Thursday, June 30, 2011

July; trying to stay active despite the summer heat

As we move on from a pretty hot June I brace myself for my personal 2nd worst month of the year.  I truly dislike July but not quite as bad as August.  July has a few things going for it but overall, I don't like July.  For us the heat and humidity become unbearable at times, coupled with some steamy afternoon rains and the always present threat of tropical weather.  But it is where we are on the calendar and I try to remember that July belongs to God just as much as those wonderful months of the fall and winter.

July 2011 will begin with me witnessing a marriage; truly one of the great joys as a Permanent Deacon.  I am so honored that this family, particularly the bride-to-be asked me to preside.  Courtney was one of my students many years ago in parish CCD.  She is going to be a beautiful bride.  For many months now I have been preparing her and fiancee Christopher, a fine young man who has served his country in the military.  The wedding will occur at 7:30 in the evening back at my home parish in Abita Springs of St. Jane's.  Love that church.  I offered to preside at Benediction tomorrow night as well about 2 hours before the wedding.  Afterall, tomorrow is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and will be followed Saturday by the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Now that's one holy double-header.

We will be celebrating the 4th of July weekend over the next few days and recalling those days when a new nation, one that has been a bastion for freedom and liberty, was born.  I will be happy to bask in the glory of a nice 4 day weekend away from the office as I take Tuesday off as well.  I also will be involved in a Baptism at this weekend's 11 a.m. Mass.

This will be the usual hectic month as I juggle responsibilities at home, work and in ministry.  We will experience another milestone in my daughter's life as she moves on to graduate school; well, at least move in to her new apartment.  And then she actually starts her new adventure one month later.

July will most certainly be hot and humid.  And I will spend much more time on the riding mower than I care to.  But I'll take it one day at a time and be right here sharing along the way!

Blessed Serra: missionary extraordinaire

Feastday: July 1

Miguel Jose Serra was born on the island of Majorca on November 24, 1713, and took the name of Junipero when in 1730, he entered the Franciscan Order. Ordained in 1737, he taught philosophy and theology at the University of Padua until 1749.

At the age of thirty-seven, he landed in Mexico City on January 1, 1750, and spent the rest of his life working for the conversion of the peoples of the New World.

In 1768, Father Serra took over the missions of the Jesuits (who had been wrongly expelled by the government)in the Mexican province of Lower California and Upper California (modern day California). An indefatigable worker, Serra was in large part responsible for the foundation and spread of the Church on the West Coast of the United States when it was still mission territory.

He founded twenty-one missions and converted thousands of Indians. The converts were taught sound methods of agriculture, cattle raising, and arts and crafts.

Junipero was a dedicated religious and missionary. He was imbued with a penitential spirit and practiced austerity in sleep, eating, and other activities. On August 28, 1784, worn out by his apostolic labors, Father Serra was called to his eternal rest. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988. His statue, representing the state of California, is in National Statuary Hall. His feast day is July 1.

July begins with the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is 19 days after Pentecost Sunday; this year July 1st.

Type of Feast:

Act of Love to the Sacred Heart; Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes back at least to the 11th century, but through the 16th century, it remained a private devotion, often tied to devotion to the Five Wounds of Christ. The first feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated on August 31, 1670, in Rennes, France, through the efforts of Fr. Jean Eudes (1602-1680). From Rennes, the devotion spread, but it took the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) for the devotion to become universal.
In all of these visions, in which Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus played a central role. The “great apparition,” which took place on June 16, 1675, during the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi, is the source of the modern Feast of the Sacred Heart. In that vision, Christ asked St. Margaret Mary to request that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be celebrated on the Friday after the octave (or eighth day) of the Feast of Corpus Christi, in reparation for the ingratitude of men for the sacrifice that Christ had made for them. The Sacred Heart of Jesus represents not simply His physical heart but His love for all mankind.

The devotion became quite popular after St. Margaret Mary’s death in 1690, but, because the Church initially had doubts about the validity of St. Margaret Mary’s visions, it wasn’t until 1765 that the feast was celebrated officially in France. Almost 100 years later, in 1856, Pope Pius IX, at the request of the French bishops, extended the feast to the universal Church. It is celebrated on the day requested by our Lord—the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, or 19 days after Pentecost Sunday.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Last day of June Saint of the day: the 1st Christian martyrs of Rome

First Martyrs of Rome
The names of the first martyrs are known only to God.

In July AD 64, during the tenth year of Nero's reign, a great fire engulfed the city of Rome. It was only stopped after six nights and seven days, when several buildings were demolished. Strangely, the fire restarted in the garden of Tigellinus the next day. It was rumoured Nero himself ordered the fires, since he seemed to have taken so much joy in them. Reports of strange men torching houses saying only that they had orders, fueled the idea Nero started them. It may serve to note that many fires had afflicted Rome over its history, but as with the others it is generally thought that this fire started accidentally as well.

Nero, nonetheless, sensing the growing suspicion, declared the "Christians" had started the fires. No one thought that they had, but they were rounded up anyway. Some were sewn up in wild beast skins and fed to wild dogs while still alive. Some were covered in pitch and wax and after being more or less impaled with stakes, set alight.

Though most were hardened to the utterly savage and barbaric life of the Roman empire, it is noted that many were horrified at the treatment of those first Christians.

Have you any wool?

On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul the Holy Father gives the sacred pallium to the world's newest archbishops. What is the pallium? Where does it come from? What does it signify.

The word pallium is Latin for a traditional Roman cloak made from wool. It is a garment that only the Pope can confer and signifies the jurisdiction of a metropolitan archbishop and also the special communion that the recipient shares with the Pope and the Church of Rome. The earliest reference to the pallium derives from the reign of Pope Marcus (died 336) who conferred the pallium on the bishop of Ostia.

The pallium is still made from lamb's wool. In fact, the lambs are are a gift from Trappist monks. The wool is then given to the nuns of the convent of Saint Agnes who weave the wool into the pallia. (The Latin word for "lamb" is agnus and this has long been a pun associated with Saint Agnes.) The connection with sheep also recalls "Christ the Good Shepherd" who carries the wandering sheep upon His shoulders. Similarly, the pallium is a reminder to the archbishop that he too should be a good shepherd ever mindful of the straying sheep. He is called to carry the sheep on his shoulders.

Last of all, the finished pallia are then placed over the relics of Saint Peter in the Vatican. Thus, each pallium is a third class relic of Saint Peter. So the Archbishop, when he wears his pallium is wearing a relic of Saint Peter!

So the pallium has a twofold symbolism. First is symbolizes that the archbishop carries the sheep on his shoulders. Second, it signifies his union with Saint Peter's successor, the Bishop of Rome.

Is Peter the "Rock". Read on: even Martin Luther says YES!

Was Peter the Rock?
The "little rock big rock" theory
Was Peter the Rock?

In recent years some Evangelicals have suggested that the Greek word that means "rock" did not refer to Peter but only to his "faith." I got an email that said:

However Jesus stated "upon this rock I will build my church" in reference to Peter's declaration that He (Jesus) was the Christ (Matthew 16:16).

Let's call this the "little rock, big rock" theory. It claims that Peter is a little rock and his declaration (Jesus is the Christ) is the foundation of the Church. The Greek text of the passage says "You are Peter (Petros) and upon this rock (petra) I will build my Church."(Mat 16:18-20). In modern Greek, the name Peter Petros means "small stone" and Petra means "stone." The theory proposes that Peter was only a little pebble and unimportant, while the big rock was the "declaration that Jesus was the Christ" of several verses earlier.

OK, I'm going to get a little "heady" here by talking about Aramaic, and ancient Greek. The Greek text is a translation of Jesus' words, which were actually spoken in Aramaic. Aramaic only had one word for rock, kephas (which is why Peter is often called Cephas in the Bible). The word Kephas in Aramaic means "huge rock." The Aramaic word for "little stone" is "evna," and Peter was not called "Evna" or "Envas" or anything like that. In Aramaic, Jesus said "You are Peter (Kephas) and upon this rock (kephas) I will build my Church." The metaphor worked well in Aramaic where nouns are neither feminine or masculine, but in Greek, the noun "rock" was feminine, and therefore unsuitable as a name for Peter. So the Aramaic word Kephas was translated to the masculine name Petros when it referred to Peter, and to the feminine noun petra when it referred to the rock. In ancient Koine Greek, petra and petros were total synonyms, unlike modern Attic Greek and unlike Ionic Greek which was about 400 year before Christ.

I'm a Canadian who speaks both English and French. In English, nouns are not masculine or feminine. However, in French all nouns have a "gender." In French, the name Pierre (Peter) is masculine and the noun pierre (rock) is feminine. The metaphor works wonderfully in French as it did in Aramaic. "Tu es Pierre et sur cette pierre je bâtirai mon Eglise..."

In Evangelical circles, the "little rock, big rock" theory is fairly recent. Nearly every Protestant commentary written in the last 50 years interprets Peter as the rock upon which the Church was built. (However, they didn't believe that Peter had a successor, more about that here ). The scholarly Evangelical work, Carson's "Expositors Bible Commentary" explains this well. It is in the section on Matthew 16. These Evangelical scholars looked closely at the Greek word for rock "Petra" and determined that it refers to Peter. The early Christians also referred to Peter as the Rock. Some Quotes are here.

I don't think the "little rock, big rock" theory hold up under scrutiny. I think Jesus built his Church on people, not a declaration. Following through on the passage we see that Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom to St. Peter, not to his declaration. The Reformer, Martin Luther, said this:

Why are you searching heavenward in search of my keys? Do you not understand, Jesus said, 'I gave them to Peter. They are indeed the keys of heaven, but they are not found in heaven for I left them on earth. Peter's mouth is my mouth, his tongue is my key case, his keys are my keys. They are an office. They are a power, a command given by God through Christ to all of Christendom for the retaining and remitting of the sins of men. (Martin Luther 1530 - after he left the Church)(1)

W. F. Albright, one of the best known Protestant theologians of this century, in his Anchor Bible Commentary, says:

Peter as the Rock will be the foundation of the future community, the church....To deny the pre-eminent position of Peter among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a denial of the evidence.

