August 27, 2013

Jesus said to me; 'How many times would you have abandoned Me, my son, if I had not crucified you. Beneath the cross, one learns love, and I do not give this to everyone, but only to those souls who are dearest to Me."

- Padre Pio

Thought of the Day

Suffering is like a kiss that Jesus hanging from the cross bestows on persons whom He loves in a special way. Because of this love He wants to associate them in the work of the redemption.

~St. Bonaventure

August 24, 2013

Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

Often enough in families people can feel they are taken for granted. They do so much, and others don’t seem to notice, or even care, much less help.

The same sort of thing happens sometimes in parishes. When volunteers are needed, people think, “so-and-so will do it.” Always the same persons are expected to respond.

Then comes a time when so-and-so can’t do it any more—or won’t—and either of two things happens. The activity in question simply dies, or someone else responds to the need, only to become the new “so-and-so” that gets tapped for everything.

No one likes being taken for granted.  It’s clear from today’s Gospel that Jesus doesn’t either. To avoid taking him for granted, there are two very important things all Christians need to do.

First, really believe in Jesus. This is not simply admiration for his goodness, or a general acceptance of his teaching. That might seem to some to be “good enough” but it is not. Rather, it believing in Jesus calls for a deep, strong, personal relationship with him, a solid reliance on him, what our Evangelical brethren refer to as “claiming the Lord Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”

Second, really follow Jesus. This is not some vague membership, like a fan club, in which paying of dues, for example, might be good enough. Today’s reading from Hebrews speaks five times about discipline. The author exhorts his readers not to get discouraged, not to give up. These times of testing will bring “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” We might say, paraphrasing slightly the first reading, that this constitutes a kind of cleansing, enabling us to “bring our offering to the house of the Lord in clean vessels.”

We cannot, may not, must not take Jesus for granted.

A friend of mine recently met a former acquaintance, and addressed her by name. The name was right, but the other woman didn’t remember her at all. The encounter was  confusing and mildly embarrassing, but ultimately of no importance. It just goes to show that we can’t simply take for granted that people remember us.

The Gospel scene, on the other hand, is of vital importance. None of us wants to come before the Lord only to hear him say, “Who are you that I should remember you?”

August 23, 2013

Why I Chose Adoption

Sometimes choosing adoption is about being a good mother. Watch how one mother's choice changed her child's life for the better.

H/T Catholic Fire

August 22, 2013

How much do you know about the Catholic Church? Take this quiz!

Can you tell your aspergillum from your alb? Your cassock from your chasuble? Take this quiz on all things Roman Catholic to test your knowledge of one of the world's oldest, largest, and most powerful institutions. Go here for quiz.

Is It OK to Sleep in the Same Bed Before Marriage?

When women require excellence in relationships, men should step up to a challenge. Sleeping in the same bed before marriage is a disordered way to express your love for each other in a relationship that is not permanent. Marriage is the free, faithful, total and fruitful exchange of vows between a man and a woman. The more wholesome the dating and courtship period, the greater the chances of a happy and successful marriage. If a man is not ready to commit to a woman, he should not have access to her sexual emotions.

When a couple sleeps in the same bed, it points towards the marital act. To wait for marriage is to avoid this occasion of sin. Those who are married will have all their lives to fall asleep looking at their partner.

Cohabitation seems a good way to ‘test drive’ our marriage before making the full commitment. Since marriage is just a piece of paper, then surely it’s no big deal?

John Paul II said that freedom without responsibility is the opposite of love. The greater the sense of responsibility, the more a person is willing to give of themselves. Many studies show the damaging consequences of cohabitation. (footnote). The more often and longer a man and woman cohabit, the more likely they will divorce later. More than half of these unions dissolve within 5 years, according to a study by the Vanier Institute of the family. Cohabitants are more likely to be unfaithful and suffer from depression than married people. Children born to cohabitants are far more likely to experience disruptions in family life with possible mental and psychological upheavals.

Those that think that marriage is just a legal contract will be far more willing when difficulties arise to bail out and remember the conditionality of the contract. Cohabitation sets a bad precedent. In reality, it dissolves the traditional boundaries surrounding marriage.

Living together erodes the important time of discernment and preparation before marriage, helping couples decide if it is healthy and good for them to live together for the rest of their lives. A marriage cannot be test driven because it can only be entered in good faith and hope. There is no dress rehearsal, because a true marriage in the eyes of God cannot be undone. Engagement is the time to set solid foundation to help the strength of marriage, building up trust, co-operation, fidelity and companionship. Cohabitation undermines this trust because both partners are aware that it is perfectly possible for them to bail out at any point. This does not help in building up the virtues. It is an exercise of convenience rather than purity and true love.

JD Unwin, an anthropologist of the 1930s discovered that sexual license is always “the immediate cause of cultural decline.” He found that “In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on premarital and extramarital continence.” In every verifiable case, he found once a group became sexually permissive, “the energy of the society...decreased and finally disappeared.” Essentially- what is at stake over the culture wars over marriage and family is the healthy continuation of our society. He found that societies would collapse if they became too sexually permissive, because fewer and fewer citizens were concerned with the building up of the next generation and the righteousness of society.

Canonization Date for John Paul II and John XXIII to be Revealed in September

Pope Francis will host a meeting of cardinals on September 30 to formally approve the canonization of Blesseds John Paul II and John XXIII; the date for the canonization will be announced at that time, said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

August 17, 2013

Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

In today’s Gospel Jesus says he came to bring not peace but division, and he gives a short catalogue of family conflicts. If this makes you uncomfortable, you are in good company. No one likes this passage.

After all, at every Mass we hear: “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.” In that context, today’s Gospel doesn’t make sense, some may even find it offensive. Where’s the reconciliation we so often read about in the New Testament?

Matthew’s version of this saying is even stronger:  “Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.”

This is not about dysfunctional families, but about family crisis—caused by choice. It seems the stuff of advice columns. But it’s not just any choice.

Jeremiah had enemies because he was saying what God told him to say, “Those who remain in this city shall die by means of the sword, starvation, and disease; but those who go out to the Chaldeans [i.e., surrender and go into exile] shall live. Their lives shall be spared them as spoils of war that they may live. Thus says the Lord: This city shall certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon; he shall capture it.”

Jeremiah was accused of demoralizing the soldiers. That is not surprising. It is the normal reaction of leadership when any group protests against a war.

Jesus goes well beyond that. Here again Matthew is stronger: “You will be hated by all because of my name... One’s enemies will be those of his household.”

The choice is about Jesus. The name is that of Christian. Does this mean you aren’t a good Christian unless someone hates you, unless you have conflict? Clearly not.

This text reflects situations in which some acknowledged Jesus as Messiah and Savior and others did not. Historically, in both Jewish and Gentile families, faith in Jesus commonly led to conflict and persecution.

In the twenty-first century, the main source of conflict for Christians comes in the area of morality. Along with many Christian Churches, the Catholic Church takes unpopular stands on major moral issues. Her adversaries accuse her of meddling in politics, interfering in peoples private lives, oppressing various groups, etc.

It seems at times that anything negative said about the Church will be simply accepted without question. This creates a dizzying array of charges. The Church is both “inconsistent” and “legalistic;” “contaminated by worldly values” and “too removed from the world;” she has too much “sackcloth and ashes” and too much “pomp and ritualism.” No accusation is off-limits. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in 1908: “Any stick [is] good enough to beat Christianity with.”

Well, as the saying goes, “It ain’t easy. When Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” he added: “Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

It is in that spirit that we can live out the exhortation of today’s reading from Hebrews, to “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”

August 11, 2013

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

I have found a new way to go crazy in four easy steps:

1. In the New Testament look up every reference to the word “Faith”   (depending on the translation, about 245, not counting the word “believe”).

2. Do the same for “Hope” (about 60).

3. Find the passages in which “Faith” and “Hope” appear in the same verse (7).

4. Try to figure out the real difference between faith and hope.

Today’s second reading begins, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for,” which seems to indicate that hope comes before faith.

In the first reading, faith is described in terms of knowledge based on oaths, then courage and waiting. But isn’t that hope?

It gets worse.  The first verse in the second goes on to say that faith is “Evidence” —“of things not seen!” Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Over 450 years ago, a famous theologian wrote: “The question occurs to us; What difference is there between faith and hope? We find it difficult to see any difference.”

That didn’t stop him, of course, from trying to figure it out. That’s what theologians do. He came up with the following explanation, the best I have found.

Faith teaches, describes, directs. Hope exhorts us to be strong and courageous.

Faith concentrates on the truth. Hope looks to the goodness of God.

(Parenthesis: In the light of today’s Gospel and the phrase of the Creed, “he shall come to judge the living and the dead,” this distinction becomes clear. We believe that the judgment involves punishment for some, but we certainly don’t hope for punishment for ourselves!)

Faith is a judge. It judges errors. Hope is a soldier. It fights against tribulations and waits for better things to come in the midst of evil.

Faith is the beginning of Christian life before tribulation. Hope comes later and is born of tribulation.

Well, yes and no. It’s clear and logical, but can’t be applied in any absolute way to every single New Testament passage about Faith and Hope. The theologian, by the way, was Martin Luther.

The parenthesis was from St. Augustine, who lived over 1100 years before Luther. Augustine includes love in the equation. He writes, “There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither love nor hope without faith.”

The purpose of this inquiry—and of today’s gospel—is to remind us to live faith, live hope, live love.

So, what’s the difference? Here’s a clue to the final answer, in the form of another question. Which came first—the chicken or the egg?

Which comes first: faith, hope, or love? Just live them all, and you’ll never need to ask.

August 5, 2013

Assumption Novena

From August 7 to August 15, Priests for Life invites believers to pray the Novena in honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Lord Jesus Christ,

You have conquered the power of death
And opened for humanity
The hope of eternal life in body and soul.

You granted your Mother
A share in heavenly glory,
And did not allow decay to touch her body.

As we prepare for the Feast of the Assumption,
Grant us new confidence in the victory of life over death,
And renewed reverence for the human body.

As we honor Mary, Assumed into Heaven,
May we proclaim the hope of Your Gospel:
That you want every human life seated on your throne.

May that hope strengthen us to protect every life here on earth.
You live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

August 4, 2013

Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

I think Ecclesiastes had a favorite song. It was the ancient Hebrew equivalent of “I’m forever blowing bubbles.” The refrain was: “Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity!”

Is life worth living? Of course it is. Then what makes it worth living? All we are really told in today’s readings is what doesn’t make life worth living. It is clearly not the accumulation of things. Greed is mentioned twice in today’s readings as the opposite of what we should seek in life.

Jesus suggests that there are other ways, good ways of being rich, “Rich in what matters to God.” We can intuit what that might mean. St. Paul, with another one of his lists, helps us to understand, again in a negative way, what Jesus does not mean. But earlier in the same text he writes, “Seek what is above.” And later he says we have “put on a new self.”

In the Old Testament, “rich” is often a synonym for “wicked, selfish, cruel.” It is clear there is nothing wrong with having possessions. True, some saints adopted a severe life style of extreme poverty; this was their response (the only one possible for them) to the universal call to holiness.

The Scriptures often reflect a society of haves and have-nots. We read, for example, in Isaiah 58:5-8: “Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: that a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn....”

There is no one way to respond to the challenge of today’s readings. But there has to be a way. There is surely a way for each of us, though it may not be the way we might prefer.

Suppose we lived in a society where no one was ever in need. The challenge would still be there, wouldn’t it? To become rich in what matters to God, instead of blowing pretty bubbles.