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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