St Francis Q&A

Sunday, September 30, 2007

26th Sunday

The following is a reflection on today’s readings from “Living The Word” (World Library Publications):

The Gospel of Luke deserves the title “Gospel of Social Justice.” Today’s reading is a perfect example of Luke’s concern for the poor and vulnerable. The rich man dresses and banquets in splendid fashion every day. Lazarus, a poor man, lies at the door of the rich man covered with sores and eager to eat even the scraps from the rich man’s table.

Then there is a startling reversal of fortunes. Lazarus dies and merits a place of honor with Abraham; the rich man at his death is confined to the torments of the netherworld. Abraham insists that the chasm between the two main characters in this parable is unbridgeable. The rich man and his brothers did not respond to the need for repentance, another important theme of Luke.

The rich man “cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me’” (Luke 16:24), but to be a true child of Abraham requires more than being a genetic descendant. One must imitate the truly living faith of Abraham manifested by good deeds. Having refused mercy to Lazarus, the rich man nevertheless asks pity from Abraham.

It is important to note that it is the improper use of wealth that is the problem here. Both the Old Testament and Jesus demanded the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. “The needy will never be lacking in the land; that is why I command you to open your hand to your poor and needy kinsman in your country” (Deuteronomy 15:11). In his description of the Last Judgment Jesus calls lack of concern for the poor and needy lack of concern for him (Matthew 25:31-46).

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees, “who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him” (Luke 16:14). However, Luke wants every generation of Christians to take to heart the lesson of this parable. Followers of Jesus must reach out to the poor.

As a footnote, the Christian reader will also see an allusion to Christ’s death and resurrection in Abraham’s statement that the brothers would not repent even if “someone should rise from the dead” (16:31).

Saturday, September 29, 2007

St. Michael, St. Gabriel, & St. Raphael, archangels

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels. The following is from’s “saint of the day”:

Angels—messengers from God—appear frequently in Scripture, but only Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are named.

Michael appears in Daniel's vision as "the great prince" who defends Israel against its enemies; in the Book of Revelation, he leads God's armies to final victory over the forces of evil. Devotion to Michael is the oldest angelic devotion, rising in the East in the fourth century. The Church in the West began to observe a feast honoring Michael and the angels in the fifth century.

Gabriel also makes an appearance in Daniel's visions, announcing Michael's role in God's plan. His best-known appearance is an encounter with a young Jewish girl named Mary, who consents to bear the Messiah.

Raphael's activity is confined to the Old Testament story of Tobit. There he appears to guide Tobit's son Tobiah through a series of fantastic adventures which lead to a threefold happy ending: Tobiah's marriage to Sarah, the healing of Tobit's blindness and the restoration of the family fortune.

The memorials of Gabriel (March 24) and Raphael (October 24) were added to the Roman calendar in 1921. The 1970 revision of the calendar joined their feasts to Michael's.

Each of these archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides. Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific world-view and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God's protection, communication and guidance in ways which defy description. We cannot dismiss angels too lightly.

"The question of how many angels could dance on the point of a pin no longer is absurd in molecular physics, with its discovery of how broad that point actually is, and what part invisible electronic 'messengers' play in the dance of life" (Lewis Mumford).

Friday, September 28, 2007


Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are invited!!
Two questions from Anonymous bloggers:

1) “I have a question about a first confession. I am contemplating asking to join the church and have been regularly attending mass and keeping up with the daily readings when I don’t go. I realize that part of my process will involve an initial confession and being in my mid 40s and having never gone before I have a lot of time and actions to cover. How does one usually approach this? Is it sensible to go to several sessions with each one organized around a theme or topic? Does one start with the most recent, the most severe?”

This is a beautiful situation, Anon! It’s beautiful that you are responding to the ways in which God is moving your heart closer to Himself. He wills each one of us to turn our hearts toward Him each day. God truly desires each one of us to experience this beautiful conversion of heart! Your outward acts of regular attendance of Mass, daily readings, and asking how to make a first Confession reveal your sincere and generous response to God’s grace.

I am assuming that when you say that you are “contemplating asking to join the church” you mean that you are not Catholic. If so and if you decide that you want to join the Catholic Church, the program you need to sign up for is RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). RCIA is primarily for those adults who a) are not baptized and b) are baptized non-Catholic Christians. It prepares these a) catechumens and b) candidates to receive the sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation) through a period of intellectual, personal, and spiritual formation. Part of this formation includes a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Sacrament of Confession and how to make a good confession.

So, the first thing you should do is contact a priest at the parish which you are looking to join. He can help you get set up with RCIA. He can either answer your questions about Confession or when you go in the future.

In general terms, though, we do an Examination of Conscience in preparing for Confession. Typically this means we go through the Ten Commandments to examine how we have offended God or neighbor. I posted an Examination on August 24, 2006; please find it under “archives”. Also, there is a pamphlet called “Guide to Confession” which goes through steps of how to make a good confession. If you email me your mailing address, I would be happy to mail you a copy.

Please let us know what else we can to help. We wish you well in your conversion process!

2) Do priests go to other priests to confess? They are strongly encouraged to, yes. I am meeting with my spiritual director later today for our monthly appointment, and I always start our meetings with confession. Can’t wait to be cleaned and freed up!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Talk to catechetical leaders - II

Yesterday's talk went very well, thanks be to God. The Archbishop wasn't able to be there for my talk, but the catechetical leaders seemed pleased with the presentation. Thanks for all of the prayers! Here are the second half of my notes:

Once we have been fed, then we as Christian disciples go out to feed others

- Mother Teresa + feeding the poorest of the poor / Calcutta:
she said that if she didn't receive the Eucharist at Mass each morning, she wouldn't have lasted more than a week serving the poorest of the poor

SC: “we cannot approach the eucharistic table without being drawn intothe mission which, beginning in the very heart of God, is meant toreach all people” (84)

- what is the mission for Christian disciples? “to bring Christ to others” (86)
- mainly through the Eucharist
“ the Eucharist is thus the source and summit not only of the Church’s life, but also of her mission” (84)

- how do we do this (with God’s help): bring the Eucharist to others?
1) By “bearing witness by our lives” (85)
- be men and women of the Eucharist
- have the Eucharist as the center of our lives from which everything flows
- be a “witness who introduces others to the mysteries” (64)

- example of non-Catholic friend who heard me talk about going to Adoration, then started going herself, fell in love with it and came into the Church last year
- SAA teens @ daily Mass during Lent and summer

- laity should “cultivate a desire that the Eucharist have an ever deeper effect on their daily lives, making them convincing witnesses”

- witness of some Saints is so strong for the Eucharist that they have desired to become the Eucharist in martyrdom
- “St Ignatius of Antioch describes his own imminent martydom: he sees himself as ‘God’s wheat’ and desires to become in martydom ‘Christ’s pure bread’” (85)
- Augustine on feast of Cosmas and Damian (9/26):“ the martys took careful note of what they ate and drank, so that they might return the same”

- whether or not any of us is called to physical martydom, the Holy Father reminds us that “each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world” (88)

- Mass: best way to cultivate the desire to be conv. witness
- “best catechesis of the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself” - Synod
-daily Mass, if possible

- Adoration, if possible
-perpetual adoration – PB XVI, JP II, etc.

