Sunday, March 30, 2008

Divine Mercy

Jesus is risen, and reveals Himself to the Apostles as the Living Savior. In His love and mercy, He reveals Himself to Thomas, who was lost in doubt. Could the Apostles really have seen the Risen Lord, just as they said? Is it really Him, or just a ghost?
It is indeed Jesus, flesh and blood.
This weekend, we celebrate the mercy of Christ as directed by Pope John Paul II. It is mercy that most perfectly sums Christ's life given for us - He loves us and gives us His very self for our salvation. In the same way that He was revealed to St. Thomas, He is revealed to us, but for us, we see Him in the Eucharist.
As a priest, the most powerful thing I call to mind is that in all I do, Christ continues to express His mercy. To remember this is humbling.

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, may I suggest praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy?

The Chaplet is prayed on regular Rosary beads, starting with the Sign of the Cross, one Lord's Prayer, one Hail Mary, and the Apostles creed.
Then on the Our Father Beads say the following:
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

On the Hail Mary Beads say the following:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

After the five decades, conclude with repeating three times:
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Often, some will add three times, Jesus, I trust in you.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Praise

Alleluia, He is risen!

With the universal Church, we join the praises of all creation. With angels and archangels, we rejoice. In this vein, may we reflect on the beauty of the Resurrection, as found in the Church's liturgy from the Easter Vigil, the Exultet:

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,

that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Reclaiming our Priestly Character (Part 2)

In the continuation of the Interview of Fr. Toups on his recent book, Fr. Toups speaks of the 6 parts of priestly Character that are held:

The first principle is the permanence of the priesthood, namely the reminder that the priest has entered into a permanent relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church by virtue of ordination.

He receives, in ordination, an ontological character that cannot be removed or erased. This reality affects the way he prepares for the priesthood in the seminary, the way he understands himself as a chaste spouse of the Church and spiritual father of the faithful.

The second principle is that the priest acts "in persona Christi," assuring both himself and the faithful that the sacraments are efficacious "ex opere operato."

The flip side of this is that, although he has received the sacerdotal character, he is obliged to keep working on his own personal character development as a man striving for holiness in his daily life.

The third principle is a reminder that the priest is not his own, but rather he belongs to and represents the Church "in persona Ecclesiae." Thus, he prays the Liturgy of the Hours, as he promised at ordination, for the needs of the whole Church.

Likewise, he embraces and hands on the teachings of the Church as the steward, not the master, of her truths. He is also proud -- in the best sense -- to be visibly recognizable as a priest, knowing he is called to courageously be a sign and symbol pointing beyond himself to Christ.

The fourth principle is priestly presence, namely that everything the priest does is priestly and has immense value, as Christ desires to work through him at all times. This happens in a particular way when preaching, shepherding, and healing God’s people as their spiritual father.

The fifth principle is the caution for priests to avoid the trap of functionalism or activism. The priest can get so busy that he can forget who he is or for whom he is doing the work.

He must be supernaturally sensitive, grounding himself by being a man of prayer who encounters God through daily, silent meditation, desiring an ever more intimate relationship with him.

Finally, the sixth principle, which has already been discussed, is ongoing formation. These principles all find their basis in the priestly character and serve as a foundation for a priestly life lived joyfully, bearing abundant fruit.

Good Friday

This Good Friday, we spend time in fasting, abstaining, and prayer, in silence. We remember the love os Christ, that He willingly accepted the Cross for us, and lays down His life. He becomes 'sin personified' - His broken body a visible reminder of what sin does. In taking on our sin, He nails it to the Cross, putting it to death, and in His resurrection, he rises to give us life and restore us to the Father. How wondrous this love!

For your prayer, I invite you to the following Examination of Conscience (which I wrote) based on the Stations of the Cross:

Jesus is Condemned to Die.
Have I condemned others? Have I spoken poorly of others? Have I misjudged others?

Jesus Carries His Cross.
Have I refused to accept Christ and His Cross? Have I failed to pray daily? Have I missed Mass on Sundays and Holy Day of Obligations?

Jesus Falls the First Time.
Have I fallen under bad influences? Have I laughed at or made fun of those around me? Have I excluded anyone?

Jesus Meets His Mother.
Have I disobeyed my parents? Have I disobeyed the law?

Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross.
Have I failed to help those in need? Have I ignored the needs of others? Have I increased the burdens of others?

Veronica Wipes Jesus' Face.
Have I failed to be compassionate? Have I failed to visit the sick, feed the hungry, cloth the naked? Have I allowed others to be in error or fall into sin?

Jesus Falls the Second Time.
Have I been dishonest? Have I lied and failed to tell the truth? Did I cheat or steal?

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.
Have I used language inappropriately? Have I engaged in idle talk or telling obscene jokes or stories?

Jesus Falls the Third Time.
Have I been irreverent for the things of God? Have I dishonored the name of God?

Jesus is Stripped.
Have I misused sexuality through impure thoughts and actions with myself or others? Have I looked at pornography, or leered at others as objects of lust?

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross.
Have I acted in revenge, and not forgiven as Jesus taught? Have I been envious of others?

Jesus Dies on the Cross.
Have I killed others’ reputations through gossip? Have I spoken out of anger to others and crushed their spirits? Have I fought with others?

Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross.
Have I disrespected my body? Have I taken part in things or activities that can harm me (alcohol, tobacco)? Have I been imprudent in what I eat or drink, or the amounts, either too much or too little?

Jesus is Laid in the Tomb.
Have I lived as God desires, or have I sought my own life apart from God?

Reclaiming Our Priestly Character

I would not often recommend a book or product on this site, but the new book by Fr. David Toups 'Reclaiming Our Priestly Character' warrants one. He does an excellent job in helping to clarify the doctrine of Priestly Character, and it is a 'must read' for all priests, I am convinced. In only three chapters, he helps to draw out the Church's teaching on priestly identity, attempts (and does so very well) to explain the reasons that this needs to be reclaimed, and gives some excellent suggestions for how to do this.

Further, in an article on Zenit, Fr. Toups gives a little taste of the book:

Q: Your book focuses on recovering what you call the “doctrine of the priestly character.” Can you describe this “doctrine” in a nutshell?

Father Toups: The “doctrine of the priestly character” is about the permanent relationship the priest enters into with Christ the High Priest on the day of his ordination.

The priest is always a priest; he is not a simple functionary who performs ritual actions, but rather he is configured to Christ in the depths of his being by what is called an ontological change.

Christ is working through him at the altar, “This is my Body,” and in the confessional, “I absolve you of your sins,” but also in his daily actions outside the sanctuary.

The character that the priest receives is a comfort to the faithful inasmuch as they realize that their faith is not based in the personality of the priest, but rather the Person of Christ working through the priest.

On the other hand, the priest is called, like all of the faithful, to a life of holiness. The character received at ordination is actually a dynamism for priestly holiness. The more he can assimilate his life to Christ and submit to the gift he received at ordination, the more he will be a credible witness to the faithful and edify the Body of Christ.

Q: Is it your view that the nature of the priesthood is unknown or misunderstood by many priests? Is mandatory “continuing priestly education” the answer?

Father Toups: Studies show that there has been confusion regarding the exact nature of the priesthood among priests themselves depending on the timing of their seminary training.

Immediately following the Second Vatican Council, there was confusion among priests and laity alike about the difference between the priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood.

Vatican II’s intention was not to suppress one in order to highlight the other, but rather to recognize the universal call to holiness and the dignity of both.

The ministerial priesthood is a specific vocation within the Church in which a man is called by Christ in the apostolic line to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Priests are different by virtue of ordination, as confirmed by the council itself in paragraph 10 of “Lumen Gentium,” which emphasized that the baptized and the ordained share in the one and the same priesthood of Christ, but in a way that differs “in essence and not only in degree.”

This difference certainly does not mean better or even holier -- that would be a major error -- but it does mean that there is a distinction.

Cardinal Avery Dulles points out that, if anything, the priesthood of the faithful is more exalted because the ministerial priesthood is ordered to its service. Hence, a recovery from the confusion lies in the need to understand the balance a priest is to find; he is both a servant and one who has been set aside by Christ and the Church to stand "in persona Christi" -- not as a personal honor, but as “one who has come to serve and not be served.”

The priest need not be embarrassed about this high calling, but should boldly live it out in the midst of the world. Pope John Paul the Great regularly reminded priests: “Do not be afraid to be who you are!”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Holy Thursday

Tonight, we celebrate the start of the Holy Triduum. With the Mass of the Lord's Supper, we remember the love of Christ in giving us not only the example of Service, which He further proves in His acceptance of the Cross. But most important, we remember the giving of the Priesthood and the Eucharist. Intimately tied together, the priesthood exists to provide the Eucharist, which makes the Church. The priest serves the Church, not the other way around!

This wonderful Day's liturgy ends with the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament, while singing the beautiful Pange Lingua, writen in Latin by St. Thomas Aquinas, the most influential theologian on the Eucharist. For our prayer, it is translated here:

Sing, my tongue, the Savior's Glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King,
destined, for the world's redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.

Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wondrously His life of woe.

On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law's command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.

Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;-
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing,
newer rites of grace prevail;
faith for all defects supplying,
where the feeble sense fail.

To the everlasting Father,
and the Son who reigns on high,
with the Holy Ghost proceeding
forth from Each eternally,
be salvation, honor, blessing,
might and endless majesty.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

Hosanna - save us. This is the cry of the people who lined the streets and placed their coats and palms as Jesus rode by. It is the cry that a child who is in danger cries out to his or her parents. Jesus comes into the city of Jerusalem, His own city, and they cry for salvation.

Just a few days later, the cry is that they want Him to die, to be crucified. In a prophetic statement, they tell Pilate "Let his blood be on us and on our children." Jesus is lead to Calvary, silently offering His life to the Father, and upon the cross pours out His blood. In this, He saves those who are willing to come to Him. By being immersed into His death and Resurrection, by being washed in His blood, we find salvation and healing of sin. Yes, may His blood be on us!

In responding to a vocation, we cry with all our being to Jesus Christ. We cry out that He would save us, lead us, and heal us.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Fifth Sunday of Lent

We hear the story of the raising of Lazarus. In this episode of the life of Christ, we learn something important about Jesus. When he is told that his friend is sick, he simply stays put. A close friend would have started traveling under the news, but Jesus simply states this sickness would demonstrate the glory of God. When He finally goes, he announces that Lazarus is asleep, and He must waken him. Martha, Mary, and the Jewish onlookers all accuse Jesus of not being there and doing all that He could to prevent the death. What a friend, huh?

In the end, though, Jesus knows exactly what he was going to do. He calls for the tomb to be opened. Martha objects - there will be a stench. The tomb is opened though, and Jesus calls Lazarus out, who rises and comes out bound, but alive. What he experienced was the resuscitation, a return to this natural life, and he will die again.

For us, we are so often like Martha and Mary. We might wonder why Jesus is not responding (at least the way we want), and we question whether we are really His friends. Yet, it is for the Glory of God - Jesus knows what he is going to do in our lives. We might object to opening up the places of death - after all, there is s stench around there. Jesus simply speaks our name and a command, and only in listening and responding, can we find freedom.

May we respond to the voice of Jesus calling us into life and freedom!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Lent

We hear the account of the man born blind. The event starts with the question of whose sin prompted him to be born blind. Jesus replies that he is blind that all will see God's glory. Jesus knew what he was going to do. The man is healed, by being faithful to what Jesus Christ asks.
Others cannot believe it is him - it is simply more believable to them that there was someone who looked exactly like him. The validity of the man's claim is questioned, by neighbors, scribes, and the Sanhedrin.
Jesus reminds them, though, that sinful blindness is not being born physically blind, but to be spiritually blind to the point that one cannot see the work of God.

In discerning a vocation, one of our first prayers should be to open our hearts and eyes of our heart. Without this, we could simply ignore the work of God, and ignore His call in our lives. Christ is willing to heal us, if we are willing to let Him.