Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
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, March 28, 2016
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Friday, March 25, 2016
While this change might be conceived as a welcome inclusion and deeper symbolism, there is a wider context and deeper implication to be considered. It is important to take note that Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments - the dicastery responsible for issuing the decree - clarified on February 26th that each pastor "has to decide in accord with his own conscience, and according to the purpose for which the Lord instituted this feast." Cardinal Sarah's remarks further clarify the discrepancy between the original decree and the explanatory document issued by Archbishop Roche, secretary of the same congregation. The decree allows for the possibility of washing the feet of a variety of persons, whereas the explanatory document makes it appear obligatory ("pastors may" vs. "it is for pastors to choose"). Selecting a group of "washees" that represents each part of the People of God is an option for pastors, as, in fact, is the entire foot washing ritual itself. Permission is not obligation.
As each pastor makes his choice, he is informed by conscience and by history, says the Cardinal. What is the "purpose for which the Lord instituted the feast"? Holy Thursday is the birth-day of the Priesthood, which precedes the birth of the Church from the side of Christ as He hung upon the Cross and the evangelizing mission of the Church sparked by the flame of the Spirit at Pentecost. The ritual of feet-washing, along with the consecration of the Eucharist, is a priestly ritual. Jesus commands His Apostles - the first bishops/priests - to memorialize Him in two important ways: by calling down the Spirit to make Him present through the words of consecration under the species of bread and wine ("Do this in memory of me.") and to humble themselves to serve His flock, entrusted to their care, in the person of the Good Shepherd ("As I have done for you, so you ought to do."). Through the priesthood of the ordained, the perpetual institution of the Passover is celebrated in the Sacrifice of the Mass and the living image of the Good Shepherd is alive in our midst.
Each pastor should feel totally free and open to choose twelve men or a more outwardly representative group of persons for the feet washing. However, in his reflection deep within his heart, he must keep in mind the priestly character of the day, the event and its individual elements. Holy Thursday celebrated the institution of the Eucharist and of the Priesthood. The rituals of the Mass for that day are fundamentally priestly actions. This is why the washing of feet - as with the confecting of the Eucharist - is reserved to the clergy. As we see the priest washing the feet of parishioners, we see both a historical symbol of what Jesus actually did and a spiritual symbol of what Jesus and all His priests do for the Church. In the priest we are meant to see the Lord serving His Bride, the Church.
In conscience, each priest may have his own reasons for the decision he makes regarding this ritual, which might be valid if they are in accord with our Catholic tradition. It could be argued, for example, that choosing twelve men maintains a clear representation of the precise historical action of Jesus and also manifests the humble service of the priest - who ministers in persona Christi capitis (Christ the head) of the Mystical Body, the Church, and father to his parish flock - toward the men of the parish, who are the heads of their families, the domestic churches. The men, in turn, are called to "wash the feet" of their brides as Jesus cleanses His Bride the Church by His saving Passion.
Some have argued that the Last Supper prototype restricts the meaning and obligation of foot washing to the fraternity of the priesthood. Jesus commanded that the Apostles do what He had done "for one another" not for others outside the Twelve. Christianity demands that every believer serve all other human persons. Priestly fraternity demands that every priest serve his brothers. Yet, the implication of the Last Supper washing of feet is that the priest, representing Jesus, will stoop to do even the most undesirable tasks for his flock, even to the point of smelling like the feet of sheep. In conscience, a pastor may legitimately choose to maintain the previous discipline of washing the feet of men to emphasize the role of men as fathers of the domestic church and maintain the historical example of Jesus washing the feet of the male apostles.
The recent papal decree provides a context for discussing a broader pair of inter-related issues, namely, the granting of permission following the violation of existing law, which gives the appearance of a concession to heteropraxis, and the interpretation of permissions as obligations.
There are three notable examples of this trend in recent history.
1. The 1964 Vatican document Inter Oecumenici directed that church buildings should be constructed with the altar away from the wall in order to accommodate Mass celebrated facing the people. No change in orientation was required. Mass facing the people was documented a decade before it was permitted. This one sentence in one document was used as justification not only for a universal change in the direction of the liturgy but the destruction of countless pieces of irreplaceable sacred art. The result: Catholics today in large measure do not know Whom and for what purpose they worship.
2. Permission was given for lay "Eucharistic Ministers" to distribute the Sacred Host and Precious Blood in the absence of a sufficient number of priests. An further indult was granted (and, thankfully, later rescinded - not that anyone noticed) in the USA permitting EMHCs to purify the sacred vessels, well after it was already being done in many parishes. The permission given for lay distributers in cases of true necessity was turned into an obligation by those who believed that the Priesthood of the Baptized was most fully exercised by the laity filling multifarious roles in the sanctuary rather than evangelizing the marketplace. So much so that, in some parishes, 12 ministers distribute Holy Communion to 500 blank stares in under 5 minutes. The result: Catholics in large measure do not know the difference between the Bread of Life and Panera.
3. Permission was given by the Vatican several years ago for females to serve Mass, long after "altar girls" were common in many parishes. The permission was again interpreted by the inclusion-oriented to be an obligation. Altar girls further evolved into the scenario of a middle-aged woman flaunting inappropriate attire and presenting the Missal, which is resting on her bosom, to the priest inches from his face as he stands at the chair. Of course, all the young people and some of the adults have the very best intentions. But not everyone does. When such decisions are made without careful consideration, to door is opened to a variety of problems. The result: Catholic young men have no training ground in which to observe the priest and listen for the possible call to priesthood, without the distractions we all know young women provide.
What do these three have in common? We have them - Mass facing the people, altar girls, proliferation of lay distributers - not because they are fabulous ideas and essential elements of Catholicism but because someone believed we need to be more inclusive. No one is more inclusive than Jesus Christ, who DIED for ALL. Fidelity to all that fosters the deepest faith in Him need not be construed as exclusion of others.
Our service of God needs to be thoughtful. We do things in the Church for the right theological and spiritual reasons, not because people think we need to adapt to the world's standards. Reverence, sanctity, deeper knowledge of Jesus - these are the reasons for what we do. Liturgical discipline is to be informed by theology, otherwise improper discipline itself fosters bad theology. Lex credendi, lex orandi. Adoring the Almighty together, fostering vocations to the priesthood and guarding against abuse of the Holy Eucharist are priorities for priests and lay persons which help to form men and women into saints through an experience the richness of the Church's authentic tradition.
How can the washing of the feet, and all other rituals of the Church, foster the same growth in holiness? This is the question this discussion brings to the fore.
Monday, March 21, 2016
Jesus, the Son of God and Second Person of the Trinity, humbles Himself to enter into us under the form of bread and wine. His Body and Blood are adored and received by the faithful, who are transformed by grace into living images of Jesus.
Receiving Communion while in the state of mortal sin, without regular confession and firm purpose of amending one's sinful habits or actions contrary to the Church's teaching, without observing the fast (which includes chewing gum in the Communion line) - all these bring condemnation upon us for they mean we are receiving Christ unworthily.
May we prepare ourselves well before every Mass we attend so that we may confidently access the treasury of grace with humility, professing that Christ is Lord and He is truly present in the Eucharist out of love for us poor sinners.
These prayers can be memorized or written on a note card. Then, we can say them as we approach the altar to receive the Lord. Praying one of these prayers privately will enhance and deepen our communal recitation of the words "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Only say the word and I shall be healed." We can then cultivate a serious devotion to the precise moment when we commune with the Lord in the Mass.
How shall I, who am unworthy, enter into the splendor of Your saints? If I dare to enter into the bridal chamber, my clothing will accuse me, since it is not a wedding garment; and being bound up, I shall be cast out by the angels. In Your love, Lord, cleanse my soul and save me.
Loving Master, Lord Jesus Christ, my God, let not these holy Gifts be to my condemnation because of my unworthiness, but for the cleansing and sanctification of soul and body and the pledge of the future life and kingdom. It is good for me to cling to God and to place in Him the hope of my salvation.
Receive me today, Son of God, as a partaker of Your mystical Supper. I will not reveal Your mystery to Your adversaries. Nor will I give You a kiss as did Judas. But as the thief I confess to You: Lord, remember me in Your Kingdom.
Saint Paul tells us that our faith is in vain if Jesus has not risen from the dead. Indeed, the Resurrection is proof that Jesus is God and that He has power over death and the grave.
But first, and most significantly for all of us and for each of us, is the sacrifice of the Calvary. The love of Jesus is revealed in the most profound way as He offers Himself to the Father in our place on the altar of the Cross to take away our sins. At the realization that God emptied Himself to take on human flesh and further humbled Himself to death on a Cross, we are moved by the Spirit to express gratitude and praise.
The Lord of all creation is handed over to His creatures. The origin of all law is tortured by lawless men. The foundation of truth is sentenced to death because of a lie. All glory be to you, O incomprehensible and long-suffering Lord!
The crowds who welcome Jesus to Jerusalem with cries of "Hosanna!" are the same crowds who, days later, are stirred into frenzy by the jealousy of the Pharisees, demand the crucifixion of their Savior. Behold the contempt and ingratitude with which our Lord is treated.
Remember what Has done for us, for you. As He felt each thorn, each lash, each splinter, each nail, He had you in mind and He bled for you. May we always be on guard, lest we fall into ingratitude as the crowds did. We, who cry out "Hosanna!" before the Eucharistic Prayer at every Mass, can so easily forget and turn against Jesus when we sin. We are broken, wounded, weak human persons.
Today and throughout this Holy Week, we open our hearts and ask the Spirit to enter into us and fill us with gratitude and praise, with a sense mindfulness of all Jesus has done for us. He died that we might live. Because He died, life is with living!
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Saturday, March 12, 2016
Book of Wisdom:
These were their thoughts, but they erred;
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
How well do we know Jesus? The people of His time knew Him very well in His humanity. However, they did not understand who He really was. He challenges them: "You know me and also where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true." They know Jesus' earthly origins but they do not know the Father and, therefore, they do not understand Jesus' full identity as Son of God, co-equal with God and Anointed One. How might we have let our humanity and short-sightedness interfere with our truly knowing Jesus?
Whoever is in the majority or minority in a given demographic or municipality that is surveyed does not matter. "The truth is the truth even if no one believes it. A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it."
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
This most famous story of the New Testament is known colloquially as The Prodigal Son but since he is only half the story it ought to be known as The Compassionate Father. Both brothers fail to honor their father's generous love-the younger one by squandering his inheritance and the older by showing jealousy and contempt for his brother. We are at times both of them. Sometimes we wallow in the mud of selfishness and squander the good things God has given us in the darkest places. We stray from God and take advantage of all sorts of evils in order to feed are selfish appetites. And other times we are jealous, filled with contempt, even hateful or angry. In our own insecurity we hate to see others receiving anything good. In the end pride drives us to commit the sins of both brothers.
But in all things, whether we are stirred to conversion and plead for mercy, or whether our hearts are still hardened and our self righteousness prevents us from humbling ourselves to beg for the Lord's forgiveness, God still comes out to greet us, to welcome us, to celebrate our conversion or to invite us to take the next step back to His table. The compassionate father is never far away and his love always surrounds us.
As a Church we need to have the courage to speak the truth in love and proclaim both the justice and the mercy of God. For those who are separated from the sacraments because of an irregular marriage we need to love them enough to share with them the truth of what the Church believes about marriage and her process of an annulment. The Lord is inviting them to take steps which seem difficult but which in the end is a process that brings healing and closure. Having received an annulment the individual can then come to Jesus in communion with freedom of conscience and joy of heart. Through the ministers and the faithful of the Church the compassionate Father reaches out to those who have been separated from the table of the Eucharistic celebration and invites them to begin the process of return. The compassionate father wants all of his children around his table and through the canonical ministry of the Church He offers a means of healing and reconciliation. The annulment process is not something to be feared but to be embraced as a path to spiritual health and unity with the church. May the Lord continue to guide us to a greater understanding of Himself and give us the courage to do what is good holy and just.
May we never forget the ocean of mercy that is available to us in Jesus Christ there is always hope for a fresh start through the Sacrament of Penance. There is always hope of eternal life.
Refreshing are the rare occasions when we are treated to a homily at a Funeral Mass (Mass of Christian Burial) rather than a eulogy or worse yet a canonization decree. Father Paul Scalia honored his father Justice Antonin Scalia by preaching rather than eulogizing or canonizing. In so doing he also offered for priests a model funeral homily structure.
The homily hung its content on the skeleton of the declaration that Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. It thus took the listeners' meditation in three directions-to the past and Christ's passion; to the present and our prayer for the deceased; to tomorrow and our own conversion and impending judgment. The three important foci of a funeral message were included-the paschal mystery of Jesus, the life of the deceased and the mourners left behind.
Father Scalia's family is a model for us as priests in preaching funerals for three important reasons. First it was a proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He preached Christ to the world in that televised Mass. Every funeral today is an opportunity for evangelization because the majority of people attending are Catholics who do not know their faith or non Catholics who have never been introduced to it. Secondly it is a model for preachers because it maintained a balance between cheerful vignettes from the life of the deceased and a focus on the act of charity we give to the deceased by our prayers for his or her soul. Third it is an example to us because it offered a challenge to conversion for all who were listening.
It is my hope that the beautiful homily at this important event in our country's history, as we laid to rest a great legal scholar and man of deep faith, will inspire priests to return to the core of what funeral preaching ought to be-a proclamation of the gospel of Christ, a call to prayer for the deceased that God's mercy would be available to sinners who have died and a reminder that we will all face death and judgment and so must avail ourselves of every opportunity for conversion.
We do a disservice to the congregation if we fail to challenge the faithful in our preaching. We offer a great gift to the Church if we proclaim the Church's beliefs about the merciful work of praying for the dead, preach Scripture rather than trivialities and keep the focus always on the Lord.
Sunday, March 06, 2016
Today's Gospel is an aid in avoiding what some scholars refer to as "ambush theology" - the notion that God is somehow lurking behind the nearest shrubbery, waiting for us to sin or fail in something so that He can heap devastation on us. Jesus is clear - and Jesus is worth listening to - when He tells questions the Apostles rhetorically: Do you think that the Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with the blood of their sacrifices were greater sinners than all other Galileans? Do you think that the eighteen people at Siloam on whom a tower fell were more guilty that everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! Violence inflicted by others, accidents, disease and natural disasters are not signs of God's direct revenge because the victims are more guilty of greater sin than the survivors or those to whom no disaster falls. In fact, we have seen the worst forms of violence befall the objectively more saintly among us. (Rabbi Harold Kushner has an excellent message on "Why do bad things happen to good people?") God is not perched on a wall waiting for an excuse to pour boiling oil upon our heads.
At the same time, Jesus tells us that the evil we perceive around us should stand as a warning to us - a warning of an even greater evil that may befall us, that is, the loss of our souls. Complacency is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life. If we are lured into believing that we are done growing in the spiritual life, precisely then the Evil One can make his presence known in destructive ways. "Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall." Therefore, we need to be aware at every moment of our relationship with God and how what we do and what surrounds us affects that relationship. The shocking tragedies of Jesus' time, as well as those in the daily news today, remind us that life is short and the Lord could call us home at any moment. Therefore, repent, or perish! The greater tragedy, with far reaching consequences, would be to remain spiritually lax and lose the gift of eternal life. Jesus clarifies that the Galileans and Siloamites did not die a tragic death because they were greater sinners and yet the tragedies can serve as a wake-up call to greater repentance and conversion. Sin can indeed result in calamity.
God is the Lord of Justice and Mercy. If we as individuals or as a nation continue to stray from the mind, heart and will of our Creator, how can we expect to also enjoy His protection? Justice demands that each human person what is due to him. To the obstinate and unrepentant sinner is due a just punishment. To the repentant sinner is due - after a time of blessed purgation - the joy of eternal beatitude. As Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches us, God, through the exercise of His permissive will, allows the consequences of nature and of our human behavior to unfold. All that God does and makes is good. While He cannot create evil, which is the privation of good, He does allow it to happen that we might learn from it, find greater good in it and ultimately grow in deeper relationship with Him. In times of trial we focus on doing the most good we possibly can, for God desires us to bring about the increase of goodness in the human family.
God is the gardener who issues the just sentence against one who has chosen not to repent. Remember that He does not predestine to condemn us to hell. We put ourselves there when we choose ourselves over Him and others. God is also the master who desires us to flourish and gives all we need to do so - His Word, the Sacraments, which are instruments of mercy and nourishment, and the protective mantle of Mary. He cultivates, feeds and nurtures us so that we can bear fruit for his glory. This is ultimately what God desires - for us to be in eternally joyful in union with Him. The Lord is kind and merciful. Justice and mercy always dovetail and a harmony of the two is always better than the overemphasis of one or the other. God judges because He cannot tolerate unrepentant sin. He desires our purification and holiness. Through the fire of His love, we, like the sons of Levi, are refined into God's pure image.
The story of Moses and the Israelites, Saint Paul tells us, is a further example and warning to us. The Israelites were not made to suffer centuries of hard labor under the oppression of Pharaoh because they had incurred the wrath of God. In fact, God was faithful to them when they were not faithful to Him - even when they were ready to abandon Moses and return to Egypt. God nourished them with manna and water from the rock. Christ, the true spiritual Rock, was with them on every step of their long journey through the desert. Sometimes God was not pleased with them. They suffered the consequences of their own choices to desire evil rather than union with Him.
God is with us always as well. Christ nourishes us with His Body and Blood. Rather than desiring evil things, may we cling to the gifts the Lord gives us in the life of our Church, which are for us the means of salvation. May we perceive in every moment the opportunity to be holy and to bear fruit for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind.