Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion


Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Posted for March 20, 2016
Palm Sunday

We begin Holy Week by remembering Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I say triumphal but actually it wasn’t very triumphal at all. It was much more like a raggedy procession of hobbledehoys greeted by the poor and downtrodden.

But for all its hopelessness it was indeed a procession and it certainly marked the formal entry into Jerusalem of Christ, the long awaited Messiah.

The key concept we need to employ here is the one of paradox. If you want to understand anything about Jesus then you have to understand paradox. Everything is the opposite to what it seems and everything that he does appears to the outside world to be a contradiction.

If Christ is the Messiah, the long heralded King of Israel, the King of all Kings, then his entry into Jerusalem should have been accompanied by all the signs and trappings of earthly kingship. There should have been a splendid welcome laid on by the priests and the whole populace should have been out to meet him with the great and the good at the very front.

But what we actually what we have is a few raggle-taggle poor people waving palms and singing Hosanna. So inconsistent and unreliable a bunch were they that we have no trouble assuming that some of them might even have turned up in the crowd who shouted “Crucify him, crucify him” later that same week.

But this is all of a piece with everything we know about Jesus. He shuns the limelight, he avoids publicity, he is one who is completely uninterested in outward appearances and is only concerned with things of the heart. He is indeed the ultimate paradox.

Here is a King who wants to rule by means of love alone; a King who wants not to dominate but to serve; a King whose greatest interest is in humility and lowliness rather than honour and power. Here is a King who gives his life for his people.

We begin today a very serious week of prayer and increased devotion as we shift our focus more closely on to the suffering and death of Christ. It is a week during which we accompany Christ in his last hours and draw close to him in his suffering and death. It is a week during which we face up to our own sinfulness and express deep sorrow for our transgressions. It is a week of increased faith and trust in God.

I urge each and every one of you to take this week seriously. Yes we all have to go to work and do whatever it is we do during every other week of the year but it is vital that we make this week different. It is essential that we make this a more spiritual week, a week of renewed prayer, a week of deep devotion.

The Church observes this Holy Week in its liturgy but also at certain times by its lack of liturgy. We celebrate mass on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as usual but we do so thinking most especially about those days in Jerusalem and what they have come to mean.

However, on Maundy Thursday we celebrate no mass except the solemn liturgy of the Lord’s Supper in the evening after which the altar is stripped and the Blessed Sacrament removed to the Altar of Repose.

Then on Good Friday again no mass is celebrated but instead we have the very moving Liturgy of the Passion at three o’clock during which we commemorate Christ’s death on the Cross in a most solemn way.

Again on Holy Saturday there is one single liturgy of the Easter Vigil when we light the Easter Fire and celebrate as well as we can the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is important to attend these ceremonies, it is essential to mark these important events which are so vital for the life of the world.

Everyone else in the world takes advantage of a couple of days off work to give themselves some leisure time and we should do the same. But we must not neglect the liturgy; we must not neglect our Christian duty to commemorate in a liturgical way these crucial incidents in the life of Christ.

Today we begin by singing Hosanna and waving our Palms. We remember the scruffy procession that entered Jerusalem, that brought the King of Creation into the Holy City on the back of a humble donkey. We rejoice and we acknowledge that we are citizens of heaven, true members of his Kingdom of Love.

And we ready ourselves to commemorate later in this week of weeks in a most solemn way the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Christ’s glorious Resurrection.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: A Call to Faith

Where had they gone, all those people who greeted the Lord with such exuberance during his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem? Where had they gone, now that He has left the city in a completely different type of triumph, the Triumph of the Cross? There were only a handful of people at the foot of the cross. The people who were there were the people who loved Him more than their own lives. The people who were there were people of faith, faith that God the Father would prevail even as Goodness was crucified. How horrible the other disciples of the Lord must have felt when they realized that they did not have enough faith to stand beneath the cross with Mary, John and those few others.

Palm Sunday, Year C—March 20, 2016

“Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel.  Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21:9)
Gospel (Read Lk 22:14-23:56)
On Palm Sunday, Catholics all over the globe, in every nation and time zone, in public and sometimes in secret, stand at attention to hear the longest Gospel narrative of the entire liturgical year.  This riveting episode needs no interpretation.  Young and old, male and female, educated and uneducated, sophisticated and simple—all of us are caught up in the story and understand it.  Why is it so universally accessible?  The answer must be because it is a truly human drama, with the kinds of characters, action, plots and subplots, emotions, twists and turns that all of us know.  Who among us has not experienced something of betrayal, fear, humiliation, misrepresentation, powerlessness, malice from others, remorse, and dark foreboding?  This Passion story is not one told in philosophical, theological, or metaphorical language.  No, this story is our story, full of the truths of life that no one ever has to teach us.


Mother Teresa and Four Others to Be Canonized This Year

VATICAN CITY — After months of anticipation, the date of Mother Teresa’s canonization has finally been announced. It falls on Sept. 4, which this year will also mark a special jubilee for workers and volunteers of mercy.
Though it’s been rumored for months that Mother Teresa’s canonization will take place Sept. 4, the Vatican made the date official during a March 15 consistory of cardinals.


The Only Mistake You Can Make

When we get this close to Holy Week, many Catholics are looking back over their efforts since Ash Wednesday and grading them “E” for “echhh.”
Maybe your Lent hasn’t been very meaningful because you’ve just been slacking off, because Lent is hard. Maybe you just don’t feel like reining in even your little bad habits. Or maybe you could probably manage to change some physical habit, but the idea of facing God sincerely is just a little too much, and you’d just . . . rather not. You’re not proud of it, but your plan is to keep your head down so as not to attract attention, and soon it will be Easter and you can eat candy and feel guilty, and then you’ll be safely back in ordinary time before you know it.
Not cool, Catholics. Not cool.


Witnessed by Millions: The Confounding Apparition of Our Lady of Zeitoun

Israel had just prevailed in the Six-Day War the previous year. Egypt lost the Sinai Peninsula to Israel. On both sides, passions were high and people were scared. The whole Middle East was in turmoil.
And it was in the midst of this chaos that Our Lady appeared.
It was the evening of April 2, 1968. A Muslim bus mechanic named Farouk Mohammed Atwa was working across the street from St. Mary Coptic Church in Zeitoun, a district of Cairo, Egypt. The church is revered as one of the locations Christians believe the Holy Family stayed during their flight to Egypt.


The Cry and the Great Silence

It’s where God intervenes to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac. It is from a burning bush on a mountain that God reveals himself to Moses as the great ‘I am’ and promises deliverance of the Israelites. And it is again at a mountaintop that Moses glimpses God and receives the Ten Commandments. Elijah sacrifices on a mountain and hears the sound of God in the heights. And it is from a similar vantage point that Ezekiel has one of his prophetic visions.

Where is Truth?

In a recent column, I discussed the definition of truth as “what is.” Truth is the equation of thought and thing. It is the conformity of a person’s mind and reality.
But where is truth to be found?
Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft sums up the greatest Catholic thinker, Thomas Aquinas, on this question. According to Kreeft, Thomas says truth is found in three places.


Friendship from Above

There are three institutions in American life that most effectively bring people together to forge strong and lifelong friendships, bridging differences of race, ethnicity, education, and wealth. All three are despised by the secular liberals.
What are they not? They are not institutions that isolate people by affirming identities according to vague or arbitrary categories. Colleges across the country have “centers” so defined, and we may end up with something similar at Providence College, if several pawn-pushing professors have their way. This is a mistake, as well intended as it might be, if the aim is friendship rather than political power.


Are We, As Church, A Receptive Bride?

“I have a desire for something more in my life” I often hear. It is an echo of the deepest ache within, that insatiable hunger for Love Divine. But few realize where the banquet table lies that will satisfy. Few realize our calling as the Church to be a bride, the “Bride of Christ.” Very few know what this really means, and thus the ache, the hunger remains, because we haven’t found the key to let the torrent of God’s spousal love into our hearts.
I did not know what it meant as Church to be the “Bride of Christ,” and I acted like a bystander instead of a bride: I prayed in a detached way; I went up to receive Holy Communion with head knowledge about what was taking place, but not of heart. The hunger and longing remained. I sought fulfillment in finite things: popularity, human approval and praise, success in one thing or another, adventure, fun and so on. But the fulfillment was fleeting, very superficial and shallow. It didn’t even begin to touch upon the ache deep within.


What’s the Story with Relics? Part 1

Within a few days of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp in the mid-second century, the members of his community sent a report to other Churches with a full eyewitness account. In the course of it, they not only described what they saw, but also revealed quite a bit to future generations about the common assumptions they shared with other Christians of the time, and the common misunderstandings their non-Christian neighbors, both Jew and Pagan, had about them.

Oldest Living Man, Auschwitz Survivor Has Some Words of Wisdom for You

Hey, when the world’s oldest man, who is a survivor of Auschwitz, has something to say, it’s time to look up from your Kindle, put down the phone, shake off your earbuds and listen for a moment.
Born in Poland, near the town of Zarnow on 15 September, 1903 to parents Moszek-Dawid and Brucha Krystztal, Mr Kristal has lived through both World Wars and survived Nazi war camp Auschwitz in the 1940s before relocating to Israel.
Kristal claims the title at the age of 112 years and 178 days as of 11 March 2016, and was awarded his certificate at his home in Haifa, by Guinness World Records’ Head of Records Marco Frigatti.


Light of the Spirit and True Knowledge of God

Lent is a time of intensified prayer.  See what Saint John Chrysostom has to say about this discourse with God.
“Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good: it is a partnership and union with God. As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see light, so our spirit, when it is intent on God, is illumined by his infinite light. I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart, not confined to fixed times or periods but continuous throughout the day and night.


How the Commandant of Auschwitz Found God’s Mercy

Those who survived Auschwitz called the man in charge an “animal.” Rudolf Höss presided over the extermination of some 2.5 million prisoners in the three years he was commandant of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Another half a million died there from disease and starvation. A year after his tenure came to an end, he returned to oversee the execution of 400,000 Hungarian Jews.
And yet even an “animal” such as he was not beyond the reach of God’s mercy.


Mercy Is Supernatural, But It Is Not Glamorous

In a very short time two of the beautiful couples at our church who celebrated their marriage anniversaries this past year became a widow and the other a widower. Last night our children’s great-grandfather passed away and left his wife of many years a widow. It is easy to understand why Christ mentions widows so much in the Gospels.  In fact, Christ has always revealed a very tender side of his Sacred and Merciful Heart in his commitment to those who find themselves alone and vulnerable.  How important this message is for our families today in a world that often overlooks the true needs of those who are lonely, terminally-ill, or disabled!


This Just In: When You Suffer by Jeff Cavins

When You Suffer: Biblical Keys for Hope and Understanding by Jeff Cavins
When You Suffer is a refreshing look at the mystery of pain and suffering and how to find meaning and even joy in the midst of it. Jeff Cavins discusses why we suffer and how our suffering can draw us closer to God. He explains that suffering is the greatest opportunity to love as Christ loves and how, by “offering up” our suffering, we join in Christ’s mission to redeem the world.
Lent does seem like the perfect time to read this book, especially as we draw closer to Holy Week. Reading a book about suffering, though, isn’t normally my cup of tea. But all it took was the first chapter for me to change my mind.


Can Society Determine Right and Wrong?

A person with whom I was corresponding recently asserted that skeptics are free to hold that objective morality is derived from the society in which we live. In this view, he claimed, moral principles exist beyond the individual and thus are objective.
This correspondent is in good company with Richard Dawkins. To the question “How do we decide what is right and what is wrong?”, Professor Dawkins answers, “There is a consensus about what we do as a matter of fact consider right and wrong: a consensus that prevails surprisingly widely” (The God Delusion, 298).


What Every Catholic Should Know About Soon-to-be-Saint Élisabeth of the Trinity

Last Friday, March 4, Pope Francis issued a decree approving the healing of Miss Marie-Paul Stevens as a miracle.  Both local officials and Pope Francis recognized that a religion teacher afflicted with Sjögren’s Syndrome while on a pilgrimage to Blessed Élisabeth’s convent in Flavignerot, just outside of Dijon, was healed in 2002. Over the summer of 2011, the Archdiocese of Dijon opened the process for the canonization of Blessed Élisabeth of the Trinity, the Carmelite Mystic of Dijon, France (1880-1906). A formal announcement of her canonization date is expected in the next few weeks.

“Risen” and the Reality of the Resurrection

When I saw the coming attractions for the new film Risen—which deals with a Roman tribune searching for the body of Jesus after reports of the resurrection—I thought that it would leave the audience in suspense, intrigued but unsure whether these reports were justified or not. I was surprised and delighted to discover that the movie is, in fact, robustly Christian and substantially faithful to the Biblical account of what transpired after the death of Jesus.


3 Protestants Who Helped Me Become Catholic

There’s no single path into the Church, that’s clear. We all come with our individual appetites and baggage, hang-ups and history, and yet somehow the Holy Spirit manages to jumble all of it into our individualized itineraries leading home.
That includes elements you’d think would work counter to Catholic conversion – like the atheism of Richard Smythe in Graham Greene’s novel, The End of the Affair. Smythe is a foil for the spiritual longings of Sarah Miles, who is desperate not to believe in God. Amid wartime romantic triangulations, Sarah struggles against belief, and Smythe does his best to bolster her inclinations. In the end, however, the atheist’s arguments are simply inadequate, and Sarah abandons herself to the ravenous charms of Holy Mother Church.


Missing Mass for No Reason

Q: I was visiting relatives over Easter, and sadly they do not attend Mass. I went to Mass, and reminded them that missing Mass was a mortal sin. They said, “Oh, that was in the old days. Missing Mass is no longer a mortal sin.” What do you say? Please give me some ammunition.


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Pastoral Sharings: Solemnity of the Epiphany

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Cusick
Solemnity of the Epiphany
Posted for January 3, 2016

Isaiah 60, 1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3, 2-3.5-6; Matthew 2, 1-12

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

MERRY CHRISTMASTIDE. By longstanding sacred tradition Christians celebrate Christmas as a season, with the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany as one long “Christmas day.” The season ends with the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas celebrations with friends and family, decorations, and all of the other means of rejoicing, should continue throughout the season. We can never rejoice in the Lord’s birth too much. As Christians, we will very often find ourselves living in contradiction to the styles and preferences of the present age. We should get very much used to the fact that we will face conflict among friends, and even at times within families, as we seek, more generously and more regularly, to live out and celebrate the mysteries of our redemption in Christ Jesus.

Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary’s womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: ‘The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.’ (1 Cor 15:45, 47) From his conception, Christ’s humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God ‘gives him the Spirit without measure.’ (Jn 3:34) From ‘his fullness’ as the head of redeemed humanity ‘we have all received, grace upon grace.’ (Jn 1:16) (CCC 504)  

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”(Is 60:1) Isaiah the prophet describes the glory of Jesus Christ, who is “full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father”(Jn 1:14), our Messiah. The prophet also foretells the reality of those first three wise men, who represent the kings and the peoples of the whole earth, all of whom are called to realize their full dignity as sons and daughters of God in worship and praise of him for his glory and goodness. “Above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears. The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness.” (Is 60:2-3)

The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is ‘Christ,’ that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples. Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest ‘how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.’ (Acts 10:38) (CCC 486)  

You and I, and all of mankind must, like the shepherds, the magi, St. John and the disciples, come before the Lord in his humble birth at Christmas, and worship him with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength.

You and I will be seen as acceptable and pleasing to God to the extent that, in Christ, we grow in our praise and worship of him, generously, with our whole being. How do we praise and worship God? Christ is our model and our means. Christ has set down through example and precept the ways in which we live the Christian life.

The ancient “way” of Christian life is repentance and belief in the Gospel, practically and profoundly realized in the sacramental life. The sacraments are the “Epiphany” or manifestation of the Lord for every human being. In the sacraments the whole “glory” of Christ “shines out” so that all nations may fall down in praise before the Lord. Christians, from the first foundation of the Church, have met and known Christ through the words of forgiveness in Confession: “Go, your sins are forgiven you.” And from the beginning, as we do today, Christians have met Christ in the gift of His body and blood in the Eucharist, and have fallen down in worship of Him, our God. “This is my body…this is my blood.” This is the greatest of all the sacraments, the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Let us be ever more generous in our expressions of reverential worship of the Lord. Do we approach Christ at communion with all the reverence, love and worship due to God? Do we observe appropriate silence in Church so that a spirit of prayer may be fostered? Are we distracted, or a source of distraction for others, during Mass? Do we observe the proper postures and practices of the liturgy? Do we chew gum in Church? Do we observe the hour-long fast prior to receiving Communion?

We prepare for the joy of heaven, where will live as the praise of God’s glory forever and ever, by the way we approach the Lord as he manifests himself in the “Epiphany” which is every Mass.

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we “meet Christ in the liturgy”, Father Cusick

Solemnity of the Epiphany: The Gifts We Bring

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.  It is not the conclusion of the Christmas Season, that comes next Sunday, but it is one of the most beautiful of the celebrations of the Christmas Season. The word Epiphany means a manifestation of the Lord.  The Church sees three initial manifestations of his presence to the world: the visit of the magi, the Baptism of the Lord, and the Wedding Feast of Cana. Our Greek Orthodox neighbors consider all three manifestations in their one celebration of January 6th.  In the Roman Catholic Church we divide these over the next week or so.   

Of all the celebrations of the Christmas season, the Epiphany with its visit of the three wise men has captured the imagination of many creative writers and deep thinkers. I enjoy telling Henry Van Dyke’s story of The Fourth Wise Man, O Henry’s story of The Gift of the Magi, and G. K. Chesterton’s story of the modern wise men.  I had it in my mind for the last week or so that I wanted to focus on the gifts the wise men brought.  This led me to finding an Epiphany story I had not heard before.  I decided to rewrite it and share it with you today.



Matthew 2:1-12
Gospel Summary

The Epiphany gospel is a continuation of the Christmas story in Matthew’s prologue to his gospel (chapters 1-2). The prologue is a theological masterpiece in narrative form through which Matthew anticipates the major historical events he will present in his gospel to explain the significance of Jesus for us.

The names of Jesus are revealed: Messiah, King, Son of David, Son of Abraham, Emmanuel (God with us). As Son of Abraham, Jesus fulfills the divine promise that in Abraham’s seed “all the nations of the earth will find blessing” (Gn 22:18). The miracle of the virginal conception heralds the beginning of the climactic end-time of sacred history. The gentile nations as foretold by the prophet Isaiah come to the New Zion with their treasures to praise the Lord. Jesus will be rejected by many, will suffer persecution and death, but will ultimately triumph through the Father’s providential care in the resurrection.


The Epiphany of the Lord, Year C—Sunday, January 3, 2016

In today’s Gospel, magi “from the east” ask, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?”  Just by asking this question, they herald the New Light that has dawned on all men.

Gospel (Read Mt 2:1-12)

Today, St. Matthew tells us that after Jesus’ birth, an event loaded with significance for the whole world took place.  “Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,” looking for a king who had been recently born, the “king of the Jews.”  Who were these men, and why did they ask this question?


The Little Way and Christmas

Instead of choosing the learned, perfect and proud figures of our time to bring about the greatest good; God chooses the small, imperfect and weak souls. It is in the weakness of these souls that God is able to work the most beautiful of miracles. This is the reason why He chose people like Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and (Saint) Teresa of Calcutta to be His instruments of love in the world and why God came into the world as a baby.


Words Fail – Another Meditation on Silence Before the Mysteries of this Christmas Week

Though I wrote last week of holy silence, something urges me (a man of many words) to write of it again. During Mass today, the words of Zechariah came to my mind:

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord … Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling (Zechariah 2:11, 13).

There is a common idiom: “Words fail me.” It is in this context that we can best understand God’s call to fall silent before the mystery of the Lord’s incarnation. Notice in the passage above that the call to silence follows the call to “sing and rejoice.”


The Arms of Christ Outstretched this Christmas

Mary sees in the face of her child the tears of God and the joy of humanity. Hungrily having clung with unquenchable thirst to her breast in our cold darkness, in every challenge she sees Him ready to teach us how to cling to Him in faith. He at once envelops us in the abyss of his love when we see how He allowed her to wrap Him in swaddling clothes. At home with the poor and all those for whom there is no room in society, she ponders how He leads us to our true home in the bosom of the Trinity.  She has always welcomed these unfamiliar gifts with awe, adoration, and selfless acts of mercy. Her example lights the way for us to discover how to rejoice in these troubled times.


The Mercy of God is a Mystery

The Mercy of God is a mystery. Even for someone like me who has had it poured into my life for the last five years. I keep trying to figure out how exactly to explain it, but the truth is that I can’t. I lived a life that was so enslaved to sin and yet, here I sit as a Catholic who has a personal and loving relationship with God, the Creator of the Universe. How does anyone even begin to explain that? How can anyone explain the Mercy of God? How we walk into a confessional and admit our faults with contrition and resolve to sin no more with the HELP of God Himself. It is crazy and illogical because God loves us irrationally.


Mercy and Spiritual Fatherhood

“Merciful like the Father” is the motto of the Year of Mercy.  What a great reminder for our fatherless culture!  What a great challenge and reminder for men on how to live as spiritual fathers.

Fatherlessness is a worldwide pandemic (43% in the US), devastating the culture, family, children, and men in particular, making it harder to experience God as love or to even hear about God.  With the sustained Marxist and feminist attacks on the family, marriage, and gender, it does not look as if things will improve anytime soon.  But the world’s greatest need right now is to experience the Father’s mercy to undo the effects of fatherlessness.


Peter, do you love me?

Sometime around, oh, 3300 years ago, Moses leaned out from Mt. Nebo in Jordan – as I just did a few days ago – and looked over into the Promised Land. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI made a point of going there as well. Because from that commanding height, the panorama of subsequent religious history, a history we still remember as no other, is spread out: from the Dead Sea in the South to the Sea of Galilee in the North, with Jericho in the center (a city in Moses’ day already 8000 years old), and just beyond, Jerusalem.

Poor Moses. He faced down Pharaoh, kept the stiff-necked Israelites together (more or less) for forty years in the desert, and even came down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. But was forbidden to go any farther. He died and was buried, somewhere unknown, on Mt. Nebo.


Is Heaven a Place or State of Being or Both?

Dear Father John, I read recently that the late Cardinal George, God rest his soul, said that heaven is not a place. I’ve also heard this mentioned elsewhere. I have a good understanding of what Jesus said about the kingdom of heaven being within you, among you, etc. But, it seems to me that saying heaven is not a place denies the bodily Ascension of Christ into heaven (and the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Mother for that matter). We say in the Creed “He ascended into Heaven.” So, what is heaven? Is it a state of being, a place, or both? I think it is both, by the way, but I would like to hear the “official” Church position. Thank you and God bless you!


The Meaning of the Lord’s Origins

If someone in Capharnaum or Jerusalem at the time had asked the Lord: Who are you? Who are your parents? To what house do you belong? – He might have answered in the words of St. John’s gospel: “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am.” (8:58) Or he might have pointed out that he was “of the house and family of David.” (Luke 2:4)


Our Heavenly Father Loves to Give Gifts to His Children

The timing was right. Last year he was too young but this year it was just right. He had tried out this particular bike at the store but never asked to take it home. He said he knew Santa would get it if it was for him. That was that and we left the store.

Later that day the bike was purchased. It was so easy to dig deep and squeeze that bike into the Christmas budget. On Christmas Eve the shiny red bike stood next to the Christmas tree adorned with a big bow and a note from Santa about having Daddy get him just the right helmet. The pure joy in giving the gift of that first big kid bike to a child… Not many things in life touch this feeling of excitement in a parent’s heart. The heart that anticipates how much the gift will be enjoyed by that particular child as he goes round and round the driveway with a sunny smile on his face.


Mary’s Simple and Amazing Guide to Discipleship

God approached a young woman, and she said, “Yes.”

Next, what she didn’t say was even more noteworthy. She didn’t say, “I will do this.”

Instead, she said, “Let it be done unto me.”

And then she thanked God for allowing her to be the one with whom He would give flesh to the most remarkable intrusion of divinity into human time:  Jesus Christ.


The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary

This is the third installment in our series on the Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary.  Today we look at the Sorrowful Mysteries, those Mysteries which help us to meditate upon the suffering that Jesus underwent for our salvation.


St. John the Apostle

ST. JOHN, the youngest of the apostles in age, was called to follow Christ on the banks of the Jordan during the first days of Our Lord’s ministry. He was one of the privileged few present at the Transfiguration and the Agony in the garden. At the Last Supper his head rested on the bosom of Jesus, and in the hours of the Passion, when others fled or denied their Master, St. John kept his place by the side of Jesus, and at the last stood by the cross with Mary.


How Can I Grow in Virtue? (Part II of II)

Dear Father John, I am trying to be a better person but I need a little help.  I know virtues are important, but I don’t know how to get better at them.  How can I become more virtuous?

How Much Should I Pray?

In our post-modern, secularized culture, growth in prayer requires commitment and discipline—remember, we are to love God with all our mind andstrength, not only when we happen to feel like it. The basic staples that Christians should include in their spiritual diet include daily, weekly, and  seasonal commitments. These will change, vary, and develop as our relationship with God deepens, but here is a sensible starting guideline.


All That is Visible and Invisible

(Warning! The following book review contains spoilers.)

Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and has spent over 80 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, is one of the most beautiful and finely-crafted novels I have ever read. His language is spell-binding, even incantatory, and the intertwined narratives that he composes are deeply involving. Doerr delicately weaves together the stories of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl, and Werner Pfennig an albino German boy, which unfold during the awful years of the Second World War.


The Manifold Works of Mercy

On December 8, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the second Vatican Council as well as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis inaugurated a special Year of Mercy.

There are many ways in which we can celebrate this holy moment in the history of the Church. In particular, we can undertake more fervent practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In our time, much attention is paid to the corporal works of mercy, such as feeding the hungry and visiting the sick and imprisoned. These hold a special place in the Holy Father’s heart, and it is always a good idea to extend your practice of these works.

But the spiritual works of mercy are relatively neglected these days, even though they also offer very fruitful ground for celebrating this Year of Mercy. These are: to admonish the sinner; to instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to comfort the sorrowful; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive all injuries; and to pray for the living and the dead.

Give It Away, But Give It Some Thought

Last week, Zoe Romanowsky made the sensible call to “stop giving our junk to the poor.” She asked us to ask ourselves:

Does what you’re putting in that box honor the people it will go to? Is it your junk, or is it a sacrificial gift?

She challenges us to ask ourselves if we are giving sacrificially, to help the poor, or are we giving just to get rid of stuff, to help ourselves; and to ask ourselves if we’re giving away stuff that will make the poor happy, or if we’re giving stuff that seems good enough for them, because they are poor, and we are not.


Thanks to My Cancer, This May Be One of Our Best Christmases Ever

The House district that I represented for 18 years is more than a bit incomprehensible to outsiders. And by outsiders, I mean anyone and everyone who didn’t spawn in the pond that both I and the people I represented are from.

I remember trying to explain to another legislator why my constituents reacted to issues as they did. His constituents were constantly in a kerfuffle over whatever hot-button issue du jour was rocking the world at the time. My constituents were steady on about these things. They just trusted my judgment and let me have at it in those areas.

But there were things that they would not abide. Fortunately for me, my constituents and I were one in all this. We thought and, more importantly, felt, alike because we were woven of the same threads.

My colleague didn’t “get” this. It was opaque to him and I wasn’t sure how to explain it so that he could understand.


When (Righteous) Anger is Justified

In one of my favorite Flannery O’Connor stories, Revelation, Mrs. Turpin—a very large, very cheerful, and heartily judgmental soul—amuses herself by mentally sorting people into their respective categories. She places all the people she looks down upon beneath herself and her husband, and only those who have more of what she and her husband have go on the top of the list. When I was a kid listening to my Dad read Flannery O’Connor out loud, Revelation merely made me laugh. Now I read it and wonder “Oh Lord. Have I become Mrs. Turpin?”


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Pastoral Sharings: Feast of the Holy Family

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Feast of the Holy Family
Posted for December 27, 2015

Today in our Gospel reading we hear a lovely story from the hidden life of Jesus as a boy. It is about his visit to Jerusalem when he was twelve years old, how he got lost on the return journey and how his parents eventually found him discussing the scriptures with the doctors in the Temple.

This is an example of the kind of literature we call ‘seeing the man in the boy’. Through this story about the boy Jesus we get an insight into the kind of man he was eventually going to turn out to be. We observe from his discussions in the Temple at such a young age that Jesus is destined to become a great teacher of his people and an expert in the Hebrew Scriptures.

It is a very human story and one that we can all easily identify with. It is even a bit embarrassing for Mary and Joseph who failed to notice that Jesus was missing from the caravan. We can understand their deep anxiety at not finding him for three days. This is something that every parent dreads, hearing as we do from time to time on the news about missing children and their sometimes extremely gruesome fate.

I suppose that in those days Palestine was a more trusting place than the huge cities of today. Nowadays we have to be constantly on our guard against disturbed and dangerous persons and we need strong locks on our doors and even at great inconvenience we drive our children everywhere to avoid them walking on their own in the streets.

But in those days Palestine had a relatively small population living mostly in rural areas and it was probably much safer. The population of Jerusalem, its largest city, is estimated by some at only about 40,000 people which would make it the size of a reasonable sized town in Britain today, Inverness for example.

Nevertheless, Mary and Joseph would have been desperately worried. Besides their natural concern for the son they deeply loved you have also to take into account their awareness of the fact that God had entrusted this child to them born to be the Savior of the World. That’s a pretty awesome responsibility and whether they said anything about it or not they must have been deeply anxious.

The boy Jesus is, of course, quite unconcerned. He is in the most natural place of all, in the Temple of Jerusalem. As the Son of God he would surely regard the Temple as his true home on earth.

And what is he doing? He is discussing the scriptures with the Doctors of the Law and, at his young age, showing remarkable insight and wisdom; so much so that he astounded them all with his intelligence and perception.

Prodigy or not, his parents scold him for the anxiety he caused them. Of course, the precocious child tells them that they should have known he was about his father’s business. But he submits to their authority and meekly returns home to live his life with them in Nazareth where he was to grow into maturity as an adult.

So although our tendency is to think of the Holy Family as some sort of idealized family unit we must realize that its members faced the same pressures as we do. They went through the same crises and had the same worries as we ourselves. This story of a lost child helps us to realize that their family was not so different from our own family.

As we celebrate this beautiful feast we must ask ourselves about our own family groupings. We must ask ourselves if we as individuals are pulling our weight in the family or whether we are expecting others to take up the slack.

Sometimes we are not very good at showing affection to each other. Frequently we let our tempers get out of hand. Often enough we find ourselves giving in to selfishness and failing to treat the members of our own families with the respect that we should.

It is good that this Feast of the Holy Family comes right after Christmas which is, after all, the most family oriented feast of all. We give presents and gifts at Christmas but perhaps it is only on this Feast of the Holy Family that we come to realize that there are many other things that we fail to give to our loved ones.

So often in the family we want the other members to understand our moods and give us a bit of slack from time to time. Yet we fail to do this very thing ourselves. We frequently neglect to appreciate the mood swings that others experience, we often take them for granted and don’t make any allowances for their feelings and difficulties.

Maybe what we all need is to show a bit more patience, a bit more forgiveness, a bit more understanding. If we do these things then our homes will become warmer and friendlier and more nourishing for us all.

The Church throughout its history has constantly proclaimed the value of the family as the basic unit of our society. It promotes, perhaps today more than ever, the need for united traditional families. In these days of family splits and breakdowns it remains ever more vital to uphold the values of family life.

However, we should not take its defense of the traditional family to think that the Church looks down on people belonging to families which have split up and reconfigured in unorthodox ways. This would be an error because the Church values each human person and defends all families whatever their circumstances or however they are formed.

The basic family bond is a bond of love and the Church promotes love above everything else. The Holy Family themselves could hardly be described as fitting the mold of a traditional family. So those whose families which don’t meet traditional expectations should not worry overmuch.

The Church speaks up for the family and it is right that it does so. It proclaims the traditional values of love and honor and respect around which our families can build their lives. The Church believes that a strong upbringing in a good family is the best thing that can provide a sound basis for a solid and honorable adulthood. So let us hope and pray that our society does what it can to uphold the values that will enable families to truly flourish in the modern world.

Merry Christmas

I wish you all a blessed and a very Merry Christmas! I pray that the coming of the Infant Savior Jesus will fill your hearts with His peace, joy, and love.


Here is some beautiful music that will warm your heart and nourish your soul:


The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph: The Christian Family

The Church places the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday after Christmas to help us focus in on Jesus’ early life.  Mary and Joseph had the authority of parents over him and he listened to them, though, as today’s Gospel relates, Jesus’ true father was the Eternal Father in heaven.  We read in scripture that Joseph took leadership in the family, even getting them up in the middle of the night to flee to Egypt.  We know that Mary cared for her child because he needed her to grow into the man the Eternal Father sent the Word to the earth to become.  We know that Mary was present for her Son throughout his life, supporting him even as her Son was dying on the cross.  We are certain that this family was indeed holy, separate for the Lord.


Feast of the Holy Family

Luke 2:41-52
Gospel Summary

At the end of Luke’s Infancy Narrative, we find a story that does not really pertain to his infancy, since he is already twelve years old when he visits the temple with his parents on the occasion of the Passover feast. He is there because he has now reached the age of “maturity” and must therefore join the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the major feasts.


Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Year C—December 27, 2015

Today, the Church gives us an episode from Jesus’ early family life to ponder.  Why?

Gospel (Read Lk 2:41-52)

After the profusion of Scriptures describing Jesus’ Nativity in this liturgical season of Christmas, we might be tempted to think we now know enough about His birth into a special family.  However, today the Church reminds us of something most of us spend little time thinking about:  Jesus wasn’t simply born into a human family; He grew up and lived the bulk of His life in that family.  As the Catechism tells us, “During the greater part of His life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings:  a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor” (531).  What was that life like?  Our Gospel reading gives us some clues.


God is With Us, So Do Not Be Afraid

Whew! Have you encountered the shopping mall, main street and the Christmas rush?

There is a kind of panicked grasping after material happiness. Not only do we want to pack the tree with goodies, we want to pack our stomachs with feasting and pack our homes with family happiness.

It’s all wonderful and far be it from me from to be a Scrooge, but beneath it all there sometimes lurks a deep unhappiness that we are trying desperately to fill.

What is it that makes us so restless and so unhappy?


Christ: The Meaning of Christmas

Christmas is such a beautiful time of year. Family, friends, and neighbors are welcomed into our homes with loving arms as we anticipate the birth of Christ. He is the reason for the season, and we need to be sure to celebrate his birth appropriately. Unfortunately, many of us Christians are only concerned with the material side of Christmas. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of sales and deadlines and so forget why this month is so important.

Ways to Celebrate:


You’re Invited: To Become a Christmas Child… Again

This month, the editors asked me to write about my favorite Christmas ever. I thought quite a bit about that. I could have gone with the Christmas that I got the toy I wanted (1979), my first Christmas as a husband (1992), or my first Christmas as a father (1993). But I’m going with the Christmas of 1970. I was five days old.

I was a Christmas baby. Even to this day, when my mother sees a picture or a video of me as an infant, she often comments (as though she were reporting the news for the first time) that the nurses at the hospital put a little Santa cap on my head when I was going home.


Celebrate the Mother to Prepare for and

Welcome the Child

As we get ready to welcome Jesus at Christmas, we also take the time to celebrate his mother and prepare with her. The Blessed Virgin Mary’s intense and joyful waiting for her child to enter the world is a model for all who desire the fullness of Christ’s presence in their lives.

In an Angelus address, St. John Paul II called Mary the “Virgin of Advent.” And in 2013, Pope Francis said, “Mary sustains our journey toward Christmas, for she teaches us how to live this Advent season in expectation of the Lord.”

“The heart of that connection between Advent and Christmas is Mary,” explains Peter Howard, a professor at the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation ( and a Marian expert.


Water From the Rock

Sometime around, oh, 3300 years ago, Moses leaned out from Mt. Nebo in Jordan – as I just did a few days ago – and looked over into the Promised Land. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI made a point of going there as well. Because from that commanding height, the panorama of subsequent religious history, a history we still remember as no other, is spread out: from the Dead Sea in the South to the Sea of Galilee in the North, with Jericho in the center (a city in Moses’ day already 8000 years old), and just beyond, Jerusalem.

Poor Moses. He faced down Pharaoh, kept the stiff-necked Israelites together (more or less) for forty years in the desert, and even came down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. But was forbidden to go any farther. He died and was buried, somewhere unknown, on Mt. Nebo.


A Christmas Hero: John Bruchalski, MD

I read a story this week about a doctor who changed his attitude toward abortion some years ago. His name is very familiar to those of us who are residents of Northern Virginia: John Bruchalski, MD. He is the founder of the Tepeyac Family Center. This change of heart wound up changing his entire life—and the lives of countless others.

His story reminded me in many ways of other physicians who made the transition from being an abortionist to being a committed pro-life physician. Names like Bernard Nathanson, MD and Beverly McMillan, MD come to mind.


The Year of Mercy and the Gospel of Life

On April 11, 2015, Pope Francis declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy in Misericordiae vultus. When one thinks of mercy, particularly in the context of our Catholic faith, forgiveness and the Sacrament of Confession come to mind. Something deeper, however, is going on. At its core, this Jubilee Year of Mercy focuses us on restoring our dignity as sons and daughters of God; it is intimately connected with the Gospel of Life and its call for a greater respect and defense of human dignity.


Just Wait. Because Waiting Makes It More Fun

We don’t wait well. Every year people like me complain about the world treating December as if it were Christmas, and look censoriously on the Christians who should know better but still belt out “Silent Night” starting in late November. And we’re right to do so. My wife, though a woman of many virtues, would have the tree decorated and the lights shining on Thanksgiving day, and the heck with the church year, were she not blessed to be married to a calendaric rigorist.

I write suffering my annual mid-Advent fit of grumpiness, having spent time with a friend who said “Merrrrrry Christmas!” to everyone and having found myself several times sitting at my computer singing Christmas carols because I’d heard them in the grocery store. It makes me grumpy, our culture’s disregard of Advent, though I probably should admit that I enjoy feeling righteously grumpy.


Why Does Pope Francis Love the Blessed Virgin Mary So Much?

Time magazine recently published an article titled, “Why Pope Francis Is Obsessed With Mary.” One of the reasons the magazine gave for describing Pope Francis as having an obsession with Our Lady was the fact that he prays the Rosary three times a day. Time is correct in observing that the Holy Father does have a personal devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but this is not an obsession; it is better described as a very deep love.


Christmas Isn’t Candy Canes—It’s D-Day in the War Against Satan

I, like you, love the beautiful Christmas season with all its sentimental appeal. And I wish you all of this in abundance. But as we know, the first Christmas was anything but sentimental and featured great hardships: Urgent travel to Bethlehem in the ninth month of pregnancy, no room at the inn, the subsequent flight to Egypt and the murder of the Holy Innocents. It is almost as though Satan, knowing that God was up to something good,

tried to smoke out, prevent and pursue and destroy this great work of God.

And this is exactly what Scripture attests in a version of the Christmas story seldom told among Christians today. Consider the “other” Christmas story that looks behind the external events and interprets the deeper meaning of them:


2015 Catholics of the Year

In a year that brought abundant joy as well as abundant sorrow, Catholics in the United States and around the world continued to witness the mercy and love of God.

