Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Oct. 1, 2015 Thursday: St. Therese of Lisieux

Leaving Childhood: The Grace of Christmas Conversion for St. Therese of Lisieux

The Event
On Christmas day, it was a French tradition to fill the shoes of the baby of the family with little gifts. This custom continued in the Martin household until Thérèse was fourteen. When the Martin family returned home after attending midnight mass in 1886, Louis noticed Thérèse’s shoes in front of the fireplace and sighed to Céline, "Thérèse ought to have outgrown all this sort of thing, and I hope this will be the last time." Céline caught Thérèse’s eye and realized that she had overheard her father’s remark. Aware of Thérèse’s hypersensitivity, Céline followed her upstairs and found Thérèse sitting on her bed, her eyes filled with tears. Céline told her not to go downstairs in this state. Thérèse recounts: "I was no longer the same; Jesus had changed [my] heart. Forcing back my tears, I descended the stairs rapidly; controlling the poundings of my heart, I took my slippers and placed them in front of Papa, and withdrew all the objects joyfully. I had the happy appearance of a Queen. Having regained his own cheerfulness, Papa was laughing; Céline believed it was all a dream! Fortunately, it was a sweet reality; Thérèse had discovered once again the strength of soul which she had lost at the age of four and a half, and she was to preserve it forever. On that night of light began the third period of my life". Here is an account of a teenage girl choosing to control her feelings. A seemingly insignificant event; yet, it was the turning point in Thérèse’s life. God "made me strong and courageous, arming me with His weapons. Since that night I have never been defeated in any combat. The source of my tears was dried up, [and I received] the grace of leaving my childhood, in a word, the grace of my complete conversion".

What does it mean to leave childhood? What does it mean to become an adult? It means having the strength not to be ruled by one’s emotions or allowing one’s feelings to dictate one’s choices, and possessing the determination to stand upright in the face of an emotional storm. This was the grace given to Thérèse. Thérèse was not healed of her hypersensitivity. Rather, she was given the strength to deal with it.

Reflect upon your own life. What do we suffer in doing God’s will? Is it not some painful emotion that accompanies our choices? Is it not fear that makes an act of faith harrowing? Is not the sadness of mourning that makes "letting go" difficult? Is not loneliness or emptiness the price of remaining faithful to one’s vows? Is not tediousness and boredom the burden of being dutiful to the daily round?

Love and suffering are inseparable. If we are unwilling to suffer, then we cannot love. The grace of her Christmas conversion gave Thérèse the strength to embrace this truth. And it revealed to her that true happiness lies in love. "I felt charity enter into my soul, and the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I’ve always been happy". If we do not understand this truth, then we cannot understand what Thérèse meant when she said that she loved suffering. Thérèse was not in love with pain; she was in love with God. Her love for God expressed itself in her choices to love her neighbor. This demanded that she bear the pain that love entails. By embracing suffering, she experienced the embrace of God. If God is love, then we cannot know God by any other means than love.

The Nature of Healing
Freud once said that therapy ends when we are dealing with our problems and they are no longer dealing with us. Thirty-five years ago, when I was a gung-ho undergraduate psychology major, Freud’s viewpoint sounded pessimistic and depressing. Now, as a man in his sixties, who is still struggling with the same fears and neurotic tendencies that I wrestled with in my youth, I see Freud’s perspective as being realistic. For are not our deeply rooted, deeply embedded, and deeply entrenched personality traits chronic, obdurate, and unyielding by definition? Even though I believe that by the grace of God I am not the man I was thirty-five years ago, for I can honestly say that much emotional healing has taken place in my heart. Nevertheless, during times of stress, when my old fears and neurotic compulsions well up within me in all their savage intensity, I feel that nothing has changed. I say to myself, "When will I ever be rid of this fear? " Once I could accept the answer "Never" I felt a great weight taken off my shoulders. For I was released from the impossible goal of trying to become someone other than myself. "Working on yourself," can be an insidious mask of self-hate, for it makes you feel that there is something wrong with you until you are "healed." I have often told people who come to me for spiritual direction to never make it a goal to conquer their faults. Simply ask for the grace to resist the temptation of the moment. Take it for granted that you will always have tendencies toward certain sins and self-destructive behaviors, which will always be opportunities to grow in virtue and rely upon the grace of God. "I had no need to grow up" (S. 208). Thérèse did not make it a goal to get beyond the effects of her childhood but to do the will of God in the midst of them. Thérèse understood that the emotional wounds of her childhood were not obstacles to spiritual growth but the context of growing in holiness.

Thérèse can help us to refocus our goal in life. She tells us to keep our minds on doing the will of God. If our emotions are transformed in the process, all well and good. Praise God! But if they are not changed, they are the context in which we will grow in God’s love.

By Fr. Marc Foley. The Context of Holiness: Psychological and Spiritual Reflections on the Life of Saint Therese of Lisieux (pp. 95-96). ICS Publications

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fr. Cedric Pisegna Parish Mission: 3rd Night on Glorious Holy Spirit

The final night of Fr. Cedric Pisegna's Parish Mission was on the Person of Holy Spirit. May all of us ask Holy Spirit daily, "Come Holy Spirit!" to guide us with His wisdom, to assist us as our Advocate, and to stir us with fire of love for God and neighbor. -Fr. Paul Yi

Glorious Holy Spirit
By Fr. Cedric Pisegna

Therefore I prayed and understanding was given me; I pleaded and the Spirit of Wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her. Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem, because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as mire before her. I loved her more than health and beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases. (Wisdom 7:7-10)

I’d like to ask you a straightforward question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed in Jesus?” It is amazing to me that when the early church began there were actually communities, such as Ephesus, that didn’t know the Holy Spirit.

One problem in the Church today is not that people don’t know that there is a Holy Spirit—they do. The problem is that many do not know the Holy Spirit in a life-changing, intimate, personal way.

A number of years ago a movie came out that broke all the box office records of the time. It was called Star Wars. It became a trilogy with the succeeding episodes The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. It was so successful that the trilogy was re-released in theaters some time ago. What made Star Wars and the other movies of the trilogy so successful? Certainly the sounds and sights and script were excellent. In addition, the theme was a familiar one: the struggle between good and evil. If you remember, the story was about a young man, Luke Skywalker, who wanted to become a Jedi knight. In order to do this, he had to pass many tests and eventually fight with Darth Vader. Darth Vader represented the evil in his life and Luke’s dark side (his fears and passions). Luke was able to conquer by tapping into the “force” within him. The force was that which created the universe and held it together. It was positive and powerful. Without it Luke was powerless. With the force he had unlimited potential.

A popular phrase that came out of that movie was, “The force be with you!” Whoever wrote that must have been Catholic because over and over again at Mass priests proclaim, “The Lord be with you!” Some would reduce the Holy Spirit to a force. Certainly the Holy Spirit is powerful. In fact, biblically, the ancient concept of “ruah” or spirit was seen primarily as a “charismatic breath of wind” that somehow signaled the presence of the divine.

That the Holy Spirit is a person is shown throughout the New Testament, where the Spirit is described as having characteristics very similar to ours. We are persons, after all, made in the image of God. For example, God’s Spirit “speaks” to the church. He “intercedes” and “prays” for us. He “testifies” to the truth, “witnesses” to who Jesus is, and “leads” us in the way we should go. The Holy Spirit “appoints,” “commands,” and “guides.” Also, God’s Spirit can be lied to. Finally he can be insulted and blasphemed, and by our words and sinful inclinations, we can “grieve” the Holy Spirit. These are not the characteristics of a force! The Holy Spirit is alive! He is a living person with a unique personality. God’s Spirit is the third person in the Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit).

The Holy Spirit is a person, but not just any person. He is God, Lord of life, author of all. All that God is, so is the Spirit. The Spirit is no angel or mystical being that the new age movement drummed up, floating around somewhere. God’s Spirit is eternal, all-powerful, creator, everywhere present, all-knowing and Lord. One of the most inspiring truths about the Holy Spirit is that he is not only God, but also the gift of God to us!

When we talk about who the Holy Spirit is, we must talk about God’s activity in our lives and ability to affect our lives. That’s where the rubber meets the road. I was raised in the Catholic Church in Springfield, Massachusetts where I grew up. I was baptized as an infant, and confirmed as an eighth grader. These sacraments were intended to bring me into an encounter with the Spirit of God. As much as I prayed and thought I believed, I must say, there was little or no encounter. For me, God was out there somewhere and I believed he existed, but I never really knew him. During my high school, teenaged years I fell away from the Church. I prayed once in a while, but nothing with any depth. I was searching for life, but looking in wrong places. I looked to the world to satisfy my inner cravings. It did temporarily, but I had great hunger and kept searching.

Do you feel the tug, the pull, the bobbing, the hunger, the thirst, the craving, the desire for something more? That’s first of all how you know that there is the Holy Spirit, not “up there” but in your heart. Desire, craving, hunger and thirst for spiritual grace and growth and an encounter with God are classic signs of the Spirit’s presence. How do you know you have the Holy Spirit? You want more. You aren’t satisfied. Get in touch with your hunger and your thirst right now. These feelings are a gift. Without physical hunger we wouldn’t know that the body needs nutrients and that we should eat. Without spiritual thirst, we wouldn’t know that we need God and the blessings he brings.

I’ve noticed also that God’s grace helps me to take responsibility for all my life. If I don’t do my laundry, it won’t get done. If I don’t empty the basket and clean the dishes, they won’t get done. If I don’t make my bed and vacuum my room, then I will have to live with dust balls. When I put things off, they are always waiting for me later, reminding me of my laziness. Because of the Spirit’s anointing, I have increasingly become a NOW person. Whenever possible, I do it now. If I don’t, then work will just mount up and I will have to do it later (or forget that I was supposed to do it!)

People complain that their life feels out of control. One way to gain some sense of control in your life is to take responsibility for your life and get things done. This is good, solid, basic wisdom. Remember, the Holy Spirit is the spirit of wisdom and common sense who wants us to stay on top of our lives and not always live under pressure of delay and sloppiness. It is foolishness to procrastinate and wisdom to prepare well.

Morning by morning the Lord will waken your ear to listen like a disciple. Crave the Spirit’s anointing, call out for grace, trust that you are anointed and God will help you in every aspect of your living. The power and creativity of the living God lies within you! God is waiting for you to trust him so he can help you every day. The anointing abides in you. Abide (live and be rooted) in the anointing! (1 Jn. 2:27)

-Fr. Cedric Pisegna, Glorious Holy Spirit

Sept. 29, 2015 Tuesday: Archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael

Sept. 29, 2015 Tuesday
Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels (Feast)

Myriads upon myriads attended him. (Daniel 7:10)

Who says angels aren’t real? Consider the following true story. While on pilgrimage in Europe, a young man feeling called to the priesthood has a mysterious encounter. He’s in Barcelona with no money when a tall, heavyset stranger offers to buy him a meal. They eat and say goodbye. He never gets the man’s name. Later, on another street, he’s cornered by five thugs—and the same man rescues him. Two weeks later, he is shopping in Madrid, more than 300 miles from Barcelona, and spots the very same man! He runs to get his mother so that she can meet him, but when he gets back, there’s only a note, saying, “God bless, Michael.”

Could this have been the archangel Michael, whose feast we celebrate today? There’s no way to know for sure. But this true story does fit Michael’s job description. He is known as the protector of the Church and the angel who cast Satan out of heaven (Revelation 12:7). Many others have seen Michael down through the centuries, and Pope Leo XIII was so devoted to him that he composed the St. Michael Prayer that we still say today.

Clearly, we have some very powerful allies in the spiritual realm! While few of us will encounter Michael or Raphael or Gabriel, we’ve all encountered some of their fellow soldiers. They are the “thousands upon thousands” mentioned in today’s first reading (Daniel 7:10). Who knows how many times we’ve been rescued by angels? And how many times angels have led us to something we needed—or away from something we didn’t. Perhaps we were guided to a particular Scripture passage that encouraged us. Or we felt a strong push away from watching a certain television program or movie.

Today is a good day to remember that we are not alone. We have, not only Jesus and the saints with us, but the angels too! We can be grateful because all of their efforts on our behalf are made for one reason—so that we can one day behold the Lord. So every day, trust that angels are at your side. They are there to help you in both ordinary and extraordinary situations. They are here to “light and guard, to rule and guide”—and that applies to you!

“Father, thank you for our angelic guardians. May they lead us to your kingdom.”

-Word Among Us,

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fr. Cedric Pisegna Mission 2nd Night: Sept. 28, 2015

2nd night of the mission with Fr. Cedric was very grace filled. We had great priests to help us experience God's mercy and love through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We thank Fr. Al Davidson (St. Joseph, Pierre Part), Fr. Chris Decker (St. James / St. Philip, Vacherie), Fr. Andrew Merrick (St. Jules / St. Elizabeth), Fr. Vincent Dufresne and Fr. Alec Sheldon of Tri-parish (Convent, Paulina, Gramercy-Lutcher) for their generosity of time hearing confessions. We still have one more night. Please come join us for mass with Fr. Cedric as the presider/homilist on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 7PM at Ascension Church (Note: No morning 7AM mass at St. Francis Tuesday due to evening mass). Below is the topic which Fr. Cedric preached on tonight.

You Can Change
by Fr. Cedric Pisegna

The Bible is full of words that speak about change. Repentance, metamorphosis, transformation, conversion, resurrection, rebirth, renewal, regeneration, healing and transfiguration: they all mean change! Surely the Word of God is telling us that change is possible! In other words, there is no rut deep enough and no mud thick enough to prevent you from progressing and going forward in your life.

Jesus called people to change. When he spoke, things happened. Peter abandoned his nets, boat, and family and followed him. Matthew left the security of his unjust income and followed Jesus. Throughout the Gospels women and men, rich and poor, encountered Jesus and their lives were never the same.

The urgency of his proclamation stressed that now is the right time to change. He was also saying that because of our fallen nature, change is a necessity. The word “repent” in the Greek is metanoia. Metanoia means to change your mind. Our thoughts, the flow of consciousness which determines our behaviors, can change. Metanoia has to do with moral activity, but goes beyond that. Jesus was teaching that we could change our mind about how we treat people. We don’t have to be unforgiving and cynical. We can change our mind about being negative. We can think positive thoughts and walk in faith instead of doubt. We can change our minds about sin. Rather than being caught in the strongholds of consistent habits of lust or selfishness, for example, we can experience freedom and selflessness. Jesus would not have told us to change unless it was possible and attainable.

The devil wants us to think that we can’t change. He has lied to us for so long that most people believe that they can’t change for the better, or even worse, that they are going backwards instead of forwards. Sometimes I feel like I have progressed in an area for some time and then suddenly I find myself backing up. I’ll think, “Oh no, after all this time, have I grown at all?” One night I had a dream and I was in a convertible (symbolic for conversion) and was backing up! I remember thinking, “I want to go forward!” We must understand that change is always a process and that at times it involves taking two steps forward and once in a while, one step backwards. Change does not always involve going forward. In fact the retreating steps we take (mistakes, sins, failures) can actually be beneficial because we can learn from them. They can also give us a new determination to go forward.

The evil one will constantly remind us of our failures and our sins. When I get discouraged about how far I need to go, I try to think about how far I’ve already come! I’m not exactly where I want to be in all aspects of my life, but I’m so glad I’m not where I used to be. The fact is, we are changing. Be confident of that. It is important that you think change, believe for change and even speak change.

Many times I will say out of my mouth (out loud) “I am changing, I am progressing, I am growing, I’ll never be the same, God is working in me.” Be optimistic. Be positive. It is true that God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way! God’s goal is to bring all of us to be virtuous, loving, fruitful people. Jesus was the first born of many brothers and sisters. We are being changed into the very image and person of the Son of God himself.

-Fr. Cedric Pisegna

Fr. Cedric Pisegna Parish Mission at Ascension Church: 1st Day (Sept. 27, 2015)

Fr. Cedric Pisegna Parish Mission at Ascension Catholic Church: Sept. 27-29, 2015 7PM

“You must realize that to reach a great union with God by way of holy love, trials are necessary.”
(St. Paul of the Cross)

We had a great turnout on the first night of the parish mission with Fr. Cedric Pisegna. He spoke on the Gospel of Mark where the disciples faced a great storm in the Sea of Galilee in a boat.

Jesus Stills the Storm (Mark 4:37-39)
…And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.…

God is at work in us now trying to make us someone magnificent. God is interested in the little tests that we have now, but is most interested in the final product. I once heard a quote that I love. “What we are is God’s gift to us. Who we become is our gift to God.” Of course, who we become is a mixture of our efforts and God’s masterful hand. God is interested in our becoming. In order to live passionately, we must have the goal of becoming a beautiful, magnificent person. This is the
purpose of our life. God has revealed to me that more than any ministry I do, God is interested in the type of person I am becoming through the ministry.

When we are going through things, often we don’t understand what is happening. Reality doesn’t
seem to make sense. But the overriding principle we must live by is that God is at work in the situation. There are no drive through breakthroughs. There is no microwave maturity. Things take time, and suffering and tribulations produce a great work in us. Paul penned this beautiful
verse, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.”(Romans 5:3-4)

There is no other way to get endurance than by enduring things. I like to run three miles every other day. It helps me cope with stress and keeps my body in shape. I try to run fast enough to run eight minute miles. Usually about one mile into the run my body starts making its presence known. It will start to shout out to me, “This hurts, when are we going to stop?” If I stop just because I am winded or tired or hurting, I never gain the ability to endure. When I continue, then the next time I run, I am
able to run the same distance without as much pain. I have gained endurance.Endurance is a very valuable virtue and something God requires.

The particular brand of deodorant I use is called “high endurance” deodorant. I like it because of its quality. It lasts. God is looking for people of quality who will last, be faithful and not give up. God is looking for people who will endure. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross . . .” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

-Fr. Cedric Pisegna, C.P.
Live Passionately! The Saving and Transforming Power of the Cross

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sept. 27, 2015: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time B by Fr. Cedric Pisegna

Sept. 27, 2015: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
Homily by Fr. Cedric Pisegna, recorded at St. Francis Catholic Church, Donaldsonville

Click for Audio Homily

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sept. 27, 2015: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Sept. 27, 2015: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Cross and Mission
by Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis)

Let us reflect today on the profound solitude of the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:4). He had just completed an important mission by gaining victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40); but, despite his great success, he felt completely alone and was longing to die. In reality, his mission was still not finished, for he was being invited into an intimate encounter with the living God (1 Kings 19:9-14), an encounter that would make him apostolically fruitful (1 Kings 19:19-21). This was an extraordinary event, but it was one marked by an experience of abandonment and the cross.

We might also be helped by meditating on the figure of Jonah, recalling the time when he went off selfishly by himself and desired to die because his human plans did not coincide with those of God (Jonah 4:1-11). These two great prophets had a bitter experience of abandonment and loneliness in the midst of the missions they were given. In different ways they resisted their calling, but they were gently impelled by God to keep moving forward. Let us ask for the grace to accept the dimension of the cross that is involved in every mission.

A special relation exists between the Lord and the person he sends on a mission--recall here what we said in the meditation on our vocation. We cited the example of Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Joseph--all of them felt themselves to be incompetent for the mission the Lord asked of them: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt" (Exod 3:11); "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips (Isa 6:5); "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak for I am only a youth" (Jer 1:6); "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" (Matt 3:14); even Joseph made plans "to dismiss Mary quietly" (Matt 1:19). Such is the initial confusion and resistance, the inability to comprehend the magnitude of the call, the fear of the mission. This is a sign from the good spirit, especially if it does not remain there but allows the Lord's strength to be expressed through our weakness so that we are given consistency and a firm foundation: "I will be with you, and this shall be a sign that I have sent you: when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain" (Exod 3:12); "He touched my mouth and said: 'Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven" (Isa 6:7); "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you" (Jer 1:7-8); "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness" (Matt 3:15); "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit" (Matt 1:20).

These experiences of our ancestors in the faith should encourage us greatly. When we realize we are chosen, we feel that the weight on us is too great, and we experience fear--in some cases panic. That is the beginning of the cross. At the same time, we feel deeply drawn by the Lord who by his very summons seduces us to follow him with a fire burning in our hearts (cf. Jer 20:7-18). These two feelings are joined together because since the days of the patriarchs they have prefigured the abandonment that Christ felt on the cross as he fulfilled the Father's will to the very end. The mission places us perforce upon the wood of the cross, for the cross is the sign that the mission has been received by the Spirit of God and not according to the flesh. In the solitude of the person sent on a mission, there is an initial divestment--"leaving all, they followed him" (Luke 5:27-28)--a divestment that will be consolidated through all of life, right up to old age: "When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go" (John 21:18). When we accept a mission, there is a way in which we abandon everything; it is much like the experience of a dying person. Only when we enter into this experience of being "near death" will we understand the full extent of what is being asked of us, and only then will we discover the right road. "I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies"--and this happens only when it is totally alone--"it bears much fruit" (John 12:24).

-by Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis)
Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus
Translated by V. Owns, SJ

Fr. Cedric Pisegna Parish Mission at Ascension Catholic Church, Donaldsonville, LA

Sept. 27-29, 2015 7PM
Sundday thru Tuesday at Ascension Catholic Church
716 Mississippi St. Donaldsonville LA 70346

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sept. 25, 2015 Friday: 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Sept. 25, 2015 Friday: 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Lk 9: 18-22
Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Coming to Know Jesus
A few months ago before the Pope’s visit to the United States, a journalist asked me, “What’s the Pope’s main message going to be during his visit? The economy or the environment?”

I think my answer surprised him. “His main message is going to be Jesus Christ.” The Pope’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, focused on the environment; he also has written and spoken at length about economic matters and other social justice issues. But his main message is the Gospel. His main task is to proclaim the Gospel. And to help people come to know Jesus.

In today’s Gospel Jesus asks the disciples if they understand his identity. You can hear their hesitation. They won’t say what they believe; instead, they talk about others’ beliefs. Finally Peter gives the correct answer: “Christ.”

It’s important for all of us to ask ourselves the question, even if we understand that Jesus is the Christ. Who is Jesus for me? And what difference will he make in my life?
—Fr. James Martin, SJ

“Who is Jesus for me? Is he simply a name? an idea? A person from history? Or is he really someone who loves me, Who gave his life for me, and walks with me?” … “All that we have in this world will not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus; we need to remain with him, to nourish ourselves at his table, on his words of eternal life. When we are attached to Jesus, in a true relationship of faith and love, we are not bound, but rather, are profoundly free as we journey with him through life.”
—Pope Francis

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sept. 24, 2015 Thursday: 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Sept. 24, 2015 Thursday: 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him . LUKE 9:9

Reflection: We encounter and hear about people who can change our worldview. We know people in our community who do extraordinary work helping troubled youth, undocumented immigrants, refugees, and the homeless improve their lives. We read about doctors, nurses, and volunteers traveling to other parts of the world to care for children living with HIV/AIDS. We see on the news dedicated men and women working with international agencies to rebuild communities devastated by natural disasters.

Sometimes we feel threatened by the people who can make a difference in our lives. We don’t like being confronted by their wisdom and challenged by their good deeds. We are tired of being reminded to feed the poor, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and care for the sick. We are uncomfortable with public protests against racism, discrimination, war, and violence. We become upset with people who disrupt our comfort zone and the status quo. The gospel tells us who Jesus is and how belief in Jesus changes people’s lives. As followers of Jesus, we are commissioned to challenge the status quo and to make a difference in the world. Through our words and actions people come to know and believe in the risen Jesus. We have been empowered by the Spirit of God to give witness to our faith in every situation. We are called by God in Jesus to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted with the good news.

Ponder: How do I challenge and change the status quo?

- Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

We are all sinners, but God heals us with an abundance of grace, mercy, and tenderness.Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved, and forgiven.—Pope Francis

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sept. 23, 2015 Wednesday: St. Pio of Pietricina (Padre Pio)

Sept. 23, 2015 Wednesday: St. Pio of Pietricina (Padre Pio)

Words of wisdom from Padre Pio

Jesus likes to communicate with simple souls. Let us try to acquire this good virtue, and let us hold it in great esteem. Jesus said, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 18:3]. Before teaching us this through his words, however, he practiced it by his actions. He made himself a baby and gave us an example of the simplicity that he later taught through his words. Let us keep our hearts on the alert to stay far away from all worldly wisdom. Let us strive at all times to have pure thoughts, righteous ideas, and holy intentions in our minds. Let us always keep our wills seeking nothing but God and his glory. If we attempt to advance in this lovely virtue, the one who taught it to us will always enrich us with new insights and greater heavenly favors.

Let us not stop moving forward in this lovely virtue of simplicity. However, we will not move one step forward in this virtue if we do not make every effort to live in holy and immutable peace.

Peace is simplicity of spirit, serenity of mind, quietness of soul, and the bond of love. Peace is the order, the harmony within us. It is the continuous contentment that comes from the testimony of a clear conscience. It is the holy joy of a heart in which God reigns. Peace is the road to perfection—or rather, perfection is found in peace. The devil, who knows all of this quite well, applies all his efforts to make us lose our peace. Let us be on high alert against the least sign of turmoil, and as soon as we notice we have fallen into discouragement, let us have recourse to God with filial confidence and complete abandonment of ourselves to him. Every instance of turmoil in us is very displeasing to Jesus, because it is always connected to some imperfection in us that has its origin in egotism or self-love.

Edited by Gianluigi Pasquale
Translated by Marsha Daigle-Williamson

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sept. 22, 2015 Tuesday: 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Sept. 22, 2015 Tuesday: 25th Week in Ordinary Time

But [Jesus] said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” LUKE 8:21

Reflection: Jesus can’t make it any clearer: If we claim kinship to him, then we must hear the word of God and do it. Hearing the word of God involves more than going to church and listening to the proclamation of sacred Scripture. Hearing the word of God means seeking to know God through Scripture and through the example of Jesus. Hearing the word of God means opening our hearts to meditate on the truth about life revealed in the works ourselves, becoming more and more like God in goodness, compassion, and mercy.

Doing the word of God means that we make a commitment to imitate Jesus in our daily lives. We intentionally seek ways to help those in need. We intentionally find opportunities to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. We intentionally visit the ill, the imprisoned, the neglected, and the dying. We intentionally seek peaceful solutions to conflict. We intentionally choose generosity over covetousness, welcome over indifference, forgiveness over resentment, respect over contempt, gentleness over aggression, love over fear. Hearing and doing the word of God is our twofold mission in the world. We cannot truly hear the word of God if we do not practice it. We must become what we hear if we want to claim Jesus as our brother.

Ponder: How does hearing God’s word change my life?

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sept. 21, 2015 Monday: St. Matthew, Apostle

Sept. 21, 2015 Monday: St. Matthew, Apostle

Father Spadaro: Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?

Pope Francis: I ​​do not know what might be the most fitting description.... I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner....when I had to come to Rome, I always stayed in Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of ‘The Calling of St. Matthew,’ by Caravaggio. That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew. It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff. I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.

The following is from the book, Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads (Loyola Press)

There is no leadership training program for popes-to-be. Nor did some Vatican functionary hand Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio the New Pope Handbook or Pontificate for Dummies as soon as white smoke started pumping into the Vatican sky to announce his pontificate as Pope Francis. Instead, as best we outsiders know, fellow cardinals applauded his election, vested him in white, gave him some prayerful privacy to recollect himself, then pushed (well, escorted) him onto the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica to assume leadership of 1.2 billion Catholics.
Where did he learn to lead like this? Where does his vision come from? And what might the rest of us learn from him?

What Prepares anyone to lead well? After all, like the pope, we sometimes find ourselves thrust onto that metaphorical balcony: step up, it’s time to lead this department, your family, this classroom, or, as the case may be, the whole Catholic Church.

Some folks approach such opportunities knowing that they are superbly prepared to lead, and that unshakable self-confidence stays with them every day of their careers. We call such people narcissists. They often get their organizations into trouble because, blinded by the radiant glow of their self-perceived greatness, they don’t see what havoc they create or what misery they inflict on others.

Those of us with even a smidgen of self-awareness, on the other hand, quickly realize that no one fully trained us for the leadership challenges we inherit.

"Today’s world stands in great need of witnesses, not so much of teachers but rather of witnesses. It’s not so much about speaking, but rather speaking with our whole lives." (Pope Francis, Address from St. Peter’s Square, May 18, 2013)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sept. 20, 2015: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Sept. 20, 2015: 25th Sunday B

Click to hear Audio Homily
What type of shoes would you expect a priest to wear? How about rubber boots? One weekday morning a priest was in his rubber boots to greet a religious who came to visit him for spiritual direction. He wanted to give the sister a tour of the farm that his seminary was operating to make ends meet. At that time, that priest in boots was the rector of the seminary having numerous responsibilities. In addition to farming vegetables, the farm kept approximately 120 pigs, 53 sheep, 180 rabbits, and numerous cows for milk. When they arrived at the stalls where the animals were kept, the priest told the sister that this was a good place to pray and to remember that God is to be found in the lowliest things. The priest enjoyed regularly getting his feet dirty working in the farm. In fact, he always insisted that the seminarians should go out at the weekends to the poor neighborhoods to offer religious instruction to the children. He said that someone who is able to make the catechism simple enough for a child to understand is a wise person. When the seminarians returned from the neighborhoods, he would look to see if they had dusty feet. If they came back with clean feet, he took it as a sign that they had done nothing. The name of this remarkable priest was Fr. Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, who will be visiting our country this coming week.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus informs his disciples for the second time that he will suffer bitter humiliation and death, and says that true greatness shows itself in service towards the weaker members of the community. However, once again the disciples do not understand what Jesus meant. Instead, motivated by selfish ambition, the disciples get involved in an argument as to which of them is the greatest. Ambition of this kind is condemned by Jesus. Why did he condemn ambition? Because for the ambitious, there was no room for unselfishness. When Jesus went about healing people, he instructed them not to tell anyone about who healed them. The disciples didn’t quite get this. Why not tell the world about the great miracles Jesus was performing? The disciples saw it as opportunities to increase earthly influence and power. All those opportunities for glory and profit would be wasted if people didn’t know about them. Yet throughout his ministry, there was no hint of self-centeredness in the teachings and actions of Jesus; he did not seek self-glory, but sought glory for his Heavenly Father.

All of us are called to exercise this same attitude whenever we find ourselves in leadership, whether that be as leader of a family, a group, a parish, a city, a nation. The ultimate leader - Jesus - modeled this for us and showed us that it would not be easy. For him, the path to glory involved the cross, because his passion was for justice. He prevailed to rise in glory, but not in the eyes of those who didn’t get it.

Pope Francis also sets a great example for us. In words and actions, he eschewed anything that seemed vain or ambitious. In one homily he mentioned attitudes that we must avoid when we follow God or in search for Him, attitudes like vanity and ambition. He said, “Vanity is not good, vanity causes us to slip on our pride and everything ends there. So I ask myself the question: and me? How do I follow Jesus? When I do good, do I do it under the public eye, or do I do it in private?”

The really great people, and those who are most fondly remembered, are not those who sought to further themselves and their own interests, but rather those who devoted themselves to furthering the interests of the community. Service implies that you are not there for yourself. In order to serve, one has to be very self-effacing. Do we have the servant’s heart? Do we serve with purity of intention, gentleness, peace, and mercy? If there are any inconstancy or insincerity, let us ask Our Lord to make us lowly servants who are not afraid to get our shoes dirty.
-Fr Paul Yi

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sept. 18, 2015 Friday: St. Joseph Cupertino

Sept. 18, 2015 Friday: St. Joseph Cupertino

Soon afterwards [Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God . (LUKE 8:1)

We like hearing good news. We rejoice at the news of the birth of a baby. We are relieved by the news that we are in good health. We are comforted by the news of a friend’s safe journey home. We are happy over the news of a colleague’s retirement. We are grateful for the news that a family member is cancer-free. We are in awe over the news that a neighbor is selling all her possessions and becoming a missionary. We are excited to share our good news with people wherever we go. We sometimes forget that we are good news to others. We are good news to the poor when we bring them some food to eat. We are good news to the homeless when we build them a home. We are good news to our aging relatives when we visit and spend time with them. We are good news to immigrants and strangers when we work for their freedom. We are good news to the brokenhearted when we listen to their painful story. People are lifted up by our goodness and kindness. 

The gospel describes the work of Jesus as proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. As followers of Christ we have been commissioned to proclaim God’s healing love and compassion to all people and to reveal this good news in our actions. Wherever we go, we bring the kingdom of God with us. 

Ponder: What good news do I bring to others?

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sept. 15, 2015 Tuesday: Our Lady of Sorrows

Sept. 15, 2015 Tuesday: Our Lady of Sorrows

The Church has long pondered the suffering and joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she accompanied her Son and shared in his redeeming work. There has long been devotion to her “Seven Sorrows”: The prophecy of Simeon, when he announced not only that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction pointing to the ruin and resurrection of many but that her own heart would be pierced with a sword; the flight into Egypt after Herod’s henchmen were trying to assassinate her and God’s little boy; the loss of Jesus for three days at the age of 12; meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary; seeing Jesus suffer and die on the Cross; receiving Jesus’ body into her arms at the foot of the Cross; and placing Jesus’ body in the tomb.

Today is a day, first on which we ponder Mary’s suffering for her Son, what it must have felt like to have her heart and soul pierced in these ways. As we prayed in the Stabat Mater Sequence before the Gospel, “Is there one who would not weep, ‘whelmed in miseries so deep, Christ’s dear Mother to behold?” But our meditation is not supposed to stop there. By God’s grace it’s meant to lead us to compassion, to suffering with Mary. We pray in that Sequence words we should take seriously: O sweet Mother! font of love, touch my spirit from above, make my heart with yours accord. Make me feel as you have felt; make my soul to glow and melt with the love of Christ, my Lord. Holy Mother, pierce me through, in my heart each wound renew of my Savior crucified. Let me share with you his pain, who for all our sins was slain, who for me in torments died. Let me mingle tears with thee, mourning him who mourned for me, all the days that I may live. By the cross with you to stay, there with you to weep and pray, is all I ask of you to give. Virgin of all virgins blest! Listen to my fond request: let me share your grief divine. Let me to my latest breath, in my body bear the death of that dying Son of yours.” Today we ask her for the grace to share her grief divine, to join our tears to hers, to bear in our body the death of Jesus so that we might in turn share his life.

But Mary’s heart is pierced not only by the sufferings of her divine Son Jesus, but also all her spiritual sons and daughters given to her in the Annunciation carried out by her Son hanging upon the Cross, when he, seeing Mary and his beloved disciple, St. John, at the foot of the Cross said, respectively, “Woman, behold your son” and “Behold your mother.” And like any Mother, this “Holy Mother” mourns and weeps and suffers whenever she sees any of her children suffer. A couple of weeks ago we pondered the example of St. Monica who wept for 32 years for the conversion of her husband, mother-in-law and son, St. Augustine. If she wept that much, how much more will the sinless Virgin Mary weep for the conversion of all God’s prodigal sons and daughters? How much will she weep for us when we choose against her Son? How much will she weep for those who don’t know him and his love or wander far from him, lost in life?

Fr. Roger J. Landry

Sept. 14, 2014 Monday: The Triumph of the Cross

Sept. 14, 2014 Monday: The Triumph of the Cross
Of all the prayers we have ever prayed, one of the most common is the sign of the Cross. It may be so familiar that we don’t even think of it as a prayer. But it is. It’s the prayer we use to begin and end all other prayers, the first prayer a priest will pray at the beginning of the Holy Mass; it’s a prayer so significant that a gesture, a sign, accompanies it.
Pope Benedict XVI explains the significance of the sign of the cross in this way, “By signing ourselves with the cross, we place ourselves under the protection of the cross, hold it in front of us like a shield that will guard us in all the distress of daily life and give us the courage to go on.” He goes on to say, “The cross shows us the road of life—the imitation of Christ…whenever we make the sign of the cross we accept our Baptism anew. Christ from the cross draws us, so to speak, to Himself.”
Every time we make the sign of the cross we seal ourselves, we unite ourselves, to Jesus’ outpouring of love on the Cross. Our Lord’s crucifixion can never be seen isolated from the selfless gift of love that it is. This is my body which will be given up for you…this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. It is in imitation of Christ, in entering into His Paschal Mystery, that we are able to be transformed by the Divine Love of the Lamb. It is in imitating His total gift of self that our lives find purpose.
Pope John Paul II would often echo a truth given to us by the Second Vatican Council Fathers –“man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere gift of himself” (GS #24). The late Holy Father never tired of exhorting us to dive into the depths and truest meaning of life by allowing our lives to become a selfless gift of love for others. And his message resonated in our hearts – it still does.
How often have you felt that tug to do more, really, to be more? I’m sure you’ve recognized in the depths of your heart the desire to plunge deeper, to live daily the purpose you know your life has at root. Whether it be going on a mission trip, volunteering for a year after graduation, or sincerely seeking – with total surrender to Jesus – the definitive vocation of love He desires for you, that tug to be more, to go deeper, is all about the call to make a total gift of ourselves.
This gift of self – and the fulfillment of the tug we all know so well – includes (necessitates) a real participation in the Cross of Christ. This is especially so for those called to religious life, but it is true for every Christian. By uniting ourselves with the Crucified One we enter into the sacred intimacy the Lord desires to share with each of us, an intimacy only possible on the Cross. This intimacy is LIFE, the life we all desire and which, without the Cross, remains illusive.
While at World Youth Day, Pope Benedict celebrated the Holy Mass at the Cathedral in Sydney for seminarians and young religious. In his homily he told us: “We know that in the end – as Saint Ignatius of Loyola saw so clearly – the only real “standard” against which all human reality can be measured is the Cross and its message of an unmerited love which triumphs over evil, sin and death, creating new life and unfading joy. The Cross reveals that we find ourselves only by giving our lives away, receiving God’s love as an unmerited gift and working to draw all men and women into the beauty of that love and the light of the truth which alone brings salvation to the world.”
The only way to taste the Triumph of the Cross is to embrace it with trust, courageously waiting for Jesus to reveal His glory. If Jesus is offering you the Cross these days, be not afraid to come closer – reach out for Him, cling to Him, keep your eyes fixed on His gaze of Love. You will find that, even in the shadow of suffering, there is nothing more beautiful on this earth than a life lived as a Yes for God.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sept. 13, 2015: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Sept. 13, 2015: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
Recently I was in line at a movie ticket counter waiting to buy a ticket. Ahead of me in line were a husband and his wife arguing about which movie to see. The husband apparently did not want to see a movie that his wife wanted to see. He said, “That’s a chick flick. I don’t want to watch a religious movie about saving a marriage.” Instead he wanted to see a movie about a young, attractive, professional woman breaking up with her boyfriend and getting romantically involved with a handsome stranger. The couple argued for several minutes at the counter. I left the line to let the dust settle. The husband was definitely not going to give in to his wife. In a strange way, the plot of the movie that I went to see was unfolding before my eyes in that arguing couple.

I saw the movie that wife wanted to see. It was a movie about a financially successful married couple whose lives were crumbling under the strain of a failing marriage. The husband was busy chasing money and chasing a temptation that would compromise his marriage. Both were occasional church goers, but if Jesus ever appeared to them and asked the same question he asked Peter in today’s gospel, “Who do you say that I am," their answer would have been, "You are Jesus whom we visit occasionally on some Sundays." The wife complained to an elderly lady who later became a mentor, “If there’s one thing we do well [in our marriage], it’s fight. ” The lady replied, “Just because you argue a lot doesn’t mean you fight well. I bet you never feel like you’ve won. Very few of us know how to fight the right way or understand who we are really fighting against. We need to have the right [plan] and resources because victories don’t come by accident...Tell me, how much do you pray for your husband?” The wife admitted, “Not much.” The lady replied, “Your husband has his own issues but he’s not your enemy.” The elderly lady went on to say that the devil is the real enemy who divides marriages, steals, kills, and destroys joy.

Most of us expect good things from God--financial blessings, happy marriage, and healthy children. Some of us may even approach faith as a feel-good experience that complements our desire for a buffet of life where we pick and choose pleasant experiences. But Jesus lays out a very different path for his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

As followers of Jesus, we will face trials and suffering, both ups and downs of life. We may not be asked to die for our faith, but we will be asked to live our faith with courage and full faithfulness. And in times of difficulty, we are to trust Jesus and surrender our own understanding. St. James says in the Second Reading, "faith without good work is dead." Our ‘faith’ has to be backed up by ‘works,’ practical behavior. That is to say, our way of life should correspond fully to the faith we profess. Our faith in Jesus should compel us to reach out compassionately to other people, to give our time, talent and yes, perhaps even some of our treasure to the people around us, especially the needy; else, we are just pretending, or even lying. What good is being deeply religious, if one does not reach out to a world in need?

In the movie, despite being aware of her husband falling into temptation of infidelity, the wife begins to pray earnestly for her husband. At one point she tells her husband, “I would rather have a man chasing Jesus than a house full of stuff.”  To be a Christian disciple is not primarily to 'save my soul' or 'go to heaven,' but to immerse into human concerns, to become part of it through loving and sharing and building up with 'others.' To truly know “who Jesus is,” one has to fulfill the conditions of discipleship in which Jesus calls forth each disciple to deny oneself and take up the cross and follow him. Does our belief in Jesus and our behavior correspond? If we are merely pretending to follow Jesus, we need to look within and find the resolve to follow him once again. We can’t afford not to follow Jesus’ footsteps. Embracing and carrying our cross will bring us true freedom, joy, and fulfillment.
-Fr. Paul Yi

Sept. 12, 2015 Saturday: Holy Name of Mary

Sept. 12, 2015 Saturday: Holy Name of Mary

There was once a woman who had great devotion to Our Lady. And like Our Lady, she had one child, but the child was "brain damaged", and though he was happy in his own way, he never learned to talk. He could say just two words, which his mother had taught him with much patience: "Ave Maria". He seemed to love saying those words over and over. If someone asked him his name, he would only answer "Ave Maria." Everyone grew to love this "Ave Maria Boy," as they called him, and they were all sorry when one day he died.

On the day of his burial, a marvelous miracle happened. As soon as the grave was covered over, a green shoot appeared, and by evening, it was a tall and beautiful lily growing out of the grave. The mourners were startled and insisted that the gravedigger uncover its roots to find where it grew; as he removed the covering, the face of the child came into view and the mystery was solved — the miraculous lily was springing from the child’s lips. The mother and everyone rejoiced at such a wonderful sign from heaven; her little boy had been dumb in life, except for his "Ave Maria," but now from his grave he was preaching a most eloquent sermon on Our Blessed Mother and her goodness to those who have confidence in her Name!

"Greet Mary frequently with the ‘Ave Maria!’ Salute Mary, think Mary, honor Mary, lean on Mary, commend yourself to Mary and repeat the Name of Mary. Be with Mary everywhere, be silent with Mary, pray with Mary, rejoice with Mary, be sad with Mary, work with Mary, walk and sit with Mary, and be recollected with Mary."
- Fr. Thomas A Kempis, author of "Imitation of Christ"

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fr. Cedric Piesegna Mission at Ascension Catholic Church, Sept. 27-29, 2015 at Donaldsonville, Louisiana

  • Sunday, Sept. 27, 7PM - Mission night with Fr. Cedric
  • Monday, Sept. 28, 7PM - Mission with Fr. Cedric. Sacrament of Reconciliation to follow his talk
  • Tuesday, Sept. 29, 7PM - Mission with Fr. Cedric.

His books, CD's, and DVD's will be available at the back of the church all three nights.

Sept. 11, 2015 Friday: 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

Sept. 11, 2015 Friday: 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

[Jesus said] “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye?” LUKE 6:41–42B 

We can see clearly when it comes to pointing out the weaknesses, mistakes, and faults of others. We can be overcritical, judgmental, and demeaning toward our family members, coworkers, and friends. It is more difficult to see our own blind spots, prejudices, shortcomings, and erring ways. We cannot exercise right judgment when we are blind to the truth. We cannot defend and support human rights when we are blinded by hatred. We cannot respond compassionately to the poor, the homeless, the weak, and the vulnerable of our society when we are blinded by selfishness. We cannot work for justice when we are blinded by greed. 

We can save innocent people from genocide, war, and violence when we stop being indifferent. We can help to alleviate the plight of the poor when we stop being self-centered. We can protect the environment when we stop disrespecting it. We can advocate for nonviolence when we stop harassing people. We can eradicate racial hatred, HIV/AIDS, and human trafficking when we stop living in denial. 

The wisdom of the gospel teaches us that love of God and neighbor is at the heart of the moral life. God is the source of life, goodness, love, compassion, forgiveness, and peace. Our choices in life and actions toward others flow from a right relationship with God. We are called to discern God’s will and to reflect it in our lives.

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sept. 10, 2015 Thursday: 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

Sept. 10, 2015 Thursday: 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

[Jesus said] “Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” LUKE 6:35 

Jesus knows our human tendency to harbor grudges, harm others with our words and actions, hold on to our possessions, and give with strings attached. He knows we can be hate-filled, sneering, greedy, and grasping. Yet he also knows our goodness and has confidence in our ability to learn the way of gratitude, compassion, and unconditional love. He knows we are up to the challenge of loving our enemies, doing good, and giving freely without expectations. In any given moment we might think it’s easier to hold on to resentment and continue regarding someone as an enemy. 

It does take a lot of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical energy to deliberately choose to treat those who have hurt us with kindness, respect, and compassion. Yet as we dare to let go of our grudges and enmities, we find that we feel less burdened. Letting go of the wounds of the past allows us to live freely and joyfully in the present.

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September 8, 2015: Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary

September 8, 2015: Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary
By Deacon Greg Kandra

Is there anything better than September?

This is wondrous time of year. The weather is perfect. The grass is lush. If you go to a Farmer’s Market, the fruits and vegetables are at their peak. This is the last gasp before autumn and the harvest. Our Jewish neighbors in two weeks will be celebrating Succoth, in tribute to that harvest.

Really, right now, summer has given everything it can, and just can’t contain itself anymore.

And yet. In the middle of that — at this blessed moment in the calendar — God gave us Mary.

How beautiful to realize that the mother of our savior came into the world when the earth was at its richest. One of the first prayers we all learn, the Hail Mary, speaks of Christ as the “fruit of thy womb.” It’s only fitting that the one who bore that fruit came into the world during this time, when nature is giving forth so much.

This is a notable feast for a number of reasons. It’s one of only three birthdays that the Church celebrates – the others being Christmas, and the birth of John the Baptist.

And it comes to us, of course, exactly nine months after the feast of the Immaculate Conception – which, no matter what anyone else tells you, is all about the conception of Mary in HER mother’s womb, NOT the conception of Jesus.

Also, today begins a unique octave devoted to the Blessed Mother. In the middle of the next eight days, we will celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. At the end, next Saturday, we celebrate the memorial for the Queen of Martyrs: Our Lady of Sorrows.

This is a period of special devotion to the Mother of God. We pray in thanksgiving for all that has come to us, and all that is yet to come. We pray for solace and for protection, for our Church and our country. Tuesday we will remember in a special way what happened to our city, and our country, and our world six years ago. That event, and the memory of it, will turn out our thoughts again to Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows.

But for now, we marvel at what September brings us.

Longfellow wrote:

The morrow was a bright September morn;
The earth was beautiful as if new-born;
There was that nameless splendor everywhere,
That wild exhilaration in the air.

That is September.

And into this comes Mary, the woman who gave the world something surpassing that “nameless splendor” and “wild exhilaration.”

She gave us Emmanuel.

Because of this one obedient, beautiful, faithful woman, we are redeemed. Because of Mary, we are not alone.

Because of Mary…“Emmanuel.”

God is with us!

-Deacon Greg Kandra

Saturday, September 5, 2015

September 6, 2015: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time B

September 6, 2015: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
What would you say your most memorable music concert was? I attended several concerts in my younger days. Among the most memorable ones was that grunge rock concert where I lost one of my shoes and almost lost my glasses when the crowd was pushing and shoving, and the tenor Pavarotti’s magnificent concert held in a giant stadium in Dallas. When we recall our own favorite music concerts, we can’t help but appreciate the gift of hearing that we received from God. It’s hard to imagine then, being born without the ability to hear. If we were a parent of such a child, would we not pray for a miracle!

Our Gospel today is Jesus encountering a deaf man who was brought to him by sympathetic towns’ people. Although many of Jesus’ healing miracles take place in full public view, here in contrast, Jesus takes the man off by himself. This detail suggests that Jesus intuitively understands the unique needs of each person. For some person it is important to have a private encounter, away from the stares of the crowd, so that Jesus can minister to their need one-on-one. After taking him aside, he puts his finger into the man’s ears, spits, touches his tongue, looks up to heaven, groans, and says to him, Ephphatha (be opened)! Jesus intuitively understands the unique needs of each person.

This one-on-one encounter with Jesus happened to me at a music concert when I was a junior in high school. A friend of mine who was in choir with me said that we needed to go hear a fantastic acapella group composed of six men who were coming to Waco TX.  In the packed auditorium, we listened to the group that sang beautifully without any instrumental accompaniment. There was a song that particularly touched me. The lyric was based on Matthew 11:28,

Come unto me, all ye that labor
And I will give you rest
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me
For I am meek and lowly in heart

And ye shall find rest unto your souls
Rest unto your souls, rest unto your souls
It's easy, for my burden is light

It was a moment of encounter with Jesus, personally inviting me to come to him and learn of him. I clasped my hand as in prayer and bowed my head with tears streaming down my eyes. I went to the concert as an atheist, and something in me was opened by the music. I was deaf to God’s voice prior to the concert, but Jesus touched the impaired ears of my soul to hear his voice again.

The greatest tragedy is not to be born deaf or mute, but to have ears and yet fail to hear; and to have a voice and yet fail to speak. Worse again is to have ears and refuse to hear; and to have mouth and refuse to speak. God designed human beings not only with the physical senses but also with marvelous spiritual capacities to see, hear, and relate to him. These interior faculties were disabled by original sin, causing a severe communication block between God and humanity. Jesus’ healings of people who are deaf, blind, and lame is a sign of his restoration of humanity to the fullness of life and of communion with our Creator. Now by the grace of Christ we are able to hear God’s voice in our hearts, sing his praises, and proclaim his mighty deeds (see Acts 2:11). “The glory of God is man fully alive” (St. Irenaeus).

We just celebrated the 18th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death this Saturday. All throughout her religious life, Jesus used her as an instrument to speak to the whole world about his thirst for love of them. “Let Jesus use you without consulting you,” she would say. And true to her words, she did not refuse Jesus to use her hands, her ears, and mouth to allow him to encounter one-on-one those who were deaf to God’s voice. In one of her writings, she instructed us about knowing Jesus’ love for us:

“Jesus wants me to tell you again, how much is the love He has for each one of you--beyond all that you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus--one to one--you and Jesus alone. Do you really know the living Jesus--not from books, but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? How can we last even one day living our life without hearing Jesus say “I love you”--impossible. Ask for this grace. He is longing to give it. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as a real living person.” 

-Fr. Paul Yi

Sept. 5, 2015 Saturday: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Sept. 5, 2015 Saturday: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

(This Saturday marks the 18th anniversary of the death of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. St. Agnes Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana held a special feast day mass with Bishop Robert Muench. I had a privilege of delivering the homily for this occasion.)

If someone were to ask you to go to the ends of the earth, which countries would you consider to be the ends of the earth? Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he commissioned his disciples, “you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Would you consider Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan to be one of the last places you would visit? Recently we have been seeing on the TV world news, heart breaking images of people caught in the middle of ISIS war in those countries. We are seeing destruction of churches, mosques, and temples sacred to the people. We are witnessing atrocities of masses of people losing their lives and seeing families take desperate measures to flee their countries often losing their lives.

In a recent letter to the Lay Missionaries of Charity and volunteers, the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, Sr. Prema M.C. wrote, “Our sisters in Yemen remained with our poor after all the foreigners had left. In the homes in Yemen, the shortage of electricity, water, and fuel is the daily struggle of the sisters in their care for (approximately 321 patients scattered throughout the region). Our sisters in Aden (capital of Yemen) chose to stay with the mentally handicapped patients in their care when war broke out on March 19, 2015. After a few weeks, bread was no longer available in the shops. One evening, the superior of the house announced to the sisters, “We have no more flour. Tomorrow morning, we will gather all the leftover flour, bake the last bread, and surrender ourselves to the Lord. He will feed our poor people and us, His little ones.” Early the next morning, an elderly Muslim man brought to the sisters’ gate 3 sacks of hot freshly baked bread, enough to feed the whole house, patients, workers and sisters, for two meals. He continued to come every morning at the same hour with the same amount of bread. The sisters asked him why he risked his life every morning to bring them bread. The man replied, “Sisters, I needed God to answer me. Since I started coming here, God walks with me.”

Sr. Prema posed this question in her letter, “In a world tormented by uncertainty, fragmented by disunity, fearful of violence and calamities, what will help us to be carriers of God’s love, peace, joy, and hope?” Her answer was what Mother Teresa taught her sisters all her life, “In our helplessness and confusion, we stand with Mary at Calvary at the foot of the Cross and hear Jesus assure us, ‘I am with you.’ We are never left alone, never left to ourselves. Our God is with us.” Mother Teresa often said that she was only a pencil in the hand of God. She invited everyone to trust in the mercy of God and let him accomplish great things through us. She said, “Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”

If we were asked today to join the sisters to serve the poor in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, how many of us would hesitate or not even consider the calling? What gives these sisters courage and confidence to be witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth? First, these sisters through their daily prayer and meditation  on the scriptures ponder, as Blessed Mother did, Jesus’ great act of mercy on the cross. “There is no greater love than this than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Secondly, they are fed daily from the Bread of Life by spending time before the Blessed Sacrament and receiving Eucharist at mass. Moved by Jesus’ continual love for them, the sisters emulate that love by carrying out their duties with loving trust, total surrender, and cheerfulness. These are the threefold charism of the Holy Spirit resulting from prayerful encounter with the thirst of Jesus on the Cross and being in company with Blessed Mother. “Trust Me lovingly, trust Me blindly, let Me act.” These were the words from Jesus which prompted Mother Teresa to leave Loreto Sisters and to work for the poor.

Do we ponder the unfathomable mercy of Jesus on the Cross? Do we hear him say to us, “I thirst for your love”? Do we satiate that love by loving others around us?

I leave you with Sr. Prema’s words which echo Mother Teresa’s spirit, “Let your heart repeat, ‘Jesus I trust in you. Jesus I entrust my family, friends, my work, all my problems and worries to you.’..In the measure I trust in Jesus and I entrust myself, everyone and everything to Him, I will see Jesus working miracles in my life and around me.”

-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, September 4, 2015

Day 9: a Novena to the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Day 9: Novena to the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Ninth Day – Holiness is Jesus Living and Acting in Me

“Our works of charity are nothing but the overflow of our love of God from within. Therefore, the one who is most united to Him loves her neighbor most.”

“Our activity is truly apostolic only in so far as we permit Him to work in us and through us – with His power, with His desire, with His Love. We must become holy not because we want to feel holy, but because Christ must be able to live His life fully in us.”
“Let us spend ourselves with Him, and for Him. Let Him see with your eyes, speak with your tongue, work with your hands, walk with your feet, think with your head and love with your heart. Is this not a perfect union, a continual loving prayer? God is our loving father. Let your light of love so shine before man that seeing your good works (the washing, sweeping, cooking, loving you husband and children) they may glorify the Father.”
“Be holy, Holiness is the easiest way to satiate Jesus’ Thirst, His for you and yours for Him.”

Thought for the day
“Charity for each other is the surest way to great holiness”

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, you allowed the thirsting love of Jesus on the cross to become a living flame within you, and so became the light of His love to all. Obtain from the Heart of Jesus this request: (Your personal request)
Teach me to allow Jesus to penetrate and possess my whole being so completely that my life, too, may radiate His Light and love to others. Amen
Immaculate Heart of Mary
Cause of Our Joy, pray for me
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta,
Pray for me.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Day 8: Novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Day 8: Novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Eighth Day: Jesus made Himself the Bread of Life and the Hungry One

Jesus proved His love to us by giving His own life, His own being ‘He being rich became poor’ for you and for me. He gave Himself totally. He died on the Cross. But before He died He made Himself the Bread of Life to satisfy our hunger for love, for Him. He said, “Unless you eat My Flesh and drink My blood you cannot have life eternal.’ And the greatness of that love of His, made Him the hungry one, and He said, ‘I was hungry and you fed, and unless you feed Me you cannot enter eternal life.’ That is the giving of Christ.
And today God keeps on loving the world, He keeps on sending you and me to prove that he loves the world, that he still that compassion for the world. It is we who have to be His love, His compassion in the world today. But to be able to love we must have faith, for faith in action is love, and love in action is service. That is why Jesus made Himself the Bread of Life, that we may be able to eat and live and be able to see Him in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
Our life must be woven with the Eucharist. From Jesus in the Eucharist we learn how much God thirsts to love us and how He thirsts for our love and for the love of souls in return. From Jesus in the Eucharist we receive the light and strength to quench His thirst.” 
Thought for the day
“Believe that He, Jesus, is in the appearance of Bread and that He, Jesus, is in the hungry naked, sick, lonely, unloved, homeless, helpless and hopeless.” 

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, you allowed the thirsting love of Jesus on the cross to become a living flame within you, and so became the light of His love to all. Obtain from the Heart of Jesus this request: (Your personal request)

Teach me to allow Jesus to penetrate and possess my whole being so completely that my life, too, may radiate His Light and love to others. Amen
Immaculate Heart of Mary
Cause of Our Joy, pray for me
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta,
Pray for me.