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.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

To Jesus through Mary

Just finished renewal of consecration to Mary with Fr Michael Gaitley s 33 DAYS TO MORNING GLORY. Highly recommend it for deepening your intimate relationship with Mary and Jesus. Pray for success of consecration for priests. Pray the Lord guides my writing and editing.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Deadly sins

In the readings from yesterday and today we hear about the destructive effects of deadly sins: greed envy jealousy anger sloth. The brothers of Joseph are envious because he is the child of their fathers old age and their father loves him in a special way. They forget the blessings they received from God and from their father in their own childhood and as grown men they are jealous of their little brother. Their jealousy grows so strong that they hate him and they are willing to kill him and they sell him into slavery. They hate him so much they will not even greet him. The vineyard workers in yesterday's gospel are lazy and do not want to provide the fruit for their master and they are greedy and they want all the produce for themselves. The Pharisees in today's reading are angry and jealous because Jesus spends time with the tax collectors and sinners. The older brother in today's Gospel is angry and jealous because his father is kind to his sinful little brother when he comes home having wasted his inheritance. It all of these cases hardened hearts prevent these individuals from seeing and appreciating the blessings of God in their lives and in the lives of others. Their anger envy jealousy and greed harden their hearts and turn them away from God and others and inward to themselves. When in our families our schools our workplaces and our parishes we allow deadly sins to corrupt we are hardened in our hearts and we are separated from God. These deadly sins become wounds in our souls that the Evil One uses to further destroy us. In this Lenten season we need to purify our hearts of these deadly sins by looking outward two others needs and upward with gratitude for all God has given us. We need to stop comparing and being angry at what others have that we do not because when we do that we show tremendous ingratitude for the goodness of God and the lack of appreciation for His divine providence.

Father Albright on the radio in April

Listen to Wineskins Sunday mornings on AM 570 WKBN Youngstown OH. Father Albright will be offering reflections for the Sundays of April.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Trust Always in the Lord! Homily Second Sunday of Lent 2014

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God's Word - Readings from First Week of Lent


As the snow and rain accomplish the watering of the crops, the Scripture tells us, so God's Word is powerful and effective, achieving His purpose and not ending in emptiness.   We see the effect and power of God's Word in the creation of the world and even more so when the Father sends Jesus who is the mind, the voice and the Word of God in the flesh.  He speaks God's Word in the midst of our human experience.  He accomplishes our salvation by His Paschal Mystery.   We are nourished by God's Word by feeding on "every word that comes out of his mouth" and praying the words that Jesus gave us in the Our Father.  Then, we too begin to speak words that are effective because they are inspired by the power of God's own Word.  But if we only feed on words like political talking points and self help books and false words from those who lead us astray then we are not nourished by God.  We put other words ahead of God's Word and we will fail in our search for fulfillment in life and our calling to share the Word with others. 

Friday, March 07, 2014

Todays Matins reading from St John Chrysostom

A beautiful reflection on prayer including reflections on salt and light two of my favorite of the Lord's metaphors.

Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good: it is a partnership and union with God. As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see light, so our spirit, when it is intent on God, is illumined by his infinite light. I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart, not confined to fixed times or periods, but continuous throughout the day and night.

Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, giving generously in the service of others, our spirit should long for God, and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe. Throughout the whole of our lives we may enjoy the benefit that comes from prayer if we devote a great deal of time to it.

Prayer is the light of the spirit, true knowledge of God, mediating between God and man. The spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness; like a child crying tearfully for its mother, it craves the milk that God provides. It seeks the satisfaction of its own desires, and receives gifts outweighing the whole world of nature.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Choose wisely

In Deuteronomy Moses reiterates the law given at Sinai and delivers his farewell address to the people about to enter the promised land. In todays reading he gives the people a spiritual ultimatum: I set before you life and death, love God and live in prosperity or turn away from Him and die. Jesus gives is in the Gospel the path to life: follow His way of life and death. He must suffer, die and rise for that is the Father's plan. If we are to gain eternal life we must live like Him. The paradox is that denying ourselves is how we gain life and find what it means to be alive as a human person. Living only for "me" brings the loss of the true purpose of being human. We need to give our lives away for others to be fully alive and gain true life with Jesus. Today accept your cross and burdens and find the joy that comes when you forget yourself out of love for others. Then you will find who you are meant to be and life eternal wi await you.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ash Wednesday

Last evening's proper reading for the Memorial of Saint Casimir contains the stirring line from Saint Paul to the Christian community at Phillipi: "What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."  What a fitting segue to Lent!  May we consider all else rubbish besides living a good and holy Lent, aimed and knowing Jesus more intimately through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  May we discard all else but what is from God and what leads us back to God.


Please visit www.hprweb.com for all the homilies of Lent by Father Matthew.


Ash Wednesday Homily


Ash Wednesday
March 5, 2014


The holy season of Lent is the very acceptable time to pause for spiritual inventory and renewal.  Lent is a grand retreat for the whole Church.  We step back from the ordinary to spend a little time amid somber d├ęcor and music, abandoning the Alleluia and the Gloria, as if going out into the desert like the first monastic communities to seek a deeper experience of the Lord in silence and emptiness.  This is the moment given to us by the Church each year to examine our consciences and repent of all our sins, so we can experience the happiness of the one whose offense is forgiven (Psalm 32).  These are the sacred forty days when we commit ourselves to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  In so doing we discipline ourselves to think less of the self and its cravings and more of the needs of the poor.  Prayer deepens the relationship with God begun in Baptism and renewed each year at the Easter Mass.  By our Lenten observance we are prepared to accept once again the baptismal promise to reject sin and believe in God. 


We are ambassadors for Christ and effective ambassadors need to know the mind of the one they represent.  Putting on the mind of Christ means deepening our conversation with the Lord in prayer, in particular prayerful contemplation of the Word of God, disciplining our wills and looking outward to serve the poor in our midst.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the traditional Lenten observances, taken from today’s Gospel, which serve to make us more like Christ whom we serve.


In the reading today from the prophet Joel, the Lord demands a public observance of penance: “blow the trumpet…proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble he elders…”  In contrast are the words of Christ: “do not blow a trumpet before you…do not be like the hypocrites who love to stand and pray in synagogues and on street corners…do not look gloomy like the hypocrites…that they may appear to others to be fasting.”  This is one of those instances when we perceive a contradiction between the Old and New Testament readings.  Should we proclaim a public fast or should we quietly go about our spiritual discipline?  Should we perform charity only privately or as part of a worldwide Church through organized efforts like Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities?  Should we wash our faces or dirty them with ashes? 


Catholicism looks at theology and the spiritual life through a valuable “both/and” lens.  Catholicism is not divisive but inclusive.  In this way, we appreciate the significance of both public and private devotion.  The Church calls a fast and summons the congregation to observe Lent as a worldwide faith community.  As Catholics, we have an obligation to follow the norms of spiritual discipline established by the Church.  In fact, it is one of the Precepts of the Church – one of the basic “house rules” of our family of faith – that we abide by the laws of fast and abstinence during Lent. 


Another Precept of the Church is to financially support the work of the Church, including her charity to the poor.  This includes generous support of the parish, diocesan and national collections devoted to the work of serving the needy and marginalized.  It is our obligation as disciples of Christ to support the work of the worldwide Church, as she is the face of Christ to those most in need. 


Public prayer is obviously essential to our Catholic life, especially the Mass.  Without the Eucharist, we would be detached from Christ and deprived of spiritual nourishment.  Life without the Eucharist is like a fish on dry land!  Attending Sunday and Holy Day Mass is a third Precept of the Church. 


At the same time, the Lord reminds us that spiritual things are never to be done out of a prideful desire to be seen as “holy.”  If we are fasting, we cannot justify complaining that we’re hungry.  We need to quietly endure the little moments of suffering that Lenten discipline brings for the sake of Christ and the poor otherwise the sacrifice is without merit.  It is good to show an example of prayer to others but the real reason to pray is to please God, never to win the esteem of others.  Father Kurt, our seminary rector, was fond of saying: “Don’t pray to be seen but it is good to be seen praying.”  When we give to the poor, it is for more than a tax write-off or to be seen by our friends as generous.  Quietly going about the performing of our duties and penances in order to honor the Lord and build up the lives of the less fortunate is a sacrifice holy and pleasing in the sight of God. 


So, Lent is about the attitude as much if not more than the actions themselves.  We are obliged to participate in the public life of the Church.  More importantly, however, the Lord calls us to interior conversion of mind and heart.  Ashes are an outward sign of this interior conversion we undertake in Lent.  They remind us that we belong to Christ and called to change our lives – from the inside – to be more like His. 


May this holy season draw us closer to the heart of Christ through our obedience to the Church and our humble prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Thus may we come to the joy of Easter with renewed hearts and lively devotion to him who loves us beyond measure. 


 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Surrender and Rest Only in God! Homily 8th Sunday OT 2014 Year A

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Preparing for LENT

Dear Friends in Christ,


As we enter into this Holy Season of Lent, I invite you to watch the special YouTube video I produced on the meaning of the Season of Lent and some of what we do as Catholics to observe this special season.  Visit youtube.com and search for my channel: FRMJA07.  Sorry  I could not upload it here.  :-(



I also encourage you to enrich your Lenten journey by reading Surrender by Father Larry Richards, a priest of the Diocese of Erie.  It is a fantastic book on the power of surrendering your life to God and learning to live in a deep and fruitful relationship with Him.  I read it and have been changed for the better by reading it.  Please give it some time in these holy 40 days. 





Lent is characterized by three traditional observances: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  It is good for us to prayerfully discern how the Lord wants to deepen our experience of Himself during Lent by spending more time with Him in prayer, making a sacrifice of giving up something we enjoy or taking on a new spiritual or healthy discipline, and giving our resources (especially those we save by not indulging in favorite things) to those less fortunate. 





Whatever you do for this Lent, make it a good one by focusing more on God and others and less on yourself.  This is how we become more like Jesus, who gave His life away for us.


May God truly bless you with a holy Lent and bring you to Easter joy with minds and hearts renewed!




With love in Jesus and Mary,
Father Matthew


 





Son of God


Son of God (2014)

 

It’s really impossible to capture the life of the Savior in any medium, even film.  The life of Christ is a huge event – THE event that changed the whole world.  In a 2 hour and 18 minute film, producers have to choose on which aspects of Jesus’s life and ministry they will focus.  Since Gibson’s Passion, all other cinematic depictions of the Paschal Mystery pale in comparison and so filmmakers are challenged to portray Jesus in an equally powerful way by focusing on other dimensions of who He is.  The film was a reverent portrayal of the Savior, perhaps better suited for less experienced audiences, but surely not a captivating piece of filmmaking.  Still, I would like to share several observations from the film and the vignettes on which it focuses. 

 

In the calling of Matthew, I noticed that it's interesting that the filmmakers conflate the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee with the calling of Matthew.  The parable serves to heighten the experience of the call and speak to Matthew’s heart in a way that brings him to sorrow for his sins.  So even though the two things don't happen together in the Bible they make a lot of sense interrelated with each other.

 

Jesus displays intentional outreach to the poor, the vulnerable and the outcast.  When the Pharisee tells Jesus that “these tax collectors are vermin,” He stops and he goes to them intentionally.  It is precisely to the vermin that Jesus is sent.  Pope Francis today would say the very same thing: that he wants a Church that creates a little bit of a mess by going out into the streets, stirring things up, doing the unusual and the remarkable, in order to reach those who are in need. 

 

When Peter and the disciples are asked why they follow Jesus they say “He is leading us to something greater” and the Pharisee responds “He is a dangerous man.”  Indeed those who encounter Christ recognize that He is leading us beyond ourselves to something greater and that can be dangerous for us; it can be a risk.  Yet it is a risk worth taking because we trust God to take us to a better place. 

 

Displayed in the film is my favorite miracle story: the lowering of the paralyzed man through the roof.  It’s my favorite because Scripture records that Jesus notices the faith of the man’s friends and says to the paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven…rise and walk.”  It’s the faith of the other men who carry him there and go to much effort to lower him through the roof that saves him.  The story reminds us of how our faith and our efforts for others can save them by bringing them to Christ.

 

Jesus offers Peter a new life on the boat as He is going out to fish with him and Peter says “Who says I want one?”  Perhaps he doesn't realize what he wants and what he needs or perhaps he is experiencing an existential crisis and fishing isn't providing for him anymore and his livelihood is leaving him empty.  He in fact needs a new life but displays a bit of a macho attitude in that he won't admit to Jesus that he does need new life.  So, whether he realizes it and won't admit it or whether he doesn't realize it at all, the fact is that when he eventually opens himself up to the Lord, he does experience the new life that he needs to bring him peace and happiness beyond the material world.  He discovers that Jesus is leading him to something greater.  We all need to do the same thing: to open ourselves to the Lord, to let our guard down so that Jesus can take us beyond ourselves. 

 

Jesus gives the Eucharist to the disciples at the Last Supper and Judas runs off and spits up the morsel of bread.  The conflict of Satan opposing the plan of God is manifested in the fact that Jesus the Bread of Life is not welcome in Judas.  Satan has taken over him. 

 

Notice when Jesus falls under the weight of the Cross it looks as if Mary is helping lift the cross back up on his shoulders.  Despite her own sorrow she knows she must support what he does.  The most poignant scenes are of Mary’s emotions and her relationship with the Lord.  The film does a remarkable job of portraying the tension between their two hearts. 

 

The filmmakers juxtaposed the slaughtering of the Passover Lambs with the passion of the Lord, showing the Lambs being cut as the Lamb of God is being crucified.  This reminds us that Jesus offers the final Passover, the one eternal sacrifice the true Lamb of God.  In Christ is fulfilled the whole law. 

 

Peter runs back from the tomb and takes bread and wine in order to recall the Eucharist according to Jesus’ command to remember Him in this way.  Christ's word is present to Him and He finds Christ in the Eucharist.   

Simon of Cyrene is portrayed as a believer (which is not in Scripture) when he calls out to Him as “my Lord.”

 

Jesus displays that His way is a way of peace and love not of violence.  The people expected freedom from Rome and a Messiah that would conquer as a king and lead them out of oppression.  But Jesus comes to transform the heart and the soul, to lead peacefully to a deeper experience of human flourishing and of our relationship with God.  Jesus encounters Barabbas (that event is not in Scripture) and we see the tension between the human expectation of the Messiah and God’s plan.   Barabbas is all about overthrowing Rome and overturning oppression but Jesus is about over turning our spiritual lives and our hearts and the evil that creeps in so that we can be in love with God and love and serve one another.