PENTECOST – Convincing Illumination

A Blessed Pentecost to all. May the spirit of Christ lead us to live in His ways.

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d068cbfeaf8c40be2c7c223643e6f883“A man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it.” – G.K. Chesterton

A  Jewish scholar who became a Christian and who knew the Old Testament very well and all of the traditions of the Jews, said that at the time of Christ the rabbis had gathered together 456 prophesies concerning the messiah, the Christ, the conqueror of evil who was to be born and to enter into a new covenant with mankind. Suppose the chances of any one prophesy being fulfilled by accident, say the place where he would be born, was one in a hundred. Then, if two prophesies were fulfilled, the chances would be one in a thousand. If three prophesies were to coincide in Christ, that would be one in ten thousand. If  four, one in a hundred…

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The Holy Breath

” And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” -Acts 2:2

As Pentecost approaches, Catholics and Christians around the world will celebrate the coming of the Paraclete to the Apostles as promised by the risen Christ. In our celebration we are reminded that we too, as the Apostles, are comforted and aided by that presence in our Church and in our lives.

Following is a discourse on the Holy Spirit by the renowned clergyman, radio and T.V. personality Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen:

“The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. Love is not in one alone; love is not in the other. The love that we have for one another is not just in me and not just in you. Love is always a bond between two or among several. That is why even lovers will speak of our love, something outside themselves. So love is not in the Father, love is not in the Son, love is the mysterious bond uniting both. Because we are here dealing with the infinite, that divine love is so deep, so profound that it cannot express itself by canticles, words or embraces. It can express itself only by that which signifies the fullness and exhaustion of all giving, namely a sigh. Something that’s too deep for words. That is why the bond of love between Father and Son is called the Holy Breath, the Holy Spirit. As the three angles of a triangle do not make three triangles, but one, so there are three persons or three relationships in God, but only one God.”


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The Reality Of The Holy Eucharist

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. – Luke 22:19-22

 A consecrated Host turns blood-red during adoration in RAFAELA, Argentina – An Argentine diocese is investigating a possible Holy Week eucharistic miracle. The diocese of Rafaela, in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina reports that on April 11, a group of young people from a drug rehabilitation home in San Miguel was praying in adoration when one of them noticed the glass of the monstrance containing the Host steaming up. What followed was the flow of “a bright red substance, while the faithful sang and prayed,” as described by Juan Ternengo, coordinator for San Miguel.

 By the consecration the “transubstantiation” of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651). – Catechism of the Catholic Church 1413

 Transubstantiation is defined as the conversion of one substance into another. In many Christian churches, the doctrine holding that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, although their appearances remain the same.

Do we truly understand the Holy Eucharist? And in receiving it do we inwardly and outwardly display that understanding or lack there of through a visible reverence or irreverence? Those parishioners who attend a Christmas Mass or Easter Vigil behave and dress as though they are in the presence of Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, in the Holy Eucharist. Yet, at any celebration of Mass other than those two major feast days we often find an attire and attitude change reflecting the more casual. But, is not the same consecration taking place? Is not the same transubstantiation and presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist evident?  If the answer to these two questions is yes, we then must understand that, no matter what the occasion, Christ is fully present in the Eucharist and impels a stable and sincere reverence from each of us. No one should approach Him without a contrite awareness of the state of one’s soul. And in that awareness regularly partake of the sacrament of penance through confession. If when before Him we find our hearts at unrest-in that they are not yet fully with Him-then we can be confident that we have understanding and reverence. As such we will be beneficiaries of His divine mercy.

Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us; “Material food first changes into the one who eats it, and then, as a consequence, restores to him lost strength and increases his vitality. Spiritual food, on the other hand, changes the person who eats it into itself. Thus the effect proper to this Sacrament is the conversion of a man into Christ, so that he may no longer live, but Christ lives in him; consequently, it has the double effect of restoring the spiritual strength he had lost by his sins and defects, and of increasing the strength of his virtues.”

