Category Archives: Pastor’s Note

Christian Unity in the Experience of the Cross

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for January 24, 2016)

The yearly Octave Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is always held between the dates of January 18th-25th.  It falls, significantly, between two feasts of the Princes of the Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul: January 18th, formerly the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome, and January 25th, the Conversion of St. Paul. This is a reminder to us that the unity for which we pray is a unity centered on the Person of Jesus Christ in His Church founded on the authority He gave to His Apostles.  It is not a vague, sentimental thing.

One of the expressed goals of the Council Fathers at Vatican II was to further the cause for Christian unity and the healing of historic divisions.  In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) the Fathers declared:

These Christians [not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church] are indeed in some real way joined to us in the Holy Spirit for, by His gifts and graces, His sanctifying power is also active in them and He has strengthened some of them even to the shedding of their blood.  And so the Spirit stirs up desires and actions in all of Christ’s disciples in order that all may be peaceably united, as Christ ordained, in one flock under one shepherd.  Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may be achieved, and she exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the Church. (Lumen Gentium 15)

One of the ways in which Christian unity has been realized in a way that rises above the divisions is in the shared experience of the Cross among Catholics, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant in the persecutions of modern times.  In his homily at the canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs Charles Lwanga and Companions, Pope Paul VI explicitly acknowledged the blood martyrdom of the Anglican Christians who had died in the same persecutions (1885-1887): “Nor should we forget those others, of the Anglican communion, who died for the sake of Christ.”

In his memoir of how he survived Soviet Communist captivity, My Thirty-third Year: a Catholic Priest in the Gulag (A.D. 1958), Gerhard Fittkau, a parish priest from German East Prussia, describes his friendship with a Protestant Pastor Theodor Goebel whom he encountered in the prison camp barracks.  The two clergymen, Catholic and Evangelical, formed a close bond of Christian fellowship both to support one another and to try to minister to their fellow captives under the extreme conditions of the Siberian Gulag.

During Holy Week 1945 they agreed to have clandestine services, where one would preach to the barracks on Good Friday and the other on Easter Sunday.  Fr. Fittkau recounts the message of Pastor Goebel’s Good Friday sermon:

The only sound beside the pastor’s voice was the crackling of wood in the barrel stove.  He praised the mercy of Christ in forgiving the Good Thief, opening heaven to him in his last hour by the merits of His own innocent suffering.  He invited his listeners to join the Good Thief and abandon the blasphemous thought that was the devil’s temptation to us now: the thought of blaming God for all this suffering.  To place such blame was to make man as if he were God and to hide the great sin of mankind which is unbelief.  We should rather lay that sin before Him by sincere searching of our consciences.  The pastor closed his sermon with a prayer to Our Lord to be with us in our desperate condition and to say to us also when our hour would come, ‘This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.’

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

The “Call”

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for January 17, 2016)

The Gospel Lesson for this Sunday relates the First Public Miracle that Jesus did, changing the water into wine at the Wedding
Feast of Cana. In concluding the story, St. John emphasizes that this was a sign which strengthened the belief of the first group of Jesus’ disciples in Him: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” (John 2:11)

In the Church’s understanding of discipleship, there is the primary and necessary vocation to believe in Christ, receive His Baptism, and become a member of His visible Church on earth. It is necessary to make use of the grace God has given us to save our own soul. Within the life of the Church, however, there is also recognized, in addition to the call to live out our baptismal vows, that distinctive way of life which is a continuation of the call of Christ to specific individuals to leave their former way of life in order to follow Him completely. “And Jesus said to Simon [Peter]: Do not be afraid: henceforth thou shalt be a fisher of men. And when they had brought their boats to land, they left all and followed Him.” (Luke 5:11) We see this call being lived out in our midst through the ministry of the ordained and the various institutes of consecrated life.

I want to recognize the men from our parish who are presently responding to that inner call they have felt to serve Christ and His Church by leaving the life of “the world” for the life of religion.

Among the men ordained to the transitional diaconate by Cardinal Sean on January 9th, was one of the men sponsored by our parish, Stephen LeBlanc. Deacon LeBlanc is currently serving at St. Joseph Parish in Medway. I am hopeful that he will be able to diaconate at one of our Sunday Masses in the near future and then after his ordination to the priesthood in May, he will celebrate his Mass here at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.

As you can see from our front-cover this week, parishioner Cameron MacKenzie has moved a step further in testing his religious vocation with the Brothers of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, by entering into the novitiate and taking a new name in religion as Brother Martin de Porres.

