Friday, August 31, 2007

Liturgical life

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
Anon asked, “Can someone explain what Liturgical life means?” (hand raised), I can, I can! Well, at least I can try. I would define liturgical life as meaning the practice and participation of worshipping Almighty God. As Christians, it means participating in Christ’s work of Redemption. We most commonly do this when we participate in the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist. But, as the Catechism reminds us, “in the New Testament the word ‘liturgy’ refers not only to the celebration of divine worship but also to the proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity” (CCC, # 1070).

Living out the liturgy is a way of life. Hence, we use the term ‘liturgical life’. Yes, liturgical life can refer to our participation in liturgical celebrations; in other words, how faithful we are to Mass, Confession, etc. But, in a general sense, it refers to the way in which we live out what we hear, see, and profess in liturgical celebrations – namely, the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The liturgy is the work of Christ through us: “Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church” (CCC, #1069).

Liturgy is the work of Christ but also an action of the Church. It involves the “conscious, active, and fruitful participation” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II) of all the faithful. How do we consciously, actively, and fruitfully participate in the liturgy? One way, as I am saying, certainly takes place at Mass, the Divine Liturgy. We can engage in full participation at Mass through a prayerful and attentive spirit, proclaiming the responses, and singing the hymns as well as possible. I would also add that we can make an individual and silent prayer of thanksgiving after Mass, in the tradition of the saints.

A general way to consciously, actively, and fruitfully participate in the liturgy is to be in sync with the Church throughout the liturgical year. What I mean by this is that we can follow the liturgical calendar of the Church. While the liturgical calendar coincides with the secular calendar in that it shares the same months, weeks, and days, it serves a different purpose and has different celebrations. For example, New Year’s Day in the secular calendar is January 1; New Year’s Day in the liturgical calendar is the first Sunday of Advent. We begin each new liturgical year, then, by preparing for the coming of Christ.

Throughout the liturgical year, the Church celebrates solemnities, feasts, and memorials. These are days which are devoted to “commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord (every Sunday is a feast day) as well as the principle liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints” (CCC, # 2042, 1st Precept of the Church). On this blog, we have mentioned certain feast days and memorials of saints. These are important parts of living out the liturgical life because they get us all on the same page with the mind of the Church in her celebration of our Redemption. Whenever we remember the Blessed Mother, the saints, and the angels in extraordinary ways, we honor the Grace of Christ and celebrate the victory he has won for us in his Death and Resurrection.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mt 24:42-59

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Homosexuality and Hope"

“What makes someone gay or straight? Personal choice? Genes? Upbringing?”, an anonymous blogger asked. Below are excerpts from “Homosexuality and Hope” (2000), a statement of the Catholic Medical Association. While the Magisterium of the Church teaches that the “psychological genesis (of homosexuality) remains largely unexplained” (CCC, #2357), the evidence as shown below reveals strong support for the theory "that same-sex attraction is a product of the interplay of a variety of environmental factors". To view the statement in full, please click on the title of this page.

“…A number of researchers have sought to find a biological cause for same-sexual attraction. The media have promoted the idea that a "gay gene" has already been discovered (Burr 1996[3]), but in spite of several attempts, none of the much publicized studies (Hamer 1993[4]; LeVay 1991[5]) has been scientifically replicated. (Gadd 1998) A number of authors have carefully reviewed these studies and found that not only do the studies not prove a genetic basis for same-sex attraction; the reports do not even contain such claims. (Byne 1963[6]; Crewdson 1995[7]; Goldberg1992; Horgan 1995[8]; McGuire 1995[9]; Porter 1996; Rice 1999[10])

If same-sex attraction were genetically determined, then one would expect identical twins to be identical in their sexual attractions. There are, however, numerous reports of identical twins who are not identical in their sexual attractions. (Bailey 1991[11]; Eckert 1986; Friedman 1976; Green 1974; Heston 1968; McConaghy 1980; Rainer 1960; Zuger 1976) Case histories frequently reveal environmental factors which account for the development of different sexual attraction patterns in genetically identical children, supporting the theory that same-sex attraction is a product of the interplay of a variety of environmental factors. (Parker 1964[12])

There are, however, ongoing attempts to convince the public that same-sex attraction is genetically based. (Marmor 1975[13]) Such attempts may be politically motivated because people are more likely to respond positively to demands for changes in laws and religious teaching when they believe sexual attraction to be genetically determined and unchangeable. (Ernulf 1989[14]; Piskur 1992[15]) Others have sought to prove a genetic basis for same-sex attraction so that they could appeal to the courts for rights based on the "immutability". (Green 1988[16])

Catholics believe that sexuality was designed by God as a sign of the love of Christ, the bridegroom, for his Bride, the Church, and therefore sexual activity is appropriate only in marriage. Catholic teaching holds that: “Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion.E(CCC, n.2360) Healthy psycho-sexual development leads naturally to attraction in persons of each sex for the other sex. Trauma, erroneous education, and sin can cause a deviation from this pattern...

…Individuals experience same-sex attractions for different reasons. While there are similarities in the patterns of development, each individual has a unique, personal history. In the histories of persons who experience same-sex attraction, one frequently finds one or more of the following:
· Alienation from the father in early childhood because the father was perceived as hostile or distant, violent or alcoholic (Apperson 1968[17]; Bene 1965[18]; Bieber 1962[19]; Fisher 1996[20]; Pillard 1988[21]; Sipova 1983[22])

· Mother was overprotective (boys) (Bieber, T. 1971[23]; Bieber 1962[24]; Snortum 1969[25])
· Mother was needy and demanding (boys) (Fitzgibbons 1999[26])

· Mother emotionally unavailable (girls) (Bradley 1997[27]; Eisenbud 1982[28])

· Parents failed to encourage same-sex identification (Zucker 1995[29])

· Lack of rough and tumble play (boys) (Friedman 1980[30]; Hadden 1967a [31])

· Failure to identify with same/sex peers (Hockenberry 1987[32]; Whitman 1977[33])

· Dislike of team sports (boys) (Thompson 1973[34])

· Lack of hand/eye coordination and resultant teasing by peers (boys) (Bailey 1993[35]; Fitzgibbons 1999[36]; Newman 1976[37])

· Sexual abuse or rape (Beitchman 1991[38]; Bradley 1997[39]; Engel 1981[40]; Finkelhor 1984; Gundlach 1967[41])

· Social phobia or extreme shyness (Golwyn 1993[42])

· Parental loss through death or divorce (Zucker 1995)

· Separation from parent during critical developmental stages (Zucker 1995)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Do animals have souls?

The following question from an anonymous blogger, even though it was asked a while ago, is particularly timely now, as so much discussion is taking place in our country about animals as a result of the Michael Vick case. “Why do Catholics think that animals do not have souls? Does the Bible talk about this or is this just our assumption?”

First, the Catholic Church does not teach that animals do not have souls. With the help of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Church understands soul to mean “life”. So, all things that have life – animals, plants, humans, etc. – have souls. Do all living things have the same type of soul? No. In response to the question of whether animals go to Heaven, Dr. Richard Geraghty, PhD, explains that the differences between the souls of humans and animals involve intellect, free will, and immortality (from

“…all living things have a soul. Here soul is defined as what makes an organic body live. Now when any living thing dies, its soul is separated from its body. In the case of plants and animals the soul goes out of existence. But in the case of man, the soul remains in existence because it is a spiritual or immaterial thing. Consequently, it differs from the souls of animals in two important respects. First, it is the seat of intelligence or reason. For this reason a man is held responsible for his actions in a way that animals are not.

Secondly, the soul is immortal. A thing which has no physical parts cannot fall apart or be poisoned or be crushed or be put out of existence. For this reason the souls of the saved will always be aware of themselves as enjoying the vision of God for all eternity. This enjoyment will be the result of having chosen to act on earth in such a way that one did the will of God rather than one's own will. And the souls of the damned will be aware of themselves as never attaining this vision of God because they have shown by their lives on earth that they did not wish this vision but instead preferred their own will.

In the light of this essential difference between human beings and animals, it would seem that we would not see the souls of our pets in heaven for the simple reason that they do not have immortal souls and are not responsible for their actions. They do not have the intelligence which allows them to choose either God's will or their own will. There is, then, an incomparable distance, say, between the soul of the sorriest human being who ever lived and the most noble brute animal that ever walked the earth.

Now a child might be heartbroken at the thought that he will never see his pet again. He cannot yet understand this explanation about the difference between the human and the animal soul. I suppose that one could tell the child that when he hopefully gets to heaven, he could ask God to see his old pets if he still wished to. There would be no harm in that. For we know that when a person finally sees God, he will not be concerned with seeing old pets or favorite places but rather will be captured in the complete fulfillment of the joy of which old pets and favorite places are but little signs. We adults know that, even if the child does not. For more information on how the Church sees animals in the lives of human beings, check the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2415-2418...”

A slightly different view on whether animals can go to Heaven comes from Fr. John Hardon, S.J.:

“Pets, as pets, do not go to Heaven. But animals and such like beings may be said to be brought to Heaven because, after the Last Day, they can serve as part of the joys of Heaven. In other words, animals and such like creatures may be said to be brought to Heaven to serve as part of our Heavenly joys. Clearly, we do not need pets to provide happiness in Heaven. But pets and such like creatures will be brought to Heaven to become part of our creaturely happiness in the Heavenly kingdom. Consequently, we may say that animals and such like creatures may be brought to Heaven by God to enable us to enjoy them as part of our creaturely happiness in Heavenly beatitude.”

Monday, August 27, 2007

DC 'Hood update + Q&A

DC ‘Hood update:
The ADW basketball team of priests and seminarians begins its fourth season of games versus parish teams. There is a new set-up this year because of the increase in requests from new parishes: DC ‘Hood is asking two parishes to join forces for each game. For example, St Andrew’s will team up with St John the Baptist; exactly how this will happen is up to the parishes. The only exception so far is our first game this year (we were unable to find a parish to join St Martin’s).

So, please mark your calendars for the first two games that have been confirmed:

1) Fri., Sept 14, 7 pm vs. St Martin’s @ Bohrer Park Activity Center, 506 South Frederick Ave, Gaithersburg Md 20877
2) Fri., Oct 19, 7 pm vs. St Jerome’s / Sacred Heart @ St Jerome’s gym, 5205 43rd Ave., Hyattsville, Md 20781

1)“Kids in the school who aren't Catholic are required to go to confession during the times when their classes attend. Do they receive absolution? I had always thought confession in a Catholic church was only for those who had been baptized Catholic.”

Non-Catholic students are invited to talk with the priest and receive a blessing, but they don’t receive absolution. By the way, Confession is for those who are “properly disposed”; i.e. prepared for the sacrament. If a non-Catholic (child or adult) expressed interest in receiving absolution, then the Church would begin preparing them to receive the sacrament in the future.

2) “Does God punish people for their sins by keeping them from receiving grace for a period of time or for their whole earthly life? The other day you mentioned purgatory on earth. Does that really happen?”

First, God couldn’t keep anyone from receiving grace; grace is the “free and undeserved gift that God gives us”. It would go against His very nature to prevent anyone from receiving the very gift He truly intends. In fact, the whole reason He has created that person is so that he/she will receive His Grace! The only way for someone to not receive God's grace is if they choose to reject it.

Secondly, yes, I believe very firmly in ‘purgatory on earth’. But, and this may be hard to get our heads around, there is grace in 'purgatory on earth'! Think of purgatory itself, the one that occurs after this life: it is a time of purification, a time of perfection, a time to see things as God sees them in full. In this sense, we can say it’s a time of grace.

While it might feel like punishment, ultimately, purgatory on earth is a gift. Recall what we heard in Sunday’s 2nd reading from Hebrews 12: “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.”

3) "During Benediction, the priest or deacon (and I've even seen pics of the pope doing it), uses the humeral veil to cover his hands while holding the monstrance with the Eucharist. Why? They obviously touch the Eucharist- so why not touch the vessel that holds it?"

The priest or deacon does touch the monstrance at different times with his own hands, but during the Benediction itself, he is to cover his hands so that it’s Christ giving the blessing. You might want to pay attention to exactly when the priest / deacon puts on the veil: it’s right before the Benediction. He then removes it immediately after the Benediction. I’ve explained here before that the reason for this is so that he is taken out of the equation so that Benediction is a real blessing from Christ himself in the Eucharist.

4) “If God does something you don't understand should you just accept it?”

Because we know that God’s ways are always not our ways, I would say not only should you accept it when God does something you don’t understand, but also make a habit of it!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

21st Sunday - homily

Probably my favorite all-time TV show is “Cheers” which ran in the 80s and 90s. It was a funny show, a sitcom that took place in a bar in Boston. There were many interesting characters – bartenders, waitresses, and patrons. One of the waitresses was Carla who was Catholic and had many children. Carla had a very interesting spirituality, to say the least. During one episode, one of Carla’s teenage sons expressed a strong interest in becoming a priest. Carla began to think, ‘hey, if my son becomes a priest, that is my ticket to heaven. I can do whatever I want!’

So, Carla began doing whatever she wanted. She did all kinds of stuff, including many mean things to people. When they asked her why she did it, she said, ‘hey, what does it matter? My son is going to be a priest’. Well, towards the end of the episode, her son came to see her with a new girlfriend. Carla became a bit scared, and asked him, “Umm..what happened to the priesthood?” “Oh, come on, Mom”, he said, “that was last week!” At the end of the show, Carla is desperately asking God’s forgiveness.

It is a ridiculous example, but it helps us to consider the sin of presumption, especially in light of today’s Gospel. Presumption is when we take salvation for granted…we take Heaven for granted. It is good for each one of us to ask ourselves: “am I taking salvation for granted? Am I taking Heaven for granted?” Our hope is that no one at St Andrew’s does this; our being here shows that we don’t take it for granted. But, the reality is that some do, or else this Church would be filled at this Mass and every Mass.

The Jewish people were starting to do that, so Jesus tried to warn them in the Gospel. They might have been thinking, ‘hey, we’re God’s people. We’re the people of Israel. We’re God’s chosen ones’. Jesus paraphrases their arrogant attitude with “Lord, you ate and drank with us, and you taught in our streets. You know us”. He is saying to them, be careful, I might not know who you are when you try to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. With our Protestant brother and sisters, we often hear them say, “I am saved…On such and such date, I professed Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and I’m saved”. Jesus says, be careful. The correct attitude should be, ‘I hope I am saved’.

Even we Catholics use phrases that might be presumptuous or arrogant. One of the funnier lines I’ve heard has been, “well, I went to 12 years of Catholic education”. I would often hear this from people when I told them I was going into or in the seminary. They would say, “really, wow. Well, you know, I went to 12 years of Catholic school.” I would be thinking, ‘oookay’, and simply say, “hey, that’s great”. More commonly, we say, ‘hey I’m a good person’. Yes, I’m sure that’s true, but the question is: will you be saved?

On a more personal note, we ask the questions, ‘do I take Jesus for granted? Do I take my relationship with Him for granted?’ Do we just assume that he will always there for us, and that we don’t need to go to Him? Do we take God’s mercy for granted? Christ is God’s mercy and love personified, so if we take Him for granted, we take God’s love for granted. We know that we do know this with other people – family members, friends, loved ones. We realize at different times that we don’t tell people we love how much they mean to us or that we love them. Do we do the same with Jesus?

I learned a very harsh lesson about taking people for granted when my father died suddenly when I was 17. I never got to tell him how much he meant to me and that I loved him. I have learned since then that whenever I have the chance, I tell people how I feel about them and that I love them. I would encourage all of you to do the same; tell those you love how much they mean to you.

So, what can we do to avoid taking Jesus for granted? We can try to talk to and listen to Him in prayer. We can get to know Him better by reading Scripture; many people read one chapter of the Gospel before going to bed at night. We can serve those in need and get involved in parish activities. Jesus says that when we serve the poor, we serve Him.

The best way for us to appreciate Christ and not take Him for granted is in the Eucharist. In a few minutes, we will see Him under the signs of bread and wine. When I elevate the host which is His Body and elevate the cup which is His Blood, each of can quietly say, “Jesus, I love you. I thank you”. As we receive Jesus in Holy Communion today, may each of us know God’s love and thank him for his mercy. May each of us know God’s love in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Anon wrote, “Speaking of immigration isn't the real question for us Christians is how do WE (me and you) bring Christ to the poor AND to those who are not poor? Isn't Christ the only true answer to poverty? Can a heart truly converted to Christ allow the poor to go unfed? The thirsty, parched? The poor, destitute? The real question is, have I brought Christ to someone?”

The following is a Q & A from “Justice for Immigrants”, written by the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform. To view background, Gospel foundations, papal teachings, statements of U.S. bishops, and some main points to consider about immigration, please click on the title of this post.

1) Why does the church care about immigration policies?

The Catholic Church has historically held a strong interest in immigration and how public policy affects immigrants seeking a new life in the United States. Based on Scriptural and Catholic social teachings, as well as her own experience as an immigrant Church in the United States, the Catholic Church is compelled to raise her voice on behalf of those who are marginalized and whose God-given rights are not respected.

The Church believes that current immigration laws and policies have often led to the undermining of immigrants’ human dignity and have kept families apart. The existing immigration system has resulted in a growing number of persons in this country in an unauthorized capacity, living in the shadows as they toil in jobs that would otherwise go unfilled. Close family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents must wait years for a visa to be reunited. And, our nation’s border enforcement strategies have been ineffective and have led to the death of thousands of migrants.

The Church has a responsibility to shine the message of God on this issue and help to build bridges between all parties so that an immigration system can be created that is just for all and serves the common good, including the legitimate security concerns of our nation.

2) Does the Catholic Church support illegal immigration?

The Catholic Bishops do not condone unlawful entry or circumventions of our nation’s immigration laws. The bishops believe that reforms are necessary in order for our nation’s immigration system to respond to the realities of separated families and labor demands that compel people to immigrate to the United States, whether in an authorized or unauthorized fashion.

Our nation’s economy demands foreign labor, yet there are insufficient visas to meet this demand. Close family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents face interminable separations, sometimes of twenty years or longer, due to backlogs of available visas. U.S. immigration laws and policies need to be updated to reflect these realties.

3) Does the Catholic Church support “amnesty”?

The Catholic bishops are proposing an earned legalization for those in this country in an unauthorized status and who have built up equities and are otherwise admissible. “Amnesty,” as commonly understood, implies a pardon and a reward for those who did not obey immigration laws, creating inequities for those who wait for legal entry. The bishops’ proposal is not an “amnesty.”

The Bishops’ earned legalization proposal provides a window of opportunity for undocumented immigrants who are already living in our communities and contributing to our nation to come forward, pay a fine and application fee, go through rigorous criminal background checks and security screenings, demonstrate that they have paid taxes and are learning English, and obtain a visa that could lead to permanent residency, over time.

Friday, August 24, 2007

St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are invited!!
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle and martyr. The following is from

In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned only in the lists of the apostles. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:47b). When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48b). Whatever amazing revelation this involved, it brought Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered with, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this” (John 1:50b).

Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1-14). They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

When they brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. John relates that although they knew it was Jesus, none of the apostles presumed to inquire who he was. This, John notes, was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles.

Bartholomew or Nathanael? We are confronted again with the fact that we know almost nothing about most of the apostles. Yet the unknown ones were also foundation stones, the 12 pillars of the new Israel whose 12 tribes now encompass the whole earth. Their personalities were secondary (without thereby being demeaned) to their great office of bearing tradition from their firsthand experience, speaking in the name of Jesus, putting the Word made flesh into human words for the enlightenment of the world. Their holiness was not an introverted contemplation of their status before God. It was a gift that they had to share with others. The Good News was that all are called to the holiness of being Christ’s members, by the gracious gift of God.
The simple fact is that humanity is totally meaningless unless God is its total concern. Then humanity, made holy with God’s own holiness, becomes the most precious creation of God.

“Like Christ himself, the apostles were unceasingly bent upon bearing witness to the truth of God. They showed special courage in speaking ‘the word of God with boldness’ (Acts 4:31) before the people and their rulers. With a firm faith they held that the gospel is indeed the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.... They followed the example of the gentleness and respectfulness of Christ” (Declaration on Religious Freedom, 11).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mt 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests
and the elders of the people in parables saying,
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited:
“Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’

Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then the king said to his servants,
‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Queenship of Mary

Today, the Church celebrates the memorial of the Queenship of Mary which celebrates Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. This feast is very much connected to last Wednesday’s solemnity of Mary’s Assumption because we believe that God crowned Mary as Queen when she was assumed into Heaven. The Mother of God has been given this crown because of her perfect and consistent ‘fiat’ (‘thy will be done’) to Almighty God. She is queen and mother of all the angels and saints in Heaven and she is our queen and mother.

Here is an excerpt from today’s Office of Readings, a homily by St. Amadeus of Lausanne, bishop: “She is a bride, so gentle and affectionate, and the mother of the only true bridegroom. In her abundant goodness she has channeled the spring of reason’s garden, the well of living and life-giving waters that pour forth in a rushing stream from divine Lebanon and flow down from Mount Zion until they surround the shores of every far-flung nation. With divine assistance she has redirected these waters and made them into streams of peace and pools of grace. Therefore, when the Virgin of virgins was led forth by God and her Son, the King of kings, amid the company of exulting angels and rejoicing archangels, with the heavens ringing with praise, the prophecy of the psalmist was fulfilled, in which he said to the Lord: At your right hand stands the queen, clothed in gold of Ophir (Ps. 145)”.

Related to this, Anon asked: “What is the distinction between assumption and ascension? Also, where are we told that Mary was assumed into heaven? I've always wondered why we don't hear more about Mary's life after Jesus' death.” Christ’s ascension and Mary’s assumption are similar in that they are both taken up into Heavenly glory. They are distinct in that Christ’s Ascension is the final part of the act of Salvation and Mary’s Assumption is one of the first fruits of Salvation. In other words, the latter occurs as a result of the former: the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption occurs as a result of the (Life, Death, Resurrection, and) Ascension of the Lord Jesus.

“ Christ’s ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain…Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him for ever” (CCC, # 665-666). The Ascension signifies to us not only the glory of Christ but also that we may share in his glory in Heaven. The Assumption gives us real hope that this is true because we see our Mother share in Christ’s glory. The Catechism further explains:

“‘Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of Lords and conqueror of sin and death*’. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the Resurrection of other Christians:

‘in giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother Of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death**’” (CCC, # 966).

* Lumen Gentium, Vatican II
** Byzantine Liturgy

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Anon asked: “My question is this- if contraception is permanent, (vasectomy or tubes tied) what is the church's point on the couple being intimate? Does one confession of the procedure they have undergone allow them, in the church's eyes, continue to have an intimate physical relationship? If there is not the possibility for any future conception as a result of medical intervention, is the couple expected to refrain from sexual relations?”

I found a couple of other Catholic Q & A sites that have addressed these very questions: 1) the Diocese of Lincoln, NE and 2) The third commentary is from which addresses sterilization reversal; to view the site, please click on the title of this page.

1) If a spouse is sterile and incapable of having children, may a couple then continue to have a sexual relationship in their marriage?Certainly they may. Artificial birth prevention is forbidden by God's law, which prescribes that every marriage act must not artificially block the possibility of its being fruitful in the conception of children. However, natural sterility, either from old age or an other cause, does not preclude the legitimacy, goodness, and sacredness of a couple's sexual relationship in their marriage.

2) Q: Am I correct in assuming that a Catholic husband who has had a vasectomy cannot receive Communion? If that is true, what is the remedy? Obviously, reversal cannot always be accomplished.

A: A vasectomy constitutes grave matter. Together with full knowledge of the gravity of the action and full and free consent to the action, a mortal sin is committed. Assuming these conditions were met, the remedy is the same as for any mortal sin: the sacrament of reconciliation, through which a person is restored to a state of grace and may again receive Communion. The Church does not require that a sterilized man attempt to reverse the vasectomy. But if he chooses to do so, he might wish to contact One More Soul at

3) Amid the pressure and confusion generated by the Culture of Death, many couples have allowed themselves to be sterilized. God, in His mercy stirs up in them a hunger for wholeness in their bodies and in their relationships. We have heard many wonderful stories from couples who had their sterilizations reversed and experienced renewal in spirit and in their relationships. Often they are blessed with additional children as well. One More Soul has a variety of resources to offer couples in this challenging process: a book of the experiences of 20 couples (in their own words) who were sterilized and made their way back to wholeness, online stories of couples who have had a sterilization reversal, names of doctors who have a complete pro-life philosophy and perform sterilization reversal surgery for men and women, encouraging books, pamphlets, and tapes to help in the journey, and online publications providing helpful information and encouragement.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I spent last week visiting friends in Idaho (yes, Idaho!). Good time! They just gave birth to their eighth (yes, eighth!) child. As if caring for little Dominic and the other seven beauties isn’t enough, they are currently remodeling their home. Their current living quarters are in their friend’s guest house which includes a living room, bedroom, and bathroom. A bit tight, to say the least! Before you begin to worry (as I’m sure you were about to) about Fr Greg’s “space” during vacation, my friends hooked me up with a nearby hotel room. As my good friend, Fr Wells, used to jokingly say, “NTGFF” (Nothing’s Too Good For Father!).

My friends get strange looks and comments from people regularly about having so many kids. They are certainly used to it all by now, and don’t let that bother them to the point that they would be less open to life. They truly love each and every one of their eight kids as if each one was their only one. I was constantly studying the kids to see if any of them felt left out or loved less than the others; I saw no such evidence. In fact, each one of them displays a great confidence because they know they are loved by their parents and siblings.

The most striking moment of my trip occurred about mid-week. We were all gathered in their (temporary) living room, getting set to go out for the night. The mother was caring for little Dominic in her usual fashion. She was holding him in her arms and kissing him. Then, she spent the next few minutes caressing his nose and face with her nose in a very warm and intimate way. She whispered several times, “I love you”, to this baby who was just a few weeks out of her womb. While she probably didn’t think anything of it because this was her usual motherly care, it really struck me as a profound expression of deep love. And, this was her 8th child! She wasn’t showing any signs of being burned out from having so many kids; in fact, it was the opposite. She and her husband love this child (and each of their children) as if he is their only child.

On a lighter note, I went to my first Rodeo! Rodeo is very big in Idaho, apparently. The event we went to was in the next town over and in a stadium that seemed about the same size of our high school football fields. But, they had world-class riders of bulls and horses there wooing the crowd the whole night. I did my part, giving “woo-hoo!” after woo-hoo after each impressive feat. But, rodeo is one sport which I don’t think I will ever take part in! I’ll leave it to the cowboys and cowgirls.

On another note but still speaking of hotel rooms, Anonymous has asked, ”is it ok to share a hotel room with a member of the opposite sex, in separate beds, when you know you will not engage in sexual relations?” I will assume you are referring to people who are not family members or married. Firstly, the situation you describe would be considered an occasion of sin. Occasions of sin have been described as “external circumstances…which… incite or entice one to sin” (Catholic Encyclopedia). Secondly and related to the first reason, I would think it would be a sin against the virtue of prudence for members of opposite sexes to share a bedroom. We are all weak creatures who are prone to give into temptation, especially those involving our sexual desires (our strongest desire). I would express caution to the person who says he knows that he will not give into temptation, and remind him what Jesus says: “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”.

Monday, August 13, 2007

This week's Gospel readings

I am away this week, so we'll take a week off from posts and comments. Here are this week's Gospel readings at Mass. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will still occur at SAA Church from 7-8 pm this Friday night. Have a good week!

Monday: Mt 17:22-27
Tuesday: Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
Wednesday: Lk 1:39-56 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Holy Day of Obligation)
Thursday: Mt 18:21–19:1
Friday: Mt 19:3-12
Saturday: Mt 19:13-15

Sunday, August 12, 2007

19th Sunday - homily

There were two men who were in their nineties and life-long friends, and big baseball fans. One of the men became very ill, and was about to die. His friend said to him, “if you go to Heaven, can you do me the favor of letting me know if there’s baseball in Heaven. I’ve always wanted to know if there’s baseball in Heaven.” “Sure,” he said, “I can do that for you. The man died and ultimately went to Heaven. Shortly after that, his friend heard his voice in a dream. He said, “I have good news and bad news for you.” “Ok, what’s the good news?” “The good news is there’s baseball in Heaven”. “What’s the bad news?” “You’re pitching on Wednesday”.

We all want to know what Heaven will be like. We want to know who goes there and what it takes to make it. Jesus gives us some idea in today’s Gospel by talking about being a faithful servant. If we do the master’s will and are prepared for when he returns, we will be rewarded. But, if we reject the master’s will and do our own will, we will be severely punished. We understand our Lord to be referring to Heaven and Hell. So, we want to know how to get to Heaven and how to avoid going to Hell.

Jesus talks about Heaven about 170 times in the Gospels. What’s Heaven like? We really can’t fathom how awesome and amazing it is! St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (2:9), “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind can visualize what God has prepared for those who love him”. The Catechism tells us that Heaven is the perfect life; it is complete and ultimate happiness with the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Mother, and all the saints and angels. I’ve said before that I picture Heaven being the greatest party that we’ve ever been to – with all of our friends and loved ones – that lasts forever. Who goes there? Anyone who lives and dies in a state of Grace which is a share in the divine life. We primarily receive Grace through the sacraments – Baptism, Eucharist, etc.

Jesus refers to Hell about 120 times in the Gospels. He speaks about it so much because he doesn’t want us to go there. What is Hell like? It is eternal punishment, eternal damnation, eternal separation from God and all that is good. It is being alone forever. Yes, there is pain that comes from fire to our body and soul which are like torments. But, they will be nothing as compared to the pain of being separated from Christ forever. Who goes there? Anyone who dies in a state of mortal sin.

What is a mortal sin? It is a grave offense (it’s seriously wrong) that is done with full knowledge (I know it’s wrong) and full consent (I freely choose to do it). Jesus teaches us this in the Gospel by saying that anyone who knows the master’s will and chooses to reject it is to receive severe punishment. Many people will say, ‘come on, you can go to Hell for committing only one mortal sin?’ Well, let’s look at that.

Let’s use the example of going to Mass on Sunday. It is a serious matter which God has made a commandment (“Keep holy the Sabbath”) and Jesus has commanded us to do in the form of the Eucharist (“Take this all of you and eat it…do this in memory of me”). I think all of us know on some level that we have to be here every Sunday. But, if someone has full knowledge about the importance of the Mass – knowing the significance of God’s Word and the Eucharist, all that Jesus taught about the Eucharist and its role in our salvation, the history of the liturgy and how it fulfills Jewish ritual – if that person freely chooses to skip Mass for 24 hours on a Sunday, basically saying, “Jesus, I have more important things to do today like shopping, watching or playing sports”, then that’s bad. Really bad. That person has knowingly chosen to separate himself from Christ in a major way. God doesn’t send anyone to Hell; they freely choose to go there.

St John Chrysostom once said, “we shouldn’t ask where Hell is. We should ask how not to go there”. Christ gave us the sacrament of Confession so that we wouldn’t go to Hell. It is primarily for the forgiveness of mortal sins. If there is any sense that we’ve committed a mortal sin or if we know that we’ve committed a mortal sin, we need to go to Confession. Any time in my own life where I thought that I might have or knew that I’ve committed a mortal sin, I go to Confession asap. I don’t mess around with eternal punishment. One of the main reasons I became a priest was for your salvation. I want every single one of you to go to Heaven. That is why I am open for Confessions 24/7. If anyone needs to go to Confession, I am always here.

Jesus says last week and this week for us to always “be ready”. We need to be vigilant for his return. If only we were as vigilant with souls as we are with our homes! We lock our doors every night; we are ready for the thief’s coming. We need to be ready for Christ’s coming. If we live in a state of Grace – staying close to Christ in the Eucharist and Confession, mainly – we will always be ready for when he comes again.

I’ve said it before, but let me reiterate the quote from St Augustine: “it was for my own sake that I was baptized, but it was for your sake that I was ordained”.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

St Clare of Assisi

Today, the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Clare of Assisi (1193-1253). The following article about this holy woman comes from our "saints website",

To consider Franciscan life without reflecting on Clare of Assisi is like having a one-sided coin, a song without music, a rainbow without sunshine. Clare was young and in love with life when she witnessed Francis' fervor in following Christ. She might have blushed when she saw Francis, several years her senior, relinquish all he had, even the clothes from his back, to his father, Pietro Bernardone. Perhaps she knew from that moment that she and Francis were spiritual brother and sister because in returning to his earthly father everything he had given him, Francis acknowledged that God in heaven was now his only Father. Francis and Clare were lovers also, though not in the usual way the world views lovers, but a man and woman who loved God with their whole hearts and souls and in that love enveloped each other.

What does Clare teach us about following Jesus? She teaches us to follow Francis, who followed Jesus so perfectly and so literally in pursuit of poverty, desiring nothing more than the Lord. Clare teaches us that we can be committed faithful followers of Francis and of Jesus while doing it in our own unique way in accord with our circumstances in life.

Both Clare and Francis sacrificed all attachment to material possessions in their search for the Christian life they were called to follow. Francis' journey took him to distant places in his world. He walked hundreds of miles around the peninsula now called Italy. He ventured to the land of the sultan of Damietta. In contrast Clare journeyed the short distance from her father's home to the little Church of Saint Mary of the Angels, which Francis dubbed the Portiuncula or "Little Portion." There she was received by the brothers. After a brief stay with Benedictine nuns, she was to spend the remainder of her life in the convent of San Damiano, the little chapel where the Lord had spoken to Francis from the crucifix saying, "Go and rebuild my Church."

Clare was to have a permanent home. Francis had special places he visited but if he were alive today, we might say he had no permanent mailing address. Francis met and preached to unknown numbers of people—on the dusty roads, in city squares, in churches and chapels around the countryside, in foreign tents. Clare spread God's love through prayer which attracted followers to her Franciscan way of life. Her prayers brought healings. She wrote letters to those in foreign lands encouraging them in their Franciscan journeys. But she stayed close to home at San Damiano. Two dramatically different lifestyles followed the same goal: loving God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength.

Few of us are called to give away everything we possess. In many cases, that might actually be an ungodly thing to do because we have responsibilities for others—spouses, children, aging parents—that God entrusts to us. God has given us special gifts to use for his purposes—as workers in the marketplace, friends in the community, healers of the brokenhearted, lovers of the downtrodden.

We won't shed our clothes on our village square in exchange for a ragged tunic with rope belt as Francis did. We won't have our hair shorn as a sign of humility in imitation of Clare. But we can devote our lives to following Jesus in the way of Francis and Clare in ways adapted to the time in which we live. The challenge of Francis and Clare is to discover that way and to persevere on its path in our own times in our own ways.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Understanding annulments

Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus is the Eucharist are invited!!
In response to my May 7 post in which I wrote that “marital love (union b/w spouses) is analogous to the Eucharist (union b/w God and man)”, Anon asked, “So what then, if the union has been broken? How are you to ever again begin to think the act is one that is "holy" and "imitates God". What then?” Great question. It’s important that we understand the nature of the marital union based on what Jesus teaches in Mt 19:6: “what God has joined together, no human being must separate”. If a consummated, sacramental marital bond truly occurs, then it can’t be broken. This is what our Lord is saying here, and it’s what the Church – most recently with Pope John Paul II – has reaffirmed.

When married couples seek a permanent separation, the question is, then, did such a bond truly take place? In other words, was it a valid marriage? This is what the Church looks at with regards to the annulment process. Many people think that an annulment is a “Catholic divorce”; it is not. As excerpts from the following online article ( reveal, a declaration of nullity states that a valid sacramental bond of marriage never occurred in the first place. To view the full article, please click on the title of this post. One of the most significant points about the annulment process for all those who are unfortunately involved is made on the last line of this post: “it’s a great healing”.

“…Misunderstanding is due partly to the word annulment. The precise term is "declaration of nullity." A declaration of nullity is a judgment by the Church that what seemed to be a marriage never was in fact a true marriage. An annulment is not a divorce for it does not dissolve an existing marriage. A declaration of nullity is granted when it can be shown that some essential or juridical defect made a particular marriage invalid from the beginning despite outward appearance, despite even the good faith of the partners or the establishment of a family. It should be underscored that an annulment does not affect the legitimacy of the children of such a marriage.

Certain factors have brought about the considerable increase in Church annulments over the past decade. First and foremost, the Second Vatican Council fostered development in the theology of marriage by restoring the interpersonal relationship of the spouses as an essential component of marriage.

Secondly, advances in psychology have provided a deeper understanding of the complexity of both human decision-making and interpersonal relationships. Thus the Church has new insights for appraising a marriage. Marriage, after all, is the most important decision most people make, and marriage is the most intimate of adult relationships…

… marriage is effected by consent, freely and knowingly saying "yes" to all that marriage involves. Therefore, in considering a particular marriage, this "yes" is the key issue. Its validity may be considered in the context of two basic questions about consent.

First, when they said their vows, did both partners freely accept and clearly understand the lifelong commitment they were making? And secondly, at that time, did both partners have the personal capacity to carry out consent, to form a community of life with the chosen partner? …

…Many persons do remark how wrenching it was for them to recall and sort out painful memories. But they also find that it helped them to discover some meaning in the tragedy of a broken marriage. They appreciate their new insights about themselves and deepen their sense of values. This process can foster psychological and spiritual growth…

…A woman, forced into divorce to protect the welfare of her children, obtained an annulment and remarked that now she felt peace because she had "at least a piece of paper in my hand to prove to myself once and for all that I did try, that a marriage existed on paper only, that I did not fail in my duties as a Catholic, that the Church does understand..."

But the greatest benefit of the pain for many who have established a happy and stable second marriage is their return to the sacraments, the sometimes tearfully joyful reception once more of the Lord in the Eucharist, and the renewal of religious practice as a family celebration.
An elderly priest, after taking part in an annulment hearing, put it simply and poignantly:’It's a great healing.’"

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mt 16:13-23

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
and he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,
but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.

Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Liturgical Q & A

Here are some recent liturgical questions from anonymous bloggers:

1) “Is it appropriate for a Eucharistic Minister to give a blessing to a child when the child accompanies his parent to receive Communion? This happened recently and I was really taken aback by it -- not that I was offended, just surprised. I guess it leads to the question of the meaning of a priest's blessing and the source of his authority to give it.”

Anyone can give a "blessing" to anyone else, but, the blessing of a man who’s been ordained carries actual grace because his hands have been anointed by the bishop and he has been given the faculty to give blessings. So, technically, the Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist gives a prayer, but not a blessing.

2) "What is the significance of the colors of the vestments during the different times in the liturgical year?"

The following is from “Adoremus Bulletin”:

Green vestments are worn during Ordinary Time, which is the largest segment of the liturgical calendar including most of the summer. Green signifies new growth, the flourishing of the "vineyard".

White is a symbol of purity, light, rejoicing, and of the Resurrection, and is used on all special feasts of Our Lord, Christmas and Easter season, Corpus Christi, and at festive occasions such as weddings and baptisms.

Since Vatican II, white vestments are also usually used at funerals, suggestive of the Resurrection; however black vestments may still be used. Interestingly, white signifies mourning in the religions of the Far East, but not in the West.

For Marian feasts and solemnities, some parishes have special white vestments ornamented with blue, symbolizing Mary's fidelity. Blue is not a liturgical color, however, and is not to be used as the main vestment color.

Cloth-of-gold, often richly embroidered, may sometimes replace white, especially for very festive feasts, such as Christmas and Easter, or for weddings.

Red vestments are worn on the feasts of martyrs and on Pentecost, Passion Sunday, and feasts of the apostles. The color symbolizes martyr's blood -- also fire, for Pentecost. Usually red is used now on Good Friday, instead of the traditional black.

Purple, preferably a somber, dark shade, is worn during the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent. Purple signifies great solemnity, with connotations of both penance and royal dignity. Decoration of the vestments for these penitential season is appropriately simple.

Black, signifying absence of light and mourning, is properly used on All Souls Day and is still appropriate and permissible for Good Friday and for funerals, although seldom used now.

Rose colored vestments may be worn on the third Sundays of Advent and Lent, to suggest a pause or lift in the penitential focus of these seasons, appropriate because of the initial Latin words of the collects for these Sundays, which mention rejoicing.

3) "I meant to ask the other day- I think it was Monday when it looked like the candle in front of the tabernacle wasn't lit. Maybe it just went out or the wick was low, but isn't the tabernacle always full except for a few specific dates where is it to be empty?"

The Blessed Sacrament dwells in the tabernacle throughout the year except between midnight on Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil; during that time, our Lord is placed in a safe repository in the Church.

4) "Aside for those for whom a mass is said, are the prayers for the faithful the same throughout the Archdiocese or does the priest just wing it when he gets up there?"

Occasionally, the Archdiocese will have uniform petitions at Sunday Mass – for example, recently we had a petition for Natural Family Planning at a Sunday Mass. But, generally, the petitions vary from parish to parish. They are all to follow the same framework, though: prayers for the Church, the country/community, the sick, the deceased, etc. At weekday Mass, there are no scripted prayers from the Archdiocese that I have seen. Some priests read prepared intercessions from prayer books; many just “wing it”.

5) "What is the church's position on receiving the Eucharist more than 1x each day. Several times, in order to get all my kids to Mass, I will attend two Sunday services. Am I supposed receive communion at only one of those services?"

A person who is able to receive Holy Communion can receive no more than twice in one day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A "throw away" society

The following are excerpts from a timely and insightful commentary by Richard Szczepanowski in last week’s Catholic Standard:

“Being an animal lover, dog owner and human being, I have followed with horror, shock, and revulsion the story of Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick and the alleged dogfighting ring he ran from his home. The 27-year-old former Virginia Tech superstar pleaded not guilty to multiple charges involved in the alleged dogfighting operation. More than 65 dogs were found at his Surry County, Va., home. Those dogs who were ‘underperforming’ in the fighting ring, were destroyed by being tortured: they were doused with water and electrocuted, they were hanged, they were shot…

Compare this to the news this week from Ocean City.

Inside the home of Christy Freeman, a dead newborn baby was found wrapped in a blanket and shoved under a bathroom sink. Additional remains of fetuses were found buried about the property. Police were alerted to this horror when the 37-year-old mother of four was admitted to a hospital showing signs of being pregnant. She delivered a full-term placenta, but there was not fetus. Authorities have charged Freeman with first degree murder, second degree murder and manslaughter.

What is ironic here – to me at least – is that while those poor abused and mistreated dogs have People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society working to bring public attention to their plight, there are no such advocates for fetuses and infants and humans.

I was talking to a priest friend of mine about the two incidents, and he made a good point. He said that these two cases (and if you think about, many others) prove that we are a ‘throw away’ society. He lamented that we live in a time when, if we encounter something or someone we do not want, we simply throw it away.

Remember the Terri Schiavo case?...

Look at Dr. Jack Kevorkian…

Anyone even remotely connected to the pro-life cause is aware that almost 35 years ago (since abortion was made legal in this country), the Church has warned that abortion was just the first step in a ‘slippery slope’ toward an overall disrespect (and sometimes outright) disdain for all life…

The late Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (‘The Gospel of Life’) has rightly been acclaimed as a masterpiece of theological reasoning and one of the best and clearest outlines of why the Church is such an indefatigable defender of life from conception to natural death.

‘This is a particularly pressing need at the present time, when the “culture of death” so forcefully opposes the “culture of life” and often seem to have the upper hand,’ the encyclical says.”

Monday, August 06, 2007

Regular confession = soul cleaning

Anon wrote, “’Regular’ confession is something I don't understand. What is regular? If I were to go to confession each time I succumb to my weaknesses, especially at this particular point in my life, our priests would be practically cloistered. I do examine my conscience regularly, and I do work on improving in my areas of weakness- the things that lead me to sin (acting out of anger, fear and doubt). Mostly my sins regard negative thoughts and lack of forgiveness as well as other things I believe would be considered venial. So given that as the case- how often should one go to confession? I'd also like some suggestions on how to make a ‘better’ confession- upon entering the confessional, I blather.”

Below is an exquisite reflection by Pope Benedict XVI about regular confession. When we talk about making a ‘regular confession’, it’s like talking about doing a regular cleaning in your home, as the Pope writes. It’s something that one does on a regular basis; a habit. Confession, as we and the Holy Father have said, is primarily for mortal sins. So, it should be that every time you (and anyone) succumb to weaknesses of a grave nature, you need to go to Confession. But, with venial sins, it doesn’t have to be every time they happen; we would all do nothing else except sin and confess, sin and confess, sin and confess…24/7!

The Pope writes below that regular confession helps a person to grow spiritually and personally. I have seen that very clearly and abundantly in my own life and in the lives of others. I don’t know of anyone who makes a regular confession who is not happy. In other words, going to confession with regularity (I recommend once a month) helps a person to grow in happiness because he / she is growing in freedom. By God’s Grace and through a sometimes slow process, the person begins to break free of the chains of sin and experience true freedom. Regular confession helps us stay close to God which is what makes us happy.

Regarding how to make a better confession, I recommend a daily examination of conscience. How does one make a good examination? There are good EoCs out there (I posted one on here last year) that walk you through the Ten Commandments in a very critical way. Also, reviewing the seven deadly sins and the beatitudes can help to know in what areas you’ve sinned. Some people write down their sins when they go to confession; most can recall their sins. It’s like giving a speech or a performance: if you’ve practiced and rehearsed it, you’ll be much less nervous and do a much better job. A regular examination of conscience is great practice for making a good confession.

Finally, when we go to confession with regularity, we may not see much change month to month. But, I guarantee, your confessions in five years will be drastically different than now. Grace is in the sacrament, and it works!!

“It is true: Our sins are always the same, but we clean our homes, our rooms, at least once a week, even if the dirt is always the same; in order to live in cleanliness, in order to start again. Otherwise, the dirt might not be seen, but it builds up.

Something similar can be said about the soul, for me myself: If I never go to confession, my soul is neglected and in the end I am always pleased with myself and no longer understand that I must always work hard to improve, that I must make progress. And this cleansing of the soul that Jesus gives us in the sacrament of confession helps us to make our consciences more alert, more open, and hence, it also helps us to mature spiritually and as human persons. Therefore, two things: Confession is only necessary in the case of a serious sin, but it is very helpful to confess regularly in order to foster the cleanliness and beauty of the soul and to mature day by day in life.”

Sunday, August 05, 2007

18th Sunday - homily

I met with a financial consultant last week about opening a retirement account. I have neglected to do this for a little while, and as I explained to him, I have a million things on my mind; my money is probably the last thing (on my mind). But, he was a nice guy and we had a good meeting. It was funny, though, when he was going through the form, filling out my information. He said, “Fr Greg, what is your net worth?” I started laughing. I asked him how one calculates such a number. He said that it’s by looking at bank accounts, mutual funds, stocks, etc. So, I gave him a ballpark number and then said, “that’s really bad, isn’t it?”

Now, I am not telling that story in order to receive donations or money from anyone! I am taken care of and doing fine financially. I am not poor. I’m not rich, but I’m not poor. I tell this story because I think it relates to today’s readings, especially the Gospel. I hear Jesus saying to each one of us, ‘what is your spiritual net worth?’

It is harder to figure out our spiritual net worth than financial. We can’t really come up with a number. But, Jesus gives us some help in determining it. It would be about how much time we spend with things that matter to God. St Paul, in the second reading, might be saying that to determine our spiritual net worth is to look at how time we spend thinking about and seeking the things that are above. Both of them use strong language to denounce investing in earthly treasure only.

Jesus speaks of a rich man in a parable. This man is all about himself. It’s kind of funny hearing him talk to himself. I picture him holding up a mirror when he says to himself, “As for you”…it’s like “hey big guy! Eat, sleep, drink, be merry”. He builds up treasure for himself only. Jesus would say to him, “you fool”. St Paul gives specific examples of investing in earthly things only: immorality, impurity, greed, and the like. We see these examples play out, especially in the news the past few weeks.

With immorality: adults killing babies, their children, and dogs, and then disposing of them when they’re done with them. They are rich in violence. With impurity: we see so many people, mostly men, viewing pornography on a regular basis. We know that they invest so much money in it because pornography is a billion dollar industry. They are rich in impurity. With greed: how many people work 90 hour weeks to get the bigger house, the nicer car, and more “security”, but neglect their spouses and children in the process. They are rich in possessions. In all of these examples, we see people investing their time, energy, and money in foolish ways. They are building up treasure for themselves but there is nothing good in that.

Are we making foolish investments with our time, talent, and treasure? This is a wake-up call for us because, like the rich man, our life might be demanded of us at any time. Unfortunately and tragically, the people in Minneapolis were reminded of this with the bridge collapse. They were just driving down a road…crossing a bridge. And for some of them, their lives were demanded of them. We always have to be ready. Are we investing in the next life? Are we building up treasure in heaven? Are we planning for our eternal retirement?

How do we increase our spiritual net worth? What is a wise investment in heavenly treasure? Jesus Christ. Any move we make towards Christ is an investment in eternal life. He offers the best investment plan on the planet: he says that anything we do for his Kingdom will be returned 30, 60, or 100 fold back to us.

The most practical and profound way to invest in Christ is in the Eucharist. When we come to the Eucharist, we are making a down payment for eternal life. When we go to Confession or any of the sacrament, we are making a deposit for heaven. One day, we will see Jesus face to face. As he reviews our spiritual portfolio and our spiritual net worth, we don’t want him to say, ‘you fool’. We want him to say, ‘well done, good and faithful servant. Come, share your master’s joy.”

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Happy Feast Day, parish priests!!

Today is the memorial of St. John Vianney (1786-1859) who is the patron saint of parish priests. This pastor of souls in Ars, France is the only parish priest who has been canonized a saint by the Church. Even though he struggled mightily with his seminary studies (and left twice), his priestly ministry soared to great heights because of his undying commitment to his people. He prayed and fasted regularly for the conversion of his parishioners. He heard confessions each day between 12 hours (winter) and 16 hours (summer). People from all over France came to him for Reconciliation and for his counsel. He brought so many people (estimates are that over 100,000 people annually came to Ars toward the end of St John’s life) back to Christ that the Devil frequently reared his ugly face in Vianney’s rectory; one night Satan set his bed on fire!

The following is from today’s Office of Readings; a catechetical instruction by St John Vianney:

My little children, reflect on these words: the Christian’s treasure is not on earth but in heaven. Our thoughts, then ought to be directed to where our treasure is. This is the glorious duty of man: to pray and to love. If you pray and love, that is where a man’s happiness lies.

Prayer is nothing else but union with God. When one has a heart that is pure and united with God, he is given a kind of serenity and sweetness that makes him ecstatic, a light that surrounds him with marvelous brightness. In this intimate union, God and the soul are fused together like two bits of wax that no one can ever pull apart. This union of God with a tiny creature is a lovely thing. It is a happiness beyond understanding.

We had become unworthy to pray, but God in his goodness allowed us to speak with him. Our prayer is incense that gives him the greatest pleasure.

My little children, your hearts are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God. Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven and something of paradise comes down upon us. Prayer never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey that flows into the soul and makes all things sweet. When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.

Prayer also makes time pass very quickly and with such great delight that one does not notice its length. Listen: Once when I was a purveyor in Bresse and most of my companions were ill, I had to make a long journey. I prayed to the good God, and believe me, the time did not seem long.

Some men immerse themselves as deeply in prayer as fish in water, because they give themselves totally to God. There is not division in their hearts. O, how I love these noble souls! Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Colette used to see our Lord and talk to him just as we talk to one another.

How unlike them we are! How often we come to church with no idea of what to do or what to ask for. And yet, whenever we go to any human being, we know well enough why we go. And still worse, there are some who seem to speak to the good God like this: “I will only say a couple of things to you, and then I will be rid of you.” I often think that when we come to adore the Lord, we would receive everything we ask for, if we would ask with living faith and with a pure heart.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Faith and family dynamics

Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” As Christ himself experienced, it is hard to be a prophet among family and close friends. They have seen us in so many situations when we weren’t being prophets that they have great trouble seeing us in this (new) role. Also, family members share a great familiarity with one another and relate on so many human levels. When one of us introduces something unfamiliar, especially of a heavenly nature, it is often met with incredulity: “Is he not the carpenter’s son?...And they took offense at him.” For us this normally comes in the form of, “who are you to preach to me? I remember when you weren’t 'holier-than-thou'”.

Kelly wrote about this phenomenon regarding family members in response to the following comment from an anonymous blogger: “’Maybe it's time for me to give it up to God and just pray for them. Family dynamics are tough, especially when both love and hurt are present.’ Thanks, anon, for the above comment. A good reminder for me to let go and pray for them more often. They are all adults and fully aware of their choices. St. Francis reminded us to witness with our lives first and then our words. That one just came back to me (I guess God has to send a few reminders). Family - Oh they are great for humility sometimes! My brothers like to remind me of every thing I said and did as a teen. LOL.”

I think it’s the point that they are “fully aware of their choices” that gets many of us “in trouble” with family members when it comes to talking about faith and morals. If we really believe that they know fully what they are choosing to do or not do, then I think we will back off and just pray for them. But, we try to talk to them because we don’t think they fully know. We try to teach them about Christ and His Gospel more fully. We might think, ‘how can choose to not go to Mass on Sundays? It must be that they do not know the importance of the Mass and receiving the Eucharist. It must be that they haven’t really heard John 6 or had the teaching on transubstantiation explained to them. I need to tell them.”

This all might be true with some of our family members or close friends. But, what Jesus is saying is that we are most likely NOT the ones to teach them. They won’t hear us as they would hear someone else who is less familiar. They see and hear us primarily as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, best friends, etc. They see others in their proper roles: priests, teachers, prophets, etc. They will be more inclined to HEAR the Gospel message from someone with whom they are not as familiar. In other words, they will focusing more on the message than the messenger. The people in Christ’s hometown dwelt on who was speaking, not what was being said.

Yes, all the people around us need to hear the fullness of the Gospel. Yes, they are all called by God to experience the fullness of His love on Earth in the Catholic Church. So, if we can’t help them (most likely) through what we say, then what can we do to help them? “St. Francis reminded us to witness with our lives first and then our words.” This is exactly the point: to preach and teach by our example. If we are doing our best to authentically live the Gospel, then even our family members will take notice. It will be attractive to all if we are being Christ-like in radical ways. If we are living examples of compassion, forgiveness, patience, wisdom, joy, peace, kindness, and love, then that will truly help them to come to Christ in ways that words will not. They will ultimately think what Jesus’ friends asked, “Where did this man get all this?” And, it won’t be too long until they see that we ‘get all this’ from the Eucharist.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Mt 13:47-53

Jesus said to the disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
“Do you understand all these things?”

They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom
both the new and the old.”
When Jesus finished these parables,
he went away from there.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Can a priest adopt children?

Anon wrote, “FG, this is a question from my 11yo son. He knows a priest cannot marry, but wondered if that meant he could also not adopt children. He pointed out that taking the vow of celibacy refers to marriage and a relationship with a woman, and it does not imply anything about adoption. This was a serious question. He was not looking for a replacement for his two wonderful parents. I guess he stumped me on this one”. I have only heard of one priest who adopted a child: a priest from Chicago who received special permission from the Pope to adopt.

My understanding of why, in ordinary circumstances, a priest cannot adopt a child is because the celibate priest possesses no one person or thing. I recognize that there are married priests (former Protestant ministers who have become Catholic) with children; they present a different situation. But, the discipline of clerical celibacy, which dates back to apostolic times, is in place so that the priest is free to give his time, attention, energy, and love to ALL of God’s children who are under his care. The celibate priest is to love everyone the same; in other words, he is to love as God loves.

I recently came upon an article written by a woman who presents clerical celibacy as a tradition that dates back to apostolic times. Here are some excerpts:

“The Ancient Tradition of Clerical Celibacy”
By Mary R. Schneider

“The roots of clerical celibacy can be found, of course, in Scripture. Jesus, who never married, exhorted those who could accept it to renounce marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 19:12). Many early Christians eagerly responded to Christ’s invitation and in the early Church, ‘even before the beginnings of monasticism in the 4th century, celibacy accepted for the Kingdom of God appears as the perfection of Christian holiness, second only to martyrdom’ (H. Crouzel, 1972)…

The first known legislation on clerical continence can be found in the decrees of the Council of Elvira (305)…The Council of Arles (314) also required clerics to observe prefect continence, citing ritual purity as the reason…Several popes of the patristic era also issued decrees upholding clerical continence…The Fathers of the Church also insisted that clerics remain chaste…Church laws and writings of this era not only affirm the requirement of clerical continence, even if it was not always followed in practice, they also reflect a sophisticated theology of the priesthood…

Although celibacy is not intrinsic to the priesthood, it is an ancient discipline with deep roots in the history, law, and practice of the Latin Church. Because it is clearly a part of the Church’s tradition, something that has been handed down from the age of the Church Fathers, it should not and must not be discarded just because it is unpopular or because it does not reflect modern sensibilities.

There are, in fact, good practical reasons for the Church to retain this venerable discipline. However, the theological reasons for doing so are even more important. Celibacy marks priest as a man consecrated to the service of Christ and the Church. It shows in a concrete way that he is not merely someone who exercises a set of functions or who holds a certain office but that he has been changed on an ontological level by his reception of the sacrament of Orders.

Celibacy configures the priest more closely to Christ, the great High Priest, who forsook earthly marriage for the sake of the Kingdom and for the sake of uniting himself more perfectly to his heavenly Bride, the Church. Moreover, it is fitting that the priest who offers this same Jesus in sacrifice to the Father, show in his person (albeit to an imperfect degree) the purity and holiness of his unspotted Victim. Finally, celibacy has an eschatological aspect, pointing to the coming of the Kingdom when marriage will no longer exist. If the Latin Rite of the Church were to abandon clerical celibacy, it would have to sacrifice much of the sophisticated theology of the priesthood that has developed over the last seventeen hundred years as a result of this discipline…”