Sunday, March 31, 2013

Scholar and 2nd Century Saint leads off April

St. Melito of Sardis

St. Melito of Sardis
St. Melito of Sardis
Feastday: April 1
Died: 180

Little is known about the life of St. Melito of Sardis, a II Century exegete and apologist who served as bishop of Sardis near Lydia, Asia Minor (near modern Izmir, ancient Smyrna). Thought to have been a hermit and a eunuch, he travelled in Palestine, but the reasons for his journey and the details of his itinerary are lost. Most of his work is also lost. What little survives exists in quotations in the works of others or in fragments. Eusebius preserves Melito's list of Old Testament scriptures, the first such list known to scholars, and fragments of his discourse recommending that Marcus Aurelius adopt Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. Melito's best-known work is the Peri-Pascha, a Holy (Good) Friday sermon pieced together from manuscript fragments in the XX Century which shows parallels between Easter (the new passover) and the Passover haggadah. Melito's contemporaries praise his skill in exegesis and comment on his ability to demonstrate parallels between the Old and New Testaments. His contemporaries also called Melito a prophet or a beacon, but his rhetorical style caused later writers to question the soundness of his theology, some of which seems to akin to the philosophy of the Stoics. Melito's work, which fell out of favor in the IV Century, influenced the thinking of Irenæus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian.

Eight indeed is enough!

Easter is such a glorious feast of feasts that it takes eight days to celebrate.  So even though we arrive at this late hour on Sunday night, Easter night, we have plenty of Easter to celebrate.  It is called an octave; the eight day celebration of Easter.  Every day this week, every Mass celebrated is part of the Easter liturgy.  And this does not end until we arrive at next Sunday, with the Feast of Divine Mercy.

And if you think eight is enough, what about fifty!  The Easter season of the Church lasts until we arrive at Pentecost Sunday in May.

If you are blessed to attend Mass any day this week, remember you are celebrating Easter; the Feast of Feasts; eight days to celebrate!

If not Easter, it would be the feast of a Deacon Saint

St. Benjamin

St. Benjamin
St. Benjamin
Feastday: March 31
Died: 424

St. Benjamin, Martyr (Feast Day - March 31) The Christians in Persia had enjoyed twelve years of peace during the reign of Isdegerd, son of Sapor III, when in 420 it was disturbed by the indiscreet zeal of Abdas, a Christian Bishop who burned the Temple of Fire, the great sanctuary of the Persians. King Isdegerd threatened to destroy all the churches of the Christians unless the Bishop would rebuild it.
As Abdas refused to comply, the threat was executed; the churches were demolished, Abdas himself was put to death, and a general persecution began which lasted forty years. Isdegerd died in 421, but his son and successor, Varanes, carried on the persecution with great fury. The Christians were submitted to the most cruel tortures.
Among those who suffered was St. Benjamin, a Deacon, who had been imprisoned a year for his Faith. At the end of this period, an ambassador of the Emperor of Constantinople obtained his release on condition that he would never speak to any of the courtiers about religion.
St. Benjamin, however, declared it was his duty to preach Christ and that he could not be silent. Although he had been liberated on the agreement made with the ambassador and the Persian authorities, he would not acquiesce in it, and neglected no opportunity of preaching. He was again apprehended and brought before the king. The tyrant ordered that reeds should be thrust in between his nails and his flesh and into all the tenderest parts of his body and then withdrawn. After this torture had been repeated several times, a knotted stake was inserted into his bowels to rend and tear him. The martyr expired in the most terrible agony about the year 424.

Cardinal Dolan gives interview to ABC, CBS and this is the headline? Reporting on the Church is a mess.

Dolan Says Church Should Be More Welcoming of Gays

Peter Foley/European Pressphoto Agency
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan greeted a crowd outside St. Patrick's Cathedral on Easter Sunday in New York.

Weeks after returning from Vatican City, where he helped elect a new pope for a worldwide church that is struggling with declining numbers and controversy over social issues, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said on two morning talk shows on Easter Sunday that the Roman Catholic Church could be more welcoming of gays and lesbians despite its opposition to same-sex marriage.
In prerecorded interviews with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program “This Week” and Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” on CBS, Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York and one of the leading voices of the Catholic Church in the United States, did not suggest any changes in church teaching. He defined marriage as “one man, one woman, forever, to bring about new life,” but, he told Mr. Stephanopoulos, “we’ve got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people.”
“And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that,” the cardinal continued. “We try our darnedest to make sure we’re not an anti-anybody.”
Speaking just days after the Supreme Court heard arguments in two same-sex marriage cases, Mr. Stephanopoulos asked Cardinal Dolan what he could say to gays and lesbians who felt excluded from the church.
“Well, the first thing I’d say to them is: ‘I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And — and we — we want your happiness. But — and you’re entitled to friendship,’ ” Cardinal Dolan said. “But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that — especially when it comes to sexual love — that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.”
He gave a similar answer on “Face the Nation” when Mr. Schieffer questioned him about whether the church would embrace more liberal teachings as public opinion shifts.
The cardinal acknowledged that the church had a problem staying relevant: “How to remain faithful to what we believe are God-given, revealed, settled, unchanging principles without losing our people, who more and more question them.”
“I think what we can’t tamper with what God has revealed,” he added. But, he said, “we can try to do better in the way we present them with more credibility and in a more compelling way.”
During Easter Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, Cardinal Dolan hinted at more sweeping changes. And he hailed a rebirth of the church as Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
“The church, with a capital C, is undergoing renewal, repair, resurrection,” he said. “I kind of think we’re seeing it today in a particularly fresh and new way with our beloved new Holy Father.”
>>>So here is the deal.  Cardinal Dolan wanted to make nice for Easter Sunday and ABC and CBS were willing.  As far as I can tell, the Cardinal answeres the question from Stephi correctly: we love everyone, gays included, we want to welcome you, but whoever you may be, God's ways are the Church's ways.  No change in gay marriage, etc.  Yet the writer of this article makes it out like the Church will be irrelevant if she does not change.  The author claims Dolan said the Church has a problem remaining relevant yet his answer reveals no such thing.  I say the Church loves, because Jesus loves, all the way to death and beyond; to eternity.  We can make nice with any group of people but if we fail to love them to eternity, well then...
One more point, look at the very first sentence: a worldwide church struggling with declining numbers.  Here is the deal; anyone can leave the Church when they want to; and it's always "cool" to find that disaffected ex-Catholic now happy as can be with church of the big auditorium and snare drum.  But the facts just don't bare this declining argument out.  Just since the end of Vatican II, the Catholic Church has grown by a net of 400 million souls.  That totals 1.2 billion Catholics.  Last night, that's last night, over 150,000 Americans JOINED the Catholic Church and worldwide, darn close to a million.
Still, Cardinal Dolan went to the secular media to deal head on and deal fair; and we get this.
No surprises here!

