Thursday, December 31, 2009

Homily for Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

I was thinking about making a New Year’s resolution this year. I did not make any last year and it was a pretty good year. Quite simply, I really would like to get in better shape.

All of us at one time or another have made a New Year’s resolution. Most studies show that about 80% of all New Year’s resolutions are broken in about 20 days and completely abandoned before we turn the calendar to February. Ouch!

Then some of us have this wacky tradition of eating certain foods on New Year’s Day. My wife swears by a meal of cabbage, black eyed peas and pork. This is supposed to bring happiness, health and wealth. Well, over the years I guess one out of three ain’t bad.

As people of faith, I have a few questions for us today. Do we take time to reflect this New Year’s Day on this wonderful solemnity the Church provides in honor of Mary the Mother of God? Do we follow the example of Mary to resolve to do God’s will in our lives? And how can we make this our top priority in the year ahead?

You know last week someone asked me why did the Church makes us go to Mass just to celebrate New Years. Then one of my non-Catholic friends asked me recently how can we call Mary the Mother of God when God always existed?

These questions revealed to me that a little catechism lesson may be in order on this first day of the New Year. Of course for all of us here gathered in church today we pretty much know what today’s celebration is all about. Yet I wonder how many Catholics go to church on January 1st and pay little attention to the solemnity. Here are some interesting facts that may help us all appreciate how we come to celebrate this solemnity on January 1st.

From as early as the year 230, Mary was honored by the Church with the title Mother of God. She was referred to as the “theotokos”, which is Greek for “God-bearer”. It is important to note that all this was designed to say more about who Jesus is than to assign titles to Mary. You see there was a great debate in the early church about whether Jesus is fully God and fully human, or if he was two distinct persons, or if his divinity is separate from his humanity. Two great church councils, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Ephesus and Chalcedon, both in the 5th century, declared once for all that Jesus is one, fully human and fully divine. Therefore, when Mary gave birth to Jesus, she bore the Son who is God and man, the second person of the Holy Trinity. In no way has the Church declared that Mary preexisted God or is mother of God the Father. But since she indeed gave birth to Jesus, her title as Mother of God is affirmed.

In many ways and in different forms, the celebration of Mary as Mother of God has existed since around the year 500. In the mid 18th century, the Pope formally allowed a celebration of Mary’s maternity in Portugal. It gained wide acceptance in Europe and in 1931, was made a universal feast day, although in October. It was Pope Paul VI in 1974 that fixed this solemnity on January 1st and made it a universal celebration.

It is completely and entirely fitting to celebrate Mary as Mother of God on this the octave day of Christmas. We see the Church giving us the Gospel story of the visit of the shepherds to the manger scene in Bethlehem. As the shepherds made known the message they received from the angel, St. Luke writes that Mary kept all these things and reflected on them in her heart. Mary continues to follow God’s will, to reflect on His divine plan and willingly trusting her very life and that of her family in God’s hand.

That’s what we all need to take home with us today. This is what should replace all those silly New Year’s resolutions. Yes, we all can resolve to be better; to improve our health or do something for others in the year ahead. But using Mary, the Mother of God, as our model, we can simply resolve to do God’s will, to reflect more deeply on God’s plan for us in this life and the life to come and follow that plan. And while the journey may not always be easy, like Mary we can keep all these things in our heart. We can be comforted by God in tough times and joyful with God at all times. Just like Mary’s motherhood gave flesh to Jesus, God made man; we too can give flesh to Jesus in our lives and our personal relationship with Him. Mary is our model. We can respond to God with our yes, we can give flesh to our faith life by more devout prayer, responding to the sacraments and being present to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we can ponder these things, and keep them in our heart, all year long.

Go ahead and make that New Year’s resolution; down that cabbage and black-eyed peas. But resolve to follow God in the year ahead by following Mary’s example with your most sincere yes.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

December 31, 2009; a day to reflect

There is something about this day that gives us pause to reflect. As we get older, I believe we like to look backwards. This blog may not be too interesting for many of you to read unless you know me personally and have followed my recent journeys. So in the next few paragraphs I plan to reflect on my journey through 2009, which you will see, was greatly influenced by my service as a Permanent Deacon in the Catholic Church.

January 2009 was when I felt like I finally activated my ministry as a Deacon as I began my visits to Rayburn Prison. I was profoundly impacted from the first night there at the manner in which those men welcomed me as "their" Deacon. Since that time I have made over 30 visits to Rayburn to pray with and for these men as they strive to turn their lives around.

Over the first few months of the year I also got more comfortable with my role as a Deacon at my home church parish. I was blessed to be allowed to preach several times each month and always take this responsibility seriously. I will never forget the first time I baptized a baby and welcomed her into the Catholic Church. Every opportunity to baptize a new little Christian is a joy.

Early in the year I was selected to be a mentor for three men discerning their call to perhaps be ordained one day as a Deacon. These sessions proved to be meaningful for me and I hope for them as well. This brought back many nice memories of my 5 years spent in formation.

February brought my entrance into the world of blogging. On February 9th, I posted my first blog and have been happily doing so ever since. My prayer, then as it is now, is that these reflections, homilies, articles will help enhance the spiritual life of all who find their way to this site.

In March I received news that I was being reassigned a new job position at the bank. Initially I was skeptical but it was obvious this had to happen. The change in routine and location brought to an upbrupt end my comittment to attend daily Mass. With the help of prayers and some solid spiritual direction I have been able to deal with this in a meaningful way. And after submitting myself to intense training and using my skills of being a financial professional for almost 30 years, I have transitioned well. I do love my office and the staff I work with in Mandeville and am getting more comfortable in this position every day.

As my job and my diaconate evolved I continued in 2009 to be loved and supported by my wonderful wife Wendy. In June we celebrated our 32 wedding anniversary. We have two great kids, Jimmy and Elizabeth. Jimmy lives in North Carolina but we got to visit with him a few times. We saw him this summer when he comes in for the Grand Isle Tarpon rodeo and Wendy and her mom went and stayed with him in August. Then Wendy and I went up and spent a week with him in October. He is a successful veternarian and is planning his May 2010 wedding.
Elizabeth completed her sophomore year at LSU, came home for the summer and went to work at two jobs. She hopes to save enough money to take a trip to Europe this summer. She went back to LSU for her junior year and was doing great. She moved to her new apartment, took a job, mentored in a grammer school and posted a 3.8 g.p.a. And then two weeks ago she was robbed at work by gun weilding thugs. She is doing well since that night and thankfully was not hurt. I don't want to say too much here, but yesterday the police apprehended these guys. I will never take for granted the gift of safety of our family.

I survived summer. In a previous post I explained that I hate summer. Too hot and I dislike the hurricane season. I never seem to cope with the endless grass cutting that comes with acres of property. In this past year two dear friends, Aimee and Keith, realizing how overwhelmed my schedule can become, made many trips to the property and cut my grass and did many other things. How dear is good friendship.

I have been loving the fall and winter this year. Well, I could do with less rain. Like many of you, I have enjoyed the Saints season, although you could probably never tell by the frustration in my last post about their second loss. And I love LSU football, even though I believe they underachieved this year. In the last few months, Wendy and I did our first Supper and Substance together in New Roads. She did pretty good in front of an audience. We did this for an old friend from my Jaycees days.

2009 was also the year I learned all about facebook and twitter. I thought to myself, not too bad for an old man. I tend to use facebook to connect with Catholics, and others of faith, to promote and proclaim Christ. Yes, I did reconnect with old friends, even family and lots of my jaycees buddies from the 80's.

At year end, despite dealing with Elizabeth's big scare, we prepared dutifully for the Advent and Christmas liturgies that dominate the life of a Deacon. As we approach New Years Day tomorrow, I can say well done.

I plan to post something tommorrow or over the weekend about the year ahead. But for now, as I reflect on 2009 I give thanks to God almighty for keeping me and my family safe, well and together. I also give Him thanks for my ministry and for my new job.

I hope you get a chance too to reflect on the year ahead; even if it was a difficult year. And we can all look forward with hope, optimism and joy at the year ahead.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting rid of clutter means lesson learned

I wish this could have happened during Advent becuase the analogy would be more profound. But this is the week the wife and I are on vacation and her plans were just a little different from mine. I would much prefer during this octave of Christmas to visit friends, go to a movie, watch lots of football and maybe relax around the house. She instead believes to truly celebrate Christmas properly we must clean out of the attic. You guessed it; she wins:(

So the process begins and before you know it, everything is out on the front porch. How can one accumulate this much stuff? Today, I loaded up the pick up and hauled off all that needed to arrive at it's final resting place; the community landfill. By the way, all you green freaks, back off before you start. They actually weigh your truck going in and coming out to know how much to charge you. We weighed almost 500 lbs. less coming out. 500 lbs. of junk sitting above my head seperated from me by a thin layer of plywood. Disturbing thought. We also hauled all the paper and cardboard to the side yard where we kept a roaring fire going for two days. Etimated weight of all that paper, etc. would be about 200 lbs. When I arrived back home from the landfill, my wife had piled up another 200-300 lbs. of junk that I guess will be trip #2 tomorrow.

Sometimes in our lives we have to make room for newer and better by getting rid of all the clutter and junk. As we reflect on Advent just completed and Christmas, still with us, there is an analogy here. Sometimes, to truly make room in our hearts for better, i.e., Jesus, we need to rid ourselves of all the clutter that prevents us from giving ourselves more fully to Him. Sometimes that clutter prevents us from seeing the Jesus in our brothers and sisters. Therefore, we are called to remove the junk and clutter from our own attics or spare rooms of our faith lives that holds us back from the ever fresh and always new hope and joy that comes from a personal relationship with God made man, Jesus Christ.

This is something we always need to keep working on. Just like we will accumulate clutter once more, we will always find ourselves falling short with clutter like bitterness, unforgiveness, nastiness and emptyness. We must periodically, frequently seems more accurate, make a trip to the landfills that will take away all that clutter and help us make room for hope, peace, joy and understanding. I want my spiritual attic or spare room cleaned out to make more room for my Lord who comes to save me.

Feel like cleaning out your attic this week? I hope so!

Oh yea, Merry Christmas because it is just the 5th day of Christmas!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Holy Innocents

I'm posting this very late at night so by the time most of you read this the Feast of the Holy Innocents will have past us by. Every year, on December 28th, in the Octave of Christmas, the Church gives us the feast day in memory of all the innocent babies slaughtered by the orders of King Herod.

Still disturbed by the news of the birth of a newborn King and concerned about his own power, Herod orders the massacre of all baby boys in Bethlehem under the age of two. These holy innocents, these precious little boys became the first to bear witness to the coming of Christ as the Word made flesh with their very lives. The Church pays honor to all of them on this special day. We, living some two thousand years later, can follow the example of these holy innocents. We most likely will not be called to do this with our lives. But we are called to follow their example by our witness and our full faith and belief in Christ the Lord and His Church. And we are called to give that witness too by defending innocent life, particularly the life of the most innocent among us, the baby in the womb.

On a feast day like today, when we read the account of this slaughter, it feels particularly yucky to live in a nation that so readily slaughters thousands of holy innocents every day. May we pray more fervently for an end to abortion and call on the intercession of the Holy Innocents in this petition. And may their example encourage those among us who can support the pro-life cause with financial support, volunteer effort or sidewalk ministry to do so.

So on this, the fourth day of Christmas, we remember the Holy Innocents and we pray to support life, from conception to natural death.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

We have basked in the glory but the reality is setting in...

I am a fan of the New Orleans Saints. But I am a realist too. As a Saint fan, I'm disappointed in their 2 game loosing streak. As a Saint fan, I am embarrased by my home teams performance today. As a Saint fan I still want them to win, win in the playoffs and make it to a Super Bowl.

As a realist I now understand that all that fan stuff I just wrote ain't going to happen. As a realist, let's analyze facts and get rid of feelings. Heck, feelings are part of what has taken this team down. The New Orleans Saints that started 5-0 were one of the best NFL teams I ever witnessed in watching pro football with a critical eye in over 40 years. With the exception of the first Tampa game and the New England Monday night game, that team has been missing in action. For many weeks now, we can point to mediocre victories against St. Louis and Washington; horrible teams and barely surviving the last Atlanta team beset by injuries of epic proportions.

Yet thru it all; all we cared about was the pursuit of 16-0. What would the next funny jingle be on TV, what national talk show would Drew be on, how much louder can we chant who dat and how much more euphoric could we be as a city. All of this without accomplishing anything, yet.

All of this clouded the fact that injuries were mounting and superior execution was helping us survive. Now the execution is gone. We have no running game. Mike Bell was outstanding in September; where is he now. Pierre Thomas has been effective but less and less every week. Reggie Bush; total waste of millions. Jeremy Shockey; after two years he must be picking splinters out of his butt because I figure he's missed more games than he's started. And now we have receivers struggling to execute crisp routes and Drew is not nearly as effective. Yes, he completed something like 32 of 37 passes; the vast majority of them for 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 yards.

Defense has been ravaged by injuries yes but has played like a paper tiger of late. No more tackling, no execution, confusion and quite frankly getting pushed around like girls. Greg Williams defense; has hardly showed up since week 6. He should give that money back to Sean Payton; who needs to give it to some of these poor suffering fans.

Here is the biggest real fact everyone needs to digest; of all teams going to the playoffs; no one is playing poorer than the New Orleans Saints. Most of the teams are ascending; we, by far are in free-fall. And hey, digest this; the Saints have been pushed around and physically man-handled at HOME. 2 losses at HOME. Dome field advantage my rear-end.

As a Saints fan, I am saddended to say this but as a football realist it is true; this is the worst 13-2 football team in NFL history. I will say it again because it's so obvious it's not even funny; in August we would be giddy about 13-2 or even 13-3. But it is the way it has played out.

We need some honest assessment about what is happening here. For the most part, you can't get it from that radio station that plays the game. I digress here as I remind locals that all you get is old worn out garbage from old worn out Bobby Hebert. WWL sends reporters into the locker-room to ask softball cream puff questions. The TP might have a reporter or two who will be critical but don't count on it. I hope Ed Daniels will be honest; he usually is and of course we can count on Jim Henderson to do a sports commentary to show off his masterful command of 6 syllable words that the average schmuk that still watches 4 (and there are less and less of them) will never understand.

The Saints will limp into Carolina next week and play a Panther team that has looked unbeatable the last two weeks. And depending on Minnesota, may or may not have the home field advantage that they cared little about achieving today. But as I said earlier; might be a moot point. Who are they going to beat in the playoffs playing like this and what home field advantage have you seen lately?

I've been a Saint fan through 1 win seasons, decades of losing seasons, heart breaking defeats, 55 point blow outs but I never thought I'd see the day that I would be witnessing a 13-2 Saint team and feeling so down, so let down by the New Orleans Saints. Only a turn around of epic proportion that results in a trip to the Super Bowl will wipe away my disappointmet. Based on what I'm watching; I'll have to hope for a miracle!

We can't forget St. John the Evangelist

December 27th is the Feast of St. John the Evangelist. This year his feast day falls on a Sunday so it simply is not celebrated this year. The Sunday that falls immediately after Christmas Day is always celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Family.

But I wanted to reflect for a moment on St. John who played such an important role in the salvation story. St. John was the young disciple called to be one of the twelve. John, it is believed, is the one called in Scripture the beloved disciple. John is the one who drew close to Jesus at the last supper. It is John who, unlike the other 10 remaining apostles, stood at the foot of the cross as Jesus hung there, breathing his last. This is the same John who Jesus looked at with love and said behold your mother. And Scripture tells us that from that moment John took care of Mary.

John was the only Apostle who lived well into old age. He is the only one of the original twelve who did not suffer martyrdom. He was exiled to the tiny island of Patmos. It is here that tradition tells us that he wrote the Book of Revelation.

St. John also wrote the "fourth" Gospel. This beautiful Gospel is unlike the other three. Among the significant differences are the symbolic discourses of Jesus, the emphasis on love, the ordering of events and the way in which John attached divine significance to miracles. John's beautiful quote in chapter 3 verse 16 is among the most oft quoted lines from Scripture. And John chapter 6 is the much beloved bread of life discourse which helps all Christians to understand the real meaning of the Eucharist.

So even though we don't have the same opportunity this year to celebrate liturgy for the Feast of the Evangelist, let us remember St. John on this Feast of the Holy Family and in the days ahead. St. John the Evangelist, pray for us!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Homily for Feast of the Holy Family

What is your all time favorite family TV show? Do you remember The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, The Cosby Show or maybe classics like Father Knows Best or Ozzie and Harriet? These indeed are great family programs. For me, however, my favorite family show was All in the Family. There was just something about that dysfunctional family living in Queens, NY that drew me in. For some reason, Archie Bunker reminded me of so many adults I knew in that era.

I just finished watching two great family movies as we celebrated Christmas. In both the Christmas Story (you know this movie; you’ll shoot your eye out) and Christmas Vacation we all recognize someone from our own family in at least one of the characters.

Families are so crazy but in the end they are family. We probably would not have it any other way.

As a people of faith, do we model our family life after that of the Holy Family? Do we strive to live the values of Jesus, Mary and Joseph?

After hearing the beautiful Gospel details of the birth of Jesus and his time spent in a manger today we fast forward about 12 years. Our Gospel recalls the story of a family road trip. This is not just any road trip; this is the journey to Jerusalem and the feast of Passover. The air of anticipation and excitement would make this a journey to remember. I doubt if Jesus would be asking, are we there yet. In fact, because Jesus achieved the age of 12, this may be the first such trip he would be allowed to take with Mary and Joseph.

One of the great events of this trip would be the public lectures of the religious leaders in the temple. As a boy of 12, Jesus would be allowed to listen to these public talks. Jesus apparently does more than listen in; he participates and makes a dramatic impression on all gathered, including the rabbis. He makes such an impression that Jesus is still in the temple despite the fact that his families caravan has left for home. It would be quite some time before Mary & Joseph realized Jesus was missing. It would be a total of 3 days before they would find him. And when they find Jesus he is in the temple asking questions and giving answers sitting among the teachers.

Mary and Joseph’s response to finding Jesus is not that different from our own when we realize that our children are safe but perhaps late or in a difficult situation. Mary asks Jesus, why have you done this to us? It is if Mary is perhaps more angry than relieved. What a normal reaction. But did we catch Jesus’ reply? He said I must be in my Father’s house. Is this in fact the first recorded evidence in Scripture that Jesus, fully human and being raised by two human parents, is acknowledging his divinity and his membership in the larger family of man? Perhaps!

It should also be noted that from that time onward, St. Luke makes a point to record that Jesus remained obedient to Mary and Joseph while advancing in wisdom and favor before God and man.

From this beautiful Gospel and the example of the Holy Family we can conclude that God wants us to live in family. We have our own family, our extended family, the family of believers and the family of mankind. This is God’s family. Like all families, God’s family has its characters too. In the end though, He desires His family to love one another, to support each other and advance in wisdom and favor.

