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, December 30, 2007

Homily Feast of the Holy Family 30 December 2007

The late Cardinal O’Connor of New York…
once told this story…related to him by a nun and former schoolteacher…
in a homily on this very Feast of the Holy Family

Sister often had trouble filling the lesser roles in the Christmas pageant.
Everyone wanted to be Joseph, Mary, or the angel, or a shepherd.
None of the little boys and girls wanted to be an innkeeper.

One year, a little boy reluctantly accepted the role
and when Mary and Joseph came…and Joseph knocked on the door…
the little boy, the innkeeper…added his own insight to his role.
He opened the door and said:
"Well, we do not have any room for you to stay
but why don't you come in and have a cup of coffee!”

Of course, the Scriptures mention nothing about the Holy Family stopping for a latte.

Yet, something struck Cardinal O’Conner so much that he retold this story.
His own words were:
“What a trusting family that youngster must live in! What love that youngster must be taught, to reach out to others in this fashion. That is a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

Truly…a little boy who so naturally reacts in a generous way…
must have been taught and shown generosity at home.
He no doubt saw his parents offer hospitality in their home…as best they could.
It is one of the great joys of every priest’s life
that he is able to enter into the lives of many families…
teach them, learn from them, and be blessed by knowing them.
It has been my joy to meet and get to know so many families
since beginning my first assignment here at Saint Michael’s…
parents that live and pass on to their children the values of our faith:
generosity, selflessness, devotion to God and the Church.

Sadly, though, we do not have to look any further than the evening news
to realize that many families in our world…even in our own community…
have not embraced God’s brilliant design for human life and love.

Tragically, there are families where God is unheard of…
families where marriage is not revered as a sacred bond and lifetime commitment…
where sexuality is separated from the gift of life…
and where the lives of children are not valued.

The Sacred Scriptures today
teach us about the authentic meaning and vocation of families.

Above all, the lesson we gain
is that the life and love of a truly holy family
finds its foundation and source in the life and love of God.

We know from Scripture that God is a communion of persons…
Father…Son…and Holy Spirit…
who are eternally and constantly in relationship with one another.
Since human persons are created in the image and likeness of God…
the self-giving, unconditional love of God
and the loving communion of persons in God
become the image of the love to which we are called.

In other words, we are created to love as God loves.
In the unconditional love of God is found the perfect image of family life.

The family is the basic building block of society.
The family is the domestic church…the first school of life and of the faith.
The family is where young people are formed,
where they learn the lessons and values…
whether for good or for worse…
that will shape the rest of their lives.

The lives and relationships of every Christian family
are meant to be centered in God
and are meant to be living images of His presence in our souls.

Most significantly, this means that parents and children…
because they are members of a family…a unique communion of persons…
are called to give of themselves out of love for one another.

Parents are to be revered, cared for, and obeyed by their children.
To really love God means to keep the Fourth Commandment with sincerity.

Parents are called by God to teach and form their children
into mature gentlemen and ladies,
who are able to face the world with wisdom and faith.

That means teaching them the difficult and uncomfortable lessons about life, too:
that God comes first…and family immediately thereafter
that you can’t always have everything you want right now
that life involves sacrifice, hard work, and sometimes suffering.

The example of parents who live a holy marriage in the Lord
is invaluable for their children.
The silent lessons of love and fidelity shown by a mother and father
who sacrifice for each other and for the good of the family
are of tremendous influence and significance.

Even in difficult situations…separated and blended families…
there must be a constant commitment to doing whatever it takes
to live the love of God for the good of the young people.

Saint Paul is often criticized for saying:
“Wives, be subordinate to your husbands…”
Yet, it is critical to recall that he also says in another place:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church.”

Saint John Chrysostom remarks that much more is asked of the husband,
who is called to love his wife as Christ loves the Church…
by being willing even to die for her sake!
The lesson we learn from Saint Paul is that husbands and wives
are called to mutual self-giving…
that both are called to sacrifice for the other…
and for the sake of the family.
This radical self-giving love…after the pattern of God…who is Love itself…
is the vocation of every family.

