Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Saints are Coming!

In my neck of the woods the New Orleans Saints have everyone buzzing. The 3-0 start reminds everyone of that magical year in 2006 when, after Katrina, the Saints fell just a play or two short of a trip to the Super Bowl. Who can forget what became the rallying cry; not just for the football team beloved by the faithful but for a community that is coming back from one of the greatest natural AND man-made disasters in the history of America:

So on this last day of September, as October brings the hope of autumn weather I'm excited about the Saints that are coming. A quick glance of my calendar and we see October 1st, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, October 2nd, the Guradian Angels (ok they are not Saints but Angels count too), October 4th, St. Francis of Assisi, October 5th, St. Faustina, October 6th, Saint Bruno, October 7th, Mary under the title Our Lady of the Rosary, October 9th, St. Denis (threw that one in for my previous boss who happens to be named Denis), October 10th, St. Daniel.

And the list goes on. October brings us much joy with the Saints. Yes, the 3-0 Saints have been exciting to watch and cheer on, but these Saints are an unbeatable team, interceeding for us and praying with us as the Body of Christ that worships and glorifies God.

The Saints are coming!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A final reflection on the Feast of the Archangels

Angelic Company

26th week, OT
Father Jeffery Jambon, LC

John 1: 47-51

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him." Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this." And he said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I approach this time of prayer earnestly. I believe that you have called me to be faithful and loving in your service. I thank you along with Mary, the saints and the holy angels for the marvelous works of creation. I will humbly try to reflect your greatness to all I meet today by honestly fulfilling my duty.

Petition: Lord, help me be an instrument of your peace and love.

1. Honesty Is the Best Policy Once as Jesus spent the whole night in prayer, he searched for apostles that would be honest and sincere. Jesus took a liking to Nathanael when he discovered an Israelite without guile in his heart. Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him. It seems that Jesus admired this angelic trait in men. As soon as he saw Philip bringing Nathanael forward to meet him, Jesus immediately noticed the virtue Nathanael lived. If I want to be highly thought of by Jesus, then I need to be sincere in mind and heart.

2. The Holy Angels The Church venerates today the holy service of three of the archangels. They stand out for their honest love for God’s most holy will. With such fidelity, St. Gabriel faithfully delivered the most important messages of human history to Zacharias and Mary. St. Michael wrestled with Lucifer and cast him out of heaven. St. Raphael came to the aid of Tobias in the Old Testament. In these angels there isn’t any duplicity of heart. God asks them a favor and they truly fulfill it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to implement our talents and gifts toward a service of this nature? Wouldn’t it be great to be honest instruments of God’s infinite love like these three archangels?

3. The Lord’s Gaze Jesus looks into the heart and doesn’t judge by appearances. Christ’s gaze penetrated Nathanael on this occasion. Jesus penetrates the motives of my heart even though they are kept hidden from the others. Jesus is the first one to know if I am true to the faith I have received. If I am faithful to the dictates of my conscience and obey God’s lead, in private or in public, then I have nothing to hide and nothing to lose. If on the other hand, I am dwindling in my surrender to Christ by boredom and monotony, then it is about time I sought renewal. Christ needs me! How many are dying and fading away because they lack Christ and his love? I, in turn, have been graced by many special spiritual favors! Jesus gazes into my eyes and dreams of my fidelity and love.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for the example of these three archangels and of the holy apostles. The holy apostles ended up shedding their blood for you and the holy angels aid us on our journey towards you. Lord, seeing so many lacking the faith, I resolve to be your tireless instrument, like them, so that many may come to praise you for all eternity.

Resolution: I will visit the Eucharist (if this is impossible, then kneel before the crucifix) and repeat confidently, Lord I wish to be your instrument – help me!

Another Seelos miracle

Some of you know of my firsthand account of the powerful intercession of Blessed Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos. If not, click on my blog story titled Angela Boudreaux. She is the approved miracle the Vatican accepted that allowed Seelos to be declared blessed by Pope John Paul II. I blogged several months ago about another miracle in Baltimore that looks good, really good. Now this:

Joey’s fight: Family Attributes to Clean Scan to Faith
By Keighla Schmidt, Staff Writer

It might sound like a plot line from a movie, but after his family visited a Catholic shrine in New Orleans, Joey Schwartz’s latest CT scan showed he’s cancer free just two months after being told terminal cancer had returned.

Joey was first diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer, midline carcinoma, in March 2008 when he was 13. After 10 months of highly-toxic chemotherapy followed by six weeks of radiation, he was told he was in remission. But, during a follow-up PET scan in July, the 14-year-old from Savage was told he had to continue his fight the aggressive cancer.

“When Joey was re-diagnosed, the reoccurrence on the chest wall and in his lungs was devastating news,” Paul said. “The doctor told us, ‘I can’t offer hope at this point.’”

Doctors identified two large masses on his chest wall and dozens of small tumors in his lungs.

Deciding to fight anyway, Joey started chemotherapy again and with the support of his parents, Paul and Melinda, along with his twin brother Derek, the family turned to their Catholic faith.

They had been following a story about a 71-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer that had spread throughout her body, but the malignant tumors disappeared after prayers to Blessed Father Seelos, who died in 1867 in New Orleans. Seelos has been beatified by the Vatican and is believed to have successful intercessions for ill people. The woman, Mary Ellen Heibel, has been cancer free since 2005.

Paul ordered a first-class relic, a small piece Seelos’s body, for Joey to wear in a pendant as a point of focus for prayers, as Heibel has done.

“Obviously not everyone who prays to Seelos is healed,” Paul said.

But, he added, prayers couldn’t do any harm.

After one round of the toxic drugs and getting an affirmative nod from their doctor, the Schwartz family made a pilgrimage to New Orleans to visit a shrine to Seelos.

“It may have been New Orleans, but it wasn’t voodoo,” Melinda said with a laugh.

The family attended a Sunday mass and a woman in charge of the administration of the Seelos shrine, Joyce Bourgeois, took special care of the family.

“Just talking to her on the phone is a spiritual experience,” Melinda said.

Joey said throughout the mass Bourgeois had her hands on his shoulders to bless him.

Along with Bourgeois and other shrine officials, Paul said many parishioners offered up their anecdotal stories about the intercessions Seelos had done for them and expressed hope for Joey.

“You take some of it with a grain of salt,” Paul said. “But, really, you’re going there looking for some hope … it was a very uplifting, spiritual day.”

With Joey still wearing the relic, the Schwartz family headed home.

“When we got home and started telling people about our trip, we got the typical ‘pat on the head,’” Paul said. “A very small amount of people actually understood what we did and why.”

After one more round of chemo and one CT scan on Sept. 3, the family thought their prayers were answered.

“We were hoping the scans would show the tumors had either stayed the same size or shrunken a little,” Paul said of their feelings going into the appointment.

“It’s scary before going in,” Joey said. “I really didn’t know what to think, I was hoping for something good.”

When Dr. Jawhar Rawwas, Joey’s oncology doctor at Children’s Hospital, read the scans initially, he told the family the tumors had shrunk.

“We thought that was our miracle,” Melinda said. “We were thrilled with that.”

After bringing Joey back to the Academy of Holy Angels where he and Derek are freshman, Paul and Melinda got a call from the doctor.

“He said the radiologist had looked at Joey’s scans and that’s when I thought he was going to say the initial scan missed something and prepared for the worst,” Paul said. “He said he couldn’t detect any traces of cancer … and on top of that, the two initial large masses were now thought to be scar tissue.”

> Continue to pray that if it be God's will, Seelos may be declared a Saint and pray through Fr. Seelos for your intentions!

