Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Papal Intentions for October 2014

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. 

Papal Intentions for October 2014

Universal Intention: That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.

Mission Intention: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.

Monday, September 29, 2014

And Justice For All

Things have been pretty crazy these past couple of weeks, so my homily last weekend didn't even get posted and this one is coming late on Monday evening in a very rough form. Hopefully soon I can get back to my regular routine of posting. Until then, prayers are appreciated and know of mine for you.

Readings for Sunday, September 28/ 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Ezekiel 18:25-28
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14
Philippians 21-11
Matthew 21:28-32

You may remember from my homily a couple of months back that I have a number of siblings, including my step-brother, who is three years old than myself. When we were younger, as is often the case, my big brother would use his size and authority to push me around a bit. Well, one day apparently I had had enough and came out of nowhere with a right hook and caught him clean in the face. I don’t remember this myself, but my parents remind me that ever since then the playing field changed and my brother didn’t mess with me so much afterward. Stories that like are ones that easily get into our hearts and we experience a secret joy in our hearts because ‘justice was served’. It’s not uncommon to experience the same thing when a criminal has committed some serious crime and are found guilty and sentenced to time in prison. There, too, a sense of justice being served arises in our hearts. There’s something about someone getting what they deserve in that sense that feels good because we know the bad guys didn’t get away. That same warm fuzzy feeling quickly leaves, though, when we understand that God is just too and that we will also get what we deserve.

This idea of God exercising justice and judgment is not something we hear often because this age tends to highlight the mercy of God, and rightly so for the most part. We need to hear that message of Mercy, how there is nothing that God cannot forgive is we but humble ourselves and go to Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But, if you think about it, God’s justice and His mercy are two sides of the same coin. Justice is nothing other than giving one what is their due. So, if one seeks always to follow the ways of the Lord, the Lord will show them mercy and in His justice will give them their desire, welcoming them to Heaven. Likewise, if one spends their life living apart from God on purpose, God wouldn’t force Heaven upon them, but instead shows mercy and out of justice permits them to go to Hell because it’s the place they’ve chosen.

So we see that the mercy of God and justice of God work together in all things. So while we sing “Remember Your mercies, O Lord” for our responsorial psalm, the Lord could just as easily sing “Remember My justice, O people” to us. This doesn’t mean that God is some vengeful God ready to smite us or eagerly take down names for sins committed. But He does expect things of us.

This expectation is what we get a glimpse of in the reading from Ezekiel. The people have turned from the Lord in their sin once again and the Lord come to say “You think My ways are unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?!” The people were more or less saying that the way of God was too tough, it was too much to expect or ask of people. “It’s not fair!” was their motto and they let it ring loudly. And we can easily do the same. How often in our own lives do we think, say, or hear, “You mean God expects me to go to Mass EVERY weekend!? Doesn’t He know how busy I am?” or “You mean God expects me to wait until marriage to have sex? Doesn’t He understand I can’t just bottle up my desires?” or “You mean God expects me to forgive them? Doesn’t He know what they’ve done to me?” or “You mean God expects me not to curse or get upset when Les Miles makes another bonehead call in the game this weekend or next?” And on and on. There are so many things that are not fair to us, but the simple reality is that God has expectations of us and if we fail to live up to them, then we have no one to blame but ourselves for what comes to us out of justice.

Since none of us wants to experience the fires of Hell or offend the Lord so intensely, we necessarily have to ask the question: how can we show justice to God? How can we give God what is rightly His due? The answer is shown to us by St. Paul in the letter to the Philippians and the words of the ancient Christ Hymn: be humble. St. Augustine once said that there is only one rule to living the Christian life: “Love God, then do what you will.” This doesn’t mean that we can love God and do whatever we want. He is saying that if we love God, if we really place God first, then we can do whatever we want because our heart wouldn’t desire anything that is sinful because God would be of first priority.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve looked at the fruit in the garden and thought they would be able to make themselves like God by eating it. They didn’t trust and so they sought to make things happen for themselves. And what is the pattern that we learned a couple of weeks ago on the Exaltation of the Cross? Sin brings suffering and death. We hear it in Ezekiel today again; sin, suffering, death. Adam and Eve felt it first, but it continues in our hearts, but the Lord Jesus has given us the remedy of repentance, blessing, and life. And it takes only humility: recognizing that we are dust and to dust we shall return, that we are able to do nothing for ourselves without God’s help, but that, at the same time, if we place ourselves under God’s care we are heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven with the Son of God Himself welcoming us. Humility changes everything. If we remain in our pride, we will choose for ourselves and God in His mercy will give us what we deserve. But if we place ourselves under His protection, He will build us up, and lead us to the heavenly home.

As we approach the sacred altar today, may we be aware that the Eucharist we receive is not changed by us, but instead changes us into something greater. It changes us, little by little, in sons and daughters of God who resemble Jesus our brother. May the Lord Jesus fill us with the gift of humility today, that we might rejoice in the justice of God on the last day that welcomes us home.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

HWP: Stay with Me

Yesterday was the feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), a man of great holiness, wondrous mystical gifts, and profound impact upon the world today. A popular saint that you likely already know about, here is a prayer composed by him to be prayed after receiving Holy Communion. So, please enjoy this:

Prayer After Holy Communion, Stay With Me, Lord

Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You.
Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.
Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor.
Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.
Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You.
Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company.
Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You.
Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I wish it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of Love.
Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late and the day is coming to a close, and life passes, death, judgement, eternity approaches. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way and for that, I need You. It is getting late and death approaches. I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need You, my Jesus, in this night of exile! 
Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers, I need You.
Let me recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the light which disperses the darkness, the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.
Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death, I want to remain united to You, if not by Communion, at least by grace and love. 
Stay with me, Jesus, I do not ask for divine consolation, because I do not merit it, but, the gift of Your Presence, oh yes, I ask this of You! 
Stay with me, Lord, for it is You alone I look for. Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more. 
With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

HWP: Sorrowful Mother

This past Monday was the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, traditionally celebrated as the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. So powerful in our lives is this feast of Mary that the Church honors this devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary throughout the month of September. A great way to reflect on these mysteries is to pray the chaplet of the Seven Sorrows (sometimes referred to as the rosary of the Seven Sorrows) which can be found HERE. In lieu of that longer prayer, here is a shorter prayer to Our Lady which seem more fitting to busy schedules. Enjoy!

Prayer to the Sorrowful Mother
Most holy Mother of Sorrows, by that soul-piercing martyrdom thou didst undergo at the foot of the Cross during the three hours' agony of Jesus, deign to assist me also, who am the child of thy Sorrows, in my agony, so that by thine intercession I may be found worthy to pass from my deathbed to thy blessed society in Paradise.

V. From a sudden and unprovided death,
R. Deliver me, O Lord.
V. From the snares of the devil,
R. Deliver me, O Lord.
V. From everlasting death,
R. Deliver me, O Lord. 
Let us pray.
O God, Who for the salvation of mankind hast made for us in the most bitter death of Thy Son both an example and a refuge; grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be found worthy to obtain the fruit of His great love in our final peril at the hour of death, and to be made partakers of our Redeemer's glory. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Snakes on a ... Pole?!

Readings for Sunday, September 14: Exaltation of the Cross:
Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 78:1-2, 34-38
Philippians 2:6-11
John 3:13-17

When you walk into the refectory (cafeteria) at St. Joseph Seminary College, where I did my undergrad studies, immediately in front of you would be the tables, to the right was the setup for food and drink and off to the end of the room to the left was a large crucifix. From time to time one of my brother seminarians would go bring one of the others aside for a little ‘Jesus talk.’ This entailed bringing him to the far end of the room away from everyone else and letting him know in front of the crucifix what a horrible sinner he was and how his actions are what caused the Lord Jesus to have to suffer on the cross. It seems rather harsh, but it helps to note that the offense was usually something along the lines of taking the last piece of chicken while others were in line or getting seconds on dessert. I mention that, though, because sometimes in our life of faith we can look upon the crucifix and see it as a great sign of shame – a reminder of how horrible our actions are and how we are the cause of the Lord Jesus’ death on the cross. Such thinking isn’t entirely false and it does have its place in bringing us to realize the weight of sin and its consequences. But as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross today, we look upon the Cross not as a sign of shame or guilt but as one of love and hope.

