Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Feast of St. Gianna!

Today is the Feast of St. Gianna Beretta Molla who was canonized on May 16, 2004 by soon-to-be (as of Sunday!) Bl. Pope John Paul the Great.  St. Gianna is a superb example of what it means to be a holy woman of God, a wife, a mother, a doctor, a daughter, etc. 

She lived a heroic life of love and service to God and others making a gift of herself to her family, the sick and the poor.  She died in 1962 about a week after giving birth to her fourth child as a result of septic peritonitis.  It was discovered during the pregnancy that there was a tumor on her uterus and it was suggested to her that she have an abortion.  Being a doctor herself, she, of course, knew the risks, but she decided to simply have the tumor removed and carry on the pregnancy praying fervently that God would keep her child safe.  She delivered a healthy daughter on Holy Saturday.  Because of her decision to choose life she is considered the patroness of the pro-life movement. 

In the following video you can see three of her four children toward the end carrying flowers and a relic of their mother in procession: on the left is Laura, in the middle is the youngest child, Gianna (named obviously after her mother - and who also became a doctor) and on the right is Pierluigi.  St. Gianna's other daughter, Mariolina, passed away in 1964 when she was six years old. St. Gianna's husband just recently died a few months ago at the age of 97.  Can you imagine what it must have been like for her children and her husband to attend the canonization Mass?  So cool.  You can learn more about St. Gianna here. Sancta Gianna, ora pro nobis!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

JPII Relic

EWTN News reports that a vial of JPII's blood will be present for veneration at his beatification this Sunday.  When JPII was dying in 2005 a doctor took four vials in case there was a need for a transfusion and now, obviously, the vials are first class relics.  One vial will remain at the Vatican, one at Bambino Gesu Hospital and two at a church in Poland. 

Relics are classed in one of three ways:
A first-class relic is an actual part of the body.
A second-class relic is something that the person owned or used during his or her life.
A third-class relic is an item that has been touched to a first or second class relic. 

Only 5 Days Left!!!...

....until Pope John Paul the Great becomes Blessed Pope John Paul the Great!!!!  And until Divine Mercy Sunday!!!!!  Whoooo!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Easter! Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

CCM crew following the Vigil Mass at the Cathedral

 Congrats to our newly baptized and confirmed!  The USCCB reports the following:
For 2010, OCD [Official Catholic Directory] reported that there were 43,279 adult baptisms in the United States and 75,724 people received into full communion.
I'm excited to hear the 2011 info!

Pope Benedict's Urbi et Orbi Message - Easter 2011

Following is Pope Benedict's Urbi et Orbi (To the City and to the World) Message for Easter 2011:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and across the world,
Easter morning brings us news that is ancient yet ever new: Christ is risen! The echo of this event, which issued forth from Jerusalem twenty centuries ago, continues to resound in the Church, deep in whose heart lives the vibrant faith of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the faith of Mary Magdalene and the other women who first discovered the empty tomb, and the faith of Peter and the other Apostles.
Right down to our own time – even in these days of advanced communications technology – the faith of Christians is based on that same news, on the testimony of those sisters and brothers who saw firstly the stone that had been rolled away from the empty tomb and then the mysterious messengers who testified that Jesus, the Crucified, was risen. And then Jesus himself, the Lord and Master, living and tangible, appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and finally to all eleven, gathered in the Upper Room (cf. Mk 16:9-14).
The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculation or mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history, nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indelible mark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus’ tomb has traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light, that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world the splendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness.
Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today, caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation’s silent hymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes her pilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universe and above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God, giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth.
“In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice.” To this summons to praise, which arises today from the heart of the Church, the “heavens” respond fully: the hosts of angels, saints and blessed souls join with one voice in our exultant song. In heaven all is peace and gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth! Here, in this world of ours, the Easter alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence. Yet it was for this that Christ died and rose again! He died on account of sin, including ours today, he rose for the redemption of history, including our own. So my message today is intended for everyone, and, as a prophetic proclamation, it is intended especially for peoples and communities who are undergoing a time of suffering, that the Risen Christ may open up for them the path of freedom, justice and peace.
May the Land which was the first to be flooded by the light of the Risen One rejoice. May the splendour of Christ reach the peoples of the Middle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence. In the current conflict in Libya, may diplomacy and dialogue take the place of arms and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid. In the countries of northern Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people, work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty is defeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person. May help come from all sides to those fleeing conflict and to refugees from various African countries who have been obliged to leave all that is dear to them; may people of good will open their hearts to welcome them, so that the pressing needs of so many brothers and sisters will be met with a concerted response in a spirit of solidarity; and may our words of comfort and appreciation reach all those who make such generous efforts and offer an exemplary witness in this regard.
May peaceful coexistence be restored among the peoples of Ivory Coast, where there is an urgent need to tread the path of reconciliation and pardon, in order to heal the deep wounds caused by the recent violence. May Japan find consolation and hope as it faces the dramatic consequences of the recent earthquake, along with other countries that in recent months have been tested by natural disasters which have sown pain and anguish.
May heaven and earth rejoice at the witness of those who suffer opposition and even persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. May the proclamation of his victorious resurrection deepen their courage and trust.
Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.
 Happy Easter to all of you!

2011 Ordination Class Report

The USCCB has put up the latest stats on this year's ordination class in the United States.  They usually put up a nice page with photos and quotes from soon-to-be ordained priests.  It can viewed here and the report can be viewed here.

There has been a resurgence in young men discerning the priesthood as well as young women discerning religious life. The new evangelization is taking root!  I have several friends who are in seminary or who have entered religious life over the last few years.  When you encounter Beauty and he calls your name, your heart bursts forth in a response of love. Pray for our priests that they may continue to be faithful and holy servants of the High Priest.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fr. Barrron - Why God Matters in Democracy

"Father, Into Your Hands I Commend My Spirit."

When I was a kid my uncle used to pick me up and hold me out like I was superwoman and 'fly' me around the room until his arms were too tired to keep going.  I loved the certain sense of freedom that I felt because I was never afraid that he would drop me - I was so confident that he would keep me up that I just enjoyed the ride and was constantly asking him to lift me up again, the poor guy.  This memory is a glimpse into how God wants us to react to him: to trust him so completely that all fear subsides and you rest in his arms like a child confident that he will not drop you. 

Many of you reading this are about to start summer vacation from college - some of you have your summer planned out, some of you don't; many of you will graduate soon - some of you know where you're going and what you'll be doing, some of you don't.  Keep this in mind though: don't get too caught up in your plans or too worried about your non-existent plans.  God's ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts.  We don't know what's coming, but he knows every detail.  God's plans are always better than our own because his plans are always focused on making us saints.  Whether things work out the way we want them to or not - rejoice - God is making you a saint.  Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30: 5).  I can tell you from experience that the plans that I make are never as good as the plans God makes. 

If you have things planned out do not become so focused on having things go your way that you close yourself off to what God may have planned for you. If you don't have plans and you're worried about what will come, do not whisper in despair, "God, what am I gonna do?" rather with confidence and trust pray, "Lord, to where and to whom do you want to send me?"  "...To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD." (Jer. 1: 7-8)

When you are willing to let go of your own plans and are open to his will for your life, he will take you on adventures you never thought you would experience. You are not alone and you don't have to have everything figured out.  God will lead you in the way that you should go.  Commend yourself into his hands just as Christ did.  He will not drop you, he will not forsake you, he will not let you down. Letting go and trusting in his plan for your life will bring you freedom and open you up to embracing the opportunities that he presents to you each day to become a saint.  "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jer. 29:11) As St. Gianna said, "Entrust the past to God's mercy; the future to Divine Providence; your task is to live holy the present moment."

Lord, I thank you for your guidance and love for me. I know that no detail of my life is beyond your loving care.  Help me to trust in your beautiful plan for me and with childlike confidence place all my hopes in you. 

"Eternal Father, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase your mercy in us that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to your holy will, which is love and mercy itself.  Amen." (Prayer of St. Faustina)

"It is Finished."

In Life of Christ, Bishop Sheen begins speaking of this sixth word of Christ from the cross not as a sigh of relief that his suffering was ending, but rather as a shout of joy that his saving work had been fulfilled.  A beautiful reality about this is that it was not simply an ending but also a glorious beginning.  A beginning of new life for those whom he had redeemed.  The beginning of a new family, a new and everlasting covenant of love.  With the Resurrection, Ascension and Descent of the Holy Spirit a new joy would fill the earth; a new song of hope would resound.  With what love the Saviour bore his cross that he may wed himself forever to his Bride, the Church. 

How glorious that God provides you with the graces through the redemption wrought by Christ to become the person he made you to be!  Open wide the doors to Christ that his flood of love may inundate your soul!  Hold nothing back from him!  Do not be afraid to open your heart to him.  He wants to give you something beautiful - do not reject his gift another moment!  You are precious and beautiful to him - let him tell you how much he loves you.

Oh Love that gave yourself up for me, grant that I may give myself up for you.  Lord as you hung there upon the true tree of life, your heart beat for me in a paradox of pain and joy, suffering and love; grant that I may open myself to receive the joy which you have won for me.  Jesus, I love you.  Through your grace may I open my heart to receive your love that I may love you all the more.

"I Thirst"

Often the simplest words can be the most profound.  This is the shortest sentence Christ spoke from the cross, but it encapsulates the very passion of his Sacred Heart.  Bl. Mother Teresa often spoke of how our Lord did not simply thirst for a drink to wet his lips on the cross, but that he was thirsting for souls.  Bishop Sheen wrote, "'Give me to drink' meant 'Give me thy heart.'" 

It's time to give him the drink he so ardently longs for.  He is thirsty for you.  Quench his thirst by giving him your heart.  What is keeping you from giving yourself totally to him?  He will not spurn your gift.  He sees you exactly for who you are and is begging you for a drink.  Recognize too your thirst for him.  Just as he promised to give living water to the woman at the well who was constantly searching for her thirst to be quenched, so too does he promise you living water when you come to him.  The woman's heart was aching for love - she had had five husbands and finally was involved with a man who was not her husband - but when she found Christ her thirst was quenched.  Why do you seek to quench your thirst elsewhere when he alone can provide you with living water?
All you who are thirsty, come to the water!  You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare... Yes, in joy you shall depart, in peace you shall be brought back; Mountains and hills shall break out in song before you, and all the trees of the countryside shall clap their hands. ~ Isaiah 55: 1-2; 12
Our Lord told St. Faustina, "My daughter, your heart is my heaven."  Welcome him into your heart now, that you may hear his voice saying this to you also.
He loves you, but even more he longs for you.  He misses you when you don't come close.  He thirsts for you.  He loves you always, even when you don't feel worthy.  When  not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes, he is the one who always accepts you.  Only believe that you are precious to him.  Bring all you are suffering to his feet, only open your heart to be loved by him as you are.  He will do the rest. ~ Bl. Mother Teresa
Jesus, I thirst for you.  Come and quench my parched soul and fill me with your abundant wine of love.  Pour out your grace upon me that I may have the trust and strength to quench your thirst by giving you my heart. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"My God, My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?"

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Bearing the weight of his scourged Body with only nails in his hands and feet to hold him up, our sins were pressing down upon him. Each breath he took and each word he spoke was another offering of love - giving himself completely to his beloved as the simple act of breathing became more and more painful. As our sins bore down upon him, he cried out in utter abandonment, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

The feeling of being forsaken can often bring a deep ache. Having a desire to be accepted and loved is a core desire of the human heart. The heart needs love like the lungs need air. But while the wound of feeling forsaken is painful, God is faithful and promises healing to the brokenhearted. When we completely abandon ourselves to the love and mercy of God, 'forsaken' does not have the last word. 

The words Jesus spoke on the cross, though they were a cry of feeling forsaken, were also a cry of hope. Psalm 22 begins, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and goes on to describe the affliction of the psalmist. But the majority of Psalm 22 are words of trust, praise, prayer, hope and victory. "For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him." - Psalm 22: 24

Do not allow yourself to get bogged down in despair!  God has great things in store for you! Abandon yourself to his love!  Trust him - he will bring resurrection!  You are so completely loved by Love itself!  Always remember: you are loved. You are loved. "...and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." - Romans 5:5

"...I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young...Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it!  We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son." - Pope John Paul the Great

Holy Spirit, pour over me that, like Jesus, I may totally abandon myself to the love of the Father. May I not despair when I feel forsaken but trust that you will fill me with your unfailing love and hope.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your Mother."

"Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your Mother."
Standing beneath the cross watching her Son be crucified, our Blessed Mother was certainly not immune to His pain. On the contrary, she was more closely united to it than anyone on earth ever was or ever will be. I sometimes wonder what could have been going on in her Immaculate Heart at that moment?  Was she recalling the words of the prophet Simeon in the temple that a sword would pierce her heart?  Or did she think of the words she sang to her cousin, Elizabeth, in the Magnificat before her Divine Son was even born?  Or were there no words pulsing through her mind, but rather a simple heartbeat of trust?

Our Lady completely abandoned herself to God's perfect will and grace. She trusted so utterly in God's plan for the world and for her life that there is not even one word spoken by Our Lady in the Passion narratives of the Gospels. She did not question, she simply obeyed and followed wherever the Lord led her. The last recorded words of Our Lady in Scripture are "Do whatever he tells you" at the wedding feast at Cana. She completely trusted in her Son and the goodness of God. She trusted that even while she had to endure the crucifixion of her dearly loved Son and the piercing of her own heart, that God would bring something good and beautiful out of her pain. Trusting him did not mean that she was not experiencing pain on Golgotha. No, rather it meant that she did not waiver in her belief that there was a good purpose for the pain and that she was willing to love through it. 

Do you trust God with your life as Our Lady did?  Do you believe that God has a good purpose for your suffering?  Are you willing to suffer for Love? Why is it difficult for you to trust him who loves you so perfectly? As we enter the Triduum, now is the time to ask these purgative questions of yourself and allow the light of Christ to illumine the darkness of your heart. The more light you allow to penetrate the inner depths of your heart the more joy and hope will fill your soul dispelling the darkness and bringing you to new life. 

Lord, fill me with your radiant light that I may trust you with my heart. Rosa Mystica, my Mother, intercede for me that I may imitate your Immaculate Heart in giving myself fully to the Spirit and with confidence bring me closer to your Son. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
The human heart longs to be in communion. Isn't this what we were made for - to love and be loved?  To be in communion with God and one another? We long for this Paradise of Love so deeply that we often try to fill the void within us on our own - not being willing to wait for God to fill it. We simply want to fill the emptiness we feel with something just so we don't feel the hunger pains anymore. So we begin to consume, consume, consume whatever we can grab ahold of so we can hide the fact that we're hungry. But ultimately the hunger always returns because we aren't consuming what can really fill our appetites. Too often we seek temporary relief while Jesus is calling out to us, "Come to me! I can give you rest. I can fill your hunger. I can give you Paradise." 

The secret is not to attempt to deceive yourself into thinking you're not hungry, but rather to allow your hunger to grow so that the true Bread from Heaven can fill you even more. He wants to fill you but you must remember that Jesus said "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" from the cross to a thief who was on a cross next to him. It is only in suffering that you can enter into your hunger and allow it to grow deeper so that your heart can expand to its limits to be able to be filled from the utter depths to the top and overflow in a cascade of Love. 

He proves he wants to fill you by giving himself to you in the Eucharist - but you must be disposed to receiving the graces he gives in this sublime and Most Blessed Sacrament of self-gift. You must allow yourself to be hungry for him when you approach the altar so when you receive him you will have a taste of Paradise preparing you for that day, when by his grace, you will feast in its fullness forever. 

Jesus, I'm hungry for you. Come and fill me. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

As we go through Holy Week I want to reflect upon the seven last words of Christ from the Cross.  Each day I will post a new reflection from now until the Easter Vigil. One of the books that I'm currently reading is "The Life of Christ" by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen and one of the chapters toward the end of the book is about this topic.  There have been many reflections and writings concerning the last words of Our Lord by people who are much further along the path of holiness than I am, so this will be a feeble attempt in comparison, but by God's grace I hope these reflections can provide an avenue to help you enter more deeply into prayer as you prepare to enter the Triduum. 
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. ~ Bishop Fulton Sheen
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." ~ Luke 23:34
In "Divine Mercy in My Soul", St. Faustina says that mercy is God's greatest attribute.  I remember when I was in college even writing that phrase at the bottom of a test I had just taken hoping that the professor would imitate this great attribute of God in having mercy on my grade.  Did it work? Well, that's another story for another day. Let's just say that he agreed with my statement but was a little more focused on God's perfect justice that day.
God's mercy manifests itself in many ways.  Obviously the first way that we think of is that he forgives us when we come to him in the Confessional, but another way God shows us his mercy is through prayer.  How many times have you asked him for something in prayer and you did not receive what you asked for, or received something else completely unexpected or maybe even something you didn't think you wanted?  When the mother of James and John approached Jesus and asked that he give her sons the seats at his right and left in the Kingdom, Jesus responded, "You do not know what you are asking."  Many times we ask him for things that we think we are desperate for, but he knows our hearts and their needs even better than we do, so in his mercy he asks us to wait so that the true desires of our hearts may be revealed and we may have the courage to ask for what we really need.  God answers prayers perfectly, though we often don't see how it was perfect until we look back. God is faithful and holds our hearts with unshakeable tenderness.  Rather than giving us everything for which we ask, he gives us what we need in order to draw us closer to him.  And of all the things we are desperate for, are we not most desperate for him?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Confession: It's Awesome

I found out about a video contest about the Sacrament of Confession via Headline Bistro today, so I checked out some of the videos that have been submitted and they're pretty good.  According to this press release, the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre are hosting this contest to promote "Reconciliation Monday":
This campaign is in support of Reconciliation Monday, which will be celebrated on April 18, when the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as Confession or Penance) will be available between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. in every parish in the three dioceses.
The dioceses have put up a website called to promote this all as well.  Please be sure to go to Confession especially during Lent as this is a special time of penance.  I love this statement by Bishop Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre:
Completely convinced as I am of the beauty and the awesome grace that this sacrament gives us, I invite you in the name of Jesus Christ, to avail yourself of this sacrament. This is the place where we always meet God in his total and unbounded love expressed through His own forgiveness of all our sins. Please come to the sacrament, especially this Lent and experience the peace that comes from being bathed in God’s merciful love.
Read the entire press release here and watch the videos here:

Mike Mangione in the UC Ballroom This Wednesday!

Don't miss Mike Mangione performing in the UC Ballroom at 7:30pm on Wednesday, April 13th!  Listen to his music here.
Mike's latest cd is titled "Offering".  Can anyone guess what the cover art on the album is from?

Music from "The Human Experience" Now Available

So you all remember when Grassroots Films came to our little town last year to screen their latest film The Human Experience.  There was so much beauty in that film, but one of the things that captivated me the most was the music - and for years I've been thinking "Wow, I wish I could buy a cd of that soundtrack so I can listen to it whenever the Spirit moves me."  Well, folks, that day has arrived! If you loved the soundtrack as much as I did (and do) please go here

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fr. Michael Scanlan Retiring

Franciscan University of Steubenville announced today that Fr. Michael Scanlan will be retiring at the end of June.  I couldn't go without mentioning this here because Fr. Scanlan played such an incredibly pivotal role in making Steubenville what it is today by the grace of God and being at the university had a big impact on my life.  I feel so blessed to have been there while Fr. Scanlan was there and I remember everytime I saw him walking around campus and interacting with students he was always so joyful and humble.  I know it will be a strange thing for the university community not to see him there everyday anymore. 
This news also calls to mind how grateful I am for the wonderful priests that I have had the blessing of encountering throughout my life.  The priesthood is such a marvelous blessing from the Lord and I simply must say thank you to all the men who have answered the call of Christ to become fishers of men.  A simple thank you is all I can offer because nothing could ever measure up to the profound gift you have given me in giving your life to bring Jesus to me.  Thank you.

Read the press release about Fr. Scanlan's retirement.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Archbishop Sheehan on Cohabitation

Marcel posted this letter by Archbishop Sheehan regarding cohabitation today in its entirety and I have to agree with his reasoning for doing so: "...because of the important nature of this subject." So here it is:
April 3, 2011
Pastoral Care of Couples Who are Cohabitating
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are all painfully aware that there are many Catholics today who are living in cohabitation. The Church must make it clear to the faithful that these unions are not in accord with the Gospel, and to help Catholics who find themselves in these situations to do whatever they must do to make their lives pleasing to God.
First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony. There is no “third way” possible for a Christian. The Bible and the Church teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and opposes same sex unions.
We have three groups of people who are living contrary to the Gospel teaching on marriage: those who cohabit; those who have a merely civil union with no previous marriage; and those who have a civil union who were married before. These people are objectively living in a state of mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion. They are in great spiritual danger. At the best - and this is, sadly, often the case - they are ignorant of God’s plan for man and woman. At the worst, they are contemptuous of God’s commandments and His sacraments.
Of these three groups, the first two have no real excuse. They should marry in the Church or separate. Often their plea is that they “cannot afford a church wedding” i.e. the external trappings, or that “what difference does a piece of paper make?” - as if a sacramental covenant is nothing more than a piece of paper! Such statements show religious ignorance, or a lack of faith and awareness of the evil of sin.
The third group, those who were married before and married again outside the Church, can seek a marriage annulment and have their marriage blest in the Church. Please remember that divorce still is no reason to refrain from Holy Communion as long as they have not entered into another marriage or sinful relationship. Many Catholics are confused on this point.
Christ our Lord loves all these people and wishes to save them - not by ignoring their sin, or calling evil good, but by repentance and helping them to change their lives in accordance with His teaching. We, as His Church, must do the same. In accord with this, I would remind you of the following:
1. People in the above three situations cannot receive the Sacraments, with the important exception of those who agree to live chastely (“as brother and sister”) until their situation is regularized. Of course, those in danger of death are presumed to be repentant.
2. These people may not be commissioned as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, not only because of scandal, but even more because one commits the sin of sacrilege by administering a Sacrament in the state of mortal sin.
3. Nor are such people to be admitted to the role of sponsor for Baptism or Confirmation, as is clearly stated on the Archdiocesan Affidavit for a Sponsor. It is critical for the sponsor to be a practicing Catholic - and can anyone be seriously called a practicing Catholic who is not able to receive the sacraments because they are living in sin?
4. When it comes to other parish ministries and organizations, I feel it best to leave these situations to the judgment of the pastor. Prudence is needed, avoiding all occasions of scandal. We must see their involvement in the parish as an opportunity to work urgently to bring such people to repentance and the regularization of their lifestyle.
5. Many of these sins are committed out of ignorance. I ask that our pastors preach on the gravity of sin and its evil consequences, the 6th and 9th Commandments of God, and the sacramental nature and meaning of Christian marriage. Our catechetical programs in our parishes - children, youth, and adult – must clearly and repeatedly teach these truths.
A Church wedding does not require some lavish spectacle and entertainment costing vast sums of money (Indeed, how often we have seen the most costly weddings end in divorce in but a few months or years!). While beauty and joy should surround a Christian wedding, we must remind everyone that it is a sacrament, not a show.
6. Those who are married outside the Church because of a previous union are urged to seek an annulment through our Marriage Tribunal. If it can be found that the first marriage lacked some essential quality for a valid marriage, the Tribunal can grant an annulment. Your pastor can help someone start a marriage case for this purpose. It is important for such couples to continue to pray and get to Mass even though they may not receive Communion, until their marriage can be blest in the Church.
Our popular American culture is often in conflict with the teachings of Jesus and His Church. I urge especially young people to not cohabitate which is sinful, but to marry in the Church and prepare well for it.
I congratulate and thank those thousands of Catholic married couples who role model the Sacrament of Marriage according to the teachings of Jesus and his Church.
Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord,
Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan
Archbishop of Santa Fe
Cohabitation really is a major problem in our country and world today.  The Sacrament of Marriage is profoundly important to the state of the world.  Let us not forget that marriage is a sacrament and therefore grace is received when a couple enters into marriage.  We must pray for married couples and for all those who are called to the vocation of marriage.  The witness of faithful spouses can and will be transformative to the world if we allow the grace received in this sacrament to flourish in our lives.  Cohabitation is an obstacle to our understanding and appreciation of this holy sacrament.  And, frankly, I am going to step out there and say that if we don't understand marriage (its beauty, its purpose, its importance), then we don't understand who we are as persons.  The contraceptive mentality of 'I want what I want, when I want it with no consequences' has led to a breakdown of marriage to the point that society doesn't even recognize the need for marriage anymore.  We must eagerly pray for a renewal in our understanding and love of this most urgently needed sacrament and witness of Christ's love for His Bride, the Church. 

So this is my call to all Catholics - pray, study and learn what the Church really teaches about the beauty and dignity of marriage - if you aren't yet married it will prepare you for a future healthy marriage - if you are already married it will strengthen and renew your marriage.  And please, please, please to all you young people - please don't cohabitate - I say this because I care about you and your future - you will save yourself from much stress, pain and frustration if you simply wait until God calls you to marry someone.  Christ and His Church want you to be happy and become the person God made you to be - the Church's teachings are there to help us do this.  Wait upon the Lord and he will fufill your heart's desires.

Happy Birthday, Pier Giorgio!

Today Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati would have turned 110 years old!  Bl. Pier Giorgio is a favorite of mine because he was a normal young adult who enjoyed spending time with friends, hiking, mountain climbing etc., but also exhibited extraordinary holiness throughout his short life. He is such a great example of how we are all called to be saints - literally.  Everyone is called to holiness from the small child to the teen to the young adult to the grandpa.  Bl. Pier Giorgio was only 24 years old when he died and yet his life has made such an impact on the world.  Pope John Paul II called him a "man of the beatitudes".  So today, say a prayer through the intercession of Bl. Pier Giorgio and celebrate this great man's life who shows us what being a young Catholic means - to strive for holiness at every moment in both joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain - that God is our all in all - that heaven is our goal!  As he always said, "Verso l'alto!"  "To the heights!"

Check out this website for more info on Bl. Pier Giorgio.

Make a spiritual pilgrimage to his tomb in Turin, Italy here: