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.

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!