Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Second Sunday of Lent 2010

Click on title for audio of homily. (The opening funnies did in fact illicit laughter!)

See below for notes on explanation of gestures given after homily.

Gestures at Mass

Catholicism is an “incarnational” religion. The Son of God became incarnate in human flesh and took on our human nature. Thus, we employ our human flesh, our bodies, in the worship of God.

We engage everything – mind, heart, soul and body – in the actions of divine worship.

Therefore, the gestures that are part of the celebration of Mass are meaningful, both as outward signs of our interior love for God and desire for union with Him, and also as a witness to those around us of our confident faith and love.

You likely notice that I as the priest pay particular attention to my movements and gestures on the Altar. You should as well because this prayer of the Mass is yours, too.

We need not be afraid – indeed we are confident – to express our faith in God and in the Church in a bodily, outward manner, by singing and by performing the gestures of the Mass, together with all our brothers and sisters who join us in our common Catholic heritage.

As we actively pray and participate in Mass in common, our minds and bodies are joined in a single act of worship.

From time to time, we need to be reminded of what we are to be doing in the Mass, specifically regarding the liturgical gestures. In addition to standing and sitting, there are other bodily gestures that we should take note of.

1. Upon entering the church, we take Holy Water from the font and make the Sign of the Cross, as a reminder of our original entrance into the Church through the waters of Baptism.

2. If we pass by the Tabernacle, we genuflect, touching the right knee to the ground as a sign of unique reverence to the living and abiding presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

3. Again, we make the Sign of the Cross at the beginning of Mass, for we begin and end our prayer in honor of Christ's Cross and the Trinity. We do this again at the final blessing to close our prayer in the name of the Trinity and in honor of the Cross as well.

4. At the Rite of Penance, if the Confiteor is prayed, we strike our breast as a sign of humility and sorrow for our sins. This is one which is sadly neglected today. Let us remember to do this together as we express our sorrow for our sins and ask forgiveness.

5. During the Creed, we bow during the words “…and He became flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary….” These are the most significant words in the Creed, for they speak of the Incarnation, the moment when Jesus became flesh, the moment which made His whole life and Paschal Mystery possible.

6. We kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer. Kneeling is the supreme act of adoration – lowering ourselves to the ground in the presence of the divine.

7. At Communion, before or during the priest/EMHC saying “The Body of Christ” we bow our heads and then say “Amen.” This sign of reverence is our acknowledgement of the presence of Christ whom we are just about to receive into our bodies and souls.

Three are of particular importance: Confiteor, Creed, Communion. Invite you all to observe me, and to join me in employing our bodies in divine worship.

The Priesthood of Jesus Christ: Extending His Loving Hand

Saint Michael Parish Website Reflection February 2010

The Gospel accounts of Jesus healing a leper (Luke 5, Matthew 8, Mark 1) have several common elements. Three are notable. The man stricken with leprosy says to Jesus, “If you will it, you can make me clean.” Jesus extends His hand and the man is healed by His touch. After the healing, Jesus commands the man, “See that you tell no one anything but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

The man has placed his faith in Jesus, the great teacher whose renown has spread through all of Galilee and beyond. He sees in Jesus the answer to his needs and earnest prayers. He begs mercy and healing, trusting that this Jesus can indeed make him clean. While he has likely never seen Jesus before, the faith of others, and their miracles of healing, have shown to this man that Jesus is the fulfillment of his deepest longings. He trusts completely in Jesus, even surrendering his need and desire to be healed to the judgment of the Master: “If you will it, you can make me clean!”

It is self-evident that Jesus could have worked healings in a myriad of ways. He is the incarnate Son of God and all things are possible for Him. Some of the healing stories in the Gospels reveal that Jesus has the power to heal without being physically present to the person, as is the case of the centurion’s servant. In the case of the leper, Jesus heals through a physical touch. We all know the healing power of intimacy – a pat on the shoulder, an embrace, a handshake – and how being physically present with another person can ease our troubles. Jesus is intimately present to the man stricken with leprosy. His human presence no doubt brings comfort. The laying on of his hands - the divine touch - brings healing and restoring grace.

After the man has been healed, Jesus tells him to go and show himself to the priests, as “proof for them,” and to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. The man’s appearance before the priests testifies to the reality of his healing and to the power and identity of Jesus. It is also interesting to note that Jesus includes the priests and the ritual of offering the sacrifice of the Mosaic Law in the act of healing. The inclusion of the priests was not necessary, for He could have acted alone in an entirely new way. Instead, He includes the Hebrew priests in his healing and, because He came to fulfill the law rather than abolish it, He also brings about the fulfillment of priesthood in the priesthood of the Church. His action signifies that He desires the sacrificial priesthood to be part of His ministry. Indeed, the institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper and the Great Commission of the first priests on the mountain before Jesus ascended into Heaven were carried out by our Lord in order that the priesthood would be an extension of His ministry among us. His ministry has never ended but continues in the Church through the ministry of priests.

