Thursday, July 29, 2010

Saint Martha

"Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus."  this unique statement in John's gospel tells us of the special relationship Jesus had with Martha, her sister and her brother.  Apparently jesus was a frequent guest at Martha's home in Bethany, a small village two miles from Jerusalem.  We read of three visits in Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53 and John 12:1-9.

Many of us find it easy to identify with Martha in the story Luke tells.  Martha welcomes Jesus and His disciples into her home and immediately goes to work to serve them.  Hospitality is paramount in the Middle East (we experienced this during our pilgrimage - especially in Bethlehem where we were treated like royalty).  Imagine Martha's frustration when her sister Mary ignores the rules of hospitality and Martha's work in order to sit and listen to Jesus.  instead of speaking to her sister, she asks Jesus to intervene.  Jesus' response is not unkind, which gives us an idea of His affection for her.  He observes that Martha is worried about many things that distract her from being really present to Him.  He reminds her that there is only one thing that is truly important - listening to Him.  And that is what Mary has done.  

In Martha, we might see ourselves - worried and distracted by all that we have to do in the world and forgetting to spend some time with Jesus in prayer - just listening to Him.  It is, however, comforting to note that Jesus loved Martha just the same.  Her conversation with Jesus shows her faith and courage.  In this dialogue she states clearly - without doubt - that she believes in Jesus' power, in the resurrection and, most of all, that Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus tells her that He is the resurrection and the life and then goes on to raise her brother, Lazarus, from the dead.  

Our final picture of Martha in the Scriptures is the one that sums up who she was.  Jesus has returned to Bethany some time later to share a meal with His good friends.  In this home were three extraordinary people.  We hear how Lazarus caused a stir when he was brought back to life.  We hear how Mary causes a commotion at dinner by anointing Jesus with expensive perfume.  But the only thing we hear about Martha is the simple statement: "Martha served."  She isn't in the spotlight - she doesn't do showy things - she doesn't receive spectacular miracles.  She simply serves Jesus.  We know nothing more about Martha and what happened to her later.  According to a totally untrustworthy legend, Martha accompanied Mary to evangelize France after Pentecost.  

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the most important thing that could be said about us is what was said of Martha, "They served"?  May we follow Saint Martha's example of service.   Because of her service, Saint Martha is the patron saint of servants and of cooks.

Dear Saint Martha, pray for us that we might serve Jesus better.   Help us to overcome our distractions and worried to listen to His words and be present to Him today.  Amen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pilgrimage: Oberammergau Passion Play and Return Home

Just having the chance to write.  This morning we had some free time to visit the town of Garmisch before catching the shuttle to Oberammergau for the Passion Play.  The history of this Passion Play is quite interesting - dating back to the middle of the Thirty Years War.  In 1633, after months of suffering from the Bubonic Plague which killed 15,000 people in the area around the town, the frightened people of Oberammergau took a vow to perform the "Play of the Suffering, Dying and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ" every ten years if they were spared.  Miraculously, from that point on, they all survived and, true to their promise, the first performance was in 1634.  This simple performance was held in a meadow and acted by the villagers.  After 1674 they decided to change the date, so as to fall every ten years, beginning in 1680.  The only time it was not performed was during World War II.

We had a VERY unique show becuase in the middle they had to stop the show because of hail.  Yes, hail.  A very bad storm came up and it hailed in the middle of the show.  First time they've had to stop the show in the middle in a long time.  It was a wonderful witness of faith.

This morning we had Mass in the hotel, then packed up our bags, boarded the bus, and returned to Munich airport for the return trip.  As I write, the pilgrims are on the plane returning to the US.  I, however, took a small side trip and am visiting Christian Feind [many from Lewistown will remember him, he was John Kriauskas' exchange student a number of years ago]. 

The group will be back in Waynesboro & Lewistown by about 11pm Eastern Time.

I hope you've enjoyed traveling with us.  Please pray for our safe return.

