Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Character of Diaconal Ordination

>>>This is amazing; thanks to one of our candidates Jay Frantz for calling this to my attention.

The Character of Diaconal Ordination Deacon James Keating, Ph.D. Ignatius Insight August 17, 2010

For such a "simple" station in the Church's hierarchy, the vocation of the deacon is complex. The complexity arises from the net of relationships in which the deacon finds himself upon ordination, a net that is not to be escaped but embraced. Unfortunately, the intricacy of the relationships of the diaconate can tempt a man to despair as he makes efforts to please all of his constituencies: wife, children, bishop, pastor, employer, parishioners, diocesan officials, fellow deacons, and more. Along with these relationships and the various calls they carry, the deacon also feels pressed to "perform" well in his ministries, which can be various and often emotionally consuming; however, looking at the vocation of deacon from the perspective of what Christ is sharing with him, the deacon can receive clarity on a vital truth: it is not the quantity of acts of service that matter to Christ but simply one's fidelity to the character of ordination. Excessive activity and neurotic hand-wringing about whether "I am doing enough to help others" gives birth only to stress, not holiness. Most deacons of the Western world will go to purgatory because they were too busy exerting themselves, not because their ministry was measured. Jesus will meet them at Purgatory's gate with one question: "Why did you try to do so much?"

The key to living the diaconate in a simple yet effective way is found within one's fidelity to the character received at ordination. The reception of this character allows the deacon to minister in a profound way by letting Christ do the work. As one meditates upon the meaning of diaconal character, one realizes that Holy Orders mediates a gift to be received and not simply tasks to accomplish. If a deacon receives this gift subjectively, the various and complex relationships that make up his life will become a support to him in his ministry and will no longer be rivals for his time and emotional capital.

What Is This Gift, the Character of Holy Orders?

Insofar as it is a grade of holy orders [sic], the diaconate imprints a character and communicates a specific sacramental grace. The diaconal character is the configurative and distinguishing sign, indelibly impressed in the soul, that configures the one ordained to Christ, who made himself the deacon—the servant—of all. It brings with it a specific sacramental grace: a gift for living the new reality wrought by the sacrament. With regard to deacons, "strengthened by sacramental grace they are dedicated to the People of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his body of priests, in the service (diakonia) of the liturgy, of the Gospel and of works of charity." Just as in all sacraments which imprint character, grace has a permanent virtuality. It flowers again and again in the same measure in which it is received and accepted again and again in faith.... The Church further teaches that: By a special sacramental gift, Holy Order confers on the deacon a particular participation in the consecration and mission of Him who became servant of the Father for the redemption of mankind, and inserts him in a new and specific way in the mystery of Christ, of his Church and the salvation of all mankind. [1]
The character received at ordination has been likened to a brand or wound that signifies "ownership." Then-Cardinal Ratzinger noted that this wound or brand "calls out to its owner." [2] In this way, the cleric stands in relationship to the one who has placed his mark upon him. "From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body" (Gal 6:17). A further scriptural understanding of character might be summed up in this Pauline teaching: "Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). Here, Scripture underscores the interior self-surrender of the cleric. He is the one who eagerly hosts the mystery of Christ's public service of charity as his own, as his new life. One man, called to be priest, makes himself permanently available to the sacrificial mystery of Christ; and another man, called to be deacon, makes himself permanently available to the servant mystery of Christ.

This servant mystery and this sacrificial mystery coincide at the Eucharist, wherein Christ offers His body and blood in sacrifice and also "gives example" of what communion with this sacrifice can do to impel self-effacing service (John 13:12ff). Guy Mansini, OSB, notes the following about this diaconal character of service:

The deacon disappears into the action he undertakes at Mass. His service is more purely instrumental, more purely a serving, and if he is an icon of anything, he is an icon of precisely that, self-effacing service. The deacon's function is to keep the circle of charitable receiving and giving turning, both sacramentally and within community. [3]
To become permanently available to Christ is an objective reality imparted upon ordination, but it needs to be ever-personally appropriated anew so its grace "flowers again and again in the same measure in which it is received ... in faith." [4] A further witness to this diaconal character in Scripture is the following: "Let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.... I am among you as the one who serves" (Luke 22:26–27). This service, however, does not simply originate in a man's feelings of empathy toward those in need. Ordained "service" flows from communion with Christ, particularly as it relates to Christ's capacity to listen to His Father. As Psalm 40 notes, "Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me" (vs. 6).

Obedience is the virtue/gift that orders a man to raptly listen to God out of love. One way to better understand obedience would be to meditate upon the story of Mary's attentiveness to Christ in Luke 10:38-42. It is an attentiveness that carries the desire to give the self. It is a listening unto surrender. The Martha figure in the story is a kind and hospitable woman who is serving, but she, unlike Mary, has not chosen the better part. "The better part" indicates a depth of communion with Christ that readies one to give and serve out of that precise communion. The deacon's subjective appropriation to live in communion with Christ is his full response to the objective action of Christ within him that happened at ordination. The deacon is called not to the priesthood, not to offer sacrifice, but to diakonia, service. To serve faithfully, the deacon needs to hear what God desires. This listening or obedience is, of course, one of the most powerful elements, if not the most powerful element, of Jesus' own ministry. "I cannot do anything on my own; ... I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me" (John 5:30).

When Christ inflicts the "wound" of diaconal ordination upon a man, it is to make him vulnerable to the mystery of this obedient service. The desire to serve the Father's will defines the heart of Christ. Is the deacon aware that Christ is now speaking to him about this desire, about the love of the Father He wishes to dispense upon His church? Did the deacon allow the wound of ordination to open the ears of his heart so that he could hear the movement of Christ's own Spirit? Does the deacon wish to obey the Spirit so that he does not work in vain (Ps 127:1)?

There are few virtues more necessary to a deacon than the capacity to listen to Christ in prayer, within the context of listening both to the bishop and to the needs of the diocese. Listening for the needs of the people and then discerning with God what needs can be served by his ministry is a prayer emblematic of the deacon. He, with the bishop, is called to prayerfully imagine approaches to service that do not yet exist in the diocese or approaches that can be better equipped.

The diaconal sacramental character can be summarized in this way: It is a grace that permanently orders a man toward participation in Christ's own simple self-giving, as one who came to serve and not be served. This is the crux of the character: the deacon has become permanently open, unceasingly available to the mystery of this charitable service as it flows from the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This participation in the mystery of Christ's own service establishes the deacon, by right, to facilitate the circulation of Christ's own charity in the Church and beyond. The deacon is an envoy of the Paschal Mystery to the laity, in the hope of serving them in their mission to transform culture for Christ. In this way, the deacon takes what grace he receives when assisting at the altar and gives it to the laity, and then takes what he receives from the laity (their love, suffering, and hardships) and gives it to the priest. The priest, in turn, then offers it to the Father, in and with the sacrifice of Christ. All of this service by the deacon is accomplished in obedience to the pastoral vision of the bishop. [5] When ministering, the deacon embodies the spiritual discernment of the bishop, who has identified or confirmed the needs of the Church and the appropriate response his deacons should take to serve these needs.

Diaconal Life That Flows from This Character

Receiving the gift of Holy Orders, which is in communion with Christ's own pastoral charity, establishes the deacon in freedom. It is not the deacon's "job" to do a lot of "work." It is the deacon's call to stay in a posture of receptivity to the gift Christ gives, in this case, communion with His own servant-love. Specifically, Christ is inviting the deacon to be available in Him to the needs of the diocese, to incarnate the eternal availability of Christ's own heart to the poor (Luke 22:27). What the Lord asks of the deacon is clear: Will you say "yes" to My sharing My availability in you until you die? Will you let Me act in you, through you, so that I might call many to the "banquet" (Luke 14:15–24)? [6] The deacon's call is to be faithful to the character received at ordination so that the people he serves can recognize and come to know Christ. This fidelity is expressed through the unceasing prayer of the deacon within his heart, a conversation that continually places the deacon in a posture of surrender, since he knows that Christ can do more through grace than he, the deacon, can do through action. Christ is the love that bears all things—the deacon must let Him! [7]

The diaconal ministry involves activity, of course, but the key to living in Holy Orders is for the deacon to let the holy order him. In being so ordered, the deacon lets Christ use his natural and acquired gifts as doorways for grace to enter and increase the spiritual potency of his presence to those whom he serves. When he allows the holy to order him, the deacon allows for an effective ministry but not one that depends upon any "bag of tricks" that might have been used in business or in a secular career. Here is where some deacons run afoul and become emotionally exhausted or suffer a form of insecurity or self-doubt. They may ask themselves: "Why aren't people responding to me? I'm a successful businessman, a professional. I'm effective at my job; why not at my ministry?" The transition that needs to be made is one that takes a man from relying on his pool of natural talents and years of professional experience to becoming a man who relies on the depth of his communion with Christ, one who relies on his permanent availability to the servant identity of Jesus. How does a man come to rely on this depth of communion? How, in other words, does one live the character of his ordination?

