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.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Homily Christmas 2008

Throughout the four weeks of Advent, the children of our parish…
in children’s choir performances and at school Masses…
have been singing a beautiful song called
The Whole World is Waiting for Love.

The lyrics include…
We’re waiting for Jesus like Mary, we’re waiting for Jesus the Lord.
We’re laying a manger for Mary.
We’re making it lovely…for Jesus the Lord.
Come down, Lord Jesus! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
The whole world is waiting for love…

We have indeed been waiting…
our hearts filled with wonder, praise, and eager expectation.

We have waited with Mary,
who was chosen from the beginning of time
to be the virgin mother of the Son of God
and whose assent of faith and docility to God’s will
allowed the mystery of the Incarnation
of the Word of God in human flesh to unfold.

We have waited with the people of Israel,
who longed with aching hearts for the Messiah,
whom the prophets foretold for countless generations.
In the prophetic history of the ancient Hebrew people…
the Messiah is called at once the Mighty God and the Prince of Peace.
He is likened to a shepherd who gathers his lambs in His arms
and draws His flock close to His heart.
On the mountain of the Lord envisioned by Isaiah,
the Messiah will bring justice and peace,
so that enemies become companions
and harmony is the life-blood of the whole land.

What the children’s song proclaims in simple words
is precisely the same as the compelling message of the prophets:
the whole world has been waiting for love –
the love of God incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ,
the redeemer of the world.

From time immemorial, since the moment of the original sin,
when Adam and Eve first turned from the perfection God planned for them,
to grasp for themselves at what they thought was best,
humankind has been in search of meaning and value in life
and has longed to be satisfied with true and lasting love.

The whole world has been waiting for love.

At last, it has come to pass that God, Who is the very essence of Love in Himself,
has entered our world as an infant.

In this tender scene, Mary,
who has born the Christ child in her womb with love beyond all telling,
now at one moment gazes into the eyes of her precious little boy
beholds her Messiah and Lord, whom she longed to see
and kisses the face of the mighty God.

The whole world has indeed waited for love, and Love Himself has come!
Jesus Christ is born!

At long last, humankind has encountered
the satisfaction for the deepest yearnings of human souls:
Jesus Christ, the answer to which every human heart is the question!

In our time…in so many ways…the whole world is still waiting for love.

Selfishness has a mighty grip on our society
and so we are blinded to the dignity of human life
the sanctity of Marriage
and the values and virtues proper to the family.

Lust and greed have captivated many, so overwhelmingly,
that they cannot perceive the gifts available to us in the life of the Church
and the unsurpassable worth of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Convenience, material possessions, and worldly success
are worshipped in place of God, who has made everything from nothing,
and without whom none of what we grasp at would even exist.
The whole world is very much indeed still waiting for love…
waiting for authentic and lasting love to come and take root in human hearts
that we might be transfixed by divine grace
made docile to the will of God
and transformed into people of truth, self-sacrifice, and holiness.

The world in which we live desperately needs the love of God
to continually become incarnate in human lives.

For this great mystery to unfold, the world needs our love as well.
Peace in our world and the salvation of souls
depend upon our self-sacrifice,
our purifying of our lives and emptying of our selfish desires,
in order that we might become instruments of God’s grace.

The glory of Christmas gives us hope…
hope in Jesus Christ…the savior who is born for us today…
and people of hope live differently than the rest of the world.
We are people of hope, who pray unceasingly, love passionately,
and find in the Word of God the blueprint for our lives.

The whole world is waiting for our love,
the love of people who have come to know Jesus
and who are not afraid to share Him with the world.

This Christmas, receive the Lord Jesus into your life more deeply than ever.

If the Lord is touching your heart for the first time this Christmas,
take the first steps:
join us every Sunday for Mass,
spend tine in prayer each day,
read your Bible and begin to study the Catechism.
Allow the truth and love of Jesus to become the pattern of your life.

If you are farther along on your journey of faith, this Christmas go deeper:
read some new Church documents,
increase your daily time in prayer
look for ways to reach out and serve those in need
seize every opportunity to share in the life of the parish.

All of this may mean you have to make some changes in your lives,
and change is scary and disconcerting.
Yet, let us not forget the exhortation of Cardinal Newman:
“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
In order that we might truly have life, we must experience conversion in our lives.

The whole world is waiting for love – first, the love of God
and also the witness of your love as people who have hope in Jesus Christ.

Open your hearts to allow Christ to be conceived within you,
Christ, whose presence brings hope, and whose love brings peace.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Homily Gaudete Sunday 14 December 2008

About half-way through my seminary studies,
I had the opportunity to spend a week of retreat at Saint Michael’s Abbey
an abbey of Norbertine fathers and brothers in Orange County, CA.

While I was there, I experienced the schedule of the Norbertine canons,
including going to bed at 9:00 pm and rising at 5:00 am for prayer.

Given that I am not naturally a morning person, it was surely penitential!

At the same time it was a beautiful experience
of entering – briefly – into the hidden life of religious priests and brothers
where prayer is a constant routine which gives meaning to their lives.

At every hour of every day…somewhere in the world…priests, brothers and nuns
are praying the prayer of the Church called the “Liturgy of the Hours.”
Religious men and women pray according to an established schedule –
in the morning, the daytime, the evening, and at night –
in order to sanctify the hours of the day by their offering of prayer
and so that there arises before the throne of God
a continual sacrifice of praise, pleasing to the Lord.

Even here in Canton, Ohio, we are blessed to have Sancta Clara Monastery,
where the Poor Clare Sisters spend their days offering prayers
for the intentions of the Church,
for our community, and for people throughout the world.
Diocesan priests pray the same prayers,
but not at such strict times and not so early in the morning!

I once saw a prayer book that contained a one-dimensional map of the globe,
complete with the time zones,
and a listing of selected cities where Mass is celebrated at each hour.

It was a reminder of the beauty and constancy of the Eucharist:
at every hour of every day, somewhere there is a priest celebrating Mass.
that Jesus is always present to His people as they gather at the holy altar.

According to the third Eucharistic Prayer:
“Father…From generation to generation, you gather a people to yourself,
so that from the rising of the sun to its setting
a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.”

The Church indeed follows faithfully the exhortation of Saint Paul
to “pray without ceasing.”

We rejoice heartily in the abundance of graces that flow from the Church’s prayer
and in all things we give thanks, for this is the will of God.

The Liturgy of the Hours is not only for clergy and religious,
but is truly available to all people in the Church.
I hope you will join us Sunday evening at 4:00 as we pray Vespers together.

Saint Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is filled with hope and encouragement
for the new, young church community at Thessalonica.

Paul is reminding the recent converts of the abundance of gifts
they have received from the hand of the Lord, as the members of His body.
He is exhorting them to appreciate what they have,
to give thanks in everything, to pray without ceasing,
and to live to the fullest extent their new life as baptized Christians.

Christian discipleship involves looking forward
to the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation…the coming of the Lord in glory…
and living in constant readiness for his appearance.

Celebrating Advent…indeed the whole reality of being Christian…
is not an idle waiting
but an experience of living in hope of the coming of the Lord
and doing our part to make Christ's kingdom come alive in our world…
here and now…in every aspect of our human existence.

Christian believers are people of hope, and, as Pope Benedict has written,
people of hope live differently!

Absolutely essential to fulfilling the Christian life
is the call to pray without ceasing.
If we are to participate in the Church’s mission
to bring Jesus into every heart and every human endeavor,
then we, too, must sanctify the hours of every day with our prayers.
Prayer is most fundamentally a conversation with God,
wherein we share with Him our thoughts and cares,
and, more importantly, listen intently to His voice.

We need this constant conversation with God,
that we might come to know His will, experience the strength of His grace,
and be led by Him on our journey of faith.

Liturgy is the public prayer of the Church,
celebrated by the whole community,
according to established norms and traditions.

Prayer also takes the form of devotions:
the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Novenas, Stations of the Cross…

Reading sacred scripture or the writings of the saints
is also an experience of praying, for God’s Word is revealed in sacred texts.

Prayer does not have to include written or spoken words,
and often the most beautiful prayer
is the quiet moments we spend with the Lord…
before the Tabernacle or in a special place at home.

However you pray, what is most important
is setting aside substantial time each day for the Lord
to praise God every morning and thank Him every night.

If you were to give your family no other gift this Christmas
than to lead them in daily prayers
your gift would surpass our human capacity to measure.

In prayer we hear God’s voice, calling us to follow after Him with rejoicing.
And so we heed the exhortation of the Apostle Paul:
Pray without ceasing!
In all things give thanks!