I recently spoke with a grammar specialist who is not Catholic. She explained to me that the adjective "this" grammatically must refer to the nearest preceding noun, which was Peter, not his declaration which occurs two verses earlier.

When Jesus says "whatever you bind" to Peter in Mat 16:18, the Greek text used for "you" is singular. In Mat 18:18 the Greek text, the word for "you" in "whatever you bind" is plural. Catholics think these two juxtaposed but similar phrases lay out the early structure of the Church with Peter as the Pope and the other apostles as priests.

Examples of Peter's Authority among the Apostles
•Next to Jesus, Peter is mentioned more than any other apostle in Scripture (152 times).
•He stood up and spoke on behalf of the apostles (Mt 19:27, Acts 1:15, 2:14)
•He stood up at the birth of the Church at the Pentecost to lead them. (Acts 2:14)
•The disciples were referred to as Peter and the Apostles. (Acts 2:37, 5:29)
•Peter was given the authority to forgive sins before the rest of the apostles. (Mat 16:18)
•He was always named first when the apostles were listed (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13) -- sometimes it was only "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32);
•John ran ahead of Peter to the tomb but upon arriving he stopped and did not go in. He waited and let Peter go in. (Jn 20:4)
•Jesus told Peter to "feed my lambs...tend my sheep... feed my sheep." (Jn 21:15-17) The difference between a sheep and a lamb might be significant. A lamb is a baby, a sheep is an adult. Perhaps Jesus was asking Peter to take care of both the general people (the lambs), and the apostles (sheep). Regardless of that interpretation of sheep and lambs, it is clear Jesus is asking Peter to feed and tend his flock. That is what a shepherd does. It appears to me that he is asking Peter to shepherd his Church on earth, on his behalf.
What about Bill Webster's accusations in "The Church of Rome at the Bar of History"
Recently a Reformed Baptist named Bill Webster tried to deny the irrefutable concensus among the Fathers of the Church the Peter is the Rock and that his office was established by Christ and passed on to successors until this day. A great response to that charge by Steve Ray is here.

Early Church quotes about Peter as the Rock
Tatian the Syrian (170 A.D.)
"Simon Kephas answered and said, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said unto him, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah: flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee also, that you are Kephas, and on this Rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it" (The Diatesseron 23 [A.D. 170]).

Tertullian (220 A.D.):
"Was anything hid from Peter, who was called the Rock, whereon the Church was built; who obtained the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the power of loosing and of binding in heaven and on earth?" (Tertullian, De Praescript Haeret).

Tertullian thereafter writes to criticize Pope Callistus I by saying ....

"I now inquire into your opinions, to see whence you usurp the right for the Church. Do you presume, because the Lord said to Peter, 'On this rock I will build my Church ...[Matt 16-19]' that the power of binding and loosing has thereby been handed over to you, that is, to every church akin to Peter? What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when He conferred this ***personally on Peter****? 'On you,' He says, 'I will build my Church; and I give to you the keys'...." (Tertullian, On Modesty 21:9-10)

The Apocryphal Letter of St. Clement of Rome to St. James (C. 221 A.D.)
"Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus Himself, with His truthful mouth, named Peter" (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221])

The Clementine Homilies (C. 221)
"[Simon Peter said to Simon Magus in Rome:] For you now stand in direct opposition to me, who am a firm rock, the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]" (Clementine Homilies 17:19 [A.D. 221]).

St. Hippolytus (225 A.D.):
"Peter, the Rock of the Church ..." (Hippolytus in S. Theophan, n. 9, Galland, ii. p. 494). "Peter, the Rock of the Faith, whom Christ our Lord called blessed, the teacher of the Church, the first disciple, he who has the Keys of the Kingdom." (Hippolytus, Ex Fabricio, Op. Hippol. tom. ii. De Fine Mundi et de Antichristo, n. 9).

Origen (230-250 A.D.):
"See what the Lord said to Peter, that great foundation of the Church, and most solid Rock, upon which Christ founded the Church ..." (Origen, In Exodus. Hom. v. . 4 tom. ii).

"Look at [Peter], the great foundation of the Church, that most solid of rocks, upon whom Christ built the Church [Matt. 16:18]. And what does our Lord say to him? 'Oh you of little faith,' he says, 'why do you doubt?'" [Matt. 14:31] (Homilies on Exodus 5:4 [A.D. 248]).

"Upon him (Peter), as on the earth, the Church was founded." (Origen, Ep. ad. Rom. lib. v.c. 10, tom iv.)

"Peter, upon whom is built Christ's Church, against which the gates of hell will not prevail." (Origen, T. iv. In Joan. Tom. v.)

St. Cyprian (246 A.D.):
"For first to Peter, upon whom He built the Church, and from whom He appointed and showed that unity should spring ..." (Cyprian, Ep. lxxiiii ad Fubaian).

"God is one, and Christ is one, and the Church is one, and the Chair (of Peter) is one, by the Lord's word, upon a Rock ..." (Cyprian, Ep. xl. ad Pleb).

"There is one God and one Christ and but one episcopal chair, originally founded on Peter, by the Lord's authority. There cannot, therefore, be set up another altar or another priesthood. Whatever any man in his rage or rashness shall appoint, in defiance of the divine institution, must be a spurious, profane and sacrilegious ordinance" (St. Cyprian, The Unity of the Catholic Church)

"Peter, also to whom the Lord commends His sheep to be fed and guarded, on whom He laid the foundation of the Church ...." (Cyprian, De Habitu Virg).

St. Ephream the Syrian (350-370 A.D.):
"Simon my follower, I have made you the foundation of the Holy Church. I betimes called you Peter because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for Me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head and fountain from which all My teaching flows." (Ephraem, Homilies 4:1).

"Peter, who was called Kephas, he who was captured on the sea shore, and who received testimony from the great Shepherd, that 'Upon this Rock I will build my Church.'" (Ephraem T. iiii. Gr. De Sacred).

"That Rock which He set up that Satan might stumble thereon, Satan, on the other hand, wished to put this Rock in the way of the Lord that He might stumble upon it, when Peter said, 'Far be it from Thee, Lord.' [Matt 16:22-23] (Ephraem, Sermo de Transfig. Dom., Sec. IV).

St. Hilary of Poitiers (356 A.D.)
"Blessed Simon who, after his confession of the Mystery, was set to be the foundation-stone of the Church and received the Keys of the Kingdom." (Hilary, De Trinitate, 6:20).

"Peter, the first Confessor of the Son of God, the Foundation of the Church, ..." (Hilary, Tract in Ps. cxxxi.)

"And in truth Peter's confession obtained a worthy recompense ....Oh! in thy designation by a new name, happy Foundation of the Church, and a Rock worthy of the building up of that which was to scatter the infernal laws of the gates of hell!" (Hilary, Comm. in Matt. c. xvi.)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (363 A.D.):
"Our Lord Jesus Christ then become man, but by the many He was not known. But wishing to teach that which was not known, having assembled His disciples, He asked, 'Who do you say that I the Son of man am?' ...And all being silent, for it was beyond man to know, Peter, the Foremost of the Apostles, the Chief Herald of the Church, not using language of his own finding, but having his mind enlightened by the Father, says unto Him, 'Thou art the Christ,' and not simply that, but, 'the Son of the living God.' And a blessing follows the speech. ....' ....and upon this Rock I will found my Church ...' " (Cyril, Catech, xi. n. 3).

"He said to Peter, 'And upon this Rock I will build my Church.' " (Cyril, Catechetical Lectures, 18:25).

Optatus (367 A.D.)
"You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head - that is why he is also called Cephas ["Rock"] - of all the apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all" (The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]).

St. Gregory Nazianzen (370 A.D.):
"See thou that of the disciples of Christ, all of whom were great and deserving of the choice, one is called a Rock and entrusted with the foundations of the Church." (Gregory Naz., T. i or xxxii).

"Peter, the Chief of the disciples, but he was a Rock ... (Gregory Naz., T. ii.)

"[Peter], that unbroken Rock who held the keys." (Gregory Naz., Sect. ii Poem Moral. tom. ii.)

St. Gregory of Nyssa (371 A.D.):
"Peter, with his whole soul, associates himself with the Lamb; and, by means of the change of his name, he is changed by the Lord into something more divine. Instead of Simon, being both called and having become a Rock, the great Peter did not by advancing little by little attain unto this grace, but at once he listened to his brother (Andrew), believed in the Lamb, and was through faith perfected, and, having cleaved to the Rock, became himself Peter." (Gregory of Nyssa, T. i. Hom. xv. in C. Cantic).

"Peter ...that most firm Rock, upon which the Lord build His Church." (Gregory of Nyssa, Alt. Or. De. S. Steph.)

St. Basil the Great (371 A.D.):
"The house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the foundations of which are on the holy mountains, for it is built upon the Apostles and prophets. One also of these mountains was Peter, upon which Rock the Lord promised to build His Church." (Basil, T. i. Comment. in Esai. c. ii.).

"The soul of blessed Peter was called a lofty Rock ..." (Basil, Sermon 1 De Fide I.13).

St. Epiphanius (385 A.D.):
"Blessed Peter, who for a while denied the Lord, Peter who was Chief of the Apostles, he who became unto us truly a firm Rock upon which is based the Lord's Faith, upon which Rock the Church is in every way built." (Epiphanius, Adv. Haeres).

"Holy men are therefore called the temple of God, because the Holy Spirit dwells in them; as the ***Chief of the Apostles*** testifies, he who was found worthy to be blessed by the Lord, because the 'Father had revealed unto him.' .....This was befitting in that the ***First of the Apostles***, that ****firm Rock*** upon which the Church of God is built, and 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' 'The gates of hell' are heretics and heresiarchs. For, in every way, the faith confirmed in him who received the Keys of Heaven; who looses on earth and binds in heaven. For in him are found all subtle questions of faith ....And He heard from the same God, Peter, 'feed my lambs;' ***to him was entrusted the flock***; he **leads the way admirably in the power of His own Master***. (Epiphanius, T. ii. in Anchor., 9).

St. Ambrose of Milan (385 A.D.):
"Peter is called the Rock because, like an immovable rock, he sustains and joins the mass of the entire Christian edifice." (Ambrose, Sermon 4).

"Christ is the Rock, 'For they drank from that spiritual Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ, ' and He did not refuse to bestow the favor of this title even upon His disciple, so that he too might be 'Peter,' in that he has from the Rock a solid consistancy of firm faith." (Ambrose, Expos. in Luc.).

"[Christ] made answer: 'You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church . . . ' Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?" (The Faith 4:5 [A.D. 379]).

"It is to Peter that he says: 'You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church' [Matt. 16:18]. Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal" (Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David 40:30 [A.D. 389]).

St. Asterius of Pontus (387 A.D.):
"Peter went not away unrequited and unrewarded; but was declared "blessed" by the truly Blessed, and was called the Rock of faith, the foundation and substructure of the Church of God." (Ambrose, Hom. in Apost. Pet. et Paul, tom ii.).

St. John Chrysostom (387 A.D.):
"...and when I name Peter, I name that unbroken Rock, that firm foundation, the Great Apostle, the First of the disciples ..." (Chrysostom, T. ii. Hom. iii. de Paednit).

"Peter, the leader of the choir, that Mouth of the rest of the Apostles, that Head of the brotherhood, that one set over the entire universe, that Foundation of the Church." (Chrysostom, In illud. hoc Scitote).

"Peter, ... that Pillar of the Church, the Buttress of the Faith, the Foundation of the Confession." (Chrysostom, T. iii. Hom. de Dec. Mill. Talent)

St. Jerome (393 A.D.):
"Christ is not alone in being the Rock, for He granted to the Apostle Peter that he should be called 'Rock'. " (Jerome, Comm. on Jerimias 3:65).

"For what has Paul to do with Aristotle? Or Peter to do with Plato? For as the latter (Plato) was prince of philosophers, so was the former (Peter) prince of Apostles: on him the Lord's Church was firmly founded, and neither rushing flood nor storm can shake it." (Jerome, Against the Pelagians 1:14a).

"'But,' you [Jovinian] will say, 'it was on Peter that the Church was founded' [Matt. 16:18]. Well . . . one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division." (Against Jovinian 1:26 [A.D. 393]).

"I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark on Noah will perish when the flood prevails" (Letters 15:2 [A.D. 396]).

St. Augustine (410 A.D.):
"These miserable wretches, refusing to acknowledge the Rock as Peter and to believe that the Church has received the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, have lost these very keys from their own hands." (Augustine, Christian Combat).

"...Why! a faggot that is cut from the vine retains its shape. But what use is that shape if it is not living from the root? Come, brother, if you wish to be engrafted in the vine. It is grievous when we see you thus lying cut off. Number the bishops from the See of Peter. And, in that order of fathers, see whom succeeded whom. This is the Rock which the proud gates of hades do not conquer. All who rejoice in peace, only judge truly." --St. Augustine, Psalmus Contra Pertem Donati.

St. Cyril of Alexandria (424 A.D.):
"He suffers no longer to be called Simon, exercising authoriy to rule over him already as having become His own. But by a title suitable to the thing, He changed his name into Peter, from the word petra (rock); for on him he was afterwards to found His Church." (Cyril T. iv. Comm. in Joan.).

" 'Blessed art thou ...,' calling, I imagine, nothing else the Rock, in allusion to his name (Peter), but the immovable and stable faith of the disciple upon whom the Church of Christ is founded and fixed without danger of falling." (Cyril, On the Holy Trinity).

"He promises to found the Church, assigning immovableness to it, as He is the Lord of strength, and over this He sets Peter as Shepherd." (Cyril, Comm. on Matt., ad. loc.)

Sechnall of Ireland (A.D. 444)
"Steadfast in the fear of God, and in faith immovable, upon [St. Patrick] as upon Peter the [Irish] church is built; and he has been allotted his apostleship by God; against him the gates of hell prevail not" (Hymn in Praise of St. Patrick 3 [A.D. 444]).

Pope Leo I (C. 445)
"Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . has placed the principal charge on the blessed Peter, chief of all the apostles . . . He wished him who had been received into partnership in his undivided unity to be named what he himself was, when he said: 'You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church' [Matt. 16:18], that the building of the eternal temple might rest on Peter's solid rock, strengthening his Church so surely that neither could human rashness assail it nor the gates of hell prevail against it" (Letters 10:1 [A.D. 445]).

Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.)
"Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod, together with the thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the Apostle, who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith, has stripped him [Dioscorus] of the episcopate" (Acts of the Council, session 3 [A.D. 451]).

Gregory the Great (c. A.D. 600)
"Who could be ignorant of the fact that the holy Church is consolidated in the solidity of the prince of the Apostles, whose firmness of character extended to his name so that he should be called Peter after the 'rock,' when the voice of the Truth says, 'I will give to you the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.' To him it is said 'When after a little while you have come back to me, it is for you to be the support of your brethren.' " (Gregory, Letter 40 in Book 6, Migne, Patr. Lat., vol 77).

"It is evident to all who know the Gospel that, by the voice of the Lord, the care of the whole Church was committed to holy Peter, the prince of the Apostles. For to him it is said ...'You are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church. And to you I will give the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.' Behold, he receives the Keys of the heavenly Kingdom; the power of binding and of loosing is given to him; to him the care and government of the whole Church is committed." (Gregory, Epistle ad. Maurit. Augustus, lib. iv. epist. 32).

Did the Church Fathers EVER speak about Peter's confession as the Rock?
Mark Bonocore writes: It is true that some of the Church fathers do speak of Christ or of Peter's confession as "the Rock" of Matt 16:18. However, all of these same Church fathers also speak of Peter himself as the Rock. This was not an either-or proposition for our ancient Christian forefathers, but a "both-and" proposition. What the Church has always believed is that Christ Himself is the only TRUE Rock of the Church. But, in Matt 16:18, Peter (because of his Divinely inspired confession) was made the VICARIOUS Rock of the Church -the focal point of Church unity and sound, orthodox doctrine in Christ's own physical absence. A parallel dynamic can be seen in John 21:15-19,. where Christ makes Peter the primary shepherd of His flock, telling Him to "feed my lambs" and "tend ("rule" in the original Greek) my sheep." Jesus could "feed" and "tend/ rule" His own sheep. Clearly, He can, since He is God and since He is always the Church's TRUE Good Shepherd. But, Jesus commands Peter to do it IN A VICARIOUS SENSE --that is, to lead the Church and govern it with sound teaching and unity in Christ's PHYSICAL absence. Thus, there is only one TRUE Shepherd (Jesus Christ), and one primary VICARIOUS Shepherd to unify the entire flock (St. Peter). Likewise, there is only one TRUE Rock (the Lord Himself) and one Christ-appointed VICARIOUS Rock --that is, St. Peter, who was commissioned with this ministry in Matt 16:18-19 and then reaffirmed in this same ministry in Luke 22:31-32 and John 21:15-19.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

Peter and Paul: Pillars of the Church, Martyrs, Call Us to Courageous Witness
By Deacon Keith Fournier

'The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the church'

These two great pillars of Christianity were both martyred for the faith. Their Feast is celebrated together. Priests and deacons throughout the entire world wear Red at the Liturgy, symbolizing that the blood of the Martyrs, as the Second Century Church Father Tertullian so clearly proclaimed, "is the seed of the Church."

Saints Peter and Paul

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - June 29 marks the Feast of the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul in the Catholic Church calendar. These two great pillars of Christianity were both martyred for the faith. Their Feast is celebrated together. Priests and deacons throughout the entire world wear Red at the Liturgy, symbolizing that the blood of the Martyrs, as the Second Century Church Father Tertullian so clearly proclaimed, "is the seed of the Church."

Tuesday, June 30, we continue to wear Red as we commemorate the Martyrs of the First Church of Rome. The word "Martyr" derives from a Greek word which means "witness." The Catholic Christian faith proclaims that the shedding of ones blood in fidelity to Jesus Christ is the final witness to the Faith.

In the early Church, altars were built over the graves of the martyrs which the early Christians revered. They often became the place where the Eucharist was celebrated. The practice of reverencing the bones of the martyrs showed the respect with which the body was held by the early Christians and their absolute belief in the bodily resurrection, a tenet of the Christian faith.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI, while announcing the closing of the Year of St. Paul, made an amazing announcement. He disclosed the results of a scientific probe into the sarcophagus inside the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. It is at this holy site that the faithful have for centuries venerated the bones of St. Paul.

In his homily, broadcast live on Italian television, the Pope told the faithful that the tomb had been "subject to a scientific investigation. A small hole was drilled in the sarcophagus, unopened for centuries, and a probe was introduced. It found traces of a valuable purple fabric, in linen and gold layer-laminated, and a blue fabric with linen threads. Red incense grains and substances containing proteins and limestone were also discovered.

"Small fragments of bone were found and radiocarbon dated by experts who did not know their place of origin. Results indicate that they belong to someone who lived between the 1st and 2nd century A.D. This seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition according to which these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul. All this fills our soul with deep emotion."

The Apostle Paul suffered martyrdom at the hands of Roman authorities between 65 and 67 A.D. He was buried by the Christian faithful. About 250 years later the Emperor Constantine built a Basilica built over his tomb. Under the marble tombstone is a Latin inscription which reads "PAULO APOSTOLO MART" (Apostle Paul, Martyr).

The Holy Father used the occasion of the announcement of the results of this finding to call the faithful throughout the whole world to fidelity to the full teaching of the Church. He also strongly criticized those who speak against the Teaching Office (Magisterium) of the Church. His homily urged Christians to imitate the courage of St. Paul in this critical hour in human history.

He referred to the teachings of the Apostle in his many New Testament letters and reminded the faithful that ".courage is needed to adhere to the Church's faith, even if it contradicts the mould of today's world. Paul calls this non-conformism a 'grown-up faith'. For him following the prevailing winds and currents of the time is childish. For this reason dedicating oneself to the inviolability of life from its beginning, radically opposing the principle of violence, in the defense precisely of the most defenseless; recognizing the lifetime marriage between a man and a woman in accordance with the Creator's order, re-established again by Christ is also part of a grown-up faith. A grown-up faith does not follow any current here and there. It is against the winds of fashion."

The results of the scientific study verifying the bone fragments as those of the Apostle Paul coincided with some other news last year as well. Vatican archaeologists discovered the oldest image of St Paul ever found. It was discovered on the walls of the catacombs beneath Rome and was dated to be from the late 4th century. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published the image. It revealed the face of a man with a pointed black beard on a red background inside a bright yellow halo. The Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology found the Icon on June 19, 2010 in the Catacomb of Santa Tecla in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI has set the Catholic Church on a path of deepening conversion, continually challenging all who bear the name Christian to live fully the Christian faith in an age which has succumbed to what he has called a "Dictatorship of Relativism." It is obvious in this Pope's writings, messages and example that he understands the urgency of the hour and believes that only the Church can bring about the change needed to transform the current "culture of death" into a new "culture of life" and "civilization of love."

On this great Feast we need to rededicate ourselves to being true witnesses, with an adult faith, willing to participate fully in this new missionary age of the Catholic Church. St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us!

How ya doing at being "Eucharistic"

Arriving at mid-week tomorrow it's as good a time as any to check in on our call to action from last weekend's solemnity and the homily I posted.  Remember; we become what we receive!  We who faithfully and worthily receive Jesus in the Eucharist are called to be Eucharistic in our everyday lives.

Perhaps since we last discussed on Sunday it becomes harder and harder to become Eucharistic.  Monday and Tuesday are behind us and perhaps the work week has been tough.  Maybe your trying to do too much because you have big plans for the upcoming 4th of July weekend. 

Maybe since Sunday we have had to deal with a knucklehead or two.  And maybe we have had some encounters with others that just did not go so well.

Of course all may actually be well.  Hopefully you are having a great week.  Even in these circumstances have you been Eucharistic?

Let's not forget as we approach Wednesday and everyday that being Eucharistic means becoming the love and the sharing of Jesus to all that we meet.

If someone encountered you this week, would they encounter someone who received Jesus in Holy communion? 

Mid week check in.  How we doing?

The St Aug paddling controversy: enough already!

Josephites' new leader disavows interview, says paddling must end at St. Augustine High School

By Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune

 The new superior general of the Josephites on Monday disavowed remarks attributed to him and published over the weekend that seemed to open the door to a reconsideration of corporal punishment at St. Augustine High School.

In an interview Monday, the Rev. William Norvel said the issue is closed: Paddling is dead.

He pointed to a written statement issued June 21 saying the administration of the Josephites "affirms the decision of the previous administration in July 2010 to end the practice of corporal punishment."

The weekend editions of the archdiocesan newspaper, the Clarion Herald, contained the first interview with Norvel since his election to the order's top post, in which he said he planned to listen "to both sides of the issue" before coming to a decision.

In the Clarion Herald interview, Norvel described meetings that he had either held or scheduled with various figures on each side of the dispute. Because of the need for extensive fact-gathering, he declined to say when he hoped to make a decision. He also compared his new role to an earlier experience in a divided parish in which he listened at great length before resolving a dispute.

The Clarion Herald said that interview was conducted June 17, three days after Norvel was elected superior general. Four days after the interview, the Josephite administration issued its unambiguous "no-corporal punishment" statement. But because of its print deadlines, Norvel's Clarion Herald remarks did not appear until this weekend.

Norvel, in a brief interview Monday, said he wanted to say nothing more than what was contained in the Josephites' written statement. Asked about the Clarion Herald story, he said it was "completely wrong."

Editor Peter Finney Jr., who conducted the interview and said he retains extensive notes from their conversation, said "I stand by the story."

Norvel and St. Augustine's local board of directors, which favors keeping some limited form of St. Augustine's 60-year tradition of paddling, are scheduled to meet for the first time by telephone conference call today, board chairman Troy Henry has said.

The months-long controversy involving St. Augustine, one of the region's most celebrated schools, is nominally over paddling, but more deeply touches on themes of school autonomy, Catholic identity, and racial respect between the predominantly white educational community and African-American alumni, parents and educators at St. Augustine.

Norvel, 76, also told the Clarion Herald he did not seek the job of superior general when the Baltimore-based order of about 80 priests gathered in mid-June in Washington to elect new leaders.

He said before the election his name was not in the running for the leadership post.

The 140-year-old order, born out of a British missionary society, was created to minister to newly freed slaves. Norvel becomes its first African-American superior general.

Monday, June 27, 2011

St Irenaeus

St. Irenaeus

Feastday: June 28

The writings of St. Irenaeus entitle him to a high place among the fathers of the Church, for they not only laid the foundations of Christian theology but, by exposing and refuting the errors of the gnostics, they delivered the Catholic Faith from the real danger of the doctrines of those heretics.

He was probably born about the year 125, in one of those maritime provinces of Asia Minor where the memory of the apostles was still cherished and where Christians were numerous. He was most influenced by St. Polycarp who had known the apostles or their immediate disciples

Many Asian priests and missionaries brought the gospel to the pagan Gauls and founded a local church. To this church of Lyon, Irenaeus came to serve as a priest under its first bishop, St. Pothinus, an oriental like himself. In the year 177, Irenaeus was sent to Rome. This mission explains how it was that he was not called upon to share in the martyrdom of St Pothinus during the terrible persecution in Lyons. When he returned to Lyons it was to occupy the vacant bishopric. By this time, the persecution was over. It was the spread of gnosticism in Gaul, and the ravages it was making among the Christians of his diocese, that inspired him to undertake the task of exposing its errors. He produced a treatise in five books in which he sets forth fully the inner doctrines of the various sects, and afterwards contrasts them with the teaching of the Apostles and the text of the Holy Scripture. His work, written in Greek but quickly translated to Latin, was widely circulated and succeeded in dealing a death-blow to gnosticism. At any rate, from that time onwards, it ceased to offer a serious menace to the Catholic faith.

The date of death of St. Irenaeus is not known, but it is believed to be in the year 202. The bodily remains of St. Irenaeus were buried in a crypt under the altar of what was then called the church of St. John, but was later known by the name of St. Irenaeus himself. This tomb or shrine was destroyed by the Calvinists in 1562, and all trace of his relics seems to have perished.

Break out the green; not so ordinary

 >>>Ordinary time and the wearing of the green returns to all Catholic Churches this Sunday.  Of course if you attend daily Mass you know we have been in ordinary time for a couple of weeks.  Due to some beautiful solemnities we have been wearing white on Sunday.  But now it is green, all the way to Advent!

What is Ordinary Time?

Ordinary Time in the Catholic Liturgical Year

While the word “ordinary” in popular usage is used to describe things that are nondescript or dull, ordinary rather means customary, regular, and orderly. Ordinary Time may also be called Ordinal Time, which means numbered time. Ordinal comes from the Latin “ordinalis,” which is a word meaning “showing order, denoting an order of succession.” Hence, Ordinary Time is the standard, orderly, counted time outside of the other liturgical seasons. There is nothing “dull” about Ordinary Time!

What is Ordinary Time?

Ordinary time is the longest liturgical season in the Catholic Church, encompassing either 33 or 34 weeks each year. Because other liturgical seasons begin or end with movable feasts, the length of Ordinary time can vary slightly; however, 33 weeks is the more common length. The weeks are numbered, e.g., the first Sunday of Ordinary Time, the second Sunday of Ordinary Time, and so on.

Ordinary time is technically one liturgical season, though it is divided into two periods. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, when the term “Ordinary Time” was formally established, the two time periods were merely referred to as “the Season after Epiphany” and “the Season after Pentecost.”

The liturgical color of Ordinary Time is green; however, other appropriate colors are worn on particular feast days.

Season after Epiphany or Ordinary Time after the Baptism

The period of Ordinary Time used to be referred to as the Season after Epiphany. That title and the sometimes-used titles “Season after the Baptism” or “Ordinary Time after the Baptism” are still useful in identifying the time period.

While the Epiphany and the Baptism are celebrated on separate days, the two descriptions (after Epiphany and after the Baptism) are not contradictory. In the modern Roman rite, Epiphany is celebrated on the first Sunday after January 1 and the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated the following Sunday. Prior to Vatican II, Epiphany was celebrated January 6, whether a Sunday or a weekday, and the Baptism was celebrated on the Octave of the Epiphany, which would be January 13. Where the title “Season after Epiphany” was used, the phrase was inclusive of the Octave of the Epiphany - January 13 - therefore indicating that Ordinary time started the day after the Baptism was celebrated.