How can we act like God’s family? We can like Jesus, become busy about doing the Father’s work. And what is that work? It is a life lived in worship of the Father, obedient to His will and relying on His church when we falter. For it is through the church, proclaiming His word, offering the Sacraments and bringing forth the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that we can remain right with our family.

We are also called to see the goodness in each member of the family. We are called to see that whether we are the parent or the child, the husband or the wife, the aunts, uncles and cousins, we all are children of God; members of the one family united under Him.

Oh family struggles will happen but often in the end we overcome each others shortcomings and see the good; perhaps even see the Holy. After all, if Archie and Edith and Mike and Gloria could put all that bickering and petty disagreements behind to truly be family; it should be easy for those of us called to be members of God’s family.

May we all pray for the wisdom to do God’s will and be about the Father’s business. And that will keep us…All in the Family.

...on the Feast of Stephen

This day after Christmas brings us the great Feast of St. Stephen, deacon and martyr. As a Permanent Deacon of the Catholic Church I count this as a patronal feast day. I must admit that before I entered into inquiry and subsequently formation, I paid little attention to December 26th as St. Stephen's big day. My only recollection of this would be the Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslas who looked out on the feast of Stephen.

St. Stephen is found in Holy Scripture in Acts of the Apostles, chapters 6 & 7. He is numbered among the 7 men chosen by the Apostles to serve. Right there the office of Deacon is established as one of charity and is distinct from that of the Priest. Stephen is mentioned first among the 7 and is described as one filled with faith and the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps the ability to proclaim the Word and preach for the Deacon today has it's roots in Stephen's discourse which is Acts, chapter 7. Stephen gives an eloquent speech on God's plan of salvation starting with Abraham and Moses and for his efforts, he suffered martyrdom by stoning. As he is being stoned he sees a vision of Heaven and declares aloud that he can see the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. Stephen then asks Jesus to receive his spirit and his final prayer is one of forgiveness against his killers and accusers.

St. Stephen is the perfect model for not only those of us who serve the Church as Deacons but all people of faith. Today, on this second day of Christmas, we celebrate this great feast in honor of the first named Deacon who witnessed to the glory of God in word and deed and his very life.

St. Stephen, pray for us!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Whatever you do; keep Christmas going strong

Many of us are relaxing tonight after hectic days of preparation and the finality of Christmas Eve and Christmas day activities now done for another year. For those of us involved in ministry we immediately transition into the normal routine of weekend liturgies upon us tomorrow. However your Christmas day went, please remember that the celebration continues and the season is just at it's beginning.

Of all the things we can witness during these holidays nothing is more depressing than to see Christmas trees thrown out on the curb as early as tonight or decorations and lights coming down too early. Keep the celebration going! Christmas Day is an octave in the Catholic tradition and the Christmas season rolls on until January 10th this year.

Many special feast days occur during the Christmas octave and season starting with St. Stephen tomorrow, December 26th. In our diocese, all the deacons get together for Mass and lunch in celebration of our patron saint. This is another way we can extend the celebration of the joy of Christmas.

So tonight, enjoy your memories of another Christmas day but keep that tree up and the lights burning brightly. And take the joy of the Christmas message of a savior born for us with you for the remainder of this Christmas season and in the days that follow in the New Year.

Homily for Christmas Mass during the day 2009

This past year was one of several new beginnings for me. It was my first year as the new Deacon and all the joy and excitement that this ministry presents. And in this past year I also experienced the new beginning of a new job at the bank; not just a new job, but one of the first to help launch a new position.

How many of us have experienced "new beginnings"? Remember when you began school as a young child? Perhaps your memory is more of the beginning of school for your own children. Beginning a new job; now that's always an adventure; one mixed with excitement and perhaps a little apprehension. When you said "I do" that was a new beginning as husband and wife.

As people of faith, we have arrived at what St. John calls "in the beginning". How interesting that the evangelist chose a phrase we could relate to. In the beginning is something we can understand. But St. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knew, as we know now, there really wasn't a beginning after all. God is eternal; there is no beginning!

We tend to focus on the beautiful story of the announcement to Mary by the angel of the conception of Jesus in her immaculate womb. And we tend to focus on the beautiful readings of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus and his coming to the world as a baby amidst the animals and chaos of a lowly stable, first worshipped by the poor shepherds of the nearby fields.

But St. John tells us clearly in this specially selected Gospel for Christmas Mass during the day, from all eternity, Jesus' participation in the entire divine plan included Him always with God the Father as the Word; the Word that is with God. He was in the "beginning with God" is how John wrote it; again using the word beginning because, well, because we may try to understand.

This is a profound and lofty reflection for us on this beautiful Christmas day. This indeed is the day we celebrate the new life that is Jesus, God made man, the day we ponder His birth. But John is helping us see that it is also the perfect day to ponder His divine "always-ness"; if I may invent a new word! The babe we welcome into our hearts again this Christmas is, was and always will be God the Son, the Word of God, God made man who dwells among us.

And St. John clearly helps us see that the Christ is the light. Jesus is the light that casts away the darkness. This is not the darkness of night time or that accompanies a thunderstorm, Jesus the light casts away the darkness that resullts from sin and division and turning away from Him. And to be this light for all of us, to be the light that guides all humanity, Jesus, the very Word of God, became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And St. John then tells us; we saw His glory.

On this Christmas morning, as 2009 slips into it's last few days, do we see His glory? What does Jesus dwelling among us mean to us today? What room have we made in our own hearts, for the Son of God and Son of Mary? Can we spend some time during what is left of our Christmas Day celebration and ponder these two questions? Can we keep Jesus paramount in our thoughts and words as we delve into the turkey, rip open the presents and travel to and from grandma's house today? And just one last thougt...

Celebrate the entirety of Christmas. Christmas Day is another "in the beginning". We now start our Christmas celebration. The Christmas Day Octave is the church's way of celebrating this divine plan of salvation today, all the way through next Friday. Many of us are off work in the week ahead. Make a comittment to attend Mass during the Octave, or stop by the church and make a holy hour in front of the Tabernacle. And as we visit with friends and family this week, do see with profound kindness and keep in our heart and mind, those who may be very lonely this Christmas.

Yes, perhaps today is another new beginning in your life. Maybe the coming New Year will be filled with other new beginnings. May we reflect on the beautiful beinning of today's Gospel story which really is not a beginning at all. He always has been, is and will be. And to that we all can say; Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Homily for Midnight Mass 2009

I’ll never forget the great displays of Christmas lights. As a young boy growing up in New Orleans I remember the beautiful lights of Canal Street and the grandly decorated storefronts of D.H. Holmes and Maison Blanche, which included Mr. Bingle. I vaguely remember being driven to the great Centanni home on Canal St. which was among the earliest of the great displays of Christmas lights.

When the grander displays began to dot the landscape, from the Copeland home to the festive lights of City Park, there I was dutifully bringing my children to see the lights. Now I get to enjoy the great display of lights right here at home on the Northshore.

We all are drawn to the light. Light makes us feel safe. Light makes us feel welcome. Light makes us feel warm.

As people of faith, we rejoice tonight as we bask in the warmth and safety and welcoming embrace of the Light.

The great prophet Isaiah proclaims “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” Isaiah lived some 700 years before the birth of Jesus yet he is prophesying about the great light. And what is that light? Isaiah answers that question, “a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests”.

The Gospel that the church proclaims at Midnight Mass is the great Lucan narrative of the birth of Jesus. It is perhaps the best known of all Gospel readings proclaimed at any Mass. All the important names are mentioned; even Caesar Augustus and Quirinius which gives us historical context. But what we hear next, while historical, is far more than just facts; it is the incarnation of God who has come to save us. We hear of Joseph and Mary setting off to the city of David, Bethlehem. This would be a long and difficult journey for Mary, heavy with child. And it came to be that while in this city, Bethlehem is born our savior, Christ the Lord. Perhaps the most beautiful depiction of this event of our salvation that I have ever seen is the movie released a few years ago simply titled, the Nativity. In the breath taking scene of the birth of Jesus, effective use of light dramatically points us to the real light of the world who dispels the darkness of sin, the infant Jesus, born of Mary and conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. And we can never forget that light accompanied the angels who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. And it is the light of the brightest star that leads the Magi to the Christ child.

For us tonight, on one of the darkest nights of the year, are we bathed in the light of Christ? Do we allow the light that is the Christ illumine our way, on a straight and even path avoiding that sin which keeps us in darkness? And when we do sin, when we do fall away, do we seek the light? Just as light makes us feel safe and warm and welcome in a storm or on lonely travels, returning to the light of Christ will make us safe from sin, warm from the coldness of the lack of Jesus’ presence in our lives and welcomed by Him who was born, lived on this earth, died and rose again for us.

May we rejoice in that light tonight! As we remember the awe and wonder at seeing those beautiful Christmas lights, may we allow that light of Christ to shine forth this Christmas and in the New Year ahead!

And tonight, may our voices blend with those of the angels as we cry out in joy, Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace on whom his favor rests!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let the Christmas Season begin!

Ok, confused and befuddled world; we can now let the Christmas season begin. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Has it not been Christmas all this time. Well, the real answer is no. Depending on what part of the world you live in, Christmas begins anywhere from 2 to 20 hours from now as the Christmas liturgy begins. For us locally, central time in the great state of Louisiana, that will be around 4 p.m. tomorrow. Yep, it's still Advent.

I got a little glimpse of Christmas time tonight as I shared the readings and prayers from the Christmas Midnight Mass with the men of Rayburn prison. This was as close to Christmas Day liturgy as these guys will get. They will be in my prayers on Friday!

