Saturday, October 31, 2009

Homily for All Saints Day; we need a hero!

Who are your heroes?

I’ve had plenty; there was Superman and Batman, a cartoon character named Johnny Quest, John Wayne; both the cowboy and the war hero, sports stars like Archie Manning, Danny Abramowicz (the early Saints) and my favorite Pistol Pete Maravich!

I also gave hero status to the astronauts when they walked on the moon and I’ve always thought of our men and women in the armed services as heroes.

We all learned a lot about heroes during the September 11th terrorist event and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Heroes, for the most part, have been those who could capture our imagination and thrill us with feats of great accomplishments!

As people of faith, who are our heroes? Do we ever consider the Saints as heroes? And I’m not talking about those 6-0 Saints, although they have played like heroes this year.

I’m talking about those special heroes that we commemorate today on All Saints Day; the men and women who have gone before us and have been declared Saints by the church. This feast day is celebrated every year, a holy day of obligation, because of the importance of the communion of Saints. Today, the church declares that the Church of heaven and the Church of earth are one. All live in Jesus Christ, including the Saints who intercede for us as we ask them to join their prayers with ours.

What is this communion of Saints? Every time we pray the Apostles Creed we say: “I believe in the communion of Saints.” We are saying that these Saints are more than just holy people with a title or examples for us to follow. While these things are true, the communion of Saints is the way that strengthens the unity of the whole Church. The Catechism states in paragraph 957: “our communion with the Saints joins us to Christ.” These heroes help us in becoming closer to Christ!

Saints, down through the centuries, come from every nation, race, people and tongue, as we hear in today’s first reading from Revelation. And we, like the Saints can proclaim: “salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne and the Lamb.”

Think about it; we all have prayed with Saints. We have our favorites, we are named for Saints, we have patron Saints, we add a Saint name at our Confirmation. We learn about the Saints as children. We pray the litany of Saints. Our church parish is named for a Saint, St. Jane de Chantal. Our mission is named for St. Michael. One of our ministries is named for St. Vincent de Paul.

We have in our own day and time some modern day Saints. We have the example of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died in the concentration camps of World War II, St. Gianna Molla, a mother who died in 1962 not long after giving birth to a child she was told to abort due to cancer. And we have St. Padre Pio, the priest with deep spirituality who died in 1968.

Perhaps soon we will have Saints who have lived in our own lifetimes. Mother Theresa has already been declared blessed. Pope John Paul II is believed to be on the way to sainthood. In our own diocese, we continue to await the word on Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos and Mother Henriette DeLisle.

What makes a Saint? How does the church determine sainthood? We all know that the Church examines the lives of those proposed for sainthood for heroic virtues, piety and spirituality. One miracle, attributed to that person, once confirmed, leads to beatification and a second miracle to sainthood. But also, let’s take a look at today’s Gospel.

In St. Matthew’s description of the Sermon on the Mount, we hear the beatitudes. These are eight teachings of Jesus that the Saints obviously followed and we can follow too. Jesus challenges us to be poor in spirit, to mourn, be meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, be merciful, have a clean heart, be a peacemaker and be willing to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness. These are saint-like qualities. And Jesus promises, among other things, that we can claim the kingdom of heaven if we follow these blessings and our reward will be great in heaven.

Notice, we don’t need x-ray vision, or super human strength, or be able to leap a tall building in a single bound. No, we can imitate the lives of the Saints. We can turn to heroes, not just of this world, but those who are happy in Heaven with God.

In the week ahead, I’m going to pray with these eight beatitudes and ask God to help me become like the Saints. I need a hero and thanks to God and His Church, I have many to come to my aid. And these Saints have a winning streak far greater than 6-0!

Friday, October 30, 2009

You never know...

I was on my way to work today when God intervened. As is often the case, when you least expect it and in places simple not grand, opportunities to minister happen. The details are not important, let's just say it was God's will to place me in front of someone who needed to talk.

When I realized how late it was, I phoned it in. Taking the rest of a Friday off, I remembered that a few miles down the road at a neighboring parish, there would be an opportunity to venerate a first class relic of St. Mary Magdalene. Driving south, I arrived at the church a little before 1:30 and was greeted by a line at least a block long. Once inside, the wait was another 30 minutes. But there at the altar was a fragment of Mary Magdalene's tibia. Because of faith, the realization that you were kneeling in front of a relic of the eyewitness to the Resurrection was a spiritual moment. Right before I knelt, they brought in a lady suffering with cancer, recovering from surgery or treatment. When she knelt before the relic strangers in line began to cry, the two priests went to her and prayed, one blessing her. I can never describe it, but I felt presence.

Of course I am accutely aware that all of this is taking place just yards away from the Eucharistic Lord in the tabernacle. With the church lit just perfectly and reverent music playing it was a feast for the senses. I am so thankful to God that this opportunity came my way!

Just last night, I had another opportunity to witness a powerful spiritual moment. One of my favorite places for spiritual renewal is St. Joseph Abbey. One of the monks, Fr. Thomas passed away during the week. It was unexpected as Fr. Thomas was one of the younger priests at the Abbey. I attended the evening Vespers, where they also receive the body and began an evening vigil. It is always moving to see the beauty, reverence and respect the Benedictines monk display when saying goodbye. And of course, we mourn the loss of the good and faithful priest.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Louisiana Catholic Bishops on Health Care

The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops recognizes the need to reform access to health care in the United States. The Catholic Church has been and continues to be an advocate for health care reform that provides medical care for all in an accessible and affordable manner.

According to church teaching, health care is not merely a privilege, but a basic human right. In Pacem in Terris, Pope John 23rd stated that "rights are universal and inviolable, and therfore altogether inalienable." These include, but are not limited to, the "right to medical care" and "to be looked after in the event of ill health." The New Testament Scriptures further reveal an apostolic duty, commanded by Jesus, to heal the sick, while proclaiming the Gospel (Mt 10:7-8).

For centuries, Catholic hospitals have served and ministered to the sick and the dying. Other Catholic institutions have welcomed and served the elderly, handicapped, expectant mothers, newborns, and others with physical, emotional or spiritual needs. This is an important expression of our respect for the innate dignity that lies within every human being, regardless of race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or social class.

This respect for life and dignity directs us to urge Congress to support reforms that:
> Exclude public health care monies for abortion
> Prohibit any form of euthanasia
> Protect the right of conscience of a health care professional or institution and
> Respect the right of a physicain and a patient to decide treatment for the healing of that patient without inteference.

Finally, in shaping public policy on access to health care, we appeal to Congress for a plan that ensures basic affordable medical care for all, including legal immigrants, and a plan that protects the role of personal and private entities in carrying out their health care mission.

The bishops urge that any health care plan embraces all of these principles, and invite all Catholics to pray for all legislators that they will be enlightened by God to know what is good for our society and particularly those in need.

Trick or Treat

I have heard it all; from Halloween being totally innocent to it being one of the most evil things we Christians can participate in. Usually, both sides have among their followers extremists. I'll concede that plenty of adults take Halloween too far; just like many have turned Mardi Gras into something other than it was intended to be. And the other side is almost hyperventilating with beliefs that all who trick or treat or costume are damned to hell.

Thanks to Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio I spotted this article written by Fr. Thompson. This may help put into proper perspective Halloween and a Catholic response.


The Real Story!

Father Augustine Thompson, O.P.,

We’ve all heard the allegations. Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to some pre-Christian festival among the Celtic Druids that escaped Church suppression. Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival. If you let your kids go trick-or-treating, they will be worshiping the devil and pagan gods.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.

It’s true that the ancient Celts of Ireland and Britain celebrated a minor festival on Oct. 31 — as they did on the last day of most other months of the year. However, Halloween falls on the last day of October because the Feast of All Saints or "All Hallows" falls on Nov. 1. The feast in honor of all the saints in heaven used to be celebrated on May 13, but Pope Gregory III (d. 741) moved it to Nov. 1, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s at Rome. Later, in the 840s, Pope Gregory IV commanded that All Saints be observed everywhere. And so the holy day spread to Ireland. The day before was the feast’s evening vigil, "All Hallows Even" or "Hallowe’en." In those days, Halloween didn’t have any special significance for Christians or for long-dead Celtic pagans.

In 998, St. Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in Southern France, added a celebration on Nov. 2. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed. This feast, called All Souls Day, spread from France to the rest of Europe.

So now the Church had feasts for all those in heaven and all those in purgatory? What about those in the other place? It seems Irish Catholic peasants wondered about the unfortunate souls in hell. After all, if the souls in hell are left out when we celebrate those in heaven and purgatory, they might be unhappy enough to cause trouble. So it became customary to bang pots and pans on All Hallows Even to let the damned know they were not forgotten. Thus, in Ireland, at least, all the dead came to be remembered — even if the clergy were not terribly sympathetic to Halloween and never allowed All Damned Day into the Church calendar.

But that still isn’t our celebration of Halloween. Our traditions on this holiday centers around dressing up in fanciful costumes, which isn’t Irish at all. Rather, this custom arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. Late medieval Europe was hit by repeated outbreaks of the bubonic plague — the Black Death — and she lost about half her population. It is not surprising that Catholics became more concerned about the afterlife. More Masses were said on All Souls’ Day, and artistic representations were devised to remind everyone of their own mortality.

We know these representations as the "Dance Macabre" or "Dance of Death," which was commonly painted on the walls of cemeteries and shows the devil leading a daisy chain of people — popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc. — into the tomb. Sometimes the dance was presented on All Souls’ Day itself as a living tableau with people dressed up in the garb of various states of life. But the French dressed up on All Souls, not Halloween; and the Irish, who had Halloween, did not dress up. How the two became mingled probably happened first in the British colonies of North America during the 1700s when Irish and French Catholics began to intermarry. The Irish focus on hell gave the French masquerades and even more macabre twist.

But, as every young ghoul knows, dressing up isn’t the point; the point is getting as many goodies as possible. Where on earth did "trick or treat" come in?

"Trick or treat" is perhaps the oddest and most American addition to Halloween, and is the unwilling contribution of English Catholics.

During the penal period of the 1500s to the 1700s in England, Catholics had no legal rights. They could not hold office and were subject to fines, jail and heavy taxes. It was a capital offense to say Mass, and hundreds of priests were martyred.

Occasionally, English Catholics resisted, sometimes foolishly. One of the most foolish acts of resistance was a plot to blow up the Protestant King James I and his Parliament with gunpowder. This was supposed to trigger a Catholic uprising against their oppressors. The ill-conceived Gunpowder Plot was foiled on Nov. 5, 1605, when the man guarding the gunpowder, a reckless convert named Guy Fawkes, was captured and arrested. He was hanged; the plot fizzled.

Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes’ Day, became a great celebration in England, and so it remains. During the penal periods, bands of revelers would put on masks and visit local Catholics in the dead of night, demanding beer and cakes for their celebration: trick or treat!

Guy Fawkes’ Day arrived in the American colonies with the first English settlers. But, buy the time of the American Revolution, old King James and Guy Fawkes had pretty much been forgotten. Trick or treat, though, was too much fun to give up, so eventually it moved to Oct. 31, the day of the Irish-French masquerade. And in America, trick or treat wasn’t limited to Catholics.

The mixture of various immigrant traditions we know as Halloween had become a fixture in the Unites States by the early 1800s. To this day, it remains unknown in Europe, even in the countries from which some of the customs originated.

But what about witches? Well, they are one of the last additions. The greeting card industry added them in the late 1800s. Halloween was already "ghoulish," so why not give witches a place on greeting cards? The Halloween card failed (although it has seen a recent resurgence in popularity), but the witches stayed. So, too, in the late 1800s, ill-informed folklorists introduced the jack-o’-lantern. They thought that Halloween was druidic and pagan in origin. Lamps made from turnips (not pumpkins) had been part of ancient Celtic harvest festivals, so they were translated to the American Halloween celebration.

The next time someone claims that Halloween is a cruel trick to lure your children into devil worship, I suggest you tell them the real origin of All Hallows Even and invite them to discover its Christian significance, along with the two greater and more important Catholic festivals that follow it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Of Prison and Purgatory

Tonight was my return to the Rayburn Prison after my short vacation. It was good to be back with my brothers in community. After preaching a little bit tonight on All Saints Day, coming up this Sunday, we got into a discussion about purgatory. Is it real? What is it like? How long do you go there? Is it punishment?

So I thought we could go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and review purgatory. The section that addresses purgatory starts with paragraph 1030: "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. Then paragraph 1031: "The Church gives the name purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence(1439) and Trent(1563).

The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire (1 Corinthians 3:15 states: "But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire." A cursory exegesis of this points out that St. Paul can envision very harsh divine punishmentbut he appears optimistic about the success of divine corrective means both here and elswhere. Also, look at 1 Peter 1:6-7 where we read: "although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuiness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at te revelation of Jesus Christ." Exegesis reveals a long standing belief that the new life of faith must be subject to many trials before achieving fullness of salvation.)

We also read: "As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgement, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. (Based on Matthew 12:31)

Paragraph 1032: This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore Judas Maccabeus made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." (2 Maccabeus 12:46). From the beginnin the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: "Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesistate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them." (See Job 1:5).

In addition to these paragraphs about purgatory, one can trace the writings on purgatory from St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, St. Gertrude and St. Robert Bellarmine. We have the teachings of the Church also from Mary's appearance at Fatima.

John Paul II addressed purgatory in a larger address about the existence of hell in July 1998.

What is the greatest takeaway from this is that purgatory is an assurance of heaven and an opportunity for final purification. It is a dogma of our faith and one that we should not be afraid of. We should also return to the practice of praying for souls in purgatory as they cannot pray for themselves.

So as we approach All Saints and All Souls days, let us remember the souls in purgatory and pray for their entrance to heaven.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's all routine; or is it?

When a much needed vacation is over it's time to put things in order and sometimes in perspective. Tommorrow I'll be back to work, although in a training session. My desk, my clients and the dedicated staff I work with will have to wait yet another day. I'll spend a little time going through emails and voice mails, catch up on unfinished projects and try as I might to make quota with 6 days out of the office standing in the way. But life is about routine and most of the time we like to get back to them; although much needed breaks are a welcomed respite.

For the past 6 or 7 days I have not been involved in ministry. Of course, you are always involved in ministry, but like my job the routine has been broken. I will return to the things I do this week; prison ministry, marriage work, assisting at Masses, working on a homily to name a few. I did not do any of these things last week and it felt good but I will admit, I'm looking forward to doing these things again.

I also love the opportunity to update this blog, another ministry I believe I was called to do. As a Catholic Deacon, I could chose to blog about the Anglicans, or the SSPX negotiations in Rome, or the dust up last week with another disobedient Kennedy Catholic, or any of a number of things Catholic.

For the most part, I like to keep this personal. I like to stress the ministry of the Permanent Deacon and things evolving near home or in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. This entry tonight is all about reestablishing routine.

One thing we need to avoid becoming routine is our personal prayer life and spiritual direction. Yes, sometimes we pray with a certain rhythm but we should never allow prayer and reflection to be a "thing to do" like the many errands and tasks we check off our to-do list.

Perhaps one of our prayers can be thanks God for the routine, for the everyday things and thanks for the welcomed breaks and opportunities to see new sights and get away. And also for everything we are, all that we have and all that we do; this can be our prayer as well.

Tonight too I ask all of you to join me in prayer for the repose of the soul of Fr. Thomas Perrier, OSB, from St. Joseph Abbey north of New Orleans. Only 57 years old, God called him home to continue to serve Him, now in Heaven. For us left here, Fr. Thomas will be missed.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Deacons & wives in the pew...together

One of the things that struck me as a first year Deacon is the separation from my wife during the celebration of the Mass. After all, for more years than I can remember she has been my "pew partner" Sunday after Sunday.

One of the things we were strongly "encouraged" to do was to write into our memorandum of understanding with our assigned pastor a weekend off clause. That's right; a weekend off clause. Now many hear this and say but you were called to an ordained ministry and you want a weekend off. You betcha!

