the population while Protestants (who tend to support the union with Britain) made up 48 percent. A deeper look into those statistics reveals that he protestant population will still makes up almost two thirds of those over 65, whereas in the younger age groups Catholics now make up the majority. 
'It's a massive demographic shift. In five to ten years there'll be a Catholic majority in Northern Ireland,' said Peter Shirlow, director of the University of Liverpool's Institute of Irish Studies. It will take a few more years for this overall majority to translate into an electoral majority, 'but a majority for a united Ireland is going to happen, (there is) no doubt about that,' added Shirlow.
Monday, March 18, 2019
St. Joseph, First Among the Saints After the Blessed Virgin Mary

In honor of tomorrow's feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I wish to share an insight I recently learned on the unique position of Saint Joseph amongst the saints. 

Whereas among the saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary is in a category to herself, after her comes St. Joseph as first among the saints. This position is not mere pious devotion but is based on the theological classification of St. Joseph with the word protodulia as Fr Broom explains:
The theologians classify the greatness of those in glory with the following titles: “Latria”, which means adoration that we give to the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “Hyperdulia” given to the Blessed Virgin Mary means the highest veneration. “Dulia”, given to the saints, implies veneration. Finally, Glorious Saint Joseph is rightly given “Protodulia”, meaning that among the saints he is given first place; “Proto” means first!
St. Joseph is ranked even before the Apostles themselves! Fr. Broom continues:
Saint Bernadine of Siena expounds upon the reason for this theological hierarchy. In simple terms, this Franciscan Doctor of the Church asserts that God gives special graces commensurate or corresponding to the specific office or mission given to the individual. 
Husband and wife married sacramentally have the sacramental grace of Matrimony to grow in mutual love for each other as well as to procreate children for the Kingdom of God. Priests, through Holy Orders, can grow daily in sanctity by preaching the Word of God and administering with joy the Sacraments to the People of God. God gives graces corresponding to the state of life! 
Therefore, in the case of Glorious Saint Joseph, God entrusted this greatest of all saints with two sublime missions; one mission even greater than the other. First, St. Joseph God called to be the spouse (husband) of the Queen of the angels and saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary. How sublime!  
However, God the Father entrusted Glorious Saint Joseph with an even more exalted and sublime mission—namely, the Office of being the “Foster Father” of the Son of the living God, Jesus, and the Son of the eternal Father!!!! This is even more sublime, ineffable, beyond the ability of human words to express! 
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Lenten Ember Fast

The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week are the Lenten Ember Days - a time set aside for us to fast and abstain from meat.

Ember Days are set aside to pray and/or offer thanksgiving for a good harvest and God's blessings. If you are in good health, please at least fast during these three days and pray the additional prayers the Church asks for at this time. Remember the words from the Gospel: "Unless you do penance, you shall likewise perish" (Luke 13:5). 

Ember Days are days of fasting and abstinence from meat. Even if the fasting is no longer required by modern Catholic Church, since this Friday is during Lent, this is no exception to the requirement to abstain from meat this Friday.

From New Advent:

Ember days (corruption from Lat. Quatuor Tempora, four times) are the days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence. They were definitely arranged and prescribed for the entire Church by Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after 13 December (S. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday, and after 14 September (Exaltation of the Cross). The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. The immediate occasion was the practice of the heathens of Rome. The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class.

At the beginning of the time for seeding and harvesting religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage, and in December for the seeding; hence their feriae sementivae, feriae messis, and feri vindimiales. The Church, when converting heathen nations, has always tried to sanctify any practices which could be utilized for a good purpose. At first the Church in Rome had fasts in June, September, and December; the exact days were not fixed but were announced by the priests. The "Liber Pontificalis" ascribes to Pope Callistus (217-222) a law ordering: the fast, but probably it is older. Leo the Great (440-461) considers it an Apostolic institution. When the fourth season was added cannot be ascertained, but Gelasius (492-496) speaks of all four. This pope also permitted the conferring of priesthood and deaconship on the Saturdays of ember week--these were formerly given only at Easter.

Before Gelasius the ember days were known only in Rome, but after his time their observance spread. They were brought into England by St. Augustine; into Gaul and Germany by the Carlovingians. Spain adopted them with the Roman Liturgy in the eleventh century. They were introduced by St. Charles Borromeo into Milan. The Eastern Church does not know them. The present Roman Missal, in the formulary for the Ember days, retains in part the old practice of lessons from Scripture in addition to the ordinary two: for the Wednesdays three, for the Saturdays six, and seven for the Saturday in December. Some of these lessons contain promises of a bountiful harvest for those that serve God.

From Catholic Culture:
Since man is both a spiritual and physical being, the Church provides for the needs of man in his everyday life. The Church's liturgy and feasts in many areas reflect the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, fall and winter). The months of August, September, October and November are part of the harvest season, and as Christians we recall God's constant protection over his people and give thanksgiving for the year's harvest.

The September Ember Days were particularly focused on the end of the harvest season and thanksgiving to God for the season. Ember Days were three days (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) set aside by the Church for prayer, fasting and almsgiving at the beginning of each of the four seasons of the year. The ember days fell after December 13, the feast of St. Lucy (winter), after the First Sunday of Lent (spring), after Pentecost Sunday (summer), and after September 14 , the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (fall). These weeks are known as the quattor tempora, the "four seasons."

Since the late 5th century, the Ember Days were also the preferred dates for ordination of  priests. So during these times the Church had a threefold focus: (1) sanctifying each new season by turning to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving; (2) giving thanks to God for the various harvests of each season; and (3) praying for the newly ordained and for future vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

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