Pastoral Sharings: "Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for July 5, 2015

After his Baptism in the Jordan and fasting in the desert 
Jesus returned to Galilee to preach the Good News of the 
Gospel to the people of his own locality. He based himself 
in Capernaum which is a bigger town about twenty or so 
miles away from Nazareth.

It did not take too long for stories of his preaching and miracles to reach his home town. After touring some of the surrounding villages Jesus eventually ends up in his own native place where he stands up to speak in the synagogue. This was something quite normal for an adult male to do especially on his return home after having had some experience of the wider world.

We can imagine that there was some expectation as to what he would say in the synagogue after his absence of several months during which time the local inhabitants had heard numerous stories about him.

Alone among the Synoptic Gospels it is St Luke who says that in the synagogue Jesus quotes the prophecy of Isaiah concluding with the words, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ This incurs the ire of the people and shortly afterwards they drive him out of the town.

Here Mark says nothing about the content of his teaching but only gives the reaction of the people to it. As in Luke, at first they are astonished at the sublime words coming from his lips but then on reflection they choose to reject him.

These people had seen Jesus grow up in their midst and they obviously found it difficult to accept that this person they thought they knew had changed so much. Maybe there was also an element of envy leading them to think that Jesus had somehow got above himself.

The people say that they know his mother and his brothers and sisters and give this as the reason for rejecting him. This is surely a case of those who knew him best actually understanding him the least.

It is curious that they are at first attracted by his message but then reject him on the grounds that they know him. This seems a very flimsy reason indeed but we know that people are generally quite fickle and don’t need much encouragement to take a stand against something. They are probably living quite shallow lives and don’t want to be lifted up and challenged to live a more noble life.

It says in the text that Jesus does heal a few people in Nazareth but very soon he leaves the town saying that, ‘A prophet is despised only in his own country.’

It is interesting that the townsfolk mention that they know Jesus’ mother and not his father; this surely means that St Joseph must have died by this time. The references they make to the brothers and sisters of Jesus are generally interpreted by Catholic scholars as referring to his cousins. They take quite a wide view of the terms brother and sister.

However, Protestant scholars, who do not accept the virginity of Mary, tend to take these references to brothers and sisters rather literally. But, of course, we know that in the ancient world families were quite extended and it was common enough for cousins to live next door to each other or even in the same house.

This rejection by the people of Nazareth is only the first of many other rejections that Jesus is to face. Ultimately, of course, he will face the greatest rejection of them all when the authorities will put him on trial and sentence him to death on the Cross.

This final rejection will, however, be overturned and Christ will victoriously rise from the dead and bring with him into heaven all of those who embrace his Gospel of peace. We know the story of Jesus and we know that rejection is turned into vindication, loss into gain, disaster into triumph.

Every human being is presented with the same choice that those people of Nazareth faced, either to accept or reject Jesus. Once we hear his message we have to choose whether to believe it or not.

Often enough people decide to reject the Gospel. However, like the citizens of Nazareth the people of today often dress up their rejection; they give one insubstantial reason or another for their refusal to believe.

Those Nazarenes said: we have known him for years, we used to change his nappies; therefore he is essentially one of us which means we cannot accept him as a great teacher or miracle worker.

In the modern world we might say that science has now solved all the important the questions of life and we do not need to listen to a preacher whose message is already 2,000 years old.

Or we might only hear some of his words and turn-away bored, and ignore the substance of his message. Or we might choose to misunderstand his words and reject them because we do not know what he is talking about.

There are lots of reactions that we could take towards Jesus but they all end up being either acceptance or rejection.

The Good News is that we are gathered here in this Church because we have heard the Word of God and believe it. We have decided to listen to Jesus’ words of life. We have chosen to reject our sins and to embrace the Gospel of love.

Although in today’s Gospel reading we hear about his own people who refused to listen to him we also know that there were many others, like ourselves, who actually did accept Jesus and his message.

We think of the shepherds present at his birth, the wise men from the east, the Apostles, as well as sinners like Zacchaeus, Mary Magdalene, the Woman of Samaria, the Good Thief and so on.

We also think of some people who were in positions of power like the Centurion, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

But most of all we think of the poor and the lowly, the downtrodden and the oppressed, the weak and the simple; these people accepted Jesus eagerly and knew that he had come with a real message of hope and reassurance.

We ought to class ourselves with all these people who embraced the Gospel and do our level best to live out in our lives the values Christ presents to us. We earnestly seek salvation and we know that it is only to be found in Jesus, the one true Savior of the World; to him be glory for ever and ever.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
July 5, 2015

Fourteenth Sunday: Power Made Perfect In Weakness

The second reading for today is written by a troubled man.  The reading itself is troubling for us.  In St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, he writes about a thorn in the flesh that he suffered from.  Three times he begged the Lord to remove this from Him.  But all he heard was the Lord saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  What was it that was upsetting St. Paul so much?  People have speculated over the years, but we have no way of knowing.  Whatever it was, it was significant for Paul.  It could not have been something as minor as a speech impediment as  some have speculated.  Nor could it have been his caustic temper.  It was something far more personal and even more severe.  It probably kept him awake at night.

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 6: 1–6.

Gospel Summary

It is really sad to note the attitude of Jesus’ home town to their suddenly famous neighbor. On the surface, it is the usual story of how familiarity can breed contempt. They know how “ordinary” Jesus has been and they cannot allow him now to represent a world that is so much larger than their own little town. This is a strange mixture of pride and envy, with the latter seeming to take hold at Nazareth.

The tragic consequence of their refusal to abandon their provincial narrowness is that Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deeds there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Jesus could not work more miracles there because they would not permit it! They could not open themselves to a world beyond their own safe little village. Of course, this new world that Jesus has entered is not just the world beyond Nazareth; it is the world beyond this world!

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—July 5, 2015

Jesus drew large crowds as He preached throughout Galilee, healing many who sought His help. What was the reception when He visited His hometown?

Gospel (Read Mk 6:1-6a)

St. Mark tells us that early in Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, He visited His “native place.” Everywhere He went, He left a trail of “utterly astounded” people (see Mk 5:42). However, when He arrived at the synagogue in Nazareth, the reception was decidedly different. His preaching “astonished” those gathered, but their amazement moved in a surprising direction. “Where did this man get all this?” They were not impressed that one of their own had great wisdom and wrought “mighty deeds.” No, they were skeptical that someone they knew so well, someone whose whole family was well known to them, could suddenly show up and claim to be Somebody. In fact, His remarkable change from being simply “the carpenter” to a miracle-working prophet was just too much for them.

God’s Glory as the Source and Sustainer of Life

‘In Him, we live and move and have our being.’

So St. Luke declares in Acts 17:28. In context, it’s clear the gospel writer is referring not only to all mankind but the whole of creation:

The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions (verses 24-26, NAB, Rev. Ed., unless otherwise noted).

Fifteen Ways Christ Suffered in Love

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen comments on the many names and titles that we can give for Jesus.  Jesus might be called the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Bread of Life and the Living Water. He also might be called the Lamb of God, the Alpha and Omega, as well as the Good Shepherd.  However, the Name that most perfectly exemplifies the purpose of Jesus’s coming and the purpose of His death and Resurrection is that of SAVIOR! Jesus’ mission was to save all of humanity, as well as our individual immortal souls from the clasp of the devil and the fiery pit of hell!

I Believe in Life

I am for our children born and unborn. That means giving love and nurture to them and providing environments where they can thrive and rise to their full potential. I believe we must call out the cultural bigotry that does not view unborn children as part of the human family deserving equal care and protection. I must decry the evil of abortion and governments that pay for it with your tax dollars and mine.

I stand for good prenatal and post-natal care, clean drinking water and nutritious food and quality education and medical care for every child. I believe that children with disabilities must be included as indispensable members of our communities.

Eight Beatitudes to Foster Love in the Home

Two things in particular must be nurtured in the home: love and self-sacrifice. Sincere parental love makes the child home-centered and gives security, purpose, and direction to young lives. Self-sacrifice, demanded by discipline, remains the basis of order in the home. Firm parental discipline frees a child from his own confusion. It places the parents in their rightful place in the home. It sets the rules of family life and teaches re­spect for authority. If a child learns obedience early in life, he will extend that obedience to his teachers, and to wider au­thority as he matures.

Pope tells parents to be mindful of children’s suffering

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The deep hurts that spouses inflict on each other cause great suffering to their children and, in some cases, lead to a separation that is “morally necessary” to protect spouses and children from more serious forms of violence, Pope Francis said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square June 24.

Continuing a series of talks about the family, the pope reflected on the hurts family members cause each other, calling this type of behavior “the ugliest thing.”

The pope said every family has experienced moments when someone’s “words, acts and omissions” offend another and “rather than expressing love, diminish it or worse still, demean it.”

