January 17, 2018

Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 21, 2018, Year B

Sermon on the Mount

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

All three readings today contain a proclamation.

Jonah: “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” St. Paul: “The time is running out.” Jesus: “The kingdom of God is at hand.”

The kingdom of God is a major recurring theme in the New Testament, making its appearance well over fifty times. Its equivalent, “the kingdom of heaven,” occurs over thirty times. There are several other variants as well, such as: “Of his kingdom there shall be no end,” near the beginning of Luke’s Gospel and, near the end of the same Gospel: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

A very famous instance, of course, is in the Our Father, where Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” We might ask ourselves two questions. 1) What does this petition in the Lord’s Prayer mean in general? 2) What does it mean to me, to each of us? (There is presumably some overlap in the two responses.)

St. Jerome, who died in the year 420, wrote of this part of the Our Father that, “Either it is a general prayer for the kingdom of the whole world that the reign of the Devil may cease; or for the kingdom in each of us that God may reign there, and that sin may not reign in our mortal body.”

St. Augustine, a contemporary of St. Jerome, wrote a letter to a woman named Proba, in which he stated: “As for our saying: ‘Your kingdom come,’ it will surely come whether we will it or not. But we are stirring up our desires for the kingdom so that it can come to us and we can deserve to reign there.”

In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, St. Augustine expanded further. “Just as the Lord Himself teaches in the Gospel that the day of judgment will take place at the very time when the gospel shall have been preached among all nations, ... here also the expression ‘Your kingdom come’ is not used in such a way as if God were not now reigning. ‘Come,’ therefore, is to be understood in the sense of manifested. For in the same way also as a light which is present is absent to the blind, and to those who shut their eyes; so the kingdom of God, though it never departs from the earth, is yet absent to those who are ignorant of it.”

At the conclusion of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, it might not be inappropriate to quote the Reformer, John Calvin, who in the 1500s wrote: “The substance of this prayer is, that God would enlighten the world by the light of his Word, —would form the hearts of men, by the influences of his Spirit, to obey his justice, and would restore to order, by the gracious exercise of his power, all the disorder that exists in the world.”

So much for the scholars. What about us?

The response is not so different, really, but another, more personal element enters in. To pray “Thy kingdom come” could easily represent a passive stance, simply calling on God for the kingdom to come to me/us, or happen around me/us, while sitting back and waiting for God to do something.

But in fact this prayer comes back to us as an echo. It is a call for commitment, involvement, a change in our way of life. This is summed up in the other parts of Jesus’ opening proclamation.

“Repent!” he says. It’s not just for Lent any more.

“Believe in the gospel (= good news).” Really and truly believe, not just intellectually (“Yeah, that makes sense”), not just emotionally (“Jesus’ teaching is so beautiful”), but in our life, practically. I think this is what St. Paul means when he tells us to live as though things were not as they are, because the world as we know it is passing away, and we will inherit the Kingdom.

“Thy kingdom come,” applies also and especially to relationships: even with enemies, rejects, the poor, etc. No one is excluded.

If that’s the kingdom we really want, then let’s pray for it—and work for it— with all our heart.

Saint Prisca, Virgin and Martyr

Feast Day – January 18th 

According to popular piety, Saint Prisca, also known as Priscilla, was a child martyr of the early Roman Church. Born to Christian parents of a noble family, Prisca was raised during the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius. While Claudius did not persecute Christians as fervently as other Roman emperors, Christians still did not practice their faith openly. Prisca's parents went to great lengths to conceal their faith, and thus, were not suspected of being Christians.

Prisca, however, did not feel the need to take precaution. The young girl openly professed her dedication to Christ, and eventually, she was reported to the emperor. Claudius had her arrested, and commanded her to make a sacrifice to Apollo, the pagan god of the sun.

Tradition tells how, Prisca refused, and was tortured for disobeying. Suddenly, a bright, yellow light shone about her, and she appeared luminous like a little star.

Claudius ordered that Prisca be taken away to prison, in the hopes that she would abandon Christ. When all efforts to change her mind were unsuccessful, she was taken to an amphitheatre, and as many martyrs before her, thrown in with a lion.

As the crowd watched, Prisca stood fearless. According to legend, the lion walked toward the barefoot girl, and then proceeded to gently lick her feet. Disgusted by his thwarted efforts to dissuade Prisca, Emperor Claudius ordered her beheaded.

Several 7th-century accounts of the grave sites of Roman martyrs reference the discovery of an epitaph of a Roman Christian named Priscilla in a large catacomb and locates her place of interment on the Via Salaria as the Catacomb of Priscilla. Another legend relates the martyrdom of a Prisca who was beheaded at the tenth milestone on the Via Ostiensis. Pope Eutychianus is said to have translated the earthly remains of St. Prisca to the Church of Saint Prisca on the Aventine, Rome.

Source: Adapted excerpt from Ordinary People Extraordinary Lives.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity January 18-25, 2018

The theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is "Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious in Power." (Exodus 15:6). The octave of prayer for the promotion of Christian unity takes its impetus from Exodus 15:1-21, the words of Moses:

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea; his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea. The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power— your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries; you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble. At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’ You blew with your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. 

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendour, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them.

In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode. The peoples heard, they trembled; pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; trembling seized the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away. Terror and dread fell upon them; by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone until your people, O Lord, passed by, until the people whom you acquired passed by. You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession, the place, O Lord, that you made your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established. The Lord will reign for ever and ever”.

When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea”.

Prayer for Christian Unity

Eternal Father, God of all goodness, we praise you for sending your Son to be one of us, and for reconciling us and the whole world to yourself in Christ. Look upon your people with mercy, for we are divided in so many ways, and give us the Spirit of Jesus to make us one in love. Heal our hearts and help us to spread your peace. We ask for this gift, loving Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

January 16, 2018

St. Anthony of Egypt, "the Father of Monasticism"

Saint Anthony of Egypt

Memorial - January 17th 

It is interesting that someone who once hoped to be a martyr would instead live to be 105 years old — thus it was with Saint Anthony (or Antony) of Egypt. Born in the year 251, he would not only live through the last of the persecutions of Christians by the Roman Empire, but he would then go on to fight the heresy of Arianism and eventually become known as “the father of monasticism.”

Anthony was born in Coma, Egypt, to affluent parents who died when he was only 20 years old.  Left with a substantial material inheritance, it would be the spiritual foundation that his family had impressed upon him which would have the greatest influence on his life. Not long after their death, Anthony heard a Gospel reading at church that he felt was spoken directly to him: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven.”  (Mt 19:21)

Much like St. Francis of Assisi, Anthony took this Scripture passage quite literally. After providing for a younger sister, he gave up all his material belongings and began to live a life of self-denial and asceticism. Unlike Francis, however, Anthony went on to live the majority of his life in solitude, devoting himself to prayer and contemplation of the bible.

Anthony began his spiritual journey not too far from his home, in an empty tomb where he remained apart from the world for 15 years. During this time, St. Athanasius, whose Life of St. Anthony is the source for much of what we know of the saint, tells us that he did battle with demons, which often came to him in the guise of wild beasts. Not only did they torment him spiritually, but physically as well, occasionally leaving him nearly dead.

At about the age of 35, Anthony felt God calling him to even greater solitude, and so he moved into the desert, occupying an abandoned fortress there for the next 20 years.  During that time, which was filled with intense prayer, further battles with demons, and the overwhelming presence of God, it is said that he never saw the face of another human being.  When Anthony finally emerged from solitude, it was not as an emaciated, damaged man, but rather as one who was robust, healthy, and on fire with the love of Christ.

Despite his desire for solitude, Anthony’s reputation for holiness and joy had attracted others to him, and he soon found himself providing them with spiritual guidance and even physical healing. Many of them wanted to follow the same kind of vocation as Anthony, and so the solitary saint organized a “monastery” of sorts, composed of individual cells scattered around his retreat, where monks could live their lives in prayer and contemplation. For about six years, this “desert father” ministered to them, and it was for this reason that he became known as the father of the “eremitical” life — that is, the life of a hermit.

Although the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire ended in 313 with the Edict of Milan, the Church would go on to endure an even greater threat — the Arian heresy. At the age of 88, Anthony became a vigorous opponent of this teaching, which maintained that, although Jesus is Lord and Savior, he is not equal to the Father, but instead is merely the highest creation of God.

Saint Anthony spent the last years of his life as a hermit but, unlike his earlier withdrawal from the world, he did meet periodically with the pilgrims who came to seek his advice. He died in solitude in the year 356, at the age of 105. O God, who brought the Abbot Saint Anthony to serve you by a wondrous way of life in the desert, grant, through his intercession, that, denying ourselves, we may always love you above all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

January 15, 2018

Saint Honoratus, Bishop and Hermit

Saint Honoratus

January 16th is historically the feast of Saint Honoratus, the 4th century French bishop and hermit. He was born in Gaul (present day France) about the year 350, into a distinguished Roman family. After a pilgrimage to Greece and to Rome, he became a hermit on the isle of Lerins, devoting himself to pious works, together with Sts. Lupus of Troyes, Eucherius of Lyons, and Hilary of Arles, among others.

Saint Honoratus was of a consular Roman family settled in Gaul. In his youth he renounced the worship of idols, and gained his elder brother, Venantius, to Christ. Convinced of the hollowness of the things of this world, they wished to renounce it with all its pleasures, but a fond pagan father put continual obstacles in their way. At length, taking St. Caprais, a holy hermit, for their director, they sailed from Marseilles to Greece, with the intention to live there unknown in the desert.

Venantius soon died happily at Methone, and Honoratus, being also sick, was obliged to return with his conductor. He first led a hermitical life in the mountains near Frejus. Two small islands lie in the sea near that coast; on the smaller, now known as St. Honoré, our Saint settled, and, being followed by others, he there founded the famous monastery of Lerins, about the year 400. Some of his followers he appointed to live in community; others, who seemed more perfect, in separate cells as anchorets. His rule was taken from that of St. Pachomius.

Nothing can be more amiable than the description St. Hilary has given of the excellent virtues of this company of saints, especially of the charity, concord, humility, compunction, and devotion which reigned among them under the conduct of our holy abbot. Once during Mass, as Honoratus prayed the words of consecration, he experienced a vision of the hand of Christ holding the Host.

Honoratus was, by compulsion, consecrated Archbishop of Arles in 426, and died, exhausted with austerities and apostolical labors, in 429. He is the patron saint of bakers and confectioners. A miracle, witnessed by many in Amiens, occurred in a church where the body of Honoratus was brought for veneration by the faithful. The day Honoratus’ remains were to return to the cathedral, those present beheld the corpus of a church crucifix bow toward the saint's body as it was carried out.

Adapted excerpt from Lives of the Saints, Father Alban Butler, 1894 edition.

Martin Luther King on the Unborn Child

2018 Saint Peregrine Novena Starts January 16th

St. Peregrine

Saint Peregrine is the patron saint of cancer patients. He was known for his holiness and for a miraculous healing he received. Peregrine was scheduled to have his leg amputated due to a cancerous growth. The night before the surgery, while praying for healing, he received a vision of Christ coming down from the cross to touch his leg. The following morning, he was completely healed. Cancer patients and those suffering from terminal diseases seek his intercession.

Dear holy servant of God, St. Peregrine, we pray today for healing.

Intercede for us! God healed you of cancer and others were healed by your prayers. Please pray for the physical healing of…

(Mention your intentions)

These intentions bring us to our knees seeking your intercession for healing.

We are humbled by our physical limitations and ailments. We are so weak and so powerless. We are completely dependent upon God. And so, we ask that you pray for us…

We know, St. Peregrine, that you are a powerful intercessor because your life was completely given to God. We know that in as much as you pray for our healing, you are praying even more for our salvation.

A life of holiness like yours is more important that a life free of suffering and disease. Pray for our healing, but pray even more that we might come as close to Our Lord as you are.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Click for information on this novena as well as daily email reminders.

