Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Posted for February 8, 2015

The Gospel text we are given today follows immediately 
on from the one we heard last Sunday. You will 
remember that Jesus preached in the Synagogue and the 
people were astonished at his teaching because he spoke 
with authority. He then cast out some demons who had 
identified him as the Holy One of God.

Today’s text is a continuation of that same Sabbath day and Jesus goes on from the Synagogue to see Simon Peter’s mother in law who was in bed with a fever and he heals her. This seems straightforward enough until you realise that the words Mark uses are full of theological meaning.

The first thing is that Jesus takes her by the hand and helps her up. In other translations it says lifted her up and in yet others it says raised her up. Of course this is the same Greek word being translated by several different English words since we have a much wider vocabulary in English than they do in the Greek language.

The word that is used occurs in several other places in the Gospels referring to the resurrection when our bodies will be raised up. This then is an oblique reference to the resurrection; it is particularly relevant here because Peter’s mother in law was dangerously ill and could easily have died and so Christ by lifting her up is demonstrating what will happen when we actually do die and are raised up by God.

The other word used in a theological sense is where once she had got up she began serving them. The word used for serving is the same one that we use today for a Deacon because a Deacon is one who serves. So this is not so much meaning that she took up household duties as she began to serve the Christian community, in other words she began to exercise Christian ministry.

We can see how with his careful choice of wording Mark is indicating that there is a lot more going on here than we can see on the surface. The original Greek speaking Christians would have immediately understood the implications of this story and recognised that it was not so much about the lady in question as about the resurrection and Christian ministry.

After this story Mark tells us that after sunset the people brought the sick to Jesus for healing. This is important because the Sabbath Day ends at sunset and that meant that the people were allowed once again to carry burdens. Only after sunset were they free to carry their sick relatives and friends to Jesus for healing.

We can see that the strict regulations enforced on the Sabbath Day about what you could or couldn’t do were in practice quite counter-productive. These rules were introduced to help the people keep the Sabbath holy but they eventually get in the way and prevent the sick from being healed, which would surely be something that ought to have been regarded as a sacred work and therefore an entirely appropriate thing to be doing on the Sabbath.

As Mark’s account proceeds we will see how Jesus’ frequent breach of these strict Sabbath regulations provokes the authorities into doing away with him.

The work of healing the sick is accompanied by the casting out of devils. Jesus forbids the devils to speak because they knew who he was. Jesus does not want them to be constantly identifying him as the Messiah because he wants to reveal this to the people in his own way and at a time of his own choosing

Today we are a little shy about speaking of devils. Even those who are quite firm in their faith tend not to take devils very seriously. We regard them as something belonging to an earlier era, something appropriate to a more superstitious age. With our modern scientific mind-set we do not like to think of devils as being real.

This would be a mistake. I do not want to exaggerate the role of the devil or to suggest that demons are everywhere; but be sure that there is a battle against evil going on and the devil is busy enough in the modern world.

The devil is a representation of the powers of evil and these powers are as strong today as ever they were. Of course, we know that the battle against evil has already been won through the sacrifice of Jesus. But we know that this victory has not yet been fully worked out and will not come to its conclusion until the Last Day. So the devil is still alive and well; and certainly busy enough in the world of today.

He is very much present in a secular society which constantly seeks to minimise religion and to mock those who have faith. He is also present in a society which places a very high value on material objects as well as on things such as status or celebrity.

The vast increase in the amount of pornography available through the internet is a sure sign that the devil is very active in our world. We know quite well the pernicious and corrupting effect pornography has especially on young people, giving them warped ideas about human sexuality ultimately aiming to render them unfit for respectful human relationships.

Thirty years ago pornography was hard to find and we were a better society as a result. Today however we should not underestimate the addictive nature of pornography and the extremely strong grip it can have over a person.

So how do we fight the devil whatever form he takes? How do we cast him out? Well the answer is simple: we fight evil with good. We do the very things that the devil does not like and as a result he will in time go elsewhere.

The devil does not like us to pray which is why he tries to fill our heads with other things and distracts us from prayer. He definitely does not like us to go to mass which is why he makes us very sleepy on a Sunday morning and tells us that there are a lot of other things we should be doing rather than going to mass.

The devil is also responsible for putting all kinds of thoughts into our heads and temptations in our way. He certainly does not want us to abide by a strict moral code. He gets fed up when we take steps to resist temptation and when we set ourselves moral parameters.

So by praying, by going to mass, by abiding by a set of moral rules, by avoiding temptation; in all these ways we can protect ourselves from the tricks of the devil. And do not forget that we can also command him in the name of Christ to simply go away.

In short it is by living the kind of life that Jesus lived that will keep the devil away. Look at the Gospels, the devils were afraid of Jesus and he could command them to leave a person. What we need to do is to simply do the things Jesus does and we will be safe.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1975

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—February 8, 2015
When Jesus met the first of His disciples, He asked, “What are you looking for?” (Jn 1:38). Today, Simon tells Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” What happened in between?

Gospel (Read Mk 1:29-39)

As we continue in St. Mark’s Gospel, we see that after Jesus left the synagogue in Capernaum, where He had taught and exorcised demons with great authority and power, He “entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.” Simon’s mother-in-law was quite sick. When He was told about it, Jesus “approached, grasped her by the hand, and helped her up.” She was healed.
…more

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time:His Touch Demands Our Response
Today’s readings from scripture can raise a number of eyebrows.  My first reaction is: “What in the world was that all about?”  The first reading begins with a horrible quotation from the Book of Job.  “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?  Are not his days those of a hireling?”  Then it gets worse.  “My months are full of misery.  I can’t wait to get to bed, then I can’t wait to get up. I shall not see happiness again.” What a wonderful way to begin our Sunday.
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Pope Francis: ‘The Gospel Has the Power to Change Life’
VATICAN CITY — In his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis pointed to the authority with which Jesus preached, saying that his words in the Gospel aren’t aimed to limit, but, rather, liberate us from evil and worldly spirits.

“The Gospel is the word of life: It does not oppress people, (but), on the contrary, it frees those who are enslaved by so many evil spirits in this world: vanity, the attachment to money, pride, sensuality,” the Pope told pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square on Feb. 1.
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Trusting In God Completely
There are many lessons to be learned from reading Holy Scripture, but in my opinion, one of the most important lessons to be learned is that we humans should learn to totally trust in God to do what’s best for us, at all times, no matter how bleak the situation. Of course, the caveat that goes with that directive is that we should be obeying His Holy Word as well.

No one likes being told what to do all the time, but it’s different with God. With total trust in God, we can never fail in the long run, because He will always direct us to do the right thing.  The Bible says in Matthew 5:48 to “Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.”
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Christ and the Confidence that Comes From the Holy Spirit
Christ baptizes in the power of the Holy Spirit and his fire animates the Christian life with hope.  The Holy Spirit who moved over the waters of creation, who overshadowed the Virgin Mary, who descended on Christ at his Baptism, who carried the Crucified’s last wordless cry for our sake from the depths of His heart and into the Heart of the Father, who animates the Risen Body of Christ and who burns in the hearts of the apostles and the martyrs; He is the source of a hope so great no power in the heavens above or on the earth below can overcome it.
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Choice vs. Reason
It is sometimes said that no one has a sufficient imagination or memory to be a consistent liar. A corollary is: Integrity is characteristic of any true explanation. A mark of the Church is that it is one, not only in charity (the act of the will), but one in the internal integrity of the faith and the integrity of the faith with the truths of philosophy (the act of reason).
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The Three Most Profound Ideas I Have Ever Had
Ideas are more precious than diamonds. The three most precious ideas I have ever discovered all concern the love of God.

None of them is original. But every one is revolutionary. None of them came from me. But all of them came to me with sudden force and fire: the “aha!” experience, the “eureka!” experience. They were all realizations, not just beliefs.
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Pray to God in Secret
“Go into your room” (Matt. 6:6) — that is, into the most private part of your home, or rather, go into the most in­timate place in your heart. Recollect yourself completely. “Shut the door” (Matt. 6:6). Shut your senses, and let no foreign thoughts enter. “Pray in secret.” Open your heart to God alone. Let him be the keeper of your innermost sorrows.
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Adam and Eve: What Not to Do after You Have Sinned
Temptation has struck again. It may have been a mere pinprick of desire. Or it may have stormed your soul, leaving you shaken to your core. Either way, you gave in and sinned.

An instinctive response, at least for many of us, is to instantly recoil in shame from God. For someone earnestly seeking to lead a holy life dedicated to God, it can be embarrassing to admit that serious temptation—to any sin—still lurks in your soul and sometimes succeeds in ensnaring you. But the worst temptation is the temptation to cut God out of the picture at precisely the moment we are in most need of salvation.
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“A Beautiful Work of the Holy Spirit”
Man likes to be in control, especially of  the Holy Spirit. Of course, most of us would deny trying to box in the Almighty, because we realize how ridiculous this sounds.  Yet, because we really do not like to change, we end up resisting even God.  We like our comfort zone. We especially don’t like the rug ripped from under us and that approach is usually how God must snag our attention.

The Holy Spirit is not stagnant. He is not the God of the past, but God of the present,  alive, a dynamic powerhouse seeking to heal, transform and draw us ever closer to His heart.
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In His Name I Cast Thee Out…
The dangers of the Occult and the New Age are all around us. So too is the solution to the woes they drag in their wake. Such were the sentiments of someone I had met some time ago, a woman who specialised in freeing souls from those shackles. Recently, I set out to find her again, and this time to question her more closely.
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Prepare Now for a Holy Lent
Lent is just around the corner. Have you made any preparations yet?

In our parish we are not having extra services, Bible studies, meetings and stuff to do.

Instead we are using new and old media to provide our people with a plethora of good materials so they can make their own Lent holy.
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The Courage to Fail
The experience of getting things wrong is the incentive for getting them right.

                                                                 ~ Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.

Getting through nursing school is no small feat, I assure you.

If you’re a nurse yourself, you already know that, right? You remember what nursing school was like: The massive tomes you had to lug around, let alone read; the exams and skill check-offs; the ungodly clinical hours; the grumpy (sometimes) instructors; and, of course, getting acclimated to the (shall we say) “messiness” of day-to-day nursing.
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Sober Scriptural Wisdom on Avoiding the Whirlwind of Lust
There is a marvelous chapter in the Book of Proverbs that ought to be studied by every young person who must live in this lustful world. It sets forth plainly the stance that any son or daughter of God should have regarding the lust so often celebrated by this age.
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Obedience to God’s will brings wisdom, joy, hope, pope tells religious
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Total obedience to God’s will brings wisdom, joy and hope, Pope Francis told religious men and women.

“Yes, the happiness of a religious is a consequence of this path of lowering oneself with Jesus and, when we are sad, when we complain, it will do us well to ask ourselves how we are living this dimension of ‘kenosis'” or self-emptying, he said.
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Co-Creators with Christ
God creates from nothing, we create using the stuff God supplies us. As creatures in his image and likeness, it is our right and proper office to be “sub-creators” as J.R.R. Tolkien called us. Therefore, teaching our children how to cooperate with God in the work of creation is a perfectly fitting job for us as Catholic parents.

Genesis points out five tasks given the human race in the Garden: marriage, fruitfulness, rule, work, and worship. In all these tasks, we become more fully human and, for the baptized, become more profound participants in the life of the Blessed Trinity through Christ. Let’s look at them briefly.
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Being an Extraordinary Catholic is No Easy Task
Being an extraordinary Catholic is no easy task, but Randy Hain’s new book Joyful Witness – How To Be An Extraordinary Catholic gives examples and insights of just those Catholics – those joyful witnesses. These are people who, as Randy writes, have become “better versions of themselves.” Not everyone he writes about planned on being so extraordinary – it was grace and determined will that led them on their mission.
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The Lord’s Prayer and a New Solidarity for Humanity
Although rancor, contention and strife threaten our communities and households, it is not delusional to believe that enmity, alienation and futility are not the last words concerning all that is good, noble and true about humanity. This is as true for our cultures and societies as it is for each one of us individually.  Indeed, in the face of our broken sinful habits, the quiet murmuring of the Lord’s prayer in the most forgotten alley in even the most heartless metropolis is a sign, like a flickering votive candle in a sanctuary, that misery is not limitless. Those words, “Our Father,” even when they rattle out from trembling lips at life’s final moment, declare an unvanquished hope that God Himself entrusted to the world.
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Is There a “Fourth Secret” of Fatima?
Recently, I read a copy of a magazine with an article that claimed there was new information that (allegedly) proved that there was another text of the third part of the secret of Fátima. While reading this article and checking it against the text of a Portuguese book reference in the article, I noticed some discrepancies. The present article will discuss this claim of another text and the discrepancies.

For those who need a quick refresher, the following is an outline of events relative to the discussion at hand.
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Remember the Last Things
In the context of the Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius invites his retreatants to meditate upon the Last things; however these last things should be among the most important things in our spiritual life.

In Spiritual Theology the technical word is “Eschatology” which means the study of the “Last Things.” Some authors write about the “four” last things; but we would like to add a fifth.
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Why Having a Heart of Gold is Not What Christianity is About
Many atheists and agnostics today insistently argue that it is altogether possible for non-believers in God to be morally upright. They resent the implication that the denial of God will lead inevitably to complete ethical relativism or nihilism. And they are quick to point out examples of non-religious people who are models of kindness, compassion, justice, etc. In point of fact, a recent article has proposed that non-believers are actually, on average, more morally praiseworthy than religious people.
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Lemons and Moons, or “How to Love”
When my grief counselor asked me to explain why I felt the loss of my mother so acutely, I couldn’t come up with my own language for it. It was all so natural and obvious to me. She was my mother! But not everyone has a mother like my mother, I learned, so first we had to define and discuss the relationship, and then we could delve into the ramifications of its earthly end.
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Lessons From a Computer Analyst-Turned-Catholic School Teacher
“Live the Gospel every day. You may be the only Gospel that another person encounters that day.” — My father, who would often say this at the dinner table.

It has been eight years since I left a lucrative career as a computer and business consultant to start teaching at a Catholic high school. I left my former career for essentially two reasons: While I enjoyed what I did, there was only so much satisfaction to be gained from making companies more profitable, and, as a product of Catholic education, I believed God was calling me to do more with my talents.
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Four saints in one family? Beatification Process of St. Therese of Lisieux’s
sister, opens
Pope Francis is a great devotee of St. Therese of Lisieux. Her parents, Louis and Zelie were beatified back in 2008. Now, the saint’s sister, Leonia is also being considered for sainthood. The priest leading her cause for canonization, talked about her life, in a video conference chat.
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Proven Way to End Abortion
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy Can End Abortion

The March for Life 2015 may be over, but keep praying to end abortion. One of the most powerful prayers is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

That is right from St. Maria Faustina’s experience and teaching.

It’s time to realize the circumstances for which St. Faustina received the chaplet and how they tie into our present day.
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An Examination of Conscience that really hits home
I found a copied booklet of an old Examination of Conscience in the things I save for later use.  If anyone can identify the author, please let me know.  The help given to examine one’s conscience with regards to loving our neighbor is invaluable, as you can see:

– Have I been unkind towards others?
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS   
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Posted for February 1, 2015
   
 

“His teaching made a deep impression on them because 
  he taught them with authority.” So we read in today’s 
  Gospel.

We are not very happy with authority today. We aren’t keen on trusting someone’s judgement just because of the role they have. Whether it be the police, the medical profession, law makers, teachers or clergy –all have to justify themselves.

People don’t accept anything today just because they are told it. They want to know why. I suppose this is because it is thought that those in authority have abused their power in the past. In some cases they have taken short-cuts and caused hurt and harm

The police have been caught out rigging evidence, doctors have been found to have made wrong diagnoses, law makers have shown themselves to be biased, teachers have just lectured us without ensuring we really understood, and priests have looked after themselves and failed to go after the lost sheep.

It is understandable that we resent those who have exercised their authority badly. We feel let down, we feel that our trust has been abused; we feel we can’t rely on anything any more. Those who fail to carry out their responsibilities let us all down; they give everyone a bad name.

But what about Jesus and the way he exercised authority? Here is the Son of God; the Lord of Creation, the one with all the power that ever could be vested in one individual, so it is important that we look to see how he exercises it? And the short answer is that he exercises authority with gentleness.

He who could rule all, doesn’t. He who could destroy even the evil spirits doesn’t, he simply rebukes them. He who could call armies of angels to defend him doesn’t, instead he allows himself to be taken into custody, tried, tortured and executed.

It is what Jesus doesn’t do that is more astonishing than what he does do. You will notice from the Gospel, it wasn’t the casting out of the evil spirits that astonished the people it was his teaching. Not his actions but his words.

It is no wonder that the people were astonished. Jesus truly is the prophet foretold by Moses who speaks the words God has put into his mouth. And these words are words of love, words of truth, words of peace, words of gentleness.

And in his words he reveals the mysteries of the Kingdom to us, mere children. And does not our heart burn within us as he talks to us on the road through life. We hear his words and we are astonished and filled with joy.

Jesus was no prophet in the ordinary sense of the word. Although on occasion he used harsh language to certain groups with vested interests, he did not lambast the ordinary people in the way that some of the prophets felt they had to.

The prophets of old were faced with a stubborn people who could not see God’s will, and, for the most part, they were fiery preachers who used strong language and threats to put across their message.

Jesus doesn’t do this. He is far better than a prophet. He doesn’t threaten, he doesn’t shout and bawl, he doesn’t really ever get angry with the people. His message is Blessed are the poor; Love your neighbour; Do go to those who persecute you; Pray for the coming of the Kingdom. And his message is all the more powerful for the fact that he has all the authority that has ever existed or will ever exist—but doesn’t use it.

We don’t call him a prophet, or even the prophet. We call him Emmanuel –God with us, Jesus –one who saves.

Here is real authority; here is the authority of God himself. Here is an authority figure who respects us more than we respect ourselves. Here is an authority figure who goes so far as to give his own life for our sake.

While we distrust the authority figures of our world today, we must, of course, acknowledge that each of us somewhere or other also exercises authority; whether it be as a parent, an elder brother or sister, or in some aspect of our work. And in our exercise of authority we are often enough guilty of the very things we accuse our oppressors of doing. Therefore we too are open to question and to accusation.

So let us take Jesus for our example and guide in the way we exercise our responsibilities. Let us teach our children as he would teach them. Let us treat our younger brothers and sisters as kindly as he would. Let us treat our subordinates at work with the kind of fairness he would show. Let us treat all those we have power over, however insignificant that might be, just gently as he would.

We will then find that people accord us an authority not based on any power we hold but based on the credibility and consistency of our lives.

The effect of doing this is that society itself will change and become better. We Christians will have become an active leaven in the world. Our patience, tolerance and gentleness will have become infectious and will have spread from the top to the bottom of our society. We will wake up one day and discover that we have built up the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Through the efforts of the Dalai Lama we have heard what the Chinese Communist Government has done in Tibet since it invaded in 1949. We have heard how even now they have systematically attempted to eradicate every vestige of Tibetan religion and culture.

There was a certain army commander who was particularly brutal towards the Buddhist monks and nuns of Tibet. He revelled in the reputation he had gained as a persecutor and destroyer of monasteries. His reputation had grown to such an extent that he only had to approach a monastery with his soldiers and the monks fled.

One day he arrived at the gates of a well-known monastery and when the gates were battered down he was again pleased to hear that the monks had fled. However, he very quickly flew into a rage when one of his officers reported that in the inner courtyard there remained one solitary monk. He strode off into the cloister and went right up to the monk who was standing there peacefully before him.

‘Don’t you know who I am?’ he yelled into the monk’s face. ‘Without blinking an eye, I can run you right through with my sword.’ The monk quietly responded: ‘Don’t you know who I am? Without blinking an eye, I can let you run me through with that sword.’
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1970

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
February 1, 2015

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—February 1, 2015
Right after Jesus’ baptism, He tangled with the devil. In St. Mark’s account of His first teaching mission, an unclean spirit confronts Him. Why this assault from the forces of darkness?

Gospel (Read Mk 1:21-28)

After Jesus assembled His disciples, He began His itinerant life of preaching the Kingdom of God.   Today, we read about His visit to the synagogue in Capernaum. The impact of His teaching was immediate: “The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” The people recognized that there was something unique in the way Jesus spoke about the Scriptures (which is what happened in synagogues). Surely the townspeople, at this early point, could not have much of an understanding of who Jesus was. However, there was one man in the crowd who did—“a man with an unclean spirit.”
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Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time: He Spoke with Authority
In today’s Gospel reading the Sacred Writer, the Holy Spirit, speaks about the authority of the Lord.  The reading is taken from the first chapter of the earliest of the Gospels, the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus begins to teach in Capernaum.  The people are held spellbound because he spoke with authority, not like the scribes.  A man comes before Jesus who is in the hand of the power of evil.  Jesus makes the devil come out of the man.  The bystanders are amazed because Jesus has such authority.
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To Go Deeper into the Life of Christ
Every Catholic should spend a minimum of fifteen minutes a day engaged in spiritual reading. Normally, this should include some reading of the New Testament to identify ourselves with the words and actions of our Savior and better conform our lives to His, perhaps followed by a passage from some classic book on a spiritual theme recommended by your spiritual advisor. (You do have one, do you not? If not, take steps to remedy that situation immediately.)
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Love as Passion – and Virtue
I’ve often read something in the work of Thomas Aquinas and been puzzled by it, only to discover later how much wisdom was contained there.

One example that comes to mind deals with love, and when I describe my puzzlement, the older and wiser among this audience will certainly say: “How could he not have understood that?” In his Summa of Theology, Thomas discusses love in two contexts: once in his discussion of the passions, and then again in his discussion of the virtues. Here was what puzzled me: How can love be both a passion and a virtue? Isn’t it one or the other?
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Does Your Mind Wander When You Pray?
Do you have trouble paying attention while praying? Does your mind wander? Do you sometimes fall asleep? Do you forget where you were and stop? Do you then feel ashamed and disappointed in yourself? Do you get frustrated? Do you want to give up trying to pray long prayers like the Rosary? Do you give up? Or do you keep trying?
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Aim Higher Than Purgatory
During a homily, I heard the story told of an elderly man who had converted to the Catholic faith on his deathbed. “Why now?” many wanted to know.

“I’ve been thinking about it for awhile,” he explained. “The Catholics pray for their dead and the Protestants don’t. I want to be prayed for in case I will need it.”

Throughout the ages, visionaries have seen purgatory where souls long for Heaven. Catholics understand that purgatory is a place of suffering. And then, we live as if purgatory is the destination, unwilling to shoot for sainthood.
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Does Everything Happen for a Reason?
A reader once wrote to me to ask:

“I have a quick question, and I apologize if it’s awfully trite, but I haven’t been able to find a satisfactory answer after (admittedly, not-so-exhaustive) searching. 
 
Here it is:
 
From the standpoint of the Catholic Church: does everything happen for a reason?
If it does, it smacks a bit of predestination; if it doesn’t, does that mean that God is out of control or doesn’t care? Say a flower grows on a mountaintop and it dies, and no human ever saw a trace of it or knew it existed; how much of that is an effect of an ecosystem going through its natural cycles, and how much is God putting a flower on a mountaintop?”
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Wondering What to Give Up for Lent? Try Indifference, Pope Says
VATICAN CITY — The “globalization of indifference” was at the heart of Pope Francis’ Lenten message, in which he urged the faithful to fight individualism with merciful hearts that are more attentive to the needs of others.
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Is the Angel of the Lord the Pre-Incarnate Christ?
The Church Fathers held an unwavering belief that the Second Person of the Trinity appeared frequently in the Old Testament in a variety of forms: the Angel of the Lord, the Burning Bush, the Son of Man, and the one like a Son of God in Daniel.

Today we’ll look at a debate regarding the Angel of the Lord. Is he are isn’t the Pre-Incarnate Son of God? There are various positions in early Christianity.
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Want to Change the World? Grow in Holiness
Every year, we make New Year’s resolutions — exercise; read a book a week; learn a language or improve our career. How about, this year, we resolve to do something that can change the world?

This year, resolve to grow in holiness, deepen your relationship with Christ and make your faith life something beyond whatever it is today.

There are several methods for beginning this miraculous journey. 
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Abortion and Obi Wan
In 1914 Agnes Cuff, a flighty and unstable young woman with few prospects and little money found herself pregnant. The father didn’t want to be involved. She was alone, shamed, poor and pregnant.

Today she would be encouraged to get herself to an abortion clinic and end the unwanted pregnancy.

Instead a little boy was born.
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The Earliest Christian Teaching on Abortion
From sometime in the first (or early second) century A.D.:

“There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and great is the difference between these two ways. And now this is the way of life: First, you shall love God, who made you…

The second commandment of the teaching is:
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Jesus The Teacher of Sanctity
Presence of God – I need You always, my divine Master, because You alone are holy and can show me the true way of holiness.

MEDITATION

The knowledge of God in which eternal life consists, as Jesus has said, is not the kind of knowledge which stops at the enlightenment of our intellects, but knowledge which stirs up our wills to love the God whom we know, and which regulates our whole life so that it will be pleasing to Him. Consequently, when Jesus has brought us to the knowledge of the Father, He then teaches us what we must do to please Him: “Be you therefore perfect as also your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
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Casting Out Demons in the Name of Solomon: Jewish Exorcisms at the Time of Christ
Exorcisms have been a part of Catholicism from the very beginning. When Jesus sends out the Twelve Apostles, “they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them” (Mark 6:12-13). But did you know that exorcisms actually predate Christianity, and that there were Jewish exorcists at the time of Christ?
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10 Lessons from the Early Church Fathers for Today
1. The early Church Fathers were not superhumans.

They were ordinary people who were faithful to God’s call. They teach us that our lives, too, are charged with possibility.

2. The Fathers remind us that we need spiritual fathers in our life today.

Spiritual knowledge cannot be passed on through books alone, but is best transmitted person to person, apostle to apostolic successor, and saint to saint. We need such people in our life, too.
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Four Ways to Show More Compassion and Love
Jeanne Lyons’s story, as told in Joyful Witness, is one of overcoming life’s challenges and learning to show compassion and love for the least among us. How do we follow her great example? As Matthew 25:40 reads, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” In reflecting on this Scripture and Jeanne’s ministry, here are four practical actions to consider:
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The Beauty of Devotion
In order to be devout, not only must we want to do the will of God, we must do it joyfully. If I were not a bishop, yet knew what I know, I would not want to be one. But being one, not only am I obliged to do what this annoying office requires, but I must do it joyfully, and I must take delight in it and accept it. To do so is to follow St. Paul’s saying, “in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Cor. 7:24).
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The Necessary Virtue of Hope
During any phase of transition, one hears quite a bit about the importance of the theological virtues of faith and love. One is counseled to have faith in God that He will bring the best result out of the situation, while being reminded to either love those also going through the transition along the way, or to be very loving to the one who is facing the changes alone. While these are very important pieces of advice, often the incredibly important virtue of hope is lost in the mix.
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Recognizing Sinful Anger
Anger as a deadly sin is ‘a disorderly outburst of emotion connected with the inordinate desire for revenge.’ . . . It is likely to be accompanied by surliness of heart, by malice aforethought, and above all by the determination to take vengeance.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains a similar description:
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Casting Out Devils From Your Life
Jesus said with the utmost clarity:“Some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.”(Mt. 17:21) Often the devil or devils have a real stronghold in our lives, and to make things worse, we are not even aware of it. One of the greatest victories of the devil is to hide or camouflage himself, or better yet, trick us into believing that he does not even exist!
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Why the Devil Hates the Blessed Virgin So Much (And Why You Should Love Her)
Satan hates the Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact, he has been doing everything in his power to discourage devotion to her and instill hatred for her for two millennia. Have you ever noticed that it is Marian dogmas and devotions that stir the strongest reactions in those who reject the Church? Even some good Catholics are embarrassed by devotion to our Lady, and they feel we should not be too extreme in our veneration of her.

Perhaps you, too, have wondered why the Church holds the Immaculate Virgin in such high regard. Perhaps you have wonder why God has chosen to use her in the work of redemption. Today, I’d like to take a look at why the devil hates the Blessed Mother so much, and why we should be her devoted knights.
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Weapons for Battling Lucifer in Lent

Lent is coming up and I’m finally getting down to Paul Thigpen’s excellent Manual for Spiritual Warfare.

This little book is the best I’ve found on the subject. Paul launches into the subject of spiritual warfare with clear explanations, solid research and simple language.

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Healing through a New Language
I would like to discuss briefly something that is so necessary to our spiritual, emotional, and psychological health, but which has been virtually obliterated in the current culture in which we live. I call it Healing through a New Language. We need to reclaim this essential part of our lives, because God made us to incorporate this beautiful language into our lives.

“Be still and confess that I am God!” (Psalm 46:11)
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What is Apologetics?
To our Catholic readers: have you ever had had to stand up for your faith? Have you ever been hassled for being Catholic, or had your faith challenged by atheists? If you haven’t, who knows what you’re missing out on – it could be one of the best things that ever happens to you! It was for me, and I’ll get to that story in a later post.

What is Apologetics?
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20 Cool Things About Nuns in Habits
There’s so many great things about the sisterhood. Without a doubt, they’re one of the most recognizable people on earth, and there are several great things about that. Here’s 20 cool things about nuns in habits!

1. Guys don’t mistake them for available singles and accidentally hit on them
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS   
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Posted for January 25, 2015  
 

Here, very early on in the Gospel of Mark, we have the
call of the first Apostles. As we  have noted already Mark 
gets down to business fast, here in only verse sixteen of 
his  Gospel we find Jesus calling Simon and his brother 
Andrew and then having gone on a   little further he calls the sons of Zebedee, James and John.

Short though these four verses maybe, we find in them an extraordinary amount of detail. In fact there are six important features which are paradigms for all the other call and conversion stories in the New Testament. But they are not restricted to the pages of the Bible for they might well be also characteristics of our own story of call and conversion.

The first feature is that it is Jesus who takes the initiative. He is the one who does the calling —naturally no one can call themselves. The initiative must come from God and at a time and place of his choosing. This is the action of grace in our life and it does not depend on anything we do.

The second feature is that those who are called are engaged in ordinary work. Jesus does not normally choose people from the elite; he tends to choose from among the ordinary people. In this case they were fishermen, an occupation which involved hard work but also a certain amount of knowledge and skill. They are not ignoramuses but neither do they have an elite education or social advantage.

The third point to notice is that Christ’s call is quite explicit. He says simply but clearly: “follow me”. There is no ambiguity; those who experience this call certainly know that they are being called.

Of course, at the beginning nothing is made clear, things only gradually evolve and become clearer as time goes on. Those first Apostles couldn’t have known what answering the call would lead to. They did not know that, in the words of the poet, it would end up “costing not less than everything”. They just knew they must follow; only gradually over the course of time did the implications become clear to them.

The fourth point is that the Apostles are invited to share in the life and work of Jesus. They go where he goes; they do what he does; they say the things he says. They learn by example, by doing, they learn by living with him.

Fifthly, they leave their former life immediately and without hesitation. It is as if they have been waiting all their lives for that call and simply know that they must follow Jesus then and there, even though it might involve personal loss and sacrifice.

Lastly, their response is not something private, it means coming together with others who have similarly responded to the call of Jesus. It means travelling along the road together with these fellow disciples of Jesus.

In a certain sense that is a good definition of the Church—a group of Disciples of Christ travelling on the road of life together. Naturally they will support each other as they make their pilgrimage through life. Like any band of companions each one will find a particular role and make their contribution for the good of all.

It is amazing what you can get out of these few short verses of scripture. We see these six points in the calls of the other Apostles but we can perhaps recognise them also in our own lives. Those who have experienced a conversion later in their lives will perhaps more easily recognise this.

But maybe those of us who were baptised in infancy won’t find it quite so easy. However, if we think hard we will recognise that there was a point or perhaps several points in our lives when we did explicitly confirm that choice. It may have been when we received the Sacrament of Confirmation, but that acceptance of our call could just as easily have taken place at any stage of our life’s journey for God is constantly at work in our lives.

That’s looking back, of course. Looking back on our initial vocation, our decision to follow Christ, our choosing to respond to his call to become a member of his Church.

But what about looking forward? Those first Apostles responded to Jesus and followed him, but one at least strayed away and betrayed Jesus. And Peter himself, as we well know, denied Christ three times.

So, even the best of us fall down on the job. Following Jesus is not a once and for all decision. It is a choice we must make each day. As we put our feet over the side of the bed each morning and place them on the floor we must chose whether those feet will follow Christ today.

Will those feet of mine walk in his footsteps? Or will they walk in a different direction?

At the end of the day when I pick those feet up off the floor I could just as well ask myself a similar question. Where have those feet been during the day? Where did they walk? Is the dust on them the same dust as is on Christ’s feet?

And that is just in the ordinary course of events as we live out our Baptismal commitment. But sometimes we experience another call, a call within a call, as it were. At some point in our lives we might feel that God wants us to take a further step. We begin to experience a nagging feeling that we ought to deepen our Christian commitment that we should be a bit more radical.

Some or all of those six characteristics that we spoke about might come into play. We feel that God wants us to go on a further journey and just like those first Apostles we want to respond and immediately follow the Lord on this new deeper journey even though we might not know where it will lead.

It can strike us in different ways. I’ve been here at St Joseph’s this time around for only three years but I can see that there are many people who are carrying out their role as disciples of Christ in an extraordinary number of different ways. There are parishioners who raise money for the missions, others who are working for justice and peace, some who belong to organisations dedicated to serving the community in innovative ways.

Still others are involved in one or other aspect of pastoral care. This is not to speak of the many who are acting as catechists or those who are putting their musical and artistic talents at the service of the parish. There are too the many people involved in education in this parish with its strong connections to so many schools.

One of the things I have noticed is large number of Baptisms taking place here at St Joseph’s These many Baptisms are a cause of great joy for the parish. They are a sign of new life and bring us all hope for the future.

We celebrate the initiation of these new members of the Church and the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. On their behalf their parents are responding to the call of Christ. The parents know that to bring their children to the waters of Baptism is one of the greatest gifts they could give to their child. For by doing so they help them to set off on that great journey of faith following in the footsteps of the Divine Saviour.

But we also rejoice that many young people and adults in this parish are also beginning a new and deeper journey. They are taking a new road with Christ. It may be a harder and rockier road, but he is calling and they are choosing to answer his call.

We rejoice and we encourage them. But the rest of us also need look inwards and ask ourselves if we too are not also being called to a deeper and more radical living out of our Christian faith.

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
January 25, 2014

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—January 25, 2015
In Ordinary Time, we hear “the preaching of the kingdom of God” through all the lectionary readings. Today, we find a dramatization of what that means for some of us.

Gospel (Read Mk 1:14-20)

In last Sunday’s Gospel, we reflected on Jesus’ first meeting with Andrew, John, and Simon Peter. These men were very interested in the new Rabbi whom John the Baptist, their teacher, had called “the Lamb of God.” Today’s reading describes how they, along with John’s brother, James, moved from being interested in Jesus to becoming His intimate companions and co-workers. How did this happen?
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Third Sunday of Ordinary Time: It Is Never Too Late
Once a year I put on my classical duds and go to New York City to see an opera or two.  A few years ago I saw Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The story is sometimes called Don Juan.  It is the story of a horrible man who uses and dumps as many women as he can; laughing at the fact that he can’t even count his victims. At the end of the opera Don Giovanni or the play Don Juan, or for that matter, at the end of the opera Faust, the main character has the ability to be forgiven, but out of pride refuses to recognize his sins and would rather be condemned to hell.
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How Do I Love God With All My Heart?
Dear Father John, I want to love God with all my heart, but I don’t know where to start.  How do I do this?

LOVING GOD WITH all your heart means desiring him above all things and making your intimate, personal relationship with him into the highest priority of your life, the center around which every other facet of your existence finds its proper and glorious place. But how do you do that? How do you make that happen?
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The Discovery of the Trinity
Two basic tenets of Catholic teaching are that 1) God revealed himself in a progressive revelation that was completed with the death of the last apostle and 2) since then the Church’s understanding of that complete revelation has deepened and developed.

Perhaps the classic model for understanding this process is seen in the revelation given by God concerning His own Triune nature. Certain critics of the Catholic Faith speak of the doctrine of the Trinity as an “invention” of the Church. However, it is closer to the mark to say that this truth was discovered rather than invented. For the Church, so far from creating anything, simply followed the clues left by God in His complete revelation given through Scripture and Tradition.

The clues were essentially as follows:
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Direct All Things to God
Who would not wish to become simple? But how can this be achieved?

You must first meditate upon this virtue, in order to understand its primary importance, its absolute necessity, and to arouse within yourself the most ardent desire to possess it at any cost.

Without this ardent desire and resolute will, all of your efforts will be in vain. Your endeavors and your in­clinations will woefully fail before your egoism, vanity, selfishness, passions, and all the human motives that constantly influence you and that overthrow the edifice of your simplicity as fast as you build it up.

But once possessed of the calm and resolute will to attain simplicity, this is what you must do:
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Unanswered Prayers
My husband and I recently spoke about prayer and our prayer ministry, Pray More Novenas, at a local Theology on Tap event.

After our talk, there was a short break, and then we did a question & answer session. One of the questions has stuck with me since that night, and I wanted to share it with you all here…

It’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about in the past year or so.

The question was, “If our prayers aren’t answered after a novena, should we keep praying?”
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Praying for Humility
St. Thomas Aquinas describes the task of humility: “to temper and restrain the mind, lest it tend to high things immoderately” (Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 161, a. 1). It is truly one of the most important virtues. All sin is pride against God and a denial of humility. Therefore, our obedience to God must be a humble and loving submission to Him and to following his will above our own.
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Our Friends: The Saints
We have access to literally thousands of friends—at any time. No, I’m not talking about Facebook or any other online network; I’m talking about an eternal network of friends in high places. The saints are always available when we need to ask for intercession. The saints are like a big network that is always accessible-no phone or computer needed.

Any problem you have, any need, there is almost certainly a saint who went through the same situation.  Whether you are a student, a parent, a doctor, or anything in between, there is a saint who had the same experience.
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What Does Jesus Mean When He Says to Some, “I Do Not Know You”?
Every now and then someone will come past my door and request parish services of some sort. Maybe it’s to plan a wedding, a baptism, or a funeral; maybe it’s for money! And then I look at him or her and say, “Who are you?” (since I don’t recognize the person). “Oh, well Father, you don’t know me but my grandmother goes here; this is our family Church.” “Oh, I see, but where do you go to Church?” I usually ask.  The response is usually something like, “Well, you know how it is Father, I don’t get to Church too often … but my mother goes here.”
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Nurturing the Gospel: Preparation, Patience and Perseverance
Preparation, patience and perseverance:
These are three virtues that will help us nurture God’s Kingdom in our life of prayer. In part 2 of this article, I would like to offer you some practical tips on applying these virtues to your prayer life:
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On Heavy Burdens and Negative Patterns
I have been thinking a great deal about my recent experience at Reconciliation. I felt an intense and unexplainable urge to go and confess my sins when I woke up that morning. I try to go every six weeks or so, but this was no routine visit to the priest for me. I needed to unburden myself of the numerous venial sins I had committed since I last participated in this Sacrament. I was able to see the true nature of these sins as a tremendous burden on my shoulders, as a fog that kept me from seeing the path ahead and absolutely as obstacles in my relationship with Christ. I know these observations to be true because the moment I left the confessional booth I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted, my spiritual vision was restored and I was again focused on serving the Lord.
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No Jesus Without Mary
Looking back at my Evangelical Bible church background, there was someone missing. We had a strong faith in Jesus Christ. We were experts in Bible knowledge. We were taught to have a passion for evangelization and a compassionate heart to those in need. We had a warm Christian fellowship and were totally dedicated to the Lord — but we didn’t have Mary.
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History made! Philippine crowd for Pope Francis hits 6-7 million
Manila, Philippines, Jan 18, 2015 / 04:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s spokesman said that papal history was made Sunday during Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines where an estimated 6-7 million people attended his closing Mass.

“The official number that has been given to us is between six and seven million,” Father Federico Lombardi told journalists at a press conference in Manila on Sunday, calling it the “largest event of the history of the Popes.”
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A Person From the Moment of Conception
It is hard to believe it has been 42 years since the legalization of the murder in the womb popularly known as “abortion.” As we remember the legally drollish but culturally devastating decisions of the Supreme Court of “Roe” and “Doe” on Jan. 22, hopefully, all of us will become reinvigorated in the on-going battle to save the lives of our weakest and most vulnerable brothers and sisters in what was once the sanctuary of a mother’s womb. Now, it has become a more dangerous place to be than Iraq or Afghanistan.
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The Power of the Message: “It is Good that You Exist”
Oftentimes, when I sifting through angry emails or moderating the comboxes and releasing comments from people who would presume to tell me I am going to hell, or that I am “outside of the church” (as an aside, I am fascinated by people who declare that on the basis of a single word, they know all about me and the state of my soul; there are people in Vegas who would pay cash-money to see that trick) I think back to what my dear Pope Benedict XVI, my spiritual “Pop-pop” has said:
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Is His Yoke Really Easy?
It’s hard to believe in something that happened so long ago. We might romantically dream of being there in the pages of the Gospel ourselves: witnessing Jesus’ miracles, following him through the countryside, hearing the tenor of his voice. These are not only the thoughts of saints, but also of sinners, like the Misfit in Flannery O’Connor’s most famous story, A Good Man Is Hard To Find. On an abandoned road in rural Georgia he holds the grandmother at gunpoint; she pleads with him to believe in Jesus’ resurrection and not kill her like he did her family. But the Misfit replies: “If I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn’t be like I am now.”
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Climbing the Spiritual El Capitan
These week two amazing guys did the first free climb of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite.

Kevin J0rgeson and Tommy Cauldwell spent nineteen days on the cliff face ascending a granite wall twice the height of the Empire State Building.
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Was Your Marriage “meant to be”?
That Matt Walsh is one of the best voices for Catholic values in my generation. He presents truth to the world unabashedly and eloquently. I have often wanted to high-five him for his most controversial posts, and if there was a chance to win an interview and free coffee with him, I would jump at the opportunity (as high as a third trimester mama can). But there is in this one piece, a teeny point where I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Walsh. It’s the one where he claims that his marriage was “not meant to be” because I’m of the position that it could be. Here’s why:
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The 4 Temperaments: Do You Know Yours?
Just as all people are born with brown eyes or blue eyes or dark hair or light hair, everyone also inherits from birth a particular temperament that gives individuality to a person.

In the classical and medieval world physicians referred to the four temperaments as the phlegmatic, melancholic, choleric, and sanguine that corresponded respectively to the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water.
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How to Observe Ordinary Time
The liturgical season of Christmas came to an end with the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord this past Sunday. We have just concluded the first week of Ordinary Time, the longest season of the Church’s liturgical year, which began Monday.

Ordinary Time is separated into two parts of the liturgical year. It always begins on the Monday following the first Sunday after January 6th.
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Called and Consecrated
When I was growing up, we were urged to pray for vocations. That meant to pray for more priests and nuns. After all, they were the ones especially called by God. The rest of us had to figure out for ourselves what to do with our lives, what school to go to, who to marry, what job to get.
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Catholicism – The Original Mega Church
Pope Francis’ record breaking visit to the Philippines reminds the world of the sheer power of numbers when it comes to debates about religion.

Let the Oxford intellectuals like Dawkins squawk all they want about the evils of religion and the goodness of atheism.

They are a fly not even worth swatting when you consider the crowds in Brazil for World  Youth Day and the phenomenal crowd that turned out in Manila yesterday.

Between six and seven million souls braved the rain to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis.
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Ten Reasons Why I Am Grateful for Atheists
Not long ago I was engaged in an email conversation with an atheist.

He wrote to me out of the blue responding to a blog post I had written.

He seemed friendly enough so I went along with the conversation, first assuring him that I don’t argue with anybody online.

Arguments are out. Discussions are in.
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The Baby Promise
I remember it clearly.  I remember the day my future wife and I had the conversation about children.

She asked me, “How many children do you want to have?”

Me, being me, answered.  “Who cares?  Who cares how many children I want?”

My wife, already on her way to sainthood for choosing the cross that is me, said, “I mean, what do you think a good size family is?”
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‘Angel Formation’ Photographed in Northern Lights
hotographer Jón Hilmarsson had braved the Icelandic cold to witness the beauty of the Northern Lights many times before, but a recent photo shoot revealed some things he had never seen.

“This was the most beautiful and vivid northern light display I have ever seen,” Hilmarsson told Caters. “We usually see green auroras but that night I saw bright green, red and purple colour, which is very unusual.”

The image above shows the majestic and colorful display, but it also highlights another rarity.
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Posted for January 18, 2015

John 1: 35–42

Gospel Summary

John the Baptist, standing with two of his disciples, upon 
seeing Jesus exclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” When Jesus notices that John’s disciples are following him, he says to them, “What are you looking for?” They reply, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus responds, “Come, and you will see.” Andrew, one of the disciples, goes to find his brother Simon, tells him they have found the Messiah, and introduces his brother to Jesus. Jesus looks at him and says, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas (which is translated Peter).”

Life Implications

There is a true story about a professor who was invited to give a lecture at a major conference on religion. The subject of his lecture was the nature of God. His many hours of research were rewarded by the enthusiastic response he received upon completion of the lecture. On the flight back to his university, however, his euphoric satisfaction about his work was shattered when it dawned on him, as he later reported: “I talked to everyone about God, but God.”

We can easily have an experience similar to that of the professor as he was preparing his lecture about God. With a little research we can discover many interesting, even beautiful things about Jesus and his disciples.

Thus, in today’s gospel passage, we discover that when the two disciples ask Jesus where he is staying or dwelling the question isn’t simply about a street address. John uses the same Greek verb (translated as “staying or dwelling”) when Jesus at the Last Supper tells his disciples that he “dwells” in the Father and the Father “dwells” in him (John 14: 10–11). We also discover that when Jesus says “Come, and you will see,” the essential meaning of “seeing” is the seeing of faith (John 9). Only with that seeing can the disciples know where Jesus truly dwells, with-in the Father.

Thus far there is no life-implication for us beyond appreciation of a narrative about Jesus and his disciples. A life-changing implication occurs only when we realize that Jesus is addressing each of us today in as personal a way as he addressed the two disciples. The gospel is essentially about an encounter with the Risen Lord now, not about historical knowledge, however orthodox, about Jesus. The historical-critical method of scholarship (like John the Baptist) can give us valuable information about Jesus, but this knowledge cannot enable us to see Jesus in faith—that seeing is a gift of the Spirit.

Because faith means a personal union of friendship with Christ through his Spirit, life implications will be unique and particular for each person. Nevertheless, from the life of Christ and the lives of the saints, certain patterns emerge that are actualized in the particularity of each person’s life. Union with the Risen Lord means to share his relationship with the Father. It means that each of us is able to hear with Christ “You are my beloved” and to say with Christ “Thy will be done.”

To be in communion with Christ means to pray, always and everywhere. The second reading of today’s Mass (1 Corinthians 7: 32–35) shows us that a disciple’s personal union with Christ through his Spirit is the foundation of choices about moral behavior. Finally, we see that through union with Christ the saints are not defeated by the setbacks of life. Saint Paul speaks for them all when he wrote: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us” (Romans 8: 35–37).

Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
January 18, 2014

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—January 18, 2015
“What are you looking for?” Jesus asked this question of two men who had begun following Him. Did He already know the answer?

Gospel (Read Jn 1:35-42)

Today, St. John the Apostle, describing the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, tells us that John the Baptist made a comment to two of his own disciples as Jesus walked by them: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” We are used to hearing Jesus spoken of in this way, but it would have been very odd in that day. Jews knew lambs as sacrificial animals. Occasionally, they thought of themselves metaphorically as God’s sheep (as in “The LORD is my shepherd,” Ps 23). However, for John the Baptist to speak of a particular man in this particular way—well, we can see what effect it had: “The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.”
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Second Sunday: The God of the Upset Applecart
As we exit the Christmas season and begin the season of the year, the Church takes us to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  For the next two weeks we have various accounts of the calling of his closest disciples.  This week’s is taken from the Gospel of John.  Two individuals, Andrew and one other, are disciples of John the Baptist and are present when the Baptist points to Jesus and calls him the Lamb of God.
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Blessed Mother Knows Best – Passing on the faith at home with Marian piety
During his installation at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago last November, Archbishop Blase Cupich challenged those in attendance to pass on the faith to young people through their “authenticity of life, where words match deeds.” The message was not just for Catholic teachers and youth ministers, but also for fathers, who have a special, God-given mission of handing on the faith to their own children.
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Balancing Culture and Christianity
Culture is a word with a depth of meaning – a mixture of pain, joy, pride, love, restriction, and tradition. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definitions include “the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time” and “a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.”

One person can have aspects of several cultures. For example, I am American, Midwestern, Catholic, and Caucasian as well as a college student, avid reader, and actress. All of these labels can put me into different groups of people and influence my personality and choices. That is not to say that we are our cultures; they impact and help to form us but do not solely define us.
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Don’t Be Like Jesus…
…Be Jesus.

In other words, there is more, much more to being a disciple of Jesus Christ than simply trying to imitate him. How dull is that?

Instead we’re talking about becoming Jesus Christ alive in the world today. He wants to do more, much more than we can ask or imagine, and he does so through the sacramental economy.
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Judgement Comes to Us All
Last year, Family Guy aired an episode that included a brief look at how various religions view death and the afterlife. When they covered Christianity, they offered up this little tidbit to illustrate:
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Temptation: 12 Things to Know
As we read in the Catechism, “Temptation is an attraction, either from outside oneself or from within, to act contrary to right reason and the commandments of God. Jesus himself during his life on earth was tempted, put to the test, to manifest the opposition between himself and the devil and the triumph of his saving work over Satan (CCC 538). The Catechism also teaches that the so-called capital sins: pride, greed, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth/laziness, are the root of all temptation. These vices replace the vision of the good (God) with the illusions of self-fulfillment, self-power, and self-advancement. Some temptations seem harmless and others are truly perverse. All temptations should be resisted with God’s grace or they will lead to sin, and the pain that accompanies sin.
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Pope: Spend a lot of time looking in the mirror? You might be a narcissist
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2015 / 07:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily Friday Pope Francis cautioned against the narcissism of those who close their hearts out of fear, insecurity or vanity, saying that only the Holy Spirit can make us docile and open to love.

“We have ‘mirror men and women’ (who are wedded to their own image in the mirror), who are closed in on themselves and are constantly looking at themselves, right? These religious narcissists, right?” the Pope told those present for his Jan. 9 daily Mass.

These people, he said, “have a hardened heart because they are closed in on themselves, they are not open. And they seek to defend themselves with these walls that they have created around themselves.”
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Real Men Pray
My father was a tough guy. A war veteran right out of the John Wayne/Ted Williams mold. A man who never complained about pain and worked hard every day. And I grew up watching the toughest man I ever met pray. Often.

To me, it was what real men did. He wore a scapular, attended daily Mass, and prayed the rosary for the souls in purgatory almost incessantly. And there’s something about seeing the strongest person you know get down on his knees that helps to shape a child to learn what being a man is about.
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Nurturing the Gospel Through Prayer
In today’s culture of instant communication and instant gratification, we expect immediate results. We expect immediate resolution. This is why the parable of the sower seems counter-intuitive in today’s post-modern culture. It is a gospel parable in which Christ promises His Kingdom to those who receive it and nurture it over it time. This requires preparation, patience and perseverance.

From chapter 13 of St Luke’s Gospel:
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Obedience Gives Us Jesus
Why did Jesus submit Himself to be baptized by John? He clearly didn’t need to have original sin taken away, like the rest of us; so we often hear that His baptism was meant as an example for the rest of us, to show us what to do. I have also heard that Jesus’ sacred body actually sanctified the water, so that it could become capable of conferring sanctifying grace. In no explanation do we hear that it was a necessary act, or absolutely mandatory, for Jesus to be baptized.

Generally, if the story strikes us as odd, we wonder why Jesus went into the water. But this time, I was thinking about why He came out — about what happened when He broke the surface and could breathe again.
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Plan Out a New Life in Christ
As a result of Original Sin we all experience disorder in our lives. Emotional disorders, dysfunctional families or family disorder, mental disorder, social disorders, economic disorders, personal disorders, work disorders, and finally the most serious of all disorders are moral and spiritual disorders which springs from Original Sin and personal or actual sin.
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The Prodigal Son & Father: Are You On the Road to Forgiveness?
One of the most endearing parables of Jesus is the story of the prodigal son. Like many others, I have identified at various times with either of the two boys.

At some points, I have felt like the long-suffering good son who wonders why seemingly hard-earned respect fails to come his way. At other moments, I have been the prodigal, who set off looking for hog heaven only to find swine hell.

But as I grow older, I have begun to identify with the patriarch in the parable. That is not a commentary on my children, or for that matter, on my parenting skills. Rather, it is an observation about the nature of forgiveness and the role that each of us has to play in it.
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More on the Evangelists Not Making Stuff Up
Just a quick note on the reliability of the Gospels.

I’ve written before about the fact that the Evangelists did not feel free to simply make stuff up about Jesus.

One of the signs of that is the fact that, despite the fact that St. Paul’s letters were extremely influential in the early Church and though they generally predate the Gospels, we don’t find the four Evangelists lifting statements from St. Paul and attributing them to Jesus.
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Apologetics 101
Whenever I am involved in conversations with non-Catholic Christians I go straight to the authority question. If that question is not resolved then every other discussion is only matter of swapping opinions.

It is important, therefore to be clear on the basics of the Catholic understanding of authority.

It is rooted in the fact that Jesus Christ was sent by God and had all authority on heaven and earth. (Mt 22:18)
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Should You Question Your Faith?
Of course. A good Catholic is engaged in his faith intellectually, emotionally and physically.

This article for Aleteia discusses the difference between legitimate questioning of our faith and doubting and disbelieving.

It’s the difference between a doubt and a difficulty.
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A Parable on the Lies of the Devil and the False Promises of the World
One of the great illusions under which we labor is that if we just get one more thing from this world, then we’ll be happy. Perhaps if we just had a little more money, or a better job, or the latest iPad, or if we were married to so-and-so, or if we just lived in a better neighborhood … then we’d be satisfied and content at last. But “at last” never comes, even if we do get some of the things on our list.
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The Enemy’s Tactic #6: How Satan Encourages us to be Charitable to People We Do Not Know
In the sixth chapter of our series on the tactics of the Enemy, we are surprised to see how Satan actually encourages us to care for people. However, we quickly see that he is trying to draw us away from practicing everyday charity to those we see and know in favor of more imaginary acts of kindness that do not foster a virtuous life.

What he does is very cunning and on the surface appears to be something good.
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What are the Stigmata and How do We Know if They are Authentic? – The 12 criteria the Church uses to determine authenticity.
The topic of the stigmata is very serious and unsettling.  The Church takes a very critical and — with good reason — very rigorous look at specific cases before talking about this topic. This is why it has made a positive pronouncement only in a few cases and after rigorous medical and theological studies.

The stigmata represent a sign of Christ’s sufferings during the Passion, and therefore they constitute a theological statement; that is to say, they are a faithful reproduction in certain people of Jesus’ wounds at the moment of his crucifixion, above all in what refers to the place of the wounds (feet, hands, side and head).
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Why Smells and Bells Matter in Liturgy
We humans are complex creations. It cannot be denied that we are “fearfully and wonderfully” made by our God. The earthly bodies He gave us are composed of miraculous functions and capabilities. Among them, our senses not only aid our survival, they collaborate to bring richness to our lives.

We’ve all experienced the mental lift of a favorite song (hearing), the comfort stimulated by the smell of Christmas baking (smell), and the breathtaking beauty of a particularly colorful sunset (sight).
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Theology of the Family Emphasizes Domestic Church
Joseph Atkinson is the founder of the “Theology of the Family” project (TheologyoftheFamily.com).

An associate professor of sacred Scripture at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, he created and hosted a 13-part series for EWTN that presented the biblical vision of marriage and the family. He recently added more insights into God’s vision for family life in his new book, Biblical & Theological Foundations of the Family (CUA Press, 2014).

Atkinson discussed with the Register how this project is a major help for the problems family and marriage face today.
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12 Things Chesterton Was Totally Right About
Only twelve? Yes.  For now.  To paraphrase Chesterton, “Epic Pew posts, like morality, consist in drawing the line somewhere…” Here’s the short list.

1. “Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.” Christendom in Dublin, 1933

Some things have become so obvious they need no additional commentary.
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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Baptism of the Lord 
Baptism of the Lord – Cycle B – Mark 1:7-11

An atheist said, “If Christians are the light of the world, 
somebody has forgotten to turn the switch on.” “Since 
1960, there has been a 560% increase in violent crimes, 
more than a 400% increase in illegitimate births, a 
quadrupling of divorce rates, tripling of children in single-
parent homes.” The speaker was William F Buckley, Jr.
 
The world, according to him, does seem to be going to hell in a hand-basket. But was the world of Jesus really that different when He was baptized by John in the Jordan? Listen to John as he answers that question in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. “Turn away from your sins. You snakes. Don’t collect more than is legal. Don’t take money from anyone by force or accuse anyone falsely.” The world of Jesus’ time seems to resemble our own. John the Baptizer could very easily recycle his Jordan sermons to speak to our problems. Listening to him, contemporary preachers might be tempted to whisper, “I could use John’s material. He describes our times.” The crucial question is how the Christ responded to the dry rot all about Himself.

The answer is to be found in the cleansing waters of the Jordan and in today’s feast. It is important to note that all four Gospel writers refer to the baptism of Jesus. So, in their minds, the baptism is e-mailing an important message. It is our job to discover what that message is. The baptism was important to Him. He uses this dramatic event to commence His public life and work. If one could say Jesus had an inauguration, this was it. The silent Jesus waded out to the spot where John stood in the Jordan river. He asked for baptism. John went into immediate shock. He intuitively knew that this baptism was not designed for the Man from Nazareth. He waved Him off. He had no desire to hold a fully grown tiger by the tail. Yet, Jesus insisted and gave him no choice. John knew who it was standing in the cold rushing water before him. The reluctant John baptized Him, but he must have sensed the Saviour had a method in His apparent madness. He did and we find the answer in art, courtesy of Henri Daniel-Rops.
 
Artists from day one have wrestled with the Master’s baptism. You will find drawings in the catacombs, in early sculptures, in books on liturgy, in mosaics, and in stained glass. Curiously though, the artists have invariably treated the subject in a minimalist style. One finds neither embroidery nor embellishment. What you see is what you get.

Even the untutored eye will find this minimalism in the stained glass window at the Chartres cathedral outside Paris. It is the case even more so in a famous medieval psalter by the Dane, Ingeborg. His work portrays Christian subjects in rich and opulent colors with one exception. Yes, Jesus’ baptism! But why?
 
Jesus is telling us that we must first direct our attention to our own personal lives with little ceremony and less pomp. We must cleanse ourselves with rough brown laundry soap in clean waters as He did. Then and only then can we properly address ourselves to the many human problems referred to by Mr Buckley. Every reformation must first begin in one’s own home and with oneself. It must be done as simply and quickly as possible. It was St Paul who told us that “He was like unto us in all things except sin.” And yet that sinless
Christ took it upon Himself to enter the waters and wash Himself before He set out to reform anyone else. Can anyone of us do less?
 
The Teacher is a doer, not a talker. He wants action, not pious platitudes or vague resolutions. The Associated Press breathlessly reported that a British astronomer speculated that the Christmas star was the “coming together of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces in 7 BC.” Perhaps and of course perhaps not. Yet might we not all agree that one can still see traces of that Christmas star in the night sky?

But this time it is illuminating not the creche but the confessional in your church. Why not step in there and first purge yourself of your sins? Then, like the renewed Christ, tackle the problems in your families, community, and the world. St Peter of Alcantara puts the case this way. “Truly matters are in a bad state. But if you and I begin to reform ourselves, a really good beginning will have been made.” Remember the monk’s dictum. To show His love, Jesus died for us. To show our love, we must live for him.

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
January 11, 2014

The Baptism of the Lord—January 12, 2014
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At the Nativity, we celebrated Jesus’ birth in flesh and blood. Today, we celebrate a second “birth” in the Spirit—our own.

Gospel (Read Mk 1:7-11)

We know from the Gospel accounts that John the Baptist raised many Messianic expectations when he preached a baptism of repentance at the Jordan River. Because of an Old Testament prophecy in the Book of Daniel, in which the angel Gabriel revealed a kind of “timetable” for the coming of the Messiah (see Dan 9), the people in Jesus’ day, knowing that the prophecy’s date had come due, were on high alert.
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The Baptism of the Lord:A Call to Change the World
This is the last Sunday of the Christmas Season and the First Sunday of Ordinary time.  The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord concludes Christmas and begins the meditation on the ministry of Jesus.  There are four aspects of this feast: 1) the Lord humbles himself before John the Baptist, 2)the Lord is empowered by the Spirit to begin the mission of the Father,  3) the Lord accepts the mission to suffer and die for us and 4) the Lord expresses his solidarity with those looking to change the world.
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Baptism of the Lord
Mark 1: 7-11

Gospel Summary
John the Baptist offered his disciples a water ritual which was essentially preparatory. It was a visible, public way of declaring one’s readiness for the coming of the Messiah. It said, in effect, that from now on no human preconditions would be laid down.

This represented a significant decision because we humans are very tempted to tell God how to do things.

When the Messiah does come, he will bring with him his own powerful baptismal rite. It too will include a water ritual but it will be far superior to the baptism of John because it will confer the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit that was sent from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and which signaled the dawn of a new world.
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Fearing the Silence
Why do we fear coming to God? Why does turning to God come only once we have no where else to turn in our trials? Rather than God being first, we turn instead to friends, family, spouses, culture, society, and only when other sources are exhausted do we turn to Christ in prayer. Obviously, these all could very well be God-given avenues of advice and comfort, but He wants us to bring all things to Him, especially in the moments we are most afraid to come to Him.
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No, the Bible Isn’t the Fullness of Revelation. Jesus is.
In other words, the fullness of revelation isn’t the Bible or Tradition, but Jesus Christ. That’s the clear teaching of Scripture. For example, the Letter to the Hebrews begins (Heb. 1:1-3a):

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.
  
So we received portions of revelation before through the prophets. This certainly includes the Old Testament, but (at least from a Catholic perspective) wasn’t confined to written revelation. Rather, this revelation occurred in “many and various ways.” And now that partial revelation has come to its perfection, not in the New Testament, but in Jesus Christ Himself.
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Stealing God’s Job
If you asked a typical Catholic, “Are you stealing God’s job?”, they would laugh out loud at such a ridiculous question and emphatically deny it.  I know I did.  Granted, the wording of this question is designed to shock. Yet the question is also meant to provoke self- examination.  After someone asked me this question, I examined my life and was surprised at what I discovered. I realized like almost everyone else, I was trying to fulfill the role of God in my day-to-day life.
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Why Are Catholics Afraid to Talk About Jesus?
Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples, relates the following story about Sara, raised by a non-practicing Catholic mother and Jewish father in New York. At age 28, a powerful experience of God’s presence moved her to an intense exploration of Catholicism. After completing RCIA, she was received into the Church at Easter 2010.  Sara shared part of her experience with Weddell:
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Because Thomas Merton Gave Lectures Like This On Love
Of the theological virtues Faith, Hope, and Love, St. Paul writes that the greatest of these is Love. Our Lord also said so when He was being questioned by the scholar of the law and gave us the Two Greatest Commandments, both of which are based on love; the love of God and the love of neighbor.

It sounds pretty easy, and in theory it is. But in practice?

Well of the two, loving God is relatively easy, but loving our neighbors can be downright challenging. That is, for me anyway.
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Overcoming Life’s Storms: A teaching from St. Paul to some storm-weary souls
In the midst of a great storm in Acts 27, St. Paul finds himself among desperate and defeated people. Though the storm is from nature, their problems are of their own doing and are rooted in a foolish refusal to listen to either natural warnings or God. All of this foolishness was described in yesterday’s post. Is there a way out of their situation? With God there is, but only with God and only by turning to Him in obedient faith. As long as we live, conversion is possible and things can change. Let’s consider how St. Paul, good pastor that he is, shepherds his doomed shipmates through the storm and to God, who can make a way out of no way. Again, the full and uninterrupted text of Acts 27 is here: Acts 27.
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The Forgotten Corporeal Work of Mercy
My days were frantic preparing for a two-week trip to Turkey; before I left I had to have my home, kids, dog, and get everything at work prepared for my absence. I laid out extensive back-up plans at work since I am the only Perinatal Bereavement Nurse in my region.

