Preaching

Leaving The World For Church

Alexander_SchmemannThe journey begins when Christians leave their homes and beds . They leave , indeed , their life in this present and concrete world , and whether they have to drive fifteen miles or walk a few blocks , a sacramental act is already taking place , an act which is the very condition of everything else that is to happen . For they are now on their way to constitute the Church , or to be more exact , to be transformed into the Church of God... And now they have been called to " come together in one place , " to bring their lives , their very " world " with them and to be more than what they were : a new community with a new life .

We are already far beyond the categories of common worship and prayer . The purpose of this " coming together " is not simply to add a religious dimension to the natural community , to make it " better " - more responsible , more Christian . The purpose is to fulfill the Church , and that means to make present the One in whom all things are at their end , and all things are at their beginning . The liturgy begins then as a real separation from the world . 

...In church today, we so often find we meet only the same old world, not Christ and His Kingdom. We do not realize that we never get anywhere because we never leave any place behind us.

Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy (Kindle Locations 298-300). Kindle Edition.

 


St. Therese of Lisieux, The "Little Flower"

Nothing is little about everyday holiness, but it is simple and that is the message of the "little" way of holiness. Revolutionary for its time, St. Therese championed the idea that a call to holiness was not simply the province of priests or religious. Consonant with Pope Francis' Year of Mercy, she petitioned to be allowed to dedicate herself to the merciful suffering of Jesus.

It's not easy to keep track of Therese since her name itself has been spelled many ways and can also be properly appended with "Child of Jesus" and "Jesus of the Holy Face." 

St Therese of Lisieux at Holy Cross Church
The "Little Flower"


Our stained glass window shows her youthful beauty, her contemplation of cross with Jesus crucified and garlands of roses falling from her arms and Carmelite habit. Each is a clue about her life, which is certainly worth study. As a Doctor of the Church, her autobiography, A Story of a Soul, a good biography or writings about her spirituality are accessible and fruitful for spiritual seekers of all ages. 

 


The President, The Inquisition and The Crusades

Sunday homilies are constrained by length and by the understanding there are children of all ages present at most liturgies. They are never “speeches” or “talks” and even those that convey new information are not to be lessons or lectures. One of my pastor mentors in seminary used to say that a homily should always end with something we can do.  With that understanding, here is last Sunday’s homily.

 

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1:29-39

Jesus heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law

 

Any week the President of the United States

Uses Christ’s name twice in one speech

In the same context with the

Inquisition and Crusades

Serious Catholics have some

Praying to do

 

My responsibility isn’t to criticize

The president

But his speech has left some sickened

 

My responsibility is to lift us up

With the gospel truth

Of Jesus Christ

Just as Christ raised up

Peter’s mother-in-law

From her sickbed

To full health

 

Don’t let anyone keep you

In a sickbed about your faith!

Read, study, know the truth

A few moments on the two issues

The president raised in his prayer breakfast speech:

 

In 1998 John Paul II made these concluding remarks in a speech about the Inquisition

       Yet the consideration of mitigating factors does not exonerate the Church from the obligation to express profound regret for the weaknesses of so many of her sons and daughters who sullied her face, preventing her from fully mirroring the image of her crucified Lord, the supreme witness of patient love and of humble meekness. From these painful moments of the past a lesson can be drawn for the future, leading all Christians to adhere fully to the sublime principle stated by the Council: The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it wins over the mind with both gentleness and power.

 

The modern synthesis of the Crusades in many academic and political institutions is that the soldiers of the First Crusade appeared without any warning to pillage and plunder the Holy Land and slaughter non-Christians.

  In truth, well before 1095 the year of the first Crusade which came to the aid of the Byzantine emperor in the West who feared Constantinople would fall to the Muslims, wars of Islamic aggression had already seized control of the formerly Christian territories of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa, Spain, most of Asia Minor and Southern France. Italy was under assault, Sicily was eventually taken. Muslim invasions would be led into Europe.

3 of 5 Christianity’s primatial sees had already been captured: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria. Constantinople would eventually fall. Only Rome escaped…narrowly.

