2cornucopias

Posts Tagged ‘worship’

Pentecostal Pastor to Catholic Deacon

In 12 Converts, 14 Book Corner on 2015/09/04 at 12:00 AM

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Alex Jones was an “on-fire” Pentecostal minister in Detroit who was a completely dedicated shepherd of his flock. He greatly loved his people and they loved him. In seeking to give his flock the most genuine experience of the early Church prayer and worship services, he carefully read Scripture, the Fathers of the Church and writings of the early saints. The more he read, the more Alex came to the startling conclusion that the present day Catholic Church – and the Holy Mass – is the same exact “worship service ” from the very early Church. Alex began to share his findings with his parish, and eventually Alex, and most of his parish, joined the Catholic Church. This is his incredible story of a black Pentecostal minister’s challenging and dramatic spiritual journey, and the flock that followed him. Today he preaches with his usual passion about Christ – as a Catholic deacon! This book tells the story of Alex’s life from his childhood all the way to his conversion to Catholicism in 2001. It simultaneously tells the story of his wife, Donna, and her spiritual journey as well, which shows how they were not always on the same path during Alex’s preparation for entering the Catholic Church. Each had to be personally, deeply convinced that this momentous, life-changing and career-changing spiritual decision was God’s will for them. Illustrated with numerous photos.

Cardinal Newman, a former Anglican priest, said that no one could read the Church Fathers and remain a Protestant. Alex Jones is living proof of this statement as well a countless others.

2cornucopias | 2014/10/06 at 6:28 PM | Tags: Church Fathers, Eucharist, Pentecostal, Sacrifice of the Mass, Worship | Categories: 08 Book Corner, 09 Faith Journey | URL: http://wp.me/p1u7G9-2d3
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The Mystical Body of Christ and the Church

In 07 Observations on 2014/05/02 at 12:00 AM

Aida Tamayo’s notes on Fr. Barron’s series

The Mystical body of Christ and the Church.  What do you think is the primary reason for the Church existence?  Is it to feed the poor? Is it to provide social programs?   To educate the masses?  To tend to the sick?  NO, none of those is the primary function of the Church.  Don’t get me wrong, the Church is the oldest functioning institution in the history of the Western World and has been a major source of social services from the beginning providing education and medical care; inspiration for Western art, culture and philosophy; and influential player in politics and religion and we in the Church are called to service. But that is not the primary reason for its existence.  The Primary Reason of the Church is to make us saints so we can spend eternity with God.  Through the Church, God gathers the people to Himself. Everything else flows from it but is not its reason for existing.

The Church is not a human institution, but a sacrament of Jesus, so it shares in the very being, life and energy of Christ.  This may shock many Mass goers.  Our celebration of Mass is not just what we perceive with our senses.  Each Mass joins the liturgy which the angels and the saints continually celebrate in heaven.  In His presence, the communion of saints and the angels unceasingly praise and adore God and those destined for heaven will be expressing this love in the heavenly liturgy, a sort of joyful perpetual adoration in His presence. The Mass allows us to join in this adoration because the earthly Mass has the power to plug us into that heavenly liturgy and all of heaven (angels, the Communion of Saints, Mary the Mother of God and of course, the Holy Trinity) is present at our Mass. Think of Jesus words.  Remain in me, live in me, eat my body and drink my blood. What did He say to Paul on the road to Damascus… Saul why are you persecuting me?  He didn’t say my followers or my Church.  He meant His mystical body.

We are joined to Christ across the ages in some mystical way, the Church is meant to gather all of creation around Christ. The Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus, and when we receive Him, we become more integrated into His mystical body, giving us a heightened sense of justice. By filling ourselves with the life of Christ and doing His Will, we will become saints and an active part of the Mystical Body.  All the baptized are connected to each other like cells in a body, so if someone is persecuted that affects all of us, it is our problem.  It is a tragedy that most people don’t realize this truth.

EKKLESIA – God established the Church in response to men’s sin. The Church mission is to restore us to that friendship with God.  Sin results in disillusion and division, totally opposed to God and the ever-loving God response to sin was a gathering of the people. He starts by calling Abraham and the people of Israel and he formed them to be a people distinct, unique, peculiarly His own.  He gave them laws, rituals, covenants, liturgies, a form of life meant to be pleasing to God. Not for the glorification of Israel but so that Israel could be the magnet by which the whole world would be gathered eventually unto God.  Jesus was the culmination of Israel and the supreme and divine magnet.  This gathering of people is what we call the Church. He told Peter, you are the Rock upon which I will build my ekklesia (Greek for church).

The 4 basic Marks: One Holy Catholic Apostolic

In the Catechism paragraph 811, it says that the Church of Christ is professed in the Creed: “…… to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. The Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes His Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is He who calls her to realize each of these qualities.

THE CHURCH IS ONE – because God is one.  I believe in one God.  By this we are called to reject all other “deities”  (political leaders, cultural idols, ideologies, etc.) …there is only one God.  The Church is the vehicle by which the one God draws all people to unity with Himself.  Jesus, the Word and mind of God is all that is true and beautiful and He draws all things to Himself over time.  The Pantheon in Rome provides an example of this process.  It is the most beautiful space created by paganism and is now the Catholic Church of Mary of the Martyrs.  The Church holds on to its truth but is able to transform and assimilative that which is good, true and beautiful into its own unity, its unchangeable truth.  That was Jesus prayer to God the Father, that we may all become one [in Truth] as He and His Father are One.

THE CHURCH IS HOLY – Because God is Holy and the Church is His mystical body. The Church’s primary purpose is to make saints, to make people holy.  Everything about it is meant for that end. One hears always about the inquisition, persecution of Galileo, the crusades, corruption, too much money, and recently abuse of children by some priests.  Given this why do we call the Church Holy?  That the Church is holy doesn’t deny the sinfulness of its members.  Sadly, our fallen nature affects us.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:   844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:   Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasoning, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. 845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church.

The Church itself is holy and a bearer of grace.  Its grace in the sacraments comes not from the moral excellence of the ministers, but from God.  The grace of God is that which makes the Church holy.

THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC – Catholic comes from the Greek word kata holos meaning according to the whole: Universal.  The Church is universal because it is the means by which God wants to gather the whole world to itself. The Church is the new Israel and a magnet to all the nations.  One of the greatest gathering places in the world is St. Peter’s square.  It can hold up to 300,000 people.  And Bernini’s columns are meant to look like arms reaching out to gather in the whole world.  The Word got out to all nations and all nations come here, which is a realization of what was said 2000 years ago.

CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC – because it is rooted on the apostles; The 12 men chosen by Jesus.  They stayed with Jesus, were formed and shaped by His Mind, the mind of God.  The main altar of the great basilica of St. John Lateran, holds the reliquaries with the head of the great apostles Peter and Paul.  The form and structure of the Church itself are depiction of the 12 Apostles.  Bishops today can legitimately claim that they are successors of the Apostles.  The leadership of the Church today is Apostolic in structure.  Hierarchy comes from two Greek words; hieros(priest)  and arche (rule or principle). It is not a power play, it is a church grounded in this Apostolic faith.  Apostles meant to send and so the Church has that great missionary purpose. The Church is not a democratic polity or a philosophical debating society but a body grounded in revelation.  Its integrity rests in its founder and the on-going guidance by the Holy Spirit.  This same Spirit protects the Church from error in matters of faith and morals through the infallibility of the Pope, the successor of the Apostle Peter.  Infallibly does not mean the Pope interferes with the life of the Church it means that he is the living voice of authority to protect the Truth of God which guides its life.  The keys given to Peter as the first Pope are meant to unlock the secret to life, the secret to the great mystery of all things.   If the keys were flexible, it would lose its whole reason for being.  The keys handed to Peter will take us to the truth of God so we can be gathered in Him.

“Giving is a vital need for those in love.”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2014/01/03 at 12:00 AM
Your talents, your personality, your opportunities… are being wasted: you are not allowed to make full use of them. Meditate well these words of a spiritual writer: ‘The incense offered to God is not wasted. Our Lord is more honoured by the immolation of your talents than by the vain use of them.’ (The Way, 684)

Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Let us pause here a while to understand this passage of the holy Gospel. How is it possible that we, who are nothing and worth nothing, can make an offering to God? We read in the Scriptures: “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above” [1]. Man does not even manage to discover fully the depth and beauty of the Lord’s gifts. “If you knew the gift of God!” [2] Jesus exclaims to the Samaritan woman. Jesus Christ has taught us to expect everything from the Father and to seek first of all the kingdom of God and his justice, and everything else will be given to us in addition, for he knows well what we need.

In the economy of salvation our Father looks after each soul with loving care: Each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. It would, therefore, seem useless to be concerned about presenting to the Lord something that he has no need of. As debtors who have nothing with which to pay, our gifts would be like those of the old law that are no longer acceptable to God: Sacrifices and oblations and holocausts for sin you have not desired: neither are they pleasing to you.

But the Lord knows full well that giving is a vital need for those in love, and he himself points out what he desires from us. He does not care for riches, nor for the fruits or the beasts of the earth, nor for the sea or the air, because they all belong to him. He wants something intimate, which we have to give him freely: My son, give me your heart. Do you see? God is not satisfied with sharing. He wants it all. It’s not our things he wants. It is ourselves. It is only when we give ourselves that we can offer other gifts to our Lord. (Christ is passing by, 35)

[1] Jas 1:17
[2] John 4:10

Come, Let Us Adore Him

In 07 Observations on 2013/12/19 at 12:00 AM

Detailed notes taken by Aida Tamayo on Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism Series

“We become what we adore.  That is why God wants us to adore Him so we become like Him”

In regards to adoring God, Aida Tamayo, the Faith Formation leader at St. Vincent de Paul Parish made the following incisive comment:

“Adoring God doesn’t do anything for Him, it is 100% for our benefit.  Generally speaking, our society is involved in self-idolatry and rejecting the source of all goodness that is God Himself.  I think we can see the results plainly: Abort the child that is a burden, ignore the sanctity of the institution of marriage, it gets in the way of my benefits and sinful behavior, well…you get the picture.  Just imagine the difference in society if our actions are prompted by the Truth, Will and Goodness of God.  Since the behavior is contrary to God’s truths, the response is to remove God from their presence.  When the source of goodness is removed, evil will thrive.”

Only Catholics since Apostolic times have the singular privilege of adoring Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament! Protestants cannot do this since Protestants do not have Him physically present in the Eucharist. To see Jesus visibly present under the appearance of the small white host is much more conducive to intimacy in adoration. Could not these words of our Lord be applied today: “Indeed, this is the will of My heavenly Father, that everyone who looks upon the Son, and believes in Him, shall have eternal life. Him I will raise up on the last day.”

There is 24 hour Eucharistic Adoration at St. Gabriel and other parishes have their Adoration scheduled for one or two specific days.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church-Second Edition, Part Four-Christian Prayer, Section One-Prayer in the Christian Life, Chapter One-The Revelation of Prayer, Article 3-In the Age Of The Church defines Adoration as follows:

2628 Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the “King of Glory,” respectful silence in the presence of the “ever greater” God. Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications.

Come Let us Adore Him!

Eucharistic Communion and Contemplation Are Inseparable

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2013/02/28 at 12:00 AM

Pope Benedict pronounced a homily in which he focused on the sacredness of the Eucharist, and in particular on the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.”A unilateral interpretation of Vatican Council II has penalized this dimension”, the Holy Father explained, “effectively limiting the Eucharist to the moment of celebrating Mass. It is, of course, very important to recognize the importance of celebration, in which the Lord calls His people, bringing them together around the table of the Word and Bread of life, nourishing them and uniting them to Himself in the sacrificial offering. This interpretation of the liturgical gathering, in which the Lord works and achieves His mystery of communion, naturally retains all its validity, but a rightful balance must be restored. … By concentrating our relationship with the Eucharistic Christ only on Mass we run the risk that the rest of time and space is emptied of His presence. Thus our perception of Jesus’ constant, real and close presence among us and with us is diminished”.

“It is a mistake to establish a contrast between celebration and adoration, as if they were in competition with one another. The opposite is true. The cult of the Blessed Sacrament represents the spiritual ‘environment’ within which the community can celebrate the Eucharist correctly and truthfully. Only if preceded, accompanied and followed by this interior attitude of faith and adoration, can liturgical activity express its full meaning and value”, the Pope said.He then went on to explain that, at the moment of adoration, we are all at the same level, “on our knees before the Sacrament of Love. The common and ministerial priesthood come together in the cult of the Eucharist. … By remaining together in silence before the Lord, present in His Sacrament, we have one of the most authentic experiences of being Church, one that is complementary to our celebration of the Eucharist. … Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go together”, and if contemplation is lacking “even sacramental communion can become a superficial gesture on our part”.

Turning then to consider the sacredness of the Eucharist, Benedict XVI noted that here too, in the recent past, there has been “some misunderstanding of the authentic message of Holy Scripture. The Christian novelty of worship has been influenced by a certain secularist mentality of the 1960s and 1970s. It is true, and it remains valid, that the centre of worship is no longer in the ancient rites and sacrifices, but in Christ Himself, His person, His life, His Paschal Mystery. Yet this fundamental novelty must not lead us to conclude that the sacred no longer exists”.

Christ “did not abolish the sacred but brought it to fulfilment, inaugurating a new worship which is entirely spiritual but which nonetheless, as long as our journey in time continues, still uses signs and rites. These will only fall into disuse at the end, in the celestial Jerusalem where there will be no temple”.

Moreover, the Holy Father went on, “the sacred has an educational function. Its disappearance inevitably impoverishes culture, and especially the formation of the new generations. … Our Father God … sent His Son into the world, not to abolish the sacred but to bring it to fulfilment. At the culmination of this mission, at the Last Supper, Jesus established the Sacrament of His Body and His Blood, the Memorial of His Paschal Sacrifice. By doing so he put Himself in the place of the ancient sacrifices, but He did so in the context of a rite, which he ordered the Apostles to perpetuate as a supreme sign of the true sacrifice, which is Him. With this faith, … day after day we celebrate the Eucharistic Mystery, and adore it as the centre of our lives and the heart of the world”.

VIS 120608

The Unpreached Sermon: “a layman thinking like a priest”. Part II

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/01/05 at 9:11 AM

Let me tell you what he and she has done to themselves:

1. You live in a world of make-belief.  God has commanded us to worship Him (third commandment), but you have decided that, for you, the command is optional.  We are are nothing compared to God and we simply do not have a choice or right to reject a divine command.  The Church has made it relatively easy to obey this directive by mandating Sunday Mass (two hours at most out of one hundred and sixty eight) yet, in your crass stupidity you have decided that you will worship Supreme Being according to your own whim.  That is unrealistic!

2. This makes you the unwisest of people.  The divinely-set goal for humans is to be united with God for all eternity.  You, by amassing mortal sin after mortal sin, have shown a total lack of wisdom.  (A wise person knows what is important and valuable and acts on it appropriately.)  At this rate, no matter what worldly success you achieve, you will be a total failure in spiritual matters and that is what really counts against you.  A truly wise person knows this.

3.  Your salvation (goal) is at risk every second of your life.  You don’t know when you will die, and if you die loaded with serious sin, you will have objectively chosen hell for yourself.  Death is not the exclusive activity of the elderly; many, many younger people die through sickness, accident, life-style and crime.  If you are young it is true that you will likely be alive a year from now, BUT, it is not guaranteed, and that’s the problem.  It is rather dumb to risk hell for whatever activity you have decided is more important than Sunday Mass.  “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his soul.”  Sometimes people will take risks for noble reasons such as to save lives, but to risk your soul for mere two hours a week is neither realistic nor wise.

4.  You have cut yourself off from God.  (If you have unconfessed mortal sin today, do not come up for Holy Communion because that would be a sacrilege which is a worse sin than skipping Mass.)  The only grace you can legitimately pray for is the grace of repentance through Confession.  While you live, Christ can forgive a million mortal sins, if repentant.  After death, there is no mercy available, only judgment.  The game is over and you have either won or lost.

5. Your spiritual life has probably been further ruined because failure to attend Mass regularly is often the result of other habitual sins that make Mass attendance seem useless.  Bishop Fulton Sheen used to say that no one left the Church because he sat down and examined its doctrine and found them to be false.  It can’t be done.  The underlying reason, he said, was habits of serious sin such as marital infidelity, alcoholism, drugs, pornography, etc…

If you are in this very negative situation, my words are spoken in persona Christ.  He may be offering you that grace of repentance because He knows you do not have long to live.  Or you may actually feel a terrible burden combined with fear of the future.  If Christ is speaking and calling you today, don’t be dumb and ignore it because the Bible tells us that He will loose patience with stubborn sinner who consistently ignore His grace and they become spiritually hard-hearted.

Christmas is a great day for family and feast but I will be here after Mass today to hear Confessions and forgive you in the name of Christ for as long as anyone wishes to come.   This would be your greatest Christmas gift.

The Unpreached Sermon: “a layman thinking like a priest”. Part I

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/01/05 at 12:00 AM

My dear friends in Christ,

Christmas is spiritual joy because it is the beginning of our redemption. God the Son has taken on a human form so as to represent humanity in the process of atonement. Yet, because He remains God, His future sacrifice on Good Friday will be acceptable to God the Father.  Without Christmas and Good Friday, no one, regardless of how well he has lived on earth, could ever get into heaven.  Without Christ original sin would condemn us all to hell.  Something to be grateful for to say the least.

The next part of this sermon some of you might not like.  Let me preface it by stating that when a man is ordained a priest (assuming the correct understanding, motives and intentions) he become an alter Christus (another Christ).  In his spiritual ministry he acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ).  Thus in every Mass and Sacrament, it is Christ Himself in operation through His duly ordained priest.  Now I am speaking in persona Christi because I am responsible for the spiritual welfare of all of you.

Christmas is also a time of sadness. When I look out and see the extra crowd of people  at the Mass, I know that many of you are either Christmas-Easter “Catholics” or you are intermittent and casual Mass attenders.

(In all my years of attending Christmas and Easter Masses, I have never heard the slightest reference to the lapsed Catholics sitting right in front of the priest.  I wonder if Christ Himself would have ignored the loss sheep.)

Repair My House: Renewing the Roots of Religious Liberty

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2012/07/05 at 9:11 AM

+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Indianapolis, 6.20.12

I’ve known Greg Erlandson as a friend for many years. So I was glad to accept his invitation to join you tonight. And I’m very glad to speak on the theme of religious liberty because events in our country have made it an urgent concern. I can sum up my remarks tonight in five simple points.

First, religious freedom is a cornerstone of the American experience. This is so obvious that once upon a time, nobody needed to say it. But times have changed. So it’s worth recalling that Madison, Adams, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson – in fact, nearly all the American Founders – saw religious faith as vital to the life of a free people. Liberty and happiness grow organically out of virtue. And virtue needs a grounding in religious faith.

Gertrude Himmelfarb, the historian, put it this way: The Founders knew that in a republic “virtue is intimately related to religion. However skeptical or deistic they may have been in their own beliefs, however determined they were to avoid anything like an established Church, they had no doubt that religion is an essential part of the social order because it is a vital part of the moral order.”1

Here’s my second point: Freedom of religion is more than freedom of worship. The right to worship is a necessary but not sufficient part of religious liberty. Christian faith requires community. It begins in worship, but it also demands preaching, teaching and service. It’s always personal but never private. And it involves more than prayer at home and Mass on Sunday – although these things are vitally important. Real faith always bears fruit in public witness and public action. Otherwise it’s just empty words.

The Founders saw the value of publicly engaged religious faith because they experienced its influence themselves. They created a nation designed in advance to depend on the moral convictions of religious believers, and to welcome their active role in public life.

Here’s my third point: Threats against religious freedom in our country are not imaginary. They’re happening right now. They’re immediate, serious and real. Earlier this year religious liberty advocates won a big Supreme Court victory in the 9-0 Hosanna- Tabor v EEOC decision. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news. What’s stunning in that case is the disregard for religious freedom shown by the government’s arguments against the Lutheran church and school. And Hosanna-Tabor is not an isolated case. It belongs to a pattern of government coercion that includes the current administration’s HHS mandate; interfering with the conscience rights of medical providers and private employers, as well as individual citizens; and attacks on the policies, hiring practices and tax statuses of religious charities and ministries.

Why is this hostility happening? A lot of it links to Catholic teaching on the dignity of life and human sexuality. Catholic moral convictions about abortion, contraception, the purpose of sexuality and the nature of marriage are rooted not just in revelation, but also in reason and natural law. Human beings have a nature that’s not just the product of accident or culture, but inherent, universal and rooted in permanent truths knowable to reason.

The problem, as Notre Dame law professor Gerry Bradley points out, is that critics of the Church reduce all these moral convictions to an expression of subjective religious beliefs. And if they’re purely religious beliefs, then – so the critics argue – they can’t be rationally defended. And because they’re rationally indefensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice. In effect, 2,000 years of moral tradition and religious belief become a species of bias. Opposing same-sex “marriage” thus amounts to religiously blessed homophobia.2

There’s more though. When religious belief gets redefined downward to a kind of private bias, then the religious identity of institutional ministries has no public value — other than the utility of getting credulous people to do good things. So exempting Catholic adoption agencies, for example, from placing kids with gay couples becomes a concession to private prejudice. And concessions to private prejudice feed bigotry and hurt the public. Or so the reasoning goes. This is how moral teaching and religious belief end up getting hounded as hate speech.

Here’s my fourth point: Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we’ll lose it. It’s already happening in other developed countries like Britain and Canada.3 The U.S. Constitution is a great document — historically unique for its fusion of high ideals with the realism of very practical checks and balances. But in the end, it’s just an elegant piece of paper. In practice, nothing guarantees our freedoms except our willingness to fight for them. That means fighting politically and through the courts, without tiring and without apologies. We need to realize that America’s founding documents assume an implicitly religious anthropology – an idea of human nature, nature’s God and natural rights that many of our leaders no longer really share. We ignore that unhappy fact at our own expense.

Here’s my fifth and final point: Politics and the courts are important. But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith – in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it. Religious liberty is an empty shell if the spiritual core of a people is weak. Or to put it more bluntly, if people don’t believe in God, religious liberty isn’t a value. That’s the heart of the matter. It’s the reason Pope Benedict calls us to a Year of Faith this October. The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t “out there” among the legion of critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the Church, or all three. The worst enemies are in here, with us – all of us, clergy, religious and lay – when we live our faith with tepidness, routine and hypocrisy.

Religious liberty isn’t a privilege granted by the state. It’s our birthright as children of God. And even the worst bigotry can’t kill it in the face of a believing people. But if we value it and want to keep it, then we need to become people worthy of it. Which means we need to change the way we live – radically change, both as individual Catholics and as the Church. And that’s where I’d like to turn for the rest of these brief remarks.

A year ago I was serving happily in Denver, laughing at rumors I was getting moved anywhere. That turned out to be a mistake. Since then I’ve been asked many times how I like Philadelphia. The answer is pretty simple. I don’t “like” it. I love it – or rather, I love the people and clergy of Philadelphia because they’re easy to love. They’re now my family, an intimate part of my life. And I hope that each passing year will draw me deeper into the life of the community because Philadelphia is really more than just a great city. It’s the birthplace of our country and a jewel in our national legacy. It’s also an icon of the American Catholic experience. So it’s a joy and a blessing to serve there as bishop.

“Joy” may seem like an odd word to use, given events in Philadelphia over the past 16 months. Obviously the abuse tragedy has burdened the life of the local Church in a very painful way. Our laypeople are angry, and they should be. Their frustration shows in the pews. In Denver about 40 percent of registered Catholics attended Mass weekly. In Philadelphia, barely 18 percent do. The scandal has caused terrible suffering for victims, demoralized many of our clergy, crippled the witness of the Church and humiliated the whole Catholic community.

That’s the bad news — or at least some of it — and it’s not simply “bad,” but bitter and damaging for everyone involved, beginning with victims and their families, but rippling throughout the community. As a bishop, the only honest way I can talk about the abuse tragedy is to start by apologizing for the failure of the Church and her leaders — apologizing to victims, and apologizing to the Catholic community. And I do that again here, today.

There is also good news. Even now, after all the challenges of the past decade, the Church in Philadelphia plays a very large role in the life of the region, and in many quarters, she still draws — and still earns — great respect. I think the staff Cardinal Rigali assembled last year after the second grand jury report to reach out to victims and prevent abuse in the future is strong by any professional standard. And from what I’ve experienced over the past 10 months, the Church in Philadelphia today has a much deeper understanding of the gravity of sexual abuse and a sincere zeal for rooting it out of the life of the Church and helping anyone hurt in the past.

One reason the Church has survived at all in the current crisis is the extraordinary reservoir of good will and fidelity among the clergy and people of the diocese. Pennsylvania remains a largely faith-friendly environment. Our people have strong prolife and pro-family instincts, respect for religious ministries and a history of saints and excellent Catholic education. The habits of Catholic culture run very deep in the Philadelphia region. Our Catholic health and social services, and our Catholic school system, are among the largest and best in the United States. The Church contributes in a substantial way to the welfare of the general public, and most people on some level understand that.

But the abuse crisis, as grave as it is, masks other problems that also run very deep, and they belong to the same troubled Catholic culture. They began building decades ago. And while they may be especially sharp in Philadelphia, I’d wager that some version of these problems touches many of the dioceses across our country.

Here’s an example. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently owed about $60 million by our own parishes for insurance premiums, assessments and other expenses shared by the whole local Church. Much of this can’t be recovered because the parishes simply don’t have the money. More than two-thirds of our 267 parishes have operating deficits. About 100 are in some form of financial distress. More than 90 parishes minister to fewer than 400 families. And the archdiocese itself has struggled with frequent budget deficits for many years. We’ve reached a point where – if we did nothing to fix the problem – the gap between our projected expenses and our projected income in Fiscal 2013 would exceed $17 million.

That won’t happen. That will end. The Church is finally a family. No family can survive for long if it spends more than it takes in. In the first nine months of Fiscal 2012, the archdiocese spent more than $10 million on legal and other professional fees. But as crushing as that sounds – and it is – the real problems of the Church in Philadelphia are more subtle than money and more chronic than a habit of bad budgets. They’re not even financial. And they’re not at all unique to Philadelphia.

We need to look honestly at the arc of Catholic history in our country. The lessons may not be comforting. American Catholics began as an unwelcome minority. The Church built her credibility by defending and serving her people. She developed her influence with the resources her people entrusted to her. A vast amount of good was done in the process. We need to honor that. But two other things also happened. The Church in the United States became powerful and secure. And Catholics became less and less invested in the Church that their own parents and grandparents helped to build.

I think it’s fair, in part, to blame Church leaders for a spirit of complacency and inertia, clericalism, even arrogance, and for operating off a model of the Church – often for well- intentioned reasons — rooted in the past and out of touch with reality. But there’s plenty of blame to go around. Too many ordinary Catholics have been greedy to lose themselves in America’s culture of consumerism and success. Too many have been complicit in the dullness — the acedia — that has seeped into Church life, and the cynicism and resentment that naturally follow it.

These problems kill a Christian love of poverty and zeal. They choke off a real life of faith. They create the shadows that hide institutional and personal sins. And they encourage a paralysis that can burrow itself into every heart and every layer of the Church, right down to individual Catholics in the pews. The result is that Philadelphia, like so much of the Church in the rest of our country, is now really mission territory – again; for the second time.

My point is this. We live in a world of illusions when we lose sight of who Jesus Christ really is, and what he asks from each of us as disciples. One of novelist Ray Bradbury’s characters once said, “I wonder if God recognizes his own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar crystal and saccharine.”4 Father John Hugo, a friend and counselor to Dorothy Day, put it even more forcefully when he wrote of our “falsified picture of Jesus [with his] eyes perpetually raised to heaven, soft, even girlish in beauty, [the] very incarnation of impotence.”

The real Jesus, in Hugo’s words, “did not hesitate to condemn the rich, to warn the powerful, to denounce in vehement language the very leaders of the people. His love and goodness were chiefly for the poor, the simple, the needy. And his love for them was not a limp, indulgent love, like that of a silly, frivolous mother. To his friends he preached poverty of spirit, detachment, the carrying the cross. No more did the kindness of Jesus spare his followers, than the kindness of God the father spared his son. We are to drink of the same chalice that he drank of.”5

That’s our vocation. That’s the life of honesty, heroism and sacrifice God calls us to as a Church and as individual believers. And in our eagerness to escape it, to tame it, to reshape it in the mold of our own willful ideas, we’ve failed not only to convert our culture, but also to pass along the faith to many of our own children.

Emerging American adults – in other words, young people in the 18-23 age cohort – are not only skeptical of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular, but they often lack the vocabulary to engage in, or even identify, issues that require basic moral reasoning. As a group they have unusually high rates of intoxication, loneliness and sexual alienation. They also, contrary to popular belief, have very little interest in public affairs or political engagement, and a lopsided focus on materialistic consumption and financial security as the guiding stars of their lives.6

Of course, tens of thousands of exceptions to what I just said are walking around right now. We all know some of them. These are young adults of faith and strong moral character, determined to do something worthy with their lives. Just this week Our Sunday Visitor did a portrait of Catholic young adults who live the Gospel with reallywonderful passion and joy.7 Their lives will touch hundreds of other lives. And that should give us enormous hope. God never abandons his Church or his people.

But their good witness only brings us back to the conversion that you and I and the whole Church in the United States need to undergo.

Notre Dame scholar Christian Smith and his colleagues, whose research on emerging adults is so compelling, wrote that “most of the problems in the lives of youth have their origin in the larger adult world into which youth are being socialized . . . [One] way or the other, adults and the adult world are almost always complicit in the troubles, suffering and misguided living of youth, if not the direct source of them. The more adults can recognize and admit that fact, [the] sooner we will be able to address some of young people’s problems more constructively.”8

I suppose that’s obvious. But if it’s really so obvious, then who let it happen? And what are we going to do about it?

We’re becoming a nation where, as Ross Douthat describes it, “a growing number [of us] are inventing [our] own versions of what Christianity means, abandoning the nuances of traditional theology in favor of religions that stroke [our] egos and indulge, or even celebrate, [our] own worst impulses.”9 And it’s happening at a time when the Church is compromised by her own leaders and people from within, and pushed to the margins or attacked by critics without.

Tomorrow we start the Fortnight for Freedom. It’s a moment for each of us to be grateful to our bishops for doing the right thing – the important and urgent thing – at the right time. If we don’t press now and vigorously for our religious liberty in the public arena, we will lose it. Not overnight and not with a thunderclap, but step by step, inexorably. And each of you as a Catholic media professional plays a key role, a really vital role, in that effort because our prestige news media, with very few exceptions, simply will not cover this issue in a fair and comprehensive way.10

But we also need to remember with Pope Benedict that resistance is “part of the task of the Church,”11 and with Henri de Lubac that it’s “not our mission to make truth triumph, but to testify for it.”12

Scripture says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33). We work best for religious freedom by first opening our hearts to God’s will instead of our own; and loving our country and our Church; and renewing the witness of the Church with the zeal and purity and obedience of our own lives. That freedom, that joy, no one can ever take from us.

From the cross at San Damiano, Jesus said to Francis: Repair my house, which is falling into ruin. Those same words fill this room tonight. How we respond is up to us.

© +Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Indianapolis, 6.20.12

1 Gertrude Himmelfarb, One Nation, Two Cultures, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1999, p. 85

2 Gerard V. Bradley, “What’s Behind the HHS Mandate?”, The Public Discourse (www.thepublicdiscourse.com), June 5, 2012
3 Ibid.
4 Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1951, 1995, p. 77
5 David Scott and Mike Aquila, editors, Weapons of the Spirit: Living a Holy Life in Unholy Times; Selected Writings of Father John Hugo, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 1997, p. 108-109
6 Christian Smith, et al, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, Oxford University Press, New York, 2011
7 Emily Stimpson, “The Next Generation,” OSV Newsweekly, June 17, 2012, p. 9-12
8 Smith, p. 11
9 Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Free Press, New York, 2012, p. 4
10 The website http://www.getreligion.org has done several analyses of the lopsided mainstream news coverage of the HHS mandate and related religious liberty disputes. See for example Mollie Hemingway, “Grading coverage of religious liberty,” May 4, 2012, and “Plotting about ‘religious liberty’,” May 30, 2012, among others
11 Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2002, p. 357
12 Henri de Lubac, S.J., Paradoxes of Faith, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1987, p.72

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“The Mass is an Action of God”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2012/05/23 at 9:11 AM
Isn’t it strange how many Christians, who take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (they are in no hurry), in following the sleepy rhythm of their professional affairs, in eating and recreation (no hurry here either), find themselves rushed and want to rush the Priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy Sacrifice of the Altar? (The Way, 530)

The three divine Persons are present in the sacrifice of the altar. By the will of the Father, with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, the Son offers himself in a redemptive sacrifice. We learn how to personalize our relationship with the most Blessed Trinity, one God in three Persons: three divine Persons in the unity of God’s substance, in the unity of his love and of his sanctifying action.

Immediately after the Lavabo, the priest prays: “Receive, Holy Trinity, this offering that we make in memory of the passion, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And, at the end of the Mass, there is another prayer of homage to the Trinity of God: “May the tribute of my service be pleasing to you, o Holy Trinity; and grant the sacrifice that I, who am unworthy, have offered to your majesty, may be acceptable to you; and that through your mercy it may bring forgiveness to me and to all those for whom I have offered it.”

The Mass is, I insist, an action of God, of the Trinity. It is not a merely human event. The priest who celebrates fulfils the desire of our Lord, lending his body and his voice to the divine action. He acts, not in his own name, but in persona et in nomine Christi: in the Person of Christ and in his name.

Because of the Blessed Trinity’s love for man, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist brings all graces to the Church and to mankind. This is the sacrifice announced by the prophet Malachy: “From the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and a fragrant sacrifice and a pure offering is made to me in all places” [1]. It is the sacrifice of Christ, offered to the Father with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit — an offering of infinite value, which perpetuates the work of the redemption in us and surpasses the sacrifices of the old law. (Christ is passing by, 86)

[1] Mal 1:11

Cathedral of Chartes by Fr. Reid

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2012/03/29 at 9:11 AM

If you asked me what I thought was the most beautiful church in the world, I would have to say the Cathedral of Chartres in France. And perhaps the most famous and most beautiful element of this church is its famed stained glass windows.

For centuries people from around the world have gone on pilgrimage to Chartres in order to view these artistic masterpieces. Not only are they aesthetically splendorous, but they also teach us about the history of our faith as their artwork contains the story of salvation history.

Bear in mind that this stained glass is not just mere window dressing, but that along with the other art and the architecture of the church, these windows create a certain atmosphere that transports those inside the cathedral to the very heights of Heaven.

Most importantly, these windows – and indeed the entire church – are a testament to God’s power and glory and a testament to the great faith of the medieval French people.

Recently I spoke of the visible and invisible realities of our Catholic faith and the invisible realities, the things that we cannot perceive with our physical senses but that we know by faith, are really “more real” than the visible realities of our world.

In order to make these invisible realities visible, the Church has always relied on Her liturgy and on Her art and architecture. Embedded within our liturgies, our church architecture, and our art are signs and symbols that speak of the invisible realities of our Faith.

So for example, our church buildings themselves are meant to symbolize Heaven. When we walk into a church, the art and architecture should, in a sense, remind us of the celestial realms and thereby lead us to contemplate God.

Church buildings are like bridges that connect us with Heaven. Not only are they places where we go to worship God, but they should speak of the Heavenly realities to which we are all called and to which we must all aspire.

Thus, it is so very important that church buildings be beautiful. Beauty is truth! Therefore, beauty for a church building should not be an option but should be integral to the design. Accordingly, churches should be built with an eye to proportion and symmetry, grace of design, and a verticality that draws our hearts and minds to up to God.

Noble and worthy materials should be used in the construction of the church and its furnishings, and every effort should be made to incorporate artwork and symbolism that speak of the mysteries of our faith and help us to meditate on Heaven itself.

Our reasoning for building churches this way is two-fold. Not only do churches connect us with Heaven by leading us to contemplate the heavenly realities of our faith, but they are also meant to give glory and honor to our Lord.

There are some people who are of the opinion that churches should be built inexpensively so that more money can be directed toward the poor, but Scripture reveals that perhaps Jesus had a little different opinion.

In Matthew 26:11 our Lord rebukes the disciples for complaining about the woman who anointed His feet with costly perfume, as they were saying that the perfume could have been sold for money to give to the poor.

Jesus, however, reminds the apostles and us that we will always have the poor with us, and that we should make it a point to serve Him generously in recognition that He is our sovereign Lord. His point is that we owe Him every ounce of respect and gratitude that we can muster, even if it costs a lot of money!

For us Catholics our churches are not only places that should lead us to contemplate God, but through the Eucharist they are actually places in which God dwells!

While our Catholic art, architecture, and liturgy are suffused with beautiful symbols that speak of the invisible realities of our faith, God loves us so much that He doesn’t make us rely on these symbols alone to commune with Him.

Out of His great love for us, Jesus actually dwells with us in the Eucharist. This is a magnificent truth and an astonishing privilege that we Catholics enjoy whenever we walk into our one of our churches: that God is really and truly present in our churches.

Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist, as present to us as He was to His disciples 2000 years ago.

And through the Eucharist, not only does He dwell with us in our churches and chapels, but He also dwells within us. As our Lord attests in today’s Gospel: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

Not only can we go to be with our Lord in a Catholic church, but by receiving Holy Communion, we can take our Lord into ourselves! What can be more magnificent and yet intimate than that?

So as we consider this incredible gift of the Eucharist, the challenge for us is not simply to conform our exterior actions to our belief in the Lord’s True Presence in the Eucharist.

In addition to treating the Eucharist with the proper respect through our personal piety, manner of dress, and reverential decorum in the church, we must also try to make our souls a worthy place to receive Him.

My point is that it’s not enough for us just to build a beautiful church. If we are going to give God the proper glory and honor He deserves, we need to be beautiful ourselves!

And the way that we beautify our souls is through our good works, by diligently striving for virtue in all things, and most especially through our prayerful communion with the Lord.

Holiness of life should be the goal for which we are constantly striving. And when we find that we have fallen short and committed sin, we should hasten quickly to the confessional where we can receive our Lord’s tender mercy and forgiveness.

My friends, I know that holiness can seem elusive and difficult to attain, but the witness of the saints shows us that it is possible, despite whatever weaknesses, short-comings and failures we may have in life.

Just remember that true sanctity is not simply a matter of not sinning. It’s a matter of persevering in virtue and prayer. It’s a matter of humbly asking for forgiveness when necessary and relying on God’s grace. It’s a matter of living in faith, hope  and charity.

In a few short weeks we will be moving into our beautiful new church that (hopefully) will lead us to meditate on the heavenly realities and be a worthy home for our Lord.

Let us pray, my friends, that through our prayer, good works, and reliance on God’s grace and mercy, our souls, too, may become beautiful and worthy homes for our Lord to dwell.

Copyright 2009 by Reverent Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC