Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pope is a hit at the White House again

Come on blogger; this is crap

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Just in time for All Saints and All Souls: Everything you need to know about Purgatory


The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," which is experienced by those "who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified" (CCC 1030). It notes that "this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" (CCC 1031).
The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. 

Two Judgments

When we die, we undergo what is called the particular, or individual, judgment. Scripture says that "it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Heb. 9:27). We are judged instantly and receive our reward, for good or ill. We know at once what our final destiny will be. At the end of time, when Jesus returns, there will come the general judgment to which the Bible refers, for example, in Matthew 25:31-32: "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." In this general judgment all our sins will be publicly revealed (Luke 12:2–5).
Augustine said, in The City of God, that "temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment" (21:13). It is between the particular and general judgments, then, that the soul is purified of the remaining consequences of sin: "I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper" (Luke 12:59).

Money, Money, Money

One argument anti-Catholics often use to attack purgatory is the idea that the Catholic Church makes money from promulgating the doctrine. Without purgatory, the claim asserts, the Church would go broke. Any number of anti-Catholic books claim the Church owes the majority of its wealth to this doctrine. But the numbers just don’t add up.
When a Catholic requests a memorial Mass for the dead—that is, a Mass said for the benefit of someone in purgatory—it is customary to give the parish priest a stipend, on the principles that the laborer is worth his hire (Luke 10:7) and that those who preside at the altar share the altar’s offerings (1 Cor. 9:13–14). In the United States, a stipend is commonly around five dollars; but the indigent do not have to pay anything. A few people, of course, freely offer more. This money goes to the parish priest, and priests are only allowed to receive one such stipend per day. No one gets rich on five dollars a day, and certainly not the Church, which does not receive the money anyway.
But look at what happens on a Sunday. There are often hundreds of people at Mass. In a crowded parish, there may be thousands. Many families and individuals deposit five dollars or more into the collection basket; others deposit less. A few give much more. A parish might have four or five or six Masses on a Sunday. The total from the Sunday collections far surpasses the paltry amount received from the memorial Masses.

A Catholic "Invention"?

Fundamentalists may be fond of saying the Catholic Church "invented" the doctrine of purgatory to make money, but they have difficulty saying just when. Most professional anti-Catholics—the ones who make their living attacking "Romanism"—seem to place the blame on Pope Gregory the Great, who reigned from A.D. 590–604.
But that hardly accounts for the request of Monica, mother of Augustine, who asked her son, in the fourth century, to remember her soul in his Masses. This would make no sense if she thought her soul would not benefit from prayers, as would be the case if she were in hell or in the full glory of heaven.
Nor does ascribing the doctrine to Gregory explain the graffiti in the catacombs, where Christians during the persecutions of the first three centuries recorded prayers for the dead. Indeed, some of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament, like the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity (both written during the second century), refer to the Christian practice of praying for the dead. Such prayers would have been offered only if Christians believed in purgatory, even if they did not use that name for it. (See Catholic Answers’ Fathers Know Best tract The Existence of Purgatory for quotations from these and other early Christian sources.)

Why No Protests?

Whenever a date is set for the "invention" of purgatory, you can point to historical evidence to show the doctrine was in existence before that date. Besides, if at some point the doctrine was pulled out of a clerical hat, why does ecclesiastical history record no protest against it?
A study of the history of doctrines indicates that Christians in the first centuries were up in arms (sometimes quite literally) if anyone suggested the least change in beliefs. They were extremely conservative people who tested a doctrine’s truth by asking, Was this believed by our ancestors? Was it handed on from the apostles? Surely belief in purgatory would be considered a great change, if it had not been believed from the first—so where are the records of protests?
They don’t exist. There is no hint at all, in the oldest writings available to us (or in later ones, for that matter), that "true believers" in the immediate post-apostolic years spoke of purgatory as a novel doctrine. They must have understood that the oral teaching of the apostles, what Catholics call tradition, and the Bible not only failed to contradict the doctrine, but, in fact, confirmed it.
It is no wonder, then, that those who deny the existence of purgatory tend to touch upon only briefly the history of the belief. They prefer to claim that the Bible speaks only of heaven and hell. Wrong. It speaks plainly of a third condition, commonly called the limbo of the Fathers, where the just who had died before the redemption were waiting for heaven to be opened to them. After his death and before his resurrection, Christ visited those experiencing the limbo of the Fathers and preached to them the good news that heaven would now be opened to them (1 Pet. 3:19). These people thus were not in heaven, but neither were they experiencing the torments of hell.
Some have speculated that the limbo of the Fathers is the same as purgatory. This may or may not be the case. However, even if the limbo of the Fathers is not purgatory, its existence shows that a temporary, intermediate state is not contrary to Scripture. Look at it this way. If the limbo of the Fathers was purgatory, then this one verse directly teaches the existence of purgatory. If the limbo of the Fathers was a different temporary state, then the Bible at least says such a state can exist. It proves there can be more than just heaven and hell.

"Purgatory Not in Scripture"

Some Fundamentalists also charge, as though it actually proved something, "The word purgatory is nowhere found in Scripture." This is true, and yet it does not disprove the existence of purgatory or the fact that belief in it has always been part of Church teaching. The words Trinity and Incarnation aren’t in Scripture either, yet those doctrines are clearly taught in it. Likewise, Scripture teaches that purgatory exists, even if it doesn’t use that word and even if 1 Peter 3:19 refers to a place other than purgatory.
Christ refers to the sinner who "will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matt. 12:32), suggesting that one can be freed after death of the consequences of one’s sins. Similarly, Paul tells us that, when we are judged, each man’s work will be tried. And what happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? "He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Cor 3:15). Now this loss, this penalty, can’t refer to consignment to hell, since no one is saved there; and heaven can’t be meant, since there is no suffering ("fire") there. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory alone explains this passage.
Then, of course, there is the Bible’s approval of prayers for the dead: "In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the dead to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin" (2 Macc. 12:43–45). Prayers are not needed by those in heaven, and no one can help those in hell. That means some people must be in a third condition, at least temporarily. This verse so clearly illustrates the existence of purgatory that, at the time of the Reformation, Protestants had to cut the books of the Maccabees out of their Bibles in order to avoid accepting the doctrine.
Prayers for the dead and the consequent doctrine of purgatory have been part of the true religion since before the time of Christ. Not only can we show it was practiced by the Jews of the time of the Maccabees, but it has even been retained by Orthodox Jews today, who recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a loved one so that the loved one may be purified. It was not the Catholic Church that added the doctrine of purgatory. Rather, any change in the original teaching has taken place in the Protestant churches, which rejected a doctrine that had always been believed by Jews and Christians.

Why Go To Purgatory?

Why would anyone go to purgatory? To be cleansed, for "nothing unclean shall enter [heaven]" (Rev. 21:27). Anyone who has not been completely freed of sin and its effects is, to some extent, "unclean." Through repentance he may have gained the grace needed to be worthy of heaven, which is to say, he has been forgiven and his soul is spiritually alive. But that’s not sufficient for gaining entrance into heaven. He needs to be cleansed completely.
Fundamentalists claim, as an article in Jimmy Swaggart’s magazine, The Evangelist, put it, that "Scripture clearly reveals that all the demands of divine justice on the sinner have been completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It also reveals that Christ has totally redeemed, or purchased back, that which was lost. The advocates of a purgatory (and the necessity of prayer for the dead) say, in effect, that the redemption of Christ was incomplete. . . . It has all been done for us by Jesus Christ, there is nothing to be added or done by man."
It is entirely correct to say that Christ accomplished all of our salvation for us on the cross. But that does not settle the question of how this redemption is applied to us. Scripture reveals that it is applied to us over the course of time through, among other things, the process of sanctification through which the Christian is made holy. Sanctification involves suffering (Rom. 5:3–5), and purgatory is the final stage of sanctification that some of us need to undergo before we enter heaven. Purgatory is the final phase of Christ’s applying to us the purifying redemption that he accomplished for us by his death on the cross.

No Contradiction

The Fundamentalist resistance to the biblical doctrine of purgatory presumes there is a contradiction between Christ’s redeeming us on the cross and the process by which we are sanctified. There isn’t. And a Fundamentalist cannot say that suffering in the final stage of sanctification conflicts with the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement without saying that suffering in the early stages of sanctification also presents a similar conflict. The Fundamentalist has it backward: Our suffering in sanctification does not take away from the cross. Rather, the cross produces our sanctification, which results in our suffering, because "[f]or the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Heb. 12:11).

Nothing Unclean

Purgatory makes sense because there is a requirement that a soul not just be declared to be clean, but actually be clean, before a man may enter into eternal life. After all, if a guilty soul is merely "covered," if its sinful state still exists but is officially ignored, then it is still a guilty soul. It is still unclean.
Catholic theology takes seriously the notion that "nothing unclean shall enter heaven." From this it is inferred that a less than cleansed soul, even if "covered," remains a dirty soul and isn’t fit for heaven. It needs to be cleansed or "purged" of its remaining imperfections. The cleansing occurs in purgatory. Indeed, the necessity of the purging is taught in other passages of Scripture, such as 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which declares that God chose us "to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit." Sanctification is thus not an option, something that may or may not happen before one gets into heaven. It is an absolute requirement, as Hebrews 12:14 states that we must strive "for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

November 1st is All Saints day

All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have attained heaven. It should not be confused with All Souls' Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven.
Although millions, or even billions of people may already be saints, All Saints' Day observances tend to focus on known saints --that is those recognized in the canon of the saints by the Catholic Church.
All Saints' Day is also commemorated by members of the Eastern Orthodox Church as well as some protestant churches, such as Anglican, Lutheran and Anglican churches.
Generally, All Saints' Day is a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation, meaning all Catholics are required to attend Mass on that day, unless they have an excellent excuse, such as serious illness.
Today, All Saints' Day is still a holy day of obligation, but only when it falls on a Sunday. Other countries have different rules according to their national bishop's conferences. The bishops of each conference have the authority to amend the rules surrounding the obligation of the day.
All Saints' Day was formally started by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Parthenon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in 609 AD. Boniface IV also established All Souls' Day, which follows All Saints.
The choice of the day may have been intended to co-opt the pagan holiday "Feast of the Lamures," a day which pagans used to placate the restless spirits of the dead.
The holy day was eventually established on November 1 by Pope Gregory III in the mid-eighth century as a day dedicated to the saints and their relics. The May 13 celebration was subsequently abandoned.
In Ireland, the Church celebrated All Saints' Day on April 20, to avoid associating the day with the traditional harvest festivals and pagan feasts associated with Samhain, celebrated at the same time.
Following the establishment of the Frankish Empire, and following the reign of Charlemagne, the holy day, which was already celebrated on November 1, became a holy day of obligation by decree of Pope Gregory IV and Louis the Pious, who was king over a portion of Charlemagne's former empire.
Following the Protestant Reformation, many Protestants retained the holy day, although they dismissed the need to pray for the dead. Instead, the day has been used to commemorate those who have recently died, usually in the past year, and to remember the examples of those who lived holy lives.
The Catholic practice however, celebrates all those who have entered heaven, including saints who are recognized by the Church and those who are not.
Holy day customs vary around the world. In the United States, the day before is Halloween and is usually celebrated by dressing in costumes with themes of death commonly associated. Children go door-to-door in costume, trick-or-treating, that is soliciting candy from their neighbors. The holiday has lost much of its connection to its religious origins.
Although nearly everyone celebrates Halloween for the fun of the secular holiday, the following religious solemnity, is not widely practiced or acknowledged by most Americans unless they are Catholic.
In other countries, such as Portugal, Spain and Mexico, traditional practices include performance of the play, "Don Juan Tenorio" and offerings made to the dead. All Saints' Say occurs on the same day as the Mexican "Dide los Innocentes" a day dedicated to deceased children.
Across much of Europe, the day is commemorated with offerings of flowers left on the graves of the dead. In Eastern Europe, candles are lit on graves instead of offerings of flowers.
In some places, such as the Philippines, graves can be painted and repaired by family members. Many of these practices blur the distinction between All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
These celebrations often blur the distinction between All Saints' Day, which is properly dedicated to those who are in heaven, and All Souls' Day, on which prayers are offered for all those who have died, but have not yet reached heaven.
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead holy days extend from October 31 through November 2.
It is important to remember these basic facts:
Halloween is a secular holiday that comes the night before All Saints' Day.
All Saints' Day is on November 1, and it is a Holy Day of Obligation.
All Souls' Day in on November 2, and it is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation.
The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that has spread in popularity into parts of the United States and across Latin America. It is celebrated from October 31 through November 2, to coincide with both the American tradition and the Catholic holy days. Those three days are dedicated to all of the all of the dead.

