Sunday, August 31, 2008

22nd Sunday - homily

“Do not conform yourselves to this age”. This is a very challenging line from St. Paul in today’s second reading (the letter to the Romans). “Do not conform yourselves to this age”…to society…to the ways of the world…to the ‘in crowd’…to whatever’s popular. They are often in conflict with our faith. This is a great challenge for us because we are invited every day to join the world in the way it lives, acts, and thinks. Most of enter into this struggle between the ways of the world and the ways of Christ privately. If we give into temptation, we take it up privately with our confessor.

But, some Catholics enter into this conflict publicly, most notably Catholic politicians. We have seen the example most recently, with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, whose positions on at least two issues of life are conformed to this age, unfortunately. She was asked last week by an interviewer about when life begins. She answered by saying that she is “an ardent, practicing Catholic” and that it’s been “like maybe 50 years or something like that” that the Catholic Church has taught that life begins at conception. Several bishops, including Archbishop Wuerl, responded immediately to her comments, calling them “incorrect”.

Archbishop Wuerl cited a first century document, the Didache, which condemned abortion, stating that it is the killing of the embryo. Our Archbishop ended his statement by saying, “From the beginning, the Catholic Church has respected the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception until natural death”.

Speaker Pelosi also said that she supports contraception as a way to limit abortions. First, we now know through the help of science and technology that birth control pills can serve as abortifacients. They can cause abortions after fertilization has taken place…embryonic abortions. Second, is it really better to prevent the conception of a child? Is it really better to prevent the conception of an immortal soul…a soul that will live forever?

It is the contraceptive mentality that is so dangerous. It is a mentality that is self-serving; it is selfish. It is an example of how human beings think. It focuses on what the self wants: “I want this, but I don’t want that”. It serves the self which doesn’t want consequences to its actions. For many years, the Church has said that if this mentality becomes widespread, then we will see a general decline in morality. And, that is what has happened.

The contraceptive mentality is opposed to the Christian mentality which is selflessness. The Christian mentality (how God thinks) is open to life and to whatever God wants. Unlike the contraceptive mentality which is for the sake of self, the Christian mentality is for the sake of love. We all know that it is much harder to live the Christian mentality. Love means sacrifice. Love means the cross.

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel to move away from selfishness. He says, “deny your self”…deny your selfishness…deny your sin. He commands us to enter into the harder way which is for the sake of love. He says, “take up your cross”. While it brings us great joy to be pro-life and open to life, it is a cross. It is a cross to be pro-life and open to life in this day and age. It is a cross for a married person who is open to life but whose spouse is not. It is a cross for a couple who is using Natural Family Planning and being continually mocked by their friends, all of whom are contracepting; it is the same type of mockery that the prophet Jeremiah experienced (in the first reading).

It would be much easier to conform to this age. It would be much easier to lay down our cross and say, “Jesus, that’s it. I’m not following you anymore. I’m going to live as I want”. But, we realize that he didn’t lay down his cross. He didn’t come down from the cross when so many around him were tempting him to walk away from it all. He carried his cross…he stayed on the cross…for us…for the sake of love. We take up our cross for him because he took up his cross for us. We will do it for the sake of love. Love means sacrifice.

Finally, the second part of St. Paul’s line is powerful: “be transformed by the renewal of your mind”. Be transformed by Christ! Be transformed by the mentality of Christ! This mentality, especially regarding issues of life, is transforming. It renews and refreshes us. May we be renewed by Christ, most particularly through the Eucharist. May we be renewed not only in mind, but also in body, soul, and strength. Through this Eucharist, may we discern “what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect”.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"Why does God allow suffering?"

Here are my notes from the talk, “Why Does God Allow Suffering?”, during the summer series:

-resource – JP II (“On the Christian Meaning of Suffering”)

I. Calcutta / Jeremiah
- “my eyes stream with tears… over the great destruction which overwhelms…my people…look! those slain by the sword…look! Those consumed by hunger” (14: 17-18)
- he saw the vast pains of the people of Judah due to war, famine, and drought
- he’s essentially saying to God, 'Lord, do you see this?'
- similar to the question we like to ask, ‘why does God allow suffering?’

