Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday - 33rd Week of OT 2017 - Post-Thanksgiving Housecleaning

I pray that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, filled with gratitude for the manifold gifts of God, good food, conversation, and time with family and friends. For many, the day after Thanksgiving has one important task, cleaning up after the big feast—not everyone’s favorite chore, but it must be done.

Both of the scripture readings today speak of another sort of housecleaning. From the book of Maccabees, we heard of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers returning to the Temple to cleanse it of the abominations which the enemies of Israel had constructed there. They undertook the resanctification of the desecrated Temple by engaging in ritual prayer, song, praise, repairing damage, decoration, that the Temple might be rededicated to the purposes of God.

Today, the post-thanksgiving house cleaning involves putting the house back into order. Hopefully, not to many repairs are needed. Many will begin to put up their Advent and Christmas decorations, and begin to play Christmas music. They dedicate their homes for being a place where Christmas is celebrated.

Our Lord in the Gospel, also undertook some housecleaning. It had been two hundred years since Judas Maccabeus had rededicated the temple, and once again it had become filled with corruption. So, our Lord took it upon himself to drive out the corruption from the Temple.

These two scenes are reminders that God wishes to drive out the corruption of sin and selfishness from humanity and from our individual souls.

As we are cleaning and decorating our homes today, let us remember that more important is that our souls are cleansed and purified through repentance, that our souls be adorned and ornamented with virtues of generosity towards the poor, self-control, and prayerfulness.

The changing of a liturgical season is always a good time to do some self-examination of our spiritual lives. It is a good time to make a good confession. Today is a good day for ensuring that the Temple of our life is truly a house of prayer; so it’s a good day to make some plans for the types of prayer we will engage in during the Advent season. I recommend a daily Advent reflection in addition to daily Mass, and any practice that will help us to learn and to live God’s cleansing and purifying Holy Will, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That Christians may undertake the meditation and prayer necessary to live holy and righteous lives.

For a healing of all family divisions, reunion for the estranged and welcoming of the alienated.

That those who have fallen away from the Church or fallen into serious sin may repent and return to the grace of the Sacraments.

For the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the aged, the lonely, the grieving, the unemployed, those who are facing financial difficulties, those with addictions, and the imprisoned: that God will draw close to them, and bless them with grace and peace.

For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, and all the poor souls in purgatory, for deceased clergy and religious, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

O God, you know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017 - Gratitude leads to happiness



Thanksgiving is not an explicitly Christian holiday, it’s not a feast day of the Church, even in the United States. Yet, it certainly has a religious dimension, the character of what the medievals called “the virtue of religion.”

The word “religion” comes from the latin word religare which means to bind. And so religion deals with the most important bonds in the human experience, our most important bond, our bond to God, and also the bonds of family, friendship, nation, the goods of the earth, and our neighbor.

The civic holiday of Thanksgiving acknowledges this religious impulse and religious duty to give thanks for these things. Which is why we fill Thanksgiving with the things we value and are most grateful: friends, family, food and football, and hopefully some prayer.

It is not that we ignore the divisions, strife, pain, friction, brokenness, or sorrow out there. But it is a very important human need to stop and give thanks. It’s not a day for political arguments, but for refreshing society.

Many Catholics, like ourselves, rightly begin the day by going to Holy Mass, even though it’s not a holy day of obligation. We turn to God, with gratitude, for the gift of our salvation, for the good things that fill our lives, and asking God to bless the people we’re going to spend the day with, whether they go to Mass or not.

Counting blessings, adding up the good things of your life, including the gift of life itself, makes for a more virtuous people precisely because it increases the virtue of gratitude in those who are thankful. For as Thomas Aquinas said, gratitude is the “mark of a happy disposition to see good rather than evil.” Thankfulness is the soil in which the soul thrives.

So, If you spend any moment of the day thinking about what people owe you, you’ve missed the point. Rather, focus on nurturing the virtue of gratitude today, for the time you’ve been given, for the people who have touched your life and continue to bless you, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.


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That the pilgrim Church on earth may shine as a light to the nations.  We pray to the Lord.

That all people of good will may work together against attacks on religious liberty and the Christian Faith.  We pray to the Lord.

For the protection of our armed forces, police, and firemen and all those who risk their lives to preserve the security of our country.  We pray to the Lord.

For the safety of travelers, the peaceful resolution of all family divisions, and national hostilities, for protection from disease, and harmony amongst all those who gather together today. We pray to the Lord.


For the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the aged, the lonely, the grieving, those who are out of work, those who are facing financial difficulties, those with addictions, and the imprisoned: that God will draw close to them, and bless them with grace and peace. We pray to the Lord.


For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, and all the poor souls in purgatory, for deceased clergy and religious, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom. We pray to the Lord.


O God, you know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

November 22 2017 - St. Cecilia - Singing joyfully amidst persecution

Having been involved in singing in choirs both in high school and in seminary, I came to develop a devotion to St. Cecilia, patron saint of musicians. And so when I visited Rome for the first time, one of the first Churches I made sure to visit was the Church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere. The church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is reputedly built on the site of the house in which she lived; the original church was constructed in the fourth century

St. Cecilia is one of the most famous Roman martyrs, her name is listed in the Roman Canon along with Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, and Anastasia.

The daughter of wealthy Christian family of Rome, Cecilia was promised in marriage to a Pagan man, despite an inner vow of virginity she had made to God. On the night of the wedding, she told her husband that God had set an angel over her to guard her virginity. Quite skeptical, of course, Valerian asked to see the angel. He saw the angel, and quickly went to the Pope to be baptized.
Cecilia’s holiness became a cause for many Roman pagans to seek conversion. But soon, she attracted the attention of the authorities; she was arrested and sentenced to death. Throughout her tortures, which lasted for three days, she sang God’s praises, which is why she is the patron saint of music.

Why was Cecilia so revered by the early Roman Church? Why is she revered still today?

St. Cecilia, the virgin martyr, singing God’s praises in the midst of persecution and torture, gives us example for the persecutions we must each face. The Lord promised that each of us would have to face our own persecution, that each of us would be misunderstood, mocked, even hated for the faith. And Cecilia reminds us that the Christian faces these persecutions joyfully, knowing that they lead to espousal with the Lord, eternal union with God in heaven.

If you cannot imagine facing persecution joyfully, pray for that grace—the grace to remain faithful and even joyful when your faith is tested, that in the moment of trial, your heart might be gladdened with the knowledge, that what suffer for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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For all Christians, that as they experience persecution for the faith, they may know the closeness and love of the Lord and remain true to the Gospel.

Through the intercession of St. Cecilia, we pray for all musicians, that they may use their gifts and talents not for their own sake, but for the glory of God.

For peace to reign in the hearts of all preparing to gather for the Thanksgiving holiday and for the safety of all travelers.

That our young people may grow in a deep love of the Lord and his commands and be preserved from the errors of the world.

For all those struggling with addiction, mental illness, chronic sickness, unemployment, or ongoing trials of any kind, for those who grieve the loss of a loved one, or for those who will die today.

For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, and all the poor souls in purgatory, for deceased clergy and religious, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

O God, you know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

November 21 2017 - Presentation of Mary - Daily dedication to God

Pope St. John Paul wrote how the Church from the beginning has modeled her earthly journey on that of the Mother of God. “It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission.”

What does the sacred event which we commemorate today teach us about the Church’s mission, our mission?

Though she belonged entirely to God from the moment of her immaculate conception, the Church Fathers speak of how Mary herself desired to be brought to the Temple, to be presented to God in a formal, solemn, and public way to demonstrate to all that she really did belong to God.

This certainly reveals an important dimension of Christianity. It is not enough for us simply to belong to the Lord privately. We show that we belong to God in formal and public ways. The Sacramental system certainly reflects this principle. Catholics show we belong to God every week, some of us, every day, by gathering at the altar for the celebration of the Eucharist. Here, we present ourselves to God, we receive the nourishment of the Eucharist. But, our dedication to God does not end here. We receive the Eucharist that we might go out into the world to build the kingdom of God.

In the Gospel for this feast, Jesus pronounces belonging to his spiritual family, the Church, requires more than a biological bond: “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother and sister and mother”.

Our dedication to the Lord is seen when we engage in the works that God wants of us. Without these works, faith is dead, says St. James.

It is good and important to dedicate ourselves to God through prayer and the sacraments. The morning offer is a powerful way of dedicating ourselves to God on a daily basis, particularly when we cannot come to daily mass. But even the morning offering speaks of our works: “O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world.”

Pope John Paul II once said that the practice of praying the Morning Offering is ‘of fundamental importance in the life of each and every one of the faithful.’ It is a daily reminder to make our entire day, our whole life ‘a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God’ (Romans 12: 1).”

A daily prayer of dedication can help to order our day, that we like Mary, may remain united to God in all of our thoughts, intentions, affections, desires, words, and deeds, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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For deeper Marian devotion amongst all Christians, that the Church may more deeply share in Mary’s dedication to God.

For all mothers, that they may find in Mary the example and strength to carry out their vocation of love, and that all sorrowful mothers may know the consolation and peace of God.

For all consecrated religious, that their dedication may inspire all Christians to deeper faith, hope, and charity.

That through Immaculate Mary, Queen of Peace, hatred, violence, and cruelty will cease in the world. 

That from the moment of conception all children will be preserved from bodily harm; for the overturning of unjust laws permitting the destruction of innocent life; and that the minds of all may be enlightened to know the dignity of every human life.  We pray to the Lord.

That the sick may draw strength, consolation, and healing by turning to Mary, who intercedes for us from her place in heaven

For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, and all the poor souls in purgatory, for deceased clergy and religious, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

We pray, O Lord our God, that the Virgin Mary, dedicated to your Holy Will,  may commend the prayers of your faithful in your sight.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday - 33rd Week in OT 2017 - Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!

Seventeen verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the “son of David.” But, how could Jesus be the son of David if David lived approximately 1,000 years before Jesus?

The answer is that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of the seed of David. Listen to this prophecy from 2 Samuel: “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”

So, the title “Son of David” is more than a statement of physical genealogy. It is a Messianic title. When people referred to Jesus as the Son of David, they meant that He was the long-awaited Deliverer, through whom God would establish his eternal kingdom.

Often, when Jesus is called by this title, it is by people seeking mercy or healing. The woman whose daughter was being tormented by a demon cries out: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David”, and today, we heard of the blind man, begging by the wayside. Calling Him “Lord” expressed their sense of His deity, dominion, and power, and calling Him “Son of David,” expressed their faith that He was the Messiah.

The Pharisees understood exactly what the people meant when they called Jesus “Son of David.” But, unlike those who cried out in faith, the Pharisees were so blinded by their own pride that they couldn’t see what the blind beggars could see.

Jesus came to open the eyes of the blind. He asks us: "What do you want Me to do for you?" We should respond: "I want to see".

Notice also how upon receiving his healing, the blind man follows Jesus and glorifies him. In our Psalm we replied, “Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.” The sight, the healing, the mercy we receive from Jesus, is good in itself, but mercy is given in order to transform us into agents of mercy, healing is given to make us into instruments of healing.

We come to the altar today, thanking God for the mercy and the healing we have received, and beseeching him all the more to continue to transform us, to make us his instruments, that we may follow him all the more faithfully, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That the spiritually blind of our world, may gaze upon Jesus, Son of God and Son of David, and believe.

That our president and all civil servants will carry out their duties with justice, honesty, and respect for the dignity of every human life.  We pray to the Lord.

For all those struggling with addiction, mental illness, chronic sickness, unemployment, or ongoing trials of any kind, for those who grieve the loss of a loved one, or for those who will die today: that they will be fortified and blessed with God’s special favor and consolation. 

For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, and all the poor souls in purgatory, for deceased clergy and religious, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

O God, you know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

33rd Sunday in OT 2017 - How Examination of Conscience can save your life

This is the last Sunday until January 14, the feast of the Epiphany, that the priest will be wearing a green chasuble. Next Sunday, the priest will wear white or gold for the Feast of Christ the King, in which we show that our allegiance to Jesus Christ is above any other allegiance: national, economic, or ideological. And the Sunday after that the green of Ordinary Time is replaced with the purple of Advent.

In fact, we already we see a lot less green out in nature, don’t we? As winter nears?  For Green is the color of growth, and winter is coming.  During Ordinary Time, we are concerned with the spiritual growth of the soul. And, so the liturgical color green reminds us of the need to engage in those spiritual practices which bring growth to our souls: prayer, meditation, study, works of mercy.
And so, as we come to the end of the season of growth, what’s your soul look like? Has your soul grown in the last six months? Have you grown in faith, hope, and love? For some of us our waist lines have surely grown, but what your soul? What have you done with the time you’ve been given? In the Gospel, this same question is asked by the master: What have you done with the talents given to you by God?

It is important for us to answer this question honestly. For our Gospel is clear, there are eternal ramifications for what we do with the time, talent, and treasure afforded to us by God.
Last week I finished a very interesting book on Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s called, “How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem”. Rob Dreher, author and former journalist, described the impact of reading and reflecting upon Dante’s Epic Poem, how Dante helped deliver him from his mid-life crisis, depression and existential doubt.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Divine Comedy, a man named Dante finds himself in the middle of a dark forest, symbolic of the darkness and confusion of his life. These three vicious beasts, a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf attack him—the beasts symbolic of the lust, pride, and cupidity that have plagued his life. Dante cries out for deliverance, and there appears a figure from antiquity, the ancient poet Virgil. Virgil and Dante then embark on an adventure of a life-time, down through bowels of hell, up the mountain of purgatory, and into the celestial orbs of heaven.

In hell, Dante meets the souls of the damned, who were unrepentant for the selfishness and violence they committed during their lives. As Dante confronts the souls in hell and their eternal punishment, Dante confronts his own failure to love God and neighbor as he should, making gods out of earthly things, and as he makes this pilgrimage, he seeks God’s help to be purified from them.

I had read Dante in college, but I found this return to Dante to be very beneficial. It’s a reminder of the pilgrimage we must all make through life, turning away from idols and selfishness, and opening our hearts to the grace of God, so that we might love Him more.

Yet, Dreher’s book wasn’t simply a summary of Dante’s journey; it was more of a spiritual journal of how he applied the lessons of Dante in his own life. Dreher described how the pride of the souls in hell, could be seen in his own pride and resentment toward his family, who treated him as a sort of outcast. He saw how lust and greed tainted many of his choices during his college years. He saw how his self-absorption had led him, to this very dark place.

Using Dante to examine his conscience and his life, he became aware of sins from his past and present and brought them to the sacrament of confession. This he claims helped to deliver him from his depression and alienation from his family. Helping him find spiritual growth when he desperately needed it.

Many of us are not used to this sort of deep and prayer reflection. One of the tendencies of modern man is to go from one event to another without any sort of reflection on lessons learned. Just take this new fad of binge-watching television shows. Binge-watching is when you watch two, three, five episodes or more of a television show without any break. What’s the problem with that? First, it likely leads to the neglect of our household and family duties, and the exercise and sleep we need for healthy bodies. Secondly, if we are binge watching television, we aren’t engaged in prayer, study, meditation, and the works of mercy. And thirdly, it’s mindless. There’s no reflection. It’s just a constant stream of stimulation. It's "unexamined".

This lack of examination of conscience and lack of engagement in real life, is what led Dante to the middle of the Dark Forrest to begin with, he felt his life was not worth living because he wasn't engaged in real life, just sinful alternatives. He could not see the presence of God in his life because all he was focused on were earthly realities, especially his sinful attachments, and this led him to despair.

The saints, on the other hand, are so full of life and joy and charity, they are so keenly aware of the presence of God is because through the thorough examination of conscience in light of the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ, they distance themselves from the pursuits and attitudes which distract them from God and from doing His Holy Will.

We all know how busy Advent can be. With parties and shopping and concerts and baking and wrapping and decorating. And this can lead to much emptiness if we do not keep Christ at the center of it all, by reflecting on the meaning of the season. So perhaps, this Advent you might consider a spiritual journal. Read through the scripture readings for the day, and spend some time reflecting upon them, asking God what he might be trying to teach you in the concrete details of your life. Come to daily Mass throughout the week, if your schedule permits. And so importantly, if it’s been a few months or years, make a good examination of conscience and Sacramental Confession.

This way, you won’t lose your way in the busyness of the season, but will be able to truly enter into the joy the master has in store for us. Again in the Gospel, rewards and praises those who use their time and talent to do the master’s will. So, let us reflectively take stock of the talents we’ve been given, to repent of our selfish misuse of them, and recommit to using them to bear fruit that will last unto eternity, that we may enter into the master’s joy, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

Friday, November 17, 2017

November 17, 2017 - St. Elizabeth of Hungary - Clothing yourselves with Christ

Like our own parish patron, St. Clare, St. Elizabeth of Hungary was deeply moved and motivated by the preaching and poverty of St. Francis of Assisi. Like Clare, Elizabeth was born and raised in a castle, and was surrounded by the rich trappings of luxury and flattery. But Elizabeth did not let earthly treasures keep her from storing up heavenly ones.

In fact, the fame of the virtues of St. Elizabeth of Hungry reached Italy while St. Francis was still alive. Cardinal Ugolini, the future Pope Gregory IX often spoke of her to St. Francis, about the support and protection Elizabeth had given to the Franciscans and her great love of poverty.

One day the Cardinal asked St. Francis for a gift for her as a symbol of his recognition. As he made his request, he took the worn cape off St. Francis’ shoulders and recommended that he send it to her. “Since she is filled with your spirit of poverty,” said the Cardinal, “I would like for you to give her your mantle, just as Elijah gave his mantle to Elisha.” St. Francis consented and sent his mantle to St. Elizabeth, whom he considered as a spiritual daughter.

She would wear the cloak while she engaged in charitable works. She built a hospital next to her castle, and personally tended to the sick and the poor, feeding over 900 people daily. After the death of her husband, the king, her family conspired against her and forced her and her 4 children into exile and poverty with nothing, except the mantle of St. Francis.

During her exile, she did not curse God for her fate, but thanked God for permitting her a share in the savior’s cross. She worked odd jobs, spinning garments, to provide for her children. And when a new emperor came into power, and allowed her to return to the castle, she went right back to her charitable works, even building a second hospital. This continued only for a short while, as she died at the young age of 24. She was canonized only four years later, by Pope Gregory who knew of her virtue, and also due to the great number of miracles occurring at her grave. Elizabeth is the patron saint of third order Franciscans.

Shakespeare wrote that “clothes maketh the man.” Well, St. Elizabeth clothed herself, not with the robes of nobility, but with signs of poverty, humility, and virtue, she clothed herself with Christ, as St. Paul enjoins us to do. She embraced her hardships—widowhood, family division, destitution, exile—trusting in God’s grace, uniting her sufferings with Christ, and she teaches us to do the same, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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For our consecrated religious, particularly those under the patronage of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, may they be strengthened and supported in their witness to Christ’s saving Gospel.

That families experiencing division may know the peace and reconciliation that comes from Christ.

For all those struggling with addiction, mental illness, chronic sickness, unemployment, or ongoing trials of any kind, for those who grieve the loss of a loved one, or for those who will die today: that they will be fortified and blessed with God’s special favor and consolation.

For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, and all the poor souls in purgatory, for deceased clergy and religious, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

O God, you know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.