This Advent and always…
allow the presence and love of God to penetrate the depths of your heart in prayer,
and draw you into intimate union with Him,
the One in whom alone our souls rejoice!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Homily Solemnity of Christ the King 2008

[Personal story relating to goats...]

Goats are rather self-sufficient animals, preferring the higher ground for eating,
seldom remaining in one place for long,
and causing dissension by their ting temperament.

In stark contrast, sheep enjoy lush, green pastures and peaceful streams,
and they are content to remain for lengths of time,
truly appreciating their environment and their nourishment.

Sheep are docile, that is, easily cared for, taught and trained,
and they happily wait upon the will of the shepherd.
They are gentle and affectionate creatures,
which enjoy still waters and naturally avoid situations that cause agitation.

As the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King,
we hear the words of Holy Scripture
calling us to contemplate the kingship of Christ
and its implications for our lives.

The Gospel for today’s feast is the image of the great and final judgment.

Using an image that resonates with the nomadic and rural people of his time,
that of a shepherd separating sheep from goats
Jesus describes the judgment he will make
as king of heaven and earth.

The Lord refers to sinners as goats
because their vices resemble the behavior of goats:
belligerence, pride, mean-spiritedness toward other creatures.

Most sin can be traced back to the common roots of pride and self-absorption.

the tendency toward sin that is in all of us because of Adam’s fault…
leads people to think highly of themselves,
and to seek their own way and their own personal satisfaction,
all the while ignoring the needs of others.
Jesus definitively condemns the self-centered and destructive behaviors
of those on the left…
those who spend all their time, energy and resources on themselves
darting about from one fanciful notion to another
and never pausing to recognize the needs of the others in their midst
like the goats who browse the fields but never
and who seek the best for themselves while ignoring the flock.

He also condemns the prideful ignorance that resembles the pride of goats,
especially those who cause constant turmoil within families and workplaces
and dissent within the Church,
by always believing they know better, asserting their flawed ideas,
and pouting if they are not agreed with and acclaimed.

Men and women who are far from the heart of Christ and unworthy of His promises
bring their punishment upon themselves
by their self-promotion, pride,
and negligence toward fellow human persons.

The virtues of the blessed ones, who are judged worthy of eternal life,
are compared with good behaviors of the sheep beloved by the shepherd.

The Lord commends the virtue of those on the right…
whose lives were characterized by self-sacrifice and kindness toward others
and who sought to bring healing and aid rather than division and turmoil.

Even though we are far removed from the culture of nomadic shepherds,
we must not fail to grasp the meaning and value of this parable,
for by these same standards we, too will be judged.

The essential difference between the blessed and the condemned…
is the manner in which they have beheld the startling majesty
of Christ the King.

To accept the kingship of Jesus Christ means to recognize
that He reveals His person in the person of others.
Jesus the Good Shepherd is revealed in the teaching of the pastors of the Church.
The person of Christ the Suffering Servant is revealed in the poor and needy,
whom we are called to serve and care for always.

To accept the kingship of Christ also means to recognize and revere His humility,
His humble submission to the will of God…even unto …
and to imitate the humility of Jesus
by our submission…our placing ourselves under the mission…
of God and of the Church.

The Kingship of Jesus Christ is perfected only in the glory of Heaven.

Yet, it is the mission of the Church on earth to bring about the salvation of souls
and to establish the Kingdom in the hearts of men and women.

Today’s feast raises our awareness that our time on earth is not a waiting room,
not an experience of passing time and enjoying life’s available pleasures.
We are caught up in the mission of the Church
and called to contribute to the formation of the Kingdom.

Our acceptance or neglect of this profound invitation from God
most certainly has real and eternal consequences.

We will be judged on whether or not we have recognized the startling majesty of J. C.,
on whether or not we have seen Him in those who suffer
and met their needs with joyful love
on whether or not we have embraced the opportunity to imitate His humility
placing our desires aside in order to enter into the work of the Church:
to teach, to sanctify, to serve in love.

Every day we are faced with the choice to be obstinate and contentious goats
or docile and obedient sheep.
On those choices we will be judged
and nothing less than our eternal inheritance is on the line.

Christ invites us today to turn our backs on the self-serving road to perdition
and choose the road that leads to glory.

Our King invites us to enjoy the blessedness prepared by our Father…
a banquet of eternal life,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Homily Dedication of Basilica of Saint John Lateran 9 November 2008

One day around the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries…
while he gazed intently at the crucifix in the Church of San Damiano in Assisi,
lost in contemplation of his life’s struggles, and the mysteries of God,
Saint Francis heard the voice of Christ call to him:
“Francis, rebuild my Church!”

Taking the Lord quite literally, Francis, without permission,
sold goods from his father’s warehouse
to pay for repairs to the church building.
Needless to say, his father was quite upset and confronted Francis.
He even disowned him for what he had done.

Francis, for his part, renounced his father’s wealth,
went before the bishop in the middle of the town square,
stripped himself of all his clothes,
and in this dramatic moment gave his whole life to Christ and the Church.

As he left behind his father’s wealth and embraced poverty,
Francis drew closer to Christ and began to understand His words:
He was not calling Francis to repair the building,
but to spend his life building up the Mystical Body of Christ.

Today, as we celebrate the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran,
we are mindful of these two meanings of the word “church”
and how both of them carry great significance for us.
First of all, our church buildings are significant to us:
They are works of art, fashioned by our ancestors, for the glory of God.
They are the sacred places where God dwells in the Blessed Sacrament.
They are the gathering places of the worshipping community
and the sanctuaries where the mysteries of our faith are celebrated.
They stand as monuments of faith and houses of prayer for the people of God.

It has been widely publicized that our diocese is undergoing a process of study
in preparation for a re-ordering of our parishes and schools.
In the end, some parish communities will have to give up their churches,
or combine for worship with another parish.
Priests and bishops are sensitive to the fact that the buildings…
seemingly insignificant…
in fact mean a great deal to the people
who have called them home for generations.

Today we honor one particular church building:
the Basilica in Rome dedicated to Saint John the Baptist,
on the site of the ancient royal palace of the Laterani Family.

Of the four major basilicas in Rome, Saint Peter’s is the most widely recognized,
and yet Saint John Lateran remains the most significant

It is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome…where the pope is bishop…
as Saint Columba is the cathedral of the Youngstown diocese.

As the Pope’s cathedral, Saint John Lateran stands as a sign
of the love and union shared between all Catholics and the Holy Father.
It is known as the “mother of all churches.”

In our parish in Canton, Ohio, our first church building was built 50 years ago
and our current church was built in the Year of the Great Jubilee.
We remember that the existence of our church depends historically
on the establishment of the Diocese of Rome
and the subsequent spreading of the faith from the See of Peter.
In fact, our first bishop traced his sacramental lineage to a cardinal who lived in Rome.

So, today, we also celebrate our own parish church,
where we gather each Sunday for worship
and where we encounter the person of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Like Jesus in today’s Gospel, we ought to have passion about this place of prayer,
and zeal for this house of God should consume us.
For it is holy ground, and the meeting place of Heaven and earth.

Our attitude about our church should be one of respect and reverence.
A church should be quiet, so that people are able to pray
freely and without disturbance, any time of day.
It is not a place to chew gum, carry on idle conversation, or appear immodestly.
We should remember that Jesus is present in the Tabernacle
and we should show him due honor.

Secondly, the “Church” is the Body of Christ
and today’s feast draws our attention to our high calling
to build up Christ's body by faithful fulfillment of our own vocations.

The Church…throughout the world and down through the centuries…
is the temple built of living stones,
established by the Lord on the foundation of the Apostles,
with Jesus Christ Himself as the capstone.

Each one of us has a unique role in the mission of Christ to build His Church.
As Jesus spoke to Francis centuries ago, He speaks to each one of us:
“Build my Church!”

The future of the Church depends on holy families,
and forming a holy family requires a tremendous amount of work
and a constant commitment to prioritizing our lives
so that God always has first place.

We all build up the Church within our own lives
by a life of constant, intimate prayer with God, Mary, and the saints.

In these days, many people express dismay at the situation of the world
and of our own nation.
Our Catholic Christian values are under attack.
Now is the time to pray more fervently, love more deeply,
and never give up on what matters most.
The future of the Church requires our intense involvement in her sacred work.
The Church is devoted to the person of Christ in the Eucharist,
and dedicated to working for justice for every human person.
The building up of the Church and the spreading of the Gospel message of Jesus
depend upon us and our posterity.

When ancient church buildings were constructed, they took decades to complete.
Workers died in dangerous conditions.
They labored for a lifetime on a project they did not begin
and would not see completed.
They followed plans they did not create.
They were committed to a project that was not of their own design.

