Greetings my dear friends,
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness...” Luke 4:1-2
The pillars of Lent that we heard about on Ash Wednesday are: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. These are pillars that we can live the rest of the year as well, not just during Lent.
“Fasting is an ancient spiritual practice. It is not unique to Christianity. All major religions recognize the value of fasting. During Lent, we fast and abstain from meat on certain days. But we also fast by the common practice of ‘giving something up for Lent.’ When we give up something – something important, something that functions as either a crutch or a pleasure in our lives – we make a sacrifice. This sacrifice helps us in many ways”:
It is penitential, a way to express sorrow for our sins. It teaches us that we don’t need those things to be happy.
God alone is our happiness. It is a building-block in learning spiritual self-discipline, preparing us for greater sacrifices we will be called to make further down the road.
It is a way of expressing solidarity, individually and as a whole Church, with the poor of this world.
Another key word along with fasting is: Sacrifice. “Jesus showed us that sacrifice is at the core of authentic love.” Through fasting and sacrifice, we are called to open ourselves to the presence of God in our lives and allow Him to work in our lives and hearts in a special way.
Greetings my dear friends,
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness...” Luke 4:1-2
The pillars of Lent that we heard about on Ash Wednesday are: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. These are pillars that we can live the rest of the year as well, not just during Lent.
As the Lenten resource says, “In prayer, we turn to God, listen to his voice, and let him fill our hearts and guide us. During Lent, our prayer takes on a special tone: we are especially aware of our sins. We are attentive to Jesus, the suffering servant. We join in prayer for candidates and catechumens, and we pray for our own deeper conversion to the Lord.”
Here are some helpful ideas for how to live the pillar of prayer:
These are just a few of the listings that are available. Perhaps there are other things that you do as well to grow prayerfully and spiritually. This is a wonderful time for us to grow in our faith and spirituality. Let us make the most of this time so that what we do prayerfully during Lent will carry us through our journey in the desert and beyond.
Greetings my dear friends,
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness...” Luke 4:1-2
This passage from Saint Luke, as we read, comes right after Jesus’ baptism. Before beginning his public ministry, Jesus was baptized and then led into the desert where he spent forty days and forty nights. That is the scriptural basis for our Season of Lent.
We also imitate Jesus as we journey through the desert of this Lenten Season. As the pamphlet from Our Sunday Visitor states about Jesus, “He prayed, fasted, confronted temptation, and prepared for the journey that was to come.”
Our road map for Lent comes from the gospel that we listened to on Ash Wednesday, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18, which tells us to pray, to give alms, and to fast. This means, “using God’s Word and centuries of spiritual practices and devotions, we can, little by little, set aside what distracts and harms us, open our lives to deep conversion to the Lord, and emerge ready to enter into the lasting joy of life with the Risen Christ.”
A brief history on the Season of Lent: “Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for catechumens, or people who were pre- paring to be baptized at Easter. The fast, originally two days, then for the length of Holy Week, had expanded to a 40-day fast by the fourth century.
As infant baptism became the rule in Christianity, the preparation season for Easter remained. Christians had always prayed and fasted for the catechumens, and as baptismal practices changed, those days became a time of prayer, penance, and conversion of heart for all Christians.”
Lent truly has a rich history in the Church and it is a blessed time for all of us. May we continue to make the most of this blessed time.
Greetings my dear friends,
With this passage from Saint Luke, our Lenten journey has begun. In fact, I am writing this message on Ash Wednesday, so how appropriate as we begin our own forty-day journey into the desert.
The resource that I am using as we begin Lent is from Our Sunday Visitor. It is a pamphlet that is titled, “How to Observe Lent as a Catholic.” Hopefully, since we have arrived at Ash Wednesday, we already know what we are going to do to make this a meaningful season. Lent has a beautiful history and that is what I am going to share in these messages.
“Lent begins with ashes – a traditional sign of mourning, grieving, and repentance for both Jews and Christians (Isaiah 58:5; Matt. 11:21).” Since our focus is on the cross, we put the ashes on the foreheads in the shape of a cross. It is a good witness and a good way to evangelize, especially when people tell us we have dirt on our forehead.
“One of the signs of a penitent was ashes or dirt on the person’s head, often at the beginning of their penance. By the Middle Ages, the practice became a more general Lenten tradition for all Christians, focused on the beginning of Lent. It became a way for Christians to publicly mark their sorrow for sin and to symbolically ready themselves to cast that sin away and open themselves to God during the weeks to come.”
In receiving the ashes, “we’re reminded of who we are: creatures in need of God’s love and forgiveness.” May God richly bless us as we begin this journey together.
Greetings my dear friends, Lent is literally right around the corner!!! This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of our Lenten journey. Please join us for Masses on March 1st - Our Lady of Perpetual Help- 7:00am; 12:05pm; 7:00pm, and at St. Edward in Belleville at 6:30pm.
Recently, I received a mailing from Dynamic Catholic, which states as their mission, “We are committed to developing world-class resources that inspire Catholics and their parishes to rediscover the genius of Catholicism. Dynamic Catholic wants each of us to have the Best Lent Ever. We know how important the Season of Lent is and how each of us can experience the love, mercy, healing, forgiveness, compassion of God.
The purpose of Best Lent Ever “is a free, daily email program that will help you and your parish have a truly life-changing Lent.” That sounds like a great offer to me because Lent is about change and becoming better persons, Catholics, and disciples.
We can get started by signing up at BestLentEver.com. Then, beginning on Ash Wednesday, participants will receive daily emails with practical tips, short inspirational videos from author, Matthew Kelly, and personal reflections from Dynamic Catholic team members.
The joy in all of this effort is, “Participants will discover how to open their hearts to God and do more than just give up chocolate for Lent ... leading to their best Lent ever” (BLE, 2-3).
Posters, fliers, and business cards are available to remind us of this wonderful service. Let us do more than just giving something up. Let us take something on and have the most meaningful and best Lent ever.
-Peace, Fr. David
Greetings my dear friends,
One of my favorite saints is Saint Benedict. I say that I got to that point after the Benedictine training I received in the seminary. I grew to love the Benedictine spirituality, which includes hospitality and seeing the face of Christ in others.
To follow that way of life more closely, I began the process to be a Benedictine Oblate in 2005. An oblate is affiliated with a particular Benedictine monastery, so it was only appropriate that I associate myself with Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, my alma mater.
My oblate novitiate took two years to complete because I wanted to do the entrance ceremonies at Saint Meinrad. I made my final oblation in 2007 and will celebrate 10 years this coming summer.
The reason I bring this part of my life and spirituality up is because Lent is right around the corner. In fact, as I write this message, Ash Wednesday is two weeks away and that will begin our yearly observance of Lent and the call to repentance and renewal.
Since I became a Benedictine Oblate, every year at this time I receive in the mail a card titled “Bona Opera” or Good Work. The purpose of this card is to write down the three good works that I want to do this Lent. After thought and prayer, I write the works down and mail the card back to the Oblate office in Indiana. The Oblate director presents the card of good works to the Archabbot of the monastery who approves them and then it is returned to me.
It is a wonderful process and it helps with my Lenten preparations. So, what “Good Works” are you going to undertake this Lent? Now is a good time to be thinking and praying about it, so that when Lent begins, we can truly make it a blessed and meaningful time.
Peace - Fr. David
Greetings my dear friends,
The date of February 11 has a two-fold meaning in the Church. First, it is the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. Second, it is also the World Day of the Sick. However, both observances go hand-in-hand because of the many healings and miracles that have taken place in Lourdes, France, where the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes can be found. It was on February 11, 1858, when “a beautiful woman first appeared to fourteen-year old Bernadette Soubirous, a poor French girl. Clothed in a dazzling white dress girded in blue, the woman appeared in a dirty, dank hole, a stone grotto known to locals as the ‘pigs shelter.’ On March 25, she revealed her name: ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’” (Magnificat, 151-52). Along with the visit of our Blessed Mother, a stream of water was unearthed at this time, which has been miraculous in nature and has led to many healings over the years. The Magnificat devotional states that, “Today, the grotto at Lourdes, France, receives six million visitors each year” (152).
To the World Day of the Sick, it was instituted in 1992 by Saint John Paul II and was first celebrated on February 11, 1992 at Lourdes. According to The Priest, “This day is an opportunity to reflect in particular on the needs of the sick and, more generally, of all those who suffer. It is also an occasion for those who generously assist the sick, beginning with family members, health workers and volunteers, to give thanks for their God-given vocation of accompanying our infirm brothers and sisters” (8). This is the 25th year to observe the World Day of the Sick. In his message for this year’s observance, Pope Francis reminds us to remember in a special way the sick and the dying. May we do so in our prayers and actions.
Greetings my dear friends,
This coming weekend, February 4-5, parishes will observe the World Day of Consecrated Life, which was established by Saint John Paul II in 1997.
What is Consecrated Life? Here is the Wikipedia definition: “Consecrated life, in the canonical sense defined by the Catholic Church, is a stable form of Christian living by those faithful who feel called to follow Jesus Christ in a more exacting way recognized by the Church.”
As Bishop Weisenburger wrote in his monthly bulletin, “In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd. This Feast is also known as Candlemas Day; the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples. The celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life is transferred to the following Sunday in order to highlight the gift of consecrated persons for the whole Church.”
In light of this observance, let us pray for those women and men who live the vocation to the consecrated life. May we follow their example to follow Christ more closely and be the light of Christ to everyone we meet.
Greetings my dear friends,
This coming week is the observance of National Catholic Schools Week, January 29 thru February 4, 2017. The theme for this year’s observance is: “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”
In the bulletin from the Diocese of Salina, Bishop Weisenburger wrote, “The theme encompasses several concepts that are at the heart of a Catholic education. First, schools are communities-small families in their own right, but also members of the larger community of home, church, city and nation. Faith, knowledge and service are three measures by which any Catholic school can and should be judged. Catholic Schools Week is a celebration of all the elements of our school that make it such a great place for students, parents, faculty, staff, friends, and the entire parish community.”
Along with Catholic Schools, I also like to include our Religious Education Programs, because both entities work to pass on the faith to our young people. I am grateful for our coordinators and catechists who give of their time and talent to teach and pass on the faith to our young people. I also want to thank our parents and the example they provide for we know they are the primary educators of their children in the ways of faith.
Let us pray for all involved in our Religious Education programs and our Catholic Schools. These are important ministries for the Church because our young people are not only the church of tomorrow, but they are the church of today.
Father David Metz was born May 27, 1970 and is an only child. His initial home was Kansas City, Kansas, but he grew up in Overland Park, Kansas. The call to priesthood came when he was seven years old. He continued to discern that call throughout his teenage and young adult years. He graduated from high school in 1989. Graduated from the college seminary in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He went into the major seminary where he graduated with a Master of Divinity degree in 1997. Subsequently, he was ordained on May 31, 1997 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Hays, Kansas. His first assignment was at Seven Dolors in Manhattan (1997-99). He was transferred to Immaculate Heart of Mary in Hays (1999-2004). His first pastorate was at St. Wenceslaus Church in Wilson, Kansas with missions in Dorrance and Holyrood (2004-09). The next pastoral move was to the parishes of Washington County- Hanover, Greenleaf, and Washington (2009-present). Father's hobbies include biking, golf, disc golf, NASCAR, reading, and most all sports. He enjoys reading about St. John Paul II, the autobiography of Bishop Fulton Sheen, and the life of Padre Pio.
Sing to the Lord a new song; his praise is in the assembly of the saints. We are urged to sing a new song to the Lord, as new men who have learned a new song. A song is a thing of joy; more profoundly, it is a thing of love. Anyone, therefore, who has learned to love the new life has learned to sing a new song, and the new song reminds us of our new life. The new man, the new song, the new covenant, all belong to the one kingdom of God, and so the new man will sing a new song and will belong to the new covenant.
There is not one who does not love something, but the question is, what to love. The psalms do not tell us not to love, but to choose the object of our love. But how can we choose unless we are first chosen? We cannot love unless someone has loved us first. Listen to the apostle John: We love him, because he first loved us. The source of man’s love for God can only be found in the fact that God loved him first. He has given us himself as the object of our love, and he has also given us its source. What this source is you may learn more clearly from the apostle Paul who tells us: The love of God has been poured into our hearts. This love is not something we generate ourselves; it comes to us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Since we have such an assurance, then, let us love God with the love he has given us. As John tells us more fully: God is love, and whoever dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. It is not enough to say: Love is from God. Which of us would dare to pronounce the words of Scripture: God is love? He alone could say it who knew what it was to have God dwelling within him. God offers us a short route to the possession of himself. He cries out: Love me and you will have me for you would be unable to love me if you did not possess me already.
My dear brothers and sons, fruit of the true faith and holy seed of heaven, all you who have been born again in Christ and whose life is from above, listen to me; or rather, listen to the Holy Spirit saying through me: Sing to the Lord a new song. Look, you tell me, I am singing. Yes indeed, you are singing; you are singing clearly, I can hear you. But make sure that your life does not contradict your words. Sing with your voices, your hearts, your lips and your lives: Sing to the Lord a new song.
Now it is your unquestioned desire to sing of him whom you love, but you ask me how to sing his praises. You have heard the words: Sing to the Lord a new song, and you wish to know what praises to sing. The answer is: His praise is in the assembly of the saints; it is in the singers themselves. If you desire to praise him, then live what you express. Live good lives, and you yourselves will be his praise.
A new creation in Christ
I speak to you who have just been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ, you who are the new offspring of the Church, gift of the Father, proof of Mother Church’s fruitfulness. All of you who stand fast in the Lord are a holy seed, a new colony of bees, the very flower of our ministry and fruit of our toil, my joy and my crown. It is the words of the Apostle that I address to you: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh and its desires, so that you may be clothed with the life of him whom you have put on in this sacrament. You have all been clothed with Christ by your baptism in him. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Such is the power of this sacrament: it is a sacrament of new life which begins here and now with the forgiveness of all past sins, and will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. You have been buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that, as Christ has risen from the dead, you also may walk in newness of life.
You are walking now by faith, still on pilgrimage in a mortal body away from the Lord; but he to whom your steps are directed is himself the sure and certain way for you: Jesus Christ, who for our sake became man. For all who fear him he has stored up abundant happiness, which he will reveal to those who hope in him, bringing it to completion when we have attained the reality which even now we possess in hope.
This is the octave day of your new birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eighth day after birth. When the Lord rose from the dead, he put off the mortality of the flesh; his risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By his resurrection he consecrated Sunday, or the Lord’s day. Though the third after his passion, this day is the eighth after the Sabbath, and thus also the first day of the week.
And so your own hope of resurrection, though not yet realized, is sure and certain, because you have received the sacrament or sign of this reality, and have been given the pledge of the Spirit. If, then, you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your hearts on heavenly things, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.
The Lord descends into hell
Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.
For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.
"There was never a preacher like the dying Christ. There was never a congregation like that which gathered about the pulpit of the Cross. There was never a sermon like the Seven Last Words." - Archbishop Fulton Sheen, from The Seven Last Words.
1. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." - Luke 23:34
The purpose that Jesus was sent by His Father is for the forgiveness of sins and these words remind us of htis fact. Sins are offenses against God and can olnly be forgiven by Him, thus he takes our sins to the cross so that we may receive this great gift. Prayer and study are necessary to properly form our conscience so that we recognize our faults in not following Christ as we should. Our end goal is Heaven, which requires perfection with the grace of God through the sacraments. By immersing our lives with Scripture we read and hear the Word of God and through our study of our faith we learn how to live it out. In living out our faith we begin to recognize how often we fail to live like Christ in causing hurt to others through our actions or our thoughts but also in the failure to act as well. Baptism forgives all our sins but we recognize that we sin even after baptism. The sacrament of confession is where we recognize that Jesus came in order to save us and reconcile us with God so that we may know His love and allow Him to be our model of holiness.
2. "This day you shall be with me in Paradise" - Luke 23:43
This interaction between Jesus and the two criminals testifies to our need to recognize our offenses. It is in recognizing our offenses that we can begin to see the mercy of God that awaits us. God's mercy desires for us to be with Him in Paradise. It is freely given but we have to want it. It is a gift from God but as in all gifts we have to know what it is that we are being given and we have to accept it. Our acceptance is living our lives in a way that resembles that we which we are pursuing. We model our lives after Christ recognizing the great gift of mercy that Jesus desires to give by extending that very mercy we receive to those that we encounter every day. Paradise is an eternal reward, this life is temporary. If we live for eternal things in this life we will receive those things we have lived for while making our way through the life that we have been given.
3. "Woman, behold thy son" - John 19:26-27
4. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" - Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
5. "I thirst" - John 19:28
6. "It is finished" - John 19:30
7. "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" - Luke 23:46
In North Central Kansas the sunset occurs at around 5 pm giving us less daylight hours in order to accomplish the work that needs to get done. Praise God for the technology of electricity so that we are able to get around without fumbling in the dark. This darkness is a great sign of advent. The Advent Wreath that we use in our homes and in our parish is the sign of waiting for the light to come into the world. As we approach Christmas Day there is less and less daylight until we have the least amount on December 22, the winter equinox. This less daylight is like when we get farther and farther away from Christ we learn how we depend upon His light to guide us in the dark times. Our world is filled with much darkness as we see tragic shootings and bombings occurring throughout the world, people being hurt in natural disasters and lives being lost through horrific crimes. This darkness means there is a great absence of Christ. Without Christ there is darkness. The world naturally gets darker every year at this time but it is a natural, visible sign of how important the sun, or the Son, is in our life. Without Christ there is a darkness that brings discord, mistrust, and ultimately war in the world. Without Christ personally in our lives there is an inner battle about what voice do we follow in the world and who do we trust. With Christ we follow only him, in the darkness we turn to him to lead and guide us to eternal salvation. With Christ the war within is a war against temptation in order to free us from the slavery that we step into when we give our selves over to our passions. This war is won when we place our lives into the power of Christ and count on his "daily bread" in our prayer and especially in the sacraments. May Christ be our light and may we follow only His light in our life.
The United States Supreme Court in a decision 5-4 has interpreted the United States Constitution to require all states to issue a license and recognize same sex marriage. Bishops across the United States have made statements against this decision by the court and have called Catholics to stand against this decision also. Immediately following the decision by the court you could find across social media outlets #lovewins. Did love really win in this instance? What is true love?
In 1 John 4:8 we read that "God is love." God's love is one that is faithful, fruitful, free, and total. He is faithful in that throughout human history He has never abandoned us, always providing for our needs giving us the grace we need to act in accord with goodness and truth. He is fruitful in that love desires to bear fruit. Trinitarian love is a pouring of self in a gift to the other and God's pouring out of self desired to share that with creating beings, thus He created the universe, the earth, the sky, the seas, and ultimately humans. He shares His love with us and creates us in His image and likeness so that we may also give ourselves away to bear fruit in love. Love is free. We cannot do anything to earn God's love. It is a a free gift. We put up barriers to God's love because His love challenges us to be more like Him. How are we to live up to that calling? Jesus poured Himself out in love on the cross, this is the model for our love. It is not a feeling, it is not an emotion, it is a gift of self in which the other party does not earn. God's love is total. He holds nothing back from us. This is recognized ultimately in the gift of self that God gives on the cross. It is a complete and total pouring out of self on the cross. There is a spiritual reality in which we recognize that the more we give ourselves away, the more we receive and learn about ourselves. A selfless act is life giving, a selfish act is life taking. God pours Himself out upon the cross so that we may have life and have it abundantly.
Many of the arguments we will hear in favor of this ruling are not based on truth, but on emotion. In John 14:6 we hear that Jesus says "I am the way the truth and the life." God is love and truth. We cannot love without truth. Love is not merely an emotion but a free choice of the will to give of oneself to the other. This kind of love is the love that we experience in Jesus dying on the cross. This type of love does not always come with the "feeling" of love. It is often painful, but we know it to be the right and true response to someone we love. Truth acknowledges the goodness and beauty in other human beings so that we may choose to give ourselves away. This means that we must first possess our own self first. If our emotions control us and we are motivated only by emotion then we often will not make a good choice because of the emotionally motivated decision. Our emotions must be checked by our intellect so that they are ordered towards the truth and goodness of the person. True love is when our emotions line up with the truth so that we "feel" love and also choose to love at the same time. A love that is purely emotional will pass and it will seem that we no longer love the person. If we have a purely intellectual love of a person then it lacks feeling and comes off as cold lacking empathy and joy. Both are necessary and important aspects of who we are as humans experiencing the world around us and building relationships with other people. Love necessarily comes with truth, otherwise it is a faulty view of love and lacks depth in the relationship to which we are to love.
This being said, what is our response to those with homosexual tendencies? For 23 years, since 1992, - when the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published - for 2+ decades, we have had clear, black and white directions on what the Christian response to gays and lesbians is to be. Paragraph 2358 says "[Men and women with deep-seated homosexual tendencies] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity." This is our response and will continue to be our response as Catholics. This does not we approve of the lifestyle, it means that we love them, and we respect you, and desire their good, just like we desire the good of all people. When hate spews forth from our mouths (I mean hate that attacks someone personally) it is not a compassionate, respectful, or sensitive response. We all have different struggles in our life, this does not mean we stop seeking the path of Jesus. This means we pick ourselves back up, hit the confessional, and get back on the road again. This is how we learn to live in Christ and truly recognize that He is "the way the truth and the life."
For more information on this topic I encourage you to read Father Faulkner's homily. He gives a clear Catholic response to this decision and how we can grow as Christians in this world.
Summer = travel. Whether it's vacationing or ball games, the weekends of summer often take us out of town. Giving thanks to God through the celebration of Holy Mass can still happen even when we're on the road. Checkout www.masstimes.org to find a Catholic Church and Mass schedules wherever you are. They even have an app you can download while you're on the road!
Tithing to our home parish can also still happen while we are on the road. Our Lady of Perpetual Help now has online giving through easyTithe to make it easier for our parishioners to support the parish while traveling and any time throughout the year. They even have a mobile app and text to give options. Supporting the parish has never been so easy!
Tithing is an essential aspect of being a Christian. We are asked to give 10% of our earnings to charity. One of the precepts of the Church is to contribute to the support of the Church. We are giving you an opportunity to make this easier for you. We are now offering online and automatic tithing. Many times we come to Church and only have a couple dollars in our wallet. Now we can go online and quickly set up our automatic giving so we never forget to support our own church. Here is the link that allows you to sign up and begin supporting the church in an easy, time-saving, and safe way.
Why do we remain silent in Catholic Churches?
Assuming that what is being said is not itself sinful, it is morally neutral to talk. However, Catholic moral teaching tells us that "circumstances" change the moral character of actions.
Talking in Church when not demanded by necessity is at least venially sinful for the following reasons:
1) It is the Lord's House, which Jesus taught was "a house of prayer" (Mt 21:13) and thus should be used according to its purpose. This is a violation of justice against God, for whom we should have reverence.
2) It is a violation of justice against actual neighbors who are trying to pray. Again, necessity permits talking, just as it permits practicing the music before Mass and so on. However, most conversations are trivial and could gone on elsewhere at another time. This puts them in the category of unnecessary. The truth of this is shown by the strict guard for silence maintained in the chapels of the Roman basilicas where people are praying. Even in the areas where the tourists are viewing the architecture and art, talking above a whisper is not permitted. This is an accurate reflection of the Catholic respect for the church and for others.
3) Finally, it is a violation of charity, since as Christians we should be going "out of ourselves" to look after others first. If a person crassly and knowingly disregarded others trying to pray, or worst of all did so with malice or contempt, it could even be a mortal sin against charity.
These are basic principles of Catholic moral theology and need no other authority than that.
Sometimes a friend approaches us after Mass and wants to start a conversation with us. It is appropriate for us to invite them outside of the Church, into the gathering space, for that conversation. We give a great witness to our fellow Catholics when we first lead by example. Sometimes we want to greet a new family that has joined our parish, this is a very good thing for us to do to show our hospitality, quietly invite them to the gathering space and greet them there. We should always welcome our new parishioners, but we should remember that our respect and reverence for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament comes first.
· Find a quiet place, free from distraction (as much as possible). Praying with Scripture before the Blessed Sacrament is powerful. Outside of a church, it would be helpful to have a holy image, an icon or a crucifix before us to help focus ourselves.
· Sit quietly with your Bible, close your eyes, and place yourself in the loving presence of Jesus.
One way of doing this is slowly repeat the name of Jesus in your heart or quietly out loud, or use the “Jesus prayer”(“Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”). Take on a passive stance, and allow yourself to be taken by Him. After all He loves you more than you could ever imagine, and He desires to reveal Himself to you.
Remember that we always pray to Jesus in the Holy Spirit. He dwells within us through Baptism and is at work in us especially through Confirmation. The Holy Spirit dwelling within us helps us to see Jesus (1Cor 12:3), and the Holy Spirit also prays within us (Rom 8:26). So we can also take part in the very ancient tradition of invoking the Holy Spirit:
“Come, Holy Spirit.”
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.”
Through Jesus in the Holy Spirit we cry out to the Father. Because we share the sonship of Jesus through baptism we have been adopted into His relationship with the Father so that He is our Father too.
· Make an offering to Jesus of this time, and commend to Him all the worries, obligations and hassles of the day. They will still be there when you finish, or they will be resolved.
· The Bible, or Holy Scripture, is God’s words about Himself. These divine words testify, point us to the Divine Word: Jesus Christ, the Savior. Remember the Bible was a gift from the Lord to His Bride, the Church. Sacred Scripture was written for YOU. To pray with the Bible is a true encounter with the Lord.
· Open your Bible to a passage… particularly the Sunday Gospel
LECTIO (“reading”): Read the passage attentively, reverently, slowly. Lectio is a listening kind of reading that patiently waits in trust for the Word (Jesus) to reveal Himself. Prayer means to open yourself. In this, recognize that the divine mystery cannot be contained or controlled by us. Allow yourself to be taken in by the words and be drawn towards the Word, Jesus Christ. Depending on what happens you might read the passage several times or linger on one particular phrase or even one word. Whatever you do, don’t rush through it. Praying takes time, patience and perseverance. It takes effort and cooperation with the grace of the Lord.
· “It’s true that the voice of God, having once fully penetrated the heart, becomes strong as the tempest and loud as the thunder, but before reaching the heart it is as weak as a light breath which scarcely agitates the air. It shrinks from noise, and is silent amid agitation.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
MEDITATIO (“meditation”): This stage is our human response to God’s words. Here ponder and ruminate what was read. Quietly savor the Word, and meditate upon it in expectation. Think of Mary who“pondered these things in her heart.”Remember Jesus wants to reveal Himself, and pull you closer to Him. Consciously open yourself to the Lord, allowing Him to touch your heart. Seek Him whom you love. Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire. In meditation, God can deepen your faith, prompt conversion of your heart, and strengthen your will to follow Christ. A question to ask yourself is “What does this Word mean for my life? What do I need to change?” Notice this isn’t“navel gazing”, but an honest accounting of our lives and always directed outward to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
ORATIO (“prayer”): This is the prayer of the heart. It’s unique, personal, honest and spontaneous, specific to the experience of encountering God in his Word. It can be abandonment to the will of God, like Mary:“Thy will be done.”It’s a response to the Word from the center of our hearts. It may be in words, or even just a sigh of love.
· “You are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light, and causes me to know your truth.”(St. Catherine of Siena)
· “O God, give me stillness of soul in you. Rule me O King of gentleness, King of peace.” (St. John of the Cross)
· “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me; to you, O Lord, now I return it; all is yours, dispose of me wholly according to your Will. Give me only your love and your grace, for this is enough for me.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
CONTEMPLATIO (“contemplation”): This stage is God’s response to us, so it’s totally beyond our control. We cannot create contemplation by ourselves. It is a divine gift that the Lord in His goodness gives us. In contemplation, one is totally passive, held by the mystery of God. Essentially it’s a gaze, God’s gaze into us, and our gaze of faith back at Him. Your whole self becomes focused on the Lord. It is nothing more than a close sharing between friends. It is deep, intimate, intense, sometimes tearful, and often too deep for words. It’s childlike. It’s a surrender to the loving will of the Father in an even deeper union with His beloved Son. His gaze purifies our hearts, illumines our eyes to see with the eyes of Jesus, and teaches us compassion for our neighbor. The aim is to allow the Holy Spirit shape us into the form of the Son. It is not weird, unusual or exceptional, but rather the normal fruit of devoted and faithful practice of lectio divina. Devotion to prayer leads anyone to personal union with God.
· “Learn to abide with attention in loving waiting upon God in the state of quiet. Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful and loving infusion of God, which, if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.”(St. John of the Cross)
· “Contemplative prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”(St. Teresa of Avila)
· “Prayer is sowing, contemplation the reaping of the harvest, when the reaper is filled with wonder at the ineffable sight of the beautiful ears of corn, which have sprung up before him from the little naked seeds that he sowed.”(St. Isaak of Syria)
· The grace of contemplation is granted only in response to a longing and insistent desire.” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
For more on prayer read the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2558-2758
A worksheet to help guide you along the way. pdf Lectio Divina Worksheet (329 KB)
"On that day, A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom." (Isaiah 11:1) This stump is a symbol of the line of the kings of Israel. The tree was cut off when Israel was taken into exile by Assyria in 722 BC and the Jews were deported in 586 BC. The tribes of Israel were named because they were descendants of the sons of Jacob. The northern 10 tribes and the southern 2 tribes. The northern kingdom broke from the southern tribes because like many families a disagreement split them apart. The southern tribes were made of the descendants of Benjamin and Judah and had Jerusalem, the city with the temple.
Jerusalem also was home of the king. The king was in the line of David who was of the tribe of Judah. When the king was dethroned and taken into exile in 586 BC they lost their king. And since they were in exile for many years they forgot who was in line to be king. When Matthew's Gospel relates the genealogy of Jesus, he recognizes Jesus as coming from this line. This is a key point because the Messiah was always prophesied as being from this line. Jesus needed be from the tribe of Judah in the line of David in order to be the recognized as the king of Israel. The stump of Jesse blossoms because David is the son of Jesse, Jesus is the blossom of the line of David who then desires to graft all people to this line. Through our baptism we are grafted to this line.
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien beautifully images this stump that blossoms. When I think of this stump I get the picture from the movie produced by Peter Jackson. There is a white tree in the city of Gondor that blossoms when the true king is seated on the throne. It was believed the lineage of the true king had been lost so they had a steward until the heir would return. The tree never blossoms for the steward, only the king. Gondor is the city of men in the story and comes under attack. It was once before under attack when the king was killed by the enemy Sauron. When the king was killed the tree withered and did not bloom. In the movie we hear the story of the tree as Gandalf the wizard passes by with the Hobbit Pippin. When Aragorn enters the city and takes up the sword of the king the tree blossoms, giving hope to the kingdom. At the end of the movie the king is crowned and seated on the throne and the tree is in full bloom.
The blooms are pink, which is the color of joy. Advent calls for us to prepare for the coming of the Lord at the second coming and at Christmas. Let us prepare our hearts for this coming so we may rejoice at Christmas and at the second coming of Christ in our life.
Five ways that we can respect life.
1. Respect ourselves. We are made of body and soul, material and immaterial, thus we must care for both. A daily prayer life, weekly Sunday Mass, and monthly confession are ways that we begin to care for our soul. Purging sin and doing our best to remain in the state of grace. Care for our bodies is also necessary. Our body needs the proper nutrients and exercise to function according to the way it is designed. Appropriate exercise and eating should be part of our care and respect for our own life.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. Whether they be family members or total strangers, it can be very lonely in a home for the elderly. Regular visits, even with our kids to teach them the value of human life, will give great dignity to the aged as well as the young.
3. Helping young families. We all know that caring for children is often very difficult. Be generous with your time and help those who are new mothers, or mothers of several young children. Ask them if you can cook a meal for them, or help them clean the house or even watch the kids for a couple of hours. What a great way to encourage the growth of our community, our parish, while showing our respect for the young and our care for their mothers and fathers.
4. Praying outside an abortion clinic. A society that aborts its young has no future. Our prayers and penances for the end of this evil is necessary for the good of the world. Secondly to offer support and prayers for those who have had an abortion, or are contemplating abortion. We need to offer our assistance to help them grieve the decisions they have made. Encouraging them to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat for healing is a wonderful opportunity for us to offer our support.
5. Voting. Politics often get in the way of doing what is right. Sometimes for the common good to be attained we have to offer up our financial comfort for a greater good. We should never play games with a human life, and making life a political issue is an egregious crime. Any politician that believes the common good is to allow the killing of human life is not a good politician. A politician has a duty to protect life, and the dignity of every human.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Click here for a PDF version of The Language of Love.
In Obedience to Christ: A Pastoral Letter To Catholic Couples and Physicians on the Issue of Contraception
Bishop Glennon P. Flavin | Click here.
Humanae Vitae | Click here.
Married Love and the Gift of Life | Click here.
Mother Teresa, 1994 National Prayer Breakfast | Click here.
Twenty years ago, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta stood before the President of the United States, before senators and congressmen, before justices of the United States Supreme Court. She spoke about her work among the world’s poor. She spoke about justice and compassion. Most importantly, she spoke about love.
“Love,” she told them, “has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.”
Sacrifice is the language of love. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who poured out his life for us on the cross. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of the Christian life, sharing in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. And love is spoken in the sacrifice of parents, and pastors, and friends.
We live in a world short on love. Today, love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things, and comfort, and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.
Love—real love—is about sacrifice, and redemption, and hope. Real love is at the heart of a rich, full life. We are made for real love. And all that we do—in our lives, our careers, and our families, especially—should be rooted in our capacity for real, difficult, unfailing love.
But today, in a world short on love, we’re left without peace, and without joy.
In my priesthood, I have stood in front of abortion clinics to offer help to women experiencing unwanted pregnancies; I have prayed with the neglected elderly; and I have buried young victims of violence. I have seen the isolation, the injustice, and the sadness that comes from a world short on love. Mother Teresa believed, as do I, that much of the world’s unhappiness and injustice begins with a disregard for the miracle of life created in the womb of mothers. Today, our culture rejects love when it rejects the gift of new life, through the use of contraception
Mother Teresa said that, “in destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife…destroys the gift of love.”
Husbands and wives are made to freely offer themselves as gifts to one another in friendship, and to share in the life-giving love of God.
He created marriage to be unifying and procreative. To join husband and wife inseparably in the mission of love, and to bring forth from that love something new.
Contraception robs the freedom for those possibilities.
God made us to love and to be loved. He made us to delight in the power of sexual love to bring forth new human beings, children of God, created with immortal souls. Our Church has always taught that rejecting the gift of children erodes the love between husband and wife: it distorts the unitive and procreative nature of marriage. The use of contraception gravely and seriously disrupts the sacrificial, holy, and loving meaning of marriage itself.
The Church continues to call Catholic couples to unity and procreativity. Marriage is a call to greatness—to loving as God loves—freely, creatively, and generously. God himself is a community of love—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christian marriage is an invitation to imitate, and to know, and to share in the joyful freedom of God’s love, an echo of the Holy Trinity.
In 1991, my predecessor, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin, wrote that “there can be no true happiness in your lives unless God is very much a part of your marriage covenant. To expect to find happiness in sin is to look for good in evil…. To keep God in your married life, to trust in his wisdom and love, and to obey his laws…will deepen your love for each other and will bring to you that inner peace of mind and heart which is the reward of a good conscience.”
God is present in every marriage, and present during every marital embrace. He created sexuality so that males and females could mirror the Trinity: forming, in their sexual union, the life-long bonds of family. God chose to make spouses cooperators with him in creating new human lives, destined for eternity. Those who use contraception diminish their power to unite and they give up the opportunity to cooperate with God in the creation of life.
As Bishop of Lincoln, I repeat the words of Bishop Flavin. Dear married men and women: I exhort you to reject the use of contraception in your marriage. I challenge you to be open to God’s loving plan for your life. I invite you to share in the gift of God’s life-giving love. I fervently believe that in God’s plan, you will rediscover real love for your spouse, your children, for God, and for the Church. I know that in this openness to life, you will find the rich adventure for which you were made.
Our culture often teaches us that children are more a burden than a gift—that families impede our freedom and diminish our finances. We live in a world where large families are the objects of spectacle and derision, instead of the ordinary consequence of a loving marriage entrusted to God’s providence. But children should not be feared as a threat or a burden, but rather seen as a sign of hope for the future.
In 1995, Blessed John Paul II wrote that our culture suffers from a “hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and… a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. ” Generous, life-giving spousal love is the antitode to hedonism and immaturity: parents gladly give up frivolous pursuits and selfishness for the intensely more meaningful work of loving and educating their children.
In the Diocese of Lincoln, I am grateful for the example of hundreds of families who have opened themselves freely and generously to children. Some have been given large families, and some have not. And of course, a few suffer the very difficult, hidden cross of infertility or low fertility. The mystery of God’s plan for our lives is incomprehensible. But the joy of these families, whether or not they bear many children, disproves the claims of the contraceptive mentality.
Dear brothers and sisters, Blessed John Paul II reminded us that, “man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God.” The sexual intimacy of marriage, the most intimate kind of human friendship, is a pathway to sharing in God’s own life. It is a pathway to the fullness of our own human life; it is a means of participating in the incredible love of God. Contraception impedes our share in God’s creative love. And thus it impedes our joy.
The joy of families living in accord with God’s plan animates and enriches our community with a spirit of vitality and enthusiasm. The example of your friends and neighbors demonstrates that while children require sacrifice, they are also the source of joy, meaning, and of peace. Who does not understand the great gift of a loving family?
Yes, being lovingly open to children requires sacrifice. But sacrifice is the harbinger of true joy. Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to be open to joy.
Of course, there are some true and legitimate reasons why, at certain times, families may discern being called to the sacrifice of delaying children. For families with serious mental, physical, or emotional health problems, or who are experiencing dire financial troubles, bearing children might best be delayed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that couples must have “just” reasons to delay childbearing. For couples facing difficulties of various kinds, the Church recommends Natural Family Planning: a method for making choices about engaging in fruitful sexual relations.
Natural Family Planning does not destroy the power to give life: instead, it challenges couples to discern prayerfully when to engage in life-giving sexual acts. It is an integrated, organic and holistic approach to fertility care.
Natural Family Planning is a reliable and trustworthy way to regulate fertility, is easy to learn, and can be a source of unity for couples. To be sure, using NFP requires sacrifice and patience, but sacrifice and patience are not obstacles to love, they are a part of love itself. Used correctly, NFP forms gentle, generous husbands, and selfless, patient wives. It can become a school of virtuous and holy love.
Those who confine sexual intimacy to the infertile times of the month are not engaging in contraceptive practices. They do not attempt to make a potentially fertile act infertile. They sacrificially abstain during the fertile time precisely because they respect fertility; they do not want to violate it; they do not want to treat the gift of fertility as a burden.
In some relatively rare instances, Natural Family Planning is used by couples with a contraceptive mentality. Too often couples can choose to abstain from fertility by default, or out of fear of the consequences of new life. I encourage all couples who use Natural Family Planning to be very open with each other concerning the reasons they think it right to limit their family size, to take their thoughts to God, and to pray for his guidance. Do we let fear, anxiety, or worry determine the size of our families? Do we entrust ourselves to the Lord, whose generosity provides for all of our needs?
“Perfect love,” scripture teaches, “casts out fear.”
Dear friends, I exhort you to openness in married life. I exhort you to trust in God’s abundant providence.
I would like to address in a special way Catholic physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. The noble aim of your profession is to aid men and women as they live according to God’s perfect plan. Bishop Flavin wrote that, as professionals, “you are in a position to be God’s instruments in manifesting his truth, and his love.”
No Catholic healthcare provider, in good conscience, should engage in the practice of medicine by undermining the gift of fertility. There is no legitimate medical reason to aid in the acts of contraception or sterilization. No Catholic physician can honestly argue otherwise.
Healthcare is the art of healing. Contraception and sterilization may never be considered healthcare. Contraception and sterilization denigrate and degrade the body’s very purpose. Fertility is an ordinary function of health and human flourishing; and an extraordinary participation in God’s creative love. Contraception and sterilization stifle the natural and the supernatural processes of marriage, and cause grave harm. They treat fertility as though it were a terrible inconvenience, or even a physical defect that needs to be treated.
Contraception attempts to prevent life from the beginning, and when that fails, some contraception destroys newly created life. Many contraceptives work by preventing the implantation of an embryonic human being in the uterus of his or her mother.
Contraception is generally regarded by the medical community as the ordinary standard of care for women. The Church’s teachings are often regarded as being opposed to the health and well-being of women. But apart from the moral and spiritual dangers of contraception, there are also grave physical risks to the use of most chemical contraceptives. Current medical literature overwhelmingly confirms that contraception puts women at risk for serious health problems, which doctors should consider very carefully.
Some women have health conditions that are better endured when treated by hormonal contraceptives. But the effects of contraception often mask the underlying conditions that endanger women’s health. Today, there are safe, natural means of correcting hormonal imbalances, and solving the conditions that are often treated by contraception.
Contraception is an unhealthy standard of care. All doctors can do better.
Catholic physicians are called to help their patients and their colleagues learn the truth about the dangers of contraception and sterilization. The good example of a physician who refuses to prescribe contraceptives and perform sterilizations or a pharmacist who refuses to distribute contraceptives in spite of antagonism, financial loss, or professional pressure is an opportunity to participate in the suffering of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the Catholic physicians and pharmacists who evangelize their patients and colleagues through a commitment to the truth.
Tragically, a majority of people in our culture and even in our Church, have used contraception. Much of the responsibility for that lies in the fact that too few have ever been exposed to clear and consistent teaching on the subject. But the natural consequences of our culture’s contraceptive mentality are clear. Mother Teresa reflected that “once living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily.” She was right. Cultural attitudes that reject the gift of life lead very easily to social acceptance for abortion, for no-fault divorce, and for fatherless families. For fifty years, America has accepted the use of contraception, and the consequences have been dire.
Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to read the encyclical by Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae with your spouse, or in your parish. Consider also Married Love and the Gift of Life, written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Dear brother priests, I encourage you to preach about the dangers of contraception, and to visit with families in your parish about this issue.
Dear brothers and sisters, if you have used or prescribed contraception, the merciful love of God awaits. Healing is possible—in the sacrament of penance. If you have used or supported contraception, I pray that you will stop, and that you will avail yourself of God’s tender mercy by making a good heartfelt confession.
Today, openness to children is rarely celebrated, rarely understood, and rarely supported. To many, the Church’s teachings on life seem oppressive or old-fashioned. Many believe that the Church asks too great a sacrifice.
But sacrifice is the language of love. And in sacrifice, we speak the language of God himself. I am calling you, dear brothers and sisters, to encounter Christ in your love for one another. I am calling you to rich and abundant family life. I am calling you to rejoice in the love, and the sacrifice, for which you were made. I am calling your family to share in the creative, active love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I pray that in true sacrifice, each of you will know perfect joy.
Through the intercession of Our Lady of the Annunciation, the Holy Family, and in the love of Jesus Christ,
+James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln
March 25, 2014
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
 Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. National Prayer Breakfast, 1994.
 Glennon P. Flavin, Pastoral Letter to Catholic Couples and Physicians. September 26, 1991
 Blessed John Paul II. Evangelium Vitae, 13.
 Ibid. 2.
 I John 4:18
 Bishop Flavin.
 Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. National Prayer Breakfast, 1994.
Before I address the use of votive candles in particular, we have to appreciate the symbolism of light and the general usage of candles in religious practice. In Judaism, a perpetual light was kept burning in the Temple and the synagogues not only to ensure the ability to light other candles or oil lamps in the evening but also to show the presence of God (cf. Ex 27:20-21 and Lv 24:24). Later, the Talmud prescribed a lit lamp at the Ark, where the Torah and other writings of Sacred Scripture were kept, to show reverence to the Word of God. (This practice probably influenced our own one of having a lit candle near the tabernacle to indicate the presence of and to show reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.)
Roman pagan culture also used candles in religious practice. Lit candles were used in religious and military processions, showing the divine presence, aid or favor of the gods. With the development of emperor worship, candles were also lit near his image as a sign of respect and reverence. Remember that by the time of Jesus, the emperor was considered divine and even given the titles Pontifex Maximus (high priest) and Dominus et Deus (Lord and God).
Christians adapted the use of lit candles (or even oil lamps in the Eastern Roman Empire) for Mass, liturgical processions, evening prayer ceremonies, funeral processions and, again, to show reverence to the reserved Blessed Sacrament. Moreover, there is evidence that lit candles or oil lamps were burned at the tombs of saints, particularly martyrs, by the 200s, and before sacred images and relics by the 300s. St. Jerome (d 420), in his <Contra Vigilantium,> attested to this practice. Note, however, that this practice probably existed well before our available written evidence.
In our Catholic tradition, in early times as well as today, light has a special significance - Christ Recall Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. No follower of Mine shall ever walk in darkness; no, he shall possess the light of life" (Jn 8:12) and "I have come to the world as its light, to keep anyone who believes in Me from remaining in the dark" (Jn 12:46).
Moreover, the prologue of St. John's Gospel connects Christ and true life with the imagery of light: "Whatever came to be in Him found life, life for the light of men" and "The real light which gives light to every man was coming into the world" (Jn 1:4, 9). For this reason, in our liturgy for the sacrament of baptism, the priest presents a candle lit from the Paschal candle, which in turn symbolizes the Paschal mystery, and says to the newly baptized, "You have been enlightened by Christ Walk always as children of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts. When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet Him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom" (<Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults>).
The light, then, is a symbol of faith, truth, wisdom, virtue, grace, the divine life, charity, the ardor of prayer and the sacred presence which flow from Christ Himself.
With this background, we can appreciate the usage of votive candles. Here, as in early Christian times, we light a candle before a statue or sacred image of our Lord or of a saint. Of course, we do not honor the statue or the image itself, but the one whom that statue or image represents. The light signifies our prayer offered in faith coming into the light of God. With the light of faith, we petition our Lord in prayer, or petition the saint to pray with us and for us to the Lord. The light also shows a special reverence and our desire to remain present to the Lord in prayer even though we may depart and go about our daily business.
Interestingly, in the Middle Ages, the symbolism of the votive candles was elaborated. St. Radigund (d. 587) described a practice whereby a person would light a candle or several candles which equaled his own height, this was called "measuring to" such a saint Although it may seem peculiar to us, this "measuring" actually reflects the idea of the candle representing the person in faith who has come into the light to offer his prayer.
Also, some medieval spiritual writers expanded the imagery of the candle itself: bees wax symbolized the purity of Christ, the wick, the human soul of Christ, and the light His divinity. Also, the burning candle symbolized a sacrifice, which is made in both the offering of the prayer and the acceptance of the Lord's Will.
In all, the usage of votive candles is a pious practice which continues today in many churches. The symbolism does remind us that prayer is a "coming into" the light of Christ, allowing our souls to be filled with His light, and letting that light bum on in our souls even though we may return to our other activities.
Fr. Saunders is associate pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish and president of the Notre Dame Institute, both in Alexandria, VA.
This article appeared in the July 14, 1994 issue of "The Arlington Herald."
No one may share the eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.
We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.
The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.
On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.
On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen.” The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.
The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.
We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration.
- This is an excerpt from St. Justin Martyr who lived from 100-165 AD. He passes on to us what the Christians were doing in their Eucharistic celebrations very early in the life of the Church. It is a consoling thought for us to see that what we do as Catholics is passed on from the Apostles through the people of God and we continue to "Do this in memory of me."