Monday, September 28, 2009

More on the Archangels

The homily delivered by St. Gregory the Great, pope, is too powerful not to ponder and pray with. From the Office of Readings, September 29th here it is:

You should be aware that the word "angel" denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.
And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.
Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they come among us. Thus Michael means "who is like God"; Gabriel is "the strength of God"; and Raphael is "God's remedy."
Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, we are told by John: a battle was fought with Michael the archangel.
So too Gabriel, who is called God's strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God's strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.
Raphael means, as I have said, God's remedy, for when he touched Tobit's eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God's remedy.

St. Michael defend us; and don't forget us too!

Tommorrow is the great Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. St. Michael is my patron saint; the saint for whom I am named. I grew up learning much about St. Michael, especially that he helped defeat Satan's evil attempt to take over Heaven. I also learned the powerful St. Michael prayer that was composed by Pope Leo XIII. St. Michael is mentioned in Sacred Scripture at least four times: Daniel chapter 10, Daniel chapter 12, the letter of Jude and the Book of Revelation chapter 12. Some theologians believe it is St. Michael the Archangel who is referred to in Genesis 3:24, Numbers 22:22 and 2 Kings 19:35. This is what is said of St. Michael in Revelation: "Then war broke out in Heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in Heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the devil or satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled to down to earth and his minions with him."

For my local church community tommorrow is a fine celebration. Our parish is blessed to have a mission church, located some 22 miles from our main church. The mission is named for St. Michael the Archangel. We will celebrate in the evening with Mass and a dinner afterwards.

St. Gabriel is also well known as the angel who appeared both to Zachariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist and then to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus Christ. Gabriel first appears in Sacred Scripture in Daniel just like St. Michael. St. Raphael is the lesser known of the three, appearing only in the book of Tobit. Scripture scholars however believe he is one of the seven angels named in Revelation 8:2.

Tradition names other archangels as well, although none are named in Sacred Scripture. Their names are Uriel, Raguel, Sariel and Jerahmeel.

So on Tuesday, September 29th, remember the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael praying for their powerful intercession and asking them to continue to defend us.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Those poor boxes still count

One of my fondest memories of going to church as a little boy was the visit to the poor box in the back of church. My grandma or aunt would give me and my sisters a few coins to place in the little box nestled into the wall of the church. For us, we were told the money in the box was for the poor people, but we just liked sliding the money in the slot.

Now, many years later, the poor box in the church I worship and assist at looks just like the poor box of my youth. Now, they get many more dollar bills and checks. Thank God for the generosity. At Mass this weekend, we heard from our local St. Vincent de Paul Society of what they can do from these poor box donations. I forget the exact number, but our local SVDP group has helped more homeless people than I actually thought existed in our fairly well off community. And he explained that more and more people are calling the office for help; the victims of job losses and the stagnating economy.

I never knew much about the St. Vincent de Paul Society until recent years. Of course this wonderful organization is a direct reflection of the life of the well known Saint. St. Vincent was a priest in Paris and founded the Congregation of the Mission to assist the poor. Here are some of his thoughts on the poor:

"if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor. His mission was to preach to the poor. We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ's actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause."

Today, September 27th is St. Vincent de Paul's feast day. May we honor his memory and his devotion to the poor by making frequent trips to the poor box in our local parish churches. Yes, give the kids some coins to place through the slot in the poor box. Then drop some bills or checks in there yourself.

Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us.

Homily for Sept. 27th Where are you going to?

Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know?

These lines from one of the greatest songs in the career of Diana Ross got me to thinking; do we know where we are going to?

I know that when I travel, I plan to know just where I’m going to. Most of the time my travel works out great, especially these days with Map Quest and Google Maps. Sometimes though I lose my way and my wife will tell you that I hate to stop for directions. Help might just be one stop away but often I fail to stop and ask for directions.

Life is always a series of directions and instructions. Just yesterday at my house we had to install a new ceiling fan. The fan came with detailed instructions that helped to successfully install the fan. Directions and instructions lead us to the right destination and help us achieve the end in mind.

As people of faith do we follow the directions of Jesus Christ and follow the instructions of His Church? Do we know where we are going to? Do we know?

This one Gospel passage today has much to focus on. We have everything from St. John complaining about exorcists to Jesus teaching us to cut off our hand and foot and pluck out an eye. And we hear Jesus warn of the unquenchable fire of Gehenna. Three times in today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of Gehenna. Jesus is giving us our roadmap, our instructions to avoid Gehenna, but what is Gehenna?

No one speaks of hell and it’s consequences in New Testament Scripture more than Jesus himself. In using the term Gehenna, He is referring to the burning, rotting garbage dump that lay on the outskirts of Jerusalem. It was an awful place; foul, dirty, obnoxious odor as garbage and refuse burned and decayed all day and all night. In Old Testament times, human sacrifice was practiced here as the victim would simply be placed on the trash fire to burn. His followers and listeners would know the place well and could not imagine a worse place on earth. And Jesus refers to Gehenna to paint a picture of hell.

Jesus tells us that there is only one detour that leads to hell. That detour is sin and the possibility for one to die in a state of mortal sin. Hell is not a place created by God for Him to send sinners to this fiery eternity. No, hell is a place that only we can arrive at by losing our way and not stopping to ask directions. Hell can only be achieved by willfully ignoring His instructions and doing things our way; not His way.

Hell is not a place created by God for Him to punish; for God to pronounce sentence. Hell is a state that we choose by alienating ourselves from God’s love and mercy. But God does not desire that we follow this detour for He declares: “I take no pleasure in the death of a sinner but rather that He be converted and live.”

So how do we avoid this horrible detour and stay on the right path, following only God’s map and His instructions? Know the way. Follow the commandments and follow the beatitudes too. The commandments clearly spell out what we should do and not do and the beatitudes call us to do more; to serve and help others. Remember the answer Jesus gave to the one who asked Him, what is the greatest commandment? He replied: “Love the Lord your God with your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And the second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is what He calls us to do.

The Catholic Church, founded by Jesus, is the ongoing Body of Christ and She continues to guide us with His instructions to help us avoid that detour to hell. Through the Sacraments we have another roadmap to help us follow the way. One sacrament that is a must is that of reconciliation or confession. To follow the directions we must be aware of mortal sin and venial sin. The Church teaches us that mortal sin destroys and turns one away from God. Venial sin offends and wounds. Mortal sin is a grave matter and is committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.

So much of what is considered commonplace in today’s society may apply here. Adultery for example is mortal sin. Every time we chose to have a sexual relationship outside of marriage we lose our way and commit mortal sin. This is just one example that I offer to make the wider point. Another is an overall indifference to attending Mass. I’ll go this week, maybe not next week, maybe again in two weeks but every time I go, I’ll receive Holy Communion. Missing Mass, with no grave reason is also an example of mortal sin.

But let’s also remember, sin can be forgiven. We must attend to confession quickly when we are aware of mortal sin. But let’s also remember, in all cases, Catholics are required to go to confession at least once a year. This is firm; there is no wiggle room in the Church’s teaching. But again let’s remember, Jesus stands ready to absolve us of our sins if we just follow the map and confess our sins. His mercy truly endures forever.

Let’s never forget these two important set of directions: the Bible and the Catechism. These are a must for every home and should be read and studied and prayed with often. Everything about sin I’ve spoken about here comes from the Catechism.

Every choice we make ultimately forms us and shapes us into who we are. By our choices we define ourselves and our relationship with God. We decide; do we want to follow Him, do we want His directions and His instructions? Do we want to live with Him eternally in Heaven or without Him forever in Hell?

Do you know where you’re going to?

Where are you going to? Do you know?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fr Michael McGivney; closer to sainthood?

As a proud member of the Knights of Columbus, council 12529 in Abita Springs, La, I am excited about the recent news concerning the ongoing cause for sainthood for our founder, Fr. Michael J. McGivney. After long years and careful examination, a reported miracle is being formally presented to Rome. Please add to your already full prayer list that if it be God's will, Fr. McGivney may be elevated to the altar of the Saints! Here is the news release:

Tribunal Sends New Information on Purported Miracle to Vatican

More News

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford and Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, postulator of Father McGivney’s cause, discuss the documentation.
Officials of a supplemental Tribunal constituted by the Archdiocese of Hartford have formally sent a new report to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The tribunal – a panel tasked with gathering additional testimony – interviewed additional witnesses, including several medical doctors, about the circumstances of a reported miracle attributed to Venerable Michael McGivney’s intercession.

The report was signed and presented to Archbishop Henry Mansell on Sept. 22, 2009, and was affixed with the seal of the Archbishop of Hartford.

The postulator of the cause, Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, traveled from Rome to Hartford for the occasion.

The event was held in the chapel at the chancery of the archdiocese and was attended by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, other Supreme Officers, relatives of Father McGivney and archdiocesan officials.

Our struggles can be blessings!

For anyone that knows me very closely, they will tell you that I've struggled with some work changes lately. There really is nothing wrong with my new job, I just had a hard time getting used to a change in routine. My previous position afforded me an opportunity to attend Mass almost every weekday; the new position not so much. The old position had very few meetings, seminars, travel; the new position lots more. The new position required that I stretch and learn responsibilities I had avoided for 15 years. At times, I struggled with wanting to do things my way and the new responsibilities of my new position.

I also struggled with balance. Under normal circumstances they tell us that newly ordained Deacons must be aware of this. For so many rapid changes at work in just the first few months after ordination, I really got out of whack. After almost 5 months in my new position at work, I'm refocused on the blessings and that has made quite a difference in my outlook.

First, I have focused on the centuries old saying of St. Benedict: ora et labora. Translated, this means prayer and work. I pray more at work these days and no, I don't always pray Lord get me through another day. I must admit, I do sometimes. But now my prayer is thanksgiving for full employment, for coworkers and even clients. Secondly, my new position has given me the opportunity to get to know and work closely with a wonderful team of people; people I would never had an opportunity to know so well. I have learned to admire and respect different leadership styles and communication techniques. And, because the team is so much fun, I realized one day I was laughing at work more often.

I mentioned meetings. Yesterday I, along with a couple of hundred of my new best friends, attended a leadership conference where we heard from the founder and CEO of my company. What struck me most was the guy was down to earth and spoke "our" language. He seemed to know what our top frustration points were and admitted it. And then, near the end of the day, he spoke eloquently and passionately about his family. Then he did what we are all called to do as people of faith; he emptied himself for a moment and let us see his humble side. He related a story of his young daughter who intrepted his action at home one day as heartbreaking. She drew her dad a little picture. One side of the page said good daddy. The other side said bad daddy. On the good side, there were check boxes from top to bottom ending with the box titled best daddy. The other side had check boxes ending with a box titled worst daddy. On this side, she drew a broken heart. Oh, by the way, she had checked one box on the broken-hearted side.
A seemingly insignificant moment in his life was a heart breaker for his precious little girl.

His story allowed all of us to watch a very successful CEO teach us what really matters: things like faith, family and friends.

Yes, blessings come from those every day events, the unexpected events, the seemingly mundane struggles of every day life.

I pray tonight for all the grace and peace that God sends my way to face every day with courage. I need to learn to worry less about what I do not know and reach out for help from those who can help me; and return the favor when the shoe is on the other foot. And my prayer is to cherish every day as a gift. God knows hearts and intentions. Yes, He knows that I want to spend more time at Mass, in church. But He also asks me to bring Him with me wherever I go; to work, meeting clients, doing tasks that I never had to do before.

So God has shown me in recent weeks and days that those things we think are struggles are indeed blessings. So tommorrow I will get up, remember Ora et Labora and ask God as David did in the 90th Psalm: prosper the work of our hands!

St. Joseph the worker, pray for us.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Children say the darndest things.

Just one day removed from the Gospel about receving a child means receving Jesus and the one who sent Him I took our CCD 1st graders on a tour of our church. The children, all 28 of them in two shifts, asked plenty of questions:

Does Jesus really live in that gold box?
What does His blood taste like?
Can we put dollar bills in the poor box?
Why is the devil in our stain glass window? (It's a St. Michael window)
Is the Holy Spirit always a dove or can he be another bird?
How do you make holy water?
Can I ring the bells?
Is the "templenacle" the place for left over Jesus?
I can't remember what knee to use to genuflect?

And many, many more. I love letting the children see the places in church they never really get to see. They always are thrilled to come to the sanctuary and they love going into the sacristy. Many times they know what we share with them and often will confess that they rarely get to come to church. I have always wondered why we would make such a big effort to get our kids to CCD but then fail to bring them to church?

If you are a volunteer in a CCD program, consider asking a Priest or Deacon to give the students a tour of your parish church. It is a great teaching moment and a beautiful time to grow closer to Jesus. Receive a child and receive Jesus and the One who sent Him.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Deacon's wife

The ministry of the Permanent Deacon depends on many things to be effective. Our unique call to service and to demonstrate service sacramentalized requires cooperation. That cooperation always includes being open and responsive to God's call, to teach the totality of Jesus' mission and rely heavily on the Holy Spirit.

Some of the most amazing cooperation and wise counsel I have received has come from my wife Wendy. This, of course, does not surprise me having been the beneficiary of so much love & support in 32 years of marriage. Some recent events in my ministry speak to the valuable assistance she provides me. Wendy has become a stellar critic of all my homilies. Lately, she can listen to the direction I'm being guided and can come up with a great life image to start my homily with a great attention getter. It was Wendy this past week who suggested I tell the story of that wonderful video of the little girl who threw her dad's baseball after he had caught the prized souvenir. By the way, that suggestion worked out well in today's homily.

A couple of months ago Wendy witnessed one of my Baptisms and asked me why do we not have a program for the family and friends to follow along. A couple of weeks ago she surprised me as she produced a program for the two families whose children I was baptizing. It worked out so well and the family loved the program with one family member thanking me for the keepsake.

Today would be a prime example of that loving partnership we Deacons are blessed to have in our wives. After the last morning Mass I noticed a family waiting around for a Baptism. I knew I had no Baptisms today yet no on else was there at the Church. After I secured all the vessels and books from Mass I asked the family who they were waiting for, they replied: not sure. It was evident I would have to stay and baptize the little girl. But wait, I did not have my book and I could not find a book in the Church or the office. I called Wendy at home, some 10 miles away and she promptly drove the book to me at the Church. Although delayed , little Maria was baptized and her family so pleased with the event. Thanks to my wife Wendy, I was able to baptize a beautiful little girl and all left the Church happy.

Our wives know when our ministry is going well, encountering difficulties or being affected by outside pressures like career, job or illness. If they are all like Wendy then they all receive love, support, encouragement and their prayers too. Our wives are not called to be a "deacon couple" as others have called it. They simply love their Deacon husbands and fulfill the Lord's command to serve by all the many and varied wonderful things they do for us.

So next time you thank a Deacon for whatever reason, say a word of thanks to their wives. Without them our ministry would be less organized for sure. And thank them for their unconditional committment to the vocation of married life.

So Wendy, for all you do and especially helping me make today so special for little Maria and her family, thank you. You are my blessing from God and I love you.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Homily for 25th Sunday//Play Ball

And God said play ball!

It was a typical night at the ballpark. As he as done many times Steve Montforto took his family to the ballpark to watch his beloved Philadelphia Phillies. And on this special night he would do what he never had done before; he caught a foul ball; a major league souvenir. The crowd erupted with applause, he was so excited, his family so excited but no one was more excited than 3 year old Emily, his oldest child.

Dad saw Emily's joy and excitement so he handed the ball to her. And Emily promptly tossed the ball to the unsuspecting fans in the lower deck. An audible gasp was heard from the crowd as dad looked on in disbelief and Emily smiled with pleasure. The gasp turned into a moan as all realized, dad included that the souvenir baseball was lost forever. Emily is now momentarily bewildered; after all daddy has taught me to pitch and catch.