Fr. Bateman

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pilgrimage: Travel Day

Today is a heavy day of travel as we leave Israel from Tel Aviv, fly to Frankfurt, Germany, then to Munich - then are transported to our hotel.   We had a 12:30 AM wakeup call in Jerusalem - some just never went to bed.  We boarded the bus and headed to the airport.  After LONG security lines - all kinds of questions from Israeli security - I think 3 times - we finally boarded our flight to Frankfurt - then our flight to Munich.  We passed by the Olympic village from the 1972 Olympics (Mark Spitz & the hostage crisis) and have made it to our hotel in Garmisch.  We have beautiful views out of our rooms - from the balconies - of the Alps (see the picture taken from the balcony of my room).  During our flight, I asked the pilgrims to reflect on what they've seen and experienced in the Holy Land - maybe even spending some time to write down their reflections - but because of the early hour. most of us slept. 

We arrived about 1:30 in our hotel in Garmisch - freshened up and headed into town for a bit to eat.  Tonight we'll have Mass in the hotel, then dinner at 8pm, then to bed.  After a VERY early morning and a long day of travel, a good German beer tasted REALLY good!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jane Yancoskie

Unfortunately, I interrupt our blogging of the trip to Israel for other parish news.  Sadly, Jane Yancoskie died yesterday.  May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  I already celebrated Mass for her this morning at the Church of the Agony on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Surviving are her husband of 50 years, Anthony Yancoskie, whom she married on June 18, 1960; her children, Greg A. Yancoskie (wife Terry) of Woodbridge, Va., Gary W. Yancoskie of Chambersburg, Pa., and Kimmie A. Bennett (husband Bill) of Chambersburg, Pa.; and her grandchildren, Bob, T.J., Kodi, Jeff; Kristian and Kaylee. She is also survived by two siblings, William D. Livingston and Norma Jean Horwedel. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by a son, Glen S. Yancoskie.

The family will receive friends on Tuesday, July 20, 2010, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Thomas L. Geisel Funeral Home and Cremation Center, 333 Falling Spring Road, Chambersburg, Pa., where the Rosary will be recited at 7:30 p.m. Services and Interment will be handled by Greenlee Funeral Home, Bentleyville, Pa., at a later date.

Pilgrimage: Jerusalem - Part 2

Window in Dominus Flavit Church on the Mount of Olives
Jerusalem is just too much for one day - we really need a WEEK to meander its old streets, visit the holy places, and eat just one more Phalaphel. 

Today we went out to the Mount of Olives where we met this guy with a camel - only $1 for a picture.  Anyway, the Mount of Olives is a long ridge that was once covered with rich, green olive trees.  It was here that David ran after learning of his son Absalom's treachery (2 Samuel 15:30); it was the hill on which Solomon built pagan altars for his foreign wives (1 Kings 11: 7-8); it was the crossing place for the scapegoat. 

Jesus, too, frequented the mountain often, traveling over it to visit His friends Lazarus, Martha, Mary and Simon the Leper in Bethany.  It was here that He gave a major address to His disciples (Matthew 24).  He spent the night before His arrest in the gardens at Gethsemane, where Judas brought guards to arrest Him (John 18). 

Many churches commemorate events in Jesus' life - for example, the Church of the Ascension - the traditional place from which Jesus Ascended into Heaven.  Also on the slope there is a tear-shaped chapel - Dominus Flavit - which marks the spot at which Jesus wept while recalling the dire future in store for the Holy City of Jerusalem (Luke 19).  Here we will pray the 1st Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. 

Our group then headed to the Church of Pater Noster (where Jesus taught His disciples the "Our Father"), then to the Church of All Nations (also called the Church of the Agony) where we celebrated Mass right at the  very rock where Jesus had His agony: "Father, let this cup pass me by - but not my will, but Your will be done."  To imagine having Mass right there - where He sweat tears of blood on the night before His passion...

From there we went to Mount Zion and the Upper Room.  In truth, the actual site of the Last Supper is unknown, however there is a Tradition dating to 348 which locates the room in this area.  In the 5th century a church was built to identify the spot.  Here our group reflects on one of the Institution Narratives from the Scriptures (Mark 14:12-26).  Also here we visited King David's tomb.

