Third Sunday of Lent

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Third Sunday of Lent
Posted for March 8, 2015
 

If you have a picture in your head of ‘Gentle Jesus, Meek 
and Mild’ then today’s Gospel ought to make you get rid
of it straight away. If you think of Jesus as some sort of  namby-pamby figure then I suggest you think again.

Where this widespread idea comes from I do not know, but it certainly is not in accord with what the scriptures tell us about Jesus. It is most likely a 19th Century invention and probably comes from the sort of edifying pictures the Victorians thought were appropriate to childhood nurseries in middle class households.

But this kind of image of a sweet and saccharine Jesus is really quite subversive and does true religion no good whatever. What it does is turn our Divine Saviour into a weak-minded do-gooder. It strips him of his divinity and turns him into a kind of inoffensive romantic individual with a nice sideline in miracles.

This is not Jesus. This is not the Christ of the Gospels. This is not the Saviour who died for us on Calvary. And this is certainly not the Christ who drove the money changers out of the Temple.

Catholic doctrine has from the earliest times taught that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. And if he is true man then he is a full person with all the emotions and all the moods and all the feelings that constitute a real and authentic human being.

So we should immediately put out of our heads the meek and mild individual of the holy pictures in the nursery. It says in today’s extract from St John’s Gospel, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ To be consumed with zeal implies someone who is firing on all cylinders. It implies someone who puts every ounce of energy into their emotions and desires.

As always, we can learn from Our Lord. And the lesson today surely is that we should not be afraid of our emotions and we should feel free to give them appropriate expression.

I suppose the one emotion most people are afraid of is anger. We don’t like to be in the company of angry people and like it even less when we ourselves are overwhelmed by what we perceive as the most destructive of the emotions.

Actually, I’m not sure that anger is the most destructive of the emotions; I tend to think that jealousy is far worse. But as we say, there is a time and a place for everything and what we see today in the Gospel is anger appropriately and justifiably expressed by Jesus.

The scene described by John misses out some important background information that might help us to understand the reason for Jesus’ anger. Because of the rules for ritual purity the people could only make their offering to the Temple in Jewish currency and not in the money in ordinary circulation.

Hence the need for moneychangers who of course charged a hefty commission. And, no doubt, licences to offer money changing in the Temple precincts cost a few bob payable to the Temple authorities.

Jesus was right; his Father’s house had been turned into a den of thieves. And anger was the appropriate response.

The key to Jesus’ anger is to be found in the first reading. “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me.”

This is the first and most important of the Ten Commandments. It forbids belief in false Gods or the worship of idols. Now in those days this was understood in a very straightforward manner and became institutionalised in the sacrifices offered in the Temple.

But Jesus is not content with mere outward conformity to the Law of God; what he wants is interior obedience, obedience of the heart. These merchants are clearly serving not God but themselves. Their aim is not true worship of the unseen God but the accumulation of money. And worse of all this involves the exploitation of the poor and devout.

This is what makes Jesus angry and leads him to clear them from the Temple. But the direct consequence of the Cleansing of the Temple was Christ’s arrest and death on the Cross. Indeed in his remarks about destroying the temple and it being raised up in three days Jesus makes it quite clear that he is fully aware of the consequences.

It was this intervention into what they regarded as their territory that upset the Temple authorities. From that moment they were determined to do away with this “usurper”.

It was not Jesus’ anger that was inappropriate it was the anger of the Temple authorities that was totally out of place. These people who were supposed to be guarding the faith of Israel against the worship of false Gods end up killing the very Son of God. If this is not the greatest irony of all time then I don’t know what is!

Just going back to anger and how to deal with it; as we have said anger or any other emotion can never be sinful in itself. It is the thoughts and actions that flow from our emotions that can be destructive and therefore sinful.

If we experience anger or jealousy or any other strong and potentially destructive emotion we need to find appropriate ways to express it without falling into sin. We need to release the emotion without making things worse and this is not easily done. Often when we experience strong emotions our judgement becomes clouded and we are then unable to distinguish rights from wrongs.

The key I suppose is not what we do when we are angry but what we do when we are calm. That is not what we do in those few moments when we are filled with strong emotions but what we do all the rest of the time when we are in a normal and steady frame of mind.

If we normally take the trouble to see the other person’s point of view, if over a long period we try to develop an inclination towards tranquillity, if we consistently try to follow the teachings of the Beatitudes in our ordinary lives then when we do fly off the handle our anger will be short lived and we will be unlikely to do anything rash.

As it says at the end of our text today, “he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.” From this we understand that Jesus knows all there is to know about human nature. Perhaps it is us who still have a lot to learn.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=2015

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

Third Sunday in Lent, Year B—March 8, 2015
Today, Jesus drives out vendors and moneychangers from the Temple. What prompted this rare flash of aggression?

Gospel (Read Jn 2:13-25)

St. John describes a visit Jesus made to the Jerusalem Temple near Passover. To best understand this episode, we need to know something about the physical arrangement of the Temple at this time, as well as some of the customs and business conducted there. The “temple area” refers to the Court of the Gentiles, a space outside the holy inner chambers that was offered to God-fearing Gentiles who, although not converts to Judaism, wished to pray to the God of the Jews. When Solomon built the first Temple, this space was added to the Tabernacle design used in Israel’s wilderness wanderings. It acknowledged their vocation to be a “kingdom of priests” (see Ex 19:6), inviting the whole world into God’s blessing.
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Third Sunday of Lent:The Wisdom of the Cross
This Sunday’s gospel put Jesus’ knowledge of our human nature so clearly: He really knew what was going on in men’s hearts.  He knew what they thought.  He saw what they did to the Temple.  The Temple was a place of worship.  It was a place of celebrating the spiritual presence of God in the world.  And they transformed it.  They changed the Temple into a marketplace.  They utilized a system of money changing that robbed the poor people, forcing them to spend extra money for the prescribed practices.  He knew men’s hearts.  He knows our hearts.  He knew that our celebration of his birth at Christmas would be transformed from a day to celebrate the Spiritual Becoming One with Us to a celebration of materialism.  He knew that we would hide the celebration of the Resurrection behind the Easter Bunny.  He even knew that some people would begin their Easter celebrations two days early and have a party on Good Friday (That, to me, is the height of paganism.)
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Out of Pride and Into Humility: A Lenten Meditation on a Teaching by St. Bernard of Clairvaux1
In yesterday’s post, we considered the twelve steps of pride set forth by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. In escalating ways, the twelve steps draw us to an increasingly mountainous and enslaving pride.

St. Bernard also enumerates the twelve steps to deeper humility (I am using the list from Vultus Dei HERE)  and it is these that we consider in today’s post. As with yesterday’s post, the list by St. Bernard is shown in red, but the commentary on each step is shown in plain, black text and represents my own poor reflections. Take what you like and leave the rest. To read St. Bernard’s reflections, consider purchasing his book Steps of Humility and Pride.
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Value of Time
“Son,” says the Holy Ghost, “be careful to preserve time, which is the greatest and the most precious gift which God can bestow upon you in this life.” The very pagans knew the value of time. Seneca said that no price is an equivalent for it. “Nullum temporis pretium.” But the saints have understood its value still better. According to St. Bernardine of Siena, a moment of time is of as much value as God; because in each moment a man can, by acts of contrition or of love, acquire the grace of God and eternal glory. “Modico tempore potest homo lucrari gratiam et gloriam. Tempus tantum valet, quantum Deus: quippe in tempore bene consumpto comparatur Deus.” (Fer. quarta post Dom. I. quad., cap. iv.)
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God From God: The Courage of St. Leander
…God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father…

We utter those words at every Mass, words as familiar as the backs of our own hands, and sometimes just as taken for granted.  Intellectually we know that every word of the Creed is there for a purpose.  We know that saints have given their lives defending the truth of those words.  But without the point of reference history gives us, a dry, academic understanding of the Creed fails to burn it very deeply into our hearts.

It is St. Leander of Seville that we have to thank for the inclusion of the Nicene Creed in Mass, and St. Leander we have to thank for the triumph of Catholicism over Arianism in Spain.
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What is Heaven?
Then Cardinal Ratzinger, in his book, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, published in 1988, warns against depicting heaven as an extension of this life prettied up with depictions of “lions laying down with lambs,” and eternal picnics. Not only do we have the real problem with the fact that most of the world lives in abject misery, materially speaking—we forget that living in our modern United States of American where “the poor” often means not being able to afford all 2,000 cable channels—but we also must remember that lions, lambs, and picnics get boring after a few million years. These depictions just don’t cut it for the modern, thinking man.
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Knock, and the Door Will Be Opened for You
If you’ve ever experienced the power of a novena, you can truly understand these words of Jesus told by St. Matthew in today’s Gospel .

Novenas are often discovered out of despair, when your own attempts for a solution have failed. You discover one that fits your situation and you start praying like mad, knowing there will be an answer. Deep inside we all have something called faith, that awakens when called upon.
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The Virtues of Lent
In today’s Gospel at Mass, Jesus describes the righteousness one needs in order to reach the kingdom of heaven, noting that it must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. He discusses the relationship one should have with one’s brother, saying that there is much more to it than simply observing the Old Testament commandment not to kill. It is wrong even to be angry with one’s brother or to call him a fool. Furthermore, Jesus advises us that if we are not at peace with our brother we should make peace with him before offering gifts to God.
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To Complete the Suffering of Christ
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.” (Colossians 1:24-26)
.
This passage, tucked away in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, is perhaps one of the most mysteries passages in the entire New Testament. Nevertheless, I think that if one could take just a little time here to uncover its meaning, he would find a valuable lesson for the season of Lent.
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The Seven Deadly Comforts
Throughout history the so-called seven “deadly” or “capital” sins have been enumerated in different ways. Aquinas preferred to speak of the seven capital vices: vainglory, envy, anger, sloth, covetousness, gluttony, and lust (ST Ia IIae q. 84 a. 4). The reason they are called “capital” is because they “give rise” to all the other vices. The common element of all vice is that it deceives one into seeking after evil “on account of some attendant good.” Vainglory, for example, is an excessive desire for honor and praise, which are goods when sought after in the right way and to the right degree. Again, with respect to gluttony, food and drink and nourishment of the body are good things, but the glutton pursues these goods inordinately. So, too, with lust, which involves the inherent goods of sexuality such as preservation of the species. Covetousness seeks after the external good of riches in a disproportionate way. Aquinas notes that it is often out of an exaggerated desire to avoid the evils contrary to these attendant goods that one develops these extreme appetites.
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Saddle-Up your High Horse! Time to Shoot Down Myths about the Crusades, the Inquisition & the War on Women
Conservative media were in an uproar last week over the President’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. He said that we see “faith being twisted and distorted … sometimes used as a weapon” and “lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Nearly everyone took the statement to mean “Catholic pot, don’t call the Muslim kettle black.” And they were quick to point out that the “terrible deeds in the name of Christ” were committed 600 to 1000 years ago when everyone was kind of “medieval” anyway. End of story. Only it’s not.
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Six Keys to help you Surrender your Life to Jesus Christ
At the center of Mark’s Gospel, the Transfiguration of Christ (Mark 9:2-10) stands prominently as an encouragement along the walk from Baptism to Resurrection; a walk that must pass through the Cross.

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

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

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

And during it all, he faithfully made time to be alone in prayer.
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Do You Enjoy Being Miserable?
Let’s face it. Some people enjoy being miserable.

Here’s why:

First of all, it could be that it is simply their personality type. When I ran a business training company before I was ordained we used a personality type program to help people improve working conditions. I soon realized that there were three personality types who gain pleasure from being miserable.
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Was a bum buried in the Vatican?
Willy Herteleer was a homeless man who lived in the Borgo — the network of narrow streets north of St. Peter’s Square. He went to Mass every day at the Pontifical Church of St. Anne just inside the Vatican walls. The Catholic News Agency quotes his views about Mass: “My medicine is Communion.”

Willy Herteleer was also known as a street evangelist. As he roamed the streets with his belongings in a pull cart and a cross around his neck, he would stop and ask passersby, “When did you last go to confession? Are you going to Communion? Do you go to Mass?”
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Is Beauty a Temptation or a Path to God?
Is it true, prince, that you once declared that ‘beauty would save the world?’

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This oft-quoted line from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot is bold and provocative. Is it possible that beauty, so often misused in the modern world, could save the world?
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Ten Catholic Answers to “Why Do You Call Your Priests ‘Father’”?
If you have encounters with non-Catholic Christians you might hope that they will ask you questions that really matter like, “Why do you trust church tradition in addition to the Bible?” or “Do you worship the Pope?” or “What is the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary?”

Unfortunately one of the most common challenges is “Why do you call your priests ‘Father’ when Jesus clearly says, ‘Call no man Father.’ in Matthew 23:9?”

Here are ten answers to this common question.
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Czech Priest Witnessed the ‘Cihost Miracle’ and Was Killed for It
ROME — A priest who witnessed a miracle in communist Czechoslovakia in the 1940s was tortured and beaten to death for refusing to recant what he’d seen. And now Catholics from the country are honoring his heroic virtue and pushing for him to be recognized as a martyr.

At a recent gathering in Číhošť commemorating the priest’s brutal death, his current successor at the parish church says he’s grateful for efforts to overturn the decades-long silence on atrocities against Catholics in the 20th century.
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Yes, Enoch and Elijah went to heaven
Many Catholics are aware that Jesus “opened the gates of heaven” and allowed the righteous dead to go there.

The Catechism even says it:

CCC 637 In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.

This leads to a question that comes up periodically: What about figures like Enoch and Elijah, who seem to have been assumed into heaven prior to the time of Christ?
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Love and the Skeptic
“The greatest of these,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Many centuries later, in a culture quite foreign to the Apostle to the Gentiles, the singer John Lennon earnestly insisted, “All we need is love.”

Different men, different intents, different contexts. Even different types of “love.” You hardly need to subscribe to People magazine or to frequent the cinema to know that love is the singularly insistent subject of movies, songs, novels, television dramas, sitcoms, and talk shows—the nearly monolithic entity known as “pop culture.” We are obsessed with love. Or “love.” With or without quotation marks, it’s obvious that this thing called love occupies the minds, hearts, emotions, lives, and wallets of homo sapiens.
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Five Biblical Truths About Fasting
Last week, I asked the question, “Are you looking for the secret to a better, deeper, more joyful life in Christ?” and responded by exploring the reasons for the Catholic practice of self-denial. We saw that “fasting and other forms of self-denial, as spiritual practices of materially subduing and controlling the physical appetites of the body, helps us, by God’s grace, to enable the soul to more perfectly and freely pray.  This leads to a deeper union with God and thus we become better stewards of the gifts God has given to us, freeing us to more effectively care for our neighbor, especially those in greater need than we.” Thus, we have the connection between prayer, fasting and almsgiving—the three pillars of Lent.

Today, I want to provide the biblical teaching on why such practices of self-denial are not just a good idea, but a necessary one.
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Is Confession Dead?
The confessionals are empty. The sinners have gone away. Or should I say, “sin has gone away.” Not to be judgmental, but rather to be observant, I sense poignantly a lack of what I would call “sin awareness” among modern Catholics. We seem to have assimilated the secular notion that the concept of sin places outdated, even psychologically damaging restraints on people, or that the feeling of guilt for wrongdoing (or wrong-thinking) is emotionally debilitating. Thus, we see in society the virtual elimination of the word “sin.” We don’t want to hurt anybody’s self esteem. Catholics, perhaps innocently, have bought into this nonsense.
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Show Some Love and Punish Your Kids
My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.

In our times, we have tended to set love and punishment in opposition; we also set mercy and punishment in opposition. But this is wrong. It is possible, at least with human beings, that a certain punishment can be excessive. But of itself, punishment (often called chastisement in the Bible) is a work of love and mercy.
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Second Sunday of Lent

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Phil Bloom   
Second Sunday of Lent
Posted for March 1, 2015   

Message: We ask God for spiritual sight to see reality.

