Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Christmas Sermon: St. Leo the Great

Pope St. Leo the Great encourages us all to remember our Christian dignity bestowed on us in the bath of the Baptistry. Let us heed his words and bow in adoration to the King of Kings.

Dearly beloved, today our Saviour is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.
And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy:

Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.

Do You Know His Love?

the-love-of-godThis morning our parish offered a Confirmation retreat for the eighth grade Confirmandi. It was a glorious day.  We discussed the love of God and how He desires to have a personal and intimate relationship with us. For some of the teens, they had never considered that the Lord of the Universe could possibly be a Lover to His Beloved.

During a time of exposition, the parish offered the Sacrament of Reconciliation for all present. Some of the teens wanted to know what could block them from experiencing that love in their lives. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 2094 offers five ways that we sin against His love for us which includes:

- indifference neglects or refuses to reflect on divine charity; it fails to consider its prevenient goodness and denies its power.

ingratitude fails or refuses to acknowledge divine charity and to return him love for love.

lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity.

acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.

hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishments.

At the end of the day, we shared with them that while the Lord desires to have an on-going, personal and intimate relationship with us, He is a gentleman. Thus, in order for us to experience and allow that love to grow, we must be intentional about it. He will never force us into a relationship we do not desire or will not pursue.  It is not a Sunday thing but a 24/7 attitude and relationship. If you are not, or have not chosen in an intentional manner to love and be loved by the Father, through His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, today is the day of salvation! Jump on in!

So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16)

As we enter into the Lord’s Day, may the love of the Most Blessed Trinity overwhelm and brood over you that you may be set ablaze with a passion for God and compassion for other people.

Catholic Name-Calling

muller-marxSocial Media has been all abuzz concerning the Extraordinary Synod on the Family and potential shenanigans among the Cardinals. Granted, it is obvious that certain delegations are taking full advantage of the open discussion and media sound bites. Unfortunately, without the full story, many in the blogosphere are throwing words around like heresy, schism, heretic, etc. Many times though, incorrectly. So, I thought that we could lay out some definitions to help us sort out the crazy from the correct.

At the core of our discussion is orthodoxy, which literally means, ‘right praise’. More specifically, we ant to consider those teachings and/or decisions that do not lead to right praise. Theses terms describe various forms of heterodoxy or unorthodoxy. Some kinds of heterodoxy are reserved for post-baptismal decisions; and, all may be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in paragraphs 817-819, 839-848, and 2089. The Catholic Source Book names and defines the various kinds of unorthodoxy as,

1. An agnostic denies the knowability of God.

2. An apostate totally repudiates the Christian faith.

3. An atheist denies the existence of God.

4. A deist denies that God revealed any religion.

5. A heretic (Greek: one who chooses) is a baptized Christian who denies some of the truths taught by Jesus and proposed by the Church, adopting instead a personal creed.

6. An infidel (Latin: not faithful), formally referred to any non-Christian; now, if used at all, it refers to a professed atheist or agnostic.

7. A pagan (or “heathen”) referred to a person without faith; originally means a “non-convert,” not acknowledging the God of Judeo-Christian revelation, today it is used for an irreligious person. It is incorrect to use the term for people who practice a non-Christian religion.

8. A schismatic (Greek: skizein, to cut, split; a division) is a full believer in the Church who refuses submission to the authority of its vicarious, earthly head, the pope.

9. A theist believes in a supreme being who created and sustains all things, but does not necessarily accept the doctrine of the Trinity (the incarnation) or divine revelation.

Since the terms heresy and schism are being used daily, let’s make a further distinction: Heresy is an intellectual sin that stands against religious belief while schism is a volitional sin that offends the unity of Christian charity.[1]

Lastly, Fr. Klein defines the three prerequisites of formal heresy to include:

  1. Previous valid Baptism (Otherwise, the unorthodoxy would be paganism or a non-Christian religion.)
  2. Persistence of external profession of Christianity (Otherwise, the unorthodoxy would be apostasy.)
  3. Moral culpability: knowingly refusing a doctrinal imperative (Otherwise, the unorthodoxy would be material heresy.)

If you’re reading the blogs, now you know the correct terms. If you are a blogger, please remember the following two points for the sake of civility and truthfulness: 1. Use the correct term if you are going to engage in catholic name calling and 2. Attempt to rouse within yourself some manners and charity which are necessities in polite society. Why? Because of one of the scariest verses in Sacred Scripture – at least for myself,

I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  (Matthew 12:36-37)

[1] (Klein 2000)

2015 Synod on the Family: Pulling the Sources – Day 2

Yesterday during day two of the Synod, a number of topics were discussed. Unfortunately, there seems to be a discontinuity between what the official Press Conferences are emphasizing and what is actually being discussed. Edward Pentin at the National Catholic Register did a great job of taking what the Press Conference reported and what the Synodal Fathers shared in order to provide a full summary of the topics in his article, Questions Raised Again About the Official Synod Briefing [Emphasis and comments in blue are mine]:

  • A number of synod fathers spoke in support of Cardinal Peter Erdo’s introductory speech[1] [This is a great speech and a must read!], including one who underlined the importance of keeping fidelity to truth about marriage, the family and the Eucharist.
  • A synod father asked “What are we doing here?” and stressed the synod is about the family, not other relationships such as homosexual ones [Except that here in the US we are dealing with same-sex unions which are attempting to legally redefine the family]. He also stressed that if the synod accepts the divorced-remarried issue, the Church effectively “supports divorce”.
  • Another said the emphasis should be the sacrament of marriage, so the spiritual beauty of marriage is brought to the fore. Often the Church is not united around the “positive vision” of marriage and family. He said instability around marriage is “against its nature”.
  • A synod father referenced St. Augustine, saying some of the baptized living in “irregular situations” don’t want to approach the Sacrament of Penance; he said the crisis of the family is a crisis of faith. He quoted 2 Timothy 4:2-5 [St. Paul’s solemn charge to preach in season and out]
  • Another intervention noted the flock are too few, and that one should show respect for families which battle and try to remain faithful, those who in particular remain faithful to their marital vows given before God, although there are controversies and difficulties.
  • A further intervention stressed that the Church has to defend that which God revealed about marriage and family and that the work of prelates is to support healthy families. A danger for families are “certain cultural currents,” as well as a sociological approach. In order to serve the family one has to take as the point of departure the word of God.

Nota Bene:

The Holy Father used his Petrine office to offer a rare intervention (speech) amidst the discussion. The Catholic World Report shares that:

In doing so, Pope Francis made clear two key points: the “continuity” between the work of the Extraordinary Synod and that of the Ordinary Synod; that thus far the only official Synod documents which enjoy full ecclesiastical approval are the two discourses he himself delivered at the opening and closing of the Extraordinary Synod last October, as well as the “Relatio Synodi” or final document of the Extraordinary Synod which he approved.

Translation: 1. All speeches that the Holy Father gives are considered official teaching with the final report and will be included in the documents of the Synod; and 2. The 2014 Extraordinary Synod and the 2015 Ordinary Synod should be seen as a continuous discussion and taken together in the Synodal Father’s considerations and discussions.

Closing Thoughts to Consider:

  1. The issue of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion, though doctrinally clear, seems to be a contentious subject among the Synodal Fathers who wish to offer real pastoral assistance to those who are unable to receive communion due to the irregular state of their marriage. Cardinal Péter Erdo reiterated the doctrine, quoting Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical on the family, Familiaris Consortio, to close the discussion but that seems to have only stirred the pot.[2]
  2. There is a fear among the faithful that the Holy Father may be a puppet or using his position to promote his own agenda and not that of the Church (I find that very hard to believe). It is important to remember though, that as Catholics, we have a very strict and clear definition of what papal authority is and what it may be used for:

Vatican I makes it clear that papal authority can really only be used for one purpose: unity…Papal authority cannot be used to promote favored papal causes, no matter how noble. It is to be used to keep the Church one and focused on the one true God. Vatican I is extremely clear on this point.[3]

  1. It is important that we continue to pray for the Synod and its participants. I have no doubt that truth will triumph but how we hear it will be important. One of the great public affair disasters concerning the promulgation of Church teaching happened with the news frenzy related to Humanae Vitae…and that was before the internet. Be careful with the media and how they are reporting, regardless of the source. St. Thomas More, ora pro nobis!

Not for the Faint of Heart

Want more information on papal authority and how the synod is supposed to work? Check out these two documents:

[1] “Full Text of Cardinal Erdo’s Introductory Report for the Synod On the Family,” Cathlic News Agency, October 6, 2015, accessed October 7, 2015,

[2] John L. Allen, Jr., “Pope Francis Is Playing with House Money in Betting On the 2015 Synod,” Crux, October 7, 2015, accessed October 7, 2015,

[3] Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille, “’The Church has no authority…”: On the Limits of the Pope,” The Catholic World Report, October 5, 2015, accessed October 7, 2015,

Stability in a Changing World

Today, the Church celebrates one of my favorite saints; St. Bruno the Carthusian. The writings of his order have nourished my spirituality since the early 90’s and helped me find silence and solitude amidst a clamorous and bustling world. Most importantly, the Carthusians have taught me how to enter into the divine love affair through Sacred Scripture and what it is supposed to look like.

At this specific time in our history, I believe the Carthusians’ motto is particularly relevant:

Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis


The Cross remains firm as the earth turns.

There is much consternation and upheaval in the Church in our time but the Cross and the Gospel, like Our Lord, never change (Heb 13:8). This is especially important to remember during the present Synod on the Family.

Since so few know anything about the Carthusians, I have provided you with ten facts about this saint and his order to hopefully whet your appetite to learn more. Enjoy!«Continue Reading»

2015 Synod on the Family: Pulling the Sources

pppetererdo011009The 2015 Synod of 270 Bishops is now underway and it began with the Holy Father setting the stage for the next three weeks. It is no secret that there have been a number of pre-Synodal skirmishes among the Synod Fathers attempting to politicize the meeting. So what are the issues that have raised the blood-pressure of so many?

John Allen of summarized the most controversial topics in his article (Pope Francis faces an uphill climb to get the synod he wants) this weekend as such:

  • Should the Church’s traditional ban on Communion for Catholics who divorce and then remarry civilly be relaxed?
  • Should the Church adopt a more welcoming posture to same-sex couples?
  • Should the Church take a more positive view of couples who live together outside marriage, along with other forms of what have traditionally been called “irregular” relationships, acknowledging some moral value to them even if they fall short of the ideal?

In an effort to keep the proper focus, Cardinal Peter Erdö, Archbishop of Budapest and Synod Rapporteur (General Relator), used his introductory 7,000 –word opening address before the first working session, to provide a proper context and boundaries for the Synod Fathers. He shared the following during today’s press conference,

“I tried to systematise all the data which was received from the Church around the world, including families and individuals who wrote to us, following the themes already in Instrumentum Laboris.”[1]

«Continue Reading»

Fathers and Marriage: What’s a Synod

A number of individuals have asked what is the history behind the Synod of Bishops. The TV news agency, Rome Reports, has put together a short video with an explanation. Take a look!

Fathers and Marriage

12140619_10153577503400498_145819986366434379_nToday in Rome, the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops begins and it will be convened from October 4 to October 25, 2015. Many are concerned with the outcome of the Synod and how it will shape the future of the Church. To be honest, I agree with one writer who stated that we are approaching another Humanae Vitae moment. I believe, that it is so important that the Synod opens with our Gospel from Mark 10:2-16 concerning divorce and remarriage. As the Holy Father opened the Synod, he preached in his opening Mass,

“This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self.”

A great start to the Synod.

And, I have to be honest, I have never understood how a Synod is convened and the process that takes place. So, I thought I would share what I have learned and, during the Synod, maybe provide some information that might be helpful. Let us continue to prayer for the Synodal Fathers to be guided by the Holy Spirit in a spirit of truth and peaceful fraternity…«Continue Reading»

“Lift High the Cross”

One of my favorite feasts of the liturgical year is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It draws me back to Good Friday but in the light of Easter Sunday. that which was meant for death and despair has become our joy and hope. In a world that exalts a life free of care and suffering, this feast reminds us that the cross can bring sweetness when a situation is so sour.

The following is a meditation was written last year by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M. at St. Jude Maronite Church in Murray, Utah on the occasion of the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross ~ September 14. Enjoy!«Continue Reading»

On the Queenship of Mary

From Ad Caeli Reginam by Pope Pius XII on Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary:

8. From early times Christians have believed, and not without reason, that she of whom was born the Son of the Most High received privileges of grace above all other beings created by God. He “will reign in the house of Jacob forever,”[5] “the Prince of Peace,”[6] the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”[7] And when Christians reflected upon the intimate connection that obtains between a mother and a son, they readily acknowledged the supreme royal dignity of the Mother of God.

9. Hence it is not surprising that the early writers of the Church called Mary “the Mother of the King” and “the Mother of the Lord,” basing their stand on the words of St. Gabriel the archangel, who foretold that the Son of Mary would reign forever,[8] and on the words of Elizabeth who greeted her with reverence and called her “the Mother of my Lord.”[9] Thereby they clearly signified that she derived a certain eminence and exalted station from the royal dignity of her Son.

10. So it is that St. Ephrem, burning with poetic inspiration, represents her as speaking in this way: “Let Heaven sustain me in its embrace, because I am honored above it. For heaven was not Thy mother, but Thou hast made it Thy throne. How much more honorable and venerable than the throne of a king is her mother.”[10] And in another place he thus prays to her: “. . . Majestic and Heavenly Maid, Lady, Queen, protect and keep me under your wing lest Satan the sower of destruction glory over me, lest my wicked foe be victorious against me.”[11]