Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Blessed are you among women"

Fourth Sunday of Advent (4AdvC), December 20, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: What is the symbolism of Jesus being born in a manger?
FEATURED BLOG: Ever thought about Hell?
PRIEST STORY: In Kenya, an Irish priest gives his life for Christ
PASTORAL HISPANA: La promesa se acerca

Dear Friends,

This Fourth Sunday of Advent, we change our focus. The past two Sundays have centered on the ascetic, somewhat fierce figure of John the Baptist. This Sunday we focus on a young, gentle woman, who is about to give birth to a child. Her name is Mary. Our Discussion Questions will guide you during your Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church group.

Mary, the Mother of God

On the carefully programmed Advent journey to Christmas, the Fourth Sunday belongs to Mary. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says this is so because Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, necessarily involves the motherhood of Mary. We see her singular role as the Mother of Jesus and we also recognize she has a role in our lives.

It is for that reason, according to Fr. Phil Bloom, we pray the Hail Mary - a biblical prayer that combines the greetings of the Angel Gabriel and St. Elizabeth.

Mary as a Model of Faith

Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS points out to us that God choose to enter into our human experience through the person of the Blessed Mother. Her unconditional “yes” to God’s will untangled the knot tied by the sin of Adam and Eve. Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio calls the Blessed Virgin Mary the Model of Faith and First Believer.

Fr. John Foley, S. J. asks us to imagine Mary hastening to her cousin’s house, a long trip, on foot, over dirt and sand and rocks, under the hot sun. She does not spend even a second worrying whether the way is too hard. Everything else is in second place. Mary's free choice to move forward and outward, explains Fr. Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, reflects a decision taken deep within her heart followed by immediate action.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that it all began with Mary. As the mother of our Savior, she is also the most perfect model of fruitfulness. However, we are alsoasked to make our own contribution to giving flesh to faith in this world. So what is God asking of you and me? Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA says it is usually in our daily life that God’s will is revealed to us. So we really need to listen deeply to what God is really asking of us.

Two Mothers and Two Unborns

What excited Mary and Elizabeth, says Fr. Joseph Pellegrino, was the mystery that they had each in their own way been chosen to be vehicles of God's plan of love. Elizabeth's son, John the Baptist, would leap in the womb and point to this Love become flesh. Jesus, Mary's son, would be this love. So, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains, although this Sunday's bible account is ostensibly about the meeting of two mothers,it is really about the meeting of two unborn children. John, himself already a person, salutes not merely a ten day old personless embryo but another genuine person. Just what is today's Gospel telling us through Elizabeth and her unborn son John, asks Fr. James Gilhooley? Human life, "alive, sexed, and complete," is present in every mother's womb from the beginning of her pregnancy.

This brings us into an interesting query by Taylor Marshall. Christ's blood is the price of salvation, the very life of the New and Everlasting Covenant. It is therefore worth asking whether Christ's precious blood ever mixed with Mary's or coursed through her veins. Read his take on this subject here.

Celebrating the Holidays

It's interesting to find out where the Blessed Mother is in the most popular Christmas carols. In looking at the texts of 381 English-language Christmas carols, she appears in 27 percent of them. She’s slightly behind the angels and shepherds (who both are in 28 percent of the songs) but significantly ahead of the wise men (who come in at 13 percent).

This week on Dec. 16, the Filipino tradition of Simbang Gabi, the nine-day novena of dawn liturgies and early morning meal, will fill churches from the from far-flung barrios of the Philippines to parishes across the USA. Fr. Ben Alforque, a Filipino missionary in Riverside, CA explains the origins of this centuries-old novena tradition.

From the Vatican, the Pope performed the traditional blessing of the Bambinelli, the figures of the Baby Jesus brought by the children of Rome, which will be placed in the Presipi (creches) of their homes on Christmas. And along the way, he used the moment as a reminder of the scene's import beyond the symbolic sense.

Frank Capra’s classic "It’s A Wonderful Life" seems to have more resonance this year as the country struggles with recession and war. Suzanne Morse reflects on the movie and says it should be aptly renamed "It’s A Wonderful (Catholic Social Justice) Life." And for those who feel the "Happy Holidays" greeting is taking Jesus out of the season, this internet chain email article is for you. It's called "A letter from Jesus about Christmas."

Catholic News

Pope Benedict this week said,"Today there is a danger of forgetting that the Eucharist is truly the risen Christ in his resurrected body." He reminds us al, specially in this Advent season that the Eucharist is not a mere 'rite of socialization'. And completing the work initiated by Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI announced two changes in canon law this week: one regarding marriage for those who have formally renounced the Church and another clarifying the ministry of deacons.

From Washington DC, theUS Bishops reiterated their concern about the Senate's health care proposal. The U.S. episcopal conference sent two letters to lawmakers urging them to respect life, make health care affordable for everyone, and give immigrants access to basic care.

Holiday Gift-Giving

So what do we do with America’s gift-giving extravaganza at Christmas? It’s Jesus’ birthday, but the presents under the tree are the real focus, especially for the kids. Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio offers "A Catholic Approach to Holiday Gift-Giving."

Don't expect others to give you a cool gift for Christmas if you don't give cool gifts yourself. You have less than two weeks before Christmas, so take a little more time to make a good gift a GREAT gift. It's not about spending more money, but being creative and working with a theme.

More Holiday Stories

Many inspiring Christmas-related stories are circulating on the web this week and we bring you a couple. One tells of a little boy who climbed up on the lap of a store Santa, holding a picture of a little girl. And the little boy's Christmas wish moved Santa to tears. The other one is a recollection by Senator John McCain of his captivity in North Vietnam. It was the act of kindness by one of his communist guards that made one Christmas day in the hard confines of the POW camp a memorable one for the senator.

For some people, the holidays are all about making the best of a bad situation. Are you going home for Christmas with trepidation because it means dealing with a drunken or addicted parent? Are you not going home for Christmas because, after years of discomfort, you’re not willing to put up with it anymore? This article might offer some healing.

And if you have pets, you might like to hold off giving them left-over scraps from the table. Make no bones about it! Holiday meals can kill pets. Which table foods are dangerous to cats and dogs? We tell you.

Finally, join us on a colorful photo journey around the world that depicts how Christmas is celebrated in different places.

Another event-filled week in our Catholic world. Merry Christmas to you all from all of us at

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

"But one mightier than I is coming."

Third Sunday of Advent (3AdvC), December 13, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: Should Catholics be offended by the term "Xmas?"
FEATURED BLOG: "Divorced. What now?"
PRIESTS STORIES: Fr. Cantalamessa: "Servants and Friends of Jesus Christ"
PASTORAL HISPANA: Actitudes de Adviento

Dear Friends,

“Brothers and sisters: rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice,” says St. Paul in the Second Reading. The word for rejoice in Latin is gaudete, so quite naturally this Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday. Our Discussion Questions this week can be your guide when you decide to initiate Sunday Readings Bible Study groups with your family, friends or church group.

What do we do?

In the Gospel, people of various professions that approached John with the question, “What shall we do?” John the Baptist gives them - and all of us - three answers that's a great guide to living life in God's grace. The crowd knew what they had to do. But they just could get themselves to do them. Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS says this sound familiar because oftentimes the very thing you find difficult to do is the only thing worth doing. Fr. John Foley, S. J. reminds us that Advent is like a retreat that the worldwide Church is making. In this upcoming third week we are to consider our lives in the context of the great beauty God has put in us and around us.

John the Baptist, says Fr.Joseph Pellegrino, makes it clear thatwe proclaim the Kingdom in the way we treat others. Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA explains further that Christianity is indeed a very practical religion. And good deeds on behalf of others and not taking advantage of another are the best ways to prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas and at the end of time.

Conversion, a turning around, Advent

hile we talk about St. John's Baptism of Repentance, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS says a Baptism of Conversion is perhaps a more accurate meaning. As it says in the Gospel, it means sharing our spare tunic with the man who has none. It means giving food to those who ordinarily would go without. St. John laid bare this truth about the sins of the people, the tax collectors and the soldiers, instructing them as to how to correct their lives.

Father Cusick says this is good news, though painful to hear, for it will bring repentance, conversion and healing. Rejoicing will follow, for those who amend their lives to enjoy God's mercy unto everlasting life. It is the truth which is the "Good News".

Gaudete, Rejoice in the Lord always

Advent, far from being a penitential time, is also a time of rejoicing. Sheer joy arises out of a deep and abiding relationship with God that carries the believer through all sorts of trials and tribulations. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says rejoicing in the Lord is a sort of adoration, and adoration often takes the form of prayer.

Fr.Phil Bloom says St. Paul presents this joy, a constant joy, as not just a good thing, but as a duty. He goes on to list the three basic steps to joy as preached by St. John. The first step is to obey one's conscience. The second step is humility. And the third step is the most difficult for many of us: patience.

St. Paul, according to Fr.James Gilhooley, endorses the advice of the Baptist as he writes to the Philippians, "Let your generosity be manifest to all." St. Paul further offers us, per Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB, the wonderful life-implications of trust in the Lord's presence at every moment in all the circumstance of our lives. And he also rightly points out - explains Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio - that Faith, Hope, and Love are the bottom line, the theological virtues, the qualities that make us most like God.

Believe it or not, St. John is the patron of spiritual joy. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says after all, at the presence of Jesus and Mary, it was the infant who would one day be the Baptist who leapt for joy in his mother’s womb. And so in the midst of sending holiday greetings, planning meals and buying gifts, the church is also preparing — but in a different way. Here are six ideas to help keep Advent in your heart as you ready your house for Christmas.

Penance Services This Advent

Many parishes will, in the coming days, be offering Penance Services to their parish members. Webster Bull, a convert who writes a blog called "Why I am Catholic," offers this as one more reason his Catholic conversion has been a blessing to him: Because Confession Can Change the World. For many Catholics, Confession can be the most difficult Sacrament. And for good reasons. We bring you a story about one such person. He's an anonymous ParishWorld reader who is a regular Sunday Mass attendee but has not been to confession in 30 years! So to prepare the many other like him and also to encourage you to go to your parish Penance Services in the coming days, here's "A Step-by-Step Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation."

Our Blessed Mother, Life & Family

In this month of December when Catholics celebrate three feastdays commemorating the Mother of our Lord, perhaps it is time to remind our Protestant brethren that five hundred years ago, the leaders of the Protestant Reformation also believed in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. And many of them professed devotions for the Blessed Mother.Believe or not it, they did. Here's the story.

From Korea, we bring you the story of a parish that now has entire families as altar servers during Mass. It is a move that family members say has strengthened their bonds and deepened their faith in a special way. From Washinton DC, the US Bishops Conference lamented the US Senate's rejection of the Pro-life amendment to the Health Care bill. They point out that the proposed bill, in its current form, does not protect Life. And from the Vatican, Pope Benedict preached that the Gospel is not a myth. He said the Word of God is the subject that moves history, descending upon the earth so that it produces fruit.

"Divorced? Now What?" We look to the many divorced Catholics who struggle to keep themselves in communion with the Church. If you’ve suffered a divorce or know someone who has, you might like to know about Divorced Catholic. It corrects many misunderstood Church teachings about Divorce.

Catholic rock stars

At the 2009 National Catholic Youth Conference in Kansas City last month, Jesus was the primary rock star. But there were other rock stars there as well who moved the crowds to Jesus. A Denver man looked at the sea of teens, joyful to be standing for Jesus Christ and celebrating our ancient faith, and wondered, “If our Lord can change the world with 12, what can he do with 22,000?” Maybe we won’t be a subculture for long.

Pope Benedict XVI seemed to echo this same sentiment when he declared this week that "God wants to "do great things" in the lives of young people, just as he did for the Virgin Mary." And the Church in Australia affirmed its desire to reach the youth by taking advantage of social networking sites as a way to communicate the love of Jesus Christ.

And finally, let's talk Tiger Woods

There's no avoiding the story. So we might as well jump in and put this issue into perspective. His “transgressions” have created a media frenzy in the moment, but what are some of the salient lessons to be learned when this story no longer dominates the headlines? Catholic Exchange offers are a few takeaways worth considering. And then we bring you "Tiger Woods, meet A.C. Green." More amazing than reports of the golfer's transgressions is how the Lakers' forward kept to his personal code during the 'Showtime' years.Green offers life advice to Tiger and to all young people everywhere.

Let me conclude with the words of Pope Paul VI in his wonderful apostolic exhortation on Christian joy, "Gaudete in Domino."

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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Friday, December 4, 2009

"Prepare the way of the Lord"

Second Sunday of Advent (2AdvC), December 6, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: Did John the baptist go to heaven right after death?
FEATURED BLOG: Faithful in Living Things
PASTORAL HISPANA: Preparen los caminos del Señor

Dear Friends,

It's the Second Sunday of Advent and the Sunday Readings tell the story of John the Baptist calling the people to repentance to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Our Discussion Questions this week can guide you during your Bible Study journey with your family, friends and church groups.

This Advent we begin a new cycle of Scripture readings, called "Year C." St. Mark's Gospel dominated last year, Year B and St. Matthew, Year A, the year before last. We now focus on the Third Gospel: The Gospel according to St. Luke.

And this Sunday’s Gospel begins with a solemn introduction: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip had a similar job, and so also some guy named Lysanius, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas...”

John the Baptist

Who is St. John the Baptist - the Precursor? And why do Jews and Christians unite in reverence and love for this prophet-saint whose life is an incomparable example of both humility and courage. He is the Paradox of Advent. Father Cusick says this is because John the Baptist is the one who prepares the path of the Redeemer so that Isaiah's prophecy may be fulfilled.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains that the prophet's life can be summed up in the image of a finger pointing to the one who was coming: Jesus Christ. If we are to take on John's role of preparing the way in today's world, our lives also will become the pointing fingers of living witnesses who demonstrate that Jesus can be found and that he is near.

"Making straight the way of Lord"

Sunday's Gospel, according to Fr. Phil Bloom, states that John proclaimed a "baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sin." Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS says John is speaking not only to the people of his day who gathered around him. He speaks to us and invites us to change our ways so that our hearts will be open to the presence of the Lord in our everyday living.

"Making straight the way of Lord" is therefore, according to Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B., a metaphor for personal conversion from prideful controlling tendencies to humble and grateful acceptance of God's sovereign rights in human life. And Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA points out that Repentance is not so much trying to go from being good to being better but above all it means looking at life with the eyes of God and responding accordingly.

The Word of God Came to John

Once upon a time, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Gospel). Listen, Fr. John Foley, S. J. reminds us, “Prepare the way of the Lord” inside yourself.

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino adds that John proclaimed the Word of God because he listened. And we also have to listen. Now, during the busiest season of the year, when we all have so many things to do to prepare for Christmas, now more than ever, we have to slow ourselves down, and listen.

Rejoicing in Hope - Advent

The Church’s world-wide retreat in preparation for Christmas now begins its second week. Advent, the quiet time, the great contrast with our culture’s turbulent consumer-bonanza. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says it’s time to blow on the spark of spiritual desire within us till it bursts into flame. Christmas lights are nice, but it is we who are supposed to be the light of the world.