Busting out the folding chairs

We busted out the folding chairs again in my parish today; what about yours?  Fresh off the beautiful and unique liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the great Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday morning dawned and time for the regular masses of Sunday morning.  After experiencing a good 15% increase in mass attendance for the Easter Vigil, I was prepared.  Sunday morning would be packed.

My home parish, Most Holy Trinity in Covington, LA, has Sunday masses at 7, 9 and 11.  Right from the start we noticed that our Easter visitors would be coming en masse; no pun intended.  The normal 7 a.m. mass crowd, week after week, numbers around 170.  We doubled that this morning.  A very healthy 350 or so were in attendance for what we call the "Son-rise service".  While 350 does not necissitate the folding chairs, it was impressive to see the Church so full at 7 a.m.

Next comes the 9 a.m. Mass and now it is time for the folding chairs.  By 8:30 a.m. the Church is faitly full and the ushers dutifully put out the folding chairs in the foyer where they still can see and hear the Mass.  Again, usual mass attendance for the 9 a.m. liturgy is 300; today we exceeded 500.  We were so full, we almost did not plan properly for the right amount of consecrated hosts for Holy Communion.  Not only was the attendance spectacular, the 9 brought out more Easter finery.  We also noticed larger family units, perhaps children home from college or more extended families worshipping on Easter Sunday together!

The final Mass for the day is 11 a.m. which week after week is the largest attendance.  Usually, we number 350 worhippers and today, again in excess of 500 and folding chairs full!  All in all, over the three days of the Triduum and the Easter celebrations we had almost 2,500 worshippers in MHT church at one time or another.  For that, we say thanks be to God.

There is something to be said about the Catholics who drift back to church for Christmas and Easter who help swell the ranks on these high holy days.  The biggest thing we should say is welcome back, we miss you, please come back often.  We would love the bust out the folding chairs every Sunday!

Liturgy: changeable or not?

Read the Catechism in a Year image
Read the Catechism in a Year

Catechism in a Year: Day 168

Part Two: How We Celebrate the Christian Mysteries
- Section One: God Acts in Our Regard by Means of Sacred Signs
-- Chapter Two: How We Celebrate the Mysteries of Christ

Question 192: Can the Church also change and renew the liturgy?
There are changeable and unchangeable components of the liturgy. Unchangeable is everything that is of divine origin, for instance, the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. Then there are changeable parts, which the Church occasionally must change. After all, the mystery of Christ must be proclaimed, celebrated, and lived out at all times and in all places.
Jesus effectively addressed the entire person: mind and understanding, heart and will. That is precisely what he wants to do today also in the liturgy. That is why it has different characteristics in Africa and in Europe, in nursing homes and at World Youth Days, and differs in appearance in parishes and monasteries. But it must still be recognizable that it is the one liturgy of the whole worldwide Church.
Dig Deeper: Corresponding CCC section (1189-1209) and other references here.
Recommended Listening for Easter Sunday: Trust in the Lord by Fr. Thomas Ricter

