Christian Detachment

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Christian Detachment

“Everything that exists is a gift from God.  Yet oftentimes we look to the things and creatures created by God for a satisfaction and fulfillment that only God Himself can provide.  When the soul wraps itself around the things and the people of this world, looking for satisfaction or fulfillment that only God can give, it produces a distortion in itself, and in others as well.  Many spiritual writers call the process of unwinding this possessive, self-centered, clinging, and disordered seeking of things and persons ‘detachment’.  The goal of the process of detachment is not to stop loving the things and people of this world, but, quite to the contrary, to love them even more truly in God, under the reign of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Things and people become even more beautiful and delightful when we see them in this light.  There are almost always painful dimensions to this process of ‘letting go’ in order to love more, but it’s the pain of true healing and liberation.  Christian detachment is an important part of the process by which we enter into a realm of great freedom and joy.”

– An excerpt from The Fulfillment of All Desire, Ralph Martin, p. 205

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As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Col 3:12-13)

“To God, the darkest depths of the human heart are as clear as the page of a book lying open in the sunlight. He knows us through and through—and loves us as deeply as he knows us! Rather than hide from him, let us put our life in the hands that fashioned us and allow him to lead us in the path of life eternal in the wake of Christ our Lord.” Magnificat, April 26, 2018

 

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Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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St. Mark the Evangelist

Oil painting:  Saint Mark by Valentin de Boulogne, c. 1624-26

St. Mark the Evangelist (1st c.) was born to Jewish parents living in Libya in North Africa, later settling in Cana of Galilee not far from Jerusalem. Mark became one of the 70 disciples of Jesus and the author of the Gospel that bears his name. According to tradition, St. Peter the Apostle was married to a relative of St. Mark’s father, and after Mark’s father died, Peter looked after him like his own son. Being a close disciple of St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, Mark’s Gospel is addressed to Gentile converts to the Christian faith living in Rome. Most of what we know about his life and missionary activity is recorded in the New Testament. He traveled to Egypt and founded the Church there, and was martyred c. 68 A.D. by being dragged through the streets of Alexandria until his body was torn to pieces. St. Mark is the patron of lawyers and prisoners. His feast day is April 25.

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From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus, bishop

Preaching Truth

  The Church, which has spread everywhere, even to the ends of the earth, received the faith from the apostles and their disciples. By faith, we believe in one God, the almighty Father who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became man for our salvation. And we believe in the Holy Spirit who through the prophets foretold God’s plan: the coming of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, his birth from the Virgin, his passion, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension into heaven, and his final coming from heaven in the glory of his Father, to recapitulate all things and to raise all men from the dead, so that, by the decree of his invisible Father, he may make a just judgement in all things and so that every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth to Jesus Christ our Lord and our God, our Saviour and our King, and every tongue confess him.
  The Church, spread throughout the whole world, received this preaching and this faith and now preserves it carefully, dwelling as it were in one house. Having one soul and one heart, the Church holds this faith, preaches and teaches it consistently as though by a single voice. For though there are different languages, there is but one tradition.
  The faith and the tradition of the churches founded in Germany are no different from those founded among the Spanish and the Celts, in the East, in Egypt, in Libya and elsewhere in the Mediterranean world. Just as God’s creature, the sun, is one and the same the world over, so also does the Church’s preaching shine everywhere to enlighten all men who want to come to a knowledge of the truth.
  Now of those who speak with authority in the churches, no preacher however forceful will utter anything different – for no one is above the Master – nor will a less forceful preacher diminish what has been handed down. Since our faith is everywhere the same, no one who can say more augments it, nor can anyone who says less diminish it.

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Jesus said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” (cf. Mk 16:15)

“To many it is given to travel the world or the small circle of home and workplace to proclaim the Good News in word and deed. To four only was it given to collect and cast that news in the unique written books to which we give the title “Gospel.” For this message that continues to reach the four corners of the globe, let us give thanks and praise today.  –  Magnificat, April 25, 2018

Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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Good Shepherds

Christ the Good Shepherd oil painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, c. 1660

Good Shepherds by Jean Vanier

Shepherds are the ones

who lead those who have been entrusted to them

to inner freedom—

the freedom to make good choices, to take initiative,

and to grow to greater maturity and love.

In biblical language, to know someone by name

implies a growing understanding of a person,

of his or her unique gifts and weaknesses,

needs and mission in life.

That means taking time with that person, listening,

and above all creating a mutual relationship of

communion,

revealing to that person that he or she is loved,

has value and is precious.

One can only guide someone

if there is no desire to possess, control,

or manipulate the other,

if mutual trust, respect, and love have been born

between the two.

Trust is the basis for all shepherding and all education.

A man working with street kids told me

that he is unable to help any of them until trust is born,

trust that he is there because he cares for them

more than for his salary.

Trust can only come if the shepherds are good models,

living what they teach,

showing the way by the way they live, act, and love.

Double messages, whereby a person does not live

what they say,

break trust.

Real shepherds give of themselves freely;

their love and caring communicate life to those

who are weaker

and immature….

Jesus loves us abundantly and wants to give us

all we need to grow in wisdom

and greater human and spiritual maturity.

Being a good shepherd does not mean being perfect,

for no one is perfect.

Instead, it is being humble and open,

recognizing one’s faults and compulsions,

and asking for forgiveness when one has

not acted justly.

Jean Vanier is the founder of L’Arche, an international network of communities for the developmentally disabled.

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A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (10:1-10)

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

The Gospel of the Lord

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Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17).

“Life could not exist in the primal waters of chaos. By his passage through the tomb, Christ has tamed the waters of death and transformed them into the waters of life, from which a new world is reborn in baptism. Our Good Shepherd leads us to these waters to drink our fill of his peace.”

– Magnificat, Apr 23, 2018


Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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Easter Morning:  Witnesses to an Empty Tomb

“Peter and John Running to the Tomb” by Eugène Burnand (1850 – 1921)

The full title is “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection”. It is Burnand’s best-known work and a depiction of John the Apostle’s Gospel account (Jn 20:3).

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A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (20:1-9)

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

The Gospel of the Lord

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Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb (Mk 16:2).

“Faith in the Resurrection of Jesus says that there is a future for every human being; the cry for unending life which is a part of the person is indeed answered.  Through Jesus we do know ‘the room where exiled love lays down its victory.’  He himself is this place, and he calls us to be with him and in dependence on him.  He calls us to keep this place open within the world so that he, the exiled love, may reappear over and over in the world …. God exists; that is the real message of Easter.  Anyone who even begins to grasp what this means also knows what it means to be redeemed.”  (Pope Benedict XVI)

– Magnificat, Apr 1, 2018


Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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Lenten Reflections:  Prayer is the light of the soul

A homily of Pseudo-Crysostom

Prayer is the light of the soul

The highest good is prayer and conversation with God, because it means that we are in God’s company and in union with him. When light enters our bodily eyes our eyesight is sharpened; when a soul is intent on God, God’s inextinguishable light shines into it and makes it bright and clear. I am talking, of course, of prayer that comes from the heart and not from routine: not the prayer that is assigned to particular days or particular moments in time, but the prayer that happens continuously by day and by night.

Indeed the soul should not only turn to God at times of explicit prayer. Whatever we are engaged in, whether it is care for the poor, or some other duty, or some act of generosity, we should remember God and long for God. The love of God will be as salt is to food, making our actions into a perfect dish to set before the Lord of all things. Then it is right that we should receive the fruits of our labours, overflowing onto us through all eternity, if we have been offering them to him throughout our lives.

Prayer is the light of the soul, true knowledge of God, a mediator between God and men. Prayer lifts the soul into the heavens where it hugs God in an indescribable embrace. The soul seeks the milk of God like a baby crying for the breast. It fulfils its own vows and receives in exchange gifts better than anything that can be seen or imagined.

Prayer is a go-between linking us to God. It gives joy to the soul and calms its emotions. I warn you, though: do not imagine that prayer is simply words. Prayer is the desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not given by man but brought about by God’s grace. As St Paul says: For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself intercedes on our behalf in a way that could never be put into words.

If God gives to someone the gift of such prayer, it is a gift of imperishable riches, a heavenly food that satisfies the spirit. Whoever tastes that food catches fire and his soul burns for ever with desire for the Lord.

To begin on this path, start by adorning your house with modesty and humility. Make it shine brightly with the light of justice. Decorate it with the gold leaf of good works, with the jewels of faithfulness and greatness of heart. Finally, to make the house perfect, raise a gable above it all, a gable of prayer. Thus you will have prepared a pure and sparkling house for the Lord. Receive the Lord into this royal and splendid dwelling — in other words: receive, by his grace, his image into the temple of your soul.

From the Liturgy of the Hours, Divine Office of Readings

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This people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me (Is 29:13).

The most spectacular feats of asceticism mean nothing if they do not free us to offer true worship and obedience to God.  Let us seek the real meaning of Lenten fasts and acts of penance.

– MAGNIFICAT, Feb 16, 2018


Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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Wit & Wisdom: G. K. Chesterton

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Wit & Wisdom: G. K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton, in full Gilbert Keith Chesterton, (born May 29, 1874, London, England—died June 14, 1936, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire), English critic and author of verse, essays, novels, and short stories, known also for his exuberant personality and rotund figure.

Chesterton was educated at St. Paul’s School and later studied art at the Slade School and literature at University College, London. His writings to 1910 were of three kinds. First, his social criticism, largely in his voluminous journalism, was gathered in The Defendant (1901), Twelve Types (1902), and Heretics (1905). In it he expressed strongly pro-Boer views in the South African War. Politically, he began as a Liberal but after a brief radical period became, with his Christian and medievalist friend Hilaire Belloc, a Distributist, favouring the distribution of land. This phase of his thinking is exemplified by What’s Wrong with the World (1910).

… Chesterton’s third major concern was theology and religious argument. He was converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1922. Although he had written on Christianity earlier, as in his book Orthodoxy (1909), his conversion added edge to his controversial writing, notably The Catholic Church and Conversion (1926), his writings in G.K.’s Weekly, and Avowals and Denials (1934). Other works arising from his conversion were St. Francis of Assisi (1923), the essay in historical theology The Everlasting Man (1925), The Thing (1929; also published as The Thing: Why I Am a Catholic), and St. Thomas Aquinas (1933).

Source:  https://www.britannica.com/biography/G-K-Chesterton

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Happy 1st birthday to our Bonus Baby. Daddy loves you angel. We love you.

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Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.


Blessed Are We: Christ’s Mass is Christmas

Today, Christmas Eve, as we celebrate the Vigil of the Nativity of the Lord, and look forward to the joys of Christmas Day, I offer Christmas wishes to my fellow Catholics: active, passive, and fallen-away:

Here’s hoping you’ll find time for Mass tonight – this celebration of Christ’s Mass (Christmas) – even and especially if you haven’t been in awhile.  I’m sure there’ll be a few options for your schedule; and never despair at returning to the God who loves you.  Know, as a member of God’s family, among the Communion of Saints, there are those praying for you more often than you’ll ever know.

Tonight, let the Christ-child, whom we celebrate in a very special way this season, and especially tonight, and Christmas Day, have a place in the Inn of your Heart.  Make room for the infant Jesus there.

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Saint Pope John Paul II called the Eucharist the “Source and Summit of the Christian faith.”  This is because the Eucharist refreshes the soul of everyone who thirsts for Him.  Through your baptismal (Catholic) faith you have a seat at this table in a very special way.  The Eucharist is food for the soul.  It is the Manna come down from Heaven – the food granted to God’s people for the Christian journey.

My prayer for you, Catholic brothers and sisters in the Christian faith, is that throughout your life, despite the noise of this Secular Age in which we live, you will hear Christ’s Eucharistic call for you – his loving invitation to let him journey with you each day of your life; to join him at his Communion table, to receive Him as food for your journey and, in this Eucharistic celebration at every Mass, you will invite the Christ-child to change and transform you, so, like St. Paul, it will no longer be I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Such is the transformative, sacramental power of the Eucharist.  And it this arrival of the baby born of a Virgin, born to be the King of Kings, the long-awaited Messiah foretold through the ages by the Jewish prophets, whom we celebrate on this Christmas Day.  It is He whom we celebrate at this Christ’s Mass and at every Mass celebrated every hour, of every day, on every nation of the Earth.

It is through our life’s journey that we are meant to truly discover who God has created us to be.  We are called for mission; and we, Catholics, are very fortunate, for we truly are blessed – we who have been called to the Supper of the Lamb.

Trust always in God’s plans for you.  Live out your mission in and through your baptismal faith.

Merry Christmas.  Peace be with you – always.

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For more information please visit https://www.catholicscomehome.org .

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Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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Call No Man Father

The Catholic understanding of the Priesthood, where priests are called father, is scriptural and consistent with a biblical understanding of Christianity.  That view, however, is a source of confusion for some men and women of good will, especially for our Protestant brothers and sisters.  If pressed about the point even well-intentioned Catholics, lacking a clear understanding of the biblical evidence, have a hard time explaining why we call our parish priest by such a name.  In fact, Jesus’ words are quite clear, as found in Matthew’s Gospel account, when he says, “Call no one on earth your father …” (Mt 23:9).

So why is it that for over two millennia the Catholic Church has continued the practice, highlighting by name and title, that priests are appropriately called father?  The reason may surprise; and a deeper exploration of Holy Scripture reveals the answer to make one thing clear:  It’s scriptural and is deeply rooted in biblical religion.

The ancient Catholic custom of calling priests “father” can be traced all the way back to the Apostles.  Saint Paul’s own teaching on this issue includes an encouragement that Christians would imitate both his good personal example but also his example of referring to himself as their “father.”

I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.  For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.  For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me (1 Cor 4:14-16).

You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our behavior to you believers; for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (1 Thess 2:10-12).

– Patrick Madrid, A Year With the Bible: Scriptural Wisdom for Daily Living

The Catholic Church has always recognized her priests – just as the early Christians recognized St. Paul – as “spiritual fathers.”  Through their ordination into the Priesthood, receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders, they’re recognized as having the authority given to them by our Heavenly Father.  When we read in Matthew 23:9, therefore, “Call no one on earth your father,” Catholics understand the verse means not to honor a man like (i.e. in the same way) you honor God.  The Catholic view understands Jesus didn’t instruct in the literal (or strictest sense of the meaning); that one couldn’t call your dad, or a priest, “father”.  As St. Paul wrote himself, “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15); emphasis added.  Other references to father or fatherhood would include: Acts 7:2-5; Rom 4:16, 9:10; 1 Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4; Phlm 1:10.

In other words, Jesus’ statement, “call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Mt 23:9: RSV) utilized the common Hebrew method of exaggeration or hyperbole (see Mt 19:24; 23:24; Lk 6:42; 14:26) to teach that God the Father is the ultimate source of all authority.  Interpreting this absolutely literally would prohibit all uses of the word father whatsoever; even biological fathers.  But Jesus Himself uses the term father many times (Mt 15:4-6; 19:5; 29; 21:31; Lk 16:24, 27, 30; Jn 8:56, etc.) … Thus, the objection to calling Catholic priests fathers must be discarded.

A related issue with some critics of Catholicism, is the address, “holy father” as applied to popes (it is claimed that only God could be called that).  All that remains, then, is to find “holy men” referred to in the Bible.  The writer of Hebrews calls the recipients of his epistle “holy brethren” (Revised Standard Version – RSV).  Peter refers to a “holy priesthood” (1 Pt 2:5: RSV and King James Version) and “holy women” such as Sarah (1 Pt 3:5) … John the Baptist is referred to as a “righteous and holy man” (Mk 6:20).  Jesus refers to a “righteous man” in Matthew 10:41. Therefore, men can be called “holy” in Scripture, and by extension, since “father” as an address for priests is perfectly biblical as well, the two could be put together for “holy father.”

– Dave Armstrong, Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths

While we should pray for them and pray for their priesthood, Catholic priests aren’t perfect.  This shouldn’t come as a shock or be a source of scandal.  Yet these men, by virtue of the sacraments they administer, perfect in each of us, and in themselves, the holiness we are each called to by our baptism, and as members of the Body of Christ.  Through the special authority granted to them by Christ himself when he established the Priesthood (to be covered in another blog post), Catholic priests administer the sacraments and, thereby, strengthen the Christian faithful for the journey.

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Catholic priests hold position within the Church – a special place of ordination – just as St. Paul and his fellow “spiritual fathers” did in the early first century.  Just as the bishops and presbyters did in the early days of the Church, our priests today minister to the Church throughout the world through their preaching and offering the sacraments.

In the Catholic Church, therefore, and for my fellow Catholics:   Every priest requires our respect – every priest, in spite of his weaknesses or sins … When a man fails in priesthood, we should pray for him, confront him privately with our concerns, confront him with other witnesses; and, if all other attempts fail, we should take our case to the bishop, all the while honoring the man, his priesthood, and his fatherhood.  This is what children do for their fathers (see Gen 9:22-27) – see Hahn pp. 147-8.

… Paul was a father not because he was married and reared a family; he did not.  He was a father because he was a priest: “a minister … in the priestly service of the gospel” (Rom 15:16).

St. Augustine looked the same way upon the episcopal office he had inherited from the apostles:  “The apostles were sent as fathers; to replace those apostles, sons were born to you who were constituted bishops … The Church calls them fathers, she who gave birth to them, who placed them in the sees of their fathers … Such is the Catholic Church.  She has given birth to sons who, through all the earth, continue the work of her first Fathers.”

That is the true biblical teaching.  Our priests are so much more than managers or functionaries.  They are fathers.  The sacramental priesthood is not so much a ceremonial function as it is a family relation … [A priest’s] fatherhood is not merely metaphorical.  True fatherhood involves the communication of life.  As a natural father, I have communicated biological human life – but, in the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, a priest communicates divine life and the divine humanity of Jesus Christ.

– Dr. Scott Hahn, Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and their Biblical Roots

In future posts we will explore the heroes of the Priesthood and the many contributions these men have made throughout history in the sciences, art, literature and theology, to name a few.  For other references please visit Word on Fire (www.wordonfire.org) and search Heroic Priesthood.

The priest and the dying soldier, 1962

The priest and the dying soldier, 1962.

Navy chaplain Luis Padilla gives last rites to a soldier wounded by sniper fire during a revolt in Venezuela (1962). Braving the streets amid sniper fire, to offer last rites to the dying, the priest encountered a wounded soldier, who pulled himself up by clinging to the priest’s cassock, as bullets chewed up the concrete around them. The photo was taken on June 4, 1962 by Hector Rondon Lovera, photographer of Caracas, for the Venezuelan newspaper “La Republican”. It won the World Press Photo of the Year and the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Photography. The original title of work is “Aid from The Padre”. (Source: rarehistoricalphotos.com)

May the Catholic Church continue to raise holy men to the Priesthood to minister to God’s people throughout the world.

Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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All Saints Day: A Celebration of God’s Family

Each year on November 1st, Catholics around the globe celebrate a major feast day on the liturgical calendar known as All Saints Day, which is a Holy Day of Obligation. Catholics attend Mass and participate in celebration and recognition of the spiritual union of God’s family, the Communion of Saints.

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Catholics believe that the one Mystical Church and Body of Christ exists on three levels: the Church Militant on earth, the Church Triumphant in Heaven, and the Church Suffering in Purgatory, and that communication can take place between all three … We honor the saints in Heaven, who have more perfectly attained God’s likeness (2 Cor 3:18), we strive to imitate them, and we ask them for their efficacious prayers on our behalf and that of others.  All honor ultimately goes back to God, whose graces are the source of all that is worthy of veneration in the saints ….

Devotion to saints no more interferes with or corrupts the unique adoration due to God than does our love for friends and relatives.  A robust devotion may give rise to the language of hyperbole, just as human lovers wax eloquent in their rapturous romantic praises of each other, never intending literally to worship the object of love and affection  …

The saints are not only still alive, but much more vibrantly and intensely alive than we are, thoroughly able to influence and assist us, as the book of Revelation clearly testifies.

– Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism

A common misunderstanding of this Catholic practice, especially among Protestants, our separated brothers and sisters in the Christian faith, is the notion that Catholics worship saints and Mary.  They, rightly, say worship is due to God alone.  But what may come as a surprise to some Protestants, there is no Catholic who will argue that.  No Catholic will contest that God – and God alone – is the rightly ordered object of Christian worship.  So, it’s a misconception and, flatly, untrue to say Catholics worship Mary and the saints.  Therefore, to understand the relationship for how Catholics view the Communion of Saints, is to know this:  Catholics honor Mary and the saints; Catholics venerate them, meaning, Catholics hold these holy men and women in the highest regard and with the utmost respect.

Holiness – sainthood – is simply the common Christian vocation.  But, in that short passage from Colossians, Paul also distinguished between the saints on earth (Col 1:2) and the “saints in the light” (Col 1:12) – what Catholic devotion would later call, respectively, the “Church militant” and the “Church triumphant.”  The Epistle to the Hebrews (12:1) tells us that the latter are “a cloud of witnesses” around the former.

To the saints on earth who share our calling, we give our love.  To the saints in light, we give a special honor called veneration.  It’s not the same kind of honor we give to God alone.  It is more like the profound respect we owe our parents and grandparents.  We love them so much that we frame their photos and give them a prominent place in our home.  We shouldn’t hesitate to ask our parents for prayer; nor should we hesitate to ask our ancestors in the faith.

– Dr. Scott Hahn, Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and their Biblical Roots

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To my fellow Cradle Catholics, I entreat your understanding of the richness, depth, and beauty of Catholicism that is waiting to be discovered for anyone courageous enough to start on the expedition.  If you’re like me, maybe you’ve spent much of your life lukewarm in your Catholic faith.  If so, recognize, sadly, there’s much you’ve missed and are missing; yet, do not despair!  Be open to the knowledge that there’s room for you to grow in your understanding of the truth, goodness and beauty of your baptismal faith.  To grasp this idea is to begin to understand there is a way of life that calls you to live out Christianity to the fullest – the way its meant to be.  Returning to the Catholic Church is the beginning of this discovery.  It is here, among your brothers and sisters in the faith – the Communion of Saints – where you’ll rediscover, again, maybe for the first time, that the Catholic Church is as much a home for saints as it is a hospital for sinners.

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Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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The Demands of Love

A Christianity that places no demands on our lives is no Christianity at all. When we, mistakenly, try to live out our faith without the demands that our faith asks of us, we’re living a life that’s flaccid and empty, lacking and wanting; and its certainly not a biblical Christianity that we’re living day-to-day. Why? Because scripture makes clear: Love is demanding.

I recognize this idea that love demands may be shocking to some. Today’s secular culture is more apt to declare love is letting people do whatever they want to do – celebrating a you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone point of view. Even Christian brothers and sisters reading this may consider it nonsense: that the God of love is so loving, how could he possibly demand anything of us? But, fellow sinners, I submit that view confuses what love truly is.

The question today’s Gospel message invites is this: What do I love? Who do I love? Who and what captures my imagination more than anything or anyone else? And … Is this love in right relation to everything and everyone else in my life?

Today, in the Catholic liturgical celebration we call the Mass, on this thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear the story of the Pharisees asking Jesus which of God’s laws is the greatest? The apostle Matthew relates this story in the twenty-second chapter of his Gospel (Mt 22:34-40):

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Many commentaries have been written about this Gospel passage. Today, in his Sunday homily, Bishop Robert Barron encourages us to understand Matthew’s story as Christ’s invitation to place God at the center of our lives (see Word on Fire Homilies; http://www.wordonfire.org) . When we do, everything else can be set in right relation to the highest good; everything finds it’s proper place in our lives when we rightly order everything else in right relation to God.

This Sunday’s readings urge us to invest all our abilities, all our energies, and all our decisions in concrete expressions of our love for God and its consequence: love for neighbor. Jesus, our Way, not only preached but lives these two commandments to the full.
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In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:1-13) we discover a concise, tender, and beautiful summary of what love is:

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
Faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Can I say I live my life in such a way, that each day: I’m not jealous, pompous, inflated or rude? That I don’t seek my own interests? Rather, that I am patient, kind, and mild-tempered in each and every interaction with myself and others? In challenging moments each day, I bear and endure all things?

That is demanding, isn’t it? I think so.

Yet, such is the demands of love. That is the demand our Christian faith invites us to live each day.

So, let us place Christ at the center of our lives; and, in doing so, may we love as Christ loves; and may we orient and order all things in right relation to God, in whose image we were made. That is God’s will for each one of us.

Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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For today’s Mass readings see:

Ex 22:20-26

Ps 18

1 Thess 1:5-10

Mat 22:34-40

Eucharist: Food for the Soul

There are many reasons to be a Catholic.  I’m certain there are just as many reasons people choose not to be Catholic.  Yet, for me, the most important reason for one to choose Catholicism is the Eucharist.

Today, in the Catholic liturgical celebration we call the Mass, the third reading was from John’s Gospel.  For the past few Sundays, in fact, as happens every three years, we’ve heard specifically from John’s sixth chapter. It is here that we encounter John’s Eucharistic Discourse (aka The Bread of Life Discourse). John’s telling of Jesus as the Bread of Life is a different depiction than in the Lord’s Supper accounts found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospels, and Paul’s letters.  For comparison I encourage you to read all of John’s sixth chapter and some of the other readings shared below.  You can easily read John 6 all the way through in one sitting.

Similarly, earlier this year the Church celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body and Blood of Christ). As Catholics we were reminded then, as we are today on this Sunday, of the transformative sacramental power of the most holy Eucharist, which Saint Pope John Paul II called, “the Source and Summit of the Christian Faith.”

To my Catholic friends: I encourage you to standfast in your faith wherever you are in your spiritual journey, and I challenge you this year to go deeper in your understanding of the Eucharist, which is the “Mystery of Faith” and God’s greatest gift to humanity.

For my Catholic and non-Catholic friends I submit to you this:  To know Who is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist is to know God’s gift to you, and to each one of us, as we call to mind the familiar liturgical refrain, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are we who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”

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Blessed are we indeed, for the Eucharist (from the Greek meaning “thanksgiving”) is not mere symbol; rather, it is food for the soul. And the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church spoken about in the Christian proclamation of faith – the Nicene Creed – has proclaimed and defended this truth for over 2,000 years.

Thanks be to God!

Such a mystery of faith cannot be explained by sight, of course. Yet we are strengthened by Christ’s exhortation to Saint Thomas (and to all of us), “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn 20:29). And, so, with confidence of over two millennia of Apostolic Tradition guided by the Holy Spirit let us approach the altar, that we may taste and see what goodness the Lord has prepared for us (Ps 34:9); that we may confidently exclaim with Saint Thomas, “My Lord and My God!” (Jn 20:28).

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Let our hearts, therefore, be open to such a reality! As the late Cardinal Francis George fondly encouraged, “If our hearts are open, the Lord can change and transform us so that one day we may speak with love about the One who is love.”

This Sunday at Mass, as during every Mass that’s offered for us every hour of every day, and in every nation around the globe, let us nourish our soul with the Bread come down from Heaven, and remain in Him who was sent for our salvation (Jn 6:47-51, 57).  And with an open heart, fed and nourished by this most holy Bread of the Angels, we can be changed and transformed, so that one day we may also live the words of Saint Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Holy Communion Saint Maximillian Kolbe

So, truly, there are many reasons to be Catholic.  I’ve even challenged my four young children to, one day soon, be able to articulate why they are Catholic.

As for me, when asked, “Why are you Catholic?”  The answer is simple, really:  I’m Catholic because I will never turn my back on Jesus in the Eucharist.

While many murmured, as is done still today, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”  Let us, rather, accept with faith and dutifully follow Saint Peter’s wise counsel, when responding to Jesus, he answered, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:60-69).

Be not afraid!  And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.  Amen.
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For further reading about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, see:
Jn 6:35-71
Jn 1:29
Mt 26:26-28
Mk 14:22-24
Lk 22:19-20
1 Cor 10:16
1 Cor 11:23-30
1 Cor 5:7
1 Cor 2:14-3:4 – explains what “the flesh” means in *Jn 6:63
Ex 12:8, 46
Ps 14:4
Is 9:18-20; 49:26
Mic 3:3
2 Sm 23:15-17
Rv 17:6, 16