Deacon-structing: The Cross- Part 3


Last Sunday was the Feast of the Triumph or Exaltation of the Cross. For the last two Sundays on the S+L Blog, we’ve been looking at why we exalt the cross, an instrument of death. We saw that Jesus died to destroy death forever, so we don’t have to be under the power of death anymore. Sin leads to death. But also disobedience. It was Adam and Eve’s disobedience that led to death.

Now listen to something St. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, which was the second reading last Sunday: “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:8). It was because of Adam’s disobedience that sin entered into the world. St. Paul also says that, in the same way that Adam’s disobedience made us sinners, Jesus’ obedience makes us righteous (Rom 5:19).

So I’m thinking that maybe this whole salvation thing doesn’t have to do so much with suffering as it has to do with obedience. How many times does Jesus talk about doing his Father’s will? “I have come not to do my will,” (Jn 6:38) or “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me,” (Jn 4:34) and “I do as the Father has commanded me.” (Jn 14:31) And in the Garden of Gethsemane, he struggles with God’s will (Mt 26:39-42; Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42; Jn 18:11), but he was obedient (Heb 5:8-9). And because of his obedience God highly exalted him (Phil 2:9).

And we, too, exalt him.

I wonder if that, in a way, is what last Sunday’s first reading — the story about Moses and the bronze serpent — was about (Num 21:4-9). If you think about it, God could have healed all those people with anything. Why ask Moses to make a serpent and lift it up on a pole and then ask all the people to look at it? Maybe it has something to do with obedience. Here’s God saying, “Do what I am asking you to do, even if it’s the most ridiculous thing.”

You know, in the S+L film about Brother André — God’s Doorkeeper — there’s a story about a little boy who’s dying. Brother André tells the mother to wash him in dishwater. Dishwater! How random is that? But she does, obediently, and her son is healed. Sometimes God asks us to do the most unexpected thing, so that when we get results we know that it was His doing and not ours. That’s what last week’s Psalm is about: “Do not forget the works of the Lord” (Ps 78:7). Don’t forget that it’s God who saves. Not you or me, or Moses, or the Pope or Brother André or anyone. And just as Moses had to lift that serpent up on a pole so that the Israelites could be saved, Jesus also was lifted up, so that we could be saved (Jn 3:14). Not because it meant suffering a horrible death, but because it meant obedience: doing the Father’s will, even if it meant death.

And guess what? We are called to imitate Jesus. Jesus said that If anyone wants to come after him, they must first deny themselves and take up their cross (Mk 8:34). That means, “Put me before your life and you will find your life” (Mk. 8:35). That’s what Adam and Eve didn’t do: they put themselves before God – and they lost their lives. Deny yourself all your personal needs and wants, accept your suffering and follow Christ, because that’s exactly what He did. This doesn’t mean that we have to go looking for suffering. But life comes with a certain amount of suffering and this suffering is necessary for life. That’s why “a grain of wheat has to die in order to bear fruit.”

We are called to be obedient, even though sometimes it might not make any sense. Accepting our cross may seems like pure craziness. St. Paul says its foolishness. But God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom (1 Cor 1:23-25). We have to accept it because that’s love. We are obedient to God, because of love. God loved us first: He became man. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, because of love. Jesus says, “There is no greater love than give your life for a friend.” (Jn 15:13) It’s that simple. That’s the bottom line: the cross is a symbol of love.

So why lift high the Cross? Because that cross is a symbol of love: undying, everlasting, faithful, free, total and fruitful love – the love that sends Jesus to the Cross so that our sins would be forgiven forever and death would be destroyed. Remember, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son…” (John 3:16). In Spanish, this verse reads, “For God so loved the world that he “handed over” his only Son…” God doesn’t just send his Son, he hands him over. Because of love. And that’s why we venerate the cross and why we are not to be ashamed of the cross. St. Paul says we should boast of the cross (Gal 6:14). That’s why the cross is victory! That’s why we lift it high and why we leap for joy!

But this feast doesn’t commemorate an event that happened 2000 years ago. Every Sunday and every day, in churches everywhere, Catholics will be gathering around the table of the Lord and celebrating the Mystery of the Cross, because the Mystery of the Cross is the same as the Mystery of the Eucharist. It’s the same sacrifice. And so, the forgiveness of sins, our perfection and our salvation is taking place all the time, with every Mass that is celebrated all around the world. That’s pretty cool.

So we celebrate the Cross for the same reason why we celebrate the Eucharist: because of love. That’s why we sing “Lift high the cross.” The next line is “the love of Christ proclaimed.” It’s all about love.

That’s why I love another song, one that was written for World Youth Day 2002 by Susan Hookong-Taylor and Ana DaCosta. It’s a song that really brings home this Mystery of the Cross. It’s a great song because it is truly a worship song. That’s what we should all have been doing yesterday, on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, as well as everyday: worshiping.

“Love, lifted on the Cross for me, my Lord, my God, my Salvation. Love, lifted high to set me free, my Lord, my God, my Salvation.”

This is the final installment of a three-part reflection on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Click here for Part 1 and for Part 2.  

Seven Sundays of Devotion to St. Joseph

st joseph_crop

By Katrisha Villarante

Got St. Joseph?

We’ve been hearing a lot about St. Joseph these days and you may be wondering why. Well, his Feast Day is fast approaching (March 19) and if you don’t already know, the seven Sundays of devotion to St. Joseph is one of the most fruitful intercessory devotions that only some faithful are aware of. And who can blame them? There’s a reason St. Joseph is said to have been such a humble man, he doesn’t even have a single word in the Bible!

The Saint with possibly the greatest devotion to St. Joseph is our very own Canadian – St. Andre Bessette. Who conceived the idea of erecting St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal.

Around this time last year was the first time I had ever heard of St. Joseph’s Oratory. A good friend of mine told me that it was the biggestPAINTING OF BLESSED ANDRE BESSETTE shrine dedicated to St. Joseph in the world! A few months later I was on a plane headed straight for that Oratory. In fact, I ended up staying at the John XXIII Pavillion – a very affordable lodge that is located on the same grounds as the Oratory. This journey began my devotion to St. Joseph, the adoptive father of Our Lord, Jesus.

As his Feast Day approaches I have been growing evermore in my devotion to him by observing the seven Sunday’s of Saint Joseph’s sorrows & joys.

7 Sundays of devotion to St. Joseph

How did it start? The story goes that, two Franciscan monks, who were ship wrecked at sea, clung to a plank for two days, were saved by a man of venerable appearance who miraculously brought them to shore. When they asked who he was, he replied, “I am Joseph, and I desire you to honor my seven sorrows and seven joys.” This was the origin of the devotion to the sorrows and joys of St. Joseph.”

Each Sunday, the Eucharist is taken in his honour and a sorrow and a joy of St. Joseph’s life is contemplated. The sorrows and joys go as follows:

 1st Sunday – Sorrow (Mt 1:19) The Doubt of St. Joseph
                          Joy (Mt 1:20) The Message of the Angel

 2nd Sunday – Sorrow (Lk 2:7) The Poverty of Jesus’ birth

                                Joy (Lk 2:10-11) The Birth of the Saviour

 3rd Sunday Sorrow (Luke 2:21) The Circumcision

                                Joy (Mt 1:25) The Holy Name of Jesus

 4th Sunday Sorrow (Lk 2:34) The Prophecy of Simeon

                                Joy (Lk 2:38) The Effects of the Redemption

 5th Sunday – Sorrow (Mt 2:14) The Flight into Egypt

                                Joy (Is 19:1) The Overthrow of the idols of Egypt

 6th Sunday – Sorrow (Mt 2:22) The return from Egypt

                                Joy (Lk 2:39) Life with Jesus and Mary at Nazareth

 7th Sunday – Sorrow (Lk 2:45) The Loss of the Child Jesus

                                Joy (Lk 2:46) The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple


These seven Sundays are best celebrated preceding the Sunday just before the Feast of St. Joseph. However, you can observe these any time of the year and as frequently as you like.

In the 1830’s Pope Gregory XVI promoted this special devotion by attaching several indulgences to it.

St. Teresa of Avila also had a special devotion to St. Joseph. She said, “I know by experience that the glorious St. Joseph assists us generally in all necessities. I never asked him for anything which he did not obtain for me.” 

 Everyone’s Saint

Although, many Saints and Blesseds have had devotion to St. Joseph, he is truly a Saint for us all. Did you know that St. Joseph is an intercessor for several different designations?

Some of his designations include: Guardian of the Pure in Heart, Hope of the sick, Consolation of the afflicted, Patron of the dying, Model of Workers, Protector of the church, Support of Families and Terror of Demons.

 He’s got something for everyone.

 Pope France loves him too!

My trip to St. Joseph’s Oratory was such a memorable visit. It was nothing short of divine. I stayed three days and on the final day I found it difficult to leave. Just before I left, I said a special prayer to St. Joseph asking for his help to remember and love him more.

The very next day, Pope Francis made his first Papal decree that the name of St. Joseph be added to the second, third, and fourth Pope Francis elevates Eucharist as he celebrates Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish on outskirts of RomeEucharistic prayers, to be said immediately after the mention of the Virgin Mary with the words, ”with blessed St. Joseph, her spouse.” What a great gift to help us remember him everyday at mass!

As the adoptive father of Our Lord, he adopts us as well. So, we mustn’t be shy to ask for his intercession. In fact, I’m certain he appreciates being remembered!

Let us come together on March 19th and thank St. Joseph for helping Our Mother Mary raise Jesus so that he may fulfill God’s most loveable will.

Katrisha Villarante is a S+L Blog Contributor from the West Coast.  She is part of the community at St. Clare’s parish in Coquitlam, British Columbia.  Katrisha is continuing her studies at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and in her spare time blogs, jogs, and gets involved in activities at Vancouver’s Crestwell Centre, a centre for young women run by Opus Dei.  While rediscovering her faith she developed a passion for Church History and learning about little-known traditions and devotions.

Top image: CNS Photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic

Middle Photo: CNS Photo / Bob Mullen

Lower Photo: CNS Photo/Paul Haring





The Word Made Flesh – Joseph: The Faithful and Wise Servant, a reflection by Bishop William McGrattan

The seasons of Advent and Christmas seem to come so quickly and to be filled with many activities to say the least.

In the everyday planning and preparations for family and community celebrations there are inevitably certain individuals who for whatever reason go unnoticed or unrecognized. They make important contributions.  They are invaluable in their presence and support but are quiet and simply unassuming in their role. If you wish to recognize them and thank them they are often reluctant to accept such praise and notoriety among the many others who are present.

It has often struck me that in the Advent and Christmas season this could quite easily describe the role of St. Joseph, if it were not for certain Gospel passages and the celebration of Feast dedicated to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph which falls  on the Sunday immediately following Christmas.

There is also a reference to Joseph at the beginning of the octave period, the eight days leading up to Christmas which the Church highlights through the praying of the O antiphons. It is in Matthew’s Gospel where he sets out the origin or genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham, and then traces his human descent by bringing his ancestral line down to his mother’s husband, Joseph.

As Saint Leo the Great states:

To speak of our Lord, the son of the blessed Virgin Mary, as true and perfect man is of no value to us if we do not believe that he descended from the line of the ancestors set out in the Gospel.

[Read more…]

The Word Made Flesh – Joseph: The Faithful and Wise Servant, a reflection by Fr. Thomas Rosica

St. Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus, whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely.  He is often overshadowed by the glory of Christ and the purity of Mary. But he, too, waited for God to speak to him and then responded with obedience. Luke and Matthew both mark Joseph’s descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge about him: he was “a righteous man” a “just man” (Matthew 1:18).

Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been engaged, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary quietly according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. Joseph was also a man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome.  When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all of his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).

We are told that Joseph was a carpenter, (more likely a builder), a man who worked to provide for his family. Joseph wasn’t a wealthy man, for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb.

Joseph revealed in his humanity the unique role of fathers to proclaim God’s truth by word and deed. His paradoxical situation of “foster father to Jesus” draws attention to the truth about fatherhood, which is much more than a mere fact of biological generation. A man is a father most when he invests himself in the spiritual and moral formation of his children.  Joseph was keenly aware, as every father should be, that he served as the representative of God the Father.

The Gospel, as we know, has not kept any word from Joseph, who carries out his activity in silence. It is the style that characterizes his whole existence, both before finding himself before the mystery of God’s action in his spouse, as well as  when — conscious of this mystery — he is with Mary in the Nativity. On that holy night, in Bethlehem, with Mary and the Child, is Joseph, to whom the Heavenly Father entrusted the daily care of his Son on earth, a care carried out with humility and in silence.

[Read more…]

Perspectives Daily – Monday, Oct. 17

Tonight on Perspectives: the Pope makes a special announcement, we recap the first day of the Canadian bishops’ assembly and Montreal celebrates the first anniversary of the canonization of Saint Brother André.

Brother André: Montreal’s Porter and Heaven’s Gatekeeper – A Reflection on St. André of Montreal

Among those canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at the Vatican was Canadian Brother André Bessette, of the Congregation of Holy Cross.  For nearly 40 years Brother André worked as a porter at the College of Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur in the Montreal neighborhood of Côtes-des-Neiges.  Speaking about his assignment as doorman, he once quipped, “When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door.”

As porter of the College, Brother André lived in a small room located near the main entrance that also served as his office.  He urged people who came to him to pray with confidence and perseverance, while remaining open to God’s will. He admonished people to begin their path to healing through commitments to faith and humility, through confession and a return to the sacraments. He encouraged the sick to seek a doctor’s care. He saw value in suffering that is joined to the sufferings of Christ. He allowed himself to be fully present to the sadness of others but always retained a joyful nature and good humor. At times he was seen weeping along with his visitors as they recounted to him their sorrows and difficulties.  Word spread quickly when many of those with whom he prayed were healed. As Brother André was becoming known as a miracle worker, he insisted all the more, “I am nothing…only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph.”
[Read more…]

Anniversary coverage of St. Andre’s canonization

It feels like just yesterday that we celebrated the canonization of Brother André of Montreal, the first Canadian-born male Saint. The lead-up to this historic event last year, as well as the Commemoration Mass in Olympic Stadium, remains fresh in our minds at S+L. To celebrate the first anniversary, S+L will air highlights from last year’s events, as well as our documentary God’s Doorkeeper: St. André of Montreal.

Here is the schedule of our St. André coverage:

1. Rebroadcast of the Mass of Thanksgiving in Rome with Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte
Sunday, October 16 at 10:00 am ET (Bilingual commentary)

2. Rebroadcast of the Commemorative Mass at Olympic Stadium in Montreal
Sunday, October 16 at 3:30 pm ET (English)

3. S+L original documentary God’s Doorkeeper: St. André of Montreal
Sunday, October 16 at 8:30 pm & 12:30 pm ET (English)

4. Portier de Dieu (French version of God’s Doorkeeper)
Monday, October 17 at 9:00 pm & 1:00 am ET  (French)

You can find more details about our broadcasts by going to S+L’s Brother André webpage. And don’t forget: all of our programming can be watched on our live web stream.

In the coming days, we welcome your thoughts and comments. Feel free to reach us via Facebook, Twitter and our Blog.

We also invite you to purchase your own copy of God’s Doorkeeper. This one-hour documentary highlights the life and history of St. André. Get your copy today at our online store or by calling 1-888-302-7181.

St. André, pray for us!

From Downtown Chapel to St. André Bessette Church

Last week, the Downtown Chapel in Portland, Oregon, made a special announcement:  they’re changing their parish name.  A recent degree by the Archbishop of Portland will change the Church’s patronage from St. Vincent de Paul to the Congregation of Holy Cross’ first saint, St. André Bessette.

For any of you who have seen the documentary God’s Doorkeeper:  St. André of Montreal, you may recall the foot washing scene.  This was filmed at the Downtown Chapel, an apostolate of the Congregation of Holy Cross for over 20 years.

This name change is significant for the Downtown Chapel because it affects their identity.  The idea of changing the name is not new to them.  The pastor, Fr. Steve Newton, CSC, has this to say about the process his parish had gone through:

When I first met with the Archbishop in September, I asked him whether it might even be possible to change our name.  He had people in his office research this.  Our staff had been considering names such as Christ the Healer (after the icon in the worship space) and St. André Bessette.  In the excitement of André’s canonization this past October, that emerged as the more popular of the two.  Of course, he was also a member of our Holy Cross Congregation.

We thought that once we found out if it were even possible to make a change, we would have a parish forum to discuss whether we wanted to and, if so, what name we would want.

But before we could do that, we received a decree stating that the Archbishop had changed our name to St. André Bessette Church.  There was to be an article in the Catholic Sentinel announcing the change!   I asked the Archdiocese to hold off until we could discuss it as a parish.  They agreed.

We discussed it Sunday, January 16, at the forum.  The acceptance of the change was quite high. A lot of good reasons for doing so were mentioned by those present. And although there was no opposition among those present, I want to invite feedback from those who could not be present. We can be proud to be among the first parishes in the world with the name St. André Bessette Church.

But we have no intention of rushing to change our name on signs and stationery.  It takes time to do all that needs to be done when any organization makes a name change.  One of the goals of the planning process will be to identify all the things that need to be done before we drop one name and go to the other.  The official name has been changed; the popular name will take some time.

Find out more about the Downtown Chapel and its name change, by going here.

Celebrate Vespers with Pope Benedict on the Conversion of Saint Paul

We are all in need of conversion.

My colleague Pedro mentioned previously in his blog and the weekly edition of Perspectives on Christian Unity (and they talked about this on the show).

Hearing the phrase “we are all in need of conversion,” I recall the story of how Brother André begged those around him to pray for his conversion.  This request always baffled me.  Why would a saint pray for conversion?  I understand now it was his humility and self-awareness that motivated him to make the request.

We certainly are in need of conversion — of turning away from sin, and turning to God (after all, sin is turning our back to God).

On Tuesday, January 25th, we celebrate the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.  It’s a significant event to mark.  As Pope Benedict said on last year’s feast, it “became the beginning of [Paul’s] tireless missionary activity. In this he was to spend every ounce of his energy, proclaiming to all the peoples the Christ whom he had met personally.”

It also marks the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, or perhaps accurately the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, which began on Tuesday, January 18th.  (It’s interesting to note that Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches celebrate January 18th as the feast of the Confession of St. Peter, where Peter acknowledges Jesus at the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-20)).

To mark the feast, and the conclusion of the week of prayer, Pope Benedict XVI will one again preside over Vespers at St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Last year, the Holy Father pointed to an encounter with Christ, like St. Paul’s dramatic conversion, as a key to Christian unity:

Each one of us is called to make his or her contribution towards the completion of those steps that lead to full communion among the disciples of Christ, without ever forgetting that this unity is above all a gift from God to be constantly invoked. In fact, the force that supports both unity and the mission flows from the fruitful encounter with the Risen One, just as was the case for St Paul on the road to Damascus, and for the Eleven and the other disciples gathered at Jerusalem.

Vespers on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul will be broadcast live on Salt + Light with English translation, Tuesday, January 25th at 11:30 ET, with an encore presentation at 8:00pm ET / 9:00pm PT.

CNS photo/Paul Haring:  Pope Benedict XVI waves after celebrating vespers closing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on January 25th, 2010.

Matthew 16:13-20

Ottawa’s Celebration of St. André Bessette

This year we celebrated Brother André’s first feast day as Saint André.

There were many special celebrations throughout Canada, and at Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral there was a bilingual Mass of Thanksgiving for Canada’s newest saint.

Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast was the main celebrant.  In his homily, he spoke of the qualities that make Brother André a saint.

We celebrate this Mass of Thanksgiving for Brother André’s life and example of holiness with a Gospel [Matthew 11.25-30] that expresses the foundation of his simplicity.  The passage begins with Jesus giving praise to the Father for revealing personal knowledge of God not to the wise and clever, but to the innocent and little ones. Yes, that is what the heavenly Father chose to do, to remind all—even the shepherds and Magi who are very much in our minds at this Christmas season—that the Kingdom is God’s gift to us and that we must receive it with the humility and simplicity of those who become “children” in the heavenly Kingdom by knowing intimately God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son.

You can see a presentation of this special bilingual Thanksgiving Mass on Salt + Light Television this Thursday, January 13th, at 8pm ET or 9pm PT.