The weekend off is, from my rookie viewpoint, VITAL. First of all, if we are Deacons, called to service, our ministry is 24/7. I am a Deacon at home, work, community events, all the time, no exceptions. Secondly, if I am true to my vocational call to be a servant I am actively engaged in diaconal ministry apart from the altar. And third, it is important to me to celebrate one weekend in the pew with my wife and it's OK for the parish to see me doing so. Yes, I get the usual what's wrong, why are you not serving. I remind them that I'm not an altar boy and yes I am taking the weekend off. Occasionally my wife and I will use the opportunity to worship at another parish. For the most part, I have been faithful to the weekend off commitment every month but one, due to a fellow Deacon's illness.

This weekend, as my wife and I continue to visit with our son in N. Carolina it was great to worship in the pew with her. It's always a joy to exchange the sign of peace with your spouse. And to sing together, pray together and go to Holy Communion together.

So the next time you see your Permanent Deacon in the pew with his wife; say a little prayer for both of them, thanking God for their service and their visible sign as a married couple. And to my Deacon friends, it's who we are; not what we do; take a weekend off and go to Mass with your wife!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Deacon's Road Show

At the right time, I'm experiencing a much needed break from work, committees and the ministry activities of a still rookie Deacon. After a long day of work Monday and spending the evening with the CCD kids at Church, my wife and I hit the road Tuesday for a week long travel adventure. Our final destination is our son's brand new home in a Greensboro suburb so we took off through Mississippi, northern Alabama, into Georgia, right thru the middle of downtown Atlanta and in to South then North Carolina.

I must admit, it is an exciting moment for a parent when you see good things coming your child's way. Jimmy has a very beautiful home, on 3.5 acres overlooking some pretty woods. We spent our first night here last night. It's funny to see how much of a neat freak he is; I don't remember that about him at our homes. In any event, we are very proud and happy for him. And of course we are very excited about his upcoming wedding next spring.

Today Jimmy helped us drive deep into the great expanse of autumn colors. We headed west, up into the foothills then mountains of western North Carolina. We spent some time at an attraction called Blowing Rock, where from above, the vista of colorful fall foilage was breathtaking. Our drive took us on parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Needless to say, it was an awesome day.

So, I will be enjoying the remainder of my time up here in North Carolina so I'll be posting less and relaxing more. We have some nice things planned over the next two days and will begin heading home either Sunday or Monday. Plenty will be waiting for us upon our return but for now let it wait.

I am also looking forward to Mass at a little country Catholic Church near Greensboro where Wendy and I have worshipped before. It is always encouraging to me to watch the efforts of dedicated Catholics to be "community" and faithfully worship when the vast majority around them are not Catholic.

So I promise pictures soon and trust that you can hold us in prayer while we travel to and fro over the days ahead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Anglicans coming home to Rome!

Today was a pretty amazing day; some say historic and others just overwhelmed by the bigness of it all. On this day Pope Benedict has offered a path to the Anglican Communion to become part of the Catholic Church. This is a huge step toward Christian unity as called for in Scripture. Many Anglicans across the world are expected to "come home" and Anglican priests will, with some orientation, become Catholic priests. This includes the many married Anglican priests. Bishops will also be coming over but these will be selected from the ranks of celibate Anglican clergy.

The news was announced simultaneously by Rome, through Cardinal Levada and by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. Speculation abounds about large masses of Anglicans in Africa, Australia and other areas in the Pacific rim becoming Catholic en masse. There is also evidence of large number of disaffected Episcopalians in Amercia converting and even many from the Church of England, although the latter seems less likely to happen soon or overly enthusiastically.

The manor in which Pope Benedict has established this path home will look very similar to the military diocese concept. Additionally, within these "Anglican ordianriates" will be much of the liturgical tradition the Anglicans adhere to.

This I know for sure, I do not pretend to be an expert on how this was structured or how it will play out. And I know that there will be many wanting to throw cold water all over this. Bottom line is that today, one of the most significant events in uniting Christians into one communion, under the Vicar of Christ has occured. And this while Pope Benedict continues open dialogue with the Orthodox religions and of course the more controversial SSPX.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this is the beginning of what Christ envisioned when he established a Church, built upon the Rock; a Church that has endured man made mistakes for 2,000 years because She is protected by the Holy Spirit; the Church that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against.

To our Anglican friends, welcome home. To all other Christians and people of goodwill, come on in; the water is fine!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Time keeps on drifting into the future...

I love my evolving "senior" status at work and other places too. One of the things I truly enjoy is listening to young moms and dads speak of their children. This is especially true if the children are young and the parents are sharing their joy and excitement at all the self discovery, the many "firsts" they experience or stories of new milestones. It's such a nice personal glimpse into their lives as family.

Every now and then I'll get asked how does it play out when the kids grow up, or how did you handle this or that, what did high school bring, how did you handle college or the one that always gets to me: did it seem like they grew up too fast.

I guess it is a matter of perspective. Wendy and I have been quasi empty nesters now for a few years. Our oldest, Jimmy (everyone calls him James; something we never did) has been gone now for 6 years. He has a strong practice in veterinary medicine, lives in North Carolina and loves nothing more than to hunt and fish. He still makes it home every July for the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo. His exciting news is he recently bought a home and is to be married in a little more than six months from now. Oh yea, it seems like yesterday that I brought him to his first ballgame or we watched him showing his pony at his first horse show. Trust me, like yesterday.

Elizabeth is our daughter, about 11 years younger than Jimmy and a good student in her junior year at LSU. She has plans. She is a history major, is getting ready to go to Europe next summer and living with good friends in her first apartment. Oh yea, it seems like yesterday that we were dropping her off for her first day of school, or chasing after her at yet another dance recital or on the dance team at her high school. Trust me, like yesterday.

Rarely does my little family get a chance to all be together at one time in one place. It did happen last Christmas and won't happen again until the wedding. But we all have been together in part several times and that opportunity will happen again this week as Wendy and I visit Jimmy in his new home. And soon after our return, we will see Elizabeth again even though she gets busier and busier as the semester rushes to it's conclusion.

Moms and Dads of youngsters: love your children and cherish the present. The future will be here soon enough but don't focus on that; stay in the moment. Plan for the future yes, but don't hurry it along. Yes, time keeps on drifting into the future...

Adoration, Benediction and the children

Tonight I was blessed to have the opportunity to meet with 5th and 6th graders at CCD. We talked about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and what Adoration and Benediction is. I was pleasantly amazed at their openess and understanding of universal truths that many adult Catholics struggle with.

When I exposed the Blessed Sacrament, I could tell the children knew something important was happening. Over time, I could see a few of them getting restless so we talked quietly about asking Him for a inmost desires. I asked them to concentrate on looking at Him, in adoration, as I assured them that He is looking back at us.

I explained the Benediction and taught them to make the sign of the cross as the monstrance is lifted high, lower and side to side. I explained clearly to them that it is not I as a Deacon or the Priest when they are with us that blesses; the blessing is from Jesus Christ Himself; Benediction.

In the next session later in the evening, Deacon Mark took over with the 10th graders. Tonight, over 50 children spent quality time with Jesus in Adoration and Benediction. Quite a few even went to Reconciliation.

I would say this is one awesome way to start the week. Give God all the glory!

Catholicism and the death penalty

Today a local man received the death penalty for a most heinous crime; in cold blood he killed his wife, his young son and attempted to kill his daughters. The young girls actually played dead to save their lives. In this case, the killer did not deny his crime.

The crime and the loss of life of two innocent people is horrific. The crime also left a huge scar in the community, particularly the neighborhood where it occured. This played out in the middle of the day with neighbors outdoors and children playing or returning home from school. In every way possible it was evil; it was cruel; it was horrific.

I know the pain of the family must be so raw today, as I imagine it is every day. They have had to endure unspeakable grief, inconsolable loss. I, along with the vast majority of the community are praying for them and lifting them up to God.

I was prompted to write this tonight not to defend, in any way, the actions of the convicted killer. As is often the case with capital punishment verdicts, the comments are flowing on local blogs, including those of the local media. The comments from these non-family members focus on revenge, a sense of victory (over the evil killer), of justification. There is very little being written about whether or not the community can only be protected by his own death by lethal injection.

