Saturday, March 31, 2007

'Can I get a witness?'

Last night, we meditated on the Stations of the Cross and exposed the Eucharist for an hour of Adoration in the Church, as we have been doing every Friday night during Lent. Several of our fourth graders came to Adoration with their parents, and were very reverent and prayerful throughout the hour. At the end of the hour, I processed the Eucharist through the Church, giving benedictions to sections of the congregation. Another great experience with Jesus in the Eucharist, but especially with bringing his young ones to Him.

One of them emailed me last night- this is quite a witness from a 10 year old!

Dear Father Greg,
Thank you for inviting me to Adoration.I enjoyed it a lot. It was almost as if Jesus was looking at me, and He was. I could actually feel Him looking at me. It made me feel very, very, VERY happy, and a little sad. Do you ever cry because you are so happy? (Do not answer that). Well, that feeling happened to me. I was trying very hard not to cry, but I did when I got in the car. I call that feeling "The Happy Sad Feeling". Again, thank you for inviting me to Adoration. I had a "good time".

Friday, March 30, 2007

On the dignity of women

Stations of the Cross tonight, SAA Church, 7 pm
Adoration, 7:30-8:30 pm
Anon wrote, “When I was pregnant and a little fearful about how I would meet the demands of another child, my cousin emailed me this excerpt of one of John Paull II's letters titled Mulieris Dignitatem-

Although both of them together are parents of their child, the woman's motherhood constitutes a special 'part' in this shared parenthood, and the most demanding part. Parenthood - even though it belongs to both - is realized much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who 'pays' directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul. It is therefore necessary that the man be fully aware that in their shared parenthood he owes a special debt to the woman. No programme of 'equal rights' between women and men is valid unless it takes this fact fully into account.

Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman's womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and 'understands' with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the 'beginning', the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings - not only towards her own child, but every human being - which profoundly marks the woman's personality. It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person, and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more.

The man - even with all his sharing in parenthood - always remains 'outside' the process of pregnancy and the baby's birth; in many ways he has to learn his own 'fatherhood' from the mother. One can say that this is part of the normal human dimension of parenthood, including the stages that follow the birth of the baby, especially the initial period. The child's upbringing, taken as a whole, should include the contribution of both parents: the maternal and paternal contribution. In any event, the mother's contribution is decisive in laying the foundation for a new human personality.-John Paul II

Given what motherhood entails, especially with several children, who wouldn't have apprehensions? Also, I especially like the 'man owes a special debt' part."

Thanks, Anon. I posted on John Paul II’s writings about women last year on the St. Francis site; excerpts are below. To read Mulieris Dignitatem, which I highly recommend, please click on the title of this post.

Pope John Paul II exhorted women especially in many ways during his pontificate. He wrote about the dignity of women in his apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (1988). In this letter, the Holy Father wrote about ’the distinctively 'feminine' response of faith...about the things of God" (15) and how "women show to Christ... a special sensitivity which is characteristic of their femininity" (16). Also, he points out that at the Cross, "the women proved stronger than the Apostles" (15) and "the women are first at the tomb" (16).

In an Angelus reflection in 1995, he referred to the feminine genius:"Woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church…[She]is endowed with a particular capacity for accepting the human being in his concrete form. Even this singular feature which prepares her for motherhood, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually, is inherent in the plan of God who entrusted the human being to woman in an altogether special way".

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Penance Service tonight!

Parish Penance Service tonight, 7:30 pm, SAA Church.
This past Sunday, Anon asked, “Fr G- can you give some more info about what a penance service is? You mentioned it today, but I'd like some more info.”

Thanks, Anon. A penance service is a communal celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. By that I mean that it is when a community, typically a parish community, gathers together to reflect on and participate in Reconciliation. It is commonly done during Lent and Advent, in preparation for Easter and Christmas, respectively. The Sacrament itself is still celebrated privately with each penitent confessing to an individual priest, but the Confessions are prefaced by communal prayers and the Word of God.

So, this is the basic layout for tonight’s service:

Fr. Mike will begin the celebration with a greeting (as we do at the start of Mass), and then an opening prayer. We’ll then listen to the Word of God as we normally do at Mass, and Fr. Mike will offer a reflection of the Gospel which is focused on reconciliation, forgiveness, repentance, conversion, or all of the above.

Shortly thereafter, he’ll lead us in an Examination of Conscience which helps to know what to confess. This is usually followed by an Our Father and closing prayer. At the end of the service, Fr. Mike will then explain that there are several priests on hand to hear individual confessions, who they are, and where they are stationed in the Church. The stations for each priest will be set up in such a way that each penitent can go either face-to-face or anonymously (typically, behind a screen) to the priest. After a penitent has made his/her confession and done their penance, they are free to go.

It is always a powerful and intimate experience to reconcile with God and the Church in Confession. No doubt. But, it is especially meaningful to do it in the midst of our parish family. I hope that you and many others will come tonight to receive God’s mercy in a real and tangible way as we prepare for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Savior.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"Victory for grace"

(continuation of yesterday's post...)

I entered MSM seminary in the Fall of ’94, basically to see if He was truly calling me to be a priest. I spent two excellent first years there, and really sensed the Call (mainly through experiences in prayer before the Eucharist). But, I didn’t want to be a priest. The whole thing – mainly celibacy – was so new! So, I left the seminary in the Spring of ’96.

I took a job in sales for my brother’s construction company. Great job, good money! I worked there for three years, dated, and bought a house in Wheaton. I kept going to daily Mass and praying the rosary. The Call never left. I kept thinking about the rich young man (cf. Mt 19) who walked away from Jesus’ call to “sell what you have… then come, follow me” (v. 21). I thought, ‘what happens to a man who doesn’t answer the call to be a priest?’ I realized that the call from Christ is a call to happiness. I knew I was called, and now I wanted to be a priest.

I re-entered the seminary in the Fall of ’99, picking up where I had left off (1st theology). I spent another three great years there…studying theology and philosophy, doing apostolic work, praying with the community each day, playing intramural sports with the college students (3 championships!), and getting to know some seriously holy men (who were studying to be priests for dioceses all around the country). I came up for ordination to be a transitional deacon (the year before priesthood) in March ’02; I was finally there!

Or, so I thought… the seminary helped me to see in the days leading up to Diaconate that I wasn’t truly ready to be ordained. The long and short of it was that I realized that I still wasn’t totally on board with the idea that priesthood – celibacy, mainly – would fulfill me. So much of the life of a priest was very attractive, but I wasn’t convinced that I could live the life in peace. So, I left the seminary again in May ‘02, and actually felt much peace and joy (two gifts of the Holy Spirit) in doing so.

I went back to my old sales job, and enjoyed it once again. I was open to dating, and it seemed that everybody and their brother wanted to set me up with a Catholic woman they knew. I have many interesting dating stories from that time. For example, one night at dinner on our second date, one woman asked me all kinds of questions about the Catholic faith (which she brought up). After about an hour of this, she then said, “Geez, I thought you wanted to be a priest because you were a nice guy…I didn’t know you were so religious.” I responded with, “(waiter…) check, please”!

I went to Rome in December ’03 for Mother Teresa’s beatification which was extremely powerful. I prayed hard that God would show me the way, once and for all, with regards to my vocation. The weeks after that trip were grace-filled. I remember driving one day when it just hit me: celibacy is a real gift, and it is for me! This was really the first time that I saw the calling to the priestly celibacy as a gift. It brought a tremendous amount of peace. I waited days and weeks to see if the peace would stay. It has not only stayed, but it has grown each day since then. With the peace and joy that this life is for me, and that I can freely live it, I came back to the Archdiocese to return to the seminary. After some deliberation on its part (and rightly so…I had left twice), the Archdiocese decided to accept me one last time in the summer of ‘04.

I finished up my last year in the seminary in 2005, and spent a pastoral year in a parish from the Fall of ’05 to May ’06. I was ordained a deacon in December of ’05, and a priest in May of ’06, thanks be to God. When the Catholic Standard interviewed me before priesthood ordination, I referred to my journey to the priesthood as a “victory for grace”. His Grace has guided, molded, and shaped me to where I am now: a priest of his Son. God has been calling me this whole time; it has been a calling to happiness and fulfillment. I’m convinced I had to go through all of this (Purgatory on Earth, as I call it…painful but purifying) to arrive at the point where I am now: at peace and loving life!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"My bags were packed!"