January 14, 2018

Urgent Message: A Reflection for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

By Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America

(Jonah 3:1-10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1-14-20)

Over the centuries, well over a hundred dates have been predicted for the end of the world, by an interesting variety of persons: St. Martin of Tours, Pope Sylvester II, the artist Sandro Botticelli, Martin Luther, Christopher Columbus, and a host of other famous or unknown prognosticators. Not one of those prophecies has been fulfilled. The most recent date predicted was just four months ago!

Jonah enters into that category. He was a true prophet, sent by God, to proclaim to the Ninevites that their time was up. But in Chapter 4 of the Book of Jonah, the prophet blames God for sending him on a fool’s errand. He knew all along, he claims, that he would fail and God would relent of the punishment he had threatened.

St. Paul writes that time is running out. Mary at La Salette says: “If my people refuse to submit, I will be forced to let go the arm of my Son. It is so strong and so heavy, I can no longer hold it back.” Both seem to speak with a certain threatening urgency.

We can say that Mary at La Salette was hoping for the same sort of failure that Jonah suffered. She did not want her predictions of famine and the death of children to be fulfilled. She offered an alternative. It is never too late! Transformation is always possible.

Jesus begins his public ministry by proclaiming a time of fulfillment and calling people to repentance. There is nothing threatening about this. Still, Jesus is announcing the end of the world—as we know it! A time of transformation lies ahead. This is what St. Paul means when he writes that “the world in its present form is passing away.”

We have no way of knowing just why Simon, Andrew, James and John left everything to follow Jesus. One thing is certain: it was the end of their world as they had known it. Becoming disciples of Jesus dramatically changed them in every way imaginable.

For us, as for them, the encounter with Christ inevitably changes us, and not just once, but over and over. But sometimes we resist that change and need to be called or challenged yet again. That’s where the message of La Salette finds its place. It takes a Beautiful Lady, or someone who loves her, to make it known.

Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 21, 2018, Year B

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Nineveh was the oldest and most populous city of the ancient Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are located on the east bank of the Tigris River opposite the modern city of Mosul in Iraq. The Ninevites were a great empire known for their ruthlessness. They were the sworn enemies of the Jews. Each despised the other and yet Jonah, a Jew, was sent by God to them. The Ninevites were going to end the Israelite civilization in a few years but it was to them that God sent Jonah.

Jonah definitely did not want to go to them but God made sure that he did in spite of Jonah’s efforts to avoid the task to which God had called him. After the episode with the whale Jonah finally ended up on their shore. He went to them and they repented of their evil ways. They acted immediately on God’s word. Jonah was there only one day in what was to be a three day journey. That’s the key idea. On hearing God’s word proclaimed to them by Jonah they acted immediately and changed their ways.

In today’s second reading we hear St. Paul proclaiming a similar message. I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing ,those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.

Like Jonah we have a propensity to procrastinate, to put things off with the idea we will tend to them another day. We should, however, consider what that’s saying to God and what God feels about that.

The theme presents itself to us in today’s Gospel account. Peter and Andrew were grown men who were in the fishing business. They experienced God’s call and immediately dropped everything, left their business, and followed Jesus. Jesus, today’s gospel account reports, walked a little farther and met James and his brother John who with their father Zebedee were likewise fishermen. At Jesus’ call they immediately dropped their nets, left their father Zebedee, and followed Him.

I want now to give some attention to the young men and women who are here with us today. Could you, in a less dramatic way, be experiencing a similar call from God? Could you respond  as those first disciples did? A vocation is a call from God. In one way or another we all, each one of us here, have a vocation. But what about the Jonahs among us? It’s very likely that some young men or women are feeling God’s call inviting them to go out into our modern day world, a world much like Nineveh’s, with His message… a challenging call indeed. It’s sort of like being called to be one of God’s Marines.

I know there are those of you young men who may be hearing God’s call to serve Him as a priest.

Some of you young women may be experiencing similar thoughts about being a sister in a religious order or in some form of a dedicated life in the Church. There are young men and women who are hearing God’s invitation to serve Him in a special way. You may be still in school or you may already have a professional career. God’s call is not limited. Men and women already working in a profession or a business may very well be hearing God’s call to leave what they are doing and follow Jesus along a special path.

Often the media present young men and women as self-centered and pleasure seeking, awash in sensual excesses. But we all know of young men and women in the military who are serving our country in very self-sacrificing ways. We have all seen accounts of young men and women on their spring breaks travelling great distances to build homes and in many other ways help folks who have suffered from poverty and other misfortunes. There are seminaries and religious orders of women that are experiencing growth not only in numbers but in the quality of young people who are joining them.

All that being said, our Faith tells us that by our baptism we are all baptized into the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. In the Sacrament of Confirmation we have all been anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring Christ into our lives and into the world that, like Nineveh, surrounds us. Our Church teaches that we are all baptized into the Priesthood of the Faithful and that by being members of what St. Paul calls “the Mystical Body of Christ” we bring His Priesthood into the world around us. We can all be heartened by the fact that many young men and women have come to realize that grace and are responding to God’s call to them.

Those are not just pretty words. Those are challenging words, just as challenging as those directed to Jonah. Bring a priest is not easy. Bringing Christ’s message to those around us is not easy. We prefer set that task aside.

God isn’t giving us another program; He isn’t giving us a “how-to manual” or some agency to which we can refer people. No. God is calling us to bring His presence to individuals, something that we can only do individually… personally.

It is my belief that society has no problems that cannot ultimately be traced back to the individuals who make it up. I believe that because that’s the way Jesus saw it. That is the way, and the truth, and the life He challenges us to live in so that we can change the world around us.

When I start seeing the problems that exist in others then I begin to see myself. I keep running into myself when I run into the sins, faults, and failures I see in others. We live in profound connectedness and in radical complicity with each other. The theological analysis of this reality begins with the doctrine of original sin, that statement of reality that puts us radically at the root cause and source of our world’s miseries.

Jesus cries out to us and tells us that a better world is within our reach; it’s within our grasp. “The reign of God is at hand,” He tells us. A better world begins when we begin to change our own personal life. “Reform your lives,” He tells us, “and believe in the Good News.”

Taking life by the yard is hard, but life taken by the inch is a cinch. Take life as it comes to us one day at a time. Expect perfect happiness in the next life only after being reasonably happy in this life. That is the only way to deal with reality.

And so, if we want to change the world, are we willing first of all to change our own selves? How can I have the energy to change the huge systems surround us unless I at least have the energy to change myself?

The call of Jesus to twelve individuals, the call we just heard about in today Gospel account, is not a call issued only to twelve Jewish men over 2,000 years ago. It is an insistent call, and urgent call, a demanding call that comes down to us through 2,000 years in this Church of ours to you, to you here and now, to you today, who have been called by God to receive the Bread of Life from this altar and then to leave this church building on a mission. We are to leave here as those who are sent, sent with the twelve apostles to change the world by first changing our own lives.

For the simple truth is that when you do in fact change your life, you will have begun to change the whole world. What are you seeking? What is God whispering to you deep down within you? To what and to who to you want to give your life?

March for Life Plenary Indulgence

Catholics who participate in the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2018 may be able to receive a plenary indulgence. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington and Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington said in a joint letter: "In virtue of the authority granted by our Holy Father, Pope Francis... a plenary indulgence can be obtained under the usual conditions...by the Christian faithful who are truly penitential and compelled by charity, if they take part in the sacred celebrations, along with the great assembly of people, throughout the whole course of the annual event that is called 'March for Life'." (See the conditions for a plenary indulgence below.)

The prelates encouraged their brother bishops with the hope "that you will share this information with those entrusted to your pastoral care." The letter notes: "the aged, sick and all those who due to grave reason are not able to leave home" are also able to receive the plenary indulgence so long as they "spiritually join themselves to the holy ceremonies, while also having offered prayers and their sufferings or the ailments of their own life to the merciful God."

Conditions for Receiving a Plenary Indulgence

◗ Participate in the solemn celebrations of the March for Life.
◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Pope's intentions.
◗ Worthily receive Holy Communion [ideally on the same day].
◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of New Year's Day.
◗ Have complete detachment from even venial sin.

Prayer for the Gift of Life

Father, maker of all. You adorn all creation with splendor and beauty, and fashion human lives in your image and likeness. Awaken in every heart reverence for the work of your hands, and renew among your people a readiness to nurture and sustain your precious gift of life. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 14, 2018, Year B

The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Here we are at the beginning of a new year with high hopes that this year will be better than 2011. We have our hopes even though we know that there is much in our world that is wrong. Without going into a long, dismal list of the many things that are wrong let me point out just a few of them. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening, not closing. Political corruption and the politics of gridlock darken our perceptions of those we have elected to office. Terrorism and abortion along with Mexican drug cartel murders cause us to realize that human life is cheap and is too often regarded as disposable. We face much that is sinful, evil, and criminal in our world. All of these things we know quite well are exceptions to the way things ought to be; they are out of the general order of what should present in our relations with others.

How do we know that? What gives us this perspective and recognition of what is good, what is just, what is fair, and what ought to be? Today’s Gospel gives us the point of reference. It takes us back to the very beginning of the Christian movement, the movement of God into our humanity in Jesus Christ. The story is so familiar, so simple, that we easily lose sight of its overwhelming importance. The jingle bells of Christmas divert our attention to the magnificent truth that God has entered into our humanity and thereby blessed it with His holy presence in all that it means to be human. In Jesus Christ God brings His Light to what it means to be human and how we should live with each other.

John the Baptist initiates this coming of God to us by introducing two of his own disciples to Jesus, Andrew being the key player. John points Jesus out to them by exclaiming: “Look, there is the Lamb of God!” It’s sort of like being at a social function when a very significant person enters the room and a friend says to you: “Well, look who’s here!”

A conversation then develops between Andrew and Jesus, a conversation sprinkled with seeking words like, “What do you want?” “Where do you live?” “Come and see,” and “Come with me,” all of them filled with the relational words of friendship. Let me emphasize here that these are the inviting words of friendship, not the commanding words of submission and obedience. These are words that invite us to live closely with Jesus and with Him come to know how we should live with others.

My point is that our religion in its most distilled form is a friendship between ourselves and God in Jesus Christ. It is the one operative principle throughout Christ’s entire life. Even at the end of His life during the Last Supper, Jesus gets down on His knees, washes feet, stands up and looking each one in the eye says: “I no longer call you slaves … I call you friends.”

Jesus had no army. He neither needed one nor wanted one. He had the only one power with which to conquer the human spirit, the power of a loving friendship. That is the only thing that can invade and conquer the human heart. Brute force always fails; love always wins.

Our Catholic Faith is one of the largest and most influential in the world and it’s membership is presently over one billion souls. It has built thousands of churches, hospitals, children’s homes, nursing homes, schools, and even universities. It has rites, rituals, ceremonies, and the holy Sacraments of Jesus Christ. It has theologies, philosophies, systems of ethics, moral codes and even a Code of Canon Law abound. It is vast; it is intricate; and it is complex. But it is built on one thing and one thing alone, namely a personal, warm, intimate, and loving friendship with Jesus Christ. From that flows all of Christianity’s hope, power, and vision of the truth about who we are.

Jesus was tempted to be a military leader, a dazzling magician, a revolutionary who would construct a new social order, and a universal healer and provider for us in all of our hurts, wants, and needs. But He resisted all of those temptations and asked for only one thing from us – friendship! He loved us, and still does, even when we don’t deserve it. He forgives us even when we can’t forgive ourselves. He gives us far more than we ask for or even expect. He gives us a loveliness that is not pretty but is powerful. He asks us to be more than nice; He asks of us everything. And in the midst of war, famine, despair, and powerlessness He gives us His friendship bringing with it the one gift our humanity needs more than anything else, namely hope.

Whenever we feel lost in a religious life that seems too complicated, or whenever we feel lost in a world that seems to be unmanageable and out of control, and whenever we’re tempted to give up on ourselves, remember that our faith in its purest form is the personal friendship we can have with Jesus. That is how it began with Andrew and his brother Peter. And that is the solid rock upon which our relationship with Jesus is grounded.

For no matter what happens in our world, or in our spiritual lives, or in our relationships with others, we can always find our way once again with those seeking and questing words we heard in today’s Gospel message to you and to me. “What do you want?” “Come and see!”

Listening to God’s voice is of the essence of religion, it is the nourishment of our spiritual lives. When we come to celebrate the Mass the first thing the Church does is to offer us God’s word. Then having received His word for our hearts and minds we receive His Word made flesh for our human nature in Holy Communion.

There are those who defend themselves from intimacy; there are those who are afraid to love. Because of their fear of losing their own independent autonomy they either flee from religion or turn it into something ridiculous. Some seek to turn religion into a series of laws, rules and regulations that must be followed. That approach, however, requires only mindless obedience and thus misses the whole point about our relationship with Jesus.

The truth is that God has a word for you, personally. He has something He wants to say to you. The story of Samuel we heard in the first reading today is a story that we should make our own. The story in today’s Gospel account is a story we should likewise make our own. For God is calling you and inviting you to come and stay with Him, to come and be close to Him.

I don’t know how you pray your morning prayers but I would suggest that a good way to start your day is to repeat Samuel’s words each morning. When you begin the day with your first morning thoughts about God say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And then at the close of each day when you interpret the events of the day and try to make some sense out of them, repeat Samuel’s words: “Speak, Lord, for you servant is listening.” Each time you pray, after having told God about all that’s happening in your life and about all that you need from Him, say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

God has a word for you. He has something to say to you in words of friendship and love. For the sake of your own soul, let Him!

January 12, 2018

St. Hilary of Poitiers, "Hammer of the Arians"

Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Optional Memorial - January 13th 

It seems odd to us today that anyone claiming to be a Christian would deny the divinity of Christ. In the 4th century, however, Arianism, a particularly pernicious heresy which proclaimed precisely that, threatened the very existence of the Church. While emperors and even some bishops sanctioned this teaching, many saints defended Jesus’ divinity; among that number was Saint Hilary of France.

Hilary was born into a pagan family around the year 315, but converted to the Christian religion after discovering God through his study of the Scriptures. So great was his reputation for holiness and his defense of Christ’s divinity that he was appointed Bishop of Poitiers, France, in 353, to great acclaim. At about the same time, Constantius II, an adherent to Arianism, became emperor in Rome.

This new ruler, at the behest of pro-Arian prelate, promptly exiled Hilary to far-off Phrygia in the hopes that sheer distance would silence him. It did not. Instead, Hilary began writing prolifically and convincingly against the Arian heresy. He was eventually allowed to return to France, where he established monasticism along with Saint Martin of Tours. Thus, Hilary is called the "Athanasius of the West".

Saint Hilary died at Poitiers in 367. His personal example and prolific writings on behalf of the true religion influenced numerous souls, including his student, Saint Martin of Tours. A favorite motto of St. Hilary's was Ministros veritatis decet vera proferre, "Servants of the truth ought speak the truth." Long venerated as a saint within Catholicism, in 1851, Pope Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the Church. He is symbolized by three books and a pen and named the "Hammer of the Arians".

Grant, we pray, almighty ever-living God, that we may rightly understand and truthfully profess the divinity of your Son, which the Bishop Saint Hilary taught with such constancy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Saint Hilary of Poitiers, courageous defender of Christ and the faith, help us to be holy.

January 11, 2018

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, Canada’s First Female Saint

Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

On January 12th the Catholic Church in Canada celebrates the memorial of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, a 17th century French missionary who came to the New World in order to serve the poor. She founded the Congregation of Notre-Dame in Montreal dedicated to teaching, evangelization and works of charity, a hospital and schools. Beloved by Quebecois, she was called "the Mother of the Colony".

She was born on Good Friday 1620, in Troyes, France, the sixth of twelve children to Abraham Bourgeoys and Guillemette Gamier, and baptized the same day. Her middle-class family was deeply religious. Her father died when she was young. At 19, Marguerite’s mother died. The following year, on October 7, 1640, during a procession in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, while looking at a statue of Mary, Marguerite had a divine vision that would change her life. She later recounted:

"We passed again in front of the portal of Notre-Dame, where there was a stone image [of our Lady] above the door, When I looked up and saw it I thought it was very beautiful, and at the same time I found myself so touched and so changed that I no longer knew myself, and on my return to the house everybody noticed the change." It was during this mystical encounter that Marguerite would receive Mary's call to abandon her life so to dedicate herself totally to the service of God.

In response, Marguerite entered a non-cloistered branch of the Congregation of Notre-Dame at Troyes, consisting of women working as teachers in conjunction with the order. For the next 12 years, she led this group, teaching children in the poor section of town. She sought admission to various religious orders including the Carmelites without success. In 1653, she volunteered for a missionary trip to the New World. After three-months at sea, she arrived in Montreal, Quebec.

Life in her port of call, the nascent city of Montreal, was difficult. Marguerite worked as a nurse in Montreal’s hospital, and in 1658, established her first school. She would travel back and fourth between Montreal and France a total of seven times, bring with her supplies and young women to help teach and minister to Montreal's growing population. Due to their affiliation with the French Congregation of Notre-Dame, these women were called the "Daughters of the Congregation." Finally, thanks to Marguerite's unceasing effort's, in 1698, they were granted papal recognition as an Order in their own right: the Congregation of Notre-Dame de Montreal. Living in poverty, the sisters forwent comfort and security to catechize and care for the poor and the marginalized of "New France."

During the last years of her life, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, submitted to prayerful solitude. Her last act was to offer herself as a sacrifice of prayer for the return to health of a young sister. The young woman miraculously recovered. Sister Marguerite suffered for twelve days, dying on January 12, 1700. Pope Pius XII beatified her on November 12, 1950. Saint John Paul II canonizing her on October 31, 1982. Lord, who enkindled in the heart of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys the flame of ardent charity and a great desire to cooperate in the mission of the Church as a teacher, grant us that same active love, so that, in responding to the needs of the world today, we may lead others to the blessedness of eternal life.

January 10, 2018

2018 Novena of Reparation for Roe vs. Wade and an End to Abortion

In preparation for the upcoming March for Life, we will begin praying the novena of reparation for the Roe vs. Wade decision and an end to the evil of abortion. While legislation and public witness are essential to defeat the abortion culture, our most powerful weapon remains prayer. From the Priests for Life website:

"The Catholic bishops of the United States have designated January 22nd as a special day of prayer and penance in atonement for the massive killing that has resulted from the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision [handed down January 22, 1973] which allows abortion through all 40 weeks of a woman's pregnancy."

"We at Priests for Life invite you to prepare spiritually for that day by joining a Novena that starts on January 14 and concludes on the 22nd. We invite you to say the following prayer each of those days, and to let us know [see end of post] that you have committed to say it."

Prayer of Reparation

God and Father of Life,
You have created every human person,
And have opened the way for each to have eternal life. 

We live in the shadow of death.
Tens of millions of your children have been killed
because of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. 

Father, have mercy on us.
Heal our land
And accept our offering of prayer and penance.
In your love for us,
Turn back the scourge of abortion.

May each of us exult in hearts full of hope
And hands full of mercy
And work together to build a culture of life. 

March for Life 2018

Will you march to end abortion, the greatest human rights abuse of our time? The 45th annual March for Life is Friday, January 19, 2018, in Washington D.C. The gathering is the largest pro-life rally in the world. Please consider attending or supporting this event in person to help protect those who cannot speak for themselves. Even if you are not able to attend your voice is still important!

Here are a few things that you can do:

Show your support on social media.

Support the March for Life and the pro-life cause on Friday using #whywemarch.

We want our friends, family, and the world to know why we are marching.

All of your #whywemarch and #marchforlife posts will be compiled at WhyWeMarch.org.

Here is the schedule for the 2018 March for Life and a partial list of speakers.


11:30 a.m. Musical Opening featuring Plumb!

12:00 p.m. Rally Program.

1:00 p.m. March up Constitution Avenue to Supreme Court and Capitol Building.

3:00 p.m. After finishing marching:

Silent No More testimonies outside U.S. Supreme Court.

Advocate for life to your Representative or Senators.

Visit the March for Life Expo.


NFL/MLB star Tim Tebow’s mother Pam Tebow

Former NFL player Matt Birk and his wife Adrianna

U.S. Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL)

U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ)

Sisters of Life’s Sr. Bethany Madonna

More speakers and guests to be announced soon.