Archive for May 2012

Memorial Day

May 28, 2012

Memorial  day is a day to remember the men and women who were willing to lay down their lives for their countrymen in defending us from enemies foreign and domestic. Here is the story of first lieutenant James H Fields who was awarded the Congressional medal of honor for valor during WWII

Fields’ official Medal of Honor citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, at Rechicourt, France. On September 27, 1944, during a sharp action with the enemy infantry and tank forces, 1st Lt. Fields personally led his platoon in a counterattack on the enemy position. Although his platoon had been seriously depleted, the zeal and fervor of his leadership was such as to inspire his small force to accomplish their mission in the face of overwhelming enemy opposition. Seeing that 1 of the men had been wounded, he left his slit trench and with complete disregard for his personal safety attended the wounded man and administered first aid. While returning to his slit trench he was seriously wounded by a shell burst, the fragments of which cut through his face and head, tearing his teeth, gums, and nasal passage. Although rendered speechless by his wounds, 1st Lt. Fields refused to be evacuated and continued to lead his platoon by the use of hand signals. On 1 occasion, when 2 enemy machineguns had a portion of his unit under deadly crossfire, he left his hole, wounded as he was, ran to a light machinegun, whose crew had been knocked out, picked up the gun, and fired it from his hip with such deadly accuracy that both the enemy gun positions were silenced. His action so impressed his men that they found new courage to take up the fire fight, increasing their firepower, and exposing themselves more than ever to harass the enemy with additional bazooka and machinegun fire. Only when his objective had been taken and the enemy scattered did 1st Lt. Fields consent to be evacuated to the battalion command post. At this point he refused to move further back until he had explained to his battalion commander by drawing on paper the position of his men and the disposition of the enemy forces. The dauntless and gallant heroism displayed by 1st Lt. Fields were largely responsible for the repulse of the enemy forces and contributed in a large measure to the successful capture of his battalion objective during this action. His eagerness and determination to close with the enemy and to destroy him was an inspiration to the entire command, and are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.

May Catholic men have the  same courage to protect our families , Church and  country from this present darkness Ephesians 6:12

 

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Holy Men Utilize the Gifts of the Holy Spirit — #7: Fear of the Lord

May 26, 2012

The Gift of Fear of the Lord generates within us an awe, reverence and respect for God based upon his sovereignty, especially in contrast to our littleness and weakness.

Bd John Paul II:

[The Gift of Fear of the Lord] is a sincere and reverential feeling that a person experiences before the tremendous majesty of God, especially when he reflects upon his own infidelity and the danger of being “found wanting” at the eternal judgment which no one can escape. The believer goes and places himself before God with a “contrite spirit” and a “humbled heart”, knowing well that he must await his own salvation “with fear and trembling”. Nonetheless, that does not mean an irrational fear, but a sense of responsibility and fidelity to the law.

All this is what the Holy Spirit takes up and elevates with the gift of the Fear of the Lord. It certainly does not exclude the trepidation that arises from an awareness of the faults committed and the prospect of divine chastisement, but mitigates it with faith in the divine mercy and with the certitude of the fatherly concern of God who wills the eternal salvation of each one. With this gift, however, the Holy Spirit instills in the soul most of all a filial love which is a sentiment rooted in love of God. The soul is now concerned not to displease God, whom he loves as a Father, not to offend him in anything, to “abide in him” and grow in charity.

The filial love mentioned by JP2 produces a filial fear, which Fr Gabriel contrasts with servile fear:

Captured by love for such a good Father, the soul has but one desire, to return Him love for love, to give Him pleasure and to be united with Him forever.  Consequently, it fears nothing but sin, which offends God and alone can separate it from Him.  What a difference there is between this filial fear, which is the fruit of love, and servile fear, which arises from the dread of punishment!  It is true that the fear of judgment and the divine punishment is salutary and in certain cases can serve greatly to hold a soul back from sin; but if it does not change gradually into filial fear, it will never be sufficient to impel the soul on to sanctity.  Fear that is merely servile contracts the soul and makes it petty, whereas filial fear dilates it and spurs it on in the way of generosity and perfection.

Here are some occasions on which we should engage (or ask for more of) the Gift of Fear of the Lord:

  • If we have been taking God for granted
  • If we have been ignoring God
  • If we neglect to acknowledge God’s action in our lives
  • If you’ve become complacent about the existence of certain sins or imperfections in your life
  • If you’ve never prostrated yourself before God in your personal prayer time
  • If you tend to go months at a time without receiving the Sacrament of Penance
  • If your spirituality has led you to fall into an excessive familiarity with God, tending to treat God as an equal

If you can think of other times when we should engage the Gift of Fear of the Lord, please share them with us in the Comment Box.

Holy Men Utilize the Gifts of the Holy Spirit — #6: Fortitude

May 25, 2012

I enjoy the vigor of Fr Tanquerey’s description of the Gift of Fortitude:

The Gift of Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and an energy which enable it to do great things joyfully and fearlessly despite all obstacles …. To act and to endure, even amid difficulties of the most arduous nature, and at the price of heroic effort are the two acts to which the Gift of Fortitude leads us …. In many an instance we must do the heroic in order to preserve the state of grace, and it is precisely this Gift of Fortitude that enables us to perform in a spirit of generosity these acts.

Fr Cameron seems to add a defensive perspective:

Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that Fortitude (also called Courage), is that kind of firmness of mind and spirit that we need both for doing good and for enduring evil. We require this steadfastness especially when embracing good and eschewing evil become more difficult. The Spirit’s Gift of Fortitude preserves us from yielding to untoward pressure.

The Fortitude that is a Gift of the Holy Spirit operates as a certain, unshakable confidence that will see us through the terrors and trials of earthly life to the eternal joys of heaven. Endowed with Fortitude, we are prevented from giving in to any fear that menaces us on the way to God. Fortitude will not grant these fears a hearing. As a kind of holy censor, Fortitude removes all credibility and influence from the fear and discouragement that would turn us back from the way of Christ.

Here are some occasions on which we should engage (or ask for more of) the Gift of Fortitude:

  • When we are faced with temptation
  • To help us be kind to those who we don’t really like very much
  • In order to better persevere through a trial or suffering, whether brief or protracted
  • For the persistence and endurance required when we have challenging tasks to perform
  • When we have no desire to pray, but know we should
  • When we are about to face martyrdom
  • To help us keep silence, when our impulse would compel us to make our opinion known

If you can think of other times when we should engage the Gift of Fortitude, please share them with us in the Comment Box.

Holy Men Utilize the Gifts of the Holy Spirit — #5: Counsel

May 24, 2012

Fr Peter John Cameron OP reminds us

The human person stands in a constant state of searching. The Catechism tells us that “only in God will man find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for …. He cannot live fully according to the truth unless he freely acknowledges God’s love and entrusts himself to his Creator.”  In our searching, we need the invaluable guidance — the advice or “counsel” — of God, who knows all things. Such direction comes to us from heaven through the Spirit’s Gift of Counsel, whereby we are guided by the very advice of God.

Saint Thomas Aquinas compares it to the experience of those involved in human affairs who lack what they need to work things out for themselves. In such a case, we simply turn to those more suitably qualified in order to benefit from their wisdom and expertise. The divine gift of counsel so moves us to avail ourselves of the guiding insights and direction of the Holy Spirit.

With the Gift of Counsel the Holy Spirit gives a supernatural ability to regulate one’s personal life in regard to the difficult actions to be accomplished and the hard choices to be made, as well as in the governance and direction given to others.

Bd John Paul II explains it well:

…the Gift of Counsel…guides the soul from within, enlightening it about what to do, especially when it is a matter of important choices (for example, of responding to a vocation), or about a path to be followed among difficulties and obstacles. In fact experience confirms that “the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans”, as the Book of Wisdom says (9:14).

The Gift of Counsel acts like a new breath in the conscience, suggesting to it what is licit, what is becoming, what is more fitting for the soul (St Bonaventure). Thus the conscience becomes like the “healthy eye” of which the Gospel speaks (Mt 6:21), an eye which acquires, as it were, a new pupil, by means of which it is able to see better what to do in a given situation, no matter how intricate and difficult. Aided by this gift, the Christian penetrates the true meaning of gospel values, in particular those expressed in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5:7).