I believe this is why Pope John Paul the Great spoke so often about the death penalty and wrote about it in Evangelium vitae. I realize what I'm about to share is the Catholic perspective. I offer it only to ease the vitriol being spewed by the general public. This is not in any way to be misconstrued as defending the indefensible, giving any justification for the crime, or fully understanding that the real victims here are those who innocently lost their lives, the surviving family members, and the countless friends and relatives of the family; not to mention the community at large.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the agressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conitions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who as committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself -the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

This is from paragraph 2267 and the last sentence is from John Paul II. Read it in it's entirety; ponder it's total message; pray with it.

Again, I'm not arguing with the job of the DA, the difficult task of the jury, or defending in any way the killer. My goal tonight is to share official Church teaching and to make one aware of what motivates someone to pronounce a death penalty as reason to cheer.

Tonight, I simply ask for you to join me in prayer for the family of the innocent victims, the victims as well, for those who had to wrestle with this verdict and that God have mercy on sinners.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Missionaries, Martyrs, Saints

Just today the Church throughout the world celebrated World Mission Sunday. We took time today to focus on the valuable work of evangelization done by missionaries past and present. And the Church gives us tommorrow a Feast Day in honor of brave Jesuit missionaries from 360 years ago. Imagine these spiritual men willing to come to the new world, the Americas and bring the Gospel to the native people.

After arriving in Quebec around 1625, the missionaries ministered to settlers around relatively safe areas like trading posts. They met many Indians and longed to go out to the countryside and bring the Good News to the larger native population. They met with great success in the Huron tribe but also caught the attention of the more hostile Iroquois.

The Iroquois eventually attacked the Hurons and capture or killed the missionaries. Over a period of seven years, the 8 Jesuit missionaries became martrys. In America, their Feast Day is October 19th. It is officially referred to as the Feast of Isaac Jogues and John De Brebeuf, Priests and Martyrs, and Companions, Martyrs.

The missionaries who gave their lives for Chirst and the Gospel area:

St. Rene Goupil - September 29, 1642
St. Isaac Jogues - October 18, 1646
St. John de Laland - October 19, 1646
St. Anthony Daniel - July 4, 1648
St. John de Brebeuf - March 16, 1649
St. Gabriel Lalemant - March 17, 1649
St. Charles Garnier - December 7, 1649
St. Noel Chabenel - December 8, 1649

May the North American Martyrs be an example of missionary zeal and enthusiasm and we invoke their powerful intercession.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Feast for an Evangelist

Sunday is never trumped in the liturgical calendar. The Feast of the Evangelists is always special. Normally, we celebrate the Feast of St Luke on October 18th but this year it falls on a Sunday. Nonethless, it is quite worthy of mention.

St. Luke was a pagan who converted to the faith and responded to the preaching and teaching of St. Paul. From these teachings, St. Luke became the writer of one of the Gospels. He is also the writer of the Acts of the Apostles.

St. Luke points out that he was not an eyewitness to the events of Jesus' ministry. Some speculate that Luke may be a second or third generation Christian. Luke's Gospel seemed to be intended for Greek speaking non-Jewish converts further spreading the good news.

St. Luke's Gospel is well loved as it contains the most detail of the infancy narrative and has stong emphasis on the parables. It is in St. Luke's Gospel that we find the awesome canticles recited in the Divine Office everday; The Canticle of Zechariah, The Magnificat and the Canticle of Simeon.

In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke gives us a wonderful description of the early Church from Pentecost up to St. Paul's arrival in Rome. It is a must read for all Christians and one can easily see the earliest beginnings of Catholicism and the Liturgy of the Mass as well as the Sacraments.

So on Sunday we will hear about the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time and World Mission Sunday but don't forget St. Luke. We can recite this prayer from his the Divine Office:

Father, you chose Luke the evangelist to reveal by preaching and writing the mystery of your love for the poor. Unite in heart and spirit all who glory in your name, and let all nations come to see your salvation. Amen.

Homily for October 17-18th; 29th Sunday

What do you want to be when you grow up? We know the most common answers: doctor, nurse, teacher, police officer, firefighter, astronaut, a mommy or a daddy. Imagine what our response would be if a little one would say a servant.

All through our lives we are called to be just that; a servant. We serve our children as parents, we serve our parents as they age, we serve each other. We volunteer for school and community activities all the time.

As people of faith do we strive to serve Jesus and His Kingdom by becoming servants and slaves to all?

Mark's Gospel today gives us the example of how not to serve; at least that seems to be the case. Two brothers, Apostles, James and John, nicknamed Sons of Thunder, seem to want glory, honor and prestige from Jesus. They asked almost demanding He do it. But Jesus asks a question of His own: Can you drink the cup? Can you share in my Baptism? In other words; hey guys you sure talk the talk, can you walk the walk.

Jesus is explaining to our two ambitious brothers, and all of us too, that we are indeed called to follow Him, to serve Him and each other while accepting the lofty demands of discipleship.

How are we to know what this looks like for us in our own day. I would submit that all of us have plenty of powerful examples. For me I recall the serving spirit of two of our own parishioners, Al and Elaine Andry. These two folks were called to serve children with special needs. With no outside funding, no governmental assistance they started an orgamization that ministered to and served thousands of families. They often did this from their own pocketbook and often mortgaged their home to help this special children. They no longer are able to do this but served faithfully for many, many years.

Long before I arrived at Rayburn Prison in my capacity as pastoral chaplain, I met three men from neighboring Mary Queen of Peace Parish. Responding to a call from another lay prison minister, Mike and John and Jimmy all volunteered to serve by bringing the Eucharist and their RCIA program to the incacerated men. They have been faithfully doing this for years. And all three servants are well in to their retirement years.

These are two examples of what Jesus is talking about. They drink the cup, they live their baptism and they walk the walk.

Today is also World Mission Sunday. This is something few of us pay much attention to even if we are among those who will at least drop a donation in the second collection today.

Do we know that it was missionaries that helped establish our Diocese and brought Catholicism to the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. Missionaries spread the Word and the Faith to the four corners of the world. And this serving spirit is still needed in our world today. Missionaries are making a difference in China, India, across Asia and beyond. Modern day missionaries are now sustaining and supplementing Catholicism across America and contributing to the growth of the Church in places that had little Catholic presence. One example for us in New Orleans would be the faithful service of so many Vietnamense Priests and religious who relocated here after the war.

In last week's Clarion Herald Archbishop Gregory Aymond said that at our Baptism each of us becomes a missonary. Each of us is called to serve and live our Baptism. Not all of us will be called to go throughout the world. We can serve locally. What then can we do?

We can support all missionary activity with our prayers.
We can offer our fiancial support starting today with this most important second collection.

And we can drink the cup and walk the walk by serving right where we live, work, shop and play. We have a couple of dozen parish ministries, we can join one this week or at least support their projects and programs. Do we support our parish school of religion, with our prayers and volunteer efforts? Can we volunteer even a modest amount of time to those in hospitals, nursing homes or our local food bank?

We have been called to serve not to be served. In this call Jesus asks of us no more than what was asked of Him: for the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Can we drink the cup, can we walk the walk?

When the Father asks us what do we want to be when we grow up? Answer, the servant of all.

Friday, October 16, 2009

St Ignatius of Antioch

Among the early Church fathers, I have been drawn to the example of St. Ignatius of Antioch. When I was in my early years of formation I wrote a paper on St. Ignatius and share some of that below:

St. Ignatius was born in Antioch Syria between the years 30 and 50. His surname was Theophorus which is translated "God-bearer" or "vessel of God". It is believed he was appointed Bishop of Antioch by St. Peter. Ignatius guided the faithful during the persecution of the Emperor Domitian. When Domitian was replaced as emperor by Trajan the persecutions became more specific. He interrogated Ignatius personally about his faith and Ignatius boldly proclaimed Christ. He was arrested and sentenced to die in Rome.

The journey from Antioch to Rome would be long and difficult. Some reports say it took nine years. During these travels, Ignatius penned seven epistles addressed to the Church in prominent communities of Ephesus, Magnesia, Philadelphia, Tralles, Smyrna, and Rome along with one addressed to his friend Polycarp. These letters were read publicly and were used to encourage the faithful. In one of his letters he said: "I am God's grain, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread."

He was killed in the Coliseum in Rome by two lions during a pagan festival between the years 107-117.

Cardinal John Newman said of Ignatius that his writings contain the whole system of Catholic doctrine. His major themes were the hierarchy of the Church, the preeminent role of the Bishop, the role of Priests and Deacons and the universality of the Church. Ignatius also taught about Mary, the Trinity and the Eucharist.