2) Speak to others as often as possible about the Eucharist
“the Eucharist: a mystery to be proclaimed” (84)(“let us proclaim the mystery of faith”)

- homilies
- constant catechesis needed (p. 73)
- especially to youth- “children should be taught the meaning and the beauty of spending time with Jesus” (67)
- Adoration + SAA students

- PB XVI addresses “the evangelization of cultures” in regards to the Eucharist
- culture of youth?
- changing the culture > more Eucharistic- 4 yo girl, 6th grade boy, 8th gr boy

V. Conclusion
- as modern day disciples, we want to imitate the early Christian disciples

- Emmaus
- Acts 2:42

- especially imitate Mary
Mary teaches us to be “men and women of the Eucharist” (96)
- like Mary, we are to have our eyes on Christ… have our eyes on our salvation…eternal life…”Heaven on Earth”

-if we are being fed and feeding others with the Bread of Life, then we, too, are a Eucharistic, Christ-centered people

- Kaligat

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Talk to catechetical leaders - I

Later this morning, I will be giving a talk to catechetical leaders from the Archdiocese. The theme will be on discipleship with regards to the Eucharist. I have been asked to make my remarks in relation to Pope Benedict's document on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Charity). While this is a great honor, it is also a daunting challenge. In addition, Archbishop Wuerl will be in attendance! Please pray for me!

Here are the first half of my notes for the talk:

- story of woman who experienced Real Presence in powerful way

Christian discipleship: following Jesus as members of his Body, the Church

a) The first part of discipleship is being fed by Christ- Apostles, disciples

– 3 year period of formation before being sent out
- they were specifically and most substantially fed by Christ with the Eucharist: Last Supper

- “take… and eat” before “do this…”
- fed with the Eucharist
- life of Church begins with the Eucharist

b) Sacramentum Caritatis (apostolic exhortation: “The Sacr. Of Charity”)

- the Church / disciples come forth from the Eucharist very similarly to the way that Eve came forth from Adam’s side(sacramental symbol of blood and water flowing from Christ’s side at the Crucifixion)

- “’the Church draws her life from the Eucharist’” (PJP II)

- FG/ priesthood as coming forth from the Euch.

- as disciples, we “come forth” from the Eucharist and go forth from the Eucharist (at every Mass)

- challenge is for every modern disciple to make the Eucharist C.O.O.L. (center of our lives)- center of your discipleship

c) beauty and depth of the Eucharist
- Wuerl (on SC):“ It is in the Eucharist that we not only encounter Christ, but are invited into his death and resurrection, not as something beyond or outside us, but rather as members of his body in which Christ truly is present today - is ‘our contemporary.’”

- “invited into his death and resurrection”
SC: invited to share in “love in its most radical form” (9)

- when we encounter our contemporary, when we experience the Real Presence of Jesus, when we are fed by the Eucharist, our whole being is transformed

SC: “there is nothing authentically human – our thoughts and affections, our words and deeds – that does not find in the Eucharist the form it needs to be lived to the full…it permeates every aspect of our existence” (71).

- example of a couple whose lives have been transformed by the Euch.

- a daily call for each of us to reform our lives by enthusiastically making the Euch. the center of our lives

-every reform in the Church has been linked to “rediscovery of belief in the Lord’s eucharistic presence” (6)

- same is true for each of us: reform in our lives, discipleship + catechesis: “rediscovery…”

- SAA: experiencing a reform b/c experiencing a rediscovery of belief in Euch.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday's Gospel

Gospel - Lk 8:19-21

The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him
but were unable to join him because of the crowd.
He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside
and they wish to see you.”He said to them in reply,
“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Holy Father's homily

D’oh, ‘Skins!!
The following are excerpts from the homily that Pope Benedict XVI delivered yesterday in Velletri, Italy. To view the full text, please click on the title of this post.

Mammon is the original Phoenician term that evokes economic security and success in business; we could say that in wealth is found the idol in which one sacrifices everything to reach personal success. Therefore a fundamental decision is necessary -- the choice between the logic of profit as the ultimate criteria of our action and the logic of sharing and solidarity. The logic of profit, if it prevails, increases not only the disproportion between poor and rich, but also the devastating exploitation of the planet.

When, on the other hand, the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course of action and orient it toward proportional development, for the common good of all. In the end it is a decision between egoism and love, between justice and dishonesty, and a final choice between God and Satan. If loving Christ and our brethren is not considered as something accessorial and superficial, but moreover the true and final scope of our existence, we must know how to make fundamental choices, to be open to radical renunciations, even martyrdom if necessary. Today, like yesterday, the Christian life demands courage to go against the tide, to love as Jesus did, who ended up sacrificing himself on the cross.

We can say therefore, paraphrasing St. Augustine, that through earthly riches we should obtain those that are true and eternal: If in fact there are people who are ready for any kind of dishonest action to ensure material well-being, which isn't sure, how much more we Christians must try to provide for our eternal happiness with the goods of this earth (cf. "Discourses" 359:10). Now, the only way our personal gifts and abilities will be fruitful along with the wealth we possess is to share them with our brethren, showing ourselves to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Jesus says: "Whoever is faithful in little, is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in little will be dishonest also in much" (Luke 16:10-11).

The prophet Amos speaks about this fundamental choice to be performed day after day in today's first reading. With strong words, he stigmatizes a typical style of life of someone who lets themselves be drawn in by a selfish search for profit in every possible way and is transformed into a thirst for gain, a contempt for the poor and in exploitation of the poor for their own advantage (cf. Amos 4:5). The Christian must energetically reject all of this, opening his heart, on the contrary, to feelings of authentic generosity. A generosity that, as St. Paul tells us in today's second reading, is expressed in a sincere love for all and is manifested in the first place in prayer. A grand gesture of charity is to pray for others.

The Apostle invites us first of all to pray for those who carry out tasks of responsibility in the civil community, because -- he explains -- from their decisions, if they tend toward the common good, result in positive consequences, ensuring peace and "a calm and tranquil life with piety and dignity" for all (1 Timothy 2:2). Our prayer is just as valuable, a spiritual support for the edification of an ecclesial community faithful to Christ and to the construction of a more just and supportive society…

We place in the Madonna of Grace's hands, whose image is kept and venerated in this your beautiful cathedral, all of your intentions and pastoral projects. May the maternal protection of Mary accompany the journey of all of you present here and of those who were unable to participate in today's Eucharistic celebration. In a special way, may the Holy Virgin watch over the sick, the elderly, the children and anyone who feels alone or abandoned or is in particular need. Free us Mary from the greed of wealth, and make it so that lifting our free and pure hands, we can give glory to God with our life (cf. Offertory Prayer). Amen!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

25th Sunday - homily

I had a very interesting experience last night at the 5 pm Mass. I had been under the impression that Fr Mike was going to give a talk at all the Masses this weekend in place of the homily. So, I didn’t prepare a homily. Then, just before Mass started, I asked Fr Mike if he wanted me to read the long form or short form of the Gospel. He asked why, and my heart sank. “Because of your talk”, I answered. “That’s next weekend”, he said. Oops, I thought to myself. Getting up in front of a Church filled with people with nothing prepared to say…yeah, that’s an interesting experience! I was praying hard to the Holy Spirit, “come on, Spirit, hook me up. This is all you, now!”

One line stands out to me from today’s Gospel: “you cannot serve both God and mammon”. We can understand “mammon” in a few different ways – the things of the world, love of money, or sin /evil in general. Whatever it is, Jesus is saying that we cannot serve two things that are naturally opposed to each other. We have to choose one or the other. We can’t come here each Sunday to serve God as our master and then spend the rest of our week serving the masters of the world – money, power, fame, popularity, etc. It is a daily choice for us – to serve God or mammon.

I’d like to focus on one factor that plays a big role in this choice, I believe: the Cross. It is much harder to serve God than it is to serve the world. We know this and often shy away from carrying our cross. Jesus said in the Gospel two weeks ago that unless we carry our cross we cannot be his disciple. But, it is much harder to have God as our master. For one, we can’t see Him. We can see all of the things of the world – like money - right in front of us, saying, ‘follow me’. That makes it harder to follow God and what’s good. Many people don’t follow God because it’s hard.

