Sunday, May 31, 2009

Exalt Fest

I do not generally blog about single events but last night I witnessed an event that compels me to do so. As a new Deacon, I am always interested in efforts to keep our young Catholics involved in our faith. We know all to well that peer pressure, high school or college activities can tug at our youth and their practice of the faith. So when I hear of something that seems to be "working" I checked it out. I already have participated in many of the youth fests at St. Joseph's Abbey in Covington, LA and cherish the talks and Benediction service we hold most Monday nights at our own St. Jane's in Abita Springs.

Our neighbors to the south have a vibrant youth ministry and have begun something called Exalt Fest. Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Mandeville, LA held their latest Exalt Fest last night in conjunction with the Holy Spirit Novena. I went and was immediately touched by the hundreds of teens, pre-teens, young college age students, several moms and dads and maybe grandmas and granddads and others drawn to the praise and worship music that had the kids excited and lifting their hearts and minds in prayer. Oh yes, I enjoyed it although now older, I must admist, it was loud. But make no mistake; the young people, and all gathered, seemed to understand that this was an evening to be with God.

And make no mistake, it was a beautiful Catholic experience. The speakers drew everyone to Jesus, with emphasis too on the Holy Spirit and the Pentecost event. And when Jesus was presented in the Blessed Sacrament, carried by Fr. John in the monstrance, I witnessed hundreds of youth on their knees; not told to do it, they just knew to do it. Awesome! There was power, praise, awe, adoration, love, worship on display. We sang Tantum Ergo, and the kids knew it!!! And when Benediction was over, confession was made available. Again, many took advantage of the sacramental grace, many of them the youth.

I had to remind myself that this was a Saturday night, at the start of summer vacation, yet here were hundreds of young people spending their night with God. I also relaized that this was far from mere entertainement and good time rock and roll appealing only to emotion. Unfortunately, despite best efforts and sincere intentions, many other Christian attempts at praise and worship are just that, feel good experiences. Last night, Jesus was with us, body & blood, soul & divinity. And the Holy Spirit was called down upon us. When the three Priests present laid hands on us, these were consecrated hands. And when the music died down, many received forgiveness and healing through Reconciliation. It was a Catholic event and it reached deep down into the hearts, minds and souls of all; including our young people.

As Catholics, we must continue to explore the manner in which we feed our lambs, nourish their souls and keep them faithful to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. For our part, we should show our love for God and His Church in word and deed. And moms & dads, do not believe that letting them go to other youth groups or events that are not Catholic is necessarily good. Do they have the spirituality and maturity to discern what is good, holy and true. This is NOT meant as a slight to our Christian brothers and sisters. But if we are going to bring them up in the faith, let us do so. And as Church, if we do not feed them, demand that we do and get involved yourself. We are Church!

Last night I ran into good friends, old friends, teens I know from Church and shared a special evening with all of them. I even had a chance to pray with a young man discerning a call to the Priesthood. What an awesome moment that was.

Pray for our young people, for young Catholics. If you ever get a chance to "praise and worship" with them, do it!! It might just change your life and their young life too. Come Holy Spirit Come!!! May Jesus Christ be praised, now and forever!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pentecost Homily

In looking back at my homilies in formation, I came across this one from 2008 as I was navigating homiletics. I share it here as we prepare for Pentecost:

I’ve been around long enough to remember the TV show Perry Mason starring Raymond Burr in the lead role. Now Perry Mason was a great defense lawyer who, through the miracle of TV, never lost a case. His clients were always found innocent. And more remarkable, he always figured out who the real guilty party was!!! You could say he was a great advocate for his clients.

Now I hope all of us have never had the need for a defense attorney. But, if you did, I trust they too were a great advocate for you. All of us have had advocates in our lives; from our parents, teachers, mentors, school counselors, perhaps even social workers or other various professionals. In fact, society today encourages us to rely on many different advocates to improve our quality of life.

As people of faith, do we rely on “the” Advocate? Do we trust in the Comforter and Helper promised us by Jesus? Of course I am referring to the Holy Spirit!!!

On this Pentecost Sunday, the end of our Easter season and the birthday of the Church, we hear the account from Acts when the Holy Spirit comes to the Apostles and other followers of Jesus. And what a grand entrance He makes!!! We hear such vivid descriptive passages as “suddenly a noise like a strong driving wind” and “tongues as of fire”. Truly Jesus is delivering on His promises. He promised the sending of “another Advocate” and told his followers “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”.