Fix Me, Jesus; Fix Me – Three Reasons Why Even Our Spiritual Life Needs Fixing

When I was a good bit younger, in college actually, I had to take a few economics and marketing courses. At that time I thought to myself, “God has a bad marketing department,” since things like Scripture and prayer were often so difficult to understand and do. God seemed to insist that we pray, but everyone I ever asked admitted that prayer was difficult. And while many had reasons they offered as to why prayer was difficult, I still wondered why, if God could just zap prayer and make it delightful, He didn’t just do so. “Yes,” I thought, “God has a bad marketing plan!”

In Times Like These – A Scriptural Guide for Troubled and Confused Times

There’s an old hymn that says, “In times like these, you need a Savior, in times like these, you need an anchor. Be very sure, be very sure, Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.”

And indeed, there are very few faithful Catholics who are not astonished and dismayed at the rapidity of decline into confusion (sexual and otherwise) of a culture we once described as Judeo-Christian. Whatever our sectarian differences of the past (and honestly they were significant and embarrassingly many), there was at least a basic agreement on the fundamentals of biblical morality and the authority of the Word of God. Most of this is gone—and it has gone quickly.

Love Wins When Freedom Is Used To Love God Above All

Two years before he was elected Pope, John Paul II was invited to give a homily at the International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. He preached at a Mass on August 3, 1976 on the topic of “The Eucharist and Man’s Hunger for Freedom.”

It was a fitting theme for his homily, as the United States of America recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. John Paul II (Cardinal Karol Wojtyła at the time), was well aware of the significance and sought to clarify for those present what was true freedom.

Let’s Fall in Love

Some things make you feel just a little more alive.

Hearing a moving song. Helping someone in need. Reading words that make you cry. Seeing a sunset splash the sky with breath-taking colors.

And the feeling is multiplied immeasurably if you are sharing those experiences with someone special.

Indeed, love completes us as human beings.

We’ve Been Here Before: Marriage and the Room of Tears

Just last week, I had the privilege of spending four hours in the Sistine Chapel with my Word on Fire team. Toward the end of our filming, the director of the Vatican Museums, who had accompanied us throughout the process, asked whether I wanted to see the “Room of Tears.” This is the little antechamber, just off of the Sistine Chapel, where the newly-elected Pope repairs in order to change into his white cassock. Understandably, tears begin to flow in that room, once the poor man realizes the weight of his office.

6 Things You Need for Prayer

Finding God through Meditation, by St. Peter of Alcantara, brings the wisdom of the great saint into your hands. St. Peter directed St. Teresa of Avila on difficult questions she had about prayer and she turned to this work for guidance.

I’ll be sharing excerpts from the book here, in the hope that you’ll be inspired to spend time prayerfully reflecting on them and growing closer to God as a result. Today’s excerpt comes from the first chapter of the book, “Perspective on Meditation and Devotion.”

Stuck in Traffic? Try Drive-By Prayers

The old man inched along the sidewalk toting a grocery sack. His back was painfully hunched and his eyes were downcast. When I spotted him, my heart filled with pity—and I knew it was time for a drive-by prayer.

Drive-by prayers are little invocations that can be offered for complete strangers who are obviously in need of help. And let’s face it: these folks are everywhere.

There’s the hugely pregnant lady pushing a shopping cart and dragging along a toddler who’s having a meltdown. There’s the teenager in a wheelchair, longing to be on the football field. There’s the heavily made-up woman sitting all alone in a bar.

Drive-by prayers are wonderful ways to pass the time when everything’s going wrong. Let’s say you’re on line at the grocery store, or stuck in traffic on the freeway.

Instead of cursing silently, you can look around and find someone to pray for.

How to Dream Like Jesus

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the dreams of Jesus. Not his night time dreams. But the dream that drove him day by day. It was never far from his awareness. He talked about it, taught about it, and prayed about it. Both his healings and his post-resurrection interactions reflected it. As I write about in The Jew Named Jesus, it was his self-stated reason for coming.

Call me crazy, but I think if we were to recapture Jesus’ own dream, our lives as followers would be fuller and richer. Our discipleship would be truer. Our churches would be re-invigorated. The world would be transformed.

Why Is the Road to Destruction Wide and the Road to Salvation Narrow? A Meditation on a Teaching by Jesus

In the gospel earlier this week, we read a warning from Jesus that too many people just brush aside:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few (Matt 6:12-13).

Chesterton: The Youth Will Save the Church

Those claiming the Catholic Church is dead are many. Secularists can’t wait to put the last nail in the coffin of their greatest enemy and publish the obituary. Anti-Catholic protestants can’t wait for the day when they can claim definitively that Rome has failed and fallen into apostasy. “See,” they hope to say with glee, “you thought the gates of hell would not prevail! Boy were you wrong.”

Liberals, too, within the Church cannot wait for the “old” dogmatic Church to die, so they can joyfully usher in a new, more welcoming, amorphous church that with no dogmas, no morality, and no hierarchy.


“Was daddy involved with us when we were little?” she asked. “Did he want to spend time with us?” I wondered why she was soliciting these questions although I guessed it had more to do with the fathers of the families that she worked for than her own father. As a young adult woman who makes her living as a nanny, she has had the opportunity to live in the homes of parents and observe firsthand how they interact, or don’t, with their children.

9 Epic Authors Tell 13 Epic Confession Stories

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is often intimidating, especially to those who are new to the Church. But as these stories demonstrate, Confession is beautiful, liberating, and sometimes unpredictable. Read these great Confession stories and then share your favorite experiences with us in the comments.

Brooke M. Gregory

At our cathedral, in the confessional, we have the option to confess behind the screen or sitting in a chair facing the priest. My husband was one of the last in a huge line of people to go one day, and he opted to sit in the chair, and the priest was like “Oh my son, thank God you chose the chair! I threw out my back trying to lean and hear everyone through the screen. PLEASE, tell me you’re the last person.”

Rosary For the Persecuted (and Their Persecutors)

Christian persecution is spreading like a plague! Across the globe and on every continent, the Body of Christ is being oppressed, kidnapped, jailed, tortured and killed. However, take heart, hope is never lost. God has a plan to deal with the evil unleashed in this world. Inspired by The Lord’s appearance to an African bishop earlier this year, here is how you can participate in God’s plan for spiritual combat and ultimate victory!

The Rosary for the Persecuted utilizes the Sorrowful Mysteries, and follows the traditional way of group recitation, with specific decade intentions for different “Hot Zones” around the globe.

Conversion Story

We’ve launched a new video series at work called Caffeine and Catholicism, designed to be your quick jolt for living out the Catholic faith.

In this premiere episode (seen below) we’ll answer the age old question: how do you convert your friends and family?

As I discussed in the video, years ago I worked in the IT industry, leading teams to develop software systems, which gave me the awesome opportunity to work with a wide and diverse range of people.

Around that same time (late 90’s/early 2000’s), I was experiencing a re-awakening of my faith, and an absolutely unquenchable desire to save souls for Jesus Christ.

Abandonment and the Church of Martyrs

The Scriptures tell us that Medes, Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia were present during the famous sermon given by St. Peter on the Day of Pentecost. If these people were like most converts, eager to share their newly-found faith, then it is safe to assume that their zeal would naturally lead them back home to Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) to spread that faith. This is one way in which it is believed that Christianity first came to Iraq.

Making Ordinary Time Extraordinary

“During the different seasons of the liturgical year, the Church … carries out the formation of the faithful by means of devotional practices, both interior and exterior, instruction and works of penance and mercy” (General Norms of the Liturgical Year and Calendar).

The Church celebrates two liturgical periods of Ordinary Time. The first follows the Advent and Christmas seasons, starting the Monday after the Baptism of the Lord and continuing until Ash Wednesday.

Currently, Catholics are in the second period of Ordinary Time, which began after Pentecost and will end at the First Sunday of Advent.

ASK FATHER: I work on Sunday. Can I go to Mass on another day?

Never dreamed I’d be asking this, but I suppose I had better: Due to my current job or the job that I’m hoping to take soon, getting to Mass on Sunday can be difficult. If I’m up until 3, 4, or 5 AM at work, but must be at work by 4 or 5 on Saturday and Sunday, being at Mass at 9:30 Sunday–or Sunday evening–isn’t a practical option. I would, however, like to get to Mass during the week anyway.

Are we required to attend Mass on Sunday, in particular, or are we required to get to Mass at least once each week? (Within the next 5-7 years, it’d be nice to have a job that left evenings and weekends free, but right now, I need to be at work when we’re busy. (I hate that we’re so secularized!))

The 10 Books That Have Influenced Me Most

The Christian Century magazine asked a lot of famous people “What books did most to shape your vocational attitude and your philosophy of life?”

Here is C.S. Lewis’s list, which he didn’t explain.

Of course, being a list-loving gal, I wrote down my own, which I will explain. (In order of how they occurred to me.)

I’m a Muslim But Here’s Why I Admire the Catholic Church

First, allow me to start this short article with what might be deemed a startling confession: I am not a Catholic, nor am I even a Christian. In fact, I am a secular Muslim and an avid reader of philosophy and history with an unswerving commitment to the unmitigated truth no matter where it is even, nay especially, if it runs counter to commonly held beliefs.

I have spent the last few years researching the history of Christianity, especially the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, and was shocked to discover that almost everything we had been taught about Catholicism was erroneous and apparently affected by anti-Catholic bias. In contradistinction to what most people both in the West and Middle East think, the Catholic Church and Church Fathers did not suppress science, reason, and knowledge. Quite the opposite, in many cases they even encouraged the acquisition of secular learning and the pursuit of science, and placed a high premium on man’s rational faculties.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for June 28, 2015

Today we celebrate the feast of St Peter and St Paul two 
of the greatest heroes of our faith. St Peter the first 
among the Apostles and St Paul the great evangelist of 
the Gentiles.

When we are thinking about saints it is a common mistake to think that they are supposed to be perfect examples of humanity without any faults or failings. We often use the expression ‘plaster-cast saints’ to imply that the saints are stuck at a particular point in time and can do no wrong because actually they do nothing.

We often think that such people can only become saints because they have no responsibilities or tension in their lives. We think of saints like Teresa of Lisieux and assume that because she was locked away in a convent that meant that she had nothing to do all day and so it was quite easy for her to become holy enough to become a saint.

Two minutes serious thinking will tell you that assumptions of this sort can never be correct. Actually we know that none of the saints were perfect and quite often they had huge obstacles in life to overcome.

Looking at two of the greatest saints, namely St Peter and St Paul, we immediately see how this is true. St Peter was certainly no model of perfection; he denied Christ three times, betraying him at the most crucial moment of all. Often enough he was extremely impatient and impetuous and at the beginning he frequently misunderstood Christ’s message of love.

St Paul was an avid persecutor of Christians and at the time of his conversion he was hurrying to Damascus to initiate the extermination of the Christians living in that city. All his life he suffered from ambition and he certainly was not very easy to get on with.

So suffering from human failings never has been a barrier to becoming a saint. But what differentiates a saint from a sinner is that sinners stay where they are, sunk in sin; but saints try to grapple with their weaknesses and make serious attempts to overcome them.

Let us be clear about it, we are all sinners; or at least that is where we start from. But gradually through the lessons we learn in life we become aware of our imperfections and personal weaknesses. Once we are aware of our flaws we can start to overcome these things which are holding us back from reaching our true potential as human beings.

The point is that a saint doesn’t have to have achieved perfection but has to be on the road. A saint is someone who is constantly working on their faults and weaknesses, someone who has overcome some of them and who is trying to overcome those that remain.

One problem from what I am saying is that it might seem as though all this is focused principally on the self; on what we do, on the steps we take, and on the act of will we make in order to overcome our faults.

But this is not how the real saints see things. Yes, they know that personal effort is required and that this must be preceded by an objective insight into the nature of our personal failings. But most important of all, they recognize that perfection cannot be achieved by ourselves. They realize that it is only God acting in us who can eliminate sin and fill us with a real depth of holiness.

True saints believe that they are utterly hopeless and that it is only God working in their lives that can bring them to heaven. For this reason they place their whole lives in his care and go in the direction he leads. It is this handing over of their lives to God that actually makes them great saints.

By understanding this we quickly realize that absolutely anyone can become a saint. It is open to everyone regardless of their intellectual ability. It is something for the poor and the rich; it is something for the weak and the strong, something for the high and the lowly.

Not only this but we realize that it should be the ambition of everyone. I say this because by gradually facing up to our faults over the whole course of our lives we become better and better human beings. A saint, you see, is not an angel but a fully developed human being. And the more fully developed human beings there are in the world the better for us all.

And I don’t say that the saints manage to eliminate their faults but that they face up to them. Our faults are deeply ingrained in us and are not easily overcome and surely some of them never can be conquered. But we can face them, we can acknowledge them, we can acquire self-knowledge and so begin the task of eradicating them even if we never finish it.

In confession some people apologize for confessing the same sins over and over again. But there is no need for apology. Usually such people have over the years acquired deep personal insight and know their particular faults intimately.

They are familiar with their sins, with their personal weaknesses, and they know how difficult they are to overcome; they are sorry for these faults and want to be rid of them. They use the opportunity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to explore these faults with the priest gradually trying to find a way of overcoming them.

This is actually a cause for great joy. Such people have acquired self-knowledge and they are working on their individual defects and in confession they are asking for God’s grace so that they may be freed from these sins that hold them back so much.

When I was studying for the priesthood our rector told us that when hearing confessions we would often be astonished at the holiness of the penitents. He said that he had heard many confessions from simple working people that were on a par with the highest contemplatives. After thirty years as a priest I have discovered for myself that he was absolutely right.

We are, all of us, on the road to sanctity. The road to heaven is the road of holiness and this road passes through the achievement of our human potential. To be a saint is not to be a plaster-cast statue without feelings or emotion. No, to be a saint is to be a fully functioning human being. To be a saint is to be an attractive person filled with goodness and truth and love.

St Peter and St Paul were both flawed human beings who faced up to their human weaknesses and who placed their journey to fulfillment in the hands of God. We could do no better than to take them as our example and inspiration.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
June 28, 2015

Thirteenth Sunday: The Results of Sin

Today’s readings deal with topics we Americans, and perhaps people everywhere, would rather avoid.  The readings deal with sickness and death.  We do our best to avoid sickness and death.  That’s reasonable.  But there is much in us that is afraid of sickness and death.  We do our best to avoid talking about them.  That is not reasonable.  That’s a denial of reality.  We have such a hard time with these topics that we have created stories tone down the reality.  So, when a baby dies or a child, like the child we call Talitha in the Gospel dies, we say, “God must have wanted another angel with Him in heaven.”  This is not true.  God doesn’t go around killing babies and little children because his angel inventory is low.  And besides, the whole concept of people becoming angels after they die is a complete fabrication.  Angels are  different beings than human beings, including dead human beings.  Human beings do not become angels and angels do not become human beings.  Parents also make a huge mistake when they tell their little children that Grandpa died because God wanted him to be in heaven with him.  Often they have to deal with a child who has become angry with God for killing Grandpa.

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 5: 21–43

Gospel Summary

A synagogue official named Jairus pleads with Jesus to cure his daughter, who is at the point of death. While on the way to the official’s house, a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years comes through the large crowd that is following Jesus, and touches his cloak. She is instantly cured. Jesus, aware that power had gone out of him, asks, “Who has touched my clothes?” The woman in fear and trembling tells him that it was she.

Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—June 28, 2015

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives life to the living dead and to the literally dead. What is common to both healings?

Gospel (Read Mk 5:21-43)

St. Mark gives us a story within a story in this account of Jesus and two people for whom He worked miracles of healing. The story begins with a desperate father, Jairus. His daughter was gravely ill, to the point of death. Casting all propriety aside (he was, after all, a “synagogue official”), he fell at Jesus’ feet and “pleaded earnestly with Him.” Jairus was confident that if Jesus would only lay His hands on the child, she would “get well and live.” Jesus, along with a large crowd of onlookers, “went off with him.”

My Daily Desire: ‘Be Jesus Today’

A sticky note on the bottom of my computer monitor at work features three simple words, but a powerful command:

Be Jesus Today

If I have a consistently whispered “mantra,” that’s it. I say it to myself every morning. The note reminds me of my personal desire throughout the workday. At night, as I reflect on my day’s activities and thoughts, I hold myself to that self-imposed standard.

Am I expecting something unreasonable? Well, in the First Letter of John, the apostle writes:

The Thrill of Anticipation: Encountering God in the Eucharist

How Previous Ages have seen the Eucharist

At one point during the Communist takeover in China, the Communists came to a remote village where Catholicism was lived with great vigor. They imprisoned the local priest in his own rectory, boarded up the door, and stationed a guard. Looking out from his window, the priest was horrified as he watched the soldiers proceed to desecrate the Church next door.

The troops marched past an eleven year old girl praying quietly in the back of the Church and laughing raucously, they invaded the sanctuary. They broke open the tabernacle, pulled out the ciborium and deliberately spilled the consecrated Hosts (the Eucharist) inside of it on to the floor. Father knew exactly how many Hosts were in the ciborium: thirty-two.

Respectable or Faithful?

In Sacred Scripture, being faithful to God was never equated with being respectable in the eyes of society. Just look at all those biblical characters who we raise up as examples of faithful people; they were hardly respectable. In their own time, these paragons of faith were considered to be quacks and for good reason.

What would you think about a fellow like Noah who built a huge ship, far from any large body of water? Or a man like Abraham who still trusted God for a son for decades, even after his wife was menopausal? Or what about a general  like Gideon who challenged a huge army by ordering his dwindling troops of 300 to bang on their shields and uncover lanterns after dismissing 31,700 men in his army?

St. John the Baptist

THE birth of St. John was foretold by an angel of the Lord to his father, Zachary, who was offering incense in the Temple. It was the office of St. John to prepare the way for Christ, and before he was born into the world he began to live for the Incarnate God. Even in the womb he knew the presence of Jesus and of Mary, and he leaped with joy at the glad coming of the son of man.

Paul the Convert

St. Paul’s place in the Church has been a bone of contention ever since he was knocked off his horse by our Lord on the way to Damascus.

He was a mass of paradoxes that seemed (to those who did not understand him) a mass of foolish contradictions.

        – He loved Christ above all and was not infrequently named an enemy
          of God.
        – He was all things to all and yet had a determined circle of enemies
          who regarded him as a two-faced phony.

The Sacrament of Penance and Hollywood

As a priest with decades of experience, having heard many thousands of confessions, I can attest to the importance of this sacrament for a healthy society. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, to the eyes of faith no evil is graver than sin and nothing has worse consequences for sinners themselves, for the Church, and for the whole world. Therefore, we have been given this sacrament as a means to return to the grace of God, who is rich in mercy and solicitous of our salvation. In addition, the graces received in the sacrament help us combat temptations to sin again.

Biblical Typology: The Best Method To Read Scripture

One of the most interesting ways to read the Bible is through the lens of typology. Typology is where a person or event in the Old Testament foreshadows a greater person or event in the New Testament. The word “typology” comes to us from St. Paul himself, in Romans 5:14, where he referred to Adam as a “type” of Christ. So let’s get started on this most interesting study.

A Powerful Parable Against the Premises of Unbelief

There are many reasons for the unbelief rampant in our times. Among them is the claim by some that because they do not see or hear evidence of God or an afterlife, our belief in these is just wishful thinking on our part so as to avoid the conclusion that everything ends with our death, that this world is all there is.

A parable currently circulating on the Internet addresses this sort of unbelief. A Facebook friend (Vicki) called it to my attention. I have adapted a bit and will present it to you here….

Bring on the Temptations!

“No one is tempted more than he is able to bear.”

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.

I’ll be sharing some of the letters here, in the hope that you’ll be inspired to spend time prayerfully reflecting on them. This is Day 29 from the book.

United We Stand

Survey after survey shows that Americans are more disillusioned with politics than ever before. They don’t trust that their representatives truly have their interests or the welfare of the nation at heart, but instead their own ambitions. How long has it been since anyone could say with confidence that the person representing them in Congress or in the White House was a grounded, authentic, principled, forthright, honest person? These days, there’s always an angle, and the tone is always divisive.

Our Tools for Evangelization Have Never Been Greater, Why Do We Stink At It?

Our Tools for Evangelization Have Never Been Greater, Why Do We Stink At It?

So there are twelve guys in Israel with nothing but the sandals on their feet. They dispersed and did nothing short of change the world.

How did they do it? Evangelistic zeal. These guys really believed what they were selling.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was injured in the army and read a book about the saints and went out and changed the world. How? Evangelistic zeal.

Did the Apostles Pray the Rosary?

It sounds like a ridiculous question for me to pose. It’s common knowledge that the Rosary didn’t take shape for at least another thousand years. A few years back, however, something stood out to me, that makes me think that the “soul” of the Rosary was always present in the Apostles’ prayer. Jesus’ instruction at the time of His ascension was, “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father…before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” And the Apostles did just that: “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:4-5, 14). That was how they spent the nine days between Jesus’ ascension and the descent of the Spirit on Pentecost.

The Logic of Baptism

There is a classic passage in the final chapter of Mark’s Gospel, where we read:

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” [Mark 16:15-16].

Christians through the ages have seen in this passage a powerful statement of the importance of baptism. Taken at face value, it indicates that baptism is instrumental in salvation.

Or does it?

Overcoming the Passions: the Habits of Sin

Every day can be the day in which we grow more free from sin and closer to God. Today becomes the battleground on which we wage war with our own passions: greed, envy, anger, lust, and the others like them. Passion (think “passive”, or “suffering”) is the word in the Christian East for different types of habitual sins and dispositions, both great and small. The first of three stages of the spiritual life is to overcome these passions or, more practically speaking, to be in the process of overcoming them, and to be continually engaged in the purification of the heart. This seems like a daunting task, and, in some sense, it is.  How can I remove sinful habits that have been with me since my youth, or all of the other new sinful habits and dispositions I have gathered over the years?

Four Common Tactics of the Devil

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in demonic possession. Movies and books, along with human fears and fascinations, are largely the cause. Although actual demonic possession is somewhat rare, it does occur. Each diocese ought to have an appointed exorcist to assess possession. This exorcist, with the permission of the bishop, should use the Rite of Major Exorcism when true and morally certain possession has been determined.

But because actual possession is quite rare, most of us should be looking out for the more common ways that the devil attacks us. His usual tactics are more subtle and pervasive, and we ought not let the exotic distract us from the more commonplace.

A World without Consequences

All effects have causes. All actions have consequences. To understand these self-evident truths leads to an understanding of reality, the nature of things. In the realm of fantasy, however, these primary truths encounter denial or rejection—as if the laws of nature suddenly suspend themselves, do not apply, and make extraordinary exceptions for some individuals. This loss of contact with reality, logic, and science provokes all of the moral conflicts and culture wars that affect the sanctity of life, the battle for the family, and the status of marriage in the twenty-first century. Modern thinking presumes to render asunder the intrinsic relationship between causes and effects and between actions and consequences.

The Shroud of Turin: Fact, Fable and Mystery

In the late 1970s an unusual documentary film surfaced. When it was shown to London’s film critics, ‘Silent Witness’ caused consternation. Its subject matter was the Shroud of Turin – not a subject commonplace in a Britain then dealing with economic recession and punk rock. It was the first time a major documentary had emerged on that particular piece of cloth based on the then latest research, of which that decade had seen a flurry.

The Smartest Man I Ever Met

“I speak—more or less fluently—eight languages and have a reading knowledge of eleven others, necessary for my research.” He could have spoken to almost anyone in the world in that person’s native tongue. He was very much a catholic Catholic.

Born in 1909 under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s childhood languages, as I recall him explaining, were German, Hungarian, and Latin. Maybe there were one or two others languages too. I forget, but he seemed never to have forgotten anything. I never met anyone with a mind so capacious and so filled, not just with facts but with connections among those facts.

The Resurrection of Sacred Architecture

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome is one of the oldest churches in the city and in the world. Originally constructed in 340 by Pope Julius I, it replaced an earlier house church that had been established on the site by Pope St. Callixtus I in 220. As one of the original twenty-five parish churches of Rome, it is possibly the place of the very first open celebration of Mass.

Loving God through the Magisterium

One of the great struggles for many Catholics, especially in the West, is the hierarchical structure of the Church. We are called to submission and obedience to the Church. These are, of course, pejoratives in much of our culture, so many view the Magisterium and hierarchy with disdain, suspicion, and hostility. Some of this is a result of the sinful nature of men and women. The sins of the Church are on public display and so we blame the source instead of the person. While it may be understandable, it is incorrect to do so. The Church’s hierarchical structure is a great gift that was begun by Our Lord Himself. We must learn to separate the sins of men from the Church herself.

The Mystery of Being a Priest

Each year I concelebrate with hundreds of others priests in the ordination Mass of new priests. I find such Masses deeply spiritual. I have no role other than to quietly concelebrate, so the readings and the rites move me deeply. As I sit quietly, I ponder the mystery of my own priesthood.

When I was growing up, there was little to indicate that I would ever become a priest. I was not a particularly spiritual child (at least not after age 7). I did not “play Mass.” In fact, I did not like church at all. At the end of Mass when the priest said, “The Mass is ended, go in peace,” I responded, “Thanks be to God!” much more vigorously than necessary.

Lessons From A Monastery: Keeping Tradition Alive

There are two extremes in the Church right now regarding Tradition. The first is to disregard anything one finds irrelevant to our modern age. Meanwhile, the other extreme is to cling to everything, not allowing any room for change. Both extremes are wrong, and more importantly are harmful to the life of the Church.

At the center of this issue are two things. One is the individualistic society we now live in which makes it hard to understand what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ. This influences how we view Tradition (both Holy Tradition and the lesser, but also important, traditions of the people). When we see traditions as being those of “others,” of belonging to individual people, we look at them from afar, as outsiders, thinking they have nothing to do with us.

Who said that?

Francis isn’t the first pope to speak out about the environment—though he is the first to pen an encyclical devoted to the topic. And it turns out, his views aren’t that different from his predecessors.

So, a quick quiz. Which pope said which quote?  John Paul, Benedict or Francis?

Spirit World Primer

Father Driscoll is unique in his presentation of the spirit world, as he does so not from years of experience as a renowned exorcist, but as a priest with a doctorate in counseling. He chooses to focus on a rational, biblically based view of exorcism. He does not deny the existence of demons or demonic possession; in fact, he follows official Church teaching strictly and never sways from it. However, he does offer many words of caution to people who see the devil as the source of every illness or abnormal behavior. It is true that a demon can cause physical harm such as a mental disorder, but Father Driscoll argues that these cases are few in number. He urges priests and others to use the Church’s criteria in discerning whether an individual is demon-possessed or in need of proper medical attention.
…more .

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"Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for June 21, 2015

I do like the story in today’s Gospel about Jesus calming 
the storm. It is easy for us to imagine the rising panic of 
the disciples and contrast it with Jesus who is completely 
at peace with himself as he sleeps in the stern of the boat 
with his head on a cushion.

The Lake of Galilee is relatively shallow and so when the wind whips up the sea can get a bit wild. A storm can blow up very quickly and this can be quite devastating for boats that cannot find shelter speedily enough. In such a situation panic would be the default emotion.

Jesus, however, is not perturbed at all; he sleeps on in the stern of the boat and only wakes when the disciples call him. When he does awake all is done quietly and patiently; he simply rebukes the storm and restores the calm. He then asks them why they are frightened and seems to link this with their lack of faith.

Jesus is, of course, the author of creation. As the Son of the Father he was in existence before any of creation was brought into being. He has no fear of weather or of anything else; it does not control him, no, he controls it.

I don’t doubt that this incident actually took place; it doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing that the disciples would have invented because it puts them in a bad light, especially the remark by Jesus that they have no faith. No it is a story with the ring of truth about it, especially the little detail about him lying with his head on a cushion.

But to me this story has a deeper sense because I think that it has a meaning beyond that particular journey across the Sea of Galilee. I think that we can see this story as an analogy for the storms of life that all of us have to face.

Many of us experience a severe buffeting as we make our journey through life. From time to time in life we suffer illness, loss, pain, separation, straightened circumstances, hardship and so on.

I hazard to say that most of us experience several of these things at various points in our life; however there are some people though who, through no fault of their own, experience a whole succession of misfortunes.

We all know of people who have suffered a series of close bereavements, or multiple illnesses, or long-lasting financial problems or extreme difficulties with their relationships. We observe how such people seem to constantly be passing from one crisis to the next. Or it could be ourselves who are so unfortunate.

These are the storms of life and while we all experience them to some extent certain people surely endure far more than others.

In the storm on the Sea of Galilee the disciples panic, they eventually wake Jesus and they ask him a most telling question, “Do you not care?” They were afraid that the boat would sink. In the face of the storms of life we too frequently panic and often enough the very same question is on our lips. We too ask God in prayer, “Do you not care?”

Sometimes when we most need God we feel that he is not there or that he doesn’t care. In addition to the troubles of life we sometimes also feel that God has cast us aside. We come to the conclusion that he has neglected us and that he doesn’t care. We feel bereft.

A woman in a previous parish who had suffered a lot of personal illness and tragedy culminating in the death of both her husband and her son within a few months was talking to me about what she had endured. At one point she shook her fist at heaven and said with strong feeling, “There is nothing more he can throw at me now!”

There is always the problem of whether our perception and the actual reality correspond or not. In times of extreme difficulty we may feel that God has deserted us but we need to know whether he actually has or not.

We are often so overwhelmed by our feelings and they so hem us in that we cannot easily distinguish the facts of the situation. Sometimes distance is necessary before we can uncover the true reality of the situation.

Oftentimes it feels as though God is far away, as if he has pressing concerns on the other side of the world. Or, as in the Gospel story today, we think he might be asleep in the stern of the boat with his head on a cushion, completely oblivious to the storm which assails us.

In the cold light of day we know that to use terms such as near or far away to describe God’s presence is absolutely useless. God is never near or far away; God is always completely present to us.

I don’t want to say that God is static but these terms which speak of God’s distance from us do not serve us well. God is always close, always understanding, always healing, always loving, always protecting. What is near or far is our perception of him, our feelings of his closeness or distance.

One of the problems that arises when we are experiencing the storms of life is that we think in terms of bad things happening to us. We see loss, illness, pain and so on as negative things. We perceive suffering as something wholly bad.

But when we open the eyes of faith we are able to understand that our sufferings are not actually negative; we come to realise that our sufferings are filled with meaning. In short, they are redemptive.

Faith tells us that the seemingly negative things that happen are all part of God’s purposes. These things strengthen us, they test our love, they give us resolve, they make our faith stronger, and they prepare us for heaven.

Of course, all this only becomes apparent in perspective. It takes time to work through our sufferings in order to see them in their true light. We will eventually see the hand of God in the so-called misfortunes of life. We will eventually come to realize that God is mysteriously showing his love for us through what we at first thought were things which were wholly negative.

We may suffer but we will be vindicated. The Lord will awaken and calm the storms of life enabling us to safely enter our final harbor which is eternal life. It is only then that we will gain true perspective and see our misfortunes for what they really are –signs of God’s great love for us.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
June 21, 2015

Twelfth Sunday: Peace in the Turmoil

As I was thinking about the readings for this week and the fact that this Sunday is Father’s Day, (Let’s hear it for equal time for the dads!), I reflected on a series of complaints that I often hear from some of our fathers. They go something like this: “You know, I would just like to have a few days without turmoil.  Somebody in the family is usually in trouble, most often me.  This Teen missed her curfew, that child lied to us, my wife is upset over something someone said to her, and somehow, beyond my knowledge, I get blamed for part if not all of it.  There’s sickness, someone is always not feeling well and that is scary particularly when it is the children.  There’s the bills. I’m not even going to go there. And then there are the relatives.  I can’t figure out whose family is crazier, mine or hers, but they are running a tight race. Then there is work which so help me I wouldn’t do if they didn’t pay me.  I turn on the news.  What a break that is.  I’m not sure if we are going into global warming or global freezing, but somehow it’s going to be bad.  Between the politicians, the economy, and world events, every day it looks like everything is even worse than the day before.  The world is in turmoil.”

Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 4: 35–41

Gospel Summary

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus is presented as one who loves to tell stories, such as the one we find in today’s gospel. There are few more frightening experiences than to be in a small boat on a large body of water when a sudden squall comes up. The disciples are experienced fishermen, but they know how helpless they are in a turbulent sea.

The disciples do not understand how Jesus can be so calm at a time of mortal danger. We know, however, that in his baptism he has been empowered to deal with all kinds of chaotic situations. He has been sent by his heavenly Father to restore creation and to drive back the powers of darkness and chaos that have entered our lives through sin. He touches sick people and their health is restored; he confronts demons and they are banished; he brings peace and harmony where there had been fear and hopelessness.

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)—June 21, 2015

Liturgically, Ordinary Time is devoted to the preaching of the Kingdom of God. What do we need to know about it? Today’s Gospel gets us started.

Gospel (Read Mk 4:26-34)

St. Mark tells us that, when speaking to the crowds of people who clustered around to hear Him, Jesus described the Kingdom of God in parables. This is interesting, isn’t it? Parables need explaining (“to His own disciples He explained everything in private”). Why didn’t Jesus speak straightforwardly to the people who were curious about Him? The answer is partially revealed in what Jesus had to say in this reading.

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

St. Margaret Mary’s parents, Claude Alacoque and Philiberte Lamyn, were distinguished less for temporal possessions than for their virtue, which gave them an honorable position. From early childhood Margaret showed intense love for the Blessed Sacrament, and preferred silence and prayer to childish amusements.

The death of her father and the injustice of a relative plunged the family in poverty and humiliation, after which more than ever Margaret found consolation in the Blessed Sacrament, and Christ made her sensible of His presence and protection. He usually appeared to her as the Crucified or the Ecce Homo. This did not surprise her, as she thought others had the same Divine assistance. At the age of 17 she briefly became attached to the world, but after a vision she repented.

Jesus, the Great “Amen”?

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus described Himself to the church in Laodicea as, “the Amen, the faithful and true witness” (Rev. 3:14). We use “Amen” at the end of our prayers – when being led in prayer by another to say, “I agree, so be it,” or when praying by ourselves to say “let it be done.” We might also use it to express agreement with what someone has said.

Jesus used the word “Amen” much differently, though – not at the end of his statements, but at the beginning. In our modern English translations we often find it rendered, “Truly, I say to you…,” or when Jesus used a double-amen, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” There are fifty such occurrences in the four gospels, twenty five in the Gospel of John alone. (Fr. Felix Just, S.J., has a wonderful summary.) Fr. Roch Kereszty, O Cist., was the first to bring this to my attention, and I want to quote from him here:

Apostolic Succession

Legitimate succession was always a matter of concern in biblical religion. The book of Genesis is careful to give the lineage of the patriarchs, from the first man, Adam, to Noah (Gen. 5). The book of Exodus takes similar care as it sets down the priestly generations (Exod. 6). The Chronicles make clear that the monarchy was legitimately passed from father to son (1 Chron. 3). Indeed, the Old Testament histo­ries assure us that “all Israel was enrolled by genealogies” (1 Chron. 9:1).

