Sunday, August 27, 2017

Aug. 27, 2017: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Aug. 27, 2017:  21st Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
On the eve of Christmas, a reporter went out to the busy streets of New York City to ask a simple question, “Who is Jesus?” The streets were filled with people from all over the world, and the answers they gave varied wildly and were sometimes inaccurate: “A man from the 60’s” ;“The blond headed dude in pictures”; “A man from a story made up by someone”; “A man with good morals”; “An inspiring man”; and “A man whose story is blown out of proportion.” A Gallup Poll said that eight in ten Americans have consistently held the belief that Jesus Christ is God or the Son of God. Half of these folks say that Jesus was in fact God living among men, while most of the remainder believe that Jesus was divine only in the sense that he was a man who was uniquely called by God to reveal God's purpose in the world.

Does it matter whether we believe who Jesus truly is? Is it “practical” to believe in Jesus? Let’s look at Peter for an example. He and other disciples had been following Jesus for nearly three years. They had heard Jesus’ teaching and seen his miracles. The disciples had seen Jesus as a popular person, a great leader and wonderful teacher. They had grown in their understanding of him. Yet, it took them quite a while to realize who Jesus really was. This was demonstrated in today’s Gospel while in Caesarea-Philippi where Jesus turned to his disciples and asked what people were saying about him, “Who do people say that I am?” The general impression was that Jesus was one of the prophets or John the Baptist sent back from the dead. Evidently the people had not yet recognized him as the Messiah. Simon Peter then answered for all the disciples without hesitation that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Son of the living God. In response, Jesus confers on Peter the primacy and leadership in the church he was establishing. Jesus also tells Peter that he will be the foundation of his church and that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

As the informal poll in the streets of New York City demonstrates, despite technological advancement in communication, many people have not come to know  who Jesus is. We might think that because we are here celebrating mass that we know who Jesus is.  Yet, we baptized and confirmed Catholics would struggle giving an answer to the question --  and, believing it in our heart and living it in our lives. Look at me as an example: I was baptized and confirmed in the church, and if I had been asked during my late high school or early college years the question, “Who is Jesus,” I would have replied, “It’s that guy who is hanging on the cross; that’s what I’ve been taught. But personally, I don’t care who he is because he is irrelevant in my life.”  What kind of answer is that!?!

For many of us, Jesus is irrelevant and impractical, just as in the days when Jesus taught in the streets of Jerusalem. In fact, he may be inconvenient to us, affecting our schedule on weekends. In the distracted lives we live right now, we lose sight of the fact that Jesus is the Savior of the world, whose cross and resurrection has set us free. What does it mean to be free? I think we all know that with freedom comes responsibility - a responsibility to act.

Through the Catholic Church which Jesus established firmly on Peter,  each generation is challenged to know Jesus personally,  to convert hearts and minds to fulfill His mission.  Jesus invites us to discover him, serve him and love him as Lord, and he wants from each one of us a resounding single-hearted response. He offers an exclusive promise that through him and in him alone we will find salvation, and nothing is more practical than finding Jesus and believing in Jesus. When we know who Jesus is to us, we will live our lives very differently. Our head and heart knowledge of Jesus determines what or who we fall in love with and what seizes the imagination. It will decide what will get us out of bed in the morning, what we will do with our evenings, how we spend our weekends, what we read, whom we know, what breaks our hearts, and what amazes us with joy and gratitude.

When with every breath we take, we truly know that we are the hands and feet of Jesus responsible for completing His mission on Earth, only then have we the understood the question, “Who do you say that I am?”.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Aug. 24, 2017: St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Aug. 24, 2017: St. Bartholomew, Apostle


  "I saw you." —John 1:48, 50  
Nathanael (Bartholomew) had a negative attitude toward Jesus before he even met Him, simply because Jesus was from Nazareth (Jn 1:46). In contrast, Jesus had a positive attitude toward Nathanael even before Jesus met him. Jesus did not focus on Nathanael's sins; He called Nathanael "a true Israelite" in whom there was no guile (Jn 1:47). Nathanael responded to Jesus' affirmation of him by affirming Jesus as "the Son of God" and "the King of Israel" (Jn 1:49).

Jesus also "saw right through" Simon, as He "sees right through" each of us. He knew Simon would deny Him three times and commit other sins. However, Jesus also had a positive attitude toward Simon. He called this unstable, sinful person "Rock" ("Peter"). He promised to build His Church on Peter (Mt 16:18). Peter eventually responded by being the first leader of the Church and even a martyr.

Jesus had a positive attitude even toward Judas. He called Judas "friend" when Judas betrayed Him with a kiss (Mt 26:50). However, Judas did not respond favorably to Jesus. Rather, he committed suicide (Mt 27:5).

Right now, Jesus is looking beyond your sins. He is looking at you with love and mercy. Will you respond in faith and repentance?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Aug. 23, 2017 Wednesday: 20th Week in Ordinary Time

Aug. 23, 2017 Wednesday: 20th Week in Ordinary Time

What can work and wages, welfare and the unemployed tell us about the kingdom of God? In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard we see the extraordinary generosity and compassion of God (Matthew 20:1-16). There is great tragedy in unemployment, the loss of work, and the inability to earn enough to live and support oneself or one's family. In Jesus' times laborers had to wait each day in the marketplace until someone hired them for a day's job. No work that day usually meant no food on the family table. The laborers who worked all day and received their payment complain that the master pays the late afternoon laborers the same wage. The master, undoubtedly, hired them in the late afternoon so they wouldn't go home payless and hungry.

God is generous and gives us work for his kingdom
God is generous in opening the doors of his kingdom to all who will enter, both those who have labored a life-time for him and those who come at the last hour. While the reward is the same, the motive for one's labor can make all the difference. Some work only for reward. They will only put in as much effort as they think they will get back. Others labor out of love and joy for the opportunity to work and to serve others. The Lord Jesus calls each one of us to serve God and his kingdom with joy and zeal and to serve our neighbor with a generous spirit as well.

Empowered to serve with a joyful and generous spirit
The Lord Jesus wants to fill each one of us with the power and strength of the Holy Spirit so we can bear great fruit for God's kingdom (the fruit of peace, joy, righteousness, and love) and also bring the fruit of his kingdom to our neighbor as well. We labor for the Lord to bring him praise, honor, and glory. And we labor for our neighbor for their welfare with the same spirit of loving-kindness and compassion which the Lord has shown to us.

Paul the Apostle reminds us, "Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not others, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward - you are serving the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23-24). Do you perform your daily tasks and responsibilities with cheerfulness and diligence for the Lord's sake? And do you give generously to others, especially to those in need of your care and support?

"Lord Jesus,fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may serve you joyfully and serve my neighbor willingly with a generous heart, not looking for how much I can get, but rather looking for how much I can give."

-By Don Schwager,

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Aug. 22, 2017: Queenship of Mary

Aug. 22, 2017: Queenship of Mary
This is the root of today’s feast: Mary is Queen because of her unique association to her Son, both during her earthly journey as well as in heavenly glory. The great saint of Syria, Ephrem of Syria, said regarding the queenship of Mary that it derives from her maternity: She is Mother of the Lord, of the King of kings (cf. Is 9:1-6), and she points to Jesus as our life, salvation and our hope. The Servant of God Paul VI recalled in his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus: “In the Virgin Mary everything is relative to Christ and dependent upon Him. It was with a view to Christ that God the Father from all eternity chose her to be the all-holy Mother and adorned her with gifts of the Spirit granted to no one else” (n. 25). 
But now we may ask ourselves: What does it mean that Mary is Queen? Is it merely a title along with others, the crown, an ornament like others? What does it mean? What is this queenship? As already noted, it is a consequence of her being united with her Son, of her being in heaven, i.e. in communion with God. She participates in God’s responsibilities over the world and in God’s love for the world. There is the commonly held idea that a king or queen should be person with power and riches. But this is not the kind of royalty proper to Jesus and Mary. Let us think of the Lord: The Lordship and Kingship of Christ is interwoven with humility, service and love: it is, above all else, to serve, to assist, to love. Let us recall that Jesus was proclaimed king on the Cross, with this inscription written by Pilate: “King of the Jews” (cf. Mark15:26). In that moment on the Cross it is revealed that He is king. And how is he king? By suffering with us, for us, by loving us to the end; it is in this way that he governs and creates truth, love and justice. Or let us also think of another moment: at the Last Supper, he bends down to wash the feet of his disciples. Therefore, the kingship of Jesus has nothing to do with that which belongs to the powerful of the earth. He is a king who serves his servants; he showed this throughout his life. And the same is true for Mary. She is quite ueen in God’s service to humanity. She is the queen of love, who lives out her gift of self to God in order to enter into His plan of salvation for man. To the angel she responds: Behold the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Luke 1:38), and in the Magnificat she sings: God has looked upon the lowliness of His handmaid (cf. Luke 1:48). She helps us. She is queen precisely by loving us, by helping us in every one of our needs; she is our sister, a humble handmaid.
Thus we have arrived at the point: How does Mary exercise this queenship of service and love? By watching over us, her children: the children who turn to her in prayer, to thank her and to ask her maternal protection and her heavenly help, perhaps after having lost their way, or weighed down by suffering and anguish on account of the sad and troubled events of life. In times of serenity or in the darkness of life we turn to Mary, entrusting ourselves to her continual intercession, so that from her Son we may obtain every grace and mercy necessary for our pilgrimage along the paths of the world. To Him who rules the world and holds the destinies of the universe in His hands we turn with confidence, through the Virgin Mary. For centuries she has been invoked as the Queen of heaven; eight times, after the prayer of the holy Rosary, she is implored in the Litany of Loreto as Queen of the Angels, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, of all Saints and of Families. The rhythm of this ancient invocation, and daily prayers such as the Salve Regina, help us to understand that the Holy Virgin, as our Mother next to her Son Jesus in the glory of Heaven, is always with us, in the daily unfolding of our lives.
The title of Queen is therefore a title of trust, of joy and of love. And we know that what she holds in her hands for the fate of the world is good; she loves us, and she helps us in our difficulties.
Dear friends, devotion to Our Lady is an important element in our spiritual lives. In our prayer, let us not neglect to turn trustfully to her. Mary will not neglect to intercede for us next to her Son. In looking to her, let us imitate her faith, her complete availability to God’s plan of love, her generous welcoming of Jesus. Let us learn to live by Mary. Mary is the Queen of heaven who is close to God, but she is also the Mother who is close to each one of us, who loves us and who listens to our voice.
-Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21, 2017: St. Pius X

August 21, 2017: St. Pius X

Where can you find true peace, security, and happiness?
A young man who had the best the world could offer - wealth, position, and security - came to Jesus because he lacked one thing. He wanted the kind of lasting peace and happiness which money and possessions could not buy him. The answer he got, however, was not what he was looking for. He protested that he kept all the commandments - but Jesus spoke to the trouble in his heart. One thing kept him from giving himself wholeheartedly to God. While he lacked nothing in material goods, he was nonetheless possessive of what he had. He placed his hope and security in what he possessed. So when Jesus challenged him to make God his one true possession and treasure, he became dismayed.
What do you treasure the most?
Why did he go away from Jesus with sadness rather than with joy? His treasure and his hope for happiness were misplaced. Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord himself is the greatest treasure we can possibly have. Giving up everything else to have the Lord as our treasure is not sorrowful, but the greatest joy. See Jesus' parable about the treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44). Selling all that we have could mean many different things - our friends, our job, our style of life, what we do with our free time.

Possessiveness and fear robs us of joy and abundant life
Jesus challenged the young man because his heart was possessive. He was afraid to give to others for fear that he would lose what he had gained. Those who are generous towards God and others find that they cannot outmatch God in generosity. God blesses us with innumerable spiritual goods - such as long-lasting peace, unspeakable joy, enduring love, abiding relationships and friendship that do not fade or fail - that far outweigh the fleeting joys of material possessions which fail to satisfy us beyond the present moment. God alone can satisfy the deepest longing and desires of our heart. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from seeking true and everlasting joy with Jesus?

"Lord Jesus, you alone can satisfy the deepest longing in my heart. No other treasure can compare with you. Keep me free from all discontentment, possessiveness, greed and selfishness, that I may have joy in knowing that you alone are my true Treasure and my Portion."

- By Don Schwager,

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Aug. 20, 2017: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Tine A

Aug. 20, 2017: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Tine A

Click to hear Audio Homily
About 250 students, faculty, and staff gathered on the evening of August 13 for a prayer vigil at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, the parish church of the University of Virginia, as a response to the aftermath of the violent clash at the white supremacist rally. After the death of one person and injury of many others, students and faculty who attend St. Thomas Aquinas thought that in order to respond to this tragedy, they had to start with a prayer. Fr. Joseph Barranger, the pastor of St. Aquinas stated, “These terrible events show us how far we still are from the kingdom of God. So much work still needs to be done in advancing the kingdom through prayer, personal example and corporate witness in our parish that defends the unborn, the poor, the elderly, the infirm, those on the margins of society and all who are different from us.”

A few days later, the world witnessed yet another tragedy of hate in action as a van plowed through a busy tourist-filled street in Barcelona. The Spanish bishops condemned “every demonstration of terrorism” as “an intrinsically perverse practice, completely incompatible with a just, reasonable, and moral view of life. Terrorism not only gravely infringes on the right to life and liberty, but is also an example of the most terrible form of intolerance and totalitarianism.” We can’t imagine how the lives of the family of the injured and the dead are impacted by this heinous act of violence.

It’s difficult for many to bring up the issues of racism, terrorism or any oppression of people, most likely because we don’t want to get involved or be disliked for an opposing view. However, as Bishop Muench wrote: “ We cannot remain silent in the face of such blatant hatred, which denies the dignity of each human person created in the image and likeness of God, regardless of race, ethnicity, language, religion or way of life.”  I have heard the cry of many who have been discriminated against or mistreated because of their race. Not to diminish the evil or pain of the events in Charlottesville, I personally have felt the pain of racism for being an Asian in America -- and that is very difficult to overcome. We cannot know another person’s pain unless we too have walked in his shoes. When will we recognize that no matter the race, religion or station in life - whether, caucasian, african-american, asian, middle eastern, christian, jew, muslim, buddhist, homeless, employed, unemployed - that we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God?

How we wish that God’s words spoken through Prophet Isaiah would be fulfilled now, “Thus says the LORD: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.” During this week of sorrow, we cry out from the depths of our hearts, what the psalmist wrote, “May God have pity on us and bless us; may he let his face shine upon us. So may your way be known upon earth; among all nations, your salvation.”

What can we do while we see much divisiveness in America and elsewhere? One thing we need do is to ask God to give us the courage to be His presence in the world.  Individually, we do not have to solve the race issue or terrorist issue, but we can begin to turn the tide by starting with intentional acts of kindness toward our family members, friends, neighbor and strangers. Do our acts of kindness have to be extravagant? No! As Mother Teresa said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  When we are at a store, we could let someone ahead of us at the checkout line: when in traffic, maneuver through without getting angry and without cursing the fellow who cut us off.  When we are in a hurry to be somewhere, exercise patience with others and smile at strangers.

Our baptismal promises and the privilege of receiving our living Lord in the Eucharist demands that we live out our Christian life with courage. Therefore, we cannot afford to sit idly by and allow the darkness of racism and terrorism to rule the day. Each of us can cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit to find ways to allow respect and compassion to overcome hatred. We must remember that only love can overcome hate and fear. As we continue through this liturgy, let us ask Our Lord how we can be instrument of peace and mercy.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Aug. 18, 2017 Friday: St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Aug. 18, 2017 Friday: St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Those with hard hearts 'do not know that the Word became flesh', the pontiff said

God’s compassion can change the rigid hearts of those who condemn others, Pope Francis said.

A person with a hardened “pagan heart does not allow the Spirit to enter” and often relies on his or her own strength and intellect rather than understanding God’s will through humility, the pope said May 2 in his homily during Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

“They do not know that the Word became flesh, that the Word is a witness to obedience,” the pope said. “They do not know that God’s tenderness is able to take out a heart of stone and put in its place a heart of flesh.”

The Pope focused his homily on the day’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which recalled the martyrdom of St. Stephen, who was stoned to death after denouncing the scribes and elders “as stiff-necked people” that “always oppose the Holy Spirit.”

Unlike the disciples at Emmaus whose hearts were opened after being reproached by Jesus as “foolish,” the elders who stoned Stephen gave into their anger at being corrected. This, the pope said, is the tragedy of those “with closed hearts, hardened hearts.”

“This makes the church suffer very, very much: closed hearts, hearts of stone, hearts that do not want to be open, that do not want to listen, hearts that only know the language of condemnation,” the pope said.

“They know how to condemn, but they do not know how to say, ‘Explain this to me. Why do you say this? Why that? Can you explain it to me?’ No, they are closed. They know everything. They have no need for an explanation,” he said.

Those who stoned the church’s first martyr had “no space in their hearts for the Holy Spirit,” who allows Christians to look on others with the same tenderness God has “toward us, toward our sins, our weaknesses,” Pope Francis said.

“Let us enter into this dialogue and ask for the grace so that the Lord softens a bit the heart of these rigid ones, those people who are always closed in the law and condemn all those who are outside of that law,” he said.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Aug. 17, 2017 Thursday: 19th Week in Ordinary Time

Aug. 17, 2017 Thursday: 19th Week in Ordinary Time

No limit to granting forgiveness and pardon

Jesus makes it clear that there is no limit to giving and receiving forgiveness. He drove the lesson home with a parable about two very different kinds of debts. The first man owed an enormous sum of money - millions in our currency. In Jesus' time this amount was greater than the total revenue of a province - more than it would cost to ransom a king! The man who was forgiven such an incredible debt could not, however, bring himself to forgive his neighbor a very small debt which was about one-hundred-thousandth of his own debt.The contrast could not have been greater!

Jesus paid our ransom to set us free from the debt of sin

No offense our neighbor can do to us can compare with our own personal debt to God for offending him! We have been forgiven an enormous debt we could not repay on our own. That is why the Father in heaven sent his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who freely and willing gave up his life for our sake to ransom us from slavery to sin, Satan, and death. Paul the Apostle states, "you were bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 7:23 ) and that price was Jesus' death on the cross. Through the shedding of his blood on the cross, Jesus not only brought forgiveness and pardon for our offenses, but release from our captivity to Satan and bondage to sin.

Set free from futile thinking and sinful living

The Lord Jesus sets us free from a futile mind and way of living in sin and spiritual darkness. "You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers ...with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18). Christ "gave himself to redeem us from all iniquity" (Titus 2:14). Iniquity describes the futile ways of wrong thinking, sinful attitudes and wrong behavior, and disregarding or treating God's commandments lightly. We have been forgiven an enormous debt which we could never possibly repay. We owe God a debt of gratitude for the mercy and grace he has given us in his Son, Jesus Christ.

- by Don Schwager,

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Aug. 16, 2017, Wednesday: 19th Week in Ordinary Time

Aug. 16, 2017, Wednesday: 19th Week in Ordinary Time

Set no obstacle in seeking to heal your brother's wound

When you are offended, are you willing to put aside your own grievance and injury in order to help your brother's wound? The Lord Jesus wants to set us free from resentment, ill-will, and an unwillingness to forgive. The love of Christ both purifies and sets us free to do good to all - even those who cause us grief. The call to accountability for what we have done and have failed to do is inevitable and we can't escape it, both in this life and at the day of judgment when the Lord Jesus will return. But while we have the opportunity today, we must not give up on praying for those who cause us offense. With God's help we must seek to make every effort to win them with the grace and power of God's healing love and wisdom. Do you tolerate broken relationships or do you seek to repair them as God gives you the opportunity to mend and restore what is broken?

"Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of your healing love and peace. Give me wisdom and courage to bring your healing love and saving truth to those in need of healing and restoration."

-Don Schwager,

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Aug. 15, 2017: Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary

Aug. 15, 2017: Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary
By St. Josemaria Escriva

“Mary has been taken up to heaven by God in body and soul, and the angels rejoice.” (Antiphon, vespers, feast of the Assumption). Joy overtakes both angels and men. Why is it that we feel today this intimate delight, with our heart brimming over, with our soul full of peace? Because we are celebrating the glorification of our mother, and it is only natural that we her children rejoice in a special way upon seeing how the most Blessed Trinity honors her.

It was on Calvary that Christ, her most blessed Son and our brother, gave her to us as our mother, when he said to St John: “Behold your mother” (John 19:27). And we received her, along with the beloved disciple, in that moment of supreme grief. The blessed Virgin embraced us in her suffering, as the ancient prophecy was fulfilled: “And a sword shall pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:35). We are all her children, she is the Mother of all mankind. And now, the whole human race commemorates her ineffable assumption. Mary is welcomed to heaven: Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, and Spouse of God the Holy Spirit.

But don’t forget: if God exalted his Mother, it is equally true that he did not spare her pain, exhaustion in her work or trials of her faith. A village woman one day broke into praise for Jesus exclaiming: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nourished you.” Jesus said in reply: “Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” It was a compliment to his Mother on her fiat, her “be it done.” She lived it sincerely, unstintingly, fulfilling its every consequence, but never amid fanfare, rather in the hidden and silent sacrifice of each day. ...

Mary is as much a creature as we are, with a heart like ours, made for joy and mirth as well as suffering and tears. Before Gabriel communicates to her God’s plan, our Lady does not know she has been chosen from all eternity to be the Mother of the Messiah. She sees herself a humble creature. That is why she can acknowledge, with full humility, that “he who is mighty has done great things” in her.
- St. Josemaria Escriva

Monday, August 14, 2017

Aug. 14, 2017: St. Maximilian Kolbe

Aug. 14, 2017: St. Maximilian Kolbe

No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hetacombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?
A single act of love makes the soul return to life.

-St. Maximilian Kolbe

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Feast of Assumption 2017 Mass Schedule in our area

Feast of Assumption 2017 Mass Schedule in our area

White Castle / Bayou Goula
Mon 8/14 6PM – Our Lady of Prompt Succor, White Castle
Tue   8/15 9AM – Madonna Chapel, Bayou Goula (Fr Vu)

Tue 8/15 7AM – St. Francis of Assisi
8:20AM – Ascension Catholic School Gym
12PM – St. Catherine of Sienna
6PM – St. Catherine of Sienna
6PM - St. Francis of Assisi

Belle Rose / Plattenville / Napoleonville / Labadieville
Mon 8/14 6PM – St. Jules, Belle Rose
Tue 8/15 7:40AM – St. Elizabeth, School Mass
12:10PM – St. Anne, Napoleonville
6:30PM – Assumption Church, Plattenville

Aug. 13, 2017: 19th Sunday A

Aug. 13, 2017: 19th Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
This weekend marks the first anniversary of the historic flooding in August 2016 in Baton Rouge in which the prolonged rainfall submerged thousands of homes and businesses. One woman who blogged her whole experience at the time of flooding last year wrote, “I must tell you that throughout these most stressful hours [of waiting to be rescued from flooding in my neighborhood], I heard no cursing, but only prayer, acceptance, praise and thanksgiving expressed by so many people.  As we waited for the boat, at least a hundred people standing in line, one of our neighbors called out to all the people waiting: ‘Will you pray with me?  Let’s thank and praise God for his protection.’  And many joined her.  The others stood silently, respectful.  At a shelter, one woman told me that at least 4-feet of water had entered her home.  She did not have flood insurance, but she was utterly serene, trusting that God would make a way for her.  This was evidenced EVERYWHERE!”

As I read her blog, I wondered if I would have been as calm. When a turbulent event happens to any of us, it is natural for us to panic and lose focus of who we are and what we need to do. We are disciples of Jesus, who are taught by Our Lord not to be afraid, not to worry, not to doubt, but to trust. However, even the best of us can forget these truths. Take for example what happened to Peter in today’s gospel passage.

Upon seeing Jesus walking on the water nearby the storm-tossed boat, Peter daringly asked Jesus to give him the grace to step out of the boat on the water to walk toward him. Peter knew that walking on water would be an impossible task on his own abilities. After witnessing Jesus perform numerous miracles, especially feeding five thousand people earlier that day, Peter felt confident that Jesus could do this for him. Peter’s first brave steps on the water were miraculous, but upon seeing a violent spray of waves whipped up by wind, Peter began doubt whether Jesus could sustain him on the water. That split second of doubt, took his focus off of his trust in Jesus, and Peter began to sink into the water. Peter’s powerlessness reawakened his need and trust in Jesus, so he cried out to him, “Lord, save me!” Jesus reached out and grabbed Peter’s hand to pull him out of the sea of doubt with a gentle reproach, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Do you see yourself in Peter and his experience in the sea? Perhaps you went through a life experience of being overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. Over the years, I’ve met men and women who have taken their focus off their trust in Jesus during a turbulent or overwhelming challenge and have given up on faith. They tried to rely on their strength and resolve, but the problem seemed insurmountable. Along their journey in life, someone reawakened their need to trust and seek Our Lord. Like the woman during last year’s flooding asking all her neighbors to join in prayer, we too encounter persons in our own lives who remind us that while we have lost focus on Our Lord, Jesus has not lost sight of us. Jesus has not withheld his love or his forgiveness; we just looked away.

After her harrowing day of being rescued from flooding, the woman posted on her blog a prayer that put her entire day’s experience in perspective.

O Good Master, what a trial You put me through, what a sword thrust into my heart, never will I be consoled! And despite all that, I give You thanks. I bless You. You have used this horrible trial to detach me from the things here-below and attach me more totally to You, to You alone, my Love, my Life, my Spouse.   
          - By St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880–1906)

How do we get to the point of going through turbulent times without sinking in the sea of doubt? Just as Peter spent time with the Lord and wanted to follow him, we grow in our love for and trust in Our Lord through our daily prayer and sacrifice, learning from our past mistakes and renewing our resolve through receiving sacraments. Blessed Mother serves as a model for us in always pondering first before reacting to the events of the day and trusting the direction that God was leading her even when it involved suffering.

Can you see yourself stepping out in faith in the midst of a storm and keeping your focus on Our Lord? As we continue in prayer and receive the Eucharist, what grace would you ask the Lord to help you?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Aug. 11, 2017: St. Clare of Assisi

Aug. 11, 2017: St. Clare of Assisi

(July 16, 1194 – August 11, 1253)

Saint Clare of Assisi’s Story

One of the more sugary movies made about Francis of Assisi pictures Clare as a golden-haired beauty floating through sun-drenched fields, a sort of one-woman counterpart to the new Franciscan Order.

The beginning of her religious life was indeed movie material. Having refused to marry at 15, Clare was moved by the dynamic preaching of Francis. He became her lifelong friend and spiritual guide.

At 18, Clare escaped from her father’s home one night, was met on the road by friars carrying torches, and in the poor little chapel called the Portiuncula received a rough woolen habit, exchanged her jeweled belt for a common rope with knots in it, and sacrificed her long tresses to Francis’ scissors. He placed her in a Benedictine convent, which her father and uncles immediately stormed in rage. Clare clung to the altar of the church, threw aside her veil to show her cropped hair, and remained adamant.

Sixteen days later her sister Agnes joined her. Others came. They lived a simple life of great poverty, austerity, and complete seclusion from the world, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order. At age 21, Francis obliged Clare under obedience to accept the office of abbess, one she exercised until her death.

The Poor Ladies went barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat, and observed almost complete silence. Later Clare, like Francis, persuaded her sisters to moderate this rigor: “Our bodies are not made of brass.” The greatest emphasis, of course, was on gospel poverty. They possessed no property, even in common, subsisting on daily contributions. When even the pope tried to persuade Clare to mitigate this practice, she showed her characteristic firmness: “I need to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from the obligation of following Jesus Christ.”

Contemporary accounts glow with admiration of Clare’s life in the convent of San Damiano in Assisi. She served the sick and washed the feet of the begging nuns. She came from prayer, it was said, with her face so shining it dazzled those about her. She suffered serious illness for the last 27 years of her life. Her influence was such that popes, cardinals, and bishops often came to consult her—Clare herself never left the walls of San Damiano.

Francis always remained her great friend and inspiration. Clare was always obedient to his will and to the great ideal of gospel life which he was making real.

A well-known story concerns her prayer and trust. Clare had the Blessed Sacrament placed on the walls of the convent when it faced attack by invading Saracens. “Does it please you, O God, to deliver into the hands of these beasts the defenseless children I have nourished with your love? I beseech you, dear Lord, protect these whom I am now unable to protect.” To her sisters she said, “Don’t be afraid. Trust in Jesus.” The Saracens fled.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Aug. 10, 2017: St. Lawrence

Aug. 10, 2017: St. Lawrence


"Let me say this much: He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Everyone must give according to what he has inwardly decided." 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Giving sets the tone for living. If we give bountifully of our possessions, time, and energy (2 Cor 9:6), we will live an abundant life (Jn 10:10). If, however, we give sparingly (2 Cor 9:6), do the minimum, and not go beyond the letter of the law (2 Cor 3:6), we will feel we are getting little out of life, marriage, work, Mass, prayer, friendship, and other blessings. If we give sparingly, begrudgingly, and selfishly, the joys of our lives seem to be put in "a bag with holes in it" (Hg 1:6). The salt of our lives loses its flavor. We are then "good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot" (Mt 5:13).

Almsgiving leads to giving in many other ways. As we give more and more, our lives become giving to the point that almsgiving results in "all-giving." Like Jesus, we become like "the grain of wheat" which "falls to the earth and dies" to produce "much fruit" (Jn 12:24). Then we live in the everlasting giving of our lives to the Lord.

"Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). "You need to recall the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, Who said, 'There is more happiness in giving than receiving' " (Acts 20:35). Give all, and live always in the Lord.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Aug. 9, 2017: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Aug. 9, 2017: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

At the Foot of the Cross: Love of the Cross
Some Thoughts for the Feast of St. John of the Cross

By St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

We hear repeatedly that St. John of the Cross desired nothing for himself but to suffer and be despised. We want to know the reason for this love of suffering. Is it merely the loving remembrance of the path of suffering of our Lord on earth, a tender impulse to be humanly close to him by a life resembling his? This does not seem to correspond to the lofty and strict spirituality of the mystical teacher. And in relation to the Man of Sorrows, it would almost seem that the victoriously enthroned king, the divine conqueror of sin, death, and hell is forgotten. Did not Christ lead captivity captive? Has he not transported us into a kingdom of light and called us to be happy children of our heavenly Father? 

The sight of the world in which we live, the need and misery, and the abyss of human malice, again and again dampens jubilation over the victory of light. The world is still deluged by mire, and still only a small flock has escaped from it to the highest mountain peaks. The battle between Christ and the Antichrist is not yet over. The followers of Christ have their place in this battle, and their chief weapon is the cross. 

What does this mean? The burden of the cross that Christ assumed is that of corrupted human nature, with all its consequences in sin and suffering to which fallen humanity is subject. The meaning of the way of the cross is to carry this burden out of the world. The restoration of freed humanity to the heart of the heavenly Father, taking on the status of a child, is the free gift of grace, of merciful love. But this may not occur at the expense of divine holiness and justice. The entire sum of human failures from the first Fall up to the Day of Judgment must be blotted out by a corresponding measure of expiation. The way of the cross is this expiation. The triple collapse under the burden of the cross corresponds to the triple fall of humanity: the first sin, the rejection of the Savior by his chosen people, the falling away of those who bear the name of Christian. 

The Savior is not alone on the way of the cross. Not only are there adversaries around him who oppress him, but also people who succor him. The archetype of followers of the cross for all time is the Mother of God. Typical of those who submit to the suffering inflicted on them and experience his blessing by bearing it is Simon of Cyrene. Representative of those who love him and yearn to serve the Lord is Veronica. Everyone who, in the course of time, has borne an onerous destiny in remembrance of the suffering Savior or who has freely taken up works of expiation has by doing so canceled some of the mighty load of human sin and has helped the Lord carry his burden. Or rather, Christ the head effects expiation in these members of his Mystical Body who put themselves, body and soul, at his disposal for carrying out his work of salvation. We can assume that the prospect of the faithful who would follow him on his way of the cross strengthened the Savior during his night on the Mount of Olives. And the strength of these crossbearers helps him after each of his falls. The righteous under the Old Covenant accompany him on the stretch of the way from the first to the second collapse. The disciples, both men and women, who surrounded him during his earthly life, assist him on the second stretch. The lovers of the cross whom he has awakened and will always continue to awaken anew in the changeable history of the struggling church, these are his allies at the end of time. We, too, are called for that purpose. 

Thus, when someone desires to suffer, it is not merely a pious reminder of the suffering of the Lord. Voluntary expiatory suffering is what truly and really unites one to the Lord intimately. When it arises, it comes from an already existing relationship with Christ. For, by nature, a person flees from suffering. And the mania for suffering caused by a perverse lust for pain differs completely from the desire to suffer in expiation. Such lust is not a spiritual striving, but a sensory longing no better than other sensory desires, in fact worse, because it is contrary to nature. Only someone whose spiritual eyes have been opened to the supernatural correlations of worldly events can desire suffering in expiation, and this is only possible for people in whom the spirit of Christ dwells, who as members [Glieder]1 are given life by the Head, receive his power, his meaning, and his direction. Conversely, works of expiation bind one closer to Christ, as every community that works together on one task becomes more and more closely knit and as the limbs [Glieder] of a body, working together organically, continually become more strongly one. 

But because being one with Christ is our sanctity, and progressively becoming one with him our happiness on earth, the love of the cross in no way contradicts being a joyful child of God. Helping Christ carry his cross fills one with a strong and pure joy, and those who may and can do so, the builders of God’s kingdom, are the most authentic children of God. And so those who have a predilection for the way of the cross by no means deny that Good Friday is past and that the work of salvation has been accomplished. Only those who are saved, only children of grace, can in fact be bearers of Christ’s cross. Only in union with the divine Head does human suffering take on expiatory power. To suffer and to be happy although suffering, to have one’s feet on the earth, to walk on the dirty and rough paths of this earth and yet to be enthroned with Christ at the Father’s right hand, to laugh and cry with the children of this world and ceaselessly sing the praises of God with the choirs of angels—this is the life of the Christian until the morning of eternity breaks forth.

- By Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Text

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Aug. 6, 2017: Transfiguration A

Aug. 6, 2017: Transfiguration A

Click to hear Audio Homily
How many of the As-Seen-On-TV products do you own? Do you remember the WaxVac, a device which was supposed to vacuum out the earwax? Many folks who purchased the device were angry that it did not remove ear wax or help improve hearing. We are willing to pay for a product promising instant results, but seldom is there such a product.

Do we have similar expectations about our spiritual life, expecting a one-time conversion experience or a spiritual highlight to change us from sinners to saints? A priest recently shared with me that a person who desires to transform his life cannot do it with going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and mass once in a while. The person must make it a daily habit to pray, to read and contemplate the Word of God in Scriptures, to participate regularly in the Eucharist, and to give his time to charitable works. The Christian life revolves around listening to Jesus, which entails actively seeking his will and actually doing his will, everyday.

In the Gospel today, the disciples of Jesus were invited to follow Jesus to a mountaintop to experience a special revelation of Jesus’ glory. But the real highlight of this experience was an instruction from Heavenly Father who said to the disciples, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." The Father was not only instructing the disciples to pay attention to Jesus, but to align our will to His.

What interferes with genuine listening to the Lord is the “noise” in our life--noise from radio in our cars, videos from our tablets, squawking news from TV, and all the busy activities. This is spiritual noise pollution. We need to stop being so busy and stop investing our attention in these things for so much of our day. We need to learn how to be quiet in front of the Lord and listen for his voice. We have to stop for a while telling him our wants, and listen to what He wants from us. And our Blessed Mother has the best advice for all of us, “Do whatever he tells you.”

What can we do concretely today to begin this journey of transformation? Can we put on our calendar a period of time for praying with scriptures? Can we change our routine by placing remote controls away from where we normally sit and put a bible or a spiritual book next to the chair instead? Just as Our Lord found time to pray in silence to His Father in the midst of his demanding schedule, we also must carve out the time to truly listen to Our Lord.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Aug. 4, 2017: St. John Marie Vianney

Aug. 4, 2017: St. John Marie Vianney

Rebuilding His Church

One day Father Vianney went to look for the fiddler who would be playing the music for the village dance that evening. “My good man,” the Curé said kindly, “how much do they usually pay you for playing your fiddle?” When the fiddler told him, the priest handed him twice that amount of money. The fiddler gave Father Vianney a knowing smile. “I see what’s going on here, Monsieur le Curé. The pastors in the other villages don’t approve of these dances, either. Say they cause trouble.” The fiddler stuffed the coins into his pocket. “Well, I guess there won’t be any dancing in Ars tonight! Too bad, I learned a new tune just for the occasion. Can’t say I’m sorry to go home with extra money in my pocket, though.”

Although dancing to the tune of a fiddle sounds fairly tame nowadays, all those dances were giving Ars a rather questionable reputation by eighteenth-century standards. Among neighboring villages, Ars was known as the place to party, and this concerned Father Vianney. He hoped to help the young people of his parish make responsible decisions and find better ways to spend their free time. The Curé also saw that many people in Ars struggled with drinking problems. Sometimes they spent all their wages at the local taverns. Many families in Ars were suffering as a consequence. Eventually, Father Vianney managed to have the two bars that were near the church closed down. Nothing happened overnight. But little by little, the people of Ars began to notice a change in their village.

One Sunday during the summer months, while the cut corn was still on the ground, a farmer came up to Father Vianney before Mass. “Monsieur le Curé,” he began, “our crops are in danger. The sky is becoming dark, and it could start raining at any moment. Shouldn’t we make an exception and go to the fields today?”

Father Vianney understood all too well what could happen if the storms washed everything away. Growing up on a farm, he had worked long days in the fields. But it had taken long and patient work to cultivate renewed honor for the Lord’s Day in his parish. He was reluctant to begin making exceptions… . “I will pray about this,” the Curé reassured the farmer. During his sermon, Father Vianney told the people not to worry because the weather would be fine. The promise of the Curé came true! The storm passed them by, and they had good weather for the next two weeks.

Father Vianney was rebuilding his church spiritually by helping many people begin to put their faith into action again. But he was also restoring the church physically. In 1820, he went ahead with his plans for the construction of a new bell tower. He also had special side chapels dedicated to our Lady and to his Confirmation patron, Saint John the Baptist. Later, Father Vianney added other chapels to the church. In 1837, he dedicated one to Saint Philomena. She was an early Christian martyr, but no one knew about her until 1802, when a workman discovered her tomb in the ancient Catacomb of Saint Priscilla in Rome. Saint Philomena quickly made up for lost time. As people learned about her, miracles started to multiply through her intercession. Saint Philomena became Father Vianney’s guide, intercessor, and special friend in heaven.

Saint John Vianney: A Priest for All People Written by Elizabeth Marie DeDomenico, FSP

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Padre Pio comes to New Orleans, Oct. 4, 2017

Padre Pio comes to New Orleans, Oct. 4, 2017

Come and venerate the official relics of Saint Padre Pio of Pietrecina, in this first US tour to celebrate the 130th anniversary of Saint Padre Pio's birth, and the 15th anniversary of his canonization.

Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017
(From 7AM to 10PM)
St. Rita Catholic Church, 2729 Lowerline St. New Orleans 70125
At 6:00PM, will be celebrated a mass in honor of St. Padre Pio by the Most Reverend Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Aug. 1, 2017 Tuesday: 17th Week in Ordinary Time

Aug. 1, 2017 Tuesday: 17th Week in Ordinary Time

"The field is the world." Matthew 13:38

The field is the world. "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" to give up all that He owned, purchase that field, and die in agony on His cross so the field and its inhabitants might not perish, but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16; Mt 13:44).

The field is full of people. Jesus loves all people, for they are made in His image and likeness (Gn 1:27). To Jesus, this field of humanity is a treasure. He gave all He had to purchase this field (Mt 13:44). Jesus treasures us, and where His treasure lies, there His heart is (Lk 6:45).

Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us (Mt 1:23), made His dwelling among us when we were weeds (Jn 1:14). Like a grain of wheat, He fell to the ground and died to bear the fruit (Jn 12:24) of changed lives. He died to change former sinful weeds like us into wheat.

Since Jesus died for us when we were sinners (Rm 5:8), why should we get upset when we have to live in a world full of weed-like sinners? (Mt 13:38) We need not be discouraged. If Jesus treasures sinners so much as to die for them, then as disciples of Jesus, we must do the same. Ask Jesus for His heart, so as to treasure the sinful weeds in our midst. We too must die to ourselves and do whatever it takes, so that at least some might be transformed and saved (see 1 Cor 9:19).

Thank God forever that Jesus loved us when we were sinful and unlovable. Thank God that Jesus treasured us when we weren't so appealing. "Go and do the same" (Lk 10:37).