Monday, July 31, 2017

July 31, 2017: St Ignatius of Loyola

July 31, 2017: St Ignatius of Loyola

What Shall We Do?

St. Ignatius of Loyola gave a compelling pelling "big picture," a worldview that has made sense to many people over the past five centuries. Ignatius laid out his big picture in a short passage at the beginning ning of the Spiritual Exercises called "The First Principle and Foundation".

The first sentence answers the question, "Why are we here?" "Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul." The next two sentences tences specify how this is to happen:

"The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created. Hence, man is to make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him."

Here is the great challenge of life: to choose the good ("make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end") and avoid the bad ("rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him"). "Them" is "the other things on the face of the earth," in other words, everything-the work we do, the people in our lives, our responsibilities, our ambitions and hopes and disappointments, appointments, the opportunities and misfortunes that come our way, the way we interact with the institutions of human society.

All of it is meaningful. Nothing is so small, so fleeting, so distasteful, ful, or so awful that it's excluded from the drama of life. In the Ignatian big picture, how we choose is just about the most important thing we do. The First Principle and Foundation sets forth some of the necessary conditions for making good choices.

"Therefore we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently ... we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things.
Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created."

We shouldn't care whether we die young, get sick, or live in poverty? That's not what Ignatius means. He's saying that we shouldn't care about our health or our financial security or our reputation or anything else so much that these things determine our choices. We're to be "indifferent" to them-that is, free from attachments to them. Only by being detached from created things can we make good choices about them, so that we can achieve the end for which we are created.

That's the big picture. We're here to love and serve God. The things in the world help and hinder us in this task. We must make good choices, and to choose well we must be free. The examen is a tool we use all along the way-to find God in our lives, to discover what needs to be done, to reflect on our actions and motives, and to make good choices.

That, in a nutshell, is what Ignatian spirituality is all about. Ignatius brought contemplation and action together, but the senior partner in the alliance is action. In the Ignatian scheme of things, we love and serve God by being joined with Christ in the work of saving and healing the world.

- by Jim Manney, "The Prayer that Changes Everything"

Saturday, July 29, 2017

July 30, 2017: 17th Sunday Ordinary A

July 30, 2017: 17th Sunday Ordinary A

Click to hear Audio Homily
A few years ago, while I was in the Ascension Catholic Cemetery, a man approached me seeking permission to use a metal detector to find antique objects in the cemetery. He was disappointed to hear that absolutely no such activity is allowed in the cemetery, for it is holy ground. The irony is that there are priceless treasures buried there--that is, the remains of dearly beloved family members. Even more, the ones interred in the cemetery are buried with  immeasurable treasure--their faith and hope in Jesus Christ who promised them the Kingdom of Heaven.

What do you consider as your treasure? Are they locked up in a bank vault, or buried in a backyard? It may seem strange to us that Jesus mentions buried treasure in the field in his parable. To understand, we must know that Palestine was a land of wars, therefore someone’s house could be looted at anytime. According to a wisdom sayings of rabbis, “There is only one safe repository for money--the earth.” Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus admonishes his disciples about real treasure, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” The questions we need to ask are, ‘Does what I treasure help me grow closer to Jesus and help me serve Our Lord and others? Or does what I treasure lead me to be stressed, anxious, and fearful about the future?’

Jesus told us that the man who found a buried treasure went and sold everything he owned to purchase the field in which this treasure was buried. What a strange response? Why not steal the treasure and sell it for money instead of keeping it buried? Jesus also told us about a merchant who found a pearl of great price and who went and sold everything he possessed to purchase that one pearl. How is he going to live off of that one pearl? These two men demonstrate for us what we should do in order to gain eternal life. Heaven is within reach for those who surrender and submit all of their earthly treasures and desires in order to love Christ and to serve Him. The treasure that does not decay and that no one can steal from us is Christ. When we have Christ, we have everything we need. One of our parishioners learned this truth recently while volunteering at a hospital.

She was volunteering at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Women’s Hospital. Nurses were trying to console a premature baby who was having uncontrollable fits of crying. The nurses handed the suffering baby over to the parishioner so she could rock the child. The baby was still hooked up to numerous IV’s and instrumentation wires. The parishioner tried to sing nursery rhymes to calm the child, but the baby seemed inconsolable. Then the parishioner sang, “Surely, the presence of the Lord is in this place. I can feel His mighty power and His grace. I can hear the brush of angels wings. I see glory on each face. Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.” Immediately, the baby hushed and became calm. The parishioner went back to singing nursery rhymes, and the baby began to cry again. Then the parishioner sang, “Gentle woman, quiet light, Morning star, so strong and bright, Gentle Mother, peaceful dove,Teach us wisdom, teach us love.” The child hushed and was calm, again, and the parishioner palpably felt the presence of Our Lord and Blessed Mother in that room. The best of all medical technology that money can buy was not able to calm or console the child in her suffering. Only the Heavenly presence of Jesus and His Mother was able to bring peace and calm to that child. Think about what their presence can do for us, when we are anxious, fearful, and suffering.

What a treasure we have in Jesus Christ! Do we know this? Do we treasure Him? When God asks us, like he asked Solomon, “What would you like for Me to give to you,” what would you ask for? Health, wealth, and comfort? Or will we ask, “Lord, all I need is You. I need Your Presence, Your Love, and Your Will for my life. My treasure is to do Your Will. Show me, guide me, teach me to love Your Will. Help me to live this day, seeking daily the treasures of Your Grace.”

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July 25, 2017: St. James the Apostle

July 25, 2017: St. James the Apostle


"Continually we carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus." 2 Corinthians 4:10

Although James and John wanted prosperity and success, Jesus wanted them to take up the cross (see Mt 20:22ff). Jesus invites us not only to suffer in the pattern of His death (Phil 3:10) but even to be crucified with Him (see Gal 2:19). Furthermore, He calls us to make the cross not only an occasional moment in our lives but to "continually...carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus" (2 Cor 4:10), to "constantly" be "delivered to death for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor 4:11). We are tempted to make our crosses as rare as possible. Yet Jesus wants our crosses to be constant.

When we not only take up the daily cross (Lk 9:23) but also continually and constantly live the cross, we paradoxically reveal "in our bodies the life of Jesus" (2 Cor 4:10). As a grain of wheat which falls to the earth and dies, we bear much fruit (Jn 12:24). We also find joy as we share Christ's sufferings (Col 1:24; 1 Pt 4:13). In joyful fruitfulness, continually and constantly live the cross.

by Presentation Ministries

Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23, 2017: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

July 23, 2017: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear Audio Homily
What is your strategy in keeping yourself patient when you are tested? One evening, a mother told her 6 yr-old son to pick up his clothes from the floor and place them in the laundry basket. Instead of simply doing what she asked him to do (which would have been too easy), her little boy said, “Why do you always tell me what to do?” She was a bit startled by that comeback, but she calmly replied, “Because I am your mother, this is my house, and that makes me the boss.” The boy threw his hands up in the air and then said, “Well, I thought we were friends. You need to be nicer to me.” Before the mother could respond, the boy said, “Santa is watching you, ya know.”

Children can be angels, sometimes. Yet some days, they know exactly how to push our buttons and exasperate us. The same can be said about our spouse, family, friends, coworkers, and customers. There are days when all we can see in them is only their weaknesses and faults. Jesus mentions this tendency in us in the parable of the weeds among the wheat. The servants in the parable are all too eager to pull out the weeds growing entangled with the wheat. But the wise master instructs them to wait until the harvest time when they can be separated.

The parable of the weeds among the wheat is a reminder of our tendency to rush to judge the actions and intentions of others. A well-meaning person can rush to judge others based on their apparent weakness and limitation. Yet this is spiritually harmful not only for the person being judged but also harmful to the person judging. By failing to see and nourish the good that is present, we miss the opportunity to see the person through God’s kindness, gentleness, and compassion. Only God can truly judge our hearts, for He alone can see our intentions, and only He knows the big picture. We might think we know absolutely what’s right and what’s wrong, but too often our vision is clouded by other issues.

If you step back and think about it, each one of us is a combination of wheat and weeds. In each of us there is a struggle between part of us that desires God and part of us that oppose Him. Even St. Paul asked God to be relieved of hat struggle. Yet God told Paul that it was precisely through his weaknesses that He could reveal His glory. “My power is made perfect in [your] weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Relying on the power of God, we, too, must learn to be patient with the evil tendencies.

St. Therese of Lisieux offers us a healthy alternative to our rush to judge. She lived among religious sisters who struggled with their own weaknesses. She recognized in herself deep faults and weaknesses, yet in prayer, she realized how God loved her and her sisters with compassion, patience, and gentleness. So instead of choosing to see the imperfection in others, she resolved daily to see the goodness. This was not easy, for she could not help but notice the natural shortcomings of her Sisters. It required a great deal of self-denial as she endeavored to look only at the virtues of her sisters. “Charity,” she said, “consists in disregarding the faults of our neighbor, not being astonished at the sight of their weakness, but in being edified by the smallest acts of virtue we see them practice.” She desire to have only charitable thoughts and sought excuses for what might appear to be objectionable in her Sisters. She left to Jesus the task of passing judgment on them.

It’s good to remind ourselves that God allows both “good” and “bad” folk to live together like the wheat and the weeds because God knows that all of us are capable of changing from making bad decisions to good ones. As a sword sharpens another, the people who are already striving for compassion and patience can influence those who are struggling. God’s mercy is never exhausted, and He allows us to make mistakes and learn from them. Likewise, He wants us to practice the same leniency and mercy on others. In doing so, our charity will be like the yeast that the woman put in the dough and the small mustard seed that grew to provide shade for many. Our love has power to change those we meet.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 16, 2017: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

July 16, 2017: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear Audio Homily
“I don’t get it.” That was my reaction when I opened the bible and began to read it in college. “Who are these people and what do these words mean?” It was difficult at first to make sense of what I was reading, and it was frustrating. I had too many interests and cares about the world, and the word of God was not taking root. As in today’s Parable of the Sower, my heart was like a hardened foot path--unreceptive and barren--so that when the seeds of God’s words fell on my heart, the evil one came and stole them away. I did not know how to read and pray with scripture. Only when I joined bible studies, did I begin to understand the meaning of the words I was reading.

What do you do each day to allow God’s words to take root and flourish in your life? Ponder these questions.
1) Do you read the daily mass readings?
2) Do you attend Mass with an expectation that God is going to speak to you personally through the readings and the homily?
3) Do you anticipate that your life will change in someway because you pondered the gospel?

I have come to know a couple who has a simple daily habit that nourishes them and inspires their outlook of the day. They both wake up early in the morning. First, they grab a cup of coffee and read the daily mass readings. In silence they ponder the words and ask, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” They jot down any words or phrases from the reading that touch them. Then they write in their journal as if they are responding to the Lord directly. Finally, they share with each other what they have journaled. This daily habit guides them toward God’s mission for them as well as strengthens their marriage.

We have the promise from God through Prophet Isaiah that God’s words have the power to change us. “Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”

Prophet Isaiah prophesied that God’s word will accomplish the end for which it was sent. The word of God will continue to work on us for our whole life, seeking to draw us to the Lord. What lacks is our cooperation. We must remember that our Christian life is a life of combat against ourselves and against all the cultural values which are not in accord with the word of God. This brings us to ask, how can we expect God’s powerful words to touch us if we do not take the opportunity to read or hear them? Our Lord warns us through the Parable of the Sower that even if we have heard his word, wordly anxiety or greed can destroy our spiritual life. How can the Word of God take root in a place where the soil has been replaced with sewage? The Word of God can’t grow in a cesspool of self-absorption, unbridled anger, and unchecked lust. Yet, Our Lord, the Divine Sower, continues to plant the seed of his Word throughout this fallen world. He wants to transform this world one heart at a time. He desires us to respond with love toward even the ones who commit atrocious harm against another in the name of God and religion.

Take also the example the heartaches some parents experience with their grown children. Although their children were taught Catholic faith, their grown children no longer go to church or have even become self-professed agnostic or atheist. We must remember to be patient in such cases; we must hope that the seeds of love and the faith that we’ve planted in the hearts of those we love, will eventually bear fruit. The miracle of God’s seed is that unbeknownst to us, the faith that we’ve planted in others, even when they seem to be buried under too much dirt, will germinate, grow, and yield a harvest of some extent.

Do you believe that during this short hour we spend in this church, if we have even a small desire to listen, a great miracle can happen in our lives? Do you believe that if you invest 15 minutes each morning to read and ponder God’s words, your entire day will be filled with God’s strength and joy?

We must want to be on good soil for God’s words to take root, grow, and produce fruit. We can place ourselves on the good soil when we read and listen to the scriptures and speak through prayer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We firmly believe that both the Word of God and the Body of Christ will feed us and grant us faithful perseverance in living according to Christ’s word so that God’s kingdom will flourish beyond measure.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

July 11, 2017: St. Benedict, Abbot

July 11, 2017: St. Benedict, Abbot

Matthew 9:32-38
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest."

"Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers"

One day I was pondering over what I could do to save souls; a phrase from the Gospel showed me a clear light: Jesus said to his disciples, pointing to the fields of ripe corn, “Look up and see the fields ripe for harvest” (Jn 4,35) and a little later, "The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers". How mysterious it is! Is not Jesus all-powerful? Do not creatures belong to Him who made them? Why then does Jesus say: "Pray the master of the harvest to send out laborers ... "? Why? ... Ah! Jesus has so incomprehensible a love for us, that He wants us to have a share with Him in the salvation of souls. He wants to do nothing without us. The creator of the universe waits for the prayer of a poor little soul to save other souls redeemed like itself at the price of all His blood. Our vocation, yours and mine, is not to go harvesting in the fields of ripe corn; Jesus does not say to us; "Lower your eyes, look at the fields, and go and reap them"; our mission is still loftier. Here are Jesus' words: "Lift up your eyes and see .... " See how in my Heaven there are places empty; it is for you to fill them ... each one of you is my Moses praying on the mountain (Ex 17,8f.); ask Me for laborers and I shall send them, I await only a prayer, a sigh from your heart! (By St. Therese of Lisieux, Letter 135)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 9, 2017: 14th Sunday A

July 9, 2017: 14th Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
A mom asked her son a simple question, “What does faith mean to you?” A 10-year old boy with autism named Josiah Cullen answered his mom, “Faith is more like falling back than climbing up. Obey the fall. Be the answer to God's beautiful catching of you.” Josiah beautifully demonstrates what Jesus revealed in the Gospel, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” Using Josiah’s explanation, then faith is not so much our own efforts to attain knowledge or to understand the mystery; instead, faith is our trusting and resting in the reality of God who made us, sees us, loves us, and is with us every moment of our lives. How would you explain in your own words what faith means to you? What role does it play in your own life?

Faith is to know, to believe, to love, and to respond to the Father whom Jesus reveals to us. Our faith is a gift from God, and it is not earned nor must we strive to become worthy enough to receive the highest spiritual concepts. Jesus said to his disciples, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." Imagine, just as the Father holds back nothing to His Son, Jesus will reveal the highest mysteries to us when we are open, trusting, and honest, like a child.

What does it take to have a childlike faith? A few years ago, a White Castle parishioner was at her church office when a couple fleeing from Hurricane Katrina had a tire blowout in front of the church. The couple did not have resources to stay at a hotel but was looking for a place to stay. A little later, a young man drove up in a UHAUL truck looking for water for his friends. When the parishioner brought some water to the truck, she saw that the truck was full of New Orleans evacuees. The parishioner felt a prompting from God to open a shelter in her small town at the former Catholic school building. She first had doubts she could accomplish the task; she didn’t know how to establish a shelter or know from where the resources would come. She and her daughter contacted local folks to bring mattresses, food, and supplies. Surprisingly to her, the whole town showed up to help. Then the evacuees began to pour in. Eventually it reached 170 evacuees. Food would begin to run out, but somehow food would be delivered when it was needed. Local pharmacists tended to the medical needs of the elderly in the shelter free of charge. Even the evacuees pitched in to help. Evacuees who were skilled in any way tended to the needs of the building and the needs of others. For six weeks, a miracle blossomed from child-like faith and compassion of the townspeople. It was truly an example of faith as trusting in God’s providing hand.

Faith is also an invitation from God. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” He is speaking to those of us who are exhausted, collapsing from the weight of hard work, responsibilities, heavy burdens of self absorption. He is also speaking to those of us who experience moments of discouragement, loss of hope, fear, feeling ourselves wandering aimlessly, unable to believe in a better future. Jesus is inviting us to be yoked with him so as not to be pulled away by the yoke of the world and our selfish desires.  We don’t typically see a yoke in the farms anymore in this age of electronically controlled tractors. But the kind of yoke in the day of Jesus was a wooden crosspiece that was fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they were to pull. So imagine you are yoked together with Jesus to pull your cart of burdens. Two pulling the cart is certainly better than one. With Jesus leading us in this joint yoke, we can be sure that he is leading us in the direction toward the Father. The mission Jesus offers is light and easy, and not beyond our ability. It is a mission we can handle, a commitment that is within our ability to handle, with God’s help.

How can we grow our faith? Do we have the desire to join ourselves to the yoke of Jesus by letting go and entrusting ourselves to Him? Pray in silence about whether you’re overburdened because you’re tackling more than you should. Ask in prayer for the wisdom to rely on God for the mission he is entrusting to you.

Friday, July 7, 2017

July 7, 2017: 13th Week in Ordinary time

July 7, 2017: 13th Week in Ordinary time

What is God's call on your life? Jesus chose Matthew to be his follower and friend, not because Matthew was religious or learned, popular or saintly. Matthew appeared to be none of those. He chose to live a life of wealth and ease. His profession was probably the most corrupted and despised by everyone because tax collectors made themselves wealthy by over-charging and threatening people if they did not hand over their money to them.

God searches our heart
What did Jesus see in Matthew that others did not see? When the prophet Samuel came to the house of Jesse to anoint the future heir to the throne of Israel, he bypassed all the first seven sons and chose the last! "God looks at the heart and not at the appearance of a man" he declared (1 Samuel 16:7). David's heart was like a compass looking for true north - it pointed to God. Matthew's heart must have yearned for God, even though he dare not show his face in a synagogue - the Jewish house of prayer and the study of Torah - God's law. When Jesus saw Matthew sitting at his tax office - no doubt counting his day's profit - Jesus spoke only two words - "follow me". Those two words changed Matthew from a self-serving profiteer to a God-serving apostle who would bring the treasures of God's kingdom to the poor and needy.

John Chrysostom, the great 5th century church father, describes Matthew's calling: "Why did Jesus not call Matthew at the same time as he called Peter and John and the rest? He came to each one at a particular time when he knew that they would respond to him. He came at a different time to call Matthew when he was assured that Matthew would surrender to his call. Similarly, he called Paul at a different time when he was vulnerable, after the resurrection, something like a hunter going after his quarry. For he who is acquainted with our inmost hearts and knows the secrets of our minds knows when each one of us is ready to respond fully. Therefore he did not call them all together at the beginning, when Matthew was still in a hardened condition. Rather, only after countless miracles, after his fame spread abroad, did he call Matthew. He knew Matthew had been softened for full responsiveness."

Jesus- the divine physician
When the Pharisees challenged Jesus' unorthodox behavior in eating with public sinners, Jesus' defense was quite simple. A doctor doesn't need to visit healthy people - instead he goes to those who are sick. Jesus likewise sought out those in the greatest need. A true physician seeks healing of the whole person - body, mind, and spirit. Jesus came as the divine physician and good shepherd to care for his people and to restore them to wholeness of life. The orthodox were so preoccupied with their own practice of religion that they neglected to help the very people who needed spiritual care. Their religion was selfish because they didn't want to have anything to do with people not like themselves. Jesus stated his mission in unequivocal terms: I came  not to call the righteous, but to call sinners. Ironically the orthodox were as needy as those they despised. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

On more than one occasion Jesus quoted the saying from the prophet Hosea: For I desire mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). Do you thank the Lord Jesus for the great mercy he has shown to you?  And do you show mercy to your neighbor as well?

"Lord Jesus, our Savior, let us now come to you: Our hearts are cold; Lord, warm them with your selfless love. Our hearts are sinful; cleanse them with your precious blood. Our hearts are weak; strengthen them with your joyous Spirit. Our hearts are empty; fill them with your divine presence. Lord Jesus, our hearts are yours; possess them always and only for yourself." (Prayer of Augustine, 354-430)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

July 6, 2017: St. Maria Goretti

July 6, 2017: St. Maria Goretti

 + Our bodies allow us to become a gift to others in love.
The human body includes right from the beginning…the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift – and by means of this gift – fulfills the meaning of his being and existence. (St. John Paul II,  January 16, 1980)

“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, and goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her.”  (Jason Evert, How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul)

Saint Maria Goretti’s Story

One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti.

She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When Maria made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class.

On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, 18-year-old Alessandro, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it,” she cried out. “It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

Maria was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family), and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack.

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.

Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her 82-year-old mother, two sisters and a brother, appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later at Maria’s canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.

“Ladies...only lift the veil over your body to the spouse who is worthy to see the glory of that unveiled mystery.”
― Jason Evert

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 4, 2017: Independence Day

July 4, 2017: Independence Day

Independence Day is one of the biggest holidays of our country. This year, the 4th of July marks the 241st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in 1776. The Thirteen Colonies of America declared themselves states and no longer part of the British Empire. The Revolutionary War was long and costly--perhaps the second-longest conflict in American history. While the 50,000 casualties on the American side are roughly equal in number to the total dead and wounded in Afghanistan, this was at a time when there were fewer than three million people were living in the former British colonies.

The impression we have about this significant birthday of our country is that of joyful celebrations--parades, barbecues, vacations, and fireworks. Yet, it is good to remind ourselves what we celebrate and why we celebrate. Psalm 33:12 summarizes succinctly what Independence Day means to our country, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” One of the founding fathers of our country, Charles Carroll (the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence) said, “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure (and) which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”

Our beloved America was shaped by Christian forefathers displaying wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of Christian faith. The forefathers spoke of God-given, inalienable rights. Our forefathers believed in God and acknowledged Him.  They planted seeds for future generations to live faith-filled lives, freely and without cause for concern.  And they set up laws under which they knew man could prosper.

St. John Paul II, a man who lived through totalitarian regimes pointed out why Christian values need to be the foundation of democratic nation like ours. “Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person… Nowadays there is a tendency to claim that agnosticism and skeptical relativism are the philosophy and the basic attitude which correspond to democratic forms of political life… As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.” (Centesimus Annus, No. 46)

Someone beautifully summarized why we cannot divorce our nation from the Christian faith. “Our Founding Fathers may have opted for a separation of Church and state but not for a separation of God and state. There is no brotherhood of man without the Fatherhood of God. The division of life into the sacred and the secular is a false dichotomy. There is not now, there never was and there never will be the purely secular, that is, anyone or anything which is not dependent on God. Atheistic capitalism would suffer the same fate as atheistic communism.”

On this day celebrating our nation’s Independence Day, let us fall on our knees like our Founding Fathers and acknowledge how we are dependent on God, how we need His wisdom, providence, and guidance on every aspect of our lives.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

July 2, 2017: 13th Sunday Ordinary A

July 2, 2017: 13th Sunday Ordinary A

Click to hear Audio Homily
If you look at your faith journey up to now, was there a time when your faith caused a strain in your family or even division within your family? After moving to Baton Rouge area, two siblings from North Louisiana where they grew up as devout Protestants decided to enter the Catholic Church through the RCIA program. In fact, the two siblings brought their spouse and children through the program as well. When their family in North Louisiana found this out, they were criticized severely. “I can’t believe you are thinking about being Catholic. Have you lost your mind? Why in the world would you leave biblical Christianity to follow a religion based on men’s tradition? How in the world did you fall for a religion like that?” In fact, their mom and dad began to shun them from family gatherings. It was a very difficult time for these two families. As the RCIA program progressed through Lent, the hearts of the two siblings were opened up to the scriptures referencing the sacrifice and the cost of Our Lord’s love for humanity. Something clicked. Why was Our Lord willing to sacrifice for someone who did not love him? What was the cost of his suffering in loving us? Are we willing to love until it hurts like Jesus? These insights helped solidify the resolve of the two siblings to continue through the program despite family rejection. After two decades, the two siblings have worked tirelessly in their parish to help start programs that ignite Catholic faith.

From the early days of Christian communities down to our generation, Christians grappled with the severity of Jesus’ summons to absolute discipleship. "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus is not saying that His followers should not love their parents and families, but that family bonds, relationships, and allegiance must ultimately be subordinate to the new kinship that comes from baptism. Jesus calls forth a commitment that must surpass and supersede even the demands of love and respect for one’s parents and family.

Jesus’ teaching not only caused division between people but called individuals to examine and struggle within themselves. Jesus challenges us to “lose our life in order to gain it.” Can you recall a time in your life when you were attached to something or someone that was destroying your life, marriage, or family? Was it bad habits, irrational impulses, addictions, or personality traits that caused much pain for you and others? What did you do about them? Did you struggle to change for the sake of yourself and family? Are you still struggling?

There is a cost to being a disciple of Jesus. Are we willing to pay that cost? We need to subordinate all of our natural loves and attractions to our love for Him. Why would we do this? As disciples of Jesus, we understand that our earthly life is transitory and therefore not our goal. There is greater life awaiting us that makes this life pale by comparison. By keeping that goal in mind, we are able to more easily prioritize things in terms of our earthly life and its challenges. Many tens of thousands of Christian martyrs surrendered their physical life in order to hold fast to their faith, and thereby inherit eternal life with God.

We must be able to say with St. Paul that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. “Dying to one’s self,” means first of all saying ‘no’ to our own natural love of ease and comfort, saying ‘no’ to the instincts and desires which prompt us to touch and taste and handle forbidden things. Secondly, “dying to one’s self” means admitting that, ‘I can't do it.’ We confess that on our own powers and abilities, we can’t save ourselves. This opens us to accept the promise that God can do it, and He has already done it for us. We live no longer to follow our own will, but to follow the will of Christ, and in that service, we find our perfect freedom.