Pope Benedict proclaims that the foundation of hope is Christ, who offers mankind the stability of God. With this in mind, Dr. Jeff Mirus reminds us that it's not too late to to make your Advent more successful this year. He offers you the three most important things you can do. And if you've been wondering about the origins of Advent and its history, Taylor Marshall did a little research and came up with the "Top Ten Things You Need to Know about Advent."

Now this is news to many of us. Evangelical Christians are adopting — and adapting — the rituals of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas that are traditionally celebrated by Catholics, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox and other liturgical churches.

When you go about your Christmas shopping the next few weeks, don't be surprised to see shoppers with buttons that say "It's OK, Wish Me A Merry Christmas." Over 200,000 of these buttons have been distributed over the past few weeks and it's quickly making a Christian statement. Click here to find out how to get your buttons.

And while may are looking forward to celebrating the holidays, there are those who will not be as fortunate. Many families are resorting to relocating in order to make a living and put food on the table, extended families who give up the support and comfort of being near one another in order to find work. Check out the Hidden Cost of Unemployment.

Family, Life & Little Things

The year 2009 will mark the 20th annual National Night of Prayer for Life to take place from 9 PM Dec. 8th (Tuesday) to 1 AM Dec. 9th (Wednesday). Organized by Priests for Life, all parishes are encouraged to join in the celebration.

From the Vatican, Pope Benedict said the human being is entrusted with only one task: the task of loving sincerely, authentically and freely. And yet, the Pope admitted "to learn to love requires a long and demanding journey." To this, Msgr. Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington adds that when you love, little things are often important. Married couples, specifically, struggle to remember the little things that show love. A kind remark, a simple thank you. Flowers brought home for no particular reason. Little things are great things to those who love.

Conversions & More

While most Catholics in China are born to Catholic parents, many of the nearly 300,000 Catholics in Shanghai are converts. And many of these conversions are taking place in part thanks to the encouragement of Bible reading and youth outreach programs. From Nepal, we hear of the conversion story of the jailed leader of the extremist group behind the bombing of a Catholic church in Katmandu. He has has apologized and is reported to be participating in prayer and bible study classes in prison.

From Cincinnati, radio personality Brian Patrick was praying the rosary in church one morning after weekday Mass, when a homeless woman gave him an unexpected gift. He said, "What a humbling experience to know that I, who want for nothing, received a gift from someone who wants for almost everything."

Jeffrey Tucker made the keen observation that much of our efforts at our parishes focus exclusively on the people in the pews. But compared with them, he says there might be a larger number of Catholics who are not in the pews in our parishes but who should be. What are we doing for them? How can they be drawn back?

Youth Life

In a truly win-win arrangement, a group of U.S. university students get amazing access to the Vatican and the Vatican gets an enthusiastic, computer-savvy volunteer workforce. Since 2004, students from Villanova University in Pennsylvania have worked alongside cardinals and priests as part of the university's Vatican Internship Program. And as the liturgical calendar marks the dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI is exhorting young people to love and build up the Church.

Another eventful day in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Be vigilant at all times"

First Sunday of Advent (1AdvC), November 29, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: What is "pray without ceasing?"
FEATURED BLOG: This Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?
PRIESTS STORIES: The Priesthood and the Mass
PASTORAL HISPANA: Adviento, tiempo de esperanza, alegría y salvación

Dear Friends,

This weekend we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent and begin a whole New Year in the liturgical calendar. The only slight puzzle is why the Gospel we are given is all about the End of the World! Our Discussion Questions this week can guide you during your Bible Study journey with your family, friends and church groups. Click here to join our Online Sunday Bible Study.

Advent is a time of vigilance and prayer. We ask for the gift of sharing the hope and courage of Christ so that we can with his trust face the terrifying experience of our own world falling apart. This is the theme of the Church's liturgical strategy in the Advent Sunday readings. Each week’s First Reading is the carrot: usually positive, a promise of good. The Gospel is the stick.

The Three Comings of Jesus

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB tells us that as Christians, we proclaim the coming of Christ -- not just a first coming but another as well that will be far more glorious than the first. The first took place under the sign of patient suffering; the second, on the contrary, will see Christ wearing the crown of God's Kingdom. But then, Fr. Alex McAllister explains, there is another coming and that is the coming of Christ each day into our hearts. God gives us this lifetime to discover Him.

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino explains that we are called to come to know Jesus in the love of others and in the goodness of this world. Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA adds that if we try with the help of the Holy Spirit to be alert each day through prayer and good works, then it doesn’t matter when the end of time is for the final coming of Jesus.

"Be Vigilant at all times"

Someone has suggested that every day should be considered a day of judgment. Fr. James Gilhooley reminds us that we are to always labor in the now and here. The question of the Second Coming we must place on the back burner. The Teacher will plan His own arrival and set up His own schedule. Thus, Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS preaches, the coming of this kingdom has one theme: Do penance, for the kingdom is at hand.

This kingdom is not so much a goal or a place to be attained; it is rather a state of mind; it stands for an influence which must permeate our minds if we would be one with Christ and aspire to His ideals. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says it means we are not just to look busy but actually be busy preparing the way for His return. And Fr. John Foley, S. J. says Advent has to do with Jesus birthing into our hearts each year.

Jesus is With Us

Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB tells us that Advent is also a celebration of the good news that the Risen Lord comes to be with us now -- in the Eucharist, in the words of Scripture, in the Church, in the least of our brothers and sisters, in all our joys and sorrows. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says Advent asks us not to deny our human longings but to enter them, deepen them, and widen them until we become insane enough for the light so that, like butterflies, we open ourselves to undergo a metamorphosis.

Fr. Phil Bloom reminds us that in a world and Church full of stress, we need to hear Jesus: "Stand erect, raise you heads, your redemption is at hand." Advent reminds us that God will fulfill his promise.

Finally, Lenora Grimaud shares with us a very powerful and prayerful Advent reflection. While Kathi Scarpace offers a holiday reflection on how the commercialization of Christmas has made buying things before Christmas more important than preparing for Christ.

Catholicizing Thanksgiving Day

In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation that designated "the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." His intent for this day can not be more crystal clear and it's as valid today as it was back in 1863. Click here to read the entire proclamation.

And this week most of us will be closely interacting with cafeteria Catholics, fallen-away Catholics and non-Catholics. In other words, we will be visiting family for Thanksgiving. So how do we evangelize those people who are closest to us? We have a few tips to help you deal with them. Plus more suggestions on how we can keep God in Thanksgiving Day and also Catholicize the occasion.

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio reflects on the Liturgical Readings for Thanksgiving Day. He says the Bible stories of Namaan the Syrian and Jesus' healing of the 10 lepers shows us that Thanksgiving is an obligation of justice. So this Thanksgiving Day, are you grateful? Join our anonymous Thanksgiving blog and share with us the things you are most thankful for. Complete this sentence: "This year, I am most thankful to God for the gift of...."

NCYC Kansas City 2009

Last week, 22,000 teens and 3,000 adult chaperones descended on Kansas City for the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC). But instead of the usual damage, the teens left a wake of grace that impacted the entire city, highlighted by an amazing sight: a human ocean of 22,000 youth in a solemn Eucharistic procession.

Jamie McAdams asked the kids from his parish what their favorite thing of NCYC was and he listed the top ten, whick quickly became the "14 Amazing Things About NCYC." However, of course, there were also kids there that had a bit of a lackluster attitude. "But the Catholic Church is so booooring" tells their story.

Being Catholic

The "Manhattan Declaration" is the manifesto that's shaking America. It has been endorsed by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox leaders, united in defending life and the family. With the White House in the crosshairs. Find out what it's all about and how you can add your name to the manifesto list. Related to this, Carl Anderson, Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, challenged Catholic political leaders to bring their morals to the public square, and asked them to make a principled stand.

From the Vatican, the secretary of the Vatican's congregation of the clergy explained that while priestly obedience in an individualistic world might be hard to understand, if lived rightly, it can bring conversion and "new life." Also this week, the Vatican clarified that although communication is at the heart of priestly ministry, the new evangelization does not require "showmen" priests on television. And from the Archdiocese of Washington, Deacon Curtis Turner talks about why crying babies in Church are just another reason to thank God.

And if you watched Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao make history last week by becoming the first fighter to win seven titles in seven weight classes, you know that prayer is a part of his fight ritual. In front of a cheering congregation at a post-fight thanksgiving Mass in Manila, he said, "All my strength came from God. Trust God, and he won’t fail you.”

Enjoying your Holidays

This Thanksgiving, celebrate without supersizing. The key to a healthy holiday meal is that less can be more. Less fat. Less sugar. Less salt. And less on the plate. But not less flavor.

And chances are, you’ll be traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday. we show you "How to be a heavenly houseguest" -- and keep your sanity. We also know that sometimes a little break from the family festivities can do wonders for everybody’s mood and mental health. Here are six cities that offer relief - parades, festivals and more - for Thanksgiving travelers.

And now it's the day after Thanksgiving and you have a ton of leftovers from the night before and overnight family guests to feed for breakfast. What do you do? Check out this video tip from celebrity chef Giada de Laurentiis and see how easy it is to whip up a gourmet leftover breakfast feast that will impress your family and friends.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. The staff of and their families wish you all a happy and blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

"My kingdom does not belong to this world"

Solemnity of Christ the King (34B), November 22, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: What Commandments require restitution?
FEATURED BLOG: 100 Catholic Ways to Pray
PRIESTS STORIES: Think you might have a religious vocation?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Cristo es el Rey que está al servicio de la verdad

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, the conclusion of the liturgical Church year. It is a feast rich in theology and spirituality. It causes us to meditate on the Second and Final Coming of Christ, the last Judgment, and the end of the world. Our Discussion Questions this week can guide you during your Bible Study journey with your family, friends and church groups. Click here to join our Online Sunday Bible Study.

The Feast of Christ the King

The feast of Jesus Christ the Universal King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925. They were history's bleak days when fascist and communist clouds were darkening the earth with their ominous shadow. The feast was to remind us that we should not be fooled by the braggarts who strut and the bullies who gloat. They will be gone soon, says Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, and Jesus will be here soon. And while the Son of God came the first time in a way both lowly and hidden, He will come one day in a way both public and glorious. How soon no one knows.

The Messiah, the Christ, the King

So what does it mean to affirm that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the King? Michael D. Guinan, O.F.M. elaborates in "Christ the King and Biblical Messianism."

From this Sunday's Readings, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains how we come to the finale when Christ quietly standing alone before Pilate accepts for himself the extraordinary title King of Kings. He was a king but not in any way Pilate could have imagined. Smallness was his power, Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains. And persuasion was his scepter, along with an amazing ability to teach. And so even today, Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS notes, devotion to the kingship of Jesus is often marked with elaborate procession and grandeur that befits a medieval king. He is quick to remind us, however, that the kingdom of Jesus is not so much of the splendor of earthly reign, but of the world that is to come.

A Kingdom of Unselfish Love

Phil Bloom homilizes that Jesus shed his blood so we could gain entrance into a kingdom that would embrace all peoples, nations and languages.This show uf unselfish love is the only truly effective and lasting power in the world. This love of Jesus, explains Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B., will conquer the hearts of millions, while the power of Pilate and the great Roman Empire will crumble to dust.It is a truly revolutionary message, given to us by Jesus, which permeates all the gospels.

This Christianity that we profess is not just a membership in an organization. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us that as Christians we share in the life, the authority and the mission of the King of Kings. Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA emphasizes that this kingship requires more than just a nodding acquaintance with the Gospel and the New Testament. Prayer too is very important.

The Essence of True Religion

And yes, this kingship requires service. Christ is a King with a towel around your waist, explains Paul Dion, STL. We are sent to rule in the Kingdom of God just as His Son did, with a towel around our waist, love in our hearts and the ardent fire of non-negotiable zeal constantly burning a brand in our entire being. So, Fr. James Gilhooley preaches, we do not want to cause people to tremble before Christ and His Church. Rather, if anything, we want to move them to genuine repentance.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser challenges us to ponder what defines true religion. What ultimately constitutes true worship? How do we know that we aren’t creating God in our own image and likeness and using religion for our own purposes?

So, On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, our Crucified King hangs in our midst, arms outstretched in loving mercy and welcome. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB prays that we may have the courage to ask him to remember us in his kingdom, the grace to imitate him in our own earthly kingdoms, and the wisdom to welcome him when he stands knocking at the doors of our lives and hearts.

Catholicism - On the Web & in Architecture

Benedict XVI surfs the web and uses email - really! During an interview on an Italian TV network, a Vatican Archbishop confirmed that while the Pope doesn't have a personal email address, he “sends his own personal emails. He really does!" He has such a great appreciation for new technology that while speaking at the recent meeting of the Pontifical Council of Social Communication, Benedict XVI commended the work of Catholics on the Internet.

This week, the Pope also drew lessons from old cathedrals and their Gothic architecture. Referring to them as "stone bibles," he said they offer two lessons: one regarding Europe's Christian roots and another on the "way of beauty" as a path for meeting God. And as the liturgical calendar marks the dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI exhorted young people to love and build up the Church.

From the blog of a Catholic professor, we bring you the tale of how he challenged his students to try a new way to pray. In response, several of them asked him to write up a list of different ways Catholics pray. He came up with 100 ways - it is a collection of prayers, kinds of prayer, ways to pray, devotions, sacramentals, etc. Check it out.

Making a Difference on Life

Responding to the ongoing national debate on Health Care, Denver's Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. offers a reality check from the discipleship front: "Catholic witness has a cost." And in support of the opposition to the Death Penalty, two U.N. resolutions were passed recently calling for a universal moratorium on capital punishment. So on Nov. 30 more than 1,000 cities around the globe will join with the Community of Sant'Egidio in their "No Justice Without Life" initiative.

A U.S. bishops' aide is saying that an annual collection to support the poor is more important than ever this year. The collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development will take place in most parishes this weekend, Nov. 22.

And we are moved by the Life-related story of Christian music singer Steven Curtis Chapman who is still coping with the death of his adopted daughter, 5-year-old Maria. Chapman said he felt like he was in a black hole and faced with a God he had not known before. He discussed how wrestled with his beliefs.

Getting Ready for the Holidays

As we move into Thanksgiving week, many of us will be playing gracious hosts to family and friends. And many others will be guests at the homes of others.

If you are spending the holidays at a friend's house, we offer you tips on how to be a heavenly houseguest -- and keep your sanity. If you are hosting, you're one of many weekend chefs who grow dumbfounded each tyear at their lackluster performance preparing one key holiday dish: Stuffing. This chef tip is coming your way a few days before Thanksgiving just in time to help you dress your holiday turkey for success.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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Friday, November 13, 2009

"But of that day or hour, no one knows"

"But of that day or hour, no one knows"
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (33B), November 15, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: Better to pray or learn the Faith?
FEATURED BLOG: Dear Congressman Kennedy
PRIEST STORIES: Priest donates kidney to parishioner
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesús le da sentido al fin del mundo

Dear Friends,

This 33rd Sunday is the last of the Ordinary Sundays of the year and, perhaps appropriately, the Gospel is rather apocalyptic. It is taken from the most difficult chapter of Mark's Gospel and is often interpreted as announcing the end of the world. Our Discussion Questions this week can guide you during your Bible Study journey with your family, friends and church groups. Click here to join our Online Sunday Bible Study.

