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, March 25, 2007

Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent 25 March 2007

There is another version of today’s Gospel story…
which is not very well known.
The woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus.
Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees and to the crowd:
"Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."
The stones of the scribes and Pharisees begin to drop… one by one…to the ground.
Jesus is bent down writing on the ground…
Then suddenly…from over his shoulder…
a stone flies by and grazes the woman.
Jesus stands up…whirls around…and in amazement He shouts…
"Mother! Stop it!"

[Pause for Laughter]

Jesus, the Son of God, became a man like us in every way…
except that He never knew sin.
Mary, His Mother, was immaculately conceived…
and so was freed from the reality and the effects of Original Sin.

For the rest of us…sin is something we all have to face in this life.

Take a moment to look around the church at one another…
You are looking at a room full of sinners…
including the one who preaches to you tonight/this morning.
I am a sinner.
None of us is without sin.
None of us is immune from the effects of Original Sin…
what Church Tradition calls "concupiscence…"
that tendency we all feel within us
to do things we know we should not do…
things which displease God…
things which separate us from the Church.

Sin separates us from authentic communion with God and the Church.
When we disobey God’s Commandments,
or the teachings revealed by God through the ministry of the Church…
we turn from God
and break the relationship that was begun in Baptism.

It is easy to talk ourselves into believing that we are mostly good people…
and to think that we don’t really commit any serious sins.
As long as we haven’t committed murder…
or robbed an armored car…
or committed adultery like the woman in today’s Gospel…
As long as we haven’t done anything that serious…
we think we’re doing well in living our Christian vocation.

But what about every time we drop the "G-D Bomb"?
What about the glances we take at another who is not our spouse.
Have we been totally pure and honest in our relationships?
What about the Sundays and Holy Days we missed Mass without a serious reason?
Missing Mass unnecessarily on the Lord’s Day and Holy Days is a mortal sin.
What about the unpleasant things we say about someone behind their back?
For the young people…
what about the disrespect you show toward your parents?
or toward your teachers?

If we are really honest with ourselves, and with the Lord…
we have to admit that we all stumble and fall in our journey of faith.
Sure, we try hard to be good.
But we’re certainly not always successful.

When we have fallen…
we Christians get back up
and once again entrust ourselves to the mercy of God, our loving Father!

The singular joy of being Christian
is that we have absolute faith in the mercy of God.
The forgiveness of sins won for us by Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary
is available to us in the Sacrament of Penance.

It is in this great Sacrament that Christ has chosen to bestow His forgiving grace…
through the ministry of the priests of the Church.

The Sacrament of Penance is a marvelous gift from God…
the splendor of which is beyond what human words can describe.
No matter how often we offend the Lord…
He draws near to us with compassion and love…
not to condemn but to forgive and to bring us back into the fold.

An illustration of the mystery of the Lord’s boundless mercy and forgiveness
is found in the Diary of Saint Faustina,
a polish nun who lived in the early 20th century.
The Lord appeared to her in a vision,
and told her to go to the priests of her town
and ask them to build a shrine there.
One of the priests asked for a sign from the Lord, to be sure it was really Him.
He said: "Go ask Jesus what I confessed in my last confession."
When the Lord appeared to her again…
she presented the priest’s question.
Jesus responded: "His sins have been forgiven. I do not remember."

All we have to do is ask…
and a fountain of incredible love and mercy is opened to us…
and our sins are totally washed away!

There is nothing to fear in the Sacrament of Penance.
As the Lord does not condemn,
so the priests of the Church stand ready as God’s instruments of mercy,
not of judgment.

Though we are only required to go to confession once a year,
it is good for our souls to experience God’s mercy often…
ideally once a month.
Frequent confession is life saving medicine for wounded souls.
Just as we have to take care of our bodies to prevent illness…
so it is critical that we take care of the spiritual well-being of our souls.
The Sacrament of Penance brings God’s mercy into the hearts of His people.
It heals wounds and brings relief to suffering souls.

One of our professors told the story of a priest in a concentration camp.
The soldiers…in order to squash the spirit of rebellion…
prepared to decimate the camp…
that is, to line up the prisoners…select every tenth one…
and send those selected to be executed.
They lined up those about to die along the side, while the others watched.
The captured priest was among the crowd forced to look on.
A few of the prisoners about to die looked the priest in the eye,
indicated that they desired absolution.
He discretely made the sign of the cross and said the prayer to himself.
Though they could only show their contrition and not verbalize their sins…
the Sacrament was celebrated, and God’s forgiveness came to them.
The mercy of God even reached into that horror and evil.

God’s mercy through the ministry of the Church can bring powerful healing…
if only we place ourselves at the feet of Christ and ask forgiveness.

When I was home a couple weekends ago,
the Deacon from parish preached the Homily.
He described Lent as a "second chance" that the Lord gives us…
a special time to wake up and realize where we need conversion in our lives.
How many more chances will we get?
How many more Lents will we have?
It is best if we grab hold of the remaining days of this Lent…
and not put off any more the deep conversion to which the Lord calls us.

Confession is a moment to be freed of the burden of sin,
to unload whatever burdens your heart,

Run to Jesus…
fall down before Him…
and encounter the fountain of mercy
that is available to us in the Sacrament of Penance!
Be not afraid!
Let the Lord love you…
Allow the unending torrent of his love to cleanse you and bring you peace!

Youngstown Church Awaits Bishop's Installation

This article appeared in The Youngstown Vindicator
Saturday, March 24th

Since Bishop Thomas J. Tobin was transferred to the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, the Catholics of the Diocese of Youngstown have longed for a shepherd for nearly two years. The Church in Youngstown now rejoices at the appointment of Bishop George V. Murry as its fifth bishop, which marks the beginning of a new chapter in our diocesan history. We pray for an abundance of heavenly blessings through the ministry of Bishop Murry.
For the faithful and the clergy, the presence of their bishop – the chief shepherd of the diocese – is a vital part of their living out of the Christian Faith. The bishop is so much more than an administrator, though the work of managing the resources of the diocese takes much of his time. As priest, the bishop oversees celebrations of worship in the diocese; as teacher he is charged with making sure the Faith is passed on completely to all the faithful; and as chief shepherd he is responsible for caring for the needs of the entire diocesan flock.
More than all this, according to ancient tradition the bishop is in a relationship of spiritual fatherhood with his people. The Church’s document on bishops (Christus Dominus) teaches that the Lord’s flock is a family of which the bishop is the father. As the father of children, so the bishop teaches, nurtures, admonishes, and instructs, all for the spiritual well-being of his people.
The bishops are the successors of the Apostles, whom the Lord Jesus Himself chose and sent forth to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28: 19). Thus, in the person of the bishops, united with the Pope, the living tradition of Jesus is passed down to us. The Church is clearly visible whenever the bishop, together with his priests and the people under his care, gather for the celebration of the Eucharist.
As he begins his ministry as the father of the diocesan family in Youngstown, Bishop Murry will be installed in special solemn liturgies on March 27th and 28th. The official letter from the Pope announcing his appointment as bishop will be read to all the people gathered in the Cathedral of Saint Columba. The highpoint will be when Bishop Murry is invited to take his place in the cathedra, the presiding chair which symbolizes the office of the bishop.
Bishops in the Church use a variety of vestments and symbols of their office, which each hold particular significance. Whether wearing a suit or dressed in liturgical vestments, the bishop always wears a pectoral crucifix around his neck, a reminder that he is called to lay down his life for his flock, after the pattern of Jesus on the Cross. On his right hand, the bishop wears a ring, signifying the promise of faith and his spiritual marriage to the diocese. During the Liturgy, the bishop wears a miter on his head, and carries the crozier – the pastoral staff. The crozier has the shape of a shepherd’s staff with a crook at the end. As a shepherd must at times prod the sheep along with the point of his staff, and at other times draw them back into the fold with the crook, so the bishop must both encourage and admonish. All the symbols of the office of bishop speak to us of the rich tradition of the Church, which seeks through signs and symbols to make the loving presence of Jesus Christ known to all the world.
The Catholic faithful in Northeast Ohio offer thanks to God for sending us Bishop George Murry, a priest, a teacher, a shepherd – a father to our diocesan flock. As sons and daughters of God our Heavenly Father, we embrace this opportunity to step forward together, as priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters, seminarians, and faithful united with our bishop, to bring the love and truth of Jesus Christ to the world in which we live.

Rev. Mr. Matthew J. Albright

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Homily Second Sunday of Lent 4 March 2007

While I was in college seminary at the Josephinum in Columbus…
I used to serve at the celebration of the Tridentine Mass
at Holy Family Parish in downtown.
It was an incredibly beautiful church.
Describe…windows, images, organ, etc…
The church had a unique reredos behind its altar.
The central figure was a statue of Christ in glory,
wrapped in brilliant white robes.
On one side of Him was the statue of Moses,
holding the two stone tablets of the Law: the Ten Commandments.
On the other side was the statue of Elijah.
The Pastor explain to us that it was extremely rare
to have an altarpiece depicting the Transfiguration…
and he was certainly proud of his church.
As we reflect on the beautiful and intriguing story of Jesus’ Transfiguration…
we see the great figures of the Old Testament.
Moses represents the tradition of the Jewish Law.
Elijah represents the traditions of the Prophets.
All the ancient writings and teachings of the Old Testament
prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ.
As people of faith, we read the Old Testament
and see in it the great and mysterious plan of God’s saving love,
which reaches its fulfillment in the Paschal Mystery:
the birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
In this awesome and holy moment of the Transfiguration,
all three persons of the Triune God are manifest.
God our Loving Father is present as His voice is heard:
"This is my beloved Son; listen to Him."
Jesus the Son is present as He reveals His glory to the Apostles.
The Holy Spirit is present in the cloud, which overshadows Jesus.
Notice that, while He had many disciples,
and 12 Apostles, who were His close followers,
Jesus takes with Him up the mountain only Peter, James, and John.
For this moment, He includes only his most intimate companions.
These same three are with Jesus
at the moment of His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
It is John in particular who remain at the Cross.
It is Peter to whom Jesus entrusts His Church.
These are surely Jesus’ dearest co-workers, students, and friends.

Upon seeing the splendor of the transfigured Christ,
Peter is naturally a bit confused,
and does not know what he is saying.
He cries out to Jesus:
"Master, it is good for us to be here!"
We, the servants and handmaids of the Lord,
who this day are privileged to partake
of the Holy Body and Blood of the Risen Christ,
can join our hearts and voices to that of Peter,
the rock on whom our Church is built,
and ourselves cry out in joy:
"Lord, it is good for us to be here!"
In this Mass, the words of the Law and the Prophets are proclaimed to us.
And so, it is good for us to be here!
In this Mass, the Trinity is present as at the Transfiguration.
Our prayer is addressed to the Father,
as the Holy Spirit overshadows the gifts we present,
transforming them into the Body and Blood of the Son.
And so, it is good for us to be here!

In this Mass, we are surrounded by
Jesus’ intimate companions, the company of Apostles,
by His holy Mother,
by armies of martyrs,
and by the choirs of angels,
as our liturgy is united to their ceaseless heavenly worship.
And so, it is good for us to be here!

After Jesus reveals the overwhelming splendor of His glory
to the three Apostles,
they go down the mountain together
to resume their ministry among the people.
The time has not yet come for Jesus to be glorified.
Glory awaits Him.
Yet suffering faces Him first.
Before He rises to eternal and everlasting glory,
Jesus will first undergo dreadful and unimaginable suffering.
Before He goes to prepare a place for us in his Father’s kingdom,
He will first obey His Father’s will,
taking our place in the plan of redemption
bearing the weight of every human sin,
and every sorrow to which sin gives birth.
Before He rises to life on the third day,
the Author of Life will be put to death by his own creation.
Before He takes his place on the throne of His glory,
He will first wear a crown of thorns
and a mock robe of purple.
Before He sits at the right hand of His Father,
He will first grant pardon to a thief
crucified on a cross at the right side of His own.
So it is for us, who long for the joy and glory of our eternal reward.
Glory awaits us if we are faithful.
Yet suffering faces us here and now.
We endure the daily sufferings of human life…
with our hearts set on our true heavenly home…
where our bodies will be changed to be like Christ’s glorified body.
Notice that Peter wants to build three tents,
so that they may all remain together
in the glory of the mountaintop experience.
We cannot even remain here in the loving presence of Jesus,
who has come to dwell among us…
or, as the ancient Greek and Hebrew literally say…
He who has come to "pitch his tent" among us.
We go forth from this Mass as God’s people
to live the truth of our faith in the world around us…
to toil for the sake of Christ.
In our experience of living our faith,
our reading of Scripture and study of the Catechism,
our daily prayer,
our service to the poor…
in all this…"It is good for us to be here!"
For to be part of the Holy Church…
to be Catholic…
to toil for Christ…
is truly wonderful!
As our Lenten journey will reach its fulfillment in Easter glory…
so may our lives of faith bear fruit in eternal life…
when in Heaven we shall rejoice and say:
"Lord, it is very good that we are here!"