|Fr. Sean Donnelly|
|Immaculate Conception Church|
December 28, 2014
Dec. 28th is the feast of the Holy Family. It is indeed noteworthy that the Son
of God was brought into the world as a member of the human race, in the context of a family.
The Lord could simply have appeared in the world, in human form, as
was the case in several Old Testament episodes connected with the patriarchs
and prophets. But God wanted to enter as deeply into the human condition as possible. He allowed Himself to be conceived in the womb, gestated, born, and raised from childhood into adulthood. It is edifying that Jesus spent most of His earthly life (about 30 years) at home with Mary and Joseph. His public ministry, which was only two or three years in length, followed. We could say, therefore, that Jesus' work of redeeming the world actually began with His conception and extended through all phases of His life as a man.
The moral of the story seems to be this: as the family goes, so does the world. Jesus had the benefit of a mother and foster-father who raised and educated Him. It is clear that when He was 12 years old and found in the Temple that He was quite well versed in His religion. Some parents today seem to think that religion
is not as important as other matters in life. A woman once told me that she took her daughter out of religion classes because the child (about eight years old) made this decision. Why would a conscientious parent allow a small child to make a major decision of this type? Religion is not merely a subject to be learned in class; it is a way of life. One binds himself to God and lives accordingly.
In Jesus's case, His family helped immensely with His understanding of who He was in relation to God and His mission (i.e., Mary and Joseph provided Jesus with His religious education). Jesus learned His lessons well. Jesus took a term of endearment from family life ("father") and started using it of God (the Jews did not normally refer to God as Father). This was because He knew that His mother was a virgin and that He had no biological father. Therefore, Jesus recognized that He was the Son of God in a unique way. Throughout His life and ministry He was completely dedicated to His Father in heaven. He never wavered, even in times of extreme crisis (e.g., in the Garden of Gethsemane).
He was obedient unto death. Jesus' dedication to His Father was vindicated in the Resurrection. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr. Sean Donnelly
December 7, 2014
In case there is anyone who has not noticed it, Christmas has been amalgamated as a part of a generic "holiday season". The season itself emphasizes consumerism, travel, excessive indulgence of food and drink, and other secular activities. Someone once told me about a coworker who was in the thick of such activities. When someone asked what he was doing, he said that he was preparing for Christmas. Interestingly enough, the man who said this did not know that Christmas was religiously based. He may not have had any Christian upbringing. If he did, he completely forgot any teaching he may have had on the subject. One wonders how many others there are (in our workplaces, schools, homes) who do not connect Christmas with the birth of Jesus. Never assume that everyone knows such things. Some people do not know who Jesus is, nor do they know why he is important.
Often people do understand that Christmas has to do with the birth of the Lord, but they are not able to embrace it because they do not see how such a fact of history is relevant to them. This may be because they do not understand that Jesus is alive (He is risen) and active in the world. They do not understand that He can and does change people's lives. (Although, in some cases, people are too complacent to want any changes.) There are so many people who do not know peace, forgiveness, love, etc. For some reason they do not associate Jesus' salvation with these things. Salvation is not merely otherworldly (i.e., pertinent only to heaven). Salvation is also a present reality that is connected with living a spiritually based life that is made possible by the continuing ministry of Jesus (see Galatians 5). When dealing with people who are unbelievers or lapsed believers, it is good to try to help them make these connections. Jesus does not make people miserable (as some people might think).
A simple way of reaching out to people with the glad tidings of salvation is to send religious Christmas cards, especially cards that are artistic in nature. The old saying that a picture paints a thousand words is indeed true. Who is inspired to ask questions about the meaning of life and the place of Jesus when he sees a reindeer or a snowman? On the other hand, a beautiful Madonna and Child might touch the person's heart or at least inspire him to ask questions that orient him to the faith. The opportunities for evangelizing are many. Let's take advantage of them.
November 23, 2014
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has repeatedly called for "immigration reform".
