Thursday, December 29, 2011

"He was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel"

This Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, is not only the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, it is also the World Day of Prayer for Peace. It is highly appropriate that the whole Church pauses at the commencement of the New Year to take time to pray for world peace. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Mary, Mother of God

The readings for Sunday are extremely short; probably the shortest in the whole liturgical year, but this does not mean that they are without meaning. This Sunday we see Mary just days after the grueling journey and the amazing birth of Jesus. All is well. The child is healthy and cute, and the angels, unable to contain their joy, have once more danced into Mary’s life. Even the animals understand. It is breathtaking.

When we look at how Mary gave birth to Jesus, we can see that there are four moments in the process: Impregnation by the Holy Spirit; gestation of God within one’s body and soul; the stretching and agony of giving birth; and the nurturing of an infant into adulthood. Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains to us what is implied in each of these.

Does this all impinge on Mary’s peace? No, says Fr. John Foley, S. J. She is good to her word. The Gospel says that she quietly "kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary was a woman of complete faith. Fr. Joseph Pelligrino points out that she had faith that somehow God would care for her in her pregnancy, in the childbirth, throughout her life, and at the foot of the cross. She had faith that His plan was working through this wonderful child of the common life.

Father Cusick reminds us that we therefore proclaim and preach the marvel God has brought forth in her, granting her a unique role in our redemption as "Mother of God". And so as we honor Mary on this day as Mother of God, we recall that during the Second Vatican Council Paul VI called her Mother of the Church. Fr. John J. Ludvik tells us that today we are reminded that all Christians too have conceived Christ in their hearts and are called to bring him forth into the world.

So why does the Roman liturgy celebrate January 1, the Octave of Christmas, as a holy day of celebration, the Feast of Mary the Mother of God? Because this paradoxical phrase strikes at the very heart of Christmas. Jesus is so with us that after Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin of Nazareth, the Divine Word can never again be divided from our humanity.

The New Year & World Day of Peace

The fresh New Year is in some ways like the infant Jesus "wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. explains that both the new year and the new child seem so vulnerable but the almighty power of God is hidden in the new year, just as it is in the tiny infant. God is fully prepared to wrap our fragile lives and hopes in the warm blanket of his ever present and constant love.

As we begin the New Year, we focus on the First Reading from the Book of Numbers and Fr. Phil Bloom asks us to make this resolution: Bless those who are close to you. At first it may be awkward to do so, but at least begin with a blessing in your heart. And in celebration of World Day of Peace, Fr. Alex McAllister says we should pray for peace - peace in our hearts, peace in our communities, peace in the world. In the words of the Book of Numbers let us pray that ‘the Lord will uncover his face to you and bring you his peace.’

Celebrating the New Year

Around this time of year, we see on TV and the Internet all sorts of lists of the most memorable events of the past year, as we try to put the past year in perspective. It's another New Year. But for what reason, asks Jamieson the Wolf?

So Leon Suprenant list his seven reasons why January 1st itself is of significance. While George Weigel, on the other hand, talks about his long-standing aversion to making a Big Deal out of New Year’s Eve. He explains why he feels going bonkers over the turn of the civil calendar is giving a bit more to Caesar than Caesar has a right to receive.

In the new year, why not set out to do a little memorizing — not only of Scripture — but of key phrases from the Catechism that “speak” to you? Pat Gohn named her favorite 25 lines that capture the essence of the first 1000 paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And Jerome Placido offers solid advice to the youth in our communities: Make each day of the New Year a conversion story.

New Year Resolutions

Whatever your plans for New year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, the beginning of a new calendar year invites us to reflect on the past and focus on the future. At the New Year’s Eve dinner party Danielle Bean hosts nearly every year, she subject friends and family alike to her list of discussion questions. She usually winds up sharing a little and laughing a lot. You can use her list (or make your own!) for personal reflection or family discussion.

And with the New Year comes new hope for a new beginning. Melissa Knoblett-Aman says a new beginning is a perfect time to decide to strengthen your Catholic faith life. Listen to the inner voice that calls us to do good and avoid evil and to the church’s moral teaching that helps spell out what is good and what is evil in practical terms. Then, Francis Cardinal George, OMI adds, pray for strength from God to change your activities.

And what life changes do you want to make in the New Year? What is your New Year's resolution for the New Year? Are you one who is looking to land a new job in the New Year? If you are, experts say you should be deliberate in deciding what you want and how to achieve it. And if you are one looking to make a financial resolution for the New Year, know that such resolutions have more often than not traditionally failed each year. Being realistic and sharing goals with others can help limit disappointment.

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: Is it a sin to wear a rosary as jewelry?
FEATURED BLOG: Did the Holy Innocents die baptized?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Santa Maria como madre de Dios es un regalo para la Iglesia

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

"And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."

The joy and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, born for us, be with you! This Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011, we celebrate Christmas, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

The meaning for us of Luke's Christmas story is completed by the prologue of John's gospel read at Mass During the Day (Jn 1:1-18). Christ is born of Mary so that he might be born and live in us. Those who accept the Word who became flesh become the children of God, not by natural generation, but by divine grace. The good news of Christmas will not be fully realized until we can say with Saint Paul: "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20).

We are short-staffed because of the holidays but your ParishWorld still comes with a full complement of relevant articles for Christmas Day, one of the most blessed of all holy days.

The Meaning of Christmas

A full section of the many Christmas Mass homilies we have prepared for you can be found here in this link. From the Vatican, Pope Benedict preaches that Christmas is more than just an anniversary. We also bring back an address he made a few years back where he explained why Chrsitmas trees are part of our tradition. As well as another piece where the pontiff reiterates that Christmas is not a fairy tale for children. And Fr. Peter de Souza reflecs on why the gift of life is the Christmas celebration.

Why do we go to Midnight Mass? Sr. Anne explains its biblical roots. How did December 25 become Christmas? We have the answer here. Plus we list for you the twelve daily celebrations of Chrismastide, the season of Christmas from Dec. 25, Christmas Day, to Jan. 6, Feast of the Epiphany.

Celebrating the Holidays

Are you offended by the term "Xmas?" Should you? We explain to you the meaning of the term and why it's best you fight biogger battles instead. Like using the greeting "Merry Christmas" instead of the politically correct "Happy Holidays" that's being promoted by our secular society. We bring you seven reasons why Merry Christmas will always beat Happy Holidays. TV and media personality Ben Stein also chimes in on the topic. A Jew, he highlights that he himself doesn't get offended by the greeting as he offers this reflection on God, Christmas and our way of life.

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. Here's a list of the Top 5 christmas movies. Pluswe picked  some holiday videos that will surely kick the Chrtistmas spirit into high gear. Thje forst is a rousing albeit slighly irreverent rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Followed by a really cute Nativity Story told by some young school children from New Zealand.

Arwen Moser talks about their family's holiday picture tradition. While Life Teen offers gift-giving suggestions that can result in cool holiday gifts with just little investments of time and love. Finally, we take you around the world with a grand slide show that illustrates the grandeaur and challenges of the holy season.

Merry Christmas! May the love that Jesus, Mary and Joseph experienced during that first Christmas Day fill your home with blessings, happiness and goodwill.

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: Why was Jesus born in a manger?
FEATURED BLOG: What are the Twelve Days of Christmas?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Navidad es la fiesta de la luz de Cristo

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

In Sunday’s Gospel for Nov. 6, 2011 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew’s recount of the 10 virgins sits amidst numerous parables about the heavenly kingdom. In fact, all three of the readings today are end-of-times in nature. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

In the course of the liturgical year have worked our way through the whole Gospel and now we come to that point just before the events of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. Sunday’s First Reading reminds us peacefully and beautifully to watch for God at sunrise; to keep vigil because Wisdom (the Holy Spirit of God) actually is searching for those who are waiting. God's wisdom “meets them with all solicitude.” The Responsorial Psalm boldly names our craving for God. “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God,” the antiphon says. And, stay awake, the Gospel adds. Make preparations. Do not be foolish. Do not forget to forego.

Familiar Warnings for Nominal Christians

From the perspective of secular philosophy, the end of life is simply the end of everything. In such a situation, the monks at St. Vincent Archabbey tells us, it makes sense to be interested primarily in acquiring power and using it for one’s own purposes. If the teaching of Jesus is trustworthy, however, such a program of life will lead to an unhappy surprise at the end.

We believe that Christ will "come again in glory to judge the living and the dead," as we say each Sunday in the Creed during the Divine Liturgy. What does that mean for you and me? Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS says part of the answer comes from the "Parable of the Ten Maidens." This Gospel is simply reminding us that there is another life. And it is for that life that we live this life. God wants us freely to choose Him. But, the Abbot of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert reminds us, we can also choose against Him. Or we can just choose to ignore Him.

Being "ready" in today's Gospel meant for Matthew the performance of good works. But, as Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains, we know that there were other obligations to be fulfilled as well: abstinence from bad behavior (15:19); love of enemies (5:44); love of other Christians (24:12); forgiveness of those who have wronged us (18:21-35); bold faith (21:21); loyalty to Jesus (10:32); and love of God (22:37). This attitude of readiness and longing can be cultivated in our prayer life. In that most familiar of all prayers the Our Father we reverently say the words "thy kingdom come." Fr. Alex McAllister says these three words are a very compact way of saying that we long for its coming and that we really do want to be ready when Christ comes.


Wisdom is offered to us by God this Sunday, particulaly in the First Reading. But God does not push her off on us. She is found and recognized only by those who are alert and actively seek her out as we make our way back to God, the God who has gifted us with His wisdom, the wisdom to seek and find Him in this life and in the next.

However, college student Anusia Dickow admits that frequently she feels the difficulty of attaining wisdom. This could be because more often than not, Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains, being “intelligent and clever” is something that can work against our understanding of the deeper secrets within life and faith.

You and I desire God more than anything else. At the center of our souls is a thirst that will never be slaked unless the God of all creation comes in person to be living water for us.The task is to become post-sophisticated, that is, to remain full of intelligence and learning even as we put on again to the mindset of a child. But since we are not children, Fr. John Foley, S. J. points out, we can overlook the joy or pleasure when our goal finally arrives because our minds have for so long ignored our desires.

Stewardship and End of Times

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino explains the background of the Second Reading. Some of the people in Thessalonica were so convinced that the end of time was coming soon, that they had stopped working. Paul had to write a second letter to Thessalonica saying that those who were unwilling to work should not eat and condemning those who instead of remaining busy were acting like busy bodies.

Living out our Time, Talent and Treasure is so very important. We don’t know when the Lord’s return will take place or when we will be ushered from this earth. So as stewards of God’s manifold gifts, Fr. John J. Ludvik tells us that we must use all of the time we have – every minute that passes – wisely. We need to devote our lives to developing the talents we have been given, as in our Gospel reading, and fulfilling our responsibilities in our families, as exemplified by the worthy wife of the first reading.

The Rapture

Sunday's second reading contains a reference to an event sometimes called "the rapture." In fact, First Thessalonians 4:17 is the only biblical reference to a rapture in relation to the Second Coming of Jesus. So Fr. Phil Bloom gives it a much-deserved closer look. We also thought it prudent at this point to bring back from our archives a great article on the Catholic understanding of Rapture.

And so as we reflect upon the Gospel parable, let us remember that the purpose of oil in a lamp is to produce fire. If our lamps are empty, we cannot have the fire of Christ burning in our hearts. In Communion we receive Jesus. When you think about it, He is the "oil" for our lamps. We want His fire in our hearts. I cannot give it to you. No one else can do it for you. You have to know Him and He has to know you.

Prayer and the Saints

Many Protestants object to invoking the saints in prayer for the good reason that they feel that this practice obscures the mediation of Christ. However, the Catholic Church teaches that the prayers of Saints in Heaven are still mediated to God the Father through Jesus Christ. Christ is the one mediator between God and man, whether those men are in heaven or on earth. But just how do Saints in Heaven 'Hear' Us? Taylor Marshall explains that the answer is the Holy Spirit. St. Augustine taught that just as the Church is the body of Christ, so the Holy Spirit is the "soul of the Church."

One such saint is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Fr. Dwight Longenecker shares the blessed experience that one fine day he met a saint - this tiny unassuming old nun who tended to the poor in India. And so we look to these very same Saints to be our role models in prayer. But how do they pray? Marc John Paul writes that the constant prayer of the Saints is not an effort to become good at praying. Rather it is a fiery effort to pray each time as if for the very first time. It requires perseverance and faith to achieve such a prayer life.

We can't do it alone. The Holy Spirit does, for us, what we can't do in our prayer. With this in mind, Marcel from Aggie Catholics share with us his "12 Tips For Overcoming Difficulties in Prayer." While Carmelite Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D. discusses prayer and six practical means to overcome sins and faults of the tongue.

The Church, Liturgy, the New Roman Missal

George Weigel can't wait for the long-awaited introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal. It takes place on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent. He discusses the “changes in the words” of the liturgy and how it offer the Church a golden opportunity to confront, and then break, some bad liturgical habits that have accumulated over the past several decades. One such bad habit is explored by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf. He talks about people who arrive at Mass really late and then go to Communion. Meanwhile he also offers to priests and bishops a critical way to revive our Catholic identity. He asks them to engage in a grassroots effort to revive the Sacrament of Penance.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. also spoke this week. He said it’s not enough to approve of His teachings, or to know “about” Him. We need to love Him. We need to be with Jesus, and in Jesus. And no one can ever be fully “with” Jesus if she or he rejects the Catholic Church, the Church Jesus founded precisely to act in His name and fulfill His promise, so that He would remain with us until the end of time.Our Burning Question relates quite well: Must we believe the Church 100% to be Catholic?

And here's one ministry that's taking this mission to heart. Catholics Come Home has announced a major prime time evangelization initiative set to air on American TV networks beginning in mid-Advent and ending after Christmas. The initiative’s advertising campaign aims to reach 250 million television viewers in over 10,000 U.S. cities and in every U.S. diocese.

And from the US Congress, some good news arrived this week. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a resolution reaffirming the United States’ official motto: “In God We Trust.” The non-binding resolution, introduced by Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., passed by a vote of 396 to 9. It encourages the motto’s public display “in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions.” It now falls upon President Obama to sign it into law.

Safe Computing

Finally, let's talk about computers and how dependent we have become upon them more than ever before. Julie Myers offers 10 tips that will help you protect your computer and ultimately the information stored on it.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Must we believe the Church 100% to be Catholic?
FEATURED BLOG: Breaking Bad Liturgical Habits

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Call no one on earth your father"

This Sunday's Gospel narrative - for Oct. 30, 2011, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - reminds us that holding a position of power in religion appears to be particularly vulnerable to self-exaltation and abuse. It is a strong invitation and challenge to render humble, selfless, diligent, committed and loving service to others in the community without expecting honor or rewards. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

When We Fall short

Today's text from Matthew 23:1-12 comes from a very polemical chapter of the first Gospel. We learn once again of the bitter conflict between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew's ecclesial community. Our episode contains a clear denunciation by Jesus of the scribes and the Pharisees and contains material that is unique to Matthew's Gospel.

The problem of pride was as bothersome to the early Church as it is to ours. Jesus criticizes the scribe's inability to practice what they preach. And Fr. James Gilhooley explains that no century corners the market on pride. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, on the other hand, reminds us that we are all vulnerable to this critique, since not one of us is fully capable of fully exemplifying the ideal to which we aspire and which we strive to proclaim with our lives.

Hypocrisy is another great sin of the New Testament, one which Jesus is constantly accusing the Pharisees. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS laments that the greatest tragedy of all would be for Jesus' own followers to fall into the same trap. When we forget that all that we are and all that we do is ultimately a gift from God, explains Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B., we seek honors for ourselves rather than living the truth that all glory belongs to God. We can thus avoid being hypocrite, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds us, if we take responsibility for our own lives rather than entrusting it to others. And only by spending time in prayer each day and receiving the sacraments, Fr. John J. Ludvik teaches, are we able to consistently and generously donate our talent and treasure to the Church.

We may be active in religion, or business, or politics, or some other field of endeavor. We may appear powerful, successful, or wealthy. But what makes or breaks us, Jesus suggests, is whether we choose to be servants who lead, or end up as leaders who refuse to serve. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. says we can be a window of self-service — reflecting our own will to the world — or we can be a window of God’s love and compassion — reflecting God and God’s will to the world.

"Call no one on earth your father

Today’s Gospel also presents us with a bit of a dilemma since Christ forbids his disciples from using the title father or teacher and yet we find ourselves using these titles all the time. It's probably a Bible challenge you hear from many of your Protestant friends. Actually, it would be pure nonsense; and indeed the Church has never taken this teaching at its face value. The context is Jesus’ teaching about practicing what you preach. The Pharisees insist that the people call them Father or Rabbi or Master; but these are titles to be earned and not claimed as a right.

This is a clear warning against all forms of idolatry - including making a person into an idol. Jesus is reminding teachers, doctors, fathers - Fr. Phil Bloom adds - that that their purpose is to lead others to the one Teacher, the one Doctor, the one Father. The point that our Lord impresses upon us here is that all fatherhood comes from God. And all fatherhood should be referred back to God and lived in accord with the goodness and love of God.

Father Cusick explains that St. Paul himself claimed the title "father". We read in 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 14, "I...write this as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel." Was St. Paul in violation of the Gospel? Not at all. He was "father" precisely in reference to God our heavenly father, because he brought the life of God the Father to those to whom he preached, whom he baptized and adopted into the family of God. And so also today with our priests.

Fr. John Foley, S. J. says priests like him are not trying to compete with God for the name. They are trying to partake in it, to be vessels from which it is poured. This would mean they are part of the Body of Christ, showing the world what the Father’s love looks like. Fr. Ron Rolheiser sums it up - the great mystery of priesthood is that it tries, however inadequately, to give a human face to a wondrous God who walks with us even when things aren’t all pure. What an awesome challenge!

Religious Persecution -- in the US?

Are we seeing the beginning of religious persecution in America? Is America on track for a religious freedom crisis generated by secularists in and out of government bent on pushing churches around on a variety of fronts? Fresh evidence strongly suggests that the answer is yes. Russell Shaw reports that Catholic Church agencies are closing their doors under new laws, policies that are gutting conscience rights.

This is the same warning put forth by Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez. He pointed out last week that as the US moves away from its founding principles, the Church’s freedom to carry out its mission is threatened as never before.

Saints, Souls and Purgatory

Next week we celebrate the feasts of All Souls Day and All Saints Day. In reflecting on the feasts, Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D. explains that holiness is indeed for all. It is for every baptized person, regardless of personality type, career, age, race, or marital status. Holiness, he says, is about realizing our deepest, greatest potential, becoming who we were truly destined to be. And what a shame it would be to miss it.

Fr. William P. Saunders explores the history of these two feasts. He looks into how the Church has consistently encouraged the offering of prayers and Mass for the souls of the faithful departed in purgatory. In his solid meditation on Purgatory, Msgr. Charles Pope clarifies that when it comes to entering heaven, we have to be perfect, "99 & 1/2 % Won’t Do." He explains that many people think of purgatory primarily in terms of punishment. But the good monsignor stresses that it is also important to think of it in terms of promise, purity and perfection.

At the time of their death, some of our deceased brethren are not perfectly cleansed of venial sin or have not atoned for past transgressions, and thereby are deprived of the beatific vision. These are the very souls that are having the promises to them perfected in purgatory. Joseph Pronechen offers more information on the suject matter. In his article "How to Help the Holy Souls in Purgatory," he explains how the faithful on earth can assist these souls in purgatory in attaining the beatific vision through their prayers and good works. He stresses the importance of offering Masses for the deceased. In the month of November we are especially committed to praying for them and know by faith that our prayers are of benefit to them.

And speaking of saints, the Church has three new saints, Pope Benedict XVI has marked the
Catholic Church’s annual Mission Sunday on 23rd October, and declared two Italians and a Spaniard as the Church’s newest saints. The Pope canonized the two men and a woman at a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. And while he prepares for his journey to Assisi, also this week, he has proposed the famous saint of that Italian city - St. Francis of Assisi - as a model saint for youth.

The Devil, Spirituality & the Liturgy

Know that the devil is real, Fr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI warns us. Let's not kid ourselves. And this means accepting struggle as a feature of mature Christian life. It’s a wonderful thing to study and reflect on Christian truths. But we are called to live a life in which we not only recognize temptation, but – because we know the truth – are willing to act in its service. The choice is stark. Ultimately, do we become partners in Satan’s hatred or commit our whole lives to genuine Gospel love?

And speaking of committing ourselves to God, Cheryl Dickow explores one very helpful tool - Spiritual Direction. She talks about how times have changed and the ways in which we seek, find, and experience spiritual direction has changed as well. But despite all these, the need for Spiritual Direction has remained the same. And she offers specific suggestions.

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf tackles Sunday obligation and TV Masses. A reader asks if its OK to “attend Mass by watching on TV” to fulfill her Sunday Obligation. Does a priest have the authority to let a faithful replace the physical attendance at Mass with a TV viewing in a case such as ill health? Read his answer to this one.

Boycott Halloween? Really?

Boycotting Halloween is like all popular now. When she was a kid, Elizabeth Esther says theirs was the only house in the entire neighborhood whose house went dark on Halloween. Because, you know, Halloween is a pagan, evil holiday and Christians shouldn't celebrate it 'cuz that's like Jews celebrating Hitler's birthday. Well now that she's Catholic, she knows better. Halloween is NOT a pagan holiday---boycotts are unnecessary! She explains the roots of this annual celebration.

Taylor Marshall adds to the debate. Among conservative Protestants it's "Halloween or no Halloween?" which sometimes becomes "Halloween vs. Reformation Day," the latter being the celebration of the Martin Luther's posting of the 95 Theses on Oct 31. He notes that even some Catholics are concerned that Halloween has become "evil." Well, here are his ten ways to keep good ol' Halloween fun and sacred.

Finally, as you roam the streets around sick kids on Halloween night, be wary of the flu bug. That is, if you haven't gotten your flu shot. And while it's true that a study out this week found that the flu vaccine is less effective than previously thought, it’s still the best protection we’ve got. So go out and get your flu shot ASAP!

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: “Is Jesus and God the same?”
FEATURED BLOG: Sunday obligation and TV Masses
PASTORAL HISPANA: No hagan lo que ellos hacen

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

"How often must I forgive?"

Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 18:21-35) for Sept. 11, 2011 addresses the necessity of repentance and repeated forgiveness that are required of those who call themselves Christian. We hear Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. Peter poses the question, an entirely practical one, by asking how many times we must forgive those who sin against us. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

This Gospel selection is taken from a section of Matthew's gospel that is concerned with the dynamics of a truly Christian community. It is fairly certain that Matthew's gospel was written for the church at Antioch, where there were deep divisions during the time between the more conservative Jewish Christians and the more liberal Gentile converts.

"Not seven times but seventy-seven times"

What was being taught in the Synagogues during the time of Jesus was that one had a duty to forgive someone three times. And so Peter, by putting forward the possibility of forgiving seven times, probably thinks he is doing very well. But as Fr. Alex McAllister explains, in giving the number seventy-seven, Jesus is essentially saying that there should be no limits to the number of times we forgive those who have offended us. And our Lord drove this lesson home, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explain, with a parable about two very different kinds of debts.

So what does it mean, "to forgive"? First of all forgiveness implies that there is something to forgive. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says forgiveness doesn't mean that the people will be reconciled immediately. Nevertheless, it begins the healing process and helps to remove feelings of revenge. And it is also important to understand what forgiveness does not mean. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. clarifies that it does not imply that a fault or sin does not matter. Nor does it mean that the offense is forgotten, for that is often impossible. Rather, it means freely choosing to overlook an offense because one is free to do so, having been loved and forgiven oneself.

Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he who ‘forgives’ you—out of love—takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done. Forgiveness therefore, explains Fr. John Foley, S. J., always entails a sacrifice. And Jesus takes this even further when he said, “To those who have much, even more will be given; and from those who have little, even what they have will be taken away.That’s the deep mystery at the centre of the universe, explains Fr. Ron Rolheiser - the air we breathe out into the world is the air we will re-inhale. No one who nourishes anger in his or her own heart—while refusing to forgive others—can be forgiven by God, shares college student Colleen Corcoran.

Father Cusick reminds us of how we pray in the Our Father: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." The forgiveness of the Lord, made possible through his passion, death and resurrection, and the peace which is its fruit, becomes something we experience, in a powerful and continuing way, through our practice of forgiving each other.

9/11 and Forgiveness

Sunday, September 11, is the tenth anniversary of one of the worst days in the history of the United States. It still makes our blood boil to think of all the innocent people who will killed by the terrorists in those attacks. But by a complete co-incidence, the readings today speak about anger and hatred. Fr. John J. Ludvik admits that personally, there are times when he wants vengeance himself. But instead, he keeps preaching love, forgiveness and even a sort of pacifism in the face of war and violence in the world.

We do need to defend ourselves from terrorists. But we also need to realize that anger can often be misguided. It can turn into hatred. Sunday offers us an opportunity to reflect deeply on how we as a Christian community respond to evil in the world. Should we go on hating the terrorists who caused our country so much pain ten years ago? No. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds us that we hate the deed, but not the people. We hate the forces of evil causing so many deaths throughout the world. But we don’t hate the individuals. We can’t hate and be followers of Christ.

If we choose to forgive, how do we do it? There is only one way - the Cross. We have to take our anger, our injuries, our hurts to the cross. The cross brings healing because when we stand before it, we recognize our guilt, a point Fr. Phil Bloom makes clear. The fact that Jesus cancelled our debt should inspire us to forgive others.

So on the tenth anniversary of September 11th 2001, USCCB president Archbishop Timothy Dolan prays that this anniversary be a moment to not only remember, but also to go forward. And Rev. Robert Barron offers these inspiring words: We should remember, we should be angry at the gross injustice done that day, and we should forgive.

Catechism, Technology & a College Education

Technology is a gift. But like most gifts, it can be used for good and it can be used for evil. Our teenagers can choose to apply technology to reinforce human dignity or to deface it. Romeo Marquis reminds us that those choices are best made when they experience human dignity from us adults.

And Bonnie Engstrom talks about a similar challenge. All over the internet people are commenting on the teachings of the Catholic Church. Of course it is important to explain the Sacraments and the saints and the rosary and the “extra” books of the Bible. But what do those things matter if we first forget to tell people the basic Gospel message of how much Jesus loves us? Personally, I have been more comfortable explaining why Catholics believe in the True Presence than sharing with people the depth and width of God’s love for them. Thus she rightly fears we are losing the ability and desire to talk about what really matters.

Marlon De La Torre expressed a similar thread when talking to a pastor one day. The pastor voiced his concern over poor doctrinal formation he suspected the children in hjis CCD classes were receiving.The pastor said, “I knew things were off when all I saw was glue, crayons, construction paper and scissors during an eighth grade religion class.” Religion instructors must be prepared to proclaim the truth of the Catholic Church. He says the need for the Catechism of the Catholic Church is more relevant than ever if we genuinely desire to impart the Catholic faith.

Meanwhile Fr. James V. Schall, S. J. talks about our college education system. He says universities have in some sense become the institutions in which we expect to right all wrongs, preferably by what is called “science.” He laments that universities today are not in the “virtue” business.

How (Not) to Behave at Mass

I don’t know if I am getting old, but have you noticed that people don’t seem to know how to behave at Mass anymore? Dorothy Pilarski shares her experiences ans then offers her "Ten Tips on How to Behave at Mass."

Jennifer Fulwiler, however, offers a few words of caution when criticizing imperfect behavior at church. A few months ago at church, she saw a voluptuous woman in an orange dress that was one of the shortest, most low cut outfits she's ever seen! But when the woman reverently bowed in front of the altar, she noticed that the woman was wearing a chapel veil. And when everyone else stood to leave, the woman remained kneeling for a moment longer, her eyes clenched shut in prayer, her lips moving slightly as she said a few last things to the Lord. As the choir began to sing, Jennifer said a prayer of thanksgiving for the lady's witness, and for the reminder that you don’t have to wait until everything in your life is perfect to engage in outward displays of reverence.

From the Vatican, Pope Benedict had a a few things to say about prayer. First, he reminded us all that prayer must start with the certainty of God's presence. Then he reminded young people that as vacation ends and usual activities return, they should protect their prayer time and not let their routine swallow it. And finally, he also invited all newlyweds to learn to pray together.

Gifts in Unusal Packages

Msgr. Charles Pope's mother loved to put gifts in strange packages. Over the years she often found strange packages to hide gifts - an old shoe box, a box of No. 2 Pencils, a package of underwear. So he learned that sometimes good gifts come in strange packages. And he says God is that way too. Some of God’s gifts come in strange packages.

Kevin Lowry learned the same lesson but under a different set of circumstances. Sometimes bad news comes thick and fast, to the point of being overwhelming. A few years ago, he had some serious challenges going on within his family. As a result, he and his wife found themselves bickering all the time. They knew something was missing. But what? Gratitude.

And here's another story of a gift that's wrapped in an unusual package. At the US Open that's winding down this week in New York, a line umpire barks out critical calls that can decide the championship fates of some of the world's greatest tennis players. What they don't know is that umpire Paul Arinze is a Catholic priest. Arinze climbs into the chair, as a certified bronze badge umpire. There, he officiates serves, not church services, matches instead of Mass. Below, players cross themselves and pray for victory or take the Lord’s name in vain. They do not know that while God may not be interested in their tennis match, a clergyman is watching from close range.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: What commandments require restitution?
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