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.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Sacred Liturgy, Nos. 20-24

20. The Communion Rites
The Mass is both the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, and the Paschal Banquet that commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper, when He gave His Body and Blood to the Apostles to be eaten. He desires the same for us, and so the Church teaches that it is desirable that the Catholic faithful receive the Eucharist when they attend Mass.
The Communion Rites are preparation for the reception of the Eucharist. In the Lord’s Prayer, the pattern given by Christ for all prayer, we together ask the Lord for “daily bread,” which the Church teaches “means preeminently the Eucharistic bread.” The priest’s prayer that follows begs deliverance from the power of evil for the entire community.
In the Rite of Peace, the Church prays for peace and unity for herself and the world. The faithful express to each other their unity and mutual charity as Christians. In the United States, the sign of peace is customarily given by shaking hands. It is only given to those nearby in a sober manner, that is, with no distracting gestures, moving through the aisles, conversations, etc. The priest is to remain in the sanctuary during the Rite.
GIRM 80-82

21. The Fraction and the Reception of Communion
After the sign of peace, the priest (and deacons) breaks the Eucharistic Bread. Jesus’ gesture of “breaking bread” at the Last Supper signifies that the many faithful are made one body by receiving the one Body of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 10:17). Only priests and deacons may break the Eucharistic Bread.
The priest breaks a small piece of the Host and puts it into the chalice, symbolizing the unity of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the work of salvation. During these rites, we sing the Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”).
The priest elevates the Host, saying the words of John the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God….” The people respond with the sentiments of the Centurion whose servant Jesus healed: “Lord, I am not worthy…only say the word….”
It is most desirable that the faithful receive Hosts consecrated at the Mass they attend, though reserved Hosts may be distributed as well if necessary. Ideally, the faithful receive from the same Host as the priest, symbolizing the unity of the one Body of Christ in the one Bread. The faithful approach the Altar to receive Communion in a procession, expressing their unity as the Body of Christ coming to receive the Lord.
GIRM 83-87

22. Dispositions for Receiving Holy Communion
Holy Communion is singularly sacred and those who approach to receive it ought to strive to worthy of so great a gift. A person must examine his or her life seriously. If one is aware of having committed a mortal sin, one should not receive the Eucharist without having first received the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
An exception is made where Confession is not available, something almost never the case in the diocese of the United States, where it is offered regularly. In such a situation, a person is to make an act of perfect contrition (declaring to the Lord that one is sincerely sorry for having sinned), with the intent of going to Confession as soon as possible.
Mortal sin is defined by three elements: (1) grave matter, i.e. something serious; (2) full knowledge of what one has done; (3) full consent of the will, i.e. acting freely and not coerced or under duress. Such sins separate one from God and prevent one from receiving Communion.
As we prepare our souls for Communion by going to Confession, we also prepare our bodies by fasting one hour prior to receiving Communion.
It should never be presumed or taught that everyone at Mass must receive Communion. It is up to each person individually to decide whether or not he or she is worthy to receive, and to act accordingly.
RS 80ff

23. Distribution of Holy Communion
It is the Celebrant’s responsibility to distribute Communion, assisted by other priests and deacons. In cases of true necessity extraordinary ministers assist the priest.
The Host may be received on the tongue, or in the hand. Communion patens are to be held by the servers to catch particles of the Host that may fall. The faithful may not take Communion for themselves, or pass the vessels from one to another. A person may receive Communion again the same day only within a Mass in which he/she is participating.
Priests (con)celebrating at Mass must receive both species, and always before the people receive.
Communion may be distributed to the faithful under both species, as a fuller sign of the Eucharistic banquet. It must be kept in mind that the whole Christ – body, blood, soul, and divinity – exists in both the Host and the Precious Blood, so it is not necessary to receive both. Communion may be given by means of Intinction, that is, dipping the Host into the Precious Blood. The faithful may not intinct themselves. Hosts distributed by intinction may only be received on the tongue.
RS 88-106

