June 28, 2017

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, "Pillars of the Church"

Saints Peter and Paul

June 29th

Saints Peter and Paul are often seen as complementary figures and are regarded as "pillars" of the Church (Gal 2:9). Peter represents the institutional Church, while Paul represents the charismatic or spiritual Church. Both are associated with the Church in Rome. But what binds them together, above all else, was their utter dedication to the message of Christ. They were martyred in Rome under persecution ordered by the Emperor Nero in 64 and 67 respectively due to their fearless proclamation of the Gospel. Today we recall especially their holy deaths.
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The New Testament often portrays Peter as rash and headstrong. One minute, he is a paragon of faith; the next, he has completely misunderstood what Jesus wants. He frequently does not seem to get what is going on, and he even denies Jesus when Jesus is about to be executed. And yet, despite his shortcomings and weaknesses, he has a heart for the Lord. He is the Prince of the Apostles, and as the first bishop of Rome, holds a special place in the hearts of Catholic Christians.

Scripture introduces Paul as a violent persecutor of the first Christians. In fact, he oversees the execution of the man whom the Acts of the Apostles depicts as the first martyr, St. Stephen (Acts 7:58-8:1). He considers himself a late addition to the Jesus movement, referring to himself as “one untimely born” (1 Cor 15:8). However, following his encounter with Christ near Damascus, he became one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church. Like Peter, Paul has a heart for the Lord, and when his spiritual energy is directed to the glory of Jesus Christ, he is a powerful witness to the kingdom of God. His letters make up the bulk of the New Testament and continue to guide the Church into the present. [Source]
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Prayer for the Intercession of Sts. Peter and Paul

Grant, we pray, O Lord our God, that we may be sustained by the intercession of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, that, as through them you gave your Church the foundations of her heavenly office, so through them you may help her to eternal salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Twenty Quotations on God from Saint Irenaeus

Saint Irenaeus

St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, a Doctor of the Church and 2nd century martyr, was a disciple of St. Polycarp. The spread of Gnosticism in Gaul prompted him to successfully combat its errors. As the first great Western ecclesiastical writer, he defended and explained the unity of Scripture and Jesus' humanity and divinity.

The glory of God is a man fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.
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Through a tree we were made debtors to God; so through a tree we have our debt canceled.
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He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man ... might become the son of God.
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Because of his boundless love, Jesus became what we are that he might make us to be what he is.
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The business of the Christian is nothing else but to be ever preparing for death.
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As long as any one has the means of doing good to his neighbours, and does not do so, he shall be reckoned a stranger to the love of the Lord.
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Since it is impossible, without God, to come to knowledge of God, he teaches men through his Word to know God.
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The initial step for us all to come to knowledge of God is contemplation of nature.
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For where the church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God, there is the church and all grace.
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The church has been planted as a paradise in this world.
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The preaching of the Church truly continues without change and is everywhere the same. It has the testimony of the Prophets and Apostles and all their disciples.
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Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself. 
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A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
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But we do now receive a certain portion of His Spirit, tending towards perfection, and preparing us for incorruption, being little by little accustomed to receive and bear God.
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But following the only true and steadfast Teacher, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.
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We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.
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When we stand in the light it is not we who illumine the light and cause it to shine but we are illuminated and made shining by the light... God grants his blessings on those who serve him because they are serving him and on those who follow him because they are following him, but he receives no blessing from them because he is perfect and without need.
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He [Jesus] fought and conquered. On the one hand, he was man who struggled for his fathers and through his obedience cancelled their disobedience. On the other hand, he bound the strong one and freed the weak and bestowed salvation on his handiwork by abolishing sin. For he is our compassionate and merciful Lord who loves mankind...
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Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, in that case, to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?
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He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age... [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age

St. Irenaeus, help us to foster unity and grow in our desire to do God's will.

June 27, 2017

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti 2017 | Day 2

Saint Maria Goretti

June 28th

Today we pray that St. Maria Goretti will intercede for us to grow in our love of the Lord, our neighbor, and even our enemies. Maria's neighbor attacked her when she was only 11 years old. It was he who tried to rape her, and who ended up killing her. Yet, because she loved the Lord so greatly, Maria forgave him.

St. Maria Goretti Novena Prayers - Day 2

St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of love, your love for God was so clear in how you cared for your family during such hardships and in how much you loved your enemies even while you were dying. At a tender age, you understood what it meant to love the Lord and to love your neighbor as yourself. Pray for me, that I may be able to do the same. Pray that I will be able to serve my family joyfully, and others who need my help. Most of all, pray that Jesus will enter my heart.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here). Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

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Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Bishop and Martyr

Saint Irenaeus

June 28th, the Church observes the memorial of Saint Irenaeus, the 2nd century Father of the Church whose brilliant theology refuted heresy, affirmed the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and helped to establish the Scriptural canon. Born in Asia Minor around the year 130, he studied with the great saint, Polycarp of Smyrna, who was himself formed in the faith by the Apostle John. Thus, Irenaeus was steeped in both Scripture and the apostolic tradition, a background that prepared him thoroughly for the ministry he would eventually undertake.

Irenaeus became a priest and later, bishop of the Church of Lyons, province of Gaul (present-day France) in 177, during the persecutions of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. His greatest struggle, however, would not be against Rome, but against the heresy known as Gnosticism, which denied Christ’s humanity and promoted instead "secret knowledge" as key to salvation. His five-volume work, Against Heresies, effectively ended the Gnostic movement and won him praise as the Church’s first systematic theologian who laid out the Church’s doctrinal tradition.

Numerous times, Irenaeus exposed himself to martyrdom by his zeal and tireless devotion, but God was reserving that crown for him twenty-five years later. When Saint Pothinus had glorified God by his splendid martyr’s death in the year 177, Irenaeus was chosen to be the second bishop of Lyons. The Church’s persecutors believed Christianity had been stifled in Lyons, and ceased their efforts there.

As prelate, Irenaeus took advantage of this lowering of hostilities to evangelize the population. By his preaching, he would convert almost the entire country to the Faith. The Christians of Lyons became models by their deep devotion, their estrangement from all ambition, their poverty, chastity and temperance, and in this way confounded many adversaries of their religion. The people of Lyons revered Irenaeus for his holiness, fidelity, courage and excellent administration.

Ever the peacemaker, towards the end of his life, Irenaeus convinced Pope Victor I to lift the ban of excommunication on the Quartodecimans, a Christian group who celebrated Easter on a different day than did the rest of the Church. Saint Irenaeus suffered martyrdom in Lyons amid renewed persecution around the year 202. O God, who called the Bishop Saint Irenaeus to confirm true doctrine and the peace of the Church, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, being renewed in our faith, we may always be intent on fostering unity and concord.

Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Christ carrying His Cross
Christ being led to His Crucifixion, Monastery Decani, Deçan, Kosovo.

"Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

Our Lord shows us the way to eternal salvation. He tells his apostles "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39) 

It sounds contradictory, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” but these are the conditions of discipleship. A man called to the priesthood offers himself completely to God’s Church, just as a husband in marriage gives himself completely, holding nothing back from his wife. A consecrated woman gives herself in total devotion as a bride of Christ, just as a wife gives herself unreservedly in matrimony to her husband. All of these examples are renunciations of the self to love in imitation of Christ.

Venerable Fulton Sheen writes in Life of Christ, "Christ was our ‘stand-in’ on the stage of life. He took our guilt as if He were guilty and thus paid the debt that sin deserved, namely, death. This made possible our resurrection to 'new life' in Him. Christ, therefore, is not just a teacher or a pleasant revolutionist, but our Savior." As his followers, we must be prepared to give all, just as the Savior did for us. This may require us to suffer the white martyrdom of public derision, scorn and ridicule or, perhaps we will be called upon to give our very lives as red martyrs, like our persecuted brothers and sisters in faith in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Jesus understood that many would not accept the message He proclaimed. To follow Jesus, we must be willing to put the Gospel before everything else, including our very lives. Those who refuse to "take up the cross" in obedience to Him are "not worthy" of being his disciples. Jesus Incarnate makes possible and prefigures our ultimate Summum bonum, that is. seeing God face to face and loving Him forever in heaven. We, like the Master, must be prepared to suffer for the Kingdom in proclaiming the Good News. Indeed, Christ said to his disciples (and us), “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)

Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan writes, “Today, too, there are still those who are suffering a lingering martyrdom, worse than quick death on the scaffold, because they obey God rather than man. We can help them to persevere, by our prayers. We ourselves, who are free from any overt persecution, must show our gratitude to God for being allowed to practice our religion openly and without fear, by doing just this. We must live according to the convictions of our Christian faith. We are here in this world for a few short years, our real and lasting home is in heaven. We must keep this thought uppermost in our mind in all our doings and dealings.

As well as carrying out our own personal duties, we must remember the spiritual needs of our fellowmen. They, too, need to go to heaven and anything less will be eternal disaster for them. We may not be able to preach, or teach them the truth of the Christian faith, but we can and must help all those who are doing so.” Most loving God, who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of light, grant, we pray, that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the light of truth, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

June 26, 2017

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti 2017 | Day 1

Saint Maria Goretti

June 27th

Saint Maria Goretti is the Church's youngest canonized saint. She was born near Ancona, Italy into a poor peasant family. Known for her cheerfulness and piety, Maria attended Mass often and loved God completely. At the age of 11, she was assaulted by her neighbor's son. Marie chose to die rather than lose her virginity.

Enraged by her refusal, Maria's attacker stabbed her nine times. Before she died, she forgave her assailant. Her mother was present at Saint Peter's in 1950, the first time a parent witnessed their child's canonization. Over one half million souls attended St. Maria's canonization Mass, the largest attendance up to that time.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Today, we pray for purity. The Catechism states that purity of heart enables one to see according to God and to accept others as our brothers & sisters in Christ.

St. Maria Goretti Novena Prayers - Day 1

St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of purity, you defended your virginity unto death. Even at a young age, you held dear to your heart what is dear to our Lord's: your purity. Pray that we may do the same, especially when faced with temptation. Through your intercession, may God grant us the strength to avoid sin and live a life meritorious of eternal Beatitude with you and Christ our Lord.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here). Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

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St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor

Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Optional Memorial - June 27th

It should be a great comfort to realize that even saints have to work diligently to achieve holiness. One of the great gifts they leave behind for us is their example of heroic virtue through which they became the person God meant them to be. Just as we often learn more from our mistakes than from our successes; we can profit as much by what a saint overcame as we can from what they achieved.

Such was the case with Saint Cyril of Alexandria. We know very little about his early life. We are even unsure of whether he was born in 376 or 378, but we do know that by 403, at what was called the Council of the Oak, he was already having an impact on the life of the early Church. His initial actions do not appear to be particularly saint-like. The Council of the Oak was convened to depose Saint John Chrysostom, whose sermons had offended the Roman empress. Though he was brought back into favor for a short period of time, St. John Chrysostom was eventually forcibly exiled to a remote corner of the empire, where he died in 407.

St. Cyril’s own mercurial temperament, though it helped make him a powerful figure (he was named archbishop of Alexandria in 412), also made him a controversial one.  He was known to be impulsive and sometimes even violent. When Jews in Alexandria were accused of attacking Christians, he expelled them from the city and confiscated their property. At one point, he was even blamed for the murder of Hypatia, a female Neo-Platonic philosopher, but there is no evidence that he was responsible for the mob' actions that led to her death.

What St. Cyril is most remembered for is his defense of the Virgin Mary’s title "Mother of God", which was, in turn, based on his belief in both Christ’s full humanity and His full divinity. His major theological opponent on this issue was Nestorius, who himself became archbishop of Constantinople in 428. Nestorius objected to calling Mary the "Mother of God" saying that she was only the "Mother of Christ". It was Nestorius’ belief that Jesus’ humanity was merely "a temple of God. a mere disguise", and that the divine Christ and the human Jesus were two separate persons. Nestorianism, as his teaching came to be known, flew in the face of the Church’s teaching that Christ is "consubstantial with the Father". (A belief that the Church proclaims at every celebration of the Mass).

The issue came to a head at the Council of Ephesus in 431, where it was affirmed that Mary could indeed be honored as the “Mother of God,” which is rendered in Greek as Theotokos. It was at this council that Cyril, presiding as the pope’s representative, condemned Nestorianism as heresy and had Constantinople’s archbishop deposed. Unfortunately, his impulsive mishandling of some aspects of the council actually produced a Nestorian sect, which arose in reaction to what was perceived to be an injustice to Nestorius.

It would be some time before Cyril would begin to soften, not his theological position, but his temper and his impulsiveness. Ironically, as he did so, some of his allies felt that he had gone too far and thought that he was compromising, not his attitude, but his orthodoxy. Until his death in 444, St. Cyril continued to write treatises clarifying the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.  He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1882. O God, who made the Bishop Saint Cyril of Alexandria an invincible champion of the divine motherhood of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who believe she is truly the Mother of God, may be redemned through the Incarnation of Christ our Lord.

June 25, 2017

Pope Francis’ Silence: Will He Answer the Dubia?

Pope Francis

LifeSite reports on an opinion piece by a former Vatican official discussing Pope Francis’ refusal to answer the dubia issued by four of his cardinals concerning the doctrinal implications and proper interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, the post-synod apostolic exhortation on the family. The confusion that emerged in the wake of Amoris’ release has resulted in myriad conclusions and widespread uncertainty.

The LifeSite article begins: "Why doesn’t the Pope respond to the Dubia? The former director of the Vatican Bank thinks he knows why. Ettore Gotti Tedeschi suggests that Francis is sending two messages through his silence: that he can contradict himself if he likes and that he wishes to impose a 'New Catholic Morality' on the Church. This new morality would be based not on doctrine but on the subjective opinions of the individual conscience... Ultimately, Francis’ silence — which allows doubts to continue to flourish — is a denial of objective truth."

Mr.Tedeschi observes, "In the past, the Church’s concern was to keep the faithful 'strong in the Truth' in order to conserve the faith. She therefore discouraged a disposition to interpret doctrine and the magisterium in a subjective and dangerously misleading manner." He continues, "Indeed, back then the task of pastors was to confirm the certainties of faith by teaching not just by 'listening.'"

We wrote about this issue last April: "How should the faithful respond to Amoris Laetitia? Cardinal Burke (one of the authors of said dubia) makes clear that it should be received with all the respect due the Supreme Pontiff. However, such respect should not be equated with an obligation to believe every utterance or written statement that the pope makes" Pray that Francis clarifies Amoris soon.

Prayer for the Holy Father Pope Francis

Almighty God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Pope Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, Priest

Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer

Optional Memorial - June 26th

Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer was born in Barbastro, Spain, on January 9, 1902, the second of six children. His parents, José Escrivá and María Albás, gave their children a devout Christian education. In 1915, when Jose Escriva's business failed, the family moved to Logrono. There, as a teenager, Josemaria initially sensed his religious vocation. Moved by the sight of footprints left in the snow by a barefoot friar, he believed that God was calling him. He entered the seminary and studied philosophy and theology, first in Logrono and later in Saragossa.

He was ordained to the priesthood in Zaragoza, Spain on March 28, 1925. Then, on October 2, 1928, during a spiritual retreat, Fr. Josemaria saw what it was that God was asking of him: to found Opus Dei, a way of sanctification in daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian's ordinary duties. From that day forward, he carried out this task, while ministering especially among the poor and the sick.

When Civil War broke out in Madrid, religious persecution forced Fr. Josemaria to exercise his priestly ministry clandestinely and to move from place to place seeking refuge. Eventually, after a harrowing escape across the Pyrenees, he took up residence in Burgos. When the war concluded in 1939, he returned to Madrid and obtained his doctorate in law. In the years that followed he gave numerous retreats, and continued working assiduously to develop Opus Dei.

