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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Where we are.

I just heard on the radio a commercial for a show on the OWN network highlighting the upcoming movie Selma about the historic Selma Alabama marches 50 years ago. One of the gentleman commenting on the importance of the film stated that it was timely for where we are now as a nation.  Hopefully he didn't mean that the times and experiences are similar. Dr King was a civilized man of faith and morals peacefully fighting against racist discrimination of African Americans. What we have now are cop killers and mobs who disregard the rule of law and strike out violently and irrationally. Racial tensions are further manipulated and exacerbated by pundits and politicians. There is no comparison. If the film is timely it is to remind us to worship God as Dr King did and to voice our grievances as civilized law-abiding citizens not in angry mobs.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Mary Ellen Albright

Homily – Funeral for Mary Ellen Albright                 Is 25 / 1 Cor 5 / Jn 14

Obituary available at

On behalf of Fr. Batt, the pastor of Saint Mary’s, and my family, we are grateful to all of you who came to honor my grandmother, Mary Ellen Albright, and to pray with us for her and for each other.


On behalf of our family, I also want to thank the staff of Aultman hospital, the Woodlawn facility and the Compassionate Care Center for taking excellent care of Grandma. 


In a special way, I want to recognize and thank Aunt Jody for being Grandma’s caregiver day and night during her illness. 


More often than not, when I came home for a holiday or summer break and visited Grandma, I was soon headed off to some other city or even another state…back to seminary…back to the parish…


So invariably, the last word Grandma spoke to me each time I left, as I said goodbye and gave her a hug, were “Be careful on the road.”  Maybe you heard her say that too.  She even said it when she was in the hospice center.


Be careful on the road. 

Grandma was worried about me arriving in Columbus or Latrobe or Youngstown or Ashtabula County safely. 

She was worried about her young grandson getting lost or hurt, veering off the road into danger.


Be careful on the road.

We are all on the road: a journey that at times is smooth but often is treacherous, a journey through life to our heavenly homeland, our Father’s house.


Our faith gives us the assurance that we were created by a loving God,

who made us to know, to love and to serve Him,

each according to a unique plan and purpose,

and that we were redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus,

so that we can be united with Him forever in happiness in heaven. 


This is our purpose in life: to know, love and serve God so that we can be happy with Him forever in Heaven


Be careful on the road.

On this road of life, our journey to union with God, we need to be on guard so that we can arrive safely.

So many influences from the world around us, the culture, the Evil One himself, draw us away from the Lord. 

The Lord reminds us often in the Scriptures to be on guard, to stay awake, to be vigilant, to arm ourselves with faith and prayer in order to be prepared for the inevitable and unforeseeable day on which He calls us to account for our lives and calls us home to Himself. 


Along the road of life, there are signposts and aids to keep us safe, help us stay on the road and not swerve off into danger and arrive safely home.


The Lord gives us the Bible, His holy Word, to reveal to us His will and keep us rooted in the values and virtues that matter most. 


The Church gives us the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, as outward signs of God’s love and grace at work in us. 


Our daily prayer keeps us centered in God and focused on the goal, the reward of eternal life, lest we fall into the trap of relying on ourselves and following our own designs. 


These guideposts fortify us for the difficult stretches and unexpected turns on the road of life.


The Paschal Candle, which is lit for the celebration of Easter, is lit in honor of an individual Christian only twice in their life: at the beginning of their journey of faith, their Baptism; and at the end of the earthly journey, their funeral.


The light of Christ is entrusted to the baptized person to be kept burning brightly, with the aid of their parents and godparents, from Baptism, through the whole of life, until death. 


Today, we mark the end of that journey in this world for Mary Ellen:

a life lived with a sense of purpose

a life of faith, love and sacrifice

a life in which the light of Christ burned brightly


We assemble today before the altar at which Mary Ellen so often worshipped and was nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist.


She had an unshakable belief in God and when she was married she converted to the Catholic faith, the faith in which she raised her children. 


It was an honest, sincere faith, expressed in her commitment to her family and in loving concern for everyone she met. 


