Pastoral Sharings: "Corpus Christi"

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 

Corpus Christi

Posted for June 7, 2015

Today we reflect on the great sacrament we come together to celebrate as a community each Sunday. Indeed some of us actually come together in this Church to celebrate it every single day. We acknowledge this marvelous sacrament as Christ’s greatest gift to us because it is the living reminder of all that he achieved through his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

By bringing his closest disciples to the Upper Room the night before he died and celebrating the meal with them that we know as the Last Supper Christ was deliberately creating a lasting legacy, giving them something that would constantly remind his followers of what he was all about.

We know from the Gospel of John that he washed their feet as an example of how he wanted them to serve each other. And we know from the other Gospels how he took the bread and wine, blessed it and shared it with the Apostles telling them to do this in memory of him.

At the time I do not suppose that the Apostles understood exactly what was happening; it was something they were only able to make sense of later and in the light of the events that followed. Nevertheless we know that this solemn meal made a deep impression on them and was something that they remembered very clearly afterwards.

What Jesus was doing at the Last Supper was in effect to sum up all that was to come about the next day, Good Friday. He knew he was going to make the sacrifice of his life on the Cross of Calvary and he knew he was going to rise three days later from the Empty Tomb, and he knew that his death and resurrection would bring about the salvation of all mankind.

And in giving us this meal in which the bread would be transformed into his body and the wine would be transformed into his blood he knew he was giving us a great sacrament by which the events of his death and resurrection would be kept alive in the Church until the end of time.

In this wonderful sacrament we are enabled to become united to Christ though our reception of the Holy Eucharist. Through this sacrament we are able to come as close to him as it is possible to be here on earth.

Of course, to the outside observer nothing remarkable happens when the mass is celebrated. To the outsider this is just bread and wine over which a few words have been spoken and which is shared out and then everyone goes home. Seemingly it is nothing special at all.

But to the believer this is the holiest thing that could ever happen; to the believer Christ becomes present on the altar and is consumed by all the participants and they are sent home having been fed in the deepest possible spiritual way to be missionaries in the world.

To us this is no mere food and drink, even though to outward appearance that is all that it looks like. No, to us who believe this is Christ himself made present to us, sharing his life with us and by our participation in Holy Communion we receive untold graces.

Sharing a meal is a very significant thing. I remember how from the small office I used to have I could overlook the school dining hall and so I was able to observe the boys taking their dinner trays from the serving hatch and begin to look for a table at which to sit. It was obvious that it was frequently difficult for them to choose where to sit.

The younger boys were afraid to sit with the older ones and the older ones were too disdainful to sit with the younger ones. Mostly what they wanted to do was to sit with their friends, with the people they knew, with those they had something in common with.

When I was young I remember hearing from a family we knew that they had welcomed a lonely single person for Christmas Dinner. At the time I thought they were crazy and that this stranger would spoil their family meal on this most special day. Only years afterwards did I realize that they understood far better than me just what Christmas was all about.

Meals are indeed significant and there is no more significant meal that the Eucharist. And it is important with whom we share our meals. With the Eucharist being so special we do not wish to share it with those who do not have any regard for it or with those so deeply sunk in sin that it would be a sacrilege for them to join in.

But apart from these things, it is actually a meal that we do want to share with others even if we have nothing very much in common with them. It is a meal that we are actually happy to share with strangers because we know it marks our much deeper union in Christ. We recognise that it is by means of the Eucharist that the whole human family despite its many differences will ultimately come together.

From this we see that the Eucharist is the source of unity in the Church and that by gathering together to celebrate it each Sunday we come closer to each other and closer to God. It is therefore important when we come to mass that we don’t put barriers up against other people. This is sometimes evident at the Sign of Peace; we should do our best to be warm and friendly with those around us at the Sign of Pace; without, of course, overdoing it.

Another thing worth mentioning is how important it is to be reverent when receiving Holy Communion. It should be evident from the respectfulness of our manner that at that moment we are receiving the Lord Jesus into our lives and hearts.

We have put in the weekly newsletter some guidelines about how to receive Holy Communion which it would be worth your while to take note. Our depth of understanding is often revealed by our actions and sometimes when a person receives Holy Communion in a very casual way it is clear to everyone else that they do not value the sacrament that they are receiving.

Today at two-thirty we will be having a special procession of the Blessed Sacrament around some of the neighboring streets as a sign of witness to our depth of faith. It would be good for as many parishioners as possible to join the procession and demonstrate to the people of this area just how much we value the Blessed Sacrament. It will be followed up by Solemn Benediction back here in the Church. I hope to see you there.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
June 7, 2015

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord: The Covenant of Eucharist
Today’s first reading presents a significant scene from the Book of Exodus. This  is the people’s acceptance the Covenant of the Law of God,  the Covenant of the Ten Commandments.  A sacrifice was used to seal the covenant.  Young bulls were slain.  As a sign of the people’s acceptance, all the people were sprinkled with the blood of the bulls, the blood of the sacrifice.   Strange, but significant.  The people were not to be mere observers.  They  were to be intimately involved in the covenant.

The Body and Blood of Christ
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Gospel Summary

The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, which we call the Eucharist, is not just one of the seven Sacraments. It is the supreme Christian Sacrament and it is presented as such in all the Gospels. Mark makes it clear that Jesus instituted this Sacrament during a Passover meal, which in turn re-enacts the central Exodus event in the history of Israel. For Jesus, this Sacrament interprets his own dying and rising as the definitive Exodus–the supreme act of liberation from bondage–now intended for all people and for all time. This represents for us, therefore, the ultimate liberation from sin and death…and therefore from the bondage of guilt and fear and despair.

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year B June 7, 2015
Gospel (Read Mk 14:12-16, 22-26)

Now that we have liturgically re-lived with Jesus the culmination of His earthly ministry and His return to Heaven, it might seem that Jesus has, in a sense, gone away. The celebration of Christ the King and His triumphant return to the world He died to save is many months away. To avoid thinking that the long period of Ordinary Time is a time of Jesus’ “absence,” the Church calls us to the observance of the Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi. Our Gospel takes us back to the institution of the Eucharist, lest we forget that although Jesus reigns now over His Church from His throne at God’s right hand, He has given us the extraordinary gift of His continuing Presence in the bread and wine at Mass.

139. Shadows Fall (Mark 14:12-25)
Mark 14:12-25: On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to TheManWithTheJarOfWaterTissot1886-96them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples? He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there,’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover. When evening came he arrived with the Twelve. And while they were at table eating, Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me, one of you eating with me.’

A Simple Prayer, A Simple Peace
On a retreat some years ago, several of us were spending time in prayer together. Each man in the circle took a turn at sharing with God and the rest of us in the group an intention or request or thought that was weighing on his heart and mind. There was talk of family members who were ill, people looking for work, children seeking a direction in life.

That’s when one of the men whispered what has become one of the simplest, best prayers I ever have heard.

Jesus Christ – Conquerer of Satan
From the dawn of Man at Eden, Satan has been seeking the ruin of humanity.  Today, Satan remains active, continuing to instigate rebellion against God and sowing evil around the globe; Satan’s evil influence is evidenced by the depressive decay of the culture and the growing violence and strife that is engulfing the world. Despite appearances, Jesus Christ has decisively conquered Satan but, through His mysterious Providence,  allows Satan to continue roam about the world, seeking the destruction of souls.  Every man who is willing to give himself to Christ can be protected from the Evil One.  The choice is ours.

The Transfiguration: Meeting God Face-to-Face
Jesus reveals His Glory
What exactly did the disciples witness at the Transfiguration when Jesus’s “face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light” (Matthew 17:2)? In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus brings three of His disciples up onto a mountain where Christ is transfigured before them: they saw the glory of God, the Divinity of Christ, which was hidden behind the humble appearance of a persecuted man. I believe that the disciples recorded the story of the Transfiguration because the event revealed that the face of Jesus is the face of God.

How to Serve God and Not Lose Your Soul
Serving God at the surface appears like a very noble and upright thing to do. However, it is extremely common for those who sincerely desire to serve God to end up losing their soul.
Here is why:

Where to Seek the Truth (Part I of II)
Dear Father John, I want to learn more about God but I don’t know how to tell good teaching from bad. Where can I find out the truth?
That’s a very good question and I would like to begin by quoting from something that St. John Paul II wrote in the first year of his papacy:

What Is the Deepest Root of Sin? It’s Not in Your Wallet and It’s Much Closer Than You Might Think
In polling friends as to what they think is the deepest root of all sin, I got three main answers. One was a shrug indicating no answer at all (i.e., “I dunno”). Another was to refer to Scripture: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (1 Tim 6:10). I’ll discuss below why this is an inadequate answer. The third main response was that original sin (and the concupiscence that followed) is the source of all of our other sins. The only problem with that answer is that it doesn’t explain Adam and Eve’s (original) sin, nor does it explain the fall of the angels, who seem to have fallen in great numbers without original sin or concupiscence and are now demons. Therefore an even deeper root must be sought.

Evil Knowledge? A Cautionary Tale from Shakespeare
The senior class at Chesterton Academy recently staged a remarkable production of Macbeth. I say “remarkable” because when the play is done well—which it was in this case—what everyone remarks about is what a powerful and provocative piece of drama it is. G.K. Chesterton says this is Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy because it is a Christian tragedy as opposed to a pagan tragedy. It is not a tragedy of fate, but of free will. Macbeth is a good man who makes a very bad decision, which is then followed by more bad decisions, which eventually lead to his destruction. It is a vivid portrayal of the consequences of sin. And as a play, it has everything: murder, madness, gut-wrenching sadness, comic relief, swordfights, ghosts and witches.

Strap on Your Bib, It’s Time for Humble Pie
Never say never. That’s what they have always said. And how true it is – both in this world and regarding Eternal Life!
If you’re beyond a certain age and have children, you may already have experienced the phenomenon of becoming your parents. As a child, you resented their constraints and swore never to replicate that which had you straining at an imaginary leash. Your children, however, see a much different you. You, their parent, are full of odd sayings and rules and boundaries.
Because you’ve grown, both in experience and knowledge, you are now able to see the wisdom of restraint.
Now might be a great time to thank your parents!

A Wall Street Guy On Why The Dominican Nuns ‘Are My Heroines’
Peter Kenny has worked on Wall Street for all of his long career, holding many senior positions including a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Today, Peter is a respected financial markets commentator both on TV and in his own right.
Peter is also a major supporter of the Dominican Nuns of Summit, N.J. In this REGINA photo essay, he gives us a rare glimpse into his private faith, and his reasons for donating to support the Sisters.

Dear Catholic World: Why do YOU Remain a Catholic?
So, as I mentioned in this post, our own “Catholic Thinker”, Tod Worner — following the recent Pew report on diminishing Catholic numbers, and the glee that inspired in some corners — decided to write a post on why he will not be leaving the Catholic church.
Tod’s piece reminded me of an older piece of mine from NPR, where I also catalogued why I remain a Catholic, and it inspired Monique Ocampo to explain why she remains, as well.
And then Dr. Gregory Popcak chimed in, writing so well about the “audacious intimacy” of the Eucharist.

True Measure of Home Value
It was a nun and not an economist or political philosopher that reminded the world there is one timeless measure of a home’s value:  love.  In 1979, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was awarded the Nobel Prize.  In her acceptance speech, she was asked what we can do to promote world peace.  Her answer was simply: “Go home, and love your family.”  In her simple and impactful way, Mother Teresa, pointed us to the truth that housing is a fundamental and basic human right, and not merely a commodity.

Spiritual Reading for Kids
Schools Out — or at least winding down —  and families everywhere are bracing themselves for the frenetic pace of summer activities.  But while you’re filling out the family calendar, make sure to offer your children opportunities to spend quiet time with God.  One great way to do that is to develop a spiritual reading program.  That’s right! Spiritual reading is not just for adults.  There are plenty of resources out there for kids — so why not keep them properly grounded amidst all the comings and goings of summer?

Advice for Parents with Children Who Have Left the Church
My child has left the Church, what should I do? Why does it seem like my prayers are not answered?
Those two questions are heavy in the hearts of many faithful Catholics.
Fr. Thomas Grafsgaard, pastor of St. Wenceslas of Dickenson, North Dakota, made these questions the topic of his two talks at the Women’s Simple Lenten retreat for the Bismarck Diocese.

High School Quarterback Made an Amazing Promise to Girl With Down Syndrome, And He Kept It
Ann Marie Lapkowicz is a friend of mine. Her daughter is now an international celebrity.
The story begins when Ann Marie’s daughter Mary was in 4th grade. As reports, her friend Ben Moser worked hard to make sure that Mary was included in the games the other fourth graders would play.
His act of kindness was significant because Mary has Down syndrome. But to Ben, Mary was not a statistic—she was a friend.
Ben informed his mother that, when he was old enough, he would invite Mary to the high school prom.

St. Therese of Lisieux, Pope Benedict & The Miracle at Lourdes
On the night I arrived at Lourdes, I made my way to an English language Mass. Facing the Grotto on the far side of the river Gave was a modern church, concrete and ascetically uninspiring, however, within minutes of walking into its packed auditorium a voice called my name, and turning I saw some familiar faces.
It was a family I had known back in England. They were not vacationing at Lourdes, just passing through, staying over the border in Spain. They were not supposed to have attended that particular Mass but somehow their plans had derailed and had ended up there nonetheless. And so we were reunited.

Deep Joy, Difficult Suffering: Teresa of Avila on Why We Need Both
“However, the joys of this life are always accompanied by troubles, lest we should go crazy with joy.”
The purpose of the newest book in the Navigating the Interior Life book series, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, is to reveal the unique personality, wisdom, and insight that often emerges out of the letters of the saints. These letters are a window into Saint Teresa’s genuine humanity, witness, and pragmatic advice for pursuing an intimate friendship with God.