Only the Father Knows

When Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio tells us that the first big mistake we could make is to smugly deny this end-of-world talk as just apocalyptic hysteria. The other would be to preoccupy ourselves with speculation over the future battle while neglecting to engage in the battle at hand. Similarly, in a flashback article from 2007, we are reminded by Pope Benedict to avoid all doomsday speculations.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains the two realities of this Gospel Reading: Jesus himself will fulfill the Old Testament Scripture texts about the end; and the disciples are not to worry about the precise time of Jesus' second coming. The answer to the "when?" of the Second Coming, according to Fr. James Gilhooley, can be readily given. The Lord is present anywhere people treat each other with gentleness, generosity, and thoughtfulness. So we should turn our attention to the work at hand. And, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says, that is preaching the Gospel through our words and deeds, even to those in darkness.

Upheaval and Fear

Fr. Jim Krstein, SMA says Jesus’ basic message at this time is ‘Fear not.’ The purpose of the Lord’s glorious coming will not be to execute judgement but to gather his elect and we too will be filled with joy. So, Fr. Orly Sapuay advises, we would do well to “Remember death daily.” And we must not put off for another day the task of doing good.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser reminds us of Jesus' assurance that in this upheaval, the one thing that will remain the same is God’s promise of fidelity. The one thing necessary therefore, according to Fr. John Foley, S.J., is for us to let God listen to us, and guide us.

Who are God's Elect?

Fr. Alex McAllister quotes Daniel who tells us that it is those whose names are written in the book who will be saved. The question is how do we get our name in that book? How do we ensure a favourable judgement? Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. says the answer is very specific in Matthew's Gospel: "...whatever you did for one of these least brothers [or sisters] of mine, you did for me." Fr. Phil Bloom adds that if we humbly offer ourselves to Him - not just a few good deeds, but every aspect of our lives - God will transform us and make us like the stars forever.

Finally, we thought this Sunday's Gospel offers a good opportunity for us to talk about Rapture. Here's a Catholic understanding of what it is and what it isn't.

What it Means to be Catholic

This week we present a very frank and powerful statement by the Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island. It is a letter that he wrote to Congressman Patrick Kennedy. In this letter the bishop makes two very important points: Being Catholic is not a private "thing" and being Catholic actually means something more than just being baptized Catholic. From the Diocese of Arlington, Bishop Paul S. Loverde writes "Hope in life, even in the midst of despair," a reflection on the execution of the DC sniper by lethal injection this week.

Blogger Eric Sammons adds to the Catholic discussion by listing Ten Reasons. He says these are not reasons why he became Catholic. Rather they are reasons why he loves being Catholic. From the Vatican, the Pope pushed the bishops to make education a priority, urging them to give God to the world that has forgotten Him. And the Holy See reminded the United Nations of the essential contribution of Faith by saying that Religion raises the human spirit. L

Living & "Leaving" the Mass

Catholics have lots of bad habits that are just in plain bad taste. Leaving before the Mass ends is one of them. So to help enlighten our faithful, we are bringing back this article that explains how to participate more actively in the celebration of Mass. Plus an article that explains the "Top 10" reasons we should go to Mass.

And for those with friends who have fallen away from our faith, check this out: The case for Catholic Mass vs. Protestant services.

Stories of Priests

This week, we all watched with horror the tragic event that unfolded in Ft. Hood, Texas. What we didn't know at the time was that the Catholic priest who was in the middle of the fracas - consoling the survivors and blessing the dead - was only a few days at the new job. Arriving just a few days ago, he said he did not originally want to take up the assignment as senior chaplain for the Army Reserves but "something called him to accept the post".

And from Dallas, we have this moving story of true charity as a dying Catholic parishioner's prayers for a kidney donor was answered - by her own parish priest.

Dating, Children & Poetry

Bet you didn't know that Paul Dion, STL,'s Theology editor has a knack for poetry. As we delve deep into the month of November, he composed a few lines of prose to remind us what the Church celebrates on this eleventh month of the year. He calls it "Early November Musings." Enjoy it.

Does Having More Kids Mean More Happiness? It's one of those "Duh!" questions that had to be answered by a comprehensive new study released just this week. And for the youth, "The Limits of Dating" is exactly what it says. It is truly a wonderful experience to be attracted to someone. But it's best that you know your boundaries.

The TV series "Touched by an Angel" ran 212 episodes between 1994 and 2003 and literally touched the hearts and lives of millions of viewers every week. Now in a new collection of DVD’s just in time for the holidays comes Touched By An Angel: Inspirational Collection – Hope and Holiday. Our resident movie reviewer, Sr. Hosea Rupprecht, FSP, gives the DVD collection her thumbs up.

