Thursday, August 27, 2009

"But their hearts are far from me"

Catholic Living Today with
Twenty-second in Sunday in Ordinary Time (22B)
Issue Date: August 30, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: Volunteer: "Who, Me?"
FEATURED BLOG: Tradition, Tradition
VOCATION NEWS: The Church Needs a Few Good Confessors
PASTORAL HISPANA: Tradicion, Tradicion
Dear Friends,

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus and his disciples were confronted by the Parisees for eating with unclean hands in contradiction with the Jewish tradition of their elders. Our Discussion Questions will be your guide as you reflect on the Sunday readings with your family, friends or church group.

Tradition, Tradition
The Protestant Reformers thought that the key to renewing the church was cutting it loose from dead traditions. But when Jesus criticizes the Pharisees in this Sunday’s gospel, was He really taking a swipe at tradition in general? Was he preaching “sola scriptura," the Bible as the ONLY authority? Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio explains.

Dangers of Careful but Superficial Observance
The Pharisees serve as clear examples of the grave danger of careful but superficial observance. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm warns us about being scrupulously concerned with all kinds of pious practices. But at the same time we may be seriously lacking in compassion and forgiveness. Fr. Thomas Rosica likewise cautions us about being modern-day Pharisees who believe that salvation is ultimately up to what the sinner adds to Christ's work.

But Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS offers a more pointed admonition. No matter how much we do in God’s service, regardless of how active we are in our churches, God will not overlook a sinful heart. His desire is that we devote ourselves to knowing and loving Him with all our hearts. Father Cusick reminds us that there will be no forgetting on the day of judgment, for then the secrets of all hearts will be revealed.

To care for Those Who are Helpless
"Evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly," These are the sins Jesus listed in this Sunday's Gospel. According to Fr. Phil Bloom, Jesus put folly at the end of the list because all sin leads to folly. It is the darkening of one's intellect, or as one writer put it, "Sin makes you stupid."

Jesus is telling the people that in order to give value to external, religious laws. they have to live also from the inner meaning of life, Fr. John Foley says this is the Gospel lesson this Sunday. Joseph Pellegrino explains further that all we have to do to be tied to God, to be religious, is to care for those who are helpless and avoid the defilement of the world. And God will do the rest. So who’s a real Christian and who’s not? Fr. Ron Rolheiser says the deepest answer in the gospels would be: The person who can love an enemy, bless those who curse her, and forgive everyone, even a murderer.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, Catholic
This Wednesday, August 26, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy passed away with his whole family praying around him. During his lifetime he championed some views that many have construed to be contrary to Church teachings. People have raised questions about his practice of the Catholic faith while alive as well as his remarriage, wondering if there was an annulment. The clan's priest said the senator died in peace with God, "The truth is, he had expressed to his family that he did want to go to heaven. He did want to die and he did want to go."

In light of his death, some may wonder what qualifies a person for a Catholic burial. Here is what Canon law says, if it helps the curious among you. We pray the good senator is in the hands of our Lord. Judgment is God's work, not ours.

New Mass Translations & More
In a few months time, the customary chorus of perfectly synchronized voices at Mass promises to be disrupted:A new translation is almost ready and various texts said by the congregation are set to change. To prepare U.S. Catholics for the word shifts, the nation's bishops have offered a side-by-side comparison chart of the liturgical changes.

From Denver, Archbishop Chaput reiterated that Health-care reform is vital, that's why America's bishops have supported it for decades. But he added that fast-tracking a flawed, complex effort this fall, in the face of so many growing and serious concerns, is bad and imprudent. From Sidney, site of last year's World Youth Day, majority of its attendees report a positive and lasting WYD impact on their lives. While in Oregon, the seal of teh Sacrament of Reconciliation goes on trial as the Church and the State face off in court about the secrecy of the Confession an inmate made to a Catholic priest.

Of Priests & Nuns
After seven years of prayer and discernment, a community of Episcopal nuns and their chaplain will be received into the Roman Catholic Church during a Sept. 3 Mass celebrated by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore. And from the Vatican, the Pope said the Church needs "wise and holy spiritual teachers" who are able not only to hear confessions, but also to educate consciences.

Same-sex Attracted Catholic Puts Faith First
Homosexuality is a topic that's hard to discuss - or hardly discussed - in our Catholic communities. Last week a Catholic newspaper ran an interview ran about with same-sex attracted Catholic, John Heard, a 28-year-old Australian. He talked about his awareness of his own same-sex attraction, his conversion to the Catholic Church and how these affected his faith and perspective on God. Since his conversion, Heard has become a powerful voice for the culture of life. "Make Us Worthy of the Promises of Christ" tells his story.

Long marriage, Long Life and Sugar
Losing a spouse to divorce or death is bad for your health, according to new research. A study of 8,652 people ages 51 to 61 found that those who were divorced or widowed — and had not remarried — had 20 percent more chronic health conditions. Those who stayed married longer, do live longer lives.

A spoonful of sugar? Americans are swallowing 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, and it's time to cut way back, the American Heart Association says. Most of that added sugar comes from soft drinks and candy — a whopping 355 calories and the equivalent of guzzling two cans of soda and eating a chocolate bar.

Is Your Parish Website Collecting dust?
Almost all parishes have websites. But almost no one visits them. We assist by helping your parish convert their current websites from dull, ineffective online parish brochures into active, dynamic portals for true evangelization.

For several years now, parishes across the US have been enjoying the benefits of our website development services. We deliver a new website to your parish and send a stream of orthodox Catholic articles daily to it. The parish enters their own articles with zero programming required from their staff. It's the perfect solution for their needs. It offers effective evangelization, it's easy to use and easily affordable. See why we're America's top parish website provider. Check us out here.

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, August 20, 2009

“Do you also want to leave?”

FEATURED BLOG: Do you Believe or do you have Faith?
VOCATION NEWS: Dual-career deacons key to Catholic churches
PASTORAL HISPANA: “¿También ustedes quieren irse?”

Dear Friends,

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus confronts the disciples who were doubting his teachings, "The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” As a result many left and went back to their old same ways. Please use our Discussion Questions this week as your guide during your bible study sessions with your friends, family and church group.

AND THEY GRUMBLED. Just like in Jesus' time, there will always be a lot of grumblers around. People were leaving Jesus then because they did not want to take the leap of faith. Today, these people challenge your faith, whether in your work-place, or socially or at school. Many find the stupendous reality of the Eucharist as a "stumbling block" and so reject Christ's teaching. But as Fr. Joseph Pellegrino admits, all of this is so hard. Can’t we just tone down our faith, and our morality? Jesus’ response was simple: Are you going to leave too?

Fr. Alex McAllister tells us to look at the Apostles response to the critics of Jesus. They said nothing in reply, they just carried on believing. In this Gospel story, Jesus draws a line in the sand. Fr. Phil Bloom tells us that Jesus is offering us everything - and He invites a similar response from us. We are to let Christ have flesh again, in our hearts and in our actions. Fr. John Foley, S. J. instructs us that by communing each week, each day, we are more and more carriers of Christ. We are called “the body of Christ.”

Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that at some point our procrastinating and the rationalizing will have to end. We are either intoxicated by the world or by God. Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS says we are either drawn to the bread of the world or to the Bread of Life. Sometime in our life we have to make a choice. Hopefully sooner than later.

Faith and life in Jesus is a gift beyond human expectation and understanding. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler explains that this is the implication not only of this Sunday's Gospel passage but of John's entire gospel. Fr. James Gilhooley points out that unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke who have their Gospel Christ speaking about humdrum life in parables to an audience of unsophisticated local folk, John paints Jesus as King. Better, He is King of kings.

BELIEF OR FAITH? So you “believe in God,” do you? Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio is sorry to say that “believing in God” does not always equate to authentic Christian faith, as this Sunday’s readings make clear. And if you've dealt with answering critics that bellitle your Catholic guilt, Here's a reflection that explains that if you have a conscience, you’ve got guilt. And unfortunately, guilt has been given a bad rap.

EUCHARISTIC ATTITUDES. Boredom during the liturgy is something all Catholics have felt from time to time, and it's never justifiable. Here are "Fourteen Easy Ways to Improve the Liturgy." It reminds us that in any adjustment we make to the celebration of Mass, the Liturgy must always offer a setting conducive to prayer. Fr. Erasto Fernandez talks extensively about the proper Eucharistic attitides. He reminds us of the 2005 document Sacramentum Caritatis where the Holy Father consciously takes our minds from the mystery to be believed (in our hearts) to the mystery to be celebrated (in our churches) but moves us on to the mystery to be lived (in our day to day lives).

THE DIACONATE HIGHLIGHTED. Permanent deacons are now an essential part of many Catholic parishes. There are some 35,000 permanent deacons worldwide, a number that has grown from only 309 in 1970. The majority of these are working in North America, which claims somthis week highlighted the richness of the Diaconate as he called for holiness from our Church's ordained ministers. The Pope, on the other hand, used his reflection on St. John Eudes' devotion to Christ and Mary to call on every priest to be a witness and apostle of the love that is in the hearts of Christ and Mary.

CATHOLIC NEWS. In a keynote speech about the environment, Denver's Archbishop Chaput said protecting the environment must involve morals as he urges a dialogue that includes faith and reason. And in a recollection of the Feast of Pardon of Assisi, another Vatican Cardinal urged Christians to imitate the virtues of St. Francis and his followers, to reject envy and malice while giving praise and thanks to God. Also this week, political commentator Robert Novak, a celebrated Catholic convert, succumbed to cancer. He recently said, "I consider this the only one true faith, so I believe the Holy Spirit led me to it."

BACK TO SCHOOL. If you’re one of the 1.5 million students starting college beginning this week, our Freshman Survival Guide is designed to help ensure you don’t become part of that 30 percent who drop out after their freshman year. Armed with a bit of information, you’ll be in much better shape to handle the difficulties that lie ahead. Also, Fr John McCloskey reminds you that Catholicism is very much alive and vibrant on campus. And for those with younger teen-students where back to school means back to losing homework and forgetting their soccer gear at home, you're not alone. One organizing expert offers tips for tackling teenage student clutter.

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, August 13, 2009

"The bread that I will give is my flesh."

Catholic Living Today with
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (20B)
Issue Date: August 16, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: Half a Communion?
FEATURED BLOG: Duty before Holiness
VOCATION NEWS: When your daughter becomes a sister…
PASTORAL HISPANA: Un Pan Que Resucita Muertos

Dear Friends,

"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” One’s sympathies easily go with the people who ask this question in this Sunday’s Gospel, struggling to understand what Jesus meant by offering as “bread” his “flesh for the life of the world.” Our Discussion Questions will help guide your bible study sessions this week with your family, friends and church groups.

This week we come to the climax of John 6. John 6 is about sustenance. It is about eating. It is about nourishment. It is about the Eucharist. Fr. Thomas Rosica reminds us that "We are what we eat." We become what we receive in the Eucharist. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino calls it the Dynamic Presence. When we receive the Eucharist,Jesus transforms us. Instead of the food taking on our life, we take on the life of the Lord.

Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio reminds us that God didn’t create us simply to exist. This Sunday’s scripture readings tell us about the feast and urge us to “seize the day” and not let the festival pass us by. We can eat the bread which Christ calls “true food,” the blood which he makes “true drink.” Fr. John Foley, S. J. tells us that these are what will nourish the moment-by-moment course of our lives, if we let them. It is the Eucharist, according to Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B., which will certainly help us to be more thoughtful and compassionate and forgiving. But this cannot happen without our own serious commitment to love and service of others. It is the very same Jesus who alone, Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS adds, can lead us through the valley of the shadow of death into the joys of eternal life.

Fr. James Gilhooley tells us that it is not Jesus who needs us. It is we who need Him. And so Father Cusick preaches us that when some of his own beloved people rejected him, Christ did not change his teaching or water it down. He watched them leave with sadness. He made them free out of love, and out of love he preserved their freedom to reject him and lose their salvation. Jesus teaches that salvation involves baptism and reception of his Body and Blood. But, Fr. Phil Bloom strongly reminds us how we are to accept the Eucharist - in a state of grace.

Finally, in a reflection of the First Reading, Fr. Ron Rolheiser talks about the keys to the wisdom that Jesus revealed. In "The Jesus Code – Unraveling The Secret," he says the gospels tell us that we are “inside” or “outside” the true circle of love, depending upon whether or not we grasp this wisdom.

