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, October 30, 2005

Homily for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (October 30, 2005)

I was very touched by the Thank-You that appeared in the Michigan Catholic this week on behalf of the parishioners here at St. John Neumann. If you haven’t seen it, the ad thanks Fr. George and me for our priestly service; this week’s edition is filled with parishes thanking their priests for their ministry from parishes throughout the Archdiocese.

The reason for these thank-yous? The last Sunday in October has been designated as “Priesthood Sunday” for the last three years. Providentially, the readings this week speak very clearly to the ministry of priests – but not by describing their successful moments.

The prophet Malachi speaks: “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you:
If you do not listen,
if you do not lay it to heart,
to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts,
I will send a curse upon you
and of your blessing I will make a curse.”

He continues:

“You have turned aside from the way,
and have caused many to falter by your instruction;
you have made void the covenant of Levi,
says the LORD of hosts.”

Our Lord, in turn, criticizes the scribes and Pharisees – not because they don’t have authority – but because of their abuse of the authority given them by the Covenant. He even tells us “call no one on earth Father.” What a day to celebrate the gift of the priesthood to the Church!

It doesn’t take much scriptural research to understand that Jesus isn’t forbidding us to use the word “Father”: St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. John all use the term to describe their own ministry to the Church. We call our male parent “Father,” and we are blessed with the fullness of Divine Revelation through the Sacred Tradition of the Church that has always esteemed and reverenced the clergy by these titles.

Jesus is speaking to us in a much deeper way, helping us to see how important – how essential – the priestly ministry is. The reason we are shocked when a priest – or a bishop – sins so grievously and obviously is that we know they are held to a higher standard. We are all held to the high standard of Christianity; our Baptism has made us sharers in the divine life in a unique and marvelous way. We are called to flourish in virtue, growing daily in holiness because of our reception of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. We are all made members in the common priesthood of the baptized.

Priests, however, are different. They are consecrated by a special sacrament, making them sharers in the ministerial priesthood of Christ; their priesthood is ordered to the universal priesthood of the faithful, but is utterly distinct, unique, and different. Priests exercise their ministry in the person of Christ, at the service of the Church. The priest is not merely chosen by the community and authorized to say certain prayers. Priests are chosen by the Church and given a sacred power through the laying on of hands by the Bishop. The priest, then, is given not the function and duties of priesthood – but the sacred character on his soul that transforms him into “another Christ”, as the Church has called it. As such, he is called to exercise this Sacred Order by teaching, governing, and sanctifying the Church. The standard of the priest is the standard of the Cross.

The very being of a priest, then, should prompt us to praise God for His goodness, because there is, after all, but one Priest: Jesus Christ Himself. He alone is the true High Priest, offered on the Cross once for all. But thanks be to God, he has appointed and ordained men to serve His Mystical Body in his person, to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross, and to feed and nourish His Church.

We could continue to speak much longer about the glory and dignity of the priesthood; by speaking of this gift, we do not in any way diminish the importance and the necessity of holiness among the lay faithful. Rather, the entire Church is glorified by this gift, which honors the entire Body by the honor of Her Head.

I simply love being a priest. Our Father’s goodness and love for His people has never been so clear to me as in the Confessional or in the celebration of the Mass. But I know that the task is a challenging one – a difficult one, one filled with many possibilities of weakness, sin, and – as we have seen in the past – failure. Such failure begins when priests reject the dignity given them by Holy Orders and no longer strive for holiness.

This is why I simply ask for your prayers, on my behalf, and Fr. George, and Fr. Ed, and for all our priests throughout the world. We are objectively transformed by our ordination; yet our subjective conformity to the Sacrament of Orders is a lifelong process. This requires, above all, the virtue of humility. As a passing thought, humility is a virtue that was so well exercised by Rosa Parks. Humility isn’t being a doormat, ignoring the dignity we have as men and women: children of God. No, humility is recognizing the truth of our state; everything we have is a gift from God. We have nothing of our own, except for our sins.

Humbly, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. She knew her dignity. We must know our own dignity as Catholics; society respects us if we don’t “push” our Faith, if we aren’t “religious fanatics.” Are we willing to stand on our dignity as Catholics – adopted sons and daughters of God – and defend our Church, while praying and doing penance for our own conversion? Society may reject us – but Christ has won the victory. We have nothing to fear when we boldly proclaim our Faith.

