Category Archives: Saints

Sunday Devotional: You were called for freedom!

Galatians 5:1, 13-18

Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.

I say, then: live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. 
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters…so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

Let those words ring in your ears, and in the ears of all despots, in America and across the world, who are bent on imposing their will and dicta on us, always cloaked in the cover of “good” intentions, whether they be the Marxist false siren of utopian communism, or the neo-Marxist “climate change” save-the-world cultists, or the LGBT-pronoun cultural-Marxists of ivory-tower academe.

For our freedom comes not from men, but from God. As it is said in Sirach 15:14, 16:

God in the beginning created human beings
and made them subject to their own free choice….
Set before you are fire and water;
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.

Thomas Aquinas conceived an act of free will to be any thought, word, deed, desire, or omission that comes from a person acting with full knowledge of what s/he is doing, “who is free to act or to refrain from action, and who gives the full assent of his will to the act.”¹ The essence of free will, therefore, is choice—the favoring of one thing and the eschewal of another—informed by reason.

But God’s supreme gift of free will does not mean license, the freedom to break rules or principles, to “do as thou wilt” — that first temptation “to be as gods” whispered by the serpent in the first Garden. As Sirach 15:17-20 reminds us:

Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.
Immense is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.
The eyes of God are on those who fear him;
he understands man’s every deed.
No one does he command to act unjustly,
to none does he give license to sin.

The gift of free will is terrifying, for when it is exercised to evil, the consequences are disastrous.

Terrifying though it is, free will is given to humans (and angels) because only by freely electing to believe in, obey, honor, and love God do the preceding acts have authenticity and meaning. For what good is a love that is coerced? As St. Thomas put it, “Man has free will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards and punishments would be in vain.”²

Choose wisely! Choose to be good.

Psalm 119:1-5, 10

Blessed those whose way is blameless,
who walk by the law of the LORD.
Blessed those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with all their heart.
They do no wrong;
they walk in his ways.
You have given them the command
to observe your precepts with care.
May my ways be firm
in the observance of your statutes!
With all my heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.

May the love and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

~Eowyn


¹Paul J. Glenn, A Tour of the Summa (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1978), p. 99.
²Summa Theologia of St. Thomas Aquinas, Volume One (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947), p. 418.

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Sunday Devotional: The Mystery of Three Persons in One God

Matthew 3:1, 13, 16-17

In those days came John the Baptist,
preaching in the wilderness of Judaea….
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John,
to be baptized of him….
And Jesus, when he was baptized,
went up straightway out of the water:
and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove,
and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying,
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Today, the universal Church celebrates the Holy Trinity — the mystery of Three Persons in One God.

That there is but one God and three Persons — the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit — is not only found in the above passage from Matthew 3, but also in other places in Holy Scripture:

Genesis 1:26

And God said,
Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness

John 5:7

For there are three
that bear record in Heaven,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost;
and these three are one.

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Our greatest theologians had sought in vain to plumb the mystery of the Triune Godhead — of three Persons in one God.

St. Thomas Aquinas concluded in Summa Theologica:

We cannot come to the knowledge of the Trinity by reason alone, that is, by the natural and unaided efforts of the human mind. By our natural reason, we can know that God exists; that he is the First Cause of all; that he is one, infinite, simple, immutable, etc. But that the one God subsists in three really distinct Persons is a truth that can be known only by supernatural means. That is a truth beyond the reach of human reason to know, to prove, or to disprove. We know this truth by divine revelation, and accept it by supernatural faith; we take it upon the authority of God himself.… By aid of the light of glory the soul in heaven sees God himself clearly and truly.

And so we accept our human limitation and believe, putting our trust in the words of St. Paul that we shall understand fully when we see God face to face:

1 Corinthians 13:11-12

When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall understand fully,
even as I have been fully understood.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

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The Face of the Man on the Shroud

One of the mysteries of the New Testament is that there are no descriptions of what Jesus Christ looks like. Nothing about how tall He is, the color of His hair or of His eyes, or . . . .

None.

But being the sensory creatures as God made us, we can’t help but wonder what Jesus looks like.

How we thirst for and yearn to see His face. Psalm 27:8 gives voice to humanity’s sorrowful yearning:

“Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me.”

Our crie de coeur is given eloquent expression by St. Anselm (1033-1109) in Proslogium:

But if thou hast found him, why is it that thou dost not feel thou hast found him? Why, O Lord, our God, does not my soul feel thee, if it hath found thee? [My soul] strains to see thee more . . . but it sees that it cannot see farther, because of its own darkness . . . . Everywhere thou art wholly present, and I see thee not . . . and therefore my soul still walks in its darkness and wretchedness. For it looks, and does not see thy beauty. It hearkens, and does not hear thy harmony. It smells, and does not perceive thy fragrance. It tastes, and does not recognize thy sweetness. It touches, and does not feel thy pleasantness.

Artists, like Jon McNaughton, have used their imagination to fashion their images of Jesus.

In 2015, the scientific unit of the police force in Rome, Italy, used computer software that’s normally used to age an individual and reversed the process to generate the angelic face of what the man whose face and body are imprinted onto the Shroud of Turin would look like as a 12-year-old boy.

In 2018, Dr. Giulio Fanti, Professor of Mechanical and Thermal Measurements at the University of Padua, created a 3D carbon copy from meticulous measurements of the imprinted image of the Man on the Shroud. Master sculptor Sergio Rodella then made a statue in plaster from the 3D carbon copy.

Professor Fanti said:

“Christian tradition believes that the image that is seen on the Shroud is that of the crucified Jesus. And now science is of this opinion too. For years, using the most sophisticated 3D technologies, we have studied  the image left by the body on the sheet. And the statue is the final result.

This statue is a life-size, three-dimensional representation of the Man of the Shroud, based on the millimetric measurements obtained from the shroud in which the body of Christ was wrapped after the crucifixion.

On the Shroud I counted 370 scourge wounds, without taking into consideration the lateral ones, which are not imprinted into the Shroud because it enveloped only the front and back of the body. We can therefore hypothesize Jesus suffered a total of at least 600 scourges. Moreover, the three-dimensional reconstruction has allowed us to reconstruct that at the time of death, the man of the Shroud has slumped to the right because His right shoulder was dislocated in such a severe way as to damage the nerves.

According to our studies, Jesus was a man of extraordinary beauty (“bellezza straordinaria”). Long-limbed, but very robust; almost six feet tall, while the average height of the time was around 5′ 5″; with a regal and majestic expression.

We therefore believe that we finally have an accurate picture of what Jesus was like on this earth. From now on, it will no longer be possible to portray His image without taking this work into account.”

Here’s the face of the Man on the Shroud:

But in the end, it doesn’t really matter what we think Jesus looks like because when we finally see Him face to face, we will know it’s Him. To quote McNaughton:

“Someday when I actually meet the Savior, I’m not going to recognize Him because of how long His hair is or the color of His eyes, or whether He has a short beard or long beard, or how dark His skin is. I’m gonna recognize Him because of the way I feel, standing in the presence of the Savior.”

See also:

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: The persecution of Paul and Barnabas

Acts 13:14, 43-52

Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga
and reached Antioch in Pisidia.
On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats.
Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism
followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them
and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.

On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered
to hear the word of the Lord.
When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy
and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.
Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said,
“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,
but since you reject it
and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life,
we now turn to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord has commanded us,
I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
that you may be an instrument of salvation
to the ends of the earth.”

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this
and glorified the word of the Lord.
All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.
The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers
and the leading men of the city,
stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas,
and expelled them from their territory.
So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them,
and went to Iconium.
The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

St. Barnabas was a Jew named Joseph, born in Cyprus. He sold his property and gave the proceeds to the Apostles, who gave him the name Barnabas, and lived in common with the earliest converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. He was sent to Antioch, Syria, to look into the community there, and brought Paul to Jerusalem from Tarsus.

St. Barnabas’ missionary journeys took him to Cyprus, Perga; Antioch in Pisidia, where he and St. Paul were so violently opposed by the Jews that they decided to preach to non-Jews, the Gentiles; Iconium and Lystra in Lycaonia, where he and St. Paul were stoned out of the city. When a dispute arose regarding the observance of the Jewish rites, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, where, at a council, it was decided that non-Jews did not have to be circumcised to be baptized.

Christian tradition holds that St. Barnabas was martyred, stoned to death, at Salamis, Cyprus, in 61 AD. He is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Orthodox Church. St. Barnabas’ feast day is June 11.

