It’s Over!

By , December 31, 2013 9:14 am

The celebration of Christmas is wonderful. We gather, we thank God for his gifts, we exchange gifts ourselves, we see friends and family for the first time in many months, there is an exuberance in the atmosphere that fills our lives with enthusiasm and joy and then finally…IT IS OVER! While we thank God for Christmas and all that it involves, there is always a sense of relief when we get back to our normal routine. But we must be careful.

When considering all the above-mentioned events and factors, we must not forget that there is something behind them that caused them! The Christ child. The Christ child is now behind us but the real power of Christmas must be factored into our lives. Jesus Christ is with us, not as a child but as the awesome God-man and this must not be taken for granted. The babe of Bethlehem has been given birth, nursed, coaxed and lovingly cajoled into effectiveness but we must clearly remember that the baby Jesus did not save the world. The adult Christ did and does! Our task is to turn the baby Jesus into the adult Christ in our lives. We need to do that by our faithfulness and how we live.

Christmas is behind us. The New Year begins. We walk into it with calm confidence and optimism but those two qualities are valid only if our relationship with our Savior is mature, intelligent and driven by our faith in his revelation.

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Today is My Feast Day

By , December 27, 2013 5:35 am

I have always been proud to have St. John the Apostle as my patron saint. He was the youngest among the apostles and I grew up with the burden of being the baby brother. How should I celebrate my feast day? Well, I have decided to give myself a present.
On my next birthday, I will be 84. I think that is an impressive age but some of my priest friends take cruel delight in reminding me that I am not just 84 but actually six years from NINETY! I have been retired for 13 years, but with many organizational activities I have been fairly active. One thing that I have done almost every day for four years is to have produced this blog. Let me thank you for tuning in today. Four years means that at least 1,200 times I have sat down and presented you, the reader, with my reactions and opinions on a wide-range of issues. Together we have touched on Sacred Scripture, theology, ecumenism, politics, economics and other areas that I hoped might be of interest to you, the readers.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the process and hundreds of people have told me that they find that the daily installment of my views has been of some valuable to them so I have continued to go forward. Another reason that has motivated me to keep doing this is the fact that I no longer preach at Sunday Masses. It is very difficult for me to ascend and descend the sanctuary steps in most churches. Usually I simply vest in alb and stole and concelebrate.

So my present plan is to give up trying to have a different blog every single day and to just present something to the viewers two or three times a week. If you open this website and don’t find something new, try me again in a day or two because I will be back.
I am going to continue to do this.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you a joyous celebration of the New Year. Let us go on into 2014 together and may the God who loves us sustain us as together we travel through the fog.

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The First of Millions

By , December 26, 2013 5:38 am

Today is the Feast of St. Stephen. He was the first follower of Jesus who offered up his life as a witness to the message that Jesus, the Son of God, had brought to the human family. For a number of reasons, I really like this feast day. First of all, I like feast days to begin with. I like the Church’s ancient tradition of scattering days throughout the year that call for happy remembrances of wonderful people who have gone before us. When we celebrate the Feast of St. Thomas, we think about the importance of education and scholarship. St. Francis Xavier challenges our minds to remember the importance of contributing to the missionary expansion of the Church. Another reason I like this particular feast day is that I, myself, took the name of Stephen when I was confirmed. I don’t use it very much but it is always there.

In my opinion, the heroic Stephen calls us to put two things together – our deep faith in Jesus Christ and the courage to walk in his footsteps regardless of the consequences. Most of us are never faced with the threat of torture or execution because of our faith. Yes, that is true in this country and over about half the world, but sadly thousands of Christians are being killed across this planet every year. We, who are physically safe and secure, must make some effort to help our brothers and sisters in faith survive in the face of hatred and cruelty.

Our battered Church needs more and more men and women with the courage of St. Stephen. Let’s see if together we can work to witness more effectively the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

Oh, I see that tomorrow is another feast day. This is a big week for me.

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An Easy Assignment

By , December 24, 2013 4:32 am

I am always appreciative of those who take the time in their busy day to give a glance at my blog. Since people only do this of their own volition, I am in no position to hand out reading assignments but today I am going to do it and hope for the best.

Tomorrow is Christmas.

You will hear your reading assignment when you go to Christmas Mass, but I am going to ask you to do something that is very simple, very meaningful and for me at least, very helpful.
Would you turn to Luke’s second chapter and sitting quietly read these words out loud and rather slo-o-o-wly and endeavor to vicariously experience each sentence.

Now it happened that at this time Caesar Augustus a decree a census should be made of the whole inhabited world.
This census– the first — took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.
So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David’s town called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Now it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged.
In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night.

An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’

And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words:
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favors. (Luke 2:1-14)

Have a blessed Christmas!

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Don’t Ignore the Signs

By , December 21, 2013 5:38 am

December 22nd, 4th Sunday of Advent

Poor King Ahaz. The Lord’s prophet tried to guide him in the right direction but Ahaz was not in a mood to pay any attention. Isaiah urged him to ask for a sign but Ahaz, faking humility, claimed that he would not tempt Yahweh.

Then you heard the strong voice of Isaiah ringing through the centuries and coming into our lives in 2013.

“The Lord Himself will give you a sign!!”

Isaiah was, of course, referring to Mary’s virgin birth who would bear a son and call him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

King Ahaz was a jerk but I am often conscious of the fact that I also miss the signs that sometimes appear in my life. Maybe you occasionally experience the same thing.
Have you ever felt down and discourage and then out of the blue had your spirits lifted by a relative stranger conveying to you an extraordinary act of kindness? Have you failed to make an appointment or a connection and while feeling embarrassed, discovered that it turned out to be a tremendous blessing and was such a good thing that you did not make that appointment?

You can multiply these little events by the thousands and you can also ignore them as being unimportant in themselves. However, when we believe that God loves each of us individually, that God is infinitely powerful, that we are immersed in that love, is it all that hard to believe that this gentle shove, this unexpected message from a stranger, this delightful change in schedule is actually God being with us and pulling us towards himself?

The greatest sign, of course, we now prepare to celebrate – the arrival into the human story of Jesus of Nazareth. Let’s don’t miss that sign.

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Oppressive Child Labor Declines

By , December 20, 2013 5:13 am

When we think of Christmas morning, we naturally think of the joyful experiences that most of the children in our country enjoy. They are so excited. They are so happy. Santa has been there and they see exciting gifts all around them.
I hate to throw cold water on our pleasant thoughts this special week, but for at least a few moments let’s think about the fact that the International Labor Organization, located in Geneva, has documentation showing that there are 168 million child laborers worldwide. This includes more than 80 million who are trapped in the worst forms of child labor – forced into slavery, trafficked into the sex industry, exploited in the drug trade, or working in dangerous mines and as farm laborers. The ILO estimates that more than 20,000 children are killed at work worldwide every year.

Because it is Christmas, I want to put this in a much more positive perspective. Because of international concern, there are almost 78 million fewer children in 2012 than there were in 2000. Concerned forces in Asia and the Pacific region have worked hard to bring about this decline in child labor among 5 to 17 year olds. Finally, the number of children in hazardous work has declined by more than half.

Thanks be to God. Let’s pray that before too many more Christmases have passed that this scourge on the human family will have been eliminated.

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Joy to the World

By , December 19, 2013 5:59 am

Most Roman Catholics are thrilled when they hear parish choirs explode at the Christmas Midnight Mass with the hymn “Joy To The World.” Yes, the message is one of great and wonderful joy. We are weak and frail human beings but the infinite God who created us, sustains us and has redeemed us, loves us with an infinite love despite those weaknesses and frailty.

Given what I have just said, I find Pope Francis’ new “exhortation” to everyone in the Church to be yet another cause for joy. When we talk about the proclamation of the Gospel, what we are doing is simply telling those with whom we are sharing life and ultimately the whole world about the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem and what that birth means to the rest of us.

Pope Francis begins this important document with his expression of joy, a joy which must be shared with our brothers and sisters. His opening sentence is:

“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born new.”
Then the pope goes on to challenge us to live joyful lives and to bring the joy of Christ to this battered planet.

How can we put all of these ideas about joy together with the pain and suffering that is present in so many of our lives? I think it is important to realize that joy and pain are not mutually exclusive. Pain is here and now. We have joy in our hearts and minds when we grasp the awesome reality that God is in charge, that all of our problems are passing problems and in a short period of time we will begin a life of infinite happiness.
Joy to the world indeed!

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The Reality of Christmas

By , December 18, 2013 5:56 am


As we prepare to once again celebrate the magnificent feast of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, our minds and hearts instinctively go out to those who are closest to us. But because faith in Jesus generates generosity, most people reach far beyond the confines of their own personal interests and endeavor to bring aid, help, encouragement and, most of all, hope to those who are vulnerable and lacking in necessities.

Since we should not limit ourselves simply to material gifts, I think we should look deeply into the great mystery of the Nativity and see far more than we usually do. This central event in human history is God coming to us, giving us Himself, joining us and lifting us through Jesus to God the Father.
In my opinion, Christmas should make us more conscious of wanting to share our faith. We have the faith. It gives us hope and joy. Now those are really wonderful gifts to be shared. Shouldn’t we try to do that?

I think that I am naturally optimistic but I try to live in the real world and occasionally I see things about the Church that really saddens me. I have been saddened by the tragic decline in missionary interest in our beloved Church over the last 30 or 40 years. I am very hopeful that the leadership of Pope Francis is going to change that. He infuses joy in every direction and I think that this joy will transfer in the rest of our lives to wanting to rekindle the missionary fire that needs to burn within us.

Those words, “Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth and beyond…I will be with you always,” should be a challenge ringing in our ears.

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Kick Them While They Are Down

By , December 17, 2013 5:00 am

Christmas is coming! All of our stores and homes are now filled with the joyous hymns that Christians across the whole world sing every year as they celebrate the great feast of the Incarnation – that God has come among us, that he has joined us in order to draw us to his Father.

“Joy To The World”

“Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, How Still We See Thee Lie”

This Christmas will not be too joyful if Congress chooses to reject continuing unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. That will be our leaders’ Christmas gift to those most suffering in our society. If Congress does not act affirmatively, most of those citizens, who are in desperate financial straits, will lose unemployment benefits at the end of December.

Remember the old joke, (a bad one), “If your neighbor is unemployed, that is Recession, but if you are out of work yourself, that is Depression!”

Now we have a new distinction in unemployment. There are those among us who are unemployed at the moment and move in and out of jobs, and there are those among us who are LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED. They are the ones who, month after month, have not been able to find meaningful work. Those who are pushing to cut payments on these vulnerable people assert that if they (the unemployed) are cut off, they will go and find work, ignoring the problem that in these special areas of unemployment there are three times as many job seekers as job vacancies.

Well as good ole Marie Antoinette so thoughtfully stated, “Let them eat cake.”

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Off the Cuff Gets A National Review

By , December 16, 2013 5:53 am

Everyone likes encouragement and U.S. Catholic, a popular magazine, recently ran a review of my book, Off the Cuff & Over the Collar. I appreciated it so much I am just going to run it as the blog for the day. Several insensitive friends have accused me of writing it. Not true – not true.

Read: Off the Cuff & Over the Collar

By Alfred J. Garrotto Article Reviews
Written by Bishop John McCarthy (Greenhills Publishing, 2013)

Bishop John McCarthy pastored the Diocese of Austin, Texas from 1986 to 2001. After serving as executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference, he was installed in 1979 as auxiliary bishop of Houston. In Off the Cuff & Over the Collar, McCarthy covers a wide range of theological, devotional, and moral topics that are the “stuff” of everyday Catholic life.

Most heartening is the spirit of personal wisdom and compassion the bishop brings to his understanding of how our church needs to think and behave in modern society. Closest to his heart are those disengaged Catholics “who are perplexed and embarrassed . . . who frankly don’t care about their old church.” McCarthy’s commonsense Catholicism harmonizes with the Franciscan spring now blossoming in Rome.

Examples are found in his convictions about such controversial issues as contraception and remarriage after divorce. About contraception: “My own view . . . is that the couple would not be guilty of any immorality.” Regarding remarriage after divorce, he favors the Greek Orthodox model, also referred to favorably by Pope Francis himself. The bishop sees the possibility of this change as an opportunity for our Latin church to demonstrate our belief in a God of second chances.

With an unapologetic voice, he calls for reexamination of these and other church disciplines, including the celibacy of priests. In doing so, he invites both committed and disengaged Catholics to take heart and reaffirm our faith, as together we chart a new course toward self-reformation.

In Off the Cuff & Over the Collar, McCarthy’s approach to all things Catholic offers support for our pope’s new image of Catholicism. Commonsense Catholics in the United States hope that McCarthy’s example will empower more prelates to emerge among the American hierarchy and unite in support of a more pastoral, compassionate church.

This article appeared in the December 2013 [1] issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 12, page 43).

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