Sunday, June 29, 2008

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul - homily

Were the saints always saints? Did they come out of their mother’s womb with “St.” in front of their name? No. In fact, some of the greatest saints were great sinners. St. Mary Magdelene was a “sinful woman” who became the first witness to the Resurrection. St. Augustine was a pagan and playboy – with the famous quote, “Lord, give me chastity but not right now!” - who became one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church. All saints had a major transformation – a conversion - at some point in their lives. St. Francis of Assisi grew up in a wealthy family and gave up all of his riches to live radical poverty for the sake of the Gospel. The saints are ordinary men and women who lived extraordinary lives; they lived heroic virtue.

The saints we celebrate today - Peter and Paul, Apostles – are no different. St. Peter was as ordinary as they come. He was a fisherman who had moments in the Gospel with which we can all identify. He would even deny Jesus three times. And yet, Jesus gave this ordinary and sinful man the keys to the Kingdom and made him the leader of his Church. St. Paul was vehemently anti-Christian; he participated in the persecution of Christians. He became one of the greatest Christian missionaries of all time.

How do saints become saints? Basically, they see the light. I know it’s a cliché, but it makes the point. The word “light” is significant because it is the sign of God’s presence in the Bible. In Acts 9:3, St. Paul literally saw a great light in the sky on his way to killing Christians one day. The light was Christ. “Oops” about Jesus and Christians, Paul probably thought to himself. He realized that Jesus is the Son of God and had an immediate change of heart. In Acts 12:7, a light shone in the prison cell of St. Peter. Peter realized that God was with him. It confirmed that everything he believed about God and faith in Christ was true.

This is what happens with the saints – they see the light that God does exist. They realize that He is real. They realize that the story of Jesus is real. They realize that Christ is with them. This changes the human heart. And, it’s not just a realization of faith, but also of action. When St. Paul had his epiphany, he simultaneously realized his mission. In other words, at the same moment he received revelation about Christ, he received his calling to proclaim Christ. Saints not only see the light, they live the light.

How do we become saints? It’s very simple: the Eucharist. Every saint has made the Eucharist the center of his or her life. If we center our lives on the Eucharist, we will become saints. We may never have “St.” in front of our name, but we will live heroic lives. The power and grace of the Eucharist is what allows saints to live extraordinary and heroic lives. Mother Teresa once said that she would have only lasted a week serving the poorest of the poor if she didn’t receive the Eucharist every day at Mass. The Eucharist is what leads the saints to do extraordinary things.

In a few minutes, we will see the Eucharist. We will see the light and know that God is present among us. We will not only see the light, we will receive it. May the grace of this sacrament help us to live extraordinary lives. May it help us to live heroic forgiveness, kindness, charity, peace, and joy. May it help us to join St. Peter, St. Paul, and all the saints in the Kingdom of Heaven forever.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

12th Sunday - Gospel commentary

I will be away this week and will resume posting next week…

The following is a Gospel Commentary for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, as found on

This Sunday's Gospel contains a number of ideas but they all can be summarized in this apparently contradictory phrase: "Have fear but do not be afraid." Jesus says: "Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear rather him who has the power to make both the soul and the body perish in Gehenna." We must not be afraid of, nor fear human beings; we must fear God but not be afraid of him.

There is a difference between being afraid and fearing and I would like to take this occasion to try to understand why this is so and in what this difference consists. Being afraid is a manifestation of our fundamental instinct for preservation. It is a reaction to a threat to our life, the response to a real or perceived danger, whether this be the greatest danger of all, death, or particular dangers that threaten our tranquility, our physical safety, or our affective world.

With respect to whether the dangers are real or imagined, we say that someone is "justifiably" or "unjustifiably" or "pathologically" afraid. Like sicknesses, this worry can be acute or chronic. If it is acute, it has to do with states determined by situations of extraordinary danger. If I am about to be hit by a car or I begin to feel the earth quake under my feet, this is being acutely afraid.

These "scares" arise suddenly and without warning and cease when the danger has passed, leaving, if anything, just a bad memory. Being chronically afraid is to be constantly in a state of preoccupation, this state grows up with us from birth or childhood and becomes part of our being, and we end up developing an attachment to it. We call such a state a complex or phobia: claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and so on.

The Gospel helps to free us from all of these worries and reveals their relative, non-absolute, nature. There is something of ours that nothing and no one in the world can truly take away from us or damage: For believers it is the immortal soul; for everyone it is the testimony of their own conscience.

The fear of God is quite different from being afraid. The fear of God must be learned: "Come, my children, listen to me," a Psalm says, "I will teach you the fear of the Lord" (33:12); being afraid, on the other hand, does not need to be learned at school; it overtakes us suddenly in the face of danger; the things themselves bring about our being afraid.

But the meaning itself of fearing God is different from being afraid. It is a component of faith: It is born from knowledge of who God is. It is the same sentiment that we feel before some great spectacle of nature. It is feeling small before something that is immense; it is stupor, marvel mixed with admiration. Beholding the miracle of the paralytic who gets up on his feet and walks, the Gospel says, "Everyone was in awe and praised God; filled with fear they said: ‘Today we have seen wondrous things'" (Luke 5:26). Fear is here simply another name for stupor and praise.

This sort of fear is a companion of and allied to love: It is the fear of offending the beloved that we see in everyone who is truly in love, even in the merely human realm. This fear is often called "the beginning of wisdom" because it leads to making the right choices in life. Indeed it is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit! (cf. Isaiah 11:2).

As always, the Gospel does not only illumine our faith but it also helps us to understand the reality of everyday life. Our time has been called "the age of anxiety" (W.H. Auden). Anxiety, which is closely related to being afraid, has become the sickness of the century and it is, they say, one of the principal causes of the large number of heart attacks. This spread of anxiety seems connected with the fact that, compared with the past, we have many more forms of economic insurance, life insurance, many more means of preventing illness and delaying death.

The cause of this anxiety is the diminishing -- if not the complete disappearance -- in our society of the holy fear of God. "No one fears God anymore!" We say this sometimes jokingly but it contains a tragic truth. The more that the fear of God diminishes, the more we become afraid of our fellow men!

It is easy to understand why this is the case. Forgetting God, we place all our confidence in the things of this world, that is, in the things that Christ says "thieves can steal and moths consume" -- uncertain things that can disappear from one moment to the next, that time (and moths!) inexorably consume, things that everyone is after and which therefore cause competition and rivalry (the famous "mimetic desire" of which René Girard speaks), things that need to be defended with clenched teeth and, sometimes, with a gun in hand.

The decline in fear of God, rather than liberating us from worry, gets us more entangled in worry. Look at what happens in the relationship between children and parents in our society. Fathers no longer fear God and children no longer fear fathers! The fear of God is reflected in and analogous to the reverential fear of children for parents. The Bible continually associates the two things. But does the lack of this reverential fear for their parents make the children and young people of today more free and self-confident? We know well that the exact opposite is true.

The way out of the crisis is to rediscover the necessity and the beauty of the holy fear of God. Jesus explains to us in the Gospel that we will hear on Sunday that the constant companion of the fear of God is confidence in God. "Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows!"

God does not want us to be afraid of him but to have confidence in him. It is the contrary of that emperor who said: "Oderint dum metuant" -- "Let them hate me so long as they are afraid of me!" Our earthly fathers must imitate God; they must not make us afraid of them but have confidence in them. It is in this way that respect is nourished: admiration, confidence, everything that falls under the name of "holy fear."

Friday, June 20, 2008

A story of healing

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. “Come, let us adore Him!”
I have been working with an amazing woman who has physically and personally suffered much since being injured on a family vacation five years ago. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she has experienced a tremendous amount of healing - spiritual, personal, and even physical. I have asked her to write about her powerful experience. The following are excerpts of what she written:

My name is Ellen and this is my story of suffering chronic pain inflicted by CRPS (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome) for the past five years. I was a very involved mother, who stayed at home with my (four) children…Where help was needed, you would find me volunteering and giving it a hundred percent…For years this went on, my never stopping, that is until our family vacation in July of 2003.

…Our first full day at this resort my daughter of eleven, at the time, and I went for a swim at the hotel pool in order to have some fun. We laughed and joked on the way up a simple hotel waterslide, but the joke was on me on the way down. The descent landed with my foot on the bottom of the pool with the outside of my ankle crushing down. To make a long story short, the foot was casted for almost sixteen weeks and the pain from the severe sprain never went away, matter of fact it grew worse with time. Many surgeries tried to remedy the situation, but nothing seemed to help and the pain progressed to a point of incapacitation, bed ridden at times. This life-changing story really begins with doctors finally diagnosing the problem, after almost three years, as a neurological disease called CRPS.

CRPS is the most painful chronic pain one can have and is usually brought on by an injury to a nerve. It causes your nervous system to fire at a hundred percent in the affected areas, making them feel as if they are on fire. There is much pain and suffering with CRPS. It rarely spreads, and if it does it usually mirrors the side affected, but that was not true for me. My CRPS spread to both feet, legs, back, and hands…The pain was so great I would often soak in a tub for 8 hours a day with noise reducing earphones on my head…Little relief was available to me medically, due to the late diagnosis of the problem.

Questions started hounding my inner thoughts constantly, “Why me?” For heaven sake, all I was doing is my job God, when I got hurt, trying to be a good mom.” There was a demand for God to explain Himself. The more I questioned His motives and control the more I searched out who He was. Could He really want me to suffer like this until the end of my life? If this was true, He cannot be a loving God but a cruel one. Is pain and suffering evil or is it caused my ones own evil doing? Is suffering a punishment? Does one have to suffer because they are a bad person? Has God forsaken me, forgotten me, and deserted me? What else was there left to say except, “Answer me God, if you even exist?” I knew I could not go on with my life this way and I knew I needed God’s help to survive. Prayer after prayer I ask God for his help because this was too much for me to bear and the burden was too heavy.

Then a few days after my devastating news of an entire life in pain, a glimmer of hope came my way. There was a new kind of possible treatment, that just opened up for CRPS patients and I was a possible candidate…

With God’s handy work things started to look up. Just days before my admittance to the hospital a priest offered me the Sacrament of “Anointing of the Sick”. Ok, this could not hurt, I thought. Then two days before the treatment started to have my nervous system “rebooted” by placing me in a pre-coma state…a meeting was set up with (another priest) who asked if he could bless me with some Holy Water from Lourdes that a friend brought back to him. Not holding much stock in its supposedly mystical powers, I agreed to it more out of respect. He … proceeded to pour, and I do not exaggerate, almost an entire gallon of Water over my head. Totally, unprepared for a tidal wave I stood shocked. He proceeded to pray and I can honestly say I was shocked over the calmness I felt, more like peacefulness. He gave me the left over gallon of Holy water to take home with me, the remaining cup and a half to use when I needed it. Reluctantly, for its power was not yet revealed to me, I took it home.

…One week later, not only did the treatment work, but I was pain-free for the first time in four years and I mean pain-free. My pain level was a level ten when I went in and a zero when it was all over. Doctors came to see me and could not believe their eyes. They were very stunned at how this crippled patient now looked and felt. They could not believe it worked and healed me completely. The doctors said I could not have been the same person they admitted a week earlier. Realizing a reprieve from pain and suffering had been granted, I vowed to praise God from his favors threw the use of the sacraments, healing hands of (the priest), and the use of the Lourdes Holy water and in turn I was given another favor the yearning to have a more indebt relationship with Our Lord.

Although the medicine received was only to act as a temporary band-aid, which eventually would fall off, the Spiritual gifts received would last forever. Keeping my vow of commitment, I began to read books after books, about the church, Catholics, and the bible. There was not enough time to read all that I wanted to know. Reading about the Saints, especially St. Therese of Avilla and St Margaret of Castillo showed me how suffering is a gift and I vowed to look at my suffering in the same way they did. Reading about St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face showed me how to be humble and void ones pride. Instead of all the negative emotions, I replaced them with a love for how suffering has it changed my life by all the good things that came out of it. Doubt of God’s loving graces disappeared immediately after this procedure. Doubt of God’s powers here on earth erased also.

The Holy Spirit put a fire under me that still burns today. I attend adoration regularly; go to weekday mass at least two times a week; talk regularly with (my spiritual director); attend Mass every Sunday; go to confession at least once a month if not more; adore Holy Mary; pray continuously; make sure my children know God loves them; try to see God in everything; strive to live a Saintly life; and thirst and hunger for the Eucharist. I went from totally being dead at heart to a burning heart for our Lord. There have been four treatments so far and although the pain returns, God is with me always. I now thank Him for all my suffering for it made me a better Catholic, a more devout person, a person whom the Holy Spirit grants favors.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"The better part"

Maryann posted the following:

“My last question has to do with hermits and hermitages. I know very little about their lifestyle and find it intriguing. The little I have read offers a picture of a life of solitude, removed from the outside world. Their days are filled with God through prayer/chants, reflection, reading and studying scripture, solitude, manual labor for their hermitage, writing, plus many more obligations I’m sure I didn’t mentioned. I have heard that some, if not all, do not have access to telephone, internet and other forms of modern communication. I do believe they make things and sell them to the public to help provide for their basic needs, and I do believe they can accept donations for the hermitage, not for individual hermits; I don't think they own anything. I don’t understand how they share their knowledge, love and commitment to God with the public. How are they disciples? Through prayer and their simple lifestyle, that only they experience? My question is not meant to sound disrespectful or demeaning in any way, I simply don’t know the answer or how to phrase my question more eloquently.”

I would recommend the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which addresses consecrated life in general terms (# 914- 945) and presents much of the Church’s theological and historical background concerning consecrated life. A beautiful, general statement of how a consecrated person (a hermit, e.g.) is a disciple comes from # 945: “Already destined for him through Baptism, the person who surrenders himself to the God he loves above all else thereby consecrates himself more intimately to God’s service and to the good of the whole Church”.

An important point to make is that the consecrated life is not for the person only; it is lived for God and others. So, the intense life of prayer and penance is offered up to the Father for the sake of the Church. The spiritual practices that Maryann mentioned are not just for the individual; they are powerful prayers for the salvation of the world. Those who live the consecrated life in solitude (hermits, e.g.) have devoted their lives to praying for others. Intense amount of prayers and penitential practices are their service to the Church. This is the discipleship to which the Father has called them. Their discipleship is as fruitful as those of us serving in the world. I would argue that it’s more fruitful because they are praying on a daily basis for the fecundity of our service; fruitfulness in our ministry is most likely a result of their prayers and sacrifices. Jesus does call a life of prayer “the better part” (Lk 10:42). Wise priests often turn to cloistered sisters to pray for their ministry knowing how powerful their prayers are.

The Catechism (# 918) indicates that “From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practicing the evangelical counsels (chastity, poverty, obedience). They led lives dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious families. These the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved (Perfectae caritatis)”.

One of the hermit communities is the Hermits of Bethlehem which I have visited twice for retreats. To learn more about this community and the life of hermits, please click on today’s title.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

11th Sunday - homily

You might have heard the one about the Irishman named Muldoon who lived in the countryside for years with his best dog as his company. One day, the dog died. Muldoon went to talk to a priest, Father Patrick. He said, “Father, my dog has died. Could ya be sayin’ a Mass for the poor little creature?” Fr. Patrick said, “I’m afraid not. We don’t say Masses for animals in the Church. But, you can go down to the new denominational church down the street. We don’t really know what they do down there; maybe they can do a service for the little guy”. Muldoon said, “Ok, Father, I’ll go right away. Do you think $ 5, 000 is enough to donate for the service?” Fr. Patrick said, “Whoa, whoa…my man, Muldoon, why didn’t you say the dog was Catholic!”

We hear about priests in the readings today. In the first reading, God says to Moses that Israel will be a “kingdom of priests”. This applies to us as well – we are a kingdom of priests. Does this mean that we are all to wear black and call each other ‘Father’? No. It means that we all share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. When each of us was baptized, we were anointed priests, prophets, and kings. St Peter confirms this in his first letter. The Church refers to this as the common priesthood which we all make up.

Why, then, do we only refer to certain men as priests? Men like Fr. Mike and me are ministerial priests. Ministerial priests serve the people of God, the common priesthood. We hear in today’s Gospel the first twelve men who Jesus calls to be ministerial priests. He has given them and their successors the role of continuing his ministry to all of God’s people. The question that always seem to arise is, ‘why can only men be priests’? When I am asked this question, I usually…change the subject (how ‘bout this weather, huh?)…!

When I hear the question of why can only men be priests, I give the same reason as to why only women can be pregnant: it’s a biological or physiological thing. God has created men and women differently because we have different roles. He gives certain women the role of bringing natural life into the world; He gives certain men the role of bringing supernatural life into the world. Neither men nor women are greater than the other; they are simply different than the other.

The heart of the priesthood is the celebration of the sacraments. Whenever a priest celebrates the sacraments, he acts “in personal Christi” (in the person of Christ). It is really Jesus who baptizes, consecrates the Eucharist, absolves sins, etc. In order for in persona Christi to happen, a male body is required because Jesus is a male priest with a masculine body. The proper matter is needed for all the sacraments to be celebrated; the same applies to the priest. Let me explain with one of the sacraments, the Eucharist.

Whenever we come to Mass, we see and hear the priest. But, it is really Jesus who is celebrating the Mass. We know this most especially at the consecration. The words are said, “this is my body…this is the cup of my blood”. The priest does not say, “this is his body…this is his blood”. We know it’s really Jesus saying those words. Even though we don’t see a change in the priest, a change has taken place. Even though we don’t see a change in the bread and wine, a change has taken place. It is called transubstantiation – the substance of the matter changes. This applies to the bread and wine as well as to the priest. Just like it is no longer bread and wine, it is no longer Fr. Greg or any priest – it is Jesus Christ.

The proper matter and form must be used with the sacraments. We can’t use potato chips and soda at the consecration. We can’t use oil at baptisms. We have to use what Jesus used and say what Jesus said. With the Eucharist, we have to use unleavened bread and wine made from natural grapes. We have to say the exact words he said – “this is my body”. And, the priest has to have a male body. If we don’t use the proper and form with regard to the Eucharist, then transubstantiation does not occur.

When we go deeper in understanding the priesthood of Jesus Christ, we see that it is an amazing reality! Jesus continues his ministry through the persons of his priests. He continues to bring the sacred ministries to us. He continues to baptize, consecrate the Eucharist, forgive sins, etc. through his priests.

He tells us in the Gospel to pray for more priests. He tells us to “ask the master of the harvest to send more laborers into the vineyard”. He is calling young men from St. Andrew’s to be priests…to be laborers in the vineyard. Some of them have heard the call and are taking steps to answer the call. Please pray for them. Pray that they answer the call generously, and that they minister to the next generations of God’s people. Pray that they will bring the Eucharist to our children’s children. Without priests, we would not have the sacraments. Without priests, we would not have the Eucharist.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Presidential candidates and the right to life (Part II)

Holy Hour for Vocations, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. St. Andrew’s is one of many parishes around the Archdiocese who is celebrating a Holy Hour tonight on the eve of priesthood ordinations (seven men will be ordained as priests of Washington tomorrow). Please join us!
Continuing the post from Tuesday regarding the two main presidential candidates, the following are excerpts from an article written by Sen. Sam Brownback (a leading pro-life voice in the U.S. senate) in the National Catholic Register about John McCain and his views on the right to life. To read the article in full, please click on today’s title.

“Pro-lifers can trust McCain”
By Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan.

…I am convinced that John McCain is our best hope to advance the cause of human dignity on a broad spectrum of life issues. He is a true American hero, a consistent social and fiscal conservative, and most ready to be commander-in-chief.

Perhaps most important, however, John McCain is the best pro-life candidate to win in 2008.

Sen. McCain has a long, consistent 24-year pro-life voting record. Long before he decided to run for president, John McCain opposed abortion, fought to restrict it and supported overturning Roe v. Wade. He is no Johnny-come-lately to the cause.

John McCain is not pro-life out of convenience, but based on principle.

John supports a ban on all forms of human cloning and will fight to sign it into law. He has been on the cutting-edge of the fight to deal with explicit material on the Internet and protecting our children from a coarsening of the culture. He understands that America needs a culture willing to sacrifice to advance in our long-term struggle with Islamic extremists.

In 1993, John and his wife Cindy adopted a little girl from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh. John and I share a commitment to promoting adoption in this country, and each of us knows from experience what a blessing an adopted child can be.

John has been endorsed by a number of pro-life stalwarts, including former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, famed Notre Dame law professor Gerald Bradley, and by former spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops, Cathy Ruse. All have come to know John McCain as a man of principle, consistently committed to building a culture that values life.

I have long said that the future of the cause of life is tied to our ability to ground our conviction about the sanctity of life in the truth of our shared human dignity. The best way I have found to express this is to say that we strive to be “pro-life and whole-life.”

Of all the candidates running for president, I am convinced that John McCain is the best candidate to advance this message.

From abortion to immigration to the dignified treatment of military detainees, John McCain remains committed to the truth of human dignity. He knows from experience what it means for a society to trample on the truth of the value of the human person. He is committed to defending the dignity and value of every person, regardless of their status.

John McCain is today and has always been opposed to abortion. But to be pro-life is much more than to be anti-abortion. John understands, like few others, that we must ground our pro-life conviction in the cause of human dignity and human rights.

For him, every life, here and around the world, whatever its status, is beautiful and precious, a child of a loving God.

In elections, there are no perfect candidates. In this election, however, there is a man of whom we can be proud. John McCain understands that long before he can win your vote, he must win your trust. Sen. McCain has earned the trust of the American people, and I am doing all I can to see that he also earns their vote.

As John often says, there is no greater honor than to serve a cause greater than your own self-interest. For his entire life, John McCain has served causes greater than himself. It remains my great honor, and, as I see it, my duty to support John McCain as the best pro-life candidate for president in 2008.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Presidential candidates and the right to life (Part I)

Two main candidates for President of the United States have emerged: Senators Barack Obama (D) and John McCain (R). It is important for us to know where each of these men stand on the issues of life. With the help of excerpts from an article from National Catholic Register, today we look at Sen. Obama and the right to life; Friday we will analyze Sen. McCain.

At the end of the article is a scary guarantee by Obama concerning the first thing he'd do as President which is eerily similar to the pro-abortion focus of Bill Clinton's first acts as President. To view the following article in full, please click on today’s title.

“Obama vs. The Right to Life”
By the Editors (National Catholic Register)

…Obama’s votes and official positions deny the right to life to three categories of human beings: the unborn, the "accidentally" born and, at least in one case, the adult “unfit.” Let’s look at each.

The Unborn
Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., understood how the right to life is fundamental. “I and my deceased children are victims of abortion,” she has said. “The Roe v. Wade decision has adversely affected the lives of my entire family. I pray often for deliverance from the pain caused by my decision to abort my baby.”

Obama's position on the question rejects her view.

When the Supreme Court, citing experiences like King’s, decided that a federal ban on partial-birth abortion would not violate the Constitution, Obama said he “strongly disagreed” with the court. Partial-birth abortion is the barbaric procedure in which a doctor kills a child with scissors while the child is being born. Obama vows to keep the practice legal.

Obama once described why he thinks abortion should be legal through all nine months of a woman’s pregnancy.

“Whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the Equal Protection Clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a child, a 9-month old child that was delivered to term,” he said. “That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place.”

How could Obama be so opposed to the right to life? He may have let slip one reason at a March Town Hall meeting in Pennsylvania.

“Look, I’ve got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old,” Obama said. “If they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.”

He thinks “unwanted” children, by their very existence, are an unacceptable imposition.

‘Accidental’ Infants
This brings us to the next category of human being Obama says has no intrinsic right to life: Babies born “accidentally” while a doctor attempts to kill them by abortion.

This is a necessary consequence of Obama’s embrace of abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Most of us know parents who have cared for preemies — premature babies, born too soon. With the abortion industry’s wide-scale attempts to kill American premies and nearly due children, some will be born alive accidentally.

Whistleblower Jill Stanek, a Chicago nurse, described the practice of killing babies in what is now known as “live-birth abortion.” Illinois tried to stop the practice. But in 2002, as state legislator there, Obama voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act, which would have protected babies who were “accidentally” born alive during attempts to abort them.

“I could not bear the thought of this suffering child dying alone in a soiled utility room, so I cradled and rocked him for the 45 minutes that he lived,” Stanek told the U.S. Congress, describing one such case. “He was too weak to move very much, expending any energy he had trying to breathe. Toward the end he was so quiet that I couldn’t tell if he was still alive unless I held him up to the light to see if his heart was still beating through his chest wall.”

After Stanek’s testimony even N.Y. Democrat Jerrold Nadler, who says he is “as pro-choice as anybody on earth” supported and spoke in favor of the bill.

But for the abortion industry and Obama, opposing the right to life has meant uncompromising dedication to a counter-principle. For Obama, protecting the unstated principle “unwanted children do not have the right to life” is the only way abortion can remain legal. That has led him to exclude another category of human being from the right to life: the unfit.

Terri Schiavo
In a recent debate, Obama said the vote he most regrets was his vote to save Terri Schiavo’s life. Her husband, Michael, wanted Terri dead, even though she was alert and responsive to nurses and family members. He had a new child with a new woman, and he wanted Terri dead.
When a judge granted his request, Congress and President Bush attempted to intervene to save her life, and not just to save her life, but to stop the dangerous precedent. They failed. Now Obama says they shouldn’t have tried.

Thus, he started by rejecting the right to life of unwanted children and now rejects the right to life of an unwanted woman.

Obama not only opposes the right to life, his opposition is his highest priority. “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” he told Planned Parenthood last July. That would make America more friendly to the abortion industry than any other country in the world.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

10th Sunday - homily

When I was in college (one of the colleges I was in), I took a writing class. One assignment our teacher gave us was that each of us had to write a personal ad – an ‘in search of’ ad that you would see in the newspaper. At first, we all thought that it would be easy and enjoyable. But, it was much more difficult than we thought it would be! First, we had to describe ourselves; this is hard to do! We’re used to people describing us, but we’re not used to describing ourselves in writing. Second, we had to make ourselves attractive so that we’d elicit a response from someone we’d find attractive. Now, I don’t remember how I did on that assignment and I didn’t keep my personal ad. I think God had a good laugh over that whole exercise, knowing where I would end up!

I was thinking about that story in relation to today’s readings which I’ll explain shortly. I began to think, what would God’s personal ad look like? Obviously, it wouldn’t be intended for one person to respond; God is in search of all of us. Well, I’ve written a draft of what God’s personal ad would look like; I’m sure there are some here who could a better personal ad for God and I welcome their drafts.

The title of God’s personal ad is “I AM in search of love”:
Creator of the universe desires long-term relationship with my creatures. I AM the author of life who seeks intimacy with the hearts of my people. I AM a loving Father who calls sinners, not the righteous; desires mercy, not sacrifice. I AM infinitely patient, just, loving, forgiving, kind, and generous. My goodness is endless; my essence is goodness. I AM the Divine Physician with a special fondness for the sick and poor. I AM love and am looking for love and true devotion that will not pass like the morning dew. I smote false piety! Give me your hearts – that is why I created you. Follow me and I will give you everything, in this life and in the next. I have promised and I will do it.

Again, there are some here who could write a better ad than I have. There are others who would say they have no clue on how to describe God and what He desires. In today’s readings, God is telling us that he wants us to know Him more than anything else. We know many people and many things; why is it so much harder for us to know God? Why do we encounter so many obstacles in getting to know Him that we don’t encounter with knowing other people? We might know about God, but do we know Him?

Now, I understand many of the factors why it’s different getting to know God versus other people. We can’t see or hear God like we can see and hear other people. Prayer is difficult! And, some might feel that they can’t even approach God because of the guilt they have over things they have done…sins they have committed. Whatever the obstacle is, we just need to blast through it in order to get to know Him. We just need to get over the hump and start praying. We just need to get over the hump and go to Confession. He is a person who desires a relationship with us. He is not a book or a set of rules and regulations. He is a person who calls us to know Him.

So, how do we get to know God? The Eucharist, of course, is the best way to get to know God. In the Mass, we see, touch, and taste God in the flesh. There is no better way to have intimacy with God than in Holy Communion. We have Mass every day in the Church. The next best thing after the Mass is Adoration which we have every Friday night here. In Adoration, we get to spend time with Jesus like we spend time with a good friend. We can also get to know God through Scripture. We have a Bible Study here that meets on Monday nights (Wednesday nights through the summer); it’s a great way to know God through the Sunday readings. Of course, prayer is an excellent way to know God; we have a prayer group that meets Tuesday nights.

I submit one more significant way to get to know God: get to know his friends. Yes, this means devout priests, religious, and lay persons. But, in the words of Mother Teresa, those who suffer are the greatest friends of Jesus Christ. If we get to know those who suffer and those who are poor, we get to know Him. The more I meet those who suffer, the more I realize that they are closest to Him. They know what He went through on the Cross; and they realize that He is probably the only one who knows what they are going through.

God is saying to each of us, “Follow me”. He calls us to follow Him, to know Him, to serve Him, and to love Him.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Power, intention, and words

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm. We will offer this holy hour for the men who will be ordained transitional deacons tomorrow (including our seminarian from the summer of 2006, Dan Gallaugher).
Since my post on Tuesday, there has been an additional comment which questioned the substantial difference between Catholic and Lutheran eucharistic theology. I wish to make three main points of difference so that we’re all clear. Before that, though, please know that my comments are not intended to personally offend or disrespect any Protestants. My intention is to present the truth about where we are as a Church and how we got here. There are obvious disagreements about the truth in regards to Church doctrine and history between Catholics and Protestants which can be very intense. As a Church, we have great respect for our Protestant brethren and laud them for many things. My hope is that we continue to enter into this discussion through an objective lens, so that we may all recognize the Truth when it’s being presented.

Objectively speaking, the host and wine do not become the Body and Blood of Christ in the Lutheran (or any Protestant) service. For consecration to occur, the minister must a) have the power to consecrate, b) the intention to consecrate, and c) use the words of institution (“this is my Body…this is the cup of my Blood”).

Regarding the first point, Lutheran (and all Protestant) ministers don’t have the power to consecrate because they have not been validly given the power. In other words, they have not been validly ordained. The Apostles who had been given the power to consecrate, forgive sins, baptize, etc. by Christ passed on their power to the next priests through valid ordination. The next priests (actually bishops) passed to the next, and so forth. This unbroken line of valid ordination is part of the Apostolic Tradition. Valid ordinations, then, are traced back to the Apostles.

Unfortunately, Lutheran ministers (and their predecessors) broke from this line of valid ordinations; they left the Apostolic Tradition in starting their own tradition. Even though the first Lutheran bishops / priests were validly ordained Catholic priests (Martin Luther, e.g.), they did not validly ordain other ministers.

On the second point (about whether or not Lutheran ministers have the intention to consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ), I ask any of our Protestant bloggers to ask your pastor if he /she truly intends to consecrate the bread and wine into the real flesh and blood of Christ… corpus Christi. Will it truly become the same flesh and blood that was present on the Cross, as Jesus indicates in John 6:51 – “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”? As I’ve written before, this line teaches us that the same flesh and blood that is present on the altar is the same flesh and blood that was present on the Cross.

Paul Whitcomb, a Catholic convert from Protestantism, has written the following about when he first began to realize there was a difference between Catholic and Protestant teachings on the Eucharist. He writes about how he approached Protestant ministers with regards to their intention:

“ Some ministers do indeed call their communion bread and wine the real Body and Blood of Christ, but invariably, when I pinned them down, asking if by ‘real’ they meant corporeal, they said no. Invariably, when I asked if one receives a new influx of divine grace at their Holy Communion service, the answer was: ‘No, we believe that Holy Communion is not productive of grace but is a reflection of the grace already present in the soul through faith,’ or words to that effect. Such an answer is, of course, tantamount to rejecting the doctrine of the Real Presence, for to receive the real Christ is to receive His real grace, not a mere reflection of His grace.” (“Confession of a Roman Catholic”, p.44).

Regarding the words spoken during the Lutheran service, they might very well be the words of institution (some Protestant denominations have the exact words, some do not). But, as has been presented on here, the words of institution, ‘this is my body’, are not generally accepted by Lutherans as being the exact words of Christ at the Last Supper. Martin Luther changed the words to ‘this symbolizes my body’ even though he believed in the Real Presence on some level (he believed that Christ is spiritually present; the Church’s response has been that Christ is truly, really, and substantially present).

Finally, one last point of difference is about what happens to the host after the service. In the Catholic Church, any extra hosts that have been consecrated during the Mass are reposed in the main tabernacle and are treated with great reverence because each one is believed to be the Body of Christ. Again, to our Protestant bloggers, please ask your pastor what happens to any extra hosts that were consecrated during your service once the service has ended. I know one Lutheran who asked her pastor this question, and he told her they were put back into a bag and placed in a closet because they are just pieces of bread again.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Obedience: the road to freedom and unity

As the recent discussion on the different approaches to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (transubstantiation vs. consubstantiation) gets more complex and difficult to follow, I would like us to take a step back with a comment from an anonymous blogger about obedience:

“…obedience is necessary for all of us (and really hard for most of us). I think it’s only when we exercise it will we learn to submit and be truly free.”

I post the above comment in relation to the discussion on the Eucharist in order to make the general point of obedience to Christ as head of the Church. Obedience to Christ as head of the Church means that we are faithful to Christ through the teachings of his Church. The foundation for this obedience is the belief that Christ’s teachings didn’t end in 33 A.D.; rather, they have continued for 2000 years through the Church he founded on the Apostles, the Catholic Church. In short, to be obedient to Christ is to be obedient to the Church (which continues to present His teachings).

There is much evidence from Sacred Scripture which shows that Jesus intended the Church to not only continue his teachings, but to teach with His authority. In Matthew 28:18-19, he makes it clear: “all power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”.

Other passages in which our Lord gives teaching authority to the Church include Mt 16:19, Mt 18:18, Lk 10:16. His prayer to the Father in John 17 indicates that the Church not only shares in Christ’s immense authority, but also in His glory: “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (v. 22).

One of the main reasons Christ established the Church and gave the Church his authority to teach (as well as govern and sanctify) was so that we “may be one, as (the Father and Son) are one”. For 1500 years, the Church was one. Then, reformers “protested” against the Church and her authority. They rejected the validity of almost all of the sacraments, changed Scripture (from “this is my body” to “this symbolizes my body”, e.g.) to meet their new theology, and started their own “Church” (there are now almost 30,000 different Protest-ant denominations). The Reformation was a protest against obedience, grounded in pride which is the antagonist to obedience.

Regarding the specific teaching on the Eucharist, we see how chaotic and complex things get when one is not obedient to the tradition of the Church. It is pretty clear to any person of faith and reason that Jesus teaches in John 6 that the Eucharist is His Body and Blood and then institutes the Eucharist at the Last Supper (“this is my body”). St. Paul confirms this in his letter to the Corinthians (circa 54 A.D.) and the Church taught that “the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ” as early as 110 A.D (St Ignatius of Antioch). We can know that this is the Truth about the Eucharist because it is from the Church who has been led for 2000 years by the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of Truth (who) will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:13).

Obedience to the Church is obedience to the Spirit of Truth. “I think it’s only when we exercise (obedience) will we learn to submit and be truly free.” And, through obedience to the Body of Christ, we will be one as the Father and Son are one.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

9th Sunday - homily

I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie, “Bella”, which came out last year. It is an excellent movie which won many awards and has a great pro-life message. The lead male actor is Eduardo Verastegui who is from Mexico. Eduardo’s life goal has always been to be a movie star. He wanted fame, money, and success from a very early age. He reached that by his early twenties and is known as the “Brad Pitt of Mexico” (for whatever that’s worth!).

But, when he reached this point, Eduardo looked at how he got there, and didn’t like what he saw. He realized that the roles he had played and the movies he had worked on were not good. They were at odds with his Catholic faith, offended God, and, as he has said recently, they were “poisoning society”. Through all of this, he had a tremendous reversion to his faith and walked away from many star Hollywood roles. His great quote is, “I was not born to be a movie star… I was born to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ”. He has reminded us of one of Mother Teresa’s sayings, “we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful to God.”

If we relate Eduardo’s story to today’s Gospel parable, we would say that he realized that his life was built on sand. He had built his life on money, fame, and success. He wanted to glorify himself and not God with his gifts. His foundation was pride. Eduardo is an excellent example of someone who has rebuilt his life on rock which is Christ.

But, there are many examples in our world which are not so good; people about whom we read in the news who have built their lives on sand and have been ruined. For example, we read about people who have built their careers on corporate greed – their careers have collapsed and their lives are ruined. We also read about politicians, celebrities, and internet pornographers who have built their lives on lust – their lives have collapsed and are ruined. Jesus guarantees that if we build our lives on sand - if we build our lives on vices – then they will collapse.

We can interpret this Gospel parable individually but also collectively. We can look at our families and ask if our families are built on rock or on sand. Is it a family which is built on Christ and the virtues or is it built on vices? Is it a home of patience or is it a home of anger? Is it a home of humility or does pride dwell there? Is it a family based in temperance and moderation or is it a family based in gluttony? Is it a home of justice…prudence…fortitude…faith…hope…love? If our families are built on Christian virtues, then they will weather any storm. There are many storms which hit our families – inside and outside the family unit; if our homes have a foundation in Christ, the rock, then they will survive any storm.

When we come to the Eucharist, we acknowledge that the Eucharist is the rock upon which our lives our built. The Eucharist is Christ and Christ is the rock. Families and individuals who have the Eucharist as the center of their lives will weather any of life’s storms. When the rains and the winds come, the families that pray together – families that come to Mass together – will stay together. They will survive any storms because they have built their lives on rock, and the rock is Christ.