Anon asked, “FG- It would be nice to have a brief bio on our clergy here at SAA. I don't know anything about our deacon, and I think most would find yours and Fr. Mike's backgrounds interesting. You are pretty good about speaking at Mass about your life both before you were a priest and now. For those who find it difficult to understand how a priest could relate to ‘normal’ life, it might be helpful to know about what jobs you all had before you were priests, or that Fr. Mike grew up with so many siblings. I know learning that about him made me feel more comfortable to speak with him about problems I might have with my kids, as I knew he'd probably have a wealth of personal experience upon which to draw. Just a thought....”

Thanks a lot, Anon!? I would prefer to post info about Fr. Mike and the deacons, but I haven’t asked them, so here’s mine. I don’t know how “interesting” this will be, but here goes. I actually do appreciate your interest in the clergy here – not so much in us the people, but in whom God calls to be his ordained ministers. I personally enjoy reading and hearing stories about men and women who answered the call to religious life, and to know the lives they led before they put their “hands to the plow” (Lk 9:62) to do the work of the Lord.

I was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Bethesda by my loving parents, George and Veronica Shaffer. I have two older siblings – sister, Kathy, and brother, Gerry. My father was a lawyer and mother was a homemaker (she later worked in personnel for Woodward and Lothrop and then National Library of Medicine). We lived in Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Bethesda, and I went to grades 1-8 in the school there. I graduated from Gonzaga High School in DC, and then the University of Maryland. I entered seminary immediately after UM (literally the next day), spending six years at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg before being ordained May 27, 2006, thanks be to God.

Ok, thanks for asking…

Oh, you probably want a little more than that. That was the "short version"…

I was a pretty happy-go-lucky kid, growing up in a fun and warm home. Everything was great until August, 1988. My father, who said on August 14 after coming back from the beach with my Mom that he had had the “most relaxing weekend” of his life, died suddenly the next day of a heart attack. It was a total and complete shock to us and to our parish community; he was a very popular and loved man. That event sent me reeling for a number of years as I ventured into the darkness of the party scene my senior year of high school and first two years of college.

In the summer of 1992, I was planning a move to California, basically to “start over”. I had been in conversation that summer with a girl I knew from high school. She was voted “Miss San Diego”, and she was inviting me to come out there. My bags were packed! I had been trying to transfer to Maryland (from Loyola College in Balt.) but had been waitlisted. My family and friends objected to my plan, but I kept reminding them that she was Miss San Diego!! Plus, I was looking for the ‘light’ that I thought I would find in California; I was in darkness...

Then, some funny stuff happened. I was accepted to Maryland, and started classes in the Fall of ’92. Also, I began to work as a volunteer with a buddy’s youth group at St. Mark’s in Hyattsville. That’s where everything turned around with regards to my faith. I finally began to hear the Gospel and the Church’s teachings (I went through 14 years of Catholic school with some type of deafness, I guess). I began to know Christ. I finally “got it” about the Eucharist. I began to spend long hours praying in his presence. I began to see that he is the light who pulled me out of the darkness. I began to hear Him calling me to the priesthood.

To be continued...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Annunciation of the Lord

Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (usually on March 25, but because it fell on a Sunday it is transferred to today) which celebrates the event of God becoming man. This is the day- nine months prior to the birth of Christ - that Jesus was conceived of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the day to which St. John is referring in his Gospel when he writes, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (1:14). The Word, Jesus Christ, became flesh when Mary said “yes” (“fiat”) to the announcement of the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Savior of the world. This is the day that celebrates Salvation entering the world.

The Magnificat provides a beautiful reflection for today’s feast:

“The Annunciation heralds the beginning of our salvation. By Mary’s obedient ‘Fiat’, the earth has become heaven. ‘In Jesus, God has placed, in the midst of barren, despairing mankind, a new beginning, which is not a product of human history but a gift from above’ (Pope Benedict XVI). With Mary’s Yes, the possibility for us to be truly human – to be God’s – becomes a reality in her flesh and remains as a fact that transforms each of us. All that our heart cries out for became flesh in Mary’s womb. When we repeat the words of the angel by praying the Hail Mary, the Word of God germinates in our soul. Christianity is this never-ending event of encounter with God made present in the maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary”.

God could have chosen to enter the world in any way he wanted. He chose to become one of us through a woman, Mary. He immaculately conceived her who is “blessed among women” (Lk 1:42), keeping her free from any traces of original sin. Mary was “full of grace” (Lk 1:28) from the first moment of her conception and throughout her life so that she would be the perfect and pure tabernacle of our Lord. Just as sin entered the world through a woman, so Salvation enters the world through a woman.

Mary said ‘yes’ to God’s Plan at the Annunciation and her whole life. It was through her yes that Hope came into the world. It was through her yes that Love came into world. It was because Mary said yes that Heaven came to Earth in the person of Jesus Christ. God came to us through Mary; now we go to Him through Mary. True Catholic spirituality, then, is "to Jesus through Mary".

When we reflect on Mary’s yes to God’s enormous Plan for her, we are encouraged and inspired, not just because it brings Jesus to us, but also because it gives us a great example of obedience. God has a Plan for each one of us. Granted, it would be nice to have an angel come and reveal his Plan to us! But, if this simple and humble teenage girl can say yes to becoming the mother of the Savior of the World, then we can say yes to God to whatever He is calling us. When we imitate Mary’s yes, we ourselves bring Jesus into the world – within our families, among our friends, co-workers, and peers. When we are obedient to God’s Plan in our own lives, the Word continues to become flesh and dwell among us.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lent, 5th Sunday - homily

We all have one burning question after hearing this Gospel about the woman caught in adultery. We all want to know one thing, and can’t seem to ever get an answer. Whenever we hear this story, we all are dying to know…what did Jesus write on the ground?! It is unbelievable. I was talking with a friend the other night, telling her how amazing this Gospel story is. You have this great encounter between the woman caught in adultery, the Pharisees and scribes want to stone her, and…she interrupts me to say, “But, Father, what did Jesus write on the ground?”

So, I studied up on this question this week. I looked high and low, studying, researching, analyzing what the scholars have said. I finally can give you answer. I don’t know! No clue! No one knows, nor will we ever know, until Heaven, probably. No, I actually did find that the answer is that Jesus probably wrote nothing in the ground. He was probably just tracing figures in the ground because he was so bored and tired with the games and tests of the Pharisees and scribes. If you all had pens or pencils and paper, it’s probably what you’d be doing during my homilies!

This is an amazing Gospel story. We can put ourselves in the place of the woman caught in adultery in order to understand her situation, and see that there are some similarities and differences with our own situations. First, imagine that you had committed the worst sin you can think of, and everyone knew it! We try so hard to keep our major faults and sins from others; everyone knew the woman had committed adultery. And, it was one of the most serious sins, if not the most serious, at that time. There she is, in a public arena, with everyone looking at her with condemnation. But, Jesus very quickly makes it a private affair, and essentially telling all those who want to stone her that they should put down their stones, and walk away. He does the same thing for us with Confession: it is a private matter between us and Jesus.

This woman is humiliated, she is embarrassed. She feels very small. It is humiliating to acknowledge or to be acknowledged of serious sin. It is humiliating to go to Confession and admit what we’ve done wrong. But, for her and for us, the humiliation lasts only a few moments. And, now, this woman is exalted for all time! Like many other sinners to whom Jesus reached out, her story is recalled by the Church in the cycle of readings. This is one of the things that is “new” which God promises in today’s first reading: sinners, and those who are lowly will be shown mercy. Jesus tells us many times that those who are humbled will be exalted, and those who are exalted will be humbled.

She is on death row, this woman. She is about to be killed for her sins. It’s capital punishment. But, Jesus steps in and saves her. If it weren’t for Jesus, she would have been killed. He gives us the Sacrament of Confession to save us. He steps in so that we won’t be sent to spiritual death row. If we don’t go to Confession, we are on spiritual death row.

In my seminary training, this Gospel was a model for how to hear Confessions. Each time I hear a Confession, I use this as the model. To see how Jesus dealt with this woman, saying to her, “I don’t condemn you, but go and sin no more”. I’ve told you before I’m open for Confession 24/7 which means I am always here to offer you, not condemnation, but mercy. This woman experienced it: the power of God’s Mercy. She is a new person after her encounter with Mercy. The person coming out of Confession experiences this newness, too. It's God's Mercy– it's "new", and it’s awesome! I want to offer you His Mercy always.

Finally, in the words of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, we are to get “small” for Jesus. The woman from the Gospel gets small for Jesus. Next Friday -Good Friday- we will celebrate when Jesus got small for us. He was humiliated and embarrassed in his Passion and Death. When we come to Mass, we not only remember that he got small for us, we see him continue to get small for us. He gets about this big (the size of a small host) in the form of bread…he gets small so that he can come inside of us. He shows us the example that getting small in this life is key to being exalted in the next life.

There is a reward to being humbled. Christ himself has been exalted for his earthly humiliation. The woman who was humbled received the immediate reward of Mercy, and has now been exalted. Anyone who was humiliated for a few moments in Confession is rewarded with God’s Love and Mercy, and is exalted for all eternity. When we come to Mass and humble ourselves by kneeling in God’s presence, we are rewarded with the Eucharist - the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Whatever ways that we experience temporary humiliation for God in this life will be rewarded with exaltation for all eternity.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Open to life: mothers are heroes

We’ve had many comments in the past couple of months about married couples being open to procreation. The following are two comments from bloggers as well as excerpts from a reflection I gave at another parish two years ago.

Anon: “It is not easy to always be open to life! I have several children and can not imagine life without them. My husband is open to having an even larger family. Of course I would cherish a new life, a new baby, but I get nervous. My husband used to be more cautious now he has thrown caution to the wind. I am glad that I can remain anonymous on this site. Are there any saints who might help me to be less afraid? Are there prayers? Is it a sin to worry about it so much?”

Mindy: “When I was pregnant with my most recent baby a woman actually walked over to me at school pick-up and, in front of others, said, 'I heard you were pregnant again, but I had to see it to believe it.' She went on to say, 'I never know what to say to women like you.' I responded, 'Congratulations is the usual.' She actually told me she thought that wouldn't have been appropriate…I too cannot imagine the world without each one of my shiny children. Each of them is proof to me that not only does God has a plan for me, but that he loves me very much.”

Years ago, I had a T-shirt with a list of celebrities’ names on the front of it– rock stars, athletes, politicians. Across the front were the words, 'Who is your hero?' Then, on the back of the shirt were the words 'Would he die for you?' with a big Cross. The point is that Jesus Christ is the greatest hero the world has ever seen. That, to live a heroic life is to live heroic love. Jesus says that heroic love is the greatest love: “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus freely accepted laying down his own life for each one of us, his friends.

If I were to make a shirt today with a list of my heroes, certainly all mothers would be on it. Every mother makes great sacrifices, as many of you here today can attest. Through pregnancy, labor, nurturing, and raising a child, every mother lives sacrificial love. There is a very short list of mothers, though, who have made the greatest sacrifice and laid down their lives for their child.

One of these women lived in Europe last century. Gianna Beretta Molla was a mother of four children. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, doctors discovered cancer in her body. They advised her to abort the child in order to save her own life. She discussed it with her husband, thought and prayed about it, and freely made the heroic choice for the life of her child.

Within a year of giving birth to her beautiful fourth child, Gianna lost her battle with cancer. A few years ago, Pope John Paul II canonized her a saint for the heroic choice she made to lay down her life for her child.

Friday, March 23, 2007

"Do your duty"

All are invited for the following in SAA Church tonight:

Stations of the Cross – 7 pm
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – 7:30 – 8:30 pm
The following are recent questions and comments from bloggers:

1) Markov: “A person who takes the Eucharist daily is he/she in a better state of grace than a person who takes the Eucharist weekly?” There is sanctifying grace in each sacrament, most especially in the Blessed Sacrament. The more a person receives the Eucharist, the more grace they have in their soul. Therefore, a daily communicant will be in more of a state of grace than the weekly communicant.

2) Anon: “Father -- Do you know whether there is any validity to reports of a woman in Frederick recently experiencing apparitions of Mary?” No, I haven’t heard anything about this.

3) Kelly H. on “Truth vs. Feelings” post: “Go Father Greg! Great teaching. Let's me expand on the feelings part:

I don't feel like exercising today.It is raining and cold, I don't feel like going to work/school today.Oh, the baby's crying, I don't feel like getting up again to feed the baby.Mass? I don't feel like going I am just too tired or whatever. Football? My only day off! What! Try to get three TEENAGERS out of bed befor noon on Sunday?

Confession? No way, I don't feel like dealing with that. I am not that bad.and so on and so on and so on.

Feelings can be wonderful and they are part of us. However, sometimes we all need to what I call-----------FEELINGS BOOT CAMP- Marine Corp Fashion-------No matter what our mood or feelings for the moment, GET UP AND DO YOUR DUTY!

Whenever I don't feel like meeting my obligations, I think of my 19 year old nephew carrying a a 60 pound back pack and walking directly into combat/gunfire(in Iraq). Suddenly all of my obligations/commitments (both religious and personal) seem like a walk in the park.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thursday's Mass readings

Reading 1 - Ex 32:7-14

The LORD said to Moses,“Go down at once to your people
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,
for they have become depraved.
They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,
making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,
sacrificing to it and crying out,
‘This is your God, O Israel,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’”

The LORD said to Moses,
“I see how stiff-necked this people is.
Let me alone, then,
that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.
Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying,
“Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people,
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt
with such great power and with so strong a hand?
Why should the Egyptians say,
‘With evil intent he brought them out,
that he might kill them in the mountains
and exterminate them from the face of the earth’?
Let your blazing wrath die down;
relent in punishing your people.

Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel,
and how you swore to them by your own self, saying,
‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky;
and all this land that I promised,
I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’”

So the LORD relented in the punishment
he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 106:19-20, 21-22, 23

Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

Gospel - Jn 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.

I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.

But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"We will be waiting for them in the Confessionals"

Confessions available, SAA Church:
1) Tonight, 7-8:30 pm (Mass at 6:30 pm). “The Light is On For You”
2) Saturdays, 4-5 pm
3) 24/7 – Fr Greg
Thanks to a parishioner who sent me this insightful and intriguing story about Confession which comes from a Catholic speaker and apologist:

“Some years ago I was invited to dinner at the rectory of the most populous parish in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. When I knocked on the door, the housekeeper admitted me. It was evident at once that no one else was there. Had I shown up on the wrong night? Oh, no, said the housekeeper. All four priests werestill in the church, hearing confessions. On a Thursday night? When the priests finally returned to the rectory, the pastor apologized for keeping me waiting. They had had fifty more penitents than usual for a Thursday. I remarked that Thursday evening seemed an odd time to have confessions.

'Oh, we have confessions every evening,' said the pastor—hundreds and hundreds of confessions each week. I wondered how that could be possible. The pastor chuckled. He said that neighboring pastors asked the same thing--and they proffered answers. Many of them say, 'Well, you're just getting our penitents because you have such convenient times for reconciliation,' but that's not so, you know. We can tell that these are our own people.'

But why, I asked, were the four priests in this parish kept busy with confessions each evening, not to mention on Saturday afternoons, when in neighboring parishes only a handful of people showed up at the once-a-week slot for confessions?

'Easy,' said the pastor. 'It's so easy that other priests don't believe how we do it.'

Okay, I said. What's the secret?

'From the pulpit we tell our people that they are sinners, that they know they are sinners, and that they need to go to confession. We tell them that God loves them and wants to forgive them. We tell them that we will be waiting for them in the confessionals each night and on Saturday afternoon. We tell them this often and always gently, and so they come to confession. Lots of them.'

That's it? I asked. No fire and brimstone? No bribes, spiritual or otherwise? No threats?

'Not necessary,' said the pastor. 'If you tell people the truth that they already know in their hearts--that they are sinners and need forgiveness--they will respond to that.'

And so they did. No matter what changes have occurred since Vatican II, no matter how ill-instructed today's Catholics may be, no matter how put off they may be by scandals or flat homilies, one thing has remained constant: human nature. People today commit the same sorts of sins that people committed fifty or a hundred or a thousand years ago, and those sins affect them as sins always have affected people. At least in this regard, there is nothing new under the sun..."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Church has the treasure map

The Lenten series continues tonight at St A’s with a talk on “The Scriptural Journey of Mary – the Rosary” by Rev. John Langlois, O.P. 7:30 p.m. in the Church
Anon asked: “Why does the language in the Bible have to be so hard to decipher? Why is it a puzzle? Not to sound flippant, but wouldn't everyone have been better served if they just got to the point?”

Tom answered: “For one thing, the books of the Bible were written more than nineteen hundred years ago, over the course of centuries, in different languages and out of different cultures, for different purposes and in different literary genres. All of that works against the Bible being as easy to read and understand as a newspaper.

Even more, though, the Bible is a written record of God's revelation of Himself to man, and a means for us to encounter Him personally. These things can't be expressed in words that give their full meaning in one reading.You read Scripture once, and come to know something about God, but if you keep reading it you come to know God Himself, and the better you know God the more you understand His word.”

We have to keep in mind a few things in approaching who God is and what He’s done for us. First, God’s ways are not our ways. He is mysterious; He works in mysterious ways and speaks in mysterious ways. Our finite minds cannot understand the Infinite. And, God is the Infinite. Second, Divine Revelation is an incredible gift! As Tom wrote, God reveals Himself to us, and lets us know who he is. We learn from Sacred Scripture that God is our Father, and we are his children. People lived thousands of years waiting to hear that; we hear it, and don’t seem to appreciate it. It reminds me of some times when I’ve seen kids get amazing toys from their parents as gifts, and complain that they have to read the instruction first to know how to use them. We don’t want to be spoiled children of God the Father!

Lastly, God has given us the Spirit to help to understand Scripture. The Spirit not only has written Sacred Scripture, but also interprets it, through the Church. For 2000 years, one of the main objectives of the Church is to be open to the Spirit in growing in an understanding of Sacred Scripture. In Church councils, the Catechism, and Biblical commentaries, we have Scripture explained to us. These are the main “instructions” on how to use the gift of Scripture. Anyone who studies Scripture with an open mind and heart will be rewarded with a greater understanding of God, life, and themselves. It is well worth the effort! It might take more than one reading, as Tom wrote, but when we begin to gain an understanding of Divine Revelation, it is like finding a great treasure (cf. Mt 13:44). Through the Spirit, the Church has the map.

Monday, March 19, 2007

"For God all things are possible"

Happy Birthday, Madison!! Madison Mehlferber is a fourth grader in our school who has had two major surgeries in the past two weeks. This incredibly courageous and extraordinary girl is doing better now, thanks be to God. Madison turns 10 today! Please leave a comment, wishing her a happy birthday.
Today is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We take a timeout from our Lenten fast to celebrate the life of Jesus’ earthly father. St. Joseph is a model of so many virtues – chastity being one of the main ones - for all men, especially husbands and fathers. In the Divine Praises, we pray, “Blessed be St. Joseph, her (Mary’s) most chaste spouse. It is fitting, then, to review a question from an anonymous blogger, “Are some people just incapable of chastity?”

Kat responded: “NO. Chastity is attainable for everyone, for some it is just harder to grasp than others because well, if you have lived in a situation where chastity isn't promoted growing up or you fall into habits or sinful actions with others. It is hard to go from living unchastely and being used to doing things with yourself/with others then moving towards chastity and living a chaste life. For some, not all, it starts off with realizing self worth and value of the person you are then expecting other people to treat you with respect and worth. If someone grows up not believing that they have worth it is easy to let others treat them that way and using them. Sometimes to get on that road it takes someone treating you differently then anyone else has ever... treating you with respect and showing you that you have value then slowly the light starts to come on in your head. Well that is my personal experience so far anyway for what it is worth. Also the key is not beating yourself up when you fall back into old patterns.”

“All the baptized are called to chastity. The Christian has ‘put on Christ’ (Gal 3:27), the model for all chastity” (CCC, # 2348). To suggest that some people are incapable of answering the call to chastity is to suggest that God’s power is limited. “For God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26). Now, it does take a person’s openness to and cooperation with God’s Grace to live chastity or any of the virtues. But, even that openness and cooperation is a result of Grace (cf. CCC, #2022). The more that we allow God to mold us and shape us, the more we will live the virtues.

We can look at some great examples of saints to know that everyone is capable of chastity. St. Augustine is one of the best examples – read his “Confessions”, if you haven’t already. The famous quote of this former playboy: “Lord, grant me chastity…but not right now!”

St. Joseph is an extraordinary example of not only chastity, but heroic chastity. What a calling God gave Joseph! He called him to be faithfully married to Mary who a) had become pregnant from someone else (the Holy Spirit)… and b) would remain a virgin. Talk about a calling you wouldn’t think someone could live!. Joseph, a man of deep faith and goodness, “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Mt 1:24). May each of us imitate the example of St. Joseph by doing what God commands in living the virtues, especially chastity.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, Madison!!

Madison Mehlferber is a fourth grader in our school who has had two major surgeries in the past two weeks. This incredibly courageous and extraordinary girl is doing better now, thanks be to God. Madison turns 10 tomorrow (3/19). Please leave a comment, wishing her a happy birthday.

4th Sunday of Lent

Today’s Gospel – the parable of the prodigal son – is a beautiful depiction of the never-ending love and mercy of God our Father. It is one of the main texts from Scripture that the Church uses in describing Confession. The following is a reflection based on this parable as found in the Magnificat’s Lenten Companion:

“What about the pigs?

Neither son treated the father as a father. They loved him for what he could give them. The younger son reduced his father’s love to half of the inheritance, the older son reduced his father’s love to a work wage, something he deserves from the father in payment for his labor.

Only when these wayward sons admit their sinful pettiness and recognize that their father loves them tenderly and is ready to forgive them, only then will they discover who the father is. Only then can they begin to experience the unconditional, unimaginable, superabundance of the Father’s love.

There is nothing greater than the Father. No gift that God the Father gives can compare with the Father himself. More than anything else, our heart desires the Father.

Sofia Cavaletti, who developed the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for young children, warns that if you tell this parable to very young children, they will miss the point. They will ask, ‘What about the pigs?’ They will remember that the younger son left the pigs with no one to take care of them.

Young children are simple enough to understand what is most important in life. This parable is too complicated for them. We who have become complicated are called by this parable to become like little children: true sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.”

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Madison!!

Madison Mehlferber is a fourth grader in our school who has had two major surgeries in the past two weeks. This incredibly courageous and extraordinary girl is doing better now, thanks be to God. Madison turns 10 on Monday. Please leave a comment, wishing her a happy birthday.

St. Patrick: why a shamrock?

Happy St. Patrick's Day!! The following are excerpts from an article from about St. Patrick:

"St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints...Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britian in charge of the colonies.

As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him.

During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote
'The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.' 'I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.'

Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family.

He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him 'We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.'

He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years.

Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.

Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.
Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well).

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.

He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.

Why a shamrock?
Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and has been associated with him and the Irish since that time.

In His Footsteps:
Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission."

Friday, March 16, 2007

Demonic possession

All are invited to SAA Church tonight for:

Stations of the Cross – 7 pm
Adoration – 7:30 – 8:30 pm
One anonymous blogger asked, “Is the presence of a demon the same thing as possession? Does presence of a demon mean the person is a worse sinner than those not plagued by demons?” Another inquired, “How does demon possession occur?” I refer to the book that I’ve mentioned before – “Evidence of Satan in the Modern World” by Leon Cristiani – for help in answering your questions. He lays out three main ways that demonic activity occurs – 1) temptation, 2) infestation, and 3) possession. Temptation happens to all, to a rare amount of people it leads to infestation, and to a even more rare amount, possession. Please keep in mind that demons cannot possess us unless we ask for it, in some way.

“‘ The Devil acts on man by tempting him…No one escapes from his attacks. This is his normal way of working’…The great temptation for the Christians of our time, and no petty temptation at that, but the most widespread, general, and dangerous of temptations, is that of preferring things to God” (p. 22, 169).

“’In other, much rare, cases, the devils betray their presence by vexing or distressing manifestations, which are more alarming than dangerous; they make noises, shake or move certain objects, upset and sometimes break them: this is called infestation’” (p.22).