This period of Ordinary Time lasts until the day before Ash Wednesday, which is Shrove Tuesday. This portion of Ordinary Time focuses on the childhood of Jesus and then on the public ministry of Christ.

Season after Pentecost or Ordinary Time after Pentecost

The second portion of Ordinary Time begins after Pentecost and is much longer than the first. This second period of Ordinary Time lasts from the day after Pentecost through the final day before Advent. Because this portion of Ordinary Time occurs after the celebrations of Jesus’s Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension, this segment of Ordinary Time is focused on the Age of the Church. The Age of the Church is the age we live in now, the time that exists between the Age of the Apostles and the second and last coming of Christ for which we are preparing. This period of Ordinary Time is also focused on Christ’s reign as King of kings; the Feast of Christ the King caps off the season of Ordinary Time as the final Sunday before Advent begins.

The death of an inmate has impact on me

The news of the sudden and unexpected death of a state inmate would be of no consequence to me; once upon a time.  The phone call I received today would indeed have a profound effect on me.  One of the wardens at Rayburn wanted me to know that one of my faithful members of the Catholic community had died.  It appears to have been a heart attack while spending time in the yard on Sunday evening.

Respectful of all peoples involved in ministry at a prison I will just call him "Frank".  I met him back in 2007 when I was a candidate for the diaconate.  He was one of the "originals", as I refer to them; men who I met in 2007 and who I still minister to some 4 years later.  "Frank" may have been my first or second interview when I was in my clinical pastoral training, CPT for short.  He was very cordial and quick to share stories about his reformed life at Rayburn, his educational pursuits, his hobbies and most of all his renewed faith rooted in the Catholic Church!

He was always very friendly and welcoming and was particularly happy when I returned to Rayburn in 2009 as their chaplain.  We have shared many great conversations over these past 2+ years.  When I would visit the prison by day he would show me his activities in the education building or the hobby shop.  He loved to worship.  He would sing and pray every hymn and prayer.  He always volunteered to read the responsorial psalm in his own distinct accent.  He always availed himself to the sacrament of reconciliation.  Just last year he also participated in the first Kairos weekend that I worked as a volunteer.

News of his death has indeed impacted me.  I missed "Frank" last week as he did not attend our Wednesday night gathering.  That was odd in and of itself.  I am happy that just 2 weeks ago he did indeed go to reconciliation when Fr Pat visited.

Now what?  When an inmate dies at the correctional center his family is contacted and they can claim the body or refuse the body.  In the latter case, the state assumes responsibility for burial.  I do not know much about Frank's family.  He was mostly quiet on the matter.  Respect is a major part of prison ministry.  I don't ask or probe.  I listen and am present to the men.  Whatever they share is what we talk about.  I did find out today that "Frank" is going home for a funeral of some type.  I'm glad.  I hope he will have a Catholic Mass and someone who knows him well and speaks with a similiar accent will read the responsorial psalm.  He would love that.

For us left behind in our community of faith at Rayburn, we will have a memorial and a chance to remember.  I for one am thankful to God that "Frank" was in my life as he, and the other men, taught me so much about the human dignity in all of us.  We all are made in the image and likeness of God!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bishop & Doctor and defender of the Church

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Feastday: June 27

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (June 27) Cyril was born at Alexandria, Egypt. He was nephew of the patriarch of that city, Theophilus. Cyril received a classical and theological education at Alexandria and was ordained by his uncle. He accompanied Theophilus to Constantinople in 403 and was present at the Synod of the Oak that deposed John Chrysostom, whom he believed guilty of the charges against him. He succeeded his uncle Theophilus as patriarch of Alexandria on Theophilus' death in 412, but only after a riot between Cyril's supporters and the followers of his rival Timotheus. Cyril at once began a series of attacks against the Novatians, whose churches he closed; the Jews, whom he drove from the city; and governor Orestes, with whom he disagreed about some of his actions. In 430 Cyril became embroiled with Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, who was preaching that Mary was not the Mother of God since Christ was Divine and not human, and consequently she should not have the word theotokos (God-bearer) applied to her. He persuaded Pope Celestine I to convoke a synod at Rome, which condemned Nestorius, and then did the same at his own synod in Alexandria. Celestine directed Cyril to depose Nestorius, and in 431, Cyril presided over the third General Council at Ephesus, attended by some two hundred bishops, which condemned all the tenets of Nestorius and his followers before the arrival of Archbishop John of Antioch and forty-two followers who believed Nestorius was innocent. When they found what had been done, they held a council of their own and deposed Cyril. Emperor Theodosius II arrested both Cyril and Nestorius but released Cyril on the arrival of Papal Legates who confirmed the council's actions against Nestorius and declared Cyril innocent of all charges. Two years later, Archbishop John, representing the moderate Antiochene bishops, and Cyril reached an agreement and joined in the condemnation, and Nestorius was forced into exile. During the rest of his life, Cyril wrote treatises that clarified the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation and that helped prevent Nestorianism and Pelagianism from taking long-term deep root in the Christian community. He was the most brilliant theologian of the Alexandrian tradition. His writings are characterized by accurate thinking, precise exposition, and great reasoning skills. Among his writings are commentaries on John, Luke, and the Pentateuch, treatises on dogmatic theology, and Apologia against Julian the Apostate, and letters and sermons. He was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1882. His feast day is June 27th.

Mary under the title Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Our Lady of Perpetual Help: June 27

Catherine Fournier and Peter Fournier

The History of the Icon
The traditional picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a Byzantine-style icon, dated to the 13th century. Some records say that the writer of the image (one "writes" an icon) used Saint Luke the Evangelist's portrait of Mary as inspiration.

Painted on wood, it shows the Mother of God holding the Infant Jesus while the archangels Michael and Gabriel fly overhead, holding the instruments. of His Passion. His sandal dangles from one foot as if, startled and frightened by the glimpse of His future, the Child has fled to His Mother for comfort. The untied sandal also signifies that Mary alone is "fit to untie His sandal" (see Jn 1:27).

Greek letters over the figures form abbreviated words, naming the Mother of God, Jesus Christ, Archangel Michael, and Archangel Gabriel, respectively.

For many years, the icon was highly venerated on the island of Crete, until the island was conquered by the Turks in the 15th century. Fleeing from the invaders, a refugee from Crete took the holy picture, along with his belongings, and went to Rome.

Another version of the icon's history relates that it was brought to Rome at the end of the 15th century by a merchant. It is unclear whether the merchant bought or stole the image. Either in piety or remorse, he requested in his will that the picture be placed in a church for public veneration. It was taken to the Augustinian church of San Matteo, on the Via Merulana, the pilgrims' route between Santa Maria Maggiore and San Giovanni Laterano. For nearly three hundred years, the image—called Madonna di San Matteo—was the subject of great devotion.

When Napoleon's army invaded Rome In 1812, many churches were destroyed, including San Matteo on the Via Merulana. The icon mysteriously disappeared.

Fifty years later, a monk's mysterious dreams and the explorations of an inquisitive little boy lead to the discovery of the icon, hidden away in the attic of an Augustinian oratory at Santa Maria in Posterula.

Upon hearing of the rediscovery of the icon, Pope Pius IX, who remembered praying before the picture in San Matteo as a small boy, ordered that it should again be displayed on the Via Merulana pilgrims' route. This time, it was housed in the new Redemptorist church of San Alphonsus, built on the ruins of San Matteo. It can be seen there today.

Honoring Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and veneration of the icon, has been widespread in recent times. Many churches and schools are named in her honor, and reproductions of the image are found in many shrines, churches, and family homes. (See CCC no. 969.)

A common devotion of the 1930s to 1960s was the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Many parishes held weekly novenas of prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, offering a sermon, public prayers and hymns, blessing of the sick, benediction, and then veneration of the painting. The devout could attend any nine consecutive services to complete a novena.

Though there are countless prayers composed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, either to be said privately or as part of a public novena, the well-known Memorare seems most fitting.

The Memorare
Remember, most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone
who fled to your protection, implored your aid,
or sought your intercession, was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly to you,
a Virgin of Virgins, my Mother.

To you I come; before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but, in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

>>>This title for Mary corresponds beautifully to Our Lady of Prompt Succor(help) which is so meaningful and important to Catholics in New Orleans and southeast Louisiana.

A modern day saint: St. Josemaria Escriva

St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer

Feastday: June 26
June 26, 1975

Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer was born in Barbastro, Spain, on January 9, 1902, the second of six children of Jose and Dolores Escriva. Growing up in a devout family and attending Catholic schools, he learned the basic truths of the faith and practices such as frequent confession and communion, the rosary, and almsgiving. The death of three younger sisters, and his father's bankruptcy after business reverses, taught him the meaning of suffering and brought maturity to his outgoing and cheerful temperament. In 1915, the family moved to Logrono, where his father had found new employment.

Beginning in 1918, Josemaria sensed that God was asking something of him, although he didn't know exactly what it was. He decided to become a priest, in order to be available for whatever God wanted of him. He began studying for the priesthood, first in Logrono and later in Saragossa. At his father's suggestion and with the permission of his superiors at the seminary he also began to study civil law. He was ordained a priest and began his pastoral ministry in 1925.

In 1927, Fr. Josemaria moved to Madrid to study for a graduate degree in law. He was accompanied by his mother, sister, and brother, as his father had died in 1924 and he was now head of the family. They were not well-off, and he had to tutor law students to support them. At the same time he carried out a demanding pastoral work, especially among the poor and sick in Madrid, and with young children. He also undertook an apostolate with manual workers, professional people and university students who, by coming into contact with the poor and sick to whom Fr. Josemaria was ministering, learned the practical meaning of charity and their Christian responsibility to help out in the betterment of society.