The Saints in our lives

It's important as Catholic that the lives of the Saints are included in our lives.  As we celebrate All Saints Day I wonder just how much focus we place on the Saints lives.  Of course it's important to properly understand the role of the Saints in Salvation history; both what it is and what it is not.  The Saints are not a replacement for God or a way to get to God without going through the Son, Jesus!  The Saints are friends and helpers who can intercede for us.  We would do well to call upon the Saints for help.

Every Catholic child used to be named for a Saint immediately at birth.  I can tell you that as a Deacon who does a lots of Baptisms, that does not seem to be the case these days.  That is sad.  For me, I'm named for St. Michael the Archangel and I love my Saint name.  My middle name is John and all my mom ever told me that John was an important name because he was the cousin of Jesus; mystery solved!

When I was confirmed some family rivalries led to me receiving two Saint names: Gerard, who my mother prayed through during her pregnancy for me and Casimir, whose feast day is both my birthday and that of my confirmation sponsor.  When I became ordained as a Permanent Deacon, I developed a strong connection with both Saints Stephen and Lawrence.  The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Stephen was among the very first seven deacons and Lawrence was renowned in Rome for being in service to the poor.  I was ordained on December 13th so that is the feast day of St. Lucy.  She gave her life, and her eyes for the faith.

I am very devoted also to Saint Jane de Chantal, the patron saint of my home parish.  She was a wonderful Catholic wife and mother, who eventually became a nun, founded a religious order and was a companion of St. Francis de Sales.  St. Jane also knew St, Vincent de Paul whose work among the neediest is legendary.

Some recent Saints I number among my favorites, Maximilian Kolbe, Padre Pio, Katherine Drexel, and of course Saints John XXIII and John Paul II! 

Now he is not a Saint yet but of particular devotion to my family is Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos!  His intercession is credited by the Vatican as the miracle that cured a family friend that we were all very close to, Ms. Angela Boudreaux.

And how many Saints I would love to mention and just forgot.  I follow the liturgical calendar everyday and a program from Catholic Online so I will know the many Saints of the Day.  For example, did you know that today is St. Wolfgang?

So let's understand honor due Saints and that worship alone is for God.  Let us ask all the Saints, on this All Saints Day, to intercede for us!

Praying with the Pope throughout November

Pope's November Intentions

For encounter and dialogue, and pastors accomanying their flocks

Rome, ( Staff Reporter              

In November, the Pope will be praying that pastors will accompany their flocks, an exhortation he has made in various settings and to different audiences.
The Apostleship of Prayer announced the Pope's intentions for November.

The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for November is: “That we may be open to personal encounter and dialogue with all, even those whose convictions differ from our own”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That pastors of the Church, with profound love for their flocks, may accompany them and enliven their hope."

This second intention is related to a conviction Pope Francis has turned into an exhortation on several occasions.

On his trip to the United States, the Pope told bishops that they must accompany their flocks, offering guidance that is "not the result of talking but of shepherding."
"Only one capable of standing 'in the midst of' the flock can be watchful, not someone who is afraid of questions, contact, accompaniment."

"We might well ask whether in our pastoral ministry we are ready to 'waste' time with families," he said. "Whether we are ready to be present to them, sharing their difficulties and joys."
And just a few days ago, on Oct. 27, the Holy Father tweeted a related exhortation: "Parents, can you 'waste time' with your children? It is one of the most important things that you can do each day."

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Saint for Halloween day with quite the appropriate picture

St. Wolfgang

Image of St. Wolfgang


Feastday: October 31
Death: 994

Wolfgang (d. 994) + Bishop and reformer. Born in Swabia, Germany, he studied at Reichenau under the Benedictines and at Wurzburg before serving as a teacher in the cathedral school of Trier. He soon entered the Benedictines at Einsiedeln (964) and was appointed head of the monastery school, receiving ordination in 971. He then set out with a group of monks to preach among the Magyars of Hungary, but the following year (972) was named bishop of Regensburg by Emperor Otto II (r. 973-983). As bishop, he distinguished himself brilliantly for his reforming zeal and his skills as a statesman. He brought the clergy of the diocese into his reforms, restored monasteries, promoted education, preached enthusiastically, and was renowned for his charity and aid to the poor, receiving the title Eleemosynarius Major (Grand Almoner). He also served as tutor to Emperor Henry II (r. 1014-1024) while he was still king. Wolfgang died at Puppingen near Linz, Austria. He was canonized in 1052 by Pope St. Leo IX (r. 1049-1054). Feast day: October 31.

Catholics celebrate Halloween: Yes, but in proper context

Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?

The Christian Origins of All Hallows Eve
Five of the Richert children celebrate Halloween 2007. (Photo © Amy J. Richert) - (Photo © Amy J. Richert)
Five of the Richert children celebrate Halloween 2007.  (Photo © Amy J. Richert)
Every year, a debate rages among Catholics and other Christians: Is Halloween a satanic holiday or merely a secular one? Should Catholic children dress up like ghosts and goblins? Is it good for children to be scared? Lost in the debate is the history of Halloween, which, far from being a pagan religious event, is actually a Christian celebration that's almost 1,300 years old.

The Christian Origins of Halloween

"Halloween" is a name that means nothing by itself.
It is a contraction of "All Hallows Eve," and it designates the vigil of All Hallows Day, more commonly known today as All Saints Day. ("Hallow," as a noun, is an old English word for saint. As a verb, it means to make something holy or to honor it as holy.) All Saints Day, November 1, is a Holy Day of Obligation, and both the feast and the vigil have been celebrated since the early eighth century, when they were instituted by Pope Gregory III in Rome. (A century later, they were extended to the Church at large by Pope Gregory IV.)

The Pagan Origins of Halloween

Despite concerns among some Catholics and other Christians in recent years about the "pagan origins" of Halloween, there really are none.
The first attempts to show some connection between the vigil of All Saints and the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain came over a thousand years after All Saints Day became a universal feast, and there's no evidence whatsoever that Gregory III or Gregory IV was even aware of Samhain.
In Celtic peasant culture, however, elements of the harvest festival survived, even among Christians, just as the Christmas tree owes its origins to pre-Christian Germanic traditions without being a pagan ritual.
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Combining the Celtic and the Christian

The Celtic elements included lighting bonfires, carving turnips (and, in America, pumpkins), and going from house to house, collecting treats, as carolers do at Christmas. But the "occult" aspects of Halloween—ghosts and demons—actually have their roots in Catholic belief. Christians believed that, at certain times of the year (Christmas is another), the veil separating earth from Purgatory, Heaven, and even Hell becomes more thin, and the souls in Purgatory (ghosts) and demons can be more readily seen. Thus the tradition of Halloween costumes owes as much, if not more, to Christian belief as to Celtic tradition.

The (First) Anti-Catholic Attack on Halloween

The current attacks on Halloween aren't the first. In post-Reformation England, All Saints Day and its vigil were suppressed, and the Celtic peasant customs associated with Halloween were outlawed. Christmas and the traditions surrounding it were similarly attacked, and the Puritan Parliament banned Christmas outright in 1647. In the Northeastern United States, Puritans outlawed the celebration of both Christmas and Halloween, which were revived largely by German Catholic (in the case of Christmas) and Irish Catholic (in the case of Halloween) immigrants in the 19th century.

The Commercialization of Halloween

Continued opposition to Halloween was largely an expression of anti-Catholicism (as well as anti-Irish prejudice). But by the early 20th century, Halloween, like Christmas, was becoming highly commercialized. Pre-made costumes, decorations, and special candy all became widely available, and the Christian origins of the holiday were downplayed.
The rise of horror films, and especially the slasher films of the late 70's and 80's, contributed to Halloween's bad reputation, as did the claims of putative Satanists and Wiccans, who created a mythology in which Halloween had been their festival, co-opted later by Christians.

The (Second) Anti-Catholic Attack on Halloween

A new backlash against Halloween by non-Catholic Christians began in the 1980's, in part because of claims that Halloween was the "Devil's Night"; in part because of urban legends about poisons and razor blades in Halloween candy; and in part because of an explicit opposition to Catholicism. Jack Chick, a rabidly anti-Catholic fundamentalist who distributes Bible tracts in the form of small comic books, helped lead the charge. (For more on Chick's rabid anti-Catholicism and how it led to his attack on Halloween, see Halloween, Jack Chick, and Anti-Catholicism.)
By the late 1990's, many Catholic parents, unaware of the anti-Catholic origins of the attack on Halloween, had begun to question Halloween as well. Their concerns were elevated when, in 2009, an article from a British tabloid sparked an urban legend that Pope Benedict XVI had warned Catholics against celebrating Halloween. Even though there was no truth to the claim (see Did Pope Benedict XVI Condemn Halloween? for details), alternative celebrations became popular and remain so to this day.

Alternatives to Halloween Activities

Ironically, one of the most popular Christian alternatives to celebrating Halloween is a secular "Harvest Festival," which has more in common with the Celtic Samhain than it does with the Catholic All Saints Day. There's nothing wrong with celebrating the harvest, but there's no need to strip such a celebration of connections with the Christian liturgical calendar. (It would, for instance, be more appropriate to tie a celebration of the harvest to the fall Ember Days.)
Another popular Catholic alternative is an All Saints Party, usually held on Halloween and featuring costumes (of saints rather than ghouls) and candy. At best, though, this is an attempt to Christianize an already Christian holiday.

Safety Concerns and the Fear Factor

Parents are in the best position to decide whether their children can participate safely in Halloween activities, and, in today's world, it's understandable that many choose to err on the side of caution. Scattered stories of poisoned apples and tampering with candy, which arose during the mid-1980's, left a residue of fear, even though they had been thoroughly debunked by 2002. One concern that's often overblown, however, is the effect that fright might have on children. Some children, of course, are very sensitive, but most love scaring others and being scared themselves (within limits, of course). Any parent knows that the "Boo!" is usually followed by laughter, not only from the child doing the scaring, but from the one being scared. Halloween provides a structured environment for fear.

Making Your Decision

In the end, the choice is yours to make as a parent. If you choose, as my wife and I do, to let your children participate in Halloween, simply stress the need for physical safety (including checking over their candy when they return home), and explain the Christian origins of Halloween to your children. Before you send them off trick-or-treating, recite together the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel, and explain that, as Catholics, we believe in the reality of evil. Tie the vigil explicitly to the Feast of All Saints, and explain to your children why we celebrate that feast, so that they won't view All Saints Day as "the boring day when we have to go to church before we can eat some more candy."
Let's reclaim Halloween for Christians, by returning to its roots in the Catholic Church!

Looking at the Synod thru the eyes of biblical commentary

Pope Francis raises the Book of the Gospels during the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the Family in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 25. Pope Francis raises the Book of the Gospels during the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the Family in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 25. CNS photo/Paul Haring

The Synod’s curious biblical commentary

  • October 29, 2015
VATICAN CITY - One of the most repeated themes during the Synod on the Family was the need for a more biblically based approach. The original working document for the Synod — the Instrumentum Laboris — came in for repeated and severe criticism for taking as its starting point sociological data rather than the Word of God.
The final report made substantial improvements in that regard, but there was throughout the Synod a troubling usage of the Scriptures, as they were often employed to make a particular point in contradiction to the plain meaning of the actual text.
The most spectacular example was given on the Synod’s very first day. One of Pope Francis’ “cardinals from the periphery,” Jose Luiz Lacunza Maestrojuan of Panama, argued that the indissolubility of marriage is contrary to God’s mercy, and asked the Synod fathers why the Successor of Peter could not be more like Moses, who permitted divorce. The clear implication, one hopes lost on Cardinal Lacunza, was that when Jesus corrected the teaching of Moses, He was wrong to do so. Lacunza employed the Scriptures to argue that the Vicar of Christ should be more like Moses, faced with a hard-hearted people, and less like Christ, who transforms the hearts of the baptized by sharing with them the life of grace.
Cardinal Lacunza was soon corrected by a fellow bishop and, to prevent such embarrassments from becoming widely known, the Synod secretariat requested that participants no longer put online the speeches of the Synod fathers. After that misadventure in biblical interpretation got things off to a bad start, we hope that no other Synod fathers were so egregious. Yet the use of the Bible was not infrequently partial and tendentious. There were at least four frequently cited biblical passages consistently put to use contrary to their plain meaning.
1. The mercy of the father who goes in search of the prodigal son.
The father in the parable does not go after his prodigal son. Indeed, respecting his freedom, the father facilitates his departure from the family home. It is only after the son is permitted literally to wallow in the consequence of his sins that he has a conversion, and decides to return home to confess his sins. He then receives the father’s mercy. The father is quick to give it, and eagerly restores the prodigal son to far more than he deserves. I think that we should chase after those who turn their back on the Father’s house, but we can’t use the prodigal son parable to that effect, because the father did not do so. He waited for the son to return on his own.
2. The Good Shepherd who goes after the lost sheep.
This was often employed as a model of pastoral accompaniment, the pastor of the flock gently entering into the lives of the lost and distant. Contrary to the prodigal son, this is a parable of God going in search of the lost, of chasing after them to bring them home. But it is not about accompaniment. The sheep is not at all free, and the choices it has made are not respected. The shepherd finds the sheep and forcibly removes it from danger, carrying it back to the flock independent of its own will. Nothing at all wrong with that, but the parable is not about mature pastoral accompaniment.
3. The disciples on the Road to Emmaus.
This episode from the life of Jesus, not a parable, is about authentic pastoral accompaniment. The Lord Jesus does in fact draw close to the forlorn disciples, walking with them and re-awakening in them their hope. Yet the entire purpose of the Lord’s presence on the road to Emmaus is to convert — literally, to “turn around” — the disciples who are going into the night, away from the nascent Church in Jerusalem. Emmaus is one of the most beautiful models of pastoral ministry in the entire Scriptures, but it is about more than merely walking alongside those moving away from the Church. The Risen Jesus walks with them, questions them about their experience, listens intently to them, sternly rebukes them for their foolishness and lack of understanding, teaches them authoritatively and, only then, reveals Himself in the Eucharist. It is a complete model of pastoral service; too often the model is presented only in part.
4. The Pharisees and the question about divorce.
This was the most stunning example of curious biblical commentary in the entire Synod. There were no shortage of denunciations of pastors who are like Pharisees, not least from the Holy Father himself, who concluded the Synod with fearsome rhetoric against the Synod fathers who most strongly opposed changing the Church’s practices. Yet it was the Pharisees who favoured divorce and remarriage. It was Jesus who opposed it. And when the apostles preferred the Pharisees’ option, thinking the teaching of Jesus too difficult, He did not accommodate them but promised that all things are possible with God’s grace. The allowance for divorce and remarriage is the position of the Pharisees; yet many Synod fathers appeared to favour their position over that of Jesus.
The final report of the Synod restored the proper priority of the Word of God in the Church’s mission. That begins by reading the Scriptures as they are, and not as we would wish them to be.
(Fr. de Souza is the editor-in-chief of Convivium, a Canadian magazine of faith in our common life:

Pope Francis says a good priest will be involved with people's struggles and be empathetic

Pope's Morning Homily: A Good Priest Knows How to Empathize

At Casa Santa Marta, Reflects on God's Compassion and How Pastors Should Imitate It

Rome, ( Staff Reporter              

A good priest must be able to empathize with his flock, to become involved in their struggles and lives, says Pope Francis.
The Holy Father said this today in his homily at the morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.
“It’s interesting that in the parable that we all know of the Prodigal Son, it’s said that when the father - who's the figure of a forgiving God – sees his son arriving he feels compassion," the Pope said. "God’s compassion isn’t about feeling pity: it’s nothing at all to do with that."
“I can feel pity,” he explained, “for a dog that is dying,” but God’s compassion is different, it means “empathizing with another person’s problem, empathizing with that person’s situation.”
“Jesus healed people but he is not a healer. No!  He healed people as a sign, as a sign of God’s compassion, to save that person, to bring back the lost sheep to the fold, the money that went missing from the woman’s purse. God has compassion. God loves us like a Father. He does this for each one of us. And when God forgives, he forgives like a Father and not like an official in the law court who reads out the verdict saying: ‘Acquitted for lack of evidence.’ He forgives us from within his heart. He forgives because he loved that person.”
Jesus, continued the Pope, was sent to bring the good news, “to free those who are oppressed” and “to enter the heart of each one of us, to free us from our sins and evil.”
“This is what a priest does: he feels empathy towards others and becomes involved in the life of people because he is a priest, like Jesus is a priest.  How many times – and then we must go to confession – do we criticize those priests who are not interested in what is happening to those in their congregation, who don’t care about them. He is not a good priest!  A good priest is one who empathizes.”
Pope Francis said a good priest is somebody who gets involved in all human problems.
He concluded his homily by paying tribute to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, who was present at the Mass, to celebrate his 60 years of priesthood. He praised the Cardinal’s work on behalf of the Church when he headed the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, and said let us give thanks to God for these 60 years and for God’s compassion.

A long overdue accountability update

If you are very observant and a frequent follower here you know that I have been on a lifestyle/diet challenge since about August 17th.  I came very clean with my total addiction to food/compulsive eating and the devastating side effects that left me battling high blood pressure, heart issues and diabetes.  You may have noticed that it has been over 2 weeks since I gave an accountability update.  Here is the reasons why:  I began focusing too much on the scale, I started to struggle with the big picture, and I had a cheat day or two.  I don't know why but twice in the last 17 days I allowed doubt to creep in and one day I pulled into Cane's for some chicken and fries and one day I even allowed myself to eat a hot dog at Sonic.  Both days were later filled with regret and an upset stomach. 

The scale issue was forcing me to miss the big picture so I struggled with the totality of my challenge.  Having once weighed as much as 338 pounds before my hernia surgery last year, the "diet" began at 318.5.  The last two times I weighed in, a week at a time, produced a 1.7 and .5 weight loss.  I felt like maybe this is the best I could do.  I decided to avoid the scale and maybe wait 2 weeks.  I also decided to re-double my efforts, to stay vigilant and add some more movement to my day.  Plans to walk daily were derailed by my arthritis flare-ups so again, a little defeat crept in.  Then those two cheat episodes happened and I realized, you are not cured of your addiction.  Hey dumb a**, I said to myself, either get real or quit wasting time.

A couple of unexpected meetings with two folks who haven't seen me in some time produced some positive comments, you know like, hey, have you lost some weight?  I thought, why are you going to waste this opportunity to get healthy?  And so I persevere.

Today was day 17 since the last time I hit the scale.  Today, prayers were answered.  My weight this morning was 277.9, an almost 10 pound loss from last weigh in and bringing total weight lost to 40.9.  I am in the 270's for like the first time in almost forever!

The journey continues, the struggle is real and the struggle is worth struggling with.

Not to us Lord, no, not to us; but to your name be all the glory!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A to Z: Brother & Sisters and Martyrs for the faith

St. Zenobius & Zenobia



Feastday: October 30
Death: 3rd century

Zenobius and Zenobia (d. late third century) + Martyrs slain during the persecutions of co-Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305). Zenobius was a physician in the town of Aegae, in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and Zenobia was his sister. There is a strong possibility that Zenobius may have been a bishop or may be Zenobius of Antioch. Feast day: October 30.

Pope Francis to issue an apostolic exhortation post Synod

Pope Francis will weigh in on the synod after all

ROME — The Vatican’s second most powerful figure said Wednesday that Pope Francis will pen a document following the recently concluded Synod of Bishops on the family, something that until now no Vatican official had confirmed.
Speaking to the ANSA news agency, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, said the pontiff will write an apostolic exhortation on the family in the upcoming months.
“[When] I don’t know, but I don’t think it will take too long,” ANSA quotes Parolin as saying. “After all, it’s best to strike while the iron’s still hot.”
As the contentious synod came to a close last week, it wasn’t clear if Francis would write his own document, perhaps drawing from the suggestions bishops presented to him in their summary. This has generally been the practice in past synods.
The bishops’ document was addressed to the pontiff and it was designed to be the result of not only the three weeks of the meeting, but the summary of a longer process that began in 2013 when Francis called on Catholics around the world to answer a questionnaire about the challenges facing families.
In their final summary, called a relatio, the bishops asked Francis to weigh in on topics raised during the synod.
“Concluding this report, we humbly ask the Holy Father that he evaluate the possibility of issuing a document on the family, so that in it the domestic church may always reflect Christ more clearly, [as] the light of the world,” the relatio stated.
According to Parolin, Francis’ apostolic exhortation “will be based in the work of the synod, as is the tradition.”
(An “apostolic exhortation” is a document from the pope that calls for the faithful to implement a particular aspect of the Church’s life and teaching. It’s not meant to teach new doctrine, but to suggest how teachings can be applied today. Francis released one in November 2013, The Joy of the Gospel.)
Speaking to journalists after the synod’s closing Mass, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, explained why a document from the pope would be helpful.
“I do think that there are enough questions – as opposed to answers – that come through the document that we would benefit by some direction from our Holy Father,” Kurtz said.
In the run-up to the synod, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster in the United Kingdom told Crux he wanted to see Francis write an apostolic exhortation called “The Joy of the Family,” a reference to “The Joy of the Gospel.”

It could be a text, Nichols said, “to set us off in a real, deeply prayerful appreciation of the grace at work in so many families. The family is the basic human experience, where we learn to be human, about our faith, what life is about.”
“There’s nothing more important than the family,” Nichols said.
Speaking to journalists at Rome’s Gregorian University after addressing participants in a conference on the 50th anniversary of a famed document from the Second Vatican Council on inter-faith relations, Parolin also referred to Francis’ upcoming Nov. 25-30 trip to Africa that will take him to Kenya, Uganda, and Central African Republic.
The visit to the Central African Republic will mark the first time a pope travels to an active war zone, but Pope Francis is not afraid, Parolin said.
“This is why he goes everywhere,” he said, adding that Francis finds courage “in his faith and his love for people.”
Parolin will also make the trip as part of the pope’s entourage, and he largely played down any security concerns.
“I believe there’s a concern, but I imagine that if the pope is going, the conditions are set for the pope to be able to go,” he said. “So these phenomena are under control, at least for the duration of the pope’s visit.”

Pope preaches about God's power and His love

Pope's Morning Homily: God Is All-Powerful But He Can't Sever Himself From Us

At Casa Santa Marta, Francis Reflects on Jesus Weeping Because of His Unfailing Love

Rome, ( Staff Reporter              

Though God is all-powerful, there is something he can't do and that is to sever himself from us, says Pope Francis.
The Pope made this reflection today during morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.
Drawing from the reading from St. Paul, the Holy Father explained Christian victory, since “if God is for us, who can be against us.”
This gift from God, he continued, is being held by Christians in their own hands and it’s almost as if they could say in a triumphalistic manner, “now we are the champions!”  But the meaning is another: we are the victors not because we are holding this gift in our hands but for another reason.  And that is because “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“It’s not because we are the victors over our enemies, over sin. No! We are so closely bound to God’s love that no person, no power, nothing can ever separate us from this love. Paul saw beyond the gift, he saw more, [he saw] who is giving that gift: it is a gift of re-creation, it’s a gift of regeneration in Jesus Christ. He saw God’s love. A love that cannot be explained.”
Pope Francis noted that we can refuse this gift by preferring our own sin, but that even still, God’s gift is always there for us.
“The gift is God’s love, a God who can’t sever himself from us. That is the impotence of God.  We say: ‘God is all powerful, He can do everything!” Except for one thing: Sever Himself from us!"
Pope Francis took up the Gospel image of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem to further emphasize his point.
"Jesus wept! He wept over Jerusalem and that weeping is all about God’s impotence: his inability to not love (us) and not sever himself from us.”
“It’s impossible for God to not love us!  And this is our safeguard. I can refuse that love, I can refuse just like the Good Thief did, until the end of his life.  But that love was waiting for him there. The most wicked and the most blasphemous person is loved by God with the tenderness of a father.  And just as Paul said, as the Gospel said, as Jesus said: ‘Like a hen with her brood.’  And God the all-powerful, the Creator can do everything: God weeps!  All of God’s love is contained in this weeping by Jesus over Jerusalem and in those tears.  God weeps for me when I move away from him: God weeps for each one of us: God weeps for the evil people who do so many bad things, cause so much harm to mankind… He is waiting, he is not condemning (us) and he is weeping.  Why?  Because he loves (us)!”

A variety of experiences for a Permanent Deacon

Deacons are more about being than doing, yet we do lots of neat things.  This week is just one example of the different experiences I encounter as a Deacon.  From giving two classes of first graders a tour of the church and age appropriate explanation of the Mass, to teaching Bible class for 30 adult Catholics, to beginning the prep work for 4 Baptisms, to ministering to over 40 inmates in prison,to preparing for this weekend liturgy and feast day, whew!  Wow!
This is normal and this is but a sample of the call.
We do what we do because who we are.  And we are called to serve, not just  on Sundays.
Love being a Permanent Deacon.

End of month readership

To all my blog readers, need your help.  Please read some of our recent articles so October can be anothe4 month over 10,000 reads.  Access to my blog seems to be an issue these past two days so tell a friend, come visit, browse a few articles.  I appreciate all readers and we have room for many more!!

Deacons get together with their Bishop; affirmed and challenged; so awesome!

Bishop encourages deacons' ministry of 'prayer and preaching'
Sharing Ministry -- Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., preaches the homily during the Mass he celebrated for deacons of the Diocese Oct. 25. Joe Moore photo
Sharing Ministry -- Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., preaches the homily during the Mass he celebrated for deacons of the Diocese Oct. 25. Joe Moore photo
Photo Gallery
To see the photo gallery on this story, click here.

By Patrick T. Brown | Associate Editor
Coming together as a brotherhood, deacons of the Diocese of Trenton were challenged by Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., to live up to the summons issued by Pope Francis on his recent trip to the United States.

"When the Pope met with us, he told us to focus our energies on two things - prayer and preaching," said the Bishop. "So he laid it out there for us, our agenda.
"I want you to receive, to believe, to teach and practice. I want you to be a witness in your parish."
165 permanent deacons, many accompanied by their wives, prayed, learned and celebrated together at the annual convocation held Oct. 23-24 in Plainsboro.
Deacon Don Ronning of Mother of Mercy Parish, Asbury Park, said the convening was "very refreshing" and gave the brothers in the diaconate a chance to re-connect and celebrate their shared ministry while learning about the long-term planning efforts of the Diocese.
"We all work in different parishes and do different ministries, but we all feel a kinship with one another in the work that we do," said Deacon Ronning. "We have a good time together, we learn, and we get to talk about 'deacon stuff,' which is nice.
"There's a lot that people rely on us for, so the better equipped we are, the better off they are."
In his address, Bishop O'Connell encouraged the deacons to heed the advice given by Pope Francis - to develop a strong life of prayer and to become effective teachers of the Gospel.
"Preaching," the Bishop said, "is an issue that people cite all the time. [We] ask, why did you leave your parish, and they say 'Because the preaching is lousy. Doesn't hold my interest.'...Preaching is critically important. For me, as Bishop, it is the primary task."
During the open discussion, Deacon John Scanlon, of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, expressed his appreciation and admiration for the Bishop's commentary on CBS 3 Philly television during the Papal events in Philadelphia.
 Deacon Scanlon told about a Jewish family he knows who tuned into the coverage. "They were absolutely amazed, and understood everything that went on. I would just like to credit you for what you did that day," he said, as the assembly joined in applause.
"For me, as Bishop, my efforts to reach the widest swath of Catholics are by preaching...but also teaching," responded Bishop O'Connell. "That was a teaching moment...I've heard from Catholics who [watched and] said 'You know, we never really understood that.'
"Our job, in the Church, is to hand on the faith that has been handed on to us, and to hand it on in a way that people are able to relate to, understand, own and practice. That's my vision."
Deacon Andy Fatovic, of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Yardville, said that, as an unmarried deacon, his parish provides the support and community of a family. Gathering with his brother deacons is like a reunion with extended family members.
"Unless you're close to some of the other guys in a nearby parish, everyone is so scattered around, it's great to see the guys you don't a chance to over the course of the year," Deacon Fatovic said. "It's a great time to meet up with the brothers, catch up on things, pray together, it's really important to spend the time together."
The convocation began on Friday afternoon with dinner, followed by Evening Prayer and welcome from Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, the diocesan vicar for clergy and consecrated life. Saturday's highlights included breakfast and Morning Prayer as well as Mass with the Bishop, followed by lunch.
“Bishop O'Connell did a great thing by having this be yearly," said Deacon Fatovic. "Every-other-year was fine, but this is great. It's nice to have the Bishop supporting you by coming to these things, to share what's going on the Diocese, to hear that he's in the same boat we are - we're learning, and it's a positive process living out our call."

"This annual convocation is an opportunity for the diaconate community to gather for spiritual renewal, educational formation, and fellowship," said Deacon Michael Riley, associate director of the diocese's office of clergy and consecrated life.
The bulk of the day-and-a-half retreat was dedicated towards explaining the “Faith in Our Future” pastoral planning process, which will launch later this year and will engage parishes and communities in discerning a solid path forward for the Diocese of Trenton in the years ahead.
Presenters from the Reid Group, a strategic planning consultancy based out of Seattle that specializes in strengthening faith-based ministries and organizations, led the attending deacons in a presentation and discussion around the process and its timeline.
"The only thing I can guarantee you is there will be change," said Bishop O'Connell. "And the only thing I can ask you is, let's make that change positive for our Church."
No matter what the pastoral structure of the Diocese looks like going forward, the Bishop said, the role of the Deacon will remain critically important in the life of parishes across the four counties.
"I say to the priests, 'You know, as the numbers shrink, the things that you would like to do, or would want to do, you're not going to be able to do. You're only going to be able to do the things that only a priest does. And the things that anybody can do, you should share.' And I'd say the same thing to deacons - the things that deacons can do, that's what you should focus on,” said Bishop O’Connell.
"When the Pope spoke to us in Philadelphia, to the Bishops, he told us 'When the priests couldn't do it all, what did they do? They invented deacons!'"

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Archdiocese of New Orleans introduces new marriage prep

How one US archdiocese is revamping its marriage prep program

Credit: John Hope via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Credit: John Hope via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
.- Aiming to provide uniform spiritual and social support for engaged couples, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has made several changes to its marriage preparation process.
“It’s such a beautiful way for parishes to serve the people who are approaching marriage,” said Father Garrett O’Brien, a priest of the New Orleans archdiocese who headed the committee that recommended the changes.
He said marriage preparation communicates to engaged couples “that we care about your living the faith.”
“We care about your married vocation. This is a call from God and we want young people approaching marriage to realize that they are supported and embraced and that they have a family with which to live their God-given vocation,” Fr. O’Brien told CNA Oct. 26.
The archdiocese’s new guidelines are intended to provide a more consistent way for engaged couples to interact with their priest or deacon.
The guidelines call for at least two meetings between a priest or deacon and the engaged couple six to eight months before they marry. The archdiocese’s one-day program for the engaged has been expanded to two separate days so that the couple will have time to discuss what they have learned and heard.
The guidelines place a particular emphasis on the sacramental nature of marriage and aim to enhance the presentation of natural family planning. The guidelines were adopted July 26, the Feast of Saints Ann and Joachim, the Virgin Mary’s parents.
New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond wanted a system that would “encourage people to plug in to their home parishes,” Fr. O’Brien said. The archdiocese hopes marriage preparation will help an engaged couple begin a relationship with the priest who will be serving them in the future. Marriage preparation is also a way to build relationships with parishioners who will support their married life.
“Marriage preparation is important because first of all it is a gift from God,” Fr. O’Brien said. Marriage is “something that Christ himself saw as fitting for the living out of the Christian vocation, the life of family, the life of husband and wife.”
Fr. O’Brien said that because God gave marriage as a sacrament, “it’s necessary to understand what kind of gift that is.” The priest also noted the modern context of broken homes and families who have struggled in a society with “confusion about what marriage is.”
“There are many ways to become confused and find yourself off-track not only about what marriage is in a general sense, but what God’s plan for marriage is,” he continued.
Marriage preparation is “an opportunity to go deeper” and to look more intently at what marriage is and why Catholics believe what they do about marriage “so we can not only live it but defend it,” Fr. O’Brien said.
The changes to the archdiocese’s marriage preparation followed a survey all of the parishes and priests to determine their present practices and their hopes for changes in the future.
Some parishes reported that they experienced engaged couples “shopping around” different churches to find marriage preparation policies that suit them best.
The new changes sought to create reasonable uniformity in marriage preparation.
Since the new guidelines have been announced, the response has been generally positive, Fr. O’Brien reported.
Responses to the changes have stressed the need for a robust marriage preparation process that is “very sensitive” not to overburden engaged couples.