Last Sunday we saw how the ministry of angels can help 
us have a new mind and heart. Today, in our opening 
prayer, we ask God for “spiritual sight” – in other words, 
a new heart and mind so we can see reality as it is. In our Gospel we have a remarkable example of spiritual sight: the Transfiguration – that moment when three disciples glimpse Jesus’ glory, his inner reality.

Before talking about the inner reality of Jesus, I would like to make a comparison: When we look at someone’s face we are seeing an external, material reality, something science could analyze – cells, chemical reactions and so on. But unless you are dermatologist, when you look at a face, you want more than what science can provide. In that other person’s eyes, their smile, the lift of the eyebrows, you want to see some of their inner reality. You’ve no doubt heard, “eyes are the window of the soul.” When we look at another’s eye, we hope to glimpse the soul.

Something similar applies to the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John – the three men closest to Jesus – had walked with him for months. They have heard his teaching, seen his wonders and experienced his moods and emotions. Now they have a time of silence, alone with Jesus – on a mountain, away from the crowds. They glimpse something glorious – more than Mount Rainier on a clear day, more than the most stirring song.

St. Mark describes this glory in an interesting way. To understand you need to know that while we moderns tend to be more impressed with size – big buildings, big galaxies – what most impressed ancient people was not size, but brightness.* Mark notes that Jesus’ garments became dazzling white! Even his outer robe reflected the glory of his inner reality.

The glory shines in more than the clothes. Next to Jesus appear Moses and Elijah. In the Bible and Jewish tradition Moses and Elijah had been taken bodily into heaven. So the three disciples see not just their souls, but their transformed bodies.

Moses and Elijah represent the Laws and the Prophets. Their presence indicates that Jesus completes Jewish sacred history. The more we understand the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) the more we see the reality of Jesus.

Our first reading – which is from the Old Testament – gives us a key. The reading tells about Abraham and, as I am sure you, Jewish history begins with Abraham. God tells him that by an act of faith he will become the “father of many nations.” To believe that promise requires enormous faith because he and his wife Sarah are old – and they have no children.

And when they miraculously receive a son, God tests their faith a second time – and in a severe way. He tells Abraham to offer his son in sacrifice. It’s a double sacrifice: father offering the son and son obeying the father.

You might ask: Why does God put Abraham and Isaac through something so horrible? From a human point of view it seems against reason, but we have to remember: God sees all in a single glance – from the Big Bang till the end of the world. When God looks at creation and human history, he sees the cross. He sees his own Son offering his life in perfect obedience. That’s the central event – the cross.

As Isaac walks up Mount Moriah he carries something on his back – a bundle of wood. Isaac foreshadows – previews – Jesus carrying the wood of the cross.

The Transfiguration prepares Peter, James and John for the mystery of the cross. Isaac’s sacrifice ends well – and so ultimately will the cross. That’s why Jesus charges them not to tell about the Transfiguration – until he has risen from the dead.

These past weeks I have seen a beautiful witness to faith in the cross. Many of you know Archbishop Sartain had a serious operation in January which involved removing two cervical vertebrae. I talked to someone who had a similar operation and he told me he had five years of terrible pain before the operation. Archbishop Sartain never indicated to us what he was suffering. He always seemed upbeat and happy. Believe me, if I was going through that I would let everyone know. About 25 years ago when I was in Peru I experienced two days days of intense back pain. I moaned to everyone. And I am still talking about it today.

Well, Archbishop Sartain is different. And it isn’t just a matter of suffering in silence. At the Rite of Election he spoke about trials and temptations. When they come, he said, we should say, “Praise God.” When you think about it, every trial, every temptation contains something good.

For example, I am sometimes tempted to anger. I can grit my teeth, but how much better to recognize something good in the anger. I might be angry because of an injustice. Anger is the desire for justice. Praise God – and, God, help me to direct that energy not take it out on the person next to me. So it should be with any temptation. Praise God for whatever good draws me. But also if I say “Praise God” the devil flees. He can’t stand to hear God praised – and he leaves.

So we have learned that we need to ask God for spiritual sight to see reality. Not to just see surface, not just to see someone’s face but what it reveals. And above all the spiritual sight to see Jesus and his cross: A new mind and heart as we confront suffering, trials and temptations.

It’s not easy. Next Sunday we will see Jesus carrying out an act of violence. But that’s for the coming week. For today let’s go back to the initial prayer:

Nourish us inwardly by your word,
That, with spiritual sight made pure,
We may rejoice to behold your glory.
Amen.

************

*Lewis says it this way: “Any reader of old poetry can see that brightness appealed to ancient and medieval man more than bigness, and more than it does to us. Medieval thinkers believed that the stars must be somehow superior to the Earth because they looked bright and it did not. Moderns think that the Galaxy ought to be more important than the Earth because it is bigger.”
http://stmaryvalleybloom.org/homily-for-2lent-b.html

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

Second Sunday in Lent, Year B—March 1, 2015
Today, high on a mountain, Jesus briefly draws back the veil of His humanity to reveal His bright glory to three of His amazed disciples. Why did He think they needed this?

Gospel (Read Mk 9:2-10)

Today’s reading really requires attention to the context in which it appears (read Mk 8:31-9:1) to best understand it. We see that when Jesus “began to teach [the apostles] that the Son of man must suffer many things” (8:31a), Peter rebuked Him. Peter did not want to hear anything about a fate like this for Jesus, because suffering seemed to admit defeat and failure. This brought forth a stern rebuke from Jesus: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
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Second Sunday of Lent: The Covenant of Faith
Today’s readings present us with several figures from the Jewish tradition. In the first reading we come upon Abraham, the Father of Faith and his son Isaac.  In the Gospel we encounter Moses, the law-giver, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets.  On the Mountain of the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah discuss God’s plan for his people with Jesus.  This plan was to be a new and greater covenant, a new and greater relationship, greater even than the original relationship established with Abraham.
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10 things you need to know about Jesus’ Transfiguration
The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent commemorates the mysterious event known as the Transfiguration.

This event is hard to understand. Why did it happen? What did it mean?

Here are 10 things you need to know.
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During Lent, pope offers handy tips for preparing for confession
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Catholics are encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their lives during Lent, Pope Francis offered some quick tips to help people prepare for the sacrament of penance.
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Pope: Don’t let meatless Fridays be selfish, soulless, seafood splurge
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Real fasting isn’t just restricting food choices, it must also include cleansing the heart of all selfishness and making room in one’s life for those in need and those who have sinned and need healing, Pope Francis said.

Faith without concrete acts of charity is not only hypocritical, “it is dead; what good is it?” he said, criticizing those who hide behind a veil of piety while unjustly treating others, such as denying workers fair wages, a pension and health care.
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I Believe in God
When we say “I believe” as we recite the Apostle’s Creed we are making a statement about our Faith. The theological virtue of Faith is supernatural and infused by gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Thomas Aquinas points out that Faith is not only the first thing we need, but that we cannot be proper Catholics without it.

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Catholicism and the Cross
St. Peter was riding high. Jesus had just asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” While the rest of the disciples stumbled around in confusion, Peter hit a home run. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then, moments later, Jesus blesses him and entrusts him with the keys of his kingdom, giving him far more authority than he could imagine. Whatever you bind in heaven will be bound? Oh yes, Peter was feeling fine.
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Seek God for Help
In the book of Esther, the Jews of Persia were being threatened with extermination. But Mordecai and Esther both prayed to God with all their might and implored Him to deliver Israel. God saved His people and their enemies were destroyed.

Oftentimes we go about our daily lives doing many things. When something goes wrong, we try to fix the problem. Often as a last recourse, we ask God for help. To pray to God does not mean not to rely on one’s capacities. It means to invite God into our daily life activities and struggles. It is always good to pray at the beginning of the day, during the day and at the end of the day. In this way, we will be calmer in our decisions, much less impatient and more clear-headed.
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The Gift of Sorrow for Sin – A Meditation on the “Mass for the Gift of Tears” in the Missal
Most pastors and confessors are aware that in any parish there are going to be a few who are scrupulous, even in times like like these. Some have a kind of scrupulosity that is mild and almost admirable.  A sensitive conscience is a beautiful thing and bespeaks a kind of innocence that is rare today.

Some others have a more unhealthy form of scrupulosity, rooted too much in cringing fear of a God who is seen more as a punishing adversary than a delivering Father who wants to help us overcome our sin.
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On Being Restless
“Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” (St. Augustine, Confessions).

I think most writers are naturally introspective and reflective.  While in Eucharistic Adoration a week ago I prayed for many things, including strength and courage to stay focused on the path Christ wants me to follow and that my heart and mind would be prepared for Lent.  As I sometimes remember to do, I let my mind grow quiet and tried to listen as much as I prayed.  The quote from St. Augustine above, which is one of my favorites, crossed my mind and I thought of little else for the rest of my time in the parish chapel.  The word from the quote which resonated most with my desire to stay on the right path was restless.  Why “restless”?
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How to Deal With Temptation
When one speaks of temptation, it tends to carry a negative connotation because it is often attributed to something we shouldn’t do. However, I would propose that the art of temptation reveals a certain beauty in that a person is faced with a decision to either act out the temptation or not. Whether the decision takes a split-second or is carefully drawn out, a dilemma ensues as to whether the person should or shouldn’t. What we have here is a battle between an attraction that is contrary to right reason and judgment against God’s commandments.
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Spiritual Warfare 101: Are You Ready for the Fight?
Are you ready for the fight? If you were to enter the boxing ring today, would you be primed? Or are your muscles a little flabby, your lungs easily winded and your feet dragging instead of dancing? Besides you don’t want to break your nose.

Competitive boxers prepare through discipline and hard work. They recognize that only through perseverance, mental fortitude, stamina and skill will they beat their opponent. Their vigorous fitness training includes both physical conditioning and mental preparation. It’s not just the boxer who delivers the explosive punches, hooks, and jabs that wins. It’s the boxer, who outfoxes and outmaneuvers his opponent, mentally and physically, packing the powerful punches and persevering until the end that is declared the winner.
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The 2015 Ultimate Lenten Resource Guide
Ideas for drawing closer to Christ these 40 days

Every year before Lent begins, I scour the Internet and books for inspiring resources and creative ideas, then prayerfully discern how I can go beyond a chocolate fast to make the most of the penitential season.

I’ve recently gathered some of my favorite Lenten tools for living out the 40 days in a spirit of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. You’re bound to find at least one that speaks to your heart and motivates you to draw closer to Christ and the mystery of his passion this Lent.
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How to Make Heaven Rejoice
The silence truly had been golden. I hadn’t heard or spoken many words for a couple of days — save for at the Liturgy of the Hours in the chapel. The immersion in the silence had been one of the most special, holiest gifts I could receive.

That had been one of the overriding reasons my two friends and I chose the monastery in rural Missouri for our retreat. The weekend at Assumption Abbey would provide us the opportunity to pray the Divine Office with the Trappist monks who lived there. It was a “personal-directed” retreat, which meant we could do whatever we wanted: pray, read, attend Mass, take in nature.
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Like the Waters of the Flood
In today’s fuzzy moral landscape, it is quite unpopular to even speak of sin, never mind condemn it. It’s even more politically incorrect to talk about God taking stern action against sin and those who promote it.

But that is exactly what the story of Noah and the flood is all about, as we are reminded by the scripture readings for the first Sunday in Lent. The great flood is a testament to God’s hatred of sin and determination to wipe it from the face of the earth. He of course offers a way to escape the waters of destruction. He instructs Noah to build an ark which carries to safety eight people and a pair of every animal. With these, he provides the earth and the human race with a new beginning. As a sign of God’s covenant of friendship with the newly recreated world, he places a rainbow in the sky.
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Uncertainty of the Hour of Death
It is certain that we shall die; but the time of death is uncertain. “Nothing,” says Idiota, “is more certain than death; but nothing is more uncertain than the hour of death.” My brother, God has already determined the year, the month, the day, the hour, and the moment when I and you shall leave this earth and go into eternity; but this time is unknown to us. To exhort us to be always prepared, Jesus Christ tells us that death shall come, unawares, and like a thief in the night. ”The day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). He now tells us to be always vigilant; because, when we least expect him, he will come to judge us.
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Remaining Alive to the Enigma of Life
“I WOULD NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, WANNA BE YOUNG AGAIN!” – So goes the refrain of a song that I cannot quote at length on a family-friendly website. But that lyric will suffice; at any rate, it sums up my own feeling about having turned 30 last October. I do not lament getting older, or long for the past. I am frankly glad to be done with it!
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False Teachings on Meditation & Contemplation: Sts Peter of Alcantara & Teresa of Avila
In 1577, St. Teresa of Avila completed what is heralded as her seminal work on mental prayer, meditation, and contemplation in the Interior Castle. This guidebook to the most profound depths of prayer has become the standard against which all serious inquiries into interior progress must be measured. This is the reason that it is to St. Teresa that the Catechism of the Catholic Church poses the question, “What is contemplative prayer?”
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A Cold, Cold Heart
There ring in my childhood memory the songs of Hank Williams—songs my dad loved to listen to as he strummed his guitar. One in particular was a classic called “Cold, Cold Heart.” As I sit and think about it, I realize that those three words truly define the cultural attitudes of our day toward those in our midst who require care, unselfish love, and time.

One of the lines in Williams’ song asks: “Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart?” This line summarizes how I feel about the growing mentality among many who advocate for quick fixes to the overwhelming challenge of dealing with confronting the end of life.
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What Happens When Truth is Rejected
This is Part V of a series; find Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, and Part IV here.

So many have looked to and continue to look to the Catholic Church as a reliable source of religious and moral truth on account of the truth of Humanae Vitae. It is a remarkable truth at the heart of both the “culture of life” and the New Evangelization. To name but one individual attracted to the Church because of HV, the late British writer Malcolm Muggeridge spoke movingly about the encyclical already before his conversion to the Faith. It was, he says in his Confessions of a 20th Century Pilgrim (1988), the Catholic Church’s firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally convinced him to convert.
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The Enemy’s Tactic #11: How the Devil Redefines Humility
Humility is a virtue that is one of the hardest to acquire. While we all know what pride looks like, few of us have been taught how to practice true humility. The devil pounces on this lack of knowledge and twists the definition of humility around in our minds, convincing us that we are practicing a virtue when we are not even close.
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‘God has saved me,’ says Indian Jesuit after release from Afghanistan
NEW DELHI (CNS) — A Jesuit priest kidnapped in Afghanistan and held for eight months told reporters “God has saved me,” but he said he did not want to discuss details of his captivity.

Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar, 47, kidnapped June 2 in Afghanistan’s Herat province, was flown to New Delhi from Kabul Feb. 22 with the intervention of the Indian government.
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Liturgical Wisdom from the Mouths of Children
This past Yuletide, my husband and I decided to escape the Minnesota winter by taking our family to South Texas. We had a joyfully green Christmas, with our children running wild on the beach while the Gulf of Mexico lapped at our toes. We didn’t miss the snow. Of course, there are always drawbacks to such ventures, and this was no exception. While Christmas at our home parish is something to savor, our Christmas liturgies this year featured campy banners, schlocky music, and homilies with little discernable connection to the Catholic faith.
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Does Your Mind Wander When You Pray?
Do you have trouble paying attention while praying? Does your mind wander? Do you sometimes fall asleep? Do you forget where you were and stop? Do you then feel ashamed and disappointed in yourself? Do you get frustrated? Do you want to give up trying to pray long prayers like the Rosary? Do you give up? Or do you keep trying?
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Remembering a World War II Death Trap — and a Miraculous Rescue
Seventy years ago today, U.S. Marines iconically raised the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

And 70 years ago today, hundreds of miles to the south, my aunt walked to freedom.

Sister Mary Beata Mackie spent more than three years in a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines during World War II. Like most of the more than 2,100 others in the camp, she was malnourished and emaciated in the end.
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Discovering God in Silence
A prayerful, meditative silence is the mother of truth.

God cannot be found in noise and agitation. His true power and love are revealed in what is hardly perceptible, in the gentle breeze that requires stillness and quiet to detect. In silence, God listens to us. In silence, listen to Him. In silence, God speaks to our souls and the power of His word is enough to transform our very being. We cannot speak to God and to the world at the same time. We need the sacred space that silence creates in order to turn our undivided attention toward God even if it is only for a few precious moments of our day.
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Because It’s True
Not infrequently, Catholics are asked to give reasons for why they are Catholic. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. After all, St. Peter himself says “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). What is often troubling, however, is the account we give. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard Catholics “make defenses” in this way:
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Pastoral Sharings: "First Sunday of Lent"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
First Sunday of Lent
Posted for February 22, 2015

This has got to be one of the shortest texts for a Gospel in 
the whole liturgical calendar. It is just four verses and 
only seventy words altogether.

Mark’s account of the Temptation in the Desert takes just 
two verses and is about as succinct as you can get. It is just the bare facts. The other Evangelists give much more detail describing the various temptations at length accompanied by complex dialogue between Jesus and the Devil.

But Mark has none of this; it is just the bare facts, as far as he is concerned Jesus was in the desert for forty days and was tempted by the Devil. He mentions also that he was with the wild animals and also was ministered to by angels and that is it –nothing more.

Like Matthew and Luke though, Mark is clear that it was the Spirit that took Jesus into the desert to be tempted. The words Mark uses are very strong. He says, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness.” Matthew and Luke say that he was merely led by the Spirit.

The use of the word ‘drove’ is no accident; it reflects the great dynamism present in the Gospel of Mark who frequently has Jesus doing this or that ‘immediately’. His use of vocabulary means that there is a feeling of constant movement in this Gospel which is much shorter and therefore much more action-packed than the others.

The point here though is that God is in charge and it is he who is the catalyst behind the actions of Jesus. It is the Spirit of God that forces Jesus into the wilderness and so inaugurates his public ministry. Mark is not so concerned with the struggle between Jesus and the Devil as with the fact that he resisted temptation and then begins his ministry.

In the last couple of verses Jesus goes into Galilee and announces that, “The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”

I am sure I have told you this before but in Greek there are two words for time Chronos and Kairos. Chronos means time that passes; we use it in this sense when we say someone has a chronic illness, meaning that it is an illness going on for a long time. The word Kairos which Mark is using here means a favourable time or a decisive moment.

So when Jesus says that the time has come he means that the propitious moment has arrived for the proclamation of the Gospel to begin. He means that everything is now ready and that this is the time chosen by God for him to begin his ministry. It is at this appointed time that the Kingdom of God begins to break in to our world.

Mark certainly manages to pack a lot into a very few words: forty days in the wilderness, the temptation, wild beasts and angels, the arrest of John the Baptist, the journey into Galilee, the proclamation of the Gospel and the formal announcement that the time has come for God’s definitive intervention into our world.

We are left breathless and amazed that all this is packed in to just four short verses of the Gospel of Mark.

In the First Reading we are told about how after Noah and his family were saved by the Ark God made a covenant with him and gave the sign of the rainbow to act as a reminder of it. Then in the Second Reading St Peter recalls the Ark and tells us how those events so long ago are a foretaste of our Baptism.

What we need to understand from this sequence of scriptural readings is that God makes decisive interventions in our world. He sent the rain after forewarning Noah to build the Ark. His Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted and so launched his public ministry. And it is God too who decisively intervenes in our lives through Baptism making us members of his body and washing us free from original sin.

The message is clear, it is God who is in charge of the world and he makes his interventions in our world at moments of his own choosing when, according to him, the time is right; when the Kairos or the propitious moment has arrived.

We need to realise that God has not done this just a few times and then left us to it. No God is constantly intervening in our world. Of course, some of these interventions are more decisive than others and some of them might only concern us, though some are clearly much more significant than that.

We can easily think about God’s many interventions in our own lives: we can think of our birth into our particular family, our Baptism, the choice of school, job, partner in life, children and all sorts of things that many people might describe as coincidences but that we know are actually crucial parts of God’s plan for us.

God’s Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness but he is also constantly driving us. God is the unseen force behind all that happens to us as we go through our lives. We know that he respects our free will and he gives us the choice as to whether to cooperate with him or not; but, make no mistake about it, he is deeply involved in everything that happens to us, everything that goes on around us.

When Jesus announced that the time had arrived for the proclamation of the Gospel and invited us to repent and believe the Good News he was not suggesting that this moment had arrived and the next moment it would be gone.

No what Jesus was saying is that from then on would be the favourable time to repent and to believe. That special moment is not some fleeting thirty seconds that occurred two thousand years ago; no, that moment carries on until the very last day.

That favourable moment is now. There is no better time for repentance and accepting the Gospel than this moment now. Conversion is something that is always going to be a good thing and we should embrace it now, this very minute.

The Kingdom of God is truly very close at hand; it needs to be grasped by us now. We need to embrace it with all our hearts so that our lives are truly transformed and his salvation is made wonderfully present in our lives.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=2005

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

First Sunday of Lent, Year B—February 22, 2015
Today, we hear Jesus announce the familiar call of the Church during Lent: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

Gospel (Read Mk 1:12-15)

In one of the lectionary’s shortest Gospel readings, St. Mark describes the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Right after His baptism by John in the Jordan, “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” St. Mark, unlike the other evangelists, doesn’t give us details of the temptation. His focus is on the forty days and on Jesus’ contact with both fallen and ministering angels. Why is it important to know that this was a forty-day event?
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First Sunday of Lent: The Weeping Jesus
The grave purple colors, the ashes and sticks, the lack of flowers, crosses everywhere, all remind us that this week we begin Lent. 

“Here we go, again,” we might think.  “No, not already,” we might protest.  Maybe we’ll look into our religious storeroom and cart out some of practices we’ve stored since last Spring.  Let’s see, “Oh yeah, I gave up………last year.  That worked.  Hmm, I also gave up alligator nuggets.  Not a whole lot of desire for those anyway.  Hmm, I made extra time for some spiritual reading, that was good.  I made a contribution to Catholic Relief Services.  That worked.” And so, we pull out of the closet well worn items to enter the season properly.
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Jesus’ Ministry Begins: 9 things to know and share
This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent, and we read about events that occurred at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

Following his baptism, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness—his own, personal equivalent of Lent.

It was a time of preparation for the beginning of his public preaching in Galilee.

Here are 9 things to know and share . . .
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A Prophet’s Legacy
Have you ever been the excited recipient of an inheritance? If so, you may have received money, property or a treasured family heirloom. As a high school student I became one of the beneficiaries of my paternal grandfather’s inheritance. Knowing that I had intended to go on to a Teacher’s College, he had investigated the tuition for the four years, which came to a grand total of $600.00. Obviously that dates me! Gone are those days however!  But I was able to enter and complete college without any financial concerns, thanks to his departing gift to me. As welcome as these legacies are, more important, however,  would be the inherited treasures left by St. Elijah, prophet of the Old Testament and inspiration for the Order of Carmel.
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Audience: Children, a gift for the family, the Church and society
(Vatican Radio)  Continuing his catechesis on the family this Wednesday Pope Francis spoke about the joy of children in family life and how the choice to have children is not irresponsible but vital for a healthy, happy society.

Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear brothers and sisters,
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Twelve Things to Remember If You Keep Falling Into the Same Sin
One of the things that gets people down the most when they are really trying to make spiritual progress is when they keep falling into the same sin over and over again.

We’re sorry. We think we’re not going to do it again.

Then we do.

We’re filled with guilt, regret and shame.

It’s easy to want to give up.
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How did Saint Thérèse Conquer Satan and Attain Perfection?
There is a story from the Early Church Fathers that relates how a monk was slapped on the cheek by a young girl possessed by a demon. The monk in turn simply turned his other cheek in obedience to the Lord’s command. The demon could not take it and immediately left the girl. Those who witnessed what happened said, “The pride of demons must fall before humble obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ.” (Manual for Spiritual Warfare, 181)
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Ten Things Every Catholic Should Know About St Peter
If you are involved in a discussion with an Evangelical Christian you can bet they will have John 3:16 memorized. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in his will not perish but have everlasting life.”

Sometimes Catholics are embarrassed that Evangelicals have that verse memorized, but I’ve found that almost all Catholics have our foundational verse memorized too. They just don’t know they do. So ask your typical Catholic to finish this verse: “You are Peter…” You bet they will say, “…and on this Rock I will build my church.” Most of them will go on to recite, “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
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9 Things You Need to Know About Lent
This week the liturgical season of Lent begins.

Here are nine things you need to know about it . . .

1. What is Lent?

According to the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar [.pdf]:

27. Lent [is a liturgical season that] is ordered to preparing for the celebration of Easter, since the lenten liturgy prepares for celebration of the paschal mystery both catechumens, by the various stages of Christian initiation, and the faithful, who recall their own Baptism and do penance.
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The 2015 Ultimate Lenten Resource Guide
Ideas for drawing closer to Christ these 40 days

Every year before Lent begins, I scour the Internet and books for inspiring resources and creative ideas, then prayerfully discern how I can go beyond a chocolate fast to make the most of the penitential season.

I’ve recently gathered some of my favorite Lenten tools for living out the 40 days in a spirit of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. You’re bound to find at least one that speaks to your heart and motivates you to draw closer to Christ and the mystery of his passion this Lent.
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The Death of Shame
After selling over 100-million copies of the book, the overhyped-movie version of E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey was released on St. Valentine’s Day.  Variety reports that for its first weekend, the movie grossed $81.67M with a projected four-day total of $90.658M, placing it as the best Presidents Day weekend opening record of all time; only second behind the movie Passion of the Christ, which opened with $83.8M. (Isn’t that comparison rather satirical?)

Like the cultural transformation to successfully legalize birth control and abortion, who do we credit for the glorification of violence and abuse of women in a bestselling book and movie? Why women, of course!
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The Good Fight: Battles of the Flesh
Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).

It is heartbreaking to hear the countless stories of family wreckages due to sins of the flesh. It is tragic to see the wounds of young men and women who first experienced pornographic material and/or sexual abuse in their own homes. Horrific is the loss of innocence, the defilement of the human being, body and soul, created in the image of God who is the essence of purity.
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How to Develop a (Nearly) Unbreakable Habit of Prayer
To conclude our series on prayer, let us dive into what everyone is waiting for: how can I make this new schedule of prayer stick? Many of us are familiar with “New Year’s Resolutions” or even “Lenten Resolutions,” whereby we promise that we will go to the Adoration chapel every day or even read the entire Bible cover to cover. Unfortunately those “resolutions” only last for about a week and we find ourselves right back where we started.
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Fear of the Lord Part 1: Holy Fear
“The gifts of the Holy Ghost are seven in number: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord [Isaiah 11:2-3]…. The gifts proceed in orderly fashion and gradually ascend by degrees. From the fear of the Lord, the soul rises to the other gifts, one after the other, to arrive at the most lofty and excellent of all, which is the gift of wisdom. Fear of the Lord arouses and awakens in us a fear of God: not the servile fear which the Apostle calls the spirit os bondage [Romans 8:15], but a fear proper to the adopted sons of God. Such a fear enables the Christian to venerate his merciful father with filial reverence, striving conscientiously never to offend him in the slightest way nor to lose His grace and love. St. Augustine calls it a chaste fear which is born of Charity”

   Venerable Louis of Grenada, O.P., Summa of the Christian Life (II.3.5)
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Ignorance of God: The Spirit Poverty of Our Age
We often think that ignorance is a lack of knowledge, education or social training. But if ignorance is not knowing, then not knowing God is the greatest human ignorance.

I want to address ignorance in the context of the human heart’s ignorance of God.  It is my opinion that this form ignorance is the primary crisis of the 21st Century.
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Ten Things Every Catholic Should Know About Sola Scriptura
Do you know how to answer a non Catholic Christian who challenges you about the Bible?

Knowing how everybody loves lists, here are ten things every Catholic should know about Sola Scriptura:.
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Some Wisdom from John of the Cross
Today at Holy Hour I read this passage in “The Living Flame of Love,” by St. John of the Cross:

He [The Holy Spirit] touches the soul not with His shadow only, for He unites Him self to it, feeling and tasting with it the form and attributes of God in the shadow of God: that is, feeling and tasting the property of divine power in the shadow of omnipotence: feeling and tasting the divine wisdom in the shadow of the divine wisdom: and finally, tasting the glory of God in the shadow of glory, which begets the knowledge and the taste of the property and form of the glory of God.”
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An Atheist Haunted by God: My Conversion to Catholicism
One thing I could never get on the same page with my fellow atheists about was the idea of meaning. The other atheists I knew seemed to feel like life was full of purpose despite the fact that we’re all nothing more than chemical reactions. I could never get there. In fact, I thought that whole line of thinking was unscientific, and more than a little intellectually dishonest. If everything that we call heroism and glory, and all the significance of all great human achievements, can be reduced to some neurons firing in the human brain, then it’s all destined to be extinguished at death.
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Happily Ever After Has No Age Limit
When Carmelo Segona, 66, lost his wife, the future looked “black,” and the last thing on his mind was getting remarried.

But, over time, Segona, a devout Catholic and the father of three, began to open up to the idea of dating, even as he struggled to find compatible women who shared his faith.

“One day I listened to Father [Benedict] Groeschel talk about Ave Maria Singles, so I went on the site and was impressed with the faith life of the members,” Segona told the Register.
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What It’s Really Like to Be Married to Jesus
I’m a nun.

Technically, I’m a religious Sister, because “nun” refers to cloistered contemplatives. But no matter. We answer to “nun,” too, because it’s in common parlance and rhymes with a lot of words… like “fun.
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How to Defend Your Faith Without Being Defensive
It’s not easy to explain a Catholic lifestyle to friends or relatives who just don’t seem to “get it.” They see neither the appeal of your theology, nor the truth of it. Religion in general may have no credibility with them. Indeed, they may even be hostile to all religions, believing the old chestnut that religion is the cause of most of the violence and injustice in the world.
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The Deadly Sin of Sloth: The Most Subtle of the Vices
It is tempting to disregard the sin of sloth or not take it as seriously as other deadly sins like wrath, gluttony, and lust.

The wrath of a furious man or woman—often compared to a raging fire—is visible and pronounced, and the effects of insults, quarrels, or revenge are immediate and graphic.

The gluttonous person also reveals the fault in a transparent way by intemperate eating and drinking that reveal themselves in outward forms like obesity and drunkenness. Lust too is not easily concealed, for adultery, out-of-wedlock children, and sexually transmitted diseases come to light as inevitable consequences.
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Anchor for his soul: Lester Holt reflects on faith and journalism.
NEW YORK — For the longest time, Lester Holt would finish the Sunday edition of NBC’s “Today” show at 9 a.m., just when services began at the Manhattan Church of Christ. When the elders moved the start time to 9:30, no one was happier than Holt. “I don’t know if it was a personal favor to me, but it really has helped,” a chuckling Holt told The Christian Chronicle in an interview at the “Today” studios. “For a long time, I’d get off at 9, and then I’d have to bugaloo over there and get there about the third or fourth song before communion. “I was the guy kind of sneaking in. Now, I have a little more time.”
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Do Christians Believe in Talking Snakes?
You know how the story goes: in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve have a conversation with the serpent.

Does this mean Christians believe in talking snakes? That’s the charge from certain atheists.
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Catholics Fight Rising Tide of Suicide
WASHINGTON — “If I die tonight, would anyone cry?”

Amber Cornwell, 16, took her life shortly after leaving behind those final words on Facebook on Dec. 20. According to local media in North Carolina and a memorial Facebook profile, she was both beautiful and talented — and bullied at school. Sadly, she is one of the thousands of stories giving a face to the rising U.S. suicide epidemic, now at a 25-year high.
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The Real History of the Crusades
Many historians had been trying for some time to set the record straight on the Crusades—misconceptions are all too common. For them, current interest is an opportunity to explain the Crusades while people are actually listening. With the possible exception of Umberto Eco, medieval scholars are not used to getting much media attention. We tend to be a quiet lot (except during the annual bacchanalia we call the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, of all places), poring over musty chronicles and writing dull yet meticulous studies that few will read. Imagine, then, my surprise when within days of the September 11 attacks, the Middle Ages suddenly became relevant.
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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for February 15, 2015

President John F Kennedy invited a bishop to give an 
invocation. The prayer was endless. Later, a smiling 
President Kennedy asked a guest, “Did you hear that 
bishop’s speech to God?” There is irony in today’s Gospel. 
Jesus tells the cured man to tell no one of the miracle. 
The  fellow cannot contain himself. He tells everyone.

Yet in Matthew 28,19, Jesus tells us to tell everyone about Him. What do we do? That’s right. We tell no one. We should bring back the former leper. He was a better public relations person than we. Or we should become like the bishop. As the scene opens, Jesus is walking out of the Galilean mountains. He has delivered His famous sermon on the Beatitudes. He is about to take off the academic gown and hood of the scholar and put on the mantle of the miracle worker. Though Mark’s Gospel is the shortest, it contains the most miracles. Christ was being followed by a huge mob. As He approached a town, a desperate man broke through the crowd and painfully got to his knees before Jesus. The crowd ran away in horror. The fellow was our unnamed leper. Leprosy was a common disease in Palestine. In its late stages, the illness is a bad scene.

Substitute foul smelling sores for nose, lips, toes, etc, and one has the picture. The Jews looked upon leprosy not so much as a physical disease but a spiritual uncleanness. The leper carried both physical wounds and the conviction that God hated him. Talk about poor self-image! Jewish law was harsh to lepers. They had to live outside towns. If they came upon a clean person, they had to ring a bell and shout, “Leper, leper.” The historian Josephus wrote they “were, in effect, dead men.” Imagine the courage of this fellow! The law stated if a leper exposed others to his disease, he was to be stoned to death. Lucky for him that the people around the Teacher were so anxious to get away from the scene. Otherwise they might have well stoned him to death. Would Jesus have put Himself between them and the stones? With you, I answer yes.

A question rises. How did the leper sense that the Christ would not flee in revulsion with everyone else? What quality did he discern in Him that told him Jesus would hold His ground? Mark here is telling us much about Jesus. He signals us He was most approachable. We discover He has time for those whom others consider human garbage. One hears people say, “My sin is so horrible not even God could forgive it.” This Gospel gives the lie to such a statement. The mystics tell us God will forgive us not because of who we are but because of who He is. “If you want to, you can cure me.”

The leper’s gut plea is couched in just eight words. People in pain do not speak in pages. They have time only for the essentials. Today’s account tells us that the Teacher cured the fellow before Him and touched his running sores. Can anyone here imagine what that stroking must have felt like to the leper? Probably it was the first time in years that someone who was clean placed a hand upon him. If one picture is worth a thousand words, one touch must be worth ten thousand to a leper. Is there anyone here who is still frightened of Jesus the Christ? This miracle is called by scholars an action miracle. It happened in a nanosecond. This is unlike other miracles in Mark. There the Teacher takes the man aside, looks to the heavens, sighs, puts spittle on the man’s ear, etc. But here the Nazarene felt there was no time for preliminaries.

This fellow’s misery had to be terminated immediately. What does that tell you about the Person whom you worship? Would that we could teach ourselves to have just a fraction of that compassion. Though we may not have a healing ministry, each of us can practice a hearing ministry. Suffering people need to talk. Walt Whitman wrote, “Seeing a wounded soldier on the battlefield, I do not ask who he is. I become the wounded man.” So should it be with us. One who is Christ-centered instead of self-centered, said GK Chesterton, is a sane person in an insane world. One final note! The cured man taught us how to pray. His prayer needed only eight words. Jesus showed fondness for short prayers.

Check Matthew 6:7, “In your prayers do not use a lot of meaningless words…” Jesus is e-mailing us the information that brief prayers bring quick answers. 

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

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—February 15, 2015
What can we learn today from a leper who kneels before Jesus in the hope of being healed?

Gospel (Read Mk 1:40-45)

We know from our reading of St. Mark’s Gospel that as Jesus began His public ministry, He drew large crowds (see Mk 1:28, 33, 37). Today, we meet a leper who had apparently seen or heard enough about Jesus to make him take a bold action. Jewish law kept lepers away from the worshiping community, because the leprosy made them ritually unclean, unable to participate in the liturgical life of Israel. This can be difficult for us, in our day, to understand. In the Law of Moses, in order to teach the people about God’s holiness—a lesson they desperately needed in order to be His chosen people—they had to learn in simple, obvious ways that God is Life Itself, pure goodness, perfect justice.
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Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Unclean No More
When I visit a hospital or a nursing home, I often will come upon a room that with a warning on the door.  It will say, “Infection.  All visitors must check with nurses station and then use mask, gloves and gown.”  When I did this for a while, I  became use to “gowning up.”    I had to feel bad for the poor patient though.  It made them seem like an outcast to society, but at least our society has found a way for the rest of us to care for them.
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Pope Francis and the Hidden Path to Holiness
Five years ago the Catholic Church had a Year of the Priest, and now Pope Francis has declared a Year of Consecrated Life. To mark this year, he has issued an Apostolic Letter, building upon Vatican II’s decree on religious life, Perfectae Caritatis (1965), and St. John Paul II’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata (1996). While everyone seems to have a concept of the priestly ideal, the unique charism of consecrated life, especially for men, is more obscure. In particular, religious brothers tend to have lower profiles than do priests and nuns.
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Don’t Waste Your Lent: 7 Ways to Have a Good Lent
Lent is a season of penance and ascetical warfare. The enemy is concupiscence, the world, and the devil. The goal is pure hearts so that we can joyfully celebrate the resurrection of our Lord at Easter, the greatest feast of the liturgical year. In a way, Lent should be a microcosm of our entire struggle on earth, just as the Paschal feast of Easter is a microcosm of our heavenly triumph in Christ. Yet, a good Lent takes focus and discipline, and it can easily be wasted.
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To what is God calling you?
Discerning God’s will in our lives can be a difficult and confusing endeavor most of the  time. I can still remember hearing the many epic tales about the heroic Saints in our Church’s life and thinking, “If I really love God, wouldn’t I do the same? Wouldn’t I give up everything, move to a different country, and start a new life devoted only to God?” This is a question that has stayed with me for many, many years, and I am sure that many of us can identify with it. What, then, are we to do?
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Is There Really “No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church?”
The Catholic Church teaches infallibly, “extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” or, “outside the Church there is no salvation.” But as with all dogmas of the Faith, this has to be qualified and understood properly. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lays out the truth of the matter succinctly in paragraphs 846-848, but I would recommend backing up to CCC 830 for a context that will help in understanding these three essential points concerning this teaching:
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The Lord’s Prayer and its Structure of Hope
Those who pray the Lord’s prayer with faith take up the effort to see our struggles with the light that is from above, the understanding that comes from God. That is why when it is prayed carefully with devotion, the unvanquished light of heaven shines through each syllable into the depths of one’s life and current situation, if only we allow it to.  This is true in the very structure of the prayer Christ entrusted to the Church.
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Lessons from a Monastery: Leaving the World
2015 is the Year of Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church. This year isn’t just for religious, but for the entire Church. Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Letter to all Consecrated People ,addressed the laity also when he wrote “In this letter, I wish to speak not only to consecrated persons, but also to the laity, who share with them the same ideals, spirit and mission. …I urge you, as laity, to live this Year for Consecrated Life as a grace which can make you more aware of the gift you yourselves have received.”
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On God’s Generosity and Growth in Prayer
Prayer seems like such a simple thing; we all know we should do it, we know it should be transformative, and we even attempt it sometimes. For most people, that’s about the extent of our knowledge and experience. Of course, there are those people who pray very regularly, experiencing a very rich and intimate interior life, but for the majority of people, fostering a mature prayer life is a bit like searching for a golden coin in the dark, in a room frequently littered with painful stumbling blocks, or as I call them “spiritual Legos”. Prayer is something we assume we ought to know how to do because it’s just a conversation with God, but we often believe we’re failures when we find that it doesn’t always come naturally.
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Love as a Virtue
We love because God has loved us first.” So we read in 1 John 4:19. In an article a few weeks back, I suggested that we should learn from Thomas Aquinas that love can be both a passion and a virtue. In the modern world, we tend to think of love only as an emotion – something we “fall into,” something that “happens to us.” There is certainly love of this sort: love that we “feel” and sometimes feel very strongly. But it’s important to realize that this is not the only kind of love. There is also love as a virtue – when love becomes not merely a feeling we have, but a settled disposition to do good for others: a disposition to be self-sacrificing, compassionate, and just.
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This Lent, Rediscover What Love Does
Though my wife and I both grew up with dogs, we do not have dogs. There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is that some of in our family have allergies. But this did not keep us from hosting a dear, elderly couple for dinner last week, their little “Sparky” in tow.

Love does this. God is love (1 Jn. 4:8).

The invitation to Love is always accompanied by an invitation to exchange what is lesser for what is Greater.
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Mysteries and Paradoxes of Evangelization – A Meditation on a Passage from the Gospel of Mark
In the Church throughout the world today, we are rightly more focused on evangelization. It is “job one,” and Jesus could not have been clearer: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt 28:18-20).
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A Need We All Have
I love music. I love good music. I really love great music. But it truly is in the ear of the beholder as to what makes good or great music, isn’t it? I mean, I love The Allman Brothers; many people don’t like the bluesy sound and long jams. I love the work of the late Rich Mullins; many people who aren’t Christian probably wouldn’t, and even some Christians wouldn’t like the style.
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How am I to understand suffering?
One of the things with which we so often struggle is to understand our condition in a fallen world. Each of us, in our own way, has experienced the pain and suffering so often encountered as one journeys through this world on our road to heaven. The road to heaven is a way of suffering and sacrifice; and it leads directly through the cross of Christ. If we are to find and stay on this path, this is a truth that we must come to embrace.
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Ask, Seek, Knock — Your Gift Awaits
I always have been taught that faith is a gift. And who doesn’t love receiving gifts – especially if it is the perfect gift, something sorely needed, something for which we have asked?
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Is Reviling a Mortal Sin?
Some time ago I made a rule for myself that I would not call out another Catholic writer by name and criticize that person. I had a sense that nothing good ever came from it because 1) I’d tried it a few times, 2) felt uneasy about it, and 3) found that, in fact, nothing good ever came from it. Chalk it up to the Golden Rule.

As an editor and educator, I likewise counsel other writers to follow the same rule. Write about issues and topics. Do not criticize people publicly. If you must name a person for the sake of attribution, deal dispassionately with the issue not the person. If you can make your point without naming names, do so.
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Love Your Enemies
Jesus often spoke about the obligation of fraternal charity. He took us beyond the prohibition of killing or even striking a brother. He said that we must not become an­gry with our brother, nor show our bitterness toward him by injuring him in any way.
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An Unquenchable Thirst for God
“ ‘Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.’ Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, ‘an upright heart,’ as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶30)
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Indifference to the Dignity of Work
We have all done it. We have walked past a beggar on the street. We have purchased groceries from a cashier whose eyes we did not meet. We have insisted on the least expensive goods available to us. We have been impatient with a doctor when our appointment time is delayed. Some of us have even mumbled under our breath about a fussy baby on an airplane. What do these seemingly disparate scenarios have in common? These are times when we fail to appreciate the importance of understanding the dignity inherent in all forms of work.
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Demons According to St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross
It is not popular in these times to write about demons. As Lucien-Mary of St. Joseph says, “It is doubtless the masterpiece of this master of illusions to pass himself off as nonexistent in a world where he so easily gets souls to go the way he wants, without needing to show himself: He has every interest in not doing so” (95). Her observation is similar to Baudelaire’s well-known quote to the effect that the devil’s cleverest wile is persuading us that he does not exist.
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Holding Me Back
I don’t try to hide the fact that I have a larger than average family, but I don’t usually volunteer the information, either. It’s not that I am ashamed. I am just tired of having to either defend my choice or explain personal details of my life to an openly hostile or friendly but overly-curious public.

I am also not usually offended when people ask questions, even those they would never ask someone with one or two children, because in general I think people are just curious and want to know how others live.

This is a good thing because it builds our empathy as a society. It is my job to be kind to people and decide on my own personal boundaries for what I will and will not share.
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Secularism, Religion, and Moral Progress
Is religion a source of moral progress in the world, or does it hold humankind back from achieving a more just society? In a recent column for the Los Angeles Times,  Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic magazine and author of the recent book The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, answers this question by pointing to the moral progress made in recent times:
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A Picture of Holy Boldness in Prayer
There are some who wince at the notion of praying boldly to God, especially if anger or exasperation are part of that boldness. And yet the Bible itself models and counsels that we should include in our prayers the times when we are angry, exasperated, or disappointed in God. The psalms are filled with such prayers and great figures like Moses, David, and Job cry out to God quite plainly, expressing their anger and disappointment. I have written more on that here: A Meditation on the Role of Anger in Prayer.
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A Priest’s Fight for the Seal of Confession
When I was a seminarian in St. Benedict, Louisiana, I always thought the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be my favorite to celebrate, if I became a priest. The first time I encountered the seriousness of the Seal of Confession was with one of my good friends. We attended the same high school, and ended up going to the same seminary together; I later married, and he became a priest.

About six months after his ordination, I asked what celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation was like. He responded that it was powerful and humbling to see a person confess their sins, convert to the Lord, and receive forgiveness, all before his very eyes.
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Dealing with Busybodies: Some Practical Tips
Some time ago, I shared some practical tips for how to make a difficult decision. While it can be a huge relief to make the initial choice, we sometimes still have to face another hurdle: defending or explaining ourselves to people who feel entitled to an opinion about our lives.
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Why Settle for Shades of Grey?
Remember the scene in the movie The Passion of the Christ when the androgynous, almost-beautiful-but-not-quite Satan character is carrying a baby, and when the face of the baby is revealed, it turns out to be old, ugly, and creepy rather than a sweet baby face? This was confusing for a lot of viewers, and when asked about it, director Mel Gibson explained that the surprisingly hideous baby was a depiction of how evil is a distortion of what is good.
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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

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

Gospel (Read Mk 1:29-39)

As we continue in St. Mark’s Gospel, we see that after Jesus left the synagogue in Capernaum, where He had taught and exorcised demons with great authority and power, He “entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.” Simon’s mother-in-law was quite sick. When He was told about it, Jesus “approached, grasped her by the hand, and helped her up.” She was healed.
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Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time:His Touch Demands Our Response
Today’s readings from scripture can raise a number of eyebrows.  My first reaction is: “What in the world was that all about?”  The first reading begins with a horrible quotation from the Book of Job.  “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?  Are not his days those of a hireling?”  Then it gets worse.  “My months are full of misery.  I can’t wait to get to bed, then I can’t wait to get up. I shall not see happiness again.” What a wonderful way to begin our Sunday.
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Pope Francis: ‘The Gospel Has the Power to Change Life’
VATICAN CITY — In his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis pointed to the authority with which Jesus preached, saying that his words in the Gospel aren’t aimed to limit, but, rather, liberate us from evil and worldly spirits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Have I been unkind towards others?
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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

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

Gospel (Read Mk 1:21-28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEDITATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Guys don’t mistake them for available singles and accidentally hit on them
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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

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

Gospel (Read Mk 1:14-20)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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