Any war, primitive or modern, is gruesome and brutal.

 Here is John Paul II’s prayer during a celebration of the Great Jubilee in 2000:

 Let us forgive and ask forgiveness! While we praise God who, in his merciful love, has produced in the Church a wonderful harvest of holiness, missionary zeal, total dedication to Christ and neighbour, we cannot fail to recognize the infidelities to the Gospel committed by some of our brethren, especially during the second millennium. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions.

 

The silence of Islamic religious leaders

       Asking forgiveness for wars of aggression

       or disavowal of the acts committed by some

       in the name of their prophet

       is deafening

 

Our Christian baptism

does not put us on a “high horse" as the president said...

Far from it

We are touched by Christ

For service and to be his disciples

 

After today’s gospel miracle

       He set out on a preaching mission

       Throughout the whole region

 

We are empowered to

       Preach about Christ’s church

       His gospel message

And to condemn

       The abuse of human rights

       And religious freedom

       Wherever they occur

 Not because the church

       Can claim its members

       Are sinless saints

       But because

       Christ and his church

       Are the world’s best hope

       Not its greatest threat

       As some media pundits

       And militant atheists

       Would have us believe.

 

 We must be careful

       Not to let criticism of religious extremism

       turn to religious indifferentism

       Or hostility to

       Persons of any religious faith

 

But this is not a time for Christianity

       To be in bed with the flu

       Or to be weakened

       By medicinal doses of guilt

       Whether served up to us

       By the media or our president

 

Out of an abudance

       Of political correctness

 

Should our voices for an end to

       Senseless violence against civilians

              Men, women and children

              And graphic, public executions

              Be silenced?

 

Can we at least agree to condemn

       Beheadings, crucifixions

And slave markets

       Of Christians?

  

Can we condemn

Cowardly acts of terrorism

       Defend against them

       And try to make the world

       A safer place?

 

We must.

 

Lent is almost upon us.

A perfect opportunity

       To express our grief in ashes

       And our hope in Jesus Christ

       To pray, fast and do penance

       And work

       For peace.

 


Masses for Peace and Justice This Weekend

Prayforpeace4cl
In solidarity with Pope Francis, Bishop O'Connell has given Trenton parishes permission to substitute the Mass of Peace and Justice in lieu of the mass for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Special intentions for world peace will be offered at all the masses which will unite Catholics throughout the world in prayer for a conversion of minds and hearts and aversion of further bloodshed and more serious calamaties. We will also pray for the many dead and for those who are persecuted, especially Christians in the Middle East, Africa and in fact, all around the globe.

Please join us for a prayerful and holy Eucharist and raise your mind and heart to God together with your fellow parishioners in praise, lament and petition. 

 


Survey on Catechetical Preaching

Catholic_priestDuring the Year of Faith, at Bishop O'Connell's request, we have dedicated the second Sunday of each month to catechetical preaching. As you know, catechetical preaching explains or illustrates a teaching of the Faith rather than concentrating on the Scriptures read during the Mass. 

It's time to decide whether we continue the practice on a routine basis at Holy Cross.

What do you think?    Take our one-question survey and let us know!

 

Click here for Preaching Survey

 



Thought Provoking Article by Theologian Stanley Hauerwas - "The End of American Protestantism"

"The End of American Protestantism" by Stanley Hauerwas

Preacher_10
This article via Bioedge Newsletter was originally published on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) by Professor Stanely Hauerwas, now of Duke University.

Entitled "The End of American Protestantism," it decries the dissolution of faith in God, or at least in the American god Protestantism had created from "a synthesis of evangelical Protestantism, republican political ideology and commonsense moral reasoning." Hauerwas' analysis of the peculiar secularism in which we now find ourselves comes from the unravelling of the moral consensus we previously held on the importance of faith in republican democracy and the common sense of the average American. 

Hauerwas begins his article by exempting American Catholicism from his analysis, but I'm not so sure we have escaped the melting pot of America's new god - freedom of choice. Look at the first two paragraphs of his essay and see if they would intrigue you, as they did me, to read the entire piece:

Catholics in America know they do not belong, which is why they are so determined to demonstrate that they are more American than the Americans.

All you need to know to understand America is that the FBI is made up of Catholics and Southerners. This is because Catholics and Southerners have to try to show they are more loyal than most Americans, since Southerners have a history of disloyalty and Americans fear that Catholics may owe their allegiance to some guy in Rome. That is why the FBI is given the task of examining graduates of Harvard and Yale - that is, high-culture Protestants who, of course, no longer believe in God - to see if they are loyal enough to be operatives for the CIA.

The related phenomenon is what I call "the New York Times Catholics." These are Catholics, usually clergy, a New York Times journalist has learned to call after the Pope has issued an encyclical or given a speech that seems offensive to American sensibilities. They call a Catholic, whom they have previously identified as a critic of the church, to have confirmed that whatever the Pope has said, Catholics in America are not required to obey, or even if they are so required, Catholics will not take what the Pope has said seriously. From the perspective of the New York Times, therefore, a good Catholic is one that would be regarded by the Vatican as a bad Catholic.

 

To emphasize the point even more strongly, it seems that several of the most well published writers critical of the Catholic church and its teachings identify themselves as Catholics. 

In a fascinating analysis of why American divorce and abortion have become widespread, Hauerwas asks if the "person on the street" would agree that someone should be held responsible for something they promised when they didn't know what they were doing. Of course not, would be the likely reply. So how could you possibly make an unconditional promise of marriage, or be held to deliver an unwanted child to put the child up for adoption? The dysfunctional marriage or the unplanned pregnancy are circumstantial evidence that at least two persons didn't know what they were doing. Either the marriage or the child can be dismissed.

Don't look for Catholics to save the day warns Hauerwas, for Catholicism in America has become another variety of Protestant Christianity. The laughable assertion that " I believe in Jesus as Lord, but that's just my personal opinion," is likely to be the sentiment of the average politically correct American Catholic. Similarly, a chorus of Catholic elected officials will carefully explain the dinstinction betweeen their "public" and "private" morality in an effort to reassure the electorate they will ignore Catholic doctrine at the office. Should we call this their belief in the Kennedy-Cuomo Doctrine?

The article is thought provoking commentary on modernity, pluralism and religious freedom. It makes interesting companion reading with Pope Francis' Encyclical "The Light of Faith."

Maybe the proverb many of us learned in our youth (perhaps taught by a nun) "better to light one candle than curse the darkness" needs a modern day Catholic revision - important to curse the darkness but keep lighting candles anyway.


The Light of Faith - "Lumen Fidei"

Insigne_Francisci.svg
The Light of Faith

The papal encyclical of Francis with the collaboration of Benedict highlights once again, the difficulties a disciple of Jesus faces in the modern world.

The encyclical, though brief, is not a breezy read. I won't even try to summarize the whole letter, but point out two of the many passages which invited me to pray:

Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light. 

 And, of course, the prayer which closes the encyclical itself:

 Let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith. 
Mother, help our faith! 
Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call. 
Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise. 
Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith. 
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature. 
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One. 
Remind us that those who believe are never alone. 
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!



Prayer Service for Religious Liberty

2f26f341f4caea7a5809ab9751f2fef7Thank you to all who stayed to pray today after the 10:30 AM mass for religious liberty in our country and in the world. We prayed the litany suggested by and composed by the American bishops which was quite beautiful and very appropriate.

Our campaign to collect signatures for letters to our elected representatives is ongoing and there were letters available for signing after all the masses this weekend. To date, almost 1000 signatures have been collected and letters mailed.

Sunday's Homily

"Do not be afraid, just have faith." I hope these words of Jesus go straight to our minds and hearts this weekend; how sorely we need to hear them. 

In the face of sin, illness, even death, Jesus reassures us. How much more should we be reassured in the face of disorder in our relationships, finance, politics, family?  Increase our faith, O Lord!

There is a surely a crisis of faith, both secular and religious. All human institutions and promises are undergoing a trial: do we mean what we say, can we trust anyone's promise? Can we rely on each other? These questions are serious enough, but the crisis of religious faith tempts us to believe we cannot or better not rely on God. Or equally perilous, we might come to believe that our faith is simply an inner assertion of belief which carries no obligations to live a faith-filled life.

Our faith is a precious gift and it must be nurtured and protected. How many times, if we're honest, have we chosen fun over faith? Our amusement and leisure time is important, but so is preserving some of it to nurture and practice our faith. 

Pope Benedict has proclaimed a Year of Faith beginning in October 2012. In calling for a year of prayer and action to nurture our faith, he reminds us that Mary's "yes", her life of discipleship from Bethelehem to Golgotha, her taste of the fruits of Jesus' resurrection and participation in the formation and life of the early Church at Pentecost - all were acts of faith. The first apostles left everything in fatih and preached everywhere. This very faith which has been handed down to us by countless men and women so that we can recognize Jesus in the Eucharist and in each other, in our church and in our history.

Faith has both an intellectual and spiritual component. We hope our faith resides down deep in our hearts, but it is also fed by our mind and our reason. To nurture our faith, we need acts of prayer and charity, the Eucharist, the sacraments, but we also need to read, study, appropriate the faith for each stage of our journey. There is a rich content to the faith, even called "the deposit of faith," a rich tradition and beautifully clear Church teachings for us to know and understand. In conjunction with the Year of Faith, Bishop O'Connell has proclaimed that the preaching on the second Sunday of each month be reserved for teaching an important aspect of our faith, church tradition or church teaching.

We must appreciate how threatened our faith can become by simple everyday events, if we don't take precautions to strengthen and protect it. The books we read, the news we hear, the movies we see, the conversations we have and the jokes we laugh at; the friends we keep, the things we buy, the ad campaigns we respond to, the way we permit our children to dress, the song lyrics they carry around in their heads, the trends we become part of...all these can be a slow and relentless drip, drip, drip eroding the foundations of our faith. Without reparative and preventive measures, we should not be surprised to discover at a funeral, or a wedding, or the doctor's office, that when we turn to rely on our faith...it has collapsed.

This weekend, especially, we remind ourselves that our civic freedom also needs protection. If we fail to nurture and protect our liberties, pay little heed to world events, our nation's history, or political discourse, our freedoms will wither or be clipped and trimmed into a shape our forbearers wouldn't even recognize.

Today we join in prayer for the preservation of faith and freedom in our nation and in the world. This will become more important as specific articles of our faith bring us into conflict with the political and moral climate of our country, but also with a militant secularism which strives to sanitize God from any American public discussion. Some seek to regulate our Catholic charities and our Catholic teaching institutions no differently than MacDonalds or Walmart. We are different! What we do and how we do it springs directly from our faith, which we must be free to practice in private and in public.

Faith and our freedom to practice it is a God given liberty, which today we acknolwedge, has required heroic human sacrifice to preserve. Let us resolve today to reinforce both faith and freedom by prayer, reading and study, by witness and whenever necessary by willing sacrifice.



Catechetical Preaching Sundays

PreachBeginning in October of 2013 for the Year of the Faith, Bishop O'Connell has designated the Second Sunday of each month as "Catechetical Sunday."

The topic for each Sunday will be published well in advance so that homilies at every Mass celebrated in the Diocese on that particular weekend will be on the same topic of Church doctrine/faith using the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a primary reference.

 

Catholic preaching in the last decades has moved away from sermons -  topics chosen by the priest or preacher without any correlation to the lectionary readings. Priests were taught to preach homilies, which are specifically written to illustrate or complement one or more of the lectionary readings at the mass, frequently the gospel.

What exactly does catechetical preaching mean?  Don't worry, it does not mean that homilies will become lectures. But a catechetical homily should teach or inform us about a particular aspect of the Catholic faith. Illustrative stories can still be helpful, but the gospel or the 1st reading may not specifically relate to the topic of the sermon.  At daily mass, for example, if the priest preaches about the life of a saint, it could be a catechetical homily; we learn about the life of the saint, sometimes the controversies when the saint lived or the doctrines the saint might have taught or exemplified by his or her life.

The topics for these homilies are still being selected. Some of them might be grace, or original sin, or topics of belief in the Nicene Creed, etc. It's a noble experiment which I think will be well received. 

 

 


Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Happy Saint John's Day

Isolated_fire_on_white_background

  • The tradition of St. John's Eve bonfires survives in many parts of the world. A bonfire was blessed, old sacramentals were burned, torches lit from the bonfire were carried to fields, flocks and herds to bless their fruitfulness. Light a candle at home or in church to pray for someone; burn old missals, prayer cards; write a resentment down on a piece of paper and burn it. Bury the ash. Give someone hope or pray that God grant you more.
  •  This date traditionally marked the end of a quarter, the books were balanced, debts were settled, rents were due. Donate to charity, settle a dispute, mend a relationship.
  • Collect some flowers for drying or give them to someone.
  • Children who went strawberry picking this day were traditionally accompanied by Mary. The strawberry, a plant which has pure white flowers and mature fruit at the same time, has been a symbol for Mary, who is virgin and mother. Eat some strawberries or pick some.
  • St. John's Wort is in bloom at this time of year. It was gathered to ward off evil spirits and can be used in a tincture to treat depression or enjoyed in a tea. Pray for someone who is depressed or help brighten someone's day.
  • Ashes from the bonfire were saved and mixed with water to bless the sick. Pray for the sick and dying today. 

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist Was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Don't Anger the Queen

2xdw
2 Kgs 11:1-4,9-18,20 Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Did you know there was a Queen of Judah? Queen Athaliah had been married to King Jehoram (from the House of David) and had persuaded him to allow the worship of Baal in Judah along with other pagan practices. When Jehoram died, his son Ahaziah became king but it was not long before he was assassinated by faithful followers of Yahweh. The Queen Mother Athaliah sought revenge by killing all potential successors to the throne, including her own grandchildren. In her rage, she exterminated all but one – Joash, an infant who was protected from the Queen’s murderous rampage and sequestered in the Temple where he was raised by the high priest. Queen Athaliah enjoyed an illegitimate reign of seven years, until a coup was arranged by the priest Jehoiada, who brought the young Joash out of hiding, crowned him rightful king and renewed the Davidic covenant. They slew Queen Athaliah and purged the kingdom of pagan worship. Quite a saga and quite a bloodbath.

Murderous anger is not confined to the pages of the Bible, and its consequences are no less deadly today than centuries ago. We might be tempted to cloak our own anger in righteousness, but righteous anger defends the powerless and right-wises injustice, it never deliberately harms others, defames or detracts from them. It is distinct from vindictiveness, resentment and rage. Righteous anger is a weapon best wielded by God; murderous rage is an armament of bullies.

 

 


Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time 2 Kings 2:1,6-14

Elijah's Mantle

3903801185_6835406cba_zThe bullying, uncontrollable tempers and disrespect for others in our school playgrounds mirror the troubles in our neighborhoods and our nation. Whereas previous generations were more likely to protect children from “adult” discussions and problems until a certain age, now we use children as pawns in our own battles.

Our missionary speaker informed us last Sunday about the “Sunflower Children” in Ethiopia – young girls purchased cheaply from their families by farmers to run up and down rows of sunflowers and substitute for pollinating bees, until the girls outgrow their usefulness at age 13 when they are discarded. Taliban leaders recently announced that in protest of US drone strikes, no more children will be vaccinated against polio.  One prominent ethicist wondered, “Where is the outrage?”

Elijah passed his mission and his mantle to the younger Elisha , whom he had mentored and prepared to assume the difficulties of leadership of the Israelites. All young people, especially men, need an Elijah to help form them in fortitude, right reason and protective compassion for their loved ones and strangers alike. First the mantle protects and then it empowers. 

Every child deserves a childhood. Whenever company was visiting and I heard my grandmother proclaim, like a truce, “little pitchers have big ears,” it annoyed me because I knew I was going to miss some glorious grown up gossip or be excluded from some vociferous argument. Now that I understand what she was doing, I love her all the more.

 



Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Petunia_integrifolia2"To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade."

 

Some people wonder why I don’t pull the flowers up

that sprout from the cracks in the pavement and driveway alongside the rectory.

When I couldn’t tell the difference between

Weed and wildflower seedlings  

I did pull everything up.

In fact, I sometimes even sprayed to prevent anything from growing.

 

But one plant I have been trying to establish

Is the self-sowing petunia.

It’s more difficult than you would think.

After a couple of years of carefully planting, and cultivating the beds I had prepared for them to grow, where did they eventually spring up?

From the cracks!

 

I figured if they were able to survive in the cracks, maybe they were the best to allow to self-sow;

I began protecting them.

 

I’ve always had a hard time

Pulling up a beautiful flower

just because it has decided to grow

In the wrong place

And when I learned to tell what each wildflower seedling looked like,

I just had to leave them to grow too.

 

Every morning as I pass the

Blossoms in the concrete

I’m challenged to be mindful

That good things can grow

Even where they weren’t deliberately planted

in fact, they might be the best and only hope.

 

To be sure the whole garden needs protection

Even the tallest, most venerable shade tree.

But they usually have vocal supporters who can

Network and protest; They even have their own commission.

 

It's the seedlings above all that must be protected

Especially in a Christian community

And especially in the seed bed of a school.

 

All our seedlings need to be safe...

Even those that are sometimes

A bit different, disorderly

Or out of line.


Memorial Day, Military Suicides and Pentecost

Yellow_and_red_candle_fThis weekend our nation remembers those who suffered most acutely from war; we salute those veterans who gave their lives in battle. The Memorial Day holiday has an interesting history. Just around the same time the Catholic Church was moving holydays and allowing Saturday evening vigil masses to satisfy the Sunday mass obligation, Congress moved four federal holidays to Mondays in order to give federal workers three day weekends – Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day. It didn’t take long for most states to follow the federal lead, except interestingly, for Veterans Day, which after a decade of Monday celebration, was moved back to its traditional date of November 11. (WWI hostilities ended 11/11/1918 at the 11th hour; orginally Armistice Day)

We are reminded this Memorial Day, that war takes the lives of our soldiers not only on the battlefield, but off it as well. Some who speak of the glory of war too often forget its gory cruelty. Veterans cannot forget and haunted by the memories, they sometimes take their own lives after their fighting is done.

The commanding general of Fort Bliss, Maj Gen Pittard1 was criticized for recently blogging a comment that suicide was a thoroughly “selfish” act, which brutalized family members, friends and colleagues. His blog comments were made after attending the funeral of a soldier who killed himself at home with his family on Christmas in front of his twin six year old daughters. It is important to read about Fort Bliss and the full text of the general’s now deleted blog comments before agreeing with some politicians that the general “completely misunderstands” military suicides, or that he is “totally insensitive” to the problem. The general retracted his statement, but reemphasized his concern about suicide not only in the Army, but in our nation.3

 Meantime, no one led the charge to correct a statement from one of the Kennedy’s outside the funeral of Mary Kennedy, who hanged herself: “Mary suffered from depression…I just think about the story of Michael the Archangel, who had to battle the forces of evil, had to battle Satan who was trying to enter paradise, and that's what Mary did her whole life. She was battling, battling those demons and keeping them out of the paradise that was Mary. She was an angel, she was an angel who was brought to us to live with us here on Earth. And I think that God just brought her back up to heaven and said: 'You don't have to fight for me anymore, you can be back where you're supposed to be.”4

Emotionally sympathetic, but theologically bizarre comments like these are precisely why the Catholic Church forbids eulogies (praising the deceased) at mass and exercises increasing vigilance over the Words of Remembrance given by family or friends whenever they are spoken in church.

I’m no angel, you’re no angel. Our battles are vastly different from angels, who do not experience hunger, thirst, fatigue or even physical pleasure. Angels don’t become addicted to drugs or alcohol, or suffer from any illness, even a cold. Angels cannot kill themselves.

Here apparently suicide has moved away from any opprobrium at all, to a hereditary illness, then to an honor in heaven, a kind of heavenly Purple Heart. As General Pittard reminds us however, “There is nothing noble about suicide.” Implying that there is, even to console the sorrowful, is dangerous.

If we can agree that suicide is not a moral flaw, I hope we can also agree that suicide causes terrible pain and suffering to others…suicide is surely not a moral virtue. Nor is suicide inevitable. (In fact a recent study determined that 20% of those dying by suicide are legally intoxicated; is getting drunk part of the suicide plan, or does drinking loosen inhibitions against self-harm? There is so much we do not yet understand.)

We reflect on the wounds of war this weekend: The wounds that kill on the battlefield and those that kill after the battle is done. God help us to understand the horror of war, and that some casualties of war can be prevented far away from enemy fire.

General Pittard comments that “suicide is a serious problem, not only in our Army, but throughout our entire nation.” As for the soldiers under his command, a buddy system has been instituted –  all soldiers have a teammate watching out for them; the general exhorts them: to “Please look after each other; please do not allow your buddy to make a rash decision that will have permanent life-ending consequences. Choose life.” That doesn’t sound like insensitivity or misunderstanding to me.

 As citizens we can make sure mental health treatment is freely and confidentially available. And we can fight the stigma that a history of mental health treatment carries in many professions and occupations.

As Catholics we can embrace the graces of Pentecost. Ask the Holy Spirit to make us ever faithful in Pentecost
prayer, to increase our respect for the Eucharist and strengthen our spiritual and communal bonds.

May we become

  • a community of compassion and consolation, of less strident criticism, but not of lesser moral values.
  • a community of courage to confront social evils and battle to right them.
  • a community of freedom to worship our God, help our neighbors and defend our most precious moral and religious values. 

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!

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Pittard's original blog entry Jan 18 2012: I've edited out the phrases which were criticized so as not to propagate them, you can Google them everywhere. The whole post is a bit more difficult to discover: 

"We lost a Fort Bliss Soldier to an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. I heard the tragic news as I walked out of a memorial service for another one of our Soldiers who decided to kill himself at home on Christmas Day so that his family would find him. Christmas will never be the same for his two young daughters he left behind....edit...There is nothing noble about suicide. I care about each and every one of our Soldiers, family members and civilians at Fort Bliss. I know there are a lot of people hurting out there, especially with the future Army personnel cuts on the horizon. If you are hurting mentally or emotionally, then seek and get help; but don’t resort to taking your own life. ...edit...SEEK HELP! If you need help, please call 915-779-1800 or 800-273-TALK (8255). It is a confidential call. Please look after each other; please do not allow your buddy to make a rash decision that will have permanent life-ending consequences. Choose life.”

 


So What Did Sebelius Say?

Fortnight-for-freedom-montage

After all the furor over the ill-advised invitation by Georgetown University to Kathleen Sebelius to speak at the "non commencement event," and the predictable deaf ear turned toward it by the University administration, what did she say?

Well, pretty much work hard, work for the common good, keep your idealism, Carpe diem. She was pretty heavy on the Georgetown sports metaphors (the transcript of the speech I read doesn't transcribe whether there was any hooting or hollering when the teams were mentioned). Which ideals she meant for the graduates to hold onto wasn't clear, but strongly implied that elders don't have them anymore.

She used the word "Catholic" once in referring to John Kennedy's presidential campaign but did not identify herself as one. And she repeated the poorly understood phrase "separation of church and state" which has often been used in an attempt to silence public discussion about moral issues.  (Some critics have noted there was little to fear Catholicism would influence anything Kennedy did, public or private.)  

Some of then-Senator Kennedy’s opponents attacked him for his religion, suggesting that electing the first Catholic president would undermine the separation of church and state, a fundamental principle of our democracy. The furor grew so loud that Kennedy chose to deliver a speech about his beliefs just seven weeks before the election.

In that talk to Protestant ministers, Kennedy talked about his vision of religion and the public square, and said he believed in an America, and I quote, “where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against us all.”

Kennedy was elected president on November 8, 1960. And more than 50 years later, that conversation, about the intersection of our nation’s long tradition of religious freedom with policy decisions that affect the general public, continues.

 

Indeed it does. Except under Sebelius' watch, it's the federal regulations that are being imposed on Catholics. 

In support of the US Catholic bishops call for faithful Catholics to be heard, Holy Cross will have petitions available for parishioners to sign which call for the protection of religious liberty in the United States.


Father Manning's Homily For Respect Life on Jan 21, 2012

Tomorrow is the National Prayer Vigil for Life And the Annual March for Life in Washington And boy do we need them.

Last week, President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius determined that money from the school tuition you pay to Holy Cross And some of the collection monies on Sunday which subsidize our school, be used to provide health care coverage for our employees which includes medications, procedures and counseling that flaunts 2000 years of church tradition.

The Washington double‐speak‐filled‐directive which should anger every person who holds a single religious conviction, conceded that the ruling which forces Church employers to fund the immoral procedures, drugs and counsel would respect our religious sensitivities by giving us one year to comply with the ruling. Only one day before the unprecedented and anti‐Catholic ruling by Obama/Sebelius, listen to the truth proclaimed boldly by Pope Benedict to a group of US Bishops meeting with the pope in the Vatican:

"Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. …it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life."

Swear allegiance to the Roman emperor Or we will cut off your head! Well, at least, close your hospitals, schools and adoption agencies and force you to violate your religious convictions! 

I don’t usually like slogans, but if they make you think…here’s one: The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

Just a slight dip into murky waters of secular media should focus our attention and energize us:

Again and again, we see free speech and open debate stifled whenever the subject of modern marriage comes up in civic discourse. Deviations from the current politically correct definitions are hate speech. (Wisconsin student essay on traditional marriage)

Piers Morgan in an interview with Rick Santorum Responded to Santorum’s traditional Catholic views on marriage and sexuality with the retort: But your views border on bigotry, don’t you think?

The Santorum’s reverent treatment of their deceased newborn’s body many years ago was aubject of mockery by liberal pundits on the Internet and in print.

Google, Coca‐Cola, Apple, The Simpsons - have been around longer than these new secular dogmas on marriage and adoption we are expected to embrace lockstep.

American bigotry toward Catholicism isn’t new or gone. I'm reading Gotham: On The History of New York City From Its Very Beginnings. From the earliest days there were European settlers in North America, Catholics were denied the rights accorded others. On Pope Day, effigies of the Pope and Satan were burned and thrown into the river. Local modern history even until very recently shows the anti-Catholic bias: several local golf and beach clubs were founded primarily for Catholics, who could not easily gain entry into establishment groups. The Knights of Columbus offered Catholic family men life insurance which they could otherwise not obtain. Where was the largest KKK march in the US in 1924? ?  Long Branch. Recall that the KKK not only hates blacks, but Jews and Catholics as well.

The news isn’t all bad though: Last week the US Supreme Court unanimously upheld the right of religious groups to set their own qualifications for ministry. A Lutheran church had dismissed one of its religion teachers and the Justice Department brought suit for her reinstatement under the ADA act, alleging discrimination because of disability. The supreme court reaffirmed the right of the church to hire its ministers as it sees fit. 

Archbishop Dolan, president of the USCCB, has criticized the Administration's insurance mandate and will be studying the church’s options.  Pray for Archbishop Dolan. We need bishops with fire in the belly on this issue. 

Let us stay informed: you contribute the donations and pay the tuition and I endorse the checks which would pay for this immoral insurance. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and read, read, read: American History, Church history, regional history, the church teachings on life issues and the moral reasoning behind these teachings, discuss the issues.

Write Congress, Sibelius, Obama. Write the reporters, editors, media outlets when their anti-Catholic bias shows. Then we should vote as if our faith depended on it!