When Christmas arrives, the season begins and extends to the Epiphany, what we call King's Day down here (January 6th, also the start of Carnival) and all the way til the Feast of the Baptism. And just in case you have forgotten, Christmas is a Feast and it is an Octave. The Church celebrates Christmas Day over a period of eight days. Every celebration of Mass will be celebrating Christmas until we arrive at the Feast of Mary, Mother of God on January 1st.

It still concerns me what little focus the world gives to Christmas once December 25th has come and gone. Christmas is just beginning. This is, in part, because we have confused Christmas with shopping malls and obscene amount of gifts showered on many who really are in little to no need of any gifts. Not to mention, confusing Christmas with a 30 day window to drink and drink some more, as if the drinking done the other 335 days of the year is not enough.

Now before you dismiss me as some old brood who is sounding overly preachy, please understand that I embrace the desire to spend quality time with family and friends, to celebrate the year end festivities and to have a good time. I'm simply suggesting that Christmas still can be all about celebrating Christ, who comes to us as a baby to save us from our own sins. A family dinner after a family celebrates Mass is a tradition that can still be followed. Saying a family prayer near the nativity scene is still a great idea for Christmas. And maybe spending a lot less on junk and a lot more on the poor and needy is still the right thing to do.

So let's get ready to declare loudly and boldly, Merry Christmas and begin celebrating the day that lasts 8 days and the Christmas season that lasts well into January.

Joy to the World!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Let there be night

Have you noticed the darkness lately? For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, today is the first day of winter and the darkest day of the year. Today, the daylight is shorter than the darkness; and depending on how far north you are it is more profound.

For most of us, we don't really like this. Most of us are desirous of daylight savings time and like the 8 or 9 p.m. before the sun fully sets. But these days it's more like 5 p.m. or maybe even earlier. Darkness reminds us that we are entering these long, cold days of winter.

And yet it will be in this darkest of weeks that we celebrate light. The light that entered the world as a newborn we commemorate in just a few short nights. A few years ago my wife and I went to the movies to see the Nativity. I was reminded of this just yesterday in a homily by Archbishop Hughes, retired from New Orleans. In his recollection of this beautiful movie, the Archbishop recounted the effective use of light, against the backdrop of a very dark night, to announce the joy of the arrival of the newborn King.

In the liturgy for Christmas day, one of our Gospel's is from St. John that speaks of the light that has come to the world. That light of course is Jesus Christ.

As we venture through the coming days, and even weeks of early darkness, can we focus on the true light of our lives? Can we see the brightness of the Father's glory? May we never be fearful of the darkness for the true light is always with us. So we can say, let there be night for Christ is our light!

Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming!

With Advent nearly over and Christmas upon us in a few days; this is worthy of your listening.

Here is praying that you are preparing for a truly meaninful Christmas with the Blessed Son of God, the Rose blooming from Jesse's stem!

A Blessed Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Awesome feel good story about high school kindness

This is a great story, simply beautiful. I'm proud to say this is our local high school for the Abita Springs community where my daughter graduated in 2007. Enjoy:

Fontainebleau High School community rallies round its homecoming queen

As the senior maids sat nervously awaiting the results of the election for Fontainebleau High School homecoming queen, Sarah Liuzza and Annie Kurtz didn't want to hear their names called. Instead, they hoped the student body would make this selection of school royalty a special one.

Their wishes were granted when a tiara was placed on the head of Katie Brewster. It didn't matter to Liuzza, Kurtz or anyone else at the Mandeville-area school that Brewster couldn't tell them thank you in words. The 21-year-old special needs student who suffers from cerebral palsy said it all with just a smile.

It has been six weeks since Brewster was voted homecoming queen, and the glow surrounding her face is still there. On a daily basis, she interacts with friends at school, thanks in part to the "Bulldogs Buddies" program. Through this program, students spend time and help coordinate events for their classmates with special needs, such as their own Special Olympics in the spring and an Easter egg hunt.

Mostly, though, students like Liuzza and Kurtz, both of whom are Bulldog Buddies, just want to befriend those who are less fortunate. The program, which opened with 10 or 12 students several years ago, now has roughly 150 participants from the school's enrollment of 1,942 -- the second-largest in the state, after Lafayette High School.

"I think it says so much (about Fontainebleau students) that we're all just so welcoming," Liuzza said.

The special needs students "are the sweetest kids you'll ever meet," she said. "Just to see their faces light up when you write them a note or give them a hug, it's the best thing ever."

Said Kurtz: "It made the whole experience so much greater for her to win, and we had a lot of fun. I was definitely rooting for her. Everyone was rooting for her."

Michelle Anderson, Brewster's mother, had a hard time explaining how she felt, and her feelings of joy were not simply for her daughter's victory, but for the children who marked the ballots and the ones who sat beside her daughter on the stage awaiting the results.

"These are all queens, all of them," Anderson said. "Their heart is just in what they are doing. I'm a mother, I can tell.

Katie Brewster was elected homecoming queen by her classmates at Fontainebleau High School. The school community rallied around her nomination and election.
She said her daughter "was tickled. A lot of times our kids can be invisible, and I think that she was so proud. I look back at pictures and video, and the look on her face, I just knew at that moment that she truly felt a part of everything."

The process began with Brewster being nominated by her senior class homeroom. From there, she became a finalist, at which point she was guaranteed to be named either maid or queen. Anderson had a hard time believing the final results.

"I almost passed out," she said. "There were kids who were Facebooking her and in the hallways saying, 'I'm going to vote for you for queen,' and I kept saying, 'Stop with the Q word; we're just grateful to be where we are. Quit.' I didn't really even entertain the idea."

Anderson seems to be in the minority in that regard. When the school's principal, Johnny Vitrano, found out, he said he wasn't all that surprised. That doesn't mean he didn't have a tear or two in his eyes when he heard the results.

"When they told me right before they announced it, I was just blown away with pride about how our student body would do such a good thing," Vitrano said.

As for just about everyone diagnosed with cerebral palsy, life hasn't been easy for Brewster. She has seizures and a plethora of orthopedic issues. She has had 16 surgeries and wasn't able to walk until she was 7 years old.

For the first 10 years of Brewster's life, her mother was more concerned with the physical aspects of the affliction. Since then, Anderson has made education a top priority, especially the past few years.

Teacher Susan Furlan is working with her special needs class on Christmas cultures and traditions across the world, focusing on one country each day until the beginning of winter break next week. The level of learning varies among students, depending on their circumstances, and Furlan always makes sure she is there for them.

"We do lots of academic things, because I haven't given up on them," she said. "A lot of people think that when they are at this age and they have significant disabilities, they've already peaked. Well, I don't believe that."

The students' faces aren't the only ones a little brighter these days. Vitrano watches from a distance and gets emotional, knowing he has something special at his school.

"This year at the homecoming dance, I'm monitoring from the stage, and to see our Bulldog Buddies, some of these girls who are just outstanding students and beauties, and they leave their little clique," he said. "They go over to their special needs kids, and they dance with them and spend time with them. At that time when they are all dressed up and in their little peer environment, and they would leave that and go to those kids makes that all the more special. You can't teach that."

Anderson attests that the program has been instrumental, especially for her daughter. As she has watched her daughter grow, Anderson more than recognizes how important the Fontainebleau family has been for Brewster.

"The one thing that I have said before is that Katie is standing on their shoulders, and they put her there. It has been amazing."

A weekend in review; the good, the bad and the ugly

On this Sunday night before Christmas, I'm reflective about a weekend that had so many twists and turns. By now I have shared with you the ordeal of my daughter's armed robbery and the recovery process in place. I still can't believe that call came just this Friday night. And I'm still thrilled that she is safe and praying hard to avoid anger at what happened. We still have a few hurdles to jump through to replace stuff, but we accomplished much yesterday. Again, she is unhurt and safe; thanks be to God!

The Saints loss did take a lot of wind out of the sails of a nearly impossible dream; the undefeated season. But the cooler heads prevail reaction today is, hey 13-1 and firmly in control of our playoff destiny. Especially because this is Christmas week, most of us will just take a deep breath and await Saints vs. Tampa Bay on Sunday next.

The entire weekend was not without great moments. I was able to preach a homily for the second time this Advent season and reflect more deeply on the beautiful readings from St. Luke's awesome Gospel. I posted my homily on this site earlier today. To reflect on that beautiful story of the visitation was a spiritual experience. Perhaps it helped me today as my wife, daughter and I visited with family we all have not been together with since an unfortunate scheduling event this summer caused some tensions. But all was calm and peaceful and really nice. My nephew has the most precocious, adorable little almost seven year old that just brightens a room by here mere presence. It was wonderful to be with her and the family today.

Earlier today I was able to serve as Deacon of the Cup at our beloved St. Louis Cathedral. Our celebrant was retired Archbishop Alfred Hughes who was my ordaining Bishop just 1 short year ago. The 4th Sunday of Advent liturgy was beautiful and was presented in front of an amazing large standing room only crowd. It was interesting to see so many worhsippers in clothing representing the Saints and yes the Cowboys as well as the college fans in town for the New Orleans Bowl in the Superdome tonight. After Mass, Archbishop Hughes, who is always so generous with his time, gave a special blessing to my daughter for peace and healing after her ordeal.

