Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mother, Has Your Child Fallen Away? St Monica Can Help

I don't know how many times I hear it.
"My son used to be an altar boy. My daughter used to love to go to Mass. They don't practice their faith anymore. She is living with her boyfriend. He is in with some bad friends. I don't know what to do. They used to be so close to God."
These are the words of mothers whose hearts have been broken by watching their children turn away from God and head down the road toward perdition. Believe it or not, the priest writing this was away from the Church for several years and could not stand any talk of faith, God, or religion. Was it the devil trying to tear away a priests vocation? Young heart seeking happiness in the wrong way? God writing straight with crooked
lines? Whatever it was, I am back with God because of my mother, who prayed, fasted, wept, knelt, suffered, sacrificed and waited with broken heart and a faintly hoping spirit.

Here are prayers to St Monica, whose boy strayed too. May her intercession bring all sinners back to the merciful embrace of Our Father:

O glorious St. Monica, greatly challenged among mothers, I feel particularly attracted by you who gave such an

enlightened example of motherly love.

Who could understand better than you the anxieties and fears of a mother worrying about the eternal salvation of her children? You endured all, since in the order of nature, St. Augustine is the fruit of your womb, and in the order of grace, the fruit of your tears. For this reason I am greatly convinced that if you here on earth, with the sanctity of your life and the perserverance of your prayers, were one of the great models of the Christian mother, you must enjoy in heaven the privilage of being their singular protector.

Obtain for me the grace to faithfully imitate your virtues, and furthermore, may my children avoid those errors and failures you disapproved of so strongly in your son. And if it will happen, to my misfortune, that they too fall, grant me the grace to obtain with my prayers, supported by yours, as perfect a conversion as you were able to obtain for your son. Amen.

Idolatry and Adultery - Unfaithfulness in Body or in Spirit

In the Old Testament, there is a clear reason why adultery and idolatry always are put together (Eg. Exod. 24:7; Deut. 5:27; Josh. 24:14-25). They are considered two sides of the same coin. One is spiritual infidelity, where Israel would worship other gods forsaking the monogamous covenant with the Lord, and the other is bodily unfaithfulness, the sexual expression of the hearts errant direction.

Be not afraid, if you look into the murky depths of your heart and you find infidelity. This is nothing other than the power of sin working. Yet there is a deeper calling, a higher light, a yearning much more intense for the soul to be fulfilled in God, an aching of greater gravity to have intimacy with the One who loved you first before all others.

The sufferings and Cross of the Redeemer is where the infidelity of man is washed clean, bathed in a bath of faithful and inerrant love, unstraying, unwavering, immutable, and eternal adoration of the Son's Heart fixed like a true arrow to the inmost depths of the Father's Heart. Follow the Immaculate Lamb of God to submit all that is in you, even and especially that part of you that is not yet faithful, that still needs to be cleansed and cauterized in the white hot holy Love of Jesus Christ. The Immaculate and true Heart of Mary, the perpetual Virgin Mother can intercede for you and obtain for you a portion of the Lord's unwavering and faithful love.

Prudent Vigilance Over the 5 Senses Helps Keep the Oil of Charity Burning

In today's readings for Mass we hear:
The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Listen to my homily for today:

If you have trouble listening click here.

The Fathers of the Church have seen the five prudent virgins as a kind of life of watchfulness over the five senses while the foolish virgins are an icon of a life where the senses go unguarded. Charity is a kind of oil that suplies the fire for our spiritual life. Imprudent foolishness in the spiritual life is to not check the senses so that the soul may not have any charity in stock.

What is necessary is constant self-denial of the senses so that the life of charity may remain brightly burning in the soul. The Sacramental Life of the Church, especially fervent and frequent participation in the Eucharistic Mystery is one of the surest and quickest ways to staying watchful over the senses and keep the precious oil of charity filled and ready to burn in the lamp of the heart.

May Our Lady, Mother of Divine Charity, help us obtain and maintain this precious life of charity, that we may be found worthy to enter the wedding feast, not to be left out where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Charity Keeps You Awake

In today's Gospel,

Jesus said to his disciples: "Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

Here is my homily for today:

Click here if you have trouble listening.

Doing all-night vigils in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the actual physical act of staying awake with Jesus, teaches us a spiritual long-term lesson for our lives and vocations: Charity keeps you awake. It is divine charity that animates and enlivens all man's faculties, for he was made to be in the divine presence for all eternity and this is the presence of eternal and perfect charity. Therefore, what is most important is that we keep watch over the things which diminish the life of divine charity in our souls, those venial faults, unkindness, uncharity, impatience, etc. Also to make very fervent and frequent holy communion to stoke the fires of charity. May Our Lady, Mother of Divine Charity, help us to be on fire with the love of God.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Straining Out the Gnat to Swallow the Camel - What is Really Important and What is Not?