Ignatius is the first believed to call the Church Catholic. This is notable being from Antioch where Scripture records is the first place that followers of Jesus are called Christians.

Finally, Ignatius teachings and writings are the basis for the teaching of the four marks of the Catholic Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

His feast day is today, October 17th. St. Ignatius of Antioch, pray for us.

An anniversary to remember...

Today is the 31st anniversay of the election of John Paul the Great as our 264th Pope. His was an awesome papacy. This interesting article reminds us of 1978, the year we saw the reign of three Popes: Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II!

I'll never forget John Paul II being introduced to the crowd as I watched a NBC newsfeed. No one knew at first who Cardinal Wojtyla was or from where he came. Now, countless billions know.

Santo Subito!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In humble service

I have been discerning and praying quite a bit lately about the ministry of the Permanent Deacon. Now some 10 months after ordination I have come to live that which I was taught through formation. The diaconate is truly about humble service.

When I received my latest edition of Deacon Digest, an awesome magazine that focuses on the ministry of the diaconate, I read with great interest and great joy an article by Bishop Howard Hubbard; Bishop of Albany, New York. This first appeared in the Evangelist, a newspaper of the Diocese of Albany. So with all credit to Deacon Digest, the Evangelist and Bishop Hubbard, I share some highlights here:

~ The diaconate is a ministry of service, in imitation of Christ who came "not to be served but to serve."
~Deacons are called to be icons of service.
~ There is always the temptation to focus on the preaching and liturgical role of the deacon because these are exercised in a very public way. But deacons must never forget the service dimension of their diaconal call.
~The failure to serve humbly can lead to an expectation that we deserve to be served. This leads to clericalism; piling up perogative, privilege, power, prestige, status, influence and authority. Instead, we should, like the Master, wash feet. (This is attributed to Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York City).
~Deacons now more than ever need to side with the poor and the oppressed; the victims of injustice; those who are left out, ignored, reviled and rejected.
~Deacons are called to be ministers of the Word. Deacons must not only be exegetes of the Word found in the Scriptures, but they must interpret how that Word crashes against the cacophony of our present human song. They must articulate how that word resonates with the joys and hopes, the sorrows, fears and anxiety of the hearers of the Word.
~Deacons should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, so that their hearers may be challenged to discern what the Scriptures are saying to them and asking of them at this particular moment.
~Deacons are ministers of the sacraments: baptizing, witnessing marriages, serving at the Eucharistic liturgy, distributing Holy Communion to the faithful, bringing viaticum to the sick and dying, and burting the dead.
~Imperative: deacons must be men of prayer. They must give evidence of the fact that they themselves are standing in the presence of our omnipotent God.
~Deacons must make their own spiritual growth and development the heart of their diaconal service.

Awesome message for those of us called Deacon and for the entire Church. Bishop Hubbard concludes that if this is what we do, "their lives and ministry, like that of Stephen, Lawrence, Francis of Assisi and the other great deacons of the Church, will truly give honor abd glory to God and bring hope, peace and betterment to God's people". He then invites all who read his article to "pray for all our deacons that their ministry of service, word and sacrament will bear rich fruit in our midst".

I hope you may get a chance to read the article in it's entirety. Great message that I truly needed to see this week. Deacons must be engaged in ministry of service, charity. The Church truly does not need Sunday-only Deacons.

And always remember; it's not what we do; it's who we are!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saints are marching in!!

Yes I know the New Orleans Saints are off tommorrow. But it's a busy Sunday for Saints. In just a few hours Pope Benedict will canonize 5 new Saints including the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor and the leper Saint of Hawaii.

Blessed Jeanne Jugan, founder of the Little Sisters was also known as Sister Mary of the Cross and was born in 1792. Over time she was called to minister to the elderly and dying and vowed that no one should die alone and afraid. She began a religious order called servants of the poor later to be known as the Little Sisters of the Poor. She died in 1879. A miracle cure of an American doctor from Nebraska was approved by rome as the final step in the process to declare Jeanne Jugan a Saint!

Blessed Damien de Veuster was a Belgian Priest who was a member of a missionary order. Fr. Damien found himself in Hawaii and was made aware of the infamous leper colony on Molokai. There with great charity and devotion he ministered tirelessly to the lepers in the small colony. He would eventually succumb to the disease and died in 1889, just 40 years old.

So both Jeanne Jugan and Damien de Veuster will be called Saints in just a few short hours. Along with Jeanne and Damien, Pope Benedict will also canonize Rafael Arnaiz Baron, Francisco Coll Guitart and Zygmunt Sczcesny Felinski.

So this Sunday, the Saints are marching in!!

Homily for Oct 11th; the rich young man

Very early yesterday morning I drove by our church hall and saw our Boy Scout troop setting up for their big garage sale. I hope their efforts met with good results. This brought back memories of the annual Abita Springs all-town garage sale every spring. Hundreds of visitors descend on our small community searching for treasures as hundreds of locals clear out the unwanted possessions cluttering their homes.

We all have gotten rid of our excessive possessions. We donate to Goodwill, we purchase storage space; one of the fastest growing businesses in recent years, we sacrifice a spare bedroom or we utilize every square inch of our attics to remove those excessive possessions from our lives.

Of course, almost every time we do this, we’re really making room for something new.

As people of faith, do we rid ourselves of our excessive possessions and make room for Jesus Christ in our lives?

St. Mark, in today’s Gospel gives us the story of the rich young man who has many possessions. With some degree of emotion and enthusiasm this rich young man seeks out Jesus and calls Him good. Then he asks Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus first takes the time to explain to him that no one is good but God alone and encourages him by listing six of the Ten Commandments. The young man is excited because he says he has kept all of these. Wow, I must have this eternal life. Not so fast. Jesus goes on to tell him he lacks one thing; sell your possessions, give the money to the poor and come follow me. Even though Jesus tells him his treasure will be in heaven, he went away sad.

Did Jesus really mean to sell his physical possessions? For this rich young man apparently so! Jesus called him to a radical response of getting rid of that which would hold him back from surrendering all to Jesus.

And then we hear Jesus explain to the disciples about wealth and how it can hold one back from Heaven. He even says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. What does this mean? The analogy of the camel and the eye of a needle refers to a very narrow small gate in the wall surrounding Jerusalem. Only a small camel without any supplies would be able to pass through this narrow gate. But why does he use this to explain about the wealthy. Jesus here is simply correcting the belief of the day that personal riches and wealth are signs of God’s favor. Of course, this is the belief today by some who proclaim a prosperity only Gospel. Will we ever learn? Jesus clearly needs to make the point that one’s wealth is not all that God uses to bestow his favor, his love and his mercy. Rather, Jesus warns about wealth leading man to be possessed by this world, overly concerned about price and value and leading one to over exaggerated self worth and pride.

The disciples take all of this in and in exasperation ask: “then who can be saved”. Jesus responds; for man impossible with God all things are possible.

What is this Gospel saying to us? First, we should take comfort in the words, Jesus loved him. Jesus loves us too! When Jesus tells us how he loves us he calls us to radically follow him. And if necessary, he calls us to rid ourselves of the junk in our lives that hold us back from following him unreservedly. The riches in the Gospel prevent the rich young man from surrendering to the invitation of full communion with Jesus. What are our riches? What holds us back? Perhaps it is our wealth, or simply our desire to be wealthy? Maybe it can be our plans, our hopes, our pleasures, football, maybe even our personal relationships?

The key message in today’s Gospel is let nothing hold us back from the love of Jesus; from a deep intimate personal relationship with him. Even if the task seems insurmountable begin riding our lives of whatever the junk may be that holds us back from giving ourselves to Jesus.

In the week ahead, reread this Gospel several times. And when we do, let’s place ourselves in the position of the rich young man! But let’s not be so quick to go away sad. Instead we can ask Jesus to help us to understand what it is he is calling us to. Help us to hear your call, help us to be generous with our possessions and our lives, help us to see the love for us in your gaze in the brothers and sisters we meet along the way this week.

As we prepare now to approach the table of the Lord, can we come forward without all our junk leaving our excessive possessions behind? Can we come, bringing our all to receive the Lord of all who makes all things possible?

Next time you see a garage sale, remember this Gospel. While some are making room for new possessions, we can be making room for Jesus who loves us unconditionally. Nothing sad about that!!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Of faith and football weekends

Ah the weekend; a respite from the 40 hour plus work week. But as I write this, late on a Friday night watching a local sports show recap tonight's heroes of the high school gridiron, I realize it's up and out the door in a little less than 8 hours. This is one of those "normal" weekends full of ministry.

This is my first football season as an ordained member of the clergy. The Permanent Deacon does not have the luxury of working his schedule around the game of the week. And he really won't do that anyway. Is it just the luck of the draw that my schedule will allow me to be comfortably in front of the TV for the huge LSU vs Florida game tommorrow night? I think so.

Tommorrow I'll spend the entire day in New Orleans as I attend the formation class for aspiring Deacon candidates. The morning is full of teachings of social justice and the afternoon will be mentor meetings. I'm thrilled to be a mentor to three of the aspirants. It does make for a long day. I'll leave my house at 7 a.m. and return home about 5:30 p.m. Don't you think I'll deserve a chance to watch some Tigers?

Sunday is a big day for the entire community of Deacons. After doing our various Mass assignmnets, some with preaching, we all will gather in New Orleans again for a welcoming celebration for Archbishop Gregory Aymond. Our new Archbishop has now been at it in New Orleans for almost 60 days. This will be the first opportunity the community will have to be with our spiritual leader. The relationship between a Bishop and his Deacons is unique as we are assigned to assist him and support his works of service throughout the Archdiocese. We all are very much looking forward to being with Archbishop Gregory.

And then the week starts anew and Monday always brings in our parish another night of CCD action. This week I'll be visiting with and teaching the children in our RCIC program. It is always a joy to share Christ and His Church with the children.

So enjoy your weekend and if you can, catch a little football. But do not miss out on your faith; celebrate it and worship at Mass and get ready for the week ahead!

Oh that Nobel Peace Prize

Depending on where you come down politically everyone has an opinion about President Obama and his newly announced Nobel Peace Prize. Even the Vatican weighed in, courtesy Fr. Lombardi, with a fairly nice statement. And then many others weighed in with their concerns and opinions.

The pro-life movement is naturally enraged as another pro-choice, which equals pro abortion, politician receives this honor. But one thing is certain, all the screaming and hollering is not going to change this award or even change many hearts. We need to witness to who we are and what we believe. How so? Well, thank God for a previous Nobel peace prize winner. I give you below the acceptance speech of one Mother Theresa. Trust me she shoots straight but does so with love and compassion and most importantly, example.

Lost in translation

The Catholic Church has been working on a more accurate English translation from Latin in the Mass for many years now. It seems that the process is complete but we still may have up to 2 years to prepare for the change. As with most things, we learn by repetition so this may take some effort. The first step is to realize this is a change that actually makes the liturgy more faithful to original intent. Still after so many years this may be difficult.

Here is some examples of the changes:

"Peace be with you" - our current response is "and also with you". The new response will be "and with your spirit".

In the penetential rite form A we will return to the line "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grevious fault".

The Gloria will have changes including the beginning which will go like this: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of goodwill. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory".

The Creed will change with the main change from "we believe" to "I believe".

The Sanctus changes to Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts.

The Agnus Dei will change to "Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed".

There is even a change to the dismissal where the Priest or Deacon will say "go forth the Mass is ended" or "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord" or "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life".

And there will be many changes in the words the Priest says in all the Eucharistic Prayers and other prayers he alone speaks.

Again, we call them changes and yet they are. But these changes are the original intent of translations from Latin to English from decades ago. Our prayers and responses will be more faithful to what the Church truly intended. And they help return us all to a liturgy more faithful to that which has been handed on for centuries.

I've checked several sources and most agree we should start seeing these changes late in 2010. Check out the website for a more detailed explanation.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 7, 1972

What is so important about this date? This is the date my wife and I agree upon as the date since we have been together. Oh yes, we met in 5th grade and were reunited in junior high. We even went on a date in March of that year. But we were young and things happen so we took the summer off from being a couple. What do a pair of 9th graders know anyway?

But that October evening brought the fall hayride event for our CYO group and neither of us had a date. We agreed to go together and somehow, someway we've never not been together ever since. We dated all through high school, our families got to know each other. We attended each others senior proms and graduation as we each went to seperate Catholic high schools; one for boys and one for girls. We went to college together and got engaged. And on June 4, 1977 we were married at St. Julian Eymard Catholic Church in the Algiers community of New Orleans.

We've had a very blessed married life. Oh sure, it comes with ups and downs, good and bad times, but it's been wonderful. We had our first child Jimmy in 1978, our second child we lost to a miscarriage and then in 1989 we had Elizabeth.

We made a big move in 1996 to the Northshore of New Orleans and fell in love with country life, a beautiful community in Abita Springs and a Catholic Church named for St. Jane de Chantal. Our spiritual life blossomed here and we both got involved in ministry. In 2008, Wendy stood with me in total support when I was ordained a Permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Wendy has supported me through job changes, my Jaycee career, all my ups and downs and most beautifully through the illness and death of my mom.

I do remember everyone telling us that we were too young to date exclusively and then way too young to get married. Of course, I would not advocate 20 year olds getting married but somehow I knew it would work for us. And now some 37 years after that "1st date" and 32 years after our wedding day, we still cling to each other.

How strange as we grow older we grow closer. It's mostly just us now, Jimmy living in N. Carolina and planning his wedding for the spring and Elizabeth in good old BR at the most awesome university in the World, LSU, home of world championship football, baseball and lots of my money.

So this October 7th Wendy and I will remember our first date and smile at another year together; forever!

Our Lady of the Rosary

October 7
Our Lady of the Rosary

Pope St. Pius V established this feast in 1573. The purpose was to thank God for the victory of Christians over the Turks at Lepanto—a victory attributed to the praying of the rosary. Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church in 1716.
The development of the rosary has a long history. First, a practice developed of praying 150 Our Fathers in imitation of the 150 Psalms. Then there was a parallel practice of praying 150 Hail Marys. Soon a mystery of Jesus' life was attached to each Hail Mary. Though Mary's giving the rosary to St. Dominic is recognized as a legend, the development of this prayer form owes much to the followers of St. Dominic. One of them, Alan de la Roche, was known as "the apostle of the rosary." He founded the first Confraternity of the Rosary in the 15th century. In the 16th century the rosary was developed to its present form—with the 15 mysteries (joyful, sorrowful and glorious). In 2002, Pope John Paul II added the Mysteries of Light to this devotion.


The purpose of the rosary is to help us meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. Pius XII called it a compendium of the gospel. The main focus is on Jesus—his birth, life, death and resurrection. The Our Fathers remind us that Jesus' Father is the initiator of salvation. The Hail Marys remind us to join with Mary in contemplating these mysteries. They also make us aware that Mary was and is intimately joined with her Son in all the mysteries of his earthly and heavenly existence. The Glorys remind us that the purpose of all life is the glory of the Trinity.
The rosary appeals to many. It is simple. The constant repetition of words helps create an atmosphere in which to contemplate the mysteries of God. We sense that Jesus and Mary are with us in the joys and sorrows of life. We grow in hope that God will bring us to share in the glory of Jesus and Mary forever.


“The rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at a heart a Christ-centered prayer. It has all the depth of the gospel messge in its entirety. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb...It can be said that the rosary is, in some sense, a prayer-commentary on the final chapter of the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium, a chapter that discusses the wondrous presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church" (Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter The Rosary of the Virgin Mary).

Monday, October 5, 2009

Some Divine Mercy

Today I focused some time on the special memorial of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos; the Redemptorist Priest I have blogged about often. Here in the New Orleans area, we celebrate this day in his memory and continue to pray that if it be God's will, Seelos will become a Saint soon.

Almost lost in this excitement is the Feast Day today of St. Faustina Kowalska, known as the Apostle of Mercy. St. Faustina was born in 1905 and by the time she was twenty had entered the religious life. Around 1931 she began receiving visions of Jesus who came to her as the King of Divine Mercy. He carefully gave her the image we now call the Divine Mercy with the rays of red and white emanating from His heart. The words at the bottom of the image are now well known; Jesus I Trust in You! One of the more popular devotions Catholics pray these days is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy from one of her visions in 1935.

