Saturday, January 28, 2023

"They will speak no lies" - Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2023

 

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – “They will speak no lies”

 

The prophet Zephaniah in our first reading, speaking on behalf of God, says: “But I will leave as a remnant a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD: and this remnant shall speak no lies”

 

As I have said many times, the Catholic Church sees one of its main functions to be an advisor to the different governments around the world.

 

And our American society rests on the idea that there is “truth” that does not change based on the culture or circumstances.  Every person who testifies in court promises to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

 

In order for America to flourish, we need to return to believing in a Truth that does not change based on the culture, and a Truth that does not change based on circumstances. 

 

At a sidebar to the trial of Jesus, Jesus claims to be the truth, and Pontius Pilate asks in a scoffing way “what is truth?”  And there really is no middle ground, either there is Truth that transcends cultures and circumstances, or there isn’t.

 

10 years ago, if you told anyone in the United States that not holding to the Truth would lead to kids identifying as cats and dogs in school and needing a litter box in the school hallway, I doubt anyone would have believed it.  But here we are.

 

Again, our first reading promises that there will be a remnant who will not tell lies.  Let us all be that remnant who commit to saying only true things, and not speaking anything, nor teaching anything that is a lie.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2023

 

Fishers of Men – Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2023

 

In our Gospel today we see Jesus calling 4 fishermen, while they are fishing, to come and follow Him.  They leave their nets immediately and follow him and Jesus promises that from now on they will be fishers of men and women.

 

I would venture to say that in America today, no fallen away Catholic nor non-Catholic would feel comfortable approaching a Catholic priest as their first point of contact with the Catholic Church.  But many fallen away Catholics and non-Catholics do feel comfortable approaching you who are here today.

 

Just a couple of stories to illustrate this

First of all, a parishioner from Annunciation let me know this week that her hair dresser has been asking her questions about the Catholic Church, and the hair dresser asked this parishioner if the parishioner could get her a Catholic Bible.  This parishioner approached me about this, I was able to get the parishioner a Catholic Bible to give to her hair dresser.  The likelihood that the hairdresser would have approached a Catholic Priest for a Catholic Bible is almost zero.

 

Another example is just today I was talking with a Saint Paul’s Parishioner, and she was saying that her physical therapist told her that she has come to a couple of Masses.  The Saint Paul’s Parishioner said if you ever want to come to Mass with me, just let me know, and the physical therapist said thank you.

 

And then one final example, I was listening to Catholic Radio Saturday morning, and this formerly fallen away Catholic was being interviewed, and she shared that she had had divorces and abortions, and felt like God hated her, but someone invited her to Mass, and she heard something at that Mass that totally changed the trajectory of her life, and this person now works at a Catholic parish helping other couples through the annulment process.

 

There are at least 5 people who know that you are Catholic…and it may be up to you to say something to them encouraging that will start the process of them coming home to the Catholic Church.  Let us all pray for those 5 people tonight who we are called to go fish for and bring them home to Jesus and His Church!

Monday, January 16, 2023

"Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" - Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 2023

 

"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 2023

 

In our Gospel today we hear St. John the Baptist say, while pointing to Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  And that is the exact same thing every Catholic priest (or bishop) says at every Mass when they hold up the Host and chalice…”Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world…”

 

And so this forces a decision for every Catholic, including myself, and indeed every person around the world… do I really believe that bread and wine, after the priest or bishop prays the words of consecration becomes the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus…do we really believe the priest or bishop when they say “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”

 

There really is not a middle way…The Catholic Church is making a Truth claim…it either IS the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of Jesus or it is not…There is not a half way “Maybe”.

 

And if it is a yes, then I need to orient my entire life around that reality.

But if it is not the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of Jesus than I need to run as far away from the Catholic Church!

 

If we do believe that Jesus becomes present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity at this and every Mass…let us all together orient our entire lives around the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Epiphany 2023 - "purposefuluniverse.com/videos"

 

Epiphany 2023 – “https://www.purposefuluniverse.com/videos”

 

I have never preached on a particular website before…until now…

 

As I have talked about in previous years, the average age a young person makes the decision to leave the Catholic Church is now 13…and the number 1 reason they leave is because of science.

 

I want to invite all parents, grandparents, guardians etc. to visit and bookmark and share with all the children and teens under their influence the following website: https://www.purposefuluniverse.com/videos

 

Today the Church remembers the visit of the Magi, astronomers who were constantly studying the sky and the stars, and that science led them to the Christ child.

 

So it is also the case today.  Catholics do not believe you can prove the existence of God…but Catholics do believe that science ought to lead scientists and everyone to the doorstep of God.

The discovery of the big bang theory was by a Catholic priest.  The person who came up with genetic science was Fr. Gregor Mendel…Fr. Tad Pacholczyk is the director of the National Catholic Bioethics center and has degrees in philosophy, biochemistry, molecular cell biology, and chemistry and a PhD in neuroscience from Yale University…the videos also feature Karin Oberg who is a professor of Astrophysics at Harvard who converted to Catholicism while studying astrophysics…the list could go on and on…

Indeed it is the Catholic world view that is the bedrock of science and the scientific method…the idea that God created the world and that there is an order to the universe comes from the Catholic understanding of God that you don’t find in other religious traditions where gods are finnicky or too aloof from the world to make the world with any sort of order.

The purposefuluniverse.com/videos has so many wonderful videos about the intersection of Catholicism and science…in order to reverse the tide of young people leaving the Catholic Church because of science, show your young people the videos at the https://www.purposefuluniverse.com/videos

 

Science led the Magi to Christ 2,000 years ago and has the ability to lead all of us to Christ today.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas 2022

 

Christmas 2022 Homily

 

There is a saying which I agree with, and the Knights of Columbus even have magnets for cars that say this phrase - “Keep Christ in Christmas”

Again, I agree that we should Christ in Christmas, but it is important to also say “Keep the “Mass” in Christmas.”  The -mas at the end of Christmas means “Mass”  just like we have "Michaelmas", which is a Mass in honor of Saint Michael the Archangel, and “Candlemas” which is a Mass where we process into Church with lit candles in honor of Mary bringing the Christ Child, the true light of the world, into the temple for the first time, so as well we celebrate tonight “Christ’s Mass”.  

The event that we remember and celebrate tonight was Jesus being manifested to the world for the first time 2,000 years ago, and so as well, on this altar, at this “Christ’s Mass”, when a priest says the Words of Consecration over bread and wine, they instantly become Christ once again manifested to the world.  And so it is good to be here with you tonight!

I would like to tell a brief story about Poland, and a Christmas Midnight Mass.

In 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland, which triggered WWII.  The same day that WWII ended in 1945, Poland found itself behind the iron curtain, now under the brutal oppression of the Communists.  So Poland suffered brutally for decades.

I mention all of this to say that in 1959 a young bishop Karol Wojtyla, who would become St. Pope John Paul the Second, started having a Christmas Midnight Mass OUTSIDE in a city that had been built by the Communists, and that Christmas midnight Mass was usually well below zero like it is tonight.

100,000 Poles showed up for that first Christmas midnight Mass, outside…imagine that…100,000 people outside, below freezing temperatures, but they were there for Mass 100,000 strong, and the Polish people showed up at every subsequent Christmas Midnight Mass until the Communists relented and in 1977 the Ark Catholic Church was built, the only time a Communist nation has allowed a Catholic Church to be built.

It is well below zero tonight, but we are here celebrating Mass. 

In our world today Communism and Socialism are once again on the ascendant, but just like Herod, just like Pontius Pilate, and just like the rulers and lords of our day, every ruler who runs up against the Christ Child is doomed. 

The Devil and the Communists and Socialists play the long game, but God’s plan is prior to their plans…Christ’s plan existed before the world was even created!

We rejoice tonight at the birth of our savior Jesus, as He once again appears on our altar tonight.  We gather this night and at every Mass to give thanks for the greatest gift of all time…the gift of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

"Look what you've done!"

This was a song I heard a couple of months ago that speaks to what the Devil says to us, "Look what you've done" but then the singer, Tasha Layton, turns that around and says to God "Look what you've done" in a positive sense.

I also think this song does a good job of describing what happens in adoration and prayer "standing in your presence, Lord, I can feel you digging all the roots up, I feel you healing all my wounds up"


 

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

3rd Sunday of Advent at Annunciation - Solemn Worship and Glad Rejoicing

 

Rejoicing Sunday and Solemn Worship

 

As I said at the beginning of Mass, this “Rejoicing Sunday” and we also heard in our opening prayer at Mass today “solemn worship”.  But we might ask where is the rejoicing in solemn worship?  And here I will allow a convert to Catholicism from Evangelicalism to explain it way better than I ever could.  He writes this:

 

“It may be worth pressing home a point that often troubles observers of Catholic worship and that certainly rises in the consciousness of Christians coming to the Mass having been nurtured in denominations where hearty fellowship and humming activity are the hallmarks of Sunday morning at church. It can be the case, however, that one comes to Mass from the happy precincts of Evangelicalism, say, and goes away at the end with great sadness. "But I miss the fellowship!" He might say. "I didn't since the eager atmosphere of glad attention and participation I knew in my former church."

This response from a newcomer touches on a matter very near the center of the mystery brooding over Christian worship. When the Roman Catholic "goes to church", he or she sees themselves as joining them self to something that is already going on. He sets aside both the hurly-burly of his domestic or professional situation and any preoccupation he may have with such patently excellent concerns as fellowship or chat or even a certain vitality in the air. He has been summoned to the one necessary thing. He here takes his place, literally, he believes, with angels and archangels and with all the company of Heaven, who laud and magnify the Holy Name of the Most High.”

 

Every Mass is a dramatic intersection of Calvary, Heaven and this Church building, and it is totally unique to Catholicism.  Non-Catholics do not even think they are entering Heaven when they go to their services.  Praise and Worship music actually distracts from Mass because it is not the music of Heaven nor Calvary…at Mass we do not emphasize our own words…the Catholic Mass, as we said in our opening prayer today is both “solemn worship” and a rejoicing that is deeper than the surface level.

 

Like Peter 2,000 years ago, utterly bewildered by a glimpse that the three Apostles had on the mount of Transfiguration of a glorified Christ, we can say today and at every Mass, “Lord, it is good that we are here!”

Monday, December 12, 2022

3rd Sunday of Advent at Saint Paul's

 

“Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged”

 

This weekend is called “rejoicing weekend” in the Church.  Rejoice or “Gaudete” in Latin is the first word of our Mass today.  And that “rejoice” comes from Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians which he wrote while in Jail!!!

 

As we think about “rejoicing” this weekend, there are so many places in the New Testament where it says we will condemned if we use our mouth for gossip, slander, complaining, lying

 

And our second reading today from James is no different.  “Do not complain about one another that you may not be judged…”

 

Are we complaining about people?  Do we realize how much that destroys US???

 

One of the reasons I think God cautions so often in the New Testament against using our speech wrongly is because we are all given a certain amount of words to say in our life… God already knows the exact number of words that we will say in our lives.

 

And God wants us to use those number of words to rejoice.  That what this weekend in the Church is called…rejoicing weekend.

 

I have made a commitment over the past few years to use my mouth only to praise and thank God…and I go to confession any time I have fallen short.  Certainly there are times where people need to be corrected for a sin…and that is so hard for us to do face to face, but if we see or hear a brother or sister using their speech wrongly, let us have the courage to say something to that person’s face in charity…and not complain about that person when they leave.

 

Let us once again resolve tonight to not complain about each other…but let us use our words to rejoice in God…

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Immaculate Conception 2022

 

"Hail Mary, full of Grace"

 

Why do we have this Gospel passage of the Annunciation, which is the moment that JESUS is conceived, when we celebrate today MARY'S conception?


I would like to point out 2 reasons we have this Gospel today.


First, all Christians (and even a lot of non-Christians and atheists) love the “Ave Maria” sung in Latin. It begins “Ave Maria, gratia plena”

 

Gratia plena translates to "Full of Grace" and there is no other way to translate it other than "Full of Grace".

 

Luke was written in Greek though, so how do we know that “Full of Grace” is the proper translation?

 

St. Jerome, in the 300’s translated the Greek into Latin, and his translation into Latin was known as the vulgate.  Martin Luther would not be born for another 1200 years


Some Protestants, going back to the Greek text, have changed the translation into something like "Hail, favored one."

But I am going to trust St. Jerome's translation as he was doing it in the 300's.


The second reason we likely have this Gospel today is that all the other figures in the Sacred Scriptures who encounter an Archangel are all full of fear, and usually fall down in terror.  But the Archangel Gabriel speaks to Mary with DEFERENCE, saying "HAIL, Mary"... and the mere fact that she is able to ask Gabriel questions and have a conversation with the Archangel shows her profound holiness.


We are right, as Catholics, to say, every day, "Hail Mary FULL of Grace!"

Monday, November 28, 2022

A Helpful Article on Whether Catholics Are Allowed to Attend Invalid Marriages

(Note from Fr. Hollowell: "This article first appeared in the magazine "Homiletic and Pastoral Review" in the February edition from 1988.  It has been republished on this blog with the permission of "Homiletic and Pastoral Review")


Participation in Invalid Marriages

An article from Homiletic & Pastoral Review
February 1988

By Rev. Regis Scanlon

How long has it been since you preached or heard from the pulpit that it is evil for a Catholic to marry in a ceremony not approved by the Church? Perhaps fear of publicly embarrassing someone in the pews and belief that these invalidly married Catholics may be in good conscience has silenced preaching against invalid marriages. This new sympathy toward invalid marriages is not without grave risks. Couples living in invalid marriages could remain blind to the truth that they are really (objectively) living in adultery or fornication and that "these are the sins which provoke God's wrath" (Col. 3:5-6). The ultimate danger here is that invalidly-married Catholics will not heed St. Paul's warning that "God will judge fornicators and adulterers" (Heb. 13:4) and "those who do such things (impurity) will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:19-21). A fact that must not be ignored today is that a number of these Catholics die cut off from the sacraments of the Church because they are still living in an invalid marriage. The impossibility of reconciling a number of these invalid marriages in the Catholic Church, along with the difficulty of abandoning an invalid marriage once a family is formed, argues for a prompt and honest response to these marriages right from the start. Should a Catholic attend such a wedding ceremony? Should he attend only the reception following the ceremony, or just send a gift or card? Or ought he do none of these? This article is an attempt to evaluate certain pastoral answers to these questions recently adopted by both pastors and laity in the United States.

Traditionally, Catholics did not participate in invalid marriage celebrations because it was seen as approval to adultery or fornication. As invalid marriages increased among Catholics, however, moralists began to de-emphasize the danger of scandal from these celebrations. For example, Msgr. Raymond T. Rosier, nationally known during the 1970s for his syndicated column answering moral questions for Catholics, stated that "Attendance at a wedding shower or giving a gift does not today mean approval of marriage."1 Msgr. Bosler implied that this applies to parents attending invalid weddings, since most relatives and friends would understand and sympathize with the parents. Once more, according to Msgr. Bosler, ". . . it is quite possible that more scandal might be given to Protestants by what could appear to be a lack of love and interest in their child were the parents to avoid the wedding."2




Parents must manifest disapproval

More than a decade later Fr. Frank Sheedy offered another version of this new pastoral approach in "Ask Me a Question" of the July 22, 1984 issue of Our Sunday Visitor. When Fr. Frank Sheedy was asked about the possibility of parents being present for their child's invalid wedding, he stated that "some pastors would permit a presence in such a case as long as the child was clearly aware that the parents disapproved of their action."3 According to Fr. Sheedy, attendance is justified on the ground that one should not "irretrievably cut off the relationship with a son or daughter."4 Two years later in the same column of Our Sunday Visitor Fr. Sheedy commented more extensively on the wisdom of attending an invalid marriage of a divorced person in these words: There are three things that have to be considered here. One, we cannot cooperate in the wrong of another. Thus it would be forbidden for a Catholic to take an active part (bridesmaid, best man, etc.) in such a wedding. Second, one cannot give seeming approval to an illicit act. Third is family harmony, which is particularly important for parents and siblings. If the person is fully aware of their disapproval of such a ceremony, I would permit parents and siblings to attend so that family lines of communication may be kept open and the door not closed. Other relatives and friends I would counsel to avoid the ceremony but attend the reception. This way they let the person know that while not approving of his or her actions, they still care for the person and do not want to end the relationship. People who have followed this counsel tell me that it works well. However, there may be a case where an uncle, aunt or godparent might feel obliged to attend the wedding for the sake of family harmony. This would be permitted as long as the Catholic relative was truly aware of personal disapproval.5

This pastoral advice of Fr. Sheedy, which permits Catholics to attend invalid marriages, is similar to the official position of a number of dioceses in the United States. Fr. Charles Bober of the Pittsburgh Diocese, for example, states that: There is a PastoralManual in use within the Diocese of Pittsburgh. It states that "As a rule, Catholics should not attend or participate in marriage ceremonies which are invalid. However, when such attendance cannot be construed as approval and when there are" serious reasons for attendance (such as retention of Christian ties of family or friendship, or the founded hope of contact for future reconciliation) such attendance may be justified."6

The present practice of Catholics attending invalid marriages in the United States goes far beyond any limits set down by recent pastoral moralists and diocesan statutes. If one scans the wedding announcements in the societal section of one's home-town newspaper, he will find Catholic names listed time and again as best men, bridesmaids, formal attendants, and ushers at weddings not approved by the Church. Reports of Catholics being ridiculed by family members for not attending invalid marriages of relatives indicates that a type of reverse legislation has taken root. The unwritten rule now seems to be that the Catholic must attend the invalid wedding of a loved one, and the exception, for which the Catholic will receive much flack, is to avoid these celebrations. Let us evaluate this new pastoral approach permitting parents to attend the invalid marriages of their children by examining the theories of Msgr. Bosler and Fr. Sheedy.




Bible reflects two types of scandal

In order to clearly understand the question about scandal in relation to attending invalid weddings, one must first recall that there are two types of scandal mentioned in Sacred Scripture. There is the scandal arising out of evil mentioned by Jesus Christ in a well-known passage from the Bible: "Scandals will inevitably arise, but woe to him through whom they come. He would be better off thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck than giving scandal to one of these little ones" (Luke 17:1-2). Then, there is the scandal from good actions which comes from Christ himself (Luke 2:34). This second type of scandal involves the truth that, like Christ, all Christians must suffer and die rather than yield to sin to attain eternal life. This is the scandal of the cross (Matt. 16:21-27). About this kind of scandal Jesus says: "Blest is the man who finds no stumbling block in me" (Matt. 11:16). In today's materialistic and permissive society, the only absolute imperative seems to be the avoidance of pain. Following the sexual revolution, too many Catholics in the United States believe that it is wrong to require children to suffer for the sake of chastity and purity. Because parental avoidance of weddings usually involves both parents and children in the pain of misunderstanding and rejection, parental avoidance of weddings is a "cultural heresy."7 Consequently, Msgr. Bosler fears that avoidance of a child's invalid wedding by parents, out of fidelity to Christian Law, will be interpreted by others as a lack of love and interest in their child.

Msgr. Bosler, however, confuses the scandal of the cross with the scandal of evil. For it has never been the Christian philosophy of love to yield to impurity and infidelity in the face of misunderstanding so that others might not feel rejected. If it had been, John the Baptist would have never enraged the feelings of Herodias at the cost of his own life over the matter of her adultery (Mark 6:14-29 and Matt. 14:1-12), nor would Saints Agnes and Maria Goretti have been honored as Christian Martyrs for infuriating their suitors by rejecting their sexual advances. In other words, if the early Christians had compromised Christ's teaching on chastity to spar the feeling of others, Christianity would have never made it to the twentieth century. Scandal arising from following the Law of Christ is not only permitted, it is even desirable! Karl Rahner was correct when he stated that in our pluralistic modem world people should be encouraged to give witness to Christianity "even if their environment is scandalized."8

Msgr. Hosier's theory, that parental attendance at invalid weddings does not mean approval nor cause scandal, hinges entirely upon his claim that even if the parents attend these invalid wedding celebrations, friends and relatives will still understand that the parents disapprove of the invalid marriage. Msgr. Bosler probably thought that the faith of Catholics in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s was so strong that almost all Catholics believed that marrying invalidly was evil. The difficulty with Msgr. Hosier's theory today is that recent parochial studies following the sexual revolution show that many Catholics in the United States no longer believe that marrying invalidly is evil. Consequently, it makes little sense today to claim that relatives and friends of Catholic parents who attend invalid marriages will understand that these parents disapprove of these marriages.9




Some approve invalid marriages

What is even more damaging to Msgr. Hosier's theory is the fact that the change among Catholics from disapproval to approval of invalid marriages surfaces about a decade or so after Msgr. Bosler first began advising Catholics through the public media to attend the invalid marriages of then- loved ones. It is most difficult to believe that this change on the part of Catholics toward approving invalid marriages is not in some way linked to Catholics attending invalid marriages for the past ten years or more. It certainly appears that Msgr. Bosler was wrong when he advised that attending invalid marriages does not mean approval and does not cause scandal. Whatever credibility Msgr. Hosier's theory had decades ago, it certainly has less today! Proof that Msgr. Hosier's (no scandal) theory has lost its appeal is that recent moralists, like Fr. Sheedy, insist that the children be made "clearly aware" that the parents disapprove of the marriage before the parents attend the wedding celebrations. Obviously, the need for clarification implies that scandal will be caused. The explanation to the child by the parents is supposed to cancel or wipe out the scandal from parental attendance at the wedding celebrations. The problem here, however, is that it is impossible for parents to make the child "clearly aware" of parental disapproval of the invalid marriage when the child knows full well that the parents are attending the wedding celebrations.

One should recall St. Anthony of Padua's sound advice about teaching morality when he stated that "actions speak louder than words."10 It may be possible for parents to convince then: son or daughter that they disapprove of the invalid wedding, but these parents will not convince their child that they seriously disapprove. Any high school teacher knows that the only way to inform students that you are serious about anything is to back up words with action. Similarly, the only way for parents to convince their child that they seriously disapprove of the invalid marriage is to avoid the wedding celebrations altogether. If one follows Fr. Sheedy's pastoral advice, however, not only will actions supporting parental disapproval be lacking, but, instead, the parent's actions will contradict their words of disapproval. When words and actions collide, the best that can be hoped for is that the child will be confused, and the worst that can happen is that the child will be more influenced by the actions than by the words. The same must be said for Fr. Sheedy's advice that the friends and relatives might avoid the wedding ceremony, but attend the wedding reception. Recall that Fr. Sheedy required, as a necessary condition for parental attendance of the wedding celebrations, that the child be "fully," "truly," or "clearly aware" of parental disapproval. Inconsistency, whether it be in words or actions, can never be a basis for clarity.




We cannot cooperate in a sin

But there is something more than scandal that is fundamentally wrong with attending an invalid wedding celebration. Fr. Sheedy, himself, stated that, first of all, "we cannot cooperate in the wrong of another." It would be illicit, then, to formally cooperate in the evil act of adultery or fornication by cooperating in an invalid marriage. Thus, as Fr. Sheedy says, "it would be forbidden for a Catholic to take an active part (bridesmaid, best man, etc.) in such a wedding." Fr- Sheedy, however, must be limiting his consideration of the couple's formal act of adultery or fornication just to the formal exchange of invalid marriage vows since he limits formal cooperation in this act of adultery or fornication just to being a formal member of the wedding party. But the formal act of adultery or fornication of an invalidly-marrying couple certainly includes the attempted consummation of these invalid wedding vows in the couple's act of sexual intercourse on the night of the wedding. It is precisely the promise of this act which makes the invalid wedding ceremony evil.

Now, according to sound traditional moral theology, if one "concurs" in the will and attention of another doing an evil act, or, if one's own action "influences" the evil act of another, then, one is formally cooperating in evil. "Consequently, anyone who concurs in the will and intention of an invalidly marrying couple to have sexual intercourse on the night of their wedding, or anyone who influences such an act of sexual intercourse, is formally cooperating in adultery or fornication. It is obvious, however, that: giving away the bride; throwing rice and kisses; giving hugs and handshakes of support; sending congratulatory cards and gifts; and even singing and dancing at the following reception all concur in the will and intention of the couple to complete their wedding vows with the act of sexual intercourse on the night of their wedding. Because these actions all encourage the invalidly-marrying couple to some degree (be it ever so slight) to consummate their invalid marriage on the night of their wedding, they all influence the couple's act of adultery or fornication. All who knowingly do such things, therefore, are formally cooperating in the evil act of adultery or fornication. Some Catholics believe that they are justified in attending an invalid marriage because they intend to support the invalidly-marrying couple, but not the invalid marriage, itself. But these Catholics intend to support the invalidly marrying couple by means of supporting (attending) the invalid marriage. And to do so is to adopt an old pagan theory that the end justifies the means, which was rejected by St. Paul (Rom. 3:8) and by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, when the Pope stated that "it is not licit, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow therefrom."l2 Against the theory that one can have a good reason to formally cooperate hi evil, Genicot said that "formal cooperation hi sin is always illicit." and Bernard Raring stated that "It is never permitted, directly or indirectly, to cooperate in an act which is in itself evil, even though one anticipates the very greatest good as a result of the act."13



End does not justify means

Sometimes the wrong of formal cooperation in a specific evil act can be more easily seen when it is paralleled with formal cooperation in another act which is more obviously evil - like abortion. What pastor or moral theorist, for example, would advise a disapproving husband or parent to show up at the abortion clinic to hold his wife or daughter's hand and comfort her through the ordeal of abortion to support her (but not the abortion!), or to avoid irretrievably cutting off his relationship with her? Yet, this parallels the pastoral advice to Catholics which states that they should attend the invalid marriage of their loved ones to support them or to avoid irretrievably cutting off their relationship with them.

Influencing, supporting, concurring in, or celebrating the evil act of adultery or fornication by formally cooperating in an invalid marriage out of a so-called motive of love is also inconsistent with the gospel. No one loved sinners more than Jesus Christ, yet he avoided their evil acts entirely. While Jesus Christ did not shun Mary Magdalene, he certainly did shun her sin of impurity, and he ordered her to do the same when he said: "But from now on, avoid this sin" (John 8:11). If a Catholic attends an invalid wedding of a loved one, attends the reception following the ceremony, or just sends a congratulatory card or gift, he cannot claim he is acting out of love, because, as St. Paul states, "Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but with the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6). Love is always honest!

The idea of a Christian cooperating in the evil act of adultery or fornication by attending an invalid marriage seems so contrary to correct reasoning and Sacred Scripture that one wonders why so many Catholics today attempt to justify it. Fr. Sheedy expresses the main reason when he stated that one should not "irretrievably cut off the relationship with a son or daughter." When Catholic parents have to say "no" to their children and break the unity and peace of the family, the Catholic parents often feel that they are the ones who are doing something wrong and un-Christian. It is at these times that the reason must prevail over emotion. Catholics must recall that, while honesty and chastity are absolute moral values for which a Christian may even have to give his life (St. John the Baptist, St. Agnes, St. Maria Goretti, etc.), filial friendship or family unity is not. Our Lord, himself, has said: Do not suppose that my mission on earth is to spread peace. My mission is to spread, not peace, but division. I have come to set a man at odds with his father, a daughter with her mother, daughter-in-law with her mother-in-law: in short, to make a man's enemies those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter, more than me is not worthy of me. he who will not take up his cross and come after me is not worthy of me. (Matt. 10:34-38)

As painful as it is, invalidly-marrying couples must clearly understand that insofar as they reject the moral teaching of Jesus Christ concerning the sixth commandment, it is Christ's will mat they be separated from then- parents, the Christian community, and even Christ himself. In the same way the parents must understand that it is Christ's will that the parents embrace the cross of division rather than lay it down in a false gesture of moral unity. As the primary teachers of their children in the Catholic faith, parents have the solemn responsibility to clearly teach to their children the truth that sin separates one from Christ. So if the invalidly-marrying son or daughter interprets parental avoidance of the wedding celebrations as a sign of her separation from the Christian community of her parents, then this is good - because it is the truth! Again, there is no way to clearly communicate this truth to an invalidly-marrying son or daughter other than by avoiding the wedding celebrations altogether. What must not be overlooked here is that it is the rejection of the gospel by the invalidly-marrying son or daughter that is the primary cause of separation, not Christ or the parents. The claim on the part of pastoral moral theorists, therefore, that parental attendance at invalid weddings is justified on the grounds that the parents should not "irretrievably cut off' their children must be rejected as false and as bad psychology. The notion of parents "irretrievably cutting off' their son or daughter merely by following their own conscience turns out to be a case of inverted logic. Who is cutting off whom? No one is demanding that the parents shun their invalidly-marrying child, but only that they shun the marriage. As long as Mom and Dad keep the lines of communication open from their side, no one is being irretrievably cut off. If a son or daughter, however, refuses to associate with the parents following the wedding, he or she is cutting off the parents, not vice versa. It is downright immoral to make the parents feel guilty for following their consciences, especially when their consciences are formed according to Christ and his Church. It is the children who are out of step with the gospel, not the parents. Let up put the responsibility for the break-up where it belongs. The very justification offered by those who favor the new pastoral approach fosters immaturity in the young by stripping them of responsibility for their own actions.




Adults suffer moral defeatism

Although the new pastoral theorists do not state it, they could be yielding to popular pragmatic parental thinking which goes something like this: "My son (or daughter) is going to marry outside the Church anyway, so we might as well make the best of a bad situation." While this course of action may appear to be a benevolent act of diplomacy and prudence, it presumes that the son or daughter will do evil. This attitude fits so well a culture in which numerous minor seminaries, aspirancy convents, and Catholic schools have close even though these institutions had more students than when they originally opened. The main problem here is not with the young, but with the adults who are suffering from moral defeatism. Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible for a son or daughter to master their sexual desires and heroically follow Christ's teaching on chastity and marriage. It is even possible for a son or daughter to call off a marriage prior to the wedding ceremony, or to reverse it soon after. But this is likely to occur only when parents struggle with their children to get them to do good and avoid evil because they expect their children to succeed. If pastors and moral theorists are to reverse the plague of invalid marriages among Catholics in the United States today, they must avoid a pastoral approach in these matters that "throws in the towel" on the moral life of our children. Rather, the pastors and moral theorists must adopt an approach which encourages adults to hope in the young by giving them the opportunity to be responsible for their own moral actions. But for this to be possible, both parents and children must be made clearly aware of the evil of invalid marriages and the immorality of formal cooperation in these celebrations. This means that pastors must engage in some tough preaching and teaching from the pulpit This will be somewhat unpopular, but part of the pastor's job is preaching the word is "... to stay with the task whether convenient or inconvenient" (2 Tim. 4:2). This is surely part of the burden of the gospel, but the young are worth it!



Footnotes

1 Raymond T. Bosler, What a Modern Catholic Believes About Moral Problems (Chicago: The Thomas More Press, 1971), p. 73.

2 Bosler, p. 71.

3 Fr. Frank Sheedy, "Ask Me a Question," Our Sunday Visitor (July 22, 1984), p. 11.

4 Fr. Frank Sheedy, "Ask Me a Question," Our Sunday Visitor (July 22, 1984), p. 11.

5 Fr. Frank Sheedy, "Ask Me a Question," Our Sunday Visitor (May 11, 1986), p. 18. My underline.

6 Charles Bober, "Questions for Fr. Bober," Pittsburgh Catholic (June 6, 1986), p. 4.

7 Daniel E. Pilarczyk, "On Preaching Heresy," America (February 22, 1986), p. 135.

8 Karl Rahner and Herbert Borgrimler, Theological Dictionary (New York: Crossroads, 1981), p. 465.

9 James S. Young, "The Divorced in the Parish Community Today," New
Catholic World (November/December, 1985), pp. 272-275.

10 St. Anthony of Padua, Sermon, 1,226, in The Liturgy of the Hours, vol. 3 (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1975), p. 1470.

11 Ed. Genicot, S.I. etlos. Salsmans, S.l.Jnstitutiones Theologiae Moralis, Caput 11 §6,235, Notiones, editio decimaseptima ed. A. Gortebeck, S.I. vol. 1 (Brussels: Uitgeveriz Universum, N.V. 1951), pp. 184-185; Bernard Raring, C.SS.R., The Law of Christ, vol. 1 trans, by Edwin G. Kaiser, C.PP.S. (Westminister, MD: The Newman Press, 1963), p. 293.

12 Pope Paul VI, "On the Regulation of Birth (Humanae Vitae)" No. 14 (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1968), p. 9.

13 Genicot, Asserta. 1, p. 185; Haring p. 293.


Sunday, November 20, 2022

"We are not allowed to write anyone off" Homily for Christ the King 2022

"We are not allowed to write anyone off" - Homily for Christ the King 2022

 

Christ the King desires to save everyone through the Church that He founded, the Catholic Church, and that salvation is accomplished most specifically through the Sacraments of the Church.

 

But we, as Catholics, are not allowed to write anyone off…like the Good Thief hanging on the Cross next to Jesus Christ, Christ desires to say to EVERYONE “This day you will be with me in paradise”

 

As a priest new to the Terre Haute area about 10 years ago, I was called to Union hospital and there was a man who was dying.  He had never been baptized but I was called because this man had told the nurses that he wanted to become Catholic.  I baptized him on his hospital bed, gave him the Sacrament of Confirmation and then his first Holy Communion and then gave him anointing of the sick.  That gentleman died the next day.

 

Again, no matter how far people might seem to our human eyes to be away from God…we are not allowed to write anyone off from being able to be saved.

 

Jesus’ Kingdom is already breaking out in the world through all the gifts that come from the Catholic Church…let us continue to proclaim the good news that everyone is invited into Christ’s Kingdom, and let us remember that we are never allowed to give up on anyone, no matter how far away from God they might seem to our human eyes.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

"Catholic and Married Outside The Catholic Church" - Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

“Marriage Outside the Catholic Church Without the Bishop’s Permission” 

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time


We hear in our first reading from the Prophet Malachi “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven”

Next weekend is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time before beginning the new Church year with the First Sunday of Advent.  The readings, as the Church year comes to a close every year, focus on the end of the world and the 4 last things…death judgment Heaven and Hell.

 

There is one thing I would like to focus on this weekend.  Sister Lucia, who died in 2005, was one of 3 visionaries at Fatima, and she said toward the end of her life: “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.”

 

And so I would like to address one specific situation this weekend and that situation is this: if you were Catholic at the time of your marriage, and were married outside the Catholic Church without the Archbishop’s permission, please do not take Holy Communion but rather set up a meeting with me so that I can help you work through the process to have your marriage recognized by the Catholic Church.  There is one exception, but I would like to explain that exception privately.

So, again, there are two conditions that I would like to stress:

1)    If you were Catholic at the time of your marriage

2)    And were married outside the Catholic Church without the Archbishop’s permission

Please do not take Holy Communion but rather see me so that I can help you work to have your marriage recognized by the Catholic Church.

 

Again, as our First Reading says, “the day is coming, blazing like an oven” and combined with Sr. Lucia’s prediction that the final battle will be over marriage and the family, I beg you to see me if you have been married outside the Catholic Church without the Archbishop’s permission.

 

Please know that I pray daily for all of you, my parishioners, and for all the marriages in my parishes. 


Sunday, November 6, 2022

"Plenary Indulgences" a homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2022

 

“Plenary Indulgences” - Homily for the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

In this month of November, Catholics are especially mindful of our deceased who have gone before us.  Much like the brother in our first reading today from the book of Maccabees who, while being tortured, says "It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.”

Did you know that you can assist the dead in a very concrete way through plenary indulgences?  Clearly plenary indulgences got a bad name during Martin Luther’s revolution, but the Catholic Church has ALWAYS strictly forbidden the selling of any indulgences.

So what is a plenary indulgence?  It is the complete removal of all punishment due to sin.  Sometimes, even though we confess a sin, we still have earthly consequences for that sin, and likewise the souls in purgatory are being purified in the fire of love so that they can one day enter Heaven.

So how do you go about earning a plenary indulgence?  The first thing to consider is that a plenary indulgence can only be applied to yourself or someone who has died.  You can also only gain one plenary indulgence per day.

The first thing you need to do for a plenary indulgence is go to confession once a month.

The next step to earning a plenary indulgence on a day is that you have to go to Mass on that day.

The next step to earning a plenary indulgence on a day is you have to pray 1 Our Father and 1 Hail Mary for the Pope’s intentions.  You also have to pray for a complete detachment from mortal and venial sin.

And then you have to do, each day, something that merits a plenary indulgence, and there are pamphlets in the narthex about the easiest ways to earn a daily plenary indulgence, those 4 things being either praying in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes, reading the Bible for 30 minutes, praying a rosary silently in Church or out loud in a family setting, and the fourth is walking the stations of the Cross in our Church and praying them.

We all know people who have died that we are worried about.  We have the opportunity, every day, to earn a plenary indulgence either for ourselves or someone who has died.  This November, and all throughout the year, let us pray for the dead, and assist them with our prayers. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

"The Law of Gradualness" - Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022

 

“The Law of Gradualness” - Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022

 

In our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom we hear that God rebukes offenders little by little.

Similarly, in the New Testament, Saint Paul tells the Corinthians “I could not address you as spiritual men, but as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it”

This is what is referred to in the Catholic Church as the “Law of Gradualness” – according to which people should be encouraged to grow closer to God and His plan for our lives in a step-by-step manner, rather than expecting a person to jump from an initial conversion to perfection in a single step.

 

St. John Paul 2nd taught that this “Law of Gradualness” is Catholic, but Gradualism of the Law, (which wrongly suggests that there are different degrees or forms of God’s law for different individuals and situations) is not Catholic

I have experienced the law of gradualness in my own life for a long time.

God has slowly, in His mercy and His infinite love for me, revealed to me things that I did years ago that are sins, even grave sins, so that I can confess them and seek His pardon in the Sacrament of Confession and thus be reconciled to God. 

I used to take the Lord’s name in vain a lot…but I have confessed that sin when God revealed to me the gravity of that sin, and I have not taken the Lord’s name in vain since.

More recently, the Lord revealed to me the grave sin of gossip and calumny and slander, and so I have confessed those grave sins and have tried to move forward without committing those sins.

On the positive side as well, God has slowly revealed to me things that I can be doing to love God better, how to have a more radical care for the poor in my life, how I can lay down my life for my parishioners better, and like Zacchaeus in the Gospel today, I have realized that I too am able to give half of everything I take in to the poor.

God loves us more than we could ever imagine…and as we grow in love with God, he slowly, at our pace, is drawing us closer to Himself.

 

Let us thank God for the gentle ways, little by little, in which God is constantly drawing us closer to Himself. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

"The Preferential Option for the Poor" - Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022

 

“The Preferential Option for the Poor” – Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022

 

Our First reading today from Sirach almost exactly spells out the Catholic Church’s teaching on the preferential option for the poor.

 

In that first reading, Sirach says “Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet the Lord hears the cry of the oppressed.

 

When the Church speaks about the need for each of us to have a preferential option for the poor, it says “the preferential option for the poor…must embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without health care and, above all, those without hope of a better future” (St. John Paul II as found in the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church”)

 

As Catholics, we also need to be working directly with the poor in our community.  There are all different types of poverty, not just monetary, but also spiritual poverty, and poverty of relationships.  What are we doing ourselves to encounter the poor face to face in an attempt to show them the love of Christ?

 

As Catholics, we might be tempted to say that the poor in our community are taken care of by the government, but the Catholic Church teaches that “The principle of subsidiarity, (which is caring for the poor locally) is opposed to welfare assistance…[because] the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies…”

 

As Catholics, we also need to be people who are supporting the poor all over the world, particularly supporting Catholic missionary efforts around the world, who are working with the poorest of the poor. 

 

The Catholic Church is clearly calling each one of us to do our own part, to have contact with the poor ourselves, and support the care of the poor throughout the world!

 

Let us embrace this call to care for the poor everywhere, and let us embrace that call with joy!

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022

 

“Both The New and The Old” Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022

I have always been struck by the image of Moses with his arms propped up by Aaron and Hur that we hear about in our first reading, and how the battle changed whenever they lifted Moses’ arms.  I think a question we might ask would be why in the world would the battle hinge on whether or not Moses’ arms were raised?

And I think one reason is that God desires Israel to know that it is through God’s power that they win the victory.  And then the next question would be “Well, why does God desire to have Israel know that it is through God’s power that Israel wins their victories…is God some kind of egomaniac?”

And here it is important to understand a key thing: God is not an egomaniac; God still desires all of us to know that God is the power behind every victory for our own good AND the good of the whole world.  That is a super important point, and so I would like to repeat it: God desires that we know He is the power behind every victory for our own good and the good of the whole world.  God loves us and every person in the world, and desires that we see that we need God’s help always and everywhere.  Israel was always falling into the temptation of thinking they were accomplishing things on their own, and it is still a temptation for us…to think that we are capable of doing good WITHOUT God.

As we face a “battle” in our own day…the battle of bringing the Good News of Jesus to the culture around us, we need to both rely on our own God given creativity to think of new ways to reach out to the culture while at the same time trusting totally in the power of God.

In Matthew chapter 13 verse 52 Jesus commends those who bring out from the storehouse both the new and the old.  I hope that we as a parish are doing both new things to reach those around us, but also doing “old things” and two old things to help change the culture that I would like to start are a First Friday Devotion and a First Saturday devotion.

For first Fridays, starting Friday November 4th – Mass will be at Annunciation every First Friday of the month, along with all the other prayers for the First Friday devotion.  I have never done the First Friday Devotion, so I am looking forward to taking part.  We will have Mass and the prayers every first Friday, all year round.

Another thing that we will be bringing out of the storehouse of the old is a First Saturday devotion as well.  We will have Mass at 9 am at Annunciation on the first Saturday of each month all throughout the year, starting on Saturday, November 5th, along with the subsequent prayers required by the first Saturday devotion.  When I was a seminarian I did do this devotion, and found it to bear tremendous fruit in my spiritual life.

We will have pamphlets at Annunciation and St. Paul’s on the First Fridays explaining the devotion, and we will have pamphlets on First Saturdays at Annunciation and Saint Paul’s explaining the First Saturday devotion.  I hope to foster a spirit of both devotions again, in addition to all the new and creative ways that we are also seeking to reach people in new ways.  May we always remember, as St. Paul says, “We can all do things through Christ who is our strength” (Philippians 4:13)

Monday, October 10, 2022

"Washed in the River" - Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2022

"Washed in the River" - Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Like Naaman the Syrian in our first reading, who washed and was cleansed from leprosy in the Jordan, I washed in the river at Lourdes and was cured.  And like the leper who returns to give thanks, I want to publicly thank Jesus for healing me.

In thanking Jesus and the Blessed Mother for healing me, I also want to say that my brain tumor was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me and so I want to thank Jesus for the gift not just of my healing but also the gift of the tumor surgeries, radiation and chemo as well.  Almost nothing in my life is the same since my surgeries radiation and chemo, and I have realized that all those differences in my life since the surgeries radiation and chemo have been blessings!

I thought I was offering up my suffering for the victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse, but I have realized that the number one person God used my suffering to help has been me.  St. Therese wrote that the best thing God could have done in her soul was “to have shown her her smallness”  And I would echo that in my own life as well…the greatest thing I learned through the tumor, radiation and chemo was my own smallness.

 

One of the first blessings after learning my own smallness was that I got off social media.  Another blessing was that my suffering got me to get rid of my smartphone, and it got me off tv.  Chemo got me eating healthier, and since I don’t have tv anymore I’ve been able to get tons more sleep.

All those changes in my life got me to start noticing my parishioners more.  I always just thought I was bad with names, but it turns out that in my case, when I cut a lot of the noise and distractions out of my life, I AM able to remember names, and pray for parishioners by name and be more present to parishioners and those living in my parish boundaries.

Chemo and radiation and the suffering also got me to realize how often I was talking about people not present, spreading gossip and committing all kinds of sins with my talk.  That realization has led me to make a promise to never talk about a person who is not present, unless it is to say something positive about that person.

I was and still am totally fine if I would die, but my tumor brought me to Lourdes and on that trip, in addition to the miraculous healing, I began to recognize God’s unwavering Love for me in that God answered all my thousands of prayers on that trip, and I began to see God’s love for me more clearly.

I think both of my parishes need a place where we can write down all the things we want to THANK God for.   We are really good about asking each other and the parish for prayers, but we are not very good about thanking God for blessings and miracles.  My prayer is that all of us, in the midst of the sufferings of our lives might realize two things:

1)     Your personal suffering can be offered up for other people and bear real fruit in their lives

2)     That God is able to use your personal suffering to help YOU, as I have just recently come to realize

Let us all resolve to give God thanks for all the miracles that He has worked in our lives, and wants to work in our future.  The Mass is the greatest way that we can give thanks to God…it is the way God desires most clearly to be thanked.  Eucharist means thanksgiving.  So let us give thanks to the Lord our God, because it is right and just.  May we be just like the leper who was healed, and let us return not just once, but again and again to Mass to say “thank you” to Jesus.