Friday, April 30, 2010

Are you ready for some changes? the liturgy that is. Yes, changes are coming and while they may be over a year away they are coming nonetheless. The Vatican has approved the English translation for Masses in the US of A and I thought I might start highlighting a few on this site.

The changes in the liturgy will be most notable in the wording which has been translated to more correctly convey the original Latin of the texts of the Mass.

I'll focus tonight on the introductory rites.

After the Priest says and makes the sign of the cross he can choose to say the following:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And our response will be: And with your spirit.

>>gone in the new translation is the common response, "and also with you".

When we move to the penetential act, whwn we recite the formula of the general confession it will be changed and this is our response:

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault, through my most grevious fault;
therefore I ask the blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints
and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

The prayer that the Priest says at the conclusion of our confession changes slightly:

May almighty God have mercy on us and lead us, with our sins forgiven, to eternal life.

Now the other options the Priest may use include the following:

Priest: Have mercy on us O Lord. Response: For we have sinned against you.
Priest: Show us O Lord your mercy. Response: And grant us your salvation.

The more commonly used option, which is read by the Priest or the Deacon will sound like this:

Pr or Deacon: You were sent to heal the contrite of heart. Response: Lord have mercy.
Pr or Deacon: You came to call sinners. Response: Christ have mercy.
Pr or Deacon: You are seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us. Response: Lord have mercy.

And we come to the Gloria which has some changes. I must admit, I have heard this version many times in liturgies at the Beendictine monastery in my part of the world. This is how the Gloria will be after the changes are made:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.

Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.

For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.

So there you have it; the changes in the introductory rites.

I'll tackle so more soon.

Remember, no changes coming to sometime in 2011.

May; a powerful month for ministry

In just a few short hours we will say farewell to another month and May will be upon us. May is a transition month; not quite summer but definetly moving in that direction. In our part of the world that means more heat and humidity and more grass to cut. May 2010 will bring us much uncertainty in southeast Louisiana because of the massive oil spill menancing the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

May is among many things, a powerful time for ministry. On the very 1st day of May the Church gives us that wonderful memorial in honor of St. Joseph the Worker. In the foster father of Jesus Christ the Church gives us the model par excellence of the working person. Work, in many ways, can be ministry and prayer. On this May 1st in my parish in Abita Springs we will also celebrate 1st Holy Communion with our 2nd grade CCD students. Always a joyous occassion, I often times wonder how much this blessed event is appreciated fully by family and invited guests. I look forward to this joyous event in the morning.

May 2010 will bring us both the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost. These powerful feasts help remind us of the depth of God's love and the continuing plan of salvation for those who seek Him with a sincere heart.

May is also the month devoted in a special way to Mary, the Mother of God. It is a common devotion to see special Marian devotions in May including gatherings to pray the rosary, May crownings and Marian processions. This Sunday we will have one such procession from our Church through the streets of Abita Springs.

With May we see an increase in sacramental life; more baptisms, weddings and 1st Communions and possibly reconciliation as well. We also have the graced opportunities to minister among our graduating seniors and middle school children.

At the end of this month I will be traveling to North Carolina as my son marries his fiancee Sara. This will be a source of great joy, and yes pride, for his mother and me.

So come on May, we are waiting for you. And may the many opportunities to witness to Christ love be as numerous as those proverbial May flowers.

Archbishop Aymond on the oil disaster in the Gulf

Note>>>This is a letter received today from the Archbishop of New Orleans addressed to Priests and Deacons. His request is one that all are invited to participate in because Louisiana and the Gulf Coast need prayers. This oil spill is a devastating event for the people of this area.

April 30, 2010

Brothers in Christ:

As you are aware, the Horizon oil rig off the Louisiana coast exploded last week and sank into the Gulf of Mexico killing 11 people and causing an oil spill. This weekend (May 1-2) during each Mass I am asking that you pray for all victims of the blast, those who died, those who were injured and their families, that God may give them peace in their time of crisis. Pray too for those working to clean up the oil spill and for those that will be adversely affected by the effects of the spill.

At these times of tragedy, it is important that we remain focused on God’s love and that we are witnesses of hope. We must pray for our brothers and sisters directly impacted by this explosion.

Thank you for your continued witness and ministry.

In Christ,

Most Reverend Gregory Aymond

Archbishop of New Orleans

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pray for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast

In just 5 short years since Hurricane Katrina, the people of southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have made remarkable strides in recovery. Even with everything not quite back to par, and many still scattered across the country, the recovery has been a testament to the human spirit. I'm not totally surprised. Most of the people in southeast Louisiana are tough, hard working people.

Tonight, the same areas of the Gulf Coast that were devasted by Karina are facing a huge man-made ecological disaster. An oil spill that once was considered not such a big deal has become a huge big deal. In a matter of hours, oil is expected to began washing onshore in lower Plaquemines Parish, right near the mouth of the Mississippi River. It is being reported tonight that wind and wave action may bring oil to other parts of southeast Louisiana, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and even Mobile Bay.

What hurts about this is who the first victims will be: the fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen who work hard to scratch out a living and provide for their families. These are folks who do the same work of their fathers and grandfathers. These are the same folks who took the brunt of the devastating effects of Katrina. Their lives tonight are about concern and worry; unable to do anything to prevent that which threatens their very way of life. The environment, the marshes, the beaches, the coast, already under attack, will be so devastatingly impacted. Concerns are being raised about the pelican and other wildlife who will struggle for life itself because of the oil.

A nation will feel the brunt of this too. Louisiana seafood will not be readily available to a nation that craves it. And we will soon hear of increasing in the price of gas. And others will use this disaster to criticize oil drilling. When will our country ever learn, thank God for Louisiana and her willingness to drill. Many of you would be paying $5 per gallon of gas today if not for the great state of Louisiana.

And let's not forget that this traedy began with a horrible rig explosion and the death of 11 men who were simply doing their job.

So tonight, pray that this disaster will have a favorable outcome and pray for the innocent victims and a state and a region that can hardly afford another body shot. Pray for wisdom for those coordinating the clean up and pray that their efforts will meet with success. And pray for those men who died and the families and friends that mourn their loss.

May God continue to watch over and protect Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

Maybe we need a modern day St. Catherine

Today the Church gives us the feast in honor of St. Catherine of Sienna. She was such a profound theologian and writer that she was declared a "doctor" of the Church. St. Catherine was a third order Dominican. She wrote over 300 letters that have survived to this day.

Among her many great contributions to the Church was her staunch belief in and defense of the Papacy. The chaos we have experienced in recent weeks, months and years is not new. Down through history, the Papacy has been under attack and has faced many challenges. During the 1370's the Papacy was under attack from influences within and without. At one point, the Pope moved from Rome, and established his office in Avignon, France. Other men, believing the Pope to have vacated the Chair of Peter claimed to be Pope. It was chaos. In 1376, St. Catherine traveled to Avignon herself and gained an audience with Pope Gregory XI. So impressed by her visit, and her courage and wisdom, the Pope indeed returned to Rome, centralized his authority and all was well.

We could use a current day St. Catherine of Sienna; one who could defend the Pope and influence the Church. Perhaps that person already exists and may have already begin his or her work. Without ever giving any false indication of condoning the heinous acts of sexual child abuse, we all can defend the Pope from the ravenous attacks of the Church's enemy and the media.

So today, we celebrate the feast of St. Catherine of Sienna, Doctor of the Church and we pray for her intercession as we ask for protection for the Church and the Holy Father.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Feast Day of St. Mark

April 25th is the feast day of St. Mark, one of the four evangelists and author of what many consider to be the first Gospel. With April 25th falling on a Sunday we may miss an opportunity to recognize this important feast.

St. Mark was a cousin of St. Barnabas and was part of the traveling group that accompanied St. Paul on his first mission trip and later to Rome. Mark became a disciple of St. Peter whose teachings were a source of inspiration for Mark's Gospel. His Gospel was written sometime after the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Nero, probably around the year 70. St. Mark's Gospel is the shortest among the four as it concentrates on the sayings and stories of Jesus beginning with his public ministry. The pace of the Gospel is quick. Mark brings us to the saving message of the cross rather quickly. His Gospel helped shape the overall Christian message in the early days of the Church.

St. Mark is also believed to have gone to Alexandria where he became their 1st Bishop. On a return trip to Alexandria he was attacked by a group worshiping pagan gods and was drug through the town with a rope tied around the neck until he died.

It is a wonderful tradition of the Church to honor the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Homily for Good Shepherd Sunday April 25, 2010

With the 32nd pick in the NFL draft, the New Orleans Saints select Patrick Robinson. Yes, coming off that Super Bowl victory I still can't get enough of all things Saints; so I watched the NFL draft on TV. Recognizing that many of us did not watch the draft let me summarize: it's all about these college prospects waiting and listening to hear their name called. When they hear their name, they know they have been selected to become part of a NFL team!

We have had many opportunities in our life when we have been called by name. We hear our names called by a loving parent or grandparent beckoning us to dinner, or chores as we played outside in the yard. Our teachers called us by name every morning during roll call. Perhaps we waited to hear our name called by friends as teams were being picked for a friendly game of neighborhood baseball. All throughout life, we have listened for our name to be called.

As people of faith, are we waiting and listening to hear our name called by the Good Shepherd, and when we do, are we prepared to follow Him?

Today's Gospel, albeit short, is powerful in many ways. As Jesus is walking along during an important Jewish feast, the crowds pressed in on him and begged him to declare that He is the Messiah. And they were specific in their request of Jesus; they asked Him to tell them plainly. Instead, Jesus replied: "My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me." Jesus chose the image of sheep to explain what his followers must be like. Why sheep? After all, are not sheep, beautiful to look at, among some of the least intelligient of all animals? Perhaps. But maybe Jesus was more focused on a teaching moment. You see as sheep are being moved from place to place, many shepherds would place their herds together for safety at night. They would be mixed together. And in the morning, the sheep, supposedly not very smart, would know which shepherd to go to simply by the sound of his voice as he called them by name.

We are sheep. Hopefully we are His sheep. As we travel on this journey called life, we are herded together with sheep of different flocks. We survive this life among those who are not Catholic, those who are not Christian, those who do not love, those who do not believe in God, those who just don't know and those that are just confused and afraid and unsure. Yet Jesus is calling His sheep and we are called to listen, hear Him and follow Him. But, unlike those shepherds on the hillside the Good Shepherd, Jesus, is calling all. Yes, he wants all the sheep to become sheep of His flock. Not all will hear that call. Yet Jesus is calling and He is calling all of us by name.

What is Jesus calling us to? This is a wonderful question to ponder this Sunday as we celebrate "vocation Sunday". On the day we hear this powerful Gospel, the Church allows us to focus intently on vocation. All of us are called to a vocation. Our state of life is a vocation. A committed single life or married life is a vocation. Today, just for a minute let's focus on vocations to the Priesthood, the religious life and the diaconate. Can we acknowlede for a moment that we are in need of more vocations. And at the same time, can we celebrate that much good is happening in vocations these days. Despite all the turmoil the Church is enduring, including attacks from the outside, vocations are showing signs of life. We are blessed to be located just miles from one of our two seminaries in the Archdiocese, St. Joseph Seminary College. They have just ordained a new deacon who will be ordained to the Priesthood in a few months. Currently, we have an increase in undergraduates studying now at St. Jospeh.

Vocations to the Priesthood, while still in need of more positive responses, are showing good signs in many dioceses in our country and in many parts of the world. We should take great joy in knowing that our new Archbishop, Gregory Aymond, grew vocations in his previous diocese of Austin. He has asked us to pray for vocations and pray specifically for vocations from OUR parish.

Let me mention the diaconate, a ministry that I was called to, by name, just a few short years ago. In just a few months, we will ordain 10 new Permanent Deacons for our Archdiocese. 3 of them will be serving in our neighboring parishes. And in a few short weeks, the diaconate will start a new inquiry for men who may feel like they too are being called by name. If you feel that you are being called by name, please talk with me after Mass or anytime in the weeks ahead.

For all of us here, we are indeed called to pray for vocations to the Priesthood, the religious life and the diaconate. And we are called to pray for someone by name, and pray for vocations from our parish. And we are called to do this TODAY and in the days ahead. And while we are doing this, we are called to live our vocation, whatever it may be. And by living out our vocation in our schools, the workplace and the community, we are to be like sheep, following the Good Shepherd and listening for Him to call us by name.

No, our names will not be called out by the NFL commissioner calling us to football glory. We listen for our name to be called by the Good Shepherd as we are invited to share with Jesus and the Father our vocation in this life and the glory to share with them eternal life forever!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Catholic Church today; some balance and context

If you have been immersed in secular media lately you would have thought that the Catholic Church must be standing still while dealing with the sex abuse crisis. Everytime there is another allegation against a Catholic Priest it's stop the presses time and, at least in my community, the local big radio station can talk about nothing else.

Three points: 1. Sexual abuse by clergy is reprehensible. Any intended cover up is inexcusable. And all victims of such unspeakable crimes are first and foremost in our prayers. 2. Sexual abuse by clergy is at best a reach for the secular media to make an offensive move to opine on all things Catholic it abhors. 3. The Church, which has made great strides in recent years and must continue to work out these problems, continues to thrive, grow and bring the Gospel to a world desperate for hope. And yes, the Catholic Church, worldwide, continues to be the leader in programs that assist the poor, care for the sick, shelter homeless, minister to the prisoner, pray with the despairing, hold the hand of the dying, educate our children, from pre-K to post graduate, prepare couples for marriage, defend the immigrant, perform mission work in all corners of the world and offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass everyday in every time zone across the world.

Maybe this post should include a point number 4. Here it is. In just the past two weeks, nationally and locally, major sexual abuse scandals have broken in public grammer schools, private high schools, public high schools, a social organization for girls, the boy scouts, again, the Lutheran Church, several non-denominationl churches, and a soccer league.

No one is advocating that all these instituitions are paralyzed or that all school teachers, coaches, ministers or scouts are evil.

I know what happens when anyone, me included, makes these points. We are excusing this crime, we are defending the Church blindly. Again, let's be clear. Sexual abuse within the Church is wrong and inexcusable. But don't use this tragedy to make your own headline or foster your own agenda.

Catholicism always had its' share of problems borne of human error and weaknesses of some; including those in leadership positions. And despite this fact, she has endured 2,000 years and continues to grow, evolve and act.

Today I will spend a majority of my Saturday with 30 men who are following a call, putting many other self-interests behind and pursuing ordination to the Diaconate. Some are scheduled to be ordained in less than 6 months; others in 2 years. They know that their service in ordained ministry is still needed for a Church, imperfect in it's human instutions but founded by Chirst and promised that even the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.

And we should mention here, that even vocations to the Priesthood are showing signs of growth in many areas of this country and several emerging countries in the world.

Pray for the Church, pray for vocations; and yes, include Deacons too. And continue to have faith in our faith. Pray for all victims of sexual abuse, especially those who are betrayed by clergy. And pray for those who are lost and feel the need to do such horrible things. And pray for those who continue to exploit this situation to promote their own bias or agenda.

I'm Catholic and proud to be Catholic.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Eucharistic Jesus and the Resurrected Jesus

As we continue through this Easter season the Church gives us daily Gospel readings from St. John. And this week we have been been reading from chapter 6. This is a powerful reminder in this Easter season of the Eucharist. Why now?

The Eucharist and the Resurrection are beautifully linked. As we walked with Jesus through the Lenten Gospels we arrived at Holy Thursday and the commemoration of that day when Jesus gave us the Eucharist and the Priesthood. And we also read of His Passion on Good Friday and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In the Sunday's since Easter we have had the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus. Amazingly, they too have had a Eucharistic theme. We know that the apostles and disciples recognized Jesus after the journey to Emmaus in the breaking of the bread. In other post-Resurrection appearnces, they shared a meal.

And now the Church gives us John 6. These beautiful passages from John's Gospel recall Jesus own personal teaching on the Eucharist. Today we hear the following: "I am the bread of life." And he continues: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh".

In this third week of Easter we hear the bread of life discourse. Notice that Jesus uses no figurative or symbolic language. In fact, in the original language the implication is to take His flesh and chew and gnaw. And this is not to be done once only. Any one implies this will happen in every generation. The Resurrected Jesus is the Eucharistic Jesus and the Eucharistic Jesus is the Crucified Jesus.

What a joyous opportunity to read, reflect and pray with John Chapter 6 in this Easter season!