Then we made a quick stop at Oscar Schindler's grave (we all know him from the movie "Schindler's List").  We then headed back to the hotel for dinner and our last night in Jerusalem.  It is EARLY TO BED tonight - because our flight to Germany leaves at 5am!  We have a 12:30 am wake up call!  OUCH!  No late night card games tonight!  I'll let you know how that flight goes in our next posting...  Stay tuned.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pilgrimage: Jerusalem

Our day began at Saint Steven's Gate - so called because tradition holds that Saint Steven was martyred nearby.   (The photo is of our parish seminarian from Saint Andrew - Steven Arena - outside the St. Steven's Gate.) Entering the Old City, we go to the Pool of Bethsada where Jesus healed the lame man (John 5:1-15).  There we pray a prayer of healing: O God who are the only source of health and healing, the spirit of calm and the central peace of this universe, grant to me such a consciousness of your indwelling and surrounding presence that I may permit you to give me health and strength and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

We then walked the "Way of the Cross" through the old streets of Jerusalem.  Along the way a woman didn't like what we were doing - took off her shoes, banged them together yelling "I shake the dust from my feet - may Abraham curse you."  But it was OK - as they persecuted Christ, they will persecute us, too.  We completed the Way of the Cross inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcre and there celebrated Mass in the Crusader Chapel.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher - the church which contains three sacred places: the site of the Crucifixion, the place where Jesus' body was anointed before burial, and the empty tomb from which He rose from the dead.  
  • Excavations have revealed that the place of the crucifixion actually is outside the old city walls, but close to one of its gates - so it would have been a good location for a crucifixion. 
  • The structure which preserves the location of Christ's tomb is called the Edicule.  Though the cave here was carved away by a Muslim ruler 1000 years ago, a clear history remains that this has been the revered location of the tomb.  Al-Hakim's efforts to destroy the tomb (and Christianity) in 1009 were not the first.  Earlier the Roman emperor Hadrian erected a large platform of earth over the whole area for the construction of a temple to Venus.  Saint Jerome adds to Eusebius' statement that a statue of Jupiter was on the site for 180 yeas (140-320 AD).  When Constantine converted the empire to Christianity, he had the pagan temples dismantled, the earth removed and a church built over the spot.
  • The best evidence that the tomb of Jesus was in this area is the fact that other first-century tombs are still preserved inside the church.  Called the "Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea," these burial shafts are clearly from the time of Christ's death and thus attest to some kind of burial ground in the area.  Combined with the evidence from Tradition, this church is most likely the true location of Christ's death and resurrection.
As the pilgrims visited the place of the crucifixion, many placed their hand in the hole - touching the stone of Golgotha.  We prayed: Behold, O Good and sweetest Jesus, I cast myself upon my knees in Thy sight, and with the most fervent desire of my soul I pray and beseech Thee to impress upon my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, with true repentance for my sins and a most firm desire of amendment: whilst with deep affection and grief of soul I consider within myself and mentally contemplate Thy five most precious Wounds, having before my eyes that which David, the prophet, long ago spoke in Thine own person concerning Thee, my Jesus: They have pierced my hands and my feet, they have numbered all my bones (Psalm 21)

And, as each pilgrim entered the small Edicule, each took a moment to pray: Christ is Risen: the world below lies desolate.  Christ is Risen: the spirits of evil are fallen.  Christ is Risen: the angels of God are rejoicing.  Christ is Risen: the tombs of the dead are empty.  Christ is Risen indeed from the dead, the first of the sleepers.  Glory and power are His forever and ever.  [attributed to Saint Hippolytus - AD 190-236]

Following Mass we walked to the Western Wall (formerly called the Wailing Wall).  Did anyone get up to see us?!  You are welcome to leave comments for us here!  The Western Wall is the most holy place in the world which is accessible to the Jewish people.  Prayers are offered up at this wall - which was built by King Herod in the 1st century BC.  Three times a day the Jewish people pray - and they do so with phylacteries tied around their forehead and wrist and with blue and white prayer shawls.  Tonight is also a special day of prayer and fasting for the Jews - as tomorrow (beginning at sundown tonight) is the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. (The photo is the men of out group at the Western Wall.)

Here members of our group took some time at the wall (after going through a checkpoint and putting something on our heads (the men at least).  We each went to our side of the wall (men and women are segregated.  Perhaps some put in the ancient cracks a prayer scribbled on a piece of note paper.