The challenge for all of you is to live this love…and to be witnesses of it…
just like the hospitable little innkeeper!

Your perfect model in this great journey is the Holy Family…
whose life and love we celebrate today.
Their life was anything but ordinary…and surely filled with challenges…
and yet they persevered in peace and grace
because they never turned away from God and one another.

Literally, they were centered on Christ…as parents of Jesus.
So, too, your lives are to be centered on Christ!

The fabric of our world can only be repaired and strengthened
by the love, dedication, and witness of holy families.
Vocations to the priesthood and religious life will only increase
if the seeds God plants are nourished in holy families.

My dear friends, be holy families!
For through you God desires to renew the world!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Homily Christmas 2007

Nolite timere.
Ecce enim evangelizo vobis gaudium magnum
quod erit omni populo.
Quia natus est vobis hodie salvator in civitate David
qui est Christus Dominus!

Fear not.
Behold, indeed I declare to tidings of great joy
which will be for all the people.
For today a savior has been born for you in the city of David,
Who is Christ the Lord!

The angels declared to the shepherds…and declare this day to us:
The day of salvation has dawned!

The savior promised by the prophets of old…
announced by the angels…
and longed-for by countless generations for ages past…
has appeared at last on earth!
The Word of God has become flesh!

The moment for which we have prepared by our celebration of Advent has arrived!
The one for whom our hearts have longed and yearned is at last here with us!

Our Savior is born for us this holy day…Jesus Christ has come!
He has come…and how has He come?

The answer lies in the third stanza of a hymn from the 9th Century…
“Creator of the Stars of Night.”

When this old world drew on toward night,you came; but not in splendor bright,not as a monarch, but the childof Mary, blameless mother mild.

Yes, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
our savior has not come as a monarch…in wealth, prestige, or finery.

Instead, the one who is King of the whole universe…
has come as a innocent…helpless…little baby.

The one whose voice…spoken in darkness…brought into being all that exists…
takes on flesh as an infant…
and will learn from His mother how to eat and speak and walk

This child is born in a poor, dirty stable…the home of animals…
filled with straw…and other things you find beneath animals…
no place for any child to sleep.

His first visitors are not dignitaries… but shepherds with their bleating sheep.
This King has no royal robe…but simply a swaddling cloth…
and His throne is a wooden box out of which cows and donkeys eat.
Jesus was born…the same as He lived and as He died…in poverty.

The angel declares: “A Savior has been born for you.”
Jesus the Savior has indeed been born for us…
and we are called to embrace Him as Mary did.

As Mary bore Jesus in her womb…and gave birth to Him…
so we are meant to carry Christ with us
to allow His love to grow and mature within us…
and give birth to His love and peace and truth in the holiness of our lives.

Jesus will find a welcome in our lives…
if we embrace Him just as He was first born into our world… in poverty.

Jesus desires to come to us humbly…simply…without pageantry
and without the unnecessary, burdensome trappings of this world.

Mary and Joseph did not need a Hummer 3 to get to Bethlehem.
A donkey sufficed.

The Holy Family did not need an i-phone or a 120” TV.
They entertained themselves by delighting in one another’s company.

The Magi found the stable without GPS.
The star God had ordained was accurate within inches.

We have so many gadgets, and so much noise, and far too many distractions
in our lives these days.
If you, like so many who are overloaded today,
find yourself burdened and yet unfulfilled…busy and yet unsatisfied…
then…this Christmas…embrace Christ in poverty.

Before you make your next impulse purchase and swipe the newest plastic…
ponder the question:
“How will this help Christ's love grow in me and be born in my life?”

Before you make the next big decision at work, as yourselves:
“How will this help me, my colleagues, and my family to live Christ's love?”

Each day, as the rubber hits the road in daily life…
allow your lives to be guided by the fundamental question:
“How will what I have done, what I am doing, and what I will do today
allow me to carry the love and truth of Christ to others?

Strip away all that is unnecessary, that distracts us from God, that is not holy.
Embrace Christ in poverty…
and allow Him to fill you with the riches of grace…
which cannot ever be measured.

Embrace the sweet infant Jesus in simplicity of life and humility of heart.
Carry Him with you everywhere, forever.
Allow His love to grow and mature within you
and to be born constantly in a life of goodness, selflessness, and truth.
Embrace Christ tonight with reckless abandon… love him without reserve…
give yourselves completely to Him…
and never allow anything less than the perfect love of Christ
to guide and guard you in this life.

Tonight, according to ancient tradition, we will direct special attention
to the words in the Creed which speak of the mystery we celebrate tonight.

At the words of Incarnation…
“…and He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man…”
we will all pause and genuflect together.
I will lead you by turning toward the Altar and genuflecting myself.
During the whole year, we all bow at these special words.
Tonight we genuflect because we celebrate this great mystery,
which is at the heart of our faith.

As you genuflect and rise, ponder the mystery we celebrate.
As you take leave of this holy place tonight…
forget not the lesson of this great feast of Christ's birth.
Embrace Christ in poverty and humility.
Let nothing separate you from His love.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Homily Fourth Sunday of Advent 23 December 2007

‘Twas the month before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.

See the PC Police had taken away
The reason for Christmas -- no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About shepherds and wise men and angels and things.

It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say --
December 25th is just a "holiday."
Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit,
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!…

As Targets were hanging their trees upside down
At Lowe's the word "Christmas" was nowhere to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penney's and Sears,
You won't hear the word "Christmas" -- it won't touch your ears.…

The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded,
The Reason for the Season, stopped before it started.
So as you celebrate "winter break" under your "dream tree,"
Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.

Choose your words carefully, choose what you say,
Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS ... not Happy Holiday!

These few excerpts from a parody of the famous Christmas poem
“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”
speak volumes about the reality of our world
and the challenges to our faith which we face every day.

The most basic reality of our faith…
the Incarnation of the Son of God…
is neglected, set aside, ridiculed, and deemed offensive to the public.
And no one bothers to do anything about it!

The Holy Scriptures today proclaim the imminence of Christ's birth…
and help us to “zero in” on the authentic meaning and reality
of this season of singular holiness and grace.

Ever since the first man and woman turned from God in the Garden of Eden,
our Heavenly Father has been seeking after us…
drawing us back to Himself…
and preparing to send His only Son to pay the price of Adam’s sin.

From ancient times, the prophets spoke the message entrusted to them by God.
Isaiah foretold that a virgin would conceive and bear a son,
and that this child would be called “Emmanuel” – “God-with-us.”
The Psalmist sings of the coming of the King of Glory,
and declares that that only the pure of heart
will stand with the Lord on His mountain.

When Jesus comes, He will be one like us, in all things but sin...
and so we shall be given the grace of becoming sons and daughters of God,
brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus.

Finally, in the fullness of time, God sent His messengers…
first to Zechariah and the barren Elizabeth…
announcing the birth of John the Baptist
then to Mary…
announcing to her that she would be the mother of the Savior
and then to Joseph…
to give him assurance and peace
in his unique role as foster-father of Jesus.

Today we hear of these last preparations in the drama of God’s plan.

The prophets have foretold it…
The angels have announced it…
John the Baptist is preaching and preparing the way for the Lord…
Mary and Joseph have been told of their unique roles in the plan of salvation…
Their lives are about to unfold in a way they never thought possible…

In God’s great design…all is ready…all is prepared…
for the coming of the King…the infant King!
Soon the Virgin shall bear a son!
The day of salvation draws ever nearer!

For us, these events are not simply ancient memories.
They are realities and mysteries into which we are drawn
through the celebration of the Liturgy.
This is Advent!
We, too, are preparing…our hearts, our homes, and our spiritual lives…for Christmas.

Meanwhile, we have to deal with the world around us trying to snuff out Christmas.

We are not preparing for just any holiday…or “winter festival.”
We are making ready for the coming of the Son of God…
the birth of the little child who will come to set us free!

There is only one celebration on the 25th of December.

Therefore, there is no conceivable reason why the lips of a baptized Catholic
should ever utter the words “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings!”

The very word “Christmas” comes from two words:
“Christ,” of course…and…“Mass.”
The word signifies the Mass which is celebrated on the birthday of Christ.

