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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Homily Christmas 2009

Over the past few weeks…
We have endured the insanity of department store checkout lines
that resemble the queue at a Disney ride
the gridlock that has brought northwest Canton to a halt since Black Friday
the stressful panic of uncertain shipping deadlines
and not finding what we’re looking for in the 7th store we’ve tried.

But now all this has come to an end…
has given way to the moment we have anticipated.

Also reaching its fulfillment tonight is our spiritual preparation
through the Church’s celebration of the Advent season.

We have recalled the writings of the prophets announcing the coming Messiah.
We have celebrated the Virgin Mary’s eager anticipation of Jesus – her son and God.
We have prepared our hearts and souls for the coming of Christ,
both at Christmas and when He should come again in His glory,
through our prayer, our confessions, and our Advent traditions.
Tonight our preparing is done…our anticipation is fulfilled…
and tidings of great joy are announced to us: a savior is born!
We gather in the peace of this night to celebrate that divine gift
that gives meaning to all we have been doing…
indeed that gives meaning to our spiritual life and our humanity…
the moment of the Incarnation.
The extravagant love of God…manifest in the gift of His Son…
is revealed in utmost simplicity and silence.

After all this waiting…after Israel has longed for the Messiah…
like Mary in labor…impatient to give birth…the time has come.
The whole universe seems to collectively gasp…catch its breath…
and pause in silence to adore the simple magnificence of God.

It is indeed the most powerful of pregnant pauses…
in which a virgin gives birth to a child who is our saving Lord.

Tonight is a silent night.

In the Gospel accounts of the Christmas story,
there is no record of a single word spoken at the stable where Jesus was born.
Neither Joseph nor Mary, neither the shepherds nor the wise men,
dare to break the silent splendor of God’s incarnate entrance into the world
with the inadequacy of human utterance.

Tonight we are gripped by the power of this awesome silence.

It was in 1818, on a cold and snowy December 23rd,
that the famous Josef Mohr, assistant pastor of Saint Nicholas Church
in the village of Oberndorf, near Salzburg,
with the help of his church organist,
put his simple poem about Christmas to music.

They wrote a melody that could be sung with guitar accompaniment
because their church organ was in disrepair.
Within a matter of a few weeks, the hymn was being sung across Europe,
for kings and crowds of worshippers alike,
and soon it had captivated the world.

“Silent Night” is a Christmas icon, and arguably the best-loved carol of all time.
Its words speak of the tenderness, the simplicity, the awesome stillness
of that first Christmas night.

All is calm as the world beholds the holy infant, so tender and mild.
Shepherds quake at the sight, as glories stream from heaven afar.
Love’s pure light appears as radiant beams from the divine face
as redeeming grace dawns upon our human sight.

And all creation rests in heavenly peace.

About 100 years after the composition of “Silent Night”
in 1914, in the midst of bloody combat on the Western Front in WWI,
on a snowy, frozen, miserable Christmas Eve,
the German troops began to sing its beautiful words from the trenches.

The British men recognized the now-famous melody and joined in.
Soon an unofficial truce had broken out as the enemy armies celebrated Christmas.
Into the chaos of war, “Silent Night” had indeed brought heavenly peace.

In our own day, Amy Grant has put her own twist on the theme
in her Christmas ballad “I Need a Silent Night.”

Reflecting on the commercial theme with which I began tonight, she sings:
Too many malls, too many storesDecember traffic, Christmas rush
December comes then disappears
Faster and faster every year
Look at us now rushing aroundTrying to buy Christmas peace

What was it like back there in Bethlehem
With peace on earth, good will toward men?

Finally, she concludes:
I need a silent night, a holy nightTo hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noiseI need a midnight clear, a little peace right hereTo end this crazy day with a silent night

All our preparing and planning has brought us to this silent night,
this holy night, filled with the peace and joy of Christ's birth.

Our love for God and His love for us draw us together
to rest for a moment in heavenly peace.

Hustle and bustle is not just a Christmas-time experience.
Every day of the year, it seems, is consumed with overwhelming busyness.
Our hearts long to capture a bit of this night’s beautiful silence,
and we are left begging for a little peace and silence in our lives
amid the chaos and the noise of our world.

This is not nearly as impossible or outlandish as it sounds.
Psalm 46 declares “Be still, and know that I am God!”

In the quiet time we set aside each day for prayer
we can capture the holy peace we feel tonight.

Indeed it is in the quietness of contemplation that God speaks to our inmost being
revealing His love, His direction amid life’s challenges, His will for our lives.

Saint Augustine wrote that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.
If our hearts are restless…if we have everything and we’re still stressed out…
it is because each of us desperately needs a silent beginning to our mornings
and a silent end to our crazy days.

Trying to live without daily quiet prayer
is worse than a Christmas light display with one bulb missing:
without it everything goes dark.
We cannot possibly complete all that is expected of us on our own.
We need to pause, listen, and absorb the word of God that nourishes and sustains us.

If we begin and end our days in holy silence,
even though the burdens and demands of life remain,
we will accept and fulfill them with the comfort of heavenly peace.

We can truly make the spirit of Christmas live on after the tree has lost its needles
by capturing the beautiful silence of this night
in the beautiful silence of our prayer.

The Lord Jesus breaks through the chaos of our world
in the stillness of our prayer – tonight in this holy Mass and every day –
touching our hearts with love’s pure light
and enveloping us in heavenly peace.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Homily Immaculate Conception 2009

Mount Saint Mary’s University and Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland,
has operated the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes since 1875.
On the grounds of the grotto is a 120 foot tall tower and gold-leafed statue
of the Virgin Mary.
Illuminated by giant flood-lights,
the statue can be seen from a distance even at night.

Over the hill behind the university campus is the presidential retreat at Camp David.

When, for financial reasons,
the university could not afford to light up the statue of Mary,
the bill was promptly picked up by the Federal Government.

For years now, Mary – gold-leafed and shining brightly –
has provided a landmark for pilots
on the approach to the airstrip at Camp David.

Mary shows the way, safely, through the darkness, to the intended destination.

In the beginning of God’s plan for the universe,
man and woman were perfectly in harmony with one another and with God.

They served God with complete fidelity
and enjoyed with pure intentions the abundance of His blessings.

That perfect harmony and worship was shattered in the moment of the original sin.

Rather than receiving the abundant gifts God showered upon them in the Garden,
Adam grasped at the fruit of the tree God had said was not good for man.
In sharing the fruit of the tree with Eve,
he brought her to share in his disobedience.

This first great act of selfishness,
this grasping at what we desire rather than receiving God’s will
is mankind’s original turning away from God: the original sin.

Adam and Eve’s turning away from the will of God
has left all mankind in the grip of a tendency toward sin.
From the moment of the original sin,
mankind has wandered without clarity of purpose,
struggling to re-discover our identity
and being pulled in opposition directions
by the whims of the world and our own desires.

The Incarnation of the Son of God is a new beginning for mankind,
and the initiation of the divine process of restoration for the whole world.

For this moment, the Virgin Mary was prepared by God in a unique way.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary was God’s plan
to preserve her from the contamination of original sin
as a worthy vessel for the incarnation of Jesus.

In the moment of the angel’s appearance,
Mary humbly submits herself as the handmaid of the Lord
and accepts the will of God for her life.

The Gospel story for today reveals that
our Blessed Mother is perfectly in harmony as a human person.
Her desires are ordered to a holy purpose, her life is focused on Christ,
her will is in tune with the divine will, and her first love is the Lord.

Mary s the life of the human person before the original sin, as God intended:
worship of God, love for others, and the pure use of God’s gifts.

Sin remains a reality for us, and we are all struggling to follow God’s our purpose...and return to the truth

In uncertainty, sadness, temptation…Mary lights the way!
She shows us how to live and how to pray:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”

With these words and with her whole life…like a gleaming, towering image…
Mary shows us the way, safely, through the darkness and troubles of life,
to the destination which perfectly fulfills the heart of every human person.
That destination is Jesus Christ.

In Jesus Christ, and with our lives finally consumed by love for Him,
we shall find the magnificence of what God has designed for our happiness
and the fulfillment of our human existence.

We find it all in Jesus Christ...
and it is Mary who shows us the way!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Homily Second Sunday of Advent 2009

In the well-known 1977 Franco Zefferilli film Jesus of Nazareth
John the Baptist, expertly played by Michael York,
is shown crying out from the desert hills:
“Repent! Change your ways! The kingdom of God is at hand!”

At his proclamation, great crowds stream toward him,
arms outstretched as they beg for mercy
their hearts yearning for the baptism of repentance John has preached.

John baptizes them with water, calling them to change their hearts
and predicting that there is still one who is to come after him: the Messiah.

As he continues to baptize great numbers of men and women,
at one point we see him head on…and he looks up…
uncharacteristically for an actor he looks directly into the camera.
With the music escalating for effect, his eyes meet ours…as if we are there.
Then the camera turns and we see that he has noticed Jesus coming down the road
and the appearance of the divine face creates a solemn stillness.

But we have been struck.
John the Baptist’s eyes have pierced us…as if we were in the line for baptism…
with all the other sinners begging for mercy…and also with Jesus.