Today we celebrate the feast of St Rose of Lima, who lived a life of prayer and penance. Her witness ought to help us be reminded of what is most important. In today's readings for Mass we hear:

Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean." (Mt 23-24-26)

Listen to my homily for today:

If you have trouble listening click here.

St Rose of Lima was convinced that suffering realigns our priorities, revealing to us what is most important and what is not. She wrote:

“Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase...This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mary's Queenship Helps us Win the Victories of Christ

Today we celebrate the Queenship of Mary. This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XII with the Encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam in 1954 to give the faithful hope that reign of Christ may be attained with faith and cooperation in his divine plan. In today's readings for Mass we hear:
Dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace. Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end. (Isaiah 9:6)
Here is my homily from Mass today with the Marist Sisters:

If you have trouble listening click here.

The most royal and regal quality of Our Lady is her humility. Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. At the news from the angel that she would be the Queen Mother of the King of Kings, she replied, "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy Word." Her life was full of opportunities to grow in humility, i.e. humiliations. She had to endure the terrible yet wonderful throne of the King of Heaven, the Cross, where her she saw Jesus crowned not with glory but with contempt. Yet because of this, she was highly exalted with, in, and through him. Jesus shares his holy throne with us too.

Do we see the Cross as the way to entering into his royal kingdom? Do we see the wisdom of the words, "To serve is to reign"? Our Lady helps us with her great maternal love and her royal intercession to allow the difficult opportunities of life, or humiliations, to be converted into authentic humility, the mark of the King.

HOMILY: Jesus Gives Us the Gift of Peter & His Successors

Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Here is my homily for this 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time:

If you have trouble listening to this click here.

Five million young people are gathered now in Madrid, Spain, with an 84 year-old German man dressed in white cassock. Why? Because they believe he is the 246th successor of St Peter, whom Jesus gave to confirm the brethren in the faith.

Yesterday he spoke to the young people gathered for an all-night Eucharistic Adoration vigil of prayer:

"Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God. To abide in his love, then, means living a life rooted in faith, since faith is more than the mere acceptance of certain abstract truths: it is an intimate relationship with Christ, who enables us to open our hearts to this mystery of love and to live as men and women conscious of being loved by God.

"If you abide in the love of Christ, rooted in the faith, you will encounter, even amid setbacks and suffering, the source of true happiness and joy. Faith does not run counter to your highest ideals; on the contrary, it elevates and perfects those ideals. Dear young people, do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ.

"Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Love is Repaid with Love Alone

Today is the feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux. He was ablaze with the fires of divine charity and the zeal and depth of humility with which he preached manifested this in the eloquence that comes from divine wisdom.

Listen to my homily today:

If you have trouble listening to this click here.

Today's readings for Mass talk about Ruth. She forfeited her legal right to return to her homeland when her husband died so that she could take care of her mother in law. It was only love that bound her to this. She was therefore immediately rewarded with love, yet because of this love her heart was made open to receive more divine benefits. Because the workings of divine love kept her faithful, she was given a new life and a new husband, in so doing she became the great grandmother of King David, and the ancestor of Jesus Christ, which one can read about in the geneology of Matthew 1:1-17.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about the vanity and hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, who like to be seen as holy by others. About this he said in another place, "They have already received their reward." Which reward is this? Human respect, esteem, and human honors. We must really have mercy on these guys. Because many people who are beset by deep inner fear of not being loved do this also. This insecurity gives rise to the spiritual vanity that is a veneer of holiness, a mask of being righteous, a kind of insecure protective garment we call pride. Love alone has the power to disarm us, remove from us our protective armor and be vulnerable, be seen as poor, unholy, in need of God.

Mary Immaculate, whom St Bernard preached about with singular beauty and eloquence, has a heart which is a furnace of divine love. How we need our Beloved Mother to show us the great love of God to make us like her, humble, pure, and lowly, always in need of the love of God to set fire to our hearts and burn away any fears that keep us from loving.

From the Office of Readings for today:

"Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ever Made a Stupid Sacrifice?

Sacrifice something higher for what is lower? Jepthah did it. Pharoah, Essau, and the guys that rejected the kings feast did it too - stupid. Don't be stupid. Make the intelligent sacrifice of what is lesser for what is greater.

Listen to my homily for today:

If you have trouble listening to this click here.

Know that at the end of your life you will be consoled by how many times you worthily received Jesus in holy communion. Don't be afraid to receive the King frequently and intensely. You won't regret it. Be careful however of making the stupid sacrifice of receiving him unworthily. Examine your heart before hand and if you need to, go to confession. Otherwise what would be a sacrifice becomes a sacrilege.

Our Blessed Mother made the most pleasing sacrifice to God by offering her Son in union with the Eternal Father. May her prayers help us to make a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord our God.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Answer the Call: Permit God to Be with You

In today's Mass readings, the angel greets Gideon, saying,
The Lord is with you, O champion! (Judges 6:13)
Something similar was said to Jeremiah when he was called:
A prophet to the nations I appointed you..I am with you to deliver you. (Jerimiah 1:5-8)
This greeting is similar to the angelic salutation to Our Blessed Mother Mary,
Hail full of grace! The Lord is with you! (Luke 1:28)
This is also similar to the many different encounters that the disciples had with the Lord Jesus:
Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid. (Matthew 14:27)
What you see in all of these different callings and encounters with God is that he invites the person to be in his presence, or rather, in his awesome and ineffable humility, he asks the person for permission that he may be present to them. Everything else, all the directions and graces come after the divine presence is manifested.

In the Gospel for today, Jesus speaks about the calling to eternal life, saying that it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of the needle for a rich man to enter into eternal life. Without going too much into detail, we know that there is a gate of Jerusalem called the needle and that those on camels had to dismount of their high position on the camel and divest themselves of all their traveling gear to enter into this gate.

The eternal presence of God is not something that we must experience only after death. It is something, according to the Lord Jesus, we enter into when we come to know the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. (John 17:3)
Knowledge of God comes from experiencing him, from dwelling in his presence. Yet God waits for us to give him permission. He will not force himself upon us, but will BE with us as much as we permit him. If we are up on our high horse, or high camel, that is, if we are rich in our own presence, our own thoughts, words, actions, self, we cease to permit God to be God and dwell in our presence, our thoughts, words, actions, our very beings. Many times people think a calling is about a position, a work, an apostolate, when really it is first and foremost about giving God permission to be present to you.

Drawing near to the Most Holy Eucharist, either in Mass or in Adoration, is the place par excellence to allow God to be present to you. It is however important not to present God with your riches, telling him about all the wonderful things that you are doing for him, but rather to divest yourself of all your heavy burdens, planting your feet on the ground. It is in your misery, your poverty, your need for him as little child that you will allow him to manifest his deepest presence to you, which is the presence of Divine and Tender Mercy.

May Our Lady, who allowed God to be God more than any, prostrating herself before his awesome and eternal tenderness in her littleness, help us to hear the voice of the Lord clearly, "I am with you."

HOMILY: Spiritual Calisthenics: humbling yourself before God

"There are three things necessary in the spiritual life: humility, humility, and humility" - St Augustine.
It is easy for us to be associated with the Lord Jesus a long time and not know him, not really know his heart. The primary disposition in his heart before the Father is that of humility. His Sacred Humanity is at every moment prostrate before the majesty and holiness of the Father's glory on our behalf.

Here is my homily for Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time:

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Contemplating Mary's Assumed Womanhood

There is great need today for the whole Church, indeed for all mankind, to be taken up into contemplation of the beautiful and graced womanhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here is my homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Got Discipline?

The London riots and those in other parts of the UK in the past week have revealed a general lack of discipline and respect for authority. Some have shown how this is the natural outgrowth of a culture of moral relativism.

Parenting that is based on the fundamentally egocentric nature of moral relativism results in psychological correctness versus moral correctness. Instead of asking the questions, "Is this behavior of my child good? Is it moral?" the questions are asked, perhaps not explicitly but they are implied: "Is my child's ego alright? Are they feeling good? Will they develop psychologically from this situation?"

Recently when I was called to discipline a teenager I noticed her first reaction was to psychoanalyze her behavior and to give me justification stemming from her relationship with her parents. I simply told her, "I am not Oprah. I am your priest, and I am telling you that I don't care why you do what you do. You will NOT do it again otherwise there will be very immediate consequences. Is that clear?" I am always surprised how well this works, while if I had gone the Oprah route she would have known that I was another authority in her life she could manipulate or soft-peddle her disobedience. Instead what happened was that she was corrected and she grew immediately in the knowledge that in Church there are clear boundaries around her to keep her safe, protected, and in truth - LOVED. When I was teaching high school last year it always impressed me how discipline, when it is applied with consequences that are clear, immediate, and deliberate, actually works! There is a change of behavior. Children who do evil learn to do good, and their lives become better. They start to learn that these morally good effects bring them peace of mind, balancing of their personality, and ordering their interior or emotional life, and then something really miraculous happens - they begin self-discipline.

God the Father doesn't need to explain why he made distinction between good and evil. He doesn't need to justify himself, make excuses for the corrective crosses and trials that he allows us to suffer. His discipline is the expression of his love for us. The better we know this and see how he disciplined Jesus on the Cross for our salvation, the sooner we will see that discipline flows from discipleship, the sequitur Christi, following the very interior discipline of Jesus Christ which he lived from the Father. The Father disciplined Jesus on the Cross not for his own sake but that by it we might become good.

It is in the shadow of the Cross that the words of Hebrews (12:11) become clear, "All discipline seems harsh at the time it is administered but later bears the fruit of a peaceful life." When I was the department head of the religious department in a high school I posted this scripture above the door of the teacher's lounge leading out to the classrooms, reminding the teachers that they are not the child's "friend or buddy." They are the authority to be obeyed. To whom does discipline seem harsh? To the child or to the parent? In our days of being oversensitive to one's feelings I would say it is the parent. Here the old adage comes to mind, "This is going to hurt me more than it does you." The truth is that moral discipline does in fact hurt the ego, it denies the ego its self-satisfaction, and this is very psychologically incorrect, and an intelligent child will probably pull out all the stops to tell a parent how mean they are for doing what they are doing, how harsh. In the words of my favorite expert on the topic, "Discipline without love maybe harsh but love without discipline? - Child abuse." Neglect is 50% of all child abuse and love without discipline is a very real neglect that the child will feel for the rest of their life, and if their parents don't discipline them, then their employer, the police, the magistrate, or worse - their wife will have to do it for them.

Discipline needs to be re-contextualized in our relationship with God. This IS happening all over the Church, but there are some sectors of the Church that are perhaps incapable of understanding this. Ultimately their understanding and psychologically feeling good about why canon law is exercised isn't important. What is most important is that it needs to be practiced and done with consistency, universality, and fidelity and let them figure out from the effects why it is good. Thank God there are wonderful new bishops and priests who are practicing this.

Here is one of my heroes with regard to the renewal of parental discipline, which bears within it the ethos ecclesiastical discipline, Dr Ray Guarendi, a child psychologist who specializes in discipline, authority, and developing moral children.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

HOMILY: Funeral of Two Year Old Boy. Why? Why Jesus do you chose to suffer in the littlest of your brethren?

Today I had the sorrowful privilege of burying a two year old little boy who died by drowning while his family was on holiday. Here is the homily.

Let the Little children come unto me; and do not hinder them.

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HOMILY: St Claire Shows us Christ's Healing Poverty

St Claire had a relationship with Jesus in his poverty that is very healing for many. She realized that he unites himself to our sheer misery, that he is rejoiced to be with us in our poverty, that love is very poor, has no decoration, no leaven, no element of self. May her prayers help us to realize this beautiful love of Christ in our own lives.

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HOMILY: St Lawrence Teaches us Humor Amidst the Flames of Life

St Lawrence had great charity and generosity. Only this could truly fuel a sense of humor amidst the terrible suffering he endured. May he obtain for us by his prayers and merits, a sharing in the joy of Christ amidst suffering.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

St Alphonsus - Let us be moved by the Love of Christ

A few days ago someone asked me, "Why does St Alphonsus di Ligouri repeat himself in his writings?" St Alphonsus was a great theologian and author who wrote voluminous works on the holy Eucharist, the priesthood, mental prayer, consecrated virginity, preparation for death, and much, much more. His writing style is to look at a topic as you might look at diamond in your hand. You pick it up and turn it, viewing it from many different angles, seeing something new with each turn. The reason for this is because he wrote not for the understanding of the intellect, but for the conversion of the will.

He was very much aware that most people did not struggle with ignorance, for it takes only catechesis to bring about knowledge of the faith. Most struggle with doing what is right. His approach is to provide many proofs from Scripture, the Church Fathers, from life experiences, sayings of the saints, and many stories in order to form an inner conviction to form good spiritual habits and to shun evil. Reading his works is like watching an artist paint a picture. He starts with the context, the background, begins to put on layer after layer of color, then slowly forming in the reader's heart greater clarity and beauty of an inner picture he is trying to paint.

This principle I find incredibly useful for preaching. People do not need a thesis. It is not their mind that I address, but their heart. They need to be convicted of the Redemption wrought for them by God, and therefore they need to have a real living experience of the Redeemer. Usually they need simple stories, words, quotes from the saints, the Popes, whatever it takes to reveal to them the Love of God. Then when caritas divinum, divine charity, takes hold of them, charity moves their will to believe in what is being preached. Faith is animated by charity. Fire brings both heat and light.

I find that people who have been wounded by sin (everybody) need to hear thousands of times how much God loves them. I do not tire of repeating this. Like a husband who tells his wife how much they are loved so priests must proclaim it to the Church with every possible way, "Your Redeemer loves you."

Blessed Pope John Paul II had spoken repeatedly about the way of the new evangelization as a living encounter with Jesus Christ, and that the Teacher would instruct further, but people need to be put into communion with him first. Mass, confession, holy hour, prayer - all of these need to be re-contextualized in the model of a living encounter with Jesus Christ fully alive and active in his Church especially in the Sacred Liturgy.

May the prayers of Our Lady, star of the New Evangelization and of St Alphonsus di Ligouri bring about our conversion deeper to the imitation of Christ and adoration of the divine Mystery.