The very word is connected to the Liturgy of the Church.
Without a connection to the religious, liturgical celebration of Christ's birth…
Christmas has no meaning at all!
In our stores, legislatures, and public schools,
Christmas is being drained of any significance.

It falls to us to celebrate and proclaim the reality of what Christmas is…
and to keep the meaning of Christmas alive in the hearts of all people.

If you have friends of the Jewish faith, wish them a Happy and Blessed Hanukkah.

Otherwise, bring to those you meet the true blessing of this time of year.
Proclaim Jesus loud and clear, in every way possible!

If you wish by your choice of greeting to include the entire “season,”
remember that the “Christmas Season” extends all the way to Epiphany.

And if a store clerk should ever wish you a “Happy Holiday,”
look at them with love…smile…and say:
“Merry Christmas!”

Anything less than the truth is not worth saying at all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Homily Gaudete Sunday Year A 16 December 2007

Among the many saints canonized by John Paul II during his papacy
was African Josephine Bakhita.

She was born around 1869 in Darfur in Sudan.

At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders,
beaten, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan.

Eventually she found herself working as a slave for the family of a general,
and there she was flogged every day till she bled;
as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life.

Finally, in 1882, she was bought by an Italian merchant
for the Italian consul Callisto Legnani.
Here, after the terrifying “masters” who had owned her up to that point,
Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of “master.”
In Venetian dialect, which she was now learning to speak,
she used the word “paron” for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ.

Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her.
Now, however, she heard that there is a “paron” above all masters,
the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good…even “goodness in person.”
She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her,
that he actually loved her.
She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme “Paron.”
What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged
and now he was waiting for her “at the Father's right hand.”

Now she had “hope”…
no longer simply the hope of finding masters who would be less cruel,
but the great hope:
“I am definitively loved
and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love.
And so my life is good.”

Through the knowledge of this hope she was “redeemed,”
no longer a slave, but a free child of God.

She understood what Saint Paul meant when he wrote to the Ephesians
that previously they were without hope and without God in the world…
without hope because without God.

On 9 January 1890, she was baptized and confirmed
and received her first Holy Communion
On 8 December 1896, in Verona, she took her vows in religious life.

Josephine made journeys throughout Italy in order to promote the missions…
for she knew that the liberation that she had received
through her encounter with the God of Jesus Christ
had to be handed on to others.

The hope born in her… which had “redeemed” her…she could not keep to herself;
this hope had to reach many…to reach everybody.

On November 30th, our Holy Father issued his second encyclical…
entitled Spe Salvi… “In Hope We Are Saved.”
The subject of the encyclical is the Christian virtue of hope.

The full text of the letter is available online…
and I shall offer a few reflections on the Holy Father’s teaching today.

Pope Benedict reflects that, throughout the New Testament,
the words “faith” and “hope” appear to be interchangeable.

Hope is equivalent to faith in the Epistles of the Early Church.

Before their encounter with Christ, the early Christians were without hope.
Those who came to know Christ…those who came to have faith in Him…
abandoned the worship of the ancient gods
and came to have hope in the one, true God.

The distinguishing mark of Christians is the fact that they have a future…
not that we know the precise details of what awaits us…
but that we know that our lives will not end in emptiness.

Because of our hope in what God has promised for our future…
it becomes possible to really live in the present.

The one who has hope lives differently.
For the faithful Christian,
the hope we have changes us…and inspires us to live for God.
The Gospel message is not merely “informative”…
not simply a bunch of information and things to be known…
though knowing our faith is an essential foundation for living.

Rather, in a much deeper way…the Gospel is “performative,”
it is a message that changes lives and makes things happen.

The people to whom Saint Paul preached were previously without hope…
because they were “without God in the world.”

Having heard the Gospel message…
and having experienced a real encounter with God…
they…like all who come to truly encounter God…find hope.

We have grown accustomed to the Christian understanding of God…
and often take Him and our relationship with Him for granted.

For this reason, Pope Benedict included the story of Josephine in his encyclical:
to give us an example of what it means to find God…
and thus to find hope…for the first time.

