Thursday, December 23, 2010

CATHOLIC LIVING TODAY "Out of Egypt I called my son"

The first Sunday after Christmas is always dedicated to the Holy Family. This year it comes the very next day after Christmas Day and so perhaps we see even more clearly the link between the two celebrations. Our Discussion Questions for December 26, 2010 will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

The Message of Christmas Day

The message of Christmas takes our breath away every year and continues to stagger the imagination: the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the only begotten Son of the Father, the eternal Word, our Creator, wills to clothe himself in our nature, and to become man, our brother, one of us! God himself lies in the manger, completely human, completely divine. It is an awesome reality!

Thomas Rosica, CSB says this Christmas message announces a new divine presence among us. We live in God's heart, and Christmas visibly brought among us the Son of God who cares infinitely for each of us. God did not want to live that love at a distance. But this transformation of the world and of us is not magic. It cannot happen unless we cooperate with the Word of God. You and I, Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB reminds us, must not only listen to this Word and celebrate the birth of the Word, we must allow that Word to transform us.

Yes, our hearts call out for God - but only because he calls out for us. Fr. Phil Bloom points out that Christmas is God coming to humanity. Christmas is God becoming man so he can call us to him. Father Cusick rounds things up by giving us the customary reading for Christmas from the Roman Martyrology, often proclaimed prior to the celebration of Christmas Mass at Midnight.

Feast of the Holy Family

The Sunday gospel continues the story of the wise men from the east, who under divine guidance to pay homage to the child Jesus. Then Joseph is warned by an angel to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt because Herod plans to kill the child. The family will remain there until the Lord calls his son out of Egypt just as the people of Israel were once called out. After returning to Israel, Joseph settles his family in Nazareth.

Matthew comments that all these things are not by chance, but in fulfillment of divine providence. What we have here, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS points out, is not just a pious story about Jesus being taken to safety and returned in due time to live in a nondescript village in Palestine until he is ready to make his mission known. What we actually have is an account of a series of events which are in fact a revelation of the identity of Jesus.

Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. further tells us that this Sunday gospel - even if we should be close to despair - proclaims the good news: God is with us. Every moment, every event of history, even its evil dimension, is somehow transformed by God's powerful and loving care to become a part of the divine plan.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser says this story is a warning to us all against believing that we are self-sufficient, that we can have community and family on our own terms, and that we can have God without dealing with each other. Hence the truly human, genuinely Christian priority is not so much what others can do for me but rather what I can do for others. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says preoccupation with self must be set aside as we cast ourselves in the role of servant rather than served. Serving and selflessness are at the core of authentic family life.

The Holy Family is the Ideal Family

If you are part of a family, you too must take great care today. The family unit is in peril, chased down and slain by the Herods of modern culture. On this, the feast of the Holy Family, it makes sense to ask: what makes a man a real man, what makes a woman a real woman? And we can add, what makes a child, a real child? Fr. Joseph Pellegrino states that the answers are found if we look at the Holy Family.

We all want to be part of the great web of love that is God’s presence on earth. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says it is played out in the foibles and fun of ordinary family life. God is there. College student Lauren Butler points out that Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus set an example for us in the way we are to gather as a family who loves and praises God.

Today, therefore, we ask the Lord to help husbands be real men, men who protect, provide and unite their families to God. We pray that wives be real women, women who nurture, sacrifice and are the heart of their families. And we pray that young people may take the steps they need to take away from self absorption and into the reality of Christian life so that when their time comes, they may form Holy Families, families that raise children of God.

Do we really need Christmas?

Is Christmas becoming obsolete? Here are a few illustrations. In some places, Christmas midnight mass is becoming too dangerous -- or too disruptive. Is this a tradition that is about to disappear? Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas laments how the success of Christmas is now measured by sales figures from retail stores and online. The Christmas season no longer begins with the First Sunday of Advent, it begins with Black Friday. So, do we really need Christmas? The good bishop says the answer is Yes.

Christmas is much more than the season of Santa Claus and sugar plums. Pope Benedict reminds us that Christmas is not a fairy tale for children. It is God's answer to mankind's yearning for peace, says Benedict XVI. He calls all the faithful to "let ourselves be amazed" by the "Star that inundated the universe with joy." Let us be amazed, he exhorts us, and purify our lives of everything that is contrary to Jesus Christ.

The Deeper Meaning of Christmas

There are many paradoxes and seeming impossibilities in the incarnation. As mysteries they cannot be fully solved, so they claim our reverence. We genuflected in the past, and we bow today at the mention of the incarnation in the creed for it is a deep mystery. As we approach Christmas, Msgr. Charles Pope offers us a list of some of the paradoxes of Christmas. Try and spend a moment to reflect upon each one of them.

“Peace on Earth, Good will towards men.” True peace can never be forged by steel, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains, but only by love. It is the humble babe in the manger, not Caesar in his chariot, who is the real prince of peace.

Giving Gifts & Celebrations

So what do we do with America’s gift-giving extravaganza at Christmas? What is your gifting philosophy. Is it a present a gift or is it a donation?

It is after all It’s Jesus’ birthday. But the presents under the tree are the real focus, especially for the kids. The first is unwrapped and then another and another, faster and faster. It resembles a school of sharks going into a feeding frenzy. Almost instantly the thrill is gone. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio suggests that we should set rules to make them more meaningful. He calls it the Catholic approach to gift-giving.

But Fr. Peter deSousa offers an alternative approach. Make this Christmas a time of celebrating our love as a family and sharing that love with some who are lonely, suffering or in need. What are we willing to sacrifice this Christmas in our family so that we may reach out to our spouse, children, parents, siblings, relatives, neighbors and those who serve us and help us?

And what about that tree? What's the point of a Christmas tree? Does it really have anything to do with Christmas? Pope Benedicts explains, "With its loftiness, its green [color] and the lights in its branches, the Christmas tree is a symbol of life that points to the mystery of Christmas Eve." The Pope says our traditional tree is a symbol of life and hope.

A Christmas Story at the Mall & More

Here's one that's been making the rounds since the early days of the internet. And it still moves me every time I read it. I know this story of the child and the shopping mall Santa Claus who played Christmas angel will touch your heart as well. Enjoy it - again and again.

'Do You Hear What I Hear?' It's a song you've probably heard many times throughout this Christmas season. Many people mistakenly assume this Christmas classic has been around for years and that it is of European origin. But it was written in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis as a powerful plea for peace by a man who had experienced the horrors of war. The song’s message of peace is as desperately needed today as it was then. Here is a live version by Carrie Underwood.

And then we bring your Judith costello's latest article, "The Handmaid’s Story." St. Bernard once wrote a homily as if he were talking to Mary who had just heard from the angel Gabriel. The gospel says, “Mary was greatly troubled by his words (of praise for her.)” Here is Judith's version. And she starts with "Dear Mary."

Favorite Christmas Movies

There’s nothing quite like this wonderful time of year to gather round with the family and sit by the warming roar of a television set. Christmas has inspired some of the finest cinematic classics – as well as things like Jingle All the Way. So as my Christmas treat to you all, here’s Paul Zummo's list of the five best Christmas movies of all-time.

And of course there is no more beloved Christmastime flick than the manly classic, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. "Manly” is not a word typically associated with the film, especially given the fact that more than one man will find himself teary eyed and avoiding eye contact with his wife at its conclusion. But the film has a good deal to teach us about being a man, the right kind of man. So in the spirit of quality Christmas movies, I offer you men a quick guide to manliness, as taught by It’s a Wonderful Life.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. Have a merry Chruistmas. Happy birthday, Jesus.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

Burning Question: Should Catholics be offended by the term "Xmas?"
Featured Blog: Lessons in Manliness from It’s a Wonderful Life
Pastoral Hispana: La Sagrada Familia es ejemplo de unidad, amor y reconciliacion

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Blessed are you among women"

Your faith-filled crew at is taking a one week break from producing your Sunday homiletics email magazine this week. We apologize for any inconvenience but we promise to be back in full force and fully energized next week with your usual full edition of Catholic Living Today. In the meantime, allow us to share with you a series of reflections on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary which we celebrated yesterday, August 15.

Feast of the Assumption

Of all the women who have ever lived, the mother of Jesus Christ is the most renowned, celebrated, venerated, and honored. Millions of newborn babies have been given the name of Mary, along with countless churches, shrines, and holy places.

But while the dogma of the Assumption is a relatively new declaration by the Church, made by Pope Pius XXII in 1950, the belief in the Assumption is one of the oldest and first beliefs in the Church regarding Mary. It is celebrated each year on August 15. Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio explains this feast and why the Catholic Church observes it as a holy day of obligation.

Until about 500 years ago, the Church was unified in its belief and devotion to the Blessed Mother. And believe it or not, even the founders of the Protestant Reformation movement held deep devotions to the Virgin Mary before they decided to take her away from many Christians. And so today, the mere mention our Blessed Mother to our Protestant brothers and sister brings about what Mark Shea refers to as Mariaphobic Response Syndrome. He offers some solid suggestions on how to deal with the deep fears Evangelicals still have today about the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"Blessed are you among women"

Mary is a unique creature, the highest of all creatures. This is not just because she was born without the handicap of original sin. Eve and Adam were born free of sin as well, but it did not stop them from sinning as soon as they had the chance. Mary instead chose, with the help of God’s grace, to preserve her God-given purity throughout the whole of her life.

Father Cusick explains that this gift of God - her glorious Assumption into heaven - is the fulfillment of His grace in her. She goes before us to intercede with her Son that we may join her in praising Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit forever in heaven. The Assumption therefore is not a mythical statement of fancy. It salutes God's trust and openness in Mary. Her assumption into heaven, Fr. John Foley, S. J. points out, is an acknowledgment of how close the Blessed Mother had been to Jesus all life long, and especially in his death.

