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.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Vatican II: the Unbroken Tradition of the Church
Rev. Mr. Matthew J. Albright

The life of the Church in the twenty-first century is guided in large part by the pastoral approach taken by the bishops at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Council documents, and the subsequent study, reform, and renewal that grew out of the Council. Important for the Church, then, is a proper understanding of how an ecumenical council in general, and Vatican II in particular, is to be understood within the life of the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2005 Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, reflected on the 40th Anniversary of Vatican II. His thoughts help the Church today to understand the meaning of the Council. The Pope addressed important issues: how the Church throughout the world has received the Council; what has been its result; and why have the years since the Council been so difficult. He explains that problems have arisen in the Church in recent years because different people have interpreted the same things differently. The Pope said, "The problems of reception derived from the fact that two contrasting hermeneutics [or ‘interpretations’] found themselves face to face and battled it out." The "hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture" suggests a "fracture between the pre-Council and post-Council Church," and promotes a drive for anything new. On the contrary, the "hermeneutics of reform" sees a continuity of doctrine and Tradition in the Church before, during, and after the Council.
As the Pope explains, the problem caused by the "hermeneutics of discontinuity" is that this approach "asserts that…it would be necessary to follow not the Council texts, but its spirit. In this way, of course, a huge margin remains for the question of how then to define this spirit and, as a result, room is made for any whimsicality." The Council gave the Church 16 documents, which address the Church’s approach to modern issues. The letter of these documents has at times been ignored in favor of following the "spirit of Vatican II." As the Pope explains, this "spirit" is given various meanings by the agendas of those who claim its support for constant change and novelty.
In opposition to this is the "hermeneutics of reform." When Pope John XXIII opened the Council, he expressed this approach, saying that the Council "wishes to transmit doctrine pure and whole, without attenuating or falsifying it." The intention of the Fathers of Vatican II – as was the purpose of the 20 previous ecumenical councils – was to pass on the teaching of Jesus Christ, in a manner that answers the needs of the time. The Council’s great work was not the elimination of something old and the creation of something new but, rather, to pass on the ancient Tradition of the Church, which, while lived out by different people in every age, remains forever the same. For, as the Pope said, the Church "is a subject that grows in time and develops, remaining however always the same, the one subject of the People of God on their way."
The teaching of Christ, handed down by the Apostles, safeguarded by the Early Church Fathers, and expounded by pastors through the centuries, remains the same today. The Ten Commandments remain the sure guides for human action and interaction. Certain human acts are always and in every circumstance contrary to the Divine Law. The moral and doctrinal teachings of the Church find expression in new ways but the Gospel of Jesus is not new, nor it is open to change. For example, amid speculation by contemporary theologians who predicted that the Holy Father would suddenly change the Church’s prohibition of artificial contraception, Pope Paul VI, in Humanae vitae, defended human life and proclaimed the consistent teaching of the Church that birth control is unacceptable.
The Liturgy, the public prayer of the Church develops organically from sure foundations and undergoes developments in history, which are at times needed but do not change the essence of the liturgy. So often I hear, with regard to liturgical elements such as the Latin language, chant, consecration bells, and countless beautiful traditions, both those who lament "Why did Vatican II get rid of that?" and those who rejoice that past traditions have apparently been abandoned. How surprised many on both sides would be to know that Vatican II was not nearly so concerned about novelty as we think, and that much of what was apparently "lost" in the Mass is found in the Council documents or most current liturgical instructions. To name a few: chalices still must be made of precious metal; Latin remains the official language of the Church and part of the liturgy; Gregorian Chant is the music proper to the Roman Rite; Communion patens are to be used; bells, candles, and incense remain essential liturgical elements. A "new Mass" was not created. In the midst of necessary liturgical adaptations, notions of discontinuity and novelty made their mark on the sacred worship of the Church.
Contrary to the popular hymn, we are not called to "sing a new Church into being." Vatican II is the council of our time, and the Church today is formed by its legacy. We give thanks to the Holy Spirit for guiding its great work. Yet, as the Pope reminds us, it is one link in an over two-thousand year chain of unbroken Tradition. The task of Catholics today is to know the whole Tradition well and to live our Faith with fervor. The Church calls us, as she calls people of every age, to bring Christ to others and proclaim the continuous Tradition of the Church in our time.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter – Year B
29-30 April 2006

Whenever I behold the wonder and beauty of the world that surrounds us…
I am utterly confounded by those who do not believe in God!
The marvelous variety and order of nature…
blossoming trees…new-fallen snow…and autumn leaves…
and the beauty I find in people I meet every day…
show forth the goodness of a magnificent Creator…
and make me wonder how anyone can say there is no God!
When I in awesome wonder consider all the works the Lord’s hands have made…
my soul cannot help but sing…
O Lord, how great Thou art!
In Easter we sing: Heac dies quam fecit Domimus…
This is the day the Lord has made…
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Every day is a day made by the Lord…
And every day you and I are faced with wonders beyond our imagining:
The wonder of creation and the beauty of the human person
Man’s ingenuity and the achievements of human progress
The splendor of the Church and the grace of her sacraments.
Complex realities and solemn mysteries,
which reflect the abiding presence of our loving Father.
God is present all around us.
He is alive and real to us.
We can touch what He has made and we can see His image in one another…
in every human person…
in the infirm…in the weak…the poor…and the unborn.
All of creation is a sign of the glory of God…
and how often we overlook the marvels that surround us!
In a special way, Jesus is present in His sacraments,
those outward signs which He gives us
as instruments of His mysterious, hidden grace.
He is present to us as we celebrate the Mass:
In the assembly of the Mystical Body which gathers for worship…
In the priest, who stands in the person of Christ the Head of the Body…
In His Word, as the scriptures are opened to us…
And in the Eucharist He is really, truly, and substantially present to us.
We experience Jesus as did the Apostles on the road to Emmaus.
As He opened the Scriptures for them…
and was made known to them in the breaking of the bread…
so we come to know Him in word and sacrament.
We recall from earlier in Luke’s Gospel,
that as Jesus and the Apostles walk on the road,
Jesus pretends to go on further
and the Apostles bid him "stay with us, Lord."
Even though the Lord Jesus ascended to the Father in the sight of His apostles
He remains with us even today in the Eucharist
The same Jesus who was with the Apostles is with us.
The same blood that was shed and the body that rose triumphant over the grave
is poured out for us in this most holy Sacrament.
In today’s Gospel, the Apostles are afraid that they have seen a ghost.
Yet, it is fact the Risen Jesus.
So, today, we do not encounter a phantasm or a figure…
but the Risen Christ under the symbol of bread and wine.
Christ our God comes to us in the mystery of the Eucharist
in order to draw us into a personal relationship with Him.
Our response to Christ’s gift of love in this Sacrament
must be a life of total self-giving love in return.
Christ who died for us calls us to a life of loving others above ourselves…
a life of giving, not taking,
and expecting nothing in return.
It is in dying that Jesus showed His true power.
It is in dying to ourselves that we experience new life.
The relationship to which Christ calls us is cultivated through a life of prayer.
As Saint Augustine once wrote:
"Before we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we must first adore Him."
It is further nourished by a life of studying the mysteries of our faith…
by allowing Jesus to open the Scriptures…and the Tradition…to us.
This Catholic Christian faith of ours, which we celebrate in this Eucharist…
is not popular these days…
and increasing numbers of people find it an insufficient reason
to get out of bed on a Sunday morning…and even less on holy days!
This faith cannot be proven by science…
we cannot put the Eucharist under a microscope and find Jesus!
Yet, simply because it is not provable…
does not make it any less valuable…
nor any less vital to the lives of every human person.
The faith of the world depends on you…
the disciples of the 21st century…
who come to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread!
By our example of ethical living…loving service…and constant prayer…
we bring Christ to others
and preach His Gospel to the nations.
Every day the glory of God surrounds us in a myriad of ways.
Today…right now…the Lord is calling us to bask in that glory…
and to proclaim to the world
our faith in Jesus whom we meet in the Eucharist.
May the grace of this sacrament we receive strengthen us…
as it did Pope John Paul…
to be people of the Eucharist…and faithful disciples of Christ.
And may our hearts and souls never cease to sing:
Christ is alive!
The Risen Lord is indeed with us!
The Gift of the Priesthood
Matthew J. Albright
Seminarian, Diocese of Youngstown
April 2006

How often we hear about the "vocation crisis" in the Church. It is true that many priests, who have served the Church faithfully, are now retiring or being called home to the Lord, and the yearly ordinations are not sufficient to replace them. It is also true that the crisis is not with God’s call but with our response. God is still calling men to the priesthood, yet few are open to hearing his voice.
Truly, the world in which we live and the Church we serve, suffer from a crisis of commitment, and not only concerning the priesthood but religious life and marriage as well. We live in a world that thrives on fast food, instant connections, and all things disposable, and promotes a fear of anything permanent.
In our day, the priesthood demands serious commitment to a way of life that is counter-cultural. In the midst of our cluttered and busy world, the priest is called to live a life of simplicity. When self-promotion seems to be the rule of the day, priesthood demands selfless service. And when the media continually disregards the beauty of human sexuality, the celibate priest stands as a model of self-giving love after the pattern of Christ.
As a seminarian in the final weeks of preparation for Ordination as a Deacon (on April 29, 2006), my thoughts turn to the commitment I am about to make. I approach Ordination with excitement, after seven years of seminary preparation. Yet, pondering the tremendous gift I will very soon receive causes me to approach also with trepidation, and reminds me just how much I depend on the grace of the Lord in all things.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, makes mention of the Diaconate in his first Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est ("God is Love"). In describing the Church’s responsibility to practice charity and service to the community, he recalls that the office of the Deacon (from the Greek, diakonia, meaning "service") arose because of a need in the early Church to have ministers dedicated to the charitable service of others, so that the Apostles could concentrate their ministry on preaching the Word and celebrating the Sacraments (see Acts 6). To this day, the essential meaning of the Diaconate is service, since "the deacon, configured to Christ the servant of all, is ordained for service to the Church" (Compendium of the Catechism, no. 330).
Transitional Deacons, that is, deacons in formation for the priesthood, make three promises at Ordination: obedience to the Bishop, daily celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, and chaste celibacy. For many, the commitment to celibacy is the principal obstacle to the discernment of a religious vocation. It is one of the first things to come to mind when anyone speaks of the priesthood. Celibacy has even become the subject of a documentary on A & E: "God or the Girl." The questions posed by people today often betray a negative view of celibacy, which is seen as an archaic and unnecessary obligation.
While celibacy is an obligation for clergy in the Roman Catholic Church, it is above all a gift. Men who enter the celibate clerical state, who "have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom" (Mt. 19: 12), do so freely, and not merely because they are bound to. The vocation of every human person is to love with his whole body, mind, and spirit, for man is created in the image of God, Who is Love itself (see John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, no. 11). The vocation of the priest is to love, completely and selflessly, as a celibate. The priest "gives up" the love of one woman, the goodness of marriage, and the joy of family life, in order to receive from the Lord the joy and goodness that comes from bringing Christ to others in Word and Sacrament. While the priest may never father children, his love is fruitful in every "spiritual child" that he baptizes, as well as in the weddings he celebrates, and confessions he hears. The love of the priest calls him daily to give up one good gift of God in order to experience another.
Celibacy involves a sacrifice. The word "sacrifice" is formed from two Latin words: sacrum and facere, which together mean "to make holy." By sacrificing marriage and family life, the priest is able to dedicate his life to the mission of making holy the souls of all those who receive the absolution, blessing and anointing of Christ through his hands. A priest "gives up" a wife and children for the sake of the kingdom of God because Christ Himself, the Great High Priest, lived a life of celibacy. Their gift of celibacy is a sign of the heavenly treasures all people will one day know, when, as Jesus said, "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage."
Every priest offers his life as a gift and makes the sacrifice of celibacy for the same reason the Church requires it as an obligation: not out of disdain for marriage or family but out of love for the Church. The Church in our day desperately needs the strong example of men willing to love as celibate priests. She needs holy priests to carry on the mission of Christ. Let us, then, pray that many men will open their hearts to hear the call of the Lord to the celibate priesthood. To those who respond to this noble calling great rewards are given in both earthly happiness and eternal bliss.
As I prepare with joy and holy fear to enter the clerical life, I ponder the words of Dominican Father Jean-Baptiste Lacordaire: "To live in the midst of the world with no desire for its pleasures; to be a member of every family, yet belonging to none…to have a heart of fire for charity and a heart of bronze for chastity. O God, what a life, and it is yours, O Priest of Jesus Christ!"