Thursday, March 5, 2015

Catholicism: Here Comes Everybody

The following comes from Robert George First Things:

Those of us who are Catholics have had a rough few years. Well, make that a rough few decades. Horrific abuse scandals. Some weak, sometimes feckless, bishops. Wacky theologians. Boring homilies. Dreadful music. Widespread dissent, often rooted in appalling ignorance. I could go on. We envy our Evangelical friends for the vibrancy of faith in their communities. (Causing our Evangelical friends to wonder whether we’ve been hitting the communion wine too hard.) We envy our friends in the historically black churches for their great preaching and singing. We envy our LDS friends for having strong and inspiring leaders. We envy our Eastern Orthodox friends for having a beautiful liturgy. We envy our Orthodox Jewish friends for understanding the value of tradition, instead of throwing it overboard in pursuit of “relevance.” 
We feel sorry for ourselves.
But sometimes, one notices the little things that make it great to be Catholic. Like diversity. Diversity? I know what you’re thinking: “My goodness, Robby really has been hitting the sauce. He’s not usually the sort who goes for this p. c. diversity business.”
But, no, I mean it. Diversity. I was sitting at mass today, listening to the homily (which actually wasn’t all that boring, truth be told) and looking around at my fellow worshippers. I mean to tell you, it was glorious diversity. The Catholic Church really is “here comes everybody.” There were people I know who are Irish, Polish, Italian, Mexican, Filipino, Guatemalan, but also African, Indian (the kind from India), Korean, Vietnamese, Colombian, Russian (why they don’t go to the Orthodox Church, I’m not sure; but there they were), Lebanese, Japanese, Jamaican, Chilean, Ecuadorean—all in the same local parish
And that’s only the beginning.
There were the folks from the Western section of Princeton who work in financial services in NYC and have a net worth in the tens or even hundreds of millions. And there was the guy who owns the local bakery. And the woman who has one of the florist shops and another who has (or works in, I’m not quite sure) one of the few remaining travel agencies. There was the little old man with the amazingly bad toupee. (He’d be better off with some black magic marker.) There were the laborers who work with the local landscapers and builders. They and their families were sitting there alongside the rich people from the Western section and the University professors. One of the professors (who, as it happens, is one of the world’s leading scientists) was kneeling next to the wife of my tailor—she’s an immigrant woman whose simple southern Italian spirituality is of the sort that gets Catholics labeled Mary worshippers by our Protestant friends. Then there was the guy—late 60s or 70s in age, with the classic looks of the 1940s male movie star, right down to the pencil thin moustache—who kneels through the whole mass counting his beads and saying the rosary. He does it every Sunday.
We have the Princeton University undergrads and graduate students headed for big things, and the people with Down’s Syndrome and other handicaps. We have the crying infants and squirming toddlers (not to mention the adolescents who, I’m sure, are giving their parents fits) and the people (mostly women, but a few men) who are certainly in their nineties. My sense is that the congregation as a whole is made up of fairly orthodox Catholics, which I doubt is always the case in university towns. When my former student, Fr. Mike McClane, preaches, only one or two people usually get up and walk out. Given that he often says things that cause massive heartburn to Catholics who strongly dissent from some of the Church’s moral teachings, that’s pretty surprising for a parish in a town like Princeton, but there it is. Anyway, if we’re missing ideological (or whatever you want to call it) diversity we sure have lots of all the other kinds, including, I’m sure, plenty of sinners like me, and even, I would be willing to bet, a few saints.

Benedict XVI's on Keeping Catholics Catholic!

The following comes from the Seasons of Grace blog:
What is the largest Christian denomination in America?
If you guessed “Catholics”, you’re right!  According to a 2011 study by CARA (the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate), there are68 million Catholics in the United States—more by far than in any other group.
But the second group on CARA’s list—with 22.5 million, coming in almost 35% higher than the next on the list—are “Former Catholics.”  By comparison the third group, the Baptists, have only 16 million adherents.  They’re followed by the Methodists (7.6 million), then the Mormons (6.1 million), and so on.
So what makes Catholics, who once enjoyed the fullness of grace available to them in the Church founded by Christ, decide to slip out the door?  Some, perhaps, are weak in their understanding of the Faith; some are offended by a particular priest or hurt by a member of the congregation; some are attracted by other denominations; and some are just disinterested and would rather focus on their golf game or curl up with their pillow just a little longer on Sunday morning.
Pope Benedict addressed the problem head-on recently, offering some advice aimed at keeping Catholics in the pews.  The occasion was his June 22 meeting with bishops of Colombia, in Rome for their ad limina visit.  The pope offered a concrete list of ways to keep Catholics from falling away.
  1. Be better believers.  The Holy Father issued a call for Catholics to be “better believers, more pious, affable and welcoming in our parishes and communities, so that no one will feel distant or excluded.”
  2. Emphasize and teach the Faith.  “Catechesis must be promoted, giving special attention to young people and adults; homilies must be carefully prepared, as well as promoting the teaching of Catholic doctrine in schools and universities.”
  3. Celebrate tradition.  “It is important,” the Pope explained, “to emphasize the Church’s tradition, Marian spirituality and the rich diversity of devotion.”
  4. Keep avenues of communication open.  “To facilitate a serene and open exchange with other Christians, without losing one’s own identity, can also help to improve relations with them,” he said, “and to overcome mistrust and unnecessary confrontations.”
All of these things, the Holy Father averred, will help the baptized to recover “a sense of belonging to the Church and to awaken in them the aspiration to share with others the joy of following Christ and of being members of his Mystical Body.”
An interesting thing about the Catholic Church:  You can’t really leave.  If you do—if sin or sloth or distraction cause you to stay away—the Church waits with open arms, ready to welcome you home.  The Church has a name for people who don’t come around any more, and it’s not“former Catholics.”  No, the Church calls them “lapsed Catholics,” good folks who haven’t been at the 4:00 p.m. vigil Mass for a while, but who might return and stop in for Saturday confession any time now. 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#27) seems to anticipate the homecomings.  Quoting from that most famous “lapsed Catholic” who returned to become a great saint, St. Augustine, the Catechism says:
The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.
To learn more about coming home to the Catholic Church (or to learn more about  teachings and traditions which you may have forgotten), visit the website ofCatholics Come Home.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Catholicism: The Mystical Union of Christ and the Church

Pope Francis on Preparing for Confession

(CNS)  As Catholics are encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their lives during Lent, Pope Francis offered some quick tips to help people prepare for the sacrament of penance.

After a brief explanation of why people should go to confession -- "because we are all sinners" -- the pope listed 30 key questions to reflect on as part of making an examination of conscience and being able to "confess well."

The guide is part of a 28-page booklet in Italian released by the Vatican publishing house. Pope Francis had 50,000 free copies distributed to people attending his Angelus address Feb. 22, the first Sunday of Lent.

Titled "Safeguard your heart," the booklet is meant to help the faithful become "courageous" and prepared to battle against evil and choose the good.

The booklet contains quick introductions to Catholic basics: it has the text of the Creed, a list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. It explains the seven sacraments and includes Pope Francis' explanation of "lectio divina," a prayerful way of reading Scripture in order to better hear "what the Lord wants to tell us in his word and to let us be transformed by his Spirit."

The booklet's title is based on a line from one of the pope's morning Mass homilies in which he said Christians need to guard and protect their hearts, "just as you protect your home -- with a lock."

"How often do bad thoughts, bad intentions, jealousy, envy enter?" he asked. "Who opened the door? How did those things get in?"

The Oct. 10, 2014, homily, which is excerpted in the booklet, said the best way to guard one's heart is with the daily practice of an "examination of conscience," in which one quietly reviews what bad things one has done and what good things one has failed to do for God, one's neighbor and oneself.

The questions include:

-- Do I only turn to God when I'm in need?

-- Do I take attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation?

-- Do I begin and end the day with prayer?

-- Am I embarrassed to show that I am a Christian?

-- Do I rebel against God's plan?

-- Am I envious, hot-tempered, biased?

-- Am I honest and fair with everyone or do I fuel the "throwaway culture?"

-- In my marital and family relations, do I uphold morality as taught in the Gospels?

-- Do I honor and respect my parents?

-- Have I refused newly conceived life? Have I snuffed out the gift of life? Have I helped do so?

-- Do I respect the environment?

-- Am I part worldly and part believer?

-- Do I overdo it with eating, drinking, smoking and amusements?

-- Am I overly concerned about my physical well-being, my possessions?

-- How do I use my time? Am I lazy?

-- Do I want to be served?

-- Do I dream of revenge, hold grudges?

-- Am I meek, humble and a builder of peace?

Catholics should go to confession, the pope said, because everyone needs forgiveness for their sins, for the ways "we think and act contrary to the Gospel."

"Whoever says he is without sin is a liar or is blind," he wrote.

Confession is meant to be a sincere moment of conversion, an occasion to demonstrate trust in God's willingness to forgive his children and to help them back on the path of following Jesus, Pope Francis wrote.

Saint of the day: Casimir

The following comes from the site:

Casimir grew up in a world where his life was not his own. As a prince of Poland, the second son of King Casimir IV and Elizabeth of Austria, his life was scheduled to cement his father's authority and increase Poland's power.

Casimir realized from an early age that his life belonged to someone else, but to a much higher King than his father. Despite pressure, humiliation, and rejection, he stood by that loyalty through his whole life.

Born the third of thirteen children in 1461, Casimir was committed to God from childhood. Some of that commitment was the result of a tutor, John Dlugosz, whose holiness encouraged Casimir on his own journey.

It may be hard for us to imagine royal luxury as a pressure. But for Casimir, the riches around him were temptations to forget his true loyalties. Rebelling against the rich, fashionable clothes he was expected to enjoy, he wore the plainest of clothes.

Rejecting even ordinary comforts, he slept little, spending his nights in prayer. And when he did sleep, he lay on the floor not on a royal bed. Even though he was a prince, many of those around him must have laughed and joked at his choices. Yet, in the face of any pressure, Casimir was always friendly and calm.

Though his father must have wondered about him, he must have seen and admired Casimir's strength. He showed that he misunderstood this strength when he sent Casimir as head of an army to take over the throne of Hungary at the request of some nobles there. Casimir felt the whole expedition was wrong but was convinced to go out of obedience to his father. He could not help but feel at every step that it was disobedient to his other Father. So when soldiers started deserting, he was only too glad to listen to the advice of his officers and turn back home. His feelings were confirmed when he discovered that Pope Sixtus IV had opposed the move.

His father, however, was furious at being deterred from his plans and banished Casimir to a castle in Dobzki, hoping that imprisonment would change Casimir's mind. Casimir's commitment to what he believed was right only grew stronger in his exile and he refused to cooperate with his father's plans any more despite the pressure to give in. He even rejected a marriage alliance his father tried to form. He participated in his true King's plans wholeheartedly by praying, studying, and helping the poor.

He died at the age of 23 in 1484 from lung disease. He was buried with his favorite song, a Latin hymn to Mary called "Omni die dic Mariae" which we know as "Daily, Daily Sing to Mary." Because of his love for the song, it is known as the Hymn of St. Casimir though he didn't write it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Girl From the North Country by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash

We Want Christianity Without the Cross

The following comes from the NCR:

If there were a Nazarene yearbook 2,000 years ago, Jesus would not have been voted most popular. Maybe "most likely to be tortured and crucified" but definitely not most popular.

He didn't seem to care all that much about being popular because he knew that if being popular is your goal you may very well achieve it but at what cost? As Jesus said, we cannot serve two masters.

When Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world," it freaked a number of his disciples out. In fact, it freaked them out enough that they bolted.

Now, as they abandoned him, Jesus could've said, "Hold the phone" and then they might've asked what a phone was. But maybe they would've understood through context. But Jesus could've said, "Just messing with y'all. Not ACTUALLY my body and blood. Symbolically. It was all a metaphor, you see."

Nope. Jesus didn't say that. Jesus wasn't trying to be cool. He wasn't concerned with popularity at all. In fact, so committed to not being popular was Jesus that he allowed himself to be crucified. That, my friends, is a strong commitment to unpopularity.

So I'm always a little bit perplexed when I see Catholics arguing that the Church needs to change its teachings in order to be popular. They use terms like "get with the times" or "modernize" but it means the same thing.

We're told that if you want to be cool you'll be awesome with abortion, good with the gay sex, open to ordaining women, relaxed about religious freedom, and cool with contraception. And we're told that unless the Church does these things, churches will become increasingly empty and irrelevant. But what role does that leave the Church, to simply affirm what people already think and do? Is it the Church's role to make people feel good about their choices regardless of the reality. It seems that modern Christianity wants to avoid the cross but here's the thing - there is no Christianity without the cross.

As the Church continues preaching the truth, it may very well face empty pews, hatred, and even persecution in the near future. We will be the modern lepers who instead of announcing themselves as "unclean" must pronounce themselves "uncool." And it will likely get worse than that. When Jesus said He was the living bread, some ran. Jesus was tortured and killed. That's going on right now in many parts of the world. And it may soon go on here in the Western world.

As Francis Cardinal George said, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square." While this may seem like the beginning of the end, it will not be. This is how the Church is reborn.

It may very well be persecution which will eventually bring people back to the Church. But in the foreseeable future there may very well be dark times ahead. Prepare yourselves. Prepare your children. The cross awaits.

Catholic Apologetics: Purgatory

Purgatory - Does a cleansing state of the soul exist before entering Heaven for those who need it?  Yes, for Scripture says nothing unclean or impure will enter into the kingdom of Heaven (Revelations 21:27).  St. Paul mentions the saving of a person's soul, but through fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).  In addition, Jesus mentions being forgiven for sins in the next world (Matthew 12:32) and that we shall not be released until we have paid for all our sins (Luke 12:59).

Saint of the day: KATHARINE DREXEL

Today the Catholic Church remembers another American Saint: Katherine Drexel! The following comes from the Catholic Online site:

Saint Katharine Drexel, Religious (Feast Day-March 3) Born in 1858, into a prominent Philadelphia family, Katharine became imbued with love for God and neighbor. She took an avid interest in the material and spiritual well-being of black and native Americans. She began by donating money but soon concluded that more was needed - the lacking ingredient was people. Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, whose members would work for the betterment of those they were called to serve. From the age of 33 until her death in 1955, she dedicated her life and a fortune of 20 million dollars to this work. In 1894, Mother Drexel took part in opening the first mission school for Indians, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Other schools quickly followed - for Native Americans west of the Mississippi River, and for the blacks in the southern part of the United States. In 1915 she also founded Xavier University in New Orleans. At her death there were more than 500 Sisters teaching in 63 schools throughout the country. Katharine was beatified by Pope John Paul II on November 20, 1988.

Because of her lifelong dedication to her faith and her selfless service to the oppressed, Pope John Paul II canonized her on October 1, 2000 to become only the second recognized American-born saint.

Monday, March 2, 2015

10,000 Reasons by Rend Collective Experiment

Pope Francis to Fallen Away Catholics: "Come home!"

Fallen away Catholics are being invited to “come home” this Lent through a worldwide initiative led by Pope Francis, which points to confession as a primary way to experience God's merciful embrace.

“So often, people are afraid to come back to church or to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for they feel that, since they have been gone for so long, there is no way back,” said Father Geno Sylva, English language official for the Vatican's New Evangelization council.

“This initiative is to let people know that it is never too late and there is always a way back,” he told CNA.

“24 Hours for the Lord” is a yearly event set for the fourth Friday and Saturday of Lent which began in 2014 under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Taking place on Mar. 13-14, this year's theme is “God rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4) which, Fr. Sylva observed, “is such an important theme of our Holy Father.”

In his 2015 message for Lent, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the Church, “also at the diocesan level,” would observe 24-hour initiative, saying it “is meant to be a sign of this need for prayer.”

The event will begin on the evening of the fourth Friday of Lent with a penance service presided over by Pope Francis in Saint Peter's Basilica. Following the service in the Vatican, Churches throughout Rome will remain open for 24 hours to give pilgrims the opportunity to go to Confession and take part in Eucharistic Adoration.

Fr. Sylva recalled one of the iconic images of Pope Francis during the 2014 penance service for “24 Hours for the Lord,” in which the Pope surprised one of the priests by approaching him for confession before hearing confessions himself.

“There’s something to be said for joining with our Holy Father, joining as a universal Church, in such a prayer experience,” Fr. Sylva said.

He then told of his own experience in 2014 hearing confessions at the church of Saint Agnes in Agony, one of three churches in open Rome throughout the night.

“It was so incredibly moving and inspiring just how many people had come back to the sacrament for the first time many decades,” he said. “When I asked them why they came back, so many of them said they came back because Pope Francis had invited and asked them to. And he had indeed during the Angelus the Sunday before.”

The inspiration for “24 Hours for Prayer” came from the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization, during which the question of placing“the sacrament of reconciliation once again at the center of pastoral life” came to the surface, Fr. Sylva explained.

While parishes in Rome will be open overnight, Churches elsewhere are invited to adapt the initiative to their local situations and needs. Acknowledging that “every parish has a different history and unique culture,” Fr. Sylva said, “The pastor and the community are simply to invite people to come home.”

For those taking part in this year's event in Rome or elsewhere in the world, especially those who have been away from the Sacraments for a long time, organizers have prepared pastoral aids in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Polish. The English edition can be purchased at the Catholic Publishing Company and is available worldwide.

“There are many different moments and steps in the new evangelization,” Fr. Geno said. “The 24 Hours for the Lord allows the Church the opportunity to demonstrate the great harmony of these moments: We invite, we welcome, we catechize and God forgives.”

Additional information on the “24 Hours for Prayer” can be found at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization's website,

Medjugorje Film: Our Lady Queen Of Peace

Pope Francis: Jesus reveals Himself as the perfect icon of the Father

(Vatican Radio) Before the Angelus the Pope recalled Sunday’s Gospel on the Transfiguration in which Jesus "is at the peak of his public ministry. The Holy Father explained that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, where the prophecies of the 'Servant of God' will be fulfilled.

The crowds, he added, facing the prospect of a Messiah that does not fit their earthly expectations, abandoned him. They thought that the Messiah would be a liberator of his country from Roman rule.

Peter, James and John, said Pope Francis, witness Jesus on a high mountain, immersed in prayer, and transfigured before them: his face and his whole person radiated a brilliant light. Jesus, "reveals himself, added the Pope, as the perfect icon of the Father, the irradiation of his glory. He is the fulfilment of Revelation. The instruction for the disciples and for us, noted the Pope is this: 'Listen to him!' Listen to Jesus. He is the Saviour: follow him. Jesus' journey always leads us to happiness.

In conclusion, the Holy Father said that "With Peter, James and John", "we also climb the Mount of Transfiguration and stop in contemplation of the face of Jesus, to receive the message and translate it into our lives, because we too can be transfigured by love.

Come Home to the Church!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fraternite Monastique de Jerusalem

A Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe into me Holy Spirit, That all my thoughts may be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. 
St. Augustine

Tim Staples: How to share the truths of faith with others

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Taizé Chant: Adoramus te O Christe