Indeed we are there…precisely there…in the midst of a great throng of sinners…
and in the company of Jesus our Savior.
John the Baptist is the last of the prophets,
who appears not for his own sake but to prepare the way for Christ.
He recalls the words of the prophets Baruch and Isaiah…
every lofty mountain shall be leveled
every valley shall be filled in
winding paths shall be made straight and rough ways smooth.

All flesh shall see the salvation of God…shall behold the face of the Messiah…
and the terrain of our human existence
shall be impacted and changed forever.

The impact of Christ's coming shall humble the proud…
shall raise up the poor and lowly…
shall bring mercy and love to smooth the hardness of sinful human souls.

Notice the details of Saint Luke’s Gospel account of John’s preaching…
and the similarities with the Christmas story.
The historical details are nearly overwhelming.
Luke records every name and city…every governor and civil jurisdiction…
lest we forget not only that this story is real…a spiritual watershed event…
but that it is also a moment that changed the course of the world’s story.

Our encounter with Christ changes us for good as well.
We are there…with the sinners…and in the company of Jesus.
Jesus invites us to repent of our sins
and He has left us the marvelous gift of the Sacrament of Penance
as the instrument of His divine love and mercy.
There is none here who does not desire to be freed form the burden of sin.

The Lord speaks through the prophet Baruch…
to Israel of old…and to the Church…the new people of God:
“Take off your robe of mourning and misery;
put on the splendor of glory from God forever…
God will show the whole earth your splendor.”

Each time we go to confession…
God’s love divests us of the heavy burden of the robe of misery
and replaces it with a garment of purity and splendor.

In confession we encounter Christ, who loves us, and who makes us whole,
who reveals our splendor as His sons and daughters to the whole earth.

The beauty of a cleansed and forgiven child of God
is a light that shines to the whole world…revealing the love of God.

God’s invitation to confess our sins is nothing to fear
but instead is a moment of grace to anticipate with eagerness, hope and joy
just as the crowds, wide-eyed, open-armed, and excited
longed to see the face of Christ.

Every week so many faithful people come to confession in our parish.
Would that we all shared in the joy of their encounter with the mercy of Jesus!

One of the great American Christmas traditions is A Charlie Brown Christmas.
I’m sure we have all seen it and can recall its numerous lessons for life and faith.

The struggling and insecure Charlie Brown is on a path to knowledge,
and his best friend Linus accompanies him,
revealing to him the real meaning of Christmas.
Once Linus recalls the Christmas story…
Charlie takes his sad little tree and sets off into the snow.
He takes an ornament from Snoopy’s prize-winning Griswold-style doghouse,
and hangs it on his little tree,
only to have the tree droop under its weight.
“I killed it,” Charlie says with sadness. Nothing goes well for him.

Linus comes along and declares: “I never thought it was such a bad little tree.”
“Maybe it just needs a little love.”
With Linus’ blanket for support and decorations lovingly added by all the Peanuts,
Charlie’s tree stands tall and beautiful.

The crooked tree has been made straight.
The lowly tree has been exalted.
The sad and barren tree has been clothed in beauty.

The advent of Christ into our lives through His sacramental grace
smoothes the rough places of our hearts
lifts up our drooping spirits
and clothes us in the beauty of holiness
that we may be found pure and blameless on the day of the Lord.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Homily Christ the King 22 November 2009

One day a few years ago,
a 17 year old boy in a deep coma was admitted to the hospital.
With one look, the neurosurgeon on duty announced:
“He won’t live until morning –
and it’s a good thing, because he’d be a vegetable.
Thankfully, a seasoned nurse named Nancy judged otherwise.
She did what she had done for patients in similar conditions for 30 years”
she talked to the boy, played his favorite music, made simple requests of him.

The boy did live through until the morning.
Before long, he was able to make small movements.
Strangely, he would not respond at all when that doctor was in the room.
Eventually, he recovered to the point that he was discharged and went home.

Some time later, he returned to the hospital floor to offer thanks to nurse Nancy.
When she mentioned the neurosurgeon, the young man replied,
“Yes, I remember him calling me a vegetable. I wouldn’t move for him.”

It was a love that made him move.
It was the encounter with a loving person that opened the door to new life.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King.
The preface of today’s Mass calls to our minds the hallmarks of Christ's Kingdom:
It is an eternal and universal kingdom…
a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love, and peace.
Christ the King is not a politician or a secular governor.
His kingdom is not like Pilate’s or Caesar’s…it is not about earthly power…
it is not of this world.

First of all, Christ's kingdom is a kingdom of love
and He exemplifies His kingship in His Paschal Mystery.
He empties Himself of self-concern…divests Himself of earthly riches…
strips himself of glory…
in order to open His arms in love on the Cross.
When His passion is complete…
as the Psalmist declares…He is robed in majesty, girt about with glory…
and…as the Prophet Daniel foretells…
is presented with an everlasting dominion.

His power is revealed in weakness…
not in armies and thrones and splendid palaces…
but in a rugged wooden Cross, a crown of thorns, and a robe of blood.
His power is revealed not in defiance but in obedience to the Father.

It was love that moved Him…
moved Him to stand strong before Pilate…
moved him to walk the lonely road to Calvary.
moved Him to lay down His life on the Altar of the Cross,
in the one perfect sacrifice that brought life to the world.

Self-emptying…humility…obedience…this is true love…
and it is on the foundation of love that Christ establishes His kingdom.
In Christ, human paradoxes are re-defined.
Obedience brings freedom. Humility ends in glory. Death gives life.
Christ's kingdom of love is victorious!

The Book of Revelation recalls for us that Christ has made us into a kingdom.
The kingdom of Christ exists perfectly only in Heaven…
but each of us…by our Baptism…has been drawn into the kingdom
and invited to share even now in the mission of Christ…a mission of love.

It is love that moves us to accept that invitation to share the mission of Christ.

Love moved Christ to surrender Himself, and His love transforms death to life.
Christ’s love in us moves us, His servants, to surrender ourselves in His image.

The kingdom in which we share with Christ is also a kingdom of truth.
“For this I was born and for this I came into the world,” Jesus declares to Pilate,
“to testify to the truth.”
In Christ's kingdom, truth and love are inseparable.

God loved us so much that He sent His Son to reveal the truth to us…
the truth of God…the truth about ourselves…and of God’s plan for us.
Jesus’ love extends far beyond His earthly ministry.
He sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles at Pentecost as the Paraclete, the Advocate,
who would lead the Church into all truth.
The Spirit continues to reveal truth to us through the teaching of the Church,
as a living sign of God’s constant loving presence.
We trust in Christ and in His Church, for she reveals the truth anew in every age.
When Jesus stands before Pilate, He appears as the faithful witness to the truth,
not giving up, not backing down,
but testifying to the truth even when it means the Cross.

Christ's love in us moves us to witness to the truth in every time and place.
For this we were born…baptized…
and sent into the world according to our unique vocations.

God did not give Moses “The Ten Suggestions”
and Jesus did not teach His disciples “The Great Possibility.”
Commandments are a hard sell these days,
but the profit in Heaven is well worth the effort here and now.

In the midst of a culture that has largely embraced indifferentism,
and that is afraid of absolutes,
we are invited to be faithful witnesses to the truths of God,
the truth that does not bind but instead that sets us free.

Sometimes this will mean the Cross for us…
sometimes it is uncomfortable, unpopular, demanding.
And yet, being afraid to speak out against injustice and false teaching,
or allowing lies to remain unanswered is not true love.

As Saint Paul writes, “Love rejoices in the truth!”
Therefore we rejoice in the truth, for we are called by God to be people of love.

What a shame that love did not move Pilate!
Political expediency and the fear of Caesar’s wrath held him back
and he turned away from Jesus…from His love and truth.

That is not so with us.
Love has moved us…
moved us to enter into a relationship with Jesus
moved us to prayer, to worship, to witness
moved us to journey here to this Altar…
where we encounter the loving person of Jesus Christ.

That 17 year old boy was moved by love…both physically and spiritually.
He who was thought to be dead…at best expected to be a “vegetable”…
was restored to life through an encounter with one patient loving person.

Jesus, who was thought to be dead, is once again alive and He is with us here.
We encounter the loving person of Jesus.
We are grateful for the love of Jesus…love that moves us
to accept the invitation to share in the mission of His kingdom of love
and to witness to the truth that makes all people free.

The love of one person can do remarkable things…can work miracles.

The love of all of us…united in Jesus Christ…and founded on the truth of God…
is the dominion of the Church that conquers all obstacles,
transforms lives, saves souls, and endures forever!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Homily Thirty Third Sunday of the Year 15 November 2009

The Roland Emmerich film 2012, which opened Friday,
is the latest outrageous portrayal of an imaginary end to the world
precipitated by catastrophic natural events.

For centuries, the end times have fascinated mankind.
From Nostradamus to the ubiquitous big-city prophet
with his trademark cardboard sign proclaiming “Repent, the end is near,”
there are no end to the predictions of when everything we know
will come to a sudden dramatic and horrific demise.
The dates keep getting moved back as new predictions are made,
each one as certain as the last.

The Scriptures themselves contain similar predictions to the doom-sayers,
and the Bible is indeed the source of many speculations.
The one important difference is that,
while the Scriptures predict signs and wonders, Jesus remains clear:
“You will not know the day nor the hour when they will occur!”

Some Christians who insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible
expect the end of the world to happen just as the Bible describes
but gloss over these words of Jesus as if He never said them at all.

Much of the world speculates and predicts,
while the Church of Jesus Christ performs the more significant task
of preparing vigilant disciples who are always ready to receive Christ.
Jesus offers descriptions of the end times, in order to challenge us to be vigilant,
to keep watch for His coming.
He calls us to be prepared every day,
so that His coming will not catch us by surprise.

When we watch TV, listen to music, engage in conversation, spend money,
would we be proud or ashamed of our actions if Jesus appeared next to us.
If He came in his glory today, right now, would He be pleased by our words,
our actions, the thoughts of our hearts.

We do not know when the world will end, or even when our own life will end,
but we do know that if we are vigilant and steadfast in faith,
we need not fear death nor the coming of Christ.

As we keep watch with Christ in this life,
we are comforted by Jesus’ assurance: “My words will not pass away!”

If the stock market crashed…if the dollar plummeted in value…
if our favorite store went out of business…
if our cell phone lost service and we couldn’t text our friends…
if people we loved betrayed us…
even if everything we have ever known and depended on was taken away
the Word of God will not ever pass away!

That is something no filmmaking artistry can portray…
yet we ourselves have known the presence of God deep in our hearts
and in the sacramental life of the Church.
We have all had experiences when we have been certain
that God was alive and present to us, and when His love changed us.

God’s words…revealed in Scripture and the teaching of the Church…
are the eternal truths which form the foundation of our human existence.

We continually seek to know and absorb those truths, which do not pass away,
to know and live the teaching of Christ,
which gives us strength and direction.

God’s Word does not pass away! The Church is always teaching!
His love is forever!
He is always speaking His Word in the depths of our hearts,
and forming us into pure servants of Christ,
ready to stand aright and by counted among the blessed ones
when He comes at last in glory!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Homily Memorial Mass 9 November 2009

Twenty years ago…November 9th, 1989 was a Thursday.
In Berlin, Germany, it was the happiest day in 50 years.

It had been a little over two years since a former Hollywood actor-turned-President
stood confidently in the center of the city
and defied the Soviet Empire with his now-famous demand:
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

It had been 6 years since the United States
established formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
President Reagan and another former actor, who became the first Polish Pope,
met for the first time in the Summer of 1982,
inaugurating both a diplomatic relationship and a deep friendship.

Providence brought together two men who shared not only a history in acting
but the ominous connection of assassination attempts
on both of their lives in the same Spring of 1981…
men whose combined faith, convictions and leadership
destroyed the evil empire of Soviet Communism
and made freedom a reality once again in Eastern Europe.

It had been 50 years since Adolf assumed power as chancellor of Germany.
From the Third Reich, through World War II,
into the Cold War and the Soviet Blockade,
for half a century totalitarianism enveloped Berlin in a tomb of misery.
But 20 years ago…November 9th, 1989…a new day dawned for Berlin…
for Germany…for Europe…indeed for the world!

Following widespread protests demanding freedom,
the Soviet leadership relaxed restrictions on travel.
Soon civilians’ hammers and chisels complimented bulldozers
in bringing down the cement and barbed-wire wall
that severed the city since 1961.

The first in the wall…the first hole chiseled…the first slab removed…
was a sign of freedom…a glimmer of hope like no other.

The first rays of freedom’s light to shine through that wall
fell on men and women who had never known anything but darkness.

Today our common humanity unites us all to the German people
as we recall the anniversary of that day when freedom came to Berlin.

As Christians, we mark another anniversary today as well…
that of the dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome
by the Emperor Constantine.

As we honor the dedication of this great church…
the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and the mother church of Christendom…
we recall how the faith of the Church is built on the rock of St. Peter,
the bishop of Rome,
and how, from Rome, it extends to all the world.
Our church buildings carry tremendous significance, for their foundation rests not only on stone
but on the faith, history, and sometimes literally the sweat and labor,
of those who have gone before us.

We also recall that we who gather in faith as Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church,
are living stones…
built on the foundation of the Apostles and Saints
standing on the shoulders of our ancestors
with Jesus Christ himself as the capstone
and rising together into a spiritual edifice dedicated to the glory of God.

Our prayer tonight is for some of those living stones…
those men and women who are our ancestors in faith…and in our families…
who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith
and who have helped us build up our faith and form our lives.

We call our loved ones who have died to mind with gratitude to almighty God
for the countless blessings He has bestowed on us through them
and for the gift they have been to us in so many ways.

We beg Him for strength to bear the sadness and emptiness of
that still weigh heavily on many of us gathered here.

Finally, in this Memorial Mass, in this month of November,
when we celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day,
we perform a tremendous act of love in praying for our beloved .
We beg God to have mercy on them for their weakness
and to gather them into the eternal bliss of His Kingdom…
a holy place free of darkness and brokenness…
a kingdom of light, love and peace.

Our loved ones have died…but in Christ is not the end.
On the altar of the Cross, Christ won the victory over sin and …
and in His Resurrection restored new and abundant life to His faithful servants.

Death brings darkness…but Christ’s Cross brings hope!

In the years between WWII and the fall of the Berlin Wall,
before the East Germans even rebuilt their churches,
they constructed a necessary television tower in the city.
At the top of the tower was a silver dish.
Despite numerous efforts by the Soviets to cover that dish
with various chemicals and paints,
every time the sun shone upon its reflective surface,
the light brilliantly displayed the shape of a cross!
The Cross is a sign of hope – and it could not be blotted out!

Death brings sadness…
but the sadness of gives way to the bright promise of immortality…
and the empty tomb remains the sign of that new life!
Just as the first in the Berlin Wall were glimmers of radiant hope…
so the first inches of the open grave…as the stone rolled back…
obliterated the blackness of Good Friday night.
Christ is alive…and in Him we have life!

As we celebrated funeral Masses for your loved ones…
and as we celebrate this Memorial Mass tonight…
we again experience the radiant light of Christ.

Through this Mass we peer into Heaven
and are caught up in the eternal liturgy of the angels and saints.
The radiant light of Christ shines through this sacramental liturgy
falling upon each one of us,
who have known recently and poignantly the darkness of .
to bring us the freedom and hope that know no end.
We gather under the standard of the Cross…
We need not be troubled or afraid…
for Christ is alive and present in the Holy Eucharist…
and He draws us in tenderness to His loving Sacred Heart.
Our fervent prayer, eager petition and heartfelt thanksgiving in this Mass
are offered not with anxiety…but in confidence
for Christ has promised to fill us with His peace…
the peace that surpasses all understanding.

On the foundation of our faith and the wisdom of those we have loved and lost,
we go forward strengthened by Christ’s peace
to build up His Body the Church.
We join ourselves to over a billion living stones
and form together an edifice of spirit to the glory of God,
who has loved us and whose love sets us free!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Mary’s Rosary: A Lesson in Faith and Prayer

Devotion to the Mother of God is a vital and beautiful aspect of our Catholic life. In October 2002, the twenty-fifth year of his pontificate, Pope John Paul the Great wrote Rosarium Virginis Mariae, an Apostolic Letter on the Rosary of the Virgin Mary. In this month of May, a month traditionally dedicated to Mary, we turn to our Blessed Mother in a unique way. The words of Pope John Paul II help to inspire and focus our devotion to Mary.
The Pope’s letter begins by pointing out that the Rosary is a prayer focused on Christ, which draws together the rich depth of the Gospel message. Those who pray the Rosary truly sit “at the school of Mary,” learning from her maternal example and complete acceptance of God’s will; and being led by her to contemplate the face of Christ. Mary contemplated the face of Christ – in His infancy, His ministry, and His Passion and Resurrection – in a more faithful and devout way than anyone in human history. She remained devoted to Jesus, both as a mother devoted to her son and as a disciple to her God, throughout her entire life. From her love and devotion to Christ we learn the incomparable for our own journey of faith.
The Rosary offers to us both a “compendium” of Gospel lessons and stories, as well as an exercise in contemplation. As we pray, we walk with Mary through her life with Jesus, and, together with her, we draw closer to God. The Mysteries of the Rosary present to us stories of the lives of Jesus and Mary. As we recite each mystery and read the accompanying Scripture verse, we have an opportunity to ponder the grace of Jesus at work in that particular event. The more deeply we ponder the mysteries of our faith, the more our relationship with Jesus grows.
The prayers of the Rosary also come from the Scriptures. The “Our Father” is the perfect prayer that the Lord Himself taught the Disciples. The “Hail Mary” is a combination of the words spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel and Elizabeth. The repetition of prayers that is characteristic of the Rosary allows us, through the rhythm of words, to enter more deeply into contemplation of the mysteries of faith. Repetition calms the soul and helps us to be quiet in God’s presence.
The Rosary is a tried and true prayer for families. The “Family Rosary” gives each parent and child in the family an opportunity to lead a decade, and to offer their own personal intentions. It gives children a lesson in prayer and draws families closer together in the grace of the Lord. Family Rosaries are not always perfectly pious experiences but such devotion is essential for a healthy family. Writer Mary Ellen Barrett describes her family’s experience of the Rosary as “…more athletic than contemplative.” Here’s one example she presents: "Hail Mary, full of grace (sit down) the Lord is with (stop swinging the beads) thee. Blessed art thou (ssshh) among women (please leave your sister alone) and blessed is the fruit (get the baby off the table) of thy womb Jesus.” In the midst of the very human and at times even chaotic side of family prayer, God’s grace is at work. Pray always with Mary, and she will lead you ever closer to Christ her Son!

Display on the Priesthood...

Cor ad Cor Loquitur
Heart Speaks to Heart

Celebrating the Priestly Heart of Christ
and the Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood

An educational and inspiring display
highlighting various aspects
of the Catholic Priesthood!

This display is a response to Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement
of the Year for Priests, which includes a call to the whole Church
to better understand the gift and mystery of the Priesthood.

It includes 7 - 2’ x 5’ vinyl panels and accompanying stands,
together with matching handouts,
each of which focuses on a different aspect of the priesthood:
The Year for Priests
Saint John Vianney
Priest Saints
Priestly Identity
Priestly Mission
Priestly Vocations
Mary, Mother of Priests

The display can be set up in any parish gathering apace
or educational room.
The parish needs to provide 2 - 8’ tables
on which the stands/panels are placed.
The parish is responsible for receiving the display via mail, making copies of the handouts,
all assembly and tear-down, and the return postage.

To order this great display for your parish, share in the Year for Priests by teaching your parishioners about the Priesthood, and help to inspire vocations,
call Deacon Mark Fuller @ (330) 936-6108

Reflections on the Priesthood

Saint John Vianney: Patron Saint of Priests

Saint John Marie Vianney was ordained a priest in 1815. Three years later he was made pastor of Ars, a remote French village, where his reputation as a confessor and director of souls made him known throughout the Christian world. As a parish priest, his ministry was extraordinary in many ways.

His life was one of extreme mortification. Accustomed to the most severe austerities, approached by swarms of penitents, and besieged by the devil, this great mystic manifested a constant loving patience. He sacrificed the comforts of this world, eating simple means and wearing a tattered cassock, in order to spend his energy and resources on providing the very best for the Lord and the celebration of the Liturgy. He was a wonderworker loved by the crowds, but he retained a childlike simplicity, and he remains to this day the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ.

Saint John Vianney was a true priest and man of the Church. He heard confessions of people from all over the world for up to sixteen hours each day, preached the faith with zeal, loved his parishioners, and celebrated the Mass with sincere devotion. His life was filled with works of charity. It is recorded that even the staunchest of sinners were converted at his mere word.

He died August 4, 1859, and was canonized May 31, 1925.

The life and ministry of Saint John Vianney recalls for us the core of the priesthood: a life of constant prayer; a simple life devoted to Christ; a life in tune with the heart of Christ and the mind of the Church; a life devoted to the celebration of the Sacraments and preaching of the Word.

The Year of the Priest commemorates the 150th anniversary of the of Saint John Vianney, patron saint of priests. Through his powerful intercession, we pray for the holiness of all priests and for an increase in men zealously devoted to the fullness of the priesthood.

Priest Saints

Consider all the saints who have shared in the priesthood, all these priests who have exemplified sanctity in their lives and ministry, and the many more priest saints not celebrated liturgically. Remember that these holy men, whose hands held the Lord in the Holy Eucharist and served God's people, whose voices preached the truth of our faith, now intercede for us before the throne of God.

Recall that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has established the Year of the Priest as a time to encourage all priests to be saints! Pray for priests, that they may truly strive to be united to the heart of Christ. Pray for vocations to the priesthood, so that the world will always know the love of the Heart of Jesus and His divine presence in the Eucharist. Pray throughout the year for the Church and her priests, through the intercession of our beloved priest saints.

The Identity of the Priest

Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord, is the Son of God made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. In Him the fullness of the old law and the prophets is manifest and God’s saving action throughout history finds its fulfillment.

Jesus is priest, prophet and king. As universal King, He inaugurates an eternal and universal kingdom: “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” (Preface of Christ the King) As Prophet, He proclaims the good news, as He announced at the beginning of His public ministry: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18)

As High Priest, Jesus fulfills and surpasses the ancient sacrifices by offering the one, new and perfect sacrifice of Himself on the Altar of the Cross for the salvation of the whole human race. On the Cross, Jesus is both the Priest who offers sacrifice and the Victim who is offered. From the pierced side of Jesus as He died on the Cross flowed the saving tide of and water, the fountain of sacramental life in the Church. The water symbolizes Baptism, the gateway to the Church and the Sacraments. The prefigures the Eucharist, the divine nourishment that unites us to Christ and the whole Church.

The Sacrifice of the Cross prefigures and is re-presented in every Mass, as Christ is made present each day on altars throughout the world and God’s faithful people are drawn into the reality of Christ's saving . The celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the essential sacred action for which every priest is ordained and consecrated. In the Mass the priest discovers his identity and mission. He is called to make Christ present to the world and to lay down his life for the Church as Jesus did on the Cross.

On the eve of His Passion, Jesus instituted the Sacred Priesthood as He also instituted the Eucharist. The two Sacraments are essentially united in the life of the Church for the salvation of souls. Without the priesthood there is no Eucharist and without the Eucharist there is no Church. During the Last Supper, Jesus gave the Apostles a share in His divine life in a unique way as priests, who are called to live and minister in persona Christi capitis - “in the person of Christ the Head of the Body,” the Church. Jesus had prepared the Apostles for years by His teaching and institution of the Sacraments. At Pentecost, the Apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit to inspire them to follow Jesus’ great commission to make disciples of all nations.

Jesus formed the Church throughout His earthly life when He called the disciples together, taught them, instituted each of the Sacraments, and formed them as a community of faith. Through Baptism, all the faithful share in the one priesthood of Christ and are called to live our their own unique vocations as followers of Jesus. From within the community of the faithful, God chooses men for the ministerial priesthood. They are ordained (chosen) and consecrated (set apart) for sacred ministry.

The ministerial priest finds his identity in Christ. He is configured to Christ the Head and sent forth to bring Him to others in Word, Sacrament and in his manner of life. The priest’s whole life and work is meant to be an ever-deepening relationship with Christ, a relationship that is experienced in the mind and heart of the Church, a relationship with the Lord that bears rich fruit for the salvation of souls.

The Mission of the Priest

The mission of the priest and the many duties that make up priestly ministry manifest the fundamental relationship the priest cultivates with Christ. Priesthood is a constant revealing of the person of Christ in the midst of the world. It is therefore much more than performing functions of ministry, however valuable these are in themselves.

The Year of the Priest opened solemnly with veneration of the relic of Saint John Vianney, Vespers, and Eucharistic Adoration on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. During the veneration, a reflection on priesthood was offered by Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, focusing on the loving heart of the priest and the loving heart of the holy Cure of Ars, who taught that “the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”

In his reflection, Archbishop Piacenza said, “The priesthood is not something we do. We are priests…we are about a holy business that is always an outgrowth of our being…” The preaching of the Word, teaching, spiritual direction, even administrative duties, and especially the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments, are not mere functions. A priest is not just a priest when he is visibly doing priestly things. He is always a priest and his ministry flows from the reality of the priesthood and his relationship with Christ.

This is exemplified in the way we understand the priest during the celebration of Mass. The priest is often described as “presider,” a word that makes it seem as if he is performing one function among many. Instead, the priest is the one through whom Christ is made present in the Eucharist and the one without whom the Mass would not exist. While all the liturgical roles are valuable, the “priest celebrant” or “principal celebrant” (as the official liturgical texts read) is indispensible. His sacred duties flow from his very being as one conformed to Christ, the Head of His Body, the Church. In the priest, Christ Himself is present and through the priest’s words and ritual action, makes Himself substantially presenting the Holy Eucharist.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28)

While these words of Jesus before His Ascension truly apply to the whole Church in certain ways, they contain a uniquely priestly commission: preaching the Word and celebrating the Sacraments are the unique and essential priestly tasks. In Word and in Sacrament, indeed in his whole life of loving service and witness to the truth and love of Christ, the priest brings Christ into the lives of men and women.

The mission of the priest could be summed up in a few words of Bishop Donald W. Trautman to seminarians being installed in the Ministry of Lector in 2004: “Bring Christ to others!” This ultimately means that the priest must constantly strive to become more like Christ through his prayer, spiritual discipline, and constant offering of himself in union with his offering of the Mass, so that the presence of Christ may be seen in his ministry.

As their spiritual perfection increases, priests become more configured to Christ, in whose person they stand as they exercise priestly ministry. Then “the love of the Heart of Jesus” is able to enliven them and radiate throughout their ministry. The whole Church ought to pray and support her priests, imploring God to aid them by his grace in their journey toward moral and spiritual perfection. The Church needs good priests; even more she needs holy priests! She needs priests who are strive daily to be united to Christ and who, with passionate love, make His presence known in the world.

Priestly Vocations

Priesthood is a vocation—a call from God to a specific way of life that involves total giving of oneself to God and for the sake of the Church. Every Catholic young man, as he matures and discerns his path in life, ought to consider whether God might be calling him to priesthood. He ought to ask God in prayer if his life is meant for the high calling of the priesthood.

Priestly life demands a commitment to chaste celibacy, respect and obedience to the bishop, and faithful praying of the Liturgy of the Hours—the Church’s daily prayer revolving around the Psalms and prayed and various times of the day. Priests are called to exemplify simplicity of life, remain devoted to constant prayer, and spend their lives in service to the Church.

Preparation for priesthood typically takes 6-9 years, and varies if one joins a religious order (e.g. Jesuits, Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, etc.), where formation for religious life is more extensive. If a man enters seminary after high school, the process for the diocesan priesthood includes 4 years of College Seminary, where a whole range of courses is studied (with a particular emphasis on philosophy) and 4 years of graduate Theology studies. If a man enters seminary with a college degree, he would experience a year or two of “pre-theology,” during which he would study courses not included in a normal college curriculum. There is often also a “pastoral year” - a year of internship when a seminarian observes parish life while living in a parish.

Priestly formation is founded on 4 pillars: spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral formation (remember: “SHIP”). This complete program is meant to form a man to be well-rounded, mature and prepared for ministry. A seminarian is expected to have devotion to God, Mary and the Saints, to lead a life of prayer, be devoted to the Church, have good personal skills, be well-versed in philosophy and theology, and be able to apply his knowledge to pastoral situations. Priesthood is a great honor and a significant calling, one for which a man must be formed well by his prayer, study and pastoral experience.

Mary, Mother of Priests

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Great High Priest, is indeed the Mother of all Priests. On Holy Thursday 1988 Pope John Paul II spoke to the world’s priests: “When we celebrate the Eucharist and stand each day on Golgotha, we need to have near us the one who through heroic faith carried to its zenith her union with her Son, precisely then on Golgotha.” Mary was with Jesus in His Passion, in the fulfillment of His salvific mission. So she is with the Church as the saving moment of Calvary is re-presented in every Mass and as Jesus’ saving mission is carried out by her priests. Every priest ought to keep her near throughout his whole life, trusting in her maternal care and powerful intercession.

The Priesthood Today

In the twenty-first century, the essence of the priesthood remains always the same, while the needs of the Church and the culture effecting priests are always changing. New demands are placed on the Church’s priests, which require them to remain even more rooted in Christ through prayer, study, priestly fraternity and authentic human relationships. The gems taken from the Word of God and the teaching of the Church, and provided herein for reflection, reveal a wealth of wisdom from centuries past that serves as a foundation for today’s priests and beyond. The future of priestly ministry is always a mystery. In every age and cultural situation, the faithfulness of Christ is revealed in the faithfulness of His priests, who bring to the world the saving love of Jesus for the glory of God and the sanctification of His people.

Living Bread Radio Reflections September 2009

Living Bread Radio
27 September 2009
26th Sunday of the Year

Today’s gospel is one of Jesus’ more shocking parables. If it were meant to be taken literally, there would be far more people walking around with arms and feet missing, for we all are repenting sinners with weak elements in our lives.
Instead, Jesus offers us this stark image of amputating our scandalous limbs as an invitation to greater introspection. As we reflect on our lives. We might ask: what part of my life is causing me to stumble in the spiritual life, what is leading me away from the Lord? Perhaps it’s an unhealthy relationship, a bad habit, an inappropriate TV show or music, an ideology or way of thinking – something we have held on to that is not truly good for us.
These habits and ways of perceiving the world can be ingrained from childhood, passed on from ancestors, absorbed from the culture. They become like parts of our body, deeply rooted and not easily perceived.
Therefore, it is important that we make an examination of our lives on a regular, even daily, basis, in order that we might come to recognize and understand where we need to grow. If there is anything that does not further the deepening of our relationship with Christ, we have an obligation to cut it out of our lives. Far better is this that to live separated from the Lord.
Jesus loves us and he wants all of us, every fiber of our being, to be purified in His love and united to Him.

Living Bread Radio
28 September 2009
Monday of the 26th Week of the Year

Several times in the gospels, Jesus uses the image of a child to illustrate his vision for discipleship. He asks us to be like little children and to embrace the virtues He sees in being child-like.
So, what is it about children that is so virtuous, so exemplary, so worthy of imitation? What do we see in the children around us that is so beautiful?
Children are so inquisitive. They always ask questions and their minds are like sponges soaking up every new piece of knowledge or experience. So, it is good for us to long to know Jesus better and to be saturated with love for Him.
Little children are and simple. Everything is new and amazing. Until they are exposed to the world around them and discover the tendency toward sin, their little minds and hearts are pure and loving. We are called to turn away from sin and to strive for a pure innocence that allows us to be in a sense wide-eyed and joyful at the things of God.
The greatest in the eyes of Jesus are those whose hearts are pure and who live not for themselves but for Him who has loved us and brought us life.

Living Bread Radio
29 September 2009

Today the universal Church celebrates God’s powerful and faithful protectors, the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.
Raphael, whose name means “Medicine of God,” is the archangel who traveled with and cared for Tobias on his journey, in the OT Book of Tobit. We each have a guardian angel who cares for us on our journey of life and faith. God’s love for us is manifested in the care shown to us by His messengers, the angels.
Gabriel, whose name means “Strength of God,” appears in famous scenes of important announcements in the Gospels. He announced to Zechariah the birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary the birth of Jesus. His greeting to the Blessed Mother – “Hail, full of Grace” – is part of the “Hail Mary.”
Michael, whose name means “Who is like God?” is the archangel who fought against Satan. He is the protector of humanity against the snares of the Devil. Evil is not simply an impersonal reality. The Devil and his temptations are real. Whenever we experience Satan’s attack, it is good to have recourse to St. Michael.
The Archangels are an incredible gift to us from God. They remind us of His constant love and protection, which comes to us in a very personal way through God’s chosen messengers.

Living Bread Radio
30 September 2009
St. Jerome

The Gospel stories from yesterday and today depict the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, a major turning point in His life and ministry. Jesus literally and figuratively “sets His face” toward Jerusalem, resolutely determining to go to that city, where He knows that ultimately His passion will take place. He determines to go and accomplish the mission for which He was sent.
At times the disciples to not understand His mission and their words betray their confusion. The Samaritans will not receive Him as He travels because His destiny is Jerusalem, and they have disagreements with the Jews. Others who desire to follow Him are torn between Him and the pleasures or needs of their earthly life.
All the while, Jesus remains steady as He journeys toward Jerusalem. His message remains consistent and He challenges others to lay themselves aside and come to Him. Jesus is the rock of truth and all who love Him find fulfillment.
Jesus warns us once we have set our hand to the plow, not to look back at what was left behind. It is often tempting to have doubts on our journey of faith, especially when we, like Jesus, encounter others who are confused, opposed to the Gospel, or hostile to what we believe. It is certainly not popular to be devoutly Christian. We also can be tempted by worldly pleasures that we have given up in order to follow Jesus.
Jesus’ example calls us to gather our resolve when we stumble and again and again set our faces toward Him.

Living Bread Radio
1 October 2009
Saint Therese

As Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples in today’s gospel, He gives them unique instructions. He says: I am sending you out like lambs among wolves…do carry anything that will weigh you down, do not engage in idle conversation…wish peace on everyone. Jesus calls His disciples to simplicity of life. Acts of service to God and love of others are effective in their simplicity.
The Lord also asks us to divest ourselves of worldly attachments as we enter into His service. He is our shepherd. On Him we depend for our spiritual nourishment and bodily needs. Jesus, who loves us so dearly, will never fail to provide everything that is good for us, if we trust in His love.
Filled with God’s love and relying on His strength, we are able to accomplish the mission which belongs to every disciple – to bring Christ to others.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Therese, whose life and spiritual writings exemplify her unique approach to discipleship. Her “little way” reminds us that we should not be disappointed if we cannot do grand works of faith. Instead she reminds us of the tremendous value in doing little things with great love.
The impact and value of daily acts of kindness, when we go out of our way to make another’s life easier or happier, is beyond what we realize. Only in heaven will we fully grasp how God’s love has strengthened us to simply love and do good, and how that simple love has changed lives forever.

Living Bread Radio
2 October 2009
Guardian Angels

The intimacy of God’s love for us and of our relationship with Him should not be taken for granted. He knows us completely. He has created us and given us life. He is the author of all life, both spiritual and human.
In His wisdom, God has appointed angels to watch over us and to be messengers of God’s loving presence. Angels are pure spirits, who always behold the presence of God. The Holy Scriptures are full of stories of angels being sent by God to assist, protect and care for His faithful people. Each of us has a guardian angel, charged with God’s message just for us. What a splendid gift from the Lord. We always have a spiritual friend in our guardian angel.
Today, as we celebrate the feast of the guardian angels, we recall the lovely little prayer that is dear to the heart of the Church.

Living Bread Radio
3 October 2009
Saturday of the 26th Week

By our baptism, we have been incorporated into the Church. Our identity as disciples includes the calling to bring the light of faith to the world. We are constantly praying and striving to grow in the spiritual life.
In our spiritual journey, there are times when we become discouraged. It is if great benefit for us to remember Jesus’ words in today’s gospel.
Jesus says: remember, your names are written in heaven. God sees the good we do, even the good we try in our weakness to do and do incompletely, and is pleased with our love and service.
He waits for us in the sacraments, desiring to pour His love into our hearts. He strengthens us in our prayer for the tasks that lie ahead. He sees and appreciates our love for Him and one another.
Then Jesus says: blessed are the eyes that see what you see. Many have longed to se what you see and have not seen it. Consider the splendor of the church – the beauty of her traditions, the richness of her history, the value of knowing the fullness of the truth through her teachings, and above all the joy of experiencing the Lord’s presence through the sacraments.
In our greatest joys and our darkest hours, the splendor of God’s love and truth is alive and powerful. For this we give Him thanks and praise!

You are a priest forever...

Newsletter of Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration
Portsmouth, Ohio

"Why is it said to a priest, "You are a Priest forever...”
What is the eternal aspect of the priesthood—
how would you be a priest once you have left this life?
What does it mean for you to think of your priesthood as lasting forever?"
Could you also explain to us about the indelible mark on the soul
that is placed on you at ordination?

Answered by: Father Matthew J. Albright

The ordained priest, by virtue of valid ordination through the laying on of hands and consecratory prayer of a bishop, is configured to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit. The priest is conformed to Christ, who is the Head of His Mystical Body, the Church. As Christ possesses the triple identity of priest, prophet and king, so the priest shares in His triple office. Thus, the ordained priesthood involves the ministries of sanctifying, preaching, and shepherding the flock of Christ.
At the heart of the identity of the priest, which is derived from the priest’s relationship to Christ, and at the heart of all the various ministerial duties of a priest, is the reality that the priest stands in persona Christi capitis – in the person of Christ the Head. The priest represents Christ for the Church.
Despite his unworthiness to hold the office, his weak humanity and inability to image Christ completely, the priest, by virtue of the grace of ordination, remains an image of Christ. Every priest strives daily to be worthy of this great calling and submit his humanity to the grace of ordination, in order to “get out of the way” and allow Christ to be revealed in him.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders, as with Baptism and Confirmation, imparts an indelible mark on the soul of a priest. Thus, the spiritual character of the priesthood is permanent. It cannot be removed. The Sacrament cannot be conferred temporarily or repeated. The ordained priest is a priest forever, and his priesthood becomes essential to his very identity.
Even if a priest is “laicized” or dispensed from the obligations, faculties and functions of the priesthood, his identity remains that of a priest. A priest cannot truly become a layman again after ordination. Even if a priest looses permission to function as a priest, he never looses the sacred power of ordination. Canon Law recognizes as valid the emergency anointing of the dying by even a laicized priest.
The indelible spiritual character imparted on the soul of a priest endures unto eternity. Jesus says in the Gospel that, in Heaven, “there will be no marrying or giving in marriage.” On earth, the celibate priesthood (the practice in the Roman Rite since late apostolic times) is a witness to, and foretaste of, the non-exclusive love of Heaven.
In Heaven, all are joined perfectly in love with one another and with God. In eternity, however, the souls of priests remain marked with the indelible character of their ordination and so the priesthood remains. This must mean that the priest is consecrated – that is, “set apart” – even in Heaven, and so participates in the eternal liturgy of Heaven, the eternal wedding banquet of the Lamb of God, in a priestly manner. Only in Heaven will we understand what this means – but what a splendid thought indeed!
All this means that the priesthood is fundamentally ontological, not functional. That is, it is about who the priest is, and not simply what he does. The priest is a priest; he doesn’t simply do priestly tasks. He is an image of Christ. It is helpful for the priest, indeed for the whole Church, to realize how an authentic understanding of the priesthood transforms our way of perceiving the spiritual life and raises our minds and hearts to a higher level.
For example, the Mass is so much more than a fellowship experience or a gathering of persons orchestrated by a “presider,” as the priest is sometimes inappropriately labeled. The Mass is the wedding of Heaven and earth, the sharing on earth in the eternal liturgy of Heaven, the Church’s supreme worship of the divine presence. As the priest celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Church experiences a participation in the one eternal sacrifice of the Cross, which is the moment of our salvation. The priest is not simply performing functions of ministry, or filling one liturgical role among many. He is experiencing in the consecration of the Eucharist the pinnacle of His existence, which is at the same time the source and summit of the whole life of the Church. The priest says the words of the consecration in the first person. Thus, in the priest, we hear Christ speaking. The priest is the image of Christ in the Church’s celebration of the Mass. This reality is meaningful for priests and also for everyone who worships at Mass.
As a priest, I understand the gravity of my vocation and the significance of my identity as God’s minister. I exercise that role, not for myself, but in order to change lives, form minds and hearts, and save souls for Christ. I rely on the collaboration and prayers of so many people – priests and laity alike – and ultimately on the grace of God, as I strive to answer the call to bring Christ to others in the midst of the world. May we always praise God for the incredible gift of His love, bestowed on simple men called “Father” – and through them to the world.

The Catholic Vision of Human Life

Building on the insights of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, many priests, theologians and faithful have embraced and developed the “consistent ethic of life” – an approach that seeks to value and defend life “from womb to tomb” or “from conception to natural .” Kenneth Overberg, S.J., writing in Catholic Update, describes the Cardinal’s vision:
Cardinal Bernardin stated: "The spectrum of life cuts across the issues of genetics, abortion, capital punishment, modern warfare and the care of the terminally ill." [He] also acknowledged that issues are distinct and different. Capital punishment, for example, is not the same as abortion. Nevertheless, the issues are linked. The valuing and defense of life are at the center of both issues. Cardinal Bernardin told an audience in Portland, Oregon: "When human life is considered 'cheap' or easily expendable in one area, eventually nothing is held as sacred and all lives are in jeopardy." Along with his consistent linking of distinct life issues, Cardinal Bernardin acknowledged that no individual or group can pursue all issues. Still, while concentrating on one issue, he insisted in another address, the individual or group must not be seen "as insensitive to or even opposed to other moral claims on the overall spectrum of life."
A complete approach to life issues seeks to value every human person and defend every life against injustice.
At the same time, in making choices for our lives, in making decisions about how and when to apply our energy in defense of life, and in exercising our civic duty, we rely on a Christian moral framework. At the heart of Christian morality is an understanding of the moral value of our actions. There are some actions which are wrong in every instance, regardless of the circumstances and because of the very nature of the act. Abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research, each of which involves deliberate attacks on life, fall into this category of intrinsically evil acts. The U. S. Bishops, in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, remind us that such actions “must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported and condoned.” Opposition to these intrinsic evils is our first priority, for a society that permits deliberate attacks on life demonstrates negligence toward all life. If it is acceptable to kill babies, eventually all life becomes viewed as expendable and not worthy of concern.
In describing seven key themes of Catholic social teaching, the bishops place the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person – “the foundation for a moral vision of society” – at the top of this hierarchy of values. They also place emphasis on these three intrinsically evils acts and further state that “human life is especially under attack from abortion.”
There are other “life issues” as well, which do not have the same moral weight as the others, but which also deserve prayer and action. Capital punishment is not an intrinsically evil act. It remains a legitimate option for the defense of the state in the teaching of the Church. At the same time, it contributes to an anti-life mentality and, in the thought of Pope John Paul II, is undesirable and unnecessary, particularly in developed countries that have other means of protecting the citizenry. Every decision of countries to enter into war is evaluated individually according to the Church’s just war theory. Further concerns about life include the needs of the living – poverty, hunger, health care, and unjust discrimination. These issues deal not with the deliberate action of attack against lives, but with the unjust condition of human persons. Nevertheless, such suffering and injustice demand a response from every Christian.
At Saint Michael Parish, we seek to embrace a consistent ethic of life. In January, several members of the parish gathered to form the Respect Life Committee, which now includes at least 25 members under the leadership of Debby Bentivegna. The committee seeks to promote the defense and understanding of the sanctity of human life, with an emphasis on prayer, educating the parish regarding life issues, and active witness in defense of life. They are responsible for the display featuring white crosses outside of our church for Respect Life Month (October), which draws the public’s attention to the tragedy of abortion; the beautiful memorial to human life by the school entrance; the annual bus trip to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life in January; and the First Step program to benefit Catholic Charities. They prayerfully witness outside the abortion facility in Akron and have participated in the “Life Chain” in Canton. Through their efforts, our parish and the local community are becoming more informed about attacks on life, and many heartfelt prayers are rising to Heaven for the sake of the defenseless unborn, elderly, and infirm.
Responding to the needs of the poor, hungry and underprivileged in our community is the 12-member Social Concerns Committee, under the leadership of Chris Fricker and the guidance of Sister Dorothy. This committee sponsors the annual “Meager Meal” and food collection in Lent; the sale of Catholic Relief Services items; the recycling efforts in the parish (proceeds benefiting emergency assistance outreach); and various social justice related speakers. In addition, they support the annual Thanksgiving Collection, Giving Tree, and Coats for Christmas. Finally, our parish sustains an extensive outreach to those in need by providing emergency assistance vouchers, food and household items to those in need. Through these efforts, the lives of many men and women in our community are strengthened and made whole.
Together, these two committees, and all of our parishioners who share in their work, are confidently and joyfully embracing a consistent ethic of life and demonstrating their sincere love for human life. Praise be to God, indeed!

Celebrating the Holy Eucharist

The Eucharist, according to consistent Church teaching and specifically the words of the Second Vatican Council, is the “source and summit” of the life and mission of the Church. It is the fountain of God’s grace and the reality toward which the prayer and work of the whole Church is directed. Above all things on earth and in the Church, the Eucharist is the most significant reality this side of Heaven.
It goes without saying, therefore, that the Eucharist is the most important experience we have each week, as we attend Sunday Mass. The Mass is an experience of the Sacred Liturgy – the Church’s public prayer. Our English word liturgy is derived from the Greek word leitourgia, meaning “work on behalf of the people.” In the city-states of ancient Greece, the celebrations marking important events in the lives of royal families involved the undertaking of some work for the good of people, e.g. the building of bridges or roads. In the context of the Church, the liturgy is the work of God on behalf of His people, in which we participate (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1069ff). The Mass is not our work, nor is it anyone’s personal property, nor does it originate from our creativity. It is God’s work and is entrusted to the Church to safeguard and to celebrate with fidelity and reverence.
Jesus is the true celebrant of the Mass, and He is active in the celebration of the Liturgy. Jesus is present and active as the people gather for worship; in His minister, the priest; in the proclamation of His Word; and, above all, substantially present in the Eucharist (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II).
The Mass is both a sacrifice in which Jesus – who is both priest and victim – offers Himself, and a banquet at which we are fed by Him. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not a new sacrifice, like the constant offerings of animals we read about in the Old Testament. Rather, it is a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. When we come to Mass, we receive the same broken Body and the same poured-out of the same Jesus who died on the Cross for our salvation. In the Mass, Jesus empties Himself and gives Himself for us. We are thus drawn into the mystery of the Passion and we experience the unconditional love of the Cross.
Primarily, three things happen when we come to Mass. First of all, the Mass is an act of worship. Obviously, we are in the presence of Jesus in the Mass. It is only natural that we pause to praise and adore Jesus, our Savior, who gives Himself to us in the Eucharist. As Pope Benedict recently recalled in a speech given at the Vatican, adoration is essential throughout the Mass, for as Saint Augustine said about the Eucharist, “Before one eats [the Body of Jesus], he must first adore.” At the four times in the Mass when the priest elevates the Host and/or Chalice, it is natural to look at Jesus, to recognize what a gift we have in the Eucharist, and to pray quietly. The experience of adoration that is begun in the Mass continues in Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass.
Second, we receive Jesus in Holy Communion. The Eucharist is not a “thing,” nor is it a one-time event that happened only at the Last Supper. The Eucharist is not a static reality. It is a living reality. The Eucharist is an encounter between persons: between human persons and the divine person Jesus Christ. Communion, therefore, is a moment of intimate love and union between us and Jesus Christ. “Common-union” exists as well with all the baptized throughout the world and down through the centuries who have shared together in the Eucharist, as well as with the saints in Heaven, who are united with Jesus forever in perfect love.
Third, we take Jesus, whom we have received, into our daily lives. The Eucharist is not a self-centered reality. We are compelled by the powerful love of Jesus not to keep Him to ourselves, but to share Him with everyone we encounter. The Eucharist is in one sense personal, as we receive Jesus and become one with Him. It is also communal, as we receive Him together and are called to bring His love and truth into the world.
The mystery of the Eucharist is huge! These few reflections only scratch the surface of a mystery that offers food for a lifetime of prayer and reflection. The Easter Season is traditionally a time of “mystogogy,” focused on studying the sacraments. This is an important opportunity for all of us to deepen our understanding of the Eucharist. I recommend the following for reading: Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council; Mysterium Fidei (The Mystery of Faith), encyclical of Pope Paul VI; Mane Nobiscum, Domine (Stay With Us, Lord), letter of Pope John Paul II; Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity), letter of Pope Benedict XVI; Seven Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn; and Celebrating the Holy Eucharist by Francis Cardinal Arinze.
In this Easter Season, we rejoice in the abundance of grace given to us by Jesus in the Eucharist, and we pledge our lives to Him whom we adore and receive, striving daily to bring His love to the world!

Vatican II and the Unbroken Tradition of the Church

The life of the Church in the twenty-first century is guided in large part by the pastoral approach taken by the bishops at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Council documents, and the subsequent study, reform, and renewal that grew out of the Council. Important for the Church, then, is a proper understanding of how an ecumenical council in general, and Vatican II in particular, is to be understood within the long life of the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2005 Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, reflected on the 40th Anniversary of Vatican II. His thoughts help the Church today to understand the meaning of the Council. The Pope addressed important issues: how the Church throughout the world has received the Council; what has been its result; and why the years since the Council have been so difficult. He explains that problems have arisen in the Church in recent years because different people have interpreted the same things differently. The Pope said, “The problems of reception derived from the fact that two contrasting hermeneutics [or ‘interpretations’] found themselves face to face and battled it out.” The “hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture” suggests a “fracture between the pre-Council and post-Council Church,” and promotes a drive for anything new. On the contrary, the “hermeneutics of reform” sees a continuity of doctrine and Tradition in the Church before, during, and after the Council.
As the Pope explains, the problem caused by the “hermeneutics of discontinuity” is that this approach “asserts that…it would be necessary to follow not the Council texts, but its spirit. In this way, of course, a huge margin remains for the question of how then to define this spirit and, as a result, room is made for any whimsicality.” The Council gave the Church 16 documents, which contain the Church’s Tradition and relate it to modern issues. The letter of these documents has at times been ignored in favor of following the “spirit of Vatican II.” As the Pope explains, this “spirit” is given various meanings by the agendas of those who claim its support.
In contrast to this is the “hermeneutics of reform.” When Pope John XXIII opened the Council, he expressed this approach, saying that the Council “wishes to transmit doctrine pure and whole, without attenuating or falsifying it.” The intention of the Fathers of Vatican II – as was the purpose of the 20 previous ecumenical councils – was to pass on the teaching of Jesus Christ, in a manner that answers the needs of the time. The Council’s great work was not the elimination of something old and the creation of something new but, rather, to pass on the ancient Tradition of the Church, which, while lived out by different people in every age, remains forever the same. For, as the Pope said, the Church “is a subject that grows in time and develops, remaining however always the same, the one subject of the People of God on their way.”
The teaching of Christ, handed down by the Apostles, safeguarded by the Early Church Fathers, and expounded by pastors through the centuries, remains the same today. The Ten Commandments remain the sure guides for human action and interaction. Certain human acts are always and in every circumstance contrary to the Divine Law. The moral and doctrinal teachings of the Church find expression in new ways but the Gospel of Jesus is not open to change. For example, amid speculation by contemporary theologians and pressure on the Holy Father to change the Church’s prohibition of artificial contraception, Pope Paul VI, in Humanae Vitae, defended human life and proclaimed the consistent teaching of the Church that artificial birth control is unacceptable because the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act cannot be separated.
The Sacred Liturgy develops organically from sure foundations and undergoes developments in history, which are at times needed but do not change the essence nor the entirety of the liturgy. So often I hear, with regard to liturgical elements such as the Latin language, chant, consecration bells, and countless beautiful traditions, both those who lament “Why did Vatican II get rid of that?” and those who rejoice that past traditions have apparently been abandoned. How surprised many would be to discover that Vatican II was not nearly so concerned about novelty as we think, and that much of what was apparently “lost” in the Mass is found in the Council documents and current liturgical instructions. To name a few: chalices still must be made of precious metal; Latin remains the official language of the Church and part of the liturgy; Gregorian Chant is the music proper to the Roman Rite; Communion patens, bells, candles, and incense remain valid liturgical elements. A “new Mass” was not created. Sadly, in the midst of necessary liturgical adaptations, notions of discontinuity and novelty made their mark on the sacred worship of the Church. What is needed now is precise fidelity to the official norms and respect for those who make different choices among valid options.
Vatican II is the council of our time, and the Church today is formed by its legacy. We give thanks to the Holy Spirit for guiding its great work. At the same time, the Pope reminds us that it is one link in an over two-thousand year chain of unbroken Tradition. The challenge for Catholics today is to know our whole Tradition well and to study anew the documents of the Second Vatican Council, so that we may live our faith as well-informed people. Thus we may effectively bring Christ and the Church to others who are in need of His truth and love.

The Splendid Truth About Eucharistic Adoration

On March 13, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the Plenary Session of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the discipline of the Sacraments, the first such session of the new Prefect, Antonio Cardinal Canizares Llovera. He addressed the members of the congregation on the theme of Eucharistic Adoration. I take the opportunity the Holy Father provides by his initiative to address this beautiful devotion to offer our readers some of his teachings and a few of my own insights into popular myths regarding Eucharistic Adoration.

Myth No. 1: Reservation and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a medieval invention.
In fact, belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament have been part of the life of the Church from its earliest days. The history of Eucharistic Adoration is traced in an excellent study by Fr. John Hardon, S.J., where he indicates that “As early as the Council of Nicea (325) we know that the Eucharist began to be reserved in the churches of monasteries and convents.” Nicea occurred only 12 years after the Edict of Milan, when the Church was first free of persecution and able to live and worship as she was led by the Holy Spirit. Father Hardon continues, “The immediate purpose of this reservation was to enable the hermits to give themselves Holy Communion. But these hermits were too conscious of what the Real Presence was not to treat it with great reverence and not to think of it as serving a sacred purpose by just being nearby.” The earliest Christians knew Jesus was present in the Eucharist and they revered His sacred presence. In various ways, according to historical circumstances and under the guidance of the Spirit, the Church’s worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass evolved. The Church established processions, 40 Hours, Benediction, the vestments, rituals, vessels and hymns associated with the Eucharist, and the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Myth No. 2: The Mass is a celebration, not an act of adoration.
An attitude of adoration is essential to our Christian understanding of the Eucharist, both in the Mass and in worship of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass, as the Holy Father points out. There are four moments of elevation and adoration within the Mass before the reception of communion: after the consecration of the Host, after the consecration of the Precious , at the doxology, and immediately before communion at the words “Behold the Lamb of God…” These are moments when the gathered assembly gazes upon the divine presence of the person of Jesus Christ, and the most fitting attitude one can adopt is humble adoration and praise. As Saint Augustine has said, “No one may eat this flesh [of Jesus] if he has not first adored it, for we sin if we do not adore.” The Holy Father desires that pastors of souls “ensure the dimension of adoration to the celebration of Mass throughout.” The attitude of adoration begun in the Mass is extended and deepened in Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass.

Myth No. 3: Eucharistic Adoration detracts from the Mass, which is the real Eucharistic worship. It should be de-emphasized in order to put proper focus on the Mass.
In fact, while the Mass certainly comes first in significance and in the discipline of prayer for the whole Church, Eucharistic Adoration allows us to show our love for Christ when we are not at Mass. Adoration should not replace the Mass in one’s life but should always be seen as an extension of the devotion and prayer begun in Mass. Thus, when we come to Mass having rested in the Lord’s presence, we approach the Altar even more spiritually nourished. Balance is important but Eucharistic Adoration need not be de-emphasized or eliminated. The Holy Father desires that it be renewed and promoted even more.

Myth No. 4: Contemplative Eucharistic Adoration undermines active participation in the Mass.
In fact, while it might be historically true that Eucharistic Adoration was exceedingly popular in the Middle Ages when the faithful were less actively participating in the Mass, it is not true that Medieval Christians did not participate in the Mass. The beautiful prayers, hymns and sermons that come from these centuries indicate great faith and devotion to the Eucharist. In our time, when more active participation has been achieved, we must also remember that authentic participation in the Sacred Liturgy demands an interior disposition of devotion to and understanding of the mysteries of faith. Our actions are outward signs of our interior disposition but action in itself, without devotion and understanding, is empty. Jesus appreciated both active Martha and contemplative Mary, but He said that Mary had chosen the better part by resting at the Lord’s feet. Action and contemplation, ritual/words and silence, are both necessary in the Liturgy. A contemplative attitude is essential both to our celebration of the Mass and to our quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. In silence we hear the voice of God.

Myth No. 5: Contemplative Eucharistic Adoration is unnecessary private prayer that takes away from our work for God and the Church.
In fact, it is in prayer with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament that we offer our cares to Him, allow Him to speak to our hearts, and receive the grace we need to carry on our daily work. To truly live is to grow and change and be drawn ever more fully into union with God. We need a deep relationship with Him to be truly fulfilled as human persons. We cannot have a relationship with anyone, especially Jesus, if we do not spend time with Him. It is in the Eucharist, the source and summit of the life of the Church, that the whole Church and each soul truly lives and grows. From our Eucharistic Adoration, we receive the grace to work for God and His Church. Mother Theresa, the most notable laborer in the Lord’s vineyard in recent memory, while working constantly for the poor and sick, made a daily Holy Hour and required her sisters to do the same. She knew that contemplative Eucharistic prayer was the source of grace for her work and the summit of her loving devotion to Christ.

In this time of renewal for the Church, it is vital that we identify and set aside the myths about Eucharistic Adoration, that all members of Christ’s Mystical Body might embrace true devotion to His Eucharistic Body. In union with Christ our Eucharistic Lord, may the Church flourish as the sacrament of salvation for all peoples!

Spiritual Motherhood for Priests

The Vatican Congregation for Clergy recently issued a document encouraging “spiritual motherhood for priests.” Particularly in this “Year for Priests,” if the unique devotion of spiritual motherhood is better understood and promoted, the Church’s priests have the opportunity to receive tremendous strength and many graces through the prayer and sacrifices of spiritual mothers. Many vocations may arise and priests will be strengthened in holiness if women accept the call to be spiritual mothers.
Every mother loves and sacrifices in order to care for her children and will stop at nothing to provide what they need. Spiritual mothers of priests have different concerns, yet a spiritual mother’s love for her sons – the Church’s priests – is no less intense. A spiritual mother prays and sacrifices that her priests will be holy, conformed to Christ, strengthened and fulfilled in their vocation.
As the Congregation for Clergy has written: “The vocation to be a spiritual mother for priests is...barely understood and, consequently, rarely lived...although fundamental and vitally important. It is a vocation that is often hidden, not apparent to the human eye, but intended to transmit spiritual life.”
Women in the Church, both religious sisters and lay women, have a unique opportunity to become spiritual mothers. As such, they may “adopt” a particular priest, pray for all priests, or pray for vocations. Spiritual mothers offer their prayer, fasting and sacrifices for the holiness of priests, and so make their unique maternal love bear great spiritual fruit. All women are encouraged to prayerfully consider the “vocation within a vocation” to become spiritual mothers for priests. More information is available from the Vatican at
The Vatican’s website contains stories of spiritual motherhood in action. One such story follows. The little village of Lu Monferrato, Italy, with only a few thousand inhabitants, is in a rural area 90 kilometres east of Turin. In 1881, many of the mothers of Lu experienced a deep desire of many for one of their sons to become a priest or for a daughter to become a nun. Under the direction of their parish priest, they gathered every Tuesday for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, asking the Lord for vocations. They received Holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month with the same intention. After Mass, all the mothers prayed together imploring for vocations to the priesthood. Through the trusting prayer of these mothers and the openness of the other parents, an atmosphere of deep joy and Christian piety developed in the families, making it much easier for the children to recognize their vocations.
From the tiny village of Lu came 323 vocations: 152 priests and 171 nuns belonging to 41 different congregations! Every ten years, the priests and sisters born in Lu come together from all around the world. Fr. Mario Meda, the long-serving parish priest of Lu, explained that this reunion is a true feast of thanksgiving to God, who has done such great things for Lu.
The prayer that the mothers of Lu prayed was short, simple, and profound:
“O God, grant that one of my sons may become a priest!
I myself want to live as a good Christian
and want to guide my children always to do what is right,
so that I may receive the grace, O God,
to be allowed to give you a holy priest! Amen.”

Celebrating the Year of the Priest

As has been extensively publicized, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has called the Church to celebrate the Year of the Priest. This special year is devoted to encouraging priests themselves to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest. It is also an opportunity for the whole Church to discover anew the identity and mission of the priesthood and celebrate the unique gift of priests in the life of the Church.
We all need priests to bring us Jesus in the Eucharist, to forgive our sins in confession, and to minister to us in so many ways.
Our parish began the celebration of the Year of the Priest with a beautiful Mass on June 19th, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Father Chris Saliga, chaplain at Walsh University, gave a moving homily on the Sacrifice of Christ and the priesthood. We are grateful to the Vocations Committee for their generosity in preparing for this celebration. Later in the summer, the Vocations Committee sponsored a Novena to Saint John Vianney. 10-30 people gathered each night to pray for vocations. The Novena concluded with a Holy Hour on the Feast of Saint John Vianney, which was open to both our parish and the Stark County Knights of Columbus. Thank you to all who have joined in our parish’s celebrations of the Year of the Priest.
We are now anticipating Priesthood Sunday, a national observance honoring priests. We take this opportunity to recognize, thank, and pray for all our priests, on whose ministry we depend for so many spiritual gifts.

As we anticipated the Novena to Saint John Vianney in the summer, I composed some simple words to fit with one of my favorite hymn tunes. This hymn celebrates the priesthood of Jesus and the ministry of ordained priests in the Church. It follows a traditional 3-verse structure, which, in this case, emphasizes both the three-fold identity of Jesus (priest, prophet and king) and the three-fold gifts of the priesthood (sanctifying, teaching, and shepherding).

Jesus is the High Priest. His priests are the instruments through which Jesus gives us Himself in the Eucharist; and, through their ministry, they strive to reflect the love of the Heart of Jesus in the midst of the world.
Jesus is the prophet. His priests proclaim and preach His Word to us, a Word that is living and effective, a Word that forms the guide and path of our Christian life.
Jesus is the King who rules from the right hand of the Father and the Good Shepherd who feeds and nourished His flock, the Church. His priests lead the flock close to Him, and by their ministry, bring the saving grace of the Cross to fruition in the lives of His people.

Praise be to you, O Christ the great High Priest
Tune: Finlandia (“Be Still My Soul”)

Praise be to you, O Christ the great High Priest
Who for your Church prepare a holy feast.
Through hands anointed and through words sublime
You come to us in forms of bread and wine.
Through humble men, the priests you choose and call,
Love from your Heart, flows to the hearts of all.

Praise be to you, prophet and teacher true
Whose holy words believers’ hearts imbue.
Through sermons preached and through a virtuous life
Your priests proclaim your victory over strife.
Through prophet’s call to preach the truth in love
Your word of life lifts souls to you above.

Praise be to you, Good Shepherd of the flock
Whose holy Church stands firm upon the Rock.
Through loving hearts of shepherds true and good
Our wounded souls are cleansed in tide of blood.
Through faithful men the image of the Cross
Stands strong for all to heal every loss.