Shadrack, Meshack & Abednego: A few reflections for today!

What a great reading from the Old Testament today (Wednesday, March 28, 2012), the story of Shadrack, Meshack, Abednego and the fiery furnace. The story is ingrained in many of our childhood memories as the story captivates the minds of children who have always been told the great danger of fire and witnessed its destructive forces while roasting marshmallows over a campfire. Adults often remember the story for another reason; the difficulty of pronouncing the characters names. King Nebuchadnezzar might be hard enough but Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego seem virtually impossible, especially if you are the designated reader standing in front of a captive audience, trying to pronounce their names not once, but three times. It’s like navigating the Ninja Warrior obstacle course, just when you start to feel comfortable you get hit with a knock-out punch. (If you do not know what the Ninja Warrior obstacle course is, you-tube it and enjoy the entertainment)
On to my reflection…Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon forces Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego to bow down and worship a golden statue. Nebuchadnezzar taunts them saying, “who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?” Their response is not to defend themselves but simply to say, ‘If God can save us from the furnace may he save us, but even if he will not, we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue.’ Because of this, Nebachadnezzar had them bound and thrown in the furnace.
It is in the furnace that an angel of God frees the three men. They are found walking in the fire unfettered and unhurt. Nebuchadnezzar, shocked at the sight, blesses the God whom Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego trusted in. He praises them for disobeying the royal command to worship a god other than their own God and being willing to sacrifice their bodies as a consequence.
Reflection #1 – On Wisdom – Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego’s response to the king’s command was filled with wisdom. Sometimes people who hold themselves in authority over us revel at the power they possess and find pleasure in the confrontation with those they consider their subjects or of lesser significance. S, M & A (it’s easier than writing out their names) choose to trust in God instead of trying to argue their way out of their predicament. Do we spend too much time trying to figure out a human solution to our problems instead of entrusting ourselves to God’s will and His infinite love and mercy? Whatever your problems are this day, do your part to solve them, but then give them to the same God who saved S, M & A from certain destruction.
Reflection #2 – On expectations – S, M & A petitioned God to save them, but ultimately entrusted themselves to the will of God. They’re expectations were centered on God’s will not their own. They petitioned God to save them, but if he had different plans then they would accept any suffering that God would permit to come to them. How often do our expectations come with strings attached? How often do we petition God for needs and wants without considering if our petitions are a part of God’s plan? Whatever our plans and petitions are this day, let us resign ourselves to accept God’s will even if the outcome isn’t what we wanted.
Finally, don’t forget that S, M & A were preserved from the suffering and persecution of the King, but this isn’t always the case for those that follow the Lord. Are we willing to suffer for our Catholic faith? In America it is easy to be raised soft in faith. Apply the story to our nation today. The King (President Obama) has put out a decree (Health and Human Services mandate) to us. He is forcing us to worship gods against our will (Abortion, sterilization and contraception). What will our response be? Will we refuse the royal command like S, M & A and accept the consequences that come as a result? Or will we bow to the evils that surround us in our country and rationalize our position with empty excuses and hollow justifications in order to maintain the status quo and an illusion of peace or prosperity?
I for my part will stand with Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego against the tyranny of the King! Whatever the consequence, even unto death, may I never forsake my Lord. Will you not stand up as well? I feel like ending with a good quote from Braveheart!
“Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”
Amen to that brothers and sisters!
Joe Rutten

The Angel of the Lord Declared unto Mary

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan J.M.J.

With good reason, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, which this year is commemorated on Monday, March 26th, has been saluted as the “Feast of our Redemption.” The Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity took flesh in the chaste womb of the Virgin of Nazareth when she consented to the Lord’s astounding proposal as announced through the Archangel Gabriel. Our golden chance to be redeemed by Christ began when Mary uttered her famous fiat—“Let it be done as you say.”

 Life looks much different to us after the Annunciation. Each person of the human race, which had grievously offended its Creator due to Original Sin, now would enjoy the holy opportunity to be reconciled to God.

The Annunciation offers many rich truths upon which to reflect. Here are only a few.

The Son of God obeyed His Beloved Father without delay. The Son fulfilled the wise plan of His Father, becoming incarnate in Mary’s womb. Such a striking example of humility and obedience cannot help but to inspire us to respond affirmatively to the Lord in all that He asks of us.

Our Blessed Lady was completely receptive to the Lord. Mary needed no prodding to submit to her Lord. She had already yielded to God countless times before. She loved Him and at every moment placed His desires, no matter how mysterious, over her own.

The Archangel Gabriel holds an important place in our redemption. Angels are “created spirits.” God made them as His special servants. Over the course of time, many have been messengers to the human sons and daughters of God. Gabriel was chosen for this unique task of sharing with Mary that Jesus would be conceived in her by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently born of her. Angels have heralded the Good News for centuries.

The gift of preborn human life is sacred and deserves protection. It is no secret that the legal slaughter of preborn boys and girls has reached endemic proportions. God is not pleased with this savagery. Each of us will have to answer to Him as to how he sought to protect his preborn brothers and sisters. Babies still in their mothers’ wombs require our vigilance and strenuous efforts to secure legal protection for them.

A prayer that the Church has esteemed for decades that commemorates the Annunciation is The Angelus. It is prayed three times daily—6:00 a.m., 12:00 noon and 6:00 p.m. If we don’t know this prayer, now is the time to begin to recite and learn it. Many will find that if they pray The Angelus three times daily for a month, at the end of the thirty days they will have memorized this cherished prayer, which is really a meditation in itself.

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace, . . . .

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary, full of grace, . . . .

V. And the Word was made flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, full of grace, . . . .

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

 When the Archangel Gabriel “declared” unto Mary, he was declaring unto each of us: “Jesus is coming . . . let your souls be open to receive Him.” May our reply echo that of the Ever-Virgin: “fiat.”

 God the Son, made man for us, have mercy on us!

Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, pray for us!

Saint Joseph, Foster-father of the Christ and Husband of the Ever-Virgin, pray for us!

Saint Gabriel the Archangel, trumpet of the Incarnation, pray for us!

Terror of Demons

Posted by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan + J.M.J.

The Universal Church exults daily in the memory of Saint Joseph but especially each March 19th—the Solemnity of Saint Joseph.

It is often said that we know little information about Joseph and his life from Sacred Scripture. That assertion is clearly true.

But we can know something regarding this magnificent Saint. How? Not only by prayerfully meditating on the relevant passages in The Holy Bible but also by asking God Himself to teach us about this “just man” who is the Foster Father of Jesus, the chaste Husband of the Ever-Virgin Mary and the reliable Patron of the Universal Church.

The Lord has countless secrets to reveal to us about Joseph. God wants to instruct us in the ways of Joseph’s faith, perseverance, purity and loyalty.

The “Litany of Saint Joseph” is an excellent place to begin. The vivid titles convey so much meaning and truth. One of my favorite appellations from the Litany is “Terror of Demons.”

Satan and his cohort of fallen angels had no success in seducing Joseph. He checked his temper, he refrained from idle speech and he was righteous in his dealings with his neighbors. Because Joseph was close to the compassionate Almighty, he was enabled to overcome the vicious onslaught of Lucifer and his vindictive companions.

Those who turn to Saint Joseph for his powerful intercession and good example do much to keep Satan and the other wholly corrupt devils at bay. In this sense, Joseph is the Terror of Demons because when the friends of Jesus avail themselves of his salutary influence, Saint Joseph is for them a sure protection against the oppressive wiles of the Prince of Darkness.

There are numerous prayers to Saint Joseph. What follows is the “Consecration to Saint Joseph.”

O Blessed Saint Joseph!
I consecrate myself to thy honor, and give myself to thee, that thou mayest be always my father, my protector, and my guide to the way of salvation.
Obtain for me a great purity of heart and a fervent love of the interior life.
After thy example, may I perform all my actions for the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary!
And do thou, O Blessed Joseph, pray for me,
that I may experience the peace and joy of thy holy death. Amen.

Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation!
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you: save souls!
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you. Amen.

With Saint Joseph as our help, we may confidently approach the Risen Lord Jesus Christ through Blessed Mary and realize that our humble efforts—poor as they are—will please our merciful God.

 Saint Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

Imitating Mary’s Immaculate Heart

Standing at the Cross of her Son, Mary unveiled the beauty of the human heart, the beauty of the feminine heart.  There she bore with great compassion the suffering of her divine Son.  Throughout her life, she experienced the profound communion between God and man within her own womb.  She lived the intimate love of a mother and child with the additional gift of meditating with awe upon this boy who was so incomparably great yet so humble.  She received love greater than any other human being had ever known.

Despite the incredible beauty of her Son’s love, Mary experienced an inexpressible pain by facing its rejection from the human race.  She saw this man, deserving of only love and worship, hated and killed.  Herein lies the beauty of Mary’s Immaculate Heart.  Her heart so pure and loving deserved only loved in return, yet she was pierced by the sins of humanity and watched in agony as it was manifested in her Son’s Passion.  So many of us would respond to this rejection by ceasing to love.  We would harden our hearts and allow jadedness and even bitterness to take love’s place.  Mary instead responded with even greater love.  She became the Mother of the Church and the spiritual Mother of us all seeking to return us to the gift of God’s mercy.  She shows to us that the response to suffering is not rejection but, rather, greater love.  During this Lenten season, may we find in the heart of Mary a deeper understanding of the freedom and joy lived in a truly Christian heart.

Tranformation in Christ

Posted by Fr. James Mason:

In the New Testament one of the clearest and most repeated commands involves each one of us being born again, or ‘putting on Christ’ or allowing Christ to be ‘formed in us’ or having the ‘mind of Christ’ or being ‘transformed in Christ’…  We have to be reminded that these are not simply sayings or admonitions to read what Jesus said and try and carry it out as with other human leaders but that this Jesus, a real Person, is here right now and desires to interfere with your very self; “killing the old natural self in you and replacing it the kind of self He has.  At first only for moments.  Then for longer period.  Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which share in His Power, joy, knowledge and eternity.” C.S. Lewis,  Mere Christianity, Bk. IV, ch. 7.

The Mysterious Sacredness of Life

Posted by Dr. Martin Albl:

Recently Eric Robert and Rodney Berget have been sentenced to death in the name of the people of South Dakota. They both admitted to killing corrections officer Ronald Johnson during a failed escape attempt. They both had asked for the death penalty.

In news reports about Berget’s sentencing, the prosecution speaks about how Berget has shown no remorse (although he himself has said he deserves to die). In delivering his sentence, the judge finished with, “May God have mercy on your soul.” It strikes me as so incongruous that we can sit in judgment on the life of another human being. As if we had the moral authority to peer into another’s soul, determine the level of remorse, and conclude from that level whether the person deserves to live or die.

As Christians we hold to the mysterious sacredness of life. The claim that we have the authority to determine whether another human should live or die takes life out of that sacred realm, and places it in humans hands—where it should not be.

Let the weather draw your heart and mind to God!

I imagine the existence of God has been argued since the beginning of mankind. The great Catholic tradition for God’s existence is built on the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, but his works are not alone.

One of the great arguments is based more on experience than logical analysis. It is called the argument from aesthetics, or beauty. It is simple; when we experience beauty in the world (birth of a baby, grandeur of the mountains, sunrise at the lake, etc) it leads us to the source of that beauty (the one who created the beauty we experience), God who is Beauty itself.

Enjoy the beauty of the spring weather and let it draw your mind and heart to God this week.  Praise lightens the heart and purifies our attitude!  It is good medicine and it’s free. 

One of the most popular ways to experience the argument from aesthetics is through sacred music and art. If you are in Sioux Falls you can experience both at the Cathedral of St. Joseph for the Novena to our patron at 6pm each night unitl March 19th, the Feast Day of St. Joseph. It lasts about 45 minutes and it is a sure encounter with the beauty and grandeur of God through the aesthetics of the Cathedral itself, the prayer of the community and the sacred music from the organ.

I promise you will not be disappointed!  St. Joseph, pray for us.

St. Joseph Novena

NOVENA PRAYER – “a devotion of prayer on nine consecutive days”

Oh, Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, Saint Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers. Oh, Saint Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Saint Joseph, Patron of departing souls – pray for me. Amen.

– Saint Francis de Sales

(This prayer was found in the fiftieth year of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505, it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. Whoever shall read this prayer or hear it or keep it about themselves, shall never die a sudden death, or be drowned, nor shall poison take effect on them; neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy, or be burned in any fire or be overpowered in battle. Say for nine days for anything you may desire. It has never been known to fail, so be sure you really want what you ask.)

This novena may be offered to all categories.

The Miraculous Medal

Posted by Msgr. Charles Mangan + J.M.J.

The Servant of God Father John Hardon, S.J. (1914-2000), once shared this story about the efficacy of the Miraculous Medal in the life of a young boy.

“He had been in a coma for ten days . . . no speech, no voluntary movements of the body. His condition was such that the only question was whether he would live. There was no question of recovering from what was diagnosed as permanent and inoperable brain damage.

“What I found out was that you don’t just bless the Miraculous Medal, you have to put it around a person’s neck. No sooner did I finish the prayer of enrolling the boy in the Confraternity than he opened his eyes for the first time in two weeks. He saw his mother and said, ‘Ma, I want some ice cream.’ After three days, when all examinations showed there was complete restoration to health, the boy was released from the hospital.”