Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Other Side of the Confessional

Ever wonder what the view from the other side of the Confessional is like?  This priest lets you have a glimpse:
I was once riding in a shuttle-bus with a number of older folks on the way from an airport. They noticed that I was a priest and started asking questions about it. “Do you do all of the priest stuff?” “Yep.” “Even the Confession thing?” “Yeah. All the time.”
One older lady gasped, “Well, I think that that would be the worst. It would be so depressing; hearing all about people’s sins.”
I told them that it was the exact opposite. There is almost no greater place to be than with someone when they are coming back to God. I said, “It would depressing if I had to watch someone leave God; I get to be with them when they come back to Him.” The Confessional is a place where people let God’s love win. The Confessional is the most joyful, humbling, and inspiring place in the world....
...Remember, Confession is always a place of victory. Whether you have confessed a particular sin for the first time, or if this is the 12,001st time, every Confession is a win for Jesus. And I, a priest, get to be there. That’s what it’s like . . . I get to sit and watch Jesus win His children back all day.
It’s flippin’ awesome.
Read it all here.
Make it a point to go to Confession during this Advent to prepare yourself for the coming of the Lord at Christmas.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Emotional Chastity/Virtue

Girl meets guy.  Girl immediately starts planning the wedding and writing her first name with his last name all over her notebook to see if it flows well.  Girl puts guy on pedestal and thinks he can do no wrong (which puts way too much pressure on any person).  And thus begins a story that involves a lot of wounds and heartache.
I don't think I've ever met a girl (including myself) who hasn't, in some varying degree, dealt with this at some point or another.  Guys, you're not off the hook either, you can just as easily dream up some idea in your head as well.  So what, pray tell, must be done?  Emotional Chastity/Virtue.  Live in reality and strive for truth, beauty and goodness.  Reality can actually be quite good and allows a relationship to flourish and blossom because neither person is putting too much pressure on the other to be perfect (which helps when apologies and forgiveness are necessary) and when each person sees the other for who they really are then they can both make an honest choice to love each other where they're at and help one another become more virtuous and be the saints they were made to be.  There is a lot more that could be said on this topic, but unfortunately I don't have time to write out a discourse on it right now. So for now, I point you to the following:
Women have a unique ability to identify and draw out the good in another person, thereby contributing to others’ personal growth.  Furthermore, desire for love is in itself natural, good, and even noble. Women court danger, however, when they fill their minds with unbridled sentimentality that ignores the truth about their relationships.
Why would sentimentality or a romanticized vision of love be such a bad thing?  Consider a necessary distinction between romantic sentiment and sentimentality. Sentimentality can easily be detached from reality, thereby threatening healthy relationships, as it is primarily a disproportionate emotional response to sexual attraction.  Emotional sentiments may spontaneously happen to a person and provide a distraction from developing authentic interpersonal interaction, which is rooted in choice, healthy decisions and habits. The role of romantic sentiment, on the other hand, can be a positive one.  Romantic sentiment, if properly integrated into a relationship that also includes mutual knowledge, healthy trust and commitment levels, and true friendship grounded in virtue, comprises one of the key ingredients in authentic love and indeed can be the seed from which authentic love blossoms. If left unchecked, however, sentimentality becomes divorced from reality and this departure from truth about the situation can be harmful.
Read the rest here.
Also check out Emotional Virtue, a website by Sarah Swafford.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rekindling the Fire of Holiness

Archbishop Chaput's Thanksgiving message:
Here’s the lesson I want to leave you with this week. We’re all called to martyrdom. That’s what the word "martyr" means: It’s the Greek word for “witness.” We may or may not ever suffer personally for our love of Jesus Christ. But we’re all called to be witnesses. In proclaiming the Year of Faith, Benedict XVI wrote that:
“By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, whose names are written in the Book of Life … have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministries to which they were called.”
The only thing that matters is to be a saint. That’s what we need to be. That’s what we need to become. And if we can serve God through the witness of our lives by kindling that fire of holiness again in the heart of our local parishes and communities, then the Christ Child who comes to us at Christmas will make all things new – in our Church, in our families and in our nation.
May God grant us all a joy-filled and blessed Thanksgiving.
Read it in full here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Prioritizing What We're Thankful For

