Category Archives: Evangelism

7 Things to Know That Will Change Your Next Mass Experience by Matt Nelson

“Take, eat; this IS my body.” Mt 26:26

I believe that we live in an age where fallen-away Catholics don’t really know what they’ve left, non-Catholics don’t really know what they’re missing, and many Catholics don’t really know what they’ve got. They don’t really know the Mass.
The Mass is the climactic form of Christian worship and within it is contained the greatest miracle on earth. It is a mystery in the fullest sense, and yet, it is comprehensible. As Christians we possess faith, but do we possess understanding? Do we even seek it? I know personally that my understanding of the Mass and what happens during it is inexcusably deficient, mostly from neglect. But I (and you) can change this — and it begins here.
I want to help change your next Mass experience, by the grace of God. So I’ve compiled a list of 7 interesting facts about the Mass, each with a brief explanation. I hope you learn something new!

1. The Mark of the Christian
The Sign of the Cross that marks the beginning and end of the Holy Mass, and which signifies the sealing of the Word of God “in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts” at the reading of the Gospel, has its origin in the first centuries of Christianity.
Tertullian wrote in the mid-3rd century:
“In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross” (De corona, 30).
The sign of the cross, done by faith, has immense power. St. Benedict once did the sign of the cross over a poisoned drink meant to kill him, and as his hand moved reverently through the four directions of the cross, the glass shattered. What would have happened if he had been insincere, or worse, not blessed his food and drink at all with the sacred sign? God only knows.
Each sign of the cross is also a sign —a renewal even — of one’s personal decision to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. How many times have we gone through the “motion of the cross” instead of the “sign of the cross”?

2. “And With Your Spirit”
When the Christian people respond “and with your spirit” to the priest’s greeting (“The Lord be with you”) in the Holy Mass, it is not just a polite (and somewhat odd) response. It is a profession of faith in the power of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It recognizes the unique action of the Holy Spirit in the ordained priest, particularly in the Sacraments. Remember, for example, it is not the priest who changes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ — it is Jesus Christ. Thus, the priest receives the power to serve as a special instrument of the Holy Spirit at his ordination; that is, when he receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders through the “laying on of hands” (see 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).
Here’s what the 4th century bishop, St. John Crysostom,wrote about these words and their meaning:
“If the Holy Spirit were not in this your common father and teacher, you would not, just now, when he ascended this holy chair and wished you all peace, have cried out with one accord, ‘And with your spirit.’
Thus you cry out to him, not only when he ascends his throne and when he speaks to you and prays for you, but also when he stands at this holy altar to offer the sacrifice. He does not touch that which lies on the altar before wishing you the grace of our Lord, and before you have replied to him, ‘And with your spirit.’
By this cry, you are reminded that he who stands at the altar does nothing, and that the gifts that repose there are not the merits of a man; but that the grace of the Holy Spirit is present and, descending on all, accomplishes this mysterious sacrifice. We indeed see a man, but it is God who acts through him. Nothing human takes place at this holy altar.”

3. Kiss of the Priest
The priest kisses the altar in veneration, recognizing it as the sacred place where Christ’s once and for all sacrifice will be made present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus’s death is re-presented in the Holy Mass as a celebration of the New Covenant Passover, just as the Old Covenant Passover was made present each year it was celebrated (see Ex 12:27). St. Paul contrasts the Eucharistic sacrifice to the pagan sacrifice in 1 Cor 11. Jesus is therefore not re-sacrificed at each Mass but rather, His one sacrifice becomes present to us as He is eternally presenting Himself to God as the sacrificial Lamb of God (Heb 7:25; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Cor 11:26; Rev 5:6).
Around 70 A.D. Church leaders wrote this about the Eucharistic sacrifice (the Mass):
“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

4. What’s Inside the Altar?
Did you know that many Catholic altars have a relic placed inside?
Father Carlos Martins, CC, of Treasures of the Church describes relics in this way:
Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Our Lord. They are usually broken down into three classes. First class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bone or flesh. Second class relics are something that a saint personally owned, such as a shirt or book (or fragments of those items). Third class relics are those items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first, second, or another third class relic of a saint.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 302, contains the following statement:
“The practice of placing relics of Saints, even those not Martyrs, under the altar to be dedicated is fittingly retained. Care should be taken, however, to ensure the authenticity of such relics.”

The bones of St. Polycarp of Smyrna (a disciple of John the beloved apostle) were venerated in the early Church, for example:
“We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp [A.D 156])
For more, I also discuss relics in this recent article.

5. Cross or Crucifix?
A cross with a figure of Christ crucified must be present on or near the altar. This is mandated by the Church. A bare cross or a cross with Jesus depicted in a non-crucified way (like the modern “resurrected” Christ portrayal which has become more common) does not meet this requirement. Like St. Paul in his first letter to the Church in Corinth, we preach Christ crucified as an ultimate sign of God’s love for us and the salvation won for us through His crucifixion:
“we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23; see also 2:2)
The crucifix, properly understood, is not an image of a mere gory execution; rather, it is a sign of the once for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God (1 Cor 5:7).
The General Instruction for the Roman Missal states:
There is also to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations (GIRM 308).

6. Sit, Stand, Kneel and Bow
A genuflection before the Jesus in the tabernacle is not meant to be a purely physical action. It requires a simultaneous “bow of the heart.”
The venerable practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, whether enclosed in the tabernacle or publicly exposed, as a sign of adoration, is to be maintained. This act requires that it be performed in a recollected way. In order that the heart may bow before God in profound reverence, the genuflection must be neither hurried nor careless (Inaestimabile Donum 26).
Some people may wonder what’s up with Catholics and all the bowing, standing, sitting, kneeling that they do in the Mass. It’s a good and honest question. Catholics assume these gestures because of who and what they are encountering in the Mass — the King of Kings and His Word. In the case of veneration with the body, the body leads the heart.
Consider these words from C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters:
“At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls” (Letter IV).
Our postures matter, especially in the Mass — the climax of Christian Worship. As King David writes in this beautiful Psalm:
“O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God…” (Psalm 95)

7. The Fraction Rite
After the consecration (when the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus) but before Communion, the priest breaks off a piece of his “big” host and adds it to the precious blood (which still maintains the physical properties of wine). This breaking and commingling of the broken piece of the Body with the Blood is rich in significance:
First, it is not a separating of Christ, as though a “part” of Christ is here and a “part” of Christ is there. In each molecule of the consecrated host, the resurrected Christ is totally and perfectly present in His infinite divine substance.
Second, this “breaking”, called the “Fraction Rite”, follows Christ’s breaking of bread at the Last Supper and is rich in biblical significance (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:42, 46; 1 Cor 10:16).
Third, the commingling of the broken fraction with the blood in the chalice symbolizes the reunification of Christ’s body and blood in his glorious resurrection.
Now here’s an interesting tidbit to end off this post:
Originally, this Fraction rite and commingling had another important significance. At each Mass, the priest would break off a piece of the host (as he does now) but then, that consecrated fraction would be sent to another celebration of the Eucharist at another location. There, the fraction sent from the parish “down the road” would be commingled with the blood of Christ. The fraction of the host from that Mass would then be sent off to another Mass, and so on. This ritual created a great sense of unity among the faithful in the Mass, and signified the continuity of the eucharistic sacrifice in the Church (Mal 1:11; 1 Cor 10:17). This practice was known as fermentum, but has fallen out of practice in modern times.
If you would like to read more about the specifics of the Mass I highly recommend Mass Revision by Jimmy Akin to get you started.
See you in the Eucharist!

Visit Matt Nelson at Reasonable Catholic

One Remarkable Man: Brother Joseph Dutton by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Brother Joseph with some of his leper friends  More pictures at the end.

God gives us the gift of remarkable people to remind us that mankind can be so much more than it often is. One of these remarkable people is Brother Joseph Dutton. Brother Dutton was born Ira Dutton on April 27, 1847 on a family farm in Stowe, Vermont. When he was only four years old, his family moved to Janesville, Wisconsin. Ira was an intelligent boy and industrious student. He worked hard to be able to attend college. After college the Civil War began and he joined the Army on the side of the North. He was assigned duties as a quartermaster. This not only kept him out of battle, but also provided training for what God would call him to do. At the end of the war he met a woman that he fell in love with. They were married, but sadly she left him after a year and asked for a divorce. This really upset Ira because he loved his wife and took his marriage vows very seriously.

Ira took a job where he disinterred the bodies of Civil War soldiers from the battlefield graves to be able to move them to the new National Cemeteries. Ira knew this was an important job, but it was also gruesome and depressing. To deal with his depressing job, and the separation from his wife, Ira began drinking heavily. He was able to remain sober for the day job, but was usually drunk for the rest of the time. He did this for about ten years. Ira saw that alcohol was destroying him, so when our Nation was celebrating the 100th year of the Declaration of Independence in 1876, Ira declared independence from alcohol. At this time he made a decision to get right with God and he began searching out different religions. Ira decided to become a Roman Catholic. When he was baptized, he took on the new name of Joseph. He then moved to a Trappist Monastery in Gethsemane, Kentucky to live and pray and work with the monks. Joseph never took formal vows. He left after almost two years knowing that God was calling him to a life of serving others.

When Joseph attended a religious conference he heard about the work that Father Damian was doing with the Lepers in Hawaii. Joseph immediately felt called to go to Hawaii and help Father Damian. Joseph felt this was a way that he could lead a life of penance and also help others. He immediately began making preparations to go to Molokai. He contacted both Church and Civil authorities to obtain permission to go. He never thought to contact Father Damian. Joseph was set and headed for the long journey to Molokai. The day that he arrived on Molokai, July 19, 1886, a very surprised Father Damian greeted this man. Joseph told Father Damian that he had come to devote the rest of his life to serving the lepers and helping Father Damian. One can only imagine how pleased Father Damian was. Father Damian had made numerous requests to both Church and Civil leaders to send him help. None of them seemed to be able to. Now, Joseph appears and becomes Father Damian’s right hand man (and later successor). Even though Joseph was not part of a religious community, from that day on Father Damian called Joseph, Brother Joseph. He has been known as that ever since.

The day after his arrival, Brother Joseph learned how to clean and care for the lepers wounds. This was quite a hard thing for most people to do since lepers are very contagious and at that time it was a disease that ended in death after grueling suffering. Brother Joseph found that the time he had spent disinterring Civil War bodied had prepared him to be able to deal with seeing and treating the lepers wounds. Brother Joseph proved to be a hard and tireless worker. Even though he and Father Damian had quite different personalities, they became very close. They both shared the same desire to serve God’s people who suffered from leprosy. They also both shared a strong love of God. Father Damian once said of Brother Joseph, “..a middle aged, well educated man. He resides here with me and as a true brother helps me caring for the sick. He too, though not a priest, finds his comfort in the Blessed Sacrament. You will admire with me the almighty power of Grace in favor of my new companion.”

Even though Father Damian knew he was dying from leprosy himself, his new friend brought him new hope that the colony would continue. Both of them worked hard together to make the leper colony as good as it could become. On April 15, 1889, Father Damian died from the disease. They had a funeral mass of celebration (something that they did very often with each death in the colony). After his death, the full responsibility of the Leper Colony fell upon Brother Joseph. He was thankful for his training as an Army quartermaster. It helped him in making sure the Colony had all the supplies that it needed. Brother Joseph was also responsible for significant building projects in the community. Finally another priest was sent to the colony, Father Lambert Carmardy to help.

In 1898 the United States formally annexed Hawaii as a U.S. territory. This made Brother Joseph very happy. Brother Joseph was a true Patriot and from the moment he came to Molokai, he hoisted the US Flag every morning and brought it down every evening. He gave the lepers in the colony a sense of his own patriotism. Now this land was US soil and they all rejoiced. The annexation also brought more help to the colony. The government sent funds and help to improve life in the Colony.

In 1908, Brother Dutton heard that the US White Fleet would be coming past Hawaii. Brother Dutton wished that somehow the Fleet would sail past his Colony. President Theodore Roosevelt heard of this wish and sent a Presidential Order to Admiral Charles Stillman Perry to go by Molokai and give a military salute to the Colony. The ships came in battle formation and each ship dipped their colors in salute and Brother Joseph and the Colony dipped their flag in salute for each ship. It was a huge moment for Brother Joseph and the Colony to receive such an honor from the President and the US government.

Even though Brother Joseph was living a life of isolation from the world, he corresponded with many friends. Word of Father Damian’s death and all that Brother Joseph was doing reached out to the world with great interest. Brother Joseph received many letters (and donations) and requests for pictures of him. Brother Joseph was never interested in making himself a hero. He responded to his popularity by saying, “All these writers make me out a hero, while I don’t feel a bit like one. I don’t claim to have done any great things; I am merely trying in a small way to help my neighbor and my own soul”.

After serving almost forty five years at the Colony, Brother Joseph Dutton died in 1931. He was mourned and missed by all in the Colony. World leaders paid tribute to him but one of the best is by President Calvin Coolidge. He said. “Whenever his story is told, men will pause to worship. His faith, his work, his self sacrifice appeal to people because there is always something of the same spirit in them. Therein lies the moral power of the world. He realized a vision that we all have.”

In 1949, Blessed Sacrament Church was built on the land that Brother Joseph’s family farm occupied in Stowe Vermont. It has beautiful Murals painted by Andre Girard on the outside walls of the Church. These murals tell the story of Brother Joseph and the Leper Colony on Molokai. The people of Stowe wanted to tell the story of their remarkable native, Brother Joseph Dutton and to give him honor. I believe that we all should tell the story and give honor to Brother Joseph by the way we live our lives. As President Coolidge said, “he realized a vision that we all have”.

Note: On June 23rd, 2015 the Diocese of Honolulu took the first of many steps to Sainthood for Brother Joseph. They created the Brother Joseph Dutton Guild to gather information for the cause.

St Philomena Church in the leper colony.

Blessed Sacrament Church in Stowe Vermont on the farmland where Brother Joseph was born

Some of the murals depicting Brother Joseph on Molokai located on the outside of the Church in Stowe Vermont.

A close up of the mural depicting Brother Joseph meeting Father Damian

RIVERS OF LIVING WATER – Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal by Deacon Marty McIndoe

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the RIVERS OF LIVING WATER 2017 Catholic Charismatic Renewal Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh last month. This conference was designed to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Since it was the Catholic Charismatic Renewal that led me in to the Church back in 1972 and has fed me so well with its Spiritual Fruits, my wife and I decided we had to go celebrate. I am so glad that we did. The Conference ran from Thursday July 29th through Sunday July 23rd. Many thousands of people filled the Pittsburgh convention center with songs of praise and witness to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church today. Pittsburgh was chosen as the place to have the conference because the Renewal started near there.


From February 17th through the 19th in 1967, several Duquesne University students gathered at the ARK AND THE DOVE Retreat House (see picture) to experience more fully their Baptism and Confirmation. After considerable prayer, the Holy Spirit came down upon them there as in a New Pentecost. They experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This changed their lives dramatically and empowered them to go out and tell others and the Charismatic Renewal began, initially at Catholic Colleges and in local parishes. It quickly spread throughout the world so that today there are over 120 million Catholic Charismatics in the Church today. There were bus trips out to the Ark and the Dove Retreat house. My wife and I went and were so glad that we did. It is definitely a Holy Place (see pictures).

Top: Retreat House chapel where the students gathered to receive the Baptism in the Spirit.  Bottom:  Cross and Spirit placed on Retreat grounds to celebrate the 50th anniversary.  In the back you can see the DOVE house.  The large blue house is the ARK.

The Conference had large gatherings and masses for all those in attendance and included song groups that sung in English, Spanish and Haitian. There were workshops for all three languages to supplement the General Sessions. Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, from Brooklyn emceed the event. Msgr. is fluent in many languages and went back and forth in all the General Sessions. Msrg. Is a good friend of mine who actually prayed over my wife and I for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit while he was a seminarian. Bishop Sam Jacobs, and two other Bishops, were celebrants at the masses. The music and prayers of praise were outstanding.

Three bishops and many priests and deacons celebrated mass.

Another good friend of mine, Eileen Benthal, is a member of the English music group, Living Praise (see picture) that sang at the Conference. Being at the general sessions was like being in Heaven on Earth. Each general session had a keynote speaker. They included, Patti Masfield, Esther Garzon, Ralph Martin, Mario Castaneda, David Mangon and more. Father Dave Pivoka moved so many people with his homilies. Damian Stayne led a healing service where hundreds of people received miraculous healings. In the midst of so many things to do, the Conference planners took time to present a slide show featuring many of the early leaders of the Renewal. They also included, and honored, those who have died. Throughout all of the sessions, the power of God was continually being manifest. God was certainly at work.

Living Praise song group

The breakout sessions included many notable teachers and speakers such as my good friends, John and Theresa Boucher, Mary Healy, Sr. Nancy Kellar, Mary Beth McLanski Green, Vinson Synan, Michelle Moran, Fr. Bob Hogan, Dave Van Vickle, Alan Schreck, Dan and Caroline Dirkes and others. There was something for everyone. I attended a priest and deacon workshop by Bishop Sam Jacobs. He was fantastic.
On Saturday evening we had Eucharistic Adoration and then a Eucharistic procession out of the Conference, through the city streets to a park about a mile and a half away. Thousands of us went in the procession carrying lit candles. We started out of the Conference center going through their wall of water, which reminded me of Moses parting the Red sea (see pictures). It was a very moving experience and a sign of witness to the city.

We started our evening candlelit Eucharistic procession by passing through the walls of water at the Conference Center.  It reminded me of Moses dividing the Red Sea.

The Eucharis was carried under a canopy as we all sang songs of praise.

We closed the conference on Sunday by celebrating the Mass of Pentecost with Bishop Sam Jacobs presiding. The whole weekend was a witness to the Power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. I know that it invigorated me. God is so good.

The streets were alive with the sound of music.  This is outside our hotel.  The spirit of joy and praise carried on throughout the hotels and restaurants and city streets.

Several times, Popes have addressed the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Below you will find some of the most important quotations that have given the Renewal light and strength. ICCRS has published a book with all the messages and addresses which the Popes have given to the CCR: The book, “Then Peter stood up…” – Collection of the Popes’ Addresses to the CCR from its origin to the year 2012.

Pope Paul VI
“How then could this “spiritual renewal” not be “a chance” for the church and for the world? And how, in this case, could one not take all the means to ensure that it remains so? […] Nothing is more necessary for such a world, more and more secularized, than the testimony of this “spiritual renewal”, which we see the Holy Spirit bring about today in the most diverse regions and environments. Its manifestations are varied: deep communion of souls, close contact with God in faithfulness to the commitments undertaken at Baptism, in prayer that is often community prayer, in which each one, expressing himself freely, helps, supports and nourishes the prayer of others, and, at the basis of everything, a personal conviction. This conviction has its source not only in instruction received by faith but also in a certain experience of real life, namely, that without God, man can do nothing, that with him, on the contrary, everything becomes possible.”

Saint John Paul II, Pope
“The Catholic charismatic movement is one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council, which, like a new Pentecost, led to an extraordinary flourishing in the Church’s life of groups and movements particularly sensitive to the action of the Spirit. How can we not give thanks for the precious spirituals fruits that the Renewal has produced in the life of the Church and in the lives of so many people? How many lay faithful—men, women, young people, adults and elderly—have been able to experience in their own lives the amazing power of the Spirit and his gifts! How many people have rediscovered faith, the joy of prayer, the power and beauty of the Word of God, translating all this into generous service in the Church’s mission! How many lives have been profoundly changed! For all this today, together with you, I wish to praise and thank the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Benedict XVI
“What we learn in the New Testament on charism, which appeared as visible signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit, is not a historical event of the past, but a reality ever alive. It is the same divine Spirit, soul of the Church, that acts in every age and those mysterious and effective interventions of the Spirit are manifest in our time in a providential way. The Movements and New Communities are like an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society. We can, therefore, rightly say that one of the positive elements and aspects of the Community of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely their emphasis on the charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in having recalled their topicality in the Church.”

Pope Francis
“You, the charismatic Renewal, have received a great gift from the Lord. Your movement’s birth was willed by the Holy Spirit to be ‘a current of grace in the Church and for the Church’. This is your identity: to be a current of grace. […] You have received the great gift of diversity of charisms, the diversity which becomes harmony in the Holy Spirit, and in service to the Church. […] The Charismatic Renewal is a great force meant to serve the preaching of the Gospel in the joy of the Holy Spirit. […] You, the people of God, the people of the Charismatic Renewal, must be careful not to lose the freedom which the Holy Spirit has given you! […] I expect you to share with everyone in the Church the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit (a phrase we find in the Acts of the Apostles).

Life in the Spirit by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The Life in the Spirit Seminar  – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

This year we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church.  Today there are over 160 million Catholics involved in the Renewal in over 230 countries.  At the heart of the Charismatic Renewal is the Life in the Spirit Seminar.  I would like to look at this great gift.  But before I do this I would like to give a brief history of the renewal.

It is quite apparent that the early Church had the elements that are found in the Charismatic Renewal today. Many of our communities and our Saints also seemed to possess many of these same characteristics over the ages.  However, by the modern age most of this seems to have gone dormant.  At the beginning of the 1900’s something very special happened.  It really seems to have started with a nun in Lucca, Italy, Elena Guerra (1835-1914), the founder of the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Spirit, whom Pope John XXIII was to beatify and give the title “Apostle of the Holy Spirit”in 1959.

Near the end of the 1800’s, Blessed Elena wrote 13 letters to Pope Leo XIII asking him to dedicate the new century, the 1900’s to the Holy Spirit.  Pope Leo was very interested in doing everything he could to bring unity to the Church.  He hoped to unite the Orthodox as well as Protestant sects and he saw the power that the Holy Spirit had in bringing forth unity.  He was very open to Blessed Elena’s desire to bring the Holy Spirit out more in the Church.  In 1895 he wrote an apostolic letter calling all the faithful to pray a special Novena to the Holy Spirit for Pentecost.  In 1897 he wrote another letter, an encyclical on the Holy Spirit.  The bishops all seemed to like these letters but didn’t act on them.  Blessed Elena,  in her sixth letter to Pope Leo said, “It is true that right after the publication of that encyclical, which I believe was dictated by the Holy Spirit, many bishops thanked Your Holiness.  And this was good. But wouldn’t it have been better to obey?

Sister Elena and Pope Leo did not give up.  Sister Elena asked that at the very beginning of the new century, Pope Leo dedicate the century to the Holy Spirit.  On January 1, 1900 Pope Leo XIII ushered in the new century by solemnly invoking the Holy Spirit over all of Christendom.   It should be noted that he included ALL of Christendom, not just the Catholic Church.  He chanted the Veni Creator Spiritus.  This new century was now begun with the Pope praying for the Holy Spirit to come on all Christians.  Only a few hours after his prayers, a Methodist woman by the name of Agnes Ozman started speaking in tongues in Topeka, Kansas.  This was seen as the beginning of the Pentecostal renewal in the Protestant Church.  In the early 1900’s the Pentecostal Renewal flourished and grew.  Today there are over 700 million Pentecostals.  In 1962 Pope John XXIII opened the Vatican Council II invoking the Holy Spirit and using the phrase, “a new Pentecost”.  Five years later the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church began  when Catholic professors from Duquesne University went on a Cursillo in Pittsburg and started studying the Holy Spirit.  A new Pentecost flowed among them and is still very active today.  As the renewal began to grow, a Life in the Spirit Seminar was developed to help people be open to the Holy Spirit.  I went through that Life in the Spirit Seminar in 1972 and it led me in to the Catholic Church.  It helped me to discover the power of God’s Holy Spirit and the riches within the Catholic Church.  I was welcomed in to the Church in 1973 and my life has been totally changed.  I have seen so many gifts of the Holy Spirit made manifest through so many different people.  I have seen so many miracles and lives changed to follow Jesus.  I strongly believe in the fruits that this Life in the Spirit Seminar brings forth.

Pope Francis seems to also believe in the fruits of this seminar.   Addressing a worldwide retreat for clergy at St John Lateran Church in Rome, the Pope reminded his audience of priests and bishops from 90 countries that they were dispensers of grace, and could never love or forgive too much. “Speaking of dispensers of grace, I ask each and all of you that as part of the current of grace of Charismatic Renewal you organize seminars of Life in the Spirit in your parishes and seminaries, schools, in neighborhoods, to share Baptism in the Spirit,” said Francis. “It is catechesis. It is catechesis that produces, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the personal encounter with Jesus who changes our life. (from Goodnews Magazine, ccr.org.uk and catholicnews.org.uk).

The Life in the Spirit Seminar has several forms and can be done over several weeks, or one weekend.  It usually consists of seven talks.  Here are the normal titles used for each seminar talk:

1 –  The Explanation Talk

2 –  The Sign up Session

3 –  Seminar 1: God’s Love

4 –  Seminar 2: Salvation

5 –  Seminar 3: The New Life

6 –  Seminar 4: Receiving God’s Gift

7 –  Seminar 5: Praying for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

8 –  Seminar 6: Growth

9 –  Seminar 7: Transformation in Christ

10 – Continue in a Charismatic Prayer Meeting

 

I would highly recommend that if you haven’t already done a Life in the Spirit Seminar, or even if you did one many years ago, search your parish or local parishes for one and attend it regularly.  I think you will be glad you did.  Please, if you are Catholic; choose one given in a Catholic Church.  It is designed especially for you and makes references to our Sacramental life.

For more information on being baptized in the spirit, click on this link which brings you to an earlier article I wrote:  What is the Big Deal About the Holy Spirit

For more information on the 50th Anniversary Jubilee Conference in Pittsburg click here:  Charismatic Jubilee

 

 

The Power of God Working at Lourdes by Deacon Marty McIndoe

A Lourdes procession at night.

On February 11th we will be remembering the Appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes, France, in 1858.  Since then the shrine there has been overflowing with miraculous healings and conversions.  It is one of the most popular and visited shrines in the world.  It all began on February 11th, 1858 when a little 14 year old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux went out to gather wood along with her younger sister,  Toilette and a friend, Jeanne Abadie .  This was a Thursday evening right before Ash Wednesday.  Bernadette saw a very beautiful lady above a rose bush in a grotto called Massabielle.  Only Bernadette saw this woman.   There was a golden cloud around her.  Bernadette was frightened until she saw the smile on the woman’s face.  The woman motioned to Bernadette to come towards her and she did, falling on her knees to pray the rosary.  The woman was later described by Bernadette as the most beautiful lady she has ever seen.  She was dressed in white with a blue sash and carried a rosary.  Bernadette tried to begin the rosary with the sign of the cross, but was unable to move her arms until the lady did so first.   They prayed the rosary together with Bernadette saying all the prayers, but the lady saying only the Glory be’s.  When they finished the rosary, the lady disappeared back in to the cave and the golden cloud disappeared.  Bernadette told her sister what had happened and they decided to keep it secret.

Later that evening, at the family prayer time, Bernadette began to cry and when her mother asked her what was wrong, her sister told the mother what had happened.  The mother told Bernadette that these were just illusions and that she was not to return to Massabielle.  Bernadette couldn’t keep the thoughts of this beautiful woman out of her mind.  Bernadette knew that this woman was kind and gracious and talked about her to her mother.   Bernadette described the woman as “She has the appearance of a young girl of sixteen or seventeen. She is dressed in a white robe, girdled at the waist with a blue ribbon which flows down all around it. A yoke closes it in graceful pleats at the base of the neck. The sleeves are long and tight-fitting. She wears upon her head a veil which is also white. This veil gives just a glimpse of her hair and then falls down at the back below her waist. Her feet are bare but covered by the last folds of her robe except at the point where a yellow rose shines upon each of them. She holds on her right arm a rosary of white beads with a chain of gold shinning like the two roses on her feet.” On Sunday, Bernadette’s mother allowed her to return to the grotto.

Bernadette’s parents and most of the town and even the Chief of Police were very concerned and worried about what was happening.  They made it difficult for Bernadette, but she persevered, going to the site for a total of eighteen apparitions.  People would often accompany her and they saw her face transfigured and illuminated and knew something was happening but did not see it.  Bernadette was promised by the lady that she would have happiness in heaven.  She also called Bernadette to pray for sinners and call people to repent and turn to Jesus.  The lady also gave her a private prayer to pray every day and told her to bring a blessed candle with her whenever she visited the grotto.  This tradition is kept to this very day.

During the ninth apparition the lady told Bernadette to drink from the fountain.  Bernadette was confused as there was no fountain there.  She began scratching the dirt where the lady pointed and water started coming out.  This spring is still flowing today and delivers about four to five liters per minute.  At the eleventh apparition, the lady told Bernadette to tell the priests to build a church on the spot of the grotto.  When Bernadette went to the local pastor, he was not very receptive.  At the fourteenth apparitions, the lady again told Bernadette to tell the local priests to build a chapel there.  Bernadette was afraid of the local pastor because of the way he reacted to her first request, but decided to go back to him.  He told her to tell the lady that he would not follow the dictates of a stranger and that if she wanted anything from him, she would have to identify herself.  During the sixteenth apparition Mary identified herself as “The Immaculate Conception”.  Bernadette had no idea what this meant.  Although our early Church fathers talked about the Immaculate Conception, and theologians debated it for centuries, it was never defined as a dogma until 1854, just four years prior to the apparitions.

During the seventeenth apparition, when Bernadette went in to ecstasy, she unconsciously passed her hand on top of the candle and did not move it.  She didn’t appear to feel it and did not hear the screams of the people around her as they watched the flame shoot through her hand.  After the apparition, they took her to the doctor who could not see any burns at all.  He even touched a lit candle to her and she screamed.  It was at this point the local Prefect closed down the sight.  Bernadette would make one more visit to say goodbye to Mary.

Bernadette joined the Sisters of Charity and remained sickly.  She kept up with her duties and prayers and died on April 16, 1879 at the age of 34.  She was buried at Nevers, France.  Thirty years later, in the presence of two doctors and several nuns, she was exhumed and her coffin was opened.  There was no odor and her body had suffered no decay.  Ten years later, she was again exhumed and found in the same condition.  Her body is now at rest in a gold and glass coffin in the Chapel of Saint Bernadette at the motherhouse in Nevers, France.

Ever since the apparitions, people have been coming to Lourdes to bathe in the Healing waters.  There have been thousands of healings and Saint Pope John Paul II declared February 11th, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, as World Day of the Sick.  John Paul II loved Lourdes and made three pilgrimages there during his Pontificate.  Pope Benedict was also close to Lourdes.  He was born on the Feast day of St. Bernadette and then on February 11th the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, he announced his stepping down from the papacy.  Pope Benedict also told us, “The message that Our Lady continues to spread in Lourdes recalls the words that Jesus spoke at the very beginning of his public mission, which we hear several times during these days of Lent: ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel,’ pray and do penance. Let us accept Mary’s invitation which echoes Christ’s and ask her to obtain for us that we may ‘enter’ Lent with faith, to live this season of grace with inner joy and generous commitment.”

There are so many stories about the miracles and life changing events that occurred at Lourdes.  I would like to leave you one that I find very interesting.  We all have probably seen the movie, “The Song of Bernadette”.   That is based upon a book written by a famous German Jewish writer, Franz Werfel.  He was trying to escape the Nazi holocaust and landed in Lourdes while he was trying to escape to Portugal.  Several Catholic families took him and his wife in to hide them from the Nazis and he kept hearing the stories about Bernadette and all the miracles that happened at Lourdes.  He was so moved by these miracles that he swore that if he and his wife escaped, he would write all about Bernadette.  As soon as he came to the United States, he kept his promise and wrote “The Song of Bernadette”.  This became so popular that they made it in to a movie.  The interesting thing is that in creating this book Werfel honored the Rosary by making the book in five sections with ten chapters to each section, following the structure of the Rosary.  Truly the Blessed Virgin Mary has brought about many healings and miracles as well as leading people away from sin and towards Jesus.

Here is a beautiful Lourdes prayer by Saint Pope John Paul II:

Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman, Blessed by the Most High! Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era, We join in your song of praise, to celebrate the Lord’s mercy, to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom and the full liberation of humanity.

Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord, Glorious Mother of Christ! Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word, Teach us to persevere in listening to the Word, and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit, attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience and to his manifestations in the events of history.

Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows, Mother of the living! Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve, Be our guide along the paths of the world. Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ, to stand with you before the innumerable crosses on which your Son is still crucified.

Hail Mary, woman of faith, First of the disciples! Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always to account for the hope that is in us, with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love. Teach us to build up the world beginning from within: in the depths of silence and prayer, in the joy of fraternal love, in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross.

Holy Mary, Mother of believers, Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. Amen.

St. John the Apostle and Evangelist by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Today we celebrate St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist.  He is the man referred to in the Gospels as “the beloved disciple”.  He is also the one who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary and to whom Jesus said to Mary, “here is your son”.  Jesus then said to John, “here is your mother”.  There is no doubt that there is something very special about John and his relationship to Jesus and Mary.   When you compare the four Gospels, the Gospel of St. John stands out for his deep theological wonders.   John starts his Gospel by saying:   “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  John reveals the true nature of Jesus, long before the incarnation.  I thought that since we have just celebrated Christmas, God becoming man, we could look at St. John’s reflection on the Word made flesh.  To do this please read over 1 John 1:1-2:3 and then read the following written by St. Augustine.

A treatise by St Augustine on the epistle of John – The flesh revealed Life itself

 

We announce what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have touched with our own hands. Who could touch the Word with his hands unless the Word was made flesh and lived among us?

Now this Word, whose flesh was so real that he could be touched by human hands, began to be flesh in the Virgin Mary’s womb; but he did not begin to exist at that moment. We know this from what John says: What existed from the beginning. Notice how John’s letter bears witness to his Gospel, which you just heard a moment ago: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.

Someone might interpret the phrase the Word of life to mean a word about Christ, rather than Christ’s body itself which was touched by human hands. But consider what comes next: and life itself was revealed. Christ therefore is himself the Word of life.

And how was this life revealed? It existed from the beginning, but was not revealed to men, only to angels, who looked upon it and feasted upon it as their own spiritual bread. But what does Scripture say? Mankind ate the bread of angels.

Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible also to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts. For the Word is visible to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already possessed the means to see the flesh, but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal the part of us by which we could see the Word.

John continues: And we are witnesses and we proclaim to you that eternal life which was with the Father and has been revealed among us – one might say more simply “revealed to us.”

We proclaim to you what we have heard and seen. Make sure that you grasp the meaning of these words. The disciples saw our Lord in the flesh, face to face; they heard the words he spoke, and in turn they proclaimed the message to us. So we also have heard, although we have not seen.

Are we then less favoured than those who both saw and heard? If that were so, why should John add: so that you too may have fellowship with us? They saw, and we have not seen; yet we have fellowship with them, because we and they share the same faith.

And our fellowship is with God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. And we write this to you to make your joy complete – complete in that fellowship, in that love and in that unity.

 

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us the gift of St. John.  May we always read his Gospel in wonder and awe.  May we also be as fervent in spreading the Good News, as he was.

 

Advent Saints – St. Peter Canisius by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Saint Peter Canisius was born on May 8, 1521 in the Netherlands.  His father was the mayor of their town and his mother died shortly after his birth.  Peter’s father arranged for him to have an excellent education studying the arts, civil law and theology.  Although his father wanted him to marry a wealthy woman, Peter swore a vow of celibacy in 1540.  He studied with Saint Peter Faber and in 1543 entered the Society of Jesus.  He loved the Jesuits and considered his entrance date in to the order as his second birthday.  He loved the Church and was very concerned with what was happening in Germany in the Protestant Reformation.

Saint Peter spent a great deal of his time in trying to call Protestants back in to the Church.  He did this in a very loving and gentle manner.  He wrote to one of his Jesuit leaders, “It is plainly wrong to meet non-Catholics with bitterness or to treat them with discourtesy. For this is nothing else than the reverse of Christ’s example because it breaks the bruised reed and quenches the smoking flax. We ought to instruct with meekness those whom heresy has made bitter and suspicious, and has estranged from orthodox Catholics, especially from our fellow Jesuits. Thus, by whole-hearted charity and good will we may win them over to us in the Lord.”  His gentle manner and great preaching helped bring many Protestants back to the Church.

Saint Peter Canisius loved education and learning and was responsible for revitalizing many Universities.  He even founded new ones at Prague and Fribourg.  He was also very active in trying to publish Catholic writings.   He wrote and published a Catechism that was so popular that it was translated in to 200 languages and helped to launch the Catholic press.  Saint Peter was so regarded as a Theologian that he spoke twice at the Ecclesiastical Council at Trent.

Saint Peter Canisius was also a man of the people.  He traveled around preaching and teaching and converting many souls.  He has been called the 2nd Apostle of Germany.  He ministered to many who were sick with the plague.  Before his death in 1597, it is estimated that he covered over 20,000 miles on foot or horseback.  After his death, there were many reports of miracles attributed to those who prayed for his intercession.

 

Quotes from St. Peter Canisius:

Let my eyes take their sleep, but may my heart always keep watch for you. May your right hand bless your servants who love you.

May I be united with the praise that flows from you, Lord Jesus, to all your saints; united with the gratitude drawn from your heart, good Jesus, that causes your saints to thank you; united with your passion, good Jesus, by which you took away our guilt; united with the divine longing that you had on earth for our salvation; united with every prayer that welled from your divine heart, good Jesus, and flowed into the hearts of your saints.

For the sake of obtaining that eternal life no works of piety ought to seem too hard to a true believer, no toil too heavy, no pain too bitter, no time spent in labor and suffering too long or too wearisome. For if nothing is sweeter or more desirable than this present life which is so full of calamities, how much more desirable must that other life be deemed which is so far removed from all sense of evil or fear of it, which will in every conceivable way always abound in the unspeakable and unending joys, delight and happiness of heaven.

Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.

We are to pray as though everything depended on God, but work as though everything depended on us, we do have a free will.

If you have too much to do, with God’s help, you will find time to do it all.
 

Advent Saints – Mary, as Our Lady of Guadalupe by Deacon Marty McIndoe

nican_mopohua

Early, Aztec Language writings about Our Lady of Guadalupe

               Mary appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th,1531 near Mexico City.  Her appearance forever changed the makeup of the Americas.  I wanted to share some information about her and would highly suggest you research her more.  I start with two noted sources and then give you excerpts from Don Antonio Valeriano’s Nican Mopohua written in 1545, fourteen years after the appearance.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patron of the Americas.

               From “Evangelizer of the Americas” by Elizondo Morenito:  The news of the appearance of the Indian mother who left her imprint on the tilma spread like wildfire! Three points were appreciated by the native population. First, the lady was Indian, spoke Náhuatl, the Aztec language, and appeared to an Indian, not a Spaniard! Second, Juan Diego explained that she appeared at Tepeyac, the place of Tonantzin, the mother god, sending a clear message that the Virgin Mary was the mother of the true God, and that the Christian religion was to replace the Aztec religion. And third, the Indians, who learned through pictures and symbols in their culture of the image, grasped the meaning of the tilma, which revealed the beautiful message of Christianity: the true God sacrificed himself for mankind, instead of the horrendous life they had endured sacrificing humans to appease the frightful gods! It is no wonder that over the next seven years, from 1531 to 1538, eight million natives of Mexico converted to Catholicism!

               From “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love” by Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chavez:  The imprint of Mary on the tilma is striking, and the symbolism was primarily directed to Juan Diego and the Aztecs. Mary appears as a beautiful young Indian maiden with a look of love, compassion, and humility, her hands folded in prayer in reverence to the Almighty God. Her face is also not unlike that of a Jewish maiden. Her rose dress, adorned with a jasmine flower, eight petal flowers, and nine heart flowers symbolic to the Aztec culture, is that of an Aztec princess. Her blue mantle symbolized the royalty of the gods, and the blue color symbolized life and unity. The stars on the mantle signified the beginning of a new civilization. La Morenita appeared on the day of the winter solstice, considered the day of the sun’s birth; the Virgin’s mantle accurately represents the 1531 winter solstice! Mary stands in front of and hides the sun, but the rays of the sun still appear around her, signifying she is greater than the sun god, the greatest of the native divinities, but the rays of the sun still bring light. Twelve rays of the sun surround her face and head. She stands on the moon, supported by an angel with wings like an eagle: to the Aztec, this indicated her superiority to the moon god, the god of night, and her divine, regal nature.   Most important are the black maternity band, a jasmine flower, and a cross that are present in the image. Mary wore a black maternity band, signifying she was with child. At the center of the picture, overlying her womb, is a jasmine flower in the shape of an Indian cross, which is the sign of the Divine and the center of the cosmic order to the Aztec. This symbol indicated that the baby Mary carried within her, Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, is Divine and the new center of the universe. On the brooch around her neck was a black Christian cross, indicating she is both a bearer and follower of Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, who died on the Cross to save mankind.  In summary, the image signified Mary bringing her Son Christ to the New World through one of their own!   As Father Miguel Sanchez noted in 1648, one cannot help but identify Our Lady of Guadalupe with the Woman of the Apocalypse, recorded in the Bible in Revelation 12:

From a report by Don Antonio Valeriano, a Native American author of the sixteenth century
(Nicon Mopohua, 12th ed., 3-9, 21)

The Voice of the Turtledove has been heard in our land

At daybreak one Saturday morning in 1531, on the very first days of the month of December, an Indian named Juan Diego was going from the village where he lived to Tlatelolco in order to take part in divine worship and listen to God’s commandments. When he came near the hill called Tepeyac, dawn had already come, and Juan Diego heard someone calling him from the very top of the hill: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.”

He went up the hill and caught sight of a lady of unearthly grandeur whose clothing was as radiant as the sun. She said to him in words both gentle and courteous: “Juanito, the humblest of my children, know and understand that I am the ever virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live. It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me. Go to the Bishop of Mexico to make known to him what I greatly desire. Go and put all your efforts into this.”

When Juan Diego arrived in the presence of the Bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan, the latter did not seem to believe Juan Diego and answered: “Come another time, and I will listen at leisure.”

Juan Diego returned to the hilltop where the Heavenly Lady was waiting, and he said to her: “My Lady, my maiden, I presented your message to the Bishop, but it seemed that he did not think it was the truth. For this reason I beg you to entrust your message to someone more illustrious who might convey it in order that they may believe it, for I am only an insignificant man.”

She answered him: “Humblest of my sons, I ask that tomorrow you again go to see the Bishop and tell him that I, the ever virgin holy Mary, Mother of God, am the one who personally sent you.”

But on the following day, Sunday, the Bishop again did not believe Juan Diego and told him that some sign was necessary so that he could believe that it was the Heavenly Lady herself who sent him. And then he dismissed Juan Diego.

On Monday Juan Diego did not return. His uncle, Juan Bernardino, became very ill, and at night asked Juan to go to Tlatelolco at daybreak to call a priest to hear his confession.

Juan Diego set out on Tuesday, but he went around the hill and passed on the other side, toward the east, so as to arrive quickly in Mexico City and to avoid being detained by the Heavenly Lady. But she came out to meet him on that side of the hill and said to him: “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care? Do not let your uncle’s illness distress you. It is certain that he has already been cured. Go up to the hilltop, my son, where you will find flowers of various kinds. Cut them, and bring them into my presence.”

When Juan Diego reached the peak, he was astonished that so many Castilian roses had burst forth at a time when the frost was severe. He carried the roses in the folds of his tilma (mantle) to the Heavenly Lady. She said to him: “My son, this is the proof and the sign which you will bring to the Bishop so that he will see my will in it. You are my ambassador, very worthy of trust.”

Juan Diego set out on his way, now content and sure of succeeding. On arriving in the Bishop’s presence, he told him: “My lord, I did what you asked. The Heavenly Lady complied with your request and fulfilled it. She sent me to the hilltop to cut some Castilian roses and told me to bring them to you in person. And this I am doing, so that you can see in them the sign you seek in order to carry out her will. Here they are; receive them.”

He immediately opened up his white mantle, and as all the different Castilian roses scattered to the ground, there was drawn on the cloak and suddenly appeared the precious image of the ever virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the same manner as it is today and is kept in her shrine of Tepeyac.

The whole city was stirred and came to see and admire her venerable image and to offer prayers to her; and following the command which the same Heavenly Lady gave to Juan Bernardino when she restored him to health, they called her by the name that she herself had used: “the ever virgin holy Mary of Guadalupe.”

Advent Saints – St. Ambrose by Deacon Marty McIndoe

stambrosebasilica

The Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan.  This was originally built by St. Ambrose and when he died he was entombed here.

               By the time he was 33 years old, Ambrose was a very successful man.  He owned a large estate, was a successful lawyer, was Governor of Milan and was a good friend of the Roman Emperor.   He was just a catechumen in the Catholic faith, but loved God and loved peace.  He lived at a time and in an area where there was great division in the Church over the heresy of Arianism.   In 374 the Bishop of Milan died and those who were for Arianism and those who saw Arianism as a heresy met in the Cathedral to try to determine who the next Bishop would be.  There was so much unrest over this that a riot began to break out between both sides.  Ambrose, as governor, stepped in to try to bring about peace by making a passionate speech, not favoring either side but seeking peace between the two sides.  It was at this time that someone shouted out that Ambrose should be made the Bishop.  The people all seemed to consent and Ambrose said that he couldn’t be, because he was just a catechumen and not even baptized.  Truthfully, it appears that Ambrose was quite happy with his life and did not want to change it.  Now the other Bishops of the Province saw this as a way to avoid making a difficult decision that would certainly upset a large number of people.  They too wanted Ambrose and decided to make him Bishop.  Ambrose quickly ran away trying to avoid this new vocation.

               Ambrose ran to the Emperor trying to get the Emperor to vacate that decision.  The Emperor refused to vacate the decision and told Ambrose that he would make a good Bishop.  Ambrose then went for instructions in Scripture and the Church studying under Saint Simplician.  Ambrose embraced the new vocation fully and was baptized and ordained as Bishop of Milan.  He sold his estate and holdings and gave to the poor.  Ambrose used his skills as a lawyer and orator to fight the Arians in church, court, senate, and even the Emperor’s own family. The same stubbornness that had made him refuse the position in the first place was now his weapon in fighting heresy and pursuing sanctity.

               Besides fighting heresy, Ambrose had to go up against the Goths who were invading the weakened Roman Empire.  The Goths often captured the Christians and offered them up for ransom.  Ambrose said, “It is a better thing to save souls for the Lord than to save treasures. He who sent forth his apostles without gold had not need of gold to form his Church. The Church possesses gold, not to hoard, but to scatter abroad and come to the aid of the unfortunate.  Would not the Lord say to us: ‘Why have you let so many needy perish of hunger? Since you had gold, you should provide for their needs’…Could we say: ‘I feared to leave the temple of God without ornament.’ But that which can’t be bought with gold does not take its value from gold. The best way to use the gold of the Redeemer is for the redemption of those in peril.”

               Not only did Ambrose have to deal with the Goths, but when his friend the Emperor died, the new Emperor tried to take Ambrose’s Church away from him and hand it over to the Arians.  Ambrose refused and was sentenced to death.  Fortunately the people sided with Ambrose and filled his Church.  Roman soldiers were surrounding the Church and the people inside stayed there for days singing songs (this is one of the first written accounts of songs being sung in Church).  They were so loud and filled with faith that even the soldiers outside began singing the songs.  The soldiers were called out for other duties in protecting the Empire.  Ambrose kept control of his Church.  It is interesting to note that later Ambrose helped out the Emperor who was against him.  He showed true forgiveness.

               Ambrose is also known for his work with another great Saint, Saint Augustine.  It was Ambrose who helped Augustine convert to the faith.  Augustine was one of the greatest Saints and impacted the Church tremendously.  Saint Ambrose was certainly a great man who changed history and the Church for the better.

There are many quotes from St. Ambrose.  I share a few of them here.

The fraternity of Christ, is closer than the fraternity of blood.        

Prayer is the wing wherewith the soul flies to heaven, and meditation the eye wherewith we see God.

If it is “daily bread,” why do you take it once a year? . . . Take daily what is to profit you daily. Live in such a way that you may deserve to receive it daily. He who does not deserve to receive it daily, does not deserve to receive it once a year. 

By Christ’s Passion our weakness was cured. By His Resurrection death was conquered. Still we have to be sorrowful for the world, as well as joyful in the Lord, sorrowful in penance, joyful in gratitude.

It is not the ambassador, it is not the messenger, but the Lord Himself that saves His people. The Lord remains alone, for no man can be partner with God in forgiving sins; this office belongs solely to Christ, who takes away the sins of the world. 

True repentance is to cease from sin. 

Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies.

The rich man who gives to the poor does not bestow alms but pays a debt.

When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.

The Devil tempts that he may ruin and destroy; God tests that He may crown. 

He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His. He took it not to overturn it but to fill it. 

The Lord was Baptized, not to be cleansed Himself, but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of Baptism.  

God by nature is uncompounded, joined to nothing, composed of nothing, to whom nothing happens by accident; but only possessing in His own nature that which is divine, enclosing all things, Himself closed out of nothing, penetrating all things, Himself never penetrable, everywhere complete, everywhere present at the same time, whether in heaven or on earth or in the depths of the sea, incapable of being seen or measured by our senses, to be followed only by faith and venerated in our religion.

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. There is a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace. 

 

 

 

              

Advent Saints – Saint Francis Xavier by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Indian Christians carry the remains of Saint Francis Xavier towards the Se Cathedral during a procession in Goa on November 22, 2014. The 17th exposition of the body of St Francis Xavier will be held from November 22 to January 4, 2015 in Goa, for veneration by pilgrims.  AFP PHOTO/ PUNIT PARANJPE
Indian Christians carry the remains of Saint Francis Xavier towards the Se Cathedral during a procession in Goa on November 22, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ PUNIT PARANJPE

               Saint Francis Xavier is known as the greatest evangelizer since the Apostles.  His zeal for spreading the Gospel seemed to know no boundaries.  He was a man who performed many miracles and converted a large number of unbelievers to the Church.  He visited many countries and is known for his missionary work in Portugal, India, Goa, Malacca and the Maluku Islands and Japan.  In the islands he converted the first Japanese man to the faith.  He went to Japan to continue spreading the good news.  He also wanted to convert China and headed there reaching one of its islands.  He died from disease before he could make the Chinese mainland.  He did all of this in just ten years.

               Francis was born in the Kingdom of Navarre (Basque, between Spain and France) on April 7, 1506.  He attended the University of Paris where he roomed with his good friend, Peter Favre.  Francis met Saint Ignatius Loyola at the University and was heavily influence d by him.  St. Ignatius urged Francis to become a priest.   On August 15, 1534, Francis Xavier along with Peter Favre, and several other friends, made vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Francis was ordained a priest on June 24, 1537.  Francis, and his friends formed a new order named the Society of Jesus and Pope Paul III approved the order in 1540.  The order is commonly known as the Jesuits. The Pope immediately put the order to work as missionaries.  Francis was made Papal Nuncio of the East in 1541, on Francis’ birthday, the same day he left for India.  Francis was 35 years old.  In India he built over 40 churches along the Pearl Fishery Coast.

               It is miraculous that in the short space of ten years (6 May, 1542 – 2 December, 1552)  Francis could have visited so many countries, traversed so many seas, preached the Gospel to so many nations, and converted so many unbelievers and built so many churches.  His zeal for the Gospel and his great accomplishments led him to be beatified by Pope Paul V on Oct. 25, 1619, and canonized by Gregory XV on March 12, 1622 at the same ceremony as Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron of Catholic missions and his feast day is on December 3.  Here are some of his quotes:

  • I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.
  • We must pray without tiring, for the salvation of mankind does not depend upon material success . . . but on Jesus alone.
  • Prayer is powerful! It fills the earth with mercy; it makes the Divine clemency pass from generation to generation; right along the course of the centuries wonderful works have been achieved through prayer.
  • If you are in danger, if your hearts are confused, turn to Mary; she is our comfort, our help; turn towards her and you will be saved.
  • Did a Magdalene, a Paul, a Constantine, an Augustine become mountains of ice after their conversion? Quite the contrary. We should never have had these prodigies of conversion and marvelous holiness if they had not changed the flames of human passion into volcanoes of immense love of God.
  • The world is poisoned with erroneous theories, and needs to be taught sane doctrines, but it is difficult to straighten what has become crooked.
  • They who pray with faith have fervour and fervour is the fire of prayer. This mysterious fire has the power of consuming all our faults and imperfections, and of giving to our actions, vitality, beauty and merit.

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

christ-the-king-statue1

Christ The King statue in Świebodzin, Poland.  This is the largest statue of Jesus in the world (yes, even larger than Rio de Janeiro).  It is 33 meters (over 108 feet) tall.  One meter for each year of Jesus life.  Note the gold crown.

               The last Sunday of the Church liturgical Calendar is celebrated as the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  Although Christians have celebrated Jesus as the King of Kings since the very beginnings and the Jews have celebrated the Messiah as the coming King long before Jesus, this Feast is relatively new.  Pope Pius XI instituted this Feast in 1925 in his encyclical QUAS PRIMAS and it was first celebrated in 1926.  Pope Pius XI instituted this Feast as a result of changes that were occurring throughout the world.  There was a rise of both Communism and non-Christian dictatorships that tried to keep their people from worshiping God and following the Church.  There was a large growth of secularism that had people questioning the role of God and the Church in their lives.  People were simply denying Christ and doubting His authority and existence, as well as doubting the Church’s power to continue Christ’s authority. 

               The truth of the matter is, this seems to be occurring again today.  People are putting Jesus aside and are not going to Church.  Even our own government has tried to take away the Church’s authority over its people.  God has been taken out of our government, and schools and courts.  That is why this Feast is so timely even today.  Our recent Presidential elections have shown a great divide in our country and some people seem lost.   The problem is, our hope should not be fully in who is leading our country.  Our hope should be in the Lord.  I saw a sign before the elections that really brings this home.  It said:

nomatterwhoispresidentjesusisking

 

               Today’s Feast day celebrates that very thought, and much more.  Let us look at what Pope Pius XI hoped to accomplish in celebrating this feast:

1 – That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas 32).

2 – That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas 31).

3 – That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feas, as we reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas 33)

               The first two of these are a constant battle.  We need to make sure that the State recognizes our rights to freely worship God as we are called to do.  The second is also difficult.  We must elect leaders who can give respect to Jesus.  The third, and last, is where we ourselves need to work the hardest.  We MUST see Jesus as King of everything that we are.  He must reign in our hearts, minds, wills and bodies.  Today individualism has been so embraced that for many, the only authority is the individual self.  They reject the idea of Jesus as ruler.  Many see the title of King or Lord as archaic and borrowed from oppressive systems of government.  Certainly some Kings have been oppressive, but Jesus surely is not that kind of King.  He himself said in Mark 10: 42-45, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” and Jesus replied in John 18: 36-37, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

               Jesus certainly knew the oppressive nature of some Kings and in contrast to them he showed His role as King as one of humble service and commanded all His followers to do the same.  He tied His Kingdom to His own suffering and death.  He will come again as King to judge the nations.  However He showed us that His Kingdom is one of love and mercy and peace and forgiveness.  Jesus turned around the concept of Kingship.  We know that when we make Him King of all that we are and all that we do, we will experience that Kingdom.

               Let us all strive to make Jesus our King.  Here is a prayer that may help us in doing that:

Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King

Most sweet Jesus,
Redeemer of the human race,
look down upon us humbly prostrate before you.
We are yours, and yours we wish to be;
but to be more surely united with you,
behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today
to your Most Sacred Heart.
Many indeed have never known you;
many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you.
Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus,
and draw them to your Sacred Heart.
Be King, O Lord,
not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you,
but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you;
grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house,
lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.
Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions,
or whom discord keeps aloof,
and call them back
to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith,
so that soon there may be
but one flock and one Shepherd.
Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance
of freedom and immunity from harm;
give tranquility of order to all nations;
make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry:
Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation;
to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.
Also known as “Iesu dulcissime, Redemptor”

 

 

Lord of the Dead by Deacon Marty McIndoe

cemetery

Death is something that we don’t usually think about or talk about.  We do know that people die, but somehow most of us feel that we won’t.  Intellectually, we know that we will, but we still we do not embrace death as something that we are heading to.  Yet we are.  You could say that we are all born to die.  None of us know when, or how, it will happen, but unless the Lord comes again while we are still alive, we will experience death.  Our faith, based on the death and resurrection of Jesus, tells us that death is not the end.  Surely the body stops, but who we are as a person continues.  The Church celebrates the Resurrection in all that we do.  In November, the first two days really call this to mind.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul said, “To this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living”.   Matthew, Mark and Luke all say that “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living”.  In looking at these two statements, at first they seem at odds with each other, but in essence they are saying the same thing.  Death no longer exists.  God is Lord of us in our death and our life.  When our bodies fail, we know that our soul continues on.  As Catholics we believe that we go to Heaven, Purgatory (preparation time for Heaven), or to Hell (quite permanent).  We also believe that someday, at the coming of the fullness of the Kingdom, our souls and our bodies will come together in the Resurrected body.  Until that day, the “dead” in Heaven and Purgatory still exist in communion with the living Church.  We are all the Living Church.

While we Christians are alive here on earth, we are known as the Church Militant.  We are soldiers of Christ who still struggle with sin and evil.  We have been redeemed by Jesus, and filled with the Spirit and can raise ourselves to great Spiritual heights, but we still fight darkness within ourselves and throughout the world.   We continue to work for the transformation of the world by preaching and living out the Gospel.  We do hope to receive God’s grace and go straight to heaven at the moment of our death.  We look forward to being a Saint.  Sometimes we make it, sometimes we don’t.

Often when we die we are not quite prepared for heaven.  We are definitely on the way, but we need a time of purification.  We call this time Purgatory.  The souls in Purgatory are known as the Church Penitent (or Suffering or Expectant).  It is a time when we know that we will see God in Heaven, but we must first come to grips with what keeps us from fully coming face to face with God.  Do not think of Purgatory as a mini or temporary hell.  It is more like a waiting room or antechamber for heaven where we get ready in order to enter.

For those who go straight to Heaven and for those who go there after their purgatory process, the souls in Heaven are known as the Church Triumphant.  We will be face to face with God and with His angels and Saints.  The Church here is Triumphant, but still awaits the coming of the fullness of the Kingdom at the end of time when all will be one in praise of God.  All things will be made new.

This all brings us to the two days we celebrate this week, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  All Saints Day commemorates ALL of the Saints in Heaven.  Even though it includes everyone in Heaven, the main focus is on the Saints who have been named by the Church.  All Saints’ Day was formally started by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon (originally used by the Romans to honor their gods) at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in 609 AD. Boniface IV also established All Souls’ Day, which follows All Saints.  All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation. 

The day after All Saints Day, we celebrate All Souls Day which commemorates all those souls who have died, but have not gone to Heaven yet.  These souls are in Purgatory.  They are being prepared for heaven.  They enjoy the knowledge that Heaven is theirs, but they need some time to remove the stains of venial sins.  They are a very important part of the Church.  In our Catholic wake service we start by saying that “all of the ties of friendship and affection which knit us together as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death”.  Our loved ones, whether in Heaven or in Purgatory still have connections with us.  We can turn to them to help us in prayer.  We are not sure of their status, but whether they are in Heaven, or in Purgatory, they are still connected to us and can pray for us.

Truly our God is a God of the Living.  The scriptures are filled with story after story and parable after parable and teaching after teaching that points this out.  Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, Death no longer has a hold on us.  We were all born to die.  It is a natural part of God’s plan for our salvation.  We should not fear death, for in death we find LIFE.  Those who have gone on before us, whether they are in Heaven or in Purgatory, are still a part of us as the Church.  They still care for us and love us and pray for us.  These first two days of November are a time for us to see that our God is God of the living and the dead.  We, as a Church, are all alive in Him.  Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25).

 

 

The Church, from the very Beginning…was Catholic! By Kenneth Henderson – Part 1 of 3

cimg1632

Ruins of a Roman Temple in Ephesus that was turned in to an Early Christian Church.  See the crosses etched in to the outside wall.  Ephesus was a thriving Christian city in the first days of the Church.

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. ~ Acts 2:42

Many “Bible Alone” Christians will say that the Church of the Bible looks nothing like the Catholic Church. If that were true, then we would expect to find evidence of the first few hundred years of Christianity to support this claim. However, what we do find is evidence to show that the Early Church was indeed Catholic in every way! Many Protestants claim that the Church of the first three centuries was a “pure” Church and base that on a modern reading of Acts 2:42, ignoring that writings of the earliest Christians. They will also claim that it was only after the legalization of Christianity by Roman Emperor Constantine (313 AD) did the Church become “Catholic” and corrupt. However, the doctrines of Post-Constantine Catholicism are the same doctrines that were held by Christians for the preceding three centuries. In fact, the evidence below clearly shows that the beliefs of the Early Church are the same as those of the Catholic Church today in the 3rd millennium.

Again, The Early Church Fathers are so important because: 1) their testimonies prove that the Early Church was Catholic; 2) the councils of Trent and Vatican I declared that no-one may interpret Scripture in a manner contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; 3) all the Fathers were convinced that the original texts of the Bible were absolutely immune from all error. IF, Catholic doctrine had changed “many times” from that of the earliest writings, then the record should reflect this. However, the record shows that the writings of the Early Church Fathers are consistent with the teachings of the modern Catholic Church. Nothing has changed! This is why the councils of Trent and Vatican I attest that the writings of the Early Church are to be regarded as authoritative in respect to the interpretation of scripture. Any interpretation of scripture cannot be in conflict of the testament of the unanimous teachings of Early Church on doctrine. Again, let me clarify…doctrines are those teachings from scripture that deal with items of Faith and Morals, not practices, customs and disciplines which so many anti-Catholics try to say are doctrines. Example, Baptism by sprinkling vs immersion, this is a practice.

The early Church was the Catholic Church. It taught infallibly, gave us the New Testament and was made up of three ranks of clergy, bishop, priest and deacon. The idea of “Scripture Alone” didn’t exist nor could it have as the printing press would not be invented for more than a thousand years. The earliest Christians didn’t even have a New Testament yet. It was a NEW Church. They had to rely upon verbal teaching that was passed down from the Apostles as Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

Before there was a Bible, there was a Church…

To make sure that the apostolic tradition would be passed down after the deaths of the apostles, Paul also told Timothy, “What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). In other words, he was telling Timothy that it was necessary to keep the traditions and teachings alive. Yes, he was writing letters, but every place a church had been established did not instantly get a copy of those letters. It would take many, many years before they all would be compiled into what we now know as the New Testament. No written Bibles as we know them today existed. This is important to understand.

In the first four centuries of the Church many books, such as the seven letters of Ignatius, the Letter of Clement [the fourth pope] to the Corinthians, the Didache, and The Shepherd were revered by many Christians as inspired but were later shown to be non-inspired. Keep in mind, non-inspired does not imply not important or not authoritative, it just means that they did not see that those writings to be on level with the inspired writings of the Apostles.

The Bible as we know it today didn’t come into being until the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. That is when the Catholic Church defined which books made it into the New Testament and which didn’t. There were many letters and writings that were floating around and they saw a need to settle which were to be considered as inspired, which were important but not inspired, and which were even heretical. The council fathers studied many documents, including, of course, the writings of the Apostles themselves, but it was not until these councils that the Church officially settled the issue of what should be included in the Canon of Scripture.

What did the Early Church look like?

That being said, what did the early Church really look like? Let’s look at the writings of the Early Church Fathers to see the Church that they knew. I bet all the Catholic Christians reading this will recognize their Church, and I’m guessing that most Protestants will not see theirs. But, let’s find out.

In the year A.D 80, we see Saint Clement of Rome, the fourth in line of succession from Peter, who was also a disciple of Peter and Paul, sending a letter to Corinth. Exhorting them to get it together or they would have severe repercussions. Those Corinthians had been causing the Church fits since Saint Paul. Now why was a bishop in Rome telling the Church in Corinth what to do? Because he had authority to do so and that authority was recognized. He is recognized as the fourth Bishop of Rome, the fourth Pope!

Clement of Rome

If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. We, however, shall be innocent of this sin, and will pray with earnest entreaty and supplication that the Creator of all may keep unharmed the number of His elect, which have been counted up in the whole world, through His beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom He has called us from darkness to light, and from ignorance to the full knowledge of the glory of His name.(Letter to the Corinthians 28a [A.D. 80]). –> Read online in its entirety here

LOOK FOR PART 2 ON MONDAY

 

St. Mary Magdalene, Pope Francis and the Dignity of Women – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

St-Mary-MagdaleneImage from www.catholicfaithstore.com

On June 10th of this year (2016), Pope Francis issued a decree elevating the June 22nd Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a Feast Day in the Roman Calendar.  Feast Days are reserved for Saints of particular significance, such as the Apostles.  In doing this elevation Pope Francis stated that because St. Mary Magdalene was the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection and then told the Apostles, she was a “true and authentic evangelist”.  He entitled his decree and the article about it “Apostle of the Apostles”.  The Congregation of Divine Worship’s Secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche, wrote that in celebrating “an evangelist who proclaims the central joyous message of Easter,” St. Mary Magdalene’s feast day is a call for all Christians to “reflect more deeply on the dignity of women, the new evangelization and the greatness of the mystery of divine mercy.”  He further stated, “Pope Francis has taken this decision precisely in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy to highlight the relevance of this woman who showed great love for Christ and was much loved by Christ.”  Archbishop Roche added that St. Mary Magdalene, who “proclaimed life from the tomb, a place of death,” is a lesson for all Christians to trust in Christ who is “alive and risen.”   “It is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman has the same level of feast given to the celebration of the apostles in the general Roman calendar and highlights the special mission of this woman who is an example and model for every woman in the church.”

St. Mary Magdalene has often been seen as the unnamed sinner woman who anointed the feet of Jesus.   However, most scripture scholars indicate that this is not indicated in scripture.  She is the woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons.  Father Wilfrid J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.” Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not…the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”   There is no doubt that she has been slandered for many years.  We do know that she was a follower of Jesus and loved by Jesus and even helped to support His ministry.  She stood by the cross of Jesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Her most glorious story is of her visiting the tomb of Jesus while it was still dark.

The Gospel tells us that she peaked in to the tomb and saw two angels there.  She then sees Jesus but does not recognize Him until He speaks her name.  Pope Francis said that her tears at Christ’s empty tomb are a reminder that “sometimes in our lives, tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus”.

Even though St. Mary Magdalene has been slandered for many years, she would probably say that it didn’t matter.  She saw herself as a sinner in need of God’s MERCY.  So should we.   As we celebrate Her feast, let us remember that we too are called to love Jesus with all that we are and to tell others about the God who died for us and rose again so we might have LIFE.

 

 

 

 

A Catholic – Christian Response to Violence- by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 344This is the entrance to modern day Bethlehem, the city where the Prince of Peace was born.  It is only one reminder of how violence changes things for the worse.

Sometimes I find it so difficult to face the news of the day.  I know that there are so many good people in the world today that are doing so many good things, but then we are confronted with some people who just seem to be totally influenced by pure evil.  The recent attack in Dallas, Texas has caused me to write this post.  Five Police Officers were killed and six more wounded while they were trying to keep peace at a protest against police violence.   Police Officers have one of the toughest jobs in the world and the vast majority of them do an absolutely fantastic job.  I was really struck by the fact that when the gunfire began at the Dallas rally, Police Officers began shielding, with their own lives, the people that were protesting against them.  That is just an example of how the Police Officer operates.  He or she is trained to Protect and Serve.  In response they are often treated very poorly.

I think that this is just a small portion of the problem we have today.  People seem to think that acts of violence are a way of achieving certain goals.  We then throw in to that racial bias and you can see how messed up we really are.  We have groups like Black Lives Matter who say that Police unfairly attack blacks.  Now, there may be some occasions when this happens, but that is rare.  In 2015 Police Officers had to take the lives of 494 white people and 258 black people.  That hardly seems racist.  It is absolutely terrible that any lives had to be taken, white or black.  But, violence is a large part of our society.  There are some people who believe that making gun ownership illegal would solve that, but as a former law enforcement officer myself, I can tell you that people will get the guns whether they are legal or not.  There are plenty of statistics to show that certain cities that have outlawed guns still have a high rate of people being shot.  We really need to go down much further in to the problem to try to stem violence.

Violence seems so present in our society.  I used to work in the Family Court and I could not believe what some husbands and wives did to each other.  Even young children seemed to act out in fits of violence.  It is hard to find a movie or tv show that doesn’t have a great deal of violence in it.  I look at the video games out there, and they are filled with violence.  This isn’t something new.  Even when I was growing up the cartoons had a lot of violence.  We seem to be a people that are fascinated with violence.  Along with that, there seems to be a shrinking respect for LIFE in all of its forms.   Here in the United States over one million mothers take the lives of their children through abortion each year. Soon to be St. Theresa of Calcutta said, “We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?”  Euthanasia seems to be growing too.  We can’t be a people that JUST say, Black Lives Matter; we need to be a people that say, EVERY LIFE MATTERS.

So, as Catholics growing in our faith, how do we deal with this?  First of all, PRAYER is very powerful.  I was so moved at mass today when our Pastor dedicated the whole mass (including selecting special Eucharistic Prayers) to ending violence and establishing PEACE.  We must make it our constant prayer to ask for peace.  We also must change our lives to turn away from violence.  Instead of watching those extremely violent movies and TV shows, turn towards ones that offer less violence.  In our every day actions, we need to try to be more peaceful.  When that car driver cuts you off, don’t swear or raise a finger at him, pray for him.  We need to tone down yelling in our relationships within our family.  We must try to do things that lead toward peace.  Let us recall the words of Pope Francis, “May the God of peace arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is overcome with peace.”

Our Church has given us tools to help keep us from being influenced by the evil one who loves to lead us towards violence and death and disunity.  Attending mass is one of the best ways to grow in to the person Jesus wants us to be.  We become more like him, when we receive him.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation helps not only us, but the people we live with.  I already mentioned prayer, but I want to mention it again because it is so powerful.  I especially recommend asking Our Blessed Mother, Mary to intercede for us.  She loves us all as her children and wants us to live together in peace and in harmony.  We call her the Queen of Peace.   We must follow the Church’s lead in calling all people to respect LIFE in all of its form.  Respect for LIFE should be at the heart of who we are.  Be a people who say, EVERY LIFE MATTERS.  Stand up for the Christian values that have been taught us and live them out.  When we end mass we are told, “GO FORTH”; that means that we have now been empowered by the Lord and sent out to make a difference in this world.  We really need to change this world.

 

 

The Dynamic Duo: St. Peter and St. Paul – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

StPeterStPaulImage of St. Peter and St. Paul (available at www.orthodoxgoods.com)

June 29th marks the Catholic Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.  Since these two men are usually considered the most important Christians of the apostolic age, you would think that they would each have their own Feast day.  However the Church, in its wisdom, has always celebrated these two men together.  We can learn a great deal about living as a Christian, and about Church structure, by looking at these two fascinating men and their relationship to each other.  They both died in Rome and their bodies remain there to this day.

According to Roman legend, Rome was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus.  Their background and early raising was quite tumultuous and their decision to found together a new city proved fatal for Remus.  Ambition and sibling rivalry reared its ugly head, but the city of Rome was founded.  Rome became one of the most powerful cities (and Empire) in the world, but it lost its worldly power about 400 years after Jesus was born.  About 25 years after Jesus died and resurrected, two new brothers (in the Lord) founded a new spiritual city of Rome which to this very day maintains its spiritual power throughout the world.  St. Peter and St. Paul have been considered the new co-founders of this spiritual city of Rome.  Early Christian writers made this comparison many times.  We know St. Peter as being the first Pope and St. Paul as being the greatest evangelist, and scripture writer.  Let us take a look at their relationship.

St. Peter was hand chosen by Jesus to lead the Church.  Peter had known Jesus and followed Jesus for many years.  He was a true disciple of Jesus.  St. Paul, on the other hand, never met Jesus until after Jesus died and rose again.  In actuality, St. Paul was an arch enemy of the early Christians because of his zeal to remove the followers of the Jesus sect from his most loved Judaism.  St. Paul was even there for the first martyrdom of St. Stephen.  St. Peter fervently loved Jesus, and St. Paul fervently loved Judaism.  When St. Paul met the Resurrected Jesus, on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, St. Paul was literally knocked to the ground.  This one time meeting with the resurrected Jesus was enough to totally change St. Paul from persecutor of the Church to evangelizer for the Church.  The early Christians, including St. Peter, were quite skeptical but came to see the change in St. Paul and his zeal for building the Church.

We don’t know for certain how many times St. Peter and St. Paul met, but scriptures tell us of three incidents.  The first one seems to occur around the year 51 when in Galatians 1:18 Paul tells us that he went to visit St. Peter in Jerusalem for 15 days.  The interesting part of this is that the word that St. Paul uses for the visit is historeō which has a very rich meaning.  It implies meeting to gather data, to learn, observe and inquire.  Our word history comes from that root.  That must have been an interesting meeting.  St. Peter was probably still somewhat skeptical of St. Paul, and St. Paul was probably trying to learn as much as possible about Jesus and His followers.

In Galatians 2:1 St. Paul tells us of another meeting he had with St. Peter 14 years after the first meeting.  St. Paul came to Peter and James and John, the pillars of the Jerusalem Church, to present to them his form of evangelization and to verify the fruits of his evangelization.  He seems to have been checking with them to make sure he was doing it well.  St. Paul records that they found nothing to add to what he had been preaching and that they recognized him as being the evangelizer to the Gentiles.  They gave him their right hand of fellowship and encouraged him to keep preaching to the Gentiles while they preached to the Jews.  He ended by saying, “They only asked us to remember the poor– the very thing I also was eager to do.”

The third time that scriptures (again Galatians) mention the two meeting is at Antioch.  This some people play up as a confrontation between the two.  However, it appears that it is a great example of collegiality, and fraternal correction.  The background for this meeting goes back to the Council of Jerusalem where St. Peter made the judgment that Gentile converts to Christianity did not have to observe the Jewish kosher laws.  Now when St. Peter was in Antioch, he was staying with many Jewish Christians who felt that new Gentile converts should keep the kosher laws.  Peter even followed the kosher laws when he was with them.  St. Paul brought to the attention of St. Peter that he was being hypocritical.  It appears that St. Paul really did this out of love and for fraternal correction and that the bond of love that they each had for Jesus triumphed.  Later scriptures and tradition show that these two men kept their fraternal love for each other.

We know that towards the end of their lives, both St. Peter and St. Paul move to Rome.  All of the early Christian writers talk about them being the new brothers who formed the new Rome.  This time, however, there was no ambition or rivalry to separate them; quite the contrary.  Tertullian, an early Christian writer born in 155 tells how both St. Peter and St. Paul were imprisoned together during Nero’s persecution and both were martyred by Nero.  He recalls that they spent many hours together in jail sharing their stories of spreading the Gospel and he added that they blessed each other for their upcoming martyrdom.  St. Peter was crucified upside down (he said he was not good enough to die the same way as Jesus) in the Vatican square and immediately buried in a nearby cemetery, now below St. Peter’s in Rome.  St. Paul was beheaded with a sword.  He was a Roman citizen and due a quick death.   He was beheaded at quae Salviae, which is now known as Tre Fontane (three fountains).  According to legend, when the sword cut off St. Paul’s head, it bounced three times and at each spot where it landed, a spring of water sprung forth from the ground.  His body was taken away and buried nearby.  The beautiful Church of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls stands over his burial place.  It is interesting to note that the Tiber River flows through Rome.  St. Peter was martyred and was buried on one side of the Tiber, and St. Paul was martyred and buried on the other side.  Early Christian writers see this as both “founders” having given their blood to bless both sides of the city.  Though these two dynamic men were individuals, they were seen as a major force of  a unified two.

St. Peter was a simple Jewish fisherman with probably little education.  St. Paul was well educated (taught by the best rabbi in the land) and a Roman citizen.  They both were good Jews.  St. Peter was married and St. Paul was a celibate.  St. Peter was impulsive and St. Paul was enthusiastic.  They certainly had their differences.  They both have in common that when they met Jesus their lives were totally changed.  They both loved Jesus and His Church.  Even though both were quite dynamic men with great leadership skills, they learned how to work with each other for the good of the Church.

For us today, we should see that when we truly love Jesus, we change for the good.  When we truly love the Church that Jesus founded, we learn to work together with each other, even when we don’t always agree with each other.  It is almost incomprehensible to understand how these two men accomplished so much in such a short time.  The only way we can understand that is to see them as lovers of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, who respond to “go forth” and spread the good news and build up the body of Christ.  I can only imagine the great time the two of them are having with Jesus right now.  I look forward to meeting them some day.  St. Peter and St. Paul pray that we too can love Jesus with all that we are.

 

Trinity Missions – a Look at Serving God through Serving the Poor by Deacon Marty McIndoe

20160209_133340Behind altar is a stained glass that has both Indian and Christian symbols

20160209_133746St. Kateri Tekawatha, for whom the main Parish is named

20160209_142445Martha and me and Fr. Dono, ST, in front of one of the mission altars.  They really love the Saints and dress them up very colorfully.

20160209_142554Native made crucifix

We, as Catholics, should be very proud because our Church feeds, clothes, heals, educates and cares for more people than any other organization on the face of the earth.  We do this because this is what Jesus asks us to do.  The Church has many different charities that do this.  On this Trinity Sunday, I would like to share with you about one charity that I have supported for over thirty years.  They are Trinity Missions, also known as Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity.  They describe themselves; As apostles – our missionaries preach and live the word of God to bring hope, comfort, and relief to the suffering of the poor, the abandoned, and the most neglected by:

  • Spreading the Gospel;
  • Responding to the needs of the poor, isolated, marginalized, and those without hope; and
  • Guiding, forming, and ministering with lay missionaries in parishes, neighborhoods, and communities across the United States and Latin America.

I have firsthand knowledge that they really do this quite well, with very limited resources.  Over thirty years ago, I read about the work that they do with Native Americans on reservations throughout the United States.  Since I have some Native American blood in me, I became quite interested.  We started donating to them and each month kept looking forward to the letters that we received from some of the Priest Missionaries that were on the reservations.  These letters described all the work that they did, and all the work that they really hoped to get done.  There was no doubt that they had a formidable task, but they learned to do as much as they could with what they had.  Personally, I think that they do very well in serving the Lord in His poor.

In the early 80’s, I attended several Priests and Deacons Conferences at the Franciscan University in Steubenville Ohio.  At one of these conferences, I was in a small discussion group with other priests, deacons, and bishops.  We all introduced ourselves and where we were from.  After the introductions, one of the Missionary Priests from Trinity Missions asked me if I were the Deacon Marty from Patchogue, New York.  I told him that I was, and he told me that he had heard about what a great preacher I was.  Now I was ordained only a few years them and I wondered how a missionary priest living on an Indian reservation out West could possibly have heard about me.  It turns out that his parents lived in my parish and liked my sermons and had told him about me.  This began a very good friendship with him.  This last winter, my wife and I visited with him on his missionary post at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in South Tucson, Arizona.  He and another priest and one brother serve seven local Indian reservation Parishes.  All, but one, of the reservations are quite poor.  The other is starting to come out of poverty due to a local Casino that they had opened up.  It seems that the Lord can draw good out of gambling.  We spent five days touring all seven reservations and spent time with the peoples and attended different liturgies there.  It was a beautiful, loving, learning, faith filled experience.  I was very impressed by the faith that these Native Americans had, thanks to the work of many missionaries.

We must not forget the mission that God gave to us; namely, to spread the Gospel and to care for His people.  The Church does a wonderful job of this, but needs the help of all of its members.  We have to personally do this in our own lives with the people that are around us.  However, we cannot forget that the Church reaches out to all peoples and needs us to join in on its global missionary call by our financial support and by our prayers.  On this Trinity Sunday, where we celebrate the Three in One, bound together by perfect love, let us remember that we are all one and called to be bound together in love.  We certainly can do this by supporting our Church missions and charities through prayer and financial assistance.  God bless.

Check out Trinity Missions at: http://www.trinitymissions.org

 

Goodness – Language of Evangelization by Patrick Sullivan

Israel 185Church of the Beatitudes on the Sea of Galilee in the Holy Lands

What is goodness if not the human struggle to be like God? Not in some demonic usurpation or mutiny among men bent on overthrowing our most loving and benevolent Creator, but to actually try with all that we have to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect. To speak the way Jesus has spoken. To love who Jesus loves. To recognize Jesus in our day to day in order to be recognized by our Lord as we pass from this world to the next.

You know, before the new and everlasting covenant in Jesus Christ, it was the Torah (the Law) given to Moses that lifted humanity out of the mire and the inconsistencies of the pagan world; but today the law will no longer do.

To quote the law to someone with the aim of bringing them to God, whether the Mosaic or canonical, or even what the philosophers have called the natural law, seems to shut down rather than open up a dialogue on what we were all meant to be. We have to understand that to many, trying to teach goodness through the law is like teaching them that music is only as profound as the notes on the page; never to be played. To try to teach the ethic and not the ethos, it is like we have been trying to convince the world of a brilliant theatrical performance by showing them the program with its lovely cast of performers.

No, no, goodness is caught when it is found in a person and not a checklist. When it reveals rather than reflects.

What I mean is, if you are trying to evangelize a person, and all they can see is someone who is just as good as they are; just as generous; just as patient; just as forgiving; if it seems like you  have checked off the same boxes as they have; you will not win them over in the least.

But if they look at you and rather than reflect their own level of moral achievements; you reveal a greater generosity; a greater patience; a greater willingness to forgive; in short if you show them real, concrete examples of one striving to be like God, what happens?

It poses a question. And while the question in their minds may take many forms, essentially what they want to know is this: why are you so good?

So, If you are evangelizing someone and their language is goodness, your job is a straightforward one. Stop quoting the law, and begin surpassing the day to day sacrifices and social programs of the unbeliever. Our God can do better, it’s time to show them.

Patrick Sullivan is a Catholic Lay Evangelist, author and speaker.  He has written two books, Dare to Be an Evangelist and Four Monks Walk in to a Pub and has many you-tube videos.  Check out his website at http://evango.net

A Very Special Gift by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 632Looking up to the Upper Room (Cenacle) in Jerusalem

As we approach Pentecost this weekend, it is important for us to see what a precious gift God has given us in the Holy Spirit.  This feast dates back to the first century and finds its beginning in the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples nine days after the Ascension of Jesus.  In all actuality, Scripture shows us that this Spirit has been promised to us by God since the earliest times.  The Old Testament is filled with references to the Holy Spirit beginning with the second verse of Genesis where it is said that the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.  When the Church blesses the water to be used for Baptism it says, “At the very dawn of creation your Spirit breathed upon the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness”.  The prophets are continually making reference to the Spirit.  The prophet Joel tells us that God will POUR out His Spirit upon us.  The prophet Ezekiel says, “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life”.  There are too many references to the Holy Spirit within the Old Testament to cover in this short article.

The prophet, John the Baptist, when seeing Jesus tells us that He will BAPTIZE us in the Holy Spirit.  Jesus himself promises us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He tells His disciples, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  Right before His Ascension Jesus tell His disciples, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Paraclete, Advocate or Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”  There are so many New Testament references about the promise of the Gift of the Holy Spirit that we could not list them all here.

After the Ascension of Jesus, His Disciples, and His mother Mary all gathered in the Upper Room (Cenacle) to pray.  They were saddened by His leaving and seemed lost as to what to do next.  I think that it is so important to remember that the Blessed Virgin Mary was there praying with the Disciples.  She is the Chosen Spouse of the Holy Spirit and her prayers are so very powerful.  As I grow in my own faith and openness to the Holy Spirit, I grow in my love and adoration of Mary.  The Disciples were so blessed to have her join them in prayer.  We too are so blessed to have Mary join us in prayer.

At his Ascension Jesus told His Disciples to go out to every nation and spread the Good News.  The Disciples were totally unable to do this command and just sat in the Upper Room and prayed.  They prayed for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit for nine days (this is the source of our own nine day novenas) and on the feast of Pentecost it came to them.  Luke, in Acts Chapter 2 tells us, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”  This Holy Spirit empowered them to be able to do the command of Jesus and to go out to the entire world to proclaim the Good News.  You only have to look at the Disciples demeanor before and after Pentecost to see how this Holy Spirit can really EMPOWER us. The Church considers Pentecost its birthday, because the Disciples were now empowered to form the Church.

So what does all this mean to us today?  We are given that very same Spirit that the Disciples were given and it should EMPOWER us too.  We are given the Spirit in Baptism and are called to see it released more within us at Confirmation.  The truth is that many people do not know the POWER that is within them.  Do you?  St. Paul tells us that Spirit that is within us is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  Now that is a powerful Spirit.  So why do we not always see this?  I believe that quite simply it is because we don’t know about it that much and don’t ask to be baptized, or fully immersed, in the Holy Spirit.  It is like someone gives you one million dollars and puts it in your savings account.  Unless you know that it is there, and ask to use it, it just sits there.  We need to learn that not only is the Holy Spirit within us, but we need to learn how to use it.  A good study of the Scriptures and Lives of the Saints can help us with that.  Even better is just learning to call upon the Holy Spirit.  When is the last time you did that, and when is the last time you prayed to the Holy Spirit?  Also, ask your mother Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit to join you in prayer for the Holy Spirit just as she joined the Disciples at Pentecost.  Another great source to opening up to this Spirit is by attending a Life in the Spirit Seminar.  Many parishes offer this, especially through their Charismatic Prayer meeting.  Seek one out; it will change your life.  I know that it changed mine.

 

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

 

Miracles from Heaven by Deacon Marty McIndoe

3000

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”   Albert Einstein

 

My wife and I just saw the movie, “Miracles from Heaven” starring Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson and Queen Latifah.  It was certainly a movie that I would recommend to anyone.  It is based on a true story about an initially happy Christian family living in Texas.  When the movie opens, everything seems as it should be.  There is good family communication, a beautiful farm that they live on, and every Sunday they attend an active Evangelical Church with good music and worship.  The father even says to the mother, “this is the good life”.  Then, the ten year old daughter, Anna, becomes ill.  She has a rare, incurable, digestive disorder where her body cannot handle food.  This disorder causes her severe pain, and there doesn’t seem any hope from the medical world.

The girl’s mother, played extremely well by Jennifer Garner, will do anything to help her daughter.  She struggles with doctors until she finally forces herself upon a specialist in this field at Boston Children’s Hospital.  Even this specialist doesn’t give her much hope.  The mother never gives up on her daughter, but does give up on her faith in God.  The family exhausts all of their financial resources trying to bring comfort to their daughter.  The scenes where she is suffering so badly, while the family cannot do anything to help her, are quite intense and you certainly feel the mother’s anguish.

Then, something happens.  The daughter is climbing a tall dead tree in their yard in Texas.  A branch breaks and Anna plummets thirty feet in to the hollow tree.  It takes rescuers many hours to get her out.  When they do, she is brought unconscious to the hospital.  When Anna awakens, the symptoms of the incurable disease are gone.  Anna shares with her mom how God spoke to her in heaven about how he was healing her.  I don’t want to get in to too much detail because I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but her healing is seen as a real miracle by all involved, including the doctors.  This miracle brings back the faith of her mom as well as the faith of many involved.

At the very end, the mother speaks to their church and says some things that are very important.  She recognizes the miraculous healing of her daughter, but also shows how she saw miracles happen throughout the whole journey involving many different people in what would be seen as doing ordinary things.  There is a lot of power there, especially when they flash back on these things.  After the movie ends, they have pictures and videos of the real family.  Make sure you stay for those.

As Catholics, we believe strongly in miracles.  Our history is full of them.  We also know that miracles don’t always happen in the way we want them.  To me, the strength of this movie is not just the actual miraculous healing, but in the family and friends and what they did during the difficult times.  God works miracles in so many ways.  More often than not, he works them through every day, ordinary actions of love.  I would really suggest you take the time to see this movie.  It is so much better than so many movies we are exposed to.  The faith, love, and gift of family and friendship that this movie offers is so refreshing.  God bless.