Saturday, May 28, 2005

Instruction on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar

What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

It is that Sacrament in which under the appearance of bread and wine the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are really, truly and substantially present.

When and to what manner did Christ promise this Sacrament?

About one year before its institution He promised it in the synagogue at Capharnaum, according to St. John the Evangelist: (VI, 24-65.) When Jesus, near the Tiberian Sea, had fed five thousand men in a miraculous manner with a few small loaves, these men would not leave Him, because they marvelled at the miracle, were anxious for this bread, and desired to make Him their king. But Jesus fled to a high mountain, and in the night went with His disciples to Capharnaum which was a town on the opposite side of the sea; but a multitude of Jews followed Him, and He made use of the occasion to speak of the mysterious, bread which He would one day give them and all men. He first exhorted them not to go so eagerly after the perishable. bread of the body, but to seek the bread of the soul which lasts forever, and which the Heavenly Father would give them, through Him, in abundance. This imperishable bread is the divine word, His holy doctrine, especially the doctrine that He had come from heaven to guide us to eternal life. (Vers. 25-38.) The Jews murmured because He said that He had come from heaven, but the Saviour quieted them by showing that no one could believe without a special grace from His Heavenly Father (V. 43, 44.) that He was the Messiah, and had come from heaven. After this introduction setting forth that the duty of faith in Him and in His divine doctrine was a spiritual nourishment, Christ very clearly unfolded the mystery of another bread for the soul which was to be given only at some future time, and this the Saviour did not ascribe to the Heavenly Father, as He did the bread of the divine word, but to Himself by plainly telling what this bread was: I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever, and the bread that I will give, is my flesh for the life of the world. (V. 51, 52.)

But the Jews would not believe these words, so clearly expressed, for they thought their fulfillment impossible, and said: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (V. 53.) But Jesus recalled not His words, answered not the Jews' objections, but confirmed that which He had said, declaring with marked emphasis: Amen, amen, I say unto you, except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you., (V. 54.) He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed; he that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father bath sent me; and I live ,by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread; shall live forever: (V. 55-59.) Jesus, therefore, said distinctly and plainly, that at a future time He would give His own Body and Blood as the true nourishment of the soul; besides, the Jews and the disciples alike received these words in their true, literal sense, and knew that Jesus did not here mention His Body and Blood in figurative sense, but meant to give them His own real Flesh and Blood for food; and it was because they believed it impossible for Jesus to do this, and because they supposed He would give them His dead flesh in a coarse, sensual manner, that the Jews murmured, and even several of His disciples said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it? But Jesus persisted in His words: My flesh is meat indeed, &c., and calls the attention of His disciples to another miracle: to His future ascension, which would be still more incredible, but would come to pass; and by the words: It is the spirit which quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, the words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life, (V. 64) He showed them that this mystery could be believed only by the light and grace of the Holy Spirit, and the partaking of His Bodes and Blood would not be in a coarse, sensual manner, but in a mysterious way. Notwithstanding this, many of His disciples still found the saying hard, and left Him, and went no longer with Him. (V. 67.) They found the saying hard, because, as our Saviour expressly said, they were lacking in faith. He let them go, and said to His apostles: Will you also go away? thereby showing that those who left Him, understood Him clearly enough, and that His words did contain something hard for the mind to believe. The apostles did not leave Him, they were too well assured of His divinity, and that to Him all was possible, as St. Peter clearly expresses: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known that thou art Christ, the Son of God.

From the account given by St. John, it is plainly seen that Christ really promised to give us for our food His most precious Body and Blood, really and substantially, in a Wonderful, mysterious manner, and that He did not speak figuratively of faith in Him, as those assert who contemn this most holy Sacrament. If Jesus had so meant it, He would have explained it thus to the Jews and to His disciples who took His words literally, and therefore could not comprehend, how Jesus could give His Flesh and Blood to them for their food. But Jesus persisted in His words, that His Flesh was truly food, and His Blood really drink. He even made it the strictest duty for man to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood; (V. 54) He shows the benefits arising from this nourishment of the soul, (V. 55) and the reason why this food is so necessary and useful. (V. 56.) When His disciples left Him, because it was a hard saying, He allowed them to go, for they would not believe His words, and could not believe them on account of their carnal manner of thinking. This holy mystery must be believed, and cannot be comprehended. Jesus has then promised, as the Catholic Church has always maintained and taught, that His Body and Blood. would be present under the appearance of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament, a true nourishment for the soul, and that which He promised, He has really given.

When and in what manner did Christ institute the most holy Sacrament of the Altar?

At the Last Supper, on the day before His passion, after He had eaten with His apostles the paschal lamb, which was a prototype of this mystery. Three Evangelists, Matthew, (XXVI: 26?29.) Mark, (XIV. 22-25.) and Luke (XXII. 19-20.) relate in few, but plain words, that on this evening Jesus took into His hand bread and the chalice, blessed and gave both to His disciples, saying: This is my body, that will be given for you; this is my blood, which will be shed for you and for many. Here took place in a miraculous manner, by the all?powerful word of Christ, the mysterious transformation; here Jesus gave Himself to His apostles for food, and instituted that most holy meal of love which the Church says contains all sweetness. That which three Evangelists. plainly relate, St. Paul confirms in his first epistle to the Corinthians, (XI. 23-29. ,See this day's epistle) in which to his account of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament he adds: Whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, (that is, in a state of sin) shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord . . . .eateth and drinketh judgment to himself. (V. 27-29.)

From these words and those of the three holy Evangelists already mentioned, it is clear that Jesus really fulfilled His promise, really instituted the most holy Sacrament, and gave His most sacred Body and Blood to the apostles for their food. None of the Evangelists, nor St. Paul, informs us that Christ said: this will become my body, or, this signifies my body. All agree that our Saviour said this is my body, this is my blood, and they therefore decidedly mean us to understand that Christ's body and blood are really, truly, and substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine, as soon as the mysterious change has taken place. And this is confirmed by the words: that is given for you; which shall be shed for you and for many; because Christ gave neither bread nor wine, nor a figure of His Body and Blood, for our redemption, but His real Body, and His real Blood, and St. Paul could not assert that we could eat the Body and Blood of the Lord unworthily, if under the appearance of bread and wine were present not the real Body and Blood of Christ, but only a figure of them, or if they were only bread and wine. This is also proved by the universal faith of the Catholic Church, which in accordance with Scripture and the oldest, uninterrupted Apostolic traditions (1) has always believed and taught, that under the appearance of bread and wine the real Body and Blood of Christ are present, as the Ecumenical Council of Trent expressly declares: (Sess. XIII. C. I. Can. I. de sacros. Euchdr.) "All our ancestors who were of the Church of Christ, and have spoken of this most Blessed Sacrament, have in the plainest manner professed that our Redeemer instituted this wonderful Sacrament at the Last Supper, when, having blessed the bread and wine, He assured the apostles in the plainest and most exact words, that He was giving them His Body and Blood itself; and if any one denies that the holy Eucharist truly, really, and substantially contains the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity of, our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore the whole Christ, and asserts that it is only a sign or figure without virtue, let him be anathema."