It’s also easier to follow the things of the world because of what the world offers: instant gratification, pleasure, “security” (especially financial). The world offers a “quick fix” to our problems. Look at the example of the dishonest steward. He’s a in real bind, about to lose his job. He realizes that he isn’t strong enough to beg or work hard…in other words, he’s not strong enough to suffer, so he takes the easy way out by lying and cheating. This might bring temporary pleasure, but it won’t bring lasting happiness. In fact, it will ultimately bring more pain than pleasure. Jesus say when that happens – when the things of the world fail us – come back to me to find real happiness: “eternal dwellings”.

I also think that Jesus’ sayings about being trustworthy in “small matters” refers to our crosses. If we are trustworthy in carrying our small crosses, then we will be trustworthy in carrying big crosses. This is the way that Jesus lived: he grew up carrying small crosses which prepared him to carry the big one. He didn’t live a life of instant gratification and pleasure. It was hard for Jesus to serve us; so it’s hard for us to serve Him. But, we become more trustworthy the more we carry our crosses. The old saying from Mother Teresa is “Lord, I know you won’t give me more than I can handle. I just wish you didn’t trust me so much!”

Every Sunday, we make the choice to serve God when we come to the Eucharist. There could be other “masters” that we serve – TV, movies, sports, shopping, etc. But, we are saying that, unlike those masters, Jesus gave his life for me. He always knows and wants what’s best for me, and he loves me. He is my master and I serve Him.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Perpetual Adoration, etc.

Here are some questions from anonymous bloggers:

1) I have been trying to build a prayer life. I have gone to Adoration a few times and have concluded that I need to be alone there in order to enter a state of prayer. St. A's does not do perpetual adoration that I know of. Do any of the parishes in our area do that?

I know of a few: St John the Evangelist (Silver Spring), St. John Neumann (Gaithersburg), and Ascension (Bowie). If bloggers know of other parishes in the Archdiocese that have perpetual adoration, please let us know.

2) But a priest was someone's son, brother, cousin, uncle, student and/or friend before he became a priest. I understand about the comment on being able to freely give time, but to love all "equally?" That can't truly be possible, so if a priest loves his family in a "different" way, then wouldn't he be able to love a child in a "different" way and still love all the others he serves equally?

I don’t know where the word “different” came from in regards to a priest’s love for his family vs. others; I don’t remember using it myself. For me, St A’s is my new family and I love her members as I have loved my personal family. I try to give myself as much as possible to the people of St A’s as well as to my own family. Like any priest, I don’t love “equally” in a perfect way (as God does), but that is my approach. I think it’s just as possible for a priest to love all equally as it is for a parent to love all of his / her children equally.

3) Two questions:

Are there any sins that can't be forgiven by a priest in confession?
a) The ones that are intentionally not confessed.
b) the ones for which the penitent is not sorry

Can a priest refuse sacraments to someone who could otherwise receive them?
Kind of a loaded question, but if someone is properly disposed to receive a sacrament, the priest should never refuse them the sacrament.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sacred music

Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are invited!
Anon wrote, “are hymns thought of as a form of prayer? On the similar note, why does the church seem to frown on modern music in the church. If it's all about worship, why isn't this form also considered sacred? There definately is something about hearing the traditional hymns with which we all grew-up, but I also appreciate the more contemporary musical liturgy as at our Sunday evening service”.

First, the old saying is that “singing is praying twice” (probably a quote of St. Augustine). Secondly, the Church wrote about the importance of sacred music in the divine liturgy in her Vatican II document, Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy). The following are excerpts from SC which address your question; to view the full, rich, and beautiful text, please click on the title of this post.

112. The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.

Holy Scripture, indeed, has bestowed praise upon sacred song (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16), and the same may be said of the fathers of the Church and of the Roman pontiffs who in recent times, led by St. Pius X, have explained more precisely the ministerial function supplied by sacred music in the service of the Lord.

Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. But the Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship…

114. The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. Choirs must be diligently promoted, especially in cathedral churches; but bishops and other pastors of souls must be at pains to ensure that, whenever the sacred action is to be celebrated with song, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs, as laid down in Art. 28 and 30…

116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.
But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30…

118. Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and requirements of the rubrics.

119. In certain parts of the world, especially mission lands, there are peoples who have their own musical traditions, and these play a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason due importance is to be attached to their music, and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming their attitude toward religion, but also in adapting worship to their native genius, as indicated in Art. 39 and 40…

120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things.

But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.

121. Composers, filled with the Christian spirit, should feel that their vocation is to cultivate sacred music and increase its store of treasures.

Let them produce compositions which have the qualities proper to genuine sacred music, not confining themselves to works which can be sung only by large choirs, but providing also for the needs of small choirs and for the active participation of the entire assembly of the faithful.
The texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine; indeed they should be drawn chiefly from holy scripture and from liturgical sources.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Lk 7:36-50

A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears.Then she wiped them with her hair,kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,“If this man were a prophet,he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,that she is a sinner.”

Jesus said to him in reply,“Simon, I have something to say to you.”“Tell me, teacher,” he said.“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.Which of them will love him more?”Simon said in reply,“The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,“Do you see this woman?When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,but she has bathed them with her tearsand wiped them with her hair.You did not give me a kiss,but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.You did not anoint my head with oil,but she anointed my feet with ointment.So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven;hence, she has shown great love.But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The others at table said to themselves,“Who is this who even forgives sins?”But he said to the woman,“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Should my child attend Montgomery County's new sex-ed classes?"

A parent has asked me about the new Montgomery County Health Education Curriculum as her Catholic daughter is in one of the grades in which this will be presented. There is a good website which a friend of mine, Mary Lee O'Connell, has set up which will help Catholic parents with this difficult situation. Mary Lee is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) who has provided great service to the Archdiocese of Washington for over twelve years, specializing in family-centered sexuality education. The following are excerpts from her site which can be viewed by clicking on the title of this page:

Parents’ Rights & Responsibility
1. All parents have the right and responsibility to be their child’s primary sexuality educator...Parents need to have dialogues with their child BEFORE their child attends any formal human sexuality education class.

2. Parents have to decide whether to give written permission (opt-in) for their child to participate in the Family Life and Human Sexuality unit and/or the Disease Prevention and Control unit in the health education class. Even if a child does not participate in the classes, he/she may hear about the class content from their friends.

3. ”Should my child attend Montgomery County’s new sex-ed classes?”
Parents have a dilemma: Kids aren’t going to want to be singled out and “punished” with a packet of alternative lessons. On the other hand, parents don’t want their child to receive misinformation that is contrary to Catholic/Christian teaching on so vital a topic as human sexuality. There is no easy answer. But this does present a great opportunity for parents to take the time to teach their children the truth. This may require parents themselves to learn more about what God teaches on human sexuality and to share this with their children, but it will be worth the effort.

Unless children are thoroughly informed about God’s teachings on human sexuality, they run the risk of believing the misinformation presented in the new curriculum. Many years of religious education classes can be undone if only one or two of the messages from the new curriculum are accepted as truth by our children. While we as Catholics believe in “respecting differences” among all people, the most important thing for children to understand is who they are from a Christian/Catholic perspective. Parents have the right and responsibility to be their child’s primary educator especially in the area of sexuality.

4. What happens when parents do not opt-in?
Under the new policy, students whose parents do not sign the opt-in form must substitute independent study for whole units of course content, not just several classes. Students who do not opt-in must engage in independent study in another academic area in the school for three weeks or more. These students will not attend the entire Family Life and Human Sexuality or the Disease Prevention and Control unit (7 or 8 classes for each unit)...

5. To prepare for a discussion with their child, parents must know
-The key areas of the health education curriculum for their child’s grade – parents MUST get this information from their child’s school. What do the classes include? What are the alternative lessons? Where will their child go for the alternative lessons? Who supervises the students? How are the lessons graded? When will their child meet with the teacher to get their instructions and then a follow-up review with the teacher? Some parents have decided to use the opt-in form to ask the principal to have their child attend the Family Life and Human Sexuality or Disease Prevention and Control units but skip the sexual orientation classes and condom demonstration lesson.

-The Church’s teachings about these key areas

-How their child’s health class content aligns or conflicts with God’s teachings as revealed by the Catholic Church

6. How the Montgomery County Health Education Curriculum classes are presented.
Format of the Classes - presented with the boys and girls together, sitting side-by-side. Many students report being uncomfortable and/or embarrassed when they are shown diagrams of the male and female anatomy.

PREPARE your child - Some report they felt something was WRONG with them for being “overly modest.” How could this make your child feel? If a child has been taught that they should respect their body, this male-female format can be embarrassing and confusing.How the teacher presents the content - Academic authority teaching. The teacher’s way of presenting, “this is your world,” may cause children to be frustrated or angry.

PREPARE your child - Mention before the classes that this might happen and anger about this is OK. Please note that the way the religion is presented in this class and history classes can also create feelings of confusion or anger.

7. Context of the Lessons
The lessons do not teach that sexual activity belongs within marriage between a man and a woman or that abstinence until marriage is a worthy goal. In short, the lessons attach no moral significance to sexuality – – an approach completely contrary to our deeply held Catholic beliefs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Mass is real

Yeah, ‘Skins!
Mindy posted the following insightful comment:
“I was reading an article that posed a good question- If you spent 15 hours each week in church or 15 hours a week reading scripture and praying, would this influence your thoughts and behavior?15 hours a week is the average amount of time that young people watch TV, and I think it’s probably much more for many kids. This doesn’t take into account the additional time listening to music. Imagine the power this forum has after 15 hours a week for 10 years! None of us seem to question why so many of our youth act in opposition to what we are trying to teach about chaste behavior. So- why, instead of trying to get everyone and anyone to change programming, don’t we simply turn it off?What would happen if we considered an additional one or two hours of religious ed. and/or involvement versus 15 hours a week of media exposure that condones and promotes actions that go against what we say we want to teach our children?”

These are excellent points and questions. I have given a talk many times to youth (12-14) – most recently to our sixth graders a couple of weeks ago – along these same lines. I typically start out by asking them how many hours they spend each week watching movies and TV, on the internet, listening to music, play video games, etc. They have indicated that each week they, on average,: a) watch movies 10-15 hours, b) watch TV 15-20 hours, c) listen to music 15-20 hours, and d) are on the Internet and play video games over 20 hours a week. Whoa!!

I then ask them if, by and large, movies and TV programs are real. They say no. We agree that the actors are real people and the events may be based in reality, but movies and TV are not real life. Even the Passion of the Christ is just a movie! We also agree that much of the music to which they listen is based on things that are made up or fantasized. Obviously, the Internet and video games present many images that are based in fantasy, not reality.

Next, I ask them if they participate at all in these movies or TV programs. They say no. So, I remind them that they pay $ 8 for a movie that isn’t real, just sit there for 2 hours, and play no role in it whatsoever. And, yet, they walk out of some movies saying, “wow, that was awesome! I can’t wait to see it again!” Now, of course, we all have done this (minus the awesome comment maybe) because some movies can be very entertaining. I like a good movie as much as anyone. But, if you know me, then you know where I’m going with this; the kids don’t know where this is going, so they are quite surprised.

I then ask them how many hours they spend each week with God. A large gasp can usually be hard from the youth. The typical answer, on average, is one hour. Now, many of these kids pray every day, but the majority of them are thinking that the only time they spend with God is when they go to Mass. So, we then start talking about Mass. I ask them if Mass is real. They say yes, hopefully because they know what happens during Mass (transubstantiation), but more likely because they know that ‘yes’ is the answer for which I am looking. I ask them if they participate in the Mass and again they say ‘yes’, although they appear more confused and unsure. We then discuss what really happens at every Mass, and how we are all there to witness and participate in the greatest event in the world – greater than any movie that’s ever been made – Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for the salvation of the world.

It has proven to be an effective way for these kids to see how many things they put ahead of God and prayer. And, hopefully, it plants a seed that the Mass is not only real and relevant to their lives, but it is the most real and most important event of their week.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Q & A

The following are questions from anonymous bloggers:

1)“I have an unrelated question. I like to learn about what different actions symbolize in the church. When a priest is ordained, why do they lay down face forward on the ground?”

It symbolizes the fact that they are laying down their lives for Christ and the Church as priests.

2) “Where did the titles Father, Brother, Sister, Deacon etc. come from?”

From “The word Father is used in the New Testament to mean a teacher of spiritual things, by whose means the soul of man is born again into the likeness of Christ: ‘For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 4:15, 16; cf. Galatians 4:19). The first teachers of Christianity seem to be collectively spoken of as ‘the Fathers’ (2 Peter 3:4).”

I don’t know the exact origin of the terms Brother (11th cent.?) and Sister (9th cent.?), but I would guess that they are derivatives of the term Father in the sense that they provide great assistance and support to the priest in the Church family.

Deacon comes from the Greek word, diakonos, which means servant. The first deacons of the Church were selected by the Apostles (see Acts 6).

3)"St. Francis was ordained as a deacon so does that mean he had to go to Mass at a church or was there a priest in his group who conducted Mass?”

There were priests in his group who offered Mass.

4) “What are Charismatic Churches?”

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is a movement within the Church that stresses the charisms (gifts or graces) of the Holy Spirit. Charismatic gatherings (Masses, prayer services, conferences, etc.) have an evangelical appearance, with high energy and intensity. Oftentimes, the focus is on the Spirit’s gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing.

5) “Stigmata - I would like to learn more about it. Are there good sound books about it?”

I can’t recommend any books at this time, but this website might provide some help or insight:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Prodigal Son

Today’s Gospel (long form) contains the parable of the Prodigal Son. The following is a reflection (6/7/98) on this parable by Msgr. Thomas Wells, as found in the book, “From the Pastor’s Desk”, which is a collection of his writings:

“You mean I’m a sinner!” the woman exclaimed. Two or three times she said the same thing, “You mean I’m a sinner!” She had come into the rectory on a Saturday morning, outraged because we insisted on preparing her child for confession before Communion. (Happily, this is not a recent story.) A child could not sin; a child needed to know the joy of Christianity, not guilt; a child could be damaged by trying to find the negative in her life. And so it went until, as she had become a bit more calm, I asked her about her own use of the Sacrament of Penance and about the reality of sin in her life. Finally, we read together the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) and discussed the figure of the second son in that story. You may remember him as the son who stayed at home, never did anything wrong in terms of actions, but who had a heart that was fixed on himself rather than either his father (God) or others (his brother). It was as I was talking about the older brother’s self-righteousness and judgmental attitude that, out of the blue, she cried out her question. Shortly thereafter, she went to confession; I guess the child soon did the same; and I have no clue what became of either mother or daughter.

Read over the story of the Prodigal Son if you are not familiar with it. While we focus on the colorful younger son who spends all his money on loose women, it seems that Jesus was primarily focused on that older son. One of the many lessons of the story is that, while the younger son was most certainly a sinner and most certainly had to pay the consequences of his sin, his realization of his need for his father’s forgiveness gives him a nobility when compared to the older brother who really believes that doing all that he has done around the farm entitles him to happiness. Because he focuses on actions and things, rather than on his hard heart, he completely misses the Father’s love that calls to him as surely as it called to the Prodigal Son.

When an individual says, in actions if not in words, that he does not need the Sacrament of Penance, could he not be imitating the older son? Can any of us listen to Jesus as He says, “Come, follow me,” and really believe that selfishness, fear or lack of faith have not kept us from really obeying? Sin is not so much a stain on our souls, I believe, as a disease which we must always fight. Is it possible on the one hand, to believe in the damaging power of that disease, and on the other, not to take advantage of the antidote, the Sacrament of Penance?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of our Lady of Sorrows. The following article about today's feast is taken from

For a while there were two feasts in honor of the Sorrowful Mother: one going back to the 15th century, the other to the 17th century. For a while both were celebrated by the universal Church: one on the Friday before Palm Sunday, the other in September.

The principal biblical references to Mary's sorrows are in Luke 2:35 and John 19:26-27. The Lucan passage is Simeon's prediction about a sword piercing Mary's soul; the Johannine passage relates Jesus' words to Mary and to the beloved disciple.

Many early Church writers interpret the sword as Mary's sorrows, especially as she saw Jesus die on the cross. Thus, the two passages are brought together as prediction and fulfillment.St. Ambrose in particular sees Mary as a sorrowful yet powerful figure at the cross. Mary stood fearlessly at the cross while others fled. Mary looked on her Son's wounds with pity, but saw in them the salvation of the world. As Jesus hung on the cross, Mary did not fear to be killed but offered herself to her persecutors.

John's account of Jesus' death is highly symbolic. When Jesus gives the beloved disciple to Mary, we are invited to appreciate Mary's role in the Church: She symbolizes the Church; the beloved disciple represents all believers. As Mary mothered Jesus, she is now mother to all his followers. Furthermore, as Jesus died, he handed over his Spirit. Mary and the Spirit cooperate in begetting new children of God—almost an echo of Luke's account of Jesus' conception. Christians can trust that they will continue to experience the caring presence of Mary and Jesus' Spirit throughout their lives and throughout history.

"At the cross her station keeping,Stood the mournful mother weeping,Close to Jesus to the last.Through her heart, his sorrow sharing, All his bitter anguish bearing, Now at length the sword has passed." (Stabat Mater)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Triumph of the Cross

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are invited!!
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The following is a discourse by St. Andrew of Crete, bishop (today’s Office of Readings):

We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.

Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be canceled, we should not have obtained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.

Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation – very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honorable because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.

The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph. We recognize it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it and will glorify it again. Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thursday's Gospel

Gospel - Lk 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples:“To you who hear I say, love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well,and from the person who takes your cloak,
do not withhold even your tunic.Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you,what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you,
what credit is that to you?Even sinners do the same.
If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?Even sinners lend to sinners,
and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ideas to promote Adoration?

Fri (9/14): DC ‘Hood vs. St Martin’s, 7 pm, @ Bohrer Park Activity Center, 506 South Frederick Ave, Gaithersburg Md 20877
We have had many, many comments on this blog about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I’ve included some of them below; they are insightful and inspiring. They help to reveal what I have noticed myself: that there has been a “surge” (ooh, that may not be the best word to use these days) regarding the Eucharist here at St. Andrew’s, at least in awareness and maybe in belief, too. So, I have a question: if there is a growing awareness and belief that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, then how can we promote Eucharistic Adoration (where the Eucharist is exposed every Friday on the altar at SAA from 7-8 pm) in a better way to our parishioners?

I am aware that it’s one thing to express belief on a blog site and quite another to live it in the real world. Nevertheless, what we are expressing here is that the Eucharist is the Body of Christ, and that we truly believe that it is Him who is exposed on Friday nights. In other words, we truly believe that we can go and see Jesus for up to an hour! I would think that that realization would lead people to Adoration at least on some Fridays. I love those who come, but have been a bit surprised that more people haven’t been coming the past few weeks or months.

My idea to promote Adoration (in addition to the blog site and occasionally in my homilies) is to give out some kind of magnets for people to put on their fridges. They could have the Mass times, Confession schedule, and Adoration time. It may just be that people forget about these things week after week, and that might help to remind them. Other ideas??
“This past year, I was privy to others' comments regarding the Eucharist. I can't tell you I was surprised at their belief that the Eucharist is a symbol, and these people felt that Christ's presence in church during Mass and Adoration was in spirit only. The funny thing is that these same people are teaching their children differently. One person told me that she didn't believe that the Eucharist is the real presence but was hoping her daughter would grow up believing it. It was like she was saying that this belief was beyond her capacity. So, I think one answer to your question is starting with the young. It's what I am committed to in my family. In fact, my daughter would tell you that she actually touched Jesus and would expect you to stand in awe of that fact.”

“Until this past year at SAA, I, although I am sure I was taught the significance of the Eucharist in school, didn't HEAR that message until Fr. Greg kept saying it, and saying it, and saying it.... Many I have spoken to have had the same experience”

“I’ve felt hopeless to describe the sense of peace I experience in receiving the Eucharist- like, no matter what else is going on in my life, in that moment, it was the perfect thing. I can’t adequately explain why one hour of Adoration each Friday is something to which I look forward.”

“How can we as laypeople, catechists, teachers, parents, and priests become better witnesses for Christ's presence in the Eucharist?”

“Eucharistic adoration is the most concrete expression of our adoration of God. Fixing our gaze on the Host we cannot but be aware of our nearness to God." - Saint Peter Julian Eymard

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"We will never forget"

Memorial Mass, tonight, 7:30 pm, SAA Church
Today is the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. In honor of today, we have placed a book which contains all of the names of those who lost their lives on 9/11/01 in the sanctuary of the Church and lit a candle next to it. It was a powerful experience to flip through some of the pages. I leave a very small portion of names here, and ask you to pray for all the victims and their families at some point today:

Gordon McCannel Aamoth, 32, New York, N.Y.* Maria Rose Abad, 49, Syosset, N.Y. * Edelmiro (Ed) Abad, 54, New York, N.Y. *Andrew Anthony Abate, 37, Melville, N.Y. *Vincent Abate, 40, New York, N.Y. *Laurence Christopher Abel, 37 *William F. Abrahamson, 58, Cortland Manor, N.Y. *Richard Anthony Aceto, 42, Wantagh, N.Y. *Erica Van Acker, 62, New York, N.Y. *Heinrich B. Ackermann, 38, New York, N.Y. *Paul Andrew Acquaviva, 29, Glen Rock, N.J. *Donald L. Adams, 28, Chatham, N.J. *Shannon Lewis Adams, 25, New York, N.Y. *Stephen Adams, 51, New York, N.Y. *Patrick Adams, 60, New York, N.Y. *Ignatius Adanga, 62, New York, N.Y.*Christy A. Addamo, 28, New Hyde Park, N.Y.*Terence E. Adderley, 22, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.*Sophia B. Addo, 36, New York, N.Y.*Lee Adler, 48, Springfield, N.J.*Daniel Thomas Afflitto, 32, Manalapan, N.J.*Emmanuel Afuakwah, 37, New York, N.Y.Alok Agarwal, 36, Jersey City, N.J.*Mukul Agarwala, 37, New York, N.Y.*Joseph Agnello, 35, New York, N.Y.*David Scott Agnes, 46, New York, N.Y.*Joao A. Aguiar Jr., 30, Red Bank, N.J.*Lt. Brian G. Ahearn, 43, Huntington, N.Y.*Jeremiah J. Ahern, 74, Cliffside Park, N.J.*Joanne Ahladiotis, 27, New York, N.Y.*Shabbir Ahmed, 47, New York, N.Y.*Terrance Andre Aiken, 30, New York, N.Y.*Godwin Ajala, 33, New York, N.Y.*Gertrude M. Alagero, 37, New York, N.Y.*Andrew Alameno, 37, Westfield, N.J.*Margaret Ann (Peggy) Jezycki Alario, 41, New York, N.Y.*Gary Albero, 39, Emerson, N.J.*Jon L. Albert, 46, Upper Nyack, N.Y.*Peter Craig Alderman, 25, New York, N.Y.*Jacquelyn Delaine Aldridge, 46, New York, N.Y.*Grace Alegre-Cua, 40, Glen Rock, N.J.*David D. Alger, 57, New York, N.Y.*Ernest Alikakos, 43, New York, N.Y.*Edward L. Allegretto, 51, Colonia, N.J.*Eric Allen, 44, New York, N.Y.*Joseph Ryan Allen, 39, New York, N.Y.*Richard Lanard Allen, 30, New York, N.Y.*Richard Dennis Allen, 31, New York, N.Y.*Christopher Edward Allingham, 36, River Edge, N.J.*Janet M. Alonso, 41, Stony Point, N.Y.*Anthony Alvarado, 31, New York, N.Y.*Antonio Javier Alvarez, 23, New York, N.Y.*Telmo Alvear, 25, New York, N.Y.*Cesar A. Alviar, 60, Bloomfield, N.J.*Tariq Amanullah, 40, Metuchen, N.J.*Angelo Amaranto, 60, New York, N.Y.*James Amato, 43, Ronkonkoma, N.Y.*Joseph Amatuccio, 41, New York, N.Y.*Christopher Charles Amoroso, 29, New York, N.Y.*Kazuhiro Anai, 42, Scarsdale, N.Y.Calixto Anaya, 35, Suffern, N.Y.*Jorge Octavio Santos Anaya, 25, Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes, MexicoJoseph Peter Anchundia, 26, New York, N.Y.*Kermit Charles Anderson, 57, Green Brook, N.J.*Yvette Anderson, 53, New York, N.Y.*John Andreacchio, 52, New York, N.Y.*Michael Rourke Andrews, 34, Belle Harbor, N.Y.*Jean A. Andrucki, 42, Hoboken, N.J.*Siew-Nya Ang, 37, East Brunswick, N.J.*Joseph Angelini, 38, Lindenhurst, N.Y.*Joseph Angelini, 63, Lindenhurst, N.Y.*Laura Angilletta, 23, New York, N.Y.Doreen J. Angrisani, 44, New York, N.Y.*

Monday, September 10, 2007

The meaning of the crucifix

“WasWondering” wrote, “In Protestant churches the cross is empty because they believe that Jesus resurrected. How come we don't believe this also in this way?” Your question is a good one. Obviously, the Catholic Church firmly believes in the Resurrection. But, the Resurrection doesn’t deny the Crucifixion. One of the main reasons that crucifixes have the image of Christ’s body is so that we will have a visual reminder that Jesus suffered and died for us. Even though many of them have been “cleaned up” so that they don’t show too much blood, crucifixes help us to remember that Christ really suffered, shed real blood, and died a real death in his human nature.

Please keep in mind that we see the Death and Resurrection of Christ as one event: the act of Salvation. This point is brought out in the following which is an excellent reflection on the meaning of the crucifix from Father W. Thomas Faucher, a pastor in Boise, Idaho:

“Are we too accustomed to the crucifix, too comfortable with it to remember its meaning?One purpose of the crucifix is certainly to remind us of the terror and pain of Christ's suffering and death. But there is more to the crucifix than that.

When we are the ones suffering, the crucifix is also a reminder of our union with Christ.We live in difficult times, fearful times. The threat of nuclear war seems to have faded, only to be replaced by a much more imminent threat of terrorism. There seems to be so much more cancer and so much more of other diseases, and those affected seem to be younger.

Older people who thought their children were raised and out of the home increasingly are taking these children back after a destructive divorce. From the fear of bird flu to actual job loss, the number of people truly suffering physical, spiritual and psychological trauma is getting larger and larger…

The simple crucifix is often a means of great solace and peace for such people. There is something about looking at a crucifix -- or especially holding one -- that brings a sense of unity with Jesus.

"You made it through this, Lord, and so can I" is one of the best prayers ever uttered.What gives the crucifix its power is the reality that it is not the end of the story. The crucifix is a temporary point in the life of Jesus.

The end of the story is Easter. The end of the story is resurrection. The end of the story is the triumph of good over evil.

The reason Catholics prefer the crucifix to the bare cross is that we unite not just with the action which took place on the cross, but with the person of Jesus. We unite with Jesus, we share with Jesus, we live with Jesus. We know we will triumph with Jesus.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

23rd Sunday - homily

Some time ago on the blog site, a person made the comment along the lines that many of us see the Gospel as too idealistic. It’s just too demanding…it’s too much. So, since we know we can’t live up the high expectations, we settle for mediocrity. Instead of living out the Commandments and Beatitudes praying regularly, and going to Confessions regularly, many people settle for just ‘being a nice person’, for example. It’s an interesting point that’s good for each of us to consider: Do I approach the Gospel in the same way?

I think that Jesus addresses this point in today’s Gospel. He makes it clear that he is calling us to greatness, not mediocrity. It is a big undertaking to be his disciple, and we need to know all that’s involved to follow him. He gives the example of a builder who is constructing a large tower. The builder gets halfway through the project and realizes that he doesn’t have enough resources to finish the job. He loses all credibility as a builder. Likewise, if we start on the huge project of following Christ- basically building a tower of holiness and love, get halfway and realize that we don’t have the resources – the strength and courage – to follow Jesus, we lose all credibility as disciples. In fact, Jesus says that if anyone who can’t renounce all of his possessions cannot be his disciple.

Now, about what we hear Jesus say in today’s Gospel that we are to “hate” our mother and father, sister and brother, all these people, and even our own life. Wait, did Jesus say we are to hate, like, everyone? Well, we understand that the word “hate” here means “love less”. It is brought more clearly out in Matthew’s Gospel that we are to love Christ more than anyone or anything. He is to be number one in our hearts and lives.

Why does God call us to greatness? It’s because he wants us to experience the fullness of life. He knows that if we settle for mediocrity, we settle for mediocre happiness and mediocre peace. More than that, though, God calls us to be great because He himself is great and he wants us to share in his greatness. God’s idea of greatness is different from the world’s; Jesus says that the greatest among you is the one who serves the rest. So, we look at Christ’s greatness. His whole life is about serving us. He became one of us, lived as a poor man who little or no possessions, took up his cross for us, and died a terrible death for us. It is because of his service – his greatness – that he is glorified by the Father. Christ wants us to share in his glory…to share in his greatness.

Christ doesn’t just call us to greatness and then leave us on our own to live it. He gives us all the help we need. He gives us his grace which is his life and strength, especially in the Eucharist. He says that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him, and will bear much fruit”. Christ helps us to be great as his disciple.

Finally, one example that is hard but it helps to make the point. Good friends of mine are parents who are in their forties and have three beautiful kids. They are very good ad holy people. The husband and father, Mike, is very sick right now with a rare blood disease. It does not look good. I ask you to pray for Mike and his wife, Kelly. I was talking to Kelly the other night and she was looking at the tough road – the mountain of suffering - ahead of her. She said, “Fr Greg, how am I going to handle this? Either Mike will be sick for a long time or if he passes, I’ll have to raise the kids on my own”. The only thing I could say is, “Kelly, one day at a time”. It’s not my phrase, but there is a lot of wisdom to it.

I would use the same line to each one of us here today who is looking at this huge tower of holiness and love that Jesus is asking to build as his disciples: one day at a time. He is here to help us, and it is through his grace that we are his disciples who will share in his greatness.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Gospel

Gospel - Mt 1:18-23

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday's Gospel

Gospel - Lk 5:33-39

The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers,
and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same;
but yours eat and drink.”
Jesus answered them,
“Can you make the wedding guests fast
while the bridegroom is with them?
But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
then they will fast in those days.”
And he also told them a parable.
“No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one.
Otherwise, he will tear the new
and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins,
and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined.
Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, ‘The old is good.’”

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Christian burial

Dovetailing yesterday’s post on the resurrection of the body, here’s a question from “Pat”: “When are Catholics not buried in consecrated soil?” I understand from the Church that cemeteries are the ordinary places of consecrated soil for burials. So, I will assume that you are asking, ‘when are Catholics not buried in cemeteries?’ Canon Law deprives the following of ecclesiastical (Church) funerals, “unless they gave some signs of repentance before death:

1) notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;
2)those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith; 3)other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful” (Canon 1184).

Because the committal (burial) is part of the funeral rite, I would assume that those listed above would be deprived of a burial in a Catholic cemetery.

If you are referring to some situations involving cremation here are some of the main points from the Church. First, the general statement of Canon Law: “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine” (Canon 1176).

Secondly, here are some general points of Catholic theology involving respect for the deceased body as well as specific situations where cremated remains are not buried in consecrated soil:

“The body of a deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of Life. Thus, the Church’s reverence and concern both natural and supernatural for the human person. The body of the deceased brings forcefully to mind the Church’s conviction that the human body is in Christ a temple of the Holy Spirit and is destined for future glory at the resurrection of the dead. This conviction in faith finds it expression in a sustained and insistent prayer that commends the deceased person to God’s merciful care so that his or her place in the communion of the just may be assured. A further expression is the care traditionally taken to prepare the bodies of the deceased for a burial that befits their dignity, in expectation of their final resurrection in the Lord…

For Catholic Christians, cemeteries, especially Catholic cemeteries, call to mind the resurrection of the dead. In addition, they are the focus for the Church’s remembering of the dead and offering of prayer for them.

The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be placed in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires. Whenever possible, appropriate means for recording with dignity the memory of the deceased should be adopted, such as a plaque or stone which records the name of the deceased” (Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix, #412, 416, 417).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The resurrection of the body

One blogger asked the following about death and resurrection: ”After our death does just our souls go to heaven? In one Protestant faith they said the whole body resurrects and goes to heaven.” For what the Catholic Church believes and teaches about the resurrection of the body, I will let the Catechism (#997-1001) answer:

How do the dead rise?

997 What is "rising"? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection.

998 Who will rise? All the dead will rise, "those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment."552

999 How? Christ is raised with his own body: "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself";553 but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, "all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear," but Christ "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body," into a "spiritual body":554

But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel. . . . What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. . . . The dead will be raised imperishable. . . . For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.555

1000 This "how" exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ's transfiguration of our bodies:Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God's blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.556

1001 When? Definitively "at the last day," "at the end of the world."557 Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ's Parousia:For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.558

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Like taking a really good shower

First day of school!! We welcome all of our students and teachers back to school today. At today’s 8:30 Mass, I told the junior high students (6, 7, and 8th graders) that I was excited to have them back. I (somewhat reluctantly) asked them if they were excited to be back, and a strong undercurrent of ‘no’ was heard throughout the Church. We’re not exactly sure if this came from the students or teachers…! We prayed that they would all have a fruitful year together.
An anonymous blogger asked a great question about Confession with regards to his / her children: “I have a question I'd really like answered. I do not want to raise my children to believe that confession is a punishment, but when they have done something that they are old enough to understand goes against the church's teaching and is serious in nature, should I reinforce (I guess really require) that they go to confession?”

In all of the times I’ve spoken about Confession, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘punishment’ to describe it. This is for two reasons: 1) I’ve never seen the Church describe this sacrament as a punishment, and 2) I don’t believe that it is a punishment. So, theologically at least, it would not be accurate to view or describe Confession as a punishment. Practically, though, many people –especially kids – might see it as an experience of being punished for what they did.

As a spiritual father, I try to “reinforce” frequently to God’s children “that they go to confession”. I guess my primary motivation is so that they will be freed of any sin, especially if there is mortal sin present in their souls. So, I often use the words “freedom” and “healing” to describe the Confession experience. But, on a more personal level, I talk so regularly about Confession because of the tremendous value it has played in my life. I have found Confession to be not a punishment, but an incredible gift! It’s like the “buried treasure” of which Jesus speaks in the Gospel. To have Jesus take all of my junk - all of the stuff that weighs heavily on my mind and soul – and separate it from me “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps 103) is an incredibly freeing experience. It’s like taking a really good shower; and this cleansing goes so much deeper because is wipes clean our soul.

So, as the first teachers of the faith to our children, parents should talk often to their kids about Confession, explaining the great role it can play in their lives. The real hope is that parents could teach their kids mainly by their own example of going to Confession regularly. Then, they could describe the positive impact it has played in their own lives (in general terms, at least). While parents’ examples will teach kids of all ages, it might be best for parents to wait until their children “are old enough to understand (that what they’ve done) goes against the church's teaching and is serious in nature” before they discuss in general terms their own experience about going to Confession.

Another Anon has provided some good insights about the positive nature of Confession that might be of some help to parents: “A lot of confession anxiety can go away if we remember that what we are really ‘confessing’ is that Jesus is who he said he was. He WILL forgive our sins. All we have to do is get to the absolution and realize that we can be perfected even though we are not now perfect. We can do this if an only if we let Jesus do it to us. He will give us the heart to love God and others with His Love and thus avoid sinning or missing the mark by hurting others and ourselves instead of loving God enough to do his will. One of the psalms begs the Lord to teach us to delight in his commands. If we delight in his commands then we have learned to delight in Love -- true deep and divine love -- love that comes Jesus himself. When we live in that love we see the demand to be perfect not as a failure but as an opportunity - -an opportunity to grow in love and love as Jesus loved.”

Monday, September 03, 2007

Archbishop Wuerl on Labor Day

Happy Labor Day! The following is a reflection on Labor Day by Archbishop Wuerl which can be found in the current issue (8/30/07) of the Catholic Standard:

In a small park in front of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart church in Northwest Washington is a statue of Cardinal James Gibbons. Seventy-five years ago, at its unveiling, the president of the United States, then Herbert Hoover, highlighted the significance of Cardinal Gibbons' contribution to our country, including championing "the cause of labor in moments of crisis." The ceremony followed on decades of the successful application of Catholic social teaching to the world of economics, business, labor and management.

At the heart of Catholic social teaching is the respect due each person precisely because each of us is created in the likeness of God and the call to be attentive to the needs of one another. As we observe Labor Day, we recall that the history of the labor movement in our country has been intertwined with the articulation and application of the Church's social teaching on the dignity of each person and the value and worth of human labor.

There are those who make a very strong case, and arguably a decisive one, that the moral and philosophical framework that energized and sustained the struggles and efforts of working women and men in the early days of organized labor are found in Catholic teaching.

With the promulgation of Rerum Novarum in 1891, the Church sought to confront the terrible exploitation and poverty of European and American workers at the end of the nineteenth century. The Church applied the principles of her social teaching to the conditions and issues emanating from the Industrial Revolution.

The focus of the encyclical includes the dignity of work, the right to private property, the principle of collaboration instead of class struggle as the fundamental means of social change, the rights of the weak, the dignity of the poor and the obligations of the rich, the perfecting of justice through change and the right to form professional or labor associations.

In Luke's Gospel account of the beginning of Christ's public ministry - the Gospel for Labor Day - Christ came to proclaim a kingdom that is not yet fully with us, but at the same time is unfolding in our midst. He validated his vision by revealing that he was sent by God to reveal God's plan and will. For the follower of Jesus, revelation as the source of truth, the reality of the kingdom of God and the daily struggle to realize something of the kingdom in this life are foundational truths.

Catholic social teaching is grounded in these truths and the tensions they create. It also rests on the firm conviction that what we do in this life, what justice we realize in this world, endures as a sign of God's presence and the beginnings of God's kingdom (cf. Matthew 25:31-46).

From the vantage point of revelation, human life is seen as sacred because it is potentially divine. Each human being becomes Christ's brother or sister and, therefore, our sister or brother. Our final destiny is life eternal with the Father. No one is merely a digit on the state census. None is an alien in this life because each is capable of becoming a citizen of God's everlasting kingdom. This makes available a whole new approach to human problems.

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical letter on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum entitled, Centesimus Annus proposed a "rereading of Pope Leo's encyclical... to discover anew the richness of the fundamental principles which it formulated for dealing with the question of the condition of workers" (Centesimus Annus, 3.1).

The pope reminded us that "rereading the encyclical in the light of contemporary realities enables us to appreciate the Church's constant concern for and dedication to categories of people who are especially beloved to the Lord Jesus" (11.1). We are reminded of the often noted "preferential option for the poor," which the pope defined as a "special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42).

While it would be inexact to say that Jesus promoted any particular political, social, or economic program, he did establish basic principles that should characterize any just, humane, economic or political system. Among these is a "preferential option for the poor."

The Church's social teaching continually calls us to recognize in our Catholic teaching not only a guide for the present, but also the foundation on which to build as we move into the future and face new issues.

On Labor Day, we celebrate the continuing importance of the organizational support of working people and the mystery of God's creative power working its way through everything that we describe as the fruit and product of human labor.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

22nd Sunday - homily

We hear the theme of humility in today’s 1st reading and Gospel. The book of Sirach says to “clothe yourselves with humility”. And Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that “the one who humbles himself will be exalted”. Just what is humility? We don’t hear the word humility much anymore or see too many examples in our modern world. Humility is synonymous with honesty, where the person is honest about himself and acknowledges that everything he has comes from God.

The opposite of the virtue of humility is the sin of pride. We hear much more about that and see many more examples of that in the news, especially lately. In pride, the person has a dishonest view of himself, thinking that he is better than he is and taking credit for what God has done. I’ve always found the relationship between humility and pride to be an interesting one. It can be circular – it takes humility to admit that I am proud…but, then I become proud of my humility. But, it’s humble to say that I’m proud of my humility…!

Anyway, it’s a huge point to consider whether we’re living humility or pride. Jesus makes it clear that humility is necessary for salvation. Also, Sirach 10 says that “pride is the root of all sin”. In order to better understand the difference between humility and pride in our lives, I have compiled a list of examples to show the difference between the two. If you wish to add your own examples, please do so on the blog site where I post my homily.

Let us remember what Scripture says in 1 Peter 5 and Proverbs:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.

The humble person is honest about him or herself, and acknowledges that everything he has is a result of God’s grace. The proud person takes credit for what God has done and thinks everything he has is a result of his efforts only.

The humble person can say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”. The proud person can’t.

The humble person can admit when he’s wrong. The proud person always has to be right.

The humble person tries to reconcile and forgive past debts. The proud person holds grudges.

The person living humility is prone to patience. The person living in pride is prone to anger.

The humble person is able to receive gifts from others with gratitude. The proud person has a very hard time accepting anything good from anyone.

The humble person tries to glorify God with his life. The proud person glorifies himself.

The humble person is a team player. The proud person only cares about himself.

The person living humility tries to build up others. The person living in pride tears down others through gossip.

The person living humility has a realistic and honest view of his strengths and weaknesses. The person living in pride overestimates his strengths and underestimates his weaknesses.

The humble person lives moderation and knows his limits when it comes to controlling his desires. The proud person thinks he can handle anything, especially when it comes to things of the flesh.

The humble person imitates Christ by accepting his cross with faith, hope, and love. The proud person says, “why me?”

The Catholic living humility goes to Confession regularly, acknowledging that he is a sinner. The one living in pride thinks that he doesn’t need to go.

For the humble Christian, God is first. The proud one says “me first”.

The humble Catholic acknowledges and abides by God’s Commandments. The proud one thinks he knows better than God.

The humble Catholic acknowledges and abides by the teaching authority of the Church. The proud person thinks he knows better than the Church.

The person living humility conducts his affairs with modesty and meekness. The proud person brings attention to himself.

The humble person prays regularly, in good times and in bad. The proud person prays only when he needs something.

As Jesus says in the Gospel, the humble person will be exalted. The proud person will be humbled.

The humble person acknowledges that he needs Christ. The proud person has no need for a Savior.

Those living in humility are open to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and try to center their lives on the Eucharist. They acknowledge their lowliness before God and see themselves as among the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind who have been invited to share in this banquet. They have their eyes on the heavenly banquet where God will reward their humility with an exalted place in his Kingdom.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


At the end of yesterday's post about liturgical life, I wrote about feast days. While the Church highly recommends the practice of fasting throughout the liturgical year (but only requires it on two days -Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), she prohibits fasting on feast days. If we are in the habit of fasting, then we will appreciate feast days all the more! Here's some more info about fasting, according to

What Fasting Is:
Fasting, broadly speaking, is the voluntary avoidance of something that is good. When Catholics talk about fasting, we normally mean restricting the food that we eat. We can fast between meals, by not eating snacks, or we can engage in a complete fast by abstaining from all food. The English word breakfast, in fact, means the meal that breaks the fast.

While fasting takes the form of refraining from eating, it is primarily a spiritual discipline designed to tame the body so that we can concentrate on higher things.

Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving - The Swiss Army Knife of the Spirit:
That is why fasting is usually mentioned along with prayer and almsgiving (or charity). By controlling the passions of the body, we free our souls for prayer. And by refraining from eating, we free up food or money that we can give to those less fortunate than ourselves. The three spiritual disciplines go hand in hand, and the Church calls us to practice all three together, especially during the season of Lent.

Lenten Fasting and Penance:
Lent, the 40 days before Easter Sunday, is a season of the Church calendar set aside for Christians to do penance in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Refraining from food can help us to bring our bodies under the control of our souls, but it is also a way of doing penance for past excesses. That is why the Church strongly recommends that Catholics fast during Lent.

Current Church Law Regarding Fasting:
The Church used to prescribe very rigorous rules for the Lenten fast (including abstaining from all meat and eating only one meal per day). The current rules, however, are much more lax. Catholics are only required to fast on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and on Good Friday, the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. Anyone over the age of 18, but under the age of 60, should eat only one full meal on those days, although they can also have small amounts of food in the morning and the evening.

Going Beyond What’s Required:
The Church continues to encourage individual Catholics to observe a stricter fast. Extreme fasting, however, can be physically harmful, so, as with all physical forms of penance and of spiritual discipline, you should consult with your priest before embarking on a very strict fast.

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