24. The Concluding Rites
After the distribution of Communion, the priest, deacon, instituted acolyte, or extraordinary minister purifies the sacred vessels – Chalices and Ciboria (this name for the vessel containing Hosts is from the Latin cibus, meaning “food”).
A time of silent prayer is always be observed after Communion. It is good to make a Thanksgiving after Communion, a prayer thanking Jesus for the tremendous gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. In the Post-Communion Prayer, the priest prays for the fruits of the Eucharistic mystery just celebrated. This prayer brings to completion the whole celebration of the Mystical Body of Christ.
The Concluding Rites include the announcements, which are meant to come after the Prayer and in no other place. The priest then gives the blessing, either in the usual form or the Solemn Blessing on special feasts and holy days. The Solemn Blessings are good to reflect upon because they express the spiritual meaning of the feast. Then the priest or deacon dismisses then people. The very name of the Mass comes from the Latin word Missa, which is derived from the word meaning “sent forth.” We are sent forth to love and serve God, and one another, and proclaim our faith in all we do!
GIRM 89-90

Homily First Sunday of Lent 25 February 2007

N.B. This week, for the first time, I delivered a homily without a full text. It went well but there is not a text to publish. I share with you my notes.

When I was confirmed, I chose the name John…
Not John the Evangelist or John the Baptist…
John Mary Vianney, patron saint of parish priests

Story of Saint John Vianney's ministry.

His struggle with temptations and assults by the Devil.

Tempted by the Devil
Tossing and turning at night
Bed set ablaze

Tempted to run away from his parish, ministry

He persevered, converted his people back to Jesus Christ in a remarkable way.

Today’s Gospel recounts to us how even Jesus Himself experienced temptations.

Devil tempts Jesus to use His power to make stones into bread.
Tempts Him to use his power for Himself, because He is hungry.

Devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.
Devil promises Jesus power and glory if He will worship him.
Tempts Him to worship someone other than God.

Devil tempts Jesus to throw Himself down from the Temple,
and see if the angels catch Him.
Tempts him to test God.

Each of us experiences temptation in our own lives.
To misuse the gifts and talents we have been given for our own advantage
To worship something or someone other than God.
To test God, to give Him an ultimatum,
or to say “if you do this for me…then I will love you.”

Temptation faces us always.
From what we see on TV
From peers

We experience the tension between good and evil within us.

In moments of temptation…grasp onto the Lord and His Mother Mary.

Saint John Vianney:
"If you invoke the Blessed Virgin when you are tempted,
she will come at once to your help,
and Satan will leave you."

Season of Lent
As Catholics, traditional practices:

May we make this Lent holy…
that we may celebrate Easter with joy and great thanksgiving.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Sacred Liturgy Nos. 16-19

16. The Liturgy of the Eucharist
“Let us turn towards the Lord God and Father Almighty, and with a pure heart let us give him abundant thanks as well as our littleness will allow.”
These words from the end of a homily by Saint Augustine express the spirit of the liturgy as the Mass transitions from Liturgy of the Word to Liturgy of the Eucharist, the second half of the Mass. The faithful gathered for worship (the members of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ) and the priest (who stands in the person of Christ the Head of the Body) together turn toward the Lord to give thanks to God (“Eucharist” is from a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving”). Despite our littleness, Christ who is present in the proclamation of His Word becomes substantially present in his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, under the appearances of bread and wine.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave His Body and Blood to the Apostles, and so instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Church, through the ministry of the priest, who represents Christ, carries out in every Mass what Jesus Himself did and gave to the Apostles.
GIRM 72, U.M. Lang Turning Towards the Lord

17. The Liturgy of the Eucharist
The actions of the Liturgy of the Eucharist correspond to the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper. As Jesus took bread and wine into His hands, so at the Preparation of the Altar and Gifts, bread and wine are brought to the Altar and offered by the priest. As Jesus gave thanks to the Father, so the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer, the very name of which means “thanksgiving” (eucharistia in Greek). As Jesus broke the bread and shared the bread and cup with His disciples, so we come to the Altar during the Communion Rite to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the preparation of the Altar and all that is necessary for the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice: the Sacramentary (book of prayers), chalice and paten, and linens.
The Gifts of bread and wine are brought forward by the people. They are offered by the priest, and may be incensed, as a symbol of the Church’s prayer and offering ascending to God.
The priest washes his hands as an expression of his desire for interior purification.
GIRM 72-76

18. The Liturgy of the Eucharist
The Eucharistic Prayer is the center and summit of the entire celebration of the Mass. It is a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification: thanksgiving for God’s gracious work throughout the history of the world, especially for sending His Son, who died and rose for our salvation, and gives us Himself as our spiritual food and drink, and sanctification of bread and wine, which, by the power of the Holy Spirit, become the Body and Blood of Jesus.
The priest celebrant prays this prayer in the name of the entire community. He prays to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.
This greatest of all prayers demands that the faithful listen to it with attentiveness, reverence, and in silence. As the priest prays in the name of all, so all the faithful join their prayers to those of the priest. As the priest offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the faithful offer a sacrifice of their lives to the Lord.
The Sacramentary contains several options for the priest for the Eucharistic Prayer: four prayers which may be used at any Mass, two for Masses of Reconciliation (e.g. during Lent, a penitential season), and three for Masses with Children.