In particular, the gift of healing continues to be revealed in the priesthood. Priests administer sacraments daily and throughout the world for the healing of body and soul. The Anointing of the Sick is given to those seriously sick or in danger of death. The Church prays that the sick person be restored to good health and that the dying be embraced by God in the eternal joy of Heaven, according to the will of our Creator. In the Sacrament of Penance, our souls are cleansed and healed, and “through the ministry of the Church” God gives us pardon of our sins and peace in knowing the depth of his love and mercy. In these great sacraments of healing, the grace of Christ is active in the Church’s ritual through the ministry of the priest. Jesus is alive in the Church! Broken, sorrowful, sinful people are healed!

The priest heals in other ways as well: helping married couples work through differences, reconciling people to the Church, guiding men and women through the annulment process, counseling women in difficult pregnancy and post-abortion situations, being present to the families of people who have died, and so many more. The priest’s shepherding can bring a sorrowful and confused soul to wholeness and a new beginning. The priest’s word of truth, spoken with conviction and authenticity, brings healing to a fractured culture often caught up in lies.

In every age and place, the healing touch of Christ is extended through the world through the hands, the heart, and the words of a priest. In this Year for Priests, let us pray for our priests, that, even in their own fragility and sinfulness, they may extend Christ's loving hand and heal.

A Prayer for Priests

by Cardinal Cushing

O Almighty, Eternal God, look upon the Face of your Son and for love of him, who is the Eternal High Priest, have pity on your priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the bishop's hands. Keep them close to you, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests; for your unfaithful and tepid priests; for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for your tempted priests; for the lonely and desolate priests; for your young priests; for your dying priests; for the souls of your priests in purgatory. But above all, I commend to you the priests dearest to me, the priest who baptized me, the priests who have absolved me from my sins, the priests at whose Masses I have assisted and who have offered me your Body and Blood in Holy Communion, the priests who have taught and instructed me or helped and encouraged me, and the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way.

O Jesus, keep them all close to your Heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.

Me and My Priesthood

The Archangel's Voice February 2010

Catholics are certainly not afraid to be honest with their priests. We priests receive comments both positive and negative quite frequently about homilies, pastoral decisions, activities and teachings of the universal Church – even about the way we wear our clothes and cut our hair!

In the two and a half years that I have served at Saint Michael, a particular thread of commentary by parishioners has been the food of serious reflection. I have pondered at length the observations of two people in particular, both of whom know me slightly better than the average parishioner. The comments essentially boil down to a perceived dichotomy between the way they see me personally and the way they observe my priestly ministry. They say things like: “You’re a great person and I like you on a person level; but I don’t like the way you say Mass” or “You’re great one-on-one or in such-and-such setting but at Mass you’re a different person.” Granted, this is the commentary of two individuals out of 2,600 households in the parish, so I could easily dismiss what has been said. However, I chose to pray and reflect on it, as well as bounce my thoughts off a trusted friend, and see if in fact anything meaningful lies beneath the words. I reached the conclusion that the folks who shared their observations of me touched – perhaps unknowingly – on an important aspect of the priesthood. Priests are both real human persons and public men of the Church and at different times we are called to act and speak in particular ways. I have truly enjoyed the opportunity other’s comments have afforded me to reflect on these themes.

Priests are real people with human emotions and individual personalities, hobbies and interests, as well as weaknesses and sins. We relate to people on different levels and in different ways depending on how God made us. Some people naturally find any priest appealing on a personal level and invite him into their homes and families; others do not choose to do that. Every priest has his friends from among those who appreciate him and connect with him as a person. With friends we share our unique feelings and personal opinions. I am privileged to be part of the lives of many people. I have found the faithful to be incredibly generous in their love, prayers, and support. Personally, I enjoy reading, bicycling, good food and wine, outdoor work and gardening. I share these things with others and find fulfillment as a person. This is all a natural part of being human.

Priests are also public ministers, who must bring the Gospel to everyone. We represent something much bigger than ourselves: a Church founded, not by human persons, but by Jesus Christ; a Church with an almost 2,000 year tradition of sacraments, teachings, and laws; a Church guided by the Holy Spirit and not by the winds of worldly change. Therefore, in our ministry, priests are called to set ourselves aside and bring Christ to others. When we speak, we must represent the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium. Our lives must exemplify our belief in the teaching of Jesus and the tradition of the Church. Our ministry must be consistent. Among friends, even if it means a difference of opinion or a negative reaction, I represent the teaching of Christ and the Church and hold to the same values and standards as with everyone else. Without integrity, without being true to the fullness of the priesthood and the Church, a priest risks doing a great disservice to the faithful by representing himself rather than Christ. It is Christ who saves. It is Christ’s message that priests are called to deliver.

When called upon to minister to someone in need – confession, spiritual counsel, anointing of the sick, serving basic human needs – a priest is called to lay aside himself aside. It matters not whether we might relate to them on a personal level, or what we might have in mind to do at that moment. What matter is that someone needs a priest, needs the Church, and ultimately needs Jesus. The priest stands in a privileged place: equipped, ordained and available to bring Jesus into the lives of those in need.

Above all, when entering into the Mass, the priest leaves himself behind. The prayers that accompany the priest’s putting on the vestments for Mass speak of his clothing himself in the garments of another world: the helmet of salvation (the amice); the baptismal garment of purity (the alb); the belt of chastity (the cincture); the stole of immortality (the stole); and, over all, the yoke of pastoral charity (the chasuble). The priest enters the Mass with the world behind him and focused on the worship of God. The Mass is where heaven unites with earth. We leave the cares of this world behind as we abandon our lives and real human needs into the Father’s hands in prayer. We enter for a while into union with Jesus as we adore and receive Him. God strengthens and nourishes us through the Sacred Liturgy, through word and sacrament, so that we can return to our often complicated and difficult daily lives filled with divine life. Therefore, the Mass (and the other liturgies of the Church) is not a casual event; it is not celebrated in the same way in which we observe anything else in our life experience. The Mass, the source and summit of the life of the Church, is unique among everything we do. The manner in which we celebrate it ought to reflect that uniqueness. For the priest, this means that his posture, articulation or chanting of prayers, and of ritual actions are different from the way he speaks and acts in personal conversation. In the Mass, Jesus Christ the Son of God is present and active. The divine presence necessarily demands a basic attitude of reverence, which manifests itself in careful celebration of the liturgy, according to the rubrics of the liturgical books. Attention is given to reverent reading of the Scriptures. The words of the consecration – the pinnacle and central reality of the whole celebration – are (according to the rubrics) meant to be spoken slowly and deliberately. In the Mass, we celebrate and enter into divine realities. The way we speak and act at Mass should convey our love, belief, and awe before God and the Eucharist, in the midst the Church’s prayer. I invite everyone to open their hearts to see beyond this world when we enter together into the Mass.

My personal reflections have led me to one word: passion. I can be passionate about my personal interests, my beliefs, my love for family and friends. Above all, my greatest passion is the priesthood, God’s greatest gift to me, and within my priestly life the Mass holds first priority. Therefore, the dichotomy some have (I believe incorrectly) perceived between my personality and my ministry is easily reconciled. The sense of humor and personal interests that people say they appreciate about me is authentically “me” as I relate to them. My passion for the ritual of the Mass, revealed in the way I celebrate Mass, is equally authentic and flows naturally from my love for the God and the Eucharist. I enjoy relating to people personally and sharing the joys and challenges of life with them. I have always loved the liturgy; it was one of my early attractions to the priesthood; and I strive every time I celebrate it to do so with ever-greater love and devotion. All of this is authentically “me.” I can’t switch off my appetite for steak and cabernet. On a more profound level, I cannot be any less in love with the Mass and less outwardly reverent, even if I tried.

When I enter into the Mass, I am captivated by what I am privileged to do as the instrument of the consecration. I leave the world behind, enter into rubrics of the Church’s prayer and strive to celebrate them with reverent devotion, so that, nourished by the Eucharist and inspired by the uniqueness of what we celebrate, we might love and serve each other more faithfully in our daily lives together, as we journey in faith toward our heavenly home.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Homily Fifth Sunday of the Year 7 February 2010

Homily began with Bill Cosby's "Noah" sketch...

...and was delivered without this text...

...Noah built the ark and God preserved in it the seed of the world’s future
during the great flood.
Noah’s obedience and perseverance were an instrument of abundant grace.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers a similar lesson

After He finishes teaching the crowd Jesus says to the disciples in the boats:
“Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch!”

The disciples naturally wonder if this Jesus is a few bulbs short of a bright light.
After all, what does a Rabbi know about fishing?
“We have worked hard all night and have caught nothing!” they reply.
They have just cleaned their nets and finished fishing,
and now Jesus wants them to start all over again and get everything soiled.

Nonetheless, Peter is moved by the presence of Jesus…and by His Word,
and He responds to the Lord’s command.

Putting out into the deep and lowering the nets is dangerous,
unusual for this time of day, and the last thing on their minds.
“Putting out into the deep”
means a challenge, a risk, a new and undesired experience.
It requires extending oneself in ways unforeseen
and uniting with others in mutual support to fulfill the challenge,
as the disciples came to each other’s aid when the nets began to tear.
Yet, putting out into the deep yields tremendous results when we trust in the Lord.

First, The Lord rewards in abundance our obedient response to His Word.
The disciples draw in a miraculous catch of fish –
so many that their nets and boats are weighed down
and unable to handle the load!
Even though we may not see it in this life…
even if the reward is great only in Heaven…
we still know that God’s love fills to overflowing
those who extend themselves to love and serve Him.

Second, the risk we take in putting out into the deep for the sake of the Lord
becomes a living witness that is attractive to others.
Jesus says to the amazed and stunned disciples:
“From now on you will be fishers of men!”
When we show that we are willing to extend ourselves for the sake of the Gospel
God reveals the bounty of His extravagant love
and others are caught in the “net” of our courageous example.
Men and women are captured for the Lord!
And this net is a net of tenderness and goodness
that draws them into the secure vessel of the Church,
where they find love, truth, and life.

Fathers of the Church compare Jesus in the boat to Noah.
Like Moses, the boat keeps safe the children of God. So does the Church.

Finally, the sight of all that our relationship with God yields leaves us awestruck.
At the sight of what the Lord has done, Peter falls to his knees in humility and awe.
The disciples leave everything behind…boats, equipment, livelihood, families…
because their encounter with the Word and presence of Jesus
has captured them and inspired them to dedicate their lives to Him.

Across the continents and down through the centuries
the experience of the early disciples has been the experience of the Church.
The Church is the boat, with Christ at the helm,
journeying through ever new and uncharted waters,
always called to put out into the deep
to extend herself into new arenas as people and cultures change
that she might bring the unchanging Gospel
into the lives of people everywhere.

The Church is strong because of the unity and mutual collaboration
of all the brothers and sisters of Christ throughout the world
who come to each other’s aid in times of challenge and need.

The Church responds to the Word of the Lord
“Go out and preach the Gospel to all nations”
by casting the net of God’s Word far and wide
and by standing as a witness to the unique splendor of the Gospel.
That net of truth, that captivating witness, and captures men and women for God,
drawing them into the boat, which is the Church,
where they are preserved and given new life
through the sacraments and the preaching of Word.
As Saint Paul writes to the Corinthians:
You hold firm in the Gospel that was preached to you by the Church
and through it you are being saved!

For us as well, in our journey of faith,
we are called to extend ourselves in ways unforeseen
in order to serve God, the Church, and one another.

We hear the Word of God spoken to us at Baptism, calling us to discipleship.
We hear the Word of God constantly in our Catholic life.
We can allow the Word to pass through one ear and out the other
or we can respond in obedience and put out into the deep…
go where it’s risky, unplanned, undesired, non-sensical.

Perhaps the Lord has closed one door and has yet to open another.

Perhaps He is asking you to move to a new town, accept a new job or position,
let go of material resources for the benefit of others in need,
speak up about injustice you see in our world,
sharing our faith with others who need to hear about Jesus.

Perhaps it is a new chapter in your spiritual life:
taking up that daily prayer we are always hearing about in Church,
beginning to study the Scripture and Catechism,
coming for the first time to a Lenten talk or mission.

When we hear the homily, the readings, the voice of God in our prayer,
we are inclined to say:
“Who me? No way! That’s for someone else.
Are you serious, Lord? Why do you want me to do these crazy things?”

But if we are honest, we know that God’s Word has touched us and has moved us

As we are working on a project in the basement, or out fishing, or in the office
or whatever it is we do each day, God will speak to us.

We are moved to say with the Prophet Isaiah: “Here I am! Send me!”
We are moved like Noah to do something remarkable for God.
We are moved like the disciples by Jesus’ Word to put out into deep water…
to leave everything and follow Jesus.

God will use us as witnesses to capture men and women in the net of faith.
He will preserve us and make our boats to overflow with His love!

Reflection on Saint Raymond and Christmas Season

Click on title for audio file.

Homily Mary Mother of God 2010

Click on title for audio file.