First Easter Sunday for Pope Francis

Pope Francis calls for world peace in first Easter Mass as pontiff

  • pope_francis_easter_mass_2013.jpg
    March 31, 2013: In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) blessing, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (AP/L'Osservatore Romano)
  • popeeaster12z.jpg
    March 31, 2013: Pope Francis, holding the pastoral staff, celebrates the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (AP)
Pope Francis used his first Easter Sunday Mass as pontiff to make a world peace plea, saying that conflicts have lasted too long in Syria, in addition to urging unity in Africa and the Korean peninsula.
Before a crowd of 250,000 in St. Peter's Square, he also denounced warfare and terrorism across the world, and decried a greedy affluent world looking for `'easy gain."
"And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace," Pope Francis said. "Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?"
Pope Francis called for stability in Nigeria, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, where he said many have been forced to leave their homes amid violence.
The first pontiff to come from the Jesuits, an order with special concern for the poor, and the first pope to name himself after St. Francis, a medieval figure who renounced wealth to preach to the down-and-out, Francis lamented that the world is "still divided by greed looking for easy gain.
Wearing cream-colored vestments, Francis celebrated Mass on the esplanade in front of the basilica at an altar set up under a white canopy. He frequently bowed his head as if in silent reflection.
The sun competed with clouds in the sky Sunday, but the square was a riot of floral color in Rome, where chilly winter has postponed the blossoming of many flowers. Yellow forsythia and white lilies shone, along with bursts of lavender and pink, from potted azalea, rhododendron, wisteria and other plants.
Francis thanked florists from the Netherlands for donating the flowers. He also advised people to let love transform their lives, or as he put it, "let those desert places in our hearts bloom."
The Vatican had prepared a list of brief, Easter greetings in 65 languages, but Francis didn't read them. The Vatican didn't say why not, but has said that the new pope, at least for now, feels at ease using Italian, the everyday language of the Holy See. Francis also has stressed his role as a pastor to his flock, and, as Bishop of Rome, Italian would be his language.
The pontiff improvised his parting words to the crowd. He repeated his Easter greeting to those "who have come from all over the world to this square at the heart of Christianity" as well as to those "linked by modern technology," a reference to TV and radio coverage as well as social media.
Francis added that he was especially remembering "the weakest and the neediest" and praying that all of humanity be guided along "the paths of justice, love and peace."
After the Mass, Francis shared in the crowd's exuberance as they celebrated the belief that Jesus Christ rose from the dead following crucifixion. Aboard an open-topped popemobile, Francis took a lighthearted spin through the joyous gatherers, kissing babies and patting children on the head.
One admirer of the pope and the pope's favorite soccer team, Argentina's Saints of San Lorenzo, insisted that Francis take a team jersey he was waving at the pontiff. A delighted Francis obliged, briefly holding up the shirt.
Since the start of his papacy on March 13, Francis has repeatedly put his concern for the poor and suffering at the center of his messages, and his Easter speech reflected his push for peace and social justice.
He said he wished a "Happy Easter" greeting could reach "every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons."
In another departure from Easter tradition, Francis won't be heading for some post-holiday relaxation at the Vatican's summer palace in Castel Gandolfo, in the hills southeast of Rome. That retreat is already occupied by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who went there in the last hours of his papacy on Feb. 28. Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the position, and eventually is to move back to the Vatican, after a convent there is readied for him.
Francis so far has declined to move into Benedict's former apartment in the Apostolic Palace, into the rooms whose studio overlooks St. Peter's Square. He is still in the Vatican hotel where earlier this month he was staying along with other cardinals participating in the secret conclave to choose Benedict's successor.
While Francis has just begun to make his mark on the church, it is plain he has little desire to embrace much of the pomp customarily associated with the office.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more:

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pope Francis first Easter Vigil homily

Full text of Pope Francis’s homily at the Easter Vigil

By on Saturday, 30 March 2013

Pope Francis processes into St Peter's Basilica this evening (AP)
Pope Francis processes into St Peter's Basilica this evening (AP)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises; we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us!
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.
2. But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; he is the everlasting “today” of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you, dear sister, dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness… and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive!
Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.
3. There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: “they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground”, Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words” (Lk 24:6,8). They are asked to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.
On this radiant night, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who treasured all these events in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51) and ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May he open us to the newness that transforms. May he make us men and women capable of remembering all that he has done in our own lives and in the history of our world. May he help us to feel his presence as the one who is alive and at work in our midst. And may he teach us each day not to look among the dead for the Living One. Amen.

An Easter Vigil flashback homily

Homily for the Easter Vigil

>>>From 2010<<<

Homily for the Easter Vigil April 3, 2010

Several years ago, on one of my family vacations, we ventured out west and had the opportunity to visit the area known as the four corners. In one spot, if you are very flexible, you can literally touch the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Simply a fixed spot on a map, this location is determined by a boundary; a border.

We all are familiar with boundaries; some physical; some not so physical. My family, for instance, knows the boundary of the work space in the home where I read and write and prepare my homilies. And I know the boundary I must never cross when my wife comes home from a particularly tough day at work; especially these days as she works in a C.P.A. office.

As people of faith, are we aware of the boundaries that prevent us from fully experiencing the love of the Risen Christ? Are we aware of the boundaries we encounter tonight that help us to truly be an Easter people?

The first boundary tonight was the boundary of the darkness. That boundary was crossed with the experience of the light. Tonight, the light came to us from the new fire which first lit the Easter candle from which all other candles in the church were lit. And then as we heard the rich Word of God proclaimed to us; more light.

The second boundary tonight was the experience of the many readings from Holy Scripture. Yes, tonight, these readings help us ponder and pray with the whole story of creation, the prefigurement of Christ in Abraham and his only son Isaac, and the beautiful story of Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea; the prefigurement of Baptism which we will celebrate tonight. These readings remind us of our salvation history and challenge us to extend our boundaries in our own faith journey.

A third boundary tonight is found in our beautiful Gospel passage from St. Luke. This Scripture, carefully selected for tonight’s Easter vigil, gives us St. Luke’s rendering of the first Easter morning. Unlike so many Gospel readings throughout the year, tonight our first mentioned characters are women; the women who despite the hostility just shown to the crucified Jesus make haste to go the tomb. The boundary they encountered they did not understand. These women found a stone rolled away from the tomb and Jesus not there. And they become the first to hear the words that break through all boundaries: “He is not here, but he has been raised.”

Here, we can ponder and pray with the glorious announcement that not even death is a boundary God can’t conquer.

The Gospel names the women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James. They rush off to the apostles and we hear that it is Peter who, forgoing his own boundaries, rushes to the tomb. And as he gazed upon the empty tomb; he knew and he went home amazed!

I mentioned Baptism. Yes, in a few minutes we will experience a Baptism and Rite of Acceptance; tonight, 5 new Catholics join our family. For them, they have expanded and stretched their boundaries, studying the faith and making a decision to enter into the fullness of truth. For all of us gathered here tonight, we share their joy and can use this evening to explore our own boundaries of faith.

When we leave here tonight, rejoicing with the Alleluia chorus and the light of truth and the Easter joy, what will we do? Which boundary do we wish to extend, to conquer, and to overcome? Perhaps we are “cradle” Catholics who sometimes take our faith for granted. Perhaps we can lapse into that cafeteria style of Catholicism, where we pick and choose those tenets of the faith we will or will not follow. Think about the boundaries we have been presented with tonight and how the Easter Resurrection encourages us that with God, there is no boundary that holds us back; no boundary we can’t cross with the Resurrected Jesus at our side. And for us long time Catholics, can we extend our hands to our new family members and welcome them to the Church as Christ welcomes us with His love?