“Natural good sense would tend to suggest that the first responsibility for a case of possession lies in the faults of the possessed person. This is not so. Cases of possession are, in fact, very varied and relatively few in number… If the Devil was allowed to attack us as and when he wished, mankind would be thrown totally off balance, we should no longer be masters of our destiny, and God’s work amongst us would be diverted from its purpose. This is inconceivable, and however powerful the spirits of evil may be, it is still true that ‘the dogs are chained’. Whether it be a case of infestation, as with the Cure d’Ars (St. John Vianney), or cases of obsessions or possession, nothing happens except by God’s permission. The evil spirits can only act on us to the extent, as is said in the Book of Job, that they obtain the permission of God, the Lord of all. The case of Job himself, afflicted by satanic infestations, is a proof that the faults of the victim have nothing to do with his ordeal” (p. 64).

“In many of the cases we shall mention it seems that the original cause of the possession was a malefice, or what the general public usually calls a ‘spell’…’these malefices are the Devil’s sacraments’…The Devil acts through ‘sortileges’, the secret of which he has entrusted to his adherents. Amongst pagan people it is still normal for the sorcerer to enjoy some form of authority and pre-eminence…The sorcerer has not entirely disappeared even from countries with a long Christian tradition… In country districts you can still find persons credited with considerable and mysterious powers. These powers operate through what are called ‘charms’ or ‘spells’…From time immemorial – and even to-day – there have been forms of sortilege which were deliberately sacrilegious, such as the profanation of the Host, or the impious celebration of the Black Mass” (p. 65-66).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday's Mass readings

Reading 1 - Jer 7:23-28

Thus says the LORD:
This is what I commanded my people:
Listen to my voice;
then I will be your God and you shall be my people.
Walk in all the ways that I command you,
so that you may prosper.

But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.
They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.
From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day,
I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.
Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.
When you speak all these words to them,
they will not listen to you either;
when you call to them, they will not answer you.
Say to them:
This is the nation that does not listen
to the voice of the LORD, its God,
or take correction.
Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech.

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 - If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Gospel - Lk 11:14-23

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute,
and when the demon had gone out,
the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.
Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Commentary on Mk 7:24-30

On Feb. 8, Anon commented, “Father, I was really confused about the Gospel today (Mk 7:24-30) -- was Jesus refusing to help her initially because she wasn't a Jew and there was an hierarchal order to things? However, because of her faith in Who He Was, her daughter was healed?”

Here are some of the notes on this passage from The Jerome Biblical Commentary that will hopefully help to answer your questions, and shed light for others as well:

“The Syro-Phoenician Woman (7:24-30). This pericope continues the universalist theme of the Loaves Section, showing Jesus to be the Savior of the Gentiles as well as the Jews. A comparison with Mt 15: 21-28 shows that in the Gospel tradition the cure of the girl was developed into a pronouncement story on faith, whereas the dialogue between Jesus and the woman remained practically unchanged.

v. 26: a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician: Thus she stands in contrast to the Jew Jairus who was the ‘leader of a synagogue’ (5:22). Mark is more emphatic than Matthew about her being a Gentile both by religion and by birth. The reading ‘Syro’-Phoenician is not universally attested…

she asked him to cast the demon out of her daughter: Such requests are usually reported by Mark in direct discourse; in this story (vv. 27-28) the customary graphic touches are absent, and the attention is primarily on the dialogue in vv. 27-28.

v. 27: it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the pups: The connection of this pericope with the Loaves Section is maintained by the mention of bread (ton arton). It is difficult to account for the connection of this dialogue with the miracle because Jesus’ saying is more applicable to teaching than to a cure (cf. Mt 7:6). To say that the two were first combined in the Gospel tradition leaves unsolved the question why Jesus, who first refuses the woman’s request, ultimately accedes to it. The ‘children’ are the Jews (Ex 4:22, 14:1, Is 1:2; Hos 1:10; Rom 9:4). Gentiles were vulgarly called dogs…but Jesus uses the milder diminutive “pups”. His words betray a certain particularism (cf. Jn 4:22), and yet it is significant that he has the children and the pups in the same house and eating from the same table…

Jesus is the father who dispenses to his children the bread of life, and although at first he refuses to feed the pups until the children have been fed, the refusal is, as in Jn 2:4; 4:48, followed by a miracle, and Jesus ultimately feeds them too. This thought is quite in keeping with the universalism of the Loaves Section…

v. 28: even the pups under the table eat the children’s crumbs: The woman cleverly retorts that in eating what the children reject, the pups are only taking their due.

v. 29: for saying that, be on your way, the demon has left your daughter: No other miracle is so tersely narrated by Mark; as in Jesus’ other cures of Gentiles (Mt 8:5-13 par. Lk 7:1-10; Jn 4:46-54) this one occurs at a distance.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Keep our eyes on Jesus

‘Distracted’ asked, “How do you not get scandalized by things that are happening around you and just concentrate on strengthening your spiritual life?” I can’t remember the saint who said it, but there is a quote that has always stuck with me about being scandalized by others. It says something to the effect of, “if we are truly living humility, we will never be scandalized by the actions of others”. Having a humble view of myself means that I recognize my own weaknesses and that I am capable of doing great acts of evil at any time. I am not surprised, then, when others show their weaknesses in extraordinary ways. It is part of our human condition that we have a strong desire (concupiscence) toward sin.

In addition, it helps to regularly hear Gospel passages regarding the actions of others so that the Word of God becomes engrained in us. For example, Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (v. 3). While our Lord makes an exaggerated statement, the point is made: we have a lot of things to work on in our own moral and spiritual lives before we start pointing out the sins of others. This is a point for us to ponder often.

Also, a relevant and powerful quote from St. Francis de Sales who saw a fair share of scandals in his life. He said, "While those who give scandal are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder [i.e., destroying other people's faith in God by their terrible example], those who take scandal-who allow scandals to destroy their faith-are guilty of spiritual suicide”.

In the overall question of not getting distracted in the spiritual life, I think about the scene where Peter walks on water in Matthew 14. “Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”

One of the main points from this scene is to always keep our focus on Christ. When Peter came out of the boat (which is commonly used in Scripture and art as a symbol of the Church), his eyes were on Christ. He was walking on water! As long as we keep our eyes on Christ, we will do great things! Peter believed in Jesus and in his power, and he wasn’t afraid to come out of the boat in the midst of a storm. But, when he takes his focus off of Christ and pays more attention to the storm around him, that’s when he begins to sink. He became filled with fear which is the opposite of faith. His faith kept him strong; his fear brought him weakness.

Whatever storms we have in our own lives, we need to stay focused on Christ. Especially if our storms are because of the sins of others, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. He’s the only one who can truly help us through the storm. It’s not that we ignore the serious sins of others, but we approach them with faith and humility. This will more likely lead to charity and compassion, and ultimately, forgiveness. This is what it means to stay focused on Christ in the midst of storms in our lives, especially the storms of scandal.

Monday, March 12, 2007

God is our refuge

The following are excerpts from the treatise on Flight from the World by St. Ambrose, bishop (and from the Office of readings from Saturday):

“We have died with Christ. We carry about in our bodies the sign of his death, so that the living Christ may also be revealed in us. The life we live is not now our ordinary life but the life of Christ: a life of sinlessness, of chastity, of simplicity and every other virtue. We have risen with Christ. Let us live in Christ, let us ascend in Christ, so that the serpent may not have the power here below to wound us in the heel.

Let us take refuge from this world. You can do this in spirit, even if you are kept here in the body. You can at the same time be here and present to the Lord. Your soul must hold fast to him, you must follow after him in your thoughts, you must tread his ways by faith, not in outward show. You must take refuge in him. He is your refuge and your strength. David addresses him in these words: I fled to you for refuge, and I was not disappointed.

Since God is our refuge, God who is in heaven and above the heavens, we must take refuge from this world in that place where there is peace, where there is rest from toil, where we can celebrate the great Sabbath, as Moses said: The Sabbaths of the land will provide you with food. To rest in the Lord and to see his joy is like a banquet, and full of gladness and tranquility.

Let us take refuge like deer beside the fountain of waters. Let our soul thirst, as David thirsted, for the fountain. What is that fountain? Listen to David: With you is the fountain of life. Let my soul say to this fountain: When shall I come and see you face to face? For the fountain is God himself.”

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lent, 3rd Sunday - homily

Friday night was amazing here in the Church! We had Adoration for an hour, as we do every Friday. There were about 100 people here, among them some very special guests. A large group of our third graders came with their parents, and were here for about ¾ of the hour. I told the parents that how grateful I was that they brought them there. It was a very meaningful night for me because it brought together the two loves of my life: the Eucharist and youth.

I explained to the kids what Adoration is…that we bring Jesus out of the tabernacle and onto the altar, placing the Eucharist in a vessel called a monstrance. We can then see Jesus, and adore him in the Eucharist. It’s an invitation to be with and talk with him. At the end of the hour, I processed the monstrance through the Church, having explained to them that it’s really Jesus walking among them. As the Eucharist came by them, they were very prayerful and reverent, making the sign of the Cross as he passed by. Several of them came up to me afterwards, and said how much they enjoyed it. One girl struggled for words, and said she was “inspired”. One of the parents has told me since that these kids “get it” about the Eucharist. Amazing!

I tell this story, not just because it is a great story about our kids, but because it is directly related to our readings today. Moses had a similar experience to the third graders. He has an encounter with God in the burning bush. He finds himself in the presence of God! He hears God speaking to him from the bush, and they engage in a conversation. He buries his head out of fear of the Lord…respect for God. God calls him to be his spokesman to his people, telling them that he will save them from their suffering.

Moses will go on to tell God that he is not the right person for the job. He says that he is too young and not an eloquent speaker. God assures him that he is the man for the job, and that he will help him. This encounter with God changes Moses’ life forever! He has an experience of the realness of God. He is in the presence of the Almighty in a real way. He can hear him, and talk to him as he would his best friend. This experience leads him to give his life to God. The hope from Friday night is that the lives of our third graders are changed forever, and that they will give their lives to Jesus.

Christ calls us to repent - to change our lives - in today’s Gospel. He calls us to give our lives to him so that we will not perish. He uses the image of a tree to symbolize the life of each of us. He says that our trees - our lives - need to be bearing fruit. He doesn’t just tell us to change, and then leaves us on our own to do it. He says that he will cultivate and fertilize the soil of our trees. He cultivates our soul through prayer and fertilizes it with his grace.

For the third graders (and all of us who come to Adoration) and for Moses, the encounter with God in prayer is a life-changing experience. When we put ourselves in God’s presence, he changes us. He changes our minds and hearts if we are open to Him. We begin to see things as he sees them, and get a bigger perspective on our lives. Ultimately, we hear God speaking to us, not in a voice like Moses did, but in our hearts. He gives each one of us a calling. He reveals himself to us. We have a real experience of his presence, his love, and his life. This changes us.

He fertilizes our soul with his grace, primarily in the sacraments. The two main sacraments of conversion after Baptism are the Eucharist and Confession. We certainly experience a change in the Eucharist, but also with Confession. I have heard of two stories of conversion recently involving people who heard really bad news about their health. One of the first things they did after receiving the news was to go to Confession. They had heard this Gospel in their hearts. They realized they had branches that weren’t bearing fruit, so they brought them to the Lord in Confession because they don’t eant to perish as the greatest sinners do. That’s what happens in that sacrament – we bring all the stuff that’s not bearing fruit, and give them to the Lord to throw them into the fire. We just want to have the good branches on our trees, and have them grow. Christ calls us to change. He calls us to conversion. Christ calls us to Confession.

Finally, I would recommend that each of us reads chapter 15 from John’s Gospel. It talks about a different kind of tree – a vine, actually. Christ says that he is the vine and we are the branches, and that apart from him, we can’t bear fruit. He says that if we remain in him and him in us, we will bear much fruit and live forever. This is the same language he uses in speaking about the Eucharist in John, chapter 6. In a few minutes, we will eat his flesh and drink his blood – he will remain in us and us in him. When Christ remains in us and us in him, we will bear much fruit, and live forever.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


The following is from the website of the Archdiocese of Washington; please click on the title of this post to go into the site, and be able to take the action that the bottom of the post suggests:

"Urgent: Stop legislation targeting Church Defeat Senate Bill 575

Please take action today to defeat Senate Bill 575, Civil Action - Child Sexual Abuse - Statute of Limitations. This legislation has nothing to do with protecting children from abuse and everything to do with targeting the Catholic Church.

This legislation would invite a flood of civil lawsuits against non-profit organizations, such as the Archdiocese of Washington and its parishes, for allegations dating back 30, 40 or 50 years ago.

It would be impossible to mount a fair defense after so many years. That is why we have statutes of limitations.

For those who have been hurt in the past, we already provide and pay for counseling of a person’s choice and other assistance for as long as necessary to heal. We have long provided this support because it is the right thing to do, not because we are required by legislation, and we will continue to provide it.

Nothing in Senate Bill 575 would help protect children. The Archdiocese of Washington has for many years implemented exemplary policies for protecting children. These protections include mandatory reporting, background checks and training for those working with children.

The legislation would apply only to non-profit and private organizations and not to public entities, such as public schools. This legislation would further increase the disparity in how public and non-profit entities are treated.

This is not a case of letting criminals go free. Alleged abusers can always be brought to trial and to justice under existing Maryland law.

Senate Bill 575 would create monetary lawsuits against non-profit and non-public organizations.

Trying to defend ourselves against lawsuits involving decades-old allegations would cripple our ability to function as a church and our mission to serve the poor.

Click on “Take Action” now to urge Senators Frosh, Forehand, Muse and Raskin to vote “No” on S.B. 575. Let’s defeat this unwise and unjust legislation. Thank you."

Friday, March 09, 2007

"Like what's the truth?"

Tonight, SAA Church:
Stations of the Cross - 7 pm
Adoration - 7:30 - 8:30 pm
Kevin H. wrote, “Hi FG. My English teacher says that Catholics believe you can only get to heaven by doing good deeds. She says other christians believe that you get to Heaven just by believing in Jesus. Like what's the truth? Heaven and hell. How does God decide who is going to Hell? What is Hell like? Thanks.” Hi, Kevin! Wow, you covered a lot of ground in your comments! For answers to your questions about Heaven and Hell, you can go to “August 2006” in the archives section of our site. I wrote a few posts about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

Regarding your teacher’s comments, she is wrong when she says that we Catholics believe one can only get to Heaven by doing good deeds. Btw, I would be interested to know if you go to a public or private school (especially after Wednesday’s post about sex education in public schools). We believe that salvation is through faith and works.

Marion commented on your question and directed you to a good article online that provides some answers; you can read the full text by clicking on the title of this post. Here are some excerpts from it:

“Roman Catholicism teaches that we are not saved by faith alone. The Church has taught this since 30 A.D. as part of the Divine Revelation. The truth of the Catholic Church's teaching can be demonstrated from Sacred Scripture alone. All who claim the title ‘Christian’ will be able to agree on the following two truths: salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8) and salvation is through Christ alone (Acts 4:12). These biblical facts will be our foundation as we explain the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Marion also included a very important passage from the letter of James which says, "a person is justified by works and not by faith alone . . . For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (2:24,26).

What did Jesus teach? “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21). This would counter what other Christian denominations teach: that all one has to do to be saved is to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Also, and this is a big one, in Matthew 25, Jesus explains how the Final Judgement will go down. He will judge whether we should go to Heaven or Hell based on how we have treated the poor. Those who have given food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, etc. will go to “eternal life”; those who have not will go to “eternal punishment”. So, judgement has a lot to do with what we do or don’t do! I remember asking a Protestant minister one time on an airplane how he made sense of Matthew 25 if salvation is by faith alone. He frankly said, “I don’t know. I will have to get back to you on that”.

Two last thoughts: 1) The Church has never taught that we can “merit” (or earn) salvation. It’s not really “our” works; it’s God’s Grace working through us if we are open. But, we need to be open in order for these necessary works to occur. 2) The Protestant Reformers changed Scripture (particularly Rom 3:28) so that it would read salvation by “faith alone”. One of the Reformers (Martin Luther) admitted that he changed it. And so, for 500+ years, many people have believed it because of that. The Reformation was all part of the unfortunate situation where people got angry at the Catholic Church, and went too far in how they “protested”. “Salvation by faith alone” and “salvation by Scripture alone” were not taught by Christ, and are thus not found in the Bible.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thursday's Mass readings

Reading 1 - Jer 17:5-10

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds.

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6 - Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Gospel - Lk 16:19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
Abraham replied, ‘My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing
who might wish to go from our side to yours
or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him
to my father’s house,
for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said,
‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mass and Confessions are still on for tonight

Secular morality

Tonight, SAA Church:
1) Mass, 6:30 p.m.
2) Confessions, 7-8:30 p.m.
Below are excerpts from an article in today’s Washington Post about a pilot program in sex education that began yesterday in a Montgomery County public school. Three things come to mind:

1) “official lesson plan” – this is the part that might be new. As we learned from recent comments made on our site, some Mont. Co. teachers have promoted homosexuality in school clubs and groups.

2) “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Lk 17:1-2).

3) Christian sexual morality focuses on “chastity”; secular sexual morality focuses on “tolerance”.

“A health teacher at Argyle Middle School in Silver Spring spoke to eighth-graders yesterday about sexual orientation. And so began a pilot program in Montgomery County schools that delves deeper into issues of sexual and gender identity than most other school systems in the Washington region, if not the nation.

The field test, which will start in five other schools by the end of the month and -- barring legal intervention -- the rest of the county in fall, marks the first time Montgomery teachers have broached homosexuality as a part of the official lesson plan in eighth- and 10th-grade health classes…

More than 60 Argyle students will receive the new sex-education lessons this week, said Carol Boyd, president of the school's PTSA. The lessons, which require parental permission for students to take, are taught to two classes on alternating days and raise the topic of sexual orientation at grade 8 in a discussion that centers on tolerance, stereotyping and harassment.

Grade 10 lessons define the terms in greater depth as part of a frank discussion about the search for sexual identity. These are the lessons that have stirred most of the rancor…
Three CRC leaders with protest signs stood outside Argyle Middle at dismissal yesterday. One sign read, "Health before politics."

Opposition centers on passages, mostly from the more candid high-school curriculum, that describe gay, lesbian and transgender people "celebrat[ing] their self-discovery" and transsexuals choosing sexual reassignment surgery to "match how they feel."

Others in the relatively liberal Montgomery community thought the curriculum did not go far enough in reaching out to students who might be struggling with their sexual identity.
Almost forgotten is the infamous "cucumber video," in which a youthful health educator unrolls a condom onto a cucumber. It has been replaced by a clinical video that has raised comparatively little ire…

Judy Stocky, mother of Luke (14), said she lost no sleep over the decision to send him to health class. ‘I think the class is good,’ she said. ‘Maybe it's going to teach these children how to exist together.’”

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sacramental questions

Here are some questions about the sacraments (and sacramentals) from Anonynous bloggers:

1) “Why do priests kiss the purple scarf they put around their neck before confession?” It is an act of veneration where the priest shows respect for the stole through which God’s Mercy is given to the penitent. We see similar signs of veneration when the priest kisses the altar at the beginning and end of Mass, and when we all venerate the Cross during the service on Good Friday.

2) “what does an adult do to become confirmed? Are there classes involved?” An adult who has been baptized Catholic and made their first Holy Communion and desires to be confirmed would enroll in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). RCIA is made up of catechumens and candidates. Catechumens are those who haven’t received any of the sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation. Candidates are those who have been validly baptized but haven’t made their first Holy Communion or Confirmation or both.

We have RCIA classes every Wednesday night here at St. Andrew’s. We have a sizable group of extraordinary men and women who desire full union with Christ and his Church. We have about 5 catechumens and 10 candidates, most of whom will be coming into the Church fully at the Easter Vigil. Our weekly “class” examines the history, teachings, and practices of the Church. With their sponsors at their side, the catechumens and candidates are given a presentation (that usually coincides with the book we use), notes, and an opportunity for questions and either a large-group or a small-group discussion.

Now that we are in the Lenten season, RCIA is intensifying. Each week at the 10:00 Sunday Mass, the RCIA group sits in the front pews, and then is dismissed after the homily to discuss the Word of God from the liturgy. It is a way for them to more fully prepare for participation in the Liturgy of the Eucharist at Easter. Also, this past Sunday, they went down to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Rite of Election. Along with all of the catechumens and candidate from the parishes of the Archdiocese, they were formally presented to the bishop for full reception into the Catholic Church.

The next three weeks are called the “scrutinies”. They are “rites for self-searching and repentance and have above all a spiritual purpose…these rites, therefore, should complete the conversion of the elect and deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ and to carry out their decision to love God above all” (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). These rites will be celebrated after the homily at the 10 Mass the next three Sundays. The RCIA group will be dismissed at that point.

Please pray for these men and women, that they will continue to courageously come closer to our Lord in the spirit of true conversion. They are inspirations for all of us!

3) “Hey I just thought of something. Once you leave the Mormon Church you have to be rebaptized to come back. Why this rebatism? We didn't discuss this today but I remember someone saying that a couple of years ago. Once you are baptized in the Catholic church that's it you don't have to do it again.” A valid baptism where water is used and the person is baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” does not need to be repeated. The Church recognizes baptisms in other churches where this proper form and matter is used as being valid, and thus not necessary to repeat. Mormon baptism does not use the proper form and matter, as far as I know.

The only time where baptism might be repeated is when a baptized adult does not have a recollection or proof that he/she was baptized validly. If it remains unknown and the person desires baptism, a “conditional baptism” is perfomed (it is done on the condition that the first baptism was not valid).

Monday, March 05, 2007

"Is missing Mass a mortal sin?"

Anon asked, “Is missing mass a mortal sin? My college age son was recently home and came to mass with me. When he didn't receive communion I asked him why. He said that he had missed mass the Sunday before and therefore wasn't allowed to receive communion if he hadn't gone to confession. Since I never miss mass I can't remember the rules here.” First of all, tell your son, "good job!" Not for missing Mass, but for his respect of the Eucharist. It’s great that he knows the guidelines for receiving Holy Communion, especially with regards to mortal sin.

I have taught four classes or religion to our junior high students in the past two school days. This question came up in each class, I think. One of the students even mentioned that another family member didn’t receive Holy Communion, and he asked why. I said to him that we really shouldn’t ask why someone didn’t receive Communion. That’s between them and God. I reiterated my respect for people who respect the Eucharist so much that they’ll run the risk of being judged by others because they don’t receive.

Missing Sunday Mass is a serious sin. If it involves full knowledge and full consent, then it is a mortal sin. Remember, all three conditions (grave offense, full knowledge, and full consent) have to be present for a sin to be a mortal sin. God says to “keep holy the Sabbath”. Jesus showed us how to worship the Father by gathering his friends around a table, and celebrating a meal. He commands us to “take this all of you and eat it…do this in memory of me”. As followers of Jesus, we are obligated, then, to keep holy the Sabbath by celebrating the Eucharist (Holy Mass). It is a grave obligation.

I think that most Catholics, if not all, who have use of right reason, know that they need to go to Mass each Sunday. Is it full knowledge? Probably not. In other words, I don’t think too many Catholics really know in full about the history and importance of the Mass, the theology of the Eucharist, the moral implications involved with the Commandments, etc. Once someone enters into a deeper understanding of the Mass and its central place in the Christian life, then one moves closer to full knowledge.

Finally, one has to freely choose to skip Mass on a Sunday (or Holy Day of Obligation) for it to be a mortal sin. When someone is physically unable to get to Mass (e.g., illness, no transportation), they are not freely choosing to miss Mass. In these rare cases, they are “dispensed” from the obligation. They should watch a “Mass for Shut-Ins” on television, if possible, so that they participate in some way with the Church in the liturgy on that day.

When I counsel people about observing the Sunday obligation, I remind them of the main reason that we have to be at Mass each Sunday: to receive the Eucharist. Jesus commands us to partake of the Eucharistic feast and that we need the Eucharist to have eternal life. I tell them that I really can’t imagine them saying for 24 straight hours on a Sunday, “No, Jesus, I don’t need to receive the Eucharist”. That’s essentially what happens when one knowingly and freely chooses to skip Sunday Mass.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

2nd Sunday of Lent - Homily

Imagine that you are coming to St Andrew’s Church for the first time. And, imagine that you don’t know anything about Christianity. You come into the Church, and begin to check out your surroundings. You try to make sense of the scenes on the windows, see the statues, and then the gold box and lit candle next to it. And, then…you look up (at the Cross). You think to yourself, ‘that is huge. What is that? It looks like a man who has died on some kind of a cross. What is that all about? What is this Church all about?’

St Paul says that, to the world, the cross is “foolishness” and “folly”. It appears to be a sign of weakness and defeat. So, why is the Cross that we have here so big and in such a prominent place in our Church? Why is the Cross the sign of our Christian faith?

In the second reading from his letter to the Phillipians, chapter 3, St Paul refers to the “enemies of the cross”. Of whom is he speaking? Is he speaking of those in the world who refer to the cross as foolishness? Or, is he talking about the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers who persecuted and ridiculed Jesus during his Passion and Death? Or, is he referring to those of us who don’t like to take up our crosses, especially the fasts during Lent?

Scholars suggest that St Paul is referring to some of the early Christian converts from Christianity. They were strict Jews…strict observers of the Law. But, they focused on the external things that had to do with rules and regulations. The Law hadn’t entered their hearts. So, Christ hadn’t entered their hearts. The Cross hadn’t entered their hearts.

Now, the Cross is a challenge to us. It is a challenge to know why it is the symbol of our Christian faith. It look like a sign of weakness. But, ultimately the Cross is a sign of victory. It is a sign of glory. It is a sign of Heaven. How? The Cross is a sign of victory because Jesus wins victory over sin and death through the Cross. He never sinned; and yet, he became sin for us. He gave his life so that sins might be forgiven. It is really sin that is sacrificed on the Cross. The Cross brings the forgiveness of sins; we’ll hear in a few minutes that he shed his blood “so that sins may be forgiven”. He wins victory over sin and death by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead.

The Cross is a sign of glory. Jesus says a few times, “whoever is humbled will be exalted”. Whenever we share in the Cross of Christ, we share in his glory. More on that in a minute. The Cross is a sign of Heaven. In his human nature, Christ suffered tremendously. He went through Calvary to get to Paradise. Christ’s path to Heaven went through the Cross. Our path is no different; our path to Paradise goes through Calvary.

Elsewhere in St. Paul’s letters, he makes a very jarring statement. He says in his letter to the Colossians, chapter 1, verse 24, “I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ”. What could be lacking in the sufferings of Christ? This is the sacrifice of the Son of God…it is the “perfect offering” to the Father? How could anything be lacking? It is a perfect sacrifice, but it’s not complete. Who completes Christ’s sufferings? We do. We all make up his Body, the Church. We are the members of his body, and we are called to share in his cross. When we unite our sufferings to his, we complete his sacrifice.

We are all called to carry our cross. Jesus says it’s one of the first conditions of discipleship: “if you wish to follow me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, , and come follow me”. If we share in his sufferings, we will share in his glory. “He will take our lowly bodies and transform them into glorified bodies”. The Gospel is all about Christ’s glory. The Transfiguration is a glimpse of the glory of Christ in Heaven. If we live with Christ, take up our cross, die with Christ, then we will rise with Him in glory. Every single person here is carrying a cross – some big, some small. But, we all have the opportunity to share in Christ’s cross, and share in his glory.

Finally, this Cross is an extremely important symbol; every one of our homes should have a crucifix in a prominent place. And yet, it is only a symbol. In a few minutes, I will consecrate and elevate the sign which is living: the Eucharist. It is the Real Presence of Jesus under the signs of bread and wine. It is the risen body and blood of Christ. While it is the same flesh and blood that was shed on the Cross, what has happened since Good Friday? The Resurrection. So, it is the risen flesh and blood that comes to us in Holy Communion by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we receive this Eucharist today, may we be living signs of Christ’s love as we go forth from here. May the grace of this sacrament help us to carry our crosses during this holy season of Lent. When we take up our Cross, we unite our sufferings to Christ. We unite ourselves to his love, to his life, and to his heavenly glory.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Stem cell research

Anon asked, “My understanding that the embryonic stem cells are discarded (from different articles I have read) so if that is the case then why not have embryonic stem cell research? Millions of Americans can be helped from these cells.” The following is a Q & A from the USCCB; the fourth question is similar to your question, Anon. To view the full Q & A, please click on the title of this post.

A stem cell is a relatively unspecialized cell that, when it divides, can
do two things: make another cell like itself, or make any of a number
of cells with more specialized functions. For example, just one
kind of stem cell in our blood can make new red blood cells, or
white blood cells, or other kinds—depending on what the body
needs. These cells are like the stem of a plant that spreads out in different directions as it grows.

Not at all. Most stem cell research uses cells obtained from adult
tissue, umbilical cord blood, and other sources that pose no moral
problem. Useful stem cells have been found in bone marrow, blood,
muscle, fat, nerves, and even in the pulp of baby teeth. Some of
these cells are already being used to treat people with a wide variety
of diseases.

Because harvesting these stem cells kills the living human embryo.
The Church opposes the direct destruction of innocent human life
for any purpose, including research.

In the end we will all die anyway, but that gives no one a right to
kill us. In any case, these embryos will not die because they are inherently unable to survive, but because others are choosing to hand them over for destructive research instead of letting them implant in their mother’s womb. One wrong choice does not justify an additional
wrong choice to kill them for research, much less a choice to make
taxpayers support such destruction. The idea of experimenting on
human beings because they may die anyway also poses a grave threat
to convicted prisoners, terminally ill patients, and others.

Thousands of lives have been saved by adult stem cells—most often
in the form of “bone marrow transplants” for leukemia and other
conditions (where the active ingredient in the bone marrow is stem
cells). Today, adult stem cells have been used to help people with
Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, sickle-cell anemia, heart
damage, corneal damage, and dozens of other conditions. The danger
is that this progress toward cures will be halted or slowed by
campaigns that divert attention and resources toward embryonic
stem cell research.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Contemplative prayer

Tonight, all are invited to join us in the SAA Church for:

1) Stations of the Cross, 7 pm
2) Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, 7:30-8:30 pm
Anon wrote: "I find Eucharist adoration a kind of meditation. What is the difference between centering prayer and meditation?” Wow, deep question! I remember taking a class years ago offered by Fr. Thomas Dubay who has written much on the different types of prayer. He explained that meditation is essentially putting ourselves in the presence of God, and contemplation is when God infuses his Spirit within us. As described below by, centering prayer is commonly associated with contemplation.

I recommend Father Dubay’s book, “Fire Within”, for those who wish to learn more about meditation and contemplation. He has a new book out, “Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within”, which I have not read, but it looks very good. I have included a quote from “Fire Within” in which Fr. Dubay depicts St. Theresa of Avila’s down-to-earth description of contemplative prayer.

“Centering Prayer is a method of prayer, which prepares us to receive the gift of God's presence, traditionally called contemplative prayer. It consists of responding to the Spirit of Christ by consenting to God’s presence and action within. It furthers the development of contemplative prayer by quieting our faculties to cooperate with the gift of God’s presence.
Centering Prayer facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer — verbal, mental or affective prayer — into a receptive prayer of resting in God. It emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God. At the same time, it is a discipline to foster and serve this relationship by a regular, daily practice of prayer. It is Trinitarian in its source, Christ-centered in its focus, and ecclesial in its effects; that is, it builds communities of faith.

Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts” (

“For her, contemplation is an experienced, mutual presence, ‘an intimate sharing between friends,’ a being alone with the God Who loves us. Hence, this prayer is a mutual presence of two in love, and in this case the Beloved dwells within. Actually, it is an interdwelling, a mutually experienced indwelling. She relates about herself how ‘a feeling of the presence of God would come upon me unexpectedly so that I could in no way doubt He was within me or I totally immersed in Him’ (Fire Within, 58).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thursday's Mass readings

Reading 1 - Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish,
had recourse to the LORD.
She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,O LORD, my God.

“And now, come to help me, an orphan.
Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion
and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy,
so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.
Save us from the hand of our enemies;
turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.”

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8

Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.

Gospel - Mt 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”