On the Vigil of Christmas, Paul Juhasz, brother and brother-in-law of parishioners Chris and Sharon Juhasz, entered the novitiate of the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey in California. He also took a new name in religion: Frater (Brother) Gerard Sagredo, patron of Budapest, Hungary. (Paul was a full parishioner here at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes during his senior year in high school.)

Deacon Jon Tveit—former parishioner, sacristan and cantor—was ordained for the Archdiocese of New York last fall and will be ordained to the priesthood this spring. Also, at various stages of seminary formation are parish men studying for the Archdiocese of Boston, Brian O’Hanlon and Earl Smith, and Tyler Molisse, who is in his first year with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Vocation and the Universal Call to Holiness

Pope Francis chose to begin his Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy on the 50th Anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council (December 8th, 1965).   In doing so he clearly wished to link the course of his Papacy to the legacy of that ecumenical Council.   Pope Francis, it may be noted, is the first Pope who was ordained to the priesthood after Vatican II.   His own personal chronology crosses the divide of the before-and-after, the pre-conciliar and the post-conciliar Church.

Broadly speaking, two “schools of thought” have emerged from within the Church over the past half-century on the meaning of that Council.   One school argues for the “hermeneutic (i.e., the interpretation) of continuity” with regard to the Council.   However much Catholicism seems to have changed, it continues on as before, Vatican II having been a catalyst for legitimate reforms.   The turmoil in the Church is blamed on abuses of the conciliar reforms, and on the influence of secularism which undermines all religious belief.

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, who was one of the theological advisers present at the Second Vatican Council, was a proponent of the “hermeneutic of continuity”.   We may see in his 2007 Motu Propio “Summorum Pontificum an example of this.   He granted liberty to the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass in the Church—the “Extraordinary Form”—while still maintaining the liturgical reforms of Pope Paul VI as the “Ordinary Form” of the Roman Rite.

The other school of thought, the so-called “Bologna School”, has the opposite view of the legacy of the Second Vatican Council.   They see not continuity in the Roman Catholic Church, but rupture—and they think of that as a good thing.   A very good thing.   The three year event of that 1960s Council freed the Church, as they see it, from the hide-bound attachment to Tradition which had been “stifling the Spirit” for so long and turning the Catholic Church into a Fortress instead of allowing it to move out into the world, the better to engage it.   For the advocates of the “Bologna School”, Pope Francis is their man.

The Angelus
The Angelus (1857–59) by Jean-François Millet

One of the chief themes of the Second Vatican Council, perhaps the chief theme, however, was the “universal call to holiness”.   This was explicitly addressed in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, approved by the Council Fathers in 1964:

“The Church, whose mystery is set forth by this sacred Council, is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy.   This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as ‘alone holy,’ loved the Church as His Bride, giving Himself up for her so as to sanctify her (cf. Eph. 5:25-26); He joined her to Himself as His body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.   Therefore all in the Church, whether they belong to the hierarchy or are cared for by it, are called to holiness, according to the Apostle’s saying: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’ (I Thess. 4:3; cf Ep. 1:4) (LG 39)”

“It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society. (LG 40)”

This therefore is the primary and necessary vocation for every Christian person: the “universal call to holiness”, which is another way of saying the fulfillment of our baptismal vows.   All other vocations and courses in life must follow from it and draw refreshment for it as water from a deep and inexhaustible well.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for January 3, 2016

Christmas in Africa

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for December 27, 2015)

Fr. Desire Salako sent me Christmas greetings from Liberia with the good news that, with the money we gave him as a parish gift they have been able to get their solar-powered generator and are also digging their well.  I am happy to share with you Fr. Salako’s message and photographs of these two projects.  We are still holding the money for his parish truck until he gives us the “okay” to send it.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Bonjour, Pere:

I received on Monday the money for the solar and the well.  I have just finish to install the solar.  It is working under the sun of Africa.  Thanks!  May God bless you!

We are working hard to dig the well.  By the grace of God, at Christmas, water will flow.  You offer me water, may God’s blessing be poured out on you.  Merry Christmas to you and the entire community of Immaculate.  I miss the community.  Thanks!

We closed in the Seminary-College yesterday.  I will start the pastoral of Christmas by the visit of my outstations.  Here the weather is dry with dust.  It is what we call Harmattan.  The weather announces in Africa Christmas.  There is joy on the faces of people.  Here too, we are waiting for our Lord: the same in Newton and here in Liberia.

