Thursday, March 26, 2009

"But if it dies, it produces much fruit."

Issue Date: March 29, 2009, Fifth Sunday in Lent (L5B)

BURNING QUESTION: What's wrong with this chain email?
FEATURED BLOG: Servant, Soldier and Slave of Christ
RECONCILIATION NEWS: Nobel Peace Prize winner's work never done

Dear Friends,

"Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." Here are the Discussions Questions on the Sunday Readings that you can use for personal reflection or for your bible study group.

As Lent winds down and Holy Week approaches, the liturgical readings switch focus from our need for redemption to the dramatic choice looming before the Redeemer. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. says Jesus realizes that his "hour" will involve suffering and death. Yet, He entrusts His life to the Father. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS reminds us that Jesus faced his death so we can face ours. When we are united to Jesus, Fr. Joseph Pelligrino tells us that His hour becomes our hour and we participate in the life of the One who is eternal. Fr. Phil Bloom explains that following Jesus is not about making things better. It is a matter of life or death. But we are not to worry, says Fr. John Foley, because God is telling us, "My child, just trust me." We do not walk alone, Fr. Andrew Greeley reminds us.

Reflecting on the grain of wheat, Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio says we must truly believe that only by planting the seed of our lives and dreams in the fertile soil of the Lord’s vineyard will we produce much fruit. Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS says God has a plan for each one of us and it is hidden within you, just as the oak is hidden within the acorn. As we yield more fully to God, the more we realize His plan. That's why Father Cusick urges us to truly thirst for the Father's will in and with Jesus our Lord as we utter the words "Thy will be done."

A LIFE OF LOVE. The preacher to the Pontifical household, Father Cantalamessa, delivered his second lenten sermon saying the Holy Spiirit gives us new capacity to love. And in a lecture called "Servant, Soldier and Slave of Christ" that he gave to a confirmation class at the University of Phoenix, Laurence Gonzaga discusses three vital life question: 1. Where do I come from? 2. How should I live my life? 3. Where am I going?

GOD, GENDER AND VOWS. Apart from salvation, gender possesses a special importance in Christianity that cannot be viewed as either accidental or superficial. This article explains it. The Feast of the Annunciation this past Wednesday also highlights the distinction of gender in our faith. "The Whole World Awaits Mary's Response" - Reflection by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Reflecting on Fridelity and marriage, how does a newlywed couple live out the promise made before God and a community of family and friends? Decision, priority, balance, and forgiveness are the keys.

LIVING THE TIMES. It seems Americans' religiosity have not been impacted by the recession. Church attendance in the United States has hardly shifted since the economy went south, recent surveys show. The Pope reinforced this by reminding all that although many may doubt God's presence in their lives when facing suffering, it's actually the best time to entrust oneself even more to him. To the youth, a Vatican spokesman said they need a great hope capable of unmasking the idolatry of money, career and success.

Too many Catholics just don’t really care,” added the Denver archbishop. He said “40 years of American Catholic complacency and poor formation are bearing exactly the fruit we should have expected.” Father John Flynn tackles this further in "A Question of Life or Death," a look at the Church-State conflicts in the United States. But from New Mexico, we bring good news. Gov. Bill Richardson on Wednesday signed legislation repealing New Mexico’s death penalty.

GET INSPIRED. The story of a poverty-stricken little girl who died with hopes that her 57 cents can make a difference will move you. We don't know its original source. But whether, it's truth or fiction, it will inspire you. So will "The Brick," a story of a driver going at a fast clip who was alarmed and angered when a brick came crashing through his windehield.

CATHOLIC AWARDS. The Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) Awards will be held this Sunday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Honorees will be Lou Gossett, Jr., “Doubt” and “Without A Trace.” Also honored at a fundraising gala for St. Anne's - LA's 101-year-old institution for pregnant young mothers - were LA couple Michael and Janet Feeley for their charity work. The event was held March 14 at the Biltmore Millennium Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Over 300 guests were present to celebrate the event, emceed by television personality Billy Bush.

TOP MODEL, NOBEL PRIZE AND YOUR COLON. A survey of 2000 American which one they would prefer: Win America's Next Top Model or the Nobel Peace Prize. Hmmm? You'd be surprised how the vote went. Or maybe not. And finally, if you're over 50, "Have you hugged your colon lately?" offers a hard reminder: Get your colons checked even if you feel fine. It could save your life.