Did Christ institute this Sacrament for all time?

Yes; for when He had promised that the bread which He would give, was His flesh for the life of the world, (john. vi. ga.) and had said expressly that whosoever did not eat His Flesh and drink His Blood would not have life in Him, He, at the Last Supper, by the words: Do this for a commemoration of me, (Luke XXII. 19.) gave to the apostles and their successors, the priests, the power in His name to change bread and wine into His Body and Blood, also to receive It and administer It as a food of the soul, which power the apostles and their successors, the priests, have always exercised, (I Coy. X. 16.) and will exercise to the end of the world.

How long after the change does Christ remain present under the appearance of bread and wine?

As long as the appearances remain; this was always the faith of the Church; therefore in the primitive ages when the persecutions were raging, after the sacrifice the sacred body of our Lord was taken home by the Christians to save the mystery from the pagans; at home they preserved It, and received It from their own hands, as affirmed by the holy Fathers of the Church Justin, Cyprian, Basil, and others. But when persecution had ceased, and the Church was permitted to profess the faith openly, and without hinderance, the Blessed Sacrament was preserved in the churches, enclosed in precious vessels, (ciborium, monstrance, or ostensorium) made for the purpose. In later times it was also exposed, on solemn occasions, for public adoration.

Do we Catholics adore bread when we pay adoration to the Blessed Sacrament?

No; we do not adore bread, for no bread is there, but the most sacred Body and Blood of Christ, and wherever Christ is adoration is due Him by man and angels. St. Augustine says: "No one partakes of this Body until he has first adored, and we not only do not sin when we adore It, but would sin if we did not adore It." The Council of Trent excommunicates those who assert that it is not allowable to adore Christ, the only?begotten Son of God, in the Blessed Sacrament. How unjust are those unbelievers who sneer at this adoration, when it has never entered into the mind of any Catholic to adore the external appearances of this Sacrament, but the Saviour hidden under the appearances; and how grievously do those indifferent Catholics sin who show Christ so little veneration in this Sacrament, and seldom adore Him if at all!

Which are the external signs of this Sacrament?

The form and appearance, or that which appears to our senses, as the figure, the color, and the taste, but the substance of the bread and wine is by consecration changed into the real Body and Blood of Christ, and only the appearance of bread and wine remains, and is observable to the senses.

Where and by whom is this consecration effected?

This consecration is effected on the altar during the holy Sacrifice of the Mass (therefore the name Sacrament of the Altar), when the priest in the name and by the power of Christ pronounces over the bread and wine the words which Christ Himself pronounced when He instituted this holy Sacrament. St. Ambrose writes: "At the moment that the Sacrament is to be accomplished, the priest no longer uses his own words, but Christ's words therefore. Christ's words complete the Sacrament."

Is Christ present under each form?

Christ is really and truly present under both forms, in Divinity and Humanity, Body and Soul, Flesh and Blood. That Jesus is thus present is clear from the words of St. Paul: Knowing that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more. (Rom. VI. 9.) Because Christ dies no more, it naturally follows that He is wholly and entirely present under each' form. Hence the council of Trent says: "Whoever denies that in the venerable Sacrament, of the Eucharist the whole Christ is present in each of the forms and in each part of each form, where a separation has taken place, let him be anathema."

Then no matter how many receive this Sacrament, does each receive Christ?

Yes, for each of the apostles received Christ entirely, and if God by His omnipotence can cause each individual to rejoice at the same instant in the sun's light, and enjoy its entireness, and if He can make one and the same voice resound in the ears of all the listeners, is He not able to give the body of Christ, whole and entire, to as many as wish to receive It?

Is it necessary that this Sacrament should be received in both forms?

No, for as it has already been said, Christ is wholly present, Flesh and Blood, Humanity and Divinity, Body and Soul, in each of the forms. Christ promises eternal life to the recipient also of one form when He says,: I f any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, and the bread that I will give, is my flesh for the life of the world. (John. VI. 52.) The first Christians, in times of persecution, received this Sacrament only in the form of bread in their houses. Though in earlier times the faithful, like the priests, partook of the chalice, it was not strictly required, and the Church for important reasons has since ordered the reception of Communion under but one form, because there was danger that the blood of our Lord might be spilled, and thus dishonored; because as the Blessed Sacrament must always be ready for the sick, it was feared that the form of wine might be injured by long preservation; because many cannot endure the taste of wine; because in some countries there is scarcity of wine, and it can be obtained only at great cost and with much difficulty, and finally, in order to refute the error of those who denied that Christ is entirely present under each form.

Which area the effects of holy Communion?

The graces of this most holy Sacrament are, as the Roman Catechism says, innumerable; it is the fountain of all grace, for it ,contains the Author of all the Sacraments, Christ our Lord, all goodness and perfection. According to the doctrine of the?Church , there are six special effects of grace produced by, this Sacrament in those who worthily receive it. It unites the recipient with Christ, which Christ plainly shows when He says: He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me and I in him; (John VI. 57.) hence the name Communion, of which St. Leo writes: "The participation of the Body and Blood of Christ transforms ' us into that which we receive," and from this union with Christ, our Head, arises also a closer union with our brethren in Christ, into one body. (I Cor. X. 17.) It preserves and increases sanctifying grace, which is the spiritual life of the soul, for our Saviour says: He that eateth me, the, same also shall live by me. (John VI, 58.) It diminishes in us concupiscence and strengthens us against the temptations of the devil. St. Bernard says: "This holy Sacrament produces tow effects in us, it diminishes gratifiation in venial sins, it removes the full consent in grievous sins; if any of you do not feel so often now the harsh emotion of anger, of envy, or impurity, you owe it to the Body and Blood of the Lord:" and St. Chrystostom: "When we communicate worthily we return from the table like fiery lions, terrible to the devils." It causes us to perform good works with strength and courage; for be who abides in Christ, and Christ in him, bears much fruit. (John XV.) It effaces venial sin, and preserves from mortal sin, as St. Ambrose says: "This daily bread is used as a help against daily weakness: and as by the enjoyment of this holy Sacrament, we are made in a special manner the property, the lams of Christ, which He Himself nourishes with His own heart's blood, He does not permit us to be taken out of His hands, so long as we cooperate with His grace, by prayer, vigilance and contest. It brings us to a glorious resurrection and to eternal happiness; for he who communicates worthily, possesses Him who is the resurrection and the life, (John XI. 25.) who said: He that eatheth my flesh, and drinketh ? my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. (John VI, 55.) He has, therefore, in Christ a pledge, that he will rise in glory and live for ever. If the receiving of this Sacrament produces such great results, how frequently and with what sincere desire should we hasten ~ to enjoy this heavenly banquet, this fountain of all grace! The first Christians received it daily, and St. Augustine says: "Daily receive what daily benefits!" and St. Cyril: The baptized may know that they remove themselves far from eternal life, when they remain a long time from Communion." Ah, whence comes in our days, the indifference, the weakness, the impiety of so many Christians but from the neglect and unworthy reception of Communion! Christian soul, close not your ears to the voice of Jesus who invites you so tenderly to His banquet: Come to me all you who are heavily laden and I will refresh you. Go often, very often to Him; but when you go to Him, do not neglect to prepare for His worthy reception, and you will soon feel its effects in your soul.

