Friday, February 28, 2014

Papal Intentions for March 2014

Papal Intentions for March 2014

Universal Intention: That all cultures may respect that rights and dignities of women.

Mission IntentionThat many young people may accept the Lord's invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.

and while you're at it...

Prayer for the Pope!!!

V. Let us pray for Francis, our Pope.
R. May the Lord preserve him, give him life, 
and make him blessed upon the earth, 
and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.

Our Father... Hail Mary...

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. 
Through Christ our Lord. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

HWP: Rachel's Vineyard

This coming weekend I will be attending a Rachel's Vineyard retreat. This is a weekend retreat for post-abortive healing and is a time of intense movements of God's grace in the life of those present. I ask your prayers for those who will be attending, for those helping to organize the weekend, and for those men and women throughout the world whose hearts still ache from the wounds of abortion. Please join with me in praying:

A Prayer for Healing from Abortion
Eternal Father, Source of all mercy and love, out of love for us you sent your Son, and willed that blood and water flow from his side to cleanse us of sin and restore lost innocence. 
Hear the cry of each woman who mourns the loss of her child to abortion. Forgive her sin, restore her to your grace, and still the terror of her heart with a peace beyond all understanding. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of all tenderness and our Mother, strengthen her faith in you. Give her the consolation to believe that her child is now living in the Lord. We ask this through Christ our Lord, who conquered sin and death, and who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Prayer composed by Msgr. James Moroney)

For more information, visit the Rachel's Vineyard website:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

HWP: Prayer for the Pope

This Saturday is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, when we celebrate not physical chair so much as the person who symbolically seated upon it. Two thousand years ago Christ gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom and promised that the powers of Hell should not prevail against the Church. Today we continue to trust in that word as the Lord continues to provide great men to lead the Church, men who walk in the shoes of the original fisher of men. So let us today offer a prayer for our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Prayer for the Sovereign Pontiff
O Lord, we are the millions of believers, humbly kneeling at Thy feet and begging Thee to preserve, defend and save the Sovereign Pontiff for many years. He is the Father of the great fellowship of souls and our Father as well. On this day, as on every other day, he is praying for us also, and is offering unto Thee with holy fervor the sacred Victim of love and peace. 
Wherefore, O Lord, turn Thyself toward us with eyes of pity; for we are now, as it were, forgetful of ourselves, and are praying above all for him. Do Thou unite our prayers with his and receive them into the bosom of Thine infinite mercy, as a sweet savor of active and fruitful charity, whereby the children are united in the Church to their Father. All that he asks of Thee this day, we too ask it of Thee in unison with him. 
Whether he weeps or rejoices, whether he hopes or offers himself as a victim of charity for his people, we desire to be united with him; nay more, we desire that the cry of our hearts should be made one with his. Of Thy great mercy grant, O Lord, that not one of us may be far from his mind and his heart in the hour that he prays and offers unto Thee the Sacrifice of Thy blessed Son. At the moment when our venerable High Priest, holding in His hands the very Body of Jesus Christ, shall say to the people over the Chalice of benediction these words: "The peace of the Lord be with you always," grant, O Lord, that Thy sweet peace may come down upon our hearts and upon all the nations with new and manifest power. Amen. 
(Composed by Pope Leo XIII, taken from the 1957 edition of the Raccolta)
Visit the "Pope Francis" link above for a shorter prayer that can be prayed daily to gain him grace and  you a partial indulgence!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Perfecting the Sinner

Moses receiving the Law of the Lord
Sirach 15:15-20
Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Matthew 5:17-37

“Blessed are they who follow the Law of the Lord.”

I hope that all of us can point to times in our lives when we followed the Lord’s commands in some way and experienced blessings as a result. It’s not like a treat for playing nice with God, but more a reality that when we do things according to His plan it works out better for us because that’s how things were made to work in the first place. But as much as I know that in my head, sometimes when I hear that phrase, “blessed are they who follow the Law of the Lord” part of me wants to call shenanigans. I don’t know about your lived experience of the faith each day, but mine isn’t easy. There are many times when I feel anything other than blessed by trying to follow the Law of the Lord because doing so is difficult. Anyone who thinks that being a Christian is easy clearly hasn’t given it a genuine effort. Think about the challenging words we just heard from the Gospel. It’s relatively easy to avoid murdering someone, but to avoid even getting angry with them? Not so easy.

In the Gospel we heard the Lord say to His listeners and to us, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.” He takes the requirements of Law and rather than strip them away, He goes even deeper. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was caught up in the externals. The hearts of the people were not yet ready to be what God wanted them to be so He gave them externals to help shape their hearts, or at least that was the intention. And so if you don’t kill someone, you’re a good person. If you don’t commit adultery, you’re a good person. If you do the right ceremonial washings, house cleansings, etc., you’re a good person. It was so much in the external. But with the coming of Christ everything changes.

With Jesus’ death and Resurrection, He has redeemed us and given us the grace – His life within us – to be able to live not only by externals, but even by the deeper realities they were meant to bring about. No longer is it enough for us to simply not kill, we have to not be angry with others. No longer is it enough to not commit adultery, but we have to look upon others with a pure heart. It is the grace of Jesus Christ that enables us to do these things. The concessions that were there ‘because of hardness of heart’ for the Jews have been taken away and we are called to enter into that real relationship with Christ that goes to the heart. That’s the most important part for us now: the transformation of the heart. We can do all of the external things such as going to Mass, praying a rosary, reading the Bible, and doing acts of kindness, but if we never come to know Jesus Christ and let Him change our hearts, then we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We should do all of those externals, but we need to make sure that they correspond to an internal disposition of our hearts, that we open ourselves to His grace.

Now I’m saying all of this about opening to God’s grace and relying upon Him to help us do the things we’re supposed to do, but at the same time I look at myself and realize that I celebrate Mass daily, go to confession regularly, spend time in prayer each day, and try to serve others as Christ calls me to, and yet I still sin. A lot. It frustrates me quite often, which is why I sometimes get frustrated with those words from the responsorial psalm. And yet, the thing is that I know God still loves me and sees the effort I’m giving. Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus tells us to ‘be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” He calls us to perfection, but He also knows that often we will fall short. The most important thing for us to remember, though, is that we have to keep getting up and following after the Lord. If we do our best to remember that the unimaginable glory of Heaven awaits the righteous and always strive to act like Jesus wants us to, then things will work out and we will indeed be blessed. It’s about keeping our eyes on Christ and trying to be perfect, knowing that it takes a whole lifetime for His grace to make that happen.

There’s a beautiful quote that I came across yesterday in the Liturgy of the Hours that summarizes this well. It’s from Blessed Isaac of Stella and it says this:

The more any way of life sincerely strives for the love of God and the love of our neighbor for God’s sake, the more acceptable it is to God, no matter what be its observances or external form. For charity is the reason why anything should be done or left undone, changed or left unchanged; it is the initial principle and the end to which all things should be directed. Whatever is honestly done out of love and in accordance with love can never be blameworthy. May he then deign to grant us this love, for without it we cannot please him, and without him we can do absolutely nothing, God, who lives and reigns for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

HWP: Prayer for One's Parents

The week of February 7-14 is National Marriage Week here in the U.S. Recognizing that the vocation of Holy Marriage - and the family necessarily connected with it - is the foundation of society and the first place wherein the faith is spread among the youth, it is especially important to strengthen and support those in this blessed vocation. Knowing that it is not possible for us to remain faithful without God's help, let us implore the Lord for our parents who have brought us into this life and instilled in us the gift of faith, that we all may be strengthened and drawn closer in union here and in eternity.

Prayer for One's Parents
Almighty and everlasting God, who, in the secret counsels of Thine ineffable Providence, hast been pleased to call us into life by means of our parents, who thus partake of Thy divine power in our regard, mercifully hear the prayer of filial affection which we offer to Thee in behalf of those to whom Thou hast given a share of Thy fatherly mercy, in order that they might lavish upon us in our journey through life the consoling gift of Thy holy and generous love. Dear Lord, fill our parents with Thy choicest blessings; enrich their souls with Thy holy grace; grant that they may faithfully and constantly guard that likeness to thy mystic marriage with Thy Church, which Thou didst imprint upon them on the day of their nuptials. Fill them with the spirit of holy fear, which is the beginning of wisdom, and continually move them to impart the same to their children: in such wise may they ever walk in the way of Thy commandments, and may their children be their joy in this earthly exile and their crown of glory in their home in heaven. Finally, Lord God, grant that both our father and our mother may attain to extreme old age and enjoy perpetual health in mind and body; may they deserve to sing Thy praises forever in our heavenly country in union with us, their children, giving Thee most hearty thanks that Thou hast bestowed upon them in this valley of tears the great gift of a share in the light of Thy infinite fruitfulness and of Thy divine fatherhood. Amen.

(taken from the Raccolta, 1957)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Marriage and the Gospel Witness

Marriage of Joseph & Mary
Readings for Sunday, February 9/ 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Isaiah 58:7-10
Psalm 112:4-9
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Matthew 5:13-16

Take a moment and think of someone you admire, someone you try to emulate. What is it about that person that draws you to them? What makes you look up to them? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you probably picked someone you know personally – a family member, friend, co-worker, or someone else in the community – and the reason you did so is because you have been struck by the way they live their life, especially in regards to attributes you believe are important. Whether they knew it or not, their life and example has changed the way you lived yours. And there are others looking to each one of us for the same.

That's what Mother Church invites us to reflect upon this weekend: the value and need for our witness in the world. The prophet Isaiah, the author of the psalm we used for our response today, and the Lord Jesus Himself call us to become world-changing witnesses - salt and light. We like food around here and everyone knows how a little bit of salt can change a whole meal. So, too, one small match can change a pile of wood into a raging bonfire. When we think of being witnesses it doesn't mean having to do great things so much as letting God use us as He desires - and sometimes it does have huge effect. But the most important part is simply putting ourselves in God's hands and witnessing to His work. This is what Saint Paul reminds us today in the letter to the Corinthians. He said, “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power.” It wasn't by pretty words that people were able to be saved so much as the witness of God's grace working in Paul himself. That is what changes lives.

All of us are called to be witnesses to Christ and the Church, but as we celebrate National Marriage Week this week and World Marriage Sunday this weekend, it seems appropriate to emphasize especially the call of married couples to share this witness. Unfortunately we are seeing a serious attack on marriage and family life in our world today. The folks pushing the homosexual agenda are trying to redefine marriage itself, the throwaway culture says when marriage isn’t fun anymore to divorce and move on, and even many of our young people don't grasp the reality that marriage is a Sacrament and settle for a civil marriage outside of the Church. How true, indeed, is the powerful quote from St. Jean Vianney: “very few people invite Jesus Christ to their wedding; on the contrary, they seem to do all they can to keep Him away.” This is foolishness because it is Christ Himself who make the two become one in the first place!

The importance of marriage cannot be overstated. Holy Marriage is the basic element of family life. It is the place where children find stability and balance. Marriage is the foundation of society as a whole as society is composed largely of family units.  It is the place where the faith is first passed on to our youth. It is the place where virtue is learned most powerfully. But beyond all of that, it is a visible, tangible witness of the Gospel message itself!

The couple being a couple speaks to the fact that all of us are created for something more, that we long to be fulfilled. Marriage does this to some extent in this life, but it is God alone who can fulfill us completely and every couple reminds us that God is real and we are called to union with Him. In fact marriage is the main image used to describe the relationship between God and humanity; from the first page of Genesis to that last words of Revelation it echoes constantly. The love that spouses show to one another is a sort of echo of the love that God has for us. Because we are imperfect, there is necessarily a time when sin, faults, and failures come into the picture and so we are able to see also a witness of God's mercy in the forgiveness the show toward each other. The fidelity of God is also made manifest in the permanence of marriage. I love to hear from couples how long they have been married because it reminds me of the God who is ever faithful and also encourages me to be faithful to my own vocation despite whatever difficulties come. Whether they are aware of it or not, every married couple is speaking to the world around them something of the Gospel message itself. This is why we need Holy Marriages. We often hear that we need more priests (we do!) and that we need more religious brothers and sisters, deacons, and consecrated virgins (we do!) but the vast majority of the people who discern one of those vocations does so because they have been seeing a witness of the love, mercy, and fidelity of God in their parents from youth. Holy families produce holy vocations. 

Again, all of us are called to be witnesses of Jesus Christ in our own way. But those of you in the vocation of holy marriage are called in a special way to be living witnesses of God’s love, forgiveness, fidelity, and life. So I encourage you, spend time together as a couple and as a family. Pray together and pray for each other. I need your witness, your kids need your witness, our community and our whole world needs your witness. Please let the light of Christ shine brightly, that seeing your good deeds, we all may glorify God our Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

HWP: Month of the Passion of Christ

As you may have read here or elsewhere before, there is a tradition in the Church of meditating on some aspect of the faith each month of the year to grow in imitation of that upon which we meditate. This month of February is the month in which Mother Church honors the Passion of Christ. Though Lent is still some weeks off, it is always fitting for us to prepare our hearts for that which the Lord seeks to work within us during that season of grace. And so we bring today two pious prayers or exclamations meditating upon Our Lord's Holy Passion: one directed toward Christ and the other toward His Mother.

To Christ 
We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You;
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.
(from the Traditional Stations of the Cross)

To Mary
Holy Mother, pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.
 (from the Stabat Mater)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Love Your Elders

Woodcut of Anna, Simeon, and the Holy Family
Readings for Sunday, February 2/ Presentation of the Lord:
Malachi 3:1-4
Psalm 24:7-10
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40

Today we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which rarely falls on a Sunday but when it does it trumps the Sunday celebration. This feast is one that the Church has celebrated since her earliest days. In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, it was known up until the reforms of Vatican II not as the feast of the Presentation but rather the feast of the Purification. The latter emphasizes the ritual purification of Mary that was required by the Jewish Law after having given birth to her child. The former emphasizes the coming of the Lord to the Temple and His revelation to the people of Israel through the great canticle of Simeon and the words of Anna. In that proclamation we hear the infant Lord described as the ‘Light for revelation to the Gentiles’. That description of the Lord, built up by many Old Testament images, is also commemorated in the procession and blessing of candles used at home and in the church parish. Just as Jesus was brought to the Temple in the arms of Mary, so we also entrust our prayers to these candles and pray that they might be brought before God and found pleasing in His sight.

I say all of those things rather quickly because I don’t want to talk about candles today. I don’t want to talk about Mary and her purification. And, God forgive me, I don’t really even want to talk about Jesus’ presentation in the Temple specifically. As I was praying about this homily what continued to strike me again and again were the presence and words of those two great symbols of faith today: Anna and Simeon.

Some of you may know that I had the privilege a week and a half ago to join some 400 youth from our diocese for the annual March for Life Pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to march for an end to abortion in our country. While the March is mainly about ending abortion, our particular group though doesn’t limit ourselves to that focus but instead emphasize human dignity and the value of all life. Our trip schedule helps to highlight this fact. We go to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the various war memorials near the Washington Monument and speak about the fight for human rights and freedoms. We visit Arlington Cemetery and witness the changing of the guards, which is an impressive ritual at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We pray before an abortion clinic and listen to several talks on respect for life in general and against abortion in particular. But the thing that always strikes me the most is our visit to the Holocaust Museum. This Museum, set up to commemorate and honor those lost in the Holocaust of World War II, shows to what depths the human heart can go in its rejection of others’ dignity. Every time I go I am reminded of the many whose dignity was not seen and that the fight in our world continues on for human dignity, rights, and freedom. And while the child in the womb is in such danger today, there is another group of people in need of our respect and remembrance of their dignity and that group is the elderly.

Each month the Holy Father asks the Church and the world to join in prayer for two particular intentions, the Monthly Papal Intentions, and this month the first intention is “That the Church and society may respect the wisdom and experience of older people.” In the Gospel account we just heard it was not the young zealous priest who recognized the Christ, as much as I would kind of like it to be. It was the older wisdom of Simeon and the prayerful presence of Anna. Their age permitted them to see something different that others could not. Think about it. If every woman who gave birth had to come for their purification after giving birth and each firstborn male had to be ‘redeemed’ as they called it, then the Temple wasn’t a nice quiet place waiting for that one special couple to come with their little boy. Quite the opposite! There were probably hundreds of families daily coming to the Temple to make their offerings to God. Simeon and Anna, being in the temple day after day for so many years, had likely seen tens of thousands of families come through, all looking the same; a bit disheveled from travel, maybe tired or overwhelmed at the occasion or lack of sleep from a crying baby. There wasn’t any special radiance about the Holy Family as they came humbly to the Temple for the presentation of Christ and purification of Mary, but Anna and Simeon recognized them for who they were and pointed it out to the people gathered. They were able to do this because their many years following the Lord God gave them wisdom, an openness to the Holy Spirit, a grasp of the story of Israel, a story of their own journey of faith, and a willingness to share of those blessings with the community of faith. In the Letter to the Hebrews we heard it spoken of Christ that He was tested in the flesh so that He could lift us up when we ourselves are tested. In other words, Christ walked the journey already and would be able to strengthen us afterward because He already knew the path. He had run the race, as St. Paul elsewhere alludes. And the same goes for our elders in the faith.

In our church today, in our community, in our families, there are many Anna’s and Simeon’s; men and women who have journey many years close to the heart of Christ, who have gained much knowledge, who have a story to share personally, and who can relate well the story of faith in the local and universal Church. We have before us a vast wealth of knowledge, experience, wisdom and a whole slew of virtues that are a gift to the Church and the world of immeasurable value.

One thing we all know is that as we age our definition of ‘old changes’. As a little kid I though 30 was old; but as a 29 year old, my view has changed. And I always have to laugh when I visit with some of those who are in their early 90’s and they still refer to some other group as the ‘old people’. I guess to them ‘old’ is the 100+ category. Who knows? But the fact is that all of us are called to value those who have the grace of many years in this life.

So a little invitation for us to consider: spend time with one another sharing your stories and your faith. If you are a younger person, turn to your elders and ask them questions. Listen to their journey, soak up their wisdom, and appreciate the gift they are to you. If you are an older person, don’t be afraid to share your story, your wisdom, your faith and the gift you are with others. If Anna and Simeon had simply rejoiced quietly in their heart at the coming of the Lord to the Temple, we wouldn’t have this beautiful account of the transformation of hearts that day in the Temple and if the younger people had not listened, it would not have been recorded. So let us rejoice in the gift of life and the gift of faith on this feast of the Presentation of the Lord. And let us pray with our Holy Father that the Church and society would always respect the wisdom and experience of older people. And let it begin in our hearts today.