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Nov. 21, 2017: Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary

Nov. 21, 2017: The Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary

According to the tradition in the Eastern Church, when Mary was three years of age, Joachim and Anne took her to the Temple so that she might be consecrated to the service of the Lord. The legend says that they invited the young girls of the town to walk before her with lighted torches. As soon as they had reached the Temple, Mary, alone and unhesitatingly, went up the steps of the sanctuary where she was to remain, living in the contemplation of God and miraculously fed by the Archangel Gabriel, until the day she was espoused to Joseph, shortly before the Annunciation.

The theme of the feast is that Mary the Immaculate One, the Temple of the Living God, is offered to the Almighty in his holy house in Jerusalem. This day witnesses the bond between the Word and the Virgin predestined in eternity: this day is the fountainhead of all her privileges.

A more historical view is that the feast originates in Jerusalem in 543. In the Latin rite, it took many years for the feast to be widely accepted; it entered the Western calendar in 1585. Today, the feast celebrates the recognition of Mary as a temple in whom God dwells. In a very special way, the Blessed Virgin is herself a holy temple when she conceived the very Son of God in her immaculate womb, she became a true temple of the true God; when she cherished the word of God in her heart (see Luke 2:19, 51), loved Christ so ardently, and faithfully kept his word, the Son and the Father came to her and made their home with her, in accordance with the promise of the Lord (see John 14:23).

At the end of the General audience in St. Peter's Square this past Wednesday, Pope Francis recalled November 21 is the date upon which we celebrate Pro Orantibus Day marking the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Temple.

The day is dedicated to those who belong to contemplative religious orders, and the Pope said It's a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work".

"Let us give thanks to the Lord - he added for their testimonies of cloistered life and he urged the faithful to lend their spiritual and material support to these brothers and sisters of ours so that they can carry out their important mission".

To commemorate this special feast this year, Pope Francis will visit a Camaldolese monastery of cloistered nuns on the Aventine Hill where he will celebrate Vespers with the community.

Many contemplative communities throughout the world pray for Salt and Light Television.  For our part, we remember with gratitude these religious women of who as St Thérèse of Lisieux wrote choose to abide in the "heart" of the Church.
Let us pray:

Almighty and ever living God,Today we honor the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose hidden life brings light and warmth to the Church in every place. Her presentation in the temple at Jerusalem reveals her as a temple where God truly lives among us.May Mary's example give us the strength to radiate that light and warmth to the Church, and help us to be dwelling places of God's joyful presence on earth.We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

Nov. 20, 2017 Monday: 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

Nov. 20, 2017 Monday: 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

Have you ever encountered a special moment of grace, a once in a life-time opportunity you knew you could not pass up? Such a moment came for a blind and destitute man who heard that Jesus was passing by. The Gospel of Mark identifies this man as Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). This blind man was determined to get near the one person who could meet his need. He knew who Jesus was and had heard of his fame for healing, but until now had no means of making contact with the Son of David, a clear reference and title for the Messiah. 

A great speaker can command attention and respect, but a man or woman with a helping hand and a big heart is loved more. Jesus commends Bartimaeus for recognizing who he is with the eyes of faith and grants him physical sight as well. Do you recognize your need for God's healing grace and do you seek Jesus out, like Bartimaeus, with persistent faith and trust in his goodness and mercy?

Bartimaeus was not only grateful for the gift of faith and the gift of physical sight, but for the opportunity to now follow Jesus as one of his disciples. Luke tells us us that he immediately followed Jesus and gave glory to God. The crowd also gave praise to God when they saw this double miracle of spiritual and physical vision. Cyril of Alexandria, a 5th century church father, comments on this double vision:

Now that he was delivered from his blindness, did he neglect the duty of loving Christ? He certainly did not. It says, “He followed him, offering him glory like to God.” He was set free from double blindness. Not only did he escape from the blindness of the body but also from that of the mind and heart. He would not have glorified him as God, had he not possessed spiritual vision. He became the means of others giving Christ glory, for it says that all the people gave glory to God.(Commentary on Luke, Homily 126)

Do you give glory to God for giving you the "eyes of faith" to recognize him as your Lord and Healer?
"Lord Jesus, open the eyes of my heart and mind that I may see and understand the truth and goodness of your word. May I never fail to recognize your presence with me and to call upon your saving grace in my time of need and healing."

- reflection courtesy of Don Schwager © 2017

Nov. 19, 2017: 33rd Sunday A

Nov. 19, 2017: 33rd Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
What would you do if someone entrusted to you $1 million? Would you go out on a spending spree, take it to an investment bank, donate it all to a charity, or bury it in the ground where no one can find it? It would be odd to squander an opportunity to invest the money by burying. Could we be doing just that in our spiritual life?

Last week, through the parable of five wise and five foolish virgins, Our Lord instructed us about how to be ready and vigilant as disciples by everyday acts of love, kindness, patience, and selflessness. This week, Our Lord teaches us about the right attitude of a disciple--how to be courageous and productive disciples--through the parable of the talents.

What we need to understand about this parable is that it’s not about making money but what we do with whatever we are entrusted by God. The “talents” represent not so much our natural aptitude and abilities, but God-given opportunities and spiritual gifts which have been allocated differently to each disciple. While on earth, we the disciples are not to be idle but use our specific divine privileges and gifts to serve others to build up the Kingdom of God. But what hampers us from being productive is our attitude.

In today’s parable, the servant who was entrusted with one talent was fear driven and lacked courage. He placed the blame for his unproductiveness on his master, accusing his master of being a hard man. In doing so, he was denying his own responsibilities. His negative attitude revealed that he was not focused on the interest of his master but rather self absorbed.

A director of a center for mentally handicapped shared this story. One day, a man with many problems and great sadness came to visit the director. The director was perplexed why this normal man was so sad and weighed down with problems. He seemed to have everything going for him—money, family, and career. While this visitor was pouring his heart out to the director, a young man with Down’s syndrome entered the office with a great smile. With a great laugh he shook the hands of the director, the “normal” man, and left the office laughing. The “normal” man turn to the director and said, “Isn’t it sad that there are children like that.” The director was struck by the utter blindness of this seemingly “normal” man who could not see how his negative attitude kept him from experiencing gratitude, hope, and happiness. He possessed that for which every man could desire, yet like the servant who buried his one talent in the ground, the “normal” man’s fear and lack of trust bore no fruit for himself and others.

At times are we sad or paralyzed by that kind of self-defeating fear and lack of hope? Has the circumstance of the day made us forgetful of the promise that Jesus made to each of us, “Do not be afraid. I will be with you until the end”? The right attitude of a disciple begins with trust in Jesus that there is no circumstance or adversity that will separate us from the love of Christ. St. Teresa of Avila encourages us, "May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."

As we approach the end of our liturgical year, the scripture readings move us to consider the difficult topic of our end times. We know not the day nor the hour when our own end will be, but as disciples we need to ponder if we are investing enough effort and time in the growth of our spiritual life. As we stop as nation to give thanks with our families, let us remember that all the gifts have been given to us from the God who created us, sustains us and redeems us. Trust Jesus and have the courage to smile for yourself and others that through the love of God, you will accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God.

Advent Penance and Healing Service with Sr. Briege McKenna and Fr. Kevin Scallon

Monday, December 11, 2017, 6:30PM
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Zachary
4826 Main Street, Zachary, LA 70791

Please join us for an evening Mass and Eucharistic Healing Service. Several priests will be available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This will be an evening full of grace as we open ourselves to receive His mercy and healing in preparation for the celebration of Christmas.

Sr. Briege McKenna, O.S.C.was born in Ireland and entered the Sisters of St. Clare at the age of fifteen.Following her final vows and after suffering for more than three years with rheumatoid arthritis, she was transferred to her community in Tampa, Florida with the hope that the Florida sunshine would relieve her suffering. At the age of twenty-four, she was miraculously and instantaneously healed during the celebration of the Eucharist and some time later received, in prayer, the gift of healing for which she has become so widely known. In 1974, again during prayer, she was given a deep spiritual insight into the call to priesthood. Since then, bishops and priests in many parts of the world have invited her to speak and minister at their retreats and conferences. Her book, "Miracles Do Happen" has been translated into many languages through out the world.

Fr. Kevin Scallon, C.M., is a priest of the Vincentian Community who was born in Ireland. In his early years he ministered in both England and Nigeria. In 1976, Fr. Kevin, While on the faculty of All Hallows College, started the "Intercession for Priests" in Ireland. Since then he, along with Sr. Briege McKenna, has been ministering to priests and lay people across the globe.

Nov. 17, 2017 Friday: 32nd Week

Nov. 17, 2017 Friday: 32nd Week

God's Day of Judgment is a cause for great joy and reward for those who have waited with patient hope and longing for the Lord Jesus to return again in glory and power. The people in Noah's time ignored the Lord's warning of judgment because their hearts were hardened and they were rebellious towards God. When the great flood swept over the earth, they missed the boat, literally! Whose boat or safety net are you staking your life on - the world's life-raft to short-lived success and happiness or to the indestructible Ark of God whose foundation is Jesus Christ and his victorious cross? Those whose hope is firmly anchored in heaven will not be disappointed when the day of final judgment comes. They rejoice even now that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20) and they look with eager longing for the day when they will see the Lord face to face (Revelation 22:4). Is your hope firmly placed in the Lord Jesus and his return in glory?

The good news is that the Lord Jesus freely offers each one of us the grace, strength, and help we need to turn to him to receive pardon for our sins and healing for our minds and hearts so we can embrace his good will for our lives and find the way to our heavenly Father's home. The Lord Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in his wisdom, truth, and love. The Holy Spirit helps us to turn away from sin and rebellion and to embrace God's way of love, righteousness (moral goodness), and holiness. 

- reflection courtesy of Don Schwager © 2017.

Nov. 14, 2017 Tuesday: 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

Nov. 14, 2017 Tuesday: 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

Are you ready to give the Lord your best, regardless of what it might cost you? Perhaps we are like the laborer in Jesus' parable who expected special favor and reward for going the extra mile? How unfair for the master to compel his servant to give more than what was expected! Don't we love to assert our rights: "I will give only what is required and no more!" But who can satisfy the claims of love? 

We are called to serve God and neighbor selflessly and generously

Jesus used this parable of the dutiful servant to explain that we can never put God in our debt or make the claim that God owes us something. We must regard ourselves as God's servants, just as Jesus came "not to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). Service of God and of neighbor is both a voluntary or free act and a sacred duty. One can volunteer for service or be compelled to do service for one's country or one's family when special needs arise. Likewise, God expects us to give him the worship and praise which is his due. And he gladly accepts the  free-will offering of our lives to him and to his service. What makes our offering pleasing to God is the love we express in the act of self-giving. True love is sacrificial, generous, and selfless.

God honors the faithful servant who loves and serves others generously. He is ever ready to work in and through us for his glory. We must remember, however, that God can never be indebted to us. We have no claim on him. His love compels us to give him our best! And when we have done our best, we have simply done our duty. We can never outmatch God in doing good and showing love. God loves us without measure. Does the love of God compel you to give your best?

By Don Schwager © 2017.

Nov. 13, 2017 Monday: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Nov. 13, 2017 Monday: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Prayer of Mother Cabrini after Confession

My dearest Jesus, I have told all my sins as well as I could. I tried hard to make a good confession. I feel sure that you have forgiven me.  I thank You. It is only because of all Your sufferings that I can go to confession and free myself from my sins. Your Heart is full of love and mercy for poor sinners. I love You because You are so good to me. My loving Saviour, I shall try to keep from sin and to love You more each day. My dear Mother Mary, pray for me and help me to keep my promises. Protect me and do not let me fall back into sin. Almighty God, kneeling before Your Divine Majesty, I adore You and because You command me, I dare approach Your divine Heart. But what shall I say if You do not enlighten me with a ray of Your divine light?

Speak to my soul, O Lord, and command me to listen to Your voice. Enlighten my will to put Your words into practice. Pour Your grace into my heart; lift up my soul weighed down by my sins; raise my mind to heavenly things, so that earthly desires may no longer appeal to me. Speak to my soul with Your divine omnipotence, for You are my salvation, my life, and my peace, in time and in eternity. Strengthen me with the grace of Your Holy Spirit and give Your peace to my soul that I may be free from all needless worry and care. Help me to desire always that which is pleasing and acceptable to You so that Your Will may be my will, Grant that I may rid myself of all unholy desires, and that for Your love I may remain unknown in this world, and be known only to You.

Do not permit me to attribute to myself the good that You perform in me and through me, but rather, referring all honor to Your majesty, may I glory only in my weakness, so that  renouncing sincerely all vain glory which comes from the world, I may aspire to the true and lasting glory which comes from you. Amen.  -St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Nov. 12,2017: 32nd Sunday A

Nov. 12,2017: 32nd Sunday A
The end is near! Have you seen the signs of the “end”? What I mean of course is the end of our current liturgical year, ushering in the beginning of Advent. You’ve seen the Christmas merchandise and heard the Christmas music in the department stores.  As we near the end of this liturgical year, our scripture readings urge us to focus on preparing and staying awake for the arrival of the Bridegroom, for we do not know the hour or the day he comes. 

What can we learn from the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom? The virgins represent all of us who are believers. The lamp represents our faith. Our Lord urged us in the Sermon on the Mount to let our light shine and not hide the lamp under a basket so that people will see our good works and give praise to our Father in heaven. The oil in the lamp represents our good works and deeds that we do because of our love for the Father. The wise people are vigilant, like the wise virgins in the Gospel who brought their lamps and enough oil to last the night. So wise people, in contrast to  the foolish, are one who are concerned for the daily needs of one’s family, neighbors, and even strangers. Both wise and foolish virgins had a burning lamp, but only the wise brought along extra oil to keep their lamps burning while waiting to meet the bridegroom.

How can each of us be like wise virgins who bring extra lamp oil? It will help us to understand what the oil represents in our own lives. Mother Teresa offers us this explanation: 
What are the oil lamps in our lives?
They are the little everyday things:
faithfulness, punctuality, kind words,
thoughtfulness of another person,
the way we are silent at times,
the way we look at things,
the way we speak, the way we act.
Those are the little drops of love
which make it possible for our life of faith to shine brightly.

There is a little detail from the parable that we need to pay attention. The Gospel says that when the Bridegroom arrived, all the virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. One trims the wick of the lamp to keep the lamp burning clean and bright without the smoke. When the wick is too high, the lamp burns with much smoke and stink. If all we do is make a show of our faith and religion, and there in our hearts is no loving relationship with God and our neighbor,  it’s like a long wick and shallow oil.  To get rid of the smoke and stink, we have to trim the wick--that is to cast off our excesses of love of self. We need to constantly refill our oil and check our wick, keeping neither too long or short. The everyday little acts of love, kindness, patience, joy, and selflessness are ordinary deeds that we all can consciously choose in order to let our faith burn brightly before others. In applying Jesus’ message in our lives in this way, we are wise disciples. God offers us this time of mercy and patience so that we may learn to recognize him in others. Let us strive for goodness and be watchful in prayer. May Our Lord recognize us as good and faithful servants at the end of our lives.

Nov. 9,2017 Thursday: Dedication of St. John Lateran

Nov. 9,2017 Thursday: Dedication of St. John Lateran

«Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up»

By Fr. Joaquim MESEGUER García
(Sant Quirze del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain)

Today, in this universal festivity of the Church we remember that, even though no building in this world is big enough to contain God's immensity, since very long, long time ago, human beings have felt the need to reserve certain locations for their personal and collective meetings with God. At the beginning, the gathering places for Christians were their private homes, where communities congregated for prayer and the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread. The gathered community was —and still is today— God's Holy Temple. As time went by, these communities have been building edifices devoted to their liturgical celebrations, Word predication and prayer. And this is how, Christianism, from its initial persecutions and abuse to its final religious freedom in the Roman Empire, started to build its great basilicas. Of which, the most important one, is St. John Lateran, Rome's cathedral.

St. John Lateran is the symbol of the unity of all the Churches in the world with the Roman Church, and this is why this basilica proudly displays in its main portico the title of Mother and head of all the churches in the city and in the world (Omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput). It is even more important than St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, the latter not being actually a cathedral, but a shrine built over St. Peter's sepulcher and the Pope's present residence, who, as Bishop of Rome, has in the Lateran Basilica, his Cathedral.

Yet, we should never lose sight of the fact that the true meeting point between man and God, his actual temple, is Jesus Christ. This is why, He was empowered to tidy up his Father's home and to say these words: «Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up» (Jn 2:19). Thanks to the sacrifice of his life for us, Jesus Christ has made out of believers God's living temple. This is why, the Christian message reminds us that all human beings are a sacred reality, where God dwells, and that it cannot be profaned by using it as material means.

Nov. 8, 2017 Wednesday: 31st Week in Ordinary Time

Nov. 8, 2017 Wednesday: 31st Week in Ordinary Time

Hate for the sake of love

When Jesus says in our Gospel reading today that we are not his disciples unless we "hate" others and hate even our own lives, he's not talking about being unloving to anyone nor being unkind to ourselves.

Following Christ means being so loving that we hate it when someone or something interferes with that love. It means hating sin and worldliness so much that we're willing to carry the painful crosses of love, making sacrifices to repay evil with goodness and to convert our difficulties into triumphs of holiness.

Jesus warns that if we start on a journey of holiness without agreeing to go all the way, if we're not willing to carry the cross farther than we'd like to endure, if we're not interested in going the extra mile, if we're not willing to die to our own agendas and self-centered desires, and if we let family members or other people influence us into dumping the hardships and seeking only what is fun and easy, we're like the builder who didn't have the resources to finish the project. We haven't learned enough from the life and death of Jesus.

The first reading today affirms this "hate for the sake of love" spirituality. Saint Paul wrote, "The one who loves others has fulfilled the law." And yet it takes great effort and emotional healthiness and spiritual maturity to hate our selfishness and our own desires enough to handle every situation with love.

It's especially challenging when our needs are not getting met. If we love others more than they love us, or if we give to others more than we receive from them, we easily revert to self-protective selfishness. The less self-esteem we have and the less spiritual maturity we have the more this is so.

It's necessary to remember that God does not ask us to love others unconditionally and unselfishly without giving us the ability to do it. Even (or especially!) in the most difficult of times, he gives us whatever we need that will enable us to obey his laws.

When it seems impossible to be Christ-like in our dealings with others, it's only because we have not let the Spirit of Christ completely fill us. God's grace is always available. Consider how Mary, our Blessed Mother, was able to resist all temptations; it was only possible because she was full of grace, which was a gift from God to enable her to accomplish his will.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when we recognize and repent of our selfishness, this same grace is bestowed upon us abundantly. The grace to love, the grace to be kind when we feel like being mean or cranky, the grace to hate our own unChristian behaviors and to do what Jesus would do, is a gift of empowerment. It makes us able to be the holy persons that we were baptized to be.