And the concern for lineage did not pass away in the New Testament. To establish Jesus’ credentials as Messiah, the Gospels detailed His lineage through generations, going back to Abraham (Mt. 1) and even through Adam to God (Luke 3).

Flesh and Spirit

A student wrote me recently to ask: “I just have a question that has been bothering me for a while. Why did St. Paul say to the Galatians that ‘the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh’? St. Paul also tells the Romans that ‘the law of the mind’ struggles against ‘the law of the flesh.’ If we are made ‘good,’ as it says in Genesis, then why do we have this dichotomy?”

This is a very good question. Indeed, it is a terminological problem that has led many Bible readers astray throughout history.

Five Ways to Seek Grace in our Life

On one occasion the great mystic, prayer-warrior, penitent, as well as a Doctor of the Church, Saint Catherine of Siena was granted a vision into the state of one soul imbued with sanctifying grace. Upon contemplating the beauty of this one soul in God’s grace she fell to her knees.  Enthralled and totally captivated by its beauty she thought it was God Himself! Of all of the gifts that we can receive on earth, as pilgrims travelling towards our eternal home which is heaven, the grace of God is by far the greatest treasure.  It is the pearl of infinite price!

A Catholic Version of Success

If you were given the choice between worldly success, or failure, what would you choose? Oh, and if you choose success, it would lead you away from God while failure would draw you closer to him? Your choice?

You want to bargain, don’t you? I want success and I promise to stay close to God. I promise! It’s possible of course, but we also know all too well that we are to be in the world and not of the world.

As an author, the desire for success is hard-wired into my efforts. Yet, as a Catholic, I know God will not measure my success in book sales. The only thing that ultimately matters is the extent that I love and serve God and that means loving and serving others. True spiritual success tempers worldly ambition.

What God Has Joined, Let No One Divide: Why Christ Cannot Be Found Without the Church

So many of the problems in the Church are rooted in a poor ecclesiology. Ecclesiology refers to how we understand the nature, mission and role of the Church. From a poor ecclesiology stems other problems such as understanding why and how the Church has authority to teach, to bind and loose, to forgive sin, to determine the books of the Bible, and the proper way to understand many Scriptural passages.

Three Mysteries that Cry out from the Gospel

There are three key mysteries in the life of Jesus, according to St. Ignatius of Antioch, in an intriguing line from one of the letters of this early Church Father.

The three mysteries are: the virginity of Mary, the birth of Christ, and His death. What is intriguing is how St. Ignatius describes them. He calls them ‘mysteries of the cry.’

What is a ‘mystery of the cry’?

Most translators drain this phrase of its enigmatic richness and try to guess what the saint meant.

Why I Remain a Catholic

A friend of mine sent me an email with this subject line: “A challenge for your blogging….” She included Elizabeth Scalia’s invitation to Catholics everywhere in the internet cosmos to write about “Why Do YOU Remain a Catholic”—an invitation itself prompted by the recent Pew Research report on the statistical collapse of the American Church.

That report, with its grim portrayal of the Church’s retention record, already prompted me to write a bit about Catholic parenting and keeping our kids connected to the Faith. However, I’ll take Scalia’s proposition (and my friend’s email) as an excuse to add some additional, more personal thoughts.

Catholic Religion Quiz, Part II

Continuing from last time in this space…

9. The Eucharist is

A) a beautiful symbol of our togetherness which we invest with the spirit of Love and thereby transform into the “body” and “blood” of Jesus in a process called “transsignification”

B) whatever you believe it in your heart to be

C) merely a reminder of something that happened a long time ago when Jesus suffered

A Good Man’s Happy Death

Just over 2 months ago, my father, Donald Leroy Evans, journeyed into eternity. I wrote elsewhere recently about my own experience with him, bridging chasms we once had, due in large part to my SSA (same sex attraction) struggles and the closeness we later shared in the last number of years since my return to the Catholic Church.

This piece however is about another aspect of my dad and his last few months on this earth.

Fatherhood – A Vocation of Love

Almost two centuries ago in France, a little boy named Louis Martin felt drawn to the religious life as he grew up. He was a happy child who benefitted from witnessing his father’s deep love for the Catholic Faith. Though he apprenticed as a watchmaker in his late teens, Louis did not forget his dream to devote his life to God through the religious life. Over the years however, for various reasons including illness, his efforts to pursue a vocation failed.

Pray for the Living and the Dead – A Meditation on the Seventh Spiritual Work of Mercy

What is the value of one prayer? I suspect it is far greater than any of us imagine. Prayer changes things, sometimes in obvious ways, more often in subtle and even paradoxical ways. But prayer is surely important, even when we don’t experience its immediate effects. Perhaps this is why Jesus taught us to pray always and never to lose heart (cf Luke 18:1). St. Paul echoed this with the simple exhortation “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). St. James also warned, “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).

Life — A Bold Undertaking

“Life can be successful only if we have the courage to be adventurous.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

Whenever I’m preparing to give a talk or teach a class, I generally turn to three sources for my first inspiration: Scripture, the Catechism, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  Several years ago I ran across this part of a quote from a meeting he had with the youth of Rome.  He was speaking about having the courage to ask the Lord what He wanted from us.

Handing On the Faith We Received

When I think back over my life, I am thankful for the many gifts the good God sent my way through people who knew and loved Him and who chose to share that knowledge and love with me. There are so many examples from the good Catholic sisters and priests who taught me to my Presbyterian friend, James, who announced that he was going to save me from the “chains of my Catholicism!” He was wrong about the Catholic faith, but there was no doubt concerning his zealous love for the Lord. And his zeal most certainly helped me grow in my Catholic faith.

Our Children Deserve the Truth

The sun is shining this morning, here and now.

That is an objective truth.

The sky is completely blue and that giant ball of light is in the sky, causing shadows to appear behind various objects.  Even if some cannot see it shining, or if one asserted that the sun is really NOT shining, it would not change the objective truth that it IS shining, here and now. An objective truth cannot be true and not true at the same time. The sun cannot be shining and not shining at the same time, in the same place. And it is indeed shining.

Jim Gaffigan: “My faith is very associated with the notion of mercy”

The comedian and his wife (who are premiering a new TV show next month) are profiled in First Things:

FT: What would you say your Catholic faith provides you in a positive way, on a day-to-day basis?

Jim: My faith is very associated with the notion of mercy. I understand that there is something greater than myself that does not judge me in a negative manner—or forgives me I should say. For me, being in touch with the idea that I’m not in control of everything is important. When I find myself frustrated, I have some distance from that idea I’m not in charge, for instance in how this conference call is setup.

Five Steps to Surviving a Crisis in Marriage

When engaged couples busily and earnestly plan their whimsical, romantic wedding and honeymoon, they seldom consider the possibility of truly heavy crosses afterwards.  I’m not saying that everyone who gets married should carry a cloud of doom above their heads and in their hearts, but it’s important for those who are called to the vocation of marriage to recognize the stark reality that till death do us part is usually a very long time.

Is Tolerance A Good Thing?

Words have meaning.

Thoughts have consequences.

Unfortunately, these are important concepts that have escaped some.

Take, for instance, the word “tolerance”. In modern use, it has a unique meaning to some and a completely different meaning to others. The result behind the differing definitions of the word, mean that by subscribing to one definition above-and-over another will lead to different consequences. Thus, we ask the question – is tolerance a good thing? Well, it depends on how you define it.

Lessons From A Monastery:Why a Habit?

“The Habit brought the Church to life.”  —Brian Plum

Of all the outward signs of religious practices, the wearing of the habit is the most visual and also the one with the most wonder, questions, and controversy surrounding it. Seeing a nun in her full habit can conjure up strong feelings from childhood, remind a person of God’s nearness, or even cause feelings of disdain. In the Roman Catholic Church, there is a constant debate over religious wearing the habit or not wearing the habit (at least since Vatican II). Most of those conversations are very black and white and fail to acknowledge the good points and truth from either side. I want to explore both sides here.

Norcia Monks Rebuild the Foundations of Christian Culture

Walking up the narrow streets of Norcia, the smell of the local delicacy, wild boar, wafting through the air from hanging limbs in shops and restaurants, three times a year University of Mary students make their way toward the historic basilica of St. Benedict. Nursia, the Roman birthplace of St. Benedict, now known as Norcia, is the site of a revival of Benedictine monasticism. The University of Mary, a Benedictine institution, requires a course on St. Benedict for our Rome students with trips to Subiaco, Monte Cassino, and Norcia. At Norcia, our students (many of them in the Catholic Studies program that I direct) encounter a dynamic renewal that both looks back to the foundations of Benedictine monasticism and vibrantly looks forward to the renewal of Catholic culture in the New Evangelization.

Caring for creation is a duty for all, Pope says ahead of encyclical launch

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2015 / 06:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Sunday that his coming encyclical on the care of creation is not just for some, but is addressed to all, and serves as an invitation to pay more attention to environmental destruction and recovery.

In his comments to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his June 14 Angelus address, Pope Francis noted how his upcoming encyclical on the care of creation, “Laudato Si: On the Care of the Common Home,” will be published this Thursday, June 18.

A Fraternitas Update

At the beginning of the month, I announced Fraternitas, a community for Catholic men. If you missed the announcement, Fraternitas will help you build your Catholic library, meet other brothers in Christ, form a local chapter in your community, and give you access to exclusive webinars with Catholic leaders, among other things. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I promised more details would be coming, so here’s another quick update.

Teenagers and Truth

What is truth?

This is not an idle question, especially for teenagers. They may not ask it this way but there is a hunger, a need, an intense yearning to grab onto something that makes sense of their existence. The young man’s question to Jesus “Master, what must I do?” (Mk 10:17ff) is not merely a pragmatic question. It is a heart-felt plea for meaning and direction. Jesus’ answer leaves the young man sad and he walks away. He is not willing to give everything up to follow Jesus, he does not recognize THE TRUTH about himself—namely that he is meant for union with God—even when He stands before him.


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Pastoral Sharings: "Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for June 14, 2015

A very large part of the teaching of Jesus is 
given in  parables. This is not something we are very 
much used to today. We get most of our information from 
newspapers and the television and they don’t go in much 
for parables. In the modern world we are more interested 
in facts and data rather than parables or imagery.

The thing about parables is that they are ambiguous; you can read almost anything you like into them. Parables are examples or stories that you can turn over and over in your mind constantly discovering new insights into them.

Jesus was speaking to people living in a quite different age to ours. The main mode of communication was speech, there were no newspapers or television or even very many books.

I was reading the other day about a supposedly very learned medieval monk and as proof of his learning it was said that he had read all the books in the monastery library: seven! I’ve got seven hundred books in my office alone and I don’t think that is a particularly large collection.

The people living at the time of Jesus were part of a largely oral society and storytelling was very important to them. Besides being a good way of passing the time, storytelling gave people something to think about; it helped develop their memories and gave them the opportunity to exercise a considerable amount of creativity.

Those parishioners with an Irish background would be familiar with the importance of the Shanakee, the storyteller or bard who kept the traditions of the clan alive, usually in the form of stories and narrative poems. I’m sure that every other culture has its equivalent.

It is therefore very understandable that Jesus would use parables to communicate his message in this very largely oral culture. Not all his listeners would fully understand what Jesus meant in every case but everyone would be able to find some nugget of wisdom in his stories.

Not only this, but parables do transmit down the centuries in quite an accessible way; even though we are far removed in time and geography from his listeners we understand quite well what Jesus means.

The two parables in the Gospel text today are not very complicated; they don’t have a particularly hidden meaning and they are fairly straightforward.

In the first one the seed is strewn on the land; it grows and it is eventually harvested by the farmer. The seed is us and the farmer is God. It is our job to grow and to produce a good crop which the farmer can harvest.

The other parable is very similar. Here the smallest seed of all grows into the biggest tree which in turn gives shelter to the birds of the air. Here the tiny seed represents the followers of Christ which grow into a great tree which can give shelter to the rest of creation.

Comedians say, ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story.’ The same goes for parables; factually the mustard seed is not the smallest of the seeds and nor does it grow into the biggest tree of all. But we know what Jesus means and we realize that the choice of mustard is also significant since mustard has a strong flavor just as Jesus’ disciples ought to bring a strong flavor to the world.

What Jesus does is give images and examples so that even the simplest person can get the gist of his message. His parables are accessible to all even if some do not understand them fully at the first hearing. In time their meaning becomes more and more clear.

One of the things we notice about these particular parables is that there is no ambiguity in them. In the one case the seed is sown, it grows and is harvested. In the other, the smallest seed grows into the biggest tree and it gives shelter to the birds of the air.

The seeds do not go their own way; no, they do what they are supposed to do. The seeds sprout or grow into a tree; the seeds do nothing other than what they were intended to do. And this is another lesson for us.

Our problem is that most of the time we do everything other than that for which we were intended. We constantly go our own way and ignore the path that is set before us by God. We choose to indulge ourselves and to take the line of least resistance rather than doing what God wants.

We fool ourselves into believing that we can keep the largest share of our lives for ourselves and give only a small part of it to God. It is as if we are saying, ‘An hour on a Sunday will be enough for him.’

But God does not want only a small part of us. No, he wants all of us; he wants the lot. He does not want us to keep anything back for ourselves but rather that we should give everything to him. He does not want us to serve him only for an hour here or there. No, he wants us to serve him all the time.

The mistake we make is thinking that what we give to God is something that we take away from ourselves. But this is far from the case. The very words of Jesus tell us that we will be rewarded a hundred fold for whatever we do for God. But somehow we don’t believe it.

At this point our faith fails us and we feel it necessary to constantly hold back from giving God what he wants, which is all of us.

The lesson we need to learn is that God already owns us; he created us and it is only his power that keeps us in being, everything that we have comes from him in the first place.

If we show a true and deep generosity of spirit and hand our lives over to him then it will be completely transformative for us. We will be filled with the love of God and enabled to live grace-filled lives bringing joy to all we meet.

The lesson of life is that everything comes from God and everything returns to him. Our job is not to hold back anything for ourselves but to give everything freely and joyously to him who is our Lord and Savior.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
June 14, 2015

Eleventh Sunday: Trusting in God’s Time
Those of you who know me know that I have the basic New York attitudes of trying to do too much myself and wanting everything immediately.   I would have made a terrible farmer.  Even now I’ll go out to the flowers and say, “Come on, let’s cut the bud stuff and start blooming.”  Farmers have to be patient.  Farmers also have to recognize that they really can’t do things themselves.  They have to depend upon nature.
The gospel reading, from Mark, contains two parables that farmers would certainly understand, but which drive city slickers like me nuts. The first is the parable of the seed.  The farmer plants the seed and goes about his routine day, day after day.  Eventually the seed grows, not because the farmer does something special, but because nature took its course.  By the way, to the ancients every field of wheat, every flower, was a miracle of God’s hand.  The second parable is that of the mustard seed which seems insignificant, but with the growth that God gives becomes a plant, probably 8 to 10 feet, large enough to shelter the birds of the sky.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 4: 26–34

Gospel Summary

Jesus teaches the meaning of the reign or kingdom of God by way of two parables. In the first comparison, the reign of God is like seeds that a man plants in the soil. It is not the man, however, but the soil that makes the seeds sprout and grow in a way the man does not understand. In the second comparison, the reign of God is like the smallest of all seeds. Yet, once it has completed its growth, it is so large that birds can build nests in its shade. Mark mentions that Jesus further explained the meaning of parables to his disciples.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—Sunday, June 14, 2015
Liturgically, Ordinary Time is devoted to the preaching of the Kingdom of God. What do we need to know about it? Today’s Gospel gets us started.

Gospel (Read Mk 4:26-34)

St. Mark tells us that, when speaking to the crowds of people who clustered around to hear Him, Jesus described the Kingdom of God in parables. This is interesting, isn’t it? Parables need explaining (“to His own disciples He explained everything in private”). Why didn’t Jesus speak straightforwardly to the people who were curious about Him? The answer is partially revealed in what Jesus had to say in this reading.

How the Eucharist Saved My Life
When I first moved to Patheos, I wrote a blog post about how I received the Eucharist when I was still an atheist. I don’t want to rehash the issues surrounding that—at all.

But what I do want to go back to is how the Eucharist saved my life.

Families save society from barbarity, says Pope Francis
Families are weakened and destroyed by war, “the mother of all forms of poverty”, as well as by economies and policies that worship money and power, Pope Francis has said.

“It’s almost a miracle” that, even in poverty and crisis, the family can keep on going, safeguarding its bonds and staying intact, he said at his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square.

Your “Most Solemn Obligation”
Without question, parents are the primary influence on the faith lives of their children. Study after study shows that when parents are strong spiritual leaders, and when fathers—yes, dads in particular—teach and witness the faith to their children, the kids are far more likely to grow up and live faithful lives themselves.

Here’s How to Be a Good Catholic. Oh, wait. It Isn’t That Easy
A popular blog about Catholicism, motherhood, and family culture recently posted a list describing “Exactly How to Be a Good Catholic.” The list includes such things as believing in

in God, the Father Almighty, the first person of the Trinity, who created Heaven and earth

and the requirement to

believe in and renounce Satan, not as a concept, but as a being

as well as opposing

abortion, euthanasia, sexual activity outside of marriage (be it heterosexual, homosexual, or solo), contraception, sterilization, polygamy, divorce, pornography, unjust war, and unjust use of capital punishment.

Comfort and Affliction
God often comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. For Israel, toiling under Pharaoh’s lash, the revelation to Moses is good news indeed: “I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:7-8). This Scripture has passed into the collective consciousness of Western Civilization as the archetypal word of comfort, hope and promise.

Today’s Man: Recreating the Garden of Eden
We had it all in the Garden of Eden.

Everything we relentlessly seek today was ours then, and we lost it. We lost it through one act of disobedience. One tree, one rule, one empty promise, one bite, and an eternal fall.  We lost it by seeking to change the status quo, hungry for more than what we had already been given. We lost it by pursuing things reserved for the creator alone. Somehow, despite living in paradise, the allure of being “like God” was too much to resist.:

Why Does the Modern World Refuse to Listen to the Truth?
At times we can become frustrated with the modern world, especially when we see it turning away from the Truth. Why do people deny such basic realities of life, like marriage, for example?
If we are ever to combat the numerous lies that the world is eagerly following, we need to step back and look critically at our traditional means of evangelization. Something is obviously not working.

Catholic Religion Quiz, Part I
Some time back the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life put out a quiz in which atheists did better than Christians in answering some basic questions about such matters as “Which Bible figure is most closely associated with leading the exodus from Egypt?” (In case you were wondering, the correct answer was “Charlton Heston”. And if you believe that, odds are you are Christian and not an atheist—at least according to the Pew poll.) The reason atheists did better is that, being at war with all mankind about the thing that matters to it most, they oppose all theists and are wary of the whole broad spectrum of religious belief (though with a particular focus on Christ, to be sure). Christians, in contrast, can hold up their end when talking about Christianity, but have never boned up on Jewish, Mormon, Islamic, or Hindu teachings since, well, they’re Christian.

Why I Remain Catholic
There are so many times when I ask myself why the heck I am Catholic. Days like today when I have been told that I “should” do this or that, that I’m ignorant at best when it comes to the issue of transgenderism and that I am the worst Catholic a certain woman has ever encountered online. Why am I here? Why am I blogging? Why am I putting myself in the crossfire when so many people don’t hear what I am saying but take the one thing they have an issue with it and turn it into a weapon to wield back at me?

How the Beauty of Creation Can Lead a Soul to God
For the purposes of this series on the role of beauty in catechesis and evangelization, I will highlight four different expressions of beauty: creation, art, the liturgy and Christian witness. These four classes of beauty have great power over man but must never be separated from truth, lest they become idols and worshipped for their own sake.

First of all, the beauty of creation can have a great ability to open up the heart of man to belief in a creator. Saint Augustine affirms this effective tool of catechesis when he poses the challenge,

Prayer and Beauty, Love and Work
John Paul II greatly admired a poet named Cyprian Norwid.  His poetry connected work, beauty and love with the task of being human, of living life to the full.  Through this poet, Saint John Paul came to appreciate how men and women are meant to build bridges, to connect to one another and to God. These insights permeate many of his social teachings. Lifting our hearts to see what is beautiful, to allowing beauty to move us into love, this is also a good way to begin to pray.

How God Must See Us – As Depicted in a Commercial\
On one particular morning, just two weeks after His resurrection, Jesus stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Seeing the Apostles in a boat just off the shore, he said, Little Children, Have you caught anything? (John 21:5)

It is a rather strange way to speak to grown men: “Little Children” (παιδία = paidia = little ones, children, infants, the diminutive of pais (child), hence “little ones”). And yet how deeply affectionate it is.

We often think of ourselves in grander terms, terms that bespeak power, wisdom, age, and strength. But I suspect that, to God, we must always seem like little children.

Mary Meets Eve
My wife owns one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen. I describe it so not only for the aesthetic pleasure it gives, but because the scene it depicts is profound and sweet and sad and joyful all at once, and it requires true beauty to hold all of these together simultaneously.

In the center of a vertical frame stand two women, totally opposite each other. On the left is a woman covered only by her long brown hair, her head turned down and a look of sad regret on her face. A snake’s tail wraps around her foot.

On the right is a woman dressed in white and blue, quite pregnant, a kind smile on her face. She has her hand on the chin of the other woman, tilting her head up. And she stands on the snake’s head. The reader would not need too many guesses to discover that the women are Eve and Mary, brought together out of time to stand together as the two poles of salvation history.

The 5th and 6th Marks of the Church
The Nicene Creed fittingly noted four marks of the True Church: one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. These marks identify four essential qualities and characteristics of the Church that distinguish the True Church from any false claimants. Now my surname may be “Pope,” but I surely cannot add authoritatively to this venerable list. Nevertheless, permit me a couple of “prayerful additions” to the four marks of the Church. These cannot join the official list but I humbly submit  these “marks” for your consideration to serve in a similar way in distinguishing the True Church from false claimants and giving insight into the Church’s truest identity.

The 5th Mark of the Church: She is Hated by the World. Jesus consistently taught us to expect the hatred of the world if we are true disciples.

Are the Things that Bind Christians really Greater than the Things that Divide Them?
I would have enjoyed listening to his wife read grocery lists or the names in the phone book. I was sitting one evening last year in the living room of a new friend named Carl Trueman after we’d given a talk on writing to some of his seminary’s students. In the course of a long, pleasant evening, we’d talked about theology, culture, family, books, sports. Carl is English and his wife Scottish. He’s also a professor of Church history and former provost of the flagship intellectual institution of Calvinist Christianity in America, Westminster Theological Seminary.
The theological divide was great, and yet a good time was had by all.

Chastity on Campus
College students at various universities across the country are spreading the message of chastity on their campuses, in response to the common “hook-up” culture and lack of sexual integrity in society.

Students associated with organizations from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, Pa., Southeastern Louisiana University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and Georgetown University explained their evangelization efforts in regards to chastity and how these efforts affect their campuses.

Mystery of Love
Presence of God – O Jesus, help me to penetrate the mystery of Your infinite love, which constrained You to become our Food and Drink.


All God’s activity for man’s benefit is a work of love; it is summed up in the immense mystery of love which causes Him, the sovereign, infinite Good, to raise man to Himself, making him, a creature, share in His divine nature by communicating His own life to him. It was precisely to communicate this life, to unite man to God, that the Word became Incarnate. In His Person the divinity was to be united to our humanity in a most complete and perfect way; it was united directly to the most sacred humanity of Jesus, and through it, to the whole human race. By virtue of the Incarnation of the Word and of the grace He merited for us, every man has the right to call Jesus his Brother, to call God his Father and to aspire to union with Him.

The Gift of Sacrifice
As you read this, I am in Cincinnati on a mission trip with our parish youth group. Each year we travel somewhere to help spread God’s Gospel through our words and actions. We strive to put what we teach into meaningful experiences both for our teens and for those we help. This year we are working with the Franciscans for the Poor to minister to the poor and the homeless. I always feel so blessed when I am able to be a part of such a worthwhile experience.

A Heart of Flame: 4 Reasons to Love the Sacred Heart
We are well into the month of June, and many of us are are celebrating warm weather and clear skies with barbecues, vacations, and time outdoors. But there is another aspect of this month that is often forgotten: Holy Church has dedicated June to the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sadly, devotion to the Sacred Heart has been all but abandoned in recent decades. It is deemed by many who disdain tradition to be an outmoded devotion—a relic of a distant past that they would rather forget. But devotion to the Sacred Heart is not a devotion specific to one time or place. It is always relevant to us, and now more than ever. I want to give you four reasons to love and honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Pope Francis Says Families Are ‘Heroes’ When Caring for Sick Loved Ones
ROME — During his weekly general audience, Pope Francis lauded families for the “hidden heroism” of caring for a sick loved one.

“These are the heroes: This is heroism of the family!” he said during his June 6 catechesis.

The Pope spoke of men and women who come to work sleep-deprived after having cared for a sick family member.

Are You Fully Alive?
St. Irenaeus, a bishop and early Church Father, wrote, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” I love this quote.  In one sentence he describes what it means to be holy. To be holy means being fully alive; to be holy means being fully the persons God created us to be.

To be fully alive is not equivalent to the modern notion of “living life to its fullest.”  When many people talk about living life to its fullest, what they really mean is that we should indulge in as many pleasures as possible, pamper ourselves, and just be comfortable.  Not that there’s anything wrong with pampering ourselves once in a while, but that’s not exactly what St. Irenaeus meant.

When God Says No to Your Yes
In my mid-twenties, I left my home state of California and went to work in Texas. I didn’t know a soul, I had never been to the state before, and I didn’t know how long I’d be staying.  But I was excited for what lay ahead: new challenges, new opportunities, new places to explore, and new people to meet.  Looking back now, I’ll remember Texas for many reasons, but mostly I’ll remember it for being the place I first fell hopelessly, helplessly, completely and ardently in love.

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

Is There a Vocation to the Single Life? I Think Not and : Here’s Why
There are some today who think that the Church should give greater recognition to the “call” to the single life. And therefore when we pray for  vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and marriage in the Prayer of the Faithful (or at other times) some will say, “Why don’t you ever pray for those called to the single life or mention the vocation to the single life?” Here in the blog, too, when I write about vocations there are usually some who comment and ask why I do not mention the vocation to the single life.


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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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