Friday, December 17, 2010

The Genealogy

Readings for Friday, December 17:
Genesis 49:2,8-10
Psalm 72:1-4,7-8,17
Matthew 1:1-17

Today begins what are traditionally referred to as the "O Antiphons", specific prayers used in the liturgy for the eight days leading up to the birth of Christ on 25th. They each entail a different aspect of the Lord's coming in glory at Christmas. The readings also, as with the entire season of Advent, have a specific character of recalling things that the Lord promised to His people as a sign that they are all fulfilled in the Christ Child born among us. The first readings recalls the promise spoken over 4000 years ago - that the mace or scepter of power would not depart from the tribe of Judah. And indeed it is the Lord, Himself of the tribe of Judah, that comes to reign as King of the Earth and of all creation. The fulfillment of this is found in the genealogy account from Matthew's gospel. This list of names is traced back to King David and Abraham, both of whom have a certain dominion over the things of the world but which Christ fulfills in His coming. He is the reality which they vaguely foreshadowed so many years ago. And so it is a sign that God is still very active in the world around us, then and now. This, after all, is what the Kingdom of God is - the reign of God over all creation and His involvement in the life of all people in all times. Pope Benedict XVI speaks to this in his book Jesus of Nazareth: "When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is quite simply proclaiming God, and proclaiming him to be the living God, who is able to act concretely in the world and in history and is even now so acting. He is tell us: 'God exists' and 'God is really God,' which means that he holds in his hands the threads of the world."

I have been reading the above-mentioned book throughout this mission trip that we're on and reflecting on this topic of the Kingdom of God in reference to what we're doing here. I have been contemplating the reality that the Lord is acting in and through us in this short time to proclaim the Kingdom of God in these days leading up to the celebration of Lord coming among us as a child - like John the Baptist, who prepared His way so many years ago. And as I reflect on it, I see us also like the Baptist as he leapt in the womb of his mother at the presence of Christ in the womb of Mary - we are not always able to proclaim the Lord's presence in words but more often by action, the 'leaping' of our presence, ministry, work, charitable acts, and prayer. This morning at Mass, Fr. David Kelly, the director of pastoral formation at our seminary, spoke of our proclaiming the Kingdom of God in out time here as missionaries. Then he reminded us that just as Jesus was a real man who came from a line of real men and women, as the gospel account today indicates. Many people some great sinners, others great sinners, were all part of the preparation of the coming of the Messiah. We too, as missionaries, are following in a long line of other missionaries - saints and sinners both - who have prepared the way for these people to hear Christ's message at this time. 

In the same way, each of us is called in this advent season to help others to prepare the way for the coming of Christ, uniting ourselves to that long list of souls who sought to bring others to know Christ and be known by Him. Grant that we might be able to cooperate with all that the Lord has in store for us.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Little Break

The Cathedral across the Center from us
Just to let everyone know who keeps up with this regularly - I am in Granada, Nicaragua on a mission trip for the next 12 days. I (obviously) have some internet service but am not sure how much I'll be able to blog in that time. Maybe I'll have the opportunity to post about what is going on here. We shall see.

Please pray for us and for those coming to join us this Monday, that the Lord would keep us all safe and healthy and that we might be open to all that the Lord has in store for us in this blessed time. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

From Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ - Book 2, Chapter 7:

"Blessed is the man who knows what it is to love Jesus, and to despise himself for the sake of Jesus. You must give up all other love for His, since He wishes to be loved alone above all.

Love of creatures is deceiving and constantly changing, but the love of Jesus is true and permanent. If you hold on to creatures, you will fall with them; if you hold on to Jesus, you will remain firmly planted forever.

Love Him then Him as a friend. He will not leave you as others do; nor will He permit you to suffer eternal death. Separate yourself a little from everything, then. Cling, therefore to Jesus in life and death; trust yourself to Him alone who can help you when all others fail you.

The nature of Christ's love is such that it will not admit a rival; He wants you for Himself alone. He desires to sit on the throne of your heart as King; which is His right. If you only knew how to free yourself of the love of creatures, how quickly would He come into your heart!"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Active Waiting

Readings for December 5/Second Sunday of Advent:
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,12-13,17
Romans 15:4-9
Matthew 3:1-12

As we begin this second week of the Advent season, I pray that each of you have begun to really enter into Advent and to truly live in this beautiful season. It seems a simple desire and yet it is rather difficult to actually do this because the world around us is telling us that now that Thanksgiving is over, we ought to move straight into Christmas. We hear the Christmas music on the radio, we see the Christmas decorations all over the department stores and everywhere we look our eyes tell us it is Christmas. To all of this add the craziness of holiday shopping, the various holiday parties, family gatherings, and the simple busyness of the end of the year, and it that simple task of living the Advent season becomes a rather difficult one.

Part of the problem that we often have with Advent is that we don’t always know what to do with it. It’s only four weeks, so as soon as we really get into it, Christmas is almost here. Also, we are all so filled with joy as we eagerly await the coming of Christ, and yet we wear the penitential violet vestments. There are just lots of mixed signals. And yet the Advent season is important for us as Christians because it forces us to wait.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly look forward to waiting because most of the waiting that I do is waiting in lines at grocery store, various department stores, and at the drive thru. But that type of waiting is a passive waiting, a waiting in which we just waste time until we can do what we are waiting for. This is obviously not the waiting that we are called to do in this Advent season. We’re not just killing time until Jesus gets here. Rather, we are called to an active waiting, a waiting in which we are busy about preparing for that thing we wait for. Or in this season, the person we are waiting for.

Our gospel reading today provides us with an excellent example of this type of waiting in the person of John the Baptist. John was certainly one who eagerly anticipated the coming of the Lord in His glory. Remember that it was John the Baptist who leapt in the womb of Elizabeth when Mary came to visit her after the annunciation from Gabriel. And it was this same John who, filled with Holy Spirit, excitedly points out the Lamb of God to his disciples. But in the thirty-year span between those two events when John was waiting, he was also preparing. We heard it in the description of his life and ministry in our gospel. He was a man of great simplicity and asceticism – he lived in the desert, he wore clothing made of camel’s hair and his food was locusts and wild honey. Not exactly a posh lifestyle, to say the least. In this way, though, John prepared his own heart for the day when the Lord would come. He did not want to be caught off guard or in a state of unpreparedness. And in addition to preparing himself for the Lord’s coming, he always went about preparing others. We hear his first words in the gospel, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” And in response to this cry, many people came to him to be baptized in the waters of repentance and sat at his feet listening to him to teach about the One Who was to come shortly. Thus he prepared the way for the Lord to come. And so must we.

Recall that when we hear the scriptures, we aren’t just hearing about things that happened 2000 or more years ago. We are hearing the voice of God speaking to each of us. And this weekend we hear the Lord speaking to us calling us to repentance, just as John called people in day to repentance. When we think about repentance, though, sometimes it can carry with it a negative connotation, as if someone was pointing a condemning finger at us. But what we really ought to focus on is the great gift of the call to repentance. The Lord doesn’t just call us to repent for repentance sake. Rather, he loves us and wants to have a deep, personal relationship with each of us and he does this by asking us to put away those things that take our attention away from him. To help us in this the Church suggests frequent attendance at Mass, regular confession and an overall awareness of the Lord throughout our day. These things are especially important in this Advent season when we are waiting and preparing for Christ to come among us. Too, we must be like John and reach out to others and call them to deepen their own relationship with the Lord and be able to teach them about Him who is coming soon.