Fr. Desire Salako, SMA

The “Hail Mary”

The Madonna of Humility
Detail from “The Madonna of Humility” by Fra Angelico (A.D. 1433-35). Our Lady holds two flowers in a vase, a red rose for Motherhood and a white lily for Purity: the Christ Child holds a lily in His hand. This painting is located in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for December 20, 2015)

After the “Our Father”, the “Hail Mary” is the most the familiar prayer to us as Catholics, so familiar that we take it for granted that the prayer has always existed as we say it now. This, however, is not so. The elaboration of the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary at the Annunciation, “Hail [Mary], full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women,” into a full fledged prayer of petition, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen,” came out of the life of the Church. It was not until the Roman Breviary issued in 1568 (following the Council of Trent) that the Catholic Church gave official recognition to the form of the Ave Maria known so well to us.

It is a prayer in three parts. 1) Gabriel’s greeting (Luke 1:28), 2) St. Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, “And blessed is the fruit of thy womb [Jesus]” (Luke 1:42), and 3) The Church’s prayer of petition.

In explaining the Church’s addition of the prayer of petition to the greeting of Our Lady the Catechism of the Council of Trent states the following:

Most rightly has the Holy Church of God added to this thanksgiving, petition also and the invocation of the most holy Mother of God, thereby implying that we should piously and suppliantly have recourse to her in order that by her intercession she may reconcile God with us sinners and obtain for us the blessings which we need both for this present life and for the life which has no end.

In searching for the origins of the Hail Mary in the first millennium of the Church we find it in the growth of personal devotion to the Mother of God among the faithful. It is not until the turn of the millennium, however, that we have evidence of the devotional formula clearly being used by Catholics. For example, Abbot Baldwin, a Cistercian monk who became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1184, wrote of the Ave Maria:

To this salutation of the Angel, by which we daily greet the Most Blessed Virgin, with such devotion as we may, we are accustomed to add the words, ‘and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,’ by which clause Elizabeth at a later time, on hearing the Virgin’s salutation to her, caught up and completed, as it were, the Angel’s words, saying: ‘Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.’

Since the Ave Maria was a solemn greeting of an august personage, in these centuries people said it with a gesture of reverence, for example, bending the knee in genuflection. It is recorded of King St. Louis of France (13th Century): “Without counting his other prayers the holy King knelt down each evening fifty times and each time he stood upright then knelt again and repeated slowly an Ave Maria.” The Dominican nun St. Margaret (+1292), daughter of the King of Hungary, outdid St. Louis: on certain days she recited the Ave Maria a thousand times with a thousand prostrations.

The final prayer of petition close to the one in use now appears to have come out of Italy in the later part of the 15th Century, although there was a great variability in the wording of a final prayer of petition to the Ave Maria in the various languages of Catholic Europe. Until the 1568 Breviary, the Hail Mary officially ended with, “…and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.”*

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

*Source: “Hail Mary”, Catholic Encylopedia, Volume VII, 1910 edition.

Hymns of Our Lady

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for December 3, 2015)

The figure of Our Lady stands out very prominently in these days of Advent. Her two great privileges, upon which all of the other honors and titles we give to Mary are based, the IMMACULATE  CONCEPTION and the DIVINE MATERNITY shine luminously in this preparation phase of the Christmas Cycle.

In our spiritual preparation for the Christmas Feast it might be helpful for us to consider the hymns of Mary. The first hymn to consider is the one sung by Our Lady herself, her Canticle of Praise in St. Luke’s Gospel—the Magnificat. Here we see the purity of Mary’s heart as she gives God the praise for fulfilling the scriptural promises of redemption. I recommend committing Our Lady’s Magnificat to memory. Here is a translation from a musical setting to the Magnificat which I remember singing in the Seminary schola:

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour; for He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden, And, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He that is mighty hath magnified me, and holy is His Name, and His mercy is on those who fear Him throughout all generations.
He hath shone the strength of His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts;
He hath put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering His mercy hath holpen His servant Israel, as He promised to our Forefathers, Abraham and his seed forever.

In the liturgy of the Divine Office the Magnificat is sung every evening at Vespers, making use of the inspired words of Mary to thank God for another day of redemption. The Magnificat is also an especially beautiful prayer to recite as a private thanksgiving upon receiving Holy Communion.

