Wednesday, March 28, 2012

(78) Meditations For the Rosary III: The Sorrowful Mysteries

AMDG


        The 20 mysteries of the rosary and their corresponding meditations cover the highlights of the life of Christ and His mother, Mary. Four times through this coming liturgical year, we shall post a blog on a set of five mysteries that coincide with the Gospels of the liturgical year. Please permit me to share insights I obtained while meditating on the holy rosary. You might like to incorporate some of these meditations among yours or add to them.

        Conceptually, the rosary is a litany of repetitive prayers, which act like background music, while the focus is to meditate upon five of 20 different mysteries of the life of Christ and His mother, grouped according to the joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious events portrayed or alluded to in the Bible. See www.americaneedsfatima.org. The rosary is said with the aid of beads and a connected crucifix, marking the beginning with the Apostles Creed. This is followed by an Our Father for the intentions of the Holy Father, three Hail Mary prayers for the increase of Faith, Hope and Charity plus a Glory Be. Then each decade or mystery includes one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and a Glory Be (Praise).

        For those who say the rosary every day: The Joyful Mysteries are usually said on Monday & Saturday; the Luminous Mysteries are said on Thursday; the Sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday; and the Glorious on Wednesday and Sunday.  The Sunday rosary may also use the mysteries that correspond to the season of the liturgical year.......Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. Furthermore, the Sorrowful Mysteries may be said during the entire Holy Week and the Glorious Mysteries are usually said for the entire Easter Week. Of course one may meditate on any set of mysteries. There's no rigid rule.

      “The family that prays together, stays together.” Prayer has healed millions, ended wars, overthrown dictators, stopped the advance of militant Islam into Europe in 1571 and again in 1683, both chapters in a one thousand year old war that includes today's War on Terror. This certainly gives credence to two quotes by Alfred Lord Tennyson: “A world at prayer is a world at peace” and “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”. These were the themes promoted by Father Patrick Peyton in his Family Rosary Crusade and other programs. God used his magnetic personality to attract most of the top movie stars of the day to act on his Family Theater program on radio and television. His cause for canonization is advancing.

THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY

     Imagine being with Our Lord praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the evening of Holy Thursday after the Last Supper; watching the condemnation and the torture of Jesus; being part of the crowd on Good Friday saying “Crucify Him”; then following Our Lord on His journey to Calvary; and being beneath the cross with Mary, her heart pierced by a sword as she suffers with her son.  We can also relive it all every Holy Week, watching Mel Gibson’s epic movie on DVD, “The Passion of the Cross”.
 
        Below are meditations for each decade or mystery. One may use the entire meditation or read and reflect only upon the Bible passages as he or she can imagine being there as an observer. In bold is a recommended shorter version when time is limited as for the recitation of the rosary before Mass. Anything in italics is a quote taken directly from the Bible.

         The facts of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, and meditations below are based on the Bible, tradition, and from the Shroud of Turin. Googling “The Shroud of Turin” gives a wealth of sources for the reader with a deeper interest.

        These meditations are also very appropriate for use with the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is a litany asking God that “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world”. While reciting the litany, one meditates on different aspects of the passion of Christ. May the Rosary and the Chaplet be important parts of our spiritual renewal during Lent.

        Notice that the Psalms and the Book of Isaiah of the Old Testament cited below beautifully foretell details of the Passion of Christ up to 1000 years before His birth. The Psalms are a collection of songs of praise and thanksgiving by several authors written between 1410 and 500 B.C. Most of the Psalms were written by David from 1010-970 B.C. Isaiah wrote most of the book of the Bible attributed to him between 722 and 687 B.C. 


The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden  

      After the Last Supper, Christ took the apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray because He knew what was coming the next day.  He was afraid.  He felt the weight of all of the sins of the world.....past, present, and future.  His agony was so great that He sweat blood.  Under extreme anxiety, the capillaries on the surface of the skin break.  Our Lord prayed:  "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will" (Mark 14:36).  May we likewise accept the will of God and trust in Him, no matter what happens.  We know that He will be with us and take us through any cross. 

        “When Christ returned he found the apostles asleep.  He said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep?  Could you not keep watch for one hour?   Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:37-38).  May we have a good prayer life so that we will be ready for the test.  Sooner or later, it will come.  Other options include reading and reflecting during the recitation of this decade on Psalm 27:1-3,7-14; 140:5-6; 141:2-5; Matthew 26:36-27:25; Mark 14:32-15:14; Luke 22:39-23:15; John 18:1-40


The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar 

   “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged” (John 19:1).   It was brutal.  The Roman whip had three or four strands of leather with pieces of bone and/or lead pellets attached to the end.  Thus each blow tore globs of skin from our Lord's back, causing blood to splatter and profuse bleeding.  According to the evidence on the shroud, Christ received not the normal 100 lashes, but 120.......60 by one soldier on his back and another 60 by a shorter soldier who whipped below.  When Jim Caviezel was twice accidentally lashed with the whip during filming of the “Passion of the Christ”, the pain was so intense that he could neither breathe nor talk for a moment or two.  Other options are to read and reflect on Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 27:25-26; Mark 15:1-15; and Luke 23:16.


The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning of Thorns
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         “And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak (to signify royalty), and they came to him and said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck him repeatedly (putting a reed in His right hand as a scepter and even spitting on Him).  Once more Pilate went out and said to them: ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.’  So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, ‘Behold, the man!’  When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him” (John 19:2-6). 

        The soldiers probably pounded the crown into our Lord's skull.  Christ the King, the King of the Universe is mocked and suffered such humiliation for our sins.  Indeed, the shroud shows numerous puncture marks on our Lord's skull.  Other options include reading and reflecting on Psalm 69:8-22,31-35; Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:1-3; Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; John 15:18-20.

        The soldiers probably pounded the crown into our Lord's skull.  Christ the King, the King of the Universe is mocked and suffered such humiliation for our sins.  Indeed, the shroud shows numerous puncture marks on our Lord's skull.  Other options include reading and reflecting on Psalm 69:8-22,31-35; Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:1-3; Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; John 15:18-20.


The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross 

                Let us briefly reflect on the Way of the Cross and the lessons we can learn at each station.

 

1) When we are criticized and even condemned publicly, may we act with a calm dignity, grace, love, and faith in God as Christ did before Pilate while trusting in His Father.  Wisdom 2:12-22; Matthew 26:57-68; 27:11-26; Mark 14:53-65; 15:1-15; Luke 22:66-23:25; John 18:19-24; 28-40; 19:1-16.

 

2) As Christ accepted His cross, may we accept our daily crosses and offer them up to the Lord (John 19:17).

 

3) (3rd, 7th, & 9th Stations)  Each time that we fall, may we have the perseverance to pick ourselves up and keep going on while learning from each fall.  The shroud shows evidence of extensive bruises that would be caused by falls.  Any time that we fall into sin, may we get up quickly, say a prayer of sincere sorrow, and go to confession as soon as possible if serious. Most spiritual directors recommend monthly confession to facilitate growth in virtue.  St. John Paul II went to confession every week.

 

4) Mary accompanied her son on the entire way of the cross, suffering together with Him the whole time with intense love, tenderness, dignity, strength, and grace, trusting in the will of the Father in His plan for our salvation and knowing that the glory of the resurrection will come. May these qualities motivate us to embrace Mary as our mother.  (Genesis 3:15; Lamentations 2:13)

 

5) May we be willing to help others carry their crosses as Simon of Cyrene helped our Lord to carry His cross (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:20-22; Luke 23:26).

 

6) (6th & 8th Stations)  May we have the compassion of Veronica and the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31).  When we help the least of these, we do it for Christ as Veronica did. (Matthew 25:37-40).

 

Other options include Isaiah 50:4-7; Matthew 27:32-33; Mark 15:20-22); Luke 23:26-33; John 19:16-17.      


 The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion.
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 Every breath was excruciating because Christ had to lift himself up against the nails to breathe or utter a word.  Even from the cross, our Lord tried to teach us.  Let us examine these lessons from the seven times He briefly spoke as underlined

 

1) "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).  May we forgive as Christ did on the cross.

 

2) The good thief said: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:39-43).  Christ showed his mercy to the good thief in his last moments.  May we also show mercy to others.

 

3) “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.  When Jesus saw his mother the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’  Then he said to the disciple, Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:25-27).  Thus Christ gave us himself in the Eucharist on Holy Thursday; salvation on Good Friday; and even His mother from the cross.    Later when the centurion pierced the dead redeemer's side and heart with his lance, some speculate that was the very moment when Mary's heart was pierced by a sword as prophesized by Simeon some 33 years earlier (Luke 2:35).

 

4) After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I thirst. (John 19:28).  Our Savior ardently thirsts for sinners to come back to Him.

 

5) "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34-35).  To not feel the presence of His father was Christ's greatest suffering.  May we always crave to feel the presence of God even though He is always there.

 

6) It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit (John 19:30).  These last words were of triumph.  Christ accomplished His mission from the Father and opened the gates of Heaven for us.  May our deaths also be moments of triumph.

 

7) "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"; and when he had said this he breathed his last (Luke 23:46).  May we also resign ourselves to the will of God.  With faith and trust in God, all things work out for the best in the long run.

       When the soldier pierced the side of Christ, blood and water flowed out (John 19:34).  They symbolize the blood of the Eucharist and the purifying water of Baptism.

 

       Doctors have written articles on the medical aspects of the Christ's passion and can only conclude that He had tremendous endurance and superhuman strength to bear it all and stay alive for as long as He did.  See www.evangelicaloutreach.org/crucifix.htm, www.ldolphin.org/kwells9.html,

www.frugalsites.net/jesus/crucifixion.htm, www.ethoughts.org/crucifixion_description.htm These meditations can also be found on Blog #78 at paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com for a direct click.  For meditations on the Joyful, Luminous, and Glorious Mysteries, go to Blogs # 50, 73, and 84 at paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com.

 

       God allowed this scandalous travesty to happen for a higher good......to make reparation for our sins and thus make possible our salvation and eternal happiness in heaven.  He loved us so much with such great mercy that He sent his only begotten son to save us from our sins and spiritual death and open the gates of heaven for us.  May we remember that suffering will make saints out of us if accepted as Christ did and united with His cross as we offer it all up to God for the Church, the missions, a better world, and for our loved ones.

 

        Other options are to read and reflect on Psalm 16:9-10; 22:2-3, 7-20; 30:2-6; 31:2-6, 10-16; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Matthew 27:34-66; Mark 15:23-47; Luke 23:33-56; John 3:13-21; 19:18-42; Romans 5:19; Philippians 2:6-11; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; 1Peter1:17-19; 2:19-25.  


Monday, March 26, 2012

(77) The Lenten Journey: What It's All About




        On Ash Wednesday our parish church was packed, standing room only. That was great! But we won't see some of those people until Easter. Attending Mass every Sunday without fail is much more important than only coming on Ash Wednesday.  Click on https://youtu.be/Y4DVUlf7ec4 for a one minute segment of a beautiful talk by Matthew Leonard on Lent. 

       True, the blessing with ashes is a beautiful sacramental and a wonderful tradition. In our presence after Mass on Fat Tuesday morning the day before, our pastor, Father Thomas Hamm burned the palms of previous Palm Sundays. Fat Tuesday is the traditional day for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Mobile, Rio in Brazil, etc. as one last fling before the forty days of prayer, fast, and almsgiving. By no means are the festivities an official Church observance. The next day, Ash Wednesday, the Mardi Gras partying is transformed into Lent, the somber period of penance and repentance. 

       The Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent relates that Christ spent forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert as a retreat in preparation for His public ministry. We could also spend a day or two on retreat in preparation for a new phase in our lives.......ordination, marriage, college, graduate school, first job after graduation, a new career changing job or mission, etc. In any event, a short annual retreat, day of recollection, or day of renewal is an excellent practice for any Catholic striving to become holy and a true man or woman of God. Lent also consists of forty days of prayer, fasting, and alms giving, not counting Sundays.

       Temptations. Interesting is that Christ was tempted by the devil in the same way as we are (Matthew 4:1-11). Temptations revolve around four worldly aspirations: Pleasure, wealth, power, and honor (prestige). “Turn these stones into bread” purports to satisfy pleasure in relieving hunger; “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down (from the tower)” appeals to honor for such a public miracle. “All these I shall give to you (all the kingdoms of the world), if you will prostrate yourself and worship me” supposedly promises wealth and power. Do we not make idols out of money, power, pleasure, and prestige? Do we become slaves to any of them? In other words, do we become addicted to them? And we can't simply blame it all on the devil. So often temptations come from within ourselves, from our own selfishness, from our own weaknesses.

       In the Old Testament penitents would wear sack cloth and sit in a heap of ashes. On Ash Wednesday, the priest blesses and marks each person on the forehead with the ashes in the form of a cross saying: "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel." Traditionally, the priest said: "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return" as a reminder of mortality and it's time to repent. Clearly, the focus is upon repentance and conversion. i.e., turning away from sin and turning back to Christ, to follow Him, and to become closer to Him. 

       Prayer. During Lent, we tend to focus more on giving up things.......sweets, movies, etc. That is the negative. We should place a much greater emphasis upon doing. That is the positive. Prayer is basically conversation with God. It brings us closer to Him through adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and petition. Prayer can also take the form of Bible reading. A great lenten sacrifice is to read just one chapter of the Bible a day from the New Testament. That only takes about 15 minutes. There's also other spiritual reading possibilities. More frequent attendance at Daily Mass and lenten devotions such as Stations of the Cross often followed by Benediction, and Eucharistic Adoration are fabulous lenten sacrifices. 


Christ prayed and fasted for 40 days in the desert in preparation for His great mission to teach us how to live and to save us from our sins on the Cross on Mt. Calvary.  We should do much of the same during the 40 days of Lent.

        Fasting is really no big deal. Before Vatican II, Catholics were required to fast every day except Sunday which is not counted among the forty days. Today, Catholics between the ages of 19 through 59 are required to fast only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It consists of only one full meal and the other two combined should not exceed the full meal. Furthermore, there is no snacking between meals. That's really great for weight watchers as is giving up sweets and could be done every day during Lent. Sweets never taste as good as it does on Easter Sunday. Giving up tobacco and alcohol has all kinds of health benefits. Giving up TV, video games, partying, etc. are great time savers and forms of fasting. Penance promotes self discipline. You can't conquer the world until you conquer yourself first. Penance also makes restitution for our sins. 

      Almsgiving is not simply giving money to charity. It's also good works.......volunteering in the Community and in the Church; simply helping people in need; doing favors for people; opening our hearts to others, listening to people who need a friend, visiting the sick, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, etc. There's so much truth in the old saying: “Charity begins at home”. It's easy to be nice and courteous to strangers, but not so easy with our loved ones who sometimes are annoying, insensitive, blunt, rude, discourteous, and want their own way. Little acts of love go a long way. 




       Lent is a time for self-examination and developing virtues. What are things that I have to work on? How can I become a better person? How can I become closer to God? How can I become a true man or woman of God? The focus is upon holiness and eternity. To enter Heaven, one must be holy. We can become holy either on Earth or in Purgatory which may take many years. It's a choice each of us must make. That's what Lent is all about. May all of you have a very fruitful Lent.

 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

(76) Two Hundred Men Attend 2012 Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal

   

 Danny Abramowicz

Editor's Note: For an interesting interview by the Cleveland Dealer, go to 

(8) Article/Interview of Danny Abramowicz in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

https://diosteubmen.blogspot.com/2012/02/8-articleinterview-of-danny-abramowicz.html


         Two hundred men traveled from all parts of our far flung diocese, some two hundred miles from north to south, for a day of renewal, featuring two great talks by Danny Abramowicz, a Penance Service, and Mass, presided by the Apostolic Administrator, Msgr. Kurt Kemo. Men of all ages participated and sang with enthusiasm. It was a great day of renewal and enjoyable fellowship. One of the men remarked: "I go to the Men's Day of Renewal every year. I wouldn't miss it for anything. I really need it".

       The men could relate to at least parts of Coach Abramowicz's down to earth, simple and direct testimony of his own falling into the fast life as a young pro football star in New Orleans, his misery in it and consequent alcoholism followed by conversion after hitting bottom. He presented a challenge: “Men, we have dropped the ball as spiritual leaders in the family, in the parish, and in the community. We must get into spiritual shape. We spend so much time on the temporal that ends when we die and so little time on the spiritual that is eternal. We're in a spiritual war against powers and principalities. Our playbook is from the Bible and our game plan comes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM or www.FamilyCatechism.com).

        The 1969 all pro wide receiver presented steps for conversion and for keeping on the straight and narrow. “Men get into trouble because they neglect their prayer life”. Danny spends an hour and a half a day in prayer (Mass, Bible & other spiritual reading, time in front of the tabernacle, etc.)......even more time than working out. He's not far from his playing weight. Prayer is nothing more than “raising the mind to God to praise, adore, thank, and ask. You'll find the Lord in silence. Listen.”

        We must “run away from temptations. Porn is more addictive than booze and drugs”. When we fall, we must “blame ourselves and resort to confession, which is essential for renewal and conversion”.

        “What we get out of Mass depends upon what we put into it. We receive the word, which should be read before Mass to get a better understanding”. But most of all, in this sacrifice of Christ to God that makes Calvary present in an unbloody manner, “we receive the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ”.

        Coach Abramowicz asked each man to tell his wife how much he loves her. Furthermore he asked the men to encourage priests: “Lift them up”. The men then enthusiastically gave the priests present a standing ovation for giving their lives to the Church. “Encourage vocations” among the young men in our lives that may be called.

        He urged the men to “take your walking orders from Christ. Look for His will. We don't know when the Son of Man is coming”. During his bypass surgery of 100% blockage, Danny had to trust in the Lord's will, not his own will. The former offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints then closed with the challenge: “Are you ready?”
  
        Next year's Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal will be on March 16, 2013 at a location much closer to us. The main speaker will be the nationally known Fr. Larry Richards, who will challenge the men to become real men instead of spiritual wimps. He's the author of the best selling book, “Be a Man”. Fr. Richards is very dynamic and entertaining.

        See “Crossing the Goal” on EWTN television and radio, both of which can also be obtained on the internet at www.ewtn.com. The program features Danny Abramowicz, Peter Herbeck, Curtis Martin, and Brian Patrick. Tune in Thursday 9 pm, Sunday 6:30 pm, and Monday 6:30 am. Their website, www.crossingthegoal.com has resources and blogs by members of their team to complete their mission. That is to “support and equip men to stand up and live the life they were called to by their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”
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     See the Men's Conference Blog on men's spirituality “Becoming a True Man of God” at diosteubmen.blogspot.com and a greater variety on “A Little Bit for God and His People” at paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

(75) 2012 Diocese of Steubenville Men's Conference With Danny Abramowicz

                                                                                

Editor's Post Conference Note:  
For a summary of Danny Abramowicz's
talk and the 2012 Men's Day of Renewal, go to

(19) Highlights of the 2012 Diocesan Men's Conference: Danny Abramowicz Speaks to Two Hundred Men at the 2012 Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal: a Recap

For an interesting interview by the Cleveland Dealer, go to 

(8) Article/Interview of Danny Abramowicz in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

https://diosteubmen.blogspot.com/2012/02/8-articleinterview-of-danny-abramowicz.html


        The 2012 Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal will be held at St. John's Church in Bellaire, Ohio on Saturday March 10 from 9 am to 3 pm. The theme is “Faithfulness to God” with St. Joseph as its patron. There will be Stations of the Cross the night before and also Eucharistic Adoration if there is sufficient interest. At 8:30 am there will be rosary before the official start of the Conference. The program includes the dynamic and entertaining speaker, Danny Abramowicz, the host of "Crossing the Goal” on EWTN television. Also included is a Penance Service and a Mass presided, by the Apostolic Administrator, Msgr.Kurt Kemo. The priests attending will concelebrate with him.

        The goal of the Men's Day of Renewal is to focus on the spiritual development of the men of our diocese. Having spiritually strong men of faith and character translates into more solid families, more dynamic parishes, and better communities. These are crucial to the Church, now and in the future, not to mention the critical need of nurturing vocations. The theme of the Conference is “Faithfulness to God” with St. Joseph, model of a true man of God, as its patron. The distance is great for many, but that gives the Conference a pilgrimage flavor and Lent is all about sacrifice. After all, we're in a Super Bowl, and each one of us must win it. The trophy for victory, the prize is eternal salvation, everlasting happiness in heaven when Christ Himself would say to you...... “Well done good and faithful servant.” He will relate his experience as a professional football player and coach to the very serious game of life........becoming true men of God.

        Too often the women are the pillars of the parish. It is essential that the men take the spiritual lead in the family and in the parish. One holy woman in our diocese likes to challenge the men and say: "I don't see many REAL men around".......i.e., authentic men of strong character, virtue, and integrity.......willing and able to put Catholic values into their families, their professions, and the public square. She refers to some research. It concludes that if the mother takes the spiritual lead in the family, there is in the neighborhood of a 17% probability that the children will remain faithful to the Church in later life. However, if the father takes the spiritual lead, that probability increases to about 70%. If the men can get into good spiritual shape, we'll have stronger families and parishes. Set the men on fire and you renew not only the parish, but the entire diocese and ultimately the Country, thus transforming Society.
 
      The main speaker, Danny Abramowicz was born and raised in Steubenville, a Catholic Central alumnus, who later broke records at Xavier University and is a member of its Sports Hall of Fame. As the last draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 1967, Danny made the team on sheer guts and determination. Finally, he broke into the lineup as a wide receiver of Archie Manning, the father of Peyton and Eli. By 1969, he led the NFL in receptions and made all-pro. After retiring in 1975, he became a charter member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame and later the Louisiana, National Polish, Ohio Valley, and Sports Faith Halls of Fame. After his stint as head coach of Jesuit High School, he later became the special teams coach of the Chicago Bears and offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints (1997-2000) under Mike Ditka.

        As many young pro stars, Danny fell into the fast life and alcoholism. Being miserable and unhappy, he underwent a conversion and is devoting the rest of his life as a coach for Christ, to help men get into spiritual shape (i.e., holiness) through his books, talks around the country, and his “Crossing the Goal” program on EWTN television (Thursday 9 pm, Sunday 6:30 pm, & Monday 6:30 am), radio, and internet (ewtn.com). Googling his name will give over 5000 results with many details about his career. Very interesting on the first page is a reference to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article/interview: “Who dat? Danny Abramowicz was the New Orleans Saints' First Star”. We also have it here as Blog #70-C.  See also his website at crossingthegoal.com.

       Coach Abramowicz will relate his experience as a professional football player and coach to the very serious game of life. You'll really enjoy his talk, more so if you're a pro football fan.

          It should be a great day of enjoyable fellowship and spiritual invigoration. The last two years the men returned refreshed spiritually, reinvigorated, and enthusiastic. Expect the same this year. Most impressive in prior years was the Mass concelebrated by the Bishop with up to 25 pastors who accompanied their men. The men sang with such enthusiasm that the walls reverberated. It was great to see how the participants are moved by the beauty and power of the faith and it's contagious. But most of all, through grace we'll have a few more good spiritually strong men for the kingdom of God in the battle against secularism and other evils and problems that our troubled society must confront.......men --not spiritual weaklings and wimps-- who will put Christ into their professions. Finally, the men will become more knowledgeable, firmer in their faith and better prepared for a more joyful Easter, not to mention greater closeness to God and eternity which life on earth is all about. If successful, a Men's Day of Renewal can become an annual event in our diocese, thus fulfilling a great need.

        Optional Motel Accommodations. Recognizing that some of the men will have to travel as much as four hours to attend the Men's Conference, the Steering Committee is offering a special rate for the nights of March 9 & 10 at the Hampton Inn nearby if one makes reservations by February 24. Details and directions are in the brochure which can be obtained in the back of the church or on the home page of the diocesan web site, www.diosteub.org. In this way, the men can make it a week-end retreat with Stations of the Cross and prayer (Eucharistic Adoration if sufficient interest) on Friday night plus prayer and rosary early the next morning. Wives could come along and spend the day in the very large St. Clairsville Mall nearby. Pittsburgh is less than an hour and a half away.

        One or two good men are urgently needed in each parish to help to assure adequate promotion overall and to promote the Men's Conference with one on one selling of the event. Then they would organize the men to go as a group in the parish van, a van pool, or hiring a bus. That would be great fellowship and would solidify the parish as the men get to know each other better, especially if the pastor accompanies them and we'll need confessors. If the distance is great, there would be a pilgrimage flavor, especially if there's prayer and discussion of the day's events. Pastors, already overworked, can't do it all, especially the grunt work of promotion. They need the help of the laity.

        Each prospective parish representative is asked to make his availability and contact information known to the Chair of the Steering Committee, Steve Ishmael at 740-635-2102, 740-296-9927, or swi167@comcast.net. The parish representative may collect the registration forms and send them to Ishmael at P.O. Box 167; Lansing, OH 43934. This would save considerable time waiting at the door. This may also be done individually. Make the check payable to the Diocese of Steubenville and write “Men's Day of Renewal” on the memo line of the check.

        Other Promotional Help Needed. The best form of advertizing is word of mouth. Thus we are asking participants of past years to tell their friends about this great opportunity for spiritual renewal. The local Knights of Columbus council can be invaluable in mobilizing their members and the other men in the parishes. A layman could briefly talk about the conference at the end of Mass. Other parish groups can help with the promotion. The women can be most valuable in encouraging their men to attend.......husbands, sons over 18, fathers, boy friends, etc. Certainly, they want them to be true men of God. This is really part of the new evangelization and every Catholic shares in that mission Christ gave us. Perhaps, the parish could help the men who cannot afford the cost.

        Donations Needed. It is very expensive to put on a Conference of this magnitude and bring the top speakers of the country. At the same time, the Steering Committee is doing its best to keep the Conference affordable for each participant during these difficult economic times. Thus we are asking for donations from businesses, parishes organizations, the Knights of Columbus, and individuals. Please send any check to Steve Ismael as shown above

        Often the enthusiasm generated at a men's conference is contagious and there is a spillover into parish life since the men see fellow participants moved by the beauty and power of the faith. Non-Catholics are also welcome. This is all a part of the new evangelization......to fire up the apathetic Catholic who doesn't do much beyond attending Sunday Mass, i.e., the minimalist; to touch the drifting Catholic and the fallen away through the publicity and inviting them to attend.

    More information is available from your pastor, Steve Ishmael above, or “Paul Sebastian” <pauls@rio.edu> at 740-245-9404. The Conference blog, Becoming a True Man of God” at http://diosteubmen.blogspot.com has a wealth of promotional materials (possible bulletin and pulpit announcements, a possible bulletin insert, promotional ideas at the parish level, crucial role of the parish representative, possible talk by one of the men after Mass, etc.), interesting articles, and other information. After the Conference through the rest of the year, articles will be added to help the men keep in good spiritual shape and continue in their quest of becoming true men of God with articles on men's spirituality. Article submissions are accepted if they meet our criteria.

        Although registrations will be accepted at the door, please register as soon as possible. That would make planning much easier and would minimize waiting at the door.

          SUMMARY OF WHAT THE MEN'S CONFERENCE CAN DO FOR YOU.....BENEFITS
  • Get into good spiritual shape and avoid being a spiritual weakling, i.e., a spiritual wimp.
  • Have a great day of enjoyable fellowship and spiritual invigoration in the parish van and at the conference, resulting in deeper friendships and parish cohesion.
  • Develop ourselves as men of character and spiritual strength as we obtain the graces to conquer ourselves and cope with the problems that our troubled society and economy bring.
  • Be a more effective spiritual leader of your family as a better husband and father.
  • Prepare our hearts for the great feast of Easter and for eternity as we become closer to God..
  • Become knowledgeable about the faith and grow in Christian maturity. We know so little about Church teaching.
  • Become a more effective soldier of Christ as you do your part in establishing the kingdom, winning the spiritual-culture war against secularism, and put Christ into your profession.
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St. Joseph, model of a true man of God, pray for us and for the success of the Men's Conference.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

(74-C) Serving as a Deacon to Francis Cardinal George in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome

Deacon John V. Sebastian is at the lectern on the left.  Francis Cardinal George, then the Archbishop of Chicago, is on the right .  He's wearing the customary red skull cap for bishops.  Concelebrating priests are on the far left.  The venue is Cardinal George's pastoral church in Rome, the Basilica of St. Bartholomew the Apostle.
         My brother, John, had the privilege of being part of Cardinal George's (the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago (1997-2014) entourage during his every five year visit to the Holy Father.  His comments are below.  Below that is the text of a very impacting talk by Cardinal George.  May Francis Cardinal George (1937-2015) rest in peace.  

 SERVING AS A DEACON TO FRANCIS CARDINAL GEORGE
IN THE BASILICA OF ST. PETER IN ROME
  
       February 19 Letter.  Kathleen and I are back from Rome.  While we were there, Rome was the coldest in 3 decades.  They also had 8 inches of snow, the first measurable snowfall in Rome since 1985!  They went beserk!!!

       The plus side to all the bad weather was no crowds anywhere.  We were walking distance to the Vatican and walked right in through security.  No lines!  No gypsies!  Great service at mostly empty restaurants too!

       I was privileged to deacon for his eminence Cardinal George and for other clergy as well during our stay.  We had three Masses at St Peter's, including one above the tomb of Blessed John Paul II.  This was made extra special because the altar is next to the Pieta and, right above the altar, is the huge painting of ......ST Sebastian!!!!  

       I also served as deacon at St Maria Trastavere, St Maria sopra Minerve, St Paul's Outside the Walls, St John Lateran, and St Bartholomew (the titular church of Cardinal George).  It was very cool and I felt very blessed.  I used the opportunity to pray for my family and extended family too.  None of the churches were heated, so I was still cold while wearing tee shirt, shirt, suit coat, alb, and dalmatic.     

       We were also privileged to be seated near His Holiness (Pope Benedict XVI) at his weekly audience.  That was pretty impressive.  I noticed that the Holy Father greeted pilgrims from Italy, France, Germany, U.S., UK, Spain, Brazil, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary ALL in their native languages.  He did, as far as I can tell, spoke with very good accents in each of those languages.

       Kathleen and I sat with Cardinal George at several dinners.  Needless to say, one of the recurring topics of conversation was the Bishops' role in  fighting for religious  liberty for Catholic institutions in the U.S.  He had some strong words about some of our national and state politicians!

       Father Tom (Loya), thanks for your suggesting we tour the underground tombs beneath the altar of St. Peter's, via SCAVI.  That was mind boggling!

       Photos.  I thought you might like to see the newest altar at St Peter's Basilica, located next to the Pieta.  Beneath the altar is the tomb of Blessed John Paul II.   You can make out some of the words engraved on the altar.  I was awed by the fact that I was at the altar of Blessed John Paul II, while directly above the altar is a huge painting of......St. Sebastian providing a truly spectacular backdrop.  Show this to John Paul and Stephanie, will you?  Still on Cloud 9.

In His Name,
John
Deacon John Sebastian

      A few months later, Cardinal George wrote an article in the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago, "The Catholic World".  It might very well be prophetic, especially the 2010 quote in bold italics.  By quoting Cardinal Mundelein (1937) he is trying to show that history could repeat itself in regard to a silent biased press that did not consider the persecution of the Church as newsworthy.


The Cardinal’s Column  
 Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
 October 21 - November 3, 2012
The wrong side of history
October is the month of the Most Holy Rosary, a devotion associated in modern times with the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917, during the First World War. Mary asked for prayer and penance, which she always requests in these private revelations that echo the public revelation in the Gospel: “Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Mary at Fatima also entered into the history of the modern world when she told three unlettered peasant children that the Great War then being waged, President Wilson’s “war to end all wars,” would soon end, but that a greater menace to world peace would arise in Russia, whose errors would spread throughout the world and bring untold millions to violent death. In the end, however, Mary promised that her Immaculate Heart would triumph. This promise, too, echoes the Gospel itself: the risen Christ is victorious over sin and death.

Eternity enters into human history in often incomprehensible ways. God makes promises but gives no timelines. Visiting the shrine at Fatima, pilgrims enter a huge plaza, with the spot of the apparitions marked by a small chapel to one side, a large church at one end, an equally large adoration chapel at the other end, and a center for visitors and for the hearing of confessions. Just outside the main grounds, a section of the Berlin Wall has been re-built, a stark witness to what Mary had talked about almost a century ago. Communism in Russia and its satellite nations has collapsed, although many of its sinful effects are still with us.

Communism imposed a total way of life based upon the belief that God does not exist. Secularism is communism’s better-scrubbed bedfellow. A small irony of history cropped up at the United Nations a few weeks ago when Russia joined the majority of other nations to defeat the United States and the western European nations that wanted to declare that killing the unborn should be a universal human right. Who is on the wrong side of history now?

The present political campaign has brought to the surface of our public life the anti-religious sentiment, much of it explicitly anti-Catholic, that has been growing in this country for several decades. The secularizing of our culture is a much larger issue than political causes or the outcome of the current electoral campaign, important though that is.


Cardinal George clarified: "What I said is not 'prophetic' but a way to force people to think outside of the usual categories that limit and sometimes poison both private and public discourse."

Speaking a few years ago to a group of priests, entirely outside of the current political debate, I was trying to express in overly dramatic fashion what the complete secularization of our society could bring. I was responding to a question and I never wrote down what I said, but the words were captured on somebody’s smart phone and have now gone viral on Wikipedia and elsewhere in the electronic communications world. I am (correctly) quoted as saying that "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square."  What is omitted from the reports is a final phrase I added about the bishop who follows a possibly martyred bishop: “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” What I said is not “prophetic” but a way to force people to think outside of the usual categories that limit and sometimes poison both private and public discourse.

An earlier Archbishop of Chicago once tried his hand at reading the signs of his times. On May 18, 1937, Cardinal Mundelein, in a conference to priests of the archdiocese, called the then-German chancellor “an Austrian paper-hanger, and a darn poor one at that, I am told.” Why did Cardinal Mundelein speak in a way that drew applause from the New York Times and local papers and brought the German government to complain bitterly to the Holy See? The government of Germany, declaring its ideology the wave of the future, had dissolved Catholic youth groups and tried to discredit the church’s work among young people through trials of monks, priests and religious sisters accused of immorality. Cardinal Mundelein spoke of how the public protests of the bishops had been silenced in the German media, leaving the church in Germany more “helpless” than it had ever been.

He then added: “There is no guarantee that the battle-front may not stretch some day into our own land. Hodie mihi cras tibi. (Today it’s me; tomorrow, you). If we show no interest in this matter now, if we shrug our shoulders and mutter … it is not our fight, if we don’t back up the Holy Father when we have a chance, well, when our turn comes, we too will be fighting alone.”

“When our turn comes …” Was Cardinal Mundelein a prophet as well as an administrative genius? Hardly. At his death in 1939 he was well known as an American patriot and a friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but he also had a Catholic conviction that no nation state has been immaculately conceived. The unofficial anthem of secularism today is John Lennon’s “Imagine,” in which we are encouraged to imagine a world without religion. We don’t have to imagine such a world; the 20th century has given us horrific examples of such worlds.

Instead of a world living in peace because it is without religion, why not imagine a world without nation states? After all, there would be no American ambassador recently killed in Libya if there were no America and no Libya! There are, obviously, individuals and groups who still misuse religion as a reason for violent behavior, but modern nation states don’t need religion as an excuse for going to war. Every major war in the last 300 years has been fought by nation states, not by the church. In our own history, the re-conquest of the secessionist states in the Civil War was far bloodier than the re-conquest of the Holy Land by the now despised Crusaders. The state apparatus for investigating civilians now is far more extensive than anything dreamed up by the Spanish Inquisition, although both were created to serve the same purpose: to preserve a government’s public ideology and control of society, whether based on religion or on modern constitutional order.

Analogies can easily be multiplied, if one wants to push a thesis; but the point is that the greatest threat to world peace and international justice is the nation state gone bad, claiming an absolute power, deciding questions and making “laws” beyond its competence. Few there are, however, who would venture to ask if there might be a better way for humanity to organize itself for the sake of the common good. Few, that is, beyond a prophetic voice like that of Dorothy Day, speaking acerbically about “Holy Mother the State,” or the ecclesiastical voice that calls the world, from generation to generation, to live at peace in the kingdom of God.

God sustains the world, in good times and in bad. Catholics, along with many others, believe that only one person has overcome and rescued history: Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, savior of the world and head of his body, the church. Those who gather at his cross and by his empty tomb, no matter their nationality, are on the right side of history. Those who lie about him and persecute or harass his followers in any age might imagine they are bringing something new to history, but they inevitably end up ringing the changes on the old human story of sin and oppression. There is nothing “progressive” about sin, even when it is promoted as “enlightened.”

The world divorced from the God who created and redeemed it inevitably comes to a bad end. It’s on the wrong side of the only history that finally matters. The Synod on the New Evangelization is taking place in Rome this month because entire societies, especially in the West, have placed themselves on the wrong side of history. This October, let’s pray the rosary so that the Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen the bishops and others at the synod as they deliberate about the challenges to preaching and living the Gospel at this moment in human history.