This is the active waiting that we are called to have in this blessed season of Advent, the waiting in which our souls and the souls of others brought to love more deeply the Lord whom we eagerly await. May the Lord, grant us the grace.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

Penance & Paschal Mystery

Being that this is the last week of school, things have been a bit hectic with papers and presentation due dates coming in rapid succession. So, rather than share a reflection on the scriptures I figured I'd share with you a little bit about a presentation I did this past week on "the theological foundation of the sacrament of penance in the Paschal Mystery"... also known as the way in which the sacrament of penance is rooted in the saving work of Christ (his Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension). Hope you enjoy :)

The Paschal Mystery
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the ‘Paschal Mystery’ as “Christ’s work of redemption accomplished through His Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven”. Through this saving work of Christ, which transcends all time and yet is present in all time, mankind is reconciled to God. This happens ordinarily through the sacraments, which are the means to communicating the effects of that saving work. And in this presentation I hope to explain the theological foundation of the sacrament of penance in the Paschal Mystery, or how the sacrament is rooted in the saving work of Christ.

Institution of the Sacrament
Paragraph 1421 of the Catechism tells us that Christ willed that the Church continue his work of healing and salvation and that this typically is carried out through the sacraments of penance and the anointing of the sick. Thus He instituted the Sacrament of Penance after His resurrection. In John 20:19-23, we hear the story of the night when the Apostles were all gathered together and the Resurrected Lord appears to them and breathes upon them, saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” In this he recalls that fact that He Himself had the power to forgive sins and did so on several occasions, most notably in Matthew 9:2-8 and its parallels, when the paralytic is forgiven his sins and subsequently healed as a sign of Christ’s power.

The Call to Conversion
In section one of the Introduction in the Rites book, we hear that “The Son of God made man lived among us in order to free us from the slavery of sin and to call us out of darkness into his wonderful light.” This is simply to say that he came to reconcile us to the Father. And He begins this work of reconciliation by calling the people to conversion. Like the prophets and John the Baptist who had gone before Him, Christ points out to the people the need for repentance and really emphasizes this as the key point of His ministry. The first words we find on the lips of Christ in the Gospel according to Mark are these: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (1:15). And shortly after that we hear Him say, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” He came to call people to repentance, to a conversion of heart and, notably, took the first step in calling out to people rather than allowing them to come to Him first. And unlike his forerunners, who merely preached repentance and conversion, Christ calls men to repentance, affects that change in them, and reconciles them to the Father. All of this He does in anticipation of the merits of His own Paschal Mystery, which, though in the future, still transcends all time and is present in all time and thus is effective even before its own occurrence in time.

Conversion and the Ministry of Reconciliation
Just as Christ called sinners to repentance and conversion of heart, so too did the Apostles (MT 10:5-7). They did not affect the change in men’s hearts, however; rather, it is Christ Himself who brings about conversion. Paragraph 1432 of the Catechism says that “the human heart is heavy and hardened” and that “God must give man a new heart”. This again gets to the point that it is God who acts first, not only in calling to repentance but also in affecting the change as the soul looks upon Him Whom his sins pierced. As St. Clement of Rome says, “Let us fix our eyes on Christ's blood and understand how precious it is to his Father, for, poured out for our salvation it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance.” Thus it is by the grace of the Blood of Christ that has been poured out on the hardened hearts of men that they are brought to repentance. This repentance that arises in the soul of the man is simultaneously the response of man and the instance of divine initiative in which the Lord reaches pours His grace out upon the soul.

This repentance, for the unbaptized, prompts the soul to pursue the waters of baptism and so to be reconciled to the Lord. For the baptized, this repentance or conversion of heart prompts the souls to pursue the water of the tears of penance in sacrament of penance, by which they are again reconciled with the Father and with the Church.

The Effects of the Sacrament
As was said at the beginning of this presentation, through the sacraments the effects of the Paschal Mystery are poured out upon men in the liturgical celebration. According to paragraph 1422 of the Catechism, in the sacrament of penance, men “obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church….” The Roman Catechism speaks more spiritually, saying that in the sacrament, “the blood of Christ flow into our souls, washing away all sins committed after Baptism, and thus leads us to recognize that it is to our Saviour alone we owe the blessing of reconciliation.” These two point to the fact the effects of the sacrament are two-fold, namely that one’s sins are forgiven and they are reconciled with God and the Church, and that these two effects happen simultaneously. Also, it is notable that the reconciliation with God and reconciliation with the Church are inseparable.

Most important in all of this is the fact that this forgiveness and reconciliation are the effects of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, communicated through the sacrament. Again referencing the Roman Catechism, it is only by the merits of His Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension in to Heaven that this forgiveness and reconciliation occur.

All of this is really summed up in the prayer of absolution that we hear in the celebration of the sacrament today:

“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Here we see the two-fold effects of forgiveness and reconciliation. We also see the statement that the ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation have been entrusted to the Church. And finally we see the fact that it is through the Paschal Mystery – the death and resurrection of Christ – that all of this comes to be.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

O, Blessed Feet

Readings for Tuesday, November 30/Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle:
Romans 10:9-18
Psalm 19:8-11
Matthew 4:18-22

"But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!"

These words from the Apostle Paul are quite appropriate for us as we celebrate the Feast of the Apostle Andrew today. It was by the feet of St. Andrew, who went out to preach the gospel to the nations, that many thousands of souls were converted and brought to Christ. Certain those souls are grateful for St. Andrew' preaching of the good news. I was struck, though, by the selection of the gospel passage for today. As I was praying in the chapel this morning I began to read through the calling of the disciples in each of the gospel accounts. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have accounts where Sts. Andrew and (Simon) Peter are met by Christ in the boat on the shore - such is what we hear in the gospel today. And yet John's passage is different. St. Andrew's first point of contact with Christ in John's gospel comes when John the Baptist points out to two of his disciples the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The two disciples, one being St. Andrew, immediately go to follow after the Lord and spend the night with Him. Then St. Andrew went first to His brother (Simon) Peter to tell him that they had found the Messiah and brought Simon Peter to meet Christ. Those sacred feet of St. Andrew followed in the steps of Christ and then went to bring his brother, who became the rock on which the Church was built, to follow in those same steps. Those sacred feet brought the gospel to many souls of that day. And certainly in some distant but connected way, those feet have brought the gospel to each of us today. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Watch and Pray

Readings for Sunday, November 28/First Sunday of Advent:
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122:1-9
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:37-44

As we begin this new liturgical year on this First Sunday of Advent, we are struck once again with this concept of the imminent coming of the Lord. The reading from Matthew's gospel comes from the end of the gospel, when Christ is speaking to the disciples about the things that will happen at the end of time. We hear about how the time is unknown when the Lord shall come and we shall indeed be ready at every moment. As we reflect on that in light of the Advent season, we begin to understand that we are not simply preparing for the coming of the Lord Jesus in the form of a little child born in a manger. There is a sort of triple waiting that each of us should be aware of during this time. The most obvious is of course the waiting that we are most notably aware of - the coming celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas. But in addition to this we are also awaiting the coming of the Lord in our lives each day, when He again reaches out to us to continue His work in and through us. And finally, we await that final, glorious coming at the Last Day, which the Lord speaks about in our gospel today. And as we ponder in our hearts and await this triple return of the Lord, remember that it is not just a time to wait. Rather, it is a time to prepare; for as St Peter said: "consider the patience of our Lord as salvation." If we are not yet ready, this is the time to prepare.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No Cross, No Crown

Readings for Monday, November 22/St. Cecilia:
Revelation 14:1-5
Psalm 24:1-6
Luke 21:1-4

No cross, no crown.

Yesterday we heard Saint Luke’s account of the crucifixion of Our Lord, reminding us of the fact that it was only through his passion, death, and resurrection that Christ became the King of All Creation. The cross won Him the crown. And as we begin this last week in Ordinary Time, we find that the Cross has now cast its shadow across these final days. As we celebrate the memorial of Saint Cecilia, we recognize that today kicks off a sort of ‘Week of Martyrs,’ in which the necessity of the Cross in the Christian life is made manifest by the shedding of blood of so many witnesses – Cecilia, Clement, Andrew Dung Lac and his companions, and finally Catherine of Alexandria before we get a break from the bloodshed on Friday. Though this isn’t necessarily something planned by the Church for the last week of the year, it does stand for us as a reminder of the close connection between the cross and our heavenly crown.

In these our final weeks of class, most of us are starting to feel more intensely the weight of the cross in the forms of papers, presentations, and other such academic requirements. This in addition to the private crosses of spiritual struggles, the sickness or death of loved ones, and many other burdens that each of us are given to bear. But in all of these things, we must keep our eyes on the prize of heaven. Rather than give in to frustrations and to try to avoid the weight of the cross, we must rather accept it joyfully and put our trust in the Lord. Like the poor widow in the gospel who gave her whole livelihood, trusting that the Lord would take care of her, we too must give ourselves entirely over to Him, trusting that He will also take care of us not only in this life, but also in the next.

*And because it's my mom's patronal feast day: a second picture of Saint Cecilia rocking out with the angels!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The King of Hearts

Readings for Sunday, November 21/
Christ the King Sunday:
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Psalm 122:1-5
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43

On this the last Sunday before Advent, the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King. We honor the Lord and recall the fact that He has defeated Satan and now reigns as king of all creation. But the question I want to pose today is this: is Jesus Christ the King of our hearts?

A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a statue of Christ that I keep on my desk at the seminary to constantly remind me of this question. It depicts the Lord standing in front of a door with His hand raised, about to knock. The beauty, though, comes in one little detail; there is no doorknob. This easily-passed-over detail is actually the key to the meaning of the statue. You see, the door is not the door to someone’s home; it is the door to our heart. And the fact that there is no doorknob emphasizes the point that it is only the one who stands behind the door that opens it. Christ knocks. But do we let Him in? And if we do, do we allow Him to really reign as King of our heart?

Our first reading from the First Book of Samuel recounts for us the anointing of King David, who reigned over Israel around the year 1000 B.C. But remember that Israel didn’t always have a king. In the early history of the Chosen People, it was not a man who ruled over them but rather the Lord God Himself. God reigned over them, giving them the law to live by, providing their food, drink, shelter and many other things. But as the Israelites went through life, they began to look around and see all of the things that other cultures did. They began to see people who worshipped other gods, people committing adultery and other serious sins, people who elected men to rule over them as kings. As they were around these other peoples and cultures, they began to have a distaste for the Law of God and for His ruling over them. They began to worship other gods, commit adultery, and desired to have a king of their own. In all of this, their hearts gradually turned away from the Lord, little by little. One day they finally told God that they wanted a king of their own, to be like those around them. And a king they got – many kings in fact. And not one of them was able to provide for the people Israel as the Lord had done, and yet they were content because they finally had their king. So hard were there hearts that they willingly endured slavery to a mortal man than put themselves in the hands of the invisible God.

At this point it is easy for us to wonder what was wrong with the Israelites. After all, they had God Himself leading them through their journey of life, the Lord provided for their every need, and yet they just simply turn away from Him and seek after the things of the other peoples and put their trust in a mortal man rather than God Himself. And yet as easy as it is to look at them and wonder at how easily they turned away from the Lord, we’re not all that different. After all, we Catholics are called the ‘New Israel’ and in some sense, history does repeat itself in our lives.

At our baptism we were totally consecrated to God, who desires to provide everything we need in this life. We simply must ask for it and be open to it. And yet, we get curious eyes and start to look around. Like the people of Israel several thousand years ago, we start to see all sorts of things that appeal to us and start to take those things and make them our own. And it is an easy step for us to make those things our idols, just as the Israelites began to honor the gods of other people instead of the Lord God Himself. Think about it - how easy is it for us to spend an hour every day watching TV, playing on the internet, playing our phone, shopping at the mall or some similar activity? I find it pretty easy to do any of those activities for an hour or more each day. And I would imagine that I’m not alone in that. But when it come to prayer, how easy is it for us to spend a whole hour with the Lord everyday? And if we are trying to commit that time to the Lord, are we really praying? I have to be honest, yesterday morning I went to do a holy hour in our chapel at the seminary and all that kept coming to mind was the LSU-Ole Miss game, what would be for lunch, and when I was gonna write my paper. And this is where we have to really be honest with ourselves and ask the question of who is really reigning over our hearts? Are we allowing all of these things out in the world to rule over us or do we allow the Lord to really come in and reign in our hearts and our lives?

On this last weekend of ordinary time in the Church year, we recognize that in just a few weeks we will be celebrating Christmas, when the Son of God first came into the world and invited people to open up their hearts to Him. But we don’t have to wait until then to have His Presence dwelling among us and within us. In just a few moments on this very altar we will have present the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist. And as we come forward to receive Him in our mouths, we are reminded that most important of all is that we receive Him into our hearts. For in that moment, as He unites Himself to each one of us in a special way, He speaks to our heart, saying: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”

How will we respond?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

"The Church of the Saints therefore is the Catholic Church. The Church of the Saints is not the church of the heretics. The Church of the Saints is that which God prefigured before it appeared; and put before us that it might be seen. Before, the Church of the Saints was in the Books only; now it is among the nations; before, men only read of it; now we read of it, and we see it. When men only read of it, they believed in it; now men see it, and they contradict it! Let his praise be in the Church of the Saints."

-St. Augustine of Hippo
in a homily on Christ, King and Priest

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Sides, One Coin

Readings for Wednesday, November 17/ St. Elizabeth of Hungary:
Revelation 4:1-11
Psalm 150:1-6
Luke 19:11-28

As we near the end of the liturgical year we being to hear more and more about the end of time, the judgement that awaits us, and the King of Glory. The parable that Christ tells those around Him is one of those that is well known, but which is not often viewed so positively. "To everyone who has, more will be given; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away" is one of those scriptures that probably makes us recoil a little bit. We sort of wonder where the loving, merciful Lord had gone and who it is that replaced Him... But the fact is that while the Lord is merciful, He is also just. And this is something about which we must be reminded. Sometimes we can become rather slothful and presume the Lord's mercy upon ourselves. "Oh, the Lord understands." How many times have I given myself a 'free pass' with these few words. And yet the gospel today reminds us that if we do not use what God has given us in a way that glorifies Him and brings about good in the world, then we may well have to suffer the consequences. But to every coin, there are two sides.

There is more than a simple reminder that if we fail to use what is given that it will be taken away. There is a positive view to be seen here: that if we do well in using our gifts then we will receive even more. Here we see the joyful aspect of this passage: the great gifts that are in store for us if we walk the way of the Lord and do well in using what He gave us. Rather than a simple fear of Hell, the Lord also seeks to instill in us a great desire for Heaven. And this is the desire that will ultimately lead us to great holiness of life. If we seek to avoid Hell, we can tend toward minimalism. But if we have a genuine desire for Heaven, then the more we contemplate it, the greater we strive to attain it and the more we join ourselves to the Heavenly Bridegroom in prayer, anticipating that great feast to come.

St. Elizabeth was a queen who had this great desire for Heaven deep within her soul and it was manifested in the life that she led. Selling her possessions, she opened hospitals to care for the sick and dying, she cared for the needs, fed the hungry, and gave totally of the gifts that she had received from God. And in return, she Divine Master looked upon her with joy and bestowed upon her the gift greater than we can even conceive: the bliss of entering into Heaven. May we, like her, always put our gifts to use in building up the kingdom and glorifying the Lord through our lives.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Papal Document!!!

For those who follow the world of Catholic Reporting, you will likely have heard that the Holy Father released a new papal document yesterday. It is a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation entitled Verbum Domini, or The Word of the Lord. This document is significant for a number of reasons:

1-It has taken three years for the Pope to complete it, taking many notes from the Synod (gathering of bishops from around the world) on Sacred Scripture that took place several years back. This timeframe means that much effort was put into it and it is desirable that it be taken up by theologians and laity alike to reflect on the Church's teaching on the Scriptures.
2-It is the first papal document on the Sacred Scriptures in over half a century.
3-The Scriptures are arguably the most significant aspect of Pope Benedict's pontificate.

I hope, in the coming weeks, to be able to read through this document and post some quotes and reflections here so that you too might be able to hear some of what the Church and Holy Father are speaking to us today with regard to this most important of topics. I do encourage you, however, to not rely on my reflections on it but rather to go get the document and read it for yourself. The Holy Father is an incredible theologian and writer and there will certainly be much in this document worth reflecting on for ourselves personally. You can find it at the Vatican website. You can also find more on the importance of this document at The Sacred Page blog. Again - please go get the document and read it for yourself. Even if you take it a paragraph a day, it will be well worth the read.

Christ and Truth

Readings for Friday, November 12/Memorial of St. Josaphat:
2 John 4-9
Psalm 119:1,2,10,11,17,18
Luke 17:26-37

"Anyone who is so 'progressive' as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son."

This powerful verse from the Second Letter of John drives home rather forcefully the connection between  Christ and the teaching of the Christ received through the Apostles. If you reject one, you reject the other. It is obvious - because John is addressing it - that there was a problem of some Christians becoming so 'enlightened' by the wisdom of the age that they began to stray from the truths of the Christian faith. They thought their brothers and sisters in the Lord just didn't have the grace to enter into the wisdom as they had. And so John reminds them and their fellow Christians that if they stray from the Truth that are the teachings of Christ, then they stray from Christ Himself, Who is the Way, Truth, and Life.

I've been to several conferences where they address this topic that we as Catholics - and really all Christians - don't really have a choice of what is True. Rather, we simply have the choice in whether we will submit ourselves to it or try to make our own truths. One speaker spoke about taking the Catechism of the Catholic Church - the compilation of the teachings of the Church founded by Christ - and we tear out the pages we don't agree with. And if everyone does that, then in the end the Truth will be simply the cover of the book. So, we must accept it all or accept the fact that we cut ourselves off from the Lord. I can't help but think of it as someone looking up into a tree and thinking, "This tree would be better without that limb," and then climbing up, perching on that limb and cutting it off, allowing both the limb and their own self to fall to the ground. The limb is dead - the person certainly injured, if lucky. It's laughable to think that someone would do such a thing, and yet it happens so frequently that souls cut themselves off by pridefully turning away from the Lord because they believe that others are the ones who simply aren't enlightened enough to see the 'real truth.'

Let us pray that we might always abide in the Truth that is Jesus Christ and that those who have strayed away from His teaching might be grafted back onto the Vine Who provides us all life, both today and in eternity.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Own Prison

Readings for Thursday, November 11/ Memorial of St. Martin of Tours:
Philemon 7-20
Psalm 146:7-10
Luke 17:20-25

"I urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment..."

One the face of things, this sentence isn't that important. After all, it's just one more among many sentences giving us some background before we can finally get to the meat of the Word of God. Right? Or is there something more to this passage?

It's a common experience of humanity that we encounter difficulties and trials at various points throughout life. These trials can come in the form of simply having a bad day, being stuck in a situation that you don't know how to get out of, or any number of things. And one easy way to deal with those times is to simply avoid dealing with what is at hand. We can think back to times gone by when things were better. We can look to things in the future of how everything will be different. We can sit and moan and groan about how things are for us and throw ourselves a great 'pity party' of sorts. I have done these things myself and still find myself doing them on occasion. But if we spend time with this passage from St. Paul, we come to find that in his great trials he kept his eyes on what really mattered. He would have had every right to be downtrodden. He had experienced great things and done incredible works and yet he finds himself imprisoned. How easily I would begin to moan and groan if that were the case for me! And yet, in that time he instead turned toward the Lord and continued to do the work of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is in his time in prison that Onesimus is 'born' of Paul, speaking to the spiritual fatherhood of Paul bringing about the gift of faith in the man. Instead of turning toward himself, Paul turned toward the Lord and toward others, realizing that even in the worst of situations, God still works incredible miracles and changes hearts. Ultimately, then, it's about recognizing where the Lord is in the midst of everything and keeping ourselves focused on Him so that when He speaks, we might hear and heed His voice. So when things are getting rough or when we find ourselves in a tough situation - and even in the good times and routine-ness of daily life - let us turn toward the Lord, that He might speak to our hearts and we might in turn nurture the faith of those who walk with us on the journey.

To lighten things up a bit...

I don't know the song that this is put to, but that is not the important you will see.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Even in Tears

Readings for Friday, November 5:
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Psalm 122:1-5
Luke 16:1-8

"For many, as I have told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their 'shame'."

I hope that these words of St. Paul to the Philippians make you pause for a moment and reflect. It always strikes me how he doesn't just say "I have told you..." but rather "I have told you and now tell you even in tears...." In tears he reminds them of the fact that there are some who have made themselves enemies of the Cross of Jesus Christ, glorying in a life of sinfulness. Though I am not brought to physical tears, I too experience a great sadness of soul when I look around me sometimes. St. Paul speaks about people glorying in their shame - what else is this other than being prideful of one's own sinfulness? There is certainly no shortage of this - turn on any 'reality TV' show and you'll soon find a small army of people boasting of their sinfulness, though they wouldn't phrase it as such. And because it is so commonplace it is easy for us to accept and treat as if it's the norm. But what St. Paul's words should spark in our hearts is the realization that it shouldn't be accepted, but rather we ought to morn that they lack the joy and life of Christ that abides in the hearts of those who follow in His ways. We too are called to weep, at least internally, at the sorrow of their ignorance of the Truth, Jesus Christ. And what's more, we ought to pray for them, that they might one day come to know Him.

