Friday, September 10, 2021

Yes Virginia, there is a Patron Saint of Purgatory

Yes, you read the title correctly. There is a patron saint of Purgatory.  Of course, it only makes sense given that there is a patron saint for literally everything else in existence, so why not a patron saint of Purgatory.

St. Nicholas of Tolentino was born in answer to the prayer of a holy mother and was consecrated before his birth to the service of God.  Named for the miraculous St. Nicholas of Myra, at whose shrine his parents prayed to have a child, at the age of 16, he joined the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine.

I won't go too much into his life and earthly accomplishments. You can easily find more about St. Nicholas online; I want to reflect briefly on why the Church has declared him the patron saint of Purgatory (or, more specifically, Patron of the Holy Souls).

St. Nicholas lived a very austere life in an Order already quite austere in its practices.  During his life, he received visions of Purgatory, which his close acquaintances attributed to his holiness, and his rigorous fasts.  Because of these visions, he conceived an ardent charity for the Holy Souls and was often granted revelations that the souls whom he had prayed for at Mass had been admitted to the Heavenly Kingdom.

Despite his evident holiness, St. Nicholas was often haunted by his own sinfulness until he received a vision of Our Lady who said, "Fear not, Nicholas, all is well with you: my Son bears you in His Heart, and I am your protection."  

St. Nicholas took his repose in the Lord on September 10th, 1305.  He was canonized in 1446 by Pope Eugene IV, and because of his great devotion to the Holy Souls, St. Nicholas was proclaimed patron of the souls in Purgatory in 1884 by Leo XIII.

Devotion to the Holy Souls seems to have experienced a revival among many Catholics, which is certainly a worthy devotion, as every soul we liberate from Purgatory by our prayers and meritorious works becomes our grateful intercessor in heaven.  So if you are praying for the Holy Souls today, don't forget to invoke the powerful intercession of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, Patron Saint of Purgatory.

Friday, September 3, 2021

It's alive, IT'S ALIVE!

For anyone reading this post, all you have to do is look at the next most recent post to see that it dates from Christmas of 2012.  What happened?  Well, in 2013 a number of things happened.  As you recall, Pope Francis was elected, and what seemed like a new springtime for tradition in the Church became a time of questions and unease.  In 2013 I also became a pastor for the first time at St. Mary of the Purification in Mount Forest, Ontario, and found that my time was much more limited, particularly my first year of settling into the new role.  Around that time too, blogs began to transform from something everyone did to professional blogs with multiple writers, while everyone else was posting on Twitter and other forms of social media.  Nowadays, of course, most younger people are on TikTok, and the visual medium has taken over for them, others are producing podcasts, and everyone else is still on social media. 

So why have a revived a nine-year-old blog that hardly anyone remembers, and hardly anyone read in the first place, especially since I'm on social media, and have my own fledgling podcast?  Just because, because in my current role I do have time to produce some extra content each week, because it's nice to have a little outlet for my thoughts and musings, and because if my thoughts and reflections help even a single person in their spiritual lives, to grow in their faith, to find their way to the Catholic faith, or just to find some hope in knowing that someone out there does think they way they do and they are not alone, it is worth it.

I doubt I will be able to post daily content like most of the professional blogs, but hopefully, in the midst of everything I can find the time to put up a couple of posts each week, so check back for more new content, here on Great and Glorious!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Rant, Because It's My Blog - For Crying Out Loud Catholics, Celebrate Halloween!

I'm not sure when this trend started, I remember it beginning at least a decade ago, or perhaps a little before, this apparent aversion Catholics have to Halloween.  I should say the aversion that seems to be present among some circles of Catholics, an almost fundamentalist approach to what is essentially a Catholic holiday.  Instead of the traditional costumes and images of ghouls and goblins, we have to dress children up in saintly costumes, and call the day "All Saints' Eve".  Even though the term "All Hallows' Eve" means precisely the same thing.  I remember during my highschool years, the first "All Saints" party held in my home parish, where ghoulish costumes were verboten, and only saintly attire was permitted.  I also remember one occasion during my university days when I was visiting one of my favourite Christian bookstores on October 31st, and a delivery man had just dropped off a shipment to the young woman working the checkout counter.  As he was about to depart he wished her a "Happy Halloween", and in a very indignant fashion she responded, "I'm Catholic, I don't celebrate Halloween, I celebrate All Saints' Day."  I'm sorry but, give me a break! 

Halloween is as Catholic a day as they come.  It originated in Irish popular piety as a day to recall the reality of Hell.  Thus, Halloween is, say it with me now: SUPPOSED TO BE SCARY.  It is a day to remember the sad fate of the souls of the damned, and that Hell is a real possibility for all of us, unless we strive to enter by the narrow door.  The earliest celebrations of "All Hallows" began in the 300s, but was celebrated in May, on May 13th in fact, the day it is still observed in some Eastern Churches.  It was transferred to November 1st in 844 when Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel in St. Peter's Basilica to All Saints.  It has NOTHING TO DO with a druid harvest festival.  There is no agreement among scholars that the pope consciously transferred the feast to "baptize" the pagan festival of Samhain, and the idea that the pope would transfer a feast of the Universal Church for the sake of a small group of pagans at the edge of the world seems to me to be rather far fetched.  The appropriation of Halloween by pagans is a modern innovation, not extending any further back than the late 19th century. 

It is quite true that the celebration of Halloween has become as much secularized as many other Christian feasts, Christmas being chief among them, and so dressing up children in secular costumes like Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga, frightening as that may be, is not the true intention of Halloween either.  But to dress children up as saints for this day also misses the entire point of this particular observance.  We honour the saints tomorrow on November 1st, we remember the souls in Purgatory the following day on November 2nd, but this day, October 31st is to remind us that there is a third possibility for us after we die, one we should avoid at all costs.  

I'm going to step out on a limb here, I hope you'll join me, I'm going to suggest that ignoring the true heritage of Halloween plays right into the Modernist ideals that have infected the Church over the past decades.  Today we only talk about heaven, a great many Catholics don't even have a concept of Purgatory or the need to pray for the dead any more.  The generally accepted idea is that when we die, we all go up to heaven, no stops along the way, and you really don't even need to be that holy, as long as you're a good enough person, it's a free pass right upstairs.  This is totally at odds with Sacred Tradition and the teaching of Our Lord in Sacred Scripture.  Nonetheless, good Catholics seem to be playing right along, and ignoring the teachings of our Church on the Last Things.  Halloween is not about the saints, that is for tomorrow, today is a day to remind ourselves, and catechize our children, that Hell is a reality, and it is something we need to strive to avoid by living lives that are truly Holy!

Further reading:
http://www.zenit.org/article-35858?l=english
http://www.fisheaters.com/customstimeafterpentecost12aa.html
http://www.wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/October-2012/Culture--Time-for-Catholics-to-Embrace-Halloween.aspx
 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Year of Faith Begins

Today inaugurates the Year of Faith called for by Pope Benedict.  It also marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962.  It's often said that the Church works in centuries, so we just have 50 more years to go until the Council is properly understood and properly implemented, right?  Perhaps.  Of course at this point in the Church there still rages the debates of the proper interpretation of the Council, with those on one side arguing for the "spirit" of the Council to be held in higher regard than the actual words of the documents.  On the other we have those who would even doubt the validity of the Council.  The truth as it always is, is of course somewhere in the middle.  Unless one has one's head in the sand, it's not hard to see that the process of change and growth in understanding of the Council is still ongoing.  Many younger clergy, religious, and laity are studying the documents thoroughly, through the lense of "continuity" as our Holy Father has called for, and working for a balanced understanding of the Council; working to correct many of the extreme responses (on both sides) that have taken place over the last 50 years (though I must acknowledge, the majority of the extreme responses do seem to have been to one direction over the other).  We pray that this ongoing process of renewal continues, under the inspiration and prayers of Blessed Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict.

As depicted above, the CCCB has issued a pastoral letter marking this auspicious occasion entitled, The Second Vatican Council: What was it and why is it important today?  The article on the document can be found here, and the document itself can be found here.  I'd like to offer some of my thoughts on this pastoral letter.  First of all, my kudos to the authors of the document for many of the fine points it makes, especially with regard to the proper interpretation of the Council:

"We see good fruit, however, where the Council is understood properly. This has been strongly emphasized by Pope Benedict XVI, who has pointed out that Vatican II, rather than being an event of 'discontinuity and rupture' with the Church before the Council, is to be viewed in continuity with the Church before it. It was not a break, but an act of reform. For this reason, we do not reject what came before the Council as being outdated, nor do we consider all that came after as inconsistent with the Church’s Tradition.  Moreover, we cannot appeal to the 'spirit' of the Council as if this were opposed to the 'letter' of the Council’s documents. The Church that existed before Vatican II is the same Church we belong to today. Yet it is also true that things did change after the Council."
"Rather than making the Church worldly or 'modern,' the Council’s job was something else entirely: it was 'to overcome erroneous or superfluous contradictions in order to present to our world the requirement of the Gospel in its full greatness  and purity.'"
The letter describes what a Council is, and a bit of the background to why Blessed Pope John XXIII called the Council in the first place.  My critique of this letter comes though in what is has to say, or doesn't say about the four Constitutions of the Council.  The paragraph on the Liturgy, I think, sadly misses the mark.  It does speak about some concerns with the liturgy before the Council, such as a lack of understanding of Latin by the laity (which is easily resolved through the use of a bilingual hand missal), and the hurried celebration by many priests (a genuine problem, but not the worst liturgical abuse out there, especially considering what came after the Council).  As always it emphasizes the "full, conscious, and active participation" of the laity, but fails to explain that this paragraph is to be interpreted primarily as interior participation, not exterior.  This paragraph also extols the near universal use of the vernacular, something not called for in Sacrosanctum Concilium.  Finally the paragraph seems to point out that the liturgy is a constantly changing thing, perhaps to justify the liturgical changes since the Council.  It fails to note however, that for 1500 years any structural changes to the liturgy were relatively minor, and the wholesale recreation of the liturgy following the Council is not called for in any of the documents.

As for images of the Church, triumphalism is bad, but I'd take a little triumphalism over the mistaken notion that so many Catholics have today, that the Catholic faith is just one among many.  With respect to the Universal Call to Holiness, it is true that some before the Council didn't understand this notion, but this idea did not begin with Vatican II, it is present in the preaching of saints down through the centuries even into the 20th century itself (it's a central feature of the preaching of St. Josemaria Escriva for one).  As for the paragraph on Salvation, again it seems to imply that the understanding that non-Christian religions have some value for evangelization was a brand new idea at Vatican II.  Someone might want to tell that to those who evangelized Asia and used their native religions and the truths found therein as their starting point.

There is much more that I could critique, but this article is getting too long already.  Once again I'd like to offer grateful thanks for the emphasis on the fact that we must understand the Second Vatican Council in light of the 1900 years that went before it.  Sadly though, the first part of the document seems largely to follow the theme that the Church began in 1962 with all of these new ideas, and so seems to contridict the latter half.  On the whole, worth a read as we begin this year of faith, but it should be an invitation to read the documents themselves and see what the Council really had to say.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Bountious Bevy of Backlogged Blogposts

Greetings one and all, I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging over the summer, and it lasted a little longer than I thought, I have a number of homilies that will be uploaded in a short while, in the meantime, for those who like to rack up as many indulgences as they can get, you will have plenty of opportunities over this coming year:

PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR THE YEAR OF FAITH

Vatican City, 5 October 2012 (VIS) - According to a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro and Bishop Krzysztof Nykiel, respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI will grant faithful Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the Year of Faith. The indulgence will be valid from the opening of the Year on 11 October 2012 until its end on 24 November 2013.

"The day of the fiftieth anniversary of the solemn opening of Vatican Council II", the text reads, "the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decreed the beginning of a Year especially dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation, through the reading of - or better still the pious meditation upon - the Acts of the Council and the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church".

"Since the primary objective is to develop sanctity of life to the highest degree possible on this earth, and thus to attain the most sublime level of pureness of soul, immense benefit may be derived from the great gift of Indulgences which, by virtue of the power conferred upon her by Christ, the Church offers to everyone who, following the due norms, undertakes the special prescripts to obtain them".

"During the Year of Faith, which will last from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013, Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of sins, imparted by the mercy of God and applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful, may be obtained by all faithful who, truly penitent, take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

"(A) Each time they attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.

"(B) Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.

"(C) Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, ... in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.

"(D) On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.

"Diocesan or eparchal bishops, and those who enjoy the same status in law, on the most appropriate day during that period or on the occasion of the main celebrations, ... may impart the papal blessing with the Plenary Indulgence".

The document concludes by recalling how faithful who, due to illness or other legitimate cause, are unable to leave their place of adobe, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence "if, united in spirit and thought with other faithful, and especially at the times when the words of the Supreme Pontiff and diocesan bishops are transmitted by television or radio, they recite ... the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and other prayers that concord with the objectives of the Year of Faith, offering up the suffering and discomfort of their lives".

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion

Yesterday the Canadian Bishops issued their new Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion.  It makes a number of charitable but forceful points about the need for the free exercise of religion, in both the private and public spheres, and even gives a fervorino at the end about the need for bold courage in the face of persecution.  Some excerpts:
"Recent international and national events present a disturbing trend of threats to freedom of conscience and religion  experienced by those who suffer from bias, prejudice, hate propaganda, discrimination and persecution because of their  religious beliefs."
"Conscience is not, however, an absolute placed above truth. Rather, by its very nature, conscience has a relation to objective truth, a truth which is universal and which all must seek."

"Believers must therefore be allowed to play their part in formulating public policy and in contributing to society as a way of living their faith in daily practice. When this right is truly acknowledged, religious communities and institutions can operate freely for the betterment of society through initiatives in the social, charitable, health care, and educational sectors, which benefit all citizens, especially the poorest and most marginalized."

"In the past decade in Canada there have been several situations that raise the question whether our right to freedom of conscience and religion is everywhere respected."

"We all need to be vigilant in preserving, in a respectful manner, the religious symbols and  celebrations which express the particular spiritual heritage of nations shaped in the crucible of Christianity. Forcing religious believers to keep their convictions to themselves, while
atheists and agnostics are under no such restriction is, in fact, an expression of religious intolerance."

"Those who refuse to cooperate with an unjust law or practice that would oblige them to act against their conscience – and are not given the right to conscientious objection or accorded respectful accommodation – must be prepared to suffer the consequences that result from fidelity to Christ."

Read the rest there.