St. Paul was born Saul, c. AD 5, in the Mediterranean city of Tarsus (in today’s south-central Turkey). A Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s father and grandfather were Pharisees. The Pharisees claimed prophetic or Mosaic authority for their interpretation of Jewish laws. Though a Jew, Saul was by privilege a Roman citizen.

An approximate contemporary of the twelve Apostles, Saul neither followed nor even saw Jesus preach. Instead, being a zealot for Jewish law and traditions, he saw Jesus’ disciples as enemy and dedicated himself to the persecution of the early Christians, most notably the killing by stoning of St. Stephen.

When Saul was in his late 20s, as he was approaching Damascus from Jerusalem on a mission to arrest all Christian Jews in Damascus, he and his company were struck by a great light and fell to the ground. Saul alone heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked the voice to identify  himself. The voice answered, “Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.” Trembling, Saul cried out, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” The resurrected Christ told Saul that in Damascus, he would learn what would be expected of him.

As Saul got off the ground, he realized he had become blind. He was led to Damascus, where he remained blind for three days, without eating or drinking.
Like all genuine encounters with God — including our own, should we be so graced — Saul’s dramatic encounter with the risen Christ changed him forever.

Now renamed Paul (which means “little”), not only did he stop persecuting Christians, he became a devoted follower of Christ, perhaps the most influential early Christian missionary. The first Christology — doctrines and theories of the meaning of the belief in Christ — was developed by Paul. More importantly, more than any of Christ’s disciples, it was Paul who fully understood that, by His incarnation, death and resurrection, Jesus replaced the convenant of the Old Testament with a new convenant. This was made clear by Christ Himself in the Last Supper:

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11.25; cf. Mt 26.27-29; Mk 14.24, Lk 22.20; Heb 8.6, 9.15)

Henceforth, God’s chosen are all who “take up their cross” and follow Jesus the Christ. In other words, what once was a tribal religion — Judaism — is now the universal faith of Christianity. That is why St. Paul is called the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Without the work of Paul, formerly the sinful Saul of Tarsus, you and I might not be Christians.

Paul was indefatigable in bringing the Word of Christ to both Jews and Gentiles, in a time when travel was arduous and dangerous. Through his missionary activity and writings he eventually transformed religious belief and philosophy around the Mediterranean Basin.

Paul was beaten, arrested and imprisoned on more than one occasion. Neither the Bible nor other sources say how or when Paul died, but Ignatius, probably around 110, wrote that Paul was martyred. According to Christian tradition, St. Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero, on June 29, AD 67 — the same day as St. Peter was crucified upside down.

Shortly before he was martyred, St. Paul had written to St. Timothy these famous words:

“I am even now ready to be sacrificed, and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. As for the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love His coming.”

In a powerful passage in his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul specifically addresses unbelieving Jews. His words should be a reminder to us that, however difficult, we are to pray for instead of curse them.

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

See also:

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

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Holy Saturday: Our Lord stormed the gates of Hell

“. . . was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead….” –Apostles’ Creed

The Saturday between Good Friday (when our Lord was crucified) and Easter Sunday (when He rose from the dead) is given little attention, although what Jesus did in that interregnum is no less significant.

On Holy Saturday, Jesus Christ our Lord undertook some of the most dramatic and important work of His salvific mission.

He went into the depths of “hell” — a realm of the dead called “the limbo of the patriarchs,” which was without the punishments of the damned and which no longer exists.

There, awaiting His coming, were the departed just. Among them were Adam and Eve (despite their terrible sin of grandiosity and disobedience, the lasting legacy of which is the Original Sin that stains every human), St. John the Baptist, and Jesus’ foster-father St. Joseph. To the souls of the just, Jesus proclaimed He had won their salvation and led them as the first entrants into Heaven.

What a magnificent sight that must have been!

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday:

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him, Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise.

I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth.

For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God.

The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”

Be Joyous!

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: Salvation is from and also for the Jews

John 4:5-7, 21-26

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water….

Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.

“…salvation is from the Jews”

What does that mean?

The best explanation I’ve found is in the book, Salvation is from the Jews, by Roy H. Schoeman, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, on the critical salvific role played by Jews and Judaism. From pp. 20-21:

[T]hree of the roles that the Jewish people were called upon to play in salvation history — first, to give themselves completely to God, resulting in a uniquely intimate covenant between them and God; second, by their loyalty and virtue to bring blessing, and eventually the ultimate blessing of the Redeemer, to all of mankind; and third, to foreshadow prophetically later salvation history in their own history.

Yet this does not exhaust the role that the Jews were to play. The Jews were also to host the Incarnation itself, to be the people among whom God would become man. If God were to be on a uniquely intimate basis with the Jews and eventually to incarnate among them, they would have to be free from all involvement with other deities, free from all spiritual pollution. Hence the severity of the restrictions in the Old Testament against any form of idolatry or sorcery, both of which establish ties between the practitioners and fallen spirits. This purity, and the development of virtue and piety among at least some of the Jews, would have to reach its ultimate fruition later in producing an individual of such devotion and virtue that she could give her flesh to be the flesh of the God-man, that she could be His human mother. This individual was, of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But salvation is also for the Jews.

I love St. Paul, the former Saul, because he, though a Jew, was the apostle who most championed the bringing of the gospel — the good news of Jesus Christ — to non-Jews, the Gentiles. Christians through the ages and throughout the world have St. Paul to thank. (See “St. Paul, whom Christ struck blind”)

Paul the Apostle, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn c. 1657

In a powerful passage in his Letter to the Romans, however, St. Paul specifically addresses unbelieving Jews. His words should be a reminder to us that, however difficult, we are to pray for instead of curse them.

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

See also:

May the peace and love of our Lord, Jesus the Christ, be with you,

~Eowyn

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S.F. postpones Nude Valentine Parade because of weather

You can’t make this stuff up.

It is 47°F in San Francisco. The forecast is rain showers and a high of 51°F.

Organizers of the Nude Valentine Parade 2019, scheduled at noon today in San Francisco, had to postpone it:

“The parade has been postponed because of bad weather during Valentine’s Week. It will be scheduled for a weekend when warmer, drier weather reaches San Francisco — probably in early March.”

Here’s the original announcement:

2019 Nude Valentine Parade

Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 – 12 p.m.

Parade starts at Jane Warner Plaza, corner of Castro and Market streets, San Francisco, CA

From Fans of Urban Nudism:

“In San Francisco we celebrate Valentine’s Week – the week of love and friendship – with an annual Nude Valentine Parade.

“Why nude? Because it’s much more interesting and fun that way, and because nudity and love go well together. Furthermore, this is a way to reduce the harm that prudishness does to our society.

“The parade is free for anyone to join, to follow, or to watch. Anyone can participate – visitors and locals, all genders, all ages. Any degree of nudity is legal at this event, and many participants will only be wearing shoes.

“The 2019 Nude Valentine Parade will take place on Saturday February 16 — the Saturday following Valentine’s Day. The parade route starts in the Castro District – once famous as the center of gay love — and ends in the Haight-Ashbury District  — where the Summer of Love took place in the year 1967.

“The parade starts at Jane Warner Plaza (corner of Castro and Market Streets) at noon on Saturday February 16 (not the 14th, which is Valentine’s Day).

“We will walk from the plaza to Haight Street via a fairly level route.
The parade ends at Haight and Stanyan Streets.

“It will take about an hour to reach Stanyan Street. Those who wish to remain for awhile on Haight Street will then disperse along the sidewalks and stay for as long as they wish,  chatting with friendly visitors, and posing for pictures.”

Poor St. Valentine, a martyr. This is what the Left have made of his feast day.

See also “Archeologists find evidence of the obliteration of Sodom-Gomorrah

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: Seraphim were stationed above

If you, like I, sometimes get disheartened by the human evil and corrupt times in which we live, this account by the prophet Isaiah is a reminder of one of God’s wondrous creations, and that this world isn’t all there is to reality.

Even our physicists tell us there are multiple dimensions, as many as ten, way more than the three-dimensional world we access with our five senses.

Isaiah 6:1-2A, 3-8

In the year King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne,
with the train of his garment filling the temple.
Seraphim were stationed above.

They cried one to the other,
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”
At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook
and the house was filled with smoke.

Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips;
yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me,
holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.

He touched my mouth with it, and said,
“See, now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Note: Uzziah, aka Azariah, was a king of the ancient Kingdom of Judah, who ruled for 52 years until about 750 BC, when he was struck with leprosy for disobeying God (2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:19-21) and his son Jotham took over as king. Uzziah died in 740/739 BC.

Major philosophers — such as St. Thomas Aquinas, René Descartes, John Locke, and most recently, the American philosopher Mortimer Adler (read about his conversion here) — had put forth compelling reasons for the existence of Angels, bodiless beings of pure spirit. All four philosophers maintained that, given what Aquinas called a “gradation of substances” in the Universe, we cannot exclude the existence of a gradation above humans — pure spirits, or minds without bodies. As Locke (1632-1704) explains in Essay Concerning Human Understanding, pp. 412-413:

In things which sense cannot discover, analogy is the great rule of probability. Thus, finding in all parts of the creation, that fall under human observation, that there is a gradual connexion of one with another, without any great or discernible gaps between . . . we have reason to be persuaded that, by such gentle steps, things ascend upwards in degrees of perfection . . . . Observing . . . such gradual and gentle descents downwards in those parts of the creation that are beneath man, the rule of analogy may make it probable that it is so also in things above us . . . and that there are several ranks of intelligent beings, excelling us in several degrees of perfection, ascending upwards towards the infinite perfection of the Creator.

Theologians maintain there is a hierarchy of Angels, their belief stemming from allusions in both the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 3:24; Isaiah 6:1-7; Ezekiel 1, 10; Romans 8:38; Ephesians 1:21, 3:10, 6:12; Colossians 1:16, 2:10, 2:15) to “seraphim,” “cherubim,” “thrones,” “dominions,” “mights,” “powers” and “principalities” in the “heavenly places.”

Dionysius the Areopagite and Aquinas delineated three hierarchies of Angels, and three orders within each hierarchy, totaling nine orders in all:

  • 1st hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones.
  • 2nd hierarchy: Dominions, Virtues, Powers.
  • 3rd hierarchy: Principalities, Archangels, Angels.

Of the nine angelic orders, five are sent by God for external ministry among bodily creatures, as indicated by their names of Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels—all of which refer to some kind of administrative or executive office. Of these five orders, only the last three (Principalities, Archangels and Angels) minister to human beings. Our guardian angels belong to the last angelic order.

Concerning the highest hierarchy of angels—the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones—Aquinas states that they are never sent for external ministry but instead “assist before the throne of God.”

Indeed, in Isaiah 6, God is seated between two seraphims, each with six wings. And in Ezekiel 1 and 10, the prophet saw four cherubs before the throne of God, each having a human form with four wings and four faces—those of a man, a lion, a bull, and an eagle. Quite unlike the baby cherubs so popular in contemporary angel art, the cherubim whom Ezekiel saw in his visions “sparkled with a gleam like burnished bronze” from which “came forth flashes of lightning”; the sound of their wings was like “the roaring of mighty waters,” and when they moved, the clamor was like “the din of an army.”

The word “seraph” comes from a root meaning “to burn.” Cherubim are first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 3:24, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden and two cherubim are sent to guard its gate so that no one may enter. In her visions, German mystic St. Hildegard von Bingen saw the seraphim as “burning . . . in the love of God . . . as if they were a fire” and the cherubim as having “the purest, clearest, and most profound knowledge” of God in which “they see the secrets of the heavenly mysteries.” (Hildegard von Bingen’s Mystical Visions, p. 72).

Other sources of angel lore maintain that not only do the higher angels see God “face to face” and devote themselves to contemplating, loving, and singing in endless praise of the deity, they are charged with nothing less than the maintenance of order and beauty in the universe. Aquinas suggests as much when he writes that “angels rule the bodily world. St. Gregory says that in this visible world nothing occurs without the agency of invisible creatures.” (A Tour of the Summa, p. 91)

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: On suffering, the human condition

Hebrews 4:14-16

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest
who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

To suffer is to be human — suffering is the human condition.

If you find that unacceptable and demand an explanation, it’s right there in Genesis 3 — in the account of our first parents’ deliberate defiance of God’s explicit instruction, imagining in their preening grandiosity that they can become “like gods”.

But the exercise of free will is not free of consequences. As God had forewarned Adam and Eve, the issues of disobedience were dire indeed. By their fall, a door was opened to chaos; henceforth a price must be paid for being human. Where once was joy and ease, there would be suffering, hardship, and pain. The control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered, and humanity becomes vulnerable to the ravages of sickness and disease, and eventual death.

And yet, narcissists that we are, when we are in the throes of suffering, we lament and wail “Why me?,” as if we alone should be spared from the universal human condition.

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain. In 2010, a poll by the American Osteopathic Association found that nearly 70% of Americans said they or someone they cared for had experienced pain. The same poll found that, perversely, 34% of Americans found that the side effects of pain medications are worse than the pain itself.

But researchers have found pain reducers that are not opiates or pharmaceuticals. The website Cracked has an article on six things other than drugs which temporarily reduced pain. Beginning with the least, the six are money, eating, music, imagination, touch, and religious faith.

Researchers found that religious, specifically Christian, faith is the most powerful non-pharmaceutical pain reducer.

As reported by Gary L. Wenk, Ph. D., in Psychology Today:

In a recently published study in the journal Pain, scientists (Wiech and colleagues) measured pain perception in two groups of people, devout practicing Catholics and professed atheists and agnostics, while they viewed an image of the Virgin Mary or the painting of Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci. Devout Catholics reported feeling more peaceful and compassionate when gazing upon a picture of the Virgin Mother. The devout Catholics also perceived electrical pulses to their hand as being less painful when they looked at Mary than when they looked at the lady in the painting by da Vinci. In contrast, the atheists and agnostics derived no pain relief while viewing either picture.… MRI scans demonstrated that the Catholics’ pain relief was associated with greatly increased brain activity in a small area located on the bottom left of their right prefrontal cortex. In contrasts, the atheists and agnostics demonstrated no response in this brain area. There was already ample evidence to suggest that this brain region is involved in controlling our emotional response to sensory stimuli, such as pain. Perhaps this study has, in fact, now shown us the location of the placebo effect.

Much has been written about the value of the placebo effect in the practice of medicine, but how this effect emerges and whether it can be controlled are issues that not yet understood…. Numerous meta-analyses (which are later analyses of other researchers’ data) have shown that only the perception of pain can be statistically demonstrated to be influenced by our minds, which scientists refer to as the emergent property of our brains. The impressive influence of our thoughts and expectations on how we experience pain is a true placebo effect.

If gazing upon a painting of the mother of Jesus reduces pain, how much more powerful would fixing our eyes and minds on the suffering Christ on the cross. As St. Paul reminds us in Hebrews 4:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way.

In other words, no one better understands and empathizes with our suffering than Jesus. So, when you are wracked with pain, physical or emotional, look to our Lord on the cross and ask for His help.

He always answers. Really.

I leave you with the very wise words written more than 5 years ago by Joan, a contributor to Fellowship of the Minds who doesn’t write anymore because her body is broken, with constant excruciating pain from hereditary osteoarthritis, notwithstanding spinal and two knee-replacement surgeries:

All of us suffer and in different ways according to our individual situations. That is the human condition….

One of the effects I have experienced is that suffering helps us to become “Little”, and I say this with a capital “L” to emphasize that I have found it has brought me closer to Our Lord in that I come to Him as a little child most dependent upon Him.

One needs only to look at a Crucifix and embrace Jesus completely because of the greatest act of love ever given — His horrible suffering and death upon the Cross to save us from our sins and to open the gates of heaven for everyone. We need not be morbid for each of our individual experiences with suffering, because then our suffering is offered to Jesus with a poor attitude. I have also found that a sense of humor really helps, because sometimes, when it rains, it pours, and we cannot figure out what is happening. The otherwise little things and chores we try to do become trying and monumental….

But really, we simply must say, “Jesus, I Trust In You,” in every juncture of our lives. Remember what Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

It is no secret that I love the angels and the saints, members of the Church Triumphant. Below are some thoughts about suffering from your family in heaven which might assist you in your individual suffering:

“To suffer much, yet badly, is to suffer like reprobates. To suffer much, even bravely, but for a wicked cause, is to suffer as a martyr of the devil. To suffer much or little for the sake of God is to suffer like saints.” – St. Louis-Marie de Montfort

“An unpitied pain wins greater merit beofre God. Never say to God: ‘Enough’; simply say, ‘I am ready!’” -Bl. Sebastian Valfre

“Christ tells us that if we want to join Him, we shall travel the way He took. It is surely not right that the Son of God should go His way on the path of shame while the sons of men walk the way of worldly honor.” – St. John of Avila

“Reason should dominate pain, for our Redeemer has sanctified pain and by so doing has given us Christians a right way of facing it. For us, pain does not come to hurt and destroy but to raise to the heights.” –Bl. Placid Riccardi

“I shall remind myself of the labors He undertook in preaching, of his weariness while traveling, of the temptations He suffered while fasting, of His vigils while praying, and of the tears He shed out of compassion. I will remember, moreover, His sorrows, and the insults, spittle, blows, ridicule, rebukes, nails, and all the rest that rained down upon Him in abundance.” -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“Say always, ‘My beloved and despised Redeemer, how sweet it is to suffer for you.’” -St. Alphonsus Liguori

Jesus, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, willingly suffered and died for us as reparation for the terrible sin of our first parents, because sin — every sin — requires atonement to make things right again.

But the sin of Adam and Eve must have been so monumentally catastrophic that it tore the very fabric of the Universe. No man (human) can atone for this monumental sin. Only God can — and did.

We, too, can make our suffering redemptive for our sins and those of others. Offer it to Jesus — join your suffering to Him. And don’t compare your suffering to others because each person has a Cross to bear. But if we join our suffering to Jesus in sincerity, with a contrite heart, our suffering will become sanctity and joy.

Isaiah 53:11

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

See also:

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Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

InfantJesus_JohnBaptistJohn the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, painting in the 1600s by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo

Today, June 24th, the universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Martyr, and Forerunner Prophet to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is important to remember that John the Baptist was related to Our Lord Jesus. When the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary, Our Lady, that she would be the Mother of the Savior, he also told her that her cousin, Elizabeth, who was past child bearing age, would bear a son and that she must visit her, telling her that “nothing is impossible with God.” The child born to Elizabeth was John the Baptist. Mary did visit Elizabeth who greeted her with, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

If anyone “tells it like it is,” it is John the Baptist. He was not afraid to confront Herod and Herodias, reminding them that it was a sin for them to be together since Herodias’ husband was still alive. He shouted this fact to these self-proclaimed royals and the Jewish people knew that John was telling the truth. He warned them to repent for the coming of the Lord is near.

John lived the life of an ascetic in the desert, eating locusts and honey and whatever else the desert provided. John knew that his purpose in life was to prepare the way of the Lord. He encouraged those who came to listen to him to repent, to amend their lives and to be baptized. But John acknowledged to the people that One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, that he was not even worthy to carry his sandals. I think one of the most important communications from John is, that “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30) This is something we all must do; we must die to ourselves and let the Triune God increase, being a Light that shines to others of His presence.

Our Lord Jesus Christ came to John to be baptized and John was utterly amazed saying, “I need to be baptized by you.” (Matthew 3:14). Nevertheless, Jesus insisted that he needed baptism from him saying, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) Jesus set this example to the Jewish people fulfilling what good Jews should do with their lives – repent and amend their lives.

John had many disciples coming from all over the area to be baptized. But John always deferred to the coming of the Messiah, and that it was the Lord whom they must follow. John lived an austere life in complete discipline and penance, for he knew that he must “Prepare the Way of the Lord,” and that no other trappings could have any import in his life or his purpose.

Although the Church honors St. Stephen as the first Christian martyr, I believe that St. John the Baptist was the first martyr for Our Lord Jesus Christ. Because St. John confronted Herod and Herodias with their sin, he was put in Herod’s prison to suffer. Herodias took her revenge upon St. John. Herodias’ daughter danced for Herod, wherein Herod told her before she danced that he would grant her any wish or privilege she desired if she danced for him, “unto the half of his kingdom.” After she danced, her request was to have the head of St. John the Baptist delivered to her on a platter. Accordingly, St. John was martyred, being the final Prophet preparing God’s people for the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear St. John the Baptist, we face terrible “in your face evil” in the world at this time. Please help us to fight this evil and to be loving soldiers of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to not be afraid to call evil, evil, and good, good as you did to Herod and Herodias. We ask that you help us to speak plainly and boldly, acknowledging Our Lord Jesus Christ both in word and in deed. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

Respectfully,

Joan

Sources: Holy Scriptures

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