Tuesday, July 31, 2007

St. Ignatius and the "Spiritual Exercises"

Today, the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who lived from 1491-1556. As I mentioned in my homily at Mass this morning, St. Ignatius wrote much about how to discern if certain things in our lives are from God or not. These writings would become known as the “Spiritual Exercises” which many people use to this day and which I highly recommend. The following two sources (americancatholic.org and the Office of Readings) speak about the life of St. Ignatius and the Exercises:

1) “The founder of the Jesuits was on his way to military fame and fortune when a cannon ball shattered his leg. Because there were no books of romance on hand during his convalescence, he whiled away the time reading a life of Christ and lives of the saints. His conscience was deeply touched, and a long, painful turning to Christ began…After a period of great peace of mind, he went through a harrowing trial of scruples. There was no comfort in anything—prayer, fasting, sacraments, penance. At length, his peace of mind returned.

It was during this year of conversion that he began to write down material that later became his greatest work, the Spiritual Exercises…

Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of Christianity—the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam—‘for the greater glory of God.’”

2) “While reading the life of Christ our Lord or the lives of the saints, he would reflect and reason with himself: ‘What if I should do what Saint Francis or Saint Dominic did?’ In this way he let his mind dwell on many thoughts; they lasted a while until other things took their place. Then those vain and worldly images would come into his mind and remain a long time. This sequence of thoughts persisted with him for a long time.

But there was a difference. When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up out of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy. Yet he did not pay attention to this, nor did he appreciate it until one day, in a moment of insight, he began to marvel at the difference. Then he understood the experience: thoughts of one kind left him sad, the others full of joy. And this was the first time he applied a process of reasoning to his religious experience. Later on, when he began to formulate his spiritual exercises, he used this experience as an illustration to explain the doctrine he taught his disciples on the discernment of spirits.”

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wear your Sunday best!

Mindy wrote, “Fr. Greg- a favor- at some point, is there something you could say to our kids (especially with the onset of "strappy" dress season) about appropriate clothing for church. I'm tired of arguing the same point and could use some back-up!!!” Mindy wrote this before school let out for summer, and I didn’t get a chance to talk to the kids about appropriate dress for church. Hopefully, I will have a chance to talk to them about this in the upcoming schoolyear. In the meantime, Mindy and other parents can read this post with their kids.

You can begin by reviewing my post from July 25 of last year. I address the issue of appropriate dress in general but also include some specific guidelines about Church attire: “Regarding the question someone asked about dress codes for attending Mass, my answer is, 'wear your Sunday best!' In the least, men should wear dress pants (not shorts), a dress shirt, and dress shoes; in the least, women should wear a dress that covers the shoulders or a blouse with skirt (past the knees), and dress shoes.”

It’s good to give kids the general reasons why we should get dressed up for Sunday Mass, even in the summertime. I would stress two things: 1) they are going to God’s House, and 2) they will be in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. These are the two main reasons why I try to never wear shorts in Church, even if I’m just going to pray. If you (or anyone) give your kids a sense of the sacred, they will respond. One look at the clothing of a Catholic congregation on a typical Sunday Mass, especially during the summer, begs the question: Have we lost the sense of the sacred??

Also, it might be good to get kids thinking about other times when they dress up, even during the summer. I’ve used the analogy before of having dinner with the President at the White House. Would we go in shorts because it was hot? You might ask them why they would get dressed up. They would probably say because it’s the President of the United States! And, you would respond, “well, when we go to Mass, we are having a meal with Jesus who is far more important than the President!” An older kid might say, ‘yeah, but the White House is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Mass is every Sunday’. With this you would agree but also add what St. Paul writes: “You must never grow weary of doing what is right, brothers” (2 Thess 3:13). It is always right to dress up for Mass.

Finally, some words from a priest and author, Rev. Thomas Morrow (who I quoted in my 7/25/06 post). The following comes from his leaflet, “Worship the Lord in Holy Attire”. If anyone is interested in purchasing this leaflet, please go to cfalive.org.

Does God really care what I wear to Mass? Well, He said He did. In the Scriptures we read: “Worship the Lord in holy attire” (1 Chr. 16:29, Ps's 29:2, 96:9). And, the Catholic Catechism teaches that our ges­tures and our clothing “ought to convey the re­spect, so­lemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ be­comes our guest” in Holy Communion (para. 1387)…

Parents are sometimes reluctant to mention proper dress to their children, for fear of “turning them off.” But, rather than tiptoe around the subject, why not teach children what the Mass is, and how holy it is, and what God says about “holy attire”? Many young people are willing to do great things for God, if we only invite them, and tell them why.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

17th Sunday - homily

We’re going to have a little poll today in Church: a survey on prayer. Now, don’t worry, you won’t have to raise your hands. In fact, we’ll go right to the results which are based on conversations I’ve had with many of you since I’ve been at St. Andrew’s. If I were to ask you, “how many of you pray?”, almost all – if not all – of your hands would go up. If I asked you “how many of you pray every day?”, less hands would be raised, but still it would be many. If I asked “how many of you pray every day from your hearts?”, there would be even less hands, but still a good number. It’s usually a question that catches people by surprise. Nevertheless, I have been impressed with how much of a praying community we have here.

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel to pray. Pray! He says we are to ask, to seek, and to knock. He says we are to ask the Father to send the Spirit. Many of us want to do this, but don’t know how to ask, to seek, to knock, or to ask for the Spirit. Jesus, how do we pray? This is the same question that the disciples ask our Lord. We want to talk to God regularly, but don’t know how.

I think the question of how to pray is the same question of how to talk to a good friend. We don’t need to know how to talk to a good friend; we don’t look up in the “Best Friend’s Guide Book” to find the answer. We just do it! Prayer is the same thing. It’s talking to God from your heart. St. Jose Maria Escriva once said prayer is “to get acquainted” (with God and self). This is what happens when we talk with our best friend; we get to know the other and our self.

So, many of us want to make prayer a habit, but might be afraid to take the first step. We just need to do it! I did this fifteen years ago when I first began to pray. I was helping out at the youth group at St Mark’s in Hyattsville. At that time, St. Mark’s had Perptual Adoration where the Eucharist is exposed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a chapel. With Perpetual Adoration, someone needs to be there every hour during the day and night. They needed someone from 6-7 am on Thursdays; so, I (foolishly) signed up. It was early!

I drove from Bethesda to Hyattsville every Thursday. I had no idea what I was doing when I went in the chapel. No clue! I had never done Adoration before. I got on my knees, but didn’t know where to look. I looked at the Crucifix, and then started to notice all the lights and candles in the altar area. I finally recognized the Host (in the monstrance), and got it. One of my first prayers there – after 21 years of ignorance about the Real Presence – was, “Jesus, I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was you. All these years, I thought that the Eucharist was just a symbol”. That was the Holy Spirit leading that prayer. I didn’t know how to pray. I just put myself in His Presence, and the Spirit took over. The Spirit shows us how to pray.

Now, some practical suggestions on how to pray. The greatest prayer is what we’re doing right now – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The next best way to pray is Adoration which we have every Friday night here from 7-8 pm. The people who come love it. It’s great, even if you come in for just a few minutes! We can also pray in our rooms, as Jesus tells us elsewhere in the Gospel. Reading Scripture is a great way to get to know God and us. Finally, going to Jesus through Mary by praying the rosary is an excellent way to pray. We can turn off the car radio and pray a few decades of the rosary, or go for a rosary walk or something. These are all ways for us to make prayer a part of our day, and to men and women of prayer.

Finally, a plea to our parents: please pray for your kids. Every day. I just spent a week in Florida with a couple who are dear friends. Before every meal, they pray Grace, then a Hail Mary for their daughter who died at 28, and then a prayer for their other (grown) children which I will close with. It’s a powerful thing when parents pray for their children, just like Abraham in the first reading; Abraham is our father in faith who is interceding for his children to God. As your spiritual father, I will pray this prayer (of my friends) every day for you:

Lord, look kindly on your children fashioned by you from the womb
Keep fear, trouble, and harm far from them
And when life’s storms come, guide our children to safety
In days to come, give us all faith, hope, and love
And keep us always by your side

Monday, July 23, 2007

On vacation

Thanks be to God and to all the (50-70) volunteers, Fun in the Son went very well on Saturday! I am truly grateful to all of our men, women, and youth who generously gave their time and talent to make this first-time event so fruitful. It was a great team effort!
I'll be away this week, so I'll take a break from posts until next week. Also, I won't be publishing any comments this week, so bloggers, please wait until next week to leave comments. Thanks!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

16th Sunday - homily

The other night, I took our summer seminarian, Jim, out to dinner for all the work he did for Fun in the Son. We went to Downtown Silver Spring and the placed was packed! There were people everywhere. The streets and sidewalks were filled with people, restaurant, bars…it was quite impressive. Jim and I were wondering why it was so crowded, and then we realized it was because of the release of the new Harry Potter book. There is a Borders bookstore, and people were gathering for the midnight release.

There were people young and old there who were so excited about the new book. People were walking behind us, talking about what the plotlines would be, what would happen with the different characters, and all this stuff. Now, I’m not anti-Harry Potter, but I was thinking to myself, ‘my gosh, this is all for a children’s fiction book!’ If only we could have the same excitement and zeal from our people about the Sunday readings! Wouldn’t it be great if people were walking around saying, “whoa, Martha and Mary, can you believe what happened when Jesus came to their house?” Or, “how about when Jesus said, ‘Martha, Martha, Martha’?” Anyway, just a thought…

As I was praying over today’s readings, thoughts of my trip to Calcutta seven years ago came to mind. Calcutta is a tough place to be! It is so hot, loud, often doesn’t smell very good, and can be just unclean. Talk about a place with a lot of people! Well, a few weeks into my trip, I got postcards for family and friends. I wrote to each of them, “It’s hot, loud, smelly, and dirty. Having a great time. Wish you were here!”

The experience of Calcutta is so different from our experience here; it truly overwhelmed me. I was able to get through the culture shock to pick up on at least a few things by way of insight. One of them was that the poor there have nothing…absolutely nothing. It is juts them and God. Jesus says in today’s Gospel that “there is only one thing you need”. For the poor in Calcutta, everything else has been taken away from them, so they definitely realize that all they need is God. Their idea of “needs” are far different from ours. They need food to survive each day, as the kids begging for food on the streets showed me. What are our “needs”? We need the newest Harry Potter book or cultural trend. We need the biggest house or nicest car. We need the newest Wii system.

Mary reminds me of the poor in Calcutta and Martha reminds me of us. Mary has only one need: to be in the presence of God who is love. Martha is busy with so many things and has so many needs. She might think she needs to have a clean house so that Jesus and others will think she is a good hostess. She might need to have the respect of others, so she works so hard to keep a good image and reputation. All of her needs have made her so anxious. She is a good woman who proclaims Jesus as the Christ, but may not even be paying attention to Jesus when she is in his presence. Is there our experience at Mass? Are we thinking about all of our needs, and don’t pay attention to the prayers and readings?

We look at the example of Martha’s sister, Mary. She realizes that she is in the presence of God. She is at his feet, and listening to his every word. Jesus says that there is only one thing we need. If you ask me, the one thing we need is love. God is the source of love. Mary recognizes this, and that Christ can fill all of her needs.

We have the same opportunity with the Eucharist. Like Mary, we are at the feet of Jesus at every Mass, and should be listening to his every word in the prayers and readings. We are in the presence of Love. We become filled with his love, and then bring that love to those we meet.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Gospel - Mt 12:14-21

The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus
to put him to death.
When Jesus realized this,
he withdrew from that place.
Many people followed him,
and he cured them all,
but he warned them not to make him known.
This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom I delight;
I shall place my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not contend or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Baptism by desire

1)Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!

2) “Fun in the SON”, tomorrow, 12-4 pm. All SAA parishioners and teens from other parishes are invited. Please pray that God will bless our event.
Anon wrote: “I've often wondered about what the Catholic church believes about people of other faiths going to heaven. There are so many really good people in the world who do amazing deeds (think back to so many heroic men who gave their lives on 9/11 to save others. Many good people are not Catholic and do not believe in Christ as their savior. What happens to those souls?”

The following comes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1257-1260. These sections explain that there are three forms of Baptism: 1) by water (most common), 2) by blood (those who die for and with Christ, and 3) by desire. Baptism by desire refers to those who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ but can still get to Heaven because they truly desired to do the Will of God in their lives, as # 1260 explains.

1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation (see Jn 3:5). He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them (see Mt 28:19-20). Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament (see Mk 16:16). The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery" (Gaudium et Spes, #22). Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mt 11:28-30

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Answers from an all-star seminarian!

Pat: “When are Catholics not buried in consecrated soil?”

Seminarian, Jim: In the Code of Canon Law, Number 1184, certain people are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites:
1) notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;
2) persons who had chosen the cremation of their own bodies for reasons opposed to the Christian faith; and
3) other manifest sinners for whom ecclesiastical funeral rites cannot be granted without public scandal of the faithful.

Canon 1184 then goes on to state that, if some doubt should arise, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment followed.

If the Catholic cannot be buried in a Catholic cemetery or in a Catholic section of a civil cemetery, there is a rite for the proper blessing of an individual grave.
Anon: "Since the time of Robert Drinan, SJ, when JPII issued a directive barring Roman Catholic priests from holding an elected office, - Just wondering if that directive also applies to permanent deacons?"

Jim: In the Code of Canon Law, Canon 285, §3, “Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power.” Canon 288 states that “Permanent deacons are not bound by the prescriptions of canon 285, §3, [among other canons listed], unless particular law determines otherwise.” In other words, permanent deacons could hold elected office with the consent of the bishop.

Pope John Paul II, in his general audience topic, “Priests Do Not Have a Political Mission” from July 28, 1993, stated that Jesus “never wanted to be involved in a political movement, and fled from every attempt to draw him into earthly questions and affairs (cf. Jn 6:15). The kingdom he came to establish does not belong to this world (cf. Jn 18:36). For this reason he said to those who wanted him to take a stand regarding the civil power: "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God" (Mt 22:21). He never promised the Jewish nation, to which he belonged and which he loved, the political liberation that many expected from the Messiah. Jesus stated that he came as the Son of God to offer humanity, enslaved by sin, spiritual liberation and a calling to the kingdom of God (cf. Jn 8:34-36). He said that he came not to be served, but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28). He said that his followers, especially the apostles, should not think of earthly power and dominion over nations as do the rulers of this world. Instead, they should be the humble servants of all (cf. Mt 20:20-28), like their "Teacher and Master" (Jn 13:13-14).”

The Catechism, at number 1570, states that deacons, through ordination, are marked “with an imprint (“character”) which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the “deacon” or servant of all.” It would seem that this configuration to the servanthood of Christ would make holding a public office more difficult, if not particularly forbidden. But this is where the judgment of the local bishop would provide the most appropriate guidance as to the propriety of this kind of service.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Youth and the Eucharist

Markov wrote recently, “A little while ago I had posted that I had taken my 3 year old nephew to Eucharistic Adoration. Lately he has been asking me if he could go back to the "little room." The church has virtual adoration in a room. My problem is that my nephew is not Catholic or Christian for that matter. My brother -n-law keeps telling him let's see. I don't say anything because I don't want to step on anyone's toes. I feel that something spiritual is happening to this child. Who knows if he will feel the same way when he grows up. It is really quite unusual when a 3 year old asks to go to Eucharistic Adoration. Any thoughts of what should I do?”

First of all, this is really cool stuff! I always love hearing stories about youth and the Eucharist, but especially the really little ones. It’s pretty uncommon, but it is possible for a kid as young as three to have an experience with the Real Presence. It seems that something happened with your nephew in Adoration. I would recommend talking with his parents about it and tell them what happened, if you haven’t already. Also, it would be good to explain to them what Adoration is; so, this means you will have to explain what the Eucharist is. When I do this with almost anybody, but especially with non-Catholics, it usually gets into the big questions about Christ – who He is, what His Death and Resurrection is all about, and how the sacraments enter into all of it. I truly believe that if our outreach to the “lost sheep” is focused on the Eucharist, then they will ultimately come (back) to Christ the Good Shepherd.

I’ve had a few experiences recently involving youth and the Eucharist that were really quite amazing, thanks be to God. One of them was on last week’s “Encounter” retreat which some of our teens attended. There were several of us priests there to hear Confessions; we started the evening off with Adoration. This was a new experience for many of the (250) teens who were there. I explained what Adoration is all about and why we do it; again, it all goes back to the Last Supper and John 6. They seemed to get it! I was also able to tie in Confession at the end of my talk. By the Grace of God, almost all of the teens went to Confession! Amazing!!

There was a boy who came to talk to me. He is about 15 and has never been baptized. We talked about the Eucharist and he said he believed…! I asked him if he wants to be Catholic, and he said yes. I showed a huge grin, and said softly, “awesome”. It seems as though he had already had an experience of the Real Presence, and it moved him. He wants more of it, and will talk to his parents about becoming Catholic.

I recently talked to a girl who is going off to college next year. She humbly admitted that she was losing her faith and going away from who she is. So, as we chatted outside a chapel with the exposed Host, I focused my questions on the Eucharist in order to see if she still had faith in the Real Presence. She thoughtfully and pensively considered what I was asking. She allowed me to give the teaching on the Eucharist, how ‘this is my body’ means this is my body, when transubstantiation takes place at Mass, etc. She seemed profoundly affected by what was being said, and often glared into the chapel to see the exposed Eucharist. We finished our intense talk by saying that she can take her new-found faith in the Eucharist off to college with her in the Fall, and how much that will help her. Minutes later, I walked into the chapel and saw her quietly and reverently in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. God is good!

I tell these stories because a) they’re really cool!, and b) because they relate to Markov’s situation. To me, it doesn’t matter at what age it happens, if any of us has a REAL experience with the Eucharist, then we get it. We are changed. We’re in and not going anywhere. Christ has us. For a 3 year old, for a teenager, for a young priest, or for an elderly person, it was a real experience because in some way it was an experience of love…or peace…or joy. It was an experience of Heaven on Earth. A little kid can pick up on that…and want it! Hopefully, his parents will allow him to have it again real soon. In the meantime, pray for everyone involved - in the presence of the Lord.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today, the Church celebrates a memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The following is from our source for 'saint of the day' articles, americancatholic.org, which sheds light on today's feast:

Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah (northern Israel) in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726 it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and often championed the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.

St. Teresa of Avila called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.” St. John of the Cross credited Mary with saving him from drowning as a child, leading him to Carmel and helping him escape from prison. St. Theresa of the Child Jesus believed that Mary cured her from illness. On her First Communion she dedicated her life to Mary. During the last days of her life she frequently spoke of Mary.

There is a tradition (which may not be historical) that Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a leader of the Carmelites, and gave him a scapular, telling him to promote devotion to it. The scapular is a modified version of Mary’s own garment. It symbolizes her special protection and calls the wearers to consecrate themselves to her in a special way. Obviously, no magic way of salvation is intended. Rather, the scapular is a reminder of the gospel call to prayer and penance—a call that Mary models in a splendid way.

The Carmelites were known from early on as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” The title suggests that they saw Mary not only as “mother,” but also as “sister.” The word “sister” is a reminder that Mary is very close to us. She is the daughter of God and therefore can help us be authentic daughters and sons of God. She also can help us grow in appreciation of being sisters and brothers to one another. She leads us to a new realization that all human beings belong to the family of God. When such a conviction grows, there is hope that the human race can find its way to peace.

“The various forms of piety toward the Mother of God, which the Church has approved within the limits of sound and orthodox doctrine, according to the dispositions and understanding of the faithful, ensure that while the mother is honored, the Son through whom all things have their being (cf. Colossians 1:15–16) and in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell (cf. Colossians 1:19) is rightly known, loved and glorified and his commandments are observed” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 66).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday's Gospel

Gospel - Lk 10:25-37

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said,“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply,You shall love the Lord, your God,with all your heart,with all your being,with all your strength,and with all your mind,and your neighbor as yourself.”He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;do this and you will live.”But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,“And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied,“A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road,but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place,and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon himwas moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim,poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal,took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coinsand gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you,I shall repay you on my way back.’

Which of these three, in your opinion,was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Danger: "New Age"

Anon: "What is Reiki? Is it similar to the laying on of hands? I got an email from my aunt, who is an active and practicing Catholic, to tell me she has just become a certified Reiki practioner. She'd like to offer me a "healing". It sort of scares me!!!"

Our summer seminarian, Jim, has admirably tackled this one:

Reiki, as some of the other bloggers noted, is a spiritual practice which, according to Wikipedia, proposes to treat ”physical, emotional, mental and spiritual diseases.” It was developed in Japan in the early twentieth century, and works on the concept of using the “healing energy of the universe” to bring peace and healing to both practitioners and their patients. From the person who developed the practice, it has splintered into a number of groups who have various standards for training and certification, and for legitimacy, based on who learned from whom. The Reiki practitioner puts his hands either on or near the recipient, and will let the energy flow through them to the patient, to accelerate the body’s natural healing powers.

Reiki is, as some bloggers also noted, a “New Age” practice. This is not to say that it is evil in itself, but that it can open dangerous channels that can have an ongoing negative effect on both the practitioner and the recipient. The main difference between this and the Christian “laying on of hands” is really in its source and the attitude of those who follow this practice. The Christian prays for the help of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is not a faucet to be turned off and on at the will of the person praying. We acknowledge our weakness and our lack of wisdom in asking for God’s help in any kind of healing, because, in His Wisdom and Power, He knows what is truly best for us, and can be trusted to provide that. The New Age practitioner becomes god – calling on whatever powers he wants when he wants for what he wants. That level of narcissism only invites the cooperation of those forces which eventually dictate who is truly in control.

The Pontifical Council for Culture released a preliminary study titled, “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life – A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age’”. In it is a discussion of the present day’s culture in which people search for empowerment in a world that doesn’t make sense, and are looking to themselves to be the source of their peace. There is only one source for true peace – God – and the “New Age” only rehashes old Gnostic themes to make people believe that they can bring about their own fulfillment by themselves, with or without their supposed control of elemental forces. Many souls have been lost by these philosophies. The Christian believes in Jesus as the only way to salvation, and God as the only source of the true fulfillment that will make us truly and fully human beings, created in the image and likeness of God.

Friday, July 13, 2007

"Catholics in the Public Square"

Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!
Recently, we had a very popular discussion regarding issues of politics and morals (under the post, “Excommunication”). As a follow-up to that discussion, here are some excerpts from a book, “Catholics in the Public Square” (Basilica Press), written by Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix. One of his strongest points is found in his last answer below. His Excellency seems to be responding to Catholic politicians who claim that they are following their ‘conscience’ in being actively pro-abortion; he provides a powerful reminder that “Our conscience is not the origin of truth. Truth lies outside us”.

How should Catholics understand the separation between Church and state?

The separation of Church and state all too often is used as an excuse to silence people of faith and to discourage them from legitimately participating in the public square. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, of course, does not advocate for a separation of Church and state at all, but rather the protection of religious freedom from the state.

Our founding fathers intended all persons to have the equal right to voice their opinions, including those based on religious convictions. Even more, they understood that it was imperative that the state not infringe upon the religious beliefs of its citizens. The Constitution is aimed at allowing all people to have a voice in government, including those whose voice is distinctively religious.

In other words, there is nothing in the Constitution excluding people from bringing their faith into the public square.

Should Catholics bring the Church's doctrine into the public square?

There are times when the Church's intervention in social questions is needed. As the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (510) teaches, “ The Church intervenes by making a moral judgment about economic and social matters when the fundamental rights of the person, the common good, or the salvation of souls requires it.”

While Catholics are called to bring their faith and religious views into the public square, they are also called to respect the religious freedom and civil liberties of all people. In fact, the Church has genuine respect for secular governments that afford these protections to people of all faiths, as well as those without faith.

In reality, the Church does not impose its doctrine on others in the public square. For example, there is no effort by the Church to compel the public to attend Mass on Sundays or receive various sacraments. Nonetheless, the Church is legitimately concerned about many matters of societal importance and brings its views to bear in proposing meaningful solutions for promoting the common good.

How do you respond to statements that Catholics should not impose their religious views upon others?

Some Catholics and other believers have been frightened into silence and even confused by charges that they are imposing their morality on others. It is contended that a person's faith should have no impact on his or her public life. This leads the infamous “I am a Catholic but….” syndrome! Of course, if one's faith does not impact on one's whole life, including one's political and social responsibilities, then it is not authentic faith; it is a sham, a counterfeit.

A democratic society needs the active participation of all its citizens, people of faith included. People of faith engage issues on the basis of what they believe, just as atheists engage issues on the basis of what they hold dear; they fight for what they think is right and oppose what they consider wrong. This is not an imposition on other's morality. It is acting with integrity.

Moreover, people of genuine faith strengthen the whole moral fabric of a country. The active engagement of Catholics in democratic processes is good for society and it is responsible citizenship.

Should Catholics take into account their own faith at the moment of voting?

It only makes sense that if Catholics are supposed to live their faith in all of their daily activities that they should also take their faith into account while voting. As noted in the Second Vatican Council's teaching, " every citizen ought to be mindful of his right and his duty to promote the common good by using his vote ." ( Gaudium et Spes , 75)

In preparing to vote, Catholics need to understand their faith so that their consciences are properly formed. Subsequent to this formation, it is important to research all of the important issues and candidates that will appear on the ballot. Only after sufficient preparation and prayer, is a Catholic fully ready to discharge his or her responsibilities as a faithful citizen and cast a meaningful vote.

Can Catholics honestly disagree in matters of politics, social or cultural issues?

In 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document entitled Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding Participation of Catholics in Political Life , that addresses the existence of political matters in which Catholics may disagree. There are, indeed, many issues upon which Catholics may legitimately differ such as the best methods to achieve welfare reform or to address illegal immigration.

Conversely, however, there are other issues that are intrinsically evil and can never legitimately be supported. For example, Catholics may never legitimately promote or vote for any law that attacks innocent human life.

What does it mean that Catholics should follow their conscience when making a moral decision?

Before following our conscience, we must form it in accord with the voice of God. Our conscience is not the origin of truth. Truth lies outside us; it exists independent of us and must be discovered through constant effort of mind and heart. This is no easy task for us who suffer the effects of original sin and must contend with the constant temptations of the devil. Conscience receives the truth revealed by God and discerns how to apply that truth to concrete circumstances.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1783) teaches, “ Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-informed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings .”

As we see, to form one's own conscience well and to follow it with integrity is no small task. For a person's conscience cannot invent what is true and good. It must search it out beyond itself. When acting correctly, we discover the truth through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the help of God's word handed down to us in the Church. Then, when we submit our conscience to this objective truth, we act uprightly and grow to maturity in Christ.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mt 10:7-15

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“As you go, make this proclamation:
‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts;
no sack for the journey, or a second tunic,
or sandals, or walking stick.
The laborer deserves his keep.
Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it,
and stay there until you leave.
As you enter a house, wish it peace.
If the house is worthy,
let your peace come upon it;
if not, let your peace return to you.
Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words
(go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.
Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment
than for that town

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"Fun in the SON"

As we have been advertising around the parish recently, St. Andrew’s will be hosting an outdoor Summer Rock Fest, “Fun in the SON”, next Saturday, July 21, from 12-4 pm on the Athletic Field. We are inviting all St. Andrew’s parishioners as well as teens from other parishes. There will be a Catholic band (Crispin), food and drink, sports games on the adjacent county fields (flag football, soccer, kickball), and priests offering Confessions. Tickets are $5; food and drink will be sold separately. The event is rain or shine; hopefully, it won’t rain!

In some ways, it’ll be like a mini-version of World Youth Day which Pope John Paul II spearheaded in the 1980s. World Youth Day is a week-long festival in a designated city (e.g., Denver in ’93; Sydney, Australia in 2008) where Catholic youth gather from all over the world; the Pope attends on the final day(s). “Fun in the SON” will be on a much smaller scale, and, of course, the Holy Father won’t be coming! But, Crispin played at World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002 (in front of a million people), and priests heard Confessions in a field after an outdoor Mass for 10,000 youth in Cologne, Germany in 2005. So, we have those two common denominators!

I think that I heard Crispin play at WYD in Toronto. From what I remember and from the word on the street, Crispin rocks! They play an assortment of music with powerful lyrics and a very solid message. They are based out of Texas and have been touring all over the world recently. We very much look forward to welcoming them to St. Andrew’s next weekend!

Many SAA parishioners have come forward to serve as volunteers for this event, and I am grateful. We could use a few more, though! If you or someone you know is interested in helping before, during, or after the event, please contact me.

The biggest thing we need right now is to know how many people are coming. We will ask parishioners to sign up this weekend and indicate how many tickets they need. This is primarily for us to know how much food and drink to provide.

We can have an initial sign-up here to reserve tickets. Tickets can be reserved by: a) leaving a comment below this post –please include your name-, b) sending me an email (my address is under my profile), or c) calling me at 301-649-3700 ext. 314. Can you spread the word to other parishioners to reserve tickets?

Teens / youth ministers from outside the parish should call Kelly @ 301-946-1161 to reserve tickets.

Please pray that God blesses our event. As I said in my homily this past weekend, it’s a great way to build up the Kingdom in our community. It should be a lot of fun, too!! It’s all for Jesus…Fun in the SON!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner"

‘Sinner’ wrote, “Please don't laugh at this question. How do you get over the fact that you are a sinner? I haven't thought of myself as one until recently and its a yucky feeling.” None of us will fully “get over” the fact that we are sinners in this life. Yes, it’s a yucky feeling, but there is also something beautiful at work whenever we realize that we are sinners. Christ points this out in different ways in the Gospels, most especially when he lauds the man who says, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Lk 18:13).

How can it be good or beautiful to point out a bad reality? Because it is the truth. The reality, now matter how ugly it is – and sin can be very ugly – is that we are sinners. Many people try to deny and run away from this reality. We justify our sinful behavior and attitudes regularly; “I hate him because he has been a jerk to me”. We easily make excuses for our vices; “I got drunk the other night because of all the stress at work”. As the Catechism points out (# 387), we like to use other words as substitutes for our sins: “mistakes”, “flaws”, “weaknesses”.

While it is indeed hard to acknowledge that we have sinned and that we are sinners, it is also very liberating. Again, it is the truth; anytime we can see the truth and acknowledge it, it is a step toward freedom. “The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). It wasn’t until I realized and admitted the truth is that I am a great sinner that I entered into true freedom. It wasn’t until I saw how selfish I can be that I began to live for others. It wasn’t until I admitted my pride and stubbornness that I began to grow in humility. It wasn’t until I acknowledged my slavery to sin that I could live in freedom. As a great sinner, I am far from perfection, but am on the path to perfection.

We live in a world that doesn’t commonly use words like ‘sin’, ‘evil’, or ‘vice’. Our world doesn’t want to acknowledge that we are sinners, probably because it’s a world that doesn’t want to have that ‘yucky feeling’. So, instead of owning up to the truth, the world distorts the truth so that we will ‘feel better’ about who we are and what we’ve done. The problem is that by avoiding the ‘yucky feeling’, we can get into other (and more serious) sins. How many teens are aborting their babies at this very moment because they committed the sin of fornication? Instead of owning up to their sin, they cover it up by committing an ever greater sin. “Two wrongs don’t make a right”.

How many marital and familial problems are results of spouses or family members not admitting that they have sinned? How many divorces have occurred because of the pride of spouses? How many families have been divided because of unforgiveness, anger, or grudges? If humility made its residence in each of our homes, we would live in a different world, a world that would much more closely resemble Heaven. Heaven is home to the humble, not the proud: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 18:13).

It is hard and yucky to admit time and again that we have sinned and that we are sinners. But, it is extremely freeing. Admitting to myself, God, and others that I am a sinner frees me from all of the justifications and excuses which my pride has chained me with for so long. If this makes me an easy target for people to attack me, so be it. When I have sinned, they are right to attack me, and may God have mercy on me. When I haven’t sinned, they are wrong to attack me, and may God have mercy on them. Christ is the most humble of all because he never sinned and was ferociously attacked. “He who knew no sin was made sin for us” (see 2 Cor 2:21).

Monday, July 09, 2007

Latin Mass

The following are excerpts of a non-official English translation from Zenit of Pope Benedict’s apostolic letter, “Summorum Pontificum” which addresses the use of the 1962 Roman Missal (Latin Mass) promulgated by Pope John XXIII. As we announced at the Masses this weekend, we will wait to hear directives from Archbishop Wuerl concerning the Holy Father’s letter. To view the full text, please click on the title of this post.

Following the insistent prayers of these faithful, long deliberated upon by our predecessor John Paul II, and after having listened to the views of the cardinal fathers of the consistory of 22 March 2006, having reflected deeply upon all aspects of the question, invoked the Holy Spirit and trusting in the help of God, with these apostolic letters we establish the following:

Art 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the "Lex orandi" (Law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. Nonetheless, the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Blessed John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same "Lex orandi," and must be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church's "Lex orandi" will in no any way lead to a division in the Church's "Lex credendi" (Law of belief). They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman rite.

It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the liturgy of the Church. The conditions for the use of this Missal as laid down by earlier documents "Quattuor Abhinc Annis" and "Ecclesia Dei," are substituted as follows:

Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his ordinary.

Art. 3. Communities of institutes of consecrated life and of societies of apostolic life, of either pontifical or diocesan right, wishing to celebrate Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962, for conventual or "community" celebration in their oratories, may do so. If an individual community or an entire institute or society wishes to undertake such celebrations often, habitually or permanently, the decision must be taken by the superiors major, in accordance with the law and following their own specific decrees and statues.

Art. 4. Celebrations of Mass as mentioned above in art. 2 may -- observing all the norms of law -- also be attended by faithful who, of their own free will, ask to be admitted.

Art. 5.
§1 In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonizes with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with Canon 392, avoiding discord and favoring the unity of the whole Church.

§2 Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Blessed John XXIII may take place on working days; while on Sundays and feast days one such celebration may also be held.

§3 For faithful and priests who request it, the pastor should also allow celebrations in this extraordinary form for special circumstances such as marriages, funerals or occasional celebrations, i.e., pilgrimages.

§4 Priests who use the Missal of Blessed John XXIII must be qualified to do so and not juridically impeded.

§5 In churches that are not parish or conventual churches, it is the duty of the rector of the church to grant the above permission.

Art. 6. In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance with the Missal of Blessed John XXIII, the readings may be given in the vernacular, using editions recognized by the Apostolic See.

Art. 7. If a group of lay faithful, as mentioned in art. 5 §1, has not obtained satisfaction to their requests from the pastor, they should inform the diocesan bishop. The bishop is strongly requested to satisfy their wishes. If he cannot arrange for such celebration to take place, the matter should be referred to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

Art. 8. A bishop who, desirous of satisfying such requests, but who for various reasons is unable to do so, may refer the problem to the Commission Ecclesia Dei to obtain counsel and assistance.

Art. 9.
§1 The pastor, having attentively examined all aspects, may also grant permission to use the earlier ritual for the administration of the sacraments of baptism, marriage, penance, and the anointing of the sick, if the good of souls would seem to require it.

§ 2 Ordinaries are given the right to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation using the earlier Roman Pontifical, if the good of souls would seem to require it.§ 2 Clerics ordained "in sacris constitutis" may use the Roman Breviary promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

Art. 10. The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with Canon 518 for celebrations following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain, while observing all the norms of law.

Art. 11. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, erected by John Paul II in 1988[5], continues to exercise its function. Said commission will have the form, duties and norms that the Roman Pontiff wishes to assign it.

Art. 12. This commission, apart from the powers it enjoys, will exercise the authority of the Holy See, supervising the observance and application of these dispositions.We order that everything We have established with these apostolic letters issued as "motu proprio" be considered as "established and decreed," and to be observed from Sept. 14 of this year, feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, whatever there may be to the contrary.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

14th Sunday - homily

You might have read the recent article in the paper which showed how today’s kids play much more indoors than outdoors. They spend so much time playing video games, using the computer, watching videos, etc. that they really aren’t interested in playing outside. It is something for all of us to keep our eye on, especially parents. It was pretty funny, though, to read that some of the kids couldn’t understand why anyone would play in a treehouse. They were saying, ‘what’s there to do there?’ I remember how much I played outside when I was a kid, and how much fun we had playing outside.

I don’t think it’s a big problem with our kids here because so many of them play sports outside so regularly. But, as a way to help bring people outside for some fun, we’re going to have an outdoor summer fun fest in two weeks here to which all St. Andrew’s parishioners are invited. You see the flyer in your bulletin and signs up for “Fun in the SON” on July 21 on the athletic field. We will have a Catholic rock band, “Crispin”, games, food, and all kinds of fun. It will be a good day for everyone to enjoy outside; pray God, it will be good weather!

Now, this event goes much deeper than just getting us outside. First, it will be like what we hear in the first reading: “when you see this, your heart will rejoice”. More than that, it will help to answer the call from Jesus in today’s Gospel. Our Lord sends the seventy-two disciples on a mission. It’s very similar to the mission he gives to the twelve apostles in Luke, chapter nine. The mission begins with prayer: “pray to the harvest master to send more laborers into the vineyard”. We usually think of this as meaning to pray for more priests and religious sisters and brothers; and rightly so. But, we are all called to be laborers in the vineyard; we are called to work for the Kingdom of God in some way on earth. If there are people we know who have left the vineyard – family members, friends, co-workers, parishioners – we should pray that they return.

Next, Christ calls us to bring peace to people’s homes. St. Luke commonly understands the word ‘peace’ to mean salvation. So, Christ is calling us to bring salvation - to spread the Kingdom – to our neighbors’ homes. We hear this call, and we want to be a part of the mission. How do we do it? I have two ideas. First, we can invite someone to this outdoor concert on the 21st. We could invite someone who wouldn’t ordinarily go to such an event. This is a way for us to build up the Kingdom in our own community.

The second idea is a bit more involved. It is that families – in particular, married couples – to go into each other’s homes and pray together. A great prayer is the rosary. Couples could pray the rosary together – praying for those who have left the vineyard…praying for those who have left the Church. It would be a situation where the laborers in the vineyard are praying to the harvest master to send more laborers through the intercession of his mother.

After praying the rosary, couples could discuss their faith. They could reflect on the mysteries of the rosary which they had just prayed or other scenes from the Gospel. It can be really amazing to hear the insights of others about living out our faith. They can really illuminate the Gospel for us, and help us to grow in our faith. Couples would be experiencing what God is talking about in the first reading – “the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants”. It would be a way for the peace to spread, for the Kingdom to grow, and for God’s power and love to come through his laborers, his servants. Again, “when you see this, you will rejoice”.

The mission of the twelve, the mission of the seventy-two, and the mission for all of us here at St. Andrew’s are all centered on Christ, especially in the Eucharist. We read in Acts 2:42 that the Apostles centered their community and their mission on the Eucharist. The early Church and the current Church declares the Eucharist as the center of her life. So, too, for us, the Eucharist is the center of our mission. What we’re really talking about here is bringing people to (or back to) the Eucharist. We are fed with the Bread of Life and we want others to be fed as well.

As we receive the Eucharist today, let us ask the Lord to give us strength and courage to go out from here on mission. May the Eucharist help us to spread peace…to spread salvation…to spread the Kingdom…to spread God’s love in our community.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"The wife should respect her husband"

“Perplexed wife” wrote, “My cousin and his wife just had their first child and are now discovering new things about each other as they parent together. This spurred an debate in my home. In a nut shell, my aunt believes it's her daughter-in-law's moral responsibility to sumbit to the will of her son. If they cannot agree over something, his decision should prevail. He is the head of home. She went on to state that the reversal of the order of head of household has led, for a number of reasons I won't go into, to the basic decay of our value systems. I told her her ideas were archaic and no one believed that anymore. She informed me, however, that this is the current teaching of the church. I can't remember hearing any of that taught in recent years. I don't even think I've heard "obey" used in marriage ceremonies anymore. My aunt is a pretty devoted woman in her faith, so I would believe she is correct in her beliefs, but still.... does the church still teach that women should be submissive? I am aware of the passages referencing the subject, but they were written in a time when women weren't exactly first-class citizens. I'd like to think I am thought to be given more than only "influence" with my spouse, at least in the eyes of the church. My reality is what it is, but I'd like to know the teaching.”

One of the main passages comes from Ephesians 5: 21-33. Everyone seems to focus on St Paul’s line, “Wives be subordinate to your husbands”. In this passage, St. Paul compares the relationship between a husband and wife to the relationship between Christ and the Church. The beautiful and intense analogy is often ignored by many because of the word ‘subordinate’. What has always amazed me is that we never seem to hear the end of the passage where St. Paul uses the word ‘respect’: “In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband” (v.33). The main point is that a husband should give his life to his wife as Christ gave his life for the Church; and, the wife should receive his love (as she does in the marital act) as the Church receives Christ’s love, and return it as fully as possible, as the Church does with Christ.

Here is a reply to the above comment from a married couple, “Kelly and Mike Huffman”:

To Perplexed Wife,Hi, this is the first time my husband and I are commenting together. We we were married in our early to mid twenties, we just hit our 20th anniversary. Christ commands husbands to love their wives as they love their own bodies. He also commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. Also God is a God of order. Husband and wife are called to love and serve the Lord above all people/things.On the practical side, if Mike is presenting a decision for our marriage/family, it is always after much prayer/receiving graces from the sacraments. If at first, I "balk," or disagree, I will start to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to continue to guide Mike and to impart knowledge understanding to me. Many times, the Holy Spirit will bring great peace to my soul. Other times the Holy Spirit will lead me to ask questions, initiate more conversation-discussions..........

Sometimes this will lead to a different direction altogether. So we view it as a supernatural, divine, grace filled process. We view marriage as our vocation and know that we can not live it without Christ and His sacraments.Of course we are sinners and we have had 20 years to learn many lessons from the Lord! Marriage is all about sacrificial love. Yet we have found that a Christ centered marriage is a glimpse of heaven on earth.

Friday, July 06, 2007

St. Maria Goretti (1890-1902), virgin and martyr

1) Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!

2) We have a winner in our contest! Congratulations to "Allie H." for her 'list of excuses we give Jesus'!!
Today is the memorial of one of my favorite saints, Maria Goretti. As the following article from americancatholic.org indicates, she died a martyr's death at the age of 12 in order to preserve her virginity, saying to her attacker, "I'd rather die clean for Jesus than live one day unclean for Him".

One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti.

She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class.

On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help, gasping that she would be killed rather than submit. “No, God does not wish it. It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum. She died about 24 hours after the attack.Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.

Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.

Maria may have had trouble with catechism, but she had no trouble with faith. God's will was holiness, decency, respect for one's body, absolute obedience, total trust. In a complex world, her faith was simple: It is a privilege to be loved by God, and to love him—at any cost. As the virtue of chastity dies the death of a thousand qualifications, she is a breath of sweet fresh air.

"Even if she had not been a martyr, she would still have been a saint, so holy was her everyday life" (Cardinal Salotti).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mt 9:1-8

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town.And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher.When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,“Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”At that, some of the scribes said to themselves,“This man is blaspheming.”Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said,:Why do you harbor evil thoughts?Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?But that you may know that the Son of Manhas authority on earth to forgive sins”–he then said to the paralytic,“Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”He rose and went home.When the crowds saw this they were struck with aweand glorified God who had given such authority to men.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day!!

Happy 4th of July!!

I’m reading “Rediscovering God in America” by Newt Gingrich. The book has many quotes from our Founding Fathers which indicate how spiritually based they were, and, thus, how grounded in faith our country’s foundation is. Here are some of the quotes which are fitting today as we celebrate the birth of our great country but also as we reflect on where we are as a nation of faith:

“True religion affords government its surest support.” – George Washington

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” – George Washington

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” -John Adams

“Religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness.” - Samuel Adams

“God who gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” - Thomas Jefferson

“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God and to obey His will.” - George Washington

“God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” - Benjamin Franklin

“The highest story of the American Revolution is this: It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” - John Adams

“And to the same Divine Author of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.” - James Madison

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle

Today is the feast of St. Thomas, Apostle. As the following online article from americancatholic.org observes, St. Thomas' famous line in touching the risen Body of Christ is "My Lord and my God". These are the same words that the Church recommends that each of us should whisper when the priest elevates both the host and the cup during the Consecration at Mass.

Poor Thomas! He made one remark and has been branded as “Doubting Thomas” ever since. But if he doubted, he also believed. He made what is certainly the most explicit statement of faith in the New Testament: “My Lord and My God!” (see John 20:24-28) and, in so expressing his faith, gave Christians a prayer that will be said till the end of time. He also occasioned a compliment from Jesus to all later Christians: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).

Thomas should be equally well known for his courage. Perhaps what he said was impetuous—since he ran, like the rest, at the showdown—but he can scarcely have been insincere when he expressed his willingness to die with Jesus. The occasion was when Jesus proposed to go to Bethany after Lazarus had died. Since Bethany was near Jerusalem, this meant walking into the very midst of his enemies and to almost certain death. Realizing this, Thomas said to the other apostles, “Let us also go to die with him” (John 11:16b).

Thomas shares the lot of Peter the impetuous, James and John, the “sons of thunder,” Philip and his foolish request to see the Father—indeed all the apostles in their weakness and lack of understanding. We must not exaggerate these facts, however, for Christ did not pick worthless men. But their human weakness again points up the fact that holiness is a gift of God, not a human creation; it is given to ordinary men and women with weaknesses; it is God who gradually transforms the weaknesses into the image of Christ, the courageous, trusting and loving one.

Quote:“...[P]rompted by the Holy Spirit, the Church must walk the same road which Christ walked: a road of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice to the death.... For thus did all the apostles walk in hope. On behalf of Christ's Body, which is the Church, they supplied what was wanting in the sufferings of Christ by their own trials and sufferings (see Colossians 1:24)” (Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, 5).

Monday, July 02, 2007

Life in the Spirit

Recently, a blogger wrote, "At some point could you post something on the church's teaching regarding the Trinity. It was a discussion in one of Fr. Mike's classes, and I have a better understanding but still have a point of confusion. I understand that Catholics believe that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are three divine persons who are one divine being (God). In school I remember being taught to pray to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. The 'in the Holy Spirit' part is something that causes me pause. I conceptually have a difficult time in understanding the Holy Spirit. I can understand the others, for those roles are familiar- Father and Son. It's something I often think about when making a sign of the cross."

We continue to put our seminarian, Jim, to work. He offers this:

"A quick answer is that the Holy Spirit is the love that flows between the Father and the Son, the love they have for each other. When we 'pray in the Holy Spirit,' we are participating in that same love.

St. Paul, in the letter to the Romans Chapter 8, says 'In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because that intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will.'

The Catechism, at number 2736, states 'our Father knows what we need before we ask him, but he awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom. We must pray, then, with his Spirit of freedom, to be able truly to know what he wants.'Praying in the Spirit in this context means letting the Spirit of God pray to the Father for us, and we join our hearts in that same prayer. Instead of directing the Father to supply our wants, we trust Him to supply our needs, what is truly good for us. And this is accomplished in praying in the Spirit."

Also, we just heard from St. Paul in yesterday's second reading (Gal 5:1, 13-18) about living in the Spirit. He opposes this with living according to the flesh, "for the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other..." In basic terms, to live according to the flesh means to live for the things of this world only; to live in the Spirit is to live for the Kingdom of God. The Spirit not only helps us to pray properly, but also helps us to live out what we pray. We pray and live in the Spirit, and, thus, we enter into God's love.

How do we know if we are living in the Spirit or according to the flesh? In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul helps us by laying out the works of the flesh as opposed to the fruits of the Spirit in chapter 5, verses 16 through 26.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

13th Sunday - homily

We are going to have a contest on the blog site this week. Anyone who is interested in entering the contest can go to the blog site, and leave a comment which contains at least three (3) excuses we give Jesus. We hear about excuses in today’s Gospel when Jesus says, “Follow me”. One person says, ‘ok, but I need to take care of some family business first’. Another says, ‘I need to say goodbye to people first’. Jesus is saying, ‘I know what you have going on in your life, and follow me….right now…at this point in your life. Trust me’.

So, when you leave a comment with your excuses, please make sure to include your name somewhere on the comment. We will have a judge(s) from our staff, and will award a prize to the best list of excuses. The winner will receive a $50 gift card to Outback Steakhouse in Aspen Hill. We will award the prize at the end of the week.

I have my own list of excuses: a Top Ten List of Excuses we give Jesus. This isn’t like a David Letterman Top Ten List…it’s more like God’s Top Ten List of Commandments. The Top Ten Excuses we give Jesus, especially when He says, “Follow me”:

10. I don’t have time
9. The person I’m dating will dump me.
8. I’ll do it when I get older (I’m having too much fun right now)
7. I’ll let you know
6. I give to charity – isn’t that enough?
5. I don’t know what my friends would think
4. I’m too young
3. I’m too busy
2. I’ll do it…tomorrow
1. I am afraid

Jesus doesn’t want our excuses; He wants our hearts. He doesn’t want our excuses; He wants a commitment. We are afraid to commit to Him because we know it will be hard. We know that we will have to sacrifice in some way. One commenter on today’s Gospel wrote, “ploughing for the Kingdom of God requires sacrifice”. We know that Jesus says that one of the first things we need to do if we follow Him is carry our cross. We need to endure some kind of suffering and pain. Who wants to do that? But, following Christ doesn’t end on the Cross; the complete command from Christ is likely, “Follow me…to happiness”.

We are afraid to commit fully to Jesus because we want to stay in our comfort zones. Yet, he committed fully to us by coming out of his comfort zone. Think about his comfort zone: He was in Heaven, at the throne of God. He came down to Earth, and had nowhere to lay his head! He had nowhere to sleep, in his poverty.

Examples of people who went our of their comfort zones to follow Christ are the Apostles. Jesus said, “Follow me” to each one of them. They didn’t respond with, “We’ll do it tomorrow”. They dropped everything to follow him, immediately. When God revealed His Plan to Mary that she would become the mother of His Son, she didn’t say, “I’m only a teenager”. She said yes. The Gospel demands a response, not an excuse. Christ’s command to follow him demands a response, not an excuse.

Now, with the Eucharist, and this is something that I have studied for many years, I think many people don’t believe in the Eucharist because they know they will have to change their lives. On a practical level, they know that they have to be in a state of Grace to receive the Body of Christ into their bodies and souls. They have to be clean and pure in order to receive Him, and maybe have to go to Confession first. In general, though, they know they have to live in close friendship with Him because He is so close to them in the Eucharist. They will have to clean up their lives, and go out of their comfort zones.

Whenever we move toward Christ, we move toward happiness. He is our happiness. When he says, “Follow me”, he is saying, “Follow me to happiness. Follow me to joy…to peace…to love. Yes, it will require sacrifice and it will be hard. But, ultimately, follow me to Heaven”.