Saturday, December 31, 2011

Papal Intentions for January

Here are the intentions that our Holy Father asks us to join him in praying for during January:

General Intention: Victims of Natural Disasters. 
That the victims of natural disasters may receive the spiritual and material comfort they need to rebuild their lives.

Missionary Intention: Dedication to Peace.
That the dedication of Christians to peace may bear witness to the name of Christ before all men and women of good will. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Child

A child at the parish brought Baby Jesus a Birthday Card
A simple, tender child. A great mystery.

The beginning of the Book of Genesis looks forward Him.  The prophets foretold Him. John the Baptist heralded His coming. The angels appeared to speak of His mission. Mary and Joseph said yes to Him. And yet at the coming of God in the form of a little child, we must stand in awe, shocked by what has taken place.

The Word through Whom all things were created, the Image of God the Father, the One by Whom we who are deserving of condemnation are able to gain redemption and salvation, comes to us as a child. An infant; helpless and pure.

He comes not in great kingly glory, though He deserves it. He comes not with great pomp and circumstance, though it is truly His right. He comes humbly, as so often God does in our lives. This is a great mystery to us; it seems almost absurd if we pause to think about it. The Holiest of holies comes as a baby. The King of kings  sleeps in a manger, where animals feed. A Father that permits His Only Begotten Son to endure persecution from His time in the womb until His death on a Cross. And yet He comes.

So great is the love of God for us that the Son of the Father stripped Himself of glory and power to come among us as a helpless child that must rely upon us to care for Him, protect Him and love Him. He does this not because He needs us, whom He created, but because we need Him. And so He gives us the greatest of gifts: Himself. He comes to us today not in a land far away. Not thousands of miles from here or in a time long past, but right here in this very moment. In this humble building, the God of all creation comes to us and gives Himself to us. He does this because he knows that by placing Himself in our arms, we are more inclined to place ourselves in His. By trusting in us, He allows us to entrust everything to Him.  And so He comes to us today – to each of us personally – to ask one simple question: Do you trust me enough to give me your heart?

He gives Himself up completely to us, a helpless child totally reliant upon our care. He does not need us to love Him, but He does desire it because doing so will bring us fulfillment and joy. O, Mystery of mysteries! God has come among us. He is here, the God who loves us so much. He is here. Come, let us bow down in worship. Come, let us adore Him.

Friday, December 23, 2011

O Emmanuel

Latin: O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

English: O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

Reflection: Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (7:14). Remember “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

Reflection taken from Fr. William Saunders' post HERE.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winning the Culture War

"For we are not contending against flesh and blood,
but against the principalities, against the powers, 
against the world rulers of this present darkness, 
against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
Ephesians 6:12 

Please watch this - it's worth every second.

O Rex Gentium

Latin: O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

English: O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

Reflection: Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4).

Reflection taken from Fr. William Saunders' post HERE.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

O Oriens

Latin: O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

English: O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” 

Reflection: Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1). 

Reflection taken from Fr. William Saunders' post HERE.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Clavis David

Latin: O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israël, qui aperis, et nemo claudit, claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

English: O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

Reflection: Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6). 

Reflection taken from Fr. William Saunders' post HERE.

Monday, December 19, 2011

O Radix Jesse

Latin: O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

English: O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

Reflection: Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1). 

Reflection taken from Fr. William Saunders' post HERE.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Have Faith

2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12, 14, 16
Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself.” (1814).

King David in Prayer by Pieter de Grebber
It can be very hard to have faith sometimes. I was reflecting the other day on the reality that while much of the world around us is full of Christmas cheer, there are some in our own communities and families who are not. Some have lost a spouse, child or parent and go without their presence for the first time this Christmas. Some have endured great trials or tragedies in their lives. In these and many other situations all of us find ourselves in at some point in our life, we are challenged to have faith in Our Lord and His promises to us. The scriptures this weekend help us to do so.

In the Second Book of Samuel, we hear about that familiar figure King David. Having finally found rest from his enemies, he resolved to build a house for the Ark of the Covenant, the dwelling place of the Lord. The Lord then reminds him “It was I who took you from the pasture…I have been with you…I have destroyed all your enemies before you….” Reminding David of these things done in the past, the Lord then speaks of what He will do in the future, saying, “I will raise up your heir after you… I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”

A Son of David ruled on the throne as king for the next four hundred years until the Babylonian Exile in 597 B.C., when the Israelites people were scattered among the nations and their kingdom fallen. When this happened, you can imagine the people’s thoughts. ‘The Lord said the Davidic King would rule forever. Has the Lord forgotten His promise? Has He gone back on His word? Has He abandoned us?’ It would seem that all was lost, that there was no reason to hope. And yet there were some who still believed that the Lord would keep His word and restore the Kingdom of David. They had faith.

For over six hundred years, they longed for that king until the day they heard the message that Gabriel spoke to Mary: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

A Son of David shall be king again! And furthermore, this king fulfills the prophecy perfectly – the child is no mere child but rather is truly the Son of God the Father and will indeed reign forever before Him in Heaven. How blessed indeed were those who kept faith and had eyes to see this great prophecy fulfilled.

The Infant of Prague
Truly, the Lord is faithful to us and keeps all of His promises. How blessed will we be too, if we place our trust in Him and simply have faith.

Come, O King of All the Nations.
Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

O Adonai

Latin: O Adonai, et dux domus Israël, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

Reflection: Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

Reflection taken from Fr. William Saunders' post HERE.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

O Antiphons/ O Sapientia

Today we begin the 'O Antiphons'! These antiphons are prayed immediately before the Magnificat during Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours from December 17-23, marking the octave of celebration leading up to the joyous nativity of the Lord. Each antiphon points toward a different title of the Messiah, prophecies spoken by Isaiah, and the nearness of Christmas. Also, as noted by Professor Robert Greenberg, these antiphons seem to have been arranged with a purpose in mind: if you take the first letter of each Latin title in order of their closeness to Christmas, you find the phrase 'ero cras,' which in Latin means "I will come tomorrow." Pretty neat! For more info, check out Fr. William Saunders' post HERE.

Beginning with this post, I will be posting each of the antiphons and maybe an accompanying musical setting for reflection as we close in on these final days of Advent.

O Antiphon for December 17:

Latin: O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

English: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation. 

Reflection: Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sodom and Gomorrah!

I've been on a little mini-vacation this week, so postings have been non-existent. To supplement, here is an interesting post from Dr. John Bergsma over at The Sacred Page blog:
By far the most interesting session at the recent Society of Biblical Literature Congress in San Francisco was one I wandered into by chance.  I am always curious about what is going on in biblical archeology, so one afternoon I decided to skip the dozen or so sessions dedicated to Bakhtinian Decontextualization of Identity Construction in Persian Yehud (I had to tear myself away) and go hear about the excavations at a certain site called "Tall-el-Hammam."  I had no idea what I was in for.  After about five minutes into the session, I realized that the archeological team assigned to this dig was convinced that they had found the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.  After another half-hour, it seemed they had most of the participants convinced as well.  The sites fit the geographical and temporal context into which Sodom and Gomorrah are placed in the biblical texts.  The cities at the site were suddenly and completely wiped out in the Late Bronze Age, which makes a reasonably good fit with the biblical accounts of Abraham and Lot.  The entire presentation was very convincing, but never once did they deal with the "elephant in the room": what caused the sites to be suddenly abandoned?  As soon as the session was over, I was the first to raise my hand.  "Did you find any arrow heads?  Signs of invasion?  What happened to them?"  The lead archeologist paused for a moment.  "I didn't want to go there," he said.  Another pause. "I'm preparing material for publication."  Pause.  "All I want to say 'on camera' is, they appear to have been wiped out in a 'heat event'."

A "heat event"!?  What?!

"If you want to know more, I'll talk after the session off the record."

I wish I could divulge what he said to a small group of us clustered around the podium after the session was over, but it would break confidence.  We'll have to wait for the official peer-reviewed publications.
I love it when scholars find out that things in the Bible might actually be *GASP* real! I look forward to hearing about the findings of the dig. More can be found at the their official site HERE.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rejoice Always

Readings for Sunday, December 11/ Gaudete Sunday:
Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Luke 1:46-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

What does it mean to rejoice?

It seems like a simple question, but as we come to this Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, or Rejoicing Sunday, and hear these readings about rejoicing, it’s just been in the back of my mind - what does it mean to rejoice?

As I thought about it, I knew that rejoicing isn’t being happy. I knew it’s not feeling good about something or being upbeat. It’s not an emotion or feeling at all. In fact, the more I thought about rejoicing, the more I began to wonder if it’s even something that we can control.

As I continued to think about this question in hopes of find a homily somewhere in it, I continued with the other things that needed to be prepared for this weekend. I began to look at the books and liturgy outlines and then the other night I went to the rectory to get my rose colored vestments from my closet. It was in getting these vestments that something strange happened. As I slid the hanging clothes aside to reveal these rose vestments, my heart was filled with joy and a smile came to my face as I quietly gazed upon these simply pieces of cloth. In that moment, I could not help but rejoice in the silence of my heart because I knew that this color meant that Advent is nearing its end, marking the nearness of the Lord. The Christ child is almost come; the Savior in our midst!

In light of this experience I looked at the scriptures for today and other passages that spoke of rejoicing, and noticed a pattern. Almost every time the word ‘rejoice’ is used, it is used to describe people’s response to the presence and action of God in their lives. It is something that arises from deep within the soul; a spontaneous response to God that is so powerful that the words that we use to describe it often seem to be shadows in comparison with what is taking place.

The rejoicing of Isaiah’s soul cannot be contained in a few words, but rather comes out in a beautiful, poetic verse: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.”

In the responsory, we hear Mary too rejoices in the greatness of the Lord, recounting the many ways that He has blessed her and the world, in much the same way as Isaiah.

Preaching of John the Baptist by Domenico Ghirlandaio
Lastly, we see the true cause of our souls rejoicing in the Lord in the words of St. John the Baptist. “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” In his humility, he realizes that he is not worthy even to do the lowliest of tasks for the One coming after him and yet Christ does come in the midst of Him, and more than untie His sandals, John is asked to baptize the Lord.

Like John, when the Lord comes to us, when He makes Himself known and reveals to us His great love, we too are humbled and our souls rejoice at the greatness of a God who comes into the midst of ones who are undeserving of so great a gift. As we grow in awareness of the closeness of God to each of us at every moment of our lives, then we will truly fulfill the exhortation of St. Paul: “Rejoice always.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Untying the Knots

Our Lady of Lourdes - "I am the Immaculate Conception"
Readings for Thursday, December 8/ Immaculate Conception:
Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98:1-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers.”

These words found in the third chapter are often referred to as the ‘protoevangelium’ or ‘first gospel’ because they tell us the good news that humanity is not subject to the consequences of that first sin forever, but that there will come a savior – the offspring of the woman who is at enmity with the evil one. This anticipation of a savior colors the whole Old Testament and finds its fulfillment in the coming of Christ Jesus in His Incarnation at the Annunciation. Throughout that whole story, though, we can see that God often works in similar ways, using a pattern over and over. This use of patterns by God is not because He is uncreative, but rather because the patterns permit us all to look at events and recognize its significance because of its likeness to a previous event. We can see the hand of God at work now because the signs were the same in the past. We see one of those clear patterns in the story of Eve and Mary.

Eve was created by God and was entirely free from sin, entirely immaculate, and is presented with an option: follow the Lord or seek after her own desires. Manifesting her pride, she disobeyed the will of God and ate of the forbidden fruit. In this, she brings sin upon her, then upon Adam, and ultimately the two of them bring condemnation to the whole human race. In this action, Saint Irenaeus, a great defender of the faith in the early Church, says that Eve took the purity of humanity and, with Adam, tied it into a great knot.

As we noted, God often works in patterns, and we all know that the only way to untie a knot is to go back and undo it in the same way it was formed. And so we must begin again with a woman entirely clean from all sin. The Immaculate Conception of Mary in the womb of Saint Anne, which we celebrate today, gives us that woman. Rather than being cleansed from sin as all of us are, Mary was kept free from all sin from the first moment of her conception by a special grace of God. She is indeed a blessed Mother. In our gospel we hear the choice put to her as well: follow the will of God and bear the Son of God or to turn toward herself. Mary manifests her humility, submits herself to the gracious will of God and, by bearing the Christ, helps to bring all of humanity not condemnation but redemption and salvation. In this she unties that knot made by the first ‘mother of all the living’ and helps to restore humanity to its purity.

While she has untied the knot of sin for all humanity, it does not mean that we are now perfect. On the contrary, quite often in our lives we model ourselves after Eve and reach out for those forbidden fruits in our midst and tie knots ourselves, for which we later suffer. On this feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, let us ask our Blessed Mother to be conceived in our own hearts that she might also work in us to untie the knots we have made there. She has much experience in this great work, so let us place our hearts, souls, and lives in her loving hands, confident that she will accomplish this in us so we might merit that great gift of salvation. 

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What to get your priest for Christmas...

Found this excellent little article from Fr. William Byrne over at the My Catholic Standard website:
Two ingredients that have become central to the celebration of Jesus' birth are fat and sugar. I bemoan this not because I do not like fat and sugar, but because I really like foods that have lots of fat and sugar. Celebrating a feast historically included such things because the feast had been preceded by a period of fasting. However, Christmas now is preceded by Thanksgiving and a bunch of Christmas parties.

With a priest shortage, I would like to recommend some things to get for your priest that do not involve sugar or fat. (These words were difficult to write, but I managed through the grace of the Holy Spirit!)

1. Your Neighbor - Bring your neighbor to Mass and introduce him/her to the priest. Growing numbers and a new soul tops even a cream pie.

2. Spiritual Bouquet - A note with a promise to say some prayers for your priests is a wonderful Christmas gift. Quite frankly, looking at our world, it is clear that some serious spiritual battles are going on. Your prayers are the invisible powerhouse that allows the priest to face the most difficult situations with joy. If your pastor is a bit grumpy, maybe it is because you don't pray for him enough.

3. Live Your Baptism - I pray each day for my parish not only that they will come to Mass and receive Jesus in the Eucharist, but also that they will bring him to the world. As Jesus is the Great High Priest, this gift is probably more for him than just for your local pastor. Being a great mom/dad/son/daughter/friend/employee/ boss and being truly a person a faith is a challenge. But heroes and saints are people who face challenges. So stand up and tell the world that you're proud to be a follower of Jesus. Let people see how you love his Church. Say grace before meals, go to Mass on vacation. Take your kids to Confession. Defend the faith.

4. Encouraging and Praying for Vocations - We just opened Blessed John Paul II Seminary in the Archdiocese of Washington because we have good numbers of men following the Lord to discern a call to the priesthood. The movement of the Holy Spirit is clear, but we need to pray that young men will be preserved from things that block them from hearing Christ's call. This is where you come in. Encouragement of a young man and prayers for those already in the seminary MUST be part of your daily regimen. This is a great gift not only to the seminarians but to the whole archdiocese.

5. Food for the Poor - Write a note to the priest, "I gave your cookies to the hungry." Once his blood pressure lowers, which it probably needs to anyway, he will be very grateful. We need your generosity more then we need your chocolate chips. (Once again the Holy Spirit helped me pen that sentence.)
 Amen, Father. These gifts would certainly warm the heart of any priest.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Slapping Heretics and Blessing Children

Readings for Tuesday, December 6/ St. Nicholas:
Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 96:1-3, 10-13
Matthew 18:12-14

On this feast of St. Nicholas, many of us conjure up images in our head of a jolly round fellow with rosy cheeks and a joyous laugh that makes his belly jiggle like a bowl full of jello. Good ole Saint Nick! Most of us don't know about the more serious side of good ole Saint Nick though. While St. Nicholas is certainly remembered as the good saint who blessed children with gifts and whose memory still lives on today, he was also a great defender of the faith in the early ages of the Church. 

At the Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325, there was addressed a heresy called Arianism, after its promoter, Arius. Arius denied the fullness of divinity in Christ and this error was spreading wildly throughout the Church. Saint Nicholas, a great bishop and defender of the divinity of Christ went to the Council and in front of the community, slapped Arius across the face for his heretical teaching. This literal attack against heresy (and a heretic!) was meant to be a stark way of showing those in erroneous belief that they were wrong, had strayed from the fold, and needed to come back to the truth. This echoes the desires of Christ, who speaks today in the gospel about the need to leave the ninety-nine in search of the one lost sheep. How great is the rejoicing of one who returns to the fold. 

While today we usually don't go around slapping people who are contradicting the True Faith (which would consume much of our day, honestly), we are called to pray for these souls and to encourage them and sometimes challenge them. Who in our own lives has strayed from the flock? Let us lift up that person(s) to the Lord today in prayer through the intercession of St. Nicholas.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Social Justice Right in Your Hands!

What does the Church say about Social Justice issues? A LOT! One of the best texts that includes references and quotes galor from Vatican II, John Paul II and other more recent documents, is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. It was required reading for both of my social justice classes at the seminary and ought to be required for all Catholics period. To help with that endeavor, The Curt Jester has kindly made it available for free in e-reader format (iPad/Nook/Kindle/etc.) HERE. Check it out!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Preparation = Reconciliation

St. John the Baptist preaching repentance
Readings for Sunday, December 4/ Second Sunday of Advent: 
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm 85:9-14
2 Peter 3:8-14
Mark 1:1-8

As we read the opening verses of the Gospel of Mark today, we immediately hear not about the Lord but about John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Lord’s coming. In moving from the prophecy of Isaiah to the introduction of John as appearing in the desert proclaiming a message of repentance, St. Mark shows us that John is not just a lead-in to the story but is really a key figure. Moreover, by establishing repentance as the proper mode of preparation for the Lord’s coming, he also reveals to us how we are to spend this time of preparation in Advent.

As we listen to the scriptures, we hear about this reality of repentance being the proper means of preparation in the Second Letter of St. Peter also. The Lord’s delay in coming, he points out, is not some accidental thing or something the Lord is doing for His own good, but rather He delays His coming to enable us to have time to repent and thus be truly prepared for the day that the Lord truly does come. We are then challenged by the first Pope himself to conduct ourselves in holiness and to strive to be found without spot or blemish. We are called not simply to be good or sufficient, but perfect and spotless. This is not something that we can do, however. Rather, we must repent of our sinfulness and the Lord will sanctify us Himself. He will make us perfect.

As we hear today the story of John’s calling people to repentance before the Lord’s coming so many years ago, we recognize that he is also calling us to repentance today. But unlike in John’s day, when washing with water left people still in their sins, we are called this Advent season to repent and turn to Jesus Christ in the person of the priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we are washed clean by the Blood of Christ and our sins truly forgiven.

Open for Business!
Mother Church tells us that we must go at least once every year to the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a way of ensuring that we are taking proper care of our souls. If you haven’t been to confession in the past year, please go. And I’ll take it a step further and say that if you haven’t been to confession in the past month, you should go also. Pope John Paul II and many saints of the Church went weekly, if not more often. Could we not benefit from such frequent help from the graces of the sacrament too?

As I encourage you to go to confession so frequently or at all, some of you may already be finding reasons or excuses of why you shouldn’t.

I don’t do anything that bad, so I don’t really need to go.
Or the opposite: I’ve done something so bad that Jesus surely won’t forgive me.
I can’t tell Father these things and then face him later.
I can’t find the time to get to the sacrament.
I just say that same things over and over.
I don’t really see the need to go since I can ask Jesus for forgiveness myself.

To these and any other fear or excuse, I simply say that God’s mercy is beyond measure. Christ’s own blood was poured out for forgiveness of our sins, as the consecration of the wine reminds us. To be afraid or not in need of coming to that great source of love and mercy in confession is what the devil desires of us. He wants us not to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming, but rather simply to be content with how things are or to be held back with fear from how things could be. As we continue to await the Lord’s coming and we hear that call of the Baptist to repentance, I say to you what Our Lord said to His disciples so many times: Be not afraid. Prepare the way of the Lord.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Catholic and Gay

As 'Gay Marriage' is spoken about more and more frequently these days in the secular media, the Church's teachings on homosexuality often come under attack and she (and we the members) are often made out to be hateful, discriminatory and self-righteous. With that in mind, I came across this beautiful blog post written on the topic from the point of view of a man who is Catholic and gay:

[H/T to Young and Catholic blog HERE, who picked up the post originally at Little Catholic Bubble blog HERE.]

When Leila asked me to write about gay marriage, the first thing I found out was how little I know about it. If I wanted to say anything coherent, I'd have to have definite beliefs about some deeper, thornier subjects first: the relationship between civil and moral law, just for starters. Even if I were sure enough of myself to talk about those things, I doubt I could do it in a blog-sized article.

So I'll have to do it in a more personal way. That might be better anyhow.I have heard a lot about how mean the Church is, and how bigoted, because she opposes gay marriage. How badly she misunderstands gay people, and how hostile she is towards us. My gut reaction to such things is: Are you freaking kidding me? Are we even talking about the same church? 
When I go to Confession, I sometimes mention the fact that I'm gay, to give the priest some context. (And to spare him some confusion: Did you say 'locker room'? What were you doing in the women's...oh.) I've always gotten one of two responses: either compassion, encouragement, and admiration, because the celibate life is difficult and profoundly counter-cultural; or nothing at all, not even a ripple, as if I had confessed eating too much on Thanksgiving.

Of the two responses, my ego prefers the first -- who doesn't like thinking of themselves as some kind of hero? -- but the second might make more sense. Being gay doesn't mean I'm special or extraordinary. It just means that my life is not always easy. (Surprise!) And as my friend J. said when I told him recently about my homosexuality, "I guess if it wasn't that, it would have been something else." Meaning that nobody lives without a burden of one kind or another. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel said: "The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?" 
Where are all these bigoted Catholics I keep hearing about? When I told my family a year ago, not one of them responded with anything but love and understanding. Nobody acted like I had a disease. Nobody started treating me differently or looking at me funny. The same is true of every one of the Catholic friends that I've told. They love me for who I am.

Actually, the only time I get shock or disgust or disbelief, the only time I've noticed people treating me differently after I tell them, is when I tell someone who supports the gay lifestyle. Celibacy?? You must be some kind of freak.
Hooray for tolerance of different viewpoints. I'm grateful to gay activists for some things -- making people people more aware of the prevalence of homosexuality, making homophobia less socially acceptable -- but they also make it more difficult for me to be understood, to be accepted for who I am and what I believe. If I want open-mindedness, acceptance, and understanding, I look to Catholics.

Is it hard to be gay and Catholic? Yes, because like everybody, I sometimes want things that are not good for me. The Church doesn't let me have those things, not because she's mean, but because she's a good mother. If my son or daughter wanted to eat sand I'd tell them: that's not what eating is for; it won't nourish you; it will hurt you. Maybe my daughter has some kind of condition that makes her like sand better than food, but I still wouldn't let her eat it. Actually, if she was young or stubborn enough, I might not be able to reason with her -- I might just have to make a rule against eating sand. Even if she thought I was mean. 
So the Church doesn't oppose gay marriage because it's wrong; she opposes it because it's impossible, just as impossible as living on sand. The Church believes, and I believe, in a universe that means something, and in a God who made the universe -- made men and women, designed sex and marriage from the ground up. In that universe, gay marriage doesn't make sense. It doesn't fit with the rest of the picture, and we're not about to throw out the rest of the picture.

If you don't believe in these things, if you believe that men and women and sex and marriage are pretty much whatever we say they are, then okay: we don't have much left to talk about. That's not the world I live in.
So, yes, it's hard to be gay and Catholic -- it's hard to be anythingand Catholic -- because I don't always get to do what I want. Show me a religion where you always get to do what you want and I'll show you a pretty shabby, lazy religion. Something not worth living or dying for, or even getting up in the morning for. That might be the kind of world John Lennon wanted, but John Lennon was kind of an idiot.

Would I trade in my Catholicism for a worldview where I get to marry a man? Would I trade in the Eucharist and the Mass and the rest of it? Being a Catholic means believing in a God who literally waits in the chapel for me, hoping I'll stop by just for ten minutes so he can pour out love and healing on my heart. Which is worth more -- all this, or getting to have sex with who I want? I wish everybody, straight or gay, had as beautiful a life as I have.
I know this isn't a satisfactory answer. I don't think any words could be. I try to make my life a satisfactory answer, to this question and to others: What are people for? What is love, and what does it look like? How do we get past our own selfishness so we can love God and our neighbors and ourselves? It's a work in progress.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Papal Intentions for December

It's that time again - here are the Holy Father's intentions for the month of December!

General Intention: That all peoples may grow in harmony and peace through mutual understanding and respect.

Missionary Intention: That children and young people may be messengers of the Gospel and that they may be respected and preserved from all violence and exploitation.