Category Archives: Patrisics

Bishop Conley: “Mary’s Most Loyal Children”

Most Reverend James D. Conley, bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, writes for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, about what an ancient feast this is, and about Mary’s “loyal and ancient followers” in Iraq and Syria.

St. John Damascene, a Syriac deacon from Damascus and Doctor of the Church who preached at the beginning of the 8th century, wrote a sermon to the Blessed Mother, saying to her, “You, O Mother, were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.”

From the beginning of Christian history, the Christians of the Middle East have been loyal sons and daughters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today, the heirs of that great tradition, the Christians of Iraq and Syria in particular, are facing unprecedented persecution… “

Read the rest of Bishop Conley’s piece at First Things.

Remember That You Are Dust and To Dust You Shall Return

Repent and believe the in the Gospel.

ash2This evening and all through this Ash Wednesday day, these formulations from the Roman Missal have echoed within the walls of Catholic parishes all over the world. This act of penitence, the mark of ashes on our foreheads in the sign of the cross speaks of the spiritual combat that we are summoned to undertake during the Lenten season that is in the words of the Collect of the day, “as we take up battle against spiritual evils.” The imposition of ashes is no more a quaint vestige of a mediaeval custom than is the reality of the Evil One himself who threatens to undo the good work the Lord has begun among us this evening.  In fact the intensity of the desire to grow in holiness will be met with the ferocity of wiles and the wickedness of the Evil One. Evagrios of the fourth century puts it this way:

“The demon is very envious of us when we pray, and uses every kind of trick to thwart our purpose…. The warfare between us and the demons is waged solely on account of spiritual prayer. For prayer is extremely hateful and offensive to them, whereas it leads us to salvation and peace.”

We have in truth taken up the battle against spiritual evils. A contemporary priest says,

“The Church isn’t Shangri-La.  The Church is the battleground for the salvation of souls.  The Devil is the prince of this world.  The demonic enemy rampages and devours.  The bishops and priests of Holy Church will be the enemy’s first targets.  The enemy will seek to divide, to spread doubts, to sew dissension among those who ought to be the most filled with faith, hope and charity.  The Church is, simultaneously, a rock and refuge for sinners as well as a vicious blood-stained battlefield. It has ever been so.”

May we embrace the Lenten season of 40 days as a time of true repentance. I commend to your prayer the seven penitential psalms. You can print these and make them the daily sustenance of your prayer as you embrace the “battle against spiritual evils” with the weapons of penance and charity so we may celebrate Easter with heartfelt devotion.

More Lenten resources:

Turkey Pilgrimage: Cappadocia

In our recent trip to Turkey, we visited Cappadocia, in the very center of the country. Cappadocia is mentioned twice in the bible, as one of the groups of god-fearing Jews in Jerusalem at Pentecost and as one of the groups of dispersed Christians addressed in the first letter of Peter. St. Paul is said to have conducted several missionary trips here. This is where in the 4th century the foundations of our Catholic faith were thought through with such intellectual men as Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazienzen; and St. Gregory of Nyssa.

There was a pagan whose name was Gregory, who was exiled from Armenia and came to faith in Cappadocia, and returned as a missionary to Armenia. He converted the king of Armenia to Christianity, and the saint is known as St Gregory the Illuminator.

St. Basil is responsible for the third part of our creed about the Holy Spirit at the Council of Constantinople in 381: “I believe in the Holy Spirit…” Basil of Caesarea tempered the eccentricities of early Syriac monasticism and wrote a monastic rule. He did for monasticism in the East what Benedict did for the West a few centuries later.

We celebrated mass in a rock-cut cave church of over 1000 years old, a place where Mass had not been celebrated for over 800 years until just recently. Today very few Christians live in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country. Yet 1000 years ago, it was a thriving Catholic Christian culture. And today we still live that legacy here at Saint Benedict. Who knows, maybe in 600 years, there will be no Christianity in the United States. However, the faith will still manifest itself in another location with an even greater vibrancy.

On November 24th, the close of the Year of Faith, Pope Francis in his homily said, “Christ is the centre of the history of the human race and of every man and woman. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel [Lk 23:43].”

No matter what is going on in the world, and no matter what occupies our time from day to day, Advent should be ablaze with hope, for we follow the light that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [John 1:5].”