Adult Faith Formation Column for the Sunday Bulletin of St. Michael Parish, Livermore, California

This weekly column is a short meditation on the Bible readings of the Sunday Mass. The meditations are direct quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal encyclicals, writings of the Saints, and similar orthodox sources.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Taking Gehenna Seriously


   We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him.  But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves:  "He who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."  Our Lord warns us that we shell be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.  To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice.  This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell".

   Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna," of "the unquenchable fire"
reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.  Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather ... all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation:  "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

   The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny.  They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion:  "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few"....

                       -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                           paragraphs 1033, 1034, 1036

Open our hearts, O Lord,
and enlighten us
by the grace of the Holy Spirit
that we may seek
what is pleasing to your will
and so order our lives
according to your commandments
that we may be found worthy
to enter your unending joys
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
       -- Venerable Bede (673-735 AD)
   

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Charity and the Peace of Christ


Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven."

Respect for and development of human life require peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communica- tion among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Peace is "the tranquillity of or- der." Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity.

Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messi- anic "Prince of Peace." By the blood of his Cross, "in his own person he killed the hostility," he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. "He is our peace." He has declared: "Blessed are the peacemakers."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 2303-2305


He is the Life that I want to live. He is the Light that i want to radi- ate. He is the Love with which I want to love. He is the Joy that I want to share. He is the Peace that I want to sow Jesus is Every- thing to me. Without him, I can do nothing. -- Blessed Mother Teresa  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Suffering and The Work of Salvation


        In His messianic activity in the midst of Israel, Christ drew
increasingly closer to the world of human suffering.  "He went about
doing good," and His actions concerned primarily those who were
suffering and seeking help.  He healed the sick; consoled the
afflicted; fed the hungry; freed people from deafness, from blindness,
from leprosy, from the devil and from various physical disabilities;
three times He restored the dead to life.  He was sensitive to every
human suffering, whether of the body or of the soul.  And at the
same time He taught, and at the heart of His teaching there are
the eight beatitudes, which are addressed to people tried by
various sufferings in their temporal life....

        At any rate, Christ drew close above all to the world of human
suffering through the fact of having taken this suffering upon His
very self.  During His public activity, standing even on the part of
those closest to Him, but, more than anything, He became progressively
more and more isolated and encircled by hostility and the preparations
for putting Him to death.  Christ is aware of this, and often speaks to
His disciples of the suffering and death that await Him:  "Behold, we
are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to
the chief priests  and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death
and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit  upon
him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise."
Christ goes towards His passion and death with full awareness of the
mission that He has to fulfill precisely in this way.  Precisely by
means of this suffering He must bring it about "that man should not perish,
but have eternal life." Precisely by means of His cross He must accomplish
the work of salvation.  This work, in the plan of eternal Love, has a
redemptive character.
                                -- Blessed Pope John Paul II
                        "On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering", #16

Christ has no body now on earth, but yours,
    No hands but yours,
    No feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ
    must look out on the world.
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about
    doing good.
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless
    His people.
                                -- Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Jesus Loves the Sick



    Although God allows suffering to exist in the world, he does not enjoy it.  Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, loved the sick; he devoted a great part of his earthly ministry to healing the sick and comforting the afflicted.

    Our God is a God of compassion and consolation.  And he expects us to take the ordinary means to prevent, relieve and remove suffering and sickness.  Therefore we have preventive health-care programs; we have doctors, nurses, paramedicals and medical institutions of many kinds.  Medical science has made much progress.
We should take advantage of all this.

    But even after all these efforts, suffering and sickness still exist.  A Christian sees meaning in suffering.

    He bears such suffering with patience, love of God and generosity.
He offers it all to God, through Christ, especially during the Sacrifice of the Mass.  When the sick person receives Holy Communion he unites himself with Christ the Victim....

                    -- Blessed Pope John Paul II
                        13 February 1982

Night Prayer

Watch, Lord, with those who wake
or watch or weep tonight,
and give your angels charge
over those who sleep.
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ;
rest your weary ones;
bless your dying ones;
soothe your suffering ones;
pity your afflicted ones;
shield your joyous ones;
and all for your love's sake.   
        -- Saint Augustine (354-410 AD)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The MJoral Law


    The moral law is the work of divine Wisdom.  Its biblical meaning can be defined as fatherly instruction, God's pedagogy.  It prescribes for man the ways, the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude; it proscribes the ways of evil which turn him away from God and his love.  It is at once firm in its precepts and, in its promises, worthy of love.

    Law is a rule of conduct enacted by competent authority for the sake of the common good.  The moral law presupposes the rational order, established among creatures for their good and to serve their final end, by the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator.  All law finds its first and ultimate truth in the eternal law.   Law is declared and established by reason as a participation in the providence of the living God, Creator and Redeemer of all.  "Such an ordinance of reason is what one calls law."...

    There are different expressions of the moral law, all of them interrelated:  eternal law -- the source, in God, of all law; natural law; revealed law, comprising the Old Law and the New Law, or Law of the Gospel; finally, civil and ecclesiastical laws.

    The moral law finds its fullness and its unity in Christ.  Jesus Christ is in person the way of perfection.  He is the end of the law, for only he teaches and bestows the justice of God; "For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified."

                    -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                        paragraphs 1950-1953

    God of all goodness, grant us to desire ardently,
    to seek wisely, to know surely, to accomplish perfectly
    your holy will for the glory of your name.
                    -- Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Original Meaning of Marriage


    In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning the of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning:  permission given by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts.  The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble:  God himself has determined
it:  "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

    This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize.  However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy -- heavier than the Law of Moses.
By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God.  It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to "receive" the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.  This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life.

    This is what the Apostle Paul makes clear when he say:  "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her," adding at once: " 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.  This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church."

                    -- Catechism of the Catholic Church                           
                        paragraphs 1614-1616

            Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
                        (Psalm 34)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

St. John of God: Christ is Faithful and Provides All Things

 



"If we kept before us the mercy of God, we would never be deficient in doing good, while strength was in us. For, when we make over to the poor, out of the love of God, what he himself has given us, his promise is that we shall receive a hundredfold in eternal happiness.  That is indeed a fortunate and happy way of gaining a profit. Who will not give over whatever he has to this best of merchants! He administers our business himself, and begs us with outstretched arms to turn to him and weep for our sins, and become servants in love, first for ourselves, and then for our neighbor.

For just as water extinguishes a fire, just so does charity blot out our sins. So many people come here that I very often wonder how they can possibly be provided for.  But Jesus Christ provides all things and feeds everyone.

Many of the poor come into this house of God because the city of Granada is large and very cold, especially now in winter. There are now more than one hundred and ten people living in this house, including the sick, the healthy, the servants and pilgrims. 

Because the house is open to everyone, it takes in all manner of sick people. There are people with useless limbs, the maimed, the lepers, the dumb, the insane, paralytics, and some who are suffering from cancer. Others are afflicted with senility, and there are many children, as well as the innumerable travelers and pilgrims who arrive here, and whom we provide with fire, salt and water, as well as pots to cook their food. 

There is no charge made for all this, but Christ is our provider."

From a letter of Saint John of God (1495-1550)
(Cartas y Escritos 18-19)


Prayer to Our Mother of Divine Providence

O Mary, Mother of Divine Providence, you sit as Queen at the right hand of your Son. 

You aid the Church in her needs and, with maternal care, provide for the personal needs of us, her children, who were entrusted to you at the foot of the Cross by Jesus our Lord. 

I implore you to remove from us whatever is harmful, evil or destructive, and bestow on us only that which is helpful , holy and loving.

I ask this through Christ, our Lord.  

Amen.

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States provides a framework for Catholics in the United States.

 "Responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation."
-- Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
By our baptism, Catholics are committed to following Jesus Christ and to be "salt for the earth, light for the nations." As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "It is necessary that all participate, according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This is inherent in the dignity of the human person ... As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life" (nos. 1913-1915).


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Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Life of Man -- To Know and Love God, 15 July 2012


The Life of Man -- To Know and Love God

    God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.  For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man.  He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength.  He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church.  To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior.  In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

    So that this call should resound throughout the world, Christ sent forth the apostles he had chosen, commissioning them to proclaim the gospel:  "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."  Strengthened by this mission, the apostles "went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it."

    Those who with God's help have welcomed Christ's call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world.  This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors.  All Christ's faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer.

            -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                paragraphs 1-3

    "In love he destined us for adoption
        to himself through Jesus Christ..."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Daily Homily for July 2, 2012, by Deacon





Daily Homilies July 2, 2012 - Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 2, 2012 - Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Posted: 02 Jul 2012 01:23 AM PDT
Amos 2.6-10, 13-16
Psalm 50.16bc-17, 18-19, 20-21, 22-23 Resp. 22a
Matthew 8.18-22

The presumption behind the Gospel today is the ability of Jesus to read the hearts of those he was speaking to. The scribe says, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” What better statement of Christian discipleship is there? This would be a beautiful prayer, that we would turn to Jesus and say, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus looks at the man’s heart and sees something there which was not explicitly spoken. Jesus has to warn the man because of his false assumption. It seems that the man thought that Jesus was going somewhere, some permanent place of rest. Jesus warns the man that following him does not involve a final destination here on earth. The foxes and the birds have nice homes, but the Son of Man will not rest his head until it is in the borrowed tomb.

Is the scribe ready to follow Jesus wherever, even if there is nowhere to go? Are we ready to follow Jesus in our lives, every day of our lives, despite the fact that he does not seem to be leading us to a den or a nest where we can settle down. Many people spend their whole lives waiting to settle down, and then they will get started. Nothing is taken very seriously until they have arrived at the destination. But the call of God is not always so neat and tidy.

Our only destination is heaven, and it would defeat the purpose of this life to not start living until we get there. We have to live in this moment, wherever we are. This moment is the where God’s grace is for us, because it is real, it is actual, it is not just in our head. This moment is probably not ideal, and it is certainly not stable. But no matter what moments we lived in the past and how we lived them, and no matter what moments we look to and hope for and expect in our future, this is the only moment we can live in: the present moment. So we are going to follow Jesus, not wherever he goes, but wherever he is, wherever he tells us to be, wherever we find ourselves. Wherever we are right now, that is where we are going to follow Jesus. There is no reason to wait. Now is the acceptable time; today is the day of salvation.


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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 8 July 2012


The Mystery of God's Apparent Powerlessness

        Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by
the experience of evil and suffering.  God can sometimes seem to
be absent and incapable of stopping evil.  But in the most mysterious
way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary
humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil.
Christ crucified is thus "the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For
the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is
stronger than men."  It is in Christ's Resurrection and exaltation that
the Father has shown forth "the immeasurable greatness of his power
in us who believe."

        Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God's almighty
power.  This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself
Christ's power.  The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith,
for she believed that  "nothing will be impossible with God," and was
able to magnify the Lord:  "For he who is mighty has done great things
for me, and holy is his name."..

        "Nothing is more apt to confirm our faith and hope than holding
it fixed in our minds that nothing is impossible with God.  Once our
reason has grasped the idea of God's almighty power, it will easily and
without any hesitation admit everything that [the Creed] will afterwards
propose for us to believe -- even if they be great and marvelous things,
far above the ordinary laws of nature."

                                                -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                                                        paragraphs 272-274

You know well, my God,
that in all my miseries
I have never failed to recognize
your great power and mercy.
May it help me
that I have not offended in this.
Give me back the time i have lost
by granting me your grace
both in the present
and in the future.
                -- Saint Teresa of Avila
                        (1515-1582)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 1 July 2012

Our First, Most Cherished Liberty

    "We are Catholics.  We are Americans.  We are proud to be both,
grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples,  and grateful
for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens.  To be  Catholic and
American should mean not having to choose one over the other.  Our
allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should
instead be complementary.  That is the teaching of our Catholic faith,  which
obliges us to work together with fellow citizen for the common good of  all
who live in this land.  That is the vision of our founding and our  Constitution,
which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths to right to  contribute to our
common life together.

    Freedom is not only for American, but we think of it as something of  our
special inheritance, fought for at a great price, and a heritage to be  guarded
now.  We are stewards of this gift, not only for ourselves but for all nations
and peoples who yearn to be free.  Catholics in America have discharged  this
duty of guarding freedom admirably for many generations....

    ...From well before Cardinal Gibbons, Catholics in America have been
advocates for religious liberty, and the landmark teaching of the Second
Vatican Council on religious liberty was influenced by the American  experience.
It is among the proudest boasts of the Church on these shores.  We have  been
staunch defenders of religious liberty in the past.  We have a solemn  duty to
discharge that duty today."
                        -- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
                            Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Almighty God, Father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus
We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good.
Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties;
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them,
for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.


We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, 

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 24 June 2012

Fortnight for Freedom, II

    "As Catholics, we are obliged to defend the right to religious liberty for ourselves and for others.  We are happily joined in this by our fellow Christians and believers of other faiths.

    A recent letter to President Obama from some sixty religious leaders, including Christians of many denominations and Jews, argued that "it is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirements that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients."

    More comprehensively, a theologically rich and politically prudent declaration from Evangelicals and Catholics Together made a powerful case for greater vigilance in defense of religious freedom, precisely as a united witness animated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Their declaration makes it clear that as Christians of various traditions we object to a "naked public square," stripped of religious arguments and religious believers.  We do not seek a "sacred public square" either, which gives special privileges and benefits to religious citizens.  Rather we seek a civil public square, where all citizens can make their contribution to the common good.  At our best, we might call this an American public square.

    The Lord Jesus came to liberate us from the dominion of sin.  Political liberties are one part of that liberation, and religious liberty is the first of those liberties.  Together with our fellow Christians, joined by our Jewish brethren, and in partnership with Americans of other religious traditions, we affirm that our faith requires us to defend the religious liberty granted us by God, and protected in our Constitution."

                      
                -- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
                    Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty
                Our First, Most Cherished Liberty:  A Statement
                    on Religious Liberty

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, 17 June 2012

A Fortnight for Freedom

    ...Both our civil year and liturgical year point us on various occasions
to our heritage of freedom.  This year, we [United States Bishops] propose
a special "fortnight for freedom," in which bishops in their own dioceses
might arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending our
first freedom.  Our Catholic institutions also could be encouraged to do the
same, especially in cooperation with other Christians, Jews, people of other
faiths, and indeed, all who which to defend our most cherished freedom.

    We suggest that the fourteen days from June 21 -- the vigil of the
Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More -- to July 4, Independence
Day, be dedicated to this "fortnight for freedom" -- a great hymn of  prayer
for our country.  Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great  martyrs
who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power --  St. John
Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and
the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.  Culminating on Independence  Day,
this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action  would
emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty....

    To all our fellow Catholics, we urge and intensification of your prayers
and fasting for a new birth of freedom in our beloved country.  We invite you
to join us in an urgent prayer for religious liberty.

        Almighty God, Father of all nations,
        For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).
        We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
        the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good.
        Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties;
        By your grace may we have the courage to defend them,
            for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.
        We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
        and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of  the
        Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and  ever.  Amen.

                        -- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
                            Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty,
                           "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement
                           on Religious Liberty."

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, June 10, 2012

"We Will Do Everything That the Lord Has Told Us."

    ... [I]n forming their consciences the faithful must pay careful
attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church.  For the
Catholic Church is by the will of Christ the teacher of truth.  It is her
duty to proclaim and teach with authority the truth which is Christ and,
at the same time, to declare and confirm by her authority the principles
of the moral order which spring from human nature itself.  In addition,
Christians should approach those who are outside wisely, "in the holy
Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech" (2 Cor. 6:6-7),  and should strive,
even to the shedding of their blood, to spread the light of life with
confidence and apostolic courage.

    The disciple has a grave obligation to Christ, his Master, to grow
daily in his knowledge of the truth he has received from him, to be
faithful in announcing it and vigorous in defending it without having
recourse to methods which are contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.  At
the same time the love of Christ urges him to treat with love, prudence
and patience those who are in error or ignorance with regard to the
faith.  He must take into account his duties towards Christ, the life-giving
Word whom he must proclaim, the rights of the human person and the
measure of grace which God has given to each man through Christ in
calling him freely to accept and profess the faith.

                            -- Vatican Council II
                                Declaration on Religious Liberty
                                (Dignitatis Humanae) #14

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, heal me.
Blood of Christ, drench me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
Good Jesus,  hear me.
In your wounds shelter me.
From turning away keep me.
From the evil one protect me.
At the hour of my death call me.
Into your presence lead me,
to praise you with all your saints
for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday, June 3, 2012

He Loves Justice and Right

    When the principle of religious freedom is not just proclaimed in words or incorporated in law but is implemented sincerely in practice, only then does the Church enjoy in law and in fact those stable conditions which give her the independence necessary for fulfilling her divine mission.  Ecclesiastical authorities have been insistent in claiming this independence in society.  At the same time the Christian faithful, in common with the rest of men, have the civil right of freedom from interference in leading their lives according to their conscience.  A harmony exists therefore between the freedom of the Church and that religious freedom which must be recognized as the right of men and all communities and must be sanctioned by constitutional law.

    In order to satisfy the divine command: "Make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19), the Catholic Church must spare no effort in striving "that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph" (2 Th. 
3:1).

    The Church therefore earnestly urges her children first of all that "supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men ....  This is good and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

                        -- Vatican Council II
                            Declaration on Religious Liberty
                            (Dignitatis Humanae) # 13-14


"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." 
                         -- Matthew 28: 19-20

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Proclaiming Christ in the Public Square . . . Pentecost, Sunday, 27 May 2012


We do not seek to defend religious liberty for partisan or political purposes, as some have suggested.  No, we do this because we are lovers of a human dignity that was fashioned and imparted not by the government but by the Creator.

We defend religious liberty because we are lovers of every human person, seeing in the face of every
man and woman also the face of Christ, who loved us to the very end and who calls us to love and serve our neighbor with the same love he has bestowed on us.  We uphold religious liberty because we seek to continue serving those in need while contributing to the common good in accord with the Church's social teaching and to do so with compassion and effectiveness....

We do this because Archbishop John Carroll's generation of believers and patriots bequeathed to us a precious legacy that has enabled the Church to worship in freedom, to bear witness to Christ publicly, and to do massive and amazing works of pastoral love, education, and charity in ways that are true to the faith that inspired them in the first place.  We defend religious liberty in fidelity to the wisdom of James Cardinal Gibbons who withstood in the breach those who said it wasn't possible to be a practicing Catholic and a loyal American.  " ...I belong to a country," he said, "where the civil government holds over us the aegis of its protection, without interfering with us in the legitimate exercise of our sublime mission as ministers of the Gospel of Christ.  Our country has liberty without license, and authority without despotism."

Now we must be loyal Americans by being bold and courageous Catholics!

So, dear friends, let us be of good cheer.  Let us never imagine that the faith we profess with such personal conviction is merely a private matter.  By its nature, the profession of faith is a public matter -- for the faith is meant to be spread far and wide and acted upon in and through Church institutions and in the witness of individual believers.  Let us not shrink from entering the public square to proclaim the Person of Christ, to teach the values that flow from reason and faith, to uphold our right to go about our daily work in accord with our teachings and values, to defend the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death, to defend the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman, and to serve effectively those in great need with convictions borne of the moral law.

                                -- Archbishop William Lori,
                                Installation Homily, May 16, 2012
                                Archdiocese of Baltimore

        Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Go Into the Whole World.... Sunday, May 20, 2012

Go Into the Whole World....

    Among those things which pertain to the good of the Church and indeed to the good of society here on earth, things which must everywhere and all times be safeguarded and defended from all harm, the most outstanding surely is that the Church enjoy that freedom of action which her responsibility for the salvation of men requires.  This is a sacred liberty with which the only-begotten Son of God endowed the Church which he purchased with his blood.  Indeed it belongs so intimately to the Church that to attack it is to oppose the will of God. The freedom of the Church is the fundamental principle governing relations between the Church and public authorities and the whole civil order.

    As the spiritual authority appointed by Christ the Lord with the duty, imposed by divine command, of going into the whole world and preaching the Gospel to every creature, the Church claims the freedom for herself in human society and before every public authority.  The Church also claims freedom for herself as a society of men with the right to live in civil society in accordance with the demands of the Christian faith.
                        -- Vatican Council II
                            Declaration on Religious Liberty
                            (Dignitatis Humanae) # 13


Do YOU Want To Stand Up For Religious Freedom?

    "STAND UP FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM" RALLY


When:        JUNE 8, 2012 -- 12:00 NOON

Where:        
            U.S.  DEPARTMENT OF HHS
            90 Seventh Street
            San Francisco


More information:  standupforreligiousfreedom.com

All are welcome.  Rallies are held throughout the country at noon on June 8.  This location is closest to Livermore, California.  For other locations, see the website.  Join with thousands across the US in standing up for religious freedom!

            Saint Michael Faith Enrichment Team

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

If You Keep My Commandment, You Remain in My Love

        ... From the very beginnings of the Church the disciples
of Christ
strove to convert men to confess Christ as Lord, not however
by applying coercion or with the use of techniques unworthy of the
Gospel but above all, by the power of the word of God.  They steadfastly
proclaimed to all men the plan of God the Savior, "who desires all men
to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).  At
the same time, however, they showed respect for the weak even though
they were in error, and in this way made it clear how "each of us shall
give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:12) and for that reason is
bound to obey his conscience.  Like Christ, the apostles were constantly
bent on bearing witness to the truth of God and they showed the greatest
courage in speaking "the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31) before
people and rulers. 

     With a firm faith they upheld the truth that the Gospel itself is indeed the
power of God for the salvation of all who believe.    They
therefore despised "all worldly weapons" and followed the example of
Christ's meekness and gentleness as they preached the word of God
with full confidence in the divine power of that word to destroy those forces
hostile to God and lead men to believe in and serve Christ.  Like their
Master, the apostles too recognized civil authority:  "Let every person be
subject to the governing authorities ... he who resists the authorities
resists what God has appointed" (Rom. 13:1-2).  At the same time they
were not afraid to speak out against public authority when it opposed
God's holy will:  "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).  This  is
the path which innumerable martyrs and faithful have followed through
the centuries all over the world.

    The Church, therefore, faithful to the truth of the Gospel, is  following
in the path of Christ and the apostles when she recognizes the principle
that religious liberty is in keeping with the dignity of man and divine
revelation and gives it her support....

                        -- Vatican Council II
                            Declaration on Religious Liberty
                            (Dignitatis Humanae) # 11-12

    The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
                            (Psalm 98)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"He Had Spoken Out Boldly in the Name of the Lord"

    "It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons, that is, endowed with reason and free will and therefore bearing personal responsibility are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth.  They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth.....

    ...It is through his conscience that man sees and recognizes the demands of the divine law.  He is bound to follow this conscience faithfully in all his activity so that he may come to God, who is his last end.  Therefore, he must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience.  Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.  The reason is because the practice of religion of its very nature consists primarily of those voluntary and free internal acts by which a man directs himself to God. 

Acts of this kind cannot be commanded or forbidden by any merely human authority,  but his own social nature requires that a man give external expression to these internal acts of religion, that he communicate with others on religious matters and profess his religion in community.  Consequently, to deny man the free exercise of religion in society, when the just requirements of public order are observed, is to do an injustice to the human person and to the very order established by God for men.

    Furthermore, the private and public acts of religion by which men direct themselves to God according to their convictions transcend of their very nature the earthly and temporal order of things.  Therefore the civil authority, the purpose of which is the care of the common good in the temporal order, must recognize and look with favor on the religious life of the citizens.  But if it  presumes to control or restrict religious activity it must be said to have exceeded the limits of its power."

                        -- Vatican Council II
                            Declaration on Religious Liberty
                            (Dignitatis Humnanae,) #2-3

        I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

29 April 2012

Religious Freedom for the Children of God

    The sacred [Vatican] Council begins by professing that God himself has made known to the human race how men by serving him can be saved and reach happiness in Christ.  We believe that this one true religion continues to exist in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus entrusted the task of spreading it among all men when he said to the apostles:  "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt. 18:19-20).  All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it.

    The sacred Council likewise proclaims that these obligations bind man's conscience.  Truth can impose itself on the mind of man only in virtue of its own truth, which wins over the mind with both gentleness and power.  So while the religious freedom which men demand in fulfilling their obligation to worship God has to do with freedom for coercion in civil society, it leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies towards the true religion and the one Church of Christ....

    The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.  Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against is convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in associations with others.  The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.  This right of the human person to religious freedom must be given recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right.

                        -- Dignitatis Humanae, Vatican II, 1-2
                        (On the Right of the Person and Communities
                        to Social and  Civil Liberty in Religious Matters)
                        7 December 1965

        Beloved:  See what love the Father has bestowed on us
        that we may be called the children of God.    (1 John 3:1)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

22 April 2012

Only God Forgives Sin

    Only God forgives sins.  Since he is the Son of God, Jesus
says of himself, "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive
sins" and exercises this divine power:  "Your sins are forgiven."
Further, by virtue of his divine authority he give this power to men
to exercise in his name.

    Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole
Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and
reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood.  But he
entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic
ministry which he charged with the "ministry of reconciliation."  The
apostle is sent out "on behalf of Christ" with "God making his appeal"
through him and pleading: "Be reconciled to God."

    Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members
of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into
grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded
ecclesial communion.  It is to them that the sacrament of Penance
offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of  justification.
The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second
plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace."

                        -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                            paragraphs 1441, 1442, 1446

        "Let us fix our eyes on Christ's blood and understand
        how precious it is to his Father, for, poured out for our
        salvation, it has brought to the whole world the grace
        of repentance."
                    -- St. Clement of Rome, d. 101 A.D.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

15 April 2012: Divine Mercy Sunday

The Church Appeals to the Mercy of God

    The Church proclaims the truth of God's mercy revealed in the crucified and risen Christ, and she professes it in various ways.  Furthermore, she seeks to practice mercy towards people through people, and she sees in this an indispensable condition for solicitude for a better and "more human" world, today and tomorrow.  However, at no time and in no historical period -- especially at  moment as critical as our own -- can the Church forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God amid the many forms of evil which weigh upon humanity and threaten it.  Precisely this is the fundamental right and duty of the Church in Christ Jesus, her right and duty towards God and towards humanity.  The more the human conscience succumbs to secularization, loses its sense of the very meaning of the word "mercy," moves away from God and distances itself from the mystery of mercy, the more the Church has the right and the duty to appeal to the God of mercy "with loud cries."  These "loud cries" should be the mark of the Church of our times, cries uttered to God to implore His mercy, the certain manifestation of which she professes and proclaims as having already come in Jesus crucified and risen, that is, in the Paschal Mystery..,,

    ... In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and risen, in the spirit of His messianic mission, enduring in the history of humanity, we raise our voices and pray that the Love which is in the Father may once again be revealed at this stage of history, and that, through the work of the Son and Holy Spirit, it may be shown to be present in our modern world and to be more powerful than evil:  more powerful than sin and death.  We pray for this through the intercession of her who does not cease to proclaim "mercy ... from generation to generation," and also through the intercession of those for whom there have been completely fulfilled the words of the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

                    -- Blessed John Paul II
                        Dives in Misericordia Encyclical, #15
                        30 November 1980

    Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

8 April 2012: Easter Sunday

He Is Risen!

    "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain
and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting
God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ (1 Cor 15: 14-15). 
With these words Saint Paul explains quite drastically what faith in
the Resurrection of Jesus Christ means for the Christian message
overall:  it is its very foundation.  The Christian faith stands or falls
with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead.

    If this were taken away, it would still be possible to piece
together from the Christian tradition a series of interesting ideas
about God and men, about man's being and his obligations, a kind
of religious world view:  but the Christian faith itself would be dead.
Jesus would be a failed religious leader, who despite his failure
remains great and can cause us to reflect.  But he would then remain
purely human, and his authority would extend only so far as his
message is of interest to us.  He would no longer be a criterion; the
only criterion left would be our own judgment in selecting from his
heritage what strikes us as helpful.  In other words, we would be alone.
Our own judgment would be the highest instance.

    Only if Jesus is risen has anything really new occurred that
changes the world and the situation of mankind.  Then he becomes
the criterion on which we can rely.  For then God has truly revealed
himself.....

    ... If we attend to the witnesses with listening hearts and open
ourselves to the signs by which the Lord again and again authenticates
both them and himself, then we know that he is truly risen.  He is alive.
Let us entrust ourselves to him, knowing that we are on the right path.
With Thomas let us place our hands into Jesus' pierced side and
confess:  "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28).

                    -- Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
                        Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week
                            Chapter nine

        The Lord has indeed risen, alleluia.
        Glory and kingship be his for ever and ever.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1 April 2012: Palm Sunday

The Right to Religious Liberty

    "All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it."  This duty derives from "the very dignity of the human person."
It does not contradict a "sincere respect" for different religions which frequently  "reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men," nor the requirement of charity, which urges Christians "to treat with love, prudence and patience those who are in error or ignorance with regard to the faith."

    The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially.  This is "the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ......

    "Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, or is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits."  This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order.  For this reason it "continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it."

    "If because of the circumstances of a particular people special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional organization of a state, the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom must be recognized and respected as well.

    The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities.  This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right.

                            -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                                paragraphs 2104 - 2108

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.  ( 1 Timothy 2: 1-2)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

25 March 2012: Fifth Sunday in Lent

Erroneous Judgment

    A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his
conscience.  If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn
himself.  Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance
and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already
committed.

    This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility.  This
is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true  and good,
or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of
committing sin."  In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he 
commits.

    Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others,
enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of  autonomy of
conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack  of
conversion and of charity:  these can be at the source of errors of 
judgment in moral conduct.

    If -- on the contrary -- this ignorance is invincible, or the moral  subject is
not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the  person
cannot be imputed to him.  It remains no less and evil, a privation, a  disorder.
One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

    A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity
proceeds at the same time "from a pure heart and a good conscience and
sincere faith."  "The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do  persons
and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by  objective
standards of moral conduct."
                        -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                            paragraphs 1790 - 1794

            Create a clean heart in me, O God.  (Psalm 51)

This is the fifth part of a series during Lent on conscience, taken from
the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Next week:  The right to 
religious liberty.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

18 March 2012: Fourth Sunday in Lent

To Choose In Accord With Conscience

    Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right
judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the
contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

    Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral
judgments lass assured and decision difficult.  But he must always
seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God
expressed in divine law.

    To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience
and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the
advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Sprit and
his gifts.

    Some rules apply in every case:

        -- One may never do evil so that good may result from it;

        -- the Golden Rule:  "Whatever you wish that men would
            do to you, do so to them."

        -- charity always proceeds by way of respect for one's
            neighbor and his conscience:  "Thus sinning against
            your brethren and wounding their conscience...you sin
            against Christ."  Therefore "it is right not to ... do anything
            that makes your brother stumble."

                    -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                        paragraphs 1786-1789

    "But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works
    may be clearly seen as done in God."  (John 3: 21)

This is the fourth part of a series during Lent on conscience, taken  from
the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Next week: "Erroneous Judgment."

Monday, March 5, 2012

11 March 2012: Third Sunday in Lent

The Formation of Conscience

    Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened.
A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful.  It formulates its
judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed
by the wisdom of the Creator.  The education of conscience is 
indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences
and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative 
teachings.

    The education of the conscience is a lifelong task.  From the earliest
years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law
recognized by conscience.  Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or
cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings
of complacency, born of human weakness and faults.  The education of the
conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.

    In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path;
we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice.  We must
also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross.  We are assisted by
the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and
guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.

                        -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                            paragraphs 1783-1785

    If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.  (Psalm 95)

This is the third part of a series during Lent on conscience, taken  from the
Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Next week:  To Choose in Accord With
Conscience.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

4 March 2012: The Second Sunday in Lent

The Judgment of Conscience

        It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to
himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. 
This requirement of
interiority is all the more necessary as life often
distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection:

                Return to your conscience, question it....
                Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you
                do, see God as your witness.  (St. Augustine)

        The dignity of the human person implies and requires
uprightness
of moral conscience
.  Conscience includes the perception of the
principles of morality (synderesis); their application in the given
circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods; and
finally judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already
performed.  The truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason,
is recognized practically and concretely by the
prudent judgment of
conscience.  We call that man prudent who chooses in conformity with
this judgment.

        Conscience enables one to assume
responsibility for the acts
performed.  If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can
remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at
the same time as the evil of his particular choice.  The verdict  of the
judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy.  In
attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must
be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must
be constantly cultivated with the grace of God....

        Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as
personally to make moral decisions.  "He must not be forced to act
contrary to his conscience.  Nor must he be prevented from acting
according to his conscience, especially in religious matters."

                                        --
Catechism of the Catholic Church
                                                paragraphs 1779-1782

This is the second part of a series during Lent on conscience, taken
from the
Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Next week:  The Formation
of Conscience.                          
                                 Saint Michael Faith Enrichment.