Monday, May 22, 2017

May 22, 2017 - St. Rita of Cascia - Battered wife, sorrowful mother, stigmatist, saint

St. Rita is a truly remarkable figure in the history of the church and the history of the saints. She was born in Umbria in 1381. From an early age she wanted to become a nun, a religious dedicated entirely to God. But her parents had other plans for her. They wanted her to marry, and so she did; she obeyed her parents’ insistence and married at a young age. But her husband turned out to be cruel and harsh and the marriage was very difficult, Rita’s only consolation during these years was God; she united herself often, in prayer, to Christ’s sorrowful passion.

After 18 years of a difficult, abusive marriage, her husband, who was a quarrelsome fellow got himself killed in a brawl. When her two sons vowed to avenge their father's murder, she feared for their souls. She tried to persuade them to let go of their anger, but to no avail, they began to plot a murder.

So she prayed, and she petitioned God to prevent her sons from sinning and losing their souls, even if it meant that they lost their earthly life. And it so happened that the sons developed dysentery; but, they were reconciled to God before they died, repentant of their hatred.

Free from earthly ties, St. Rita entered the Augustinian nuns in the nearby town of Cascia. She became renowned for her austerity, devotion, prayer, and charity; and for her patience in long-standing illness, she received visions from heaven and the stigmata—a wound resembling the crown of thorns on her forehead, which she bore until her death, which occurred on May 22, 1457.

So many spiritual lessons, from this brief description of her life:

She united her suffering to passion of Christ. And she followed God’s call to a life of religious consecration. I wish we lived in a culture where it was more common, as it was in those days, for men and women to enter religious life, and to become dedicated to God in prayer and fasting.

And she understood the consequences of mortal sin and the value of the souls of her sons. She understood that sin is the greatest of evils because its effects are eternal. So many parents these days are overly concerned about their children’s earthly successes without greater concern for their eternal welfare. The neglect of religious formation is deeply troubling.

St. Rita is one of the patron saints of impossible causes, we certainly invoke her intercession for the transformation of our culture whose conversion seems quite difficult these days. May St. Rita continue to teach us, inspire us, and challenge us, that we may reach the perfection for which we were made for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That Christians may grow in grace by uniting their sufferings to the Sufferings of Christ and know God’s presence with them in their sufferings.

For all those in difficult or abusive marriages, that the Lord will protect victims of abuse and bring healing and reconciliation where it is possible.

That all young people may come to value discipleship of Jesus Christ above all earthly pursuits, be preserved from sin, and grow in grace and holiness.

For an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life, and for a strengthening of all vocations of service.

For all those impossible cases which only the grace of God can remedy.

For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the repose of the soul of Fr. Robert Wendelken, longtime pastor of St. Rita parish, for all of the pour souls in purgatory, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

6th Sunday of Easter 2017 - The Spirit of Unity and Truth

The readings of the Easter season have begun to shift. We’ve gone from scriptures detailing the accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to his disciples to Jesus speaking about what comes next. Last week, he spoke of how even though he prepares to go to the Father, we must not be afraid. And this week, he continues his teaching to speak of the coming of the Holy Spirit. And so the readings have begun to focus on the two glorious events of Jesus’ Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

For many centuries, Ascension Thursday, 40 days after Easter Sunday was a holy day of obligation. So, we would have been meeting again this Thursday, had the bishops not commuted the celebration of the Ascension to the following Sunday, which will be next Sunday.

Right before Jesus ascended to the Father, he commanded his disciples to gather together and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. And we know they were faithful to that command: they gathered together in the upper room, and devoted themselves to constant prayer, with the Blessed Mother.
They prayed for nine days before receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. These is the origin of the practice of novena prayers. Novena coming from the word, novem, which means nine. So, Friday of this week begins the Pentecost Novena. By praying the Pentecost novena we follow the Lord’s command to prepare for Pentecost.

I encourage everyone here to pray this Novena. I’ll put a link to the Novena on the parish website and twitter account, and you can even sign up to have the daily prayers emailed to you by visiting the website “Praymorenovenas dot com” The Pentecost Novena is a powerful plea for the light and strength and love so sorely needed by every Christian. You would do well to pray it together as a family, with your spouse and children, or with your fiancĂ© or significant other.

I remember, it was my second year of seminary, and I was walking past one of the priest’s offices, and he was meeting with a young couple preparing for marriage.  He stopped me, and asked if I had any advice for this young couple. Now, I was a celibate college kid, what did I know about marriage? But I heard myself blurting out the words, “the couple that prays together stays together”. I’ve shared that advice with the couples I’ve prepared for the Sacrament of marriage.

Statistics show just how important it is for families to gather together for weekly Mass. The less husbands and wives attend mass together the greater the chances of the hardening of hearts and division. Prayer, worship, and faith are to unite us.

I had an engaged couple who had a long-distance relationship; the groom, I believe, lived in Chicago leading up to the wedding. But every night, they would pray the Church’s official Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours over the phone together. And they are a very strong and faith-filled married couple now. Free nights and weekends, there’s no excuse not to pray with your spouse if you are ever traveling on business!

Doing marriage preparation, I also meet a lot of young couples who are not practicing the faith. Some of them really haven’t been to church since their confirmation a decade before. With many of them, faith was not a priority for their families growing up and it still isn’t as they prepare for marriage. Thankfully, sometimes during the course of their marriage preparation they do rediscover the faith, or discover its power for the first time. But, sometimes they grow resistant, they make no effort to go to mass, they laugh off my insistence that they go to confession, they do not practice chastity. They put their future at risk, their marriage and their souls.

If we are to stay together, we must pray together. This is why weekly mass is so important. For Christianity is not simply a “me and Jesus” faith. The Body of Christ is to gather every week to remain united in common worship and the Spirit of Truth.

The Holy Spirit was sent upon the Church that we may be unified “in Spirit and Truth”. Think of the many ways the Holy Spirit brings unity. Through the Holy Spirit, the sinful soul is reunited with God. The Holy Spirit enables baptism to be powerful and effective. The Holy Spirit enables the Sacrament of Confession to reconcile souls separated from God through sin.

The Holy Spirit unites Christians in the bond of faith. For, it is through the Holy Spirit that apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders continues, so we can be united under the shepherding of Bishops who trace their lineage all the way back to the apostles. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are able to profess the one Faith received from the Apostles, free from error.
The Holy Spirit strengthens our faith and deepens our love and bestows countless gifts so that we continue to build up the church and have the courage to spread the faith.

The Holy Spirit unites families; a family that prays together opens itself to the strengthening of the Holy Spirit. When a family prays together the Holy Spirit heals wounds of division in a family, and gives family members patience to love each other as they should. Having a lot of arguments with the family? Consider coming to Sacramental Confession together on a Saturday afternoon. How powerful would that be!

The Holy Spirit works to unite the divided members of the human race by softening hardened hearts to the truth of Christ.

And the Holy Spirit works to bring unity within our own divided selves, our wounded fragmented selves. Often we continue to fall into sins because our egotistical, selfish, impatient, lustful selves still have healing to do.

Healing for a soul, a family, a parish, a nation occurs when we dispose our souls to the unifying power of the Holy Spirit: through prayer, the rosary, the divine mercy chaplet, the liturgy of the hours, lectio divina with scripture, novenas, through the humble confession of sins in the sacrament of confession, and through acts of charity.

St. Paul says, “The Holy Spirit brings life”…life which Jesus died to obtain for us, the life of grace, the life of holiness and wholeness, life for the spread of the gospel, the glory of God and salvation of souls.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday - 5th Week of Easter 2017 - Chosen and Sent

In the readings today we have a lot of choosing and sending. Our Lord tells the apostles in the Gospel: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” And in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, “the Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church, decided to choose representatives and to send them”

Tonight, at the Cathedral, the Bishop will choose to ordain and send 8 men as presbyters for this age.
This Bishop, addressing the chosen men will address them with the following words: “A priest's duties are to offer sacrifice, to bless, to govern, to preach, and to baptize. So high a dignity should be approached with great awe, and care must be taken that those chosen for it are recommended by eminent wisdom, upright character, and a long-standing virtuous life…. Therefore, my dear sons, chosen as you are by the judgment of our brethren to be consecrated as our helpers, keep yourselves blameless in a life of chastity and sanctity. Be well aware of the sacredness of your duties. Be holy as you deal with holy things.”

If you’ve never attended an ordination before, tonight would be a wonderful opportunity to see this ancient rite that is traced back to the Lord himself choosing his apostles and sending them for the building up of the Church.

I believe I’ve attended ordination every year since my own ordination. I always find it brings renewal in my own priestly vocation.

It is also a reminder that each of us as disciples must freely choose every day to follow the Lord in holiness, we must choose to follow him when it is hard to do so, we must choose to follow him in the face of temptation, we must choose to pray amidst so many distractions, we must choose to obey the teaching of the Church, we must choose to love those who at times appear unlovable, and to forgive those who have insulted us or violated our freedom.

We make our choices in response to the Lord who has chosen each one of us for a life of holiness. He has chosen us because he has loved us, now we are called to love God and love another in return, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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For ever deeper faithfulness in following the commandments of Christ and for the grace to love those who are difficult to love.

For lasting peace throughout the world: that Christ, the Prince of Peace will put an end to all enmity and division, and unify the peoples of the world.

For the 8 men who will be ordained presbyters tonight, that they may be ever faithful to their calling.
That those chosen to represent us in government will use their authority to protect the dignity of human life and the well-being of the poor, especially the unborn.

For those experiencing any kind of hardship or sorrow, isolation or illness, and that the Lord may grant his gift of peace to those most in need of it.

O God, who know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thursday - 5th Week of Easter 2017 - Remaining in Christ's love

St. John’s Gospel is so filled with teachings on Love that it is sometimes even called the Gospel of Love.

Saint John, the patron of our Diocese, was the only one of the twelve faithful apostles who did not suffer martyrdom.  They tried to kill him because of his faith, he was plunged into boiling oil, but he emerged unscathed. So, he was exiled from his home to the island of Patmos, a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea where he lived to a very old age. There on Patmos, as you might imagine, as last of the twelve apostles, people would flock to him to hear stories of the Master and to hear the Gospel preached.

Every Sunday, the Christians of Patmos, would make pilgrimage to see Saint John and he would celebrate Eucharist for them and preach.  And Sunday after Sunday he always had the same message for them: he would say, “My little children, God loves you.  Now you love Him and love one another.”  Always the same message, Sunday after Sunday: “my little children, God loves you.  Now you love Him and love one another.”

After some time, someone, asked him, “why do you keep repeating the same message, over and over again?” To which St. John replied: “I keep repeating it over and over again because the Master repeated it over and over again. “My little children, God loves you.  Now you love Him and love one another.”

Love is to be at the heart of the Christian life—Jesus tells us to love one another as he loves us. And in the Gospel today, he tells us to remain in his love by following his commandments.Which commandments? Well, all of them. And through the scriptures Jesus issues quite of few of them:

His first command in the Gospel of Matthew is “repent”, turn away from sin and back to God. He commands us to follow him, to rejoice in the things of God, to let the light of faith shine for all to see, to honor God’s law; he commands us to be reconciled with our brothers, to rid our hearts of lust, to go the extra mile in caring for a brother in need, to love, love, love your enemies. He commands us to lay up treasures in heaven and seek first the kingdom of God. He commands us to be baptized, to eat his flesh and drink his blood, to deny yourself take up his cross and follow him.

By keeping his commandments, we remain united to Him and to His Father, we are filled with the Holy Spirit who produces peace, fortitude and joy in us. May we remain in him always, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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For ever deeper faithfulness in following the commandments of Christ and for the grace to love those who are difficult to love. We pray to the Lord.
For lasting peace throughout the world: that Christ, the Prince of Peace will put an end to all enmity and division, and unify the peoples of the world.
For an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life, and for the 8 men who will be ordained priests for our diocese tomorrow evening in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
That civil leaders will use their authority to protect the dignity of human life and the well-being of the poor, especially the unborn.  We pray to the Lord.
For those experiencing any kind of hardship or sorrow, isolation or illness, and that the Lord may grant his gift of peace to those most in need of it.
O God, who know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday - 5th Week of Easter 2017 - Freedom from the captivity of comfortable lies

Scripture speaks often of God’s desire to give his people “peace”. Psalm 85 says that God promises peace to his people. Psalm 29 says, “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” Paul tells the Galatians that the fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, goodness, faithfulness, and peace” Isaiah prophecies that the Messiah will be called “Wonder-Counselor and Prince of Peace”

You can tell when people are filled with the peace of God. The holiest people I’ve met have been the most peaceful, peace surrounds them like cloak. I think the opposite is also true; most of us have met people that seem surrounded by a cloud of distress, bitterness, unhappiness; drama and chaos and division follow them everywhere. We speak of people having a chip on their shoulder, their lack of peace, having a physical reality. Perhaps, you’ve met someone who has allowed grief to turn into anger at the world or anger at God and that anger just exudes from them.

In the Gospel, Jesus offers peace to those who believe in him: peace the world cannot give, peace which banishes fear. This is not to say that when we believe in and follow Jesus, our fears and anxieties simply evaporate. Jesus leads us on a journey of peace.

Pope Benedict wrote that “Real peace can only be brought by release from the captivity of comfortable lies and the acceptance of suffering.  Repression is the most common cause of mental illness and healing can be found only in a descent into the suffering of truth.”

Jesus leads us on a journey of peace which involves acknowledging the truth of our suffering. So that person who has allowed grief to turn into anger, Jesus will lead to confront that grief and teach them to bear it with grace. The person with the resentment, Jesus will help them confront the resentment, to be honest about it, and to be released from it. He helps us face our comfortable lies, the lies we tell ourselves so that we don’t have to face our sufferings. He will help us, if we let him, to confront the truth of why we are so angry with certain family members, or neighbors, or politicians...and to know his peace.

I would add that many addictions come from burying pain under a pile of lies, and freedom from that addiction comes only when we allow Jesus to lead us through the lies, to the root of the pain.

For facing our sufferings is the only real road to healing which is the only real road to peace. It is a peace which is beyond all understanding, at least the understanding of the world. The world tells us, if we’ve been hurt, we should be angry, we should get revenge, we should seek worldly justice, we should claim our victimhood. Jesus shows us, how people of faith can know peace even while nailed to a cross.

May the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace free us from the captivity of our comfortable lies and make us into instruments of his peace for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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For lasting peace throughout the world: Christ, the Prince of Peace will put an end to all enmity and division, and unify the peoples of the world.

For an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life, and for the 8 men who will be ordained priests this Friday for our diocese.

That civil leaders will use their authority to protect the dignity of human life and the well-being of the poor, especially the unborn.  We pray to the Lord.

For deliverance from all evil and all temptation: for those under the influence of drug abuse, addiction, insanity, occultism, atheism, sexual perversion, and any spiritual evils which degrade the human person.

For those experiencing any kind of hardship or sorrow, isolation or illness, and that the Lord may grant his gift of peace to those most in need of it.

O God, who know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 15 2017 - St. Isidore the Farmer - Rich in the treasures of the Spirit

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Isidore the farmer. Isidore's parents were very religious and would have liked to provide their son with a first rate education, but since they were tenant farmers, they couldn’t afford it. So Isidore, too, would spend his life in the same occupation, working for the same rich landowner in Madrid all his life.  Isidore married a woman who was rich in virtue, but from a family as poor as his own.

One day, their son fell down a well, and they feared the worst. But, trusting in God they prayed for his safe return, and water in the well began to rise, and the boy was able to escape. Out of gratitude to God, from that day on, Isidore and his wife practiced perfect continence after the example of Mary and Joseph of the Holy Family.

Isidore would rise early every morning to go to Mass, he had a strong devotion to Mary, the saints, and would call upon his Guardian Angel to help him in his work. Coworkers sometimes complained he was late because of lingering in Church. One day his employer went out into the field and accused Isidore of neglecting the farm and Isidore replied, "I know, sir, that I am your servant but I have another Master as well, to Whom I owe service and obedience." Another time, the employer saw two strangers plowing for Isidore with a team of Oxen and realized they were angels who were helping Isidore make up work missed while at Mass.

Once, his parish was hosting a dinner. Isidore arrived with a group of beggars he had invited to the meal, and his fellow parishioners were upset with him, fearing there wasn’t going to be enough food. But the more they filled their plates the more there was for everyone else. To which Isidore replied, “there is always enough for the poor of Jesus”.

Isidore died on this date, May 15 in the year 1130. 40 years later, his remains, which had been buried in extremely wet ground were found incorrupt when they were exhumed and brought to the church of St. Andrew in Seville for veneration. The miracles surrounding his relics have been countless: heavenly music has been heard on the wind, he has appeared to protect Seville in times of danger, and has brought about healing miracles. Isidore is patron saint of farmers and of the United States National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

Isidore reminds us that sanctity can be achieved by all: the simple laborer, by putting Christ first, by devotion to the blessed mother and the saints, devout participation at holy mass, visits to the blessed sacrament chapel. Great sanctity doesn’t stem from status or even higher education, these things, in fact, can even become obstacles to sanctity.

Rather, simplicity and faith can bring about the flourishing of the human soul, the blooming of charity, and affluence in the riches of the spirit, for the Glory of God and salvation of souls.

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For Catholics in all walks of life, that we may achieve sanctity through our daily labors in service of the Lord.

For farmers, day laborers, and those who work by the sweat of their brow, that they may receive a just reward for their laborers, and for the unemployed and underemployed.

That spouses may help each other to grow rich in the treasures of heaven, and all those preparing for Holy Matrimony may do so rightly and chastely in the eyes of God.

That all families may seek to model themselves after the Holy Family and always know their guidance and protection.

For the sick, the suffering, the lonely, and the dying, that they may know the consolation of the grace of God.

For the deceased members of our family, friends, and parish, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, and for all those who have fought and died for our nation’s freedom.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter 2017 - Mother's Day and Fatima 100th Anniversary

Happy Mother’s Day.

We celebrate a very special Mother’s Day this weekend. 100 years ago, on May 13, 1917, Our Blessed Mother began appearing to 3 little shepherd children near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon, Portugal. In honor of the centennial anniversary this weekend, Pope Francis has traveled to Fatima to celebrate the canonization of two of those children, Francisco and Jacinta, who after their encounter with the Blessed Mother lived lives of great sanctity. An encounter with the Blessed Mother always changes you, and when you entrust yourself to her, she will help you to be as holy as God made you to be.

At Fatima, Mary tasked the children and all of us to pray the rosary for world peace, for the end of World War I, for the conversion of Russia, and to pray especially for sinners in danger of hell. She urged the children also to offer their lives in reparation for the sins and to make mortifications throughout the day for the conversion sinners.

You may have also heard of the three secrets of Fatima; the Blessed Mother delivered three secret messages to the children, two of which they were allowed to reveal soon after the apparitions.  The first secret was actually a terrifying vision: Mary showed the children a vision of a multitude of souls languishing in hell. They saw blackened souls, surrounded by torturing demons, lakes of fire with souls screaming in torment.

Mothers seek to protect their children from harm. And Our Blessed Mother is concerned not only with the well-being of our bodies, but our souls. And this first vision is a warning, of what happens when souls separate themselves from God through serious sin, when they live godless lives, and persevere in error.

The second secret was a prophecy.  The Blessed Mother told the children that World War One was about to end, but unless Russia converted to Catholicism and was consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, the godless errors of atheistic communism would spread throughout the world and another great war would follow the first; great destruction would be wrought upon earth the human evil and the Church would be persecuted.  But in the end, her immaculate heart would triumph.

The first war did end, shortly after the apparition. And though Russia was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart by Pius XII, Russia did not embrace the Faith and a second war did follow, World War II. Atheism and communism have spread. The 20th century contained more death, destruction, and martyrdom than all of the previous centuries combined.  The Church suffered terribly in the 20th century: 8000 priests in Spain alone were killed in the 1930s; 3000 priests in Mexico, 6000 priests were sent to the concentration camps of the Nazis. Countless souls turned away from the saving faith in the 20th century to the errors of atheism and the grave sins of the sexual revolution.

Our Mother’s promise will come to fulfillment at the end of time: her Immaculate Heart will triumph, when the love of God brings about the ultimate end of evil.

The third secret was made known to the world during the reign of Pope St. John Paul II. The children were shown a a vision of an angel with a flaming sword, who cried out “Penance, Penance, Penance” Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious climbed up a steep mountain and at the top of the mountain, an immense Cross. There they beheld a Bishop, dressed in white, shot by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him. Two angels then gathered the blood of the martyrs in holy water buckets and sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God. A very strange vision.
Pope Benedict believed this vision of the Bishop dressed in white to refer to the Popes of the 20th century collectively, who shared in the suffering of the Church, and how the Church is strengthened by their Holy Witness. The Popes of the 20th Century were very holy men compared to some of the Popes of centuries past.

Pius X, John XXIII, John Paul II have been canonized. Paul VI has been beatified, and Pius XII is on his way to canonization. These holy men gave incredible witness and clarity of teaching, during one of the bloodiest and secular ages the Church has faced. And although the 21st century has seen the incredible leadership of Pope Benedict, who in my opinion is a living saint, and Pope Francis who has so impressively called us to embody the mercy of God, the errors of the 20th century continue to lead souls away from God and put them in danger of hell.

Yet, Our Lady promised, in the end, “Her Immaculate Heart would triumph.” Pope Benedict interpreted these words as well. He said, “The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word.”

Mother’s day! How can we honor our mother’s this day? We honor our mother’s with cards and candy and flowers, taking them to their favorite places, or perhaps visiting the grave of the mother’s who have died. But I think the greatest honor we can show our mothers is by becoming the people God made us to be, people of faith and love, the people our mothers hoped we would be. That goes for our earthly mothers and also our Blessed Mother.

We show great honor to our Mother by taking up the rosary as she taught us, by turning to her example of love, and emulating the resounding Yes she made to God. Take seriously your Mother’s wishes, that her children pray the rosary, do penance for sinners, seek the purification of our own hearts from all resistance to God. Allow her immaculate heart to triumph over the evils that still linger in our world and hearts.

Make your mother smile today. Your earthly mother and the Blessed Mother. And may each of us entrust our fates, our souls to mother Mary, that we, with her “may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ” in the world and in our hearts, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.