Mary has thus been given the highest place among all of creation. And it is she, a woman, who ranks highest in the most important hierarchy: the hierarchy of holiness. This feast is therefore a day of joy. God has won. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. says it is proof that love has won. It has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that his strength is goodness and love. It is important because it provides us with an opportunity to reaffirm our faith in God's promises. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. reminds us that it is proof that God really does intend to "lift up the lowly" and to "fill the hungry with good things."

In Mary, Humanity and Divinity Are at Home

Throughout Christian history it has become quite clear that those who seek Mary’s love and care find something that only a Holy Mother can give. Try as the worldly may, they cannot rid us of Mary’s holy presence, a presence that always, truly, and surely, gives us the presence of God and the sanctity of human life that comes to us in her Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So is Marian devotion necessary in Christian life? What is true devotion to Mary according to the fathers of the Second Vatican Council? It's not sentimental piety or gullible preoccupation with every rumored apparition, according to Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio. But rather, it's the imitation of her virtues, particularly her faith. And for this reason, Fr. Phil Bloom confesses his love for this beautiful woman - the Blessed Virgin Mary - not as a projection of the qualities of women he has admired. No, he says he loves her as a real person, someone who walked this earth and knows the kind of struggles real people face.

So, does our Church's dogma of the Assumption have meaning for you and for me? You bet your life it does, exclaims Fr. Charles Irvin! The Assumption of Mary, is a consoling sign of our hope. In looking to her, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says we are carried up amid the rejoicing of angels, human life is opened to the perspective of eternal happiness. Our own death is not the end but rather the entrance into life that knows no death.
So we pray to our Mother in Heaven. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino explains that we don’t worship Mary. But we do pray to her. We say the Rosary meditating on the mysteries of her Son and we ask Mary to pray for us sinners. We recognize that it is Jesus’s life and power that saves us, but we also recognize that Mary was given to us at the foot of the cross as our mother. We call upon her to pray to her son, Jesus, to extend the various manifestations of His Love to us.

Sexuality, Creativity and Theology of the Body

Mary’s question to the Angel, Gabriel, at the time of the Annunciation, is more than a simple query in biology: “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Fr. Ron Rolheiser points out that her question is indeed a good one, a deep one: “From what source can this life spring, given the limited way that I am living out my sexuality?”

And ultimately everyone asks Mary’s question: “How can I truly bring forth new life, given that I can’t sleep with the whole world?” How should we live so that our sexuality properly fuels our creativity? Fr. Ron Rolheiser suspects that the answer will involve three things: a certain grieving, a certain mysticism, and a certain trust. To complement this discussion, Cardinal Rigali at a 2010 convention in on Theology of the Body affirmed the importance of John Paul II's teaching on human sexuality. Why all the hype? He explains what it means.

Prayer, Gestures of Worship & More

Fr. John Bartunek, LC anwers a practical question from a housewife who finds herself too busy juggling both home and career. It's a question we all have asked ourselves at one time or another: Can a Busy Life Be Prayerful? The good father offers some really sound advice. And Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. offers another reflection on "Why Humility Opens Doors." He says that in order to understand why the humble get ahead and why the meek shall inherit the earth, we need to be sure that we understand what humility and meekness really are.

Helen Hull Hitchcock laments how the vocabulary of ritual gestures Catholics make during worship is by now, quite clearly, endangered — as has happened with other unwritten languages. As there are relatively few explicit rules (and even these are often not followed), little uniformity of practice, and considerable confusion, she says it seems worthwhile to compile a sort of “dictionary” of ritual gestures, their meaning and grammar, in order to relearn our historic language of ritual worship. Check out her well-documented piece: Gestures of Worship, Re-learning Our Ritual Language.

And here's "8 Tips for Catholic Men" by Randy Hain. In a conversation with other Catholic men, he confirmed that we all struggle to break out of repetitive sinful behaviors and avoid self-created obstacles to drawing closer to Christ. So where do we slip up? Why do we fall short? He offers some useful insight which will help Catholic men (and women) take the necessary steps to overcome these self-created challenges.

Stoplights, a Botched robbery & Living Longer

A woman was in the news a few years for stopping a robbery by preaching about Jesus. She decided to preach faith in Jesus Christ as a better way for the would-be robber and she succeeded (or should we say God succeeded) in preventing a robbery. Check out this story.

Here's one we've all seen before: those lone, scruffy figures at intersections and freeway underpasses holding bent cardboard signs, asking for a handout. Their faces are as cracked and blistered as the sidewalk. In "What I Learned at the Stoplight," Marion Fernandez-Cueto talks about how opening your hands can open your heart.

Finally, here's a list of six daily habits for living longer. Whatever your daily habits are, there’s no denying that they impact your health. Even though the things we do as part of our daily routines might seem small, over time the small things can add up. So, by keeping your daily habits healthy, you can literally add years to your life. Great simple tips for us all.

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Do Catholics "worship" the Virgin Mary?
FEATURED BLOG: Relearning Our Catholic Ritual Language
PASTORAL HISPANA: El triunfo de Maria es el nuestro tambien

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

"You also must be prepared"

Most people in the US say they “believe in” God. Our Sunday Readings for August 8, 2010 invite us to get a better handle on the true nature of Christian faith, which entails much more than just believing that God exists. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

What is Faith?

This Sunday’s Readings begins with a wonderful definition of faith by St. Paul in his Letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is the confident assurance concerning what we hope for and the conviction about the things we do not see.” He was not just talking about dogma or definitions of various items in our belief system. He was talking about lifestyle. The lives of people of faith reflect their whole value system, their whole system of life.

But it simply not enough that we believe. We need to have faith. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains that while belief in God is rather widespread - over 90% of Americans “believe in God” - belief and faith are not quite the same thing. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB chimes in with a recollection of the important words of Cardinal John Henry Newman in one of his homilies on this text from Hebrews: "It is one thing, then, to have faith, another thing to receive the promise through faith. Faith does not involve in itself the receipt of the promise."

With these in mind, we invite you to reflect upon our Burning Question this week: What is Faith? Please share your deepest thoughts with us. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino adds to the discussion with his exhortation that we have to believe. We cannot give up. It is so easy for us to choose actions that do not reflect our faith and then claim that God really is not concerned with what we have done. When we do this we are denying that we have a personal relationship with God. We have to stay faithful even if the entire world gives in to greed and disregard for others. Remember God’s trust in you. Remember love. Give your trust in return. And this, Fr. John Foley, S. J. points out is one of the most difficult problems for many of us today. Can you risk it?

And when God withholds consolations, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains, He is purifying us of the subtle attachment to our feelings, so that our faith can grow and mature. To become mature Christians, therefore, we must learn more and more to “walk by faith, not by sight.”

This was one message that struck close to home for me and my family when tragedy struck in my home city of Moreno Valley, CA last week. Our collective faith was put to the test when one of our own, seventeen year old named Norma Lopez , was abducted and killed while walking home from our local high school. Paul Dion reflects on the tragedy and points out how this incident has brought out our community together and shows how faith and love can triumph over hate and tragedy. Meanwhile St. Louis University student David Haughney tells how he found faith abounding while spending a week with Habitat for Humanity in Georgetown, South Carolina. Through faith and service, he said, we should all try to live up to the expectations of our blessings.

Hour Least Expected

Be prepared. Fr. Phil Bloom tells us that this is the other message we are to take away from the Sunday Readings. Do not be lulled into thinking there is no hurry. The time of reckoning will come when you least expect it.

Fr. Charles Irvin says it also brings out the big questions we face today and in all of the days of our lives. What awaits us when we die? Is what’s in front of us determined by what we did or didn’t do in this life? And Fr. Ron Rolheiser raises even more questions. How do we live so that death does not catch us unaware? What do we do so that we don’t leave this world with too much unfinished business? He says we prepare to die by pushing ourselves to love less narrowly. In that sense, readying ourselves for death is really an ever-widening entry into life.

But, as Father Cusick advises us, we need never live in fear. Delightful and consoling words are communicated to us in the Gospel. Do not live in fear, little flock. The Lord desires that we be preserved from the fear that threatens to separate us from Him and His salvation. We simply need to be vigilant. And that means keeping Jesus and his teaching constantly before our eyes.

While Jesus warned His disciples to "watch and pray" in Gathsemane, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. points out, He could just as easily have said, "Watch, that is, pray." For it is only our prayerful remembrance of God's presence among us and of the promise of the kingdom that will protect us from the fateful distractions that lead us to live by the world's standards and to be found unprepared when the Lord comes for us.

Protestants, Atheists & Catholic Evangelization

Just last week, Benedict XVI underscored the importance of the Eucharist as a "treasure whose value cannot be measured." Illustrating a young third century martyr's dedication to the Body of Christ, he exhorted the tens of thousands of altar servers present at the audience to also give their lives in service to the Lord. It was a true call to evangelization and sainthood. This is complimented by a powerful list shared by Taylor Marshall: Maxims for the Direction of a Soul that Desires to Obtain Perfection in the Love of Jesus Christ by Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Print out these "50 Maxims" and paste them next to your mirror so that you read a few every day.

Joe Carter, a former Protestant, also offers an interesting look the evangelization practices of our Protestant brothers and sisters. He says Evangelism isn’t a form of Multi-Level Marketing and the “Good News” isn’t an Amway product. He finds it odd that so much evangelism appears to be about selling Jesus and hoping that you can convince the unsaved heathen to buy into salvation. Good news doesn’t have to be sold, he asserts. Bad news has to be sold, but not good news. And Fr. Longenecker relates that when a Protestant who is considering the Catholic Church calls him for advice, the conversation handily goes back to some recurring difficulties. So he shares here a list of the commandments he developed for converts. It's quite an interesting list.

From Protestants to Atheists, Fr. John Flynn, LC relates that to many of the new atheists who have vociferously attacked God and religion in the last few years, Religion is not only mad, but also bad, a propagator of division, hate and violence. He points out however that it is the Judeo-Christian tradition that has been the West's most effective curb on the dangerous tendencies in human nature that can propitiate violence.

For the Vacationers and the Job-hunters

Pastors from all religions are some of the most stressed people in the work force. Public health experts caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy. But there is one simple remedy that has long been a touchy subject with many clerics - taking more time off. And in this regard, it seems Catholic priests are ahead of the stress curve. In his reflection, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan says vacations can be occassions of grace. He recommends that Jesus be part of our vacation, too. Thinking of Him, listening to Him, speaking to Him — all in prayer — would be a great vacation resolution.

And as the relentless squeezing of the middle class persists, any one of us can suddenly find ourselves out of work affecting both ego and spirit. But we can always find recourse and hope in prayer. Prayer has power. When everything is falling apart, prayer holds. If you are looking for work, we ask you to use this prayer tool: A Rosary Reflection for the Job-seeker. Once again, we find that the Mysteries of the Rosary help us to identify with Christ, and join our sufferings to His, that all may be One.

This Friday, August 6, will see the Feast of the Transfiguration celebrated in the Church. August 6 is also an important date in world history: the fateful day on which the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan. But in the midst of this terrible carnage, something quite remarkable happened: the remarkable survival of a small community of priests living well within the radius of total devastation. The story of the Jesuit Fathers in Hiroshima has echoes in the Bible and in the story of Fatima.

One Unbelieving Sheriff, Star Trek Devices & the Best Family Films

Meet Jesse Romero, a Deputy for the Lord. Just over a decade ago, an injury forced him to retire early from his job as a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy, a career he loved. It freed him up, however, for full-time work as a lay Catholic evangelist, a career in which he has found even greater rewards. While young mother Arwen Mosher talks about how pretty easy it feels for her to be a good mother to baby infants because they have simple needs. They don’t disobey, and you can build the parent-child relationship just by holding them on your lap. Older kids, on the other hand, are complicated. How do you love them as they grow? Will she continue to love her children more and more? Will the top of her head actually fly off one of these days?

And just what are the greatest family film of all time? Respondents polled for a recent Radio Times magazine survey ranked Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial as the best, with The Wizard of Oz in the runner-up spot. Blogger Steven D. Greydanus, however took a different approach to picking his list. Rather than quibble about the ranking of films in the Radio times survey, he took issue with the inclusion of movies he thinks doesn’t deserve to be on such a list at all—and talks about movies he would rather see there instead.

Finally, here's one for all you Trekkies out there - it's the Top 10 "Star Trek" technologies that actually came true. The truth is, you can forget about a transporter. No one has been able to realize such a concept. But that doesn't mean some of the ideas that seemed far-fetched when the show debuted in 1966 haven't become a reality. In this article, we feature the top 10 technologies from Star Trek that actually did come to fruition. And some of them may surprise 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

FEATURED BLOGS: Selling Jesus like a Chevy
PRIEST STORIES: Taking a Break From the Lord’s Work
PASTORAL HISPANA: Los cristianos solo somos peregrinos

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Take care to guard against all greed”

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (18C), Aug. 4, 2013

BURNING QUESTION: Does God want you to be rich?
FEATURED BLOG: The parish "shop and hop"

PASTORAL HISPANA: Aprender a usar los bienes materiales

Dear Friends,

The Readings this Sunday warn us not to place our trust in material things but instead to focus on the things of the spirit. While Jesus is teaching a crowd of people. someone asks him to settle a dispute about an inheritance. Jesus refuses to act as a judge in the dispute, and uses the occasion to warn the crowd against all forms of greed or covetousness. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Greed & the Prosperity Gospel Mentality

"One of the multitude said to him, 'Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.' But he said to him, 'Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?' " (Lk 12: 13-14.) Why does the Lord, in effect, refuse this man's request? Was the request wrong? Perhaps not. Father Cusick says the Lord's purpose is take the moment to teach about the higher good of the kingdom which might be lost to those who sin by coveting the goods of this world. And why is Covetousness a deadly sin? Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. says because it causes us to forget about God, at times to the point of idolatry. It also causes us to forget about other people except in resentment or envy.

When the Gospel of Jesus challenges the "prosperity gospel mentality," He is not speaking against material wealth but condemns being enslaved to and enchained by wealth. It's a concept that the Readings force us this Sunday to take a look at - what is a successful life, a successful career, a successful relationship? The desire for all these things can be good indeed. The question, though, is whether these desires and achievements are stepping stones on the road to God or disastrous detours. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. says it’s time for a gut-check.
And just how do you measure a successful Chrisian life? Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says success is not a present reality for the Christian, but a goal. And this goal will only be reached when every aspect of our lives reflect the Person of Jesus Christ. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says it means relying on God as the source of our security. It means having a genuine and sincere relation with God who knows us, accepts us, and gives meaning to our lives.

Recognizing the Poor

“Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor!” That’s an axiom attributed to James Forbes, the pastor of Riverside Church in New York City. He’s right. If Jesus is to be believed, then we need to believe that the poor stand before us always at that place where we are judged.

Our material possessions come with responsibilities attached. The responsibility we have is to share with those who do not have the same advantages as ourselves. But the problem - the real danger - with wealth, Fr. Ron Rolheiser points out, is that when we are rich, we have a congenital incapacity to see the poor and, in not seeing them, we never learn the wisdom of the crucified. Fr. Alex McAllister explains that our greatest responsibility is to not enjoy our wealth at their expense. Greed causes our lives to become foul before God. It is the practice of generosity, explains Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S., that protects us from the deadly effects of greed.

And the truth is nothing you think you own is really yours. There is absolutely nothing that you now have that you will not be required at some point to give up. In "A Meditation on the “Curse” of Affluence," Msgr. Charles Pope tells us it is all God’s and you and I will give it all back.

This Very Night

Fr. Phil Bloom reminds us that none of us knows how or when we will die. Jesus reminds us to be prepared. This very day, this very night, God may require one's soul. And Fr. John Foley, S. J. challenges us with this one really pointed question. If death were on its way to you this very night, what would you take to God?

Saint Louis University, sophomore Catherine Stallings quotes what her late father - who recently passed away with cancer - wrote ins his journal: “Steps taken to change or cleanse past habits never feel good, but the benefits come later in an unexpected form.” She says he was correct in saying this because the “unexpected form” comes after we die, when we are with God. Putting our faith in this will never be easy, but we believe God will always reward our efforts.

The Didache & Our Current Moral Tenets

The Didache is one of the earliest written documents of the Church other than Scripture itself. It was written sometime between 90 and 110 AD and may been compiled from the Apostolic Teaching as a kind of early catechism and a summary of the essential moral tenets of the Faith. It’s existence demonstrates that many current teachings of the faith, often under attack by modernity, are in fact very ancient, going right back to the beginning. Msgr. Charles Pope takes a look at some excerpts from the Didache that are especially pertinent for today’s controversies.

Catholic blogger Eric Sammons tackles two of these controversies. In the first one, he explains that Satan’s greatest success is not when he gets someone to do something that they know is immoral; it is when he gets someone to do something immoral and be convinced that it is not wrong. Such is the case today with artificial contraception. In his second article, he discusses the parish “shop and hop.” Many Catholics today shop around for a parish that suits their needs and then hop to the one that they like the best. Is this allowed? What are we to make of all this?

From the guys at Aggie Catholics, we bring you their list of "10 Fun Catholic Facts." Here's a peek at No. 10: We have tons of friends. Not only are there more than 1.16 billion Catholics, but we also have the Angels and Saints. And No. 9: The Church's system of law, called Canon Law, is the basis of much of the law in the world's Western culture.

Miracles, Lessons from St. Martha and Jobs

Catholic preacher and blogger Bo Sanchez has noticed something: "The older I get, the more I believe in miracles. In fact, I believe I’m surrounded by an ocean of miracles." Check out the formula he lays out for a happy and fruitfil life.

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, July 8, 2010

"And who is my neighbor?"

"And who is my neighbor?"
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (15C), July 11, 2010

BURNING QUESTION: Is it better to help in secular or Church work?
FEATURED BLOG: Divorce is contagious for family and friends
PASTORAL HISPANA: Amar a Dios y al projimo es la base de nuestro Cristianismo

Dear Friends,

The Parable of the Good Samaritan says more than "It's good to help people in need." The
parable is also about excuses, about self-justification, about letting oneself off the hook. If we listen carefully to this story and the other two Readings this Sunday, we will hear the whole Christian, Catholic life very gently stated. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

The Commission of the Good Samaritan

Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D. explains how this parable reflects a curious phenomenon observable in every age. Good, religious people, who you’d figure to be most likely to help, are often the very ones who use piety and family obligations to excuse themselves from the responsibility of charity. “Someone else will have to do it – I don’t have time.” “I’d like to help, but my budget is already maxed out.” On the other hand, it is often those you’d least expect who actually go out of their way to lend a helping hand.

"What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

The lawyer in today’s Gospel asks a perfectly reasonable question: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Fr. Alex McAllister SDS says it is a question we all want the answer to. Thus it is good to remember that Jesus keeps working us, trying to get us to see the simple answer inside us. Go help those in need, because God has given you an open heart. Fr. John Foley, S. J. laments that if only we would let our heart receive God's love and then pass it on to his other beloved people.

Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains that the question from Jesus is not so much “who is my neighbor?”, rather ”How can I be a neighbor?” Certainly, there is no written law detailing what to do if we come across someone in dire need of our help. But, as Fr. Joseph Pellegrino aptly reminds us, we know in our hearts what we need to be doing and what we need to be avoiding. Christianity is not a spectator sport.

Christ is saying to us, "Stop talking. Just do it." And still we can be silent spectators, explains Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, afraid to involve ourselves and dirty our hands. Compassion demands that we get our hands and even our reputations dirty. Indifference is worse than hostility. But if we work according to the plan of Jesus, Fr. James Gilhooley tells us, we will change our priorities. We will become participants with people in trouble and cease being merely onlookers.

“Go and Do Likewise”

When it comes to imitating the Good Samaritan, we all have a long way to go. University junior Adrienne Edson tells those who seek something more to know that the word of God is in your heart. In what you say and do, you need only to carry out his law. As Fr. Phil Bloom wisely highlights, this Sunday we hear Jesus' encouraging words, "Go and do likewise."

Fr. Ron Rolheiser highlights another quote for this Sunday's Readings: “Be in the world, but not of the world!” Great advice, but not easy to follow. The world needs mature Christians who, like Jesus, have the strength to walk inside the world, right inside the chaos of sin itself, without sinning themselves.

And finally, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. clarifies that such Christian behavior does not mean that we should become doormats or must cater to obsessive-dependants. It does mean, however, that we should be sensitive to the often-hidden needs of others and ready to help in any way we can. Real love will know how to do this wisely and effectively.

Pride, Hope & Magic Sacraments

Msgr. Charles Pope takes on the topic of fruitful reception of the Sacraments. And he emphasizes that the Sacraments are not Magic. How fruitfully a person receives them is quite dependent on the openness and disposition of the recipient. The Sacraments are not magic as though they zap us and change us independently of our disposition. Read more about it here.

Blogger Webster Bull explains another reason why he is Catholic: Because Living in Hope Beats Living in Fear. Why does he experience hope instead of fear? Because he really, ruly believes that the Lord will provide. Give us this day our daily bread, we ask, and He does.

We also discuss One-ups and Put-downs. They are hilarious — when you’re a stand-up comic. But even then, I bet even they don't find it funny when they're the target. Who would? It’s a full-face slap to your pride. Susie Lloyd discusses "The Pains of Pride" and offers an answer: “Offer it up. It’s a gift!” Ego stings can and should be offered up to God. Very sound advice specially for husbands and wives, specially when you consider the latest reasearch findings - Divorce is contagious for family and friends. Researchers say break-ups within friendship groups could cause couples to question their own relationships.

Last week, we brought you the "Top 50 Most Popular Phrases From The Bible." This week, we bring you the "Top 15 Phrases Not Found in the Bible." These quotes are either frequently misquoted from the Bible or not there at all. Here's a teaser: "Money is the root of all evil." Now go ahead and check out the rest on the list.

The Silence to Hear God & More

From the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI calls for the Silence to hear God, affirming that the Lord is always close, always good to us. The Pope is encouraging an acceptance of interior and exterior silence, so as to be able to hear God's voice, and the voices of our neighbors. In another sermon, the Pope pointed out that the People of God precede theology, thanks to the Holy Spirit's gift that brings them to embrace the faith, and which can leave theologians struggling to explain what the faithful already know.

Also from the Vatican, a Cardinal reflected on Divine Love as being the the key to the cosmos. He recalled the example of the Blessed Antonio Rosmini, a priest and philosopher, as one who understood that divine love was the key not only to comprehend his own life, but also to view history and the cosmos.

An Australian Angel, Noah's Ark & the Flying Car

Here's a story about an Australian 'angel' who saves lives at a suicide spot in that country. For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia’s most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called The Gap. And in that time, the man widely regarded as a guardian angel has shepherded countless people away from the edge. Read about him here.

Plus a Bible Lesson that will put a smile on your face. In "That woodpecker will have to go!" an anonymous writer explains that everything he needs to know about life, he learned from Noah's Ark. Here's some samplers: One : Don't miss the boat. Two : Remember that we are all in the same boat. Three : Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark. Keep reading, This is one list you will be forwarding to your email list.

Two weeks ago, the handheld video phone became a reality with the release of the iPhone 4. And now, another idea from the '60s cartoons The Jetsons is also about to become a reality - it's the flying car. The Terrafugia Transition, a light aircraft that can convert into a road-legal automobile, is to go into production after being given the go-signal by the US Federal Aviation Administration. Reserve your unit today!

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few"

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few"
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (14C), July 4, 2010

BURNING QUESTION: Who is the Church?
FEATURED STORY: "Red, White, Blue and Catholic too!"
PASTORAL HISPANA: Toda la Iglesia es misionera

Dear Friends

This Sunday, both Isaiah's Reading and the Gospel speak of the rejoicing that characterizes the return of exiled Israel to Jerusalem and the return of the disciples after a successful mission. In Luke's Gospel, Jesus, like Israel, is also journeying toward Jerusalem. It is in the holy city of Jerusalem that Jesus will inaugurate the new kingdom of God by his passion and death. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Vocations and Priesthood

When we read this Gospel about Jesus sending out the seventy-two disciples, our thoughts naturally turn to vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Make no mistake about it, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us, God is calling people to the priesthood and to the religious life. But He is calling them through the words and actions of you and me. So let us join Father Cusick who asks us to pray that young people are encouraged to pursue vocations to the priesthood. And let us work hard to create the kind of atmosphere most conducive to the answering of that great call.

The Catholic Church, the communio founded by Christ

In the sending of the seventy-two, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says Jesus confirms that through his disciples - and those who would come to believe in him through their word - His peace and the news that "the kingdom of God has come near to you" would be proclaimed to the world.

Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB preaches that the kingdom of God has indeed come upon us if God reigns in our hearts, if God's will is done in us, if God acts through us. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.says it takes guts to preach this kingdom of God. It is where the hungry are fed and the wounded are healed. Where humanity chooses to become the image of a creative God rather than a selfish force for greed and destruction.

And while it is the Catholic Church where one finds the embodiment of this Kingdom, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains that to some, being Catholic means simply giving up chocolate for Lent. For those however who explore their Catholic heritage, they discover thousands of years of meaning, insight, and life-giving resources.

The Call to Discipleship

Have you noticed how we at our parishes expend so much enthusiasm on cake sales, carnivals, etc that we have little strength left to get His message out to people. His life is called the greatest story ever told. But we have no time to tell it.

And, if anybody is anxious to take a guilt trip, it is estimated that two million Seven Day Adventists give more money to their church - plus two years of their individual lives - for the missions than 800 million Catholics around the globe.

Thus, Fr. John Foley, S. J.says, it is just fitting this Sunday that we concentrate on the duty we all have to go out and spread the good news of the kingdom. Not a flat duty imposed by guilt or command, but by gratitude for the great goodness of God to each of us and all of us. It is this joy that St. Paul speaks about in Sunday’s second reading. It is a joy that can be found only in the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not merely a memory of an event that took place two thousand years ago, that is too simple, too convenient. Our joy is in our sharing the Cross of the Lord.

We are afflicted with the result of following Jesus Christ. Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that Jesus wants imitation - not admiration. Christian discipleship invites us, like Jesus, to become a purifier that helps take tension out of our families, communities, friendship circles, churches, and work-places by holding and transforming it - rather than simply give it back in kind.

"Carry no purse, no backpacks, no sandals." Many people like to think that Jesus was endorsing poverty for His missionaries. Fr. James Gilhooley explains that is not the case at all. Rather, He is telling them that those among whom they labor will supply them with purses, backpacks, and sandals. In a word, He was encouraging His followers to be generous to those working among them.

The "Five Disciplines of Discipleship" by Msgr. Charles Pope - a carryover from last Sunday's Gospel - effectively rounds up this chapter on Discipleship. Jesus is serious about the call and He sets forth sober principles that He expects to be followed.

The Bible, Rosary, Marriage & More

This week, Pope Benedict XVI offered St. John Vianney, known as the Curé d'Ars, as a role model not only for priests, but also for the laity. From Washington DC, the US Bishops in a new video series highlights the beauty and possibility of marriage as God intended it. It also explains why same-sex marriage is not the same.

Well, it seems that more Catholic men are finding spiritual sustenance in praying the rosary. There's no way to know whether the number of men praying the rosary is increasing, but nearly 9,000 people have indicated they like the "Real Men Pray the Rosary" on the group's Facebook page. Check them out. Plus we bring you the "Top 50 Most Popular Phrases From The Bible." These are the most commonly used phrases in our modern culture and most of us didn't even know their origin.

Now here's more food for thought. Msgr. Charles Pope challenges us to think about "What Do We REALLY Value?" Often times we answer the question the way it should be answered rather than the actual and truthful answer. Ask a believer who is most important in their life and they will usually answer, “God.” Others who are unbelievers will often say, “My spouse” or “My children” and so forth. That is the expected answer but is it really the truest answer?

Happy Fourth of July!

Independence Day falls on a Sunday this year. University student Amy Winkler reflects on the Sunday's Readings and the National Holiday that they accompany this year. She was drawn to think about independence and dependence. Check it out.

This year, like all others, we celebrate the 4th of July in the United States with the usual parades, ceremonies and display of our American flag. However it dawns on me that part of the celebration for Catholics should be the participation in the Mass. "Red, White, Blue and Catholic too!" explains how Catholics have been involved in the creation of American history from the very beginning. Peggy Noonan also offers us a reminder of what it means to be an American. And it involves a story about Brooklyn and a Catholic priest. She calls this Fourth of July reflection "The way it goes in America."

Fourth of July weekend is as good a time as any to think about what it means to be an American -- even if there are those who insist you're not qualified for the job. So, as the Immigration Debate rages in our communities, we thought it timely to share this article titled "Why I'm an American, a Spanish-surnamed Yankee Doodle Dandy."

To close things up, we bring you some breaking technological news. An Italian priest is launching an iPad app that will make the entire Roman missal available in electronic form. Want to conduct Sunday Mass but don't have your copy of the church missal? Now there's an app for that.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed Fourth of July weekend.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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