In what does the worthy preparation for this holy Sacrament consist?

The worthy preparation of the soul consists in purifying ourselves by a sincere confession from all grievous sins, and in approaching the holy table with profound humility, sincere love, and with fervent desire. He who receives holy Communion in the state of mortal sin draws down upon himself, as the, apostle says, judgment and condemnation. The worthy preparation of the body consists in fasting from midnight before receiving Communion, and in coming properly dressed to the Lord's banquet.

The holy Sacrament of the Altar is preserved in the tabernacle, in front of which a light is burning day and night, to show that Christ, the light of the world, is here present, that we may bear in mind that every Christian congregation should contain in itself the light of faith, the flame of hope, the warmth of divine love, and the fire of true devotion, by a pious life manifesting and consuming itself, like a light, in. the service of God. As a Christian you must believe that under the appearance of bread Christ is really present in the tabernacle, and that He is your Redeemer, your Saviour, your Lord and King, the best Friend and Lover of your soul, whose pleasure it is to dwell among the children of men; then it is your duty often to visit Him in this most holy Sacrament, and offer Him your homage and adoration, "It is certain," says: St. Alphonsus Ligouri, that next to the enjoyment of this holy Sacrament in Communion, the adoration of Jesus in this Sacrament is the best and most pleasing of all devotional exercises, and of the greatest advantage to us." Hesitate not, therefore, to practise this devotion. From this day renounce at least a quarter of an hour's intercourse with others, and go to church to entertain yourself there with Christ. Know that the time which you spend in this way will be of the greatest consolation to, you in the hour of death and through all eternity. Visit Jesus not only in the church, but also accompany and adore Him when carried in processions, or to sick persons. You will thus show your Lord the homage due to Him, gather great merits for yourself, and have the sure hope that Christ will one day repay you a hundredfold.

1. Thus St. Ignatius, the Martyr, who was instructed by the apostles themselves, rebukes in these words those who even at that time would not believe in the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of the. Lord: "They do not believe that the real body of Jesus Christ our Redeemer who suffered for us and has risen from death is contained in the Sacrament of the Altar." (Ep. ad Smyr.) Thus St. Irenaeus who was a disciple of St. Polycarp, a pupil of St. John the Evangelist, writes: "Of the bread is made the body of Christ" (Lib. IV adv. haer.) In the same manner St. Cyril: "Since Christ our Lord said of this bread, This is my body, who dares doubt it? Since He said, This is my blood, who dares to say, it is not His blood?" (Lib. IV. regul. Cat.) and in another place: "Bread and wine which before the invocation of the most Holy Trinity were only bread and wine, become after this invocation the body and blood of Christ." (Cat. myrt. I.)

What can the unbelievers say to this testimony? Do they know the truth better than those apostles who themselves saw and heard Jesus at the Last Supper, and who taught their disciples that which they had seen and heard? All Christian antiquity proves the error of these heretics.
From "The Church's Year" by Fr. Leonard Goffine

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Why is this day called Corpus Christi?

Because on this Thursday the Catholic Church celebrates the institution of the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. The Latin term Corpus Christi signifies in English, Body of Christ.

Who instituted this festival?

Pope Urban IV, who, in the decree concerning it, gives the following explanation of the institution and grandeur of this festival: "Although we daily, in the holy Sacrifice of the Mass; renew the memory of this holy Sacrament, we believe that we must, besides, solemnly commemorate it every year, to put the unbelievers to shame; and because vie have been informed that God has revealed to some pious persons that this festival should be celebrated in the whole Church, we direct that on the first Thursday after the octave of Pentecost the faithful shall assemble in church, join with the priests in singing the word of God," &c. Hence this festival was instituted on account of the greatness of the divine mystery; the unbelief of those who denied the truth of this mystery; and the revelation made to some pious persons. This revelation was made to a nun at Liege, named Juliana, and to her devout friends Eve and Isabella. Juliana, when praying, had frequently a vision in which she saw the bright moon, with one part of it somewhat dark; at her request she received instructions from God that one of the grandest festivals was yet to be instituted the festival of the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. In 1246, she related this vision to Robert, Bishop of Liege, who after having investigated the matter with the aid . of several men of learning and devotion, among whom was Jacob Pantaleon, Archdeacon of Liege, afterwards Pope Urban IV. made arrangements to introduce this festival m his diocese, but death prevented his intention being put into effect. After the bishop's death the Cardinal Legate Hugh undertook to carry out his directions, and celebrated the festival for the first time in the year 1247, in the Church of St. Martin at Liege. Several bishops followed this example, and the festival was observed in many dioceses, before Pope Urban IV. in 1264 finally ordered its celebration by the whole Church. This order was confirmed by ClementV, at the Council of Vienna in 1311, and the Thursday after the octave of Pentecost appointed for its celebration. In 13 17, Pope John XXII. instituted the solemn procession.

Why are there such grand processions on this day?

For a public profession of our holy faith that Christ is really, truly and substantially present in this Blessed Sacrament; for a public reparation of all the injuries, irreverence, and offences, which have been and are committed by impious men against Christ in this Blessed Sacrament; for the solemn veneration and adoration due to the Son of God in this Sacrament; in thanksgiving for its institution; and for all the graces and advantages received therefrom; and finally, to draw down the divine blessing upon the people and the country.

Had this procession a prototype in the Old Law?

The procession in which was carried the Ark of the Covenant containing the manna, was a figure of this procession.
From "The Church's Year" by Fr. Leonard Goffine

Gospel for Saturday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Mark 11:27-33

Jesus' Authority

[27] And they (Jesus and his disciples) came to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, [28] and they said to him, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?" [29] Jesus said to them, "I will ask you a question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. [30] Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men? Answer me." [31] And they argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Why then did not you not believe him?' [32] But shall we say, 'From men'?"--they were afraid of the people, for all held that John was a real prophet. [33] So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

27-33. Those who put this question to Jesus are the same people as, some days earlier, sought to destroy him (cf. Mk 11:18). They represent the official Judaism of the period (cf. note on Mt 2:4). Jesus had already given proofs and signs of being the Messiah, in his miracles and preaching; and St. John the Baptist had borne witness about who Jesus was. This is why, before replying, our Lord asks them to recognize the truth proclaimed by the Precursor. But they do not want to accept this truth; nor do they want to reject it publicly, out of fear of the people. Since they are not ready to admit their mistake, any further explanation Jesus might offer would serve no purpose.