Then we moved to Bethlehem, after going through a checkpoint into Palestinian Territory.  There we had a pleasant lunch and then visited a store where many purchased beautifully hand carved olive wood item.  We then went to the Shepherd's Field where there is a church - and inside sang "Gloria in excelcis Deo" - we all know that Christmas song!   Then we moved on to the Church of the Nativity and visited the cave where Jesus was born - and there we all sing "Silent Night" (what we are doing in this photo).  Then we moved on to the "Milk Grotto" where, tradition says, Mary fed Jesus and some of her milk fell to the floor - turning the walls of the cave white.  Then it was  back to the bus - another pass through the checkpoint back into Jerusalem (yes, they entered the bus with their machine guns) and then to the hotel for dinner and some rest after another long day.  (The photo here is Betty Powers touching the very spot where Jesus was born in the cave of Bethlehem.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pilgrimage: Mount Tabor - Mount of Olives - Jerusalem

PRELIMINARY NOTE: Tomorrow our group will be at the Western Wall at about 12 - 12:30pm Jerusalem Time (5-5:30am in the Eastern US).  There is an online webcam - some of you may want to tune in and see if you can see us!  Here's the address:

Today our pilgrim group moved closer to the Holy City - to Zion - to Jerusalem.  Our day began with a visit to Mount Tabor - the traditional spot of the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17: 1-9), where we celebrated Mass. 

Then it was to the bus for the journey from the north - down the "Road to Jericho" that we just heard about at Mass on Sunday - toward Jerusalem.  We began with a stop at Meggido, a city dating all the way back to the 7th Century BC - amazing ancient history in this place. Then we moved to another archeological spot before heading town, past the Dead Sea, then ascending the hill toward Mount Zion - the City of David - Jerusalem.

As we climbed the mountain toward Jerusalem, we will sang and prayed the traditional Psalm of Assent - Psalm 122: "I rejoiced when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'"

Then we arrived in Jerusalem - to this sign on our hotel - who knew!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pilgrimage: Sea of Galilee - Mount of Beatitudes - Tabgha - Capernaum - the Jordan River

Today we visited lots of sites on this HOT, HOT day:
  • We began the day's adventures by crossing the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-14) in a boat which is a replica of the boats that would have been used in Jesus' time.  For me, it is an amazing thing to walk the stony shore of the Sea of Galilee - wondering if MAYBE Jesus stepped on this very stone when He walked around this shoreline...
  • We then arrived at the Mount of Beatitudes where we celebrated Mass - recalling, of course, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  
  • Following Mass we went to nearby Tabgha, then Capernaum (the "hometown" of Jesus - see Matthew 4:13).  Tabgha is the traditional location where Jesus took the loaves and fish and multiplied them for the crowd of 5000 (Matthew 14: 13-21).  Capernaum is where many things happened in Jesus' ministry:
    • He was confronted by the demoniac (Mark 1: 21-27)
    • He healed the servant of the Centurion (Luke 7:3).  The Centurion was credited with building the temple in Capernaum (the foundation of which still exists).
    • It was here that Jesus gave the sermon on the Bread of Life (John 6:35-59).
    • It was in Capernaum that Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law who was, "in bed with a fever" (Matthew 8: 14-17).
    • Many of us even waded into the Sea of Galilee!
  • Then a brief stop at Caeserea-Philippi, where Jesus asked Simon Peter, "Who do you say that I am?"  After he replies, "The Messiah."  Jesus gives him (and the Church) the ability to lose and bind.
  • Then we moved on to the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized (Mark 1: 4-11).  Here our pilgrim group renewed their own baptismal promises and were sprinkled with water from the Jordan.  It was SO hot, everyone just jumped right into the Jordan to cool off.  Sorry the photo is sideways - don't know why...  tilt your head!
    • Did you know that water from the Jordan River is never blessed by a priest?  Since Jesus Himself was in the water, the water is considered to already be holy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pilgrimage: Tiberius

