BREAD OF LIFE

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood; you have no life in you. (John 6: 53)

Monday, October 20, 2014

PRACTICING CATHOLIC

What it really means to be a “Practicing Catholic”

by Stephen Spiteri

A few years ago, before I started this blog and before I seriously started getting into apologetics, I trekked cyberspace for an online Christian community to discuss all matters pertaining to faith. I came across one particular Christian forum (which shall remain nameless) and before learning that is was very, very anti-Catholic and filled with rabid-mouthed fundamentalists, I read their forum disclaimer and the administrators had something to say about Catholicism in particular. Apart from claiming that they believed Catholicism was not Christian, their disclaimer read something like this:

“… we are Christians who believe in the biblical message of Christ and that a personal relationship with Christ is the only way to get to Heaven. We don’t ‘practice’ our faith; we believe that your relationship with Christ is not something that has a set of rules, rituals or is something that is formulaic. We live our faith, preach it and desire others to come to the full biblical truth of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ …”

It’s the middle part that really caught my attention and got me thinking. Up until recently I’ve never really thought about what it truly means to be a “practicing Catholic” and dare I say there would have been a point in my life even as a Catholic that I would have agreed that being “practicing Catholic” meant going to church, receiving the sacraments, and more or less going just through the motions; attending, being present, and ticking boxes. How wrong I would have been; how wrong these fundamentalists are.

You could define “practicing” in terms of doing something frequently or habitually, true, but one someone describes themselves as a “practicing Catholic” without knowing it, they are professing sound deeply profound. I play the guitar and I have played the guitar since I was 12 going on 13 years old, and while the practice has slowed down these days, for years and years I practiced playing the guitar. Why did I practice? Because I wanted to get better.

When a Catholic says they’re a “practicing Catholic” what they really say is that they’re trying to become more like Christ; to be a better Catholic-Christian. Being a “practicing Catholic” means putting your faith into action. When the priest says to the congregation at the end of Mass, “Go forth, the Mass has ended”, “Go and proclaim the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life” he is indeed exhorting you to go out and be a practicing Catholic; to put your faith into action. We are not called to be Catholic-Christians once every week on the Lord’s day, but every day and in every moment in our lives.

We know that “faith without works is dead faith” (James 2:26), so in order for our faith to grow, as exercise strengthens muscles and improves our fitness, faith must be put into action and we must allow ourselves to be led by God’s grace. Christ himself tell us “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and becoming more Christ-like and Christ to other requires practice. And this we all know, practice makes perfect.

Amen.

Friday, October 10, 2014

FINAL JUDGEMENT

What the man without a wedding garment was lacking, A reflection on the day of judgment

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Matthew 22:1-14

Posted by Father Ryan Erlenbush

My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?

The Savior invites all people to the wedding feast of the Lamb, the eternal banquet of heaven. Yet, though salvation is offered to each, yet only few accept the gift and come to the wedding. However, what is most striking about this Sunday’s parable isn’t only that many who are called refuse to be saved, but that even this one who had come was cast out into the darkness.

What is the symbolic meaning of the wedding garment which the man lacked? What is our Savior teaching us about the judgment?

Overview of the parable

In this Sunday’s Gospel, our Lord gives us a parable about the kingdom: The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.

The first portion of the parable is divided into two parts: The ingratitude of the Jews, He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come; and the opening of salvation to the gentiles, The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.

After the hall has been filled with the newly invited guests, the king came in to meet the guests. However, one guest was not dressed in a wedding garment, who was reduced to silence and then bound hand and foot and cast into the darkness outside.

We consider who this man is who is cast out from the wedding feast.

A parable of the final judgment

But when the king came in to meet the guests…

While the first portion of the parable emphasizes that fact that salvation is indeed offered to all people bad and good alike, the latter scene describes the day of judgment when each will receive the proper reward of his labors.

When the king comes into the wedding feast to greet the guests, we are meant to recognize our Savior coming on the day of his judgment. Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide speaks well, “When the king came in, that he might survey and examine them. This shall take place when God shall come to the general judgment at the end of the world, to judge, and reward or punish all mankind.” This follows the interpretation of Origen and many others.

Recognizing that this scene is a representation of the judgment, we can quickly discern what this man is lacking who had no wedding garment.

Who will be judged on the last day

In his Commentary on the Letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews, St. Thomas (on the authority of St. Gregory the Great) states the following concerning the last judgment: “There are four orders in the judgment: some will not be judged, but will judge and be saved, namely, the Apostles and apostolic men; others will be judged and be saved, as the moderately good; still others will be judged and be damned, as wicked believers; finally, some will not be judged, but will be damned, as all unbelievers.” [On Hebrews 10:31, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.]

There are four classes of men on the day of judgment:

1. Those who will not be judged and will be saved.

2. Those who will be judged and will be saved.

3. Those who will be judged and will not be saved.

4. Those who will not be judged and will not be saved.

When we consider this parable carefully, we will see each of these classes of men.

Preliminary note about the final judgment and the particular judgment

We admit that those who die before the final judgment will have already receive the pronouncement of their eternity in the particular judgment at the moment of their death. The damned in hell and the blessed in heaven will nevertheless also undergo a general judgment in which the particular judgment is made manifest to all.

The judgment given by God at the moment of death certainly cannot change or be altered, yet the general judgment is necessary as extending the authority of God throughout all history. If in the particular judgment God reveals his sovereignty over each individual, in the general judgment this power is revealed as triumphing over all the injustices which occurred throughout the course of human history.

Not judged, and saved

Those who will not be judged but will be saved are represented by the servants in the parable of the wedding feast. They go out and call all men to salvation, they are the apostles and other great saints who are so clearly united to the king that there is no need to discuss their merits or demerits.

So excellent and holy, these greatest saints will simply be saved without any judgment of their actions, for there is no need to weigh merit and demerit with such as these.

Judged, and saved

Those who will be judged and will be saved are the guests who have come to the wedding feast. Upon the king’s arrival, they are found to be properly clothed and are welcome to remain at the feast.

These men and women have died in the state of grace and, upon the inspection of the king, are found worthy.

Not judged, and not saved

There are also those of the fourth class, who are not judged but are simply damned straight away. These are those who have no meritorious works as never having possessed the gift of faith. Without faith, man cannot please God – without sanctifying grace, no work can be of any value for eternal salvation.

These are those who refused to believe but, hardened in their perfidity, refused to come to the wedding feast. These ones are not judged by the king, but rather the king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. These ones are simply damned without any judgment, and this is made manifest on the last day.

Judged, and not saved – without a wedding garment

And now we can see whom this man without a wedding garment represents: Those who are judged, but who are damned. These are those who do have faith and who therefore are united to the Church (either visibly or, at least, invisibly), but who lack charity which gives life to the soul.

The man without a wedding garment is the believer who is in the state of mortal sin, lacking charity and good works – this is the teaching of Sts Jerome, Hilary, Gregory, and Augustine, as well as Tertullian. Such is the man who has faith, but no works; present at the wedding feast, he is yet found wanting and will be rejected by the king.

Many are called but few are chosen

Thus, we are encouraged to preserver in virtue and to accomplish good works. Ultimately, it is most necessary that we should die in the state of grace with charity in our soul. Indeed, even if a man were to have worn his wedding garment for most of his life, if he were to throw it away for some cheap momentary pleasure and to be found naked when the king should return!

O how sad a thought! To be found without charity’s garment and cast into the darkness of hell! To have traded heaven away so lightly!