While the past 12 months saw considerable violence — in South Carolina and California, in Paris and throughout the Middle East and Africa — 2015 also was a year of celebration, as the cities of Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia welcomed Pope Francis during his first visit to the U.S. This joyous visit culminated in hundreds of thousands of Catholics worshipping together on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia as the Holy Father celebrated the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families.


Our shocking part in God’s plan

This time of year we hear a lot about Mary’s role in our redemption. Between the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the general discussion about the coming of Christmas, the story of the Annunciation is repeated quite a few times.

Of course, there’s a lot to chew on when we consider the scene between the angel and the Blessed Mother.  It’s important to remember that our Blessed Mother said yes to God’s mission with free will.  Love is not forced or coerced.  It is only given in freedom.  Mary, like Eve, made her choice in complete freedom.  For many years, when I was reminded of this, I often thought about “what if” she would have said no. Now I think more about the fact that God asked at all.


Bl. Mother Teresa to Be Canonized After Pope Approves Miracle, Say Reports

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta looks set to be canonized in 2016 after Pope Francis reportedly signed a decree this evening recognizing a miracle attributed to her intercession.

The news was reported by Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, on Thursday evening, the day of the Pope’s 79th birthday.


True Contrition and True Mercy

I am totally one hundred percent in favor of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

I do worry, however, that in our society the idea of mercy is weakened by our lack of understanding about sin and repentance.

When we hear “Mercy” we too often think, “Oh, that just means that nasty old Catholic Church has decided to go easy on everybody for a bit.”

Errrm. Not really.

How Can I Grow in Virtue? (Part I of II)

Dear Father John, I am trying to be a better person but I need a little help.  I know virtues are important, but I don’t know how to get better at them.  How can I become more virtuous?

Growth in virtue requires exercising virtue. It sounds so simple. And it is. Human nature is made this way. When we nourish and use the powers of our soul properly, they grow, just like muscles. If a young man wants to improve his tennis game, he needs to keep playing tennis; he needs to exercise his skills and abilities so they develop. Just thinking and dreaming about it will get him nowhere. Likewise, if we want to mature in our love for God, if we want to grow in the virtues that unite our heart, mind, emotions, and will to the Lord so we can have deeper communion with him, then we need to nourish and exercise them. And only in that communion will we find lasting happiness.

5th Corporal Work of Mercy : “Visit the Sick”

While preparing an article for the next corporal work of mercy (visiting the sick), I immediately thought of one pope who highlighted this practice during his pontificate. That pope was St. John Paul II, who throughout his life emphasized the habit of “visiting the sick.” He is an inspiration to me and challenges us all to renew our own efforts in performing this work of mercy.

John Paul II – Friend of the Sick:


Religion Equals Happiness

On average, people of faith lead more fulfilling family lives.

It’s a message we hear more and more: Religion is bad.

And certainly recent headlines — from terrorist attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists in Paris and San Bernardino to the strange brew of warped Christian fundamentalism that appeared to motivate alleged shooter Robert Dear at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs — feeds the idea that religion is a force for ill in the world. But in “The End of Faith:

Religion,   Terror, and the Future of Reason,” Sam Harris not only asserts that the “greatest problem confronting civilization” is religious extremism, he further waxes that it’s also “the larger set of cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith itself.”


Can Atheists Be Good Without Belief in God?

One of the most passionately held beliefs among atheists and agnostics is that they can be morally good without belief in God. The underlying assumption is that God is not relevant to morality. But is this true? Can one be good without acknowledging God’s existence? 


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"Are You Missing Out? Week 1: Jesus’ Warning

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Phil Bloom
Are You Missing Out? Week 2: Mercy with Justice  
Posted for December 6, 2015

Are You Missing Out? Week 2: Mercy with Justice 

Message: Mercy does not cancel out justice.

For Advent homilies I take this question: Are you missing out? Last Sunday we heard Jesus warning: that we might become so distracted we miss the most important events – the salvation God offers us.

This week we begin the Year of Mercy. I do not want you or me to miss God’s mercy. Before talking about mercy, however, I want to address a hesitation: I fear some will conclude that mercy cancels justice: That those who commit crimes and deliberate cruelty will in the end get off scot-free. We all know that in this world there is little justice – that some people “get away with murder.” Will that unfairness continue into the next world? If that’s the case, many people say, I want no part of it. I agree with them.

Let me give three examples.
–One, Auschwitz. In preparation for World Youth Day, I have been reading about the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Can those who carried out those crimes take a place next to their victims – with no reckoning?
–Two, domestic cruelty. We see cruelty not only on a huge scale like Auschwitz or the Gulag Archipelago, but in our families: cruel words and acts, some thoughtless, others deliberate.
–Three, police brutality. In another country police abused a friend of mine and they laughed about it. Such corruption is not our common experience here, but in other nations and throughout history, it has been the rule. Will God simply sweep those abuses under the carpet? Will bullies have the last laugh? The Bible says “no”! Today John the Baptist speaks about God dealing with crooked ways and rough roads. Next week we will hear John describe a fan that separates wheat from chaff – the good part kept and the worthless part burned.

John does not invent the idea of divine justice. The prophets before him speak about a day of accounting. They know we cannot separate God’s love from his justice. In today’s first reading the prophet Baruch says that God will lead his people “with mercy and justice.” Pope Benedict stressed that mercy does not cancel out justice. “It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value.” (Spes Salvi 44) We sometimes say “people are basically good,” yet we know a terrorist – or a man who murders people at a Planned Parenthood clinic – is hardly the same as a food bank worker.

In the long run we cannot have mercy without justice. Justice, in fact, includes mercy. In Jerusalem, near the remnants of the Temple they have poor box. They did write on it “charity” but “justice.” Justice means to restore right relationships. We need justice before we can talk about mercy.

So where does that leave us? You and I have have acted unfairly. Only a narcissist says, “I’ve never wronged anyone!” No, deep down we all long for mercy – even more than justice. That’s why St. Paul says to leave justice to God – and get busy seeking forgiveness, reconciliation. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
A person who reflects on his life will thirst for mercy. We have seen that mercy does not cancel out justice. The two go together, although mercy has greatest importance. The Bible mentions mercy 416 times – and justice 157 times. Between mercy and justice there is word mentioned over 200 times. We will hear it next week. Don’t miss out.
For today, let’s remember that justice includes mercy. God leads us “by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company. Amen.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
December 6, 2015

Second Sunday of Advent: Preparing for the Lord

I think that most of us are in the middle of Christmas preparations.  We are trying to get cards out and gifts bought and wrapped.  We are preparing for parties, baking cookies, getting ready for the celebration. The celebration is the birth of Christ, the Divine Presence given to us as one of us.  We have to remind ourselves continually that it is for this that we are preparing.  All the beautiful traditions that are unique to Christmas: the cards, gifts, carols, and shows,  are just reflections of the deep celebration we share when we are united to the One who is both one of us and the Second Person of the Divine Trinity.


Second Sunday of Advent

Luke 3:1-6

Gospel Summary

Luke’s elaborate attempt to locate the arrival of John the Baptist in the context of secular history seems to be the answer to every historian’s prayer. In fact, however, these references are very imprecise, and none more so than the apparently decisive “fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” The problem is that the Roman emperor Tiberius shared power with Augustus for two years and we do not know when Luke is beginning his count of the years of Tiberius’ reign. One must wonder whether Luke is not perhaps smiling to himself as he teases historians in this way.


Second Sunday of Advent, Year C—December 6, 2015

Our readings today sum up in one word what people like us, who are waiting for the Lord’s arrival, should do while we wait:  Prepare!

Gospel (Read Lk 3:1-6)

St. Luke carefully sets the historical stage for the momentous event he wants to describe.  See how concrete both the civil and religious details are in this description.  Promises God had made to his people through the prophets centuries earlier were beginning to be fulfilled, in real time and space.  We immediately recognize that what is about to unfold is no fairy tale.  Within history, “the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the desert.”   When Jesus, the Son of God, keeps His promise and returns to this world for which He died, it will also be within history, although it will the last event of our history, bringing time (and thus history) to an end.


In Advent, We Can Do Small Things with Great Love

“Not all of us can do great things,” Blessed Mother Teresa said. “But we can do small things with great love.”

Many of us want to do great things during Advent. I, for one, could list a hundred (thousand) ways I want to become holier in time for Christmas. But I know I’m not strong enough to do them all.

That’s where Mother Teresa’s humble approach comes to the rescue: Do small things with great love.


Advent Brings Angels: As Real as Radio Waves

[Throughout Advent, Fr. Dwight Longenecker will be examining Angels and their role in the stories of our salvation. – Ed]

Medieval theologians were sometimes mocked for debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, and Thomas Aquinas was probably one of the theologians who was the target of the ridicule. St.Thomas is called “the Angelic Doctor” not only because of the sublime spirituality of his philosophy, but also because he devoted a good bit of his study to the subject of angels.


The Light in Meditations for Advent

Advent can be overlooked. Perhaps, it is more correct to say that we are often looking in the wrong direction during this season. As the lights and tinsel adorn city streets, the true meaning of the Light that came into the world – one still too bright for many – is all too easily lost amidst these other ‘lights’ that, ultimately, cast only shadows. Forced, even at times desperate, ‘jollity’ of one sort or another, possesses nothing of the ‘glad tidings’ that await us all on Christmas night. One antidote to this is spiritual reading. To that end one would do well to pick up a copy of Bossuet’s Meditations for Advent.


Advent Comes … and With It Comes the New Church Year

Everybody knows, even those of us who have lived most unadventurously, what it is to plod on for miles, it seems, eagerly straining your eyes toward the lights that, somehow, mean home. How difficult it is, when you are doing that to judge distances! In pitch darkness, it might be a couple of miles to your destination, it might be a few hundred yards. So it was, I think, with the Hebrew prophets, as they looked forward to the redemption of their people. They could not have told you, within a hundred years, within five hundred years, when it was the deliverance would come. They only knew that, some time, the stock of David would burgeon anew; some time, a key would be found to fit the door of their prison house; some time, the light that only shows, now, like a will-o’-the-wisp on the horizon would broaden out, at last into the perfect day.


How to Meet Jesus This Advent

It took me two days, but I finally got all the leaves raked up in the yard. I used the blower to shoo every one of those darn dead things away from the house and the fence and the hedges and then applied old-fashioned hard labor to rake them into piles that my kids, in days long ago, used to love to jump into. I thought about that as I was working; saying my beads on the tips of my gloved fingers as I bent down for yet another scoop and stuffed the leaves into the recyclable bag, knowing I would call my chiropractor next week to alleviate the inevitable ache in my back that would certainly come despite how much I stretched to loosen my muscles that very morning. Old back muscles sometimes don’t follow proscribed protocols no matter what anybody says.


At the Evening of Life, We Shall Be Judged On Our Love

My husband’s uncle died Sunday. He was 82, and had lived a good life.

Before he died, he saw his dead sister, our Aunt Tid, and his mother. That’s not uncommon when we are nearing the end of this life. We get glimpses of the new life we are about the enter.

My guess is that God sends loved ones to us, to help us make that transition, that they are a welcoming committee of sorts. I believe God sends our angels, alongside our loved ones who have passed ahead of us, to lead us home.

Death is not annihilation. Your body and soul will be separated for a time, but you will not stop existing, not even for a moment. On that day, you will hear someone say, You are mine.


Why Did She Go to Sunday Mass?

I believe we often have definitive rationales for what we acknowledge as true and for what we do, even though we may have difficulty expressing them.

A few years ago I had the opportunity through a parish program to chauffer a lady to and from Sunday Mass. Despite her frailty, she went to Sunday Mass because she recognized the inseparable link between sacrifice and sacrament.

She lived in an elder care home on my way. At Mass she sat in the first pew to have Communion brought to her and others who were too frail to participate in the Communion procession. After three months or so, when I stopped at the home on a Sunday morning, I was informed that she died during the week. She had gone to Sunday Mass to the end of her life.


A Church of reverence: Unworthy or irreverent reception of the Eucharist is not something that the Church should take lightly

The Christians of first-century Corinth must have been a rowdy lot.

St. Paul, writing to these converts of his, chided them for their less than edifying manner of celebrating the Eucharist and added a stern warning: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).


How to Stop Hurting People’s Feelings with this One Virtue

While the word “nice” has a common use that means pleasant or enjoyable in general as in ‘have a nice day,’ ‘a nice person,’ or ‘a nice job,’ the word does not have the praiseworthy meaning that the word kind signifies.

The virtue of kindness expresses charity in small and large ways that include both speech and behavior and manners and morals.


O Me of Little Faith

I guess you never know how little faith you have, until it is tested. Faith never grows, unless it is tested. I have found it to be a vicious lifelong cycle. I think I have faith, it gets tested, and I realize how little faith I have after all.

I have been praying for something for what seems to be a long time. A “long time” in human terms is anywhere from fifteen minutes to decades. In actuality, when I have the benefit of hindsight, I can see where God may have been working in the background lining everything up, but I didn’t notice because I was too preoccupied thinking he wasn’t listening or doing anything. “Doing anything” meaning, what I wanted, how I wanted it, and when I wanted it done.