The USCCB's chairman has hailed President Obama's pending measure to halt the deportation of 4.7 million undocumented aliens
who are living in the U.S. The USCCB (which, strictly speaking, is not a "magisterial body")
tends to lack any reserve when it comes to the immigration issue.
What does the Church officially teach about immigration?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2241) includes the stipulation that nations have rights
to make legitimate immigration subject to various conditions that are reflected in their laws.
It is not unjust to have requirements in the law concerning immigration,
and becoming a citizen of a new nation. Without such legalities,
how could a nation maintain its own integrity?
Unfortunately, the USCCB tends to look at any balanced critique of unbridled or unchecked immigration or various forms of amnesty, as somehow being motivated by an unwillingness to welcome the stranger, and therefore in conflict with the Gospel. Jesus wasn't talking about immigration laws. Yes, we are supposed to see Jesus in every person, irrespective of nationality or race, but this doesn't mean that it is not right to be mindful of our nation's welfare, and the welfare of the people involved. Many of the poor people who have flooded into the country have done so as result of political and economic changes brought about by certain people in power who are striving to consolidate the nations and put to rest the concept of having any borders. (We call such ideas "globalism"). The people paying the price for globalist policies are on both sides of the border. Americans suffer and Mexicans suffer.
We do not do anyone any favor by encouraging people to enter the country illegally. Indeed, such people are exploited all along the way. We have the smugglers who make money on sneaking in people (extortion), we have families being torn apart (some stay behind, some enter into the U.S.), we have casualties who do not make it across the desert, etc. Who benefits? Corporations have cheap labor (an undocumented alien cannot complain about receiving a pittance). Politicians have a potential new voter base. Etc. Where is the justice?
Please pray for the leaders of our nation (and those of Mexico and Central America) and our Church. Please pray for all of the families and individuals who have suffered many injustices caused by the illegal immigration industry. Please pray for the end of globalism, which sacrifices nations and the welfare of countless individuals.
November 17, 2014
The last Sunday of the Church's year is fittingly Christ the King Sunday.
The Creed tells us that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead, and of His kingdom there will be no end.
This should put to rest any misguided assumptions that our religion has run its course and that something new is coming.
Nothing will ever overtake Jesus. He cannot be replaced or marginalized.
Many have tried to do it (e.g., we have the so-called New Age Movement).
Others prefer to marginalize Jesus by putting worldly kingdoms first.
For example, some might think that one's country is the most important thing.
Countries come and go. Jesus has a kingship that does not go out of existence
because it is not a political or worldly kingdom.
It is a kingdom connected with faith, hope and love.
Have we given Jesus dominion over our lives? Many people will say that they have. (Many certainly have. The saints, of course, are the best examples.) However, giving Jesus dominion over our lives is not something that anyone on earth has perfected. It requires daily effort, and, of course, much grace. Here are some suggested areas for Jesus' dominion (this is far from an exhaustive listing): one's family-life (have you ever had your home enthroned to the Sacred Heart?), relational-life (i.e., how we get along with others: is charity - love- the theme?), financial-life (do we let the Lord govern our financial decisions?), work-life (Jesus said not to work for food that perishes, but for that which leads to life eternal), one's interior-life (have we given Jesus our mind, memory and imagination? St. Paul says that we must put on the mind of Christ), one's life as a motorist (are we patient with other drivers? Do we pray before and after driving? etc.).
You see, there is much that we need to turn over to the Lord, on a regular basis. It's worth it. Jesus is a king of hearts. If Jesus rules the hearts of His people, the Church becomes what it should be, and the world will be a better place.
November 2, 2014
This Sunday (Nov. 2) happens to be All Souls' Day. As such, the readings are taken from the lectionary for funerals. The missalette has suggestions as to which readings might be used. It is interesting that the missalette never picks the reading that is probably the most appropriate for the commemoration of our beloved departed. Specifically, I have in mind the Church's time-tested tradition (which goes back into pre-New Testament days) of praying for the dead. Which reading am I referring to? It is a reading from the Old Testament that shows piety for the dead at its finest. A general named Judas Maccabeus, was quite alarmed when he discovered that many of his soldiers who had been slain in a battle had died with pagan amulets on their persons. In other words, they had compromised their faith and relied on false gods. What did the general do? He took up a collection and sent it to Jerusalem where the priests of the temple could offer expiatory sacrifices for the slain, so that they could be free from their sin and rise from the dead. (See 2 Maccabees 12.43-46.)
From the earliest days of the Church, it has been customary to offer prayers and sacrifices (especially Masses) for the deceased. St. Augustine speaks about his mother telling her sons not to worry about where they should bury her (her death was imminent), but, rather, to remember her at the altar. Rome has a plethora of funerary artifacts that are replete with inscriptions attesting to the belief in the efficacy of prayers for the deceased. The practice was largely unquestioned until the 16th century and the advent of Protestantism. To this day, in the funeral services of many non-Catholic churches, there are no prayers for the dead. I remember when a high ranking member of the English royal family died, Pope John Paul II sent a telegram that he was praying for her soul. This was an act of charity on the part of the Holy Father.
Why pray for the dead? Because we believe that prayers are efficacious and that death is not a barrier to prayer. People in heaven do not need prayers, of course. But does everyone go to heaven immediately after death? Many people must be purified of faults and failings, who otherwise died in a state of friendship with God. And some people die in a state of grace who have not done penance for serious sins that have been remitted, or they have venial sins for which they had not sought forgiveness. The state of purification is called "purgatory". Purgatory is not a "temporary hell". It is, rather, an opportunity to grow in grace so as to be ready to meet God in heaven. Purgatory, then, is more like a finishing school.
October 26, 2014
Pope Francis has canonized two of his predecessors and beatified a third.
To say the least, this is rather unprecedented.
Very few popes have conferred the honors of the altar onto any of their predecessors,
much less three of them. Who are the three? They are all fairly contemporary with us:
Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II (who are now both canonized), and Pope Paul VI (beatified).
A pope is beatified/canonized not on the basis of his papacy, but on the basis of his having lived a life of heroic virtue.
Heroic virtue is a manifestation of a high level of holiness.
Sometimes people think that canonization means that the pope is making someone a saint.
Actually, only God makes people saints.
What a pope does is simply to affirm the truth about someone being a saint.
The affirmation comes after what is often a long process of study into a person's life and work,
interviews with people who may have known him, and so forth.
An additional sign from God that someone is worthy of being honored with a feast day,
as a Catholic "blessed" or saint, is the requirement of one or two miracles
(non-martyred people are required to have two miracles worked through their intercession).
Pope John Paul's canonization-miracle was the cure of a nun with Parkinson's disease. (Interestingly, Pope John Paul had Parkinson's himself). Pope Paul VI's intercession was responsible for the life and health of a baby. A woman in California, in the 1990's, was told by her doctor, that she would likely not give birth to a healthy baby, but one with significant defects. The doctor advised that she have an abortion. The woman (rightly) would not hear of this. Instead, she had a picture of Pope Paul VI placed on her stomach. Something happened inside of her. The baby was born and was perfectly normal. He has been monitored to make sure that his cure was irreversible (a requirement for an official miracle). The boy is alive today, and quite healthy.
How do we explain all this? The passage from Scripture says it all, "The prayerful petition of a holy person is powerful indeed" (see James 5.16). Holiness and effective prayer go together. Thank God for the saints: the saints in heaven and the saints (in the making) on earth.
October 19, 2014
The Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which is taking place Rome,
has received a great deal of attention from both Catholic and non-Catholic media.
Interestingly, the bishops' speeches ("interventions") have not been made public.
This tends to fuel speculation as to what is being accomplished in the Synod,
and it lends itself to media reportage that has little perspective or is terribly slanted.
Adding fuel to the fire is the midterm report of the Synod fathers which most people will not read,
preferring, instead, newspaper accounts of what the Synod is proposing.
An example of the poor reportage, in our country, is that provided by Associated Press ("AP").
The religion reporter tells us that the Synod is proposing a "seismic shift" in certain areas of Church teaching
that affect the family and human sexuality: e.g., concerning divorce, homosexuality and contraception.
We must be careful not to accept uncritically such claims made by secular news sources.
Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church,
founded on the rock of Peter.
The Church has no authority to change core teachings based on the Scriptures.
The Synod's purpose is to investigate how to better evangelize the family, not to change Church teachings. Evangelization means bringing the gospel to all family members and developing our families into agents for evangelizing the world. Many people received their training in the faith from their homes. They grew up in Catholic households. Today, many people are not practicing the faith. Many Catholic families have become weakened in the faith and, therefore, lack the capacity to be effective evangelizing agents. The family, of course, is based on marriage. Many marriages are unstable or deficient in certain important respects. When a marriage is deficient, how can the partners evangelize each other, or the children? The news media is not interested in evangelization, because the gospel means conversion of life.
The function of the Church is to raise up saints, not to become "converted" by the world. The media does not care about saints or holiness. The media prefers a Church made in its own image. One that is not a threat to the secularist status quo. Please pray for the success of the Synod and for its fruitfulness regarding marriage and family life.
October 12, 2014
I remember accompanying a woman to visit a bishop concerning her abandonment by her husband,
and subsequent divorce. She did not know why her husband left and divorced her.
She wanted a reconciliation with her estranged husband.
The bishop listened to her and told her that this situation was a fruit of "no-fault" divorce,
which began its national onslaught with the California legislature in 1969,
subsequently spreading to the other 49 states.
Prior to 1969, simply wanting a divorce was not grounds for it to be granted.
The moral of the story is that whenever our laws supporting the dignity and indissolubility of marriage weaken,
marriage and family become adversely affected.
The latest salvo against the integrity of marriage, by the state, is found in recent Supreme Court decisions. First, the court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (which act designated marriage as a union between two people of the opposite sex). Second, the court refused to hear cases from five states that had sought appeals to judges' rulings in favor of same sex "marriage". In doing so, the Supreme Court is setting the stage for a major overturning of what is left of marriage, and remaking it into something that has nothing necessarily to do with what societies and common sense have always taken for granted. The Supreme Court is facilitating the further decline of our culture by opening the door for the institutionalization of sodomy and the further devaluation of marriage.
Marriage pre-existed the state. It is as old as the creation of man and woman. State officials are foolish when they enact rulings and laws that weaken marriage by introducing counterfeit forms of marriage. But this is what is happening today. A civilization cannot stand without intact families. Families are started and maintained by husbands and wives. As Catholics and people of good will, we must refuse to go along with politicians and other cultural "change-agents" who have strange ideas about what marriage is or what they think it should be. Ironically, six out of the nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic. To say the least, the court could have done better.
October 5, 2014
I remember, many years ago, being surprised at seeing a book in a bargain bin
at a nation wide retail store on the subject of suicide, complete with directions on how to accomplish it.
Why would a store sell a how-to book advocating such thing?
The answer, I suppose, is that people can be persuaded to do almost anything,
or to at least accept it as being legitimate, when our cultural elites get behind it and market it.
Who runs our culture? There are many: pundits, professors, politicians, entertainers, corporations,
certain advocacy groups (e.g., the former Hemlock Society: now called Compassion & Choices), etc.
The marketing has worked because we have states and nations that have what is euphemistically called:
"physician-assisted suicide". Could such a thing come to Ohio?
If certain groups have their way, and enough people can be manipulated into accepting suicide as a "right"
or a "compassionate choice", it could happen here.
This month is Respect Life Month. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been addressing such issues each year in order to educate people and protect them from being victimized by the culture of death marketers. Taking one's life is never a legitimate "solution". Taking a loved one's life, under the pretext of it being assisted by a physician, is neither morally acceptable nor compassionate. A person has a right to being cherished and cared for until natural death intervenes. This is because each person has God-given dignity, even when he is sick and disabled.
What can be said about end of life decisions? The bishops advocate having someone whom one trusts to act as a proxy who will carry out the patient's written wishes that all treatment and care decisions made on his behalf (should he lose the capacity to act on his own) should not conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church, regarding the dignity of human life. Some people, instead, prepare "living wills". These documents are problematic because no one can possibly predict the exact circumstances surrounding the end of his life and what decisions will have to be made. More problematic is the Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), which is signed by the physician, and effectively allows him to override the patient's wishes.
Please keep abreast of these issues. They affect all of us. Please see the enclosed flyer entitled, "Advanced Medical Directives: Planning for your Future".
September 28, 2014
October is dedicated to the rosary. Oct. 7th is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary,
formerly known as Our Lady of Victory.
The victory referred to is that of the Catholic navies over the Turkish invaders in 1571,
called the Battle of Lepanto.
Pope Pius V, realizing that his forces were outnumbered and facing the real possibility of defeat,
organized a rosary campaign. As a result, much to the surprise of many, the Turks lost the battle.
As a result, Christendom was saved.
There was much at stake in protecting Christendom from defeat at the hands of the Turkish invaders.
An Islamic Turkish victory would have redirected history.
Recourse to the rosary has aided countless people and nations for centuries. The legend is that the rosary was given by Our Lady to St. Dominic (who lived in the 13th century). Actually, the rosary pre-existed Dominic. The rosary developed as a way for lay people (most of whom could not read) to pray as the monks did. The monks prayed from the Book of Psalms. There are 150 psalms. As a substitute, it became customary for people to pray the Lord's Prayer 150 times, using pebbles or beads to count them. After a while, people began interjecting the Angelic Salutation, which begins, "Hail Mary, full of grace". Over time, one Our Father was tied to ten Hail Marys on a string of beads. People meditated on certain mysteries while praying these prayers. As a result, the rosary has been called "the poor man's Bible".
The rosary has withstood the test of time and has proven itself as an effective instrument of intercession. Many popes have recommended it. It was Pope John Paul II's favorite prayer. Pope Francis prays 15 mysteries each day. Our Lady herself, in various apparitions, has appeared with the rosary on her person. At Lourdes, France, our Lady used the rosary to teach us to pray for sinners. At Fatima, Our Lady told Lucia to pray the rosary every day. Praying the rosary regularly can only help people grow in their faith, hope and charity. It will bring people to Mass and confession. Think of what the rosary can do for family groups and for married couples praying it together! Do not underestimate the power of this prayer-form.
September 21, 2014
If you haven't already done so, it is high time to scratch Time Magazine,
the New York Times and CBS News from your list of credible news sources,
at least when it comes to the Catholic Church.
The latest example is the reportage on the Holy Father's wedding Mass for 20 couples on Sept. 14th.
These secular "news" sources used the event more as an opportunity to call into question
the teaching of the Church on the sanctity of marriage and the immorality of sexual cohabitation outside of marriage.
The media focused on the fact that included in the 20 newly married couples were a small number of couples
who had lived together prior to the wedding.
The message given by the secular pundits implied that the Pope was supporting such pre-marital lifestyles.
Actually, just the opposite is the case.
The Holy Father was rectifying irregular unions in order to conform them with the will of God.
The U.S. bishops' 1999 document on marriage and cohabiting couples teaches that the way to minimize the destructive impact that pre-marital cohabitation can have on marriage is for unmarried couples living together to separate and cease sexual activity until after the wedding. Once the separation takes place, Catholic parties will be free to return to the sacraments, beginning with confession. Even secular studies indicate that cohabitation does not prepare people for marriage. The divorce rate increases, depending upon the length of the cohabitation. Cohabiters tend to be psychologically compromised and are less free to make a lifelong commitment. Many such couples never make the adjustment necessary for a real marriage to take place. You can be sure that the Holy Father had all of these couples duly prepared for the sacrament of marriage, before the wedding took place (a point, probably overlooked by the secular reportage).
Additionally, the pundits of CBS Morning News indicated that divorced people cannot receive Holy Communion. This statement is not accurate. In fact, it's a wild exaggeration. What keeps some people away from the sacraments is not divorce. It is being "remarried" outside the Church. An annulment or dissolution of a former bond must be obtained through a Catholic marriage tribunal in order for a divorced person to be remarried in the Church. This will allow them to maintain full sacramental participation in the Church. Countless people have been served through Catholic marriage tribunals, accordingly.
September 7, 2014
1. The plight of Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities in that country, has captured the attention of the world, although certain world leaders (including high ranking American government officials) have failed to condemn the violence. Pope Francis has sent his personal envoy to assess the situation and to be his contact. Violence on this scale produces numerous casualties, refugees, property confiscation and many other evils. The bishops of the U.S. are asking that parishes take up a special collection to help address the humanitarian needs of the many refugees fleeing the violence. The effort will also assist people suffering from the relentless Israeli military campaign waged against Gaza. The collection will take place on the weekend of Sept. 14th, which, coincidentally, is the Feast of the Holy Cross. All checks written for this collection should be marked on the memo line: "Middle East".
2. The 9-11 Commission's official report has chosen to ignore the evidence that the buildings in New York were pre-loaded with explosives. Over 100 eyewitnesses saw and heard explosions as the towers came down. Tower #7 is particularly indicative of a controlled demolition. It was not hit by planes. It dropped on its own, in a perfect footprint. Testimony from architects and engineers indicates that pre-loading a building to fall precisely into its own footprint is quite exacting. Building 7 had 24 core columns, each of which would have had to be armed with an explosive detonating within a fraction of a second of the next one. The improper timing of the explosives would have cause the building to tip, rather than drop. Presently, there is a petition with 67,000 signatures on it, filed with the City of New York's city clerk, asking for a ballot initiative in November to open a new inquiry on the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7. Please pray for our country and our government.
August 31, 2014
1. Bishop Lennon has issued decrees noting the excommunication of three women who have attempted ordination as "Catholic priests". The illicit and invalid "ordinations" took place on Sept. 7, 2013 at a non-Catholic church in Brecksville. Two of the three women celebrate "Mass" each week. The third woman purports to be a Catholic deacon. The bishop did not excommunicate the women, he simply announced that they had excommunicated themselves by virtue of provisions in the Church's code of canon law. Excommunication means that a person cannot receive the sacraments or function in any ministerial capacity in the Catholic Church. The excommunications, in this case, are self-imposed exclusions from the life of the Church brought on by people who knowingly and willingly participated in schismatic activities. These excommunications can be lifted only by the Holy See. In his cover letter to each woman, the bishop expresses his willingness to discuss the matter at hand. Sometimes people come to their senses and realize their need to return to the unity of the Church. Please pray for such an outcome for Ann Klonowski, Mary Collingwood, and Susan Guzik.
2. Please pray for the cessation of the persecution of Catholics and other religious minorities in Iraq. An alternative news source indicates that the extremists doing the damage were armed and trained in Syria, courtesy of certain western governments (including our own). These militias morphed into "ISIS". U.S. leaders have also been silent on questioning why certain Muslim nations that receive billions of dollars of aid from the U.S. (e.g., Egypt) have not condemned the persecution. Needless to say, our government has a long history of dubious involvement in the Middle East. Please pray for our leaders.
June 7, 2014
This Sunday is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The feast takes its
origin from an extraordinary manifestation of the Lord's presence in the Blessed
Sacrament, that occurred in Bolsena, Italy in 1264. A priest was making a
pilgrimage to Rome in order to come to terms with his own difficulties in believing
in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. On the way to Rome, Fr. Peter (as he is called) stopped at the little church of St. Christine, in Bolsena, where he celebrated Mass. At the consecration, as he elevated the host, it bled profusely. Apparently, he wrapped the host in the corporal (which is the linen cloth
on which the priest puts the sacred elements) and proceeded to leave the altar area. In doing so, some of the blood dripped onto the marble steps. Later, the blood-soaked corporal and blood impregnated marble (it's normally impossible that liquid seeps into marble) serve as relics of this miracle.
But there is more to the story. Pope Urban IV, the reigning pontiff at that time, was nearby when the miracle occurred. It piqued his interest greatly, particularly because he had been told, years earlier, by a Belgian mystic, that the Lord wanted a special feast dedicated to His Eucharistic Body and Blood.
The miracle of Bolsena was confirmation of the mystic's claim. Not only did the Holy Father establish the feast, but, also, he appointed St. Thomas Aquinas to write the texts for the Mass for the feast. St. Thomas wrote poetic prayers that come down to us, today, as staples in our practice of Eucharistic adoration, e.g.,
"Humbly Let us Voice our Homage", the "Pange Lingua" (in English: "Sing my Tongue, the Savior's Glory"), etc.
I invite as many of you who can do so to pray before the Blessed Sacrament on a regular basis. The church is opened all day, during the week, until 9:00 p.m.
The Lord waits for us in the tabernacle. We also have exposition of the Eucharist in the chapel from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every Wednesday. And then, we have monthly Sunday Eucharistic exposition after the 8:30 Mass, with benediction immediately proceeding the 11:00 Mass.
Fr. Sean Donnelly
January 12, 2014
The final day of the Christmas season is the feast of the Baptism of Jesus.
Our Savior, though sinless, presented Himself at the Jordan River in the posture of a penitent.
He did this, as He did all things, for us, who are sinners.
Jesus commissioned His Church to administer Baptism using the Trinitarian formula,
and to teach "all nations" the faith. Clearly there is much work that remains,
considering that two-thirds of the world's people are unbaptized.
Please support the Church's missionary efforts by prayer, material assistance and encouragement of vocations.
Catholic couples who are raising children, should see to their baptism in a timely manner. The parents, in baptizing children, are agreeing to become their primary educators in the faith. To carry out this charge, parents must lead by word and example. Going to Mass every Sunday and taking the children who are old enough to understand, is necessary in this regard. Without a supportive faith environment at home, the children's baptism will become fruitless over time. Why? Because, it is unlikely that such children will take the Catholic faith seriously as they grow older.
Presently, in the historically Christian areas of the world (including North America and Europe), there has been a massive falling away from the faith even among many of the baptized. What can we do? We must give others a good example of Christian discipleship. Being practicing Catholics should (of necessity) include being disciples of Jesus. Sometimes we have to encourage people with words of support. (Avoid the "I never talk about religion" approach.) Use of personal testimony can be effective, i.e., sharing with someone a personal story of the action of God in one's life (a conversion, an enlightenment, a healing, etc.). If Jesus is real to us (and He should be), we should be able to speak with a certain amount of conviction as to the effect He has had on our lives. As Catholics we can speak about the great support given to us through the various sacraments, the rosary, and so forth. Use your ingenuity. It may change someone's life.
January 5, 2014
On the feast of the Epiphany, Jesus manifests himself to the gentiles' first representatives at the crib. We call them "wise men" or magi. The word "magi" is the root of our word "magician". The wise men were the scientists and philosophers of the day. To their credit they sought out the newborn King, using all the means at their disposal, including knowledge of Jewish religious traditions and the use of planetary tables. Their stargazing led them to King Herod, who had wicked designs on the Child's life. (This should tell us something about astrology's limits.) Herod's counselors had to seek out the scriptural prophecy in the Book of the prophet Micah, which pinpoints the place of the Messiah's birth. Once arrived at Bethlehem, the magi discarded the tools of their trade: gold, frankincense and myrrh, and by doing so allowed these things to take on a Christian significance. Gold would symbolize Jesus' kingship, frankincense pertains to his priesthood. Myrrh is suggestive of his death. The magi returned to their country changed men (one would suppose).
The Bible is consistent in its condemnation of all forms of divination, including astrology. (See Is. 47.12-15, Jer. 10.1-3 and Dan 2.27-28). The Catholic Church, likewise, rejects all forms of divination. Divination means trying to ascertain such things as future events and situations by recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead, consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, recourse to mediums or "psychics", or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. These practices contradict the honor, respect and loving fear that we owe to God alone. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2110-2117.)
The wise men show us the importance and necessity of seeking the truth. This includes, especially religious truth. Some seem to think that religion is reserved for people's own personal opinions. This, however, contradicts divine revelation. Our faith is based on what God has revealed to us. God can neither deceive nor be deceived. The Child in the manger was miraculously conceived and is a sign of the one God's true love for the world and everything He made, especially mankind. St. Matthew tells us that the wise men, once arrived, prostrated themselves before the Child. They were brilliant men who had the necessary humility to bow down before the Baby Jesus. Accepting the truth is not merely a matter of intellect. People must be humble.
October 7th is the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, which was the last major naval battle fought with oared vessels. The battle took place in 1571, in the eastern Mediterranean. It pitted the invading Muslim Turks against the Christian forces. The latter were outnumbered three to one and clearly the underdogs. Pope (St.) Pius V urged Catholics everywhere to pray the rosary to assist in the defense of Christendom. Enough people prayed, and the Christian forces defeated the Turks, thus saving Christian civilization in Europe.
The rosary has been used as an "armament" many times since then. Much to everyone's surprise, occupying Soviet troops suddenly pulled out of Austria in 1956. Historians still do not understand what happened. It turns out that a Catholic priest started a rosary campaign among the Austrians, with the intention that the Soviets depart. Not only did the occupying troops leave, but also, there was no bloodshed. Imagine what changes we could make in our own nation, if even one out of ten Catholics prayed to liberate the nation from forces bent on suppressing religious freedom, the right to life, and the recognition that marriage is exclusively a union of a man and a woman?
We are all indebted to the influence Our Lady has had on the lives of countless people. She has changed history many times, and even inspired certain scientific, life-saving discoveries. For example, Dr. Carlos Finlay, while praying the rosary, kept being distracted by a mosquito. This led him to be inspired to investigate whether mosquitoes caused malaria. He tested the hypothesis and found that mosquitoes were the culprits. This discovery paved the way for the successful construction of the Panama Canal.
October is dedicated to the rosary. If you have never prayed it, give it a try. If you do pray it, redouble your efforts. Pray it with your family. The world needs prayerful intercessors.
January 5, 2014
John 3.5 speaks of the necessity of baptism: "Unless a man is born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." We live in a world in which two-thirds of the people are unbaptized. In our country, almost half of the people are unchurched. And even among the baptized, there is much laxity in the practice of the Christian faith. You will sometimes find great inconsistency among certain adults in the latter category who want their children baptized nonetheless. Children should be baptized. Baptized adults, however, should be true to the vows of the sacrament: to reject sin and Satan, and live according to the demands of the faith. The parents of the child to be baptized, if they are living together, should be married in the Church. (Jesus expects Christians to keep his commandments.) Catholic parents of children to be baptized are supposed to be participating in the Eucharist (Mass) on Sundays and holy days of obligation, barring sickness or some other serious reason. Indeed, what good is baptism if people squander their relationship with God by living as the pagans do? And, if adults do not live the faith, most likely, their children will mimic them as they grow older. As someone once said, Christianity is always one generation from extinction
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