Over the course of the weekend, as I was preoccupied with so many events related to assisting my daughter, I did pay attention to the news coming out of Rome. Pope Benedict 16th declared venerable the beloved John Paul the Great. This is an important step on the road to a formal declaration of Sainthood by the Catholic Church. He also declared Pope Pius XII venerable as well. Perhaps we are not as familiar with Pius XII. He served as the Supreme Pontiff during the World War II years and all the way til 1958. His pontificate was misunderstood and controversial but history is showing his strength during the war and his compassion in the delicate way he helped save so many Jewish people from slaughter. He also was ahead of the times looking into discussions on a permanent diaconate and reforms that later occured thanks to Vatican II.

And I have followed some sad news too. I've read today of the death of a beautiful 32 year old actress named Brittany Murphy from what authorities are calling natural causes? And we just found out that the young, talented albeit troubled wide receiver from the Bengals, Chris Henry, will be buried this week in a small town near here. Henry was a local high school standout.

All of this reminds me this week to live life fully. Perhaps the best way to do this is to follow the motto of St. Jane de Chantal, the patroness of my church parish: Live Jesus+. Neither of those two young people thought these last few days would be their last on earth; just as my daughter never thought she would have to stare down her mortality as a 20 year old college student. But what endures this week is the joyful hope of God sent to us as a baby boy. Born of the Virgin, He came to save us. And whether our life is full of good news or bad, smooth paths or unexpected twists and turns, Jesus Christ is the one sure hope on which we can rely. The joy of seeing the delight of a young child, like that of my young neice or some of those who received wrapped Christmas gifts from strangers yesterday and the hope that permeated the life of Venerable John Paul the Great, or the example of patience and kindness demonstrated by Archbishop Hughes or the realization that my own daughter is home safe; these are those examples that lift us when we are low and keep us moving forward when the world weighs us down.

Make this an awesome week ahead; an awesome week. Live it fully. Spend it with God. Prepare fully and worthily for Christmas; it is upon us. Relflect on the true meaning of this special Holy Day. Love your family, embrace your friends, seek Christ in all you encounter and talk to God. And Live Jesus+.

Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent

The other day at work a client came to see me and I was immediately at a disadvantage. She knew me, even seemed to be very familiar with me. After a few minutes I had to admit to the client, I do not recognize you. She laughed and explained to me that since we last visited, she had lost 100 pounds. No wonder I did not recognize her.

We all have been placed in positions where we fail to recognize people. High school reunions and long lost relatives that we may see at a special gathering call this to mind.

Recognition is the focus of two long time Christmas specials I’ve enjoyed since childhood. In the animated feature Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, from the mid sixties, we are treated to the characters from the island of misfit toys. This was a place for broken or mismatched toys to be simply discarded. Rudolph arranges for Santa to rescue these toys and distribute them to children who may not have anything. The storyline was a way to say to all of us that we should recognize value in love and friendship and kindness. Then you have the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon where the kids no longer recognize the real meaning of Christmas until Linus takes the stage and tells Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas; right from the pages of the second chapter of St. Luke.

As people of faith, do we recognize the true meaning of the coming of Christ as the Babe of Bethlehem? Do we recognize Mary’s role in brining forth our Savior? And how are we preparing for the coming of Christ in our lives?

The Gospel reading today gives us two women as the main players in the beautiful story of the Visitation. Mary, just informed of her role to bring forth Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, obediently takes off to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary, just a child of perhaps 14 years of age, recognizes that all that has been told to her is truly of God. Her journey was difficult. The distance is about 60 miles, on foot or riding a donkey. The land has elevation and difficult weather. Yet she goes in haste. What happens upon her arrival? Elizabeth recognizes her young cousin Mary but more importantly, recognizes her special role as Mother of God. Her exclamation, “how does this happen to me, that the mother of MY LORD should come to me?” And what about recognition; John the Baptist, in the womb of his mother, hears Mary’s greeting and leaps for joy.

These beautiful examples of recognition that we hear on this last Sunday of Advent teach us all about being prepared for Christ, coming into our lives. Sometimes Christ is brought to us by others. Sometimes He comes to us in the seemingly smallest of ways. In any event, Christ is always coming to us. As we approach this Christmas, can we say confidently, yes, I recognize Him? He always comes to us in Word and Sacrament. He most gloriously comes in the Eucharist. And He comes to us in the Saints and our brothers and sisters. He came to us today in those beautiful children who we distributed toys and gifts to. He comes to us in the homeless man that lives down the way or the elderly neighbor who needs a visit. And yes, He comes to us in the prison inmate who needs a chance at redemption. Do we recognize Him?

And one more lesson, be prepared. Some times we prepare well, other times we fail to prepare adequately. And sometimes our preparation comes from life’s unexpected events that we all must deal with. Just this past Friday night, my daughter was robbed at gunpoint. She’s o.k. but suffered the trials and tribulations associated with such a frightening event. My wife and I went to her aid quickly, in haste you might say. We are thankful that she is well. And yes, I’ll keep a closer eye on her this week. Be prepared, even for that which we can never fully prepare for.

Preparing to recognize Christ this Christmas is a much more joyful task. Like Mary and Elizabeth, we need to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives to help us understand the relationship we are called to have with Christ, the newborn King! Prepare worthily in the week ahead. A sincere confession before the Christmas celebration is a beautiful thing. Extra times are available this week for the sacrament. Reconcile with someone this week. Go ahead, do this before Christmas Day. I know this is not easy. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you. And persevere in prayer, not just commemorating the coming of Jesus at Christmas, but His coming to us in so many ways. Ask Mary to pray with you and thank her for her “yes”. Give thanks! Be prepared to recognize Him!

Find a copy this week of Rudolph and Charlie Brown and watch these scenes of recognition. See the humanity in the characters from the island of misfit toys and the beauty and simplicity of the message about Christmas from a cartoon character. Recognize the Christ who comes to save us and bring us joy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saints loose; but wait a minute; it's December!

Yes, my beloved Saints lost tonight. That's bad. And they lost to the Dallas cowgirls; that's worse. Hey Saints fans, check the calender; it's December. This is the first loss of the season with only two games to go. We could never say this before.

Let's be honest tonight. We lost; Dallas won. We played poorly tonight; Dallas did not, although Dallas did everything to help us out. On this night, we had no magic left. The Saints have played no where near as good as the early part of the season. That bothers me because playoff momentum is all about when a good team peaks. We are far from peaking right now. But it's still reality that the Saints are 13-1.

I want to focus the rest of this article on what I truly believe contributed to tonight's result. And some of what I'm about to criticize is understandable. Fans of a NFL franchise need to decide if they are a fan of the game, the team and the end result or if they need to create their own fantasy world. Every NFL city has this so I'm not just picking on New Orleans. But quite frankly, we as a fan base, and the putrid media we have down here, messed this up big time. For weeks now, everything has been 16-0 and perfect this and SuperBowl that. And with each passing week, the visible vocal message coming from the Saints locker room began to shift. Everyone talked more about the record, do we rest players in the end, can we compete with Indianapolis, etc. Newsflash: WE ARE NOT PLAYING THE COLTS. This weeks opponent, Dallas, ignored the Saints hype and put a game plan together that for most of the night looked like an old fashioned butt kicking.

Our local media has already crowned the Saints Super Bowl Champs. I understand home cooking, but this stupidity has gotten out of hand. We actually have people, businesses, Mardi Gras parades, concerts, church events cancelling all activity for Super Bowl weekend because the Saints will be there. Hello; you still have to earn your way to the Super Bowl. The best team in the NFL, by far, last year was the Tennessee Titans at 15-1. And it was an impressive 15-1. They got their heads handed to them in the only playoff game they got to participate in. Again, it's ok to believe in your team, it's assinine to carry on like we have, prompted by the media.

There are two great guilty villiams in this fiasco; the whole crew at WVUE-8, our Fox affiliate and Bobby Hebert on WWL radio. My goodness, WVUE will show 3 hours of drunk fans inventing new ways to pronounce Who-Dat and Bobby Hebert talks and talks and talks and talks and talks and talks and talks and talks. While he is skilled enough to give a football fan some meaty things to gnaw on, most of his schtick is Who Dat this and Who Dat nation that and let me answer your question before you ask it because I know better. These folks, along with others have whipped up fans, who know little about football to a point where I beleive it infiltrated the locker room. Do we really need Drew Brees on Leno?

For me, I want some analysis of the game. Hey Saints fans, anybody catch multiple ESPN and NFL network analysis all week about how Dallas defensive personnel stack up impressively against Saints offense? Or, how Dallas is devising a scheme to disrupt receiver routes? No, we want to know who else will cancel an event for Super Bowl weekend, who will produce another Saints in SuperBowl CD or how many interesting ways can we pronounce, sing, shout or write Who Dat. Hey gang, it's still about the game and we play them a week at a time.

I'm very proud of a 13-1 Saints, who still, despite a crappy game, were in a position in the end to tie the game. As for me, I want to know about the next game, and the game plan and what will our approach be for the playoffs. I don't care about hype. Even as I'm writing this a local station is interviewing fans on Bourbon Street. WHO CARES. And the last thing I want to hear this week is Bobby Hebert; he's still talking and talking and talkin and talking and talking and talking and talking and talking and talking. Geez dude, give it a rest.

Oh yea, Geaux Saints. Play professional football. And thanks for the 13 wins so far this year.

Friday night fright

The peaceful Friday night in Advent, as I was blogging about peaceful preparation for the week ahead, fear creeped in. A phone call shattered the peaceful evening with news from my daughter that she was robbed at gunpoint at work. While she is o.k., the ordeal she had to go through was devastating. It's one of those things you wish you could have stood in her place and protected her from having to endure.

The good news also is the police told her she did everything right. And she helped to keep some young teenage customers calm. This ordeal resulted in having to replace things like credit cards, car keys, cell phones and the like. All things that can easily be replaced.

My reflection on this is simply that none of us are immune from bad news; from those life changing events that rock your world. In God's divine plan, evil is allowed to exist. Why people we know and love collide head on with evil I'm not smart enough to explain. How do we handle it? Do we see God's hand in all things; good and bad? How do we rebound?

The days ahead will determine how my daughter responds to this violent episode in her life. My best hunch is she will do just fine. And as in all things, God will provide.

For now, our family focus will be on supporting her, these beautiful last days of Advent and the Christmas holy day that is now just a few short days away.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Friday night preparing

With just a few days left to Advent, I'm wondering tonight how prepared are you for Christmas and what does this really mean? When we mention Christmas preparation most of us go through the holiday check list. We concern ourselves with the gifts we purchased or still need to purchase, which party will we attend or not attend, what will we prepare to eat this year, which house do we go to this year for Christmas day, when do we take the decorations down, or maybe do we still need to put them up? We get all caught up in how Christmas has become such a social event, more secular than ever and for many, more of a hassle than joy.

Yet I dare ask again; how prepared are you for Christmas. For the person who longs to grow and develop their relationship with Jesus, we can prepare in a much more meaningful way. This is why the Church celebrates and emphasizes Advent so much. Look inside most Catholic Churches today and there is no Christmas tree or Nativity scene, yet. Most are adorned simply with a beautiful Advent wreath, the fourth candle of which will be lit this Sunday. Advent, especially this last week of this anticipatory season, calls us to reflect, prepare and purify. Advent, especially this last week before Christmas Day, is a special and beautiful time to attend reconciliation. In just the next week, in all four corners of the world, millions of Catholics will seek this Sacrament, including so many who have been away from the confessional for years, maybe decades. The Holy Spirit moves in this Advent week ahead, as it always does.

Maybe this will be a beautiful week for you to join me and so many others in making a good confession before the great Feast of the Nativity, Christmas. And yes, perhaps it is not too late to do something else beyond the commercial. Seek out an opportunity to contribute to an effort that will brighten someone's holiday. Do you know someone spending the upcoming Christmas in a hospital, nursing home or shelter? What would a visit, or perhaps even a handwritten card or letter, do for their spirits. For me, I will visit with 40 men on the evening before Christmas Eve praying inside a small room in a large men's prison facility. And yes, maybe we can spend some time with family that we just are not as close to as we used to be. The gift of your presence is far superior to your presents.

I'm writing this on the Friday night before Christmas; one week away to the day. I had options tonight. I could have attended parties, gone to the mall or devour a platter of fudge. Instead, I prayed with tonight's evening prayer and read and re-read the Scriptures of this weekend's liturgy. It is the beautiful story from St. Luke of Mary and Elizabeth together, recognizing and acknowledging the coming of Jesus as a newborn babe. And I'm reflecting on the amazing moment tomorrow morning when my parish community distributes 600 toys, gifts and clothes to families struggling in these hard economic times. I can't wait for Christmas because I've learned so much about what it is and what it truly means in this past year. But I pledge to continue preparing in the hours and days ahead leading to the birth of the Lord. My prayer for all of you is that a spirit of preparation and joyful anticipation be yours in the days ahead.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

O Holy Prison!

Tonight was a special night at Rayburn Prison. I'm so thankful that I was able to get off my sickbed of late and take the 45 minute ride up narrow Hwy 21 to the tiny town of Angie. My Catholic teammates that minister to our Catholic community inside the walls of this state prison planned their 3rd annual Christmas Banquet for the me. Having been knee deep in formation and ordination the past two Advents I have never been to this event before. I can assure you, it won't be the last time.

Two lay Catholic volunteers, Mike and John, travel to Angie every other week and lead RCIA and other programs for the Catholic community. On this special night they arranged a meal that would delight the inmates. The food would be stuff you and I take for granted. They wanted salad; that's right, salad. They never get salad in prison. So tonight, they got salad, along with sandwiches, fruit cake, ice cream and egg nog. To these guys, it was a great meal. And of course, we prayed, we sang Christmas carols and we even were serenaded on the saxaphone by one of the men. He even led us in a rendition of when the Saints go Marching In, followed by some Who Dat cheering!

But the most beautiful part of the evening was the 65 or so men singing beautiful Christmas carols like O Come all Ye Faithful, Angels We Have Heard on High and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. When we sang this lyric, "Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place" I could hear them sing a little louder and I got a wonderful feeling of peace. We closed the evening with the men singing beautifully, O Holy Night. And I could not help but think, it most certainly was.

I truly realize that for some of you, this is not your cup of tea. I can only hope by my words and example I can convince you that these men too deserve to grow closer with God and receive Him, worthily in Word and Sacrament. None of this exonerates their crime. But I'll say this over and over again; these men will get out. They have no chance on the outside unless they are right with God and hopefully right with their fellow man.

From day one as their assigned Deacon, I have experienced some of my most joyful moments of ministry inside the Rayburn prison. And tonight was definetely one of them. Yes, I was eating and praying and singing Christmas carols tonight with 65 inmates. And it was a O Holy Night!

Catholics Come Home

One of the more meaningful efforts in bringing Catholics, and others, back to the fullness of truth has been the direct result of an organization aptly titled, Catholics Come Home. This organization, working closely with the Church, has developed an amazing website and has produced one heck of an ad campaign. The ad campaign, which consists of TV commercials, radio and billboard ads, has been credited with an unprecented return of fallen away Catholics in those dioceses where they were successfully run. There are 3 basic commercials, one is simply called "epic". In it, the history of the church is laid out in a manner I suspect most disinterested or fallen away Catholics would hardly recognize. Another commercial, titled the "movie" gives all of us a chance to look back at our lives and recognize our failures but to trust in God's loving mercy. Finally, the last commercial is testimonials of Catholics who have returned to the fullness of truth.

One of the more interesting reads on this remarkable site is the Top 10 list. It should be of no surprise that the #1 thing that brings Catholics home is the hunger for the Eucharist. No where else, save the Catholic Church, can one claim the full presence, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist.

I hope you will take a look. The site is

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A sick day lesson

Today was one of those days I have not had in a very, very long time. Late last night, I knew I was getting sick. I was freezing cold, then burning up. My stomach felt like someone took a bat to it. Then I started to think about what I had eaten earlier in the day. I realized that the leftover pizza I found in the refrigerator at work was, well, about a week old. Yikes! But I was hungry and it was there and I was having a pretty busy day.

I spent today in the bed, and for entertainment, made it to the easy chair and never moved a muscle, except to operate the remote. If what I saw on TV is a typical daytime offering for those who find themselves home everyday, then it's amazing we are not in more serious trouble as a nation and a people. Where do people of faith go? Yes, I stopped in over at EWTN a bit, caught some ESPN analysis about the Saints and watched the test flight of a new airliner, I believe they call it the 787. But this was sanwiched in between such filth as Springer, the View (man those are some uptight and bitter women, except Elizabeth), the foolishness that is all the judge shows, soap operas; are you kidding me. Even shows like Maury, Dr. Phil and others look forward to exploiting people's tragedies and shortcomings.

Why do these shows exist? Because you watch them. Turn this garbage off. I thank God that I spend very little time home during the day but if I do so again in the near future I'll settle for more EWTN, Bonanza reruns and spend more quiet time in prayer.

I hope I get to feeling better real soon. This has all the makings of a big week. Just last night we celebrated Mass for the CCD kids before sending them home for the Christmas break. Tomorrow our deanery, all the parishes in a geographic area, will meet at St. Joseph Abbey for mass and a Christmas social. In the evening we will bring holiday cheer to the men at Rayburn Prison. Thursday brings Theology on Tap and Friday is another social with the morning group that attends daily mass. I really want to feel better now!

I was reminded today about offering it up. So I did. But I thank God that this is usually a very rare event for me. I just need to remember to change the channel!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Love Lucy

I will admit that among all the many wonderful men and women who have been elevated to Sainthood, I never gave much thought to St. Lucy. When the date for our ordination was finally set on December 13, 2008 I looked up the Saint of the day. Remember, my class saw ordination postponed a year because of Hurricane Katrina. I read about Saint Lucy and often invoked her prayerful intercession as I prepared for ordination.

Today, on this my 1st anniversary of ordination to the Permanent Diaconate, I reflect about St. Lucy whose feast day it is, although usurpped this year by the 3rd Sunday of Advent. Lucy is one of those Saints from a very long time ago. She was born in the 3rd century in Syracuse, Sicily. During the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian, Lucy refused to marry a suitor. The governor arrested her, had her sentenced and ordered her to live in a brothel. She refused to go and was ordered to be burned to death. Everytime they tried, the flames were unable to consume her. Finally, Lucy suffered martyrdom for her faith when she was stabbed through the throat. This occurred around the year 304.

Her name, Lucy, means light and she is the patron Saint of those with eye troubles. One of the ancient legends of St. Lucy is that she literally tore her own eyes out to present to her suitor who admired the beauty of her eyes. Of course the suitor was disgusted at the sight of her vacant eye sockets.

Her feast day was established on December 13th. Her feast day will forever be linked to my ordination day. That is why I Love Lucy!!!

I can't help myself this week either

So this may become a weekly habit; at least for a couple of months!!!! If you read my blog you know I'm a Saints fan; have been one since I was a 10 year old boy. The magical season continues today with a close victory over those pesky Atlanta Falcons. Before I comment on the game let's first talk about this phenomenal season. The victory moves the Saints to 13-0. This is a season victory total we have never seen since the Saints birth in 1966. In any given preseason if you could tell a Saints fan we'll get 13 wins we all would say heck yea!!! The Saints do have a chance at a perfect season but it will be tough. Saints continue to fight through injuries and today, like last week, was an example of our opponents giving their very best.

In today's game I never could figure out where the defense was; especially the front line. They put no pressure on the back-up QB, who played brilliantly today, and this might be the first time all year an opponent put up 14 unanswered points when the Saints are leading. And then the play calling near the end when we had the ball was curious. We took ourselves out of position to milk the clock and make a big score that would have sealed the deal with 2 minutes remaining. And then the fake field goal; what the heck was that? But in the end, Jonathan Vilma made the tackle of the year. And the Saints are 13-0.

This is light years for Saints fans as we get testy over the quality of the win, or how much luck was involved. After years of blowing leads, never catching a break or inventing unique and curious ways to blow a game, we now want it all. We just don't want a win, we want a crisp victory. We want 40 points or more every game. We want to dominate. Well this is indeed new for us. Other teams that consistently win 13 or 14 games don't get lots of inspection of how they do it. Most of us know they just do it. What I am saying is; in the end, whether we win 14, 15 or yes, 16 games, it does not matter how; it just mattters that it happened.

So the Saints continue to motivate and lead a city and a region through our post Katrina realities. It's been wild and it's been fun. And there very well should be more to come. Next week it's Dallas. The Cowboys will probably be another tough test. Or will the Saints put all the pieces together and play like they did against the Patriots? We'll see in 6 days.

So today, geaux Saints. You pulled on out and came up big when it counted most. One game at a time; one game at a time. Let's win so I can blog away about the NFC South championship football New Orleans Saints!

Homily for Gaudete Sunday December 13, 2009

The game has ended, the winners stride across the field basking in the thrill of victory. Then we glimpse a camera crew chasing down the most valuable player of the game shouting the question; you have just won the Super Bowl, now what are you going to do? I’m going to Disney World, comes the reply.

How about the longest running TV show that begins with a question every Saturday night: bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do; what you gonna do when they come for you?

We all have asked or have been asked the question; what should we do. Perhaps with all the rain we have experienced these last few weeks are the kids asking what can we do to have fun? Or with Christmas now less than 2 weeks away do you find yourself asking what should we do to get ready?

As people of faith, what should we do to prepare for the coming of the Lord?

This Third Sunday of Advent is full of many questions. Many of them revolve around John the Baptist, always a key player in our Advent journey of faith. Other questions are more obvious for all of us gathered here today. Why are the Priest and Deacon wearing pink? Why did we light a pink candle on the Advent wreath? What is this big fancy word we hear today: Gaudete?

We have indeed arrived at Gaudete Sunday. This is the Sunday in Advent that focuses on rejoicing! The vestments reflect this focus. These vestments are reserved for only 2 Sundays every year; today Gaudete Sunday and the 3rd Sunday of Lent, known as Laetare Sunday. Gaudete is the latin for rejoice. And indeed we hear the Christian imperative to be joyful people in our 2nd reading: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again rejoice!”
Even our responsorial psalm says we should “cry out with joy and gladness!”

Our Gospel finds the people in joyful anticipation of the Messiah. Many have come to believe that they have found him in John the Baptist. The people begin asking him many questions. In today’s Gospel alone they ask 3 times, “what should we do?” His answers about sharing coats and treating people fairly sound very Messiah like. But John has always been faithful to his mission and that mission is to point to the real Messiah, Jesus, who comes to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.

From his very beginning, John has served the Lord. It was John, as a babe in the womb of his mother Elizabeth that leapt for joy when Mary, carrying Jesus in her own body greets Elizabeth. It was John who went out into the desert to prepare the way of the Lord. It was John who declares I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. And it was John who said I must decrease so He may increase.

We can take much away this joyful Sunday from John.

This Gaudete Sunday carries special meaning for me. At about this hour just one short year ago, I knelt before the Archbishop as he laid his hands on me, ordaining me to the Permanent Diaconate. As he placed the Book of the Gospels in my hand, I heard these words, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, practice what you teach.”

This is what we are called to do as well. This is the way to be joy-filled people of faith. This is what John the Baptist did! This is the answer to the question, what should we do? This is how to prepare this Advent for the coming of the Lord.

No, not all of us are called to Holy Orders. Sitting in the pew, many of us will never be called to the Priesthood or the Diaconate. But all of us are called, by that very same Baptism John mentions in today’s Gospel, to serve and to rejoice!

For you and me this means in the days ahead that we slow down, just a little, and prepare for the coming of Christ in our hearts and in our lives. How? Do we have 2 coats to share with the person who has none? Do we have some food to share with the person who has none? Do we have someone we have treated harshly or unfairly who needs to hear from us? Do we need to forgive someone who perhaps has treated us likewise?

Do we believe what we read? Do we spend time with the Bible other than a Sunday morning? Do we teach the faith, especially to our own children and grandchildren and do we practice what we teach with kind words and acts of kindness?

All this we can focus on in the week ahead.

What should we do? What are we gonna do?

Maybe we are not going to Disney World, and I pray no on here has the authorities coming after you, but we can all answer the question what should we do?

Believe what you read…
Teach what you believe…
Practice what you teach…

Rejoice! I shall say it again: REJOICE!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Guadalupe~Mother of the Americas

Our Lady of Guadalupe - Guadalupe, Mexico (1531)
Patroness of the Americas
Feast Day in the USA - December 12th

The opening of the New World brought with it both fortune-seekers and religous preachers desiring to convert the native populations to the Christian faith. One of the converts was a poor Aztec indian named Juan Diego. On one of his trips to the chapel, Juan was walking through the Tepayac hill country in central Mexico. Near Tepayac Hill he encountered a beautiful woman surrounded by a ball of light as bright as the sun. Speaking in his native tongue, the beautiful lady identified herself:

"My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother's Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace. So run now to Tenochtitlan and tell the Bishop all that you have seen and heard."
Juan, age 57, and who had never been to Tenochtitlan, nonetheless immediately responded to Mary's request. He went to the palace of the Bishop-elect Fray Juan de Zumarraga and requested to meet immediatly with the bishop. The bishop's servants, who were suspicious of the rural peasant, kept him waiting for hours. The bishop-elect told Juan that he would consider the request of the Lady and told him he could visit him again if he so desired. Juan was disappointed by the bishop's response and felt himself unworthy to persuade someone as important as a bishop. He returned to the hill where he had first met Mary and found her there waiting for him. Imploring her to send someone else, she responded:

"My little son, there are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen."
She then told him to return the next day to the bishop and repeat the request. On Sunday, after again waiting for hours, Juan met with the bishop who, on re-hearing his story, asked him to ask the Lady to provide a sign as a proof of who she was. Juan dutifully returned to the hill and told Mary, who was again waiting for him there, of the bishop's request. Mary responded:

"My little son, am I not your Mother? Do not fear. The Bishop shall have his sign. Come back to this place tomorrow. Only peace, my little son."
Unfortunately, Juan was not able to return to the hill the next day. His uncle had become mortally ill and Juan stayed with him to care for him. After two days, with his uncle near death, Juan left his side to find a priest. Juan had to pass Tepayac Hill to get to the priest. As he was passing, he found Mary waiting for him. She spoke:

"Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under myshadow and protection? Your uncle will not die at this time. There is no reason for you to engage a priest, for his health is restored at this moment. He is quite well. Go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that are growing there. Bring them then to me."
While it was freezing on the hillside, Juan obeyed Mary's instructions and went to the top of the hill where he found a full bloom of Castilian roses. Removing his tilma, a poncho-like cape made of cactus fiber, he cut the roses and carried them back to Mary. She rearranged the roses and told him:

"My little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that with this sign I request his greatest efforts to complete the church I desire in this place. Show these flowers to no one else but the Bishop. You are my trusted ambassador. This time the Bishop will believe all you tell him."
At the palace, Juan once again came before the bishop and several of his advisors. He told the bishop his story and opened the tilma letting the flowers fall out. But it wasn't the beautiful roses that caused the bishop and his advisors to fall to their knees; for there, on the tilma, was a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary precisely as Juan had described her. The next day, after showing the Tilma at the Cathedral, Juan took the bishop to the spot where he first met Mary. He then returned to his village where he met his uncle who was completely cured. His uncle told him he had met a young woman, surrounded by a soft light, who told him that she had just sent his nephew to Tenochtitlan with a picture of herself. She told his uncle:

"Call me and call my image Santa Maria de Guadalupe".
It's believed that the word Guadalupe was actually a Spanish mis-translation of the local Aztec dialect. The word that Mary probably used was Coatlallope which means "one who treads on snakes"! Within six years of this apparition, six million Aztecs had converted to Catholicism. The tilma shows Mary as the God-bearer - she is pregnant with her Divine Son. Since the time the tilma was first impressed with a picture of the Mother of God, it has been subject to a variety of environmental hazards including smoke from fires and candles, water from floods and torrential downpours and, in 1921, a bomb which was planted by anti-clerical forces on an altar under it. There was also a cast-iron cross next to the tilma and when the bomb exploded, the cross was twisted out of shape, the marble altar rail was heavily damaged and the tilma was...untouched! Indeed, no one was injured in the Church despite the damage that occurred to a large part of the altar structure.

In 1977, the tilma was examined using infrared photography and digital enhancement techniques. Unlike any painting, the tilma shows no sketching or any sign of outline drawn to permit an artist to produce a painting. Further, the very method used to create the image is still unknown. The image is inexplicable in its longevity and method of production. It can be seen today in a large cathedral built to house up to ten thousand worshipers. It is, by far, the most popular religious pilgrimage site in the Western Hemisphere.

*from catholic online at

Has it really been one year already

Below is a copy of an email letter I just sent off to all my family and friends on the upcoming one year anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate. I wanted to post it here as well as I am so grateful to all of you who support my ministry and read my blog. By the way, this was one fast year!

To all my dear family & friends:

I sit down tonight to share with all of you my joy and profound thankfulness on this milestone weekend. On this very weekend one year ago I received the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon my ordination as a Catholic Deacon. The actual anniversary is Sunday, December 13th. It seems like just a few weeks ago but in fact it has been a year already since these life changing events.

I remember with great fondness the outpouring of love and support from so many of you as ordination drew near. Throughout the events of that special weekend I literally could feel your prayers as they fortified me during ordination and this past year. The many gifts bestowed on me are used often in ministry, liturgy and the works of charity and service that mark my ministry. In so many ways, many of you paved the way for me to minister to God’s people as a Catholic Deacon.

Even though the year has past so very fast, I have loved every minute fulfilling God’s work and the ministry of sacramentalizing service. As most of you know, my primary ministry is the Catholic pastoral care that I direct at Rayburn Correctional Center. Along with my many lay volunteers, we minister to 25-50 inmates every month. We have been able to work with several men who are pursuing conversion to the faith. I also ventured into the ecumenical worship movement at Rayburn and continue to support these efforts. I am thankful for the many Priests who stepped forward in 2009 and celebrated Mass and listened to confessions. These nights are so very special for the men.

I have also been blessed to be assigned liturgically at my home parish of St. Jane de Chantal in Abita Springs. From that very first Sunday when I put on the dalmatic and preached, my parish family has been prayerfully supportive. I have been blessed to preach at least once if not twice monthly. Perhaps one of the more personally joyful events of being a Deacon for me has been the opportunity to baptize our new little Christians. Every Baptism has been different but all have been very special. While I did not have many opportunities to witness weddings, working with young couples preparing for that special day or working with those either repairing a marriage or working through an annulment has been another blessing.

And then comes those amazing moments when you realize that you are actively engaged in ministry, right where you are; at work, a community event, the store, visiting friends or neighbors. The beautiful thing about being a Permanent Deacon is you always are one. This is not a role or a task you put on and take off. You are always a Deacon. And as I have said so many times in my communications this past year; for the Deacon it’s not about what you do but who you are!

One of those unexpected blessings of this past year has been my own abitadeacon website. I hope you have had a chance to drop by every now and then. My prayer is that the site will be a wonderful blessing to all who stop by and that you find it informative and spiritually uplifting.

Tomorrow night, on the eve of our 1 year anniversary, me and my 23 fellow Deacon classmates, will gather for Mass and celebration of our milestone. On Sunday, the actual anniversary, I will be preaching at the 11 a.m. Mass just like I did for the very first time last year.

As I continue to thank God for all of you and pray for you, including those of you who came into my life since my ordination, I ask that you do the same for me. Prayerfully asking for God’s abundant blessings on you and your loved ones, I remain…

Yours in our Savior, Christ the Lord,
Deacon Mike

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever! Heb. 13:8

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Candy Canes; more than just candy?

We are all familiar with the candy cane as both a Christmas time treat and a decoration on Christmas trees. In some European churches, particularly the Cologne Cathedral, living creche pageants were common beginning in the 17th century. Often the choirmaster would hand out hard sugary candy shaped like that of a shepherd's crook.

Candy canes as decorations on Christmas trees became popular in the 19th century and this tradition made it's way to America in the early 20th century.

Many people have given religious meaning to the candy cane although a cursory check of Snopes claims this was never the intent of the makers of the candy cane. But the symbolism certainly could be helpful in teaching small ones about Jesus and his love for us. The shape of the current day candy cane held upside down looks like the letter "J". Held right side up the candy cane resembles a shepherd's crook. We all know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd as he watches over all of us as a shepherd looks after his sheep.

Some have assigned the white color on the candy cane the sign of Jesus' purity and his virgin birth. The bold red represents God's love. Others say the red symbolizes the blood shed by Jesus on the cross. The three fine stripes are said to represent the Holy Trinity.

I believe it is of little importance if any of this was the original intent of the creators of the candy cane. And I believe its of little importance how these symbols came to be. Bottom line is this is a beautiful story that can help demonstrate, in a real and tangible way, a little piece of the story of Jesus and his love for us. We can also demonstrate to our children, and each other, that even those things we come to enjoy about our Christmas celebration all can point to Christ.

Sometimes we need to relax and remember, Jesus Christ is lord of all; and he is Lord over our present and the way we celebrate. Look at a candy cane the next time you enjoy one or hang one on a tree and remember Christ as you keep Christ in Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

But these guys get it!

So tonight I faithfully journey to the northernmost part of my Archdiocese to minister to the men in our Catholic community in prison. As is often the case, the evening leaves me with much joy and hope.

Celebrating Advent and coming to them during the week of great feasts in honor of Mary, I used my "homily time" to do a little Catholic teaching. I wanted to explain the Immaculate Conception and further give a little history lesson on Our Lady of Gaudalupe in light of the Protestant Reformation. Based on their reaction and responses, these guys get it. They truly are studying their faith while paying off their debt to society. And then we discussed the role of John the Baptist, beginning with the story of the two "moms"; Elizabeth and Mary. We talked about John's role in announcing the Lord and waving off those who tried to declare him the messiah. They got it too.

And tonight we were blessed to have several new attendees. One wants to return to the Sacraments, one wants to convert, another inquired about confirmation. Then one inmate asked me if he could read something. I've never seen him before so I wondered for a moment what he may want to read. But I asked him to step up front and read the handwritten note on a single sheet of notebook paper. He wrote a thank you note to God, maybe more like a love letter. He thanked God for leading him back and for forgiving him no matter how many times he let God down. He went on to explain that here in prison, he has returned to church and a right relationship with God. And as he concluded this personal sharing, the men applauded with several declaring welcome home, or you are where God wants you to be.

How many times do I hear or experience similar events such as this one when I venture to the "inside". Before you dismiss this with a sarcastic: what else do they have to do in jail? let me tell you; the answer is plenty. They are free not to come, or go to another event, or change faith beliefs. But every week they come. They are enriched by His Word, they receive Him in Holy Communion, they fellowship with God and one another and they pray for their families, their faith to increase, for God's will to be done in their legal matters and for those who come and minister to them and they sing, loud and proud.

My visits inside prison give me hope and joy as I spend time with Catholic men who get it!

My, they just don't get it??

Yesterday the United States Senate voted against the Nelson/Hatch/Casey ammendment that would have put restrictions in the health care bill regarding federal funding for abortions. The ammendment was truly bipartisan. But the Democrats made sure the ammendment failed and the voices that raised concerns that the earlier victory in the House, vis-a-vis the Stupak ammendment, would soon be watered down are proving to be prophetic.

But here is the most disturbing part and almost inexplicable. It truly makes me want to ask the question, why do they not get it? 15 Catholic Senators voted to basically open the door to further expansion of abortion. Catholic Senators! I wonder if they even realized that there vote came on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception; a truly pro-life feast day.

I guess none of us should be surprised. This list of shame has let down real Catholic teaching on life many times before. And before you get too excited, at least in 1 case, the Senator is a Republican. But the other 14 are indeed Democrats including my own home state of Louisiana. Mary Landrieu has often been a little more conservative than other Dems. By no means does she have a pro-life record but she did express intention to support this ammendment. But politics is all games and trade-offs, and she must have gotten something for her unexpected shift. And of course I acknowledge that some believe that Landrieu isn't really Catholic anymore?

Here is the list of our Catholic Senators who publicly declare there rejection of authentic Catholic teaching:

Begich D-AK
Cantwell D-WA
Collins R- ME
Dodd D-CT
Durbin D-IL
Gillibrand D-NY
Harkin D-IA
Kerry D-MA
Landrieu D-LA
Leahy D-VT
McCaskill D-MO
Menedez D-NJ
Mikulski D-MD
Murray D-WA
Reed D-RI

So let's keep praying for hearts to change and abortion to be properly regarded as the murder of innocent life. And let's remember these Senator's by name and any other politican that remains steadfast in promoting a culture of death. Then vote them out.

May God have mercy on this nation!

Monday, December 7, 2009

What is a Holy Day of Obligation

Down through the centuries of the Church, certain days have been determined to be so special in significance that they are declared Holy Days of Obligation. The term obligation is not to imply that we, as the faithful, should feel like we are being forced to attend Mass. The responsibility to willingly and without reservation attend Mass is upon us. The church makes Mass available and treats these holy days as Sundays.

Canon Law does indeed use the term obliged when describing our responsibility to attend Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation and further encourages to refrain from unnecessary servile work.

In the United States, the following days are celebrated as Holy Days of Obligation:

January 1st - Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Thursday of the 6th week of Easter - Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord
August 15th - Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
November 1st - Solemnity of All Saints
December 8th - Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
December 25th - Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

Please note: one of these Holy Days of Obligation is tomorrow!!!

In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, of which I live and serve as a Deacon, the Holy Day of the Ascension is transferred to the following Sunday. In most of the country, it remains a Holy Day on the Thursday.

In other parts of the world, Pentecost is also celebrated on the date it actually falls (I believe 40 days after Ascension) but in the United States it is always celebrated on a Sunday.

Hope this helps. So to all my Catholic friends; get thee to Mass tommorrow and fully celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.