New and old Catholics alike tonight, extend the boundaries that hold us back. Extend the boundary of this Easter celebration. Realize that Easter is not contained to this evening. No, Easter Day is an octave. For the next 8 days we celebrate Easter. Attend Mass or pray the prayers of the day this week in an effort to rejoice at the boundaries you are pushing forward. We are also now in our second day of the great novena to Divine Mercy. Participate in this devotion as part of your Easter joy.

And remember the light; the light that began outside of Church and cascaded all the way through our gathering tonight. This is the light of Christ, the light of truth and the light that guides our way on the journeys to and beyond all the boundaries we will encounter in this life. In the week ahead, look to the light!

To stand in one place and be in four states required the crossing of four boundaries and lot’s of flexibility. To be in a state of grace that crosses the boundary of this life and the promise of everlasting life requires our total gift of self to He who is risen; for He is truly risen!

Churches as Christian houses of prayer

Read the Catechism in a Year image
Read the Catechism in a Year

Catechism in a Year: Day 167

Part Two: How We Celebrate the Christian Mysteries
- Section One: God Acts in Our Regard by Means of Sacred Signs
-- Chapter Two: How We Celebrate the Mysteries of Christ

Question 190: What is a Christian house of prayer?
A Christian house of prayer is both a sign of the ecclesial communion of people at a specific place and also a symbol of the heavenly dwellings that God has prepared for us all. In God’s house we gather together to pray in common or alone and to celebrate the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
“It smells like heaven here.” “Here you can be very quiet and reverent.” Many churches surround us perceptibly in a thick atmosphere of prayer. We sense that God is present here. The beauty of church buildings directs our attention to the beauty, greatness, and love of God. Churches are not just stone messengers of the faith, but dwelling places of God, who is really and truly and substantially present in the sacrament of the altar.

Question 191: What liturgical spaces define a house of God?
The central places of a house of God are the altar with the crucifix, the tabernacle, the celebrant’s chair, the ambo, the baptismal font, and the confessional.
The altar is the central point of the church. On it Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and Resurrection are made present in the celebration of the Eucharist. It is also the table to which the People of God are invited. The tabernacle, a kind of sacred safe, houses with the greatest honor in a most worthy place in the church the Eucharistic species in which the Lord himself is present. The so-called perpetual lamp indicates that the tabernacle is “occupied”. If the lamp is not burning, the tabernacle is empty. The raised chair (Latin cathedra) of the bishop or the priest means that ultimately Christ is the one who leads the congregation. The ambo (from Greek anabainein = to climb up), the lectern for the Word of God, should manifest the value and dignity of the biblical readings as the Word of the living God. Baptisms are performed at the baptismal font, and the holy water font should be a vivid reminder of our baptismal promises. A confessional or confession room is there so that we can acknowledge our guilt and receive forgiveness.
Dig Deeper: Corresponding CCC section (1182-1188) and other references here.
Recommended Reading for Holy Saturday: Jesus of Nazareth - Holy Week by Pope Benedict XVI

Friday, March 29, 2013

Local opinion piece says this years Lent was pretty joyful

Lent this year was a joyous time for Catholics: Theodore P. Mahne

Archbishop Gregory Aymond distributes Ash Wednesday at St. Louis
Archbishop Gregory Aymond distributes ashes for Ash Wednesday at St. Louis Cathedral, Feb. 13.
By Theodore P. Mahne, | The Times-Picayune
on March 29, 2013 at 2:12 PM
Lent, let's face it, is never a very trying time in New Orleans. Fish fries and crawfish boils on Fridays, in lieu of meat, are hardly penitential acts. Not long ago, Archbishop Gregory Aymond even issued a letter to the local seafood industry noting that alligator can be considered seafood, and thus appropriate for Lenten meals. And just about the time we start to forget our taste for king cakes, St. Patrick's and St. Joseph's Day parades return revelry to the streets.
And yet, for the church in and of New Orleans, it has been even more difficult to view this year's Lent as a gloomy season of self-sacrifice. A sense of joy and celebration has pervaded the traditional time of penance and preparation.
We continue to bask in the glow of the many successful events that have shaped our city since the beginning of the year. We've been proud and gracious hosts. Despite the lingering problems that our city faces, it just feels good to be a New Orleanian again.
And for Catholics, that feeling of joy reached a culmination this month with the election of Pope Francis. The first pontiff from the Americas, the first Jesuit pope, and the first to take the name Francis, he is a simple, smiling pope who has already captured the hearts of the people.
The exhilaration over Francis' election is as refreshing as it was unexpected. After all, even the most devout Catholics would acknowledge that for the past several years, it has been difficult to fully experience the joy of the faith. The sex abuse scandals, divisions driven more by politics than faith, questionable financial dealings in the Vatican, all have led to a mood overshadowing the true message of the love of Christ.
That mood began to change with the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he would retire. After the initial surprise of the historic move, a feeling of excitement started to grow.
In the anticipation of the new pope's election, it had reached a level of exuberance that wasn't tinged by the typical period of mourning over the death of a previous pope. In giving up the Chair of Peter, Benedict displayed a great act of courage and humility. Recognizing that he was no longer able to fulfill the demands of the office, he placed the good of the church ahead of tradition or his own self-interest.
In Catholic theology, the foundation of the office of the papacy is based in sacred Scripture, most notably the oft-quoted passage from Matthew's gospel in which Jesus gives Simon Peter "the keys to the kingdom of heaven." Just before that, however, Jesus asks His disciples the question that resonates across the ages to Christians today: "Who do you say that I am?"
With Pope Francis, we have a man who rejoices in echoing Peter's answer: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." He does so by recognizing the face of Christ in those he encounters, finding a genuine happiness in that mission as the servant of the servants of God. His love for the poor is not some distant ideal; it has been at the center of his priestly ministry continually reaching out to "the least of my brothers."
He also has reminded us that even through the darkest day of Lent, Good Friday, our hearts are anticipating the resurrection. We are an Easter people celebrating, not mourning, our faith.
Imagine what better people we would be if we were to follow Pope Francis' example. Even after the sacrifices made during Lent, let us commit to do more, especially for those most in need, both material and spiritual, throughout the year.

Theodore P. Mahne is a contributing writer for The Times-Picayune | He also is a member of the faculty in the Theology Department at Jesuit High School.

Triduum 2013 through the eyes of this Deacon

Every experience of the Triduum is different and every experience of the Triduum is faith affirming and deeply spiritual.  Last night I served as Deacon of the Gospel at the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  The Holy Thursday liturgy is richly beautiful; bells & smells, the Gloria, washing of feet, the Eucharistic procession to the altar of repose.  I was allowed to preach last night and did so on the topic of remembrance.  Amazingly, I somehow managed not to save the homily so I either will never post it or would have to re-type it, word for word, from the one copy I did manage to print.

After the liturgy, the Church lights were turned down low and we had about 3 hours of Eucharistic Adoration before the stroke of midnight.

As Good Friday morning dawned warmer and foggy, I returned to MHT to preside over the morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for Good Friday.  A nice sized crowd gathered for the morning prayer and stayed around for the Stations of the Cross.  Fast forward to 3 p.m. as we held the celebration of the Good Friday staple; the Passion of the Lord.  The three fold ceremony includes the Word, the veneration of the Cross, and the distribution of Holy Communion using the consecrated hosts from Holy Thursday.  And as is the tradition, we all leave Church in silence.  Hopefully, all return home for an afternoon and evening of prayer and fasting and abstinence.

Tonight, for the 2nd year in a row, I attended our parish living Stations of the Cross, as presented by our youth ministry team.  I can tell you firsthand now, even after witnessing this for the 2nd time, it is well presented, beautiful and capable of moving one to tears.  I mean the young ones presenting the Stations are around 7th thru 12th grade.

I'm home now, tired, very tired and battling a little late season head cold.  But while 2 days are down, there are 2 to go.  Saturday night we have the liturgy of all liturgies for the Easter Vigil.  This year we have both a Catechumen and Candidate.  We are excited to experience Baptism at the Easter Vigil.  I most probably will assume the role as the MC, helping to direct and guide the liturgy along.  And even after this wonderful liturgy is over, there is still no rest for the weary.  We will be back at it Easter Sunday morning at 7 a.m.

The Pope's Homily from Prison

Vatican Radio has provided a translation and transcription of Pope Francis’ unscripted homily to the incarcerated young men and women:
“This is moving, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Peter understands nothing. He refuses but Jesus explains to him. Jesus, God did this, and He Himself explains it to the disciples.. ‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do’.
It is the example set by Our Lord, it’s important for Him to wash their feet, because among us the one who is highest up must be at the service of others. This is a symbol, it is a sign – washing your feet means I am at your service. And we are too, among each other, but we don’t have to wash each other’s feet each day. So what does this mean? That we have to help each other…sometimes I would get angry with one someone, but we must let it go and if they ask a favor of do it!
Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty, as a priest and bishop I must be at your service. But it is a duty that comes from my heart and a duty I love. I love doing it because this is what the Lord has taught me. But you too must help us and help each other, always. And thus in helping each other we will do good for each other.
Now we will perform the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet and we must each one of us think, Am I really willing to help others? Just think of that. Think that this sign is Christ’s caress, because Jesus came just for this, to serve us, to help us”.

Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

Read the Catechism in a Year image
Read the Catechism in a Year

Catechism in a Year: Day 166

Part Two: How We Celebrate the Christian Mysteries
- Section One: God Acts in Our Regard by Means of Sacred Signs
-- Chapter Two: How We Celebrate the Mysteries of Christ

Question 188: What is the Liturgy of the Hours?
The Liturgy of the Hours is the universal, public prayer of the Church. Biblical readings lead the person who prays it ever deeper into the mystery of the life of Jesus Christ. Throughout the world this gives the Triune God the opportunity at every hour of the day to transform gradually those who pray and also the world. The Liturgy of the Hours is prayed not only by priests and religious. Many Christians who take their faith seriously join their voices with the many thousands of praises and petitions that ascend to God from all over the world.
The seven “hours of prayer” are like a treasury of the Church’s prayers. It also loosens our tongues when we have become speechless because of joy, sorrow, or fear. Again and again one is astonished in reciting the Liturgy of the Hours: an entire reading “coincidentally” applies precisely to my situation. God hears us when we call to him. He answers us in these texts—often in a way that is so specific as to be almost disconcerting. In any case he also allows us to have long periods of silence and dryness so that we can demonstrate our fidelity.

Question 189: How does the liturgy affect the spaces in which we live?
By his victory, Christ has penetrated all places in the world. He himself is the true Temple, and the worship of God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24) is no longer bound up with a particular place. Nevertheless, the Christian world is filled with churches and sacred signs, because men need specific places in which to meet and signs to remind them of this new reality. Every house of God is a symbol for our heavenly Father’s house, to which we are journeying.
Certainly one can pray anywhere—in the forest, on the beach, in bed. But since we men are not merely spiritual but also have a body, we need to see, hear, and feel one another; we need a specific place if we want to meet so as to be the Body of Christ; we must kneel down if we want to worship God; we must eat the transformed bread when it is offered; we must set our bodies in motion when he calls us. And a cross on the roadside will remind us of who owns the world and where our journey is taking us.
Dig Deeper: Corresponding CCC section (1174-1181) and other references here.
Recommended Listening for Good Friday: The Passion of Christ in Light of the Holy Shroud of Turin by Fr. Francis Peffley

Good Friday; good?

Why Is Good Friday Good?
By , Guide

The Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan. (Photo by Scott P. Richert)
The Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan, is the world's largest crucifix. Completed in August 1959, it was declared a national shrine by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on September 15, 2006.
(Photo by Scott P. Richert)
Question: Why Is Good Friday Good?
If Good Friday is the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified, why is Good Friday called good?
Answer: Why is Good Friday "good"? That question puzzles not only children but many adults as well. After all, it isn't obvious that we should call Good Friday good, since it is the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. How can Good Friday be good when it commemorates the day on which the sins of mankind brought about the death of our Savior?The Baltimore Catechism declares that Good Friday is called good because Christ, by His Death, "showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing." Good, in this sense, means "holy," and indeed Good Friday is known as Holy and Great Friday among Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox. Good Friday is also known as Holy Friday in the Romance languages.
Thus the answer given by the Baltimore Catechism seems a good explanation, except for the fact that Good Friday is called good only in English. In its entry on Good Friday, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that:
The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from "God's Friday" (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English. Sometimes, too, the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons; so today in Denmark.
If Good Friday were called good because English adopted the German phrase, then we would expect Gute Freitag to be the common German name for Good Friday, but it is not. Instead, Germans refer to Good Friday as Karfreitag—that is, Sorrowful or Suffering Friday—in German.
So, in the end, the historical origins of why Good Friday is called Good Friday remain unclear, but the theological reason is very likely the one expressed by the Baltimore Catechism: Good Friday is good because the death of Christ, as terrible as it was, led to the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, which brought new life to those who believe.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What did we witness tonight?

Through my eyes as a Deacon, at but one parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, I can tell you what I witnessed tonight.  Maybe it was similar for you, or much different.  Perhaps you were not able tonight to be part of the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  It is such a rich liturgical celebration. 

I had so hoped to see part of the Pope's Mass from the juvenile detention center in Rome today; I just got a glimpse at some pictures.  I was able to hear the first part of the Mass from St. Patrick's in New York thanks to satelitte radio.  But my witness would be tonight, as Deacon of the Gospel at the Mass of the Lord's Supper at MHT Parish, Covington, LA.

Ours was a beautifully celebrated liturgy.  We had a full choir, we had a pretty full church to(thanks be to God) and we had three Deacons join the Pastor for the Liturgy.  Five altar servers helped us as we used incense; the bells & smells of good Catholic liturgy.  We heard the singing of the Gloria, not sung during Lent and not sung again until the Saturday evening vigil.  Beautiful readings are proclaimed; the night of the Passover from Exodus; the institution of the Eucharist as St. Paul relays it to the people of Corinth, the Gospel of the washing of feet from John.  We sung the hauntingly beautiful 116th Psalm.  I was happy to preach tonight; a homily I decided to center around "remembering"and how we are called to wash other's feet.  We indeed had the washing of feet, followed by the liturgy of the Eucharist and the beautiful procession to the altar of repose.  Everyone was left in the church to decide how long they would spend in front of the Eucharistic Jesus, prior to Him leaving the Church all together at midnight. 

Was your experience the same?  Is Holy Thursday well attended?  Tonight, are you reflecting on all that Holy Thursday means to us today?

What did you witness tonight?

Pope Francis in service to those in jail on Holy Thursday

Pope Francis' Holy Thursday Homily at Casal del Marmo Juvenile Detention Center 

Rome, (   

Here is the translation of Pope' Francis homily for the "In Coena Domini" Mass celebrated at the Casal del Marmo Juvenile Detention Center.

* * *
This is moving: Jesus who washes the feet of his disciples, Peter did not understand anything and refused but Jesus explained to him.
Jesus, God, has done this and he himself explains to the disciples, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet” I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (Jn. 13, 12-15)
This is the example of the Lord, he is the most important and he washes their feet because among us, he who is greatest should be at the service of others and this is a symbol and a sign.
To wash the feet means ‘I am at your service’ and also us, among us, its not that we have to wash everyone’s feet everyday, but what does this mean? That we should help each other, [to help] one another. There are sometimes where I am a little angry with one, with another, and well, forget it and if they ask you for a favor, do it.
To help each other; this is what Jesus teaches us and this what I [will] do, I do it from the heart because it is my duty, as a priest and as a bishop, to be at your service. It is a duty that comes from my heart, I love it. I love it and I love doing it because the Lord has taught me so, but you must also help each other. Always help each other, the one for the other and in helping each other, we will do good.
And now we will do this ceremony of washing the feet, and we must think. Each one of us must think, ‘Am I really willing to help the other?’ Think only of that and think that this sign is a caress of Jesus, because Jesus came specifically for this: to serve, to help us.”
[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]

The liturgical year and why Sunday is so important

Read the Catechism in a Year image
Read the Catechism in a Year

Catechism in a Year: Day 165

Part Two: How We Celebrate the Christian Mysteries
- Section One: God Acts in Our Regard by Means of Sacred Signs
-- Chapter Two: How We Celebrate the Mysteries of Christ

Question 186: What is the liturgical year (the Church year)?
In the liturgy time becomes time for God.
The liturgical year, or the Church year, superimposes the mysteries of the life of Christ—from his Incarnation to his second coming in glory—on the normal course of the year. The liturgical year begins with Advent, the time of waiting for the Lord, and has its first high point in the Christmas season and its second, even greater climax in the celebration of the redemptive suffering, death, and Resurrection of Christ at Easter. The Easter season ends with the feast of Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church. The liturgical year is repeatedly interrupted by feasts of Mary and the saints, in which the Church praises God’s grace, which has led mankind to salvation.

Question 187: How important is Sunday?
Sunday is the center of Christian time, for on Sunday we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, and every Sunday is a miniature Easter.
If Sunday is disregarded or abolished, only workdays are left in the week. Man, who was created for joy, degenerates into a workhorse and a mindless consumer. We must learn on earth how to celebrate properly, or else we will not know what to do in heaven. Heaven is an endless Sunday.
Dig Deeper: Corresponding CCC section (1166-1173) and other references here.
Recommended Reading in preparation for Easter: Jesus of Nazareth - Holy Week by Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Preparing for Holy Thursday

The significance of Holy Thursday
Except for the resurrection on Easter, Holy Thursday is possibly one of the most important, complex, and profound days of celebration in the Catholic Church. Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood.
During the Last Supper, Jesus offers himself as the Passover sacrifice, the sacrificial lamb, and teaches that every ordained priest is to follow the same sacrifice in the exact same way. Christ also bids farewell to his followers and prophesizes that one of them will betray him and hand him over to the Roman soldiers.
Around the world, Bishops and priests come together at their local Cathedrals on Holy Thursday morning to celebrate the institution of the priesthood. During the Mass, the bishop blesses the Oil of Chrism that will be used for Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the sick or dying.
At this Mass, the bishop washes the feet of twelve priests to symbolize Christ’s washing of his twelve Apostles, our first bishops and priests.
Later that night, after sundown – because Passover began at sundown- the Holy Thursday Liturgy takes place, marking the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred "Triduum,” or three, of Holy Week. These days are the three holiest days in the Catholic Church.
This Mass stresses the importance Jesus puts on the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water, a symbol of baptism. Also emphasized are the critical importance of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of Christ’s Body, which we now find present in the consecrated Host.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the faithful are invited to continue Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night, just as the disciples were invited to stay up with the Lord during His agony in the garden before His betrayal by Judas.
After Holy Thursday, no Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil celebrates and proclaims the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Time and cycle in Liturgy

Read the Catechism in a Year image
Read the Catechism in a Year

Catechism in a Year: Day 164

Part Two: How We Celebrate the Christian Mysteries
- Section One: God Acts in Our Regard by Means of Sacred Signs
-- Chapter Two: How We Celebrate the Mysteries of Christ

Question 184: How does the liturgy affect time?
In the liturgy time becomes time for God.
Often we do not know what to do with our time—we look for a pastime. In the liturgy, time becomes quite dense, because every second is filled with meaning. When we celebrate the liturgy, we experience the fact that God has sanctified time and made every second a gateway into eternity.

Question 185: Why does the liturgy repeat itself every year?
Just as we celebrate a birthday or a wedding anniversary each year, so too the liturgy celebrates over the course of the year the most important events in Christian salvation history. With one important difference, however: All time is God’s time. “Memories” of Jesus’ life and teaching are simultaneously encounters with the living God.
The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said, “Either we are contemporaries of Jesus, or we can have nothing at all to do with it.” Following the Church year in faith makes us indeed contemporaries of Jesus. Not because we can imagine ourselves so precisely as part of his time and his life, but rather because he comes into my time and my life, if I make room for him in this way, with his healing and forgiving presence, with the explosive force of his Resurrection.
Dig Deeper: Corresponding CCC section (1159-1165) and other references here.
Recommended Listening in preparation for Easter: Seven Last Sayings of Christ by Dr. Scott Hahn

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wednesday of Holy Week: Spy Wednesday

Spy Wednesday conversion to Holy Wednesday

By Hugh McNichol
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
"What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?"
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
"Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?"
He said,
"Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
'The teacher says, "My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples."'"
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
"Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
"Surely it is not I, Lord?"
He said in reply,
"He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born."
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
"Surely it is not I, Rabbi?"
He answered, "You have said so."
Wednesday's Gospel reading preludes the betrayal of Judas. How appropriate then is the sometimes used phrase of, "Spy Wednesday," for this period before our celebration of the Sacred Triduum. The events that lead Jesus to the cross are filled with intrigue, suspense and an impending sense of disaster.
Clearly, the powers of good and evil, light and darkness, sin and salvation are poised to exhibit themselves at the place we call Golgotha. The Joannine account of Jesus betrayal seems to show Jesus' deep understanding of His role as the Messianic fulfillment. Judas in his interrogatory and somewhat cynical half statement of,"Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" provides the catalyst for the process of darkness to unravel. What is so significant about this ,"Spy Wednesday" is that it theologically reflects the daily struggles we all endure in order to accept a relationship with the Lord.
To live the life that Jesus intended for us is a perpetual struggle on a daily basis with good and evil. Sometimes when we are questioned about our transgressions, we, sometimes answer back. "It's not me Lord." But the tranquility of Jesus' realization of His mission provides us with hope in the days to come. Rather than provide a discourse to the Twelve, Jesus calmly recalls the Old Testament references to Him and even shares a piece of food with Judas, simultaneously dipping a morsel into the bowl. We should remember that the act of sharing a meal with others is a deeply rooted Semite notion of intimacy and close relationship. Jesus is sharing the meal, not with strangers, but with intimate friends.
Often, we dip morsels and share food with those we love; we feign intimacy and even deceive one another. Jesus is not blind to the events that are revealing themselves as a result of Judas' clandestine negotiations. Judas has turned on Jesus' friendship and love. We too in our lives are sometimes turned against Jesus' love through sinful and unloving activities. There is a real message here in Jesus' tranquil resignation to the events that are coming. Faith in the love and power of the Father.
As believers in the power of God's love and goodness, Spy Wednesday, should provide a period for reflection and introspective prayer. We need to examine our lives and look for the moments that we have falsely shared intimacy with our brothers and sisters in faith. More precisely, contemplate of lack of true, "communio" in our lives. With Judas' false interrogatory response to Jesus, he reveals his true self. Betrayer. Jesus sees right through Judas' false piety and friendship. Jesus sees right through our own appearances when we falsely present ourselves as holy and faithful followers. Our frail human spirit reflects in our sinful acts and lack of faith.
Jesus recognizes this and offers new hope to Judas and us. The "morsel" which Jesus offers to Judas is an offering of friendship and love. Some biblical scholars have even indicated that the "morsel" is symbolic of Jesus' Eucharistic manifestation. Judas does not partake of the meal with Jesus, but he was invited just the same. There is a sense that Jesus recognizes Judas' confrontation with the powers of evil. Jesus does not admonish him or chastise him, but permits Judas to engage in this struggle and reveal the implications of his actions and unfaithfulness. There is hope for conversion. There is hope for grace. There is hope in Jesus' acceptance of the Father's plan. There is hope for Easter glory.
As preparations begin for the Church's celebration of our New Passover ,this Wednesday before the Triduum invites all of us to share in, "Holy Wednesday", not to pursue darkness and evil, but progress on the path of light and life. The Church in its wisdom sees this period of "Holy Wednesday" as a time for personal preparation. Unlike Judas, our preparations should be motivated by the promise of new life in the Paschal Mystery and not a rejection of the "morsel" which Jesus offers to us in friendship and love.

Early desert hermit & prophet; now a Saint

St. John of Egypt

Feastday: March 27
Died: 394

One of the most famous early desert hermits, a noted prophet of his era. He was born in Lycopolis, modern Assiut, Egypt, and became a hermit at the age of twenty. He was walled up in a hermitage near Assiut, with a single window opening onto the public. There he preached to vast crowds each weekend. He predicted two military victories for Emperor Theodosius I, and they were proven accurate in 388 and 392. The cell in which John spent his life was discovered in 1925.

EWTN promises to fight on against evil of the HHS mandate

EWTN vows no compromise after HHS lawsuit dismissal


Michael Warsaw, President and CEO of EWTN. Credit: EWTN.
.- The EWTN Global Catholic Network is “extremely disappointed” by a Monday court ruling that dismissed as “unripe” its lawsuit against a federal mandate that could require the organization to violate Catholic teaching.

“Contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs are not healthcare. EWTN cannot and will not compromise our strongly held beliefs on these moral issues,” EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw said March 25.

On Monday Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham dismissed the Irondale, Ala.-based organization’s lawsuit until new regulations are “created and finalized.” The March 25 court decision agreed that EWTN has standing to sue, but it sided with Obama administration lawyers who contended that the case is not ripe for review.

The lawsuit initially concerned federal regulations requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that can cause abortions. The mandate’s narrow religious exemption did not apply to many Catholic organizations. Violators faced staggering fines of $100 per employee per day.

The Obama administration has since revised the federal rules to require that insurance providers, not employers themselves, provide the objectionable coverage and pay for it out of the “savings” they enjoy from not paying for children. Critics have dismissed the change as an accounting gimmick.

The change also does not address the concerns of EWTN, which is a self-insured employer.

Government lawyers said that the mandate is in the process of being amended and there is “a significant chance” that these changes will “alleviate altogether” the need for judicial review.

Warsaw was doubtful of this outcome. He said that the government has made “promise after promise to amend its unjust rules.”

“As a result, nearly everyone, including the courts, is left waiting to see what the government might or might not do to address the serious issues of conscience that have been raised since the first set of rules were published over a year ago,” he said.

He said the judge did not rule on the constitutional issues he said were “at the heart” of the lawsuit. EWTN is consulting with its legal team from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty about possible options.

EWTN’s lawsuit cited the need to plan for any financial problems as a result of the mandate. It said there is a danger of third-party lawsuits attempting to enforce the mandate because the safe harbor provision it is presently operating under only protects it against lawsuits from the government.

The court said EWTN will not suffer sufficient hardship before the rules are changed to merit further judicial review, but it allowed that the case may be revisited after further developments.

Warsaw voiced gratitude for the prayers and support for EWTN and asked for continued prayers as the network considers its response.

What is the Chrism Mass?

by Paul Turner

The Mass of Chrism comes once a year to your cathedral. If you've never celebrated it, you're missing one of the most solemn and significant liturgies of our church. During the Mass, your bishop will bless the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick, and the oil of chrism. We use the first for adult catechumens and infants, the second for anointing the sick, and the sacred oil of chrism for baptism, confirmation, the ordination of priests, and the consecration of altars. All three are basically an olive oil; chrism spices the air with the scent of a perfume, traditionally balsam. For pastoral reasons, another vegetable oil and perfume may be used.
Bishops have blessed oil ever since the early church. They baptized catechumens at the Easter Vigil and prepared chrism fresh for the occasion. While they were blessing chrism, they blessed the other oils as well. Rather than overburdening the Vigil with this ritual, bishops blessed these oils at the previous celebration of the Eucharist, Holy Thursday. This also allowed time to transport vessels of oil from the cathedral to all the churches in the diocese. For more than one thousand years, bishops blessed the oils at the cathedral Holy Thursday liturgy, but in 1955 we added a separate Mass earlier in the day at the cathedral for that purpose, the Mass of Chrism. Today it may be celebrated on a different day shortly before Holy Thursday to give the celebration independence and so that more people like you may attend.
Since the bishop is the only minister in the diocese who may consecrate chrism, this Mass highlights his ministry and our union with him. He will not baptize and confirm everyone in the parishes of the diocese, but he will be symbolically present in the chrism which the priests and deacons will use. In recent years, this Mass has also acknowledged the ministry of priests. It invites them to renew their commitment of service and to receive the prayers and support of the people. The Mass of Chrism gathers the faithful of the diocese at their mother church with their shepherd to prepare for celebrations of Christ in all our churches throughout the year.
(This bulletin insert originally appeared in MODERN LITURGY, copyright (c) 1997, Resource Publications, Inc. It may not be reproduced without permission. Send permission requests to

>>>While a few years old this is a nice concise article about the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated today in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  Why not on Holy Thursday?  Many dioceses have found that distance from the Cathedrals back to home parishes made it impractical to celebrate on Holy Thursday, forcing many pastors to drive long distances to get back home in time for parish activities including the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper.