Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Sacred Liturgy No. 4

Postures and Gestures
Our postures and gestures contribute to the beauty of the liturgy and help us to express a proper spiritual attitude. Common postures and gestures -according to the instruction of the rubrics - should be observed by all, as a sign of the unity of the Church.
We stand at times during the liturgy to express reverence for God, as during the Gospel. We sit when listening attentively to the Readings and the Homily. As a sign of supreme adoration, we kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer. We genuflect toward the Tabernacle, wherein Jesus abides, when entering the church or passing the sanctuary.
It is also important to remember: During the Confiteor ("I confess…") we strike our breasts at the words "I have sinned." During the Creed, we bow profoundly at the words: "He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man." We stand when the priest says "Pray, brothers and sisters…" We bow our heads before saying "Amen" when receiving Communion.
GIRM 42-44

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Solemnity of the Birth of Jesus Christ

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum!
Hodie Christus natus est; hodie salvator apparuit!
Gloria in excelsis Deo,
et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Sacred Liturgy No. 3

Singing is essential in the Liturgy…
Singing is a sign of the joy of the heart, the joy we experience when we gather in the presence of Christ to pray the Mass. From the earliest days of the Church, singing has been part of Christian worship. (Saint Paul instructed the Colossians to sing "songs, hymns and inspired songs.") Singing is of great importance and should be present in the Liturgy whenever possible. Among the various types of liturgical music, Gregorian chant holds "pride of place," because it is the music proper to the Roman Rite. The Church desires that all Catholics know at least some Latin chants. All liturgical music needs to be carefully planned so that it is in the spirit of sacred worship and encourages participation by the faithful.
Active participation in liturgical singing – chants, vernacular hymns, and responsories – is an expression of our faith and devotion. Recall the ancient proverb: "he who sings well prays twice!"
GIRM 39-41

Homily 17 December 2006 Gaudete Sunday

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
Youngstown, OH

As the weeks of Advent drift by
we come ever nearer to the celebration of Christmas.
Our Lord is ever nearer to us.
On this Gaudete Sunday…a word in Latin that means "Rejoice!"…
the Liturgy calls us to rejoice in a special way
because the birth of Christ is almost upon us.
The Introit Antiphon of today’s Mass echoes the words of Paul
from today’s Second Reading from the Letter to the Philippians…
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near."
In my family, today is the traditional day when we put up our Christmas Tree.
This is one of the ways in which we gradually anticipate Christmas…
and celebrate today as a special day of rejoicing.
The Rose-colored vestments and candle on the Advent Wreath
Remind us of the great joy we feel today as a Church…
waiting for the birth of the Lord.
We wait with bitter longing as the Israelites did in ancient times,
as they longed for a savior.
We wait with Mary, as she joyfully expects the birth of her son.
As a Church, we have great cause to rejoice…
today and every day!
For as the disciples of Jesus Christ we possess a great treasure.
By the grace of God and the ministry of the Church
we have access to the power of God’s grace…love…and mercy
through the sacraments
We are the heirs of the authentic interpretation of the Holy Scriptures…
and to the living revelation of God through the Tradition of the Church.
To us Jesus has promised that the Holy Spirit will remain with the Church…
to guide us into the truth.
With us always is the living presence of Jesus Christ…
in the Tabernacle…
and in every Mass we celebrate.
To us is given the great and sacred Patrimony of the Church…
her beloved rituals…traditions…teachings…customs…
passed down through the centuries…
and her caring presence in the world.
Yes, my dear friends, we possess an awesome treasure…
gifts of grace and love beyond compare…
freely offered in love beyond measure…
Yes, it is good to be Catholic!
Rejoice in the Lord, my friends, I say again, rejoice!
The Holy Scriptures today tell us…
"The Lord is in your midst."
This is the cause of our rejoicing…
That in the Eucharist…the Sacraments…and in the whole life of the Church…
the Lord Jesus is indeed near to us…in our midst.
For the life of our Church is not simply old laws and empty rituals.
The life of the Church is at every moment an intimate journey with Christ.
Every sacrament, liturgical celebration, charitable outreach, social gathering…
every moment spent in prayer and learning about the Faith…
is a moment to grow deeper and deeper in our relationship with Jesus,
who is for humanity the only real source of life and love and happiness.
The Lord Jesus…who came among men as a baby boy…
and who longs to come into our hearts and souls in the Eucharist…
does not come only for us.
He calls us to share the great treasure we have as Catholic Christians.
We can ask ourselves…how have those around us benefited or been changed…
because of the ways we have shared Christ with them?
What is different about our lives because of the Lord’s nearness to us?
In today’s Gospel…
The crowds ask John the Baptist "What should we do?"
They are looking for direction and they turn to the prophet of God for answers.
He tells them to live justly and to treat others with dignity.
He tells them to share with those in need…
their extra cloaks and food.
In our world today…
there is not only a need for food and clothing among the poor…
but a tremendous need among all people
for the for the love and the truth of Christ.
For that message of love and truth to find its way into the hearts of all men…
demands that someone share it with those who long for it.
That someone is you.
We are each called to share with those in need,
in our broken, fallen, mixed-up, and violent world
the message that God’s love will triumph…
and the truth that His law is the path to true happiness.
In this holiday season we are saturated by the glitz and glamour of retailers.
This year I have heard at least a half-dozen radio commercials…
all with their own twist…
explaining to presumably incompetent men
how to buy jewelry for the ladies in their lives.
One is a woman telling her husband…
who she hopes is listening…
where to shop in order to be guaranteed of making her happy!
The question is…
What is the real pearl?
What is the real treasure…that brings lasting happiness?
It is our faith.
It is the great privilege we have to have the Lord Jesus so near to us.
This is a gift that is meant to be lived and to be shared!
So, this Advent, prepare well for Christmas.
Rejoice today that the Lord is near to us!
And this Christmas, give the gift of faith.
Share with those in your life the treasure you have been given…
the love and truth of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Sacred Liturgy No. 2

Christ is present in the Liturgy…
Jesus Christ is present and active in the Mass in four ways. He is present in the priest, who acts in persona Christi capitis, “in the person of Christ the head,” when offering the Sacrifice of the Mass. He is present in the liturgical assembly, when the members of the Body of Christ are gathered in His name for worship. He is present when His Word, the Sacred Scriptures, is proclaimed. Substantially and continuously, He is present in the Eucharist. The Body and Blood of Jesus become truly present when the priest recites the words of consecration and remain present under the signs of bread and wine.
Christ is the real “celebrant” of the Liturgy. When we gather for worship, we do so mindful that we are entering into a mystery greater than ourselves, a sacred event where Christ our God is made manifest to us.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Sacred Liturgy No. 1

The Sacred Liturgy: Did you know?
A series on liturgical catechesis.

Taken from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal
and the Instruction on the Eucharist Redemptionis Sacramentum (2003)
as well as other ecclesiastical and scholarly sources.

What is the meaning of the Mass…
According to the ancient tradition of the Church, the Mass is both a sacrifice and a feast. In the Mass, the sacrifice of Christ is re-presented on the Altar, as Christ again pours our His Body and Blood for our spiritual nourishment. It is also the gathering of the Church in the Lord’s Supper, wherein the community shares in the Body and Blood of Jesus. These two elements are inseparable. This is expressed in the prayer of the priest before Communion: “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are they who are called to His supper.” When we approach to share in Christ’s Body and Blood, we partake of Him whose sacrifice took away our sins. We celebrate this sacrifice in every Mass, as the Church gathers for the Lord’s Supper.
GIRM 27-28

Homily First Sunday of Advent Year C 3 December 2006

The verses of the well-known Advent hymn
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
are based on the Great “O Antiphons” from the Liturgy of the Hours.
These Antiphons are sung at Evening Prayer
on the last seven days of Advent leading up to Christmas.

Veni, O Sapientia…
O Adonai…
O radix Jesse…
O clavis David…
O Oriens…
O Rex Gentium…
O Emmanuel.
Come, O Wisdom from on high…
O Lord of Might…
O Root of Jesse…
O Key of David…
O Rising Dawn…
O King of the Nations…
O God-with-us…

In this beautiful hymn…
we sing of the ways in which God has been present to His people Israel:
in the burning bush on Mount Sinai…
through the leadership of King David and the other kings…
we join the people of Israel in their deep desire and longing for a Savior:
as they cry out…
come, put the darkness to flight…
come, close the path to misery and give us victory over death…
come, make safe the path that leads on high!
and we celebrate Jesus,
who is the completion of all that was promised to Israel
by the prophets of old.

As we begin the holy Season of Advent…
and with this Sunday enter into a new church year…
this is our song…the song of the whole Church:
“Come, O Emmanuel, and ransom your captive people!”

In this time when the days grow shorter,
we wait in the darkness…
we wait as the Israelites did…
hoping and looking forward to the birth of Jesus,
the light of the world…
and the promised Messiah.

As today’s readings express…
Advent is also about anticipating the Second Coming of Christ,
when He will come in power and glory at the end of time.

Jesus calls us all to be vigilant…
to commit our lives to Him,
to turn away from the pleasures of the world,
to pray for the strength to escape tribulations that will come,
to be always ready…
because your redemption is at hand.

Jesus came as a baby boy some 2,006 years ago…
Jesus will come one day as the glorified savior and judge of the world…

We celebrate His coming in the past…and His coming in the future…

And as we gather for Holy Mass…
we celebrate His coming among us now in the Holy Eucharist!

Each time we receive Communion…
we experience the coming of Emmanuel…
which means “God-with-us.”
Jesus is with us as a Church in every celebration of the Mass…
and is with each of us personally in our reception of Holy Communion.

Mary awaited the birth of her son…
Israel awaited the coming of the promised Messiah…
We await the coming of Christ at the end of time…
In this Advent Season…we await the celebration of Christmas…

In every Mass… we long to receive our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.

In that spirit of longing for Jesus…
we prepare our bodies…and our souls…and our lives…
for the coming of Jesus in the Eucharist!

Because our preparation for Communion is so important…
The bishops of the United States…at their meeting two weeks ago…
released a document on preparing to receive Christ worthily in the Eucharist.
The title of the document is taken from the prayer of the priest
immediately before Communion,
which is a poetic translation of a passage from the Book of Revelation:
“Happy are those who are called to His supper.”
Excellent document available online…link on diocesan website…

The bishops remind us that none of us is worthy of so great a gift as the Eucharist…
and yet Jesus comes to us in love to share with us His divine life.

In anticipation of such a great and holy gift…
we ought to make ourselves ready and worthy to receive Him.

What happens so often in our churches
is that everyone who is present for Mass
simply approaches the Altar to receive Communion.
Not enough thought is given to one’s worthiness to enter into Communion with Jesus.

Our Communion at Mass…
is a real experience of union with the person of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes our lives are not in union with Jesus Christ…
and so, receiving the Eucharist is no longer a true act of union.

Thus, it is necessary to examine ourselves…
and to prepare ourselves well for Mass…
so that we may experience our Eucharistic Communion
in its fullness…
as a truly rich and complete experience of union with Jesus.

The bishops tell us that we prepare for Communion by the way we live our lives…
by faithfully and lovingly fulfilling the duties of our own unique vocation…
whether that be as a cleric, as husband and wife, as mother or father…
by spending time often and regularly in prayer and reading Sacred Scripture
especially prayer before the Blessed Sacrament…
and by regular participation in the Sacrament of Penance.

We also prepare for Communion by our celebration of the Liturgy.
We hunger for the Lord…
by keeping the Eucharistic Fast for at least one our before Communion.
We prepare spiritually…
by coming early and prayerfully recollecting ourselves before Mass…
by participating fully in all the songs and prayers of the Mass.
We show our reverence for God and the Liturgy…
and our respect for one another…
by dressing appropriately and modestly for Mass.

In all these ways, we prepare ourselves for the greatest gift God will ever give to us!

Last week, I was home for Thanksgiving,
and I was the deacon at Mass with the pastor if my home parish.
He mentioned in his homily that on Black Friday
there were people up at 5 AM waiting in line at the department stores…
but no one was waiting at 5 AM to get into church!

Our Church’s celebration of Advent stands in stark contrast
to the commercialism and hype of a Christmas… or “Holiday”…Season
that now begins in September.

As the retailers are fighting over your money…
and shoppers are fighting over video games…
the Church is saying:
“slow down, watch and wait with joyful expectation…
and really savor the beauty of Christmas.”

If we celebrate Advent well…
how much more special will be our Christmas!

If we live our lives always ready for Jesus’ second coming…
how much more joyful will it be when He appears!

If we prepare well for Communion…
how much more beautiful and truly special will be our union with Jesus!

Perhaps we can add one more verse to our favorite Advent hymn:
Veni, O Rex Eucharistiae!
Come, O Eucharistic King! Come, and fill us with your love!

Catholic Christian Celebration of Advent and Christmas

A Truly Christian Christmas

Rev. Mr. Matthew J. Albright, M.A.

It seems that every year the holiday shopping season begins earlier. The retailers no longer even wait for Halloween to pass. Ghost and goblin costumes, Thanksgiving pilgrims, and Christmas Trees occupy the same aisles in stores. Decorations pop up in October and often disappear well before New Year’s. Many “continuous Christmas” radio stations begin in early November but then only keep the seasonal music playing through the evening of December 25th. The world is in a hurry to celebrate Christmas, and then to get it over with. In stark contrast stands the tradition of the Church, which looks forward to Christmas Day in a special way for several weeks, and then celebrates it with great joy for weeks thereafter.
Catholics begin the new church year with the Season of Advent (from the Latin adventus, which means “coming”), a time of joyful anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ that begins four Sundays before Christmas. While anxiously preparing to celebrate the coming of the newborn Savior, the Church also looks ahead to the end times when Christ will come again in glory. The spirit of this season offers the people of the Church a moment to reflect on their readiness to receive Jesus who comes to us in the Eucharist. This season has a somber tone, and a penitential spirit, as reflected in the purple vestments of the priest, which stand in contrast to the white and gold of Christmas.
Among the beautiful customs of the Advent Season is the Advent Wreath. This is originally a popular home devotion that has now found a place in every parish church. A wreath of green foliage is often decorated with red flowers, which anticipate the blood of the crucified Savior; and white flowers, symbolic of hope in the Resurrection. Inside the wreath are placed four candles: three purple and one rose. Rose is the color of the wreath’s candle, and the vestments, for the Third Sunday of Advent, for it symbolizes the theme of that Sunday: “Gaudete Sunday,” from the Latin meaning “Rejoice!” As the Church journeys toward Christmas, the candles are lit each week and the light increases, driving out the darkness.
The final seven days of the Advent Season, December 17th – 24th, are celebrated with particular devotion, including special music which joyfully anticipates the imminent coming of the Savior. The ancient Latin chants have been adapted into the popular Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!”
Christmas Eve is celebrated with great solemnity, as the Manger Scene or Creche is blessed in church. Often churches are decorated in stages throughout Advent, so that only on this holy night do worshippers see the full splendor of the Christmas Trees and poinsettias. The prayers of Christmas proclaim the glorious news of the angels in Sacred Scripture: “This day a Savior is born, who is Christ the Lord!”
In the Church’s tradition, Christmas does not end the night of December 25th. Instead, for eight days the Church celebrates with the same joyful spirit as Christmas Day itself. The “Christmas Octave” culminates on New Year’s Day, which in the Church calendar is a feast honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The Christmas Season lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which celebrates Jesus’ Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.
The Church has a valuable lesson to teach all people: take time to really savor the Christmas Season, the sights and sounds, the music, the worship, the gathering of family and friends. Above all, give thanks for the tremendous gift of God’s love made present in Jesus Christ. Instead of hurrying up Christmas and then getting it over with, approach Christmas with anxious expectation and celebrate it with abundant joy for many days.

The Season of Advent

A Blessed and Holy Season of Advent to you all!

Please note that a special feature will soon begin here on the website. Periodic short columns on the Sacred Liturgy, based on the G.I.R.M. and Redemptionis Sacramentum will be appearing. These originally appeared as weekly coloumns in a parish bulletin. I hope you enjoy them. Please pass this web address on to anyone who may enjoy what is published here.

God bless you!

Deacon Matthew

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Homily Thirty-Third Sunday of the Year 19 November 2006

I have very fond memories from my childhood of spending time with my Dad.
I remember taking long walks around town…
I remember enjoying walking by
and watching the construction of our new parish church.

I have memories of going to church on Sunday mornings with my Dad…
sometimes driving, or walking when the weather was nice.
My Dad and I had a routine that I can still remember…
the streets we walked on, our parking place, the people we saw,
the confession line, our regular seat in church.

I can also remember that in those moments we spent together…
I learned some very important lessons I learned from my Dad…
He told me that, no matter what we do…good or bad…God is always watching us.
He told me that God has a big book in which He writes everything we do…
and keeps track of all our good deeds, and also all the bad things we do.
That’s a powerful image for a kid.
I believed my Dad…
What he said made me aware from an early age
that God was really paying attention to me.
I knew I had to watch how I acted…
because even if “no one knew”…
I couldn’t hide anything from God.

The Sacred Scriptures today use a similar image.
The Prophet Daniel has a vision of the Archangel Michael…
and a time of judgement in which “some shall live forever”
and “others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”
He says that God’s people shall escape…
“everyone who is found written in the book.”
The Lord keeps account of those who are faithful to Him,
and he rewards them with life and happiness.

We find ourselves nearing the end of the church year…
and preparing to begin a new year with the Season of Advent.
The readings from Sacred Scripture at this time always speak to us of the end times,
and of the judgement that is to come for every human person.

In addition to the Book of Daniel…
today’s Gospel also presents a powerful image of the end times.
We hear of great tribulation and darkness,
in which the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
We see Christ coming in power and glory…
with all His angels…
who gather from the ends of the earth those who are pleasing to God.

Every once in a while,
we hear of someone claiming to know the exact time when the world will end
or we catch a supermarket tabloid foretelling the end times.
I’m sure you all remember that in the months leading up to the New Year 2000
there were all kinds of theories about the end of the world
and many people were very afraid.
In the end…nothing happened!
The alleged threats about computer glitches destroying the universe quickly passed
and the fears subsided.

Outlandish ideas come and go…
But the end of the world…and the final judgement…
is not something we can predict.
The Lord tells us that no one except God the Father knows the day and the hour.

What we do know…is that each of us will one day pass from this life.
Death comes to us all…even for the Archbishop.
Each of us will stand before the Judgement seat of Christ…
to give an account of our lives.

None of us knows the day or the hour of our own death.
It, too, is not something we can predict.

As the preface of the Funeral Mass proclaims…
for the Christian, in death “life is changed, not ended.”
Changed…not ended…
The question is…what kind of change will each of us experience?
What will be our eternal lot?

There is a Heaven…eternal life and blessed repose with God…
complete and total happiness and perfection.
It is the completion of our journey of faith which begins here and now.

There is a Hell…complete separation from God,
where there is no love and no joy.
It is the punishment of those who did not seek to be united with God
but instead sought to serve their own interests,
and placed money and fame and pleasure above the love of God.

Those whose directed their lives toward God…
but did not fully attain the perfection worthy of Heaven…
find themselves in need of additional purification for their sins
This we call Purgatory.
In this month of November we pray for the poor souls in Purgatory,
that God in his mercy grant them eternal life.

Our eternal reward…or punishment…
has much to do with the choices we make in this life.

As we know from experience…our actions have consequences.

If we study hard, we learn important lessons which are valuable later in life.
If we work hard, we can take care of ourselves and our families.
If we pray, we are in a good relationship with God.
If we give what we have for others, we can make a positive difference in their lives.

On the other hand…
If we don’t study, we fail in school.
If we do abuse drugs and alcohol, do foolish things and make ourselves sick.
If we disobey our parents or our teachers, we are grounded or go to detention.
If we get into a fight, someone gets hurt.
If we slack off at work, we get fired.
If we don’t come to Mass, and pray every day, we grow apart from God…
we end up trying to live a long distance relationship with the Lord.

Whether good or bad…our actions have consequences…
So it is in eternal life.
Our actions have eternal consequences.
God holds us accountable for the way we live,
for the way we use or abuse the gifts, opportunities, and relationships
that He has given to us.
Our goodness pleases God…and our sins displease Him.
God will judge us based on our fidelity to Him,
and will assign to us our eternal reward or our eternal punishment.

It is also true, of course, that we cannot simply earn our way into Heaven
just by racking up good deeds.
Ultimately, we depend on the grace and mercy of God.

An ancient Jewish proverb speaks to this very well:
“Work as if everything depends on you.
Pray as if everything depends on God.”

Our place in God’s book and among His blessed in Heaven is His alone to give.
Yet, he judges our worthiness
based on the way in which we have used or abused the life He has given us.
Where shall we find ourselves at the end of our earthly journey?
This moment in the life of the Church is a time to ponder this question…
and to take very seriously our calling to live holy lives…
for it is no less than a matter of life and death!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Homily Thirty-Second Sunday of the Year 12 November 2006

You may recall that Father Bernie was sick last week…
and there was no homily at all at Mass.
Well…make yourselves comfortable…because I have to make up for lost time!

Last evening I had the pleasure of attending the annual Voice of Hope banquet
which celebrates the work of Catholic Charities in the D. O. Y.
Last evening…as is the case every year…
they honored an individual, a parish, and an institution
for their work on behalf of C. C.
Mr. Joseph Fleming…OLMC Parish…St. V. de Paul of St. Patrick’s, Leetonia
It was inspiring to see the generosity and dedication
of so many people to serving the needs of the poor and the suffering.

Today…through the Sacred Scriptures…
the Lord presents to us powerful examples of generosity.

The widow in the First Reading from the Book of Kings
has only a handful of flour and a little oil in her jar…
and yet…in faith…she uses what she has to bake some food for Elijah.
She gives…not from a warehouse full of bread and oil…
but from the last bit of food she has to live on.

What is more…she gives the little that she has for a stranger.
The poor widow in the Gospel puts her last two coins…
worth only a few cents…into the treasury.

She gives…not from surplus wealth… but from her poverty.
She makes a real sacrifice…giving the last bit of money she had to live on.

If you recall last Sunday’s Readings…
the First Reading told the story of Moses speaking to the people
and teaching them God’s commandment…
“The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!
Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

In the Gospel, then, Jesus recounts this Great Commandment,
and adds to it a second…
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In today’s stories of the poor widows…
we see beautiful images of the meaning of these great commandments.

The poor widow in the Gospel gives her last two coins for the Temple treasury.
Her sacrifice is inspired by her great love of God and devotion to his Temple…
a love that is not convenient nor half-hearted.
Rather she loves generously…with her whole heart…and strength…
and gives even her last bit of money.

The widow at Zarapheth gives her last bit of food to feed Elijah…
whom she recognizes as her neighbor…
even though she does not know him, and he is not from her town.
Her generous service shows a real love of neighbor.

The love of God and neighbor to which we are called as followers of Jesus
is a generous love…
a love which does not hold anything back.

The situations of our own lives might be very different from those of the widows.
Then again…they might be quite similar…

Surely we all encounter men and women and children who need to be cared for…
those who are hungry…sick…suffering…lonely…sad…poor…
How often do we walk away?
How often do we really give everything we can?

In East Liverpool and Wellsville…
so many of you give generously to the food pantry…
a different kind of “temple treasury” perhaps…
but so very helpful for many families in need.
Your generosity is to be commended…
and your continued support is encouraged and greatly appreciated.
All you do to support the Church,
and the charitable outreach of our parish,
is a testament to your love of God and of your neighbor.
That love is meant to flow into everything we do…
and influence how we respond to every person we meet.

We are all called to love our neighbor generously…
not just from our surplus…but from our poverty…
not just the extra we have left over…not just when we have time…
but all the time…with everything we have.

We are also called to love God generously…
Our generous love of God is expressed in the support we give to the Church…
and in our generous participation in the life of the parish.

It is also expressed in the time we spend with God in prayer.
Prayer is often described as “a conversation with God…”
but it is more than words.
It is above all resting with the Lord…
entering deeper into our relationship with Him.
Prayer is not something we can do only when we have extra time left over in the day.
Prayer is something we have to do every day…
for in constant prayer we show God that we love Him with our whole heart.

It is good to start every morning with a prayer, asking God’s help for the day ahead.
And…at the end of a long day…
after work…and school…and sports practices…
and cooking supper…and paying bills…
you might feel like you have little left to offer the Lord.
Offer Him even the last drop of energy you have left…
spend time in prayer each night, thanking Him for the blessings of your life.
Or perhaps when the challenges of life
have you feeling like you have little energy left to live on…
offer that to the Lord, too.
Pray to Him in your poverty…
give the Lord your last drop…your everything…
and show him just how much you love Him!

This call of God to generous love
stands in contrast to the life of the scribes and Pharisees.
They pray with many words, so others will praise them.
They abuse the poor, all the while demanding the best for themselves.

We see just such behavior in our world today.
There are those who gouge prices, exploit children, abuse the innocent…

In the face of such evil,
we are called to stand as witnesses of a very different kind of living…
a love so generous it inspires us to give our last coin…
our last drop of food…our last everything…

As Elijah promised…the generous widow’s flour jar and oil jug did not run empty.
The generous sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was fulfilled in Resurrection and glory.
So, too, our generosity will not go un-rewarded.
Heaven is the reward of those who give generously…in charity and in prayer.

The Lord Jesus…
who in total poverty and generosity gave His last drop of blood for us…
comes now to dwell with us and within us
in the Eucharist we celebrate.

May we resolve to live like Him…and like the poor widows…
giving our last food…our last coin…our last everything…
in total love of God and our neighbor!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In Solemnitas Omnium Sanctorum

Exsultent Divina Mysteria!

Principles for the
Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy
in the Third Christian Millennium

¨ The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the source and summit of the life of the Church.
¨ The Eucharist is “the very heart of life.” – Pope Benedict XVI
¨ The Sacred Liturgy, from the Greek leitourgia, is understood as the work of God on behalf of His people. It is God’s work, not our own. Jesus Christ is the true celebrant.
¨ The Sacred Liturgy is not a secondary element of Catholic life but is central to the life of the Church.
¨ The Sacred Liturgy is a celebration of the mysteries of our faith, a living expression of what we believe.
¨ By “Liturgy” we mean the whole public prayer of the Church: the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, the rites of the other Sacraments, and the rites of the various sacramentals of the Church.
¨ The Mass is a celebration of the whole Church, Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant; a celebration in which “Heaven is wedded to earth.”
¨ The Eucharistic Prayer is a prayer directed to the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit.
¨ The Mass is both a Sacrifice and a Banquet: the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary; and the Banquet of the Mystical Body of Christ, in which we celebrate our faith and are nourished by the broken Body and poured out Blood of Jesus Christ.
¨ The Eucharist is a great mystery: the Bread of Life and the Chalice of Eternal Salvation, the food by which our souls are nourished on the journey toward eternal life with God in Heaven.
¨ The focus of Liturgy is directed to the praise of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is not a celebration of ourselves but of the God who has made us in love, and who calls us to love Him and worship Him. It is not a spectacle for the amusement of others, nor one focused on the personality of the priest and congregation. Our words, actions, postures, gestures, music, and liturgical atmosphere ought to be entirely directed to the love and worship of God, and not turned in on ourselves.
¨ The celebration of the Liturgy, especially the Holy Mass, demands adequate spiritual preparation. One ought to approach the Mysteries of God with a heart full of love, a soul cleansed from sin in the frequent celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, and a body prepared by the observance of the Communion Fast.
¨ The celebration of the Liturgy is the source of our strength for Christian living.
¨ The Eucharist in itself is an ineffable mystery, given to us by the Lord to be consumed, and to be adored. The sacrifice of praise of the whole Church is in itself a gift beyond compare that we can offer to the Lord. Yet, the Eucharist also demands that we take Jesus, whom we receive, into our hearts, our homes, and our world, to that He may transform us and those we meet into His holy servants.
¨ The Tradition of the Church is continuous and develops organically. The Church, in her wisdom, has transmitted that Tradition from the time of the Apostles and down through the centuries. In our time, that Tradition has been handed on to us by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.
¨ The Council transmitted the continuous Tradition. It did not signal a break with the past, nor a rupture, nor the creation of something entirely new. (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, Christmas 2005)
¨ Liturgy as well develops organically, in a continuous tradition, new forms flowing from the old, so that what Christ instituted is celebrated even unto our own day. Thus the Sacred Mysteries find new expression in a way that is suitable to the times, and yet rooted in the ancient tradition of the Church, and fitting for the worship of Almighty God.
¨ Liturgy is not fabricated, nor invented, nor is it simply the creative expression of individuals or groups. It is the celebration of the Mysteries of God and of the faith of the whole Church.
¨ Liturgical renewal cannot be fabricated. (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Preface to La Reforme liturgique en question) It must grow, rather, from a complete understanding of the whole tradition and history of the Church, an appreciation for the pastoral needs of the faithful, and a humble approach to the Mysteries of God.
¨ Renewal of the Liturgy in our time does not mean “turning back the clock” to a past age, nor a rejection of the Second Vatican Council. Rather it is a continual movement forward, an embracing of the whole, rich tradition of the Liturgy of the Church, an embracing of the authentic meaning of the Council, and a renewed effort to celebrate the liturgy precisely, reverently, lovingly, according to a vision of what the Council Fathers desired.
¨ Liturgical renewal is pastoral. It respects the needs and concerns of all. It is not done in haste, nor for personal gain.
¨ Liturgical Ministers and lay participants are not performers, nor should they carry our their ministries and ritual functions for personal gain and attention. Rather, they ought to celebrate the Liturgy for the love of God.
¨ Liturgy is sacrificial. The whole Mystical Body of Christ is caught up in the offering of a great sacrifice of praise. The priest offers the Sacrifice of the Mass. Beautiful liturgy demands the sacrifice of our lives, our time and our talents, so that it may truly be a celebration for the glory of God and the edification of the Church. Therefore, sacrificial language is most proper to the prayers of the Liturgy.
¨ Decorum, reverence, and respect are critical for all who celebrate or assist at the Liturgy.
¨ The faithful ought to feel “at home” in the Liturgy of their Church, wherever they celebrate it. Therefore, our ritual actions ought to be performed consistently and according to the rubrics of the Church.
¨ The Liturgy belongs to the Church, not to individuals or groups. While the Liturgy appropriately finds expression in the life of each parish, it springs from the faith of the Church and the example of Christ, not from the imagination and creativity of individuals.
¨ Liturgical celebration and renewal require a stance of great humility before the awesome mystery of God and the great tradition of the Church.
¨ Liturgical celebration and renewal require devotion and prayer, interiority, and the effort to deepen one’s relationship with God. Liturgy is not merely external but ought to be the expression of a deep faith and love.
¨ The full, conscious, and actual participation (cf. Sacrosanctum concillium, no. 14) of all the faithful in the Liturgy is important. This principle must be properly understood.
¨ “Full Participation” means that every member has a part in the Liturgy. It does not mean that everyone does everything. Liturgy is hierarchical and polyphonic. (cf. Pope John Paul II, Ad Limina Address, 9 October 1998)
¨ The distinction between the proper roles of clergy and of laity in the Liturgy, and the proper roles of each minister, exist for particular reasons and ought not be confused.
¨ “Conscious Participation” does not mean continual verbose and informal explanation of every part of the Liturgy. It means that every community should experience proper liturgical catechesis, and should be properly instructed in the mysteries of the Liturgy. (cf. Pope John Paul II, Ad Limina Address, 9 October 1998)
¨ “Active Participation” means that everyone takes a real part in the liturgy. This does not mean that everyone is always performing some action. It includes active listening and silence, by which one enters more deeply into the mysteries. (cf. Pope John Paul II, Ad Limina Address, 9 October 1998)
¨ Liturgy is not utilitarian. The vessels, fabrics, language, etc. that are used should not be common and everyday. All that we utilize, say, and do in the liturgy ought to reflect the unique and sacred character of the Liturgy, and of the mysteries we celebrate.
¨ The authority to regulate the Liturgy rests with the Holy See, and in some cases with the diocesan ordinary. Directives ought not be introduced in the Liturgy which are contrary to law by those without proper authority.
¨ Liturgy ought to be beautiful, for God is Beauty. It ought to be celebrated with love, for God is Love. It ought to be true to the faith and to the tradition, for God is Truth.
¨ The Latin language remains the official language of the Church and the sacred language of the roman Rite. Latin ought to remain a part of the Church’s Liturgy. (cf. Sacrosanctum concillium, No. 36) There ought to be a proper balance between Latin and vernacular in the Liturgy, with the Liturgy of the Word remaining in the language of the people. (cf. Sacrosanctum concillium, No. 36 in re: “Readings”)
¨ Vernacular translations ought to be faithful to the Latin originals. The vernacular used ought to be sacred language, not everyday speech. (cf. Michael P. Foley, Professor of Patristics, Baylor University)
¨ Gregorian Chant is the music proper to the Roman Rite and ought to hold pride of place in liturgical celebrations. (cf Sacrosanctum concillium, No. 116)
¨ Other sacred music ought to conform to a strict standard, namely, that it is directed solely to the glory of God and the celebration the mysteries of the faith.
¨ Serious attention must be given to the meaning of worship ad orientem (cf. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, and U. M. Lang, Turning Towards the Lord), that is the common direction of priest and people toward the Lord and His Altar. This is not to be understood as “the priest turning his back to the people” but, rather, as the priest, in the person of Christ the Head, leading the Mystical Body forward to the altar, where heaven is united to earth and all look forward to the eternal Liturgy of Heaven, the Banquet of the Lamb. The priest “leads the charge” in the journey of the Church Millitant toward the Risen Christ. Together, priest and people “turn toward the Lord” in praise. (“conversi ad Dominum” – Saint Augustine)
¨ The authentic meaning of common posture for priest and people in the Eucharistic Sacrifice needs to be regained. It can be symbolized by the placement of the Crucifix on the center of the mensa of the Altar, toward which priest and people both gaze. (cf. Ratzinger, Feast of Faith)
¨ The Tabernacle, the place of reservation of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the living presence of Christ in our midst, ought to be noble, beautiful, easily visible, and centrally located in every church. If Christ is to be the center of our lives, He must first be at the center of our churches.
¨ Our churches ought to be true places of worship, whose decoration and furniture all expresses our love for God and the uniqueness of the liturgy. They ought to inspire praise, and not simply be useful spaces.
¨ The Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the whole Church, and ought to be celebrated by parishes and promoted among the faithful. (cf. GILH)
¨ Efforts should be made to once again promote a truly Catholic culture among the faithful, so that the liturgical year, with all its rich celebrations of faith, become a part of every Catholic’s life.
¨ “Before we may consume Him, we must first adore Him.” –Saint Augustine. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament ought to be significant part of the life of every parish.
¨ Devotions, such as the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, ought to be promoted among the faithful, and explained as flowing from and leading to the Liturgy.
¨ Liturgical renewal and ecclesial revitalization is the task of every Catholic person. It must be undertaken reflectively, humbly, with true devotion to Christ, and with concern for the good of all.
¨ “…we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council.” --Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Milestones)
In omnibus glorificetur Deus! In all things may God be glorified!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Homily 30th Sunday of the Year 29 October 2006

This evening, I would like to ask each of you to picture in your mind
a priest that has been important in your life.
For some of you, Father Bernie may be the only priest you know.
For many of you, you may have known several different priests.
Think of one who has made a difference in your life…
Perhaps the priest who baptized you and was there as you grew up…
Perhaps the priest who married you…
Perhaps a priest who was there to listen
when you were going through a difficult time in your life…
Recall a priest who was important to you.

When you have a priest in mind,
lift him up in prayer,
say “thank you” to God for his presence in your life,
and for the many blessings of his ministry to the Church.

Every person in this church has experienced the ministry of a priest.
Over the more than seven years that I have been in seminary formation,
I have come to know many holy and dedicated priests,
whose service can only be described as “heroic.”

You are blessed in this parish to have a priest who loves you very much,
a priest who cares for you, works hard for you, and prays for you.
The Serra Club is an organization dedicated to supporting seminarians
and to praying for vocations.
Every year they designate one Sunday
as a special day to affirm the priesthood in the life of the Church,
to honor Jesus Christ, as the Great High Priest,
and to honor the priests of His Church.
This year, this Sunday, October 29th,
has been chosen as “Priesthood Sunday” in the United States.
So, as we gather for Mass today,
we give thanks to God for Father Bernie…
and for all the priests who have been a part of our lives,
and we honor them for their love and dedication to the Church.

Our celebration of “Priesthood Sunday”
coincides with a beautiful reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
on the meaning of the priesthood.
The lessons the Holy Spirit teaches us through this reading
are beautiful beyond compare.

The Scriptures tell us that the priest is
“taken from among men and made their representative before God.”

The priest is a mediator…a bridge.

He stands before the Altar of God on behalf of the people
and brings their prayers to the Lord.
In the Sacrament of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick,
the priest is an instrument of God’s unconditional love…
a love which has the power to heal every wound and forgive every sin.

Hebrews also says that the priest is chosen “to offer gifts and sacrifices.”
In the Church of Jesus Christ,
the priest no longer offers the sacrifices of bulls and goats,
as in the rituals of the Old Testament.
Jesus Christ has offered the ultimate sacrifice of His life on the Cross.
In the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass,
we enter into the great mystery of the one sacrifice of Jesus.

It is through the hands and the words of the priest in the Mass
that Jesus chooses to make Himself present to us.
Without the priest, there is no Eucharist.
Without the Eucharist, our spiritual lives whither…
like fruit that has fallen from the vine.

The priest is called to offer more than the sacrifice of the Mass.
He must also offer the sacrifice of his own life
for the sake of the flock he is called to serve.

The Church in our time needs men to give up their lives for Christ.
The Church needs holy priests, to follow in the footsteps of all those men
who have been such an important part of each of our lives.

Think back to the priest who you had in mind a few minutes ago…
the priest who is important or influential for you.
Imagine your life without that man.
Imagine if there was not a priest around to minister to you when you were in need.
Imagine this parish without a priest to celebrate the Mass every Sunday.

It is a sad thing to imagine, is it not?

That is the reality for far too many people in the world today.
As the number of retiring priests outnumbers those who are being ordained…
those who are left are spread thinner,
and the faithful are left without the shepherd’s care they deserve.

As I look forward to ordination…
I anticipate being made a pastor much sooner and with less experience
than past generations of priests.
I also anticipate having the responsibility of more than one parish.

Some have suggested that the answer to this “vocation crisis”
is to give more of the duties of priests to those who are not ordained.
Others suggest allowing priests to marry,
in order to attract those men for whom celibacy is an obstacle.

Yet, practically speaking, the clergy of other Christian churches…
who have married clergy…
experience the same shortages as we do.
Besides that, celibacy is a beautiful gift a man offers to God and the Church…
a gift that bears fruit in abundance in his ministry.
Celibate priestly life is a life modeled after Jesus Himself.
It has been a part of our tradition of priesthood since the early days of the Church.

The response to the vocation shortage is not to change the priesthood…
but rather to encourage it in a new and fervent way.

It is the task of every one of us to create an atmosphere…
in our homes and among our children…
in which a vocation to the priesthood is encouraged and supported.
As one of the speakers on the U. S. Bishops’ vocations video Fishers of Men says:
“It should be part of the life of every male Catholic
to think about becoming a priest.”

Despite the trends in our culture and in the media,
which promote selfish choices and undermine life-time commitments,
we must affirm the value and goodness of the priesthood.

There is no greater gift a man can give to the Church and to the world
than to lay down his life as a priest.

Today, as we celebrate “Priesthood Sunday”…
I ask you to pray for the priests of our diocese,
and for me and my brother seminarians
Pray that we may serve the Lord faithfully
and persevere in doing all He asks of us.

I also encourage you…as you leave Mass today…
to express in your own way your thanks to Father Bernie
for all he does for you and for the Church.

Finally, I remind you that we need to plan for the future.
The next generation of priests is among us.
It falls to us to encourage them and support them,
to make our homes places where the priesthood is honored
and a vocation to the priesthood is respected.

In all this, we celebrate the priesthood of Christ,
and who, out of love for us,
comes to dwell with us in the Eucharist we celebrate.

May Jesus Christ be forever praised!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Homily Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year 22 October 2006

In a recent homily,
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston told a very touching story.

It was the story of a girl, whose mother had very badly disfigured hands.
The girl was embarrassed by her mother,
and even made her mother wear gloves over her hands
whenever they went out in public together.
The mother’s physical disfigurement was a source of shame for her.
Years later, when the woman died,
her daughter brought gloves to the funeral home
to cover her mother’s hands in the casket.
As she brought the gloves out of her purse,
her father stopped her and began to tell her a story.
He said:
“One night, years ago, in the house we used to live in,
there was a fire in the nursery.
Your mother burned her hands when she went in through the flames
to rescue you out of your crib.
She never wanted you to know,
because she never wanted you to feel responsible
for what happened to her.”


That mother’s wounded hands were a testament to the depth of her love
for her infant daughter.
They are a sign that she would risk her own life to save her child.

No doubt each of you who are parents
would do the same for your children.

Jesus Christ, the Messiah promised by the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“came to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Through His suffering He rescued us from the power of sin.

The wounds which He bore on His body…
the lashes on his back
the crown of thorns pressed into his head
the nail marks in His hands and His feet
and the wound from the soldier’s lance that pierced His Sacred Heart
…all of these are a testament to the depth of His love.

Today, Saint Mark tells us the story of Jesus and His disciples
walking along the road to Jerusalem.
Jesus is preaching about the suffering He would soon endure.

James and John boldly ask Jesus a favor…
a favor that shows how little they understand what Jesus is all about.

Next to Peter…James and John are the disciples closest to Jesus.
The Scriptures tell us that Jesus took Peter, James and John
up the mountain with Him when He is transfigured
and into the Garden of Gethsemene on the eve of His passion.
It is John, the Beloved, who remains with Jesus in His agony on the Cross.
They are close to Jesus in the most significant moments of His life…
and still the meaning of His life remains hidden from them.

They ask:
“Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and one at your left.”

Jesus must have been heartbroken.
Here He is…
trying to get through to these men the meaning of His mission on earth…
men He loves very much
men whom He has hand-picked to be His followers
men to whom He entrusts the mission of preaching His good news…
and they ask for seats of honor and power.

So, if you ever find yourself frustrated or misunderstood…
turn to Jesus…for He understands…He knew these kind of feelings, too.

Jesus says to the disciples:
“…those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.”
Jesus re-defines the meaning of power and authority.
For the followers of Jesus…
“power” does not mean using our talents, our recognition,
or our position in a community
as a means to control, or dominate, or serve ourselves.
Rather, we are all called to place our talents, our abilities, and our position
at the service of others.

Discipleship means loving and humble service.
Everything we have and everything we are is a gift from God.
So, just as Jesus came to give His life and to serve…
so we are called to place all that we have…and all that we are…
at the service of the Gospel.

In my seminary class on the Theology of the Priesthood,
we are reading an excellent book by a Jesuit priest.
He writes that for Jesus, “service entails the sacrifice of his own life.”
And so, the “priesthood does not seek its own advantage or glory.
It recoils from demanding to be served.”
Priesthood means exercising an authority which unfolds in love…
love without boundaries.

The vocation of the priest is a call to lay down everything…
talents, authority, even his very life…
at the service of the Gospel.

Of course, the mission to spread the Gospel does not rest solely
on the shoulders of the bishops, priests, and deacons.
That mission has been entrusted to each one of you who have been baptized.

You live and work in a culture that does not respect the values of our Church.
We live in a country where it is legal to kill an unborn child…
where it is acceptable to terminate or genetically alter an “unwanted” person
where even the basic right to life…
of the unborn, the infirm, and the elderly…
is not respected.

The mission to spread the Gospel has been entrusted to each one of us,
And now more than ever the world needs us to
use every opportunity we have…
to speak the truth with love.

Every day, in school, at work, in the stores…everywhere…
you encounter people in need of God’s love…
people who need to hear the truth of the Gospel.
Sometimes you no doubt encounter people whose lives are broken by sin.
They need to know that God loves them…
but they also need to hear that there is a better way to live…
the way of Jesus Christ.

We are privileged to be able to vote
and participate in the democratic process of our country,
something certainly not guaranteed everywhere.
Or civic duty brings with it the power to have an effect on the life of our nation.
We need to place that power at the service of the Gospel.
We need to look carefully at the issues…
and then look carefully at the moral teachings of our Church…
and allow our Christian values to guide us as we vote.

We possess the power to do tremendous good in our world
because we have come to know Jesus and His Gospel.
We must now put that power and knowledge at the service of others.

The fulfillment of this mission will not be without suffering.
Jesus told His Disciples that they would share the cup from which He drank.
We, too, will surely undergo suffering for the sake of the Gospel.
That is part of being a disciple.
But our suffering is not useless.
It is worth a great deal
if it is the means by which another person comes to know Jesus.

This morning, we approach the throne of grace to meet Jesus face to face
in the Eucharist.
With confidence, let us ask Him for the grace
to go forth from this Mass strengthened in our commitment to the Gospel…
so that all we say and do may testify to our deep love for Christ!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Homily 27th Sunday of the Year 8 October 2006

From the ancient tradition of the Jewish Rabbis,
there is a beautiful saying about man and woman
that is appropriate, given today's readings from Holy Scripture:

God created woman…
Not from man’s head, lest she rule over him.
Nor from his feet, lest she be a slave to him.
But from his side…that she may be close to his heart.

In His love and wisdom, God has made men and women in a particular way.
Men and women are different in significant ways:
not only are their bodies created differently…
they relate differently to other people
and they approach life differently.
I once read a book about the many differences between men and women,
with regards to emotions, family life, and other issues.
In the book there was a story of a couple going through marriage counseling.
It came out that the woman wanted her husband to be more affectionate,
and to express his feelings more intensely, and more concretely.
So…the man responded immediately…
by going home and very thoroughly washing his wife’s car!

You may recall another popular book from a few years ago…
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
But the truth is that the differences we see in men and women
do not divide them…as if they are from different planets.
Rather these differences express a certain complementarity
which is essential to the very being of men and women.
and which is expressed in every aspect of their being…
in thew ways they relate
in the ways they approach situations in life,
in their very biological design.

As Pope John Paul the Great once wrote…
“Men and women are made for each other!”

Eve was created out of Adam’s rib…from his side.
She is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh…
and by the loving design of God…
man and woman are meant to cling to one another.


God knows it is not good for men and women to be alone.
He has created them to be suitable partners for one another.
He has made them to be joined as one flesh.

And what is more…
He has established the covenant of Marriage
as a sacred bond in which men and women live for one another.

The ancient Tradition of the Church,
founded on the Revelation of God as revealed to us through the Scriptures,
in particular the Book of Genesis, from which we read at Mass today,
defines Marriage as:
“a partnership of the whole of life
which a man and a woman establish between themselves”


A partnership between a man and a woman…
Is this simply because the Pope says so?
Or because the Church out of touch with our modern world?
Or because God or the Church is mean,
and wants to permit people from expressing their “love”?
Those are the accusations one hears in the media today.

Certainly none of this true…for the Church is guided in truth by the Holy Spirit…
and there is something incredibly profound at work in God’s loving plan.

So then why does the Church insist that Marriage is a
partnership between a man and a woman?
For no other reason than this:
because God has made us for love
and has designed the minds…bodies…and souls of men and women
so that they fit together…
and their entire persons become one!
No other partnership besides that of a man and a woman can express
the deep physical and spiritual complementarity
which is so essential to the way God designed men and women to be.

The covenant of Marriage is more than physical.
It is a relationship of self-giving love…
love which must be expressed not just in a bodily way but in every way…
in every moment.

God Himself is the model for the love to which we are called.
The Letter of Saint John contains three incredibly powerful words…
“God is Love.”
For God, love is not merely a personality trait or a past-time…
it is the most essential part of who God is!
God the Father loved us so much that He sent His own Son,
so that we might have life.
And in the greatest act of love and self-surrender known to human history
the Author of Life was put to death by men.
No greater love is or ever will be than this…
that Jesus laid down His life for those whom He loved.

We are created to love precisely like this…
totally…selflessly…completely for others!

This is particularly the vocation of husbands and wives:
to love totally…selflessly…for one another.


Many people in the world in which we live do not understand
the beauty of the human person
or the rich meaning of self-giving love.

Marriage is being re-defined today as something arbitrary and adaptable…
for whoever…whenever…and however it is convenient…
even to the point of so-called “gay marriages.”

We hear God speak to us today a very different message:
that men and women are created to become one flesh,
to be joined together in a bond that is loving, permanent, and fruitful.

And no other union to which one may arbitrarily attach the name “Marriage”
suffices to express who God has called us to be.

Marriage is seen by society as something that can be changed.
The joy of being Christian is that we know that Marriage is stable.
We do not change the Sacrament of Marriage…
Marriage changes us!

Marriage exists so that those joined by it may be sanctified,
and may be for one another a sure help on their journey toward Heaven.
Marriage is the means by which God has ordained that men and women
should participate in His work of creating new human life.


I can tell you that it always brings me great joy to see couples and families
striving to faithfully live out your commitment to one another.
Married life and raising children is not easy…
perhaps it is even more difficult in these times…
but your example of love and dedication is nothing less than
a sign of God’s love at work in the world.

Our world desperately needs the strong example of holy and faithful families.
It needs us to defend Marriage in its true fullness, as God designed it.
It needs us to care for those who find life burdensome,
who struggle with their sexuality,
who look for love in all the wrong places.
The world needs us to show it how to love again.

As we turn toward the Lord, to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist…
as the Bridegroom comes again to unite himself to His Bride, the Church…
as Heaven is wedded to earth again on this Altar…
May the grace of this Sacrament strengthen us to teach by example, and to pray
so that people will come to see the beautiful plan God has in store for them.
And may we ever remain close to the heart of Christ!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Homily Twenty-Fifth Sunday of the Year 24 September 2006

A few years ago…
The United Nations sponsored a project called "The Peace Poem."
Students from every elementary, middle school, and high school in the world were invited to submit a few lines of poetry about peace.
Students in schools in 38 countries participated.
Once all the entries were collected
they were compiled into one long poem of peace.
The poem is available online…simply Google "peace poem."

Some of the submissions from the school children are cute…
some are simple…
and others are quite inspiring.
A child in Rhode Island wrote:
"As I look around the world, I sigh,
and think, We could at least give peace a try."
A student in Perth, Australia, wrote:
"Toys and green goblins, and big yellow ice creams,
not bombs that extinguish our hopes and dreams."
A girl in south Africa wrote:
"Peace is like an African jungle –
it takes years to grow and seconds to destroy."

The different lines of poetry come from children throughout the world…
children of every race and state in life…
and they together proclaim a beautiful message of peace and hope
for our troubled world.

Today, we know all too well the pain of war…
There is sorrow in the hearts of many
who mourn the loss of their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters…
who gave their lives valiantly in service to our country.
Our world suffers because people have turned to violence
as the answer to their problems.

There are also those people, in our world today,
who…sadly…have embraced violence in the name of religion.
As I am sure you all have heard…
at a speech last week at the University of Regensburg, in Germany,
the Holy Father used a quote from a medieval Byzantine Emperor,
which offended many followers of Islam throughout the world.
As the Pope himself, and Vatican officials, have explained several times…
this quote was used to illustrate one point in his speech,
and it did not reflect the Pope’s personal beliefs.

The essential argument of the Pope, which was missed by most people…
is found in the following paragraph:
"Violence is incompatible with the nature of God, and the nature of the soul. God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably…is contrary to God’s nature… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind…"
In other words, violence has no place in religion.
Faith is not spread by the sword but by words spoken eloquently…in love.
Those who profess faith in the one God are called to be peacemakers,
not lovers of violence.

The Pope has said that he is "deeply saddened"
by the reaction to the misunderstood quote in his speech.
The reaction has truly been heartbreaking.
The Pope is burned in effigy.
A nun was killed in Somalia…over what the Pope was accused of saying.

Violence and war have sadly become all too commonplace.
It is routine now to hear on the news
a few stories about roadside bombs…insurgents…and extremists.
And the effects are no longer felt only by those in far away places.
Violence is real for us.
Our children are growing up in a time of fear…
when shoes and shampoo bottles can be used as weapons.

The violence of this war on terror is often linked to the Muslim religion.
We must remember that there are in fact many people who practice Islam,
who are law-abiding, peaceful people.
They should not be caught up in all the hatred…
and unfairly treated because of their peaceful life and their faith.

This morning, the Apostle James speaks to us a very clear message:
Disordered passion, jealousy, envy and selfish interests…
lead to disorder, violence, and war between people.
This is true in the wars between nations…
and in the battles in our own homes.
Whenever we look out only for ourselves…
whenever a leader or a nation seeks only to serve selfish interests…
evil results are soon to follow.

God calls us to a much higher way of living.
He calls us to seek the wisdom from above…which is
"pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy
and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity."
God calls us to seek peace.

Of course, we are not diplomats or military strategists.
We cannot solve all the world’s problems and bring peace to every land.
But that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do.
Our task is twofold:
to pray for peace in the world…
and to work for peace in our own homes and hearts.

Don’t think for a moment that prayer is not enough
in the face of all the trouble we see in the world.
Prayer is in face the most powerful weapon we have…
for in prayer we are filled with the strength of God’s grace…
which is far more powerful than and merely human efforts.
We must pray for peace in the world and an end to war…
for all our service men and women…
for the safety of the Pope and all who work for peace.

And peace must begin with us…
with the way we live…
and the lessons we pass on to others, especially our children.
We must live in peace, love, and charity, if we expect others to live that way.
This means seeking the interests of others, and not only our own.

The children who together wrote the Peace Poem understood peace…
even if it was in a very simple…innocent way.
May we embrace their message of peace…
as Jesus embraced the little innocent child in today’s Gospel.

This morning we approach to receive the Eucharist…
the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
The Fathers of the early Church referred to the Eucharist as "peace."
When we give the sign of peace at Mass…we anticipate the Eucharist…
the true peace.
Peace is a person…Jesus Christ…whom we receive in the Eucharist.
With that peace within us…
we can go forth to live lives of peace, to extend peace to the world…
and commit ourselves to constant prayer for peace.

May peace reign in our hearts…
and in the hearts of all people…
now and always.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Homily Twenty-Fourth Sunday of the Year 17 September 2006

For priests and deacons…
our breviaries are dear to our hearts…
because we pray with them every day.

And different people keep all kinds of things in their breviaries…
pictures of loved ones
holy cards of special occasions
reminder notes and papers we don’t want to lose.

I keep a scrap of paper with scripture verses or quotes I want to remember.
One of these is a quote about the meaning of love.
I don’t know anything about the man who said it…
but it is a powerful insight…
and I want to share it with you.

"Love asks no questions.
Its natural state is one of extension and expansion,
Not comparison and measurement."

In the Gospel today, we encounter head-on the essence of what Jesus is all about…
and what we are called to be as Christians.

God is our heavenly Father,
who freely gives even His only Son out of love for the world.

Jesus is the obedient Son,
who freely sacrifices His life on the Cross for the salvation of the world.

We, who are created in the image of God, and who profess the name Christian,
are called to accept our own crosses,
to lay down our own lives,
and to deny ourselves for the sake of Christ, whom we serve.

In the First Reading today, we hear of the words of Isaiah,
which look forward to the sufferings of Christ,
and also describe the trials endured by faithful prophets
and servants of the Lord:
the beatings, the buffets, and the spitting.
And Isaiah says, "I did not turn back;" "My face I did not hide."
Jesus endured ridicule, scourging, the crown of thorns, and the horror of the Cross,
without complaint.

So many times, fidelity to Jesus and to our Catholic faith,
means laying down our lives.
For us in the modern world it does not mean actual crucifixion or physical death.
The buffets and scourging come in different forms in every age…
but they are still there.
Similarly, the need for self-denial
on the part of each one of us who belongs to Christ
remains essential to our Catholic Christian way of life.

Denying ourselves…in today’s world…
means being willing to be unpopular…
willing to set aside our own need for fame, glory, and success…
willing to sacrifice our own good name,
and our own needs and desires,
for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.

In our lives and relationships…
at home, in school, and at work…
denying ourselves means that we will not always be number one.
Jesus calls us to take ourselves out of the picture…
for the good of those we are called to love and serve.
Being parents, teachers, bosses…
means first of all being servants.

Husbands and wives…
parents and children…
teachers and students…
clergy and parishioners…
we are all called…each day…to ask what is best…not for us…
but for the ones whom God has placed in our lives…
and ask how we can sacrifice of ourselves for them.

When the Father sent Jesus to become man,
to live among us,
and to go to His death for us…
Jesus did not ask "Why?" or "Do I really have to?"
His love did not ask questions…He did not compare or measure.
Rather, He expanded Himself in love…
embraced the whole world…
and drew all people to Himself on the Cross.

Our world suffers today
because far too many people have never learned to deny themselves…
because too many people do not love without comparing, measuring,
and asking questions.
We see it in all those in foreign nations…and in our own communities…
who turn to violence instead of love to solve their problems.
We see it in all those who look at human life and human sexuality
as things to be manipulated at the service of their own needs or fears…
rather than beautiful gifts to be cherished.

There is no doubt that this teaching of Jesus is hard.
Even Peter questioned Jesus
because he did not understand the truth of Jesus’ message:
that those who wish to follow Jesus
must deny themselves and accept their crosses.

Life is not without sorrow and suffering…
difficult situations…and difficult relationships.
We are called to bear these crosses in love for Jesus Christ,
who bore His Cross for the sake of our salvation.

Jesus promises that the one who denies himself in love for God and others…
who stands up for the Gospel even when it seems too difficult to do…
and who bears life’s crosses patiently…
will share the joy and glory of eternal life.

As we approach with humble fear
to receive the Body of our Crucified and Risen Lord…
may we commit ourselves ever more fully to laying down our lives
and bearing our crosses…
for the sake of Jesus and for those we love.

In so doing…
we will find ourselves in the midst of trials,
and we will also find ourselves in the midst of good company…
both the many holy men and women who now serve the Church…
and…we pray…one day…
among those whose service has brought them everlasting reward.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Homily O. L. Sorrows 15 September 2006

It seems to me no mere coincidence
that today’s celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows
should follow the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

For the Cross we honor and venerate
was at once the instrument of our salvation
and the sword of sorrow which pierced Mary’s heart.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary…
The Presentation of Jesus
The Flight into Egypt
Jesus being lost in Jerusalem
Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary
The Crucifixion
The Deposition of Jesus’ Body from the Cross
And His Burial
…were at one time commemorated by two feasts.

The other was celebrated on the Friday of Passion Week,
the week before Holy Week in the liturgical calendar before 1969.

That feast…
which particularly commemorated the sorrow of Mary
at the foot of the Cross…
was also known as the Feast of the Compassion of Mary.
How fitting a name…
since Mary surely suffered with her Son…
compassio of course meaning to “suffer with.”

As the Stabat Mater proclaims…
Mary not only beheld His pangs…
she was wounded with His every wound.

As Mary saw her only son being ridiculed…tortured…and crucified…
in the midst of unimaginable sorrow for a mother to bear…
and terrible pain for her only Son…
Mary trusted in the promise of the Resurrection.

The Gospel tells us that Mary stood at the foot of the Cross…
Stabat mater juxta crucem.
Mary stood firm.

She trusted through it all…
and now she stands for us as an model of trust and fidelity
in times of sorrow.

As she trusted that the Cross would not end in death…
but in the glory of the Resurrection…
so we can have faith that the sorrows of this life are not the final word.

The sorrow and the suffering of the Cross was the cause of our salvation…
so the sorrow we endure in this life is not without meaning.

Though we may not see the value of our sorrows…
and of uniting them with the sufferings of Christ… as we are called to do… in this life… we trust that we shall see it in heaven,
where we shall be in sorrow no more.

Each of us has experienced sorrow in one way or another.
The death of parents, grandparents, relatives or friends.
People we know and love moving away.
Our lives changing as we move from seminary into a life of ministry.
Separation…transition…different kinds of “goodbyes.”
Great sorrows and little ones…
all of which are a natural part of life.
As the scene of Mary at the foot of the Cross shows us so clearly…
real love often means enduring sorrow.
When we really give ourselves in love…
and then experience loss or change or grief…
it can really…deeply…hurt.

Mary speaks to us: hold on, stand firm…
God’s unending love will triumph even over sin and death.
Meditating on Mary’s sorrows can help us more fully understand our own.

As we approach to receive the Body of Jesus, the Son of our Sorrowful Mother…
may our prayer this day be a heartfelt plea
for the grace and the courage to endure our sorrows as Mary did…
with trust in God’s power to heal and save…
and with hope in the heavenly reward promised to good and faithful servants.

Reflection #7: Saturday

Padre Pio
23 September 2006

Luke 8:4-15

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Pio of Pietrelcina, known to the world as “Padre Pio.” Padre Pio was born in Italy in 1887. He entered the Capuchin Friars at the age of 15 and was ordained a priest at 22. For fifty years, he lived at the monastery of Saint Stephen, where his miraculous abilities as spiritual director and confessor attracted the attention of people all over the world. He was a man of remarkable humility and great devotion to the Eucharist. He was given the grace of the stigmata – he bore the wounds of Christ’s passion on his own body.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the sower. In the story, the man goes out to sow some seed. Some of the seed does not fall in the good soil but lands on the path, on rocky ground, and among thorns. Some of it is trampled and some is eaten by birds. The seed symbolizes the Word of God. Each of the places where the seed lands symbolizes a circumstance in the lives of believers. The good soil, of course, represents those who have heard the Word of God, have embraced it, and have borne good fruit.
Padre Pio is a living example of good soil. He heard the Lord call him to the priesthood, and call him to give his life in service to the Church. He embraced his vocation, answered the call of the Lord with generosity, and bore great fruit in the lives of many people. In his own day, he attracted many people, who came to him to hear the great spiritual wisdom he was able to share with them. Today, he is numbered among the saints, and stands as an example to the Church and to the whole world of what it means to be a humble servant of Christ.
Despite his great gifts, and despite the tremendous graces God bestowed upon him, Padre Pio never focused on himself. He was a humble priest. He never wished to be famous for his spiritual knowledge. He often remarked, “I only want to be a friar who prays.” Yet, the Lord used his life to bring His love and mercy and healing to many people. And now, his powerful intercession before the throne of God in heaven remains a source of grace for many.
There is tremendous power in the Communion of Saints, the invisible bond that unites the Church on earth with the suffering souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven. The saints were good soil. They heard the Word of God and embraced it. They continue to bear fruit as they provide for us an example of holy living, and intercede for us in our own journey of faith.
Today we ought to pray for the strength to live as Padre Pio did, as a humble servant who gave his life over to the Lord. For if we embrace God’s Word and His will for us; if we allow our lives to be used by the Lord for His good purpose, we too shall bear much fruit.

Reflection #6: Friday

Friday of the Nineteenth Week of the Year
22 September 2006

Luke 8: 1-3

Today’s Gospel story is one of several examples, which illustrate the role of women in the life and teachings of Jesus. For Jesus, women were valued highly and had an essential place in His ministry. In contrast to the customs of the Jewish world, and those of Roman society, which often regarded women as second-class citizens, Jesus embraced them as God’s beloved creatures. While He presents a challenge to the culture of His time, Jesus reminds us that God has never embraced the customs of men but has loved unconditionally every person He has created.
Jesus shows how valuable women are to him by recognizing and affirming their dignity as persons. He does not judge as humans do. He sees in women the same dignity present in every person. He spoke to women freely in public, and did so in a caring, thoughtful way. Yet, He also loved them enough to challenge them, and to hold them responsible for their sins, as He does with every person.
Jesus also demonstrates the value He places on women by not hesitating to minister to them. He meets their physical needs, as well as their spiritual longings. He healed them, forgave their sins, and listened to them with compassion. This is seen in several examples, including the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.
Finally, Jesus shows how He values women by giving them a place in His ministry. We see this in today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel. In addition to their place in the work of Jesus and the Apostles, Jesus employed women as illustrations in His teachings, and in many of the parables. He did not hesitate to teach the Gospel to women, and to include them in his great mission of salvation. They not only provided essential services as part of the work of the early Church but undoubtedly offered a wisdom that only women can, because of the unique way in which God created them.
In addition to all this, it is important to recall that, when all the Disciples except John fled in fear, it was the faithful women who stood at the foot of the Cross. And it was women who first witnessed the empty tomb and the risen Christ, and brought the joyful news of the Resurrection to the Apostles. They began the mission of the Church to proclaim the salvation won by Christ to all the nations.
And most importantly of all, we must remember Mary, whose love and trust made it possible for the Son of God to become incarnate among men.
The Gospel writers clearly proclaim that, while Jesus did not chose women to be Apostles, He opened His life to women, loved them, responded to their needs, and gave them an essential role in the life of His Church. So it is in the Church today. I am continually inspired by the heroic witness of many Christian wives and mothers, by holy and dedicated women religious, and by the valuable service and wisdom women offer to the Church in numerous ways. Just as Jesus’ ministry would not have been the same without the women who accompanied Him, so the Church depends on their contributions today.
Authentic discipleship knows no human bounds. Men and women alike are called to proclaim Christ’s truth and His love to the whole world. The women of the Church today can find the same fulfillment in serving Christ as did Martha and Johanna and Susanna of old.

Reflection #5: Thursday

Saint Matthew, Apostle
21 September 2006

Matthew 9: 9-13

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Apostle and Evangelist, Saint Matthew. He was a disciple of Jesus and the author of one of the four Gospels. Today’s reading is from Saint Matthew’s Gospel, and tells the story of Matthew’s call to serve Jesus in his own words. It is a rather simple vocation story. Matthew is sitting at his post, fulfilling his duty as a tax collector. Jesus simply says to him, “follow me.” And, as Matthew writes, he gets up and follows Him. Notice there is no hesitation. If there was any question in Matthew’s mind about the man calling him or what he was getting into, he certainly does not tell us about it. There is no argument. Matthew abandons his life as a tax collector for a new way of life with Jesus. He had no idea what might lie ahead. He does not second-guess the Lord but trusts that what lies before him will by God’s grace prove to be best for him.
Today, we too are called to reflect on how the Lord is calling us to make a change in our lives. Every human person has a unique vocation, a unique plan from God to live in a particular way: to marry a particular person, to become a priest and serve a particular parish, to become a religious sister or brother and live in a particular community. The life God calls us to is not always easy, yet He fills our lives with the grace to strengthen us as we fulfill what He asks of us. The challenge is to trust in God’s plan.
This is the example of Saint Matthew we are called to follow. This is what we are asked to pray about today. We need to pray for the grace and the strength to trust that what God has in store for us is best for us. We need to pray for the grace to follow the call of the Lord without hesitation, and not follow our own desires. A dear friend of mine, who lives this very well, reminds me in my impatience to trust in the will of the Lord. “If it’s meant to be, it will happen,” she says. Matthew didn’t know where Jesus would lead Him but he was moved by grace to trust and to submit to the will of the Lord.
Today, and every day, let us turn to the Lord in prayer and ask: “Lord, what is it you want me to do?” “How am I to follow you?” Place your cares in the hand of God, trust in His plan, and respond to His call without turning back. When the Lord says “follow me,” He says it knowing what is best for us. May we have the courage of Saint Matthew to get up and follow after the Lord every moment of our lives, and to trust that where He leads us is nowhere other than the throne of glory in His heavenly kingdom.

Reflection #4: Wednesday

Korean Martyrs: Andrew Kim, et. al.
20 September 2006

I Cor 12: 31-13: 13

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, surprised many people when he wrote his first encyclical on the meaning of love. He took the title from the First Letter of Saint John: Deus Caritas Est, “God is Love.” The mystery of love is at the center of our lives as Catholic Christians. For God, love is not simply something He does; He is Love itself. We, who are made in the very image and likeness of God, are called to follow the great commandment: to love God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. To love is an essential part of what it means to be human, to be a creature of our loving God.
Today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians gives us an opportunity to reflect on the mystery of love. Saint Paul teaches us three great truths about love, which help us to understand how we are to live as followers of Jesus, whose love for us knows no limits.
First, it does not matter what we do, how talented we are, or even how well we live out the demands of our faith, if loving is not at the heart of our living. If we do not love those with whom we live and work, if we do not love what we do, than we are a “clashing gong,” as Saint Paul describes. We can even preach the truth, and even be 1000% right, but unless we love those to whom we speak, all our preaching is in vain. I recall the words of Saint Augustine, “Give nothing of truth without love, and nothing of love without truth.” In witnessing to the Gospel of Christ, love and truth go hand-in-hand.
Secondly, love means taking ourselves out of the picture. Love is not jealous, rude, inflated, or self-seeking. Love means doing whatever is good for the ones we love, and giving of ourselves for the glory of God and the good of others. It means remembering that life is not always about us.
Third, no matter what, though everything else may pass away, love remains constant. Through the trials and difficulties of life, through loss and suffering, the love of God for each one of us will never fail. The love of family and friends sustains us. And the invisible bond of love we share with our brothers and sisters who, though scattered throughout the world, are united as one body in Christ, strengthens us. The prayers of Christians for each other is a powerful sign of the love we share, a love that transcends time and space, and reaches the hearts of people we cannot see. Though we cannot be present with them physically, we can connect with them in an even deeper, spiritual, way through prayer. Together, as a family of faith, we stand strong in professing what we believe and in bringing the love and truth of Christ to the world.
Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of the Korean Martyrs, men and women who died professing their love for Jesus. Though we live in the United States, where the persecution they endured does not threaten us in the same way, this feast keeps us in touch with the universal Church and reminds us of what others have suffered for the sake of the Gospel. The Church is more than our parish, our diocese. The very word catholic means “universal.”
This feast also reminds us that the ultimate sacrifice of the martyrs was rewarded in heaven.
Being a Christian is demanding. May we have their courage to love even until death. If we empty ourselves in love for Christ, and for those in need in the world around us, our love will conquer. Love will not fail!

Reflection #3: Tuesday

Januarius, Bishop and Martyr
19 September 2006

I recently read an article about William F. Buckley, which in part explored a question posed by a reader and admirer: why are you a Roman Catholic? What has kept you faithful to the Catholic faith? The answer came in a book Buckley had recently written: because of all the people he has loved and who have loved him.
The example of faithful Christians is powerful in drawing people closer to Christ. Because of many people who had a deep love for the Church, the faith has been passed down throughout the centuries. For many people, because of others they have loved and who have loved them, the faith has been handed on to them.
There is of course no scientific proof or absolute historical evidence for some of what we believe as Catholic Christians. We have not seen Jesus in the flesh. We did not witness the Resurrection, and there were no camcorders at the time. The Eucharist cannot be “proven” by scientific investigation. We believe in many things we cannot see, in the physical sense of “seeing.” Being Catholic requires real faith and trust.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent to the Church at Pentecost, the Church has never failed to proclaim the truth. The Holy Spirit’s guidance, and the promise of Jesus, “Behold I am with you always, until the end of the world,” is the foundation of our assurance that what we believe and what we do as Catholics is real, and true, and worth embracing.
We look to the example of the martyrs as a sign that, in fact, our faith is worth not only living for, but is worth dying for. The martyrs show us that our Catholic faith is not a casual part of life, not something we do occasionally, not just a Sunday obligation. It is in fact a way of life that permeates everything we do.
The martyrs of the early Church were real believers. They truly were convinced that Jesus is the Son of God made man. They were sure of their faith. So sure were they, that life itself was secondary to professing faith in Jesus.
Today the Church celebrates the memory of Saint Januarius, a bishop who was martyred in Naples, Italy, in the year 305, under the persecution of Diocletian. Januarius gave his life for Christ. He would rather die than deny the most important person in his life, his beloved Jesus.
No scientific explanation has been found for a miracle attributed to Saint Januarius. Several times a year, including on his feast day, his dried blood, which is kept in a glass container, liquifies and re-coagulates. No one understands why. The miracle of his blood is a sign that God is at work, even after Januarius’ death, because of the faithfulness and love he showed toward Jesus.
As Saint Augustine said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The witness of their fidelity to the faith, even unto death, is a source of strength and a sign of hope for the whole Church. Their love, and their sacrifice, has insured that the faith lives on. The witness of Januarius’ life, and the lives of all the martyrs, shows us that our Catholic faith is of great and lasting value. It is worth believing, worth living, and worth even dying for.