Category Archives: Liturgy

The Real First Thanksgiving – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The Great Cross marks the spot where the Spanish first landed in St. Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565.  The statue of  Father Francisco Lopez marks the spot where the first THANKSGIVING mass was celebrated.

We always think that the first Thanksgiving happened in 1621 with the Pilgrims who settled in Massachusetts. In this Thanksgiving the local Indians came to the Pilgrims and brought them native food. There is no doubt that this really happened, but was it really the first Thanksgiving in the Americas? History says no. The first Thanksgiving occurred about 56 years before that in 1565. This one, like the Pilgrim Thanksgiving also involved European settlers and American Indians.
On September 8th, 1565 (the day the Church celebrates the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary), Spanish settlers landed at what is now St. Augustine, Florida. The first person to come on land was Father Francisco Lopez, the chaplain of the expedition. He came on land holding a cross. The leader of the exposition, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, then came on land while Father Francisco was holding the cross. The leader then kneeled down in front of the cross and kissed it. The rest of the exposition came on land and did some preliminary set up and then gathered to celebrate mass in thanksgiving for the safe passage they had been given. Catholic’s know the mass as the celebration of the Eucharist. Eucharist in Greek means Thanksgiving.
Immediately following the mass, Father Francisco, now the first pastor of the first settlement in the Americas, declared that they would celebrate a fraternal meal by inviting the Timucua Indians to dine with the settlers. The landing site of the Spanish was right next to a large Timucua village. The two peoples celebrated a Thanksgiving feast together. This was certainly the first Thanksgiving meal celebrated in the Americas.
Our traditional Thanksgiving dinner usually consists of roasted turkey, potatoes and vegetables that were probably used at the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. The Indians provided these foods to be shared with the settlers. The Spanish Thanksgiving in St. Augustine, Florida was quite different. Historical records show that it consisted of food brought by the Spanish settlers. This food was salted pork, garbanzo beans, ship’s bread and red wine. It also, most likely, consisted of some foods gathered by the Spanish settlers when they stopped in the Caribbean Islands. The Timucua Indians probably provided corn, fresh fish, berries, or beans.
The two Thanksgiving dinners had much in common. They both included the European Settlers and the Native Americans. They both were done in Thanksgiving to God for all that He had done. They both included food that was shared by all. They both had a sense of Thanksgiving to God as well as a sense of fraternal gathering. The main difference is that the Catholic Thanksgiving began with a Thanksgiving meal that goes all the way back to the Apostles and the early Church and has been celebrated every day since then by the Church.
The Pilgrims came to the America to escape from governmental persecution of their Puritan religion. The Spanish came to America with direction from their government and with a twofold mission; first to bring the message of Jesus’ salvation, and second to gain new lands for Spain. It is interesting that the first thing done is to have the Chaplain of the exposition bring a cross on to the new land and then, almost immediately after, to celebrate the Eucharist. The fraternal dinner with the Native Americans was to follow the mass. This is very much like the early Church which first had the celebration of the Eucharist followed by the Agape fraternal meal. Even today, in many families, we go first to mass on Sunday and then have a family Sunday dinner. The real first Thanksgiving gets the order right: first give thanks to God and then celebrate our fraternal love with each other. This is something we should do every day, not just once per year.

RCIA – A Journey of New Life – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Many Catholics have heard the initials RCIA used within their church but often do not fully understand what this program is. It is important for all Catholics to know about this program since all Catholics have a place within the program. I would like to take some time to briefly talk about what the program is and then give some reflections on it. I came in to the Church through the RCIA program about 44 years ago and today, as a Deacon, I run our parish RCIA program. I see it as a source of real life to me and to so many others. RCIA simply stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The program is the way that adult members learn about Jesus and His Church and then come in to it.
One of the principal ways that all Catholics are involved in RCIA is through their witness. Hopefully the life we lead and the faith we share make others interested in our Lord Jesus and in His Church. When we touch others through our own lived out faith it makes them want to learn more about the faith. RCIA is a way that they can do that. We often have people that were never baptized and never lived out the Christian faith. We also have people who have been baptized and have lived out the faith in a Protestant Church. Some of our RCIA people were baptized Catholic but never received Confirmation and Holy Communion. Some have received all the sacraments and have left the Church but have now returned. RCIA is for all of them.
It is impossible to put a time limit on the RCIA process. How much time we need is based upon the needs of each member in the group. For some, several years may be involved. For others it may be less than one year. We divide the RCIA program in to four distinct groups. Let us take a look at these four groups:
1 – INQUIRER: This is often known as the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate. Here we preach the basic Christian message and explain the role of the Church in living out the Christian life. We use this time to try to teach and inspire. We also use this time to discern whether the person is ready to make the formal step of becoming a full Catechumen.
2 – CATECHUMEN: When the RCIA team discerns that the inquirer is ready to make a faith commitment, we have a ceremony in front of the Church community at a Sunday mass where the inquirers make a decision to become a full Catechumen. The inquirer declares their intentions to the community and the community welcomes them. The process of further teaching continues by the RCIA team and the Church community continues to pray for them.
3 – ELECT: On the first Sunday of Lent, the Catechumens attend a special diocesan celebration where the Catechumens publically express their desire for baptism to the diocesan bishop. Their names are recorded in the Book of the Elect. Instructions continue during the days of Lent. There is usually additional prayer and spiritual direction given to the Elect leading them up to the Easter Vigil service. At the Easter Vigil the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist are given to the Elect in front of the Church community. The Elect are now fully initiated in to the Catholic Church. However, their training continues.
4 – NEOPHYTES: The newly initiated Catholics continue their training with RCIA during the Easter season. This is known as a time of MYSTAGOGY. It continues to the Feast of Pentecost. The neophytes share their experiences of the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the Catholic faith.
As I mentioned earlier, some people come in to the program already baptized and with different levels of faith experience. Some need Confirmation and Holy Eucharist; some need just confession and a profession of faith. Depending upon the circumstances, these people can also receive these at the Easter Vigil or at a later date. Pentecost is often used.
The RCIA program tries to deal with each individual’s needs. Some people may need more time than others and some may need to straighten out difficulties like previous marriages. The good RCIA leader and team learn to deal with the various needs of the person apart from the training within the program. It is a program that calls people to follow Jesus within His Church community. The Church community has to realize that they too are part of this process. They help the Inquirer, the Catechumen, the Elect and the Neophyte through prayer and example. I have seen that the community itself grows in a positive direction due to their contact with the RCIA people. It is truly a program that brings life, not only to the individual, but also to the community.
When I did my RCIA process, it was quite different from ours today. I (my wife came also), and another candidate, met weekly with our parish pastor and he taught us. It was good for me, and I became very close to the pastor through it. Today we have a team of several individuals and during our sessions we take turn doing the instructions and we emphasize group discussions. We also spend time reflecting on the Sunday reading. One thing that we added is to discuss where we have seen the Lord working in our lives during this last week. This has proved quite fruitful. RCIA must help its people come in to a relationship with Jesus, as well as His Church.
As a person who has taught in the RCIA program for many years, I can tell you that the program continues to help me grow in my own faith. It is very heartwarming to see people grow in their faith and in their love for Jesus and His Church. Please make sure that you pray for all those who are part of the RCIA program. It is a real blessing to the Church.

 

What Every Protestant Can’t Not Know – by Matt Nelson (Reasonable Catholic blog)


I have never met an insincere Protestant.
And if I have, either I don’t recall it or I was fooled. But as far as I can tell, every Protestant I’ve ever mingled with has truly believed with all sincerity that the Catholic Church is not the Church founded by Christ; not one has believed that the Catholic Church is indeed what she claims to be – the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Christian Church.
I believe every Protestant has chosen to “protest” because he believes that his non-Catholic tradition is true, and that the Catholic tradition isn’t. Out of reverence for the truth (as he believes it to be) he cannot go where he does not believe true religion is being taught. If he does not believe that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, he’s not going to be Catholic; and that’s fair and commonsensical.
But what if we could show our Protestant brothers and sisters that there are good reasons to believe that Catholicism is true? What if we could demonstrate that Catholicism is the truest and most complete form of biblical Christianity? If we could do that, who knows what good would come of it. Then, perhaps, the world would be less scandalized by Christian disunity and bickering; perhaps Christians could be more united on the moral and ethical fronts of society; perhaps more lives and souls would be saved; perhaps God’s will would be done.
I am certain that if Protestants saw the Catholic Church as she really is, most would enter the Catholic Church at any cost; not as a “change of denomination” but as a perfection – a completion – of the faith they’ve held previously as a non-Catholic Christian.
If the Catholic Church really is “the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” and the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” then what Christian would not want to be in it (see Eph 2:20; 1 Tim 3:15). Indeed, if Christ really did establish a Church on earth as the Scriptures clearly reveal – one that “the powers of death shall not prevail against” – then where is it? This is the question that every Christian must ask; and if he seriously desires to be in it, he must not stop asking “where is it?” until he is certain he has found it.
G.K. Chesterton, a convert to Catholicism, remarked that a convert’s first step towards conversion is when he decides to be fair to the Catholic Church. Once the convert-in-the-making (who often doesn’t know he’s going to be a convert) decides to be fair to the Church, he soon becomes fond of her:
“It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment a man ceases to pull against it he feels a tug towards it. The moment he ceases to shout it down he begins to listen to it with pleasure. The moment he tries to be fair to it he begins to be fond of it.” (from Catholic Church and Conversion)
Catholicism makes sense; she is beautiful and wise. And everybody loves beauty and wisdom. Thus everybody loves the Church once she is seen for what she truly is.
How, then, can we draw our dear Protestant friends into relationship with “the whole Christ” (see CCC 795)? How can we show them that Catholicism is true? There are many ways (some of which are not intellectual in nature). But here is a way that I believe has proven itself to have great power and potential for conviction:
What exactly is it that every Protestant can’t not know? That the earliest Christian Church was Catholic, through and through.
The fact of the matter is that most Protestants just don’t know these things. I dare assume most barely think about (if at all) the historical details of the 16th century Reformation, not to mention the historical details of the, say, second century Church. The early Church is off most Protestants’ radar. But it shouldn’t be.
Discovering the writings of the early Church Fathers has been, for many converts from Protestantism, the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”. Adding fuel to the wavering Protestant’s fire – in addition to the discovery of those “elusive” biblical texts that support Catholic doctrine – are often the early Church writings as they emerge from obscurity. And there are a lot of them.
Marcus Grodi is a former Evangelical pastor, and now the founder and president of The Coming Home Network International, an organization that helps new converts make the transition (especially former non-Catholic clergy). He writes:
“Certainly an amazing majority of converts mention how reading the Early Church Fathers, either for the first time or for the first time with awareness, convinced them that the early Church was amazingly Catholic and certainly not Protestant!” (from “The Early Church Fathers I Never Saw”)
Now where’s the evidence? Are there really good sources that show the early Church was Catholic; and Catholic in the sense that we mean today? Let’s take a look.
‘Catholic’ can be said to mean “according to the whole” or “universal”. That’s what it has always meant in a Christian context. There is one Church founded by Christ, and everyone is invited to be part of it. It is the one, universal Church.
The earliest recorded use of this term is found the early second century from St. Ignatius of Antioch:
“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” [Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8]
St. Ignatius does not explain what “Catholic” means here. He just uses it without qualification, suggesting that it was already a familiar term in the wider Church community.
And what about the ranks in the Church conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders: bishop, priest and deacon. It’s clear that these designations existed from St. Paul’s epistles (see especially 1 Tim, 2 Tim, Titus and Acts). But what about the early Church writings?
Consider this passage from St. Ignatius’ Letter to the Magnesians in A.D. 110:
“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters [priests] in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ…” [6.1]
There was a succession of the apostles; and this succession – called apostolic succession – has continued to present day. Every bishop in the Catholic Church today has been ordained in a direct line from the original twelve apostles of Christ (see Acts 1:20) .
St. Clement of Rome, one of the Church’s first popes and a disciple of Peter the apostle, writes around A.D. 80:
“Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry” (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).
An early record of the line of successive popes (and bishops of Rome), beginning with St. Peter, is provided by St. Irenaeus at the tail end of the second century (see Against Heresies 3.3.3). From the beginning, it was understood that the bishop of Rome was the “chief” bishop – the one who held “the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (see Matt 16:18-20).
Here is a later excerpt from the early Church (there are earlier examples that confirm the bishop of Rome’s primacy within the college of bishops). St. Cyprian of Carthage writes in A.D. 251:
“Indeed, the others were also what Peter was [apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair….If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4).
Now when you read the New Testament, here’s what you’ll find regarding St. Peter:
1. Every time the apostles are listed, Peter is the first to be mentioned (Matt 10:2; Luke Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:3).
2. Peter is called the chief apostle (see Matt 10:2)
3. Peter is always listed before James and John, when Jesus’ inner three is listed (Mt 17:1; Mk 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Lk 8:51; 9:28).
4. On several occasions Peter is the only name mentioned when referring to the group of disciples. St. Paul does this (1 Cor 9:5; 1 Cor 15:5). St. Luke does this (Acts 2:37), as does St. Mark (Mk 16:7).
5. Peter’s name (in the forms of Peter, Kepha and Cephas) is mentioned in the New Testament more than all of the other apostles’ names put together.
This is why the Church has remained so rock-solid through the ages. That the people of God would heed His prayer that “they may be one”, Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, built His house upon the rock (see Matt 7:25; 16:18). Peter (from “Petros” meaning rock) was given the strength to uphold the integrity of the Church (see Luke 22:32). The apostles and their successors are established guardians of the deposit of faith – fallible men with a special gift from God to help them do the job (1 Tm 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6) – lead by a chief guardian who represents God as His prime minister until He returns once and for all (see Isaiah 22).
God’s Word, which the bishops protect, has been handed down both in written and oral forms to the Church (see 1 Thess 2:15; 1 Pet 1:25). The Bible was never considered the sole authority in the early Church. The Bible (1 Tim 3:16), along with Tradition (1 Thess 2:13; 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 11:2) and the teaching authority of the Church (Matt 16:18; 18:18) served as a tripod – as they do today – holding the Church steady in faith and morals.
Now what about the Mass, Sacraments, and in particular, the Eucharist? Can these key components of the Catholic faith also be found in the writings of the early Christians?
Catholics believe we are saved by grace (Eph 2:8) through faith (Rom 3:26) working in love (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 13) and believe, along with the unanimous testimony of the early Church Fathers, that the Sacrament of Baptism is the way that initial regeneration by “saving grace” comes to the Christian. This is why babies aren’t excluded. Salvation is free; though bought at a price.
From baptism onwards, “salvation is worked out in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) and “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22).
Our first pope writes in 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism…now saves you.” This was the belief from the beginning: that baptism cleanses the baptized of all sin – a free gift of sanctifying grace by means of water – and as a result the baptized were born again into new life (see John 3:5).
Tertullian writes:
“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. . . .” (Baptism 1 [A.D. 203])
But Christians are likely to commit wrongdoings again due to the wounds of previous sin. Jesus said to the apostles, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (John 20:21-23) so that we might experience forgiveness “in the presence of Christ” through the priests and bishops (2 Cor 2:10). This is why we have confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
St. Basil the Great writes:
“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles” (Rules Briefly Treated 288 [A.D. 374])
The Eucharist – which comes to us in the Holy Mass when bread and wine is mysteriously changes in substance but not in physical appearance to Christ’s body and blood at the blessing of the priest – was at the center of Christian worship even in the earliest stages of Christianity.
Why? Because the Eucharist is Christ (see 1 Cor. 10:16–17, 11:23–29; John 6:32–71 and all the Last Supper accounts).
St Ignatius of Antioch, who was a disciple of John the apostle, writes at the turn of the second century:
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ… They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).
St. Justin Martyr wrote:
“We call this food Eucharist…..For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
Finally, what about Mary and the saints in the early Church?
St. Ambrose, the mentor of St. Augustine, in the 4th century writes this regarding Mary who is “blessed among women”:
“The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose?” (The Virgins 2:2[7] [A.D. 377]).
And Ephraim the Syrian writes in the fourth century:
“You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him” (Commentary on Mark [A.D. 370]).
Final Thoughts
This post doesn’t even begin to touch all of the writings of the early Church available to us today. I’ve only provided a small sample of excerpts; but I recommend that you go and read the writings for yourself. Many of them aren’t long (although another many of them are!). If you and I hope to help our Protestant brothers and sisters see the Catholic Church as she really is, the testimony of the early Church will be indispensable in helping them arrive at that affirmation.
The goal is to lead our separated brethren to “the whole Christ”, which resides ultimately in the Eucharistic Church (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 795).
Indeed one of the greatest affirmations I’ve experienced personally in my decision to be Catholic (in addition to discovering the rich biblical basis for Catholic beliefs) has been my discovery of the writings of the early Church. “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”, wrote the great convert from Anglicanism, Blessed John Henry Newman. Indeed.
I believe what the Catholic Church teaches because I have every reason to believe the Catholic Church of today is the same Church founded by Christ in the first century. Along with St. Augustine and the rest of the early church Fathers:
“We believe also in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church” (Faith and the Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).

***All the early church quotations in this article were obtained from Catholic.com

Check out Matt Nelson’s blog at Reasonable Catholic
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Recommended Reading:
The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin
The Mass Of The Early Christians by Mike Aquilina (anything by Dr. Aquilina, really)
The Apostasy That Wasn’t by Rod Bennett

 

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

The Birth of Mary and the Protoevangelium of James by Deacon Marty McIndoe

If we asked most Catholics who Mary’s parents were they would probably answer Anna and Joachim. But if we look in the Holy Bible there is no mention of Mary’s birth or the name of her parents. So how do we know their names? The simple answer is through tradition. As Catholics, we believe that God reveals His truths to us through the Holy Bible AND through tradition. Tradition was sacred to the Jews (we all know that great song from Fiddler on the Roof) and is also sacred to us. St. Paul tells us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
On September 8th we celebrate the birthday of Mary. This is exactly nine months after we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. This feast was celebrated no later than the 6th century. An eastern Saint, St. Romanos, a deacon who composed numerous liturgical songs, wrote a hymn celebrating the birthday of Mary. The hymn was quite popular and used in liturgies to celebrate the birthday of Mary which helped lead us to the feast day. The Eastern Churches first celebrated it and then within a century the Roman Church celebrated it. St. Romanos relied heavily upon the apocryphal writing, The Protoevangelium of St. James, in composing the lyrics to his hymn on the Nativity of Mary.
As an apocryphal writing, we must realize that the Church decided that this book was not inspired as scripture and it was not placed in the canon of the bible. However, this writing has been seen as a good source of tradition from the earliest times of the Church. Most scholars believe that it was composed around 145 AD. Because of this, and the language structure, we know that St. James did not write it. However it came from an area where St. James had followers and there may be some things passed on from him in the writing. In view of all of this, and with a certain amount of caution, I would like to share some of the points covered in the Protoevangelium concerning Mary and her birth and upbringing.
The Protoevangelium does repeat many items found in the scriptures concerning Mary and the birth of Jesus. But it adds details prior to that not mentioned in the sacred scriptures. It tells us that her parents were named Joachim and Anna and that Joachim and Anna were unable to conceive for many years and that both of them became depressed at not being able to have children. It tells us that Joachim became so depressed that he went out to the desert to live in solitude in a tent where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights pleading with God. At the same time, Anna grieved not having Joachim with her and not being able to become pregnant. She prayed that God would bless her as He had blessed Sarah with Isaac. The Protoevangelium tells us that an angel appeared to Anna and told her that God had heard her prayer and that “you shall conceive and bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world”.
About the same time, an angel appeared to Joachim and told him that God had heard his prayers. He was told to go to Anna and that Anna would conceive a child. Nine months later Anna gave birth to a little girl and they name her Mary. The Protoevangelium tells us that at the birth Anna said, “My soul has been magnified this day.” The writings go on to say that Mary walked at six months old. When she was one year old, Joachim held a great birthday feast for Mary and invited the priests, scribes and elders and all the people of Israel. The priests blessed Mary saying, “O God of our fathers, bless this child and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations”.
The Protoevangelium tells us that at the age of three Joachim and Anna took Mary to the temple to be raised there hoping that her heart would be captivated by the Temple. When they gave her to the priest he kissed her and blessed her saying, “The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel.” The priest put her down on the third step and the grace of God came upon her and Mary danced with joy and the people loved her.
The Protoevangelium goes on to tell us that Mary stayed in the temple until she was 12 years old. At that time the chief priest received a visit from an angel while in the Holy of Holies telling him to assemble the widowers of the people and that God would give a sign as to which widower He chose for Mary. When all of the widowers assembled the High Priest again prayed to God for a sign to show which widower would receive Mary as his wife. When a dove appeared and landed on Joseph’s head, the high priest declared him to be the one who was chosen. At first Joseph declined saying that he had children and was an old man and it wasn’t good for him to take such a young girl. The chief priest reminded Joseph that it was God’s will and Joseph said to Mary, “Behold I have received you from the temple of the Lord; and now I leave you in my house and go away to build my buildings, and I shall come to you. The Lord will protect you”.
As interesting as all this is, we must remember that the Church refused to recognize the Protoevangelium as sacred scripture. We cannot be sure of any truth found here, but as I said earlier, this is a very early writing that passes on at least some of the tradition handed down about our beloved mother, Mary. It might help us imagine a little better the life of the most significant woman who ever walked the earth (and rule in Heaven). Hail Mary full of grace…….
As Saint Augustine said, “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOTHER MARY….WE LOVE YOU

 

Spurned at Church by A. J. Avila

Spurned at Church

When we go to Mass, we don’t necessarily expect the folks there to be warm and welcoming. After all, it’s human nature to occasionally be aloof. We’re weak, sinful people, and we don’t leave our foibles at the church door before coming inside.
But we do expect—have a right to expect—that the people we encounter there will at the very least be polite, especially during that one time in the service when we greet one another: the Sign of Peace.
So imagine my surprise when at one weekday Mass I put out my hand to shake that of the young lady in front of me and got snubbed.
Well, a lot more than snubbed. One look at my hand offered in friendship and she crossed her forearms in front of her head, turned her face aside, and shuddered with what I can only describe as utter disgust.
As though touching me would make her vomit.
Before you even ask, yes, I bathe, and yes, I use deodorant.
Now I realize some people are germaphobes, but a simple “No, thank you” or “I don’t shake hands” would have sufficed.
Needless to say, I was shocked. More than shocked, I was deeply hurt.
Of course I immediately forgave her and offered up the pain to God for her sake.
In case you’re wondering if she ever shakes anybody else’s hand, I wouldn’t know. Since this was a weekday Mass, the church wasn’t very full and we two were the only ones within arm’s reach of each other.
When something like this happens, it bumps up against what I find to be one of the most difficult verses of the Bible: “And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints” (Romans 8:28).
“All things work together unto good.” All things, including this.
So I had to stop and ask myself how this worked unto good.
It reminded me of an incident from the life of St. Teresa of Avila. She’d been poorly treated, and she complained to Jesus about it. He answered her, “But Teresa! That’s how I treat My friends!”
She immediately snapped back “No wonder You have so few!”
Yet . . . how on earth could what happened to me be something positive? How could I see it as God treating me like one of His friends?
Then I remembered another difficult Bible verse: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).
St. Paul is telling us he actually rejoiced in his sufferings.
Okay. I can tolerate what happened. I can even get to the stage where, intellectually, I can thank God for it. But in all honesty, I don’t think I’m far enough along in my spiritual journey to where I can rejoice at being treated like last week’s garbage.
Definitely something I need to work on because, you know, suffering makes us more like Christ, and that is cause for rejoicing.
As for that young lady, I sincerely hope that if both of us make it to heaven, she’ll be glad to shake my hand then.
She might even allow me to give her a hug.

You can visit A. J. Avila’s blog at Reflections On My Catholic Journey

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).

Growing Closer to Jesus through Eucharistic Adoration – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               There is no doubt that the mass is the source and summit of our faith.  I attend daily mass because I need the mass to help me grow spiritually in my life, and I also enjoy the whole experience of mass.  As Scott Hahn tells us, it is like heaven on earth at mass.  I usually get to mass at least 20 minutes early to just sit in front of the tabernacle and have some quiet time with Jesus.  This time is precious to me and enriches my prayer life.  Once a week I preside at a Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction service at a local chapel inside the Saint Joseph Prayer Center.  We expose the Blessed Sacrament from 1pm to 5pm every Tuesday so people can just stop in and spend time with Jesus.  I bring the Blessed Sacrament out at 1pm and stay for about one hour in prayer.  It is very powerful prayer.  I then come back around 4:30 and just before 5pm do Benediction.  When I bless the people with the monstrance, I can feel, and almost see, the power going out to them.  It is a wonderful experience.

               It seems to me that quite a few parishes have let Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction fall in to disuse.  I find that sad because it is such a great way to grow spiritually in our relationship with Jesus.  I have heard stories of parishes that have begun providing Adoration and Benediction and how it has helped their parishes.   I am writing this short post to hopefully encourage you, and your parishes, to take advantage of this great form of prayer.  Since not everyone is familiar with this, I will give a few definitions and some quotes from the Saints about it.  If you haven’t done Adoration in a while, please try it.  I believe that you will be glad that you did.

               ADORATION – time spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.  This could be as simple as going to church early and just sitting in prayer in front of the TABERNACLE (where the consecrated hosts are kept).  It could also be a simple Adoration where a CIBORIUM (container with consecrated hosts are kept) is placed upon the altar for people to adore.  A formal ADORATION is where a MONSTRANCE or OSTENSORIUM (ornate vessel that allows you to see the consecrated host) is put in a prominent place for adoration.  During formal Adoration services there are usually songs and prayers and scripture readings and incense, along with silence.

               BENEDICTION – This is usually done at the end of formal Adoration.  The bishop, priest or deacon picks up the MONSTANCE and blesses the people with it drawing the sign of the cross over them.  It usually ends with songs of praise being said or sung.

               When Jesus gave us the gift of the Eucharist, His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, He told us that It would bring us life.  I can attest that in receiving and adoring the Eucharist, I find the fullness of life.  Many Saint have talked about this.  Here are a few quotes from them (make sure you read the last quote):

“Christ held Himself in His hands when He gave His Body to His disciples saying: ‘This is My Body.’ No one partakes of this Flesh before he has adored it.” – St. Augustine

“If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ’s love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.” – St. Angela of Foligno

“What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation”  and

“…In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood.”  – St. Francis of Assisi

“How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.” – St. John Chrysostom

“I throw myself at the foot of the Tabernacle like a dog at the foot of his Master.” – St. John Vianney

“All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.” – St. John Vianney, Cure d’Ars

“God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar” and

 “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe

“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart…don’t listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love…  and

“Receive Communion often, very often…there you have the sole remedy, if you want to be cured. Jesus has not put this attraction in your heart for nothing” – St. Therese of Lisieux

“How I loved the feasts!…. I especially loved the processions in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. What a joy it was for me to throw flowers beneath the feet of God!… I was never so happy as when I saw my roses touch the sacred Monstrance…” – from St. Therese’s Autobiography: Story of A Soul

The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.” – Pope Saint John Paul II

PALM SUNDAY, HOSANNA – BEING PEOPLE OF PRAISE by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               It is hard to believe but Holy Week is about to begin.  This is my favorite liturgical time of the year.  This week we are able to relive the last few days of Jesus’ life on earth.  Through the liturgy we can join Jesus in living out each of these days.  It is Holy Week that shows us the Salvation given to us by God and all of the gifts that surround that, especially the Eucharist.  It is in this week that we can truly feel the LOVE that God pours out to us in Jesus.  This week begins with Palm Sunday.  On Palm Sunday we celebrate the King of Kings, the beggar King, the King of Peace, who triumphantly rides in to the Holy City of Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey.  The people are elated to see Him.  They had just heard of how He had raised Lazarus from the dead, even though Lazarus had been dead for four days.  This miracle worker was coming in to the City of God and the people were singing His praise.   This was the One who would finally set them free.  They waved palms and proclaimed from Psalm 118, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel.”  They sang songs of praise.

               Praise is a very important part of the Church’s liturgy.  All bishops, priests and deacons and brothers and nuns are required to pray the Liturgy of Hours each day, several times a day.  Many lay people also join in with them in this prayer form.  This prayer consists of a large number of prayers of praise.  If you look at our mass, we are constantly offering prayers of praise.  We even say, “It is right to give you thanks and praise”.  My initial entrance in to the Church life began back in 1972 when I began attending a Catholic Charismatic prayer meeting.  These prayer meetings are filled with praise and I have naturally adapted that in to my every day prayer life.  I begin each morning praising God and do so many times throughout the day.  Praise of God lifts me up and gives me strength and peace.  I love to Praise God.  It seems the natural thing to do.  I think about when Jesus was told by the Pharisees to tell the people to stop singing their praises.  He replied to them, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  All of nature gives praise to God.  Isaiah 55:12 says, “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”  You only have to stop for a few moments and observe nature to see how it praises God.  I remember going on retreat for a week to the city of Assisi, the home of St. Francis, and waking up in the morning to the chirping of a multitude of birds.  What a beautiful song of praise they sing.

               We too, the highpoint of God’s creation, are especially called to give Praise to God.  Psalm 117:1 says, “Praise the LORD, all you nations. Praise him, all you people of the earth.”  When we praise God we are drawn closer to Him.  We are then more open to allowing Him to perform miracles in our lives.  Praising Him helps bring us humility.  It also causes our enemies to flee.  Praise is such an important prayer form, and so easy to do.  It can be used from the very beginning of the day until the very end.  It can be as simple as, “I praise you Lord.”   The people of Jerusalem gave praise to Jesus on His triumphal entry in to the City of God.  Unfortunately this praise was short lived.  It was only a few days later that many of these same people were crying out, “crucify Him, crucify Him”.  Our songs of praise cannot be like that.  Our prayers of praise must also be part of our acceptance of who Jesus was and is today.  We must study Him in the scriptures and hear about Him in homilies and receive Him in the Eucharist.  That way our prayer of praise can be lasting and true.  To encourage praise, I have included the following scriptures.  I also highly recommend listening closely to the words at mass, and the songs at mass, and try praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  God bless you in your songs of praise.  Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory.

SCRIPTURES CALLING US TO PRAISE GOD:

Psalm 150:1-6 Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Exodus 15:2 The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

Judges 5:3 Hear, O you kings; give ear, O you princes; I, even I, will sing to the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.

2 Samuel 22:4 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies …

2 Samuel 22:50 Therefore I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises to your name.

Psalms 35:18 I will give you thanks in the great congregation: I will praise you among much people.

Psalms 35:28 And my tongue shall speak of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long.

Psalms 43:4 Then will I go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy: yes, on the harp will I praise you, O God my God.

Psalms 138:1 I will praise you with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise to you.

Daniel 2:23 I thank you, and praise you, O you God of my fathers, who have given me wisdom and might, and have made known to me now what we desired of you: for you have now made known to us the king’s matter.

Jeremiah 17:14 Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for you are my praise.

Hebrews 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;

 

              

A Healthy Body, Mind and Spirit by Deacon Marty McIndoe

There is so much emphasis today on taking care of the body.  I just read a statistic from STATISTIC BRAIN that says Americans spend about 24 BILLION dollars on annual gym and health club memberships each year.  That is a lot of money!   People go to health food stores and shop for healthy products.  This is quite commendable.  The body is a very special gift that God has given to us and we should take good care of it.  What I find disturbing is that people are often very concerned with the physical body and forget about the true wholeness of who we are.  We, as a person, consist of so much more than just the physical body.  We have a mind that needs to be taken care of, and a spiritual side that needs to also be cared for.  Unless we properly feed and exercise all three parts of our person, we will suffer.  I would like to take a look at the body, mind and the spirit and how we can help them to grow healthy.  I see three main things to consider: Intake, Avoidance and Exercise.  I will look at all of these in relation to the body, the mind and the spirit.

BODY – The body is a wonderful creation.  It gives us mobility, sight, hearing, touch, sex and reproduction and the ability to experience so much in God’s creation.  Anyone who studies the body quickly realizes that it is a complex mechanism.  God knew what He was doing when He created our body.  It is up to us to keep the body what it is meant to be.  In order to do that, we need to consider three main things:

1 – Intake:  The foods and drinks that we take in should be healthy for us.  We really should be eating whole grain foods, and lots of fruits and vegetables and nuts.  There is a lot to be said for true organic foods as well as healthy meats.  Our body also needs a great deal of water.  Water not only replenishes the body but also helps to remove toxins.

2 – Avoidance:  Fast foods, processed foods, “recreational” drugs, soda.  Red meats should be kept at a minimum and only healthy oils such as Olive and Canola oils should be used.  It is also good to keep alcoholic beverage to low or moderate use.

3 – Exercise:  Walking, running, swimming and aerobic exercises are very important.  Weight lifting is also a positive thing to do.

 

MIND – There is a saying that “the mind is a terrible thing to waste”.  This slogan was adopted by the United Negro College Fund in 1972.  It was actually one of the most successful campaigns in television history.  The saying is so true.  Our mind needs to be educated and stimulated.  There is no doubt that the mind/brain is very complex.  It, like the body, needs sustenance, avoidance and exercise.

1 – Intake:  The brain/mind is made to take in as much information as possible.  For me that means reading good books and studying various subjects.  I take many various courses, both online and in person.  I also read many different types of books and I love researching things on the internet.

2 – Avoidance:  Pornography is a very serious assault on what the mind is meant to do.  Spending time mesmerized in front of the television is also counterproductive.

3 – Exercise:  When you are reading you are definitely exercising the brain.  When you study for courses you are exercising the brain.  When you just take time to think, you are exercising the brain.   Things like cross word puzzles are great too.

 

SPIRIT – The “thing” that gives us our personhood is the Spirit or Soul.  This is the most precious gift of all.  With that we are like God in that we will live forever.  The Spirit is ultimately what is in charge of the body and the mind.  It works along with the mind to bring us thoughts and reason.  It lifts us up to far above the ordinary.  This Spirit needs Intake, Avoidance and Exercise too.

1 – Intake:  There is no doubt that graces are given to our Spirit by the sacraments of the Church.   Baptism starts the journey and the Holy Eucharist is food for the Spirit.  Confirmation strengthens the work of the Spirit within us and gives us many gifts.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation can lift the Spirit out of the difficulties that sin causes us.  Holy Orders and Matrimony empower our Spirit to work in the vocation that God calls us to.  Even the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick heals the Spirit as it heals the body.  For me, the reception of the Eucharist each day is my daily bread that enlivens my Spirit.  The sacrifice of the mass, and participating in it, again lifts our Spirit.  The pondering of God’s Word in the Bible feeds the Spirit.

2 – Avoidance:  We must stay away from the occult, even things such as Ouija boards.  We must stay away from all the temptations of the Devil.

3 – Exercise:  We should make ourselves available to all of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We should read and pray the bible.  We should spend a considerable amount of time each day in prayer.  Specialized prayers such as the rosary and divine mercy chaplet are great forms of spiritual exercise.  The Church’s Liturgy of the Hours is a fantastic way to pray.  I always recommend that people find a Spiritual Director.

 

In conclusion, we must remember that the Body, Mind and Spirit are all so interconnected that failure to take care of any one of them may harm the whole person that we are.  Because of this interconnection, some things that I mentioned in one subject will actually help not only in that subject but in others as well.  We are one unbelievable miracle and creation of God.  We must take care of who we are.

Romans 12: 1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC – How the Mass Could Save Your Life by Timothy P. O’Malley – reflections by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               You probably noticed that in the topic I called this a reflection, not a book review.  My purpose is to share with you how this book touched me.  I will leave a real book review to those more skilled in the process, like Pete Socks from Catholic Stand.  To begin with, you must know that I absolutely love the mass.  I am a daily communicant and I believe that the mass is the “source and summit” of my faith.  When I saw this book I immediately pre-ordered it.  I highly respect Timothy P. O’Malley as an author and he was writing about a topic that was dear to my heart.  I did worry about the first part of the title, BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC.   I saw it as a cute spin on “born again” but I never considered the mass boring.  The second part of the title was more to my liking, HOW THE MASS COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.  I know this statement to be true.

               From the very beginning I saw what Timothy P. O’Malley was getting at in looking at the “boredom” of the mass.  He shows how there is good boredom and bad boredom.  The good boredom is the space where you can allow God to work.  In it we can ponder on the wonders of God at work in the mass.  The bad boredom is really a time where we allow ourselves unhealthy distractions from what God is doing.  The author gives great examples of good boredom and bad boredom.  He really makes you think about how the mind and its thought processes can lift you up spiritually.  There is no doubt that the author has a great love for the mass and for liturgy in general.  I see a lot of myself in him.

               The book takes just about every part of the mass and applies personal stories, as well as scripture and quotes from theologians, Saints, Popes etc. and creates a space for your own personal reflections.  It even includes questions at the end of each chapter to help you reflect on what was just given to you.  Some of the questions even challenge you to actions that will help you in better understanding the gift of the mass and liturgy.  I cannot think of any adult or teen that wouldn’t learn and grow by reading this book.  Whether you are a seasoned Catholic, or a new Catholic, this book is for you.  I can also see that it could be used to help non-Catholics better understand the mass (and hopefully decide that they too need the mass).

               As I said earlier, I am a daily communicant who really loves the mass.  This book gave me some new insights in to the mass and liturgy, even though I have been doing this since I became Catholic in 1973.  It gave me a better appreciation for the signs used in the mass.  His discussion of how when his mind might wander and then get caught up in the smoke rising from the incense in to the light of the sun made me better appreciate the use of incense (which we really do not use enough).  I loved the author’s suggestion of how we really should enshrine THE BOOK in our homes.  For many years we always kept a large bible open in a prominent area of our living room.  Somehow we got away from this.  I now plan on starting doing this again.

               I really loved the chapter dealing with the homily.  As a person who often does both weekday and Sunday homilies, I was moved by what Dr. O’Malley said.  He recalled how one day he took his toddler to the back of the Church because the toddler was fussy.  He admitted that he himself was fussy because the homily was not on target and was too long.  He recalled that the homily was not on target because it did not connect to the Gospel.  It was filled with too many personal stories.  Now, I have no problem with some personal stories, but I realize that everything that I say during a homily must connect to God’s word.  I recalled what was said to me by the Bishop who was ordaining me.   He handed me a book of the Gospels and said, “Believe what you read, Teach what you believe, and Practice what you teach”.  I actually keep a small plaque on my desk saying this so that I always remember what being a deacon is all about.  We too often hear that the Catholic Church suffers from poor homilies.  Actually, I have been lucky that the bishops and priests and deacons that I have been exposed to usually give great homilies.  This book inspired me to be better in my preaching.  It also reinforced my love of liturgy and the mass.  I know that I could tell you more, but I really believe that the best thing that I can tell you is to go out and get the book and read it.  Actually, don’t just read it, ponder it.  God is so good.  Thank you Dr. Timothy P. O’Malley for this gem.

It is “O ANTIPHONS” time by Deacon Marty McIndoe

THE “O” ANTIPHONS – Deacon Marty McIndoe

The Roman Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

Here are the traditional “O” antiphons for each day.  Please note – I wrote this originally for Epic Pew last December.  If you go to their site and search for O Antiphons you will see the original WITH pictures and drawings.  Check them out at http://epicpew.com/

 

December 17

O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!

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December 18

O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!

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December 19

O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!

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December 20

O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!

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December 21

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

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December 22

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

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December 23

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!

 

COME LORD JESUS

The Church, from the very Beginning…was Catholic! By Kenneth Henderson – Part 2 of 3

israel-286

The Synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus and His disciples visited many times.

We can see by the year A.D. 110, in the writings of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Saint John, yes “that” John, that the Church had bishops that had authority. That they were to obey the clergy and deacons, just as they would the apostles. They were also supposed to regard the bishop as a “type” of the Father. (…hmmm, sound familiar?) Also note that the Eucharist was only valid if the bishop or by a person authorized by the bishop were to celebrate it. They had a council and a college of apostles and without these it could not be called a church. Why? Because Jesus provided an authoritative teaching body in the Church to maintain the Truth, guided by the Holy Spirit. Ignatius even calls the Church, the Catholic Church! Sounds like what we refer to today as the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Read for yourself.

Ignatius of Antioch

Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery 1, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries 2 of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.

Be you subject to the bishop as to the Lord, for “he watches for your souls, as one that shall give account to God.” (Heb 13:17) Wherefore also, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order that, by believing in His death, you may by baptism be made partakers of His resurrection. It is therefore necessary, whatsoever things you do, to do nothing without the bishop. And be you subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall be found in Him. It behooves you also, in every way, to please the deacons, who are [ministers] of the mysteries of Christ Jesus; for they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would a burning fire. Let them, then, prove themselves to be such. (Letter to the Trallians 2:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

1- presbytery translates in English as priest, ministers.
2- Mysteries of Christ, also translated as Sacraments 

In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him (Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

The early church was NOT an unorganized band of Christian followers, but a very organized group, even though they were most of the time practicing their faith “underground” due to persecution. There were no factions or splinter groups that were allowed to stay in operation, but as Ignatius points out, if you were not in union with and under the authority of the bishops, then you were not following the Church that Jesus Christ established.

In the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, also a disciple of John the Apostle, written around A.D. 160 we can see that the Church at the time was Catholic and shows that the church was seen as a unified Church.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ass, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 [A.D. 160]). –> Read online in its entirety here

We also see in the writings of Saint Irenaeus in A.D. 189 that he refers to a unified Church. Of important note, this writing comes from his Letter Against Heresies. He is pointing out in the letter that any who teach a gospel outside of the unity of the Catholic Church are teaching heresy.

Irenaeus

The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189]). –> Read online in its entirety here

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there should arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the church? (ibid. 3:4). –> Read online in its entirety here

Did he say that we are to lay hold of the tradition of the truth? Yes, he did. And how did he say we should solve disputes and questions about what we should believe? We should have recourse to the ancient churches, which at this point in history were only around 200 years old. Still, that is a long time. Yet, here we are 2000 years later, and yet those outside of the Catholic Church, do not follow his advice.

 

LOOK FOR PART 3 ON WEDNESDAY

What God Has Joined Together – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

KTWeddingEarlier this year I presided at the wedding of my Godson (through RCIA) and his lovely wife.

My wife and I just celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary.  So far, for June, I have presided at three different weddings.  I really enjoy presiding at weddings because I love to see the joy of the couple and I know how important weddings are to the Church.  I thought it would be a great time to look at this gift that God has given us in Marriage.  For us as Catholics, the Church tells us that The Sacrament of Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Church.  We then immediately know that, as a Sacrament, it is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace.   This Sacrament of Marriage is one part of the two “Mission” sacraments, along with the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  We speak of having a vocation to Holy Orders (Bishop, Priest or Deacon) and/or a vocation to Matrimony.  In actuality, deacons can have both.   They both are so important in the mission of the Church.  Remember that Vocation literally means a calling from God.   Let us look at this special calling from God when we discern that we are called to be married.

Unfortunately today the Church has seen a drop in the number of people who want to get married in the Church.  So many young people have pushed God to the side in their lives and a Church wedding isn’t that important to them.  I find this to be sad, as I believe very strongly that when a couple enters in to the Sacrament of Marriage, it is a forever gift of Divine Grace to them.  I certainly would not want to say that people who marry outside of the Sacrament are not helped out by God in their marriage.  God works through all things.  However, those people who know what Sacramental Grace is all about, would definitely want to have the Sacrament of Marriage.  I also know that the Church, because it holds this Sacrament up so high, makes it somewhat hard to receive it, if the right conditions are not met.  Those who have had a previous marriage know that they must first deal with that previous marriage by either annulment or “defect of form”.  Each case varies so much that it is impossible to cover it all in this article, but your local priest or deacon will help you.

In the book of Genesis we hear how God first creates man and the animals but then sees that man needs something more than animals to fulfill his life.  It is then that He creates woman from the very side of man (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh).  Genesis also clearly states that God is VERY pleased with what He has created.  Genesis also tells us that when God created man and woman He created THEM in His very image.  For me, that means that if I really want to see the image of God, I cannot look at just a man or just a woman.  I need to look at both of them to see His image.  A man and woman joined together in marriage reflect who God is.  The love and care and concern and nurturing and fruitfulness of their relationship reveal God himself.  God created us as equals, but also quite different.  As the French say, Vive la difference (literally, long live the difference).  We cannot help but to see that the idea for marriage between a man and a woman comes to us directly from God at the very beginning of creation.

Our God is a God of LIFE!  He decided that we would join in with Him in co-creating Life.  He made the difference between man and woman a means of bringing forth new life.  Anyone who has been pregnant or been around someone who is pregnant cannot help but to be in awe at this gift of life.  When a man and woman come together to bring forth life, they are living their own source and summit of their marriage (yes, I know these words are often used concerning the Eucharist which is the high point of our Christian life and worship).  It is definitely the high point of their call.  However, just like God, married life should be totally surrounded by LOVE.  A man and woman who are called by God to come to the Sacrament of Matrimony are called by the great LOVE that they have for each other.  It is this LOVE, which is the very essence of God that brings LIFE in to a marriage.

Life in a marriage is much more than just having children, although that is certainly important.  Life in a marriage means that the man and wife help to bring LIFE to each other, every day.  They are there to help each grow in relationship to each other and in relationship to God.  They are there to support and encourage each other and to assist each other in the ministries that God calls them to.  In my marriage, each of us has different ministries.  Some we do separate from each other, and some we do together.  No matter what, we support each other in our ministries.  Certainly one important ministry is raising our children.  This is a joy filled, but difficult, endeavor.  We need each other to assist one another and support one another.  But, we also need to have time alone for each other.  When I do marriage preparation (Pre-Cana), I always tell the couples that they need to have time alone with each other.  There should always be some kind of “date night”.  I know that this is sometimes difficult to do, but we really need to do it.  Let grandparents or aunts and uncles or friends come in to watch your children while you go out.  If money is tight, you don’t need to spend a lot.  Sometimes a walk on a beach or in the woods, or downtown, is all you need.  The Church realizes that the family is the basic building block of the Church and the bond between the man and woman is the basic building block of the family.  We also know that marriage is a rich symbol of the relationship that Jesus, the groom, has with his Church, the bride.  When we see man and wife loving each other and caring for each other and supporting each other, we can see what Jesus does for the Church.

I don’t think that it is an accident that the first miracle recorded in the Gospels that Jesus performs is the turning water in to wine at the Wedding Feast of Cana.  Jesus, in doing this, shows us that with him we can have the very best wine, not just some lower grade.  With Jesus in our marriage, we can have the very best marriage.  One that people will recognize as a gift from God.  Jesus talks about marriage in his Gospels.  He recalls the Genesis account on the creation of woman and said that “therefore a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH”.    He then tells them that “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.”  This is why the Church takes such a tough stand on divorce.

Marriage, as good as it is, is still difficult at times.  Having two different people living together in the same space and having to make important decisions is not easy.   That is where God’s grace comes in.  I have no doubt in my mind that if my wife and I hadn’t invited Jesus in to our marriage, we would not be together today.  Now, after 47 years of marriage, I can tell you that even counting the difficult times, it is the best thing that I have done.  I give thanks to God for the way He works through both of us and I pray that you, in your marriage, will open yourselves up to inviting Jesus in more and more each day.  With Jesus, marriage can be full and sparkling and enjoyable, like the very best wine.

 

Holy Orders in the Church – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

OrdinationZoomHR098My ordination by Bishop John R. McGann on October 4, 1980 in Sacred Heart Chapel in Brentwood, NY.  I am kneeling and my wife is standing behind me.

Most Dioceses have their ordinations in the month of June, so I thought this would be a good time to look at Holy Orders in the Church.  The word ORDER comes from the ancient Roman language and means an established civil body, or governing body.  All organizations need some form of hierarchy, and the Church is no exception.  However, the Church is not like any other organization, it is supernatural in nature, established by Jesus himself.  When the Spirit came upon the apostles at Pentecost it made a significant change in them.  It empowered them to spread the good news and to develop the church.  Our modern design of Holy Orders (Bishop, Priest and Deacon) dates back to the very beginnings of the Church.  Since the Apostles were all good Jews, as Jesus himself was, and since God was at work from the very beginnings with the Jewish nation, it is not surprising that our Holy Orders closely resemble the Jewish priesthood.

In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the chosen people were constituted by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  He even chose one of the twelve tribes, Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service.  The priests were “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”  Our present day liturgy reflects that close relationship to the Jewish priesthood of Aaron and the Levites.  Here is a sample from the Church’s liturgy:

The Church prays in the consecratory preface of the ordination of bishops:

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . .
by your gracious word
you have established the plan of your Church.

From the beginning,
you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation.
You established rulers and priests
and did not leave your sanctuary without ministers to serve you. . . .

At the ordination of priests, the Church prays:

Lord, holy Father, . . .
when you had appointed high priests to rule your people,
you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity
to be with them and to help them in their task. . . .

you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men. . . .
You shared among the sons of Aaron
the fullness of their father’s power.

In the consecratory prayer for ordination of deacons, the Church confesses:

Almighty God . . .,
You make the Church, Christ’s body,
grow to its full stature as a new and greater temple.
You enrich it with every kind of grace
and perfect it with a diversity of members
to serve the whole body in a wonderful pattern of unity.

You established a threefold ministry of worship and service,
for the glory of your name.
As ministers of your tabernacle you chose the sons of Levi
and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance.

 

The Church today has, just as the early Church had, three main offices of ordination.  The first, and highest, is the Bishop.  The second, and closely related, is the Priest.  The third is the Deacon.  The Bishop and Priest are together seen as Sacerdotal (priestly) while the deacon is seen as helpers to the Bishops first, and Priests second.  Usually the Bishop is seen as a Pastor of a diocese and is often needed as a teacher.  The Priest offers the mass in local churches and the Deacon is called to serve where He is directed to by the Bishop.  All three are ordained.  You can see how early this structure was by looking at a quote by St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was born only 17 years after Jesus died.  He said, “Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters (priests) as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church.”

The Ordination of Bishops, Priests and Deacons are done only by Bishops who are in the line of apostolic succession.  That means that when Bishop John R. McGann ordained me, back in 1980, I know that he was ordained by a Bishop who was ordained by a Bishop who was ordained by a Bishop…..going back all the way to the Apostles.  This is called Apostolic Succession.  The Church keeps records to ascertain that this occurs.  The power of ordination has thus been passed down by the Apostles to all of us who are validly ordained.  So what is this power?  Quite simply, it is the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is a permanent grace given to allow the ordained minister to carry out his mission within the Church that Jesus himself formed.

We know that no Bishop or Priest or Deacon is perfect, indeed they are human, but the grace of the Holy Spirit still works through them for the building up of the Church.   It is Jesus, and His Spirit that ultimately works through the ordained minister.  The unworthiness of the minister does not keep Jesus from working through him.  St. Augustine states this quite strongly when he says, “As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ’s gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. . . . The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.”

The man who is ordained must go through a substantial training and preparation program.  At the heart of it has to be his own conversion to Jesus and His Church.  St. Gregory of Nazianzus says it so beautifully, “We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God’s greatness and man’s weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ’s priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized (make divine) and divinizes.”  And the Cure of Ars says, “The priest continues the work of redemption on earth. . . . If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love. . . . The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”

Being a Bishop or a Priest or a Deacon is not an easy thing.  However, it is a great thing.  I thank God for calling me and giving me the strength and power to minister as a Deacon.  God knew what he was doing when he set up the Church.  The call to ordained ministry is an important call.  We should all do what we can to encourage men to look in to the ordained ministry.  We should also say a “thank you” to those who serve us now.  God is good.

 

The Mass Is Profoundly Biblical by Karlo Broussard

Israel 481A photo I took inside the cave of St. Jerome.  This is located beneath the Church of the Nativity.  Beginning in 386, St. Jerome spent 30 years putting together the first full Bible, the Vulgate.  He lived in this cave to be as close to where Jesus was born as possible while working on the Sacred Scriptures.  His version was used up until the 20th Century.

 

Are Catholics Bible Christians? A Catholic who ponders this question may think, “Well, I know that Protestants call themselves Bible Christians, and Catholics don’t really use that terminology; so I guess I would have to answer ‘No.’” However, Catholics should respond to such a question with an immediate “Yes.”

As Catholics, we are 100 percent Bible Christians—that is to say, the Catholic Church believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God and, as such, according to the Second Vatican Council, the Bible “stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life” (Dei Verbum 21). Therefore, Catholics are indeed Bible Christians—and there is perhaps no other aspect of the Catholic faith that exemplifies this more than the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Familiarity with God’s word leads one to conclude that the Catholic Mass is not a foreign experience from the Bible. In fact, its structure, its words and gestures, and even its built-in theology are embedded in the pages of sacred Scripture. An examination of this “Bible blueprint” leads to the discovery that Catholic worship is truly a biblical style of worship.

The introductory rite

The Christian can recognize the biblical nature of Catholic worship in the first prayer of the Mass, the sign of the cross. The language of the prayer comes directly from Matthew 28:19, where Jesus commands his apostles to go out into all nations and baptize them “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The gesture, a cross over the body, is implicitly found in the book of Ezekiel when the prophet receives the following instruction: “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it” (Ezek. 9:4). The mark given was meant to label those among the faithful remnant of God’s people who abhorred the abominations to the Lord and spare them from God’s wrath and judgment.

The significance for the gesture of the cross is that the word for mark in Hebrew is simply the Hebrew letter, taw, which is shaped like an X or plus sign. The Greek version is the letter tau, which is T-shaped, like the Franciscan cross. So the Catholic practice of making the sign of the cross not only reminds the Christian of the cross of Christ, which won the gift of salvation, but in light of the biblical tradition it also serves to be a visible expression of fidelity to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ and separation from the evil ways of the world.

Another part of the introductory rite that parallels the biblical blueprint is the greeting. The priest says, “The Lord be with you,” and the congregation responds, “And with your spirit.” The first thing to note is the biblical origin of the language. It comes from 2 Timothy 4:22: “The Lord be with your spirit.” Like the sign of the cross, the theological significance of the phrase “the Lord be with you” lies in the Old Testament. Throughout salvation history such language is never used for ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. It always signifies a unique vocation and mission that will impact the whole history of Israel and ensure God’s protection and help in carrying out that mission.

For example, when an angel calls Gideon to defend God’s people from a foreign invasion, the angel says, “The Lord is with you” (Judg. 6:12). The angel Gabriel greets Mary with the same phrase (Luke 1:28). When applied to our liturgical experience, this greeting signifies that the laity has access to the power of God to carry out its unique vocation in the Father’s plan of salvation: to be “witnesses to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Similarly, when the congregation responds, “And with your spirit,” it acknowledges that the priest too has a unique vocation within the Father’s plan of salvation: to make the cross of Christ present on the altar.

The Confiteor, which is the prayer that begins “I confess to almighty God,” is also rooted in biblical tradition. An examination of the biblical texts in the Old Testament reveals that the act of verbal confession was an essential part of public worship for ancient Israel. When the Israelites renewed their covenant with Yahweh through the priest Ezra after returning to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile, they “stood and confessed their sins” (Neh. 9:2). Leviticus 5:5 states that the penitent must verbally confess his sins as a part of the ritual for the guilt offering.

A final prayer of the introductory rite that can be seen as constructed from the biblical blueprint is the Gloria. The very first line is a direct quote from the Bible: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” These are the same words the angel addresses the shepherds with to announce the birth of the Messiah (see Luke 2:14, Douay Rheims Version). The titles that the prayer ascribes to God are also found in the Sacred Page, such as “almighty” (cf. Ps. 68:14, 91:1) and “heavenly king” (cf. Ps. 98:6, 99:4; Is. 43:15). In reference to Jesus, the language of “only begotten Son” comes from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten [Greek, monogene] Son” (NAB). The title “Lamb of God” comes from John 1:29; “Holy One” is found in Revelation 3:7 and 16:5; and “the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 8:5 and Philippians 2:11.

The Liturgy of the Word

The next part of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Word, many of whose parts are embedded in Scripture. First of all, the very act of proclaiming the Word of God within the context of liturgy goes back to the book of Exodus. In the liturgical ceremony for the ratification of the Sinaitic covenant Moses “took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people…” (Ex. 24:7). The Israelites then responded in faith by saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (Ex. 24:7).

This corresponds to the liturgical practice of responding to the biblical readings with the words, “Thanks be to God.” It is a form of the New Israel’s response of faith to the New Covenant. Therefore, the liturgy, as the natural habitat for the proclamation of the God’s word, is an essential element of the blueprint for the worship that Israel, both old and new, must offer to God.

A few of the prayers and gestures surrounding the gospel reading also have biblical precedence. One such prayer is the alleluia (Hebrew, “God be praised”) and finds its roots in the Jewish Hallel Psalms (Ps. 113-118), which are prayed in the Jewish Passover liturgy to give praise to Yahweh for deliverance from Egypt in the Exodus.

The alleluia is also found in John’s heavenly vision of the wedding supper of the Lamb at which the angels praise God for his work of salvation through Jesus and announce the coming of the Lamb for his wedding feast (cf. Rev. 19:1-9). Therefore, the Catholic prayer of alleluia prior to the Gospel reading signals the celebration of a new Passover and a participation in the heavenly marriage feast of the Lamb.

While praying the alleluia, one will notice that the congregation stands for the reading of the Gospel. This calls to mind Nehemiah 8:5, where the whole assembly stands when Ezra, the priest, begins to read from the book of the covenant as they renew the covenant with Yahweh after returning to Jerusalem from exile. Just as the assembly of Israel stood for the reading of the old Law of Moses, Christians stand for the reading of the new Law of Jesus as found in the Gospels.

Another detail worthy of mention is the priest’s private prayer before the altar as he approaches the ambo: “Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your Gospel.” This request calls to mind the cleansing of Isaiah’s lips in Isaiah 6:6-7, which takes place prior to his prophetical proclamation of the word of the Lord to Israel. The priest, like Isaiah, requests the cleansing of his lips before proclaiming the word of the Lord to the New Israel, the Church.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist

As the Mass moves into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, one continues to recognize a construct of prayers, gestures, and practices that allude to the Bible. For example, the bread and wine calls to mind the sacrifice of thanksgiving offered by the priest-king Melchizedek in Genesis 14:14-16. It is against this Old Testament backdrop that Jesus, whom the author of Hebrews identifies as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:10), offers bread and wine at the Last Supper.

Therefore, the offering of bread and wine in the Catholic Mass signifies that the sacrifice soon to take place is one like Melchizedek, namely a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Greek, eucharistia), and is offered by a priest of the order of Melchizedek, i.e., the priest who acts in persona Christi.

Another Bible passage that may come to mind during the offertory prayers is Daniel 3:39-40 (NAB), where Azariah prays while standing in the midst of the fiery furnace, “But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly.”

This passage serves as a possible background for the prayer for acceptance of sacrifice, which reads, “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you.”

Along with the prayers of offertory, the priestly act of washing hands models the biblical tradition. According to Leviticus 30:18-21, Moses instructs the Levitical priests to wash their hands in the bronze basin located next to the altar of sacrifice outside the tabernacle before entering to perform their priestly duties. The Catholic priest washes his hands because he is about to enter the heavenly tabernacle that is made present in time and space when he confects the Eucharist.

An additional ritual worthy of highlight is the priestly offering of incense. For any Jew, this calls to mind the altar of incense located in the Holy Place of the wilderness tabernacle and in Solomon’s Temple at which the Levitical priest would minister. Furthermore, St. John describes in the Book of Revelation presbyters, i.e., priests, offering golden bowls of incense in the heavenly sanctuary (cf. Rev. 5:8). Therefore, the offering of incense in the Catholic Mass is one of common practice among the people of God throughout salvation history and signifies that the Catholic faithful mystically participate in the worship of the heavenly Temple.

The next major prayer that contains elements directly derived from the Bible is the Sanctus. The threefold acclamation of God’s holiness—holy, holy, holy—is found in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah describes his vision of the heavenly throne room and how within it he sees and hears the angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Is. 6:3). Similarly, St. John sees the same thing when he is given access to the heavenly throne room of the Lamb. He writes in Revelation 4:8, “And the four living creatures . . . day and night . . . never cease to sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” Perhaps this makes sense out of the preface before the prayer of the Sanctus:

“And so, with angels and archangels, with thrones and dominions, and with all the hosts and powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim.”

The Sanctus is thus a sign to the Catholic faithful that they are sacramentally entering into the heavenly sanctuary to join their voices with the heavenly beings.

The words of institution

Next in the lineup are the words of institution, which unfortunately cannot be given a full exegesis due to the limited scope of this article. However, a few points cannot go without mentioning.

First, the words “This is my body . . . this is my blood” find their origin in the Last Supper narratives of the Synoptic Gospels and St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (see Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Cor. 11:24-25).

Secondly, the phrase “the blood of the new and eternal covenant” is a combination of Luke’s account, in which he records Jesus to say “the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20) and Matthew’s version, in which Jesus is recorded saying, “For this is my blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:28).

It is Matthew’s Gospel that most explicitly makes the connection to the Old Testament tradition. If a Jew heard the words “the blood of the covenant,” he would immediately call to mind the ratification ceremony of the Sinaitic covenant in Exodus 24, where Moses says, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Ex. 24:8). Therefore, Jesus’ words at the Last Supper signify that it is the ratification ceremony for the New Covenant. It is this New Covenant ceremony that Catholics mystically share in and are present at in the celebration of the Eucharist.

A final prayer that is necessary to establish as part of the Bible blueprint is the anamnesis of Eucharistic Prayer IV, which reads, in part, “we offer you his body and blood, the sacrifice acceptable to you which brings salvation to the whole world.” This offering of Jesus in sacrifice rings a sound of horror to the Protestant ear, considering that Hebrews 7:27 states, “He [Jesus] has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily; . . . he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”

Is the Catholic Church re-crucifying Jesus and consequently among those that the letter of Hebrews speaks of in 6:6: “they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.” The key to answering this question lies in the Catholic doctrine that the Eucharist makes present the one and same sacrifice of Christ in the here and now behind the signs of bread and wine (cf. CCC 1366-1367). Therefore, the sacrifice of the Mass is not a re-crucifixion of Jesus.

But the question remains: Is this theological construct biblical? The answer is yes! The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as “a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord” (Heb. 8:2). In other words, Jesus’ priestly ministry continues forever in the heavenly realm (cf. Heb. 7:25). Now, because “every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices” (Heb. 8:3a) “it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer” (Heb. 8:3b).

What does Christ offer to the Father in the heavenly sanctuary as high priest? The offering cannot be anything less than his sacrifice on the cross, since that was his definitive priestly act. Therefore, the Bible blueprint reveals the one and same sacrifice of Christ on the cross being made present in the heavenly sanctuary in an unbloody manner. Such a conclusion is also supported by the fact that St. John describes Jesus appearing in the heavenly sanctuary as a slain lamb (cf. Rev. 5:6).

Thus the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is forever made present before the Father and is not restricted to time and space. Consequently, that same sacrifice can be made substantially present in the here and now in an unbloody manner every time the faithful liturgically remember the sacrifice of Christ in the anamnesis.

So, in conclusion, embedded in the sacred pages of God’s divine word is a blueprint with which God’s holy people, the Church, can construct a form of worship that is truly pleasing to the Lord. The Mass and the Bible are inseparable, and together they orient the Catholic faithful toward the destiny to which all humans are called: heaven.

Karlo Broussard

Apologetics Speaker

Karlo Broussard, a native of Crowley, Louisiana, left a promising musical career to devote himself full-time to the work of Catholic apologetics. For more than a decade he has traveled the country teaching apologetics, biblical studies, theology, and philosophy. Karlo has published articles on a variety of subjects in Catholic Answers Magazine, is a regular guest on Catholic Answers Live, and is an active blogger at \http://www.catholic.com

Karlo holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology from Catholic Distance University and the Augustine Institute, and is currently working on his masters in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He also worked for several years in an apprenticeship with nationally known author and theologian Fr. Robert J. Spitzer at the Magis Center of Reason and Faith.

Karlo is one of the most dynamic and gifted Catholic speakers on the circuit today, communicating with precision of thought, a genuine love for God, and an enthusiasm that inspires.

Karlo resides in Murrieta, CA with his wife and four children. You can view Karlo’s online videos at KarloBroussard.com. You can also book Karlo for a speaking event by contacting Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200.

 

St. Ephrem of Syria, Deacon, Doctor of the Church, HARP OF THE SPIRIT – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Ephrem_icon

June 9th we celebrate the feast of St. Ephrem.  He was born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia (now Turkey/Syrian border) in the year 306.  He was a prolific writer and helped fight the Arianism heresy that was so prevalent at his time.  He wrote over 400 hymns (we still have the lyrics) and is credited with making music a very large part of the liturgy.   Many of his songs were instructional as well as inspirational.   He was a great teacher and after moving to Edessa, helped to make the School of Edessa the heart of the Syrian speaking world.  He was a biblical scholar who wrote many commentaries on the scriptures.   He fought hard to make the teachings of the Bible and the Council of Nicea stand within the Church.

St. Ephrem was a very simple and humble man.  He spent a good deal of time living in a cave.  He accepted ordination as a deacon but refused to be ordained a priest.  When pressure was put on him to be named Bishop, he feigned mental illness.  His writings really show his holiness.  At the bottom of this post, I have included several quotes of his.  Besides writing scripture commentaries and hymns, he wrote poems.  It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.  St. Ephrem died of the plague on June 9, 373.  He had been caring for plague victims.  In 1920, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed Ephrem to be a Doctor of the Church.  He is the only Syrian to hold that distinction.

I really believe that we can learn about Ephrem from his writings.  His quotes are quite inspirational and can help us today.  The first quotes are on various topics.  I ended with a quote that he wrote for his own funeral.  God bless.

QUOTES:

The boldness of our love is pleasing to you, O Lord, just as it pleased you that we should steal from your bounty.

Remember me, ye heirs of God, ye brethren of Christ; supplicate the Savior earnestly for me, that I may be freed through Christ from him that fights against me day by day.

You (Jesus) alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?

Let books be your dining table, And you shall be full of delights.  Let them be your mattress, And you shall sleep restful nights.

Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.

The word of God is a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches. It is like that rock which was struck open in the wilderness, from which all were offered spiritual drink. Be glad then that you are overwhelmed, and do not be saddened because he has overcome you. A thirsty person is happy when drinking, and not depressed, because the spring is inexhaustible. You can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring; then when you thirst again, you can drink from it once more.

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother; for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Scripture brought me to the Gate of Paradise, and the mind stood in wonder as it entered.

When you begin to read or listen to the Holy Scriptures, pray to God thus: “Lord Jesus Christ, open the ears and eyes of my heart so that I may hear Thy words and understand them, and may fulfill Thy will.” Always pray to God like this, that He might illumine your mind and open to you the power of His words. Many, having trusted in their own reason, have turned away into deception.

You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord Himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love Him.

Who is far from love is a bad state, and to be pitied. He passes his days in a delirious dream, far from God, deprived of light, and he lives in darkness … Whoever does not have the love of Christ is an enemy of Christ. He walks in darkness and is easily led into any sin.

It is blasphemy if you pray before God while you are full of anger.

Blessed the one who has become a good spiritual net and caught many for the good Lord, such a one will greatly praised by the Lord.

Blessed the one who, exalted by love, has become a city founded upon a mountain, from which the enemy, when he saw it, withdrew in fear, trembling at its security in the Lord.
 

Funeral Quote:
Lay me not with sweet spices,
For this honor avails me not,
Nor yet use incense and perfumes,
For the honor befits me not.
Burn yet the incense in the holy place;
As for me, escort me only with your prayers,
Give ye your incense to God,
And over me send up hymns.
Instead of perfumes and spices,
Be mindful of me in your intercessions.
(From The Testament of St. Ephrem)

 

 

The Lazy Priest by Dan Gonzalez

deaconGospel

Throughout my childhood, I never attended a Mass that was assisted by a deacon. I grew up assuming that it was the role of the priest to read the Gospel.

A closer parish eventually opened which was blessed to have a deacon. I noticed that it was he who read the Gospel week after week. My thought was “Man, that priest is LAZY! He has his helper doing all the work!” Little did I know that it is the deacon who is supposed to read the Gospel—this is what the Church envisions.

The Deacon and the Gospel

In the proclamation of the Gospel, Jesus is speaking to us—Christ himself is addressing his bride, the Church. For that reason, only a deacon, priest or bishop may read the Gospel at Mass—but the Church is quite clear that the preference is for the Gospel to be proclaimed by the deacon:

“The function of proclaiming the readings is by tradition not presidential but ministerial. Therefore the readings are to be read by a reader, but the Gospel by the Deacon or, in his absence, by another Priest. If, however, a Deacon or another Priest is not present, the Priest Celebrant himself should read the Gospel, and moreover, if no other suitable reader is present, the Priest Celebrant should also proclaim the other readings as well.” —The General Instruction of the Roman Missal #59

At least by the 600s, it was the function of the deacon to read the Gospel in the liturgy:

“To the deacons it belongs to assist the priests and to serve in all that is done in the Sacraments of Christ, in baptism, to wit, in the holy chrism, in the paten and chalice, to bring the oblation to the altar and to arrange them…to carry the cross, to declaim the Gospel and Epistle, for as the charge is given to lectors to declaim the Old Testament, so it is given to deacons to declaim the New. To him also pertains the office of prayers and the recital of the names. It is he who gives warning to open our ears to the Lord, it is he who exhorts with his cry, it is he also who announces peace.” —Letter of St. Isidore of Seville to Leudefredus

The ordination of a deacon underscores his ministerial function to proclaim the Gospel. During the ceremony, a newly ordained deacon kneels before the bishop, who places in his hands the Book of the Gospels and says:

“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” —Ordination of a Deacon

However, one must also keep in mind that all priests are deacons—a man cannot receive the Order of Priest without having first received the Order of Deacon. In addition, his priestly ordination does not invalidate or supplant his diaconate.

When celebrating the Eucharist, the priest is performing the function of his ministry. That is why it is preferred, in the absence of a deacon, that a concelebrating priest read the Gospel. But, if the celebrating priest does proclaim the Gospel, he does so by virtue of his deaconate, not as a function of his priesthood.

Instruct the Faithful

The deacon has also been set apart by the Church to instruct the faithful throughout the Mass—it is he who will direct the actions of the people:

  • Let us kneel.
  • Let us stand.
  • Let us offer each other the sign of peace.
  • Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing.
  • Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

The voice that guides the assembly is also the one that proclaims the Gospel—a subtle reminder that the Gospel message is indeed a call to action.

What about you? Who proclaims that Gospel at your Mass? Did your childhood parish have a deacon? Share and let’s learn together!

Check out Dan’s webpage at http://www.massexplained.com/

 

Conversion to the Bread of Life by Deacon Marty

Israel 286

The Jewish Synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus gave his sermon on eating His Body and Drinking His Blood (John 6:52-59) in today’s Gospel.

I was sitting in mass this morning listening to the fascinating account of Paul’s conversion (Act 9: 1-20) and I thought of my own conversion story that happened about 44 years ago.  I then proclaimed the Gospel where Jesus tells us that we MUST eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:52-59) to have LIFE within us.  As I read that Gospel, thoughts of my own conversion became so very vivid.  I would like to share some of those thoughts with you now.  This is certainly a brief testimony; there are so many other details to it.   Those are for another time.

I was raised as a Methodist and we celebrated “Communion Sunday” one time per month.  We all received cut up squares of white bread and drank small, shot sized, glasses of grape juice.  We were taught that we did this because Jesus wanted us to remember what He did at the last supper.  I really didn’t think much about this, but liked “Communion Sunday” because the sermon was always shorter.  I did drift away from that church, and from God, during my college years.  I married a Catholic girl and would occasionally attend mass with her, but without much thought about the mass, I thought more about going out to breakfast afterwards.  Many things happened that caused me to be in somewhat of a “funk”, and through a series of interesting events (miracles) my wife and I were invited to go to a Life in the Spirit Seminar.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what made me say yes to going.  Today I know that it was God’s Spirit that led me there.  We attended the Seminar and things began changing, for the good, in my life and in my relationship to my wife.  On the fifth week of the Seminar, we were prayed over for the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”.  My life hasn’t been the same since.  Everything seemed to take on new meaning.  I was especially moved by the Bible and began reading it and praying with it at every possible chance.  This new found relationship with Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit brought new life to the scriptures for me.  I was especially drawn to the Gospel of John.  So many times in that Gospel, Jesus talks about being the Bread of Life.  I read the Gospel mentioned above and thought that it was VERY clear that Jesus wanted us to do more than just remember the Last Supper.  He very clearly told us that we must eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood.  I found the same thoughts in other Gospels and in Paul’s letters.  The only church that I knew that taught this was the Catholic Church.  I am a person who has to research everything, so I began getting out Church documents such as Vatican II documents.  As a person who also loves history, I also began reading early Church history and began to devour information on the early Church fathers.  It was very clear to me that the Catholic Church in its beginnings and today followed Jesus in teaching what He taught.  It was also very clear that what the Church taught today was essentially identical to what it lived out in its very beginning, from the time of the Apostles in to the later centuries.  There was no doubt that Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper and wanted us to continue that, through the Church that He had established.  I had found the source for my being able to do what Jesus taught, to eat His Body and drink His Blood.  I went to my local pastor and He brought me in to an RCIA program and then brought me in to His Church.  I am a daily communicant, and I fully believe that each day I eat His Body and drink His blood and have LIFE because of Jesus.  God is so good.

A reading from the first apology of Justin Martyr in defense of the Christians, c. 100-165

No one may share in the Eucharist except those who believe in the truth of our teachings and have been washed in the bath which confers forgiveness of sins and rebirth, and who live according to Christ’s commands.

For we do not receive this food as ordinary bread and as ordinary drink; but just as Jesus Christ our Savior became flesh through the word of God, and assumed flesh and blood for our salvation, so too we are taught that the food
over which the prayer of thanksgiving, the word received from Christ, has been said, the food which nourishes our flesh and blood by assimilation, is the flesh and blood of this Jesus who became flesh.

The apostles in their memoirs, which are called gospels, recorded that Jesus left them these instructions: he took bread, pronounced the prayer of thanksgiving, and said: “Do this in memorial of me.  This is my body”.  In the same way he took the cup, pronounced the prayer of thanksgiving, and said; “This is my blood”, and shared it among them and no one else.  From that time on we have always continued to remind one another of this.  Those of us who are well provided help out any who are in need, and we meet together continually.  Over all our offerings we give thanks to the Creator of all through his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

On Sundays there is an assembly of all who live in towns or in the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read for as long as time allows.

Then the reading is brought to an end, and the president delivers an address in which he admonishes and encourages us to imitate in our own lives the beautiful lessons we have heard read.

Then we all stand up together and pray.  When we have finished the prayer, as I have said, bread and wine and water are brought up; the president offers prayers and thanksgiving as best he can, and the people say “Amen” as an
expression of their agreement.  Then follows the distribution of the food over which the prayer of thanksgiving has been recited; all present receive some of it, and the deacons carry some to those who are absent.

Those who are well provided for, if they wish to do so, contribute what each thinks fit; this is collected and left with the president, so that he can help the orphans and the widows and the sick, and all who are in need for any other
reason, such as prisoners and visitors from abroad; in short he provides for all who are in want.

So on Sunday we all come together.  This is the first day, on which God transformed darkness and matter and made the world; the day on which Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.  For on the day before Saturday he was crucified, and on the day after Saturday, that is the Sunday, he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the truths which we have put before you for your consideration.

 

Justin Martyr – Christian apologist, born at Flavia Neapolis (northern west bank of Israel), about A.D. 100, converted to Christianity about A.D. 130, taught and defended the Christian religion in Asia Minor and at Rome, where he suffered martyrdom about the year 165. Two “Apologies” bearing his name and his “Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon” have come down to us. Leo XIII had a Mass and an Office composed in his honor and set his feast for 14 April.