Another important point that needs expressing is the fact that St. Paul sheds tears for two reasons: 1- his total love for God and sorrow at seeing His love rejected and 2 - he himself was once one of those who made himself an enemy of the Cross of Christ. St. Paul isn't just speaking as a man who was always a pious Christian. He speaks as one who formerly persecuted Christians and sought to destroy the Church; but experiencing the love of God, he converted and sought to build up the Church. He knows the darkness of his former life because he knows the brightness and joy of his new life in Christ. And for that reason he weeps, knowing how much more those 'enemies of the Cross' could have than they did. We who have come to know more deeply the love of God for us are also called to point out the way to Jesus Christ and to pray that our world might have the grace to follow in it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Layout

Just curious about your thoughts on the new look of the blog...

The One

Readings for Thursday, November 4/ Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo:
Philippians 3:3-8
Psalm 105:2-7
Luke 15:1-10

"What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?" 

When Jesus asked this question to those that sat around him, surely the vast majority, if not all, of the men would have found this inquiry foolish. What man, after all, would leave behind the great wealth that he has in order to pursue a lesser good? Why not just cut your loses and carry on with the plan? It would be foolish to do otherwise. And yet this is exactly what the Lord Himself did in taking on human flesh. He emptied Himself of all of His glory to take on the form of a slave; a man born of the flesh, one who experiences all things except sin. And why? For you. For me. For each and every person in the course of history. But He didn't just do this to save all of humanity in general, but save each soul personally. In the eyes of Christ, each of us is that one sheep that He left his wealth behind in order to pursue. How blessed are we to be loved so deeply and so personally by Our Lord.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pray for the Poor Souls

Readings for Tuesday, November 2/Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day):
Wisdom 3:1-9
Psalm 23:1-6
Romans 5:5-11
John 6:37-40

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of All Saints, honoring those who have finished the race and won the heavenly crown, the gift of eternal life. On this the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed - also known as All Souls Day - we remember all those who have gone before us but have not yet gained eternal life. These are the many souls who died in a state of God's grace but are not yet totally purified so as to be ready to enter into the presence of God. This is where the doctrine of purgatory comes into play. These souls are being purged or cleansed in preparation for entry into Heaven and so we pray that their purging may be sped along and they might enter into glory more quickly. The beautiful thing about praying for the poor souls in purgatory is that when they finally attain the gift of eternal life, they will surely pray for us as we too journey along the way to salvation, both in this life and while we ourselves are in purgatory (assuming we find ourselves there after our own death).

It is a good and holy practice to pray for the dead. In fact it is one of the seven spiritual works of mercy and today on All Souls Day there is a plenary indulgence granted to the souls of the faithful depart when you "devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed" (Manual of Indulgences, 99.1.2). Also, there is a plenary indulgence granted to them if "on any day and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed" (Manual, 99.1.1). If you have the ability, I would strongly encourage you to do these things because, with God's grace, we'll eventually find ourselves in purgatory too seeking the prayers of others to speed along the path the Heaven.

Monday, November 1, 2010

For all the saints...

Russian Icon of All Saints 
Readings for Monday, November 1/ Feast of All Saints:
Revelation 7:2-4,9-14
Psalm 24:1-6
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

Throughout the liturgical year Mother Church celebrates the lives of a great number of men and women whose heroic virtue and example of holiness stand as a witness to us all of the power of God's grace in the soul of even a single person. We honor these men and women as saints of God, affirming that they are in fact in Heaven with the Lord interceding on our behalf. In addition to the many who are canonized saints, that is officially recognized by the Church, there are surely thousands upon thousands whose names are not known to us but are nonetheless inscribed in the Book of Life. Today, as we honor all of the saints in heaven, we are given the opportunity to ask once again for the prayers of all the saints and angels, as well as to reflect on their lives.

It is important to reflect on the lives of the saints because by doing so a number of things occur. First we are given the beautiful witness of those who lived the Christian life well. By this witness we are able to look at our own life and be encouraged to continue to strive for holiness and model our lives after these saints who endured many of the same trials as we endure and were triumphant. More than this, we are reminded that this life is not the end but that much more and much greater things lie in store for those who are faithful to the ways of the Lord. For all eternity, the saints stand before God in praise and adoration. When we reflect on the gift that they have won in their salvation, we are inflamed with a great desire to attain that same gift and share with them in the joy of beholding the face of God. Who would not desire this?

Another great gift, mentioned above, is to be reminded that the saints in heaven are not just the several thousand who have been canonized by the Church but consists of many thousands - probably millions or even billions - of holy souls who successfully ran the race and receive the heavenly crown. The vast majority were common men and women like you and I, souls who simply went about their daily work and sought to grow in holiness and glorify the Lord by our lives and in our prayer. This, for me, is the greatest encouragement. That so many humble, unknown souls have crossed into the heavenly banquet and are praying that you and I would soon join them at the feast. God grant that we may we be open to that transforming grace that will bring us all to be saints of God. And may all the saints of heaven pray for us today and always!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Because he loved me...

Readings for Friday, October 29:
Philippians 1:1-11
Psalm 111:1-6
Luke 14:1-6

He saved me because he loved me.

These words from Psalm 18 could well be the title of our readings for the day. Our gospel recounts another of those scenes wherein Jesus is shown challenging the teachings of the scholars and Pharissees. This time the Lord shows them - and us - that their strict observance of the law cast aside charity in the name of senseless obedience. This is a concrete example of what we hear elsewhere - that the great law is to love God, the second to love our neighbor. This act of love, says the Lord, ought to take precedence over the laws of men. As the Lord reaches out to the man with dropsy, He shows His love for him and cures all of his ailments. He saved him because he loved him. And the same can be said of us. Jesus had each of us in mind, consciously aware of each of one of us, as he lived His life and especially at His passion and death. That death was His ultimate sign of love and we too are called to die to ourselves and reach out in love to others who are need, to the suffering, the ill, and the poor. Surely we do these things to a degree already, but the Lord challenges us today to not be content where we are, but to grow in love. As we hear on the lips of St. Paul, "this is my prayer: that your love may ever more and more", so the Lord asks that we open our hearts even more to Him and to those that He puts into our lives.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Be Submissive?!

Stained Glass of St. Lambert
Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church
Readings for Wednesday, October 27:
Ephesians 6:1-9
Psalm 145:10-14
Luke 13:22-30

Today's first readings shows us the continuation of Saint Paul's challenging message yesterday - be submissive to others, make yourself a servant. Here applied to children and slaves, the message takes on a different feel when we begin to look at what it is asking. Often when we think about obedience and submission, there is something in us that can naturally rebel against the idea. During my time in seminary, I have heard on several occasions from priests that we at first think that celibacy is the hardest part of the priestly life, but then you make your promise of obedience and realize that celibacy is easy in comparison. This is so because we often think that we are right or we know the better way to do things, and sometimes we do! But the thing is that ultimately, we ought to submit to those in authority over us as if they were the Lord. 

