Sunday, January 27, 2008

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Light is important - anyone who has walked in the dark through a strange place knows this by experience. The land of the gentiles were dark - not physically of course, but spiritually. Without the guiding light of faith that comes from God (who lead the nation of Israel with a pillar of fire), they were dwelling in gloom. But Christ bursts on to the scene, bringing light and guidance. His first words are a call to conversion - the light they were so desperate for is revealing their sins and need to follow Christ.

Jesus calls the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him and to become in turn fishers of men - they too were to call others to repentance and call others into the light of the Kingdom of God. Now, 20 centuries later, we continue to be called and to call others. To be fishers of men ourselves, we need to live in the light ourselves, to be living a life of repentance. May the light of Heaven shine on us, casting out all our darkness.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Article on the Ten Suggestions

This month, we mark National Vocations Awareness Week(January 13-18). While so often we single out priesthood and religious life, we know that we need holy husbands and wives, following the model of the Holy Family. We need holy married couples to raise children in an environment of holiness. Any response to the call of God is first made possible by the loving example of family. Without holy families, the chances of responding to a call are greatly diminished, simply because no one has modeled how to respond to any call, whether to priesthood, religious life, the deaconate, the missionary life, or even holy marriage.
There seems to be a certain confusion among parents for the best practices that would open their children’s hearts to responding. Perhaps we should take comfort calling to mind Pentecost – despite all the confusion, it was the work of the Holy Spirit in which we find the trust that God to still be in control. We also know that more than the minimum is necessary. Following the precepts of the Church are the minimum. What follows are some humble ‘hints’ for parents in how to create an environment in which children will be open to hearing God’s voice and responding in love to that call.
1. Develop your relationship with Christ and impart a desire for discipleship in the lives of your children. Especially important would be participating in Eucharistic Adoration and even if possible daily Mass. Silence is necessary for growth (both your own and for your child), and in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we are profoundly touched by His loving embrace. In frequent reception of the Eucharist, we grow in grace and freedom.
2. Live your vocation to marriage out as fully as you can. By responding to your vocation to marriage, asking for the fullness of grace that God offers, you will model to your children how to live and respond to God’s grace.
3. Speak of the holy and influential priests and religious in your life. Sharing these stories helps to show the impact a religious life can have.
4. Provide opportunities for your children to speak with priests and religious. Invite them to your house, or let your children interact with them after Mass or at various functions. Your children will see them as human beings and begin to ask if God might be calling them, too.
5. Pray for your children’s vocations, that they may understand their call, and place them in the care of the Blessed Mother, through praying the rosary as a family. By placing your children’s vocations to her maternal protection, she will lead them to Christ.
6. Speak of your children responding to whatever vocation they have, showing your support of them without pushing them. Be aware that the vocation comes from God, and that their free response will lead them to lasting happiness. Parents walk a fine line between showing support and forcing a response. Let your children know you are pleased by their response to God’s call.
7. Instill in your children a desire to serve and a proper understanding of stewardship. This can be done through your ‘open’ service and stewardship. Let your children see your joy-filled gift of self, and help them to find opportunities to do likewise.
8. Inspire a heroic life of virtue in your child by reading to them or with them about the lives of the saints and encouraging moral choices.
9. Help your child develop a wide range of activities and discern what gives them joy and what their talents are. By knowing their talents and gifts, your child may be able to know what God desires. There are certain skills that are useful in any lifestyle and vocation, and by learning to place these in the service of God, your child will more readily be able to cultivate other ‘specialized’ gifts that will led to discerning God’s will.
10. Develop a sense of the sacred and transcendent in your child. Great art, literature, and music can inspire us and teach us of the human condition.
There is nothing profound in any of these things. Together, we can build a culture for vocations in our homes, parishes, area faith communities, diocese, and world. We can create an environment which enables and encourages all of us to respond more deeply to God’s call. We can inspire our youth to take their proper places at the altar as lay men and women, as religious, as deacons, and priests, together worshipping God with one unified voice of praise!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend, our readings invite us to ask how we ourselves are called to be servants and apostles (those sent out) of the Lord. Just as John the Baptist was given a purpose, so to do we. John, though, does something interesting - he forgets who Jesus is, but that the Father had to remind him.

We ask Christ to help us to know how we are called, to watch for the signs, and to respond.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Reflection on the Baptism of the Lord

This weekend, we celebrate another episode of manifestation. Jesus Christ approaches John the Baptist for his baptism for the repentance of sin - the Sinless Creator approaches the 'voice who cried out' to prepare His way. Jesus was not in need of this baptism except as a means to further identify with the rest of humanity. In His act of obedience, Jesus transforms the waters of the Jordan and all the waters of the world (according to the Church Fathers, anyway) to bring us the Baptism of regeneration. Sin is washed away, and we are renewed, restored, and set free to serve God. It is a great mystery that we have in Baptism - it restores us to Grace - the presence of God, the Holy Trinity.

Our life in God begins in Baptism. No matter how old we were when we were Baptized, whether our parents spoke on our behalf (as it is for most of us), or if we made the choice to be baptized, we continue to live out the grace that it brings. In reflecting on our own baptism and perhaps even renewing our Baptismal Vows even through reciting our Creed, we will can respond to God's will. While we may not hear a thunderous voice from the heavens tell us we are His beloved children, we may hear His still, small voice calling us to the next step.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Reasons To Be a Priest

The editors at the National Catholic Register ran an article 7 Reasons To Be a Priest. It is a thoughtful piece filled with great points that have potential to inspire.
The seven reasons are listed here, but read the article to find out what they mean.
First: The World Needs Heroes

Second: To Make Christ Present to More People.

Third: To Forgive Sins.

Fourth: To Be a Living Icon of Christ.

Fifth: To Be Like Mary.

Sixth: To Preach and Teach.

Seventh: To Expand Your Family.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

You Cannot Be Serious

For some time, there has been a growing thought against the practice of the faith. Recently, Catholic World News reported of a British lawmaker's take on Catholic Education:

Barry Sheerman, the Labor party lawmaker who chairs a committee on schools, claimed that some Catholic bishops "appear to be taking a much firmer line," the Irish Independent reported. Sheerman said that parliament should question the bishops "to find out what is going on."

Sheerman's ire appeared to be directed at Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue of Lancaster, who has barred "safe-sex" instructions in parochial schools, and Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, who clashed with Sheerman over plans for an "inter-faith academy."

The Labor lawmaker argued that parliament should carefully monitor the expenditure of government funds, even at church-administered schools, the Irish Independent said. The newspaper quoted Sheerman as suggesting that religious education is healthy only if the schools do not take faith seriously:

It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked.


So, essential, according to Sheerman, we can teach (and by extension, I would assume, learn) whatever we want as long as we are not serious about any of it. This is so backward. True academia can only be found in holding to the true, timeless principles of life, and to take them seriously. There is no such thing as a mediocre saint - to be holy is to be wholly dedicated to God, and to be serious about holding and teaching the truths of the Church. To be a saint is to reject a life of lawlessness and submit to the life of love and truth as revealed in Christ and His Church!

The critic in me says: It seems to me that parliament style of government works all right as long as the lawmakers are making asinine statements and defending laws and policies that oppress, deceive, and prevent people from seeking the True Good.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Epiphany

In some parts of the Christian world, it is today that they exchange gifts, in honor of the wise men who came to worship Jesus Christ with gifts of Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. A few years ago, I read a little story meant to poke fun at the wise men questioning the wisdom of bringing such gifts. It made me wonder what the gifts may have meant to the givers and to the Holy Family. Gold, of course, we can understand. It is money, or worth money if it is not processed. But frankincense and myrrh - what are these? Frankincense is fine incense, the dried sap of the frankincense tree. When burned, it imparts a gentle odor that covers up strong smells (such as in a barnyard). But it is also a priestly and kingly gift - it was burned in the presence of the king and symbolized the prayers of the faithful rising to God. Myrrh is an even more fascinating item. It, too, is the resin of a tree. It was typically mixed with either wine or oil. In small amounts, myrrh in wine gave it a regal quality due to its ticklish/cooling taste, and in oil, it was a highly sought-after bath oil due to perfumed smell. In large amounts, myrrh-laced wine had a narcotic effect that deadened pain. In heavy amounts in oil, it was used in burials to mask the stench of death and unbeknowst to the ancient, had an antiseptic quality that kept the especially smelly bacteria inactive until the tomb was closed. Did the wise men understand that the gifts to be particularity fitting for the Son of God, made flesh, who would offer his life for us? Even if not, myrrh, until recently, could be found in diaper rash ointments! Let us bring our own gifts, fit for our savior.

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?