By now the stadium camera is trained on Steve and his young family. Will they see him scold the child, act disappointed. No, what they saw was unconditional love as he embraced his daughter Emily as only a dad can embrace his little girl. It was magic, it was sweet and it was caught on tape. It has been the most popular video on the internet all week and on all the morning talk shows. For me, preparing a homily for today's Mass, this video has been a gift from Heaven above. The video, like our Gospel, tells the story of a Father's unconditional love, no matter what, for His child.

We have all witnessed wonderful carefree childlike moments. From Christmas morning, to birthday celebrations, to watching them watch us as we read to them at bed or listen to their prayers.

As people of faith do we approach the Father with childlike love and receive Him as a child.

Today's Gospel from St. Mark gives us Jesus teaching his disciples about his suffering, death and resurrection. This is the second time he does as we may recall last week's Gospel. Remember Peter rebuking Jesus for saying hhe would die? Jesus' response: get behind me Satan. Now this week, the reaction is even more curious. The disciples began to argue about who aming them will be the greatest. What? Time again for some teaching by Jesus.

He takes a seat, which is the teaching position of the rabbi teaching in the synagogue and takes a little child and places him among them. Taking the child in his arms he tells them: "whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives not me but the One who sent me. Why a little child? Much like today, in the time this event took place children had little if no status. They were a symbol of dependence, innocence and vulnerability. They were regarded as no more than servants. No coincedence then that this passage follows Jesus' teaching about being first and being a servant. Interestingly, the Greek word used by St. Mark would be interchangeable for child or servant.

Jesus calls his followers to embrace His total message of suffering, death and resurrection as a child. He wants us to have childlike trust in His Father's plan not childish human reaction. That trust is best explained when we realize that just as a child can't survive without help from parents, teachers and others, all of us can't survive without faith in Jesus and trust in the Father. Jesus calls us to self-empty; rid ourselves of self importance, ego and pride and learn to depend on Him and trust in His mercy and love. When we realize that He never fails us and He never let's us down, then we will be free; we will have true peace.

And let's not forget Jesus also calls us as servants to serve our brothers and sisters. Again, service requires us to self-empty, to rid ourselves of self importance, ego and pride as we meet the needs of others. We are called to love and to serve without ever counting the cost.

How can we take this teaching this week and apply it to our lives? Be like a child. Pick someone this week and bring them joy. Make them laugh, help tem smile, dry their tears, hand them a baseball to toss as they toss aware a care or a concern that you help them with. And one more thing we can do concerns our celebration today of Catechetical Sunday. We celebrate our parish school of religion and all our generous volunteers who teach them. We are called to be teachers too. We can cooperate with this ministry by praying for our students and their teachers, particularly on Sundays and Mondays when our students are in class. Thisis something all of us can do.

Just like little Emily tossed that baseball and turned immediately to her daddy, we too can toss our cares, our concerns and even our sins over the barriers that this world presents to us and then turn immediately to our daddy, God the Father who always embraces us with his love and mercy. It's love without end Amen.

And God said, play ball!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

To be like a child...

For a Deacon preparing for a homily this coming weekend on the Gospel about Jesus challenging us to be childlike, this could not have come at a better time. Yes, you will hear about this again. For now take a look:,190220

What a great spontaneous event (not the Today show but the baseball game)

Thanks, Holy Spirit:)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday night thoughts

Home on a quiet Sunday night, after 4 days of rain with nightfall coming earlier and earlier, I have much reflection to share. Don't always know why this happens. Maybe its therapeutic; maybe I just like to write. In any case, here goes.

Today my wife and I spent several enjoyable hours in Baton Rouge celebrating our daughter Elizabeth's 20th birthday. It was a nice afternoon. Our daughter is doing well at LSU and her future is all she wants it to be. Just last spring, Wendy and I traveled to North Carolina to spend some quality time with our son James for his 30th birthday. He too is doing well, just bought a home, now a partner in a veterinary clinic and soon to be married to a great girl. To celebrate the latest milestone birthdays with both our children was special.

When it comes to family, I've been amazingly blessed. Both of my children have always been a great joy. Always motivated, determined and smart they reached for their goals and are doing well. I also have a wonderful marriage. Wendy and I celebrated 32 years as husband & wife this summer. Together since 9th grade and friends since 5th it is a joy to grow "mature" with someone you have known all your life.

Both Wendy & Elizabeth played integral roles in my formation to become a Deacon. James had too many miles and a fledgling career to contend with. Both my wife and my daughter attended classes with me, although not frequently, and were remarkable in preparing for all the events that surrounded ordination last December.

Wendy continues to be very supportive; always good for a homily critique, taking interest in the prison ministry and very helpful with Baptism preparations.

A family goes a long way in affirming and supporting the Permanent Deacon in ministry.

This past week was awesome. I had a very good, productive week at work. That's important as the Permanent Deacon must continue to be faithful to career as well as family. The prison visit on Wednesday, followed by Mass with our new Archbishop, homily preparation and Kairos training, not to mention assisting at Mass today made for a satisfying week of ministry. And again, I'm reminded; it's not what we do but wo we are.

I am looking forward to the week ahead. I hope to continue to have good results in my latest work assignment which will include another trip across the lake to the New Orleans side. I also have a great opportunity to visit with very good friends; the kind of friends you don't have to beg to be part of each others lives. Great people! And ministry will be rich too. Religion classes start anew and I'll address the confirmation kids. There is a big feast day tommorrow, the Triumph of the Cross and Tuesday brings Our Lady of Sorrows. As a parish, we will begin a community recitation of the 7 sorrows rosary. And I will be speaking to a ladies group about prison ministy. And there is another homily to prepare for next weekend.

Yet with all this ministry ahead, I must be more aware of my own spiritual growth, be aware of who I am, remember that ministry continues while being father, husband, worker, collaborator, neighbor, friend and even a casual stranger.

Thank God for His grace. Thanks God for His gifts. Thank God to serve Him and one another!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Homily for 24th Sunday in OT/Sept. 13

Where are you going my little one?
Where are you going my baby my own?
Turn around and you are two
Turn around and you are four
Turn around and you're a young girl going out of the door.

I reflect today on these lyrics as Wendy and I prepare to visit our "baby" in her new apartment in Baton Rouge on her 20th birthday. In many ways, this birthday and this time in her life is a major turning point for her. She is making plans for her future.

We all experience turning points in our lives and the lives of those we love. Whether it is starting school, changing careers, planning for married life, starting a family, moving far from home; we all have been through turning points.

As people of faith, have we reached a turning point in our relationship with Jesus Christ?

These few verses near the end of Mark's 8th chapter represent a turning point in the public ministry of Jesus. Up to now, Jesus has been traveling from city to town to village teaching, healing and sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. Along the way he has chosen his apostles and developed a following. In today's Gospel he reaches the community of Caesarea Philippi, about as far northeast as one can travel in the Palestinian territory. It is in this far away location that Jesus decides to question the apostles. Who do you say that I am? He apparently directs this question to them as a group. And here we have Peter, acting as the spokesman, answering for the group: "You are the Christ"!

This seems like a huge turning point for Peter. But wait, there will be more. Jesus does not deny the truth of of Peter's response but does ask them to tell no one. Now here comes the beginning of the turning point in Jesus' ministry. Far to the north and the east, Jesus shares the truth of the upcoming events in Jerusalem. I will suffer, I will be rejected, I will be killed but I will rise after 3 days. Imagine just for a moment hearing this news personally from someone you love; from someone you spend all your time with. Peter reacts as most of us would. He wants to hear nothing of Jesus being killed. So Jesus, never wanting to be turned away from the will of his Father, tells Peter: "get behind me Satan".

Jesus is making clear the cost of discipleship: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. Remember, this is a turning point in the mission of Jesus. Immediately after this passage, Jesus and his followers begin the long journey back to Jerusalem and all that awaits him. Jesus clearly is telling his followers and all of us; you too must travel this road with me.

What does our self denial, our cross and our following Jesus look like? Where are we in assessing our turning point in following Christ? Who do we say he his? Are we interested in the warmth and glow only of being a follower? Do we celebrate the Easter victory without embracing the cross? Would Jesus be pleased with our discipleship or would we hear: get behind me Satan? This is our turning point today!

I reflected personally on this Gospel because of the wonderful prison ministry entrusted to me. Like the geography of this Gospel, I travel to the far northeastern corner of our Archdiocese to bring Christ to prisoners. I bring his love and his desire that they repent and be saved. Believe me, I have seen many a man turn his life around and come to Jesus. And I have seen the face of Jesus on the inside of that prison.

And on the northeast corner of Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. and Terpsichore St. in New Orleans is Cafe' Reconcile. Here, inner city at-risk youth are able to turn their lives around by a program of work, education and spiritual enrichment. Believe me, here many youth turn their life around and learn of Jesus' love for them.

When Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him, he is asking us to love him and our brothers and sisters in need. Remember our 2nd reading today from James: if someone has nothing to wear and no food to eat, do we wish them well, maybe even pray for them, but share nothing for their bodily needs; what good is that? Faith without works is dead! So take up your cross: get involved in ministry; volunteer at the food bank, Habitat, the many local nursing homes and hospitals, just assist a neighbor or friend in need. It might just turn their lives around and own lives as well.

Where are you going my little one?
Where are you going my child, my very own?
Turn around, pick up your cross and come and follow me?
Turn around, lose your life for my sake and you will truly be free!

Friday, September 11, 2009

8 years later; never forget

Everytime I wrote the date today, I remembered something about that day 8 years ago. This morning at Mass, we offered a special prayer of remembrance. Outside our KC hall, one of our members, George, lowered the flag to half staff. And all across the country, we remembered.

May we pray every day for the souls who lost their lives, those who grieve their loss, for those injured, those who were impacted in deeply personal ways. We pray for police officers, firefighters, all first responders for their bravery and their continued commitment to serve. For our military who continue to fight terrorism across the globe. And we say a pray for those who would hate and carry out such terror. Yes, they must be prayed for too. They need a deep personal metanoia; a change of heart. And pray for our nation and all peoples of the world to live in harmony, brotherhood and peace.

In a special tribute to 9-11, the Knights of Columbus ran a beautiful ad during last nights pro football season opener. Take a look:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A New Archbishop and a couple hundred of his new friends

As the Archdiocese of New Orleans continues to rejoice in a native son leading the local church, Archbishop Aymond is busy traveling across the archdiocese doing a dozen meet and greets. Tonight was "our" turn, meaning those of us who make up the West St. Tammany/Washington deanery. This is about 45 miles or so north of New Orleans, across beautiful Lake Pontchartrain via the famous 24 mile Causeway bridge.

Archbishop Aymond was gracious enough to meet with all the Priests & Deacons for a late afternoon supper before gathering at Mary Queen of Peace Church for a deanery-wide Mass. Joining the Archbishop was the remarkable 96 year young retired Archbishop Philip Hannan and the Abbot from St. Joseph Seminary College (located in the heart of our deanery) Justin Brown.

Archbishop Aymond, in introductory remarks, revealed how wonderful it is to be home and how he was greeted on his return by a well wisher with "welcome home dahlin". In his homily tonight, he spent time reflecting on forgiveness, from the reading from today's liturgy from St. Luke. It is evident that our new Archbishop is both gifted as a speaker and thorough as an exegete.

At the end of the Mass, he gave a sincere talk about vocations asking all present to join him in prayer for vocations and be specific about it.

After Mass, Aymond graciously and patiently greeted hundreds of well wishers remaining in full vestments for excited picture takers. It was a wonderful evening and one I'm glad I got to share. And it is always a wonderful experience to be gathered together in one place with brother Deacons, a few of whom I had not previously met.

I trust all will join me in prayers for Archbishop Aymond's ministry as Archbishop of New Orleans! I look forward to working with and for him as I reminded him tonight, as the successor of the Archbishop who ordained me, I pledge my support and obedience.

May God continue to Bless Archbishop Aymond and the Archdiocese of New Orleans!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Deacons: a living sacramental sign of Christ the servant

So says Joseph Michalak, writing for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in the

This diaconate director has some amazing insights about the Permanent Deacon; still often misunderstood and under utilized in some parts of the Church. The author reminds us of the very words of Pope John Paul II : "the Deacon is ordained to sacramentalize service and be the icon of Christ the servant."

He goes on to remind us that the Permanent Deacon is indeed ordained clergy and participates in a three fold ministry: ministry of the Word, ministry of Eucharist and liturgy and ministry of charity and justice(service).

What does a Deacon do? I have addressed this is many similar posts. The author here makes the following statement: "the list is too long to describe fully. But whatever he does, he does as sacramentally ordained into the ministry of Christ the servant, he is icon of that servant, the living bearer of the Word and doer of the Father's will."

Joseph Michalak goes on to say much more about Permanent Deacons and I invite you to look at the link at

Remember, as I always say, for the Permanent Deacon it's not what you do; it's who you are. That description by Pope John Paul II says it all.

Now in my 9th month as an ordained Deacon, I continue to live the charism of the Deacon in my ministry of service at the Rayburn Correctional Center (where I visited tonight) and ministry of Word and Liturgy at my home parish of St. Jane de Chantal in Abita Springs. I continue to thank God daily for this ministry He has entrusted to me.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day and MDA; my personal reflection

I made a point to surf the TV dial last night to find the MDA telethon. Unfortunately, our local station in New Orleans joins in on Monday. Thanks to WGN out of Chicago, I was able to catch the opening few hours. I truly wanted to watch from the beginning because I figured Jerry Lewis would pay tribute to Ed McMahon, his sidekick for so many years. And that he did; a great honor for a fine man.

The telethon was not much more than a source of TV viewing on the last holiday before school kicked it up a notch. My family would let us stay up late to watch the telethon when we were very young so it was always exciting.

Then, many years later, I joined a local chapter of the Jaycees, the Junior Chamber of Commerce. One of their big projects was supporting MDA through a variety of fundraisers. Little did I know that this seemingly minor involvement would lead to great memories. Locally, I was always inspired by the children and adults who we would meet who courageously battled some form of the disease. For some reason, I particularly remember a little girl named Abbey. She was all girl, precocious, sweet and remarkably strong as she battled muscular dystrophy. I wonder where she is today? As I became more and more active in Jaycees I started winning incentive trips to Las Vegas to see the telethon. It was always a thrill when your turn came to be allowed in the studio. Jerry Lewis was amazing and I remember personally seeing stars like Sammy Davis Jr., Bill Cosby, Norm Crosby, Ed McMahon, Wayne Newton.

Then came 1987. I was elected state President of the Louisiana Jaycees and our state was one of the top fundraising states. Not only was I able to return to Vegas, for the fourth time, but I was going to be introduced on stage to a national television audience. WOW! Even though the actual moment was over in a flash, that was my big national TV debut. I think I was more impressed the day before when at a private reception I got to shake the hand of Jerry Lewis and meet Mr. T too.

In 1988, I traveled to Nevada once again as a National VP of the Junior Chamber and visited local Jaycee telethons across the state. In Reno, I was introduced on TV to the local segment as a visiting dignitary. Oh my!

In my post Jaycee career I have not been back to Vegas for the telethon. But I must admit, I do indeed take a peek every year. I'm still drawn to this amazing event because I got to see, in a small way, the herculean effort to put this telethon together. But more importantly, I got the chance to see first hand the unbelievable courage and determination of those battling the various forms of muscular dystrophy.

So I remember fondly those Jaycee memories of my telethon experiences and pray for a cure and pray for strength and determination for those who battle muscular dystrophy every day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy Labor Day!