II. Why does God allow suffering? (similar to, ‘why does God allow sin?’)
- a mystery (how an all-loving God could allow suffering in the world He created)
-we don’t claim to know full answer; just what’s been revealed

a. God’s active plan / perfect plan – He wills no suffering or death
God’s passive plan - He allows suffering and death

- God = good
- Paradise - all good

- original state of holiness and justice
- harmony b/w man and woman & all creation
- “as long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die” (#376)
- Wis 1:13 - “God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living”

b. How did suffering enter the world? SIN (explain Orig. Sin)

- Free Will (God respects our freedom that much)
- suffering is consequence of free will / choice to sin

c. Suffering is a natural result of sin
- Jer 14: “We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you” (v.20).
- our sins or the sins of others
- diff. types of evil – moral (adultery, e.g.)
- natural (Hurricane Katrina, e.g.)
- physical (disease, e.g.)

III. Why does God allow good people to suffer?
“ innocent “ ?

1) why “ a young mother of 3 to get cancer?
2) why “ a young bride to become a widow after 3 years of marriage?
3) why “ an elderly, devout Catholic to suffer so much physically?

IV. CRUCIFIX: Why did God allow this (His own son to suffer)?
- same question as those above; (use in counseling ppl)

• Christ is ultimate innocent victim (never sinned)
• F has infinite love for S; not punishing Him

a. Our justification / salvation
- “he was pierced for our offenses” (Is 53:5)
- “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2:24)
- “this is my body….this is my blood… shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven”

b. LOVE: sacrificial love (greatest love)
- teaches it and lives it

c. Union with poor and suffering (who are dependent on God)
- “my God, my God…”
- unites with lonely, depressed, rejected, isolated

d. Bring a greater good (grace of Christ)
- “God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. As St. Paul says, ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’”
– St. Thomas Aquinas

V. (repeat) Why does God allow innocent people to suffer?
(suffering of the guilty is due to their own sin
suffering of the innocent is due to sins of others)

- be in union with His Son
- F has infinite love for His Son
- “ for those in union with His Son
(trust, too; MT quote)

If we are suffering and can’t attribute it to any sin of our own,
- just like He wasn’t punishing Christ on the Cross

a. Join in Christ’s work of justification / salvation
- St Paul – “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I
am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on
behalf of his body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24)

- ‘offer it up’ / Marian
- our suffering can be salvific

b. LOVE (greatest love) / purification
- “Love is always a process involving purifications, renunciations, and
painful transformations of ourselves” (PB XVI)

- “God chastises those who are close to Him” (Judith 8:27)
(He loves)

c. Union with poor and suffering
- “blessed are the poor” (dependent on, trust in God)

d. Bring greater good
- Job: returned more than he originally had

1) Tree Paccassi: Joy
2) Woman in nursing home: Healing of family

VI. Mother Teresa / suffering
- “the best way to imitate Christ is through suffering; those who are closest to Jesus on Earth are those who suffer the most”

a. great graces available and powerful prayers of those who suffer
- Arcola residents, sick – pray for parish, youth, specific situations
b. right there with Christ, united with Him on the Cross
- Shannon

VIII. Conclusion
What are God’s feelings about those who suffer?
- most likely, the same as Jeremiah’s.
- God’s “eyes stream with tears” seeing His children in pain. Ultimately, His answer to the question of suffering is that He sends His Son to suffer for our sake so that we might be saved / transgressions/ by his wounds we are healed (of suffering)

Adoration – “thank you, Father, for sending your Son”
- “thank you, Jesus”

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Church's constant teaching on abortion

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Please join us!!
The following statement is from Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl (Aug. 25, 2008):

On Meet the Press this past Sunday, August 24, 2008, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made statements regarding the teaching of the Catholic Church, human life and abortion that were incorrect.

Speaker Pelosi responded to a question on when life begins by mentioning she was Catholic. She went on to say, “And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition...”

After Mr. Tom Brokaw, the interviewer, pointed out that the Catholic Church feels strongly that life begins at conception, she replied, “I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy.”

We respect the right of elected officials such as Speaker Pelosi to address matters of public policy that are before them, but the interpretation of Catholic faith has rightfully been entrusted to the Catholic bishops. Given this responsibility to teach, it is important to make this correction for the record.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear: the current teaching of the Catholic Church on human life and abortion is the same teaching as it was 2,000 years ago. The Catechism reads: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception…Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” (Catechism, 2270-2271)

The Catechism goes on to quote the Didache, a treatise that dates to the first century: “’You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.’”

From the beginning, the Catholic Church has respected the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Valid, but illicit

“Anon” wrote the following: “I have a question. Consider two young people who were raised Catholic and marry but decide they have become agnostic. They have a child and decide not to have the child baptized. If a grandparent privately performs a baptism, fully intending to be responsible for the Catholic education of the child, maybe even together with the three other grandparents, is the baptism valid? Has the grandparent committed a sin by doing this without the consent of the parents?”

I found an online Q&A in which Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university, addresses a similar situation. A woman baptized her grandchild because her non-practicing Catholic son and Jewish daughter-in-law never had the baby baptized. After Mass one day she baptized the baby with holy water, saying, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.

In Anon's scenario, the baptism would be valid (provided that the grandmother in Anon's scenario baptized the baby with water and said the Trinitarian formula) but not licit, as Fr. McNamara indicates below. To view the full text which includes follow-up questions, please click on today's title.

A: The question must be answered on two levels: If baptizing the child was the right thing to do; if the woman's actions constituted a valid baptism.

The first question is rather delicate because although the grandmother deeply desired the child's baptism, the education of children usually falls upon the parents who are called to be the primary educators of children.

Canon law (Canon 868) also requires that for an infant to be baptized licitly:
"1. the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent.

"2. there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic Religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason."

At the same time the canon specifies that "An infant of Catholic parents or even of non-Catholic parents is baptized licitly in danger of death even against the will of the parents." Even though there are clear historical examples of grandmothers who secretly baptized children under atheistic Communist regimes, this does not appear to be the present case. The baptism should not have been done without the parents' consent.

Also, only the priest and deacons are ordinary ministers of the sacrament of baptism and can perform all of the rites. In some extreme conditions where there are no ordained ministers available, lay people have been authorized to perform the essential rites. An unauthorized lay person should not perform a baptism except in cases of imminent danger of death or other dire situations where not even an authorized lay minister is available.

With respect to the second question regarding the validity of the baptism. As we have seen, the grandmother, no matter how sincere her motives, acted against Church law and should not be imitated. From the description of what she did, however, it would appear to have been a valid baptism and the child is truly baptized.

All the same, in order to be certain, it would be necessary for her to give a detailed description of what she did to a priest in case she committed an error regarding matter or form that would cast doubt on the baptism's validity.

What to do? It depends on many factors, but sooner or later the parents should be informed. The grandmother could perhaps avoid having to reveal what she has done by asking permission from the parents to allow her to have the child baptized in a private ceremony, with just herself and the priest, and then take charge of its religious upbringing. If the parents consent, then she could have a priest or deacon complete the baptismal rites and formally register the baptism.

If the parents are very much opposed, then there is little to be done other than to await a suitable moment to inform them that their child is already baptized. In all cases she should do all in her power to transmit the faith to the child, above all though her living witness to the Catholic faith.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

21st Sunday - homily

I ask to imagine the following scenario, and I underscore the word, ‘imagine’ because it won’t be real. Imagine that you’re watching TV later tonight, flipping through the channels. You come upon a replay of the Redskins’ game last night (oof, if only that was imaginary)…blow past that channel. You go the movie channels, and then hit the news channels. On one of the news channels, who do you see being interviewed but….Jesus! You can’t believe it! He’s right there! Now, again, this is imaginary – if it were real, it’d be the Second Coming and the end of the world…!

He’s being asked about all kinds of stuff – current events, issues, teachings. And, this is different from what you’re used to hearing on the news channels – opinions from experts or pundits who try to spin things to fit their agendas. You are hearing the truth! And you rejoice when you hear what Jesus is saying about the different issues or teachings, like abortion or the war, because you know you are hearing the truth. Why does Jesus have this authority? Why do we know that whatever he says is the truth? Because he is the Son of God. Everything he says is true, and we follow whatever he says.

Now, the amazing thing about this Gospel passage is that Jesus gives his authority and power to Simon Peter! One of the saints, John Chrysostom, said these powers “belong to God alone”. And yet, Jesus gives this power to Simon Peter. It is the power to speak and teach for Heaven. So, it would be like us flipping through the channels and seeing St. Peter or one of his successors – like Pope Benedict – being interviewed and speaking the truth as Jesus would speak the truth.

Jesus not only gives this great power to Simon, he changes his name to Peter which means “Rock”. That is a great name – Rock! He says you are ‘Rock and on this Rock (on you) I will build my church’. He makes him the leader of the Church. He also gives him the power to bind and loose. Bind means ‘forbid’ and loose means ‘allow’. It means that Peter has the power to impose or lift punishments regarding the law. In addition, he gives him the ‘keys of the kingdom’. In the first reading, Eliakim receives the keys to the House of David and he can open and shut the House as he sees fit. Likewise, Peter is the controller of the household of God.

We see Jesus give similar power to all of the apostles in Matthew 18. So, Christ gives the Apostles and their successors have the power to teach, govern, and sanctify as he would teach, sanctify, and govern. The Church continues to teach for Christ.

Do we follow the Church’s teachings as we would follow the teachings of Jesus? When we hear the Church’s teachings and views in matters of faith and morals, we are hearing Jesus’s teachings and views. In Luke 10, he says to the Apostles, “whenever they hear you, they hear me”. The Church and Christ are one in their teachings.

Earlier this year at about the time the Pope was coming to Washington, I spoke with a man who had had with the Church because of the priests’ scandals from years ago. He said the Church had no more credibility or authority, in his view. I listened to him; he made some fair points. But, then he went too far when he said that the Church had lost all moral authority. I reminded him of this Gospel passage and others in pointing out that, as bad and awful as those things were involving the scandals, they didn’t take away the divine authority the Church has to teach doctrine. To his credit, the man honestly admitted that he didn’t know about this Gospel and that Jesus gave such authority to the Church. Now, we’re not saying that Peter, the Apostles and their successors are perfect; we are saying that whenever they teach on faith and morals, they are speaking without error. They are speaking for Heaven.

Finally, whenever I hear this Gospel, I think of the Eucharist. Jesus asks the Apostles, ‘who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ It would be like him asking us, ‘who do people say that the Eucharist is?’ We would answer him, ‘some say a symbol, others say a representation.’ In a few minutes, when I elevate the Eucharist at the consecration, He will be asking each of us, ‘who do you say that I am?’ May each one of us say in our hearts as we gaze upon the host, ‘you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’.

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Why Forgive?"

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. The Summer Series ends with my second talk on, “Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory”. Hope you can join us!
A couple of people who haven’t been able to attend the Summer Series have asked me to post my notes from the talks. I will try to do this over the next few weeks; although, they may not make total sense! Below are my notes from one of the talks, “Why Forgive?”

After this talk, someone asked a question that was virtually identical to one posted by an anonymous blogger: “ So, if we are to forgive as God forgives us, I get stuck on one point- repentance. Doesn’t God require that of us- being contrite, asking for forgiveness and doing penance?” This same blogger then pointed to the answer to his or her own question: “I see that maybe I get confused with the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation”.

It was the same way I answered the question from that night: if someone has sinned against us and reconciliation is not possible (e.g., they don’t ask for forgiveness, the circumstances make it impossible to reconcile with them), then we are called to forgive them from our hearts. In this way, we are forgiving as God forgives: always offering mercy. God is mercy, so He is always offering mercy and forgiveness to us who have sinned against Him; reconciliation with Him is up to us. We are called to always offer mercy and forgiveness to others who have sinned against us; reconciliation with us is up to them.

Why Forgive?

I. PJP II / Time magazine, 1981: Why Forgive?

II. Why should God forgive?

- Original Sin
- Sins that followed against 10 commandments
“after that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin. There is Cain’s murder of his brother Abel and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the Law of Moses” (CCC, #401)
- Persecution against prophets God sends
- Why send Christ to forgive us??

- God’s essence: mercy/ love (God is Mercy; God is Love)
- God cannot NOT forgive; God cannot NOT love
- He is Father Almighty with “infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins” (CCC, # 270)
- Father of Prodigal Son, e.g.
- God is Love; “the first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of sins”
(CCC, #734)

- infinite wisdom / providence
When He created us, He knew that we would sin / reject Him
- His Plan from all eternity was to forgive us
- not caught off guard by our sin / need for forgiveness

- God forgives us because of our dignity
- created in his own image and likeness
- we are the only creatures made in his image
- “ “ who receive the fullness of His mercy
(course, we are only ones who sin so offensively against Him)

- greatest sign of God’s mercy in the world
- even within that, “Father, forgive them, …”

III. Why should we forgive? (to live God’s mercy)

a. others

- to be forgiven by God – Our Father
- we’re not perfect…why hold others to perfection
- God doesn’t hold grudges against us if we’re sorry
- we shouldn’t

- to be God-like (most Christ-like when forgive)
- what it means to be a Christian

- “defining moments” – people / families / counseling

- dignity / respect of human person
- Jesus says so
- forgive not seven times, but “seventy times seven times” (Mt 18:22)
- forgive always; limitless mercy
- radical forgiveness
- live God’s (radical, unlimited) mercy
- FG’s stories / examples – forgiving murder (seventy times seven)

- our own healing
VA TECH, e.g.

b. ourselves
- Healing

-confessing sin from past confessions: LET IT GO!
- God forgives us, others have forgiven us, need to forgive
ourselves (hardest part of process)


- Healing of wounds
- lighter burdens
- peace

IV. Why should the Church forgive?
- to extend God’s (radical, unlimited mercy)

- “there is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive” (CCC, #982)
- JP II: “the Church is the sacrament, that is to say, the sign and means of reconciliation in different ways…which all come together to obtain what the divine initiative of mercy desires to grant to humanity” (document: Reconciliation and Penance, #11)

- “means of the divine initiative of mercy”
- i.e., God forgives through the Church
- Power of forgiveness to Church; Mt 16 + Jn 20
- w/out Church, wouldn’t have God’s forgiveness, wouldn't have Christ, wouldn’t know about God / have sacraments

- God has given the Church the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18)
- continues Christ’s ministry
- begun with Christ
- done in Christ

- through the Church, we are reconciled to God and each other

- “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”
- Church and Christ are one

V. How to forgive / Helps in forgiving
- Grace

- Euch (Mass, Adoration)
- Confession
-regular confession --> humility -->-forgiveness
“humble are never scandalized”

- Prayer (for person / situation involving forgiveness)
- daily prayer + devotions/novenas
- Sacred Scripture (handout)
- Compassion (Fr Joyce handout) – understand whole person / situation
- Humor
- Lives of saints – examples of unlimited / radical forgiveness
St. Maria Goretti

VI. Adoration
- in presence of Mercy

- Jesus, thank you for your Mercy
Offering your life for our sins to be forgiven

- help us to be healed through your forgiveness
- help us to be healed through the forgiveness of others
- help us to be healed through forgiving others
- help us to be healed through forgiving ourselves

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"If a priest is excommunicated..."

I have asked Anthony, our current seminarian all-star who will be completing his assignment here next week, to respond to the following questions from an anonymous blogger:

1) If one is excommunicated, they are barred from receiving communion, right? But how exactly is that different from any other who is not in a state of grace?

2) Also, if a priest is excommunicated, what exactly does that mean? A priest is a priest for life, so excommunication wouldn't change that. I would assume they are prohibited from participating in things of the church. So, if an excommunicated member of the clergy did say Mass and offer the sacraments, would they be valid?

1) First, it is helpful to recall what the Church means by communion. As Vatican II taught in Lumen Gentium (# 14),

“They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion.”

So, there are invisible and visible bonds that are express one’s communion with the Church. The invisible bond is to have the grace and the charity of the Holy Spirit. The visible bonds are the profession of faith, the sacraments, and to be in communion with the Pope and one’s bishop. These visible and invisible bonds cannot be considered separately – the visible bonds of communion are a manifestation and a verification of the invisible communion of grace one has with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

If one commits a mortal sin, one loses the grace and charity of the Holy Spirit, and one loses full communion with God and the Church. Therefore, the person loses the right to receive the visible expression of communion, the Eucharist. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance requires that a person recognize this break in communion and be sorry for his or her sin and resolve to not commit this sin again.

A person’s sin is between him or her and God – this is also why the priest cannot reveal anything that happens in the sacrament of Penance. However, when a person’s mortal sin is public, the Church pays special attention because this public mortal sin may cause scandal to the faithful. As a shepherd, the pope or local bishop must guard the flock from error and falling out of communion. So, they may impose a penalty (such as excommunication) on the person in rare circumstances to protect the flock. But the penalty is also to call the sinner back into communion. The person may not fully appreciate the consequences of breaking communion with God and the Church, and the Church, through a public penalty, is seeking to inform this person’s conscience to this fact.

Thus, a penalty such as excommunication does not cause the excommunication. Rather, it is merely visibly expressing the excommunication that the person has already made public by their sin. But this excommunication is imposed by the Church only in extreme cases. In fact, from Canon Law (# 1341) a bishop “is to take care to initiate a judicial or administrative process to impose or declare penalties only after he has ascertained that fraternal correction or rebuke or other means of pastoral solicitude cannot sufficiently repair the scandal, restore justice, reform the offender.” In other words, a bishop is only to impose the penalty of excommunication as a last resort, to prevent scandal, to restore justice, and most importantly, to call the offender to repentance and back to full communion with the Church. This decision is made carefully, but it is always to promote both the common good and the good of the person. This excommunication can apply to all the sacraments (except in cases of death) and to even the holding of any office in the Church.

However, in the special case of the Eucharist, the priest or bishop may deny a person the sacrament without imposing a formal excommunication. This is when a person is “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.” (Canon Law, #915). Again, this person is already out of communion with the Church due to a mortal sin, but this denial of the Eucharist is done in the extreme case when a person has made a mortal sin public and who remains in this sin even after being counseled or warned by the Church. The Church in this case is again protecting the flock and calling the person to conversion.

So, to sum up, when someone commits a mortal sin, they are out of communion with the Church, even if they continue in visible communion. Again from Vatican II (Lumen Gentium, # 14) “He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a ‘bodily’ manner and not ‘in his heart.’” However, when a person’s mortal sin is public, and it continues even after being corrected, and it is causing scandal, the Church responds by also acting publicly, whether by denying the Eucharist or by imposing the penalty of excommunication.

b) In the second question about the excommunicated priest, you are correct in saying that the priest is a priest for life. The priest when he is ordained is permanently configured to Jesus Christ. Thus he participates in the one ministry of Christ through the functions of sanctification (through the sacraments), teaching, and governance. A priest (or bishop) because he has been permanently ordained, never looses the function or power of sanctification. However, the Church can regulate this power for the common good, and she does so by giving additional permission called a faculty or authority to a priest to validly celebrate certain sacraments.

A regular priest, for example, needs a special faculty to absolve sins (Canon Law #966) and to confirm (#882), and he needs special authority to witness marriages (#1109). If he does not have this faculty or authority, the sacrament is not valid, even if he is not excommunicated. He does not need this special faculty or authority to validly Baptize (#861), to validly celebrate Mass (#900), or for a bishop, to validly ordain a priest (#1012).

So, if a priest is excommunicated, he cannot legally (or licitly) celebrate any sacrament (except in danger of death), and he also loses these faculties or authority to validly celebrate the sacraments that need them. What this means is that if a priest is excommunicated, the only sacraments he celebrates validly are Baptism and the Eucharist (Holy Mass); they would be valid but illicit (illegal). If he is a bishop who is excommunicated, he would still validly ordain (other priests), but to do so would be gravely sinful. Finally, in danger of death, an excommunicated priest can validly (and licitly) absolve sins (#976), confirm (#883), and anoint the sick (#1003).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

20th Sunday - Gospel

Gospel - Mt 15:21-28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”He said in reply,“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”He said in reply,“It is not right to take the food of the childrenand throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scrapsthat fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply,“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Feast of the Assumption - homily

1) Hope you can join us tonight at SAA Church for the following:
- 7:00 Eucharistic Adoration
- 7:30 Mass for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- 8:15 (+/-) Adoration resumes after Mass; talk on “Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory” (Part I) + Benediction.

2) Today is a HDO (Holy Day of Obligation).
Everything that we have is from God. Everything in our lives – our family, personal gifts, friends, all the good things that happen to us each day – everything is from God. It is so refreshing to meet people who think and act this way. It is so refreshing to meet people who are models of humility. It is great to see people who don’t take themselves too seriously, are honest about their gifts, and that God is the source and giver of their gifts. I enjoy seeing models…of humility.

How much more refreshing is it to see Mary who is a supermodel of humility. Mary was given such an important role in the history of mankind – mother of the Savior. She even acknowledged that “from this day all generations will call me blessed”. She has this huge role as mother of the Savior, and yet she is totally humble, basically telling us that ‘it’s about God, people, it’s not about me’.

She says in today’s Gospel that “the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name”. This is the sign of true humility: to acknowledge that you have gifts and that God is the giver of those gifts. “Great things” was used in the Old Testament for God’s special gifts of love. So, Mary is not only glorifying God, she is teaching about God and his love. She reminds us a few times about God’s “mercy”; again, it’s a reminder of God’s love and how He has been faithful to his people.

Mary identifies herself as a “lowly servant”. She considers herself among the “poor and lowly ones” from the Old Testament. Those who are poor and lowly can identify, then, with this Gospel canticle. They can identify with her. The poor acknowledge that God is the source of all that they have – again, this is true humility. We can learn from the poor because sometimes, in a first world country such as ours, we can take credit for what God has given us, which is pride.

So, on this feast of Mary’s Assumption, body and soul, into Heaven, we celebrate her humility as much as anything. She is exalted for her humility, as Jesus promised: “those who humble themselves will be exalted”. We celebrate her entry into heavenly glory.

Finally, Mary reminds us who come to this Eucharist that God “fills the hungry with good things”. We are hungry for the good things of God, especially the Eucharist. We are hungry for God’s special acts of love. May we will carry Jesus with us out from her imitate Mary who carried Jesus with her to see Elizabeth. May each of us imitate her humility and acknowledge that “the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name”.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Spiritual reading list

A parishioner recently asked me to post a list of books for spiritual reading. The following is a partial list of books from "A Guide To Spiritual Reading (And More)" by Rev. T.G. Morrow. To view the full list, please click on today's title.

"For those who are new to spiritual reading"
- "The Sun Danced at Fatima", Fr. Joseph Pelletier, A.A.
- "The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux", Institute of Carmelite Studies
- "He Came to You so that You Might Come to Him" (St. Anthony of Padua), Lothar Hardick
Franciscan Press.
- "St. Francis of Assisi", Omar Englebert, Servant Pubs.
- "Padre Pio, The Wonder Worker", The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
- "The Cure d’Ars", Francis Trochu, TAN Books
- "Bernadette Speaks: In Her Own Words", Fr. Rene Laurentin, Daughters of St. Paul
- "The Death Camp Proved Him Real: The Life of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe", Maria Winowska, Franciscan Marytown Press
- "St. Catherine of Siena", F. A. Forbes, TAN Books
- "Give Me Souls – Life of Don Bosco", Petter Lappin, Don Bosco Pubs.

"Intermediate List"
- "The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life", Garrigou-Lagrange, TAN Books
- "Introduction to the Devout Life", St. Francis de Sales, TAN Books
- "The Way of the Lamb: The Spirit of Childhood and the End of the Age", John Saward, Ignatius Press.
- "The Imitation of Christ", Thomas a Kempis, various Publishers.
- "The Life of Christ", F. J. Sheen, Image
- By C.S. Lewis: "The Screwtape Letters", Simon and Schuster; "The Four Loves", Harvest Books; "Mere Christianity", Harper
- "The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola", Image Books
- "The Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese of Lisieux", Fr. Jamart OCD, Alba House
- "The Holy Eucharist", St. Alphonsus Ligouri, TAN Books
- "True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin", St. Louis de Montfort, Alba House
- "Butler’s Lives of the Saints", Harper & Row

"Advanced List"
- "The Complete Works of St. Teresa of Avila", Inst. For Carmelite Studies
- "The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross", Inst. For Carmelite Studies
- "Confessions of St. Augustine", various publishers

- Writings of the Church Fathers such as (Sts.) Augustine, (John) Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Ephraem, Ambrose.

Monday, August 11, 2008

19th Sunday - homily

‘I would go to Hell for you to go to Heaven’. Is this what St. Paul is saying in the second reading? In his letter to the Romans (chapter 9), he writes: “I could wish that I were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren”. Most scholars think that he is not referring to eternal separation from Christ, but some do. I have thought about this for many years - ever since I first heard this line. Would I go to Hell for others to go to Heaven? I would. I would go to Hell for you to go to Heaven. Now, it’s an exaggerated point that St. Paul and I are making: that we would do anything for your salvation, for your conversion, for your faith in Christ.

Why is faith in Christ so important to St. Paul that he would give up everything for his people to have it? Why is it so paramount? I think that it’s on a couple of levels that he sees the immense value of a life in Christ and wants his people to enjoy it. The first is on a personal level. In his own life, St. Paul found happiness, peace, and joy in Christ – that’s definitely true. But, on a deeper level, he found the meaning of his life in Christ. We always talk about finding ‘the meaning of life’ – it is found in Christ.

St. Paul found his identity in Christ. The more we get to know Christ, the more we get to ourselves – our true identity. St. Paul found his true identity in Christ. He found life itself in Christ. This point, though, about the importance of identity is played out whenever we go to a funeral. We don’t primarily hear about the person’s accomplishments or possessions; we hear much more about their identity – who they were. Our identity is paramount; we find our true identity in Christ.

St. Paul also wanted his people to experience life in Christ for its general value – it is AWE-SOME! It is awesome!! We hear that word so much these days – “that movie was awesome”…”my new car is awesome”. GOD is awesome! We are in awe of God’s power. We are in awe of his love. We are in awe of his presence. This was the experience of St. Paul. This was the experience of the Apostles in the boat. This was the experience of Elijah in the first reading.