Participation in the Actions of Christ the Servant

First, this communion is secured by the very actions of the deacon in the course of his ministry of the Word. The deacon is given the privilege and right to proclaim the Gospel. By virtue of his ordination, only he and the priest can utter the very words of Christ in the midst of liturgy. Here, we have a wellspring of intimacy for the deacon and Christ. As the deacon meditates upon the Gospel, Christ draws him into His heart. There, in the heart, Christ speaks to the deacon about His own servant heart, sharing with the deacon Jesus' own will for him regarding ministry and service. The Gospel becomes a point of securing communion with Christ so that ministry flows from an interior place for the good of the people served. Ministry begins and ends in communion with Christ.

Second, the simple service around the altar that assists the priest and keeps the movements of liturgical prayer flowing smoothly becomes a point of secured communion with Christ for the deacon. These movements are so modest that they become effortless over time, thus freeing the heart to be with Christ in the everydayness of Nazareth. Here in the "hidden" simplicity of what are common or ordinary duties—arranging vessels, placing books, pouring wine, reading petitions—the deacon intercedes for the people of the diocese, who may find it hard to discover Christ in ordinary daily circumstances, where love may be void and only duty and suffering are present.

Third, communion with Christ is secured in and through the specific diocesan ministry of each deacon. Here, in the myriad ways deacons witness to the Paschal Mystery in the secular world, the altar is brought to the culture by the grace of Holy Orders. In a way, the deacon continues his ministry at the altar by "enthroning the Word of God" in the matrix of culture. [8] Hopefully, through his diaconal formation, the deacon learned how not only to minister Christ to the people but also to carry Him in prayerful consciousness within the depths of his own heart right in the midst of ministering.

Through these three foundational realities in the deacon's life, he remains available to the "owner" who branded him. Christ calls out to the deacon from within the brand mark, from within the wound that divine love imparted upon him on his ordination day. There is no separation between the mysteries of the altar at which the deacon assists and the effect these mysteries have upon his will and conscience as he embeds himself within culture to serve the laity. This service flows from the deacon's intimacy with the servant love of Christ. This intimacy is the result of Christ's actions upon the deacon and the deacon's subjective openness to Christ at the point of the wound. Unlike a physical wound, this spiritual wound is to remain open so that the deacon can receive from there the love that Christ is pouring into his soul. By desiring for Christ to configure him to a life of self-emptying, the deacon supports and serves the laity in their call to transform culture along the lines of the Eucharistic Mystery—that is, to give witness to the love-infused Body of Christ in public.

If it is true that the deacon "presides at the Liturgy of Charity" [9] and the priest, at the Liturgy of the Eucharist, then it is also true that the deacon gives Christ the freedom to place oil and wine (i.e., divine charity, Luke 10:34) into the needs of the Church as She labors to give witness to the love of Christ in public. In his ministry to the laity, he empties himself of social standing so that Christ can act in him to encourage the Church to give witness. The deacon makes himself available to Christ so that He can configure himself to the suffering of those who feel the cost of standing up for the Gospel in public. The deacon remains empty with them, depending solely on the power of grace. This emptiness is full because it flows from the sacramental character that defines the deacon and from the mutual participation of deacon and the laity at the altar.

If the deacon is faithful to his call in all its complexity, he will be able to encourage the laity to give rise to their greatest gift in this or any age: to become the Church in public. This witness flows from the altar, from the sacrificial service of Christ, a reality the Church consumes in love at the Eucharist. Fidelity to Holy Orders flows from a communion with Christ that is expressed in two different but complementary directions: priestly sacrifice (priesthood) and service to those who suffer (diaconate), so that in the end, Christ will be all in all (the mission of the laity). Christ brings us all to His Mystery so He can accomplish it in us. [10] Having communion with the sacrifice will compel us to service, not by force but by the singular beauty of the One who has come and loved us to the end. The deacon's sacramental character, if he stays open to its transforming grace, communicates to him a reality that enlivens and purifies his own conscience and will redound to the benefit of the Church.

This reality is clear: among the members of the Church is a rank of clergy living a lay life so as to give witness to the servant mystery of Christ. This mystery is united to and flows from the altar but also reaches into the very fabric of ordinary life. This reach, by virtue of Holy Orders, touches the culture by way of the gift of a man who remains permanently open at the point of one of Christ's greatest mysteries: the divine is ordered toward self-forgetfulness, service, self-emptying, and self-effacing charity. It is the deacon who is charged to keep this facet of the mystery before the Church's eyes and heart so that the laity may know by way of his ministry how close Christ is to them in their courageous witness to the Gospel, and so that priests may know that their sacrifices for the Gospel are not without fruit. It is a fruit so tangible that he can see it before his eyes every Sunday as the laity process forward to the altar with the gifts of bread and wine, symbols of the transformed culture for which they labor in Christ. And ready to receive these gifts from the laity in order to give them to the priest is the deacon, the one who facilitates charity, who, in the Spirit, circulates the divine self-giving by his ministry. May this divine self-giving, this wound upon the heart of the deacon, this brand mark of love always be the site of deepest intimacy between the deacon and the Lord.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Archbishop Aymond reflects on Katrina

>>>From the website of the Archdiocese of New Orleans:

Reflections on the 5th Commemoration of Hurricane Katrina
By: Archbishop Gregory Aymond
Sunday August 29th 2010
by: Archbishop Aymond
This weekend will undoubtedly be a weekend of remembrance for many in our community. We will come together to remember the tragic events of five years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit our region and flooded much of the area. We will remember in prayer those who lost their lives in the tragedy, and we will remember our own personal losses. It would be easy to allow those feelings of confusion, anxiety, and despair from five years ago to creep back into our heads and spirits, but today, we must ask God to help us to rise above those feelings and allow our loving God to replace them with renewed feelings of faith and hope. We must have faith in our future as a community. We should feel humble pride over the accomplishments of the past five years. We must have hope!

As someone who was not living in New Orleans when Katrina struck, I cannot begin to fully understand the emotions that those who lived through this event faced. Katrina left not only physical destruction, but emotional destruction in her wake. Though I do not pretend to know what it truly was like then, what I do know is that the strength of people in this area is amazing. I am constantly inspired by the stories of those who have rebuilt and those who found solace in their faith and in love of God, family and neighbor. This is what makes New Orleans special. Your faith in God inspires me!

For those that are still re-building, I pledge the resources of the local Catholic Church to help you on your journey. I promise to do all within our means to help you though your pain and your struggles and to be the heart of Jesus Christ to you in your time of need.

As we look with faith to the future, even in the face of a new Gulf of Mexico tragedy, we must hold onto our inspiring energy that has allowed New Orleans to overcome fires, Yellow Fever epidemics, floods and hurricanes for generations. We must not forget Katrina, but must use those experiences to grow and strengthen our families and communities so that we may be an example of God’s hope to our neighbors and the rest of the country.

This weekend, I have asked for all parishes in the archdiocese to say a special Mass in honor of Our Lady of Prompt Succor thanking her for her prayers and asking her intercession with her son, Jesus for ongoing protection for our region. I will also be joining leaders from various religions and faith traditions for an Interfaith Prayer Service on Sunday at 1:30 pm at St. Louis Cathedral. All are welcome to join us in prayer.

From God, we have been given a great gift: the gift of life, and I pray that we may all live with faith and hope for many years to come in gratitude to God for his compassion and strength in challenging times.

Faith traditions remember Katrina

Hundreds of New Orleanians mark fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with grief, hope
Published: Sunday, August 29, 2010, 3:07 Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune

With a light rain falling, hundreds of New Orleanians and some tourists gathered at St. Louis Cathedral on Sunday afternoon to remember Hurricane Katrina in "grief, gratitude and hope," in the words of New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond. A 45-minute ceremony in the cathedral on Jackson Square attracted clergy and members of eight world religions in New Orleans, each offering a short prayer from his or her own tradition.

In various ways, participants mourned the loss of nearly 1,500 New Orleanians five years ago today.

They also expressed gratitude for the kindness of strangers and volunteers, and prayed together for a better future.

"Suffering is the crucible of greatness," said Bishop Michael Rinehart, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod.

Rinehart drew a chuckle when he began his message by quoting from "the gospel of Brees," holding aloft the memoir of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in which Brees describes the fear and uncertainty that followed the shoulder injury that threatened his football career.

But as Brees found and as New Orleans finds today, after suffering comes rebirth, and in rebirth comes greatness, Rinehart said.

"We will never be the same again," he said.

"Thank God, we will never be the same again."

St. John the Baptist; a martyrs death

>>>Again with today being a Sunday we will hear little if anything about this day which is normally celebrated as a memorial in the liturgical year. Here is a little something on John the Baptist's final witness to the faith in which he lost his head.

(†31 A.D.)

Saint John the Baptist was called by God to be the precursor of His divine Son. In order to preserve his innocence spotless, and to improve upon the extraordinary graces which he had received in his earliest infancy, he was directed by the Holy Spirit to lead an austere and contemplative life in the wilderness. There he devoted himself to the continuous exercise of devout prayer and penance.

