Category Archives: Vocation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

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

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

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

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

20160209_142554Native made crucifix

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

One Mistake We Make When We Want to Make a Difference as Catholics by Shaun McAfee

cropped-PentecostGLASS.jpg

Do you have Catholic heroes?

When I converted to the Catholic faith I was on fire to make a mark. Having been into blogging before I converted, my conversion gave me a deep zeal and the new information I had learned was quickly converted into content. But it ran out quickly. The more I wanted to be like my heroes, the more impossible that became, and the more frustrated I ended up.

Perhaps you didn’t notice, but there are many Catholics who are just crazy about Catholics. I mean it. I mean it like I mean I absolutely love thick cut, applewood smoked, crisp and greasy bacon. There’s a serious error many commit and I’m guilty of it, too. And I’m not talking about the bacon.

It all began when…

No, it didn’t ever really begin. It’s sort of ingrained into us. We have a problem with being innovators sometimes. We see something that entertains us, and we want to replicate it. We grow to look up to someone, and we want to be just like them. We create this picture in our mind of what a successful Catholic looks like, and we convince ourselves that we cannot be good Catholics or fulfil our purpose until we achieve X, Y, Z.

Imagine the pressure!

Imagine the pressure of the ambitious seeker who read Tim Staples just once, had to convert, converted and the whole nine yards, then felt the call to convert other souls—cause after all that’s what the Bible says we’re called to do—and got started. This person read every book, listened to Catholic Answers Live every day, and was determined to make their mark. Then, just a few months later, the blog this person started wasn’t getting traffic. There was an initial spike, but the ideas were running out, too. The zeal was not converting to numbers as quickly as his/her conscience had. Suddenly, it all seemed like a waste of time. How was this person ever going to replace Scott Hahn?

For real, that’s the idea some people create in their mind. Especially bloggers; but it happens to so many Catholics. The zeal sometimes creates tunnel vision for us, and we create one single lane that we must follow in order to feel like we’re making a difference.

It makes sense, really. But don’t fall into this trap! It’s terribly attractive to look at our Catholic heroes and want to be just like them. While it’s healthy to follow their example, it’s not healthy to narrow our vision on God’s will. Doing that only suffocates our openness to the Holy Spirit and deafens His voice.

I think the pressure people put on themselves when they gain their newfound zeal caused tunnel vision in many people. To avoid this, here’s a couple things to keep in mind:

First, you must focus on personal holiness before you step out and attempt to education and evangelize others. I’m not talking about being a hypocrite, because removing the log in your own eye is much more about clear vision than about hypocrisy. There are nine fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Interestingly, God chose the dove to represent the Holy Spirit, whose wings are made up of nine main feather stems. You must develop the fruits of the spirit in order to truly take fight.

Second, after developing your personal holiness and taking flight, you’re able to use the corresponding gifts of the Holy Spirit. But be conscious of the temptation of that tunnel vision. God has a unique plan for you. What would the world look like if we were all Scott Hahn? There would be a lot of Bible knowledge and handsome beards. No, seriously: remember that Martha’s revelation was understanding that there is something more important that impressing ourselves (and others) with our works. What really matters is how we spend our time with God. Mother Angelica didn’t get into the art of media until her later years. She was able to be so effective because she made priority of the Mary duties, then the Martha.

Third, be yourself. The world will tell you that you need to go out into the world and find yourself. But what you really need to do is find the One who already knows who you are. When you get to know God, whose depth of closeness and relationship is endless, you’ll really get to know who you are.

Hero worship can create a false sense of duty and achievement, contentment and virtue. There’s so many ways to be Catholic. It might not be apologetics or writing. It might be having a certain amount of children. It might be a degree you have to get or a teaching job you have to have. It could even be the priesthood or cloistered life. Whatever it is, don’t be over-eager. The only thing you need to be eager about is knowing and developing your relationship with the One who is eager about you. The rest falls into place.

Check out this article and others at Shaun’s home at the National Catholic Register – http://www.ncregister.com/blog/smcafee/