So, too, we are committed to an enterprise begun long ago by Jesus
which will last for ages to come.
The Church of Christ is not our own and we did not create it.
The plans are given to us in the Scriptures and the Catechism.
Serving the Church can be dangerous, and even costs some people their lives.

The Church is the sacrament of unity and the instrument of salvation for all people,
and, despite the challenges and sorrows, to serve and to build up the Church
is an act of love which brings the greatest joy and peace.

The psalms present the question:
“Once the foundations have been destroyed, what can the just do?”
In a time when it seems as though our foundations are being shaken,
Christ offers us a compelling answer to this question.
He looks us in the eye and says: “rebuild my Church!”

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Homily 19 October 2008 Twenty Ninth Sunday of the Year A

Story of godson Joseph swallowing a quarter…

Today’s Gospel story centers around a coin, specifically the Roman denarius.

The Pharisees, overcome by greed and for power,
seek a way in which they can trap Jesus
and use His words to destroy His public image.

Passionate about covering their own tracks, they send their students to Jesus,
and even their approach to Jesus is inauthentic and shrewd.
They offer Him compliments in an effort to win Him over and appear trustworthy.
Instead they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, who come to make a fool of Jesus.

They ask: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their hearts, Jesus replies:
“Show me the coin that pays the census tax.
Whose image is this and whose inscription?”

The Pharisees point out the obvious: the coins of the empire bear the image of Caesar.

Jesus concludes the seemingly mundane dialogue over the census tax
with a much more profound statement:
“Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

It is important to focus on the theme of “image” in today’s Gospel.
As believing Israelite would have known,
every human person bears the image of God.
Even more, the Christian bears the indelible inscription that comes with Baptism.

The coin that bears Caesar’s image belongs to Caesar.
We who bear God’s image belong to God.

When Jesus says “Repay to God what belongs to God,”
He intends that we would offer, not the passing wealth of coins,
but our very selves, to Him, as a living sacrifice of praise.

Thus, the Church Fathers write:
“The image of God is not depicted on gold but is imaged in humanity.
And so, give your wealth to Caesar
but reserve for God the sole innocence of your conscience,
where God is beheld.”

We see in this teaching of Jesus the two realms in life: the temporal and the eternal.

The divine image within us binds us to Almighty God
and our true citizenship is in Heaven.
Yet we have a legitimate obligation to care for the world here and now
and to participate in public life as faithful citizens of our country.

Archbishop Charles Chaput recently published a timely book
titled Render unto Caesar
on the subject of living our faith in the public sphere.
In it he writes,
“We have obligations as believers [in God].
We have duties as citizens.
We need to honor both, or we honor neither.”

Because even the wealth we render to Caesar – to the State – is gift from God,
everything in the temporal realm as well must be used according to His will.
As Americans, in 17 days we will face a decisive moment:
a day on which we exercise our civic duty
and have a voice in our nation’s future.

As Catholics living in the United States,
we have an obligation to approach this important responsibility
with deep faith and a commitment to advancing the kingdom of God.

In their 2007 document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,
the U. S. Bishops lay out the truths that guide us
as we discern our participation in political life.

As we heard from the Fathers of the Church, we reserve for God our consciences,
that innermost sanctuary within us where we behold God
and hear His voice calling us to obey His law – a law we did not create –
to love with all our hearts, to do good and avoid evil.

Living, acting, or voting according to our consciences
does not mean following a “good feeling,” or a hunch, or taking a poll.

Instead, it means desiring to embrace goodness and truth,
learning the truth of God about the issues we face
and the facts about our choices
prayerfully discerning the will of God for our lives
and making a sound and prudent judgment.

The obligation to enter into the political process with a well-formed conscience,
in this particular historical moment, means three things:
First, our consciences must be formed according to God’s law
through prayer, and study of the Scripture and teachings of the Church.
Every Catholic family should have a Bible and a Catechism, and read them often.
As Bp. Murry told us, priests have an obligation to teach the faith in our homilies.
We cannot live without the Word that comes from the mouth of God,
and which is revealed to us in Scripture and Tradition.

Secondly, we must know God’s truth regarding the issues we face
and the Church’s moral principles.
As the bishops write, “There are some things we must never do…
because they are always incompatible with the love of God and neighbor.”
These things we call “intrinsically evil acts,”
for they are evil in themselves, regardless of circumstances in which they occur.

We have a moral obligation to always pursue the good and avoid evil.

In our time, the bishops call to our attention that
“abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity.”
and, furthermore,
“direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life,
such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos…
must always be opposed.”

There are many things that can broadly be called “life issues” –
genocide, , , poverty, health care.

What is more, there are certainly many issues that affect our nation,
as we face economic uncertainty
and as many young people are still fighting for freedom in far away places.

Yet, there is nothing so heinous as the
violation of the sanctity of a mother’s womb
the so called “mercy ” of the elderly,
or the creation and destruction of human persons for research.

Yes, there are many issues, but some are more significant than others.

We must avoid two temptations:
either to treat all issues with no moral distinction,
or to manipulate distinctions in order to justify ignoring the sanctity of life.

We must never forget that, as Pope John Paul II said,
“the common outcry…on behalf of human rights…
the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture –
is false and illusory if the right to life…
is not defended with the maximum determination.”

A unique threat to human life which we face now is a bill called the F.O.C.A.
Please read the insert in this week’s bulletin at Bishop Murry’s request.
and research the various candidates’ position on this legislation.

Finally, it is important to know where the candidates for both parties stand
on all the issues that face us as a nation.
It is simply not good enough to vote straight ticket because that’s what Grandpa did
or to vote without deliberation for one party
because the other has been previously disappointing.

God’s Word to us today…as well as the compelling situation we face…
as Catholics and as Americans…demands that we
know our faith…research our choices…and make sound moral judgments.

The choices we make next month will determine the course of our nation
and the kind of society we leave as an inheritance for our children.

By God’s grace, may it be a society where everyone…everyone…is loved!

Homily 5 October 2008 27th Sunday of the Year/Respect Life Sunday

When in the course of human events, it became necessary for the 13 colonies which formed the U.S.A. to separate themselves from the imperial power of Great Britain, the God-fearing gentlemen who met in Congress to form and lead the infant nation declared in writing their independence, the reasons for their declaration, and the grievances which precipitated it.

They declare also what they believed about the dignity of the human person: the self–evident truth that meant women are created by God and endowed with the inalienable right to life.

In the history of our nation, that truth has become much less self-evident for Americans – indeed for all people – and particularly in the last 35 years the respect due to human life has suffered numerous attacks.

In our nation, that which the founding fathers thought to be self-evident has been stripped of all legal and cultural support.

Today the Church observes Respect Life Sunday, as she calls to mind for all people of good will the inalienable right to Life and the Divine imperative to respect dignity of human person.

In his famous farewell address to the nation, George Washington remarked that religion and morality are “indispensable supports” to political prosperity.

With this observance of Right to Life Sunday, the Church is reminding all people of the absolute necessity to pray and labor in defense of the unquestionable sanctity of human life, for without a basic moral framework that recognizes dignity of the human person and of human life, prosperity is truly impossible.

Respect for life was at the foundation of our country’s formation; it remains at the core of the Church’s Social Justice teaching; and it must remain the fundamental law in our hearts.

Respect for life is not the limited purview of certain committees, lobby groups, or even camps within the church. God forbid I ever hear the disparaging phrase “those pro-lifers” again.

God is pro-life. His church is pro-life. To love life is not simply a Catholic position. It is fundamentally human. To fail to love life is to abandon the essence of Christianity and humanity.

Isaiah likens chosen people of Israel to a vineyard, cherished by the Lord – a labor of love, cultivated by the Lord and planted with choicest vines.

In the history of salvation the Lord established a covenant with His people, instructed them and cared for them, that they might know Him and serve Him in holiness. God mercifully tried again and again to draw His people to Himself. These things happened as preparation and image of a new and perfect covenant in Jesus Christ.
In the fullness of time, God sent His son into the vineyard to become man and to give His life on the Cross, that we might have eternal life.

Christ established Church as the sacrament and instrument of unity for all people. The Messiah rejected and crucified has become foundation of the Church.

Christ is Vineyard of God in its’ fullness. The Lord looks upon the Church with love and delights in the worship offered to Him and the service rendered to others in His name.

The Church possesses a great dignity. The members of the Mystical Body of Christ are called to embrace their identity as the Lord’s treasured vineyard and their vocation to bear fruit that will last.

In particular, we must bear fruit in defense of life. When God looks upon His Church we do not want Him to behold a pathetic harvest, influenced by the culture of . We must pray, labor and learn every day, that we may increase in holiness, bear fruit in the Lord’s vineyard, and preach with our words, and more importantly with our lives, the Gospel of Life.