When Saint John was thirty years old, the faithful minister of the Lord began to discharge his mission. Clothed with the garments of penance, he announced to all men the obligation weighing upon them of washing away their iniquities with the tears of sincere compunction. He proclaimed the Messiah, who was of his own age but whom he had never seen, when one day Jesus came to be baptized by him in the Jordan. Saint John was received by the poor folk as the true herald of the Most High God, and his voice was, as it were, a trumpet sounding from heaven to summon all men to avert the divine judgments. Souls were exhorted by him to prepare themselves to reap the benefit of the mercy offered them.

When the tetrarch Herod Antipas, in defiance of all laws divine and human, married Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip who was yet living, Saint John the Baptist boldly reprimanded the tetrarch and his accomplice for so scandalous an adultery. Herod, motivated by his lust and his anger, cast the Saint into prison. About a year after Saint John had been made a prisoner, Herod gave a splendid entertainment to the official world of Galilee. Salome, a daughter of Herodias by her lawful husband, pleased Herod by her dancing, to the point that he made her the foolish promise of granting whatever she might ask. Salome consulted with her mother as to what to ask, and that immoral woman instructed her daughter to demand the death of John the Baptist, and that the head of the prisoner should be immediately brought to her on a platter. This barbaric request startled the tyrant himself; but governed by human respect he assented and sent a soldier of his guard to behead the Saint in prison. Thus died the great forerunner of our blessed Saviour, some two years after his entrance upon his public ministry, and a year before the death of the One he announced.

No homily today but some thoughts and a prayer

>>>The many events of this week prevented me from preparing a meaningful homily to post and since I'm not preaching this weekend a chance to focus on some other tasks at hand. I did indeed hear many homilies as I assist in the homiletics classes for the diaconate. Based on todays Gospel one of the candidates suggested in his homily the need to pray the litany of humility. This is a prayer I am not familiar with. So I offer it below along with an appeal to read today's Gospel and focus on the practice of humility and generosity.


O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,

From the fear of being humiliated,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world,
others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should.

August 29, 2005 We will never forget

It has now been 5 years; 5 long years since that fateful Monday morning when Hurricane Katrina crashed onshore, first in Buras, La and then on the far western Mississippi Gulf Coast just hours apart. The entire region, from coastal Louisiana, all of the greater New Orleans area, the Northshore and the expanse of the Mississippi Gulf Coast all the way to Mobile was devastated. And to make matters worse the levees failed and the epic flood ensued. Imagine this statistic: 80% of New Orleans proper flooded. Just next door the parish of St. Bernard had flooding in all but 6 structures; a community of nearly 75,000 wiped out.

In the community where I live and work we had almost no flood waters but tall and mighty pine trees laid waste to thousands of homes. The entire area waited weeks if not months for power to return as we often waited in lines for hours for gas. And we endured long lines too for ice and food as the rich and poor, black and white, Christian and not learned to stand with each other. Everyone has a story; families were seperated; careers were jeopardized; many moved away and never came back. That was then and much still needs to be done; too much is not yet repaired. But this is now.

My friends, our region is back; thanks be to God! New Orleans is roaring back although we must acknowledge large parts of the Crescent City are still lagging behind. For us on the Northshore we have exploded in population, traffic and industry because many flocked here seeking higher ground. Even St. Bernard has come back with a population now around 40,000; more than half of the population pre-Katrina. And the Mississippi Gulf Coast is alive and well too. All of this despite the recent oil spill disaster which is a story for another day.

Katrina reminds me personally of the odyssey my wife, daughter, mother and I endured; evacuating first to Alabama then on to North Carolina to live with our son. We returned to a slightly damaged home with no electricty for 4 weeks and lots and lots of downed trees around the area. I was able to return to work within 6 days of my return and my daughter made it back to high school in about a month. My training and schooling in diaconate formation would suffer a greater blow, keeping us out of class for 1 full year. Consequently I was ordained 1 full year later; but it was one of the greatest years of preparation in my life to serve the people of God.

I marveled at the many ministies being conducted by my Catholic Church and other churches of various faith traditions. Catholic Charities was responsible for feeding, clothing and caring for thousands upon thousands. I remember receiving food and supplies from members of a non-denominational church down the road. Our own Catholic parish opened a free clothing store from donated clothing across the country. And my diaconate class and the greater diaconate community received many generous donations to help us replace vestments, vessels and books lost forever to the winds and the water.

From such a tragedy of epic proportions came so much love, generosity and support. Any one of us who truly endured Katrina here at ground zero can deny that we are changed forever from both the storm and the recovery. Katrina is a real life reminder that in the big picture there is no Resurrection without Crucifixion. There is no eternal life without death.

Katrina took away much; including many lives. But Katrina did not take away our faith, our total dependency on God alone and our ability to love and care for one another.

May we all continue to learn valuable lessons from the Katrina experience and may we pray for all those she touched and pray that we and the entire New Orleans and Gulf Coast area continue to recover and rebuild and be protected from future storms.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

St Augustine

St. Augustine of Hippo
Feastday: August 28

St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break.

This famous son of St. Monica was born in Africa and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible ashamed of himself. "What are we doing?" he cried to his friend Alipius. "Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!"

Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, "How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?" Just then he heard a child singing, "Take up and read!" Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. It was just what Augustine needed, for in it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life.

He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, Founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. He became very devout and charitable, too. On the wall of his room he had the following sentence written in large letters: "Here we do not speak evil of anyone." St. Augustine overcame strong heresies, practiced great poverty and supported the poor, preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. "Too late have I loved You!" he once cried to God, but with his holy life he certainly made up for the sins he committed before his conversion. His feast day is August 28th.

Friday, August 27, 2010

St. Monica; awesome example

>>>St. Monica is an awesome example of praying without ceasing and wonderful inspiration for mothers and parents with children who are far away from following Christ and His Church!

Born of Christian parents at Tagaste, North Africa, in 333; died at Ostia, near Rome, in 387.

We are told but little of her childhood. She was married early in life to Patritius who held an official position in Tagaste. He was a pagan, though like so many at that period, his religion was no more than a name; his temper was violent and he appears to have been of dissolute habits. Consequently Monica's married life was far from being a happy one, more especially as Patritius's mother seems to have been of a like disposition with himself. There was of course a gulf between husband and wife; her almsdeeds and her habits of prayer annoyed him, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence. Monica was not the only matron of Tagaste whose married life was unhappy, but, by her sweetness and patience, she was able to exercise a veritable apostolate amongst the wives and mothers of her native town; they knew that she suffered as they did, and her words and example had a proportionate effect.

Three children were born of this marriage, Augustine the eldest, Navigius the second, and a daughter, Perpetua. Monica had been unable to secure baptism for her children, and her grief was great when Augustine fell ill; in her distress she besought Patritius to allow him to be baptized; he agreed, but on the boy's recovery withdrew his consent. All Monica's anxiety now centred in Augustine; he was wayward and, as he himself tells us, lazy. He was sent to Madaura to school and Monica seems to have literally wrestled with God for the soul of her son. A great consolation was vouchsafed her ? in compensation perhaps for all that she was to experience through Augustine ? Patritius became a Christian. Meanwhile, Augustine had been sent to Carthage, to prosecute his studies, and here he fell into grievous sin. Patritius died very shortly after his reception into the Church and Monica resolved not to marry again. At Carthage Augustine had become a Manichean and when on his return home he ventilated certain heretical propositions she drove him away from her table, but a strange vision which she had urged her to recall him. It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, "the child of those tears shall never perish." There is no more pathetic story in the annals of the Saints than that of Monica pursuing her wayward son to Rome, wither he had gone by stealth; when she arrived he had already gone to Milan, but she followed him. Here she found St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine yield, after seventeen years of resistance. Mother and son spent six months of true peace at Cassiacum, after which time Augustine was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan. Africa claimed them however, and they set out on their journey, stopping at Cività Vecchia and at Ostia. Here death overtook Monica and the finest pages of his "Confessions" were penned as the result of the emotion Augustine then experienced.

St. Monica was buried at Ostia, and at first seems to have been almost forgotten, though her body was removed during the sixth century to a hidden crypt in the church of St. Aureus. About the thirteenth century, however, the cult of St. Monica began to spread and a feast in her honour was kept on 4 May. In 1430 Martin V ordered the relics to be brought to Rome. Many miracles occurred on the way, and the cultus of St. Monica was definitely established. Later the Archbishop of Rouen, Cardinal d'Estouteville, built a church at Rome in honour of St. Augustine and deposited the relics of St. Monica in a chapel to the left of the high altar. The Office of St. Monica however does not seem to have found a place in the Roman Breviary before the sixteenth century.

In 1850 there was established at Notre Dame de Sion at Paris an Association of Christian mothers under the patronage of St. Monica; its object was mutual prayer for sons and husbands who had gone astray. This Association was in 1856 raised to the rank of an archconfraternity and spread rapidly over all the Catholic world, branches being established in Dublin, London, Liverpool, Sydney, and Buenos Aires. Eugenius IV had established a similar Confraternity long before.

Abita Beer coming thru for Catholic Charities

>>>A great "good news" story as this business responds to the needs of the people. The Abita Brewery is a local business that has been very helpful to community efforts including those of the church.

Abita Brwery announced major gift to local Catholic Church from SOS Fund
Thursday August 26th 2010
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans to receive $100,000 for ongoing oil spill relief
ABITA SPRINGS, La. – Today, August 26, 2010, David Blossman of Abita Brewery will present New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond and Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans co-president Gordon Wadge with a check for $100,000 to help the church with their ongoing oil spill relief work.

The $100,000 gift from Abita’s SOS Fund will be used to help 40 families affected by the oil spill with direct gifts of $2500 each.

“We are extremely grateful for the generosity of the leaders of the Abita Brewery,” said Archbishop Aymond. “Their gift is proof that God is faithful, for as we began to fear monies for ongoing aid would run out, they have stepped up with this gift to help us continue our work and to continue to be the heart of Jesus Christ to those most in need.”

It was of great importance to Blossman and the Abita team that 100% of the funds be used for direct assistance, something Catholic Charities is uniquely positioned to do in the community.

“The response from our customers to Abita's SOS Charitable Pilsner has been amazing. The beer has only been on sale for a little over a month, so we're very pleased to be making our first donation so soon. Helping families on the Gulf Coast through these difficult times is exactly what we were hoping for when we created SOS,” said Blossman.

“We are committed to serving the people that are affected by this tragedy for the long term,” said Wadge. “Since the beginning of this disaster, Catholic Charities has been on the ground providing food, housing supplies, direct assistance and counseling to those whose livelihoods have been threatened. We will be there for the coastal communities through this tragedy.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Good article on upcoming changes to the Roman Missal

Key changes to missal capture original meanings
By: James Breig
Wednesday August 25th 2010
By James Breig for the USCCB
Casual observers of the Roman Catholic Church often remark that it hasn’t changed in 2,000 years. Actually, just like any living institution, it is constantly changing. Over the centuries, where and when the Mass is celebrated, how saints are chosen, and the method of electing popes are some of the ways the Church has adjusted its traditions and policies.

Now come changes to the Roman Missal, the book containing the prayers for the Mass. For years, the Church has been working to more accurately translate those prayers from the Latin in which the original Missal is promulgated into modern languages, including English. Msgr. Kevin Irwin, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, says those alterations were necessitated by two factors.

“First, the Committee charged with the English translation of the Roman Missal issued the post-Vatican II translations very quickly,” he notes, referring to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. “They realized, after a few years’ use of the Missal, that some translations should have been more accurate. Second, some feasts have been added to the Church’s liturgical calendar in recent years, for example, St. Padre Pio’s. Those Latin Masses need to be translated into English.”

Peter Finn, associate director of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), compares the changes “to the cleaning of an old painting whose images are brought to clearer light in the cleaning process. …The translations have sought to achieve a suitable balance between the word-for-word, literal meaning of the Latin and the demands of good proclamation, style and intelligibility.”

One of the most significant changes, Msgr. Irwin says, involves the familiar phrase, “And also with you,” which the congregation recites after the celebrant of the Mass says, “The Lord be with you.”

He explains that “the congregation will now say, ‘and with your spirit.’ This places the English translation in line with most other languages. The response is not to the person of the priest but to the Spirit of God, who ordained him to permanent service in the Church. It is an acknowledgment of the ‘spirit’ and grace which is in him.”

Msgr. Anthony Sherman, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship, offers another example: Instead of saying “we believe” at the beginning of the Creed, Catholics will soon recite, “I believe.” The reason for the shift, he says, is “to underline the fact that, although we share our belief together with our brothers and sisters, each one of us is called to make an individual profession of faith.”

As the changes are introduced, parishioners will have many guides to help them learn their new responses. “Plans are underway by a number of publishers to print up Mass booklets or cards containing the changes,” Msgr. Irwin notes. Adds Msgr. Sherman: “Eventually all participation aids and hymnals will include the new responses of the people.” Finn notes that “today, the people’s responses can be made more readily available not only in printed editions but also on websites, CDs, iPhones etc.”

One Web site already available to help people become familiar with the new translation of the Roman Missal is sponsored by the U.S. Bishops: www.usccb.org/romanmissal

Average Catholics may not immediately grasp the necessity and benefits of the changes, Msgr. Irwin admits, but the familiarity that comes with time should lead people to comfort with and understanding of the words.

“All of us – laity, clergy and religious – will need to take time to review the changed words and come to appreciate what we may not have understood or appreciated before,” he says. “There are layers of meaning to liturgical texts, not just one meaning. These translations and the education we shall receive before they are implemented will offer us a chance to ‘brush up’ our knowledge of the Mass and of our beliefs.”

Msgr. Sherman believes the changes “will invite the faithful to pause and reflect on what, after so many years, we may have taken for granted. People will listen more attentively to the various prayers proclaimed by the priest and these will convey a much deeper richness, which can be the basis for meditation and prayer for the enrichment of one’s spiritual life.”

Happy Birthday Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa at 100
From Skopje to Calcutta to the World
Share by JOHN BURGER, REGISTER NEWS EDITOR 08/25/2010 Comment

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Agnes Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
She was born to an Albanian family in Skopje, a city at the crossroads of the Balkans, and went off to Ireland at the age of 18 to become a missionary with the Sisters of Loreto. She received the name Sister Mary Teresa, after St. Therése of Lisieux. The diminutive nun arrived in Calcutta, India, in 1929 and taught in a girls school.
In 1946, on the way to her annual retreat, she received what she termed a “call within a call” to serve the poorest of the poor with a new community, the Missionaries of Charity.
As the community began to spread beyond India, Mother Teresa and her work became well known. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. By the time of her death in 1997, the congregation had nearly 4,000 sisters in 610 foundations in 123 countries. Less than two years after her death, Pope John Paul II permitted the opening of her cause of canonization. She was beatified in 2003.
Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postulator of her cause, first came to know Mother Teresa when his sister became a Missionary of Charity. Father Kolodiejchuk, who is from Winnipeg, was praying over a priestly vocation at the time and eventually joined Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Fathers.

The book Come Be My Light has those three aspects that were unknown even to the closest sisters: the private vow of 1942, to give to Jesus whatever he may ask, not to refuse him anything — a vow Mother made for herself with the permission of her confessor, as a Loreto sister still; then four years later was the inspiration, Sept. 10, 1946. We knew there was Sept. 10 — the call, or as Mother would say, “the call within a call,” but though we knew it was that day, exactly what happened, she would never say.
But now we know it was locution — interior, imaginative locution. So she heard very clearly and distinctly Jesus’ voice, and it continued in all the next months, well into 1947. So, for example, she would say, “In all my prayer and holy Communion, Jesus continually asking ‘Wilt thou refuse?’”

In ’42 she made a vow not to refuse him anything, and now he’s asking, “I want you to do this. Are you going to refuse?”

So, during those weeks and months, in those locutions that she wrote down in two letters that remain, that contain that material, Jesus will say, “Your vocation is to love and suffer and save souls” or “You and your sisters have to be victims of my love” or “If you are my own little spouse, you will have to bear these torments on your heart.”

Now, in ’46, ’47, Mother didn’t have any way of knowing what that would mean for the next 50-odd years. And so that’s kind of the connection between those three things that very few people had any idea of.

But, thankfully, the Jesuits kept that material. Mother herself was trying to get it destroyed, because as she was going through it, she didn’t have a sense that this was important. But the Jesuits had the good sense to realize this is not just Mother’s personal experience but it is, as it turned out it is, a very central aspect of the charism of the Missionaries of Charity.

In July 1961, she made a general letter after one of the Jesuits, Father [Josef] Neuner, gave her a key insight, saying, “This is a spiritual side of your work.” She made a general letter, basically without revealing where it was coming from, but talked about “I want you to go deeper into the mystery of the redemption” and “Our work is not just social work,” and “Jesus shared our experience. He was one with us, and we need to do the same, so the spiritual desolation of the poor people we also have to carry ourselves,” and that’s what she was doing.

Usually the dark night of the soul and all the purifications are very painful, and to get to that contemplative prayer, that real union. So she went to that during Loreto. And during the time from the inspiration, especially 1947, she experienced real, deep union with God, and after that the darkness came back.

So like others — for example, St. Therése of Lisieux in the last 18 months of her life had a similar kind of experience — it’s not so much for purification anymore, but it’s kind of what Dominican Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange called “reparatory darkness” or maybe we can call it “apostolic darkness.” So that Mother Teresa and the sisters try to live simply, we live poorly so we can identify with and understand the material poverty we serve. And now also we realize that when Mother was going out in the West more she was saying the greatest poverty in the world today is to be unloved, unwanted and uncared for. So she was experiencing that as well. So: identity with and solidarity with those who were lonely, all the suffering involved in being unloved, unwanted and uncared for. And in our Catholic understanding, Jesus on the cross is there in our place, or he’s there for us, and so, in union with Jesus, also our cross, our sufferings can be for the sake of others; and so in Mother Teresa’s case, it was also her way, a very important, essential way of living the charism of being a religious, consecrated, while she understood herself to be the spouse of Jesus crucified. So it was her way of being united to Jesus in his most extreme suffering. And at the same time being united to Jesus was also for the sake of the poorest of the poor, especially that spiritual poverty; that is so much what John Paul would call the new forms of poverty.