Finally, with winter just around the corner, it is best to know that blood pressure rises during this time of the year. Changes in eating and exercise habits during the cold season could contribute to hypertension. So it's best to be careful.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

"This poor widow put in more"

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (32B), November 8, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: What is Sacrifice?
FEATURED BLOG: Purgatory – Biblical and Reasonable
PRIEST STORIES: From devout Sikh to Catholic priest
PASTORAL HISPANA: La viuda pobre si sabe ofrendar

Dear Friends,

This Sunday our Sunday Readings tell the story of two courageous and generous widows - one in the First Reading and the other one in the Gospel. Our Discussion Questions this week can guide you during your Bible Study journey with your family, friends and church groups. Click here to join our Online Sunday Bible Study.

Last Sunday we heard Jesus telling us that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our minds and all our strength and our neighbour as ourselves. This Sunday, the Gospel story talks about two simple but heroic women. And Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says they call us to heroic virtue in the midst of everyday life.

Giving of Ourselves to God

In both stories, the widows gave their resources up abundantly and completely. Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS refers to their extravagant generosity as a challenge for us to strive to be good stewards of the blessings we have received from the Lord. Generosity from each, according to the capabilities of each, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. And Father Cusick reminds us that St. Paul said those who are generous are laying up treasure in heaven. Fr. James Gilhooley also notes how many Catholics are more generous to waiters than to God. Our God deserves not a tip but a tribute.

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us that the great fallacy of our age is that we believe money can solve our problems. The radical message of Sunday's readings is that we must place our confidence in God rather than in our material possessions. The widow in the temple tossed her only signs of independence - her last two coins - into the collection basket. But she maintained her complete dependence on God and neighbor. Fr. John Foleys says the question now turns to you and me. How much do we trust God?

When We Act Like Scribes

t is important to note that Jesus does not condemn the Scribes because they are more learned than most. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says they deserve condemnation only because their pride leads them to unjust behavior. Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA reminds that there's a bit of the Scribes in us all when we try to impress our friends by our achievements, by the car we have, the house we live in, and our educational degrees we speak about. What matters is not how much money one has but rather for what that money is destined.

So as we carry out ministries of service, Fr. Alex McAllister advises us to exercise them with intelligence, with great responsibility and in a self-critical manner. If we don't, we fall into precisely the same trap as the scribes and Pharisees. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says the simple, poor widow turned out to be the one who chose the path to supreme knowledge and wealth beyond measure.

The Gospel thus reminds us that we should give not only what we have but also what we are. And as Fr. Ron Rolheiser reminds us in his reflection upon the Second Reading, God never stops loving us even for a second, no matter what we do.

Dealing with Difficulties

ona Institute for Religion and Society reported this week that more people are going to Church more often during the economic recession. If you are dealing with grief, know that you can't get around it. You just have to go through it and experience it to its top. Grief can be good. It has something to say to you, something to give you.

Here are "Five Truths That Can Set You Free." They can help us to have more realistic expectations of our imperfect and limited world. Plus, here's an article that asks us to declare a war on Sloth. If you have teen-aged children who have tendencies towards laziness, it's best to nip the problem in the bud before it becomes a life-long problem. And if they ask "Why does the Catholic Church have so many rules?" Here's what they need to know.

Despite all our difficulties, however, know that our God is always willing to help. Benedict XVI asked us this week to let Christ into our lives and allow Him to influence the decisions we make on a daily basis.

Social Justice, Life & Politics

Vatican official reflects on the circulation of people and consequences of globalization and tells Catholics about the need for a new perspective on Migrants.

Back in the U.S., it is reported that a former director of a Planned Parenthood center, left the organization this week after watching a baby being aborted. She is now working with those who prayed for her conversion. And the states of Virginia and New Jersey elected a pair of Catholics to their individual governor's office. It is hoped that they bring to their respective offices a commitment to Life as dictated by their Catholic roots.

Evangelization & the Digital Media

Evangelization and Unity are two of the Church's all-time priorities. And Communication is key for both of them. The Vatican press office emphasized, however, that this must be done with all the passion and intelligence that arise from the conviction of having God's precious Word to communicate.

Pope Benedict XVI followed up on this by urging the Church to help communicate the teachings of Jesus upon the “digital continent” of the ever changing technological landscape. The bishops of Australia took the Pope's word to heart and organized a global e-conference that sent the Gospel message through the Internet to isolated places, even prisons.

Hollywood Prayers and Tech Trends

From Hollywood, the word is that prayer continues to make a headway among entertainment industry members. "Hollywood Does Have a Prayer" is the story of the Hollywood Prayer Network. Plus, Nov. 10 is the expected release date of a rip-roaring, side-splitting Cnristian comedy DVD. Hosted by radio personality and former Entertainment Tonight host, John Tesh, Thou Shalt Laugh 4 offers plenty of opportunities to giggle, groan, and outright guffaw.

Finally, some of the most innovative, interesting, and, well, strange tech has nothing to do with computing monoliths like Google or Microsoft. Here are "8 Tech Trends for 2010." It's just around the corner.

Another event-filled week in our Catholic world. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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