VOCATION STORIES. We are coming up to that time of the year when a small-but-growing number of young men and young women (and the not-so-young as well) hug their weeping family members and then step away joyfully into another world, the world of spiritual vocation. "When your daughter becomes a sister…" is a touching look into the lives of these special families. And according to a new portrait of Catholic religious life released this week, the newest and next generation of priests, brothers, sisters and nuns who belong to Roman Catholic religious orders in the U.S. are not only more ethnically diverse than their predecessors. They are also more tradition-bound.

HEALTH CARE & PRO-LIFE. The Health Care Reform discussions continue to rage nationwide. And Denver's Archbishop Charles Chaput says the whole meaning of “health care” would be subverted by any plan that involves mandated abortion access or abortion funding. He urges all Catholics to "act now to ensure health care reform respects sanctity of life." Also this week, Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away at the age of 88. It is important to note that although other members of the Kennedy family abandoned their pro-life beliefs as their political stock rose, Eunice Kennedy Shriver never did. And for that, pro-life advocates are mourning the passing of the woman who founded Special Olympics.

DUTY OR HOLINESS? You've heard the stories of people in church ministry treating others with scorn in the name of getting more prayer time, parents hardly seeing their children and spouses spending more time with prayer groups than with one another. In "Duty before Holiness," one church-going lady found rest and peace in the knowledge that what God wants first and foremost is that she simply, lovingly fulfill the basic duties He's set in front of her as a wife and a mother. It's an eye-opener for all people in ministry work.

In other news, Catholic elementary schools aren’t letting the bad economy prevent them from pulling out all the stops to recruit and retain students. Whether it’s posting roadside billboards, hosting open houses or giving personalized tours, school leaders are engaging in creative marketing to spread the word about the value of Catholic education. From Mexico, a reknowned reasearcher and physicist concluded that the centuries-old image Our Lady of Guadalupe on the shirt of Juan Diego is ‘completely beyond' scientific explanation.

BACK TO COLLEGE. Finally, as you (or your child) head back to college, make sure you read "College Student Diet 101" and get a simple but useful crash course on what you can safely eat and what to avoid. Here's a sampler: Don't just cut off mold and eat the rest of bread or soft cheeses. Check out the rest of the diet guide.

Finally, do you have family or friends who are Fallen-Away Catholics? Reach them with videos. Three award-winning Catholic informational videos have now been made into a CD to share with others. Find out about the videos here.

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, August 6, 2009

"Whoever eats this bread will live forever"

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (19B)
Issue Date: August 9, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: Why is First Communion so Important?
FEATURED BLOG: Do You Want A Life Of Abundance?
VOCATION NEWS: St. John Vianney, Patron Saint of Diocesan Priests
PASTORAL HISPANA: La Eucaristia, alimento y medicina para el camino de la vida

Dear Friends,

This Sunday the Catholic Church continues its weeks-long discourse on the Holy Eucharist. In the First Reading, Elijah is fed bread by God's angels in the desert. In the Gospel, Jesus again faces a throng of doubting people to whom he declares, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever." Our Discussion Questions will guide your bible study sessions with your family, friends and church group.

Dr.Marcellino d'Ambrosio points out that like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the meal the First Readings tells us Elijah received in the desert merely points forward to something even greater, to food that truly satisfies and leads to eternal life. The fulfillment of all these foreshadowings is Jesus’ own flesh and blood, to be eaten sacramentally under the forms of bread and wine, in the Eucharist. So on the night before his death, Jesus gave us the Eucharist, his physical embrace, his kiss. Fr. Ron Rolheiser calls it a ritual within which He holds us to His heart.

Fr. Thomas Rosica reminds us that Jesus is more than mere bread for our bodily and emotional hunger. He is the word that will satisfy our hunger for truth. And Father Cusick reminds us that by this divine gift we are in communion with the Paschal Lamb who continually unites us to himself and the Father in heaven. On this earth, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino adds, we are called to be an aroma for Christ. We are called to fill the world with His fragrance.

But we, like the people who heard Jesus speak, cannot with our reason alone recognize Him as the bread from heaven. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. preaches that the Father gives us this gift of faith which enables us to see that it is Jesus who will satisfy our deepest hunger for eternal life. However, Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS adds, the tragedy is that not even God can untangle us from our precarious situations in life, unless we remain still and quiet. We have to be still and quiet to allow the words of Jesus to draw us to Himself. Fr. John Foley, S. J. advises us to reflect on the mellowness of God and simply slowing down. Stop running away and let the Lord find you.

How can we partake? Receiving Communion is a central way. But Fr. Phil Bloom admonishes us that a hasty or mistaken familiarity shipwrecks our relationship with Jesus. This hasty familiarity can affect the the proper and reverential way we are supposed to observe when we accept the Holy Eucharist during Mass. He details the proper posture and decorum for accepting the Eucharist.

THIS WEEK'S FEASTS. On Thursday, August 6, the Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration. "The Role of Mountaintop Experiences" is a wonderful reflection on the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio. And last Tuesday, August 4, we celebrated the feast of St. John Vianney. If the name is familiar, the Vatican has been mentioning him a lot lately in conjunction with the celebration of the year of Priests. He is the patron saint of diocesan priests and we have the story of his life and sainthood.

What are the largest Catholic dioceses in the US? According to the newly released Official Catholic Directory, Los Angeles continues to be the most populous diocese in the country with almost 41.8 million Catholics, topping next runner up New York by 1.6 Million. The Diocese of San Bernardino and the Diocese of Orange, each with approximately 1.2 million were also in the top 11. In comparison, the dioceses of New York and Chicago reported 2.6 and 2.3 million Catholics respectively.

CATHOLIC GIVING IS UP. You might think it would be otherwise, but a story out this weekend indicates bad times are good news for charitable giving to churches. The economy is down, but surprisingly giving to the Catholic Church is up nationwide. This has allowed agencies like Catholic Charities USA to continue with its outstanding efforts to help the needy. One grateful recipient said, "If you come in helpless, they will help you." Maybe Bo Sanchez's reflection on giving could help provide some insights to this increase in generosity and offer inspiration to those who feel they could be giving more to the needs of God and His people. He challenges you with this article: "Do You Want A Life Of Abundance?"

HEALTH CARE. Adding its input to the national discussions that are heating up nationwide regarding this topic, the U.S. Bishops' Pro-life Committee chairman, Cardinal Justin Rigali, thgis week called on the members of the US Congress to amend the health care reform legislation so that it will not cover abortion and will protect the consciences of medical personnel.

REAL LIFE. REAL CATHOLICS. We bring you this week stories of several Catholics who are making the presence of their faith felt not just by their words but by their deeds. From Seattle, the holy and loving example of a devout, Catholic, young girl who died of cancer last year has brought many Catholics across the United States back to the Church and has drawn others to convert to Catholicism. She has inspired the creation of an organization to reach out to families with a loved one facing a chronic illness.

In California, a mother shows how she has been practicing forgiveness for most of her adult life. Eighteen years ago, her baby girl, Rebecca, was accidentally run over and killed by her grandfather in the driveway. “My dad never forgave himself,” Lancaster said. But she did. Then on August 4, 2008, Lancaster’s 19-year-old son, Troy, was shot and killed by Michael Edgar, a 20-year-old acquaintance, recently out of jail on parole. She has forgiven his son's killer as well.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, a courageous lone priest shepherds the city's tiny flock of Catholics. In the midst of the escalating war, he offers a place of peace for Kabul's tiny Catholic population inside the Italian Embassy compound where visitors will find a small white building marked simply with a cross. Its guardian is the shepherd of Kabul, Barnabite Father Giuseppe Moretti.

In the glamorous and sometimes God-less world of Hollywood, it is encouraging to see that there continue to be people who are not swayed by the false glitter of fame and choose to be true to their faith. Catholic actor Mark Wahlberg is one such person who is trying to make things right. Last week, he married his long tme girl friend in front of friends and family at his parish church in Beverly Hills,CA.

In San Jose, CA, a young adult who was a former self-proclaimed atheist received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion, and became a fully initiated Catholic. Here is his conversion story in his own words. Finally, we bring you the moving story behind the creation of the decades-old Christian hymn, "Precious Lord, Take my hand." It's a very inspiring story that will surely move you.

THE PERFECT CUP OF COFFEE. Every man should know how to brew a decent cup of coffee. It’s an everyday skill that should be passed down from father to son, like shaving or mowing the lawn. It’s a manly ritual providing both utility and comfort. Unfortunately, if you asked most men today for a cup of coffee they would either cast a worried, “help me!” glance to their wife or crank up the jet engine on their latest $300 instant coffee contraption. The perfect cup is not so far away. We show you how here.

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Pubisher & Editor in chief

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