Thursday, June 22, 2017

June 22, 2017 - Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More - "The highest expression of faith"

Saint Paul wrote to Timothy: “For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires.”
Many such times arose throughout Church history; many, not long after Paul penned those words from prison, himself arrested for preaching the Gospel.

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More lived in such a time. Catholicism had flourished in England for nearly over thousand years, when the king sought to make himself head of the Church. You’d think that this claim would be met with clear denunciation on the part of the country’s bishops; but no. And even though our Blessed Lord made St. Peter and his successors the head of the Church while he still walked the earth, all save one of the Bishops folded to political pressure, and spoke the words the king wished to hear.

One lone bishop witnessed to the true faith with his life, that bishop was St. John Fisher.

St. Thomas More had been chancellor of the kingdom, the highest office in the land, next to the throne. He too was being pressured to acknowledge the king’s authority to redefine marriage. He resigned his office, and stood up to the king, who was his friend. For this he was imprisoned, and eventually beheaded.

Listen again to the collect prayer for today’s feast: “O God, who in martyrdom have brought true faith to its highest expression.” Faith is brought to highest expression when we stand up for the faith amidst worldly pressures. When we teach true doctrine, even when the world longs to hear with itching ears, teachings which will suit their own desires.

Each of us is called witness to the truth of the true faith in our own lives: it is a matter both of professing that faith with our lips—with our words—and with our actions.  We each face difficult moral choices, and the faith must be our guiding light, even when we know that the difficult decision will involve hardship or suffering.

The eve of John Fisher and Thomas More each year begins a fortnight of prayer for religious freedom in our country. During this fortnight of prayer for freedom, we do well to invoke the intercession of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More for freedom from government interference in the practice of the faith, and for our ability to stand courageously for the truth of the faith, even to suffer for it if necessary, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That our bishops and clergy may be zealous in preaching and teaching the truth of the Gospel, and that our future bishop of the diocese of Cleveland may be a man of true faith and the Holy Spirit.

That through the intercession of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, this fortnight of prayer for religious freedom may help people of faith may remain vigilant in defending their religious liberty and united in making their voice heard on behalf of the rights of the Church.

That our young people on summer vacation may be kept safe from the poisonous errors of our culture, and that their families may be places where the faith is practiced and cherished.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, the homebound, those in nursing homes and hospitals, the underemployed and unemployed, victims of natural disaster, war, and terrorism, for all those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today, for their comfort, and the consolation of their families.

For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, for the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the deceased priests and religious of the diocese of Cleveland, especially Fr. John Jenkins, who died this week, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

Grant, we pray, O Lord, that your people may turn to you with all their heart, so that whatever they dare to ask in fitting prayer they may receive by your mercy. Through Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 21, 2017 - St. Aloysius Gonzaga - Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving bring purity of heart



The Gospel Reading is familiar to us; we hear it at least twice a year, most notably on Ash Wednesday, at the beginning of the penitential season of Lent.

And we hear in this Gospel about the three penitential practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. To the Jews of Jesus’ day, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving were very important spiritual practices.  In this teaching, Jesus is clear that his disciples are to continue to engage in these practices. These practices help us to detached from the things of the world, in order to focus on the one thing that really matters.
There was an order of monks who lived by the phrase: “Semper Quadragesima”, which means,
Always Lent.  They tried always to live in that penitential Lenten Spirit because it is so effective at guiding us away from selfishness to become truly generous and full of God's spirit.

These practices help us to obtain that purity of heart, which Jesus calls for in the beatitudes.
St. Francis of Assisi says, “A man is truly pure of heart when he has no time for the things of this world, but is always searching for the things of heaven”

The Saint we honor today, Aloysius Gonzaga, was especially noted for his purity of heart. By age 11 he was teaching catechism to poor children and fasting three day a week and practicing great austerities. After reading a book about Jesuit missionaries in India, Aloysius announced his desire to be a priest in the Society of Jesus, though it took four years for him to obtain permission from his father, who had more worldly dreams for his son.

And upon entering the Jesuits, his sanctity was truly evident, and he would enter into ecstatic prayer not only in chapel, but sometimes at meals and recreation periods. His love for God prompted him, also to serve the sick and needy. He sought the face of the Lord always. And that is the great promise Jesus makes in the beatitudes: blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.

Prayer, fasting, giving alms are so powerful, they purify us from earthly cares, they open a window into heaven.

Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, have been taken up as concrete spiritual disciples since the beginning of the Church. And the saints remind us that through them we can achieve the sanctity God desires for each of us.

May our year-round prayer, fasting, and almsgiving bring us great purity of heart that we may radiate the light and love of Jesus for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That all Christians will recommit themselves to fervent prayer as to grow in greater love and holiness.

That we may fast often from the things of the world, in order to seek and value the things of heaven.

That the Church may commit to almsgiving and acts of charity in order to care for the needs of the poor and store up treasure in heaven.

Through the intercession of St Aloysius Gonzaga, patron of young people, that the young may be blessed with true faith, the desire to serve the Lord above seeking the pleasures of the world, and for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, the homebound, those in nursing homes and hospitals, the underemployed and unemployed, victims of natural disaster, war, and terrorism, for all those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today, for their comfort, and the consolation of their families.

For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, for the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the deceased priests and religious of the diocese of Cleveland, especially Fr. John Jenkins, who died this week, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

Grant, we pray, O Lord, that your people may turn to you with all their heart, so that whatever they dare to ask in fitting prayer they may receive by your mercy. Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday - 11th Week of OT 2017 - Love of enemies



Teaching us fallen humans how to love is at the heart of Jesus’ mission.  He tells us today that not only are we to love our neighbor, but our enemies as well: those who persecute you, those who sin against you, those with whom your country is at war, those who cut you off in traffic, those who may have bullied you a half-century ago in grade school, those who seem to be bringing ruin to our country and even our church.  Love them.

God loves them indiscriminately and generously; he seeks that they be perfected in love just as he seeks that we be perfected in love. Jesus died for them, just as he died for us.  To be perfect like God is to love not only our nice neighbors but everyone, to do good to not just those who do us good, but to all.

When Jesus commands us to love, he’s not talking about a feeling, but concrete acts of love.  Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, praying for the living and the dead, forgiving injuries.

Maximus the Confessor wrote, “Readiness to do good to someone who hates us is a characteristic of perfect love.”

Charity is to be shown to all irrespective of color, distance, nation, or character.

Do you find readiness to love in yourself? Readiness, eagerness, willingness, inclination to engage in those acts of love.  Would those who are close to you describe you as someone that is eager to love anyone you met? Eager to forgive, eager to pray, eager to take someone under your wing, eager to share the Gospel?

Charity is a virtue.  It’s a habit. It’s hard in the beginning, but as any habit, it gets easier, and then it becomes joyful.

The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Charity—it is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman.  May the Eucharist we receive today draw us deeper into the life of God who is love, the God who loves us perfectly, that we may be instruments of that same boundless charity, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That the bishops of the Church will act as true prophets through their faithful teaching, their courageous witness, and their self-sacrificing love. We pray to the Lord.

That government leaders around the world may carry out their duties with justice, honesty, and respect for freedom and the dignity of human life.  We pray to the Lord.

For the Church’s missions amongst the poor and unevangelized throughout the world, that the work of Christ may be carried out with truth and love. We pray to the Lord.

For the grace to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, to love our neighbors and enemies, and to share the truth of the Gospel with all.  We pray to the Lord.


That the Lord will be close to all those who share in the sufferings of Christ—the sick, the sorrowful, and those who are afflicted or burdened in any way.  We pray to the Lord.

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


O God, who 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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday - 11th Week of OT 2017 - Practicing Self-Restraint

We’ve been reading through the Sermon on the Mount now for a week in which Jesus teaches his disciples throughout all the ages about living blessed lives, holy lives, lives that shine with the brightness of God’s goodness. We are to strive for blessedness by following God’s commandments, the moral law, and Jesus’ teachings.

Jesus recalled the fifth commandment earlier in the sermon, “You shall not kill” calling us to revere human life as sacred. The Lord calls us to such reverence for our brothers and sisters that we are to avoid not just murder, but even anger, hatred, and vengeance.

Today, he goes even further: “When someone strikes you on the one cheek, turn the other to him as well.” To most of the world, this sounds like weakness: being a pushover. But those who follow the message of Christ are anything but weak.  There is tremendous strength shown in turning away from the inclination for revenge.  Revenge is easy.

When someone strikes you on the right cheek, the immediate reaction is strike back them, or to begin plotting their punishment or demise. It’s easy to retaliate, to curse at someone who offends us, to return an insult for an insult. We even see this fallen behavior in little children, who break the toys of their brothers and sisters because they were mean. Revenge is easy, and it base, juvenile.

And Jesus offers another path, the path of moral and spiritual maturity.

Now, when it comes to turning the other cheek, Jesus is not saying we should be doormats and pacifists. Jesus offers clear words about take up a sword” for self-defense. Never does he condemn, say, military service.

But he is clearly teaching us here, that we are not simply to follow every desire that we have, starting with the very deep, nearly instinctual desire to strike back at those who hurt us: either physically or verbally, and including our desires for food, sex, money, gambling, gossip, and control.

Jesus calls us to be people of peace: and that requires self-control in the face of hostility, well-trained powers of discernment in order to know how best to act in a particular situation, and the ability to be humble when our egos are bruised.

May the Lord continue to lead us and guide us in the way of blessedness, to heal and raise up our wounded fallen natures, and transform them into instruments of God’s goodness for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That our bishops and clergy may be zealous in preaching and teaching the truth of the Gospel, and that our future bishop of the diocese of Cleveland may be a man of true faith and the Holy Spirit.

For all of us who struggle with disordered attractions, sinful inclinations, and temptations to serious sin, for the grace to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ, and for mercy for those who fall.

That our young people on summer vacation, may be kept close to the truth and heart of Jesus.

That the love of Christ, the divine physician, may bring healing to the sick and comfort to all the suffering.

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

O God, who 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, June 18, 2017

Corpus Christi Sunday 2017 - The Eucharist and the Father



We are blessed with a beautiful convergence of liturgy and life this weekend! As a nation, we celebrate Father’s Day. And liturgically, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Our Lord.

What does these two celebrations have in common? I’d say, “quite a bit!”

On Father’s Day’s we thank our fathers. Without our earthly fathers, we would not have life. So many of our fathers provide for their families through the sweat of their brows. They make sacrifices so that their families may enjoy the good things of the world. Our earthly fathers teach us virtues like courage, fortitude, patience, patriotism, and self-sacrifice. So we thank our earthly fathers today both living and dead.

The Eucharist is also about thanksgiving. The very word Eucharist comes from the Greek New Testament ‘Eucharistia’ which means thanksgiving. Every time we gather for the Eucharist, we first and foremost give God thanksgiving for the gift of our salvation, for sending His Only Son to die for our sins. Without this sacrifice, there would be no hope of heaven.

And, the Eucharist is the great thanksgiving to the Father for all of his work. For everything He has accomplished in creation, redemption and sanctification, for everything accomplished by God now in the Church and in the world, for everything that God accomplishes in bringing the Kingdom to fulfilment. Thus the eucharist is the Church expressing her thankfulness for all God's blessings; she offers thanksgiving on behalf of the whole creation.

This is why a week without Eucharist, just doesn’t feel right. In the Eucharistic prayer the priest prays on behalf of the people and in the name of the Christ the Son: it is right and just, our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give you thanks, heavenly Father.

Failing to honor and thank God for the blessings we enjoy throughout the week is serious matter. So the entire Body of Christ, all of God’s people, need to gather for Eucharist every week, and failing in this obligation is a serious sin, which must be confessed if one wishes to receive Holy Communion in a state of grace.

On Father’s Day we also honor our fathers, and we are reminded of the fourth commandment to Honor our father and mother, always. The Catechism says that honor and respect flows from gratitude for our parents.  So we recommit to obeying our Father’s in what they ask for the good of the family.
The Eucharist is about honoring the Father as well. For, obedient to His Father’s Will, Jesus poured Himself out for the salvation of the world, he instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. We honor the Father, by uniting ourselves to Jesus in this celebration.

In Catholic Europe, Father’s Day has been celebrated on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, patron of Fathers, since the Middle Ages.  In the U.S. the third Sunday of June, is set aside for our Dads, only recently, coming as a sort of afterthought to complement Mother’s Day in May. Perhaps, this is a reflection of our sometimes-complex or strained relationships with our earthly fathers.

For some, Father’s Day evokes mixed feelings at best, hurt feelings at worst. Earthly Fatherhood is meant to be a reflection of the goodness and graciousness of the Heavenly Father. And yes, so many of our Father’s reflect God’s goodness. But sometimes, sadly, they don’t; or our expectations of them are unrealistic. Some father’s run away from their responsibilities, some father’s betray their children’s trust.

On Father’s Day we hope that some of the “Father-wounds” we carry around, can begin to heal.
And here is another important connection with the Eucharist. It is through the Eucharist, that the wounds of sin and division come to be healed. When we receive the Eucharist in a state of grace, there is healing of our spiritual wounds. Our relationship with the Father wounded by sin is healed, our relationship with our neighbor is healed.

Also the wounds that come from the wear and tear of life. Not to mention our own sin, but think of how many violent images, perverted images we see, stories of corruption of man’s inhumanity to man. The corruption of the world takes its toll. Our culture is like living in a poisoned underground mine filled with noxious fumes which obscures the true light of the sun. But in the Eucharist, the Father gives us a breath of fresh air, and glimpse of the light of the True Son, His Son, given for us all.
So, when we receive the Eucharist, our souls are oriented to the Father the source of all healing and life, our souls are oriented to the Son, who shows that the meaning of life is to do the will of the Father, and our souls are oriented to the Holy Spirit who restores the gifts from our Father which we lost through sin.

The Eucharist is the Father’s answer to the prayer His Son taught us: “Give us this day our Daily Bread”.

Where the world teaches self-reliance—to be independent of our fathers, Jesus teaches that our relationship with the heavenly Father must be different. Growing in holiness means become increasingly dependent on God and childlike, turning to God for our daily bread.

Sometimes we develop “trust-issues” with God, because our earthly trust has been betrayed or injured. Some people conclude that God doesn’t love them, or doesn’t exist, because they have been so betrayed.  But Jesus teaches us to trust that the Heavenly Father does love us, he cares us about us, he wants what is best for us, and wants us to turn to Him, to learn to rely on him, to trust, to obey, and to surrender to His Holy Will.

At the Eucharist we become children again, children of the Father. We honor our Father by obeying his command to keep holy the Sabbath. We sing like children, praising our Father in joy. We come before the Father humbly, admitting our failures to be the people he made us to be. We come to thank Our Father for his manifold gifts. We come to the Father to learn how he thinks, to hear His words, to be instilled with his wisdom. And we come to the Eucharist as children to be fed by the Father.

As we come forward to receive the Eucharist today, may we do so thankfully, humbly, and open to the healing the Father wishes to effect in our lives and the gifts he wishes to bestow upon us from His bounty for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday - 10th Week of OT 2017 - Salvation from the death that works within us

I read an article recently in the National Catholic Register, by a very good priest, Fr. John Longknecker, a former Evangelical pastor, who was received into the faith, with his family about 20 years ago. He’s a rarity, in that, he is a married Roman Catholic Priest. He was ordained through a special provision which allows for the ordination of previously married non-Catholic clergy who convert and who discern a calling to the priesthood. But that’s not the point of the article.

He wrote an excellent on the current debate in our culture concerning same-sex marriage. He tries to explain why the Church’s position, prohibiting same-sex marriage and same-sex activity is prohibited. He writes, “in the present debate over same-sex marriage Americans simply cannot comprehend that Catholics operate according to a different set of systems. We believe that same-sex activities and same-sex marriage are wrong, not primarily because we think such things are “yucky” and not because we “hate gays” or because we want to tell them they are all going to hell. We believe these things are wrong for clear and articulate reasons.”

Our culture doesn’t understand, and many Catholics who want to accommodate immorality don’t understand, that our teachings on these things are not based on sentimentality, but based on unchangeable, objective moral principles and also on the word of God.


Fr. Longnecker’s reasoning are rightly applied to not just the prohibition on same-sex marriage, but all of the moral teachings of the Church, including the Lord’s prohibition of divorce and adultery, which we heard in the Gospel today.

The world doesn’t understand us because our culture now values sentimentality over right reason, and it expects us to do the same, and will persecute us when we don’t.

But we put our faith not in the changing fancies and sentiments of man, but in the Logos, the Word-made-flesh, who came not to accommodate our sins, but to free us from them, to free us from the “powers of death at work within us” as St. Paul said in our first reading.

Yes the Lord loves us, and he loves lost sheep. But remember he goes out to the lost sheep to free them from the brambles. And the Lord will fight for those sheep who reject him, who keep returning to the poisonous brambles of sin until their last breath. But in the end, there are eternal consequences for rejecting Him and his Truth.

The forces of our sinful disordered nature conspire to keep us from rising with Christ to a life of charity and truth. Through his grace, may we know the strength we need to resist the powers of darkness within us, that we may choose life, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That our bishops and clergy may be zealous in preaching and teaching the truth of the Gospel, and that our future bishop of the diocese of Cleveland may be a man of true faith and the Holy Spirit.

For all of us who struggle with disordered attractions, sinful inclinations, and temptations to serious sin, for the grace to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ, and for mercy for those who fall.

That our young people on summer vacation, may be kept close to the truth and heart of Jesus.

That the love of Christ, the divine physician, may bring healing to the sick and comfort to all the suffering.

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

O God, who 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, June 15, 2017

10th Week of OT 2017 - Thursday - More than external obedience

“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”  In terms of external obedience to the law’s regulation, the scribes and the Pharisees were known as model followers of the Torah, they practiced a zealous concern particularly for ritual purity, keeping themselves ritually clean for God by following the Levitical law: avoiding contact with unclean things and unclean people like Gentiles and prostitutes.

How could Jesus demand his followers to observe a greater concern than that as a condition for entrance into heaven?  It sounds impossible.

Following Jesus means much more than external obedience.  One scripture scholar wrote, “Jesus’ teaching calls for a radical interiorization, a total obedience to God, a complete self-giving to neighbor, that carries the ethical thrust of the law to its God-willed conclusions.”

The purpose of the Levitical law was to form people with hearts of authentic love of God and love of neighbor. And so the standard of righteousness preached by Jesus Christ goes beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees:  it requires much more than external conformity to the law’s regulations.  God could have made automatons or mindless robots for that. But automatons and robots can’t love.

So, the way to heaven involves much more than mindless and heartless obedience to particular precepts. The way to heaven, the way of Christ, isn’t simply about saying certain rote prayers and particular times or giving x amount of dollars to the Church throughout the year: if I do this, and I do that, then I’ll go to heaven.  Jesus is saying the opposite.  Following him is not just about performing particular actions, but performing them with heart of love. Not just doing the right things, but doing them for the right reasons.

Mere outward observance of the law does not produce love. Certainly, we should avoid doing things that directly hurt other people, such as killing, adultery, and lying. Obeying the law is a necessary minimum. If you are asking, “what is the bare minimum to get into heaven?” you are asking the wrong question. Rather, true disciples need to cultivate the inner attitudes and dispositions that transform the heart and build up love: the patience, meekness, purity and mercy that Jesus teaches throughout this Sermon.

The way of Christ calls for constant conversion, constant turning away from hard-heartedness, cultivating hearts of mercy and divine love for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That our bishops and clergy may be zealous in preaching and teaching the truth of the Gospel, and that our future bishop of the diocese of Cleveland may be a man of true faith and the Holy Spirit.

That all of Christ's disciples may seek the conversion of mind and heart taught by our Master.

That our young people on summer vacation,  may be kept close to the truth and heart of Jesus.

That the love of Christ, the divine physician, may bring healing to the sick and comfort to all the suffering.

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

O God, who 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.