This Sunday is a unique day of joy in the life of the Church.

This Sunday is “Gaudete Sunday”…
a name which comes from the first word
of the introit antiphon for today’s Mass…
the antiphon which is often replaced by the opening hymn.

In Latin, the word is “Gaudete,” which means “rejoice!’

The joy of Christianity is supernatural…
for it is grounded in the beauty and splendor of our unique faith.

This “Gaudete Sunday” is a beacon of light in winter’s long darkness…
a moment of joy…and also of hope…
amid a season of preparation, and anticipation of the Birth of Jesus.

As we continue to prepare for Christmas…
we rejoice today precisely because we have hope that the Savior will come!

Hence also the “rose” colored vestments…

The scriptures today admonish us to
“Be strong, fear not!”
“Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand!”

Today we pray for the grace to experience God’s presence and love anew…
to rejoice as people who have come to know God all over again…
to celebrate this Christmas as if meeting Christ for the very first time…
and to bring others to Jesus by living the hope which wells up within us.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Homily Second Sunday of Advent Year A 9 December 2007

In 1916, in preparation for the appearances of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima,
an Angel of Peace appeared to the three children who would later see Mary.

On the angel’s third visit…the children witnessed a dramatic scene.

The angel appeared to them with the Eucharist.
Suspending the Host and Chalice in the air…
the angel threw himself prostrate in the ground
and prayed with the children in adoration of the Eucharist!

The angel prostrated himself before the Eucharist!
How blessed would we be if we had such perfect love for Jesus in the Eucharist!

Advent is a season of intense preparation…of making ready…
of placing things in order…
as we anxiously await the coming of the Messiah.

In this holy season…we remember the ancient days of the Old Testament
when the Israelites longed for the Messiah.
We anticipate Christ's second coming in glory at the end of time…
and we resolve to keep vigilant
and make ready for His coming at an hour we do not expect.
And we prepare for the glorious celebration
of Christ's coming into our hearts at Christmas.
As we focus our attention intently on preparing for the coming of Christ…
are we aware that we experience daily
the coming of Christ into our souls in the Eucharist…
a coming for which we must also be intensely prepared?

The Church celebrates the Holy Mass every day, in churches throughout the world.
Wherever the Mass is celebrated…Jesus is entering into the lives of His people.

Whenever you come to Mass…you are receiving Christ into your midst.

Today the Church calls us to pause and to reflect very intently on this question:
“How are we preparing ourselves to receive Jesus
when He comes to us in the Eucharist?”

The act of receiving Communion is a moment of union with the person of Jesus…
and it should never…ever…be simply a rote, casual action.

Coming up in the Communion line,
your hearts and minds should be focused on Jesus, and on Him alone.

If one receives in the hands…
one ought not be poised to snatch the Lord
but ought to present one’s hands as if a throne on which to receive Him.

It is the custom of the diocese of the United States
that the sign of reverence required of the whole Church
takes the form of a bow before receiving Communion.
It is important that we never omit this sign of reverence to the Lord.

To the words “The Body of Christ” and “The Blood of Christ” we respond “Amen.”

Having received Communion, the Host is to be consumed in a reverent manner…
not as if chewing a piece of meat.

The moment of receiving the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion
should leave us in awe and filled with gratitude for this undeserved gift
and the way in which we carry ourselves in that moment
should reflect these sentiments.

We might ask ourselves…
if a stranger came into our church…one who knew nothing of our faith…
would he be impressed by what he sees?

Would the appearance of a bunch of people filing out of the pews…
casually grabbing a piece of bread…
and sitting back down as if nothing happened…
strike at a stranger’s heart?

Communion truly celebrated as the sacredness of the Eucharist demands
should leave a stranger speechless before the awesome mystery
to which our outward actions are directed.

Even beyond this…it is good to reflect on how we prepare for and celebrate
the Liturgy of the Mass.

The Church calls the faithful to prepare
not only our souls…but our bodies as well…for the Eucharist.

We prepare bodily by observing the Communion fast
for a solid hour before Communion.