Another hymn of Our Lady is the Marian Antiphon used from the First Sunday of Advent until February 2nd, the Alma Redemptoris. Here is a translation of that Antiphon:

Loving Mother of the Redeemer, Gate of
Heaven and Star of the Sea, come quickly to the
aid of thy people, fallen indeed but striving to
stand again. To the wonderment of Nature
thou wert the Mother of thy Holy Creator
without ceasing to be a virgin, and heard from
Gabriel that greeting “Hail”. Have pity on us
sinners.

A third hymn of Our Lady for our meditation is one of the Marian hymns sung throughout the year on the feast-days of Our Lady, including the feast we have just celebrated, the Immaculate Conception. It is titled O Gloriosa Virginum.

O Most Glorious of Virgins, exalted among the stars, thou didst nurse at the breast the Little One who created thee.
Thou dost give back to us through thy loving Child what Eve through God’s curse had lost for us: thou openest the gates of heaven that Eve’s sorrowing children may enter.
Thou art the Royal Door for the heavenly King and the Shining Palace for the light from above.
Rejoice, ransomed world, that through the Virgin life has been given to us.

This hymn was the particular favorite of St. Anthony of Padua and it was the hymn he tried to sing on his deathbed, June 13th, A.D. 1231.

Saint Anthony of Padua

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

The Holy Shroud of Turin: Icon of Christ

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for April 26, 2015)

On my 16th birthday (April 13th, 1977) my parents gave me a “Lifting the Veil” Face of Christ, a picture of the Holy Face from the image on the Shroud of Turin which, when you lifted a thin piece of cardboard from inside the plastic, revealed a second image of Christ as He would have appeared in His living likeness. It was from the Confraternity of the Precious Blood.

Icon of Christ

The instructions on the back were to use this as a home shrine to unite with daily Mass.  As I read it today, I quote: “The Mass is two things: a meeting and a memory, points out Orate Fratres [a liturgical magazine], 1: it commemorates the Death of Christ…2.: we meet Christ in person. It is necessary to keep the two well distinct, if the essence of the Mass is to be seen clearly. Your ‘Lifting the Veil’ Face of Christ enables you to see these two things clearly as you unite with Mass daily (1) by contemplating the True Face of the Dead Christ… and (2) meeting with Christ in Person, as His Living Likeness appears through the ‘Veil’.

I found this image very compelling as a youth, and it has indeed been a stimulus to prayer and thoughts of the encounter with Christ in person.  (I have kept this “Lifting the Veil” image with me all these years, and it has added poignancy now as a memento of my deceased parents.)

The image of the Holy Shroud as the True Face of Christ is a great gift of God to His Church: to affirm our faith, without taking away either the necessity for it or the merit of it.  For nearly 20 centuries the real facts about this Shroud-relic were unknown, because the scientific means to discover and measure them were unknown.  It is very good for us to inform ourselves about some of the scientific discoveries surrounding the Shroud in recent times.  Do not be deterred by dismissive and irreverent coverage in the media.

At present, the Holy Shroud is being shown to the public in the city of Turin, Italy, through June.  The occasion is the bicentennial of the birth of St. John Bosco, “Don Bosco”, in 1815, who was from that region of Italy, the Piedmont. Pope Francis—whose grandparents emigrated from Piedmont to Argentina—is scheduled to make pilgrimage to the Shroud exhibition on June 21st.

In 2010, during the last public exhibition of the Shroud, Pope Benedict XVI made pilgrimage.  It was the Fourth Sunday after Easter, May 2nd. In his remarks there, describing himself as a pilgrim, he said:

How does the Shroud speak? It speaks with blood, and blood is life! The Shroud is an Icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and whose right side was pierced. The Image impressed upon the Shroud is that of a dead man, but the blood speaks of his life. Every trace of blood speaks of love and of life. Especially that huge stain near his rib, made by the blood and water that flowed copiously from a great wound inflicted by the tip of a Roman spear. That blood and that water speak of life. It is like a spring that murmurs in the silence, and we can hear it, we can listen to it in the silence of Holy Saturday. Dear friends, let us always praise the Lord for his faithful and merciful love. When we leave this holy place, may we carry in our eyes the image of the Shroud, may we carry in our hearts this word of love and praise God with a life full of faith, hope and charity.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

St. Gianna Beretta Molla and the Provencher Family

(Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for April 12, 2015)

Provencher Family Article

Elizabeth ProvencherOn Holy Saturday after our Easter Vigil, one of our parishioners Bill Provencher put into my hand a copy of a Polish Catholic magazine in which his family was featured about a great favor they had received through the intercession of (then-Blessed) Gianna Beretta Molla, the “martyr-mother”: the safe-andhealthy birth of their youngest child Elizabeth “Biz” Gianna. I knew their story since I had been part of the prayer-chain at the time it had happened, and I was most moved to see the story reported on and publicized in another country no less.

Gianna Beretta Molla died on Easter Saturday, April 28th, 1962, in the town of Magenta, near Milan, Italy. She was 38 years old. A week before, on Holy Saturday, she had given birth to a healthy baby girl, her fourth child, whom she named Emanuela. But the mother, who was also a practicing physician, knew she was dying. Months before she had foregone a cancer treatment which would have destroyed the life of her unborn child.

In 2000 Karen Provencher fell ill with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The family and their friends prayed to Bl. Gianna Molla, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1994, for a healing. The treatment was successful, but the doctors warned that Karen should not become pregnant for at last two years following this treatment. Two months after the treatment, however, Karen did become pregnant. In the article, Bill Provencher gives his testimony:

We asked blessed Gianna Beretta Molla to intercede before God and to watch over my wife’s life, and now also our child’s. We chose blessed Gianna because she was also a mother, and she also suffered from cancer as my wife did, and so she would understand the problem, comfort us and protect our child. The first moments of this unexpected situation were full of surprise and anxiety, but our faith in God let us consider the child to have a very special reason for coming into this world. The doctors were painting horrible scenarios for us…Elisabeth Gianna was born healthy on August 1st, 2001, despite all opposite expectations. The doctors were stunned. It was impossible, or at least it was a one-in-a-million chance. Today our youngest daughter is twelve, she is happy and cheerful. We consider her a special gift from God. The memories of those days have become distant and hazy, but we are constantly aware the God in His goodness unceasingly leads us through hard times. We thank God every day for Elizabeth and our whole family.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Pilgrimages to Jerusalem: Christian Jerusalem

(This is the Pastor’s Note from the March 29, 2015 Parish Bulletin for Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish.  It is a summary of Father’s “Fifth Conference for our Lenten Mission series” lecture held during the Stations of the Cross on Friday nights at the parish during Lent, 2015.)

As we concluded our Conference last week, the Christian Jerusalem of the Eastern Roman Empire was violently destroyed by the Persian armies in A.D. 614.  Scarcely had the Romans recovered Jerusalem and begun to rebuild, when the Arab armies of the new religion of Islam took possession of the city in A.D. 638, after a four month siege.  Through the mediation of the Christian Patriarch Sophronius with Caliph Omar, Jerusalem capitulated on fair and generous terms.

Although the first period of Muslim role over Christian Palestine was tolerant, by the time of the Christian Millenium, A.D. 1000, the situation had changed to one of violent oppression and religious intolerance.  The Christians of Jerusalem were sore-oppressed.  Christians pilgrims from the west seeking to visit the Holy Places were frequently attacked, plundered, held hostage, or even murdered.  Christian shrines were no longer respected and some were destroyed.  This state of affairs was the chief contributing factor to Pope Urban II’s call in 1095 for an armed pilgrimage, a “crusade”, to free Jerusalem.

The Age of the Crusades is much out of favor now, but in its day the Crusade was a hugely popular movement in Western Europe.  It has permanently marked Catholic Christianity and shaped it in ways which still affect us although we may not be aware of its influence.  How easily, for example, do we speak of zealous dedication to a good cause in terms of a holy war, a crusade.  People are identified as “crusaders” for civil rights or “crusaders” for the unborn.

Between 1098-1250 A.D. there were seven Crusades directed towards wresting the Holy Land from Muslim control.  The First Crusade was the most successful.  Jerusalem was taken in 1099 and a new Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was established there which lasted 88 years until the resurgent Muslims under Saladdin overcame them.

The Third Crusade (1188-1192), the one associated with King Richard the Lionhearted of England, recaptured the coastal towns of Palestine for the Crusader Kingdom and made it possible for Christian pilgrims to resume their visits to the Holy City under Muslim control.  The Sixth Crusade (1228-1229) of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II was successful enough on the battlefield to gain concessions from the Muslims on who controlled Jerusalem.  The Christians once again were to possess the city, but they could not put up defensive walls and the Muslims in the city remained without restriction.  In 1244, the Muslims attacked defenseless Jerusalem, massacred large numbers of Christians, and burned many churches, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Seventh Crusade (1248-1250) was the best organized and the best-equipped, led by King St. Louis IX of France.  It met with defeat, however, on account of the misfortunes of war.  The last crusader fortress of St. Jean d’Acre fell in 1291.  The Western Crusader presence in the Holy Land had lasted 192 years, 1099-1291.  Considered from its principle objective of recovering the Holy Land for Christendom and then holding on to it, we have to say that the crusading mission failed.

But even in failure the Cross had its exultation.  In 1219, during the Fifth Crusade (1218-1221), St. Francis of Assisi appeared in the Crusader camp in Egypt.  After gaining permission to pass beyond the Christian lines with another friar, Brother Francis made his way towards the Saracen lines calling out “Sultan! Sultan!”.  In short order the two friars were seized, maltreated, and held captive.  Eventually, his captors gave in to his request and brought him into the presence of the Sultan.

There Francis preached the Gospel to him and called upon him to repent.  To prove his earnestness, Francis offered to step into fire and if the fire did not harm him then that would be a proof to the Sultan that the God of the Christians was the one true God.  The Sultan would not let Francis carry out such a test, but something about him held the Sultan’s sympathy.  He offered Francis precious gifts, which the Saint refused, not even as alms for the poor.  What was it that moved the Sultan’s heart towards Francis, in spite of the bitter religious war that was raging between the Muslims and the Christians?  We may wonder.  Was it perhaps that Francis of Assisi, so filled with the charity of Christ, radiated in his face the Face of Christ, and that was what the Sultan saw that compelled him to listen, to want Francis to stay with him, and ultimately to give him safe-conduct back to the Christian camp.

The Trial by Fire of St. Francis before the Sultan
Fra Angelico: The Trial by Fire of St. Francis before the Sultan. (1429 A.D.)

We do know that it is St. Francis’s legacy which has left the most permanent mark of the Crusader-era on the Holy Land until this very day.  Each year, at the Good Friday Liturgy, a collection is taken up for the Holy Land Shrines which are under the care of the Franciscans.  After the destruction of Christian Jerusalem in 1244 the Muslim ruler invited the friars of St. Francis to become the custodians of many of the Christian shrines.  From the 13th century on, they would be the guardians who would receive Christian pilgrims who, in spite of all the dangers and illuminated by the thought of Heaven, still made their way to Jerusalem to greet the Holy City as Christ Himself once had.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Living in Truthfulness

In the midst of one of the public attacks Our Lord endured in the months leading up to His crucifixion, He turned to reassure those who had come to believe in Him, even as His enemies were harassing Him and heaping verbal abuse: “Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, ‘If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.'” (John 8:31-32)

Jesus is talking specifically here about “saving Truth” and not just truthful things in general, but living truthfulness in all things is very much a part of our Christian calling.  I spoke about this in last Sunday’s homily, and I want to reinforce the point through this Sunday’s Pastor’s Note.  Every Catholic should be clear that all lying is a sin, and not just the “big” lies that are meant to hurt people.

Here is a concise summary from Fr. Dominic Prümmer’s Handbook of Moral Theology (1957) on the matter:

A lie is intrinsically evil, so that no reason whatsoever can justify its use.  Sacred Scripture forbids all forms of lying without distinction: "Keep clear of untruth." (Exodus 23:7); "Do not tell lies at one another’s expense" (Colossians 3:9). The intrinsic reason for the evil character of lying is that it is opposed to : a) the natural purpose of speech which is given to man to reveal what is in his mind; b) natural human [inter-action] which is disturbed by lying; c) the good of the listener who is deceived by the lie; and d) the welfare of the speaker himself who, although he may obtain some temporary advantage from the lie, will suffer greater evils in consequence (par. 292).

Another useful definition on truthfulness is this one from the McHugh/Callan Moral Theology manual (1958):

Truthfulness is a moral virtue, preserving moderation in conversation and other interchanges of thought.  This virtue sees that facts are neither exaggerated nor understated, that truth is not manifested when it should be concealed, nor concealed when it should be spoken. (par. 2386)

Then we have St. Augustine’s declaration, that we are bound to tell the naked truth whatever the consequences may be.

Of course, the truth must be spoked in charity as well as justince, so that the virtue of truthfulness must be exercised with tact, consideration, kindness and respect for the rights of others.  The more discreet we are in our speech the less likely we will be to trip ourselves up either in a falsehood or a "you-wanna-know-what-I-really-think-of-you?"…

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for March 23, 2014