Pastoral Sharings: "Saints Peter and Paul"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Saints Peter and Paul
June 29, 2014

Today we celebrate the feast of two great saints; saints
we consider, after Christ, to be the very cornerstones of
the Church.

Two great saints and yet two very human creatures. Paul
the persecutor of Christians; Peter who denied Christ three times. And yet it is entirely typical of the way God deals with his people that these two unlikely characters should become such important figures in the establishment of the Church.

God chooses the weak to confound the strong. And he so often intervenes in the lives of the most unlikely people so as to bring about a conversion. A complete turn around; so that instead of undermining the action of God in the world they actively promote it.

Two great saints so well balanced with complimentary gifts. Peter, the Prince of Apostles, the touchstone of unity in the Church to this very day. And Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, the first and the greatest Christian Missionary.

These two poles of unity and mission are the hallmarks of the Catholic Church. They are at the root of our faith and each one of us needs to reflect them in our own lives. We need to constantly review our lives to see we are actively building up the unity of the Church and that we are also widening its boundaries.

You might say that this is too big a task for one person and you would be right. But nothing will be done unless each one accepts his or her share of responsibility for these things.

You can get a situation where everyone thinks that unity within the parish is a good idea but yet nobody does much about it; then all you need are one or two people who act divisively and everything falls apart.

Each one of us must actively strive to build up unity within our Christian community. That means we must work together, socialise together and pray together. If no one did any work around here, if no one bothered to socialise and if no one took the trouble to pray or worship together this would not even be a parish.

Thankfully we do all these things. We do them all quite well, but, as our schoolteachers so often told us, we could do better. Take those three things, working, socialising and praying, and let each of us resolve to do a little more in each of these areas and you would see this parish transform from a good one to a really excellent one.

The same goes for the family. There we have also to work, socialise and pray together in order to be a fully functioning family. I think we have the ideal opportunity to do these three things around the family table.

When we prepare a meal there is work to be done and it shouldn’t all fall on one person. The food needs to be bought and prepared, the table must be set, the food served, the dishes washed and everything cleared up. When each person plays his or her part the whole family works together smoothly and we all feel better as a result.

Because of the different generations within the family socialising can sometimes be difficult. We don’t all like the same kinds of music or the same kinds of trips out. But around the table we generally have little problem socialising with each other, we can share our experiences and no one needs to dominate. It is really not so difficult to avoid arguments for an hour at mealtimes!

We know that prayer is quite often difficult within the family. It was perhaps OK when we were little and our parents helped us to say our prayers. But as we grow older it can feel embarrassing and we don’t all have the same degree of faith, and while it might be fine to worship alongside each other in Church it is not quite so easy to pray together in the home.

But grace before meals is still considered an acceptable ritual. We should take care not to lose it and if we have lost it we should try to reinstate it. Perhaps we might introduce it on a special occasion and then try to keep it going on Sundays or whenever we sit down as a family to eat.

A good way is for someone to say the simple prayer that we know so well: Bless us O Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Then perhaps each one could briefly say aloud some intention they would like the others to pray for and then draw it together by saying: God bless the cook!

The family meal can provide us with a means of working on these three important areas of work, socialisation and prayer which can build up our families and make them really united.

That was unity—which we think of as symbolised by Peter, how about mission—which we think of as symbolised by Paul?

If we were to briefly define it we could say that mission is witness to the Gospel of Christ. We can give this witness in hundreds of ways.

This very building is a witness to Christ; the fact that many of our facilities are available for use by the community is a witness to his Gospel. The crucifix on your living room wall is a witness. The parishioners who visit the housebound and the hospital give witness. Just by coming to mass this morning you give witness—your neighbours know quite well where you are going!

Sending your children to a Catholic School, helping with the various societies in our parish, speaking up on an issue of justice at work, going to a funeral, all these give witness. Even the smallest of things can give testimony to Christ and so help build up his kingdom here on earth.

We are aware that the world is growing more and more secular and we might feel that the Gospel values are no longer reflected in the media and in the life of our nation. I was at a state run secondary school recently and I was appalled at how few of the pupils knew the Our Father. Just from a cultural perspective this is a real deficiency.

There is no doubt at all that we Christians really have to do more on a national and local level to evangelise our society. But again this is not something that can be left to a few. All of us must play a part. We cannot be anonymous Christians in our world. We have to be identifiable.

People will not be convinced by slogans or advertising, they will only be convinced by persons and we are those persons. Our task is to stand up and be counted for who we are and to demonstrate by our lives that Christ is our Lord and that we have found salvation in him.

Saints Peter and Paul are our models and our guides and our real helpers in all these tasks. As they did we too can with the grace of Christ overcome our human weaknesses and be involved in building up the unity of the Church and widening its boundaries.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
June 29, 2014

Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul (Year A)—June 29, 2014
Gospel (Read Mt 16:13-19)

In an exchange that is very familiar to most of us, we read in our Gospel about Jesus asking questions of the apostles. Does it surprise us that He wanted to know, from them, what people thought about Him? Was it really the case that He didn’t know? Or did He perhaps have a deeper purpose in quizzing them? In answering, the apostles tell Him that people thought of Him as a very holy man, surely a prophet in the spirit of the great ones: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah. However, Jesus wants to know: “But who do you say that I am?”

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul: They Couldn’t Even Tweet
If only St. Peter was on facebook! He would have had a whole bunch of friends. People from all over the world could have seen pictures of him entering Rome, standing in the forum, waving from a seat in the Colosseum, eating gelato at the chariot races. People in China could have read his sermons.

If only St. Paul could have tweeted. He would have followers everywhere. They could have read his reactions to the Galatians returning to Judaism in only 140 words or less. He would have had to condense his Letter to the Romans a bit, or extend it over a few hundred tweets, but he still would have been very popular.

Saints Peter and Paul, Cycle A — Modern
Matthew 16: 13-19

As is appropriate for two men who were constantly in danger during the course of their apostolic ministries, the Lord’s desire and ability to rescue those in trouble is made clear in each of the readings and in the responsorial Psalm on the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul.

The passage from the Acts of the Apostles describes how Peter miraculously escaped from imprisonment when an angel appeared to him and: “The chains fell from his wrists… they passed the first guard, then the second, and came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them by itself”. Thinking over this remarkable series of events Peter concludes, “I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:7-10).

Reflections for Sunday, June 29, 2014 – Proclaiming the Word of God
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. (2 Timothy 4:18)

Wait a minute! This passage sounds a lot like today’s psalm: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:8). It shouldn’t surprise us, though. One thing Paul became very good at was taking a truth from Scripture and reworking it so that it reflected his experience. This is precisely what he did in today’s passage. Reflecting on his many years of preaching the gospel, he knew that even then, as his life was drawing to a close, God would continue to fulfill the promise proclaimed in this psalm.

Ten Ways to Fall in Love with the Eucharist
The saints are the mad-lovers of Jesus; they were on earth and now are in heaven loving God for all eternity.  In this article, we will give a list of what some saints have said in an excess of love for the most Holy Eucharist. Then we will give ten keys to unlock the treasure-case of gems to love the Eucharist more in our lives! Let us read and meditate on the fire of the saints and the Eucharist:

On Hearing God Speak
How do we hear God speak? It’s a common question, especially in the context of discerning one’s vocation. Many people wish God would appear to them in a vision and tell them what to do, or at least send a text message. But while there have been saints who were blessed with such experiences – St. Catherine of Siena, for example, received a vision at an early age, from which point she knew she would consecrate her life to the service of God – for most of us, God speaks in more subtle, mundane ways.

Falling in Love: Knowing the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an act of love.

It is a love that we express through our thoughts, words, or actions to our good God, Who makes His divine love known to us through His Son and through the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the manifestation of human and divine love in Jesus Christ, True Man and True God, Redeemer and King.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus reveals the depths of God’s love for us.

Church is essential for faith; there are no ‘free agents,’ pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians are not made in a laboratory, but in a community called the church, Pope Francis said.

At his weekly general audience June 25, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about the church, telling an estimated 33,000 people that there is no such thing as “do-it-yourself” Christians or “free agents” when it comes to faith.

Front Row With Francis: The Nature of the Church
After concluding his talks on the gifts of the Spirit, Pope Francis now takes up the subject of the Church, its identity and mission. He began by warmly welcoming everyone as his brothers and sisters. This was a fitting greeting since his address emphasized God’s desire to form a family of people through Fatherly love. During this introduction, the Holy Father centered on the roots of the church in God’s dealings with Abraham.

Finding Forgiveness – Remembering the Purpose of Mass
“I know I have been forgiven because I’ve been to confession, but I don’t feel forgiven! How can I find peace and know that I’m forgiven? ”

This is one of the most frequent questions I get as a priest. A similar question comes up with the problem of forgiving others, “Father,” the person asks, “my business partner screwed me real bad. I’ve tried to forgive him, and I’ve given it all to God, but I still feel resentment and bitterness. I still want revenge. How can I find peace?”

How to be a Hero to the Long-Suffering
Everybody loves a story with a hero’s victorious ending.  Folks rally around watching with sustained interest dramatic battles between good guys and bad guys, or the patient battling an illness laying claim on his body, or the underdog standing up to a corrupt entity.  We love it when, after the blood, sweat, and tears, justice is served and good prevails.  We live vicariously through the hero, feeling triumphant interiorly – although we did nothing more than watch a movie or read a book.  We identify with the hero precisely because we all struggle against evils in our lives, and it is right that we should wish to prevail over them. We make the hero our own because we want to rise victorious, too.

Who Can Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ . . . but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

Jesus teaches that His Father’s will is accomplished through actions, not just words. It’s not sufficient to say, “I believe,” or “I’m sorry.” When our days here end, having merely spoken these words will not have been enough.

Six Practical Ideas for Integrating our Catholic Faith with Work
How do we integrate our faith with our work? If you think about it, most of us will likely spend the majority of our adult (awake) lives in the workplace. A typical eight-hour work day accounts for a third of the total day, with the other two-thirds devoted to sleeping, family, friends, faith, and so on. In the practice of our faith, do we consider the workplace as an opportunity to be open about our Catholic beliefs or do we ignore this vital time and only think about being Catholic the other sixteen hours a day?

Regard Every Man As Better Than You
“Regard every man as better than you are, for without this thought a man is far from God, even though he performs miracles.”   – Nun Magdalina

The Christian life is not a checklist to be filled out. We do not become better Christians by merely making sure all our pious I’s are dotted and our T’s crossed. We are not good Christians because we have massive families, or vote for the right political parties, or go to church every day of the week. A good Christian, a saint, is one who follows Christ, and when a fall occurs, is one who rises up again and continues walking towards the Light.

Am I Too Much Work for God?
I have a hard time accepting that God loves me just the way I am. I experienced abuse growing up, and lived in a very dysfunctional family. My son had cancer and chemo at the age of 13. I married an emotionally, religiously abusive husband. I have a hard time knowing and accepting God accepts and loves me. I feel like maybe I am too much work, even for God. Can you help me?

On Inequality
Envy, it strikes me, is a more dangerous and prevalent sin than greed. Greed wants excess in material goods. Such goods indicate what I think important, my end. Envy means that I refuse to acknowledge my neighbor’s real virtues and accomplishments. As Genesis taught, we can even envy God. We can covet God’s being as the source of good and evil. Greed is earthly and concrete, more forgivable and human. It wants real things.

First the Bait, Then the Hook – a Sober Meditation on Temptation
Satan, it would seem, does not act in an arbitrary manner when trying to tempt us. Rather, he is more of a master hunter carefully setting traps, or a skilled fisherman who carefully studies behavior in order to choose the most effective bait. Satan is calculating and clever.

Sadly, most of us are far less calculating and clever in seeking to avoid temptation and sin.

How Do I Set Up a Home Altar?
Dear Dan, I have heard you speak and mention the importance of having a home altar or dedicated space to pray. I must admit that this is a completely foreign idea to me but it is also intriguing and I believe can help me in my prayer life and maybe my family too. Can you give me some detail about how one would go about setting up a home altar?

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: How Can We Know It’s True?
That’s the theme of the talk I gave last Wednesday. You can see the whole talk here (I’ve also embedded the video, in four parts, below). Here’s a copy of the materials that I handed out: it’ll be easier to follow the talk if you watch (or listen to) the video while reading along:

How to Share the Gospel With People Who Don’t Care
We are in a situation in the West that the Christian church has never experienced before. We have a good news to proclaim, but those who need to hear are deaf.

How A Scientist Sees God in Nature
St. Bonaventure described in his essay “The Mind’s Road to God,” a proto-scientific process for the acquisition of knowledge about the natural world. He explained how we can know God from creation. A child playing outside, for instance, can pick up a leaf and study it, and by doing so, he takes in the “macrocosm” of the world into the “microcosm” of his soul through his senses. This activity is akin to science class for elementary-aged children. They study objects with their senses.

You Know How They Say The Divorce Rate In The Church Is 50%? Prepare To Be Shocked…
It is commonly thought that the rate of divorce in the church is the same as the rate of divorce among those outside the church, supposedly a whopping 50 percent. According to Harvard-trained researcher Shaunti Feldhahn, though, the rate of divorce among church attenders is “maybe 15 percent, maybe 20 percent for all marriages.”

The Man Behind the World’s Largest Catholic Super-Site
In April 2014, published its 11th annual listing of the Top 300 Christian Blogs for Ministry. Included on the list were blogs by Catholics, by evangelicals, by Reformed Christians, and by virtually every branch of Christendom.

And topping that list was New Advent, the Catholic supersite founded and maintained by Denver native Kevin Knight. New Advent captured first place with an Alexa score—a ranking based on factors including traffic and in-bound links—exceeding 41,000.

Overcome Catholic Boredom in Six Easy Steps
On a recent Saturday morning my 13-year-old son said: “Dad, I’m bored. What are we going to do for fun today?” Knowing my youngest son well, I translated this to mean that he was looking for something new and exciting and I was supposed to provide it. This all too frequent discussion with my children has been the cause of considerable reflection of late. As adults, do we also seek frequent engagement and entertainment? Does this desire for fun and excitement ever spill over into how we view our Catholic faith?

I Hated the Idea of Becoming Catholic
It was the day after Ash Wednesday in 2012 when I called my mom from my dorm room at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and told her I thought I was going to become Catholic.

“You’re not going to become Catholic, you just know you’re not Southern Baptist,” she said.

“No, I don’t think so.”

A pause. “Oh boy,” she sighed.

I started crying.

“Fr. Robert Barron on Bill Maher and Biblical Interpretation”
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Pastoral Sharings: "Body & Blood of Christ"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Body & Blood of Christ
June 22, 2014 

John 6:51-58
Two soldier friends served together in Iraq. One was a 
dull fellow. The other was sharp. Yet, there was a
chemistry that made them inseparable. The slow one was 
wounded. His friend gave his blood. When the wounded fellow learned whose blood had saved his life, he said to his companion, “I feel like a new man.”

Something similar should take place each time we receive the Eucharist. We drag ourselves into the Liturgy looking for a spiritual transfusion, a pick-me-up, a refueling. We need an adrenaline rocket that will jump start us and get us through the next six days.

Does any mother’s child here still wonder why the Church urges us to receive the Eucharist daily? It tells us, “Meet Jesus in the AM Eucharist and walk with Him throughout the day.” Like the soldier who began this homily, we should feel like a new person. Receive the Eucharist well and the chances are good that you take on yourself characteristics of Jesus. That is going first class.

A clever 3rd century Egyptian, Clement of Alexandria, compares the union of ourselves with Jesus in the Eucharist to two pieces of wax being fused together. If we were not blood relations with Him before Communion, we should be after it.
He and we should become family. If we really give the process a second effort, we can just about put Him down in our wallet IDs as next of kin. “In case of accident, call Jesus. He is immediate family.” Talk about thoroughbred bloodlines!

The Eucharist is the Gospel made Sacrament; Christ is both baker and bread. Not by any accident does He use the oldest known and most nourishing food to give us Himself. (Unknown)

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ goes back to 1261 which was a good year for us. Why? Thomas Aquinas was a professor at the University of Paris. Pope Urban IV had a sharp eye for superstars. He asked the master Dominican theologian to write a Mass for the feast. Some good things happily do not disappear into dusty library shelves. We are still using that Mass formula 700 years after its birth. This was one professor of theology who was able to pen lyrical prose.

Fra Thomas of Aquin saluted the Eucharist as “tantum sacramentum,” which translates comfortably into “so awesome a sacrament.” This professor addresses Jesus with these lush words, “In this sacrament, you are both shepherd and pasture.” Another man, who knew Paris well, was the 20th century Nobel prize laureate Francois Mauriac. He wrote, “The Eucharist is what is most real in the world.” Just think of it God in a bit of bread comes to bring morning into the darkness of our bellies. (Hilda Prescott)
Do notice how clever the Church is. It situates today’s feast immediately after the celebration of last Sunday’s Feast of the Trinity and the Pentecost the week before that. No matter how you approach these feasts, the Pentecost and the Trinity both honor an invisible God. Not so the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ! The Nazarene is eminently seeable and embraceable. He is warmth personified.

To paraphrase Ignatius of Antioch, in the Eucharist we not only put our arms around Jesus but more importantly He squeezes us. He takes our breath away. You cannot get any closer than that. A boy was critically ill. Only his nine year old brother had his blood type. He volunteered. As he watched the blood leaving his body, he asked the doctor, “How soon before I die?” He was reassured he would live. No one gave that assurance to Christ when He gave His rare blood type to us. Yet, He gave it willingly.
The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it. (William James) A woman showed her biography to friends. It had only three pages. The first page was black. That she said represented her sins. The second page was red and it signified the blood Christ shed for her sins. The third was white. This last page was herself after being cleansed by the Eucharist. (William Barclay)  

Each of us has the first two pages of that biography. The third only is added when we receive Jesus as our personal Saviour. Today at this Liturgy is as good a time as any to add that third page. Think about it. Introduce others to the Eucharist. The world thirsts for grace in ways it does not recognize. (Philip Yancey) Little wonder that in a recent year, 150,000 Americans were baptized as Catholics or received into the full communion of the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil alone. Increase that number.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
June 22, 2014

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year A  June 22, 2014
Gospel (Read Jn 6:51-58)

Our Easter lectionary readings moved us through Christ’s Resurrection, Ascension, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Last Sunday, we celebrated the Most Holy Trinity, because we understood, from all that history, that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; from the beginning, all Three Persons have lovingly worked to restore us to the life for which we were designed. We might, therefore, conclude that the history is now liturgically complete. Yet today, the Church calls us to another solemnity. In our readings, we are pondering the mystery of the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist. This meal raises a question: If we now have the Holy Spirit to put God’s life in us, why do we need to “eat the Body” and “drink the Blood” of Christ? What does that accomplish that the gift of the Holy Spirit doesn’t?

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi: Beyond the Carousel
A few weeks ago I came upon a beautiful carousel.  Instant reflections of early childhood hit me as I remember the merry-go-rounds I would go on at Seaside Heights back in the day when the term “Jersey Shore” had no connotations of immorality.  I don’t know if modern carousels still do this, they probably don’t because of safety issues, but back when I was little, everyone would try to be on a horse or animal on the outside of the circle.  That was so they could reach for the ring. 

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
John 6: 51 – 58

This Gospel is part of a larger portion of John known as the Bread of life Discourse. It begins with the multiplication of the loaves and ends with many disciples leaving Jesus, followed by Peter’s beautiful profession of Faith, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy one of God.” There is a lot happening in this chapter of John’s Gospel, and for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ we hear the center piece of the chapter when Jesus teaches that He is the Bread of Life.

Eucharist: Body and Blood of Christ
The Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharist, the communion wafer and the altar wine are transformed and really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Have you ever met anyone who has found this Catholic doctrine to be a bit hard to take?

How to Listen When God is Speaking to You
God speaks to us constantly through ordinary events and signs, but we aren’t always listening. We need to open our ears to hear his supernatural suggestions. As Jesus said, “let him who has ears to hear, hear.” How do we fulfill this desire of Jesus?

How to Receive Christ With Love
In Holy Communion, we touch and taste our Lord and our God. A very significant sentence of St. Augustine, in which he records Christ’s words to him, defines the chief effect of eating the Bread of Angels: “Thou shalt not change me into thine own substance, as thou changest the food of thy flesh, but thou shalt be changed into mine.” There is not, and there never can be, a closer union. The reality of Christ’s Presence is a fact founded on His infallible word and almighty power.

Thomas Aquinas on Natural Law in 5 Points
It’s imperative. You must understand the teaching of Thomas Aquinas on Natural Law. It’s absolutely essential in a culture and era that misunderstands the nature of human marriage, conception, life, and natural death. So what do you need to know?

When the Joy of Faith is Gone
In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of (your) faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9

Ten Ways To Grow in Prayer
Prayer is the key to salvation.  St. Augustine says that he who prays well lives well; he who lives well dies well; and to he who dies well all is well. St. Alphonsus reiterates the same principle:  “He who prays much will be saved; he who does not pray will be damned; he who prays little places in jeopardy his eternal salvation.  The same saint asserted that there are neither strong people nor weak people in the world, but those who know how to pray and those who do not. In other words prayer is our strength in all times and places.

The Church is a Family Formed by God, Pope Says
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis stressed the familial nature of the Church at his Wednesday General Audience, emphasizing God’s desire to form a people through fatherly love.

“To speak of the Church is to speak of our mother, of our family,” he said to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 18.

He said the Church is not a private association or an NGO, and neither is the Church restricted to bishops, priests, and the Vatican.

“We are all the Church,” he declared.

Why is it more rationale to believe the universe created itself than to believe God created the universe?
Radical atheists love to ridicule believers. They mock our “talking snake” in Genesis but really show their own lack of sophistication in understanding the nature of allegory or symbol in human language. But since I do understand allegory I will let them off the hook when it comes to their own “God particle” and the language of “blind evolution” (as if a process could have eyes and see or not see).” For unlike some (not all) of them, I attended high school grammar class and understand the nature of allegory, symbol, hyperbole, and metaphor when it comes to human parlance.

Seven Proofs for the Natural Immortality of the Human Soul
The late Dr. Antony Flew—perhaps the greatest atheist thinker of the last hundred years—came to faith in God largely through his studies in philosophy and, most especially, science, as he recounted in his book written with Roy Abraham Varghese, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.

One Simple Fact to Prove the Power of the Rosary

The rosary may be the most beloved devotion of the Catholic faith. It is quintessentially Catholic and the beads upon which the prayers are tracked are themselves a symbol of the Church. A Bible, a rosary, the medal of a saint, these are the material hallmarks of a Catholic. Combined with faith, prayer and action, the rosary lies at the heart of who we are.

Myth, Magic and Miracles
A friend of mine told me a miracle story last evening. 

He was driving along the road in the right lane. Two cars were beside him in the left lane. The road was in a suburban area. Ahead on the right he spotted a mother walking a dog coming in the direction facing him. Beside her was a young child jumping and playing. As he approached them, with the two cars still in the left lane beside him, the child suddenly jumped from the sidewalk directly into his path. He swerved left to avoid the child, knowing that he would collide with both cars to his left. He realized instantly that he would probably be injured or killed.

What Does Jesus Mean by Hypocrisy? It’s More than You Might Think
In the Gospel from Ash Wednesday’s  Mass, Jesus gives an extended teaching on the problem of hypocrisy. You can read it here: Matthew 6 – On Hypocrisy. In the modern age we have tended to reduce the idea of hypocrisy to duplicity. The modern notion is that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does another, a person who is two-faced, inconsistent, or phony. Jesus’ teaching on hypocrisy does not exclude this definition, but it is far richer.

7 Ways to Honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus
At the very center of Christianity is love. Love is the whole message, the whole law. Now, I don’t mean love in the sense of quickly passing infatuation or sexual attraction, two mistaken definitions of our confused culture, but rather sacrificial self-giving. In its essence, love is nothing more than laying down your life for the good of another.

The deeper we grow in the Catholic and Apostolic faith, the more we realize that the gospel is centered not so much in our love for God, but in God’s love for us. Holy Church has dedicated the month of June to a devotion that is designed to remind us of the depth of God’s passionate love for his creatures: devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Pope Francis: Devil Is Working Hard on Securing End Times
To most of the world, Pope Francis is the pope of the poor, foe of unrestrained free-market capitalism, reformer engaged in shaking up the Roman Curia, ecclesiological innovator committed to consultation, collegiality and decentralization in the governance of the Church.

Francis is all that, but he’s also more — something his image as a social activist and agent of structural change might not lead you to expect.

Are We Living in the End Times?
In the fundamentalist Bible church I attended as a child we would regularly have long sermons about the “end times”. These were based on an interpretative system of the Bible called “Dispensationalism”.

Greed: A Brief Meditation on One of the More Underreported Sins
One of the more underreported sins is greed. Too easily do we conclude that greed is always about “that other person over there,” who appears to have a little more than I do. Yes, that rich guy over there, the one who earns a dollar more per hour than I do; he is greedy, but I’m not.

Was Moses a Myth?
I received several recent e-mails from people asking for help answering the claim that Moses never existed but was simply copied from Babylonian mythology. Let’s take a look at the story of Moses’ birth so that we can better compare it to the ancient tale that critics say is the story’s true origin.

In This Age of Nice, Mercy is a Dead Letter
We’ve all seen those sharp spikes on buildings meant to keep birds from nesting on ledges. They’re put there because birds are messy and a nuisance. I’ve always felt a little bad for the birds seeing those but it’s perfectly understandable why building owners would have them there. I’ve even seen them on churches.

But I’ve got to say, the thought of buildings erecting spikes in alcoves to keep homeless people away is absolutely abhorrent. One building in London is doing exactly that though. And they’re not alone.

Conn. Event Marks the Birth of Pro-Life Movement
WATERBURY, Conn. — On June 11, 1939, all 20 of the Catholic pastors in Waterbury, Conn., called for the closing of the city’s new, illegal contraceptive dispensary. A week later, authorities closed the dispensary, and they soon shuttered the other seven dispensaries in the state.

Waterbury Catholics hold the story up as a model for the way Catholics can and should be shaping their communities today.

Why You Don’t Believe in the Holy Spirit
You probably don’t believe in the Holy Spirit.

Sure, you say the Creed every Sunday and if someone asked you’d say “well of course I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

But do you really?

I know I don’t. At least not as much as I should.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? Do you really? Let’s see…

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Pastoral Sharings: "Trinity Sunday"


Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Trinity Sunday
June 15, 2014

Trinity Sunday – A Cycle – John 3:16-18

At Confirmation, the archbishop asked the children for a 
definition of the Holy Trinity. A girl answered very softly, 
“The Holy Trinity is three Persons in one God.” The 
archbishop, who was almost deaf, replied, “I didn’t understand what you said.” And the young theologian before him replied, “You are not supposed to. The Trinity is a mystery.”
With the Sign of the Cross, we trace the Trinity on ourselves. We bring God into our minds first. Then we bring the Trinity down to our hearts. And, with our hearts filled with compassion, we move the Trinity across our bodies to our shoulders and arms to better bear the burdens of our family and friends. (David Walker) 

The Trinity feast goes back to 12th century England and St Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Historians say the great Thomas celebrated a Liturgy in honor of the Trinity in his cathedral. So was born the observance. In the 14th century, the feast came to be observed by the universal Church. 

The belief in the Trinity goes back to the New Testament. There it is mentioned about forty times. Even if so wishing, we would not be able to lock the Trinity in a closet. The Trinity will not go away. 

We open each Liturgy invoking the Trinity. We close it by calling upon those same Persons. Throughout the Christian world today, infants, who were quick enough to avoid abortion, will be received into our community through Baptism in the name of the Trinity. Into the arms of the mysterious Trinity, we will be sent by the officiating priest at our already scheduled funerals. 

But the most wondrous thing in the world is the mysterious. (Albert Einstein) Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery. (Annie Dillard) 

The Trinity is the Mozart of mysteries. Not even Agatha Christie could solve it. 

Our world is filled with mysteries. We live with them very comfortably. Scientists estimate 90% of the cosmos is mystery.
For openers, who of us here understands himself? We are still trying to figure out how water rises from the earth through the trunk and finds its way out to the leaves of a tree? The why and how of homing pigeons still mystify us. How about the infamous common cold? Many “cures” notwithstanding, that mystery is not solved. (Joseph Donders) 

The New York Times wonders whether we will ever understand how the brain works. (If the Times admits to ignorance, the subject has to be a mystery.) Why do good things happen to bad people? And of course why do bad things happen to good people? How about cancer? Had enough? 

Mystery and reality, wrote Walt Whitman, are two halves of the same sphere. 

What Isaac Newton opined in the 18th century is as true in the 21st. “What we know is a drop. What we don’t know is an ocean.”
From the earliest days of the Christian era, geniuses have been wrestling with the Trinity. Most have struck out. Sometimes though, some get a Texas League single into short center field. 

Rich material poured out of the busy and golden pen of the 5th century St Augustine. His conception of the Trinity is lyrical. The Father is the lover. The Son is the loved one. And the Holy Spirit is the love they send forth. 

The 4th century St Patrick, with a brilliance that we Irish are justly celebrated for, found in the three leaf shamrock rising from the one stem an image of the Trinity. After telling this point to the Irish, they were never the same again. That is good or bad depending on your viewpoint of us Celts. 

It is difficult for us to realize today, but questions such as the Trinity were debated in centuries past with the same intensity as we debate whether a current star is the best basketball player ever or whether a certain movie deserves an Oscar or whether Elvis is still alive. You can decide whether our civilization has progressed or regressed. 

But someone has cleverly noted that, unlike other Christian doctrines, the Trinity is not a truth that leads to action. But rather, like a painting by Monet or a poem by Keats or a symphony by Beethoven, it should point us to prayer or just wonderment. Perhaps it will help us to become the prayers we recite. (Joan Chittister) 

Whoever can no longer wonder or no longer marvel is as good as dead. (Einstein) 

Our goal today is not to get us into the Trinity but to get the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into us.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
June 15, 2014

Trinity Sunday, Year A—June 15, 2014
Gospel (Read Jn 3:16-18)
Today’s Gospel is different from any we have seen during the long seasons of Lent and Easter. On Sunday after Sunday, the Gospels have reported actions of Jesus. They have been passages full of conversations and events that moved His story along, culminating in His Ascension into Heaven and His promise to send the Holy Spirit. Today, however, St. John gives us a kind of summary of this. It is simple, but what a sweep it has! Read the first verse carefully so as not to miss its impact through familiarity: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” If we understand the scope of this statement, we will know why it is perfectly fitting that today is Trinity Sunday.

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity: Claimed in the Name of the Trinity
A few years ago, I took my Mom on a trip to two nearby cities with historical  significance, St. Augustine, Florida and Savannah, Georgia.  Each was a place where explorers landed and claimed the land for their King.  

On September 8th, 1565, Don Pedro Menendez de Avila landed on the northeast coast of Florida and established the first colony in the new world, St. Augustine.  With banners flying and in full regalia, Menendez planted the Spanish flag and claimed the land in the name of Philip II, the King of Spain.

Reflections for Sunday, June 15, 2014
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship. (Exodus 34:6, 8) The Holy Trinity. Three persons in one God. Really, it’s too much for our minds to handle. The greatest theologians and philosophers in history have had to acknowledge their inadequacy in the face of such an awesome mystery. And maybe that’s the point. God isn’t some thing to be dissected and understood; he is some One to be worshipped and adored.

Here’s Why the Doctrine of the Trinity Matters
Many are ready to give a polite nod of some sort to Jesus of Nazareth. Most honor him as a great moral teacher.  Many even confess him as Savior. But the Incarnation of the Eternal God?  Second person of the Holy Trinity? God can’t be one and three at the same time.  Such a notion is at worst illogical, at best meaningless. “This was all invented by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 313 AD,” scoffs a motley crew ranging from the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the DaVinci Code.

Of course this charge has no historical leg to stand on. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote seven brief letters around 110AD in which he called Jesus “God” 16 times.

Ten Ways to Open Up to the Holy Spirit
The Gift of Gifts, the Paraclete, the Counselor and Consoler, Friend, Sanctifier, Third Person of the Blessed Trinity—all of these are different titles given to the Person of the Holy Spirit. In an earlier article we explained the power of the Holy Spirit to transform sinners into great saints—as we saw in the Apostles, and especially Simon Peter. Saint John XXIII actually said:  “The saints are the masterpieces of the Holy Spirit.”   A future saint can be you and me.

The Sacrifice of the Mass = Eternity X Time
How often do we go to Mass? Some of us go daily, others weekly. Still others show up for Christmas, Easter, weddings and funerals. I propose that if we truly knew what was happening in the Sacrifice of the Mass, we would not only go daily (if our duties allow); but, we would be trying to get everyone else to do the same. Why shouldn’t we? We all want to go to Heaven, right?   Thanks be to God we can-at every Mass. Bear with me as I attempt to condense an eternal truth to a couple of pages.

Churching the ‘Unchurched’
Depending on who you ask, America is considered one of the more religious countries in the world today. But a 2012 Gallup survey found that, as it is in the rest of the world, secularization in America is on the rise.

This is particularly so in the Northeast. That same survey found that Vermont was the most “unchurched” state in the union, with only 19% of residents indicating that they were “very religious.”

The God-incidences of Life
The difference between a coincidence and a God-incidence is the difference between chance and Providence. The agnostic believes that everything comes about by chance. He should be more skeptical about such a belief since it does not have a very firm basis. Nonetheless, he feels he is open-minded, though his open-mindedness never provides him with any nourishment for his mind. Those who believe that God is working in our world are able to see beyond the material facts and acknowledge a Hand that not only produced the facts, but set them in a Providential order. I offer an extraordinary sequence of events from my own experience, and invite the reader to judge for himself as to whether they are a product of chance or the work of a Divine Architect.

Being Sent Like Jesus
When I went shopping for a new cell phone some months ago, a sales agent tried selling me a particular phone. With great excitement, he said to me, “Father, this phone is hot in the market and I completely recommend it. With this phone, you can block the numbers of those who you do not want to disturb you. Their calls to you will never get through and their text messages will go right into your spam box.” Though I decided to pass on his offer, I must confess that he got my attention with that advertising pitch. He almost got me to buy a phone whose most attractive feature was blocking out unwanted callers.

The Powerful Persistence of Heaven and Hell
Quickly bored with beach vacations, I ventured off last summer to Belize not only to snorkel with the fishes and down a few rum punches, but also to explore Mayan ruins. The Mayans built their great pyramids in that part of Central America because below the jungle were extensive cave systems. Their ziggurat-like temples topped with altars were clearly an attempt by the primitive people to ascend as high as possible to the sky gods while the archeological remains in the caves indicate that they also went down to encounter and appease the gods of the underworld.

Without Gloss: Francis of Assisi and Western Catholicism
I want to start with a simple statement of fact. All Christian life is a paradox. What I mean is this.

In Isaiah 55, God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts [higher] than your thoughts” (8-9). Then in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “You therefore must be perfect, [even] as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48).

A Clean Heart
My father was the least prudish man I’ve ever known, taking the ordinary goodness of the body completely for granted. That meant, of course, that he turned away from prurient things with sheer indifference, or bemused contempt.

One day I was watching on television the BBC’s production of The Tempest, a silly affair featuring an androgynous soft-bellied Ariel and other brown-skinned spirits wearing the tiniest of loincloths for the front end, and nothing for the back.

Be Not Afraid! St. John Paul II’s Key to Building a Culture of Life
The recent canonization of Saint John Paul II offers an impetus to reflect on both his life and his papacy. The Pope’s leadership of the Catholic Church was exemplified by his signature phrase “Be not afraid!” Yet, what exactly was he exhorting the faithful to face without fear?

Pope Francis: The Beatitudes are a Program for Holiness
During his homily at Monday morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope focused on the Beatitudes; on the day following the historic meeting for peace in the Vatican, he called for the courage of meekness to defeat hatred.

Wonder and Awe File: On the Magnificence and “Minificence” of Creation
I know, I made the word up: “minificence.” I’ll define it in a moment. But first, I want to ponder with you the awesome mystery of size and numbers as we look out and as we look in.

Outer Space: As we look out on God’s Universe we cannot even fathom how huge, how magnificent is the size of the universe. We cannot comprehend such immensity. If we were to make a scale model of the Milky Way galaxy and reduce each star to the size of a grain of sugar, it would be two thousand miles wide and a thousand miles high. And that’s just one galaxy!

The importance of the Sign of the Cross must not be lost
I have been reading a small book, The Sign of the Cross, by St Francis de Sales, published by the American publishing company, Sophia Institute Press. Written in 1600 it was a response by the saint, who became Bishop of Geneva in 1602, to the leading Geneva Calvinist theologians who had rejected what they saw as a Catholic gesture. According to the foreword of the book, crucifixes and bare crosses are still today largely absent in American Evangelical churches “and the act of making the Sign of the Cross is regarded by many non-Catholics as superstition at best.”

Catholic Church grows at a faster rate than the global population
According to the latest statistics from the Vatican, there are now 1.229 billion baptized people in the world, a ten percent increase since 2005. The Church has grown the fastest in Africa, where the number of Catholics increased by 29 percent. Meanwhile, Europe was the only region with a decrease in growth.

The figures, gathered in December 2012 and released recently, show that the number of priests changed from 406,000 in 2005, to 414,000. Bishops showed a similar growth rate, reaching 5,000 today, while seminarians topped 120,000.

How (Not) to be Secular
Secularism is a bit like the weather: everyone complains, but no one ever does anything about it. Even though secularism walks among us as never before in human history.

The reality, however, is more complicated than you’d guess just looking around. There is a growing number of “nones” in developed societies – people with no formal religious affiliation. Not at all the same thing, though, as people with no religious (or “spiritual”) sense. The media collapse them into an anti-religious bloc hoping that, together with the government and courts, they could help push faith out of public life.

Beautiful Model Gives Up Flourishing Career To Become Nun
At the top of her flourishing career, a beautiful Spanish model has given it all up to become a nun.

Olalla Oliveros, a beautiful and well known Spanish model who did advertisements, television commercials, and worked as an actress has given up her career and decided to become a nun. Last month, Oliveros entered the semi-cloistered Order of Saint Michael.

Finding Myself in the Prayers of the Divine Office
Back when I saw him regularly, Carl seemed like he never was going to age. Even well into his 60s, he was skinny with little gray in his brown hair and skin like that of a much younger man. He regularly played pickup basketball with men many years his junior.

He was one of the wittiest men I’ve known, always pinning goofy nicknames on people and finding the humor in mundane situations. And he impressed me as one of the most committed Christian men I have met, a family man, a man I admired more than most.

Just Food Is Not Enough!
Before my baby was born in April, I had carefully been reading and rereading Gina Ford’s The Contented Little Baby Book. It consists of several routines for feeding and sleeping from newborn to one year. I made little “cheat sheets” of printed out routines, ready to go and ready to follow. However, I started becoming so obsessed when I couldn’t get my baby anywhere close to following the routines in the first month that I had to stop reading the book.

Amazing Story About a WWII Catholic Priest Told By Actor David Niven.
I was reading William F. Buckley’s Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith and came upon this story relayed by the late actor David Niven about a disaster at sea and the sacrifice of a priest.

“David Niven told the engrossing story (I had never heard it) of a single episode in the chaotic flight from France after Dunkirk in 1940.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Pentecost"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Pentecost Sunday
June 8, 2014 

Pentecost – A Cycle – John 20:19-23  

A violin made by the 17th century Antonio Stradivari 
came on the market in London. It was valued at $7 
million dollars. Two points made it valuable: firstly it’s a 
Stradivari and secondly in 200 years it had been hardly played. The Holy Spirit is our Stradivari. He has restyled us with His graces at Baptism and Confirmation. But we don’t make use of them.  

Everyone Mother Teresa told us is a pencil in God’s hand. But He gets little writing from most of us. We Westerners should blush at today’s Pentecost. Two thousand years ago our ancestors worshipped trees. They attempted to stay warm without fire in damp caves.
They hadn’t yet invented the wheel. But this was not the case with the sophisticated people of India, the Middle East, and North Africa. They were lining up by the thousands waiting patiently to be baptized with the Holy Spirit by the Apostles & Co.
The Pentecost story comes out of Acts of the Apostles. Its nimble prose is almost a daily history of the early Church. The Acts are a historian’s delight.
The word Pentecost is borrowed by us from the Jews. So too are other elements in our Liturgy. We owe much to the Jews and their genius. We even borrowed Jesus from them. If Christians are anti-Semites, they are guilty of short memories.
Originally Pentecost was a great Jewish feast. The Jews never took any gift from God for granted. They spent quality time thanking God for the first crops. The holy day was celebrated fifty days after Passover.
We celebrate Pentecost fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ. We salute not the appearance of tomatoes in our gardens but rather the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the founding members of Christianity. Today our Christian ancestors were confirmed in the Spirit. The terrible beauty that is the international Church was born. Is there any wonder we shoot off liturgical fireworks at Pentecost?
At the point we discuss, the Jesus followers were leaderless. They were scared. They were short on bodies but not brains. They numbered one hundred forty timid souls – the apostles, Mary, and unnamed individuals. This was hardly a group equipped to take over the world. They clung to each other like fly paper. They were in the large room which had been the scene of the Last Supper.
It was to these frightened souls the Holy Spirit came with His wagon load of gifts. They discovered that Christianity was not designed to be a do it yourself affair. (Daniel Durkin) In charismatic language, they were slain in the Spirit. They began to feel like super strong people. They found themselves ready to take on the cosmos. They heard each other speaking in foreign tongues. These languages would be their passports to evangelize the world.
What happened to them that first Pentecost? Take a glass of clear water. Drop in a few drops of red dye. Ah, red water. A new creation. A few drops of the Holy Spirit into our souls and they became a new creation. A little bit of the Holy Spirit will take us a long way.
The Holy Spirit was already the electricity causing the light to burn but remaining invisible. (Regis Armstrong)
The bedlam occurring in the Upper Room was heard. Someone dialed 911 and a mob assembled. It was an international crowd. They watched the freshly confirmed apostles rush from the Upper Room. They spoke in various tongues about Jesus. The Church was jumping into the fast lane. The world would never be the same.
Many say, “If the Holy Spirit gave us the same gifts, what a job we’d pull off for Christ! We’d turn our town upside down.” The good news is that we received the same cornucopia of gifts at Baptism and Confirmation. These were our personal Pentecosts. The bad news is that we have never thrown the on switch to use these gifts. Most of them sleep. Think of the Holy Spirit as the generous uncle everyone wants. He loads us down with wonderful gifts at our Baptisms and then doubles the ante at Confirmation.
But the gifts become like the Stradivari violin in London. Though increasing in value, they are hardly used.
Today is a good day to blow the dust off our spirits and play sweet music. The Spirit will assist us. He is the master of surprises making the impossible possible. He reminds us it does not require great people to do great things – just unselfish ones. (Patricia Opatz) This Pentecost become God’s well worn pencil. Leave your signature on the world.
Jesus does not need lawyers. He needs witnesses. (Paul VI)

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
June 8, 2014

Pentecost Sunday, Year A—June 8, 2014
Gospel (Read Jn 20:19-23)
Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus surprised the disciples “on the evening of that first day of the week” by appearing in their midst without using a door (locked “for fear of the Jews”). We wonder if He had to calm them down a bit, because He said, twice, “Peace be with you.” We can imagine how startled they were. He showed them His wounds, in case they thought He was a ghost. Then, Jesus gave the apostles an astonishing commission: “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.”

Solemnity of Pentecost: All Different All One
When I think of  Pentecost Sunday, I have to remember Pentecost of 1984.  I was a young priest then, visiting Rome with my parents.  I was able to assist Pope John Paul II at the solemn Pentecost Mass in St. Peters Basilica. It was just me and the Pope, and about 65 other priests, a dozen or so cardinals, an assortment of bishops and about 10,000 people. Boy did I behave!  There is quite a lot I could tell you about the experience, but what really hit me was the universality of the Church. The  priests who assisted were from all over the world.  The Pope gave his homily in several languages and then confirmed people from all over the world. I was and still am fascinated by the way that we are so different one from the other; yet we are all the same in our faith. 

Reflections for Pentecost Sunday
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:4)

Today we celebrate that great day when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the apostles. The power of God was on display in a dramatic way as three thousand people accepted the gospel, repented, were baptized, and joined the Church.

What followed was an exciting and continuous display of God’s power. People came together for prayer and the Eucharist. Many were healed of sicknesses or delivered from demons. Some felt compelled to care for the poor, and others, to proclaim the gospel abroad. Despite tensions from within and persecution from without, the Church continued to grow, all because the Spirit was at work.

The Feast of Pentecost: The Gifts and Charisms of The Holy Spirit
A reflection on the meaning of the Feast of Pentecost and the person, gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit. The Feast of Pentecost, originally the Jewish Feast of weeks commemorating the gift of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai 50 days after the Exodus, was the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out in the Upper Room upon the apostles and other disciples in the form of tongues of fire and a strong wind, fifty days after Easter Sunday, the day marking the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  Pentecost is seen as the birthday of the Church.

Gift of Piety Fosters Fraternal Solidarity, Pope Says
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis reflected of the gift of piety at his general audience June 4, explaining that it is not just a superficial feeling, but, rather, a religious reality that leads us closer to God and to our neighbor.

“In this sense, piety includes the ability of rejoicing with those who are cheerful and of crying with those who cry, of reaching out to those who are alone or anxious, to correct those who err, to console the afflicted, to care for and help those who happen to be in need,” the Pope told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 4.

Make Christ Present, Wherever You Are
Katharine made her First Holy Communion last Sunday – a momentous event, a holy moment! Naturally, she received some gifts to mark the occasion: A scapular (the plastic bothered her; I’ll get her a cloth one), a child’s Bible, and a beautiful ceramic holy water font. The font clearly caught her fancy, and she asked me that same evening how we could get the “special” water for it.

Fortunately, I already had a small bottle of holy water in the house, so we hung up the font near her bed, filled the reservoir, and then dipped our fingers to bless ourselves. She went to bed very content – happy to have received Jesus in one Sacrament earlier in the day, and then encounter him again in that mini-Sacramental reminder just before sleep.

A Faith-Filled Heart
Imagine with me now that you are an 18-year-old college freshman and your were just admitted into the hospital. You had awoken earlier, in the middle of the night, with an extremely uncomfortable pain in your arms and chest. You’re now alone, stressed, and scared beyond belief. Finally, after what seems like hours, a doctor walks in and is sporting an awkwardly calming, yet alarming, grin as he shakes your hand and pulls up a chair. He sits down for a moment as he looks at his clip board, then slowly raises his eyes to make contact with yours, and he tells you, “I’m extremely sorry to tell you this, but we have found enzymes in your blood stream that lead us to believe you and your heart are dying.”

Jesus teaches us not merely how to avoid temptation, but how to be prepared for temptations to come
The battle against temptation in our lives is, of course, an ongoing struggle. Some moments and periods of our life provide more temptation than others, but no day goes by without at least some sort of temptation. While it is important to battle temptation in the moment, it is also important to build ourselves up by grace so that in moments of temptation we can draw on that strength and preparation to more easily win the battle.

Clothe the Naked: Acknowledging the Need for Human Dignity
Nake is an archaic English word meaning “to strip clothes off.” To be “naked,” therefore, is to be in a state of “having had your clothes stripped off.”

Why does this bit of pedantry matter? Because it speaks volumes about what our ancestors regarded as the natural state of man.

The Friendship of the Saints
Solomon says, “A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immor­tality”; and he adds the significant words: “They that fear the Lord shall find him.” The Old Testament delights us with the story of the friendship of David and Jonathan. “Jonathan loved David as his own soul”; and David’s love for Jonathan “passed the love of woman.”

Natural Law and the Heart of Man
Is there anything so wicked as a man trying to silence his  conscience?  It is a willful act that happens in stages: Bit by bit, incident by incident, rationalization by rationalization, the voice of a man’s conscience can be stifled—that still small voice within him eventually becomes fainter, until his heart turns to stone and covers the voice within.

How to Share the Gospel With People Who Don’t Care
We are in a situation in the West that the Christian church has never experienced before. We have a good news to proclaim, but those who need to hear are deaf.

Pope Francis Encourages Married Couples
VATICAN CITY — In his June 2 homily, Pope Francis addressed married couples at the Vatican, pointing to fidelity, perseverance and fruitfulness as the three characteristics of authentic Christian love.

Using the fidelity of Christ to sinners as the ultimate example, Pope Francis commented: “It is a faithful love. It is a persevering love. He never tires of loving his Church.”

The Final Confrontation
“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel….

If You Can’t Make Daily Mass

Our spiritual lives are centered upon Jesus’ sacrifice, made present in the Eucharist. Probably the majority of us however, have schedules that keep us from attending Mass on a daily basis. It may come as a surprise to learn that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – and the majority of Jews at the time – found themselves in an analogous situation. They also arrived at an ingenious solution that we can make our own.

Overcoming Loneliness
Feeling down in the dumps?  Feeling like nobody really understands nor really cares? Feeling dreary, dark and bewildered and confused?  Feeling as if life does not have any real meaning and purpose?  Feel like just throwing in the towel and saying: I have had enough!

St. Ignatius of Loyola would call this a state of desolation. One of the most common manifestations of desolation is that of loneliness—you feel alone in the world and nobody really seems to care about who you are and where you are heading in your life.

The Double Helix of Faith and Family
Over sixty years ago, in a small laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, Harry Harlow devised a series of groundbreaking and controversial studies.  Using infant macaque monkeys, Harlow was interested in examining early attachment in order to test theories posited by John Bowlby and others about the importance of love and maternal interaction.  He and his students created two “surrogate mothers.”  One was simply made of wire mesh while the other was covered in cloth.

Hope for Eternal Joy
You are created to know God, love God and serve God in this life so as to be happy with Him forever in Heaven. Man is created to praise God, reverence God, serve God and by means of this to save his soul.

These concise and clear statements should motivate our thinking, our decisions, and our actions during the whole course of our life. This should be our philosophy of life: heaven. Our life has as its primary purpose to do all we can, at all times, places and circumstances to attain our goal—eternal life in God. May we long for heaven:  “As the deer yearns for the running waters so my soul longs for you my Lord and my God.

10 Good Reasons to Save Sex Until Marriage
Purity and chastity seem to be virtues that have gone out of fashion. The crisis of values ​​has led many young people to see sex as the center of their dating relationship. Sexually active men are considered “winners” and women “experienced,” while someone who saves him or herself in chastity is taken to be a prude, sexually incapable, or repressed by the Church. However, the reality is completely the opposite. Let’s take a look at 10 reasons to promote sexual abstinence among our youth.

What Happens When You Don’t Believe in Christ…
…you don’t believe nothing. You’ll believe anything.

I’ll leave the Chesterton fans to quote the exact quote.

Someone else has observed that the rise of rationalism in a society will always bring about more superstition. Another observation was that when sacraments are denied witchcraft starts to be on the rise.

Do Muslims Worship the Same God Catholics Do?
CCC 841, quoting the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 16, from Vatican II, declared:

The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

Some will say this declaration does not indicate Muslims believe in the same God we do because it only says “Muslims… profess to hold the faith of Abraham,” not that they actually do. So what gives?

Evangelizing Jehovah’s Witnesses
Last month I posted an entry on evangelizing Mormons. I figured it would be appropriate to follow that up with some tips for how to evangelize another group of people you’re likely to meet on your doorstep: Jehovah’s Witnesses. (If you’re unfamiliar with their beliefs click here and here.)

Why Do So Many Churches Have “First Church of” in their Names?
Reader Nick from New York wrote in to ask, “Why do so many churches have ‘First’ in their names? Why do we rarely see ‘Second’ or ‘Third’ churches?”

The blog at Open Bible did a neat little experiment a few years ago, using a random sample of 300,000 church names to look at some of the naming patterns of churches in the U.S.

Looking at their data, you can see the different branches of Christianity favor their own naming conventions. The Catholics tend to use the names of saints, while some of the Protestant denominations are a little more straightforward and descriptive, and often use their location and the order they were founded in their names. That is, the “First Baptist Church of [Town]” got that name because it was the first Baptist church founded in that area.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Seventh Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 1, 2014 

Seventh Sunday of Easter – A Cycle – John 17:1-11

Abraham Lincoln won over more people to his cause by
his death than he would have had there been no 
assassination. Begin with Edwin Stanton, his Secretary of 
War. Early in his administration, Stanton had sneeringly referred to him as “that giraffe.” But immediately after the president’s murder, Stanton blubbered tearfully, “There lies the greatest ruler…the world has ever seen.”
Your personal radar should be warning you that today you are walking into awesome country. For this is the only Gospel where the Teacher names Himself “Jesus Christ.”
Jesus has eaten sparingly. Still He reluctantly pushes away from the table in that famous Upper Room that Thursday eve. You would be reluctant too if you knew what the next day was offering. The Last Supper is history. Surrounded by His well-fed guests, He walks out into the air. The clever John sets the scene by telling us the Master raises His eyes to the heavens. Then, under the starry, starry night, He begins what has come to be known in history as the priestly prayer. As you listen to Him speak to His Father, you fear that you are listening to a conversation that was meant to be private.
In the first five verses, He prays for Himself. And, in the balance of today’s Gospel, He prays for His colleagues. They are shuffling restlessly about Him and thinking only of an after-dinner cognac, a Havana cigar, and a good night’s sleep.
At this point, Jesus is the King who must die. Yet, He says, “Father…glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you.” What is this all about? How could He be so upbeat?
It is one of the strange paradoxes of history that death is often the entrance into glory. (William Barclay) As it was with Lincoln, so too it is with Christ. Matthew 27:54 tells us that the Centurion on Calvary was overwhelmed by the majesty of the death he had just witnessed. And there burst out of him that eternal one-liner, “Clearly this was the Son of God!” And, as it was for the nameless Centurion, so it remains for you and me almost 2000 years after the fact. “In hoc signo, vinces.”
Erase Good Friday and you would have to put the glory of Easter Sunday in the back of the file cabinet. Yet some in each century insist on removing the cross from Christianity. But what do they end up with? A la carte choosings from the message of Jesus: a sample of this and a sample of that. Many Christians are not able to see the redemptive value in suffering. In time of difficulties, they are deprived of a model to emulate. God is neglected and a false god embraced for one’s own fulfillment and kicks. Stripping Christianity of the cross prompts the question, “Where’s the beef?”
“I have…finished the work that you gave me to do.” Once Christ had finished that celebrated supper, He could have rolled up His sleeping bag and retreated north on a long fishing holiday to the Sea of Galilee. Not even the Father would have gotten in His way to ask, “Quo vadis?” Yet, had He listened to His fears and exited the programmed crucifixion, you and I would never have known just how much God was willing to expend for us. The Son freely walked into a horrendous murder. Cannot even the dullest among us guess at the love God has for everyone of us? And, as the Christ stayed the course, so also must we.
“Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God.” To know the only true God means much, much more than knowing Him with one’s brainpan. It is to know Him with heart and the spirit. Sigmund Freud wrote, “In small matters trust the mind but in the large ones the heart.” Thanks to Christ, we know that God is not playing the recluse on us. Quite the contrary! He is very definitely within our reach and touch. Is it possible that the Teacher could have been more graphic and blunt in His language? I think not.
I attended a grammar school concert. The man next to me told me his son was singing in the choir. “Wait till you hear him.” The concert began. The choir was made up of eighty boys and girls. The father asked, “Doesn’t he sing beautifully?” I of course could not hear the boy, but I was certain his father could. God is the same with ourselves. Though we are all part of a huge chorus that makes up the six billion plus people in the world, He is able to hear each of us as though we were singing solo.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
June 1, 2014

The Ascension of Our Lord, Year A—June 1, 2014
Gospel (Read Mt 28:16-20)

Today’s Gospel records the end of Jesus’ forty days of post-Resurrection appearances and teaching. The account of what actually happened during those days is quite spare. We know that although Jesus appeared to His friends, His relationship with them was not as it had been before. He appeared and disappeared. He was often not immediately recognizable. Things had changed. As we work our way through today’s readings, we see that an even bigger change was about to take place.

Homily for the Seventh Sunday in Easter
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, my reward with me.

Jesus, who this past Thursday Ascended into Heaven, is coming soon back to us. On Pentecost Sunday He will come into the hearts of the disciples in the Upper Room, bringing them “His reward”, the Holy Spirit, with Him.

(St. Paul, incidentally, calls the Holy Spirit the “down payment” of that reward given to all who follow Jesus in this life. On judgment day, Jesus will “pay in full” each person according to his or her deeds.)

Ascension – What’s in it for Me?
The celebration of the Ascension used to leave me a bit flat.  It was clear what Good Friday did for me.  And Easter Sunday’s benefits were indisputable.  But as for the Ascension, what’s in it for me?

Christianity is about a kind of love we call agape or charity.  It is love that looks away from itself to another and gives itself away for another.  The Divine Word did not become man or endure the cross because something was in it for Him.

Solemnity of the Ascension: Loneliness and the Presence
There were only eleven of them, eleven disciples.  Judas had betrayed the Lord. Matthias had not yet been chosen.  So just eleven men went to Galilee following the message Jesus had given to them on Easter Sunday through  Mary Magdalen.  They were told to meet Jesus on the mountain in Galilee.   What were they thinking when they climbed that mountain?  Were they thinking about Moses who climbed Mt. Sinai to receive God’s covenant of the Ten Commandments? Perhaps they were thinking about Elijah who climbed that same mountain, only called Horeb.

Christ’s Resurrection Unites Us,Pope Proclaims at Ecumenical Celebration
JERUSALEM — At an ecumenical celebration in Jerusalem during his visit to the region, Pope Francis told interdenominational Christians that the risen Christ unites them all in a message of hope for the world.

“Each of us, everyone baptized in Christ, has spiritually risen from this tomb, for in baptism, all of us truly became members of the body of the One who is the firstborn of all creation,” Pope Francis said. 

5 Ways the Eucharist Erases the Original Sin
In that seemingly dismal specter that was Golgotha, the Church has always seen hints of the Garden of Eden.

Just as the entire human race sinned and died in Adam, so also all were redeemed and restored to new life, St. Paul writes (Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15). Taking its cue from St. Paul, the Church has drawn further parallels. Just as Christ was a second Adam, so also Mary was a second Eve. And just as a tree was once the scene of so much sin, a tree (the cross) became the source of so much grace. Each figure or element from the Genesis account is annulled by a greater reality in the gospels, so the thinking goes.

The Ascension: To Be Continued
A good story will typically end nicely, bringing everything to a neat conclusion—perhaps with the words “And they lived happily ever after.” So it would make sense for the Gospel — the greatest story ever told — to end the same way: Christ returns home to His Father and “They live happily ever after.”

Following the Footsteps of the Fisherman
Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land carries enormous significance as the heir of St. Peter. In a real sense, the successor of St. Peter is returning to his roots with this visit to the Holy Land. He is going back to where it all began, and he will be the first successor of St. Peter to offer the Eucharist in the Cenacle, the upper room where the Apostles celebrated the Last Supper with Jesus and where they gathered to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit until Pentecost.

Our Journey Back to God
Three Jehovah Witnesses visited our seminary a few days ago. In the course of our discussion, they offered me a complementary (but unsolicited) copy of their magazine. The front page had a picture of a happy looking family, with the sun shining brightly in the background, a beautiful water fall behind them, some animals in the background, beautiful well-kept green lawns and many children praying and laughing. One of them said to me, “This is what paradise will be like.” I mentioned that I never heard of a paradise here on earth. He told me that after the Resurrection, only the faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses will be saved from eternal annihilation and reside forever on Paradise earth.

Spiritual Combat: A Call to Arms
Perhaps one of the greatest temptations in the Catholic life is that of complacency. We go through the motions, attending Mass on Sunday and maybe going to a parish program or two, but the Faith never really penetrates deep into our souls. It remains a superficial reality; just another thing to do in our comfortable, civilized lives.
We love to complain about the problems in the Church—rending our garments over this bad bishop or this corrupt priest. We ask: Where are the saints of the modern Church? Where are the holy men and women who can be shining lights in this dark world? We lament the state of things, never realizing that it is us that God has called to be saints. It is we who must strive for sanctity as if our life depended on it—because it does.

How to Deal with Past Sins
We all know that Peter was the first pope. What we often forget is that Peter was also a terrible sinner. I can think of at least five times in the Gospels where Peter messed up, but the time that he denied Jesus was the absolute worst.

The Battle of Prayer
Prayer is a powerful source of grace and the mother of all virtue but the Catechism acknowledges that prayer is a battle. The Gospel is the story of spousal love and prayer is a means of communicating that love. Love is a necessary catalyst for persevering in prayer.

I Was An Atheist Without Hope in Life. Then I Tried Praying
From the darkness of panic attacks, depression, and disordered anxieties, God brought me healing and faith through the Catholic Church.

Life-long Christians have trouble understanding what it must be like to be an atheist. And life-long atheists are similarly puzzled by how anyone could be gullible enough to believe in Jesus. I’ve seen both sides and got to tell my story on The Journey Home.

Pope Francis’s Third Way
“You’re between a rock and a hard place!” one says when faced with a seemingly unsolvable dilemma. This weekend Pope Francis was not so much stuck between a rock and a hard place, as stuck between one wall and another.

The Saints & Overcoming Boredom
It is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.  Romans 13:11

One of the most important conversions in the history of the Church occurred partially as the result of a problem that most of us have faced: boredom. It’s the story of the founder of the Jesuits: St. Ignatius of Loyola.

What Is Truth? Part I
There is truth and there is the truth.

First a little story. A man is a first time passenger on a great ocean liner of infamy. After some loud noises, the massive ship begins to drastically list. Fear begins to enter into the heart of the man, who is concerned for his family and all the other souls on board. He spies a presumably knowledgeable ranking officer on the deck and puts the question to him. “Sir, the ship is listing badly. Are we all going to drown?” With indifference, the officer says truthfully “I assure you, we will ALL not drown.” So the man thanks the officer and runs off to tend to his family. Within a few hours, the man and his family are dead in the freezing ocean. Being dead, it is difficult to ascertain whether the man is comforted by the fact that the Ship’s officer technically told him the truth.

Preserving the ‘vital sources of our humanity’
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
A week after arriving in Philadelphia in 2011, I got an email from a very persuasive student inviting me to speak at his school – the University of Pennsylvania. I said yes, and I’m glad I did. It was my first taste of our city’s many excellent universities and colleges, from Villanova and St. Joe’s, to Neumann, La Salle, Holy Family, Immaculata and others.

Why It’s Okay to be Against Heresy and for Imposing One’s Will on Others
Recently, two prominent Catholic women—Kathleen Sebelius in an address to the graduates of Georgetown University’s public policy school, and Maureen Dowd in a column published in the New York Times—delivered strong statements about the Church’s role in civil society. Dowd’s column was more or less a screed, while Sebelius’s address was relatively measured in tone. Yet both were marked by some pretty fundamental misunderstandings, which have, sadly, become widespread.

Why Holy Water?
Q: A Protestant friend came with me to Mass last Sunday and asked about the Holy Water fonts and why we make the sign of the cross with it when we enter and leave the Church. What answer would you give to her?

Do Catholics Worship Statues?
When I was a Protestant I wondered why Catholics had so many statues of saints in their churches. There were two problems. First, I had been raised to believe that carved images were wrong because they broke the commandment “you shall not make to yourself any graven image.” Second, I was told that Catholics worshipped the saints, and sure enough, when I went into a Catholic church I saw people kneeling down and praying in front of the statues.

Stories of Success
My seven year old son hung his head low as he walked off of the baseball diamond after his game.  I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “this is our third game, and I still haven’t gotten on base.” My immediate reaction was sympathy, followed quickly by a sense of failure as a dad.  If I had been out practicing hitting more with my son, he would be better.  If I had limited his time with video games, he would be more athletic.  If I had been more focused, he would be more focused.  If I would have pushed, he would have succeeded.

What Makes A Perfect Priest?
What are the qualities that make a good priest, and how can the Catholic community find the young men who possess these qualities? The experience of recent decades shows that the opinions of psychologists and even clergy have not always proven the best guide. Why not go to the source: the perceptions of the parents themselves?

Protestantism is Subjective, Catholicism is Objective
Please note: When I address the differences between Catholics and Protestants, I am addressing doctrinal issues; I am not judging anyone’s personal holiness or love for Christ.

Once upon a time, five hundred years ago, a group of Christians broke away from the Catholic Church in protest, declaring that the Bible was a Christian’s only legitimate authority. Without an authoritative Church, each protesting (i.e., Protestant) Christian was now able to interpret the Bible himself, as Protestants believe God intended.

However, this new paradigm of each Christian interpreting Scripture for himself means that there are as many interpretations of Scripture as there are Protestants. As you can imagine, this leads to a host of problems for a religion that exists to proclaim Truth.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Sixth Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessage  Homily from Father James Gilhooley
  Sixth Sunday of Easter
  May 25, 2014 

  Sixth Sunday of Easter – A Cycle – John 14:15-21
   A sailboat got caught in heavy seas. A rogue wave
  flipped the boat over. The heavy keel righted the boat, 
  but there was heavy damage. A SOS brought the Coast 
  Guard (CG). The seas were so rough the CG ship could not rescue the crew. So, it placed itself as close as it could to the sailboat. The CG protected the sailboat from the brunt of the 10 foot waves. Finally they made port.

The Holy Spirit plays the same relation to us. He takes the brunt of our troubles. He not only lives inside us but also He walks beside us. He brings us into port. (Unknown)

Jesus in this Gospel told the apostles the extraordinary statement He would not leave them orphans.

The setting was the Last Supper. He had announced His impending departure. The twelve were wiped out. The Christ had to lift His people off the floor and put them back on their soft cushions. He promised to continue His presence with them through a Helper. He would serve as their eternal Deus ex machina. The Helper would be the Holy Spirit.

Jesus in John’s Gospel uses the Greek word menein forty times. It translates as abide or remain or stay. He remains with us through the Holy Spirit or Parakletos.

Parakletos is a tough word to translate into English. A popular translation is Comforter. That term is traced to the fourteenth century English reformer, John Wycliff. (William Barclay)

The word does a disservice to the Third Person of the Trinity. A comforter is understood as one who stands about waiting till we fall on our faces. Then he slips us chocolate with a sympathy card and tells us, “No problem.” The Spirit will do that. But His role as Dutch uncle is but a small part of His assignment.

The Parakletos is one who will be right next to us on our journey as a companion, even a buddy. He will support us so that we seldom fall on our faces. He will be our Knight Protector. It is the Spirit who will lead the rescuing cavalry when we find ourselves surrounded by the bad guys. Much of our lives we looked for God in the momentous while He’s been waiting in the moment. (Michael Yaconelli) Waiting patiently for us in the moment is the Holy Spirit.

Many college students I worked with said, “I just can’t cope any longer.” I told them that I found myself in similar situations often. But then I took ten, sipped a cup of hazelnut coffee, and prayed to the Parakletos.

And, more often than not, what had been a stressful situation eased off and sometimes disappeared entirely. I told them I was falling back on that wonderful promise of Jesus, “I will not leave you orphans.” In many areas, I am a Bible-belt fundamentalist. I hold Jesus to all His promises. I expect the Holy Spirit to deliver. He is a legal and healthy steroid. I am seldom disappointed.

But I did emphasize for the students that the Helper is not a party crasher. He waits for an invitation. Then He will come and ring our bell loudly with His elbow. His hands will be filled with gifts. They are outlined in the Scriptures. He leads us into truth (Jn 16:13.) He guarantees we are God’s children (Rom 8:16). He helps us pray (Rom 8:26). He offers us hope (Rom 15:13). He empowers us to help other believers (1 Cor 12:4). He aids us to be another Christ (2 Cor 3:18). He gives us spiritual muscle (2 Cor 3:18). (Barclay)

However, He expects that we will join our physical bulk, intellectual energy, and the gifts He has already given to us at Baptism and Confirmation to His new gifts.

The Parakletos is summed up well in these lyrical words. Eternally the Holy Spirit is love between the Father and the Son but historically the Holy Spirit is love between God and the world. (Daniel Durkin)

The Church’s historical record over two millennia shows that Jesus did not pull the legs of the apostles. He did not leave them orphans. Nor do people of faith accept that the promise has gone somewhere into limbo in the contemporary Church.

Moving about post-Christian Europe, I met many young Christians. They were working for the Gospel in almost hopeless situations. Yet, each of them assured me, “The Holy Spirit will think of something.” None of them showed fear. They were serene. The Spirit had much to do with that serenity. They had not forgotten the promise of Jesus. They did not feel orphans. They are a “creative minority.” (Benedict XVI) Their main advocate, the Holy Spirit, stands before them like an unconquerable mountain.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
May 25, 2014

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Gospel John 14: 15 – 21

This Gospel is part of what is known as the Last Supper Discourse. They had a difficulty understanding this when they heard it before the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. We hear it, not only after these events, but also after both the Ascension and Pentecost. We also have two thousand years of Christianity behind us that provides us with the reflections, teachings and experiences of the presence of the Triune God in our lives and the life of the Church.

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A—May 18, 2014
Gospel (Read Jn 14:15-21)

Today we continue in Jesus’ Last Supper Discourse with the Twelve. He is speaking forthrightly to His friends about an imminent change in their three-year jaunt with the itinerant Teacher. Here we discover the dramatic difference between Jesus and all other teachers who came before or after Him. It is the singular distinction of Christianity, separating it from all the religions or philosophies the world has ever known. Jesus simply tells His apostles that Someone Else is coming.

Holy Spirit – The Paraclete
He wore steel rimmed glasses and had hair to the middle of his back.  The fringe on his buck-skinned jacket bounced as he walked.

At least that was the way I was accustomed to seeing Mike as he bopped around town.  It was just a few years after Woodstock, and we were all taken with hippie culture.  It seemed so free, so new, so exciting.

But that day at the entrance of the mall, I scarcely recognized him.  His hair was cut and his clothing conventional.  He was passing out tracts and spoke to me of the Holy Spirit.  I scratched my head and vaguely remembered some talk about the Holy Spirit in confirmation class.   But I had to admit that I really did not know much about this third person of the Blessed Trinity.

Sixth Sunday of Easter: As Good as the Christian Samaritans
They were the people that everyone hated.  They were the Samaritans.  The Romans and Greeks and other gentiles hated them because they saw them as just another group of Jews, only ones who could not benefit the empire much.  The Jews hated them because they saw the Samaritans as half-breeds.  The Jews believed that the Samaritans had polluted blood, part gentile and part Jew.

Obedience and the Christian Life
There is no way around it: the Christian’s life is to be one of obedience. “Let him who has ears to hear, hear,” says Jesus. That does not mean that we are beholden only to God, under our own understanding of who God is and what He wants from us. God in His mercy does not abandon us to our vagaries. He chooses to save persons through persons, says Saint Edith Stein, recommending, for progress in the spiritual life, that we seek a director, and heed the person’s advice; and this wisdom holds even for people who by the grace of God have advanced beyond where their directors are. Jesus did not found a club of like-minded individuals. He founded a Church, and said to Peter and the apostles, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” If men reject you, said Jesus, they reject Him.

Christ In Us Through the Rosary
To linger in the domain of Mary is a divinely great thing. One does not ask about the utility of truly noble things, because they have their meaning within themselves. So it is of infinite meaning to draw a deep breath of this purity, to be secure in the peace of this union with God.

With this we come back to what we said in the beginning. Man needs a place of holy tranquility that the breath of God pervades and where he meets the great figures of the Faith. This place is the inaccessibility of God Himself, which only Christ opens to man.

Spiritual Powerhouse: Mary’s Rosary
The Rosary is principally composed of the Prayer of Christ, the Our Father, and the Angelic Salutation, the Hail Mary. In his 2002 apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary), Pope John Paul II develops this dynamic further:

What does Jesus Mean by the Fire of Hell?
In the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours (in the Office of Readings) we are getting close to the great culmination of the Book of Revelation, when the victorious Christ is united with his bride forevermore. Just prior to this great victory is the casting down of Satan into fiery hell and the sealing over of the great abyss.

Even Jesus Sometimes said “No.”
One of the struggles that many Christians experience is that the needs around us are so great, yet we are limited, both in personal strength and resources. Lurking in the back of our minds is the notion that whatever the problem, Jesus would always help and therefore we should too. But is it always wrong to say “No” when there is need?

‘He Will Bring Hope’
JERUSALEM — In a whirlwind three-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Francis will visit Jordan, Palestine and Israel, bringing a message of hope, peace and reconciliation to a region troubled by conflict.

The impending visit has encouraged Christians in the Holy Land, who are looking forward to the Holy Father’s journey.

5 Old Testament Models for How to Live
How can one be a faithful Christian amidst a godless culture?

It’s a question that presses upon us today with renewed urgency. But it is not a new question. It is one that confronted the earliest Christians in the waning years of the Roman Empire. St. Augustine tackled the issue in his magnum opus, The City of God. Centuries later, great saints like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas were still grappling with it.

How Contemporary Physics Points to God
Does modern physics provide evidence for the existence of God? This article presents a general overview of the answer to that question (a more thorough treatment may be found in my recent book, New Proofs for the Existence of God). I will divide the topic into three parts:

1. Can Science Give Evidence of Creation and Supernatural Design?
2. What is the Evidence for a Beginning and What are the
    Implications for Creation?
3. What is the Evidence of Supernatural Intelligence from Anthropic

The Search for Unity: A look at the 1,000-year-old divide between the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic churches — and what’s being done to bring them back together
“Hail East and West, for whom both we fight and from both we are fought!”                              — St. Gregory the Theologian

In 2011, I published “Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity” (University of Notre Dame Press, $38). There I tackled what serious observers describe as the one final substantial hurdle to unity between the Orthodox and Catholic Church: the role of the pope. The picture on the front cover features a beaming Pope Benedict XVI and beaming Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, arms united upward as though in victory salute at the latter’s church in Constantinople during a visit in 2006.

Holy Interfaith, Pope Francis!
Why is Pope Francis going to the Holy Land accompanied by a Jew and a Muslim?

Is he saying all religions are equal? Is he proposing that all religions are simply different paths up the same mountain? Is he watering down the Catholic faith, compromising to appease Jews and Muslims and present a peaceful face where there is no peace?


To Say You Love Jesus but Do Not Love His Body the Church is Rude And Destroys Your Claim to Really Love Him
Q: My daughter says she loves Jesus but just doesn’t like the Church (for lots of reasons). She doesn’t see any problem with this and doesn’t think going to Church is necessary. Is there anything I can say to her? – Name withheld, via email.

A: The Church is the Body of Christ (cf Col 1:8; 1 Cor 12:27; Rom 12:4-6). Hence to declare love for Jesus but disdain for His body is inauthentic. We cannot have Jesus without His Body.

What is the Goal of the Catholic Church?
Why did Christ establish one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church?

Why did the eternal Son of God become incarnate of the Virgin Mary, call the Twelve, establish them on the rock that is Peter, give them the power to proclaim his Kingdom and even to absolve sins, and empower them with the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth? In other words, why did Jesus ascend into the heavens and leave his Church to finish the mission?

“How is Your Soul?” — A Reflection on Spiritual Motherhood
Spiritual motherhood is a topic that more people are becoming aware of within the Catholic Church. Around the United States, retreats and conferences include this subject and new groups are forming to implement its practices.  Spiritual motherhood is about caring and self-giving. It is other-focused. Recessed in the nooks and crannies of our daily lives, if we open our eyes, we discover people who need spiritual nurturing, affirmation, and guidance, and don’t receive it.  This is spiritual motherhood, and it isn’t only for a biological mothers.

Doing What Christ Has Done
                     “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.”

Does Jesus really mean these words? How can we, weak and sinful as we are, ever dare to do what Christ has done and even imagine that we can do greater works than He has done? Can we hope to transform the lives of others, give hope to many, be obedient to the Father’s will even to the point of death on the Cross, forgive those who hurt us, serve all people selflessly, love God and others without counting the cost, and speak the truth with courage no matter the consequences?

Prophecy, Prophets and Priests
Prophecy, for the most part, has a paranormal connotation.  It implies the reception of knowledge by an individual that has predictive qualities infused by an unnatural source. Because of this understanding it is often ignored by the mainstream. It is deemed to be esoteric and often relegated to fringes of society. This is unfortunate, because legitimate prophecy builds on charismatic leadership and natural philosophy, and lastly depends on supernatural inspiration.

Evangelization in the Work Place
The very title of this column may scare you off, but bear with me and you may find the topic less daunting than you fear.

God has brought us into this world to prepare us all for everlasting joy with him in Heaven. This eternity of bliss, however, is intended not just for you or me, but for as many as possible. So a large part of our mission here on earth is to share our faith with family, friends, and all those put in our path on the road to everlasting glory. And that includes those outside the home that we may spend much of our waking hours with, those in the workplace.

.Soldiers lay down weapons for rosaries as they pray, pay homage to Mary
LOURDES, France (CNS) — It looked like any other military parade with bands playing, flags waving and thousands of men and women marching in colorful uniforms decorated with medals and ribbons.

But instead of impressive displays of tanks and trucks, troops from dozens of nations fell in line behind religious banners, a large wooden cross and a rose-strewn statue of Mary. Candles and rosaries — not weapons or rifles — were held aloft in soldiers’ hands.

When Satan Pulls Wool Over Our Eyes
Distilling some of the ideas in my book on Thomistic angelology, I published a previous column in Crisis on the massive intelligence and powers of angels. The flip-side of these spiritual faculties, as Aquinas points out, is the existence of a dark kingdom, using the same intelligence and power to prevent the spread of God’s kingdom, get more recruits, and consolidate the powers of evil in the world. In Luke 4:7, Satan declares that power over the kingdoms of the world have been delivered to him, and he offers Jesus a share in this power, if only Jesus would worship him; Jesus avoids the temptation, but does not contradict Satan’s claim of power.

The Right to Do Wrong
Robert R. Reilly’s new book, Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior is Changing Everything, is about Nature, understood as that telos towards which every created thing seeks its perfection.

It’s also about sodomy, which behavior is clearly unnatural, and – as Reilly carefully, meticulously proves – it was always considered so. Look to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle – Greeks, of course, whose culture is often (wrongly) portrayed as homophile – all of whom condemned sodomy as disordered.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Fifth Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 18, 2014 

Fifth Sunday of Easter – A Cycle – John 14:1-12 

A man passed a funeral parlor. In the window stood a sign 
  BURY YOU FOR FIFTY DOLLARS?” If we are half dead 
Christians, we should enlist with Jesus. He who said, “I am the Way!” will recharge us with His spiritual cables and get us into the fast lane.  

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged in 1945 by the Nazis. Before his execution, he told a fellow prisoner, “This is the beginning of a new life.” Said the prisoner, a British officer, “Dietrich knew the WAY he was going.”  

A poet wrote that you do not know the meaning of a person’s life until he is dead. Is that true of everyone? I think not. But it was true of the Christ and His servant, Dietrich. It could be true of us yet.  

Today’s chapter 14 begins the farewell address of Jesus to His troops. The theme of today’s Gospel is to pick up the sagging morale of His followers. Jesus had informed them that one of them would betray Him. The apostles must have gone into shock at the news of a mole among them. Their small world was turning upside down. They needed a spiritual tranquilizer in super milligram range. Christ was offering it to them. He was not done with them yet.  

We owe that blunt apostle Thomas much. The Master said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas, who must have been a hot pistol to handle even for Christ, bought none of it. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way?” Thomas wanted a heavily marked AAA roadmap as well as road flares. His doubts provoked Jesus to say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Just eight words but arguably the most important words spoken in the 5000 years of recorded history.  

That line rang like a loud bell in the ears of Thomas and his friends. It still so sounds in the 21st century.  

Thomas a Kempis wrote in the 15th century, “Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living.”  

Note what the Master did not say. He did not say, “I am a Way, a form of Truth, and a way of Life.” (Unknown) He would not support the pick and choose Catholicism which is popular among us. I am speaking of a smorgasbord Gospel. “I’ll take the Beatitudes but not the Eucharist.” But CS Lewis said, “Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”  

If you’re a cafeteria Catholic, you have started your own religion. You’ll have competition, though. There is a new religion starting every five days.  

What a pity so hard on the heels of Jesus come the Christians. (Annie Dillard) A popular T-shirt reads, “Jesus, save us from your followers.” 

Christ’s remarkable statement was clearly on the record as unqualified. Had it been otherwise, it is unlikely John, today’s author, would have recorded the line for posterity. Indeed John might not have stayed around. Evidence shows he could have made a good living as a writer.  

Goethe in the 19th century shouted something we can identify with. “When I go to listen to a preacher, I want to hear of his certainties, not of his doubts. Of the latter I have enough of my own.”  

I was in Boston. I was lost. I asked a man for directions. He confused me. I asked another and he said, “Follow me and I’ll show you the way.” The man had become my guide. I relaxed. Happily for us, Jesus is our guide. He does not give directions in hundreds of words. Nor does He say, “You can’t miss it.” Rather, He informs us confidently that He is the way. More to the point, He says, “Follow me. I’ll show you the fast way.”  

Professors have said to us, “I have taught you the truth as I understand it.” But no professor was so presumptuous to say, “I am the Truth.” None except One and that is the reason we come here today to worship Him. So we pray the 86th Psalm, “Teach me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth.” Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Einstein, great thinkers all, were, like us, confused. They sought the truth. But Jesus is the truth. Big difference that.  

The University of Rostock in Germany has chiseled above its main entrance for all students to read: “Many theories but one truth.”

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
May 18, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 14: 1-12

In the gospel of St. John Jesus makes a series of powerful symbolic statements, each of which begins with the famous words “I am”, in which he likens himself to various images and things which illustrate some dimension of his person and mission; for example, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the light of the world”, and “I am the good shepherd”. In today’s gospel reading from the fourteenth chapter of St. John, he says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.

Fifth Sunday of Easter: How Do I Get There?
How do I get there from here?  That question used to be part of every car trip to an unfamiliar place, at least when the wife got her way and the husband asked for directions.  About twenty  years ago, a newly married couple from the parish invited me to dinner.  I took down their address, but these were the days before everyone had some sort of a GPS system and everyone had a cell phone.  I had neither at the time.  And I got lost, roaming around developments for an hour and a half and terribly upsetting the young lady and her husband.

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A—May 18, 2014
Gospel (Read Jn 14:1-14)

Today’s reading comes in the context of the Last Supper Discourse (Jn 13-17), when Jesus speaks to the Twelve more directly than we have yet seen. His hour has almost arrived; the time for parables is over. The apostles understand that one of them will betray Jesus. They are deeply disturbed. Twice in the preceding chapter Jesus unsettles them with these words: “Where I am going, you cannot come” (Jn 13:33, 36). Now, Jesus seeks to comfort them.

I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life — What does Jesus Christ mean when he says this John 14:1-12?  Are there not many  paths to God, many truths? 
“As long as you believe in God and try to be a good person, your religion doesn’t matter.”  “There are different paths up the same mountain, but they all lead to the peak.”

How many times have you heard people speak this way?  This is the prevailing wisdom.  It’s politically correct.  Tolerant.  Reasonable.

But it’s wrong.  Jesus has the nerve to say “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by me.”

Strengthen Your Adoration In Christ
All Christians know that God became man for us. Not all, however, realize that He did more than this. Not only did He become one of us; He willed also to make each one of us a part of Himself. In addition to the mystery of the In­carnation, there is the mystery of Incorporation. We are incorporated into the person of Christ.

Be meek, open to joy, newness offered by the Holy Spirit, pope says
Christians who are too serious and gloomy have the Holy Spirit missing from their lives, Pope Francis said.

Be meek and open to the Spirit and don’t fight the joy and unexpected newness he brings, the pope said May 13 during his early morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
People who think they can and do know everything won’t be able to understand God, he said in his homily, according to a report by Vatican Radio.

Complete Joy
A reflection on today’s Sacred Scripture:

“I have told you this so that My joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” (John15:11)

Complete joy sounds unattainable in today’s world; after all, who really has it? People do. Jesus says it’s ours if we remain in His love by keeping His Commandments.

Just a little while longer…” A Meditation on the brevity and urgency of life
There is a passage in John 16 that is unusual for its repetition. This past Sunday it was the assigned Gospel in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The expression “in a little while” is repeated seven times in the brief passage. In fact, its repetition is almost to the point of being annoying, such that the reader is tempted to say, “Alright, already! I get it! In a little while!” But obviously John, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit want to drill this into us. The “little while” of this passage is seemingly a critical perspective for us to lay hold of.

Pope Francis Says Fortitude Not Just for Extraordinary Circumstance
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis spoke on the gift of fortitude during his weekly general audience address on Wednesday, May 14, explaining that it helps us to remain faithful not only with the big things, but also in our daily activities.

“We shouldn’t think this gift is only for extraordinary circumstances,” the Pope noted Wednesday, because, “for most of us, the gift of fortitude is exercised in our patient pursuit of holiness in the circumstances of our daily lives.”

Well Said: Best explanation of the Trinity I’ve ever seen
Of course, when I say “best explanation” I’m talking about helping me actually get a handle at all on what the Trinity is. Who better for that than C.S. Lewis? No one, right?

Our Lady’s Request: Pray for the Dying!
Today is the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal. It is also the anniversary of the assassination attempt on Pope St. John Paul II, when Our Lady of Fatima intervened at what seemed the moment of his death to save his life.

This is fitting as Our Lady at Fatima appealed to us to assist those at the moment of their death, those in most need of mercy. More than 150,000 people die each day, which is 6250 an hour!

.Don’t Turn Your Back on Fatima
Did you hear the true story of the Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors? Fr. Hubert Schiffer, SJ and at least four other Jesuits were living in quarters eight blocks away from the epicenter of the bomb. They miraculously survived the bomb blast and Fr. Schiffer lived for at least fifty more years without a trace of radioactive side effects. Fr. Schiffer attributes the miracle in his own words as related by Fr. Paul Ruge O.F.M.I, “We believe that we survived because we lived the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the rosary daily in that home.”

The Rosary & Mary’s Jewish Prayer Life
When I ponder what it means for Mary to be the mother of God incarnate, one of the most astounding aspects is the role she played in shaping Jesus’s human prayer. Yes, in the heights of His soul Jesus beheld the Father as clearly as the angels in heaven; but as a child, “He learns the formulas of prayer from his mother. . .He learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people” (CCC 2599). 

Miracles Do Happen
I believe in miracles, in big ones and in small ones. God is still alive and well on planet earth. He still cares for us and also cares for what matters to us. He hears our cries. He knows our desires. He sees our needs. He wants to heal us and make us whole. As for us, we just hope he answers us in the way we want, but that’s not always the way He works. God’s ways are higher than our ways and He always knows what is best. So, even though we might pray for miracles in our lives and in the lives of others, they may not come with the answers we expect. Sometimes we receive more than we thought and sometimes the answer given was entirely different and totally unexpected.

Spiritual Armor: Godly Relationships
At a teaching conference for the formation of priests and their teams working in the Church’s ministry of healing, deliverance and exorcism, an experienced exorcist shared a tragic story of how a young woman became fully possessed by demonic spirits. She had become estranged from her family and alienated from friends through a series of losses and broken relationships. Overwhelmed with loneliness and full of despair, one night she sank onto her bathroom floor and cried out from the depths of her desolate heart, “Is there is anyone out there who will be my friend?” Here, a very desperate, isolated girl opened a doorway and sent an invitation into the very real spirit world that surrounds us all. Fallen angels, demons, were quick to seize the opportunity to enter into a “relationship” with this poor soul.

A Journey to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory – After a near-fatal motorcycle crash 30 years ago, priest said guardian angel showed him the afterlife
Father Jose Maniyangat is a priest in good standing in the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida. He is an associate pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Orange Park, a suburb of Jacksonville. He is the diocesan spiritual director for the Legion of Mary. And, with the blessing of Bishop Felipe Estévez, he leads a Eucharistic and charismatic healing ministry  in which he leads healing missions in parishes in the United States and throughout the world.

But that isn’t all.

Father Maniyangat also says he died in a traffic accident in 1985, was taken by his guardian angel to visit heaven, hell and purgatory and came back to life to continue his ministry as a priest.

The Devil You Say!
Gotta give credit where credit is due. Pope Francis is not shy about talking about the Devil to a world (and a Church) that believes they have moved past such things.

The Washington Post has written an article on the subject. It is full of the usual biases, but still notes the phenomenon of a Pope unafraid to call the Devil by name.

Science, Saints, and the Shroud of Turin
Science has newly confirmed something about the Shroud of Turin that saints already knew.

Centuries ago, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in ecstasy asked Jesus which was His greatest unrecorded suffering and the wound that inflicted the most pain on Him in Calvary and Jesus answered:

Basic Life Science and Catholicism
“Quit forcing your religion on me! Your Pope might think that a fertilized egg is alive, that it’s human, but that’s your opinion– I believe in science! It’s no more a person than a skin cell is, and you just think it has a soul. If abortion upsets you, you should get people to use birth control.”
If you’ve been in abortion discussions, you’re probably familiar with this kind of assertion. I’ll admit that I’ve taken some slight liberty with the paraphrase– I combined several variations into one claim. Other than that….

The influential Catholic whose love is boundless
I love lists for some reason, and so fell delightedly on the current edition of Time magazine, which is devoted to a list of the 100 most influential people in the world. On the cover is Beyoncé, the popular and respected chanteuse, in a curiously unflattering photograph. It is interesting that Beyoncé makes the cover of Time, and no doubt there is much food for thought there, but I would rather comment on the two people on the list whom I immediately recognized as Catholics.

Hell Is for Real, Too
Heaven Is for Real, the story of a young boy who reportedly had a real-life experience of heaven during emergency surgery, is currently playing in movie theaters. The film is not doing as comparatively well as the eponymous, bestselling book that inspired it — more than one million e-book copies alone of which have been sold — but it will likely inspire other Christian films, given that its gross receipts have exceeded its relatively modest budget more than sixfold thus far..

“It’s a Setup”: The Note that Saved a Marriage from Adultery at 30,000 Feet
I was taking the Atlanta to Bentonville, AR flight several weeks ago intending to do business with Wal-Mart. When I got to the gate, my usual people-watching hobby kicked in. I noticed an animated woman who seemed to be doing all she possibly could to get the attention of this man. I noticed they both had wedding rings (hers a whopping diamond) but did not seem to be married to each other.

Help to Avoid Committing Adultery Through Social Media
Is mankind evolving into a more peaceful and prosperous people – or are we on a path toward ever-increasing moral depravity, social chaos and destruction?

Answering that dichotomy depends on one’s worldview, but Christian author Jeff Kinley is in the latter camp, telling TheBlaze that he sees human beings continuously and perilously cutting God out of society.

The Story of Hosea and What It Says About God and Holy Matrimony
The story of the Prophet Hosea and his troubled marriage is a powerful testimony to us of our own tendency to be unfaithful to God, but also of God’s passionate love for us. We do well to recall the story especially given the “great debate” among some in the Church today over the question of divorce and remarriage. And while there are many painful stories of what some have had to endure in difficult marriages, it may be of some benefit to those who are in the struggle to remember that God is in a very painful marriage with His people—yes, very painful! God knows the pain of a difficult marriage and a difficult spouse. The story of Hosea depicts some of God’s grief and what he chooses to do about that grief.

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