Category Archives: Sacraments

Confession: 6 effects


-by Br Joseph Martin Hagan, OP

“The Catechism lists six spiritual effects of the sacrament of penance (CCC 1496). For a more fruitful reception of this sacrament, let’s briefly examine each one.

Effect #1: Reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace

This first effect reveals the real horror of sin. By mortal sin, we separate ourselves from God and refuse His grace. By Confession, we are reunited with God. God dwells in us through grace, and by that grace, our souls magnify the Lord. And should we have sinned only in small, venial ways, the sacrament of Penance wipes those away too.

Effect #2: Reconciliation with the Church

Sin also separates us from the Church. This separation is often experienced on a very basic level. Sin pulls us away from our families. It isolates us from our friends. It sours our relationships at work. By Confession, God restores us to the Church. We return to our families and friends with more love to give.  (Ed. to the Catholic mind, sin, even private, personal sin, is never solely, strictly a private, personal matter.  Its effects redound to the eternal public, communal detriment of the public community, believer or not, even if only known objectively and secretly to the sinner, or penitent and his/her confessor, unless resolved in the sacrament solely through the redeeming sacrice of Jesus Christ crucified..  Sin dis-integrates.  His grace integrates.)

Effect #3: Remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins

By mortal sin, we condemn ourselves to hell. Thankfully, through Confession, God freely pardons this punishment. It would be wrong to imagine that God is stingy with such a pardon. As our loving, merciful Father, He delights in pardoning us. He even gives us the very grace to draw us to Confession. At the words of absolution (“I absolve you…”), all the angels and saints rejoice at this remission. They await our entrance to the heavenly banquet.

Effect #4: Remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin

By our sins, whether venial or mortal, we suffer in this present life. Every sin contains some disorder, and this disorder is the sin’s own punishment. If I overindulge my desire for cheese, I’ll soon feel quite uncomfortable. God usually allows us to drink these dregs of our own folly, especially when we are unrepentant. When we humble ourselves and confess, God remits this punishment, at least in part. Whether we choose the easy way or the hard way, God wants to teach us how to love.

Effect #5: Peace and serenity of conscience and spiritual consolation

Many think of devout Catholics as harboring guilt complexes. Such a caricature ignores the power of Confession. This sacrament truly brings peace, even if unfelt in the moment. Anecdotally, it is the repeated experience of the faithful that we leave Confession light-hearted, joyful, and renewed in God’s love.

Effect #6: An increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle

Whether we recognize it or not, the Christian life is a battle. We all fight our inner old man, certain of whose tendencies linger after our baptism. Everyday, we are tempted to forget the true God, to use our neighbors, and to seek our selfish pleasure. In this daily battle, even the saints stumble and fall, even if only in small ways. Confession forgives these failures, and it also strengthens us to overcome vices with virtue. Ultimately, Christ is the true victor. He is our strength. He is our salvation.”

Love & prayers,
Matthew

Eucharist

-from Catholic Answers: 20 Answers – The Eucharist

“Nearly all Christians celebrate some form of the Eucharist by consuming bread and wine in memory of Christ’s death and Resurrection. Protestants usually refer to the Eucharist as the Lord’s Supper and do not believe that Christ is physically present in the bread and wine at their services or at the Catholic Mass. The various Protestant views on this sacrament can be found along this continuum:

Rejection of the sacrament: Some denominations do not celebrate the Eucharist. For example, the Salvation Army is usually known for its charity work but it is actually a self-proclaimed Christian denomination. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “Catherine Booth, the influential wife of the founder [of the Salvation Army], admired the piety and practices of Quakers, who did not perform baptisms or Communion rites. In keeping with the Salvation Army’s theology of sanctification—the Holy Spirit active in the lives of holy people—she saw all of life as sacramental. Although he did not prohibit the sacraments, William Booth declared in 1883 that the rites would not be endorsed as official worship of the Army.”

A memorial dinner: This view is common among Baptists and other “born-again” Christians. According to one Baptist writer, “the Supper functions as proclamation, the presence of Christ in the indwelling Spirit not only assures forgiveness through the Word; he also convicts of unbiblical patterns of life and thought.” According to this view, the Eucharist is a sign that points us to Christ, but Christ is not present in the Eucharist. Instead, Christ is present in the “indwelling Spirit” of the believer who receives the Eucharist.

A real, nonphysical presence: The Reformed tradition observed by Presbyterians holds that Christ is actually present in the Eucharist, but not in a physical way. In 1647, the Westminster Confession of Faith, a popular confession made by those in the Reformed tradition, said that “Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually [emphasis added], receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death.” This can be considered a “conduit view,” since Christ’s body isn’t located in the bread and wine but is instead made manifest through them.

A sacramental union: In contrast to the Reformed position, Martin Luther held a stronger position on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He claimed that the bread and wine exist in the Eucharist in a natural state while the body and blood of Christ exist in those same objects in a supernatural state. According to Luther, “Why then should we not much more say in the Supper, ‘This is my body,’ even though bread and body are two distinct substances, and the word ‘this’ indicates the bread? Here, too, out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a ‘sacramental union,’ because Christ’s body and the bread are given to us as a sacrament.” In other words, the consecrated bread and wine fully contain Christ’s body and blood, but they do not become Christ’s body and blood.

A physical change: The Catholic view of the Eucharist is different than the Protestant views because Catholics believe that the bread and wine at Mass actually become the physical body and blood of Christ. After consecration, the bread and wine no longer remain, and in their place is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The Council of Trent taught that in the Eucharist there is a change “of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.”

Eastern Orthodox churches hold the same view of the Eucharist as Catholics, but they sometimes use different vocabulary when describing the physical change from bread and wine into body and blood. Because Eastern Orthodox priests retain valid holy orders despite not being in union with the pope, and because they also subscribe to a belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, a Catholic in an emergency situation (e.g., in danger of death) may receive the Eucharist at an Orthodox service (see Question 14).

The Salvation Army cannot be considered a Christian denomination because it does not teach that its members should be baptized. The New Testament makes it clear that baptism is what brings us into God’s family and takes away original sin (1 Pet. 3:21, John 3:5, Rom. 6, and so on). Even Protestant denominations that deny baptismal regeneration usually still baptize because Jesus commanded that this be done (Matt. 28:19).”

Love,
Matthew

Penance?


-The reproach of Nathan and the penance of King David (Paris Psalter, folio 136v, 10th century). (Please click on the image for greater detail.)

-from Catholic Answers “20 Answers: Salvation

“The value of Christ’s self-offering on the cross was infinite—more than enough to pay for all the sins of mankind. But it seems that, even after God has forgiven the eternal consequences of our sins and restored our relationship with Him, He wants us to experience some negative consequences.

It’s rather like the situation in a family. When a child misbehaves, there need to be consequences. If parents simply told the child that he’s forgiven and never applied any discipline then the child would never learn his lesson. That’s why children hear their parents say things like, “It’s okay. I forgive you. But you’re still grounded.”

The Bible uses the image of parental discipline to express how God relates to us as his children. The book of Hebrews tells us that “the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). It also tells us that he “disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Heb. 12:10).

So even when we’ve become children of God and been forgiven, God still disciplines us. He allows us to experience some consequences for our sins so that we may grow in holiness.

That’s why we do penance. It’s a way of embracing discipline, of learning to do it, to internalize it, and it builds strength and self-control for the future. If we learn how to say no to ourselves as part of penance, we’ll be better able to say no to temptations in the future.

The idea that Christians shouldn’t do penance because Christ died for their sins is not found in the Bible. In fact, Christ Himself expected us to do penance.

At one point, Jesus was asked why His disciples did not fast—fasting being a form of penance—and He said that they would in the future. He compared Himself to the bridegroom at a wedding and His disciples to the wedding guests. Jesus pointed out that it’s not appropriate to fast at a wedding celebration, but He went on to say, “The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day” (Mark 2:20).

He expected fasting, and thus penance, to be a regular part of Christian practice. That’s why, in the Sermon on the Mount, He told the disciples, “when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites” (Matt. 6:16).

Notice that He doesn’t say, “if you fast” but “when you fast.” He expects us to fast, and He gives instructions on how to do it.

In the book of Acts, we see the early Christians putting this into practice. St. Paul’s commission to missionary work occurred after he and other church leaders “were worshiping the Lord and fasting” (Acts 13:2), and later Paul appointed elders “in every church, with prayer and fasting” (Acts 14:23).

Fasting is also mentioned in early Christian writings outside the New Testament. For example, the Didache indicates that it was common for first-century Christians to fast twice a week. The Didache states, “And let not your fastings be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week [i.e., Monday and Thursday]; but keep your fast on the fourth and on the preparation day [i.e., Wednesday and Friday]” (Didache 8:1-2).

By voluntarily embracing fasting and other forms of penance, we embrace spiritual discipline that will, as the book of Hebrews says, help us grow in holiness. And that’s one of the reasons why, even though Christ died for us, we still do penance.

Penance also provides us with an opportunity to express sorrow for our sins. We have an innate need to mourn when something tragic has occurred, and that includes our own sins.

The fact that we have been forgiven does not remove this need to mourn any more than the fact that a man’s wife may be in heaven means that he doesn’t need to mourn her death.

Both sin and death are tragedies, and while forgiveness and salvation mean that they do not have the last word, we still need to grieve. To insist that a person not feel or show any grief for them would be unnatural, and would short-circuit natural responses that God built into us. There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccles. 3:4).”

Love, my favorite penance is PATIENCE!!!!  ARRRRGH!!!!!! & HOLDING MY TONGUE!!!!!  ARRRGH!!!! 🙁
Matthew

advice for a new Catholic

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-by Rachel Lu,

“It’s an especially happy Easter for the Lu family this year, since a near and dear relative of mine came into the Church at the Easter Vigil. Eleven years into my Catholic life, I am no longer the only Catholic in my natal family. God is good.

In light of that, I’ve been reflecting on the topic of conversion, and what I as his sponsor really ought to convey. Since everyone’s life is a bit different, it’s hard to know what will really help. Even so, generating advice for neophytes is a healthy exercise in self-evaluation. What have I learned in my time so far as a Catholic? I made a list of the most important things, and would encourage others to make theirs, if only to reflect on where we might improve.

The first and most important thing I would say is that the repeatable sacraments are the bread and butter of Catholic life. No matter what else happens you must keep going to Mass, and to Confession. If you’re in a rut and they don’t seem to be helping, carry on anyway. If you’re busy, make time for it. Every kind of moral and spiritual problem can be worked out over time with the help of God’s grace. But if you discontinue these practices, you are spiritually starving yourself.  (Ed. where is your faith?  Trust Him always!  He will provide.  Assume the position of anticipation, reception, patience and trust.  Trust.  He will gloriously provide in ways we could NOT imagine!  He ALWAYS does.  He always does.  His timing NOT ours!!!  His!!!  Trust not in your own devices or wisdom! (Ps 143:6)  Trust Him!!!  ALWAYS.  ALL WAYS.  Praise Him, Church!  Praise Him.)

Don’t worry too much if you initially feel like you’re “going through the motions” in your sacramental life. Seasoned Catholics sometimes feel this way too, but over time we come to understand that sacraments go on working in our lives in ways we can’t immediately appreciate. Partly, that’s because grace is mysterious.  AMEN!  AMEN!  (Thinking you know it all, or adhering obsessively to ONLY the humanly quantifiable, is a sure way to prevent/resist it!  HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE THE LORD!!!!  Ps 51:17  Do NOT DEMAND HIs Presence or action, but patiently await His gifts.  Kings grant their gifts in their own way, in their own time!  Not under duress, or from demands of subjects/sinners!  Allow for the possibility of His love, His grace.  It will come much more swiftly and dramatically to you.  I promise!!  Be careful what you pray for!!  That Holy Spirit is POWERFUL, POWERFUL!!!  And, subtle as the whisper or the breeze. (1Kgs 19:13)  Just ask St Paul.)  🙂  But also, the Church has a lot more wisdom than most people realize. AMEN!  AMEN!  

Sacraments were filling deep human needs long before psychologists made up fancy terms for them. Modern people are inclined to lose heart if it doesn’t feel like their worship is sufficiently “authentic.” They should stop worrying so much. AMEN!  AMEN!  THE CHURCH UNDERSTANDS better than you do what is happening in your soul when you follow her advice. Think of her as a spiritual life coach, whose self-improvement program has an excellent track record of helping people over the long run.  (Or, the Instrument, the Bride of Christ on Earth!!!  His Spouse, as I prefer, as is more traditional!!!)

Confession especially can be quite awkward in the beginning. It’s also often disappointing if you’re expecting cinematic moments of stunning sacerdotal insight. (cheap parlor trick grace?  this is your god?  I pity you, truly. 🙁 ) (This, of course, is what the movies lead us to expect.)

Realistically, we probably shouldn’t see the confessional as a regular vehicle for external spiritual direction. (It has a more utilitarian focus, namely, the forgiveness of your sins.  And, there’s a line waiting behind you!)  Some priests really do have a kind of charism for it, and there are innumerable stories of penitents receiving a much-needed word at precisely the right time, enabling them to turn their lives around. It’s certainly good to make oneself available to that kind of grace. But it isn’t simply available on demand, and most of the time you’ll hear something brief, like a Bible verse or a quick platitude (“keep trying!”), followed by a penance and absolution. Don’t be disappointed. The priest has a lot to do and he doesn’t even know who you are.

My early confessions felt like awkward bean counting. Over time though, the regimen of regular confession completely changed my interior life. Sometimes bad habits get nipped in the bud just because I feel shame at the thought I might need to confess them.

I’m painfully aware of which sins are “my regulars,” (You can root out your “regulars”, too, if you are truly serious about it, and we ALL SHOULD BE, we should.  That is NOT to say, we can make ourselves sinless in this life by our own power.  We must let Him be God.  Makes sense, because He is.  His will, His way, even, especially when we do not understand why, especially then, trust, trust, trust.  Because of our fallen nature, sinner that I am, I will sin, again.  But, the power of His grace is AWESOME!!!  DON’T try harder.  Cooperate with grace!!  THIS IS GOD, we’re talking about, here!! If drugs are your problem, or such, STOP taking drugs!!!  Throw away in the trash where neither you nor anyone else can retrieve, EVER!!!  If you ARE going to repeat this sin, again, make it as expensive, and difficult to do so, as humanly possible.  Give yourself a chance, in a temporal way, at least.  Be practical.  Be real.  Deal.  Either you will, or you won’t.  Either way you & God will know the truth.  He ALWAYS DOES!!!  My money’s on God.  Sorry self, not really.  No more self-deception.  No more equivocating.  No more bullshitting yourself & God.  None!!!  Then trust, trust, trust, pray, pray, pray, love, love, love Him, more.  Rinse, and repeat, until He gives you the strength to be sober, to live soberly, and DO HIS WILL!!!  Let Him come to you!!  How sweet, how refreshing, how placid, it is, when He does.  🙂  I promise.  I do.  Literally, as God is my witness!!  I have benefitted.  I have.  I swear.) and at the same time, it often happens during my examination of conscience that I become unexpectedly aware of some failing that I hadn’t even noticed.  (Don’t be neurotic.  Be honest.  Be open.  Love Him more.  It will be easy, because you know He does.)

The most important thing to understand, though, is that confession is not about wallowing in guilt. Quite the contrary, it provides a healthy outlet for channeling justified guilt towards genuine moral growth. Instead of wallowing in an aimless sense of shame and inadequacy, Catholics put themselves on a sacramental “diet” that gives structure to our efforts at moral improvement. As with other healthy life habits, the typical result is less debilitating guilt, not more.

Now that you are Catholic, draw strength from the realization that you are part of an enormous family. It includes the saints in Heaven. It includes the suffering souls in Purgatory. It includes all 1.2 billion of us here in the Church Militant today… and you’re stuck with us. The Church is like the Hotel California that way. (?, uh…ok, whatever.  You get those “moments”, “expressions”, when dealing with the Holy Spirit.  It’s weird.  It is.  Get used to it.  Just roll with it.  It’ll be all good.  🙂

You can be a good Catholic or a bad Catholic, but nobody gets evicted. What is done CANNOT be undone! The mark on your soul is INDELIBLE!!!  (Yay!!!) 🙂

In that spirit, try not to pay too much attention to Church politics. Catholic politics is, well, politics. Unless your profession requires it, you probably don’t need to obsess about it, and there are much more edifying ways to immerse yourself in the faith. But whatever you do, don’t trust journalists to educate you about Catholicism. Far too many Catholics take their cues from the ordinary media instead of their priests and bishops, the Catechism, the saints, reliable historians and theologians, and the wealth of faithfully Catholic media sources. AMEN!

Journalists, as a rule, are as ignorant as they are hostile when it comes to Catholicism. Living in an information age, we have lots of fantastic resources to help us increase our understanding. The New York Times and Huffington Post aren’t among them. Don’t trust anything they tell you about our faith (or any other).

Finally, cherish the realization that your Catholic faith anchors you in something far bigger than you, or the year 2016, or the United States of America, or even the whole world. This may sometimes cause you trouble. Christ has already warned us of that. But fear not! He has conquered the world.(Jn 16:33)”

“Inquire not simply where the Lord’s house is, for the sects of the profane also make an attempt to call their own dens the houses of the Lord; nor inquire merely where the church is, but where the Catholic Church is. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Body, the Mother of all, which is the Spouse of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (Catecheses, xviii, 26). St Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386 AD)

Love & Great Welcome!!!,
Matthew

Renewing Devotion to the Eucharist

Eucharistic-Bread

Life wears us down. It is this fact which can lead directly to despondency with regards to the Eucharist, the Church, the Christian life, the via Crucis each of us must walk in our own lives.

I recently became aware of the book by Rev. Timothy Radcliffe, OP, “What is the Point of Being Christian?”. I have yet to purchase and read, but one line in one review was a spark.

Radcliffe describes Christ on the Cross as the One Who bore in His own body all the violence that human beings turn against each other, the pettiness, the dysfunction, as we may well be intellectually aware of already from childhood catechetics. Lived experience of fifty years gives new, new meaning to that fact. It does. It does. Christ bore in Himself, His Body, the Eucharist, directly, immediately, literally all the sin in human history – that which might discourage us, immediately, directly about the Eucharist, truly His Body.

So for me receiving the Eucharist is no longer, pardon, getting in line because I am not conscious of grave/mortal sin, and going up because everyone else is, but, rather, the recognition, divinely so, so beautifully, poignantly, by the Divine, Himself, through His Very Own Passion, of all that might discourage me, ultimately, from receiving Him in the Eucharist. Okay. I like That, NEED THAT, REALLY, even more now! I get it, and needed to. Praise Him!!!!! Thank, God, literally for the Eucharist!!!! No, no “symbol” would ever do!!!

Quickly! Hurry! Give me my Jesus directly!!!! Yes, Lord!! Yes!!! I NEED to receive!!!! I NEED Him. NEED Him.

Love,
Matthew

The Real Presence 2

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an excerpt from an article by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, (Daughters of St Paul) a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

“I know a man who converted from Hinduism, and when he shares his conversion story he says, “All of the Hindu stories about God becoming incarnate are something that humans would make up. They were odd, but they were filled with human reasoning. The story of Christ is too strange to have been invented by humans.

Today, for the first time, I was a Eucharistic minister to our elderly sisters during Mass. While the priest gives the Eucharist to the able-bodied sisters, we have one sister who usually goes around to the nuns who are unable to walk in the communion line. I had heard from the Eucharistic ministers that this is a coveted job in the convent but I never really understood why. Until today.

As I walked around to the older sisters sitting in their wheelchairs and leaning on their canes, I realized that here, in front of my eyes, were the people I had always expected to join me to crowd around Jesus. These women understand that Jesus is a rock star. As I neared them, the sisters would lean toward me as if I were about to hand them their first meal in weeks. Their eyes lit up with joy.

One sister, appropriately named Sr. Charitas, is barely able to communicate because of serious Parkinson’s. But when I approached her, she looked up at me and her face became a smile. All of it. Her entire face. Her smile pierced my soul.

Sr. Augusta, who is a young 99 years old, has serious dementia and often forgets that she has received the Eucharist. Sometimes you can hear her minutes after she has received, asking a sister next to her, “Have I received yet?”

Sure enough, today when I passed by her for a second time after giving her Jesus, she looked at me expectantly. I shook my head to tell her that she already received. She looked disappointed. I realized that her illness may affect how she sees reality but in some ways her world is more real than mine. She has a real thirst for the eternal liturgy of heaven.

To her, we were made for union with Jesus.

We are made for union with the real rock star of the world.

Every minute of every day.”

Love, and begging for union with my Jesus, every minute of every day, may it be mercifully so, Lord!
Matthew

The Real Presence

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“As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives Holy Communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ.” —St. Cyril of Alexandria

I have to tell you, sadly, ever so sadly, the ubiquity, online at least, and I am sure in person mirrors exactly, of Catholics who are ever so quick and witty and apparently theologically gifted and well-trained living saints (you have to be a saint to be a doctor of the Church) and doctors of the Church and strident to judge another soul’s worthiness of receiving Him is scandalous to me as a life-long Catholic; you fellow sinners, you scribes and Pharisees. Grievously scandalous, it is. I pray upon my and their deaths, our Lord is not so quick to as they do note others’ unworthiness. I pray. Lord, have mercy on me, for I am a sinful man! Depart from me, Lord! For what sinner can remain in Your presence and live? Theresa Noble got the same treatment, you may read. Shame, shame, shame on you. None of us is ever worthy!!! Or, ever will be!! Domine!!! Non sum dignus!!!

theresa_noble_fsp
an excerpt from an article by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, (Daughters of St Paul) a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

“…One day while I was wandering around, I noticed that the main church at the center of the campus was bustling with people. I saw a man with billowing white robes standing outside.*

I was intrigued. I knew he must be a priest of some sort but I had been away from the Church for too long to understand much else. (Isn’t it kind of funny how intelligent, educated people feel that learning even the most basic things about Catholicism are beneath them?) Anyway, I looked at his face.

He was young, handsome and really happy.

I stood there gaping at him for much longer than is socially acceptable. “Strange.” I thought. I stepped into the church, half expecting sirens to go off.

“Warning. Warning. Atheist in the church. Warning. Warning.”

But nothing happened. A lady smiled at me warmly.

I took a seat in the back of the Church, near the door. I figured I would stay just for a few minutes. But the moment I entered the Church, I felt a Presence. It was not the presence of the other people; I could physically locate this Presence. It overwhelmed everything else in the room. It was like a giant magnet drawing me toward the area of the altar. I kept looking in that direction. I saw the tabernacle and my formerly Catholic mind registered the fact that these people believed that God resided there. I pushed that thought away. But the Presence did not go away.

When it came time for Communion, I considered sitting in my seat. “I don’t believe this stuff,” I reasoned. But I went up.

All the while, my head and my heart were ferociously at war.
I received Communion and as I did I remembered a friend of mine who had told me about the time one of her friends went to a Catholic funeral and received Communion, not knowing what it was or what she was doing. When she got back to her seat, she thought, “I must not be meant to eat this, it tastes like cardboard!” So she took the Eucharist out of her mouth and put it on the bottom of her seat like a wad of gum.** I remember my friend laughing when she told me the story. I did not believe in God at the time so I should have found it funny. But I only felt sick to my stomach, terror, and a deep sadness. All of these memories rushed into my mind, overwhelming it for a moment.

When I got home my boyfriend asked me, “What were you doing?”

I told him I went to Mass.

He looked shocked.

“Why?”

My head responded, “The traditions soothe me, it is like a lullaby…but I don’t believe any of it.”

As I said this my heart began beating wildly.***

* Several years later I met the man I had seen with the billowing white robes outside the church that day. He is now a Dominican priest and we are godparents to a beautiful little girl named Theresa.
**This is hopefully motivation for any priests reading this to verbally instruct Mass goers on proper reception of the Eucharist at funerals and weddings and other similar events.
***It would be several years before I would do things right and formally return to the Church. But it would be just months before I began to believe in God again. I can only believe that my recognition of the Presence on that fateful day was a seed planted that would eventually break the hardened earth around my heart on the day of my conversion.

Love, and always praying for the grace to more fully realize His Presence,
Matthew

Baptism of the Lord: why was Jesus baptized?

OXYGEN VOLUME 13

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-by Rev. Dominic Ryan, OP, English Province

“The feast of the baptism of the Lord marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmas. In many ways, though, it’s a rather strange way to end the Christmas season; indeed, it’s a rather strange feast full stop! And I say this because if we identify the key things which occur when one of us is baptised and ask whether they also occurred in Jesus’s baptism then we discover that they didn’t and that they couldn’t have.

Just think about it. When we’re baptised we’re healed from the guilt of original sin and we’re incorporated into the Church. Did any of this happen to Christ? No. Jesus didn’t suffer from original sin so he didn’t need to be healed from it, and Jesus hadn’t yet founded the Church so he couldn’t be incorporated into it. And if that’s not enough John’s baptism- the baptism Jesus received- wasn’t able to forgive sin and to incorporate people into the Church anyway. Those things only became possible after Christ’s death and resurrection. So not only did Jesus’ baptism at the hands of John not have the same effects as our baptism did, but nor could it have had so what’s going on in this feast and how does it relate to the end of Christmastide?

Of course, just because Jesus’s baptism didn’t heal him from the guilt of original sin or incorporate him into the church that’s not to say it wasn’t connected to those aims. God came into the world in Christ to redeem human beings from sin. And broadly speaking to achieve this aim three conditions had to be met: firstly, the power to redeem humans had to be present, secondly the means to redeem human beings had to be established and thirdly human beings had to be encouraged to avail of those means.

Take the first condition. Jesus was God so there’s no question of him lacking the power to redeem human beings. As to the means of redemption, human beings have to share in the salvific death of Christ, which is accomplished most effectively through baptism and incorporation into the Church. That’s not to say after baptism we can do as we please; baptism doesn’t give us a free pass into heaven regardless of what we do subsequently. Nor is it to say that God can’t bring about salvation in any other way if he so chooses. Rather through baptism we get a fresh start and the chance to live in a way which, if we follow it, will lead to heaven.

It’s not enough just to make the means of redemption available, though, more needs to be done, and that brings us to the third condition: people have to be encouraged to avail of the means of redemption. And the best way to do that is to give people an example so Christ submitted to John’s baptism. In so doing Christ encouraged all of us to be baptised and he identified himself with sinful humanity as the one who will act on our behalf to save us.

So if this feast is about Jesus encouraging us to follow the path to salvation how does it relate to Christmastide? Why put it now at the end of Christmastide? Well during Christmas we celebrate God’s coming into the world. But he came into the world for the purpose of our redemption. And the baptism of Jesus is the first public event in Christ’s mission. He starts to show us how to live and his authority is acknowledged by the Father. So it brings to an end what we have been celebrating at Christmas- God’s coming into the world for our salvation- and it sets us up quite nicely for ordinary time: follow Christ’s example, there we find the way to salvation.”

Love, and rejoicing in my baptism, always!!!
Matthew

The Eucharist & sin

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-by Elizabeth Duffy

“Any two-year-old will testify that while it may be possible to cobble together a few freshly acquired words in order to request a sippy-cup of milk, a tantrum will do the trick much faster. Meanwhile, frustrated parents may testify that while lullabies, rocking chairs, and bedtime stories eventually suffer that child to sleep, threats and spankings are more time efficient. Marriage counselors testify that even in a healthy relationship, it takes five compliments to undo one harsh criticism.

Negative energy has tremendous power, more power — it would seem — than the still small voice of charity, and when we affirm what is negative it only gets stronger. We affirm it, not by granting it approval, but rather by devoting to it our fear, our attention, our time, and our words. Whatever we commit ourselves to is a tacit affirmation.

Look at the Starbucks Christmas cup 2015. A few small people made a few disgruntled murmurs about its holiday decor, but in the crazy internet echo-chamber, those murmurs turned into posts and anti-posts, complaints, and anti-complaints, until a cultural phenomenon of anger and resentment was born. What we affirm grows stronger.

In a culture that feels, at the moment, overwhelmingly negative, how do we prevent this metastasis? We don’t want the shootings, the racism, the xenophobia, and the suppression of people of faith to get stronger. So how do we prevent that?

Prayer affirms what is positive, even those halfhearted “thoughts and prayers” going out all over the cosmos. They are not on par with the pious rebukes to which we’ve become accustomed: Christians admonishing other Christians, atheists admonishing Christians, cheeky editors admonishing God, everyone demanding a better performance out of everyone on earth but themselves.

Prayer is silencing the self, silencing the anger, all the things we negatively affirm with our time and attention, and affirming what is one, true, life giving, and good. What we affirm grows stronger. In the Words of St. John the Baptist, “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30).

When the apostles first encountered Jesus, they became more than Christ-followers. They were spending time in the presence of the One True God. Rev. Jeanne-Pierre de Caussade, SJ (1675-1751) wrote, “The apostles are moved more by the guidance of His spirit than by imitating His works.” They weren’t “following” the Lord so much as basking, feasting on His presence. And still they were not exempt from temptation.

They sat at the table with Jesus as He instituted the Eucharist, and even in such precious company, they had the freedom to reject Him, as Judas did, taking the Heavenly Bread and then leaving to betray Him. We all depart from Jesus for small and piddling reasons, to argue with a stranger, or worse, with the people we love, diminishing their person as we magnify their faults.

Now is the hour of our visitation (Luke 19:44). We are in the presence of the Lord, and when we affirm His presence, when we affirm what is good in others, in the people we love, in our friendships and our environment, when we go around seeking what is true and good and beautiful, it gets stronger. As Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord!” (Luke 1:46) and His presence in her expanded, literally and figuratively.

I can feast on His presence not just in the Eucharist, but in the souls who surround me, in every moment that He has sanctified with His blood. I am not just a Christ-follower, I am a Christ-devourer. And I become the substance of what I eat. His flesh and blood becomes my flesh and blood. “Unless you eat My body and drink My blood there is no life in you” (John 6:53). The banquet is never-ending. I will not go hungry.”

Love,
Matthew

Why do Catholics call ordained men “Father”?

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-Holy Orders

Mt 23:9

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-by Dr. John Switzer, PhD

“This delightful question serves as a reminder that fathers—and mothers—are not just biological realities but symbols as well. The role and work that parents perform in the raising of children naturally lends itself to this symbolism. When we think of good parents, we think of kindness, nurturing, and unconditional love. They bring to mind strength, protection, loving care, and attentiveness. We use the symbols of parenthood to describe other contexts as well. Mary is the mother of the church. Mahatma Gandhi is the father of Indian independence. The early leaders of our nation are referred to as Founding Fathers.

This symbolic understanding of parenthood goes back to biblical times. In 1 Cor. 4:15, St. Paul uses his own life as a model for Christian living. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth that it was he who brought the faith to them. “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” he writes. Though he sometimes has to engage strong emotions in his letters, Paul seems to prefer a tone of gentle reproof: “I am writing you this not to shame you but to admonish you as my beloved children” (1 Cor. 4:14). It is easy to see why he presents himself as a spiritual father.

Those who tend toward biblical literalism sometimes express concern for Paul’s presentation of himself as a father of the church, a concern that carries over to using the word “father” in other religious contexts as well. This is due to a passage in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus cautions his listeners that they should “call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven” (Matt. 23:9). But when read in context, it is apparent this commandment comes after a story where Jesus contrasts a sincere religious leader, who practices what he preaches, with one who fails to follow the teachings he conveys. Jesus is not insisting that we avoid using the word father in all metaphorical senses but that we recognize that only God can be perfect; only God can fulfill the role of the sincere religious leader, ultimately, at its best, at is most sincere, as God the Father.

Given the ways in which they serve the community, it seems a natural and even holy development that we see priests as symbolic parents. Their sacramental service runs parallel to the sacrifices given for us by our biological parents. Priests baptize us, bringing us into the realm of Christ and incorporating us into the family of the church. They pronounce words of healing and forgiveness. They feed us and counsel us. (‘At its core, fatherhood is meant to strengthen and animate us.’ -Br PMB, OP)”

Love, and with particularly deep Christian affection for our priests, even the ornery ones, maybe especially the ornery ones!
Matthew