19. The Liturgy of the Eucharist
The various Eucharistic Prayers all contain the same essential elements.
1. Thanksgiving: expressed especially in the Preface, in which the priest, in the name of all, gives thanks to God. The words of the Preface correspond to the season or feast. Listening to the Preface carefully brings our minds and hearts in tune with the liturgical season or event.
2. Acclamation: the clergy and people join in the Sanctus, the song of the angels: “Holy Holy Holy…”
3. Epiclesis: the priest holds his hands over the bread and wine and calls down the Holy Spirit to sanctify the gifts.
4. Institution and Consecration: the priest takes bread and wine as Jesus did, and says the words of Jesus. At that moment the bread and wine become Jesus’ Body and Blood.
5. Anamnesis: remembering the events of the life of Jesus, especially His Passion, death, and Resurrection.
6. Offering: as the priest offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we offer ourselves to God.
7. Intercession: we pray for the pope, bishop, the whole Church, and the faithful departed.
8. Doxology: final acclamation in praise of God (“Through him, with Him in Him…”) to which the people respond “Amen.”

Homily Seventh Sunday of the Year 18 February 2007

Church tradition holds that
on the 14th of February…
sometime in the late Third Century…
the Bishop of modern-day Terni, in Italy, was martyred for the faith.
The Bishop’s name was Valentine.

The date of his death, and of his passing into eternal life…
coincided with the date that Europeans in the Middle Ages
believed began of the mating season of birds.

I presume you’ve all heard about “the birds and the bees?!”
(hopefully laughter...)

So, the day became a special day dedicated to lovers.
And popular romantic customs developed…
like people sending love-letters to each other.

Hence the traditions of Valentine’s Day.

We have just celebrated Valentine’s Day this past week…
Surely many of you sent cards, and flowers, and chocolates to the ones you love…
small tokens of how much you care for them,
and how your life would not be complete without them.

The love we give and receive in our lives…
the love shared among family in each of your homes…
the embrace of a husband and wife…
or of a mother and her infant child
the friendship of schoolmates and colleagues…
the love a pastor and his flock…
all the ways in which we experience the tender, peaceful presence
of another’s love…
is a sign of the love of God at work in our souls.

Wherever true love is found…
it is a sign of the peaceful and holy presence of God.
To truly love…
completely for the sake of another…
is to be like God!

Today the Church continues the theme of love for us in the Sacred Scriptures
The Psalmist declares to us:
“The Lord is kind and merciful.”

God’s love does not always make sense to us.
We sometimes take issue with God’s love…
and we certainly find it difficult to love as He does.

God’s unconditional love extends to people whose lives do not merit such kindness…
to prisoners and death row inmates…
to terrorists.
God loves the people who we think are not deserving of love…
those who hate us and mistreat us…
those who strike us on the cheek and take what belongs to us.

God also loves those whom society casts aside…
the elderly, the poor, and the unborn.
This kind of love is not comfortable for us.

What is more disconcerting is that God asks us to love this way, too.
As children of God…
created in the image of Him who, as St. John tells us, is Love itself…
we are made to be people who love as passionately as He does.
Many times this means loving those we would rather hate…
loving in a way that is uncomfortable or unpopular.

In today’s First Reading,
David and Abishai go among the enemy troops at night,
and find Saul asleep…and vulnerable.
Abishai asks David to allow him to kill Saul in his sleep,
but David forbids it, saying:
“Who can lay hands on the Lord’s anointed and remain unpunished?”

How often do we wish we could discover our enemies vulnerable…
or catch them in a trap…
so that we can nail them to the ground
with the pointed spear of a well-crafted plot.
Of course, we must remember that as David revered Saul and would not harm him…
so we ought to respect and show honor to every human person.
For all of us bear the image of the God who created us…
and of His Son who redeemed us.
As human persons we all have a dignity that is to be respected.
Who can lay hands on the children of God and go unpunished?

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us:
“love your enemies…
do good to those who hate you…
pray for those who mistreat you.”

“For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?”

In other words, it is not good enough to love when it is easy!
For the Christian, true love means taking the next step…
to love when we would rather turn away…
after the pattern of our Heavenly Father,
who “is kind” even “to the ungrateful and the wicked.”

Violence is not to have a place in our lives.
“Getting even” with our enemies is not the solution.

In love beyond all telling…
Christ triumphed over sin
and trampled death by his own death on the Cross.

So it is in our lives: the answer to evil is not evil.
The only victor over evil is love!

Every day we see on the news the devastating effects
which come when violence has taken over a whole region of the world.

This week’s news included a story more disturbing.
In a Target store…
a woman shopping accidentally bumped into 10-year-old girl,
accompanied by three other girls.
Allegedly because she did not apologize,
the girls tore off the woman’s clothes…
and beat her senseless.
This violence is not a continent away…
and it was not perpetrated by men with guns and tanks.
It happened on our fruited plains…
and was done by a 10-year-old girl!

Our society is in need of a deep conversion.
The world needs us to shower it with prayers and with living examples of love.

By loving in a radical way…
loving and praying for our enemies…
doing good to those who hate…
loving those who seem to be unlovable…
we can make real for those around us the presence of God.

Transforming the world begins here. It begins now.
It begins with us, who have come to know Christ in the Eucharist.

My the love we celebrate...the love we share with one another...
be for the world a sign of God's holy love!

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Sacred Liturgy Nos. 11-15

11. The Liturgy of the Word
The Mass is traditionally divided into two principal parts: The Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the first part of the Mass we encounter God in His Word.
The Liturgy of the Word follows a distinct progression. First, the Word of God is proclaimed in the Readings and we respond to it in the Psalm. Second, the Word is explained in the Homily. Third, we stand to affirm what we have heard and to profess our faith in the Creed. Finally, nourished by the Word, we turn to the Lord and pour out our petitions in the Prayer of the Faithful.
When we hear the Readings, we do not hear human words but the voice of God speaking to us. We believe that Christ, the Word of God, is present to us in the celebration of the Liturgy through the proclamation of His Word.
By listening attentively to the Readings, and responding to them through the singing of the Psalm, we actively participate in the work of God who comes to speak to His people.
GIRM 55-56

12. The Liturgy of the Word (Cont’d)…
Among the most significant liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council was the increase of the use of Scripture at Mass. On Sundays and Solemnities, there are three readings, and on weekdays two. The readings follow a three-year cycle on Sundays and a two-year cycle on weekdays.
On Sundays, there is an Old Testament and a New Testament reading. Often these and the Gospel contain a common theme based on a liturgical season, feast, event in the life of Jesus, or aspect of our faith. The weekday readings often tell a story continuously over several days.
After the First Reading comes the Responsorial Psalm. Singing (or reciting) the Psalms provides a meditation on the Word of God for the whole congregation.
The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated without haste. Silence is to be observed after the readings to allow the Holy Spirit to inspire personal prayer. Reflecting on the lessons found in God’s Word and the themes of the readings is an essential part of the liturgy.
The Scripture readings are so integral to the liturgy that they may never be replaced by other texts or hymns.
GIRM 56-59, 61

13. The Liturgy of the Word (Cont’d)…
The Liturgy of the Word reaches its high point in the Gospel. Jesus is present in His Word and speaks to us as the Gospel is proclaimed.
The Liturgy teaches us the singular importance of the Gospel by the signs of reverence associated with it. Before the Gospel, we sing an Acclamation, usually the Alleluia and verse. During Lent another acclamation in praise of Jesus is used, since “Alleluia” (Hebrew) is an acclamation of rejoicing, and Lent is a season of penance. Often, on Sundays and other solemn occasions, a procession precedes the Gospel. The Book of Gospels (a special liturgical book containing the Gospel readings) is carried between two candle bearers and incensed. Because the Book of Gospels holds a special place in the Mass, only it may be incensed, not the Lectionary.
If a Deacon is present, it is his place to read the Gospel. He seeks a special blessing from the celebrant before reading the Gospel. If the priest reads the Gospel, he says a special prayer first. Either of these ask the Lord to be in the minister’s heart and on his lips that he may worthily proclaim the gospel. Afterward, the minister prays silently: “may the words of the Gospel wipe away our sins.”
GIRM 60, 63-63

14. The Liturgy of the Word (Cont’d)…
After the readings comes the Homily, an explanation of the Readings and the prayers of the Mass directed toward the particular congregation. It is part of the teaching and sanctifying offices of the Church’s ordained ministers; thus only bishops, priests and deacons may preach. The Homily is an integral part of the Mass, for in it the mysteries of the liturgy are explained for the benefit of the faithful. Silence should be observed after the Homily for personal reflection.
Nourished by God’s Word, and having heard it explained, the congregation stands and affirms the faith by reciting the Creed. The Creed allows us to call to mind our faith, in the official formula, before these great mysteries are celebrated in the Eucharist.
The Nicene Creed, recited in the Mass, dates back to the Councils of Nicea (325 AD) and Constantinople (381 AD), when the Church Fathers met and defined the essential aspects of our faith, which the Church has always professed. The Creed is said on Sundays and solemnities. The Creed may be sung or recited.
Reflecting on the Word of God, the Homily, and the Creed, provide tremendous spiritual nourishment and lessons for a happy and holy life.
GIRM 65-68

15. The Liturgy of the Word (Cont’d)…
After the recitation of the Creed, the Liturgy of the Word concludes with the Prayer of the Faithful. These prayers of the whole assembly are an exercise of their baptismal priesthood, the role of all the baptized members of the Church, who share in the priesthood of Christ, to offer prayers. The assembly offers prayers to God for the salvation of all, according to a particular formula: for the needs of the Church; for civil authorities and the salvation of the world; for the needs of persons burdened with any kind of difficulty; for the needs of the local community. At celebrations such as weddings and funerals, the intentions ought to reflect the nature of the occasion.
The Celebrant begins the Prayer with an introduction and concludes it with a prayer. The individual intentions are read or sung by the Deacon or lector from the pulpit. Usually, the people respond with an acclamation (“Lord, hear our prayer”). The intentions are usually written by someone from the particular community. Care should be taken that they are composed well, are succinct, and truly reflect the prayers of the assembly.
GIRM 70-71

Homily Sixth Sunday of the Year 11 February 2007

Several years ago,
I attended a Eucharistic Congress at the BNSIC in Washington, DC…
and I was invited to be part of the Mass and procession of the B. S.
celebrated by Cardinal Arinze.
Cardinal Arinze is the head of the Vatican office for worship and sacraments.
He is someone I admire very much…
and, even though I was one of many seminarians in the procession,
it was an honor to be part of that celebration.
It was a splendid event…
Televised nationally…
So there was a chance I might be on TV.
Of course at the time I thought all this was pretty exciting!

The procession made its way from the church…outside…to the front portico.
There the Cardinal celebrated Benediction
before the crowd of a couple thousand people.
We were then to process around the other side of the church and back inside.
As I turned to go down the steps…
I lost my footing…and tumbled all the way down 6 stone steps!

my excitement at being part of this big event was gone.
I didn’t fall hard enough to be injured…just a little sore.
But what was really hurt was my pride!

A line from The Godfather…one of my favorite movies…soon came to my mind:
“A man in my position cannot afford to made to look ridiculous!”
I looked ridiculous…and I felt humiliated!

Later reflection revealed to me that I needed to be humbled at that moment…
for being so prideful about my place in that liturgy.

I used that line jokingly once when I was talking to my spiritual director.
Knowing well how to put me in my place, he said…
“A man of your position? Do you know what your position is?
You’re a foot washer!”

Truly, a man called to be a priest is called to follow the example of the Lord,
who washed the feet of His Disciples.

You will recall that a few weeks ago I was not feeling up to par…
and I had lost my voice.
Well, I had spent quite some time preparing what I thought was an excellent homily.
And suddenly I could hardly speak a word!
Once again, I needed to be humbled,
for thinking that somehow I had the world’s greatest homily.

The Lord often speaks to us not in apparitions but in the little things of life.

If we are open to perceiving the hand of God at work in the world…
we will discover His presence in the details of life.

Often when we think we can do it all on our own…
and do it better than anybody…
the Lord shows us in one little way or another
that in truth we need Him for everything.

As disciples of Jesus, we are each called to cultivate the virtue of humility.

