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Thursday, June 22, 2017

ST. THOMAS MORE

I am afraid that…your thoughts may be corrupted from a sincere and pure commitment to Christ.

Judith, Chapter 10, Verse 16
When you stand before him, have no fear in your heart; give him the report you have given us, and he will treat you well.”
Judith prepares for war with prayer and by the enhancement of her beauty. She is so strikingly beautiful that in this verse one of the guards of the Assyrian camp advises her to be confident in the presence of Holofernes.

Beauty and the Beast[1]

After bathing (during a drought) she uses all the human arts available to her to make herself beautiful and captivating: perfumed ointment, hair, clothing and jewelry. She understands the goodness of her body. She knows physical beauty is good and comes from God. She also knows that the power of her beauty comes from within her, from her holiness, from her faithfulness to God. Since both her exterior and interior beauty come from God, her beauty must be devoted to the service of God. God intends to use her beauty as a weapon to liberate the people. She will wield the weapon to the best of her ability.

·         Men are awed at her loveliness.
·         Judith goes out to the enemy camp and to war.
·         She demonstrates her trust in God by walking to certain death with only her maid and her allure.
·         The guards are overcome by God’s weapon-beauty.

Women often desire to be beautiful but many unfortunately misunderstand that true beauty radiates from the soul. Remember that your beauty must be devoted to the service of God. Equally a man’s strength must be devoted to the service of God.

Ancient Beauty[2]
1.       The ancient women cared for their skin with oatmeal and milk, and Cleopatra was legendary for her milk baths.
2.       Honey was extremely valuable in ancient days and a symbol of divine blessing. Women applied it to their skin, along with oils, as part of their bathing ritual.
3.       Ancient women invented mineral cosmetics, and used eye shadows, face powder, blush, and lip tints.
4.       Ancient women did more than perfume themselves before a romantic evening: they perfumed their beds.
5.       Myrrh was precious perfume oil in the ancient world renowned for its ability to soothe skin and fight wrinkles.
6.       Flax was a common food source researchers believe the omega-3 fatty acids in flax may help the body regulate leptin, which helps you lose weight and burn fat more efficiently.
7.       Cinnamon was used as sacred anointing oil and perfume; research tells us that consuming cinnamon plays a role in regulating blood sugar.
8.       Pistachios are rich in carotenoids, the phytonutrient that can help “block sunlight-induced inflammation of the skin, which leads to wrinkles.

Sir Thomas More-Honesty[3]

John McCain in his book entitled “Character is Destiny” tells us that Sir Thomas More surrendered everything for the truth as he saw it, and shamed a king with the courage of his conscience. Thomas was a brilliant student. He loved learning, and would for the rest of his life prefer the less prestigious but more satisfying rewards of a scholar to the riches and power of the king’s court. He was part of a movement called humanism, whose followers were faithful to the Church but hoped to encourage a better understanding of the Gospels and their more honest application to the workings of society. They studied the great Greek and Roman philosophers, whose views on morality and just societies they believed complemented their Christian principles. They were passionate in pursuit of the truth as revealed by God, and by discovery through study and scholarly debate and discussion. They thought the world could be made gentler with Christian love and greater learning—love and learning that served not only the nobility of court and Church, but all mankind. Thomas was a devout Christian, and for a time lived in a monastery with the intention of entering the priesthood. The monastic life was one of isolation and self-denial. And though he took his religious devotion seriously, he loved the comforts of family life, and the rewards of learning and earthly pleasures as well: music and art, reading and writing, friendship and conversation and jests. He loved his city, London, then the greatest capital of Northern Europe. He loved life. So he left the cloister for a wife and family, and returned to the worldly affairs of men. His love of learning and truth was second only to his love of God, and he encouraged his children, for the sake of their happiness, to seek truth through learning as well as scripture. He cultivated friendships, and exchanged letters with some of the greatest minds in Europe, including with the Dutch priest and famous humanist philosopher Erasmus, who became More’s greatest admirer outside his family, and whose description of More became the title by which he is still remembered to this day: “a man for all seasons.” His scholarly reputation and skill as a scrupulously honest lawyer first gained the attention of the king’s most powerful counselor, the lord chancellor of England, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. An ambitious and shrewd politician, Wolsey recognized the younger man’s talents, and pressed him into the king’s service. Serving first as a diplomat, then in a series of increasingly powerful offices at court, knighted, and given lands and wealth, More became a favorite of Wolsey’s and Henry’s. And while he might have preferred the life of a philosopher, husband, and father to the rigors of public life, he no doubt took pride in the king’s confidence and favor. When Wolsey’s downfall came that would lead in time to Thomas’s death, Henry made his friend, Thomas, Lord Chancellor. It was the highest office at court, and Thomas More was the first layman to hold it. His appointment was greeted favorably by the court and public alike, for Thomas was known by one and all as an honest man, who would conscientiously discharge the duties of his office. As it turned out, he was too honest for his king. Thomas More waged an intellectual and judicial war against the followers of Luther that was at times surprisingly aggressive and even cruel for such a reasonable and just man. In the beginning, he had the king’s full support in his persecution and prosecution of “heretics.” More defended the Church out of religious principle, and because he and the king feared the uncontrollable social disorder that a permanent split among the faithful would surely cause. But his hatred, if it could be called that in such a mild man, was for the heresy and not the heretics. Death was the judgment for heretics in the courts that Thomas More governed, but he went to great lengths to encourage the accused to recant their views and escape their sentence. In fact, in the many cases he prosecuted, all the accused except for four poor souls, who went to their deaths rather than recant, escaped the headman’s ax. More was diligent in his duty, but a much more powerful threat than Luther’s protests had encouraged was growing to the Catholic Church in England. Henry’s queen, Catherine of Aragon, had failed to produce a surviving male heir. Henry was determined to have a new wife who could give him a healthy son. Other kings and nobles had received from the pope annulments of their marriage. But the most powerful king in Europe, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, was Catherine’s nephew, and he had great influence with Pope Clement VII. He persuaded Clement not to grant an annulment that would remove the crown from his aunt’s head. Once Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn, the fifteen-year-old daughter of a scheming courtier, he would no longer accept papal opposition to his desire to remarry. In this dangerous and growing conflict, Thomas More became a central figure, and he would struggle with all his intellect, lawyer’s skills, and courage to obey his king without forsaking his church. It would prove impossible. Initially More dutifully served the king’s wishes, arguing in Parliament that there were grounds to consider the marriage to Catherine unlawful. But when the king declared himself, and not the pope, to be the supreme head of the Church in England, More offered the king his resignation. Henry refused it, and promised his friend that he would never be forced to take any action that his conscience would not permit. But the king’s assurance was hollow, and soon both he and More realized that the king’s desires and More’s conscience could not be reconciled. More again asked the king to accept his resignation, and this time, Henry agreed. For many months, he was careful not to speak against the king’s wishes, in public or in private. But he declined to attend the king’s wedding to Anne Boleyn. When Parliament passed a law requiring the king’s subjects to sign an oath recognizing Anne as queen, and any children she might bear Henry as legitimate heirs to the throne, he refused to sign it because it denied the pope’s authority over the Church in England. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He remained there until his trial fifteen months later. The jury, which included Anne Boleyn’s father, brother, and uncle, found him guilty and sentenced him to be hanged, and drawn and quartered. Then More spoke his conscience, and said he could not in his own heart accept the king as head of the English Church. The death to which he was first sentenced would have been a far slower and more painful death than he was made to suffer in the end. Henry, mercifully, permitted his old friend and counselor to die by beheading. On the day of his execution, he had some difficulty climbing the scaffold steps. He thanked the guard who helped him, but joked that he should be allowed to “shift for myself” when he came back down. He recited a prayer of repentance. The hooded executioner, as was the custom, begged the condemned man’s forgiveness. More gave him a coin, kissed him, and thanked him for giving him a “greater benefit than ever any mortal man can be able to give me.” And then the man who had all his life loved to jest, made one last joke. As he knelt to place his head upon the block, he asked for a moment to arrange his long beard so that it wouldn’t be severed by the ax, observing that as far as he knew his beard had not offended the king. In his last address, spoken moments earlier, he had asked the crowd of witnesses to pray for his soul and for the king, for he died “the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” One swift stroke and the king’s will was done. The life on earth of honest Thomas More was ended. His glory had just begun.

Pray for the return of the Church of England to the fold.

Fortnight for Freedom[4]

Religious freedom has recently become one of the major focal points in the conversation on how Americans can promote the common good. Our Catholic tradition has much to offer this conversation. In this time of increasing polarization in our culture, we can contribute to a better understanding of this issue in a way that respects all people. We can speak with friends and neighbors about religious freedom and work to clear up misconceptions about it.

1. Respect. It is important that we not dismiss skeptics, but rather, that we listen to their concerns and take them seriously.

2. A Fundamental Right. Religious freedom is a fundamental right. It means that the government cannot coerce people into acting against their consciences. This is important for all people, not just people of faith. A government that makes one group choose obedience to the state over obedience to faith and conscience can force any group to submit to the state's demands.

3. Space to Do Good. People of faith need religious freedom to have the space to serve others. Oftentimes, religious liberty disputes arise when religious organizations are expected to sacrifice aspects of their faith in order to continue to serve the surrounding community. But it is our faith that inspires us to serve. Take the Little Sisters of the Poor, who live out their Christian faith by serving the elderly poor. These women have had to seek protection from a regulation requiring them to facilitate access to contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs and devices. Or, consider adoption services run by Catholic Charities, which simply seek to place children in homes with a married mother and father. Due to the redefinition of marriage in civil law, many Catholic Charities and other faith-based adoption agencies around the country have been forced to end their adoption and foster care services. When faith groups violate their consciences, they undermine the whole mission of their ministry. People of faith and faith-based organizations need space to make their unique contributions to the common good.

4. Authentic Pluralism. Skeptics are often concerned about the effects that religious organizations have on people who do not share those religious beliefs. Skeptics tend to see a conflict between religious freedom and their vision of equality and choose a mistaken concept of equality over freedom. These are certainly difficult issues. Here are points to consider:

·         A pluralistic society makes space for people who hold views that run counter to the mainstream. Religious groups, and groups formed around a particular set of principles, need to be able to express their views with integrity. It is crucial that our society not adopt the view that all groups – least of all religious groups -- must conform to one view. True freedom results in a diversity that strengthens, rather than weakens, society.
·         Some skeptics say that religious people impose their faith on others. However, when religious groups are accused of causing harm to others, the "harm" is often that they do not facilitate an action. The craft store chain Hobby Lobby refused to cover abortifacients for its employees. But Hobby Lobby is not preventing its employees from obtaining these devices. The Christian family that runs Hobby Lobby refuses to participate in an activity it believes is immoral.
·         It is similar when family-owned businesses choose not to participate in same-sex weddings. For example, florist Barronelle Stutzman had served a customer she knew was in a same-sex relationship for almost a decade. However, she could not in good conscience create custom floral arrangements for the customer's same-sex ceremony. She was happy to provide flowers for any other occasion but did not want to be forced to participate in a particular event that went against her Christian beliefs. The State of Washington sued Barronelle for declining to participate in an activity that went against her faith.
·         Above all, the Church seeks to offer a better way. Catholic teaching is holistic, rooted in the dignity of the person, a dignity that is visible to reason yet made more clear by the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not simply asking for freedom from coercion so that we can be left alone. We believe that what we teach - about marriage, sex, family life, care for refugees, care for the poor, care for the sick, care for all vulnerable – is good for society. When we see a culture that is often unloving and hostile to life, we work to bear witness to a healthier culture, a "civilization of love," in which all people can flourish.

Daily Devotions/Prayers

·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Novena to the Sacred Heart


Just in from catholicculture.org

The Global Rosary Relay for Priests begins at the stroke of midnight on June 23, this year, commencing in East Asia as it begins its journey around the world. We thank you for making this worldwide prayer event a success in the past as we now look forward to sharing in a greatly enhanced event for 2017, when over 100 lead shrines in more than 50 countries around the world will pray the rosary in their local language at their allocated time.

Here is a message to all priests for this important day: The Priesthood Is the Love of the Heart of Jesus and the Prayers for Priests, both for priests to say for themselves, and for lay people to say for priests.


[1]The Collegeville Bible Commentary, 1986.
[2]http://www.gingergarrett.com/downloads/Top10_Ancient_Beauty_Secrets.pdf
[3]McCain, John; Salter, Mark. Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember
[4]http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/how-to-talk-about-religious-freedom.cfm

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