Pastoral Sharings: "Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time"


WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for August 2, 2015

Today we continue with our meditation on the Eucharist as presented to us in the Gospel of John. As a preamble we are given an extract from the Book of Exodus which tells us about the Manna that God gave to the People of Israel to sustain them on their journey through the desert of Sinai.

From the perspective of today we can easily see how this Manna given in the desert is a foreshadowing of the bread of the Eucharist.

The people were starving and starting to regret that they had come on this long journey through the desert. They complained to Moses who told them that God would send them quails in the evening and manna in the morning and that this would prove that he was the Lord.

This food from heaven proves to be a great blessing for the People of Israel and it sustains them on their forty-year long journey through the Sinai Desert.

In the Gospel reading Jesus has withdrawn from the people whom he had fed with the five loaves and two fish. But they encounter him again at Capernaum and wonder how he got there. Jesus then tells them that they are looking for him not so much because they believe in him but because he had satisfied their hunger.

Perhaps a little confused by these words the people ask Jesus how they might believe and follow God’s will. But then they fall into an old trap and start justifying themselves and begin to tell the old story of the manna their fathers ate in the desert, as if this was something of their own doing. They then get bolder and start to challenge Jesus asking him for a sign as if the great miracle he had performed the previous day was of no significance.

The people having been the recipients of the miraculous distribution of the loaves and the fishes now seem to want Jesus to repeat this miracle perhaps thinking that they might never have to work for food again. But Jesus helps them to understand that this was not the purpose of his miracle; he tells them that he was not there to provide them merely with bodily food but rather with spiritual food, food from heaven as he says.

It is this spiritual food that is far more important than any earthly nourishment because it feeds and sustains the soul, the spiritual side of man. This spiritual food sustains man on his pilgrimage through this world and ultimately leads him to eternal life in the next world.

Jesus then tells them something even more astounding, that it is actually he who is the Bread of Life; he challenges them to believe in him thus paving the way for the far greater miracle of the Eucharist that he was going to celebrate a year later on the night before he died.

Actually when we look even more carefully at this passage we begin to discern that there are two groups of people present. First there are the ordinary people, the ones who follow Jesus around and who hang on his words. They perceive Jesus to be a wonderworker and perhaps even the Messiah, but ultimately they are not quite sure what to make of him and so they follow him around seeing what he will do next.

Essentially these ordinary people are passive and tend to wait to see how things will develop. They refrain from passing judgment on Jesus and instead they welcome his teaching and are in awe of his miracles.

Then there is another more vociferous group who are presumably the leaders of the people. These ones are more interested in tripping Jesus up and in justifying their own position. They are much trickier to deal with and do not seem to believe in Jesus or in the efficacy of his miracles.

We see these two groups in society today. One group who are quiet and who wait and watch to see what happens, and then another group who criticize and want only to justify themselves.

The first group represents the vast mass of the people. Ordinarily they don’t think much about spiritual things and need to be jogged out of their complacency from time to time.

They are a quite good bunch on the whole although not switched on to the spiritual life; but a miracle or an extraordinary preacher can get their attention and persuade them to be more open to the spiritual world.

Then there is the other group. These are the critics, the militant atheists, the ones who are always looking to put down the things of God. They have no time for religion but instead of being satisfied with letting it die out, as according to them it must, they feel the need to do everything they can to stamp out all signs of faith and belief in God.

There are plenty of this sort of people in the media and in society at large, and it is noticeable that they are increasing in number. I don’t think that we should waste our time with this lot; as with the Pharisees in the time of Jesus they won’t listen to us and their chief concern is to obliterate all signs of true religion.

The first group, however, are much easier to deal with. Essentially they are open to the message of Christ if only someone will draw it to their attention. It is with this group that we will be able to make the most progress. They are open to talking about God but they won’t raise the topic themselves.

Pope Francis is telling us that we need to be better Evangelists. What he means is that we should engage with this group of people, we should be unafraid to talk to them about God and matters spiritual. If we do this in a respectful and gentle way we might be surprised that the positive reception we get.

Jesus says at the end of today’s text, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.” This is the very message that these people want to hear. This is the message that should be on our lips as we seek to engage them in dialogue.

They want to know that with Jesus they will never be spiritually hungry or thirsty again. They want to know that he is indeed the Bread of Life and that it is only through him that we will attain eternal life.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
August 2, 2015

Eighteenth Sunday: John 6 Part 2:

Wat Is the Food We Are Looking For?

The people in today’s Gospel reading had to work hard to find Jesus.  After the multiplication of the loaves and fish, last Sunday’s reading, John says that the disciples took a boat to cross the sea, probably the Sea of Galilee.   Jesus was not in the boat with them.  The people must have realized that.  But as they looked and looked for Jesus, they could not find Him on their side of the shore.  Finally, someone came up with the idea of going to where His disciples were.  Perhaps they would know where He was. That meant crossing the sea themselves. This would be difficult, but they thought it would be worthwhile to learn where Jesus was.  After all, this Jesus gave away free food. As you know, they were surprised to find that Jesus was with the disciples.  He had walked out to his disciples’ boat, walking on the water.  That’s why the people asked Jesus, “When did you get here?”  Jesus didn’t answer their question.  Instead, He commented on why they were looking for Him.  They wanted more loaves and fish, and put themselves out to get it.


Dimensions of the Eucharist Week 2: Faith

Message: To have a relationship with Jesus requires faith: God’s great work and our response of trust.

You may have heard the saying, “Give a dog a good name and he will live up to it.” My previous dog I named “Samwise” because that Lord of the Rings character saved Frodo’s life. Sam didn’t literally save my life, but he was a darn good companion. My new dog I named “Eowyn” hoping she would be brave like that noble shieldwoman. So far my Eowyn is a timid creature, but I have faith.  


Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—August 2, 2015

The people who saw Jesus miraculously multiply loaves and fishes tracked Him down afterwards, looking for something. What was it?

Gospel (Read Jn 6:24-35)

St. John tells us that after Jesus fed a hungry crowd with very little food, the people who had been with Him were eager to see Him again. After a brief interlude (see Jn 6:16-24), they found Him, yet they tried to act nonchalant by asking Him, “When did You get here?” Remember, these were the people who had exclaimed, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” (see Jn 6:14) and whom Jesus suspected of wanting to make Him king (Jn 6:15). They were anything but nonchalant.


Seeing God in Creation

The first way of learning to live with God so as to love Him dearly is to elevate the mind to Him through the visible things around us. Wherever we go, God is there: “If I ascend into Heaven, Thou art there. If I descend into hell, Thou art present. If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there also shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.”

Whatever we look at, God is within it. Look at the sun. It brings light and warmth into our life. It reflects the goodness of God, who has created it. Gaze at the moon and the stars. They are the lanterns placed by God in the heavens to guide the weary traveler. Bless God who has made them, for the heavens and earth are full of His glory: “Look upon the rainbow, and bless Him that made it: it is very beautiful in its brightness. It encompasseth the heaven about with the circle of its glory; the hands of the Most High have displayed it.”

10 Ways to Grow in Friendship with Jesus and Mary

The ultimate purpose of our life is to grow to know, love and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus is the real purpose of our existence. He gives meaning to all that happens in our lives—our joys and sorrows, successes and failures our life and death. Our Lady is always close to Jesus. The saints emphasize that Our Lady is the short-cut to the heart of God.

The following are ten short suggestions how we can grow daily in Friendship with Jesus and Mary His Mother so as to be happy in this life as well as the life to come!


A Most Difficult Question to Answer

When I give talks around the country or sometimes in correspondence with readers of my books or blog posts on Integrated Catholic Life, I am often asked what I mean when I encourage others to “be joyful” and share the “light of Christ” with others.  I am referring to the response I typically give when asked for effective ways to share our Catholic faith at work and in the public square.  I sometimes get strange and curious looks.  “Surely, there is more to it than that,” they might be thinking or “Well, I wanted the 10 step plan, but I guess I can try this,” may cross their minds.

I share these basic concepts with good reason.  Do you recall Christ’s teaching in the Gospel of Matthew:  “You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father”  (Matthew 5:13-14, 16).  Do we really share our Christ-inspired joy with others?  Are we the light of Christ to everyone we encounter?


Combating Your Personal Stress

Recently I conducted a survey of my book and article readers. I wanted to know how this largely Catholic and professional group viewed current stressors in their lives. When asked what they considered to be a personal struggle, the top three answers were:

      1. Feeling overwhelmed/out of balance
      2. Fighting effects of stress and anxiety
      3. Wanting a more productive prayer life


Turn Your Anger at God to Praise

Many people get angry at God when things go wrong in their lives. “God, how could you let this happen? I thought you were supposed to be so good!” Does God let bad things happen in our lives? Yes, in a sense, he does. It’s what we might call his permissive, or reluctant, will. He does not want terrible things to happen to us, but his agenda is not of this world.

Everything that he permits to happen is for some greater good, some eternal good. If the only thing that mattered was for things to turn out well in this life, we might have a case against God when tragedies occur. But, it is the eternal good that matters, and that’s virtually impossible for us to figure out.


Three Words That Can Change Your Life

Sometimes we like to complicate things. Every now and again it is good to simplify, to make it plain and simple. The other day it occurred to me that three words describe the well-being I have discovered in my physical, emotional, and spiritual life. They are, respectively, move, breathe, and trust.

Let’s look at each in turn. “Move” pertains to the physical, “breathe” to the emotional and psychological, and “trust” to the spiritual.


The Life of Love

Presence of God – Grant, O Lord, that even while I am here on earth, I may love You as I shall love You in heaven.


If it may be said that by faith “eternal life begins in us” (St. Thomas, Summa, IIa IIae, q.4, a.1, co.), the same may be said–and with greater reason–of charity, which will remain unchanged even in heaven. Eternal life will be essentially a life of love, of love which has reached its greatest height, for when we know God perfectly by the beatific vision, we shall finally be able to fulfill with absolute perfection the precept of loving God with all our strength. On this earth such perfection is possible only relatively; nevertheless, even now we possess the same charity with which we shall love God in heaven.


The Two Things Man Was Supposed to Do in Eden

There were two things Adam was supposed to do in the Garden of Eden.

Given that this was the terrestrial paradise—Eden could be translated as delight or pleasure—one might think Adam was meant to relax and take it easy.

But that’s not quite what Genesis 2:15 tells us: ‘The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.’ That’s the New American Bible translation. A traditional rendering is ‘till and keep.’

Till and keep. That doesn’t sound like stuff you’d have to do in place called the Garden of Delights.


Art and Ideals of a Culture

The arts are as important to education as math, science and language. In many ways the arts are a language capable of expressing the inexpressible human heart or the beauty of the world.

The arts can express the dignity and worth of man and glorify God; this is art in its highest form.

The arts can keep ideals alive, reclaim lost ideals, or develop new ideals within a culture that eventually permeate civilization (either for good or bad).

King David was a musician and poet. He sang:


The Family Fully Alive in Faith

Family life today is both changing and being changed by the society in which it lives.

But nothing can be more satisfying and fulfilling than the love, respect, consideration and security found within a happy family. A family is where we learn and grow and become the special people God created us to be. The family is called to live out this vocation in a “domestic church,” a community of life and love, with each member helping each other to get to heaven.


Keeping Faith While Grieving

I am hoping that writing this article will be therapeutic for me. I could not write at all for a few weeks. My twenty-year-old nephew was killed in an accident in June. He was an only child, and it has shocked and devastated our family. My brother is filled with pain, and I cannot help him. I have never known grief like this; it has engulfed me and I am too weak to fight. My waking hours are filled with thoughts of him, and I can only imagine what my brother and his wife are feeling.

I know that my nephew is with God.

So…is grief a selfish emotion? I have turned to the Bible during this difficult time, and my favorite verse is Romans 8:18:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.


What Can We Do To Combat Satan’s Influence?

The Devil made his public appearance this past weekend as the Satanic Temple of Detroit unveiled their nine-foot-tall, 2,000-pound bronze statue during a hedonistic party at the Lauhoff Corporation building on July 25. This public display even required participants to literally sign a document thatgave their soul to the devil. Needless to say, the organizers of the event didn’t want any Christians infiltrating their revelry.

What occurred at the unveiling party is unmentionable and was attended by more than 400 participants. Tickets were required for the event and attendees could even pay extra to get an up-close view of the statue. To combat the devil’s influence, a local group of Catholics circled the site with a six-foot-tall bronze statue of St. Michael the Archangel and continually prayed the St. Michael prayer.

The Priest’s “Secret” Prayers at Mass

Did you know that the Church gives priests celebrating the Mass several prayers to say in a low voice, such that few (if any) in the church hear them? These are called the “secret” prayers (from the Latin word for “hidden.”) May the great beauty of these prayers inform and inspire your own devotion at Holy Mass.

The priest, before proclaiming the Gospel, pauses in front of the altar to bow and pray:


10 Things You Might Be Doing Wrong at Mass

Maybe it’s because we’ve just adopted these habits, maybe we’re just lazy…let’s take a bit of a tongue-in-cheek look at some common practices that may need correction during the Holy Mass. Here are 10 things you might be doing wrong at mass.

1. Changing posture early

Seriously, what’s the deal? Why can’t we just wait ’til we actually finish the Sanctus before kneeling? Do you love kneeling that much? Do you think being the first person to sit will get you a prize? “Hey Bill, what’s that medal for?”  “Well, I sat the fastest after the collect at a mass back in ’85”  Yeah, not gonna happen.  Let’s make a point to do things together next time. Cool? Cool.


Hermits and Holiness

                         Solitude for the Sake of the Church
In Slinger, Wis., Sister Joseph Marie of the Trinity leads a simple, separated life of prayer.

She is a hermit, a particular religious vocation that the Catechism of the Catholic Church (920) describes as “a call to find in the desert, in the thick of the spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.”


Whatever Happened to Purgatory?

Have you noticed how many Catholics seem to have forgotten purgatory?

When a loved one dies they say, “Aunt Hilda has gone to be with the Lord” or “Daddy is in heaven now.” or they comfort the bereaved by saying, “George is with his beloved Gladys now.” or at Catholic funerals the preacher consoles the loved ones with talk about the departed being in heaven now.

This isn’t Catholic. It’s Protestant.


Yes, You CAN Raise Faithful Kids!

What are your chances of raising faithful kids? Answer these 5 questions.
For the Catholic parent, there is no more important task than communicating our faith to our children. That doesn’t just mean teaching our kids Catholic prayers and rituals. It means teaching them how to have a meaningful and personal relationship with God. How to think and act morally. How to love rightly and intimately. How to celebrate and live life as the gift that it is meant to be. And, ultimately, how to be saints — living witnesses to a life of grace.

As critical as this mission is, it’s understandable that many parents feel overwhelmed about the undertaking. Fortunately recent studies examining how faith is transmitted through family life is taking some of the mystery out of the process. Answer the following questions to see how effectively you are sharing the faith in your home.

How Huckleberry Finn Lives Moral Excellence in a Violent World

How does one live in the world but not be of the world? How does one grow up in a lawless society exposed to injustices in vicious forms and still preserve one’s innocence and integrity? How does a person live in the midst of murderers, swindlers, scoundrels, and bigots and not fall into temptation?

How does one live with a pure, kind heart while noticing the many cruelties inflicted by hard, cold hearts? How does one pursue a heroic, noble life in a culture of cowards, dupes, and sentimentalists who lack moral courage and manly honor?

Huckleberry Finn’s moral excellence transcends the mediocrity of worldly standards that lower man to a creature of conventions, a member of a mob, or an apathetic “average man.”

A Meditation on the Swift Brevity of Life, as Seen in a Video

The short video below shows the span of one woman’s life, some seventy years in less than two minutes. How quickly she moves through the stages of her life, from infancy to her golden years!

My mind drifted back to a photo album my father once assembled not long before his death. In the frontispiece he inscribed a passage from Psalm 103:

          But as for man, his days are like the grass,
          or as the flower of the field.
          The wind blows and he is gone,
          And his place never sees him anymore.

‘Would you like a free rosary?’

Through simple invitation, street evangelists find powerful key in bringing people back to Christ

Just three years ago, Steve Dawson took an idea and ran with it.

It was a simple idea, based on a simple concept: Spread the Gospel by going out and talking to people about it.

It was so simple, in fact, it was brilliant.
In just three short years, St. Paul Street Evangelization has gone from a seed of an idea to a multi-national evangelization apostolate with teams in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and even the Philippines. Their mission? Spread the Gospel through non-confrontational, face-to-face contact, usually with passers-by on a street corner.

Real Men Love Babies

Do real men love babies? Everything about these pooping, screaming, totally helpless little people—the babies, that is—challenges a man’s feral instincts and refined sensibilities. Yet, whether we like it or not, babies put to rest the frenzied individualism, the restless search for purpose, and the demand for instant ego gratification so predictable among the male sex. Fatherhood is an invitation to grow up faster than most of us want, and maybe this is a tiny clue as to why for men babies are so scary.

Good Reads Before School’s Back in Session

Children’s Book Picks for Summer

Summer vacation is a great time for kids to lay aside textbooks and enjoy a bit of well-earned rest and relaxation.

However, it’s also a perfect time to dive into summer reading — to get lost in books for the sheer joy of it. These titles offer a jumping-off point for summer readers, a mix of engaging stories and spiritual reading to keep kids inspired during the dog days of summer.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for July 26, 2015

All through this particular year we take our readings from 
the Gospel of Mark but because it is much shorter than 
the Gospels of Matthew and Luke it is sometimes 
supplemented by extracts from the Gospel of John. This 
is the case with the next five Sundays when we consider Christ’s extended discourse on the Bread of Life. We begin this week with the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. 

We are all very familiar with this wonderful miracle and how Christ transformed the five barley loaves and two fish into sufficient food to feed five thousand people and how he ended up with twelve hampers full of left overs. 

This, however, is no ordinary miracle. Most of Jesus’ miracles were healings or exorcisms and a couple of times raising people from the dead; but there were other miracles such as changing water into wine, walking on the water, the miraculous catch of fish and the calming of the storm. 

But this miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand is unique because it has specific overtones of the Eucharist. And it is given particular prominence here in the Gospel of John which does not have an actual celebration of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Instead it has the account of the Washing of the Feet and the long Farewell Discourse given by Jesus. 

There are several aspects of the story that link directly with the Eucharist. The first is that it took place at the time of the Passover, exactly one year before Christ’s death on the Cross. So there is a specific connection with the time when it occurred, exactly a year before the Last Supper itself. 

Another link is that it involves bread which is distributed among the people as is also done at the Eucharist. This bread feeds our bodies but in the case of the Eucharist it more importantly feeds our souls. 

Then there is the sequence of actions which is similar to that of the four actions which comprise the Eucharist: take, bless, break, give. These are the four parts of the mass: take as in the Offertory, bless as in the Eucharistic Prayer, break as the priest does at the Lamb of God and give as at the distribution of Holy Communion. 

In the account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand we clearly see how Jesus took the bread and fish from the boy and this represents the offertory where the priest receives the gifts. Then we see how Jesus gave thanks; this is the same as the blessing that occurs in the mass. The Greek word for giving thanks is eucharisteo which is the very same word used for the mass, the Eucharist. 

There is no explicit reference in the text to Jesus actually breaking the bread on this occasion but he must have done so in order for it to be distributed among the people. And then there is the giving out of the bread with its direct parallel in the mass of the distribution of Holy Communion. 

We can see then some very direct connections with the Eucharist and in the coming weeks in our Gospel readings we will see how Jesus carefully explained all this to his disciples. For example next week’s Gospel concludes with the statement, ‘I am the bread of life, he who comes to me will never be hungry, he who believes in me will never thirst.’ You couldn’t get a more direct reference to the Eucharist than that. 

There is also one other thing to be taken into account and that is the messianic expectation of the people. They have been following Jesus around for quite some time and they are growing in their understanding of his message and his significance, even though they don’t always get it quite right. 

The people have come to realize that Jesus is the Messiah and this is given expression in the reading today when they say, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ The people then decide to take him by force and make him King, but Jesus flees into the hills.

There is as we know a messianic dimension to the Eucharist. It is both a sign and a promise of the Kingdom of God. In the Eucharist we acknowledge the Kingship of Jesus, we acknowledge too his presence among us and by receiving his body and blood we are given a pledge of life eternal.

So we can see that there are a great many links between this account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and the mass, the Holy Eucharist that we celebrate today.

I’d just like to point out one other little detail in this fascinating story and that is the generosity of the boy. This little lad just happened to be there with his five barley loaves and two fish. We don’t know what he was doing with them although he was probably taking advantage of the great crowd gathered there to sell his food to them.

I’m sure that his father was waiting for him to come home with a few coins from the sale of this small amount of spare food. There is not much mention of the boy except for the fact that Andrew points out that he has some loaves and a few fish.

Then the story simply says that Jesus took them; but Jesus would never have taken them by force and there is no mention of money so it seems logical that the boy generously offered the loaves and the fish to Jesus.

He probably expected to get a scolding from his father when he got home with no money for the family. But nevertheless the boy freely hands over the loaves and fishes to Jesus. It is therefore a simple act of generosity on which this great miracle is based.

And generosity we know is at the very heart of the Eucharist; the generous love of our great God for us, the generous sacrifice of Jesus our Saviour on the Cross of Calvary for the redemption of our sins. And generosity is an important element of our relationship with each other as we gather to celebrate God’s love in the Eucharist.

We share the sign of peace together and we all share in the one bread and we feel the unity that binds together all Christians. Leaving the Church we feel especially benevolent towards each other and are generous with our time and our gifts.

You can imagine on the Day of the Resurrection that young boy arriving in heaven to meet Jesus and saying, ‘I’m the boy with the five loaves and the two fish.’ What a welcome he would receive as being the one with such a generous heart that enabled Christ to perform such a wonderful miracle, one which would become such a teaching opportunity for the whole world.

We are happy for him, but we should also be happy for ourselves when we too show a generous heart to our brothers and sisters in the human family.

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

Seventeenth Sunday: John 6 Part 1 and the First Supper

This Sunday we begin a five week focus on the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John. We do this every three years, just as we repeat all the Sunday readings every three years. That the Church should spend five weeks on John 6 demonstrates that this is one of the most important sections of the Gospels.

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

John 6: 1–15

Gospel Summary

Because of the signs Jesus was performing on the sick, a large crowd followed him as he went up on a mountain with his disciples. When Jesus saw the crowd, he said, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” Philip answered, in effect, that he did not know. Another disciple said to Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus had all the people recline. Then he took the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to the people, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. After the banquet, the disciples gathered twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that were left over. Since the people wanted to carry him off and make him king, Jesus withdrew to be alone on the mountain.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—July 26, 2015

Jesus today provides a miraculous meal for the crowd following Him, an event that looks back in history and forward to the future. How?

Gospel (Read Jn 6:1-15)

St. John tells us that near the Sea of Galilee, a large crowd was following Jesus, because they had seen Him miraculously cure the sick. Although He and His disciples “went up on the mountain,” the crowd pursued them. Then St. John inserts a detail that seems extraneous to the story: “The Jewish feast of Passover was near.” The action here has nothing to do with Passover—or does it? Why does St. John place it within a Passover context? The only possible relationship between this story about people eating and Passover is that both feature a meal. Surely St. John wants us to make that connection, keeping it in mind as the story unfolds.

The Motive for Hope

Presence of God – Make me understand well, O Lord, that my hope must be founded on You, on Your infinite merciful love.


If we had to base our hope on our own merits and on the amount of grace we possess, it would be very insecure, because we cannot be certain that we are in the state of grace, nor can we be certain about our good works which are always so full of defects. But our hope is sure because it is founded, not on ourselves, but on God, on His infinite goodness, on His salvific will which desires “all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), and on His sanctifying will that wants us not only to be saved, but also to be saints: “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

How the “Our Father” Can Change Your Life

What is one of the biggest problems in your life and in mine?

We don’t treat other people as we should. We treat them as objects of our lust, workers to fulfill our wishes, servants to obey our commands.

Our relationship problems, our marriage problems, our family problems, our work problems, our neighborhood problems, our parish problem are all because we don’t treat others with the respect, honor, love and courtesy they deserve.

Jesus: The Joy That You Seek

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness…” – St. John Paul II

It is the feast of the Passover. Jerusalem is packed with thousands upon thousands of pilgrims from all over Israel, and in fact, all over the world. They come to celebrate God’s deliverance of his people from oppression and slavery in Egypt. It is a joyful time, the high point of the Jewish year.

Jesus, too, is at the feast, but his heart is heavy. He knows the Cross awaits. He is surrounded by his disciples, loved ones, and no doubt many curious admirers clamoring for a closer view of the great prophet everyone is talking about.

Thank God For Tradition

When I became a Catholic at 19, I was overjoyed to discover a wealth of wisdom and teaching on prayer, spirituality and the faith. It was like unlocking a door to a vast library of  hidden information. This discovery was information I could count on, I could trust as authentic, tried and true. This treasure trove of tradition had passed the test of time, the test of the saints and the experts.  I realized as a Protestant who relied solely on Sacred Scripture, I had basically thrown out 2,000 years of  tradition and the faith experiences of those who had gone before me. I was surprised to learn the Bible itself urges us to follow oral traditions:

2 Thessalonians 2:15
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

How to Be a Better Disciple

There is a section of Luke’s Gospel known as the Travel Narrative. In this section, Jesus and his disciples journey to Jerusalem where redemption will occur and the Church will be born. St. Luke uses nearly ten chapters (9:51-19:27) to record this journey to Jerusalem.

Along the way, Jesus prepares his disciples for the work to which he has called them.  These lessons for discipleship offer each of us practical help for living the faith day in and day out. St. Luke packs important principles of discipleship in the opening eleven verses of the narrative.

When it Hurts: How to Share the Catholic Faith with Non-Catholics

This is for the broken hearted, those men and women who have risked sharing the faith only to be psychoanalyzed, slighted, even shamed. God knows sometimes you just need a box of Kleenex and a few hours before the Blessed Sacrament. Or a cup of coffee with your parish priest. Or a big bear hug from a friend. Or a word of encouragement like this one. This is a tiny thank you card to all the Catholics who risk telling the story of Jesus and his Church.

Your tears are watering God’s garden. Jesus wants you to share the Catholic faith with everybody, even Christians who are not yet Catholic, even though it’s testing friendships, tearing your family apart, and making you feel like a Grinch. Do not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:16). The Holy Spirit works best through tears.

Is it Harmful to Focus on the Devil?

Over the past several months we have been diving into the many tactics of the devil and have sought to better understand how Satan works in our world. While it is beneficial to know the enemy’s schemes, we shouldn’t end there. There is a great risk involved if we become too engrossed in the activity of the devil and start to believe that Satan has more control over the world than God does.

Man Was Possessed by God in Eden

Before the first man was settled in the Garden of Eden something extraordinary happened to him.

Here’s how it’s recorded in Genesis: The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it (2:15).

God took man and put him the garden. At first, it sounds pretty straightforward. But pause for a moment on the first clause: The Lord God then took the man. Think about that for a second. What does it mean to be taken by God? Does it mean anything more than the literal act of God picking up the first man and placing him in the garden?

What you should do when your prayers aren’t answered

St Teresa of Avila once said: “You pay God a great compliment by asking great things of Him.”

Those words came to mind recently when I read an account of a blind man who implored Padre Pio to restore his sight “in one eye”. The man went away, and came back to Padre Pio a few weeks later saying that he had indeed regained sight in one eye. On hearing this, Padre Pio exclaimed: “Ah! Only from one eye? Let that be a lesson to you. Never put limitations on God. Always ask for the big grace!”

Breaking News: We Are All Going to Die!

This just in . . .Everyone in the whole world will one day die!

The only exception to this inevitable event is if we are alive at the end of the world, on the last day, when the dead rise first, and then the real Christians are caught up in the air to meet and greet Jesus Christ at the Second Coming.

So many people today live as if they will never die. They never go to Church, and they never try to meditate on the Passion of Jesus Christ. They entertain themselves constantly with pornography, gourmet food, movies, TV, and computer games, etc. They never pick up the Word of God and read it, much less study it and meditate on it. What kind of evil place might these people wind up in 10, 20, 30, 50, or 80 years from now, forever, unless they repent?

Well Said: A Good Prayer for Many Sad Hearts

When my friends are in sorrow and trouble, or even when they are just without spirit, I like to pray, “Jesus, they have no wine,” or “Mary, they have no wine.” It is a good prayer for many sad hearts today.

Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage

What Does it Mean “To Stand Naked Before God?”

To stand naked before God is to stand before God as Adam and Eve stood before the Fall; before they realized they were naked and hid themselves from Him out of shame. The Church teaches, and many believe, that God is all-knowing. He knows the inner depths of our hearts, a sacred realm hardly known to us, despite our best efforts at self-awareness. It is from the heart that comes “evil thoughts, murders, adultery, [and] fornication” as well as “the springs of life” (Matthew 15:19, Proverbs 4:23). We can learn through the Psalms to pray from the depths of our heart, “Out of the depths, I cry out to you, O Lord;” the heart is an infinite depth as St. Macarios, the 4th century Syrian monk, teaches (Psalm 130:1).

Hell? What’s That?

Someone once asked the famous mystic Padre Pio, what he thought of modern people who didn’t believe in hell. His blunt reply was, “They will believe in hell when they get there.”

Must we believe in hell? Surely, when faced with Auschwitz, Hiroshima, the Boko Haram, and the barbarians of ISIS, the question should be, “Is it possible not to believe in hell?” I don’t simply refer to the fact that concentration camps were a kind of hell on earth. Instead I wonder how one can deny the existence of a place of severe and eternal punishment when faced with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, murderous jihadists, and African soldiers who chop off little girls’ hands for fun.”

Three Biblical Arguments for the Authority of the Church

My friend Al Kresta (a Catholic radio talk-show host and author) once noted that in C. S. Lewis’s famous book Mere Christianity, which was an ecumenical effort to find things that all Christians shared in common, and the “nonnegotiables” of Christianity, a central, crucial doctrine of two of the three major divisions of Christianity was omitted.

The great Anglican apologist did not include a doctrine of the Church as a binding authority in the Christian life, which is a belief strongly held by Catholics and Orthodox, but formally denied by Protestants, who hold that only Scripture is an infal­lible authority (what is known as sola Scriptura, “Bible alone”).

Appreciating the Office of Readings

The American novelist Saul Bellow once spoke about “the tyranny of perceptions,” those evanescent opinions that daily flood our society and divide it. He was concerned that these were being substituted for basic reasoning.

As we know from the work of Aquinas, forming the image of something in our minds is not the final step in the process of knowing. Rather, there is something more that we have to actually do and that is compare the idea in our minds with the reality that we are confronting. So forming an image of what happened at a police-involved shooting, for example, is not worth anything unless it agrees with the facts. Those would be the facts uncovered over time by the medical examiner and the other experts.

Similarly, when most people work with ideas about the Church, they are statistically more often under the tyranny of some half-formed perceptions rather than fully-formed ideas that actually represent the real Church and its teaching.

Jewish Man Who Survived Nazi Germany Is Now Rescuing Christians From ISIS

LONDON — George Weidenfeld was barely 18 when Nazi forces occupied his homeland of Austria in 1938. He may not have lived to see his 95th birthday — celebrated this year — if not for the selflessness and generosity of Christians during World War II.

Weidenfeld was one of countless other Jewish youths who were evacuated from Nazi-occupied countries and resettled in England through Christian-led initiatives similar to the famous Kindertransport train program. When he arrived in England, Weidenfeld said Christians fed him, clothed him and supported his resettlement.

Because Jesus Said Plenty About Marriage, and Other Inconvenient Stuff Too…UPDATED

Hey y’all. Didn’t you know that Jesus didn’t say nothin about homosexuality in the Bible? True story. You ain’t gonna find Our Lord say that particular word nowheres in the Scriptures. It’s like he never heard of that situation. Heck, everbody knows that if Jesus didn’t say it, it don’t exist. Right?

Of course, Jesus said plenty about marriage, and I’m here to tell y’all, it’s damned inconvenient to the spirit of the age nowadays. ‘Cause there ain’t nothin worse than Jesus saying nothin about something than him saying somethin and then leavin out all the good stuff that we want to hear. Can I get an Amen? ‘Cause when Jesus talks about marriage, he only mentions that it’s between a man and a woman. From since always, if you can believe that he’d know such a thing from that far back.

Under the Scapular

As I was preparing to enter the Order of Preachers, I asked my Dominican confessor a question: should I still wear my brown scapular after I became a Dominican?

I started wearing the scapular when, as a high school student, I rediscovered the faith I had been raised in.  I immediately looked for some sort of sensible sign that would express and nourish my new devotion—and I found the brown scapular that I had been enrolled with in preparation for my first communion.

The brown scapular was given to St. Simon Stock from the Bl. Virgin Mary for the entire Carmelite Order.  Mary’s special promise is that whoever wears it will be preserved from the fires of hell.

We Must Defend the Babies With Greater Strength and Strategy

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued a video statement concerning her organization’s selling of aborted-baby body parts.

Pro-life people know that these body parts came from babies who were murdered by Planned Parenthood. They watch the video of one of the doctors who does this murdering, chomping on her salad and swilling down her wine as she discusses the best way to kill the child while preserving its organs for sale.

This is ghastly, grisly business. It is grotesque.

Take Amazing 360° Tour of St. Peter’s in Vatican City From Your Chair

This 360-degree view allows you to see the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica on your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Use the toolbar to shift your view or zoom in. On a tablet or mobile device, just hold it up or turn it around to pan.

St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most spectacular churches in the world. Although some may confuse it for the “mother church” of Roman Catholics, it isn’t even a cathedral because it’s not the seat of the pope, who is also the bishop of Rome. That distinction belongs to the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. But because of its size, grandeur, and location within Vatican City, papal authorities use the church for numerous ceremonies. Its capacity is enormous—it can hold 20,000 seated worshippers or 60,000 standing.

Seek Forgiveness from Christ in Confession

We humans can be a bit fickle sometimes. What we choose to do with our time often depends directly on how the people and places with which we associate ourselves make us feel. If we don’t feel welcome in a place, we probably don’t stay long.

If we try a place or organization out on the suggestion of other people, but never really learn or understand what it’s all about, we’re also likely out the door before long. Likewise, if we devote ourselves fully to a place or organization, only to experience betrayal at the hands of that organization, surely it won’t take long for us to find a new home.

Why are we forgetting to venerate the Precious Blood?

As Catholics, we are depriving ourselves and our loved ones by not venerating the Precious Blood with more fervour and sincere reverence. Now that we are in July, the month dedicated to the Most Precious Blood, we must immerse ourselves in the awesome truth that offering the Precious Blood is a powerful means of interceding for the souls of loved ones, and for the souls of people who have wronged us.

On the Cross, Our Lord shed His Blood to atone for our sins. We owe our redemption to Our Lord’s bloody sacrifice, ‘For this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for the many, for the remission of sins’ (Matthew 26:28).

My Number One Parenting Tip

A friend of mine came to visit last week with her small army of young children. We chatted while I slathered peanut butter and jelly on slices of wheat bread and threw them at the masses. Every five minutes, we filled requests for cups of water and changed diapers and broke up scuffles over broken toys. In between the commotion she asked,

“How do you discipline your kids?”

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“Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time”

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for July 19, 2015

The authors of the Lectionary advise us frequently to  look at the First Reading and the Gospel together. Today  they seem to be both about shepherds. In the First  Reading Jeremiah castigates the shepherds and teachers  of Israel who he says have let the sheep go astray. He  warns them of the vengeance of God who will punish them for their misdeeds and neglect of their flock.

He goes on to foretell the coming of new shepherds who the Lord will raise up to tend his flock. And more than this, because he says that there will also be a new King who will rule Israel with wisdom and integrity. From our vantage point in history we don’t need to be told that this new and virtuous King is Christ himself.

In the Gospel reading we hear how the Apostles have returned from their ministry in the surrounding villages and Christ proposes that they now go to a place of rest for prayer and recuperation. However, it seems that the people had followed the Apostles and would give them no peace, not allowing them even time enough to eat.

The Apostles and Jesus go off together in a boat to a lonely place but the people follow them by land and by taking a short cut they get to the destination before them. Jesus sees the crowd and takes pity on them gathered there and so he starts to teach them at length because, as it says, they were like sheep without a shepherd. 

We are shown here the compassion of Jesus who takes pity on the people who were thirsting to hear the Word of God. This highlights the important role of shepherds, of those charged with leadership of the People of God. Even though the people tire them out with their constant demands they, following the example of Jesus, wish to serve them to the point of exhaustion. 

Switching to our own day we see that it is true that Apostles are now very much needed. We have seen a steep decline in the numbers of priests and religious in the Church; and while some lay people are stepping up to take their place it is not enough. 

In short, we are facing a tremendous crisis of leadership in the Church. Bishops and Religious Superiors have drafted in priests and religious from the developing areas of our world but still we face a shortage. 

So there is a great need for new people to take on roles of leadership in the Church; whether this be as priests, religious or lay people. From each community there should arise a sufficient number of leaders able to take on the task of supporting the work of the Church in its own particular locale. 

Here in Wealdstone we are a particularly large parish but that means that there is a lot of work to do. We certainly need more Eucharistic ministers, more readers, more catechists, more youth leaders, more altar servers and so on. But we also need others to help with preparing couples for marriage, people to support the bereaved and persons to take up positions of responsibility in our schools. 

We need too a few men who can train to become permanent deacons so that we can benefit from their preaching and ministry. There is a lot to do and we all have to realize that each one of us has a role to play within the life of the parish. 

Jesus tells the Apostles that they need to go away to a lonely place to be by themselves so that they can rest and pray. We all need this ourselves from time to time. In the Church today we often speak about going on a retreat or a pilgrimage. We go off to a holy place, whether it be a monastery or a shrine, and take some time to recharge our spiritual batteries. 

It is vital for us to do this now and again. All of us need on occasion sufficient space to reflect on our lives and to make important changes in our priorities. To do this effectively we need to set aside the necessary time for us to be alone with the Lord. 

Actually, at St Joseph’s we do this sort of thing quite well. There are many opportunities through the year to go to Lourdes or Walsingham or to other pilgrimage places. For example there is a pilgrimage to the Motherhouse of the Sisters in Sturry on 22nd August and I hope that many parishioners will join the trip.

This will be a very good way of us expressing our support for the Sisters but more importantly enabling us to spend a few hours in a holy place so that we can say our prayers and give a little time to God.

I urge you to take advantage of these opportunities to be like the Apostles and spend some time apart with like-minded people so that we can return to the pressures of everyday life spiritually refreshed and rejuvenated.

Of course, if you are not able to get away to a place of pilgrimage it is possible to do it in your own home. It is possible to set aside a day or even a few hours for private meditation. Reading a spiritual book, saying some prayers, doing the Stations of the Cross, meditating on the scriptures; all these things can be done at home.

I would urge every parishioner also to have in their home a special place for prayer. It doesn’t have to be an actual altar; it could be just a crucifix, a holy picture or a statue put in a particular corner. This small shrine can then become a place set aside for personal prayer and meditation.

Having such a place in one’s home is a great advantage and brings blessings on the whole house. It can be the place where we sit when thinking about our own difficulties or interceding with God on behalf of our family and friends. It can be a place of meditation where we keep a copy of the scriptures or our Sunday missal. It can be the place where we keep our rosary and where we use it to enlist the help of Mary in times of trouble.

In this way pilgrimage becomes part of our lives, the sacred begins to permeate our homes enabling the love of God to radiate out from there to the world around us.  

I’m not asking you to turn your homes into a Church but just to have a small corner set apart for prayer, a small place where we can easily express the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
July 19, 2015

Sixteenth Sunday: The Twenty-third Psalm

Ages and ages ago I went to a public grade school. There were no computers back in those days, no ipads or ipods, no cell phones, no DVR’s, in fact, it wasn’t until I was about 10 that people started buying color TV’s. My school days were so long ago, that the children in public schools actually began their school day with prayer. Imagine that if you can. It wasn’t much, though. Someone would read from the Bible, then everyone would say the Lord’s Prayer, with the Catholic kids not saying “Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory”, because that was the Protestant version of the Our Father, not the Catholic version, and God forbid that Catholics do anything Protestant.

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 6: 30–34

Gospel Summary

We can almost picture the disciples telling Jesus excitedly about how busy and successful they have been. They are tired now but also elated. In a contemporary setting, we might well expect Jesus to say, “Well done. Keep up the good work. In fact, you might want to pick up the pace just a little.” But he says instead, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time,Year B—July 19, 2015

Jesus took His apostles away for a quiet retreat after their exhausting preaching mission. It didn’t go exactly as planned. Why?

Gospel (Read Mk 6:30-34)

St. Mark tells us that when the apostles returned to Jesus after a busy mission of preaching and healing (see Mk 6:7-13), He wanted them to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” They all went off in a boat so they could have an opportunity to catch their breath, because “people were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.” This simple description gives us an idea of how intense Jesus’ public ministry got at times. It’s easy for us to forget that although there were times of quiet for Jesus and the Twelve, they lived and moved amidst crowds of people with pressing needs. This invitation to rest after their work is an echo of the Creation story, when God worked and then rested.

Do Not Be Afraid, For Evil Cannot Withstand the Power of Jesus 

Evil, no matter how powerful it seems, cannot stand. It will ultimately self-destruct and be overcome by the Light.
Some Pharisees, likely disingenuous in their motives, approach Jesus to warn him that he needs to leave immediately: Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you. Jesus says simply:

Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.’ (Luke 13:32)

Patriarchs Are People Too – A Reflection on the Fact That the Bible Speaks Frankly About the Faults of Our Heroes

Over the years, I have written a number of articles on the men of the Bible: many of the patriarchs of the Old Testament such as Abraham, Moses, David, Eli, and most recently, Lot and Jacob. Likewise, I’ve written on Peter and Paul, and on John the Baptist.

I find the biblical portraits of these men (and also many women as well) fascinating and often brutally honest.

“This again?”

Have you ever caught yourself in the middle of complacency? The other day I was flipping through my Missal to see what the daily Mass readings would be.  When I saw we were going through the stories of Genesis, my immediate reaction was, “Genesis again? Didn’t we just read that?”

Almost mid-thought, I stopped myself. Yes, we did. Two years ago, the last time we were in Year 1 in the weekday cycle. But what a lousy response.  I should be thinking, “Genesis again! Yes!”

Of course, I was wrestling with perfectly human reactions, but that doesn’t mean they were good ones.   I had clearly become complacent when it came to Scripture, and it was a good a wakeup call.

Extraordinary Faith from Ordinary Catholics

“In the doctrine of Christ there is no invitation to mediocrity, but a clear call to Heaven, to love and to cheerful sacrifice.” (Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God)

Feeling let down by politicians and public figures who say they are Catholic, but whose words and actions are often contrary to the teachings of the Church? Do we seek good examples for ourselves, our children or our grandchildren to emulate because we hope they will demonstrate in word and deed what it means to be authentically Catholic?  Perhaps we are looking in the wrong places. Maybe for too long we have placed the wrong people on pedestals. It is entirely possible that we need look no further than our own parishes, workplaces and communities for good examples, or as we may want to call them, “regular Catholic heroes.”

The Most Essential Question of Every Liturgy – A Meditation on a Teaching From Joseph Ratzinger

There is a legend of how the liturgy and the Faith took hold in Rus (Russia). Prince Vladimir of Kiev was seeking a right worship for his people and sent representatives to look into various faiths and also liturgies. When emissaries went south to observe the Greek Christian Liturgy, they returned saying that they were not sure if they had been in Heaven or on Earth, so beautiful was what they had seen in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. They were sure that God dwelt there among men.

Why Does Spiritual Direction Matter?

St. Bernard of Clairvaux once said, “He who constitutes himself his own spiritual director is the disciple of a fool.” Why would such a gentle saint make such a harsh statement?

It is because he saw many good souls get stuck spiritually.

He once also lamented that many who make initial progress in the interior life get stuck and very few make it past the most basic progress. St. John of the Cross also reveals in his writings that very few gain the great graces of the life that God desires to give them because they don’t understand the spiritual life.

Respectable or Faithful?

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

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

The simple prayer practice that will change your life

In an age where we have made numerous technological advances that are meant to save time, we find ourselves busier than ever. What does this mean for the spiritual life? The most common answer to “why don’t you pray on a daily basis” is “I have no time.” Yet, is that really an excuse?
Jim Beckman in his book God, Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer put it this way:

3 Simple Prayers for When Praying is Hard

Every Christian has at least one time in their faith journey when they feel spiritually dry. For some, this time in the spiritual desert lasts for a brief period of time and for others it lasts for a lifetime. While spiritual dry spells can encourage great spiritual growth, they are also a very trying time on a person’s soul. Spiritual dryness can lead to spiritual apathy which makes it hard to do the simplest tasks – even praying.

If you’ve spent a prolonged time in the midst of a dry spell, sometimes it can be too hard to even muster a simple Hail Mary or Our Father. I know I’ve been there. I will start praying an Our Father, and get sidetracked about three lines in. So many words; so many lines (or so it seems, when prayer is hard).

Throughout my wanderings in the spiritual desert, I’ve come to rely on a few very short and sweet prayers that are quick to utter while still expressing what is on my heart.

Not Peace, but a Sword

In our Advent liturgies we look forward to the coming of the Prince of Peace, who will bring us back to God against whom mankind had sinned. But when the Prince of Peace came, he said that he also brought a “sword.” As we follow Jesus in our everyday life, we get an idea of this sword which is ever-present for those who follow Christ.
The sword represents conflicts, challenges and even violence. At the presentation of the infant Jesus at the Temple, the holy man Simeon rejoiced at seing the Messiah as promised by the Lord and told Mary his Mother, “See him; he will be for the rise or fall of the multitudes of Israel, He shall stand as a sign of contradiction, while a sword will pierce your own soul.” (Lk 3:  34b – 35a)

Get to know the First Saturday Devotion

As so many of the saints know, devotion to Mary is a key trait of those Christians who are most perfectly conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
“The greatest saints, those richest in grace and virtue will be the most assiduous in praying to the most Blessed Virgin, looking up to her as the perfect model to imitate and as a powerful helper to assist them.” (St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, #46)
In my own journey of faith, devotion to Mary has time and again been the critical step in my returning to right paths when I have strayed. And not surprisingly, I have my own mother to thank for that.

The Only Love that Gives Meaning

“I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints for the sake of Christ.”
My encounter with a widow a few years ago moved me to examine closely the authenticity of my love for Jesus. She had a mint clean Mercedes Benz car in good condition locked up in her garage. She confessed that she never liked the car herself and seldom used it because of its high gas consumption and insurance costs. When I asked her why she still kept it despite her dislike for it and her having other cars at her disposal, she replied, “My husband cared for this car so much and I am just trying to care for it as he did.” I had to respect the fact that she was in this particular stage of the grieving process.

Attending Mass is an Act of Humility

“Attending Mass is an act of humility…”
I woke up this morning with those words running through my mind. I don’t know what I was dreaming, or even if I was dreaming. The thought was just there, scrolling like a marquee across my burgeoning consciousness as I rolled half-asleep from the bed and launched into my morning routine. It stayed in the forefront of my mind during the drive to work drowning out the drivel on NPR (National Public Radio). It followed me to lunch and stared unnervingly as I ate my warmed-over chili-mac. It is sitting on my shoulder right this moment assuring me that the only way to exorcise its presence is to explore the concept in writing in some depth. So here goes.

Understanding What it Means to be Devout

The word devotion, which is derived from the Latin, answers to that of devotedness — a vowing of ourselves, a consecration of ourselves. A devout person is, then, a person devoted to God, consecrated to God. There is no stronger expression than that of devotion to mark that disposition of the soul of a person who is ready to do everything and to suffer everything for Him to whom he is devoted.

Five Ways to Approach Jesus Through Mary

In God’s infinite wisdom, He decided to come into the world to save all of humanity in His Incarnation, but also through the generous “Yes” and collaboration of Mary. Mary is the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, and she is our Mother in the order of grace!

The saints, the true friends of God and our models and patterns to imitate, unanimously agree on the indispensable role that God has chosen in choosing Our Lady, Mary most holy, as a most sure means and instrument for our eternal salvation.  Why not follow in the footsteps of the saints and skyrocket in holiness?   By giving ourselves to Jesus through the hands and Immaculate Heart of Mary we will be travelling speedily on the highway to holiness which ends up in heaven—our eternal resting place!

On the Loss of Friends

The barstool where Vince Flynn often sat in Eric and Kathy Schneeman’s Mendota Heights, Minn., home reminds the couple of happy times spent with him and his family before the noted author lost his three-year battle with prostate cancer in 2013.

“I believe time heals loss,” Eric said. “God gives us peace of mind during the time it takes to heal that loss.”

If our friend has died, our faith gives us hope that the friendship hasn’t ended.

To Be a Fool

To be a fool for the Lord. On the surface, this can simply mean to not be afraid to be silly before the Lord, to go to Him without a care, and to do (good) crazy things for love of Him. It is a joyous thing. But it also means to keep being a fool for Him even in the midst of suffering, when times are difficult, when loving Him is hard.

Our God can be a difficult God to get along with, as He often asks for much more than He will give, on this side of Heaven. He often asks us to give up worldly comfort, financial stability, lucrative or influential positions. He sometimes takes loved ones from us before their old age – babies and children, lovers, friends. He takes good health from us, most often in small and inconvenient ways, but sometimes through disease, cancer, or terminal illness. Sometimes He even strips us of honor, our good names, reputations. All of this from a God who loves us!

Sign of hope

Flying out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport yesterday, this sign caught my eye:


It’s a reminder of the invaluable airport chaplaincy that serves so many faithful travelers shuttling around the world. (That sign dissolved into another message: “God Bless Our Troops,” which made me wonder how much longer such a shockingly religious message will be permitted in a public place before someone complains…but I digress.)

“Spiritual but not Religious” How Do You do That?

“I’m spiritual but not religious” is one of the catch phrases you’ll hear a good bit these days.

My question about this is, “How do you do that?”

Just exactly what do you do to be spiritual without being religious?

Do you kind of sit quietly from time to time and think beautiful thoughts?

Evangelical pastor says the Catholic Church is leading the way in evangelization

Influential evangelical and Alpha pastor Rev Nicky Gumbel yesterday sang the praises of the Catholic Church for being at the fore in bringing new Christians to faith in Jesus.
Gumbel, of Holy Trinity Brompton, the heart of Anglican church growth in the diocese of London and the nation, told a gathering of nearly 900 Catholic bishops, priests and laity: “I love the Catholic Church – she is leading the way in evangelisation.”

The Three Views of the Human Person

There are two ways to view the world. We either attempt to see the world rightly as it was intended by the divine author, or we fancy ourselves the arbiters of truth and pronounce the nature of things by our own lights.

When it comes to the human person there are at least three distinct ways to see and understand man. Not surprisingly, these three ways correspond to our tripartite human condition as Plato might have us understand it. He said we have a belly, head and heart. By the belly we can understand our physical selves as interpreted by the five senses and our appetites. By the head we can infer the faculty of the intellect and our rational capacity. By the heart we can recognize our wills to love and hate by the freedom of our own autonomous choices.

10 Great Reasons to be Catholic in 2015

Being Catholic is amazing, isn’t it?  Even after almost 2,000 years, not much has changed…we’re still a sign of contradiction in the world and the Church is still the Rock.  But sometimes it’s painfully clear that this earth is not our home and the culture isn’t exactly friendly to our faith.  But have no fear! Here are 10 great reasons to be Catholic in 2015.

1. The Mass

It was a great reason to be Catholic during the First Century too.  It has always been a great reason, probably the greatest reason.  Jesus Himself alive and in the Flesh.  Doesn’t get any better.

Pray the Most Holy Rosary!

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once explained the goal of prayer by deliberating on age. He asked the question, “What does it mean to get old?” He answered that we get old in a measure that determines our chronological distance from the source of life. We are born and we count the increasing years that further separate us from the womb; our parents’ participation in the divine act of creation, our source of life. The further we grow away from the source of life, the more difficult it becomes to maintain our innocence and purity in this vale of tears. So the Venerable Archbishop Sheen reminds us that the end of prayer is to grow closer to the source of life, to grow closer to God. We live in an age when growing younger is a material obsession. Uncountable material resources go into extending our temporal lives. However, the only true fountain of youth available to human souls is by prayer and growing closer to Christ, the source of all life.

In Mathew 18:3, Christ says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

An Image of dying and rising in a touching cartoon.

One of the greatest paradoxes told to us in the Scriptures is that if we would save our life, we must lose it in Christ (Luke 9:24). That is, we must die to this world to inherit eternal life. “Eternal” does not simply refer to the length of the afterlife, but to its fullness as well. To inherit eternal life is to become fully alive.

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Pastoral Sharings: "Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for July 12, 2015

The Gospel today tells us how Jesus sent the Apostles out 
in pairs to the surrounding villages to preach the Gospel. 
The Apostles were at an important stage in their 
apprenticeship; they had heard the teaching of Jesus and 
they had seen him perform miracles and cast out demons and now it was time for them to put all this into practice.

You could call it work experience. It sounds as though they did well at it too; they did bring the Gospel to others and it seems as though they did cast out demons and cure some people. So they get top marks for their short probation.

The text today is sandwiched between the account of Jesus preaching in the Synagogue of Nazareth which we heard last week and then a report of how Herod was perturbed when he heard about the ministry of Jesus, at first thinking he was John the Baptist now risen from the dead. This gives Mark the opportunity to tell his readers just how John had been executed by Herod.

So all we know about the sending out of the Apostles in Mark’s Gospel is contained in this short paragraph. It is worth looking at it though because there are a couple of interesting details. Jesus tells them, ‘to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses’.

This means they go out vulnerable; they don’t have the ordinary things a traveller would need. It means they are dependent on the people to whom they are sent and must rely on their generosity. Jesus understands quite well that by putting his Apostles at what seems at first to be a disadvantage it actually becomes the secret of their success.

If the Apostles had turned up at a village with a lot of gear, with money and whatever else they would ordinarily need for a journey they would be quite independent. They could pay for their digs and their food and would be free as to where they could go and to whom they would preach.

But without any of these things the Apostles are not free; they are utterly dependent on their hosts for accommodation, for food, for washing and for everything else. This means that they become very close to their hosts; it means that they have to be sympathetic to the situation of those they are living with; it means that they have to experience the lives and problems of the particular family.

This puts them in quite a different category from all the other wandering preachers who tended to be a fierce and very independent lot. The Apostles are in a position of dependency and this becomes the secret of their success. It means their message is more likely to be accepted and it means that they understand the sicknesses and troubles in the family of their hosts.

Jesus goes on to say, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’

This is good advice. The longer they stay with one family the better; if that happens to be a poor family then it would not make a good impression if they then moved on to the house of someone who happened to be richer. No, it is much better if they stay in the one place sharing the lot of those who first extend hospitality to them.

Of course, if no one welcomes them then that is a sure sign it is better for them to move on to another village more open to their message.

The instructions Jesus gives them are good and by doing what Jesus tells them they meet with success and this affirms the Apostles and helps to prepare them for the time when they eventually have to do this work by themselves.

Things are a bit different today. We have established Churches and special houses for the priests to live in and the people support their ministry by their weekly offerings. But even today it is important that those who are engaged in ministry do not live a wildly different lifestyle from the people to whom they are ministering. 

A year or so ago Pope Francis in his typically straightforward way told all the priests that they should have the smell of the sheep about them. After all, he said, no one would think a shepherd was very effective unless he smelled of his sheep.

We regard a life of simplicity as the hallmark of someone who is effective in spreading the Gospel. I think any of us would find it difficult to speak about our problems with someone who we felt was far above us socially or materially. It would also be harder to believe someone who was speaking about the Gospel if they did not share our everyday concerns.

Some Religious Orders focus on the rich and the powerful because they believe that it is through them that they can have the most influence on society at large. This may be a good thing. But it is not the way of our Order, the Salvatorians.

Our Founder specifically wanted us to work with the ordinary people of this world. He believed that it is in focusing on the vast majority of working people that we can achieve the most. I have to say that I feel happier as a member of such an Order rather than one that works mostly with the elite.

The main aim of the Salvatorians is to spread the Gospel as widely as possible and Father Jordan, our Founder, told us to proclaim the Word of God in a very simple and straightforward way so that every single person can understand it.

I think that this particular Gospel passage has great relevance for anyone who aims to bring the Good News to others. Of course, we know that is a task not confined to the clergy or to religious sisters and brothers. It is the job of every single member of the Church.

The message of hope from today’s Gospel is that we don’t have to communicate the Gospel in highfaluting or overly technical language. We will be far more effective if we just use ordinary words and simple concepts. We don’t have to have spent years of study before we can explain what Christ means; we can do it quite easily using concepts we already understand.

The crucial point in the text is that by doing things Jesus’ way the Apostles get close to the people, they understand their concerns and they share their life. There is no better way of communicating the love of God to the people around us than this.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
July 12, 2015

Fifteenth Sunday: Amos and Us–Everyday People

Called to Prophesy

Today’s first reading is from the Book of the Prophet Amos.  Amos was quite different than most of the prophets we come upon in Hebrew Scriptures.  He did not wear strange clothes like Ezekiel and Jeremiah.  He was not a prophet throughout his life like Isaiah or Samuel.  He did not even do strange prophetic actions like Elijah, Hosea and most the prophets.   

Amos was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees.  These were every day type jobs for an every  day sort of a guy.  He lived just south of the border between the Kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom, the kingdom of Israel.  One day he received the message from God that he was to drop everything, cross the border into the Northern Kingdom, go to the holy city of the North, Bethel, and tell the people that they were facing destruction unless they changed their lives.

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 6: 7–13
Gospel Summary

Jesus summons the Twelve and sends them out two by two. He gives them power over unclean spirits, and instructs them to take nothing for their journey but a walking stick. He warns them about rejection: people will not always welcome them or listen to them. The disciples go out and preach repentance, drive out many demons, anoint the sick with oil and cure them.

Note that the English word “repentance” does not adequately convey the meaning of the Greek verb that Mark uses in his gospel (literally “to change the mind”). In Mark’s usage the word implies a prophetic call to interpret reality in a radically new way, as from blindness to sight. “Repentance” is at once a gift and the task of turning and surrendering to God in a way that embraces every aspect of life. A New Testament example of the reality to which the word points is the conversion experience of Paul. For Paul, that radical change of direction means to live with the mind and heart of Christ (1 Corinthians 2: 6–16).

Fifteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year B—July 12, 2015

In our Gospel today, Jesus summons, sends, and shapes the Twelve for mission. How?

Gospel (Read Mk 6:7-13)

St. Mark describes the first preaching mission Jesus gave to the Twelve, and it is full of instruction helpful to us. First, He summoned them—a call to action that organized and directed them. The initiative here is all His. After He summoned them, He sent them out two by two. Why couldn’t they go out alone? “It is not good for man to be alone.” Human companionship and mutual support would be most important on a mission like this. Jesus did not undertake His own mission alone, either. Then, “He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick.” Why this radical simplicity? Surely it was training for the apostles to practice the single-minded dedication their vocation would require of them. They were to begin learning to take seriously the teaching of Jesus: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…But seek first [God’s] kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:31, 33). As God had sent Jesus into our world in simplicity to save us, Jesus likewise sent His apostles.

‘Evangelize Not With Grand Words … but With the Joy of the Gospel,’ Pope Says

QUITO, Ecuador – In his second homily while visiting Ecuador, Pope Francis spoke on Tuesday of the importance of fostering unity through evangelization, which he said is not done by preaching at people, but by being a joyful witness to the Gospel we have received.

“We evangelize not with grand words, or complicated concepts, but with the joy of the Gospel, which fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,” the Pope said July 7.

Cross Bearers Needed

In March of this year my father sent out an email to his family marking an important date in his life. It was the anniversary of the day, at thirty years old, he woke up paralyzed. Forty-eight years had passed. I was only eight years old, and the oldest of five children. I cannot remember my father standing upright and living a normal, pain-free life. From that fateful morning, life for him and my mom has been arduous.

My siblings and I learned at a very young age to walk softly, step up and help out, and to pray hard for miracles. I have memories of us all kneeling around my parent’s bed reciting the rosary and intently watching his legs to see if God would make a miracle. I can remember him holding the rosary as tears rolled down his cheeks, embracing the only hope that kept him going.

God is Asking Something Heroic of Us

“The disciple of Christ consents to ‘live in the truth,’ that is, in the simplicity of a life in conformity with the Lord’s example, abiding in his truth. ‘If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth.” (CCC, 2470)

I first interacted with Father Roger Landry in early 2010 when Deacon Mike Bickerstaff and I were seeking Catholic writers for our new Integrated Catholic Life website. I came across an online article online written by Fr. Landry that impressed me. This Catholic priest wrote with great clarity about the truth of our Catholic faith, and I became an immediate fan of his writing.

Don’t Forget That Jesus Is True Man

Can God be painted?

This question tore apart the Eastern Christian world in the eighth and ninth centuries. One element of these iconoclast controversies (apart from whether the use of icons in Christianity violated the Old Testament prohibition of the making and use of graven images) was the question of whether Christ could truly be depicted in an image. After all, any true image of Christ must show both his humanity and his divinity; but how do you show the infinite? How do you describe the indescribable? Some even went so far as to say that Christ himself, being God, could not have possessed any finite characteristics, so that he must have had all possible colors of hair, all possible shapes of nose, all possible sizes of shoes. The absurdity of this should be self-evident.

In Times of Trouble, Look to the Lord!

There was a moment in Peter’s life when he faced the choice of whether to focus on the storm or on the Lord. It is in the memorable gospel story in which Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus. As the Gospel recounts,

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink (Mt 14:30).

It is so difficult for us. We seem wired for the negative, wired to be anxious, doubtful, and on the alert for any danger. It takes great faith to keep our sights focused on the Lord, who alone can and will save us if we trust in Him. But too easily the world, the flesh, and the devil seek to steal our serenity and snatch from us our ability to see God. And losing that ability, whether through neglect or weakness, we are overwhelmed by the fears of the world. So often our loss of the sight of God has us frantically running about wondering what to do. Scripture says…..

Praying with the boss at work

Saying prayers with colleagues would feel a bit uncomfortable, too intimate an activity in the workplace for many people.

Yet at Chinese real estate giant Tiantai Group, known as Tentimes Group in English, that is exactly what they do in the boardroom before making important decisions.

Three-quarters of the firm’s eight-strong senior management team are Christians and founder and chairman Wang Ruoxiong, who himself became a Christian seven years ago, says that when the company has to make difficult decisions, it turns to the Bible for guidance.

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

THE angel Gabriel, in the mystery of the Annunciation, informed the Mother of God that her cousin Elizabeth had miraculously conceived, and was then pregnant with a son who was to be the precursor of the Messias. The Blessed Virgin out of humility concealed the wonderful dignity to which she was raised by the incarnation of the Son of God in her womb, but, in the transport of her holy joy and gratitude, determined she would go to congratulate the mother of the Baptist. “Mary therefore arose,” saith St. Luke, “and with haste went into the hilly country into a city of Judea, and entering into the house of Zachary, saluted Elizabeth.”

Who Is the Valiant Woman in the Book of Maccabees

After the death of Alexander the Great, his generals divided his empire into regional sections. Soon, the holy land of Judaea was controlled by a dynasty of kings known as the Seleucids. There were good kings and bad kings in the Seleucid dynasty. King Antiochus Epiphenes IV was a bad king. At first, he “spoke peaceable words to [the Jews] and they believed him” (1 Maccabees 1:30). But later, the emboldened king marched into Palestine and “murdered many people of Israel.” The tyrant “took captive of the women and children,” looted the holy temple itself, and defiled the sanctuary.

Why Aquinas’ Argument for God Succeeds and Others Fall Short

Does God exist? Readers here at Strange Notions are well aware that throughout the centuries there have been no few attempts in constructing arguments to support an affirmative answer to this question. This is no less true today (I previously took a shot at making my humble contribution to the discussion here at Strange Notions, which you can read in six parts). Christian philosophers have put forth a considerable amount of effort in constructing supporting arguments for God’s existence. As good as some of these arguments are, however, in my opinion they often fall short in accomplishing what arguments in the Thomistic tradition accomplish.

Why Did Jesus Say On The Cross That God Had Forsaken Him?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus cried out on the cross, why God has forsaken Him?  What did that mean?

Did the Father Forsake Jesus?

We read of the account where Jesus cried out to the Father about being forsaken just before He died in Matthew 27:45-50 “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?‘ And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, ‘This man is calling Elijah.’  And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink.  But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’  And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.”

The Dignity of the Human Person and the Right to Life

In the battle to win hearts and minds to the cause of life, it is sometimes necessary to speak in non-religious terms.  This is certainly possible and effective.

For example, medical science and biology can help us defend the lives of unborn children and argue persuasively for an end to abortion.

An unborn child is alive.

An unborn child is demonstrably human.

An unborn child is a unique human life with DNA that is distinct from each parent.

These are scientific facts. The unborn child does not have the potential to be a human life, the unborn child is already a human life. Fact.

The Best Advice for Discerning God’s Will

Personally I have had to discern God’s will many times over the years. At first I had to make the big decision of what to do after high school. In the last two years before I graduated, I had a deep conversion and sincerely wanted to do God’s will. At first I thought I was called to enter college and then get married. While praying, I didn’t have a lot of peace about the situation, but I really liked this girl that I was dating. I didn’t want to give it all up, so I persisted and applied to a local university.

Saints: Our Unseen Prayer Partners

Some of my non-Catholic friends find prayer to the saints ooky. They ask me, “Since when is talking to a bunch of dead guys Christian?”

Since biblical times. Consider Moses. He had been a dead guy for several centuries when Christ began his ministry, yet he was intensely interested in earthly doings judging by his behavior on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:30-31). Likewise the various deceased saints in Revelations seem intensely interested in our affairs. So too those mysterious dead folk who visited Jerusalem on Good Friday (Matthew 27:52-53). All this seems to indicate our connection with the dead is unbroken by death.

Love & the Mystery of Sacramental Marriage

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in Christ and in the Church. — St. Paul

We have seen that the primary meaning of marriage — which enables it to serve as an image of the relationship between the soul and God — consists of that closest communion of love whereby two persons become one: one heart, one soul, and one flesh. But what relation does this communion bear toward Jesus, toward the salvation of the soul, and toward the Kingdom of God?

God, Not the State, is the Author of Human Dignity

What do you think of the idea that human dignity is something innate, and not something that the State bestows? Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas – a Catholic – tried to make this argument on June 26, and ignited an immediate firestorm of derision and protest notable for its ferocity.

New Republic called it “disgraceful”. Alternet called it “horrifying”.

Huffington Post said it was the “weirdest”. Fusion was left in a state of shock: “jaw-dropping”. Salon judged it “offensive”. Slate called it “petty, hypocritical, and embarrassing”, though in doing so, they grouped Thomas together with the three other dissenting justices (Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and Samuel Alito – all Catholics, incidentally)

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness: 15 Catholic Reflections on Inalienable Truths

As we Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it’s a great time to look at some statements of Catholics over the years on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Turns out, we Catholics love all three.

This July 4th, let’s remember to pray for our nation and all of those in America. Let’s pray that God blesses us with the willingness to protect and promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because if we no longer protect innocent life, if we no longer recognize the nature of liberty, if we are no longer allowed the pursuit of happiness, then misery will pursue us.

Jealousy and Judgement

The Gospel of John is different in some significant ways from the three synoptic Gospels. It is more literary and symbolic. St. John leads us theologically deeper into mysteries of God and the created Cosmos. From the beginning man has been imbued with the desire to know the nature of God and the created order, for as Aristotle said “all men desire to know.”

How the Holy Rosary Could Heal the World

Today as I was praying the holy rosary I began to see why this simple devotion is so powerful.

I began to see how the Holy Rosary might heal our common sickness and bring healing to the whole world.

To understand how the healing works we first have to understand the sickness.

Anti-Catholic history in US shows Church has survived and will continue, historian says

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2015 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As bishops warn of current threats to religious liberty in the United States, Catholics can take heart that such challenges have faced them before, and they have persevered, one Church historian says.

The Rosary: Our Response for the Family

Have we lost control of country? Are we powerless to respond to the crisis of family life? In the midst of the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, it is important to remember that God orders all things by his providence. He allows us to suffer and face challenges, as a means of sharing in his crucified kingship.

A Nigerian Bishop, His Excellency Oliver Dashe Doeme, received an important reminder of this reality when the Lord appeared to him. In response to the devastation of his community by Muslim terrorism, Jesus showed him how he could lead his flock to overcome this deadly threat:

Our Lives: More Than a Snapshot

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

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

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

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

We’re Catholics. Everything’s Connected

I heard about this Methodist minister who  had decided to make his church more liturgical so on Ash Wednesday he got some ashes from the fireplace and added some water and smeared the mess on the heads of his people.

Thinking he could do better he trotted off to the Catholic priest and asked, “Where do you get those tidy ashes you use for Ash Wednesday?”

“We create the ashes for Ash Wednesday on Shrove Tuesday by burning the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration.”

The Methodist was awestruck, “Gee, all this Catholic stuff’s connected!”

The Shroud of Turin and Technoscience

COMMENTARY: The more the cloth is investigated, the more the evidence accumulates for its authenticity.

Our train was speeding up the Italian peninsula at 100-plus miles an hour.

Equipped with PowerPoints, flat screens and Wi-Fi, it was the epitome of everything techno-scientific about the modern age.

The clash, therefore, with our vacation destination pushed the irony as fast and as far as the train itself, for we were going to venerate the Shroud of Turin.

[Video] How My Family Dresses for Mass

When my friend Eric Coughlin from Two Sense Films emailed me describing his new project, I thought it was a great idea. He wanted to create a short movie on dressing respectfully for Mass. His last film on altar servers was fantastic so I knew this would be another winner.

Then Eric asked if my family wanted to participate. I told him we would be honored. But I quickly added that, with four kids six and under, getting everyone ready for Mass often resembles a hostage negotiation. He said that was fine. Eric came over early one morning, filmed us getting ready, accompanied us to Mass, and the kids had a blast.

This morning he released the finished project. Please watch and share it around!

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Pastoral Sharings: "Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fourteenth Sunday: Power Made Perfect In Weakness

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

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 6: 1–6.

Gospel Summary

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

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

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

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

Gospel (Read Mk 6:1-6a)

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

God’s Glory as the Source and Sustainer of Life

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

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

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

Fifteen Ways Christ Suffered in Love

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

I Believe in Life

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

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

Eight Beatitudes to Foster Love in the Home

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

Pope tells parents to be mindful of children’s suffering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Wins When Freedom Is Used To Love God Above All

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

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

Let’s Fall in Love

Some things make you feel just a little more alive.

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

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

Indeed, love completes us as human beings.

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

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

6 Things You Need for Prayer

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

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

Stuck in Traffic? Try Drive-By Prayers

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

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

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

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

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

How to Dream Like Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

Chesterton: The Youth Will Save the Church

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

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


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

9 Epic Authors Tell 13 Epic Confession Stories

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

Brooke M. Gregory

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

Rosary For the Persecuted (and Their Persecutors)

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

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

Conversion Story

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

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

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

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

Abandonment and the Church of Martyrs

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

Making Ordinary Time Extraordinary

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 10 Books That Have Influenced Me Most

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pastoral Sharings: "Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thirteenth Sunday: The Results of Sin

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

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 5: 21–43

Gospel Summary

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

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

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

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

Gospel (Read Mk 5:21-43)

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

My Daily Desire: ‘Be Jesus Today’

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

Be Jesus Today

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

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

The Thrill of Anticipation: Encountering God in the Eucharist

How Previous Ages have seen the Eucharist

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

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

Respectable or Faithful?

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

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

St. John the Baptist

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

Paul the Convert

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

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

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

The Sacrament of Penance and Hollywood

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

Biblical Typology: The Best Method To Read Scripture

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

A Powerful Parable Against the Premises of Unbelief

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

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

Bring on the Temptations!

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

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

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

United We Stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did the Apostles Pray the Rosary?

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

The Logic of Baptism

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

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

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

Or does it?

Overcoming the Passions: the Habits of Sin

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

Four Common Tactics of the Devil

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

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

A World without Consequences

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

The Shroud of Turin: Fact, Fable and Mystery

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

The Smartest Man I Ever Met

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

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

The Resurrection of Sacred Architecture

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

Loving God through the Magisterium

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

The Mystery of Being a Priest

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

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

Lessons From A Monastery: Keeping Tradition Alive

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

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

Who said that?

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

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

Spirit World Primer

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

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"Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twelfth Sunday: Peace in the Turmoil

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

Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 4: 35–41

Gospel Summary

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

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

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

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

Gospel (Read Mk 4:26-34)

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

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

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

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

Jesus, the Great “Amen”?

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

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

Apostolic Succession

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

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

Flesh and Spirit

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

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

Five Ways to Seek Grace in our Life

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

A Catholic Version of Success

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

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

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

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

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

Three Mysteries that Cry out from the Gospel

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

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

What is a ‘mystery of the cry’?

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

Why I Remain a Catholic

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

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

Catholic Religion Quiz, Part II

Continuing from last time in this space…

9. The Eucharist is

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

B) whatever you believe it in your heart to be

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

A Good Man’s Happy Death

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

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

Fatherhood – A Vocation of Love

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

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

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

Life — A Bold Undertaking

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

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

Handing On the Faith We Received

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

Our Children Deserve the Truth

The sun is shining this morning, here and now.

That is an objective truth.

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

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

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

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

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

Five Steps to Surviving a Crisis in Marriage

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

Is Tolerance A Good Thing?

Words have meaning.

Thoughts have consequences.

Unfortunately, these are important concepts that have escaped some.

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

Lessons From A Monastery:Why a Habit?

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

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

Norcia Monks Rebuild the Foundations of Christian Culture

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

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

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

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

A Fraternitas Update

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

Teenagers and Truth

What is truth?

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


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