Here are some occasions on which we should engage (or ask for more of) the Gift of Counsel:

  • Whenever you are faced with a difficult decision about an important matter
  • Any time someone asks you for advice about an important situation in their life
  • If you are presented with a moral dilemma, especially if it involves a loved one (e.g., should you attend the lakeshore wedding ceremony of your daughter who has decided to marry a divorced Buddhist with a Scientology ‘minister’ officiating?)
  • When you are attempting to discern God’s will in a situation
  • If you are providing spiritual direction to someone
  • If you are in a position in which you are frequently asked spiritual or moral questions (a teacher in CCD, RCIA, religion class, etc.)

If you can think of other times when we should engage the Gift of Counsel, please share them with us in the Comment Box.

Holy Men Utilize the Gifts of the Holy Spirit — #4: Wisdom

May 23, 2012

The Gift of Wisdom helps us “to judge and order all things in accordance with divine norms and with a connaturality that flows from loving union with God,” as defined by Fr Jordan Aumann OP.

Bd John Paul II describes the Gift of Wisdom as

…the root of a new awareness, a knowledge permeated by charity, by means of which the soul becomes familiar, so to say, with divine things, and tastes them.  St Thomas speaks precisely of “a certain taste of God,” through which the truly wise person is not simply the one who knows the things of God but rather the one who experiences and lives them.

Fr Peter John Cameron OP summarizes this definition in this way:  “Wisdom is where Knowledge and experience coexist.”

Fr Tanquerey teaches that the Gift of Wisdom “enables us to discern God and divine things in their ultimate principles, and [gives] us a relish for them.”  Following St Thomas, he says that it gives us “a supernatural taste which acts upon the will and enables it to relish divine things as by a sort of natural attraction.”  He offers this analogy:

It is like the sunbeam, a ray of light illuminating and delighting the eyes of the soul, and a ray of heat that warms the heart, inflames it with love, and fills it with joy.

It seems to me that the Christians who are most attractive are the ones in whom the Gift of Wisdom is operating.  Often their very countenance exudes their authentic communion with God and their love of others, and their humble demeanor is a witness to their confidence and comfort in the Father’s love.

Here are some occasions on which we should engage (or ask for more of) the Gift of Wisdom:

  • If you find that you’re still sulking because your parish has been closed
  • If you lose your joy easily when things don’t go the way you had hoped
  • If, upon returning to your pew immediately after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, you are easily distracted, unable or unwilling to engage in a fervent, heartfelt thanksgiving
  • If you never weep during your personal prayer time
  • If your heart never burns within you as you read Sacred Scripture (cf. Luke 24:32)
  • If you simply cannot envision your Heavenly Father wrapping his arms around you in a big, manly, affectionate bear hug
  • If you lack an abiding peace, joy, confidence
  • If you spend too much time dissatisfied, complaining, immersed in negativity

If you can think of other times when we should engage the Gift of Wisdom, please share them with us in the Comment Box.

Holy Men Utilize the Gifts of the Holy Spirit — #3: Understanding

May 22, 2012

The Gift of Understanding gives us a deep insight into revealed truths and divine mysteries.  It helps us to see the truths of faith under so full a light that, though we do not fully comprehend their nature, we are confirmed in our belief through this penetration into these truths and mysteries.  [Notice that its scope is not limited to created things, as was the Gift of Knowledge.]

Fr Peter John Cameron OP explains it this way:

…because we have been created for and ordained to supernatural happiness, we remain ever restless and unfulfilled unless we reach beyond ourselves to certain deeper and ineffable truths. Yet we are not alone in our desire to understand and to be understood. God also wants to be understood — by us! And so he blesses us through the Holy Spirit with the Gift of Understanding, to endow us with a certain, intimate knowledge of himself.

We rely on the Holy Spirit through the Gift of Understanding to enlighten our minds to recognize the supernatural truth on which our wills should be intent. In the process, we come to see all human deeds in relation to the rule of the Eternal Law and our goal of divine communion.  The supernatural light of Understanding surpasses the range of natural reason as it endows us with the knowledge of the truth of how human acts are measured by divine law.  Herein lies the supreme value of the Gift of Understanding. 