Mary and her husband John remained committed to each other in Marriage for over 40 years.  Grandpa died before I was able to know him but, decades later, I still heard her speak fondly of him. 


Together they suffered the loss of a daughter in infancy and raised five sons through the era of the great depression and the Second World War, all the while maintaining her home and the family farm. 


Owning a farm meant daily chores and tough work, through the heat of summer and the cold of winter.


Yet, all throughout the best times and worst times of life’s journey, Mary and John enjoyed life to the fullest together.


They would take off from the farm in their airplane and flew as far as Canada and Oregon. 


They hosted card parties at the farm house and loved to go roller skating together.

Boy, I wish I could have seen grandma roller skating!


In their commitment to each other, they show us what true love is all about.  They kept each other safe on the road. 


Mary also enjoyed bowling with Aunt Irene, swimming, and of course there was Bingo. 


She was blessed with many good friends…Joanie, Lois and so many others…


In her later years, when was less active, she talked about how happy she was to spend time with Aunt Ruthie in Canton or go out to eat with “the cousins.”


I don’t know who “the cousins” are exactly, because she never called them by name, just “the cousins.”  But you know who you are.  She always looked forward to those times together.


Grandma always sent card for everyone’s birthday, anniversary, Christmas and other important days.  She always remembered every one of us. 


She was a woman of unparalleled kindness with an incredible memory for details…names, dates, birthdays, memories of times shared with people she loved...even who dealt which card in which hand in a game forty years ago!!!


She believed in working hard every day and I admire that strong work ethic very much. 


I remember a phrase she said often that makes a lot of sense to me: “God helps those who help themselves.” 


What a life she lived! 

What long, beautiful and, until the very end, healthy 94 years!


Mary Albright lived a full and generous life, grounded in the Lord, rising every day and doing what needed to be done.

Life was to her a blessing and a duty.

With her hand to the plow, she did not look back but made each moment the best it could be.


Today, as we remember her life, we lay her body in the earth and entrust her soul to God’s loving embrace, praying that the angels escort her to our Father’s house, where there is no more suffering or pain. 


In the readings from Scripture today, we hear the consolation of God’s Holy Word.


Isaiah speaks of the mountain of the Lord, where God will destroy death forever, wipe away all tears and feed all peoples with a rich and delightful bounty. 


For the Jewish people in ancient times, the mountain meant Mount Zion and the city of Jerusalem.

We who believe in Jesus Christ long to see the new and eternal Jerusalem, the splendor of God’s dwelling place in Heaven.


There, He will surely wipe away our tears and we will echo the words of Isaiah:

          Indeed this is our God to whom we looked!

Let us rejoice and be glad that He saved us!


Imagine Mary…Mom…Grandma…on the mountain of the Lord singing His praise! 

Rejoice, for God has saved us! 


There is no more suffering or pain,

only the happiness of being in total union with God,

in her eternal home

in her room in our loving Father’s house.


This is her reward.  It is our destiny.  We are eager to leave behind this temporary dwelling and enter the eternal dwelling prepared for us. 


Once again, the road up that mountain is not easy.

We need to be careful on the road of life, making use of the gifts God provides for us and remaining grounded in our relationship with Him.


Jesus says to us in the Gospel: I am the way, the truth and the life!


When the road is rough, Jesus is the way!

When we possess His truth, we discover life in its fullness. 


As Saint Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians,

In the days and weeks ahead, turn to others

and offer them the consolation we ourselves have received from God’s Word.


Support each other

Share stories

Take lessons from Mary, and live the values that made her 94 years a shining example for us – faith, commitment, love…


Recognizing that our own mortality is inescapable, prepare well for your own passing from this world. 

Know, love, and serve God more each day.

Put the other people in your life and their needs before your own.