This episode has many parallels in everyday life: anyone who seeks to call God to account will be confounded.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Our Blessed Mother, ‘Woman of the Eucharist’

Our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II dedicated the last chapter of his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church)" to the Virgin Mary, our Blessed Mother, and her relationship to the Holy Eucharist. It pleases me that my reflection on Chapter Six, "At the School of Mary, ‘Woman of the Eucharist,’" comes during the month of May, which we lovingly dedicate, in a special way, to our Blessed Mother.
Archbishop Burke's full column can be read here.

Celebrating a renaissance: Latin Mass at Boulder parish

More than a generation ago the Latin language disappeared from nearly all Catholic parishes. But on May 29 St. Martin de Porres Church in Boulder will celebrate the first anniversary of its monthly Latin Mass.

“We’re celebrating our first year offering a service most Catholics thought impossible,” said St. Martin’s pastor, Father Hermanagild Jayachandra. “Catholics from all over Boulder County and beyond have been attracted to the Mass.”

The liturgy, offered the last Sunday of each month at 10:30 a.m., is a Latin version of the Novus Ordo Mass, a format adopted in the 1970s by the Second Vatican Council and used daily in Catholic parishes worldwide. However, said Father Jayachandra, the language of each country is used instead of Latin, “causing most Catholics to believe that Latin was outlawed by the council.”

Gospel for Friday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Mark 11:11-26

The Messiah Enters Jerusalem (Continuation)

[11] And He (Jesus) entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple; and when He had looked around at everything, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

The Barren Fig Tree. The Expulsion of the Money-Changers

[12] On the following day, when they came from Bethany, He was hungry. [13] And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if He could find anything on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. [14] And He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And His disciples heard it.

[15] And they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; [16] and He would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. [17] And He taught, and said to them, "Is it not written, `My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." [18] And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the multitude was astonished at His teaching. [19] And when evening came they went out of the city.

[20] As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. [21] And Peter remembered and said to Him, "Master, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered." [22] And Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. [23] Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. [24] Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will. [25] And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

12. Jesus' hunger is another sign of His being truly human. When we contemplate Jesus we should feel Him very close to us; He is true God and true man. His experience of hunger shows that He understands us perfectly: He has shared our needs and limitations. "How generous our Lord is in humbling Himself and fully accepting His human condition! He does not use His divine power to escape from difficulties or effort. Let's pray that He will teach us to be tough, to love work, to appreciate the human and divine nobility of savoring the consequences of self-giving" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 161).

13-14. Jesus, of course, knew that it was not the right time for figs; therefore, He was not looking for figs to eat. His action must have a deeper meaning. The Fathers of the Church, whose interpretation St. Bede reflects in his commentary on this passage, tells us that the miracle has an allegorical purpose: Jesus had come among His own people, the Jews, hungry to find fruit of holiness and good works, but all He found were external practices--leaves without fruit. Similarly, when He enters the temple, He upbraids those present for turning the temple of God, which is a house of prayer (prayer is the fruit of piety), into a place of commerce (mere leaves). "So you", St. Bede concludes, "if you do not want to be condemned by Christ, should guard against being a barren tree, by offering to Jesus, who made Himself poor, the fruit of piety which He expects of you" ("In Marci Evangelium Expositio, in loc.").

God wants both fruit and foliage; when, because the right intention is missing, there are only leaves, only appearances, we must suspect that there is nothing but purely human action, with no supernatural depth--behavior which results from ambition, pride and a desire to attract attention.

"We have to work a lot on this earth and we must do our work well, since it is our daily task that we have to sanctify. But let us never forget to do everything for God's sake. If were to do it ourselves, out of pride, we could produce nothing but leaves, and no matter how luxuriant they were, neither God nor our fellow man would find any good in them" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 202).

15-18. Our Lord does not abide lack of faith or piety in things to do with the worship of God. If He acts so vigorously to defend the temple of the Old Law, it indicates how we should truly conduct ourselves in the Christian temple, where He is really and truly present in the Blessed Eucharist. "Piety has its own good manners. Learn them. It's a shame to see those `pious' people who don't know how to attend Mass--even though they go daily,--nor how to bless themselves (they throw their hands about in the wierdest fashion), nor how to bend the knee before the Tabernacle (their ridiculous genuflections seem a mockery), nor how to bow their heads reverently before a picture of our Lady" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 541). Cf. note on Matthew 21:12-13.

20-25. Jesus speaks to us here about the power of prayer. For prayer to be effective, absolute faith and trust are required: "A keen and living faith. Like Peter's. When you have it--our Lord has said so--you will move mountains, the humanly insuperable obstacles that rise up against your apostolic undertakings" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 489).

For prayer to be effective, we also need to love our neighbor, forgiving him everything: if we do, then God our Father will also forgive us. Since we are all sinners we need to admit the fact before God and ask His pardon (cf. Luke 18:9-14). When Christ taught us to pray He required that we have these predispositions (cf. Matthew 6:12; also Matthew 5:23 and notes on same). Here is how Theophylact ("Ennaratio in Evangelium Marci, in loc.") puts it: "When you pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father who is in Heaven may forgive you [...]. He who believes with great affection raises his whole heart to God and, in David's words, opens his soul to God. If he expands his heart before God in this way, he becomes one with Him, and his burning heart is surer of obtaining what he desires."

Even when he is in the state of sin, man should seek God out in prayer; Jesus places no limitations at all: "Whatever you ask..." Therefore, our personal unworthiness should not be an excuse for not praying confidently to God. Nor should the fact that God already knows our needs be an excuse for not turning to Him. St. Teresa explains this when she prays: "O my God, can it be better to keep silent about my necessities, hoping that Thou wilt relieve them? No, indeed, for Thou, my Lord and my Joy, knowing how many they must be and how it will alleviate them if we speak to Thee of them, dost bid us pray to Thee and say that Thou will not fail to give" (St. Teresa, "Exclamations", 5). Cf. notes on Matthew 6:5-6 and Matthew 7:7-11.

26. As the RSV note points out, many ancient manuscripts add a v. 26: but it is clearly an addition, taken straight from Matthew 6:15. This addition was included by the editors of the Old Vulgate.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

President Bush Says Best Way to Honor Pope John Paul is to "Build a Culture of Life"

Bush and Archbishop Chaput Address National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

See some amazing previews of this blockbuster movie to be released Dec. 9...

Freedom only makes sense when it's tied to truth, says archbishop

In an interview [...], Archbishop J. Michael Miller told The Vermont Catholic Tribune, newspaper of the Diocese of Burlington, that truth matters, even in a world where it is often minimized.

He repeated the words of Jesus, "the truth will set you free," and said that "freedom only makes sense when it is tied to the truth, what is objectively hard-wired into human experience and into the world."

Freedom that is not linked to the truth is just power or license, he added.