For Understanding reveals to us how God’s eternal and necessary truths serve as steadfast standards for human conduct. Since the field of the Gift of Understanding extends to all interests relevant to the faith, Understanding also encompasses the good deeds we perform. Understanding enlightens us regarding works to be done. For human actions are governed by eternal reasons. And our human reason cleaves to God’s providential reasons by contemplating and being advised by them. In this way our human reason is perfected by the Gift of Understanding so as to facilitate our ready undertaking of good deeds.

In Divine Intimacy, Fr Gabriel explains how the Gift of Understanding helps us to progress in prayer:

The Gift of Understanding will…intervene with its light to illuminate our studies and our meditations on divine things, making us penetrate into their depths, making us “see” the intimate sense of the sacred texts and giving us a correct understanding of God’s commandments and counsels.  In this way, the Holy Spirit introduces the soul to a form of prayer more simple and profound:  the mind no longer needs to reason or to look for convincing motives; under the illuminating touch of the Holy Spirit, the soul’s gaze is arrested and fixed on truth.  This simple contemplative gaze reveals God to the soul better than any theological study…

Here are some occasions on which we should engage (or ask for more of) the Gift of Understanding:

  • If we find our purity of heart, our single-heartedness for God’s kingdom, is challenged by the rationalizations and allurements of the culture
  • When we know we should have a better answer for those who ask “How can a God of love allow all this suffering?”
  • If we have trouble recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread, the words of Absolution, the baptism of a baby, etc.
  • When we think God may be working in our lives in a specific situation, but aren’t sure
  • When we are unsure if some good work that we would like to undertake is really inspired, is really God’s will for us
  • If our reading of the Sacred Scriptures seems tedious, dry and uninspiring

If you can think of other times when we should engage the Gift of Understanding, please share them with us in the Comment Box.

Holy Men Utilize the Gifts of the Holy Spirit — #2: Knowledge

May 21, 2012

The Gift of Knowledge enables us to know the true value of creatures and created things in their relationship to the Creator and the principles of revealed truth.

As Bd John Paul II taught in his Regina Coeli address on 23 April 1989:

We know that modern man, precisely because of the development of the sciences, is particularly exposed to the temptation to give a naturalistic interpretation to the world.

Before the manifold magnificence of things, their complexity, variety and beauty, he runs the risk of absolutizing and almost divinizing them to the extent of making them the supreme purpose of his very life. This happens especially when it is a matter of riches, pleasure and power, which indeed can be drawn from material things. These are the principal idols before which the world too often prostrates.

In order to resist such subtle temptations and to remedy the pernicious consequences to which they can lead, the Holy Spirit aids people with the gift of Knowledge. It is this gift which helps them to value things correctly in their essential dependence on the Creator.

He thus discovers the theological meaning of creation, seeing things as true and real, although limited, manifestations of the Truth, Beauty, and infinite Love which is God, and consequently he feels impelled to translate this discovery into praise, song, prayer, and thanksgiving.

Enlightened by the gift of Knowledge, man discovers at the same time the infinite distance which separates things from the Creator, their intrinsic limitation, the danger that they can present, when, through sin, he makes improper use of them. It is a discovery which leads him to realize with remorse his misery and impels him to turn with greater drive and confidence to Him who alone can fully satisfy the need of the infinite which assails him.

I imagine that when St Paul fell to the ground on his approach to Damascus, part of what happened to him was an infusion of the Gift of Knowledge.  St Ignatius, too, received this gift, as evidenced by the way in which he incorporated it into the “Principle and Foundation” of his Spiritual Exercises:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.
And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.
From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.
For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.

Here are some occasions on which we should engage (or ask for more of) the Gift of Knowledge:

  • If we find our material pursuits or pleasures overshadowing our relationship with God
  • When the exterior busyness of our daily lives prevents us from taking the time to nurture an interior life
  • If viewpoints anchored in moral relativism cause us to be confused about some aspects of life and culture
  • When we find ourselves doubting or dissenting from the teaching of the Church

If you can think of other times when we should engage the Gift of Knowledge, please share them with us in the Comment Box (like Glenn did yesterday!).