Pastoral Sharings: "30th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 26, 2014 

By the time of Jesus the Law had greatly expanded from 
the original ten commandments. One writer says that 
there were 613 actual Laws as well as 365 prohibitions 
(one for every day in the year) and 268 prescriptions 
(one for every bone in the body).

Obviously not all these rules and regulations were of equal weight and the rabbis constantly disputed which of them were more important than the others. So we can see where the question of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel comes from. It is not just a matter of curiosity but a point of contention among the lawyers and religious figures of the day, something which was of real importance to them.

Today we might find such a question a bit abstract and not very relevant but you have to understand that the ancient world was a very different place and their concerns were quite other than ours. They lived in a religious world dominated by the Temple and the various factions gathered around it. What to us seem obscure matters of religion were of vital importance to them.

However the purpose of the question in today’s Gospel is not to find the answer but, as we are told, to disconcert Jesus. They want to wrong-foot him; to try to find something which they can use against him.

In this and in the previous few chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, extracts of which we have had read to us over the last few weeks, the Pharisees have been trying hard to catch Jesus out. They have put questions to him like the one last week about whether taxes can be paid to Caesar. Their purpose is to look for a chink in his armour so that they can find something to use against him.

On each occasion Jesus outsmarts them. He either gives an answer they do not expect or he responds with a parable which puts them in a bad light. By now they are a bit exasperated and running out of things to ask him so they pose this question about which is the greatest commandment.

Jesus gives the answer that there are two great and interrelated commandments: Love God and love your neighbour. The Pharisees perhaps seeing that they cannot get the better of him simply back off.

It is interesting that, true to form, Jesus does not use the same categories as the Pharisees in their disputations about which is the greatest commandment. They ask which one commandment is the greatest and he gives them not one commandment but two. He does not place the first above the second but says that the second is like the first.

What is interesting is his follow-up statement that on these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets, in other words the whole body of Jewish teaching. From this remarkable statement we see that the Jewish religion is based not on rules and regulations, as the Pharisees would have us believe, but on love.

This is something that they do not expect. Yes, I am certain that the Pharisees love their wives and their children but it is obvious that their religion is not based on love; rather their religion is based on the observance of rules and regulations. In a word their religion is mechanical: according to their way of thinking if you observe this set of rituals or that set of behaviours then you will be righteous in the eyes of God.

What Jesus proposes is something that they have completely overlooked. For all their study of the scriptures the Pharisees have failed to notice the great pillar on which their religion is based, namely love.

They have not understood what the true nature of God really is. They do not realise that the sole motivating force of God is love. They do not understand that what God wants from us is for us to simply love him and our fellow creatures.

The Pharisees did not understand this simple equation. We realise that their failure to appreciate this important point is very reason why Jesus came into our world. He came to make sure that we perfectly understand just what God is like and what we need to do in order to live with him forever.

The message of Jesus, to use the beautiful phrase of St John, is that ‘God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them’.

The task then of anyone who wants to be one with God is to learn to become a good lover in the very broadest sense of that term. What we ought to be striving for is to deepen our care and concern for and our appreciation of all those around us and to be constantly reaching out to God in our prayer as well as in our good works.

What we need therefore is profound passion in our lives, a deep and warm and powerful love for our God and our fellow human beings.

This word passion is very interesting because its roots are in the word suffering. When, for example, we speak of Christ’s Passion we mean his suffering on the Cross but we recognise that the motivation for his suffering is his great love for us and his concern that we should have the way to heaven opened up for us.

There is no room for a cold Christian; there is no space in the Church for a stony-hearted Christian. These concepts are complete contradictions.

What we are long for is passionate, warm and loving Christians; members of the Church who care deeply about the welfare of those around them. We want Christians whose hearts are moved by the sufferings that they see and who want to do whatever they can to help to build a better world.

When we describe someone as passionate we mean that they are excited and ardent about whatever it is that gets them going. In society at large we can see many passionate people in sport, in the arts, in politics and many other areas of life. It is hard for anyone to achieve a measure of success in a particular sphere without being passionate about what they do.

However, what we are talking about here is Christianity. And what we are talking about goes far beyond a particular sport or a political viewpoint. What we are talking about is the most important thing that exists; namely God himself. We are speaking about the greatest kind of love that there is, the love of God and flowing from this the love of our neighbour.

If we can harness a deep passion for the things of heaven in our lives then there is nothing we cannot do; no place we cannot go; no door that can ever be closed to us, least of all the door of heaven.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
October 26, 2014

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A–October 26, 2014
Today, a Pharisee tries to test Jesus. Even though he was a legal scholar, his question reveals a stunning ignorance. How?

Gospel (Read Mt 22:34-40)

Jesus stirred up animosity against Himself among religious leaders by teaching several pointed parables about the kingdom of Heaven. In our reading today, a Pharisee, “a scholar of the law,” tested Him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment of the law is greatest?” What prompted this question? Legal scholars in Jesus’ day spent all their time poring over the Law of Moses and rendering judgment on its meaning. However, for a man whose vocation was God’s Law, this question shows that something had gone terribly wrong.

30th Sunday: The Heart of the Law
In 1927 my grandfather, my father’s father died.  My dad was just 10 years old. his older brother was 13.  His four sisters were 11, 8, 5, and 2.  My grandmother was in her mid 30’s.  There was no welfare, no child support, no social security.  Then the depression hit.  My father and my uncle and aunts not only survived, but as individuals and as family, they  prospered.  How was this possible?  It was possible because their neighbors felt a deep responsibility to help the widow, Minnie Pellegrino, and her children.

Six Practical Steps To Catholic Joy
I recently had coffee with a fellow Catholic who gloomily shared his ongoing struggles with overtly living out his faith in the real world and reluctance to discuss his faith with others. He made it clear that going to Mass on Sunday was all he could or should be doing. Unfortunately, this is a very common tale. The conversation became really interesting and a little uncomfortable when we discussed why people become apathetic about their faith, hesitate about converting or leave the Church altogether.

God leaves many things unresolved. Here are some reasons why
One of the great mysteries of God’s providence is that He often leaves things unresolved or unattended to for a very long time. Often, despite our fervent prayers, He doesn’t rush to fix everything, and He has His reasons for this.

What are the Essential Qualities of Prayer?
In my parish ministry and work around the archdiocese, one of the questions I receive most frequently is like the question posed to Our Lord in Luke’s Gospel, “He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1) People simply want to know, “How should I pray? Can you help me improve my prayer life?”

The Four Ends of Mass
“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” – St. Padre Pio

After a talk I gave a while ago, a young man came to me with a question. “I think I’m a good Catholic,” he began, “but I don’t go to mass. I hear it’s a sin not to go, but I don’t understand that. I guess I don’t see the point. Can you give me any reasons why I should go?” His question was sincere, and it led to a long and healthy discussion of why being present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is important in the life of a faithful Catholic.

The Rosary: The Best Prayer for Men
Devotion to Our Lady may not seem an intuitive thing for some Catholic men.  Growing up, I’d occasionally catch my father as he finished praying the Rosary early on Saturday mornings (begun in peace when the rest of us were asleep), or notice he’d left his handsome set of beads lying out on a coffee table.  I had the blessing of his example.  Other men know their fathers have placed a Rosary in their locker at work (try and find a Catholic firefighter who doesn’t have either a Rosary or a saint’s medal) or even just keep one in their pocket, where from time to time they’ll pause and touch the beads.  But for those men who haven’t “seen” or “heard,” how do we make sense of the Rosary as a manly devotion?

Why Does the Lord’s Prayer Ask God not to Lead us into Temptation – Why Would God do Such a Thing?
Most of you know that I write the Question and Answer Column for Our Sunday Visitor. And every now and then it is good to bring these works of mine together. An interesting question came in today (actually it is asked quite frequently) and I’d like to give my answer and add just a few things more that wouldn’t fit into the column. First the question, then the answer and a brief elaboration.

Q: Why does the Lord’s Prayer ask God not to lead us in temptation? Why would God do that? I have also read texts in the Bible about God hardening people’s hearts. Again why would God do that?

Suffering, Catholic Style!
A while back on my personal blog, I presented a secular view of suffering. I posited that, for the secular left, suffering is seen as worse than sin or death. Suffering has no meaning, and the goal becomes maximizing pleasure and avoiding pain.

There is a very different view of suffering on the Catholic side o’ town.

The late, great John Cardinal O’Connor of New York once told a suffering woman, “Christ could have saved the world by His miracles, but He chose to save the world by His suffering.”

This great truth is the basis of our understanding of redemptive suffering.

Let me back up a bit…

Heaven is for real and forever
God’s ways are not our ways, and his will is not always easy for us to understand.

We know that God has a plan of love for every life. But we also know that within his plan, people can find sickness and suffering that seems to have no reason, no justification.

These are some of my reflections as the sad drama of a young California woman has been unfolding this week on cable news and in the social media.

Conscience and Truth
Often I’ve asked my students to consider this question: “If you were doing something objectively morally wrong, would you want someone to tell you and try to convince you to stop?”

Pope: The Church Is a Beautiful and Visible Sign of the Love of Christ
VATICAN CITY — In his weekly address for his Wednesday general audience on Oct. 22, Pope Francis offered advice on fighting those tendencies that “dismember” the Body of Christ, such as jealousy and feelings of superiority.

“A jealous heart is a bitter heart, a heart that, instead of blood, seems to have vinegar. It is a heart that is never happy; it is a heart that disrupts the community,” he told tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

New Day, New Blessings
To say that I love being a high school chaplain is an understatement.  As I walk the halls of La Salle Academy, I’m often reminded of the verse from Psalm 16, “He has put into my heart a marvelous love for the faithful ones who dwell in his land.”  I truly love the students that the Lord has entrusted to my spiritual care.

As a “father” to the students, I often challenge them to think and act differently.  So, for example, recently a student was in campus ministry and she expressed that she felt unhappy because it was a Monday!  Her feelings were not unlike many adults that wake up on Monday mornings with a feeling of discontent because it’s a new day (or new week) with new worries.

Discernment: What It Does and Doesn’t Mean
This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to give a decision over to God — how to discern what God wants us to do, when we have a choice before us. It’s one of the more widely misunderstood areas of our practical spiritual life, and I’m still figuring out what it means to live this way. Here are a few things I’ve figured out about what to expect when I pray for guidance in a decision:

Faith: The Secret to a Sacramental Marriage
It has been said that “it takes three to get married” — a man, a woman and God.

In fact, in 1951, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote a book with that sentiment in the title. 

For three Catholic couples who have a combined total of more than 150 years of sacramental marriage, they know that the beloved archbishop couldn’t have gotten it more right.

What is a Soul?
What is a soul? Or to be more precise, what is a human soul?  Or to be even more precise, what is a human being?  For that is really the key question; and I sometimes think that the biggest obstacle to understanding what the soul is is the word “soul.”  People too readily read into it various erroneous notions (erroneous from an Aristotelian-Thomistic point of view, anyway)—ghosts, ectoplasm, or Cartesian immaterial substances.  Even the Aristotelian characterization of the soul as the form of the living body can too easily mislead.  When those unfamiliar with Aristotelian metaphysics hear “form,” they are probably tempted to think in terms of shape or a configuration of parts, which is totally wrong.

Pope beatifies Blessed Paul VI, the ‘great helmsman’ of Vatican II
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Beatifying Blessed Paul VI at the concluding Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis praised the late pope as the “great helmsman” of the Second Vatican Council and founder of the synod, as well as a “humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his church.”

Of Hard Heads and Soft Hearts
My friend (we’ll call him Bob) has a problem with the Church’s “authoritarianism.” In particular, he suspects the Church’s creeds. For Bob, they are secret passwords which, if you say them while stupidly bobbing your head “yes,” allow you into the Church. He complains creeds keep people from thinking. He argues they lead to persecution and cause well-meaning believers to be excluded from the Kingdom by rule-bound bigots.

Flawless or Holiness; What’s a Parent to Do?
As a new parent, I have quickly noticed that everyone has an opinion about the best way to raise my child. Authors, other parents, parishioners, and even strangers on the street are quick to offer advice or criticism of my parenting. As if this were not enough, society tells parents that they are not smart enough to raise their own children. If you don’t buy this book and learn the correct parenting techniques, you will scar your children for life. Parents are afraid to trust their own decisions and are always looking to imitate the latest guru’s advice so they can raise perfect kids.

‘Saved by the Book': How Sinners Became Saints through Spiritual Reading
My husband is a convert to Catholicism. Because he has made it a daily practice in his life to read spiritual books, his life has been completely transformed, and he has become a Catholic powerhouse for Christ.

I am absolutely speechless at what the Holy Spirit has done in the life of my husband as a result of his faithfulness to persevere in the discipline of spiritual reading. But he is not alone.

Many saints, because they read a spiritual book, were induced to forsake the world and give themselves completely over to God.

EVIL vs GOOD: It May be Time for Everyone to Choose Sides
It seems that now, in the early 21st century, people of faith have been thrust into the Canyon of Decision. This is  a place where a personal decision must be made and only two choices are available. Those choices are Good vs Evil. God is the perfection of all that is GOOD. Satan is the owner of all that is EVIL. Satan hates exponentially. He hates everything and everyone, including his own followers.

He has tried throughout the ages to convince himself that by destroying the God of Love he might find some unattainable and perverted joy. He has been wrong and knows in his deformed and blackened self that he can NEVER destroy God, his own creator. It follows that he can also NEVER feel joy or happiness of any kind. He also knows that he has no one to blame for his condition but himself.  So “hate” is his thing. Nothing can “hate” like the Prince of Darkness”.

FaithWorks! – 36 – Fr Longenecker’s Newsletter on the Practical Practice of the Catholic Faith
In the last issue we began a new series on the seven sacraments. The sacraments are not just once and done rituals, but elements of our daily spiritual lives.  God wants the sacraments to be a vital means of grace in your life–a power to transform you into the image of Christ from the inside out.

What is the most misunderstood historical event?
Most people understand the trial of Galileo Galilei as a key example of religious bigotry clashing with the advance of science and the textbook case of “Medieval” ignorance and superstition being superseded by reason and science.  In fact, the whole rather complex affair was not the black-and-white “science vs religion” fable of popular imagination and the positions of both Galileo and of the various churchmen involved were varied and complex.  The popular conceptions of the Galileo Affair are marked by a number of myths:

Why the Crusades Were “Glorious”
This post is the first in a series about the most prevalent modern myths about the Crusades and how to refute them.

The Crusades are one of the most misunderstand topics in Church history. Movies and TV present as established fact an outdated anti-Catholic narrative about them that stays alive by sheer repetition. Not only do secular critics of the Church use this narrative to attack Catholicism (and religion in general), but many Catholics unwittingly accept it as true.

Your Soul Finds Rest in God
We all suffer in this world more or less, either from anxiety of mind, or sorrow of heart, or pain of body. And nevertheless we all long for rest; we seek it eagerly; and we wear ourselves out all our lives in this search without ever attaining the ob­ject of our desires.

Where is rest to be found? Where shall we seek it? This is a most interesting question if ever there was one.

The Antichrist is Dead Set on Destroying Fatherhood
Joseph Ratzinger, I think, will go down in history as the best cultural physician of our day not because he fixed everything, but because he correctly diagnosed the ailments.  The seminarian and scholarly readers out there will no doubt be familiar with his solution to the many problems of modern scholarship, especially so-called “historical Jesus” traditions.  His answer to the problem is the hermeneutic of faith, an approach to scholarship that acknowledges the necessity of faith if one is to study things of faith.  Seems obvious?  Yes, it is, but it still needs to be said.

A Silent Priest is a Dead Priest – A Meditation on a Teaching of St. Gregory the Great
A former Archbishop of Washington was known to often remark, “There’s nothing deader than a dead priest.” Some wondered as to the meaning of this expression, and those who knew him the best explained that it was a sort of version of the old Latin expression Corruptio optime pessima (The corruption of the best is the worst thing of all).

Of all the men on the planet who need to be alive, vocal, clear, and active, the priest is one of the most critical.

You Owe It to Yourself to Read The American Catholic Almanac
I was cruising through my new favorite book, The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States, when I came upon the April 7 entry, entitled “The Duke.”

It began, “When asked about his religion, John Wayne usually gave one of two responses. Either he claimed to be a ‘presbygod____nterian’ or a ‘cardiac Catholic.’”

God, Catholic Moral Theology, and Tetris
Those of us who grew up in the 80’s are familiar with Tetris. It’s a video game. The computer deploys different shaped blocks from the top of the screen. The player’s job is to configure the blocks and arrange them so as to form straight horizontal lines. Upon becoming so arranged, the lines are eliminated freeing up more space and gaining the player points. However, as the game progresses the blocks begin to fall at an increasingly faster pace. Once they pile up to the top of the screen, as they always do at some point, it’s game over and the player has to begin again.

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Pastoral Sharings: "29th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 19, 2014

‘Master, we know you are an honest man and teach the
way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid
of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you.’ If
ever there was a line that deserved the response, ‘flattery
will get you nowhere,’ then this certainly is it!

In reading the text, however, we should never forget Matthew’s heavy use of irony. Yes, they are plainly flattering Jesus in order to get his attention and they don’t actually believe a word they are saying. Yet to the believer all of these things they say are quite evidently true.

Matthew tells us clearly that the Pharisees were out to trap Jesus and there is one big clue in the text that proves that this must be so and it is the presence of the Herodians. They are members of the pro-Herod party and since Herod is only kept in power by the Romans they are going to be pro-Rome and therefore pro-taxes!

They are surely brought in to witness Jesus fall into the trap the Pharisees have set. They reckon that if Jesus says that there is no need to pay taxes to Caesar then the Herodians will report him to the Romans as defying their authority. This they think will be the easiest way to get rid of Jesus. Defying the tax was the cause of a whole series of small rebellions that the Romans had already put down swiftly with a few executions; Jesus would just be another victim.

On the other hand, if Jesus says that one should pay taxes to Caesar then he becomes suspect to the more ardent Jews. So they are quite pleased with themselves thinking that they have got him in a spiritual Catch 22!

The coin most in circulation at that time bore the head of the Emperor Tiberius and the words Tiberius Caesar, August Son of the Divine Augustus, High Priest. Whether by saying that taxes should be paid with this coin one was admitting to the truth of the inscription is an open question. But clearly these coins were tainted; they were the currency of an oppressor and clearly proclaimed the Emperor’s divinity.

The tax in question was a poll tax; the equivalent of one day’s wage and it had to be paid in Roman currency. This was a clever tactic by the Romans because it meant that their subject peoples had to trade with them to acquire the coins to pay the tax thus locking them into the Roman economy.

An interesting little point is that Jesus doesn’t have a Roman coin and so he has to ask for one. He has distanced himself from the currency and therefore also the tax. He asks, ‘Let me see the coin you pay the tax with.’ Immediately the Pharisees are wrong footed, by presenting him with the coin they acknowledge that rightly or wrongly they actually do pay the tax!

Each time the Pharisees try to box in Jesus he sidesteps the issue and turns the question back on them. In this way Jesus avoids controversy and gets to the far more important questions of life.

According to Jesus it is far less important whether you pay or don’t pay taxes to Caesar than whether you give to God what is his due. The taxes are a side issue, a pretext to the more important business of the Pharisees bid to get rid of Jesus, to assert their pre-eminence in matters of religion. They are concerned not with God’s plans but their own plans.

They live in a competitive world and are preoccupied with staying on top; religion and the scriptures are merely the means they use to hold on to their position. This reveals them to be oriented towards the things of this world rather than the things of heaven.

Jesus understands that there is a clear and important question here. And his approach is to go right to the heart of the matter and ask whether our eyes are set on the Kingdom. He understands that it is only if we get this most essential question right that we can begin to deal with any particular moral issue.

Every now and again a politician brings forward a bill in parliament which would legitimise euthanasia in this country. There is one in the House of Lords right now. So this is a current moral problem and one which we should think about deeply and form a clear and rational view in the light of the Gospel of Christ.

There is something beguiling about the arguments for euthanasia especially as it is so often presented to us as the avoidance of unnecessary suffering and exploiting our desire not to become a burden on others.

But there are some serious issues at stake here and we should be very clear about them. First, though, we ought to be aware where this pressure for euthanasia comes from and it is from those with a largely secular agenda. It is rare that anyone promoting euthanasia invokes God or any religious argument in justification. The utilitarian principle of ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ which guides most of those with a secular agenda has little resemblance to Christianity.

The media presents euthanasia to us as being compassionate and merciful. They characterise the laws preventing assisted suicide as cruel and unjust. We need to be aware just how secular and cynically manipulative the media is in this country.

One of the most fundamental beliefs of Christianity is that life comes from God and is therefore sacred. It is God who gives life in the first place and it is he who in his wisdom decides when it is opportune to take us to himself. Our task is to value life and to see the spark of the divine in all that is human.

We Christians value the life of each and every human being no matter how handicapped or disabled. If the Gospel means anything at all it means that the poor and the lowly are brought to the top of the table in the Kingdom of God. And to this we ought to add the frail, the elderly and the dying.

One of the assumptions made by those who promote euthanasia is that suffering has no value. This again is not a Christian belief. We regard suffering as redemptive and indeed almost a necessary part of our life here on earth. In illness and pain we unite our sufferings with that of Christ and see it as our small offering for the salvation of the world.

This does not mean that we relish suffering or fail to do what we can to relieve it; neither do we do everything we can to prolong life unnecessarily. We try to follow the laws of nature caring for our elderly and ensuring that those coming to the end of their life are fed and nourished and kept as free as possible from pain.

But we do not believe that any one has the right to bring life to an end whether it be the patient or the doctor or some other well meaning individual. The message of Christ is that God is sovereign, that he is the Lord of Life and it is him to whom all are accountable. That is what the phrase from the Gospel today means ‘render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s but to God the things that are God’s.’

Our life is God’s and therefore we are not free to end it whenever we like. The idea that we might become a burden to our children is another cynical ploy put forward by those with a secular agenda. We surely would be a burden if our children did not love us and if they believed that there was no God nor an afterlife.

But the very opposite is true! Any child worth their salt desires to do everything they can to assist their parents in illness and frailty. We love our parents and we value them and we want to care for them and express our appreciation in their old age. If we think about our parents like this then why would our children think the very opposite?

This issue is going to continue to be the subject of a lot of discussion as time goes on. Let us be clear where we stand and what our reasons are.

I was talking to a priest a few days ago. He was called out to a hospital to give the last rites to an Italian who was on the point of dying. The family were extremely emotional and kept grabbing his hand and calling out to him loudly, ‘Giovanni! Don’t leave us alone! Giovanni! We need you! Stay with us!’ It turned out that he was 97 years old!

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
October 19, 2014

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A–October 19, 2014
Jesus’ enemies try to set a trap for Him. A coin buys Him freedom from it.

Gospel (Read Mt 22:15-21)

For the last several weeks, our Gospel readings have shown us that Jesus used parables to help the religious elites of Jerusalem hear a call to believe in Him as their Messiah. They fell on deaf ears. We find today that “the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.” They were unable to recognize themselves in the many stories Jesus told them. Instead, they sent “their disciples” to put a question to Him that they were sure would force Him into trouble.

29th Sunday: Forming Citizens
God often uses people with earthly power for His ends even though they may not realize it.  Cyrus had earthly power.  He was the king of Persia who invaded Babylon and brought an end to the Babylonian Empire in a matter of months. The ancient Hebrews had nothing but fond memories of Cyrus because it was Cyrus who ended their exile and sent them back to Judea.   Cyrus may have been just solving the need to rebuild Palestine without having to do it himself while at the same time setting up a friendly buffer state.  He did a similar thing with people from other lands who had been held captive in Babylon.  He saw all these people as draining the resources of his new capital.  Perhaps someday they would unite and cause a rebellion.  It made political sense to release them back to their lands in the most friendly way, molding them into allies. Still, Cyrus did the will of God, even through he may not have realized it.

Your Spirit Finds Joy in Communion
God desired to nourish our spirit, so He gave it His Bread, the Eucharist, announced by Holy Scripture: “He will feed them with the Bread of life and understanding.”

Now, there are no greater joys on earth than the joys of the spirit. Contentment of heart is less lasting because it is based on feeling, and feeling is apt to be inconstant. True joy is of the spirit and consists in the quiet knowledge of the truth.

Let it Go
I grew up in a home where both my parents worked to make ends meet. There were years that my dad worked two jobs to help support our family. We had few extras, but we had what we needed. If I wanted spending money I worked a number of jobs to earn it. What our family did have in abundance was love, encouragement, and a focus on the importance of values. My parents always made time for my sister and me, and family dinner time was sacred. They were genuinely interested in what we were doing at school. As tired as my father was after work, he would play catch with me every evening and on weekends. My mother was our emotional bedrock and I always admired what a great team she and my father formed.

Humility in Prayer
I, perhaps like you, have to see folks I love and care about through some difficult periods in their lives. One neighbor and parishioner just lost her eight-year-old daughter to cancer. A number of parishioners are seeking work and praying daily for it, but no work offers seem to be forthcoming. Still others cry out for relief from any number of different crosses. I, too, have lots of things for which I pray and sometimes I get discouraged or even angry when God seems to say, “No,” or “Wait.”

Do Catholics Really Pray To Mary and the Saints in Heaven?
I overheard a conversation after a morning bible study at my parish about praying to Mary and the Saints.  It went something like this (names changed)

“Thanks so much for inviting me, Beth. You have a wonderful group here. I have a question, though. I hope it doesn’t offend you, but being non-Catholic, I just don’t understand this praying to Mary. Do Catholics really do that?”

Beth smiled at Sarah and explained, “No, of course Catholics don’t pray TO Mary, we pray WITH Mary; asking her to intercede—or pray—for us.”

7 Simple Ways to Grow in Holiness Before Noon
It’s easy to look at great saints and be intimidated. Whether it’s the stories of their personal holiness, their martyrdom, or just that their greatness is so revered, we tend to think it’s out of reach. We think that a deeply intimate, personal relationship with God is something reserved for someone that’s not us. But it should be encouraging to know that a “saint” is just a person who ends up in Heaven once God calls them home.

Seven Reasons to believe in the Marian Apparitions at Fatima
The Church has never required the faithful to believe in any apparitions, except those described in Scripture. Belief in credible apparitions such as Fatima in 1917, is not necessary for salvation. However, these apparitions are valuable because they lead us to greater devotion, increase our awareness of our beliefs, and promote growth in holiness. Why should we believe in the apparitions at Fatima?

We need to Pray the Prayers of Fatima
On October 13, 2014, we celebrate the 97th anniversary of the final apparition of Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, to the three young seers at the Cova da Iria in Fatima, Portugal during 1917. It was on this day that the Miracle of the Sun was witnessed by up to 100,000 people.

Evidence for God’s Existence
Over at Brandon Vogt’s website Strange Notions here and here I have a set of arguments for God’s existence which are not philosophical arguments based on Design, Prime Movers, etc, but on physical, historical evidence.

Does the Shroud of Turin Prove God?
I’ve written here at Strange Notions in the past about miracles and skepticism, and about the greatest miracle claim of all, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Such miracles serve as arguments for God’s existence, but not philosophical arguments based on design, prime movers, etc. They are based on physical, historical evidence.

The arguments go like this: If atheistic materialism is true, then the natural world must be a closed system. Everything must be explained within that closed system. There is no room for angels or aliens, demons, devils, goblins, or gods. If atheistic materialism is right, there are not intelligent, reasonable, personal exterior forces superior to the natural world who might interfere or interact with the natural world.

How to Find God (in Six Not-So-Easy Steps)
I regularly get emails from people who say that they’ve been seeking God, but haven’t found him. They often express disappointment and frustration at the fact that once-promising spiritual journeys have now led to a dead end, and they want to know: “Is there anything else I can do?”