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son"

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son"
Issue Date: March 22, 2009
Fourth Sunday in Lent (L4B)

Dear Friends,

This Sunday's Readings contains the famous John 3:16 which speaks of how much God loved the world. Some ask that if He really loves the world how can He condemn anyone to eternal punishment? If you've ever stumbled trying to explain that to anyone, check out our issue this week starting with the Discussions Questions you can use for personal reflection or for your bible study group.

Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says this Gospel refers to our Baptism and the simple fact that those baptized as infants must "claim" their own baptisms as adults. Fr. Orly Sapuay. MS says we were made “bearers of the light” by our baptism into Christ Jesus. With these in mind, Fr. Phil Bloom tells us that Jesus did not come to condemn, but to give life. That means returning to him, resolving to sin no more. Father Cusick echoes the same sentiment that in Christ "there is no condemnation."

"Listen to the Light..." is Fr. John Foley's message. Listen to God this Lent. Let love blossom and grow. Fr. Joseph Pelligrino says the Gospel makes us out to be "God’s Works of Art" and he prays that we "may be clearly seen as done in God.” Fr. Thomas Rosica explains how Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of the need to experience the presence of God and offer oneself to Him. Finally, Fr. James Gilhooley uses the gospel to tell us, "It is so much easier to become a Christian when you aren't one than to become one when you assume you already are." Appropriately, our Burning Question this week is "Do Catholics believe our salvation is a sure thing?" Dig deep into your soul on this one and join the discussion.

MIDPOINT OF LENT. We are halfway through Lent and Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik takes Lent's call for repentance to a new level in "I Am Sorry." From the Vatican, the preacher the the Pontifical household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, delivers his first lenten sermon and highlights the Holy Spirit's role in the Creation. Lifeteen's Mark Hart talks about holiness through vegies with his "No Meat on Fridays." And as you might have noticed in your own parishes, church fish fries are still reeling them in every Friday of Lent. Even during this recession.

POPE IN AFRICA. Pope Benedict arrived this week on his first trip to Africa — the fastest-growing region for the Roman Catholic church. Once there, he offered the riches of God's kingdom to Africa, giving hope to the continent in its times of hardship. We offer a feature on Ethiopia, an astonishing Christianity on African soil. He also preached about St. Joseph's fidelity and total dedication. And how the saint lived his fatherhood fully.

ELSEWHERE IN The WORLD. A Philippine bishop lemented that corruption in his country has become family-based. He offers hope, "When fear of God is brought back to the family, we will be a better nation.” From Alaska we learn how its Catholics are learning to adopt practices that might seem odd to those who have never experienced being a Catholic in the far reaches of the Anchorage Archdiocese.

NUMBER CRUNCHING. Here's an interesting and detailed look at our true Catholic numbers over the last 225 years. For starters, there were over 1.2 billion baptisms in 225 years. And The estimate for new Catholics every 24 hours? 28,000. There's more where it came from. Check it out.

CATHOLIC MEDIA. The word is out that the Vatican is preparing another document on the Media - the first one in 17 years - to help the Church respond to the opportunities that the new medium of the internet offers the mission of Church. And from Hollywood, the 16th Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) Awards will meet on March 29, 2009 at the Beverly Hills Hotel to honor Louis Gossett, Jr. with a lifetime achievement award. “Doubt” and “Without A Trace” are also being honored at the event.

STORIES OF HOPE. Bo Sanchez is back with great advise: "Do You Want to be Very Happy?" And here's a web-bouncing email that a website claims is a true story. "Tommy's Search for God" is one Fr. John Powell's narration of his years of friendship with one of his Loyola University Theology of Faith students named Tommy. It will move you.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World.

Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Stop making my Father's house a marketplace."

Catholic Living Today
Issue date: March 15, 2009
BURNING QUESTION: Is it OK for God to get angry?
FEATURED BLOG: What if this is your last Lent?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Los mandamientos, señal de Alianza

Dear Friends,

We start our journey this week with Discussion Questions on the Sunday Readings for use by prayer groups or for individual prayer. For those in the RCIA program, the Readings for this Third Sunday of Lent talks about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. For the rest of us, it’s easy to cheer as we hear in this Sunday’s gospel about Jesus giving the temple a good spring cleaning. But have we checked out the temple of our own hearts lately?

LIVING WATER. Reflection on the Samaritan woman Gospel story, Fr. John Foley, urges us to pray with the Samaritan woman, “Sir, give me this water.” And while helping dig wells for the poor in Ethiopia, Bishop Timothy M. Dolan of Catholic Relief Services looked at the grateful faces around him and realized, "No wonder Jesus referred to himself as 'living water.'"

OUR TEMPLES. Father Cusick says our temples are not mere monuments of cold lifeless stone. Each tabernacle is the presence of the living God himself who makes each church and chapel a true temple. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS tells us that the temple is not out there. Rather it is the sanctuary within our hearts. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB reflects on two powerful images present in the Sunday Readings: that of Jesus purifying Jerusalem's Temple and St. Paul's message of the cross of Jesus Christ.

HE HELPED THEM. After Jesus drove all the thieves out of the Temple, all the great unwashed and the walking wounded rushed up to Him for help. And He healed them. Fr. Father James Gilhooley hopes that perhaps this will motivate us to work for others. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB tells us the criterion of the final judgement is whether we respond with compassion to His presence in the least of His brothers and sisters.

AN ANGRY GOD. The Jewish Temple priests were more concerned with the money they were making in the Temple than worshiping God in the Temple. Our Burning Question challenges you all, "Is it OK for God to be angry?" Fr. Phil Bloom describes the Jesus at the temple as "A Jealous God." And Fr. Joseph Pellegrino finds many Ten Commandments reflections from this episode in Jesus' life.

PUSHING OUR WAY THROUGH LENT. Just like that, we're already a third of the way through Lent. Rocco Palmo offers some timely Lenten reflections in "Upward along the mountain." We also give you a reflection from Cardinal Newman ans it is among the most beautiful of all his writing. Click here. We also ask you to pause for a moment and reflect on "The Meaning of Mercy."

And chew on this one. How would you react if you were told that this was your last Lent before facing God’s judgment? Would you do anything differently? Share your thoughts here.

SHIFTING TIMES FOR CATHOLICS. Well, who would have thought that the New York Times would hire a new columnist who is a Pro-Life catholic. And he's under 30. It's part of that Catholic Rennaisance I've been telling you about. While on another note, a new study finds that Catholicism is facing a “stunning” decline in the northeast United States. And the population center of U.S. Catholics is shifting towards the southwest.

FACEBOOK & SERVING GOD. The Archbishop of Denver told Catholic cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy that they should become virtuous leaders who "serve your country best by serving God first." And from the USCCB, the US bishops declared they want to find out from the youth how the Church's pastoral presence on the internet can be best served by web networks such as Facebook.

CALLING ON PASTORS. Pope Benedict this week had direct messages for all Catholic pastors. First he asked them to learn and teach Liturgy as he encouraged Catechesis to "open hearts to God." He also asked them to imitate the example of the Blessed Mother and uphold her internalization of God's Word.

LIVING THROUGH THIS ECONOMY. On the economy, the Pope urged us all to view the current crisis as a time to build hope. One way to survive these trying times is to "Reinvent your career in a tough economy." For starters, identify your transferable skills or go back to school. And here's another helpful too: "How to save money on your home phone and broadband."

STORIES OF HOPE. Dr. Stella Montes says the "most difficult" patients she encounters in her work as a Psychiatrist are not the schizophrenics or the depressed but the terminally ill. What do you say to someone who is terminally ill? While Lenora Grimaud shares a beautiful article on Marriage called "The Two Become One Body." You have to see her Beatitudes for Married Couples.

HBO & CATHOLIC UNDERGROUND. College students and 20-somethings are making joyful noises before God in Catholic Underground events. It starts with an hour of eucharistic adoration and then attendees let loose at a nearby venue with praise - rock or rap style. And tune to HBO on March 25 as they premier "They Killed Sister Dorothy." It's the story of a 73-year old nun who was murdered in the Brazilian rain. Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP reviews the film that documents the martyred nun's life and quest for justice.

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

Thursday, March 5, 2009

"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."

"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."
Issue Date: March 8, 2009
Second Sunday in Lent (L2B)

BURNING QUESTION: Is Jesus and God the Same?
FEATURED BLOG: A Priest Who Transformed A Parish
VOCATION NEWS: Hard Times Boost Ranks of Religious Order
PASTORAL HISPANA: La transfiguración, testimonio de Jesús

Dear Friends,

We start our journey this week with Discussion Questions on the Sunday Readings for use by prayer groups or for individual prayer. It's the Second Sunday of Lent and since Lent is about sacrifice, it’s fitting that the first reading recounts one of the most famous sacrifices of all time - Abraham sacrifices his son Isaac. But what kind of parent would meekly comply with an order to kill his only child? What kind of God would ask such a thing? Disturbing questions arise from today’s first reading, which opens: “God put Abraham to the test.”