When I was in my early adolescence I struggled pretty badly with depression. My family always knew that I had my ‘quiet days’ but they didn’t realize just how dark those days were in my mind and heart until one night when I had reached a breaking point. We were about ready to go to Mass and I was sitting on the back porch by myself crying. My mom saw me and asked me what was wrong and the only thing I could say was, “Have you ever wanted to kill yourself?” Her stunned look was the face of a mother realizing that her baby boy was utterly lacking in the gift of hope. She and the rest of my family did many things to try to help me through that very difficult time, but the most important thing that they did was continue to bring me to Mass.

In addition to the Eucharist and community, I began to really wrestle with the mystery of the crucifixion because in my home parish we didn’t have a bunch of images or statues in the front of the church. We had only a large, life-like, beautiful crucifix hung on the wall. Every time we went to Mass I would just sit there and stare at the crucifix and wonder why that had to happen, why it was the only thing in the church, why it was so important to the faith. As I continued to gaze upon that blessed crucifix, I came to realize that all of those questions brought me to one conclusion: without the crucifixion, this world does not make sense. I had tried finding hope to lift me up in music, in nature, in relationships, in hobbies, and a whole host of other things, and yet they all left me empty. The crucified Lord alone brought me some consolation, some hope.

In the world today there are a whole host of people promoting a ‘Gospel of prosperity’ that says ‘If you pray right, if you live right, if you tithe enough, if you do this and that right…you’ll be blessed by God and will have a good life, good health, wealth, and no troubles’. The truth that you and I know is that such a Gospel is a lie because we see that Jesus was absolutely perfect, and look what kind of blessing that got Him here in this life! We can do and say all the right things and live perfectly in accord with the Gospel, but the simple fact is that we will have to suffer in this valley of tears; this isn’t Heaven. Those who follow a Gospel of prosperity have nothing to cling to when things start to fall apart around them other than to question what they have done wrong. We, on the other hand, have the grace of looking to the crucified Lord and to find some consolation that whatever the battle is, the Lord has the last say.

This is what we see in our first reading from the Book of Numbers. The people complain about the food that God Himself provides for them and sin against the Lord. As a result, seraph serpents are sent among them that bite them and inflict suffering and death. This harkens back to another familiar story, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God and merited for themselves suffering (a woman brings forth children in pain and a man reaps the fruit of the earth by the sweat of his brow) and the promise of death to come. But remember that in Genesis, there was also a promise made by God that one day a man would come along and crush the head of the serpent, the devil. In Numbers, too, there is a promise of victory, but it is veiled behind what seems to be a magic trick: look at this snake on a stick! Placing one of the seraph serpents on a stake and holding it up for others to see wasn’t just a neat trick Moses worked; it was a sign of victory. How often have we heard of days past (and sadly, still occasionally in our own day) when the victors in a battle would behead their opponents and place their head on a stake for others to see that ‘We are stronger than this one.’ Indeed, the serpent held up for the Israelites to see was a reminder from God that if they reject the Lord they will suffer, but if they follow after His way they will be victorious because God is stronger than those things that cause suffering and death. He was making a bold claim and those who believed were saved for another day of life.

When the Lord Jesus was lifted up on the Cross for all to see, it was a new sign of victory. This time is was not simply a serpent placed on the wood, but it was the Lord God Himself, showing the victory that was indeed His. He showed us that there is absolutely nothing in this life – not even death itself – that is stronger than He and that if we simply unite ourselves to Him we will be saved not for this life, but for the next. This is why we exalt and rejoice in the Holy Cross; because it is a perpetual reminder that despite whatever I might feel or experience in a particular moment, God is bigger. This is why we sign ourselves with the Cross at the beginning and end of every prayer, why we wear crosses on our neck, place them front and center in our churches, hang them in our homes, classrooms, hospitals, and everywhere else that we Catholics find ourselves. The Cross is our glory. It is the means of our salvation. It is the sign of God’s love. And it is the greatest symbol of hope that broken humanity can cling to. When we find ourselves struggling with the weight of the world, when darkness fills our hearts, when suffering comes in one of its many forms, we can turn to the Cross and find our hope because we know that God has gone before us and walked the way of suffering Himself and lives today to assure us that it will end and glory will come. Glory will come.

I want to conclude with a hymn to the Cross as we all kneel before this blessed sign of hope:

O Cross of Christ, immortal tree
On which our Savior died,
The world is shelter by your arms
That bore the Crucified.

From bitter death and barren word
The tree of life is made;
Its branches bear unfailing fruit
And leaves that never fade.

O faithful Cross, you stand unmoved
While ages run their course;
Foundation of the universe,
Creation’s binding force.

Gove glory to the risen Christ
And to his Cross give praise,
The sign of God’s unfathomed love,
The hope of all our days.

(Hymn for Lauds in Liturgy of the Hours, text by Benedictines of Stanbrook Abbey)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

HWP: Litany of St. Peter Claver

Yesterday was the feast of the great Jesuit missionary, St. Peter Claver, who made himself a 'slave of the slaves' and devoted himself to caring for the physical and spiritual needs of over 300,000 African slaves and preaching missions to numerous slave merchants in hopes of converting hearts, which continues to bear spiritual fruits even today. At the same time, there are still countless souls in need of having their needs cared for and their minds enlightened by Christ Jesus. So let us pray for those who do not yet know Christ, those who devote their lives to missionary service, and for world's poor bound in physical or spiritual chains as we pray...

The Litany of St. Peter Claver

Lord, have mercy on us!
Christ, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us! 
Christ, hear us!
Christ, graciously hear us!  
God, the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us!
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us!
God, the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us!
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us!  
Holy Mary, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us.
St. Peter Claver, pray for us.  
Peter Claver, worthy son of St. Ignatius, pray for us.
Peter Claver, priest of God and servant to the Church, pray for us.
Peter Claver, generous imitator of St. Francis Xavier, pray for us.
Peter Claver, brilliant light of the New Word, pray for us.
Peter Claver, who exchanged the riches of this world for evangelical poverty, pray for us.
Peter Claver, apostle to blacks brought to the New World, pray for us.
Peter Claver, who by vow made thyself slave of the slaves, pray for us.
Peter Claver, refuge of the miserable, pray for us.
Peter Claver, great wonder worker, pray for us.
Peter Claver, who cured the sick and consoled the afflicted, pray for us.
Peter Claver, Liberator of slaves unto the freedom of the children of God, pray for us.
Peter Claver, model of evangelical industry, pray for us.
Peter Claver, tender father of the poor and orphans, pray for us.
Peter Claver, who made thyself all things to all in order to gain them for Christ, pray for us.
Peter Claver, who in all trials of this life didst put thy trust in God, pray for us.
Peter Claver, who wished to be accounted as nothing and forgotten by men, pray for us.
Peter Claver, who sought no other wisdom but the folly of the Cross, pray for us.
Peter Claver, shining example of humility and self renunciation, pray for us.
Peter Claver, perfect example of obedience and subjection, pray for us.
Peter Claver, intrepid apostle, powerful in word and deed, pray for us.
Peter Claver, martyr for Christ for the salvation of souls, pray for us.
Peter Claver, zealous lover of the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, pray for us.
Peter Claver, imitator of the suffering Savior, pray for us.
Peter Claver, powerful protector of all who invoke thee, pray for us.  
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Spare us O Lord!
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us O Lord!
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us!  
Christ, hear us!
Christ, graciously hear us!
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lord, hear our prayer! 
O God, who to bring the poor to the knowledge of Thy most Holy Name, you gave to thy priest, St. Peter Claver, an admirable spirit of abnegation and heroic charity. Grant us through his intercession, not to seek our own satisfaction but the glory of Thy Divine son, that we may be able to love our neighbor in sincerity and truth, through Christ our Lord. Amen!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Don't Be Nice

Gemma's 5 Months old today!
Readings for Sunday, September 7/ 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Ezekiel 33:7-9
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
Romans 13:8-10
Matthew 18:15-20

Well, as you all know, we got a couple of cats for the rectory a few weeks back and the good news is they’re getting along great, they’ve adjusted well, and they’re absolutely adorable still. The unfortunate news, though, is that they’ve both gotten a little illness. Earlier this week I was sitting with Gemma and noticed a spot on her leg that I knew needed a vet’s eyes to check over. So we went for our first official non-check up at the vet’s office and learned that Gemma seems to have ringworm. So that means I had the joy of trying to hold down a cat with 20 razor-sharp claws and administer a nice little cream to her leg and foot twice a day. Apparently Dominic was a bit jealous and developed something on his ear, so now I get to hold down TWO cats with 20 razor-sharp claws and administer medicine twice a day. If I didn’t have my long-sleeves on you’d think I’d been rolling in barbed wire as a new hobby because the simple reality is that while I’m trying to do something that expresses care for them, they are struggling to receive it well, and I’m suffering because I know that it is what is best for them. And that is what we hear in the Scriptures this weekend: that sometimes when we show love to someone, it hurts them and it can hurt us as well.

This message of love sometimes being a bit painful isn’t usually well received by the world around us because love is synonymous with ‘be nice.’ Love is not hurting feelings, not saying things that are hard to handle, and certainly not telling someone they’re wrong or they need to change something. Love is simply be nice and let them be. But the reailty is that not one time in the Gospel did Jesus say ‘Be nice’ - He said love others.

Today the Scriptures speak specifically to the aspect of love that is traditionally known as fraternal correction. It is the practice of pointing out to a brother or sister in the Lord that something they’re doing or not doing isn’t what God desires for them. Our culture says to avoid this at all cost and some of us struggle with conflict just because of our personality’s tendency to be peacemakers. But our faith demands it of us. Ezekiel shows us that it is the desire of the Lord that we speak to others when we see them in sin and that if we fail to do so we share the guilt of their fault. There’s a tendency to just let people be to themselves and think ‘they’re not hurting anyone but the truth is that all the members of the Church are part of the same body and we are all interconnected. If one part suffers, the whole body suffers. Just getting a sinus infection can knock my whole body to the couch for a day and the Church isn’t so different.

So it is clear that we should do some fraternal correction from time to time, but the important question is: How do I do that? First, we have to be people of prayer. That is always the basic starting point. We have to have a living relationship with God where we can speak and listen to Him, because He is the one who puts on our hearts the call to speak up. Once we are sure we are in a relationship of prayer, then we have to make sure we have the right person, place, and time.

It’s easy to critique others and bring it to the wrong people. How often are we tempted and sometimes fall into the trap of seeing a fault in someone and rather than addressing it with them we take it to a few other people who know that person and start to complain or gossip about them. It’s easy because it means we can address the fault but we don’t have to risk getting hurt by their response, but it is spiritually catastrophic for several reasons. 1- it leaves the person in the same path with nobody to help direct them out 2- it makes us puffed up in pride 3- it leads other people into sin with us, which only increases the pride of the individuals and malice of the group.

It’s also easy for critique someone at the wrong place and time. We were pros at this in seminary. Anytime a brother seminarian dropped a bowl in the refectory (cafeteria), there was almost always a round of applause to highlight the fault. Or even better those unfortunate days when you’d accidentally sleep through morning prayer and show up late for morning class looking and smelling like death and a brother greets you ‘Well, look who decided to come to class today!’ in front of everyone to emphasize what everyone already knew. This is certainly not Christian charity.

True Christian charity is what we see in the Gospel: pulling the person aside and speaking one on one, with humility, charity, and a spirit of perseverance.

Fraternal Correction: He's doing it wrong...
We have to begin with humility. Anytime we approach someone to speak to them of a fault of their own, what is the likely response? Lashing back. ‘Who are you to tell me my faults, with all of the faults that you have!?’ or some similar response. This is why when we enter into a conversation of fraternal correction we have to go into it not trying to make ourselves look better or to make the other look worse, but simply to speak out of love and concern for them. It’s saying, “Hey, I know I’m not perfect and I have my faults as well, but I noticed this about you and because I care for you, I wanted to bring it up to you and let you know that if you want to work on that I’m willing to help you.” Humility in recognizing we aren’t perfect, charity in emphasizing that it is out of concern for them, and perseverance in the willingness to help them. Sometimes this changes hearts right away. But, as the Lord shows us, sometimes it doesn't. If they refuse to hear it from you, take a couple of others who are close to them and have witness - something like a modern day intervention for an addict. And if they don't respond, bring it to the Church, which would still have been a smaller community, so that the community could support them and lift them up in prayer as the Lord encourages. And if they don't respond, then treat them as a Gentile or tax-collector. That seems harsh, like we just gave up the fight and cut the line and leave them to their own devices, but what does Jesus' example show us? He ate with them and spoke with them in hopes that they would one day be ready to receive the Gospel message. We never give up hope on people who may be straying from the Lord's path, but we keep showing love and keep welcoming them in hopes that one day the Spirit will finally be able to speak to them. In the end, it's about humility, charity, perseverance because while it seems the hard part is having the courage to speak fraternal correction, the truth is that it is even harder when it is spoken to us by someone else. And that day will come.

About 9 nine years ago, my first summer assignment as a seminarian was to a boys wilderness camp in North Carolina. I went there not knowing a single person and was petrified because I was MUCH more quiet and shy than I am now and it was a large group. I made it through orientation and then went to go for my caving instructor certification, since I was in charge of caving for the summer. I went with a co-counselor who would be helping from time to time and met a group of others from various local camps to go tours the caves on a three-day trip. At the end of the first day my co-counselor had to head back to the camp for another meeting, but right before he left he said, “Hey, Brent, can we talk for a minute?’ I said yes and we went off from the group. He paused then looked at me and said, “So, I know that I’ve only known you for like four days and you’re a seminarian, which means you’ll be a priest one day, and that’s awesome. But I feel like I have to tell you this. Brent, you are the most negative [person] I have ever met in my life.” I was stunned and this anger came up in my heart – who is he to say that? He’s known me for less than a week! All of this stuff came up but it didn’t come out of my mouth. I simply said, “Okay” and walked away. For a couple of days it stewed in my heart, those words that he spoke that pierced me like nothing ever had before. When I got back to camp a few days later I took him aside and thanked him. Those words hurt something fierce when he spoke them, but 9 years later he still stands for me as one of the greatest witnesses of Christian charity I’ve ever experienced and his words still rings in my heart and make me think even today about how I speak, how I respond, how I view the world around me. He helped me to see the course I was on and change course and I can’t be thankful enough for it.

Love isn’t being nice to people. Love is about willing what is best for them, and what is best for every person on this earth is getting to Heaven. It is our job to help other see the way when they are blinded to it, and sometimes to be directed ourselves. Humility, charity, perseverance. May God grant us these gifts today and ever-increase them, that we might enter into eternal glory accompanied by many brothers and sisters who have journeyed with us on the way.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

HWP: St. Gregory's Easter Prayer

Today is the feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great, my confirmation saint. He influence spread throughout the world in his own day and even into our own. He sent missionaries to convert the Anglos, defend the Truth against several heresies throughout Europe, worked for the continued renewal and unity in the Sacred Liturgy, graced the Church with sacred music bearing his name, and was a model leader for others to follow. Basically, he earned the title. Please join me in celebrating this 'great' saint with a prayer he composed (despite it not being Easter right now):

The Easter Prayer
It is only right, with all the powers of our heart and mind, to praise You Father and Your Only-Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Dear Father, by Your wondrous condescension of loving-kindness toward us, Your servants, You gave up Your Son. Dear Jesus You paid the debt of Adam for us to the Eternal Father by Your Blood poured forth in loving-kindness. You cleared away the darkness of sin by Your magnificent and radiant Resurrection. You broke the bonds of death and rose from the grave as a Conqueror. You reconciled heaven and earth. Our life had no hope of eternal happiness before You redeemed us. Your Resurrection has washed away our sins, restored our innocence and brought us joy. How inestimable is the tenderness of Your Love!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Papal Intentions for September 2014

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. 

Papal Intentions for September 2014

Universal Intention: That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.

Mission Intention: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.

Monday, September 1, 2014

What Would Jesus Do?

Readings for Sunday, August 31/22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9
Romans 12:1-3
Matthew 16:21-27

What Would Jesus Do?

I’m sure you’ve all heard the question and maybe have or had the catchy little WWJD wristband, t-shirt, or bookmark. What Would Jesus Do? It seems like a perfectly good question and it caught on quickly as a way of focusing in the moment on the idea that if Jesus were here, what would He do in the situation and then to do that for ourselves. But I’ll be honest with you, I have a couple of bones to pick with ‘What Would Jesus Do?’

First, it presupposed that Jesus ISN’T present. A priest at the seminary one time pointed out that it might be more appropriate to say ‘What Is Jesus Doing?’ because in every situation we find ourselves, God is there at work and wants of us some particular response. It’s just phrasing, but I think it’s important.

My second bone is much more significant and that bone is the fact that sometimes what we THINK Jesus would do is exactly the opposite of what Jesus actually WOULD do. Our imperfect humanity makes it easy to imperceptibly move from knowing what God wants to thinking to saying what we want as if God wants it. Case in point: Simon Peter.

Last week we heard Jesus asking the Twelve who the people thought He was and their responses of ‘Jeremiah, John the Baptist, or one of the prophets’ and Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” When Peter gives his response the Lord praised him, “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my heavenly Father.” I’m sure Peter was rather pleased with himself, allowing that pride-monster to well up in his heart and bring him to think he was better and brighter than the others because the Gospel passage we hear today is the very next line. It’s not a new chapter, not a new conversation. The reality of Jesus as the Son of God is directly connected with the mission of the Cross, which we just heard. And so Peter, who just a moment ago was highly praised by the Lord, asserts himself in his supposed authority and rebukes the Son of God Himself and says “God forbid! It shall never happen to you.” And just like that the rollercoaster of Peter’s journey went from an incredible high to a disastrous low – “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does but as men do!” Imagine the heart of Peter at that point. Imagine the shock at the rebuke of Jesus. He thought he knew ‘What would Jesus do?’ and if it happened to Peter in his journey, it surely happens to us in ours.

This reality is why the words of St. Paul to the Romans are so important for us to hear and heed today: “Do not be conformed to this present age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may know what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

The reality is that all of us are born sinners and part of the consequence of original sin is that our minds struggle to see things as God sees them. We get focused on the things around us, this earthly life, and fail to see the bigger picture at work. This is what God wants to renew and transform within us; He wants to stretch our minds to be more inclusive, to be more receptive to the eternal instead of just the small world around us. Ultimately, He wants us to be transformed so that over time our mind comes to resemble more and more that of Christ.

How do transform our minds? Or rather, how do we let God transform them for us? The same two ways when we wants our physical bodies to get in better shape: diet & exercise. Fortunately, I talked about the exercise portion last week; that in order to keep our souls in good shape we need to have time for prayer daily, Holy Communion weekly, and confession monthly and that if we want to grow stronger, quicker, then we need only increase the frequency of those three things. Today I want to hit on the other aspect: diet.

We know that everything we put into our bodies affects us in some way: it either makes us healthier or unhealthier. In much the same way, everything we put into our minds – every movie, song, tv show, book or online article – affects our souls. They either make our minds more like that of Christ or less. We must choose wisely, so I want to suggest to you three concrete things to help in the diet for your soul that are basically the same: read good books.

Catholic author Matthew Kelly once said, “Read great books. Books change our lives. Why? Because we become the books we read.... I'd like to come to your house sometime. I'd like to see your books. You show me your books and I'll tell you what sort of person you are. You tell me the ten books you're going to read in the next twelve months and I'll tell you how your life is going to change in the next twelve months.” And it’s absolutely true. Books have power not because they are magical, but because they plant seeds in our souls. This past Thursday we celebrate the feast of St. Augustine. You know how he was converted? He read a book. Recently we also celebrated St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. You know how he was converted? He read a book. I could go down a whole list, but the simple fact is that books can change our lives for the better.

So my first suggestion is to find good Catholic books and read them. There is something for everyone: lives of the saints, theology, history, spirituality, prayer, personal conversions, living daily life, and the list goes on. Read good Catholic books. I’m not talking about these people whose gospel message is the power of positive thinking. I’m talking solid Catholic literature that feeds your soul and challenges you in the process. If you want suggestions, just ask me.

Second, but more importantly, read the Bible! If we want to have our minds become more like that of Christ, we need to read the Word of God where the Lord reveals His thoughts and shows us how His plans unfold. We need to familiarize ourselves with the Divine Word and the story of salvation, which helps us to make sense of this life and find encouragement in the figures of faith from years past. Not only that, the Word of God is living and just as it was written to speak to people’s hearts 2000 years ago, God intended it to be able to do the same for us today.
Lastly, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If you want to know anything about what the Church teaches on a specific topic, it’s there. It is admittedly thick and I want to speak to that real quick. A lot of time we Catholics get a bad rap for being a ‘religion of rules’ that people have to follow (usually from Catholics who have been enlightened and left the Church). The simple truth is this: there are lots of rules because the road to heaven is narrow and the road to hell is wide. It is easy to get lost on the way and think we’re on the right track, when we’ve strayed far away, just like Peter. And rules aren’t bad things. If I want to take a road trip to Washington state, I would plug it into my GPS and get a list of directions I have to follow in order to get there. Never have I met a person who got upset at the GPS for all of it’s rules that they had to follow in order to get to their destination. But when it comes to rules to get us to Heaven, the tables turn quickly – all these rules! The rules aren’t there to make life difficult. The rules are there to show us how to love God, neighbor, and self. The rules are there to mold our minds to resemble that of Christ and the process of molding is sometimes painful. This is where we have to listen to Christ and deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and keep following Jesus.

If you want to know how to get to Heaven, read the Bible and read that handy instruction manual given to us by the Church. Because the simple reality is this: we will all be judged. We don’t like to think about it and we don’t often hear about it, but the reality is that Jesus will come to judge us on our life’s deeds. The good news, if you read the rest of the books, is that He wants to show us mercy and He can if we but open our hearts and minds to be transformed. Peter struggled to grasp the mystery of the Cross, but with God's grace he came to understand it in a profound way. He himself died by crucifixion just like Our Lord, but Peter then knew how important the Cross was and asked to be crucified upside-down on his because He wasn't worthy to die in the same way as the Lord Jesus did. May God grant us the grace today to experience the conversion of mind that Peter did as we come to receive the Lord Jesus once again in the gift that is the Eucharist. 

If you don't have one already, you can purchase the Catechism from Amazon.com (Kindle available) or BN.com (NOOK available) or view it free online HERE!