Pastoral Sharings: "Sixth Sunday of Easter"

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

John 15: 9–17 

Gospel Summary 

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

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

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

Life Implications

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it is not all the same.  True love is a choice that demands sacrifice.  People who fall in and out of love have not made a choice that demands sacrifice, or at least one of them has not. 
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Pray Always?
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“Seriously? Pray always?”

That is not an uncommon reaction to St. Paul’s admonition to pray always without ceasing. Does he know what we’re up against, the demands on our time and energy, the pace of our modern world, not to mention the fragility and inconsistency of our human nature? He can’t possibly mean always, as in, all the time and everywhere. Impossible!
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The Discovery of the Holy Cross
GOD having restored peace to His Church, by exalting Constantine the Great to the imperial throne, that pious prince, who had triumphed over his enemies by the miraculous power of the cross, was very desirous of expressing his veneration for the holy places which had been honored and sanctified by the presence and sufferings of our blessed Redeemer on earth.
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The Rulers of Jesus’ Time
Both Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas were important men, respected and feared. Pi­late was the Roman prefect in Judea, Caiaphas the high priest of the Jerusalem Temple. Both were accomplished men who had risen far in their chosen fields. They had to deal often with one another, negotiating a fragile peace and maintaining a difficult order in the land it was their lot to share. Each man seems to have had a measure of respect for the other and his people — oddly mixed with a measure of contempt.
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Truth or Consequences
One of our basic beliefs as Catholics is that Mary is, in a curious way, always referred to Jesus. Her own words at the wedding in Cana (John 2) stand as a sort of emblem of all that she has to say to us: “Do whatever he tells you.” She directs us to her Son.
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A Mother’s Serenity Prayer
When the heat goes out and the temperature is minus-two degrees outside and I wonder when the oil company will arrive to save us from this dangerous situation,

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

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

—Lord, help me to accept hardship as a pathway to peace, to take as Jesus did the sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.
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10 Things That Are Strengthening the Family
It’s impossible to dispute any item on Father Dwight Longenecker’s list of things that are killing the family. To have eyes is to see that we are in deep trouble, for all the reasons he notes.

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

It’s tempting for conservatives to get so appalled by the losses we see all around us that we fail to take note of the good that’s been unfolding too. It’s important to notice the good, not just so that we don’t get depressed, but so that we have a more complete and balanced sense of reality — what God is about in the world, and which of our efforts are most likely to bear fruit.
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No boring homilies, pope tells new priests at ordination
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Ordaining 19 men to the priesthood, Pope Francis not only told them to make sure their homilies were not boring, but he offered them advice on how to ensure their preaching would touch people: speak from your heart.

Priests are called to nourish the faithful, he said, so they must ensure “that your homilies are not boring, that your homilies arrive directly in people’s hearts because they flow from your heart, because what you tell them is what you have in your heart.”
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5 Things I’ve Learned About Holiness In the Convent
When I entered the convent I had a pretty self-confident, completely unsophisticated idea of what holiness would look like. I expected to be able to identify the holiest sisters because they would have a retinue following them, hanging on their every word and helping them with daily tasks.

Hey, that is what Padre Pio pretty much had right?!
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Conspiracies & Catholicism: Saints
What is a saint?

A saint is someone who is recognized as being united with God; a holy one. English is actually a bit odd– we’ve got a lot of ways of saying things, and “saint” is a good example. In most languages, there’s no difference between how you say “holy one” and how you say “saint.” This can result in things that sound very strange to modern ears, like talking about “Saint Jesus.” Jimmy Akin has a great FAQ if you want to know more, but I’m going to steal from it shamelessly for a lot of this article so you might want to wait on that to avoid boredom. (Not that his writing is boring, but because reading something in more detail that you’ve already read is more interesting than reading a little information about something you just absorbed a huge amount on.)
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The Gravity of Sin
Every day we wake up and struggle against this ever-present giant.  We strain and groan under the weight produced by this invisible force, yet most days we never give a second thought to this. It literally is dragging us away from heaven, but we continue to fight and counteract this tortuous law of life.  This is really about the gravitational pull of our planet, but couldn’t this also signify sin? Certainly gravity is not sinful, but sin has a gravitational pull of its own accord. Our concupiscence is the driving force that impels us toward the destructive ends that can consume us if we do not exercise our spiritual muscles.  Just as the gravity of a fall can kill, so can the gravity of sin be just as deadly to our eternal souls.
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Will the Beauty of Truth Alone Combat the Lies of Satan?
Saint Augustine argued that, even though the beauty of truth is a superior form of beauty, it should be not divorced from material beauty, especially when presenting the truths of the Faith.
First of all, Augustine pointed out that while beauty of the material realm can be beneficial to raise our souls to God who is the source of all beauty, there is another dimension of beauty that was superior and resided in the intellectual realm.

Influenced by Platonism, Augustine saw that the pursuit of truth appeared to be a higher form of beauty. This reality first presented itself in Augustine’s conversion.
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10 Ways to Win the Battle for Purity
Flashy billboards, provocative dress and apparel, Hollywood fashions spread far and wide, suggestive innuendos, off-colored jokes, indecent movies, and the ever-present danger of the Internet to visit the numerous and poisonous websites—all of these and a plethora of other alluring and seductive temptations can trap even the best of us into falling into the sin against the virtue of purity. In a certain sense, the world can be depicted as a moral land-mine, where at every turn and corner in the road there is an immoral spiritual bomb that can be stepped on and explode!  Let us be honest and to the point—we live in a society of dangerous and often pernicious images. We live in a pornographic society!
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Infallible Me…
Non Catholic Christians often grumble about the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility, but they miss the point that for any religion to be considered reliable somewhere along the line you have to have some sort of infallibility.

To get what I mean we first have to understand what infallibility is.
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10 Places to Visit if You Want to See a Miracle
With the recent miracle that occurred with Pope Francis on March 21, 2015, it made me wonder where in the world could we witness other miracles in person.

1. Naples, Italy – St. Janurius blood
Saint Januarius (or San Gennaro) is the patron saint of Naples and is a martyr saint. Three times a year, people will gather in Naples Cathedral to witness the liquefaction of the blood of the saint, which is kept inside a sealed glass ampoule. The three dates to witness this miracle is on September 19th (feast day), December 16th (his patronage of both Naples and the archdiocese) and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May (to commemorate the reunification of his relics). It has liquefied at other times, but this was the first time to have liquefied before a pope since Pope Pius IX.
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Science and Miracles
On June 20th, 2013, Giovanni Giudici, the Bishop of Pavia, pronounced the cure of Danila Castelli to be miraculous, 24 years after her pilgrimage to Lourdes. Her cure, and the 68 other cures proclaimed miraculous, began as simply one more of the more than 7,000 cures that have been reported to the Medical Bureau of the Sanctuary at Lourdes. While all of the cases are marvelous in their own way, only this small fraction survived the many stages of extensive investigation, both medical and ecclesial, so as to eventually be considered “unexplained according to current scientific knowledge” by the Lourdes International Medical Committee and finally pronounced miraculous by the bishop of the cured pilgrim.
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5 Simple Lessons about Priests
As a parish secretary for several years, I have had ample time to reflect on the role of priests and the laity’s view toward them. The following are five things I’ve learned:
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Why Do Catholics Confess Their Sins toa Priest instead of Directly to God?
Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest, rather than going directly to God?
Well, the quick answer is because that’s the way God wants us to do it. In James 5:16, God, through Sacred Scripture, commands us to “confess our sins to one another.” Notice, Scripture does not say confess your sins straight to God and only to God — it says confess your sins to one another.
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ASK FATHER: Can non-Catholics go to confession?
My mother is a non-Catholic who sometimes attends mass with me (a convert). She has considered entering the Church (her mother–as a side note–became a Catholic in her late 80’s, with me as her sponsor.) A good friend of mine, who regularly interviews priests for television spots, told me that she can go to Confession, as a baptized Christian, as long as she believes in the efficacy of it. Is this true?
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Pondering Prudence and Its “Parts” – A Reflection on the Sometimes-Misunderstood Virtue of Prudence
As a follow-on to yesterday’s post on the spiritual work of counseling  the doubtful, I would like to say a little more about prudence.

Prudence is often misunderstood by those who reduce it to mere caution or reluctance to act. It is true that sometimes prudence indicates caution and that hasty action is seldom prudent. However, sometimes it is prudent to act quickly.
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To Accord with Catholic Faith – By Pope Leo XIII
The only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, who came on earth to bring salvation and the light of divine wisdom to men, conferred a great and wonderful blessing on the world when, about to ascend again into heaven, He commanded the Apostles to go and teach all nations, and left the Church which He had founded to be the common and supreme teacher of the peoples. For men whom the truth had set free were to be preserved by the truth; nor would the fruits of heavenly doctrines by which salvation comes to men have long remained had not the Lord Christ appointed an unfailing teaching authority to train the minds to faith.
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Reading G. K. Chesterton: A Guide for the New Fan
In the movie Moscow on the Hudson, a Soviet defector walks in to an American supermarket for the first time, is overwhelmed at all the choices, yells, spins around, and passes out. The new reader of G. K. Chesterton may well feel this way. You read an essay, or a Father Brown story, or one of his better-known books, and love it.
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The Socially Awkward Person’s Guide to the Sign of Peace
The first time I went to a Catholic Mass, there were a lot of things that seemed crazy to me. The kneeling, the incense, the parts with everyone saying the same prayers at the same time—most of it was baffling. But none of it startled me more than when the priest suddenly said, “Let us offer one another a sign of peace.” With no warning other than that simple phrase, there was eye contact! And hand-shaking! And verbal interaction! People I didn’t even know were looking at me and addressing me!
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Carve Out Time for These Few Essentials
Got a new baby? Along with all the joy and fun that comes with welcoming a new child into your home, you will notice some other, unwelcome arrivals: tons and tons of unsolicited advice about how to run your life. Everyone has an opinion about what is really important, and much of this advice conflicts with or contradicts other advice, leaving a new mother feeling confused and overwhelmed.

Be at peace, new mama. There are really only a few essentials to keep in mind, in order to live your life in a happy, healthy, even joyful way.
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The ABCs of Catholicism
When I was growing up, there were always times in the long car rides with my family to play different “road games”. I’m sure most everyone has played the license plate game, trying to see how many different state license plates you could find on the cars zooming past. One of my favorite games was always the alphabet game. You try to find an example of something that begins with a certain letter of the alphabet and shout it out before anyone else can. The weird letters like “Q” and “X” were always a little more difficult, but that was part of the challenge. With that in mind, I thought that it would be fun to create a list (by no means exhaustive) of the different things in Catholicism, using the alphabet as my guide. What other things can you think of to add to the list? Add your own in the comments below!
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The Haunting Stories of 5 Saints Who Battled Demons
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6.11-12

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

The spiritual world is real, and there is a battle going on.
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Pastoral Sharings: "Fifth Sunday of Easter”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer brings about change in our lives; maybe it is only very slow and gradual, but it does change us. It does move us forwards; it does gradually draw us ever closer to God, the source and summit of all life and love. This is spiritual fruitfulness; a coming to the fulfilment of all that we were made for. This is the wonderful ripeness of a life lived in faith.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=2100

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

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

Gospel (Read Jn 15:1-8)

Our reading today comes from a section of St. John’s Gospel that is often called “the Last Supper discourse.”   After He washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus spoke at length with them in a most serious manner. This was straight talk; no more parables. We should be keenly interested in every word He had to say.
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Fifth Sunday of Easter: Being Fruitful Branches…Living the Mass
This Sunday’s Gospel, the Vine and the Branches, reminds us why we are here right now.  We are Christians.  We are Catholics. This is more than membership in a society.  It is even more than membership in a family.  We are united to Jesus Christ as branches are united to a vine.  His Life flows into us.  We come to Mass to be nourished with His Life through Word and Eucharist.
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Catholic Joy?
Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, not a special gift given to a select few;  it is simply a by-product of living in God. However, when people think of a Catholic saint, the first image that comes to mind is a sad, pale, thin figure, often tortured and in pain, or looking as if he was wearing a hair shirt. Traditional Catholic art has reinforced this impression. Recently I was looking for images of smiling or laughing monks. Hundreds of images popped up featuring Buddhist monks laughing, but I had trouble finding a handful of photos or paintings of joyful Catholic monks and priests. This is a quandary since Sacred Scriptures exhorts the people of God to trust and embrace joy.

Nehemiah 8:10   Do not be grieved (sad, sorrowful), for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
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Fearful Yet Overjoyed
It’s a curious thing that a father does. The same child that he protects and cradles, he takes in his hands and throws into the air. . .up above his head. . .lets him fall back. . .and then catches again. And again throws him. . .lets him fall. . .and catches him. It seems odd to do to a child. But watch. The child laughs and even shrieks with delight. He screams in mid-flight and giggles when caught.
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Take Those You Love to Jesus
Does the Bible still have relevance? All that guidance and those stories of 2,000 years ago and longer – do they mean anything today?

They should, of course – especially the things Jesus taught. Loving God with every fiber of your being, loving your neighbor as you love yourself, forgiving countless times. Laying down your life for your friends. Having hope when all seems hopeless. Those messages instruct us about how to love the right way in relation to God.
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Journeying from Regret to Joy
I knew one of my parishioners as a quiet devout lady who attended Holy Mass every morning. All I remember about her was greeting her and saying goodbye to her every day after Mass. After she suddenly passed away, her daughter told me things that I never would have guessed about her mother. Every single day of her life, the deceased rose around 2 am to spend hours in prayer. I was really edified. Then the daughter showed me her mother’s prayer book, and behold, I found my name along with the names of many other people written in her prayer book. She was praying and sacrificing herself for me all these while and I never recognized her, I never knew what moved her, I never spent time with her, I never had a chance to chat with her, I never expressed my gratitude to her. Talk about a sense of regret that came over me.
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The Concept, Origin and Sacramental Nature of Marriage
Marriage is a principle and guiding theme throughout the Holy Scriptures. It is the symbol and sign of God’s sacred covenant with His people. The Creation and institution of marriage appears woven throughout the Bible, first at the beginning of Genesis and last in the book of Revelation 19:9, where it says “blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Christ is the bridegroom and Holy Mother Church is the bride. Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament by the Gospel message and all are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb if they come appropriately attired. Proceeding from these truths is the fact that we must abide in and bind ourselves to the conditions and guiding principles concerning the nature of marriage revealed to us by God and confirmed by natural reason.
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Sharing in the Life of the Trinity
In many places throughout the world, Christians observe Pentecost as a celebration of God as the Trinity — three divine persons living eternally in perfect unity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is the mystery at the heart of Christianity.
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Christ Understands Every Grief
Today I met a 14 year old boy who was paralyzed in a freak accident last summer. He is quadriplegic. It’s not yet been a year since his accident. I’m not sure if the reality of severe, permanent disability has been fully internalized for him or his parents. It is a hard grief journey that will utterly break their hearts.
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How the Saints Overcame Evil
Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., Postulator for the cause of Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote, “Her beatification challenges us to take a closer look at the question of holiness and its relevance in contemporary society.”

The saints not only teach us volumes about the spiritual life; their stories enkindle the heart with a desire to do what they did. That is, to make a radical gift of self to God. Do I really, truly desire holiness of life? If so, how am I putting my desire into action and cooperating with God’s grace?
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Saints and Saintmakers
Most of us would really like to be in heaven one day.  The alternative is unthinkable. The only problem with getting into heaven is that only saints get in, both canonized and uncanonized. And while most of us are really good people, being saintly is something we must aspire to, because being a “good person” is not enough. So let’s take a look at some examples, as well as at some people, that can help us to become saints.
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The Mystery of the “Woman” at Cana
When it comes to Mary in the Gospels, John 2:4 is a real head-scratcher.

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

It doesn’t sound like any way to talk to your mother, let alone any ‘woman’ for that matter. But many interpreters, including many evangelical Protestants, take this verse on face value, concluding it is some kind of rebuke. One well-respected evangelical scholar, D.A. Carson, takes it this way, suggesting that Jesus is putting some distance between Himself and Mary and signaling that He starts His ministry on His initiative alone.
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Modern Martyrs
Pope Francis has explicitly mentioned the plight of modern Christian martyrs no fewer than four times in his homilies and public statements since Palm Sunday. The only reference that has really made the headlines was his Divine Mercy Sunday pronouncement describing the 1915 slaughter of Armenians with the politically-charged term “genocide.” However, the Holy Father’s continual references to the modern martyrs have a more substantive message: we should not be silent to this martyrdom, just as he has not been silent. As early as June 2013, in the third month of his pontificate, Pope Francis started mentioning the modern martyrs. These references continued throughout 2014 and have increased this year, especially in light of the persecutions and killings in Iraq and Syria. We also have not been completely silent, as a recent blog post by Br. Augustine highlighting the plight of Dominican Sisters in Iraq demonstrates.
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What Is Your Why?
The most important question we can ask ourselves is “What is my why?” How many of us have a clear answer of what that is? Why are we doing anything that we do? Do we live with a clear purpose and mission in mind? How does this apply to our Catholic identity? How does it apply to our intellectual formation? How does it apply to our spiritual life? And for those who are married, this is the most important question you need answered.
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On Living Intentionally
Do you ever catch yourself in a moment of candid realization that you have developed bad habits, neglected your faith and created distance between yourself and Christ? This happens to me all too frequently and after realizing I was off course during a recent visit to Eucharistic Adoration, I decided to do something about it. What I needed was to toughen my resistance and develop new “muscles” to fight my patterns of spiritual failure. I committed to introduce more intention into my life and show stronger willpower.
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Practicing Recollection Throughout the Day
St. John Chrysostom wrote, “It is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin” (De Anna 4, 5). Since you are reading this post, I assume that you would like to be able to overcome every temptation. But how can we pray constantly, as not only Chrysostom, but also St. Paul taught (cf 1 Thessalonians 5:17)?

St. Teresa of Avila gives us a place to start. Speaking about praying vocal prayer well, she pauses a moment to urge her readers to pray throughout the day:
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Teaching Our Children to Pray
In our modern society, people like to pride themselves on being hip, cool, and atheist. For some atheists, their parents were atheists. But for others, as they were growing up, their parents did not want to “impose” their belief system (religious or otherwise) on them. Like picking their favorite candies out of a chocolate box, the parents wanted their children to wait until they were old enough to  decide which flavor they liked best: Catholic, Methodist or Evangelical.
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Why I, a Protestant, Pray the “Hail Mary” and use a rosary
As part of this year-long effort to better understand what we mean when we talk about following Jesus, called My Jesus Project, I’ve been making a more concerted effort to pray every day. Even though my tendency is to focus on more silent, contemplative reflection, I’ve actually taken on a number of prayers that I do several times each, over a half-hour period or so.
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The Profound Dignity of Motherhood
Mothers are by far the most beautiful creatures in the world. There is nothing more beautiful than a mother. There has never been a beauty pageant winner more beautiful than a pregnant woman. A pregnant woman glows with the grace of God. She is one with God. Her love has borne fruit with the life in her womb. She is transformed into an other-worldly beauty. Anyone can naturally see this.
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Empire of the Cross; Layers of Our Faith
If you’ve ever visited Rome and had a sense of deja vu or that you were somehow “home”, you wouldn’t be the only one. Many Catholics feel this connection to the Eternal City, despite not having a drop of Italian blood in them. This feeling is reinforced by stumbling upon millennia of Church history contained within hundreds of Churches, rich liturgical art, and even roadside shrines or monuments.
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Pope Will Travel to Fatima for 100th Anniversary of Marian Apparitions
FATIMA, Portugal — In 2017, Pope Francis plans to travel to Fatima, said Bishop António Augusto dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fátima in a statement after meeting with the Holy Father.

The occasion for the visit would be the 100-year anniversary of Mary’s appearing to three shepherd children at Fatima.
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The Eucharist Calls to All of Us
I am a reluctant church-goer.  Even now, after all I’ve learned and come to believe about the nature of God, it is sometimes still a massive act of will to drag myself out of bed Sunday morning, and get my sorry self to Mass.  Add the daunting prospect of clothing six children and finding matching shoes for all of them- all of them!- and that, my friends, is a recipe for defeat.
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A Man I Know
I lit a candle and prayed in our parish chapel not long ago for a man I know in his mid-70s who is struggling with various health issues as he gets older.  The candle I lit burned brightly, more brightly than the others, for the hour I was in the chapel.  The light reminded me of his life filled with countless good examples and a wonderful legacy of lives he has touched.  Let me tell you a little about him.
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Fools or Liars?
The latest apologists for the Sexual Revolution – that great swamp of sewage backup, human misery, family breakdown, squalid entertainment, and lawyers – have been saying that the most radical anthropological breach ever known to man, the detachment of marriage from childbirth and the plain facts of nature, will have no effect (none at all, not to worry) on marriage and childbirth and family and community life.

To which I reply, “Haven’t you said that before?” About what exactly have the sexual revolutionaries been right? Which of their non-predictions has been confirmed?
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With all its faults and failings, the Catholic Church is pretty wonderful And it’s time to start saying so
Is it time to revive Catholic triumphalism? On the whole, I’d say yes. At the very least, the question isn’t frivolous and deserves serious consideration. For after several decades during which Catholics have offered repeated apologies for a host of mistakes, sometimes real and sometimes imaginary, the feeling grows that a comparable effort devoted to tooting the Church’s horn is now long overdue.
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The 5 Ways Of Worshiping God (Listicles By The Saints)
I’ve been reading some of the selections on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. As it turns out, a good number of the books in that collection are written by authors whose names begin with the letter S. Saint this, or Saint that, for example.

Sometimes these folks have brief passages in their works that are both short and helpful. In fact, some of them are like the listicles that the interwebs have come to know and love. Like the one below, which was written by St. John Damascene.
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Shock Treatment or Selfishness?
Recently I heard a priest describe something that happened to him in the early days of his priesthood.

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

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

At one point, he was assigned to a parish and came to know a local gentleman by phone but not by sight.
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Panicking My Way Into Catholicism
Sometime ago I wrote up a fresh take on my conversion from atheism to Christianity and then from Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism. Here is that story:

A Proto-Dawkins Is Born

I grew up on Nintendo and television. My parents were both brought up, to varying degrees, in Christian homes, but by college they had abandoned whatever faith they had. So they reared my sister and me atheistically. Oh, they phrased it differently than that: “We want you to choose for yourself what to think,” was the actual line they used. But since we never prayed, never talked about God, never went to church (except a Unitarian one which may as well have been a meeting of the Enlightened Atheists Society), and since from an early age they taught us that we evolved from primordial ooze, unsurprisingly both my sister and I became just like our parents and rejected belief in God.
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On the Mysticism of the Simple Word “Consider”
Every now and then a word just catches your ear. Several times in a day it jumps out at you and you’re tempted to say, “There it is again!”

A few days ago it was the word “consider,” a very ordinary word. Or is it? Why did it suddenly strike me so?
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Writing Within the Word?
Ever since childhood I was always taught to treat the Bible with a certain amount of respect.  This included never setting it on the bare floor, but always on top of something; never tossing or throwing it around irreverently; generally avoiding stacking non-religious things on top of it; and not writing in it.  The Bible was God’s Word, and thus deserved a level of treatment above that shown to an average book.
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Pastoral Sharings: "Fourth Sunday of Easter"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus says: ‘I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.’ What wonderfully reassuring words these are. But think how fulfilling it could be to be a shepherd like Jesus and to play a role shepherding the people of the Church he founded.
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Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
April 26, 2015

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

Gospel (Read Jn 10:11-18)

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

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

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

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

“Wow, tell me more. What happened, was it like a severe storm or tornado?”
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Mary’s Simple and Amazing Guide to Discipleship
God approached a young woman, and she said, “Yes.”

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

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

And then she thanked God for allowing her to be the one with whom He would give flesh to the most remarkable intrusion of divinity into human time:  Jesus Christ.
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Deepen Your Personal Relationship with Jesus
The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is indeed called to pray with his brethren, but he must also enter into his chamber to pray to the Father, in secret.

— Sacrosanctum Concilium, no.12

The Lord calls us all to have a personal relationship with Him. This personal relationship is based on knowledge — God know­ing us and we knowing God. God already knows us; His knowl­edge is perfect. Despite our best attempts to ignore Him, God has always known us. But we weren’t born with this knowledge of God.
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The Law of Human Nature Still Exists
Is there anything so wicked as a man trying to silence his conscience?  It is a willful act that happens in stages: Bit by bit, incident by incident, rationalization by rationalization, the voice of a man’s conscience can be stifled—that still small voice within him eventually becomes fainter, until his heart turns to stone and covers the voice within.

But even within a stone-heart, his conscience knocks and pounds against the inner granite wall, making muffled cries of protest.
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The Greatness of Little Things: A Reflection on a Quote From St. Augustine
I have found that one of my favorite quotes from St. Augustine  is not all that well known. Here it is in Latin, followed by my own translation:

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

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

(from St. Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana, IV,35)
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Does Scripture Teach Us to Pray for the Departed, and to Pray to the Saints?In regards to prayer and the Saints, Catholics do two things to which Protestants tend to object:

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

Yesterday, I talked about some of the common Protestant arguments against praying to the Saints: particularly about how these objections tend to be rooted in faulty views of the afterlife. But I didn’t address what’s perhaps the most common objection to both types of prayers, which is some variation of “But where do we see that in the Bible?” We saw yesterday that Scripture doesn’t condemn these prayers, but neither does it commend them … right?
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Do you have a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ? Well do you?
Are you saved? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you born again? It is possible for these questions to have deep and profound theological meanings.

Are you saved can mean are you liberated from idolatry? Have you overcome the tendency to seek ultimate happiness in created things? Is money your God? Is power your god? Is pleasure your god? Is honor your god? Or is God your God? The problem with idols is that they cannot truly satisfy our deepest desires. If Christianity is true, then we were created for shared and unshakeable happiness with our Creator.
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What Ever Happened to the Spiritual Works of Mercy?
During daily Mass we are currently reading through chapter six of John’s Gospel. There is of course a glorious focus on the Lord’s true presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

However, there is also another important teaching given at a critical moment in chapter six that is important for us to lay hold of today. It is a call to recover a greater awareness of the importance of the spiritual works of mercy.
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Why does my faith walk seem so lonely to me at times?
Dear Sister,

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

Dear Friend,

A lovely plant sits on a desk near our office’s east window. The deep green leaves instinctively reach for the sun. Its roots dig deeply for life-giving water. It cannot think, yet it has some inner compass which reaches for that which gives it life—sun and water.
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Contemplating The Mystery of Mercy
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis recently released, Misericordiae Vultus, his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. In this document, he lays out his plans for this upcoming celebration of our Lord’s incredible love and mercy towards His people.  In addition, he encourages us to begin preparing ourselves now for this event through prayer and contemplation.  Mercy, he writes, is “the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us” (MV 2). Furthermore, mercy opens us up to hope.
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False Concepts of God and Truth
Once Jesus asked who people said He was and there was a wide diversity of opinions: Elijah, one of the prophets from of old, even John the Baptist who had returned from the grave.  Finally, the Prince of the Apostles, and he who would become the 1st Pope—St. Peter nailed it: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
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A Reflection on the Desire to Feel Superior
On a rainy afternoon not too long ago, I took the kids to grab a bite to eat at the large food warehouse near our house.  We were all a bit stir crazy from being cooped up, so the seven of us braved the hellish weather with nary a yellow slicker or umbrella.

(In our family, slickers, rain boots, and umbrellas are for wimps.  Just kidding, slickers, rain boots and umbrellas are for those people who can find them.)
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Arrogance, Ignorance and the Unforgivable Sin
Don’t mistake arrogance for pride.

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

When a person struts around with his nose in the air, assumes a know-it-all attitude and bosses everyone around, first you get annoyed –”Who does this guy think he is??”
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What Does the Church Say About Predestination?\
In the history of Christianity, few terms have stirred as much controversy and confusion as this one.

Predestination is a bit of a thorny thicket for theologians, perhaps territory some think best avoided for greener pastures. But it is nonetheless worth venturing into that thicket for the beautiful gem of truth to be found within it.
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Randy Travis: “I Have Gained a Greater Understanding of God’s Grace” Since Stroke
It’s always interesting to me that atheists always use suffering as evidence that there’s no God. But what’s more interesting to me is that quite often it’s those doing the actual suffering are the ones that feel God’s presence and love in their lives.
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Divorce and Remarriage? I Have No Opinion
Some time ago I was meeting with a Catholic woman who had been divorced and re-married.

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

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

“Of course!” I smiled. “You and your family are very welcome.”.
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To Help the Widows and the Fatherless…
You may have heard about the Rogans, a traditional Catholic family who lost their Dad as he was driving them to the hospital so Mom could give birth to baby number eight.

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

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

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

There were angelic choirs, infernal screams, brash trumpets, kettle drums — and amidst all the murk and evil, some powerful glimpses of Christ. Mercy, pity and forgiveness crept in among the terrors and dismantled them. They fell like a tall, dark tower.
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Three Ways to Teach Children About the Eucharist
I was sixteen years old when the concept of the Transubstantiation became clearer to me.  Until that time, I attended Mass with my parents half-heartedly and out of obligation.  It wasn’t until I left my Catholic elementary school only to enter the cesspool of public high school, riddled with all varieties of unbelievers and even some colorful Satanists, that I began to question what I believed and why in terms of religion.
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Enjoying My Peaceful Place
I have many ways to begin prayer, with numerous different motivations. Lately, God has been providing a certain motivation without my consciously asking for it. Ultimately, it’s almost always about finding peace.

Before I get to that, let me share some of the ways I like to pray.
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We Are Sent Forth: All Are Apostles
There are many words that are more than mere words. The words of the Holy Mass are such, being fraught with a power and purpose that flies far beyond immediate meaning. Some command miracles, such as the words of consecration. Others command missions, such as the celebrant’s dismissal when the Mass is ended. The end of every Mass is intended as a beginning. The word, “Mass,” is derived from “dismissal,” which is rooted in the idea of many people being sent forth upon different ways on a common mission. The priest’s dismissal, therefore, is not merely a statement inviting the congregation to take their leave, but rather a restatement of Christ’s commandment to His apostles: those who were sent forth.
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What Will Our Resurrected Bodies Be Like?
St Paul writes to the Philippians of the glory that our currently lowly bodies will one day enjoy:

He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified Body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. (Phil 3:19)
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A Couch Is NOT a Promise
Not too long ago, my best friend moved in with her boyfriend.

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

I have very mixed feelings about this whole thing.

First of all, I am Catholic. I am on fire for God and the Church and the idea of living with some man before marriage gives me the heebie-jeebies. (My best friend, by the way, is not Catholic—she’s not even Christian—she vacillates between agnosticism and atheism but, I am convinced, contains a healthy dose of pagan virtue.)
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Ten Things Every Catholic Should Know About Marriage
There is so much confusion about love and marriage in our society.

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

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

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Third Sunday of Easter
Posted for April 19, 2015  

 

In today’s Gospel we read of the first appearance of the 
Risen Christ to a gathering of the first disciples in 
Jerusalem as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus had 
appeared earlier to the two disciples who were taking the Road to Emmaus but now he appears to this larger group. 

Jesus begins as he customarily does when he appears after his resurrection with the greeting, ‘Peace be with you.’ He uses these particular words only partly to stop the disciples from being afraid but he does so mainly because the greatest gift of the Risen Lord is peace. 

In this encounter Jesus goes to great lengths to persuade the disciples that it is indeed he who has risen. He deliberately shows them the wounds of the crucifixion on his body and even goes so far as to eat a piece of fish to prove to them that he is not a ghost. 

This is perfectly understandable since some of the disciples would surely have personally witnessed his gruesome death on the Cross of Calvary. They would have needed quite a lot of convincing that this was the same Jesus who had died right before their very eyes. 

Indeed any of us, if it were possible for us to have been there with them, would also have taken quite a lot of convincing. Luke tells us that they were completely dumbfounded. 

Also critics, both at the time and down through the centuries, could easily have said that the disciples were deluded or that they did actually see a ghost or some sort of spirit. This makes the evidence of Jesus eating a piece of fish quite important; this story of Jesus eating is a categorical denial that he is either an apparition or a figment of their imagination. 

So this first part of the text could be summarised as Jesus establishing his credentials, proving to them who he really was. 

In the second half of the Gospel reading for today Jesus explains to the disciples that his death and his resurrection were already foretold in the scriptures. The text says that he opened their minds to what was written about him. 

This is a lovely phrase and we can believe it to be true because this is surely something we have experienced ourselves. We study the scriptures, or we hear a sermon about them, or we discuss them with others and suddenly one or other aspect of the Gospel becomes crystal clear to us. Then we too feel like our minds have been opened. 

What we have in the text then is two things; firstly the proof that he is not a ghost and then the instruction of the disciples by Jesus about what is in the scriptures relating to himself.  

When Jesus visits the disciples on that evening he does so with two definite purposes in mind. He wants them to understand that it really is him who has risen and he wants them to understand that what had happened to him was all foretold in the Bible.  

What he is doing is preparing them for their new role which is that of missionary. As he says in the last phrase: ‘You are witnesses to this.’  

Up to now the disciples had been his companions, his followers; but now they become his witnesses. Their new task is to give testimony. In short they have become missionaries; and this is exactly the same thing that occurs to every Christian once they have accepted the Gospel –they also become missionaries.

The fact that Jesus explains the scriptures to the disciples in his own day ought to alert us present-day disciples that the scriptures are very important. It tells us that they need to be studied and meditated upon and indeed that we should be experts in them.

This is not something that we should leave for the priest to do for us on a Sunday morning. Whenever we go to mass we should pay particular attention to the readings, we should reflect on them and think about what they mean. It is something too that we ought to be doing at home.

Perhaps it would be worth saying that there ought to be a Bible in every home, or at the very least a Sunday Missal that we can consult the readings ourselves. A Bible is better because we can read longer sections of text and see the events of Christ’s life in context rather than just read the very short extracts we get at mass.

Of course what Christ was referring to when he addressed the disciples was the Old Testament and he wanted the disciples to understand the references to himself so that they could appreciate them for themselves but also so that they could convince the Jews living around them of who he was and what he had achieved and how this was foretold.

Today we have also the Gospels and the other writings of the New Testament and these are even more valuable in strengthening our faith. We are able to read about the actual things that Jesus did and learn precisely what he taught as recorded by the four evangelists. The New Testament is therefore infinitely more valuable to us modern day disciples.

In particular when we study the Gospel texts we are able to see how the words addressed to the Apostles are also addressed to us. We find that the text has a real power and speaks directly to us even though we might be separated by a couple of thousand years and even though it is mediated to us in a quite different language from the one it was written in.

As we think about the words of the Gospel and turn them over in our minds we deepen our understanding of the faith and we find wonderful material for prayer and meditation. The little phrase you see at the top of the parish newsletter is always taken from the Sunday Gospel; it is a phrase that you can turn over in your mind during the coming week and use as material for meditation. Try doing this sometime; it will do you no end of good.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we get a glimpse of how St Peter set about this own task of witnessing to Christ. We see how he fearlessly stood up in front of the people and explained to them precisely who Jesus Christ was and invited them to repent of their sins.

We might not think that we could be as eloquent or courageous as St Peter, but we should not jump to this conclusion too hastily. Instead of shutting our mouths when some topic of faith is discussed we should not hesitate to speak out because it is only when we speak that we will find the words.

Let us not forget that we are Christ’s missionaries in the world of today and unless we speak out the Good News will not be heard and mankind will be the less for it. Jesus says in the last line of the Gospel that the forgiveness of sins will preached to all the nations. Who will do this preaching if it is not us?
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=2083

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

Third Sunday of Easter, Year B—April 19, 2015
In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears to the apostles and says, “Peace be with you.” Why does this produce the exact opposite of peace?

Gospel (Read Lk 24:35-48)

We would do well today to keep the context of our Gospel reading in mind if we want to understand its full force. In the preceding verses, Jesus meets two disciples on Resurrection Day walking away from Jerusalem toward a town called Emmaus. They were bitterly disappointed in Jesus’ death. Seeing Him would certainly have cured that; however, they were “kept” from recognizing Him. That made it possible for Jesus to give them an extended Scripture lesson, showing them how God’s plan included the suffering and death of His Servant, Jesus. Still, the disciples did not know the identity of this Stranger. When they invited Him to stay with them, “He took bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” (Lk 24:30). These were His exact actions at the Last Supper, too. At this, “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight” (Lk 24:31). This remarkable event caused the excited disciples to hurry back to Jerusalem; we now take up the rest of the story.
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Third Sunday of Easter: Mercy
Three weeks ago, you folks in the pews had the worst part of our liturgy.  Three weeks ago the celebration was Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.  You remember, the Passion was proclaimed with a narrator, a priest, deacon or our seminarian playing the role of Jesus, a lector doing the other parts, and you folks taking the role of the crowds.  You had to call out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  I’m sure you hated having to act that part.  Can you imagine if you really were there in that horrible praetorium demanding that Pilate send Jesus to be tortured to death?  Certainly, when you heard the report about His resurrection, you would have thought, “If this is true, and Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, I’m doomed.”  Even worse, if you were one of the temple priests fanning the crowd into a frenzy, you would think that there was no chance you would escape the fires of hell.  But St. Peter in today’s first reading, tells the people who were in that crowd, including those who led them, that if they repented and are converted to Christ, their sins will be wiped away.
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Beware of False Gospels
In the heyday of the Roman Empire, the corruption of the
times caused a wave of dissatisfaction to arise.  Many were disgusted with the gross sensuality of society and yearned for a higher, spiritual kind of existence.  They sought a redeemer who would come down from heaven and enlighten those who walked in darkness.

When they heard about Jesus of Nazareth, they suspected they’d found their man.  But surely, they thought, he was a divinity who just appeared to be flesh and blood so that he could pass on to us the secret knowledge needed for spiritual enlightenment.  Since he wasn’t really human, he couldn’t have really died.
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On Accepting God’s Will
Not long ago a priest shared some guidance with my wife and me that has been the cause of a great deal of conversation and reflection in our home.  In response to learning that we pray every day about our oldest son’s future and that he be healed of his autism, he encouraged us to pray first for acceptance.

Let me explain.
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10 Ways the Church Is Rising
We are used to thinking of Christianity as a spent force, a dying ancient religion that had its day in the sun and now is over and done with.

That is exactly how his opponents thought of Jesus on the original Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

If the Church is the body of Christ, then we can expect the same thing to happen in the life of the Church, as it has in every age since the Church began. Here is a summary of  the 10 signs that Christianity is on the rise I shared at Aleteia.
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Five Ways to Incorporate the Holy Spirit
The Sanctifier, the Consoler and Counselor, the Paraclete, the Gift from God most high, the Finger of God, the Interior Master of the soul, Uncreated love, the mutual embrace between Father and Son, Faithful Friend, Sweet Guest of the soul, Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, Fire, Light, Window, Wind, both gentle and powerful—all of these are titles that have been given to the Holy Spirit through the ages! Let us get to know the Holy Spirit, love the Holy Spirit, be docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and become a pliable and most useful instrument in His hands for the salvation of countless immortal souls.
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The Tragic Case for Christ
                                   I. An Anatomy of Tragedy

Man knows two things: how things are (the World), and how they should be (the Ideal). I don’t mean that he knows these things perfectly, or that every man completely agrees with every other man about what is or what ought to be. But everyone has some sense of these two things, and tragedy – all tragedy – can be traced to the chasm between the two. Together, these two observations form a single insight: things are not as they should be. The larger the gap between these two things, the greater the tragedy.
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The Faith That Conquers All Evils
A Germanwings pilot apparently purposely crashes his airplane into the mountains. Reports indicate that he had been emotionally unstable in the past and even suicidal. There are many questions on our minds like, “How come he was still allowed to fly airplanes? What is to be gained by killing innocent passengers?” There are many such questions but very little answers.
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Our God is a Mighty God
I love silence. I crave it sometimes, especially in a world that seems filled with noise 24/7. Radios and TVs, alarm clocks and iPods, CD players and Youtube, telephones and cell phones and people talking-talking-talking wherever we go.

It can be a challenge to hear God’s voice over all of that noise. We might try too hard, though, much harder than required. Sometimes – many times – God speaks in the loud and powerful.

We can forget that our God is a mighty God.
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What Makes You Powerful?
As a single mom of five boys, I pretty much know what I’m doing in the next five minutes or so. Beyond that is anyone’s guess, so it should come as no surprise that I didn’t realize that the Feast of Divine Mercy is the Sunday after Easter. As Good Friday’s Tenebrae service came to an end, an announcement was made inviting anyone interested to stay for a few extra minutes to pray the first day of  Novena Before the Feast of Divine Mercy together and I accepted the invitation.
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Alleluia!
Every night before bed, Dominicans pray Compline. It’s among the shortest prayers of the day, and seldom takes more than twelve minutes to chant. Yet during the Easter season, in this small space of time we sing Alleluia twenty-eight times! After forty Lenten days of its absence, here it is again, back from the dead.

First we have to ask, why do we sing Alleluia?
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Apostle: One Who Is Sent
The word apostle has a dynamic quality. The Greek apostolos means “one who is sent.” It describes an agent or vicar, an emissary or ambassador. More than a messenger, an apostolos is a representative. Scholars believe the word is a direct translation of the Hebrew shaliah; and the ancient rabbis pronounced that “a man’s shaliah is as himself.”

The Apostles were first known as the Twelve — a number rich with meaning. For a Jew of the first century, it recalled the twelve tribes of Israel, the tribes now dis­persed among the Gentiles and assimilated into other peoples. The gathering of the scattered was seen as an essential component of God’s salvation. The reconstitution of Israel was a work expected of the Messiah, the Christ.
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‘I’ve Just Received a New Start in My Life Because God Has Forgiven My Sins’
Practical advice from catechists and priests on preparation, execution and follow-through for the sacrament of reconciliation.

When Christian LeBlanc tells his sixth-grade catechism class that he feels “sleek,” they know exactly what he means.

“I tell them that I feel sleek and clean because I’ve just been to confession,” said LeBlanc, an architect and columnist for AmazingCatholics.com who teaches catechism at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, S.C.
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Learn to Heal Painful Memories
Sometimes people get stuck when they try to get over their anger or to forgive. They can’t seem to erase the terrible memory. A key way to deal with this is called heal­ing of memories. Dennis and Matthew Linn have studied the whole process of healing memories, and they suggest that there are five stages in healing a memory, similar to the five stages of facing death outlined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:
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The Home is Symbolic
What is the difference between a home and a hotel? Or a dormitory? If you were to come home to a clean house (cleaned by a maid) and had food to eat (store-bought), would it really make any difference who did those things? What if it wasn’t your home, but an actual hotel or if you were renting a room?

Apparently your environment affects your sleep and studies show that you will sleep better if your bedroom is clean and comfortable. Even animals sometimes make their homes beautiful. The bowerbird male is famous for using creative materials in making a nest as courtship.
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A Meditation on the Sins of the Intellect
When I was in the seminary, my Moral Theology Professor, Fr. Robert Zylla (R.I.P.), encouraged us to meditate on the sins of the intellect during the third sorrowful mystery (The Crowning with Thorns). In his years of teaching he had surely witnessed the intellectual pride that could beset theologians and seminary students who figured they knew a few things. And added to this human tendency to intellectual pride was the rather prideful sense of the 20th century that we had somehow “come of age.” Dissent from church teaching was rampant and what came to be called the “hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity” was in full flower.
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Enough is Enough
“I think all of us should have a respect for innocent life. With regard to the freedom of the individual for choice with regard to abortion, there’s one individual who’s not being considered at all. That’s the one who is being aborted. And I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born. I think that, technically, I know this is a difficult and an emotional problem, and many people sincerely feel on both sides of this, but I do believe that maybe we could find the answer through medical evidence, if we would determine once and for all, is an unborn child a human being? I happen to believe it is.”
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Do “the Dead Know Nothing?”
The toughest texts to deal with concerning the natural immortality of the soul are found in the Old Testament. These are the go-to verses for Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others who deny it. One way you can go about explaining things to them is to go to the manifold and obvious texts in the New Testament that clearly teach the human soul to be immortal. These would include Jesus’ teaching about the afterlife in his parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31 (there Jesus indicates there is an immediate or “particular” judgment and either reward or punishment at the point of death), the various texts that teach of the eternity of Hell (Matt. 25:41; 46; Rev. 14:9-11; Rev. 20:10-15, etc.), etc.
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The Devil is Real : You’ll need this “Manual for Spiritual Warfare”
Is the devil real? Here is Msgr. Ronald Knox on that: “It is stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil, when he is the only explanation of it.”

Monsignor Knox, eminent British convert, author, retreat master and translator of the Bible, may have been indulging in irony. But irony doesn’t change the fact that the devil and his demonic associates exist.
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An Uncomfortable Religion
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the controversy surrounding Indiana’s “religious freedom” law. Debates on this issue ultimately boil down to a question of liberty v. justice.

Christian business owners invoke their First Amendment right to exercise their conscience when it comes to whose patronage they accept. Gay rights advocates insist that a just society cannot be one in which individuals decline to accept business from a customer based on their sexual orientation and corresponding lifestyle choices.
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Two Gifts of Deeper Prayer: Silence and Spaciousness
One of the great spiritual battles/journeys is being able to get beyond and outside our own self. St. Augustine wrote that one of the chief effects of sin is making man curvatus in se (turned in on himself, turned inward). Forgetful of God, we lose our way. Called to look outward and upward, to behold the Lord and His glory, we instead focus inward and downward, on things that are passing, noisy, troubling, and far less noble. No longer seeing our Father’s face and experiencing joyful confidence, we cower with fear, foolishly thinking that things depend on us.
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Shroud of Turin Inspires Conversion and Deepens Faith
TURIN, Italy — When the Shroud of Turin goes on display in Turin Cathedral beginning April 19, Pope Francis will be among the millions of visitors expected to see and venerate what is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. Walking in the footsteps of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pope Francis will venerate the shroud on June 21, days before the exhibit closes on June 24.

Surely, countless people will be moved, including those renewing belief in God and those wanting to enter the Catholic Church after seeing the shroud. In the past, others have traveled that road of spiritual renewal, whether Catholic or not.
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Historical Truth and the Crusades
Hatttip to John Hinderacker at  Powerline for the above video by Dr. Bill Warner in which he states a fact that is obvious from the historical record:  the Crusades were a tardy, and defensive, reaction to an ongoing Islamic Jihad that would continue against Christendom until the technological gap in the nineteenth century rendered Islamic states, for the moment, largely militarily impotent:
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A Little Film I Watched About Where Jesus Was Baptized In Jordan…
During breakfast this morning, on the 787 Dreamliner flying the livery of Royal Jrdanian Airlines, I watched an interesting little film. It’s about the place in the Kingdom of Jordan that has been visited by popes, and pilgrims.

The site is one of the many reasons why I was hoping to return to Jordan someday. And someday came sooner than I realized it would.
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Six Ways to Avoid Being a “Stealth Catholic”
I have had numerous conversations with friends and professional acquaintances over the years on the subject of openly sharing our Catholic faith. I am always a little surprised at how often many of them express strong reluctance to being open about their beliefs. The reasons given have included, “I don’t want to offend anyone.” “We could never do that at work.” and “I don’t like to discuss that outside of my parish.” Do we ever stop and reflect on how often our public actions and thinking are overly influenced by what others may think about our Catholic faith?
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Love Isn’t Supposed to Be Efficient
As a mother of lots of kids, I think a lot about treating them fairly. They make sure I think about it a lot:  “Hey, she got more pudding than I did!” “Hey, you never let us watch Jaws when we were that age!” “No fair, he got an extra ten minutes on Minecraft, but I didn’t even get to save my chickens!”

It’s enough to make you crazy, or crazier. But in a big family, especially, it really is necessary to keep track of things and try to keep them just and fair and evenly distributed. If you don’t keep track, you’re likely to find out that one especially squeaky kid has gotten all the grease, while a more reserved child gets unintentionally gypped. So I do constantly assess how fair I’m being, and we make adjustments as necessary.
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Pastoral Sharings: "Second Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Second Sunday of Easter
Posted for Arril 12, 2015

In our Gospel text today we are told the story of the
Apostle Thomas who refused to believe that Christ had
risen from the dead. His fellow Apostles tried to convince
him that Jesus had actually risen from the dead but
Thomas replies to them that unless he can put his finger
into the holes the nails have made he will not believe.

Of course we know very well how some time afterwards Jesus makes another appearance and invites Thomas to place his finger into those very holes and of how Thomas replied with the most memorable phrase, ‘My Lord and my God.’

These beautiful words indicating the most profound belief in Christ’s resurrection echo down through the ages in the Church and they are often to be found on the lips of the faithful at the moment of the elevation in the mass.

Seeing the precious elements of the Eucharist changed into the Body and Blood of Christ there could be no words more appropriate to put on our lips than those of Thomas the Apostle, ‘My Lord and my God.’

You will notice in the first part of the reading that Christ introduces himself to the startled Apostles with the words, ‘Peace be with you.’ These words frequently occur in the Gospels whenever the Risen Lord makes an appearance. Sometimes he says, ‘Do not be afraid,’ which amounts to the same thing more or less.

I think that these words are obviously meant to tell the Apostles not to be alarmed at what they are seeing; but surely they also mean much more than this. What is being said is that the gift of the Risen Lord is one of profound peace to all those who believe.

Knowing and believing that Christ has risen from the dead completely changes us. It opens up a whole new avenue of understanding and faith. Believing in the resurrection doesn’t stop with the bare fact of a risen body but leads to a most profound understanding of the salvation that Christ by means of his resurrection has won for us.

Belief that Christ is risen leads directly to belief in heaven, belief in the forgiveness of sins, belief in the communion of saints, belief in the power and efficacy of the Eucharist and numerous other important elements of the Christian Faith.

Accepting the doctrines and beliefs of the Church brings us a profound satisfaction and contentment. Believing all that the Church believes means that our lives are filled with meaning and purpose. It brings us to an understanding of man and his place and role in the world. It means that we appreciate how we are contaminated by sin but also of how we are redeemed through the saving death of Jesus.

Our faith helps us to appreciate the meaning of our journey through this life on Earth and permits us to look forward with great joy and anticipation to the delights of life everlasting in heaven.

Our beliefs help to keep us on the right track in life, enabling us to avoid sin and to establish firm moral principles. They help us to be outward looking, to have a sense of purpose and moral integrity. In short our beliefs help us to become responsible and loving citizens of this Earth; people who are therefore greatly valued by those around us.

These beliefs and doctrines that flow directly from our faith in Christ’s resurrection give us a sense of purpose and a great confidence that we are living our lives in conformity with God’s will. But that does not mean that we are not on occasion troubled by doubt.

Thomas the Apostle could be regarded as the patron saint of doubters. He wants practical proof, he wants to see with his own eyes and touch with his own fingers before he can come to faith in the Risen Lord.

Often enough we find ourselves thinking in the same way. We too want proof, we don’t like everything depending on the strength of our own faith when so often we experience doubts about the beliefs of the Church.

Sometimes these doubts are about the rightness or wrongness of particular moral acts. We might think that the Church is being too strict in some areas or that it is out of touch with modern life. One of these areas that is drawing attention at the moment is the plight of those who are divorced and remarried and the bar on then receiving Holy Communion.

This is one of the things being considered by the Synod on the Family to be held in Rome in October. I wouldn’t expect things to change very much except that there might be steps taken so that those who are divorced can more easily obtain an annulment if it is appropriate.

The Church has to keep things in balance; it has to maintain fidelity to the words of Christ, ‘What God has joined, let no man put asunder,’ and be open to the problems and tensions of people living in the modern world. This is not easy but it is understandable that the Church looks more to the wisdom of Christ rather than to the demands of a secular society.

After all it is Christ who understands the human heart better than anyone else; it is he who knows what is truly good for us. Just because something is difficult that does not mean it is bad; on the contrary it is only by doing things that are difficult that we achieve true greatness.

Doubts can also occur about some other areas of doctrine. Sometimes these doubts are more like temptations such as the temptation to believe that Christ is not the Son of God; that he has no power or that belief in him is useless.

These doubts can be difficult to deal with. They come into our minds at unexpected moments and try to lead us away from Christ and his Church. We should realise that such temptations come from the Evil One and their purpose is to destroy our faith, disrupt our attendance at mass and decrease our devotion to prayer. In such difficult moments it is good to call on the assistance of St Thomas asking him to help strengthen our faith.

We may feel that our faith is very weak and in some situations we find ourselves unable to resist persuasive arguments against it; frequently too we don’t feel strong enough to convince our children of the truths of the Gospel because we cannot find the right answers to their questions.

In these situations we must remember that we are part of a greater whole. We belong to the Church and among its members there are people with varying degrees of faith, some very strong others very weak. But our faith is shared and the weak are strengthened by those with more faith.

We might sit in Church wondering about our own lack of faith but are then inspired by those around us who respond with a strong voice and who clearly believe very firmly. Faith is the common property of the members of the Church, it is shared and we all benefit from our collective beliefs.

The final words of Jesus in today’s text should be a consolation to us all, ‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=2078

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

Divine Mercy Sunday, Year B—April 12, 2015
Today’s Gospel records a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus in which His mercy to sinners begins to flow. Watch out! There is no stopping it.

Gospel (Read Jn 20:19-31)

The celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday usually focuses on the sheer ecstasy of His victory over death. All during Holy Week, we are absorbed with the details of His horrific Passion. When we reach Easter, our hearts nearly burst with joy that Jesus is alive and vindicated as God’s Son. In other words, it’s easy to dwell on the fact of the Resurrection and be so dazzled by it that we do not think much beyond that. The mercy of Divine Mercy Sunday (yes, intended pun) is that now we begin to meditate on the meaning of the Resurrection. Today’s Gospel gets us started.
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Second Sunday of Easter: The Battle against Doubts
The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter is always  from John 20: 19-31, the Gospel of Doubting Thomas.  Perhaps, the reason for this is that the second part of this Gospel takes place the Sunday after the Resurrection.  But there is more than this.  Jesus appeared to just a few people after the Resurrection.  There was Mary Magdeline and any others that may have been with her, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the eleven and anyone with them in the Upper Room, Easter Sunday and the Sunday after Easter, the disciples who saw the Lord on the shore while they were fishing, and finally those who were present at the Lord’s Ascension into heaven.  Everyone else is left with an empty tomb.
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Practicing the Spiritual Works of Mercy
We are all encouraged by the Lord, especially by reading and meditating on Mt. 25:31-46, to practice the Corporal works of mercy—to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to welcome the foreigner, and to visit both the sick and the imprisoned. 

In sum, our Final Judgment will be based largely on love of God but manifested on our love for neighbor. Indeed, using the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “We must find Jesus present in the distressing disguise of the poor.” St. Vincent de Paul, known for his great love for the poor, actually called the poor “his masters”.
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No Other World Religion Has Any Similar Claim: Suffering Becomes Love
Did you wake up on Easter Sunday with all of your sufferings gone like Jesus did?  Perhaps on Good Friday you were taking on fasting, and…financial troubles, betrayal by a spouse, a lost job, addictions, contradictions, misunderstandings, family members who left the faith and/or divorce.  And, when Easter came, all of your sufferings ended.  Right?  Of course they didn’t.  The loneliness, disease and unforgiveness continued, making it a little bit hard to sing “the strife is o’er, the battle done” with a full-tank.  Maybe you got home—thought—yeah, it’s a nice point of faith that Jesus miraculously rose from the dead.  Maybe you even believe it.  But perhaps you feel like asking:  Why is Easter really any different from Lent?  (Except for the fact you gorged yourself with candy, beer and meat and had a little less guilt than you did on Lenten Sundays.)
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Practicing the Spiritual Works of Mercy
We are all encouraged by the Lord, especially by reading and meditating on Mt. 25:31-46, to practice the Corporal works of mercy—to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to welcome the foreigner, and to visit both the sick and the imprisoned.

In sum, our Final Judgment will be based largely on love of God but manifested on our love for neighbor. Indeed, using the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “We must find Jesus present in the distressing disguise of the poor.” St. Vincent de Paul, known for his great love for the poor, actually called the poor “his masters”.
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Are Catholics the “Resurrection People”?
“We are an Easter people, and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!”

These words are attributed to St. John Paul II. And, indeed, he did deliver them; once, during an address at a black parish in Harlem in 1979, and again before leading the congregation in the Angelus at a Mass in Adelaide, Australia, in 1986. However, the Pope was paraphrasing a quote from St. Augustine of Hippo, some 1,500 years before: “We are a resurrection people, and our song is ‘Alleluia’.”
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The Resurrection Appearances “Chronologically” Arranged
Today’s post is a follow-up to yesterday’s blog.

When we encounter the resurrection accounts in the New Testament, we face a challenge in putting all the pieces together in such a way that the sequence of events flows in logical order. This is due to the fact that no one Gospel presents all or even most of the information. Some of the accounts seem to conflict. I have opined before (HERE) that these apparent conflicts are usually not in fact true conflicts. Another difficulty with putting all the facts together in a coherent manner is that the timeline of the events is unclear in some of the accounts. Luke and John are the clearest as to the timing of the events they describe; Matthew and Luke give us very few parameters. Both Acts and Paul also supply accounts in which the timeline is not always clear.
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Five Ways to be a True Catholic Rebel
Come on, we know better than the Church, don’t we?  After all, this is the 21st Century and times have changed.  Modern man is fully capable of deciding what is moral on his own, right?  All the really smart people in the media, government and academia who encourage us to embrace abortion, contraception, euthanasia and gay marriage can’t be wrong, can they?  After all, everyone knows that new and fresh ideas must clearly trump over two millennia of Church teaching.  Right?

Wrong.
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Happy are Those
A few years ago, as I had the sung version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet blaring during my shower, I was interrupted by a then-four-year-old wanting to play a guessing game with me. Hearing her sincere belting out of the song, punctuated by “Mom, your turn!,” made me smile.

It also made me think about how Mary must have used prayer in her daily life. I’m pretty sure she had a fair share of stress in her life. Life back in those days was hard in a way few of us can appreciate. She wasn’t rich, and she didn’t have the luxury of sitting down for a few minutes of “Me Time.”
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Peace through Mercy
Some of us who are older remember that Sundays were once quiet in downtown; in shopping areas, parking lots were empty. Most businesses were closed and few people had to work on Sundays. Surely there were exceptions, such as medical personnel, emergency workers, and those who ran essential services like power plants. But for most, Sunday was a day off. And although the biblical Sabbath was Saturday, in a largely Christian nation Sunday was the “Sabbath” day of rest.
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The Stillness and Silence of the Mass
When Holy Mass is properly celebrated there are moments in which the voices of both priest and faithful become si­lent. The priest continues to officiate as the rubrics indi­cate, speaking very softly or refraining from vocal prayer; the congregation follows in watchful, prayerful participa­tion. What do these intervals of quiet signify? What must we do with them? What does stillness really imply?
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Choosing Love over Likes
“Do you like it here in the Philippines?” I have been asked this question many times in my missionary experience and my honest response has always been in the affirmative. But I honestly respond with a firm negative when I ask myself, “Do I really like everything here in the Philippines?” There are surely things that l like, i.e. things that are according to my taste, and things that I sure wish were different. Who can honestly claim that he or she likes every single thing about a place or culture or country, even their own native culture? Once we can accept that we cannot like everything about a place or situation, it becomes clear to us that it is not what we like that gives meaning to our lives.
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“Save Yourselves from this Corrupt Generation” (Acts 2:40)
This verse in the Book of Acts brings an image to my mind of a street activist holding a sign with these words scrawled across it — a scenario many would turn away from. But those who heard St. Peter’s speech at Pentecost were “cut to the heart by it,” and that day three thousand were baptized and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
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Delusions the Devil Suggests to Sinners
Let us imagine a young man who has fallen into grievous sins, which he has already confessed, and who is restored to the friendship of God. The devil again tempts him to relapse; the young man resists for a while, but in consequence of the delusions suggested by the enemy, he begins to vacillate. “Tell me, young man,” I say to him, “what will you do? Will you now, for this miserable pleasure, forfeit the grace of God, which you have just acquired, and which is more valuable than the whole world? Will you yourself write the sentence of eternal death, and condemn yourself to burn forever in hell?” “No,” you answer, “I do not wish to damn myself; I wish to he saved; if I commit this sin, I will afterwards confess it.” Behold the first delusion of the devil! Then you say that you will afterwards confess it; but in the meantime you lose your soul. Tell me, if you had a jewel worth a thousand crowns, would you throw it into a river, saying, “I will make a diligent search for it, and hope to find it?”
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How to Build a Family-Friendly Parish
“St. John Paul II taught us that without the family — the domestic Church — there is no Church,” said Father Luis Granados, parochial vicar at St. Mary Catholic Church in Littleton, Colo., whose parish’s theme for the past year has been “Toward a Family-Friendly Parish.”

“We want to be family-friendly because God is family-friendly. He formed the people of Israel from the family of Abraham; he sent his only begotten Son to the family of Nazareth, and he has chosen the family as the place of the transmission of the faith.”
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Fathers and Daughters – Is This a Missing Key to Modesty Today?
Yesterday we discussed the intolerance of the very radicals who are forever calling for tolerance. A couple of people wrote in to indicate that they consider my stance duplicitous, since I likely support Archbishop Cordeleone’s stance requiring Catholic School teachers to demonstrate loyalty to Catholic teachings and promise not to teach to the contrary in Catholic schools. I do in fact support the good Archbishop. But I do not accept the charge of duplicity.
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The Church As the Last Defender of the Power of Human Reason
One can be fundamentalist about fundamentalism, and morally conservative Christianity satisfies for many on the left the need for someone to hit that animates real fundamentalism. The kind of narrow, pinched, shrewish, intolerantly dogmatic mind supposedly common among traditional Christians is a mind found in people of every commitment, except maybe among the converts to westernized Buddhism. I think it’s more common on the left, especially the lifestyle left, than among traditional Christians, though people on the left can hide it better and they apply it to socially approved targets, like the conservative people of Indiana.
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Understanding the Apostolic Age
Around 80,000 people lived in Jerusalem during the Roman occupation. Most of them were descendants of Israel. Most were Jews, and they knew that their city would be the site of the climactic scenes of the greatest drama in human history — a drama not merely of local importance, but cosmic in scale.
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“The ‘angel’ among the garbage-pickers
Amid the filth and despair of Cairo’s worst slums, a middle-class ‘lady in white’ feels called by God to protect the children who must sort rubbish to stay alive

It’s a place that feels as though it’s beyond hope. It has existed on the fringes of Cairo for generations, a maze of crumbling, dark dwellings and narrow streets of packed dirt, trodden by emaciated donkeys pulling wooden carts towering with stacks of rubbish.
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When God’s Love Hurts
“On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children, only the first step is painful. Our greatest cross is the fear of crosses. . . . We have not the courage to carry our cross, and we are very much mistaken; for,whatever we do, the cross holds us tight — we cannot escape from it. What, then, have we to lose? Why not love our crosses and make use of them to take us to Heaven? But, on the contrary, most men turn their backs upon crosses, and fly before them. The more they run, the more the cross pursues them, the more it strikes and crushes them with burdens. . . . If you were wise, you would go to meet it like Saint Andrew, who said, when he saw the cross prepared for him and raised up into the air, “Hail O good cross! O admirable cross! O desirable cross! receive me into thine arms, withdraw me from among men, and restore me to my Master, who redeemed me through thee. “ — St John Vianney
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The Cross is for Wretches Like Me
In his remarkably profound book, Lift Up You Heart, Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “The Cross is the most inescapable reality of life. If we will not accept it outside of ourselves, to pardon us and to heal, then we will have it inside, as frustration and despair.” The life changing reality of Calvary has been that “most inescapable reality” for millions of people. I am included in their ranks.
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ASK FATHER: Haven’t been to confession for 40 years
From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

I’m 49 and haven’t been to confession since I was about 9 I say prayers every day and pop into church now and then to light candles the thing is I’ve not been to well recently and would like to make a confession but not to sure what to say could you please help

How about,

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It’s been about 40 years since my last confession. I think I’m going to need some help from you for this confession.”
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A Work Week Theology
There are more of us then there are of them.  More laity than religious, that is. Throughout history, the great saints have gifted the Church with unique charisms and rules for religious life.  But what does that mean for those who live and work in the world—the other 7.2 billion of us?

We are reminded in Lumen Gentium (the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) that we live in the world, and each and every one of the world’s occupations and callings and in the ordinary circumstance of social and family life which, as it were, form the context of our existence. We are called by God to contribute to the sanctification of the world from within, like leaven, in the spirit of the Gospel, by fulfilling our own particular duties.

We live in the world. But how are we to live—which really is to say how are we to fulfill our “particular duties” and live an authentically Christian life? Much of what we know about the spiritual nature of work is rooted in a classic disagreement between two sisters: Martha and Mary.
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St. John Paul II’s Great Legacy
10 Years After Death, His Teachings Undergird Pope Francis’ Key Priorities

When Pope John Paul II died 10 years ago on April 2 — in 2005, the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday; this year, it will be Holy Thursday — it was frequently commented that an epic papacy had just concluded, that John Paul was the kind of pope the Church has been sent only a few times in her long history.
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The Case for a Mass Conversion of Men
Despite the fact the New Evangelization has been an ongoing emphasis by the Catholic Church for over forty years, it has failed to stem the disastrous losses of the faithful in the U.S. Since 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education participation of children has dropped by 24%, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19%, baptisms of infants has dropped by 28%, baptism of adults has dropped by 31% and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41%. Something is desperately wrong with the Church’s approach to the New Evangelization. Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education participation of children has dropped by 24%, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19%, baptisms of infants has dropped by 28%, baptism of adults has dropped by 31% and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41%. Something is desperately wrong with the Church’s approach to the New Evangelization.
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Do Small Things with Great Love
The older I get, the more time I spend enduring medical exams and “procedures.” Never willing to waste time, I often pray in my moments alone while waiting. I’m also fond of chatting up and observing people. That can provide flashes of grace.

Recently, I was laying on a hospital bed in expectation of being wheeled into a room for a procedure. The curtain in the room was opened, which gave me clear view of a hallway. I watched an older man, probably in his early-to-mid 70s, as he was preparing another room like mine for the next patient. I saw him change the pillowcase, then strip and remake the bed.

And I was mesmerized watching him wash the bed.
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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Pastoral Sharings: "Easter Sunday"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Easter Sunday
Posted for Arril 5, 2015   

 

Undoubtedly Easter Sunday is the most important day in 
the liturgical year. Indeed we celebrate all the other 
Sundays as a weekly reminder of the fact that Christ rose 
from the dead on this the first day of the week.

Each year when we celebrate Easter we try to recapture some of the joy that was experienced by the first disciples once they realised that Christ had actually risen. Of course, at first they couldn’t really understand what had happened; we know some of them initially believed that the body of Jesus had been stolen by grave robbers.

But very soon they remembered that Jesus had foretold that he would rise from the dead, but even realising this they were still completely and absolutely astonished when he appeared in their midst.

In the Gospel text for today St John tells us about a sort of a race between himself and St Peter as to who would get to the tomb first. They had been alerted by Mary Magdalene and started running to the tomb. There is a nice little interplay between the two Apostles; John gets there first but then holds back to let Peter enter the tomb in acknowledgement of his seniority.

Peter goes into the tomb and notes how the grave clothes were placed, but when John goes into the tomb it is he who is the first to believe.

This makes him the most reliable witness to the resurrection; this is the event that validates him as the author of his Gospel. He sees that the tomb is empty and he believes that Jesus has risen from the dead. This simple fact places him above all others and gives him absolute authority as the one who can tell the story of Jesus and what he achieved with the greatest authenticity of all.

Due to the great distance in time that separates us from these events we don’t have the privilege of being among the ones to see the empty tomb. Neither is it possible for us to experience the appearances of the Risen Jesus to the Apostles.

No our faith in the resurrection of Jesus comes about because other people have told us what happened. There were the original witnesses, namely Mary Magdalene, the Apostles and the other close disciples of Jesus. These passed the news on, they gave testimony to their friends and then to more distant acquaintances and so the news of the resurrection gradually spread far and wide, eventually coming down to us.

In our case it was most likely our parents who first told us that Jesus had risen from the dead. Seeing their faith in this wonderful event we take it on trust and we find that we can believe it too.

Belief in the resurrection is the very foundation of our faith, the stone on which it is built. Upon this single truth the other doctrines are constructed that make up the faith of the Church. These are not a set of fanciful notions but are rather the logical consequences and the working out of that greatest miracle of all, the resurrection.

It is from the resurrection that everything else flows: our belief in the Eucharist, our understanding of the role of the Saints and our faith in the everlasting life of heaven. There are many other doctrines that flow from these roots of our religion such as our belief in the Church and the power of the sacraments. Without the resurrection none of these concepts would mean anything at all.

As with the feast of Christmas, there are many accretions that have attached themselves to the Easter celebrations over the centuries.

I believe that the Easter Bunny owes more to folklore and paganism than to the Christian religion. Easter Bunnies are more of a fertility symbol than anything else and it is likely that their connection to Easter is due to the coincidence of it occurring in Springtime when fertility was celebrated in pagan times.

Easter Eggs make a bit more sense since they remind us of the stone which was rolled away from the tomb. I remember as a child we would go to a park on Easter Sunday and roll the eggs down a slope in imitation of the stone being rolled away from the tomb.

The prevalence of Easter Eggs is possibly also due to the fact that many people abstained from eggs as part of their Lenten Fast and once Easter came along they were able to be eaten once again. During Lent the eggs were often hard boiled to avoid spoiling; and once that was done it is not so difficult to understand that then they could be decorated as is often the custom in Eastern Europe today.

A more modern addition I suppose is the idea of a chocolate egg, perhaps this is inspired by our consumer culture and the desire for instant gratification. Of course, Easter is a time for great feasting and so I suppose chocolate eggs can be seen in that context.

A very common custom right across Europe is to eat lamb on Easter Sunday. Besides it being the right time of year for lambs to become available they represent, of course, Jesus who is the Lamb of God.

Whatever your particular customs it is very important to celebrate this great feast commemorating the resurrection of Jesus in the home. It is an especially good time for families and for eating a special meal together.

Just to go back briefly to the text of the Gospel, while I spoke earlier about the race between Peter and John I do not want to overlook the role of the very first witness to the resurrection, namely Mary Magdalene.

In her day women were not allowed to be witnesses in a Jewish court because it was thought that they were far too flighty and unreliable, only a man’s word could be trusted. Yet all of the Gospel writers tell us that Mary of Magdala and some other women were the very first witnesses to the resurrection. It is they who tell the Apostles that the tomb is empty.

This is an example of the veracity of the Evangelists; most other authors of the time would simply have omitted the presence of the women, they would have only regarded the men as proper witnesses and the women would most likely never have got a mention. To me this is more evidence, if any more were needed, of the truth of the Gospels in which even uncomfortable truths are not overlooked.

I think that this is also another example of how the Gospel constantly turns our accepted attitudes upside down. Women couldn’t give witness in purely human courts but here they are the ones who are permitted to give witness to things which are entirely supernatural. They can’t give testimony about the rights and wrongs of everyday life, but in the Christian dispensation these women are the ones who give the first witness to the greatest event that ever happened.

Women may be disregarded by men but not by God. Whatever sexism we might think we see in Christianity, make no mistake that there is absolutely none at its roots. Here it is God’s values that are given priority and not any merely human constructs.

The Gospel is always Good News; it is good news for men and it is good news for women. It is good news for everyone that Christ is risen and that new life awaits us all.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=2068

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

Easter Sunday, Year B—April 5, 2015
Today’s Gospel describes an absence that confounds the disciples, preparing them for the Presence their hearts desire.

Gospel (Read Jn 20:1-9)

On Palm Sunday, the narrative of our Lord’s Passion ended with these words: “Then they rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb” (Mk 15:46b). Jesus’ dead Body had been quickly prepared for burial, because the Sabbath sundown approached, and He was laid in the fresh tomb of a rich man. Then, for His followers, there was silence and utter desolation. We can only imagine how much “rest” they got on what must have been the longest Sabbath day of their lives.
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Easter: Easter Flowers
The flowers!  We come to Church on Easter and are overwhelmed with the beauty and fragrance of flowers.  Here is an obvious question: Why flowers?  Why do we fill the Church with flowers to celebrate Easter?  The answer is far more than Easter takes place in the Spring when the flowers begin to bloom.  There is a deeper meaning than that.  The flowers signify the beauty of a world renewed.  Easter celebrates the beauty of renewed life in Christ.
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Celebrating Holy Week and The Triduum: RESOURCES for PERSONAL AND FAMILY PRAYERS AND DEVOTIONS
Sundown on Holy Thursday during Holy Week marks the beginning of three sacred days (Triduum) that changed the destiny of the human race.  Few of us have sufficient time to make use of all the following suggestions for prayers during these holy days, but it would be a tragedy to let this season of grace go by without taking some time for extended prayer and reflection.  So steal away for as much time as you can and let the Spirit help you pick and choose which devotions will best help you make the most of this special time.  See also the other Triduum readings, prayers, and resources in the Lent and Holy Week sections of The Crossroads Initiative Library.
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Spend This Week With Jesus – A Daily Chronology of Jesus’ “Last” Week
At the heart of our faith is the Paschal mystery: the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. All of salvation history leads up to and goes forth from these saving events. The purpose of this post is to describe Jesus’ final week. We call this “Holy Week” because Jesus’ public ministry culminates with His suffering, death, and resurrection.
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I Believe in Jesus Christ
To profess belief in the second person of the Most Holy Trinity carries with it unfathomable implications because full understanding lies rooted inconceivably beyond human reach in our eternal Creator. The Catechism elucidates the incarnation as we read: “we believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He ‘came from God’, ‘descended from heaven’, and ‘came in the flesh’ For ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”1 Such profound words constitute a poetic promise by those of us who utter them and compel us by the most strenuous efforts to apprehend (aided by the gifts of the Holy Spirit) who Christ Jesus is and what our belief in Him demands from us.
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Does God Still Speak to Us?
I sat quietly; a little disheartened by a conversation I had just had. The person I was talking to told me that she didn’t believe God really talks to her. In fact, she wasn’t sure that He talked to anyone really. I felt a sadness creep into my heart for her. How could she believe that God doesn’t talk to her? How could she miss His voice when there are times I hear it as clearly as I hear my sweet little ones’ voices as they call out, “Mama!”?
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Surrender It to God
“Our Lord has shown me the way that leads to love – it is the only way that leads to love – it is the way of childlike trust and surrender; the way a child that sleeps is afraid of nothing in its father’s arms.” — St. Therese of Lisieux

“We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can – namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us.” – St. Teresa of Avila

“Just surrender it to God!” I heard my wise friend saying as I recounted to her the events of the past week. “I am!” I retorted. “I am going to pray for you”, she replied.
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15 Amazing Quotes from Saint Padre Pio
When I chose Padre Pio as my Confirmation saint it was because I thought it was cool that he could bilocate and read souls…

So… I really thought hard about that one.

But God can work through anything, and since my Confirmation, through the intercession of Padre Pio, I have grown a lot in my love and understanding of this holy man. I took a class on him in college in an effort to get to know him better. We read thousands of pages of his letters to and from his spiritual directors and directees (the people he gave spiritual advice to). I think it’s safe to say that after hours of study and prayer he and I have moved from “acquaintances” to “spiritual father/daughter.” And I have been so blessed by his wisdom.
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Hard Sayings: God’s Word Never Changes
This article’s title comes to us from John 6:60, and is in regards to Jesus telling his disciples that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life. Many followers left him over the doctrine of the Eucharist, apparently not understanding His words of spirit and life in John 6:63 (spirit and life = sacramental reality, not cannibalism).

But there are many other hard sayings in sacred Scripture. As Catholics, we are not only expected to know them, but to observe them as well. Let’s take a look at some other those hard sayings.
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On the Lost Justice of the “Sabbath Rest”

Some of us who are older remember that Sundays were once quiet in downtown; in shopping areas, parking lots were empty. Most businesses were closed and few people had to work on Sundays. Surely there were exceptions, such as medical personnel, emergency workers, and those who ran essential services like power plants. But for most, Sunday was a day off. And although the biblical Sabbath was Saturday, in a largely Christian nation Sunday was the “Sabbath” day of rest.
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The Forgotten Benefits of Christ Within
I was having my very first funeral service as a seminarian when what I then considered the unthinkable happened – I started to cry as I noticed the deep pains of the bereaved even though I knew nothing about the deceased during her life. I was thinking, “How am I going to be a priest if I get emotional at funerals when I have little knowledge of the deceased? Hasn’t it been drummed into my head in many ways that men do not cry, at least not in public? Isn’t there something wrong with me?”
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No Freedom Without Faith, Says Archbishop Chaput
Over at his blog for The American Conservative, Rod Dreher notes that Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia gave a key address at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on March 17.  The Philadelphia prelate said that for religious liberty to endure, traditional religion must endure and thrive:
 
The biggest problem we face as a culture isn’t gay marriage or global warming. It’s not abortion funding or the federal debt. These are vital issues, clearly. But the deeper problem, the one that’s crippling us, is that we use words like justice, rights, freedom and dignity without any commonly shared meaning to their content.
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Who is Deserving of Life and Love?
If I were to tell you that I only love my blue-eyed children, what would you think? There would surely be well deserved outrage! What if God only loved those of us who were saints or we were obligated to only love those with whom we agree? How would the family fare if children only had to obey the house rules that they enjoy?

I could continue with one outlandish example after another, but the point is sufficiently made.
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When God Doesn’t Answer
When I was a spiritual newborn, I thought I could study my way into heaven. If I just accrued the right information, gathered the necessary data, I could guarantee a seat in the celestial court, even if only in the nosebleed section. I remember combing the aisles of Barnes & Noble looking for books on Christian spirituality, the Saints, Catholic doctrine and anything else that I perceived could give me the tools to find and know God—and to be happy. I obsessed over gaining more knowledge, rapaciously consuming everything I could because I believed the more knowledge I had of the faith and God, the happier I would be. I was looking for a shortcut, one that detoured from the narrow way and dropped me off right at the front gates, you know, the pearly ones.
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Why It’s Impossible to Be a Catholic
It’s those ten commandments. They’re impossible!

Not long ago I had an email correspondence with a man who was divorced and remarried.

He asked why the church could not be more “forgiving”.

By this I think he meant that he wanted the church to say his second marriage was okay, or maybe he wanted me to say the marriage was okay, that it by living with another woman other than his validly married wife he was not, after all, “living in sin”.
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Tolerance Has Its Place, But Also Its Limits – A Brief Consideration of a Widely Misunderstood Virtue
Yesterday we discussed the intolerance of the very radicals who are forever calling for tolerance. A couple of people wrote in to indicate that they consider my stance duplicitous, since I likely support Archbishop Cordeleone’s stance requiring Catholic School teachers to demonstrate loyalty to Catholic teachings and promise not to teach to the contrary in Catholic schools. I do in fact support the good Archbishop. But I do not accept the charge of duplicity.
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On the Malice of Mortal Sin
What does the sinner do when he commits mortal sin? He insults God, he dishonors him, he afflicts him. In the first place, mortal sin is an insult offered to God. The malice of an insult is, as St. Thomas says, estimated from the condition of the person who receives and of the person who offers the insult. It is sinful to offend a peasant; it is more criminal to insult a nobleman: but to treat a monarch with contempt and insolence, is a still greater crime. Who is God? “He is Lord of lords and king of ings” (Revelation 17:14). He is a Being of infinite majesty, before whom all the princes of the earth, and all the saints and angels, are less than an atom of sand. “As a drop of a bucket…as a little dust” (Isaiah 40:15). The prophet Hosea adds, that, compared with the greatness of God, all creatures are as insignificant as if they did not exist.
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On the Eternity of Hell
Were hell not eternal, it should not be hell. Torments which continue but a short time, are not a severe punishment. The man who is afflicted with an imposthume [an abscess] or cancer, submits to the knife or the cautery. The pain is very sharp; but, because it is soon over, the torture is not very great. But, should the incision or cauterization last for a week, or for an entire month, how frightful should be the agony! A slight pain in the eye, or in the teeth, when it lasts for a long time, becomes insupportable. Even a comedy, a musical entertainment, should it continue for an entire day, produces intolerable tediousness. And should it last for a month, or for a year, who could bear it? What then must hell be, where the damned are compelled, not to listen to the same comedy or the same music, nor to submit merely to pains in the eyes or in the teeth, or to the torture of the knife, or of the red-hot iron, but to suffer all pains and all torments? And for how long? For all eternity, “They shall be tortured forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
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Ask Father Mike: Do We Need Confession?
Dear Fr. Mike,

I want to go to Confession, but I don’t really feel bad for my sins. What do I do? Can I be forgiven?

That’s a really common experience. After all, if we think about it, one of the main reasons (if not the only reason!) why we sin is because there is something pleasing about it. Even when Eve saw the fruit, it was “good, pleasing…and desirable to the eyes.” It seems that the only reason we choose to do anything is because we are convinced that it will make us happy. And sometimes it does. Sometimes sin makes us happy.
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A Most Fitting Response to the Redefinition of Marriage
Truth doesn’t always need to be harsh. In fact, speaking the truth in charity is the only way that it could ever be heard. Dr. Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation offers a diplomatic, no-nonsense response to the marriage equality debate from a public policy perspective.
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The Cross in Our Lives
There are so many reasons that Christ’s Cross should be on our minds as a Christian, especially because we are navigating the season of Lent—that beautiful and prayerful time of year. Holy Mother Church prods us to become more mindful of Jesus’ Passion and Death on the Cross—His unselfish holy sacrifice so that we might have Eternal Life.

We practice the Stations of the Cross devotion on Fridays throughout Lent and we pray to grow closer to Christ and to understand the real meaning of the Cross.
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Four Reasons to Praythe Stations of the Cross Daily
The Stations of the Cross is one of the most neglected devotions in daily Catholic prayer. Often we are encouraged to pray the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Liturgy of the Hours (which are all great suggestions) but I do not remember anyone suggesting to me to pray the Stations of the Cross on a daily basis.
 
This is unfortunate as many of the saints have derived great benefit from accompanying Jesus on his Way to Calvary and many were inspired to compose their own versions of the ancient devotion.

So here are seven reasons (in no particular order) why we should consider praying the Stations of the Cross on a daily basis:
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The Shroud: Not a Painting,Not a Scorch, Not a Photograph
This June, Pope Francis will be making a pilgrimage to Turin, Italy, home of the famous Shroud of Turin, which many believe is the 2,000-year-old burial cloth of Jesus Christ. The pope’s June 21-22 visit will include time venerating the Shroud at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. Francis will then visit the tomb of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, buried in a nearby altar. The trip will also include a commemoration of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians and patron saint of youth who worked in Turin; this year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth. The papal visit will take advantage of April 19-June 24 exposition of the Shroud, which was last displayed in public in 2010.
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6 Early Christian Controversies That Protestantism Can’t Explain
In an article entitled Saint Patrick the Baptist?, Stephen R. Button tries to claim St. Patrick for Evangelical Protestantism… or at least disassociate him from Roman Catholicism. Button is hardly alone: you can find similar attempts by Don Boys and others, some of them dating back several decades.

The argument tends to work like this. From Patrick, we have (in Button’s words) only the “84 short paragraphs that make up both his Confession and his ‘Letter to Coroticus.’” Baptist authors then mine these texts for any doctrines that Patrick doesn’t mention explicitly, and then claim that he must have held the Baptist view. So, for example, since Patrick doesn’t say who ordained him a bishop, Button concludes that Patrick must have believed that ordination came directly from God, rather than through the Church: ….more

A Fortnight’s Best in Catholic Apologetics
This Fortnight’s Best in Catholic Apologetics features the best articles from around the internet concerning faith proposals and defenses of the Catholicism from the previous fortnight.

In 2014 I complied a weekly ‘Best of Catholic Apologetic’ over at my website, but due to more vital matters competing for my time, I could no longer sustain that effort. Yet, due to Shaum McAfee’s persistence, I’ve decided to bring that effort over the Epic Pew, but on a less frequent scale. That being said, you can still expect even better lists. I hope you enjoy it always.
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“How should we face our last years? This booklet will guide you towards an answer
It used to be the case that the only two certainties in life were death and taxes. Now – at least in the prosperous First World – a third has been added to this mordant list: old age. You can’t open a newspaper or listen to the radio without stumbling on yet another discussion about the demographics, economics, political significance or social problems of the elderly. When media guru Joan Bakewell (in her 80s) and Pope Francis (in his late 70s) are both giving their views on the subject, you know it’s here to stay
…more

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

 

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Pastoral Sharings: "Palm Sunday"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Palm Sunday
Posted for March 29, 2015

Scholars tell us that what we have just heard is the oldest written account of the passion and death of Jesus. So by reading it in dramatic form as we have just done we are able to get very close to those most significant of all events in the history of the world. 

A few days ago when I was reading the various texts of today’s mass I was struck by the similarity between the account of getting the donkey for the ride into Jerusalem, that we had at the beginning of the mass, with the account of the preparations made for the Passover feast. 

In both cases it seems as though Jesus had made some private arrangements without the knowledge of his disciples. He had made prior provision for the donkey to be there ready for his entry into Jerusalem and he had already booked a suitable room in which he could hold the Last Supper. 

So these were not spontaneous events. Jesus knew what he was doing. We should be quite clear that Jesus was entirely aware of what was going to happen and he deliberately accepted the Father’s will.

I’d also just briefly like to draw your attention to the meal at Bethany right at the beginning of the account of St Mark’s Passion. It is often overlooked. 

This meal we are told took place two days before the Passover and so you could regard it is a sort of pre-Last Supper. At this meal in the house of Simon the Leper a woman anoints his feet with expensive oil. We generally assume that this woman is Mary Magdalene who is named in a similar account in the Gospel of John but Mark has her simply as an anonymous woman. 

This anointing occurs at a very significant moment, after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and immediately prior to his arrest and crucifixion. The whole point of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is that he is revealing himself as the Messiah. The word Messiah in Hebrew or Christ in Greek literally means ‘the anointed one’ —well here you have the anointing! 

But like everything else in the life of Jesus things are turned upside down. This anointing breaks all the rules. It is not in a royal palace it is in the house of a leper. It is not done by the High Priest but by an anonymous woman. There is no acclamation at the fitness of this wonderful action but instead Jesus’ closest disciples are totally unaware of its significance and get annoyed with the woman for wasting the expensive ointment. 

As if to underline the point even more, Mark brackets the incident with two betrayals: one the plotting of the Chief Priests and the Scribes and the other the betrayal by Judas.

Christ himself, however, proclaims the appropriateness of the woman’s action. He says, ‘She has anointed my body for its burial.’ Again things are upside down. A Messiah is anointed and comes into his own when he is enthroned not when he is buried. 

This short prelude to the events of the Passion and Death of Jesus deserves to be studied closely and prayed about deeply. It entirely typifies the paradoxical nature of the Kingdom Christ came to inaugurate.

His Kingdom is a Kingdom of truth, justice and peace. It is a Kingdom based on the Beatitudes. It is a Kingdom in which the poor and the disregarded are raised to the highest positions. It is a Kingdom based on love not power. It is a Kingdom in which Simon the Leper and Mary Magdalene are quite at home. It is a Kingdom which the likes of the Chief Priests and the Scribes see as a threat and do all in their power to undermine.

This is the Kingdom we aspire to and it is this Kingdom we will see inaugurated during the events of this Holy Week.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=2057

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday, Year B—March 29, 2015
In our Lenten journey, have we discovered that we are studies in contrasts? Did we begin with great aspirations and are now feeling more than ever our fickleness? If so, we are truly ready for Palm Sunday.

Gospel (Read Mark 14:1-15:47)

Today, in the universal Catholic Church, we rise during Mass to hear a full reading of the Passion of Christ. What is our disposition today, having spent nearly 40 days praying, fasting, and doing acts of generosity? Most of us start Lent with some sense of seriousness about our relationship with God. We welcome a whole season in which we seek to know and love Him better. Is that happening? Are the results mixed?
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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: Don’t Keep the Secret
(This is a brief homily for after the Proclamation of the Passion. In my parish I would follow this with calling the people to join us in prayer on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Solemn Easter Vigil).

Today’s Proclamation of the Passion was from the Gospel of Mark. This is the Gospel that often presents crowds of people pressing on Jesus to be healed. Jesus heals many people in this Gospel, but he then he directs them, “Tell no one about this.” Jesus silences devils who call out from the possessed that they know who He is. Why? Why the secrecy? Why does Mark present what scripture scholars would call, the Messianic Secret? The message behind the secret is that no one can understand the healings or the Messiah until they understand the cross.
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Does God Still Speak to Us?
I sat quietly; a little disheartened by a conversation I had just had. The person I was talking to told me that she didn’t believe God really talks to her. In fact, she wasn’t sure that He talked to anyone really. I felt a sadness creep into my heart for her. How could she believe that God doesn’t talk to her? How could she miss His voice when there are times I hear it as clearly as I hear my sweet little ones’ voices as they call out, “Mama!”?
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Seek God’s Face
Love hides its face from two classes of souls: the false lovers and the true. The false confuse appetite with love, and so fail to recognize the real thing when it comes to them; the true are kept in darkness about their love, and so add faith and hope to their search for it. The search in faith and hope for the love that seems to be always out of reach is in fact love already discovered.
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Purity of Heart is Needed to See God
I have mentioned here before that my mentor and teacher, Fr. Francis Martin, once asked, “Do you know what is the biggest obstacle for us in understanding the Word of God?” I was expecting him to answer his own question by saying something like, “We don’t know enough Greek,” or “We haven’t studied the historical critical method carefully enough.” But he looked around the room and then said, “The biggest obstacle we have to understanding the Word of God is our sin.”
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Three Ways Everyone Is Seeking Christ
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

These words of Jesus Christ, in John 14:6, constitute one of the most forceful expressions of what could be called the scandal of particularity. One Dominican priest summed it up best this way:
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Five Lessons from Jesus about the Path to Glory
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

As Christians, we must be people of prayer—pure and simple. If we do not pray, we do not have a relationship with Christ.

There are many types of prayer. Among them, the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists blessing, adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise. Each of these prayers can be expressed in different ways. Again, the catechism mentions vocal prayer, meditation and contemplation.

Don’t let this overwhelm you, instead accept that God calls and invites you to a wonderful personal relationship and prayer is one of the principal ways you spend time with Him.

In her autobiography, St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote this about prayer
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Jesus to St. Faustina on Spiritual Warfare: 25 Secrets
In Cracow-Pradnik, June 2, 1938, the Lord Jesus directed a young Polish Sister of Mercy on a three-day retreat. Faustina Kowalska painstakingly recorded Christ’s instruction in her diary that is a mystical manual on prayer and Divine Mercy. Having read the Diary a few times in the past 20 years, I had forgotten about the unique retreat that Christ gave on the subject of spiritual warfare. Then, recently, I was invited to lead a retreat in Trinidad based on Christ’s “Conference on Spiritual Warfare” as presented in the Diary. The Sanctuary of the Holy Family, an amazing group of lay leaders in service to the Archbishop and priests, sponsored the retreat in the Archdiocese of Trinidad and we filled the Seminary of St. John Vianney to ponder this teaching.
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What Is Temptation, Why Does God Permit It, and What Are Its Sources?
I will be on the Catholic Answers radio show today (Monday, March 23) at 6:00 PM Eastern Time. The topic will be temptation, what it is and how to avoid and overcome it. I’ve assembled some notes in preparation and I’ll present them (in two parts) in the blog. Today’s post focuses on what temptation is, why God allows it, and what its sources are. Tomorrow I’ll present the second half of the notes, which center on how to avoid and overcome temptation.
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Nine Things Salon.com Gets Wrong About Jesus
Salon.com recently published an article by former Evangelical-turned-freethinker Valerie Tarico titled 9 things you think you know about Jesus that are probably wrong.

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking contained in her arguments, but they’ve been making the rounds in social media, and therefore worthy of a response.

Below are each of the nine points, and how to answer if you find yourself confronted with them.
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Of Human Dignity
The following address was given at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on March, 17 2015.

Vatican II ended in December 1965 with an outpouring of enthusiasm and hope. The Council’s hope was grounded in two things: a renewed Catholic faith, and confidence in the skill and goodness of human reason.

Half a century has passed since then. A lot has happened. The world today is a very different place than it was in 1965. And much more complex. That’s our reality, and it has implications for the way we live our faith, which is one of the reasons we’re here tonight. …more

Can Human Free Will and Divine Predestination Both be True?
If God is not love but only knowledge, then it is difficult or impossible to see how human free will and divine predestination can both be true. But if God is love, there is a way.

Freedom and predestination is one of the most frequently asked questions among my students—partly because of modern man’s great concern for freedom, but also, I think, for the largely unconscious reason that we intuitively know both these things must be true because they are the warp and woof of every good story. If a story has no plot, no destiny—if its events are haphazard and arbitrary—it is not a great story.
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What Is Serenity and How Can We Grow in It?
During Lent, a gift to seek is greater serenity. The word comes from the Latin serenus, meaning clear or unclouded (skies). By extension it thus means calm, without storm.

Serenity has become more used in modern times with the advent of many 12-Step programs, which use the Serenity Prayer as an important help to their work.
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The Weight of Glory
We can believe we are mere mortals dreaming the dream of immortality, while in fact, we are immortals dreaming the terrible dream of mere mortality.

We all know what the weight of glory is, whether or not we have read Lewis’ golden sermon.
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Archbishop Chaput: What Is True Religious Freedom?
In a lecture at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia’s shepherd discusses emerging threats to religious freedom a half century after the Council Fathers approved Dignitatis Humanae.

PHILADELPHIA — In an address on the state of religious freedom in the United States and across the globe, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia targeted the shifting semantics that obscure objective truth, as church-state tensions escalate and U.S. society debates new definitions of human freedom and the family.
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Is the Bible Inspired And Without Error?
The Pontifical Biblical Commission publishes document on proper interpretation of Scripture and tackles tough questions about biblical violence, the status of women, historical errors and who authored what books.

The Pontifical Biblical Commission was asked by Pope Benedict XVI to study the question of the proper interpretation of Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution that deals with the transmission of the word of God.
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Love Your Neighbor As Yourself
“You don’t have to like everyone but you have to love everyone”: A simple way of explaining the second great commandment to our children. Love your neighbor as yourself.

“Even bad guys, Mummy?”

“Yes, even bad guys. You don’t have to like what they do but you do have to love them.”

But what does that mean exactly? Is it a throw away line? Can we say and do whatever we want in relation to a person so long as we pay lip service to some sort of wishy-washy love? Or must we love our neighbor by supporting every single decision they make and characteristic they possess? No, but both of these attitudes are quite common.
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Serve the Poor or Go to Hell–A Step by Step Guide to Avoiding Eternal Damnation
“I’ve said many times over many years that if we ignore the poor, we will go to hell: literally,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said, most recently, here.

I love that. I am well aware that, just as perfect contrition is better than imperfect contrition, it is better to serve the poor out of love for God and neighbor than out of fear of reprisal.

But I also know that, to get over spiritual and moral inertia, sometimes we need a little push.
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As It Was in the Beginning is Now, and Ever
The other night, I was frustrated with my critics, frustrated with my children, and frustrated with my disobedient German shepherds who take my donning of a coat to mean the dawning of a walk, even near midnight. I was grateful to be pulled outside though. The sky was clear beyond bits of late snow, one of those spirity nights when the winds of impending Spring wipe away the clouds, and the starlight casts shadows. “My God,” I prayed, “the stars are so bright!”
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A Mission of Love
The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September should be more than a vast Catholic “gathering of the clans” around Pope Francis—and so should the months between now and then. If the Church in the United States takes this opportunity seriously, these months of preparation will be a time when Catholics ponder the full, rich meaning of marriage and the family: human goods whose glory is brought into clearest focus by the Gospel. Parents, teachers and pastors all share the responsibility for seizing this opportunity, which comes at a moment when marriage and the family are crumbling in our culture and society.
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Four Critical Principles for Catholic Father
It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” (Pope St. John XXIII)

I often feel completely lost and befuddled as a Catholic father in today’s world.

How do I set the right example?

How do I help my sons grow up with a strong Catholic faith?

How do I prepare them for a culture that often teaches and rewards actions counter to what we believe and how we should live?
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Overcoming Sinful Anger
If you read anything by St. Francis de Sales, you come away with the impression that he was patience incarnate. He talks endlessly about the wonderful benefits of meekness, gentleness, and kindness—especially to those who deserve it least.

Yet, many don’t realize that this great saint struggled for most of his life with a fiery temper and an intense impatience. By his own admission, it took him nearly 20 years to overcome these tendencies. It is a testament to his fierce battle against self that he is known and remembered for the exact opposite virtues of patience and gentleness, rather than those that came easily to his nature.
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What Other World Religions Think About Jesus
People trying to discover the truth about God should take a hard look at Jesus before looking anywhere else. While that may sound like a bold assertion in and of itself, it really isn’t when you consider that every major religious movement considers Jesus to be an important religious figure. Every religion makes some effort to account for His existence and teaching. Even secular scholars are interested in the life of Jesus—for example, the recently debuted CNN series, Finding Jesus, explores the person of Jesus from a historical perspective.

This ought to give seekers a reason to pause and consider the life of Jesus seriously.

Here is what a few other major world religions believe about Jesus:
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