Since the news of that dark night of the soul came out, what kind of effect has that had on people who follow Mother Teresa, who are devoted to her, and on Catholics in general?
I think the unfortunate part of it maybe was initially a certain confusion, because if they were to have read just the headlines or something — for example, there was one that said “Mother Teresa’s Secret: I Have No Faith.” So people were like, “How can this be? Holy Mother Teresa, and now all of a sudden she lost her faith.” — it didn’t jibe between one and the other. But once they have a certain understanding of it, they realize there was a real depth to Mother, that other Catholics who admired Mother and the work she was doing … in many ways, her stock went up for many people.

For other Catholics, the dark night was new. It’s not in your everyday catechism. In that sense, it was a good teaching moment: what is suffering, the positive role of suffering, the cross and the resurrection, not to lose either of them; not suffering for the sake of suffering or the glorification of suffering, or not just the resurrection. We kind of forget the cross. We used to say, “We are resurrection people, and Alleluia is our song.” True, but not forgetting that the way to get there is through the cross.

There had been a lot of criticism of Mother Teresa coming from people like Christopher Hitchens. Does any of that linger today, and how would you respond to some of it?

Probably. For example, what started the criticism, even before that book by Christopher Hitchens, The Missionary Position, was a film called Hell’s Angel or something.
I asked Hitchens to be a witness for the cause, and he was one of the official witnesses in Washington, D.C.

What was his testimony?

That I couldn’t say. If you disagree with the Church or its positions, you’re going to disagree with Mother Teresa. There was nothing there that was really against her virtues or holiness.

You could look at her life and say she really was a Catholic media celebrity. How did she get that way? You might even think she had a team of PR people behind her or that she cultivated publicity.
On the contrary. She said, “I’ll have less purgatory because I’ve already been purified by the media.” The first time they asked her to speak in public, she didn’t want to. She asked one of her co-workers to speak. She was naturally very shy. By her own tendency, she would not have wanted anything to do with the media, but she also understood it was a way of bringing people’s attention to the poor.

So, just like everything else, she didn’t want any personal attention. She would deflect and concentrate on the work. She realized it was a means of making the faith known and bringing attention to the poorest of the poor, that they’re there. All the awards, she would go there and say, “I accept this in the name of the poor.” So again, that purpose of recognition of the poorest of the poor, a means of helping the poor and also, in some way, a chance to speak of God.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another post-Katrina reality

>>>A real social justice issue for post-Katrina New Orleans.

by Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News


Posted on August 24, 2010 at 6:14 PM

NEW ORLEANS - Homelessness in the city has gotten worse in the five years since the Hurricane Katrina, not better according to a new report by the homeless advocacy group Unity of Greater New Orleans.

The group claims there is a secret explosion of hidden homeless people, living in the more than 55,000 abandoned buildings that dot the storm ravaged landscape of New Orleans.

Carrie Handy, 61, lived in a once flooded home on Laussat Place in the Upper Ninth Ward.

"I had to board all this up from the cold," Handy said pointing to the walls where mold soaked drywall was removed. "I had to put blankets over here to keep it warmer. I was comfortable in here. I think I did good for the three years I was in here, though. I did the best I can do."

Carrie and her older brother Jonnie Morgan, 65, lined the walls of the gutted home with plastic, cardboard, election signs and whatever they could find.

"It's been very, extremely pitiful," said Morgan. "It's been extremely uncomfortable, but as I say, we try to make it a home the best that we possible could."

The Unity study shows there are as many as 6,000 people living in Katrina's ruins across the city.

The group estimates about 1,500 people migrated to abandoned buildings after tent cities in Duncan Plaza and under the interstate disbanded.

According to the study, 75 percent of abandoned building dwellers are Katrina survivors and the vast majority suffer from mental illness, physical disabilities and other life threatening conditions.

"They're living in a house that's not a home," said Unity Executive Director Martha Kegel. "It has no electricity. It has no running water. Frequently, there's gaping holes in the roof, gaping holes in the wall. There are rats. There are mosquitos."

"I didn't have no where to go, no job, no home, no trailers, no nothing," said Handy. "That's how I got here."

A few months ago, Unity found Handy a small apartment.

Her brother however, still lives in conditions that continue to worsen by the day.

"New Orleans is a great city," said Handy. "If the politicians would just get together, you know and take all these abandoned houses and fix them up for people that is homeless, there would be no homeless people."

As bad as the homelessness problem has been post Katrina, Unity says it's actually gotten worse in recent years with the downturn in the national economy and the BP oil spill.

"It's a crisis," said Kegel. "Just because people can't see it, doesn't mean that we don't have to solve the problem."

For many, the dream of renewal and recovery 5 years after Katrina, remains a dream unfulfilled.

"With a home or without the home, you still got to survive," said Handy.

There were approximately 10,000 homeless people living in New Orleans before Katrina.

The Unity study shows that number has now nearly doubled to about 20,000 thousand since the storm.

A big New Orleans feast day: St. Louis King of France

St. Louis was born in 1214 and became the king of France at age 22. He was Louis IX. His kingship was not without some notable events; putting down internal revolts in southern France, defeating the English in 1242 against their leader, King Henry III and was captured in battle in 1250. He was able to negotiate his freedom and that of his men due to his wealth. Upon being released King Louis IX he remained in the Holy Land until 1254. He returned to France and begin to impose laws and treaties that fostered peace, justice and fairness.

Louis was quite the family man having married Margaret with whom he had 11 children. He was a devoted husband and father and strictly raised his family in the Catholic faith; a faith he defended personally. His letter to his son, which I posted last year, is legendary and a warm testimony to the importance of faith, dependence on God and fidelity to the Catholic Church.

He was noted as a king for his justice, charity and piety. He founded many religious and educational institutions and rebuilt the famous Sainte-Chapelle in Paris where he housed the Crown of Thorns recovered on a pilgrimage. He set out in 1270 on a pilgrimage to recover the tomb of Christ but became ill and died near Carthage.

He was canonized by Pope Boniface VII in 1297 and his feast has been established as August 25th.

Now for New Orleans; St. Louis King of France is the patron of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and our beautiful and historical Cathedral is named in his honor. We have Catholic schools and church parishes named in his honor. The St. Louis Medallion is an archdiocesan recognition given annually to lay faithful who demonstrate unselfish service to the people of God in New Orleans.

Please take the time to read his letter to his son. It is archived on this blog from last August 25th post.

St. Louis King of France, continue to watch over and pray for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and for all of us!

An Anniversary Missed

In my late summer hustle and bustle I missed a big anniversary of an event I reported on last summer. On August 20th one year passed since the events in St. Louis Cathedral where the Archdiocese of New Orleans officially welcomed native son Archbishop Gregory Aymond as our new shepherd. It was an awesome liturgy and as I described a year ago an eyewitness to Apostolic succession.

In the year that has passed the new Archbishop has been very busy, traveling to every deanery and almost every parish throughout the Archdiocese. He spent the appropriate time analyzing, listening and planning for the governance of this Archdiocese under his episcopacy. Now he seems poised to begin implementing some of his own initiatives and possibly changes. Let me be clear, I know nothing, to quote an old TV line nor to I propose to speak for the Archbishop or the Archdiocese. These are but my own personal reflections.

I have been blessed to assist at several liturgies presided by Archbishop Aymond. He has indeed been very present, accessible and generous. I so hope to be able to get him to Rayburn for a visit soon.

So better late than never, happy anniversary Archbishop Aymond and welcome home!

Monday, August 23, 2010

An Apostle's Feast Day

An otherwise regular Tuesday in late August would be of little importance except this one, August 24th is the feast day of an Apostle. On this day we celebrate the life of Saint Bartholomew, a witness to Jesus Christ during His public ministry. Little is known of the Apostle although he is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and the synoptic Gospels. He was brought to Jesus by a fellow apostle, Philip. In the Gospel of John it is believed that Nathanael from Cana is Bartholomew.

After Pentecost it is believed that Bartholomew preached the Gospel as far east as India and portions of Armenia and he also preached in Egypt, Persia and Mesopotamia. He was executed by an angry king near the Caspian Sea.

His feast day has been set for August 24th for centuries.

May his feast be another glorious example to preaching the good news to all the nations!

Prayers for Madison Part 2

>>>Please see earlier post on August 9th and continue to pray for this special young lady.

After unique surgery that treated rare illness, teen heads home

by Meg Farris / Eyewitness News


Posted on August 23, 2010 at 6:24 PM

Updated today at 6:26 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- A brave teenager from Destrehan can finally go home after nearly three weeks in the hospital.

She made the decision to be the first person in the world to try a treatment for a rare combination of two diseases. And now Madison Tully's progress is being followed by the medical community around the world.

On August 4, 16-year-old Tully was about to make history. One of only 12 known people in the world who has both sickle cell disease and lupus, her life was on the line. Doctors at Tulane decided to do a bone marrow transplant that could be a cure for both.

But there were risks. Still, Tully wanted to take them.

"It's like excruciating pain and like, you can't describe it and it's very hard to deal with because sometimes I just don't want to live anymore, because I can't take it and it's very hard," Madison Tully said crying in her hospital room on August 4.

"It would mean the world to me to be able to cure her. She has really had a rough six months, and one of our discussions during this was that she knows that it's a life threatening procedure. And she's 16, so I make sure that my teenagers really understand what we're doing and it's not just their parents, but about their decisions. And Madison very specifically said, 'I don't want to live this way,'" said Dr. Julie Kanter of Tulane, who specializes in Pediatric Hematology and Oncology.

The twist to the story is that Tully was adopted at birth, making a match very difficult because of her white, black and Hispanic mixed heritage. But her 17-year-old biological sister, Jasmin Thomas, stepped forward and was a perfect match.

Steroids changed Tully dramatically, causing a rapid 30-pound weight gain and considerable swelling. The chemotherapy caused her to go bald.

But today she took a major step forward. Tully, feeling very weak, but having fun in a cotton candy colored wig, got to go home.

"Madison is doing great. She really has done so much better than I thought she would. Her transplant was complicated by a few problems that we foresaw and were able to take care of," Kanter said.

One medicine made her sick. There was a rash, pain and high fever. Her blood pressure shot up, but through it all, this teen in isolation in her hospital room, did her Wii Fit for exercise. And when she got to her home in Destrehan, there were surprise banners the length of the house. And a message for all her classmates.

"Thanks for praying for me," Tully said in a very weak voice.

It will be a few months, with lots of exams, a strict diet and no school visitors until doctors know if Tully is cured. But already she's making a difference. Other children with sickle cell disease now are coming forward for bone marrow transplants.

Tulane will now be part of a nationwide study for transplants in patients with sickle cell disease beginning in November.

If you would like more on the study or to donate to the Tulane Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit call 504-988-6060.

If you would like to become a bone marrow donor go to www.nmdp.org. Doctors just take a swab of the inside of your cheek to have your genetic information on record.

The Tully family has started a non-profit organization called Peace on Earth to help parents of sick children. To donate write to P.O. Box 728, Destrehan, LA 70047.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Of family, friends and faith

On this kind of stormy Sunday night, as August begins to fade, I'm reflecting on family, friends and faith. Tomorrow my youngest child, the world traveler who spent most of her summer in Europe, begins college classes again this time as a college senior. It seems not so long ago we were going through the start of high school senior year and now here we are. And yes, some time this fall we will begin looking at some graduate school possibilities for her. Our oldest son is now a married man for 3 months. Again, seems like we were just on the way to North Carolina to begin the festivities. One of the personal effects of the BP Oil Spill deprived us a chance to visit with him as he always comes home for the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, cancelled this year because of the tragedy.

Last week we had a chance to meet up with my sisters, their spouses and children and my aunt for dinner. This is just about all that remains from my side of the family, particularly my mother's half. When we gather it is usually dominated by hectic conversation of catching up on all things since last we met. On my wife's side of the ledger we are continuing to give thanks as my mother-in-law shows good progress from her mid-July health scare.

This week brings the return home of dear friends who vacationed in the Tennessee hills. These folks are the type that just give you all that they have and never complain. I can't wait to see them. And they always take good care of me especially cooking for me at leaast once a week between my hectic schedule. I'm also excited as another dear friend has been able to meet me for lunch again weekly and another friendship, a really old one, that has been rekindled in recent years, especially lately. And I've been praying for another good friend who is going through some health issues of his own.

My faith has really helped deepen for me the need to serve others. As a Deacon it is so easy to get all wound up in ministry and keep doing and doing. Now there is nothing wrong with this at all. But every now and then, it is so important to stop, rekindle friendships, visit with family and enjoy the company of those closest to us. And when I am with my family and friends it is my hope that the ministry I so love and the personal relationship I have with Christ is evident when we are together.

So as I pray for family and friends I encourage all of us to do likewise. Lift them to the Lord and ask that He protect them and guide them and keep them in His loving care!

What we still don't know about the Permanent Deacon

Today I assisted many brother Deacons as we hosted another inquiry session for the many men looking into a possible call to the diaconate. It was an awesome gathering as the focus today was on the Charism of Charity and we explored service in terms of the Deacon as Christ the servant.

At one point our director invited four deacons to describe the ministry of charity they were involved in personally. And when I watched each presentation I wondered how many Catholics still think the Deacon is a liturgical function on the altar at their local church only?

Our first presenter explained the Stella Maris ministry. This involves Deacons who actually serve in the ports along the Mississippi River and other locations to minsiter to seamen from all across the world. In the slide show it was evident this is no ordinary ministry. To actually reach the ships anchored in the river the Deacons are ferried to the ship in a water taxi and then have to climb on board using a rope ladder hanging off the side of the big ship. Amazing. Once onboard the Deacons pray with, minister to and hold communion services for the men of the ship. When the Deacons function on dry land they arrange cell phone service and phone cards for the seamen and function as drivers so they can run errands to WalMart and such. We are so priviledged to have so many good and faithful Deacons providing this ministry in and around the port of New Orleans.

Next presentation was from a Deacon who ministers at a parish(county) prison. This was near and dear to my heart as I minister at a state correctional facility. The Deacon explained what he can and can't do and how the ministry is more about listening and being present to these inmates than anything else. Of course there are the prayer services and communion services but just treating these men with dignity and understanding goes a long way. This is a ministry that is not for everyone but for those who bring Christ to prison; many times they leave having experienced great faith and repentenance.

And our third presentation involved a Deacon who ministers to teens at a juvenile detention facility. Some of his stories and examples were heart breaking but he made it clear that being present to these youthful offenders is so vitally important. The Deacon is able to help make Christ present in a situation where there is little hope.

Finally our last presenter explained how the diaconate responded in a new way to the oil crisis in the Gulf. By assisting Catholic Charities and being on the ground with those most effected the Deacons were able to help feed the crowds and listen to their anxieties and fears. Many Deacons were able to make known several concerns that allowed many to get help they may never have received.

And as these presentations were being made I glanced around the room at brother Deacons who give faithful witness to Christ the servant as chaplains in hospitals and nursing homes, a Deacon who ministers to a homeless shelter in downtown New Orleans, at all hours of day and night, still another who runs a rehabilitation center, another who serves as a chaplain for a boys high school. And all these Deacons, who also assist in the service of their assigned parish at Masses, preaching homilies, etc. spend many of their evenings preparing couples for marriage, preparing new parents for baptism, working with couples to prepare for their annulment proceedings.

What a joy to be reminded today in such a profound way of the ministry to which I have been called and am so thankful to God to fulfill.

And with all this being said, again I remind my brother Deacons, and all Catholics and all my friends and family; it still is not what we do, it is who we are. As an ordained Catholic Permanent Deacon I am able by the grace of God to sacramentalize service and be the icon of Christ the Servant.

Pray with me this week for these men, their wives and families as they continue the inquiry process and for vocations to the Diaconate.

The new face of New Orleans Northshore post Katrina

>>>This story is so true; where I work, many of our new staff including some management came from St. Bernard parish. And just like the church parish mentioned in this story my home parish in Abita Springs has grown tremendously, in part, because of our new St. Bernard neighbors.

Note: this is the first in what probably will be a few stories and reflections as all of us from this part of Louisiana prepare for the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina; something we will never forget!

Longtime St. Bernard residents find homes, and happiness, in St. Tammany
Published: Monday, August 16, 2010, 5:00 AM Updated: Monday, August 16, 2010, 9:14 AM
Christine Harvey, The Times-Picayune
Mark Benfatti jumped from his chair in the dining room at N'Tini's in Mandeville and shook hands with a man he hadn't seen in five years. The visitor used to be a regular at Arabi Food Store, where Benfatti once worked, but he moved to Alexandria after Hurricane Katrina devastated St. Bernard Parish and destroyed his home.

Their restaurant, which opened a few month before Hurricane Katrina hit, became a gathering place for displaced St Bernard residents.
It's a scene that occurs almost daily at the restaurant that Benfatti opened in 2007 -- three years after starting the first N'Tini's in Chalmette. On this particular day, the visitor had come to the restaurant with his wife, who was there to meet several other women from Chalmette High School to plan their 40th reunion.

Share "We've got dollar martinis from 11 to 3," Benfatti told one of the women entering the banquet room, before noting that he would make sure to keep her safe. "I'll get you home!"

It's like St. Bernard, only someplace else.

Thousands who were chased out of St. Bernard Parish by Hurricane Katrina landed on the north shore, many intending to go back in a year or two when things got back to normal. When normal failed to appear on the horizon, though, many who had set down temporary roots in places like Covington, Abita Springs and Slidell and were charmed by the area's beauty and convenience decided to stay.

Nearly five years later, those people have come to call St. Tammany Parish home, in many cases because entire extended families moved together.

Heart and home

Archbishop Gregory Aymond said he runs into people from St. Bernard whenever he visits the north shore these days and has found that they appear comfortable and happy in their new surroundings. He described the newcomers as resilient and faith-filled, and believes that the locals have come to appreciate their new neighbors.

"Every time I go to St. Tammany, I have a number of people who I knew from St. Bernard and others who I didn't know who always identify themselves in a very proud way," he said. "Their point to me has been, 'We're from St. Bernard, we're from Chalmette, we've found a new home.' They seem to be very comfortable there and have been received with open arms."

While it's true that home is where the heart is, their hearts will never forget St. Bernard Parish and what it meant to them.

Ellia Lucia, The Times-PicayuneElementary school teacher Maleen Dickinson, her husband and their three children are former St. Bernard Parish residents who now live near Covington. One of the ways Dickinson says she has assimilated is by taking part in her 12-year-old daughter Sadie's activities, like soccer practice at Pelican Park.
Benfatti, for one, has worked hard to make sure people keep St. Bernard in their memories, organizing a reunion Aug. 7 for the fourth year in a row to help current and former residents reconnect. About 800 people attended this year's Castaway Dance at the Castine Center in Pelican Park near Mandeville.

It's hard to know just how many people made the move from St. Bernard to St. Tammany after the storm.

The U.S. Postal Service, the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center and St. Tammany's parish government, school system and voter registrar all were unable to quantify the migration. When questioned last week, representatives with those agencies could not provide data on movement from one parish to the other at the five-year mark, saying no one appears to have done a study to make such a determination.

A report released by the regional Community Data Center in 2007 estimated that St. Bernard lost 75 percent of its population -- about 50,000 people -- in the first year after Katrina. Of those who left, the report said, about a third -- 16,000 to 17,000 -- relocated to St. Tammany Parish. It remains unclear how many of those have remained on the north shore since then and how many returned to St. Bernard.

'It didn't take long to feel like home'

Maleen Dickinson, who had lived her entire life in St. Bernard, said she was "gung ho" about moving back and even considered living in a trailer while she and her husband, George, rebuilt their family's Corinne Estates home in Chalmette. She changed her mind once people started saying it would take five or 10 years for the parish to recover, because the couple had three children in school and needed to provide a more stable life for them.

Ellia Lucia, The Times-PicayuneMark Benfatti, who with his wife Donna Benfatti owns and operates N'tini's restaurant in Mandeville, is a St. Bernard native. Benfatti visits with a group of former St. Bernard Parish residents who are planning a Chalmette High School Class of 1961 reunion.
The family moved by Christmas Eve to Versailles Estates near Covington, where it seems like former St. Bernard residents occupy every third house, Dickinson said. While her two sons since have graduated from high school, her daughter, Sadie, is a seventh-grader at Fontainebleau Junior High School and thriving in her new environment, especially with her participation in the Mandeville Soccer Club.

"Once we got situated here, we didn't want to uproot them again," Dickinson said, noting that the things she missed about St. Bernard no longer existed. "It didn't take long to feel like home. Thanks to the kids, we had to start getting involved."

Dickinson's return to teaching after the storm also helped solidify her place in the community. A former teacher at Joseph J. Davies Elementary School in Meraux, she was named teacher of the year by her new colleagues at Magnolia Trace Elementary for the 2009-10 school year.

Like Dickinson, Dana Sherlock focused on family when deciding to move to Slidell after the storm. Her sister-in-law already lived in Slidell and sent her child to Slidell High School, so Sherlock thought she would do the same to bring some semblance of normalcy to her son's life.

She, too, had thought about moving back -- to some property she and her husband, Nickolas, owned in Plaquemines Parish -- but, in the end, she just couldn't. A lot of the buildings were gone, but, perhaps more importantly, a lot of her friends were gone, too.

Meanwhile, a new Catholic church parish, Most Holy Trinity north of Mandeville, proved to be a good fit for many of the transplants.

The church opened in June 2006, 10 months after the storm and around the time most people from St. Bernard were starting to feel somewhat settled on the north shore. The Rev. Rodney Bourg said about half of his 700 parishioners joined the new church after being displaced by the hurricane.

Because the church was new, parishioners who were new to St. Tammany could incorporate their ministries and traditions at Most Holy Trinity without stepping on anyone else's toes, Bourg said. He noted that he grew up in Chalmette, which also helped smooth the transition for many of the newcomers.

A taste of home

At least it hasn't been as hard to replace the unique flavor that is St. Bernard. Several of the parish's popular restaurant and shop owners made the move to the north shore too, so places like Nonna Randazzo's Italian Bakery, Johnny & Joyce's seafood restaurant and Pontchartrain Po'Boys have flourished.

Scott Threlkeld, The Times-Picayune'People would come in and cry,' Phillip DiCristina said of the restaurant he runs with his wife Josie. 'They'd say, It's so good to see you. It feels like home again.'
But it was one St. Bernard family that got the ball rolling in St. Tammany nearly eight months before Katrina hit, opening DiCristina's on North Columbia Street in Covington. And it was this restaurant that served as the meeting place for many St. Bernard residents in the months immediately after the storm.

Phillip and Josie DiCristina had worked at Rocky & Carlo's in Chalmette -- Josie's uncle is Carlo Gio -- for more than 40 years when they decided to open DiCristina's with their daughter and son-in-law, Maria and Frank Pyburn. Many St. Bernard residents recognized familiar items such as the baked macaroni and stuffed bell peppers on the menu.

Business boomed after Katrina when St. Bernard residents realized DiCristina's offered a taste of home. And the restaurant became a place where people could run into a roomful of friends just by walking in the door.

"People would come in and cry," Phillip DiCristina said, noting that the reunions haven't stopped five years later. "They'd say, 'It's so good to see you. It feels like home again.'"

The Queenship of Mary

Just one week after the Church celebrates the Assumption, the Church honors Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. And like last week, this year the celebration falls on a Sunday. But the Assumption is a solemnity so it was celebrated in all the Catholic Churches across the world. The August 22nd celebration of the Queenship of Mary is a memorial so it will not take precedence over the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time. Yet it is fitting to remember the significance of today's celebration.

Posted below is an excellent article about this celebration:

Pius XII established this feast in 1954. But Mary’s queenship has roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship. We can also recall that in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in court.
In the fourth century St. Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and “Queen” and Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.” The Dominican rosary and the Franciscan crown as well as numerous invocations in Mary’s litany celebrate her queenship.

The feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In his encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, Pius XII points out that Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection and because of her intercessory power.


As St. Paul suggests in Romans 8:28–30, God has predestined human beings from all eternity to share the image of his Son. All the more was Mary predestined to be the mother of Jesus. As Jesus was to be king of all creation, Mary, in dependence on Jesus, was to be queen. All other titles to queenship derive from this eternal intention of God. As Jesus exercised his kingship on earth by serving his Father and his fellow human beings, so did Mary exercise her queenship. As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king till the end of time (Matthew 28:20), so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth.


“Let the entire body of the faithful pour forth persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men. Let them implore that she who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers may now, exalted as she is in heaven above all the saints and angels, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints. May she do so until all the peoples of the human family, whether they are honored with the name of Christian or whether they still do not know their Savior, are happily gathered together in peace and harmony into the one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 69).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Homily for 21st Sunday Ordinary Time Aug 22, 2010

The tiny gate latch I hold here today is a reminder; a reminder of the narrow gate. Let me explain. As a young boy, my sisters and I lived with my grandmother and we lived 2 blocks from the school we attended. When my sister Kathy and I reached a certain age, we were allowed to walk home. It was exciting and a bit scary all at the same time. But that moment we reached the narrow gate, I simply lifted the latch and we were safe behind the security of that old fence that separated the front yard from the rest of the world. Of course as we got older my sister and I became a little less tolerant of each other and often we would fight to see who would get through that narrow gate first. One thing we both learned for sure, if we arrived nearly simultaneously and tried to squeeze through together, it was just impossible. Someone had to enter the narrow gate first and someone had to be last. Of course a few feet away was a huge wide double gate, wide enough for cars to pass through. Never mind that; we always entered through the narrow gate.

This Gospel today also reminded me that sometimes it’s not so much the narrowness of the gate that makes things challenging; it can be what we try to get through that gate. I recall with some humor that scene from the movie, The Christmas Story, where Ralphie’s little brother is so bundled and layered in winter clothes that the poor child could hardly move, let alone squeeze through the neighborhood fence.

As people of faith, do we prepare to enter through the narrow gate; the gate that leads directly to Jesus? And if we do, are we so bundled up; so heavily burdened with so many possessions that we struggle to get through the gate? And if we struggle are we prepared to persevere to reach Jesus?

St. Luke addresses several concerns in today’s Gospel. How many will be saved? Who will be saved? What path must be followed to be saved? Jesus is clear in his answers: enter through the narrow gate, be strong, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.

Jesus teaches us in this Gospel passage that simply following Him or being a good guy or gal alone is not enough to be saved. The path through the narrow gate is the path of using our free will to freely choose to follow Him and to rely, with total surrender, on the gift of divine grace.

We should remember that Jesus is still on the road back to Jerusalem and that eventual moment when he surrenders all on the Cross. This is His immediate destination. This is Jerusalem. But Jerusalem leads to a greater destination. This is the Resurrection and the new and eternal life Jesus opens for those who choose to follow. This is the New Jerusalem.

As Jesus is faithful in His mission, His journey shows us the way we must go; He shows us the path to eternal life. And sometimes, maybe many times, it’s a very rocky road and a very narrow gate. It is a path that all are invited to walk but only those who choose to be disciples will truly follow. The rocky road and the narrow gate demand of us a life of faith, of deep personal prayer and participating fully in the liturgy. It takes discipline; the type of discipline spoken of in today’s second reading. We must walk to Jerusalem and pass through that narrow gate to arrive at the New Jerusalem of eternal happiness.

Now a word for us who faithfully fulfill our obligation to participate in the liturgy; this is a very good thing, but is it enough? The Gospel calls us to live the paschal mystery daily and take up our cross, die to self, live for others and serve Christ through His Church. This means becoming least so Jesus is more and becoming last so Jesus is first. And by making Jesus first, we make our persecuted brothers and sisters first too.

Our challenge this Sunday is to ask ourselves:
What more can I do to bring others to His friendship? Along the path have we given up on a relative or friend who needs to seek the narrow gate?

What can I do to deepen my friendship; my relationship with Him? Is Jesus the center of my life? When I approach that narrow gate, am I so burdened with possessions and stuff that I simply cannot fit through that gate? Help me to shed those things that burden me from reaching You!

And why do I put off or think it weak to look forward to Heaven? Is it simply because I want to live life my way; to do my own thing while here on earth? Help me to make this life a faithful preparation for that eternal life you have prepared for me, on the other side of that narrow gate.

You know that same narrow gate sits in front of my grandma’s now old and decaying home. Entering through that gate brought a peace and security I can’t describe. Perhaps because on that side of the fence, in that home I knew I was loved. And I learned over time to step aside and let my sister pass through first instead of wasting all that time trying to squeeze through. How much more peace, how much more security and how much more love will await us all when we reach our true home and enter through the narrow gate!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Memorial of St. Pope Pius X

Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven. -- Pope Saint Pius X


St. Pius X was born June2, 1835 in Venice. His parents were Giovanni Battista Sarto and Margarita (née Sanson); the former, a postman, died in 1852, but Margarita lived to see her son a cardinal. He was ordained in 1858, and for nine years was chaplain at Tombolo, having to assume most of the functions of parish priest, as the pastor was old and an invalid. He sought to prefect his knowledge of theology by assiduously studying Saint Thomas and canon law; at the same time he established a night school for adult students, and devoted himself of the ministry of preaching in other towns to which he was called. Became Pope in 1903.

In his first Encyclical, wishing to develop his program to some extent, he said that the motto of his pontificate would be "instaurare omnia in Christo"[Restore all things to Christ] from Ephesians 1:10).

He encouraged daily Holy Communion and that the first Communion of children should not be deferred too long after they had reached the age of discretion. It was by his desire that the Eucharistic Congress of 1905 was held at Rome, while he enhanced the solemnity of subsequent Eucharistic congresses by sending to them cardinal legates.

He was a promoter of sacred music; as pope, he published, November 22, 1903, a Motu Proprio on sacred music in churches, and at the same time ordered the authentic Gregorian Chant to be used everywhere, while he caused the choir books to be printed with the Vatican font of type under the supervision of a special commission. In the Encyclical "Acerbo nimis" (April 15, 1905) he treated of the necessity of catechismal instruction, not only for children, but also for adults, giving detailed rules, especially in relation to suitable schools for the religious instruction of students of the public schools, and even of the universities. He caused a new catechism to be published for the Diocese of Rome.

As bishop, his chief care had been for the formation of the clergy, and in harmony with this purpose, an Encyclical to the Italian episcopate (July 28, 1906) enjoined the greatest caution in the ordination of priests, calling the attention of the bishops to the fact that there was frequently manifested among the younger clergy a spirit of independence that was a menace to ecclesiastical discipline.

The pope has at heart above all things the purity of the faith. On various occasions, as in the Encyclical regarding the centenary of Saint Gregory the Great, Pius X had pointed out the dangers of certain new theological methods, which, based upon Agnosticism and upon Immanentism, necessarily divest the doctrine of the faith of its teachings of objective, absolute, and immutable truth, and all the more, when those methods are associated with subversive criticism of the Holy Scriptures and of the origins of Christianity. Wherefore, in 1907, he caused the publication of the Decree "Lamentabili" (called also the Syllabus of Pius X), in which sixty-five propositions are condemned. The greater number of these propositions concern the Holy Scriptures, their inspiration, and the doctrine of Jesus and of the Apostles, while others relate to dogma, the sacraments, and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Soon after that, on September 8 , 1907, there appeared the famous Encyclical "Pascendi", which expounds and condemns the system of Modernism.

He died in 1914. He was canonized in 1954 by Pius XII.

One of Christianity's best kept secrets: The Didache

>>>Along with many other writings of Church Fathers, the Didache points out that the Catholic Church has been around since, well since Jesus. A careful study of the Didache and it's role in affirming Scripture and Tradition was a contributing factor to my remaining faithful to Christ's Church when I was exploring my faith life.

Ancient Witnesses to The Catholic Faith: The Didache

By: Msgr. Charles Pope.

The Didache is one of the earliest written documents of the Church other than Scripture itself. It was written sometime between 90 and 110 AD. It may not have had a single author but may have been compiled from the Apostolic Teaching as a kind of early catechism and a summary of the essential moral tenets of the Faith. It’s existence demonstrates that many current teachings of the faith, often under attack by modernity, are in fact very ancient, going right back to the beginning. Let’s take a look at some excerpts from the Didache that are especially pertinent for today’s controversies.

Sins against life, sexual sins and abortion: You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten. (# 2) Hence the teaching against abortion is not recent as some have tried to suggest. It was not proposed in the 1950s, it was not proposed in the Middle Ages. It goes right back to the beginning. “Pederasty” refers to a homosexual relationship between an older man and a post pubescent adolescent boy. It is distinct from pedophilia which involves a sexual relationship between an older person and a pre-pubescent child. In the modern sex abuse scandals, proper distinctions have not always been made. Cases of true pedophila are rare compared to pederasty (male homosexual involvement with adolescent boys), and statutory rape (the sexual violation of an underaged post pubescent female by a male). In the Greek world Homosexual activity was a widespread moral evil and the Didache’s specific mention of it (as also with Paul) indicates this. The statutory rape or sexual abuse of young females was probably more rare given the early age of marriage which took place soon after puberty for girls.

That the clergy ought to be worhty and then respected and honored - My child, him that speaks to you the word of God remember night and day; and you shall honour him as the Lord; for in the place whence lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord (#4)…..Therefore, appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proven; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones (# 15)
That confession of sin should be frequent and precede the reception of Holy Communion and fellowship In the church you shall acknowledge your transgressions, and you shall not come near for your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. (# 4) It is thus, the long standing practice of the Church that one ought to confess serious sin prior to attending Mass and surely prior to receiving Holy Communion.

That Baptism may be conferred by pouring only if immersion is not easy or convenient – And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. (# 7) Some, among the Protestants consider that Baptism must be administered by immersion. But this text indicates that in the ancient practice, simply pouring water over the head is sufficient. Living water (i.e. moving water such as in a stream) is preferred. Cold water is preferred over warm but warm water is allowed (perhaps in winter to avoid colds?). And yet, in the end, if such arrangements are not possible a simple infusion of water over the head suffices.

An Early Eucharistic Prayer or Hymn: Now concerning the Eucharist, thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever. But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs. (# 9). This prayer of thanksgiving (Eucharistia) is beautifully preserved in the hymn “Father We Thank Thee.” The contents of this prayer mysteriously do not include the words of Institution (This is my Body….This is my Blood….). However, another more detailed description by Justin Martyr written around the same time does include these words (See video below). Note too that the restriction of the Eucharist to fully initiated Catholics is an ancient practice. The Eucharist, or Holy Communion was not to be shared except by those who had true communion by the Grace of God working through the sacraments. Namely, Baptism and Confirmation which both sanctified and incorporated one into and as a member of the Body of Christ. Holy Communion thus had to be preceded by the Communion effected by Baptism and Confirmation.

That Sunday Attendance at Mass was required – But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned (# 14) Again note that attendance is required every Sunday and that such attendance be accompanied by any necessary confession of sins. See how ancient these practices are.

That the practice of the faith must be consistent and that without the practice of it and the attendance and reception of the Holy Mysteries we shall not attain to the holiness necessary to see God. But often shall you come together, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made perfect in the last time….. (# 16).
Thus many of the current practices and teachings of the Church go right back to the beginning. Our Tradition is thus intact and ancient, reaching back to the Apostles and Jesus Christ.