Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Homily for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

“If he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”

Today’s First Reading and Gospel both speak quite strongly of repentance – of reforming and changing our lives in response to Jesus Christ. Repentance is difficult; repentance is challenging, but it is an absolute requirement for a relationship with God, and an absolute requirement for the Kingdom of Heaven.

What is repentance? Simply put: change. The Greek word used in the New Testament is metanoia – change of heart, or change of mind.

This isn’t change for the sake of change, however. We turn our hearts and our minds – our lives – from sin and back to God, to our Heavenly Father, His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. We turn from the path of sin and selfishness to life in Christ, life lived at the service of the Gospel.

Most of us are already “good people.” The scribes and Pharisees were “good people,” too. We, like them, are not terrorists, murderers, rapists, or thieves; we aren’t tax collectors or prostitutes, either. But Jesus declares that tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the Kingdom before us. Why?

They are not saved because of the sins they have committed – but rather because they have repented. They heard the call of John the Baptist and of our Lord and turned from the path of sin. They “changed their minds” and changed their hearts, believing in the Gospel – believing in the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ through the mystery of His Cross.

Repentance can be tricky business: we can be offended when we’re called to abandon a way of sinful behavior; we feel the Church judging us or condemning us, instead of being lifted by Christ to the throne of Grace. So as we start to talk about repentance, open your hearts to grace, don’t be hardened to the hidden areas of sin in your life, and “change your minds” to put on the mind of Christ.

Who among us needs to repent today? I do. If you look to your right or your left, you’ll see someone who needs repentance. But that’s not where repentance begins. It begins with me. Who needs to repent? I do. Turning from sin – admitting my guilt before God, and asking Him to forgive me – is the beginning of the Spiritual Life. Until I repent of sin, over and over again, recognizing that I cannot accomplish sanctity without grace, I will never really live the Christian life. Every bit of my “good works,” every ministry I perform, every prayer I utter will be tainted with pride, as I resist the conversion required by Jesus.

But now that each of us has admitted that I need to repent, don’t answer the next question out-loud. “For what do I need to repent?” We can start with the commandments.

Is something else a false-god in my life? Is it money, entertainment, fashion, work? Do I take the Lord’s Name in vain? Am I conscious about the language I use? Do I keep Sundays holy? Do I attend Mass every Sunday? Do I shop and do other work on Sunday, or is it truly a day of rest? Do I come to Mass early enough to prepare for the greatest prayer in the world; am I distracted at Mass, waiting eagerly until it ends? I need to repent.

Do I honor my parents, my grandparents, and authority figures? Have I abandoned relatives to a nursing home? Do I obey my parents? Do I do what I’m told, without grumbling? I need to repent.

Have I killed someone? Not with a gun or knife, but with my words? Am I angry, treating people as obstacles, instead of brothers and sisters? Do I kill reputations, or kill the joy of my family, friends, neighbors? Have I used drugs? Have I abused alcohol? I need to repent.

I might not have committed physical adultery, but do I desire others outside my marriage? Am I committed to my marriage? Have I used pornography – images or stories? Does this lead me into other sexual sin? With myself or others? Do I respect marriage? Have I gone “too far” with a boyfriend or girlfriend, not respecting the virtue of chastity? Is there some other “unredeemed” area of my sexuality? I need to repent.

Do material things rule my life? Do I desire the gifts instead of the Giver? Am I upset or depressed when others have material success? I need to repent.

Am I truthful? Does lying come easily to my lips? I need to repent.

How do I repent? Come back to the Sacrament of Penance. It’s simple: in speaking to the priest, our Lord Jesus Christ hears, and through His priest, forgives our sins. Open your hearts; repent, and live the life of the Gospel.

What then? Then, turning from sin – changing our minds and hearts – we can put on the mind of Christ, “who, though He was in the form of God, He did not grasp at equality with God, but he emptied Himself; taking the form of a slave, He was found human in appearance, and being of human likeness, He humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross. Because of this, God highly exalted Him, bestowing upon Him the name which is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee must bend in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father.”

