Saturday, June 30, 2007

Do you want to be free?

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, JULY 1, 2007:

We have a friar in our community named Brother Damian. Now, if you ever met him, he is one of the most fun, gregarious and outgoing people you could ever be around. He will laugh at anything and even nothing at all, but once he begins, he has a laugh that is so contagious that I can’t imagine anyone being able to resist laughing along. I was thinking yesterday about a particular encounter with Brother Damian. As you know, as a Franciscan, we wear our brown Franciscan robe with a white cord tied around the waist. On the cord are three knots which represent the three vows that we, as religious, take – the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. However, in this particular encounter with Brother Damian, he was walking around twirling his cord around and pointing to the knots said, “Do you know what these represent?” “Of course,” I answered, “They represent poverty, chastity and obedience.” “Wrong,” Brother Damian responded, “They represent No money, No honey and No Say!”

This weekend through Wednesday, the Fourth of July, we are wrapped up in celebrations both of our town’s 300th anniversary and of course, our nation’s independence. And, so with these celebrations in mind, and particularly with the current state of affairs in the world, I think I minds tend to thoughts about freedom. The freedom so bravely declared in that Declaration of Independence in 1776, and the freedom that we try to continue to preserve today. At this time of year, I always take a few moments to read the Declaration of Independence slowly, word for word. How can you not be moved by words like, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

How appropriate then that today we have yet another reflection on the nature of freedom from St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians. But, St. Paul offers an understanding of freedom more comprehensive, profound and challenging than any Fourth of July orator is likely to provide. St. Paul says, “For freedom Christ set us free;so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh;rather, serve one another through love.” And this is where it gets interesting.

According to St. Paul, through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have been freed from something and for something – freed from the dominion of sin, death and the flesh, and freed for life in the Spirit. This is the type of freedom that is worth something; this is the type of freedom that makes life worth living.

Too often, we define freedom very narrowly. Freedom means I can do what I want; or anything goes. Freedom in this way is a freedom from – and while perhaps it is good to not be constrained, it really doesn’t help us discover who we are, what we are called to, what we can be. St. Paul reminds us that through our Baptism, in Christ, the freedom that He won for us on the cross is not merely a freedom from some sort of oppression, but more powerfully it is a freedom for the world. It is a freedom that calls us to be something great.

This brings us back to poverty, chastity and obedience – remember, No Money, No Honey, No Say. In the vows we see exactly the kind of freedom for Christ that St. Paul envisions. In the vow of poverty, we see the freedom to not be concerned with high paying jobs, acquiring material goods, power, status and instead be completely free to be where Jesus and the Church needs us. In the vow of chastity, we see the freedom that instead of being a loving presence to one spouse, we embrace the freedom to be God’s loving presence to all of His people. And in the vow of obedience, we become free to not be preoccupied with our own will and our own desires, but to move with the freedom of the wind in the ways that God calls us through the Church.

While the way we live out these vows is particular to someone who is a religious or a priest, the idea and the freedom behind them is there for everyone. St. Paul said, “Stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” We see how heavy and pervasive this yoke of slavery is in our world today. How many people are yoked so strongly to their desire to make money and acquire material that they ignore their fundamental relationship with God and even with their own families? How many people are yoked so strongly to the over sexualized culture of today that they worship all things sexual and deny the beauty and sanctity of every created person? How many people today are yoked so strongly to their own will, their own way that they trample right over those in front of them through lies, deceit, gossip and control?

As we mark our nation’s freedom, and our town’s heritage, let us be reminded that God is calling us to something greater – the most radical freedom ever seen in this world. “For freedom Christ set us free…you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters…serve one another through love.”

My brothers and sisters, you were called for freedom. Do you want to be free?

May God give you peace and true freedom.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Church Signs


1. There was a church that had problems with outsiders parking in its parking lots, so they put up a sign: CHURCH CAR PARK - FOR MEMBERS ONLY,TRESPASSERS WILL BE BAPTIZED!That took care of the problem!


2. "No God - No Peace? Know God - Know Peace."


3. "Free Trip to heaven. Details Inside!"


4. "Try our Sundays. They are better than Baskin-Robbins."


5. "Searching for a new look? Have your faith lifted here!"


6. An ad for one Church has a picture of two hands holding stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments are inscribed and a headline that reads: "For fast, fast, fast relief, take two tablets."


7. When the restaurant next to another Church put out a sign with big red letters that said, "Open Sundays," the church reciprocated with its own message: "We are open on Sundays, too."


8. "People are like tea bags - you have to put them in hot water before you know how strong they are."


9. "Fight truth decay - study the Bible daily."


10. "How will you spend eternity - Smoking or Non-smoking?"


11. "Dusty Bibles lead to Dirty Lives"


12. "Come work for the Lord. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world."


13. "It is unlikely there'll be a reduction in the wages of sin."


14. "Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church."


15. "If you're headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns."


16. "If you don't like the way you were born, try being born again."


17. "Looking at the way some people live, they ought to obtain eternal fire insurance soon."


18. "This is a ch_ _ ch. What is missing?" ----- (U R)


19. "In the dark? Follow the Son."


20. "Running low on faith? Step in for a fill-up."


21. "If you can't sleep, don't count sheep. Talk to the Shepherd."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Windows recovered







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For the better part of a year, we have been in a process of recovering stained glass windows from the old St. Francis Xavier Church, built in the late 1800s on Elm Street. We discovered that the windows had been given away when the current church was built in 1971. Members of the parish generously gave back several of them. We have had them expertly restored by local artisan Mark Tomasek and the last two were finally installed this past weekend. Here are a few photos for your perusal.

Special thanks to Stefan Steiner for some of these photos.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Novena of Grace

A good friend of mine, Maureen Parodi, gave me today a beautiful old prayer book (some of you may know that I collect old prayer books). This one is from 1906 and one of the wonderful things I discoverd in it is the Novena of Grace which I had never heard of before.

The Novena of Grace traditionally takes place from the 4th to the 12th of March. Usually it is based in a church, where a preacher gives a sermon, traditionally on the life of St Francis Xavier and draws lessons for his listeners. The first Novena of Grace of Francis Xavier, nine days of prayer, is said to have taken place in Goa, India, in 1615, when a boy, crippled from birth, was cured. After Francis Xavier was named a Saint on 12th of March, 1622, the Novena of Grace grew in popularity around the world. It reached Ireland in 1712 when it was first celebrated in Mary’s Lane Chapel in St Michan’s Parish, Dublin.

Here is the prayer to St. Francis from the Novena:

O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier,
in union with you, I reverently adore the Divine Majesty.
While joyfully giving thanks to God for the singular gifts of grace

bestowed on you during your life
and your gifts of glory after death,
I beseech you with all my heart’s devotion to be pleased to obtain for me,
through your efficacious intercession,
the greatest of all blessings: the grace of living a holy life and dying a holy death.

Moreover, I beg of you to obtain for me

[mention here the spiritual or temporal favor you wish to obtain].
But if what I ask of you so earnestly
does not tend to the glory of God and the great good of my soul,
please obtain for me, I pray, what is more conducive for both. Amen.
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[Recite an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be].

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Lord's Prayer

FRIARS CORNER:

A few weeks ago, a parishioner generously sent me a copy of Pope Benedict’s new book Jesus of Nazareth. Now, I have to say at first, I thought this was going to be a thick book to get through. Pope Benedict is well known as a thinker, a theologian, and I expected this book to be a heavy tome that would be full of good thoughts, but not exactly a page turner. Boy, was I wrong. This is a deeply spiritual book by our Holy Father, and while I probably should have skipped over the Foreword and Introduction which are a bit heady, the meat of this book is spectacular reflection for any soul. I highly recommend it. Let me share with you just a little bit from the book. Here is the Pope’s reflection upon the Lord’s Prayer:

“Luke prefaces the Lord’s Prayer with the following remark: Jesus ‘was praying at a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray…”’

“The context, then, is that the disciples see Jesus praying and it awakens in them the wish to learn from him how to pray. Essential events in the course of his journey, in which his mystery is gradually unveiled, appear in this light as prayer events. Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Holy One of God is connected with encountering Jesus at prayer; the Transfiguration of Jesus is a prayer event.

“The fact that Luke places the Our Father in the context of Jesus’ own praying is therefore significant. Jesus thereby involves us in his own prayer; he leads us into the interior dialogue of triune love; he draws our human hardships deep into God’s heart, as it were. This also means, however, that the words of the Our Father are signposts to interior prayer, they provide a basic direction for our being, and they aim to configure us to the image of the Son. The meaning of the Our Father goes much further than the mere provision of a prayer text. It aims to form our being, to train us in the inner attitude of Jesus.

“This has two different implications for our interpretation of the Our Father. First of all, it is important to listen as accurately as possible to Jesus’ words as transmitted to us in Scripture. We must strive to recognize the thoughts Jesus wished to pass on to us in these words. But we must also keep in mind that the Our Father originates from his own praying, from the Son’s dialogue with the Father. This means that it reaches down into the depths far beyond the words. It embraces the whole compass of man’s being in all ages and can therefore never be fully fathomed by a purely historical exegesis, however important this may be.”

This is just a sampling of what is a profound book. I wholeheartedly encourage you to pick up a copy.

Love, Fr. Tom

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Highway Commandments

Church gives guidelines for bringing faith to the streets
The Gospel must reach all areas

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2007 / 10:30 am (CNA).- A rather interesting document was issued today on the pastoral care of the road. The guidelines were created for the purpose of bringing care for the human person even to the roadways, since the Gospel should be preached everywhere.
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The instructions were issued by a department of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People under the leadership of Cardinal Renato Martino.
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The document - published in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian - is divided into four sections: The pastoral care of road users, pastoral ministry for the liberation of street women, the pastoral care of street children, and the pastoral care of the homeless.
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Cardinal Martino indicated that the idea of preparing this document arose during the First European Meeting of National Directors of the Pastoral Care of the Road, held in 2003. "Its aim," he said, "is to guide and coordinate all the ecclesial bodies in the world of the pastoral care of the road, and to encourage and stimulate episcopal conferences of countries in which this form of pastoral care does not exist, to organize it."
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Commenting on the first part of the document, Cardinal Martino expressed the view that "Church and State, each in its own field, must work to create a generalized public awareness on the question of road safety and promote, using all possible means, ... an adequate education among drivers, travelers and pedestrians."
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Referring to the evangelization of the road, the president of the pontifical council recalled that the Church also aims at "the religious formation of car drivers, professional transporters, passengers, and all those people who, in one way or another, are associated with roads and railways." In this context, he recalled the fact that in many countries there are "fixed or mobile highway chapels, and pastoral workers who visit motorway service areas and periodically celebrate liturgies there."
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One item of particular interest is the list of 10 Commandments for drivers which could be of use for those prone to “road rage”. The commandments are:
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I. You shall not kill.
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II. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
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III. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
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IV. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.
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V. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.
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VI. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
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VII. Support the families of accident victims.
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VIII. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
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IX. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
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X. Feel responsible towards others.
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The full text of the document can be found at: http://212.77.1.245/news_services/bulletin/news/20451.php?index=20451&lang=en

Monday, June 18, 2007

A call for peace from Assisi

"May Weapons be Silenced and May Hate Yield to Love"

ASSISI, Italy, JUNE 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the crowds gathered at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, where the Pope led the praying of the midday Angelus.

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Dear brothers and sisters,
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Eight centuries ago, the city of Assisi would have found it difficult to imagine the role that providence was assigning to it, a role that has made this city well known throughout the world, that has make it an authentic "place of the soul." An event that happened here imprinted on this city an indelible character. I am referring to the conversion of young Francis. After 25 years of an aimless and mediocre existence that was centered on seeking worldly pleasures and successes, in a moment of interior recollection, he opened himself to grace and gradually recognized in Christ the ideal for his life. My pilgrimage to Assisi today seeks to recall this event, to live its significance to the fullest.
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I have stopped with particular emotion at the small church of San Damiano where Francis heard from the crucifix the directive "Go, Francis, and rebuild my church" (2 Cel 1,6,10). It was a mission that would start with the full conversion of his heart and would, in turn, become Gospel leaven handed in abundance to the Church and society.
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I have visited the place in Rivotorto that, according to tradition, housed the lepers who St. Francis approached with mercy, thus beginning his penitent life. I have also visited the sanctuary of the saint's humble dwelling where he lived with the first brothers.
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I have been to the Basilica of St. Clare, his "little plant," and this afternoon, after a visit to the Cathedral of Assisi, I will stop at the Porziuncola where Francis, in the shadow of Mary, directed the expansion of his fraternity and where he breathed his last. There, I will meet the youth so that young Francis, converted to Christ, may speak to their hearts.
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At this moment from the Basilica of St. Francis where his mortal remains rest, I wish to make mine his prayer: "O Most High, Almighty God, good Lord, to you, praise, honor and blessing " (Brother Sun Canticle, 1). Francis of Assisi is a great teacher of our faith and our praise. When he fell in love with Jesus Christ, he found the face of God-Love; he became his passionate singer and an authentic "minstrel of God." In light of the beatitudes, we understand the meekness and humility with which he related to others, becoming a witness and agent of peace.
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From this city of peace, I want to send my greetings to representatives of Christian communities and other religions who, in 1986, accepted the invitation of my venerable predecessor to come here, to the homeland of St. Francis, for a World Day of Prayer for Peace. I consider it my duty to issue an urgent and heartfelt appeal from this place to stop all armed conflicts that are bloodying the earth. May weapons be silenced and may hate yield to love, offense to pardon, and discord to unity!
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We feel here the spiritual presence of all those who weep, suffer and die at war or because of its tragic consequences in any part of the world. Our thoughts are directed in particular to the Holy Land, a place so loved by St. Francis, to Iraq, Lebanon and all the Middle East.
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The populations of these places have experienced for too long the horrors of war, terrorism, blind violence, the illusion that force can solve conflicts, and the refusal to listen to the reasoning of others and do them justice. Only a responsible and sincere dialogue, sustained by the generous support of the international community will be able to end so much suffering and give new life and dignity to individuals, institutions and people.
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May St. Francis, man of peace, obtain for us from the Lord, the grace of an increasing number of people who will agree to become "instruments of peace" through thousands of small gestures in their daily lives. May those who are in positions of power be motivated by a passionate love for peace, an indomitable will to obtain it, and may they choose the adequate means to reach it.
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May the Holy Virgin, who the "little brother" loved with such a tender heart and to whom he sang with such inspiration, help us to discover the secret of peace in the miracle of love that took place in her womb with the incarnation of the Son of God.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day, June 17, 2007:

In Matthew's Gospel (15.15), Jesus asks the profound question of His disciples, “But, who do you say that I am?” Their answer shows that He could be seen as many things – a prophet, a teacher. And while these are true, there is one answer that was more important than the rest of them. Peter answers, You are “the Christ of God.” Above all the other ways that they might see Jesus, it is as the Christ, as the Messiah, that was and is the most important distinction. It is in this role, after all, that Jesus is not only a prophet and a teacher; but also is God Himself and the Savior of the world.

And this is an important message for today, Father’s Day. When we think of our father’s there are many qualities about them, many ways to think of them – in relation to their job; in relation to their interests; even in terms of the many relationships they have as friends, co-workers, husbands. So, if we as the same question of dads as was asked of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” there is one answer that is more important than the rest of them – father. A man may be many things but of all the roles he may fulfill in life, none of them will be more important than being a father. That needs to be the role that defines him.

The history of Father’s Day goes back to 1909 when Sonora Dodd heard a sermon on the virtues of Mother’s Day in Spokane, Washington. This sermon made her recall many fond memories of her deceased father and she began a campaign for a similar day to honor Dad’s. But, while Mother’s Day has been a national celebration since 1911, it wasn’t until 1972 that Father’s Day was made a national holiday. However, in 1924, although falling short of naming it a holiday, President Calvin Coolidge signed a Father’s Day resolution. In that resolution, he called for this day to have as its goal to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” It is both a thank you to our dads, a deepening of our relationship with our dads, and a reminder to fathers of the great importance of their role in the family.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the father's role comes from the fact that he “cooperates with God the Creator.” If you asked people who the most powerful man in America is, they would probably answer the President, or Bill Gates with his billions of dollars, or Ted Turner with his media influence or maybe some great surgeon who has the skills to extend people's lives. But all those answers miss the mark. The most powerful man in the United States is not the president or a billionaire or a doctor. Rather the one with greatest power is a father. Together with mothers, fathers cooperate with God in bringing a new human life into the world; into loving and shaping those lives; guiding their children to become good members of society, and holy members of God’s family. There is no power or role in life greater than that. Fathers, along with mothers, are at the very heart of God's plan.

As President Coolidge said, one of the reasons for this day is “to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” It seems in our world today that we often have a parenting crisis. Parents are frequently more concerned with being their child’s friend, instead of fulfilling the more necessary role of parent. Just look at the stories in the newspapers too often about parents purchasing large quantities of alcohol so their children can have parties. This is not parenting. Today is a day for fathers to remember how much their children need them to be just that; a father.

There is great worry that fathers often share – a fear of not being able to provide adequately for their children, or that he won't be able get them the things they need or the right education. Fathers should never these worries because no matter their economic status, they have the one thing their children need and want the most, and they are the only ones who can give it – their love and guidance.

I always recall an experience when I was around 10 years old. It was during the recession of the late 70s. My Dad was a long haul truck driver. He would often travel across the country and be gone for weeks at a time. If you remember those years, fuel prices were accelerating (not unlike today actually), and my Dad found himself out of work for two full years. Now on any worldly standard, this would be seen as a time of failure in my family. Money was incredibly tight. We had to do without many things we were accustomed to as a family. But, my brother, my sister and I always remember this period as just about the best time in our lives. Why? Because Dad was home, all the time; and that was all that mattered – that was worth more than anything else. Fathers should not be afraid that they cannot give their children a lot of material advantages. Those things are secondary. What the child wants most is time, attention and love.

Fathers should also remember that their role is a spiritual one too. Although I will never be a biological father, as a priest my greatest joy is being able to fulfill the role of spiritual fatherhood for others. That is one of the reasons I enjoy working with our youth so much; for the opportunities to be a spiritual father to them. There is no greater joy than being a spiritual father. But, spiritual fatherhood is not restricted to priests. It is the call of all fathers. That's part of the challenge of fatherhood; to be good and loving men of God who show love to their children and help them to see the love of God. What counts most in life will not be how much money you make, the size of your house, the cost of your car, the position you acquire – it will be whether or not you are a good, holy father.

And so we pray today that we may all appreciate our own fathers – both living and dead; for all of the good ways that they have impacted our lives, shaped the people we’ve become; and we pray for them that they may become each and every day holier men of God.

Happy Father’s Day and may God give you peace.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Immaculate Heart of Mary

A Solemn Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
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Most Holy Virgin Mary, tender Mother of men, to fulfill the desires of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the request of the Vicar of Your Son on earth, we consecrate ourselves and our families to your Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, O Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and we recommend to You, all the people of our country and all the world.
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Please accept our consecration, dearest Mother, and use us as You wish to accomplish Your designs in the world.
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O Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and Queen of the World, rule over us, together with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, Our King. Save us from the spreading flood of modern paganism; kindle in our hearts and homes the love of purity, the practice of a virtuous life, an ardent zeal for souls, and a desire to pray the Rosary more faithfully.
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We come with confidence to You, O Throne of Grace and Mother of Fair Love. Inflame us with the same Divine Fire which has inflamed Your own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Make our hearts and homes Your shrine, and through us, make the Heart of Jesus, together with your rule, triumph in every heart and home.
Amen.
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--Venerable Pope Pius XII

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today is the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here are a few words of reflection and a prayer for your consideration today:
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Blessed be the Most Loving Heart and Sweet Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the most glorious Virgin Mary, His Mother, in eternity and forever. Amen.
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Only the Heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way ----From the Catechism. P:1439
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From the depth of my nothingness, I prostrate myself before Thee, O Most Sacred, Divine and Adorable Heart of Jesus, to pay Thee all the homage of love, praise and adoration in my power.Amen. - - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
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The prayer of the Church venerates and honors the Heart of Jesus just as it invokes his most holy name. It adores the incarnate Word and his Heart which, out of love for men, he allowed to be pierced by our sins. Christian prayer loves to follow the way of the cross in the Savior's steps.-- From the Catechism. P: 2669
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Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart
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O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to Thee I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honoring and glorifying Thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to Thee, and to do all for Thy love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease Thee.
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I take Thee, O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and inconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be Thou, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God Thy Father, and screen me from His anger which I have so justly merited.
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I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in Thee, O Heart of Love, I hope all from Thine infinite Goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist Thee.
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Imprint Thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget Thee or be separated from Thee.
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I beseech Thee, through Thine infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Thy Heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of Thy devoted servants.
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Amen.
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-- St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Christ is calling you

I just returned from the LifeTeen Convention in Phoenix. Yesterday, a young priest, Fr. Chris, shared the words of Pope John Paul the Great that effected him deeply in his vocation. I think we might put these on our t-shirt this year for Steubenville:

Christ is calling you;
the Church needs you;
the Pope believes in you
and he expects great things of you!

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Quotes of the day

I'm currently reading Pope Benedict XVI's new book Jesus of Nazareth. It is an awesome book. Stop what you're doing and run now to your local Barnes and Noble and buy it. An awesome teaching from our Holy Father. I thought I'd share a few tidbits with you.

On why Jesus needed to be Baptized by John:

"The significance f this event could not fully emerge until it was seen in the light of the Cross and Resurrection. Descending into the water, the candidates for Baptism confess their sin and seek to be rid of their burden of guilt. What did Jesus do in this same situation? Luke, who throughout his Gospel is keenly attentive to Jesus' prayer, and portrays him again and again at prayer - in conversation with the Father - tells us that Jesus was praying while he received Baptism. Looking at the events in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind's guilt upon his shoulders: he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinner. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross...The Baptism is an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out 'This is my Beloved Son' over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection."

And...

"John's baptism with water has received its full meaning through the Baptism of Jesus' own life and death. To accept the invitation to be baptized now means to go to the place of Jesus' Baptism. It is to go where he identifies himself with us and to receive there our identification with him. The point where he anticipates death has now become the point where we anticipate rising again with him."

Awesome!

Monday, June 11, 2007

What God says...

You say: "It's impossible"
God says: All things are possible
Bible: (Luke 18:27)

You say: "I'm too tired"
God says: I will give you rest
Bible: (Matthew 11:28-30)

You say: "Nobody really loves me"
God says: I love you
Bible: (John 3:1 6 & John 3:34 )

You say: "I can't go on"
God says: My grace is sufficient
Bible: (II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)

You say: "I can't figure things out"
God says: I will direct your steps
Bible: (Proverbs 3:5- 6)

You say: "I can't do it"
God says: You can do all things
Bible: (Philippians 4:13)

You say: "I'm not able"
God says: I am able
Bible: (II Corinthians 9:8)

You say: "It's not worth it"
God says: It will be worth it
Bible: (Roman 8:28 )

You say: "I can't forgive myself"
God says: I Forgive you
Bible: (I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)

You say: "I can't manage"
God says: I will supply all your needs
Bible: (Philippians 4:19)

You say: "I'm afraid"
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear
Bible: (II Timothy 1:7)

You say: "I'm always worried and frustrated"
God says: Cast all your cares on ME
Bible: (I Peter 5:7)

You say: "I'm not smart enough"
God says: I give you wisdom
Bible: (I Corinthians 1:30)

You say: "I feel all alone"
God says: I will never leave you or forsake you
Bible: (Hebrews 13:5)

The secret of true adoration

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square when he led the praying of the midday Angelus.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today’s solemnity of Corpus Domini, which in the Vatican and other nations was already celebrated this past Thursday, invites us to contemplate the great mystery of our faith: the most holy Eucharist, the real presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the altar.

Every time that the priest renews the Eucharistic sacrifice, in the prayer of consecration he repeats: "This is my body … this is my blood." He does this giving his voice, his hands, and his heart to Christ, who wanted to remain with us as the beating heart of the Church. But even after the celebration of the divine mysteries, the Lord Jesus remains living in the tabernacle; because of this he is praised, especially by Eucharistic adoration, as I wished to recall in the recent postsynodal apostolic exhortation, "Sacramentum Caritatis" (cf. Nos. 66-69).

Indeed, there is an intrinsic connection between celebration and adoration. The holy Mass, in fact, is in itself the Church's greatest act of adoration: "No one eats this food," St. Augustine writes, "if he has not first worshipped it" (Commentary on Psalm 98:9; CCL XXXIX, 1385).

Adoration outside holy Mass prolongs and intensifies what happened in the liturgical celebration and renders a true and profound reception of Christ possible.Today, then, in all Christian communities, there is the Eucharistic procession, a singular form of public adoration of the Eucharist, enriched by beautiful and traditional manifestations of popular devotion. I would like to take the opportunity that today's solemnity offers me to strongly recommend to pastors and all the faithful the practice of Eucharistic adoration.

I express my appreciation to the institutes of consecrated life, as also to the associations and confraternities that dedicate themselves to this practice in a special way. They offer to all a reminder of the centrality of Christ in our personal and ecclesial life. I am happy to testify that many young people are discovering the beauty of adoration, whether personal or in community.

I invite priests to encourage youth groups in this, but also to accompany them to ensure that the forms of adoration are appropriate and dignified, with sufficient times for silence and listening to the word of God. In life today, which is often noisy and scattered, it is more important than ever to recover the capacity for interior silence and recollection: Eucharistic adoration permits one to do this not only within one's "I" but rather in the company of that "You" full of love who is Jesus Christ, "the God who is near us."

May the Virgin Mary, Eucharistic Woman, lead us into the secret of true adoration. Her heart, humble and silent, was always recollected around the mystery of Jesus, in whom she worshipped the presence of God and his redemptive love. By her intercession may there grow faith in the Eucharistic mystery, the joy of participating at holy Mass, especially on Sunday, and the desire to bear witness to the immense charity of Christ.

from www.zenit.org

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Corpus Christi: We Become What We Receive

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’” (Luke 17.5) Demanding bunch aren’t they? Back in 2004, Pope John Paul the Great declared a Year of the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Father called us to grow in our love for our Eucharistic Lord. To paraphrase Luke, the Pope heard the Church say, “Increase our faith,” and responded with that great event.

In declaring the Year of the Holy Eucharist, the Pope said, “The Eucharist is the centre of the Church's life. In it Christ offers himself to the Father for our sake, making us sharers in his own sacrifice, and gives himself to us as the bread of life for our journey on the highways of the world. From this moment I entrust to the Virgin Mary, ‘Woman of the Eucharist,’ this new initiative. May the one who in the Year of the Rosary helped us to contemplate Christ with her eyes and her heart, enable every community in the Year of the Eucharist to grow in faith and love for the mystery of the Body and Blood of the Lord.”

The Year of the Holy Eucharist came just in time as we entered the Third Millennium. This is an age when the Church is in danger of losing the importance of the Eucharist. Why do I say that? A few years ago, the University of Notre Dame conducted a study of regularly practicing Catholics across the United States. Among other things, they asked, “Do you believe that Jesus is truly and physically present in the Eucharist or is his presence merely symbolic?” Take a moment to think about how you might answer that – symbol or reality. A full 80% of those polled answered that the presence of Jesus is nothing more than a symbol. That’s the wrong answer. Jesus is really, truly, fully and physically present in the Eucharist. The bread and wine offered to God at Mass is consecrated by the Holy Spirit in the hands of the priest and becomes the real body and blood of Jesus.

Now, in fairness, I don’t think that Notre Dame statistic shows that people no longer believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but our world and our Church has changed a lot in the last 40 years. It used to be the case that priests and nuns would drill the basic doctrines of the church so that everyone could recite them at will. I know it was like that when I was in Catholic school.
Many of you may remember The Baltimore Catechism and its question and answer format. Here’s what it said about the Eucharist:
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238. Q. What is the Holy Eucharist?
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A. The Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament which contains the body and blood, soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine.
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242. Q. What happened when our Lord said, "This is My Body; this is My Blood?"
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A. When our Lord said, This is My body, the substance of the bread was changed into the substance of His body; when He said, This is My blood, the substance of the wine was changed into the substance of His blood. This is called transubstantiation.
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How many of you remember those questions and answers? Tools like The Baltimore Catechism used to give to the faithful a basic language to understand and discuss the doctrines of the Church, like the Eucharist. Today, we have no such tool and many people can’t say anything more than the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ and if challenged beyond that, we’re left without an answer.
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As we celebrate this Corpus Christi weekend, the Body and Blood of Christ, we are given an incredible invitation. The great Church father, Saint Augustine, said of the Eucharist, “We become what we receive.” We receive the Body of Christ so that we might become the Body of Christ for the world. The Eucharist isn’t something we watch from “out there” in the pews, rather it is something we must be drawn into. If the Eucharist is no more personal to you today than it was yesterday, last week, last month or last year, then you are still on the outside looking in. This invitation calls us all to lose ourselves in the Eucharist so that we can discover our truest selves in that same Eucharist. It’s a challenging, even dangerous, invitation: Become what you receive.

The Eucharistic miracle also has a lot to do with the nature of memory. Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.” What does memory have to do with Eucharist? Well, the first Eucharist took place over 2,000 years ago. And yet, through the gift of memory, we are at that Last Supper each time we celebrate Eucharist. Memory is not mere recitation of historical event, rather memory fills in the gap between then and now, memory takes away the dividing line between past and present. Jesus becomes real to us again in each and every Eucharist.
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The word we use in theology for this type of memory is anamnesis. It is a Greek word that notes a very special type of memory. It is a memory so profound, so real, that what we remember, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the action of the priest becomes present again. The bonds of time slip away and we too are now gathered around the table of the Lord just as the disciples were so long ago. We don’t simply recall the Last Supper; at Mass, we are at the Last Supper. Christ becomes present before us again – in His word, in His priest, in His people gathered in His Name – and so powerfully in His body and blood made real in their midst on the altar of sacrifice – this altar of sacrifice.
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We must all renew this incredible memory. Because we repeat this ritual so often, we can easily forget what – and who – the Eucharist is. We must remember what takes place on this holy altar, we must remember the great and holy things our Lord does for us today as he is truly and physically present in our midst. Jesus just as eagerly desires to eat this meal with us today as he did with His disciples 2,000 years ago.

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’” Lord, we ask you today to increase our faith in Your true and abiding presence in the Eucharist. Draw us ever more deeply into this great mystery. Help us to have the courage to believe in Your presence and to become what we receive – the Body of Christ present in our world.

May God give you peace.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

On receiving the Blessed Sacrament

“When you come up to receive . . . make your left hand a throne for the right for it is about to receive a King, cup your palm, and so receive the body of Christ; then answer ‘Amen.’

Carefully hallow your eyes by the touch of the sacred body, and then partake, taking care to lose no part of it. Such a loss would be like a mutilation of your own body.

Why, if you had been given gold dust, would you not take the utmost care to hold it fast, not letting a grain slip through your fingers, lest you be so much the poorer? How much more carefully, then, will you guard against losing so much as a crumb of that which is more precious than gold or precious stones!

“After partaking of the body of Christ, approach also the chalice of his blood . . . Bowing low in a posture of worship and reverence as you say: ‘Amen,’ sanctify yourself by receiving also the blood of Christ. While it is still warm upon your lips, moisten your fingers with the blood and so sanctify your eyes, your forehead, and your other sense organs. Then wait for the prayer and give thanks to the God who has deigned to admit you to such high mysteries.”

- St. Cyril of Jerusalem, circa 350 A.D.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Another new Franciscan saint

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI canonized Blessed Simon of Lipnica, a member of the Order of Friars Minor who lived in the 15th century on June 3. He was one of four canonized in St. Peter’s Square.

Br. Simon was born in the south of Poland between the years 1435 and 1440, and, according to the Vatican’s Web site, like St. Bernardine of Siena and St. John of Capestrano, he spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, obtaining the conversion of innumerable sinners.

The Vatican says that the “Order of Friars Minor, on the vigil of the celebration of the eighth centenary of its founding (1209 – 2009), salutes Br. Simon as an authentic witness to poverty, humility and simplicity, as well as to the joy of belonging fully to the Lord and to being a gift to the life of the friars.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Some real groaners...

It doesn't hurt to have a little biblical humor to start the day......

Q. What kind of man was Boaz before he married Ruth?
A. Ruthless.

Q. What do they call pastors in Germany ?
A. German Shepherds.

Q. Who was the greatest financier in the Bible?
A. Noah He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation.

Q. Who was the greatest female financier in the Bible?
A. Pharaoh's daughter. She went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet.

Q. What kind of motor vehicles are in the Bible?
A. Jehovah drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden in a Fury. David's Triumph was heard throughout the land. Also, probably a Honda, because the apostles were all in one Accord.

Q.. Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible?
A. Samson. He brought the house down.

Q. What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why he no longer lived in Eden ?
A. Your mother ate us out of house and home.

Q. Which servant of God was the most flagrant lawbreaker in the Bible?
A. Moses. He broke all 10 commandments at once.

Q. Which area of Palestine was especially wealthy?
A. The area around Jordan . The banks were always overflowing.

Q. Who is the greatest babysitter mentioned in the Bible?
A. David. He rocked Goliath to a very deep sleep.

Q. Which Bible character had no parents?
A. Joshua, son of Nun.

Q. Why didn't they play cards on the Ark ?
A. Because Noah was standing on the deck.

PS... Did you know it's a sin for a woman to make coffee?
Yup, it's in the Bible. It says . . . "He-brews"

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Cardinal O'Malley invites Pope to Boston next year

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff June 3, 2007

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley has invited Pope Benedict XVI to come to Boston next year, saying a visit to the city that was at the heart of the clergy abuse scandal would send a positive message to Catholics.

O'Malley said he is hopeful that the pope will accept the invitation because 2008 is both the bicentennial of the Archdiocese of Boston and because Benedict is already expected to come to the country to visit the United Nations.

"Given everything Boston has been through, having the Holy Father come, I think, would be a great joy and a sense of affirmation to us as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of our church," O'Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, said in re sponse to a question from the Globe. "I've invited him, and I'm hoping that he will come to Boston."

A pope has visited Boston, the fourth largest diocese in the United States with an estimated 2 million Catholics, only once: John Paul II came to Boston in 1979, and celebrated Mass for more than 400,000 rain-soaked people on Boston Common.

The Vatican has not yet announced a date for the UN visit, but has confirmed that Benedict intends to visit the UN, and speculation has focused on next year for the trip. Benedict already has several competing invitations from American and Canadian bishops, and is likely to get more as the visit, his first North American visit as pontiff, approaches.

Boston presents symbolic opportunities and risks for the pontiff, given that the sexual abuse crisis erupted here in 2002, and the archdiocese has been struggling to repair its reputation and its finances ever since.

"On the one hand, if Benedict decides one thing he wants to do is give a gesture of pastoral sensitivity with regard to the crisis, the obvious best place to go would be Boston," said John L. Allen Jr. , senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and author of "The Rise of Benedict XVI."

"On the other hand, there would be some voices, among the American bishops and at the Vatican, that would be concerned about putting the pope in a hornet's nest, and the potential for negative reaction or protest. The gut reaction of most churchmen about the pope going to Boston would be ambivalence."

Allen said Benedict will almost certainly visit some American cities, saying "the guy's not going to fly over to New York just to go to the UN," but that the decision about particular destinations will be "a delicate minuet involving the Secretary of State at the Vatican, the American bishops' conference, and the American cardinals, each of whom will have their own views." Allen added that on Benedict's trip to Brazil last month -- his only previous transatlantic journey as pope -- he visited just two cities, in close proximity to one another, which might suggest that after a visit to the UN, Benedict would choose another Northeastern city, in addition to New York, to keep travel to a minimum.

"A lot will depend, I think, on his own health and strength," O'Malley said. "He seems to have withstood the trip to Brazil very well. He still has a trip to Australia [for World Youth Day in July 2008] ahead of him, and he's a man 80 years old. But we would love to have him to Boston. I've expressed that to him, and I think the fact that he's accepted an invitation to the UN is a hopeful sign."

The last papal trip to the United States was in 1999, when Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis. That trip was John Paul's seventh to the United States; he had visited the UN in 1979 and 1995, but he notably skipped over the country during a trip to North America in 2002, visiting Canada and Mexico the year the abuse crisis exploded.

Benedict, who became pope after John Paul II's death in 2005, has taken five trips outside Italy thus far -- to his home country of Germany, to John Paul II's home country of Poland, and to Spain, Turkey, and Brazil. The Vatican has said it does not expect him to travel again this year, but he is planning to attend World Youth Day in Sydney next year, and the pope's spokesman has said that the pope has accepted an invitation from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit UN headquarters in New York.

No dates have been set for the pope's visit, according to the Rev. Vittorio Guerrera , a spokesman for the Holy See mission to the UN. A spokesman for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, William Ryan , also had no details about the visit to the UN or any additional stops in North America, but said, "It's not uncommon for a diocese to invite the Holy Father. Of course, it's exciting to think about, but perhaps a little early."

A spokesman for O'Malley said there is no way of knowing how likely a visit is.
"I honestly don't think we have any sense right now whether he will accept or not," said the spokesman, Terrence C. Donilon . "As you can imagine we might not hear for some time his response. We hope he does visit. But no one has any unrealistic expectations at this point, particularly when we are but one of many dioceses, here in the U S and around the world, that would love to host a visit from the Holy Father."

Pope John Paul II's Boston visit was one of the most memorable public events ever in the city; the first stop in America by the first Polish pope in the first year of his papacy, the Mass, and his ride through the city were watched by hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, on the Common, and on live television.

"It was mind-boggling for the Catholic people to think that the pope would come to Boston and celebrate Mass on the Boston Common, and most of the people just stayed there in the midst of a torrential wind-and-rainstorm -- people will even leave the Red Sox game under those kinds of conditions, but they didn't bail out on the pope," said Monsignor William M. Helmick , who in 1979 was the archdiocesan coordinator of the papal visit, and now serves as pastor of St. Theresa of Avila Church in West Roxbury.

"I was in the motorcade that went from the Common to the cardinal's residence in Brighton, and all the people on Beacon Street came roaring out of their apartments -- there could have been another half-million people on the streets, and when we went by Boston University the BU band was out there playing the papal anthem. It was good for the pope to see our people, and it was good for people to see the pope," he said.

The prospect of Benedict's first papal visit to the United States has triggered invitations from several North American prelates in addition to O'Malley. Chief among them is Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec. Ouellet is close to Benedict, and is hosting a large conference, called a Eucharistic Congress, in Quebec City in June 2008.

In the United States, Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore is also making a push for a visit.
"Following the announcement of his intention to visit the UN, the cardinal extended an invitation for the pope to come to Baltimore to see the newly-restored basilica -- America's first cathedral -- and a new soup kitchen/resource center for the disadvantaged, Our Daily Bread Employment Center," said Keeler's spokesman, Sean Caine .

Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York has the easiest case to make, because the UN is headquartered in his city; Egan's spokesman, Joseph Zwilling , said that "We are very much looking forward to learning more details of the Holy Father's visit to the United Nations, and certainly hope and anticipate that it will include a pastoral visit to the Archdiocese of New York."
And in Chicago, Cardinal Francis E. George has a standing invitation to the pope. "The cardinal invited the pope to Chicago the day he was elected pope," said George's spokeswoman, Colleen Dolan .

What does love mean?

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, "What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:
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"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love." Rebecca - age 8

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"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth." Billy - age 4

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"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other." Karl - age 5

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"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs." Chrissy - age 6

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"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired." Terri - age 4

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"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK." Danny - age 7

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"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss" Emily - age 8

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"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen." Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)

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"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate," Nikka - age 6 (we need a few million more Nikka's on this planet)

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"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday." Noelle - age 7

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"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well." Tommy - age 6

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"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore." Cindy - age 8

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"My mommy loves me more than anybody You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night." Clare - age 6

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"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken." Elaine-age 5

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"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford." Chris - age 7

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"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day" Mary Ann - age 4

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"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones." Lauren - age 4

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"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you." (what an image) Karen - age 7

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"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget." Jessica - age 8

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And the final one -- Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry"


When there is nothing left but God, that is when you find out that God is all you need. Simply say the following small prayer for someone:


Father, God bless all my friends in whatever it is that You know they may be needing this day! And may their life be full of your peace, prosperity and power as he/she seeks to have a closer relationship with you. Amen. Be LOVE to someone today!


"You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." -Psalm 16:11

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Sign of the Cross

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 3, 2007:
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“God in Three Persons; Blessed Trinity.” Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – the mystery of God as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in one God. It is perhaps one of the most challenging mysteries of the faith from an intellectual perspective. How can three things be one? St. Patrick famously tried to explain this using the image of the shamrock – three leaves, yet one shamrock. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the Trinity, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the mystery of God in Himself…The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to people.” Does that clear things up for you? Probably not. And yet, I think we can come to a better understanding of the Trinity in our lives – spiritually and practically; if not intellectually.
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We all remember what we did at the beginning of Mass today. It is the same thing we do at the beginning of every Mass. We did this. [make the sign of the cross] Now, from my perspective, I can tell you, you didn’t all do it as exacting or as symmetrically as I just did. Some of you gave a little squiggle; a finger might have touched your forehead, maybe brushed touched your chest and completely missed the shoulders. It is a gesture that we do often more as a reflex that a conscious movement. But whether you made the sign of the cross with precision or just instinctively waived your hand in the air about the head and chest, it was a gesture that pointed to today’s feast. When we are conscious of what we are doing in that act, it is a simple act of faith in the complexity of God who is revealed to us in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
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I say “revealed to us” because we wouldn’t have a clue about the Trinity if Jesus didn’t tell us about it. Jesus talked about His Father in Heaven, about Himself as the Son of God, about going back to Heaven and sending to us the Holy Spirit. This is what the Catechism means when it says, “The whole history of salvation is identical with…the way…God…reveals Himself to people.” The Trinity is a mystery revealed by God, but that doesn’t mean it is mystifying. It is a mystery of God that God wants us to be drawn deeply into.
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So, let’s think about the sign of the cross and how it can draw us deeply into this mystery. First we touch our forehead and say, “In the Name of the Father…” When I hear those words, I think of the beauty of the trees, and flowers and plant life coming into bloom this time of year; I recall beautiful red sunsets at the beach as the setting sun shimmers on the water; the grandeur of the great Berkshire Mountains; the feel of the warm breeze in Spring; I think of all the beautiful children who received First Communion last month; the giggling and crying babies baptized; the pride and happiness on the faces of their parents. I think of all these things because God the Father is the Creator of a beautiful world – something we should always be aware of and should always cause us to marvel at His nature! I leave my finger on my forehead because I, too, am part of that incredible creation. And, I’m reminded not only of a Creator but of Someone so totally in love with us that He sent His only Son to draw us back into His embrace. This same Father we speak of as “Our Father who art in Heaven.”
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Next we move to our chest, to the place where the heart resides and say, “and of the Son.” Here I think of the love the Son of God showed us when He multiplied the loaves for the hungry, when He reached across social and racial barriers to the Samaritans, when He made room at His table for outcasts and sinners, when He chased the scavengers away from woman caught in adultery hungry for her blood, when He gave the ultimate and agonizing proof of His love for us on the Calvary cross. “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”
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And then we move to our shoulders and say, “and of the Holy Spirit.” We recall the Holy Spirit who gives so widely of Himself that it takes the full span of the shoulders to remind us of that – left and right, from one side of the world to the other. And I think of God’s desire to be intimate with all of us; to have the freedom of the wind; to be your friend and my friend, to be in your heart and my heart; to be in New Milford or New York, in Los Angeles or Baghdad, in Jerusalem, Rome, Tokyo and every corner of this world – all at the same time. I think of the Holy Spirit as a power in my life – the power in my life – as a great force for good and holiness, as one to turn to when decisions are to be made, as one who consoles me when I make my mistakes. To console is to be with a person who is alone. With the Holy Spirit around, no one is ever alone. God in His Holy Spirit is always with us. What we span in blessing, the Holy Spirit strengthens in life so that we may better shoulder our burdens and responsibilities.
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And, so we come to the end of the blessing – the joining of hands and the concluding, “Amen.” And we remind ourselves that the word “amen” is an expression of agreement, in itself an act of faith in all that has gone before; a “so be it,” an “I believe.” And so I renew my faith. I believe in you Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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My brothers and sisters, on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity; this celebration of God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity; may all the signs of the cross we ever make be nothing less than a grateful acceptance of God’s love and a willingness on our part to share it with others. May the hands we join in faith be generous in giving and free to help others. May the shared life of the Trinity and the wide sweep of the blessing be reflected in our lives too. This is the lived, real meaning of the Most Holy Trinity in our lives.
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And may God bless us all in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, June 1, 2007

St. Justin Martyr

Today is the feast day of St. Justin the Martyr. Justin died in the year 165 and was one of the first Christian apologists making the claim for Christianity to the pagan Roman world. Justin has always been a personal favorite of mine, mostly due to his early writings about liturgy. Here's a bit on him:
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Justin never ended his quest for religious truth even when he converted to Christianity after years of studying various pagan philosophies.
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As a young man, he was principally attracted to the school of Plato. However, he found that the Christian religion answered the great questions about life and existence better than the philosophers.
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Upon his conversion he continued to wear the philosopher's mantle, and became the first Christian philosopher. He combined the Christian religion with the best elements in Greek philosophy. In his view, philosophy was a pedagogue of Christ, an educator that was to lead one to Christ.
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Justin is known as an apologist, one who defends in writing the Christian religion against the attacks and misunderstandings of the pagans. Two of his so-called apologies have come down to us; they are addressed to the Roman emperor and to the Senate.
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For his staunch adherence to the Christian religion, Justin was beheaded in Rome in 165.
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Comment: As patron of philosophers, Justin may inspire us to use our natural powers (especially our power to know and understand) in the service of Christ and to build up the Christian life within us. Since we are prone to error, especially in reference to the deep questions concerning life and existence, we should also be willing to correct and check our natural thinking in light of religious truth. Thus we will be able to say with the learned saints of the Church: I believe in order to understand, and I understand in order to believe.
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Quote: "Philosophy is the knowledge of that which exists, and a clear understanding of the truth; and happiness is the reward of such knowledge and understanding" (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 3).
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(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
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Here is some of what he says about the Eucharist in his First Apology:
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And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.
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For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.