I thought I was ready for anything until I received a call from Kara, a woman I didn’t know, but with whom I shared many mutual friends. “Tammy I know of the precious work you do and the loss you have suffered. I have prayed for you and I hoped that I would never need you, but I do”.
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Sharing in Mary’s Heart for True Greatness
Writing about Mary as the Mother of God, St. Anselm wrote, “Wonder of wonders… There is nothing equal to Mary; only God is greater than Mary.” What is the basis for this greatness of the Mother of God?
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Possible Site of Jesus’ Trial Uncovered in Jerusalem
WASHINGTON — Archeologists believe they may have discovered the place where Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate took place in Jerusalem.

In an effort to expand the Tower of David Museum, archeologists began excavating an adjacent, abandoned prison building, The Washington Post reports. As they stripped away layers of the prison floor, they realized they were likely uncovering a missing link in the puzzle of the Holy Land’s history.
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God has Come in Search of You
We often hear of our search for God, but seldom, if ever hear of God’s search for us—or at least we do not think we do. But, the truth is that God first seeks us out, so that we might seek Him. He thirsts for us, so that we might thirst for Him (cf. CCC nos. 2560-2567).
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What is Our Purpose? – One Catholic’s Perspective
“The most important days of your life is the day you are born and the day you die.”  (Mark Twain)

I recently read the book The Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren. Warren uses the Bible throughout his very successful book to come up with five basic ideas as to why we are here. 1. “We were planned for God’s pleasure.” (First purpose is to offer worship.) 2. “We were formed for God’s family.”  (Second purpose – enjoy fellowship) 3. “We were created to become Christ like.” (Third purpose – Learn to be a disciple) 4. We were shaped for serving God. (Fourth purpose – perform ministry) and finally, (our 5th purpose) – we were made for a mission.” (In other words – live Evangelism).
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Believe it or Not
I once had a conversation with one of my fellow Anglican priests at our Diocesan Clergy Conference.

Simon was a very nice English guy, diffident, intelligent and self effacing with a good sense of humor. He had received a typical mainstream, liberal education and was an Anglican priest of the broad church, progressive opinion.

After a couple of drinks at the bar I said, “Tell me. Straight up. I’m interested. What is it you actually believe?”
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The Story of My First Confession
My first confession was when I was in my late twenties. I was a member of the Church of England and was taking a year between seminary and ordination.

I’d done something of which I was deeply ashamed and knew that I wanted to go to confession. As an Evangelical Christian I had been taught that I could just say “Sorry!” to God and that was enough.
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What the Early Church Fathers Said About Fasting
In a time and culture as obsessed with food as ours, it would be a good thing to take a look at what the Church teaches about fasting. As a Kinesiologist and bodybuilder, I can say that fasting has its merits and its toils. Fasting can actually help the body find its proper balance of hormones. While many might take fasting as an outdated mode of life, what the Church offers is evergreen. When combined with proper nutritional habits and exercise, a regular fast can help both the body and the soul. Today, the average diet consists of fast food and pre-packaged snacks, which carry very little if any nutritional value. A regular fasting routine can help us understand what food is, fuel. Just to remind you of the importance of proper discipline with food, I thought I might offer a few quotes from the Church’s beloved Early Fathers.
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The Enemy’s Tactic #5: How the Devil Tricks us into Believing that Death Will Never Come
This week, in the fifth installment of our series on the tactics of the Enemy, we see how the Enemy is cunning in his ability to suggest to us that death is a distant reality that we should never worry about.

The Enemy uses all of his influence to try to prevent us from preparing for death. His greatest fear is that we will realize life is short and instead of pushing off our preparations, we will live as if today could be our last.
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Holy Sacrifice, Living Sacrament
As Catholics, we firmly believe that the Real Presence of Christ is in the Holy Eucharist. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (Presbyterorum Ordinis) asserts,

The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are directed towards it. For in the most blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself, our Pasch and the living bread which gives life to men through His flesh — that flesh which is given life and gives life through the Holy Spirit” (#5).

For this reason, the Council referred to the Holy Eucharist as the source and summit of the whole Christian life (Lumen Gentium, #11).
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Strive for a More Intense Interior Life
There is nothing so important in the supernatural order as to have a deep, intense interior life. This is so, because at times we run into the error of subordinating the interior life to the practice of the virtues, as if our contact with God were only a means to perfect ourselves.
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Saints Among Us
We have heard it often enough, “I don’t need to go to church. I don’t need organized religion. I can just worship God in my own time, in my own way.”

If I would have chosen that path–which is often tempting on Sunday morning–to just roll over and pull the covers over my head and ignore the chaos and confusion of getting breakfast on the table and everyone dressed, presentable and to church on time, I would have been the one who would have suffered for it, for I would have been the one who would have missed out on friendships that have nudged me–if not catapulted me–in the right direction, the direction of holiness.
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I Have a Confession to Make
I have a confession to make.

Years ago, before I converted to Catholicism, I harbored suspicion about the Catholic Sacrament of Confession (also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation). Now, let me be clear. As a Lutheran, I always believed in the importance of praying to God and asking for the forgiveness of my sins. That was simply “part of the Christian deal”. God created us, loves us and passionately wants a relationship with us. Unfortunately, we screwed up that relationship in the beginning and continue to screw it up. As a result, we separated ourselves from God and are dependent on his loving Grace to be reconciled to him. Yet, to achieve that reconciliation, we needed to approach him, admit our sin, demonstrate our contrition and ask for forgiveness. In sum, to heal the rift between God and us, we must repent.
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A 1-Step Plan for the Unhappy Life – (And How to Subvert It)
The theory of evolution proposes an explanation for how life in general and mankind in particular arose. It holds that that there was a long period in which natural processes gave rise to life and to the different life forms on earth.

This in no way conflicts with the idea of God. As the omnipotent Creator, he is free to create either quickly or slowly and either directly or through intermediate processes that he sets up.
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10 Facts about Angels That Will Blow Your Mind
The Church has very few official teachings on angels (CCC 328-336, 391-395). However, theologians have come to a consensus on certain topics relating to the angels. Most of these teachings come from St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as St. Bonaventure, and Dionysius.

Below are some of the most mind-blowing things we know about angels.
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Pastoral Sharings: "Epiphany of the Lord"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Epiphany of the Lord
Posted for January 4, 2015

We celebrate today the Epiphany of the Lord —by which
  we mean the Manifestation of Christ to the World.

We commemorate the arrival of the Three Wise Men at 
the stable in Bethlehem. It is in some way curious that
  this encounter does not take place at some later stage in the life of Jesus at a time when he is more able to properly reveal himself to them.

But this is not God’s way of doing things; his ways are much more mysterious. In the Bible we are simply told that the Wise Men find their own way to Christ completely unaided by him when he is but a tiny child. They leave their gifts at the manger and just as mysteriously, without saying a word, they return home by a different way.

Matthew in his Gospel presents us with two contrasting approaches. Firstly God reveals himself through the Scriptures and through the words of the Prophets to the People of Israel; but secondly he also reveals himself through natural phenomena such as the star the Wise Men followed.

Ironically God’s more direct revelation through the words of the Prophets is ignored by those who should know better. And yet his very indirect and almost tenuous revelation by means of that star is noticed by the wise men who resolve then to undertake a very laborious journey to find the Christ Child.

These kinds of things are things are not confined to ancient times but are just as relevant to us today.

It is sad how many people who know the scriptures, and who have had the Good News thoroughly explained to them during their childhood, despite these great advantages somehow manage to drift away from their faith.

This is a problem we face every day in the Church and in our families. God gives us the great privilege of being brought up in a practicing family and reveals himself to us in all kinds of ways and yet this is still not sufficient to bring some of us to faith.

And on the opposite hand we see these Wise Men who go to extraordinary lengths to find faith and give due homage to the Christ Child.

I have often conducted classes for those who wish to become members of the Church and have sat in amazement as I listened to wonderful stories of how people have been very gradually but irrevocably drawn to Christ over a period of many years.

They have frequently undergone all kinds of difficulties and overcome extraordinary obstacles to finally get to the point where they can profess their faith in God and find their true home in the Church.

Each one of us has a story of conversion. For some it might be simple and straightforward, for others it might be very convoluted. But all our stories have at their foundation the simple fact that God is calling us to faith in him.

We come by different routes, some of them very curious, some of them very painful. But we are all being led through life on a great pilgrimage of faith sometimes despite ourselves. And the destination of that pilgrimage is not the pew in which you are sitting now but that much greater seat that awaits us all around the banquet table of heaven.

This Feast of the Epiphany with its marvellous story of Wise Men led first to Jerusalem and then on to Bethlehem and their avoidance of the trap laid by King Herod is not something just for the history books.

Nor is it merely a fable to demonstrate Christ’s openness to the Gentiles from the first moment of his presence in the world.

No, it is most of all a real challenge to each one of us. It underlines just how important it is that Christ came to reveal the Good News of the Kingdom to absolutely everyone in the world. And we who are his disciples are commissioned to spread his Good News to the ends of the earth.

That does not mean that we need to rush out and buy a ticket for some poor benighted place no one has ever heard of in order to preach the Gospel to its natives, though this should never be excluded.

There are plenty of people living right around us who have never heard the Gospel, or while they might have heard it never really understood what it meant.

Often enough, we don’t even have to step outside our own front door to complete this mission. Our task might even be most of all within our own families.

The symbolism of the star should not be overlooked as we celebrate this feast in which it plays such a significant role. The star represents the Light of Christ which drew the Wise Men to the truth.

Christ is indeed the Light of the World since he came into our world to bring light into darkness, knowledge to dispel ignorance, hope to overcome despair. He is indeed the one who all sincere searchers are seeking.

In Ancient Times this Feast of the Epiphany was considered more important than Christmas and indeed still in the East it is kept as a higher ranking feast. It achieved this status early in the history of the Church surely because the many converts from paganism saw in the story of the wise men their own story.

These wise men were guided by a star; they were led by God to the stable in Bethlehem where they offered the Christ Child their gifts and paid him homage.

The early converts to Christianity, like any convert today, realised that like those Wise Men they too were guided by God and led on a journey of faith and brought to belief in Christ. When they finally encounter him they place all they have at his disposal and worship him as the Son of God and the one true Saviour of the World.

They may not be rich like those Magi, but they know that they have come to the knowledge of the greatest treasure anyone could possess—belief in Jesus Christ.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1942

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
January 4, 2014

The Epiphany of the Lord, Year B—Sunday, January 4, 2015
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?
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The Solemnity of the Epiphany: The Mystery of Inclusion
It was a mystery.  It was a truth hidden for the ages.  It was revealed to Paul.  No one would have ever heard of it, least of all Paul in the days when he was Saul of Tarsus, pharisee and persecutor of anything that did not appear to be thoroughly Hebrew.  But the mystery was in Sacred Scripture.  It is just that no one understood the meaning of the verses. 

The mystery was this: all the peoples of the world would be included in God’s great promise to the Jews.  Jews and Greeks, all people, would be co-heirs in Jesus Christ.
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Solemnity of the Epiphany
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. …more

The Holy Name ofJesus (Part I of II)
1.  It is not difficult to meditate upon the Holy Name, or to use the Holy Name in prayer. More than any other name, perhaps alone among all proper names, it is appropriate to the One Who owned it. Usually the names of men are given at random; they mean nothing in themselves; a man who happens to be called John might just as well have been called Thomas or William; the mere name tells us nothing about him; it is a convenient means of distinguishing him from others, a label put upon him and little or no more. With a few human beings it has been otherwise : Adam, Abraham, Josue [Joshua], John the Baptist were given names that signified the men on whom they were bestowed. But with none is this so true as it is with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
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Christ’s Empire of Peace
An angel had appeared. The glory of the Lord—a mountain-consuming cloud of fire—had enveloped them. News of a miraculous new birth that would change the world had been announced.

On a forlorn hilltop of sleepy shepherds, resting sheep, and the occasional wolf, the gospel had been announced to a humble gathering of Jewish sheep herders in a most spectacular fashion, as recounted in Luke 2. After the heavenly messenger had told of a savior for the whole world, a baby in a manger, what more could be said?

Apparently heaven had one more thing to add:
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God Saved the World Through a Baby
Within the octave of Christmas, we observe the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Saint John Paul II said in his 1994 Letter to Families (Gratissimam Sane), “To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man. Every family unit needs to make these forces their own so that…the family will be strong with the strength of God.”
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Pope Francis: Large Families Represent Hope for Society’
VATICAN CITY — In an address on Sunday to Italy’s National Numerous Family Association, Pope Francis thanked the members of large families for their cultivation of virtues that benefit society at large, as well as themselves.

“The fact of having brothers and sisters is good for you,” he said Dec. 28 to the children among the some 7,000 members of large families from across Italy at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
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Not According to Plan
There are the plans we make, and then there are God’s plans. Sometimes, they line up.

Take for instance last week. I thought I had it all figured out. Easy trip to the airport with one small caveat, the necessary requirement of bringing the old family dog into the friendly skies.
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The Smallness of the Large
Just the tiniest little thing: Jesus Christ, lying in the manger. Those who have ever held in their arms a newborn baby, will know how delicate they are. Without a word, this fragile creature tells us to be careful with him. His neck is weak, and his head must be supported. Your attention rivets on the miniature eyelids, mouth, and nose.

One of the reasons I believe in God – the proper, Triune, Catholic God – is His way with paradox. This strikes me as true to my own experience of the universe we currently occupy, which is full to busting with scale reversals.
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Listen for God in Peaceful Silence
One of the most admirable characteristics found in the life of Jesus Christ, our Master and our Model, is silence. All the mysteries of His mortal life and the in­effable mystery of His eucharistic life have this mark: the divine seal of silence.
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For Post-Christmas: Unwrap a Bit of Silence
The silence of which we sing so wistfully at Midnight Mass, is at an all-time premium at Christmas; it is so difficult to find a silent night, let alone sit within one and become immersed in it, that the possibility of a seasonal soothing of the heart—a quieting of the grief of the world—seems the stuff of illusion and myth.

Christmas has, in too many ways, become the equivalent of an overdone theme-park vacation. By its end, one is knock-kneed with exhaustion and desperately in need of a genuine opportunity to rest.
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Pope’s New Year Message: Embrace Gratitude and Reject Sin’s Slavery
VATICAN CITY — At the year’s end, Pope Francis reflected on Christ’s saving presence within time, cautioning against nostalgia for the slavery of sin, and encouraging gratitude that leads to repentance.

The theme of time was central to Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff homily, delivered during evening Vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 31.

“The significance of time, temporality,” he said, “is the atmosphere of God’s epiphany, that is, of the manifestation of God and his concrete love.”
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The Renewal of Catholic Cultureand the Flourishing of Human Society
In the Catholic intellectual community, there is a growing call for the renewal of Christian culture as a solution to the impoverishment of 21st century society. This intellectual movement has two momentums: on the one hand, there is an aggressive, necessarily confrontational rhetoric that speaks boldly in the public square. This part of the movement is calling for a more compassionate form of politics based on the dignity of the human person, the common good, and objective morality. Its greatest demand is for repeal, or prevention, of laws that allow violence to humanity, such as abortion and euthanasia.
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Alice von Hildebrand on Fleeting Fads and Eternal Truth
The Catholic philosopher offers a solution to today’s ‘severe moral crisis.’

At 91, Alice von Hildebrand knows she is approaching the end of her life. However, she does not take this as an excuse to blithely give today’s moral problems a free pass. As devoted to objective truth as ever, she does not hesitate to challenge moral relativists or even orthodox Catholics who might be mistaken on a given issue.
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If We Don’t Know It’s Sin, Does It Hurt Us?
It seems that people are less likely to recognize sin these days. So given that committing a sin requires a person to know it is a sin and freely choose it, does that mean there are less guilty people now? I posed this question to two priests: Monsignor Thomas Richter, Parochial Vicar of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, ND, and Monsignor. John Esseff of the Diocese of Scranton, PA who has been a priest for sixty-one years.
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15 Quotes on Forgiveness &Other Ways to Annoy Your Enemies
“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

– Oscar Wilde

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

– Gandhi

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’”

– Luke 23:34
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Earthly Sucker or Eternal Fool
The Magnificent Seven is one of the definitive Westerns, with timeless themes, Oscar-nominated music, gun play (and knife play),  and characters whose goodness or evil is never in doubt. Harry Luck (Brad Dexter) is one of the six gunmen that Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) recruits to help a small Mexican village raided periodically by marauding native bandits led by the evil Calvera (Eli Wallach).

When Chris convinces Harry to ride with him, Harry is certain that there is much more in this for them than simply saving the villagers from Calvera’s oppression: some big payday, some treasure that Chris is keeping secret. Harry asks, “Gold? Cattle? Payroll?” Certain that there is more, Harry agrees to help Chris and the villagers.
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Ask Mary to Speak to Her Son
You cannot count the number of times in your life you have said these words: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.” Why do we do this? Why ask Mary to pray for us?

Many say “No need to get the Mother involved, just go straight to Jesus with whatever you need.”
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You Choose Hell (or Heaven)
An inner voice says “That is wrong” or “This is right” and then one makes a choice – to freely do a human act. That inner voice is God’s voice through the spiritual smartphone of conscience.

The divine voice speaks in a language with the syntax and vocabulary of the Natural Law, a law mirroring the Eternal Law of God. The Natural Law is imprinted on each of us through our human nature. St. Paul speaks of, “The natural law, whereby each one knows, and is conscious of, what is good and what is evil.” (Romans 2:14).
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A priest’s strategy for confession – 16 tips on how to make a good confession — and how to avoid the derp face.
Father Steve Schultz, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge, Virginia, offered the following tips on going to confession via his Facebook page this weekend.   

Some tips on going to confession from a priest who cares:

1. Prayerfully prepare! If you don’t prepare, it’s like practicing your Spanish at the ATM with a bunch of people waiting in line.
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The Sins That Come From Being a Busybody – A Meditation on a Teaching of St. Gregory
Faults in others I can see, but praise the Lord there’re none in me!

The term “busybody” usually refers to one who is intent on the matters of others but looks little to his own issues. Busybodies also tend to focus especially on the faults, foibles, and troubles of other folks. Seldom are they chattering away about good news related to other people; more often it is the scurrilous and scandalous that occupy their minds.

Merriam-Webster online defines a busybody as  “a person who is too interested in the private lives of other people.” It is a form of sinful curiosity.
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Thank You: Two Words That Can Transform Your Marriage
Every night since we’ve been married, my husband crawls into bed, turns toward me, and says: “Thank you so much for everything you did for us today.”

After a couple years, I asked Peter if he felt obligated to thank me every night. “No not at all!” he replied “You mean so much to all of us, and I want you to know how grateful I am.”
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Does Evolution Contradict Genesis?
The theory of evolution proposes an explanation for how life in general and mankind in particular arose. It holds that that there was a long period in which natural processes gave rise to life and to the different life forms on earth.

This in no way conflicts with the idea of God. As the omnipotent Creator, he is free to create either quickly or slowly and either directly or through intermediate processes that he sets up.
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Is Mary God’s Mother?
Each January 1st (on the Octave of Christmas), the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  I receive more comments and questions from non-Catholics, and even some Catholics, about the Church’s Marian practices and teachings than just about any other topic. Some want to know where we can find these teachings in the bible. Some even suggest that Catholics pay too much attention to Mary somehow leaving too little attention for Jesus.
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Without the Church, Jesus ‘Is At the Mercy of our Imagination,’ Pope Says VATICAN CITY — In his homily on New Year’s Day, Pope Francis said that Jesus and his mother Mary are “inseparable,” just like Jesus and the Church, who is the mother of all humanity that guides her children to God.

“To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an ‘absurd dichotomy,’” the Pope told Mass attendees who were present in St. Peter’s Basilica for his Jan. 1 Mass celebrating the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

“[The Church] is like a mother who tenderly holds Jesus and gives him to everyone with joy and generosity … Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling,” he said.
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“The Catholic who stood up to Hitler
It is impossible to read My Battle against Hitler by the German philosopher and theologian, Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977), translated by John Henry Crosby, without being inspired by its vital lesson: that you must always bear witness to the truth, even at great personal cost. These memoirs and essays, published in English for the first time, provide essential documentation of the thoughts and responses of a highly cultured man of faith when faced with the nascent ideology of National Socialism in Germany, in the 1920s and 1930s.
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My Top Ten Favorite Saints
I have always thought it says a lot about Catholics as to whether they have favorite saints, and who they are if they do have special saints.  Here are my top ten.

10.  Saint Andreas Wouters-Most saints have been extraordinary men and women.  That was decidedly not the case with Andreas Wouters!  A scandalous priest, he fathered several children.  Suspended from his priestly duties, he was living in disgrace when God him the opportunity to die a martyr’s death, an opportunity he seized with both hands like a drowning man cast a life line. His courage and steadfastness redeemed his life of sin.  May all of us have such a happy death as he did.  Go here to read about him.
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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Pastoral Sharings: Feast of the Holy Family


WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS

Posted December 28, 2014

We have here today part of the only story in the Gospels from the boyhood of Christ it gives the account of his Presentation in the Temple. The second part is the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. In the Gospel of Luke these passages act as a kind of a bridge from the story of Christ’s birth (the Infancy narratives) which is a sort of ‘overture’ before moving to the main theme which is Christ’s public ministry.

In this story we can see reflections of many of Luke’s favorite themes: the journey, the temple, loving submission, etc. There is also the natural tendency to see the man in the boy. And there are parallels with the Old Testament story of Samuel and his call at the age of twelve.

The feast we celebrate today is that of the Holy Family. But we know so very little about the life of the Holy Family. Yes, we have the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke and we have this little account of his Presentation and then his Finding in the Temple, but that is about all.

What conclusions are we meant to draw? If we look at them as an ideal family then they fall wide of the mark: Mary was pregnant before marriage which somewhat falls short of the ideal; they lived together in perpetual chastity which would be very much less than ideal for most; and to cap it all they had only one child and he was the Son of God, which sounds like most people’s worst nightmare!

There doesn’t seem much there that we would want to or even could model ourselves on. Jesus is presented as something of a prodigy; but how could he be otherwise?

What is there here for us? Let us look first at the Prophet Simeon. Here in his prophecy we have one of the most beautiful prayers of the Bible. ‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation.’

Here is a prayer we can all share in. A prayer which can really grow in us over the years until it reaches its prophetic culmination at the point of our death when we really can say with all our hearts: ‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation.’

Simeon was a devout and holy man; he had received a revelation that he would see the Christ and he longed for that day. This yearning is an important lesson for us in prayer. Prayer is not just about rattling-off rosaries or constantly asking for things. Prayer often does not need words. A simple longing, a yearning for the coming of the Kingdom is an authentic expression of the Christian virtue of hope and is a deep and important form of prayer.

Here in this Gospel reading Simeon makes his prophecy about Christ’s destiny and as it says, ‘the child’s father and mother stood there wondering about him’. Every parent wonders about their children. Every parent is full of hope for their children. Over a period of time this might turn in to fear and anxiety, but the fundamental feeling of hope is still there.

We hope that everything will turn out well for them; we hope that they will make a success of life; we hope that they will be safe and keep out of trouble; we hope that they will be happy.

If we were to take these perfectly ordinary aspirations and express them in a Christian way we might express them as: we hope that they will realize God’s will for them; we hope they will be true to their faith; we hope that they will be good and holy; we hope that they will be effective witnesses to Christ; we hope that they will, after a long and happy life, be welcomed into God’s Kingdom.

These aspirations are our prayers for our children. We know that our children, from time to time, will also bring us pain and sorrow. The same went for the Holy Family. Look at the second part of Simeon’s prophecy: ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’. How often have mothers and fathers experienced this sword of pain and sorrow? But it does not stop them loving. Indeed it frequently causes them to love more deeply and to pray more earnestly.

And what of the children? There is no word from Jesus here. How could there be since he was just an infant? We know that Jesus fulfilled all that was promised. You might say he had to; after all, he was the Son of God. But what of us? How are we to fulfill the expectations of our parents? The answer is simple: you cannot and you probably should not. You are most likely to experience these expectations as a burden, even though your parents have the best of intentions.

But there are other expectations that you can and indeed you should fulfil. These are the expectations of God himself. God has set us on a course through life, he has given us gifts and talents and all the quirks of our unique personality. He has put us in the way of all sorts of experiences each of which has presented us with a whole series of choices and as a result of our reactions to them we have become the person we are today.

However, God also has expectations and hopes for us. His desire for us is simple: that we should love him with our whole heart and mind and soul. This might seem a tall order, and it might not sound like much fun. But really, it not just possible it is actually the most fulfilling thing we could ever do.

We hear a lot of talk today about ecology and being at one with nature. We are told we have a responsibility towards the environment and that we will experience serious consequences if we disturb the balance of nature. This concern for the environment is possibly one of the best things that has happened in the last thirty years. It is very good but it is not all. What about being at one with our maker? What about realising the consequences of upsetting our relationship with him?

God has a plan for us. It is to live in accordance with his will, it is to take Jesus for our model, it is to be at one with our fellow humans, it is to live a life of sacrifice, it is to be united with the Father in prayer.

That prayer of Simeon is a powerful one: ‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation.’ Simeon saw Christ in the flesh. But he only recognized him because he had spent his whole life in his service. He had totally dedicated himself to prayer and to the service of God just as the Prophetess Anna had also done. They were both rewarded and saw the face of God.

They prayed that they would see His salvation, but their prayers had in a real way brought about that salvation. This is the same with us. Christ has won the victory but the work of salvation goes on. We are his co-workers. We help to make his salvation present to the world of today. This is how we play our part in the redemption of the world. And by doing so we win our own redemption. This is what it is all about. We work for salvation and the result is that the prayer of Simeon, which is also our own prayer, is realized. We see and experience our salvation.

We are also part of the Holy Family; Simeon and Anna are our brother and sister. Our task is to be like the Christ Child and as it says in today’s Gospel, ‘to grow to maturity’. Then we will be filled with wisdom and God’s favor will be with us.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1939

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
December 28, 2014

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Year B—December 28, 2014
Today, the Church gives us an episode from Jesus’ early family life to ponder. Why?

Gospel (Read Lk 2:22-40)

St. Luke tells us that after the wonder of Jesus’ remarkable birth, announced by angels and praised by shepherds, His parents did what all devout Jews did in that day after the birth of a firstborn son—they presented Him at the Temple in Jerusalem.
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The Feast of the Holy Family: Being a Holy Family
One proud grandma was showing off pictures of her grandchildren to a neighbor.  “How old are they?” the neighbor asked. “The lawyer is two, and the doctor is four,” the grandma replied. 

We all have great ideals for our children.  It is not that they need to become a lawyer or doctor to make us happy, but we do want them to grow up into the finest people they can be, using their potential, being happy in their lives.
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Feast of the Holy Family
Luke 2: 22–40

Gospel Summary

Today’s gospel reading about the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple is most suitable for the feast of the Holy Family because it deals very gently with the difficult question of the relationship of young and old in families and in society generally.
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The Holy Family
The Passion of the Christ was the most intense movie I’ve ever seen. But there was a moment of comic relief, a flashback to a young Jesus in the back yard, building a new invention. It was the kind of table that is now a commonplace. But in a society where people reclined to dine, this table would have put the food out of reach. Mary asked him to explain his idea. He responded that people would eat sitting upright, on chairs. Mary replied authoritatively, “it will never catch on!” He laughed, washed up for dinner, and playfully splashed mom with the wash water.
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There is More
Message: There is more. God wants to do a miracle in your life.

Merry Christmas! Don’t be afraid to say it. Merry Christmas!

Maybe you saw it on TV earlier this month – the ceremony lighting our National Christmas Tree. President Obama said this about Christmas: “It’s the story of hope –- the birth of a singular child into the simplest of circumstances -– a child who would grow up to live a life of humility, and kindness, and compassion; who traveled with a message of empathy and understanding; who taught us to care for the poor, and the marginalized, and those who are different from ourselves. And more than two millennia later, the way he lived still compels us to do our best to build a more just and tolerant and decent world.”
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Christmas
Luke 2: 1–14

Gospel Summary

In the gospel passage for Mass at Midnight we hear the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. It is a story so simple that even a child can grasp it; yet, even after 2000 years it is a mystery so profound that the richness of its meaning remains inexhaustible. We are reminded again of God’s providential care which makes all history sacred history. The powerful rulers of the world, whether an Egyptian pharaoh or a Roman emperor, may have their armies and issue their decrees, but through the odd coincidences of history, God’s own purposes are ultimately achieved. As foretold by the prophet, Mary gives birth to a savior, who is Christ and Lord, in Bethlehem, the city of David.
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Christmas: O Holy Night
O Holy Night.

Along with Silent Night and O Come all ye Faithful, O Holy Night is a Christmas hymn that touches us deeply.  We want to sing it or hear it  sung on Christmas.  One of the many beautiful verses in O Holy Night is: 

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth

This verse captures the depth of the mystery we celebrate tonight: God loves us so much that the Father sent the Son to defeat evil for us, to be one of us.  Together the Father and Son gave us the Spirit to empower us to continue the Divine Presence and lead other back into intimate union with God.
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Christmas Isn’t Perfect – So Find Christ in Your Real Christmas
Most of us have a perfect Christmas in mind. Often it is the creation of Hallmark, Currier & Ives, and various marketers. But none of us will have a perfect Christmas, just a real one.

The First Christmas wasn’t perfect either. In fact, the only way to describe it is to call it a crisis. Mary was pregnant before marriage, a very dangerous thing in those times. Just at the time of birth they were required to travel eighty miles on foot to Bethlehem. There was no room for them in the inn.
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The Miracle of the Poinsettia
For years, we’ve given and received poinsettias in gestures of kindness during the Christmas season. They’re just so fittingly festive, with their mix of red and green leaves. What’s more, they’re relatively inexpensive and thoughtful at the same time. Did you ever wonder where that custom came from? I did, so I went exploring to find out. Here’s what I discovered.
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The Promise and Fulfillment of Christmas
Some years ago, when I was recently ordained, it fell upon me to celebrate the Vigil Mass of Christmas at my parish. The pastor, as was his prerogative, always celebrated Midnight Mass, so the other parish Masses were divided between myself and the other associate. The gospel for the Christmas Vigil Mass is the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, which contains the genealogy of Jesus.
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Time to Make Your Own Christmas Traditions
So there we were on Christmas night. I’ll set the festive scene. A nearly empty Roy Rogers on the New Jersey Turnpike. Muzak “Feliz Navidad” played in the background. A man, his wife, a two year old, and a baby huddled in a back booth scarfing down stale burgers and salty fries while waiting for traffic to die down. The woman quietly hummed Christmas carols to quiet the baby as the two year old little blond girl tried hard not to fall asleep on her father, too tired to even finish her chicken nuggets. The husband and wife locked eyes in understanding and the man mouthed a promise: We are never doing this again.
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Proclaiming Christmas
A little treasure nestles beneath Nativity of the Lord Jesus Catholic Church in Akron, Ohio: a replica of Christ’s birthplace as it appears in Bethlehem today.

“Visiting the Holy Land is a way of getting in touch with the environment God chose to reveal himself to us,” said Father David Halaiko, the parish’s pastor. “These special places help us understand God’s actions.”

For Catholics unable to travel to Bethlehem, the next best thing might be a trip to the Akron church and its museum of Nativity sets.
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The Nativity of Christ – Its Historic Reality
In those days, Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole world. This first took place when Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone went to register, each to his own town. And so Joseph went from his own town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea to his own town of Bethlehem—because he was of the household and lineage of David—to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child. When they were there, the days of her confinement were completed. She gave birth to her firstborn son. … (Luke 2:1-7)
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Preparing a Room for Christ
It is like it happened yesterday, even though 4 long years have passed since that fateful December day. If I allow myself, I can see the faces, smell the air, and feel the panic that filled my heart. The nurse’s words echo in my ears, “Sit down, we have no room for you.” Pain fills my heart in a way that is indescribable. I wondered if I would get through the nightmare that I experienced while losing William. I don’t allow myself to go to this place very often. It’s a dark place, a lonely place.
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Why God Becomes Human
The Advent and Christmas seasons are upon us. Like the reality itself, we Christians have to look more deeply to see the mystery beneath the glitter and the commotion. God has now descended into his creation to take up his rightful place as Lord and King of Heaven and Earth. He has infiltrated enemy lines in this civil war which rages in each of our divided hearts. In the history of this great battle, only one faithful woman has been his totally. Only she has never strayed, only she has never refused a command, only she is wholly his.
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Five Essentials for Discovering God’s Plan for You
When God has a Different Plan

I think most of us can remember an occasion when we had something all planned out. It might have been something relatively minor or it might have concerned something of greater significance to our lives. And then, everything changed and the plans we had made had to be set aside for a while or even abandoned entirely.
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The Mystery of the Incarnation
“Mystery,” he sneered. “That’s a good Catholic word.”

My friend was a fundamentalist who had more than a bit of antipathy towards the Catholic Church, charging that it added to the simple faith of the Bible.

But he didn’t read his bible very well. The word “mystery” is a Catholic word, only because it is a biblical word. Paul speaks of “the mystery hidden for many ages but now manifested (Rom 16:25-26).
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The Four Causes of Holy Mother Church
The simplicity, unity, and beauty of Holy Mother Church is stunning when seen properly through the lens of Faith. In the various ways of knowing, that of science, philosophy and revelation, we are afforded unique insights into the divine genius of creation. But in these dark times of skepticism resting on the shifting sands of relativism, for those without the eyes to see and the ears to hear, all that is said and seen of the Body of Christ seems but an irrational fairy tale. It is as the Apostle said in first Corinthians, “but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” All truth belongs to God, scientific, philosophical and theological, no matter what the “wise” or the “strong” men say.
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What is a Holy Family?
Not even ten minutes pass after Mass, and you find yourself sitting in the parish hall breaking up an argument between the kids who are fighting over a donut. So much for that peace we offered one another during Mass. Ah, peace. We want peace in our homes; we want to be holy families. But how can we get there if we can’t even get past the parish hall without fighting over donuts?

Enter THE Holy Family, as in Joseph (the saint), Mary (without sin), and Jesus (God incarnate). Are we crazy to think we can emulate them? Pope St. John Paul II thinks we can: “The Holy Family is the beginning of countless other holy families.”
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Shudder — It’s Good for You
If you are reading this in the morning, good morning to you.

Today you could die. There are millions of people who woke with you this morning and of this vast number, some will be dead by this evening. Some are expected — and are expecting —  to die. Some are in dangerous circumstances where death lurks. But many are just like you.  They do not expect to die today. They have plans.  They have short-range and long-range goals. They have appointments on their calendars — places to go and people to meet. They will die anyway. You could be among them.

You could.
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Something New Under The Sun?
In contrast to science, which depends for its advancement upon the gradual temporal development of the technology of instrumentation, philosophy depends upon common human experience had by all throughout the ages.

St. Thomas presents five ways of proving the existence of God in the Summa Theologica, Q2, Article 3. He writes within the tradition of western philosophy, which recognizes the true, the good and the existent as only logically, not really, distinct. His five ways are logical perspectives of one argument, the singular conclusion of which is that there is a being whose nature and act of existing are identical. That Being, beyond our experience, must exist, in order to explain the existence of those beings which we do experience.
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The Seven Deadly Sins for Parents
As parents, we know that problems which are harder to see, like a young cancer, are easier to cure, while problems plain to the eye, like a five pound tumor, are hard to cure. And we know the same is true spiritually. This is why the Church’s tradition concerning the Seven Deadly Sins is so useful.

The Seven Deadly Sins are divided into the three “warm-hearted” sins of:
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The Seven Virtues for Parents
Last time, we talked about the bad news of the Seven Deadly Sins. This time, we will hear the good news: we parents are offered grace and help from God through Jesus Christ to live a truly good and happy life by practicing the Seven Virtues.

The Seven Virtues are the four Cardinal Virtues of:
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The Treasure is in Heaven
Why did God make me? God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him and to be happy with Him in heaven forever. (Baltimore Catechism)

But mankind is not an understanding people [they are unwise and sinful]; therefore their Maker shall not spare them, nor shall He who formed them have mercy on them…You shall be gleaned one by one… (Isaiah 27:11-12)

We begin on a wide road. (See the man and girl who are walking.) The road to the right has temptations. To the left you can see a deer and farther ahead is a cross. Follow the cross.

[Yet] God will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones, while the wicked shall perish in darkness…(Heaven and  Hell exist)  (1 Samuel 2:9)  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… (Romans 12:2)
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How the Catholic Church Saved Hanukkah
Tuesday night marked the beginning of Hanukkah. As BuzzFeed recently demonstrated, a lot of Christians are ignorant as to what Hanukkah is. That’s a shame, not least of all because the story of Hanukkah is closely intertwined with Catholic history.

Here are two facts that you might not know about the Catholic connection to Hanukkah.
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Why the Crusaders Went
This post is the third in a series about the most prevalent modern myths about the Crusades and how to refute them.

Anna Comnena was the thirteen-year-old daughter of Emperor Alexius I when the initial group of Crusaders marched into Constantinople during the First Crusade in the late eleventh century.
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The Enemy’s Tactic #3: Daily Pinpricks
Going into our third part of examining the many tactics of the Evil One, let us look at a very small and subtle way that the devil subverts our relationships with others: the daily “pinpricks.”

One tactic the devil is an expert at is turning small, ordinary occurrences in a relationship into overblown catastrophes that often lead to the divorce of a couple who appeared to have a perfectly normal marriage or causes a rift between family members that lasts the rest of their lives.
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The Magisterium of The Now
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

This is what often pops into my head many times when people use the word Magisterium in articles and comboxes across the Catholic Internet.

There are different kinds of Magisteria the infallible and the non-infallible kind.  Of course, non-infallible is just a nicer way of saying fallible.
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The Church Way Up North
The numbers don’t sound too impressive. There are about 11,500 Catholics in Iceland — or 3.5% of the country’s total population of 325,000. But considering there was just one professed Catholic in the country — one! — for many years in the early 20th century, 11,500 starts to seem quite respectable. And when you realize how new Christianity is to Iceland, the Catholic Church seems to be on quite a roll.
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15 Amazing Places You Can Tour Virtually
If you can’t check out these places in person, you can at least visit them virtually—no flights or road trips required.

1. The National Museum of Natural History

Learn where we’ve been by taking a look around the stunning exhibits at this Smithsonian museum in the nation’s capital.
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How Did the Star of Bethlehem Appear? What Science Tells Us and the Saints
          “There’s a star in the east on Christmas morn
           Rise up shepherd and follow
           It’ll lead to the place where the Savior’s born
           Rise up shepherd and follow”

An enigmatic celestial event that has engaged speculation for more than 2000 years, the Star of Bethlehem was an epoch-changing herald of the Messiah’s birth. For centuries saints, scholars and astronomers have wondered about this heavenly body. Was it a comet? A supernova? A conjunction of planets, possibly in constellation? A moon or dwarf planet briefly captured by Earth’s gravity? A free-floating planet or star? Was it a heavenly body that defied the known laws of physics and nature, such as the solar eclipse of the full moon on the first Good Friday? Or did it have divine origin like the shekinah glory that led the children of Israel out of Egypt during the time of Moses?
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