The Letter to the Ephesians says, "but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, willingly serving the Lord and not men, knowing that each will be requited from the Lord". The RSV translation is a bit more clear: "not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men..." The slaves were told by Saint Paul to work not for men but for God. Their labor and sufferings were to be endured out of love for the Lord. And this is what we are each called to do - to submit ourselves to others out of love for God, not the pleasure of men. Whether it comes in the form of relatives or friends, co-workers or even strangers, it is beneficial to our soul to submit. And if it is a real struggle, simply remind yourself of the One for Whom you are doing it with the little prayer "All for the love of Jesus Christ."

As I was reflecting on this passage, I couldn't help but recall this image of St. Lambert kneeling before the crucifix. This image is in the Archabbey Church in St. Meinrad, Indiana, where I spent six weeks discerning monastic life. I was always struck by this image because of the story that accompanies it. Saint Lambert was a bishop and was traveling at one point and came along this Benedictine monastery. One of the leaders of the community told him to kneel before the crucifix until the monk came back, unaware that he was the bishop of the diocese and had authority over the monks of the abbey. Hours later he returned and there knelt Lambert, kneeling as he had been told, despite the fact that he was actually the superior; so great was his love for Jesus Christ and desire to be obedient to Him. How beautiful the world would be if we all had such great humility!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

"We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that He gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty."
-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

This passage has really been speaking to me for the past couple of days because my classmates and I are beginning an intense six weeks of classwork here at the seminary and I find comfort in being reminded that the grace is always there to persevere in doing His will and seeking after Him in all things and at all times. How blessed we are to have the grace of God at work in us!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

On Children and Chant and Latin and Things...

The main altar and high altar of St. Gertrude Parish
For those of you who come to this little blog regularly, you have probably noticed the abrupt halt in posts. One reason that this has been the case for the past week is that I am currently in Cincinnati, Ohio visiting my dad our family up here. Getting on the internet has been a bit of a task, and this is multiplied by the joyous fact of my 18-month old little sister's curiosity with this strange bearded fellow who has suddenly shown up at the house (me). Needless to say, I have spent a great deal of time watching her run here, there and everywhere and that takes precedence (I'm sure you understand). 

Anywho, I have had the blessed opportunity to again visit St. Gertrude parish and Old St. Mary's parish here in Cincinnati during my week or so here. St. Gertrude is a formation house for the Dominican brothers in the area and so they continually have a dozen or more men my age in formation (how blessed they are!) that are present in the parish. It also adds a beautiful element to the liturgical celebrations, as they are often there to lead the congregation in the proper chants for each day and the Mass responses. Too, they chant the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) with the lay community as well. Needless to say, I'm taking notes :) This morning I went again to Old St. Mary's church, a gorgeous old German church that is the home to the Novus Ordo in Latin, the Novus Ordo in German, and the Novus Ordo in English (Novus Ordo being the Mass of Vatican II). The Latin celebration really makes me appreciate the beauty that is possible in celebrating the Novus Ordo well. The small army of altar boys that were there are sure to produce a couple of good holy priests in the future for the archdiocese. In all, it has been a refreshing few days here with the family and those two communities. Now, I prepare to head back to Baton Rouge tomorrow morning to resume the more active aspects of diaconal ministry and to begin the final stages of preparation for just 7 months and 11 days away. I assure you that regular posting of reflections and homilies - as they occur - will resume this week. My prayers are with you. Please pray for me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Special Kind of Happiness

I've been reading the book The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor. It's about a priest who is a recovering alcoholic and his dealings with a family with which he has intimate ties from childhood. It is written from the priest's own point of view and he reflects often on his life in a very beautiful way. I found the following paragraph particularly striking; maybe you will as well.

"So then, I was happy in the way that young priests so often are. This is, I think, a special kind of happiness, one perhaps peculiar to the priest, and, moreover, to the priest when he is just beginning, when he's in the very morning of his new life. Which is not to say that happiness must fade as the priest grows old: it can change its quality, it can deepen, ripen, become richer. But this kind of happiness will fade, because it belongs to the young: a mixture of innocence and awe, of freshness and wonder, of reverence and excitement, of joy and of a disbelief, almost, that, for example, it is really you who, in this church and on this altar and before these people, are now at last to have the great privilege of consecrating the Body and Blood of our Blessed Lord. Here the miracle and mystery of God's grace strikes home overwhelmingly, with such freshness and clarity, that it stuns your heart and fills your whole being and nothing else matters at all. And these moments, once known, no matter how long ago, can never be really forgotten. Never, never, never..."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pray for Vocations!

Readings for Sunday, October 10:
2 Kings 5:14-17
Psalm 98:1-4
2 Timothy 2:8-13
Luke 17:11-19

“And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice.”

He realized he was healed; he realized the gift that he had received and he went back to the Lord in thanksgiving. The other nine did not know the gift and they simply continue on.

In recent years we’ve been hearing a lot about the priesthood shortage. And none of you here at Our Lady of Mercy need to be told about it; you see it daily. Many of you can probably remember regularly having at least two associate pastors here. And yet today, we don’t even have one. This leads some to the conclusion that we have a vocations crisis, a shortage of vocations. But this is simply not true. God is calling just as many young men to serve Him as priests today as in the past, maybe even more given the situation of our world. The real crisis is a lack of responses to that call.

Just as the ten lepers were healed by the Lord and only one responded to the gift, so too with priestly vocations. Many young men are called and simply never recognize the seed of the priestly vocation in their hearts. Or if they do hear it, it maybe be overlooked by others or even discouraged. The same applies to young men and women discerning the vocation to consecrated religious life. The call is there, but what we desperately need is the response.

As a seminarian and soon-to-be priest, I like to talk to young people about pursuing the vocation of religious life because I myself have found such joy and fulfillment in it. I hope that my words and my witness will encourage others to ‘cast out into the deep’ and pursue the vocation of consecrated life, whether in priesthood or religious life. But it is not my job alone to encourage this – it is also yours.

Every one of us has a role in encouraging vocations in the youth. I can speak from my own perspective and talk about my experience, of the call, the journey, and the life. But I cannot possibly spend time with each of your children to have the opportunity to see within them a seed of religious vocation. But you can and hopefully do. So what can you do to encourage vocations to priesthood and religious?

First – PRAY! Jesus told us that the harvest is plentiful but laborers are few and that we are to pray for more laborers to be sent. So, first we must pray to the Lord to call more young people to pursuer religious vocations, and we must pray that those who are called might have the grace to respond to the call. Secondly, talk about vocations. If a child never hears or talks about religious life, they are much less likely to pursue it. The seminarians and our parents got together with Bishop Muench yesterday morning and he spoke about vocations. He said that over half of the priests he knew felt the call to priesthood in elementary school. So it’s never to early to just throw the possibility out there. Which leads me to my next point – if you see someone who might have the seed of a vocation, tell them! Many simply need someone to let them know what they themselves cannot see. These are all things that involve specifically talking about vocations. But this is only part of it.