Humility…in a nutshell…teaches us to know and appreciate our position…
before God and one another.

Humility does not mean that we depreciate ourselves.
Rather, the humble person recognizes who He truly is:
He is aware of his talents, abilities, and strengths.
He also is aware of his weaknesses and sins.
Above all, he knows that everything he has is from the Lord,
and without the Lord he has nothing.

In moments of weakness and sin,
the humble person does not wallow in self-pity,
but cries out to the Lord, who alone is his strength.

Humility also teaches us that our gifts and talents…
are meant not for our glory
but the for good of the church and our neighbors.
It is not difficult to understand, then, that humility is called
“the mother of salvation”…
and the first of the virtues.
For all other virtues we long for on the path to holiness
depend on humility.
To have faith, hope, and love…
to be chaste…
to be patient…kind…and gentle…
to be temperate…
to be just…
or to have courage…
one must first be humble.

The path to holiness begins with recognizing who we truly are
before God and in relation to one another.

And so, God speaks to us in the Holy Scriptures today.
through the Prophet Jeremiah, the Psalmist, and the Holy Evangelist Luke:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh.”
“Woe to you who are rich…who are filled.”
“Woe to you when all speak well of you”

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.”
“Blessed are you who are poor…who are hungry.”
“Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you…”
Pride makes us want to be rich…
to be surrounded by the best of everything…
to be popular…
to have people speak well of us.

Humility teaches us to hope in the Lord…
to trust and hope in Him rather than in the world
and to be satisfied with serving Him rather than ourselves.

Humility means being “poor in spirit”…
knowing our place before the awesome presence of God.

Humility finds its ultimate exemplar in the person of Jesus Christ,
who for our sake humble Himself even unto death on a Cross…
and in his poverty showed us all the way to holiness.

The splendor of humility is portrayed in the image of the Annunciation to Mary.
At the angel Gabriel’s message that she would bear the Christ Child…
Mary, a young virgin girl…
no doubt confused by what the angel said…
simply replied: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”
Mary knew her place before the Lord.


In my first semester of college seminary…
I was privileged had a class in spirituality taught by a saintly old priest.
He was a short little Irishman, with a thick New York accent.
You could see in his eyes and in his smile that he loved he Lord, and loved each of us.

I can remember very clearly his lecture on humility.
He taught us a beautiful prayer by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val,
called “The Litany of Humility.”
There are certain stanzas to which each of us can relate.

[READ PRAYER – “Litany of Humility”]

The Scriptures today…the First Reading and the Psalm… use the image of tree.
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…who hopes in the Lord.”
“He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream.”
“It yields its fruit in due season.”
“Its leaves stay green.”

The stream of running water is Christ, present to us in the Sacraments.

We plant ourselves close to Him, and stretch out our roots to Him.
Humbly we recognize our place before Him and with one another.

Firmly planted in Him, we shall remain ripe and bear much fruit.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Sacred Liturgy Nos. 9 & 10

9. The Gloria…
The Gloria is an ancient and venerable hymn to the Trinity. The Church, gathered by the Holy Spirit, sings her praises to the Father and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Its opening phrases are taken from the proclamation of the angels at the birth of Jesus: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will!” (Luke 2:14)
This hymn follows the Act of Penitence, on Sundays outside Lent and Advent, and on Solemnities and Feasts of the Church calendar, including some celebrations of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints. When the Gloria is proper to the Mass of the day, it must be sung, or at least recited, and may never be replaced by any other text. It is customary in many places to ring the church bells during the Gloria on Christmas, Holy Thursday, and at the Easter Vigil.
This hymn of the angels constantly reminds us of Christmas. We recall as we participate in the celebration of Mass, that Jesus comes among us in the Eucharist as really and substantially as He did when He was born as a man.

10. The Collect
In the Mass, the Gloria is followed by the Collect. The Collect, the Prayer over the Gifts (Super Oblata), and the Postcommunion Prayer, are the three principal prayers unique to the Mass of each day. They relate to the Liturgical Season or to the celebration of an event in the life of Jesus, Mary, or the Saints. The Collect expresses the “theme” of the celebration. Listening to it allows one to absorb the meaning of the Mass of the day.
After the Gloria, the priest invites the people to pray, saying “Let us Pray.” All observe a brief period of silence in order to be recollected in God’s presence and to bring to mind each one’s individual prayers. The priest prays the Collect, gathering together the prayers of the people, and offering the official prayer of the Church. The Collect is a prayer addressed to the Trinity: to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.
The words of the Collect, as with all liturgical prayers, are written by the Church in a particular way and connect to certain events in the Liturgical Cycle. They cannot be changed or replaced according to anyone’s personal desire.

Homily Fifth Sunday of the Year 4 February 2007

The readings for the celebration of Holy Mass
are arranged in a three-year cycle
which centers around the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke…
with passages of John throughout.

We are currently in “Year C” of the new Lectionary cycle…
the year of Luke.

Saint Luke was a Syrian, from Antioch.
He is not an eyewitness to the life of Jesus…
but his writings rely on the traditions of witnesses passed down to him.

The Gospel according to Saint Luke is the first of a two-volume work.
Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles.

Saint Luke’s purpose in writing is to continue the Bible’s history
of God’s interaction with humanity found in the Old Testament.

He continues the great story of salvation…
showing how God’s promises to Israel have been fulfilled in Jesus…
and how the salvation promised to Israel is extended to the Gentiles.

Luke also desires to give assurance to the faith of his readers.

In the beginning of his Gospel,
Luke describes his motives for writing:
“…for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.”

“Theophilus” is a name that means “one who loves God.”
Scholarly theory that suggests that this does not refer to an individual…
but generically to all the “God-loving” readers of the Gospel.
Luke desires to record the saving events of Jesus’ life…
so that all who read his Gospel down through the centuries…
may be strengthened in their faith in Jesus Christ.

In today’s selection from Saint Luke…
Jesus comes upon the fishermen and the crowds…
He climbs into Simon’s boat…
asks him to row out a short distance from shore…
and from the boat He teaches the vast crowd gathered on land.

He then asks the fishermen to take a risk and to trust Him…
“Put out into deep water,” He says.
Notice that He has first taught them His saving message.
They have come to know who He is…
and so they have confidence in Him and they listen to Him…
despite their own doubts about the fishing situation.
When they lower their nets…
the catch of fish is so great the boat cannot handle it.
Simon Peter is so overwhelmed that he falls down at Jesus’ feet…
and aware of his own weakness before the Lord.

Jesus calms their fears…
and assures them that their new life with Him
will be even greater than the miracle they have witnessed.

For these struggling fishermen…
this spectacular catch of fish surely meant great profit and worldly fame.
Yet, Jesus tells them that from now on they will be “Fishers of Men.”
They will now be seeking heavenly glory…
and spending their lives in total service of the Kingdom of God.

The final line is the most striking of all…
“They left everything and followed Him.”

After what was probably the greatest fishing expedition of their lives…
they abandoned the whole thing…
the boats, the fish, the money, the security of work…
all of it…to follow Jesus.

They left everything!


One of my dearest friends is an older priest with whom I was once assigned.
Over the years he has become a mentor and confidante…
and through we are nearly 40 years apart in age…
we have become quite close.

About a month ago he had to undergo an emergency surgery.
Afterwards, he explained to me
that his condition was serious
and the surgery he had was dangerous.
I was taken aback when he said to me: “I’m lucky to be alive.”

Moments such as these are frightening…
and they are life-changing experiences in a person’s life.
My friend says his faith is deeper because of what happened to him.

He describes his spiritual reflections during his time in the hospital like this:
“I felt as if I had given 90% of my life over to Jesus and to the Church,
and the Lord is saying to me: ‘I want the other 10%.’”

The Lord wants it all!

So, we can ask ourselves…
“What percent of my life have I given over to the Lord?”

“What am I holding on to, that the Lord is asking me to surrender to Him?”
Even though we may not be faced with a life-threatening or life-changing situation,
these questions still face us…
for our lives are not complete
unless they are totally centered in the Lord.

Like the Apostles and the crowd in today’s Gospel…
we have come to know the Lord.
He has taught us in his Word…
and we have experienced His presence in the Eucharist.

We have come to know and to experience the Lord’s presence.
And now He asks us to take the risk the Apostles took…
to put out into deep waters,
even though we might have our doubts.
He asks us to leave everything and follow Him.

The Lord asks us to leave behind everything
that might keep us from fully uniting ourselves to Him…
and what we must leave behind is unique for each person.

Perhaps there is some teaching of the Church that we have a hard time accepting.
Perhaps there is a grudge we’re holding.
Perhaps there is a desire in us to be “cool”
even when that means acting in a way that Jesus would not approve of.
Perhaps worldly gain or allurements
are keeping us from fully investing ourselves in our relationship with Christ.

Perhaps we think we’re doing pretty well living our faith as Catholics…
But have we made every attempt to attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation?
Or, have we allowed other activities to keep us from our duties to the Church?

Perhaps we give some of our resources…and some of our time to the Church…
But could we give a little more?

Do the television programs we watch and the music we listen to
foster healthy living?
Or are they morally questionable…
Do they capture the attention and time we ought to devote to the Lord
and to our families?

Can we say that we’re doing “mostly well”
and yet there is something the Lord is still asking from us?

In my own life, I know that God is calling me to be a priest…
and I have to surrender my own perceptions of what priesthood is…
so that I can accept all that God expects of me.

So…for each of us…what is that 10% or 25% of our life
that we have kept from the Lord?

Today the Lord challenges us to look deeply into our hearts and souls…
to search long and hard
and to find what He wants us to surrender for the sake of His kingdom.

Soul-searching can be frightening…
for we may not like what we find!

But we know the Lord…
We have heard His word and experienced His presence so many times.
We can trust in Him…
that when we leave behind everything to follow Him…
He will not let us down.
For He has given everything for us…
even to dying on the Cross.

He will accompany is through our journey of life with mercy and understanding…
until at last we sing His praises in the sight of the angels!

Homily Tuesday of the Fifth Week of the Year 6 February 2007

Saint Vincent Seminary - Saint Gregory Chapel

My brothers…
we who find ourselves on the brink of ordination…
or as one might say, “dangerously close to the priesthood”…
are faced with a great deal of uncertainty.

Where will our first assignments be…and what will they be like?
What will the pastors be like?
What will it really be like to hear confessions or to give spiritual direction?
How will we respond to the myriad of dilemmas that will face us every day…
in the complex world in which we live?

My own reflection in these days
leads me to believe that our ability to serve the Church well as priests
depends on how intimately we have come to know her
and how completely we have grown to love her.

The Church in our day is filled with polarizations and false dichotomies…
that serve only as sources of disunity
and as barriers between the faithful and the fullness of the faith.

It strikes me that in these times we are called to be a unique kind of priests…
priests who see past the polarizations and embrace the whole Church.

There are so-called “sacristy priests”…
and there priests who minister to the poor yet disregard the Liturgy.
There are rigid, unfeeling legalists…
and there are those who throw out law and doctrine entirely
under the guise of being “pastoral.”
There are clericalists…
and there are those who hand priestly functions over to the laity.
There are false separations between
hierarchy, proper liturgy, fidelity to tradition and doctrine on the one hand…
and being communal, pastoral, welcoming, and compassionate on the other.

None of this has any place in the Church…
and especially not in our priesthood.

If we find ourselves struggling to understand a particular teaching of the Church…
If we harbor disdain for some aspect of the Church’s liturgical tradition…
or for some devotions of the people…
If we find ourselves harshly judging a particular era in our Church’s history…
If we hate going to hospitals or making Communion calls…

If there is some aspect of the life of the Church that we separate ourselves from…
now is the time to examine that part of ourselves…
so that we may come to embrace the whole Church.

This is the ultimate pastoral approach.
For our people deserve the fullness of their tradition,
which is rightly theirs as baptized Christians,
and ours is the solemn duty to hand it on to them…
complete and unstained.
It is possible to be orthodox, faithful to our tradition,
and passionately loving toward our people…all at the same time!

We have to fight against the human tendency to stray toward extremes.
This is a struggle we must all face…myself included.

The people need us to be men who love the Church…
the whole Church…and nothing but the authentic Church!

Anything less is giving lip service to God…
and teaching as doctrine something which is not of God.
For if we have not embraced all that mother Church is about…
we run the risk of presenting as doctrine our human ideas.
We risk presenting ourselves and our version of the Church.

I look forward with joy and hope to an exciting time of ministry
in this moment in the life of our Church.

If we have striven to know and love the Church in her fullness…
and if we have at our disposal the riches of her whole tradition…
all the better equipped we shall to meet the needs of the faithful

May the grace of Christ and the loving care of His mother Mary
keep us firmly rooted in the fullness of our Church’s life…
and keep us safe along the journey of faith we share.