More on Catholics and the Bible

By , August 31, 2010 2:37 am

We should all be happy that there is a vigorous renewal of God’s Holy Word taking place in the lives of individual Catholics and across the Church all over the world, but so much remains to be done! Bible discussion clubs exist all across the land, but they need to be increased to the tens of thousands. Comfortable familiarity with the entire Bible, but especially the New Testament, is something that the Church must undertake in a much more vigorous way than it has since the council ended in 1965.

Today the ordinary Roman Catholic hears at Sunday mass a 3-year cycle with three scripture readings at each Sunday liturgy. This has helped greatly to familiarize Catholics in general with around a thousand of the more important texts. There are roughly six hundred New Testament texts; we hear only a third of the actual writings.

Each Sunday they are presented as a collage with an underlying theme that brings to us a special message from our Lord to the community of faith, which is the Church.

Given, however the size of the task before us, much more needs to be done.

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The Bible and Catholics

By , August 30, 2010 2:01 am

Is the Bible a Catholic book? For the vast majority of the people of the United States, the Bible is a factor in their lives in many different ways. This is especially true for people of the mainline Protestant faith groups, e.g. Methodist, Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, etc. The Catholic Church numerically is nearly twice the size of all the Protestant churches currently present in the United States. A very valid question would be, “Is the Holy Bible, which Christians almost universally revere as God’s word, as important to the Roman Catholic as it is to their brothers and sisters in the protestant faith groups?

The theoretical answer is that it certainly is, but a more practical reply would be that it is not. Prior to the second Vatican council, the average Catholic received very little formal study in sacred scripture. Theology, of course, would be a powerful force in the education of Catholics. Deference would be paid to the importance of the Bible, but in terms of classes, study, week-to-week use, its absence was rather obvious.

The second council has made a determined effort to turn this unhappy situation around and motivate Catholics to appreciate the Bible and make ever-greater use of it, both in their religious formation and in their worship, as well as in their liturgical ceremonies.

For today, open your Bible  and enjoy this gift from God! I’ll elaborate more tomorrow…

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The 22nd Sunday of the Church Year: Our Walk of Faith

By , August 28, 2010 3:28 am

Well, we are still walking with our Lord as He continues on his way to Jerusalem.  The Church uses the text from the 14th chapter of Luke about the subject of social humility.  Prior to the Gospel, the book of Sirach introduces the subject of humility urging us to conduct our affairs with that virtue, as well as being prepared to “humble yourselves the more, the greater you are.”  That leads us into that brief excerpt from Hebrews where the sacred author tells us that in making this journey we are being drawn to Mount Zion in the city of the living God.  There we will experience extraordinary glory and be awed by God’s power manifested before us.

Humility and awe in relationship to God provides us with good first steps towards the Gospel itself.  It tells us not to be seeking the spotlight, not to being on the top of the list or in the best places, but simply to move forward with a clear awareness that in relationship to the infinite power and glory of God we are humble indeed.  If we see that relationship between ourselves and God, it should make it easier for us to see those with whom we are sharing life.

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Church Life: A Family Tradition

By , August 27, 2010 3:33 am

Family life, family life, family life. The Church is always talking about the importance of family life. Most parents who are committed Catholics endeavor to carry out their family responsibility in the context of Catholic values. If that is true, and I certainly believe that it is, why is it that so many parents relate to me how sad they are that one or another of their children has ceased the routine practice of the faith or formally gone off in a different direction?

There are many reasons, and every situation is different. A couple factors, however, are in play across the board. If you are raising teens, or maybe college-aged kids, they have lived most of their lives in an overall environment that is indifferent to religious practice, and often even hostile. A second, sadder reason is that many religious formation programs in the last forty years have been woefully inadequate. That’s true regardless of whether they were in public or private schools, by the way. Most of these youth have experienced constant negative onslaughts from the movies, television and the influence of their peers, who are so often completely negative.

Wait,though, because there is a good side. Very frequently these young people return to ardent practice of the faith after they have entered marriage and a baby is on the scene. Things that were utterly unimportant, or worse, boring when they were free and easy now move to center stage in their lives and they begin to feel the need for value and meaning.

What to do?

First of all, while an individual family has great influence over its children, the fact is that it is not always dominant. Do not be discouraged. I would encourage parents to vigorously LIVE their faith, always giving good example to their kids. Be calmly confident that if you continue to push the importance of your own beliefs, and constantly express your faith and love to your children, there is a fine chance they will return to the tradition of their parents and grandparents.

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A Terrible Prison: Let Us Pray

By , August 26, 2010 1:25 am

Anyone who believes in miracles and in the power of prayer should be begging for the welfare of those 30 miners imprisoned in the shaft of a copper mine 2,000 feet below the surface in Chile.

In a room little larger than a hotel room, about 30 miners have been trapped since early August.  Their heroism and discipline have kept them alive and now a shaft has been opened to reach them with fresh air and the other essentials to maintain life.  However, the situation is agonizing and some estimates are that they cannot be reached with a new shaft for over two months, possibly as long as four months. You can read more about their precarious situation at

Please pray for the miners and for their families that are suffering through such an agonizing ordeal.

Faith, courage and discipline are required by everyone but these brave men are all too human.

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The Wisdom of Our Founding Fathers

By , August 25, 2010 10:27 am

Our Founding Fathers deliberately designed the Constitution in such a way that it would be difficult to change.  The underlying principle came from their own experience as colonists and their knowledge of European history of the preceding centuries when an absolute monarch would send a country off in a dramatically different direction.  The Founding Fathers wanted stability.  I personally don’t think they knew how the Senate would be used over the next two hundred years to make change extraordinarily difficult and close to being impossible.

We are currently celebrating the 90th anniversary of Nineteenth Amendment which gave women the right to vote.  Do not think that this occurred on one Tuesday afternoon.  It was the product of seventy hard years and endless battles and countless defeats.

When the Senate was recognized as an impossible obstacle because of Southern intransigence, Carrie Chatman Catt decided on an end run that would go on for decades.  She estimated that this struggle had involved 56 referendum campaigns directed at male voters plus “480 campaigns to get legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters, 47 campaigns to get constitutional conventions to write women’s suffrage into state conventions, 277 campaigns to get state party conventions to include women suffrage planks, 30 campaigns to get presidential party campaigns to include women’s suffrage planks and party platforms and 19 campaigns with 19 successive congresses.”  How blessed we are that these heroic women and their supporters had the stamina and the courage to continue their heroic struggle in the face of such tragic opposition.  Women’s Suffrage Day was August 26th.  Did you celebrate?

In my adult life, I have seen the struggle for civil rights which went on for a quarter of a century and the efforts to bring health care to the total American population for more than half a century.  In a very real sense, both struggles still continue.

God bless the wisdom of the Founding Fathers to give us the vehicle within the Constitution to bring about reform and the heroines and heroes who had the courage and stamina to bring it about.

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Welcome, Fr. Tobin!

By , August 24, 2010 4:19 am

Anyone who understands and appreciates the magnificent work of religious women in this country should be appreciative of the recent appointment of Father Joseph Tobin, a Redemptorist, to be the new Secretary for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life.  That Vatican office has the responsibility of providing oversight and direction to 190,000 religious priests and brothers and roughly 750,000 sisters worldwide.  There is a job for you.

Regretfully, in the recent past, Vatican officials have exercised their leadership role in a rather clumsy manner.  One manifestation of this fact occurred when the Holy See appointed a group to “investigate” all of the religious communities of women in the United States.  At the time that this was announced, the leadership of the sisters were attending meetings in Rome and they read about the investigation in the newspapers!  Not a good move.

Father Tobin will be appointed an Archbishop and brings to this job a wonderful background for improved communications and moral support to the heroic faith-filled women who have given so much to help build up Christ’s Church.

Our prayers are with you, Father Tobin.

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Saints, Saints and More Saints

By , August 23, 2010 3:56 am

I love the liturgy of the Church and I love the theology, psychology and philosophy that it reflects.  Everyday is a feast day.  Everyday is a celebration.  That should be our attitude to living in this Valley of Tears.  Troubles abound.  We all experience pain.  Confusion and doubt arrives in our lives.  And yet, through our faith we know that we are on our way to eternal life – an eternal life of joy and happiness.  One of the ways that the Church spotlights this fact in the liturgy is the celebration of saint’s days, and we have three big ones coming up – St. Bernard, St. Pius X and St. Rose of Lima.

St. Bernard was magnificent.  An 11th century reformer of monasticism in the Church, the founder of the Cistercian Order and an abbot who exerted a tremendous good influence over several popes.

St. Pius X – he loved the children and gave them the gift of receiving communion when they reached the age of reason, usually about seven years of age.  Prior to that, children were denied the Eucharist until they were twelve and fifteen years old.  When the Church calls someone a saint, it asserts that this person lived such a good life that we can be confident that they are currently with God.  That does not mean that they did not make mistakes.  Pius X panicked and feared that a new heresy was beginning in the United States.  He called it “Americanism.”  He was in error but he unleashed a period of oppression in Catholic colleges and seminaries; a mistake, yes, but still a saint.

And on August 23rd, we celebrate the life of St. Rose of Lima who, of course, was from Lima.  This wonderful young lady was born in 1586 and died in 1617.  For our purposes, what makes her famous was that she was the first person born and raised in the Western Hemisphere to be declared a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

Keep marching, Saints!

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21st Sunday of the Church Year: Walking with Jesus

By , August 22, 2010 7:56 am

I am not sure that the sacred authors of the Gospels each had a theme as they wrote their brief summaries of the life of Jesus, but those who have studied them over the centuries have certainly tended to pick out one or another aspect of each Gospel and use that as a theme.

In St. Luke’s Gospel, we have Jesus walking to Jerusalem.  Time after time in different segments, the commentary will begin, as it does in today’s Gospel excerpt, “Jesus went through cities and towns teaching, all the while making his way towards Jerusalem.”  There is this large section where Jesus is simply walking, walking, walking – headed towards Jerusalem and, of course, that meant heading towards death, resurrection and redemption for the rest of us.

As he walks along, his teachings are presented in very dramatic ways and today’s is no exception as this excerpt stresses that we are responsible for how we have lived our lives and our salvation depends on whether or not we have made every effort to walk in his footsteps.  In today’s Gospel, there is real stress that many people who are very important in various aspects of life will, after Judgment Day, lose that importance.  The sentence for today is “Some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last.”

Where will you and I be in the line?

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Here Come the Deacons!

By , August 20, 2010 3:37 am

Missed one!  Each day when I am writing these blogs, I try to take the liturgical calendar into consideration.  The liturgical year is one of the great gifts in the life of the Church, a source of inspiration and even sometimes…the subject of a blog!   What I missed was the Feast of St. Lawrence.  That was back on August 10th.  We have been remembering him for the best part of 2,000 years so hopefully running a few days late wont really matter.

Lawrence was a deacon in the early Church.  The diaconate, as one of the three orders of ministry, is actually older than the parish priesthood as we know it.  The first couple of generations we just had bishops and deacons.  Gradually, the deacons were absorbed into being a step towards the priesthood and fell into disuse as a separate order.

The restoration of the diaconate is really one of the great gifts of the Second Vatican Council.  It came in a very timely manner.  In the mid-1960’s, traditional priestly vocations began to sharply decline.  That was not true all over the world but it was certainly true in Europe and North America.  Of course, it goes without saying that Mexico and Latin America have never had enough priestly ordinations.  The ratio of lay people to priests in those countries is scandalously high.

In the United States, the diaconate has been well utilized.  There was not a single deacon in the country in 1965.  Today there are over 16,000.  Deacons have been a tremendous reservoir of strength and ministry, especially in large urban parishes, which are frequently served by only one or two priests.  Because of their ordination, deacons can baptize and preach.  In addition to those ministries that flow from the sacrament of ordination, they do numerous other things around parishes – counseling, conducting funerals, serving parishioners in countless other ways.  They are a great blessing.  We should all be thankful to these generous deacons who work so hard for the rest of us without any type of material compensation.

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