It may not have been what they expected, but they were in awe to see God’s power and presence. The Apostle didn’t expect to see Jesus walking on water on quieting the storm. Elijah didn’t expect to find the Lord in a small, quiet way. And yet, they were in awe when they experienced God’s presence. They were in awe when they experienced his power.

We come to the Eucharist – talk about a way we wouldn’t expect God to come us! In a few moments, He will be among us in a way we wouldn’t expect – small and unspectacular. And yet, He will be among us. He will be with us amid our storms. Just like when the Apostles saw Jesus walking on water and said, ‘it’s a ghost’, so do some people look at Jesus in the Eucharist and say, ‘it’s only a symbol’…’it’s only a representation’. And, Jesus says to us what he said to the Apostles, “take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid”.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

18th Sunday - homily

I will be away this week and resume posting next week.
Some of us –maybe most of us - have been in this situation, but I would like all of us to imagine the situation where we’ve just received some bad news. We’ve just heard the news that a family member or close friend has died. We can imagine the pain and sorrow, the grief and mourning we’d feel right away. The first several moments would be filled with such sadness and tears.

Those of us who experienced this should have picked up on the first line from the Gospel because this is exactly the situation Jesus is in because he’s just heard the news that his cousin, John the Baptist, has died. We can imagine that Jesus was very sad and wanted to grieve. He “withdrew to a deserted place” to be alone. He wanted to pray; he wanted to grieve. But, the crowd followed him to the deserted place! They wouldn’t leave him alone. They wouldn’t give him a moment’s peace. They were hungry for Jesus and his ministry. No one else could help them like he could. So, they continued to pester him, they continued to ask him to help them.

How did Jesus respond to them? Was it as many of would have responded – with probably a rude or angry response to people pressing in on us? No, Jesus has quite the opposite response. In his grief and sorrow, Jesus sees the “vast crowd” and “his heart was moved with pity” for them. They should be moved with pity for him, and he’s the one who is moved with pity for them. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has pity on the people because “they are like sheep without a shepherd”. He takes one look at them and realizes that they need him. There is no one else who can help them.

So, he takes pity on them. He cures their sick. He feeds them to the point where they are “satisfied”. There are many things we learn from the Gospel story; one of them is that when God gives, He gives in abundance. Even in his grief, Jesus gives to them and they are satisfied.

We can’t be too harsh on the crowd. We can’t be judgmental of them. We are the crowd. We who follow Jesus are the crowd. We who hunger for Him are the crowd. We, too, pester him. We, too, constantly go to God and ask Him to help us. And, this is good! The fact that the crowd and we are constantly following Jesus is good. It shows our hunger for Him.

In a few minutes, Jesus will do the same thing for us that he did for the crowd. He will take bread, say the blessing, break the bread, and give it to us through his priest. He will feed us to the point where we are satisfied. Those of us who hunger for him he will feed with his body. Those of us who thirst for him he will give drink with his blood. He continues to feed us who hunger for him. He will satisfy us. Jesus continues to feed us who hunger and thirst for him.

Friday, August 01, 2008

"Meditate on the mysteries of Christ"

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Summer series continues! I will give a reflection, "How Do I Pray?" Also, we will have LIVE (praise and worship) music! I hope you can join us!
In tonight's reflection, I will attempt to briefly answer the question of how to pray in the different stages of the spiritual life: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. In the "advanced" stage, I will discuss something I wrote about in Tuesday's post: meditation and contemplation. A blogger has already commented that this method appears to be for mystics only. The comment is appreciated, but please keep in mind that the general question of 'how do I hear God?' is mystical by nature. We are all called to engage in mystical prayer on some level; a good spiritual director can help to determine the best way for each of us to enter into it.

The Church shows us that meditation and contemplation is something each Catholic should attempt to enter into by including a section on each in her catechism. We will provide a handout tonight of these catechism sections. Below are excerpts from the sections; I have edited some of them so that they are not so intimidating.

2705 Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the "today" of God is written.

2706 To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves. Here, another book is opened: the book of life. We pass from thoughts to reality. To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: "Lord, what do you want me to do?"

2707 There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly, lest they come to resemble the three first kinds of soil in the parable of the sower. But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.

2708 Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.

2709 What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: "Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”…

2710 The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter…

2711 Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we "gather up:" the heart…

2712 Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, …

2715 Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. "I look at him and he looks at me”…

2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God…

2717 Contemplative prayer is silence, the "symbol of the world to come" or "silent love."…