Getting to Know Jesus

In my work with our parish’s Confirmation students, I try to convey that Jesus Christ is more than a nice guy whose life is recorded in the Bible. Jesus wants us to know Him and to love Him. He wants to be a part of every aspect of our life, if only we would invite and allow Him to do so.

This past weekend we celebrated the feast day of Christ the King. This is one of Jesus’s many roles in salvation history. It’s quite easy for us to state the fact: Jesus Christ is King of the Universe, but how easy is it for us to answer the question of whether or not he is the King of OUR Universe, the King of OUR lives?


Is Original Sin and the Fall of Man True?

The Catholic Church asserts the truth that mankind has suffered a privation of grace as a consequence of disobedience. By the sin of our first parents we are saddled until the end of time with the defect of Original Sin. Man is fallen. To be born into this world is to be burdened with a life of toil, trial and torment. Adam and Eve were in a state of grace in the Garden of Eden before succumbing to temptation. The doctrine of The Fall is a most obvious proposition expounded upon by nearly every religious and philosophical tradition in history. To deny man’s fallen nature is an unprecedented narrowness based on implausible pathology grounded in the denial of the most vital attributes that make us fully human.


10 Ways to Get Over Yourself and Become Humble

“It’s not all about you!”  Except, it sort of is. You are there every minute of your day.  Everywhere you go, there you are.  Who stars in all your dreams?  You again.

Yet, detaching from self is mandatory for holiness. It is our life-long task, to get over ourselves by following Jesus whose life, death, and resurrection were all about us. Here are ten ways to help with that task.


Conquering Loneliness

In the 60’s the Beatles composed a song and an album: “Sergeant Pepper’s lonely heart-club band.” World-famous for this song and album, the Beatles were placing their finger on the pulse of the modern society, a society with many individuals suffering from a crushing and almost unsupportable loneliness.

There are many ways that individuals cope with loneliness; some are excellent, others are good to a certain extent, others are bad and still others are deadly. A crushing loneliness can grip an individual in such a way that depression sets in and he/she feels life has no real meaning and questions why even live. Some, even, contemplate a recourse to suicide.


10 Handmade Christmas Gifts From Monks and Nuns

We’ve never been keen on Black Friday—however … there is something to be said for getting shopping done this week so you can get the most out of Advent, as Zoe Romanowsky wrote here last week.

Perhaps we could spare a few minutes to Christmas shop—online—for these lovely gifts, handmade by monks and nuns from monasteries and religious communities. These are a few of the Aleteia staffs’ favorites:


The Myth of Having it All

The holidays always remind me of how different I am from my husband. He is a doer. He does things. He wakes up every morning and goes through the same routine to get ready, then he figures out his mission for the day and sets out to accomplish that mission. Every. Day.

Me? I am a sloth. I never have a plan for anything, unless that plan will help me get in my pajamas and in bed early, then I have a plan. I do not need anyone to tell me to take a day off or to relax, because I am always looking for a way to crawl back into bed with a book. Relaxing is more than just something that I do, it is a state of being for me.


Ten Things to Do as a Catholic Before You’re Dead

Bucket lists (i.e., lists of stuff you should oughtta wanna do before you kick the bucket) are hot these days.  So, canny fellow that I am, I thought I would put together a bucket list of ten things a Catholic should oughtta wanna do before he or she takes the dirt nap, lays down in the back of that long black Cadillac, and otherwise stops squeezing the plasma pump behind the sternum.

The trouble with this clever idea is that you then have to make a judgment call.  Should I give you my personal bucket list about stuff I’d like to do (which might include something like “read all the works of Shakespeare”) leading to your eyes crossing and a warm numb feeling stealing over you?  Or consider: Suppose I vowed to learn how to make the perfect omelet and serve it to my wife before I croak.  It could even be an act of piety and an honor to God done from the core of my Catholic faith and fulfilling a vow I whispered to my sainted grandfather on his deathbed (after a moving and dramatic story that is too long to tell here).


Ten Positive Principles of Personal Wealth

I was going to write a blog post criticizing what I call “faux Franciscanism”–that is the problem in the church in which poverty is praised for its own sake.

We should be clear. Poverty is not a virtue on its own. The  poor are not blessed because they are poor.

We should remember that poor people can also be greedy, selfish, violent and bitter in their poverty.


In Word and Deed: Virtues for Daily Life

Children’s Book Picks Inspire Holiness

Raising virtuous kids is important. But to do what is good and avoid what is wrong is not always easy for children (or grown-ups, for that matter).

For young readers, stories can often show what virtue looks like through heroic characters, simple actions and encouraging words.

Before I Sleep, I Say Thank You

Written by Carol Gordon Ekster


Catholic Priests: A Special Blessing

Catholic priests are heroes to me. After the sacrifice and moral fiber of my own father in this earthly life, the spiritual fathers God has sent into my life have most inspired me to be a better man in my own vocation. I’ve gotten to know diocesan priests, Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Oratorians, Oblates of Wisdom, and Fathers of Mercy who served as pastors, confessors, bishops, administrators, teachers, theologians, tailors, gardeners, preachers, broadcasters, canon lawyers, authors, and friends. In all their variety, they all have had several things in common: all of them have adored Jesus, venerated Mary, who is the mother of priests, and all of them are flawed sinners just like me. These are imperfect but dedicated people, working on personal holiness and growing into their vocations as they lead their flocks. My experience has been nearly always positive, and it makes me cringe when I hear people single out their priests, spread scandal, and detract their reputations.


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Pastoral Sharings: "Feast of Christ the King"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Feast of Christ the King   
Posted for November 22, 2015

Today we conclude the Liturgical Year with our celebration of the feast of Christ the King. On this final Sunday of the year we meditate on Our Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledge that all creatures in heaven and on earth are ultimately subject to him as the Universal King.

For our Gospel text we have the interesting exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate about his Kingship; this interaction occurs on the steps in front of Pilate’s palace on the night of his arrest. Of course, Pontius Pilate is very concerned to hear about Jesus’ claims to kingship since he was the representative of Caesar and it was his duty to uphold the authority and might of Caesar in Palestine. And it was his particular role to root out anyone who claimed to rival Caesar.

It immediately becomes clear that they are talking on completely different levels; Pilate seeming to be concerned only with earthly authority while Christ is speaking about his universal spiritual authority. One focussing on the human, the other on the divine.

Surprisingly perhaps, Pontius Pilate does not regard Jesus as any kind of real threat to Caesar. Maybe this was because Jesus does not arrive with soldiers and weapons but simply as himself together with his known abilities as a healer and miracle worker.

Pilate seems to regard the arrest of Jesus as merely the outcome of a religious squabble among the Jews and therefore as something beneath his attention. But he does not want the blood of Jesus on his hands and offers to release him. This shows that Pilate does not understand the Jewish authorities nor the nature of the threat that Jesus presents to them.

We are here dealing with St John’s account of these events but in St Matthew’s Gospel we read how Pilate had been given a warning by his wife to have nothing to do with harming Jesus because she had a disturbing dream about him.

In the text before us Jesus speaks about truth. He says that he came into the world to bear witness to the truth and that all who are on the side of truth listen to his voice. Unfortunately we miss the next line which has Pilate’s reply, “What is truth?”

Clearly Pontius Pilate does not have much time for truth. He is a politician and as such he is used to the venality of man and the tricks and half-truths used by the various factions of the political elite. What he is interested in is authority and governance. He is a ruler and wants nothing to disturb the established order and his position as the effective governor of Palestine.

Christ on the other hand is focussed on the really important things in life, namely the virtues. Material possessions and the exercise of power do not interest him; in fact he knows very well that these things go completely against that which is truly fulfilling in life.

His message to us is that it is only truth, justice, unity, fidelity and similar virtues which bring true happiness and fulfilment in life. He wants us to understand that we are living in a passing world and that our eyes ought to be set on the Kingdom where these values come into their own.

Pursuing the acquisition of wealth and power can never be truly satisfying. Things like celebrity and purely human fame are in the long run completely worthless. Ultimately the things that the world admires are empty and unfulfilling.

What lasts are the eternal values and in the end all these come down to one thing: love. It is the person that loves others with their whole heart who finds the most fulfilment in life. It is those who love God with all their hearts who find real peace in this world and the next.

Pilate says, “What is truth?” For him this is a dismissal of something that he regards as quite unimportant and ultimately worthless. As a politician and as a man of the world living in Roman times he has obviously seen men give their lives for their principles but apparently he felt that in the end they were giving their lives in vain.

To Pilate principles were clearly something expendable. He does not value love of country or family or party very greatly. Pilate lives his life entirely in the present moment and the things that he values are only those things which will bring him advantage or personal gain. He is not a bad man but his values are distorted and he has no eye for eternity. He thinks in the short term.

Pilate’s question though is of vital importance for anyone who believes that God is in charge and for anyone who believes in an afterlife. It is of vital importance because God clearly regards truth as something absolutely critical.

Truth like many other concepts that fall into the religious field is perhaps best defined by looking at its opposite, in this case falsehood. That which is false cannot be trusted, it is tricky and unreliable. And ultimately falsehood is not something on which anyone can base their lives.

Truth, however, is what corresponds with the facts and is a faithful reflection of reality. Truth is therefore utterly reliable and dependable and what is more it corresponds to the nature of God himself.

This is the key. If we are to describe God then we use words like true, good, trustworthy, faithful, one, eternal and so on. Consequently if we want to become like God then we need to adopt these values and make them an essential part of our lives.

We need to become persons who are truthful, good, faithful, just and all those other attributes which we ascribe to God. If we adopt these as our priorities in life we will be filled with integrity and be considered as persons worth looking up to and following. We will be living then a life that is truly worthwhile and fulfilling, a life that is greatly satisfying; a life, in other words, that is in complete conformity with the will of God.

It will be by living such a life that will get us to heaven, for to live any other kind of life will mean that our horizons are based only on the things of this world and not the things of the next world.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
November 22, 2015

The Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe: The Testifier to the Truth

A few years ago, I attended the YMCA Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Clearwater and was electrified by the speech given by the Keynote Speaker, Retired Lt. General Gary H. Mears.  General Mears spoke the need to restore truth to our society.  He began by mentioning that a sign was found in the Nazi soldiers’ quarters in Auschwitz that said something to the effect, “All who arrive here are to be deceived.”


Feast of Christ the King

John 18: 33b–37

Gospel Summary

The choice of this text from John’s gospel could not be more appropriate for the feast of Christ the King. It is taken from the Passion Narrative and is part of the exchange between Pilate and Jesus during his trial before the Roman Procurator. This trial scene is particularly important for John, and he devotes no less than twenty-nine verses to it. In fact, this scene reveals John’s concept of the central issue in the life and ministry of Jesus.

When Pilate and Jesus discuss the question of kingship, it is clear that Pilate has in mind political and military power. He also knows that he, as a representative of the mighty Roman Empire, possesses this kind of power in fullest measure. He lives in a palace and has access to the finest military forces of those days. By contrast, Jesus stands before him as a shackled and helpless prisoner. The contrast could not be more obvious.


The Solemnity of Christ the King, Year B—November 22, 2015

Today, we celebrate the truth that, even now, Christ reigns as King over all the earth.  But what kind of kingdom is it?

Gospel (Read Jn 18:33b-37)

On this final Sunday of our liturgical year, the Church gives us St. John’s account of Jesus before Pilate to help us understand the kingdom He came to establish.  It’s a lesson we desperately need.  If we have a false notion of the reign of Christ as King of the universe, we can be subject to disillusionment and disappointment as we await its final manifestation at the Second Coming.  See that Pilate is very curious about Jesus and His kingdom:  “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus wonders where he got this idea.  Had Pilate seen evidence that Jesus was traveling around Judea trying to set up a throne for Himself?  Or had someone else suggested to him that Jesus was a rival to Caesar?  Pilate answers right away:  “Your own nation and the chief priests handed You over to me.  What have You done?”  Pilate is working entirely on the claims of the Jews.  None of his Roman military officers was suggesting anything like this.


Life and Light in the Word

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). By saying that there is life in plants, we mean that they grow and send forth leaves, buds, and fruit. How crude is this life, and how dead. We say that animals live because they see, taste, and go here and there as they are moved by their senses. How mute is this life. We also say that life is to understand, to know, to know oneself, to know God and to desire him, to love him, and to wish to be happy in him. This is the true life. Yet what is its source? Who is it that knows himself, loves himself, and enjoys himself, unless it is the Word? In him, therefore, is life.


Trusting in God: Praying Like Pope Francis

I will never forget the day that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected Pope: March 13, 2013. I was sitting in front of the TV just waiting like so many other Catholics around the world. I had watched all of the news broadcasts and read articles with speculations about who would be the next Pope. When the announcement was made, I admit, I had never heard of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. But then, neither had so many others. Yet, we would all soon learn why he was elected.


Jesus Waits: God’s Presence In The Blessed Sacrament

Sometimes, God makes His Presence known in obvious, can’t-miss-it ways: a colorful sky, a baby’s giggle, a beautiful song, a spectacular range of snow-capped mountains, an unexpected hug from a friend when we were feeling low, or an inspired insight while reading some Scripture. In such cases, we might spontaneously break into a prayer of gratitude that God grabbed our attention and reminded us He is still around.

Other times, though the resulting prayer of praise might be the same, God asks us to make the first move, to seek an awareness of a different brand of His Presence.

I frequently remind myself to go to such destinations, to truly holy ground. For instance …


Pope: Jesus Will Ask Us, ‘Did You Use Your Life for Yourself or to Serve?’

VATICAN CITY — On Sunday, Pope Francis paid a visit to Rome’s Lutheran community, where he took questions and told attendees that what we will ultimately be judged on is how we cared for the poor and less fortunate.

“What will the Lord ask us on that day? Did you go to Mass? Have you prepared a good catechesis?” the Pope said Nov. 15.

While these things are important, the deeper questions will be “on the poor, because poverty is the center of the Gospel. He, being rich, was made poor in order to enrich us with his poverty.”


Our Lady’s Presence during the Holy Mass

J.M.J. If you attend Mass on Sunday and abstain from unnecessary servile work, you fulfill your “Sunday obligation.” In that case, you do as required by the Church’s precept that states that a Catholic must attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and avoid unnecessary servile work.

However, when it comes to Holy Mass we are encouraged to do more than merely to attend. We are invited to “participate” fully, actively and consciously as the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council stated in its December 4, 1963 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, also known as Sacrosanctum Concilium (see 14). 


A Catholic Primer on Jubilees for the Upcoming Year of Mercy

Pope Francis has announced an “extraordinary” Jubilee which begins on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and which will be more commonly known as the Year of Mercy. During this special year, the Church will open its treasury to dispense Mercy, in the form of special devotions, pilgrimages, the opening of “holy doors”, and indulgences intended to bring us all closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.

But, what exactly is a “Jubilee” and what are its origins?


How the Rosary Changed My Life

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “The Rosary is the best therapy for these distraught, unhappy, fearful, and frustrated souls, precisely because it involves the simultaneous use of three powers: the physical, the vocal, and the spiritual…”

Archbishop Sheen was absolutely right, because my devotion to the Rosary began as therapy. At age 27, I look back at the many hours I spent praying the Rosary because of my brokenness. However, this is how God reeled me into something that would change my life forever.


How to Start Your Day in Holiness

We learn so much from our parents, good habits and bad.  Maybe that’s why I’ve always been conflicted about waking up in the morning.  On the one hand, my father has always risen before the sun; he’s the earliest riser in the family.  On the other hand, my mother, well, that’s a different story.  Although she gets up early for work, the truth is that on the weekends she has the ability to sleep until…let’s just say she can sleep pretty late.  Honestly, I think I inherited my mom’s sleeping gene.  I’ve always loved sleep, and getting out of bed has tended to be an effort for me; yet, I have continually made an effort to get up early.  Therein lay the conflict.


What Is the Sign of the Cross?

The Sign of the Cross is a Christian ceremony that represents the Passion of our Lord by tracing the shape of the Cross with a simple motion.

It is a ceremony, I say, and here is what is meant by that term. A skillful manager assigns to each of his subordinates his proper task, making all of them useful, not only those who are vigorous and energetic, but also those who are less so. Similarly, the virtue of religion, hav­ing for its proper and natural work to render to God the honor that is His due, draws up each of our virtuous ac­tions into its own work by directing them all to the honor of God.


Reverence and Respect

I’ve been reading Romano Guardini’s wonderful little book Learning the Virtues that Lead You to God with some of my students. I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is boundless wisdom to be found on every page. Allow me to mention just one example concerning the virtue of “reverence.”

Reverence, says Fr. Guardini, is “a surmise of greatness and holiness and a desire to participate in it, combined with the apprehension of being unworthy of it.” In reverence, “man refrains from doing what he usually likes to do, which is to take possession of and use something for his own purposes. Instead he steps back and keeps his distance. This creates a spiritual space in which that which deserves reverence can stand erect, detached, and free, in all its splendor.”


The 2nd Corporal Work of Mercy: “To Give Drink to the Thirsty”

The second corporal work of mercy might seem redundant, but is in fact a separate work of mercy. “To give drink to the thirsty” is similar to the action of “feeding the hungry,” but addresses a different need of the body and is not easily accomplished. There are many parts of the world, even in our own country, where fresh drinking water is scarce or impossible to find.

To highlight this need, let’s look at the crisis that is facing those in different parts of Africa:


The Hope of Mercy: Be Not Afraid

At the beginning of his papacy the late John Paul II said these words: Be not afraid. He later said he could not anticipate what the Holy Spirit was saying in that moment, and what a profound message it would turn out to be for our times. The pope told a world in uncertain times to have no fear: “Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God… The power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear.” At the summons of a new Pope, Francis, we stand now at the threshold of the Jubilee of Mercy, and we are in uncertain times still. The heart of the world has been broken, it seems. Many are afraid. But the answer is still a poignant one, driving us into an uncertain future on the merits of a certain past: That the risen Lord of yesterday is the same risen Lord of tomorrow, and he comes to us on pinions of Mercy.


Our Lady of Fatima and the Reality of Hell

In the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima, there are 2 striking aspects. These aspects are the miracle of the sun and the famous three-part secret. Recently, I had cause to think about one of the parts of the secret, namely the vision of hell. There are some intriguing questions about Fátima and hell in relation to some contemporary theological views that deserve some treatment.

To begin treating these questions, it is first necessary to state the contents of the three-part secret of Fátima.


In Purgatory and on Earth, Mourning Has Power to Free Soul

COMMENTARY: It is our duty to pray for ourselves and for those who are asleep in Christ, so that, together, one day we might all share in his glory.

Some years ago, I was counseling a middle-aged woman I’ll call Jane, who suffered from low self-esteem and constant insecurity. Her anxiety led to stress-related illnesses. It was as if she lived in a state of fear, worry and dread.


Learning to Be Scrappy in the Spiritual Life

My father was the first son of a single mom who had next to nothing. He never graduated from college, but with hard work and tough lessons, he was able to retire well by the age of 45.

I learned a lot from him growing up. One principle that he worked hard to teach me was to be “scrappy.” He taught me to be scrappy in life and this scrappiness has also translated well to developing a healthy prayer life.

I am by no means perfect in the virtues associated with being scrappy, but I have found that to the degree that I rely upon God and pursue the principles my father taught me, I have been able to make progress.

What does a scrappy person look like? Here are a few characteristics translated into spiritual terms:


The Essential Nature of Marriage

In His infinite love and goodness, God created man and woman in freedom to know, love and serve Him in this life and to spend all eternity with Him in the life to come. This call to holiness is our vocation and dignity.

“Man is by nature and vocation a religious being. Coming from God, going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by his bond with God.” (CCC ¶ 44)

We are incorporated into this life by Baptism. How we are to live out this call to holiness is what we refer to as our vocation. From the moment of our baptism, we are to prayerfully discern the vocation to which God calls us:


Saints and Scoundrels: Preambles of Faith

I was a graduate student in English literature during the flakey 1970s. I had recently returned to Catholicism and found my faith under daily attack by professors who took great relish in debunking the Church.

I spent a lot of mental time trying to answer those criticisms for my own sake. Once, when talking with a Jesuit priest (a safe haven, I thought) I said something about the “rational basis of Catholicism.” He responded that there was nothing rational about faith at all.

In fairness to him, I think he meant God’s love for us is so great and undeserved that it makes our human rationalizing look absurd, 0r something like that.


Don’t Apologize for Apologetics

If you want to engage others in the faith, know your material and never, ever argue

Some Catholics get apoplectic about apologetics. They argue with atheists and pick fights with Protestants. They not only need to win, they want to bash the enemy. Valiant warriors for Catholic truth, they shout down the unbelievers and shoot Bible verses back and forth like gunslingers in a shootout. As veteran apologist Patrick Madrid has observed, “They end up winning an argument but losing a soul.”

“Apologetics” is the attempt as St. Peter advised, “to be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have within you” (1 Peter 3:15). To give that answer, one must first gather the information and study hard to understand and master the content. Secondly, one has to identify the person asking the questions.…more

Bookends: How the First and Last Books of the Bible Fit Together

Today’s post shows some contrasts and fulfillments between the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and the last book, Revelation. There is a kind of “bookend” quality to those books wherein things are announced or initiated in Genesis and then fulfilled or finished in Revelation.

Consider the following two lists. I pray that you will appreciate the parallels and paradoxes presented in them, especially during the months of November and December, when we consider the four last things and the culmination of history in Christ Jesus.


7 Epic Things About Being a Practicing Catholic

1. Heaven on Earth

The Catholic lifestyle revolves around the source and summit of the faith: The Holy Eucharist. With spiritual authority tracing directly back to the twelve apostles, any legitimately ordained Catholic priest has the authority (and privilege) to turn unleavened bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ Himself. Not a symbol, but a sacrament. God being mystically present in every tabernacle throughout the world, the Catholic Church literally is Heaven on Earth.


After Nearly 500 Years, Our Lady of Guadalupe Reveals Her Secrets Again

LOS ANGELES — The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is centuries old, and her message to St. Juan Diego has been translated into numerous languages over the years. Countless books have been written about the apparition, and the tilma and its image have been intensely scrutinized by scientists.

So what more can Catholics learn about Our Lady of Guadalupe and her message?


Can The Church Condone, Permit or Legitimize Sin?

The Answer: No.

In 1995, in an article entitled “Morality and Christian Morality”, Father Joseph de Torre made the point that the Church cannot change morality, the natural law, or the content of revelation. Father de Torre’s general conclusion is this:

“Christ never condones or ‘permits’ sin.  What he does is always to forgive the sins of those who are repentant. The Church founded by Christ follows the same line: she cannot condone, permit or “legalize” sins; through her ordained ministers, however, she can always forgive sins confessed in the sacrament of penance with true repentance.”


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Pastoral Sharings: "Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father James Gilhooley
33 Ordinary Time    
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In 1981, a man left $57,000 in his will to Jesus. It was for His own use when He returned at the Second Coming. The money was to be invested at the highest interest in the meantime. Does anyone really think that Jesus will be shopping at a posh department store for a new seamless robe and sandals upon His return?
Does anyone feel money is what He shall require from us at the Parousia? Is this what the Nazarene is all about? Christ is more interested in the way we conduct our lives this moment rather than tomorrow. He is more eager to see us improve life for others today than He is to remove us from it.

Andrew Greeley has some wise thoughts on this point. The Second Coming, the New Age, the New Epoch, he says, can and should be happening throughout this day and week. I saw the Second Coming at a Soup Kitchen where I worked. A white woman volunteer gave a black man soup, pasta, and coffee. As he was leaving, he thanked her.

Then she noticed the bad condition of his shoes. She told him to wait. From the clothing closet, she brought several pair. The woman got down on her knees and fitted each pair. Finally, she found his fit. In this forty minute encounter, Jesus in His Second Coming was present.

I was watching Him washing His apostles’ feet all over again. I witnessed the New Age today at a fast-food restaurant. A busload of children treated their waitress with kindness. “Please” and “thank you” were more plentiful than hamburgers and cokes. They cleaned their table. They left a generous tip and a happy waitress. There was no doubt but that the Lord was present.    

I see the New Epoch every time one of you gives me $100 and asks me to give it to a family having a difficult time. If one looks sharp enough, you can see a smile on Christ’s face. I observed the New Order yesterday. I was lost and could not find the correct road. I asked directions of a young man. Though he was in as much a hurry as I, he U-turned and told me to follow him for several miles. Then he put my car on the correct road. Can you not hear Jesus applaud as I tell you this story?

I heard of the Second Coming yesterday. A mother told me of her return from a long journey. On her kitchen table, she found a dozen carnations waiting to greet her. The benefactor was her teen son. That day she saw Christ in her boy.
I saw the New Epoch last week. A priest had heard that hostiles in a parish were gleefully giving another priest, whom he hardly knew, a hard time. He phoned. “May I buy you a good lunch?” The trip cost him not only the restaurant bill but also a round trip of 140 miles, and over half a tank of gas. Was not the Nazarene riding with him that day? You, I am sure, can fill in the blanks and tell me of the times when you saw the Second Coming this past week. And hopefully you were the cause of it.

If negative, just as hopefully you will bring it about tomorrow. We ask Jesus, “How do we prepare for dying?” He responds, “By living.” As Greeley says, the answer to the “when?” of the Second Coming can be readily given.

The Lord is present anywhere people treat each other with gentleness, generosity, and thoughtfulness. A man helped Mother Teresa in Calcutta. He was swept off his feet as he watched the small giant wash sick bodies. He said to her, “I want to remain here permanently with you.” The woman, whose wrinkled face showed thousands of miles of wear, said with a smile, “No, no.

It is but an illusion. Go home and bloom where you are planted. The message that each one of us is a member of God’s family is as much needed where you came from as it is here. We must do small things with great love.”

This last line so moved US President George W Bush that he quoted it in his brief inaugural address in Washington, DC in 2001. This week why not see how many times you yourself can bring Jesus back to earth? Here’s a proverb to motivate you. “I sought my God; my God I could not see. I sought my soul; my soul eluded me. I sought my neighbor, and I found all three.” Become God’s miracle for somebody today.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
November 15, 2015

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time:

The Wise Shall Shine Brightly

A little over two weeks ago, people went around trying their best to frighten other people. They were having fun. Horror movies are still popular.  People go to them to scream.  They are having fun. Why?  Perhaps part of  the fun that people have on Halloween or at a horror movie is that they like getting scared. Perhaps part of it is knowing that this is all make believe.   

Today’s readings are scary.  The trouble is, they are not make believe.


Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 13: 24–32

Gospel Summary

Jesus promises his disciples that they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. The angels will gather his elect from the four winds. His coming in glory will be preceded by tribulation. The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in heaven will be shaken. These will be signs just as fig leaves sprouting are a sign that summer is near. Jesus adds that their generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Though heaven and earth will pass away, his words will not pass away. Then Jesus says: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”


Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time—November 15, 2015

Today, Jesus describes a cataclysmic future event in a very old way.  Why?

Gospel (Read Mk 13:24-32)

To understand today’s reading, we must set it within its context in St. Mark’s Gospel.  In Mk 13:1-2, we see that as Jesus and His disciples left the Temple one day, one of His disciples said to Him, “Look Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings.”  All Jews revered the Jerusalem Temple.  It was the one place on earth where God and man could meet.  Thus, it was the focal point of their national identity as God’s chosen covenant people.  Surely the disciples expected Jesus to echo the sentiment about its great beauty and worth.  After all, on one of His visits to the Temple He had, Himself, cleansed it of desecration (see Jn 2:15).  Jesus must have surprised them with His response:  “Do you see these great buildings?  There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.”  What did He mean?


Six Keys to fully Surrender to Christ

At the center of Mark’s Gospel, the Transfiguration of Christ (Mark 9:2-10) stands prominently as an encouragement along the walk from Baptism to Resurrection; a walk that must pass through the Cross.

Place yourself in the position of the Apostles—they have journeyed with Jesus since he began his public ministry and I am sure that they could not have been more astonished at what they had witnessed since the Lord’s baptism.

Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes, walked on water, calmed storms, healed the sick, cast out demons, and restored a girl from death to life.

He forgave sins of those he encountered. He taught with a compassion, wisdom and authority not previously seen. He turned the world upside down!

And during it all, he faithfully made time to be alone in prayer.

Who is Jesus?


Three Vows for Following Christ

Today’s post over at The Suburban Hermit explains how the three Benedictine vows are interwoven and interdependent like a three stranded rope.

The Benedictine monk or nun takes vows of Stability, Obedience and Conversion of Life. There is much that can be learned from the three vows not only for the life of the professed religious, but for the layperson who wishes to follow Christ more closely and fully. I’ll be writing in more detail about the vows on this blog, but a brief consideration here can get us started.


Parables Aren’t Just Stories, Many Are Riddles –

Here Are Two

To most of us, parables are stories told by Jesus to illustrate and clarify what He teaches. We have read the parables in the context of two thousand years of a tradition that interprets them in a certain way. But in their original context, parables are really more like riddles. The apostles noted that while Jesus would speak to the crowds in parables, when He retreated into the house with the apostles He would explain the meaning (cf Mat 13:36). Plain teaching is given “in the house,” in the Church, but among the crowds it’s parables.


Loving Jesus: The Ultimate Blessing

There is no doubt that Jesus loves each one of us with an everlasting love. The question is whether or not we love Jesus in return.  We might think or say that we do, but then, do our day-to-day lives reflect these words, or are we just paying Him lip service?  Are we lukewarm toward Him, at the same time that we are on-fire for our jobs, our entertainment, or our vices?

What is Love?


Humble and Reverent Love

Presence of God – O God, who art so great, deign to lift up my soul, so small and miserable, to Yourself.


The love which audaciously urges the soul on to the conquest of divine union is, at the same time, full of reverence and respect, for the soul understands, much better than before, how sublime and lofty is the majesty of God. If, on the one hand, love makes it impatient to be united to Him, on the other, the clear and continual consciousness of its misery renders it more eager than ever to keep strict watch over its conduct, so that nothing may be found in it which could displease such great majesty.


Five Ways To Improve Our Reception Of Holy Communion

The greatest and most sublime action that the human person can do while living is to receive Holy Communion, in the state of grace, in a most worthy manner. The angels in heaven experience a holy envy for us mortals on earth: we can receive Holy Communion, whereas they cannot!

A key concept in sacramental theology is that of Dispositive grace.  This means in simple jargon: you get what you are open to receiving.  The more fully open a door is the easier it is to get into the door without bumping into it and stubbing our toe.   So with the reception of God’s grace in the sacraments, especially in the reception of the greatest of all of the Sacraments, the most Holy Eucharist.


Why We Need the Sacraments

Four elements stand out in the traditional Catholic doctrine of what a sacrament is. Fundamentalism is suspicious of all four. A sacrament is “a sign that effects what it signifies, instituted by Christ to give grace.”

1. Sacraments are signs and symbols.

Fundamentalism is temperamentally wary of symbolism. It has a plain, “no-nonsense” mentality. Symbols are too poetic for its hardheaded mind to grasp, whether in Scripture or in sacrament.


The Our Father and the Hail Mary: The Two Pillars of

Catholic Prayer

Whole books with titles like A Treasury of Christian Prayer attest to the fact that the Church can dip into vast pools of prayer and come up with any number of prayers that it might set before us for our contemplation.


Pope: ‘The Family Teaches Us to Share, With Joy,

the Blessings of Life’

VATICAN CITY — For Pope Francis, the dinner table is a key place to strengthen family bonds and foster a sense of “togetherness,” which he said can often be thwarted by an excess attachment to technology.

“A family that almost never eats together, or that never speaks at the table, but looks at the television or the smartphone, is hardly a family,” the Pope said Nov. 11.

“When children at the table are attached to the computer or the phone and don’t listen to each other, this is not a family, this is a pensioner!”


5 Ways to Jump-Start Your Prayer Life

You know that niggling sense of need. You want to pray, but you’re stranded and doubtful. Maybe you think God doesn’t want to hear from you because you’ve kept your distance for a while.

Perhaps you practiced prayer once before, and you know that mature prayer is something more than simply petitioning God, but you’re not sure where to go with it.


What are Beauty and Peace? The Ancient Philosophers Had Simple, Objective Definitions

Every now and then we all run across a description or definition of something that captures its truth, yet at the same time respects its mystery. For indeed mere words can ever really be, or take the place of, the thing or person they describe. The reality is always richer than the descriptions we attempt with the grunts and scrawls we call “words.”

Such were my thoughts when I was rummaging through some old philosophy notes and came across two classic definitions that are moving in their simplicity, yet mysteriously accurate. Here they are:


Obedience? What Me?

In the present world the suggestion of obedience is met with incomprehension. That one should submit one’s entire will to another individual is not only a social error, but an anti-social horror. Obedience is a blasphemy in a world of individual freedom, and yet all the wise ones tell us it is only through obedience that innocence is recovered and retained.

Obedience can only be rediscovered through discipline and commitment. Therefore Benedict sets obedience as one of the three vows for his monks. In his chapter on receiving brethren he writes, “The one who is to be accepted into the community must promise in the presence of all; stability, conversion of life and obedience.”


Confess My Sins to a Priest? Why Can’t I Just Talk to God?

If you’re Catholic, you’ve heard this before, right? Your Protestant friend says, “Why should I confess my sins to a priest?” Chances are he’s going to offer one of two arguments:

◾I have a personal relationship with Jesus. I can talk to God directly.

◾Jesus is the only mediator between God and man.

Well, that’s easy! Your first counter-argument can be an explanation:  We’re simply doing what Jesus told us to do.

Catholics don’t just confess their sins to a priest. The priest is an “alter-Christus”; that is, he stands in for Christ. When a Catholic confesses his sins in the presence of a priest, it’s Christ he’s talking to through the priest, and Christ who is offering forgiveness.


Seven Ways Devotion to Saints makes a Difference

One good way of understanding my belief is to ask: What differences does it make? Devotion to saints makes at least seven important differences to Catholics. In each case, fundamentalists find Catholicism too mystical for their tastes.

First, saints make a difference to our prayer. We’re not alone when we pray. We’re surrounded by saints. If there was any one experience that brought me aboard the Barque of Peter, it was realizing that as I prayed I wasn’t alone, but was joined by Peter and Paul, Augustine and Aquinas and the whole company of angels and saints on that great Ark.


10 Things You Didn’t Know About Purgatory

As this month is dedicated to the Souls in Purgatory, it’s an opportunity for all of us to learn more about one of the most misunderstood of Church teachings. Far from being the much-maligned second-chance hell or hell-lite that critics make it out to be, purgatory actually well reflects the beauty of the Church’s teaching.

Here are 10 things about purgatory that may surprise you:


Ten Ways to Avoid Purgatory

Someone recently  asked me, “How do I avoid purgatory?” I had a few suggestions, but here are ten specific ways to avoid it:

1. In every prayer you say, every Mass you hear, every Communion you receive, every good work you perform, have the express intention of imploring God to grant you a holy and happy death and no Purgatory. Surely God will hear a prayer said with such confidence and perseverance.

2. Always wish to do God’s will. It is in every sense the best for you. When you do or seek anything that is not God’s will, you are sure to suffer. Say fervently, therefore, each time you recite the Our Father: “Thy will be done”

3 Steps to Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage

Maybe you’re hoping to strengthen your marriage; maybe you’ve been married for decades and feel secure; or maybe you are just starting out. Spouses’ feelings toward their marriage run the gamut and often see high and lows, but almost all couples can agree: they want a marriage that lasts “until death do us part,” where they grow in love for one another with each passing year.

But is that really possible anymore? Divorce rates continue to soar, and many of us have witnessed relationships we thought would last forever fall apart.


The Gift of Encouragement

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

If you’ve experienced encouragement at the just the right time, you know the truth of the verse above. A word of encouragement is truly a grace, giving one strength to carry on. Sometimes a simple phrase is what will give somebody the courage to keep moving on. This spiritual gift, sometimes also called “exhortation,” is one that we have the opportunity to practice daily, and we may take for granted how powerful it can be.


Conversion Catalysts

Adam Lewis, 25, and Rachael Lewis, 22, grew up in a devout Christian home, never associating themselves with a specific denomination.

“The deposit of faith handed down to me by my parents molded my love for Jesus, prayer life and devotion to him in the word,” Adam explained.

Even so, in their young-adult lives, they both felt something was missing.


Facing the reality of death

I recently had a conversation with a coworker about mausoleums.  I hadn’t experienced a mausoleum until my grandfather died.  It wasn’t the first funeral of a grandparent I experienced, but it was the first time I stood inside a building to watch a burial.  And I’ll be honest—it was strange.  In fact, I had to leave and walk outside.


Help Me Understand Attacks of the Devil (Part II of II)

Editor’s Note:  In part I, we looked at the first strategy of the devil in the spiritual struggle: corrupting the heart.  Today, we will examine the second and third strategies: turning aside the will and getting us to give up.  Here is the question we are considering:

Dear Father John,  I seem to be constantly tempted to, or away from, one thing or another.  I would like to arm myself as much as possible against this spiritual darkness.  Would you help me understand attacks of the devil?


Pope Francis: Angelus Domini – November 15m 2015
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Pastoral Sharings: "Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS  
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for November 8, 2015

We often refer to the Gospels as being Good News, which is what the word Gospel literally means. But we don’t always experience it as good news; all too often we perceive it as placing some kind of burden on our shoulders.

The extract given to us today, however, certainly is good news. Here Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the rich and powerful and highlights the sheer goodness of the poor widow. The implication is that she will receive a high reward in heaven while all those hypocrites will go unrewarded.

This certainly is good news for all the meek and lowly people of the world. It is good news for the poor and the disregarded people around us. It is good news for us if we have ever felt powerless or unworthy, it is good news if we stick to our principles and do our duty no matter what other people think.

The widow makes a sacrifice; she gives what little she has. She places her trust in God that he will provide for her. She stands unnoticed in the Temple but actually makes a greater sacrifice than all those high-ups who are ostentatiously walking about looking important, hoping people will notice them.

It is the Widow’s sacrifice that will be rewarded by God; her willingness to take a risk, her wish to give something back to God in return for all that she has already received from him.

This implies deep faith in God. Her simple action demonstrates what we call trust in divine providence. It implies a deep faith and trust in God that he will somehow or other provide for her needs even though she has no visible means of support.

Of course, in those days there were no social services, no DSS grants, no dole or pensions. And yet despite this people didn’t generally die of hunger. There was a greater understanding of the interdependency of us all and therefore more tolerance towards the poor.

It was a village society and each person probably had access to a plot of land where they could grow a few vegetables. There were also surrounding fields where there were scraps to be found after the harvest was gathered. So while no one was likely to starve, there were surely plenty of people who lived very poorly and at a subsistence level.

This widow while not actually starving probably didn’t have much to live on and certainly not much in the way of the comforts of life. Every penny was counted and used as wisely as possible.

The thing about this reading is that in it Jesus expresses his regard for the poor and vulnerable and assures them that they are not forgotten by God.

He pours contempt on the hypocrites and on those who take advantage of others while making a show of their religiosity. These he threatens with punishment.

It is interesting to note that the woman in the story, however, is completely unaware of Jesus praising her. She places her coin in the alms box and goes on her way. Jesus makes his remarks only to his disciples and so she is oblivious to the praise Jesus heaps on her.

This heightens the point that whatever it is she gives to the Temple she does not do it to get attention, unlike those scribes who want everyone to notice how much they are giving. So it is not only that she is giving all she possessed but also that she does it discreetly and not to gain attention. She looks for no reward, she simply does her duty.

What we need to learn from this reading is that pride and greed take us away from God while humility and poverty of heart draw us closer to him. What God is interested in is our motives. It is what drives our actions that interests him, not so much what we actually end up doing.

This is one of the most important lessons of life. We cannot hide from God, He knows our inmost thoughts and motivations; he knows what we are thinking and what drives our actions. There is absolutely nothing that we can hide from him. This is why we have to keep a constant check on our thoughts as well as on our actions.

This shows the importance of a good upbringing and a good training in our youth. It is the duty of parents to rear their children to be unselfish and to be generous towards others. It is their task to train them not only in good manners, but to have good thoughts and to be motivated by the good of all.

It is very easy to indulge children and to give in to their demands but it is not good for them. They need to learn very important lessons in life and it is only the parents who can ensure that this is done properly. In an atmosphere of unconditional love we have to be sure that they learn personal discipline and to live their lives in a moderate and loving way.

However, if the parents are selfish then the children will also be selfish; they will not learn the most important lesson of life that we are all in it together. They will not realize that what we call life is a common enterprise that involves us all. They will not realize the impact that their actions have on others and they will be the worse for it. They will go through life taking instead of giving and will never fine true happiness.

This story of the Widow’s Mite is an important one for us all. It teaches us about how important it is to have a correct inner motive for our actions. It teaches us that God notices our inmost thoughts and judges us accordingly. It teaches us the importance of generosity and the need to depend on God when we have nothing else.

These are timeless lessons that we need to be sure that we transmit to our children; that we need to be sure we have learned ourselves. These lessons are the key to a truly deep and fulfilling life.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
November 8, 2015

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Trusting in God

In the first reading today and in the Gospel reading we meet two widows who are similar. Both are everyday, hard working women. Both are poor. Both put their trust in God. Both are rewarded for their faith.

The first widow is from Zarephath, a coastal city on the Mediterranean, northwest of the Kingdom of Israel. Elijah traveled through this land during a famine. As in all famines, the rich complain, and the poor starve. The woman was poor. When Elijah met up with her, she was putting her last scraps together before she and her son would die.


Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 12: 38–44

Gospel Summary

The Scribes mentioned in today’s gospel were not a religious sect, as were the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were simply men who knew how to read and write—a distinct minority in those days. Illiterate people depended on them for help in preparing documents, such as contracts, and this gave them considerable power and prestige in the community. But it also tempted them to become proud and to consider themselves above the laws that govern ordinary people.

It is important to note that Jesus does not condemn them because they are more learned than most. They deserve condemnation only because their pride leads them to unjust behavior. Being able to control judicial processes enabled them to defraud vulnerable people, such as widows.


Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time—November 8, 2015

Jesus gives the disciples a lesson in true religion; the example He uses must have surprised them.

Gospel (Read Mk 12:38-44)

Jesus often warned His disciples of the dangers of false, empty religion.  His strongest words of condemnation in the Gospels are always directed to those who make a showy pious flourish while, at the same time, pervert the meaning of God’s covenant with the Jews.  There were scribes in His day whose goal was their reputation.  They loved “seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets,” but they used their public show of religion to wrest contributions to the Temple (their source of income) from widows with the pretext of reciting “lengthy prayers.”  Anyone who uses religion and reputation this way faces a “very severe condemnation.”


The Catholic Church and the Common Good:

An Unbroken Line of Tradition

Last time, in this space, we mentioned that, while the Church condemns atheistic communism for, among other things, denial of the right of private property, it is also leery of the dangers of capitalism. Why? As G.K. Chesterton put it, because it produces too few capitalists and, instead of concentrating wealth and power in the hands of the state, tends to concentrate it in the hands of a tiny oligarchy. Original sin affects capitalists as well as communists.


Saints are contagious examples of everyday holiness,

Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 1, 2015 / 05:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis said the mark of true holiness is living each day as a child of God, imitating both Jesus and the saintly individuals we encounter in the ordinary moments of life.

In his Nov. 1 Angelus address, the Pope said that a key characteristic of the saints is that they “are examples to imitate.”

Francis said he wasn’t just referring to those who have been canonized, but also “the saints, so to speak, ‘of next door,’ who, with the grace of God, strove to practice the Gospel in the ordinariness of their lives.”

These people could be family members, friends or someone we’ve met, and we must be grateful for having them in our lives, he said.


Pope Praises ‘Beauty of the Gospel in the Family’

VATICAN CITY — Delivering his Wednesday general audience address a little more than a week after the close of the synod on the family, Pope Francis spoke on the role of forgiveness in helping families become a force for the betterment of society.

“The practice of forgiveness not only preserves families from division,” but allows them to aid society in becoming “less evil and cruel,” the Pope said during his Nov. 4 weekly audience address in St. Peter’s Square.

“Christian families can do a great deal for today’s society, as well as for the Church,” he said.


On the Simplicity of God

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his ability to know Who and What God is, chose a unique path in which to travel. Many are familiar with his work, Summa Theologica. His use of apophatic theology led to an incredible understanding of God’s nature, not because it is based on facts/proofs about Who God is, but rather Who He is not. St. Thomas appropriately covered five themes dealing with God, namely His simplicity, perfection, infinity, immutability, and unity.

For such a process to be successful, Aquinas had to show God as eventually existing beyond comparisons to human nature. Therefore, the ideas surrounding God had to be relative only to God, and God alone. In the end, Aquinas proved that God is supremely simple, supremely united, and that He is the True God, who can neither be divided, nor seen as lacking in anything.

How Did He Accomplish This?


Holy Scripture: “It’s True. All Of It.”

In case you are one of the five people on earth who has not yet viewed the trailer for the new Star Wars movie, let me tell you about its short exposition of why we believe Holy Scripture even though we did not personally hear Jesus speak, have not had our cancer cured by His touch, or put our hand into the wound in His side.

In the new movie, The Force Awakens, it is some years, some decades since the Rebel Alliance fought the evil Galactic Empire.  Obi Wan, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker are at best dim memories for most folks.  Rey, a young girl who, evidently, is to become a Jedi Knight, has heard about The Force and the Jedi Knights. She wonders if all she has heard are only stories?  She tells an aging Han Solo “There are stories about what happened.” Han realizes she is using the word “story” as if to say “just stories.” He tells her: “It is true, All of it.”  This is sufficient for her. With this actual eyewitness, and what she knows about him, Han Solo saying it is true is a good enough reason to believe.


Fostering Holiness

Pope Francis has said, “Families are the domestic church, where Jesus grows.” The idea of the domestic church or ecclesiola — “little church” — the church of the home, dates back to the early Church, where Christians made their own homes sanctioned places to grow in holiness and discipleship. Still today, Catholic families make their homes “churches in miniature,” imitating the actions of the larger Church in family life.

“It is very important for me as the head of the family to make my home a domestic church, because parents and kids ought to be surrounded with a holy atmosphere, especially in today’s culture, with sinful activity so easily accessible,” explained Eric Mattson, a firefighter and practicing Catholic from Huntington Beach, Calif., who has one daughter.


What is Marian Consecration?

Several years ago, a reader asked me:  “What is consecration? Why would someone want to consecrate themselves to Mary?” How do I go about doing it?”

Since this is the time of year that I try to renew my Consecration to Jesus through Mary, I think this is a good time to discuss Marian consecration.


Just Say These Words and Walk on into Heaven

Why aren’t there some words – profound, insightful, loving, deep, meaningful, powerful words– which, when read, heard, or said will immediately and instantaneously make a person perfectly good in this life and remain so until they die, thus enjoying eternal glory in Heaven? Why cannot words such as these be written which, once read, change one into a saint?


Private Revelations: What Are We to Believe?

I had the recent and fascinating pleasure of getting myself confused on-line with a fellow Catholic and so-called “seer” from Colorado named Charlie Johnston.* The reason for the confusion being obvious. And as may be expected, it made for an intriguing foray into what the man has to say about his purported messages from heaven. It also drew me deep into an exploration of how the Catholic Church looks at claims of this kind. To journey through her wisdom on this subject of private revelation makes for a compelling exposé, I would say, into one of the finer points of our Catholic faith.

What are private revelations?


Do You Want to Know 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?”


Death, Combat & Prayer Power

Walking into a room to visit an eighty six year old priest friend who was convalescing after open-heart surgery five months ago, I asked, “Father, what are you doing?” He replied, “I’m talking to the Lord” as he focused on a large, life-like crucifix hanging on the wall next to his bed. “May I ask what you and the Lord are talking about?” “Sure, I am asking Jesus why He left me here since I nearly died several times but I’m still here!” I asked, “Did Jesus tell you anything about that?” Father replied, “He said I’m not finished yet. There is more that He asks of me— more prayer, more sacrifice, more love.”


Imitate the Simplicity of Jesus

Simplicity is the sign and seal of the Gospel, because it is the distinctive feature, the very nature, of the Savior. From the first moment of His life until His last breath upon the Cross, Jesus never failed to look toward His Father and to act for God. The Gospel bears testimony to this, as well as all the words and acts of Jesus Himself. “When Christ cometh into the world,” says St. Paul, “He saith, ‘Behold I come to do Thy will, O God.’ . . . I will give my laws in their hearts.” His first thought was for God. The first use He made of His liberty was to submit to the will of God and to give Himself up wholly to Him.


Giving God Deadlines

Having recently been divinely schooled on this very topic, I thought I might share the lesson I believe the Lord is trying to teach me. Perhaps some, less dense than myself, will pick up a valuable nugget for their own spiritual lives.


What To Dump For a Better Life

We’ve got a dumpster coming today for some household cleanup, an October cleaning of sorts to purge the house of many things—old broken but non-antique furniture, a basketball hoop that has seen better days, wet carpet pulled up from a home improvement project, and a wooden swing that served us well for many summers but is now warped and falling apart.

As I sit by the window, waiting for the truck that will bring the dumpster (I hope I got one big enough), it occurred to me that while I am at it, it might be a good idea to rid my mind of mental debris as well. If a cook works better in a clean kitchen, and if a home operates more smoothly with organized rooms, then I’m sure my mind (and spirit) will be better off if I get rid of a few things. Want to join me?


What Makes Catholic Families Different?

At the beginning of any journey, you need good directions, or a GPS, so you’ll know where you’re going. If you begin a trip plan­ning to make your way up as you go, you might not ever arrive at your intended destination. Even if you have a set of old directions that used to be correct, who’s to say that the route hasn’t changed? You need the most current directions to help you get from A to B.

The same might be said for your spiritual journey with your kids. If you want to arrive at your destination — the point where your kids are ready to launch out into the world as faithful, Catho­lic young adults — you can’t just wing it. And the directions your parents or grandparents used might not get you there. It’s a dif­ferent world with a completely new landscape and more roads than ever for you and your kids to get lost on. To get where you’re going, you will have to begin your journey with a clear sense of the route ahead, and you will need to be more intentional than ever about making sure you stay on the right roads.


Are You Scared of Spirituality?

Why is it that among ‘conservative Catholics’ there seems to be so little interest in spirituality? We’re big on apologetics. We’re big on dogma. We’re big on the moral teaching of the Church. We’re big on the rules, the rubrics, the regulations and the routine. But I think we’re a little bit scared of spirituality.

Catholicism For the Time Being

On Sunday, with my latest broadside on matters Catholics filed and published, I drove with my family up into northwestern Connecticut — just for the drive, no particular destination in mind. We ended up stopping for mass at a shrine near Litchfield, built in imitation and honor of Lourdes, that I’d visited occasionally many years earlier with my parents. The place was mostly unchanged: A big expanse of land, gray and somewhat forbidding on a cloudy day with the trees half-gone toward winter; a grotto where they have outdoor masses in warmer weather; a long stations of the cross ascending a wooded hill to a lifesize Calvary; and various gift shops and outbuildings scattered around the grounds.


Thanks, Mom

Thank you . . . ” I unthinkingly prompted the drive-through girl at Wendy’s, after she wordlessly shoved a bulging bag of food through the window of my van. I had just plunked down an unreasonable amount of money, money without which her job would not exist, and she didn’t even say “Thank you!” I wasn’t expecting pheasant under glass, and I don’t need to have my bum kissed for buying a Son of Baconator, but I guess a mom is a mom is a mom. Part of my job is teaching people to at least be courteous, even when they can’t muster up spontaneous gratitude.


How Modern Eugenics Discounts Human Dignity

In this modern age, many people are no longer afraid of eugenics.

It is not that they are ignorant of the past. They know all about the movement of the early 20th century that tried to create a better human race by preventing the birth of those deemed “unfit.”

Eugenics literally means “good birth,” and it seeks to “improve” the human gene pool. The American eugenics movement resulted in the forced sterilization of more than 60,000 Americans in 33 states who were considered unfit to reproduce. And eugenics did not stop there.


Interior Trials

Presence of God – O Lord, purify me as gold in the crucible; purify me and do not spare me, that I may attain to union with You.


If Our Lord finds you strong and faithful, humble and patient in accepting exterior trials, He will go on little by little to others that are more inward and spiritual “to purge and cleanse you more inwardly … to give you more interior blessings” (John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love 2, 28). The passive night of the spirit culminates precisely in these interior sufferings of the soul, by which God “destroys and consumes its spiritual substance and absorbs it in deep and profound darkness” (John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul II, 6, 1) in order that it may be completely reborn to divine Life.


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