The issues surrounding respect for life are numerous. We often hear the stories of men and women in our midst: child neglect, spousal abuse, poverty, genetic engineering, , and discrimination, ography and contraception.

A person of faith cannot help but cry out: What are we doing to ourselves?

Like the servants sent into vineyard, Christ sends people into the world and we destroy their lives.
As if all that was not enough evil, then there are the even more heinous crimes against life.

Euthanasia treats the elderly and sick as disposable commodities to be thrown away when no longer useful like a pen that runs out of ink. Contrary to this, the Church says your dignity is not based on what you produce but who you are as people created and loved by God.

Embryonic Stem Cell Research presumes to create human embryos or to use existing ones gained from other illicit procedures, and then to kill these viable human persons and use them for research. This practice is all the more ridiculous given that no scientific benefit has come from it and great advances have been made from morally acceptable research on cells from umbilical cord and skin. Human life is not a laboratory experiment.

Finally, even though most Americans oppose abortion, or perhaps in limited cases
support it, misguided politicians and the media continue to try to convince us that it is good for us.

A bill in process in Washington called the Freedom of Choice Act obliterated gains in legal protection of life of the last 35 years. It defines not life but abortion as a ‘fundamental right,” eliminates parental notification, eliminates parental notification, and eliminates laws protecting women for unsafe medical clinics.
I can’t begin to describe the pain man and women in our world suffer because of abortion. The loss of 45 million lives and the devastating results in countless broken lives because of abortion demand that we oppose this kind of legislation.
Call your Senator or Representative, and ask them to defend life on your behalf.
“Freedom of Choice” is more than an interesting title. Pope Benedict XVI…speech on the South Lawn of the White House during his visit to the U. S. in April…“Preservation of Freedom calls for cultivation of virtue.”
We cannot enjoy real freedom without virtue, without love for life.

We who have come to know the love of Christ are compelled by our faith to be a voice for the old, sick, poor, and unborn. We are called, empowered and compelled by the grace of Christ to pray, speak out, write letters…all in defense of human life…that we may bear fruit that will truly last.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Homily Solemnity of Saint Michael (Transferred) 27/28 September 2008

50 Years ago this Monday…September 29, 1958…
Monsignor George Habig…representing Bishop Emmett Walsh…
dedicated the original church…what is now the gym…
here in Saint Michael Parish.

As many of you would remember,
until the Catholic people in northwest Canton had a church of their own,
Mass was held in the Avondale School.

Since that dedication day…50 years ago on the Feast of Saint Michael…
our parish has grown rapidly and beautifully
into a family of faith of over 2,600 households.

Though we have since seen the dedication of a new church building in 2000,
it is significant that we remember the first church
and the labor and love that made it a house of prayer for our ancestors,
consecrated to God and set aside as a sacred place for divine worship
under the patronage of the great Archangel Michael.

This year, as Church norms permit for patronal feasts,
we have transferred the Feast of Saint Michael to Sunday,
that we may together honor the holy Archangel
in whose honor our parish was established
and under whose patronage we continue to journey in faith.
We honor him with incense, chant, song, white vestments, and unique prayers.
As we reflect upon the ancient and beautiful Prayer to Saint Michael,
as well as the stories of Saint Michael in the Sacred Scriptures,
this special feast day offers us three very valuable spiritual lessons.

First of all, we are reminded of the supernatural realm that is quite real
though we cannot perceive it with our human senses.
Angels…pure spirits who serve God faithfully and worship him continually…
are as real as we are to one another.

There are three chief angels, or Archangels, in the splendid hierarchy of Heaven:
Gabriel, which means the “Strength of God”
is the one who brought God’s message of salvation to JBap and Mary.

Raphael, which means the “Medicine of God”
is the one who cared for Tobias on his journey,
as we read in the Book of Tobit.

Michael, whose name means “Who is like God?”
is the great defender of the Church and of God’s people.

The church believes in, trusts in, and invokes the intercession of the holy angels.

Secondly, it is also true that the supernatural realm is not entirely good and holy
as the angels who serve and worship God.
The Devil is also real.
Satan, whose name means “adversary,”
is an angel who rejected God and was cast out of Heaven.
From his abode of darkness, distant from the love of God,
he now prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls
and deceiving men and women striving for holiness.

It is convenient but dangerous to de-personalize sin
and to speak in general terms about “evil.”
Never forget that the Devil’s greatest trick is to convince us that he does not exist.

Saint Michael is the great protector,
who fought against the Devil and who defends us against evil.
Whenever we find ourselves in a struggle against sin and temptation,
it is of tremendous value to have recourse in prayer to Saint Michael.

Finally, our celebration brings into focus the reality that we are in a time of war.
This war is not the military conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Middle East.

Instead, I speak of a spiritual battle…a battle for truth, holiness, and morality…
a battle being waged in courtrooms, classrooms, and hospital rooms.
The enemies are selfishness, decadence, and the culture of .

We who have been baptized into the Mystical Body of Christ
have been summoned by Him to take our place as defenders of truth
and are led by the holy Archangel Michael into spiritual warfare.

The false values of the world, temptations of the flesh, and snares of the Devil
converge as the enemy of the truth, love, peace, and justice of God.
The examples abound…
Our children in public school are denied the opportunity to freely pray.
Catholic physicians and Catholic Charities are compromised or forced to close…
because of pressure to dispense contraception or perform abortions.
Priests are prosecuted for preaching the teachings of Christ.
Music media, television, movies, and the internet…
which provide great advantages and opportunities…
also provide new technological outlets for immorality and deviance.

Saint Michael is the defender of truth and justice.

We need him close to us today more than ever…as a companion in the trenches…
as we stand together against the injustices that affect our world…
against poverty, hunger, religious and racial discrimination,
and the greatest injustice ever conceived of by mankind:
the deliberate destruction of human life in the womb.

We must arm ourselves against these visible and invisible enemies.

St. Michael is shown dressed in armor and carrying a sword.
His image is symbolic of the true armor offered to every disciple.

Contrary to the radical ideologies some who invoke God in defense of
disciples of Christ stand in firmly rooted in love and peace.

The greatest weapons we have in the struggle for holiness are
our relationship to God, Mary and the Saints in daily prayer
the grace of the Sacraments, to which we must frequently make recourse
and the powerful truths of the Bible and the Catholic Catechism,
which we must read, study, and thoroughly understand.

With God’s grace in our hearts and souls…
with the wisdom of the Scriptures and the Church’s teaching in our minds…
and with Saint Michael at our side…
we constitute a formidable force against sin and evil.

By our words of truth and love, the example of our actions in the world,
our fervent prayers, and our well-formed participation in political life
we can and must make a stand for truth!

We have seen , corruption, and immorality for far too long
and it is time for us to say that we have had enough.

Jesus Christ is our Savior…our brother…and the source of our hope!
His truth brings us peace in this life…and the promise of eternal life!
We are called…and privileged…to fight for Jesus Christ…to fight for holiness!

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!
Christ our God, give us courage to love you and to defend the truth which sets us free!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Homily Exaltation of the Holy Cross 2008

Many centuries ago, in the year 312, Emperor Constantine the Great
faced a conflict which would have lasting impact on western civilization
and also be a life-transforming moment for Constantine himself.

On the eve of the battle, Constantine beheld a vision from Heaven:
a flaming cross in the sky,
and the words “In hoc signum vinces.” – “By this sign you will conquer.”

Constantine, a pagan military commander,
had the sign of the Christian cross painted on the shields of his soldiers.

The next day, he met the Emperor Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge,
and, by defeating him, gained control over the ancient Western Empire.

A victory of a different kind was also achieved.
Constantine’s soul was won for Christ and he converted to Christianity.

As a result, two events of major significance took place.
First, in 313, by the Edict of Milan, Constantine ended Roman persecution,
allowing Christians to build churches and worship freely.
No longer was Christianity an illegal, secret sect.
The Church could now actively grow and develop.

Second, Constantine effected the conversion of his mother, Saint Helena,
who became a devout and zealous servant of God.
It was Helena whom God called to undertake pilgrimages to the Holy Land
in search of places where Jesus lived and holy relics of His life and passion.
On September 14th, 326, Saint Helena and her companions discovered three crosses,
buried for nearly three centuries by persecuted Christians,
who could not freely venerate or display them.

As they were exposed, a sick man sat up the moment he beheld one of them,
and so they came to believe that it was truly the Cross of Christ's crucifixion,
the other two of course belonging to the two thieves.

From that moment, the true Cross of Christ, and other relics of the Passion,
became objects of public veneration and devotion for the Christian people
and remain so even unto our own day.

Today, because September 14th falls on a Sunday,
the normal course of Sundays in the Year is interrupted
as the Church throughout the world
celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Today’s Feast commemorates the miraculous discoveries by Saint Helena,
and the dedication of a church on the site of the Passion at Calvary hill.

Today the Church honors the Cross of Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been raised up and given the promise of eternal life.

The prayers and music of the Sacred Liturgy
teach us much about the realities we are celebrating.

The ancient hymn Vexilla Regis, used for centuries on this feast and Palm Sunday,
Abroad the royal banners fly And bear the gleaming Cross on high- That Cross whereon Life suffered And gave us life with dying breath.

Another ancient Christian hymn, like several other Saint Paul used in his writings,
is found in today’s Second Reading.
The famous Philippians Hymn recounts for us the ineffable mysteries we celebrate
as we honor the Holy Cross.

It is a hymn centered on Jesus Christ, which follows the thread of grace
from His Incarnation…through his humiliation…to His exaltation.

Jesus emptied Himself, being born of the Virgin and taking on our human likeness.

This reading hearkens back to the “Suffering Servant” passages of Isaiah 52.
Jesus Christ is the suffering servant, whom Isaiah foretold,
the one who would submit Himself to and abuse,
and eventually pour out His life in sacrifice for human sin.

There is a close relationship between the humanity and divinity of Jesus,
so that the self-emptying we see in Jesus’ humanity
reveals the reality of the life-giving love
that flows from Person to Person within the Divine Trinity.

Jesus humbled Himself, accepting the ignominious of crucifixion.

Jesus is contrasted to Adam in the first chapter of Genesis.
Whereas Adam asserted Himself in grasping at divinity,
taking the fruit that the serpent said “would make him like a god”
Jesus restricts the use of His divine abilities
and accepts our human limitations.
Jesus was in fact God…but He did not use His godliness for His benefit…
but instead humbled Himself for our sake.
Jesus made Himself poor, so we could be rich in God’s grace.

Jesus endured the ultimate indignity of Roman law – crucifixion –
a punishment reserved to slaves, insurrectionists, and the worst of criminals,
that sinful humanity might inherit eternal life.

Therefore, He was exalted, and His humanity was clothed with divine glory.

The exaltation we celebrate was not only in the Resurrection, after the Passion.
Truly, the triumph occurs as the Son of God is immolated for our salvation.
It is in the moment the Crucifixion…in His suffering…that Jesus’ glory is revealed.
The Cross itself is the sign of victory, and the standard of triumph!

Therefore, all creation…in Heaven, on earth and under the earth…
must bend the knee, acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and be humbled before Him.

The same glorious destiny of Jesus awaits all who humble themselves as Jesus did.
The Gospel proclaims to us that, because of His infinite love for us,
God sent His only Son into the world to give His life
that we might have eternal life.

As the serpent, which, when lifted up, cured those who were bitten,
so the Son of Man was lifted for the salvation of those
who have been bitten by sin.

The bronze serpent was a sign that healed.
The Cross is the instrument of our redemption.

Jesus was lifted up…He was exalted in His suffering
and displayed for us the perfect example of self-emptying love and humility.

So, the Cross is so much more than a symbol that hangs on a wall
or around our necks.
The sign of the cross points to a person, an event, a reality.
What happened on the Cross is the most significant and defining reality of
who Jesus is and who we are.
Many of us wear crosses.
All of us, hopefully, display a crucifix in our homes.
When we look upon the Cross, we are reminded of its powerful meaning:
that Jesus Christ accepted the worst possible
to reveal to us the extent of God’s love.
The Cross also reveals to us the ideal of true Christian discipleship.
We, too, have a dignity, as human persons made in the image of God.
But it is not a dignity that we regard as something to be grasped,
something to be used for our benefit.
It is a dignity we lay down for Christ and for others.

We must be willing to sacrifice everything for Christ and for others, even our lives.
Our sufferings, inconveniences, and sorrows take on infinite value
when we embrace them and unites them to the Cross of Christ.

For Constantine the Cross was the sign of victory.
For us it is a reminder that Christ was victorious over sin and .

And so the Church calls us to honor the Cross…
to display the Cross…wear the Cross…to live the Cross…
that with our lips, our hearts, and our lives,
we shall forever proclaim with the Church throughout the world
We adore you O Christ and we praise you.
Because by your holy Cross we have redeemed the world!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Homily Twenty Second Sunday of the Year 31 August 2008

[Some sections ad libitum.]

This is my body, broken for you--Feast so you will never hungerThis is my , given for you--Drink that you may never thirstThe body that will nourish you--And bring you to share in my gloryThe that will give you new life--And fill you with love that will not disappointIt costs me everything, yet I give it freely--It is my greatest joy to give my life for youThis is my body--Do this and remember me

These lines make up the first half of a poem by an anonymous author
Te writer reflects upon his devotion to Jesus Christ,
the one for whom these words carry a profound meaning of self-sacrifice:
“This is my Body, given up for you.”
“This is my Body, scourged, beaten, torn open, pierced, and crucified,
for you, that your sins may be forgiven.”
“This is my greatest joy: to give my life that you may have life.”

The selflessness of Christ is perfect, redemptive, and compelling.

In every Mass we commemorate this great Paschal Mystery,
represented on the Altar of Sacrifice.
The body and once broken and poured out on the Cross
is again made present among us and within us
and continues to be the source of life eternal for all who believe.

The second half of the poem is a reflection on a modern expression of these words,
rooted not in selfless sacrifice, like that of Jesus,
but a selfish thirst for personal satisfaction.

In contrast to the Savior’s perfect offering of His body for our salvation
is the self-serving attitude embraced by many in contemporary society –
“This is my body. I can use and abuse it however I please.”
– in particular the so-called “right to choose.”
The poem continues…
This is my body, kept for myself--Barren so I may prosperThis is my , withheld from you--You would steal my vitalityThe body would nourish you--But you must suffer that I may thriveThe would be shed to give you life--But you will bleed to give me “freedom”Your cost is too high, I will not pay it--You are my shame, you are not wantedThis is my body--You are soon forgotten

Today, we encounter people who, in a variety of unfortunate ways,
view their own human bodies and the bodies of others as objects to be used
rather than beautiful works of art fashioned by God
and living signs of His loving presence and creative genius.

Odd and numerous piercings and tattoos
mutilate and disfigure the body as God created it.
Immodest dress fails to recognize the dignity of the body
and makes it into an object of for another.

In contrast to the attitude of the world,
the Church echoes the wisdom of Saint Paul,
who calls us Catholic Christians to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.

The human body is God’s crowning achievement in His masterpiece of the universe
and a temple of the Holy Spirit by virtue of our Baptism.
We are called to honor and please God by the way we treat our bodies
and to view them as holy creations,
which are involved in our total act of worship.

Paul reminds us, too that we are called to be holy, to seek to know the will of God
and to conform ourselves to His will rather than the attitudes of this age.

It is providential that this Sunday follows Friday’s feast…
for there is a spiritual theme that connects today’s reading from Saint Paul
with the Gospel of the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist.
John the Baptist prepared for his as a martyr by the way he lived His life…
He denied Himself constantly and so did not hesitate to give even his life,
as he was beheaded by Herod…
From conception, he proclaimed the presence of the Messiah, as was his vocation,
and stood up in defense of the truth….
He could have taken the easy road and kept his mouth shut about Herod’s marriage,
but it was not who he was…
He could not ignore the truth and he paid the ultimate price….
In contrast is Herod’s selfishness, who took John’s life only to please his guests…

John the Baptist laid down his life in little ways every day,
denying himself, offering his body as a living sacrifice for the glory of God,
until finally he have his head for the sake of the Gospel.

No less is asked of us, who call ourselves Christians.

We can take the easy road.
We can go with the flow of the world’s attitude, and be comfortable and popular.

As ship is safe in the harbor. But that’s not why a ship is built.
It’s always safer to avoid risk.
But the easy road is not what Saint John the Baptist, or Saint Paul,
or you and I have been called to follow.

It’s not who we are, for we are the body of Christ.
Be who you are. Offer your bodies and lives as living sacrifices for Christ.
Find in him the peace, the love, and the joy that lasts forever!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Homily 21st Sunday of the Year 24 August 2008

Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus, bonae voluntatis.
Laudamus te.
Benedicimus te.
Adoramus te.
Glorificamus te.
Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.

If ever you’re in Rome, and attend Mass at St. Peter’s on Sunday/Feast/Solemnity,
you will hear these words chanted.
They are the first words of the Gloria in Latin, the official language of the Church.

This musical setting of the Gloria has been sung in Rome…
and in churches throughout the world…for at least 1,000 years.

In every Mass on Sundays and major feasts of the liturgical year,
the Church recites or sings the Gloria,
an ancient hymn of praise to God.

The Gloria is among the most beautiful and significant prayers of the Liturgy.

The hymn begins with the words of the angels to the shepherds
on the night of the birth of Christ…
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will…
and continues with poetic lines expressing our humble prayer of praise
before the presence of our almighty and ever-loving God.
The Liturgy and the devotions of the Church
celebrated throughout the world in every age
constantly give glory to God in prayers, hymns, readings, chants.

As our Holy Father writes in his book Jesus of Nazareth,
human words are not sufficient to give voice to our praise of God
and so we must employ music in our sacred worship.

The prayers of the Mass are meant to be sung,
and our musical prayer is the fullest expression of our glorification of God.
At the same time, the music we employ is itself a gift from the Lord.
It is He who inspires the talents of composers and musicians.
In singing God’s praise in the Sacred Liturgy,
we return to God what we received from Him,
just as in the Mass we offer bread and wine which come from His bounty.

The Eucharistic Prayer always ends with the doxology:
Through Him, with Him, in Him,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father,
forever and ever.

One of the most common prayers…used in the Rosary and Liturgy of the Hours…
is the Gloria Patri…

In so many ways, we glorify God by our liturgical and devotional prayer.

Our prayer expresses what we believe, and is also the for how we are to live.

Our stance of glorifying God does not end with the end of the Rosary or Mass.
Our daily lives are meant to be a living sacrifice of praise…
rising to Heaven like the beautiful fragrant smoke of incense…
and a constant living hymn of adoration.

The faith we pray about must take root in us and enliven our every word and action
if we are to be authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Jesuits have for centuries kept as their motto:
“Ad majoriem Dei gloriam.” “For the greater glory of God.”

This is an ancient phrase that can serve as a life’s motto for any Christian.
In all that we do, we ought not ever seek our own interests
but instead seek to give glory to God in everything…
even in the seemingly minute activities of each day.

Perhaps that seems strange.
Certainly we do not mean that we could possibly “give” God His glory,
as if His great beauty and splendor depend somehow on us!?

Surely not, for as Saint Paul writes, who has ever given the Lord anything
for which the Lord remains in debt to him?!

Truly it is God who deserves all the glory from His humble servants.

When we say speak of giving glory to God,
what we mean is that we…in our humble, frail way...
acknowledge the glory of God
and the awesome mystery of His presence.

In a chapter of his Letter to the Romans charged with passionate emotion,
Saint Paul proclaims the unfathomable depths
of the wisdom, riches, and knowledge of God.

The fullness of His plans is not known to us and His divinity remains a mystery.
No one of us…no human person that is or ever was or will be…
would presume to truly know the extent of the mind of God.

The more deeply we enter into the spiritual life,
the more we realize that everything we are able to do, and all that we possess
is entirely an undeserved gift from God.

Truly, everything is grace!

The more we realize this, the better our lives will be
and the closer we will be drawn into relationship with God.

As we acknowledge that we are not the source of our own existence
that we are not sustained by our own merits
and that everything we accomplish is aided by the presence of the H. S.
we begin to more and more praise and thank God for everything.

In this our lives truly become a living sacrifice of praise.

Notice that in the Gloria, the phrase “Glory to God in the highest!”
is followed immediately by “and peace on earth to men of good will.”

The prayer of the Church always teaches us,
and in this case it reminds us that true, lasting peace is only found on earth
when men and women first give glory, praise, and thanks to God.

And so we must join our prayers and our lives
to the prayer and the activity of the Church,
who never ceases to praise the living and true God,
the source of our well-being and redemption.

From God and through Him and for Him all things are, Paul reminds us.

With the Church, we beg the peace which comes only from God
as we give glory and honor to Him forever!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Homily Solemnity of the Assumption 2008

For over 2,000 years,
the Church both in the Roman Rite and in the East…
in numerous languages, tribes and nations
through a great variety of images, feasts, and prayers
has ceaselessly rendered honor and devotion to the Mother of God.

The icons of Church in the East do not attempt to portray human details
but instead are windows into Heaven
which present lessons from another world with great spiritual value.

In the icon of “Our Lady of Perpetual Help,”
Mary is portrayed as a royal woman amid Heaven’s splendor.
The gold in the background and in Mary’s robes symbolize the glory of Heaven.
Mary is wearing a hooded cape of royal blue, lined in green, over a red tunic.
These are the royal colors worn by the Byzantine Empresses.
On her head is an 8-pointed star,
showing that Mary is the star that points the way to Christ.

Mary is an important woman,
truly a Queen arrayed in gold as the Psalm today proclaims,
a woman of power and position in God’s plan of salvation.

Mary looks…not at Jesus or to Heaven…
but out toward us, as if ready to share with us something very significant.

Greek Letters: “Mother of God” / “Jesus Christ”

The figure of the infant Jesus is also clothed in royal red and green.
He is curled up in His mother’s arms, clutching her thumb,
and looking back at something that has frightened Him.
He has run in fear to His mother’s secure embrace,
and has run so fast that His sandal broke and is dangling from His foot!

In the upper corners, according to the Greek abbreviations,
are the angels Michael and Gabriel.
They are the source of the fear that overcomes Jesus,
for they hold in their veiled hands the instruments of the Passion:
the Cross, nails, jar of vinegar, stick with a sponge, spear.

Having seen a vision of the Angels,
revealing to Him the instruments of the Passion that awaits Him,
Jesus runs into the loving and comforting arms of His dear Mother.

Mary, was a strong, loving, and wise woman,
a perfect mother who comforted the Christ child in His infancy.

Mary looks at us with intensity,
knowing that there are times of fear or sorrow when we need to be comforted,
and she promises never to leave us.

As we celebrate today, at the end of her earthly life,
Mary was kept free from the decay of
and was assumed body and soul into Heaven, where she reigns as Queen.

Mary is the Mother whom Jesus Christ took on our human flesh
and the one through whom we, along with our merits and prayers,
return glory and praise to Jesus.

Ad Jesum per Mariam…the famous Latin adage proclaims.
To Jesus through Mary!

Jesus Christ is our salvation and it is to God alone that our worship is rendered.
Yet Jesus Himself, in entrusting Mary to John at the foot of the Cross,
and in so doing giving her to the entire Church as our Mother,
has showed us that we can and should worship Him through her.

Saint Louis De Montfort…
author of the great spiritual book True Devotion to Mary
teaches us that by establishing in our lives devotion to Mary,
we establish for ourselves a more perfect relationship to Christ.

Just as Mary was necessary in the drama of salvation,
as the vessel through which Jesus entered into the world,
so she is essential to the fulfillment of our salvation.

Of course we can appeal directly to Jesus.
But how much more complete and beautiful are our efforts and prayers
if they are offered in union with Mary, the sinless Mother of God!

Imagine any good work and prayer of your life.
On its own it is worth much and is precious in God’s sight,
for God delights in our prayer and self-offering.

But imagine our prayers and sacrifices offered to Jesus through Mary!
Mary takes them in her loving hands,
wraps them beautifully with her own perfect prayer,
and like a gift wrapped in gold paper and silk ribbons,
presents a perfect package to Her son Jesus on our behalf.

How could Jesus refuse anything brought to Him by His beloved mother?!

The perfect exercise of devotion to Jesus is devotion to His Mother Mary.
Devotion to Mary consists in giving everything to her:
our bodies and souls, our possessions, our prayers, and our good works,
that she may accompany us in every moment of our journey of life
perfecting all that we have and all that we do,
and drawing us into intimate union with Jesus her Son.

The culmination of Saint Louis De Montfort’s spiritual teaching
is the great and beloved Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.
“Consecration” means to set something or someone aside for a sacred purpose.

Chalices and Altars are consecrated for sacred use in the Liturgy.
Men and women religious are consecrated to God by the vows they take.
Priests are consecrated for the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass
by the laying on of hands by the Bishop.
Any prayer of consecration is an act of devotion
by which we give ourselves entirely to God
and promise complete fidelity, obedience, and surrender to Him.

The consecration to Jesus through Mary consists of 33 days of prayer
with the act of consecration itself taking place on the 34th day,
which is always a Marian feast.

Before my Ordination to the Priesthood, led by the seminary Rector,
I made the consecration with several of my brother seminarians.
I plan to renew it in the coming weeks leading up to the Feast of O. L. Walsingham
and I am happy to share information about it with anyone who is interested.

By this act of consecration, we open our hearts completely and without hesitation
to Mary, our Mother,
allowing her to share in our lives
and bring us into deeper communion with Jesus.

Mary is our Mother and the source of perpetual help and comfort.
The more we dedicate ourselves to Mary and through her to Jesus,
the more grace we will receive from Him to resist sin and choose holiness.

Give everything to Jesus through Mary,
and your fears and trials will fade in the light of God’s peace
as your bodies and souls find rest in Mary’s embrace.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Homily 19th Sunday of the Year 10 August 2008

Brad Braxton, a Baptist minster who teaches homiletics at Vanderbilt Univ.
defines preaching as
“The faithful, passionate reporting of God’s useful news.”

We expect a clergyman giving a homily to be faithful.
We expect that he is telling us the truth and believes what he is saying.

We usually benefit and are inspired if he is also passionate,
if he shows that he cares about his hearers and about what he is saying,
because passion is a sign of authenticity.

However, it is not too common to refer to preaching,
or to the Gospel message in general, as “useful.”

Of course, what is common is not necessarily true.

In fact, God’s message does have practical implications for our lives.
It is indeed useful.

The Word of God, revealed in the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church,
is not simply the topic of seminary classes and the prayer of monks.

It is a real message that has meaning and value for the daily lives
of every human person.
We can all read Church documents and the Bible.

Though they may take time to digest...they are not beyond us.

The spiritual life is ultimately meant to bring us to Heaven’s glory
and yet God’s Word and the mission of the Church
has great value for making life on earth peaceful, joyful, and fulfilling.

And as the Second Vatican Council reminds us,
every baptized person has a role to play in spreading the Gospel message.
We are called to witness to God’s truth and love, so that lives can be made whole.

As Saint Paul so poignantly describes to us today,
there is an certain anguish within the hearts of all true Gospel witnesses.

Saint Paul writes,
“I speak the truth, I do not lie;
my conscience joins with the Holy spirit in bearing me witness
that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.”

He goes on to describe the special relationship Israel has to God
and the glorious promise given to them by their creator.

Paul is an apostle who sees the promise and potential in his people
and as he longs for the fulfillment of that promise, he is filled with anguish.

This is the anguish of parents who know the potential within their children
who want them to be happy, healthy and holy
who long for them to remain close to God and the practice of the faith
and yet have to see them falter as they find their own way.

This is the anguish of minister of the Gospel
who knows in his heart the dignity of the human person
and their capacity for loving God and neighbor
who knows in his heart the splendor of truth and the power of God’s love
and yet must behold God’s people straying from Him in sin.

This is the anguish of the misunderstood and rejected preacher
who knows the fullness of what life in God can be
and at the same time encounters those who are not even interested.

For Saint Paul, the sorrow is great and the anguish is constant.
He would even die…and be himself separated from Christ…
if it meant that other souls would enjoy the fullness of God’s promises.

The truth is that the heart of every Christian mother, father, teacher, and minster
should be filled with this very anguish.

There should be sorrow in our hearts as we realize
that there are those who live without God…
those who live without the Eucharist, Mary, the Saints...etc...

The sorrow should be great and the anguish constant…
because the number of those who need to hear the Gospel…from us…is vast.
Sorrow over those who do not know the fullness of God’s revelation
should not lead us to despair
but should inflame within us a passion for living as witnesses to Christ.
If the flame of faith given to us at Baptism has weakened or wavered
then we need to re-ignite it through a life of constant prayer and study.

This passionate flame of faith gives us the courage to step out of the boat…
out of the realm of security, comfort, popularity
and into the rough waters of being a radical Christian
in the midst of the world.

Being a Christian in the 21st Century can be an experience of sinking,
of overwhelming pressure to give in to society’s temptations.

Notice that Peter only begins to sink
when he focuses on his own fears and problems and takes his eyes off Christ.
Our calling as disciples of Jesus is to fix our gaze entirely on Him,
to walk and speak with confidence, leading others to Him.

With a passionate faith, we can joyfully and lovingly speak to others
a word about God that will be truly useful,
that will make their lives more complete.

We can tell our friends, coworkers, the people we meet by chance…or Providence
what God means to us, what the Eucharist is,
who our favorite saint is and why,
why human life and married love must be valued.

Each of us can faithful and passionately proclaim God’s useful news…
and in so doing we might just find that we will change a life forever!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Homily Fifteenth Sunday of the Year 13 July 2008

The Christian life is always characterized by a sense of expectation
and a healthy tension between living our faith in this earthly life
and the eternal life of Heaven we anticipate.

We are truly made for Heaven and we long to rest in God’s presence,
in His kingdom of light and peace,
where sin and are vanquished and all is filled with love and joy.

At the same time, God has placed us here… in this world of imperfections…
where all creation is groaning and suffering…
that we may be witnesses to the glorious freedom of God’s children
and make the kingdom come alive even here and now.

The kingdom of God is no less than the presence of God Himself…
that awesome presence that transforms us into people of love and hope.

This kingdom is fulfilled only in Heaven,
where there is no need for lamps because God Himself is the light.
Everything is filled with His glorious presence and so His reign is complete.

In this world, the kingdom is beheld in glimpses but is incomplete.
As Saint Paul writes, we groan as we eagerly await the fullness of redemption.

Yet, by our own courageous witness in this world…
we can make God more and more known and loved
so that His presence…His kingdom…
may fill the hearts and souls of men and women everywhere
and change them into His very sons and daughters.

We do this by living and teaching the Scriptures and the Catholic faith
so that all may come to know the truth of God that sets them free
by reaching out to those who are suffering with compassion
that the lowly and despairing may come to know God’s love
by worshiping and praying with fervent devotion
every day of our lives…without exception…
that the earth may be filled with the glorious sound of God’s praise!

Today’s second reading from Saint Paul
helps us to understand more fully the situation of our earthly exile
and his lessons are most valuable for fulfilling our Christian duty.

First, it is not only we who are groaning as we eagerly await our redemption.
All of creation is caught up in the expectation of God’s glorious revelation.

The final destiny of creation is linked to the final destiny of man.

Thus, there is a real bond between ourselves and the whole created universe
such that the world in which we live now
is much more than a convenient and endless supply of goods
for us to use, abuse, and waste.
We naturally realize this in many different ways.
Parents tell children to clean their plates because some hungry child far away
would live for a day on the scraps we throw in the trash.
We dispose of paint and old batteries in a proper way
because it is dangerous to pollute the water supply.
There are laws and regulations about the dumping of waste, the ozone,
and hunting of certain animals.

These are only a few examples of our response to God’s call
to be good stewards of creation.

There is still a deeper lesson involved in the Christian view of creation.

We believe that we must respect the world around us and treat creation with care
not simply so that we may continue to have it for our use
but because creation is not ours.

The whole world belongs to God.
We simply have been privileged to borrow it and to live in it for a time,
and God has other plans for it for many years to come.

Our Christian approach to stewardship, ecology, and justice
is based in the primacy of God in everything
and the knowledge that without fidelity to God and worship of Him
all our work is without the divine foundation
that makes it holy and truly effective for the salvation of souls.

In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI includes a quote
from the German Jesuit priest Alfred Delp, who was executed by the s.
Father Delp wrote:
“Bread is important. Freedom is more important.
But most important of all is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration.”

These words were not written by a man unfamiliar with injustice
but by one who had be deprived of both bread and freedom.
Still, after all his suffering, he knew that without fidelity and worship of God
the things we might insist are more important than these
end up being nothing at all!

Secondly, Saint Paul’s words about our eager anticipation of the kingdom
remind us that, although our salvation has been accomplished
by the sacrifice of the Cross
and although the Spirit lives within us…
we have not yet reached the fullness of what God has planned for us.

We find ourselves in this in-between moment between Christ's Paschal Mystery
and the fullest revelation of God’s glory in Heaven.

As we gather for worship, the Sacred Liturgy contains three levels.
The dynamic of these levels of worship portrays the reality of our earthly journey.

The sacrifice of Calvary is represented in this celebration of Holy Mass,
which is itself an anticipation of the eternal Liturgy of Heaven.

We have been called to enter into this time of waiting.
This call to waiting means that we have work to do
and that God expects great things of us.

We are not called to passively accept the gifts God bestows upon us
expecting to be entertained at Mass and sustained in life.

Instead, we are called to full, conscious, and active participation in the Church
not only in liturgical ministry or in times when we are noticed
but when it is inconvenient, unpopular, and even painful.

God expects us to make good use of our brief stay on this earth
and to seize every moment as an opportunity
to make His truth and love shine brightly for all to see,
that men and women everywhere may be faithful to God
and may worship Him in spirit and in truth.

All the while, God assures us that the sufferings we endure in this life…
sickness, , mental anguish, persecution for the sake of the Gospel…
do not have the final word.

They count as nothing, Saint Paul tell us,
compared with the glory to be revealed for us who love the Lord.

God’s abundant blessings…purchased for us long ago on the Altar of the Cross….
shall be revealed to us as the reward of our goodness
in the glory of Heaven for which we long.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Homily 12th Sunday of the Year 22 June 2008

Throughout his papacy, Pope John Paul the Great
preached in churches, stadiums, and arenas throughout the world
and he consistently offered one brief, yet powerful message.

It was his most famous sound bite and the clarion call of his “New Evangelization.”
“Be not afraid!”

John Paul II was a man who lived through war, persecution, and poverty
and persevered in following the Lord’s call to priesthood.
There was much he could have feared…
and yet his relationship with the Lord was so deep and so authentic
that he lived and spoke with conviction
the Lord’s words in today’s Gospel: “Do not be afraid!”

Traumatic and difficult moments…
death, terminal illness, devastation and natural disaster…
often leave us speechless…or worse…reduce us to platitudes.

We foolishly say to people…imagining that we’re comforting them…
“Oh, don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. It’ll turn out all right.”
…when in reality we have no idea what they’re feeling
or what will happen in the end.
How often we casually tell people not to worry and not to be afraid.

Yet, that is precisely what Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “Do not be afraid!”
The essential and life-transforming difference
between our platitudes and Jesus’ command
is that the words of Jesus Christ…the Word of God…
have the power to accomplish what they signify!

John Paul II knew this intimately and he spoke with love and certainty
because He was absolutely convinced that being united to Christ
gives us the power never to fear again.

Jesus does not speak mere human words.
Rather, He enters our lives…and in Him we overcome all fear and anxiety.

Jesus’ teaching amounts to far more than cheap advice.
For each time Jesus mentions fear in this Gospel,
at the same time He makes reference to Himself or our Heavenly Father.
The remedy for earthly fear is entering into total union with God.

In today’s Gospel, the presence and wisdom of Jesus dispel three fears.

The first is the fear of our secret selves, and our past and hidden sins.
In most people’s lives, there is something hidden,
some paralyzing evil we struggle to keep concealed in the darkness,
some addiction or suffering of which we cannot bear to speak.

We are afraid what someone may think of us, or do to us…if they know.
All the while, we must remember that nothing is hidden from God
and all will be revealed on the day of judgment.
Sins we have foolishly feared to bring into the light in the Sacrament of Penance
will eventually be made manifest in purgatory.

Jesus calls us to have courage and come to confession regularly…
to confront the truth about ourselves and bring our dark side into the light…
so that we may be forgiven by Christ
and through the ministry of the Church
find the resources and the grace to live in peace and joy,
free from fear and the shackles of our hidden self.

Knowing the infinite love and mercy that awaits us…
we should run to the confessional…
for Jesus comes to free us from anxiety and bring us new life!

Second, there is the fear we often have about sickness and .
As we see other people…either family and friends or people in the news…
enduring serious sickness, surgery, or dying young or unexpectedly…
what we see in others can create anxiety within us.

Sickness comes to many…and comes to us all.
Yet, through every challenge of life…and in the passage from this life…
the presence of God’s providential care envelops and sustains us.
We need not fear anything that attacks our bodies…
for Christ has triumphed over
and God is more powerful than every disease…and even the sting of !

Even when God allows us to experience suffering, it is for some good purpose.
And all the while, He who knows and counts even the hairs of our head
walks the journey of life with us…
giving us grace to overcome details of life
over which we would without Him be powerless.

Jesus calls us to entrust every day, every decision, every moment of trial
into the loving hands of our Heavenly Father…
for His will is always best for us.
Give everything to God…and His care for us will never fail!

Third, there is the fear related to our self-worth.
The world tells us that we are only worth something based on what we have,
what we have accomplished, or what academic degrees we can boast of.

Jesus reminds us that, in God’s eyes, we are worth more than many sparrows…
more than all the gold and precious jewels in the world…
more than all the treasures of the Vatican and the money in Fort Knox

Our value in God’s sight is not based on what we possess or what we have done
but who we are…
creatures loved into being by God and sealed with His image.

What is more…God is not pleased with us
because of our money, possessions, and worldly success.
He is pleased with us when we study and share our faith…
remain committed to constant prayer…and love unconditionally.
It is in the fulfillment of our sacred duties that God delights in His people!
Christ comes to calm our fears and to offer us a sure remedy for every anxiety.

Confident in God’s loving and never-failing care,
we find the strength in our daily lives to live the words of Jesus:
“I am with you…Do not ever be afraid!”

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Homily Tenth Sunday of the Year A 2008

In these beautiful Spring days, we celebrate ordinations and graduations…
moments which are inevitably bittersweet.

The theme of friendship always surfaces this time of year…
as our young people make autograph books
and hug…and say goodbye…and shed a few tears.

Our Saint Michael School 8th Grade Yearbook includes the following reflection:
“A friend is a hand that is always holding yours.
No matter how close or far apart you may be.
A friend is someone who is always there and will always care.
A friend is a feeling of forever in the heart.”

We treasure our relationships with one another
and see in them the hand of God
who has made human relationship
an image of His divine communion of persons.

We cannot help but know that our loving Father has been hard at work
as we ponder the chance encounters…followed by years of growth…
that have matured into relationships we now could not live without.

Today we see in Holy Scripture the story of a simple encounter
which blossoms into a life-transforming relationship.

Saint Matthew is sitting at His tax collector’s post.
Jesus approaches and greets Matthew with two simple words: “Follow me.”
Matthew describes in his own Gospel that he arose
without hesitation
without a dozen questions about where and for what reason he was following
without frantically stressing out over what his new life would mean
and he simply followed the Lord.

Soon after meeting Jesus and accepting the call to be His disciple…
Matthew hosts Jesus in his home amid a gathering of unpopular people.
The Pharisees show their disgust that Jesus is dining with tax collectors and sinners
and in so doing they reveal that their hearts are closed to Jesus’ presence
and they do not understand His mission.

Jesus has come to enter into the lives of weak, sinful men and women
and to transform them into people of holiness and truth.

Filled with pride and delight in the visit of Jesus to his home
Matthew invited his colleagues in the tax collecting business to dinner.
These were men of poor reputation, who sided with the Roman aristocracy
and cheated the people out of the money they worked so hard to earn.
The food they are eating was bought with fraudulent funds.

Jesus could have refused to come into the midst of sinners such as these
and to leave them in the wretched state in which He found them.
But instead…because of His great compassion…Jesus dines with them
and makes of this meal with sinners an opportunity for conversion.
As Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Peter Chrysologus wrote…
“Not only while he was engaging in a formal discussion or healing
or refuting His enemies, but even at breakfast
he used to restore persons who were in bad condition.”
“Certainly the dishes Matthew set before Him at that time
had come from unrighteousness and covetousness.
But Christ did not ask to be excused from participating in them,
Because the gain to be derived from it was going to be great.”

“Jesus…will call [sinners] back through feasting, collegiality,
and human affection, enjoying Himself with their pleasant conversation
while they recline at table.”

Jesus enters into an unpopular and unpleasant situation
and seizes it as an opportunity to bring about the conversion of souls.

He uses a meal, the pleasantries of human interaction and conversation
as a moment to forge a relationship between Himself and these other men
a relationship within which he could show them
His way of love and truth.

In order to become their teacher, He first becomes their friend.

People in leadership are often encouraged to “meet people where they are”
before trying to lead them anywhere.

Of course, cleverly hidden behind this phrase is usually a fear of leadership.
“Meeting people where they are” in today’s world means
catering to people’s preconceived ideas
and tiptoeing through the maze of political correctness so as not to offend.
Such an approach serves only to leave people where they were found.

If we observe the actions of Jesus, he certainly meets people where they are
by dining with them despite the stigma is creates for him
and by using the ordinary circumstances of a casual dinner
to begin a relationship that would blossom into a conversion of hearts.

Yet, we know that Jesus does not leave people where He found them.
In dozens of Gospel stories there is conversion, healing, and transformation.

Matthew began his relationship with Jesus as a tax collector
and ended it as a priest…and a missionary of the Gospel.

In the midst of the meal, Jesus offers a teaching that challenges those who hear it.

What remarkable love the Lord has for us…
that He desires to enter into relationship with us
and through that relationship to transform us into holy people.

By our prayer and devotion to the person of Jesus,
may we open our hearts more and more each day to His loving presence.
May we allow Jesus to become first our friend whose hand is always holding ours
and in the midst of friendship and prayerful communion
may He also become our teacher in the ways of truth and love.