St. Faustina became ill with tuberculosis in 1938 and died in that year on October 5th. By the 50's and 60's much effort was made to spread the message of Faustina and to promote the cause of canonization. This effort gained little momentum until a Cardinal from Karakow got involved. That Cardinal would later, as Pope John Paul II canonize Faustina as St. Faustina in 1993.

John Paul also decreed that the Sunday after Easter would be called Divine Mercy Sunday. Catholics began a novena to Divine Mercy every year starting on Good Friday. And on Divine Mercy Sunday special services are held, usually in the late afternoon or evening, with recitation of the Chaplet, Eucharistic Adoration and of course, reconciliation.

So as this day almost draws to it's end, lets remember St. Faustina Kowalska and pray with her, Jesus I Trust in You!

Character and kindness

Please view the following link:

A big tip of the hat to the wonderful website by the Catholic community of St. Mary's at Texas A&M. This is one of my favorite blogs.

The video was very inspirational and put a big smile on my face after a tough day at the office!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Let's not forget St. Francis of Assisi

This very important saint and founder of the Franciscans is remembered every year on October 4th. This year, falling on a Sunday, we may tend to forget him. Many people do not realize this but St. Francis was not a priest; he was a deacon of the church. He had a great conversion, renouncing his wealth as he committed his life to God. He was a powerful preacher often speaking out on serving the poor and riding oneself of extravagant wealth. He also preached humility. The Franciscans are still a very strong religious order to this day.

St. Francis is well known as the patron saint of the environment and animals. In fact, it is quite common for various blessings of animals or pets to occur on or near October 4th.

And many people pray a beautiful prayer often attributed to St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Respect Life Sunday

Today is Respect Life Sunday. In Catholic Churches across America many priests and deacons carefully preached on all things pro-life. In our Archdiocese, Archbishop Aymond spoke to the topic from St. Louis Cathedral. Then this afternoon, despite rain and bad weather, many local parishes either held Pro-life chains or attended the larger Pro-life events on both sides of the lake. Tonight, I listened to my pastor reference the Respect Life message of Cardinal Justin Rigali. It is brilliant. So I found it and post it for all to read. Let's continue to pray for a Pro-Life world where the most vulnerable are protected and we cherish all human life from conception to natural death. Cardinal Rigali:

For Respect Life Sunday

Respect Life Sunday, this year celebrated on October 4th is a day set aside for Catholics in the United States to reflect with gratitude on God’s priceless gift of human life. It is also an occasion to examine how well we, as a nation and individually, are living up to our obligation to protect the rights of those who, due to age, dependency, poverty or other circumstances, are at risk of their very lives.

In the current debate over health care reform, it has become evident that a number of Americans believe that the lives and health of only some people are worth safeguarding, while other classes of people are viewed as not deserving the same protection. Such an attitude is deplorable, all the more so in the context of health care. Sanctioning discrimination in the quality of care given to different groups of people has no place in medicine, and directly contravenes the ethical norms under which Catholic hospitals and health care providers operate.

Unborn children remain the persons whose lives are most at risk in America: Over one million children each year die in abortion facilities. The Roe v. Wadedecision in 1973 rendered states powerless to halt this killing. Thankfully Congress and most states acted to prevent public funding of abortions (with narrowly defined exceptions). Yet despite the opposition of 67% of Americans to taxpayer-funded abortion, all current health care proposals being considered by Congress would allow or mandate abortion funding, either through premiums paid into government programs or out of federal revenues.

It bears repeating: Abortion – the direct, intentional killing of an unborn girl or boy – is not health care. Abortion robs an innocent child of his or her life, and robs mothers of their peace and happiness. For 25 years, the Project Rachel post-abortion ministry of the Catholic Church has helped women move beyond their grief and remorse after abortion, helping them find peace by accepting God’s forgiveness and by forgiving themselves and others involved in the abortion decision. Abortion funding can only increase the number of dead and grieving.

Unborn children are not the only human beings disfavored under current proposals. Many people insist that undocumented persons living and working in the United States should not be allowed in any new system to purchase health-care coverage, and that poor legal immigrants be denied coverage for the first five years they are in the United States. Do immigrants forfeit their humanity at the border? How can a just society deny basic health care to those living and working among us who need medical attention? It cannot and must not.

While most Americans agree that those who cannot afford health insurance should have access to health care, some commentators have gone so far as to suggest offsetting the cost of expanded coverage by curtailing the level of care now given to elderly Americans. Other pundits have suggested that treatment decisions should be based not on the needs of the elderly patient, but on the patient’s allegedly low “quality of life” or the cost-effectiveness of treatment calculated over the patient’s projected lifespan. Such calculations can ignore the inherent dignity of the person needing care, and undermine the therapeutic relationship between health professionals and their patients.

It should not be surprising that the neglect, and even the death, of some people are offered as a solution to rising health care costs. Population control advocates have long espoused aborting children in the developing world as a misguided means for reducing poverty.

Some environmentalists now claim that the most efficient way to curb global climate change is to make “family planning” more widely available in the developing world. They report that an average of 2.3 pounds per day of exhaled carbon dioxide can be eliminated from the atmosphere by eliminating one human being. As used by population control advocates, the innocuous term “family planning” includes abortifacient contraceptives, sterilization, and manual vacuum aspiration abortions.

Oregon, where health care for low-income patients is rationed by the state, has denied several patients the costly prescription drugs needed to prolong their lives, while reminding them that the assisted suicide option is conveniently offered under Oregon’s health plan.

Many scientists justify the manipulation and killing of embryonic human beings in stem cell research, based on unsubstantiated hopes of finding new cures. Yet the facts increasingly show ...

this approach to pose risks to patients, and to women who may be exploited to provide eggs for the research.

Death is not a solution to life’s problems. Only those who are blind to the transcendent reality and meaning of human life could support killing human beings to mitigate economic, social or environmental problems.

The antidote to such myopia is to recover an appreciation for the sanctity and dignity of each unique human being. One could begin by spending a day with a young child. The average child is a wellspring of joy and giggles, capable of daring leaps of imagination, probing curiosity, and even reasoned (though sometimes self-centered) appeals for justice. Children delight in God’s creation and love their family unconditionally. God gave every human being these marvelous aptitudes, and children can help us recover and appreciate them anew.

Since the advent of widespread contraception and abortion, a cultural hostility to children has grown. They are often depicted as costly encumbrances who interfere with a carefree adult life. No fewer than six recent books are dedicated to defending the childless-by-choice lifestyle – for selfish reasons, or to counter “overpopulation,” a thoroughly discredited myth. In fact, if married couples were to have more children, Medicare and Social Security would not be hurtling toward bankruptcy. Since 1955, because of fewer children and longer life spans, the number of workers has declined relative to the number of beneficiaries, from 8.6 to only 3.1 workers paying benefits to support each beneficiary. Without substantially more young people to enter the work force as young adults, in 25 years, there will be only 2.1 workers supporting each beneficiary. Eliminating our young does not solve problems even on pragmatic grounds. It adds to them.

Children, and those who are dependent on us due to disability or age, offer us the opportunity to grow in patience, kindness, and love. They teach us that life is a shared gift, not an encumbrance. At the end of life, we will be judged on love alone. Meanwhile, in the midst of so many challenges to life, we look to"Christ Jesus our hope" (1 Timothy 1:1), who offers to all the world ashare in his victory over death.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lord, I think I saw you hungry and thirsty today...

Does God have a knack for unbelievable timing or what. Waking up late again for the 2nd day in a row, I knew that I would be missing Mass at my local parish. But I still needed to get busy; I had a 9 a.m. appointment with our Ladies Sodality Group. When I got to the church property there was much activity going on; Mass was letting out, ladies were gathering for the meeting and another group was readying the big hall for a wedding shower. In that group included our parish secretary. When I saw her she looked concerned about something. She quickly explained to me that a lady and her daughter had been dropped off at the hall by a cab because they had no place to go. I watched with admiration as she sprang into action.

I'm going to be careful here with names and circumstances to protect privacy. Suffice it to say, the secretary being on church property today was a gift from God. She knew just what to do. She verified the story, identified the older lady as someone we had helped before and quickly contacted our local St. Vincent de Paul group. Remember, just last week I blogged about those poor boxes. They were able to arrange a two night stay for the mother & daughter at a local motel, food to last the weekend, a cab for transportation with a promise to meet them Monday and help with rent for a more permanent housing situation.

With all the ladies gathered for their big 1st Saturday meeting food was abundant. The ladies quickly packaged many goodies for the family to eat and gave them sodas to bring with them to the hotel. And I watched many of the ladies go into their pocketbooks and donate money. I had a chance to meet with them, learn about their story and pray with them giving them a blessing before they got in the cab.

I too made a small donation and wished them well and promised to keep them in my prayers all week.

Jesus comes to us at all times in so many ways. This morning it was in the persons of a mon & daughter who stepped out in faith and simply asked a cabdriver to bring them to the church; something good will happen there. And it did. Many people lived out Jesus' command to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to do for the least of my brothers & sisters. It was a joy to witness the love and support from our secretary, the ladies of the Sodality, our St. Vincent de Paul group and all who have promised to pray for this sweet family.

Always be prepared to put your faith into action. You never know when you will see Him hungry or thirsty...

Homily for 27th Sunday; October 4th

Love and marriage, love and marriage; goes together like a horse and carriage. This I tell you brother, you can’t have one without the other. How many people remember these lines from a Frank Sinatra song or perhaps the intro to the quirky but popular TV show, Married with Children?

For as long as there have been men and women populating the earth, the subject of love and marriage is always top of mind. In our day, we know the statistics and the challenges. Almost everyone knows someone who has been in love and eventually got married. And almost everyone knows someone where marriage just did not work out for them and there may have been a divorce.

As people of faith, do we embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church when it comes to the subject of love and marriage? Do we even know what those teachings are?

To start, we can follow today’s readings beginning with our 1st reading from Genesis. It appears that God worked very hard to find a suitable partner for the first man He created. Not until God created woman did the man agree that this indeed is a suitable partner and we even hear the 1st teachings of marriage: “that is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.” So, from the very beginning God intended man and woman to live as husband and wife and live as “one flesh”.

But something must be amiss here. In our Gospel reading we find the Pharisee’s asking Jesus about divorce and Jesus replies with a question: “What did Moses command you?” Moses! Didn’t he live some 1,300 years or so before the birth of Jesus? All true! Jesus knew the Pharisee’s were setting a trap so he turned it back on them. And they answer correctly, but Jesus puts their answer in proper context. It was because of the hardness of hearts that Moses allowed divorce. And it is hardness of hearts now that they ask Jesus about divorce. Why did they do it? Simple; they hoped to get Jesus in trouble with someone.

This scene plays out in the territory of Judea. This is where King Herod ruled and had just been involved in a very public, very messy divorce. This would be the same divorce that caused St. John the Baptist to be martyred. If Jesus answers one way, he contradicts the teaching and sacrifice of John; if he answers another he may be turned over to Herod and never make it to Jerusalem and his Passion. Jesus knew all this. He turned this challenge into an opportunity to teach. And he condemned “hardness of hearts”.

Jesus clearly teaches that even the Law of Moses that allowed divorce was putting human needs above God’s will; “what God has joined together, no human must separate”. And in Jesus’ day this law remains true as it does in ours.

Yet divorce is a reality; as I have said earlier we all know the statistics. First we should recognize that many marriages result in long-term wedded bliss. I for one am so thankful to God and my wife Wendy for our now 32 year marriage. But chances are, someone is hearing this homily and divorce has touched your life personally. What are we to do or say if that be the case? Whether a divorce happens because one is a victim of bad choices and behaviors or the agent of bad choices and behaviors, divorce usually results in pain. Pain is real and pain is something Jesus Himself experienced. Jesus never ran from pain and faced pain trusting in God’s will and God’s plan.

For those of us who have never had to deal with divorce, let’s not get too puffed up here. We have indeed faced pain and we too have indeed sinned. All of us therefore can recall then the lesson of the woman caught in adultery that Jesus prevented from being stoned. We have no idea if she was married or a single woman. Remember, we identified adultery in last week’s homily as any sexual relationship outside of marriage. Jesus clearly equated her sin of adultery with any and all of the sins of her accusers. Who tossed the first stone? And neither should we. But how does that Gospel story end? Jesus told her to go and sin no more. Compassion, love and mercy are always fortified by truth.

Jesus is always ready to reach out to those in pain, even the pain of divorce, and offer healing and a path. We must, like Jesus, be ready to do the same. Don’t be so quick to speak viciously of those who experience the hurt of divorce and never pick up that stone. If you have been hurt by bad choices and behaviors in your marriage, seek a path back through the church. Fortunately, here in our parish family we have two Priests and four Deacons, all who can help with marital issues with both compassion and the truth of Christ’s teaching. Reach out to us so we can help you through the pain.

These readings today come on Respect Life Sunday. As we prepare to recognize our Pro-Life efforts this afternoon, consider marriage as God intended, with no room for “hardness of hearts”, a truly Pro-Life gift from you to God and from God to you.

Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage and you can’t have one without the other are great lines to a great old song. Love and marriage between man and woman with God at the center is truly what we can’t have without the other.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oh Come Let Us Adore Him

Today is first Friday and at Catholic Churches across the world, most parishes hold Eucharistic Adoration and a Benediction. Adoration is simply yet marvelously the public worship of Jesus Christ, exposed on the altar, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity for all to gaze upon, to worship, pray and adore. Of course, this can be done at any Catholic Church in front of the Tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament reposed and not exposed.

More and more parishes are offering perpetual Adoration in specially built chapels. Where this is widespread, the faith grows and conversions occur and fallen away Catholics return. Praise God!

Today was a special day for Eucharistic Adoration as a special effort was made to involve school children in this traditional devotion. The effort today was international in scope. Our own Archbishop, Gregory Aymond, led over 4,000 children at the Basilica in Washington, D.C. in a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. The event was telecast to 40 nations and all across America. It was broadcast into the classrooms of hundreds if not thousands of Catholic Schools. What an effort! What a blessing to expose children to the Eucharistic Jesus and explain His real Presence.

Tonight, I was able, through my office as a Permanent Deacon, to lead our closing hour that concludes with Benediction. Benediction is when the Blessed Sacrament, contained in a monstrance, is used to bless the congregation. It is our Eucharistic Lord Himself who blesses! Wow!

Ask your local parish what they do to provide Eucharistic Adoration for the faithful and for those being called to "come home". And find out how close the nearest 24 hour Adoration Chapel is to your local community.

Get involved in Eucharistic Adoration; oh come let us Adore Him!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gotta love October!

I divide the year into two parts. My favorite half starts now, October and runs through March. My decision is purely because I no longer seem to be able to tolerate heat and humidity, something that runs rampant here in the deep south from April through September. Of course, we can get heat and humidity any day of the year. But cold fronts, clean cold air, even a frost, deep winter nights where the stars are abundant all happen in my favorite half. I also love football, the holidays and still more football.

When October 1st rolls around I realize that the Church offers much to kick off my favorite half of the year. October is dedicated to Mary and the Rosary. We now can reflect on a great deal of Scripture with the addition of the Luminous Mysteries several years ago, by Pope John Paul II, to the well known Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries.

October is also a great month dedicated to Pro-Life activities. This weekend, across Catholic parishes and communities, Chains of Life will be lining sidewalks, streets, highways and byways. And don't be surprised if you see more than a few folks praying a Rosary in the Chain for Life.

After a wonderful feast today for St. Theresa we celebrate on the 1st Friday of the month the Memorial of the Guardian Angels. We can reflect with the 91st Psalm and rejoice that God gave His angels charge over us!! Most Catholic children will learn the Guardian Angel prayer early in their life's formation: "Angel of God my guardian dear to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light and gaurd, to rule and guide, Amen.

This weekend, in our neck of the woods, brings huge fall festivals, a big LSU football game (Geaux Tigers) and the best NFL matchup of the week, Saints vs Jets (Go Saints Go)!! Even when our plate is full and our calender favorable, may we always remember to give God all the glory, praise and thanks and visit Him at Mass, perhaps a 1st Friday Adoration and Benediction and in prayer. Gotta love October!