Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween definitions

Someone just sent me these "Halloween definitions". Please say a prayer today that our children will enjoy a safe Halloween.

Coffin: What you do when you get a piece of popcorn stuck in your throat.

Frankenstein: Hot dog and a mug of beer.

Goblin: How you eat the Snickers bars you got for Halloween.

Invisible Man: What a guy becomes when there's housework to be done.

Jack O' Lantern: An Irish Pumpkin.

Jack the Ripper: What Jack does to his lottery tickets after losing each week.

Mummy: The person who kisses the boo-boo after you scrape your knee.

Pumpkin Patch: What a pumpkin wears when trying to quit smoking.

Vampire Bat: What Dracula hits a baseball with.

Zombie: What you look like before that first cup of morning coffee.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What does a person of faith look like?

Anon wrote the following:

“ I have spent a good deal of time thinking about what a person of faith looks like. Is he the person who goes to Mass each Sunday and then goes home to watch the Skins play, spending more time pondering the great plays of the day than what he heard and/or experienced earlier in church? Is it the person who might miss Mass to be in service to another in need, with the understanding that in missing Mass he sacrificed something personally important? Is it the person who begins and ends each day in prayers of thanksgiving? Is it the person who is too spent from his giving to spend time in prayer? Ultimately, I have come to an understanding that works for me. I think when I am living my life with faith, I am inspired to create something (anything) good. The good can be small or grand in scale, but it is good purely for good’s sake. When I do “good” for anything else, I quickly find that my life is out of balance and my faith grows thin…”

We had another great discussion in our St A’s Bible Study group last night. Bible Study meets every Monday night in the rectory basement from 7-8 pm to discuss the Sunday readings. It is a great group! It is an extraordinary gift for me to hear the Gospel through the experiences of these men and women of deep faith, and to listen to their insights and questions. One of the things that came out of last night’s rich discussion was along the lines of what Anon has written, “what does a person of faith look like”?

Someone asked about what we can do when someone we know well – a family member, especially – has ceased going to Church or only goes a few times a year. The overwhelming consensus of the group was that we can’t judge them like the Pharisee judged the publican in the Gospel parable. We can simply lead by example and pray for them. We are, most likely, not the one to teach them through our words because Jesus has said we are prophets in every town (family?) but our own.

We compared the Pharisee and the publican some more, pointing out that the Pharisee was all about external faith (keeping the law, i.e.) while the publican had internal faith. Then, someone gave a profound insight about the rituals (Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, e.g.) which we celebrate: she said that if there is nothing going on internally for us during the external rituals, then they are pointless. I would say that she gets the point of Jesus’ parable!

At some point and maybe even still now, some of us “go through the motions” only when we come to Mass. This does not include those who are truly seeking to have something happen internally, but are struggling in their faith. This includes people like me who used to go to Mass and think about the Redskins game plan or other such nonsense during the ritual. Of course, it is good that people in this situation come faithfully to Mass – just like it was good that the Pharisee observed the external laws so faithfully. And, they most likely aren’t as culpable of hypocrisy as the Pharisee was because they probably don’t know as much about the external rituals and laws as he did.

But, and this is the challenge of the parable, a person of faith most likely looks like the publican who “stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'” (Lk 18:13). My point to the Bible Study group last night was that the publican ‘gets it’. No matter what awful things he might have done in his life, he finally gets it: he is humbly on his knees, speaking to God honestly from his heart, and asking for mercy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gospel Commentary - 30th Sunday

The following is a commentary on today's Gospel by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, and comes from

This Sunday's Gospel is the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. Those who attend Mass this Sunday will hear a commentary more or less of this type.

The Pharisee represents the conservative who feels himself in line with God and man, and looks with contempt on his neighbor. The publican is the person who has committed an error, but he recognizes it and humbly asks God for forgiveness. The latter doesn't think of saving himself on his own merits, but rather through the mercy of God. The preference of Jesus between these two is clear, as the last line of the parable indicates: The latter returns to his house justified, that is, forgiven and reconciled with God; the Pharisee returns home just as he left it -- preserving his sense of righteousness, but losing God's.

Hearing this commentary, and repeating it here, leaves me dissatisfied. It's not because it is mistaken, but it doesn't respond to our modern times. Jesus told these parables to those who were listening to him in the moment. In a culture charged with faith and religious practice like that of Galilee and Judea of his time, hypocrisy consisted in flaunting the observance of the law and of holiness, because these were the things that brought applause.

In our secularized and permissive culture, values have changed. What is admired and opens the path to success is the contrary of that other time: It is the rejection of traditional moral norms, independence, the liberty of the individual. For the Pharisees the key word was "observance" of the norms; for many, today, the key word is "transgression." To say that an author, a book or a show is a "transgressor" is to give it one of the most desired compliments of today.

In other words, today we should turn the terms around to get at the original intention. The publicans of yesterday are the new Pharisees of today! Today the publican, the transgressor, says to God: "I thank you Lord, because I am not one of those believing Pharisees, hypocritical and intolerant, that worry about fasting, but in real life are worse than we are." Paradoxically, it seems as if there are those who pray like this: "I thank you, Lord, because I'm an atheist!"

Rochefoucauld said that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. Today it is frequently the tribute that virtue pays to vice. This is shown, in fact, especially among youth, who show themselves worse and more shameless than they are, so as not to appear less than others.

A practical conclusion, valid as much in the traditional interpretation alluded to at the beginning, as in the development given here, is this one: Very few -- perhaps no one -- are always in the role of the Pharisee or always in the role of the publican, that is, righteous in everything or sinners in everything. Most of us have a little of both in us. The worst thing would be to act like the publican in our daily lives and like the Pharisee in church. The publicans were sinners, men without scruple, who put money and business above everything else. The Pharisees, on the contrary, were, very austere and attentive to the law in their daily lives. We thus seem like the publican in daily life and the Pharisee in the temple, if, like the publican we are sinners, and like the Pharisee, we believe ourselves just.

If we must resign ourselves to being a little of both, then let us be the opposite of what we have just described: Pharisees in daily life and publicans in church! Like the Pharisee, we must try in daily life to not be thieves and unjust, but to follow God's commandments and pay our dues; like the publican, when we are before God, we must recognize that the little that we have done is entirely God's own gift, and let us implore, for ourselves and for all, God's mercy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Power shining forth in weakness

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
The following is a letter written by St. Augustine which comes from yesterday’s Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours). It seems like a nice follow-up to a) Sunday’s Gospel and b) Wednesday’s post (and all of our discussions about why God allows his followers to suffer).

You may still want to ask why the Apostle (St. Paul) said: We do not know what it is right to pray for, because, surely, we cannot believe that either he or those to whom he wrote did not know the Lord’s Prayer.

He showed that he himself shared this uncertainty. Did he know what it was right to pray for when he was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to bruise him, so that he might not be puffed up by the greatness of what was revealed to him? Three times he asked the Lord to take it away from him, which showed that he did not know what he should ask for in prayer. At last, he heard the Lord’s answer, explaining why the prayer of so great a man was not granted, and why it was not expedient for it to be granted: My grace is sufficient for you, for power shines forth more perfectly in weakness.

In the kind of affliction, then, which can bring either good or ill, we do not know what it is right to pray for; yet, because it is difficult, troublesome, and against the grain for us, weak as we are, we do what every human would do, we pray that it might be taken away from us. We owe, however, at least this much in our duty to God: if he does not take it away, we must not imagine that we are being forgotten by him but, because of our loving endurance of evil, must await greater blessings in its place. In this way, power shines forth more perfectly in weakness.

These words are written to prevent us from having too great of an opinion of ourselves if our prayer is granted, when we are impatient in asking for something that it would be better not to receive; and to prevent us from being dejected, and distrustful of God’s mercy toward us, if our prayer is not granted, when we ask for something that would bring us greater affliction, or completely ruin us through the corrupting influence of prosperity. In these cases we do not know what it is right to ask for in prayer.

Therefore, if something happens that we did not pray for, we must have no doubt at all that what God wants is more expedient than what we wanted ourselves. Our great Mediator gave us an example of this. After he had said: Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken away from me, he immediately added, Yet not what I will, but you will, Father, so transforming the human will that was his through his taking a human nature. As a consequence, and rightly so, through the obedience of one man the many are made righteous.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The greatest way to imitate Christ

Anon wrote the following:

“There is a book coming out about Mother Teresa that is a compilation of correspondence from her to her confessors and others spanning 60-plus years. The letters (if authentic) show that for most of her life she lived in a state of constant spiritual pain because she did not feel the presence of God and even doubted the existence of God and heaven. The book claims that she described herself as living in utter darkness. I know that prior to this it was known that she experienced periods of spiritual crisis, but this book apparently says that it was present throughout most of her adult life. What do we make of this? Occasionally on this blog people talk about spiritual struggle and the answer generally is: you must be open, you must sin less, you must confess your sins, you must pray, you must listen for God, you must give to others. Mother Teresa did those things probably more than any of us can imagine. Why would God torture her?”

I met Mother Teresa twice and have read many of her writings and teachings. I can say with great confidence that she not only taught others to live with joy but she lived it herself and experienced real joy. It was the joy of Christ. Does this mean that she was always laughing and carrying on with people? No, but it does mean that she whatever crosses she endured in her life, she experienced real joy because she was found worthy to imitate Christ in such a great way.

I use two of her quotes all the time along these lines:

“ The best way to imitate Christ is through suffering”
“Those who are closest to Jesus on earth are those who suffer the most”

I really don’t think that she read this in a book somewhere. As far as I know, these are two original quotes (with some help from the Holy Spirit). She learned this through her own experience. It was through her own trials, but also through the pains of those she served for over fifty years. She might have witnessed more suffering on a daily basis than anyone who’s ever lived; she amassed much wisdom about the value of suffering.

Why would God allow her to experience such darkness? It’s really the same question of why He would allow His own Son to experience such suffering. The answer to both of these questions is focused on identifying with the experience of the poor who are highly favored by God. The poor - Christ, the Blessed Mother, Mother Teresa, the saints, etc. – have a great dependence on and need for God, much like children do. God has great love and trust for people like MT that, in their great anguish, they will call out to Him all the more which is what she did for so many years. She acknowledged this trust when she said, “ I know God will not give me more than I can handle…I just wish He didn’t trust me so much”.

My take on all of this stuff from the new book (and I don’t know how much is accurate) is that she is speaking mainly for all those she served all those years. She once said that the greatest human pains are rejection and loneliness. Christ felt these in the garden on Holy Thursday; she said he was in greater pain that night than on Good Friday. She linked that pain to the men and women she served in Calcutta whose families had left them to die at train stations. Again, the Father allowed Christ to experience such pain so that he could identify with all those who have been abandoned, rejected, hurt, etc., and so they can identify with him.

I don’t doubt that MT experienced real spiritual darkness. But, I do think that she witnessed their darkness and pain for so long that she took it on herself. One last quote that she probably said to herself as much as she said to others which shows that, at the end of the day, her faith was rock-solid: “Don’t ever get so sad that you lose sight of the Resurrection”. No matter how much she suffered in this life, we believe she is enjoying the fruit of her faith in the Resurrection: eternal life.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

29th Sunday - homily

God will provide. These three words really sum up our whole faith in God. It is the faith of Abraham that we share when we say that God will provide. We look at different people as examples of this kind of faith; I look at all parents as examples. When they bring a child into the world, they can’t see into the future and don’t know what will happen. Yet, they have confidence that God will provide whatever their child needs. There is one couple, though, who has stood out to me as an example of the faith that God will provide.

They are a couple that I knew growing up in my home parish. They were very nice, very active in the parish, and very devout. For most of the years that I knew them, they didn’t have children. I learned years later that they had prayed for a long time – 19 years – to God for children. 19 years! As they got to the age when it seemed like it would be impossible for them to bear children, I’m sure their friends were telling them to give up their hope and prayer, and move on. After 19 years of praying and hoping and as it was beginning to seem impossible, she became pregnant! It was a source of great joy for our whole parish, not to mention the overjoyed couple, when they gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Jack. They are a great example of having confidence in God, faith that He will provide, and perseverance in prayer.

These are the themes that Jesus is stressing when He tells the parable in today’s Gospel. He tells the story of a widow who petitions an unjust judge “for a long time” for a just decision in a matter involving her adversary. We don’t know what the matter was, but we can figure that her adversary was a rich, influential person. The judge probably didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of a V.I.P. in his community. Like some judges today, he was acting out of political and selfish motives rather than for the sake of a justice for a long time.

And yet, she had great confidence in him. This was a man who had “no fear of God and no respect for any human being”. That’s about as bad as it gets! She had great confidence that ultimately he would render her a just decision, and he does. Jesus is pointing out to us how much more confidence we should have in God, the just judge, when we pray to Him.

Prayer can be a tricky thing to understand. There are couples who pray for a long time with great confidence and faith in God for children but never have children. As Fr. Mike said recently in a homily, God always hears our prayers, but sometimes the answer is ‘no’. When we are talking about confidence in God, we are saying that we trust that when pray to Him about something specific for a long time, He will give us a just decision. His idea of justice might be different than ours; He knows what we need more than we do.

In my own life, I prayed for a long time to be married and have children. You see where that prayer got me! I though that that would be best for me and that it was really my heart’s desire. I am happy, though, that the answer was no because priesthood is my happiness. And, I have known couples who don’t have children and have found happiness through adoption, serving the community or Church.

I was reading an interesting commentary on this parable. The commentator reversed the roles by saying that God is the widow and each one of us is the judge, and that God pleads with us constantly to do the right thing. He can’t force us to love Him and to choose the good, but He is always pleading with us until finally we give in. One quote that backs this up is from St. Theresa of Avila who said, “Jesus is always speaking to us; the question is, ‘are we listening?’”

Finally, Jesus finishes the parable with a question: “when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on earth?” Will he find great confidence in God, faith that says God will provide, and perseverance in prayer? In a few minutes, Jesus will come to us in the Eucharist. As he comes to us in Holy Communion, will he find faith among the parishioners and priests at St. Andrew’s?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Confession of a parent

1) Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!

2) DC ‘Hood vs. St. Jerome’s / Sacred Heart (Bowie), tonight, 7 pm, St Jerome’s gym, 5205 43rd Ave., Hyattsville, MD 20781. Go ‘Hood!!
Recently, an anonymous blogger asked whether or not she should require her daughter to go to Confession after she caught her lying. The following are excerpts from the insightful, creative, and inspiring responses which “Joan” wrote:

…You must also realize that your lie offended God. He loves you more than I ever could. You can tell him you are sorry, but unlike me sitting here next to you, we can only hear His forgiveness in confession. I know it’s hard to tell someone else what you did wrong, believe me I know, but it’s so great to hear God forgive you, and He so wants to tell you. Confession isn’t punishment – that’s the loss of the cell phone. Confession is apologizing to God, like you did to me, and receiving His forgiveness. I can take you with me when I go on Saturday. I won’t make you go to confession, but I do ask that you at least go in there and talk with Father about what happened. If you don’t want to go with me on Saturday, I can call Father and set up a time for you to meet with him; unless you would like to call him yourself.

It seems if we speak of Reconciliation in a positive manner and receive regularly, our children will become more accepting of it as a regular (and wonderful) part of our life.

…I have allowed them a distinction between 'going to confession' and 'talking to Father'. Sometimes, the only wrong they see is that they were caught; they aren't at all sorry for what they did (and it doesn't matter how old they are). So, I give them the option of going to confession or going to talk, a kind of 'see what Father thinks'. If they prefer the anonymity of going to the Shrine, then that's what we do.

When they have elected the 'talk' as opposed to confession, they have come to see what they did and the gift of the Sacrament. Then they are the one asking for it, instead of me making them do it.

…Speaking only for myself, there have been times I have had to go talk to a spiritual Father to figure out whether I was right or wrong. It was the only way I could lay out all of the details and get an objective answer. I had no doubt he would either tell me directly whether I was right or wrong, or he would help me figure it out. Sometimes, I realized anger and/or pride had affected how I handled a situation with the kids, and so asked for confession and then apologized to the kids for losing my temper. What they had done was wrong (and they still had consequences), but that didn’t give me the right to behave badly. This was/is particularly true if what they did embarrassed me in some way.

Other times, I realized it was parental guilt - guilt that I hadn’t taught the children properly; guilt that I had to deprive them of something or make them do something they didn’t want to do; guilt that my actions would drive them from the Faith; guilt that I was a bad parent.....

I think the hardest parts for me, whether I was wrong or right in my response to their actions, are to (1) “go talk to Father” and (2) let it go and quit beating myself up about it. But, it’s getting better.

If this situation is bothering you, you may want to call Father and talk about it in person.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"The cross is the greatest gift"

Recently, Fran posted the following beautiful reflections and prayers related to suffering from the book "Every Day is A Gift":

"Do not allow yourselves to be overly saddened by the unfortunate accidents of this world.You are not aware of the benefits that they bring and by what secret judgment of God they are arranged for the eternal joy of the Elect.
-St. John of the Cross

Prayer: Father of wisdom, help me to accept all earthly misfortunes with the sure knowledge that good will come from them. Let me never despair, but trust in Your Providence that governs all things.

"Suffering out of love for God is a signal favor, but we do not realize this.For we thank God for prosperity and take no heed that afflictions would be a much greater grace.
-St. Joseph of Cupertino

Prayer: Compassionate Lord, teach me to regard all suffering as something allowed by You to make me more like Your Son Jesus. Help me to accept in this light whatever suffering may come to me.

"The cross is the greatest gift God could bestow on His Elect on earth. There is nothing so necessary, so beneficial, so sweet, or so glorious as to suffer something for Jesus.If you suffer as you ought, the cross will become a precious yoke that Jesus will carry with you.
-St. Louis Grignion de Montfort

Prayer: Lord Jesus, impress upon me that without a cross on earth there will be no crown in heaven. Help me to bear my cross daily for You as You bore Your Cross for me and all human beings.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mt 19:9

“A neighbor has asked, ‘although I want with all my heart to be closer to Jesus by becoming a member of the Catholic Church, why won't they let me?’ The neighbor, a non-Catholic, had previously been married, as did her current, second husband. She now wishes to join the Catholic faith, but has been told that she cannot until both her and her husband's previous marriages are annulled. I follow the argument that annulment does not "dissolve the marriage" (important since there is a child from one of the previous marriages), but can make it "invalid." In the case of annulment, the focus is on the non-validity of the marriage, not the individual. The individual remains valued yet the marriage does not. However, when the Catholic Chuch refuses to embrace a willing and committed individual into the Church without an annulment of a distant prior marriage, it seems as if the Church is making a value judgment of the individual, not the marriage. The Church encourages contrition and forgiveness, but it seems to penalize the recently enlightened and give the appearance of being exclusive rather than inclusive. It would seem appropriate to welcome the individual into the Catholic faith regardless of past deeds. The Church may choose to not recognize the current marriage until an annulment is obtained, but that should not prevent a committed individual from becoming a Catholic. Has she misunderstood the Church's (a local priest) response?”

I worked with a couple of baptized, non-Catholic adults who were in our RCIA program last year and needed to apply for annulments of prior marriages before they became Catholic. At no time during the process have they expressed what your neighbor has said, ‘why won’t they (the Church) let me (become Catholic)?’ I think this has been the case because they have taken RCIA classes and have learned about the sacraments, including marriage. They now have a greater understanding of how much the Church respects the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. During the classes they asked many questions about marriage and annulments, and the RCIA team and I did our best to answer them.

This is really for her to take up with her local priest(s). I don’t know all of the factors involved or what her faith background is. The main question would be: has she taken the RCIA class at her local parish? If not, I would strongly recommend it. If she has taken the class and still feels excluded, then she needs to sit down with the pastor of this parish and present all of this to him. He should clear up the misunderstandings she appears to have.

My post of August 10 (to which your comment responded), “Understanding annulments”, is hopefully a good starting point to approach your questions in general. Towards the end of the post, there is reference made to the sacraments in regards to Catholics who are in a second marriage. The underlying point is that they need to receive declarations of nullity (annulments) from their first marriage before they can receive the sacraments again, especially the Eucharist. The same point is made for those who are non-Catholics who are in a second marriage: they need to receive declarations of nullity before they can receive the sacraments (of Initiation).

One of the main reasons for this is what Jesus says in Mt 19:9: “whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery”. Every marriage is assumed to be valid (lawful) until it is proven to be invalid (unlawful) which would occur during the annulment process. It is through this process, then, that the Church tries to help people – Catholics and non-Catholics – to avoid living in adultery, to experience healing from wounds of civil divorce, and to be able to receive the grace of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

28th Sunday - homily

God’s healing power! A couple of weeks ago, a mother brought in her 13 year old daughter, Callie, to see me. Callie has been having health problems for a long time, especially with her heart. As things seemed to be getting worse for them and it looked like Callie would need a heart transplant, they came in hoping for a miracle. I prayed over her, anointed her, and blessed her with Lourdes water. We were all filled with hope that somehow she would get better.

Then, two days later, they received the news they didn’t want to receive: the doctors said she definitely needed a heart transplant. Callie went to the hospital and I visited her last Monday. Her mom told me that it could be as long as a year before a heart transplant was possible. Things did not look good. I kept praying for them and asked others to do so. Then, just last Thursday, a call came in that a heart was available! The doctors moved quickly, and Callie had a heart transplant operation that night. The dangerous procedure went well, and Callie is doing okay. She is not out of the woods yet, but there are many reasons to hope.

Her mother told me the other day that there is something bigger at work here than all of us. She noted that the way things have happened lately shows her that. We were hoping that God would heal this precious girl, and it appears that He has, with the help of science. It’s not about me – it’s about the power of God coming through me, the holy oil, the Lourdes water, all the prayers from so many, and through the faith of Callie and her mom. I ask all of you to say a prayer for Callie and her mom.

This tradition of bringing a sick person to a priest goes back thousands of years. We hear about this in today’s readings. In the first reading, Naaman is cleansed of his leprosy by Elisha, a man of God. It was the Jewish custom for people with diseases to go to the priests. This was done for two reasons: to be cleansed of their illness and to be brought back into society because they were seen as outcasts. The Jewish view was that physical diseases were linked with evil spirits, so it was almost as if the priests were performing exorcisms. Jesus reaffirms this tradition when the ten lepers ask him to be healed. He tells them to go see the priests. They show their faith in Christ by their obedience to Him. As they are on their way to see the priests, Christ heals them of their leprosy.

Now, Christ continues the tradition of healing through priests, but has offered it in a few news ways. He has instituted two sacraments of healing that we call Anointing of the Sick and Confession. Anointing of the Sick is mainly for the spiritual healing of the sick person. It builds up the person’s strength and courage in their suffering. If God wills any physical healing, so be it. I have witnessed a few times when people whom I’ve anointed have experienced some kind of physical healing. One woman was in her nineties and seemed to be in her final hours when the family called. She was very unresponsive and not able to communicate at all when I anointed her. The family told me that shortly after I left, she perked up. She was able to communicate with them for about a week and they were able to say their goodbyes to her. God’s healing power!

Now, we might wonder how Confession comes into play with God’s healing power. First, we all have a disease similar to the ten lepers in the Gospel. It is the disease of sin. In fact, we understand their leprosy to represent our sin. Just as Christ healed them of their leprosy, He can heal of our sin in Confession. If we approach Confession with the same faith that they approached Jesus with, then he can drive out sin in our lives as he drove out their leprosy. He has the power to do it, no matter how big the sin and no matter how long we have been doing it. It is the same Jesus and the same power. God’s healing power!

Finally, only one of the ten lepers returns to thank Jesus for healing him. The Greek word for thanksgiving is eukareisteon (sp?), from which we get the word, Eucharist. We are like the one leper whenever we come to the Eucharist to give thanks to God for all that He has done for us. As we receive the Body and Blood of Christ today, let us be open to His healing power. Let us approach our Lord with the same faith that Naaman, the ten lepers, and so many who have been cured by Christ. It is our hope that He will say to us what He has said to them: “Your faith has saved you”.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Saturday's readings

Please click on the title of this post to view today's Mass readings.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Update on Callie

Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are invited to attend!
I just spoke with Callie's Mom; the surgery went well, thanks be to God. She is listed as 'critical' and is not out of the woods yet by any means. The first 48 hours are the most urgent. Please keep praying for her and her family. I told her Mom that we were praying for them, and she said it brought her tremendous comfort. Thank you!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Prayers for Callie

Please pray for 13-year-old Callie who is getting a heart transplant tonight and for her doctors and nurses. May God be with them.

Thursday's readings

To view the Mass readings for today, please click on the title of this post.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"That they be one"

The following is a reflection on the Eucharist written by Msgr Thomas Wells (“From the Pastor’s Desk”, August 17, 1997):

My sister and our whole family are gearing up for a trip next weekend to Tulsa for her son’s wedding. While they met and will live in this area, the bride wants to return to her home for the celebration. My family, never reluctant to get together for a party, is happy to make the trip. While the family priest will be in the sanctuary, the couple has, in fact, received permission to have their vows witnessed in her Protestant church. In fact, the ceremony will take place in Eucharistic liturgy. This, of course, has raised the question about whether the Catholics should receive communion in the Protestant church. In fact, we have been told by the minister that we are more than welcome to receive. I discuss the question because it comes up so often today. Can Catholics receive, when invited, in other Christians Churches? Under normal circumstances, can a priest invite non-Catholic Christians to receive at a wedding or funeral mass? While in both cases the answer is no, a look at the Church’s reasoning is important.

First of all, it was the prayer of Jesus that, “they be one, as you Father, are in me and I am in you.” Unity is intended by God to be one of the distinctive marks of the Church. The summit, the source, and the principle sign of that unity is the Eucharist. Now, thank God, we have discovered in recent decades how much we have in common with other Christians, especially when compared with those who have no faith. We can, and should, pray and study together; we should engage in common works of Christian charity and we should build each other up in our attempts to love and serve the Lord. However, the rediscovery of how much we have in common does not erase the divisions that exist within the body of those who call themselves Christian. And we must not forget that our disunity is the result of sin – and sin always has painful consequences.

The fact that next Saturday I must be at an altar at a Eucharistic celebration that looks much like our own and not receive communion, will be awkward, likewise with my nephew who cannot receive with his new bride. However, interestingly enough, that pain is a good thing. If we all went to communion, there would be no such pain, true enough; but there would be the not honest facing of the reality that real and substantial divisions exist within the Christian community. The disunity is real and it should make us uncomfortable. Perhaps that small experience of the consequences of disunity will cause us to work for and pray for the real unity that is desired by the Lord. To pretend a unity that does not exist may feel good at the moment; but it allows us to avoid the painful truth that we are still far from the oneness in faith and action intended by the Lord.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Possessing no one or no thing

1) FYI: We have installed a hit meter which tracks the visits made to this site. As you may or may not have figured out by now, we receive (and reject) many attempted comments here that are inappropriate, to say the least. We have been installing devices to try to prevent this (word verification, comment moderation, etc.), but the comments keep coming. It’s gotten so bad that, on a few occasions, I have had to shut down comments altogether. While this is an unfortunate situation, you’ll be happy to know that since the hit meter has been installed, the unwelcome comments have pretty much come to a halt. I have no intention of pursuing the information of those who come to this site with pure motives; I am only looking to use the site meter when it’s necessary for those with less than pure motives.

2) 34-3!!!!
Mindy asked, “A while ago, I was talking to Jim Boccabella, the summer seminarian, about some of the practical aspects of preparing for the priesthood. He mentioned that he sold his home. I’ve been wondering- why? I am of the understanding, although it may be incorrect, that priests are permitted but not encouraged to own property. Priests own cars and boats, which are kinds of property. From a financial perspective, wouldn’t it be better to maintain ownership of that kind of asset to be used for, if nothing else, retirement? And if they have sold their homes, where do priests live when they retire?”

I’ve been trying to find a document of the Church that addresses the issue of priests and personal possessions, but have been unable to do so today. But, I would say exactly what you said that parish priests are allowed but not encouraged to own property. Why? I think that one of the basic definitions for celibacy should serve as a reason: celibacy means you “possess no one or no thing”. Now, this isn’t referring to things of necessity. If it meant everything, I guess I should have sold items at the recent yard sale like my toothbrush. I think it’s referring more to things that you don’t need and to which you are more inclined to be attached.

When I re-entered the seminary one of the times (I lose track!), I sold the house I owned. Why? Initially, it was because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of renting and maintaining it. But, it became more that I wanted to leave everything for Christ. I truly desired to sell everything I had and follow Him (see Mt 19:21). I really wanted to be as detached from the world as possible. What freedom this brings! One of the greatest experiences of freedom I’ve ever had occurred about a month before I returned to the seminary: I watched a local charity come to pick up all of my furniture and came back inside to an empty house. Ah, freedom!

To finish the story, I found out that a year after I sold the house, it was being sold again…for $100,000 MORE than I sold it. I don’t remember the first word that came to mind at that time, but it probably wasn’t very holy. It might have been, D’oh! I don’t know if the friend who told me that was exaggerating or not; it really didn’t matter. The freedom that selling the house and getting rid of almost all possessions was worth far more than $100,000.

I couldn’t imagine maintaining ownership of a house or major investment from now until I retire. I struggle to find time to change the oil in my car! I am planning for retirement already, but I am not at all worried about how well I will be living fifty years from now, pray God. God will provide. Most of the retired priests I’ve known have continued to live in rectories (some of them who are less healthy stay in a priests’ retirement home) and I hope to do the same. I love living simply and freely and hope that this continues until about three minutes after I have died.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

27th Sunday - homily

Faith, no matter how small, can produce great things. I’ll give two examples. The first involves a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington who has been ordained for about ten years. When he was in college, he was much more into the party scene than he was into faith and good works. As he has said, he had little faith in college. Then, after college, he began to get more involved in the Church and his faith grew to the point that he entered seminary and then priesthood. His first parish assignment was to a parish that, for all intents and purposes, was a dead parish. Nothing was really going on there. Even the pastor had fallen away from his prayer life and didn’t have much going on in his ministry.

Through the example of this young priest’s holiness, zeal, love for Christ and the Eucharist, the parish began to come to life. The pastor began to pray more and his priesthood was revitalized. It was really amazing to hear all that went on in that parish. This priest, who had such little faith, has done great things in that parish and two others.

Another example is a woman named Constance who was a model. She had a very successful modeling career for about ten years. During most of that time, she, too, had very little faith. But she began to yearn for God because she found the life of a model to be very empty and hollow. She began to get more involved in the Church. She left modeling and is now a missionary for the Church. She goes all over the world giving talks to youth about chastity, dignity, and respect. She had such little faith, but it has led to great works.

At the point of the story in today’s Gospel, the Apostles have very little faith. Jesus says that their faith is so small that it’s not even the size of a tiny mustard seed! But, he is making the point that no matter how small their faith is, they can do great works. The Apostle would go on to do great works, spreading the Gospel to the whole world, ultimately. In the process their faith increased.

It is interesting, though, that when the Apostles ask Him about faith, Christ talks about works. Our Protestant brothers and sisters stress “faith alone” and not “faith and works”. They say that faith alone will get us to Heaven and we don’t need to focus on works. Yet, Jesus emphasizes the importance of doing good works; St. Paul, St. John, the early Christians, and the modern Church continue the teaching of faith and works.

Many people have asked me since I’ve been here, ‘Father, how do I increase my faith?’ I think we can infer that Jesus is saying that one way to increase your faith is to do good works. He gives the parable to stress the importance of doing our duty as Christian servants. As we see from the priest, the model, the Apostles, and hopefully in our own lives, our faith increases in the process of doing good works. Our little mustard-sized faith can grow into the largest tree in the forest, as Jesus points out elsewhere in the Gospel.

Our primary duty as Christian servants is to come here, to come to Mass. It is our duty and obligation to come to the Eucharist every Sunday. Through the grace of this sacrament and every sacrament, our faith increases. The more grace we receive, the more our faith increases. Also, the Eucharist propels us to do good works throughout the week. As we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, let us be open to the Lord and ask Him to increase our faith and help us to do great works as his servants.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

St. Bruno

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Bruno (1035-1101). The following is from about this holy priest:

This saint has the honor of having founded a religious order which, as the saying goes, has never had to be reformed because it was never deformed. No doubt both the founder and the members would reject such high praise, but it is an indication of the saint's intense love of a penitential life in solitude.

He was born in Cologne, Germany, became a famous teacher at Rheims and was appointed chancellor of the archdiocese at the age of 45. He supported Pope Gregory VII in his fight against the decadence of the clergy and took part in the removal of his own scandalous archbishop, Manasses. Bruno suffered the plundering of his house for his pains.

He had a dream of living in solitude and prayer, and persuaded a few friends to join him in a hermitage. After a while he felt the place unsuitable and, through a friend, was given some land which was to become famous for his foundation "in the Chartreuse" (from which comes the word Carthusians). The climate, desert, mountainous terrain and inaccessibility guaranteed silence, poverty and small numbers.

Bruno and his friends built an oratory with small individual cells at a distance from each other. They met for Matins and Vespers each day, and spent the rest of the time in solitude, eating together only on great feasts. Their chief work was copying manuscripts.

The pope, hearing of Bruno's holiness, called for his assistance in Rome. When the pope had to flee Rome, Bruno pulled up stakes again, and spent his last years (after refusing a bishopric) in the wilderness of Calabria.

He was never formally canonized, because the Carthusians were averse to all occasions of publicity. Pope Clement extended his feast to the whole Church in 1674.

If there is always a certain uneasy questioning of the contemplative life, there is an even greater puzzlement about the extremely penitential combination of community and hermit life lived by the Carthusians.

“Members of those communities which are totally dedicated to contemplation give themselves to God alone in solitude and silence and through constant prayer and ready penance. No matter how urgent may be the needs of the active apostolate, such communities will always have a distinguished part to play in Christ's Mystical Body...” (Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life, 7).

Friday, October 05, 2007

Have we lost Common Sense?

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
The following is an interesting fictional obituary posted by an anonymous blogger:

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn't always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend morethan you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children arein charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Aspirin, sun lotion or a sticky plaster to a student; but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't legally defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know my Rights, Someone Else is to Blame,and I'm a Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

Author unknown

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Lk 10:1-12

Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples whom he sent ahead of him
in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you,
go out into the streets and say,
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet,even that we shake off against you.’
Yet know this: the Kingdom of God is at hand.
I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ideas for a series of talks at Adoration?

St. Andrew's has received a Blue Ribbon Award for academic excellence; it is one of only two non-public schools in the area to receive such an award, and one of 400 total schools in the country!! As Ms. Kilty said at Back to School night, "This award was established by the No Child Left Behind - Blue Ribbon Schools Program to honor those elementary and secondary schools in the United States that make significant progress in closing the achievement gap or whose students achieve at very high levels. The program recognizes and presents as models both public and non-public elementary and secondary schools that meet wither of the two assessment criteria." Congratulations to our administration, faculty, parents, and students!
Recently, I asked bloggers to submit suggestions on how to promote Friday night Eucharistic Adoration in a better way, and many excellent ideas were given. We will look to implement some of them in the coming year.

But, the thought has occurred to me lately that it would be good to offer a series of talks during nights of Adoration that might attract more people. I've heard of at least one parish that did this; they started doing a series of talks during weekly Adoration, and many more people came regularly.

Of course, it's the Eucharist who makes the Hour completely attractive to those of us who attend. But, for many people who don't know about Adoration or think that it's not for them, they might need some other "pull" to come. It's kind of like with the Youth Group: we have used other "pulls" like Chipotle or Ledo's dinners and Starbucks gift cards that gets them in the doors. Then, sometimes after dinner and before the raffle for gift cards, we introduce them to Adoration. Sunday night, we had almost fifty teens adoring our Lord with great reverence, thanks be to God. It is possible that Adoration is now the "pull" for them!

The main focus group with this is St. A's parents and adults. (We will hopefully have Friday nights when groups of our school students and their parents come to Adoration just like last year.) A few adults have asked when are we going to offer something for them like we do the youth; I have reminded them about Adoration, Bible Study, JustFaith, Fr. Mike's refresher course, etc. We said on Monday that our youth are hungry for Christ; our adults are hungry, too!

So, if we offered a series of interesting talks that took place with some regularity on Friday nights (once or twice a month), my guess is that there will be a good response among adults. Now, the question is, what would be some good topics for talks? We can have different topics throughout the year. I will leave some ideas and ask bloggers to leave their own. Thanks!

- Sacraments: 7 ways to get to Heaven
- 7 deadly sins
- virtues, vices
- moral issues (abortion, capital punishment, stem cell research, cloning, etc.)
- Ten Commandments
- prayer
- Beautitudes
- vocations / God's Will
- Advent and Lenten series

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Guardian angels - homily

The following is the homily I gave this morning at the school Mass which celebrated the feast of the Guardian Angels:

How many of you have learned about angels?... Who can tell me what an angel is?...An angel is a spirit who is a messenger of God’s. Who has learned about guardian angels?...Who can tell me what a guardian angel is?...A guardian angel is an angel who God has sent to each one of us to protect us. How do we know that angels and guardian angels exist? That’s right, because the Bible tells us that they do. And especially Jesus, who tells us in today’s Gospel that we all have an angel.

Now, I have a story that is a true story and most likely has to do with a guardian angel., although we don’t know for sure. It happened about 20 years ago in the Midwest. Two young men were driving home from college, and they had a long drive. They drove through one place where it was really, really cold. Like, really cold. Think of the coldest you’ve ever been…it was even colder than that. It was about eighty degrees BELOW zero! That’s cold!

As they were driving along, they realized that no one else was on the road. The people on the radio were saying it was too cold to go out, so everyone had stayed inside. These two young men were thinking to themselves, ‘I hope we’ll be ok’. As they began to get scared, their car just konked out because it was so cold. They realized that they could freeze to death. One of the men said a short prayer to God for help.

A few moments later, all of a sudden a car was behind them. Actually, it was a truck. Actually, it was a tow truck! It had been pitch black and they didn’t see any lights approaching their car. They hadn’t heard the truck pull up. Before they could make sense of any of it, there was a tap on their window from the tow truck driver and he said, “you guys need a lift?” Before they could talk with him, their car was already loaded on the tow truck and being towed down the road. The driver didn’t ask for directions on where they lived.

The next thing they know they are home. When they arrive, they get out of the car and go into the house to get money for the tow truck driver. When they come back out, the driver and tow truck are gone. They didn’t hear the truck start up or drive away. They ran into the snow-covered street to look for tire tracks. They saw only one set – the tracks of their car. The driver never said goodbye, never received payment, and didn’t leave any trace that he had been there.

The mother of one of the young men has written a book about this. She said that they don’t know for certain that it was a guardian angel but it sure seems like they believe it.

As we said earlier, each one of us has a guardian angel. If there are about 500 of us here in Church, then there are about 500 angels in Church this morning; each one of them is right next to us. They will never leave us. In addition to our own guardian angels, our school has guardian angels. The Bible tells us (the Book of Daniel) that communities (cities, states, schools, the Redskins!) all have their own angels. As you’re walking through the halls, think about the angels that are there, protecting you and keeping you safe.

Even the Dallas Cowboys have guardian angels! (God’s ways are not our ways)

Now, when we think about angels, we think about holy creatures whose whole lives are God and us. And that’s true. But, when it comes to the Eucharist, not even angels can receive the Body and Blood of Christ. It’s only for us to receive. This might seem unfair but angels know that they can’t receive – they don’t have human bodies or souls. Also, their whole job is to help us to love Jesus, especially Jesus in the Eucharist. They will be right next to you as you approach the Eucharist and return to your pew.

Let’s finish as we usually do at these Masses. When I cue you, you loudly say three words, THANK YOU, JESUS. For the Eucharist, our guardian angels, and all the blessings He has given us: THANK YOU, JESUS!!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Teens' hunger for Christ

Last night’s Youth Group was pretty incredible. We offered Eucharistic Adoration with a meditation on the Scriptural verse, “I am with you always”. Almost 50 high school teens showed up! This was our largest turnout since the Kickoff party earlier this month, thanks be to God. In addition, it was amazing to process the Eucharist through the Church for Benediction and see just about every teen showing great reverence and respect for our Lord.

Teens really are hungry for Christ whether they know it or not. Like all of us, they are searching for happiness. Their daily lives are tough because they are constantly and intensely led by the culture toward pleasure and not true happiness. That’s why any time with Christ in the Eucharist is so huge for the teens because they get a taste of what real happiness and peace is.

The article in the August issue of Washingtonian, "The Secret Lives of Teens”, gives us a strong sense of how deeply many teens have gone after pleasure but also how some are pursuing the happiness they’ve found in God. Mindy included some of the article’s quotes from students in public and private high schools:

“Age is not an issue anymore. Freshman year? That’s young. Sophomore year? That’s expected.”

“At my school, you’re dating before you have sex. In fact, you’re probably dating for six months.”

“I don’t think I could name one (virgin). If I dated a guy who’s a virgin, it’d be awkward. It’s a bit of a turnoff.”

“I think binge drinking is defined as anything more than five drinks in a night. That’s every time there’s a party.”

“I steal from my parents. It’s easy. The liquor cabinet is right there- you fill up a water bottle and you’re ready to go. It was more of an issue with my big brother. He would take whole bottles. I’m like, ‘No, you don’t do that- you pour.’”

DRUGS-“It’s way easier to find weed than it is to get alcohol. Alcohol is a controlled substance.”“International Baccalaureate kids only do drugs on the weekends because they don’t have time during the week.”

GOD (the hopeful section of the article)-“Sometimes my sister and I go to church. I like to think I’m getting closer to God and he’s going to forgive me for everything I do.”

“I’m Catholic, and my sister got me involved in our church. I started going on these mission trips, and it’s so much fun. I’m obsessed with my church now. I feel closest to God when I go on those trips. It’s hard to explain. There’s just a vibe there.”