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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Where has all the common sense gone?

One of the highlights of the recent synod on the family is the valuable lesson that both the doctrine and the human person before us deserve our reverence and respect. The synod fathers call for a balance to be struck between mercy and fidelity to the truth of the Gospel. Whenever mercy and truth are separated, one can be sure that Christianity has been abandoned. 

It is possible to maintain a balance between remaining in the truth of Christ and sharing that truth in a manner that is loving, understanding and welcoming. 

It is absolutely possible – and essential for the salvation of souls – that human persons in irregular situations be welcomed and respected, all the while being challenged to avoid sin and seek greater holiness.  Jesus did not condemn the woman at the well; neither did He approve of her attempted marriages.

It is possible to maintain a balance between integration and avoiding scandal.  We can, with the inspiration of the Spirit, welcome people in irregular situations into the parish community, all the while not being unfair to those families who are blessed to be able to maintain the Church’s discipline.  If we cross the Church’s boundaries in making provision for those in unusual life situations to feel included in parish life, we risk scandalizing the faithful.  If public scandal has occurred, the truth must be spoken in love.  As we include and integrate, we need to be careful not to push away faithful Catholics. Cardinal Dolan warns us this phenomenon is already happening: “Can I suggest as well that there is now a new minority in the world and even in the Church?” Cardinal Dolan asked. “I am thinking of those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity.”  (Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Faithful Catholics are ‘new minority’ who often feel ‘excluded,’ even in the Church. October 14, 2015,

Each person is unique and so is each family.  Therefore the pastoral challenge is ever-evolving.  What matters most is that priests and laity alike have a sincere desire to forge the proper balance between mercy and truth.  It does no good to teach with authority and not also with love, or to speak falsely out of fear of offending. 

Because I recognize the value of balance in the life of the Church, I was disheartened by a homily given by a priest where I was attending Mass several weeks ago.  He began with a lengthy - a solid five minutes, which is long for a homily that should be no more than 15 minutes in order to be balanced with respect to time and integrated within the entire liturgy - description taken from a piece of 19th Century literature, the name of which eludes me and is not important for this exercise, of the agony of Hell.  I, a priest, was unsettled and squirmed in my seat as I imagined the rolling eyes of adults and blank stares of teenagers in the pews.  I wondered to myself: "Why would you lay on the faithful a frightening description of Hell as the introduction to an Easter Season homily?" 

Specifically, it was Divine Mercy Sunday, in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  The next stage of the homily's descent was to assert, fairly explicitly that the purpose of the Year of Mercy was to set aside all talk of the pain of Hell in favor of a merciful description of God.  That's when it hit me: not only did the good Father bore us with a depiction of hell in language far more "antiquated" than one could claim the 2010 Roman Missal translation is, but he did so in order to set up a straw man which he later immolated on the altar of political correctness.  Classic silliness: mercy means there is no Hell! 

As if it could not get worse, he ended the homily with a Hopkins poem - one which, without the text before my eyes to read, even I could not comprehend. 

I had forgotten until that moment how much lack of balance and lack of sensitivity can really shake the soul.  The Catholic approach is "both...and" - both justice and mercy, love and truth, welcoming and defense of the faith, sacred beauty and active participation, eloquence and relevance.  So, pray and then be reasonable! 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

We are nourished by the Lamb who has become our Shepherd

In the past two weeks, at Sunday and weekday Mass, we have heard from the Gospel of John.  In particular, the Scriptures chosen by the Church have focused on the themes of the Eucharist (John 6) and the Good Shepherd (John 10).  Each of these chapters is a discourse on its respective theme, which is divisible into three parts. 

The Bread of Life discourse is John 6: 22-71.  In the first part, verses 22-40, the people ask Jesus for a sign: "What can you do?  Our ancestors ate manna in he desert..."  They are challenging Him to show them a miracle to prove He is the Messiah.  If He is the Messiah, they reason, He will be able to do remarkable things as Moses did for their ancestors in the past.  Jesus ups the ante and tells them that it was Himself, as God, who fed them then and who will feed them now with the Bread of Life.  They beg Him, "give us this bread always."  He clarifies that HE is the Bread of Life.  This brings about the first objection.  The crowd murmurs because they insist that they know Jesus as the kid from Nazareth.  They scoff at the notion that He is from Heaven. 

Next, in verses 43b-52, Jesus goes deeper into His teaching and reveals that the Bread of Life is not just "Him" in a generic sense but His flesh and blood.  In Greek, He is telling them they need to munch or gnaw on Him, to consume Him in order to have life.  This ignites the second objection.  The crowd is disgusted by the notion of eating the flesh and blood of Jesus and they question "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"  They still think Jesus is only a man. 

In the third part, verses 53-66, Jesus does not back down in the face of opposition but reiterates that the one who eats His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life.  Notice the location of this discourse in verse 59: "These things He said while teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum."  Jesus is teaching in a place of honor in the synagogue - with the backdrop of the scroll of the Torah, in the role of authority of the Rabbis, on the foundation of the law and the prophets.  In this sacred place the Word of God is heard.  The Word Incarnate speaks the truth that comes from the Father.  To the Jews, His words were a line in the sand: believe or turn your back on eternal life!  This sparks the third objection.  The crowd has heard, they have listened, and they have determined that Jesus' saying is too hard for them.  They walk away and return to their former way of life.  Jesus' further clarifications fall on deaf ears.  They turn their backs on God's Word.  Finally, in conclusion, Jesus elicits a promise if fidelity from the remaining few disciples, the Twelve.  "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life." 

When God's Word to us is challenging for us, it is easy to come up with objections: we know better, we are disgusted to be asked to do something beyond our comfort zones, we find Jesus' teachings too hard to accept.  Perhaps we even know well one aspect of Church teaching and are closed to learning more or to having a deeper relationship with Jesus.  May we have the courage to go deeper and overcome ourselves in order to follow Jesus. 

In John Chapter 10: 1-39, Jesus presents Himself as the Good Shepherd.  Again, there are three sections to His teaching.  The Church places these readings on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, years A, B, C.  They also appear on weekdays during the Fourth Week of Easter. 

Verses 1-10 speak of the gate of the sheepfold.  In the ancient world, shepherds would entrust their sheep to a common corral under the watch of a gatekeeper so they could sleep at night.  In the morning, each shepherd would call our his won sheep, who would hear his voice and follow him.  The people of Jesus' time would have had this scene clearly in their minds when He used this parable.  Yet, they are still slow to believe that Jesus is the gate through which His flock enter into eternal life and the shepherd who leads them there.  False prophets are robbers who steal the sheep away from the Lord.

Next, in verses 11-21, Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.  In contrast to the cowardly hired man, the Good Shepherd is responsible for the fold and sacrifices out of love for them.  This deeper teaching of Jesus again ignites division among the crowds.  some say He is possessed; other wonder how He could be because He has done great miracles. 

Thirdly, in verses 22-30, Jesus explains that the flock of which He is the shepherd belongs ultimately to the Father and has been given to Jesus by the Father.  In saying that He and the Father are one, Jesus identifies Himself as consubstantial with God.  This the Jews interpret as blasphemy and they try to stone Jesus, who escapes from their power.  Once again, we see Jesus going deeper and deeper in His teaching - not backing down in the face of opposition - and the crowds reacting ever more violently.  Jesus is rejected for doing good and speaking the truth. 

Notice that in all three Good Shepherd passages speak of the shepherd's VOICE.  There are many voices clamoring for out attention today - Trump, Cruz, Sanders, Clinton, CNN, FOX News, militant atheism, the gay "marriage" lobby, Planned Parenthood and more.  Some voices want us to reject Jesus and throw stones at the Church's Tradition.  In order to live a virtuous life, we must first quiet ourselves and shut out the noise, in order that we might hear the Shepherd's voice.  A faithful sheep ignores every voice but that of his own shepherd, Christ Jesus, who died for us lowly sheep.  We have a High Priest who was tempted in every way, yet without sin, and thus sympathizes with our weaknesses, as the Letter to the Hebrews tells us.  We have a Good Shepherd, who was first a Lamb, the sacrificial Lamb of God, who was immolated for our salvation.  In His voice we will hear only love, only mercy, only truth.  He will never lie to us.  He will never abandon us. 

May we remain always fiercely loyal to the voice of our Shepherd, who nourishes us with Himself. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Dangerous collaboration

Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services are teaming up with the federal government of the United States to assist in resettling refugees from various foreign countries, including Syria.  Ohio is one of the resettlement locations.  Ohio Catholic dioceses and Catholic Charities agencies have issued guidelines for preparing the "heart of it all" to welcome the refugees.  This is happening against the backdrop of terrorist attacks linked to members of the Islamic State in Europe and despite the warnings from the FBI that refugees cannot be adequately vetted.  The stream of refugees provides a cover for transient terrorists, as we have already seen in Paris and Texas.  Of course, not every refugee is a terrorist.  Yet, just one can kill thousands.  No American should be so quick to ignore the obvious threats to our national security and irresponsibly welcome refugees, anymore than we would welcome rank strangers into our home and among our children.  The reality of today's world demands a more careful response.  When (not if) a terrorist posing as an un-vettable refugee destroys life and property on American soil, the blood of the innocent will be on the hands of everyone remotely and materially cooperating in this harebrained scheme.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Rich in Mercy

All of you who stand fast in the Lord are a holy seed, a new colony of bees, the very flower of our ministry and fruit of our toil, my joy and my crown.
St Augustine

From today's office of readings.

It is a joy for every pastor of souls to see those entrusted to his care buzzing like a new colony of bees - active in faith and works of mercy. It makes us smile to see the people ignited by the breath of the Spirit through our preaching and celebration of the sacraments and making the faith and parish life their own. How important it is for priests and laity to learn mutual respect - both admiration for another's talent and deference to the grace and office of ordination. The Queen of every parish is Our Lady and Christ is king. Thus there is no room for queen bee personalities or wannabe kings in the ministry of a parish. With deference to Christ we work together not as enemies so His mercy can be clearly visible.

There are three things the Church prays that we will grasp a hold of in our hearts and intellectually understand today...the font, the Spirit, the Blood. All of these belong to Jesus and are instruments of His mercy. The font cleanses. The Spirit of the Father and the Son possesses all power to heal body and soul. The Blood of Jesus flowed from His horribly painful wounds, cascading onto the ground, becoming an ocean of mercy into which we insert ourselves as taps into a rich a fragrant tree. Those wounds, still visible in the Risen Christ, endure as reminders that our redemption came at a great price. From the wounds in His broken Body came the redeeming Blood we consume in Holy Mass and the water which gives life to every font as Jesus breathed forth the Spirit for the last time on earth. The Spirit the Blood the water of the font-these three are Christ's and they testify that He is Lord. He is the first font of new life. He has power to heal all wounds and forgive all sins. Enter His wounds by embracing your own woundedness and meditating on what He endured for you. From His wounds into ours flows the ocean of mercy.