Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reception of "the whole Christ"

Reminder: Tomorrow (Nov. 1) is the Solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of Obligation. Masses here are: tonight-7:30 pm; tomorrow-8:30 am, 10 am, and 7:30 pm.
A blogger asked: "Why is that some churches offer the bread and wine and others just the bread?" I assume your question pertains to different Catholic parishes; I can't speak for the different parishes as to why they offer Holy Communion under one form or two. But, I can present the declaration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which addresses Communion under both forms. Here are some excerpts (I've italicized the part that answers your question of why some parishes offer under both forms); to see the full text, please click on the title of this post.

"Christ is 'truly, really, and substantially contained' in Holy Communion. His presence is not momentary nor simply signified, but wholly and permanently real under each of the consecrated species of bread and wine...

The Council of Trent teaches that 'the true body and blood of our Lord, together with his soul and divinity, exist under the species of bread and wine. His body exists under the species of bread and his blood under the species of wine, according to the import of his words.'...

The Church also teaches and believes that 'immediately after the consecration the true body of our Lord and his true blood exist along with his soul and divinity under the form of bread and wine. The body is present under the form of bread and the blood under the form of wine, by virtue of the words [of Christ]. The same body, however, is under the form of wine and the blood under the form of bread, and the soul under either form, by virtue of the natural link and concomitance by which the parts of Christ the Lord, who has now risen from the dead and will die no more, are mutually united.'...

Since, however, by reason of the sign value, sharing in both eucharistic species reflects more fully the sacred realities that the Liturgy signifies, the Church in her wisdom has made provisions in recent years so that more frequent eucharistic participation from both the sacred host and the chalice of salvation might be made possible for the laity in the Latin Church...

The communicant makes this act of faith in the total presence of the Lord Jesus Christ whether in Communion under one form or in Communion under both kinds. It should never be construed, therefore, that Communion under the form of bread alone or Communion under the form of wine alone is somehow an incomplete act or that Christ is not fully present to the communicant... Thus, the Church has always taught the doctrine of concomitance, by which we know that under each species alone, the whole Christ is sacramentally present and we 'receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace'...

At the same time an appreciation for reception of 'the whole Christ' through one species should not diminish in any way the fuller sign value of reception of Holy Communion under both kinds. For just as Christ offered his whole self, body and blood, as a sacrifice for our sins, so too is our reception of his Body and Blood under both kinds an especially fitting participation in his memorial of eternal life...

'Holy Communion has a more complete form as a sign when it is received under both kinds. For in this manner of reception a fuller sign of the Eucharistic banquet shines forth. Moreover there is a clearer expression of that will by which the new and everlasting covenant is ratified in the blood of the Lord and of the relationship of the Eucharistic banquet to the eschatological banquet in the Father's kingdom' (General Instruction to the Roman Missal, #281)."

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Walk with the dead"

Last night, we had another great night with our youth group, thanks be to God. The teens made their "walk with the dead" in preparation for Halloween. For this "walk", we constructed a make-shift cemetery behind the religious ed building. The groups of teens walked through the path marked with headstones and were met by 'visitors' amid darkness, fog, and sounds of Heaven and Hell. Here are some of the things that the visitors (roles played by teens) said:

1) a priest: "...this is the night that the dead come out among the living. That’s right, the souls of the dead mingle with us who are alive on this night. This is the night when evil spirits come out, too. But, don’t worry, there are just as many good spirits in the world, if not more, to overcome the bad ones... Tonight, you will encounter five visitors as you walk with the dead. You will see people who have died. You will see an angel. You will see a demon. In fact, you will see the head demon. If I were you, I would have a holy fear of him. As Christians, we are to fear evil, but believe that Christ has power over it. He has power over all things. Having a great fear for the things of Hell leads us to have a great love for the things of Heaven.

2) one of the Fatima chidren:
"(The Lady) opened Her hands once more, ... and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms... The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, Who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear."

3) an angel: “Don’t be afraid. I am God’s messenger, one of his angels. I’ve been sent to you tonight from heaven to be with you, just like your guardian angel is. Do you know that you each have a guardian angel who protects you? Your angel is with you every minute of every day. He protects you from evil spirits who want to bring harm to your soul. He is not just your bodyguard; he is your soulguard.” To a specific teen: “Your guardian angel just told me how much he loves you”. To another teen: “Have you ever seen your guardian angel? He is watching over right now, and praying for you, just like the saints do.”

4)St. Theresa of Avila: "Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

30th Sunday - Homily

A few years ago, a local parish was starting a men’s prayer group. The priest who was in charge of the group called me to see if I would give a talk on chastity at the group’s first meeting. I said, “ok, sure. What time will the group meet?” He said, “Saturday morning, 7:30.” “7:30…a.m.?” I said…”ok, I’ll do it”. So, as I’m driving up to the meeting, I saw about 50 cars parked outside. I was thinking to myself, ‘what other events are going on this early on a Saturday morning? Surely, this isn’t all for the men’s prayer group (the priest was expecting 5 or 6 guys).’ 75 men showed up! There were guys there of all ages; the place was packed. It was great! So, I gave a very direct and honest talk about chastity (sexual purity), speaking in very concrete terms. One of the things that I addressed was pornography.

This week is Pornography Awareness Week. Pornography is a big problem. The pornography industry is huge. Modern technology adds to the problem, as pornographic images can be viewed easily and regularly on the internet, and now on cell phones. Pornography is very prevalent, especially among men, but also among women and teens. It is a poison to marriages and families. One of the main reasons it is wrong is that the pornographer uses persons as objects of his desire only. It is a very selfish habit. It can quickly become an addiction that can be very hard to get out of. It might seem to the pornographer that there is no help in sight; but, there is.

One of the men at that prayer group was struggling with this and other sins against chastity. He has said that his jaw was on the floor while I gave my talk that day because he was so surprised to hear how wrong all of that stuff is, and how many guys struggle with it. He thought he was the only one! Well, he has come to Christ with his struggles. He has come to receive God’s Grace much more regularly in the past few years, mainly the Grace of the Eucharist and Confession. He has had a huge conversion of heart! With God’s help, he is living purity and chastity so much more faithfully now. He has fallen in love with his beautiful wife all over again, and is so much more committed to his kids and the Church. He is now living as a man of love, not a man of lust.

Christ has the power to heal! In today’s Gospel, the blind man, Bartimaeus, is brought to Jesus. Everyone there knows why he is brought to our Lord. The Lord knows why. And yet, he still asks Bartimaeus, “what do you want me to do for you?” Why does he say this? Well, he is saying to Bartimaeus and each one of us, ‘talk to me. Tell me what you want. Tell me what you need. Tell me what your wounds are. Tell me those things of which you need to be healed’. It is an invitation to prayer. It is an invitation to be honest with our God, and take our needs to Him. He wants us to come to Him with our problems, our sins, our wounds. He alone can heal us of all that afflicts us.

Bartimaeus says in reply to Christ’s question, “I want to see”. We should tell the Lord what we need. As we approach the Eucharist today, let us hear Christ speaking to each of our hearts. As we receive Jesus into our bodies and souls in Holy Communion, we hear him say to us, “what do you want me to do for you?”

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Anonymous bloggers

Thanks be to God, our blog site is very active. We have many bloggers who leave excellent comments and questions that get to the heart of what it means to be Catholic. I am truly grateful for your persistent, and oftentimes inspiring, participation. One of the snags, however, is that we are a community of anonymous bloggers. It would be good for us to move out of that.

As Christians, community means getting to know one another as persons. This is no different for our community here. It would be much more fruitful to our community, and to each person involved, if we knew each other by name, and not just "Anon #1" or "Anon #2".

So, can you please consider entering your name when you leave a comment or question? You can do this by opening a (free) blogger account, and having your name as your username. Or, you can continue to have an anoymous username - just type your name in at the bottom of your comment or question. If you have any questions about how to do this, please let me know.

Thank you all very much for your prayerful consideration of this, and I hope we continue to grow as a Christian community.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Adoration tonight: 7-8 pm, Church

"Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?" - Mt 26:40.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's all about conversion of heart

Anon wrote, "This is not pertaining to the topic but I am baring my soul so people please don't jump all over me. I am a very liberal minded person so sometimes its hard to really accept certain teachings. Its not that I don't want to, its just difficult to. I was "very" pro-choice until I got educated on what it meant to have an abortion. Not that I did. Then the whole idea really horrified me. I am asking anyone for advice as to what should I do when certain teachings go against what I learnt in the secular world? I really want to follow the church's teachings and not be so liberal minded."

Thank you, Anon, for your honest and personal thoughts. It really is a beautiful thing to read because your heart is open to Christ and his Church. But, it's very hard for your mind to come on board with the Truth because of what you've learned in the secular world. And, let's make no mistake about it: the secular world presents its own gospel that is very much opposed to Christ's Gospel. So, the fact that you have somehow trudged through the darkness, and are trying to come to the light is very inspiring and commendable; I hope you find the light!

This really is a matter of heart and mind. Christ stresses repeatedly to change our hearts, and turn back to Him. He has given us our hearts, and as St Augustine once said, "our hearts are restless until thee rest in Thee (Christ)". So, it's all about conversion - changing our hearts. God wants each of his children to turn away from the things of the world and turn back to Him. This is a call you are hearing, and desperately want to answer. The best place to start is prayer. Pray every day that God will open your heart to Him and His love (as we all should do).

It is clear to me by your comments that your mind is searching for the Truth about God, life, and yourself. Christ says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life". Christ is Truth; all of his teachings are true. Christ sent his Spirit so that the Church would continue to teach Truth until the end of the world. How do we know that what the Church teaches is true? Because she is guided by the Spirit of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the authority on which she bases all of her teachings.

What is the authority on which secular society bases its teachings? Or, more directly, on what authority do Catholics who don't follow the Church's teachings base their positions? It is a human authority only. In other words, it is opinion, or 'subjective truth'. It could be wrong. One example of this is abortion. As you have found, the pro-choice approach is not right, it is not from the Holy Spirit. It is from human beings who, for one reason or another, strayed from the Truth about life and are now leading others astray.

Finally, and this is speaking to your mind and your heart, the whole point of why we are all here on this Earth is love. Christ teaches and lives the Gospel of Love. It is not always an easy Gospel; in fact, love can be tough. But, Christ is all about love; He is Love. His Church is Love. Love is the basis for all of the Church's teachings. Love is the foundation on which all of the Sacraments are based. Love is the basis for all Christian prayer and service. Love is the source and summit of the Catholic Church. Those who oppose Christ and His Church oppose not only Truth, but Love.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I mentioned in a post last month that I spent some time in Calcutta working with the Missionaries of Charity in 2000. Anon writes, "How did you communicate to the people in Calcutta as the poor would only speak Bengali. Were there enough translators? What was the most positive experience you had there? There are a lot of Indian people not connect Mother Teresa who help the poor there but unfortunately don't get the same recognition."

Calcutta was a TOUGH place to be, especially for a Montgomery County boy! It was extremely hot, and immensely populated; it's half the size of New York City with twice as many people. The air was very dirty - if you blew your nose, your tissue would be black. They had no traffic system, so the cars there (mostly cabs) just honked at each other all day and night; yeah, sleeping was fun! And, of course, the consistent sights of deep poverty - many people sleeping on sidewalks, little children begging for food, broken-down housing in the poor areas, etc. About halfway through the trip, I sent postcards to family and friends back home, writing about all of the conditions and saying, "having a great time. Wish you were here!"

Great question about communication. No, we really didn't communicate with the poor through words. We had to use gestures or symbols if we needed to make a point to them. Mostly, the sisters served as translators. The main language that we did use with them, however, was love. I'm thinking of the man that I served pretty much daily at Kaligat (Home for the Dying). In the morning, I took him to the shower, bathed him, shaved him, gave him fresh clothes, and fed him breakfast. On one of those mornings, we definitely communicated to one another.

I was feeding him breakfast: spoonfuls of fruit. At one point, he interrupted me by folding his hands as if he were praying. I put down the fruit, and made the same gesture. He then pointed to a cross that was hanging on the wall. We prayed silently together for a minute or so. I tried to communicate to him that Jesus loves him-by saying it and pointing to the Cross and then his heart. He beat his heart a few times, showing his understanding and gratitude to Christ. Over the next several days (which were the last days of his life), he would communicate to me that through all of the love and care he received at Kaligat, he knew Jesus loves him.

My most positive experience there occurred on one morning at Kaligat. It was during the mid-morning break, and I was trying to rest and cool down from the morning work. One of the sisters approached me and asked, "would you like to go to the chapel?" I quickly said yes, and she took me up to the top level. With my clothes soaking wet and dirty, I entered the open-air room in which our Lord was present in the tabernacle. Trying to enter into prayer with all of the noise, heat, and filth surrounding me, I looked up at the tabernacle. It appeared so majestic and pristine! Our King on His throne! It was the greatest experience of the presence of Christ in the tabernacle that I had ever had. I had been experiencing His presence in the poor, especially the man at Kaligat, which led me to greatly appreciate His Real Presence in the Eucharist. I said to Him, "Jesus, this is all for you. You're the reason I'm here. I'm hot, filthy, exhausted, and 10,000 miles from home. It's all for you, Lord".

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Moral questions

Here are some comments and questions from bloggers regarding moral issues that we've addressed on the site:

"My understanding is if abortion is not legalized that will not stop ladies from having abortions but they will still have them in unsafe areas and have terrible reprecussions because of that". A moral response is that a good end doesn't justify evil means. I assume that you are saying that the health and safety of the woman is the good end (result of the action). But, that claim is extremely questionable. I remember watching an interview with a woman who used to work at an abortion facility. One of the things she brought to light was how unsafely abortions are performed in these facilities. Seeing first-hand how terribly the women were treated physically, emotionally, and personally was one of the main reasons she quit working there. Every abortion is unsafe for a woman and has terrible repercussions for her physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and spiritually.

In my post on Humanae Vitae, I wrote that Pope Paul VI "predicted that at least two things would happen if contraception became widespread: 1)that there would be a vast moral decline in society, and 2)that men would treat women with much less respect and objectify them. He is a prophet on both accounts, unfortunately". An anonymous blogger replied, "I am not here to argue with you but I just don't see how that has to do with contraceptives. Men (not all) had treated their wives like objects thousands of years ago not just today. I agree with the morals in society declining but not because of contraceptives and don't see how".

The best answer that I've found comes from Dr. Janet Smith who has given a great talk called "Contraception: Why Not?" The best thing to do is to listen to her give the talk, and I have a copy of the tape. If not, you can read the text of it at:
If you still have questions, please let me know.

Anon writes, "What about on the other end where couples can't have a child? Is it against our teachings to have artificial insimination?"
Here's the answer from the Church (it comes from the US bishops' web site: www.nccbuscc.org/prolife/tdocs/part2.htm). If you need further clarification, please let me know.

"Homologous artificial insemination within marriage cannot be admitted except for those cases in which the technical means is not a substitute for the conjugal act but serves to facilitate and to help so that the act attains its natural purpose. The teaching of the Magisterium on this point has already been stated. This teaching is not just an expression of particular historical circumstances but is based on the Church's doctrine concerning the connection between the conjugal union and procreation and on a consideration of the personal nature of the conjugal act and of a human procreation. 'In its natural structure, the conjugal act is a personal action, a simultaneous and immediate cooperation on the part of the husband and wife, which by the very nature of the agents and the proper nature of the act is the expression of the mutual gift which, according to the words of Scripture, brings about union "in one flesh."' Thus moral conscience 'does not necessarily proscribe the use of certain artificial means destined solely either to the facilitating of the natural act or to insuring that the natural act normally performed achieves its proper end.' If the technical means facilitates the conjugal act or helps it to reach its natural objectives, it can be morally acceptable. If, on the other hand, the procedure were to replace the conjugal act, it is morally illicit".

Monday, October 23, 2006

"Ready to go"

Last month, I wrote a post on the significance of Confession in our lives. It was mainly addressed to those who have questioned the relevance of that Sacrament. I explained that Confession is primarily for the forgiveness of mortal sins, and restores us to a state of God's Grace. I made the general point that "we need to be in a state of grace when we die in order to go to heaven" simply to present a teaching that, in my experience, many people are unaware of.

An anonymous blogger gave a fuller picture of my statement by writing that it is "within the context of God's revelation of His love for us and of His invitation to join Him in eternal life... an expression of the way we live our lives in friendship with God... we don't go to confession to go to heaven, but to repair our relationship with God." Thanks, Anon, for pointing out that we don't approach Confession with an attitude of simply following rote rules or doing the bare minimum to get to Heaven. Rather, we go to Christ in Penance to grow in our friendship with Him, and thus, store up treasure in Heaven.

But, continuing with the point of how to prepare for Judgement, Searching for Holiness asked, "What about, say in the moments of death, a perfect act of contrition?" You probably meant to write "an act of perfect contrition". The Catechism teaches that perfect contrition "remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible" (#1452). If sacramental confession is not possible for the dying person, then the person should make some act of contrition ("Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner", e.g.) and entrust him/herself to the Mercy of God.

As Christians, we should always live in close friendship with Christ so that we are always 'ready to go' (to Heaven). To live in a state of Grace means to live in close friendship with Christ...to share in His life. It also means to be ready to go...at any moment. We hear about the rich man who stored up treasure for himself in today's Gospel (Lk 12:13-21). "But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you". We never know if tonight is the night our lives will be demanded of us.

We had a discussion along these lines last night in our youth group. While waiting for our pizza dinner to be delivered, we talked about Christ as our salvation, and about remaining in friendship with Him. The teens and I were saying that we always need to be prepared for death because we never know when our time will come. At the end of the discussion, we received the news that the pizza delivery man had been in a very serious car accident on the way over. We immediately prayed for him (I later learned that he is ok, just very much shaken). But, it was a real and profound example of what we were discussing.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

29th Sunday - Homily

The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. Why did Christ have to give his life as a ransom for many? We might answer that question with another question: how many people went to Heaven before Christ became man? Does anyone know? The answer is none. Why? Because of Original Sin; right, Adam and Eve.

When God created the world, He gave the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, a paradise: the Garden of Eden. He wanted them to enjoy all the good things He had given them. He told them they could do whatever they wanted; anything at all, except for one thing. He told them not to eat of the fruit of a particular tree. And, so, what did they do? They ate the fruit of the tree. As soon as they ate the fruit, they felt shame and guilt. Darkness covered their paradise; everything changed. They had disobeyed God in a major way. They broke the relationship between God and man, and the gates of Heaven were closed.

For thousands of years after that, God’s people tried to mend their relationship with Him. The Jewish people tried to atone for their sins, mainly by offering sacrifices to God with the hope that their sins would be forgiven. But, none of these sacrifices was acceptable to the Father. Man cannot bring about forgiveness of sins on his own. God had to become man, and sacrifice Himself for the forgiveness of sins. And this is what Christ did. We hear in the words of consecration, “this is my blood. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins might be forgiven”.

And, so, Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is the only acceptable sacrifice to the Father for the forgiveness of sins. It is through Jesus’ Death and Resurrection that the gates of Heaven are opened. Some people will ask, ‘but what about all the people who lived Before Christ (B.C.)? Where did they go?’ If they lived good and faithful lives of holiness, and tried to do God’s Will, they went to a “waiting place” when they died. They were literally waiting for Christ. So, when he died on Good Friday, he spent three days in the dead, freeing these men and women to Heaven, before rising from the dead on Easter Sunday. Christ brings salvation!

He offers Salvation to each one of us, mainly through his sacraments. When we come to Mass and participate in the Eucharist, for example, we share in Christ’s act of salvation. Those who are present at Mass are witnesses to Calvary. Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is re-presented on the altar. Jesus tells us this in John 6:51 when he says that “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ; it is the offering to the Father on behalf of humanity. All who participate in the Eucharist, then, share in Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. It is an awesome gift that Christ gives us each Sunday!

His whole life is an awesome gift to us. He gives his life as a ransom for many. He gives his life for each one of us. He saw each of us from the Cross, and all of our sins. He saw all of my sins, and still said, “I will die for your sins to be forgiven, Greg”. And, these are many sins, for I am a great sinner. He says that to each one of us. He says, I have given my life for you, so that you might have life, and have it to the fullest. He gives us his life. He gives us his love. We come this day to say thank you. We come to this Mass and every Mass to say thank you, Jesus. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your life. Thank you for laying down your life for us, so that we might have eternal life.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"He must increase; I must decrease"

This quote is from Jn 3:30, and I have it on my cell phone voice mail greeting. This is now the new theme for this blog site. I am grateful for the support and encouragement from some folks, but praising Christ is the focus of this site.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"

Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!
SJB asked, "What does the Church teach regarding the salvation of those who are non-Catholics? And what about those who may never have heard of Jesus Christ?" Thanks for your question. The Church's famous and contraversial statement regarding your question, which she first pronounced in the 4th century**, is: "Outside the Church there is no salvation". The Catechism explains:

"How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

'Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it' (Lumen Gentium,#14; Vatican II).

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

'Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation' (LG, # 16).

"Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men" (CCC, # 846-848).
**St. Cyprian of Carthage
"Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress [a schismatic church] is separated from the promises of the Church, nor will he that forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is an alien, a worldling, and an enemy. He cannot have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 6, 1st ed. [A.D. 251]).

"Let them not think that the way of life or salvation exists for them, if they have refused to obey the bishops and priests, since the Lord says in the book of Deuteronomy: ‘And any man who has the insolence to refuse to listen to the priest or judge, whoever he may be in those days, that man shall die’ [Deut. 17:12]. And then, indeed, they were killed with the sword . . . but now the proud and insolent are killed with the sword of the Spirit, when they are cast out from the Church. For they cannot live outside, since there is only one house of God, and there can be no salvation for anyone except in the Church" (Letters 61[4]:4 [A.D. 253]).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The North American Martyrs

Today, the Church celebrates the memorial of the North American Martyrs. The following* are summaries of their beautiful and heroic witness to Christ, even unto death. BEWARE that some of the details of their brutal martyrdoms are quite graphic:

"Isaac Jogues (1607-1646) and his companions were the first martyrs of the North American continent officially recognized by the Church. As a young Jesuit, Isaac Jogues, a man of learning and culture, taught literature in France. He gave up that career to work among the Huron Indians in the New World, and in 1636 he and his companions, under the leadership of John de Brébeuf, arrived in Quebec. The Hurons were constantly warred upon by the Iroquois, and in a few years Father Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and imprisoned for 13 months.

His letters and journals tell how he and his companions were led from village to village, how they were beaten, tortured and forced to watch as their Huron converts were mangled and killed. An unexpected chance for escape came to Isaac Jogues through the Dutch, and he returned to France, bearing the marks of his sufferings. Several fingers had been cut, chewed or burnt off. Pope Urban VIII gave him permission to offer Mass with his mutilated hands: "It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ." Welcomed home as a hero, Father Jogues might have sat back, thanked God for his safe return and died peacefully in his homeland. But his zeal led him back once more to the fulfillment of his dreams. In a few months he sailed for his missions among the Hurons.

In 1646 he and Jean de Lalande, who had offered his services to the missioners, set out for Iroquois country in the belief that a recently signed peace treaty would be observed. They were captured by a Mohawk war party, and on October 18 Father Jogues was tomahawked and beheaded. Jean de Lalande was killed the next day at Ossernenon, a village near Albany, New York.

The first of the Jesuit missionaries to be martyred was René Goupil who, with Lalande, had offered his services as an oblate. He was tortured along with Isaac Jogues in 1642, and was tomahawked for having made the Sign of the Cross on the brow of some children.

Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649): Jean de Brébeuf was a French Jesuit who came to Canada at the age of 32 and labored there for 24 years...He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron, and saw 7,000 converted before his death. He was captured by the Iroquois and died after four hours of extreme torture at Sainte Marie, near Georgian Bay, Canada.

Father Anthony Daniel, working among Hurons who were gradually becoming Christian, was killed by Iroquois on July 4, 1648. His body was thrown into his chapel, which was set on fire.

Gabriel Lalemant had taken a fourth vow—to sacrifice his life to the Indians. He was horribly tortured to death along with Father Brébeuf.

Father Charles Garnier was shot to death as he baptized children and catechumens during an Iroquois attack.

Father Noel Chabanel was killed before he could answer his recall to France. He had found it exceedingly hard to adapt to mission life. He could not learn the language, the food and life of the Indians revolted him, plus he suffered spiritual dryness during his whole stay in Canada. Yet he made a vow to remain until death in his mission.

These eight Jesuit martyrs of North America were canonized in 1930.
*It comes from an online article at:

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Beauty of the Eucharist

Here are some of the Church's writings about the Eucharist that help show the richness and beauty of the Blessed Sacrament:

"At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us".

"The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this Mystery of Faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God's Word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's Body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all".
- Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, #47-48

"You ask how the bread becomes the Body of Christ, and the wine...the Blood of Christ, I shall tell you: the Holy Spirit comes upon them and accomplishes what surpasses every word and thought...Let it be enough for you to understand that it is by the Holy Spirit, just as it was of the Holy Virgin and by the Holy Spirit that the Lord, through and in himself, took flesh".
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1106 (quote of St. John Damascene)

"The most venerable sacrament is the blessed Eucharist, in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered and received, and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The eucharistic Sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the Sacrifice of the cross is forever perpetuated, is the summit and the source of all worship and Christian life. By means of it the unity of God's people is signified and brought about, and the building up of the body of Christ is perfected. The other sacraments and all the apostolic works of Christ are bound up with, and directed to, the blessed Eucharist".
- Code of Canon Law, # 897

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Just war" doctrine

TeenAngel wrote, "if someone is in the military, in the middle of a battle, and after he has shot and killed a few enemies, he is shot and killed. I know that killing is a mortal sin, so would that man go to H___? " Thanks, TA, for your question! First, the Church has great appreciation and respect for those who dedicate their lives to defending their country. Second, there are times when the use of military force is justified, morally. That means that there are times when soldiers who, in the course of carrying out their duty honorably, kill "a few enemies" are not guilty of mortal sin.

The Church indicates when those times occur in her "Just War" doctrine. Here are some excerpts from an article by Colin B. Donovan, STL. To see the full article, please click on the title of this post:

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 2302-2317, authoritatively teaches what constitutes the just defense of a nation against an aggressor. Called the Just War Doctrine, it was first enunciated by St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD). Over the centuries it was taught by Doctors of the Church, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, and formally embraced by the Magisterium, which has also adapted it to the situation of modern warfare. The following explanation of Just War Doctrine follows the schema given in the Catechism...

Just War (CCC, #2307-17)

"All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. Despite this admonition of the Church, it sometimes becomes necessary to use force to obtain the end of justice. This is the right, and the duty, of those who have responsibilities for others, such as civil leaders and police forces. While individuals may renounce all violence those who must preserve justice may not do so, though it should be the last resort, 'once all peace efforts have failed.' [Cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et spes 79, 4]...

"In this regard Just War doctrine gives certain conditions for the legitimate exercise of force, all of which must be met:

'1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

3. there must be serious prospects of success;

4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition' [CCC 2309]...

"The responsibility for determining whether these conditions are met belongs to 'the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.' The Church's role consists in enunciating clearly the principles, in forming the consciences of men and in insisting on the moral exercise of just war...However, she cautions combatants that not everything is licit in war. Actions which are forbidden, and which constitute morally unlawful orders that may not be followed, include:

- attacks against, and mistreatment of, non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners;

- genocide, whether of a people, nation or ethnic minorities;

- indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants.

Given the modern means of warfare, especially nuclear, biological and chemical, these crimes against humanity must be especially guarded against."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Papal infallibility

A parishioner sent me an email recently which read, "Hi Fr. Greg. In light of the ongoing controversy over the Pope's remarks on Islam, I thought a good topic at some point might be that of Papal infallibility. I often have to clear up what this means for non-Catholic friends (I hope I do it right!), and I suspect many Catholics
might not know precisely what this means." It is important to point out that the Pope was not giving a formal teaching on faith and morals in his Sept. 12 speech, so he did not invoke infallibility. The doctrine of papal infallibility says that when the Pope declares a teaching on faith and morals, it is free from error, as guided by the Holy Spirit.

The following are excerpts from an article online which addresses papal infallibility. To read the full text, please click on the title of this post:

"The Catholic Church’s teaching on papal infallibility is one which is generally misunderstood... (people) often confuse the charism of papal "infallibility" with "impeccability." They imagine Catholics believe the pope cannot sin. Others, who avoid this elementary blunder, think the pope relies on some sort of amulet or magical incantation when an infallible definition is due...

"Infallibility is not the absence of sin. Nor is it a charism that belongs only to the pope. Indeed, infallibility also belongs to the body of bishops as a whole, when, in doctrinal unity with the pope, they solemnly teach a doctrine as true. We have this from Jesus himself, who promised the apostles and their successors the bishops, the magisterium of the Church: 'He who hears you hears me' (Luke 10:16), and 'Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven' (Matt. 18:18)...

"The infallibility of the pope is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in Church teaching; rather, it is a doctrine which was implicit in the early Church. It is only our understanding of infallibility which has developed and been more clearly understood over time. In fact, the doctrine of infallibility is implicit in these Petrine texts: John 21:15–17 ('Feed my sheep . . . '), Luke 22:32 ('I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail'), and Matthew 16:18 ('You are Peter . . . ')...

"As Christians began to more clearly understand the teaching authority of the Church and of the primacy of the pope, they developed a clearer understanding of the pope’s infallibility. This development of the faithful’s understanding has its clear beginnings in the early Church. For example, Cyprian of Carthage, writing about 256, put the question this way, 'Would the heretics dare to come to the very seat of Peter whence apostolic faith is derived and whither no errors can come?' (Letters 59 [55], 14). In the fifth century, Augustine succinctly captured the ancient attitude when he remarked, 'Rome has spoken; the case is concluded' (Sermons 131, 10)...

"It is the Holy Spirit who prevents the pope from officially teaching error, and this charism follows necessarily from the existence of the Church itself. If, as Christ promised, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church then it must be protected from fundamentally falling into error and thus away from Christ. It must prove itself to be a perfectly steady guide in matters pertaining to salvation...

"If the Church is the foundation of religious truth (see 1 Tim 3:15) in this world, then it is God’s own spokesman. As Christ told his disciples: 'He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me' (Luke 10:16)."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

28th Sunday, B - Reflection

This was my reflection at Adoration on Friday night:

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear Jesus say to the rich young man, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then, come follow me” (Mk 10:21). It is a call that Christ gives to the young man and to each one of us. The young man found the call from our Lord very difficult…“his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions”. I have especially identified with the young man in hearing Christ’s Call to the priesthood. It has been a hard one.

I first entered seminary fresh out of college in 1994. The first two years there I felt that Christ was calling me to be a priest. But, I really didn’t want to be a priest. I had had many hopes of being a husband and father my whole life. I wanted a career, the nice house, etc. I guess you could say that I had many possessions that I didn’t want to let go of. So, even though I heard Christ calling me, I walked away from the Call and left the seminary in 1996. I got a job, bought a house, and started dating.

But, during those three years, this Gospel passage “haunted” me. I couldn’t stop thinking about how the man walked away from Christ, and that he was “sad”. I thought, what happens to someone who doesn’t answer God’s Call? What happens to someone who doesn’t live out their vocation? Do they go to Heaven? I kept focusing on the sadness of the man, and realized that it was a Call to happiness that he was walking away from. It was a Call to happiness that I was walking away from in the priesthood. I returned to the seminary, and can honestly say that since I’ve been ordained a priest, I have never known happiness like this before. Any thoughts of not wanting to be a priest are long gone, and I am so grateful to God that I am a priest! It is awesome!

Each one of us is hearing a Call from Christ tonight. Maybe it’s a call to religious life…or marriage…or the single life. For one of us, it is a call to holiness. He is calling us to be more trusting in Him…to be more understanding with our wives…to be more patient with our husbands…to be more prayerful…to be better examples to our young people…to be more generous to the poor…etc. Whatever Christ is calling us to do, it is a Call to happiness. Sure, it is not an easy Call; it probably will be a very difficult Call to answer. But, just like the rich young man, if we don’t answer the Call, we walk away from Christ sad.

Now, some scholars argue that the young man eventually came back to Christ and answered the Call to sell all that he had. If so, he finally found the happiness for which he was searching. His happiness would have been in detachment from worldly things, not attachment to them. Christ calls each one of us to be attached to Him, and Him alone. It is not an easy Call, but it is the best. The Father’s Plan is that way…it is not always the easiest Plan, but it is the best. Fifteen years ago, my plan for happiness never included priesthood. Now, I see that it has been the Father’s Plan all along; it has not been easy to follow His Plan, but it has been the best for me. It is a Plan for happiness, as His Plan always is for each one of us. His Will is not always the easiest, but it is the best for each and every one of us.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Holy Father's comments about Islam

The following are excerpts from an editorial written in National Catholic Register, a Catholic newspaper. To see the full text, please go to:
"On Sept. 11, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, Benedict XVI prayed for peace with 60,000 pilgrims in Germany. In doing so, he joined mourners all over the world who remembered those killed by Islamic extremists who plowed jet airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands.

Then on Sept. 12 the Holy Father gave a lecture about faith and reason — and the need to reject violence — at the University of Regensburg. In it, he quoted a 14th century emperor’s words about the incompatibility of faith and violence. But he also quoted the emperor’s words about Mohammed, the founder of Islam.

It’s important to get a few things straight. Western media and Islamic leaders seem to have made the same mistake: They assumed that the Pope meant to agree with the assessment of Mohammed from the ancient text he quoted.

This is not what Pope Benedict says.

Pope Benedict took umbrage with Emperor Manuel II’s words even as he delivered them. He said: '[H]e addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general.'...

Benedict goes on to quote Manuel saying: 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'

Days after delivering the lecture, the Pope reiterated that he disagreed entirely, saying the emperor’s words 'do not in any way express my personal thought.'

Catholics need to support the Pope — by agreeing with the Pope, not the media and the imams who misinterpreted him. Pope Benedict doesn’t believe that Islam’s only legacy is violence — and he doesn’t want us to believe that, either...

Pope Benedict... on his last trip to Germany in August 2005, (said) that a dialogue between Christians and Muslims 'cannot be reduced to an optional extra,' adding, 'We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other’s identity.'

These are the things the Pope believes about Islam, and they are the things we should believe..."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Letter to the editor

Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Come spend some time with Jesus.
The following is a letter to the editor that was published in yesterday's Catholic Standard. It is written (and very well written, might I add) by one of our parishioners: Fran Vanbrocklin. Please join me in applauding Fran for her courage, concern, and candor in addressing the important issue of appropriate television entertainment:

"Letter to the editor - Are TV shows really 'less objectionable'?

After having read the Fall TV Preview ('Fall's new TV series offer more quality, less objectionable content') in the September 28, 2006 edition (of Catholic Standard), I was totally baffled as to what exactly is LESS objectionable in these programs. Is it the premarital situations, premarital sex, the gratuitous shower scene, sleeping with one's estranged wife or the affair with one's boss?? Or could it be the mild profanity, intended suicide or crude language??

It seems to me that it does not, or rather, SHOULD NOT matter how many sexual references/situations, are included in the programming. It is offensive and objectionable, regardless of the frequency. Isn't this how crass TV programming was born?? It starts off small, then explodes into something much, much larger.

I am sorry, but the point 'less objectionable content' was in no way, shape or form conveyed in this piece. Only when TV programs are devoid of such topics, will they cease to become offensive and objectionable."

Fran VanBrocklin
Olney, MD

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A captivating tribute to Uncle Mike

I thank everyone for their prayers and words of sympathy on the recent death of my Uncle Mike. Here are excerpts from his beautiful obituary which was in yesterday's Washington Post. To view the full text, please go to:
Michael Gnatek Jr., 72, a leading artist of historical portraits, who also illustrated an infamous Washington Post story about a nonexistent child heroin addict in 1980, died Sept. 28 at Suburban Hospital from complications of multiple myeloma. He lived in Washington until moving early this year to Manor Care at Chevy Chase...

He worked in advertising for many years, first with department stores and later at his agency while polishing a talent for painting portraits of historical figures. Long interested in history, Mr. Gnatek began to accept commissions on historical subjects and in 1975 did four murals for the National Air and Space Museum. He painted a mural on the history of the telephone for Disney World in Florida.

He became a specialist in portraits of military figures and American Indians and found his work in demand by historical societies, private collectors and commercial galleries nationwide. In the early 1990s, he closed his advertising agency, Gnatek Associates, to concentrate on painting.

The family of Gen. George S. Patton commissioned a portrait of the general, and Mr. Gnatek's other subjects included Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, George Armstrong Custer, Sitting Bull and buffalo soldiers of the 19th century.

Each oil or acrylic portrait took Mr. Gnatek four to six months to finish, as he immersed himself in documents and visual records to give each brush stroke historical authenticity. His studio was filled with antique rifles, clothing and saddles, and he sometimes took part in Civil War reenactments...

Mr. Gnatek's experience in the Marines, where he often made on-the-spot sketches of officers, was useful in executing freelance jobs on deadline. In September 1980, Mr. Gnatek was assigned by The Post to make a drawing to accompany "Jimmy's World," a story about an 8-year-old heroin addict by then-Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke...

The story, which ran Sept. 28, 1980, created an immediate sensation, as lawmakers called for prosecution of drug dealers preying on the young, and D.C. Mayor Marion Barry ordered hundreds of police officers and social workers to search the city for "Jimmy." Part of the story's impact came from Mr. Gnatek's grim, memorable portrait, described in a 1981 article by Washington Post ombudsman Bill Green: "It shows a young man, his face twisted in a half-smile, huge eyes watching, his slender arm gripped by a huge fist as a needle is injected."

Cooke's story was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1981 but was soon exposed as a hoax. Admitting that "Jimmy" did not exist, she resigned under pressure, and The Post returned her Pulitzer. "My father said he was as shocked as anyone," said Mr. Gnatek's son Michael. "He was completely convinced that she had met 'Jimmy' or somebody like him."

Mr. Gnatek was a member of the Society of American Historical Artists and the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Washington. His wife of 34 years, Mary Shaffer Gnatek, died in 1999. Survivors include three children, Michael Gnatek of Leesburg, George Gnatek of Washington and Mary Gnatek Harper of Kensington; four brothers; two sisters; and five grandchildren.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Halloween: "All Hallow's Eve"

“I have neighbors who are fundamentalist Christians and feel that Halloween is evil. What is the church's position on Halloween?” Here are a few articles I found online that are related to this anonymous blogger's question. While I couldn't find comments directly from the Magisterium of the Church, I think that these articles give an historical and theological Christian perspective of Halloween.

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

"When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards... In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Eve or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day. The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the 'communion of saints', which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.

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

- http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Oct2001/Family.asp
"The word Halloween is a contraction for All Hallows Eve, which, before the reform of the liturgical calendar following the Second Vatican Council, was the vigil of All Saints and All Souls Days. As such, Halloween can be considered a Christian holiday. As with many Christian holidays, the secular world has attached its own traditions to the day (costumes, trick-or-treating, parties) that are not intrinsically wrong but can become problematic when the religious meaning of the holiday is set aside or forgotten.

"Celebrated in the right way, Halloween can be a reminder of human mortality and the need for Christians to prepare themselves to face God. The festivities attached to the holiday can—like Mardi Gras for Lent—prepare Christians for All Saints and All Souls Days and for the month of November, which the Church traditionally has set aside for remembrance of the souls in purgatory.

"Celebrated in the wrong way, Halloween festivities also can distract from the meaning of the holiday. Christian parents have a variety of options for celebrating the holiday in a Christian spirit and should feel free to choose what works best for helping their families learn the 'reason for the season'."

- http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2005/0510qq.asp

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Anti-Catholic Entertainment"

Anonymous writes, "I just watched an informative video called "Hollywood vs. Catholicism". Isn't it sad how the RCC is misrepresente and even mocked? I always knew this but didn't realize how many films there were out there. Don't worry I am not going to go see the videos." Thanks, Anon! Along these lines, here are excerpts from an article written by L. Brent Bozell, the president of Parents Television Council. I have edited some of the descriptions and quotes from the TV shows because of their vulgarity. The article, "Anti-Catholic Entertainment", is dated March 21, 2003.
"Oftentimes, drama and comedy writers shape events like clay to fit their own Hollywood prejudices. These prejudices can accumulate into a toxic pattern. The year 2002 was a terrible year for the Catholic Church in the United States, and a year in which some church officials deserved everyone's harshest rebukes. While the overwhelming majority of Catholics -- and particularly their parish priests -- were not just innocent of abusive crimes, but strived to be good, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights noticed that they were all still cannon fodder for dark dramatic scripts, nasty comedy plots and tasteless jokes.

"This is more than broad religious bigotry. This is specific anti-Catholicism. The league reports that since September 11, 2001, no television dramas have painted Muslims with a broad brush as a religion full of terrorists and haters. But Catholics weren't that lucky -- they saw not only their priests mocked, but their beliefs mocked on TV shows last year.

"The examples are too numerous. The CBS drama "Family Law" featured an episode with a priest who found he'd fathered a child before taking his vows. As the lawyers on the show debated whether the priest should now raise the child, Tony Danza's character suggested, "Maybe the kid would be better off without all that superstitious (stuff messing) her up."

"The thankfully short-lived ABC series "The Job" premiered with a detective dressed as a priest and a stripper dressed as a nun. The "hot nun" was shown disrobing in front of a set of detectives... The "priest" abused the confessional by squeezing information out of a thief who stole from the collection basket. A monsignor was then portrayed as caring more about the sanctity of his own reputation than of the confessional.

"Imagine a prime-time ABC episode dedicated to a stripping rabbi or a dishonest imam. All one can do is imagine, because it would never -- could never -- happen. That would be wrong.

"TV producer-writer David E. Kelley liked the Catholic scandal grist so much that he thrived on it with two episodes of ABC's "The Practice" and another couple of episodes of Fox's "Boston Public." ...

"HBO's "Sex in the City" ... Last summer, the series featured this anti-Catholic poison in one plot: the boyfriend of red-headed single mom Miranda insists on baptizing the child to reassure his Irish Catholic mother, who's stereotypically depicted as not only afflicted by rigid religious prejudices, but also as marinated in alcohol. Miranda, as one of the show's so-hip female leads, demanded there be no mention of Christianity in the sacrament.

"This makes no sense, but this is Hollywood, where the ridiculous is allowed. The central character of the show then joked that Miranda was surprised the priest was so flexible, but 'the truth is, in these troubled times, the Catholic Church is like a desperate 36-year-old single woman, willing to settle for anything it can get.' It's sad that HBO is so desperate to punch Catholics in the teeth for a lame giggle.

"Faithful Catholics took blows below the belt from standup comedians, too. On CBS, David Letterman jokingly compared Catholics to the Mafia: 'The Gambino crime family will probably fall apart. That will make the largest crime organization in the city ... the Catholic Church!'...

"In a separate category of meanness was the unmissed Bill Maher, who was still blasting away in 2002 on ABC's 'Politically Incorrect'... : 'I have hated the Church way before anyone else'...

"Students learn in history class that America in the 19th century was rife with anti-Catholic bigotry. It's time they're told it's still alive and kicking in the 21st century. Just turn on the TV."

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Call to Love

This was my homily (more or less) at Mass this morning:

I've been having some great discussions with folks the past few days about Confession. Some have been on the blog site and emails, and the other was Friday night with a group of parishioners in the hall. Some of the same questions arose, like, "I don't really do anything that it that wrong. Why do I need to go to Confession?". Or, "how often should I go to Confession?" When I said, ideally, it should be once a month, they said, "if I went once a month, I wouldn't have anything to confess".

I responded by saying that they should do a more thorough examination of conscience, and suggested that they look more closely at the Ten Commandments and seven deadly sins. But, what we hear in today's Gospel (the greatest commandment, Lk 10:25-37) is reason enough to go to Confession. "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". Confession is all about mending our relationship with Christ. When we go to Confession, we humbly go to Christ and admit that we have not loved Him and our neighbor as fully as we should, and in specific ways.

None of us is perfect; we all fall short in loving Him will all our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Examining our consciences and going to Confession help us to pinpoint how we have fallen short. We become more aware of areas where we need to grow. In the Gospel, Jesus is telling us to be on the look-out for situations where we can love our neighbor. This might involve helping people on the streets or friends who are in need.

We are called to give ourselves fully to God and neighbor... to give everything to Christ. St. Denis and his companions (whose memorial we celebrate today) were called to physically give everything to Christ in the third century in France (as they died martyrs' deaths).

So, as we receive the Eucharist today, let us pray that Christ will fill us with His Grace so that we will give ourselves to Him. He gives Himself to us fully in this sacrament- Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. May the grace of this sacrament help us to give ourselves more fully to Him - loving Him with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

27th Sunday - Homily

Today’s Gospel is a tough Gospel. The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus on the question of divorce. So, Jesus comes right out and boldly says that divorce is not from God, but from man’s hardness of heart. Many people have asked me over the years why the Church doesn’t recognize divorce. I quote this passage where Jesus says that if a married person gets a divorce and then marries again, he commits adultery. The Church does not recognize divorce God does not recognize divorce. Divorce is not part of God’s law and plan for married couples.

But, it is also a beautiful Gospel. Jesus raises marriage to the level of a sacrament. He says that “what God has joined together, no human being must separate”. It is significant that he also reiterates what the Book of Genesis tells us: that marriage has existed since the beginning of the world. He says that marriage is when a man and a woman become one flesh, and recognizes that this is what God brings about. It has always been God’s Plan for a husband and wife to become one in marriage, and that He has joined them together.

Whenever this happens…when a baptized man and baptized woman promise their love to each other…when they give their consent to love, honor, and serve the other in the presence of a priest or deacon and at least two witnesses in a Church…that is when they become one flesh in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. And, when they live out this marital love, they have a bond that cannot be broken. God has joined them together, and no court or state or human being can separate them. They now have a holy relationship. Their union is a sacred thing. Marriage is a sacred act; it is one of the most sacred institutions in the world.

Marriage, then, is a calling from God. It is a vocation. We have so many examples in our great parish of couples who have heard God’s Call to be married and continue to live it out every day with His help. Their love for each other has produced tremendous fruits; one of the greatest fruits of marital love is children. They not only bring new life into the world, but they bring their little ones to Christ as He commands in this Gospel. They give the example of how to treat marriage with great respect because it is such a sacred thing.

So, for our teens and young adults whom God is calling to marriage, your preparation starts now. God has someone very special in store for you in the future. He and the person want you to save yourself for them… and to treat that big day with great respect. It will be awesome if you do! I saw an example of this last weekend at a wedding of a young couple. They treated marriage and their wedding day with respect and reverence, and they were so happy that they did it the right way. It was awesome! God’s Plan is for most of you to enjoy that same happiness in the sacrament of marriage.

There are many similarities between the Sacrament of Marriage and the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament. When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we become one flesh with Him as a husband and wife become one flesh. Jesus says ‘this is my body’. The man essentially says to the woman, ‘this is my body…this is my life…this is my love…given for you’. And, the woman says the same to him. Also, the Eucharist is a preview to the great wedding feast in the Kingdom of Heaven where we will be one with God for all eternity.

In a very real way, then, we become one with Christ in the Eucharist. We become one with his love, his life, his peace, his joy. Then, we take his love to those we meet. He has such a great love for each one of us…an intense love…a burning love. May each of you know his love this week.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"I don't have anything to confess"

"Once a month is recommended for confession! I don't have anything to confess that often." Last night, I had a great discussion about faith with several SAA parishioners. In particular, they had many questions about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. One of them asked how often we should go to Confession, and I said, ideally, it's once a month. Their response was very similar to the above comment made by one of our bloggers.

The first thing to point out is that in Confession (and all the Sacraments), we receive Sanctifying Grace which is a share in God's Life. We need this Grace in order to live a Christian life on Earth and, thus, enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So, the primary reason for going to Confession is to receive God's Grace. Even if a person is a very faithful follower of Christ and lives a life of virtue, he/she should go to this Sacrament regularly to be filled with Christ's Grace.

Secondly, I would challenge someone who says that they don't have anything to confess regularly to do a more thorough examination of conscience. For example, last night, the same person who made the comment of having little or nothing to confess was unaware that some things were sins - drunkness and gossip, for example. When we properly examine our consciences on a regular basis, we see that we commit many more sins on a daily basis than we are aware.

A good examination of conscience can help to shed light on how we have offended God or neighbor. Here are a sample of questions from "A Guide to Confession" of which I have many available copies:
Do I pray daily? Have I put faith in horoscopes? Have I received Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin? Have I used God's holy name irreverently? Have I deliberately come late or left early from (Sunday) Mass without a good reason? Do I honor and respect my parents? Have I led anyone to sin through bad example or through direct encouragement (to sin)? Have I deliberately viewed pornographic magazines, videos, or internet websites? Do I share what I have with the poor and the Church according to my means? Have I ruined the good name of others by spreading lies or maliciously revealing their faults and sins? Am I envious of the possessions, abilities, talents, beauty, or success of others?

The last question is under the 9th and 10th commandments, but it concerns one of the seven deadly sins: envy. We all struggle with these seven dangerous vices every day, to one extent or another. Examples of questions relating to the other six might be:

Pride - am I too proud or embarrassed to go to Confession?
Anger - have I been angry with God or someone else?
Sloth - have I been lazy in carrying out my responsibilities?
Gluttony - have I overindulged in food or drink?
Greed - do I have an attachment to money or possessions?
Lust - have I entertained and pursued impure sexual thoughts?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Bloggers' questions

Adoration, tonight, SAA Church, 7-8 pm. All are invited!!
Here are some recent questions from bloggers:

"As parishoners and non-parishoners we go to priests for guidance, counseling,encouragement, compassion etc. Whom do the priests go to?"
Other priests. For example, I meet with and go to Confession to a priest of the Archdiocese once a month. He is my spiritual director. This practice of meeting regularly with a spiritual director was very strongly encouraged in my seminary training.

"The Act Of Contrition. I have noticed that there are several Catholic versions - all quite similar but not completely. One Act of Contrition (this is the one you haved supplied) speaks of deserving God's just punishments. Is that referring to life on earth or after we die? Or is it referring to penance? Some other AOC's seem to have omitted this part".
In Confession, the penance that we receive should be proportionate to the sins we have committed; "the punishment should fit the crime". So, penance is a form of punishment; in the Sacrament, it represents "God's just punishments" for our specific sins. As a general practice, penance can be seen as punishment on Earth. But, "God's just punishments" also take place after we die: temporary punishment in Purgatory for venial sins or eternal punishment in Hell for mortal sins.

"Why is it bad to parish hop? I think it gives a person a chance to see what the other churches are doing and also to listen to homilies by different people."
Well, our parish community is our Catholic family, and Mass is our family meal, among other things. To attend Sunday Mass away from one's parish on a regular basis is analagous to kids eating dinner away from their family on a regular basis. Any good parent who wanted to keep his/her family intact wouldn't allow that.

"What are Ember Days/weeks?"
The days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence.

"Shouldn't married couples also do their best to love equally and impartially?"
Yes. Like all of us, they are called to love all peoples equally and impartially. But, the fact is that they make permanent promises (of love, honor, service, respect, etc.) to each other before God and the Church that they make to no one else. Love in marriage is exclusive.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Communion in other Churches

A SAA parishioner emailed me this question: "This is actually a question from my sister. She recently attended a funeral service in the Lutheran church. I am going to forward to you, what was printed in the program. The wording makes it sounds as if the Lutheran church believes in the real presence in communion. This can't be right can it?? What do you make of the wording? Is there a way to believe in the presence but NOT in the fact that the host and wine are ACTUALLY the body and blood of Jesus?? Any help in deciphering this would be appreciated. Also, when attending a service of another Christian denomination, is it acceptable to receive communion?"

Thanks for the question. Standard Lutheran teaching is consubstantiation which is different from we believe - transubstantiation. Consub. means that the substance is bread along with the Body of Christ. Transub. means the substance changes from bread to the Body of Christ. Lutherans believe that consubstantiation occurs during the service, but then the host is just bread again after the service.

If you or your sister were to ask a Lutheran pastor, 'does the host really become the Body of Christ during your service? Is it truly his flesh and blood? Does transubstantiation actually take place?' If he/she is consistent with Lutheran teaching, he/she will say no. Even though there are almost 30,000 Christian Churches, only two teaches transub.: Catholic and Orthodox (we share all the sacraments with the Orthodox). So, the Eucharist only dwells in the Catholic and Orthodox.

So, what is the host at non-Catholic Christian services? Only bread. Even if the minister and all the people there believed it to be the Real Presence of Jesus, the minister doesn't have the power to consecrate. Protestant ministers broke off from Apostolic Succession 500 years ago which means that they broke off from being validly ordained ministers. They broke off from having the power to consecrate. At every Christian service, it is just bread and not the Body of Christ.

Someone might say, so what's the big deal whether the host is the actual Body of Christ or a symbol of it? Any rational person with a sense of the Sacred know s there's an enormous distinction. We say that in the Catholic Mass that it is really Jesus in the Eucharist, and it is. It is proper worship of the True God who is present before us. But, in the Protestant service, they might treat it like it's Christ's Body and even say that it is, but it's not. It becomes a form of false worship; it is giving praise to something that is not God.

This would be the main reason why Catholics can never receive "Communion" in other Christian Churches besides the Orthodox. It is what St Paul is condemning in 1 Corinthians 11 - showing major disrespect to the Eucharist. We do this mainly by either receiving our Lord unworthily at Mass or receiving the bread and wine that is not the Eucharist at a Protestant service. In particular, 1 Cor 11:27-29 strongly suggests that the consequences of such actions are very severe: if we mock the Eucharist in these ways, we "will have to answer for the body and blood of our Lord". He says that we bring judgement on ourselves (v.29). Not good!

I think many Catholics know that they can't receive in Lutheran Churches, but most don't know why. That's why your question is so critical for us Catholics and for those non-Catholics we know. If you, your sister, or her Lutheran friends have any other questions, feel free to shoot them my way. That's one of the main reasons why I am here! Thanks!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sin vs. mistake

"What is the difference between sin and mistake? I don't think most of us intentionally sin so couldn't that be making mistakes?" Cool question, Anon, and thanks. In the area of morality, the word 'mistake' does not enter into the discussion. Either something is a sin or it is not. A sin is an act of the (free) will. It is either something I choose to do or to avoid. The Catechism clarifies that sometimes we use words or phrases like 'mistake' to avoid using the word 'sin'; but, we know better than to do that:

"Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God's plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another" (# 387).

So, any action that we freely choose to do which is morally wrong is a sin. Speaking to your second question, the Church teaches that "the morality of human acts depends on: 1) the object chosen (the action itself), 2) the intention, and 3) the circumstances of the action" (# 1750). Intentions enter into the moral equation as explained below. The basic points are that good intentions don't make evil acts good ("the road to Hell is paved with good intentions") and bad intentions can make good acts evil.

"A good intention (for example, that of helping one's neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving)" (# 1753).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Uncle Mike

This morning, I will celebrate the funeral of my Uncle, Michael Gnatek. He married my father's sister, Mary, who died seven years ago. Uncle Mike was a quiet man who had a keen mind and big heart. He was a very talented artist, and is one of the most renowned Civil War artists in the country. It was a tremendous joy to become closer to him in recent years, seeing him grow even more in the virtues, especially faith, hope, and love.

I've used his example before in a homily about the greatest witness to love in marriage I've ever seen. He served my Aunt Mary every day and night at her bedside for the last five years of her life. He truly lived out his marital promises of loving and honoring her "in sickness and in health...in good times and in bad". I let him know how much his example meant to me, showing me what love is all about.

He was very generous with his artistic talents. Two of his last prints will be on the funeral program: 1) a painting of Christ for his grandson, Timmy, and 2) the print he did for the holy card on the occasion of my ordination in May. Normally, when his paintings were so precise that they looked like photographs. But, he really struggled to do my holy card; it took him three days because he could barely lift his arm to paint. What a labor of love! That's one way to sum up Uncle Mike's life.

I visited him fairly regularly the past few years, whether he was in the hospital, nursing home, or his home. He really suffered tremendously, especially in the final days and hours. I noticed a real increase in his faith, however, in recent years. He a had a strong devotion to the Eucharist, and showed a great appreciation for prayers and blessings bestowed upon him. His suffering allowed him to grow closer to Christ, and thus grow in the virtues of faith, hope, and love. It was something beautiful to see!

When I anointed him the Saturday before he died, I said to him, "I'll see you soon". As I was saying it, I had a strong feeling that it meant I'll see him next in Heaven. We all knew he was dying, but wanted to give him every encouragement to fight for his life. It is so hard to say goodbye in this life. The finality of death can be very potent. But, I truly believe he is very much on his way to the Kingdom, if not there already. His love in suffering will be his ticket to Heaven. Please pray for his soul, and for his family members - his siblings, daughter Mary, and sons Michal and George. The Lord says "blessed are those who mourn; they will be comforted". My hope is that they will experience the comfort of Christ in their mourning in the coming days and weeks.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Embracing the Cross

"In life we all have our crosses to bear", an anonymous blogger writes. "How can we embrace these crosses instead of resenting them? It is a bit difficult to say 'Thank you Lord for my becaming paralyzed and not being able to live the way I used to.' Sorry if I sound sarcastic." Thanks for your question, Anon. You can check out some of what I've written about suffering by looking at my post from August 1, 'Why does God allow suffering?'

But, the writings of the saints are much better than mine, especially when it comes to embracing the Cross. The following are excerpts from "The Way of the Cross according to the method of Saint Francis of Assisi". These are some of his profound meditations on the stations of the Cross. To view the full text, please go to http://feastofsaints.com/waycrossfrancis.htm

"O most merciful Jesus, with a contrite heart and penitent spirit, I bow down in profound humility before Thy divine majesty. I adore Thee as my supreme Lord and Master; I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee above all things. I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, my Supreme and Only Good. I resolve to amend my life, and although I am unworthy to obtain mercy, yet the sight of Thy holy cross, on which Thou didst die, inspires me with hope and consolation. I will, therefore, meditate on Thy sufferings, and visit the stations of Thy Passion in company with Thy sorrowful Mother and my guardian angel, with the intention of promoting Thy honor and saving my soul...

"When our divine Savior beheld the cross, He most willingly stretched out His bleeding arms, lovingly embraced it, and tenderly kissed it, and placing it on His bruised shoulders, He, although almost exhausted, joyfully carried it...

"O my Jesus, I cannot be Thy friend and follower, if I refuse to carry the cross. O dearly beloved cross! I embrace thee, I kiss thee, I joyfully accept thee from the hands of my God. Far be it from me to glory in anything, save in the cross of my Lord and Redeemer. By it the world shall be crucified to me and I to the world, that I may be Thine forever...

"Simon of Cyrene was compelled to help Jesus carry His cross, and Jesus accepted his assistance. How willingly would He also permit you to carry the cross: He calls, but you hear Him not; He invites you, but you decline. What a reproach, to bear the cross reluctantly!

"O Jesus! Whosoever does not take up his cross and follow Thee, is not worthy of Thee. Behold, I join Thee in the Way of Thy Cross; I will be Thy assistant, following Thy bloody footsteps, that I may come to Thee in eternal life. ------ Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!...

"Jesus did not descend from the cross but remained on it until He died. And when taken down from it, He in death as in life, rested on the bosom of His divine Mother. Persevere in your resolutions of reform and do not part from the cross; he who persevereth to the end shall be saved. Consider, moreover, how pure the heart should be that receives the body and blood of Christ in the Adorable Sacrament of the Altar...

"Almighty and eternal God, merciful Father, who hast given to the human race Thy beloved Son as an example of humility, obedience, and patience, to precede us on the way of life, bearing the cross: Graciously grant us that we, inflamed by His infinite love, may take up the sweet yoke of His Gospel together with the mortification of the cross, following Him as His true disciples, so that we shall one day gloriously rise with Him and joyfully hear the final sentence: 'Come, ye blessed of My Father, and possess the kingdom which was prepared for you from the beginning,' where Thou reignest with the Son and the Holy Spirit, and where we hope to reign with Thee, world without end. Amen."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

26th Sunday - Homily

Yesterday, I officiated a beautiful wedding in Ocean City. It was a young Catholic couple who a friend of mine hooked me up with a year ago. They are really good people but when I first met them, they had some things to work on in their relationship with Christ and with each other. To see them grow closer to Christ in the past year has been awesome! They have been open to God’s Grace, and experienced a real conversion. They are so much happier now than a year ago, and were able to enjoy yesterday so much more.

In relation to today’s readings, two examples from yesterday come to mind. The first is the friend who directed this couple to see me. Now, he knew that I would address the issues they had to work out; he knew I wouldn’t sweep them under the rug or something. He knew that they needed to go Christ and his minister with their issues. He lived out the call that we hear in the first reading -Book of Numbers, Chapter 11. It’s a call for each of us to be a prophet. It’s a call to show people the ways of God. It’s a call to lead people to Christ.

The second example happened after the wedding. A young woman who participated in the wedding talked with me for a while about her relationship with her boyfriend. She’s been going out with him for five years, but hasn’t been going to Church since they started dating. He stopped going to Church a while agon, claiming to be all “churched-out” after going to Catholic grade school and high school. Now, he is a nice guy who is a lot of fun. But, whether he knows it or not, he is leading her away from Christ. She was very upset because she wants to go to Church with him, and have that as a big part of their relationship.

Jesus says we will receive a reward based on how well we have led others to Him in this life. Those who have spoken for Him, done great things in His name, and led others to Him will surely receive their reward and be great in the kingdom of Heaven. But, for those who lead others away from Him and into sin, well, it’s not good. He says that for someone who leads another to sin it is better that they are cast into the sea with a millstone around their neck! And then, to add to that, he talks about Gehanna three times.

Gehenna was a ravine south of Jerusalem which had continually burning fires. It symbolized a place of torment for the wicked. It is an image of Hell, eternal punishment. Jesus speaks of Gehenna and Hell often in the Gospel so that we won’t go there! He is saying that whatever our serious sin is, we need to get rid of it. If it’s skipping Mass on Sunday, then you need to stop that. Go to Church with your girlfriend, and don’t lead her to sin. Be a prophet for Christ and lead others to Him.

One of the most tangible ways to be a prophet for Christ is to lead others to the Eucharist. It can start right here at Mass by having a great love for the Eucharist. If we are prayerful here and participate in the liturgy, then we will lead those around us to a great love for worshiping Christ in the Eucharist. But, if we are goofing around, talking, or maybe even playing on our cell phone, then we distract others and lead them away from having a great respect for the Eucharist.

We are called to lead people to Christ. When we lead them to Him, we lead them to God’s Love. We lead them God’s Peace and Joy. He has great love for each and every one of us. May you know His love this day.