And remember…be careful on the road…so that we may rejoice together with Mary in our eternal home. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Advent: A New Beginning

As the Church embarks on a new liturgical year, how much time and attention does God occupy in your life? We can all say: not enough. Take the Lord's hand and follow Him into a time in intense spiritual growth in this special season of grace. Pray more every day. Read the Bible and Catechism. If you need help with prayer and study seek out a priest or deacon to guide you. If youre doing that then deepend and lengthen your mental prayer, your silent time with God. Attend Mass as often as you can and confession monthly. We can't live without God. Soak up His grace constantly. Blessed Advent to all!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Father's Homemade Cherry Pie

Came out very well. Dad's favorite made special for his 70th birthday today.

Happy Thanksgiving from Max

Happy Thanksgiving!

Best doggies ever...the Basset!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Feast of Christ the King: to Him be all the Glory!

Young man target of FSU shooting praises God for miracle that saved his life Thursday.

Christ is King!

Friday, November 14, 2014

How many more are there?

Sexual abuse of children is horrific and is to be condemned. Yet the media frenzy and "sue first ask for the facts later" mentality allows for injustice towards priests. This dedicated priest's suffering breaks my heart. Ten years in exile because of a lie. We pray for truth to prevail in all such cases for the sake of victims and we pray for justice for all.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Evening Prayer

Young priests praying with our phones. Ibreviary app. :)

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Associated Press exposing breakdown in Catholic unity

People look the Church for truth. Doctrine is not made from a committee or from the grassroots level. Its not made bishops either really. Its revealed by God in Scripture and Tradition. Bishops exist to teach the truth which comes from God. To be true to God's call in their hearts they need to say what they believe and speak the truth even when its unpopular. Its their job. Our US bishops have been doing their job better and better in recent years. Thank God! The world and the Church need prophetic voices. Even if a given pope wants to emphasize one point of doctrine over another in a given era, the bishops and their priests still have to do their jobs and teach the whole truth. Even a pope cannot change God's reality. Welcoming is good. Loving is better than judging. But woe to anyone who allows the little ones to be led astray from Gods narrow way to the kingdom by confusing statements. In Gods truth alone do we find authentic unity. Proclaim the truth with love. Thats how we become fully Catholic. The world needs us to be who we are. Deep down the human heart yearns for the truth. If its true that we are sailing "rudderless" through a "mess" (the modern culture is messy!) then we need our bishops to teach clearly all the more on the issues of our time - marriage human life contraception cohabitation human trafficking freedom of religion terrorism - and their earthly and eternal consequences.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The real synod message

Pope Francis' Address to the Synod Fathers

* * *Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!I can happily say that with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality we have truly lived the experience of Synod, a path of solidarity, a journey together.And it has been a journey and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say enough; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned: - One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called today traditionalists and also of the intellectuals. - The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the do-gooders, of the fearful, and also of the so-called progressives and liberals. - The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46). - The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God. - The temptation to neglect the depositum fidei [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them byzantinisms, I think, these thingsDear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) His disciples should not expect better treatment.Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard with joy and appreciation speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the supreme law, the good of souls (cf. Can. 1752). And this always we have said it here, in the Hall without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on peoples wound; who doesnt see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of Gods mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock to nourish the flock that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6) and it is through us, Pope Benedict continues, that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).So, the Church is Christ's, she is His bride and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant the servant of the servants of God; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being by the will of Christ Himself the supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful (Can. 749) and despite enjoying supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church (cf. Cann. 331-334).Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.One year to work on the Synodal Relatio which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as lineamenta [guidelines].May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

Render unto God all the glory!

We are chosen by Baptism to give glory to God and tell the good news of our Catholic faith to all the nations. When Caesar asks us to render unto him that which does not belong to him we are compelled to say no and to give glory to God by rendering under him ourselves which are marked with his image even under persecution.  We vote but according to our consciences. We pay taxes and obey just laws. However our bodies our sexuality our moral life our decision making all submit to God. God the author of marriage and creator of all life calls us to testify to the truth against popular opinion media bias and government mandate.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Homily Ascension 2014


At all Masses this coming weekend, Pentecost, June 7/8, we will host a chalice used by Saint Padre Pio and welcome Father Lester Knoll, O.F.M. Cap. as guest homilist.  The chalice is made available to us through the generosity of the Saint Padre Pio Prayer Group of Cleveland.  Masses Saturday at 4:00 and Sunday 7:00 and 9:00 at Our Lady of Victory and 11:00 at Saint Patrick. This is a great honor for our parishes and a sure sign of God's blessings. for more information. 

Divine Mercy Sunday Homily 2014


We apologize for the technical difficulties that caused the delay in updating the blog. 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Homily: expanded version of Third Sunday of Easter for Knights of Columbus Exemplification Mass May 3, 2014

I am delighted to introduce you to the many Knights of Columbus who are here with us today after our exemplification ceremony for the Fourth Degree in Aurora.  You the faithful of Saint Joseph parish are so kind to welcome all of us here as guests today. 


In return, I offer a brief explanation of who we are as Knights of Columbus and what being a Knight in the Church in the 21st Century really means. 


The best framework for sharing the vision of the Knights is to explore the four virtues of the Order: charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. 



The Knights of Columbus was founded in the late 1800s in New Haven CT by Father Michael McGivney, a parish priest, to be an organization of Catholic men dedicated to the service of the Church and of widows and the sick who were without husbands and fathers or other family to care for them. 


The Knights continue to exemplify charity through service to the poor and needy of our world.  In our Catholic parishes and on the streets of our communities, where the Knights of Columbus thrives, there exists a living image of the love of Jesus in the midst of a hungering world. 






Knights are joined together from across the country and across the world as a global force for good in the name of the Lord.  The Knights are the most active and visible defenders of the truth of our Catholic faith and of the supreme right to life for all human persons from conception to natural death.  They are furthermore loyal supporters of our parishes, the Church’s bishops and priests and of prayer for vocations.  They understand so well how the Church cannot long endure without the guidance of holy shepherds. 



Brother Knights support each other in achieving their goals and attaining the holiness and virtue to which God calls them.  It is a good reminder for us as Knights to foster fraternity in all we do, to help fellow Knights to excel and rejoice in the success and blessings of others, remembering that all glory ultimately belongs to God.  As men of Catholic values, Knights are called to support each other as husbands and fathers and give example to all of the meaning of married love and family life. 



As members of the Fourth Degree, the new Knights who underwent their exemplification ceremony today commit themselves to being authentic patriots and faithful citizens.  Our country was founded by men who trusted in Divine Providence as they conceived a nation in liberty, a nation dedicated to belief in the equality of all and to the freedom of all men and women.  In this time of crisis and concern for all people of faith, we Christians and Americans need to look to the devotion of the Knights to God and country as a clarion call to rediscover the purpose of our nation’s founding.

These United States of America need leaders of integrity, who respect the rule of law, who honor above all the law of God, who defend the right to life, the freedom of religion and the protection of conscience. 


The Knights of Columbus is an organization with a purpose – to stand for truth in a radically counter-cultural way; to form and encourage gentlemen of faith, hope and love.  These are the kinds of husbands and father our world so desperately needs.  These are the kinds of priests our Church cannot live without out.  


For all these reasons and more, this is why we are Knights.


We are men on our journey to discover who God desires us to be for His sake, a journey of love for others, a journey of faith in Christ and Holy Mother Church, a journey of hope in His promise of eternal union with Himself. 


In January 2012, Dutch teenager Laura Decker completed a year-long, 27000 nautical-mile round-the-world solo voyage in a sailboat.  It was the journey of a lifetime and the realization of a dream for this young girl.  Along the way, she stopped to surf, scuba dive, go cliff diving and watch whales for the first time.  In an interview, Laura described how she learned a lot about herself.  It was a journey of encounter – with her deepest self, with interesting people and with God’s creation – and a journey of discovery.  It was a journey of hope and hopelessness, of fear and excitement. 


Every one of us here is on a journey of discovery – struggling at times to follow the Lord and yearning for the ultimate goal of Heaven – and a journey of encounters, with God and others, encounters that daily form and shape who we are.

Today’s Gospel is the story of a famous journey that leads to a life-changing encounter.  Saint Paul reminds us in the second reading that our Christian life is an experience of sojourning. 


The disciples on the road to Emmaus learn through their mysterious meeting with the Lord that the Cross and grave, which have been a source of scandal and sorrow, are in reality the instruments of their salvation. 


The two men are despondent, for all their hopes and dreams have been shattered.  Jesus wasn’t the Messiah after all, they conclude after witnessing His suffering and death. 


All the disciples are filled with confusion and fear, they hide for a while in the upper room and eventually return to fishing.  Jesus appears to them in several different times and places – the upper room, along the road, by the sea – and yet they struggle to understand Him.


The sadness of the Crucifixion erased form the disciples’ minds and memories the teaching of Jesus that He must suffer, die…and RISE on the third day!


Saint Augustine goes so far as to say that the disciples could learn a lesson from the good thief who was sentenced to die alongside the Lord.  Even though he was a convicted criminal, he had enough of a sense of faith to perceive that Jesus, the crucified Lord, the dying Messiah, the immolated High Priest, would be His ultimate salvation and freedom.  What the thief, at rock bottom in his life and searching for hope, grasped, the disciples in their fear and self-preservation could not understand.  It must happen this way!

Once it is revealed to the two men in Emmaus that it has been Jesus whom they have been conversing with, they realize that He is alive and thus come to understand what He had taught them before – He must first die and then rise in order to save them from sin.  Everything in Scripture points to Him and to His dying as the purpose of His incarnate life. 


It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and so enter into His glory, having won for all mankind the glorious liberation for which the prophets of old had longed. 


Through our encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist, we too are made sharers in His Word and in His Flesh and Blood with the members of the Body of Christ throughout the world.  Jesus transforms our hopeless hearts…our hearts full of fear and confusion at times… into hearts burning with love and zeal for Him and for our faith.  As the Church established by Christ on the foundation of the Apostles and redeemed by His sacrifice, we become a global community of missionaries sent to proclaim the Gospel by teaching the faith and by the witness of our lives. 


It is for this that we are Catholics, baptized and redeemed, nourished and sent forth to share with the world the good news that we have seen the Lord and He is alive!


This is the good news that gives us hope when we are tossed about by the waters of the storms of life, when we are afraid and confused.  We have seen the Lord and He is alive and His suffering and rising have set us free!


And so, rise up o men of God!  Rise up, O Church!  Be done with the lesser things of the world and proclaim the goodness of the Lord!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Seek what is ABOVE! Easter 2014

Easter Sunday 2014


Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen! 


This simple prayer is an ancient form of greeting used primarily by Eastern Christians for centuries.  It is a call and response used in the Easter season among Christians passing one another on the street or welcoming one another into their homes.  Saying these words replaces saying “hello” or how are you?” at the time of Easter. 


It might seem foreign to us but the Paschal Greeting is an ancient form of integrating prayer and faith into everyday life.  So often today we are afraid to mention the name of the Lord in public but centuries ago the name of Christ was on the lips of His servants all the time.  His resurrection was professed in greeting others because of its singular significance in our faith experience. 


Why the resurrection as a greeting?  Why that aspect of our faith?  The resurrection proves the power of Christ’s saving work.  As Saint Paul teaches, “If Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain.”  Without the resurrection from the dead, Jesus would be just another prophet, another crucified criminal, another itinerant preacher.  Instead, He is our victorious Lord, who has triumphed over sin and death. 


His Paschal Mystery is all about Jesus giving His life away on the Cross for our salvation and then being raised to new life.  He reveals to us the good news that we who give our lives away for others are promised the joy of rising to new life with Him. 


Christ has raised His mortal body and promised the raising of our mortal bodies, if we believe in Him.  Believing means integrating what we profess into the routine of our daily experience – much like the ancient greeting – so that faith becomes a living and effective part of us.  So that the name of Jesus flows from our lips. 