In addition to praying for vocations, talking about vocations, and inviting people to consider vocations, we must also simply talk pray in general, talk about faith, and invite our youth to be joyfully Catholic. This could be things link attending Mass as a family, praying the rosary together each night or each week, talking about the faith and the scriptures together, and simply sitting down to a share meal. This will certainly encourage religious and priestly vocations, but it will also encourage good wholesome vocations to marriage and unite our youth to the Lord through their Catholic faith.  And that is the goal, to have our young people love being Catholic and be in union with the Lord Jesus, because when that happens, the seeds will begin to flourish.

As I conclude my time here at Our Lady of Mercy, I want to say thank you for the many prayers that all of you have lifted up for me during my time here and even before my arrival. I know that without your prayers and the prayers of others, I would never have had the strength to pursue the vocation to which I have been called. I ask for your continue prayers also, for myself and my classmate Deacon Todd Lloyd. He and I are set to be ordained this coming May and will certainly need your prayers as we make that transition. I ask for your prayers also for the three men in the class behind us who are scheduled to be ordained transitional deacons for our diocese in June, and for the 10 other men who are in formation for priesthood for our diocese. I have spoken to three parishioners here discerning religious life and suspect that there are many more.

I close with this advice to all of you, but especially any of you who think you may be called to a religious vocation: the Lord created you with a purpose in mind. Do not be afraid; simply trust in the Lord and He will take you where you need to be.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Unity of Christians

Sts. Peter and Paul
Icon of Christian Unity
Readings for Friday, October 8:
Galatians 3:7-14
Psalm 111:1-6
Luke 11:15-26

Several years ago I was curious about the number of ‘churches’ in my hometown of Denham Springs. I opened up the phone book and turned to the churches section and found nearly 60 different places just in Denham Springs. I was shocked that there were so many there, and I can only imagine how many are here in Baton Rouge. And yet, I know that no two of those ‘churches’ really teach the same thing. And not just disagreements on small articles of faith, but major ones. I was looking at a website the other day and found a page speaking on how the Trinity is not Biblical and isn’t a reality. The Trinity - one of the core beliefs of the Catholic Church; really, THE core belief of the Catholic Church. And yet at this other Christian ‘church’, they say otherwise. Such great disunity.

In the Gospel today, Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, himself a demon. Jesus points out how foolish this is, saying that any house that is divided against itself cannot stand. We know that the Catholic Church will never be destroyed because Jesus Himself said that gates of hell shall not prevail against her. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t have some major problems along the way. Remember the Jews of the Old Testament; the Lord made many promises to them.  The promises made to them were fulfilled by God, but along the way they endure many trials, much persecution and two major exiles from their land. They were divided and they paid a price, but the Lord was ultimately faithful to His promise. Just like the Jews of old, we Christians lack unity. The over 40,000 protestant denominations that have arisen in the past 500 years attest to the fact that Christians are clearly not united.

It is fitting then, that today as we listen to these words that speaks of division and destruction, that we pray for the unity of all Christians. Pray that all Christians might once again be brought together to be united in spirit and in truth, and be one as Jesus and the Father are one, as the Lord said in the scriptures.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Our Lady of the Rosary

On this day in 1571, the famous Battle of Lepanto took place. In that battle at sea, the Holy League (comprised of Spanish forces, Papal forces, and several other groups) decisively defeated the fleet of ships sent by the Ottoman Empire to gain entry into Europe. The Holy League was greatly outnumbered and Pope Pius V, realizing the importance of this battle, sent out a message asking everyone to pray the Holy Rosary for the Holy League to be victorious. They were indeed victorious and saved Christian Europe from invasion from the Ottomans. To commemorate this miraculous occasion, Pope Pius instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory, attributing the victory to the Blessed Virgin Mary's intercession. Today this is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary,  showing the importance of Mary's intercession, as well as the great power of the Holy Rosary. In this month of October, we honor Our Lady and join together in praying the Rosary once again, trusting that the Blessed Mother will again hear our prayers and give us victory over the evil one who prowls throughout the world.

Our Lady of the Rosary, Pray for us!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Readings for Wednesday, October 6/
Memorial of St. Bruno:
Galatians 2:1-2,7-14
Psalm 117:1,2
Luke 11:1-4

Give us each day our daily bread.

Traditionally we have seen this petition of the Lord’s Prayer to have two meanings. First it is the Bread of Life, the Eucharist. This is the Bread that sustains our spiritual life and give us grace. Secondly, and linked to it, is the daily bread of the many graces that we need to make it through the day.

If we look at the Letter to the Galatians, we can see that what we need daily as part of that ‘daily bread’ is the virtue of courage. St. Paul recounts here how St. Peter failed to exhibit this virtue. The Jews traditionally separated themselves from the Gentiles, and so would not eat with them at meals. Knowing this was not really in line with Christian belief, St. Peter would eat with the Gentiles when the Jews weren’t around, but as soon as they showed up he would again distance himself from the Gentile Christian community because he was afraid of what the Jews would do or say. St. Paul recognized this and, although he was the least of the Apostles, called St. Peter out for doing something that was out of line. Here he showed great courage in stepping up to the leader of the Christian community to bring him back to the truth.

As we come to receive the daily bread of the Eucharist today, may we also receive the great gift of courage so that we might be able to do those things that we ought to do and to bring back those who have strayed from the truth.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Divine Artist

Caravaggio's The Martyrdom of St. Matthew

Readings for Tuesday, October 5:
Galatians 1:13-24
Psalm 139:1-3,13-15
Luke 10:38-42

A few weeks ago I reflected on an experience I had of studying a painting by the artist Michelangelo Caravaggio. I want to return to that experience, but now in a different light. Before I spoke about looking into the meaning of a particular painting, but this was only part of the assignment. The whole assignment was to research the painting, as well as the artist, and to be able to discuss it in light of the other works he had done. Essentially, we had to find out what are the characteristic elements the artist used and show how they were incorporated in the main work. As I began to study his different pieces of art, it was interesting to note that there were many similarities, many things that were almost universally present in his paintings. And yet there were also here and there little details that pointed toward something specific he had experienced in his life. In the midst of so much the same, there were little differences.

This is what struck me as I was reflecting on our readings for today. In the psalm we encounter an image of God as a sort of Divine Artist who creates each of us uniquely. As the psalmist says, God knits us together in our mother’s womb and forms our inmost being. If we look around, we can see some of the commonalities – obviously a physical similarity, a mental similarity, and because we are created in the image of God, we all have dignity as persons. And while we have these similarities, we also have many differences. We look different from one another, we have different interests, and we have different gifts. This is where the beauty really lies; it would be simple to make carbon-copies of us, but the fact that each of us is specially molded by the Lord speaks to the great love that He has for each of us as His sons and daughters.

As we celebrate this Eucharist, may the Lord, who knows us more deeply than we know ourselves, show us the gifts with which we have been molded and give us the grace to put those gifts to good use, so that we, like Saint Paul, might bring others to glorify God by those gifts.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Radio Silence

In case you're wondering why I haven't posted anything since this past Wednesday - I haven't preached since then. I will be posting again beginning tomorrow and will continue as usual. After this weekend I will no longer be assigned to Our Lady of Mercy parish, but will be returning to the seminary. In the months leading up to my priestly ordination I will be preaching in various parishes on some weekends, as well as a few times here at the seminary. I will continue to post those homilies here and on Facebook, as usual, and hope to supplement them by reflections on the Mass readings/feasts on other days. Thank you for visiting my blog. Look out for an updated page layout in the next couple of weeks... God's blessings upon you all!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Angels in Battle!

Readings for Wednesday, September 29/
Feast of the Archangels:
Revelation 12:1-7-12
Psalm 138:1-5
John 1:47-51

Today Mother Church celebrates the feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael and as we do, we not only honor them but we also recall the great things they have done and continue to do for us. In our first readings we heard about the great fight that broke out in Heaven and how Michael and his angels fought against Satan and his angels, which we know now as demons. Michael and his angels were triumphant and Satan was thrown out of heaven and the scriptures recount this hymn of praise “now have salvation and power come”.

But for us today, it is important to look at what immediately follows that hymn of rejoicing and praise. If we look at the very next verse we hear St. John telling us “But woe to you, O Earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath for he knows his time is short.” It then briefly accounts how, being cast out of heaven, the devil tries to kill ‘the woman’ whom we know to be Mary. And failing to do that, the scriptures tell us that the devil then turned instead and set out to kill her children.

My brothers and sisters, we are the children of Mary. We are the ones that the devil is seeking to kill. But we are not alone in the battle. With us here are Michael the Archangel and the other angels, battling among us not for control over the heavens but for control over our hearts. You and I both know how easy it can be for us to forget about the spiritual realm because so much of what we do each day is focused on physical things; and yet the physical things we see are but a small portion of reality. The challenge then is to remember that the reading from Revelation is not just about a one-time event but in a sense points out that there is, to this very day, a spiritual battle going on all around and even with us each day and that the angels still play a vital role in attaining victory in those fights.

As we come to this altar today and join with the angels in singing that hymn “Holy, holy, holy,” we give thanks for all the angels, especially Michael, Raphael, Gabriel,  for their protection until this point and ask that it might continue until we enter into Heaven where we will reign victoriously with them for all eternity.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Praying for the Sorrowful

Readings for Tuesday, September 28/Memorial of St. Wenceslaus:
Job 3:1-3,11-17, 20-23
Psalm 88:2-8
Luke 9:51-56

In the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily prayer of the Church, different days and times of the day are often characterized by a certain ‘flavor’ if you will. Saturdays are typically more Marian in their prayer, whereas Fridays are more penitential.  Morning prayer is more anticipatory and intercessory and Evening Prayer is more a prayer of thanksgiving. On Fridays at night prayer, we always pray Psalm 85 – a psalm full of sorrow and darkness; a psalm truly intended for those in despair. And yet we pray it each Friday. But sometimes you really aren’t sad when you go to pray that night prayer. On many occasions, I have come to that time of day rather joyful and excited. So how do we reconcile that sorrowful psalm with our joyful state? I once heard this question posed to a priest and he said that often approaches those psalms of sorrow or desolation and finds himself in a joyful mood, and so he remembers that while he is joyful there are many in the world who are feeling sorrow, darkness, and desolation in that very moment. He remembers those who are persecuted for their faith, those who are in prison, those who are plagued by spiritual or emotional darkness; and for each of those people he offers that prayer, knowing that many were unable to pray it themselves. He speaks it for them.

As I stand here at this ambo today I look outside and I see clear blue skies, a nice change in the weather, and am rather joyful at all of this. And yet we hear this reading from Job where he says ‘cursed be the day I was born’ and he laments his being brought into the world. And then we have the psalm which speaks of being brought into the dark abyss and being dragged down into sorrow. And as we hear these readings we are again struck by the disconnect between our experience and the prayers selected for us. So, though we may not be sorrowful ourselves, we remember that today there are thousands upon thousands of people throughout the world who are in great darkness and are in need of God’s grace to sustain them. Let us remember them in this Mass, as we lift up our prayers to the Lord, that he might console them and give them strength.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Little Irritation

Readings for Sunday, September 26:

Amos 6:1,4-7
Psalm 146:7-10
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31

The challenge of every homily is to take what the scriptures speak about or what the Church is trying to show us about the faith and to make that apply to the life of those who hear it, the one preaching included. So when we hear the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the question must be asked ‘How does this apply to me? What does this have to do with my life today?’ Looking briefly at the gospel we find the rich man is faced daily with the presence of Lazarus, who lay at his doorstep, and had to choose whether to help Lazarus or not to help Lazarus. Can you think of a time when we are faced with a similar situation?

The situation that comes to my mind is when I get off the interstate and there is a homeless man with the sign asking for help. As he walks back and forth asking for money, I am faced with a decision – help him or ignore him. When this happens, I find that I usually have one of three reactions. Sometimes I will acknowledge them and give them a couple of bucks and a prayer card or religious medal. Other times I act like I’m busy looking for something or turn the other way so I won’t feel so bad for ignoring them. Then there are other times that I hope that the light turns green before he gets to my car, because then I can make myself feel better by saying ‘I would have helped him, but I didn’t want to stop traffic.’ Another example is the telephone. With caller-id on most of our phones, how often do we look at the phone and see that so-and-so is calling and we really just don’t want to talk to them because they bother us? Again, that decision to ignore them or to respond to them.

No matter which option I choose in either of those situations, there is usually some sort of uneasiness that I experience either because I don’t respond to them or because I do respond but not because I actually want to interact with them. There’s always an uneasiness, an irritation if you will. That irritation, though, is actually a point for grace to come into the scene. Think about an oyster; when a foreign substance like a piece of sand gets into the shell, it reacts to it and what results is a beautiful pearl. An irritant at first becomes a great treasure to the world, all because the oyster reacted to its presence.

If we look again at the gospel reading, we will find that the rich man wore fine purple garments and fine linens, often a sign of royalty, and that he dined sumptuously everyday. Simply put, he was living a pretty good life. Was this his sin though? Was the sin that earned him condemnation the fact that he had money and lived well? No! Money is a good thing and those who have it are certainly blessed. The problem comes in when money and riches are too highly valued, as we heard last week. The prophet Amos spoke in our first reading about how the people had become complacent because they were eating the finest foods and living the high life; but his focus was not truly their riches but their complacency that resulted from it. This is what we have in the case of the rich man from the gospel. His problem was that he has focused so much on all of his comfortable things that he began to isolate himself both from those around him and from the Lord himself. In a real sense, he became wholly self-absorbed and so was unable to respond to those in need. And this is where his sin is found - not in having riches, nor in any grave sins, but in simply ignoring Lazarus, in being unable to care for anyone other than himself. By failing to respond to the ‘irritant’ that Lazarus was in his daily life, the rich man missed out on the possibility of having that great treasure grow within him.

And what is that great treasure? Salvation. Lazarus was there as an opportunity for the rich man to reach out to others rather than simply serve himself and by failing to respond time and again to Lazarus’ presence, the rich man effectively walked past his salvation and said ‘no thanks’.

So the next time you see that guy at the red light asking for change, or someone you don’t want to talk to is calling you, or any other situation that demands that we make a decision to either ignore or respond, consider what great treasure might be gained by being willing to respond or what treasure might be lost by failing to do so.