Cardinal Dolan submitted a great article to the New York Post reflecting on what really matters as we all begin to take a break for Thanksgiving:
...my prayer this Thursday will be not first one of praise, but of petition. I will ask the Lord to keep us a culture where personal friendship, genuine conversation and family unity can be a high priority. I’ll beg God to keep those values constant in our society.
Why? Because I’m fearful they’re disappearing.
Experts in behavioral sciences and sociology seem to share my apprehension. These scholars write that personal contact — verbal, face-to-face quality conversation and healthy leisure where we simply “spend time” as family or friends — is going the way of the rotary telephone. Now we prefer to text, e-mail, Facebook or Twitter — with a personal phone call or letter even becoming quaint, and quality time in each other’s company rare.
And now the days that a classic, civil culture sets aside for such lofty projects as visiting, conversing or sharing a meal together — such as the weekly Sabbath and holidays such as Thanksgiving — are in jeopardy.
The stores, we hear, will open on Thanksgiving. Isn’t that a sign of progress and liberation? Sorry, but no — it’s a sign of a further descent into a highly privatized, impersonal, keep-people-at-a-distance culture, one that values having stuff and doing things over just being with people whom we love, cherish and appreciate.
While a student in Europe, I once spent New Year’s Eve in Holland with two other classmates. We stayed at a simple pensiĆ³n run by a cheerful elderly couple, and our rate included breakfast and supper. That morning, the owners explained that New Year’s Eve was for the Dutch a solemn, quiet evening with family and friends.
Thus, they explained, the meal in the hotel dining room would not be available, and, they warned, nothing — no restaurant, bar or store — nothing in the city would be open. “This evening is for us,” they said, “like we understand Thanksgiving is for you. Everybody is with family or friends.”
Just as the three of us were about to conclude that we’d have a lonely, boring, hungry evening ahead of us, the couple exclaimed, “So, tonight, you are not customers. You are family. You join us, our children, grandchildren and close friends for supper.”
The three of us were near tears. And that evening of conversation, good food, song and even prayer before the meal was ever-memorable.
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Joy of the Presence of the Holy Spirit

When we do the will of God our lives are filled with joy:

What/Who Fills Up Your Life?

How to Give and Receive Love

Check out Part One of a reflection on giving and receiving love based on Luke 14: 12-14 from Ryan Kraeger.
Then read Part Two of the same reflection.
He makes some wonderful observations that are worth contemplating how they apply in your own life and how your relationships can better reflect the love of God.

Ryan will actually be speaking at Catholic Campus Ministry on December 1st, so be sure to mark your calendar and join us for this event!  More information on Operation Eden can be found here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Can the Souls' in Purgatory Pray for Us?

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them O Lord, and let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Them

Today is the Feast of All Souls' so I thought I would re-post the following from this time last year.  Enjoy and you're welcome. ;)

All Saints & All Souls: Highlighting the Body of Christ

Tuesday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints' - a holy day of obligation giving us the opportunity to glorify God through all His holy saints who constantly intercede for us; a day to celebrate the Church Triumphant.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of All Souls' - a day to intercede for the Church Suffering, the holy souls in Purgatory.

To what are the terms Church Triumphant, Church Suffering and Church Militant referring and what is significant about these holy days and the doctrine of Purgatory?

The Church is the Body of Christ - Christ is the head and we are the members of the body.  The Church is made up of both those who are living on earth and those who have passed on and are awaiting the resurrection.  The 'Church Triumphant' are those members of the Body of Christ, the Church, who have entered into the glory of God in heaven and who pray to God for us that we may also enter into the joy of eternal happiness with Him:
"And another angel came and stood  at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God." - Rev. 8: 3-4
The saints have triumphed over sin and Satan through the holy 'blood of the Lamb' and therefore are referred to as the 'Church Triumphant':
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. - Rev. 12: 11
Then we have the 'Church Suffering', who are the holy souls in Purgatory.  Purgatory is often a misunderstood doctrine - and, yes, Purgatory is a doctrine of the Holy Church - always has been, always will be.  Doctrines and dogmas of the Church are unchanging because Truth does not change.  Purgatory is not something the Church just 'made up' - it is a part of the sacred deposit of the Faith given by Christ to the Apostles and handed on to us by them as well as having Scriptural basis.  The Catechism #1030 says this about Purgatory:
All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
Purgatory does not mean that Christ's sacrifice for us was not sufficient.  Purgatory is actually a great grace of God and reinforces the fact that Christ's redemptive act is effective.  When we sin we incur a dual punishment: eternal and temporal.  Eternal punishment is hell; temporal punishment is repairing the damage our sin has caused.  Again, this does not mean that we are working our way toward heaven apart from Christ or that Christ's sacrifice was not sufficient.  Let's look at the words of St. Paul:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church... - 1 Colossians 1: 24
Does Paul mean that Christ's sacrifice was not good enough?  No, of course not.  The sacrifice of Jesus was perfect and complete.  But God loves us so much that He wants us to be in a relationship with Him, uniting our imperfect sufferings to the perfect suffering of Jesus, thereby, echoing St. Paul's words, "I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions..."  In Revelation 21, St. John describes the "the holy city, new Jerusalem", heaven.  At the end of the chapter he says, "But nothing unclean shall enter it...".  Purgatory is a part of the redeeming blood of Jesus having its effect in cleansing us that we may be clean to enter heaven.
In the whole land, says the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.  And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.  They will call on my name, and I will answer them.  I will say, 'They are my people'; and they will say, 'The Lord is my God.'.  - Zech. 13: 8-9
Purgatory is a cleansing fire from which all our impurities and disordered attachments are purified as gold in the fire that we may be clean through the blood of the Lamb to enter into the joy of heaven.  Contrary to many misconceptions, Purgatory is not a permanent state.  Those who are being cleansed in Purgatory are assured of heaven but are simply being purified before entering.  We speak of this in terms of space and time, because that's how we experience life, so we say things like 'in' Purgatory and 'how long' someone is in Purgatory, but God is not limited by space and time, so how that actually all looks we don't know because it has not been revealed.

We have the opportunity to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory and offer our sufferings on earth to God in union with the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf, just as St. Paul mentions in 1 Colossians.  So All Souls' Day is a day particularly set aside for that very purpose, though we are called to pray for the holy souls often.  An example of praying for those who have died is provided in 2 Maccabees 12 in which the leader of the army brought his dead soldiers to be buried and he and all with him prayed for those who had died:
In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.  For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that  is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.  Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.  - 2 Maccabees 12: 43-45
One saint who was particularly devoted to the holy souls in Purgatory was St. Gertrude.  She composed the following prayer for the holy souls:
Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with all  the Masses said throughout the world today, for the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those within my home and within my family.
Read more about Purgatory from Catholics United for the Faith here.  I highly recommend reading it.

The 'Church Militant' are those of us still here on earth fighting the good fight so as to win the prize:
For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. - 2 Tim. 4: 6-7
Each day, because of concupiscence (the tendency to sin) and the temptations of Satan, we engage in a battle to choose Christ over sin.  This is why we are called the 'Church Militant' because we are engaged in a battle.  Thanks be to God that Jesus has won the ultimate victory over sin and death - we must, however, choose to partake in that victory by His grace.
This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. - 1 Tim. 1: 18
So the Solemnity of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls are important because they remind us that we are all one body in Christ and have an initimate connection to one another and can assist each other in being holy children of God and guide one another on the path to the new Jerusalem, the holy city: heaven.

May the saints intercede for us to our God, may we pray for each other and encourage one another in living holy lives pleasing to the Lord and may we pray for the holy souls in Purgatory who no doubt pray for us as well: May perpetual light shine upon them and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.