Today our pilgrims visited several important locations:
  • Church of the Annunciation in Cana
  • Mount Carmel:
    • Mount Carmel is the place where the prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and where his God came out victorious, as described in the book of Kings (1 Kings 18:16-40).  This testimony to the greatness of the God of Israel has also become central in the Christian faith and the Bible reader will be well acquainted with Mount Carmel in connection to Elijah.  
    • The Carmelite order was founded on Mount Carmel and the Carmelite monastery Stella Maris is still to be found on top of the mountain.  Elijah's cave (1 Kings 19:4-8) is at its foot, beautifully decorated and holy to the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.
    • It also happens to be (by Divine Providence) the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  Today each pilgrim received a small "gift" - a Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  The scapulars were blessed right there on Mount Carmel - at the altar of 12 Stones (just like the one Elijah built when he proved the reality of God to the prophets of Baal) and each pilgrim was invested with the Scapular.  To celebrate this feast, we prayed a prayer attributed to Saint Simon Stock.
    • O Most Beautiful Flower of Carmel, Fruitful Vine, Splendor of Heaven, holy and singular, who brought forth the Son of God, still ever remaining a Pure Virgin, assist me in this my necessity.  O Star of the Sea, help and protect me!  Show me that thou art my Mother.
    • Why a Scapular?  At Fatima, Our Lady instructed the children that wearing the Brown Scapular was one of the requirements for those who strive to heed her message.  Sister Lucy said, "One could not follow the Message of Fatima unless he fulfilled the five conditions, one of which is the wearing of the Brown Scapular all the time - day and night."
  • Next, we traveled to the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.  En route we prayed the 1st Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.  Inside the church we prayed the Angelus.  
  • From there we traveled on to Cana - the site of the first Miracle the Jesus performed (at the urging of His Mother): turning water into wine at the wedding feast (see John 2:1-11).  En route we prayed the 2nd Luminous Mystery of the Rosary.  We celebrated Mass here in this church and, following Mass, renewed the wedding vows of our married couples.
  • Now we are back at the hotel for dinner at 7pm and some evening rest (or a night out on the town).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

arrival in Jerusalem

After  another  4  hour  flight  we  arrived  in  Israel  safe  and  sound.  I'm SLOWLY learning  how  to  post  from  my  phone  so  I'm having trouble posting - but I'll keep trying to learn.

We arrived about 3pm local time (9am there at home) and got our luggage and met our tour guide Micah.  Then we drove to Tiberius - it was supposed to be 2 hours, but traffic and construction made it three.  We got into the hotel, had some dinner, and now will be celebrating Mass for the day.

Free internet here in the hotel - so I can keep you all up to date with our adventures.  Here's one: ask one of the pilgrims about my seat being canceled from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv.  I did get on the plane, obviously, but not with the pilgrims...  Let's just say, I had a little more room than they did...  Lucky me!

more travel

We  arrived  safely  in  Frankfurt  and  await  our  flight  to  Tel  Aviv.  We  are  tired  but  in  good  spirits  (as  this  photo  shows).  more  later.  

The Pilgrims have already started asking about the "rabbi's" at the far end of the gate area who are rocking back and forth with the small boxes on their heads and arms. Just as with us, there are many customs that surround Jewish prayer.

First, the prayer shawl that men and boys wear to pray - keeping their head and shoulders covered.  The small "boxes" are phylacteries - they remind the Jewish man of the covenant that God made with them. 

Each box contains strips of parchment inscribed with the four passages of the Torah that mention the mitzvah (commandment) of wearing Phylacteries.
  1. Deuteronomy, 6:4-8:
    "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, The Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your means. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them to your children And speak of them when you sit in your home, when you walk up the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be an ornament for your head between your eyes."
  2. Deuteronomy 11:13-21:
    "And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will give grass in thy fields for thy cattle, and thou shalt eat and be satisfied. Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, so that there shall be no rain, and the ground shall not yield her fruit; and ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you. Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul; and ye shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, talking of them, when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates; that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, upon the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers to give them, as the days of the heavens above the earth."
  3. Exodus 13:1-10:
    "And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 'Sanctify unto Me all the first-born, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast, it is Mine.' And Moses said unto the people: 'Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place; there shall no leavened bread be eaten. This day ye go forth in the month Abib. And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, which He swore unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee, in all thy borders. And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thy hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in thy mouth; for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year."
  4. Exodus 13:11-16:
    And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanite, as He swore unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, that thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the womb; every firstling that is a male, ... And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying: What is this? that thou shalt say unto him: By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage; and it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the first-born of man, and the first-born of beast; therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the womb, being males; but all the first-born of my sons I redeem. And it shall be for a sign upon thy hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes; for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt.'"

