The Holy Father’s Intentions for the Month of FEBRUARY 2024
For the New Martyrs: We pray that those who risk their lives for the Gospel in various parts of the world inflame the Church with their courage and missionary enthusiasm. (See also http://www.popesprayerusa.net/.)
Ordinary Time: February 24th
Saturday of the First Week of Lent; Ember Saturday
Meditation on the Liturgy—Spring Ember Days
According to the tradition of the Church, the first week of Lent is the week of Spring Ember Days. Ember Days are specifically a tradition of the Church in Rome, its roots partly to be found in the Old Testament — where for example the prophet Zechariah attests four seasons of fasting in the years — and partly in the tradition of pagan Rome, with its festivals of seedtime and harvest still recalled in our own days. So we have this fine combination of creation and biblical history, a combination which is a sign of true catholicity. In the celebrations of these days we receive the year from the hand of God, receive our time from the Creator and Redeemers, and confide sowing and harvesting to his goodness, thanking him for the fruit of the earth and our work. The celebration of the Ember Days corresponds to the fact that “the creating waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19): through our prayer, creation enters into the Eucharist, has part in the praise of God.
In the fifth century however, the Ember Days took on another dimension, becoming feasts of the spiritual harvest of the Church, feasts of Holy Orders. The arrangement of stational churches for these three days is very significant: Wednesday, Saint Mary Major; Friday, the Church of the Twelve Apostles; Saturday, St. Peter’s. On the first day, the Church presented the ordinands to Our Lady, to the Church in person. “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus” (We fly to your protection), a Marian prayer of the third century, comes to mind here when we meditate on this action. The Church confides her ministers to the Mother: “Behold your mother”. This word from the Cross encourages us to seek refuge close to our Mother. Under Our Lady’s mantle, we are safe. In all our difficulties we can turn with immense faith to our Mother, we venture to take up our service.
The Friday was the day of the Twelve Apostles’ church. As “fellow-citizens of the saints and servants of God” we “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:19-20). Only in the context of the apostolic succession, of the faith of the Apostles and of the apostolic structure of the Church, with a true priestly system, that is, can we construct the living temple of God. The ordinations themselves took place during the night of Saturday, with a view to Sunday morning in St. Peter’s. Thus the Church expressed the unity of the priestly system in union with Peter, as Jesus at the beginning of his public life had called Peter and his “partners” (Lk 5:10), after he had been teaching from Simon’s boat.
The first week of Lent is a week of seedtime: let us entrust to God’s goodness the fruits of the earth and the work of human hands, so that all may receive daily bread, so that hunger may be taken from the earth. Let us entrust to God’s goodness also the seed of the word, so as to revive in ourselves the gift of God which is in us “through the laying-on of the hands” of the bishop (2 Tim 1:6), in the apostolic succession, in union with Peter. Let us thank God who has protected us in all temptations and difficulties, and pray, in the words of the prayer after Communion, that God will extend to us his favor, that is, his eternal love, himself, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that he will grant us also the temporal consolations that we need in our weakness:
“You have strengthened us Lord, through these mysteries and nourished us with your heavenly sacrament. Stay with us to comfort us and save us, and never cease to show us your favour“.
Let us make our prayer “through Christ our Lord”. Let us pray as under our Mother’s mantle. Let us pray as trustful children. The word of the Redeemer stands firm: “Have faith—I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).
—Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Journey Towards Easter
Meditation—The Tree of Knowledge and the Cross
The sin that was wrought through the tree was undone by the obedience of the tree, obedience to God whereby the Son of man was nailed to the tree, destroying the knowledge of evil, and bringing in and conferring the knowledge of good; and evil is disobedience to God, as obedience to God is good. And therefore the Word says through Isaiah the prophet, foretelling what was to come to pass in the future—for it was because they told the future that they were “prophets”—the Word says through him as follows: I refuse not, and do not gainsay, my back have I delivered to blows and my cheeks to buffets, and I have not turned away my face from the contumely of them that spat. [Is. 50, 6] So by obedience, whereby He obeyed unto death, hanging on the tree, He undid the old disobedience wrought in the tree. And because He is Himself the Word of God Almighty, who in His invisible form pervades us universally in the whole world, and encompasses both its length and breadth and height and depth—for by God’s Word everything is disposed and administered—the Son of God was also crucified in these, imprinted in the form of a cross on the universe; for He had necessarily, in becoming visible, to bring to light the universality of His cross, in order to show openly through His visible form that activity of His: that it is He who makes bright the height, that is, what is in heaven, and holds the deep, which is in the bowels of the earth, and stretches forth and extends the length from East to West, navigating also the Northern parts and the breadth of the South, and calling in all the dispersed from all sides to the knowledge of the Father.
Saturday of the First Week of Lent (Ember Saturday)
Station with San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter’s in the Vatican):
The Station is in the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, where the people would assemble towards evening, that they might be present at the ordination of the priests and sacred ministers. The original basilica was built by Constantine in 323 over the place where St. Peter was buried.
For more on San Pietro in Vaticano, see:
For further information on the Station Churches, see The Stational Church.
February 24, 2024 (Readings on USCCB website)
Saturday of the First Week of Lent: Turn our hearts to you, eternal Father, and grant that, seeking always the one thing necessary and carrying out works of charity, we may be dedicated to your worship. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
DAILY MEDITATION: MATTHEW 5:43-48
Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Have you ever heard a performance by a renowned classical pianist? They likely studied and practiced for many years before they started performing in public. It’s amazing to listen to someone like that. They seldom—if ever—make a mistake. They’re a prime example of the saying “Practice makes perfect.”
When we look at the spiritual life, we may believe that being “perfect” means being like that pianist: making no mistakes. But Jesus shows us a very different way of thinking about it. When he tells his hearers to be perfect, he means be perfected in love, just as our Father loves perfectly. That means loving everyone, even those we consider enemies, even those who hurt us.
That’s not easy to do! We all know people who rub us the wrong way. We all know how painful it can be when someone hurts us or betrays us. So how can we love them in these difficult situations?
We can start by remembering that our heavenly Father loved us even when we were his enemies (Romans 5:10). That makes him the best one to teach us how to love. We are all sinners, and God loves us all. In fact, you might be the person that someone else finds difficult. Recognizing that can help you show compassion even when you don’t feel like it.
Especially when it’s hard, you have to put in the effort—like that classical pianist. Practice until loving becomes easier and the way you love looks more like the way God loves. Here’s a way to begin. If someone offends you, pray for them. Then try to seek the good for them. If you have to deal with that person, ask the Spirit to give you his strength and his love.
The more you wrestle with loving those you find difficult to love, the more you show your heavenly Father’s perfection in your life. You’ll get better at loving everyone because practice does make perfect!
“Lord, help me to love not just when it’s easy, but even when it’s hard!”
Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8
In 1830, one of the apparitions sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church occurred in the chapel of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Rue de Bac, Paris. There were three visions given to Saint Catherine Laboure who, at the time of the first one, was a novice in the order. She was awakened at 11:30 PM on the eve of the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, by a “shining child” who led her to the chapel where she saw Our Lady, who spoke to her for two hours about the difficult task that lay ahead. Four months later, on November 27 Catherine had the second vision wherein she saw a three-dimensional scene of the Blessed Virgin standing on a white globe with dazzling rays of light streaming from her fingers and she heard a voice say:
“There now formed around the Blessed Virgin a frame rather oval in shape on which were written in letters of gold these words: ‘O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee’ Then the voice said: ‘ Have a medal struck upon this model. All those who wear it, when it is blessed, will receive great graces especially if they wear it round the neck. Those who repeat this prayer with devotion will be in a special manner under the protection of the Mother of God. Graces will be abundantly bestowed upon those who have confidence.’ “
This sacramental from Heaven was at first called simply the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, but began to be known as the Miraculous Medal due to the unprecedented number of miracles, conversions, cures, and acts of protection attributed to Our Lady’s intercession for those who wore it.
Sister Catherine became Saint Catherine in 1947. The church instituted recognition of the apparition in which the Miraculous Medal first appeared for November 27, 1830. Millions of the Miraculous Medal have been distributed, and many graces and miracles have been received through this devotion to Our Lady.
BROWN SCAPULAR OF MT. CARMEL
shall never suffer eternal fire.”
Virgin Mary’s promise to Saint Simon Stock
July 16, 1251″Wear it devoutly and perserveringly,” she says to each soul, “it is my garment. To be clothed in it means you are continually thinking of me, and I in turn, am always thinking of you and helping you to secure eternal life.”
The scapular is an external sign of the filial relationship established between the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Mount Carmel, and the faithful who entrust themselves totally to her protection, who have recourse to her maternal intercession, who are mindful of the primacy of the spiritual life and the need for prayer.
THE SABBATINE PRIVELEGE
The blessed Virgin of Mt. Carmel has promised to save those who wear the scapular fromthe fires of Hell; She will also shorten their stay in Purgatory if they should passfrom this world still owing some temporal debt of punishment.
The Blessed Virgin appeared to him and speaking of those who wear the Brown Scapular said: “I, the Mother of grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I shall find in Purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting.”
Pope Benedict XV proceeded to grant an indulgence of 500 days for each time the cloth Scapular is kissed”. On July 16th, the Scapular feast, while addressing the seminarians of Rome, Benedict XV said: “Let all of you have a common language and a common armor: the language, the sentences of the Gospel; the common armor, the Scapular of the Virgin of Carmel, which you all ought to wear and which enjoys the singular privilege of protection even after death.”
Pope Benedict XV, addressing seminarians in Rome:“Let all of you have a common language and a common armor: The language, the sentences of the Gospel – the common armor, the Brown Scapular of the Virgin of Carmel which you ought to wear and which enjoys the singular privilege and protection after death.”The Brown Scapular | A Sacramental“One of the most remarkable effects of sacramentals is the virtue to drive away evil spirits whose mysterious and baleful operations affect sometimes the physical activity of man. To combat this occult power the Church has recourse to exorcism, and sacramentals” (The Catholic Encyclopedia., 1913, VXIII, p. 293).The Brown Scapular | A True StoryYou will understand why the Devil works against those who promote the brown scapular when you hear the true story of Venerable Francis Yepes. One day his Scapular fell off. As he replaced it, the Devil howled, “Take off that habit which snatches so many souls from us! All those clothed in it die piously and escape us!” Then and there Francis made the Devil admit that there are three things which the demons are most afraid of: the Holy Name of Jesus; theHoly Name of Mary and the Holy Scapular of Carmel.“Modern Heretics make a mockery of wearing the Scapular. They decry it as so much trifling nonsense.” – St. Alphonsus LigouriMary, Mother of God and Our Mother“When Mary became the Mother of Jesus, true God and true Man, She also became our Mother. In His great mercy, Jesus wished to call us His brothers and sisters, and by this name He constituted us adopted children of Mary.” – St. John BoscoOver the years there have also been many miracles associated with wearing the brown scapular.
*If you would like a brown scapular click here:
New Catholic Radio Station serving Chittenden County
Donna McSoley stands in St. Francis Xavier Church in Winooski. She is the driving force behind a new Catholic radio station. Photo by Gail Callahan
WINOOSKI – In a state identified in a national study two years ago as one of the least religious in the country, a new Catholic radio station is being hailed by the market and people of faith.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio, which can be found at 105.5 FM, transmits 24-hour daily programming of the Eternal Word Television Network from the St. Francis Xavier Church property in Winooski. The station can be heard in the greater Burlington area and started broadcasting earlier this fall.
Donna McSoley, the driving force behind WRXJ 105.5 FM, said she is eager to begin producing some local programming after she learns more about audio editing software. McSoley said one of her ambitions is to air homilies from priests who serve the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.
“I wanted to bring Catholic radio to Vermont because many people here have rejected Christianity without even knowing much about church history, the early church fathers, or never having read the Bible in its entirety,” said McSoley. “Our state is in crisis over heroin and other drugs, and many people are lost and are desperately searching for freedom from addictions and a greater meaning in life.”
In 2015, the Pew Research Center conducted the Religious Landscape study, and Vermont tied as the 48th most religious state. The study found 34 percent of the Green Mountain State’s adults said they are “highly religious.”
A state’s spiritual devotion was measured by factors including “absolute belief in God and daily prayer.”
The Rev. Lance Harlow, rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral in Burlington, records in WRXJ radio’s Winooski station. Courtesy photo
McSoley, a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier Church, began the quest to secure a broadcast license more than five years ago when the Federal Communications Commission opened a small window to own a channel on the FM spectrum for a low-power station. It took about 18 months to secure the FCC’s approval.
McSoley accesses the station’s computers remotely from her Essex Junction home.
She said a radio station can reach people in ways other media outlets can’t. “Radio can be a great way to reach people in the privacy of their own car and where people are apt to ponder life’s great questions,” she said. “I think for that reason, radio can be a great way to explain the Catholic faith, which is largely misunderstood by the general public. … My hope is that the programs on the station can clear this up and we can foster greater unity within the Christian community here in Vermont.”
Ted Quigley, a practicing Catholic, embraces the organization. “105.5 FM is a wonderful change in my life,” he said. “I turn it on when I’m driving or when I’m home cleaning.”
The Most Rev. Christopher Coyne, bishop of Vermont’s Catholics, recorded some station identifications that play through the hour.
Coyne, who was named by Pope Francis to shepherd Vermont’s Catholics nearly two years ago, said he welcomes the station, praising McSoley’s efforts. “The Catholic community in Vermont has been very supportive of the launch of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio,” said Coyne. “Right now, this is the only Catholic radio station in Vermont. I hope to see many more begin to broadcast soon.”
Coyne’s remarks regarding the dearth of religious broadcasting in Vermont underscore what many perceive as an absence of God from the public dialogue. The FCC said it doesn’t keep track of content when license applications come in.
The program director for a Christian radio network serving Vermont said religious-oriented radio outlets are filling a much-needed niche. Bob Pierce, of The Light Radio Network, said his Christian station reaches about 15,000 listeners in Chittenden County.
In a competitive market, McSoley said she is anxious for WRXJ’s message to spread. “Although Vermont is one of the least religious states in the country, I have great faith that people will always be able to recognize truth when they hear it, so my hope is that many people will turn on the radio and start the journey toward discovering God,” she said.