Catholic institutions, Archbishop Miller said, must help students recognize the fundamental value that the Catholic intellect brings to the world: the discourse about truth.
Now this is interesting...
The Congregation for Catholic Education, for which Archbishop Miller has been the secretary since January 2004, has authority in the areas of seminaries and educational institutions.

An institution may only call itself Catholic if the local bishop accepts it as a Catholic institution. Although "a very, very small number" of institutions throughout the world have decided they no longer want to be considered Catholic, "the inflow is much greater than the outflow," Archbishop Miller said, meaning more institutions are seeking a Catholic designation.
I wonder if those institutions which claim to be Catholic (but whose actions demonstrate otherwise) are to be accepted as Catholic even if a local bishop has not publicly accepted it as Catholic?
The voice of the church must be respected and heard, he said, and students must be given the opportunity to learn the convincing reasons behind what the [C]hurch teaches.

A Catholic institution, he said, is expected to foster Catholic identity and Catholic understanding.

CNS Article here.

Cardinal says priests will marry

THE leader of Scotland's Catholics has risked reigniting a row over married priests by predicting the Vatican will eventually relent and allow the practice.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said the success of married deacons in the church means the change is likely.

The church leader has upset traditional Catholics in the past with his views on celibacy, homosexuality and the priesthood.

His latest comments were made in an interview with the Catholic Times, which will be published on Sunday...

Coming In June! New Oxford Review Online

Gay Unitarian Named Dean of Catholic College

A Catholic college in Vermont is getting an openly-homosexual dean, according to a story in 'Out in the Mountains,' Vermont’s “voice for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, [and] transgender people.”

The story, written by Stacey Horn, says that “Professor Jeffrey Trumbower, a gay man and a Unitarian, has been appointed dean of St. Michael’s College, a Catholic school established in 1904 by the Society of Saint Edmund, a French order of Catholic priests.
It is well past time for bishops to denounce and condemn certain actions and positions of colleges and universities which claim to be Catholic. Failing to do so has the implication of giving tacit approval to the actions of so-called "Catholic" colleges. It is a grave scandal that such colleges are permitted to be called "Catholic".

Catholic League Fights Slander of Mother Teresa

Catholic League president William Donohue wrote the following today [after the airing of the offensive program]:

“In the 12 years that I have been president of the Catholic League, I have never witnessed a more vicious attack on Catholicism than what appeared this week on the Showtime program, ‘Penn and Teller.’ The episode, ‘Holier Than Thou,’ was a frontal assault on Mother Teresa and her order of nuns, Missionaries of Charity (as well as Gandhi and the Dali Lama).

There will be a Press Conference today at 1:30 p.m. outside the Marriott Marquis Hotel on Broadway and 46th Street in New York City. The press conference will address the vile assault on Mother Teresa that Showtime aired this week in its “Holier Than Thou” episode of Penn and Teller; Showtime is owned by Viacom.

Gospel for May 26, Memorial: St. Philip Neri, Priest

From: Mark 10:46-52

The Blind Man of Jericho

[46] And they (Jesus and His disciples) came to Jericho; and as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. [47] And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!: [48] And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" [49] And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; rise, He is calling you." [50] And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. [51] And Jesus said to him, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And the blind man said to Him, "Master, let me receive my sight." [52] And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

46-52. "Hearing the commotion the crowd was making, the blind man asks, `What is happening?' They told him, `It is Jesus of Nazareth.' At this his soul was so fired with faith in Christ that he cried out, `Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'

"Don't you feel the same urge to cry out? You who are also waiting at the side of the way, of this highway of life that is so very short? You who need more light, you who need more grace to make up your mind to seek holiness? Don't you feel an urgent need to cry out, `Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me'? What a beautiful aspiration for you to repeat again and again!...

"`Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.' As people have done to you, when you sensed that Jesus was passing your way. Your heart beat faster and you too began to cry out, prompted by an intimate longing. Then your friends, the need to do the done thing, the easy life, your surroundings, all conspired to tell you: `Keep quiet, don't cry out. Who are you to be calling Jesus? Don't bother Him.'

"But poor Bartimaeus would not listen to them. He cried out all the more: `Son of David, have mercy on me.' Our Lord, who had heard him right from the beginning, let him persevere in his prayer. He does the same with you. Jesus hears our cries from the very first, but he waits. He wants us to be convinced that we need Him. He wants us to beseech Him, to persist, like the blind man waiting by the road from Jericho. `Let us imitate him. Even if God does not immediately give us what we ask, even if many people try to put us off our prayers, let us still go on praying' (St. John Chrysostom, "Hom. on St. Matthew", 66).

"`And Jesus stopped, and told them to call Him.' Some of the better people in the crowd turned to the blind man and said, `Take heart; rise, He is calling you.' Here you have the Christian vocation! But God does not call only once. Bear in mind that our Lord is seeking us at every moment: get up, He tells us, put aside your indolence, your easy life, your petty selfishness, your silly little problems. Get up from the ground, where you are lying prostrate and shapeless. Acquire height, weight and volume, and a supernatural outlook.

"And throwing off his mantle the man sprang up and came to Jesus. He threw off his mantle! I don't know if you have ever lived through a war, but many years ago I had occasion to visit a battlefield shortly after an engagement. There strewn all over the ground, were greatcoats, water bottles, haversacks stuffed with family souvenirs, letters, photographs of loved ones...which belonged, moreover, not to the vanquished but to the victors! All these items had become superfluous in the bid to race forward and leap over the enemy defenses. Just as happened to Bartimaeus, as he raced towards Christ.

"Never forget that Christ cannot be reached without sacrifice. We have to get rid of everything that gets in the way--greatcoat, haversack, water bottle. You have to do the same in this battle for the glory of God, in this struggle of love and peace by which we are trying to spread Christ's Kingdom. In order to serve the Church, the Pope and all souls, you must be ready to give up everything superfluous....

"And now begins a dialogue with God, a marvelous dialogue that moves us and sets our hearts on fire, for you and I are now Bartimaeus. Christ, who is God, begins to speak and asks, `Quid tibi vis faciam?' `What do you want Me to do for you?' The blind man answers. `Lord, that I may see.' How utterly logical! How about yourself, can you really see? Haven't you too experienced at times what happened to the blind man of Jericho? I can never forget how, when meditating on this passage many years back, and realizing that Jesus was expecting something of me, though I myself did not know what it was, I made up my own aspirations: `Lord, what is it You want! What are You asking of me'? I had a feeling that He wanted me to take on something new and the cry, `Rabboni, ut videam', `Master, that I may see,' moved me to beseech Christ again and again, `Lord, whatever it is that You wish, let it be done.'

"Pray with me now to our Lord: `doce me facere voluntatem tuam, quia Deus meus es tu" (Psalm 142:10) (`teach me to do Thy will, for You art my God'). In short, our lips should express a true desire on our part to correspond effectively to our Creator's promptings, striving to follow out His plans with unshakeable faith, being fully convinced that He cannot fail us....

"But let us go back to the scene outside Jericho. It is now to you that Christ is speaking. He asks you, `What do you want Me to do for you?' `Master, let me receive my sight.' Then Jesus answers, `Go your way. Your faith has made you well.' And immediately he received his sight and followed Him on His way." Following Jesus on His way. You have understood what our Lord was asking to from you and you have decided to accompany Him on His way. You are trying to walk in His footsteps, to clothe yourself in Christ's clothing, to be Christ Himself: well, your faith, your faith in the light our Lord is giving you, must be both operative and full of sacrifice. Don't fool yourself. Don't think you are going to find new ways. The faith He demands of us is as I have said. We must keep in step with Him, working generously and at the same time uprooting and getting rid of everything that gets in the way" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 195-198).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Discovery of Complex, Precise DNA Language Points to Intelligent Design of Life

Teens admit beating Springfield, IL priest

The two youths charged with beating the Rev. Eugene Costa in Douglas Park on Dec. 21 pleaded guilty Monday to aggravated battery.

The state agreed to seek no more than a three-year prison sentence for Jamie E. Gibson, 17, and Ryan Boyle, 15, when Circuit Judge Leo Zappa sentences them July 19.

Gibson told police he and Boyle had cut through the park and stopped near a bench to smoke a cigarette and rest. An older man, later identified as Costa, walked up to them, started talking and eventually offered them $50 for sex acts, police said Gibson told them.

Gibson allegedly said the man rubbed up against him and touched his leg, causing him to step back. When the man did the same thing again, Gibson punched him, knocking him to the ground. Gibson and Boyle then started kicking him in the head, reports said.

Gospel for Wednesday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Mark 10:32-45

Third Prophecy of the Passion

[32] And they (the disciples) were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the Twelve again, He began to tell them what was to happen to Him, [33] saying, "Behold, we are goingup to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles; [34] and they will mock Him, and spit upon Him, and scourge Him, and kill Him; and after three days He will rise."

The Sons of Zebedee Make Their Request

[35] And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Him, and said to Him, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You." [36] And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?" [37] And they said to Him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." [38] But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" [39] And they said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; [40] but to sit at My right hand or at My left is not Mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." [41] And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. [42] And Jesus called them to Him and said to them, "You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. [43] But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [44] and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. [45] For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom of many."

32. Jesus was making His way to Jerusalem with a burning desire to see fulfilled everything that He had foretold about His passion and death. He had already told His disciples that He would suffer there, which is why they cannot understand His eagerness. By His own example He is teaching us to carry the cross gladly, not to try to avoid it.

35-44. We can admire the Apostles' humility: they do not disguise their earlier weakness and shortcomings from the first Christians. God also has wanted the Holy Gospel to record the earlier weaknesses of those who will become the unshakeable pillars of the Church. The grace of God works wonders in people's souls: so we should never be pessimistic in the face of our own wretchedness: "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

38. When we ask for anything in prayer, we should be ready, always, to accept God's will, even if it does not coincide with our own: "His Majesty knows best what is suitable for us; it is not for us to advise Him what to give us, for He can rightly reply that we know not what we ask" (St. Teresa, "Mansions", II, 8).

43-45. Our Lord's word and example encourage in us a genuine spirit of Christian service. Only the Son of God who came down from Heaven and freely submitted to humiliation (at Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary, and in the Sacred Host) can ask a person to make himself last, if he wishes to be first.

The Church, right through history, continues Christ's mission of service to mankind: "Experienced in human affairs, the Church, without attempting to interfere in any way in the politics of States, `seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ Himself under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served' (Vatican II, "Gaudium Et Spes", 3). Sharing the noblest aspirations of men and suffering when she sees them not satisfied, she wishes to help them attain their full flowering, and that is why she offers men what she possesses as her characteristic attribute: a global vision of man and of the human race" (Paul VI, "Populorum Progressio", 13).

Our attitude should be that of our Lord: we should seek to serve God and men with a truly supernatural outlook, not expecting any return; we should serve even those who do not appreciate the service we do them. This undoubtedly does not make sense, judged by human standards. However, the Christian identified with Christ takes "pride" precisely in serving others; by so doing he shares in Christ's mission and thereby attains his true dignity: "This dignity is expressed in readiness to serve, in keeping with the example of Christ, who `came not to be served but to serve.' If, in the light of this attitude of Christ's, `being a king' is truly possible only by `being a servant', then `being a servant' also demands so much spiritual maturity that it must really be described as `being a king.' In order to be able to serve others worthily and effectively we must be able to master ourselves, possess the virtues that make this mastery possible" (John Paul II, "Redemptor Hominis", 21). Cf. note on Matthew 20:27-28.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Pope Paul VI was right...

...when he reaffirmed the Church's teaching regarding the grave immorality of artificial contraception. However, we wish to be like gods, making our own judgments on right and wrong.
3 in 4 Texas Catholics support birth control

AUSTIN — Most Texas Catholics disagree with the church's position on birth control, according to the Scripps Howard Texas Poll.

Seventy-four percent of Catholics believe the church should back birth control, the poll found.

The poll randomly surveyed 1,000 adult Texans between April 14 and May 4. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

The poll also showed 55 percent of Texans believe priests should be allowed to marry.

Support for women becoming priests garnered...46 percent.

33 percent of Texans supported making Catholic doctrine [on abortion] less strict.
The evident result of failed catechesis, pride, dissent, malformed consciences - the whole works...More reasons to pray for God's mercy!

More here.

Bishop Boland's Resignation Accepted

From the Vicar General's Office/Chancellor's Office
Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph
Today, May 24, at 5:00 a.m. Central Time (12 noon Rome time), Bishop Boland’s resignation was officially accepted by the Holy Father. As of this day Bishop Robert Finn is the bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Please now include his name in the Eucharistic Prayer as our bishop.

A Mass with Bishop Boland to celebrate his twelve years as our shepherd is scheduled at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday June 23 at 7:00 p.m. All are invited to this celebration. Please extend an invitation to your parishioners through your bulletins.

You may find the official announcement on the Vatican website. You may find Bishop Boland’s farewell statement on our diocesan website.

Bishop Finn has issued the following statement:

When I was named by Pope John Paul II last spring as Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Boland welcomed me warmly and has been very kind and helpful to me as I had to adjust to a new home and new responsibilities. On this occasion when Pope Benedict XVI has accepted his retirement as fifth bishop of our diocese, I want to wish Bishop Boland every grace and blessing and many holy, happy, and healthy years to come as he continues his Episcopal ministry in a new way. He has my complete admiration and support, and -- I know -- the gratitude and love of God’s people.

As we, the Church in Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, embark on this next chapter, I pledge my love and service to all God’s flock entrusted to me, and, as I ask your help and prayers, I commend myself and this local Church to Mary, my mother and queen, to our co-patron St. Joseph, and to the mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Which 20th Century Pope AreYou?

I took the quiz - the results?

You are Pope St. Pius X. You'd rather be right than newfangled

Pope Accepts Resignation of Kansas City's Bishop Boland

VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, U.S.A., presented by Bishop Raymond James Boland in accordance with Canon 401, para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Robert W. Finn.

US Parent Teacher Association Allows Gay Activists but Refuses Ex-Gays

WASHINGTON, DC, May 19, 2005 ( - The National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) has refused an ex-gay group's request to exhibit at its annual convention while welcoming a gay activist organization and inviting it to present a workshop. Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays ( has had its application to exhibit rejected because it supports former homosexuals. The National PTA, however, sought the attendance of Parents, Families and Friends of Gays (PFLAG), a pro-gay advocacy group which believes in same sex marriage.

High Court Re-enters Abortion Debate

WASHINGTON, May 23 - The Supreme Court today accepted its first abortion case in five years, an unexpected development that, despite the rather technical questions the case presents, is likely to add even more heat to the already super-heated atmosphere surrounding the court and its immediate future.

The new case is an appeal by the state of New Hampshire of a federal appeals court ruling that struck down a parental-notification requirement for minors seeking abortions.

Gospel for Tuesday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Mark 10:28-31

Poverty and Renunciation (Continuation)

[28] Peter began to say to Him (Jesus), "Lo, we have left everything and followed You." [29] Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, [30] who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. [31] But many that are first will be last, and the last first."

28-30. Jesus Christ requires every Christian to practise the virtue of poverty: He also requires us to practise real and effective austerity in the possession and use of material things. But of those who have received a specific call to apostolate--as in the case, here, of the Twelve--He requires absolute detachment from property, time, family, etc. so that they can be fully available, imitating Jesus Himself who, despite being Lord of the universe, became so poor that He had nowhere to lay His head (cf. Matthew 8:20). Giving up all these things for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven also relieves us of the burden they involve: like a soldier shedding some encumbrance before going into action, to be able to move with more agility. This gives one a certain lordship over all things: no longer the slave of things, one experiences that feeling St. Paul referred to: "As having nothing, and yet possessing everything" (2 Corinthians 6:10). A Christian who sheds his selfishness in this way has acquired charity and, having charity, he has everything: "All are yours; you are Christ's; and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:22-23).

The reward for investing completely in Christ will be fully obtained in eternal life: but we will also get it in this life. Jesus says that anyone who generously leaves behind his possessions will be rewarded a hundred times over in this life.

He adds "with persecutions" (v. 30) because opposition is part of the reward for giving things up out of love for Jesus Christ: a Christian's glory lies in becoming like the Son of God, sharing in His cross so as later to share in His glory: "provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17); "all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted' (2 Timothy 3:12).

29. These words of our Lord particularly apply to those who by divine vocation embrace celibacy, giving up their right to form a family on earth. By saying "for My sake and for the Gospel" Jesus indicates that His example and the demands of His teaching give full meaning to this way of life: "This, then, is the mystery of the newness of Christ, of all that He is and stands for; it is the sum of the highest ideals of the Gospel and of the Kingdom; it is a particular manifestation of grace, which springs from the paschal mystery of the Savior and renders the choice of celibacy desirable and worthwhile on the part of those called by our Lord Jesus. Thus, they intend not only to participate in Christ's priestly office, but also to share with Him His very condition of living" (Paul VI, "Sacerdotalis Coelibatus", 23).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Legion of Christ Founder, Fr. Maciel, Cleared of Charges

...on Friday, the Legion announced that it had been told by the Holy See that no charges would be brought against Maciel, adding that the priest "unambiguously affirmed his innocence." A Vatican spokesman confirmed yesterday that the investigation had ended, and that there were no plans to reopen it, according to the Associated Press. Efforts by a Boston Globe reporter to obtain comment from the Vatican yesterday were unsuccessful.

"Father Maciel is exonerated, and the Holy See has found nothing upon which to begin any kind of canonical process," Jay Dunlap, the Legion's spokesman, said yesterday. He added that Maciel was "just grateful for the victory of truth and to be able to get on with the business of his priesthood."

Opus Dei Prelate Ordains 42 Priests

ROME, MAY 22, 2005 ( The head of Opus Dei ordained 42 members of the prelature to the priesthood and urged them to be "priests in love with Christ."
The breakdown: 28 from Europe, 11 from the Americas, two from Asia and one from Africa. Praise God that some are still answering His call.


Gospel for Monday, Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

From: Mark 10:17-27

The Rich Young Man

[17] And as He (Jesus) was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" [18] And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. [19] You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" [20] And he said to Him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." [21] And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow Me." [22] At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

Poverty and Renunciation

[23] And Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God!" [24] And the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of God!" [25] It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." [26] And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to Him, "Then who can be saved?" [27] Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."

17-18. As Matthew 19:16 makes clear, the young man approaches Jesus as an acknowledged teacher of the spiritual life, in the hope that He will guide him towards eternal life. It is not that Christ rejects the praise He is offered: He wants to show the depth of the young man's words: He is good, not because He is a good man but because He is God, who is Goodness Itself. So, the young man has spoken the truth, but he has not gone far enough. Hence the enigmatic nature of Jesus' reply and its profundity. The young man's approach is upright but too human; Jesus tries to get him to see things from an entirely supernatural point of view. If this man is to really attain eternal life he must see in Christ not just a good master but the divine Savior, the only Master, the only one who, because He is God, is Goodness Itself. Cf. note on Mt. 19:16-22.

19. Our Lord has not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). The commandments are the very core of the Law and keeping them is necessary for attaining eternal life. Christ brings these commandments to fulfillment in a double sense. First, because He helps us discover their full implications for our lives. The light of Revelation makes it easy for us to grasp the correct meaning of the precepts of the Decalogue--something that human reason, on its own, can only achieve with difficulty. Second, His grace gives us strength to counter our evil inclinations, which stem from Original Sin. The commandments, therefore, still apply in the Christian life: they are like signposts indicating the way that leads to Heaven.

21-22. Our Lord knows that this young man has a generous heart. This is why He treats him so affectionately and invites him to greater intimacy with God. But He explains that this means renunciation--leaving his wealth behind so as to give his heart whole and entire to Jesus. God calls everyone to holiness, but holiness is reached by many different routes. It is up to every individual to take the necessary steps to discover which route God wants him to follow. The Lord sows the seed of vocation in everyone's soul, to show him the way to go to reach the goal of holiness, which is common to all.

In other words, if a person does not put obstacles in the way, if he responds generously to God, he feels a desire to be better, to give himself more generously. As fruit of this desire he seeks to know God's will; he prays to God to help him, and asks people to advise him. In responding to this sincere search, God uses a great variety of instruments. Later, when a person thinks he sees the way God wants him to follow, he may still not take the decision to go that way: he is afraid of the renunciation it involves: at this point he should pray and deny himself if the light--God's invitation--is to win out against human calculation. For, although God is calling, man is always free, and therefore, he can respond generously or be a coward, like the young man we are told about in this passage. Failure to respond generously to one's vocation always produces sadness.

21. "In its precise eloquence", John Paul II points out, commenting on this passage, "this deeply penetrating event expresses a great lesson in a few words: it touches upon substantial problems and basic questions that have in no way lost their relevance. Everywhere young people are asking important questions--questions on the meaning of life, on the right way to live, on the scale of values: `What must I do...?' `What must I do to share in everlasting life?'...To each of you I say therefore: heed the call of Christ when you hear him saying to you: `Follow Me!' Walk in My path! Stand by My side! Remain in My love! There is a choice to be made: a choice for Christ and His way of life, and His commandment of love.

"The message of love that Christ brought is always important, always relevant. It is not difficult to see how today's world, despite its beauty and grandeur, despite the conquests of science and technology, despite the refined and abundant material goods that it offers, is yearning for more truth, for more love, for more joy. And all of this is found in Christ and in His way of life.... Faced with problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility: escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. But today, I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape. If you really accept that love from Christ, it will lead you to God. Perhaps in the priesthood or religious life; perhaps in some special service to your brothers and sisters: especially to the needy, the poor, the lonely, the abandoned, those whose rights have been trampled upon, or those whose basic needs have not been provided for. Whatever you make of your life, let it be something that reflects the love of Christ" ("Homily on Boston Common").

22. "The sadness of the young man makes us reflect. We could be tempted to think that many possessions, many of the goods of this world, can bring happiness. We see instead in the case of the young man in the Gospel that his many possessions had become an obstacle to accepting the call of Jesus to follow Him. He was not ready to say "yes" to Jesus and "no" to self, to say "yes" to love and "no" to escape. Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not clearly tell you so. For it was Jesus--Jesus Himself--who said: `You are My friends if you do what I command you' (John 15:14). Love demands effort and a personal commitment to the will of God. It means discipline and sacrifice, but it also means joy and human fulfillment.

"Dear young people: do not be afraid of honest effort and work; do not be afraid of the truth. With Christ's help, and through prayer, you can answer His call, resisting temptations and fads, and every form of mass manipulation. Open your hearts to the Christ of the Gospels--to His love and His truth and His joy. Do not go away sad!...

"Follow Christ! You who are single or who are preparing for marriage. Follow Christ! You who are young or old. Follow Christ! You who are sick or aging; who are suffering or in pain. You who feel the need for healing, the need for love, the need for a friend--follow Christ!

"To all of you I extend--in the name of Christ--the call, the invitation, the plea: `Come and follow Me'" (John Paul II, "Homily on Boston Common").

23-27. The reaction of the rich young man gives our Lord another opportunity to say something about the way to use material things. In themselves they are good: they are resources God has made available to people for their development in society. But excessive attachment to things is what makes them an occasion of sin. The sin lies in "trusting" in them, as if they solve all life's problems, and turning one's back on God. St. Paul calls covetousness idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Christ excludes from the Kingdom of God anyone who becomes so attached to riches that his life is centered around them. Or, more accurately, that person excludes himself.

Possessions can seduce both those who already have them and those who are bent on acquiring them. Therefore, there are--paradoxically--poor people who are really rich, and rich people who are really poor. Since absolutely everyone has an inclination to be attached to material things, the disciples see salvation as an impossible goal: "Then who can be saved?" No one, if we rely on human resources. But God's grace makes everything possible. Cf. note on Matthew 6:11.

Also, not putting our trust in riches means that everyone who does have wealth should use it to help the needy. This "demands great generosity, much sacrifice and unceasing effort on the part of the rich man. Let each one examine his conscience, a conscience that conveys a new message for our times. Is he prepared to support out of his own pocket works and undertakings organized in favor of the most destitute? Is he ready to pay higher taxes so that the public authorities can intensify their efforts in favor of development?" (Paul VI, "Populorum Progressio", 47).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Gospel for Sunday, Solemnity: The Most Holy Trinity

From: John 3:16-18

The Visit of Nicodemus (Continuation)

(Jesus said to Nicodemus,) [16] "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. [18] He who believes in Him is not condemned; He who does not believe is condemned already, because He had not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

16-21. These words, so charged with meaning, summarize how Christ's death is the supreme sign of God's love for men (cf. the section on charity in the "Introduction to the Gospel according to John": pp. 31ff above). "`For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son' for its salvation. All our religion is a revelation of God's kindness, mercy and love for us. `God is love' (1 John 4:16), that is, love poured forth unsparingly. All is summed up in this supreme truth, which explains and illuminates everything. The story of Jesus must be seen in this light. `(He) loved me', St. Paul writes. Each of us can and must repeat it for himself--`He loved me, and gave Himself for me' (Galatians 2:20)" ([Pope] Paul VI, "Homily on Corpus Christi", 13 June 1976).

Christ's self-surrender is a pressing call to respond to His great love for us: "If it is true that God has created us, that He has redeemed us, that He loves us so much that He has given up His only-begotten Son for us (John 3:16), that He waits for us--every day!--as eagerly as the father of the prodigal son did (cf. Luke 15:11-32), how can we doubt that He wants us to respond to Him with all our love? The strange thing would be not to talk to God, to draw away and forget Him, and busy ourselves in activities which are closed to the constant promptings of His grace" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 251).

"Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This [...] is why Christ the Redeemer `fully reveals man to himself'. If we may use the _expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. [...] The one who wishes to understand himself thoroughly [...] must, with his unrest and uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into Him with all his own self, he must `appropriate' and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deep wonder at himself.

How precious must man be in the eyes of the Creator, if he `gained so great a Redeemer', ("Roman Missal, Exultet" at Easter Vigil), and if God `gave His only Son' in order that man `should not perish but have eternal life'. [...]

`Increasingly contemplating the whole of Christ's mystery, the Church knows with all the certainty of faith that the Redemption that took place through the Cross has definitively restored his dignity to man and given back meaning to his life in the world, a meaning that was lost to a considerable extent because of sin. And for that reason, the Redemption was accomplished in the paschal mystery, leading through the Cross and death to Resurrection" ([Pope] John Paul II, "Redemptor Hominis", 10).

Jesus demands that we have faith in Him as a first prerequisite to sharing in His love. Faith brings us out of darkness into the light, and sets us on the road to salvation. "He who does not believe is condemned already" (verse 18).

"The words of Christ are at once words of judgment and grace, of life and death. For it is only by putting to death that which is old that we can come to newness of life. Now, although this refers primarily to people, it is also true of various worldly goods which bear the mark both of man's sin and the blessing of God. [...] No one is freed from sin by himself or by his own efforts, no one is raised above himself or completely delivered from his own weakness, solitude or slavery; all have need of Christ, who is the model, master, liberator, savior, and giver of life. Even in the secular history of mankind the Gospel has acted as a leaven in the interests of liberty and progress, and it always offers itself as a leaven with regard to brotherhood, unity and peace" (Vatican II, "Ad Gentes", 8).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.