Enjoying the NFL draft; awesome

Well, it's been awhile since I've written about the Saints. Tonight appears to be a good night to do just that. For the first time in memory, the NFL is conducting round 1 in prime time and I'm sitting at home, feet up, beer cold and a pizza on the way. Man I have waited for many a NFL draft to see what superstar the Saints would get. Afterall, for most of my life, the Saints, by virtue of a poor record, would have one of the top 10 picks in almost every draft.

So, tonight, realizing that they have to wait until after 10 p.m. and some 31 picks later, I'm watching the greatest Saint draft in their history. They are picking 32 becuase; yes, I'm getting ready to say it: the Saints are still the reigning NFL World Champions and Super Bowl Champions. It was just like yesterday. Remember; Saints 31 Colts 17.

I can get used to this. I'd like to see the Saints picking 32nd every year. Don't get me wrong; I want them to nail a solid pick tonight. And who knows, maybe they will trade down to round 2. In any event, for now, and because we are the World Champs, I'll trust the Saints powers that be; Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis.

Football fans enjoy the draft. I am! And I'll have to stay up all night to see who my team picks. This is amazing!

Geaux Saints!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

St Anselm

Today the Church gives us the example of St. Anselm. Born in 1033, Anselm entered the Benedictine order in France. He was devout in his studies and soon became a theology teacher and mentor to his fellow students. And his spiritual life continued to grow. He traveled to England and became Archbishop of Canterbury. He fought hard for the freedom of the Church against many enemies and obstacles. He was despised by legal authorities and was exiled from England twice. St. Anselm died in 1109.

He has achieved fame for his writings especially those on mystical theology. In today's office of readings we have an example in Anselm's Proslogion in which he states, "let me know you and love you, so that I may find joy in you".

In my own deanery here on the northshore of the Archdiocese of New Orleans we have our own local parish named in honor of St. Anselm. Located in Madisonville, LA St. Anselm's is another active growing and vibrant Catholic community. May his intercession be with the many families of our neighboring parish.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Be Proud to be Catholic

>>>This is a powerful read. Thanks to Deacon Greg at Deacon's Bench

Mr. Sam Miller, Guest Speaker
First Friday Club of Cleveland
Thursday, March 6, 2003, 12:00 p.m.

When I first discussed my subject with Mr. Ginley, I told him the title of this speech would be “From Bed Sheets to Business Suits” he seemed flustered — he did not understand my point. So I changed the title to “Kangaroo Journalism”. I presume most of you are familiar with this and are suffering because of it.

I’m going to say things here today that many Catholics should have said 18 months ago. Maybe it’s easier for me to say because I am not Catholic but I have had enough, more than enough, disgustingly enough.

During my entire life I’ve never seen a greater vindictive, more scurrilous, biased campaign against the Catholic Church as I have seen in the last 18 months, and the strangest thing is that it is in a country like the United States where there is supposed to be mutual respect and freedom for all religions. This has bothered me because I too am a minority in this country. You see, unfortunately, and I say this very advisedly, the Catholics have forgotten that in the early 1850’s when the Italians, the Poles, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, all of Catholic persuasion, came to this country looking for opportunity — because of famine, (particularly the Irish) they were already looked upon with derision, suspicion and hatred. Consequently the jobs they were forced to take were the jobs that nobody else wanted — bricklayers, ditch diggers, Jewish junkmen, street cleaners, etc. This prejudice against your religion, and mine, has never left this country and don’t ever forget it, and never will. Your people were called Papists, Waps, Guineas, frogs, fish eaters, ad infinitum. And then after the Civil War, around 1864, the fundamentalists, conservatives, Protestants and a few WASP’s began planting burning crosses throughout the country, particularly in the South. And today, as far as I’m concerned, very little has changed. These gentlemen now have a new style of clothing — they’ve gone from bed sheets to gentlemen’s suits.

There is a concentrated effort by the media today to totally denigrate in every way the Catholic Church in this country. You don’t find it this bad overseas at all. They have now blamed the disease of pedophilia on the Catholic Church, which is as irresponsible as blaming adultery on the institution of marriage. You, me have been living in a false paradise —wake up and recognize that many people don’t like Catholics. What are these people trying to accomplish?

From the Sojourner’s Magazine dated August 2002, listen carefully to a quote, “While much of the recent media hype has focused on the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal, relatively little attention has been given to the high rate of sexual misconduct in the rest of American Christendom. This is truly a crisis that crosses the borders of all religions.

Now let me give you some figures that you as Catholics should know and remember. For example, research by Richard Blackman at Fuller Theological Seminary shows that 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner; 38% acknowledged other inappropriate sexual contact. In a 1990 study by the United Methodist Church, 41.8 percent of clergywomen reported unwanted sexual behavior by a colleague; 17 percent of laywomen said that their own pastors had sexually harassed them. Phillip Jenkins concludes in his book “Pedophiles and Priests” that while 1.7% of the Catholic clergy has been found guilty of pedophilia, 10% of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia — this is not a Catholic problem. This is a problem of pure prejudice.

Why the papers, day after day, week after week, month after month, see fit to do nothing but come out with these scurrilous stories…when I spoke recently to one of the higher-ups in the newspaper I said, this is wrong…he said…why do you want us to shoot the messenger? I said no, just change the message….change the message. He said, how? I said I’ll tell you how.

Obviously, this is not just a Catholic problem. And solutions must be broader and deeper than those carried out by Catholic cardinals. The whole church has a responsibility to offer decisive leadership in the area of sexual misconduct—whether it is child abuse, sexual exploitation, or sexual harassment.

Recently, churches have shown unprecedented unity on issues of poverty and welfare reform. Now it is necessary to call for a broad based ecumenical council addressing the issue of sexual misconduct in the church, not only the Catholic Church, all churches, including synagogues. Its goal would be transparency and openness in developing stringent, forward-looking guidelines, consistent with denominational distinctions, for preventing and addressing sexual misconduct within Christian churches and church-related institutions. Such a council could include not only denominational representatives but also a majority presence from external organizations such as child protection agencies, law enforcement, psychiatric services, victims’ agencies, and legal and legislative representatives.

Crisis, the strange thing about the word crisis, crisis in Chinese is one word. Crisis in Chinese means, on the one side, a real crisis problems etc., but the other side means great opportunity. We have a great opportunity facing us. Crisis is often accompanied by an opportunity for extraordinary growth and leadership. We have that today, even though you are the lowest, by far the lowest of any organized religion today when it comes to sexual harassment. American churches have a unique opening to develop and adopt a single set of policies, principles, practices, and common language on sexual misconduct in Christian institutions that is binding across denominations. A system of cross-denomination review boards could be established to help compliance and accountability. A centralized resource bank could be formed that provides church-wide updates on new legal, financial, psychological and spiritual developments in the field. Guidelines, both moral and legal, could be established on how clergy, churches, and victims should best use civil and criminal actions in pursuit of justice and financial restitution for injury. A national database could be established with information on all applicants for ordination in any member Christian religion. Every diocese, conference, presbytery, and district could have a designated child-protection representative whose job is to ensure that the policies and procedures are understood and implemented and that training is provided.

Any religious institution or system that leaves power unexamined or smothers sexuality with silence—rather than promoting open conversation that can lead to moral and spiritual maturity—becomes implicated in creating an unhealthy and potentially abusive environment. An ecumenical Christian council authentically dedicated to strong moral leadership in the area of clergy sexual misconduct might move the church beyond the extremes of policing our own or abandoning our own.

For Christians, the true scandal is not about priests. It’s about a manipulation of power to abuse the weak. When Jesus said, “Whoever receives the child, receives me,” he was rebuking his followers for putting stumbling blocks in front of the defenseless. Church is supposed to be a place where one can lay one’s defenses down; where one is welcomed, embraced, and blessed. This can only be authentically expressed in a culture that requires absolute respect for each individual’s freedom and self-hood. Until all churches bow humbly under the requirement, the indictments by wounded women and children will stand.

Just what are these Kangaroo journalists trying to accomplish? Think about it. If you get the New York Times day after day, the Los Angeles Times day after day, our own paper day after day…looking at the record, some of these writers are apostates, Catholics or ex-Catholics who have been denied something they wanted from the Church and are on a mission of vengeance.

Why would newspapers carry on this vendetta on one of the most important institutions that we have today in the United States, namely the Catholic Church? Do you know, and maybe some of you don’t, the Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students every day, at cost to your Church of 10 billion dollars, and a savings on the other hand to the American taxpayer of 18 billion dollars. Needless to say that Catholic education at this time stands head and shoulders above every other form of education that we have in this country. And the cost is approximately 30% less. If you look at our own Cleveland school system they can boast of an average graduation rate of 36%. Do you know what it costs you and me as far as the other 64% who didn’t make it? Look at your own records, you graduate 89% of your students, your graduates in turn go on to graduate studies at the rate of 92%, and all at a cost to you. To the rest of the Americans it’s free, but it costs you Catholics at least 30% less to educate students compared to the costs that the public education system pays out for education that cannot compare.

Why? Why would these enemies of the Church try to destroy an institution that has 230 colleges and universities in the United States with an enrollment of 700,000 students?

Why would anyone want to destroy an institution like the Catholic Church which has a non-profit hospital system of 637 hospitals which account for hospital treatment of 1 out of every 5 people, not just Catholics, in the United States today? Why would anyone want to destroy an institution like that? Why would anyone want to destroy an institution that clothes and feeds and houses the indigent, 1 of 5 indigents in the United States, I’ve been to many of your shelters and no one asks them if you are a Catholic, a Protestant or a Jew; come, be fed, here’s a sweater for you and a place to sleep at night at a cost to the Church of 2.3 billion dollars a year? The Catholic Church today has 64 million members in the United States and is the largest non-governmental agency in the country. It has 20,000 churches in this country alone. Every year they raise approximately 10 billion to help support these agencies.

Why after the "respected" publication the New York Times running their daily expose’ on the Church finally come to the conclusion of their particular investigation, which was ongoing for a long time, and guess what — buried in the last paragraph –and guess what, in the last paragraph they came up with a mouse. In their article “Decades of Damage” the Times reported that 1.8% of American priests were found guilty of this crime, whereas your own Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome reported 1.7% - the figure I gave you earlier. Then again they launched an attack on the Church and its celibate priests. However, the New York Times did not mention in their study of American priests that most are happy in the priesthood and find it even better than they had expected, and that most if given the choice would choose to be priests again in the face of all this obnoxious P.R. the church has been receiving. Why wouldn’t the New York Times, the paper of record they call themselves, mention this? You had to read it in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times refused to print it. If you read only the New York Times you would begin to believe that priests are cowards, craven, sexually frustrated, unhealthy criminals that prey on the innocent, what a shame. Sometimes freedom of the press should have some type of responsibility too.

So I say this to you — instead of walking around with a hang­dog look, I talk to a lot of Catholics all the time, “how’s everything going?” … “Well, in the face of things I guess okay” … that’s the wrong answer, the wrong answer. Also, I ran into a fellow who said they started a discussion at some social function on pedophilia and he said, “I excused myself and left the room.” I said why did you do that, “Well you know how it is.” I believe that if Catholics had the figures that I enumerated here…you don’t have to be ashamed of anything. Not only are you as good as the rest, but you’re better, in every respect.

The Catholic Church helps millions of people every day of the week, every week of the month, and every month of the year. People who are not Catholics, and I sit on your Catholic Foundation and I can tell you, and what I am telling you is so. Priests have their problems, they have their failings just as you and I in this room do, but they do not deserve to be calumniated as they have been.

In small measure let’s give the media its due. If it had not come out with this story of abusive priests, (but they just as well could have mentioned reverends, pastors and rabbis and whatever,) probably little or nothing would have been done. But what bothers me the most is this has given an excuse to every Catholic hater and Catholic basher to come out loudly for the denigration of your Church. If some CEO’s are crooks it does not follow that every CEO is crooked, and if some priests are sexually ill it does not follow that all are sick. And your Church teaches that you’ve got to take in the sick and a priest who is this way has to be taken in and cannot be thrown out the 21st story of a building. He’s got to be looked upon and given the same type of health that you would give anybody who has a broken leg or cancer or whatever.

The Church today, and when I say the Church keep in mind I am talking about the Catholic Church, is bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. The agony that Catholics have felt and suffered is not necessarily the fault of the Church. You have been hurt by an infinitesimally small number of wayward priests that, I feel, have probably been totally weeded out by now. You see the Catholic Church is much too viable to be put down by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, take your choice, they can’t do it, they’re not going to do it and sooner or later they are going to give up, but you’ve got to make sure that you don’t give up first.

In 1799 a notice was placed in a French newspaper that a citizen Brachi had died in prison. Little did the people realize that this was Pope Pius VI who had occupied the Chair of Saint Peter for 25-years. He had been taken prisoner by Napoleon’s forces and died in prison as an indigent. At that time the thought was that this was the end of the Catholic Church, this was 200 and some odd years ago. And the reason was that there was no Pope to succeed him at that time. But you fooled them then, and we’re going to fool them again.

I’ve been talking more or less about the United States of America as far as the importance of the Church; let’s bring it home to Cuyahoga County and the seven surrounding counties. In education you save the county 420 million dollars per year. Wherever there’s a Church, and most other churches have fled the inner city, there’s a Catholic Church, and wherever there’s a Catholic Church there’s an absence of drug dealers. You talk to any bank that has real estate mortgages in the inner city, and they will tell you that the one thing that keeps up the value in that particular area is your Church. I’ve seen for example on Lorain near the Metro Catholic Schools there at the Church the nuns used to go out in the morning with brooms and sweep away the drug dealers from around the particular area. On Health and Human Services, the homeless, adoption, drugs, adult care and so on you saved the county 170 million dollars a year. At the end of the day the difference that your local Catholic institutions make in the eight counties that comprise this diocese are several billion dollars per year. Why don’t we hear about this? Why, because it’s good news. If some priest was caught with his hand in the collection plate it would be front page news. But the fact that you have thousands of students being education free, as far as the rest of the country is concerned doesn’t make news. Why? Because it is not newsworthy, it’s not dirty.

I’m not here to deny freedom of the press, but I believe that with freedom comes responsibility, and with rights you have an obligation. You cannot have rights that are irresponsible. Unfortunately our society today is protected by all rights and ruled by some of their wickedness. Anybody who expects to reap the benefits of freedom must understand the total fatigue of supporting it.

The most important element of political speech, as Aristotle taught, is the character of the speaker. In this respect, no matter what message a man brings in it shouldn’t it collide with his character.

The other day I was shocked when I opened up America, a Catholic magazine, and my good friend Cardinal Keeler, whose a very dear friend of mine, was being fingerprinted by the Baltimore police — not for a crime but as part of the new law put in place that all members of the Church hierarchy must be fingerprinted.

Amos of the Old Testament accused the people of Samaria in words that seared and phrases that smote. They “cram their palaces,” he said, “with violence and extortion.” They had “sold the upright for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals” — from Gucci, no doubt. But he also said that all this could be reversed, if only the people of Samaria would turn away from their own self­ absorption and toward those who, however silently, cry out for help. “Then,” promised Amos, “shall your justice flow like water and your compassion like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24)

The worst feature of contemporary society is its tendency to leave each of us locked up in himself or herself, connection-less. To lessen this isolation we have developed all kinds of therapies, spiritual, psychological, and physical—from groups that meet and talk endlessly all day long in spas, week spas, month spas, life spas. But none of these things, from primal screams to herbal wrap, seem to be doing the trick, any more than the huge houses and wine parties that the Samaritan did.

What we need to do is open our heart to the plight of others, even some of your priests who have been condemned, they’re human beings and they should be shown the same type of compassion we have shown anybody who is critically ill. We need to open our hearts to the plights of others, like our hearts were a dam, so that indeed our justice and compassion may flow to all. What is essential is that each of us steps forward to hold out our hand to someone. There is no other way to walk with God.

One of the biggest Catholic bashers in the United States wrote — “Only a minority, a tiny minority of priests have abused the bodies of children.” He continues, “I am not advocating this course of action, but as much as I would like to see the Roman Catholic Church ruined. I hate opportunistically retrospective litigation even more.” He now he’s talking about our tort monsters. “Lawyers who grow fat by digging up dirt on long-forgotten wrongs and hounding their aged perpetrators are no friends of mine.” I’m still quoting this man, “All I'm am doing” he said, “is calling attention to an anomaly. By all means, let’s kick a nasty institution when it is down, but there are better ways than litigation.” These words are from a Catholic hater.

I never thought in my life I would ever see these things. Walk with your shoulders high and your head higher. Be a proud member of the most important non-governmental agency today in the United States. Then remember what Jeremiah said “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” And be proud, speak up for your faith with pride and reverence and learn what your Church does for all other religions. Be proud that you’re a Catholic. Thank you.

Happy Anniversary Holy Father

He sure has been in the news a lot lately. Pope Benedict XVI today marks the 5th anniversary of his election as the successor to St. Peter. On this very afternoon 5 years ago I found a television set in a private office at the bank to watch all the drama. I saw the white smoke, the ringing of the bells and the crowd rushing to St. Peter Square. The announcement is met with the loudest of ovations: Habemus Papam; we have a Pope. I had remembered this scene being played out with John Paul II, but that had been some 27 years earlier.

Benedict XVI has been the right man at the right time as the sovreign Pontiff. I don't think he, or anybody else for that matter, ever would have expected the chaos from the church clergy abuse scandal. After all, it is Benedict that has been much more aggressive and forthright in attacking the abuse scandal than previous Pope's.

Since the media has already done so much to misrepresent the scandal and to try and make it a broader attack on a Church it hates, let's think about the Church under Pope Benedict XVI. She continues to grow; approaching 1.1 billion members. In many Catholic countries, vocations are on the rise. Reforms in the liturgy are approved; making all translations truly universal. And Pope Benedict, while affirming the reforms of Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Mass, has made the use of the traditional Latin Mass more possible.

And Pope Benedict has proven to be very adept at selecting strong, vibrant Bishops across the world.

So Happy Anniversary Pope Benedict XVI; and hang in there. As Jesus addressed Peter in the Gospel yesterday: feed His lambs, tend His sheep, feed His sheep!

Archbishop of New Orleans speaks out

Archbishop Aymond answers questions about Vatican's handling of abusive priests

Originally published for the April 17th edition of the Clarion Herald, the Official Newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans
There has been recent harsh criticism that then-Cardinal Ratzinger did not act on allegations of abusive priests when he was heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. You have called him a man of integrity and said he acted with integrity. On what do you base that characterization of Pope Benedict?

Did he know about the cases in Germany? I have no idea. The Vatican said he didn’t. He is a theologian. He had about 1,500 priests under his charge in Munich. Because he is a teacher, a researcher, it is likely he didn’t know about the details of the allegations. But even if he knew, the priest accused of the abuses in Germany was sent away for treatment and sent back by the psychiatrists and psychologists indicating that he was ready to go back into ministry.

The problem I see is that you cannot look back at what happened 30 years ago using the same lens that you would use today. We know now that pedophilia is not treatable and is definitely a serious problem that has affected children. Results from a study commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and completed by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice stated that the Catholic Church in the U.S. has no more priests that abuse minors than other segments of society in the same time period of the late 1960s to early 1980s (when the majority of sexual abuse had occurred).

People do tend to lose sight of how much sexual abuse goes unreported in families and in public schools. About 290,000 cases of sexual abuse in American public schools occurred between 1991 and 2000, according to an April 12, 2010, Newsweek story by George Weigel.

The Holy Father is a man of profound prayer. I have no doubt that he is a man who desires to follow Jesus the Good Shepherd and that he intentionally would not do anything that would place a person, particularly a minor, in harm. I think he has a proven record of being a man of honor and integrity. He has met with victims of sexual abuse in the U.S., Australia and Rome.

Would you consider the media coverage a campaign aimed to diminish the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict?

I think some of it is deserved and some of it is not. The Catholic Church in the United States went through this crisis in 2001. The wound was opened. We admitted our guilt, repented and came up with a charter with a “no-tolerance policy.” Since then we have constantly reached out in healing to the victims. We have done due diligence. We have put into place safe environment programs. All of this pain was reopened again due to what’s happening in Ireland and Germany. It reopened the wound in the U.S. Some of the criticism against the church is justified. But, sexual abuse is a human problem. Sexual abuse of minors has been going on since the beginning of humankind.

How do you think the Catholic Church and the Vatican is handling the clerical sexual abuse accusations?

The philosophy of communication is different in Europe than in the U.S. Some of the statements could have been clearer. It was not helpful that on Good Friday, the Vatican preacher (Franciscan Father Raniero Cantalamessa) compared what the pope was going through to anti-Semitism. Pope Benedict XVI was the only pope in the Catholic Church who has met with victims of sexual abuse. He put in stringent penalties when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As pope, he said a priest could be returned to the lay state against his will if he was accused of sexual abuse and was a threat to minors. Once again, the world, including the church, saw sexual abuse of minors differently 30-50 years ago. Thank God we have learned more from psychology and are wiser now in not allowing abusers to return to ministry.

When you were bishop in Texas, you took a strong stand in protecting children from sexual abuse and established an “Ethics and Integrity in Ministry” policy in 2001 that was copied by dioceses throughout the U.S. In fact, it was enacted a year before the USCCB adopted its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. What prompted you to do that back then?

When I got there, the pastoral staff was talking about doing background checks. I said that was good, but equally important was providing education on what sexual abuse of minors is and how to detect and prevent it. We worked with a professional company and developed DVDs that summarized the understanding of sexual abuse of minors, how to prevent it and report it.

You were part of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People and served as its chairman for six years. How far do you think the Catholic Church has come since the U.S. Church adopted its charter in 2002 to protect children?

I have seen dioceses and parishes becoming much more insistent that background checks are done. In the past 10 years I have seen people in ministry – catechists, youth ministers and others – making sure they were accompanied by other people so they were not alone with children at times. I have received letters saying there were suspicious behaviors. In all cases, they are investigated.

Even though the church did not handle things in the best way in the past, we have come a long way. You have to remember that 40 to 60 percent of abuse takes place in families. It doesn’t excuse the church; priests and religious leaders should be held to higher standards, but we have done a lot and repented.
The 1960s and 1970s were times of the sexual revolution and more experimentation. That was true in the world and the church. We are a piece of the pie. Sexual abuse was not talked about then. Thank God now we are talking about the elephant in the room.

Do you think the vow of celibacy in the priesthood is part of the sex abuse problem?

The vast majority of people who are pedophiles are married. In Weigel’s Newsweek column, he wrote, “... given the significant level of abuse problems in Christian denominations with married clergy, it’s hard to accept the notion that marriage is somehow a barrier against sexually abusive clergy. ... Sexual abusers throughout the world are overwhelmingly non-celibates.” His words resonate with the research I have received.

What do you think of the sexual abuse policies we have in place in the archdiocese?

The policies in the Archdiocese of New Orleans are excellent. What’s going on in rest of world is a wake-up call to all of us. We should adhere to the policies and make sure there are background checks, and if it’s questionable whether or not someone has passed a background check with archdiocese, the benefit of the doubt goes to the child and not to the adult.

Have there been any new cases of sexual abuse reported in our archdiocese?

There are no current cases of sexual abuse, but we do receive reports on the use of inappropriate pictures among adults, and students going beyond healthy lines of psychosexual development. When we receive an inquiry it is investigated, and we work individually with that person in the parish or school. We always report allegations of sexual abuse to civil authorities and cooperate with their investigation.

Please pray for all victims of sexual abuse and their families. May they know God’s healing and compassion.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Mass, a long time ago

In today's Office of Readings we have an apology (which means defense of) by a 2nd century Saint named Justin Martyr. Sometime before the year 160, he wrote the following and see how many places you recognize the Mass:

No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.

We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.

The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or in the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray. On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and give thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give their assent by saying, "Amen." The eucharist is distributed , everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.

The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether becuase they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.

We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration.

>>>>Written just a few decades after the death of the last apostle, this writing points us so many elements of the Mass, some in great detail. And of course, we know gatherings very close to this, in homes, began occuring right after Jesus ascended to the Father. What a joy we all have, and offer to others, to be part of the one Church, set up by Christ, affirmed in Scripture and all the early writings of church fathers, and to celebrate the Mass, just like it has been down thru nearly 2,000 years. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Easter April 18, 2010

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun shiny day!

Johnny Nash sang this popular song back in the seventies and it has a very uplifting message.

We all want to see clearly now. Many times in our lives we lose focus or become blinded to things right in front of us.

As people of faith, do we see Jesus clearly now? Do we allow Him to remove all obstacles in our way; obstacles that distract us from placing our focus on Him?

Today’s Gospel message addresses this in dramatic fashion. As we continue reading the post-Resurrection stories from John’s Gospel we have yet a third appearance of Jesus to his friends; the apostles and disciples. And like the first two, Jesus is not yet immediately recognized. Not until he challenges them to cast the net into the sea and they catch an overwhelming number of fish; we learn 153 in all. We also learn that while stretched to its’ limits, the net does not break.

When John tells Peter it is the Lord, Peter is so excited that he actually puts all of his garments on and then jumps into the sea swimming to Jesus waiting on the shore. And they eat. Every post-Resurrection appearance centers on a meal; the community is invited to eat; to break bread with Jesus. And finally, Jesus questions Peter, the leader. Do you love me, he asks three times. With each positive response Jesus replies feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.

Here Jesus allows His mercy and love to become real for Peter. Peter denies Christ three times, we recall, while warming himself by a fire. With his three-fold replies today Jesus affirms Peter the fisherman as the shepherd; His first visible vicar of Earth; our first Pope. And among the last words Jesus ever utters in the Gospel He addresses to Peter: follow me.

Today we, gathered together are in the same place and same situation as Peter and the others. In many ways, Jesus is obscured from us in our busy everyday lives. Yet He is standing there; right on our own personal seashores, and with focus, He comes into clear vision. And he challenges us not to throw our nets but to give our heart to Him completely. And like those nets; our hearts can be filled up, without ever breaking, with the love and mercy of Jesus and a personal relationship with Him that awaits us all. This is a gift far greater than those 153 fish.

Jesus also asks us; do you love me? What is our response? Not just our words, no, what is our response? Do we love Him enough to do what He asks us to do? Do we follow His teachings and submit to the role of His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church?

Finally, Jesus invites us; follow me. And all of us are challenged to ask ourselves; do we truly follow Him, who died for us and rose for us so we may have eternal life?

And it all goes back to seeing clearly now. Focusing on Jesus and recognizing Him. We are called to recognize Him in the Church; His sacraments, His word, Reconciliation and most excellently in the Eucharist.

But we are also challenged to see clearly and recognize Him everyday; at work, school or at home. Do we recognize Jesus in our own family and friends? Do we recognize Him in the stranger or even the downtrodden? Do we recognize Him in the way we conduct our jobs and our personal lives? Do we recognize Him because if others saw how we act and live in darkness it would look no different than the way we act and live in the light of day?

In our week ahead, see Jesus clearly; focus on Him completely. How? A suggestion: read prayerfully the 21st chapter of John’s Gospel. Let this lesson become part of us in this week. Make a commitment to focus on Him completely by praying with Him at least once, here in Church, before the Tabernacle. Finally, in this week ahead, see Jesus in someone least expected. Feed someone who is hungry, clothe someone naked, visit someone in prison; even if it is the prison of their own sin.

I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun shiny day.

And the Son says to all of us…follow me!

Friday, April 16, 2010

A little clergy appreciation

Tonight I attended a clergy appreciation dinner in Covington, LA hosted by a local Knights of Columbus Council. I've been a Knight a lot longer than I've been clergy so I find this evening fulfilling on several levels. The Knights of Columbus have long been fierce supporters of the clergy and certainly need to be so now more than ever. And all the clergy that I got to rub elbows with tonight I have known for quite some time. Without a doubt; no hint of scandal among these loyal dedicated servants of God.

Sometimes when I attend these events it's hard for me to realize that I am clergy. Yes, for some of you reading this let me remind you that Deacons, whether Permanent (like me) or Transitional (on the way to the Priesthood) are in fact clergy!

Tonight these local Knights honored many dedicated religious brothers who have taught at St. Paul High School, also in Covington, faithfully. And many nuns, who teach at several local grammer and high schools as well. Then there were the Benedictine brothers and Priests, including their Abbott, who help form many young men, some as young as 17, in discerning the call to the Priesthood. They too have served faithfully in this area for over 100 years as a religious community. Tonight they were very excited to introduce a monk who will be ordained tomorrow as a Transitional Deacon with the Priestly ordination in December. And they also had several young men who have professed their call to the Priesthood, one for the Archdiocese and another for the Benedictines.

All in all what a refreshing evening. Men and women called to serve young people, called to help them with their walk with God, selfless and total giving and love and not a hint or whimper of scandal.

I know we have heard enough reports of heinous crimes that make us all sad and wounded as Catholics. But tonight I had a sharp reminder that the vast majority of Priests, Deacons, Brothers and Sisters are faithful to God's call, the teachings of the Church and would never harm another human being.

Thanks Be to God for their witness.

I was one of six Permanent Deacons, along with a candidate, in attendance tonight. It is always a privilege to be with brother Deacons. May we continue to answer God's call, to work as ministers of charity and service and proclaim His word clearly and boldly.

I love the Catholic Church and her ministry. Amen

Monday, April 12, 2010

Talking with the young folks

Tonight I had the blessed opportunity to be with about 20 students at the 10th grade level. Not in a classroom, we all gathered inside our Church for an evening of Adoration and Benediction and reflection for these 15 to 17 year olds. I knew this would be tough. It was a beautiful spring evening, it was the first day back to CCD in 2 weeks and many of the teens are just not very convicted in their faith life.

We have been doing a program of Adoration and Benediction for quite some time and have tried as best as possible to explain the real presence and to help them see Jesus, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.

The Gospel message from yesterday, the figure of the doubting Thomas, was very helpful. Explaining how Thomas needed to see Jesus we can relate that many in our day want to see Him too. I explained to the teens that with eyes of faith and a belief in what the Church teaches, they were seeing Him right now, with their very eyes.

But then I was moved to turn the tables slightly and ask them if others see Jesus in them. Do others really see Jesus in the way they(we) talk, act, treat others, approach our responsibilities, keep our lives pure, conduct ourselves with others? I think this registered. There was a heightened sense of I have to do something too!

I was also moved to bring Jesus, secure in the monstrance, to each child, pew by pew, so they could see closely and experience the Benediction just an arms length away.

We never truly know how we reach others. And of course tonight, we are not in charge. My prayer is always that Jesus and the Holy Spirit reach these kids. And I know with all things; Jesus is in control. That is why I always like to quote the 11th chapter of Hebrews: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chaplet of Divine Mercy

To say the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy:

Begin the Chaplet with the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Apostle's Creed.

Then on the large bead before each decade:
Eternal Father,
I offer You the Body and Blood,
Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ,
in atonement for our sins,
and those of the whole world

On the ten small beads of each decade, say:
For the sake of His
sorrowful Passion,
have mercy on us
and on the whole world.

Conclude with (repeat 3 times):
Holy God,
Holy Mighty One,
Holy Immortal One,
have mercy on us
and on the whole world.

Closing Prayer (optional)

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless
and the treasury of compassion - inexhaustible,
look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us,
that in difficult moments we might not despair
nor become despondent,
but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your
holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

(Thanks to Fr. Steve Leake)

A great reason to cut the grass

I have mentioned before that I hate the summer; the warm weather months. I hate how fast the grass grows. But, I do like cutting grass; particularly in the evenings as long as I'm riding on my big Kubota or the John Deere. Until recently, I had no affirmation if I was unique about praying and talking to God while atop the cutting equipment.

During the recent retreat that I've talked about so many times, one of the presenters talked about praying to God while cutting the grass. In fact, he said that he believes he received a call to help others during one such talk.

In looking back now, cutting grass is where I would go, often in fact, during the months I was trying to figure out God's plan for me in serving Him and others. In addition to talking to Him about discernment, I have opened up to God about my joys, hopes, fears, shortfalls, anxiety, faith, you name it.

So it all came back to me as this weekend became my big outdoor, attack the lawn weekend. I have lots of lawn; about 9 acres; almost all of it needing to be cut. So after getting a jump for the dead battery on the Kubota, I cut and cut and realized I was talking to and with God. And today, atop the John Deere, I managed a chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Prayer happens in any place and at anytime. Never feel restricted to only praying in the morning or at nighy; worthy thou that is! Pray all the time. And never restrict your prayer life to those prayers written out for you to read. No, open your heart and soul and give it all to Him. Ask Him for that which you truly need. Give it all to the one who has mercy that lasts forever!

And maybe you can keep your lawn looking pretty good in the meantime!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter; Divine Mercy Sunday 2010

Last year on this day I spoke about doubt and referred to the example of the U.S. Olympic Hockey team from 1980. Everyone doubted that they could win a medal at the Olympics and that they would ever beat the Soviet hockey team. We know the story; the USA in fact did beat the Soviets and went on to win the gold medal. So much for doubt.

If you watched any of the March Madness basketball games recently surely you would have doubted that the Final Four would include that basketball powerhouse, the Butler Bulldogs! Who? The Butler Bulldogs. Yet despite the doubts, they were there; overcoming the odds and pulling off upset victory after upset victory. In fact, they made it to the championship game, losing to perennial powerhouse Duke, by two points, after a three point shot by Butler barely missed the mark. Again, so much for doubt.

We all have doubts in our lives; doubting ourselves and others. Perhaps at times we have even doubted God.

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, as people of faith, do we still doubt the Divine Mercy of Jesus, the Resurrected Lord?

There is much to ponder and pray with on this Sunday after Easter. First, our Easter Octave comes to an end, although Easter season lasts 6 more weeks, and today is in fact Divine Mercy Sunday. And the Church always gives us this powerful Gospel of the Apostle Thomas; the one we refer to as doubting Thomas.

This clearly is a two part Gospel; the appearance by Jesus to the group, locked away in the room, for fear, on Easter night and the doubting declaration of Thomas. Thomas gets a bum rap in this Gospel. Remember, he was not there when Jesus appeared; and we don't know for sure where he has been or what he is doing in these early hours and days after the Resurrection. Perhaps Jesus' patience with Thomas shows that there is nothing He won't do to help us believe. Jesus even says this: do not be unbelieving. And Thomas declares; my Lord and my God.

When Jesus reminds Thomas and the others that his belief was motivated by proof; he says how blessed all are who believe and have no need of proof.

This is our faith and the wonderful event that is Divine Mercy Sunday. The devotion to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, through visitations to Saint Faustina Kowalska, is a devotion that requires faith. Just last week we heard the Gospel of Good Friday where Jesus pours out his mercy, from the cross, upon the good thief, when he tells him today you will be with me in paradise.

Do we believe in this Divine Mercy?

Do we see with eyes of faith? The first place to begin is everytime we come to Mass. When we hear the words of consecration and hear the ringing of the bells; do we see Jesus? Do we realize, deep within, that the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of the Lord? Like Thomas, are we inspired perhaps to say My Lord and My God!

The other thing we can do this week is concentrate on His gift of mercy. How? By distributing a little mercy of our own. In this week ahead focus on someone, friend or family; even a stranger perhaps, and give a little mercy. Be generous with your mercy and love as Jesus is generous with each of us.

Learn something this week about the Divine Mercy devotion. Read the writings of St. Faustina or learn how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. These are things all of us can do in the week ahead.

And trusting in His mercy, our doubts will melt away.

Just like those Butler Bulldogs never gave in to doubt; neither should we. Trust in the Divine Mercy of Jesus and believe!

Of Benediction and Baptism

It was a busy Friday night; very good but busy. I pulled double duty; presiding at the Benediction, which concludes our day long Eucharistic Adoration and conducted the Baptismal seminar for new parents.

For Benediction, realizing that this month's event occurs during Easter Week and just days before Divine Mercy Sunday, we prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet. During the homily, I spoke about being bold, using the model of St. Peter in the Acts of the Apostles we have been hearing all week at Mass. Being bold means being able to defend our faith, the Church, and yes, our Holy Father, in these days of relentless media coverage which includes falsehoods and outright attacks on Catholicism. As I reminded the congregation, this requires us not to appear uncharitable or uncaring toward the victims. Yet the never mentioned victim in this crisis is the faith and the Church as the media lumps all one billion of us together. So we must be bold, in charity, about the faith. The Catholic Church, among many things, is Jesus in the Eucharist, Jesus in the Word proclaimed, Jesus, in the Sacraments, and Jesus, in the millions, if not billions, of people she has assisted over the centuries. To attack Catholicism, in his totality, is to attack the Eucharist, the Bible, the Sacraments and humanity. Be bold, in charity.

As the Benediction was being given, the realization that this is the same Jesus who gave his life for us and resurrected on that first Easter morning, was powerful. And this was the first Adoration and Bendection in our rededicated sanctuary under the watchful eyes of the Saints and holy men and women in our new stained glass windows.

In moving over to the Baptismal seminar I always enjoy meeting with the young new moms and dads as they prepare for the Baptism of their newborns. It is always a joy but on this night we had two couples, both very active with the church and their own personal faith life. It was a joy just to sit and visit with them.

I love the opportunity to be involved with the Baptism of our new Catholics. As a relatively new Deacon I have not had the opportunity to be involved in many baptisms. As a parish, we are blessed to have 2 Priests and 4 Deacons on staff so the opportunties are spread around as all of us are involved in the Sacrament. I'm always joyful for every opportunity to baptize and have fond memories of the ones I have done.

So the Church marches on. Be bold in praying for her and defending her in charity. And keep the faith, participate in the sacraments and the liturgical life of your parish. And persevere in prayer and Scripture readings.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How's Easter Week going for you?

As I prepare for bed on this Easter Thursday I'm wondering how Easter Week has been for you. I wonder how many of us really ponder that Easter is indeed still being celebrated. This is the octave of Easter of which I wrote in my prior post. Perhaps you get it and have been staying in the Easter spirit; rejoicing in the Resurrection.

If you have been fortunate enough to attend Mass during this week, you have had the beautiful experience of the continuation of Easter alleluias, the lit Paschal Candle, the rich readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels of Matthew, John and Luke with Mark joining the party on Saturday. All rich readings that put us in the Ressurrection reality.

And if you are like most of us, you may have returned to work or school, finished up a family visit or vacation. Have you been able to be a witness to the Resurrection wherever you are; with whomever you are with? This is the real challenge for us Catholic Christians in the everyday world; to live and profess the Resurrection in the everyday busy-ness of our lives.

Yet we are called to do this. Do we reflect joy and peace in our attitudes, behaviors, demeanor, words and actions? Do we speak of our love for the Resurrected Jesus? Do we show our love by being present to someone who simply needs presence? Do we lift someone's spirits or give a hand up to someone in need?

These are just a few ways we can be the Resurrection people. And yes, attending Mass during Easter week is good, reading Scripture, following along with the daily prayers of the Church, deepening our spiritual relationship with Christ; all of this is what each of us can do in his or her own way.

As the week draws to a close, reflect on the glory of the Easter morn, shout Alleluia, be the witness to the Resurrection wherever you are. Easter lasts a few more days and the Easter season over 6 more weeks.

Rejoice and be glad!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Octave of Easter; eight is enough!

Today is Easter Monday. This is the continuation of the great Feast of Easter. Easter Sunday, the Resurrection celebrated, is an octave. So profound a feast; so marvelous the message; this is a feast that can not be contained by a single day. The Octave of Easter means that the Church, in her liturgy and prayer, continues to celebrate Easter in a most unique way.

Easter is such a glorious feast that while the day lasts for an octave the season actually lasts 50 days; all the way to Pentecost Sunday.

This is a great week to not only rejoice in the Resurrection, to celebrate the glory of the Easter message, but it is a profound time to ponder and take stock. Having just recalled so many valuable spiritual lessons during Lent, and praying with the Church through the Triduum, and rejoicing with Easter joy, keep it going. Reflect more deeply, pray more personally, develop a faith life that is more spiritual than religious, ponder Jesus from the heart and soul and not just the head.

Happy 8 days of Easter! Hope your Easter Monday was great; here comes Easter Tuesday...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday and a new tradition

After the glorious Easter vigil last night there was little time to rest. I was out of the house early on this Easter Day to clebrate 9 a.m. Mass at St. Michael's Mission in Bush, La. St. Michael's is a small mission church assigned to the care of St. Jane de Chantal Parish in Abita Springs. I was assigned this Mass so I could make a surprise visit to the Rayburn Prison. Despite all our best efforts to minister to the men at the prison, they never have a visit on a holiday like Christmas or Easter. And this is understandable. For the Deacon, he must always remember his family obligations too. But today, thanks to an understanding family and a fortunate schedule, I managed to make it to Rayburn before 11:30 a.m.

Once I began to visit the dorms and see the men from our Catholic faith community they were very happy, and a bit surprised, to see me. They were genuinely happy to see someone who was willing to share even a part of the day with them. I have found, after doing this ministry for over a year now, it's just being present to them, and talking with them and bringing Jesus to them; yes in Word and most definitely in the Eucharist; but also in a willingness just to be with them and let them know someone cares and is praying for them.

Now that I am home relaxing with the family, I can reflect on what has been a very special Easter. The Vigil was amazing last night and Mass with the folks from our Mission was quite nice. And I'll never forget my first Easter day in prison!

An Awesome Easter Vigil

In tiny Abita Springs, LA we celebrated the Easter vigil and we did it well. At St. Jane Church our pastor, Fr. Robert really loves the Easter vigil. We begin in total darkness except for the new fire which is always prepared by the Scouts outside of the Church. One of the Deacons leads us into the darkened Church with the Easter candle and smaller candles are lit. After the Exutet, we extinquish all lights and begin the readings. At the end of each reading we turn on one set of lights, from back to front until the entire Church is bright. We sing the Gloria with bells ringing and have a long procession for the Gospel.

Tonight, we welcomed 5 new Catholics into the fold with both a Baptism and several professions of faith and Confirmations.

We leave the Mass with the strains of Alleluia's. Before the night is over, we gather in the parish library to welcome and toast our new brothers and sisters in Christ.

What a glorious night!

And now I get about 6 hours rest as we have morning Mass to celebrate shortly.

A Happy and Blessed Easter to all!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Easter Vigil Exultet

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God's throne! Jesus Christ, our King is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory! The risen Savior shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

My dearest friends, standing with me in this holy light, join me in asking God for mercy, that he may give his unworthy minister grace to sing his Easter praises.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right that with full hearts and minds and voices we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father, and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood, and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast, When Christ, the true Lamb, is slain, whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night, when first you saved our fathers: you freed the people of Israel from their slav'ry, and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night, when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin.

This is night, when Christians ev'rywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night, when Jesus broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says: "The night will be as clear as day: it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth and we are reconciled to God!

Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night, receive our evening sacrifice of praise, your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever Amen.

(This is the beautiful Exultet sung at the start of every Easter Vigil in Catholic Churches throughout the world tonight. This was on the website of a fellow Deacon blogger at the Deacon's Bench which is linked at this site. Take a look; Deacon Greg also posted a beautiful homily for tonight)

Pope John Paul II The 5th anniversary of his death

In the midst of Holy Week and all the activity surrounding it, I guess it is not too surprising that I missed the anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. It was five years ago, yesterday, April 2nd, that John Paul the Great breathed his last.

It's hard to believe that this event pre-dates Hurricane Katrina; equally as hard to believe that it has been 5 years since his death.

Pope John Paul II played a very large role in my personal journey back to the Church, in that period of time when I drifted away and looked into other faith traditions. It was his constant witness to the faith and his example that assisted me in coming home. His writings were amazing and his faithfulness to Scripture, particularly in the development of the new Catechsism, struck me as significant.

I, along with millions across the world, continue to pray with the Pope and for his eventual beatification and hopefully canonization.

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!

A Love Letter from our Father

My Child, you may not know me well…
But I know everything about you.
Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28
For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28
I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake,
for all your days are written in my book.
Psalm 139:15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth
and where you would live.
Acts 17:26
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13
And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6
I have been misrepresented
by those who don’t know me.
John 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry,
but am the complete expression of love.
1 John 4:16
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1
Simply because you are my child
and I am your Father.
1 John 3:1
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11
Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3
My thoughts toward you are countless
as the sand on the seashore.
Psalms 139:17-18
And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17
I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40
For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5
I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul.
Jeremiah 32:41
And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3
If you seek me with all your heart,
you will find me.
Deuteronomy 4:29
Delight in me and I will give you
the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4
For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13
I am able to do more for you
than you could possibly imagine.
Ephesians 3:20
For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
I am also the Father who comforts you
in all your troubles.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted,
I am close to you.
Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb,
I have carried you close to my heart.
Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away
every tear from your eyes.
Revelation 21:3-4
And I’ll take away all the pain
you have suffered on this earth.
Revelation 21:3-4
I am your Father, and I love you
even as I love my son, Jesus.
John 17:23
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26
He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3
He came to demonstrate that I am for you,
not against you.
Romans 8:31
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
His suffering and death was the ultimate
expression of my love for you.
1 John 4:10
I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love.
Romans 8:31-32
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus,
you receive me.
1 John 2:23
And nothing will ever separate you
from my love.
Romans 8:38-39
Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party
heaven has ever seen.
Luke 15:7
I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.
Ephesians 3:14-15
My question is…Will you be my child?
John 1:12-13
I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32

Holy Saturday

If possible, I like to stop by the Church early on this day, before the decorations and flowers go up for tonight's Easter vigil. I look at the tabernacle, open and empty and no sanctuary lamp burning. It feels, if for a moment, what other worship spaces must feel like; lonely, stark; just a building.

It helps me to appreciate how alive and real His presence truly is. At all other times of the year, morning, noon and night, Jesus is there. Not just there in all the ways He is present everywhere and at all times, but really truly present, dwelling right there in the Church; body, blood, soul and divinity.

Maybe the lesson of Holy Saturday will encourage all people of faith, particularly Catholics, to not take for granted the real presence of Jesus in their worship space. We must embrace this reality everytime we come to the Church for Mass, or prayer, or to simply stop by because we feel called to be with Him.

Soon, the starkness of this morning will give way to the joy, glory and alleluias of the great Easter Vigil. And soon, He returns to the tabernacle and the sanctuary lamp is lit.

The mystery and the depth of the faith should cause all to rejoice in the Lord and the Church that He founded and left for all of us.

As the prophet Hosea puts it so well: He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence.

For us, to live in his Real Presence!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday; spent a different way

Good Friday 2010 and I got to see how the other half lives. In years past, this was a day off; or at worst a half-day at the office. And for years, as I attended the Lord's Passion at 3 p.m. on Good Friday afternoon, I would give little thought to why some folks just were not there in the Church. It never dawned on me that some people were at work; like any other Friday.

Today is far from any other Friday. On our calendar it is the Friday we remember the Crucifixion of Jesus; his agony and his death and his burial. It is a day filled with Stations of the Cross, or the devotion of walking to 9 churches and it is the day when we gather at 3 p.m., the hour of his death, to remember. I love the service on Good Friday afternoon; the reading of the Passion, the veneration of the Cross; the empty tabernacle. It, like last night, is a rich liturgy. No mass; but a special commemoration of Good Friday.

Yet today I found myself at work. I decided, as best I could, to be a witness today to Good Friday. Understanding that not all I encounter at work are Catholic, or even care that it is Good Friday, my comittment was to give testimony to my faith. I made sure I was kind and considerate, I gave up my lunch, I worked hard and helped my clients and I prayed that all I encountered would somehow know what Jesus did for them on this Good Friday.

So tonight, staying around the house, hopefully in some peace and quiet, I am praying that Good Friday prayer; we adore thee oh Christ and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Thursday night

A new month is ushered in by the 1st day of the Triduum. On this April 1st, often times remembered for something so silly as April fools, we have Holy Thursday. I love the rich liturgy of this night and the many gifts that are unpacked in the celebration of the Lord's Supper.

There is the wearing of the white vestments tonight and joyful music at the onset of the Mass. We hear the music and the words of the Gloria, not heard since mid February during ordinary time. We hear the wonderful texts of the old testament story of the Passover meal and Paul's powerful words written to the Corinthians about the Eucharist. And the Gospel, the amazing story from the Gospel of John where Christ, preparing for his very Passion, washes the feet of his Apostles telling them to do likewise.

We are drawn in to the homily with words about the institution of the Eucharist, the gift of the Priesthood and the example of Jesus to wash each others feet; to serve and not be served.

The celebration continues with the presentation of the holy oils, brought into the church for the 1st time since they were distributed to all the pastors of the Archdiocese during the Chrism Mass.

And after the post communion prayer, no ending to the Mass. The Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession to a place of repose for adoration until midnight.

And with many of the faithful still in the Church, deep in prayer, the altar and the sanctuary are stripped bare.

What a rich night of liturgy; what an amazing celebration of the Lord's Supper. What a great way to understand what Jesus truly did for us; how much He loved us.

After midnight, the tabernacles will be empty. The Church will be without the real presence of the Lord. Stark, chilling; he is not there. Powerful.

Now we prepare for the Good Friday events and the Easter Vigil on Saturday. A Blessed Triduum to all.