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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Homily 24 & 25 January 2009

Click on the title above and follow the link to audio files of last weekend's homily.

The Second Vatican Council

In my brief experience of the priesthood, I have discovered that a formidable obstacle to priestly ministry – indeed in spreading the Gospel of Jesus at all – is dealing with misunderstandings. Secondarily, and to my surprise, I have discovered that one of the more contentious themes in the Church is the meaning and interpretation of the Second Vatican Council. “Vatican II” has become, in my experience, a dividing line in the history of the Church and among her members. A pharisaical trap is set by those who ask “Do you believe in Vatican II?” and who make of the answer a litmus test for judging whether or not one is a good Catholic. Ironically, this historic and significant event in the life of the Church, which was meant to be a moment of unity as the bishops of the world – whose common ministry with the pope manifests the unity of the Church in a profound way – gathered in Rome, has become a source of discord as conflicting interpretations of the Council arise.
Pope Benedict XVI captured these conflicting interpretations, and the precise path through the mire, in his 2005 Christmas Address to the Roman Curia. Reflecting on the 40th Anniversary of the closing of Vatican II, the Holy Father addressed important questions: 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 perceives the council in terms of “impulses toward the new” and contemporary. 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.” As the Pope explains, this “spirit” is given various meanings by those who claim its support. So, as we have seen in the last 40 years, doctrines based on divine revelation (e.g. the priesthood, transubstantiation, mortal sin) and long-standing practices which flow from the Church’s faith (fasting, the Rosary, Eucharistic Devotion) have been called into question in certain circles because the “spirit of Vatican II” allegedly no longer allows for them. On the other hand, the “hermeneutics of reform” properly places the Council in the context of the whole Tradition, as the manifestation in our time of the unchanging reality of the Church. Appreciating the incredible blessings that have come upon the Church because of the Council – e.g. ecumenical advancements, the wider use of Scripture in the vernacular in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, and a clearer, more human and personal explanation of moral teachings – ought not to mean disdaining other teachings and practices which remain valid and essential to the whole Church.
The question remains: how do we really know what Vatican II was supposed to be? The best place to find the answer is Pope John XXIII’s Address at the Opening of the Second Vatican Council on 11 October 1962. While he could not have predicted the entire work of the Council, we find in his words the foundational purpose and the scope of the Council:
“The present Council is a special, worldwide manifestation by the Church of her teaching office, exercised in taking account of the errors, needs, and opportunities of our day. […] The major interest of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred heritage of Christian truth be safeguarded with greater efficacy. […] If this doctrine is to make an impact on the various spheres of human activity...then it is absolutely vital that the Church shall never for an instant lose sight of that sacred patrimony of truth inherited from the Fathers. But it is equally necessary for her to keep up to date with the changing conditions of the modern world….”
The Holy Father intended that the Council transmit the truth of the Catholic faith unstained, and, with renewed enthusiasm and pastoral concern, make that truth come alive for the modern world. In order to truly capture and live Vatican II, we must all read with the eyes of faith the 16 documents the Council published.
Finally, we must ask: what are we to do fifty years later, as we mark this milestone anniversary of the calling of Vatican II – 25 January 1959? In paragraph 72 of his encyclical Ad Petri Cathedram, under the heading “Religious Controversy,” Pope John XXIII points to the significance of “the common saying, expressed in various ways and attributed to various authors, [which] must be recalled with approval: in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.” Regarding things essential, it is vital that we remain unified in the Truth revealed by God, in the unchanging doctrines and laws of the Church, for in these are found the path to fulfillment and holiness. In all things non-essential, such as devotions, and choosing among legitimate liturgical options, the health of the Body of Christ depends on all her members being allowed the freedom to embrace approved possibilities. Above all, charity must reign! No good can come from disdaining the way others pray or the experiences of previous generations of Catholics, or demonizing others for their heartfelt fidelity to the Church. By lovingly embracing the Truth, and working to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will bring to fruition the vision of Vatican II.

January 2009

As Catholic Americans we face hard times. Last week, we saw the inauguration of our 44th president, Barack Hussein Obama. Much has been made of the fact that this inauguration is “historic” in that President Obama is the first “African-American” to be elected to the nation’s highest office. We have come a long way in our respect for all people, regardless of race, religion, and skin color. A man whose ancestors would have been ridiculed or enslaved now holds a position of power perhaps unrivaled in the world. At the same time, is it not also true that if we are striving to advance beyond racial distinctions to a state of true civility, where race and skin color no longer matter, then we ought to first cease celebrating every time a “black man” “finally” accomplishes something? Whether or not he is black matters not. He is a human person, as much as any other. Competency, faith, and humility before the office of president matter most.
Our nation seems to be occupied with two concerns: the economy and the war on terrorism. The economy is surely not healthy at present but it is also not the dreadful picture painted by the media. With our American spirit of unwavering confidence and striving for the best intact, we can recover from an economic crisis. What is more, there are far worse crises from which we cannot as easily recover. Economic instability, as painful as it can be for many people, does help to put our lives in perspective. When we are too comfortable, we can easily lose sight of what truly matters: life, love, family, faith.
Many people in the United States oppose the war in which we are presently engaged: some because they argue it was unjust from the start; others because they have become disheartened over the long and arduous task of our brave men and women in uniform and no longer support it. Either way, it is not entirely a failure. Our troops have made great advancement in freeing Iraqi citizens and containing or eliminating terrorist groups. Our intelligence personnel have thwarted numerous attacks on our country. Whatever one might say about former President Bush, the fact remains that, despite the efforts of Muslim extremists, America has not suffered another devastating attack like September 11, 2001. For this we ought to be most grateful.
Loss of life is always tragic. No one should die because of poverty and hunger. Mothers and wives ought not have to bury young soldiers. The elderly should not be euthanized and embryonic persons should not be created, manipulated and killed. These are sad realities. Yet, we cannot afford to neglect the most heinous attack on human life: the killing of the innocent child in the womb. Abortion has claimed 50 million lives in the United States, and the death toll grows daily. On this issue our new president, with his 100% approval rating from Planned Parenthood and promise to extend abortion in the U. S. and around the world, is a disappointing failure.
President Obama has already begun backtracking on his campaign promises regarding the economy and the war. Now we hear that stimulating the economy and withdrawing the troops will not be as immediate or simple as promised. However, on abortion, he has wasted no time. As of January 23rd, 2009, as if pouring salt in the wounds of pro-life men and women of every creed who participated in the March for Life the day before, President Obama has signed an executive order reversing the “Mexico City Policy,” which banned the use of taxpayer money to fund international groups that counsel for and perform abortions. The following is a quote from the president’s statement, as reported by Reuters/Drudge: "For the past eight years, (the restrictions) have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries… It is right for us to rescind this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women and promote global economic development." This decision of our president is reckless, destructive, and uncivilized. In the midst of our economic crisis, our president has chosen to spend our taxpayers’ money, without seeking their opinion or approval, on legalized murder of innocent souls in foreign countries. What is so striking is the reasoning behind the decision, or lack thereof. How does killing children empower women? How does murder disguised as “family planning” constitute a valuable use of our country’s limited financial resources? How does this promote development in other countries? This is nothing other than the influence of Satan.
We must beware of what may come next. The Freedom of Choice Act will soon be considered by Congress. If passed, our new president has promised to sign it into law. If this bill becomes law, it would reverse all previous state-level restrictions on abortion. What is more, this legislation would eliminate parental notifications for minor girls having abortions, restrictions on non-physicians performing abortions, and laws protecting women from unsafe medical clinics. With this legislation, our government will impose abortion on all Americans, ignoring the laws enacted by the people and the 82% of American citizens whom current polls show do not believe in abortion on demand. This is heinous and uncivilized legislation, which, like Roe v. Wade, cannot stand if our country is truly to prosper.
With Barack Hussein Obama being inaugurated as “America’s first black president” the day after the annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, the media has exploited the obvious civil rights themes. Among other things, it can be said that Dr. King loved life. In his famous “I have a dream” speech, he longed for the day when little black boys and girls and little white boys and girls would play together. His heart desired that all people live in harmony and enjoy the fullness of life and prosperity. He would not have supported abortion. We ought to pray that President Obama become worthy of being mentioned along side the name of Dr. Martin Luther King.
At his inauguration (on the celebration of which the president spent $179 million dollars, as people suffer in poverty blocks away), President Obama delivered an eloquent speech. But good speeches do not save lives. He speaks often about rights, equality and the chance for prosperity for all people. The vulnerable unborn and elderly deserve those rights and chances too. Every human person deserves the chance to live! We pray that our president will one day live the fine words he speaks.
Following this year’s “historic” inauguration, people of faith and reason marked the 36th anniversary of the sad Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade with the annual March for Life. Thanks be to God for the marchers. “Pro-life” is not merely a movement, nor is it the purview of a few faithful and determined souls. Being pro-life is essential to the mission of the Church and woven into the identity of the human person. The marchers stand for what is truly human in all people, inviting all to open their hearts, embrace their identity, and love life. Thanks be to God for the marchers. Without them, things might actually be worse. Roe v. Wade would go unopposed.
The March for Life receives little if any coverage each year. Its participants are ridiculed. They are fewer in number than the throngs who came for the inauguration. Still, though small, ignored and unpopular in the eyes of the media and secular elites, the marchers are powerful because the truth of God is in their hearts. As the Pauline readings and prayers of the Feast of Saint Agnes remind us, God chooses the seemingly weak, foolish and despised of the world and makes them strong, so that they shame those who are wise and powerful in the eyes of the world. Thank God for the marchers, who have shamed the worldly power! By their faith, meekness, courage and love, they stand strong as a sign of God’s truth – that every human life is precious in His sight and valuable because He has created it!
Our current situation as Catholic Christians and Americans is dismal – the war, the economy, the culture of death. Yet, our precious children deserve the best future we can provide for them, so we cannot give up. The future can be bright, and signs of hope are found in the many young people who love life. As Pope Benedict has written, we are people of hope, who find our source of hope in Jesus Christ, and the one who has hope lives differently! May we always live for Christ, love life, and proclaim the truth with love!

"The Morning After" (originally written 5 november 2008)

For the past 18 months or so, Americans of deep faith have prepared for yesterday’s general election. Bishops wrote pastoral letters and spoke out courageously. Priests preached the truth. People in both parties worked to “get out the vote.” Christians reminded their fellow citizens of the necessity of exercising their civic responsibility in defense of human life, the sanctity of marriage, and the dignity of the human person. Catholics spent hours before the Blessed Sacrament, begging the mercy of God and His Divine Providence on our great country. People worked hard and prayed even harder.
In the end, the citizens made their voice known and elected the 44th president of our nation: Barack Hussein Obama. The party whose platform includes the so-called “right to choose” has also secured majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, and a majority of governorships.
This is the time to study and point out who exactly the president-elect is and what his administration will mean for our country. On so-called homosexual marriage, he has stated that he “respects the decision” of the California Supreme Court, to strike down an initiative of the people banning the attempt to re-define the sacrament. On human life, he has promised Planned Parenthood that he would sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act, legislation that is un-American, un-Christian, and uncivilized in its abolishing of protections of women and unborn children. On our unstable economy, he has offered foolish promises, and proposed no real solutions. On the Supreme Court, he promises liberal judges who do not understand the constitution, and who will delay the overturning of Roe v. Wade – a court decision that has proven devastating to our nation’s prosperity – perhaps for another decade. These issues remain and there is much work to be done. Government must be held accountable for both immorality and inefficiency.
Our American culture is in peril, and the souls of our youth are in danger from the influences of a violent, anti-life, sex-obsessed, narcissistic, and secularized world. The frenzy into which the president-elect’s supporters have been drawn, despite the fact that he has said nothing of substance, speaks volumes about the false values of our times. The “fairness doctrine” will likely be instituted in the coming years, effectively destroying talk radio, the last bastion of free speech.
We must consider the effects on our Church. Catholic hospitals and Catholic Charities organizations will be pressured to accept the false values of the liberal ideology – abortion, contraception, etc. – and will be forced to close if they try to object. We may even see priests persecuted and imprisoned for speaking the truth. The Church will suffer.
It may seem that the soul of our nation is on the brink of being lost. At the same time, remember that today is the first day of our future, a future which we can and must shape for ourselves and our posterity.
In his concession speech, Senator John McCain said of America: “I remain her servant.” America needs humble servants, devoted to loving and serving our great nation. We need courageous men and women, who will rediscover and promote the core principles of American society – the principles of the Founding Fathers. This is the moment to identify what it truly means to be a Christian and an American, and to live those values with unwavering passion.
Today we re-group. Today we pray more fervently, love more deeply, work more diligently, and speak more loudly. All is not lost. Providence is with us. Signs of hope are everywhere in our young people. Never give the enemy the satisfaction of seeing anything but a smile. Fight for all that is good. Inspired and united, we shall be a formidable force, driven by the mere seven words of a commencement speech delivered by Sir Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never, never, never, never quit!”

Monday, January 12, 2009

Homily Baptism of the Lord Year B 11 January 2009

Every form of life – plants, animals, fish, birds, and humans –
depends on water as a basic and essential element in sustaining life.

Water remains a basic and fundamental staple of human existence.

It is both a source and symbol of nourishment and cleansing.

2/3 of the earth…some 326 million trillion gallons…is comprised of water.
65 percent of the human body is made up of water.

It is this essential, ubiquitous, and life-sustaining element of earthly existence
that God has chosen as the symbol of His grace…
His essential, ubiquitous, and life-sustaining grace…
made manifest to us in the Sacrament of Baptism.

Today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord,
which commemorates both the moment of the baptism of Jesus by John
and the institution of the Sacrament of Baptism
provides a most valuable opportunity for us to reflect
on the awesome reality and impact of our own baptism.

As Jesus descends into the waters of the Jordan…
the Son of God again humbles Himself, this time in being baptized by a man,
in order to make holy the waters of Baptism, for our salvation.

Jesus is not baptized for His own sake…for that would not be necessary at all…
but instead He is baptized for our sake
and to provide for us this marvelous Sacrament.

The moment of Jesus’ Baptism, at the beginning of His public ministry,
is the inauguration of His mission,
begun in the preaching of the Gospel
and the paschal mystery of His Passion and Resurrection
and continually fulfilled in the life of His Church.

In the unique moments of our own baptism,
the mission entrusted by God to us is inaugurated
as we experience in a profound way the presence of God’s grace.

The grace of Baptism has powerful effects in the life and soul of the believer.

Baptism washes the soul clean of all sin, both original sin and personal sin.

Baptism transforms the believer into a new creature, a child of God,
and fills the soul with His sanctifying grace –
the grace to believe, to possess the virtues of faith, hope and love
to live and act under the promptings of the Spirit
and to grow in holiness.

Baptism incorporates the believer into the Mystical Body of Christ,
and, through this gateway to the sacraments,
opens the way for the faithful to experience the life of the Church.
In all this, a bond of unity is established among believers,
so that there exists a common heritage shared by God’s children,
who together are given the honor of calling on God as “Our Father”
and a sharing in holy things among the members of the Church.

Upon each soul the Sacrament of Baptism impresses an indelible mark,
a permanent seal binding us to Christ.

In short, our common Baptism transforms us and defines us.
We belong to God and to the Church!

Fundamental to our identity as God’s children and members of the Church
is our duty to recognize and defend the dignity of the human person.

The recent Vatican instruction Dignitas Personae – The Dignity of the Person –
which was released in English last month,
applies the inviolable principle of the dignity of life
to certain modern bioethical questions.

The document emphasizes the reality that human life is a gift from God
which has its authentic origin within the context of marriage and the family,
that every life possesses a dignity by virtue of the simple fact of existing,
and these truths spring from human nature and the natural law.

The document expresses a great “yes” to human life
over and against the destructive and dehumanizing experiments of science,
such as the creation, freezing, destruction, manipulation of embryos
gene therapy and genetic engineering,
human cloning, research on embryonic stem cells,
in vitro fertilization,
and the creation of hybrids between human and animal genes.

Our baptismal vocation compels all the faithful to be people of truth and love,
who live the faith with conviction in the midst of the world.
That includes standing against every attempt by science and government
to undermine the dignity of life
and to manipulate and destroy the most vulnerable among us.

Despite the threats to human life and Christian faith…
our God gives us great things in which we find hope!

As we begin Vocations Awareness Week,
we are mindful that God calls men and women to unique vocations
from within the common vocation of the baptized.

Marriage is the partnership of the whole of life between a man and a woman,
by which two persons become one flesh
and share in the action of God in creating and sustaining new life.

In the Ordained Priesthood, despite his weakness, a man is conformed to Christ
consecrated to stand in the person of Christ the Head of the Body,
ordained to preach the word, offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice,
and bring Christ to others in the sacrifices of his own life.

Religious life is a great gift to the whole Church,
in which men and women consecrate their lives to God
and serve the Church in a diversity of religious orders and charisms.

The life of the Church is so beautiful,
and the vocations to marriage, priesthood, and religious life are so fulfilling,
when embraced in love and lived in truth!

As we strive to discern and to live authentically our particular vocation from God
and to fulfill our calling as baptized people
to proclaim the truth of the dignity of the human person,
we find our strength in the person of Christ.

In this Holy Mass we behold Him:
the Lamb of God, who takes away our sins
and the Good Shepherd, who gathers us in his arms and leads us with care.

May the witness of the Church’s faith fill the whole world…
as water covers the earth…
that all people may see together the glory of the Lord!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Homily Solemnity of Mary Mother of God 2009

With today’s feast of Mary, the Mother of God,
the Church once again brings to a close
the eight-day-long celebration of the Octave of Christmas.

We rejoice heartily in the Lord and give thanks
that today, in Christ, a new and radiant light has dawned upon the world.

Though He entered the world in human flesh in a particular historical moment,
the Word of God has existed eternally,
together with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
in the splendor of the Godhead.

The Son was begotten from eternity and given life by the Father.

Jesus has a Father, God the Father, from whom His divine life flows,
and the two are of one substance with one another.

The divine person was born in time,
in order that He might enter our human existence,
and, as one like us in all things but sin,
bring salvation to the whole human race.

Man’s Creator has become man, born of a virgin.

In a marvelous exchange,
we have come to share fully in the divinity of Christ
who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.

For the mystery of the Incarnation to unfold, Jesus needed also a mother.

And so, in the womb of the Virgin Mother of God,
Mary’s Messiah became also her son.

It is interesting to note that the Latin root
of the word used in the prayer of the Church
when referring to the “marvelous exchange” of the Incarnation
is “commercium” – the cognate of the word “commerce.”

As we bid farewell to 2008, we are well aware
of the serious economic situation that affects our whole country.

In these difficult times, the Church directs our attention
to a different kind of “exchange” –
one in which God offers Himself to become like us
so that we are able to share in His divine life.

In the face of even the most serious challenges and struggles,
God is always with us and His love never fails.

By the grace of Baptism, we have all become sons and daughters
of God our Heavenly Father.
We are God’s children, who by divine instruction and the teaching of Jesus,
boldly pray the Lord’s prayer, daring to call on Him as “Our Father.”

God has placed His Spirit within us at Baptism,
so that…as Paul writes…we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters,
who cry out “Abba!”

We belong to Him and our relationship is intimate.
“Abba” is the affectionate form, like calling on God as “Dad!”

Jesus used this affectionate name and invites us to do the same.

Our boldness is quite proper, for the divine eternal life of God is within us
by the mysterious action of grace through the Sacraments.

God is our loving Father.

In order that the divine life given to us at Baptism
might become incarnate within us and be born anew in our lives,
we too need Mary as our mother.

We share in divine life and in the redemption won by Jesus on the Cross
because of Mary’s love for God
in saying “yes” to the angel
and because of Mary’s love for us
in her constant and powerful intercession before the throne of God.
Mary is our mother.
The Church is also called “mother” in the writings of the saints and pastors,
and many comparisons can be drawn between Mary and the Church.

The Church is mater et magistra – mother and teacher for us.

It is through the Sacraments of the Church
that we experience the living grace of God,
so that God is not a theological construct for us
but a living person whose presence directs our lives.

Through the teachings of the Church and the shepherding of her pastors
we hear and understand the revelation and will of God,
and find there the purpose and direction of life.

In the Liturgy, we are caught up in the saving action of Christ
and in the worship of the angels,
for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

What God has given us through the Church is beyond our comprehension.
It is so beautiful and compelling
that for centuries men and women have died that the Church might live.

The Church is not, then, simply one choice among many for us.
Being Catholic is not a switch one can turn on or off.

It is through Mary’s love and the Church’s life
that we share in the divine life God bestows on His faithful people.
Infants by nature cry out for their mothers
and we all depend upon maternal love to experience the fullness of life.

In our spiritual lives, we depend on the maternal care of Mary and the Church.

In giving our lives fully to Christ, we receive the fruits of the Incarnation.
In a marvelous exchange,
we offer our humble efforts and receive an abundance of grace.

In the New Year we will surely face challenges:
threats to faith,
challenges to love and justice,
promises of obstacles to the protection of human life,
and our own unique trials and sufferings at home, at work, at school.

In the divine life of grace which was poured into our souls at Baptism,
which we share through the powerful intercession of Mary
and through the life of the Church,
we find the peace and strength to meet these challenges.

In the New Year, may we be courageous living witnesses
that no human challenge is stronger than God’s redeeming grace
and that the truth and love revealed to us in Jesus Christ
can...and will...and does...bring new and abundant life to every human soul!