One of the leather boxes is worn on the head between the eyes. The other box is worn on the arm, opposite the heart. The headpiece is called Shel Rosh (belonging to the head), and the handpiece is called Shel Yad (belonging to the hand).

Tefillin are worn on the head to remind Jews to subject their thoughts to God's service, on the arm to remind Jews to subject their deeds to God's service, and opposite the heart to remind Jews to subject their hearts' desires to God's service.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Our Pilgrimage Begins

Today our group of pilgrims leave their homes and begin their long journey to Israel.  We fly from Newark to Frankfurt - then on to Tel Aviv in Israel.  We will arrive in our hotel tomorrow afternoon (Israeli time), unpack, and get some rest to begin our journeys through the Holy Land.  Don't forget to check back often!

Feel free to join us in prayer as we pray for a safe journey and pilgrimage:

O God, Who didst lead the sons of Israel through the sea over a dry path, and didst reveal the way to the three Magi by the guidance of a star; vouchsafe to grant these pilgrims a happy journey and a peaceful time, that accompanied by thy angel they may safely reach their present destinations, and come finally to the haven of eternal security.

O God, Who didst lead thy servant, Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans, safeguarding him on all his wanderings - guide these they servants, we implore thee.  Be thou unto them support in battle, refuge in journeying, shade in the heat, covering in the rain, a carriage in tiredness, protection in adversity, a staff in insecurity, a harbor in shipwreck; so that under thy leadership they may successfully reach their destinations, and finally return safe to their homes.

Give ear, we pray thee, Lord, to our entreaties!  And direct the steps of thy servants on the paths of righteousness, that in all the vicissitudes of the journey and of life, they may have thee as their constant protector.

Grant, O almighty God that thy pilgrims march forth on the way of security; and heeding the exhortations of Blessed John, the Precursor, let them come safely to Him Whom John foretold, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.

Hear, O Lord, our prayers, and graciously accompany thy servants on the journey.  And since thou art everywhere present, dispense thy mercy to them in all places; so that protected by thy help from all dangers, they will be able to offer thanksgiving to thee.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What is an Indulgence?

Someone posted a comment on the previous entry - asking about indulgences.  A GREAT question (check it out in the last post - and my response).

Because the question has been asked, let me teach a bit about indulgences:  I found some great stuff on Catholic Answer - beginning with some myths about them...

Myth 1: A person can buy his way out of hell with indulgences.

This charge is without foundation. Since indulgences remit only temporal penalties, they cannot remit the eternal penalty of hell. Once a person is in hell, no amount of indulgences will ever change that fact. The only way to avoid hell is by appealing to God’s eternal mercy while still alive. After death, one’s eternal fate is set (Heb. 9:27).

Myth 2: A person can buy indulgences for sins not yet committed.

The Church has always taught that indulgences do not apply to sins not yet committed. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "[An indulgence] is not a permission to commit sin, nor a pardon of future sin; neither could be granted by any power."

Myth 3:
A person can "buy forgiveness" with indulgences.

The definition of indulgences presupposes that forgiveness has already taken place: "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven" (Indulgentarium Doctrina 1, emphasis added). Indulgences in no way forgive sins. They deal only with punishments left after sins have been forgiven.

Myth 4: Indulgences were invented as a means for the Church to raise money.

Indulgences developed from reflection on the sacrament of reconciliation. They are a way of shortening the penance of sacramental discipline and were in use centuries before money-related problems appeared.  But, as men often do, some church men did corrupt the idea and use it to raise money - but this is NOT what they are about.

Myth 5: An indulgence will shorten your time in purgatory by a fixed number of days.

The number of days which used to be attached to indulgences were references to the period of penance one might undergo during life on earth. The Catholic Church does not claim to know anything about how long or short purgatory is in general, much less in a specific person’s case.

Myth 6: A person can buy indulgences.

The Council of Trent instituted severe reforms in the practice of granting indulgences, and, because of prior abuses, "in 1567 Pope Pius V canceled all grants of indulgences involving any fees or other financial transactions" (Catholic Encyclopedia). This act proved the Church’s seriousness about removing abuses from indulgences.

Myth 7: A person used to be able to buy indulgences.

One never could "buy" indulgences. The financial scandal surrounding indulgences, the scandal that lead Martin Luther to revolt, involved alms — indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation was used as the occasion to grant the indulgence. There was no outright selling of indulgences. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: "[I]t is easy to see how abuses crept in. Among the good works which might be encouraged by being made the condition of an indulgence, almsgiving would naturally hold a conspicuous place. . . . It is well to observe that in these purposes there is nothing essentially evil. To give money to God or to the poor is a praiseworthy act, and, when it is done from right motives, it will surely not go unrewarded."

Being able to explain these seven myths will be a large step in helping others to understand indulgences. But, there are still questions to be asked:

"How many of one’s temporal penalties can be remitted?"

Potentially, all of them. The Church recognizes that Christ and the saints are interested in helping penitents deal with the aftermath of their sins, as indicated by the fact they always pray for us (Heb. 7:25, Rev. 5:8). Fulfilling its role in the administration of temporal penalties, the Church draws upon the rich supply of rewards God chose to bestow on the saints, who pleased him, and on his Son, who pleased him most of all.

The rewards on which the Church draws are infinite because Christ is God, so the rewards he accrued are infinite and never can be exhausted. His rewards alone, apart from the saints’, could remove all temporal penalties from everyone, everywhere. The rewards of the saints are added to Christ’s—not because anything is lacking in his, but because it is fitting that they be united with his rewards as the saints are united with him. Although immense, their rewards are finite, but his are infinite.

"If the Church has the resources to wipe out everyone’s temporal penalties, why doesn’t it do so?"

Because God does not wish this to be done. God himself instituted the pattern of temporal penalties being left behind. They fulfill valid functions, one of them disciplinary. If a child were never disciplined, he would never learn obedience. God disciplines us as his children — "the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives" (Heb. 12:6) — so some temporal penalties must remain.

The Church cannot wipe out, with a stroke of the pen, so to speak, everyone’s temporal punishments because their remission depends on the dispositions of the persons who suffer those temporal punishments. Just as repentance and faith are needed for the remission of eternal penalties, so they are needed for the remission of temporal penalties. Pope Paul VI stated, "Indulgences cannot be gained without a sincere conversion of outlook and unity with God"(Indulgentarium Doctrina 11). We might say that the degree of remission depends on how well the penitent has learned his lesson.

"How does one determine by what amount penalties have been lessened?"

Before Vatican II each indulgence was said to remove a certain number of "days" from one’s discipline—for instance, an act might gain "300 days’ indulgence"—but the use of the term "days" confused people, giving them the mistaken impression that in purgatory time as we know it still exists and that we can calculate our "good time" in a mechanical way. The number of days associated with indulgences actually never meant that that much "time" would be taken off one’s stay in purgatory. Instead, it meant that an indefinite but partial (not complete) amount of remission would be granted, proportionate to what ancient Christians would have received for performing that many days’ penance. So, someone gaining 300 days’ indulgence gained roughly what an early Christian would have gained by, say, reciting a particular prayer on arising for 300 days.

To overcome the confusion Paul VI issued a revision of the handbook (Enchiridion is the formal name) of indulgences. Today, numbers of days are not associated with indulgences. They are either plenary or partial.

"What’s the difference between a partial and a plenary indulgence?"

"An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin" (Indulgentarium Doctrina 2, 3). Only God knows exactly how efficacious any particular partial indulgence is or whether a plenary indulgence was received at all.

"Don’t indulgences duplicate or even negate the work of Christ?"

Despite the biblical underpinnings of indulgences, some are sharply critical of them and insist the doctrine supplants the work of Christ and turns us into our own saviors. This objection results from confusion about the nature of indulgences and about how Christ’s work is applied to us.

Indulgences apply only to temporal penalties, not to eternal ones. The Bible indicates that these penalties may remain after a sin has been forgiven and that God lessens these penalties as rewards to those who have pleased him. Since the Bible indicates this, Christ’s work cannot be said to have been supplanted by indulgences.

The merits of Christ, since they are infinite, comprise most of those in the treasury of merits. By applying these to believers, the Church acts as Christ’s servant in the application of what he has done for us, and we know from Scripture that Christ’s work is applied to us over time and not in one big lump (Phil. 2:12, 1 Pet. 1:9).

"Isn’t it better to put all of the emphasis on Christ alone?"

If we ignore the fact of indulgences, we neglect what Christ does through us, and we fail to recognize the value of what he has done in us. Paul used this very sort of language: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Col. 1:24).

Even though Christ’s sufferings were superabundant (far more than needed to pay for anything), Paul spoke of completing what was "lacking" in Christ’s sufferings. If this mode of speech was permissible for Paul, it is permissible for us, even though the Catholic language about indulgences is far less shocking than was Paul’s language about his own role in salvation.

Catholics should not be defensive about indulgences. They are based on principles straight from the Bible, and we can be confident not only that indulgences exist, but that they are useful and worth obtaining.

Pope Paul VI declared, "[T]he Church invites all its children to think over and weigh up in their minds as well as they can how the use of indulgences benefits their lives and all Christian society.... Supported by these truths, holy Mother Church again recommends the practice of indulgences to the faithful. It has been very dear to Christian people for many centuries as well as in our own day. Experience proves this" (Indulgentarium Doctrina, 9, 11).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mother Maria Kaupas worked in Harrisburg Diocese

Pope Benedict XVI has recognized the heroic virtues of Lithuanian-born Mother Maria Kaupas, who founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Casimir in 1907.  The first motherhouse for the new community was at Holy Cross Convent in Mount Carmel, and the sisters’ first teaching assignment was at Holy Cross School.  The Vatican announced July 1 the first major step toward sainthood for Mother Maria Kaupas, who suffered from bone cancer for eight years before dying in 1940.  The Vatican decree means Mother Maria heroically lived the Christian virtues. She can be beatified after a miracle is attributed to her intercession. (Photo courtesy of the Sisters of St. Casimir, Chicago)

Monday, July 5, 2010

July: Month of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus

Traditionally each month of the year is dedicated by the Catholic Church to a particular aspect of our Faith.  For example, June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary, December is dedicated to Christ’s Holy Infancy, etc.  July is dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus.  The Litany of the most Precious Blood of Jesus is one of the six public litanies, meaning litanies that have been formally indulgenced since the Second Vatican Council.  That is, one may receive a partial indulgence each time he/she recites one of these litanies.  The six indulgenced litanies are: The Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, The Litany of the Precious Blood of Jesus, The Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary (also known as the Litany of Loreto), The Litany of St. Joseph, and The Litany of the Saints.  There are many other litanies that may have been approved for use by the faithful, but that have not been indulgenced, cf. Pocket Catholic Dictionary by Father John Hardon, S.J., p. 229 under Litany.

An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.  
The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead. –Catechism of the Catholic Church 1471 The Litany of the Precious Blood was approved in its present form by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1960. 
The Litany of the Precious Blood of Jesus can be found on EWTN's website cy clicking HERE.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Magnificat of America

(taken from Magnificat Magazine)

America, our America!
Hold to the Vision of Mary,
Mary Immaculate.
Her glory fills the earth,
She is of our race,
Its "solitary boast."
She, alone without sin,
Keeps the doom of wrath from thee,
who are defending Her glory.
She, Conqueror of evil,
Conquers evil for thee,
Who are resisting evil.

America, our America!
Pray always to Mary,
Mary Immaculate.
She, the Mother to nations -
She, the Mother of christ,
the Lord of all nations.
She guards them and guides,
Subduing their hates,
Inspiring their spirits.
She mourns for the prodigals,
As childless mothers mourn,
torn by their treasons.

America, our America!
Give thy heart to Mary,
Mary Immaculate.
Join Her prayer of praise,
All Heaven attending, 
For our land that is free.
Sing thou Her song of joy,
All nations listening,
Giving thanks to God.
Sing thou the song of souls,
The Magnifcat of Mary,
The Magnificat of America.
Cardinal Francis Joseph Spellman (+1967)
was the sixth archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York