On October 2, 1928, while making a retreat in Madrid, God showed him his specific mission: he was to found Opus Dei, an institution within the Catholic Church dedicated to helping people in all walks of life to follow Christ, to seek holiness in their daily life and grow in love for God and their fellow men and women. From that moment on, he dedicated all his strength to fulfilling this mission, certain that God had raised up Opus Dei to serve the Church. In 1930, responding to a new illumination from God, he started Opus Dei's apostolic work with women, making clear that they had the same responsibility as men to serve society and the Church.

The first edition of The Way, his most widely read work, was published in 1934 under the title Spiritual Considerations. Expanded and revised, it has gone through many editions since then; more than four million copies in many different languages are now in print. His other spiritual writings include Holy Rosary; The Way of the Cross; two collections of homilies, Christ Is Passing By and Friends of God; and Furrow and The Forge, which like The Way are made up of short points for prayer and reflection.

The development of Opus Dei began among the young people with whom Fr. Josemaria had already been in contact before 1928. Its growth, however, was seriously impeded by the religious persecution inflicted on the Catholic Church during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The founder himself suffered severe hardships under this persecution but, unlike many other priests, he came out of the war alive. After the war, he traveled throughout the country giving retreats to hundreds of priests at the request of their bishops. Meanwhile Opus Dei spread from Madrid to several other Spanish cities, and as soon as World War II ended in 1945, began starting in other countries. This growth was not without pain; though the Work always had the approval of the local bishops, its then-unfamiliar message of sanctity in the world met with some misunderstandings and suspicions-which the founder bore with great patience and charity.

While celebrating Mass in 1943, Fr. Josemaria received a new foundational grace to establish the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which made it possible for some of Opus Dei's lay faithful to be ordained as priests. The full incorporation of both lay faithful and priests in Opus Dei, which makes a seamless cooperation in the apostolic work possible, is an essential feature of the foundational charism of Opus Dei, affirmed by the Church in granting Opus Dei the canonical status of a personal Prelature. In addition, the Priestly Society conducts activities, in full harmony with the bishops of the local churches, for the spiritual development of diocesan priests and seminarians. Diocesan priests can also be part of the Priestly Society, while at the same time remaining clergy of their own dioceses.

Aware that God meant Opus Dei to be part of the mission of the universal Church, the founder moved to Rome in 1946 so as to be close to the Holy See. By 1950 the Work had received pontifical approvals affirming its main foundational features-spreading the message of holiness in daily life; service to the Pope, the universal church, and the particular churches; secularity and naturalness; fostering personal freedom and responsibility, and a pluralism consistent with Catholic moral, political, and social teachings.

Beginning in 1948, full membership in Opus Dei was open to married people. In 1950 the Holy See approved the idea of accepting non-Catholics and even non-Christians as cooperators-persons who assist Opus Dei in its projects and programs without being members. The next decade saw the launching of a wide range of undertakings: professional schools, agricultural training centers, universities, primary and secondary schools, hospitals and clinics, and other initiatives, open to people of all races, religions, and social backgrounds but of manifestly Christian inspiration.

During Vatican Council II (1962-1965), Monsignor Escriva worked closely with many of the council fathers, discussing key Council themes such as the universal call to holiness and the importance of laypersons in the mission of the Church. Deeply grateful for the Council's teachings, he did everything possible to implement them in the formative activities offered by Opus Dei throughout the world.

Between 1970 and 1975 the founder undertook catechetical trips throughout Europe and Latin America, speaking with many people, at times in large gatherings, about love of God, the sacraments, Christian dedication, and the need to sanctify work and family life. By the time of the founder's death, Opus Dei had spread to thirty nations on six continents. It now (2002) has more than 84,000 members in sixty countries.

Monsignor Escriva's death in Rome came suddenly on June 26, 1975, when he was 73. Large numbers of bishops and ordinary faithful petitioned the Vatican to begin the process for his beatification and canonization. On May 17, 1992, Pope John Paul II declared him Blessed before a huge crowd in St. Peter's Square. He is to be canonized-formally declared a saint-on October 6, 2002.  (Obviously an older article; this indeed occured in 2002).

More Eucharistic thoughts on the Solemnity of the Body & Blood of Jesus

The homily is done; delivered at two Masses and I've listened to several other homilies thanks to the miracle of TV and the internet.  It is very obvious to me that one could go on and on and on concerning all things Eucharist.  After all this is the foundational teaching of the Catholic faith based on the teaching of Christ Himself!

In addition to the image and focus of my homily today I had quite a few other thoughts as well.  It may be valuable to touch on transubstantiation since many a Catholic might struggle to explain this to a non-Catholic friend.  Quite simply and directly: transubstantiation is the conversion of one substance into another.  And in the doctrine of transubstantiation it is said that this conversion does not change the appearances of the original substance.  In the case of the Eucharist, ordinary bread and wine is transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus without changing the appearance of bread and wine.  This has been the consistent and unbroken truth of the Church for over 2,000 years and was believed by all Christians until the 11th century.  Even with the great schism and the protestant revolution, even those who fell away believed in the Real Presence, like Martin Luther himself.

In another commentry on the Eucharistic transubstantiation the author noted the graciousness of Jesus' gift of Himself in the host and the chalice while our human senses still see and taste bread and wine.  How much more pleasant for us, His followers, to consume that which we see as opposed to trying and consume flesh and blood; even the flesh and blood from the Savior of the world.

A couple of personal observations if I may.  One of my greatest privileges as a Permanent Deacon is ministering to the men at Rayburn prison.  On the nights that I "preside" I conduct a communion service.  There are other nights when we celebrate Mass.  Everytime I observe these men receive Jesus in the Eucharist I am moved by the level of reverance and awe.  Almost to a man; and we have 35 or so who attend, they return to their seats, kneel on a plan floor and pray with head in hands.  It is moving.  Somehow, someway these men, incarcerated for various crimes, cling to their faith and beliefs and understand the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

One last thought.  For us who believe when we enter a church of another denomination we sense something(or someone) missing.  Now don't misunderstand this point.  I know Jesus is present in many ways and those who believe in Him without benefit of the Eucharist truly worship Him.  But it does not take me long to realize that He is missing in that most excellent and profound way in the Eucharist.  There is no tabernacle, there is no sanctuary lamp.  Every time I give a tour of the church to young students or recent converts I always direct their attention to the sanctuary lamp.  I always let them know that the lamp near the tabernacle lets us know that Jesus is here; body, blood, soul and divinity.  Really fully and substantially present!

Think about how your Catholic Church feels if you have ever been present on Good Friday or Holy Saturday when the tabernacle is empty and the doors wide open.  You can tell.  You just can tell.

So may we continue to reflect on this wonderful day on the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ; most fully present in the Blessed Sacrament!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Aquinas on the Eucharist

When he took on flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation.  He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation.  He shed his blood for our ransom and purification so that we may be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin.  But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us for ever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.

O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings salvation and contains all sweetness!  Could anything be of more intrinsic value?  Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered , but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food.  What could be more wonderful than this?  No other sacrament has greater healing power ; through it sins are purged away , virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.  It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead , so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all.  Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of the sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.

It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper.  As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion.  It was the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greatest of all miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ

One day last summer I crossed the Causeway during the BP Oil spill. I crossed in both stormy skies and calm skies. In both bad and good weather, I was escorted south and north by the majestic brown pelican. On this day, I had my eye on the pelicans as they were taking quite a beating in oily Gulf waters.

We who have crossed the 24 mile bridge that connects north and south shores of New Orleans have experienced the flight of the pelican. Perhaps we take little notice. Perhaps we enjoy the majesty of their flight which seems so effort less. Maybe we recall that the pelican is the state bird of our Louisiana.

But as people of faith, do we know that the pelican is a beautiful symbol of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; His most precious Body and Blood? I’ll explain more in a minute.

Before we return to Sunday’s in ordinary time today we celebrate, in a most special way, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ. Some of us may remember when this feast was called Corpus Christi. Of course every time we gather to celebrate Mass we participate in His Body and Blood. This solemnity is special. While it has been the unbroken teaching of the Church that Jesus is truly, most completely present in the Eucharist, this solemnity was established in the 13th century. A priest who had doubts about the teaching of the Real Presence was celebrating Mass for some pilgrims about ten miles from the Pope. At the point in the Mass when the Priest fractures the host, placing a tiny piece into the chalice, the consecrated host began to bleed. The evidence of the blood on the altar corporal was taken directly to Pope Urban who declared that Jesus Himself was asking the Church for a universal feast of His most precious Body and Blood.

How appropriate that the Church gives us a Gospel reading from John chapter six; the bread of life discourse. Jesus tells us firmly that He is the bread of life and whoever eats this bread will live forever. We know that many struggled with this teaching. The idea of consuming human flesh and blood was offensive to the Jewish people. But in this Gospel, Jesus, who has taught by way of parable and example, teaches very literally. Amen, amen which means you better pay attention, you must eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man. No symbol; no slight of hand; no tepid suggestion. Boldly He commands us: eat my body, drink my blood! My body and blood is true food and true drink and if you eat and drink you have eternal life. Again, no ambiguity here! A wonderful way to worship Jesus in His Body & Blood would be to read and pray with the entire 6th chapter of John’s Gospel.

Let’s return to our pelican. When a mother pelican feeds her young and food is scarce, the pelican uses her own beak to tear open the flesh of her chest. She feeds the young birds with her own flesh and blood and the babies are nourished and sustained. It has been known that a pelican will offer flesh and blood to the point of death. Look at our own Louisiana state flag. Recently, to honor the Eucharistic roots of our own state bird, the Louisiana Legislature added three drops of blood to the chest of the brown pelican on our state flag.

St. Thomas Aquinas, a great saint and so devoted to the Eucharist, wrote the hymn Adoro te Devote and refers to the Pelican of Christ whose blood has the power to forgive the world.

We are called to remember that Jesus loved the Church with His own body and blood to the point of death, death on the Cross. How does Jesus continue to love the Church today, some two-thousand years later? With His own body and blood in the Eucharist!

We gather every Sunday to receive this precious gift of love. What are we called to as we approach and eat His body and drink His blood? First, we are called to receive Him worthily. Aware of mortal sin present in our lives we are called to make reconciliation and receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession. Lines for communion are long; not so much for confession. Receiving Him requires reverence. Jesus is truly present so the consecrated host must be handled accordingly. As we approach to receive we are asked to make a sign of respect, a bow is considered normative. When the Priest or minister says “Body of Christ” and “Blood of Christ” we respond with an audible “Amen”. That amen means “Yes, I believe” or “it is so”. Our amen affirms that we believe that we received His body and blood. And even more; our amen, our yes, means that we are in community with Holy Mother Church. We believe and affirm Her teachings! We do not pick and choose. We follow the Church in all matters of faith and morals. When we receive Him in our hand we must receive not take and carefully consume Him. When we receive from the cup we do not need to consume a big gulp a small sip is sufficient. It is not necessary to make the sign of the cross while holding the consecrated host or the chalice. And when we return to our pew we should say a prayer of thanksgiving.

Our worthy reception of Jesus in Holy Communion is our declaration that we become what we receive. Eating His body and drinking His blood means we will be Eucharistic people to the people we meet. Our words, actions and deeds will let all we encounter know that “I received the living God and my heart is full of joy”.

Those pelicans I watched last year soared majestically in both the bad and good weather. Many of those brown pelicans soared beyond the threat of that devastating oil spill. Once endangered, the pelican is thriving and soaring. Man tried to destroy them yet still they survive. Man too has tried throughout two-thousand years of history to destroy the Church established by Jesus Christ whose source and summit is His very body and blood.

I’m glad I crossed the Causeway that day, and many days since then and have witnessed the flight of the pelican. And every time I do, I remember the gift of Jesus in His most precious body and blood which leads us to eternal life and I remember His Catholic Church, which endures because even the gates of hell will not prevail against Her!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Awesome article on Permanent Deacons

What about Deacons, Should they Preach? Where do Deacons Come From?
By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (
Deacons have a vital role to serve in the New Evangelization of the Church

One would think from some reports that this letter from one Bishop was somehow a "curtailing" of deacons preaching universally. The letter was a welcome contribution to a near dearth of writing on this clerical vocation. However, this Bishops opinion on the frequency of homilies is a matter of local law.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Recently, Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette wrote a letter on the vocation of the deacon entitled, "The Deacon: Icon of Jesus Christ the Servant". Sadly, this otherwise welcome treatment of my own vocation has become the subject of numerous articles which focused on a minor aspect; the Bishops interpretation of the General Instructions of the Roman Missal on the frequency of deacons preaching homilies at Mass.

One would think from some reports that this letter from one Bishop was a "curtailing" of deacons preaching, universally. The letter was a contribution to a near dearth of writing on this clerical vocation. However, this Bishops' opinion on the frequency of homilies is a matter of local law. This is also the case with deacons wearing clerical collars. They are members of the clergy.

Of course, the Bishop of Marquette is to be respected by his deacons. Also, his well written letter is welcome. But, his direction applies to his deacons in Marquette. What I hope does not happen is that this good Bishops letter gets interpreted in such a way that it minimizes the role of deacons in the Church. That would be a disservice.

Deacons have a vital role to serve in the New Evangelization of the Church. Yes, they are called to be an icon of Christ the Servant. Yes, they are called to be in the world, going as I have said, from the altar and the ambo into the street. But they are often very good homilists, precisely because of that witness and experience. Church history recounts the great homilies of Deacons, such as Ephrem, the "harp of the Holy Spirit" and others. Then there are the deacon martyrs, including Stephen and Lawrence and so many others. Their act of sacrificial love continues to inspire as a perpetual homily!

In 1996, on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (Corpus Christi), I was ordained to the Order of Deacon in the Catholic Church. When I lay prostrate on the floor that day in preparation for the imposition of the hands of my Bishop and the reception of the Book of the Gospels, I knew my life would never be the same. My ordination did indeed create a "mark" on my soul as our theology teaches. I now serve as a member of the Catholic clergy in everything I do: evangelization, apologetics, and ecumenism, as well as in my professional life.

The diaconate has a rich history. During the Church's first five centuries, this ministry flourished everywhere. But for various reasons, the order declined in the West as a distinct rank of clerical service, and eventually disappeared. It was relegated to a "transitional" order given to candidates on their way to priestly ordination. In the Eastern Church, the diaconate remained a part of the permanent rank of sacred orders without interruption from the time of the Apostles until now.

The Council of Trent (1545-63) called for the restoration of the permanent diaconate for the entire Church. But it was not until the Second Vatican Council, four centuries later, that this direction was implemented. The Council Fathers explicitly stated their purpose as threefold: to enhance the Church, to strengthen with sacred orders those men already engaged in diaconal functions, and to provide assistance to areas suffering clerical shortages.

According to "The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons," issued jointly by the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Congregation for the Clergy, the deacon is "a sacred minister and member of the hierarchy." He is ordained to the first rank of sacred orders, not to the priesthood or the episcopacy. He is no longer a layman, but a member of the clergy.

Like other clerics, the deacon participates in the threefold ministry of Jesus Christ; the "diaconia of the liturgy, the word, and of charity." He represents "Christ the Servant" in his vocation. The deacon teaches the Word of God, sanctifies through the sacraments, and helps lead the community in its religious life.

He assists at the altar, distributes the Eucharist as an ordinary minister, blesses marriages, presides over funerals, proclaims the Gospel and preaches, administers viaticum to the sick, and leads Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest.

Because they receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, deacons are sent by Christ to serve God's people. They are called to do so out of the depths of an interior life centered in the Eucharist, and fueled by a life of prayer, which proceeds into action. Like other clerics, they recite the Divine Office and cultivate the habit of penance.

They are called to link their love for the Lord and His Church to a love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, who in her "Fiat" represents the full surrender of love to the invitation of God. Since most deacons are married and have children, they are called to demonstrate the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage and the holiness of a consecrated family life. They are called to "give clear witness to the sanctity of marriage and family."

It is important to note that although the "permanent" diaconate has been opened to married men of mature age; it is also open to and encouraged as a permanent rank of orders for celibate men. The decision for marriage or celibacy is to be made before ordination to the order of deacon.

Having lived this wonderful vocation for fifteen years, I was absolutely thrilled to receive Elizabeth Ficocelli's beautiful children's book entitled "Where do Deacons Come From?" I give it my highest and most heartfelt recommendation. As a father of five grown children and six grandchildren, I know the importance of communicating to children in their earliest years the beauty of every vocation in the Church. In so doing, we are planting seeds which the Holy Spirit can and does cultivate.

As I serve the altar, one of my liturgical functions is to lead the "Prayers of the faithful" at Mass. When we pray for the Pope, our Bishops, and our priests, I always pray as well for our Deacons. When we pray for vocations, I include the diaconate in Christ. Elizabeth's beautifully written and superbly illustrated little book will now open the wonderful world of countless numbers of children to the beauty of the vocation to follow Jesus Christ and serve His Holy Church as a Deacon.

I recommend that every mom, dad, grandfather, grandmother, sister, brother, uncle, aunt - and anyone who hopes to plant the seed of a vocation in a young boy or to help any child, girl or boy, to understand the calling and vocation of deacons, buy this book and give it as a gift.

The week that is, that was and will be; JCTSYTF

Every now and again I believe it profitable to reflect on the week that was; to look back and prepare more worthily for what's upcoming.  I still tend to do this in a very linear way and I don't think that's ever going to change.  The week just past was typical in many ways but full of moments of stress and frustration and equal parts great joy and spiritual fulfillment.  It is another example for me of why I cling to the scripture from Hebrews: Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever! (JCTSYTF)

Sometimes it really is vital to remember this verse and the meaning behind it when things are not going well and when they are going well.  And I try to remember this verse when struggles abound and when joy abounds.  Both extremes can dot a typical week for your's truly.

I always have to remember that in all I do; and that means everything, I am a Permanent Deacon in God's holy church.  You can't check out of your "being Deacon" when you want to rant or rave at work, argue with a family member or deal with a difficult person at WalMart or the doctor's office or anywhere.  Can I keep JCTSYTF in front of me at all times and in every situation?  This is my challenge.

The week was challenging, beginning with Father's Day itself.  My diaconal responsibilities included both of the early Masses; 7 and 9 a.m.  That's even earlier than I go to work; honest!  And being the parish feast day we had a parish picnic to celebrate.  Indeed, a great idea and great event; just started to feel a desire to nap the rest of Father's Day when it was time to head out.

When Monday morning dawns I know that it is the earliest day of the week to report to the office.  As I drive by both St. Jane Church in Abita and Most Holy Trinity on the service road in south Covington, I remember those weekdays when I was able to attend daily Mass.  I can't really sweat this detail because under my current schedule it just ain't going to happen.  By Tuesday we were enveloped in meetings at the bank but I so looked forward to being part of the confirmation team at MHT as we held our first planning meeting.  It is amazing how much needs to be done to facilitate the confirmation of our young adults: the classes, retreats, themes, selection of saint names and the big day itself.

By Wednesday work was in full bloom(my way of being polite and keeping myself out of trouble) and the JCTSYTF was sorely needed.  Again, ministry would be my salvation as I headed north for yet another night of praise, worship and communion for the Catholic population of Rayburn prison.  The prison, guards and inmates equally, was much calmer, much more focused than my last visit.  Caught up in Louisiana politics and nasty budget negotiations, Rayburn was rumored to be closed.  That threat has passed, thankfully.  And it showed Wednesday night.

I used my visit to reflect rather deeply on the Eucharist as we read and prayed the readings and prayers for this Sunday's solemnity.  Since many of these men who have long incarcerations have accepted their sentence and their faith, this can be like preaching to the choir.  Many among my community know full well the teachings on the Eucharist and the biblical roots of this teaching.  I always marvel at communion time inside Rayburn as many of the men display an awe and reverence that would rival any Cathlolic Church on a Sunday morning.

Thursday brought another opportunity to be present to men seeking some clarity as they discern a possible call to diakonia.  24 men have begun classes in what is called aspirancy, a first full year of forming community, getting back to class, all the while discerning if they will apply down the road as a candidate for the the diaconate.  Each class has its' own personality.  I've been blessed to be around the class before my own, the 2006 group, and my own as well as the 2010 group ordained just last year, 2012 who is some 17 months away from ordination and  now these men who would form a group that would be ordained in 2015.  I always enjoy being around these aspirants and candidates and am happy to play a small role on the formation team for the Archdiocese.

So now, a Friday, I'm so happy for the weekend but tired; a good and holy tired.  My preaching assignment has me breaking open the Word at the two early Masses this Sunday.  I have some finishing touches to make on my homily between tonight and tomorrow.

All the while we are enduring summer in the deep south.  Many celebrated the first day of summer this week past; not so much here.  First of all, if daylight and temperture are measuring sticks, we are in about week 8 of summer.  Summer is such a dominant season down here; way to dry until very recently but always hot.  Combination of heat and humidity keeps our area uncomfortable outdoors from early May to early October.  OK Mike, even in the heat, JCTSYTF!

So these are some of my thoughts and ramblings on this Friday night as I return to homily preparation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Celebrating the birth and the feast of John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist

Feastday: June 24

John the Baptist was the son of Zachary, a priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, and Elizabeth, a kinswoman of Mary who visited her. He was probably born at Ain-Karim southwest of Jerusalem after the Angel Gabriel had told Zachary that his wife would bear a child even though she was an old woman. He lived as a hermit in the desert of Judea until about A.D. 27. When he was thirty, he began to preach on the banks of the Jordan against the evils of the times and called men to penance and baptism "for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand". He attracted large crowds, and when Christ came to him, John recognized Him as the Messiah and baptized Him, saying, "It is I who need baptism from You". When Christ left to preach in Galilee, John continued preaching in the Jordan valley. Fearful of his great power with the people, Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Perea and Galilee, had him arrested and imprisoned at Machaerus Fortress on the Dead Sea when John denounced his adultrous and incestuous marriage with Herodias, wife of his half brother Philip. John was beheaded at the request of Salome, daughter of Herodias, who asked for his head at the instigation of her mother. John inspired many of his followers to follow Christ when he designated Him "the Lamb of God," among them Andrew and John, who came to know Christ through John's preaching. John is presented in the New Testament as the last of the Old Testament prophets and the precursor of the Messiah. His feast day is June 24th and the feast for his beheading is August 29th.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

St Thomas More: patron of lawyers & martyr for the faith

St. Thomas More

Feastday: June 22
Patron of Lawyers

St. Thomas More, Martyr (Patron of Lawyers) St. Thomas More was born at London in 1478. After a thorough grounding in religion and the classics, he entered Oxford to study law. Upon leaving the university he embarked on a legal career which took him to Parliament. In 1505, he married his beloved Jane Colt who bore him four children, andwhen she died at a young age, he married a widow, Alice Middleton, to be a mother for his young children. A wit and a reformer, this learned man numbered Bishops and scholars among his friends, and by 1516 wrote his world-famous book "Utopia". He attracted the attention of Henry VIII who appointed him to a succession of high posts and missions, and finally made him Lord Chancellor in 1529. However, he resigned in 1532, at the height of his career and reputation, when Henry persisted in holding his own opinions regarding marriage and the supremacy of the Pope. The rest of his life was spent in writing mostly in defense of the Church. In 1534, with his close friend, St. John Fisher, he refused to render allegiance to the King as the Head of the Church of England and was confined to the Tower. Fifteen months later, and nine days after St. John Fisher's execution, he was tried and convicted of treason. He told the court that he could not go against his conscience and wished his judges that "we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation." And on the scaffold, he told the crowd of spectators that he was dying as "the King's good servant-but God's first." He was beheaded on July 6, 1535. His feast day is June 22nd.

A Bishop speaks on Deacons Preaching

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Deacons should preach less at Mass, Michigan bishop says
Permanent deacons should not preach at Mass often. Rather, they should preach at other services and serve the Church in the course of their daily witness to Christ, Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette, Mich. has said in a new pastoral letter on the deacon’s role in the Catholic Church.

Bishop Sample’s 19-page letter, titled “The Deacon: Icon of Jesus Christ the Servant,” cited the principle that the one who presides at a liturgical service or who is the principal celebrant at Mass should also give the homily.

“This should be the ordinary practice,” he said.

Deacons should preach the homily at Mass “for some identifiable advantage for the faithful in the congregation, but not on a regular basis,” the bishop wrote.

He said deacons have the opportunity to preach in other contexts, such as at wake services, funeral and wedding liturgies outside of Mass, baptisms, liturgies of the Word, during the Liturgy of the Hours and during Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest.

Bishop Sample noted that a deacon also “preaches” through “the witness of his life, especially in his marriage and family life,” as well as in his secular work and his role as a teacher.

The deacon’s ministry in the liturgy is not the “heart” of his service. Rather, he is called especially to serve the bishop by caring for the many works of charity “especially suited” to him, most often under the direction of his local pastor.

Although the deacon is ordained to teach and preach the Word of God, “the most effective preaching he does is through the witness of his life in loving service to the most needy among us,” Bishop Sample wrote in a column summarizing the pastoral letter.

The Bishop of Marquette had stopped accepting new deacon candidates until a study of their role had been completed.

In his letter, he announced that a man will not be ordained simply to “be the deacon” at a particular parish or mission. Instead, there must be “a specifically identified need in the community” recognized by the bishop in consultation with the local pastor. This follows the scriptural example of the early Church, where the Apostles chose deacons to minister to the needs of widows so that the Apostles would be free to pray and preach the Word of God.

In the Diocese of Marquette the prospective deacon will now need to have “a particular service ministry” for which he will be ordained, such as service as a catechist or in care for the poor, the sick, the elderly or the imprisoned.

This change will reflect the fact that a deacon’s primary ministry is “not in the sanctuary but in the service of charity.”

“I express my deep gratitude to my deacon brothers for their selfless service to God’s people in the image of Christ the Servant,” Bishop Sample said. “Let us pray for them and support them as they care for the special children of God among us.”

A Saint right from the pages of the New Testament

St. Lazarus

Feastday: June 21

Lazarus is the poor man at the gate of the rich man in Christ's parable related in Luke. (Luke 16:19-31) His name was perpetuated in the Middle Ages by such words as Lazaretto (hospital), Lazarone (a beggar in the street), and the Order of St. Lazarus, which though a military order, had as one of its objectives, the care of lepers. His feast day is June 21st.

St Aloysius; Priest & Saint. A.M.D.G.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Feastday: June 21

St. Aloysius was born in Castiglione, Italy. The first words St. Aloysius spoke were the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. He was destined for the military by his father (who was in service to Philip II), but by the age of 9 Aloysius had decided on a religious life, and made a vow of perpetual virginity. To safeguard himself from possible temptation, he would keep his eyes persistently downcast in the presence of women. St. Charles Borromeo gave him his first Holy Communion. A kidney disease prevented St. Aloysius from a full social life for a while, so he spent his time in prayer and reading the lives of the saints. Although he was appointed a page in Spain, St. Aloysius kept up his many devotions and austerities, and was quite resolved to become a Jesuit. His family eventually moved back to Italy, where he taught catechism to the poor. When he was 18, he joined the Jesuits, after finally breaking down his father, who had refused his entrance into the order. He served in a hospital during the plague of 1587 in Milan, and died from it at the age of 23, after receiving the last rites from St. Robert Bellarmine. The last word he spoke was the Holy Name of Jesus. St. Robert wrote the Life of St. Aloysius.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Camp Abbey makes a comeback

Archdiocese to reopen Camp Abbey on Northshore
Posted on June 20, 2011 at 6:24 PM

Updated today at 6:44 PM

Doug Mouton / Northshore Bureau Chief

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond called it "Holy Ground," and that Holy Ground north of Covington will welcome back young Catholics next summer.

Monday, Archbishop Aymond and other church leaders showed off the renovations at Camp Abbey.

"The reopening of camp is a monumental event," former camper and counselor Patrick O'Hara said. "And I can tell you, this place has literally touched thousands and thousands of people."

The Catholic Church is paying $3.5 million to renovate Camp Abbey. The archbishop said two $1 million donations helped get the project going, and they are still working to raise the final $1.5 million.

"Things have fallen in place," Aymond said. "We do have another million and a half to raise, but I feel confident that it will come."

According to the Archdiocese, rising insurance costs forced them to shut the camp down in 2006.

When New Orleans native Gregory Aymond became the city's Archbishop, he said, reopening Camp Abbey became one of his first priorities.

"The camp really need a rebirth," Benedictine Monk Abbot Justin Brown said Monday. "It had enjoyed 49 wonderful years, but it really needed this moment to come back as the place it was before, and even better."

The camp will reopen to Catholic youth in the summer of 2012, but will be open in August of 2011 for business and social groups needing a place to hold retreats.