Monday, October 31, 2005

All Hallow's Eve

The following is an article I found on a Catholic website,, about the history of Halloween. It might surprise some of you. If you wish to check out the article and its site, please click on the title of this post.

Tonight (all Hallow's Eve) is the eve of All Saints Day. Remember, the Solemnity of "All Saints" is a Holy Day of Obligation. So, have fun and be safe tonight, and hit Mass tomorrow!!
When you think of Halloween, what comes to mind? For a lot of people, Halloween has become synonymous with candy, costumes, scary stuff, witches, ghosts and pumpkins. But do you know the Christian connection to the holiday?

The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead—including ghosts, goblins and witches—returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.

When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider—traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play? In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.

The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints,” which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things” (#1475).

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Council of Trent and the Eucharist

In a comment to one of my recent posts, an anonymous blogger asked about what the Council of Trent taught about the Eucharist. The Council of Trent convened between 1545-1563 A.D., mainly to address the doctrinal errors made by Protestant Reformers. Specifically, it clarified and reaffirmed the 1500 year old Christian belief in the Holy Eucharist that is based in Scripture and Tradition. Today, the Catholic Church continues Trent's beautiful and clear eucharistic theology, which originated from the lips of our Lord Himself (John 6 & Last Supper).

The following are the "Canons of the Most Holy Eucharist" as decreed by Trent. For an understanding of what the word "anathema" means, please click on the title of this post to read an excellent web site article. The article clarifies many misconceptions about "anathema"; examples of these misconceptions are: an anathema sentenced a person to hell, an anathema was a sure sign that a person would go to hell, anathemas applied to all Protestants, and anathemas are still in place today.

Canon 1.
If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ,[42] but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema.

Canon 2. If anyone says that in the sacred and, holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation,[43] let him be anathema.

Canon 3. If anyone denies that in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist the whole Christ is contained under each form and under every part of each form when separated,[44] let him be anathema.

Canon 4. If anyone says that after the consecration is completed, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the admirable sacrament of the Eucharist,[45] but are there only , while being taken and not before or after, and that in the hosts or consecrated particles which are reserved or which remain after communion, the true body of the Lord does not remain, let him be anathema.

Canon 5. If anyone says that the principal fruit of the most Holy Eucharist is the remission of sins, or that other effects do not result from it,[46] let him be anathema.

Canon 6. If anyone says that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is not to be adored with the worship of ,[47] also outwardly manifested, and is consequently neither to be venerated with a special festive solemnity, nor to be solemnly borne about in procession according to the laudable and universal rite and custom of holy Church, or is not to be set publicly before the people to be adored and that the adorers thereof are idolaters, let him be anathema.

Canon 7. If anyone says that it is not lawful that the Holy Eucharist be reserved in a sacred place, but immediately after consecration must necessarily be distributed among those present,[48] or that it is not lawful that it be carried with honor to the sick, let him be anathema.

Canon 8. If anyone says that Christ received in the Eucharist is received spiritually only and not also sacramentally and really,[49] let him be anathema.

Canon 9. If anyone denies that each and all of Christ's faithful of both sexes are bound, when they have reached the years of discretion, to communicate every year at least at Easter,[50] in accordance with the precept of holy mother Church, let him be anathema.

Canon 10. If anyone says that it is not lawful for the priest celebrating to communicate himself,[51] let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If anyone says that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist,[52] let him be anathema. And lest so great a sacrament be received unworthily and hence unto death and condemnation, this holy council ordains and declares that sacramental confession, when a confessor can be had, must necessarily be made beforehand by those whose conscience is burdened with mortal sin, however contrite they may consider themselves. Moreover, if anyone shall presume to teach, preach or obstinately assert, or in public disputation defend the contrary, he shall be excommunicated.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Is the Mass real ? (part II)

The following is the continuation of Tuesday's post:
Now, if what happens at the Mass is real, it is the most amazing event on Earth. If it is not real, then it is all one big lie, and the biggest scam on Earth. But, "this is my body" means "this is my body"; the Mass is real. It blows away any movie or TV show because of its content and meaning for all of us.

At Mass, we are all witnesses to the Salvation of the world: Jesus' death and resurrection. Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is made present on the altar through the words of his priest: "this is my body"..."this is my blood". It is the same flesh and blood that was present on the Cross.

How do we know that the same flesh and blood that was on Mount Calvary is on the altar at every Mass? Jesus tells us: "the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world" (Jn 6:51). If we put that into equation, it would be: bread=flesh.

So, does Jesus die at every Mass? No. Scripture says that Jesus died once and for all (Rom 6:10, Heb 7:28, e.g.). What has occurred since the Crucifixion? The Resurrection. Thus, the only difference between Jesus' flesh on the Cross and his flesh on the atlar (other than it is under the signs of bread and wine) is that it is Jesus' Risen flesh and blood. Holy Communion is not an act of cannibalism; we feed on the Bread of Life, the Bread that has come down from heaven that will bring us to everlasting life: "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life" (Jn 6:54).

After I present some of the incredible beauty and reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the youth realize that the Mass isn't what they thought. It is real and incredible. If someone still thinks the Mass is boring after hearing that it is a re-presentation of Mount Calvary, then that's like saying they would have found the Crucifixion boring. No way. The Mass is the most incredible event in the world because the Son offers Himself to the Father through the Spirit on behalf of all humanity; anyone who participates in this Sacrifice participates in the Salvation of the world (even those in the back pews!).

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Is the Mass real? (Part I)

A small boy is sent to bed by his father.
Five minutes later...."Da-ad...."
"I'm thirsty. Can you bring a drink of water?"
"No, You had your chance. Lights out."
Five minutes later: "Da-aaaad....."
"I'm THIRSTY. Can I have a drink of water??"
I told you NO! If you ask again, I'll have to spank you!!"
Five minutes later......"Daaaa-aaaad....."
"When you come in to spank me, can you bring a drink of water?"

Sometimes when I am giving a talk to youth, I will ask what their experiences of going to Mass are. "Too long", "boring", "same thing every week", and "can't relate to it" are usually the most popular answers. 'Fair enough', I tell them...we'll come back to that later.

Then, I ask them how much time they spend watching T.V., movies, and listening to music each day. As they throw out the staggering numbers, I tally up their stats and try to come up with a conservative estimate. According to them, it's fair to say that they spend at least 2 hours a day doing these things (it's probably much higher than that), which means about 15 hours a week.

Then, I ask them if, for the most part, the TV and movies they watch are real. 'No' they say. 'So, why do you spend so much time watching them?' I ask them. They say it's because movies engage them, and take them to another place. Whether it's a character or the story itself, movies and TV entertain them on different levels (mainly emotional). Even though they have nothing to do with the story and don't participate in the show at all, they walk out saying, 'that was awesome'.

'How much time do you spend with God each day?', I ask them. Then, I hear a pin drop. Oops. They do talk to God each day, but it's less than an hour. We come to the conclusion that they spend at least one hour with God each week- at Sunday Mass. So, and this is the main point of the exercise, is the Mass real? 'Yes', almost 100 % of them say at once (probably because this seems like the obvious answer).

I ask them to honestly think about what they are saying. Are they really agreeing with the Church which has taught for 2000 years that the bread and wine truly become Jesus' body and blood during Mass? Do they really believe Jesus' own words about the Eucharist: "This is my body"? Is what happens on the altar at Mass for real?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The only unforgivable sin

In today's Gospel reading at Mass, we hear Jesus proclaim the following words which may seem difficult and troubling to grasp: "Everyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven, but no one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven" (Lk 12:10). So, what does it mean to sin or blaspheme against the Holy Spirit?

Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit can be understood as hardness of heart. It means that a person doesn't seek the forgiveness and mercy of God through the Holy Spirit either because he (or she) doesn't think he has anything to confess to God or because he doesn't think God can forgive him (for a particular sin). Whatever the reason, he "deliberately refuses to accept God's (infinite) mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1864).

If a person lives his whole life rejecting the forgiveness of God through the Holy Spirit, "such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss" (CCC, # 1864). However, as with any sin, if he repents of his hardness of heart at any moment before death, he can be forgiven. At that point, his heart is finally open to the forgiveness of the Spirit. God's mercy knows no limits with a contrite heart; the only heart that God can't touch (and thus forgive) is the one that isn't open to His forgiveness.

The only unforgivable sin, then, is the one that is intentionally not confessed. It is a sin against the Holy Spirit because it is the Spirit that forgives any and all sins (see Jn 20:20-23). The Spirit can forgive any and all sins that are confessed with a contrite heart until the moment of death. Anyone who seeks Christ's forgiveness acknowledges the power of His Spirit to forgive, and is forgiven. Anyone who does not ask Christ to be forgiven denies the power of His Spirit, and is not forgiven.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"Who do you say I am"

Here are my notes from a talk I'm giving tonight for an RCIA class on the person of Christ.

Who do you say I am?” (Mk 8:29)

-Who is Jesus?
-How would we properly begin to answer that question?

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mk 8:30)

- Church’s initial response (St. Peter)
- 2000 years of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition have developed the Church’s answer

- mission of the Catholic Church is to preach the person of Jesus Christ; started with the Apostles

Person of Jesus Christ

a. Christ is the Word (Logos)

John 1:1-5 – “In the beginning was the Word"
- divine nature of Christ

b. Christ is the Word became flesh

John 1:14 - “The Word became flesh”
- human nature of Christ

Mystery of person of Christ (1 person, 2 natures)
- fully human and fully divine

c. Christ is the Truth about God

- revealed to the world
- “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6)

The Way – he reveals the Father and the way to Father
The Truth- the words he proclaims are from the Father
The Life- “everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (Jn 3:15)

- “I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice” (Jn 18:37)

d. Christ is the Vine (we are the branches) – John 15

- not just an historical figure
- Christ is center of human experience: “salvation history”

- everything B.C. leads to Him; Christ referred to throughout O.T. / prophets

the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel” (Is 7:15; cf Mt 1:23); Immanuel= “God is with us”

- everything A.D. goes back to Christ

“He exists before all things
and in him all things hold together,
and he is the Head of the Body,
that is, the Church”
- Col 1:17-18

e. Christ is Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of God, Eternal Life

- “the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand” (Mt 4:17)

- Matthew: “Kingdom of Heaven”
- Mark: “Kingdom of God"

-“ whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54)
- The Eucharist dwelling within us = eternal life dwelling within us

- in all the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, we encounter the
person of Christ

“who do you say that I am (in the Eucharist)?”; you are the Christ, the Son of the living God (under the forms of bread and wine)

Discussion questions
  1. Do you have a relationship with the person of Christ? How important is it to you? Is He the most important person in your life?
  1. In what ways can we preach the person of Christ to the world? Is it only through words? How do you teach others about Jesus?
  1. Do you want to join the Church in her mission to preach the person of Jesus Christ?
  1. If one of your friends asks you, “who is Jesus”, how would you respond? Has tonight’s class helped you to better answer that question? Why or why not?

Monday, October 10, 2005

A special wedding invitation

Most people accept invitations to weddings, and look forward to going. Some are not able to go, of course; but, it's pretty uncommon for most people to reject an invitation to a particular wedding. In the parable from yesterday's Gospel (Mt 22:1-14), those who were invited by the king to his son's wedding feast rejected the invite. Why is it that "the invited guests...refused to come (to the wedding feast)"? "Some ignored the invitation and went away".

Why would so many ignore the invitation and go away? What would be the possible reasons for the guests to do this to the king? Maybe they are afraid of him. He might be very good to them, and they have not been very good to him. They would fear seeing him because he might get angry at them. That doesn't make much sense, though, because he wants them to be a part of such a grand celebration (his son's wedding).

If we apply this parable to the Mass (Heaven on Earth), we might ask the same questions. Why do so many Catholics reject the Father's invitation to this feast every Sunday? First, do they see it as an invitation? If so, do they skip Mass because of guilt? Is it just laziness (the parable gives no indication that the guests just don't feel like going)? Or, is it fear? As in the parable, it makes no sense that people would be afraid to see God at Mass because He might get angry at them.

This is a feast of the grandest proportions, people! Our King wants each of us to share in the joy of His Son's banquet! He knows that we are all sinners and have been unfaithful to Him. We might be like the second group of guests that the king invites: "good and bad alike". Whoever we are, God has called us to His table. We are called "blessed" by the author of the Book of Revelation (from which many of the chants at Mass are taken): "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb" (19:9). The Father rejoices when we come to the feast of the Lamb, and share in the Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Custody of the eyes

Ol' Fred had been a faithful Christian and was in the hospital, near death. The family called their pastor to stand with them. As the pastor stood next to the bed, Ol' Fred's condition appeared to deteriorate and he motioned frantically for something to write on. The pastor lovingly handed him a pen and a piece of paper, and Ol' Fred used his last bit of energy to scribble a note, then he died.

The pastor thought it best not to look at the note at that time, so he placed it in his jacket pocket. At the funeral, as he was finishing the message, he realized that he was wearing the same jacket that he was wearing when Ol' Fred died. He said, "You know, Ol' Fred handed me a note just before he died. I haven't looked at it, but knowing Fred, I'm sure there's a word of inspiration there for us all."

He opened the note, and read, "Hey, buddy, you're standing on my oxygen tube!"
One practice in the Christian life that we don't hear too much about these days is "custody of the eyes". Our parents and grandparents are more familiar with this important aspect of Christian purity; basically, it means to have control of what we look at regularly. With the countless images that inundate us each day via television, movies, magazines, music / videos, ads / billboards, and internet, we need to employ this great spiritual tool as part of our daily arsenal to "fight the good fight of faith" (2 Tim 4:6).

Jesus places the utmost importance on custody of the eyes in Luke 11: "The lamp of your body is your eye. When your eye is clear, your whole body, too, is filled with light; but when it is diseased your body, too, will be darkened. See to it then that the light inside you is not darkness" (v. 34-35). If we are not careful, the light that is in our body and soul can be darkened by diseased or poisoned eyes.

The eyes are the "windows of the soul". They reflect the state of the soul; if someone if filled with the light of Christ, you can see it in their eyes. By contrast, if someone is filled with darkness and constantly appears sad, you can often see that in their eyes. Even if their eyes don't reflect it, Jesus' words remain true: we can pollute our minds and bodies by looking at unclean things.

Living a pure, chaste life for Christ starts with our eyes. How can we possibly begin to live this kind of life? A Catholic author, T.G. Morrow, helps us get started:

One must begin by observing with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, I, q 81 a3), that the sexual appetite listens not only to reason, but to the senses and the imagination as well. Thus, one must first be careful what he/she looks at or watches. Viewing sexually explicit movies or videocassettes, or pornography, or even focusing on provocatively dressed members of the opposite sex is poison for one seeking chastity. The worst of these is using pornographic materials, since pornography depicts sex as merely recreational and women (or men) as mere objects of enjoyment. Both are terrible lies.

The Father of Lies knows how important our eyes are in following Christ, and is constantly fighting each one of us for custody of our eyes. He wants us to view what is impure, and to do it ad nauseum. But, we have major weapons to fight him in gaining (or regaining) control of all that comes into our mind and soul.

We have the Grace of Christ in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist and Confession, Scripture, prayer, the intercession of the Blessed Mother ("Virgin of Virgins") and all the angels (ask for your guardian angel to help you) and saints (St. Maria Goretti, virgin and martyr at age 11, is a good one), other devotions, mortifications, books on purity and chastity, and each other to help us "fight the good fight".

"Do not say that you have chaste minds if you have unchaste eyes because an unchaste eye is the messenger of an unchaste heart". - St Augustine