Traveling frequently from Rome to various European countries, and to Mexico on one occasion, he extolled the need for heroic virtue in everyday life and worked to spark the growth of Opus Dei in those places. In 1974 and 1975, he made two long trips to a number of countries in Latin America, where he met with large groups of people and spoke to them about their Christian vocation to holiness.

On June 26, 1975, St. Josemaria Escriva died suddenly in Rome, after a final affectionate glance at a picture of our Lady on the wall. Pope Saint John Paul II canonized St Josemaria in Rome on October 6, 2002. His feast day is celebrated on June 26. In his discourse to those who attended the canonization, the Holy Father said that, "St. Josemaria was chosen by the Lord to proclaim the universal call to holiness and to indicate that everyday life, its customary activities, are a path towards holiness. It could be said that he was the saint of the ordinary."

Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 2, 2017, Year A

Jesus Christ carrying his cross

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


When I was a little boy and went to my catechism lessons the nuns, our teachers, used the famous Baltimore Catechism for their teaching guide. Many times they required us to memorize parts of the Baltimore Catechism and today I want to begin with its first section in which the question was asked: “Why did God make you?” The answer we memorized was: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.”

Later on we had to memorize the Ten Commandments, and the first one was: “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before me.

In the Old Testament’s Book of Exodus we find God speaking to Moses about the covenant between God and His people. God tells the Hebrews: “You shall not worship any other god, for the LORD is the Jealous One; a jealous God is he.” (Exodus 34:14)

In the New Testament’s Book of Acts we learn of St. Paul and his companions traveling to Europe for the first time, to an area now in northern Greece, near the city of Philippi, to be exact. In Acts 16:13-15 we hear that: “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer. We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there. One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,’ and she prevailed on us.’

Why am I putting all of these things together in this homily? Because they are all firsts, and many times the first things are the most important things. We have here the first lesson in the Baltimore Catechism, the First Commandment, the beginning of the Covenant between God and His people represented by Moses, and the first European to be baptized, Lydia, the businesswoman living in Philippi.

The readings in today’s Mass are about what’s first in our lives, or what should be first, namely our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is the most important relationship we can have in our lives. Our relationship with God is the most important thing we can lose in our lives. God offers Himself to us, we respond. If we don’t respond, we’re telling God that His offer has no value for us and that His offer doesn’t mean anything to us. Whether or not our immortal souls live in eternal life in heaven depends on our relationship with God here on earth.

Our lives are filled with “busy-ness”; there are so many things we need to do and so many things we consider to be important. But what about God? Where is He in our lives? What sort of attention do we give to God? We need to ask that question from time to time and today’s readings challenge us to do just that not only today, or on Sundays, but each and every day of our lives.

There are two big points to draw from today’s readings; the first being the question of how important God is to us in our lives. The second has to do with God’s messengers.

God uses messengers, intermediaries, to relate to us. How important are they to us?

We live in a sort of “do it yourself” world. We like to take care of things all by ourselves. But we really can’t live that way, can we? We all need to depend on others in one way or another.

That’s true when it comes to the way God reaches us. The woman in the first reading and the businesswoman named Lydia paid a lot of attention to God’s messengers. As a result, God reached her and changed her life. Are we open to God’s messengers in our lives? God cares for you, He loves you, and He wants your attention and love. We all need to make more room for Him in our lives, our hearts, and our thoughts. If we don’t, our souls are in peril.

Summertime is upon us, a time when our busy-ness is not so demanding. It’s a time of recreation and a time during which we can be reflective. What about reading some good books, especially books and things to read that turn our thoughts toward God. What about some quiet time spent in reflection about God’s presence in our lives?

Pick up some spiritual reading now so you can have it over your summertime. Spend some thoughtful, quiet, and reflective time during which you can pay attention to God and what He has to say to you. Spend some time asking yourself what’s important in your life and how important God is to you in your life. After all, He made you to know Him, love Him and serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.

What, after all, is your life really all about?

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for July 2017

Pope Francis' coat of arms Please remember the Holy Father Pope Francis' intentions in prayer throughout the month of July:

Lapsed Christians

That our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord and the beauty of the Christian life.

Urgent Intention - To be Announced

Each month, following the first Sunday Angelus, the Holy Father will announce an additional prayer intention related to current events or urgent needs.

2017 Novena to St. Maria Goretti Begins June 27th

Saint Maria Goretti

Saint Maria Goretti is the Church's youngest canonized saint. She was born near Ancona, Italy into a poor peasant family. Known for her cheerfulness and piety, Maria attended Mass often and loved God completely. At the age of 11, she was assaulted by her neighbor's son. Marie chose to die rather than lose her virginity.

Enraged by her refusal, Maria's attacker stabbed her nine times. Before she died, she forgave her assailant. Her mother was present at Saint Peter's in 1950, the first time a parent witnessed their child's canonization. Over one half million souls attended St. Maria's canonization Mass, the largest attendance up to that time.

St. Maria Goretti Novena Prayers - Day 1

St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of purity, you defended your virginity unto death. Even at a young age, you held dear to your heart what is dear to our Lord's: your purity. Pray that we may do the same, especially when faced with temptation. Through your intercession, may God grant us the strength to avoid sin and live a life meritorious of eternal Beatitude with you and Christ our Lord.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here). Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

Click to pray this novena and receive daily email reminders sent to your inbox.

Homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 25, 2017, Year A

Hell

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


Sparrows are the most common and the most plentiful of all birds. This being so, they are not valued very highly at all. If as a species they were becoming extinct you can safely bet, however, that committees and campaigns would spring up to save them. But what about human life?

There are over seven billion human beings alive on this earth today. In this century, more than in any other century in human history, human life is less and less valued. Paradoxically the baby-boomer generation, namely all those born after the end of WWII, is committed to individual rights, to individual expression and personal choice, to the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the sexual revolution as no other generation in human history. But what about commitment to the right to life?

Perversely and paradoxically, the people of this century are given to abortion and euthanasia as never before. Human life is disposable on a scale never before known to mankind. Nightly news broadcasts tell us of the loss of life in Africa, the Middle East, and the reported killings of people here in America. Life in our century is cheap, and while we ever more forcefully advocate individual rights we witness individual human lives being discarded and disposed of on a scale that boggles the mind.

You may remember that in the early days of coal mining here in our country the miners brought canaries in cages along with them into the mines. If the canaries began to die the miners knew the odorless and tasteless lethal gases would soon kill them too. It was an accurate prediction of what was to come.

In much the same way, the way human beings are treated in our world today is symptomatic of the forces that threaten our social fabric. Homelessness and the abuse of children reveal our lack of value for human life along with the rise of abortion and mercy killings in the past few decades.

In the midst of all this we hear our Church proclaim today’s gospel message throughout the world: “Are not two sparrows sold for next to nothing? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted; so do not be afraid of anything. You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows.“

Recently we commemorated the death of Robert F. Kennedy, a champion of underprivileged and ignored human beings. In one of his most famous speeches he said:

“Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of repression and injustice.”

All of us here sometimes feel small and insignificant in our huge and indifferent world. As a priest I buried many people in the same cemetery that is the site of my father’s grave and my mother’s, too, along side of his. My father’s name and my name are exactly the same, so when I see his name on the gravestone I see mine. It gives me pause to meditate!

When I die, I will be buried in the priests’ circle in that cemetery. My name will be cut into a granite stone and placed over my buried mortal remains. A few people will have gathered around it for a few minutes, but when the committal service is finished they will get into their cars and drive off. My name will then melt into the hundreds of other names buried there and shortly be forgotten. So, too, will memories of my presence in this world as a priest. It won’t take long at all, believe me.

Like sparrows, we feel helpless and insignificant in the strong winds of life and in this world’s ever quickening passage of time. And, like sparrows, we appear to be so common as to have little or no value at all. We feel that we will make little difference in our world.

What, then, of our concern as Roman Catholics for the sanctity of human life, particularly each and every human life? Many people in this world intensely dislike us for our Pro-Life stance, particularly when it comes to abortion and euthanasia. We are told to keep quiet and to stop “imposing our religious beliefs and moral values upon others.” We’re lectured about the mythic Wall of Separation of Church and State and told that we’re being un-American with our convictions about the sanctity of human life, both in its beginnings and in its endings.

Jesus tells us here and now the same thing He told His apostles: “Do not let men intimidate you. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, and nothing hidden that will not become known. What I tell you in darkness, speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops…” “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven.“

Jesus wants to us understand that with God there is no such thing as a nameless, faceless individual human life. Every person lives in God’s family and in His house. God knows in detail each and every aspect of our lives. And He cares, profoundly cares, about what happens to each of us. Even though at times we may feel small, worthless and of no significance whatsoever, that is not how God our Father feels about us. We are not sparrows. We are His sons and daughters, ones that God loves so much that He allowed His Son to die for us.

Which is why we have crucifixes in our churches. For the crucifix tells us how much God cares for each and every one of us, and likewise shows us the length, the breadth, the height and depth He has gone to demonstrate His love for us. It is in that crucifix that you and I can recognize our true worth and the value that we have in the eyes of God.

“Are not two sparrows sold for next to nothing? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted; so do not be afraid of anything. You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows.”

June 24, 2017

Reflection for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

The devil

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is from Matthew's Gospel, chapter 10. Our Lord instructs the twelve apostles, "Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." (Matthew 10:26-28)

The one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna is Satan the devil, king of demons, and of hell. He is the father of lies and a cruel deceiver of men. When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we ask that God, "... lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." The Catechism of the Catholic Church (§2851) states: “In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who 'throws himself across' God's plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.”

Likewise, in John’s Gospel, Jesus addresses the unfaithful with words of warning and unequivocal censure, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Indeed, Satan is the “father of lies”. He told the first lie to Eve, in the Garden of Eden as recorded in Genesis. Having sown seeds of doubt in Eve’s mind with his question, he then contradicts God’s Word, telling her, “You will not certainly die”. With this, Satan successfully tempts Eve and her husband Adam to reject God and commit the original sin. Prior to the Fall, the created world and everything in it functioned precisely as God intended. After the Fall, paradise was lost. Satan’s lie condemned humanity to lives of sin, drudgery and inexorable physical death.

The devil is an active force, a living, spiritual being. We must remain vigilant in hope for, "sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it." (Genesis 4:7) We can overcome the devil’s incessant attacks through God’s grace and heroic virtue. Ultimately, it is our decision to sin or to love that determines where we spend eternity. God respects our free will, even if we chose vice over virtue. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

June 23, 2017

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The Birth of St. John the Baptist

June 24, 2017

Ordinarily the Church observes the day of a saint's death as his feast because that day marks his entrance into heaven. To this rule there are two notable exceptions, the birthdays of the Blessed Virgin and of Saint John the Baptist.

The Gospel of Luke relays how Saint John the Baptist’s birth was foretold by the angel Gabriel to his father Zechariah as he offered incense in the Temple. Even before his birth John would be filled with the Holy Spirit. In the womb of his mother Elizabeth John recognized the presence of Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by leaping for joy. His mission was to prepare the way for the Messiah and to urge the disobedient back to the path of righteous. John’s witness would bring innumerable souls to Christ.

On the day of Christ's baptism, John immediately recognized Jesus as the long awaited Anointed One heralded by the prophets, and spoke the words Catholic’s hear at every Mass during the Consecration, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) As Jesus rose from the water, the Spirit of God descended like a dove, alighting upon the head of Our Lord, as a voice from heaven declared, “This is my Son, with whom I am pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that your family may walk in the way of salvation and, attentive to what Saint John the Precursor urged, may come safely to the One he foretold, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.