 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. – John 6:56

This possible Holy Week miracle, now being investigated, is Christ’s way of instilling in all, who understand or do not, that the Eucharist is the reality of what He intended. He makes himself available to all. But those encumbered by wealth and position hear less clearly His voice. He was born among the poor not the rich and he died between two thieves not those who thought themselves righteous. That is why there is a Fatima, a Medjugorge and now a San Miguel. To those who did not believe in Him, He said, “Then believe the works I do, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” The blind see, the lame walk, the possessed are set free and the dead rise. Should He who stilled the winds and calmed the seas not have such dominion over the lesser elements of His Father’s creation, such as the species of bread and wine? And with that dominion not transform those elements into anything He wishes; namely His Sacred Body and Blood.

To too many of us Jesus may say: You receive my body and blood, yet you live as though you do not.

How culpable are we? Is it that we truly do not believe that Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist, or that we simply have lost our innocence?

Our Lady of Sorrows- on the left as seen by me in 1960.

In my autobiography “The Little Red Chair,” I describe an event that took place early in my life. In 1960 a local Greek Orthodox Church had been granted permission, for a period of time, to show an icon that miraculously was crying. The icon of the Blessed Mother of Jesus, known as “Our Lady of Sorrows,” was owned by a couple who lived in Long Island, New York, where the first evidence of crying was reported. The dates of exhibition for residents were posted in our local newspaper. I attended with my mom, dad and a few other relatives. The small church was filled to capacity with a line of the curious awaiting their turn outside. After a brief service all were allowed an opportunity to venerate the picture. I, a polio victim since age four, now ten years old, could not climb the step to where the icon was displayed. So the attendant tilted the picture toward me. I inspected the icon, then kissed it as an act of veneration. As we left to return home I overheard those with me mention that they had not noticed anything unusual about the picture. Some visitors in the nights that followed reported seeing wetness on the icon and for some the icon began crying as they were in attendance. I had not mentioned my experience for years after. No one asked and nothing impelled me to offer. But many years later, for some reason, my mom had recalled the event. She then asked me if I had seen anything that evening. I told her that I remembered seeing red glistening drops of blood as though painted on the cheek of the Blessed Mother’s picture. An innocent child, that I was then, would likely have seen normal tears. For those are the only tears that a child would understand. Why then did I see tears of blood?

Some fifty-three years later that event would arise from the past once more. I was then writing my second book. A book of poems and reflections titled “A View From The Quiet Corner.” In writing a poem about the Blessed Mother I was filled with a desire to once again see the icon. Wondering if what I witnessed then I would witness again? A friend agreed to accompany me on a short pilgrimage to a Church in Long Island where the icon had been housed since the time I viewed it as a boy. But, before the trip I visited the small church where I had first encountered the icon. I was fortunate to still find the priest who was there that  night. I queried regarding the icon, revisiting the original event so many years ago and asked about its present condition and circumstance. Then I asked two questions. Questions that haunt only the doubter. I asked: if in all the time since this miracle first took place did the artist include in the icon tears of blood for effect, and had anyone who witnessed something unusual about the picture seen tears of blood? His reply to both questions was no. I then revealed to him my experience in 1960.

As my friend and I entered the Long Island church we were overwhelmed by the byzantine tapestry art and architecture that surrounded us. We then found an office worker who directed us to where the icon was enshrined. I was in a wheelchair and could not get very close to the icon which was encased in glass upon a pedestal anchored to the floor behind the altar. So a kind person from maintenance cast a light on the icon to disperse the shadow. As best I could see from my vantage point were some staining on the icon as though from water. And this was confirmed by my friend who stood directly before it and examined it closely. I asked him if there was any indication of spots along the cheek, red or not? His reply was, “Sorry Al, no.” As we drove home, thoughts of the picture from many years ago were still clear, as were the blood-red tears that glistened on the Blessed Mother’s cheek. And it was then that I knew that I had truly been blessed. Not solely for my witness, but also because I have had a rich and successful life in so many ways; including the wonderful parents I was given to by God and the family and friends that he had surrounded me with throughout my life. As irony or fate would have it, in front of the church I now attend, in a town I now live in, that I had never heard of before, is a statue of our Blessed Mother kneeling. At the base of that statue is lettered: “Our Lady of Sorrows”; identically named as the icon that I saw so many years ago.

I looked upon Her face as an innocent child and witnessed the essence of God in whom all things are possible. I then looked upon Her face as a knowledgeable man, blemished by life’s inconsistencies, and saw none but the commonplace forged by an indifferent world.

I believe, as so many may, that as we grow old in this world we can’t help but be affected by it in deep and profound ways.  In gaining knowledge that turns not into wisdom but folly, we then lose our innocence. I saw red tears as a child because I expected to see something. I trusted in authority because of trust-worthy parents. So why then should I not trust in the authority, of the God of my parents, that could make such a thing happen? And if so, then why would anyone who calls themselves Christian not trust “the word of God”: “This is my body. This is my blood.”





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Mom Forever In A Song

I offer this re-post as a Happy Mother’s Day wish to all.

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I had difficulty coming up with the words that would best do justice to this Mother’s Day post. I searched my mind but found none worthy. Yet the words not found in thought were found in the heart.

After a nine month stay at a convalescent hospital, recovering from paralysis due to Polio, my mom would sing me to sleep each night. The fears of a disabled five-year old then, and the challenges ahead not yet conceived, were tempered by the security and confidence instilled by Mom’s comforting protective loving voice. The trials of any day melted away with every lyric of the song which she chose as a lullaby that bound us to each other as she lie beside me until I gave way to peaceful sleep. I offer that song here in tribute to my mom’s memory.

“Goodnight Sweetheart – (performed by Rudy Vallee, 1941)

Goodnight sweetheart
‘Til we meet tomorrow.
Goodnight, sweetheart
Sleep will banish sorrow.

Tears and parting
May make you forlorn.

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How Important is any one of us?

“…but the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” – Matthew 10:30

As I gaze out my window on a pleasant spring-like day, I find myself focused on our lawn. Not on the entire lawn, but on a particular blade of grass. I imagine myself removing that one blade among the multitude and planting it in a trimmed down small empty milk carton; like one of those we used in grade school to grow seedlings as a class project. I inspect this most favored of grass blades from our lawn. Most favored because by my removing it and setting it apart, it stands alone as a representative of its species. There is no other blade of grass in the world that is its double. In its aloneness and by my favor for it, this blade is distinct and therefore important. I cannot help but to think of its individuality, uniqueness and the purpose it serves when it is returned to the lawn from which it was extracted.

Are not any one of the flora and fauna in the world individual, unique and with purpose? Some do their part to provide a cool cushion for bare feet on a warm summer day. Some as a beautiful adornment to the environment that favors the eye of we who are most fortunate to behold. Others in the natural hierarchy of life are a most sacred example of sacrifice in that they provide sustenance for the level of life above it. Minerals are subject to plants, plants are subject to animals, and plant and animal are subject to humans for the purpose of life-sustaining nourishment.

If one blade of grass can be so exalted and made to stand apart from the multitude of grass that ever was, is, or will be throughout the world, then cannot any form of life be so exalted and be singled out as important. Is not the particular mineral that nourishes a particular plant important to that plant? Is not the particular plant that nourishes a particular animal important to that animal? And, likewise, is not the particular mineral, plant, animal or fish that nourishes a particular human not important to that human? Given this, should not individual men, women and children who are so endowed beyond the lower levels of life with the capacity of reason, logic, common sense and love then be so esteemed, as well?

“Now Caiaphas was he that gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.” – John 18:14

Was Caiaphas’ counsel born of logic, reason or political fear? In one film of the Star Trek series, The Voyage Home(1986), crewman Chekov is in trouble, Spock insists that the crew save him, even at risk of jeopardizing the crew’s vital mission to save Earth and everyone on it. Kirk asks, “Is this the logical thing to do?” Spock answers, “No, but it is the human thing to do.” Spock reaffirms his claim that the needs of the many logically outweigh the needs of the few (or the one), and here he is in keeping with Caiaphas. However, Spock then, contrarily, suggests that sometimes we must do the “human” thing, not the logical thing, and put the needs of the few (or the one) first; emphasizing individual uniqueness and importance. This dialogue first shows, as does Christ’s example, that no greater love is there than to give up one’s life for his friends. Yet, the life being given is no less important than those being saved. And in the event of the Crucifixion; this one solitary life is of divine importance, for it is the Creator sacrificing Himself for His creatures. Caiaphas’ council to the Jews, may, in his opinion, have been the expedient action to take, but was not necessarily the right action to take. Yet, to reconcile God with the world, sacrifice was the only action that could be taken. Spock’s dilemma was between logic and humanness. The dilemma of the Crucifixion was between humanness and divinity. For it would have been human to come down from the cross. However, it was divine to hang there.

Assigning value to a person, place or thing then determines its importance. When that value is considered beyond any price then its loss would be intolerable.

Or what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she finds it? – Luke 15:8

What think you? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them should go astray: doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains, and go to seek that which is gone astray? – Matthew 18: 12-14

All that comes from God’s thought is important. For God is love. The true test of the importance of a thing is to what extents will love go to sustain it. Christ’s parables reveal that God so loves us that He will never stop pursuing, encouraging and forgiving until He wins our favor over all other worldly influence. Hence, the blade of grass is returned to its fold, the lost coin to the woman and the wayward lamb to the shepherd. And returned home is each of us – a child of God – to Our Father.

The love of God, of which we are all a product, is boundless. It is no wonder then that we should be compelled to pursue persistently that which is lost or gone astray. And in so doing acknowledge the divine importance in all things and peoples.

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Easter Sunday: The Empty Tomb

“Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.” So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard. – Matthew 27: 65-66

“The king lay in state with the guard about Him. And the most astounding fact about this spectacle of vigilance over the dead is that the enemies of Christ expected the Resurrection, but His friends did not. It was the believers who were the skeptics. It was the unbelievers who were credulous.

None of the apostles expected a Resurrection. They had to be convinced. They had to be convinced the hard way, as Thomas had to be convinced. Believe me, the skeptics of today cannot compare with the skeptics of those days, namely the apostles. They were the doubters, and when they were convinced they proved that they believed by having their throats cut for the cause of Christ.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” He is not here, but has been raised.” – Luke 24:5-6

And as the risen Christ had overcome death, so too, the apostles would rise above their fear. Having again seen and eaten with their master, a presumed illusion had become reality; restoring their faith. The cowards would become heroes. They were now prepared to let go of the lives they knew and give them over to and for Christ; completely. All that was Christ was conferred upon them by Him. They would do what He had done. And through the apostles the gospels would be proclaimed throughout the world resulting in a growing, vibrant, Holy and living church.

As a result of the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday all that was is changed forever. Suffering once seen as a dreaded error of life now has a valued purpose and meaning; for it is the precursor of a greater good; and in the case of Christ, the greatest good. His success is our success. The entrance to heaven that had been denied to all humanity by the disobedience of one man, has been reopened, and access reinstated to all humanity by the obedience of the One man.

From the apostles and succeeding disciples to the present day priests, the consecration of the Holy Eucharist continues in the presence of the ever vigilant Paraclete. The Paraclete is the love of God that binds the Father to the Son and the Son to us all. The Paraclete guides, protects, inspires, consoles and sustains. And through that continual Eucharistic consecration, Jesus keeps the promise He made that comforted and encouraged his apostles then; and comforts and encourages all today, who take up their cross and follow Him. “And remember that I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” – Matthew 28:20

The stone that sealed the tomb of the Savior was found fallen away. And the place where His body had been laid was empty and free of darkness. For that which harbors not life, but death, had not the power to contain “The Light Of The World.”

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Good Friday – The First Homily

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In the letter to the Hebrews, the author affirms Jesus as High Priest according to the Order of Melchizedek.

When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel. Therefore, all must listen with reverence to the readings from God’s word, for they make up an element of greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture God’s word is addressed to all people of every era and is understandable to them, nevertheless, a fuller understanding and a greater effectiveness of the word is fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, the Homily, as part of the liturgical action.

The Homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay…

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