Monday, April 30, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bishops' call to action: "Fortnight for Freedom", June 21 - July 4

Catholics urged to resist unjust laws, join in 'fortnight for freedom'

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 By Nancy Frazier O'Brien

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- American Catholics must resist unjust laws "as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith," a committee of the U.S. bishops said in a new statement on religious liberty.

Titled "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty," the 12-page statement by the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty also calls for "a fortnight for freedom" from June 21, the vigil of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, to July 4, U.S. Independence Day.

"This special period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty," the committee said. "Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty."

Made public April 12, the document was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Administrative Committee during its March meeting for publication as a committee statement.

The ad hoc committee opened its statement with several "concrete examples" of recent threats to religious liberty, saying that "this is not a theological or legal dispute without real-world consequences."

Cited first was the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that most health plans must include contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs free of charge, even if the employer is morally opposed to such services.

"In an unprecedented way, the federal government will both force religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching and purport to define which religious institutions are 'religious enough' to merit protection of their religious liberty," the statement said. "These features of the 'preventive services' mandate amount to an unjust law."

Among other examples of "religious liberty under attack" the bishops named:

-- Immigration laws in Alabama and other states that "forbid what the government deems 'harboring' of undocumented immigrants -- and what the church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to those immigrants."

-- An attempt by the Connecticut Legislature in 2009 to restructure Catholic parishes.

-- Discrimination against Christian students on college campuses.

-- Government actions in Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia and the state of Illinois that have "driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services" because the agencies would not place children with same-sex or unmarried heterosexual couples.

-- A New York City rule that bars small church congregations from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, while allowing such rentals by nonreligious groups.

-- Changes in federal contracts for human trafficking grants that require Catholic agencies "to refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching."

The statement quotes the Founding Fathers and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to bolster its arguments.

Rev. King, writing from jail in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, described an unjust law as one "that is out of harmony with the moral law," and said he agreed with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

"An unjust law cannot be obeyed," the bishops' statement said. "In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices.

"If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them," it added. "No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith."

The bishops also distinguished between conscientious objection and an unjust law.

"Conscientious objection permits some relief to those who object to a just law for reasons of conscience -- conscription being the most well-known example," the committee said. "An unjust law is 'no law at all.' It cannot be obeyed, and therefore one does not seek relief from it, but rather its repeal."

The statement also raised the issue of religious freedom abroad and said "the age of martyrdom has not passed."

"Assassinations, bombings of churches, torching of orphanages -- these are only the most violent attacks Christians have suffered because of their faith in Jesus Christ," the bishops said. "It is our task to strengthen religious liberty at home, ... so that we might defend it more vigorously abroad."

The statement called on "American foreign policy, as well as the vast international network of Catholic agencies" to make "the promotion of religious liberty an ongoing and urgent priority."

The bishops assigned special responsibility for advancing religious freedom to several groups:

-- Those who hold public office must "protect and defend those fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights," regardless of their political party.

-- Leaders of Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies "who may be forced to choose between the good works we do by faith, and fidelity to that faith itself" were encouraged to "hold firm, to stand fast and to insist upon what belongs to you by right as Catholics and Americans."

-- Priests must offer "a catechesis on religious liberty suited to the souls in your care," a responsibility that is shared with "writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers and bloggers employing all the means of communications."

In addition to the "fortnight for freedom" June 21 to July 4, the bishops designated the feast of Christ the King -- Nov. 25 this year -- as "a day specifically employed by bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad."

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Editor's Note: The full text of "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty" is available at

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

3rd Sunday of Easter - homily

I want to begin with a little Catholic trivia. This, I’m sure, is your go-to activity on Friday or Saturday nights when there’s not much going on…”Hey, let’s play Catholic trivia!” Yeah. Ok, so I’m not looking for you to say these answers out loud; you can just answer them silently. First question is from the Old Testament: in what way did God first appear to Moses? The burning bush. Second question: who wrote the Book of Revelation? St. John. I’m seeing some blank faces…! Third question is from the Gospel: who was the first person at the tomb to see the risen Lord Jesus? Mary Magdelene.

So, how did you do? Judging by the looks I’m getting, not very well. I get that a lot from Catholics when we get into things of Scripture. Now, I didn’t do this to depress you about how little of Scripture you know, but to motivate you to know it better. Also, a quote from St. Jerome that is more for your motivation than depression: “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. Christ is the Word of God. He speaks to us throughout Scripture, not just the 33 years He walked the earth. He speaks indirectly in the Old Testament through the law, the prophets and the psalms. Then, He speaks directly in the Gospel and indirectly again in the New Testament, looking back on his direct words in the Gospel. It is Christ speaking throughout Scripture; when we know Scripture, we know Christ.

This is a theme of our readings today. In the first reading, Peter focuses on the fact that Jesus fulfilled all that was prophesied in the Old Testament. Jesus emphasizes this in the Gospel, saying that his life, death, and resurrection fulfilled what was written in the law, prophets, and psalms. It’s an unbelievable moment – this scene in the Gospel. He appears to the disciples after the resurrection, and they think he is a ghost. He looks different - as well he should – because something nuclear happened in the tomb. They are terrified when they see him, but then he calms them by wishing them peace. Then, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Wow, can you imagine hearing Jesus teach about the Scriptures? That’s really my job in every homily, but right now there are people who are daydreaming and thinking about other things while I speak. Nice job, Father! But, I’m sure Jesus had everyone thoroughly engaged, and walked away with a clear understanding that the Scriptures spoke of Him throughout.