So, too, the priesthood requires an understanding of the great dignity given it by our Lord. When we diminish the priesthood, expect less of priests, forget the proper title of “Father,” expect priests to dress, talk, and act like the rest of society – when this happens, we deeply offend our Lord and His Church. He has established priests as a sign of contradiction to the world; by humbly recognizing the unique dignity of the priesthood, we are more confident in encouraging our sons in priestly vocations, we appreciate the “being” of our parish priests (not just their work), and we are more docile to hear the challenging words of the Gospel – words of repentance and conversion – from their lips.

By your example, priests are held to that higher standard. By your prayers, priests will become holy, that the entire Body may become a Holy and Splendid Bride, prepared to meet our Lord when He comes in glory. God bless you.

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 30, 2005

This coming Monday is October 31st: Halloween. Our culture has recently expanded this “holiday” to include months of candy and costume buying in anticipation of parties, dances, school dress-up days, and trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, with all this excitement, we easily miss the real point of the celebration: All Saints Day. The word “Halloween” comes from “All Hallow’s Eve” or the vigil of All Saints Day (All Hallows) on November 1st. The Solemnity of All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, requiring all Catholics to attend Mass on that day. We will celebrate our regular 9:00 am Mass and a 7:00 pm Mass on November 1st.

The Catholic celebration of All Saints dates to Pope Gregory III (8th century), who established the Feast for November 1st. During the great period of monastic growth in the 10th and 11th centuries, the Feast of All Souls became a customary way to commemorate and to pray for the deceased monks of the past year. These feasts gradually became celebrated on November 1 and November 2 to remind us of the great men and women who have preceded us to eternal life: the Saints who reign with God in heaven and those faithful departed in Purgatory, still in need of our prayers.

To prepare for these days in honor of the dead, children in the British Isles would often go door-to-door to secure prayers on behalf of their departed relatives and friends. Many of the other elements of Halloween remain as traces from the pre-Christian Celtic pagan tribes, who would attempt to frighten off evil spirits by carving gourds (Jack-o-lanterns) and using them as lamps, by dressing as ghosts or goblins, and by offering feasts to their gods and other spirits.

As we celebrate Halloween this year, it is imperative that we remember the true purpose behind our festivities. We honor all the Saints of the Catholic Church on November 1st, those known and unknown; we ask for their intercession through prayer and we should be guided by their lives of holiness and service to the Gospel. Costumes that commemorate the lives of the Saints help to foster this devotion: St. Joan of Arc, St. John Bosco, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux are easily identified costumes that link Halloween to All Saints Day, and help remind us of the Holy Day that follows. Handing out a Holy Card or a prayer along with candy treats also reminds us of the real feast!

All Souls Day reminds us of Church teaching on Purgatory, which is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 1030 ff.): “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.”

We are encouraged to assist our departed brothers and sisters by our prayers: “From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead” (CCC, para. 1032).

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

--- UPDATE ---
There seems to be some scholarly discrepancy as to the origin of Halloween customs; some indicate that the pumpkin-carving and trick-or-treating is a recent custom, reminiscent of Irish harvest festivals, brought to the United States by Catholic immigrants from Ireland and England. At any rate, it is difficult -- if not impossible -- to connect the current American traditions and customs surrounding Halloween with any pagan worship whatsoever. Unfortunately, Halloween hasbecome a festival of materialism, centered around decorations, candy, and costumes, separate from the true meaning of All Saints' Day. We should strive to remember the Saints in our homes, follow their example, and entreat their intercession.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Homily Thoughts for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Our pastor Fr. George Williams is preaching at all the Masses this weekend, so I haven't had to prepare a homily. Nevertheless, the Gospel presents a particularly concise presentation of the entire Christian life which merits some brief reflection.
You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
Our Lord commands us to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind. Such love of God is comprehensive, whole and entire. We begin with our heart: do our affections tend to God? Do we cultivate our hearts to be pure for God? Or are our hearts divided? Do we love ourselves first, our comfort, our pleasures? Where does our treasure lie? Are our affections disordered? A challenge, to be sure, but even then, only the first aspect of loving God.

Next, we must love God with all our soul. The word is "psyche", a word that has a great deal of usage in the Old and New Testaments. It's derived from the verb "to breathe," which gives us insight into what our Lord might mean. Essentially, He is telling us to love God with the entirety of our spiritual selves. Is the deepest core of our person on fire with the love of God? Can we honestly say that our whole soul -- intellect, memory, emotions, will -- loves God? Again, a challenge from our Lord, and one that helps us take stock of our relationship with Him.

Finally, our mind. Do we take time to cultivate our mind with the teachings of Christ, especially as presented by the Church? Do we assume that we learned everything that we need to know about our Faith and about the Church as children? Are we prepared to properly form our minds by reading good Catholic periodicals (This Rock, Envoy Magazine, Catholic World Report, and the National Catholic Register, to suggest a few), good Catholic books (fiction and nonfiction alike), the Catechism, and other good sources of information? Do we reject those writings that teach contrary doctrine? Do we assume our opinions have more weight, and are more valuable than Church teaching? Or are we lazy -- not interested in forming our minds to love God more? A third challenge, and an excellent point for an examination of conscience, especially in today's society.

And this, after all, is just the beginning. Then we are asked to love our neighbor as ourself. Christ sets the bar high; he challenges us to live a life completely at the service of the Gospel.

Are we prepared to take that challenge?

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 23, 2005

Today, the next-to-last Sunday in October, is the annual celebration of World Mission Sunday. This yearly event is organized by the Vatican’s Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and calls all Catholics to renew their commitment to the missionary life of the Church, not only through financial contributions, but primarily through prayer and sacrifice.

The call to “mission” is not reserved to certain religious communities of priests, brothers, or sisters. Neither is the missionary life of the Church meant only for foreign countries! Each of us is called to live a life of mission by our Lord Himself: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Although this command is given directly to the Apostles before Jesus ascended into Heaven, each of us is called to “make disciples of all nations,” beginning with ourselves, our families, and our neighborhoods. We are called to zealously proclaim the Gospel with our words and deeds, by following the Holy Spirit’s lead and becoming authentic Christians, earnestly seeking the Kingdom each day. Pope John Paul II continuously called for this renewal of mission in what he termed the “New Evangelization.”

Such preaching of the Gospel never changes the content or the teaching of the Faith, which has been consistent for 2000 years, preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. Rather, this New Evangelization is new in “ardor, methods, and expression,” as our late Holy Father described it. Therefore, we must be inspired to a greater zeal for our Faith, constantly seeking to know the Truth ourselves and live this Truth daily, always seeking new ways (radio, television, and the internet, for example) to proclaim the Gospel. We also must seek ways to address our culture, continually making the Gospel relevant to our families, friends, and co-workers. The message of Christ does matter, today more than ever.

At the heart of the missionary call is our Lord Himself, in the Most Holy Eucharist. Our contemplation and adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament compels us to spread the Gospel. As Pope John Paul II said in his message for World Mission Sunday 2005: “while the Eucharist helps us to understand more fully the significance of mission, it leads every individual believer, the missionary in particular, to be ‘bread, broken for the life of the world’.” He continues:

“We who nourish ourselves with the Body and Blood of the crucified and risen Lord, cannot keep this ‘gift’ to ourselves; on the contrary we must share it. Passionate love for Christ leads to courageous proclamation of Christ; proclamation which, with martyrdom, becomes a supreme offering of love for God and for mankind. The Eucharist leads us to be generous evangelizers, actively committed to building a more just and fraternal world."

As we conclude the Year of the Eucharist, may our hearts be drawn closer to the Eucharistic Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. He urgently asks us to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament and from our contemplative prayer, to transform the world in the power of His love. Pray for and support the Missions, and have a blessed week!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

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

“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”

The Gospel this week continues the direction of the previous weeks’ reading of St. Matthew’s account of our Lord’s final weeks in Jerusalem. The setting for his parables and teaching has been the Temple, where he has astonished everyone by teaching with authority.

He has so frustrated the Pharisees that they are continually seeking some way to entrap Jesus through His words. The Pharisees bitterly resented the Roman occupation; the Herodians, however, supported the Romans in order to maintain their own power. Two opposing factions have united in their hatred of Jesus, seeking to destroy Him and end the trouble He has caused.

Thus, their opening line is immediately suspect: “Teacher, we know you are true.” These men care nothing for the truth! They have no desire to hear the truth, nor to seek the truth. They have but one goal: to entrap Jesus through his speech. The trap is clever: either Jesus supports the Pharisees, claiming the payment of the tax is an immoral tribute to Caesar who has no authority; or Jesus supports the Herodians, breaking the Law by recognizing Caesar as the “High Priest” and a god.

Our Lord sees beautifully through the trap – and as only God could do, traps his accusers with their own actions. How? He asks for a denarius. This denarius is the coin of the tax, minted by the Roman empire, and in use throughout the West at this time.

But we must remember that they are in the Temple; and upon producing the denarius, they have convicted themselves – they have carried the image of a pagan emperor into the Temple. And His words cut to the heart: “Whose image, and whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they answer, certainly shamefaced and embarrassed by their futile attempt to entrap the Son of God. But our Lord continues: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”

If the denarius is Caesar’s because it bears his image and inscription, to whom do we belong? “Let us make man in our image and likeness,” God says at the beginning of the Book of Genesis. Scripture reminds us again and again of our inherent dignity as sons and daughters of God, made in His image and likeness. We bear His image on our souls; we belong to Him. And in fact, what exists that does not belong to God? Nothing at all. God is an absolute sovereign, having created everything that exists from absolute nothingness.

Do we, however, follow the Pharisees and Herodians, day after day and week after week, trying to trap God? Do we foolishly pretend to seek the truth, but continually bear the denarius of sin into the Temple area? Not just the Temple of the Catholic Church, but the Temple of our souls. Have we given to Caeasar what rightfully belongs to God?

The question really is profound, and will be presented again in next week’s Gospel in a different way. Is God sovereign over our entire life? Or are there certain areas of our time, or of our abilities, or of our finances, from which we exclude God? Does God play, not just an “important” role in our lives, but is He central? Is He first?

Placing God first in our lives requires a complete transformation of the way in which we view our world. Is everything that I have “mine” first, and then I give some back to God? Or rather, is everything that I have a gift from God? I owe everything back to Him – and more – out of love. We can pretend that we believe this in a “spiritual” way, but the truth comes out when we check our lives.

Although we need to examine our entire lives, from our checkbooks to our entertainments, an excellent area that really helps us see if we love God is to examine our use of time.

Is time my own, or God’s? Do I have “my” time that excludes God? Do I give God the first and most important moments of my day and week? Do I have scheduled times to pray, not just haphazardly, but times that are guaranteed? Is Sunday Mass a real priority? Do I arrive on time, and really use the Mass to pray? And if I’m prepared to receive Holy Communion, do I do so reverently, fully aware of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? And then, do I make a good thanksgiving after Mass? Or do I too easily arrive late to Mass and then leave early?

Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but give to God what is God’s. Time can be the most difficult area of our life to place upon the altar, but God will reward us abundantly for our generosity. He has “called us by name,” as we heard in the First Reading. Blessed will we be when we answer His call to holiness and place Him first in every aspect of our lives.

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 16, 2005

Although I can hardly believe it, this weekend marks five months of priestly ordination for me. God has blessed me so generously, and in so many ways in these past months; I am particularly grateful for each of you, the parishioners of St. John Neumann, and for your kindness and openness. I simply love being a priest!

Thank you also to those who have expressed interest in the Italy pilgrimage for October 2006. I will publish the final itinerary and costs as soon as they are determined.

In two weeks, the Archdiocese of Detroit is hosting its annual Women’s Conference at Macomb Community College. The conference theme is “Reflecting the Light of Christ: Embracing the Genius of Women.” Expect dynamic speakers, enlightening discussion, and excellent fellowship with other Catholic women. The day begins with Holy Mass celebrated by Cardinal Maida, and confessions are available throughout the day. For more information, or to register, please call (734) 459-9558.

This week, the Church celebrates Saints from the first century to the eighteenth. St. Ignatius of Antioch is October 17; St. Luke (Evangelist and companion of St. Paul) is on the 18th; the Jesuit martyrs St. Isaac Jogues and companions are on the 19th; and St. Paul of the Cross (eighteenth century founder of the Passionist order) is on the 20th.

St. Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, and was the third bishop in Antioch (a diocese founded by St. Peter himself). Ignatius is called a “Father of the Church,” or one of the earliest writers and teachers of the Faith. The Church owes Her early growth to the efforts of these men, inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit, to preserve doctrine in the face of heresy and unity in the face of schism.

The study of the Fathers of the Church is called “patrology” and the study of their writings is “patristics”. Among these writings are a series of letters St. Ignatius wrote as he was being taken to Rome for martyrdom. These letters are extant, and they give us remarkable insight into the teachings of the Church in the first and second centuries. The writings of the Fathers confirm the unchanging truth of the Catholic Faith: what the Fathers of the Church taught is what we still teach today. All of the patristic writings are available on the internet at

While the universal Church owes Her initial growth to the Fathers, the Church in the New World owes Her growth to the great missionaries of the 16th and 17th centuries. The tireless Jesuits Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, and their companions evangelized the native peoples of North America and explored the interior of the continent. Jogues and Brébeuf, along with their six companions were brutally martyred by the Iroquois in the 1640s. Their sacrifices were not in vain, however; St. Kateri Tekakwitha would be born to a Mohawk tribe that had been evangelized by these men just ten years earlier. A shrine in Auriesville, upstate New York, commemorates the site of their martyrdom.

As we reflect on the martyrs’ sacrifices – whether of St. Ignatius in the 1st century or of the Jesuits in the 17th – we are inspired by the power of the Gospel in their lives. The message of the Gospel was not vague or foggy to those who gave their lives in its service. Through their example and intercession, we should be inspired to be martyrs in our own time, fearlessly preaching the Gospel with our words and deeds. We may not be killed with swords, spears, or clubs; but we cannot fear the world or its threats. Instead, remember our Lord’s words to the Apostles at the Last Supper (Jn 16:33): “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ressourcement ~ Restoration in Catholic Theology

For those of you interested in some excellent contemporary direction in Theology, please visit Ressourcement here. The blog directs us to "rediscovering the sources" of Christian thought, much as a continuation of the work of Henri de Lubac and Jean Danielou. If God is merciful, I may yet have time to continue the study of this direction in Theology.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blessed John XXIII

Today is the 43rd anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Although widely discussed throughout the Church, especially in the United States, very few of us have actually read all of the Council documents. Today also is the liturgical celebration of Blessed Pope John XXIII, who opened the Council and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000.

Catholic Culture explains more about today's feasts here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Mother's Rule of Life

The book A Mother's Rule of Life, written by Holly Pierlot and published by Sophia Institute Press has been on my "intended" list of to-read books for some time. After having read ZENIT this morning (an excellent source of Catholic news, incidentally), I was reminded of the book. Happily, I also discovered a companion website here.
A Mother's Rule of Life is excellent help, especially for moms who are struggling with all the balancing required by the married vocation. I'll enable comments for this post; if anyone has other suggestions to help Catholic mothers, please comment!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

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

“Come to the feast.” The king invites his chosen guests to a wedding banquet in honor of his son. Come to the feast.

We, likewise, are invited to this feast, a feast described by the prophet Isaiah, of “rich food and choice wines.” We catch just a glimpse of the glory of heaven, the joy and splendor of the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb. What anticipation, what motivation we should have to drive us toward that feast.

This feast, in the gospel parable and in the first reading, might tempt us to think of the Kingdom of Heaven as something distant, foreign, or only in the future. Maybe it’s just a great “rewards program” like our credit cards have, ready to be cashed-in when we die. Until then, life is simply one cross after another, bearing the burden of life, with no joy. Christ desires to already fill us with every good gift; he desires to fill us with His riches – the riches of the Spirit, the fruit of His victory.

These fruits are present now, in our short earthly lives, through grace; but we also anticipate a future in which “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face; he will destroy death forever.” This future is the wedding feast of the Lamb of God, of which we read in the Book of Revelation. This nuptial banquet begins here, at the Altar of Sacrifice, from which we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. In fact, when the priest elevates the Body and Blood, saying, “This is the Lamb of God,” the Latin reminds of the connection to our Sacramental Banquet and the Eternal Banquet: “Blessed are those called to the Banquet of the Lamb.” Every gift and grace is offered to us here.

But in order to receive, we must respond to the invitation, which each of us has received: Come to the feast. Come to the feast.
Sadly, like some in the parable, we reject the banquet. “It can’t be that great,” we think. Other aspects of life distract us: one left to his farm, the other to his business. What pursuits distract us from seeking the Kingdom? What pursuits distract us from answering the invitation to the Banquet? Do we refuse to come? Do we not heed the invitation, seeking created goods, missing the greatest gift offered to us: God Himself!

Some, according to the parable, kill the messengers, and they are destroyed by the king. How do we reject the teachings of the Church, meant to invite us to the Banquet of God’s Love?

Finally, the conclusion to the parable certainly may confuse us. In ancient cultures, guests were provided a garment by the host of the feast. When we hear of the poor man, invited after the other guests, arriving unprepared, we might side with him. After all, he wasn’t prepared to attend a feast – he didn’t expect an invitation. But when we understand that preparation was offered to him when he arrived, we understand why he was reduced to silence. He had refused to accept the garment of the wedding guest, that would mark him as an approved guest.

Do we reject our own wedding garment, even as we accept the invitation to the Feast? Do we adequately prepare ourselves for the Sacrifice of the Mass – the Banquet of the Lamb, or do we desire to come to the Feast to take the food, but not to share of ourselves? To not share in the Sacrifice of the Lamb?

The Mass is a Sacrificial Banquet; it prepares us for the Banquet of eternity. By consuming the Body and Blood of Christ, we witness and accept His Sacrifice in our life. We already have all the Graces of heaven here before us. If only we would answer our invitation and prepare ourselves to partake of the rich fare He offers.

Come to the Feast. Come to the Feast.

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 9, 2005

October is often called the “Month of the Rosary,” or even simply, “Our Lady’s Month.” Last Sunday was “Respect Life Sunday,” marked by the annual Life Chain; the entire month has been designated by the Bishops of the United States to increase our awareness of the sanctity of human life. Our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary corresponds in a very real way to our appreciation of the value of human life. Mary worshiped our Savior in her virgin womb, she was able to perceive the dignity of the person through her Son’s scourged and crucified body, and she continues to intercede for the entire mystical Body of Christ in Heaven. She is the perfect model to help us grow in our own respect for life.

Last Friday (October 7) was the feast of the Holy Rosary. This feast was celebrated first in 1571, after a naval victory at Lepanto over the Turkish Moslem fleet. Pope St. Pius V had encouraged all the citizens of Rome to pray the Rosary requesting the victory through the intercession of our Lady; when the battle was won, the Pope declared a feast day in honor of the Rosary. We might find it strange at first that prayers should be offered on behalf of a military engagement, and that a feast day should be created to commemorate these prayers. God, however, is deeply concerned about our culture and the good of His Church on earth.

We, too, are now engaged in a great cultural war – not so much with armies and ammunition – but with our values, our customs, traditions, and the teachings of the Faith. The culture around us (often simply called “the world” in Christian tradition) rejects the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. The world at large rejects His Cross, as well as His Resurrection. Most explicitly, our modern world rejects the virtues of chastity, modesty, and temperance. At the heart of this war is a great lie, told to us and our culture by the devil himself: man has no inherent dignity.

“You are not created in God’s image and likeness,” we hear Satan say in so many ways. Pornography, contraception, abortion, and euthanasia each tear down our appreciation of the value of human life. The indiscriminate use of capital punishment makes us doubt our own belief that we all are created by God. The acceptance of homosexual “marriage” corrupts our understanding of the God-given complimentary of the sexes, and the meaning of marriage for “co-creating” with God. In each of these ways, the devil feeds us the lie that the human person is not an image of God. The truth, however, is that each of us is a unique and unrepeatable image of the Holy and Blessed Trinity. Never, in all of time, will two human beings be exactly the same – not just in appearance, or attitude, temperament or ability – but each of us is completely distinct and unique, because we all reflect the splendor of our Father in an individual way.

In particular, the guilt of abortion can be a weight impossible to bear. We must do our best to support women in their path of healing, and to help women in difficult pregnancies. Project Rachel is a healing ministry for those having been afflicted by abortion; it can be reached by calling (888) RACHEL5. We need to strengthen our own families and help rediscover a culture of life. We also need to open our eyes to the horror of abortion, and pray daily that this scourge – which has killed more than 46 million children since Roe v. Wade – will be lifted from our nation. We are in a great battle, more desperate than that of Lepanto. Pray the Rosary for a victory; pray the Rosary for Life!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Divorce and Cohabitation Before Marriage

Read the ZENIT article here on the high divorce rates among those who cohabit prior to marriage. The article summarizes a study that examined cohabitation and its effects on marriage. The Detroit News also recently ran an article on this unfortunate practice here in Michigan.
We must continually be on our guard in our culture for erosions of the family; no matter how financially helpful or otherwise great cohabitation seems, it's only another trick of the devil.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Catholic Voice - In His Light, Bishop Allen H. Vigneron's Column

My former rector at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Bishop Allen Vigneron, has written a marvelous column available here. He offers "10 Rules for Handling Disagreement Like a Christian" and proposes excellent ways for us to approach disagreements in the Church. Even if our viewpoints differ, Bp. Vigneron reminds us that we are still brothers and sisters in the Lord. Enjoy his insights.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Synod of Bishops

Amy Welborn at Open Book reports on the Synod of Bishops which opens today. Aside from the importance of praying for an end to abortion, and developing a greater respect for human life throughout this month, we should pray for the Synod. The focus of the Synod is the Eucharist; may we all grow in greater devotion to our Blessed Lord in His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

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

“This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.”

The story that Jesus relates to the chief priests and the elders ought to simply break our hearts. How can we hear His words and not be moved to tears?

Such a story is painful to hear. The chief priests became enraged and indignant when they understood the meaning of the parable. Jesus called them illegitimate tenants of the Lord’s vineyard; he accused them of not living in the Covenant, but of destroying it. They had not offered the fruit of the vineyard to the Lord, but had attempted to keep it for themselves. They had become bitter and enraged that they did not own the vineyard; greed and lust for power blinded them to the evil of their actions.

Yet we know the truth – for although Jesus Christ has come in judgment of the world, He has come to redeem the world. If these wicked tenants would have but surrendered their produce, they would have received not just the surplus fruit. Rather, they would be made co-heirs with the Son. Instead, such reward is reserved for those to whom the vineyard will be given. This story, however, is not just meant for the chief priests and scribes: we each live out this parable.

When we sin, instead of joyfully offering the fruit of the vineyard to the Son, we try to keep it for ourselves, paradoxically losing the little we have. When, however, we accept the Son for who He is – the Heir to the promises of the Covenant, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords – a miracle occurs. We are made sharers in the Kingdom with Him! We become co-heirs with Christ of the promises.

Our culture has become a culture of selfishness, of greed, and of power. In short, we could describe it – as did Pope John Paul II – as the “culture of death.” We are eager to “kill the heir” to preserve whatever meager portion we have, to keep whatever scraps of “fruit” we have harvested. The devil persists in spreading his lie: God is not generous, forgiving, or merciful. God will not have mercy. And so we grow farther and farther from our Father, at best avoiding His message, and at worst, killing the Son again and again by our sins.

In particular, the Church calls us to recall direct attacks on innocent life this month as we celebrate “Respect Life Sunday” at the beginning of October. The Church knows the pain and anguish of those afflicted with choices that are legal in our nation, yet gravely immoral. But what is the message of the Church? Is it condemnation, rejection, and judgment? Or rather is it mercy and forgiveness – and the clear call to live in the truth yet again?

I have been praying all week how to address this topic. It isn’t easy, especially since our country has lived with the scourge of legalized abortion for over thirty years. Since that time, more than 48 million children have been killed, and countless other lives forever scarred by the trauma that abortion leaves in its wake. Certainly the Church teaches that abortion must never be a resort; it takes the life of an innocent human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and destined to dwell with Him for all eternity.

Our Lord knows the sorrow in your heart if you’ve had an abortion. He reaches out with forgiveness and mercy; but I wonder, do we do the same? Are we prepared to offer the number for Project Rachel, to offer our prayers and sacrifices for those women suffering the traumatic effects of abortion? And do we really support the pro-life movement? Do we support Crisis Pregnancy Centers, not just with our leftover baby clothes and broken toys; but do we develop a real heart for women in trouble? Do we love and care for our poorest families – not offering abortion, but our concrete love and care?

Have we examined our consciences in this regard? Are we pro-life ourselves? This is not an optional teaching of our Church – we know that we must protect the dignity of human life, whether hidden in the womb or fixed in a hospital bed. Human life is sacred because it is another reflection of God Himself; each of us is created in His image and likeness. How can we deprive these innocent children of the right to be born? Perhaps we struggle with this issue, personally or politically. I encourage you to pray deeply; reflect upon the meaning of the Cross before our eyes, and the mystery into which we have been baptized, and in which we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Finally, we can look at some concrete ways in which we can adopt a real concern for the unborn in particular, since these direct attacks on the dignity of human life occur all too often in our society. This month is October, the month of the Rosary. Please pray the Rosary every day, either as an individual, or as a family. Pray for the end of abortion in our great nation; pray for families; and pray for the poor.

Today, after this Mass at 2:00 pm in Westland, is the annual Life Chain. At 2:00 pm until 3:30 pm, people will line Warren Avenue at Wayne Road in Westland, holding signs that proclaim “Abortion Kills Children.” Please come and support this important, prayerful witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps, too, this month, we can all find time to spend in Eucharistic Adoration, speaking directly to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, asking Him for the grace to speak out against abortion in our own lives, and offer healing and reconciliation to those who have been hurt.

The wicked tenants refused to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God, and Jesus tells us that these wretched men will be put to a wretched end. The Son, however, came that we might have an abundant life. Pray that we might be strangers of the Son no longer, but embrace His Cross. He died upon It, not for enemies and strangers, but for us: His brothers and sisters, His own Mystical Body, the Church. When we live this mystery, we will no longer live in the culture of death, but will transform this culture, in the power of the Son, into a culture of life.

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 2, 2005

This weekend’s Gospel and First Reading remind us of the great responsibility we have as Catholics to preserve the Faith given to us by the Lord. We have inherited the “Lord’s Vineyard,” not for ourselves, but in His service. Someday, we will be asked to render an account of this service. On October 2nd, the Church celebrates the feast of those who help us in our service of the Lord: our Guardian Angels.

Angels are pure spirits (having no body), created by God for His glory. The word “angel” is derived from the Greek angelos and Latin angelus, or messenger. In his teaching on angels, St. Augustine teaches that “angel” is not what this being is, but rather what this being does. Therefore, an angel is “a spiritual, personal, and immortal creature, with intelligence and free will, who glorifies God and who serves God as a messenger of His divine plan” (CCC, glossary). The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses angels in paragraphs 328 – 336.

The existence of angels is a truth of our Faith; they have been present since creation and throughout salvation history. Angels are not human beings who have entered heaven; angels are not trying to “earn their wings” (as Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life); angels are not generic “ideas”, “lesser gods,” or other independent spiritual beings. Angels are, on the other hand, sent by God to further His plan of salvation. Angels have appeared throughout the Old and New Testaments, including various warnings and prophecies, helping Tobias find his wife, and most importantly announcing the Incarnation to the Blessed Virgin and ministering to our Lord after the temptation in the desert and during the Agony in the Garden.

Just as importantly, each Christian has a “Guardian Angel,” who protects and guides him or her to heaven. We should pray often to our guardian angel, invoking his assistance when we experience temptation, difficulty, or danger. The Angelus, traditionally prayed at morning, noon, and evening, is also an excellent devotion that reminds us of the angels’ role in salvation. Don’t forget to invoke the angels in your morning, evening, and mealtime prayers!

The Church also celebrates St. Francis of Assisi this week, on October 4th. St. Francis is most often associated with kindness toward animals, but more importantly his profound spiritual life and deep love of our Lord encourage us to follow in his footsteps. Francis was born in 1181 in Assisi, Italy; he died on the evening of October 3, 1226. Although he led a worldly life as a youth, he experienced a sincere conversion and complete change of heart when he encountered a wretched leper on the street. Initially repulsed by the horrible sight, Francis was filled with the Holy Spirit and controlling his natural disgust, leapt from his horse and embraced the sick man and gave him all the money he had.

Many more fabulous stories about St. Francis exist: we hear of his love for the poor, his concern for the Church, his intense mystical life (including the stigmata) and his efforts to establish the Franciscan order. His life of poverty and penance reminds us to likewise foster a heart for the poor and to live our own lives in a penitential spirit, united with Christ upon the Cross. We should invoke St. Francis’ intercession in our own efforts to help the poor, and his example should inspire us to volunteer our time, talent, on treasure on their behalf.

Have a blessed week, and may God bless you. Please pray for vocations!

The Little Flower

Due to a much busier schedule than I anticipated this past week, I was unable to blog about our dear St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose feast we celebrated yesterday. I might have time this week to post -- even if briefly -- about her role in my vocational discernment. St. Thérèse, pray for us.