Tag Archives: church

“May the Best Man Lose His Life – – to Jesus!” – Matthew 18:15-20†


 

Twenty-Third Sunday
in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Popes Prayer Intentions for September

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, asks that we join him in prayer for the “concrete problems that trouble the Universal Church, especially those of the missions.”  These are our Holy Father’s prayer intentions for September:

GENERAL INTENTION:
That all teachers may know how to communicate love of the truth and instill authentic moral and spiritual values.

MISSIONARY INTENTION:
That the Christian communities of Asia may proclaim the Gospel with fervor, witnessing to its beauty with the joy of faith.

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Next Sunday is the 10th anniversary of this country’s attack by fundamentalist Islamic Terrorists.  Please pray for all the affected souls (dead and alive) from this disaster of pure hated.  Lord, please be in our prayers, hearts and mind, on this sad, yet glorious day.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   422 – St Boniface I ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1085 – Death of Irmgarde van Keulen, German countess of Aspel/saint
†   1571 – Catholic coup in Scotland
†   1781 – Los Angeles, California, is founded as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (the City of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of the Little Portion) by 44 Spanish settlers.
†   1918 – Jhr Ch Ruys de Beerenbrouck, Jhr. Charles Joseph Maria Ruijs de Beerenbrouck (1 December 1873 – 17 April 1936) was a Dutch nobleman and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1918 to 1925 and again from 1929 to 1933, who becomes 1st Dutch Catholic premier

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” ~ Proverbs 15:1

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus teaching His disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.

 

(NAB Matthew 18:15-20) 15 “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  19 Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

What’s the best way to repair a damaged relationship?  Jesus offers His disciples a special grace of spiritual freedom and power for restoring the broken or injured relationships within His faith community.  He makes it very clear that His followers should not tolerate a break, infringement, or outright violation in relationships among themselves.

This reading gives direction to the actions of Jesus Christ’s reputable disciples toward those who have strayed from their teachings and practices.  Today’s discourse is the “how-to” for dealing with someone who sins, and yet continues within the community (Sort of like many of our present day Catholic Legislators).  Them, and many others in the Catholic Church today are “Catholics Only In Name”: “COINs”!!

 

Today’s Gospel is taken from a part of Matthew’s book which is sometimes called the “discourse on the Church” or the “church order discourse”.  In this section of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks more directly, openly, and frankly about Catholic (Universal) Church discipline and Church order.  

Today’s reading is only one of two instances wherein Jesus uses the word “church” in Matthew’s Gospel.  In Matthew’s record of Jesus’ “Word” and teachings, we can also hear and experience reverberations of the kinds of questions and problems faced by the first-century Catholic Christian community for whom he wrote.

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Not in today’s reading, but found immediately prior to this reading (Matthew 18:1-14), is the first part of the “discourse on the Church.  Matthew addresses the Catholic Christian community’s concern about hierarchy.  In this previous “first” part, Jesus responds to the disciples’ question about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  His response indicated that those who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven must be like children!!  He further cautioned the “church leaders” who might lead His disciples going astray – – off path of salvation, by accident or purposely.

Next is today’s part, the second section of Jesus’ “discourse on the Church”, Matthew 18:15-20.  Here, Jesus addresses a very common occurrence in the early Christian community: a dispute between two or more members of His Catholic Church.

Sin must be confronted, and help must be offered, in restoring a damaged personal or communal relationship of love, trust, and faith.  When these relationships between brothers and sisters of Christ are damaged, then we must spare no effort; we must use all resources – – human and divine – – to help the brother or sister “at fault” to see their error, and to set the relationship “just and righteous” again.

Regardless of the decision in dealing with one in error, the church’s judgment will be ratified in heaven – – by God the Father Himself.  The three-step process of rectification in today’s reading relates (though not exactly) to the Qumran community procedures found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (see 1QS 5:25–6:1; 6:24–7:25; CD 9:2–8).

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In the conclusion of today’s reading, Jesus ends with a proverb about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to a very small number of prayers (Hope hopeful is this!!).  Jesus Christ is always in “the midst” of any gathering of His disciples, no matter how small.

After reading and reflecting on this Gospel reading multiple times, I wonder whether this context of prayer, as portrayed in today’s reading, has anything to do with the preceding judgment of the unrepentant sinner.  It seems uncertain in context, but not in concept.  Let’s see what I say about this, in detail, later.

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Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters in a fair way; a procedure which continues, in a very similar form, to this day.  First, the victim should privately address the offender and attempt to resolve the dispute without outside involvement.  If this fails, then the victim should bring two or three witnesses and confront – – in a loving manner – – the “offender” again.  If the dispute is still unresolved, the matter should be brought to the attention of the entire church community.

Finally, and sadly, if the offender refuses to adhere to the restoration arranged by and approved by the church community, then Jesus Christ Himself suggests the “offender” may be expelled from the Church, – – “excommunicated”.

 

Jesus starts His discourse with a profound and heavily-laden theological sentence:

“If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) 

Your brother”, from verse 15, is the colloquial term for a Catholic Christians fellow disciple in Christ.

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (Matthew 23:8).  

The bracketed words, “against you”, (also in verse 15) are words widely attested to in many versions of Holy Scripture.  However, they are not in the ancient manuscript texts, “Sinaiticus” and “Vaticanus”, nor in some other written documents.  Their omission in these important documents only broadens the type of sin in question to ANY type of sin!  

Still in verse 15, “Won over” literally means “gained.”  Saying, “we won over this person”, means this person has come too understood, and corrected his fault.  In doing so, he has gained his own personal insight, and, at the same time, you gain a friend and companion on your faith journey.

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Taking two or three with you as witnesses (verse 16) when confronting a person who is in error, is not a new concept.  In actuality, this exact model is even covered in Moses writings, the Torah:

One witness alone shall not stand against someone in regard to any crime or any offense that may have been committed; a charge shall stand only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)

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What is meant by the word “church” (verse 17) in this reading?  The words, “the church” is the second of the only two instances of this specific word in Matthew’s Gospel; the other being Matthew 16:18:  

“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.” (Matthew 16:18).

Here, it refers not to the entire church of Jesus Christ, as in Matthew 16:18, but instead, to the local congregation instead.

 

Also in verse 17, what did Jesus mean when He said, “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector”?  Well, history shows that in first-century Palestine, observant and pious Jews avoided any interaction with “Gentiles” and “tax collectors” – – “heathen sinners”!!  In the same way, Catholic Jewish-Christian disciples of this biblical time also had to separate themselves from the arrogantly un-repented, sinful member who refused to repent, even when convicted of his sin by the whole church (his brothers and sisters in Christ).  This person was (and still is) to be put outside the fellowship of the Catholic Church community; he or she is “excommunity-cated”.

 

The harsh language about Gentile and tax collector points to a stage in Matthew’s first-century Catholic (Universal) Church, wherein, it was principally composed of Jewish Christians.  Though this period of a “Jewish-only” Catholic Church has long since passed, the principle of exclusion (including the severest form, excommunication) for such a sinner remains to this day, and has spread from Matthew’s local church, to the entire worldwide church community.  Saint Paul even made a similar demand for excommunication in his first letter to the Corinthians (Corinthians 5:1-13), in regards to incest and pride:

“It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans—a man living with his father’s wife.  And you are inflated with pride.  Should you not rather have been sorrowful?  The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst.” (1 Corinthians 5:1–2).

 

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on Jesus’ instruction (and if anyone knew about sin, he did!!):

 

When any one sins against us, let us take great care, not for ourselves, for it is a glorious thing to forget injuries; only forget thine own injury, not thy brother’s wound.  Therefore ‘rebuke him between thee and him alone,’ intent upon his amendment, but sparing his shame.  For it may be that through shamefacedness he will begin to defend his sin, and so thou wilt make him whom thou desirest to amend, still worse.  ‘Rebuke him’ therefore ‘between him and thee alone.  If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother;’ because he would have been lost, hadst thou not done it.  But ‘if he: will not hear thee,’ that is, if he will defend his sin as if it were a just action, ‘take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established; and if he will not hear them, refer it to the Church; but if he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.’  Reckon him no more amongst the number of thy brethren.  But yet neither is his salvation on that account to be neglected.  For the very heathen, that is, the Gentiles and Pagans, we do not reckon among the number of brethren; but yet are we ever seeking their salvation.” (Sermon 82.7)

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What can we learn from today’s reading, along with the above passage from St. Augustine, about how to repair a damaged relationship?  

If you feel you have been wronged by someone, Jesus Christ says the first step is to speak directly, yet privately, to the individual who has done you harm.  The worst thing one can do is dwell on any grievance, poisoning the mind, heart and soul.  Retaining grievances (resentment) makes it more difficult to go directly to the person who caused the damage.  If we truly want to settle a difference with someone, we need to do it “face-to-face” and “heart-to-heart”.  

If this fails to resolve the issue, then the second step is to bring another person (or persons) to help in the “repair of the relationship”.  This “witness” should be mature, wise, and compassionate person rather than someone who may be equally hot-tempered and/or judgmental.  Remember, the goal is not to put the “offender” on trial, but to persuade the “offender” to see his error, and to be reconciled with each other (and the church).  

If this loving (and second) interaction fails, we still must not give up.  Instead we should seek the help of the entire Catholic Christian community – – the “Church”.  Notice the emphasis and importance is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Catholics, who will pray, seeking a solution for reconciling the matter, based on Christian love and wisdom rather than relying on coercive force, threats, and legal action.

Lastly, if the church fails to bring about reconciliation, what else is there to do?  Jesus Christ says we have the right to abandon stubborn and inflexible offenders, treating them like social outcasts.  

The tax-collectors and Gentiles were regarded as “unclean” by the religiously pious Jews.  However, we know from Holy Scripture that Jesus was often a companion and friend of tax-collectors; He ate with them, and even praised them at times!  Even if excommunicated, we should always hope and pray for a conversion of heart in the “offender”, and reconciliation with the church family.

 

Jesus does not discourage, in any way, disagreements within the Church community.  After all, being human in nature, disagreements are inevitable.  He even acknowledged the reality of conflict and error in our world, and offers His disciples a specific, respectful, and loving means for addressing such matters.  

I love what Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen had said about disagreeing with the “infallible teachings” of the Magisterium:

“You have two choices if you disagree with the Church’s infallible teachings:

1)  Change your mind, or
2)  Change your mind!!”

(Bonus Trivia Question:  Can you name ALL the “infallible” teachings of the Catholic Church.  You may be surprised at how many there are in fact.  The answer will be at end of today’s reflection.)

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Let’s go on to the next verse:

“I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

Except for the use of both singular and plural verbs for “bind” and “loose” in verse 18, it is practically identical with Mathew 16:19b:

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16:19b).

Many bible scholars take it as a granting (a grace given) to all Jesus’ disciples what was previously given to Peter (the first Pope) alone.

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It is in the conclusion to today’s reading (verses 19 & 20) that a great message of hope is found: Jesus is “truly” present with the Catholic Church community, and will guide His Church community in its relationships.  If decisions are taken to Him in prayer, then His church community can be assured of the Holy Trinity’s assistance.

 

Some bible scholars take verses 19 and 20 as relating to “prayer” when the church community gathers in order to deal with the specific un-repentant sinner of verse 17.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:17).

Unless an “a fortiori” argument (argument “from [the] stronger [reason]”) is assumed, this seems unlikely to me.  After all, God’s answer to the prayer of “two or three” (as stated in both verse 19 AND 20) envisions a different situation than prayer involving the entire church body (the congregation).  In addition to this argument for a separate meaning and purpose, the object of “prayer” in today’s reading is expressed in the most general of terms, as it expresses “anything for which they are to pray”, and is not specific to the un-repentant sinner.

 

However, this last verse of today’s great message is one of “hope inspired by a grace”, from Jesus Christ Himself:

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

His presence guarantees the value, merit, and importance of prayer.  This verse is similar to one attributed to an unknown Rabbi, executed in 135 A.D., at the time of the second Jewish revolt:

“…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them (Pirqê ’Abôt 3:3).

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In conclusion, conflict and disagreements are a natural part of family, church, and societal life.  Yet, within these groups, we are given an opportunity to learn how to “fairly” resolve disagreements by treating people with love and respect.

It needs to be reiterated, Jesus Christ refuses NO ONE who is ready to receive pardon, healing, and restoration.  A call to accountability is inevitable, and we can’t escape it, both in this life, and at the “Day of Judgment” (the “Parousia”) when our Lord Jesus Christ will return.

Do you tolerate broken relationships?  Or, do you seek to repair, restore, and amend relationships in the way God gives you, through opportunity and His grace given process?  While we have the opportunity to do so in this life, we must not give up on our stubborn, inflexible, “offenders”.  Instead, take every opportunity and make all effort to win them back into the fold – – with, in, and through the grace and power of God’s healing love and wisdom.  

This week, reflect on your way of resolving disputes at work, and at home.  What kinds of things produce disagreements for you?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches His disciples the proper way to handle conflicts within the Catholic (Universal) Christian community – – the Church.  Try to summarize Jesus’ steps He personally proposed for resolving conflicts.  How might today’s Gospel enlighten you in handling disagreements?  

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus also promised (and still promises) He will help those who pray to Him with their needs.  Pray that you (and your family and friends) will learn to handle inevitable conflicts in a respectful, loving, Christian way.

 

(Bonus Trivia Question Answer:  There are only TWO “ex cathedra” (infallible) teachings in the Catholic Church; both are about the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

First, is her “Immaculate Conception”, declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and grandfathered in after the First Vatican Council’s declaration of papal infallibility in 1870.  And the second is about her bodily “Assumption” into heaven, declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950.)

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

 

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

The “Confiteor” (I Confess prayer) has been revised, again to match the Latin texts more closely.  More stress is once again placed on our unworthiness more so than in the current missal.  It will now say, I have greatly sinned and later adds through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that
I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault
;

therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Rose of Viterbo (1233-1251)

 

Rose achieved sainthood in only 18 years of life.  Even as a child Rose had a great desire to pray and to aid the poor.  While still very young, she began a life of penance in her parents’ house.  She was as generous to the poor as she was strict with herself.  At the age of 10 she became a Secular Franciscan and soon began preaching in the streets about sin and the sufferings of Jesus.

Viterbo, her native city, was then in revolt against the pope.  When Rose took the pope’s side against the emperor, she and her family were exiled from the city.  When the pope’s side won in Viterbo, Rose was allowed to return. Her attempt at age 15 to found a religious community failed, and she returned to a life of prayer and penance in her father’s home, where she died in 1251.  Rose was canonized in 1457.

Comment:

The list of Franciscan saints seems to have quite a few men and women who accomplished nothing very extraordinary.  Rose is one of them.  She did not influence popes and kings, did not multiply bread for the hungry and never established the religious order of her dreams.  But she made a place in her life for God’s grace, and like St. Francis before her, saw death as the gateway to new life.

Quote:

Rose’s dying words to her parents were: “I die with joy, for I desire to be united to my God.  Live so as not to fear death.  For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening, but sweet and precious.”

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Peace

 

How do you explain what “peace” is? 

What are some different meanings for the word “peace” – among governments, neighbors, in families, relationships?

What did Francis mean by this word: “Peace”?

What does Sacred Scripture mean by this word: “Peace”?

Since we are called to be “peacemakers” by Christ, go line by line and explain how each suggestion (pledge line) of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis [above] helps promote peace.

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsections #’s 4 & 5 of 26:

04.  The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people. 

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.   Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

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05.  Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.

 

 

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“Now Where Did I Put Those Darn Keys Anyhow?!” – Matthew 16:13-20†


 

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Prayer
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

I will be going on my yearly Regional SFO (Secular Franciscan Order) Retreat for the St. Clare Region this weekend.  That is why I am posting this retreat a couple of days early.  Please pray for all of our intentions, for great weather, and for a time of spiritual renewal for all at the retreat, and at home.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1153 – Death of Bernard of Clairvaux, French theologian (b. 1090)
†   1567 – Birth of Francois de Sales, French bishop of Geneva/writer/saint
†   1760 – The church (later, a Cathedral) of “Our Lady of Candlemas of Mayagüez (Puerto Rico)” is founded, establishing the basis for the founding of the city.

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

“A Christian is a keyhole through which other folk see God.” ~ Robert E. Gibson

 

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Today’s reflection is about Simon Peter acknowledging Jesus as “the Christ”, and is given the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

(NAB Matthew 16:13-20) 13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his Apostles, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  18 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.  19 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.”  20 Then he strictly ordered his Apostles to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

It is important to read today’s Gospel and next week’s Gospel (Jesus’ speaking of His future Passion, and rebuking of Peter) as two parts of a single story, for these readings are pivotal points in Matthew’s Gospel.  Today, we hear Jesus Christ name Simon Peter as the “rock” (No, not the wrestler or movie star) upon which He [Jesus] will build His Catholic Church.  Next Sunday, we will hear Jesus call Simon Peter “Satan” when he reacts negatively to Jesus’ foretelling of His Passion and death at the hands of others.

 In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks His Apostles what people are actually saying about His identity.  They indicate that most people believe that Jesus is a “prophet” of Israel, like John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.  With this answer from His cherished and close followers of nearly three years, Jesus asks who THEY believe that He is.  Simon Peter answers this probing question for the group: identifying Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.

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Matthew significantly modifies Mark’s affirmation of Jesus as “Messiah”, made by Peter as “spokesman” for the other Apostles.  Simon Peter’s affirmation is reported in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Mark 8:27–29; Luke 9:18–20):

Jesus and His Apostles set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way He asked His Apostles, ‘Who do people say that I am?’  They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.’  And He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter said to Him in reply, ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:27–29);

And,

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the Apostles were with him, He asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’  They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”’  Then He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter said in reply, ‘The Messiah of God.’” (Luke 9:18–20).

Peter’s affirmation is an pronouncement of Jesus being both “Messiah” and “Son of the living God” (verse16).  Jesus’ response, drawn chiefly from material distinctive to Matthew, attributes Peter’s affirmation to a divine revelation granted solely to him (verse 17), and makes him the “rock” on which Jesus Christ will build His Catholic (Universal) Church (verse 18).  Peter also realizes that he will be the Apostle whose authority (and his successors) in the church – – on earth – – will be (and continues to be) confirmed in heaven by God (verse 19).

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Caesarea Philippi was an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon.  Today, the city is no longer inhabited, but is an archaeological site located within the present Golan Heights.  Caesarea Philippi is situated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the territory was ruled by Philip in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Philip was a son of Herod the Great, who was “tetrarch” from 4 B.C. until his death in A.D. 34.  When Herod died, his territory was divided among three of his surviving sons, Archelaus who received half of it, Herod Antipas who became ruler of Galilee and Perea, and Philip who became ruler of northern Transjordan.  Philip rebuilt the town of Paneas (where the legend of the mythical “Pan” originated), naming it Caesarea in honor of the emperor, and Philippi (“of Philip”) to distinguish it from the seaport in Samaria that was also called Caesarea.  

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Jesus tests his Apostles with a crucial question: Who do men say that I am and who do you say that I am?  After all, He was widely recognized in Israel as a mighty man of God, even being compared with the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.

Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”(verse 13).  What a direct question to ask to the men who had accompanied Jesus for nearly three years.  Although the question in Matthew differs from Mark’s parallel verse:

 “Jesus and His Apostles set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  Along the way he asked His Apostles, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” (Mk 8:27),

the meaning is the same in both Gospels: Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man (verse 15).

 

Their first response was, “John the Baptist”.  Why?  Well, let us look at how John the Baptist was seen by the 1st century Jews, along with prophesies foretold in the Old Testament:

This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” (Matthew 14:2);

And,

“You are destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of parents toward their children, and to re-establish the tribes of Israel.” (Sirach 48:10).

 

The expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread.  Most Jews believed John the Baptist was the returned “Elijah”.  Some believe Jesus was yet another John the Baptist or Elijah, continuing the work of re-establishing the tribes of Israel, and preparing people for the coming “Messiah”.

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Jesus repeats the question.  Peter, always quick to respond, exclaimed that Jesus was the “Christ”, “the Son of the living God”:

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

The addition of this exalted title to Peter’s affirmation (and not found in Mark’s Gospel) eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title “Messiah” connected to Jesus Christ.  

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In verse 17 of today’s reading, Jesus says to Simon Peter:

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and bloodhas not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Matthew16:17).

Two profound statements are pronounced by Jesus in this one verse.  I have chosen to separate these two statements with a hyphen in the above verse.

Flesh and blood” is a Semitic expression – – (a group of languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Maltese, and Amharic) – – for human beings, especially in regards to weakness.  We know Jesus spoke, or at least had a working knowledge of Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic, (along with Greek as well), and He understood the significance of this particular phrase very well.  (I don’t believe He ever said anything without a purpose and ever-current meaning.)

Jesus also said immediately after the above phrase, “Has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father”.  Simon Peter’s faith is spoken of – – by Jesus Christ Himself – – as NOT developing through human means, but instead, through a divine revelation from God the Father.  No mortal human could have revealed to Simon Peter this divine revelation about Jesus Christ; but only God the Father. 

Simon Peter’s revelation about Jesus is similar to St. Paul’s (Apostle to the Gentiles) description of his dramatic revelation and recognition of whom Jesus Christ “truly” was:

But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, l so that I might proclaim Him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:15–16).

The weakness of our human frailties and iniquities prevents us from truly realizing the divinity of Jesus Christ, without divine assistance.  Only through the Holy Spirit emitting from God the Father can we find the “true” Jesus Christ dwelling inside each of us, His creations.

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What happens next is probably one of the greatest things to happen to the Catholic Church: its foundation is set firmly on earth!!  This foundation is created by the following words of Jesus, spoken directly to Simon Peter:

You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).

Jesus then confers on Peter authority to govern the church that Jesus would build, a church that no powers would ever defeat. (For me, this last sentence is a proclamation and statement of hope and trust for us all.)

 

Jesus plays on Peter’s name which is the same word for “rock” in both Aramaic and Greek.  To call someone a “rock” is one of the greatest of compliments to be given for first century Palestinians.  You may not know that there was a saying at the time of Jesus that when God saw Abraham, He exclaimed: “I have discovered a rock to found the world upon“.  And, through Abraham, God established a nation for Himself.

The Aramaic word “kepa’” means “rock”, and transliterated into Greek as “Kephas (or Cephas)”.   Kephas is the name by which Simon Peter is called by St. Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians:

“… Paul or Apollos or Kephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you.” (1 Corinthians 3:22);

Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Kephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5);

He appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:5);

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Kephas and remained with him for fifteen days.” (Galatians 1:18);

And,

When they recognized the grace bestowed upon me, James and Kephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars …” (Galatians 2:9, 11, 14);

The only exception to Paul using the word, “Kephas”, is in Galatians 2:7–8:

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter to the circumcised, for the one who worked in Peter for an apostolate to the circumcised worked also in me for the Gentiles…” (Galatians 2:7-8)

 John instead chooses a separate word; it being “Petros” (“Peter”):

Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (John 1:42).

The accepted Aramaic of Jesus’ statement is, in English, “You are the Rock (Kepa) and upon this rock (kepa) I will build my church.”  The original Greek text probably indicates the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun “petros”, and the feminine noun “petra” (rock) may be simply due to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as a proper name for a male.  Although these two words (Petros and Petra) were generally used with slightly different degrees, they were also commonly used interchangeably for the word, “rock.”  

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Simon Peter is the “rock” the Catholic Church will be built upon.  Verse 18 is the first occurrence in the Gospels for the word “church”.  This word (in the original Greek: “ekklēsia”) occurs in the Gospels only here and later in Matthew:

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18: 17).

There are several possibilities for an Aramaic origin for this word, “church”.  Jesus’ “church” means the community that He will gather, and, like a building, will have Simon Peter as its strong and solid, well-placed, everlasting foundation.  The function of Simon Peter consists in his being the definitive witness to Jesus Christ as the “Messiah”, the “Son of the living God” (verse 16).  

 

Finally, I come to the last specific phrase quoted in verse 18: “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”.  The “netherworld” (in Greek, meaning “Hades”, the abode of the dead) is believed to be a walled city whose gates will not converge upon the Universal (Catholic) “church” of Jesus Christ, at the time of Matthew writing his Gospel in the late first century.  This “netherworld” will not be overcome by the power of death (Satan), but will be kept submissive to, and by, the power of the “true” Trinitarian God.

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Jesus Christ gives Simon Peter a special authority, symbolic “keys” to the “Kingdom of Heaven”.  Simon Peter will play an important role in the early Christian community as a spokesperson and “church” leader, the first Pope of the Catholic Church.

The image of the keys, “The keys to the kingdom of heaven” (verse 19), is probably drawn from Isaiah 22:15–25 wherein Eliakim is made successor to Shebnah as master of the palace.  He is given “the key of the house of David” for which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts”:

I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open” (Isaiah 22:22).

Today’s reading uses very similar words:

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

There are many instances in Jewish literature of a “binding-loosing” imagery.  Of the several meanings given for this metaphor, two may be of special importance in regards to this Gospel: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication.

The promise of “the keys” is given SOLELY to Peter (and his successors); not to any of the other Apostles present there on that day.  Interestingly, all the Apostles are given the power of binding and loosing later in Matthew:

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

However, the context of this verse just mentioned above hints that only the power of excommunication is intended.  “The keys” are those to the kingdom of heaven and Peter’s authority in the “church” on earth, and confirmed in heaven.  Jesus’ giving to Simon Peter “the keys” shows an important and intimate connection between the “true” “church” on earth and the “kingdom of heaven”.

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Matthew makes Jesus explicit about a strong and absolute prohibition of telling others of Him being the “true” “Messiah”.  This episode, reflected on today, is the turning point in Jesus’ public earthly ministry.  Jesus acknowledges His identification freely to His Apostles, but, I believe, prohibits them from making His messianic office known to others – – by them – – in order to avoid confusing the “true” “Messiah” with unclear, imprecise, and contemporary ideas on the nature of whom and what the Messiah was believed to be, per traditional first century Palestinian Jewish beliefs.

Popular opinions at the time of Jesus regarded Him as a “prophet” like John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. The Apostles by contrast believed – – and KNEW – – Him to be the “true” “Messiah”.  

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In summary, Simon Peter’s recognition of Jesus’ identity is attributed to a divine revelation by God – – a grace.  This “gift” of the Holy Spirit will contrast sharply with Jesus’ rebuke of him (Simon Peter) in next week’s Gospel.  Next week, when Simon Peter rejects Jesus’ prediction of His passion and horrific death, he is said to no longer be thinking as God does, but as humans do.  How often are we given a “gift”, only to lose it?  How often do we each lose our faith and trust in God?  I believe this loss of faith is much more prevalent than the lines at Sacrament of Reconciliation show!!

Peter, in this Gospel is being credited as the strong base, the foundation, for the Catholic Church; a special privilege granted to him – – alone among the Apostles – – because of his recognition of Jesus’ identity.  He becomes the first Pope in a non-broken line in the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church continues to this day to be grounded in the faith, love, and trust that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

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In conclusion, today’s Gospel reminds us that the Catholic Church is built on the strong and unbreakable foundation of faith, trust, and love in Jesus Christ.  Simon Peter announces the heart and soul of our faith: Jesus Christ is God’s only Son, who came to deliver from our sins, and into the arms of His heavenly Father.  The “church” family, the domestic church, still has this same belief and faith as its foundation.

Think of people whose faith has helped you to be a member of the Catholic Church.  Think about what you have learned from “leaders” in our Church today.  What role did Simon Peter play in the early Christian community?  What can we learn from Simon Peter, and his “profession of faith” about Jesus’ nature?  

Through faith, Simon Peter grasped who Jesus Christ truly was.  Simon Peter was the first Apostle to recognize Jesus as the “Anointed One” (the Messiah and Christ), and the only “Son of God”.  The New Testament describes the “church” as a spiritual house or temple, with each member joined together as “living stones”:

“Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into rocks or spiritual stones.  Lord, please let me be a tiny pebble skipping forever along the sea of your grace, hope, and love for me.

 

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Reflection Prayer:

 

Act of Faith

 

“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

When the priest invites us to share in the Lord’s Supper, we now say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  With the new Missal, we will respond:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

The use of “under my roof” is a reference to the Gospel passage where the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant but says he is not worthy for Jesus to enter his house (Luke 7:6).  The other change is “my soul” instead of “I”, which focuses more clearly on the spiritual dimension of the healing we seek.

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Pius X (1835-1914)  [And a Secular Franciscan]

 

Pope Pius X is perhaps best remembered for his encouragement of the frequent reception of Holy Communion, especially by children.

The second of 10 children in a poor Italian family, Joseph Sarto became Pius X at 68, one of the 20th century’s greatest popes.

Ever mindful of his humble origin, he stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.”  He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court.  “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend.  To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices.  They lead me around surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemani.”

Interested in politics, he encouraged Italian Catholics to become more politically involved.  One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of governments to interfere by veto in papal elections—a practice that reduced the freedom of the conclave which had elected him.

In 1905, when France renounced its agreement with the Holy See and threatened confiscation of Church property if governmental control of Church affairs were not granted, Pius X courageously rejected the demand.

While he did not author a famous social encyclical as his predecessor had done, he denounced the ill treatment of indigenous peoples on the plantations of Peru, sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake and sheltered refugees at his own expense.

On the 11th anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War I.  Pius had foreseen it, but it killed him.  “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me.  I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.”  He died a few weeks after the war began.  He was canonized in 1954.

Comment:

His humble background was no obstacle in relating to a personal God and to people whom he loved genuinely.  He gained his strength, his gentleness and warmth for people from the source of all gifts, the Spirit of Jesus.  In contrast, we often feel embarrassed by our backgrounds.  Shame makes us prefer to remain aloof from people whom we perceive as superior.  If we are in a superior position, on the other hand, we often ignore simpler people.  Yet we, too, have to help “restore all things in Christ,” especially the wounded people of God.

Quote:

Describing Pius X, a historian wrote that he was “a man of God who knew the unhappiness of the world and the hardships of life, and in the greatness of his heart wanted to comfort everyone.”

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

SFO Fraternity Life

 

In what ways does a fraternity show “family spirit” on the part of the members?   How is this “spirit” manifested regularly?

Do your monthly meetings become a means of spiritual nourishment in the Franciscan (SFO) way?   Why, or why not?   What needs to be added to your meetings, if anything?

How do you make my judgments when it comes to elections in your fraternity?

Why are there term-limits?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 21 & 22 of 26:

 

21.  On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.

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22.  The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.



What is all the CoRAPi about; and why did he “choose” to quit?!


 

Can we all say I am SOooo Confused?!”  Father, um – – I mean – – Soon-to-be Ex-Father John Corapi, has “chosen” to leave the priesthood, and continue his “ministry” of preaching the “truth” without consent of the Catholic Church, the Magisterium, and apparently anyone else getting in his way.  He made this somewhat surprising announcement on June 17th through his website.

I am torn apart in my feelings about this matter.  I truly loved Fr. (um, Mr.) Corapi’s sermons, lectures, and teachings.  However, I am a faith-strong Roman Catholic, and believe there are only two things one can do if one disagrees with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church:

1.                     Change your mind;

Or, as a last resort,

2.                     Change your mind!!!

 

So, what to do?  I have chosen to write down what I know and then go from there.  Let me review in this blog what I know about the events leading to this interesting, confusing, and turbulent turn of events in Fr. (Mr.) Corapi’s life (and thus, in ours).

 

  • In March, 2011, Ash Wednesday, He announced that he was accused of drug use and illicit sex, which occurred on or about January 24, 1987.

 

  • He exerts that ALL allegations in the three page complaint sent to the bishop(s) are false, and asked for all to pray for all concerned.

  

  • EWTN immediately removed his programs from their cable network.

 

  • Nowhere In all of John Corapi’s communications on this issue (that I know of) does he mention of Jesus, Mary, or anything else from Holy Scripture or Church Theology.  Instead, his “video” and other correspondence (apparently scripted by attorneys and public relations experts) is solely about Fr. John Corapi, and NOONE else!

 

  • There are two institutions/organizations/businesses involved directly with Fr. Corapi and his ministry:

S.O.L.T. – – the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (his religious order), – – which is a community composed of all religious vocations: priests, deacons, brothers, sisters and single and married laity.

And,

His financially “profitable” company, “Santa Cruz Media”, with him identified as the CEO.  Santa Cruz Media, Inc. is also “the owner” of all of Fr. John Corapi’s intellectual property, DVDs, CDs, and books that flow from it.  I wonder (and I don’t believe we truly know), are the assets of his “for profit company solely his, or do the monies go to his religious order (as is written in S.O.L.T.’s Constitution)?

 

I am truly hurt, confused, and concerned.  In reflection, and in reading pages and pages of opinions (trying to keep abreast) on the “Fr. John Corapi” issue, I keep on thinking of the scene from the bible wherein Jesus teaches of the need for service to others, and on not leading others astray: 

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”  (Mark 9:35).   

Though, out of respect for the man and his priesthood, I must say Father Corapi is hypocritical in saying that, on one hand, bishop(s) have a right to do what he/they are doing, and then on the other hand criticize them for infringing his “civil” rights.  I believe he is, in essence, challenging the bishop(s) to impose sanctions upon him.   I wonder if he is doing this purposely, making it easier to say he was “forced out”?

It is probable that suspensions can take over a year, or years, to resolve.  It’s only been three (or so) months for this matter!  I personally believe Fr. (Mr.) John Corapi should maintain a low public profile, enjoy his solitude and quiet for now, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in him and others to come to a conclusion for this situation.  He also needs to be quiet (at least publically) about his attitude toward the investigation process.  He should respectfully submit to the Magisterium and his superiors by fully participating with a truthful, humble, and obedient approach.  As for now, I believe John Corapi is truly and completely burning his bridges “big-time”! 

In my opinion (you may disagree), Fr. (Mr.) Corapi should have pursued his “canonical” rights in private, and away from the media.  After all, he has made it clear to all who listens to him regularly, that he “holds every Church degree that one can get”!  I ask, did Fr. (Mr.) Corapi appeal to the “Congregation for the Clergy” in Rome?  Also, did he even ask the bishop and/or his superiors what could be done to end this fiasco as soon as possible?  

For whatever (truly unknown) reason, he has decided not to pursue the matter through the Catholic Church, but instead, in the Secular and “materialistic” world.  His approach is an extremely dangerous process for him and his soul.  He made it perfectly clear that he is “quitting” the priesthood.  Yet, a “priest” he is and always will be!  Any public ministry without ecclesial (Church) approval IS A PROTESTANT MINISTRY, not Catholic.

 

His failure to remove himself from his public “for profit” well-paid business dealings should have been seen, by all of us, as a probable early signal that Fr. (Mr.) Corapi would not obey his superiors to suspend public ministry during the Church investigation.  

He paid his former employee (the accuser) for her signing a contract to not disclose anything that happened to her while employed by him, and had ALL his other employees sign a similar contract.  Fr. (Mr.) Corapi is now suing this person/accuser for “breach-of-contract”.  This “civil” lawsuit is hampering any investigation through the Church, and is in itself, a violation of procedures by directly interfering with any witnesses in the investigation.  Why did he not wait until Church proceedings were completed before filing any “civil” lawsuit?  It makes me wonder if this was done purposely, and for possible shady reasons!

 

Fame and fortune should mean nothing to a good and humble priest such as Fr. (Mr.) Corapi.  He might claim that the Catholic Church has pushed him to leaving the priesthood, but we need to remember and realize that nearly ALL we know is coming from one source, John Corapi himself.  And, with every release of information from him or his company, he always imparts a need for all to go to his website and buy something to support him.  My question to you: Would buying his products be offering material support to a suspended priest who is possibly in “schism”?  If so, the buyer of his materials could be making Fr. Corapi’s sin theirs as well.

I wonder, – – and I don’t believe we truly know all the facts in this matter, — are the assets of his “for profit” company fully completely his, or do any monies he makes go to his religious order (as is written in the orders Constitution)?

 

***

I am now done with his business and financial holdings.  Let’s examine something I believe more important: his vow of obedience to his superiors and of his actions as a humble servant of God.

Priests are men under “the rule of obedience and authority”, a solemn vow he freely chose some 20 years ago.  Fr. Corapi, himself, has even said in the past that priests and religious cannot play games with their promise of obedience.

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, paragraph 1567, says:

“The priests, prudent cooperators of the episcopal college and its support and instrument, called to the service of the People of God, constitute, together with their bishop, a unique sacerdotal college (presbyterium) dedicated, it is true, to a variety of distinct duties.  In each local assembly of the faithful they represent, in a certain sense, the bishop, with whom they are associated in all trust and generosity; in part they take upon themselves his duties and solicitude and in their daily toils discharge them. “Priests can exercise their ministry only in dependence on the bishop and in communion with him. The promise of obedience they make to the bishop at the moment of ordination and the kiss of peace from him at the end of the ordination liturgy mean that the bishop considers them his co-workers, his sons, his brothers and his friends, and that they in return owe him love and obedience.

Fr. (Mr.) Corapi’s vow of obedience means that he should speak for the Catholic Church – – and not for himself – – in regards to matters of faith, morals, and theology.  Most of us do not want to hear what I am about to say, but I am going to anyway.  It also means that – – he should NOT speak – – if the Catholic Church so orders.  Sadly, he now is claiming that his promise of obedience conflicts with his “civil and human rights”, forgetting (or dumping) his “ecclesial” duty. 

 

True humility would have him submit and accept any sanctions placed upon him, even if it meant a hidden life in a monastery – – his personal Cross to bear.  His (at least recent) stubbornness, persistence, and inflexibility contends that NOONE will tell him what to do! 

Much more critical than any “true or false” claim to a lack of discretion with a woman and/or drug usage, Fr (Mr.) Corapi’s dodging and down-right betrayal of his vow, – – especially his vow of obedience, – – freely given by him to God and man is the greatest possible disappointment (and sin) for any religious, priest, or lay person. 

Fr. (Mr.) Corapi is a priest and cannot ever pretend to be anything or anyone else.  He knows that while on “administrative leave,” a suspended priest cannot preach or teach religion.  Fr. (Mr.) Corapi’s intention to continue lecturing and writing, at least for me, is a passage way toward Protestantism and away from the Catholic Church.  In effect, Fr. (Mr.) Corapi is plunging into a “schism” by possibly taking others with him (even unknowingly).

 

Fr. (Mr.) Corapi is not the first to be censured by the Catholic Church, rightly or wrongly.  He most certainly will not be the last either.  However, the censured people we remember in the Church are those that persisted in their faith WITHOUT leaving the Catholic Church.

Joan of Arc suffered greatly, – – physically, mentally, and spiritually – – during her trial and burning at the stake.  She never gave up or quit her obedience to the Catholic Church.

Saint Mother Theresa suffered through years of “darkness of the soul”, without giving into her depression.  She even took them as a sign of her success over Satan. 

Saint Padre Pio, that lovely and “fiery” (confrontational) Italian Franciscan Monk, was also stripped of his priestly faculties for years, and still obeyed his superiors with a humility no one can challenge.

 

***

 

The “priesthood” is not simply a “job” that one can change or quit at whim.  Let us not forgot that there is a non-removable mark placed on the ordained priest at his ordination; a mark that makes him like no other creation of God.  Even if Fr. (Mr.) Corapi is laicized officially by the Catholic Church, he will be forever a priest in the line of Melchizedek, and always “configured” to Jesus Christ.

If a priest or religious is previously forbidden to engage in public ministry, then that same “EX-“ priest or religious cannot do so when he decides by removing himself from his “priestly title”, then choosing to go by a pseudonym reminiscent to a superhero’s secret identity.  There is no way possible for Fr. (Mr.) Corapi to have a “secret” identity.  I wonder if he will wear a mask in the future (only joking).  Fr. (Mr.) John Corapi is a “suspended” priest, and has no “faculties” (Ecclesial approval) for publicly teaching the faith, or for publically saying “anything” for that matter, at this time.

 

So what is he to do?  Fr. (Mr.) Corapi has chosen to use the pen name, “The Black Sheep Dog”, for future correspondence with “his” faithful.  In calling himself this, I think he is declaring a true caring for the “flock of sheep” he had been preaching, teaching, and ministering to all the past 20 years. 

As Steven Ray stated on his FB page today, it “seems he may have circumvented or avoided any authority other than his own.”  He goes on to ask: “Is he a ‘black sheep dog or Lone Ranger’?”

Let me tell you I haven’t told anyone before: I love sheep dogs.  My children’s babysitter had one at her home.  That darn dog would literally herd the kids, playing in the yard, into a group and move them to places around a tree in the yard.  It was absolutely hilarious to watch.  The kids weren’t too thrilled however.  BUT, in reality, a sheep dog has no livelihood except for that given from its shepherd (the bishop).  A sheep dog that chases after the flock’s sheep – – on its own – – is not a sheep dog, but rather, the potential to be another type of canine: the wolf.  (WOW!! Strong words, but necessary in this case.)

 

This present matter of his suspension has gone beyond “Father Corapi” himself.  His actions could literally harm the very souls of those he has declared a concern for, and that follow him “religiously”.  On blog sites, social network sites, and various websites, people are arbitrarily taking sides with him – – I am sure out of love, trust, faith, and hope.  Some “devout Catholics” are even attacking the Catholic Church because of how Fr. (Mr.) Corapi says he is being maligned.  We all have to remember; our faith is in Jesus Christ and the Catholic (universal) Church and NOT in priests and other speakers with extraordinary oratory skills and revolutionary, confrontational ways of thinking.

Fr. (Mr.) John Corapi did remarkable, ground-breaking, and absolutely incredible work in his priestly life.  For that, I am truly thankful.  I keep him and all fellow Catholics in my prayers daily.  I also pray that this situation concludes and that he can get back to his apostolate in union with the Magisterium.  My fear is that everything he had accomplished will be undone by his persistence to not obey his superiors.

 

Here is reality in a nutshell: If John Corapi does “leave the priesthood” of the Catholic Church, the Church will continue to live and proceed without him.  However, his actions and future endeavors make it absolutely possible that he may inadvertently expose other Catholics, and the Catholic Church as a whole, to great harm.  The consequences for some good Catholics could be their eternal salvation – – their souls.

 

In conclusion, I am pleading to Father (Mister) John Corapi – – Sir – -, I truly loved your inspiration and dedication to promoting the Good News in this secular, and oft times, evil world.  Please reconsider “quitting” the priesthood.  Please reconsider your actions that could possibly bringing spiritual harm and scandal to the Catholic Church.

You will be in my prayers for ever.  Pax et Bonum Sir.

 

****

 

Changing focus for a brief moment, in today’s various blogs, and on e-bay, I found out Fr. (Mr.) Corapi’s supposed accuser is selling a rosary given to her by him years ago.  This rosary was supposedly kissed by Saint Mother Theresa, and held and blessed by Blessed John Paul the Great.  The starting bid for this “relic” is $5000.00.

We need to be careful in regard to appropriation of any relics.  “Simony” is a sin that most Roman Catholics are unfamiliar.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2121, says:

Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things. … It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God.  One can receive them only from him, without payment.”

 

“Happy Birthday to the ‘Boo-Man’!”


 

Pentecost Sunday

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is a Feast day marking the birth of the Catholic Church through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated fifty days after Easter.  Red is the liturgical color worn by the priest at mass today.  The color red recalls the tongues of flame in which the Holy Spirit descended to the disciples of Jesus on that first Pentecost.  The color red also reminds us of the blood of martyrs; those believers who [by the power of the Holy Spirit] held firm to their faith, even at the cost of their lives.

 

Т

I, and the whole family, had a great time on vacation.  We spent the week in Mississippi.  Went to the beach several days, saw some military and historical “stuff” (Mine and two of my four sons favorite parts of our trips), and ended our vacation with a trip to New Orleans.

The kid’s exposure to the eclectic personalities of New Orleans was a rather humorous event.  Their eyes sometimes looked as those of deer in headlights.  It led to some fairly deep discussions on the car ride home.

I am presenting a short reflection today, for lack of time to go into as much detail as I have been.  Hopefully, next week I will be able to go into more detail of the Gospel reading than here.  I pray you still enjoy what I have written. 

 

Т

 

 

Quote of the Day:

 

 

Sainthood is not reserved for monks living cloistered lives of private prayer, or for martyrs who gave up their bodies to the cruelest forms of brutality. Sainthood is a state of grace for all who avail themselves of God’s holy fire of heart, allowing it to burn, burn, burn, right through to the core.” – Liz Kelly May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic, Loyola Press

Т

 

Today’s reflection is about the Holy Spirit entering our lives as Jesus’ Advocate

 

The Easter season concludes with today’s liturgical celebration.  Today is the “Birth” of the Catholic Church.  As a seed dies to be reborn as a tree or flower, so to did Jesus Christ die to be reborn in each of us.

Pentecost was the beginning of the Church: its birthday.  When I was little, and saw all those different famous paintings and icons of the Holy Spirit coming down on the Apostles as flames (tongues of fire), I thought, “Why would God do this?  It would burn their heads!”  I now know that the Apostles, – – with those tongues of fire on top of their heads, – – represent the candles at the Church’s birthday party.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Seriously, what is Pentecost all about; what is all the fuss?  For me, the answer is simple.  Pentecost allows us to see Jesus in an entirely new and exciting way.  When we pray, or when we are together at Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and any other liturgical event, the Holy Spirit – -His Advocate – – wants to reveal Jesus in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit wants to show us Jesus’ love, majesty, divinity, mercy, and power.  Through the power of fire that represents the Holy Spirit, sins and iniquities keeping us from Jesus’ embrace are burned away.

Jesus defeated sin and death.  He was (and sill is) declared “Lord over heaven and earth!”  By sending the Holy Spirit, He fulfilled His promise to send an “Advocate”, (a helper also known as the “Paraclete”) who would enable Christ’s believers to be witnesses to His “good news”, and to be a reconciling presence in the world.  There is an important connection between the gifts of peace and forgiveness, and the actions of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through you.

In today’s reading, it is written, “… there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind …” (Acts 2:2).  The words “wind and spirit” are also mentioned in John:

“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

The word “wind” is translated from the Greek word “pneuma” (and the Hebrew word “ruah”) meaning both “windandspirit.”  Could it be that the sound of a great rush of wind is a sign of a new action from God in regards to salvation history?  With this in mind, I may look at spring storms a little different in the future.

Т

 

The tongues of fire have always been a curiosity of mine.  This type of “fire” is also mentioned in Exodus:

“Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the LORD came down upon it in fire …” (Exodus 19:18).

Fire symbolized the presence of God initiating the “covenant” on Mount Sinai.  The Holy Spirit, the third “person” of the Trinitarian God, acted upon the Apostles and disciples by preparing them to proclaim the “new covenant”.  Jesus previously commissioned His disciples to continue the work that He had begun: to teach, to forgive sins, and to baptize.  The Holy Spirit gives them the power to complete His work. 

Jesus wants all His followers to be instruments and means of peace and harmony among all peoples, and in all places of the world.  So, He gave us the same tool to do His work as well – – the Holy Spirit working through us, in us, and with us.

Т

 

To speak in different tongues (languages) is a form of ecstatic prayer.  This type of prayer is sometimes also called “charismatic” prayer.  Interpreted in the book of Acts as speaking in foreign languages:

“… both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” (Acts 2:11).

This speaking in “tongues” symbolizes the worldwide mission of the church.  Everyone speaking differently wasn’t to confuse the masses of people.  Instead, “speaking in tongues” actually helps bring all peoples of the world together under one large umbrella: the Catholic, or universal Church.

Т

 

To live as a disciple of God – – through, with, and in the Holy Spirit, – – is a gigantic privilege.  The Advocate (or Paraclete) brings us peace and works through us to teach Christ’s message.  Along with this privilege comes a huge responsibility.  As the Apostles and early disciples had done centuries ago, we are still expected to spread the “good news” of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and of His coming again soon.  Are we willing to surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit?  Are we eager and willing to bring His “good news” to this oft-times violent and secularist world?

Today is the perfect day to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, and to share the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation with others in your life.  Reflect on your need to forgive, and upon concerns you may have with giving and accepting forgiveness.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to help bring you peace through the act of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Ask the Holy Spirit to burn away everything that keeps you from Jesus.  After all, in this case, heart burn is a good thing!

The following prayer may help in finding the Holy Spirit, and in kindling that fire inside you.

 

“Prayer for the Help of the Holy Spirit”

“O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive; into my mind, that I may remember; and into my soul, that I may meditate. Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy.  Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end.  May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy.  Amen.”

Saint Anthony of Padua

 

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Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

 

 


 

“Yo’ Bro’ – You Royally Screwed Up This Time!” – Mt 18: 15-20†


Just a few days left before I make my “Total Consecration to Jesus, Through Mary!”  I would love to share a very small portion from the devotion.  This was in yesterdays reading:

Unfortunately, so many people care little or nothing about the Word of God, even though they have heard it time and again, because they do not have the spirit of Christ.  Yet, if you really want to understand the Words of Christ, you must try to pattern your whole life on His.”

“What good is it to know the entire Bible by heart and to learn the sayings of all the philosophers if you live without grace and the Love of God?”

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1253 – Death of St. Clare of Assisi, Franciscan and Founder of the Poor Clare Nuns (b. 1194)
†   1890 – John Henry Cardinal Newman, English Catholic cardinal (b. 1801)

 (From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) 

  

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  
    

“The good of the collective is based on the good of the individual.” – John Hough :>
      

    

Today’s reflection is about what excommunication really is; and prayer.
      

15 “If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  19 Again, (amen,) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  20  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (NAB Mt 18: 15-20)

 

As meant for those who have strayed from Jesus’ path to salvation, the lesson in today’s Gospel Reading turns to how Jesus’ disciples are to deal with anyone who sins, and remains within the Church community, even though unrepentant.

For the sinner, first there is to be a private correction.  If this is unsuccessful, then there is a further correction before two or three witnesses.  And, if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the assembled community (the Church communities and leadership), and if the sinner refuses to listen and act on the correction of the Church, the person is to be expelled from the Church body (excommunicated).  The Church’s judgment, Jesus expounds in this bible reading, WILL be ratified in heaven by God.  

Most good models for correcting behavior seem to follow this approach in the workplace.  The standard is to first give an oral counseling: a one-on-one type of re-education, which should have NO impact on the employee’ status, if they comply.  If the behavior still does not change, the employer asserts a correction attempt through a single, or series of, formal (maybe written) notice(s) of poor behavior, with specific goals for the employee to achieve by a certain point.  Failure at this time could result in further disciple, including suspension and dismissal from employment.  If still not repented, the employee goes before a human resources (HR) hearing/evaluation which usually results in suspension or probable termination.

We do the same things in our own families.  How often do we re-teach safety and household living behaviors to our children, with escalating modes of discipline for repeated deviations in behavior?  My children still shudder, even as teenagers, when I say “time-out is about to commence.”

 “Your brother,” in the verses above, refers to the fellow disciples in the Catholic Church community of the time.  Later in Matthew’s Gospel (23:8), Jesus reiterates this by saying, “As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.”  

The words, “against you,” in the first sentence of today’s gospel, creates the potential for a dualistic approach to this one sentence.  The omission of these two words in brackets definitely broadens the scope and type of sins in question. Without the words, the verse is saying that you should notify the individual of his errors, every single time he sins, regardless of how minor the offense, or too whom the offense was directed.  Though we are obliged to tell people when they are in error, and especially when in danger of harming their soul, I definitely can see this verse being majorly abused by a few people.  We all know people that get into everybody else’s “business.”  How do you feel when they approach you?  I bet it is not welcoming or Christian.  My caveat to this sentence is to remember to preach with love, and to remember that we are ALL sinners.

By bringing the repentant sinner back into the fold of the Catholic Church, the Church itself gains that soul for salvation, and eternity in heaven.  The term “won over” literally means “gained” in the context of this gospel interpretation.

When Jesus said, “ … take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses,’” He was referring to the Old Testament Law found in Deuteronomy 19:15: “One witness alone shall not take the stand against a man in regard to any crime or any offense of which he may be guilty; a judicial fact shall be established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”   Please remember, the goal is to bring someone back into God’s grace, and not to “gang-up” on the person.  The individuals (the witnesses) need to have a loving and caring approach in breaching the person’s inappropriate behavior.

When Jesus refers to “the Church,” this is the second of the only two instances of the word “Church” to be found in all four gospels.  The other instance is also found in Matthew’s Gospel, 16: 18: “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.”  In this latter case (16:18), Jesus’ “Church” means the community of disciples that He will gather together; and like a structural building, this community of disciples will have Peter as its solid foundation – a “rock” to build on.  In the case of today’s Gospel reading, the small distinction is that it probably does not refer to the entire Church body like in Matthew 16:18, but only to the local congregation of followers in the town, instead of the entire Catholic (meaning universal) Church.

“Treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”  Hmm, sounds like a pretty harsh treatment to me!  After all, how many people like to hear that a tax or bill collector is at the door, or on the phone?  How many people invite the bill collectors, and other enemies to dinner?  Observant Jews of this time in bible history avoided any relationships or camaraderie with Gentiles and tax collectors.  For me, this is profoundly interesting, since Matthew was a lucrative tax-collector prior to his conversion, through Jesus.  Proves to me that there is definitely hope for us all, through Jesus’ salvation and redemption.

In this verse about Gentiles and tax-collectors, Jesus is saying to the congregation of Christian disciples to separate themselves from the arrogantly sinful member who refuses to repent, especially when convicted of their sin by the entire Church.  The person in this case has purposefully excluded themselves from the fellowship of the Church community through their own action and/or reaction.  This person had, by their refusal, self-excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

I see this problem in excess with today’s society; at least in the United States.  It seems Catholics today like to pick and choose which tenant of the Church to obey, and which of those that is of no importance to them.  This is evident with the numbers of Catholics attending Sunday Mass: about 30%.  Sadly, seventy percent ARE NOT GOING TO MASS, except maybe for CHRISTmas and Easter!  My children, in an ironic joke, call these people “C&E” Catholics.

Other tenets of dissent from CATHOLICS include, but definitely are not limited to, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, including same-sex marriage, the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, and even Papal Authority.  I am sure there are many other issues, but I’ll just leave it at this.  On reviewing this list, it is identical to the problems protestant faiths have with Catholicism. 

Sadly, this condition in the Catholic Church is because of poor catechesis in the past couple of decades.  Educating these poor souls is essential, for their eternal survival, and the Church’s.  At the end of the day though, I truly believe in what our late and Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “There is something a Catholic can do if he or she disagrees with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  You can change your mind, or you can change your mind!”  

The harsh language about Gentiles and tax collectors probably reflects a period in the time of Matthews’ participation in the local Synagogue, when it was principally composed of Jewish Christians, and very few Gentiles followed Jesus. This aforementioned time had long since passed when Matthews Gospel was written around 50 A.D., but the principle of exclusion for such a sinner still remained, even years after Jesus’ crucifixion.  

Paul makes a similar demand in 1 Cor 5:1-13, when he gives extremely clear advice on how to handle any case wherein a member of the Catholic Church  is caught up in immoral behaviors and actions.  Paul gives a strong case for excommunication, ending with what is written in 1 Cor 5:13: “God will judge those outside. Purge the evil person from your midst.”

There are many examples in Jewish literature of this “binding-loosing” image.  Except for the plural of the verbs “bind” and “loose,” the verse in today’s reading is practically identical with Matthew 16:19b, – “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  This phrase is understood by scholars as granting to all the disciples, what was previously given to only to Peter.  There can easily be several meanings to this particular verse, but two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, AND the lifting or imposition of excommunication.  

All Catholics are to go out into the world and witness to God – to live and preach His word.  Someone who purposefully excludes themselves from the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, through their own action and/or reaction is self-excommunicated.  All the Catholic Church is pronouncing, when saying someone is excommunicated, is the recognition of the individual’s own deviation from the path of salvation.  It is to be considered a medicinal rather than a vindictive penalty.  Excommunication is meant not to punish, but to correct the person’s belief or behavior, and to bring the person back to a path of righteousness and salvation.  Excommunication is always done through love for the individual, and the Church Community.

The excommunicated person does not cease to be a Christian.  One’s baptism cannot ever be cancelled, as baptism creates a permanent and everlasting mark on one’s soul.  However, the excommunicated person is, in essence, “exiled” from Catholic society, and as non-existent in the eyes of ecclesiastical authority.  The excommunicated offender’s status before the Catholic Church is, sadly, that of a stranger.  Thankfully, such an exile immediately ends as soon as the offender has given a suitable remedy for their offense, as judged by the ecclesiastical authority.  

The right to excommunicate is a necessary corollary of the fact that the Catholic Church is a society, a community, of people.  Every society has to have the right to exclude and deprive unworthy and culpable members from its “rights and social advantages,” either on a temporarily or permanent basis. This right of exclusion is necessary, by natural law, to every society, in order that it can run smoothly and without interruption, for its own survival.

Excommunication, especially “a jure,” is either “latæ” or “ferendæ sententiæ.”  The first (latæ) is incurred as soon as the offence is committed, by reason of the offence itself without any intervention from an ecclesiastical judge.  The person is excommunicated at once by the fact or acts itself!  Examples are those people that performs, assists in, or obtains an abortion, in direct violation of natural and Canon Law, and are automatically excommunicated.

The second (ferendæ sententiæ) is inflicted on someone only by a judicial sentence.  It occurs only when an ecclesiastical judge has summoned the person before a tribunal (a type of court trial); has declared the person guilty; and punished him according to the terms of Canon law.  You will know this type of excommunication by these or similar words: “under pain of excommunication … will be excommunicated”.  A recent example in my area was for Catholics attending or assisting at the ordination of women priests or a bishop, in direct violation of Canon Law.

The Gospel reading ends with a verse about a favorable response from God to our prayers.  Even if that number of followers gathered together is a very small number, Jesus will be in their midst.  Do you take the ending verses in today’s Gospel Reading about granting prayers from groups, as applying to prayer on the occasion of the Church’s gathering to deal with the sinner that is not repented?  I think it seems unlikely.  God’s answering of prayer from a very small group envisions a totally different situation from that involving an entire congregation praying in union.  Also, the target of the prayer in the last two sentences of this Gospel Reading is expressed in a very “general way;” presuming, anything for which they are praying, will be answered.

Some see the last sentence of today’s Gospel reading as meaning that the presence of Jesus seems to guarantee the worth and effectiveness of prayer.  The bible verse is extremely similar in perspective to one attributed to a rabbi that was executed in A.D. 135, during the second Jewish revolt: “… When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them” (Pirqe Abot 3:3).  WOW!  What a promise to make.  Or is it?

Jesus, in reality, isn’t talking about some type of magical formula to get whatever we wish.  We can’t win a MEGA lottery with some sort of prayer!  What Jesus is stating in these bible verses, is that it is good to have someone else praying with us. for like petitions or intention requests.

The two or three people praying together, is not limited, in any way, to geographical locations.  You do not have to be physically together for Jesus to be in your midst.  No matter how far apart you may be physically, if you and others are praying for the same intention, Jesus IS WITH YOU!  This is the major emphasis of the “Divine Office:” the prayer of the Church.  At any given moment, people across the world, AND in heaven, are praying this prayer – with God in their midst!

It isn’t easy waiting, and trusting in God, at times of stress and need.  Praying with another is encouraging and helpful for our mental being and spiritual souls.  Friends help us discern God’s direction.  So, keep persevering in your prayer life, and see how the Trinity works in you, AND your prayer partners.  Together, you can give each other a great piece of mind during times of sorrow or tribulations.  Maybe this peace IS the unintentional answer to your prayer.

 

Act of Hope

 

“O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Clare of Assisi 1194-1253

 

At the beginning of the 13th century, when luxury and sensuality held sway, St. Francis of Assisi made his appearance, giving to men the example of a poor and penitential life. But God wished also to give the vain and pleasure-loving women of that period an example of contempt of the world’s vanities. For this mission he chose Clare, the daughter of a prominent and noble family of Assisi, born January 20, 1194. Her father was Favarone de Offreduccio, count of Sassorosso; her mother, the servant of God Ortolana, who died in the odor of sanctity.

Before the child’s birth it was revealed to the mother that her offspring would be a brilliant light in the world. This light the mother detected in her daughter from her earliest years. Besides being favored with personal beauty, Clare possessed a charming personality and rare qualities of mind. She was a favorite in the family, and hardly had she attained to young womanhood, when several suitors sought her in marriage.

But her virtues surpassed the gifts with which nature endorsed her. She interested herself in the poor and frequently denied herself things so as to be able to give more to the poor members of Christ. She loved prayer, and it was her sweetest delight to surrender her heart to sentiments of ardent devotion before Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Beneath her beautiful garments she wore a sharp penitential belt in order to honor the sufferings of Christ and to preserve herself a chaste virgin for His sake.

She was 18 years old when she heard St. Francis preach in the cathedral of Assisi during the Lent of 1212. His words on contempt of the world and on penance, and particularly the holy example he set, so earnestly affected Clare, that she conferred with him and soon recognized that God was calling her to lead a life similar to his in the seclusion of a convent. She did not hesitate to carry out God’s plans. Realizing that her family, intent only on a brilliant future for her in the world, would oppose her vocation in every way, she had to leave home in secret.

On Palm Sunday she went to church, dressed in her richest garments, to attend divine services. That night, attended by an elderly relative, she went to the little chapel of Sty. Mary of the Angels, where St. Francis and his brethren came to meet her with lighted candles in their hands. Before the altar she removed her beautiful head-dress, then St. Francis cut off her hair and covered her head with a veil of common linen. In place of rich garments, she received a coarse penitential garb and was girded with a white cord. This was the way in which the mother and founder of the Poor Clares was invested on March 18, 1212. For the time being, St. Francis placed her in a convent of Benedictine sisters.

When Clare had successfully overcome the great opposition of her family, who had intended to force her to return home, her sister Agnes joined her in the sacrifice. St. Francis arranged a little convent for them near the church of St. Damian. There the number of consecrated virgins soon increased. They served God in great poverty, strict penance, and complete seclusion from the world according to a rule which St. Francis gave them as his Second Order. Clare was obliged in obedience to accept the office of abbess in 1215 and to continue in it for 38 years until her death. But her love for humility found compensation in the performance of the lowliest services toward her sisters. In spite of her great physical sufferings, she set her sisters a striking example of zeal in penance and prayer.

In the year 1240 an army of Saracens who were in the service of Emperor Frederick II drew near Assisi. They rushed upon the little convent of St. Damian that lay outside the city and had already scaled the walls of the monastery. In mortal fear the sisters had recourse to their mother, who was ill in bed.

The saint, carrying the pyx containing the Most Blessed Sacrament, had herself carried to a convent window. There she pleaded fervently with the Lord of heaven in the words of the Psalmist (Ps 73:19), “Deliver not up to beasts the souls, that confess to thee, and shield thy servants whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.” A mysterious voice coming from the Host said, “I shall always watch over you.” Immediately panic seized the besiegers. A ray of brilliant light which emanated from the Blessed Sacrament had dazzled them. They fell down from the walls and fled from the place. The convent was saved and the town of Assisi was spared.

After suffering from serious illness for 30 years, Clare felt that her end was drawing nigh. After she had received the last sacraments, she and one of her sisters beheld the Queen of Virgins coming with a large escort to meet her, the spouse of Jesus Christ. On August 11, 1253, she entered into the joys of eternity and on the following day her body was buried. Pope Alexander IV canonized her already in the year 1255. She was chosen as the universal patroness of television in 1958.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm.,
© 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From
http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #11 of 26:  

Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly.  Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.

“Not MY Job, It’s HIS; Or Is IT?!” – Mark 13:13-17†


The Holy Father’s (The Pope) Prayer Intention’s for June, 2010:

General Intention: That priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God.

Missionary Intention: That the Holy Spirit may bring forth from our communities numerous missionary vocations, willing to fully consecrate themselves to spreading the Kingdom of God.

 

It is the first day of June, and I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday weekend.  Hopefully we all remembered and prayed for all veterans and military personnel, living and dead.

 

Today in Catholic History:

† 1480 – Birth of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (d. 1550)
† 1495 – Friar John Cor records the first known batch of scotch whisky.
† 1571 – Death of John Story, English Catholic
† 1846 – Death of Pope Gregory XVI (b. 1765)
† 1903 – Birth of Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky C.Ss.R Bishop and Martyr (d. 1973)
† Today is Commemoration of Justin Martyr (Eastern Orthodox).

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

Men have never wearied of political justice: they have wearied of waiting for it. – G.K. Chesterton
     

Today’s reflection is about Civic and Religious Duties.
     

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech.  They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.”  They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”  So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.  (NAB Mark 13:13-17)

  

Who were the “Pharisees and Herodians?”  Of the three major religious societies of Judaism at the time of the New Testament, the Pharisees were often the most vocal and influential.  The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were the most bitter and deadly opponents of Jesus Christ, and His message.

The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God at first, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist to only a small portion of the Jewish Laws that they became blind to the “Messiah” when He was in their very midst.  They saw His miracles and heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy they did all that they could to stop Him; to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the “Son of God.”

The Herodians on the other hand were one of the Jewish parties of Jerusalem and Judea during the human lifetime of Jesus Christ.  Unlike the other Jewish groups, the Herodians were primarily a political group, rather than religious.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod.  While the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed Jesus Christ because they viewed Him as a competitor for religious leadership of the people, the Herodians opposed Jesus because they viewed His growing popularity as a political threat to their Roman masters.

In the conflicts Jesus had with the Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple Scribes, Jesus vanquished his adversaries with simple and honest responses and parables to their questions; reducing them to silence.  In Mark 12:34, it is written, “And when Jesus saw that (He) answered with understanding, He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.” 

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  What a simple, yet profound, statement!  I firmly believe we have as much difficulty with the concept today, as the Disciples of Christ did two-thousand years ago.  Jesus did not say, “Give to Caesar nothing, and give everything to the Church.”  Nor did He say, “Make sure what you give to Caesar is in no way associated with the Church.”  Jesus made it clear that we had a duty not only to the Church, but also to the people around us, to the civic leaders, and to society as a whole.  To be a good Catholic is to be a good citizen as well.  There is both a “physical” king, and a “spiritual” king to which we answer.  Jesus was not to rule by the force of military might, but by service to all.  He was not to be a political “Messiah.”

What do we owe to the government and others, and what do we owe to Christ and the Church.  Church precepts are easy, because they have been written down, and easily found.  The five duties of ALL Catholics:

1. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and rest from servile labor on these days. 
2. To receive the
Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, if aware of committing a mortal sin, more often.
3. To receive
Holy Communion at least once a year, between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.
4. To observe the
fast days and abstinence days established by the Church.
5. To contribute to the support of the Church

How sad that so many Catholics today do not adhere to ANY of these five simple precepts of our Church.  Some people get upset and disgusted that these “C&E” (Christmas and Easter) Catholics only come to Mass twice a year if that, AND then go to Communion on top of it!  I instead have a strong feeling of sadness and spiritual pain that these misguided (those usually self-guided) individuals don’t know how bad they are hurting themselves, and the Church community as a whole, by putting their own needs and selfishness over following a few simple rules.

There are other practices that a good Catholic should also be involved with.  The Church has broken them down into two categories:  “Corporal” and “Spiritual” Works of Mercy.  Being a good citizen involves, but is not limited, to these various works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s body:

1.  Feeding the hungry
2.  Giving drink to the thirsty
3.  Clothing the naked
4.  Sheltering the homeless
5.  Visiting the sick
6.  Visiting the imprisoned
7.  Burying the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s soul:

1.  Admonishing the sinner
2.  Instructing the ignorant
3.  Counseling the doubtful
4.  Comforting the sorrowful
5.  Bearing wrongs patiently
6.  Forgiving injuries
7.  Praying for the living and the dead

Being a good Catholic is nothing more than doing your best, being your best, and living your best.  We are to love all others because they are creations of God, and we are to be good Stewards of the gifts and resources God has given us.  When Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar … and to God …,” He was, and still is, extolling a need for an organizational flow in order to have a safe and orderly society; with realistic requirements, needs, and almsgiving in this world and in the next.  Jesus recognized the civil authority and its rights, but He warned that greater rights belong to God.

In this world, it involves paying taxes, adhering to the laws of society, and value the Church precepts, including the “works of mercy.”  In the next world, it involves simply honoring and praising our Creator, which will be easy for me as I am getting a head start well before getting there!

Give to Caesar the coins, and to God your heart!
    

A Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.  We beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.  Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.  Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our Country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded; and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.  Amen”
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph the Worker
   

Apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955. But the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers has a much longer history.

In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation. Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating. Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Comment:

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). The Father created all and asked humanity to continue the work of creation. We find our dignity in our work, in raising a family, in participating in the life of the Father’s creation. Joseph the Worker was able to help participate in the deepest mystery of creation. Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work. Thus, if you wish to be close to Christ, we again today repeat, ‘Go to Joseph’” (see Genesis 41:44).

Quote:

In Brothers of Men, René Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: “Now this holiness (of Jesus) became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of word, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God…in relation to this mystery, involves the conviction that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of someone who is poor and obliged to work for his living.”

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From: http://www.americancatholic.org website 

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #1:
   

The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

 

 

“There’s a New Marshall in Town Phillip!” – Acts 8:1b-8†


Today in Catholic History:
† 753 BC – Romulus and Remus found Rome (traditional).
† 1073 – Death of Pope Alexander II
† 1509 – Henry VIII ascends the throne of England (unofficially) at the death of his father, Henry VII.
† 1651 – Birth of Blessed Joseph Vaz, Apostle of Ceylon (d. 1711)
† 1673 – Birth of Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick, Holy Roman Empire Empress (d. 1742)
† 1767 – Birth of Elisabeth of Württemberg, Empress consort of the Holy Roman Empire (d. 1790)
† 1854 – Birth of William Stang, Roman Catholic Bishop (d. 1907)
† Liturgical feasts: Holy Infant of Good Health, Saint Abdecalas, Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Anastasius I, Saint Konrad von Parzham, Saint Wolbodo

 

Today’s reflection is about Saul’s personal mission to destroy the Catholic Church.

Quote or Joke of the Day:

Every man is a fool in some man’s opinion. — Spanish Proverb

Today’s Meditation:

There broke out a severe persecution of the church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.  Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment.  Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.  Thus Philip went down to (the) city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them.  With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.  For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured.  There was great joy in that city.  (NAB Acts 8:1b-8) 

The severity of the persecution that breaks out against the Jerusalem community concentrates on the word of Jesus’ resurrection being spread among all the people of the region,  and the dispersal of the Jewish Christian community from Jerusalem, resulting in the conversion of the Samaritans (see Acts 8:4-17, 25).  

All were scattered . . . except the apostles” is an observation that led some modern scholars to conclude that the persecution was limited to the Hellenist (Grecian oriented) Christians, and that the Hebrew Christians were not molested.  Perhaps this is because the Hebrew Christians attitude toward the law and temple was still more in line with that of their fellow Jews.  

Saul . . . was trying to destroy the church” because Saul was able to perceive that the Christian movement among the Jews of Jerusalem, contained the seeds of a major doctrinal divergence from Judaism.  A pupil of Gamaliel the Elder, a Pharisee doctor of the Jewish Law, who was a man of great respect (see Acts 22:3); Saul was totally dedicated to the law as the way of salvation (see Gal 1:13-14), Saul accepted the task of crushing the Christian movement.  He believed that the Christian teachings detracted from the importance of the Jewish Temple and laws.  His vehement opposition to Christianity reveals how difficult it was for a Jew of his time to accept a messianic revelation that differed so greatly from the general expectation of the tradition of the  messiah.

Saul’s devotion to the Jewish faith was so strong and militant in his approach, that it was hard for anyone to dissuade him from his Jewish faith and beliefs, nor his mission to literally destroy any believers of Jesus being the messiah or Christ-figure.  The strength of his devotion to a religion never changed: only his religion changed.  After becoming a Christian, his faith was at least equal to Jesus’ disciples and apostles.

Phillip left for “heathen” turf.  He felt certain that no one would ever come for him so far away from the center of the Jewish faith.  Jesus went to the “unwanted” in Jewish society: the sick, lame, and criminals.  Now, His disciples have gone to areas that the Jewish faith is of little concern.  Jesus said He is he Bread of Life, and now He is becoming the Bread of Life for all: the devout, and the uncommitted; the religious and the secular; the Jew and the pagan.

The crowds apparently were not only interested with what Phillip- was telling them, they accepted his teachings and became followers: they became Christians.  With accepting the faith, they also became vessels for the Holy Spirit, and miracles are always present when the Holy Spirit is involved.  The majority only had the small miracle of knowing that through Jesus, they will live for eternity in paradise regardless of what happens in their mortal lives.  Some had added miracles of healing: mentally, physically, and most definitely spiritually.

Any time I have found that people that have let God into their lives, great joy and awe erupts with illuminating emotions on all faces: the individuals involved, and in the witnesses.  Watch people when they are baptized, confirmed, or have just received forgiveness through the Sacrament of reconciliation.  Look at the faces of the parents of adult children that enter the Church during the Easter Season through the RCIA program.  See all the faces on the altar and in the pews, at a wedding ceremony.  All you see is joy, with only one not happy: Satan.

“Lord Jesus, use me as you used Phillip to evangelize to the ‘heathens’ in my own society.  Let me be an instrument of your love and peace.  Amen.” 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Conrad of Parzham 1818-1894

Conrad, whose baptismal name was John, was the son of the devout and honest couple George Birndorfer and Gertrude Niedermayer. He was born on a farm near the town of Parzham in Bavaria in the year 1818. From his earliest years he gave indications of his future sanctity by his modesty and love of solitude. The fervor of his devotion was noticeable especially when he prayed in church, the distant location of which was no hindrance to his visiting it frequently even in inclement weather. He was inflamed with great love for the Blessed Virgin, and each day fervently recited the rosary. On feast days he frequently made a journey to some remote shrine of the Mother of God. During such pilgrimages, always made on foot, he was constantly engaged in prayer, and when he returned in the evening, he was usually still fasting.

Having spent his youthful years on the farm, closely united to God by means of interior union with Him, he decided at the age of 31 to bid farewell to the world. After disposing of a very large inheritance, he received permission to be admitted as a lay brother among the Capuchins.

Immediately after his profession he was sent to the convent of St. Anne in the city of Altoetting. This place is particularly renowned among all others in Germany for its shrine of the Mother of Mercy, and hundreds, even thousands of the faithful come there daily. Because of the great concourse of people in this city, the duty of the porter at the friary is a very difficult one. As soon as he arrived, this charge was given to Conrad, who retained it until his death. Diligent at his work, sparing in words, bountiful to the poor, eager and ready to receive and help strangers, Brother Conrad calmly fulfilled the task of porter for more than 40 years, during which time he greatly benefited the inhabitants of the city as well as strangers in all their needs of body and soul.

Among the virtues he practiced, he loved silence in a special way. His spare moments during the day were spent in a nook near the door where it was possible for him to see and adore the Blessed Eucharist. During the night he would deprive himself of several hours of sleep, to devote the time to prayer either in the oratory of the brothers or in the church. Indeed, it was quite generally believed that he never took any rest, but continually occupied himself in work and exercises of devotion.

On a certain feast day, when he had ministered to a large number of pilgrims, he felt his strength leaving him. He was obliged to manifest his weakness to his superior. Obedience sent him to bed. Only three days later, little children, to whom the news of Conrad’s sickness had not been given lest they be over saddened, gathered as by instinct around the friary, reciting the rosary. As Blessed Father Francis had died to the music of the birds he loved, so his son died with the voices of the children, these lovely creatures of God, ringing in his ears. On April 21, 1894, the Capuchin porter heard the sound of the Bell for which he had so patiently waited. For the last time he ran to the Door. But this time the Door was literally his Christ.

His heroic virtues and the miracles he performed won for him the distinction to be ranked among the Blessed by Pope Pius XI in the year 1930. Four years later, the same pope, approving additional miracles which had been performed, solemnly inscribed his name in the list of saints.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #21:

On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.   Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

Within themselves the fraternities are structured in different ways according to the norm of the constitutions, according to the various needs of their members and their regions, and under the guidance of their respective council.