The big question I have for you is, do you know Christ? Not just know about Him, but KNOW HIM. St. John writes in the second reading that there are some who say, “I know him”. This is a bold statement for anyone to make. In biblical language, knowledge means experience. To say we know Christ, then, is to mean that we have had an experience with Him. It’s more than just knowing about Him like we know about famous people in history. It’s more than knowing of Him, as we do with some people in our lives. It’s more than knowing Him as an acquaintance, as if we met Him once or twice. To know Christ is to have a experience with Him…on a regular basis. It means to be in relationship with Him. How many of us know Him?

When we come to know Christ, we come to know peace and healing. At our 7:30 Healing Mass, Father Dan Leary taught us all about the peace that Jesus brings. He wishes peace on everyone He meets, especially post-resurrection. He is always wishing us peace. A bumper sticker from years ago read, “kNOw Jesus, kNOw peace”. When we know Him, we know true peace. His peace brings true healing. When people come to me hurting from a family or relationship wound and they wonder how to find healing, I want to immediately say, “Jesus Christ!” (not in vain, mind you!). He is the way to healing. He is the way to peace.

The Church gives us the model on how to know Him with the structure of the Mass. We come to know Him in Word and Sacrament. We hear Him speaking to us through Scripture…every week of our lives He is speaking to us and addressing each of us personally. As powerful and important as the Word is, it is not complete. It’s like only getting to know someone through Facebook or text messaging. It’s great to hear and read their words, but it’s so much better to have an experience with them in their presence. That’s where the Eucharist comes in. Christ comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament so that we have an experience with Him in His Real Presence. Now, Sunday Mass is awesome, of course, and we keep holy the Sabbath when we come here. But, there are a lot of distractions and it can be hard to come to know Christ through Sunday Mass alone. That’s why it’s good to review the Sunday Mass readings during the week…to hear Christ speaking to you at this time in your life. And, daily Mass is so much more intimate and less distracting to enter into a personal experience with Christ in the Eucharist.

When we have an experience with Christ, we come to know Him. When we come to know Christ, we come to know peace, healing, joy, love, and life.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Sit, Stand, and Kneel" (video)

A friend told me about a series of videos called, "That Catholic Show", which are brief and entertaining.  Check out episode 1, "Sit, Stand, and Kneel", which presents the different postures we use at Mass in a very informative way.  Also, below it is episode 2, explains the use of candles and light. 

"Candles and Light"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Catholic stuff you should know: Indulgences"

My niece who is a sophomore in college told me about a great series of podcasts called, "Catholic stuff you should know".  She wrote, "I LOVE these podcasts...I think that you will enjoy them. Fr John and Joe are hilarious! My friend...introduced me to them. I listened to the one on Creationism and Evolution--it's very interesting and they reference points about Creation that I've never even thought about before. And even just listening to it this morning kept me thinking all afternoon.I just checked out their site and a couple of the podcasts."  Woo, sounds good.  I listened to a couple of them, and they do sound entertaining and insightful. 

Check out the full series which is two years old on  At the bottom of the home page is a directory of the podcasts.  I found one on indulgences which is pretty good.  It is timely for us as a result of Divine Mercy Sunday. Please click on today's title to listen to it.

If you didn't hear my brief explanation of how a Catholic can gain the amazing grace of a plenary indulgence by attending Mass this past Sunday, please listen to my homily which I posted yesterday.  For those who attended Mass (geez, I hope that is all of you!), you have until Sunday to gain the plenary indulgence!  I'm open for Confession!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Divine Mercy Sunday - homily

Please click on today's title to hear Sunday's homily.

Friday, April 13, 2012

“The Resurrection: Center of our Faith” (Msgr Thomas Wells)

“From the Pastor’s Desk”
Spiritual Reflections
Msgr Thomas Wells

April 10, 1994
“The Resurrection: Center of our Faith”

Some Catholic Churches today have images of the Risen Lord where once they would have had a traditional crucifix. The image of Christ Resurrected tried to portray Him as triumphant over death and invites us to reflect on our destiny to share in His victory. However, even though the Resurrection is the center of our faith, I think it is safe to say that most Catholics still feel more comfortable with the traditional image of Christ’s crucifix.

Part of the reason for this, I think, has to do with the fact that it is easier for us to identify with the Cross than with the Resurrection. Most of us have experienced that life can be quite hard – even cruel – and that the promise of the Lord that we will be invited to share in His Cross is one that He will surely keep. In preparing couples for marriage, for example, I find it easy to think of possible ways in which their love and commitment will bind them closely to the suffering of Christ, but it is harder to give concrete examples that describe the Resurrection life that is also at the heart of every Christ-centered marriage. Did you ever notice, as another example, how fervently Catholics observe the Lenten season and how quietly we celebrate the equally long season of Easter? Lents looks forward for forty days to Easter and then, after one day, Easter is forgotten. Yes, for whatever reason, we seem more comfortable meditating on the Cross than on the Resurrection that followed it.

The main reason for this, I suppose, has to do with the simple question of experience. I have an idea what the pain that will lead to death is all about, but I have virtually no concept of what it means to rise from death. Also, it is comforting to know that where I will go in the experience of pain and suffering, Christ has already gone. But, after all is said and done, the point of life is not the Cross and death, but union with the Risen Lord and the life He has won for us. All of the Church’s symbols – the flowers, the gold and white vestments, the light of the Easter candle, the new water of the baptismal font – speak during this season of the promise of life that belongs to those who believe.

The experience of the Resurrection is not one that necessarily must wait until death, but it is one, I suspect, that can only come to that person who has embraced the Lord Jesus in whatever way He comes to us. Christianity seems foolishness to the world, and it most surely involves the Cross, but the person who follows Him, not matter where He leads, must surely know at least a bit of the joy and triumph that the Apostles knew on that first Easter.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Sunday - homily

Happy Easter! Christ is risen! Please click on today's title to hear the homily from Easter Sunday

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Palm Sunday - homily

Please click on today's title to hear the homily from Palm Sunday.