Therefore, Paul exhorts us in today’s second reading to “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not what is on earth.”  This was a formative passage for me in seminary.  It comes up every year in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass all through the Easter Season.  But one year, the Lord put this passage in front of me over and over.  He wanted to tell me that He was calling me to something “more,” to a deeper experience of Himself, to a life-long vocation of service and not a mundane life at all.  I was to seek the things of God and share them with the people of the Church.  And, now here I am!  No one can say I am not passionate about my faith. 


Being a Christian means living like Christ and practicing the virtues that will form us into Christ-like men and women.  It is not for us to get bogged down in the allurements of this world, which promise happiness but end in dissatisfaction.  The world around us is all about serving our selfishness.  For the Christian, the great calling is to look upward to the glory of God and outward to the needs of others. 


Sometimes we look askance at people who quote Scripture, who have a repertoire of quaint spiritual sayings, who live life with joy in sorrow and the praise of God on their lips.  Deep down we yearn for some of their peace but it’s too “old fashioned” to be visibly religious.  Why are we so hardened of heart?  Why do we call passionate Christians “Jesus freaks?”

I had a similar experience in first year seminary.  I came from a good Catholic home but we were quiet people and weren’t used to talking openly about the spiritual life.  So, I was surprised when I first heard the older men praising and thanking God all the time for everything.  I didn’t understand.  Now of course, God has led me to a deeper spiritual life and I know that He is a part of everything I am and all I do.  I need to seek the presence of God in every detail of life.  But at first I was uncertain, afraid. 


Saint Augustine fled from religion at first as well.  As a young man, He wanted nothing to do with faith and everything to do with women, partying and his own designs.  He resisted the encouragement of his mother and the yearning of his heart until the Lord broke in and spoke to his heart and inspired him to take up the scriptures, where he found the passage where Saint Paul beckons the reader to leave behind the darkness and walk in the light.


Saint Hubert, the patron of hunters, was out one day in the 8th Century, Good Friday no less, while everyone was in church, on the chase with his famous hounds.  He turned around to see a deer with a crucifix in its antlers and heard Jesus speak to him: "Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly fall into the abyss of Hell!"


These were real men, learned men, men of stature.  They were not accustomed to prayer, rituals and the weakness of surrendering before God.  They did manly things – hunting animals and racking up concubines.  But when Jesus touched their hearts, everything that held them back crumbled like dust.  They surrendered to God and, though they weren’t perfect immediately, they remained seekers of His will for their entire life. 

God gives us such a blessed opportunity to seek and discover the greater realities of His plan for us through the life of the Church.


Why do we humans keep eating fast food, when God is offering us a banquet of rich delights through our Christian life?  Why settle for idle pursuits when God is inviting us to study His Word and live by it?  Seek the things that are above: the joy of heaven, the love of God, the life of the angels who are forever praising God.  This is how we are to live: in faith, hope and love, with prudence, moderation, justice and courage.  These are the greater realities that signify the Christian soul. 


Today we celebrate the confirmation of Dr. Karen Holen and welcome her into our parish…

However, because we are afraid and uncertain and even worldly at times, we had no one for Baptism last night at the Easter Vigil. 


I gave a challenge at the beginning of the year for each family to bring one person to Church this year to experience our parish.  We prayed all through Lent for those names we put in the baskets at the Altar, for those who are away from the Lord.  So, I hope to see at least five Baptisms next year at the Easter Vigil.  Andover is fertile ground, waiting for us to plant the seeds of faith that the Lord will nurture into fruitful conversions. 


We’re afraid – afraid to speak boldly in the name of Jesus, afraid to listen to His voice amid the noise of the world, afraid to trust in what is from above and leave all else behind.  But the Good News is that fear, sin, death and evil are trampled by the Risen Christ.  When we live for the greater things of God, only goodness awaits us!


Once we prioritize God and the needs of those around us, our human existence will be drawn upward and we will be blessed with the fruits of life lived in communion with the Spirit of God: joy, peace, patience, gentleness and goodness.  Seek the things of God and not the follies of the world, for God is our maker and the source of our salvation.  He is risen!  Seek to live with Him forever! 


Praise and glory, honor and adoration be to Jesus Christ now and forever!  Alleluia! 


Friday, April 18, 2014

When no one cares for your life, you are united to the Heart of Jesus: Homily Good Friday 2014

As we gather on this sacred day, we contemplate the sorrowful and tragic scene

on the hill of Calvary.


Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, has been delivered into the hands

          of hateful, violent, lawless men.

They have ridiculed Him by dressing Him in a crown made from thorns

a purple cloak and a scepter made from a reed

and then blindfolding Him and demanding He display His alleged divinity

by prophesying who struck Him.


They treated our Lord with the worst kind of cruel violence:

          beating Him to the point his face is no longer recognizable

          lashing Him and tearing off His skin with whips of cords

with sharp pieces of bone and metal fastened to the end

kicking Him and making His sacred body a mass of blood and bruises.


The body of Jesus is like a rag doll, tossed about as a sport for the soldiers

          and so exhausted and limp He can barely move another step. 


Finally, the miserable cohort arrives at the place of the skull

          and Jesus is fastened with nails to the Cross and left hanging to die in agony.

The great High Priest mounts the gibbet of the Cross

          to make of it by His sacrifice the supreme Altar

          and to present Himself as the spotless Victim,

whose death brings new life to all humanity!

Thus He embraces His Cross with tenderness,

          knowing its pain will be our deliverance.

This instrument of torture and death becomes the instrument of our salvation. 


For those three long hours, while He writhes and whimpers in pain

and is further mocked by the soldiers who await His last breath

so they can complete their duty and be on their way…


Jesus is utterly alone. 


When circumstances turned against them and fear of arrest came over them,

          the Apostles ran away from the garden.


The crowds who days before has celebrated Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city

          with cries of “Hosanna!”

          now have been cajoled into turning against Him

          and demanded His crucifixion.


Mary, His sorrowful Mother, and John, His closest disciple and friend

          stand unwavering in their devotion at the foot of the Cross

          but His happiness at seeing them is tempered.


He longs for an embrace, a touch, the warmth of another’s love

          but His hands are fastened and He cannot reach out to them.


In His humanity, He even questions the providence of the Father:

          “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

The words of the prophetic psalms become the agonizing thoughts of the Lord:


Insult has broken my heart and I empty

I looked for consolers but there were none

I searched for comfort but there was none to be found


They put gall in my food and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink


Look to the right and see; for there is no one who regards me

There is no escape for me; there is no one who cares for my life.


Consider the stark emptiness and desolate yearning of the Lord Jesus.

He is regarded as a worm and no man.

He is hated and despised by the people He came to save.

By all accounts of the world, His life is a failure and is about to end in darkness.


And yet, it was for this agony that He was born

and in this suffering that His true glory is revealed.

For THIS…Christ came into the world!


Call to mind your own experiences of being alone.

The times when you did your best and worked hard and your efforts were ignored.

The times when people misunderstood and rejected you.

The times when insult has broken your heart.

The times when your closest friends have betrayed you.

The times when it seemed like enemies were trying to undermine you,

          putting vinegar in your drink…souring your joy.

The times when you were mocked and ridiculed for just being yourself.

The times when you were surrounded by people

and it still felt that no one cares for you.

The times when there was no means of escape from the oppression of life

          and no comfort could be found.


You were utterly alone.

There was no one who cared for your life. 
We have all been there. 

In the moments of your loneliness,

you were united to Christ in His suffering, from Gethsemane to Calvary.


The loneliness of Jesus confirms our faith in His eternal love –

          He is the High Priest knows our weaknesses and endured them without sin.

          He is close to us in our needs is our supreme comfort.

          His love will never abandon us even in our most painful emptiness.


There is no better place to be than close to Jesus and united to His life.

Just as His emptiness was our salvation,

          so our emptiness is an encounter with Christ’s suffering

          that leads us from darkness into life

          as we feel the loving embrace of Jesus.


Feel the weight of Jesus’ loneliness as you walk this way of the Cross tonight.

Then feel the relief of His loving embrace in your own emptiness

          as you walk the journey of your life arm in arm with the Lord.

See…how He loves you!