And in the Gospel, the story moves from the desert to the mountain. In the Transfiguration, Jesus the comfort showed himself as God the infinite fire. Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains this in "Light from Light." From the heavens, God's voice speaks of Jesus saying He is “the Father’s son, the Beloved.” Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS says we can say that as easily as we say our own name, but what does it really mean to you? Fr. Phil Bloom explains that there is a mystery inside each one of us - the mystery of the image of God. Open your heart to God. He can give a glimpse of the mystery of Jesus - and the human person.

From the heavens, God again speaks of Jesus, "Listen to Him." Fr. Demetrius R. Dummy, says we must realize that these words are directed to each one of us. We need to take very seriously the implications of such a command from God. God wants us to look at a meeting with Him as something out of this world. Fr. James Gilhooley tells us that we come to church to worship God before whom the angels are advised to veil their faces. But unfortunately, too many of us bring a laid-back air to our Sunday worship. Reminding us that the real mountain we have to climb is the mountain of faith, Fr. Joseph Pelligrino says We are called to trust in Jesus when we need him the most. And Father Cusick adds that "Holiness is the best defense." And the strength of a holy life is possessing and living Christ's own life.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE. From Los Angeles, comes a reminder about how easy it is to forget about those who are really are the heart of the Church's mission -- parish priests. Here's a story about a priest who transformed a parish. Plus we have an article about one woman who has had the rare, joyful and privileged opportunity to pastor a Catholic parish as a laywoman. The ministry is called by different names - pastoral administrators, parish directors, parish life directors - and they serve under the supervision of the diocese in parishes where priests are not readily available.

HEDONISM, MORALS AND MONEY. Pleasure is often sought in strange places, but even when it is not, hedonism is a hard taskmaster. Ralph McInerny tackles the issue in "The Hazards of Hedonism." Our Lord said, "Love God and love your neighbor. All the law and the prophets hang on these two." In "Morals and Money," Fr. Dwight Longenecker asks us to consider what if our money men loved God and loved their neighbors? Think how different things would be.

And from a parish in Northern California, Lionel Valdellon talks about how one day at morning Mass the priest brought up Jesus' question to his apostles, "Who do you say I am?" Then he poses the very same question to his congregation. There was a surprising number of people ready with heartfelt answers. All of them, sincere answers. Each of them, a homily waiting to unfold.

A POLL ON CONFESSION. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf talks about the hard realities that revolve around the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Then he invites everyone to join a poll: When was the last time you went to Confession?

VATICAN NEWS. Pope Benedict XVI released last week his Papal Message for the 2009 season of Lent. And it focuses on Fasting. Also this week, the Holy Father recalled the importance of angels in the life of Christ. He urged pastors to uphold the Faith's simplicity, saying their vocation enables them to have a profound knowledge of people. And speaking to the youth, he tells them, "The Church is counting on you." He urges them to be "Envoys of God's Love." The Bishop of Modena also urged all youth to give up SMS texting every Friday during Lent as part of their Fasting sacrifices.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES. The hard times are forcing many "From Executive Pay to Hourly Wage." One such person from Phoenix lost his $70,000 a year job as the security manager for a Fortune 500 company. Now he is grateful for the $12 an hour he makes at a friend’s janitorial services company. And since money doesn’t grow on trees, here’s 25 unique ways to earn quick cash when you need it right now. And if you're looking for the best job markets, here's "The 10 best U.S. cities to find a job in 2009." Madison, Wis., called ‘recession-proof,’ tops the list of places to get hired.

BE INSPIRED. Joshua Bell is one of the top classical violinists in the U.S. As part of an experiment, he dressed up like a down-and-out musician and played his heart out for alms at a Washington DC Metro station. Did his world class performance elicit generous donations from unknowing passersby? Read the story and find out. We also bring you the story of a young man named Kyle and the inspiring revelation he made during his valedictory address at Georgetown University's medical school. And be inspired by the New York Jets' quarterback Kellen Clemens who tells fellow men at a Catholic conference how he uses the "spiritual armor" of his faith.

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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