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 25, 2005

The Sacred Heart Major Seminary “Desert Classic” golf outing takes place tomorrow at St. John’s golf course. This event is the major fundraiser that supports the Desert Formation Experience (DFE) for the seminarians who have just completed their first year of Theology studies. Traditionally, the pilgrimage had been to the Holy Land, but with recent unrest and turmoil in Palestine and Israel, the pilgrimage was modified to follow the footsteps of the great Saints of Western Europe. My classmates and I made our six-week pilgrimage to Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy. We were blessed to visit the Marian shrines of Lourdes and Fatima, as well as to pray at the resting places of St. John Vianney, St. James (Santiago di Compostela), St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and many more. Perhaps the greatest highlight was to encounter our beloved Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, at the end of the pilgrimage in Rome.

Pilgrimages are an excellent way to experience a deepening of our personal faith. By visiting the places in which our Lord and the Saints have walked and ministered, we can encounter them in a new way and appreciate the meaning of their lives under a different light. The change of scenery and schedule can often open our hearts to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in a fresh and exciting way; such awareness can be startling, but it is always fruitful and rewarding. I will be leading a pilgrimage (with Corporate Travel in Dearborn) to Italy in October 2006. We intend to visit Assisi, Siena, San Giovanni Rotondo, and finish with several days in Rome, including a general audience with Pope Benedict XVI. We are still in the planning stages, but if you are interested – even slightly – please call (734) 455-5910 or email so we can refine the itinerary and other details.

This coming week the Church celebrates the feasts of Sts. Cosmas and Damian on the 26th (3rd century martyrs, named in the Canon of the Mass, and patrons of physicians and surgeons), St. Vincent de Paul on the 27th (the great 17th century apostle of charity, whose incorrupt body can be seen in Paris to this day), the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael on the 29th (traditionally known as “Michaelmass”, this feast begins the European academic year), and St. Jerome on the 30th (patron of Scripture scholars, because of his work on translating the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin). This coming Saturday, we honor St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower.

St. Thérèse is most known for her heavenly intercession and common “gifts” of roses at the conclusion of a novena (prayers said for nine consecutive days) requesting her assistance. Such heavenly generosity in obtaining these “signs” – and more importantly, graces – stems from a remark she made near the end of her life: “My mission – to make God loved – will begin after my death. I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.” Thérèse Martin was born on January 2, 1873, to a devout Catholic family; while still quite young, she showed a great depth of soul and entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux at the age of 15. According to her fellow Carmelites, her religious life was “unremarkable,” yet she had achieved great holiness by the time she died of tuberculosis in 1897, only 24 years old.

St. Thérèse recorded her heroic path to sanctity under the orders of her Mother Superior; thankfully, it became published as her autobiography entitled The Story of a Soul. This book, along with her other writings, gives us a glimpse of Thérèse’s “Little Way”: a path to holiness, not based upon our efforts, but entirely upon the merciful love of our heavenly Father. Because of her remarkable insight into the Gospel and unique teaching, Pope John Paul II declared her to be a Doctor of the Church in October of 1997. St. Thérèse is a delightful Saint, and she has captured the Catholic imagination in a way that few cloistered religious ever have. Her writings are widely available, and offer us marvelous opportunities to grow in our own spiritual lives; include her autobiography or other writings in your reading list. Recently, Leonardo de Filipis and Luke Films have produced Thérèse, a movie based upon the life of St. Thérèse. Please visit for more information. It may still be showing at the Southgate Cinema 20, but please check their website for current show times.

Have a marvelous and blessed week, and don’t forget that October is the Month of the Rosary. Perhaps all of our families could pray the Rosary throughout this month, spending some quality “family time” with our Blessed Mother. God bless you all; please pray for vocations!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Homily for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

“It’s just not fair!” How often we hear these words! When I was teaching, I heard my share of this particular complaint. My parents, too, heard plenty from my siblings and me about fairness. I’m amazed that as children we ever had enough food, clothing, or shelter with conditions so “unfair”. It’s just not fair.

The workers hired earliest in the morning make that complaint in today’s Gospel. “It’s not fair,” they grumble to the owner of the vineyard; “You’re making those who were hired at the eleventh hour the same as us, we who bore the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” The landowner replies gently, reminding them that they had agreed on the denarius for the day – the daily wage – and that he is free to do what he wants with his money, and to be generous if he so chooses.

When viewed from the perspective of those hired at dawn, the meaning of the story can be quite challenging. Why is God so harsh with those who agreed for their wage and worked all day long? Couldn’t He be generous to them as well?

“My ways are not your ways,” says the Lord through the prophet Isaiah; “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” He reminds us. And should we not rather be immensely grateful for this truth? Why do we suspect that we are the ones doing all the work and being treated unfairly? Pride. Pride obscures God’s mercy at every turn.

St. Augustine offers two possibilities for the meaning of the laborers hired at different times: he suggests that the different ages of salvation history – Abraham, Jacob, Moses, King David, etc. – can be likened to the hours of the day; or those ages in our life – those who are cradle Catholics, to those who enjoy deathbed conversions – can also be seen in this way.

Either image gives us the point: God is merciful. Thank goodness that he is generous to those who only work for an hour; praise God for His generosity and mercy! When we examine our souls, we realize that none of us is capable of fulfilling the demands of the Law. Not one of us is capable of bearing the burden of the day and the scorching heat. But God in His love offers us salvation nevertheless.

It is Christ, rather, who bears the burden of the Cross for our souls; Christ bears the heat of the day from upon the Cross, earning not a paltry sum of coins, but the precious treasure of eternal life. We could work all day long – and even into the night – and never labor enough to save one soul.

We must instead allow God to break the pride that captivates our lives and prevents us from humbly asking Him for salvation – and being grateful for that gift.

Concretely, we grow in humility by experiencing God’s mercy, particularly in the Sacrament of Penance, but also through daily prayer, encountering His generous heart in the Scriptures. It can seem “artificial,” but specific prayer times every day are essential to developing the context in which God can help transform our hearts and minds. “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call him while He is near.” He is near to us each day, but we must be willing to toil in the vineyard of prayer, at least for thirty minutes. We have to do this on days when we feel like it, and days we don’t; times we feel refreshed, and times we’re drained. Examination of conscience in the evenings is also an essential practice, but that’s another homily for another day.

Today, and throughout this week, wrestle with this Gospel about the hired workers. With whom do you identify? The laborers hired early in the morning? Those hired at the end of the day? Seek insight from the Spirit to begin to apply its meaning in your life and to your family.

When we allow God to transform our thoughts and soften our hearts, then will we be able to love as He loves, because we will love with His Heart. And then we won’t grumble – whatever our reward – because we will be able to receive with pure hearts, entering in to His rest for all eternity.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 18, 2005

This coming week, the priests from the Archdiocese of Detroit will gather together at the Convocation. As we meet, discuss, recreate, and pray together, please keep us in your prayers, that it may be a fruitful time with each other and with Cardinal Maida. As a new priest, this is my first time at the convocation, so I will have the opportunity to meet my new brothers in the priesthood. This might be an excellent week to have a family discussion about vocations: marriage, priesthood, and religious life. God calls each of us to holiness, but He does so in a particular state in life. If we develop our relationship with Him through prayer and the Sacraments, especially while we’re young, we will be able to respond when He calls. Perhaps He is calling you to serve Him with your entire life as a priest or religious!

Conferences, retreats, and days of reflection also can help us attune our hearts to God and His will. Two weeks from now, the 10th Annual Call to Holiness Conference will be held at the Sterling Inn in Sterling Heights, on September 30 – October 2. This year’s conference features EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo and Jeff Cavins, as well as Bishop John Quinn from Detroit and Emilio Allué from Boston. For more information, visit or call (800) 427-2024. The conference includes daily Mass, extensive opportunities for Confessions, Eucharistic Adoration, excellent speakers, and opportunities for fellowship.

The saints also provide excellent examples of holiness, particularly for our everyday lives. This week, the Church celebrates the feast days of St. Januarius, St. Andrew Kim Taegon and companions, St. Matthew, and St. Pio of Pietrelcina.

St. Januarius is best known for the miracle associated with a vial of his blood, kept in a church in Naples, Italy. Several times each year, including his feast day of September 19, the congealed blood liquefies, often increasing in volume and mass. Many scientific experiments have been conducted upon the relic, with no clear explanation of the phenomena. Certainly, such odd occurrences are not conclusive proof of our Faith; rather, we always trust in the truth of the Gospel, but can be aided in our belief by such apparent miracles. St. Januarius, the bishop of Beneventum, died a martyr’s death in the early fourth century, in Diocletian’s persecution.

St. Andrew Kim was the first native Korean priest; he and his companions were tortured and beheaded in 1846 at Seoul. Pope John Paul II canonized these Korean martyrs in 1984. Through their intercession, we continue to pray for the spread of the Gospel throughout the world, especially in areas of persecution and trial. We celebrate their feast on September 20.

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, is remembered on September 21. In Mark and Luke’s Gospels, he is referred to as “Levi.” We read in his own Gospel (Matthew 9:9) the account of his conversion: “[Jesus] saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him.” Would that we were so quick to follow our Lord! Matthew, like the other Apostles, was martyred for the Faith. We can honor St. Matthew by reading his Gospel and praying for the grace of conversion in our lives.

Finally, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, or Padre Pio as he is more popularly known, is celebrated on September 23. St. Pio was a remarkable Capuchin friar with a great reputation for sanctity even while he lived. He was born in 1887 and received the stigmata (the mystical wounds of Christ’s passion) in 1918. Fifty years later, he died, with the scent of roses emanating from his wounded hands, feet, and side. I was blessed to be present in Rome when Pope John Paul II canonized St. Pio in 2002. We intend to visit his monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo in October 2006, when I lead the pilgrimage to Italy. Please call or e-mail if you are interested.

If you would like to help distribute Holy Communion at the Heartland nursing facility or to other homebound parishioners, or if you have a homebound family member who would like to receive Holy Communion, please call or e-mail me.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Our Lady of Sorrows

Yesterday, in fact, was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, but I didn't have much chance to write, owing to the funeral of a friend who died of pancreatic cancer and a class at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. Nevertheless, today's searching led me to a beautiful post at the Anchoress' blog, meditating on the meaning of yesterday's feast. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Partial Birth Abortion Ban: Unconstitutional?

The Detroit Free Press reported tonight that U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood has ruled that Michigan's ban on partial-birth abortion is unconstitutional. Michigan's Attorney General Mike Cox is expected to appeal this ruling which manifestly opposes the will of the people of the State of Michigan.

Such judicial tyrrany is not uncommon to our state, particularly with regard to similar abortion law, which has been overturned previously in both 1997 and 2001. What makes this particular occasion so heinous is that even after our Governor vetoed the bill -- passed by both houses of the state legislature -- the people voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to overturn her veto. Clearly, the people of Michigan do not want partial-birth abortion in our state.

Nevertheless, a federal judge has taken it upon herself to determine that banning such a barbarous practice places an "undue burden" on women and is therefore unconstitutional. The judiciary is not -- and was not (by our Founding Fathers) -- intended to subvert the electorate, or the other branches of government. Until we have judges who interpret law and do not seek to legislate from the bench such confusion will reign.

This is particularly a propos during the confirmation hearings of Judge John Roberts for the Supreme Court. Hopefully his voice, along with those of Justices Scalia and Thomas, will continue to be voices of reason in our government, urging judicial restraint and proper exercise of office. In the meantime, we must pray for the reversal of this patently unjust decision.

Please also see the Michigan Catholic Conference statement on this ruling.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Unfortunately, I'm posting a bit late on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. What a marvelous, paradoxical Feast it is! Somehow, we see the victory won by Christ in the midst of His suffering and death; Christ, the King of King and Lord of Lords, is reigning victoriously from the wood of the Cross.

Ave crux, spes unica! Hail, O Cross, our one hope!

Tomorrow, we remember Our Lady of Sorrows -- our Blessed Mother, at the foot of the Cross. Let us join our hearts to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts in sorrow for our sins and in grateful joy for the mysteries of our Salvation.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary. has a beautiful description of the feastday and its significance here. Another article from is here. This feast dates to the 16th Century, although the date was changed in the 17th century to commemorate the great Polish King Ian Sobieski's victory in Vienna over the Turks on September 12, 1683.

The feast, after falling out of use after 1969, was restored to the Roman Calendar by Pope John Paul II when the third typical edition of the Missal was published in 2000.

We venerate the Blessed Mother because of her Divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; she cooperated perfectly with His plan. May we be always blessed by Him, through her loving motherly intercession.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Homily Thoughts for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Although Deacon Pat is preaching today, as I was praying with today's Gospel, a startling thought occured to me: perhaps we don't really want to be forgiven by God. This certainly sounds strange, but if we aren't forgiven, then we don't have to engage in the messy and difficult business of forgiveness ourselves.

Or, looking at the parable more closely, perhaps we don't realize the extent of God's mercy in our lives, making us hesitant to forgive others. Certainly, the servant in the parable could never pay back the debt he owed. But to a wealthy master, even such a large sum must have been negligible. Perhaps the servant resented a master who could apparently forgive so easily. Whatever his motive, he refuses to forgive his fellow servant.

Are we like the wicked servant, refusing to forgive because we have received God's forgiveness so blithely? "It is not so much for God to forgive," we reason, since "God is all-powerful and all-merciful." Perhaps our folly extends to presumption: "God must forgive me."

The Cross stands in clear and stark disctinction to our expectations of God. God has spent everything on our behalf; He has given up His beloved Son to suffering and death just so that we might be forgiven. Until we know intimately the means of our salvation, we will never be able to forgive even one time, let alone the seventy-seven times of perfect forgiveness.

What to do? Experience the forgiveness and mercy of God in the Sacrament of Penance. That's the best and most direct route to experience the forgiveness of God. When we continually cast ourselves at the merciful feet of our Lord, even monthly, we grow in appreciation of just how much we are loved by God, and what His forgiveness means in our lives. We begin to examine our consciences more closely -- even daily. We begin to see the truth about ourselves and experience the power and extent of the Cross.

Then we will start to really forgive others.

I will continue to hear Confessions from 8:00 am until the 9:00 Mass on most weekdays, usually except for Thursday. I also have been celebrating a Saturday morning Mass at 8:00 am; please join us!

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 11, 2005

As Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama begin to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we remember today another crisis our country faced just four years ago. The tragic events of September 11, 2001, however, were not the result of weather patterns or a natural disaster, but the consequences of human freedom. The evil choices made by the terrorists affect our lives even today, but we must not become discouraged or lose our determination. We continue to pray for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who are daily defending our freedom; please remember them and their sacrifices often in your prayers. They rely on our support and encouragement to boost their morale and stamina in difficult times and challenging duties. When I was returning (in uniform) from my ROTC chaplain rotation at Ft. Lewis, Washington, several people stopped me and thanked me for my service to our country. I was surprised at first, but very touched and honored. Such a small act of generosity has great results; when you see them, please thank our men and women in uniform for their service and assure them of our prayers.

Interestingly enough, the readings from this Sunday speak strongly of forgiveness. Do we, I wonder, pray often for the forgiveness of our enemies? Do we pray for their conversion?

This week, the Church celebrates an ancient feast: the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On September 14, the Church commemorates the finding of the relics of the True Cross in Jerusalem by St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, in approximately 326 A.D. Along with the Cross (most likely the base of the Cross, not the crossbeam) was also discovered the title that Pilate had affixed over the head of Jesus (“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”, cf. John 19:19). Scholars and historians debate about the exact manner in which the Cross was discovered, but several healing miracles were attributed to the relics and hence declared to be the authentic remains of the wood of the Cross on which Jesus died.

The feast is celebrated in September because it marks the date of the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, in which the relics were first kept. Currently, the relics of the Cross, the title, a nail, a thorn from the crown of thorns, and St. Thomas’ index finger can be found in Rome, at the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, just east of the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

Spiritually, we can derive great fruit from meditating on the mysterious “Triumph” of the Cross. On Good Friday, the Cross seemed anything but triumphant. Jesus had been killed; the Messiah was defeated; God was dead. The power of God, however, is stronger than the grave, and the Resurrection reminds us of the victory of the Cross: Christ the King “reigning from the Tree,” as the medieval monks so often put it. We can always be reminded to unite our sufferings to Christ on the Cross. By placing our own apparent defeats upon the Cross, Christ will transform them into His certain victory. Meditation on the Cross of Christ can help us grow in sorrow for our sins when we see the great mercy of God; we in turn will also be reminded to be merciful to our neighbor. We must always be grateful for the Cross and continue to daily conform our lives to its meaning.

The planning for the October 2006 pilgrimage is underway; please call me at the office if you’re interested. Also, Heartland Health Care (a skilled nursing facility on Lilley Rd.) has asked me to help provide religious support to their Catholic patients. If anyone is interested in distributing Holy Communion to our homebound parishioners (or especially at Heartland), please let me know. Have a blessed week and please pray for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and for our troops.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Happy Birthday Blessed Mother!

Today, September 8, is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We celebrate today, nine months after our Lady's Immaculate Conception (December 8), as her birthday. The feastday dates to the mid-sixth century, finding its origin in the Eastern Catholic Churches.

The painting shown is by Andrea di Bartolo, a mid-fourteenth century Italian artist. It depicts the birth of the Virgin Mary to St. Anne.

We celebrate today with all the saints at the birth of our Blessed Mother. We can pray the Litany of Loreto in her honor today.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Today's Detroit Free Press

Today's Detroit Free Press has an article by David Crumm chronicling the increasing phenomenon of religious blogging. It's available online, but without the photographs from the print edition. My blog is featured in his story, which tells an important tale about using all means possible to preach the Gospel.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Homily for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

For an entire week, we have witnessed the terrible destruction wrought by hurricane Katrina on the Gulf States. In the midst of the tragedy and continuing aftermath of the storm, we might be tempted to doubt God’s goodness or his love. The dire conditions that exist for the refugees can strain our faith. “Where is God in this mess?” we wonder.

How can God, who is all-powerful and all-good, permit such tragedy to exist? We witnessed the horrible effects of the Asian tsunami last Christmastime; mudslides, earthquakes, volcanoes – so many tragedies that claim human life and increase suffering for those who do not die.

I was very fortunate to speak with two very close friends of mine yesterday afternoon. I met both in the Army at chaplain school; one is a Navy chaplain now, the other is a National Guard Chaplain Candidate. Both are in Mississippi right now.

After thanking God that they were simply alive, we began to talk about conditions now. My two friends were speechless in the face of the devastation. One, a Navy Seebee Chaplain broke down when describing the impossibility of distributing Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) and water. He didn’t have enough resources to care for the people suffering; and they didn’t have the capacity to do anything about it. They have no electricity, no clean water, and very little food remaining. My other friend’s property is almost entirely destroyed. Trees are everywhere, and even while they try to fell the trees and begin to rebuild, they, too, are without the necessities of life.

My Navy chaplain friend told me one distressing story of the nearby Catholic Church where he is in Gulfport. It isn’t there anymore. “Nothing is left; we have nothing,” he said.

When we look at this tragedy, and ask “where was God?” or, “how can God allow this to happen?” we ask the wrong questions. God is not a vengeful dictator who delights in the destruction and death caused by either human choice or natural disasters. We need, rather, to ask ourselves a different question: “How can I bring God into this situation?”

St. Paul reminds us “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and that “love is the fulfillment of the law.” Our Lord teaches this morning that “where two or three are gathered in my name,” that He is there, in our midst.

We, by our charity, our generosity, and our mercy, must bring God back to the people of the Gulf States. As we are gathered here, in the Name our Lord Jesus Christ this morning, we must unite in prayer on behalf of our brothers and sisters who even now remain homeless, hungry, and exhausted. Beyond our prayers – which we must continue and increase – Christ urgently pleads to us: “help me.”

Please search your hearts and use the yellow Missionary envelopes to offer a contribution to Catholic Charities for the victims of the Hurricane. Make the checks out to St. John Neumann, and we will send the total on behalf of the parish to the relief fund set up by the Bishops. But don’t let a monetary gift be the end of your charity; continue to ask God how you may help bring God back to the people of Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, as they struggle with this crisis.

As we gather together in prayer, let us bear these, our suffering brothers and sisters, to the Lord in the Sacrifice of the Cross, confident that He is in our midst.

Faith Seeking Understanding for September 4, 2005

Most of our school-aged children are now back in school, the football season is off to a great start, and autumn is just around the corner. In fact, now that school is back in session, it can be a great time for everyone to do just a bit of “homework” and learn more about our Faith, whether you’re just starting school this fall, or you’re celebrating your 80th High School reunion. One great resource for this is our new model of religious faith formation: Whole Community Catechesis. But this doesn’t mean that we only learn about the Church and our Lord Jesus Christ once a month!

Learning about the Faith doesn’t have to be dull, tedious, or boring. It certainly shouldn’t be limited to schoolrooms and churches, either! Since our Faith – a faith in Jesus Christ and His Cross – ought to be at the center of our lives, it ought to change us as individuals. We get to know our friends by spending time with them. We get to know God better by spending time in prayer, speaking with him. But we also grow in knowledge and love of God by studying His teachings. What does the Church teach about the Sacrifice of the Mass? About Eucharistic Adoration? About the other Sacraments and sacramentals?

This, however, is just the beginning! When we begin to read the writings of the saints, of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, we discover that the Church has centuries and centuries of wisdom: wisdom, not just about prayer and doctrine, but wisdom about life, because God became a man so that we could live life abundantly! The saints show us how to handle suffering, how to deal with difficult people at work and in our families, how to love our parents (and our children!), how to laugh, and how to cry.

This week, we celebrate another feast of the greatest Saint who ever lived: the Blessed Virgin Mary. September 8, nine months after our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, is celebrated as the Birthday of the Virgin Mary. The Church only celebrates the birthdays of two saints in the Sacred Liturgy – Mary and John the Baptist – because they were sanctified before their birth: Mary, from the first moment of her existence, and John, at the Visitation when he leapt in Elizabeth’s womb. These two great saints, like all of us, were not made holy because of who they were, but because of God’s magnificent and generous mercy. They were saved through Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross, just as we are.

As a way to celebrate, throw a birthday party for our Blessed Mother this Thursday. Decorate a cake, eat ice cream, and sing; and for her present, pray the rosary together as a family, dedicating your lives to the service of her Son. There’s no better way to honor God and His Mother (and to enjoy some family time, too!).

Now that the fall sports are beginning, let’s pray to St. Sebastian for his intercession for all athletes, and that we have successful (and injury-free) seasons! St. Paul reminds us not to just strive for trophies that tarnish, but for the eternal victory of heaven.

Finally, I have been approached by John Hale from Corporate Travel to lead a week-long pilgrimage to Italy next fall (September – October 2006). Depending on interest (especially from SJN parishioners), we plan on visiting Rome, Assisi, San Giovanni Rotundo (St. Padre Pio), and the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano. We may also be able to see either Florence or Siena. The pilgrimage will be more than just a tour, giving us the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of many great saints. Please call me at (734) 455-5910 or e-mail at the from St. John Neumann if you’re interested in participating in this pilgrimage. Have a blessed week!