Friday, September 27, 2013

"You received what was good during your lifetime"

The Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of God’s compassion, the Gospel of the lowly being raised up, challenges us this Sunday with the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Noticing the Poor

Sunday's Gospel offer a very straightforward tale of the rich and the poor. Dives’ sin is that he simply does not notice the poor man at his gate. It is all too easy for us to fall into the same trap, to think that the poor are far away and we can do nothing for them except make a few token gestures. Ask yourself our Burning Question this week: Do you invite the poor to your banquet?

The New York Times chillingly reports that dogs and cats in the United States eat more nutritious food than do the homeless in refugee camps in the third world. Paul Dion, STL is of the opinion that world hunger is a sin against life that has “corporate” dimensions. We all participate in it. We all have a share in the death of the 40 to 60 million people who succumb to the ravages of hunger every year.

Fr. John Foley, S. J. asks us to reflect upon this. Are you and I helping to overlook the plight of the world’s poor as we stretch on our couches and gobble up our television shows? Do we as individuals turn a blind eye to the poor around us? Do we as a society see them? Are we afraid of the poor? But Fr. Alex McAllister sums it all up at the personal level. He reminds us that we have to go beyond simple charity. Each and every one of the poor is a human person deserving our respect and support. We must do what we can to enter into a real relationship with those less fortunate than ourselves.

Not Meant to Dump on the Rich

Luke 16 is not just about money or wealth. God loves cheerful givers. Do we think being rich means we are right with God? Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says this Sunday's parable is not meant to defame those who have worked long and hard for their financial position in life. It is not meant to dump on the rich. The parable is really meant to help us all to recognize the responsibilities our positions in life demand. And the key element in both of our Sunday parables is personal relationships, explains Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB.

For example, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio tells us that almsgiving is good. But he reminds us that involvement is better. Ministering to the financially poor and the spiritually bankrupt develops our potential to enrich others as we are enriched in the process. Wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness. Our focus must be on the well being of the poor and downtrodden. It is in giving that we receive.

Our Choice: Heaven or Hell

Hell is real. But many among us in today's world have conditioned our minds to think it is not. Father Cusick reminds us sternly that it does exist. Hell, the state of eternal separation from God, is a radical possibility for every man and woman, because every man and woman has been created by God in His image and likeness, with intellect and free will. Every choice man or woman makes is a choice either for or against God, according to or in denial of His will.

Though we may be too inhibited to speak of the last four things in life - death, judgment, heaven, hell - Jesus the Christ is not. Fr. James Gilhooley declares that Jesus desires the salvation of all. But, Fr. Phil Bloom admonishes us, you and I must make a choice where we will spend eternity.

It is riches, riches of all kinds--of money, intelligence, health, power, social or religious status that we need to watch out for. Though all good in themselves, explains Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B., these riches can lead you to forget about God and everyone else except yourself. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. warns us that if we close our eyes to the truth we are given, then we are doomed.

The Church’s Economic-Social Teachings

Most of us have been raised to believe that we have right to possess whatever comes to us honestly, either through our own work or through legitimate inheritance. By and large, this belief has been enshrined in the laws of democratic countries and we generally believe that it is morally sanctioned by Christianity. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says that this is all true, partly. But it needs a lot of qualification. From scripture - through Jesus, through the social teachings of the churches, through papal encyclicals - the right to private ownership and private wealth is mitigated by a number of moral principles. He lists a number of those principles as promulgated by the Catholic Church. He offers a good spritual reviewer for our secular times.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput follows it up with a dissertation on Catholics and the Next America. The Denver prelate says the the most important choice we can make is both terribly simple and terribly hard: to actually live what the Church teaches, to win the hearts of others by our witness, and to renew the soul of our country with the courage of our own Christian faith and integrity. There is no more revolutionary act.

Bible Priests, College Catholics & a Muslim Home

From Nigeria, we bring you the story of Fr. Bekeh Utietiang. He saw the story of the Heartsong Church, a Christian congregation in Tennessee that opened its church's doors for their Muslim neighbors to use for prayer service. This reminded him of how a few years back in Nigeria a Muslim family opened its doors for him to celebrate a Catholic Mass.

From Washington DC's George Washington University we bring you vack a story about how four young missionaries marketed 'Catholicism with Chipotle' to promote Mass attendance among Catholic students on campus. They are members of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and they have been unafraid and outrageous in proving that it is possible to be young, Catholic, fun and devout.

Also, you've seen us on many occassions highlight posts from the blog "Why I am Catholic." Thsi week, contributor Frank Weathers, a former evangelical Protestant, puts up one more reason why: Because Catholic Priests Know The Bible, Backwards and Forwards.

Marital Infidelity & A Father's Letter

A few years ago, her husband committed adultery. Today, their marriage is new again. "Words Cannot Express My Gratitude" is this wife's story. And she offers the two-way spiritual road she and her husband took towards healing and forgiveness. They are turning the tables on the national statstic that says only 1/3 of marriages actually survive infidelity.

Also, on the occassion of his 44th birthday a few years back, Bo Sanchez penned a letter he wants to give to his son when he turns 60. Why? To remind himself the most important things in life. At the end of the day, he says always put your family first. This is our most important wealth!

Finally, how's your cholesterol? If you think that the normal reading you got back in 2004 (or earlier) means you're in the clear, think again: Levels of the artery-clogging substance often rise with age, and cardiologists say everyone 20 or older should be screened for high cholesterol at least once every five years. Got high cholesterol? Learn what you can do to lower it quickly -- starting today. Here's 11 Tips to Cut Your Cholesterol Fast.

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 you invite the poor to your banquet?
FEATURED BLOG: Catholics and the Next America
PASTORAL HISPANA: Las posesiones pueden ser un obstaculo para el Reino

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

"You cannot serve both God and mammon."

Sunday's Scripture readings for Sept. 22, 2013, the twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, see the proper use of material possessions as an essential ingredient in the life of faith. The three sayings of Sunday's Gospel suggest a contrast between worldly wealth and eternal wealth. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Lessons on Stewardship

Commentators routinely remark that the parable of the Dishonest Manager stands among the most challenging texts in the New Testament, often regarding it as the most perplexing of Jesus' parables. The question is what should be our attitude towards making money?

Stewardship means more than just throwing five bucks in the basket and signing up to help with the Lenten fish fry. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says it means realizing that all we have is entrusted to us by God and that we have an obligation to grow it, making it as fruitful as possible for his glory. As Christians we are stewards of what God has given us. We don't own it.

Sometimes this means looking for ways to earn more money through employment, business opportunities, and investments - so that we can give more. In discussing the three types of gospels - prosperity gospel, poverty gospel & practical gospel - Bo Sanchez delivers his big message: Gain Big,Give Big. Jesus is telling us not to hide or run away, but to take bold action to help others, Fr. Phil Bloom explains.

God or Mammon?

Though it is impossible to serve both God and Mammon, it is very important to serve God by the way we use money. Recall the aphorism that teaches money can be your master or your servant? Luke does not condemn wealth. What he does condemn is a preoccupation or obsession with riches.

When the gospel says that we must choose between God and mammon, it is asking us to declare where we finally put our trust. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says wealth and talents can serve God's purposes, but they must never replace God as the center of our attention in life.

If you are shrewd in getting things to work for your advantage, does that mean you are un-Christian? Prudence suggests that a healthy and practical balance between the world of God and the world of mammon can be achieved. And that inner life of God shared with a baptized soul, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS explains, can animate a person's conduct in temporal affairs.

So like it or not, we must choose sides. Paul Dion, STL points out that "The Poor You Will Always Have With You." It's a street-level Catholic viewpoint on poverty as we experience them in our lives. And if we opt for the poor, Fr. James Gilhooley tells us, we will discover a wonderful thing happening to us. When love opens the heart, we will find it will also open our hand too. The good is served rather than evil. So, Fr. John Foley, S. J. reminds us, be clever when you do good.

Social justice anticipates the perfect justice In the kingdom of God, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB tells us. Rewards and responsibilities will be given to those who demonstrated a faithfulness in their earthly entrustments. With these little matters He entrusts to us now, Father Cusick reminds us that our heavenly Father is preparing us to inherit the treasure beyond all price: the reign of heaven. He is preparing us for the far greater good of eternal life.

Christ is further saying that we should put just as much effort into understanding our faith as we do into mastering the skills and fields of study we need to carry out our profession, Fr. Alex McAllister explains. We often demonstrate our intelligence. But Fr. Joseph Pellegrino explains that we don't apply this intelligence to the one thing that really matter: our eternal salvation.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser rounds it up by asking this: Have you ever done something simply on principle, because it was the right thing to do, knowing that you couldn’t explain it to anyone, without there even being a good feeling attached to your act? If you have done this, you have experienced God, perhaps without knowing it.

John Cardinal Newman

It has been 500 years since a Pope has visited England. This week three years ago Pope Benedict finds himself a guest of that country where he beatified England's John Henry Cardinal Newman in Birmingham, England. Beatification is the third of four steps leading to canonization in the Catholic Church. But for those of in Catholic higher education, Cardinal Newman already holds the highest place of honor.

In so many ways, Newman is responsible for the growth and development of the Catholic educational system. His writings and work in the mid-1800s still serve as the foundation for Catholic colleges and universities throughout the world. The fact that many Catholic churches in US universities today carry his name is a testament to his legacy to Catholic education.

But who needs Catholic schools? We all do, according to this must-read article by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.

JFK & the Politics of Hope

As the 53rd anniversary of John F. Kennedy's famous Houston speech on his Catholicism approaches, a legal expert dissects President Kennedy's famous campaign speech about faith and politics. He noted the way in which Kennedy reduced religious belief to accident of birth, or more specifically, to baptism. The question, he submits in his article, was not whether 40 million Americans baptized into a certain religion are excluded from the presidency, but whether however many millions of Americans who believe in the tenets of their faith are excluded from proper political participation.

For Christians, explains Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap., hope is a virtue, not an emotional crutch or a political slogan. Real hope is unsentimental. It has nothing to do with the shallow optimism of self-improvement programs or election campaigns. Hope assumes and demands a real, unbending spine in believers.

Faith, Family and the Largest Flock in the US

Across the country, Marriage Preparation programs are finding renewal. Ministers working in these programs are finding themselves at the forefront of the new evangelization, renewing their methods with novel yet traditional means. And speaking of Dads, how do you get a bunch of children under the age of reason (or above the age of reason) to pray 5 decades of the Rosary every day? Is it possible? Here are "12 Tips for Praying the Family Rosary daily."

A relatively new youth minister from Phoenix asked for opinions about his perceived solution to declining youth participation in his parish ministry - hot tub parties and pizza! Denys Powlett-Jones rightly replied that instead of the proposed steamy hot tub action, go for the soul, not the gut. How about offering them instead an hour of Eucharistic adoration? Why not try sung Sunday vespers—in Latin—in the church by candlelight? Every week? He offers the same message as the pastoral plan for the Madrid Archdiocese which will host the 2011 World Youth Day. Participants planning to attend the event in Madrid are urged to begin preparing now in prayer, sacramental growth and witnessing to the faith.

To Forgive and Be Forgiven

Elizabeth Esther talks about how the Sacrament of Confession brought the sunshine of hope back into her life. She knew she needed God’s forgiveness when she opened the door to the Confessional. What she didn’t know was that she was also opening the door to forgiving others. The truth was, she wanted forgiveness but she didn’t want to forgive.

This grace was epitomized by the shocking 2006 story of the lone gunman who had entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and shot 10 Amish girls aged 6 to 13. In a Christian move that shocked the secular world, the community decided to forgive the assailant - unequivocably. This moving story was captured in the film "Amish Grace" which originally premiered as the highest-rated movie on the Lifetime Movie Network. This moving and impactful story was made available on DVD. Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP of the Pauline Medial Literacy Center shares her movie review. Catch it here.

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Would you leave a job for moral reasons?
FEATURED BLOG: "The poor you will always have with you"
PRIESTS STORIES: Leading the Biggest Flock in the US
PASTORAL HISPANA: Seamos responsables con los dones recibidos

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

"He was lost and has been found."

The parable of the Prodigal Son and the drama of Israel's worship of the Golden Calf in this Sunday's Readings are some of the best known of all Bible stories. So what do the two stories have in common? Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

The Prodigal & the Golden Calf

While the two stories might at first glance seem a random match, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio points out that they actually tell the very same story about the deceptiveness of sin and answer other questions we often wonder about, like the difference between new and old covenants, and the interplay free will and God’s grace.

The found sheep, the found coin and the found son

Chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel is often referred to as the "lost and found" collection of the New Testament. Fr. Orly Sapuay, M.S. suggests that these parables would be better named the found sheep, the found coin and the found son. He adds that the point of the parables is that God’s love and mercy is always after us, looking for us, searching for us because we are His joy and happiness. There could be no deeper source of awareness of our worth, Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. adds, than to trust Jesus and to believe that we human beings are truly precious in the eyes of God.

The Story of the Prodigal "Us"

The parable of "the prodigal son" or "the prodigal father" or the "indignant elder brother" can cause much grief for us, as we see ourselves and our motives exposed for what they really are. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB reminds us that at different times in our lives, most of us have played each of the roles in this story. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says sometimes when we think we are defending virtue we are really defending our inhibitions and fears, and sometimes when we think we are speaking for God’s healthy concern for the world, we are - like the older brother of the prodigal son - really speaking of our own hidden jealousy.

Fr. Alex McAllister says the problem is that we are partial, subjective and blind to our own faults. And the only remedy for this is to look to the example of Jesus. By examining how He behaved then we ought to be able to see how we should behave.

God's Perspective

Fr. John Foley, S. J. goes to the point. He says God does not want to keep us from the things we are attracted to. He wants us to value them but in due proportion. Love God above all things. Then you can love everything and everyone else as they deserve. But Fr. Phil Bloom cautions us that if we have only a human perspective on salvation, we can easily fall into despair. Fortunately, this Sunday Jesus gives us God's viewpoint. He tells us that God is like a shepherd who devotes his energy to finding the one lost sheep. Or like the woman who spends all day scouring the house, looking for a single small coin.

We fail, of course, like the prodigal and like the ancient Israelites did. Father Cusick rightly reminds us that it is in every confessional, in the person of every priest-confessor, where the Father awaits us, rich in mercy, to welcome us back into His house, and to reclothe us again in the magnificent garment of our baptismal graces.

Christianity, Frog Boiling and Internet Catholics

Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20). Pretty clear, right? And yet it is possible for the Church, a parish or a Catholic to push Job One down the list. Pray, sure, attend Mass, OK, tithe, I’ll try. Evangelize? Oops, I’m a little busy and rather shy too, you understand. Msgr. Charles Pope says it's time to obey Christ and His command. He lists the concrete steps his parish used to push Evangelization back to the top of its priorities.

Fr. Longenecker talks about how time and again in dealing with non-Catholics they will smile and say, "You know it really doesn't matter what denomination you are. All that really matters is how much you love Jesus!" He says it's the Protestant principle run riot. And he cautions about the watering down of Christianity that this mindset offers. And Msgr. Charles Pope discusses how Catholics are often unaware just how biblical the Sacred Liturgy is. So he goes on to explain the "The Biblical and Heavenly Roots of the Sacred Liturgy."

If you have been involved with Internet Catholic discussions and apologetics for a very long time like Eric Sammons, you have at some time seen how un-Christlike some of the discussions can be. Over the years, he has developed some rguidelines for Internet apostolate that might be helpful for others. He call it the "Ten Rules of Engagement For Catholics On The Internet." And with it he reminds us all to never forget that our salvation is more important than our involvement on the Internet.

Promoting Marriage and Family

Danielle Bean laments that the pain of Divorce is raw and real. Divorce–and I say this with all my being–sucks. It is a ripping of the fiber of a family. A renting of the one thing that should never be rent. A betrayal to everyone involved.

It is true that it's not easy for couples to live out the demands of the Gospel in a society that pressures them to take the easy road. However, explains the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, God is generous with those who continually strive to answer his call. Fidelity is not easy, but it is worth it.

The 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae" is about much more than a prohibition of artificial contraception, says a Polish priest and expert on family issues who addressed today a conference in Omaha. Rather, it is a document about the dignity of woman. To this end, Pope Benedict said this week that the Church of our time needs "holy and courageous women" who value the gifts God has given them and make a valuable and specific contribution to spiritual growth.

It's Back to College Time

Many of our young people are back at college. The experiences of young adults show that although it can be tough to maintain one’s faith while transitioning from high school to college,it isn’t impossible. And playing a key role are the many Newman Centers in our college campuses across the country.

But who exactly is this person that all these college Catholic churches are named after? The dossier for Cardinal John Henry Newman's beatification does not list Catholic university centers that bear his name among the miracles the soon-to-be-blessed gained through his intercession. And yet, Newman Centers could be considered one of the cardinal's first works from heaven. Check out his story.

Pain and Finding God

In "God will find you," Fr. John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class. Tommy was an atheist who was a pain in his side for the entire semester. Find out how the good professor saw when Tommy's faith life made a complete turn-around.

Meanwhile Catholic blogger Bo Sanchez talks about how we can use our pain to achieve great success. He begins by defining three sources of inner pain. The first pain comes from Grief. The second pain comes from Greed. And the third pain comes from Giving.

Finally, here's more proof that bigger isn't always better: Several recent studies show that sometimes the smallest changes (like how you brew your tea or when you schedule a medical exam) can have a huge payoff when it comes to improving your health. Whether it's timing, technique, or the type of food you eat, here's how to fine-tune your behavior to get the best results. Here are some strange-sounding but effective tips for healthy living and clear thinking.

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: "Ask something of me and I will give it to you."
FEATURED BLOG: Rules of Engagement For Catholics On The Internet
PASTORAL HISPANA: Encontremos la misericordia de Dios

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Whoever does not carry his own cross"

First Jesus showed us the narrow gate, then last Sunday He told us what specific key opens that gate. And now this Sunday - Sept. 8, 2013 - Jesus tells us what the key to heaven's door will cost. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

A Gospel to Make you Squirm

Jesus drops a bomb—whoever wants to be his disciple must renounce everything, even family. Wait a minute! . . . I thought Christianity was all about loving your family, and everybody else, for that matter!? It makes one really wonder what to make of these words.

Fr. Phil Bloom explains that if you want to be a disciple of Jesus - which is the only path to heaven - know in advance what it will cost: everything. In the end you must be prepared to turn over all that you possess. This is an up-front requirement, explains Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio. If you are not willing to do this, don’t bother getting started as a disciple. As this gospel passage makes clear, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. tells us, there can be no waffling or temporizing where commitment to Christ is concerned. Therefore, all other considerations, such as the claims of relatives, friends or possessions, must be subordinated to the absolute claim of God on those who have discovered his love and mercy. If we are to accept the person of Christ, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB adds, we are to accept His cross as well.

So why did Jesus utter these hard sayings, so shocking to ancient and modern listeners? Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS says to prepare His disciples for the reality that a being a disciple of Jesus will be difficult. We will be tempted to give up because the devil is waging war. We need to have a plan. But, as university student Caroline Seroka laments, we really have no understanding of what exactly God has planned for us. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says God has given us all intelligence. We need to use it to serve Him. Our plan therefore, he suggests, should be one that uses our God-given intelligence to strengthen our world with the dynamism of our Lord.

The attachment to material possessions

But again and again we come up against this unequivocal injunction of Jesus: None of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all of his possessions. We are again and again faced with the real challenge of these words. For whether we are rich or poor the attachment to material possessions is a real temptation. So ask yourself to answer honestly this burning question of the week: Do you adore "Bling" more than God?

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS advises us that we ought to regularly face the challenge and experience the discomfort that these words involve and make some personal decisions accordingly. He says we should in our prayer time frequently meditate on these words of Jesus and ask ourselves what does He really mean for me now. But prayer time in this iPhone-saddled world can be quite challenging as Joe Carter explains in "Unplugging the Info-Tech God." He recommends taking an “info-techno Sabbath” every Sunday, a 24-hour period when we turn off the cell phone, leave the iPad in the drawer, and stay away from the computer.
Meanwhile, Father Cusick suggests that Priesthood might be the most beautiful gift of a parent's love. If parents can respect and nurture the freedom of their children, then they might be radically generous to follow the Lord to whichever vocation He calls. So, we share with you the story of a family who did just that, answer the call to the priesthood. "My Brother the Priest" is their story.

To this end, we share with you the story of a Virginia couple. It is known that religious orders are reluctant to accept candidates who have substantial debt. So, student debt sometimes stops people from answering the vocation call. Corey Huber and his wife, Katherine, operate a public charity that helps aspiring religious faced with deferring their dreams in the face of debt. Check out their work.

The Real and Final Answer

Fr. John Foley, S. J. presents the real and final answer to the problems presented in the Readings. So just what is life about here on earth? It is about being humble, about loving others truly, and about loving God above all things. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. Pope Benedict affirmed this message last Sunday. Christ is the one who gives the strength to take on causes that dignify man and make great peoples, the Pope told young people, affirming to them that it is worthwhile to give oneself to such a mission.

And finally as we reflect on the seemingly harsh words of Jesus in our Gospel this week, we are reminded by Fr. Ron Rolheiser that God’s harshness is softer than our kindness and obedience in love is what sets us free.

Mother Teresa, the Blessed Mother & the Bible

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born 100 years ago August 26. And Pope Benedict sent a message to all missionaries on this occassion. He said Mother Teresa of Calcutta was an "invaluable gift" for the world during her lifetime, and she continues to be so through the ministry of the order she founded. Meanwhile, Fr. Willy Raymond of Family Theater Productions sent us a film clip of the found in their archives of her and the late Father Patrick Peyton. We thought you might enjoy seeing the two of them - both sainthood candidates - together and the message they share on the power of family Rosary. Enjoy this special treat.

Here's an interesting history piece about the Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon. Taylor Marshall reports that it is a Byzantine icon from the late middle ages that has resided in Rome since the late 1400s. The Eastern Catholics call it "Holy Theotokos of the Passion." Today it is one of the few images that is universally revered in every rite of the Catholic Church - East to West. While Frank Weathers - from the Catholic Blog "Why I am Catholic" - gives one more solid reason he is Catholic. He loves the Bible, the entire Bible and every single book therein - including all the books that Martin Luther tossed out during the Protestant Reformation.

Catechesis, Homosexuality, the Unborn & the Eucharist

There is an estimated (at least) 350,000 Catholic Masses celebrated every day on planet Earth - by every race and nationality, and using every language. Matt Warner reminds us that every single one of these 350,000 Masses is actually doing exactly what Jesus asked when he said “Do this in memory of me.” That means there are 4 priests saying those precise words, “Do this in memory of me,” every single second of every single day. Now that is Communion!

Three years ago this week, then archbishop of Buenos Aires now Pope Francis I underlined the importance of the ministry of Catechesis, as a "pillar of the Church." He affirmed that "the renewal of pastoral care and of catechesis will not depend on great programs and structures, but on new men and women who embody this tradition and novelty, as disciples of Jesus Christ and missionaries of his Kingdom."
And part of this Catechesis is Church teaching on abortion and homosexuality - no matter how unpopular they may be today. In a reflection on Sunday's Second Reading from St. Paul, Fr. James Gilhooley likened today's issue of the unborn to slavery during St. Paul's time. Today's unborn are yesterday's slaves. Fight, lobby, and struggle for the unborn, he says.

Bryan Berry writes about Catholic teaching on Homosexuality and why he it isn't bigoted as detractors may say. He aptly points out that devout Muslims, evangelical Protestant Christians, many religious traditions, hold this very same Catholic position on homosexuality. What is bothersome to many individuals is that the Catholic Church doesn’t just hold it on religious grounds. The Catholic position is that this is something that is based on what the moral/natural-law tradition calls right reason.

September! How I love you

Paul Dion, STL thoughht he was old. Until he saw this hat on the pew in front of me just last week. When you read this story you will understand why he calls it "This Half-Pint Hat is All-Man, All 80 Years of Him."

The sour economy has brought many to their knees - some even to begging on street corners. Have you ever wondered what would happen if, instead of spare change, you handed a person in need the means to shop for whatever they needed? What would they buy? In New York City, an advertising executive handed over her American Express Platinum Card to a homeless Manhattan man after he had asked her for change. The man, who had been without home after losing a job, used the card to buy $25 worth of deodorant, water and cigarettes. And then he returned the card! Find out how the rest of the panhandlers in this experiment handled their unexpected windfall.

And finally we come to September. How we all just love it. There is something so magical and downright inspirational about September. It’s all about beginnings—it has forever meant the start of school, a return to structure, a fresh start. In the midst of celebrating September 1, Rachel Balducci found herself singing this little classic by Neil Diamond (gotta love Neil). And when she watched the video, she knew you would all want to see it as well. It’s really just too good to pass up, no? Enjoy this musical treat as we all welcome the month of September.

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 we adore "Bling?" more than God?
FEATURED BLOG: Now This is Communion
PRIESTS STORIES: My Brother the Priest
PASTORAL HISPANA: ¿En qué consiste la libertad cristiana?

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

"For every one who exalts himself will be humbled"

Last Sunday Jesus told us that we can enter heaven only by the narrow gate. This Sunday - September 1, 2013 - He offers us the key to that gate. And that key is Humility. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Humility - The Key to the Narrow Gate

Jesus is having dinner at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and people are observing him carefully. Noticing that the guests were choosing the places of honor at table, he tells a parable about the embarrassment suffered by a person who had chosen a place of honor and then was made to take the lowest place.

Jesus' theme is of course puffed-up pride, a vice much present in our society, as Fr. James Gilhooley explains. Father Cusick reflects further and notes how the Pharisees' pride blinded them to the truth which would open their hearts to salvation. "Pride of life" is as grave a sin as those of the flesh or of avarice. All are classed as forms of concupiscence.

Fr. Phil Bloom lays it all down: self-exaltation blocks the way to heaven. This Sunday Jesus offers us the key that opens the narrow gate. We enter the narrow gate of salvation - by humility. But, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio tells us, we need to be sure that we understand what humility and meekness really are. Humility does not mean looking down on oneself or thinking ill of oneself. It really means not thinking of oneself very much at all. And so remember that taking the low seat because one is humble is one thing, but taking the low seat as a way to move up is another! The raising up and exaltation belong to God. The act of humbling oneself is not something for its own sake, but for the sake either of Christ, as Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB points out.

Do you and I dare to be a human being? As Fr. Ron Rolheiser points out, the fault is that we are human. Nobody does it perfectly and accepting this can bring us to a healthy humility about it. But it should bring us to something more: prayer, especially the Eucharist. Deep within our own selves, in imitation of Jesus, we are capable of making room for love to live in us. If we gradually allow it to, Fr. John Foley, S. J. preaches, love-incarnate will come to life in us.

God's Door is Open to All

Another point to reflect upon this Sunday is that in the Kingdom of heaven there are no privileged guests. God is quite indiscriminate in his welcome. His door is open to all.

In the United States thousands, tens of thousands, have grown due to Cursillio, Marriage Encounter, Teams of Our Lady, Divine Mercy Cenicles, Franciscan Third Order Groups, and so many more. But, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino cautions that we need to exercise caution, for if we convey the message that doing this or that, belonging to this movement or that movement, will help others be as good as we are, then we are falling into pride. Pride is seeing ourselves as superior to others.

Yes we go to Mass each Sunday, we give our tithes and we help out at our local parish. But Fr. Alex McAllister SDS identifies the problem. It is the constant temptation to see these things in terms of payment, in terms of the brownie-point system of getting to heaven.The simple fact is we have heard the call of God and we have responded to it. Our reaction then is not to say how marvellous we are—no, we have simply done our duty.

Glue this prophet's advice on your bathroom mirror. "Knowing God makes us humble. Knowing ourselves keeps us humble."

Do You Invite the Poor?

Who are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind? And how are we treating them? This was the challenge Jesus gives us in the last part of the Readings. This week we bring you a piercing personal Burning Question that touches on this topic: Do you invite the poor to your banquet?
This week’s Gospel reminds college student Colleen Corcoran of something she says always forgets: if we receive reward for our good deeds on earth, then we are already “repaid”, and will not be “repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB says our generosity ought to be a characteristic of our personal freedom, not dependent on how people treat us. And besides, to attempt to determine who deserves our love implies a judgment of another person’s soul that only God can make. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains further that the freedom that comes with knowing we are loved and sustained by God is a freedom to give generously of ourselves and our resources, to give the best place to others without concern.

A Victory for the Devil: Stiffled Evangelization

You've heard it before. It's the unwritten rule in American life that you don’t talk about religion in “polite” conversation. Eric Sammons calls it a great victory for the devil because it was Christ himself who commanded His followers to evangelize all corners of the earth. And this American reticence to speak of religion today is a major barrier to that work. We Catholics need to learn to speak about our faith - even if that means breaking social conventions. Even Denver's Archbishop Chaput shares this sentiment. He called this week for resistance to intolerance of Christianity. We are being called today, he said, to defend the Church's own rights, and the rights of all people, against the “civil religion” of relativism.

Meanwhile, Russ Shaw talks about what happens "When lay Catholics neglect apostolate for ministry." He said a layman engaged in putting faith to work in the secular world—lay apostolate— really deserves to be recognized and appreciated. He laments its disastrous neglect by our parishes today and how limited parish resources for these purposes instead go almost exclusively to promoting lay ministries.

And in "Youth ministry, the early Church way," we look at a model of the early Church and compare our modern attempts at youth ministry to the early Fathers' work. Back then, they did not have special youth ministries, special trips or social events - but the youth were on fire! How did the Fathers do it? They made wild promises. They promised young people great things, like persecution, lower social status, and public ridicule. And it worked. Even the pagans noticed how well it worked.

Catholic Urban Legends & More

He calls them "Catholic Urban Legends." They are distortions or fabrications from history that are part of the common anti-Catholic baggage that is carried around by many, Catholics included. Robert P. Lockwood lists a few of them and explains the truth that evades these legends. Meanwhile, here's one that's not an urban legend. Did you know that at one time the Premier of China was a Catholic. And I'm not talking about the Island of Formosa either. I mean mainland China, before Mao Zedong took over. Here's the true story of a beautiful soul named Lou Tseng-Tsiang aka Dom Pierre Célestin. A man who went from being the Premier of China to being a Benedictine monk and priest.

We are commonly asked how a Catholic might start reading or praying with Sacred Scripture. Therefore, we thought we should introduce you to a range of different ways to read, study, and pray with the Bible. Here's "10 Ways to Study and Pray With The Bible." We hope you find it helpful.

From the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said "Man Is Made for Great Things." He explained that "man is often tempted to stop at the little things, those that give a 'cheap' satisfaction and pleasure, those things that instantly gratify, things that are as easy to obtain as they are ultimately illusory." He also recommended that everyone have devotion to a particular saint. He suggested, for example, a namesake so that the saint can offer closeness through intercession but also be a model to imitate.

Coincidences That Aren't & J.R. Tolkien

Sarah Reinhard talks about things that have made her go, "Hmmmmm..." What we think are coincidences are really not. Join her as she explains further.

And finally, we bring you Fr. Dwight Longenecker's deeper look into the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. For Catholic readers of this bestselling book, the test for Peter Jackson’s film trilogy of Tolkien’s masterpiece was not the excellence of the special effects, the acting, the directing or the storytelling, but whether Jackson would be faithful to Tolkien’s Catholic vision. The majority of Tolkien’s fans don’t even know he was Catholic, and have no idea that Catholic themes and a Catholic vision undergird the whole work. Learn about them here.

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Do you invite the poor to your banquet?
FEATURED BLOG: Youth ministry, the early Church way
VOCATION NEWS: Harvard Valedictorian Joins Convent
PASTORAL HISPANA: La humildad es el camino para encontrar a Dios

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