As we prepare to celebrate Labor Day 2009 we can read what Pope Leo XIII had to say on labor and capital in his 1891 encylical, Rerum Novarum. With the continuation of the Industrial Revolution, improvements in technology and science, the creeping effects of communism and socialism, Pope Leo XIII felt the need to address the concerns of the worker and labor in general.

Leo XIII was no fan of liberal capitalism and he decried socialism. From wages to private property Leo XIII supported a holistic approach from a community perspective referred to as the common good. The Pope was concerned about callous employers mistreating the working man motivated by greed alone in the capitalistic model and his concerns about socialism were based on the lack of individual recognition and a system of class envy. He goes on to say that socialism is futile, unjust and empowers the state.

Pope Leo XIII was a big fan of the right to own private property. He states that by nature, every man has a right to own private property. He further states that this private property must have a usefullness both now and in the future.

Some of the Pope's strongest language concerns the need of the rich to have a sincere concern for the poor. He says that the rich and the manager that exercises pressure for the sake of gain upon the indigent and destitute taking profit from the need of another is condemned. Leo XIII exhorts those with power to exercise Christian charity especially to the poor, weak and marginalized.

Leo XIII does not exclude the Church herself from responsibility for the workingman and the poor. The church, he says, must not just care for the spiritual needs but also the temporal needs of all. The church has a duty to intervene on behalf of the poor.

The Pope also challenges the state to enforce laws evenly among the rich and the poor. Each and every person from every walk of life must be treated with fairness and justice. And he reminds everyone from every class that all should contribute to the common good. All contributions, while not equal are in fact significant.

Leo XIII did advocate the right of workers to strike. He deplored long, unsafe working hours, poor working conditions and insufficient wages. But he reminded all that strikes are no panacea and all can suffer, including the general public, during a prolonged strike.

The Holy Father believed in wages that are set based on free consent. He claims it is an injustice to refuse to pay the agreed wage to the worker and it is an injustice for the worker to not complete his work. Always balanced in his approach, Leo XIII had advice for management and labor.

Rerum Novarum reminded all to choose rightly and reasonably, avoid all prejudice and avoid the unnatural love of money. The encyclical encourages honesty, humane treatment for all and mutual cooperation among managers and laborers.

So on this Labor Day, we can read Rerum Novarum or reflect on its' general principles along with all the other social justice encylicals that grew from this historic document.

Remember, labor is dignified. Our work can be part of our prayer life. We can follow the motto of St. Benedict: ora et labora (prayer and work). May God Bless us all on this Labor Day 2009 as we ask Him to "prosper the work of our hands". Psalm 90.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Homily for 23rd Sunday in O.T. Exceedingly Astonishing

I'll never forget the experience of witnessing with my own eyes the birth of my daughter Elizabeth; nearly 20 years ago. You might say I was exceedingly astonished. Wendy and I decided early on in the pregnancy that I would be there in the delivery room. You see, some 11 years earlier, I missed the delivery of my son James. In fact, I was watching a very entertaining basketball game in the waiting room between the Celtics and the Knicks. But before all you moms out there think less of me, there is more to the story.

Back in the seventies, dads had to be certified to be present in the delivery room. This required the parents to attend three sessions at the hospital; one of which would be the vieweing of a movie of a live birth. I was game; the wife not so much. So we missed one of the classes. No certificate for me. While Wendy certainly had no choice about being in that delivery room, I was banned. And it was all Wendy's fault.

But witnessing the birth of Elizabeth, right there, holding my wife's hand was exceedingly astonishing!

We all have had moments that were exceedingly astonishing; from everyday joyful surprises, to feats of great athletic accomplishment, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, even the snowfall last December.

As people of faith, are we like the crowds in today's Gospel, exceedingly astonished by all that Jesus does for us?

If we were present at that scene depicted in Mark's Gospel and witnessed the healing of the deaf man, we would probably be exceedingly astonished too. Jesus, not trying to call attention to himself, could not refuse the pleas of those who asked for help. So he was drawn to the deaf man. And he was considerate of the deaf man, taking him off alone, and healing him. And he heals him in a most remarkable way. The Gospel tells us Jesus puts his fingers in the deaf man's ears and using spit, touches his tongue. After he completes these physical acts, he commands, "be opened".

Jesus also ordered them not to tell anyone but of course, they tell everyone and word spreads. And the Gospel tells us they were exceedingly astonished! The crowds also said"He has done all things well".

Indeed, Jesus did do all things well. Perhaps the crowd was inspired to recall the words from Genesis by God the Father who declared His creation "good". Jesus, who is sent from the Father to heal and to save, begins the work of the new creation.

Knowing that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever He is still doing all things well. Jesus continues to deliver healing through the Sacraments of the Church. In both reconciliation and the anointing of the sick, Jesus forgives the sins of those who seek his mercy. And while Jesus does not have to put his fingers in our ears or spit or touch our tongues, physical signs and symbols are used. In reconciliation we approach the confessional, we confess to a Priest, who acting in the person of Christ, absolves our sins. And then we are commanded to do penance. In the anointing of the sick, oil is used on the forehead and hands of the sick person. The words used are, "if you have committed any sins, your sins are forgiven." Jesus touches those who seek Him. Those who experience Jesus' healing power through these Sacraments should be exceedingly astonished!

Jesus offered His Body for us at Calvary and He spilled His blood for our salvation. He endured the pain and suffering for us and perfectly followed the will of His Father. Jesus continues to offer His Body & Blood for us in the Eucharist, so we may be feed with the food that leads to eternal life. Every time we come to Mass and receive His precious Body & Blood, we should be exceedingly astonished!

And in the same spirit of service that Jesus gives us in this Gospel, we too are called to be Jesus to others by serving those we encounter; our family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, even those we do not know. When we follow this example and bring the love of Jesus to others, we are doing all things well.

In the week ahead, after we leave here nourished by the Body & Blood of Jesus, we can ask Jesus to open our eyes, open our ears, touch our hearts and enlighten our minds so we might discover His presence in the ordinary and not so ordinary events of our daily lives. May we never stop seeking Jesus, who continues to do all things well.

Yes, witnessing the birth of my daughter was one of those events that truly was exceedingly astonishing. Every opportunity to hear the Word of God, to celebrate Mass, to receive the Eucharist and to serve our brothers & sisters is a moment we all can agree, is exceedingly astonishing!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Adoration, Benediction, Seven Sorrows

Today being the 1st Friday of the month our parish community has Adoration all day with Benediction at 6 p.m. Our pastor has asked us to pray the rosary of the Seven Sorrows at the beginning of our final hour, before the Benediction.

The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows is a powerful devotion, especially if you have the Scriptural reflections to mediatate with. This rosary consists of 7 decades of 7 beads. The Seven Sorrows are: The Prophecy of Simeon, The Flight into Egypt, The Loss of Jesus in the Temple, Mary Meets Jesus on the Way of the Cross, Jesus Dies on the Cross, Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross, Jesus is Laid in the Tomb.

This is a beautiful and poignant devotion. But why pray this Rosary before Benediction? Why reflect on these sorrows when we have the Eucharistic Lord in our very presence?

These questions made me think about the signs of contradiction. Mary and Joseph surely must have been joyful when they presented Jesus to Simeon in the Temple. Then Simeon said these words: "this child is destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel and for a sin that shall be contradicted." Jesus had his followers and his detractors. Scripture says He is a cornerstone for some, a stumbling block for others. And we know that the Cross is a sign of contradiction. For those who have decided not to follow Christ, the cross is absurd. For those who seek salvation, the cross is the saving power of God. The Cross, the object of such a horrible, painful death is for those who seek salvation the power over sin and death. Not the cross by itself, here we refer to the passion and death of Jesus.

So we reflect tonight that the victory Jesus has won for us came with great sacrifice, sorrow and pain. But without the Cross, without His death, there would be no Resurrection, there would be no eternal life.

A contradiction! You bet. Thanks be to God!

Our Lady of Sorrows; pray for us!

(Thanks to Theology of the Laity, Fr. Paul Doffner)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Catholics Coming Home

For several months now I have been updating information, thanks to many others who love to blog too, about increasing converts to Catholicism in the midwest, the deep south, in the heart of the Bible Belt. Now, thanks in large part to the efforts of an organization called Catholics Come Home, hundreds of thousands of Catholics are returning to the church, to the Eucharist, to the faith. After you read the article below, scroll down my blog and you will see a link for Catholics Come Home. Click to view the video presentations called "movie" and "epic" and read the testimonials too.

Jesus promised that His church would last forever and it's recent growth, after 2,000 years of faithfulness is His promise.

FOX NEWS REPORTS CATHOLICS COME HOME.ORG SUCCESS STORY August 24, 2009 – Atlanta, GA. Founder and President, Tom Peterson appeared in multiple stories on FOX NewsChannel to discuss the much hyped “Pew Study,” issued in April 2009. The Pew Study reported that about half of American adults change religious affiliation at least once during their lives. “Some Christians are drawn to faith communities that promote an ‘a la carte’ practice of faith, while others are lured out of religious practice altogether by the perceived glamour of secularism,” says Peterson. By using compassionate commercials that motivate viewers to visit our interactive website, Catholics Come invites inactive Catholics and others to the sacraments found only in the universal Church Jesus started 2000 years ago.” Peterson went on to explain that, “ messages also minister to people who are struggling with faith, helping them to find the answers, hope and peace that only comes from a relationship with Jesus.”Catholics Come Home, Inc. is a lay Catholic organization faithful to the Church’s teachings. It creates effective and compassionate media messages and broadcasts them nationally and internationally to inspire, educate and evangelize inactive Catholics and others to come home to our faith family. Results from initial television campaigns show that the commercials are also motivating existing Catholics to share their faith with their friends, relatives and neighbors. Additionally, it appears that 25% of the web visitors are potential converts looking for a faith family and church home. Peterson’s international apostolate has already touched millions of souls around the world, welcoming them back home to the Catholic Church. In addition, Catholics Come reaches out to people of other faiths to help them discover the sacraments, beauty, truth and accomplishments of the Catholic Church, which helped build Western Civilization.According to Catholic News Service (CNS), parishes in the Diocese of Phoenix reported a 12 percent increase in weekly Mass attendance that still continues long after the commercials aired. The television initiative and web site were directly responsible for bringing nearly 100,000 inactive Catholics and converts home to the Church during Lent 2008.The Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, experienced similar success with its 2009 bi-lingual ( Catholics Come campaign, where initial results show a 17.7 percent increase in weekly Mass attendance throughout 38 surveyed parishes. Interestingly, Hispanics responded at nearly the same rate to the Spanish language commercials and web site.These consistent results have motivated a dozen other archdioceses and dioceses throughout the United States to partner with to launch campaigns in their areas during the upcoming seasons of Advent and Lent. These include: the Archdioceses of Chicago, Atlanta, Omaha and Seattle, and the Dioceses of Sacramento, Colorado Springs, Lincoln, Green Bay, Rockford, Joliet, Charlotte, Providence and Venice (FL). The momentum of has now extended internationally into Australia where Peterson recently returned from a national media conference followed by the Plenary meeting with Cardinal Pell and the 44 Bishops of Australia. They are discerning implementation of on their continent. It appears that the Archdiocese of Brisbane may be the first international archdiocese to launch the campaign. “No creative marketing team could possibly yield these miraculous results,” Peterson concludes. “This is truly an apostolic movement designed and directed by the Holy Spirit. Our invitation is simple: ‘We are Catholic. Welcome Home’.”

Just in time for Labor Day

The Value Of Work; The Dignity Of The Human Person
Most Reverend William F. Murphy
Bishop of Rockville Centre
Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
September 7, 2009

Over the years we Americans have redefined the summer by making Labor Day the “extra day of vacation” that recognizes the work we do throughout the year. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact looking at the history of the struggle for wages and benefits, I think that an extra “day off” for all Americans fits in with the spirit of the whole American experience of the meaning of work. It is a moment to recognize the value and dignity of work and the contribution and rights of the American worker. It is time well spent.
Labor Day this year comes at a time when we face a number of challenging problems, many of which cause us to reflect and ponder on what the future will bring. As complex and challenging as the current economic situation is and the new elements that challenge us all, Americans are still fundamentally an optimistic people. We have an abiding faith in the values that have shaped our nation and an ongoing commitment to work together to address the problems and build on the strengths of who we are. This attitude mirrors the deep and powerful virtue of hope that our Church and, in a special way, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, have emphasized as a mark of all the faithful disciples of Jesus. We are called always “to give an accounting of the hope that is in us.”(cf. 1Pt 3:15) This is especially true in difficult times that can try our spirits and test our wills.
A New Encyclical
Earlier this summer, Pope Benedict XVI published his long awaited encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. This teaching of Benedict brings together a whole range of theological and social issues in a perspective that is in some ways very new and challenging. The Holy Father covers a wide gamut of subjects that reflect many of the Church’s traditional concerns in the social field while placing them in broader anthropological and cultural context. In this way the encyclical reflects questions that have long been central to the theological reflections of this Pontiff who constantly plumbs the implications of understanding of the human person before God. The Pope reminds us, “the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is…the human person in his or her integrity: Man is the source, the form and the aim of all economic and social life.” (#25)
The Pope revisits the traditional teachings of his predecessors on the value of the human person, the dignity of every human being, and the integral development of human society to promote human flourishing. His reflections reaffirm the teachings of Leo XIII on labor and Pius XI on subsidiarity. With John XXIII and John Paul II, he insists on the value of solidarity and focuses with a special emphasis on Paul VI’s passionate commitment to the Third World and the development of peoples.
In the new encyclical, the Holy Father affirms and extends traditional Catholic teaching on the centrality of work to the whole human experience. Decent work, according to the encyclical, “means work that expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman in the context of their particular society: work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for children, without the children themselves being forced into labor; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for re-discovering one’s roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living.” (#63)
Pope Benedict renews and reminds us of the Church’s classic support for the right of workers to choose freely to form or join a union or other types of workers’ associations. Pope Benedict endorses this and adds to it the responsibility of workers and unions “to be open to the new perspectives that are emerging in the world of work.” (#64)
This Labor Day statement is not the place to give a complete overview of the new encyclical. It remains, however, a major point of reference for us all as we give thanks to God for the meaning with which God has endowed work as a reflection of the dignity of every worker, a “co-creator” with God in this world of human endeavor. That vision of cooperation with God in building up this world through our work underscores the need for us all to cooperate and collaborate with one another in making work and the workplace a project of human solidarity and mutual respect.
An Example of Respecting the Rights of Workers
In this Labor Day reflection, permit me to call your attention to a positive step forward in respect for workers in one crucial area of our life: health care. This year, after years of discussions, leaders in Catholic health ministry, the labor movement, and the Catholic bishops sought to apply our traditional teaching on work and workers and to offer some practical alternatives on how leaders of hospitals, unions, and others might apply our principles as an aid to reaching agreements in their own situations.
The principal participants— the Catholic Health Association (CHA), the AFL/CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)—reached agreement that offers guidance and options on how workers can make a free decision about whether or not they want to be represented by a union. They agreed on basic principles including mutual respect and open and honest communication as ‘guides’ to appropriate conduct for both employers and union representatives. This paves the way for workers to make informed decisions without undue influence or pressure from either side. The basic elements of such an approach include mutual respect, truth, and a commitment to let the workers decide whether or not they want to be represented by a union. This was not easy or simple. There were many different points of view and perspectives that at times seemed irreconcilable. The dialogue was long, candid and constructive. It led to a significant consensus statement entitled, Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions.
This project achieved a significant accomplishment: a consensus among all the parties on a set of principles, processes, and guidelines for a respectful and harmonious approach to let workers in Catholic health care facilities make free choices about unionization. This is offered for voluntary use to help facilitate worker’s choices in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation for the good of the workers themselves.
Special thanks are due to the leadership of the CHA, AFL/CIO, and SEIU. All involved join me in special appreciation for the patient and wise leadership of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Thanks in no small measure go as well to the guidance of the Feerick Center at Fordham law School under the direction of Dean John Feerick. The dialogue tried to look at real situations and genuine differences in light of some basic themes in Catholic social teaching. The document offers some practical guidance and alternatives on how leaders of hospitals, unions, and others might apply these principles by adapting them to their own situations.
Because Catholic health care is a ministry, leadership must reflect in its own operations the words and example of Jesus. For the Church, health care is a continuation of the healing mission of Jesus. This is a gift to both the Church and to society at large. In our nation, one person out of six receives care at one of more than 600 Catholic hospitals or 1,200 other Catholic health care ministries. In the past, tension and misunderstandings too often marred relations between Catholic health care and labor. In an effort to look at that and move beyond it, the participants in the dialogue sought to find alternatives that would structure and guide a positive process with the good of the worker as the centerpiece.
This group of leaders, representing all the principal entities involved, affirmed two key values: (1) the central role of workers themselves in making choices about representation and (2) the principle of mutual agreement between employers and unions on the means and methods to assure that workers could make their choices freely and fairly. The document calls for civil dialogue between unions and employers focusing on how the workers’ right to decide will be respected. The heart of this consensus is that it is up to workers—not bishops, hospital managers, or union leaders—to decide “through a fair process” whether or not to be represented by a union and if so, which union. It is our hope that this voluntary guidance and process agreement will prove to be a significant help for greater respect for workers on behalf of all interested parties now and in the future.
Other Issues in Health Care Reform
This Labor Day comes as our nation is engaged in a wider debate on reform of the health care system. As Congress discusses various proposals, the USCCB is committed to bring to this challenging issue the principles of Catholic social teaching as important truths that have the capacity to analyze and measure each serious proposal brought forward. The Catholic bishops continue to work for health care that is accessible, affordable, and respects the life and dignity of every human being from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. To cite Pope Benedict, “A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the human person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.” (#15)
Health care is an essential good for every human person. In a society like ours, no one should lack access to decent health care. Perhaps no other topic has engaged such a large number of citizens or produced such a wide range of opinions and points of view. This can help us avoid the pitfalls that occur when legislation passes without enough dialogue and reflection. I urge you to join the bishops in advocating for health care reform that is truly universal and protects human life at every stage of development. We must remain resolute in urging the federal government to continue its essential and longstanding prohibitions on abortion funding and abortion mandates. Our government and laws must also retain explicit protection for the freedom of conscience of health care workers and health care institutions. For more on USCCB advocacy on health care reform see our website,
Somewhat different but still a matter of basic human dignity is the challenge of immigration reform. This too has a part in the current health care debates. As a nation we have to be concerned about the integrity and safety of our borders. But that cannot overwhelm issues of respect for the dignity of immigrants who come to our country for so many varying political and economic reasons. We are a nation of laws. We as a people respect the laws of our country and state and local municipality. New peoples also are expected to do the same as good citizens or as good people desirous of becoming citizens. Most immigrants work hard, pay taxes, contribute to social security, and are valuable members of our society. Yet too often these same immigrants, including legal immigrants, are denied access to health care services. This should not happen in a society that respects the rights and dignity of every person. For all these reasons our immigration law and related laws must guarantee fair treatment to the millions of immigrants in our country who contribute to our economy and the common good. This is not an issue of “us” and “them.” They, the new peoples among us, are an integral part of the “us” that constitutes the great diversity that is our nation. In that context, we bishops are convinced that it is imperative that legal immigrants be included in any fair and just health care legislation that seeks to offer adequate care that is universal and advances the common good of all in our country. An adequate safety net should remain in place for those who still remain without health care coverage. (For more information on the bishops’ efforts on immigration see:
As we seek to rebuild our economy, produce a better health care system, and improve the immigration system, we are presented with unique opportunities to advance the common good. Pope Benedict’s new encyclical insists that the ethical dimensions of economic life begin with protecting the life and dignity of all, respect for work and the rights of workers, and a genuine commitment to the common good. As the Holy Father points out: “it is a good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it. To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity.” (emphasis in the original, #7)
On this Labor Day, let us remember those without work and without hope. Too often in our public discourse anger trumps wisdom, myth outweighs fact, and slogans replace solutions. We can work together and rebuild our economy on the moral principles and ethical values outlined by Pope Benedict in his new encyclical. This Labor Day, we should take a moment to pray for all workers and all those without work. We should also ask God’s help in living out the Church’s call to defend human life and dignity, to protect workers and their rights, and to stand with the poor and vulnerable in difficult economic times. In his new encyclical, Pope Benedict challenges and reassures us: “As we contemplate the vast amount of work to be done, we are sustained by our faith that God is present alongside those who come together in his name to work for justice.” (#78)
May God bless you this Labor Day and may God watch over and bless those who are committed to the care and protection of all the members of our nation who share the American dream of “liberty and justice for all.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Catholic Mass in the year 155 A.D.

Poignant video of the celebration of Mass just 50-60 years after the death of John, the last of the 12 Apostles. This so closely mirrors the celebration of the Mass today. And I'm pretty sure it was in the vernacular. Note the emphasis on Eucharist. We continue to celebrate that which Jesus initiated at the Last Supper.

You build me up...

Sometimes when you hear something from Scripture it just grabs you, strikes you, makes you want to hear it again. You may have read it many times before or even heard it proclaimed at some time past, but at that moment, it just hits you.

One of the great joys of my life for many years was a schedule that allowed me to attend weekday Mass most days. My current work schedule is not so flexible so I celebrate the liturgy during the week when I can. Tonight was one of those opportunities, thanks to evening Mass at our mission church of St. Michael's. And there I heard it: Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up. This line from 1st Thessalonians 5:11 is right after St. Paul assures us that we who are vigilant, whether awake or asleep, will live together with Jesus eternally.

St. Paul has said this same thing before in different ways throughout his letters. In Romans 15:2 he says: let each of us please our neighbor for the good, for building up. In 1st Corinthians Paul refers to building up twice in chapter 14, verses 12 and 26.

Do we encourage, do we build up. And what is St. Paul talking about? We are indeed called to encourage one another, to build one another up. This requires us to put on the mind and the heart of Christ. We should never be unkind or uncharitable and much can be said for helping others feel good or improve their self-esteem. But this is not the depth that St. Paul is asking us to dive. This is about building up others to be prepared for a lifetime spent with Jesus. And that means not just in this world, but the world to come. And it means building up the body of Christ, His church. Jesus continues to desire that all move toward Him and toward each other in one flock under one shephard.

We do this by our example of how we love Jesus and love the Church while journeying through this life. We must surrender and strip away all envy and pride and humble ourselves before God and our brothers and sisters. We are called to love the unlovable and those who challenge us the most. Now that love does not demand blind allegiance and the enabling of sin. Again, detest the sin but love the sinner. Rejoice in the conversion of even the most despicable sinner. And never grieve the Holy Spirit.

Encourage one another and build one another up...for we are destined for salvation!

Profound, pro-life, beautiful & precious

Please read carefully before you click the link. While my title is so very accurate, what you will watch can be hard. You will see amazing courage of a mom & dad who choose life, even though their son has hours or a few days to live. This video is truly a gift from this courageous family. I am so moved! Thank God for the amazing life of Thomas; short as it may be. Rejoice in his eternal life and the profound example of love from his mom & dad!

Special thanks to the blog where I found this moving video: