Thursday, April 25, 2013

"I give you a new commandment: love one another"

In this Sunday's Readings for the 5th Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2013, Jesus tells His disciples in the passage from the Last Supper Discourse that He will be with them only a little while longer. Then Jesus gives them a new commandment: "As I have loved you, so you also should love one another."  Our Discussion Questions this week will guide your bible study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

“Now is the Son of Man glorified"

The Gospel text this Sunday comes from the end of Chapter Thirteen of John’s Gospel. It occurs not long after the washing of the feet and most significantly just after Judas has left the room on his way to betray Christ.

Glory. We will hear about it in Sunday’s Gospel. God will be glorified and will glorify Jesus. However, as Fr. John Foley,SJ notes, most of us admit that we do not understand what it means to give glory to God or to Jesus. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. explains further that the Last Supper context of this passage reminds us that now in every time and place, the Risen Lord extends the eighth sign of divine love through the Eucharist. The bread and wine do not hide, but express the glory of Christ -- the sacrament of his giving himself to us out of love just as he gave himself to us on the cross.

“Just as I have loved you”

The commandment to love one’s neighbour as oneself is not new. It is very old indeed going back in the Bible as far as the Book of Leviticus. And neither is it unique to Christianity, it being an important feature of many world religions. So if loving one another is actually very old and widespread, what is it about this commandment that is so new? Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains that the newness is to be found in the words “just as I have loved you.” The New Commandment is for us to love each other not in the way we love ourselves but in the way Jesus loves us. And this moves things to a completely new level.

We find ourselves to be Christ’s disciple when we love others and when we allow ourselves to be loved. Fr. Roger J. Landry explains our need to heed the words of St. John Vianney whose famous heroic charity moved him to treat others with the same limitless love with which Christ loves. God’s nature is love, explains Fr. Orly Sapuay, M.S., so the ways of God are love.

Many struggle with the issue of immigration in our country and what that means as Christ calls us to love one another. University senior Erin Killebrew is one of them. Then she had the opportunity to experience a small part of life on the border of Arizona and Mexico. There she found out first hand, just as Fr. Phil Bloom preached, how Jesus' new way of love fulfills the heart's deepest need.

The New Jerusalem

The New Jerusalem is discussed in the Second Reading. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says it is not on the moon waiting to come down upon earth. But the New Jerusalem does exist. The place where God makes his home among mankind is real. It is the place where his name is Emmanuel--God with us. God’s City, the New Jerusalem, is right here. His City is the Church.

Father Cusick points out some very important questions about the Church, then offers his answers. How do we know the Church? What is she like? What are the characteristics that set the Church apart from all other bodies, groups or organizations in the world?

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB adds his own set of questions for us to reflect further. How does my image of the Church reflect my experience as being part of the Church? If we are to be a living temple of God, what qualities should characterize us as church? What symbol do you think most unites us as a Christian people?

Finally, Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that to walk tall means to walk within our God-given dignity. Nothing else, ultimately, gives us as large an identity. The Gospel-challenge, according to him, doesn’t shame us with our pettiness. It invites us instead to what’s already best inside us. And the next time you pray the Our Father, take time to reflect upon the verse "And forgive us our trespasses." Allow this article about an imaginary conversation with God to alter your perception.

Divine Providence, Spiritual Wellness & Confirmation

If God provides, then why is Murphy's Law a law that seems to apply even to devout Christians? Why do bad things happen to good people? Marcellino D'Ambrosio seeks to answer these questions and show how trials and tribulations fits into Divine Providence.

How healthy are you spiritually as a Catholic man? During Lent many of us implemented what could be called a spiritual wellness program based on the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. However, now that Lent is over we may now have gone back to our old ways. Maurice Blumberg talks about "Developing and Following a Spiritual Wellness Program."

It is the season for Confirmations and we want to explore the what the Catechism teaches about the sacrament. Msgr. Charles Pope talks about "Clarifying the Confusion on Confirmation." He starts by excluding certain common but incorrect notions about the Sacrament.

Celebrating the Liturgy

While visiting earthquake earthquake in Haiti three years ago, Then Archbishop now Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan asked the victims if there were anything else he could do for them. A young woman raised her hand. He expected her to ask for more medicine, tents, drinking water, food and workers. Instead, all she asked was, “Can a priest say Mass for us tomorrow, on Sunday?” Totally moved, the archbishop wrote this reflection about how our Catholics in the US under-appreciate the celebration of the Mass.

Three years ago this week, for the first time in decades, the extraordinary form of the Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral in Washington DC. For those who are unfamiliar or unappreciative with the splendor of the Latin Liturgy in this form, some questions often arise. Msgr. Charles Pope answers them and explains "Why Celebrate Mass in Latin?" And a Catholic blogger mom who was present at the cathedral offers her un-expert observation: "More so than all the beauty that surrounded me at that mass, within the liturgy and the church itself, was the beauty and looks of absolute wonder on the children's faces." She explains in "A child's view from the pews."

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: Who is your neighbor?
FEATURED BLOG: Clarifying the Confusion on Confirmation
PASTORAL HISPANA: Cristo resucitado nos ama y nos invita a amar
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

"My sheep hear my voice."

This Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 21, 2014, is “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The Gospel Reading gives us the last part of Chapter Ten of John’s Gospel. In this short text Jesus plainly tells us 1) that we are the gift of the Father to Jesus; 2) we are his and no one can steal us from him and 3) he will give us eternal life. Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Our Discussion Questions this week will guide your bible study sessions with your family, friends and church roups.
How Free are we REALLY?!

This Sunday’s Readings raise some intriguing questions. And Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio asks them. Does Jesus call all, or just certain people? Is my eternal salvation secure, or is my destiny up for grabs? Is there no free choice, then?

These questions are why someone like young adult Dan Finucane, a senior at St. Louis University, finds this Sunday's Gospel readings difficult to understand. He says it can be hard for us to accept that “no one” can take us “out of the Father’s hand” – that we are one of the sheep for which he cares. Another unicersity senior, Joe Martinez of UC-Riverside, offers his own thoughts on Fate and Predestination. His piece is called "Is God Crossing my Stars."

The Good Shepherd's Purpose

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says we are called upon today to recognize Jesus' presence in our lives. Like the disciples of Paul and Barnabas at the conclusion of today’s first reading, the only real need we have in our lives is to learn how to be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. For the Mercy of God directs our lives to happiness. Fr. James Gilhooley explains further that Jesus' agenda was twofold - making both this life more attractive and making heaven the final stop.

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us that while Jesus guides and protects us, this doesn’t mean that we are passive and dependent creatures. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS suggests further that we are called to be faithful stewards of the Good Shepherd. Once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, Stewardship is not an option. Stewardship is what we do, with all that we have, after we say, "I believe." It is using the gifts God has given us, to do the work God is calling us to do.

Hearing God's Voice

Today's Gospel passage presents to us one of the deepest mysteries of the human spirit. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB exoplains that Faith, the ability to hear and to follow a call, is a gift to Jesus and a gift to the followers of Jesus. To belong to the spiritual flock of Jesus, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. tells us, is to hear his voice. This means much more than simply reading or hearing about him. Such information is always helpful, but the decisive moment comes when we go beyond external testimony and begin to discover Jesus at the center of our lives in a profoundly intuitive and trusting manner.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser adds that God’s voice is not a loud, overbearing, threatening voice. Rather, God’s voice invites in, beckons, leaves you free, and is as non-threatening as the innocence and powerlessness of a baby — or a saint. Thus Fr. John Foley, S. J. offers his hunch that you do recognize Jesus’ voice when you hear it. Your feelings move when you hear trustingly a certain Gospel, for instance. Or when you receive the bread of everlasting life and the cup of unending salvation—not as a stranger might, but as a member of the well-fed and greatly cared for flock.

What about trying, Sunday, to notice whether your spirit inclines to Jesus? Maybe you settle into his lap for petting. Your soul seeks him always.

"The Father and I are one."

Father Cusick says there is and can be no mistaking it: the Lord knew and revealed his divinity by his words and works. And Fr. Phil Bloom offers his bottom line for this Sunday's Gospel: Jesus wants us to share his oneness with the Father - now.

Finally as part of our Good Shepherd reflections this week, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains that God told His people that they, simple sheep though they were, had an exalted destiny, to be God’s sons and daughters and live with Him forever. And as we reflect on this Gospel challenge, let us say a prayer that our Church may recover its stray Catholics. Out of approximately sixty million nominal Catholics only 25% or so actually practice their faith by attending Sunday Mass regularly and confession yearly. Fr. John McCloskey offers his thoughts on how we may bring our fallen-away Catholics back into the fold.

World Vocation Sunday

This Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Parishes across the globe are encouraged to pray for an increase in priestly vocations. Pope Paul VI, instituted this day of worldwide prayer to God the Father, asking him to continue to send workers for his Church In view of this day, Pope Emeritus Benedict offered a message for Vocations Sunday 2013. He highlighted the theme of this celebration as "Vocations as a sign of hope founded in faith."

We look back at a report from the USCCB reports that nearly one-third of the ordination class of 2010 was born outside the United States. They also cited that the vast majority (92 percent) of men being ordained to the priesthood report some kind of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. Three in five (60 percent) ordinands completed college before pursuing the priesthood. Their median age of  is 33 and 11 men are being ordained at the age of 65 or older.

And here's an unusual blessing to the Church. A few nyears back, A Long Island woman fulfilled her dream of becoming a nun recently. Nothing too exceptional about that, except the fact that she is 92 years old! Read her story.

More Catholic Stories

Here's some soothing advice. And from an unlikely source. Sam Miller is a prominent Jewish businessman. He is not Catholic. And yet he offered some sage advice to Catholics in a recent column. Be proud, he tells us. Even in the face of injustice in the media, scandals in the Church, and a less than favorable popular public opinion of our priests and leaders: Be proud to be Catholic.

And if you've ever wondered about "The Morality of Tattoos and Body Piercing," Fr. Peter Joseph answers the most basic question about it, "Does this really glorify God?"

Handling Failure, Bunnies and Computer Kids

Bo Sanchez says eagles are amazing parents. He uses lessons he observed from them to tell us that "Failure Isn’t God’s Rejection But God’s Redirection." Pretty powerful stuff from this straight-talking young preacher. Check it out.

Sherry Antonetti, a mother of several young children, shares how she summons her father’s technique of keeping her car relatively fight free by making her children engage in a decade of the Rosary. Each child gets to give a petition before each prayer. No editorials are allowed, but you do get requests that sound largely like hints to the driver. Driving home from school one day, her four-year-old son raised his hand first, “I have one. Bunnies." And the mother's story takes a challenging turn from there.

Finally, if you have young kids at home, "Beware the Lure of the Screen." While the internet is part of daily living today, it does offer its challenges specuially for your very young ones. Dr. Ray Guarendi offers tips on "How to Control Computer Kids."

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida

Publisher & Editor in chief 

BURNING QUESTION: Believe in God or in the Church?
FEATURED BLOG: Learning the Spiritual Dimension of the Mass
PASTORAL HISPANA: Escuchemos la voz del Pastor
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Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

When the curtain goes up on Sunday's Gospel, April 14, 2013, the apostles are back in Galilee, broke and hungry. They unknowingly encounter Jesus who helps them catch a boatload of fish. Later back on land, Jesus commissions Peter to lead our Lord's work among His people. Our Discussion Questions this week will guide your bible study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

The Origins of the Papacy

The Gospel this Sunday focuses on Peter and it is a most interesting one. The origins of the Papacy can be found in the dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter. Jesus entrusts a specific authority to Peter. This authority given to Peter, explains Father Cusick, was to be handed on through the "apostolic succession".

This particular extract is also used in the ceremony of the installation of a Pope. It is solemnly read to the new Pope as a sort of warning at the start of his important new ministry. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains that the pope, the successor of Peter, has a role that has not to do with privilege but with sacrifice. This, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB points out, is the key qualification for the Petrine ministry, and for all ministry in the name of Jesus Christ - a love for the Lord that is characterized by humility, dependence and obedience.

Imperfect but tasked to Evangelize

Peter certainly knew failure along the road of discipleship. The disciple who was called "rock" wept with regret after denying his Lord. Yet he is given an opportunity to repent and recommit himself to Jesus. Peter was to follow Christ and dedicate his whole life to him and work tirelessly for the spread of the Gospel.

Though imperfect, Peter was asked to serve God. The same applies to all of us today. We also are called to be apostles. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says it would be wonderful if we could be ideal apostles like John, who stayed faithful at the foot of the cross until the end. But we are real people like Peter. And like Peter, despite our limitations, we can feed the Lord’s sheep.

"Do You Love Me?"

This was the question Jesus asked Peter three times in this Gospel story. Fr. John Foley, S. J. asks us to personalize this story. He says Jesus is also calling you by name and asking you, “Do you love me?” Let it echo inside you. Stay with it. Think about it. Pray about it.

It is this friendship with Jesus is the one essential thing of life. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. states. However, just like the apostles, we might not recognize Jesus everytime. So the next time you are asked to do something for somebody and you think it beneath your dignity, Fr. James Gilhooley says reflect on this Gospel. And then go out and do whatever the task is.

It is only by living according to this value system of Jesus, explains Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA - attending Mass, by personal prayer, celebrating the sacraments and reading scripture - that we deepen our relationship with Jesus. While Peter was literally asked to give his life for Christ. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us that not all are asked to be nailed to a cross like Peter. But we will all die. And at the moment of our death we can give ourselves to God, an ultimate surrender to the will of God.

And in a wonderful dissertation, Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS ably points out that this resurrections tory describes the four steps in the ministry of reconciliation: accompaniment, hospitality, making connections and commissioning. While Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that this Gospel story reminds us that Baptism means derailment. To submit to love is to be baptized, namely, to let our lives be forever interrupted. To not let our lives be interrupted is to say no to love.

Christ's Resurrection

We continue our Eastertide celebration with this great article from the Summa Theologica. St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the great Church scholars, reflects on the Resurrection and gives his five reasons Christ rose from the dead. And in response to a reader question, Fr.John Bartunek offers up "50 Days of Celebrating Easter," ideas that families may use to continue the Easter celebration for the entire season.

In his "There is a Freedom in Holiness," Msgr. Charles Pope asks, "Is the Christian moral life just a list of dos and don’ts?" He said we should look at Church teachings as more of a description rather than merely a prescription, more as freedom rather than limits. Check out what he means.

Eric Sammons wrote previously that the Catholic’s proper response to Church scandals is to become a saint. Then someone asked by email, “How do you become a saint?” He says he doesn't see sainthood as something mysterious or ethereal. Here are the five steps he would recommend to becoming saints. And blogger Webster Bull offers yet another powerful reason in his blog "Why I am Catholic" - To Be an Old Man Who Goes to Mass Every Day.

It's Confirmation Season

It's going on in many parishes across the country. Our young - and old - are receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. Here's a ParishWorld Confirmation Primer that offers several articles explaining this Sacrament.

And with Confirmation, comes sponsors or godparents. Have you ever wondered why some people have very involved godparents and sponsors, while others don't even know theirs? Perhaps part of the problem is that many godparents and sponsors were chosen for the wrong reasons, or because those same people don't really know what they're supposed to do! Do you? This update will help us to better understand these roles.

Sadly after Confirmation, many of our confirmed "graduate" and drop off from being active Catholics. So how do we keep our youth active after Confirmation? This parish in Minnesota says, "Try the Coffee Shop Approach." Does it work? With this program, 80% of their Confirmation students came back and assumed an active role in parish life.

On a deeper level, Russell Shaw points out that where people suppose that sacramental liturgy is only a symbolic act to which those who perform it assign its meaning, the devising of liturgical settings naturally emphasizes values like novelty and excitement. Practically speaking, as then–Cardinal Ratzinger has pointed out, they aim to entertain. But the more entertaining the celebrations become, the more support they’ll lend to the belief that what is going on is symbolic, nothing more. "Rediscovering the Sacramental Sense" is a must-read for all Catholics.

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief 

PASTORAL HISPANA: Cristo Resucitado no nos deja solos
BURNING QUESTION: Should the Church welcome homosexual Catholics?
FEATURED BLOG: A Biblical Bucket List for Believers
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Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

On this Second Sunday of Easter, April 7, 2013, we always hear the Gospel of Doubting Thomas proclaimed. This Gospel always leaves us pondering two main questions: “Why do we have doubts?” and, “Why do we have faith?” This Sunday is also Divine Mercy Sunday. Our Discussion Questions this week will guide your bible study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Doubts and Faith

In each of the New Testament accounts, Jesus appeared first to women, not to men. In each case the women believed. Usually he then sent the women to the males, who in each case did not believe. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says this was Jesus' way of asking the disciples to take a leap of faith. And just like the disciples, today we also find our faith subjected to the many buffets inevitable to living in a secular society. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains how we also frequently wonder if all we were taught was true.

"Peace be with you; do not be afraid," Jesus tells the disciples. He offers evidence, but in the end he asks for an act of faith. Fr. Phil Bloom tells us that this act of faith must be absolute. There is no middle ground. And we have this faith, says Fr. Joseph Pellegrino, because we have experienced the Love of God in our lives as individuals and as a people.

We often assume that those who knew Jesus in the flesh had a great advantage over the rest of us. However, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. assures us that the risen Lord is far more present to us now in the Spirit than he ever was in the flesh. It is therefore important, says Fr. James Gilhooley, that we lives worthy of the risen Christ as we salute this sacred season. We must ensure that our genuine joy is not "make believe."

Divine Mercy, Forgiveness & Reconciliation

Several years ago, the Catholic Church declared the Sunday after Easter “Divine Mercy Sunday.” Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains that it is not really a new feast established to celebrate St. Faustina Kowalska’s (1905-1938) revelations. Rather Divine Mercy Sunday recovers an ancient liturgical tradition, reflected in a teaching attributed to St. Augustine about the Easter Octave, which he called "the days of mercy and pardon," and the Octave Day itself "the compendium of the days of mercy."

So what exactly is “mercy” anyway, and what does it have to do with the Easter season? Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio tells us that salvation begins now as we are released from the bonds of fear and anxiety by the forgiveness of our sins. Thus, Father Cusick proclaims, Confession is an Easter sacrament. Celebrate Easter, celebrate Confession.

As we ask God for forgiveness, we also are asked to forgive. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS says forgiveness is not something we do for other people. We do it for ourselves – to get well and to move on. To forgive is really to remember that love is more important than being right; that we have room in our hearts to begin again.

Baptism and Celebrating Eastertide

Eastertide, or the Easter Season, or Paschal Time, is the period of fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. For the early Christians, Easter was celebrated at high pitch for eight days, and then at a more moderate but still festive pace for another 42 days, till Pentecost. So quite appropriately, Joseph Sinasac reminds us that Easter is not a low-budget Christmas. It is in fact Easter that gives faith its meaning. Fr. Romy Seleccion, MS offers his "Ten Alleluias of the Resurrection," a wonderful reflection on the meaning of Easter.

Paul Dion, STL adds that it's the season of new life and vitality. This is the season when we revisit our Baptism and resurrect with Jesus into a new life. Thus, it's quite timely that we introduce this Baptism article from Msgr. Charles Pope. It is tragic to him as a Catholic priest that many parents bring their children to baptism almost as though baptism was no more than a flu shot: Take it and forget it.

Observing Mass & Confessing Contraception

The Church teaches that artificial birth control is seriously sinful. Yet, Msgr. Owen F. Campion observes, many Catholics never confess using artificial birth control. Maybe because they have convinced themselves that the Church is wrong. He urges those who have thusly sinned to Confess the use of contraception to their priests.

Is Mass boring to you? If so, be reminded that Holy Mass is about love, says Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, prelate of Opus Dei. He continues, "You say the Mass is long and, I add, because your love is short." And continuing on this topic, we thought it appropriate to bring back a 2005 interview with Cardinal Francis Arinze who said, "The Mass is a moment of reflection and encounter with God, rather than a form of entertainment."

We also would like to introduce our new ParishWorld blog "For the Catholic Holy Mass." We've been compiling this as a resource that aims to give our Catholics a better understanding of the miracle that transpires each time we celebrate Mass.

Easter, Fate & Predetermination

You will be touched by "Do you believe in Easter?" It's the story of Edith Burns, a woman dying of cancer in a hospital who everyone fondly called Easter Edith.

Plus here's a story in time for Divine Mercy Sunday. An abortionist doctor has turned to the Divine Mercy. He used to perform abortions. Now, Dr. John Bruchalski's mission is to help spread the message of Divine Mercy through his medical practice.

Finally, from our ParishWorld "For Catholic Teens" blog, Joe Martinez writes "Is God Crossing my Stars?" A Quick Question on Fate and Predestination (For Teens!)

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 Jesus and God the same?
FEATURED BLOG: Divine Mercy Sunday and the Sacrament of Reconciliation
PASTORAL HISPANA: El título de la Misericordia Divina
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