Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Catholics Who Moved Mountains

September 29, 2016

        Jesus said his apostles, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” On another occasion, he told his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

        Though I have yet to come across any historical accounts of saints transplanting foliage or excavating stones by faith-powered miracles, there are many historically-documented incidents of Catholics achieving the seemingly-impossible on earth through their faith.

St. John Paul II and the Soviet Union’s Fall

        Karol Wojtyła barely survived the Nazi’s occupation of Poland, but once that evil was defeated the Soviet Union replaced them. As parish priest and later as an archbishop, Wojtyła championed the Catholic Faith against the atheistic communists’ religious persecution. Upon his election as pope in 1978, John Paul II’s first papal journey abroad was to go back to his homeland.

        While there, he celebrated an outdoor Mass before millions, proclaiming Jesus’ words, “Be not afraid!” The crowd shouted in reply, “We want God! We want God! We want God!” Speaking in defense of human dignity, he encouraged all people to peacefully pursue true freedom. The threat posed by this Polish pope (armed merely with his words, example, and prayers) was so potent that the Soviets may have ordered his nearly successful assassination in 1981.

        On the 1984 Feast of the Annunciation, Pope John Paul consecrated Russia (along with the whole world) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, just as she had requested in her appearances at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. On Christmas Day, seven years later, a miracle was realized. Mikhail Gorbachev peacefully resigned as the President of the Soviet Union and from atop the Kremlin, the Soviet flag was lowered forever. The ‘Evil Empire‘ ended not by a thousand Sun-bright nuclear blasts, but through the peaceful power of God and the faithfulness of his holy, humble servant.

St. Joan of Arc’s Liberation of France

 joan-of-arc-at-the-coronation-of-charles-vii       In the 15th century, France was delivered from English domination by history’s most-unlikely military commander; a teenage peasant girl. Joan had no military training, but she was compelled by visions and the voices of Sts. Michael, Catherine, and Margaret to lead the French forces, drive out the English, and see prince Charles VII crowned king at Reims. With divine help, she achieved all these feats before her martyrdom at the hand of the English at the age of nineteen. Mark Twain (though not generally a fan of historic Christianity) wrote of her:

Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it. …It took six thousand years to produce her; her like will not be seen in the earth again in fifty thousand. …  She is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.

        St. Joan of Arc was indeed great, but her glory was but the mere reflection of God’s infinite splendor.

Fleming’s Discovery of Penicillin

        History has seen many great Catholic scientists, including Copernicus (Sun-centrism), Bacon (the scientific method), Descartes (modern geometry), Mendel (genetics), Pasteur (microbiology), and Lemaître (the Big Bang Theory) just to name a handful. But one Catholic scientist’s search for effective antibiotics in the early 20th century saved an estimated two hundred million lives. Through insights occasioned by providential occurrences, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. In this, he saw himself employed as an instrument by God:

I can only suppose that God wanted penicillin, and that this was his reason for creating Alexander Fleming.”

St. Patrick’s Conversion of Ireland

        In the 5th century, a 16-year-old boy was kidnapped from Britain and sold into slavery on a distant, pagan isle. There he experienced a spiritual awakening. He tells us:

I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time. And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: ‘You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.’ And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: ‘Behold, your ship is ready.’ And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I reached that ship.”

        Lead on by this faith, he went on to become a priest, a bishop, and a missionary to the land of his former bondage. Today we think of Ireland as a very Catholic country, but it only became so through the courageous faith of St. Patrick.

Our Lord’s Redemption of the World

        In the 1st century, by his short three-year ministry in a backwater of the Roman Empire, this poor man from Nazareth transformed the world forever. Jesus Christ is the pattern for all fruitful disciples who have followed him since, achieving the impossible through faith and the power of God. One anonymous author describes Christ in these words:

Greatest man in history, named Jesus.
Had no servants, yet they called Him Master.
Had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher.
Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer.
He had no army, yet kings feared Him.
He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world.
He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him.
He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today.


Jesus on the Cross

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Tips for Raising Faith-Filled Children

April 13, 2016
  • Tell your children every day that you love them and that God loves them too.
  • Listen attentively and respectfully to what your child says.
  • Forgive frequently. Ask forgiveness when you have done wrong. Look for the humor in stressful situations and hug often.
  • Ask children to consider “what if…” when dealing  with challenging situations. Help them find creative, peaceful, and moral responses.
  • Tell your child that you pray for them every day and DO it. Thank God for the gifts they are.
  • Share your faith beliefs so your child can understand your hopes. Also share your doubts so they understand that doubts do not overwhelm faith.
  • Bless your child before bedtime by tracing the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads and saying: “God love you and keep you safe” or some other blessing. Teach your child to respond. “Amen.”
  • Encourage your child to value others for who they are – not what they have. Help them to develop Christian virtues and to treat others kindly and with respect.
  • Once a week, have a family night when you “unplug” to play board games, do crafts, read stories, or take time to talk together.
  • Honor family  dinner. The benefits are amazing and establish a sacred time to share the joys and trials of life with each other.
  • Pray before meals, before bed, during holidays and family celebrations, and any time when one needs guidance or comfort.
  • Have a family Bible and read the Gospel passages before Church.
  • Decorate your house for the liturgical seasons with an Advent wreath, purple during Lent, and a prominently placed crucifix.
  • Take time to ponder the beauty of creation with your child. Easter is a wonderful time to appreciate the new life of springtime.
  • During the fall and spring, help your child sort through their clothes and toys to donate to a shelter. Bring the child with you when you drop off your donations.
  • Select a patron saint to watch over your children when they become involved in a sporting activity. Pray to that saint every time they are at a practice or event.
  • Participate in the Catholic Relief  Services Rice Bowl program: read the prayers during Lent, look up the featured countries, and donate coins in the box provided.
  • Introduce your child to older people or those with disabilities in your neighborhood. Find out if they need assistance with chores or shopping.
  • When you can’t physically help someone, pray for them.
  • Choose sporting events that do not conflict with your Sunday Mass attendance.
  • Encourage “secret” good deeds.
  • Contribute to a food bank. Ask your child to help you with the collection and delivery.
  • Watch TV with your child and explain during commercials or afterward what you found to be good, wholesome, and valuable. If you find a program objectionable explain why when changing the channel.
  • Encourage your child to use their God-given talents to serve others.
  • Help your child find ways to participate in the of the parish, such as being an altar server, choir member, greeter, or reader.
  • Invite your parish priest over for dinner.
  • Volunteer in your child’s religious education program or Catholic school.
  • Have the sporting equipment your child uses get blessed.
  • Read stories from the Bible and biographies of saints to your child. Several great videos can also be found online.
  • Ask grandparents, godparents, and extended family to share stories about the family their faith lives.
  • On the anniversaries of your children’s Baptism, light their Baptismal candles and tell stories about that special day.
  • Display religious items in your home, such as a cross, artwork, or a picture of your child’s patron saint. Talk to your child about them.
  • By the way you live, let your child know that life is good, that your values and faith guide your decisions and how you interact with others, and that the happiness you experience is a direct result of your personal relationship with God.

Adapted from the pamphlet “Raising Your Child With Faith” by Cecilia P. Regan.

Fallaciously Faithless — Monday, 10th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

June 8, 2015

Reading: 2nd Corinthians 1:1-7

St. Paul writes to the Christians at Corinth:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement,  who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.

When I was in college, there was a span of a couple of weeks when I stopped receiving the Holy Eucharist. I kept going to Mass, but I hesitated to approach for Communion. I refrained because I feared that I did not have enough faith in the Lord to receive Him worthily.

pondering-at-a-question-markI shared my concerns with our Newman Center parish priest. Father Mark did not provide me with any specific answers, but I remember him saying, “Perhaps God is allowing you to experience this so that someday you can help other people who are going through the same thing.” Inside, I felt like saying, “Thanks for nothing, Father.”

I kept praying and pondering for several days until this realization finally came to me: “People who don’t believe in God don’t spend time worrying about whether or not they believe in God—that’s something only a believer would do.” If I was worried about whether I had faith, then there was no reason to worry. Freed from my fear and greatly relieved, I returned to Holy Communion.

If you know someone trapped in the same spot I was, please feel free to pass this helpful insight along. Father Mark and St. Paul were right. God encourages us in our every affliction so that we may encourage others with the same encouragement we receive from Him.

Theological Gifts & Obligations — Tuesday, 15th Week of Ordinary Time

July 15, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! … For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

In the visitation of Jesus Christ, Chorazin and Bethsaida had advantages that no people before them had ever enjoyed. The Word of God was before them, but they did not accept him. Incarnate love was among them, but they did not embrace him. The hope of the world was in their midst, but they did not change their ways.

Consider how much more understanding we have of Christ and his teachings than they, how much we have experienced the love of Christ and his people, how many prophesies of Christ we have seen fulfilled. How much more cause do we have to respond to him with faith, hope, and love; how much more of an obligation. As St. Bonaventure said:

“Three things are necessary to everyone regardless of status, sex, or age, i.e., truth of faith which brings understanding; love of Christ which brings compassion; endurance of hope which brings perseverance. No adult is in the state of salvation unless he has faithful understanding in his mind, loving compassion in his heart, and enduring perseverance in his actions.”

Refusing Signs — Monday, 6th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

February 17, 2014

Readings: James 1:1-11, Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.

Yet, soon before this scene in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus took seven loaves and a few fish and miraculously fed about 4,000 people with them. That is a sign as surely as his resurrection will be, so how can Jesus say “no sign will be given to this generation”? Perhaps because there was no sign that his critics would accept.

The Pharisees sought “a sign from heaven.” If Jesus had performed some meteorological sign for them they may well have judged him as more evil than they had thought, in union with the demons of the air, just as they had condemned his manifest power to cast out demons. (Mark 3:21-30) They asked for proof but refused to accept evidence in his favor–they were of people of two minds, like St. James describes in the first reading:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

Let us pray for those who do not believe; for the sincere, that they may be given sufficient evidence to change their minds, and for the obstinate, that their hardened hearts may be opened. And let us who believe in God (as even the Pharisees did) not cause Jesus to “[sigh] from the depth of his spirit.” Let us be trusting and docile in following him.

“Miracles Happen,” or “Atheism Can be a Dogmatic Faith”

January 23, 2014

A neat article by National Catholic Register’s Mark Shea recounts how the miracles of Lourdes can bestow faith to an atheist or reveal his hardened heart.

Excerpts from Lumen Fidei, The Light of Faith (Part 4)

July 25, 2013

The light of faith is capable of enhancing the richness of human relations, their ability to endure, to be trustworthy, to enrich our life together. Faith does not draw us away from the world or prove irrelevant to the concrete concerns of the men and women of our time. Without a love which is trustworthy, nothing could truly keep men and women united. Human unity would be conceivable only on the basis of utility, on a calculus of conflicting interests or on fear…. Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good. Its light does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope. (§51)

The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (see Genesis 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. (§52)

In the family, faith accompanies every age of life, beginning with childhood: children learn to trust in the love of their parents. This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith. …We have all seen, during World Youth Days, the joy that young people show in their faith and their desire for an ever more solid and generous life of faith. (§53)

Modernity sought to build a universal brotherhood based on equality, yet we gradually came to realize that this brotherhood, lacking a reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, cannot endure. We need to return to the true basis of brotherhood. …Thanks to faith we have come to understand the unique dignity of each person, something which was not clearly seen in antiquity. …Without insight into these realities, there is no criterion for discerning what makes human life precious and unique. Man loses his place in the universe, he is cast adrift in nature, either renouncing his proper moral responsibility or else presuming to be a sort of absolute judge, endowed with an unlimited power to manipulate the world around him. (§54)

When faith is weakened, the foundations of life also risk being weakened, as the poet T.S. Eliot warned: “Do you need to be told that even those modest attainments / As you can boast in the way of polite society / Will hardly survive the Faith to which they owe their significance?”If we remove faith in God from our cities, mutual trust would be weakened, we would remain united only by fear and our stability would be threatened. (§55)

To speak of faith often involves speaking of painful testing, yet it is precisely in such testing that [St.] Paul sees the most convincing proclamation of the Gospel, for it is in weakness and suffering that we discover God’s power which triumphs over our weakness and suffering. …Christians know that suffering cannot be eliminated, yet it can have meaning and become an act of love and entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us; in this way it can serve as a moment of growth in faith and love. By contemplating Christ’s union with the Father even at the height of his sufferings on the cross (see Mark 15:34), Christians learn to share in the same gaze of Jesus. Even death is illumined and can be experienced as the ultimate call to faith, …the ultimate “Come!” spoken by the Father, to whom we abandon ourselves in the confidence that he will keep us steadfast even in our final passage. (§56)

Let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith.

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

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 29 June, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in the year 2013, the first of my pontificate. (§60)

Excerpts from Lumen Fidei, The Light of Faith (Part 3)

July 25, 2013

In the Easter liturgy, the light of the paschal candle lights countless other candles.  Faith is [likewise] passed on, we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another. (§37)

The transmission of the faith not only brings light to men and women in every place; it travels through time, passing from one generation to another. …It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus. But how is this possible? How can we be certain, after all these centuries, that we have encountered the “real Jesus”? Were we merely isolated individuals… a certainty of this sort would be impossible. I cannot possibly verify for myself something which happened so long ago. But this is not the only way we attain knowledge. …Faith’s past, that act of Jesus’ love which brought new life to the world, comes down to us through the memory of others — witnesses — and is kept alive in that one remembering subject which is the Church. …The love which is the Holy Spirit and which dwells in the Church unites every age and makes us contemporaries of Jesus…. (§38)

It is impossible to believe on our own. Faith is not simply an individual decision which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart, nor a completely private relationship between the “I” of the believer and the divine “Thou,” between an autonomous subject and God. By its very nature, faith is open to the “We” of the Church; it always takes place within her communion.(§39)

The Church, like every family, passes on to her children the whole store of her memories. But how does this come about in a way that nothing is lost, but rather everything in the patrimony of faith comes to be more deeply understood? It is through the apostolic Tradition preserved in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit that we enjoy a living contact with the foundational memory. …For transmitting a purely doctrinal content, an idea might suffice, or perhaps a book, or the repetition of a spoken message. But what is communicated in the Church, what is handed down in her living Tradition, is the new light born of an encounter with the true God…. There is a special means for passing down this fullness, a means capable of engaging the entire person, body and spirit, interior life and relationships with others. It is the sacraments, celebrated in the Church’s liturgy. (§40)

The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism. Some might think that baptism is merely a way of symbolizing the confession of faith, a [teaching] tool for those who require images and signs, while in itself ultimately unnecessary. An observation of Saint Paul about baptism reminds us that this is not the case (see Romans 6:4). (§41)

[Baptism] is not an act which someone can perform on his own, but rather something which must be received by entering into the ecclesial communion which transmits God’s gift. No one baptizes himself, just as no one comes into the world by himself. Baptism is something we receive. (§41)

The sacramental character of faith finds its highest expression in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a precious nourishment for faith: an encounter with Christ truly present in the supreme act of his love, the life-giving gift of himself. In the Eucharist we find the intersection of faith’s two dimensions. On the one hand, there is the dimension of history…. On the other hand, we also find the dimension which leads from the visible world to the invisible. (§44)

[These] are the four elements which comprise the storehouse of memory which the Church hands down: the profession of faith, the celebration of the sacraments, the path of the ten commandments, and prayer. …TheCatechism of the Catholic Church, [which is structured on these four elements] is a fundamental aid for that unitary act with which the Church communicates the entire content of her faith: “all that she herself is, and all that she believes.” (§46)

These days we can imagine a group of people being united in a common cause, in mutual affection, in sharing the same destiny and a single purpose. But we find it hard to conceive of a unity in one truth. We tend to think that a unity of this sort is incompatible with freedom of thought and personal autonomy. Yet the experience of love shows us that a common vision is possible, for through love we learn how to see reality through the eyes of others, not as something which impoverishes but instead enriches our vision. Genuine love, after the fashion of God’s love, ultimately requires truth, and the shared contemplation of the truth which is Jesus Christ enables love to become deep and enduring. (§46)

Faith is also one because it is directed to the one Lord, to the life of Jesus, to the concrete history which he shares with us. St. Irenaeus of Lyons made this clear in his struggle against Gnosticism [which contrasted the crude, fleshy faith of the many & the enlightened, spiritual faith of the few.] St. Irenaeus insisted that there is but one faith, for it is grounded in the concrete event of the incarnation and can never transcend the flesh and history of Christ, inasmuch as God willed to reveal himself fully in that flesh. For this reason, he says, there is no difference in the faith of “those able to discourse of it at length” and “those who speak but little.” (§47)

Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity. Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole. Each period of history can find this or that point of faith easier or harder to accept: hence the need for vigilance in ensuring that the deposit of faith is passed on in its entirety (see 1 Timothy 6:20) and that all aspects of the profession of faith are duly emphasized. Indeed, inasmuch as the unity of faith is the unity of the Church, to subtract something from the faith is to subtract something from the veracity of communion. (§48)

As a service to the unity of faith and its integral transmission, the Lord gave his Church the gift of apostolic succession. …She depends on the fidelity of witnesses chosen by the Lord for this task. …Thanks to the Church’s magisterium, [the whole counsel of God] can come to us in its integrity, and with it the joy of being able to follow it fully. (§49)

Excerpts from Lumen Fidei, The Light of Faith (Part 2)

July 14, 2013
  • Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. (§24)
  • Today more than ever, we need to be reminded of this bond between faith and truth, given the crisis of truth in our age. In contemporary culture, we often tend to consider the only real truth to be that of technology: truth is what we succeed in building and measuring by our scientific know-how, truth is what works and what makes life easier and more comfortable. Nowadays this appears as the only truth that is certain, the only truth that can be shared, the only truth that can serve as a basis for discussion or for common undertakings. Yet at the other end of the scale we are willing to allow for subjective truths of the individual, which consist in fidelity to his or her deepest convictions, yet these are truths valid only for that individual and not capable of being proposed to others in an effort to serve the common good. But Truth itself, the truth which would comprehensively explain our life as individuals and in society, is regarded with suspicion. (§25)
  • This being the case, can Christian faith provide a service to the common good with regard to the right way of understanding truth? To answer this question, we need to reflect on the kind of knowledge involved in faith…. Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes. (§26)
  • …Most people nowadays would not consider love as related in any way to truth. Love is seen as an experience associated with the world of fleeting emotions, no longer with truth…. If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life. (§27)
  • If love needs truth, truth also needs love. Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives. The truth we seek, the truth that gives meaning to our journey through life, enlightens us whenever we are touched by love. One who loves realizes that love is an experience of truth, that it opens our eyes to see reality in a new way, in union with the beloved. (§27)
  • The bond between seeing and hearing in faith-knowledge is most clearly evident in John’s Gospel. For the Fourth Gospel, to believe is both to hear and to see…. How does one attain this synthesis between hearing and seeing? It becomes possible through the person of Christ himself, who can be seen and heard. He is the Word made flesh, whose glory we have seen (see John1:14). (§30)
  • By his taking flesh and coming among us, Jesus has touched us, and through the sacraments he continues to touch us even today; transforming our hearts, he unceasingly enables us to acknowledge and acclaim him as the Son of God…. Only when we are configured to Jesus do we receive the eyes needed to see him. (§31)
  • Truth nowadays is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the individual, valid only for the life of the individual. A common truth intimidates us, for we identify it with the intransigent demands of totalitarian systems. But if truth is a truth of love, if it is a truth disclosed in personal encounter with the Other and with others, then it can be set free from its enclosure in individuals and become part of the common good. As a truth of love, it is not one that can be imposed by force; it is not a truth that stifles the individual. Since it is born of love, it can penetrate to the heart, to the personal core of each man and woman. Clearly, then, faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others. One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us. Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all. (§34)
  • The light of faith in Jesus also illumines the path of all those who seek God, and makes a specifically Christian contribution to dialogue with the followers of the different religions…. Religious man strives to see signs of God in the daily experiences of life, in the cycle of the seasons, in the fruitfulness of the earth and in the movement of the cosmos. God is light and he can be found also by those who seek him with a sincere heart. (§35)
  • Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those men and women who, though not believers, nonetheless desire to believe and continue to seek. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith…. Anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by his help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk towards the fullness of love. (§35)

Excerpts from Lumen Fidei, The Light of Faith, Pope Francis’ First Encyclical (Part 1)

July 6, 2013
  • The Light of Faith: this is how the Church’s tradition speaks of the great gift brought by Jesus. (§1)
  • [Modern rationalists understood faith] either as a leap in the dark, to be taken in the absence of light, driven by blind emotion, or as a subjective light, capable perhaps of warming the heart and bringing personal consolation, but not something which could be proposed to others as an objective and shared light which points the way. …As a result, humanity renounced the search for a great light, Truth itself…. Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere. (§2)
  • There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim. (§3)
  • Faith understands that… a word, when spoken by the God who is fidelity, becomes absolutely certain and unshakable…. Faith accepts this word as a solid rock upon which we can build, a straight highway on which we can travel. (§10)
  • The history of Jesus is the complete manifestation of God’s reliability. [T]he life of Jesus now appears as… the supreme manifestation of his love for us. … Christian faith is thus faith in a perfect love, in its decisive power, in its ability to transform the world and to unfold its history. (§15)
  • Our culture has lost its sense of God’s tangible presence and activity in our world. We think that God is to be found in the beyond, on another level of reality, far removed from our everyday relationships. But if this were the case… it would make no difference at all whether we believed in him or not. Christians, on the contrary, profess their faith in God’s tangible and powerful love which really does act in history and determines its final destiny: a love that can be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. (§17)
  • Christian faith is faith in the incarnation of the Word and his bodily resurrection; it is faith in a God who is so close to us that he entered our human history. Far from divorcing us from reality, our faith in the Son of God made man in Jesus of Nazareth enables us to grasp reality’s deepest meaning and to see how much God loves this world and is constantly guiding it towards himself. (§18)
  • In many areas in our lives we trust others who know more than we do. We trust the architect who builds our home, the pharmacist who gives us medicine for healing, the lawyer who defends us in court. We also need someone trustworthy and knowledgeable where God is concerned. Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who makes God known to us. (§18)
  • In faith, Christ is not simply the one in whom we believe… he is also the one with whom we are united precisely in order to believe. Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing. (§18)
  • Faith’s new way of seeing things is centered on Christ. Faith in Christ brings salvation because in him our lives become radically open to a love that precedes us, a love that transforms us from within, acting in us and through us. (§20)
  • We come to see the difference, then, which faith makes for us. Those who believe are transformed by the love to which they have opened their hearts in faith. By their openness to this offer of primordial love, their lives are enlarged and expanded. (§21)
  • …Christ is the mirror in which [those who believe] find their own image fully realized. And just as Christ gathers to himself all those who believe and makes them his body, so the Christian comes to see himself as a member of this body, in an essential relationship with all other believers. … Faith is necessarily ecclesial; it is professed from within the body of Christ as a concrete communion of believers…. Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: it comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed.… [Faith] enables us to become part of the Church’s great pilgrimage through history until the end of the world. (§22)
  • For those who have been transformed in this way, a new way of seeing opens up, faith becomes light for their eyes. (§22)

The Desert Problem—Thursday, 16th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

July 21, 2011

This morning I would like to talk with you about something I call “the Desert Problem.” We see it with the children of Israel during the Exodus. They had seen the ten plagues that were afflicted on their Egyptian oppressors. They had seen the Red Sea split before them. They heard God speak so powerfully and intensely with Moses at the mountain that they trembled. They accepted God’s covenant. They saw, they heard, but then they forgot. The Israelites seem to always be sinning in the desert and we can feel annoyance at them. However, we should not judge them harshly, for their story is our own. We also struggle with the desert problem.

We come to dry and difficult places in our own lives, too. When we face difficulties we too often forget what we have seen and heard and give in to depression, despair, and sin. The solution to the desert problem is the refreshing water of memory. When you are in a desert you need water, but you don’t need to dig a new well every time you need refreshment; you can go back to an old and reliable well. Before you come to your next desert, think of times in the past when you knew God was close, perhaps an intense consolation experienced in prayer, or a providential miracle you’ve witnessed in life. And when you enter your next desert (or if you find yourself in one now) recall these memories to mind and be refreshed in faith. ‘Blessed are your eyes, because they have seen, and your ears, because they have heard,’ but to remain faithful to God in the desert you must remember the great things of God you have seen and heard.

Seek As To Find — Monday, 16th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

July 18, 2011

When I was a kid, I was neither hot nor cold. I was a cradle-Catholic and wouldn’t renounce Christ, but I wasn’t much of a disciple of Christ either. I would have pseudo-philosophical religious conversations with friends, asking questions like, “How do we know that God is real? How do we know the Bible is really true? Couldn’t the Apostles have been hallucinating on Easter? Doesn’t science contradict religion?” And other objections of that type.

One day, when I was about 12-13 years old, I imagined myself  standing before the judgement seat of God after my death. He looked disappointed and annoyed like I had promised to meet Him somewhere and never showed up. He asked, “Why didn’t you live your life like I wanted you to live it?” (At the time I thought, “Whether this idea is coming by God or just from my own imagination, I have to honestly address this question. What would I say in this situation?”) “God,” I said, “I wasn’t even sure that you were really real. How could I commit my one life to you while I was still uncertain? Who would stand out on a cliff-ledge unless they knew that it could bear their weight?”  He promptly replied, “Well, did you ever really try to find out [if I was real?] I mean, did you even read my book?” When I heard this, I had two reactions. I laughed (because it was funny) and I said, “Oh crud,” (though I didn’t say “crud.”) God had called me out. If I had really been searching for the truth, I would’ve been searching differently. Instead of just asking questions I’d be looking for answers. After that, I began praying more, reading the Bible, and exploring my Catholicism more deeply. Because of this, I stand here today.

Jesus refused to give the Pharisees a sign because they weren’t really looking for the truth but excuses.  If you meet someone who doubts God and says they would believe in Him if He gave them a sign, perhaps ask them if they are really searching for the truth or just raising doubts about God in order to be free from the demands of the Gospel. Whoever truly seeks, finds. As a corrolary for our own lives, for we who believe in God, don’t expect the Lord to explicitly reveal His will for you, unless you are willing to accept His will.

Enduring Despite Scandal — 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 17, 2011

I know of a man who was called and chosen to lead, to preach, and to be a minister on behalf of Christ. Good and powerful things were done through his ministry and he was respected by many Christians. However, despite outward appearances, this man was a sinner (a great sinner,) and when his sins became known he brought great scandal to the Church. It was revealed that he had repeated stolen from funds collected for the poor. It also became known that he had betrayed Christ, his people, and his vocation in a vastly more terrible way. So terribly, in fact, that Jesus said, “It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”  (Better for him if he had never lived life outside his mother’s womb.) This man, who preached the gospel, who worked mighty deeds, who drew crowds to Jesus Christ, was the Apostle Judas Iscariot.

Could you imagine being one of those Christians who had been evangelized by the Apostle Judas? What if he had preached the gospel and ministered in your hometown? Imagine how your faith might be shaken by his sins. How tragic it would be if any Christians had parted ways with Jesus Christ, the apostles and the Church because of the scandal of this one man.

Though the one, apostolic, and Catholic Church is holy, she does contain sinners. Jesus said that there would be weeds that grow alongside the wheat. It has always been this way, and so it shall be, until the separating harvest at the end of the age. There have been terrible sinners among the Church’s popes and priests, her lay men and women; children of the evil one. Yet, these sinners, should not make us forget about the Church’s many canonized and uncanonized saints, the children of the kingdom, through whom far greater good has been done.

Like the mustard seed Jesus described, His Catholic Church, which began as a speck in history, has grown into the largest of plants, a peaceful dwelling place which brings together all peoples. And like the yeast in the dough that Jesus spoke of, the works and teachings of His Catholic Church have raised up the whole world for the better. For instance, the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world and she has been the defender of universal human dignity through the centuries. The modern world accepts the concept of universal human rights as a given because the Catholic Church first championed human dignity by her teachings and deeds. Despite the sins of some of its members, let no one say that the Catholic Church has not been a source and a force for good in the world.

We see that Jesus foreknew what Judas was freely going to do. Jesus said, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?” “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” (He said this in reference to Judas.) Why did Jesus, who knew all the while what Judas would freely do, permit him to remain in their company? One could rightly say it was because the Father had ordained it so, or that it was necessary to fulfill Old Testament prophesies, or so that the Son of Man and Savior of mankind would experience the human suffering of betrayal by someone who knew Him well and should have loved Him. Perhaps there are one thousand true reasons for it in God’s providential plan, but I am convinced that one of these reasons is this: So that in the future, whenever one of Jesus’ own betrayed Christ’s Church, be they a member of the clergy or laity, it would not destroy our faith in Christ.      Ultimately, the only person our Catholic faith depends upon is Him, and Jesus will never let us down.

For those who have been alienated from the Faith because of scandals, let us pray whatever the offense, that no Judas shall keep them away from Jesus Christ and His Church.

The Way, Truth, & Life — 5th Sunday in Easter—Year A

May 22, 2011

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The Mass is an encounter with Jesus Christ, leading us to God the Father. Like Jesus Himself, the Mass contains the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus. First, we journey on the Way to Jesus, then we come to the Truth of Jesus, finally we join in the Life of Jesus.

The Mass begins with the sign of the cross, for God is the beginning and end of everything. Next, we confess our unworthiness to approach the Lord, asking mercy for our sins, so that we may dare to take this journey to God. The, from the Holy Scriptures, we hear of God’s words and deeds among the Old Testament peoples and within the New Testament Church. In this, we learn of the providential way that God has prepared throughout time for us to encounter Jesus Christ today. Just as the journey on this Way through history leads to Jesus Christ, so the liturgy of the Word leads to the Gospel. Certainly, Jesus Christ the Word of God is present throughout the entire Word of God which is Sacred Scripture, but for the reading of the Gospel, we all stand up for Him and sing “Alleluia,” “Praise the Lord,” because we have come to Jesus Christ and He is more fully present among us in the proclamation of the Gospel.

The Gospel reading proclaims Jesus, who is the Truth. The homily that follows proclaims that the Truth matters for us here and now and demands our personal response. To this call, we answer with the Creed, proclaiming our faith in who God is and what He has done for us. In the Creed, we proclaim our acceptance of Jesus, the Truth. In the prayers of the faithful, we petition the Lord for our needs and concerns, saying in so many words, “Lord, let your kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven! Let us share you life! Give us your life!” At Mass, the Way leads to the Truth, and from the Truth we long for God’s Life. At Mass, the Liturgy of the Word leads to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The presentation of the gifts is not merely about moving around cash and bread and water and wine. The presentation of the gifts is about the presentation of everything that we have, and everything that we are, to God. We lift up our hearts to be one with our sacrifice. Amidst praises to the Father, the one life-giving sacrifice of the Last Supper, of the cross, and of Heaven becomes present here to us. We join in offering this sacrifice through Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus, in union with the Holy Spirit, to God the Father in Heaven.

Through this offered sacrifice, we join in God’s Life. We pray “Our Father,” because uniting with the paschal mystery, the great Easter deeds of Jesus, gives us life as the Father’s sons and daughters. Then we share with one another the sign of peace, the loving peace that is possessed by God’s holy ones. Finally, at the climax, we partake of Jesus Christ, Life Himself, most truly present in the Holy Eucharist.

Sometimes people say, “I just don’t get anything out of going to Mass. Father, I know that you say all this important and wonderful stuff is going on, but I don’t see it and I don’t feel it. The Mass is boring for me.” I understand. When I was a boy, I made a point of going to the bathroom (sometimes twice) during every Mass, just to break up the monotony. When I would see the priest cleaning the dishes at the altar—that was a good sign, because it meant that the Mass was almost done. I didn’t really know what was happening at Mass, so I really didn’t believe in what was happening at Mass. But as I grew older I began to learn what was happening, and as I grew in faith I began to believe in what was happening, and my experience of the Mass was transformed.

People who say that the Mass is boring resemble St. Phillip in something he said to Jesus at the first Eucharist, the Last Supper: “Master, (we don’t see or feel the presence of God the Father,) show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” And Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (Whoever has been to Mass has encountered my mysteries.) How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (How can you say, ‘The Mass is boring?’)” The awesome mystical realities of the Mass are true, and real, and present and active at every Mass we attend, whether we see them, or feel them, or believe in them, or not.

Jesus Christ and the Holy Mass contain the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and we shall receive from them according to our faith. Let us pray, that at this Mass and every Mass, we may be as fully present to Jesus Christ and His mysteries as they are to us at every Mass.

3 Myths / 3 Mitos — 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

March 6, 2011

Many today assume three modern myths: One, that we get into Heaven based on whether our good works out-weigh our sins. Two, that as long as we claim Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior we are assured Heaven. And three, that one Christian church is just as good as another. Let us consider these common myths one by one, and come to understand the truth about Christianity.

If you ask people whether they think they’ll go to Heaven, many say something like this, “I’m a pretty good person. I mean I’ve never robbed any banks or killed anybody. I’ve done good things, so yeah, I think I’ll go to Heaven.” In their minds, such people seem to envision the Last Judgment as a giant scale, with their good deeds on one side and their sins on the other.

The truth is, we cannot earn our own salvation. God is all good and deserving of all our love. When we do good we are just giving Him what He deserves. But when we sin, we disfigure ourselves and our relationship with God in ways that only He can repair. “…All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” But thanks be to God, we “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus…. What occasion is there then for boasting?” asks St. Paul. “It is ruled out.” We do not save ourselves. We are saved only through Jesus Christ.

Many Christians like to ask, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior?” Do not hesitate to answer “Yes,” for every time you receive Him worthily in the Eucharist you are accepting Him as your Savior and Lord. Evangelical Christians also like to ask, “Are you saved?” They say this because they think whoever professes faith in Christ is assured of their salvation. However, according to Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Think of it this way: the demons recognize that Christ is Christ, but that does not save them. They are not saved because they do not love Him, and love is about more than just words. As Jesus told His Apostles, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. … This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” (Jn 14:15, 15:12)

Consider the New Testament words of St. James, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14) As St. Paul observes, “If I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” Our salvation in Christ requires faith and love in action.

We know that more than a few Catholics have wandered away from the Church. Some have been drawn away, after being told the Catholic Church does not know the Bible. Others have simply left, thinking that one Christian church is just as good as another. Do not be misled by myths.

In truth, Jesus Christ has built only one house, one Church. And, being a wise man, he built the house on a rock, St. Peter, our first Pope. However, men have built other houses. These Christian denominations have many good characteristics from the one Church of Christ: like Scripture, prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, baptism, marriage, and Christian morals. However, in time, the rains fall, the floods come, and the winds blow and buffet their houses and they collapse ruined. Those houses separate from the truth and separate from within into new houses. Therefore, never abandon the beliefs and the sacraments of the Catholic Church. There is one true house of Jesus Christ. Do not be misled by myths.

Muchos hoy aceptan tres mitos modernos: Uno, que entramos en el cielo si nuestras buenas obras son más que de nuestros pecados. Dos, si nos declararía Jesucristo como nuestro Señor personal y Salvador estamos seguros de entrar en el cielo. Y tres, que una iglesia Cristiana es tan buena como la otra. Consideremos estos mitos populares uno por uno y comprender la verdad acerca del cristianismo.

Si se pregunta a las personas si piensan que van a ir al cielo, muchos dicen algo como esto, “Soy una persona buena bastante. Yo nunca he robado al banco ni matado a nadie. He hecho cosas buenas, entonces sí, creo que voy a ir al cielo.” Estas personas imaginan el juicio final para ser una escala gigante, con sus buenas acciones en un lado y sus pecados en el otro.

La verdad es que no podemos ganar nuestra propia salvación personal. Dios es el sumo bien y digno de ser amado sobre todas las cosas. Cuando hacemos bueno sólo damos lo que se merece Dios. Pero cuando pecamos, nos hacemos daño a nosotros mismos sino a nuestra relación con Dios in maneras que solo Dios puede reparar. “Como todos pecaron, todos están privados de la presencia salvadora de Dios; pero todos son justificados gratuitamente por su gracia, en virtud de la redención llevada a cabo por medio de Cristo Jesús… por medio de la fe.” “¿Dónde, pues, quede el orgullo del hombre ante Dios,” pregunta de San Paulo. “Queda eliminado!” Nosotros no ganamos nuestra salvación por nosotros mismos. Somos salvados sólo a través de Jesucristo.

A veces otros cristianos nos preguntan, “Has aceptado a Jesucristo como tu Señor personal y Salvador?” No duden en responder “Sí”, porque cada vez que le reciban dignamente en la Eucaristía  lo aceptan como su Salvador y Señor.  Nuestros amigos cristianos evangélicos también quieren preguntar, “¿Eres salvado?” Dicen porque piensan que la person que profesa la fe en Cristo se asegura su salvación. Sin embargo, según Jesús, “No todo el que me diga ‘Señor, Señor!’, entrará en el Reino de los cielos, sino el que cumpla la voluntad de mi Padre, que está en los cielos.”

Consideren esto: los demonios reconocen que Cristo es Cristo, pero no los salva. No se salva porque ellos no lo aman, y amor es más que decir palabras. Como Jesús les dijo a sus apóstoles, “Si ustedes me aman, obedecerán mis mandamientos. … Mi mandamiento es este: Que se amen unos a otros como yo los he amado a ustedes.”

Consideren las palabras del Nuevo Testamento de San Santiago, “Hermanos míos, ¿de qué le sirve a uno decir que tiene fe, si sus hechos no lo demuestran? ¿Podrá acaso salvarlo esa fe? Supongamos que a un hermano o a una hermana les falta la ropa y la comida necesarias para el día; si uno de ustedes les dice: ‘Que les vaya bien; abríguense y coman todo lo que quieran’, pero no les da lo que su cuerpo necesita, ¿de qué les sirve? Así pasa con la fe: por sí sola, es decir, si no se demuestra con hechos, es una cosa muerta.” Como San Pablo observa, “Si tengo la fe necesaria para mover montañas, pero no tengo amor, no soy nada.” Nuestra salvación en Cristo requiere fe y amor en acción.

Sabemos que más que unos católicos pocos han vagado de la Iglesia Católica. Algunos son atraídos, oyen falsamente que la Iglesia Católica no conoce la Biblia. Otros simplemente dejaron, piensan falsamente que una iglesia cristiana es tan buena como la otra. No se engañen por mitos.

En verdad, Jesucristo ha construido sólo una casa, una iglesia. Y, siendo un hombre sabio, construyó la casa sobre una roca, San Pedro, nuestro primer Papa. Pero, hombres han construido otras casas. Estas denominaciones cristianas tienen muchas características buenas de la única casa de Cristo: como escritura, oración, el credo de los apóstoles, bautismo, matrimonio, las morales cristianas. Pero, en tiempo, viene la lluvia, bajan las crecientes, se desatan los vientos, contra esas casas y las arras an.  Esas casas sparan de las verdad y sparan desde los interiors en las casas nuevas. Por lo tanto, nunca abandonen las creencias y los sacramentos de la Iglesia Católica. Es la única casa de Jesucristo. No se engañen por mitos.