Catholic Social Teaching and the Dignity of the Human Person
Catholic social doctrine mystifies many people. Is it political or theological, spiritual or practical, left or right, modern or ancient?
Rather like the moment Jesus asked his apostles, “Who do people say that I am?” and got a wide diversity of opinions and guesses back, so today the Church’s social teaching is regarded with tremendous confusion.

Dostoevsky and the Glory of Guilt
There are only a very few authors whose works bear the power of changing the way the whole world is perceived by people. Fyodor Dostoevsky is one of those authors; and one of the ways that Dostoevsky has made his mark on human souls is his presentation of guilt. Not the feverish guilt of Raskolnikov associated with crime and punishment, but rather the guilt that is not necessarily condemnable because it is necessarily commonplace. Dostoevsky’s stories challenge people to accept this guilt that is the lot of humanity, and to accept that all are their brothers’ keepers. Everyone is guilty for everyone else, and in this guilt lays the restoration of innocence in a brotherhood that cannot be broken.

Laughing at the Devil
Some years back, my kids discovered the work of the great genius Weird Al Yankovic. Weird Al, for them what don’t know, is a musician who has graced the pop music world with something it richly deserves and badly needs: parody. Weird Al takes the self-absorbed world of yer garden variety rock/pop artiste and knocks it down with gusts of laughter. Sent by heaven to shatter the mirror of Narcissus, Weird Al transforms tunes like Queen’s elephantine opus “Bohemian Rhapsody” into a polka tune replete with accordion and banjo, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” into the truly memorable “Eat It” (a protracted lecture to a kid who won’t touch dinner), or Sting’s pretentious “King of Pain” into “King of Suede” (a paeon to everyone’s favorite fabric). Other steps toward the betterment of the human condition include a polka arrangement of Iron Butterfly’s “Inna Gadda da Vida”, a demolition of “MacArthur Park” and the erection in its place of the magnificent lyrical achievement “Jurassic Park.”

Poverty: Affliction, Blessing, or Both? (Pt 1)
A woman wearing a travel-pack is thumbing for a ride at the traffic light just ahead. At the end of the block stands a pack of able-bodied men “hanging” outside a sooty storefront.  Merging onto the highway, a makeshift hobo camp flashes by, sheltered beneath an underpass.  You are stung by the question: “Would anyone choose this?”

In this post, I consider those whose poverty is material and involuntary, and connect it to the poverty Christ did choose–a kind he invited his followers to choose as well.

Who’s Afraid of the Theology of the Body?
A group of 50 bishops and theologians meeting in Rome last week announced that they have discovered an apparently new element in Christian morality: love, as in a new “theology of love.” They say it is needed to replace the tired, old theology of the body famously propounded by Pope St. John Paul II, who, after all, has already been gone for 10 years.

A “theology of love”? I thought we already had that: “God is love.” “If you love me, you will keep my commandments, and my Father will love you, and we will come and make our home in you.” “Greater love than this has no man.”

The Redeeming Act of Adoption
Driven by love and fueled by faith, no challenge — from the cost to the paperwork and sometimes foreign travel — deters some couples from their desire to adopt a child. Those who successfully do so say the reward of their children far exceeds the struggles they went through to get them. Here, three couples share their pursuit of different adoptions — domestic newborn, foster-to-adopt and international — and the graces they received.

11 Things That Happen To Parents Who Bring Their Kids To Mass
1. They become the center of attention.

With kids squirming in the pew comes some attention from fellow parishioners. Whether your kids are doing something cute or naughty, people just can’t seem to keep their eyes off your family. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve wanted to yell,”Take a picture! It’ll last longer!” Don’t succumb to the temptation.

Pro Tip: Remember that your children bring joy to many parishioners, especially the elderly folks. Don’t assume the looks you are getting are negative. You may be inspiring someone who needs it the most.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Trinity Sunday"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Trinity Sunday
Posted for May 31, 2015

Our text today which comes at the very end of St 
Matthew’s Gospel is the most direct reference to the Holy 
Trinity in the Bible. It is given on a mountain in Galilee 
where the Apostles had been instructed to go by Jesus. 
This mountain is not without significance nor is its location.

There are a lot of mountains in the Bible and in every case what takes place on them is a special revelation of God. You can think of many examples going from the Ark landing on Mount Ararat, through the Sacrifice of Abraham on the mountain of Moriah, to the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

And in the New Testament there are quite a few other mountains and hills: Jesus is Transfigured on Mount Tabor, he gives his most important teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and ultimately gives his life for us on the Hill of Calvary.

So what we are dealing with here on this mountain in Galilee is a moment of great significance, an occasion of special revelation. And it is no mistake that it takes place in Galilee as if to remind the Apostles that, while many other important events took place in Jerusalem, Jesus conducted most of his public ministry in Galilee. Indeed that was where it was inaugurated and now in this great event it is where his ministry comes to its final conclusion.

On this mountain Jesus gives the Apostles three tasks: 1) to make disciples of all the nations 2) to Baptise them in the name of the Holy Trinity and 3) to teach these new disciples to observe the commands of Jesus.

To become a disciple is the natural response to any extended encounter with Jesus. It is the task of the Apostles to bring people into contact with him, to enable those they meet to get to know the Lord and so become disciples themselves.

This is our task too. When we meet others it should be as if they are meeting Jesus. Now I know quite well that we are none of us up to Jesus’ standards. We are much more tetchy, much more irritable, and not really as kind as we ought to be.

If you were to meet me on a Monday morning then it would be as far from an encounter with Jesus as you could possibly get! But, whether we are any good at being like Jesus or not, then that certainly ought to be our aim.

We don’t need to go into long complicated explanations as to who Jesus is; just as long as the people we meet know that we are one of his disciples then that should be enough. From our behavior they will be easily able to deduce quite a lot about the person and significance of Jesus.

We might feel rather inadequate and be afraid of giving the wrong impression and think that what we say and do often might not be in line with what Jesus would want. But this is to underestimate the sophistication of other people; they are quite easily able to assess whether a person is sincere or not and they know immediately what your true intentions are.

That’s the task of making disciples; it’s a big undertaking but get used to it because it is our primary role as Christians. The other two objects of the mission given by Jesus were to Baptise and to teach. Baptism is the key to membership in the Church and teaching is one of the most important activities of the Church. It’s what we are doing now.

These both follow on from making disciples, from introducing people to Jesus. And in a sense they are much easier because, as I said, once people get to know Jesus the natural response is to follow him, to seek Baptism and to wish to know more about him.

We have already noted that this text given for today is the clearest reference to the Trinity in the scriptures; Jesus explicitly tells his disciples to Baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Spirit.  If you look up the commentaries you will find that the scholars mostly say that this phrase was surely the Baptismal formula in use by the early Church but it is not elaborated upon by Jesus. He doesn’t explain it, yet it is the very same Baptismal formula in use by the Church today.

Jesus doesn’t explicitly teach us about the Trinity at all. But from this very succinct formula that the early Christians used for Baptism and from their refection on all the things that Jesus had told them during his public ministry they were slowly able to arrive at a very clear theology of the Holy Trinity.

This is what we mean by the teaching role of the Apostles; like any good teacher they had first to reflect on what it actually is that they are meant to communicate and explain to others.

Jesus referred on many occasions to his Father and to the closeness of his relationship with him. Moreover he taught us to speak to the Father in a very familiar and direct way. That is one of the things that makes our praying of the Our Father so revolutionary.

Jesus also frequently promised to send us his Spirit and tells us, even in this particular passage, that he will be with us always even until the end of time. We understand therefore that it is precisely through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is able to be present to us today.

This final passage of Matthew’s Gospel is sometimes regarded as a brief summary of his whole Gospel. It certainly is a very succinct summary of the role of a true disciple of Christ and gives us a plan for the rest of our lives.

But it also contains a promise; a promise that Christ will be with us till the end of time. This is one of the great promises of God recorded in the Bible. He will not abandon us, he will always be with us guiding us and guarding us from the evil one through the power of his Holy Spirit. And in time we will be taken up into him to share the life of love that is the Trinity.

We might find the task of discipleship daunting but with this promise, with this greatest of all guarantees, we know that we will be able to fulfill the mandate of Christ and so give expression to our deepest desire to be faithful followers of the Lord Jesus in the world of today.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
May 31, 2015

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity:The Power of the Name
One day, not all that long after Pentecost Sunday when the apostles received the Holy Spirit, Peter and John were walking through the area of the Temple in Jerusalem.  They had been preaching about Jesus, His message of hope, His gospel of love.  They came to a gate in the Temple which was called the Beautiful Gate.  The Temple in Jerusalem was one of the wonders of the ancient world.  Not just the Jews, but people from throughout the world would journey to Jerusalem to see it.  We can only imagine what that Beautiful Gate looked like.  It must have been inlaid with precious stones, or perhaps it contained reliefs of the great moments of Jewish history, the deliverance from the Egyptians, the victories of Samson, Gideon and the others of the Book of Judges, the conquests of David, the wisdom of Solomon.  And then there was the Beautiful Gate.

Trinity Sunday
Matthew 28: 16–20

Gospel Summary

This carefully crafted passage is the climactic summary of the essential themes of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus, now Risen Lord, reveals that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him, and thus he has authority to commission his disciples to continue and to extend his mission to all the nations of the earth.

Jesus’ epiphany and

The Most Holy Trinity, Year B—Sunday, May 31, 2015
On this first Sunday after Pentecost, the Church calls us to remember the Most Holy Trinity. Why is this perfect timing?

Gospel (read Mt 28:16-20)

Ever since the first day of Advent, the Church has been liturgically moving us through the history of the One Life that changes all our lives. Christianity is a religion with a footprint within human history. From the beginning, God revealed Himself to mankind in time and space. This revelation was slow, and it came in stages. The formation of the nation of Israel revealed that there was no other god in heaven or earth beside Yahweh, the God Who entered a covenant with flesh and blood people to make them His own.

The Breaking of the Bread
Communion is the condition of fellowship shared by those who have a covenant relationship with one another. In Hebrew the word for this bond is chabu-rah. In Greek it is koinonia.

Communion is a kind of friendship, but it is more than that. It is more like a fam­ily bond; and both Hebrew and Greek usage in the time of the Apostles suggested a religious dimension to the bond. The word chaburah described a group of friends who gathered for religious discussion and common prayer. They met weekly on the eve of the Sabbath (and the eves of holy days) for a formal meal.

The Benefits of Belief
Many people assume “true” Christianity is wholly and utterly altruistic and sentimental. Often, to illustrate this, Jesus’ command to the rich young man (“Go, sell all you have, give it to the poor, and then come and follow me”) is trotted out to support the notion that the gospel is a sort of dreary altruism. It appears that Christianity is, in Ted Turner’s phrase, “a religion for losers.”

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

Does the Sunday Gospel Feel Like a Two-Edged Sword That Pierces Your Heart? – Here are 3 Tips to Unlocking the Sunday Gospel Reading
Over the course of a year, Catholics will listen to over 52 Gospel readings (not including Holy Days or weekdays). Some of these readings are longer than others (like Palm Sunday), but all are aimed at reaching the depths of our hearts.
int Paul writes that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 RSVCE, emphasis added). When we hear the Gospel reading on Sunday, are our hearts opened and pierced by God?

Spiritual Warfare: No Pacifists Allowed!
“So, you’re a Jesuit—that means you’re an exorcist, right?” My response to that all-too-frequent question is (muttered under my breath, of course), “Thanks a lot, Hollywood!”

It seems that any priest, and especially any Jesuit priest like me, speaking of spiritual warfare and the like, invites inevitable questions and comparisons related to William Peter Blatty’s famous novel and movie from the 1970s, The Exorcist. Just as one can’t hear Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” without thinking of graduation, so too any clerical mention of the devil stirs up in the popular imagination Jesuits performing exorcisms, Hollywood style.

The Rise of Militant American Catholic Men
Catholic men are arming themselves for battle.

Spiritual battle.

Behind the headlines and beneath the radar, a grassroots movement is growing among Catholic men in the United States. Spurred on by the culture wars, they are rallying to conferences, retreats, seminars, and parish study groups that aim to support them in their faith, encourage fellowship, and motivate Christian action in support of charity, social justice, pro-life causes, and the traditional family. Catholic men’s events have become phenomenally successful, gathering Catholic men from a wide spectrum of age ranges to hear motivational speakers, inspiring converts, and spiritual leaders.

Three Simple Paths to Interior Peace
I was born a restless child and never faltered from my constant busyness into adulthood.  The restlessness within was twofold: One, I tended toward generalized anxiety (e.g., fear of everything), and two, I grew up in a household rife with inconstancy and unexpected strife.  To their credit, my parents raised my brother and me with rhythm and routine, but my brother’s burgeoning psychological diagnoses during early adolescence hurled the rest of us into a steady stream of uncertainty and panic.

Thus the perpetuation of interior strife – rather than a state of unfaltering tranquility – was born in my heart.

The Trees of Life
In the Bible, we learn the names of two trees in Paradise. One is the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which had fruit pleasing to the eye, but which also led to mankind’s downfall by partaking of it. The other tree we know as the tree of life, which had fruit on it that led to eternal life. God said inGenesis 3:22 that if man eats of this tree, he shall never die. In the future, this same tree of life is also mentioned in Revelation 2:7, when God says, “To the victor I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is in the garden of God.”

20 Tips from Padre Pio for Those Who Are Suffering
Every now and then, God sends extraordinary people to our world who act as a bridge between earth and heaven, and they help thousands of people to enjoy eternal Paradise. The twentieth century gave us an especially unique one: the Capuchin friar Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who was born in that small town in the south of Italy and died in 1968 in San Giovanni Rotondo. Saint John Paull II raised him to the altars in 2002 during a canonization ceremony that beat all attendance records. Today, it can be said that he is the most venerated saint in Italy.

The Dignity and Vocation of Priests
Jesus said:  “The Harvest is rich but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers.”  Essential to the extension of the Kingdom and the salvation of souls is the Sacrament of Holy Orders, that we call the priesthood.

A Marian Heart
The other day my spiritual director challenged me to better emulate the heart of Mary in word and deed. As a person who claims to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin, I must admit, there are times my actions do not reflect my belief. From his simple, yet challenging comment, I realized my devotion to Mary must reflect my daily attitude.

If one reflects on the mysteries of Christ and Mary’s life, especially through the rosary, they should slowly begin to take on the persona that was subject to meditation.

Domestic Churches Must Go Forth in Love
As we anticipate the blessing of Pope Francis’ visit to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this fall, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the Holy Father’s encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) and its relevance to families.

The family is a “domestic church” built by grace, sustained with love and by design has an inherent portability that is lacking in traditional church structures.

Twelve Other Forms of Marian Piety
n my last article, I looked to the rosary as the Marian devotion par excellence.  Some people may find the rosary difficult to pray, or they desire to honor Mary in another way or additional ways.  Below are twelve other ways in which a person can honor Mary beside the rosary.  By no means should this list be considered exhaustive.

Understanding the ‘dark night of the soul’
When the world looked at the face of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, it saw pure, simple joy. Then, in 2007, 10 years after Blessed Teresa’s death, a collection of her private letters was published. Suddenly, the joy that the tiny sister from Albania once radiated seemed anything but simple.

As the letters revealed, for the entirety of her public ministry, the founder of the Missionaries of Charity endured unceasing feelings of desolation and abandonment by God.

The Fruit that Came from Obeying God’s Will
Last September, on the day after turning in the manuscript for Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic to my publisher, I went to Eucharistic adoration seeking peace and quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament. I was exhausted, having written three books in 18 months in addition to running my business and performing my normal duties as a husband and father. All I wanted was to clear my mind and lose myself in prayer. God, however, had other plans.

Goodness to Greatness
We seek greatness by our very nature; God created us for great things. Great things because we are, essentially, good. Good because we are created in the Imago Dei. Throughout Salvation history we observe that the greatest men were the good men. Those whose lives we venerate and actions we emulate are those who committed their lives to the Lord and tried to do His Will. With the rise of modernity, however, we find that the pursuit of virtue is oft abandoned in favor of secular fame and fortune. Wealth, power, and celebrity are the new “great.” Slouching toward Gomorrah, Western civilization’s abiding pursuit of virtue is being replaced by an eager pursuit of vice. Like the sophist Meno, our students learn to confuse material success, luxury, and fame with goodness, and that such achievements define greatness. With this ubiquitous cultural influence, any one of us may be tempted to forget our ultimate end.

Decline in Morality Leads to Lack of Respect for Life
This is the third in a series on Evangelium vitae. See the whole series here.

As any serious Christian knows, human life is a treasure given to us by God Himself. Scripture and the teachings of the Church instruct us that we are all children of God, made in his image and likeness. Christians also realize that God has a place waiting for us in heaven, as long as we live according to the teachings of the Church and take advantage of the sacraments as aids to staying in a state of grace. (After all, we never know the time nor the hour when we will be called to judgment.)

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, Nobody Knows but Jesus: A Meditation on a Grief Observed
As a follow-up to the recent post on comforting the sorrowful, I was led to consider the grief of my parents and the difficulties they faced in raising a daughter with serious mental illness.

My father died eight years ago, and except for essential papers related to his estate, I simply boxed up most of his papers and stored them in the attic of my rectory for future attention. At long last I am sorting through those boxes. Among his effects were also many papers of my mother’s, who died about two years before he passed away.

The Eclipse of Reason
Pope Benedict’s 2010 Christmas Greeting to the Roman Curia, a Catholic version of the American “State of the Union Address,” was notable for the emphasis placed upon human reason. His Holiness did not so much focus on the loss of Faith occurring in Western Democracies as he did the loss of Reason. At one point in his address he stated:

“To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake.”

Family Graces: Joy in Parenting
Despite the message our culture sends, marriage and parenting aren’t the frightful things they’re often made out to be. The hardships that come in family life are outweighed by true and lasting joy, when we keep the proper perspective – perspective being the key word here.

Parenting isn’t easy, but it makes us into the people we ought to be, as co-shepherds with Christ. God designs not only marriages, but families. It’s a great adventure, one that is eschewed today by so many who seek false fulfillment in temporary, material goals or selfish acquisition.

Rosary Project Benefits Military and Civilians
DAVENPORT, Iowa — Picture thousands of men and women in the military praying the Rosary.

That’s one of the major hopes of U.S. Army chaplain Father William Kneemiller for his Holy Land Military Rosary project.

Currently on duty in the Middle East, Father Kneemiller, who holds the rank of major, would like to distribute the free rosaries to as many chaplains and servicemen and women as possible.

Pagans or Puritans…You Choose
You might remember that in C.S.Lewis’ Narnia stories Mr Tumnus the Faun recounts how they used to have jolly times with Bacchus and Silenus. Lewis was criticized for bringing such blatant paganism into his works.

What was he thinking??!!

Ten Reasons Why Shakespeare Was Catholic
There are probably no greater academic debating topics than the mysterious life of the Bard of Avon–William Shakespeare.

Did he really write those plays? If he didn’t, who did? Was he involved in the Elizabethan spy network?

Was he a secret Catholic? Are there pro-Catholic “codes” is his plays?

The Surprising Catholic History of Pretzels
When I moved to Philadelphia I was surprised by the number of guys on the side of the roads selling pretzels. I never buy food from anyone who doesn’t have a bathroom but forgetting that, the whole thing just took me a while to get used to. As a New Yorker, I was used to people selling hot dogs but not pretzels on street corners.

Now, my kids love pretzels. And I’m cool with that, mainly because I’ve recently discovered that pretzels have a long Catholic history. And they may have saved Christian Europe. Kinda

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Pastoral Sharings: "Pentecost Sunday"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father James Gilhooley 
Pentecost Sunday
Posted for May 24, 2015

The Feast of Pentecost ranks among the most important in the Christian Calendar—it is up there with Christmas and Easter as marking a crucial moment in the story of our salvation.

As we have just heard read to us, on Pentecost Day the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles and they were inspired to leave their place of refuge and go out into the street to proclaim the Gospel eloquently in the languages of all their listeners.

This great outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not a one-off event it is something that continues in the Church right up to the present day. Indeed it will always be one of the identifying characteristics of the Church.

The Lord himself said: I will not leave you orphans. And neither he has. The Holy Spirit has been sent down on the community of believers and he inspires and sustains the Church through all the ages.

This great Feast of Pentecost is rightly considered the birthday of the Church. But it marks much more than merely the birth of an institution. What is happening is that we are being gradually drawn into the life of the Trinity—the life of God himself.

We have been saved by the work of the Son and we now live the life of the Spirit. We are being drawn ever closer to the Father and when we die we shall rise to glory and see God face to face.

Each one of us experiences his or her own Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is poured out on us in the Sacrament of Confirmation but the Spirit does not stop there. We experience many other moments of grace because God never ceases to act in our lives.

Nothing occurs by accident and, while respecting our free will, God constantly cares for us and guides us in the way he chooses. If we want to know whether he has actually done this then simply sit down and count your blessings and you will soon see what he has been doing.

We as Christians want to live in harmony with our creator and we want to follow where he leads us. Sometimes though we find it difficult to discern his will. Does the Holy Spirit inspire this or that particular action or it is just me following my own desires?

To answer this question we simply need to ask ourselves whether the deed in question is good and whether its effects will be good. If there is a shadow of doubt then we will know it is our own desires that are at work rather than the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

God is good and there is no darkness in him. If our actions and motivations are good in themselves then they certainly come from God.

This might not sound like much fun—we may regard being good all the time as rather boring. But this is a basic error on our part. Doing good deeds is certainly pleasurable, working in harmony with our creator is in fact deeply satisfying; and indeed, true personal fulfilment can be found in no other way.

The Lord Jesus breathed on the apostles and said Receive the Holy Spirit, so we are told in the Gospel reading. This is a most interesting action and indeed the Holy Spirit is often identified as the very breath of God.

It is breath that gives life and the Holy Spirit certainly gives us life. We begin to live a new life; we have a new breath in us—the breath of God. We live this new life by doing the things God wants us to do, thinking the thoughts God wants us to think and by speaking the words that God wants us to speak.

By living in such close conformity to the will of God we become more and more in harmony with him. What begins as an act of will, sometimes only with great difficulty, gradually becomes second nature to us. We don’t have to ask what God wants us to do because we instinctively choose the good.

This sounds all very lovely and pious and you might be thinking by now that although I might be saying these rather marvellous things I quite obviously don’t live them! And you would be right.

You might also be thinking that you wish you could live in this way yourself but it would be too hard. There are so many practical things that get in the way. And actually we all quite like our little vices and bad habits and are reluctant to let them go.

And this is understandable and in fact it is an inevitable effect of the original sin that we were all born into. Concupiscence is the technical word—if you want to know.

But look again at our Gospel reading and you see that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is simultaneous with the institution of the sacrament of reconciliation. The Holy Spirit comes upon us and this Spirit is a forgiving, healing and reconciling Spirit.

We want to live the way God wants but we frequently fail, we frequently return to the selfish habits of sin, we frequently choose our way rather than God’s way. But we are aware of this. And when things build up we find ourselves turning to God in repentance to seek his forgiveness and mercy.

When, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we clear away the backlog of sin we hear the priest say those wonderful words: God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace.

So although we are still fairly hopeless and always will have a certain propensity to sin we can yet make progress. After all the Holy Spirit is guiding us and he guides us along the way to holiness. By letting him do his work we gradually grow in love and goodness. By letting him do his work he draws us to the Father, he leads us to life eternal.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
And enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.

O God, who has taught the hearts of the faithful by light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
May 24, 2015

The Solemnity of Pentecost: Called from Safety into Love

The doors were locked. The bar was firmly in place.  The Temple police who had hunted Jesus down Thursday evening would not so easily get into the Upper Room on Sunday.  The disciples really didn’t know what they should do now that Jesus was dead.  What they did know was that for the time being they were in a safe place.  They were there on Easter Sunday.  Perhaps they were there all fifty days after that fateful Passover.  The Acts of the Apostles has them there for those fifty days, thus the name Pentecost.   The Gospel of John doesn’t mention how long they were there.  But it also points out that the disciples were in a safe place. 

The Difference that the Spirit Makes
As a teenager, I thought the clergy were supposed to do everything.  We laity were just called to pray, pay, and obey.  Oh yes, and keep the commandments, of course. The original 10 seemed overwhelming enough. Then I discovered the Sermon on the Mount and nearly passed out.

Perhaps this is why many inactive Catholics are so resentful of their upbringing in the Church.  For them, religion means frustration, failure, and guilt.

Somehow they, and I, missed the good news about Pentecost. OK, we Catholics celebrate the feast every year and mention it in Confirmation class, but lots of us evidently didn’t “get it.”

Pentecost Sunday, Year B—May 24, 2015
On Resurrection Day, Jesus breathed on His disciples, a gesture odd in itself but packed with meaning for our celebration of Pentecost today.

Gospel (Read Jn 20:19-23)

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus surprised the disciples “on the evening of that first day of the week” by appearing in their midst without using a door (locked “for fear of the Jews”). We wonder if He had to calm them down a bit, because He said, twice, “Peace be with you.”

Padre Pio on Listening to Your Guardian Angel
Padre Pio had encounters with angels throughout his life and got to know them very well. He also received interior locutions; he had to discern from whom they came and how he ought to react to them.

In a letter he wrote on July 15, 1913, to Annita, he gives her (and us) invaluable advice regarding how to act in relation to our guardian angel, locutions, and prayer.

The Hidden Story of Jesus in the Old Testament
There are many figures that foreshadow Jesus in the Old Testament—Adam, David,  and Moses come to mind—but the basic story of Jesus itself is deeply embedded in it.

It can be found in the mysterious figure of Wisdom, who is personified in books like Proverbs, Job, Wisdom, and Sirach. In Proverbs 8:27-30, it is said that,

How Can We Know the Way to God? (Part II of II)
Editor’s Note: In Part I, we looked at the effects of a darkened mind and the coming of the Light. Today, we will reflect on the deepest questions and talk about the fullest answer to them. Here is the particular issue we are examining:

Dear Father John, I know the apostles ask Jesus this same question: How can we know the way? But, seriously, what if we want to go to God but we don’t know how. How can we know the way?

Comfort the Sorrowful – A Consideration of the Fourth Spiritual Work of Mercy
The fourth Spiritual Work of Mercy is to “comfort the sorrowful.” Sometimes it is listed as to “comfort the afflicted.” This description broadens the work just a bit and also fits more with the original notion of the word “comfort,” as we shall consider in a moment.

But of all the spiritual works of mercy, comforting the sorrowful requires the greatest patience, sensitivity, and also silence.

The Ascension, Jesus’s Priesthood, and the Mass
“Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:50-51)

For many who read the Gospels, Jesus’s ascension seems to be the completion of his ministry. They are sorely mistaken, though. At the ascension our Lord’s ministry reached new heights; he serves as humanity’s high priest before the Father in heaven. The Epistle to the Hebrews goes so far as to say that Christ “lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). The very way that Jesus ascended into heaven speaks to this mystery.

The Smoke of Satan…
There are many problems in the Catholic Church that might be thought to be the ‘smoke of Satan’ entering the church, but for my money one thing, above all others, has been the successful work of Satan, which has undermined the church, emasculated her ministry, sabotaged the aims of the Holy Spirit and captured a multitude of souls.

Not Crowded, but Close – A Brief Reflection and Clarification on the Communion of Saints in Heaven
Many of you know that I write the weekly “Question and Answer” column for the Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. Every now and again I get a question that stands out as unique, one that I had not thought of before. And such is the case with the question below. I had never thought of Heaven as potentially being crowded or considered it a drawback. But the question led me to reflect on the deeper experience of what we call the Communion of Saints in Heaven.

Advice From the Trenches: 3 Practical Tips for Discerning God’s Will
If I have learned anything in life, I have learned that discernment never ends. Even after you discern the vocation God is calling you to, there are constantly different situations that need prayerful discernment.
It might be discerning which house to buy or how many children to have or what job to take; every year has its own challenges and decisions to make. Just when you think you “have it all figured out,” something new pops up!

Why Do We Go To Mass? Four Essential Reasons
Infinite is the one great mystery of Christian faith. The more men ponder over its parts the more bewildering it appears, for the mystery of the Triune God is continually upholding its hidden power. How grandly impressive is Catholic worship! What an awful holocaust is its sacrifice! Far surpassing the power of human concept is the adorable Sacrifice of the Mass, the supreme worship of the Church. Fearful and thrilling is this, the greatest of all sacrifices; God, the victim slain; God, the High-priest daily offering Himself to the Almighty Father in mystic sacrifice, through the hands of His minister, for the soul redeemed through the precious blood-shedding of Calvary; – offering Himself both for the adorer and the scoffer of His sacred humanity, it is not strange that men stand in trembling awe and have fallen prostrate in every age before the God who assumed man’s nature to die the awful death of the cross when veiled in the uplifted Host He is hourly offered in solemn sacrifice from Catholic altars.

The Power of the Spirit
“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
With those words to the apostle Thomas, Jesus bestowed a wonderful blessing upon all of those disciples who chose to follow him yet never actually heard him preach a sermon or saw him heal a leper.

Building a Culture for Christ
John Paul the Great Catholic University ( in Escondido, Calif., will soon celebrate the completion of its first decade of operation, reported Derry Connolly, the university’s president.

The university will graduate its seventh undergraduate class this fall, as well as its fifth graduate class. It will also welcome its ninth class of new students.

It has much of which to be proud, he said, as it marks the “closing of our first chapter.”

It Takes Two to Two Step
I’ve been dancing a lot lately – two step, cha cha, waltz, triple step, triple two step. These dances are different from line dancing, different from the kind of dance I do around my living room when my favorite song comes on, different from the movement encouraged in some of my yoga classes. They are different precisely because they require two people.

It is impossible to two step alone.

Two Takes on Chastity
Ave Maria Press recently published two books on chastity. While the books come to the same conclusions, the authors do so from very different viewpoints. The first, Chastity is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, by Arleen Spenceley, is by a twenty-nine year old woman who is still looking for Mr. Right. She has high standards, refuses to lower them, believes that God has a plan for her (which may or may not include marriage), understands that true love is hard and involves sacrifice, and says that she is not “saving herself for marriage,” because “only Christ can save us.” Rather, she believes that she is “saving sex” by “redeeming it. By God’s grace, I have chosen to resist the damaging cultural trends that trivialize the purpose of human sexuality. I refuse to use or regard the human body in any way that doesn’t revere its dignity or sanctity. In marriage, sex is a gift of the totality of oneself to another person.”

10 Ways to Win the Battle for Purity
Flashy billboards, provocative dress and apparel, Hollywood fashions spread far and wide, suggestive innuendos, off-color jokes, indecent movies, and the ever-present danger of the Internet, seducing souls into visit the numerous and poisonous websites—all of these and a plethora of other alluring and seductive temptations can trap even the best of us into falling into the sin against the virtue of purity. In a certain sense, the world can be depicted as a moral land-mine, where at every turn and corner in the road there is an immoral spiritual bomb that can be stepped on and explode!  Let us be honest and to the point—we live in a society of dangerous and often pernicious images.

Fatima and the Rosary: Solution for Peace
Exactly 98 years ago, the simple solution to cure the world’s and our country’s freefall into turmoil was given to us. But how many have paid attention to the prescription or the instructions?

We have yet another chance to start this week. We have to pick up what St. Padre Pio called “the weapon.” Hint: It’s what Our Lady of Fatima, whose feast we celebrate on May 13, told us over and over to use for peace when she appeared in 1917.

Created to Be You
“So they’re both napping?” asked my husband, incredulous, “Can you nap?” Quiet time has been pretty rare around my house since my eldest abandoned naps a year ago. Nevertheless, I cheerfully replied, “Nope, I’m going to bake some cookies,” because I knew that doing something I loved and making something for others was the best way for me to recharge.

Called to Deep Waters
In Matthew’s telling of Christ walking on water (Matt 14:22-33), we hear Peter say to our Lord, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Christ assures him that it is indeed Him who walks on the raging seas and calls to Peter to join Him. Peter, who was so brave just a moment before, becomes fearful as the winds howl around him and the sea heaves and rolls. His lack of faith causes him to sink and he cries out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus extends His hand and pulls Peter up from the raging waters and says to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

How often are we like Peter – anxious for God to call to us and yet so doubtful when we step out to meet Him? Do we lose faith and sink when it seems the storms of life are raging around us, threatening to pull us under? Are we like Peter and repeatedly cry out, “Lord, save me!”?

The Fruit that Came from Obeying God’s Will
Last September, on the day after turning in the manuscript for Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic to my publisher, I went to Eucharistic adoration seeking peace and quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament. I was exhausted, having written three books in 18 months in addition to running my business and performing my normal duties as a husband and father. All I wanted was to clear my mind and lose myself in prayer. God, however, had other plans.

Ask Fr. Mike: Why Do We Need Purgatory?
Question: I get that we know purgatory exists, but why?

​Answer: Great question. Most of the time Catholics talk about Purgatory, it is when we are trying to defend the doctrine to other Christians. But many people might not understand the necessity of Purgatory. I think this is because we don’t quite get the goal of the spiritual life…or the goal of life, for that matter. The goal of life is God Himself. And Purgatory makes complete sense once one grasps two more concepts. First, free will and grace. God initiates and we cooperate. This exchange might be termed “grace” and “free will”. God is always the one who moves first; He always invites us. We are free to either say no to that invitation or to say yes…

which is to cooperate. This exchange is always “organic”. That is to say, it is never imposed on us; God never forces us to change. We are always free.

The second concept is love. More to the point: true love. Loving God for His own sake (not for what He gives or can do for us).

Only a Rightly-Ordered Heart Feels Grief
Social media was at its best yesterday. My feed started out the morning with an explosion of irritation against a DIY theologian. His ideas about sex, marriage, and God’s will could be summarized by changing the name of The Bible to “How to Make Sure Wimmin Don’t Win.” Anger and refutations were the right response to his loathsome ideas, and it was good to see such an articulate, vociferous rejection of them.

It was even better to see another article slowly take over my feed.  At The Catholic Company, blogger Gretchen shared the words of John Chrysostom, who had more or less the opposite to say about what marriage ought to be like (and his words were all the more refreshing, in contrast with the intellectual squalor of the previous article):

How Not to Kill Catholicism
Catholicism is in the crosshairs. There’s little doubt about that. The secularist elites of the West are intent upon driving Catholicism from the public sphere and perhaps out of existence altogether. But on the other hand there’s really nothing new about that. So many people have put killing Catholicism on the top of their to-do list throughout the centuries.

Catholicism has, of course, outlived all these attempts. But that doesn’t mean some will not continue trying.

You see, Catholics have a guarantee from no less than Jesus himself that the gates of Hell will not prevail over the Church. But those hellish gates always seem to want another crack at it, that’s for sure.

Pope to Parents: You Are Responsible for Educating Your Children
VATICAN CITY — his general audience, Pope Francis spoke of the essential role parents play in educating their children, a role he said has been usurped by so-called experts who have taken the place of parents and rendered them fearful of disciplining their children.

“If family education regains its prominence, many things will change for the better. It’s time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile — they have exiled themselves from educating their children — and slowly reassume their educative role,” the Pope said May 20.

15 Historic Wonders Housed in the Vatican’s Secret Archives
First, a caveat: Anyone with a strong grasp of Latin—or a distaste for Dan Brown novels—will warn others not to get too excited about the name of this papal library. Archivum Secretum looks like it would refer to a “secret” archive, but the translation is actually closer to “private archive,” and it serves as a place where the personal documents of all the popes are stored. The contents inside were never intended to be kept secret.

Top 11 Catholic Beards
“If I am shaved, my strength will leave me, and I shall grow weaker and be like everyone else”
                                                                                  (Judges 16:17)

“The beard signifies the courageous … the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man.”
                                                                                   -St. Augustine

“[God] adorned man like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him as an attribute of manhood … a sign of strength and rule.”
                                                                           -Clement of Alexandria

The beard has long been a sign of manliness and strength. Throughout the centuries, men of great wisdom (see Socrates and Plato) have rocked the facial fur. But, the beard is also a symbol of great holiness. Many a saint has donned the scruff throughout the history of the Church.  Here are the top eleven, ranked for your viewing pleasure. Not ten…this list goes to eleven.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Seventh Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley 
Seventh Sunday of Easter – B Cycle – John 17:11-19
Posted for May 17, 2015  


The nineteen year old body of a young man was found at 
the bottom of a well along with a ritually slaughtered cat. 
Three teens, each 17, were arrested for his murder. The 
19 year old had fifty head wounds. One of the boy’s attorneys was quoted, “They thought they somehow would be rewarded by Satan.” The Devil may be out of fashion as someone has quipped, but he is certainly not out of business. Yet, many adults tell me they do not believe in the Devil. But, unknown to them, many of their teens do. They accept the Christ’s admonition about the Evil One in today’s Gospel literally.  

Some of my material comes from an article by Lisa Ryckman, a national writer for the Associated Press. The headline of her story is titled “Murder, Suicide Among Teens Caught In World of Satanism.” Ms Ryckman begins her illuminating article with a quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. “The mind is its own place, and in itself makes a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” Many teens are guilty of mayhem and criminal activity because they have been influenced by Satanism. At times, this belief is accompanied by hard drugs, equally hard rock, and a potpourri of mysterious rites and signs. “Three years ago, nobody wanted to hear (about Satanism),… nobody believed it was real.” The speaker is Detective Sandi Gallant of the San Francisco Police Department. Gallant averages four calls daily from across the US on crimes accompanied by the satanic or the occult.  

“Now I see skeptics tuning into it, looking to see that it is a reality and facing it head-on.” Take one youngster whom Ryckman refers to. He was 14 years old. He attended parochial school. He struck almost everyone as the all American boy. That view ceased abruptly when he stabbed his mother twelve times with his Boy Scout knife. He burned his books on Satanism in the family living room. He then killed himself. His teachers had warned his parents that the boy apparently was dabbling in Satanic ceremonies. After the fact, his distraught father recalled his son had told a friend he had seen Satan.  

The Evil One had urged him, the 14 year old reported, to murder his family and tell others about his existence. Ryckman writes that the Cult Awareness Network in Chicago reports that no month goes by without their being informed of at least one crime associated in some form with Satan. One could go on. There is an abundance of material on this dark subject. I think, however, you get the picture. Surely then, the Evil One deserves a second look. There are five references to the Evil One in the New Testament. In the Old and New Testaments, there are sixty-nine different references to the Devil while Satan is referred to forty-four times. My adding machine tells me that makes one hundred eighteen pointings to the existence of the Devil.  

Do you not get the feeling that God is telling us something? Some people are willing to drop the D off Devil and concede there is evil in the world. But that tells us nothing about its primary source. With such a position, we do the Devil a service and ourselves a disservice. Satan should be under spotlights for everyone to see him and then do a quick about face. Dante in his Inferno did not underestimate him. He called him “a liar and the father of lies.” The poet JB Tabb wrote, “In all God’s universe there is one, and only one, creature whom we know positively to be damned. And that creature is the Devil. But remember though the Devil is damned, he is no damn fool.” At times the wily Devil hides himself deeply in what Thomas Richstatter calls the “ism” family. The list is long: alcoholism, consumerism, narcissism, nationalism, racism, and sexism.  

A none too deep examination of conscience will unhappily reveal that each one of us has been caught by one or more of these “isms.” It behooves us to shake the Devil off in his “ism” masquerade. As long as we breathe, we live with the Evil One. A cursory reading of the daily mayhem in even a third rate newspaper will confirm this. But we have one powerful weapon. It was outlined by CS Lewis. Each time we attend the Liturgy, we conduct a secret underground meeting. We get ourselves into shape for our next encounter with the Devil. Armed with the Eucharist, we are better able to be members of Christ’s Resistance. We are better able to make our global village prepared for Christ and His Parousia.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
May 17, 2015

The Ascension of the Lord: Taking On the Snakes and Poisons of the World
“These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18 

The Apparition of St. Michael the Archangel
IT is manifest, from the Holy Scriptures, that God is pleased to make frequent use of the ministry of the heavenly spirits in the dispensations of His providence in this world, and especially towards man. Hence the name of Angel (which is not properly a denomination of nature, but office) has been appropriated to them. The angels are all pure spirits; they are, by a property of their nature, immortal, as every spirit is. They have the power of moving or conveying themselves from place to place, and such is their activity that it is not easy for us to conceive it.

Teresa of Avila Reminds Us: “Our Trials Last But a Moment”
“Life is short, our trials last for but a moment…”

Have you ever wondered what the saints were really like? The purpose of the newest book in the Navigating the Interior Life book series, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, is to reveal the unique personality, wisdom, and insight that often emerges out of the letters of the saints. These letters are a window into Saint Teresa’s genuine humanity, witness, and pragmatic advice for pursuing an intimate friendship with God.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace
Throughout more than thirty years with degenerative multiple sclerosis there have been horrible times with the disease that dragged me to deep levels of sickness I did not think were possible. The terrors often came in the darkest nights when exhaustion was at its greatest and I was at the end of my tether emotionally and physically. I would cry out to God while fumbling in the dark for my rosary beside my bed.

God will judge people on care for the poor, for the planet, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The powerful of the earth will face God’s judgment and will be asked to account for how they cared for the poor and how they cared for the environment so that it could produce food for all, Pope Francis said.

“The planet has enough food for all, but it seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it with everyone,” Pope Francis said May 12 during his homily at a Mass opening the general assembly of Caritas Internationalis.

Why the Church Distinguishes Between Mortal and Venial Sin, Part I
Many supposed “theological differences” between Catholics and Evangelicals are, I think, founded in semantics rather than in substantial disagreement.

For example, when I was an Evangelical one of the periodic arguments I ran across against Catholic moral theology was that the concept of mortal and venial sin is unbiblical. Sin is sin, say Evangelicals, and there’s no good in trying to make out some sins as “minor.” To us Evangelicals such nice distinctions smelled a great deal like rationalization and looked like an escape clause from the commandment “Be holy, for I, the Lord, am Holy.”

Why the Church Distinguishes Between Mortal and Venial Sin, Part II
Last time, in this space, we were looking at the question of mortal and venial sin and trying to understand how St. James  remark that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (Jas 2:10). Perhaps a useful analogy would be to say rather “Injury is injury, but there’s injury and there’s injury.” Sin is fundamentally injurious. But it is tricky because it fools us into imagining some of the injuries we inflict on ourselves and others are “fun” (like lust) and some are “bad” (like murder). We console ourselves that as long as we don’t commit the “bad” sin, it’s okay to dabble with the “fun” ones.

How to Go to Heaven
Sometimes people make it sound like the Catholic understanding of how to get to heaven is really complex.

It’s not.

While you can go into any of Christ’s teachings in a lot of very rich detail, he made sure that this one can be understood even by a child.

I can summarize it in two sentences.

Fatima’s Vision of Hell
It is sobering to remember that the visions of Fatima are not just the wishful thinking of three peasant children or the fanciful imaginations of ignorant children.

The visions have been approved by the Church, validated by five popes and given credence by millions.

Therefore we ought to take them seriously.

Well Said: The Holy Spirit Bothers Us
“To put it simply: the Holy Spirit bothers us. Because he moves us, he makes us walk, he pushes the Church to go forward. And we are like Peter at the Transfiguration: ‘Ah, how wonderful it is to be here like this, all together!’ … But don’t bother us. We want the Holy Spirit to doze off … we want to domesticate the Holy Spirit. And that’s no good. because he is God, he is that wind which comes and goes and you don’t know where. He is the power of God, he is the one who gives us consolation and strength to move forward. But: to move forward! And this bothers us. It’s so much nicer to be comfortable.” 

Pope Francis, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday

Well Said: What is certain in life and death
If anyone should ask: What is certain in life and death — so certain that everything else may be anchored in it? Life teaches us that this is the only true reply. Not people — not not even the best and dearest; not science, or philosophy, or art or any other product of human genius. Also not nature, which is so full of profound deception …  The answer is: The love of Christ. … Only through Christ do we know that God’s love is forgiving. Certain is only that which manifested itself on the cross. The heart of Jesus Christ is the beginning and end of all things.

Romano Guardini, The Lord

From the Pious Puppy Dog…
…Good Lord Deliver Us

I hope you will excuse me from venting, but has anybody else noticed the rise of what I call “the pious puppy dog”?

The pious puppy dog is the kind of Christian who seems to be nothing but fluffy sweetness and light and happiness and goodness all the time. 24-7.

He always has a kind of sweetly sad expression on his face.

Why I’m Catholic: Sola Scriptura isn’t Historical, Part I
“History is not a creed or a catechism, it gives lessons rather than rules; still no one can mistake its general teaching in this matter, whether he accept it or stumble at it.  Bold outlines and broad masses of color rise out of the records of the past. They may be dim, they may be incomplete; but they are definite.  And this one things at least is certain; whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism.  If ever there were a safe truth, it is this.ˮ

“The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this.”

Five Reasons Why “Back to the Basics” Churches Stumble
There’s always a tendency in religion to want to get back to the original–to return to the primitive form of religion–to get back to the basics.

Big mistake.

Favorite Books of the Bible
Since my parents purchased a Bible for me, at my request, for Christmas 1970, I have read a chapter from the New Testament and a chapter from the Old each night.  What a magnificent collection of books the Bible is!  Prophecies, histories, court chronicles, songs, gospels, letters, codes of laws and so much more.  The Bible is a boundless sea on which the human mind and soul can glimpse the eternal voyage.  Choosing one’s favorite books of the Bible is rather like picking one’s favorite children, but here goes.

The last month has, at times, been a blur. After being hit by a car on my bike just over a month ago, I have had to look at life through a different lens. Is there really an “upside” to tragedy? Indulge me as I reflect on the lessons I believe God is trying to teach me through this unexpected event in my life.

The Importance of Myths and Fairy Tales for Christian Children
Many Christians believe that pagan myths and fairy tales are detrimental to Christian children. They fear that children will be lead astray from their upbringing, but really myths and fairy tales provide a foundation from which to build a Christian education. I was questioned myself by a well-meaning, Catholic relative, who had been asked by my children to read from D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. My six year old, whom we home school, responded to questioning about the myths versus Scripture that the myths were created by people who “did not know about the real God.”

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

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

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

Are Catholic Families Different? Five “Marks” of the Catholic Family
Are Catholic families supposed to be different?

What would that difference look like? The Church has been considering these questions in earnest, especially in light of the upcoming World Meeting of Families and the 2015 Synod on the Family. While I don’t presume to offer definitive answers, considering the Church’s writings on the matter, here are what I would like to suggest are the five most important differences that distinguish a family committed to living the Catholic vision of family life.

3 Signs That a Private Revelation is From God
In the Catholic Church we believe that on rare occasions God speaks to a soul directly in visions or words, which are also known as “private revelations.” Typically God speaks to a soul discreetly through thoughts, desires or through another person.
However, with certain privileged souls who have an intimate relationship with Him, He shares many special graces.

Modesty: A Virtue of Respect and Responsibility
Each year with the dawn of warm weather, Catholic media is suddenly buzzing with a myriad of posts and articles addressing the virtue of modesty. Given the current state of cultural fashion trends, this crusade for modest apparel is certainly justifiable. Parading around in cut off shorts and bikinis is hardly a dignified way to adorn the body. However, as a young Catholic woman I must express my concern that modesty is continually approached as a problem which can be remedied through a series of laws for women’s dress.

Who is the Devil?
Who indeed?

Now having read Who is the Devil? by Nicolas Corte it is all too clear, if unnervingly so.

Sophia Institute Press has done us all a service in reprinting this classic text first published in French under the title Satan l’adversaire. At the time of its publication in 1958 it was a brave counterblast to the then fashionable theological thinking, in some quarters at least, that relegated belief in the devil to that of folklore, a psychological regression or, worse still, an outdated medieval superstition.  If at that time there was a need to impress on minds the threat posed from the evil one then how much more timely is this new edition for today’s world?

Losing My Religion: Why People Are REALLY Leaving the Church (It’s not what you think.)
A new report from Pew Research shows that religion is losing ground as more people drop out of church.  According to the report….

The shrinking numbers of Christians and their loss of market share is the most significant change since 2007 (when Pew did its first U.S. Religious Landscape survey) and the new, equally massive survey of 35,000 U.S. adults.

Whatever the Cost
A year ago, I wrote an article challenging the American Church to do more in the face of religious persecution of our Christian brethren abroad. At that time, the kidnapping of 276 young school girls by the Islamist group Boko Haram had captured the world’s attention. I wrote the following:

On Marriage, Leadership and Honoring Our Wives
Marriage is in trouble everywhere, especially in our country where over half of marriages end in divorce. Our culture, so influenced by Hollywood and materialism, has set about creating a society which no longer values marriage and the family, but instead favors one which glorifies selfishness, greed and offers false idols for us to worship instead of God. As an author and speaker, I attempt to reach people with Christ-inspired work which will help them lead authentic and integrated Catholic lives. Many of us are called to other roles in the world that require great courage and effort, but I suggest nothing will do more to strengthen marriage and the family than men having the courage to reject the surrounding culture and embrace their role as loving husbands, faith-filled fathers and leaders in their homes.

The Commitment Differences: 5 Reasons Faith-Filled Marriages Work Countless articles, memoirs and studies explore why so many marriages in our society deteriorate and ultimately fail. Just recently, a blog post at USA TODAY by Anthony D’Ambrosio gained attention for identifying the top five reasons that marriages don’t work: intimacy issues, financial strife, failure to truly connect, desire for attention, and an obsession with social media. These factors woven through our society contribute to a rocky foundation for marriage, predispose couples to walk the path to divorce, and directly contributed to the unraveling of his own marriage, according to D’Ambrosio, a 29-year-old.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Sixth Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. 
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Posted for May 10, 2015  

John 15: 9–17 

Gospel Summary 

This gospel passage is filled with beautiful statements 
about the ever-popular subject of love. Jesus tells us that the Father loves him, and that he in turn loves us, and that we should love one another. Perhaps we have heard these sentiments expressed so often that we no longer realize how profound and dramatic they really are.
When Jesus says that the Father has loved him, he is correcting a very common concept of God. Many people at that time (and perhaps ever since) pictured God as someone very transcendent and therefore very distant from them. He was surely all-powerful but, like most powerful ones, he seemed to be cruel as well. Is God not in some way responsible for famine and natural disasters? Does he not at least permit the death of young parents and innocent children? 

But Jesus tells us that he knows God much better than we do. As eternal Word, he dwells in the lap of his heavenly Father (John 1: 18). This is body language, which tells us that Jesus hears the very heartbeat of his Father. He assures us that God is a loving Father who wishes only good for us. Most of all, he knows that this loving Father offers us a love that can enliven and nurture and energize us, just as the sun energizes plants and trees. 

Jesus invites us to experience and to trust this life-giving love, to live in the presence of it, and to yearn for it, just as the sunflower follows the sun across the sky in our human gardens. Then we will know how to become sunshine in the lives of others. We will also know how to deal with mysteries in our lives. We will also want to share our treasures with others and thus become part of that divine love that overcomes all darkness and evil. 

Life Implications

The implications of this vision of reality are not hard to see. Most people who do not love, or do not love enough, are usually persons who do not feel that they themselves are loved. It is futile to tell people that they must love others when they have not really been made free to love by experiencing love in their own lives. Too often it is a case of impoverished people trying desperately to give more than they have. 

That is why it is so important to hear and to trust the words of Jesus about the love of the Father for us.  

This love is found in Jesus himself, who gave his life for us, but it is also found everywhere in life: in loving family and friends, in the blessings and successes of life, in every flower and gentle breeze. 

Today’s gospel challenges us to acknowledge the dark evil in life but it asks us to notice especially the luminous good that is also there. And as we pay attention to the good in life, we will be able to let the evil go by or, at least, to keep it in its place, which is never at the center of life. This is exactly what Jesus did and, with him, we too need to feel the warmth of the Father’s love and to share that warmth with all whom we meet in life.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
May 10, 2015

Sixth Sunday of Easter: Love, A Choice That Demands Sacrifice
Love, love, love, love, love.  It seems that we hear this word over and over.  Bill loves Sue, Sue loves Fred, etc.  Every sitcom is loaded with people who fall in and out of love.  We hear about married people breaking up and we wonder where their love went.  The we come to Church, and again we hear about love.  

But it is not all the same.  True love is a choice that demands sacrifice.  People who fall in and out of love have not made a choice that demands sacrifice, or at least one of them has not. 

Pray Always?
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“Seriously? Pray always?”

That is not an uncommon reaction to St. Paul’s admonition to pray always without ceasing. Does he know what we’re up against, the demands on our time and energy, the pace of our modern world, not to mention the fragility and inconsistency of our human nature? He can’t possibly mean always, as in, all the time and everywhere. Impossible!

The Discovery of the Holy Cross
GOD having restored peace to His Church, by exalting Constantine the Great to the imperial throne, that pious prince, who had triumphed over his enemies by the miraculous power of the cross, was very desirous of expressing his veneration for the holy places which had been honored and sanctified by the presence and sufferings of our blessed Redeemer on earth.

The Rulers of Jesus’ Time
Both Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas were important men, respected and feared. Pi­late was the Roman prefect in Judea, Caiaphas the high priest of the Jerusalem Temple. Both were accomplished men who had risen far in their chosen fields. They had to deal often with one another, negotiating a fragile peace and maintaining a difficult order in the land it was their lot to share. Each man seems to have had a measure of respect for the other and his people — oddly mixed with a measure of contempt.

Truth or Consequences
One of our basic beliefs as Catholics is that Mary is, in a curious way, always referred to Jesus. Her own words at the wedding in Cana (John 2) stand as a sort of emblem of all that she has to say to us: “Do whatever he tells you.” She directs us to her Son.

A Mother’s Serenity Prayer
When the heat goes out and the temperature is minus-two degrees outside and I wonder when the oil company will arrive to save us from this dangerous situation,

—Lord, help me to accept hardship as a pathway to peace, to take as Jesus did the sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

When we are on day three of no working heat and we don’t hear the pipes burst and a child wakes us the next morning to tell us there is water gushing from the wall and pouring all over the living room floor,

—Lord, help me to accept hardship as a pathway to peace, to take as Jesus did the sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

10 Things That Are Strengthening the Family
It’s impossible to dispute any item on Father Dwight Longenecker’s list of things that are killing the family. To have eyes is to see that we are in deep trouble, for all the reasons he notes.

And yet, I want to say, “And yet, for all that…”

It’s tempting for conservatives to get so appalled by the losses we see all around us that we fail to take note of the good that’s been unfolding too. It’s important to notice the good, not just so that we don’t get depressed, but so that we have a more complete and balanced sense of reality — what God is about in the world, and which of our efforts are most likely to bear fruit.

No boring homilies, pope tells new priests at ordination
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Ordaining 19 men to the priesthood, Pope Francis not only told them to make sure their homilies were not boring, but he offered them advice on how to ensure their preaching would touch people: speak from your heart.

Priests are called to nourish the faithful, he said, so they must ensure “that your homilies are not boring, that your homilies arrive directly in people’s hearts because they flow from your heart, because what you tell them is what you have in your heart.”

5 Things I’ve Learned About Holiness In the Convent
When I entered the convent I had a pretty self-confident, completely unsophisticated idea of what holiness would look like. I expected to be able to identify the holiest sisters because they would have a retinue following them, hanging on their every word and helping them with daily tasks.

Hey, that is what Padre Pio pretty much had right?!

Conspiracies & Catholicism: Saints
What is a saint?

A saint is someone who is recognized as being united with God; a holy one. English is actually a bit odd– we’ve got a lot of ways of saying things, and “saint” is a good example. In most languages, there’s no difference between how you say “holy one” and how you say “saint.” This can result in things that sound very strange to modern ears, like talking about “Saint Jesus.” Jimmy Akin has a great FAQ if you want to know more, but I’m going to steal from it shamelessly for a lot of this article so you might want to wait on that to avoid boredom. (Not that his writing is boring, but because reading something in more detail that you’ve already read is more interesting than reading a little information about something you just absorbed a huge amount on.)

The Gravity of Sin
Every day we wake up and struggle against this ever-present giant.  We strain and groan under the weight produced by this invisible force, yet most days we never give a second thought to this. It literally is dragging us away from heaven, but we continue to fight and counteract this tortuous law of life.  This is really about the gravitational pull of our planet, but couldn’t this also signify sin? Certainly gravity is not sinful, but sin has a gravitational pull of its own accord. Our concupiscence is the driving force that impels us toward the destructive ends that can consume us if we do not exercise our spiritual muscles.  Just as the gravity of a fall can kill, so can the gravity of sin be just as deadly to our eternal souls.

Will the Beauty of Truth Alone Combat the Lies of Satan?
Saint Augustine argued that, even though the beauty of truth is a superior form of beauty, it should be not divorced from material beauty, especially when presenting the truths of the Faith.
First of all, Augustine pointed out that while beauty of the material realm can be beneficial to raise our souls to God who is the source of all beauty, there is another dimension of beauty that was superior and resided in the intellectual realm.

Influenced by Platonism, Augustine saw that the pursuit of truth appeared to be a higher form of beauty. This reality first presented itself in Augustine’s conversion.

10 Ways to Win the Battle for Purity
Flashy billboards, provocative dress and apparel, Hollywood fashions spread far and wide, suggestive innuendos, off-colored jokes, indecent movies, and the ever-present danger of the Internet to visit the numerous and poisonous websites—all of these and a plethora of other alluring and seductive temptations can trap even the best of us into falling into the sin against the virtue of purity. In a certain sense, the world can be depicted as a moral land-mine, where at every turn and corner in the road there is an immoral spiritual bomb that can be stepped on and explode!  Let us be honest and to the point—we live in a society of dangerous and often pernicious images. We live in a pornographic society!

Infallible Me…
Non Catholic Christians often grumble about the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility, but they miss the point that for any religion to be considered reliable somewhere along the line you have to have some sort of infallibility.

To get what I mean we first have to understand what infallibility is.

10 Places to Visit if You Want to See a Miracle
With the recent miracle that occurred with Pope Francis on March 21, 2015, it made me wonder where in the world could we witness other miracles in person.

1. Naples, Italy – St. Janurius blood
Saint Januarius (or San Gennaro) is the patron saint of Naples and is a martyr saint. Three times a year, people will gather in Naples Cathedral to witness the liquefaction of the blood of the saint, which is kept inside a sealed glass ampoule. The three dates to witness this miracle is on September 19th (feast day), December 16th (his patronage of both Naples and the archdiocese) and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May (to commemorate the reunification of his relics). It has liquefied at other times, but this was the first time to have liquefied before a pope since Pope Pius IX.

Science and Miracles
On June 20th, 2013, Giovanni Giudici, the Bishop of Pavia, pronounced the cure of Danila Castelli to be miraculous, 24 years after her pilgrimage to Lourdes. Her cure, and the 68 other cures proclaimed miraculous, began as simply one more of the more than 7,000 cures that have been reported to the Medical Bureau of the Sanctuary at Lourdes. While all of the cases are marvelous in their own way, only this small fraction survived the many stages of extensive investigation, both medical and ecclesial, so as to eventually be considered “unexplained according to current scientific knowledge” by the Lourdes International Medical Committee and finally pronounced miraculous by the bishop of the cured pilgrim.

5 Simple Lessons about Priests
As a parish secretary for several years, I have had ample time to reflect on the role of priests and the laity’s view toward them. The following are five things I’ve learned:

Why Do Catholics Confess Their Sins toa Priest instead of Directly to God?
Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest, rather than going directly to God?
Well, the quick answer is because that’s the way God wants us to do it. In James 5:16, God, through Sacred Scripture, commands us to “confess our sins to one another.” Notice, Scripture does not say confess your sins straight to God and only to God — it says confess your sins to one another.

ASK FATHER: Can non-Catholics go to confession?
My mother is a non-Catholic who sometimes attends mass with me (a convert). She has considered entering the Church (her mother–as a side note–became a Catholic in her late 80’s, with me as her sponsor.) A good friend of mine, who regularly interviews priests for television spots, told me that she can go to Confession, as a baptized Christian, as long as she believes in the efficacy of it. Is this true?

Pondering Prudence and Its “Parts” – A Reflection on the Sometimes-Misunderstood Virtue of Prudence
As a follow-on to yesterday’s post on the spiritual work of counseling  the doubtful, I would like to say a little more about prudence.

Prudence is often misunderstood by those who reduce it to mere caution or reluctance to act. It is true that sometimes prudence indicates caution and that hasty action is seldom prudent. However, sometimes it is prudent to act quickly.

To Accord with Catholic Faith – By Pope Leo XIII
The only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, who came on earth to bring salvation and the light of divine wisdom to men, conferred a great and wonderful blessing on the world when, about to ascend again into heaven, He commanded the Apostles to go and teach all nations, and left the Church which He had founded to be the common and supreme teacher of the peoples. For men whom the truth had set free were to be preserved by the truth; nor would the fruits of heavenly doctrines by which salvation comes to men have long remained had not the Lord Christ appointed an unfailing teaching authority to train the minds to faith.

Reading G. K. Chesterton: A Guide for the New Fan
In the movie Moscow on the Hudson, a Soviet defector walks in to an American supermarket for the first time, is overwhelmed at all the choices, yells, spins around, and passes out. The new reader of G. K. Chesterton may well feel this way. You read an essay, or a Father Brown story, or one of his better-known books, and love it.

The Socially Awkward Person’s Guide to the Sign of Peace
The first time I went to a Catholic Mass, there were a lot of things that seemed crazy to me. The kneeling, the incense, the parts with everyone saying the same prayers at the same time—most of it was baffling. But none of it startled me more than when the priest suddenly said, “Let us offer one another a sign of peace.” With no warning other than that simple phrase, there was eye contact! And hand-shaking! And verbal interaction! People I didn’t even know were looking at me and addressing me!

Carve Out Time for These Few Essentials
Got a new baby? Along with all the joy and fun that comes with welcoming a new child into your home, you will notice some other, unwelcome arrivals: tons and tons of unsolicited advice about how to run your life. Everyone has an opinion about what is really important, and much of this advice conflicts with or contradicts other advice, leaving a new mother feeling confused and overwhelmed.

Be at peace, new mama. There are really only a few essentials to keep in mind, in order to live your life in a happy, healthy, even joyful way.

The ABCs of Catholicism
When I was growing up, there were always times in the long car rides with my family to play different “road games”. I’m sure most everyone has played the license plate game, trying to see how many different state license plates you could find on the cars zooming past. One of my favorite games was always the alphabet game. You try to find an example of something that begins with a certain letter of the alphabet and shout it out before anyone else can. The weird letters like “Q” and “X” were always a little more difficult, but that was part of the challenge. With that in mind, I thought that it would be fun to create a list (by no means exhaustive) of the different things in Catholicism, using the alphabet as my guide. What other things can you think of to add to the list? Add your own in the comments below!

The Haunting Stories of 5 Saints Who Battled Demons
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6.11-12

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5.8

The spiritual world is real, and there is a battle going on.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Fifth Sunday of Easter”

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Posted for May 3, 2015  


‘I am the vine you are the branches’ is a scripture phrase 
we are all very familiar with. It is a wonderful and most 
beautiful biblical image. 

But actually the words we have in the text today are: ‘I am the true vine.’ Or as some scholars also translate it: ‘I am the real vine.’ What does this mean? Are we to assume that there is a false vine somewhere that we should avoid getting entangled with? 

Or is Jesus emphasising that he is the source of real life; life in all its fullness and that what we have here on earth is only a pale shadow? The contrast here being between what is heavenly and what is earthly.

To help understand this we could look to a similar phrase elsewhere in John’s Gospel: ‘It was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread… I am the bread of life…’ 

We then could think that John is trying to stress the dichotomy or split between the Old and New Testaments. Here perhaps John could be thought to be emphasising the contrast between Jesus and his followers as the true vine with the false vine represented by the Jewish synagogue of his day. 

Whatever is meant we should understand that this image of the vine was frequently used in the Old Testament as a description of the relationship between God and his people. There were elaborate carvings of the vine and the branches in the Temple and this image was also frequently used on the coinage to represent the people of Israel. 

So it is a particularly rich image that St. John is drawing on; one that was in frequent use and easily understood by the people of what was essentially an agricultural nation. 

We don’t tend to think of Israel today as one of the great wine areas of the world. But there were vines there in plenty in ancient times. In those much harder days perhaps it was not so much the quality as the alcoholic content of the wine that was important since at that time no one could be sure that the water from the well was pure. 

The point is that we are dealing with a readily understood image. And it is a lasting image; although Britain is not a wine producing country we are well aware of vines, if only because of the vast range of wine available in the local supermarket! 

Or it could be all those gardening programmes. I remember listening to Gardener’s Question Time once—I know nothing about gardens but when Gardener’s Question Time is on the car radio I listen anyway hoping I might learn something. 

Anyway, one question that the expert gardeners were asked was about pruning fruit trees. I was very interested to note that they emphasised what a great quantity of dead wood one could get out of an apparently quite healthy tree. And also how important pruning was to promote growth and enable the tree to give a plentiful crop of good fruit. 

Pruning has to be done each year if the tree is to remain in good shape. But also it was quite surprising how a neglected tree could soon burst back into blossom with a bit of rigorous pruning. 

You don’t need me to point out the implications for the spiritual life, it’s all fairly obvious. To stay spiritually healthy a bit of pruning is necessary on a regular basis. But even if there has been long term neglect not all is lost and you can make an amazing comeback. 

That’s all fair enough as far as it goes, but what about this spiritual fruit; what does it consist of?

We are more comfortable with success as the object of our achievements, but what about fruitfulness; bearing fruit, spiritual fruit. What do we mean by this?   

The first thing we have to say with this rather biological metaphor is that we are talking about growth, organic growth. Growth requires movement and change. As Cardinal Newman said so wisely: ‘To live is to change and to be perfect means to have changed often.’ In fact change is the only sign of life.

And change is difficult. But change is what we are about. Change is of the very essence of Christianity. Take the change out of Christianity and it is dead in the water. The whole aim and purpose of the Church is to bring about conversion, radical change. 

But this is the very opposite of how the ordinary person, and indeed many of us, perceive the Church. It is generally thought of as a rigid, static organisation anchored to the past. And indeed there are important and vital aspects of Christianity that are anchored in the past; the teaching of Jesus Christ to start with, which is at the very heart of what the Church is about.

Abandon this and we might as well pack up now. And the Church is rigid in holding on to these teachings and unlike other denominations the Roman Catholic Church will not water-down these teachings no matter how unattractive or unfashionable they may be perceived.

But this teaching of Jesus is a call to change; it is a call to conversion. This is why the Church is called: ever the same, ever new.

We hold on firmly to the teaching of Jesus and we resist any watering-down but we are open to change especially within ourselves. We are open to the promptings of the Spirit. As we have progressed through our lives we have acquired a special sensitivity to God’s way of working and we see his hand in all things. We allow him to nudge us forwards; we deepen our faith; and we continually find new ways to model our lives on Jesus.

The life of the Christian therefore can never be merely passive, just as love can never be passive. If we are truly in love with someone then we are always on the lookout for things we can do to please the other. We try to help them; we look for opportunities to demonstrate our love; we try to change the things in us that cause them irritation.

It is exactly the same for the Christian who loves God. This constant striving to please him, this openness to change in our lives is a concrete sign of our love. This is active Christianity. This is a faith that is truly dynamic and living.

Prayer brings about change in our lives; maybe it is only very slow and gradual, but it does change us. It does move us forwards; it does gradually draw us ever closer to God, the source and summit of all life and love. This is spiritual fruitfulness; a coming to the fulfilment of all that we were made for. This is the wonderful ripeness of a life lived in faith.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
May 3, 2015

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B—May 3, 2015
On the eve of His death, knowing that He was about to depart from His friends, Jesus said to them: “Remain in Me, as I remain in you.” How would that be possible?

Gospel (Read Jn 15:1-8)

Our reading today comes from a section of St. John’s Gospel that is often called “the Last Supper discourse.”   After He washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus spoke at length with them in a most serious manner. This was straight talk; no more parables. We should be keenly interested in every word He had to say.

Fifth Sunday of Easter: Being Fruitful Branches…Living the Mass
This Sunday’s Gospel, the Vine and the Branches, reminds us why we are here right now.  We are Christians.  We are Catholics. This is more than membership in a society.  It is even more than membership in a family.  We are united to Jesus Christ as branches are united to a vine.  His Life flows into us.  We come to Mass to be nourished with His Life through Word and Eucharist.

Catholic Joy?
Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, not a special gift given to a select few;  it is simply a by-product of living in God. However, when people think of a Catholic saint, the first image that comes to mind is a sad, pale, thin figure, often tortured and in pain, or looking as if he was wearing a hair shirt. Traditional Catholic art has reinforced this impression. Recently I was looking for images of smiling or laughing monks. Hundreds of images popped up featuring Buddhist monks laughing, but I had trouble finding a handful of photos or paintings of joyful Catholic monks and priests. This is a quandary since Sacred Scriptures exhorts the people of God to trust and embrace joy.

Nehemiah 8:10   Do not be grieved (sad, sorrowful), for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

Fearful Yet Overjoyed
It’s a curious thing that a father does. The same child that he protects and cradles, he takes in his hands and throws into the air. . .up above his head. . .lets him fall back. . .and then catches again. And again throws him. . .lets him fall. . .and catches him. It seems odd to do to a child. But watch. The child laughs and even shrieks with delight. He screams in mid-flight and giggles when caught.

Take Those You Love to Jesus
Does the Bible still have relevance? All that guidance and those stories of 2,000 years ago and longer – do they mean anything today?

They should, of course – especially the things Jesus taught. Loving God with every fiber of your being, loving your neighbor as you love yourself, forgiving countless times. Laying down your life for your friends. Having hope when all seems hopeless. Those messages instruct us about how to love the right way in relation to God.

Journeying from Regret to Joy
I knew one of my parishioners as a quiet devout lady who attended Holy Mass every morning. All I remember about her was greeting her and saying goodbye to her every day after Mass. After she suddenly passed away, her daughter told me things that I never would have guessed about her mother. Every single day of her life, the deceased rose around 2 am to spend hours in prayer. I was really edified. Then the daughter showed me her mother’s prayer book, and behold, I found my name along with the names of many other people written in her prayer book. She was praying and sacrificing herself for me all these while and I never recognized her, I never knew what moved her, I never spent time with her, I never had a chance to chat with her, I never expressed my gratitude to her. Talk about a sense of regret that came over me.

The Concept, Origin and Sacramental Nature of Marriage
Marriage is a principle and guiding theme throughout the Holy Scriptures. It is the symbol and sign of God’s sacred covenant with His people. The Creation and institution of marriage appears woven throughout the Bible, first at the beginning of Genesis and last in the book of Revelation 19:9, where it says “blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Christ is the bridegroom and Holy Mother Church is the bride. Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament by the Gospel message and all are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb if they come appropriately attired. Proceeding from these truths is the fact that we must abide in and bind ourselves to the conditions and guiding principles concerning the nature of marriage revealed to us by God and confirmed by natural reason.

Sharing in the Life of the Trinity
In many places throughout the world, Christians observe Pentecost as a celebration of God as the Trinity — three divine persons living eternally in perfect unity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is the mystery at the heart of Christianity.

Christ Understands Every Grief
Today I met a 14 year old boy who was paralyzed in a freak accident last summer. He is quadriplegic. It’s not yet been a year since his accident. I’m not sure if the reality of severe, permanent disability has been fully internalized for him or his parents. It is a hard grief journey that will utterly break their hearts.

How the Saints Overcame Evil
Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., Postulator for the cause of Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote, “Her beatification challenges us to take a closer look at the question of holiness and its relevance in contemporary society.”

The saints not only teach us volumes about the spiritual life; their stories enkindle the heart with a desire to do what they did. That is, to make a radical gift of self to God. Do I really, truly desire holiness of life? If so, how am I putting my desire into action and cooperating with God’s grace?

Saints and Saintmakers
Most of us would really like to be in heaven one day.  The alternative is unthinkable. The only problem with getting into heaven is that only saints get in, both canonized and uncanonized. And while most of us are really good people, being saintly is something we must aspire to, because being a “good person” is not enough. So let’s take a look at some examples, as well as at some people, that can help us to become saints.

The Mystery of the “Woman” at Cana
When it comes to Mary in the Gospels, John 2:4 is a real head-scratcher.

It’s the wedding at Cana and the wine has run out. When Mary informs Jesus, here is the startling reply: Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.

It doesn’t sound like any way to talk to your mother, let alone any ‘woman’ for that matter. But many interpreters, including many evangelical Protestants, take this verse on face value, concluding it is some kind of rebuke. One well-respected evangelical scholar, D.A. Carson, takes it this way, suggesting that Jesus is putting some distance between Himself and Mary and signaling that He starts His ministry on His initiative alone.

Modern Martyrs
Pope Francis has explicitly mentioned the plight of modern Christian martyrs no fewer than four times in his homilies and public statements since Palm Sunday. The only reference that has really made the headlines was his Divine Mercy Sunday pronouncement describing the 1915 slaughter of Armenians with the politically-charged term “genocide.” However, the Holy Father’s continual references to the modern martyrs have a more substantive message: we should not be silent to this martyrdom, just as he has not been silent. As early as June 2013, in the third month of his pontificate, Pope Francis started mentioning the modern martyrs. These references continued throughout 2014 and have increased this year, especially in light of the persecutions and killings in Iraq and Syria. We also have not been completely silent, as a recent blog post by Br. Augustine highlighting the plight of Dominican Sisters in Iraq demonstrates.

What Is Your Why?
The most important question we can ask ourselves is “What is my why?” How many of us have a clear answer of what that is? Why are we doing anything that we do? Do we live with a clear purpose and mission in mind? How does this apply to our Catholic identity? How does it apply to our intellectual formation? How does it apply to our spiritual life? And for those who are married, this is the most important question you need answered.

On Living Intentionally
Do you ever catch yourself in a moment of candid realization that you have developed bad habits, neglected your faith and created distance between yourself and Christ? This happens to me all too frequently and after realizing I was off course during a recent visit to Eucharistic Adoration, I decided to do something about it. What I needed was to toughen my resistance and develop new “muscles” to fight my patterns of spiritual failure. I committed to introduce more intention into my life and show stronger willpower.

Practicing Recollection Throughout the Day
St. John Chrysostom wrote, “It is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin” (De Anna 4, 5). Since you are reading this post, I assume that you would like to be able to overcome every temptation. But how can we pray constantly, as not only Chrysostom, but also St. Paul taught (cf 1 Thessalonians 5:17)?

St. Teresa of Avila gives us a place to start. Speaking about praying vocal prayer well, she pauses a moment to urge her readers to pray throughout the day:

Teaching Our Children to Pray
In our modern society, people like to pride themselves on being hip, cool, and atheist. For some atheists, their parents were atheists. But for others, as they were growing up, their parents did not want to “impose” their belief system (religious or otherwise) on them. Like picking their favorite candies out of a chocolate box, the parents wanted their children to wait until they were old enough to  decide which flavor they liked best: Catholic, Methodist or Evangelical.

Why I, a Protestant, Pray the “Hail Mary” and use a rosary
As part of this year-long effort to better understand what we mean when we talk about following Jesus, called My Jesus Project, I’ve been making a more concerted effort to pray every day. Even though my tendency is to focus on more silent, contemplative reflection, I’ve actually taken on a number of prayers that I do several times each, over a half-hour period or so.

The Profound Dignity of Motherhood
Mothers are by far the most beautiful creatures in the world. There is nothing more beautiful than a mother. There has never been a beauty pageant winner more beautiful than a pregnant woman. A pregnant woman glows with the grace of God. She is one with God. Her love has borne fruit with the life in her womb. She is transformed into an other-worldly beauty. Anyone can naturally see this.

Empire of the Cross; Layers of Our Faith
If you’ve ever visited Rome and had a sense of deja vu or that you were somehow “home”, you wouldn’t be the only one. Many Catholics feel this connection to the Eternal City, despite not having a drop of Italian blood in them. This feeling is reinforced by stumbling upon millennia of Church history contained within hundreds of Churches, rich liturgical art, and even roadside shrines or monuments.

Pope Will Travel to Fatima for 100th Anniversary of Marian Apparitions
FATIMA, Portugal — In 2017, Pope Francis plans to travel to Fatima, said Bishop António Augusto dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fátima in a statement after meeting with the Holy Father.

The occasion for the visit would be the 100-year anniversary of Mary’s appearing to three shepherd children at Fatima.

The Eucharist Calls to All of Us
I am a reluctant church-goer.  Even now, after all I’ve learned and come to believe about the nature of God, it is sometimes still a massive act of will to drag myself out of bed Sunday morning, and get my sorry self to Mass.  Add the daunting prospect of clothing six children and finding matching shoes for all of them- all of them!- and that, my friends, is a recipe for defeat.

A Man I Know
I lit a candle and prayed in our parish chapel not long ago for a man I know in his mid-70s who is struggling with various health issues as he gets older.  The candle I lit burned brightly, more brightly than the others, for the hour I was in the chapel.  The light reminded me of his life filled with countless good examples and a wonderful legacy of lives he has touched.  Let me tell you a little about him.

Fools or Liars?
The latest apologists for the Sexual Revolution – that great swamp of sewage backup, human misery, family breakdown, squalid entertainment, and lawyers – have been saying that the most radical anthropological breach ever known to man, the detachment of marriage from childbirth and the plain facts of nature, will have no effect (none at all, not to worry) on marriage and childbirth and family and community life.

To which I reply, “Haven’t you said that before?” About what exactly have the sexual revolutionaries been right? Which of their non-predictions has been confirmed?

With all its faults and failings, the Catholic Church is pretty wonderful And it’s time to start saying so
Is it time to revive Catholic triumphalism? On the whole, I’d say yes. At the very least, the question isn’t frivolous and deserves serious consideration. For after several decades during which Catholics have offered repeated apologies for a host of mistakes, sometimes real and sometimes imaginary, the feeling grows that a comparable effort devoted to tooting the Church’s horn is now long overdue.

The 5 Ways Of Worshiping God (Listicles By The Saints)
I’ve been reading some of the selections on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. As it turns out, a good number of the books in that collection are written by authors whose names begin with the letter S. Saint this, or Saint that, for example.

Sometimes these folks have brief passages in their works that are both short and helpful. In fact, some of them are like the listicles that the interwebs have come to know and love. Like the one below, which was written by St. John Damascene.

Shock Treatment or Selfishness?
Recently I heard a priest describe something that happened to him in the early days of his priesthood.

From his age, I’m guessing this would have been the mid-1970s.

He said that, for the first twenty-five years of his priesthood, he had really long hair (down to his waist, if he stretched it out) and a full beard.

At one point, he was assigned to a parish and came to know a local gentleman by phone but not by sight.

Panicking My Way Into Catholicism
Sometime ago I wrote up a fresh take on my conversion from atheism to Christianity and then from Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism. Here is that story:

A Proto-Dawkins Is Born

I grew up on Nintendo and television. My parents were both brought up, to varying degrees, in Christian homes, but by college they had abandoned whatever faith they had. So they reared my sister and me atheistically. Oh, they phrased it differently than that: “We want you to choose for yourself what to think,” was the actual line they used. But since we never prayed, never talked about God, never went to church (except a Unitarian one which may as well have been a meeting of the Enlightened Atheists Society), and since from an early age they taught us that we evolved from primordial ooze, unsurprisingly both my sister and I became just like our parents and rejected belief in God.

On the Mysticism of the Simple Word “Consider”
Every now and then a word just catches your ear. Several times in a day it jumps out at you and you’re tempted to say, “There it is again!”

A few days ago it was the word “consider,” a very ordinary word. Or is it? Why did it suddenly strike me so?

Writing Within the Word?
Ever since childhood I was always taught to treat the Bible with a certain amount of respect.  This included never setting it on the bare floor, but always on top of something; never tossing or throwing it around irreverently; generally avoiding stacking non-religious things on top of it; and not writing in it.  The Bible was God’s Word, and thus deserved a level of treatment above that shown to an average book.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Fourth Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Posted for April 26, 2015

We call today Good Shepherd Sunday because on all three 
of the Sundays in the cycle of readings in the liturgy we 
have an extract from Chapter Ten of John’s Gospel in 
which Jesus teaches the disciples about himself in his role 
as the Good Shepherd.

In this case we should not think that by using the word ‘good’ Jesus is somehow trying to portray himself as somehow morally better that the disciples, even though by definition he certainly was. No, what he is talking about is the ‘ideal’ shepherd; he is presenting himself as the model from which all other shepherds should draw their inspiration.

Jesus is helping the disciples to prepare for their own role as shepherds; shepherds of the flock that is the Church. He is teaching them about the importance of this role and the tender love that the shepherd ought to have for his flock. He tells the disciples that they have to know the sheep of their flock and give them their protection.

As we read these words we call to mind how in the very last resurrection appearance recorded in John’s Gospel Jesus says to Peter three times: ‘Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.’ This incident marks the rehabilitation of Peter and confirms him as the leader and guardian of the newly born Church.

Traditionally on this Sunday we speak about vocations to the priesthood and also to the religious life and it is entirely appropriate that we do so. The Gospel speaks so clearly about the shepherding role that priests and religious exercise in the Church and so we should draw attention to these important vocations.

As is implied by our use of the word vocation what we are talking about is a call. Its origin is in the Latin word vocatio which means a summons or a call. Immediately we see that not everyone can become a priest or a religious but only those who experience a call from God.

We are then left with the question of how to recognize this call and what to do about it if you decide that it is you who are being called. There is also the question of what everyone else in the Church does to ensure that we have sufficient priests and religious and how to foster vocations.

I can only really speak about my own experience although I know that many other priests and religious have felt something similar.

Somehow from the age of about nine or ten I simply felt inside myself that God wanted me to be a priest. I do not know where the idea came from and I was never asked by anyone to think about being a priest and I certainly didn’t discuss it with anyone. I just knew that this was what God wanted.

In my case I wasn’t particularly happy about this knowledge. I wished that God would choose someone else and I tried to put the idea out of my head. I even prayed quite hard asking God to look elsewhere. But the idea kept coming back. Sometimes these thoughts about being a priest faded into the background but only to rise stronger at a later date.

Obviously one of the reasons I wasn’t too keen on the idea of a vocation is that it meant being celibate and therefore foregoing family life. This is certainly a great challenge and it remains one to this day. However there are many other compensations in this way of life, not least the opportunity to serve other people at the most difficult and delicate times of their life.

Of course as a boy I knew the Salvatorian priests in my home parish and as an altar server I used to help with the masses and do other jobs around the Church such as cutting the grass and so on. I have to say that while the priests were always very friendly none of them ever tried to influence me in any way.

Unexpectedly when it came to leaving school the idea of the priesthood went away and so I got a job in a bank and did this for three years. Towards the end of this time I realized that working in a bank was not for me and so thought about looking for another job.

At that moment the idea of the priesthood came back very strongly. And I decided that I ought to give it a try and find out whether it really was something for me or not. I wanted to decide once and for all if I had a real vocation; and if, hopefully, I found that I did not have a vocation then I could lay the idea aside permanently and with confidence.

I had met one or two people who were more or less happily married but who had mentioned that once they had thought of being a priest but had never followed it up. They seemed to regret that they had never found out if the priesthood was something for them or not.

I was determined not to be like them and so joined the Salvatorians telling my friends that I’d be back home in six months or so when I had come to the conclusion it was not for me. Well here I am thirty-eight years later having lived a very interesting and fulfilling life as a priest and religious.

All I can say to anyone sitting in this Church today is that if you have a vocation you will already know it. You will have an interior conviction that God wants you to fulfill this essential role in the Church. If I were you I would talk to a priest or a religious about it and ask them to guide you and help you with your discernment.

If you don’t do this then you might end up like those people I spoke about who despite living quite good and fulfilling lives in another sphere did actually regret that they did not take up God’s invitation to serve him in the Church. Yes, it will be challenging but it is something you will never regret having done.

As to the role of everyone else, there are two aspects to be stressed. Firstly we all have to pray for vocations asking God to call many more priests and religious to serve him in the Church. We should also pray for those who are discerning God’s call that they make the right decision. We need to pray too for those priests and religious who are struggling with their vocation and who may be undergoing personal difficulties because they certainly need help and support. So prayer is important.

Secondly we have to create a climate in which vocations can flourish. We need to bring our children regularly to mass and to talk with them about all aspects of the faith in a family setting. It is vitally important that we treat our Churchgoing as a normal part of our family life, talking about it in the same way as we would talk about anything else.

If we do find that one of our children may be considering a vocation then we certainly ought to give them encouragement and speak positively about the great things that a priest or a religious can achieve. It may be an unconventional career choice but it certainly is a fulfilling one.

Jesus says: ‘I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.’ What wonderfully reassuring words these are. But think how fulfilling it could be to be a shepherd like Jesus and to play a role shepherding the people of the Church he founded.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
April 26, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B—April 26, 2015
Today, Jesus speaks of Himself as “the Good Shepherd,” an identification that reaches back all the way to Moses and forward all the way to every bishop’s staff. How?

Gospel (Read Jn 10:11-18)

In St. John’s Gospel, after a long description of Jesus’ healing of a man born blind (with all the disputation it caused among Jewish leaders) in the preceding chapter, Jesus begins speaking of Himself as “the Good Shepherd.” Any Jew listening to this kind of talk would immediately be immersed in the vast Old Testament context of God’s relationship with shepherds. Recall that when He first appeared to Moses at the burning bush, Moses was shepherding a flock (see Ex 3:1). It was Moses’ shepherd staff that God used as the focal point for many of the miraculous works He did in Egypt to convince Pharaoh to free His people.

Fourth Easter: The Voice of the Shepherd
This Sunday I want to tell you two of my favorite stories, stories I have shared with you in the past. 

The first is about a pop quiz that was given to a new class of nursing students in the first year of their training. Most of the students did well on the quiz until they came to the last question, which they all left blank.  That question was, “What is the name of the woman you see every morning who cleans our section of the school?”    The students thought that the question was a joke.  But when they got their papers back, every one of them was marked off for the question.  They protested.  The professor said, “Her name is June. In your careers you will meet many people.  All of them are significant.  They deserve your attention and care, even if all you can do is smile and say “hello.” The students never forgot the lesson, or June’s name.

Dreaming of the Lamb
“Dad, I had another dream about God last night,” said the nine-year-old son who had an intense dream about the Eucharist a few months earlier.

“Oh? Tell me about it,” his Dad asked with a heightened curiosity.

“Well, I woke up to the sound of destruction in our neighborhood.  Trees were falling and everything was being destroyed; it was dark and gloomy, total chaos!”

“Wow, tell me more. What happened, was it like a severe storm or tornado?”

Mary’s Simple and Amazing Guide to Discipleship
God approached a young woman, and she said, “Yes.”

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

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

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

Deepen Your Personal Relationship with Jesus
The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is indeed called to pray with his brethren, but he must also enter into his chamber to pray to the Father, in secret.

— Sacrosanctum Concilium, no.12

The Lord calls us all to have a personal relationship with Him. This personal relationship is based on knowledge — God know­ing us and we knowing God. God already knows us; His knowl­edge is perfect. Despite our best attempts to ignore Him, God has always known us. But we weren’t born with this knowledge of God.

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

But even within a stone-heart, his conscience knocks and pounds against the inner granite wall, making muffled cries of protest.

The Greatness of Little Things: A Reflection on a Quote From St. Augustine
I have found that one of my favorite quotes from St. Augustine  is not all that well known. Here it is in Latin, followed by my own translation:

Quod minimum, minimum est,
Sed in minimo fidelem esse,
magnum est.

What is a little thing,  is (just) a little thing.
But to be faithful in a little thing
is a great thing.

(from St. Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana, IV,35)

Does Scripture Teach Us to Pray for the Departed, and to Pray to the Saints?In regards to prayer and the Saints, Catholics do two things to which Protestants tend to object:

1.Praying to the Saints: Asking the Saints to pray for us, etc.
2.Praying for the Saints: Praying for the dead, commending their souls to God.

Yesterday, I talked about some of the common Protestant arguments against praying to the Saints: particularly about how these objections tend to be rooted in faulty views of the afterlife. But I didn’t address what’s perhaps the most common objection to both types of prayers, which is some variation of “But where do we see that in the Bible?” We saw yesterday that Scripture doesn’t condemn these prayers, but neither does it commend them … right?

Do you have a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ? Well do you?
Are you saved? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you born again? It is possible for these questions to have deep and profound theological meanings.

Are you saved can mean are you liberated from idolatry? Have you overcome the tendency to seek ultimate happiness in created things? Is money your God? Is power your god? Is pleasure your god? Is honor your god? Or is God your God? The problem with idols is that they cannot truly satisfy our deepest desires. If Christianity is true, then we were created for shared and unshakeable happiness with our Creator.

What Ever Happened to the Spiritual Works of Mercy?
During daily Mass we are currently reading through chapter six of John’s Gospel. There is of course a glorious focus on the Lord’s true presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

However, there is also another important teaching given at a critical moment in chapter six that is important for us to lay hold of today. It is a call to recover a greater awareness of the importance of the spiritual works of mercy.

Why does my faith walk seem so lonely to me at times?
Dear Sister,

Sometimes the living of my Catholic faith is a lonely walk for me. Why is that?  Am I doing anything wrong?  Sometimes I think, “Am I the only one feeling this way?” I’ve never had theology classes and would appreciate anything you could send my way to help me understand why I feel so alone sometimes in my faith-journey.

Dear Friend,

A lovely plant sits on a desk near our office’s east window. The deep green leaves instinctively reach for the sun. Its roots dig deeply for life-giving water. It cannot think, yet it has some inner compass which reaches for that which gives it life—sun and water.

Contemplating The Mystery of Mercy
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis recently released, Misericordiae Vultus, his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. In this document, he lays out his plans for this upcoming celebration of our Lord’s incredible love and mercy towards His people.  In addition, he encourages us to begin preparing ourselves now for this event through prayer and contemplation.  Mercy, he writes, is “the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us” (MV 2). Furthermore, mercy opens us up to hope.

False Concepts of God and Truth
Once Jesus asked who people said He was and there was a wide diversity of opinions: Elijah, one of the prophets from of old, even John the Baptist who had returned from the grave.  Finally, the Prince of the Apostles, and he who would become the 1st Pope—St. Peter nailed it: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

A Reflection on the Desire to Feel Superior
On a rainy afternoon not too long ago, I took the kids to grab a bite to eat at the large food warehouse near our house.  We were all a bit stir crazy from being cooped up, so the seven of us braved the hellish weather with nary a yellow slicker or umbrella.

(In our family, slickers, rain boots, and umbrellas are for wimps.  Just kidding, slickers, rain boots and umbrellas are for those people who can find them.)

Arrogance, Ignorance and the Unforgivable Sin
Don’t mistake arrogance for pride.

Sure, arrogance is nauseating, and when it’s not nauseating it’s amusing.

When a person struts around with his nose in the air, assumes a know-it-all attitude and bosses everyone around, first you get annoyed –”Who does this guy think he is??”

What Does the Church Say About Predestination?\
In the history of Christianity, few terms have stirred as much controversy and confusion as this one.

Predestination is a bit of a thorny thicket for theologians, perhaps territory some think best avoided for greener pastures. But it is nonetheless worth venturing into that thicket for the beautiful gem of truth to be found within it.

Randy Travis: “I Have Gained a Greater Understanding of God’s Grace” Since Stroke
It’s always interesting to me that atheists always use suffering as evidence that there’s no God. But what’s more interesting to me is that quite often it’s those doing the actual suffering are the ones that feel God’s presence and love in their lives.

Divorce and Remarriage? I Have No Opinion
Some time ago I was meeting with a Catholic woman who had been divorced and re-married.

I welcomed her to our church and was having a new parishioner meeting with her when the subject of her marital situation came up.

“I hope you’re going to be welcoming over this.” she said rather defensively.

“Of course!” I smiled. “You and your family are very welcome.”.

To Help the Widows and the Fatherless…
You may have heard about the Rogans, a traditional Catholic family who lost their Dad as he was driving them to the hospital so Mom could give birth to baby number eight.

An oncoming car hit a deer which was thrown into the path of the family van.

Mike was killed.

How Tolkien Can Save Your Soul
The Lord of the Rings meditates on death, and the One who conquers death.

Last weekend at New York’s Lincoln Center, I got some idea of what the Last Judgment will be like. You know, the Day that each of us is looking forward to, when all the sins of all the world will be exposed, including our own.

There were angelic choirs, infernal screams, brash trumpets, kettle drums — and amidst all the murk and evil, some powerful glimpses of Christ. Mercy, pity and forgiveness crept in among the terrors and dismantled them. They fell like a tall, dark tower.

Three Ways to Teach Children About the Eucharist
I was sixteen years old when the concept of the Transubstantiation became clearer to me.  Until that time, I attended Mass with my parents half-heartedly and out of obligation.  It wasn’t until I left my Catholic elementary school only to enter the cesspool of public high school, riddled with all varieties of unbelievers and even some colorful Satanists, that I began to question what I believed and why in terms of religion.

Enjoying My Peaceful Place
I have many ways to begin prayer, with numerous different motivations. Lately, God has been providing a certain motivation without my consciously asking for it. Ultimately, it’s almost always about finding peace.

Before I get to that, let me share some of the ways I like to pray.

We Are Sent Forth: All Are Apostles
There are many words that are more than mere words. The words of the Holy Mass are such, being fraught with a power and purpose that flies far beyond immediate meaning. Some command miracles, such as the words of consecration. Others command missions, such as the celebrant’s dismissal when the Mass is ended. The end of every Mass is intended as a beginning. The word, “Mass,” is derived from “dismissal,” which is rooted in the idea of many people being sent forth upon different ways on a common mission. The priest’s dismissal, therefore, is not merely a statement inviting the congregation to take their leave, but rather a restatement of Christ’s commandment to His apostles: those who were sent forth.

What Will Our Resurrected Bodies Be Like?
St Paul writes to the Philippians of the glory that our currently lowly bodies will one day enjoy:

He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified Body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. (Phil 3:19)

A Couch Is NOT a Promise
Not too long ago, my best friend moved in with her boyfriend.

It’s a big deal: this is her third long-term, serious relationship, but the first one she felt confident enough in to say, “Hey, I like you so much, I’m going to live with you.”

I have very mixed feelings about this whole thing.

First of all, I am Catholic. I am on fire for God and the Church and the idea of living with some man before marriage gives me the heebie-jeebies. (My best friend, by the way, is not Catholic—she’s not even Christian—she vacillates between agnosticism and atheism but, I am convinced, contains a healthy dose of pagan virtue.)

Ten Things Every Catholic Should Know About Marriage
There is so much confusion about love and marriage in our society.

There is so much confusion about love and marriage in our church.

So here are ten things every Catholic should know about marriage.

A New Light on a Tragic Tale in American History
A friend once lent me a book that I wish everyone else could read. Unfortunately it is not readily available. In fact, it has been out of print for almost 120 years. It is the memoir of Monsignor Augustin Ravoux, who served as a priest in Minnesota before the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis even existed. It is an inspiring and thrilling account of the trials and triumphs of a remarkable priest, who was born in France in 1815, and found himself assigned to Mendota in 1842. His “little flock” was spread along the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. They spoke English, French, Sioux and Chippewa. He worked with Fr. Galtier who had built the first chapel in St. Paul in 1841. He welcomed the first bishop of St. Paul, Joseph Cretin, in 1851, and upon Bishop Cretin’s death in 1857, he was the administrator for the diocese until the next bishop was appointed, and he assisted in the building of Minnesota’s first Cathedral.

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