Friday, September 30, 2011

Papal Intentions for October

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for October is: “That the terminally ill may be supported by their faith in God and the love of their brothers and sisters”.

His mission intention is: “That the celebration of World Mission Day may foster in the People of God a passion for evangelization with the willingness to support the missions with prayer and economic aid for the poorest Churches”.

Novena Time!

For those interested, today begins a nine-week novena for a 'fuller participation in the Sacrament of the Eucharist' as suggested by the US Bishops. This would simply be said each Friday, beginning today, for 9 weeks. I would certainly encourage this as we prepare for the new translation of the Mass coming in just 9 weeks. If you miss this today (Friday), you can certainly begin when you find out - I'm sure the Lord will understand. :)

The Novena Prayers are found HERE.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

From The Priest Is Not His Own by Abp. Fulton Sheen, discussing the 'Bread of the Presence' in the Sanctuary of the Temple:

"The bread of the Old Testament was thus the presence of the people before the Lord, but the Bread of the New Testament is the Presence of the Lord before the people."

I love typology about the Eucharist!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Place of Humility

Genuine Humility at it's finest!
Ezekiel 18:25-28
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14
Philippians 2:1-11
Matthew 21:28-32

“If he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life… he shall surely live, he shall not die.”

SIN isn’t a very popular word today. In fact, much of our world tends to think it doesn’t even exist and even some Christians refuse to speak about the reality of sin. To admit that sin is real brings up a number of realities for us that we as a country and a world struggle with. To say that sin is real mean that there are such things as right and wrong, not just different opinions. To say that sin is real means that we have obligations to do good rather than express our so-called freedom and do what we want. To say that sin is real means that something, or rather someone, is greater than us in the big picture. Ultimately, to admit that sin is real is simply to say that God is God, I am not, and I have to submit my freedom to His Will. This is hard, especially in our culture today, which often encourages a disordered view of rights, freedom, and individualism. But the reality is that we need to talk about sin, and more importantly, we need to admit that we ourselves are sinners. St. John tells us that if we say we have no sins, we deceive ourselves and make God a liar, but if we confess our sins He will forgive us (1 John 1:8,10).

It’s about humility. When Adam and Eve fell from grace by committing that first sin of disobedience, the Lord came and asked what happened. Adam blamed Eve and ultimately God for making her who tempted him. Eve blamed the serpent for tempting her. It is part of our fallen state to point the finger and to deny our share of sin. But grace is stronger than sin; life has conquered death. To humbly admit our sins is to allow grace to come into our lives and begin that process of gaining eternal life. This is what we find all throughout our readings today – humility leads to confession of sins and repentance, and repentance leads to eternal life.

Humility, then, is the key to this whole process, for without it we stay hardened in our sinfulness. But what is humility? Some think it to be a sort of self degradation where one downplays or even rejects their gifts and graces. But that is not humility; that is rejection of truth. Genuine humility is accepting truth. And what is the truth about us – all of us – that we are at once nothing and everything in the eyes of God. On the one hand, horrible sinners and on the other beloved sons and daughters of God who are so highly treasured that the Father sent the Son to die and ransom us for eternal life. That is the humility we are called to have. And this is the ‘same attitude that is in Christ Jesus’ that Saint Paul encourages us to adopt today. When we are humble, as the responsorial Psalm tells us, we are guided in and taught the way of God Who is Truth.

To say all of this does not mean that I think everyone here is a great and prideful sinner. Hardly! You wouldn’t be here if that were the case. But each of us does sin daily, even if only in small ways, and the call of the Lord is always to repent of those sins and to see the truth about ourselves – that we are beloved children of Our Blessed Lord and that we are called to humbly confess our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation and know thus gain the Lord’s grace and the gift of eternal life.

See the necessity of humility in our lives, I will now pray with you “The Litany of Humility”. Let us pray.

O Jesus meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I,
                 Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more that I,
                Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
                Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
                Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
                Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
                Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier that I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
                Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

By Rafael Cardinal Merry de Val (1865-1930)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Food of Judgment

This morning in the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours (more on that HERE), I came across an interesting couple of sentences. In a sermon 'On Pastors' by St. Augustine, we hear him telling us of the Lord: "With judgment he feeds those whom he, being judged himself, redeemed. Therefore, he himself feeds his sheep with judgment."

I've read this passage probably six or eight times in the course of my priestly formation in seminary and yet never did I catch that last line. As I thought about it, I realized that when I think of being fed by the Lord then I see it as a positive thing since I know that He would not feed me that which is harmful or does not satisfy. And yet Our Lord feeds us judgment. Trying to grasp this connection, I then came to understand that judgment, for me, is often viewed in a negative light - as a condemning action. And yet judgment can be positive. To be found innocent when standing before a jury of earthly peers often brings one to tears of joy and great excitement. How much greater would be my joy on that last day if Our Lord were to look upon me with all the saints and angels of Heaven beside Him and judge me worthy to enter that Heavenly Banquet? What wonderful food that would be.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Blood of a Martyr

Today Mother Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Januarius. Though not well-known, the story of his relics are well worth hearing about. Yet another reason that I love being Catholic!!

It is also well known and is the plain fact, seen even unto this day, that when the blood of St. Januarius, kept dried up in a small glass vial, is put in sight of the head of the same martyr, it is wont to melt and bubble in a very strange way, as though it had but freshly been shed."

It is especially this miracle of the liquefaction which has given celebrity to the name of Januarius, and to this we turn our attention. Let it at once be said that the supposition of any trick or deliberate imposture is out of the question, as candid opponents are now willing to admit. For more than four hundred years this liquefaction has taken place at frequent intervals. If it were a trick it would be necessary to admit that all the archbishops of Naples, and that countless ecclesiastics eminent for their learning and often for their great sanctity, were accomplices in the fraud, as also a number of secular officials; for the relic is so guarded that its exposition requires the concurrence of both civil and ecclesiastical authority. Further, in all these four hundred years, no one of the many who, upon the supposition of such a trick, must necessarily have been in the secret, has made any revelation or disclosed how the apparent miracle is worked. Strong indirect testimony to this truth is borne by the fact that even at the present time the rationalistic opponents of a supernatural explanation are entirely disagreed as to how the phenomenon is to be accounted for.

What actually takes place may be thus briefly described: in a silver reliquary, which in form and size somewhat suggests a small carriage lamp, two vials are enclosed. The lesser of these contains only traces of blood and need not concern us here. The larger, which is a little flagon-shaped flask four inches in height and about two and a quarter inches in diameter, is normally rather more than half full of a dark and solid mass, absolutely opaque when held up to the light, and showing no displacement when the reliquary is turned upside down. Both flasks seem to be so fixed in the lantern cavity of the reliquary by means of some hard gummy substance that they are hermetically sealed. Moreover, owing to the fact that the dark mass in the flask is protected by two thicknesses of glass it is presumably but little affected by the temperature of the surrounding air. Eighteen times in each year, i.e. (1) on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May and the eight following days, (2) on the feast of St. Januarius (19 Sept.) and during the octave, and (3) on 16 December, a silver bust believed to contain the head of St. Januarius is exposed upon the altar, and the reliquary just described is brought out and held by the officiant in view of the assembly. Prayers are said by the people, begging that the miracle may take place, while a group of poor women, known as the "zie di San Gennaro" (aunts of St. Januarius), make themselves specially conspicuous by the fervour, and sometimes, when the miracle is delayed, by the extravagance, of their supplications.

The officiant usually holds the reliquary by its extremities, without touching the glass, and from time to time turns it upside down to note whether any movement is perceptible in the dark mass enclosed in the vial. After an interval of varying duration, usually not less than two minutes or more than an hour, the mass is gradually seen to detach itself from the sides of the vial, to become liquid and of a more or less ruby tint, and in some instances to froth and bubble up, increasing in volume. The officiant then announces, "Il miracolo é fatto", a Te Deum is sung, and the reliquary containing the liquefied blood is brought to the altar rail that the faithful may venerate it by kissing the containing vessel. Rarely has the liquefaction failed to take place in the expositions of May or September, but in that of 16 December the mass remains solid more frequently than not.

To read the rest of the article on St. Januarius and this miracle, visit the New Advent website HERE.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seek the Lord

Readings for Sunday, September 18:
Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Philippians 1:20-24, 27
Matthew 20:1-16

This past week I had the pleasure of visiting with each of our seventh grade classes here at the school and we got on the topic of the Mass. When asked how many of the class thought the Mass was boring, a large majority immediately raised their hands. And the main reason? They didn’t understand what was going on. My brothers and sisters, if we truly understood what took place in the celebration of the Mass we would not be bored; we would be speechless at the miracle that takes place before us.

The prophet Isaiah challenges us today in our first reading: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call him while he is near.” And what better place to find that Lord than in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? This mysterious celebration wherein God becomes really, truly and substantially present on this altar and we can truly point and say “This is the flesh and blood of God!” It is clear, then, that the challenge is not in knowing where the Lord may be found. Rather, the challenge is actually SEEKING the Lord in that place. To seek after something does not mean to simply sit there and wait for it to come to us; it does not mean to simply be aware of what is going on around us. It means to try to discover something; to explore; to ask questions. To seek after the Lord, especially in the liturgy, is to ask questions, to try to discover, and to be actively engaged in what is taking place before us.

In the Second Vatican Council document on the liturgy it is said that the reforms of the liturgy were primarily done to allow ‘participatio actuosa’ in the faithful. This term is often translated as ‘active participation,’ but the more proper translation is ‘actual participation,’ which emphasizes the reality of each person’s entering into the celebration. The bishops wanted everyone to actually participate in what takes place in the celebration of the Mass. But how can we participate when we don’t know what is happening and why?

The order of things, the precise wording, the different actions, every single thing that takes place in the Mass has a reason for it being there and often has several hundreds of years of history and theology behind it. But we can easily miss all of the richness if we don’t open ourselves to it. Again, if we understand it, we won’t be bored.

You may have heard already that at the beginning of Advent this year, on November 27, we will experience some changes in the Mass. The ritual and actions will remain the same, but the prayers will be slightly different, often just a few words changed here and there. This is because an updated edition of the Roman Missal – the book of prayers for the celebration of the Mass – was issued in 2002 and has finally been translated in English. We’ve already begun to hear some of those changes as we introduce the sung Mass parts this weekend and will continue to hear more about the spoken prayers through homilies, bulletin articles and other handouts in the weeks to come.

While it will take some time to get used to praying these new words, it is a graced time for the Church in America. The little changes here and there will force us all to pay more attention to what it is that we’re saying and praying in Mass. Also, it is a blessed time because there is so much out there available at our fingertips to help with this transition and to help us deepen our understanding of the Mass. Two books that I would particularly suggest are: The Magnificat Roman MissalCompanion, which goes through the whole Mass with the new prayers and explains why the wording is important, and Fr. Matthew Buettner’s Understanding the Mystery of the Mass, which explains the depth of the ritual actions themselves. These are both small books split into sections that can easily be read in a few minutes and serve as great introductory materials for further study if so desired. In these coming months of grace, do not miss this special opportunity to seek the Lord where he may be found.

Other books helpful in understanding the depths of the Mass (though not about the changes to come):
Cardinal Ratizinger (Pope Benedict XVI) - The Spirit of the Liturgy
Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB - What Happens at Mass 
Fr. Robert Cabie' & A.G. Martimort - The Church at Prayer, Vol 2: The Eucharist
Fr. Adrian Fortescue - The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy (about the Pre-Vatican II Mass, but helpful in learning history and theological significance since much remains the same as before)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Great Sign of Love

Readings for Wednesday, September 14/ Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross:
Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 78:1-2, 35-38
Philippians 2:6-11
John 3:13-17

This feast in honor of the Cross of Our Lord has it's roots in several historical events, the most notable being the finding of the True Cross by St. Helen in the fourth century. That event is significant, but more significant is the meaning of the Cross and the gift that it is to us. When we hear those familiar words of John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." - we quickly realize that the clearest sign of that love is nothing other than the Crucified Lord. The Israelites looked upon the serpent which was 'lifted up' and lived. Today we look not upon a serpent but upon the Lord Himself, Who was also lifted up, and gazing at Him we too are able to live, not simply because we have looked upon Him but because we are pierced to the heart by the Love that is so clearly manifest in that great sign.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Care for some Catholic Lite?

Check out this reflection by Archbishop Timothy Dolan (HERE) on external markers of our faith.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12
Romans 14:7-9
Matthew 18:21-35

I know I shouldn’t be, but sometimes I am just amazed at the reality that God is constantly watching over us and attentive to us. I hope that all of you can see times in your personal life and in the world around us where you simply pause and think “Only God could do such a thing.” When I first looked at our readings for this the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks, which claimed over 3000 lives and sparked a conflict in the Middle East which continues to claim more as the days pass, I couldn’t help but sit in awe. These readings were not specially chosen for this day; these are the regular Sunday readings chosen years ago when the Lectionary was put together. And yet today they stand as the voice of God reminding us that on this day which can spark so much anger in our hearts, we are called to forgiveness, mercy and healing.

While our readings are especially pertinent to the event we remember especially today, we know also that they are not limited that event but rather must permeate our entire lives, our entire being. Every weekend we come to Mass and hear the readings and we hear the gospel proclaimed about all sorts of stories, but in the end we simply come here every weekend to hear one message over and over: turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel. And the core of that Gospel is a story of forgiveness; God loves us so much that the Second Person of the Trinity took on flesh so that He might die on the cross and be forgiven for our sins, our offenses against the Lord, and be able to enter into eternal life.

As we listen to the parable the Lord speaks to us, note the little detail that the wicked servant had ‘no way of paying’ the debt that he owed to the king. Is this not our own case? Psalm 49 teaches us that no man can pay the ransom to God for his own life; the price is too high for us to atone for our own sins. Only Our Lord is able to pay the cost, and He did just that as He offered Himself for us on the Cross at Calvary. But just because Christ died for our sins doesn’t mean that we automatically go to Heaven. We have to do our part as well because the forgiveness that we receive is really contingent upon our own ability to forgive. We all know the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.’ Well, I would say that we need to be mindful of that in our prayers as well, because we tell the Lord in every Mass and most popular devotions to ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ As we forgive, so we are forgiven.

But does it mean to forgive? To forgive someone doesn’t mean that we forget what happened. It doesn’t mean that we don’t still feel the wounds or pain from what was said or done. It doesn’t mean that we are just over it and have moved on. It’s a choice to look at the wrong someone has done to us and know you don’t hold it against them. The willingness to forgive is a sign to the world that “love is stronger than sin”. Forgiving someone, then, is not a feeling we experience so much as it is a choice that we must make. Whether the person is sorry or not, whether they apologize or not, and whether they forgive us or not, the challenge to each of us is to love them as Christ loved us and to forgive them even though they might – and probably will – sin against us or hurt us again in the future.

Now you know as well as I do that forgiving someone who hurt you deeply and asking forgiveness for hurting others in the same way can be a very difficult experience. But remember again that forgiving is not forgetting; it is simply choosing to love that person rather than wish ill upon them. And that is not something that we do of ourselves but rather God does it in us. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.”  (2843) It is the Holy Spirit working in us that allows us to truly forgive from the depths of our hearts as the Lord calls us to do today. Let us now pause and invite the Spirit to work in us to show us those we need to forgive and help us with His grace to forgive them. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mary!

As we celebrate the Birth of Mary today, 
I want to honor her with two pictures. 

First - an icon of the Nativity of Mary

This one is self-explanatory...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Our Three Deaths

Caravaggio's 'St. Jerome' depicts how St. Jerome kept a skull in a prominent place in his home to 'remember death' and to live his life in light of that reality.
Readings for Wednesday, September 7:
Colossians 3:1-11
Psalm 145:2-3, 10-13
Luke 6:20-26

Today we hear Mother Church reminding us of our three deaths - we are invited to two and obliged to accept the third. These three deaths are, of course, our baptism, our path to holiness, and our physical death.

In his letter to the Colossians we hear St. Paul reminding them "You have died!" This calls to mind the fact that in baptism we truly do die with Our Lord. The ancient symbol of immersion was often viewed as one entering into the grave and, after full immersion, a subsequent rising from the grave and into the promise of new life. It reminds us that the life we led before is gone and that we are new creatures in Christ, adopted sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father. This adoption leads us to the second death that we are invited to receive - the daily death to ourselves that characterizes the life of those who take seriously the death they endured in baptism. This daily death points out the fact that although we are new creations, we still have concupiscence in our heart (a tendency toward sin) and that we must fight to rid ourselves of those things that are not fitting to our new adopted status. This daily death we must accept until we encounter that final death, which all the living must endure and pass through to gain eternal life.

The beauty of these deaths is that we do not simply stop at death, for as Mother Church reminds us in our Collect (Opening Prayer) today, Christ has conquered death and brought life. Our first death allows us to rise to that new status; the second death allows us to rise from vice to virtue; and the third death enables us to enter into that Eternal Life promised to us in baptism, where we might join with the angels and saints in praising the Trinity for all eternity.

Monday, September 5, 2011

We Are Catholic!

In recent weeks I've been hit over and over by the beauty of my bride, the Catholic Church, so much so that I can't help but cry out "I love being Catholic!" I just found this video and thought it a wonderful way of showing that beauty to the world, and to ourselves.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fraternal Correction

Ezekiel 33:7-9
Psalm 95:1-2,6-9
Romans 13:8-10
Matthew 18:15-20

In the summer of 2005 I had the opportunity to go to North Carolina for the summer to be a camp counselor at a boys wilderness camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I spent the first week doing orientation and training for my particular area of work – caving. Near the end of that week one of the other counselors with whom I had been hanging out took me aside and said this to me. “Brent, I came up here hoping to have a great summer with these kids and growing to be a better man in the process and I think you came here to do the same, so I say this hoping that you’ll hear this as someone wanting to help you with that.” Then he looked at me and said, “You are studying to be a priest and I respect that, but in the past week we’ve been here I have to say that I think you’re the most negative person I’ve ever met.” When I heard those words it was like something had pierced my heart. I stood there dumbfounded at what my friend had just said. And yet as the weeks went on, I came to realize that him telling me that was one of the most charitable things anyone had ever done for me because he showed me the truth that I need to hear. I didn’t want to hear it, but I needed to.

When we think of being charitable to others, it’s easy to simplify things and say that it’s just being nice, doing good deeds and saying kind words. But true charity is much more than any of those things. It is loving the other as ourselves and desiring what is best for them. And sometimes the best thing for someone is the thing that can be the most difficult thing to embrace: the truth.

As we listen to the scriptures we hear the Lord calling us to reach out to others and to show them love, to be charitable, by telling them the truth. Every one of us has an obligation to help our brothers and sisters by showing them the things in their life that are not in accord with God’s will, to help them see their own sinfulness and to repent from it. In the reading from Ezekiel we see that so great is our responsibility to encourage others in the way of holiness that if we don’t do so then we can actually be held accountable for their sins! It might seem odd to say that one person is accountable for something someone else did, but it is true and the Church actually points out nine ways that we can participate in the sin of others: by counseling them to pursue a sinful action, by telling them to do it, by approving of it, by provoking it, by praising them for it, by concealing it, by actually taking part in it, by defending the sinful action and, more appropriate to our readings today, by being silent or feigning ignorance of the sin. To do nothing when faced with evil is to participate in it, even if only slightly. Part of our obligation to help others turn from sin is to be sure that we ourselves do not join in it, but more importantly than doing it for ourselves, we ought to do it out of love for them.

It would not be charitable to see a blind man walking toward a hazardous area where he might be injured and do nothing; rather, charity demands that we go to him and help him to change course in a safer direction. The same applies in the spiritual life. When we see someone falling into sin or having a certain fault, then we ought to be compelled out of love for that person to reach out to them and let them know what we see. This, as the gospel says, must be done personally and not in the midst of a crowd. Rather, we must go to them as a brother and sister and show our love for them and let them know that we desire what is best for them and for that reason we speak the truth as we see it. In doing this, we must constantly be mindful of Saint Paul’s reminder that love does no evil, so we must also be sure that our correction will not do more harm than good. To give fraternal correction to someone is not to make ourselves feel better or to make them feel worse, but rather to simply love the other and help them to grow closer to Our Lord Jesus.

The challenge now is to pray for the courage to be able to reach out to other in love and truth, but most of all, to be humble enough to hear that same truth when others come to us to speak that word of truth.
As we honor the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady today on this first Saturday of September (and also Pope St. Gregory the Great!), I think this article from is a great one to read. Do enjoy!

Is the Immaculate Heart of Mary a Physical Heart?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Papal Intentions for September!

During the month of September the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI asks us to pray for two specific intentions:

General Intention: That all teachers may know how to communicate love of the truth and instill authentic moral and spiritual values.

Missionary Intention: That the Christian communities of Asia may proclaim the Gospel with fervor, witnessing to its beauty with the joy of faith.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Beauty and Pope Benedict

As a teenager I had many struggles in faith and at one point believed that there was no God but that we simply were here by some happenstance. In hindsight, I see that one of the major things that helped me to be able to profess belief in the Triune God is the beauty of creation. The sky on a clear night, a colorful sunset, the unspeakable beauty of mountains and the ocean. At the time I was caught up in them because they seemed to speak something much deeper than just their color or size or any other attribute. I wouldn't have said it in these terms, but these experiences of the beauty of nature spoke to my soul of the Creator behind it all. The beauty  helped me to see, although veiled, the beauty of God and I was drawn to it, compelled to chase after it. 

With all of that in my mind, I was touched by THIS ARTICLE about Pope Benedict's recent comments on beauty and conversion. Enjoy.