Daily Examination of Conscience Keeps the Devil at Bay, Pope Francis Says
Satan, he cautioned, ‘never leaves that which he wants for himself’

— our souls.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis encouraged the faithful on Friday to guard their hearts by doing a daily examination of conscience, saying that, we if we don’t, we risk letting the devil in rather than the Lord.

“Guard the heart, as a house is guarded, with a key. And then watch the heart, like a sentinel: How often do wicked thoughts, wicked intentions, jealousy, envy enter in?” the Pope asked his Oct. 10 Mass attendees.

Back to Basics: A Summary of the Teaching of the Catechism on Holy Matrimony
There’s an old story told about the legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi. At one point he was so concerned that the players on his team had lost any sense of the basics of the game that he summoned them all into a classroom and had them all sit down at desks. Most of them expected a detailed review of the playbook, with diagrams on the board of X’s, O’s, and arrows. But to their surprise, the blackboard was empty and no playbooks were in sight. Lombardi walked in and stood in front of the quiet room. In short order he reached behind the desk and held up a familiar object, saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

The Slough of Despond
In John Bunyan’s famous allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress the hero stumbles into the Slough of Despond, otherwise known as the Swamp of Despair. Bunyan describes it as, “This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond.”

Let me state this plainly: Simply being divorced does not bar you from receiving Holy Communion…
With all the talk lately about divorce and communion, I’ve been reminded of how much we Catholics don’t know what we don’t know.

A few months ago, I met with a woman from my parish to help her begin the annulment process. We chatted a bit before we started going over what was involved.

“So,” I began, “you’re already divorced?”

Forever and Ever, Amen — Part III
In my previous articles on marriage (part1 and part2), I offered some thoughts courtesy of Archbishop Sheen on the male and female relationship, and our unique perspectives regarding marriage. St. John Paul II also has some remarkable things to say that may add greater depth.

In his great work on The Dignity and Vocation of Women, he writes, “In the ‘unity of the two,’ man and woman are called from the beginning not only to exist ‘side by side’ or ‘together,’ but they are also called to exist mutually ‘one for the other.’” (7)

Church called to keep hope alive, live in joyful expectation, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The church of Christ is called to keep the light of hope alive in the world, showing all humanity the path leading to “the merciful face of God” and salvation in Christ, Pope Francis said.

Focusing his general audience talk Oct. 15 on the ultimate destiny of the church and all its members, Pope Francis asked the estimated 30,000 people in St. Peter’s Square to repeat with him three times: “We will be with God forever.”

Don’t Bubble-Wrap Your Kids
This year, I’m not seeing a lot of hand-wringing over the dangers of the occult during Halloween. Most of the Hallowangst of 2014 seems to be focused on how much cancer we are willing to give our kids via the delicious, delicious GMO toxins in the candy they get. My policy on that score is: I love my children so much, and am willing to sacrifice for them; so rather than exposing them to danger, I think they should give me all their candy.

Suffer The Little Children
And they brought to him young children, that he might touch them. And the disciples rebuked them that brought them. Whom when Jesus saw, he was much displeased, and saith to them: Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter into it. And embracing them, and laying his hands upon them, he blessed them.

This incident of Jesus and the children is recounted in Matthew, Luke and Mark and has certainly helped me through many trials of motherhood.

Breaking Body
Who is The Church? Who is the Body of Christ? Who belongs? A temptation exists to spend so much time answering these questions correctly and identifying who is with us and who is against us that we miss out on membership ourselves. Some of us are so busy counting heads, checking purses, and securing a good seat that we are missing the work, the meal, and the party–the main elements of the gathering to which we are invited.

The Difference Faith Makes
hat difference does faith make in the lives of believers? What do believers have that non-believers lack?

Some surveys suggest that believers are happier than non-believers, while others claim the opposite. Yet simple experience tells us that not all believers are happy (in the sense of general well being), or even pleasant to be around. And there are more than a few non-believers whose cheerful dispositions make them pleasant company.

Faith, then, must be good for something aside from individual happiness, though the two are certainly not mutually exclusive. If faith is truly worthwhile, it must transcend the limits of the persons who possess it.

Satan Speaks!
Author’s Note: The following letter is correspondence from a tempter demon on earth to the father of lies, Satan. Everything that Satan says in reply may or may not be truthful, for sure.

Dear Satan:

My human is too humble. What can I do to instill a sense of pride into his psyche?

Very Respectfully,


Impotent and Irrational Rage
I will always remember a conversation with an exorcist in which he stated that the devil is full of impotent and irrational rage. His fury against God and all that is good is impotent because he has no power against God. It is irrational because Satan is the Father of Lies, and where there is no truth there is no reason or rationality. When this impotent and irrational rage surges up in our own lives it shows the face of the deadly sin of wrath.

Temptation as a Form of Martyrdom – A Meditation on a Writing of St. Ambrose
Temptation is a universal human experience. And because it’s so directly associated with sin, many too easily equate being tempted with sinning. But temptation is not the same as sin. If it were, how could the Scriptures say to us that Jesus was tempted in every way we are and yet was without sin? (Heb 4:15) Hence, the simple experience of temptation is not sin. It is true, however, that our past indulgence in sin can make us more susceptible to temptation.

Ten Ways to Fall In Love With the Bible
At the end of September, the very last day, the Church always celebrates the memory of Saint Jerome. Born a saint, he was not: he had a fiery and explosive temper that brought him many enemies, fierce and long temptations against chastity that he battled with prayer and prolonged fasting, and long prayer vigils—this was Saint Jerome.

Despite his temperamental defects and frequent assaults from the enemy, Jerome had a keen intellect, a love for study, but especially a love for the Bible, the Word of God.

A Catholic Response to Suffering and Euthanasia
I was born into a pro-life family.  My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of three in the late 1920′s – a time in which medical advancements and technology were not prevalent, and so her prognosis was grim.  Upon marrying my grandfather, she was told that childbirth would significantly reduce her lifespan.

She chose to give life to my mother, and in turn, my grandmother died at the age of thirty five.  (Thus my personal legacy began decades later.)

Sinners and Saints, Immigrants and Gladiators
This past weekend in Newark, N.J., a Bayonne-born woman was beatified. Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich a Sister of Charity, was recognized for having lived a life of heroic virtue. She’s just the beginning of a story of holy ones who have walked among us, and Catholics in United States history. Knowing that, Image Catholic has published The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States.

There is a Catholic Way to Parent
Is there a Catholic way to parent?

It really depends upon what you mean by the question.  If you mean, “Is there an approved list of preferred parenting methods the Church requires that we use for child rearing?”  Well then, of course the answer is “certainly not!”

But if you mean, “Does our Catholic faith ask parents to have a mindset about parenting that reflects the Church’s unique vision of family life and make choices that are mindful of that vision?”  Then the answer is, “unquestionably, yes!”

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Pastoral Sharings: "28th Sunday in Ordinary Time"


Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Twenty-Eigthth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 12, 2014 

The Parable set before us today is quite an interesting 
one. We can easily see who the various characters 
represent. For example the host is God the Father, the 
Son is Jesus, the servants are the Prophets and the 
banquet is the Feast of Heaven. The people to whom the 
first invitation is given are the Jews; but when they fail to come to the wedding for whatever reason the invitation is then opened up to the Gentiles.

However among scholars there are conflicting views about the wedding garment and what it represents. However, according to me, we can say that although the invitation is now open to people seemingly chosen at random, good and bad alike, there are some standards and failure to meet those standards results in the ungrateful guest being cast out.

We have noted that the parables we have had for the last few weeks have been addressed to the Chief Priests and the Elders of the People and this is another one in the series. These parables are meant to highlight the fact that the senior Jews have effectively misused the privileged relationship that God had given them and that through the sacrifice that Christ was about to make this invitation was now to be extended to the whole world.

Those first invited to the banquet have various excuses; as it says, ‘one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them.’ The invitation so graciously given has been ignored and the messengers of God have been maltreated and even killed.

It is unbelievable that those who hear God’s invitation should be so preoccupied with their own affairs that they reject it. Even more unbelievable that some of them turn on God’s Prophets to attack and kill them.

Of course, this rejection of God’s messengers is not something confined to the past but is just as much present today. The people of today’s world are far more preoccupied with making money or indulging their own desires rather than ensuring their entrance into the Kingdom of God.

This is an ever present problem for humanity. We have a kind and gentle God who does not force himself upon us but simply invites us to share eternal life with him. The initiative as to whether we take up his offer is completely left to us. The problem is that we are so preoccupied with other things, so distracted with the things of this world, that most of us don’t even hear the gracious invitation of our Creator God.

However, we, the members of the Church, have heard the invitation. We have understood God’s plan for us and we are glad to follow him and we choose each day to embrace the life he has prepared for us.

We should note that those who come in the second batch of guests are not necessarily any better than the members of the first group. The main thing is that they have taken up the invitation; they have responded to the call of God.

Like those in the first group we still do get distracted from time to time. We still fall into sin and frequently forget the correct direction of travel; but hopefully because we have initially responded to God’s invitation we will soon come to our senses and return again to the path of fidelity.

We ought to reflect further on the significance of the wedding garment.

Once we set out on the road to salvation we need to equip ourselves with whatever is necessary to be good citizens of the Kingdom of God. What this means is that we must assiduously acquire the virtues; the living out of the virtues being the essential requirement of anyone who wants entrance to the Kingdom of God. It is these virtues that are in my view represented in the story as the wedding garment.

What are these virtues that we should try so hard to acquire? Well they are all extremely positive things such as goodness, purity, hope, perseverance, temperance, prudence, courage, justice, fidelity, patience, self-control and so on.

In short these are all the qualities that enhance human life. The opposite to a virtue is a vice which is something that breaks us down or perverts our true nature. Vices are negative traits; things which are immoral or sinful and which breakdown our character. Examples include lust, avarice, envy, anger, gluttony, sloth, pride and so on.

It is important to understand that both virtue and vice are habitual aspects of our nature. This means that the more we do a certain thing the more it becomes part of our character; it becomes more easily repeatable and eventually defines who we are.

Thinking about this for two minutes we come to realise that the way to human completeness is to acquire good habits rather than bad habits. We understand very well that those whose lives are given over to negative habits are on the road to destruction while those people who assiduously acquire good habits are on the road to wholeness.

There is an old saying: as a tree leans so shall it fall. According to this the more you fill your life with all that is good and true and beautiful the more likely you are to end your life living in this way. And of course for the Christian this means ending up living eternal life in bliss with the saints in the Kingdom of God.

Those whose lives are full of vice and all that is negative will necessarily end their lives living in this way and will inevitably end up spending eternity in hell in the company of the Devil and all that is evil.

The equation is simple. The choice is yours. We are all of us invited to the wedding banquet but we must not neglect to put on the wedding mantle of the virtues so that we are fully accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven and all the joys it promises.

So let us resolve today to live lives that are true and good and holy. Let us resolve to shun evil and all that is destructive to our human nature. Let us pray that by following the right path we end up as members of God’s Kingdom enjoying eternity with the one who understands us better than anyone.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
October 12, 2014

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—October 12, 2014
In a parable, Jesus describes a great wedding feast. Those who get invitations would be wise to ask: “What should I wear?”

Gospel (Read Mt 22:1-14)

In the last of three parables in this portion of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus continues to describe the kingdom of God for “the chief priests and elders.” Today, He compares it to “a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” We should be able to recognize this as an allegory of salvation history right away. It begins with what we usually think of as the end of the story of God and man. The “wedding feast” is a reference to the ultimate union of God’s people with Christ in heaven.

28th Sunday: Wearing our Christianity
This is not a good Sunday for you if you are on a diet.  The first reading talks about the banquet of the Lord, where there will be juicy, rich food.  Heaven will be pastry without cholesterol.   

The gospel talks about the wedding banquet that a king prepares for his son, only to have the invited refuse to come and even mistreat his servants.  The King then invites strangers to the meal, who have a whopping great time.  Then, in what really is a second parable added on, the king spots a man without the proper wedding garment.  He gets really upset and throws the man out where there will be a weeping a gnashing of teeth.

Don’t let this Sneaky Sin Keep You from the Party
At age 16, life was about rock ‘n roll. If my own band was not performing on Saturday night, I was out in the audience watching another band.

It would have never occurred to me to spend my Saturday nights at a Catholic conference or retreat. True, no matter how late I was out, I’d never miss Sunday Mass. But that’s not because it was the source and summit of my life. It was because I didn’t want to go to hell! Being roasted over an open fire for all eternity definitely did not appeal to me. But neither did wasting my Saturday night in a Church event that was not strictly required by divine law.

Do You Long to Deepen Your Faith and Relationship with God?
Do you have a desire to deepen your faith and relationship with God?

There is an exciting and much-needed offering I wish to share with our readers called the The Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, founded by Dan Burke.  Dan and I have been good friends for a number of years. His speaking, writing, and work at EWTN and the National Catholic Register, along with his award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life, and his spiritual direction blog have changed the lives of countless thousands around the world. He recently took some time with me to talk about his latest venture.

Go to Your Mother
Traditionally, the month of October is dedicated to the Rosary, and May is dedicated to Mary. But every day is a good time to examine — and implement — Marian devotions.

Some well-known Catholics share d their favorite ones with the Register: The Rosary was by far the most cited Marian prayer. But the Miraculous Medal devotion, Salve Regina, Angelus and Marian consecration of St. Louis de Montfort were also among their practices, along with devotions to the Blessed Mother under the titles of Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Why the Rosary is Not “Vain Repetition”
Protestants sometimes charge Catholics with “vain repetition” in praying the rosary. This is a reference to Matthew 6:7 where Jesus instructs, “When you pray to not babble with vain receptions as the pagans do.”

Sure, when we pray the rosary there is a lot of repetition. The problem is not repetition but vain repetition. If repetition were the problem Jesus would be have an “Errrm whadabout..” moment with Psalm 136 in which every verse ends with “for his mercy endures forever.” No there’s not a problem with repetition was such, but with vain repetition.

Imitation of the Saints
One aspect of the Catholic religion that many non-Catholics don’t understand is our devotion to the saints.  Many of our ‘separated brethren’ can’t comprehend our veneration of the Roman Church’s holiest members.  Some think that we worship them and regard us as idolaters.  This isn’t true: we believe in one God which we profess every Sunday in the Creed, which includes the communion of saints.  We pray to the saints and they pray for us.

Pope: Pray for the Unity of Christians
The Holy Father said that we ought to ‘accentuate that which unites us: Jesus and the richness of his love.’

VATICAN CITY — Speaking to the crowds that filled St. Peter’s Square during his weekly general audience on Oct. 8, Pope Francis repeated his consistent theme of warning against divisiveness among Christians.

Give glory to God by being honest about sins he forgave, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Giving glory to God for what he has done in one’s life means being absolutely honest about one’s sins and failures, Pope Francis said in a morning homily.

“The practice of remembering our histories is not very common. We forget things; we live in the moment,” the pope said Oct. 7 during his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives.

“Each one of us has a story: a story of grace, a story of sin, a story of journey, many things,” he said. “And it’s good to pray with our story,” to recognize our failures and how, despite our sin and infidelity, God continues to seek us out, call us back and offer his grace.

Sacraments Are the Touch of God
The gates lay shattered at His feet. Below Him was nothing but the darkening abyss. But He is all light. On the left and right sit open graves. Out of them come a very old man—the oldest soul in the universe—and his wife. He is clutching their wrists. But they do not grab hold: no one can pull themselves out of this place.

Such is the harrowing of hell as depicted on icons. It’s what Christianity has traditionally understood as one of Christ’s chief objectives during his sojourn in the land of the dead: the rescue of Adam, Eve, and others like Abraham and David who had died in a state of grace but before His coming, ending up on the shores of hell, or the Limbo of the Fathers.

Infant Baptism
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us the most important reasons why we must baptize infants:

Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth (CCC 1250).

Reflections on Mass and Marriage
There have been times when I realized a day was a Holy Day of Obligation and I bristled at the idea of fitting Mass into my schedule. I love Mass, but even with numerous times to pick from it felt like a hardship if there wasn’t one that perfectly fit my schedule. I’ve hardly ever had to deal with the real hardship of a genuine scarcity of Masses.

Two weeks ago I returned from a trip to Turkey where, for the first time in my memory, I was in a city on a Sunday without a single Mass to attend. It was a strange juxtaposition, because on other days of that trip I saw sacred Catholic sites including the tomb of John, the Apostle, and what is believed to be Mary’s house.

Why is Christian Marriage Indissoluble?
I heard some time ago about a Methodist minister who decided that he wanted to do things “more Catholic.” So he started wearing vestments and added a few extra candles to the altar. He began to cross himself and introduced a more formal liturgy. When Lent came along he decided to impose ashes on the people for Ash Wednesday, but his ecclesiastical experiment went awry because he used ashes from his fireplace and mixed them with water. So he went to the Catholic priest and asked where he got “Catholic ashes.” The priest informed him that the ashes for Ash Wednesday were made by burning the palms from the previous Palm Sunday.

“Gee!” said the Methodist, “All this Catholic stuff is connected!”

Our of the mouth of babes…

Surefire Start to Marital Happiness
Marriage was made a sacrament by Jesus. He did so with his first miracle at the wedding at Cana.

“With this sacrament, Jesus Christ reveals his own help in an effective way, in order to save and strengthen the couple’s love through the gift of theological charity and to give them the strength of fidelity. We can also say that the miracle worked by Jesus at the beginning of his public life is a sign of the importance marriage has in God’s saving plan and the formation of the Church,” Pope St. John Paul II stated in a May 1992 audience titled “Christ Made Marriage a Sacrament.”

Forever and Ever, Amen — Part II
In part I of this series, I wrote about two fractured marriages as well as some thoughts to consider from the mind of Archbishop Fulton Sheen on matters of love, sex, and marriage. For years I ignorantly thought Bishop Sheen was a dinosaur in today’s world on such matters. Anyone who has read or listened to anything the good Bishop has said is no doubt violently shaking their head. I am forever grateful to God, who I have learned is particularly patient with the unenlightened.

The Saint That John PaulII Wants Everyone To Imitate
Saint John Paul II declared only one “Doctor of the Church” during his twenty-six year pontificate. He canonized a total of 480 men and women and yet he only held up one saint as a prime example of holiness and teaching. That saint was not an accomplished academic or high-ranking ecclesiastic. Instead, it was the “Little Flower,” Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

The Story Behind Divine Forgiveness
Anytime that I attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I love to hear the priest recite the entire formula for absolution over me:

“God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace. And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers?
Most of us know that simply praying for something you want is not the best way of praying.

God is not a cosmic vending machine in which you put your prayer in the slot and the goodie you want drops into the tray at the bottom.

Don’t get me wrong. God delights in any prayer and he does want us to ask for our daily bread and for all our needs, but there is more to it than that.

Walls Come Tumbling Down
A few years ago, I toured the far north of England. There, stretching 73 miles from coast to coast, the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a massive wall. Constructed of stone, it was built to last, since it marked the northernmost boundary of the greatest empire the world had ever known. Soldiers from every corner of the world were garrisoned there, and excavations tell the fascinating story of their lives and deaths.

Man Who Regained Eyesight Will See His Patron Beatified
The man born blind didn’t enter into any deep analysis of the miracle that occurred to him at the hands of the Lord, according to the Gospel account.

“The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes,” he told his neighbors in John Chapter 9. “He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

Don’t Worry about being “Left Behind.” Have a Holy Fear of being taken up to Judgment
The movie “Left Behind” opens today. And while, in a secular culture dismissive of any consequences for unbelief, we can rejoice in any salutary reminders, it is unfortunate that the reminder is riddled with questionable theology and dubious biblical interpretation.

Ten Things That Changed St Francis Forever…
…and can change you too.

One of the things that makes St Francis so popular is that he was so utterly and completely converted. He was rooted and engrafted into Christ through several remarkable events that transformed him from the inside out.

It is this profound and radical encounter with Christ that can also transform us.

Tolkien’s Advice for Sagging Faith
At one point or another, all Christians have experienced what Tolkien terms “sagging faith.” While there are times when our faith soars and we feel completely in touch with God, it nevertheless often happens that faith seems like an uphill battle. Tolkien was no stranger to this, and I really like what he had to say about the cure for sagging faith.

The Prophetic Voice of the Catholic Church — Dignity of the Human Person and the Right to Life
“Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants.” (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)

We live in an age that is filled with signs and wonders, many of which are ominous and terrifying – our economies continue in turmoil, wars and the fears of terrorism rage, our environment is being polluted in ways unseen before, our families, youth and societal institutions continue their collapse. Some people see these and try to discern their meaning. Others seem to hardly notice at all. The writer of the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews opens with verses that emphatically proclaim that God has spoken to us through His Son. We should listen:

Stigmatics Today
On 20 September 1918, while Padre Pio was hearing confessions,  the saint had his first experience of the stigmata.  This powerful identification with Christ occurred for the next fifty years. Witnesses testified that the blood flowing from Padre Pio’s wounds smelled of perfume or flowers.

Padre Pio’s wounds were examined by many physicians. In addition to the stigmata he exhibited the gifts of healing, bilocation, levitation, prophecy and other miracles He also had the ability to read souls, had the gift of tongues and could convert people on the spot.

The Ugliness of Mortal Sin
Sometimes a little phrase jumps off the page or into your ear from a passing conversation.

The Holy Spirit takes that phrase and it becomes a launching pad for a meditation on the mystery of this world.

The phrase I read in passing was “the ugliness of mortal sin”.

When Good Catholics Are Bad People Part II
In part I, we looked at what forgiveness was and wasn’t. But along with prayer and receiving the Sacraments for aid, how can we put it into practice?

In his book Forgive For Good, Luskin gives a number of strategies:

1)  Don’t confuse a lack of motivation to forgive with an unforgivable offense.

Is Christ the Head of Your Home?
My husband called on his way home from work, tired and hungry. He had been in Atlanta since before the sun came up, and now he was stuck in traffic. He still had to go back to his office, which meant passing our house (which was still 25 miles away from where he was) and traveling an additional 46 miles round trip, to put up evidence and tie up loose ends on his case. I could hear the frustration in his voice, as he asked me what we were going to have for dinner.

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Pastoral Sharings: "27th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 5, 2014 

We are told at the beginning of this text that Jesus is 
speaking to the Chief Priests and elders of the people. But 
this was no ordinary meeting. It was no afternoon 
exchange of pleasantries. No this was an out-and-out 

If you look at the context you find that Jesus was speaking to them the very next day after he had expelled the moneychangers from the Temple. There had been a commotion and true to form the big-guns were now out wanting to know what was going on, wanting to know who this upstart was, wanting to exert their authority.

And authority is what this exchange is all about. A few verses earlier the elders ask him, ‘What authority do you have for acting like this?’ And Jesus replies with a series of parables which discomfort them greatly. He tells them the one we heard last week about the two sons going into the vineyard and then the one we have before us today about the landowner with the problem tenants.

Now his words might be in the form of parables but they are a very clear answer to their question for in them it is blatantly obvious that it is they who are the rebellious tenants and that it is Jesus who is the son sent into the vineyard. And, more than this, he tells them that they are going to face a severe judgment; a judgement that, unbelievably, they have pronounced on themselves!

Actually the text as quoted in the lectionary stops too soon. The next sentence reads: ‘When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.’

You can imagine the priests feeling tricked, made a fool of. Jesus tells them a parable, even going so far as to get them to pronounce on the moral of the story, and suddenly they find that it is a parable against themselves.

No wonder they were angry and wanted to arrest him. Here he was preaching in ‘their’ Temple. Just the day before he had practically caused a riot and now here he was deliberately challenging their authority.

And he had tricked them! They had been lulled into a trap and he had sprung it shut on them. They answered the question Jesus set before them and said, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and bring in new tenants.’ And snap the trap shuts and they have condemned themselves!

Then comes the denouement: He says accusingly, ‘Have you never read the scriptures?’

What! Read the scriptures! That’s their profession! That’s what they have been doing all their lives and now this upstart is telling them they don’t even understand it! And in front of all the people too!

This is nothing less than deliberate provocation. And in the coming weeks and months Jesus gets more and more provocative until they finally do arrest him and put him to the ultimate ignominy of death on the cross.

But Jesus who has been turning the tables on them —literally as in the case of the money changers and figuratively in the case of the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees— in his death on the Cross turns absolutely everything on its head and from death rises to new life.

This Jesus is truly the greatest radical that ever lived because he does not look with our eyes but with the eyes of God. And he comes to provoke not only the moneychangers and the chief priests but us today.

He wants us to see, to really see, how things are. He wants us to see not with our eyes but with the eyes of the Father. He wants to challenge all our cosy assumptions. He wants to break us free from the constraints we are under and to begin to live a completely new sort of life, one in accordance with the values of the Kingdom.

Sticking to the parable we can see that the Jewish authorities are characterised as the wicked tenants. The new tenants are the Gentiles. They come into the vineyard and act properly giving what is due to God.

We are also Gentiles and their direct inheritors; we are the new tenants in the parable trying to do things God’s way, trying to see things as he sees them.

But we understand that the world of the Gospel is an upside down world. The values of the Gospel are not the values of the people among whom we live.

In the Kingdom the weak are strong and the poor are rich. In the Kingdom respectability and reputation are unimportant; simple goodness and kindness are the primary virtues. Look at the Beatitudes and you’ll get a clue as to what kind of people it is filled with.

The Chief Priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees had built their careers on exclusivity. They came from long lines of priests, ancient families of scribes. Outsiders were not welcome in their ranks; you had to be born into them.

Their whole existence was based on rules and precedents which defined who was in and who was out. This urge to exclude and to define exclusiveness was all about one thing, power.

It was on the acquisition of power that their hearts were firmly set. But, of course, in the topsy-turvy world of the Kingdom of God it is the powerful who find themselves excluded and the weak and powerless who are brought to the top of the table.

The irony of this is exquisite. You can just see how nervous the chief priests would have been in the face of that great crowd gathered in the Temple to hear Jesus. No wonder ‘they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet!’

Jesus sees everything; nothing escapes his attention. He sees their hypocrisy and it revolts him. He, the Son of the Father, understands what the Kingdom is like better than anyone. And he knows that these parasites are using religion for their own worldly advantage and subverting the will of God. So he provokes them and pushes them and taunts them.

He does in order that at least some of them will see the light and embrace the Gospel and certainly some do turn to him, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea for example.

Yet he also knows that taunting the Pharisees will bring about his death. But this is not something that he is afraid of; for he who is the Lord of Life knows that going to the Cross will be the ultimate turning of the tables.

In staying faithful unto death; in fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel right to the end he will in fact open up the road to heaven for everyone in the world. When Jesus on the Cross says to the Good Thief, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’ he says it to all of us who place our hope in him.

And that today is now; and to live in the Kingdom doesn’t mean waiting till we are dead. It means living it today, this very minute, right now.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
October 5, 2014

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—October 5, 2014
In speaking to the religious leaders in Jerusalem, Jesus tells the whole story of salvation in one parable. Did they recognize themselves in the story?

Gospel (Read Mt 21:33-43)

In this portion of the Gospel, Jesus has been speaking directly to “the chief priests and elders of the people” because they had questioned His authority to teach in the Temple (see Mt 21:23). In the second of three parables, He tells the story of a vineyard. Whenever we see mention of a vineyard in the Gospels, we must remember that the Old Testament repeatedly refers to Israel as God’s vineyard. Our Old Testament readings today will make that abundantly clear.

27th Sunday: Actions and Consequences
The parable in today’s gospel begins with numerous references to the first reading from the prophet Isaiah.  In that reading a vineyard is meticulously prepared.  It is put on good ground; the soil is spaded; it is cleared of stones; the very best of vines are planted; a hedge is put up to keep the animals out, and a watchtower is built to protect the vineyard from thieves.  But the vineyard is still a failure.  You get the sense that despite the preparations, the vineyard refused to produce good grapes.  This points to the Hebrew people who were lovingly prepared to bear fruit for God, but who rejected God.  The Lord complains that He looked for justice.  Biblically, justice means a relationship where the people are one with God. Instead, the people rejected God and chose bloodshed.

Prayer to St. Michael
First, let us reflect on St. Michael himself and his role in salvation history. St. Michael the Archangel, whose name means, “one who is like God,” led the army of angels who cast Satan and the rebellious angels into Hell; at the end of time, he will wield the sword of justice to separate the righteous from the evil (cf. Rv 12:7ff). The early Church Fathers recognized the importance of the angels and archangels, particularly St. Michael. Theodoret of Cyr (393-466) in his Interpretation of Daniel wrote,

Celebrating the Archangels: 7 things to know and share
September 29th is the feast of St.s Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael—archangels.

These are the only three angels whose names are mentioned in Scripture, and this is their day.

Here are 7 things to know and share . . .

12 Promises from the Sacred Heart of Jesus
As a small child, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, 1647-1690, preferred prayer and contemplation over childish play, owing perhaps to the extraordinary virtue of her parents. However, she had heavy burdens from her earliest years. She lost her father to pneumonia when she was only eight years old. After her father died she was sent to the Urbanist sisters where the order and peace of soul ushered in by the convent life swept her up into her devotions. From early on she took great comfort and consolation in the Blessed Sacrament. She impressed her order of nuns by her faithfulness so much that she was invited to make her First Holy Communion when she was nine years old.

Where is Jesus?
Deacon Kandra has an excellent post here about the placement of the tabernacle in the new Christ’s Cathedral in California.

Many people like it placed centrally behind the high altar, but that is a comparatively late innovation in Church history, and there are good reasons for it being placed elsewhere.

Hearing a Still Voice in a Noisy World
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once wrote:

If I could prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. For even if the word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, no one would hear it; there is too much noise. Therefore, create silence.

Pope: Greed, throwaway culture fuel ‘hidden euthanasia’ of elderly
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis warned against the abandonment and neglect of the elderly, calling it a “hidden euthanasia” rooted in today’s “poisonous” culture of disposal and an economic system of greed.

In the presence of his predecessor, Pope Francis also thanked retired Pope Benedict XVI for staying to live at the Vatican and being like “a wise grandfather at home.”

Forever and Ever, Amen — Part I
“I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

Poetic words, wouldn’t you agree? These simple, straightforward promises made at the altar by a man and a woman “seal the deal” so-to-speak. The two become one, exclusively, for life, depending on and lifting up each other, until death do they part.

St. Vincent de Paul: An Ordinary Saint
Though a man of inexorable good deeds, St. Vincent de Paul was not a man of inexorable good humor. Though a man of inexhaustible kindness, he was not a man of inexhaustible patience. He was quick-tempered. He was cantankerous. But he was kind. Though he is a saint, St. Vincent was also a man—and saints that were more human than angelic are sometimes the best ones to emulate. St. Vincent de Paul is such a saint—a saint who was clearly a man who also happened to be a saint rather than a saint who also happened to be a man: a man who clearly relied on the grace of God in order to collect the lowly in his strong and rough embrace.

Pope Francis: Satan seduces by disguising evil as good
Vatican City, Sep 29, 2014 / 06:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday’s feast of the archangels Pope Francis spoke of the ongoing battle between the devil and mankind, encouraging attendees to pray to the angels, who have been charged to defend us.

“He presents things as if they were good, but his intention is destruction. And the angels defend us,” the Roman Pontiff told those gathered for his Sept. 29 Mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha residence chapel.

The Rosary: Heaven Here and Now
I have never written about this before because it is so personal, but I would like to share what happened the first time I prayed the rosary.

I was a young Anglican priest and I was just heading off to make a retreat at the Benedictine monastery of Our Lady of Quarr on the Isle of Wight in England. A parishioner had just returned from a pilgrimage to Walsingham. She gave me a rosary and said, “Fr Dwight. I think you need one of these.”

New Jersey Nun a Step Closer to Sainthood
I love this.

Sister Miriam Teresa would be the third American-born saint, after Elizabeth Ann Seton and Katharine Drexel.

It was nearly 50 years ago that Michael Mencer, a third-grader at St. Anastasia School in Teaneck, was moved to the front of his classroom to be closer to the blackboard. He’d been diagnosed with macular degeneration in both eyes, an irreversible condition that eventually causes blindness. Even then, Michael could make out only peripheral images.

On the Human Soul
A most vivid passage in Scripture, one often repeated by St. Ignatius, reads: “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his immortal soul.” (Mark 8:36) Some translations want to make the “soul” translate by the word “life.” And it is true that the soul is a Greek concept, not so much a Hebrew one. But if we say: “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his life”, the whole meaning of the passage is changed.

St Paul: Building Bridges, Not Fences
Following my ordination my bishop assigned me to work in two yoked parishes.  “Yoked” churches share a pastoral staff but are not merged.  The pastor and myself worked to merge the parishes.

One parish was Irish.  The other was Puerto Rican.  The linguistic and traditional differences were palpable.  Often I reflected on the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.  “As the number of disciples grew, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because the needs of their indigents were being neglected.”  The Hellenists spoke Greek.  The Palestinian Christians spoke Aramaic.  In response the Apostles created a new clerical caste, the deacons, to serve their assembly, thus freeing themselves to devote themselves to the ministry of the word and to prayer.  They bridged the gap between the groups that spoke different languages but believed the same gospel.

Dialogue with Demas
The teachings of the Faith are not optional, though many Catholics erroneously believe that one can dissent from particular teachings of the Church that one happens to find unsatisfactory or unpleasant and still remain a “faithful Catholic.” One such confused person is my friend “Demas.” Demas has the remarkable knack of speaking aloud some of the most common mis-perceptions that modern Catholics have about their own Church. Recently, I had a conversation with him which was a veritable inventory of many of the confusions afoot in the modern American Church. So it seemed to me that a summary of our conversation might be useful to others who are confronting the same confusions and difficulties.

Pope: Use Your God-Given Gifts to Build Up the Church
The Holy Father spoke about the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit on Oct. 1.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis dedicated his weekly general audience on Oct. 1 to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, saying that rather than making us better than others, they commission us to serve our brothers and sisters.

7 Old-Fashioned Sins that Can Still Send You to Hell
American culture may have become more enlightened and moved beyond such constricting, old-fashioned ideas like sin and hell, but God hasn’t.

Sin is still serious, hell still exists, and sinners still go there. Or as St. Paul put it, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived…” (1 Corinthians 6.9)

Of course, there’s hope! By God’s grace, we can turn from our sins and find salvation in Jesus Christ.

Longing for Love
The porn industry in the USA rakes in more cash than the gross domestic product of many small countries. Lewd pictures and videos are piped into our homes through laptops, computers, cell phones and tablets. Images that would have made our fathers and grandfathers blush with shame and horror pop up regularly on our screens, and all of it is the result of our obsession with that deadly sin called lust.

“As we forgive those who trespass against us.” Part I: Free Will and Divine Providence
In the past decades we have seen outrage after outrage committed by religious terrorists, gangs, members of drug cartels–the murder of Christian, Jewish and Arab children, the rape of Christian nuns, the trafficking of women and girls, “knockout” beatings of whites, the teaching of hate. In this article I’ll not discuss how these villains attempt to justify their acts on the basis of religion or deprived socio-economic status. Rather, I want to address the following questions:

Saint Michael’s Question
One of the strangest events recorded in scripture is the War of the Angels where St. Michael and his angels do battle against Satan and his angels. Satan – the dragon, the great serpent of old – who loses the conflict is thrown from heaven with his followers. John has a vision of this event in Revelation 12. Jesus seems to have witnessed it, too. He tells his disciples, “I saw Satan fall like lightning.” Other than the outcome, we know little of this terrible conflict. Angels don’t fight as we do with spears or guns. We often think of St. Michael as a warrior in armor, ready to slay a literal dragon. But this is only a helpful image because the reality is probably impossible to grasp.

Who Really is in Heaven?
There is a devout Catholic lady and good friend that bristles at the following:  Priests, family and friends who comfort the grieving family by telling them everything is alright, that their loved one is in heaven….or that their loved one is smiling at them from heaven.

The truth is only God knows who in fact goes directly to heaven after their immediate death.  We should therefore go on the assumption that our loved one is in Purgatory and help them get them to heaven as soon as possible.  More on how to help the holy souls in future posts.

Beware the Tactics of the Devil
Any combat training and tactical planning begins with a process of intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination. Recon (reconnaissance) is a military term used to determine the enemy force’s disposition and intention, gathering information (or intelligence) about an enemy’s composition and capabilities. Dr. Peter Kreeft wrote: “You cannot win a war if you are unwilling to admit we are even at war or you don’t know who your enemy is or you don’t know what strategy your enemy is using.”

Do Not be Deceived! A Meditation on a Constant Theme of Scripture
A very common word in the New Testament is “deceived.” In English we tend to think of this word as referring to someone who has been tricked or fooled. And thus the emphasis is on intellectual terms. The Greek and Latin roots, however, have an almost physical dimension to them.

The Latin roots for “deceived” or “deception” are de- (from) + capere (to take or carry away). The Greek word in the New Testament that is translated as “deceived”  is πλανάομαι (planaomai) and means more literally “to be carried off” or “to be led astray.”

Perversity of Righteousness
It is downright difficult to shock or awe anyone anymore. The convergence of instant-media platforms and invisible data networks, which connect these platforms to millions of eyeballs, means that anything which happens in the world is eligible for prime time. Like most situations involving groups of anonymous strangers interacting with each other, the trash floats to the top.

Sorry Jesus, we are just too busy for you
I know a family in my parish fairly well.   Our daughters are friends and went through First Holy Communion and Confirmation together.  The mother was a CCD teacher and her daughter was/is very involved in school activities and sports.  When the children were in CCD and Mass attendance was required (kids had to sign in to prove that they were at Mass) this family would show up late at the Saturday Vigil Mass still wearing their soccer uniforms, grass stained knee-pads and all.

EWTN to air “The Crusades” a new mini series
When EWTN decided to produce a new docu-drama on the Crusades two years ago, most Americans had never heard of ISIS; no journalists had been beheaded in Iraq; and no Christian women and girls in Nigeria had been abducted or enslaved. Yet the Lord, with His perfect timing, knew that a mini-series on “The Crusades” needed to be ready to air in October – and so it is. (The mini-series airs 10 p.m. ET from Wednesday, Oct. 8 through Saturday, Oct. 11.)

The Good Book on Display – Knights of Columbus Exhibit Showcases First Illuminated Bible in Half a Millennium
Picture Benedictine monks in medieval times as they meticulously copied the Bible by hand and illustrated it with colorful scenes and fanciful lettering.

Many were the hours, days, months and years it took to make a single copy.

Then along came Johann Gutenberg and the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed with moveable type, finished around 1455 in Mainz, Germany.

The Middle Ages would never be the same, nor would the modern world.

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Pastoral Sharings: "26th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage  Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
  Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
  September 28, 2014 

  The themes of the First Reading and the Gospel are all
   about changing one’s attitude and behaviour. In one 
  word this is what the Christian life is all about: change.

  Unfortunately we human beings are normally quite 
  resistant to change and yet we do acknowledge its important role in our lives. We acknowledge that the alcoholic has to make a decisive change and has to reorient his life and begin to live soberly.

To take other cases the same is true for the drug addict, the gambler, the habitual criminal or the serial adulterer. We can think of plenty of other examples for ourselves.

Without a decisive change of direction such people face personal disaster. The only problem is that when we look at things in this way we tend to disassociate ourselves from such people. We think that alcoholism, addiction and other serious problems involve other people and not ourselves.

In the scripture readings today however all this is summed up in the word sin. And sin as we know affects every single person in the world. Sin affects each and every one of us; and we fool ourselves if we think that we are an exception.

And make no mistake about it sin is addictive. The child who starts off by stealing sweets from the supermarket can all to easily end up involved in far greater thefts and frauds. It is therefore vitally important that we instil good habits in our children. The more children learn to do what is right, in other words to have a well formed sense of morals, the better people it will make them in the long run.

I worked for many years as a prison chaplain and it very soon became obvious to me that crime runs in families. Being brought up in a home with practically no morals inevitably meant that the children too inevitably became criminals; sometimes even ending up in the very same jail as their parents.

Habit is what it is all about. Helping your children to acquire good habits is the best gift you can give them. The task of each parent is to help the child to develop good behaviour and to acquire the virtues necessary to live a good and fulfilling life.

The worse thing is for a child to acquire bad habits and warped ways of thinking. We all know getting rid of a bad habit is anything but easy. It requires a great deal of determination and involves us in making hard and inflexible decisions.

Jesus gives us today the rather fine little parable about the two brothers one who says he won’t go to the vineyard but then relents and does so and the other brother who says that he will go to the vineyard but in fact doesn’t.

Both changed their minds; one positively, the other negatively. Objectively we easily know which one did the right thing but we have no difficulty seeing ourselves in either role. We know that sometimes we do the right thing and at some other times we do the wrong thing. In Christian terms we call this falling into temptation.

Resisting temptation is an essential part of the struggle that is the life of a Christian. And it is not easy, however there are some helpful steps that we can take.

First we have to acknowledge the particular temptation and be conscious of any inappropriate desires that arise within us. Be clear about it if we don’t openly face our weaknesses we can never overcome them.

Then we have to avoid those particular temptations by taking evasive action such as never going into a particular shop where we might spend inappropriately or avoiding the company of someone we are inappropriately attracted to. This is the classic advice given for avoiding temptation and can be summed up in one word: flee.

After this we have to exercise our willpower and make decisions in relation to our temptations. In many cases this means making the choice to stop doing certain things. In this way we can build up a sort of moral barrier against falling into sinful ways.

And lastly we need to substitute good behaviours for bad ones. This is important because after resisting temptation we need to reward ourselves with a virtuous act, something we can feel good about. By doing this we reinforce good behaviour.

Let me repeat these steps: First acknowledge the temptation, then take evasive action; after this make a decision to do better and then finally substitute good behaviour for bad.

Taking such steps to avoid sin is vitally important for us all. By taking these steps we gradually build up our good character and so become better people; we then find that we have acquired high standards and begin to see that others look up to us.

The other important thing for Christians to learn is the lesson of repentance, something which is highlighted in the Gospel reading. The first son said he would not go to the vineyard but repented and eventually did go there.

So on those occasions when we do give in to temptation we must programme ourselves to feel remorse and then immediately repent of our sin. Of course, the Church gives us an excellent mechanism in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to enable us to express our repentance and to experience healing and forgiveness.

Reconciliation is a sacrament that we might not need to use every week but it should be used every few months to help us stay on the right track.

This whole area of temptation and how to avoid falling into sin is of vital importance to anyone who is serious about following the Christian life. We are all too aware that our life can be a struggle but it is important to know who the real adversary is. We minimise the role of the Tempter at our peril.

When you read the lives of the saints you often come across periods of their life when they struggled with the Devil, sometimes in an almost literal way. We tend to gloss over these incidents and sometimes think that these are pious imaginings. But they are not. The Devil is battling for the soul of each person in this Church, and indeed each person in the world.

Do not underestimate your adversary. Realise that the real struggle in life is against sin and temptation and that whenever we try to minimise the deadly effects of sin we are making a big mistake. Lulling ourselves into a false sense of security actually puts us in much greater danger.

So I urge you to keep those two sons in mind. Think about them often. Ask yourself often which of them you are at any given moment and then ask yourself which of them would you more life to be.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 28, 2014

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—September 28, 2014
Today, Jesus shocks the Jewish chief priests by telling them something about themselves that no one else would have dared to say. What was it?

Gospel (Read Mt 21:28-32)

Our reading is in a portion of St. Matthew’s Gospel that reports on the tangles Jesus had with the religious leaders of Jerusalem. In the preceding verses, they questioned His authority to enter the Temple to teach (see Mt 21:23). He answered their question with a question of His own first: “The baptism of John, whence was it?” They refused to answer, of course. If they said, “From God,” then Jesus would embarrass them by asking why they didn’t believe him. If they said, “From men,” the people would be up in arms. They pleaded ignorance, thus forfeiting any explanation of Jesus’ authority.

Twenty-sixth Sunday: Empty Means Full
Today’s second reading is from the second chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.  The reading contains one of the most beautiful Christological hymns in scripture. Paul begins by telling the Philippians to care for each other, be united in one heart and do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. He then tells us to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus.  The Christological hymn follows: “who though he was in the form of God did not deem equality with God something to be grasped, but rather emptied himself….etc.” 

Encountering God In Daily Life
New York City can be a daunting place for a Catholic, or anyone who wants to live a religious or moral life. While it is a most materialistic and secular city, I have managed to find inspiration and people who share my love for God. They are rare and very precious to me. Some I found in obvious places such as my church, and some through my cab-driving; my interface with the world. Either way, it is in the unexpected that I find small blessings.

Pope: ‘Our Strength Is the Love of Christ’
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has made an appeal for prayer and aid for the victims of the Ebola outbreak, which has been sweeping through several West-African countries.

Speaking during his general audience, the Pope expressed his closeness “to the many people affected by this terrible disease. I invite you to pray for them and for the many who have so tragically lost their lives.”

Let him who has ears, hear! The Parables that Portray the Drama of Human Choice
In yesterday’s post, I pondered the great drama of human life as Scripture sets it forth. We are caught up in a great and cosmic battle and must choose sides. There are two armies and no third way given. Sadly, most have lost any sense of the battle and of the drama of life, despite the battle lines being clearer than ever.

Signs From Heaven
I used to have a strange, very naive idea that I would be closely united with my father after his death. I know that we are united with the communion of saints, and that death no longer separates us (Romans 8:38-39). I believe we can pray to the saints, and even pray to and pray for our relatives who have gone before us. But I guess my interpretation of what that union would look like differed from reality.

I thought that all I had to do was pray and that my dad would visit me in my dreams, or that God would send me endless consolations to constantly comfort me. I believed that my father would send me signs of his present happiness from “the other side” in big ways.

Christ, the One Teacher of All (Mysticism and Magisterium: Part III of VI)
We might summarize the previous two posts in this series by saying that we are called to think with the Church because Christ and the Church possess same Spirit who is present throughout history in the details. When the Church teaches, Christ teaches, and those who depart from the Church depart from Christ. In this post, we shall examine than manner in which Christ is the one Teacher of all.

Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?
Last week I wrote a post here on David Hume, miracles, and the resurrection of Jesus. Some of the commenters took issue with my claim that “all the alternatives to the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead are more incredible than the miracle.” I’d like to elaborate on that here.

Christians claim that the historical human being Jesus of Nazareth was executed then physically rose from the dead and stayed alive. He was seen by many people and then was seen to vanish into the invisible realm. Here we have the most revolutionary and radical question of human history. Did it really happen?

Moral Chaos Should Strengthen Your Faith
While many pious people are wringing their hands over the popular culture and wondering if God will save his people, I find that the moral decay and preposterous incongruities we witness daily actually reinforce all I believe about Divine Revelation. What else is to be expected when God is removed from the Public Square?

Hail Mary: The Invincible Victory of the Black Madonna
Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa Brings Global Unity to Battle for Life

“An icon is the visual image of the invisible, given to us so that our understanding may be filled with sweetness,” wrote St. John of Damascus in his eighth-century defense of the veneration of icons.

Our Lady’s Message in Wisconsin: Conversion & Catechesis
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2010, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help located about sixteen miles northeast of Green Bay, Bishop David Ricken endorsed our country’s first Church-approved Marian apparition:

“I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.”

The Devil: Is He for Real? Why Does God Let Him Hang Around?
Dear Father John, I’ve heard that talking about the devil is just a way to talk about bad things that happen.  On the other hand, there are some people that claim there really is a devil.  Is the devil for real?  If so, why does God let him hang around when our purpose is to get to heaven?  It seems so contradictory.

What Does the Church Teach About the Devil?
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Last spring, Father Michael Drea, the senior Catholic chaplain at Harvard University, read a text message from a student, who reported that a Satanic “black mass” would be held on the Cambridge campus in early May.

The chaplain and his flock quickly launched a campaign to stop the event that gained national attention and ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the black mass at Harvard, while a Holy Hour scheduled for the same evening drew thousands.

A Voice From Hell
Author’s Note:  Recently, I had a conversation with a high school friend of mine, concerning how people rarely think about the reality of hell, and going there for all eternity. We agreed that very few people do. This article is a work of pure fiction. However, hopefully, it will get people to at least start thinking about what awaits us after death, if we do not repent.

5 Prayers Recommended by an Exorcist to Combat Evil
Listers, Father Gabriele Amorth claims to have performed over 70,000 exorcisms from 1986 to 2010. The good priest serves as an exorcist for the Diocese of Rome and is the founder and honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists. He has written two books:An Exorcist Tells His Story & . And yes, his favorite movie is The Exorcist.An Exorcist: More Stories

Raphael: Our Joyful Angelic Friend
Couched in between the Book of Nehemiah and Judith can be found an endearing, heart-warming, uplifting and inspiring short Book of the Bible with the title Tobit.  Composed of only fourteen short chapters, the story runs smoothly and quickly with simple but profound messages for the whole world and at all times. The Word of God is like a two-edged sword that pierces bone from marrow. Jesus reminds us that man does not simply live on bread alone but on every word that issues forth from the mouth of God. The Psalmist calls our attention to the fact that the word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.

Archangels and Guardian Angels
Last week, we began our discussion of angels, examining their role in sacred Scripture and even investigating the nine choirs of angels. This week, we focus our attention on the archangels and the guardian angels. Sacred Scripture identifies by name three angels, who are the great messengers of God — Sts. Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.

The Weapon for These Times: 54 Day Rosary Novena for Divine Assistance
“The rosary is the weapon for these times.” – St. Padre Pio

Have you read the news lately? It is seemingly nothing but terrorism, beheadings, mass murders, suicide, sexual anarchy, persecution, and even blatant Satan worship. While one might argue that such things have always existed in human history, I am convinced that evil is emboldened, and that it is being unleashed in a way not seen in a very long time.

Visiting the Sick Takes Christlike Courage
We can be awfully smug when it comes to Old Testament taboos. Many people assume they were nothing but superstitious, pre-scientific attempts to avoid disease.

All this leads, of course, to a triumphant and confident conclusion that we are 4,000 years smarter than the people who shackled themselves with barbaric nonsense about eating unclean food or avoiding people with rashes.

Now, Make Your Act of Contrition
Confession. To say that it is on my heart is an understatement. Confession is on my heart because I’ve had the pure blessing of watching over 150 children make their first confession. Confession is on my heart because I need it so much, and I am reminded of that fact in a radical way during Lent. Confession is on my heart because I’m always blown away that God would even welcome me in a confessional, much less forgive my sins.

How The Saints Faced Anxiety
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.                   -Philippians 4:6-7

Some saints were as prone to worry and anxiety as the rest of us are. But, by placing their trust in the Lord’s presence and care, they were able to overcome their fears. Some of these fears were relatively minor ones, as faced by Bl. Helen of Udine, who, during a period of distress, was terrified even of loud noises.

Ghosts in the Bible: The Old Testament
Ghosts posed a problem for the early Church because they seemed to reflect a holdover of pagan belief and superstition. Yet reliable witnesses continued to report encounters with what to appeared to be spirits, and witnesses were not so easily dismissed as they are now. As we head into Halloween, I hope to do a few posts examining the place of ghosts in Catholicism: how have people reacted to accounts of ghosts, and how has the reaction changed over time?

You Can Fly With An Eternity Attitude At A Heavenly Altitude
The old man was generous to a fault, had raised a passle of kids, and loved even more grandkids. He and one son-in-law, though so different in age, had shared the experience of serving their country, he in combat in WWII in the Pacific and the son-in-law serving stateside during the Vietnam War. The son-in-law had an unspoken respect for the old man and sometimes marveled at the old man’s dedication to his wife and family. Often, when the son-in-law would say something cynical, uncharitable, arrogant, or ridiculing someone else, the old man would tell him “You don’t have the right altitude.” Not “attitude,” but “altitude.”

Three Catholic, non-fiction books to enhance your faith…
Journey To Heaven: A Road Map For Catholic Men (Emmaus Road Publishing): Over the past two years I’ve known him, Randy Hain has been one the most encouraging supporters of my work. So when he asked me to review his new book, I was delighted to return at least one of the many favors I owe him.

Here’s the problem: I wanted to write a thorough review, which meant I took forever to actually read Journey To Heaven, a mistake of epic proportions.

This book is not only well-written and practical, but it’s sorely needed in today’s world.

The Top 10 Reasons to be a Catholic Man
In the post-modern “anything goes and nothing means anything” world, men are lost, not knowing what to believe or what to do.  Seduced into pursuing their own selfish passions, post-modern men are manipulated like C.S. Lewis predicted they would be:  “men without chests”, who don’t know what to believe and are manipulated by those with political and material power through propaganda to do what the powerful desire.  This is not freedom, it is slavery.

Seeking Satisfaction – Gluttony
There is a grotesque scene in the Monty Python film The Meaning of Life in which a hugely corpulent character named Mr Creosote eats a gigantic meal, vomits repeatedly and then, after eating a tiny after dinner mint, explodes. The comedy is completely outrageous, but you can’t miss the explicitly revolting depiction of gluttony.

The Devil’s War on Silence
There are key strategies of indirect attack that the enemy of our souls uses to significantly disrupt our spiritual progress. One is the corruption of human sexuality. As the analogy of holy spousal love is one of the most effective in understanding divine intimacy, the enemy desires to corrupt human sexuality in order to further obscure what it means to understand the possibilities of union with God.

To Be or Not to Be a Priest or Nun
As a college junior six years ago, Marisa Cirenza told her family she was discerning whether God wanted her to change her vocational plan from “doctor” to “religious sister.”

Emanuel and Linda Cirenza of Charlottesville, Va., challenged their only daughter, realizing that if she became a religious sister with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (often known as the Nashville Dominicans), it would mean a big change for the family.

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Pastoral Sharings: "25th Sunday in Ordinary Time"


Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 21, 2014

The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard which we 
have as our Gospel reading today is very typical of Jesus’ 
teaching. It tells us about the owner who pays his
labourers the same amount of money despite the widely 
different numbers of hours they have spent working in 
his vineyard.

What Jesus is trying to point out is how different God’s attitudes are from our own. And this is well summed up in the phrase from the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, “The heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.”

We human beings usually have extremely well defined concepts of justice although our application of them is not always very consistent. We are quite good at knowing if an injustice has been done to us but we are not so good at recognising whether injustices are being done to others.

If you want to see the truth of this just watch a group of children trying to cut a cake. There will be endless complaints about which one has the biggest slice. And we adults are not much better than children in this regard.

Our tendency is to reflect only on our own situation and simply not to notice what is happening to other people. Such attitudes lead to many injustices being continued from one generation to the next. We end up with extreme imbalances between rich and poor and the exploitation of the weak and those who have no power.

The contrast between our way of doing things and that of the owner of the vineyard could not be more extreme. He does not seem to be concerned about rewarding his labourers for the quantity of work they have completed; he is more preoccupied with giving everyone enough to live on regardless of the amount of work they have completed.

The owner is motivated not by natural justice or even his own profit. No, he is motivated by his own overwhelming generosity of spirit. And Jesus is telling us that this is how God is and he invites us to change our own attitudes and make them more like those of God.

In the Kingdom of God everything is topsy-turvy, everything is the opposite to the way things are in this world. The Kingdom of God is an upside down world, in it the rich are poor and the poor are rich; in it, as Jesus says in today’s reading, “the last will be first and the first last.”

It is hard for us to understand this concept because we are so concerned with equality and getting our fair due. We think that our work should be rewarded fairly and that those who in our opinion choose not to work should therefore not be given the same rewards as those of us who do work very hard.

In this world this seems to be a fair enough point of view, it accords with our idea of natural justice and ties in with our need to have a roof over our head and our desire to put food on the table for our families.

It is difficult for us therefore to come to terms with the proposal of Jesus that we should be motivated by kindness and generosity rather than anything else. He wants us to take the way God is for our model but we find that this is very difficult to do. We feel that we have to live in the real world where money is the measure of most things.

Taking God’s way of doing things and making it our own is actually a very revolutionary thing to do. It requires a complete change of outlook and a total modification of our priorities. But I assure you that once you have made this change in attitude you will find it very fulfilling.

Making such a change lessens your preoccupation with material things; it liberates you from worry and helps you to see everything in its true perspective.

I remember some years ago discussing this parable with some parishioners and one of them compared the workers in the vineyard with those of us who were baptised as children and those who converted to the faith late in life.

Those who were baptised as children he compared with those who went to work in the vineyard at daybreak and those who converted late in life to the ones who came at the eleventh hour. Whenever the decision to follow the Lord is made it comes with the exact same reward.

It just so happens that we are baptising an adult at the 12.30 mass today, a cause of rejoicing if ever there was one. In this case it comes at the end of a lifetime of accompanying his wife to Church but just because the decision was made gradually over a long period it is no less sincere for that.

I know that there are many others who come regularly to this Church even though they are not Catholics. Maybe they come with their partner or their children but were not brought up in the faith themselves. This would be a good moment for them to think about the possibility of converting and becoming a Catholic. We have a programme starting soon where people can learn about the faith leading to Baptism or reception into the Church at Easter.

Whether we embraced the faith in our childhood or later in life makes no difference. Following the Lord as a member of his Church is a wonderful thing and it brings great rewards. Committing oneself to the Gospel changes our perspective from the ways and attitudes of this world to the ways and attitudes of the Lord. We start to see things through God’s eyes and through the lives we live are able to share the Good News of the Gospel with everyone around us.

Today we rejoice at one Baptism and we look forward to many more at Easter.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September21, 2014

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—September 21, 2014
Jesus tells a parable that poses an interesting question: Would we ever grumble about God’s generosity?

Gospel (Read Mt 20:1-16a)

In the verses preceding today’s Gospel, Jesus told the disciples “it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:23). A “rich young man” had just gone away “sorrowful” from Jesus, because he could not detach from his possessions to follow Him. When the disciples hear that even the rich, thought to be especially blessed by God, would have a hard time entering heaven, they ask, “Who, then, can be saved?” (Mt 19:25) Jesus gives them an answer that He further elaborates in today’s reading: “With men, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).

Twenty-fifth Sunday: It Is Never Too Late
It certainly seemed like the workers who spent the entire day in the vineyard had a point. It didn’t seem just for them to receive the same pay as those who worked a few hours. After all, they were out in the sun all day, while those other guys only worked in the late afternoon. But the owner of the vineyard also had a point. He had made an agreement with each group as he called them to work in his vineyard. He did not violate his agreement with the first group by being so generous to the last group.

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard?Question: “What is the meaning of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard?”
Answer: This lengthy parable is found only in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus tells the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) in response to Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Peter wanted to know what reward would be given to those who give up everything to follow Jesus. In response, Jesus explains this truth about the kingdom of heaven.

Parables and Parabolic Images in the Gospels
What is a “Parable”?

Definition: “At its simplest a parable is a metaphor or simile  drawn from nature or common life,  arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness,  and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application  to tease it into active thought.” (C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961, p. 5)

Implications of this definition:

Pope Francis: God Visits His People and Gives Them Hope
The Pope prayed: ‘We ask for the grace that our Christian witness be a witness that brings the closeness of God to his people, that closeness that sows hope.’

VATICAN CITY — On Tuesday, Pope Francis focused on the importance of giving hope to the world by imitating Jesus Christ’s closeness to God’s people.

“When God visits his people, he restores hope to them. Always,” Pope Francis said in his Sept. 16 homily at his Casa Santa Marta residence.

The saint who came from a family of martyrs
The first Korean Catholic priest and a martyr for the faith, St Andrew Kim Taegon is a renowned figure in the history of Catholicism in his native land.

Born on August 21 1821, Andrew came from a family of martyrs. During the 19th century, Catholics in Korea were persecuted by the ruling Joseon Dynasty for abandoning Confucianism and Andrew’s great-grandfather, Kim Chin-hu Pius, died in prison in 1814 after being arrested for his conversion to Catholicism.

The saint’s father, Kim Chae-jun Ignatius, was also martyred in 1839 for the practice of the faith.

7 Church Fathers on that Profound Insight of Mary as the New Eve
In his 1st letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul teaches that Jesus is the “last Adam” who fixed the problems caused by Adam’s sin:

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15.21-22)

But we also know from Genesis that Eve played an important role in the Fall. If Jesus took the place of Adam, who took the place of Eve?

A God-Centered Romance
“Choose someone God-fearing, and make God the center of your relationship.” When this advice was given in a talk for college students about dating and marriage, a girl in the audience asked, “If we’re going to be thinking of God all the time, how can our relationship be exciting?”

The idea of a God-centered romance is, indeed, alien to today’s culture. This age assumes that a God-centered romance is an oxymoron, a dull and platonic relationship as opposed to a wild, pleasure-centered one. But this is hardly the impression I get from the last letter written by Blessed Bartolome Blanco Marquez to his girlfriend before he was executed for his faith during the Spanish Civil War.

The letter begins:

Beauty Set Free
Immodesty is on display almost everywhere, even at Mass. Magazines, advertisements, movies, music, television and many stores promote immodest clothing as normal and moral. But Catholic public figures — as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and St. John Paul II — disagree with the values endorsed by secular culture. Guided by Church teaching, these Catholics explained their take on modesty and provided advice concerning modest dress with the Register.

The Heart of a Mystic
When we consider the concept of mysticism, most of us assume mystics are somehow set apart from the rest of humanity as mysterious and highly intuitive people who participate in an exceptional relationship with God.  Mysticism is easily translated across multiple religions, and even within Christianity, there is some debate as to what defines a mystic.  As a lifelong Catholic, I have always been drawn to the notable mystical saints: St. Padre Pio, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila.  Their extraordinary ability to sense and recognize God in vast mysteries has fascinated and lured me into the supernatural realm of knowing and being.

Reigning With Christ
As Christians we are called to both accept the reign of Christ our King and also to join with him in reigning.

We should ask first, though, is Christ truly a king or is this just a nice metaphor? To answer, Christ’s Kingship is absolutely fundamental to his identity. The word Christ itself means “anointed” in Greek, which itself is meant to be equivalent to the Hebrew word Messiah. The Messiah was the Davidic King, who was anointed for that task. The Jews were expecting the Messiah, which meant the restoration of the Davidic Kingship. When we call Christ, therefore, we are affirming the Kingship of Christ.

A Voice From Hell
Author’s Note:  Recently, I had a conversation with a high school friend of mine, concerning how people rarely think about the reality of hell, and going there for all eternity. We agreed that very few people do. This article is a work of pure fiction. However, hopefully, it will get people to at least start thinking about what awaits us after death, if we do not repent.

Mass Etiquette: 20 Things To Do And Not Do In Mass
1. Fast before Mass. It is Church law that one fasts for at least 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion. Water and medicine can be consumed, of course. The purpose is to help us prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

2. No Food and Drink in Church. The exceptions would be a drink for small children, water for the priest or choir (if discreet) and water for those who are ill. Bringing a snack into church is not appropriate, because we want to set the church apart as a place of prayer and reflection.

Worshipping Mammon
We think of greed as a fat cat banker who pays himself a million dollar bonus after already receiving a salary of three million for working a seventy hour week doing shady almost legal deals for people. Or we think greed is shown by a person who is a tightwad: pinching every penny and cutting every corner to make a little bit more money wherever he can.

Christ’s teaching on poverty
One of the greatest challenges to my own faith was Christ’s teaching about the elevation of the poor. It simply makes no sense to me to see any special spiritual significance to mere poverty. By itself it does nothing to improve behavior or adherence to law, and for every “smiling face in an impoverished village” that gets mentioned in sermons there are just as many savage and violent faces, to say nothing of the cheerful faces among those in penthouses or lake homes. But I think my challenge was based on confounding two separate elements in Christ’s teaching that need to be kept separate. I’ll call these two elements “the older account” and “the newer account”.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Sacrament of the Eucharist
This week at the parish I work at in Arizona, my Pastor and I began a five-week study on the Catholic Mass for the parents in our Family Faith Formation Program. Because of the large number of children that attend Religious Education, we divide the sessions into four different groups made up of 2 groups per night for two weeks. This means that each group meets every other week.

Beholding our Mother
Have we ever pondered why Jesus choose to reveal Mary to us as our Mother only a few moments before He died on the Cross? We have no doubt that in these words, “Son, behold your Mother,” Jesus was offering His beloved Mother to us as His gift to us. The moment of death is a solemn moment when words are spoken with deep reflection and intent. For those of us who may argue that Jesus did not intend His words literally, remember that dying men do not make figurative statements! Jesus really gave us His Mother to be our own Mother also.

The Saint Who Didn’t Fit In
Sometimes I feel surly because the majority of saints don’t look like me.  They’re not married, or they don’t have large families, or they lived a long time ago in Europe or something, and generally didn’t have to deal with the spiraling decay of modern life while still striving for heaven.

How Strange: Longing For Heaven Is Almost Never Expressed Today
There is a long list of things that people never hear in sermons anymore: mortal sin, judgment, Hell, purgatory, fornication … you name it. But there is another omission that is rather odd given the tenor of these times: Heaven.

Choirs of Angels
Q: With all of the talk about angels, the multitude of pictures and books about them, and even the television shows with angels, why don’t we ever hear more about them? Some of these shows make angels seem like fantasy spirits. Too many people have a superficial view of angels. Do we still believe in them?.

God Reveals – We Respond?
As Christians we are called to listen and respond to God’s direction, because our lives revolve around God. We have no business asking God to bless our great ideas and projects.

Decades ago, I ranted and raved at the efficient, organized people who tried to carry out their own personal agendas within the Catholic Church. Yet, I lacked the words to connect with these proactive Catholics who dismissed me as some sort of  irrelevant, passive mystic.  It seemed that I was the proverbial contemplative Mary-type, trying to reason with practical Martha-types, all to no avail.

Could Jesus Have Sinned? Absolutely Not!
Sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and the teaching of the magisterium are unanimous that Jesus Christ was, and still is, sinless. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” This same teaching is echoed in the Catechism (CCC 467) and also appears in the following general audience given by Pope St. John Paul II:

Between the Skeptic and the Fundamentalist
Reading Scripture as a modern Catholic is a perpetual balance between extremes; among them, the extremes of farfetched skepticism and equally farfetched supernaturalism. For, unlike these extremes, the Faith takes both the unseen realities of the Spirit and the ordinary life of human beings seriously. It believes in both accountants and angels. But many people, seeing only one of these truths clearly, then proceed to use that pet truth as a cudgel against the truth they don’t see.

God is an Artist
Why do Catholics honor the saints? Because God is an artist, and the Church is his masterpiece. Catholics do not honor the saints because they forget to worship God. They honor the saints because these are the saints in whom God has brought glory to himself. If you want to make much of an artist, you don’t ignore or downplay his art. Rather, you marvel at it. You walk around it again and again, always learning something new. When you love an artist, you don’t put his masterpiece in the closet. You frame it. You put it on a pedestal. So it is that God is an artist, and the Church is his masterpiece, his city on a hill (Matt. 5:14).

Premarital Sex is a Mortal Sin – Of this we must be clear and insist on repentance as the only way to be saved
We live in times in which many call good or “no big deal” what God calls sinful. This is especially true in the area of sexuality, where whole sectors of our society not only tolerate but even celebrate sexual practices that the Scriptures call gravely sinful, and which will lead to Hell if not repented of. Acts of fornication (pre-marital sex) and homosexual acts cannot be considered acceptable by any Catholic or by any person who sincerely accepts the Scripture as the Word of God.

Why I Chose to be Chaste
I decided very early on in my life that I was going to wait until marriage to have sex. I can’t take all the credit for being some amazingly religious and reverent young man who was destined for greatness in following every verse and commandment I had ever known. Surely being in a private, Catholic school since the third grade had something to do with it; quite honestly maybe I was just scared to death. Scared of sinning, scared of hurting my religious mother and father, and scared of giving something up I couldn’t have back.

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Pastoral Sharings: "24th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage  Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
  Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
  September 14, 2014
  Exaltation of the Holy Cross
  One of the distinctive characteristics human beings have 
  is the ability to reason, to think 
  in a clear and logical fashion.

Many experiments have been undertaken in attempts to prove that some of the higher primates also have this same ability, if to a lesser extent, but the results of these enquiries are very questionable and are largely only the results of repetitive acts.

A chimpanzee can, of course, use a primitive tool to get some tasty ants out of a hole but whether this can seriously be described as the use of reason is very much open to question.

Human beings, however, certainly do have the ability to reason and are able to do so at quite high levels so I think that, whatever some experimental psychologists might want to believe, it remains one of our defining characteristics.

The only problem is that, as the parable we are presented with today ably demonstrates, our emotions often get in the way. We can think logically but don’t always act logically. And we also frequently fail to make use of the great gift of reason.

Even the dullest schoolboy can see that the servant in the parable who had his debts forgiven is being totally inconsistent. This man whose extremely large debt was absolved so magnanimously is unable to show forgiveness in a comparatively small matter and so we rightly regard him as hardhearted and cruel.

But a parable is not just a nice story it is also a mirror, a mirror we cannot avoid holding up to ourselves. And this parable set before us today is one which really makes us squirm because in it we clearly see our inadequacies.

We who receive so much forgiveness and understanding from God are so frequently unable to forgive others or even see things from their point of view. We who crave forgiveness from God frequently fail to even see the need to give it to our fellow human beings.

I think that one of the best ways to improve in this area is to regard oneself as a conduit. Do not think that God’s forgiveness and love is meant for you alone but rather that you are a special conduit of his forgiveness and love for others. Let the forgiveness you experience flow through you to others.

This is not just some mental trick it is exactly what happens. God is constantly pouring out his grace on mankind. And he is simply using us as a means to spread that love everywhere. Our principal job is not to get in the way, not to block this flow of grace and mercy.

Yes, we know God very well and we speak to him directly in prayer and over the years we have sensitised ourselves to the many different ways he speaks to us, we especially appreciate how he acts in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

But most people in our society are not as aware of God as we are, most people are unable to recognise what God is doing and saying.

They might crave God’s forgiveness, for example, but be quite unaware that this is what they really want or need in life. They might just be walking around with a heavy load of guilt and not even be able to give it a name, let alone knowing that it is God to whom they must turn to be relieved of this great burden.

This is where we come in. By recognising our role as conduits of God’s love we allow him to act through us to bring his love and goodness to those who for whatever reason are unable to recognise him.

This is especially the case with forgiveness. It is not customary in our society to forgive easily. Reconciliation between individuals or groups in conflict is certainly understood as necessary but this usually comes a long time after a clash has occurred and then only after protracted negotiations.

In our world holding a grudge is considered quite normal and not speaking to someone who has offended you is commonplace. It is often thought to be unnecessary to forgive and neighbours who ought to be helping one another can be at loggerheads for years at a time.

Partly the reluctance to forgive is because of the fear of losing face but mostly, I think, because of the effort it takes. Forgiveness requires doing something; you have to go to the other or find a suitable opportunity to speak words of peace. Forgiveness is always active, it is always a reaching out, it is always involves taking the initiative.

In our Gospel reading Peter is told that he must not forgive his brother merely seven times but seventy-seven times. This mystical number actually means an unlimited number of times and rightly so for there is no limit to God’s love and mercy.

If we are real and effective conduits of his salvation then there can be no limits to the amount of times we forgive our brother or anyone else for that matter. There can be no limits to the extent of the love and kindness God conveys to the world through the agency of his servants; and by that I mean us!

None of this is easy. Very little comes naturally. And certainly we all fall far short of the ideal. But embracing this idea that the role of a disciple of Christ is to be a conduit of his love can certainly help. It can help us to be a bit more forgiving and gentle with ourselves and most of all enable us to be real agents of forgiveness and reconciliation within our community.

I remember very clearly a fellow seminarian, Bernard, talking about how he decided to take up his vocation. He said that it all started with an argument in a pub! He fell out with someone and they had a bitter argument and he went home still seething with anger.

Naturally enough it was difficult for him to sleep and after some hours tossing and turning he decided that it might help if he said a few prayers. So in traditional style he knelt by his bed and started to say the Our Father but found that he simply couldn’t get past those first two words.

He couldn’t get past them because he realised that God was just as much the father of the fellow he’d just had such a bad argument with. He resolved there and then to make it up with him first thing the next day and he did so. The only problem was that this changed his whole way of thinking and indeed caused him to consider the orientation of his life much more carefully and what God might want from him, hence his decision to try his vocation.

Bernard only lasted one year in the seminary having discovered that his true vocation in life lay elsewhere. But I often think about him and the life-changing event of that argument in a pub. And, of course, the importance of those two wonderful words ‘Our Father.’

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September14, 2014

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Year A
September 14, 2014
Today’s feast prompts us to marvel over how an instrument of shame, brutality, and defeat became the most glorious symbol in the cosmos.

Gospel (Read Jn 3:13-17)

Today, the Church calls us to celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This means more than meditating on the meaning of the Cross for sinners like us, as fruitful as that would be. No, the idea today is to ponder the exaltation of the Cross, and there is a world of goodness for us as we answer this call.

The Triumph of the Cross: God Loves Us
For five years I lived in one of the most beautiful places in our country, believe it or not, in New Jersey.  I attended Don Bosco Seminary in Sussex County, the Northwest corner of New Jersey.  This is an area of green rolling hills and the most colorful autumns you could ever imagine.  It is hard to explain the hills of New Jersey to folks who have lived in the flat area of Florida all there lives.  The hills just seem to pop up everywhere.  Naturally the main roads are in the valleys between the hills.

God Desires Your Love
Some time ago, while on a train from Washington to New York, I became engaged in conversation with a young man. He was a graduate of a Catholic college, proud of the fact, and quite determined that the Faith was to be his guiding star through life.

A friend had recently given him a copy of the autobi­ography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. What surprised him most, he said, was the ease with which this young nun talked of her intimate friendship with God.

What is Ecclesiology and Why is It So Important Today?
Many troubles today within the Church, and also among Christians in general, come down to a problem of mistaken or false ecclesiology. “Ecclesiology” refers to the nature of the Church. What is the Church? What is the fundamental mission of the Church? How essential is the Church in the life of every believer? What authority does the Church have in our life? Who has the authority in the Church to speak for Jesus Christ and teach in His name? What is the Church’s relationship to Holy Scripture and the sacred deposit of faith?  Is there but one Church, or many? And so forth. These are questions dealt with in the branch of sacred theology known as ecclesiology.

THOU SHALL NOT INDULGE: 5 Myths & Misunderstandings of Indulgences and Purgatory
MYTH #1 – The Catholic Church no longer has indulgences.

This is just not true. Indulgences are a good thing and are still part of the Church’s teaching.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s answer to the question, “What is an indulgence?”:

Rely on Christ When He Seems Distant
Through the intuitions of love, more than through the liveliness of the imagination, we have often constructed interiorly an arresting scene: the ominous sky, the wild winds, a little boat tossed by the seething waves of Lake Tiberias, with Jesus asleep in the stern. What a con­trast between the fury of the tempest and the sweet, majestic peace of the divine slumber! The omnipotent, the Most High, He who is infinite activity because He is infinite perfection and unfailing felicity, surrendered to that sure sign of limitation and misery: sleep.

Why is this Lord’s Day no different from any other day?
In our neighborhood, on almost any day of the week, you might walk into a supermarket and notice a conservatively dressed woman with a hat and skirt and a rather large number of children in tow, and you might make a shrewd guess that she was a conservative or orthodox Jew, and there’s a good chance that you would be right.

Religion and Spirituality
Sometimes, Catholics get stuck…

Some get stuck on their “Sunday obligation” — which is the minimum commitment and they think that’s all that’s required.

Others get stuck on religious rules and regulations and think if they just mind their manners they’ll be just fine with the Lord.

Lead Us Not into Temptation
Q: In the Our Father, we pray, “And lead us not into temptation.” This sounds a little odd, because why would God lead us into temptation?

Upon first hearing, this petition of the Our Father does sound like we are asking God not to lead us into temptation. (The Our Father is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.) In this sense, the petition sounds like God would purposely place us in temptation and set us up for a fall to sin. The literal translation of the Greek text is indeed, as we recite, “and lead us not into temptation.”

Purgatory — Perfected by the Love of God
Last Friday morning, while leading a bible study for about 40 retirees, the question of purgatory, the punishments due to sin, and salvation came up. They already possessed and good understanding of this important doctrine. But, the discussion reminded me that Purgatory remains one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Church, and maybe one that is least reflected on. To understand and embrace this teaching does not require deep, exhausting theological study. A short and simple explanation of its meaning should wash away the distortions and misunderstandings that cause so many people to doubt or neglect it.

As For Me and My House
The growing darkness and moral evil in the world today has at least one good effect on us: we are forced to choose. Where are we to go, for shelter from the storm? Where are we to stand, when we are called to declare who we are, and what we believe, and what we live for, and where we draw the line and say to this world, “No! – no further will I go with you – here our paths diverge, and here I make my stand.”

Are Sacraments Narrow!
My friend Ludwig was puzzled. “I don’t understand,” he said, “what is meant by those who say grace is imparted through sacraments. It seems to me to involve an intolerably narrow view of grace. As a Protestant, I’ve always understood grace to mean unmerited favor, plain and simple. Why are sacraments needed to bestow this? Doesn’t this narrow the scope of grace to those who are lucky enough to get baptized or eucharized? I thought God’s love was universal.”

Is Sacramental Grace Magic?
My friend Ludwig was troubled again. We had talked before about the Catholic understanding of grace, but he still found the notion of sacraments uncomfortable to his Evangelical bones. Ludwig said to me, “It seems to me that the Catholic image of grace is vaguely magical, as though grace is some sort of substance God “pours out” through baptismal water, Eucharist and the like. But I thought the biblical reality is that grace was God’s attitude of unmerited, forgiving favor toward us, not some magical something or other that must be bestowed like a charm or “good medicine.” Why does grace require matter to get the job done in the Catholic scheme of things?”

How to Use the Lord’s Prayer as a Spiritual Weapon
I once attended a seminar on the deliverance ministry conducted by the author and psychiatrist Kenneth McCall.

During the questions and answers three rather excitable women told Dr McCall that there was a witches coven meeting in their town and they wondered how to get rid of it.

Being True Friends of Jesus Christ
A childhood friend of mine once visited me while I was a seminarian in Boston. Sadly, he had lost the faith that we so joyfully shared and practiced as teenagers growing up in Nigeria. During his brief visit, he blasphemed our Lord Jesus Christ, insulted the Blessed Virgin Mary, and mocked Catholic faith and morals right in my face. I was both angry and disappointed with him and did not get in touch with him for several weeks after that visit. I thought to myself, “He is not a friend of Jesus. He hates Jesus’ beloved mother and all that the Body of Christ believes and stands for. How can he still be my friend?”

Presence of God – Teach me, O Lord, to love justice and to hate all that is opposed to it.


When with clever astuteness, the Pharisees asked Jesus if it were lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, He replied: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s” (Mt 22,21). By this simple reply, Jesus gave us clearly and precisely a description of the virtue of justice: to give to everyone what is his due.

Jesus’ Ancestors: Murderers, Cheats, Prostitutes, Refugees, Adulterers…
Today (Sept. 8) is the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and at mass this morning I inflicted upon the faithful the long genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel.  It’s here if you want to read it.

I did so for a good reason.

Distorted Desires: The Seven Deadly Sins
The seventeenth century poet Thomas Traherne is known for his joyful and positive spirit. He affirms that human souls are driven by desire, and that we desire what is good. The problem is, that desire is either distorted or directed wrongly by sin.

Spiritual Adulthood
There are those times in our lives when God seems distant, even absent from us. These are usually times when our faith seems weak and we struggle to believe God really cares for us, or perhaps we begin to question whether God even exists. In Western Christian tradition these moments are often referred to as the dark night of the soul. God seems as though He’s far removed from us and we struggle with our faith.

Sacramental Marriage: Light in the Darkness
In a culture that abases sacramental marriage; a culture that is more sexualized, secular and sinful, perhaps marriage is harder. Nonetheless, marriage is a light in the darkness, a covenant gift of God wherein family is formed in life-giving, sacrificial love.

Sacramental marriages are born of God’s light and contribute inestimable good in the world. Marriage threatens the kingdom of darkness because it mirrors Trinitarian life and builds up the kingdom of God. Satan seeks to build his kingdom of eternal death by leading others into his fall from God.

Everyone Has Time to Read the Gospels
Assuming that the average person’s reading speed is around 250 words per minute, and given the number of words in each book, about how long does it take to read the Gospels?
Matthew:  1 hour, 14 minutes
Mark:  46 minutes
Luke:  1 hour, 18 minutes
John:  1 hour, 3 minutes

The Four Gospels:  4 hours, 21 minutes

How Do We Know It’s the True Church?
Twelve Things to Look For
My conversion to the Catholic faith began in the world of Protestant fundamentalism. After being brought up in an independent Bible church, I attended the fundamentalist Bob Jones University. While there I became an Anglican; later, I went to England to become an Anglican priest.

Thinking Liturgically: The Scriptures
Whatever Mass we attend here in the Roman Rite is broken up into two parts:  The Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. 

There are endless debates in reform communities over which is more “important”, and that debate bores me.  It really isn’t Catholic to say one part of Mass is more important than the other.  While that exists within rigid theology manuals, the Mass makes the entire life of Christ present, from his preaching to his death on the Cross, to even his Resurrection.  While it is true only the Eucharist provides sacramental grace, we cannot overlook the way we encounter Christ in the liturgical readings, and how those readings play a vital role in forming us to properly receive the Eucharist.

Pro Tennis Player Accompanied by Our Lady of Guadalupe on World Travels
         Colombia native Santiago Giraldo Salazar is devoted to the Mother of God.
When Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are brought up in conversation, images of laser-beam winners hit by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal come to mind. One of the last topics to be associated with professional tennis is Our Lady of Guadalupe. Yet she has appeared at the grass courts of London and the hard courts of New York.

Well, sort of.

What’s a Christian to Do as the World Sinks into Chaos?
Disturbing violence fills the international headlines: ISIL is beheading journalists, crucifying Christians and exterminating Yazidis. Mexican drug cartels run rampant, leaving headless corpses in their wake—and they are increasingly setting up shop on our side of the border. Gang rape is big problem in India, Australia and Great Britain as police battle sex slave rings.

Giving Thanks for Our Meals Publicly, Don’t Shy Away
Out for dinner with the family, the waitress set the food on the table. I turned to my son, Jaime, and said, “Why don’t you lead us in the prayer, and give thanks for this meal.” We made the sign of the cross and said grace.

Praying before meals is something my wife and I have done since our kids were little, and it does not matter if we are at home or in public.

Holy Cuteness! Rare Photos of 12 Saints as Children
The older a person gets, the more they can usually appreciate the incredible potential that exists within every young child.

What will they learn? What will they discover? Will they have a family of their own? What will be their greatest highs? What will be their darkest lows?

Sweaty tourists could be damaging the Sistine Chapel
VATICAN CITY — The “Francis effect” has spilled over into the Sistine Chapel, bringing a surge in visitors but also increasing risks to maintenance of what Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, calls “the world’s chapel.”

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