And what happens with this power? What happens when these followers receive the Holy Spirit? They become bold and courageously proclaim the Good News. Now filled with the power of the Advocate and the gifts of the Holy Spirit they too become premier defense attorneys. And like our example of Perry Mason, this Advocate, the Holy Spirit, emboldens the apostles and disciples to not only declare Jesus innocent of any sin but identify the guilty as well. Jesus took on the sins of the guilty and died for us. But he was not guilty of sin. The author of sin, the devil, is the guilty party. And the Holy Spirit gives us the courage to not only accept this truth, but to boldly proclaim this truth. We can look to St. Paul, in today’s letter to the church in Corinth, who proclaims that even declaring “Jesus is Lord” can only be done with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit.

I mentioned earlier that Jesus promised “another Advocate”. We hear Jesus declare in the Gospel of John that “it is better for you that I go, for if I do not go, the Advocate will not come. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Is Jesus saying to us that the other Advocate, the Holy Spirit is more necessary than himself, the Son of God and the original Advocate? Not really. When Jesus was on the earth, whoever “sees Him sees the Father”. But now Jesus has ascended to the Father and sits at his right hand so he left us the Holy Spirit. Whoever listens to the Advocate, listens to Jesus. What Jesus is to the Father, the Holy Spirit is to Jesus. The Holy Spirit does not take on flesh; his presence is not visible. He is not confined by time and space. What does this mean to you and me today?

It means the Holy Spirit of the early church, the Holy Spirit we learn of from the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit of that first Pentecost, is the same Holy Spirit working in our lives right now, today. The same Holy Spirit we know from times past is the same Holy Spirit called down at this and every Mass as the bread and wine become the Body & Blood of Jesus, this same Holy Spirit is alive and working in each of us today. So we confidently proclaim Come Holy Spirit!!!

So we are challenged in this week ahead to be more mindful of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Just this week, I would like to propose a little homework. Take time every evening this week and read a chapter or two from the Acts of the Apostles. This truly can be called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. And review the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit. They can most easily be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1831. Finally, add the prayer to the Holy Spirit to your daily prayer routine. And when you pray: “Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful”, say instead come Holy Spirit fill MY heart; use your name. And when you pray: kindle in us the fire of your love, say instead kindle in me, the fire of your love, again use your name. Get comfortable with the realization that you and I can have an intimate personal relationship with the Holy Spirit just as we are comfortable with our intimate personal relationship with Jesus!!!

As we prepare to enter with the Holy Spirit into the liturgy of the Eucharist let us again recall the unique role as Advocate, comforter and helper the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. Yes, Perry Mason was a great advocate on TV, but the Holy Spirit is our true Advocate today, tomorrow and forever. Come Holy Spirit and kindle in me the fire of your love.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Come Holy Spirit

Past the halfway point of the Novena to the Holy Spirit, a quick refresher on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, holy fear of the Lord.

Fruits: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit, and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

She did it again!

Susan Boyle did it again; this is her last performance on Britain's Got Talent; she now is in the final. Her story is very inspiring and restores the human spirit. See my previous post a few weeks back.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What a Week!

A Week in the Life of a Catholic Permanent Deacon

When I began my email updates and then this blog one of my goals was to help family, friends, fellow Catholics and all people of goodwill to learn more about the office of the Permanent Deacon. So I thought perhaps a walk through a very busy active week would help to explore the activities of a Deacon.

From the outset, please know that being a Deacon is not just about “what” we do but more about “who” we are.

Everyday always begins with prayer. As a Permanent Deacon I pledged to pray morning and evening prayer from what we call the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours. This is also referred to as the breviary. This prayer consists of antiphons, hymns, several psalms, a reading from Scripture, prayer intentions and the Our Father. At Morning Prayer the featured Gospel canticle is that from Zechariah from Luke 1:68-79 and the Evening Prayer Gospel canticle is the Magnificat, the words spoke by Mary at the Annunciation; Luke 1: 46-55.

We are encouraged to pray other hours of the day and I’ll try to do Night Prayer as well. Again, this is done every day without fail.

Until recently, I assist at daily Mass. Some shifts in my work day (yes I have a full time job) have greatly cut down on my ability to attend daily Mass. This past week, I was able to attend just once. During this past week, I had several administrative tasks to perform related to my prison ministry and I visited with the men at Rayburn on Wednesday night. I prepare a communion service and a homily and allow ample time to visit with the men one on one to assist with their spiritual needs. Every visit is a blessing; this past week no exception.

This capped off a very busy day. Taking advantage of a day off from work, I attended two meetings related to ministry. One meeting afforded me the opportunity to visit with other Deacons and our Priests from the West St. Tammany Deanery. We listened to several guest speakers who gave advice on parish ministries and finances among other topics. That afternoon, all the Deacons from my home parish met to work out schedules, assignments and other important tasks. I was given an opportunity to assist with another baptism and to work with a young couple on having their marriage blessed or sacramentalized. These opportunities to work directly with people and bring them closer to Jesus through His Church are always welcomed by the Deacon.

I had another meeting to attend at a neighboring parish that afforded me the opportunity to visit with two acolytes; men who are on path to be ordained Deacons next year. I also mentor three men who have just begun formation so I spent some time this week preparing for a mentoring session this coming week and a more personal visit I plan to arrange in June.

One of the absolute highlights of the week was preparing for my homily for the Feast of the Ascension, delivered today. I love the work that is necessary to prepare a homily. First, all preparation is grounded in prayer, including praying with the Scriptures. Next, I do my own exegesis; studying the meanings of the writings in context, and finally I draft an outline which hopefully, results in the final product. I also prepared my shorter homily for the Baptism I presided at this afternoon.

As in any given week, there was ample opportunity to have one on one time with several folks who, like all of us, are exploring their faith life and their relationship with God. I pretty much will drop anything to listen and share with others of the amazing love God has for each of us. Many weeks I am called to a home of a parishioner or the hospital or maybe a funeral. This past week brought no such events. But I did many other important things as a Deacon all week long. I went to work, assisted clients, cut my grass, feed my horses, went to lunch with dear friends, spent some time with my daughter, Elizabeth, even helped her find a summer job, told my wife Wendy I love her, watched my favorite TV show, called friends, had good friends over for a visit, went to coffee with folks from church. You see, being a Deacon is being you. I even spent some personal time with God for myself. I visited Him in Church before the tabernacle, I prayed to Him and I asked Him for courage and strength in understanding all that He wants me to do. Even after nearly 6 years of formation and 6 months after ordination, I still am being formed and I still am discerning His will for me.

By the way, since this is Sunday, the first day of a new week, I had a very beautiful experience. After preaching at the 11 a.m. mass, I baptized a beautiful baby, my second opportunity to preside. Little Addison was the first little girl that I was privliged to Baptize. I wish I could adequately explain the feeling when administering this powerful Sacrament.

So I hope this helps in giving some appreciation for a week in the life of a Deacon. All Permanent Deacons face similar weeks. Again let me stress that it is not as important to focus on what we do but that we have been called to sacramentalize service by our ordination and our office. Pray for vocations to this wonderful ministry and pray even more intensely for vocations to the Priesthood.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8.

Deacon Mike.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why do I miss him still...?

In the Breaking of the Bread by Kitty Cleveland

A beautiful Eucharistic song by an amazingly gifted local talent from neighboring Mandeville, LA. Kitty Cleveland's music is special; God inspired. It will help your faith!!!

Homily for Feast of the Ascension

Homily for Ascension Sunday May 23 & 24, 2009

Based on Acts 1:1-11 & Mark 16: 15-20

I’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places!!

This became a very popular song from the movie Urban Cowboy. Allow me to come clean and admit it; back in the day I loved the whole Urban Cowboy deal. Remember mechanical bull riding, line dancing, world famous Gilley’s and the worm in the tequila bottle. What’s that all about?

How often do we look for love in all the wrong places or happiness in things to good to be true? We look for wealth in casinos and lotteries, we look for health in the “too good to be true diets”, we are still searching for the fountain of youth, we look to take the edge off with an adult beverage, we look to accumulate friends without developing friendship, we look for our heroes in TV reality shows and on and on it goes. We stare into space, we daydream.

As people of faith, are we truly looking for the love of Christ, in all the wrong places? Will someone say to us why are you standing there, staring at the sky?

It is evident from today’s first reading from Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of St. Mark that Jesus ascended; went up. It says specifically “lifted up” and “taken up” in these two readings. Both St. Mark and St. Luke, the author of Acts, would be very familiar with the Jewish teaching that creation has three levels: heaven above, the earth and the underworld below. They considered God as living above the heavens. All things pointed up.

God does not live in some remote location in the physical universe. We know that rockets and satellites and Hubble telescopes do not crash into God’s home.

The handpicked preacher of Pope John Paul II, Fr. Cantalamessa, puts it this way: “God is in heaven, and on earth and everywhere. He created the heavens so He cannot be contained by heaven. Heaven is a state of being more than a place. Heaven truly exists. You and I cannot describe it, anymore than a person blind from birth could describe red or green or blue.”

So what should we understand about the Ascension? First, it is the logical completion of the Resurrection. Heaven now contains the risen body of Jesus Christ. Second, Jesus Christ now sits at God’s right hand. We acknowledge this very fact at Mass when we say in the penitential rite “you plead for us at the right hand of the Father.” Third, we know that Jesus also tells us that He must ascend to the Father so the Holy Spirit can come and dwell with us in a special way. The Holy Spirit will give birth to the powerful witness that began the Church on Pentecost, the feast we celebrate next week.

But if I may quote yet another favorite song from my much younger days: “what goes up must come down.” Because Jesus has ascended do we conclude He is not present? No! Look at our Gospel acclamation today from St, Matthew: “I am with you always until the end of the world.” How? Most excellently in the Eucharist! Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, body, blood, soul and divinity. Yet we proclaim that Jesus, body, blood, soul and divinity is in Heaven. What does this mean for us? It means every consecration, every time you receive Him in Holy Communion; we partake in heaven itself, sacramentally. Earth receives heaven as heaven touches earth. The resurrected and ascended Jesus comes down to allow us to receive Him.

This alone is more than enough to encourage us to not stare at the sky or look for Jesus in all the wrong places. Yet, there is another command in today’s Gospel. We are called to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. The Gospel is proclaimed at Mass by a Deacon or a Priest. The Gospel must be proclaimed every day; every where by every one who believes in the resurrected and ascended Jesus. This can be done one-on-one, in small groups, large groups, in prayer and by our actions as a follower of Christ. As St. Francis said: “preach the Gospel always and when necessary, use words!”

So even though we honor the Ascension of Jesus, we rejoice in knowing we still see him in the sacred signs of the sacraments, the moments spent in Eucharistic Adoration and receiving Him in Holy Communion. We rejoice in the complete and liberating peace of every confession. And we rejoice in our encounters with Him in all our brothers and sisters that we assist, that we pray for, that lift us up in prayer and support as well.

Are you still intent at staring at the sky? Still planning on looking for love in all the wrong places? Look then to Jesus, who is love in all the right places!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Blessed Seelos moving toward canonization?

Please refer back to my homily in March about Angela Boudreaux and her approved miracled that led to Seelos' beatification. Mary Ellen's story below may lead to full sainthood for this holy dedicated priest:

By George P. Matysek Jr. Go home and prepare to die.That’s what Mary Ellen Heibel’s doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington told her May 11, 2004, after they discovered that the cancer that had attacked Heibel’s esophagus in 2003 and then a lymph node later that year had spread throughout her body.Given about six months, the longtime parishioner of St. Mary in Annapolis underwent a new form of chemotherapy at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore as a palliative treatment to extend her life. But doctors warned it would only postpone the inevitable.At the suggestion of a Pittsburgh priest, Heibel began praying a novena in 2005 to Blessed Francis X. Seelos – a 19th-century Redemptorist pastor of her parish who died of yellow fever in 1867 in New Orleans. One week after she began the novena at her parish, Heibel’s cancer disappeared. Gone were tumors in both lungs, her liver, back and sternum. When Dr. Michael Gibson, her doctor at Hopkins, called with the news, Heibel couldn’t believe it.“I was just so excited. I called everyone,” the 71-year-old mother of four remembered. “I never thought in a million years this would happen.”Told by her doctors that the unexplained healing could not be the result of her chemotherapy, Heibel is convinced that Blessed Seelos interceded on her behalf. “I know this had to be a miracle,” she said.Archdiocesan officials are now investigating whether Heibel might just be right. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien opened an archdiocesan inquiry into the alleged healing with a May 19 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. The archbishop also appointed a group to investigate the case and listen to testimony from Heibel, Dr. Gibson and other witnesses.The commission’s findings will be sent to Father Antonio Marrazzo, Redemptorist postulator general in Rome, who will then take them to the Vatican’s Congregation of the Causes of Saints. If the healing is deemed miraculous, Blessed Seelos could be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI.“It calls to mind the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the building of the church of Baltimore,” Archbishop O’Brien said before the May 19 Mass. “Blessed Seelos is typical of many priests and members of the faithful throughout the archdiocese who have taken their faith seriously and lived it faithfully and shared it with others in an inspiring way.” Cardinal William H. Keeler was also at the Mass.Father Gilbert Seitz, the archbishop’s episcopal delegate in the inquiry, said members of the investigative group include Dr. Larry Fitzpatrick of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, who will serve as a medical expert; Capuchin Franciscan Father William Graham, promoter of justice; and Deacon Neil Crisp and Leslie Engle, notaries.Redemptorist Father John Kingsbury, pastor of St. Mary, said the possible healing is a “major breakthrough” in the canonization effort. Two miracles that occur after death are needed to become a saint in the Catholic Church. The first for Blessed Seelos was recognized when Pope John Paul II beatified the German Redemptorist in 2000. The second miracle needed for canonization could be the Heibel case.“We’re very happy that the archbishop has opened the investigation,” Father Kingsbury said. “I’m glad Mary Ellen was healed no matter what – and, if it’s Seelos and it helps his cause, it would be wonderful.”Born in 1819 in Bavaria, Blessed Seelos came to the United States in 1843 to minister to German-speaking immigrants. Ordained at the now-closed St. James parish in Baltimore in 1844, Blessed Seelos ministered in Pittsburgh before being assigned pastor of St. Alphonsus in Baltimore in 1854. While at St. Alphonsus, Blessed Seelos also ministered at St. James and St. Michael in Baltimore. He laid the cornerstone for St. Joseph in Fullerton.Blessed Seelos became pastor of St. Mary in Annapolis and novice master for Redemptorist seminarians in 1857, and two months later he became pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul in Cumberland and director of the Redemptorist seminary at the parish.During the Civil War, Blessed Seelos relocated his seminarians to Annapolis in 1862 and again became pastor of St. Mary. He visited President Abraham Lincoln in an effort to exempt seminarians from the draft. Because only priests could be exempt, Blessed Seelos arranged for Archbishop Francis Patrick Kenrick to ordain all 20 seminarians.Blessed Seelos worked in Detroit in 1865 and then was reassigned to New Orleans a year later, where he ministered for 13 months before dying at age 48 after ministering to victims of the yellow fever outbreak.Sitting on a bench next to a seated bronze statue of Blessed Seelos at St. Mary a few days before the archdiocese opened the investigation into her alleged healing, Heibel said she attends Mass, prays the rosary and prays to Blessed Seelos every day. She wears a relic, a chip of Blessed Seelos’ bone, around her neck. Many parishioners have been praying for her throughout her ordeal with cancer. “I think people were shocked when I was dying practically and came back to life so fast,” said Heibel, who retired last year as a self-employed antiques appraiser.Heibel said her strong faith is what’s sustained her through numerous health challenges in her life – including a kidney transplant, poor hearing and a bout with septic shock.“Every time I got sick, my faith increased,” she said. Heibel noted that other parishioners and other believers around the country have reported miracles through the intercession of Blessed Seelos. “I don’t know why they picked me out of the whole bunch to use,” she said with a laugh. “So many people have been helped by Blessed Seelos.”Click here to hear Heibel in her own words.May 20, 2009 Email to a Friend

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Notre Dame controversy

Well, it happened. The preiminent Catholic University in America has bestowed an honorary degree on President Barack Obama. Despite the clear and precise guidelines from American Catholic Bishops on the matter, old Notre Dame did want they wanted to do. This is sad.

It's very confusing when just one week ago the secular Arizona St. University choose not to bestow an honorary degree on the President as he addressed their graduating seniors. This was a more practical decision for ASU. They simply decided that Obama's presidency was too new to prematurely declare him and his new administration as the greatest ever. From a simple standard of measurable accomplishment, nothing yet has truly been achieved. Apparently, this news has been wasted on the President of Notre Dame, who today truly crossed the line in introducing Obama with an overwhelming campaign pep rally stump speech.

Obama delivered a great speech, from the status of delivery, tone, voice, etc. Is this news? I do welcome his statement on conscience clauses and his belief in open hearts, open minds and fair words. But lets all be clear; despite his invitation to dialogue and understanding, his actions do not match his rhetoric. In a remarkably short period of time, he has signed executive orders that increase options for abortion, tested the waters on FOCA (although he has not made any concrete action here yet; thank God), appointed a very pro-choice secretary for health and today it is reported that his leading Supreme Court candidate has a 100% pro-choice record.

In an earlier post, I asked if Obama is the most pro-death President ever. While time will tell, the early results are not good. And today, in his speech, he indicated that "fair words" would not change his position, that abortion should be rare (apparently not rare enough to be illegal), that unintended pregnancies should be avoided (you think he meant abstinence or more solutions that go against Church teaching) and that those supporting embryonic stem cell research have hope for a cure; I think he specifically mentioned juvenile diabetes. Newsflash: there is not now or has there ever been any scientific proof that stems cells from embryos will do anything about juvenile diabetes. Yet, adult stem cells show promise and there was not one single word mentioned about adult stem cells.

It is evident that the pro-life movement must be strong and vigilant in the weeks, months and years ahead. Prayer is needed, vigils at abortion mills are needed, fasting is needed, support of mothers who struggle to keep the child is needed and adoption is needed. We, as people of faith, must be true to our faith in our vigilance and in our response and dialogue with those who disagree. In our response, however, we can never cede that which is true based on the teachings of the church and natural law.

Today, Norma McCorvey completed her vigil and was finally arrested for being pro-life. By the way, Norma used to be Roe as in Roe v. Wade. That's right, the plantiff in the abortion ruling does not even believe in abortion any more. Yesterday, the crack police force of our famous Catholic University arrested a frail 80 year old priest. His crime: carrying a cross on an open sidewalk and singing Ave Marie. We have a long way to go.

We must be strong. We must be pro-life. This is the clear teaching of the Church, despite the disobedience of many. We must recognize seemingly gentle words as what they are: "With his lips an enemy pretends, but in his inmost being he maintains deceit, when he speaks graciously, trust him not. The lying tongue is it's owners enemy, and the flattering mouth works ruin." Not my quote, from the Word of God: Proverbs 26: 24-28.

Believe instead in God for He is still on His throne. And despite the events of today, Jesus Christ is still the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Nothing personal, I'll be pulling for LSU Football, as usual AND whoever plays ND.

Deacon Mike

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Another Update on the Sacraments May 16, 2008

In previous posts I have used the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to review the Church’s teaching on Baptism, Reconciliation (or confession) and the Eucharist.

While I have been organizing these updates in the order they are normally received, it is important to remember that 3 sacraments are called sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. So today, I will continue in chronological order and complete the sacraments of initiation in one fell swoop. Let’s review Confirmation.

Does Confirmation play a role in the divine plan of salvation?

From Old Testament time the prophets made clear that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the Messiah, and to the messianic people. See Isaiah 11:2, 61:1, Ezek 36:25-27 and Joel 3:1-2. The whole mission of Jesus was carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit. See Matthew 3: 13-17 and John 1:33-34. The Apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. See Acts 2:11. They gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands.

Why is it called Confirmation?

It is called Confirmation because it confirms and strengthens baptismal grace. The confirmed is further anointed with chrism as Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. See Acts 10:38.

What is the essential rite of Confirmation?

The anointing with chrism done by the laying on of hands by the minister who proclaims sacred words proper to the rite. The anointing is done on the forehead using the words, “be sealed with gift of the Holy Spirit.”

What is the effect of Confirmation?

The special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, like that of Pentecost, is the true effect of Confirmation. The outpouring impresses on the soul an indelible character and produces a growth in the grace of Baptism. Confirmation reinvigorates the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the soul and gives special strength to witness to the faith.

Who can receive the sacrament?

Only those already baptized and in a state of grace may receive Confirmation. Confirmation can never be repeated.

Who is the minister of Confirmation?

Ordinarily the minister is the Bishop. This links the confirmed to the apostolic mission of the Church.

Additional information: It should be noted that currently in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Confirmation normally occurs during the junior year of high school. Additional CCD instruction, including several years preparing for the sacrament, retreats and an interview process are all conducted before Confirmation is received. The person being confirmed must declare in his/her own writing their desire to be confirmed. They select their own confirmation name and do intensive research on the saint they selected. The responsibility of confirming these young men and women is taken very seriously.

Adult confirmation requires additional preparation and is normally done by the Bishop in the Cathedral Church of the diocese on Pentecost Sunday.

Left to explore is the other sacrament of healing, the Anointing of the Sick, and the two sacraments of service: Holy Orders and Matrimony.
More information on Confirmation can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 1285-1321 and in the Compendium, section 265-270.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Sincere wishes to all mothers, grandmothers and God-mothers on this special day. All too often we take mothers for granted. On this, the 3rd Mother's Day since my mom has gone to her heavenly reward I am more aware than ever of her loss. We never really understand the sacrifice they make for us and the challenges they face. For my mom, she was basically a single mom and with the help of extended family did all she could for me and my sisters.

I'm also more aware of how I can take for granted the loving job my wife has done in raising our two children. With one very successful in his career and the other well on her way (LSU Honor student) I certainly must credit Wendy for all she has done for them and for me. Without her loving support, I know that I never would have made through six years of formation.

Today, on this Mother's Day I'm thinking about mom and Wendy and other remarkable moms that have come in and out of my life. I have a great mother-in-law, a wonderfully devoted aunt, a sister who is a great mom and countless friends who have my admiration for the job they do as moms. Some have had to endure countless challenges and obstacles but tackle them head on and continue to devote themselves to the amazing vocation of motherhood. You are all in my prayers in a special way on this beautiful day.

And let's not forget the most beautiful example of motherhood in Mary our Blessed Mother. Her complete and total submission to God's will and loving devotion to her son, Jesus, is one that should give us great joy and peace. To Mary, I say: Totus Tuus, totally yours.

From the Gospel of St Luke, here is Mary's great prayer upon the news she would become the mother of Jesus, the Magnificat:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has looked upon His handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on all ages will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is His name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear Him. He has shown His might with His arm and has scattered the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry He has filled with good things; the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped Israel His servant, remembering His mercy, according to His promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to His descendants forever." Luke 1:46-55.

Happy Mothers Day

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Make Room for "Daddy", God the Father through Jesus, the true vine

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter May 10, 2009

Today is Mother’s Day yet I’m going to speak about daddies. There was an old television show in the 50’s and 60’s that I loved called “Make Room for Daddy”. The show starred Danny Thomas as the patriarch of a typical American family. Danny was really portraying his own life story, balancing family, career and faith. It taught great lessons and provided plenty of laughs.

You see Danny’s real life story is a story of faith, and trust in God. Struggling with his professional career, he prayed to God, through St. Jude, to help him find his way in life and “I will build you a shrine.”

His career took off, his star was rising in Hollywood, his marriage was wonderful, together Danny and Rose Marie had 3 beautiful children.

Then it was time to make good on his promise to God. While all of us here today may not remember the show Make Room for Daddy everyone has heard of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tn. This hospital, perhaps the premier pediatric cancer research facility in the world, is the fulfillment of Danny Thomas’ promise to God. This was one Hollywood superstar who realized that, without God he could do nothing. With God, he could do anything.

Many of us in our own lives have come to realize this truth, without God, we can do nothing.

As people of faith, do we make room for daddy by remaining faithful to Him?

How does Jesus teach this lesson to those of us who hear His Gospel proclaimed today? He uses the image of the vine and the branches. Throughout Old Testament scripture Israel is portrayed as the vine. Now Jesus declares that He is the true vine. He is clearly telling the Jews of yesterday and all of us today, that it is not who we are or what we are that saves us, rather it is He alone who saves. And how is this accomplished? We must remain in Him, like branches on a vine, as He remains in us. This is the realization that we need faith in Jesus. And by remaining in Him, Jesus leads us to the Father.

And Jesus goes on to tell us that the branches must be pruned. Why? To bear much fruit, to produce good fruit. Many of the fruit bearing vines of that time required pruning twice a year. And then, good fruit would come forth. The branches that did not produce good fruit were cut away and destroyed.

Jesus clearly is telling us that His daddy, God our Father, wants us to bear good fruit, to remain in Him, and to be His disciple. For our part, Jesus is telling us to remain part of the vine. We must grow, like well pruned branches through prayer, the sacraments and loving obedience to God’s will. He wants us, by remaining in Him, to profess and practice our faith, to put our faith into action.

Remember what Jesus just said to us: “I am the vine, you are the branches”. We are the branches. What type of branch are we? Are we a branch that grows and prospers and accepts firm yet gentle pruning from God? Are we the branches that bear and produce much fruit; good fruit? Are we the branches that provide shade, sheltering those less fortunate from the searing heat of disappointment and despair? Are we the branches that lift skyward and support life? Are we the branches that stretch out in growth to love the Lord and one another? Or, are we the branches that grow wild that refuses the pruning from God? Are we the branches that wither and die?

And it is clear that to be good branches we must remain connected to Him, the true vine. To emphasize this, listen to the last sentence from the prayer the Priest says before Holy Communion: “keep me faithful to your teaching and never let me be parted from you.” And then we here in today’s Gospel: “Remain in me as I remain in you!”

We are called not necessarily to build a great hospital or an elaborate shrine. We are all called to bear good fruit. For starters, we can examine the depth of our prayer and worship. Do we just offer God our praise and thanks for 1 hour every week? Reflect this week how we can give God so much more, to bear good fruit and remain in Him. Do we truly know our faith? Can we commit to reading a section of the Catechism or a chapter of Scripture weekly or perhaps daily? And when we come to Mass, do we participate fully by listening to His Word, singing the hymns, receiving Him in Eucharist worthily and staying until Mass is over and the ministers have processed from the church?

These are little things we all can do, now, starting today. Jesus simply wants us to turn to the Father and realize that without Him we can nothing. Danny Thomas knew this. Today, thousands upon thousands of children have been treated and cured from a deadly disease. Danny Thomas heard the message of Jesus Christ; a message we all can embrace. Wendy and I met Danny Thomas in 1987 and I wish I would have known then what I know now. That everything Danny accomplished he credited to God. Danny was a well pruned branch bearing good fruit to the Glory of God, his daddy. Even on this beautiful Mother’s Day, may we always make room for daddy!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Just reflecting on a Sunday afternoon...

On this very rainy afternoon just thought about the excitement of first communions, priestly ordinations, May crownings and the ongoing joy of the Easter season. It's great to be Catholic! May brings special springtime devotions to Mary, the Ascension and the celebration of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

I have had a few people ask about concerns regarding the h1-n1 virus (swine flu) and liturgical practices at Mass. The Archdiocese has a statement on their website and each parish may or may not take extra precautions. If for any reason you wish to not exchange the sign of peace with your neighbor, just be polite, wish them peace and indicate you do not wish to shake hands. And, if you decide to forego the cup at communion time that's ok too if this is what you really want to do. Remember, receiving Jesus under either species is the whole body and blood of Jesus. At our parish, we will continue to offer the precious blood. As with any illness, your decision to attend Mass while sick is highly discouraged. While Catholics have a duty to attend Sunday Mass, it is not sinful to miss Mass if you are ill or feel like you may be coming down with an illness. God knows intent.

Finally, I have been most busy lately both at work and in ministry. I continue to serve the men at Rayburn prison, while assisting the parish in various functions. Friends have asked so I can let you know that I will be preaching the weekends of May 23-24 and June 6-7. I have attempted to be available via various communication methods from email to my website, to facebook and yes, now I'm on Twitter. For those of you who know me very well then you know this is a labor of love to go kicking and screaming into the 21st century. But Jesus asked us to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the Earth and this now includes cyberspace.

So feel free to visit me on my site or facebook or twitter or if you just want to call please do so. As a Catholic Deacon, I'm available to point you in the right direction, pray for you and/or with you and answer any questions you may have. I also ask that you pray for me and the ministry of the Deacon. For those of you that have become dear friends, for years, months or weeks, please know that your friendship sustains me personally and in my ministry.

May we all be open to God's abundant blessings and may Mary help us to place our trust in her beloved Son.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever! Hebrews 13:8
Deacon Mike

Give a listen; it's worth it

Friday, May 1, 2009

St. Joseph the Worker

Homily for 1st Friday

May 1st
St Joseph the Worker

Have you been obsessed by “hands” lately. I have. I’ve been really fixated by hands since the news of the swine flu broke last week.

Hands are powerful gifts from God. With our hands we can hold someone, lift someone up, greet someone, carry our load, write a note or letter or email to someone, wipe away a tear, comfort a friend. Of course we can use our hands to do other things too, not so nice things.

Many men and women use their hands in fulfilling their daily labors. St. Joseph was a man who used his hands as a carpenter. He was a humble skilled craftsman who relied on his hands. His hands also help Jesus, his hands supported and cared for the little boy of his home who also is the salvation for the world. With his hands and his whole being he loved, cared for and raised Jesus the baby, the boy, the young man.

St. Joseph is not really quoted in Scripture. He does not have to be to know how powerful an intercessor he truly is for us, for the people of God.

What about the hands of Jesus. His hands did all those things already mentioned as well as blessed us, healed us, cured us, loved us, raised Lazarus from the dead, held bread and wine as he offered himself to the Father, carried a cross, opened wide to accept nails, were lifted up to the Father in prayer and praise as he resurrected and ascended.

What about the hands of our Priests? These consecrated hands bless us, absolve us from sin, anoint us when we are sick, baptize us, offer gifts on the altar, consecrate bread and wine as it becomes the body and blood of Jesus.

Yes, hands are important. On this May 1st, the memorial of St. Joseph the worker, we unite the work of our hands with that of St. Joseph, Jesus Christ, our faithful priests and we pray, prosper the work of our hands Lord, prosper the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17.

From today’s reading from evening prayer: “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord rather than for men, since you know full well you will receive an inheritance from him as your reward. Be slaves of Christ the Lord.” Colossians 3: 23-24.

So on this May 1st, this first Friday, the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, may we consecrate our work to the Lord, use our hands to give praise and prayer to Jesus Christ and may we ask St. Joseph, patron of workers and patron of the Church, to pray and protect us. Amen.