And yet, the one act which will assure us of being among the few who are chosen is open to all! It is to pray! Prayer assures us of salvation! If only we pray daily for the grace to persevere to the end, and if we pray also during moments of temptation, we shall surely be saved.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BEING PERSECUTED FOR BEING CATHOLIC

Being persecuted for your faith puts you in very good company. Many of our saints suffered for their faith. Jesus was persecuted, and he told us that the same thing would happen to us in John 15:20 “Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” And, while that is true, it certainly seems like a reasonable expectation that you would be treated with respect and not ridiculed or persecuted in today’s culture.

A few years someone (who isn’t even Catholic) wrote a book called ABThe New Anti-Catholicism; The Last Acceptable Prejudice . Unfortunately, for some people, talking bad about Catholics doesn’t seem to have the same social stigma (and consequences) as making racist, sexist or other negative comment - even about other religions.

As you probably know, most of these comments come out of ignorance and lack of understanding. As Bishop Fulton J. Sheen famously and powerfully said, “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.” So, keep in mind that some of this negativity maybe rooted in ignorance, hate or a bad personal experience someone had with the Church – or a representative of the church The Bible clearly states that Christians will be persecuted. It still happens today in many different forms, from as simple as being mocked to as serious as murder.

Be that as it may, you should not let persecution discourage you from being a Christian. Accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior is one of the most important things you will do on this Earth. You shouldn't avoid it just because of the persecution. Although life may be hard for you at times because you are a Christian, be strong. Christian persecution may not be avoidable, but as Christians, we can endure it.

You can try to get through those trials by reading Bible verses about persecution. Read the scripture on persecution here and try to find peace in your life.

Bible Verses on Persecution

Psalms 9:13 Have mercy on me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, you that lift me up from the gates of death:

Psalms 119:86 All your commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help you me.

Jeremiah 20:11 But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.

Matthew 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

John 15:18 If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.

John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

1 Corinthians 4:12 And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

1 Thessalonians 3:4 For truly, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and you know.

2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Hebrews 10:33 Partly, whilst you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst you became companions of them that were so used.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you:

1 Peter 4:16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

CALL TO REPENTANCE


God is looking for one thing, and one thing only: repentance. Those who hear the Word of God preached week after week, yet refuse to apply it to their lives, will be judged more severely than those who never heard it.

by Lorraine E. Espenhain | Source: Catholic.net

"Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles had been performed, because they did not repent." [Mt 11:20]

In the eleventh chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel, he records a stern warning given by Christ Jesus our Lord to the unrepentant men and women who lived in the cities of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Jesus preached the good news in these cities. Not only this, but He performed many wonderful miracles right before the eyes of the people. The people who lived in these cities had been exposed to both the Word of God and the power of God as well, a power that was demonstrated in miracles, healings, and the casting out of demons. Yet, in spite of this exposure, the people still refused to repent. Their lives remained unchanged. They went right back to living as they’d always lived.

In denouncing these cities, Jesus cried out as follows:

"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down into Hades. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you." [Mt 11:21-24].

Jesus is saying some pretty hard things. If we don’t take the time to reflect on what He is saying, we might be tempted to think that He is referring only to the people who lived in those towns at that time. But the warning Christ gave to them is a warning that He also gives to us. A sobering warning. A warning that never ceases to send chills up my spine whenever I read this account.

Simply put, God is looking for one thing and one thing only: repentance. When all is said and done, the only individuals who will be received into Heaven are those individuals who repented. God isn’t looking for church attendance on Sunday morning; He is looking for the fruits of repentance.

One has to wonder at the hardness of the Jewish hearts in Jesus’ day. Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were not Gentile cities; they were Jewish cities. They were filled with men and women who professed to believe in the One True God. Yet, when the One True God sent His Son into their midst to preach anointed messages and perform incredible miracles, they still did not believe. They still did not repent. According to Jesus, if the miracles that were performed in Israel had been performed in Gentile cities, the people would have responded in faith and repentance. Sodom would not have been destroyed. It would have remained to this day!

In these verses of Scripture Jesus makes it very clear that those who have been exposed to the Word of God will be held more accountable to God than those who have never heard it. According to Christ, it will be more bearable for an unrepentant man who has never heard of Christ and His Gospel on the day of judgment than it will be for the unrepentant man who heard it week after week, yet refused to apply that Word to his life. Brothers and sisters, this is a hard saying, but it’s time for many to wake up in this season of Lent in order to hear what Christ is saying to His Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ in the United States of America (both Catholic and Protestant) is rife with sin, carnality, and all manner of uncleanness. Our churches are filled with men, women, and young people who hear the Word of God being preached week after week, yet refuse to repent of their drunkenness, greed, fornication, adultery, selfishness, bitterness, gossiping tongues, materialism, and overall love of this world. It’s not enough that we believe in Jesus. It’s not enough that we attend church week after week. The Lord is calling us to repent. Only when we repent of our wrongdoing and start lining our lives up with the Word of God does our faith in Christ or our church attendance have any value.

Jesus made it very clear that those who have been exposed to the truth of God’s Word will be held more accountable to Him than those who have never heard it. Not only this, but elsewhere, Jesus taught that on Judgment Day, there will be varying degrees of punishment executed against those who refused to repent. According to the Son of God, the greater punishment will go to the one who was exposed to the Truth, yet refused to yield to it.

"The servant who knows his Master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his Master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." [Lk 12:47-48].

Let’s suppose that Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones both die on the same night. During Mr. Smith’s lifetime, he attended church services on Sunday morning, but that was pretty much it in the way of ‘devotion’ to God. Week after week, he heard the Word of God being preached. He was exposed to the truth. He knew how God wanted him to live, but he just didn’t want to do it. He didn’t want to make any changes in his life. He lived for the devil all week long, while playing religious games in the church pews week after week. One night, he died of a massive heart attack and entered eternity.

Mr. Jones lives in a part of the world where the Gospel of Jesus Christ has never even been preached. In his little village, the people worship spirits, nature, and anything else that crosses their paths. They live like this because they’ve never even heard of the One True God and His Son Jesus Christ. That night, Mr. Jones also dies and enters eternity.

According to Christ, the one who will receive the greater punishment is Mr. Smith because Mr. Smith was exposed to the truth week after week, yet refused to apply it to his life. "Woe to you, Mr. Smith! It will be more bearable for Mr. Jones on the day of judgment than for you!"

The Lord is calling us to repentance, not church attendance. He wants our lives to line up with the truth of His Word. If I attend Mass week after week, yet refuse to put into practice anything that I hear at the Mass, how can I expect to be received into Heaven when my time for departure comes? Will I be rewarded on the basis of my church attendance or my obedience to Christ and His Word?

In America, we have become so politically correct that messages like this are preached few and far between. People become offended when exposed to the hard truths of God’s Word. As a result, many church leaders refuse to preach these messages for fear of losing people and money from their congregations. But the truth must be proclaimed. The Word of God must be preached - the hard messages as well as the soothing ones.

Christ is coming back. The day of God’s judgment is near, and many will not be able to stand before the Lord on that day. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on Judgment Day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" [Mt 7:21-23].

Not everyone who goes to church will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father and repent. Many will say to Christ on that day, "Lord, Lord, I went to church week after week. I put money into the offering plate. I even taught CCD!" But because that individual refused to repent of his sin by lining his life up with the Word of God, he will not be recognized by the Lord Jesus Christ as one of His own. Christ is looking for repentance, not church activity.

This message is not directed toward those in Christ’s Church who truly love Him and are making a sincere effort with the help of the Holy Spirit to live according to the eternal truths of God’s written Word. It is directed toward those individuals who hear the Word of God being preached week after week, yet refuse to put it into practice in their lives because they simply do not want to repent. They like living as they do and have no intention of changing.

Brothers and sisters, those whom Christ loves, He rebukes and disciplines. Now is the time for repentance, not tomorrow. If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Repent, yield, and be saved!

He who has a listening ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

PRIESTLY CELIBACY

5 Arguments Against Priestly Celibacy and How to Refute Them

1. Allowing priests to marry would end pedophilia.

It is completely untrue that celibate priests are more likely to be paedophiles than any other group of men, married or not. Pedophilia affects only 0.3 percent of the population of Catholic clergy, and sexual abusers in general account for less than

2 percent of Catholic priests. These figures are comparable to rates among married men, as non-Catholic scholar Philip Jenkins points out in his book Pedophiles and Priests. Other Protestant denominations have admitted to having similar problems among their own married clergy, so clearly the problem is not with celibacy.

2. A married clergy would create a larger pool of healthy priestly candidates, solving the current priest shortage.

There are actually plenty of vocations today in faithful dioceses: Denver, Northern Virginia, and Lincoln, Nebraska, have great numbers of men entering the priesthood. If other dioceses, such as Milwaukee, want to answer the question of why they have so few vocations, the answer is simple: Challenge young men to a religious life that is demanding, countercultural, sacrificial, and loyal to the Holy Father and Catholic teaching. This is the surest way to guarantee a greater number of vocations.

3. Married priests relate better to issues concerning marriage and the family. To put it bluntly, one doesn't need to be an adulterer to counsel other adulterers. Priests understand the sacrificial nature and sanctity of marriage in a way that few others do. Who better to counsel a person in the ways of keeping the marital vow of fidelity than one who keeps the vow of celibacy?

4. It's unnatural for men to be celibate.

This idea reduces men to animals, creatures who can't live without their sexual urges being gratified. But humans are not animals. Humans make choices about the gratification of their appetites. We can control and channel our desires in a way that sets us apart from the rest of the animal world. And again, most sexual abusers are not celibate. It's sexual license that breeds sexual abuse, not celibacy!

5. Celibacy in the Latin rite is unfair. Since the Eastern rite allows married priests and the Latin rite allows married priests who have converted from Episcopalianism and Lutheranism, why can't all priests be married?

The discipline of celibacy among priests is one of the distinctive marks of the Roman Catholic tradition. Anyone who chooses to become a priest accepts the discipline. The Eastern rite, Lutheranism, and Episcopalianism, on the other hand, have a long tradition of married priests and the infrastructure and experience to handle it. However, Eastern rite priests and married priests who have converted from Lutheranism or Episcopalianism are NOT allowed to marry after their ordination or remarry after the death of their wife. In addition, the Eastern Church only chooses bishops from among their celibate, unmarried priests, clearly demonstrating that they see an inherent value in the nature of celibacy.

5 Arguments for Priestly Celibacy

1.Celibacy reaffirms marriage.


In a society that is completely saturated with sex, celibate priests are living proof that sexual urges can be controlled and channeled in a positive way. Far from denigrating the sexual act, celibacy acknowledges the goodness of sex within marriage by offering it up as a sacrifice to God. The sanctity of marriage is dishonored if it is treated merely as an outlet for sexual impulses. Rather, we as Christians are called to understand marriage as the inviolable commitment of a husband and wife to love and honor one another. A priest offers up a similar commitment of love to the Church, a bond that cannot be broken and that is treated with the same gravity and respect as in marriage.

2. Celibacy is scriptural.

Challenge young men to a religious life that is demanding, countercultural, sacrificial, and loyal to the Holy Father and Catholic teaching. This is the surest way to guarantee a greater number of vocations.

Fundamentalists will tell you that celibacy has no basis in the Bible whatsoever, saying that Christians are called to "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). This mandate speaks to humanity in general, however, and overlooks numerous passages in the Bible that support the celibate life. In 1 Corinthians, for example, Paul actually seems to prefer the celibate life: "Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. . . . Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. . . . The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided" (7:27-34). This is not to say that all men should be celibate, however; Paul explains that celibacy is a calling for some and not for others by saying, "Each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another" (7:7).

Jesus Himself speaks of celibacy in Matthew 19:11-12: "Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom it is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it." Again, the emphasis is on the special nature of celibacy, one for which not all men are suited, but one that nevertheless gives glory to "the kingdom of God." Perhaps the best evidence for the scriptural support of celibacy is that Jesus Himself practiced it!

3. Celibacy is historical.

Most people assume that the celibate priesthood is a convention introduced by the Church fairly late in history. On the contrary, there is evidence that even the earliest Church fathers, such as St. Augustine, St. Cyril, and St. Jerome, fully supported the celibate priesthood. The Spanish Council of Elvira (between 295 and 302) and the First Council of Aries (314), a kind of general council of the West, both enacted legislation forbidding all bishops, priests, and deacons to have conjugal relations with their wives on penalty of exclusion from the clergy.

Even the wording of these documents suggests that the councils were not introducing a new rule but rather maintaining a previously established tradition. In 385, Pope Siricius issued the first papal decree on the subject, saying that "clerical continence" was a tradition reaching as far back as apostolic times. While later councils and popes would pass similar edicts, the definitive promulgation of the celibate, unmarried priesthood came at the Second Lateran Council in 1139 under Pope Gregory VII. Far from being a law forced upon the medieval priesthood, it was the acceptance of celibacy by priests centuries earlier that eventually led to its universal promulgation in the twelfth century.

4. Celibacy emphasizes the unique role of the priest.

The priest is a representative of Christ, an alter Christus. In this respect, the priest understands his identity by following the example of Jesus, a man who lived His life in perfect chastity and dedication to God. As Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe of Grado explains, "[A priest's] being and his acting must be like Christ's: undivided" (The Relevance of Priestly Celibacy Today, 1993). As such, the sacramental priesthood is holy, something set apart from the rest of the world. Just as Christ sacrificed His life for His bride, the Church, so too must a priest offer up his life for the good of Christ's people.

5. Celibacy allows the priest's first priority to be the Church.

The image used to describe the role of the priest is one of marriage to the Church. Just as marriage is the total gift of self to another, the priesthood requires the total gift of self to the Church. A priest's first duty is to his flock, while a husband's first duty is to his wife. Obviously, these two roles will often conflict, as St. Paul noted and as many married priests will tell you. A celibate priest is able to give his undivided attention to his parishioners without the added responsibility of caring for his own family. They are able to pick up and go whenever necessary, whether this involves moving to a new parish or responding to a late-night crisis. Celibate priests are better able to respond to these frequent changes and demands on their time and attention.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

DOES CHRIST LIVE WITHIN YOU?

Here is how you can determine if Christ is living within you.
Answer the following ten questions with a firm yes, a weak yes, or no.

Mary is the person who possessed her Son within her more than anyone else. If we imitate her by following her example, we will surely have Christ living within us. She is our role model.

1. How important is it in your life to know GOD's will?
Mary, Luke 2:39, "And when they had fulfilled all things prescribed in the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, into their own town of Nazareth."

2. Are you responding to the will of GOD or to your own will?
Mary, Luke 1:38, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word."

3. When you learn of a friend or family in need, do you drop everything to help them? How well do you respond? Do you visit the sick and the imprisoned? Do your feet rush to help them?
Mary, Luke 1:39, "And in those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town of Judah. And she entered the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth."

4. Does your conversation with others bring healing hope and joy to them?
Elizabeth and Mary, Luke 1:41, "And it came to pass, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe in her womb lept. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."

5. Do you find yourself remarking of the goodness of GOD in your life and of giving Him praise? Mary, Luke 1:46-49, And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in GOD my Savior; because He has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid; for, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed..."

6. Does your presence bring alive the best (yes), mediocre (weak yes) or worst (no) in others? Elizabeth, Luke 1:41-45, And it came to pass, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe in her womb lept. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she cried out with a loud voice, saying,

"Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, the moment that the sound of thy greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb lept for joy. And blessed is she who has believed, because the things promised her by the Lord shall be accomplished."
7. Do you celebrate GOD's gifts with open hands and are you ready to return them to GOD when He asks for them?
Mary, Luke 2:22, "And when the days of her purification were fulfilled according to the law of Moses, they took Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord..."

8. Are you ready to share in Christ's redeeming love that comes through the love of others? Do you accept the pain as well as the joy which goes with it?
Mary, Luke 2:34-35, And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed."

9. When you have lost contact with Christ in your life, do you know how and where to find Him? Mary, Luke 2:46, "And it came to pass after three days, that they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions."

10.
Does Christ hold first place in your mind, in your heart, in your memory, in your imagination, and in your emotions?
Mary, Luke 2:51, "And His mother kept all these things carefully in her heart."

If you can answer "Yes" to all ten of these questions,
then you truly have Christ dwelling within you...
If you cannot answer all ten with a resounding "Yes",
then this little self test will show you the areas in which you need to improve.

Compiled by Bob Stanley, December 7, 1999 (Pearl Harbor Day)
From a talk given by Fr. Anthony Wall

Sunday, August 17, 2014

THE CANAANITE WOMAN

 

A Homily for the 20th Sunday of the Year by Msgr. Charles Pope:

Today’s gospel teaches us to pray always and not lose heart. This is a gospel about having tenacity in prayer and, even when the results seem discouraging, continuing to beseech the Lord. It is also a gospel about the Lord’s will to extend the gospel to all the nations and to make the Church truly catholic.

Let’s look at this gospel in five stages.

STAGE I. TRAVELS - The text says, At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Thus Jesus goes north of Israel into the territory we know today as Lebanon.

Now Matthew is not just giving us a quick travelogue here. We are not interested merely in Jesus’ physical location but, even more, in what this location signifies. Jesus has gone up north to pagan territory. Other things being equal, this is a rather odd destination for a Jewish preacher. But we need to recall that Jesus is preparing the Church for a mission to all the nations. So it makes sense that He pushes the boundaries of the Jewish world. Jesus interacted with Gentiles and Samaritans as if to say, “The racism of a Jewish-only world must now end. The Gospel must break the boundaries of nation and race and be truly universal, truly catholic.”

This vision of the Gentiles being drawn to the Lord was actually well attested to in the Old Testament. But, just like today, there were texts in the Scriptures that were popular and well known and others that were conveniently “forgotten” or had little effect. Consider a few examples of texts that announced the entry of the Gentiles into the Holy People of God:

1.The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants–all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples(Isaiah 56:6-9).

2.I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Is 49:6).

3.Babylon and Egypt I will count among those who know me, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia, these will be her children and Zion shall be called “mother” for all shall be her children (Psalm 87:4-5).

4.I come to gather nation of every language; they shall come and see my glory. Some of these I will take as priests and Levites says the Lord … All mankind shall come to worship before me says the Lord (Is 66:18; 23).

Hence we can see that the Jewish people’s own Scriptures spoke of a day when Jews and Gentiles together would worship the Lord and be His people.

This introductory note about Jesus’ location is essential to understanding the text that will follow. We must grasp Jesus’ will to reach out to the Gentiles. We do this in order to appreciate that some of the harsh tone He exhibits later can likely be understood as a rhetorical means of questioning racial and national division rather than as an affirmation of such division. In effect He is tweaking His disciples and the Church and giving voice to their fears and hostilities. In so doing He also calls out the Canaanite woman in order to show forth one who is willing to set aside these racist notions for a greater good.

Let’s watch it unfold.

Stage II. TORMENT – The text says, And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

It is a sure fact that Canaanites were despised by Jews. And Canaanites returned the favor and despised them right back. What is it that would make a Canaanite woman reach out to a Jewish Messiah? In a word, desperation. In her torment and desperation this woman no longer cares who helps her daughter as long as someone helps her!

She has likely heard of Jesus’ power to save and heal. She looks past her racial hatred and, risking terrible personal rebuke, calls on Jesus. Her sorrow crosses boundaries. The only enemy she cares about is the demon afflicting her daughter.

It is sad but true that a common enemy can often unite factions. It should not take this, but the Lord will take whatever he can get to unite us.

So torment has lowered the barriers.

Stage III. TEST - The text says, But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”…. “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

It is a shocking and daring thing that Jesus does here. He takes up the voice of sin, oppression, racism, and nationalism. It is a very strange thing to hear come from the mouth of the Lord, who has already journeyed among the Samaritans and Gentiles, healing them and often praising their faith (e.g. Lk 8:26; Mt 8:10; Lk 7:9; Matt 8:11 inter al).

The usual explanation is that He is calling out this woman’s faith and through her is summoning His disciples to repentance. The disciples want the Lord to order her away. In effect, He takes up their voices and the voice of all oppression and utters the hateful sayings of the world, even going so far as to use the term “dog” to refer to her.

Yes, Jesus is testing her, trying to awaken something in her. He is also giving voice to the ugly thoughts of His disciples and likely others, Gentile and Jew, who were standing by and watching with marvel and disdain the interaction of a Gentile, a Gentile woman, and a Jew.

There is a saying, “Things do, by opposition grow.” And thus, through this test, Jesus increases her faith and possibly that of the bystanders. Just as an athlete grows by facing tougher opponents and a musician improves by playing tougher pieces, so does the testing of this woman’s faith cause it to grow.

Remember, God tested Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Esther, Susannah, Judith, Gideon, and countless others. The Canaanite woman, too, is being tested. And like those of old she, too, will grow by the test.

We, too, are tested. For God seems at times to be strangely silent and we are made to feel like no child of God at all. Indeed we may often conclude that even the dogs live better than we.

So the question for us remains. Will we give way during the test or hold out until our change comes? Will our faith grow or wither? Will our love grow stronger or will it change to resentment?

Stage IV. TENACITY – The text says, But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Note here that the woman is not put off. Whatever anger, grief, or discouragement may move through her, she perseveres.

She is even bold and creative. In a sense, she will not take no for an answer.

1. She is like Mother Mary at Cana, who did not pause for a moment when Jesus seemed dubious of her request (Jn 2:5).

2. She is like the widow before the Judge in Jesus’ parable, who never stopped pestering the judge for a favorable ruling (Lk 18:1-8).

3. She is like the blind man at the side of the road, who still kept calling for Jesus despite the rebuke of the crowds (Lk 18:39).

4. She is like the parents who brought their infants to Jesus for a blessing, who withstood rebuke by the disciples and won through to the blessing (Mk 10:13-16).

5. She is like Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree to see Jesus despite his short stature (Lk 19:1ff).

6. She is like the widow with the hemorrhage, who, though weak and ritually unclean, pressed thorough the crowd and grabbed the hem of Jesus’ garments (Mk 5:28).

7. She is like the lepers, who, though forbidden by law to enter the town, sought the Lord at the Gates and fell down before Him (Luke 17).

Yes, she has tenacity. She will hold out until the change (the healing she desires for her daughter) is accomplished. She will not give up or let go of Jesus no matter how unwilling He seems, no matter how politically incorrect her request appears, no matter how much hostility she encounters from the disciples, the crowds, or even Jesus Himself. She will hold out.

Here is a woman with tenacity! How about you?

Stage V. TRIUMPH – The text says, Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour. Here is the victory. She has gone from torment to triumph by a tenacious and tested faith. Jesus now takes away the veil of His role and shows His true self—the merciful, wonder-working Messiah and Lord.

Jesus says to her, “Great is your faith.” But how has it become so? In the crucible of testing, that’s how. We may wonder at God’s delays, at His seeming disinterest or even anger. But in the end it is our faith that is most important to Him.

Our faith is more important to God than our finances, our comfort, or our desired cures. For it is by faith that we are saved. We are not saved by our health, by comforts, by money, or by good fortune. And God is willing to delay; He is willing to test us and try us, if only for the sake of our stronger faith by which He will save us. God saves us, but He does it through our faith.

Why all this delay? Why the suffering? Why the trials? Stronger faith, that’s why! God may not come when you want Him, but He’s always right on time. For His true goal is not to give us what we want, but rather what we need—stronger faith.

Having done this, the Lord gives her the triumph. We, too, must accept that God’s truest blessing for us is not better health or improved finances; it is stronger faith.

Consider well the lesson of this gospel. Though God often seems uninterested, even cruel, He is working His purposes out and seeking to increase our faith. Hard, you say? What parent among you has not had to do the same for your child? For children, untested and untried, who get their every wish, who never have to wait, become spoiled, self-centered, and headed for ultimate ruin. Consider well that God knows exactly what He is doing and consider, too, that most of us are hard cases. God must often work mightily to get our attention and strengthen our faith. Do not give up on God; He is up to something good, very good

Thursday, August 7, 2014

THE IMPORTANCE OF MASS AND THE EUCHARIST

St. Thomas Aquinas
(1225-1274)
Hymn:
"Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The Lord becomes our food:
poor, a servant, and humble.
We beseech Thee,
Godhead One in Three
That Thou wilt visit us,
as we worship Thee,
lead us through Thy ways,
We who wish to reach the light
in which Thou dwellest. Amen.
"Panis Angelicus by St. Thomas Aquinas

 
The Bible on the Eucharist (Holy Communion):

As Catholics one of the truths that we hold that has been handed down from Jesus and the apostles is that Jesus is really (not just symbolically) present in the Eucharist, also called Holy Communion.

“The Church has always and everywhere held and continues to hold, that the four Gospels are of apostolic origin. For what the Apostles preached, in fulfilment of the commission of Christ, afterwards they themselves and apostolic men, under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, handed onto us in writing: … the fourfold Gospel, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John”. “… the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation...” (Sections 18 and 19 of Dei Verbum, a Vatican II document.)

Below are some passsages from the New Testament regarding the Eucharist, which we Catholics believe are literally true because this is the understanding that has been handed down to us through the centuries from the apostles as part of the deposit of the faith. Even though they may seem incredible or miraculous, they are not unreasonable, because we also believe that Jesus is God who not only knows all things but is all powerful and can do all things. We believe this because Jesus taught it and our faith is in Jesus. Jesus loves us so much that He wants to be as united to us as possible and this is one way He decided that we could be united to Him not only in spirit but also receive Him literally into bodies.

Scripture Verses on the Eucharist:

Jesus said in John 6:48-65: " 'I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.' The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?' Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.' These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, 'This saying is hard; who can accept it?'

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them,
'Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.'
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, 'For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.' "

Matt. 26:26-28: "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.' "

Mark 14:22-24: " 'And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, Take; this is my body. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.' "

Luke 22:19-20: "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' And likewise the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.' "

1 Cor. 10:16-17: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."

1 Cor. 11:23-29: "For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself."

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

AVOIDING PURGATORY



"Amen, amen I say unto you: Except that you eat the flesh of the Son of man,
and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you." The Living Bread (St. John 6:54)

Spiritual Growth

[Classification of a soul's progress in the spiritual life by "testing souls on one hand by sin and imperfection, and on the other by their degree of prayer]

1. HARDENED BY SIN

Mortal sin: Stubborn persistence in sin, either out of ignorance or because of a maliciously warped conscience.

Prayer: Deliberate refusal to have any recourse to God.

1. SURFACE CHRISTIANITY

Mortal sin: Considered as a trifling evil, easily forgiven. The soul easily gives way and commits mortal sin at every possible occasion or temptation. -- Confession almost without contrition.

Prayer: Mechanical; either inattentive, or always dictated by temporal interest. Such souls enter into themselves very rarely and superficially.

1. MEDIOCRE PIETY

Mortal sin: Weak resistance. Hardly ever avoids occasions but seriously regrets having sinned, and makes good confessions.

Venial sin: Complete acceptance of this sin, which is considered as insignificant. Hence, tepidity of the will. Does nothing whatever to prevent venial sin, or to extirpate it, or to find it out when it is concealed.

Prayer: From time to time, prays well. Momentary fits of fervor.

1. INTERMITTENT PIETY

Mortal sin: Loyal resistance. Habitually avoids occasion. Deep regrets. Does penance to make reparation.

Venial sin: Sometimes deliberate. Puts up a weak fight. Sorrow only superficial. Make a particular examination of conscience, but without any method or coherence.

Prayer: Not firmly resolved to remain faithful to meditation. Gives up as soon as dryness is felt, or as soon as there is business to attend to.

1. SUSTAINED PIETY

Mortal sin: Never. At most very rare, when taken suddenly and violently by surprise. And then, often it is to be doubted if the sin is mortal. It is followed by ardent compunction and penance.

Venial sin: Vigilant in avoiding and fighting it. Rarely deliberate. Keen sorrow, but does little by way of reparation. Consistent particular examen, but aiming only at avoidance of venial sin.

Imperfections: The soul either avoids uncovering them, so as not to have to fight them, or else easily excuses them. Approves the thought of renouncing them, and would like to do so, but makes little effort in that direction.

Prayer: Always faithful to prayer, no matter what happens. Often affective. Alternating consolations and dryness, the latter endured with considerable hardship.

1. FERVOR

Venial sin: Never deliberate. By surprise, sometimes, or with imperfect advertence. Keenly regretted, and serious reparation made.

Imperfections: Wants nothing to do with them. Watches over them, fights them with courage, in order to be more pleasing to God. Sometimes accepted, however, but regretted at once. Frequent acts of renunciation. Particular examen aims at perfection in a given virtue.

Prayer: Mental prayer gladly prolonged. Prayer on the affective side, or even prayer of simplicity. Alternation between powerful consolations and fierce trials.

1. RELATIVE PERFECTION

Imperfections: Guards against them energetically and with much love. They only happen with half-advertence.

Prayer: Habitual life of prayer, even when occupied in external works. Thirst for self-renunciation, annihilation, detachment, and divine love. Hunger for the Eucharist and for Heaven. Graces of infused prayer, of different degree. Often passive purification.

1. HEROIC PERFECTION

Imperfections: Nothing but the first impulse.

Prayer: Supernatural graces of contemplation, sometimes accompanied by extraordinary phenomena. Pronounced passive purifications. Contempt of self to the point of complete self-forgetness. Prefers sufferings to joys.

1. COMPLETE SANCTITY

Imperfections: Hardly apparent.

Prayer: Usually, transforming union. spiritual marriage. Purifications by love. Ardent thirst for sufferings and humiliations."

Excerpted from The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O., 1946.TAN

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 QUOTES THAT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU ATTEND HOLY MASS

by Dr Taylor Marshall

Saint Gertrude the Great once reported that for each and every Mass that we hear with devotion during our lives, Christ sends a saint to comfort us in death. I was deeply moved the first time I read this.

Intellectually, I know that great value of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - it is the solemn re-presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Father in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. It’s the source and summit of the Christian life. However, it is often difficult to remember this amazing truth in the midst of our common distractions during Holy Mass.

Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that with the Holy Eucharist, the five senses fail. Only faith can lift the veil and perceive the reality of Christ’s presence and sacrifice.

I recently came across 10 quotes from the saints about the importance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. These quotes remind me of the hidden mystery of the Holy Mass. I plan to review them before Mass during Lent. I’d encourage you to do the same if you also struggle with distractions. I may print them out on a card and put them in my missal:

1.When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar. ~ St. John Chrysostom

2.The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass. ~ St. Augustine

3.If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy. ~ Saint Jean Vianney

4.The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross. ~ Saint Thomas Aquinas

5.Once, St. Teresa was overwhelmed with God’s Goodness and asked Our Lord “How can I thank you?” Our Lord replied, “ATTEND ONE MASS.”

6.“My Son so loves those who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that, if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they’ve heard Masses.” Our Lady to Blessed Alan.

7.When we receive Holy Communion, we experience something extraordinary – a joy, a fragrance, a well-being that thrills the whole body and causes it to exalt. ~ Saint Jean Vianney

8.There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us. ~ Saint Jean Vianney

9.When we have been to Holy Communion, the balm of love envelops the soul as the flower envelops the bee. ~ Saint Jean Vianney

10.It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass. ~ St. Pio of Pietrelcina

That last quote from Saint Pio is profound. The entire cosmos is sustained by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…

Question: How to we restore a sense of the awe and sanctity to the liturgy? How do we remind ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ that the sanctuary is “filled with countless angels” during the consecration? It’s an inspiring reality. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts or any other inspiring quotes about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

THE IMPORTANCE OF MASS AND THE EUCHARIST

St. Thomas Aquinas
(1225-1274)
Hymn:
"Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The Lord becomes our food:
poor, a servant, and humble.
We beseech Thee,
Godhead One in Three
That Thou wilt visit us,
as we worship Thee,
lead us through Thy ways,
We who wish to reach the light
in which Thou dwellest. Amen.
"Panis Angelicus by St. Thomas Aquinas

 
The Bible on the Eucharist (Holy Communion):

As Catholics one of the truths that we hold that has been handed down from Jesus and the apostles is that Jesus is really (not just symbolically) present in the Eucharist, also called Holy Communion.

“The Church has always and everywhere held and continues to hold, that the four Gospels are of apostolic origin. For what the Apostles preached, in fulfilment of the commission of Christ, afterwards they themselves and apostolic men, under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, handed onto us in writing: … the fourfold Gospel, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John”. “… the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation...” (Sections 18 and 19 of Dei Verbum, a Vatican II document.)

Below are some passsages from the New Testament regarding the Eucharist, which we Catholics believe are literally true because this is the understanding that has been handed down to us through the centuries from the apostles as part of the deposit of the faith. Even though they may seem incredible or miraculous, they are not unreasonable, because we also believe that Jesus is God who not only knows all things but is all powerful and can do all things. We believe this because Jesus taught it and our faith is in Jesus. Jesus loves us so much that He wants to be as united to us as possible and this is one way He decided that we could be united to Him not only in spirit but also receive Him literally into bodies.

Scripture Verses on the Eucharist:

Jesus said in John 6:48-65: " 'I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.' The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?' Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.' These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, 'This saying is hard; who can accept it?'

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them,
'Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.'
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, 'For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.' "

Matt. 26:26-28: "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.' "

Mark 14:22-24: " 'And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, Take; this is my body. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.' "

Luke 22:19-20: "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' And likewise the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.' "

1 Cor. 10:16-17: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."

1 Cor. 11:23-29: "For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

THE MYSTERY OF SUFFERING

Suffering, either in this world or the world to come, is a subject no one likes to think about. In our day, and, in particular, the Western culture, suffering is seen as an evil to be avoided at all costs. Not much has changed since Jesus suffered a horrible, shameful death on the Cross - with His Mother witnessing and sharing His agony.

Suffering - yes, it is a mystery. Yet if we wish to share in the glory of Jesus' Resurrection, we must be prepared to accept what He accepted - suffering for the sake of others in union with Jesus. All He did was for others. That's where suffering begins to make sense.

Jesus -- the Son of God -- was willing and eager to share in our sufferings. He experienced all of them in His flesh. Some might be tempted to say, "Suffering is evil -- the root of all evil." But that was what Peter thought when Jesus told him he would suffer, be crucified and die, and on the third day be raised again. Jesus rebuked Peter abruptly, and told him what was truly evil: "Get behind me, Satan".

No Cross, no Resurrection - no dying to self, no new life in Him.
 For the majority of souls, self-will, self-love asserts itself: "My will be done, not yours, Lord." We are not willing to embrace suffering. We are not willing to be generous with our suffering and offer it for the salvation of souls, as Our Lady at Fatima lamented.

Most souls will not be ready to see Love in His Absolute Purity and Goodness. We have been blinded by our own selfishness, and have fallen for the ancient temptation 'to be like gods'. We want our way.

Most souls will to go to purgatory - to be cleansed, to be purified. One account, in particular, highlights this desire. St. Gertrude saw, in a vision, a very devout nun standing before Our Lord, but was unable to gaze at His Face. She backed away as He beckoned her to come. When the Saint asked her why she did not go to Him, she replied that she was not yet cleansed of every stain left on her soul by her sins. She knew she was not pure enough, and wanted to be purified. She chose to be purified in purgatory.

God is Love -- and if He suffered, and if we wish to call ourselves Christians, His followers, we must do the same, for the same reason. Blessed Mother Teresa once said,"when suffering comes to us, we should accept it with a smile, because it is the greatest gift that God gives us. It is a gift to have the courage to accept everything that He sends us."

The choice is ours. We can love now, as He loved, and willingly accept and offer our suffering for others. By doing so, we will show our love for Him and gain great merit. Or we can wait, and have it imposed later, by purifying necessity, with no merit.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

EIGHT TIPS FOR CATHOLICS

by Jennifer Fulwiler

“I feel like I’m losing my faith,” an acquaintance told me the other day. This person explained that she used to have an intimate relationship with God, but now feels empty inside, and has even begun to question whether God exists at all. She wanted to know how I recommend that she proceeds.

Even though I’m neither a saint nor an expert on the spiritual life, I get asked questions like this fairly frequently. Perhaps it’s because I’m an atheist-to-Catholic convert, or because readers of my personal blog know that I’m a spiritual spaz and therefore am likely to have been through a variety of rough patches in my relationship with God. Whatever the reason, over the course of the past six years I’ve had dozens of conversations with people who are struggling with doubts. Through these conversations, as well as meetings with confessors and spiritual directors about problems I’ve faced in my own spiritual life, I’ve learned a lot about traveling the rocky road of doubt. So for my acquaintance who’s questioning her faith, as well as anyone else who might be struggling with beliefs that used to come naturally to them, here are the top tips I think you might find helpful:

1. Make sure that the problem is doubt

First, make sure that your main issue is doubt. Problems like clinical depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. can lead to a lack of closeness with God that might initially seem like doubts, but have a deeper root that would be best addressed with a qualified Catholic therapist . Similarly, in my own life there was a time when I said I was experiencing doubts, but when I took a closer look I realized that it was simply a lack of consolation (i.e. a spiritual dry spell) rather than serious questions about the validity of the teachings of the Faith. “Doubt” is often used as a catch-all term that covers a variety of spiritual problems, so it’s important to take a second look to make sure that you’ve diagnosed the situation correctly.

2. Confess your sins

Whenever I complained of problems in my prayer life, my spiritual director would always ask me if I’d made a good confession recently. Having doubts isn’t necessarily caused by being in a state of sin, but certainly our sins can fuel any existing feelings of distance from God. Visiting the confessional is a good first step to clear your spiritual slate before moving forward.

3. Listen to the Church’s side of the story

This one seems obvious, but is surprisingly easy to overlook. When I talk to folks who have begun to embrace viewpoints that are contrary to Catholic teaching (such as those of the New Atheists), I often find that they have not spent much time listening to the Church’s counter-arguments. I see this most often among people who were raised Catholic: There’s a feeling of, “If there were a good response to this I surely would have heard it in Catholic school or in a homily at some point, and since I haven’t, there must not be a good answer.” The Church has a two-thousand-year-old body of wisdom that covers pretty much every aspect of human existence, so it’s perfectly possible that even someone raised in a faithful Catholic environment could have misunderstandings about exactly what the Church believes in certain areas. If you haven’t done so already, find faithful Catholic authors and see what they have to say about the areas in which you’re experiencing doubts. (The EWTN Catalog and Lighthouse Catholic Media (both have great resources to get you started.)

My spiritual director always used to say that we shouldn’t make big decisions when we’re feeling agitated, and never is this more true than in matters of faith. If you’re feeling stressed out, frazzled, angry, exhausted, resentful, or otherwise unsettled, try to regain a sense of calm before you begin seeking answers to your questions. As much as we like to believe that we can turn ourselves into truth-evaluating robots, the reality is that our abilities to assimilate and evaluate data are always impacted by our mental states—especially when it comes to those truths that cannot be deduced mathematically or through the scientific method alone.

5. Practice forgiveness

Per the above, there are a lot of things that could cause a person to be in an unsettled state. However, the one that I see most often in people with doubts is resentment. When I am able to have long conversations with people who are having serious questions about their faith, more often than not the subject will turn to some unresolved hurt in their lives. It makes sense: Since God is love itself, to seek the truth about God is to seek the truth about love; and, naturally, our view of love becomes clouded when we’ve been hurt by those who were supposed to love us. Forgiving those who have wounded us is much easier said than done, and may even take months or years of work with confessors, therapists and/or spiritual directors, but I’ve found it to be a necessary step for evaluating doubts with clarity.

6. Watch out for hidden payoffs

Another point that seems obvious, but is easy to overlook, is that the search for truth can be influenced by the payoffs that await different conclusions. For example, one person recently told me that she now believes that the main reason she lost her faith in college is because she secretly wanted to be “free” to live the immoral lifestyle that was popular on campus at the time.

7. Find a spiritual director

Going through a time of doubt can be an alienating experience. Especially if it seems that everyone around you has a rock-solid faith life, you might be hesitant to talk to your family or friends about what you’re thinking. This is where a spiritual director can be extremely helpful: He or she can help you analyze your questions in a relaxed environment, and you don’t have to worry about it leading to arguments or tension the way it might with people in your personal life. If you’re not sure how to find one, the Catholic Spiritual Direction Blog has a great post about that here.

8. Keep praying (and ask others to pray for you)

It’s a natural reaction to stop talking to God if you’re not even sure that he’s there to hear you, but keep doing it anyway. Tell him you have doubts. Ask for help. Ask him to guide you to the right people and resources—and don’t forget to remain open to any answers you might receive. Ask others to pray for you too; if you don’t want to tell them you have doubts, just say it’s for a special intention. This may be the most difficult step of all, especially if you’ve been questioning your faith for a long time, but it is also the most important step.

The good news is that many people I’ve talked to over the years have come through their times of doubt to have a faith more vibrant than ever before; in fact, it seems like the worst periods of spiritual confusion often precede the most amazing spiritual transformations. So to anyone who’s experiencing difficulties in your faith life: Keep searching, keep praying, don’t lose heart, and know that I’ll be praying for you as well.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

CITY OF GOD

St. Augustine’s The City of God

analysis by Lindsey Hurd

"There is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.” Psalm xivi.iv

It was the year 410 A.D. Toppling from the heights of her golden throne, Rome, the great mistress of the world, opened her gates to barbarian invaders. Throughout the civilized world, rumors of the sacked city were greeted with horror or unbelief. Three years later, in response to the pagan’s charge that Christian impiety towards the Roman gods had brought the gods’ wrath upon the city, Saint Augustine, bishop of Hippo, took up his pen to defend Christianity from this charge.

These writings were the beginning of his great literary work, which would prove to become one of the most respected and frequently cited books of Church history. Thirteen years of labor completed this work; Augustine called it The City of God. This city, he wrote, is “…surpassingly glorious, whether we view it as it still lives by faith in this fleeting course of time, and sojourns as a stranger in the midst of the ungodly, or as it shall dwell in the fixed stability of its eternal seat . . .”

There is another city of which he also writes: the earthly one. Of it, he says, “though it be mistress of nations, it itself is ruled by its lust of rule. ”Throughout the City of God, he traces the journeys of these two cities, from the time they were founded, to how they relate with one another, the conduct of their life, and finally, their ultimate end.

When God created the world with divine perfection and set man in the midst of His garden, He knew that man would sin. The eating of the fruit brought God’s just retribution as he promised, and not just upon Adam, but upon all of his posterity, for an imperfect nature cannot beget a perfect nature. To those who found God’s punishment harsh, Augustine wrote, “But eternal punishment seems hard and unjust to human perceptions, because in the weakness of our mortal condition there is wanting that highest and purest wisdom by which it can be perceived how great a wickedness was committed in that fist transgression.

The more enjoyment men found in God, the greater was his wickedness in abandoning Him; and he who destroyed in himself a good which might have been eternal, became worthy of eternal evil.” Thus, Adam’s sin left all of mankind in the city of man, from whence it could not be freed except by Christ’s blood. Augustine believed that God chose to redeem His own people so that the world could see the efficacy of earthly grace, and on the other hand, He chose to let the rest continue in condemnation so that the world might also see the severity of retribution.

Of the worldly city, Augustine wrote that Cain was the founder, and of the heavenly city, Abel. Though it could be argued that Adam actually founded the earthly city when he ate of the fruit, Augustine apparently preferred Cain as founder. At the hands of Cain, the earth first swallowed the blood of man, and it was first recorded of him that he arose and built cities. Whoever were the true founders, Augustine was certain that all of humanity is divided into one of these antithical cities.

One consists of those living according to man, while the other lives according to God; “one is predestined to reign eternally with God, and the other to suffer eternal punishment with the devil.” (XV.1) Thus, these the two cities exhibit two loves; the earthly loves itself to the contempt of God, whilst the heavenly city loves God, to the contempt of flesh. The former seeks glory from men, the latter from God, saying, “Thou art my glory. And the lifter up of mine head.” (Ps. 3:3)

That part of the heavenly city which sojourns here on earth is composed of numerous households, and the way these are ruled contributes in a very real way to the function of the whole city. The principles this city must live by, and which must be encouraged on behalf of all household members by the head of the house are the two greatest commandments: Thou shalt love the Lord they God, and thy neighbor as thyself.

In the spiritual life of each individual Christian, Augustine indicated that there must be a balance between living an active Christian life (societal involvement) and a contemplative life (that is, contemplation of God). Not surprisingly, however, Augustine placed more emphasis upon the latter. Influenced as he was by this platonic doctrine of contemplation of the greatest Good, he believed, to some degree, in the encompassing superiority of contemplation in the whole of Christian life. However, he also recognized the importance of active Christian life and the danger of selfishly indulging in contemplation to the detriment of Christian service in the body of Christ.

On the flip side of this, he warned that active life, unaccompanied by contemplation, quickly saps a Christian of the strength to press forward. In his own words, “No man has a right to lead such a life of contemplation as to forget in his own ease the service due to his neighbor; nor has any man a right to be so immersed in active life as to neglect the contemplation of God.” (XIX.17)

In the earthly city, the people thereof receive the rain and food the Father gives them, but their darkened hearts are deprived of His unchangeable light, and they give him not thanks. These citizens prefer their own impious and proud gods and delight in their own strength, which represents itself in the person of their rulers. Oftentimes, the greed and selfishness of these rulers grasp for self-serving privileges and divine honors at the expense of their subjects, so that they lead their people into bondage and make war upon liberty itself.

Besides the physical qualities surrounding the life of the earthly city, there are also the stark spiritual and moral qualities which threaten the people therein. Augustine writes, “where there is no true religion, there are no true virtues . . . For what kind of mistress of the body and the vices can that mind be which is ignorant of the true God, and which, instead of being subject to His authority, is prostituted to the corrupting influences of the most vicious demons?” Though the earthly city may demand strict moral obedience to its law, true virtue will not result because there is no religion other than the true religion which has an absolute law of justice and morality.

Thus, the earthly city’s laws are always open to abuse, ambiguous interpretation, or “progress.” There is no higher law than the leaders of this city. In fact, Augustine believed that the very virtues exhibited by the unbelievers are in actuality vices if they are not exercised within a biblical framework. These, he says, are “inflated with pride, and are therefore reckoned vices.” What he essentially meant is that when sinful man, in the pride of his own might undertakes to live a virtuous life apart from the lordship of Christ, he obviates his stiff-necked refusal of God’s Word all the more.

These two cities, Augustine wrote, share a common desire: peace. However, they have different methods of seeking it. The earthly city seeks earthly peace and an orderly society, but it strives for peace as the product of man’s intelligence and administrative abilities. That part of the heavenly city which dwells on earth seeks earthly peace as well, but only when it complements their ultimate goal of peace under God.

As Augustine writes, they “[make] this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven; for this alone can be truly called and esteemed the peace of the reasonable creatures, consisting as it does in the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God.” (XIX.17) Because of this different view of peace, discord sometimes arises between these two cites.

The eternal lot of the earthly city is eternal death, where they dwell because they forsook their God, after which God forsook them.“Death,” Augustine wrote, “then, of the soul takes place when God forsakes it, as the death of the body when the soul forsakes it.Therefore, the death of both – that is, of the whole man—occurs when the soul, forsaken by God, forsakes man. For in this case, neither is God the life of the soul, nor the soul the life of the body” (XIII.1). The City of God welcomes its citizens to their heavenly home, where they live in eternal rest and blissful joy with God, where all things cry out that He is indeed God.

“Now, when they were come up to the gate, there was written over it in letters of Gold, ‘Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city’” - (Pilgrim’s Progress).

Friday, May 23, 2014

UNDERSTANDING CATHOLIC DEVOTION TO MARY

By: Thomas Merton

This is often forgotten by Catholics themselves, and therefore it is not surprising that those who are not Catholic often have a completely wrong conception of Catholic devotion to the Mother of God. They imagine, and sometimes we can understand their reasons for doing so, that Catholics treat the Blessed Virgin as an almost divine being in her own right, as if she had some glory, some power, some majesty of her own that placed her on a level with Christ Himself.

They regard the Assumption of Mary into heaven as a kind of apotheosis placed in the Redemption would seem to be equal to that of her Son. +++ But this is all completely contrary to the true mind of the Catholic Church.+++ It forgets that Mary's chief glory is in her nothingness, in the fact of being the "Handmaid of the Lord," as one who in becoming the Mother of God acted simply in loving submission to His command, in the pure obedience of faith. She is blessed not because of some mythical pseudo-divine prerogative, but in all her human and womanly limitations as one who has believed.

It is the faith and the fidelity of this humble handmaid, "full of grace" that enables her to be the perfect instrument of God, and nothing else but His instrument. The work that was done in her purely the work of God. "He that is mighty hath done great things in me." The glory of Mary is purely and simply the glory of God in her. and she, like anyone else, can say that she has nothing that she has not received from Him through Christ.

As a matter of fact, this is precisely her greatest glory: that having nothing of her own, retaining nothing of a "self" that could glory in any- thing for her own sake, she placed no obstacle to the mercy of God and in no way resisted His love and His will. Hence she received more from Him than any other saint. he was able to accomplish His will perfectly in her, and His liberty was in no way hindered or turned from its purpose by the presence of an egotistical self in Mary.

She was and is in the highest sense a person precisely because, being "immaculate," she was free from every taint of selfishness that might obscure God's light in her being. She was then a freedom that obeyed Him perfectly and in this obedience found the fulfill- ment of perfect love.

The genuine significance of Catholic devotion to Mary is to be seen in the light of the Incarnation itself. The Church cannot separate the Son and the Mother. Because the Church conceived of the Incarnation as God's descent into flesh and into time, and His great gift of Himself to His creatures, she also believes that the one who was closest to Him in this great mystery was the one who participated most perfectly in the gift.

When a room is heated by an open flame, surely there is nothing strange in the fact that those who stand closest to the fireplace are the ones who are warmest. And when God comes into the world through the instrumentality of one of His servants, then there is nothing surprising about the fact that His chosen instrument should have the greatest and most intimate share in the divine gift.

Mary, who was empty of all egotism, free from all sin, was as pure as the glass of a very clean window that has no other function than to admit the light of the sun (Son). If we rejoice in that light, we implicitly praise the cleanness of the window. And of course it might be argued that in such a case we might well forget the window altogether.

This is true. And yet the Son of God, in emptying Himself of His majestic power, having become a child, abandoning Himself in complete dependence to the loving care of a human Mother, in a certain sense draws our attention once again to her. The Light has wished to remind us of the window, because He is grateful to her and because He has an infinitely tender love, it is certainly a great grace and a privilege, and one of the most important aspects of this privilege is that it enables us to some extent to appreciate the mystery of God's great love and respect for His creatures.

That God should assume Mary into heaven is not just a glorification of a "Mother Goddess." Quite the contrary, it is the expression of the divine love for humanity, and a very special manifestation of God's respect for His creatures, His desire to do honor to the beings He has made in His own image, and most particularly His respect for the body which was destined to be the temple of His glory. If Mary is believed to be assumed into heaven, it is because we too are one day, by the grace of God, to dwell where she is. If human nature is glorified in her, it is because God desires it to be glorified in us too, and it is for this reason that His Son, taking flesh, came into the world.

In all the great mystery of Mary, then, one thing remains most clear: that of herself she is nothing, and that God has for our sakes delighted to manifest His glory and His love in her.

It is because she is, of all the saints, the most perfectly poor and the most perfectly hidden, the one who has absolutely nothing whatever that she attempts to possess as her own, that she can most fully communicate to the rest of us the grace of the infinitely selfless God. And we will most truly possess Him when we have emptied ourselves and become poor and hidden as she is, resembling Him by resembling her.

And all our sanctity depends on her maternal love. The ones she desires to share the joy of her own poverty and simplicity, the ones whom she wills to be hidden as she is hidden, are the ones who share her closeness to God.