We prepare spiritually by examining our consciences
and bringing to Confession any mortal sins of which we are aware.

When we have separated ourselves from God though serious sin…
we must first seek reconciliation
before we can worthily and truly be united to Him in Communion.

We prepare for Mass also by coming early to pray
and to quiet our hearts in God’s presence.

Preparing for Jesus’ coming to us in the Eucharist
also means entering deeply into the celebration of the Mass.

It is important to be on time for Mass…
and to stay until after the blessing and recessional hymn.

By coming in late and skipping out on the end…
one only deprives oneself of the fullness
of the incredible spiritual nourishment that is available in the Mass.

Not to mention what it does for the self-esteem of the priest!

What is one hour to give the Lord?
As Jesus asks His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane… “Could you not wait one hour with me?”

The faithful are called to enter with joy and excitement into the celebration of Mass…
to participate in signing God’s praises with conviction…
and to answer clearly all the liturgical responses.

The Mass is of eternal significance…and the high point of our life as Catholics…
and if we believe what we say we do about the Eucharust…
then bodies and souls ought to be caught up in prayer
and nothing should keep us from living the Eucharist we celebrate!

Today’s Gospel is the story of John the Baptist,
the prophet called by God to announce to the people the coming Messiah.

John was a humble, simple man, who lived a meager life
and spent his days preaching repentance and the coming of the Kingdom.

He is the one who cries out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord…make straight His paths!”

John’s words elsewhere…when Jesus comes to be baptized…
are the words of the priest immediately before Communion…
“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”

In this moment of grace we call Advent…
may we seize the opportunity to examine our attitude toward the Eucharist…
and to deepen our preparation for Christ's coming in each Communion.

May we exalt the valleys of dark and sin in the grace of Confession…
level the temptations to pride by the virtue of humility…
and thus make a straight path into our hearts for the Lord.

May we prepare well for every Mass…
so that we may celebrate worthily these sacred mysteries
and approach the banquet of the Lamb to worship in spirit and in truth!

Canton Repository 8 December 2007

Confusion about the authentic faith of the Catholic Church persists in the world today, and clarification remains necessary.

Recently, Mary Ann Winkowski, the “real Ghost Whisperer” behind the popular television program of the same name, spoke at an event in North Canton.
Winkowski, who calls herself a “paranormal investigator,” claims to be able to converse with the spirits of the dead. Whether or not that is true is not the issue at hand. What has caught the attention of careful readers is that several references to the Church were made in the article announcing Winkowski’s visit (The Repository, November 24, 2007), including the use of the phrase “a devout Catholic” to describe her. One wonders what purpose is served by bringing Catholicism into the discussion.

Since the Church has been dragged into this, it is appropriate for the Church to be given a voice. Based on the First Commandment from the Book of Exodus, the Church has consistently taught that all forms of divination, conjuring up the dead, clairvoyance, and so forth – even if they are meant for good – are contrary to Christian faith. The Bible calls all people to have no other gods except the one true God, and to place nothing above Him. That includes trusting in God’s Providence in matters of life and death, and in whatever concerns the future. Any attempt to meddle in the spiritual realm, unveil the future, or gain supernatural power over others is a failure to respect God our Creator. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2115-2117.)

The Church desires that all people come to know the truth and love of God, and set aside all that is not of God. If one must take the risk of dabbling in occult and paranormal practices, please do not pretend the Church is supportive.

Father Matthew J. Albright
Parochial Vicar
Saint Michael the Archangel Church

Homily Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 8 December 2007

Among the beautiful and thoughtful gifts I received from generous friends
on the occasion of my ordination to the priesthood…
is a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary that hangs in my office.

It is titled “The Virgin in Prayer”
and is the work of 17th Century Italian artist Sassoferrato.

In this striking image, Mary is dressed in a blue robes…and wears a white veil.

Her hands are joined in prayer… not clasped in an anguished kind of prayer…
but gently…as if peacefully placed together.

Her head is bowed…slightly…

Her downcast eyes are barely visible behind her eyelids…
and yet passion and love shine forth from them.

Her face is filled with peace and light…and at the same time sadness.

Hers is the face of a woman who is wise beyond her years…
the face of one who has known joy beyond all telling…
and sorrow beyond what anyone should have to endure.

Hers is the face of a holy woman who has lived life…a woman who has loved.
Her face is the face of a mother!
Mary is the mother of the Savior, Jesus Christ…
the one for whom we long in this Advent Season…
and the mother of every faithful person who follows her Son.

The Virgin in Prayer hangs on my office wall
as a reminder to me…and those with whom I meet there…
that Mary is praying for me and for them…
and that…no matter what…Mary our mother understands.

I can point to Mary and say to people…
“She is praying with you…She understands!”

Mary looks down on us every day…and loves us with a mother’s tender care.

Because of the unique motherhood which was to be Mary’s holy vocation…
and her unique role in the plan of salvation…
in order that she be free of stain and pure when she bore our Savior…
in order that she be totally free to give her full assent to God’s will…
God kept her free of all stain of original sin
from the first moment of her conception.

Mary was enriched with gifts appropriate to the role of the mother of our Lord…
and was allowed to share beforehand in the salvation her son Jesus would bring.

When the angel Gabriel comes to greet her…
he address her – “Hail, Full of Grace” – and so she is.

The Greek word for this is used to describe no other person in Scripture…
for Mary alone was given the grace to be free of sin.

In Mary’s sanctity is a model for all Christians…
and in her prayers…with us and for us…is found powerful intercession
in the midst of our own struggles with sin.

Sadly, despite the obvious evil around us… the world has lost the sense of sin.
Despite the terrible things we see happening every day…
events like the murder this week in Omaha, NE…
we have lost a sense that individual people
can turn their backs on God and fellow human persons…and sin.

It is popular today to pretend there are no sins…
to project sin onto only “institutions”
to de-personalize the Devil
and to “psychologize” sin away…and turn every evil behavior into a “disease.”

It is easy to rationalize our behavior,
and to find fault with everyone else but ourselves.

Instead of fighting to overcome personal sins…
our world seeks only to get beyond the idea of sin.

The truth is that…because of a selfish act of rebellion against God
on the part of Adam and Eve…
all of humanity has been stained with a tendency toward sin.
The hard truth is that each one of us in this room is a sinner in need of grace.

We have lost the sense of how important it is to bring our sins to Confession
and to receive Communion worthily.

Sin is not just “everyone else’s problem.”
It is real for each and every one of us.

You have sinned and so have I!

We rejoice today…
that God chose Mary from time immemorial to be the mother of Jesus
that He kept her free of sin
as the pure mother of the Savior
and the sinless mother and model of us all.

We rejoice that He has chosen us to be his adopted sons and daughters.

May we who await the coming of Jesus into our hearts this Advent
fly to the side of Mary…His loving mother and ours…
and beg her to shield us from sin in her mantle of love and holiness.

May we humbly recognize and confess before God our own sinfulness
and take comfort in the patronage of the sinless Virgin.

Hail, O Mary, full of grace…
pray for us sinners…now and at the hour of our death. Amen!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Father Matthew's Mass Schedule

December 7th: 5:30 pm
December 9th: 7:15, 8:45 am
December 15th: 4:00 pm
December 16th: 8:45, 10:30 am
December 23rd: 10:30 am
December 24th: 4:00, 6:00 pm
December 29th: 4:00 pm
December 30th: 7:15 am, 5:30 pm
December 31st: 5:30 pm

Homily First Sunday of Advent Year A 2 December 2007

It is said that President John F. Kennedy was very fond of a particular story. During his 1960 presidential campaign he often used it to close his speeches.
It is the story of Colonel Davenport, Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives back in 1789.
One day, while the House was in session, the sky of Hartford suddenly grew dark and gloomy.
Some of the representatives looked out the windows and thought this was a sign that the end of the world had come. An uproar ensued with the representatives calling for immediate adjournment.
But Davenport rose and said…
“Gentlemen, the Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought.”
Candles were brought and…by candlelight…the session continued.

Congressman Davenport chose to be found doing his duty.

In this holy season of Advent…
we celebrate with hope and anticipation…in three unique ways…
the “advent”…or the “coming”…of Christ.
We remember Christ's coming in history
as we recall the stories of the people of the Old Testament…
the Israelites who lived in great hope…
and longed for the Messiah…the anointed one of God…
who would bring them salvation and blessedness.

We also sharpen our awareness of Christ's coming in the last days of the world
and commit ourselves to being prepared to meet Him
when He comes again to call us to Himself.

Finally, we make ready for His coming into our hearts once again at Christmas
By truly entering into Advent…
by making the most of this season of preparation and expectation…
we prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas
in a deeper and even more special way.

As members of the Mystical Body of Christ…
our Baptism has brought us into relationship with Jesus Christ
and has made us sharers in the mysteries of Christ.

Baptism is a moment of grace…
and it also brings with it commitments and responsibilities.
As baptized people…we should always be found doing our duty.

Doing our duty as Christians means being always prepared…
always ready to meet Christ when He comes again in glory.
We know not the day nor the hour when Christ shall come again…
nor the moment of our own passing from this life.

Our faith demands that…rather being anxious over what may happen…and when…
or trying to discover the future…
we trust in God’s providential care
and strive to live our faith in every moment…
so that whenever Christ comes…
we may be found faithful in our duty to Him.

This is why such things as horoscopes, fortune-tellers, palm-reading, astrology…
and other kinds of divination and clairvoyance…
are so contrary to our Christian faith.
Not only do they place us in spiritual danger…
but these practices by their nature express a complete lack of faith and trust
in God’s plan for our human existence.

We find the meaning of our life…not in cards and leaves and ghosts…
but in our relationship with the one, true God,
who loves us and knows our needs
even before we voice them in prayer.

Doing our duty also means being always awake and alert in our faith…
so that we may be prepared to resist the thief…the Devil.

Faith demands that we keep guard over our senses…
which are the entrances to our body and soul.
We must be awake and alert…
aware of what is coming into our bodies and souls through the senses…
lest the Devil come like the thief in today’s Gospel…
and by force make his way into our soul.

And so we avoid those things which present a near occasion of sin for us…
the images we choose to look at
the music we listen to
the company we keep and the conversations we have
the television and movies we watch.

There are those who…in a deliberate way…
try to undermine Christian values through TV and movies and other media.
One such example is a film that will be released this coming Friday…
conveniently on the vigil of the Immaculate Conception.

The movie…titled The Golden Compass…
is based on the first of a series of books by Phillip Pullman…
a self-proclaimed militant atheist.
Pullman himself is quoted as saying
“I am trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”

What is unique is that he not only is trying to attack and undermine the Church
and believers’ faith in God…
but he is directing his books and films at children.
The Golden Compass is a children’s movie…
but it is certainly not for the impressionable and innocent.
The story portrays the Church as evil and maniacal.
There is a clear, underlying agenda to influence children in the direction of unbelief
and to plant in young minds subtle lies about God and the Church.

It is more the books that are of concern…
and this first movie only serves to wet the appetite for more.

It is important for parents to be aware
of what is being placed before your children’s eyes and ears.
So I simply encourage parents:
if you are considering taking the family to this movie…
go see it yourselves and be discerning…
before you think about taking your kids.

Doing our duty means fulfilling our obligation to celebrate Mass
on Sundays and Holy Days…
including the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception…
which is celebrated this Saturday.

This year, celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception at Mass with us
and watch a wholesome family film at home.
Enjoy precious time with one another.

Doing our duty means praying and witnessing to our faith…
and this week’s bulletin includes information about
an opportunity to do that in a very special way…
by joining in the March for Life in January.

Advent is about anxiously awaiting the coming of Christ…
and preparing our hearts and souls to meet him once again.

We shall indeed be prepared for Him…
if we are found enjoying the amazing opportunities our faith allows.

Despite the ominous dark clouds and storms of life…
let us not be fearful…let us stand strong as did the good congressman…
let candles be brought to this wreath as signs of light of hope.

May we remain forever strong in faith
and be always found doing our duty.