Catholic Church = Whore of Babylon?

We’ve heard it everywhere and seen it reproduced in different places–it’s a hot discussion topic. Everyone seems to be convinced that the world is ending soon, and that has people running to the Book of Revelation to see if they can predict what’s coming next. Conspiracy theories and weird interpretations come out of these efforts. The most popular issue in Revelation though, by far, comes up in Chapter 17 with the mysterious Whore of Babylon. How do we figure out who THAT is?

Well, hmmm….Purple robes. Rich. Worldwide influence. Blood of saints and martyrs. Mysterious names. City with seven hills. HAS to be the Catholic Church. Right?

Wrong.

These questions need to be addressed, as those who spread this idea can be pretty convincing with their arguments. I’ve spoken to many Catholics who are genuinely worried that this view of Revelation is correct and that they are part of an apostate Church. That’s a very logical fear. And yet, the argument against the Church easily falls away when we examine the historical setting of Revelation, the Church to which it was written, and the more likely candidates for the Whore of Babylon position.

Now, let me say this: this question doesn’t have a straight answer. What I mean to say is that it is all in how a person reads the Book of Revelation. It can certainly be read with an anti-Catholic lens, and that lens will give you a pretty damning picture of the Church. However, this text can also be read within the historical context in which it was written, which gives us a better picture of what the author intended.

So, how to address this? I’ll be doing a series of posts to answer this question, as there’s some background information and some other points I need to make before we actually get to the question about the Whore of Babylon. Stick around!

Happy Birthday, Your Holiness!

Not only is today the feast day of my patron saint, St. Bernadette Soubirous, but it is also the birthday of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. He turns 85 today. In honor of that, I suggest that today especially we should pray for the Holy Father and for his intentions. The following prayer may be used:

Prayer for the Holy Father

Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to Your shepherd, Pope Benedict, a spirit of courage and right judgment, a spirit of knowledge and love. By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care, may he, as successor to the apostle Peter and Vicar of Christ, build Your Church into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

God bless our pope!

My Saint’s Feast Day: St. Bernadette Soubirous

Biography

Bernadette Soubirous was born on January 7, 1844 in Lourdes, France. She was one of nine children born to Louise and Francois Soubirous and one of only four to live past childhood. Her family lived in total poverty and called an old jail cell home. Bernadette’s father had a hard time finding work and was usually between jobs. At age 11, Bernadette fell ill with cholera and suffered severe asthma for the rest of her life. To help her family earn some money, she took a job as a waitress at her aunt’s inn, but the money wasn’t enough to pay for their basic needs.

In January of 1858, Bernadette’s life changed forever. One day, while gathering firewood with her sister and a friend by the River Gave, Bernadette saw a vision of Our Lady. During this first apparition, she prayed the rosary with the Lady. She asked her companions whether they had seen something as well, but both said that the grotto had been empty. After countless requests, Bernadette told the two girls what she had seen and made them promise not to tell anyone. They promised, and (of course) told everyone what had happened when they arrived home.

The second apparition came that following Sunday. This time, Bernadette was armed with a flask of holy water to throw on the vision. When Our Lady once again appeared at the grotto, Bernadette grabbed the flask of holy water and began to cast it on the apparition, all the while saying her rosary and commanding that if the vision was from God, the Lady should stay. The Blessed Mother only smiled at this and disappeared after Bernadette had finished saying her rosary.

During the third apparition, which occurred on Thursday, February 18, 1858, Bernadette went to the grotto with a few adults and asked the Lady to write down anything she had to say. The Lady said that was not necessary and asked Bernadette if she would come back for a fortnight. She told Bernadette, “I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next”. For the rest of her earthly life, St. Bernadette would suffer from sickness and the misunderstanding of the people around her.

Throughout this fortnight of visions, Mary told Bernadette three secrets and ordered her not to tell anyone. To this day, we still have no clue what they were. Several times she told Bernadette to pray for sinners. During this fortnight, inexplicable miracles occurred, including the healing of the sick. Only two times did the Lady disappoint. Lourdes became a major place of pilgrimage and still is to this day. I will highlight the main visions of the fortnight below.

The sixth apparition occurred on February 21, 1858. One hundred and twenty people were present on this occasion. Afterwards, Bernadette was questioned by Police Inspector Jacomet. In this first interrogation, Bernadette was taken to a room alone and asked to relay what had happened at the grotto. When Jacomet read her words back to her, Bernadette pointed out that he had made some errors. The two argued about this for some time before the Inspector admitted that he had been mistaken, but went on reading with more errors. This went on for close to an hour and a half before Bernadette was able to leave.

During the seventh apparition, a local skeptic, Jean-Baptiste Estrade, and the court official, Duffo, were present at the request of the parish priest, Father Peyramale. At the end of this apparition, both men were convinced that the visions were authentic and became believers.

The eighth apparition came with two messages: “Pray for the conversion of sinners” and “Penance”. Two hundred and fifty people were present this time, and all recognized the strength of these messages.

The ninth apparition brought crowds of 350 and much disappointment. During this vision, the Lady commanded Bernadette to drink from a muddy puddle of water and to eat grass that grew near the same place. Only a few grasped the meaning behind these things, while others left wondering how they could have been so stupid as to believe in this person. The water symbolized the water that flowed from Christ’s side on the Cross. This came at a time when accounts of the Passion were being read in Mass. After this vision, Bernadette was again questioned.

The thirteenth apparition came with a huge task. Bernadette was asked to go to the parish priest and tell him to build a chapel on the site of the grotto and to have the people come to it in procession. The first time she approached Fr. Peyramale, who was a strong skeptic, with this request, he turned her away and told her not to return to the grotto. She went back that same night with a friend of the priest’s and was questioned. After this, Fr. Peyramale visited the bishop and was advised to stay away from the grotto. Truthfully, Fr. Peyramale had grown eager to inspect it for himself. For three days she came with the same request, and for three days her request was denied. Finally, Fr. Peyramale consented to have a guard posted at the grotto and told Bernadette that if the Lady wanted her chapel, she should reveal her name and make the rosebush at the grotto flower.

In the fourteenth apparition, Bernadette relayed what the priest had said and was told to go to him again and ask for a chapel. Once again, the stubborn priest asked for the Lady’s name. When Bernadette asked her this, she only smiled.

On the last apparition of the fortnight, 10,000 people were present and a military escort was in place. After this apparition, Bernadette was subjected to a medical examination and again visited Fr. Peyramale with the Lady’s request.

Finally, during the sixteenth apparition, the Lady revealed her name. “I am the Immaculate Conception”. These words made no sense to Bernadette. After leaving a candle between two rocks in the grotto as a gift, Bernadette ran off, repeating the words all the way to the church where she relayed them to Fr. Peyramale. He sent her off, telling her that a woman could not have a name like that. Secretly, he was worried. He knew this to be another name for the Blessed Virgin. Later that day, someone told Bernadette the meaning of the words so that she could understand that the title was for Our Lady. Fr. Peyramale, knowing that there was no way for Bernadette to have known this, wrote to the bishop. After all, Bernadette was only just then preparing for First Communion, a task she should have completed six or seven years before.

The seventeenth apparition was observed by Dr. Dozous, a skeptic. He knelt by Bernadette’s side and watched her throughout the vision. He noticed that she was holding a candle that soon burnt down to where she was only holding a small nub. The flames licked at her fingers, but after the vision he observed no burns. Bernadette said she had not felt the flames at all. Dr. Dozous became a big supporter of Bernadette after this event.

The eighteenth and final apparition occurred on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. This time, Bernadette observed Our Lady from the far bank of the Gave River and reported that she was “more beautiful than ever”.

A few days after this final apparition (July 28, 1858), Bishop Laurence of Tarbes put together a committee to investigate the claims of the grotto. This investigation continued for three and a half years. Bernadette was officially questioned on November 17, 1858 along with other witnesses. The inexplicable cures were examined and 35 were confirmed as miraculous. On January 18, 1862, Bishop Laurence issued a pastoral letter confirming the visions at the grotto. A church was built and dedicated in 1866. Bernadette was present for this moment. The statue that still stands at the grotto today, which Bernadette herself said did not depict the Lady accurately, was dedicated with a procession and ceremony on April 4, 1864.

This is the statue that stands in the grotto at Lourdes. St. Bernadette remarked that the statue did not portray Our Lady with all of her beauty.

After the dedication of the church, Bernadette went to live in a convent in Nevers, France where she learned how to read and write. She helped care for the sick with the sisters of her convent during her stay there. She died in Nevers at the age of 35. Her body was buried in a damp grave and was exhumed for a formal examination in 1909 where it was found that her body was still in perfect condition. Her body can still be seen in Nevers where it is on display in a crystal coffin.  She was canonized on December 8, 1933 by Pope Pius XI and is the patron saint of the sick. Her feast day is April 16 (I’m posting this a day early).

The incorruptible body of St. Bernadette Soubirous in Nevers, France.

Why Bernadette?

I chose St. Bernadette as my saint for Confirmation for a few reasons. Firstly, I’ve always loved her story. Even when I was a little kid, I would re-read her story over and over again in my mother’s Book of the Saints and when we had to dress up as a saint to celebrate All Saints’ Day at my elementary school, I always chose to be Bernadette. So you could say her story just…clicked with me. I really don’t know why. The other reason was that I find her to be a beautiful model of humility. Throughout the visions and the hype, St. Bernadette remained simple and child-like. Humility is something I need a lesson in.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Every year on the Sunday after Easter, the Church celebrates the Feast of Divine Mercy. I’m sure everyone will recognize the image of Divine Mercy:

But why do we have this feast day?

Well, to put it quite simply, because Christ asked for it.  In the 1930′s, Jesus appeared multiple times to a Polish nun named St. Faustina. In the course of these visions, Christ revealed to Faustina the depths of His Divine Mercy and asked that a feast day be established on the Sunday after Easter to venerate His Mercy. There is so much more to St. Faustina’s story, but if I put everything in this post…let’s just say it would be just a little bit long. So, I want to direct you guys to two different sources to learn more about St. Faustina. The first is the website for the Divine Mercy, which you can view here. The second source is the Diary of St. Faustina, which you can purchase at most Catholic book stores. In her diary, Faustina recorded everything Our Lord revealed to her about His Mercy. It is a great book for spiritual reading and there’s a little something everyone can relate to in it, so I highly recommend it to everybody.

St. Faustina Kowalska

Now, let’s get down to prayers, shall we? Along with this feast day, Jesus established the Novena to the Divine Mercy and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to be recited by the faithful. The Novena begins on Good Friday and ends on the Saturday before Divine Mercy Sunday (so in other words, I’ve gotten to this a bit late…sorry about that). Here is the text of the Novena:

First Day:

Today bring to Me ALL MANKIND, ESPECIALLY ALL SINNERS, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.  In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me.
Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness.  Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It.  We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus.  For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever.  Amen.

Second Day:

Today bring to Me THE SOULS OF PRIESTS AND RELIGIOUS, and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy.  It was they who gave Me strength to endure My bitter Passion.  Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind.
Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service,* that they may perform worthy works of mercy;  and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard—upon the souls of priests and religious;  and endow them with the strength of Your blessing.  For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end.  Amen.

Third Day:

Today bring to Me ALL DEVOUT AND FAITHFUL SOULS, and immerse then in the ocean of My mercy. The souls brought Me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were that drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness. 
Most Merciful Jesus, from the treasury of Your mercy, You impart Your graces in great abundance to each and all.  Receive us into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart and never let us escape from It.  We beg this grace of You by that most wonderous love for the heavenly Father with which Your Heart burns so fiercely.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon faithful souls, as upon the inheritance of Your Son.  For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, grant them Your blessing and surround them with Your constant protection.  Thus may they never fail in love or lose the treasure of the holy faith, but rather, with all the hosts of Angels and Saints, may they glorify Your boundless mercy for endless ages.  Amen.

Fourth Day:

Today bring to Me THOSE WHO DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD AND THOSE WHO DO NOT YET KNOW ME.  I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart.  Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.
Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world.  Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You.  Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy;  and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus.  Draw them to the light of the Gospel.  These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You.  Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages.  Amen.

Fifth Day:

Today bring to Me THE SOULS OF THOSE WHO HAVE SEPARATED THEMSELVES FROM MY CHURCH, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.  During My  bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church.  As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.
Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You.  Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church.  Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart;  but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son’s Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors.  Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart.  Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages.  Amen.

Sixth Day:

Today bring to Me THE MEEK AND HUMBLE SOULS AND THE SOULS OF LITTLE CHILDREN, and immerse them in My mercy.  These souls most closely resemble My Heart.  They strengthened Me during My bitter agony.  I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars.  I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace.  Only the humble soul is capable of  receiving My grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.
Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.”  Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children.  These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father’s favorites.  They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God;  God Himself takes delight in their fragrance.  These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus.  These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son.  Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne.  Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them:  Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages.  Amen.

Seventh Day:

Today bring to Me THE SOULS WHO ESPECIALLY VENERATE AND GLORIFY MY MERCY, and immerse them in My mercy.  These souls sorrowed most over  my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit.  They are living images of My Compassionate Heart.  These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life.  Not one of them will go into the fire of hell.  I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death.
Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your mercy.  These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself.  In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy;  and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders.  These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus.  These souls are a living Gospel;  their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High!  I beg You O God:
Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You.  Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory.  Amen.

Eighth Day:

Today bring to Me THE SOULS WHO ARE DETAINED IN PURGATORY, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy.  Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames.  All these souls are greatly loved by Me.  They are making retribution to My justice.  It is in your power to bring them relief.  Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf.  Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice.
Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy;  so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet, who must make retribution to Your justice.  May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of Purgatory, that there, too, the power of Your mercy may be celebrated.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus.  I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded:  Manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny.  Look upon them in no other way but only through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son;  for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.

Ninth Day:

Today bring to Me SOULS WHO HAVE BECOME LUKEWARM, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy.  These souls wound My Heart most painfully.  My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls.  They were the reason I cried out:  ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’  For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.
Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself.  I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart.  In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls, who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame.  O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus.  Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross:  Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy.  Amen.

During the Divine Mercy Novena, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy should be said on each day for each group of souls (the Chaplet can also be said on any day during the year). This Chaplet can be said on ordinary Rosary beads using the following prayers:

Optional Opening Prayers

You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world.  O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!

The Our Father

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

The Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,  who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,  born of the Virgin Mary, 
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.  On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Eternal Father

Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Your dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

Petition

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Holy God

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Optional Closing Prayer

Eternal God, 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.

Now, let’s put all of that together. Put out your Rosary beads! You can also follow along online.

So, here we go. On the crucifix, make the Sign of the Cross. Then, on the first bead, say either of the optional opening prayers. There are three beads after this. On the first of the three, say an Our Father, on the second say a Hail Mary, and on the third say the Apostles’ Creed. On the next bead, recite the Eternal Father. Then, on each of the Hail Mary beads (the sets of ten beads) say the petition prayer. On each of the mystery beads (the beads after each set of ten beads), say the Eternal Father. When you have said all five decades, recite the Holy God prayer three times and then say the closing prayer. Make the Sign of the Cross after this. That’s how you say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy! The Chaplet is normally said during the hour of 3:00pm everyday because that is the Hour of Divine Mercy–the hour in which Our Lord died on the Cross.

May the peace of the Risen Christ be with all of you!

Don’t Be Scared of Questions!

It seems that more and more in today’s society, we’re scared of questions about our Faith. We don’t want anyone to come along and start poking holes in our beliefs or posing questions we can’t answer because it makes us feel stupid and it challenges us. I’ve noticed this trend more and more recently and some events of the past couple of days have just made me want to express my opinion.

What are we running from??? We have nothing to hide from anyone, brothers and sisters! I understand that questions posed by others might challenge our own Faith and that we sometimes don’t want to deal with other people’s inquiries…after all, we have enough problems of our own. But that’s the wrong attitude. As Christians, we have to be open to sharing the Gospel and the Faith the Church has handed down to us throughout the centuries. Faith is a gift–it isn’t a box with a little bow on it that isn’t meant to be opened and shared, though. We have to share our faith with those who ask us questions and with the people we meet everyday by being Christ to them (yes, even to the people who irritate us).

But how do we go about doing that?

For starters, we have to be willing to be known as Catholic Christians in our daily lives outside of home and Mass. That, of course, comes with great responsibility. Being Catholic is hard today and it requires a great deal of patience and trust in God to truly live as Christ has taught us. Nevertheless, that is the first step.

So what do you do if someone asks you a question? Well, if you know the answer, answer them respectfully. If you don’t know the answer, don’t just make one up off the top of your head! Tell them you’ll look it up, do more research, and get back to them as soon as you can.

Two steps and a lot of prayer. That’s what I recommend.

Being scared of a question and hiding from it doesn’t make the question go away: it just makes it harder to deal with later on. The trend seems to be growing anyway. People nowadays want to know why we believe God exists, what we think about evolution, what we really know about Jesus, and whether or not the Bible is the Word of God. They want to know about Christianity and Jesus from a historical standpoint. “What are the pure, unbiased facts?” they ask.

Don’t run away! Some questions are hard to face, but you must realize that the person who is asking you these questions is searching for Truth in some way, even if they ask the question in the most offensive way possible. Receive each person with love and respect. Do your best to find them an answer and help them if they don’t understand.

So many people have been driven away from Christianity because someone won’t listen to them and the concerns they have about the Faith. We have to stop that. Jesus never promised that the road would be easy–it is the Way of the Cross. Let’s do our best to be Christ to others and to spread the truth of the Gospel.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

I know what you’re all thinking…what’s wrong with this picture, right? After all, Easter was LAST Sunday! Talk about a delayed reaction, huh? Well, allow me to explain myself a little bit. I have a two-fold reason. The REAL reason that I’m just now posting this is that I didn’t have time to write a post last Sunday. However, for once, my busy schedule has worked out for the best because I do have a point to make…even if it is a little late.

So, Lent ended on Holy Thursday. Forty days of fasting and preparation done. But why were we fasting? The season of Lent is meant to prepare our hearts to celebrate Holy Week, from Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, the Passion on Good Friday, and finally, the joy of Easter. Throughout the whole season, we look to the Cross and then to the empty tomb.

About a week ago, Easter came and went. The Easter bunny made his rounds to deliver  baskets full of candy, chocolate, and stuffed animals. We all went to Mass and heard the joyful proclamation: Christ is Risen! Back to life as normal until next Easter.

Or not.

In our time, I think we’ve grown numb to the Gospel. We’ve heard the stories so many times and been to Mass to hear the readings and receive the Eucharist so many times that we act on autopilot. “Easter’s coming up?” we say. “Great. Now I have to make a huge dinner, buy gifts, get my schedule planned…” and on and on. By the time Easter is over, we’re ready to just lay down and rest until Christmas rolls around and we have to jump through even bigger hoops to do what’s got to be done.

And in all of our preparations and fussing, we miss the point.

Christ is Risen!This is cause for great joy! Do we not realize what this means? This is the same Jesus who seemed defeated just three days before. He was tortured, mocked, and then hung on a tree for everyone to jeer at as He died. His disciples had left Him. They were scared, confused, and now they were despairing. How could they possibly have gone wrong with this Jesus? Their Messiah was crucified! Crucifixion was the most shameful way to die in that time and was reserved only for the worst of criminals. It was brutal, humiliating torture meant to strip the person of every last shred of human dignity. Laid in a tomb, everyone thought Him defeated. Hopes were dashed and His enemies just shook their heads. How could someone have believed that guy’s stories anyway? The Son of God? Yeah, right.

Then, just three days later, everything was turned upside down. This Jesus who seemed defeated rose from the grave! He broke the chains of death and walked first the path we will all walk!

If there is no Easter, there is no Christianity. If Christ did not rise, then nor will we rise. The Resurrection is central and essential to the Christian faith. Easter is a day of joy and celebration. Our Lord was dead and is alive again!

And yet, just realizing that is not enough. Easter is not just one day on the calendar–for Christians, the joy of Easter must be lived every day of our lives. This joy, this hope, should transform our lives, and it will if we allow it to do so. Christianity is a religion of joy and hope. Why? Because Christ is risen, because He did conquer death and save us from our sins. We are an Easter people, and “Alleluia!” is our song.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

May the peace of the Risen Christ be with all of you.

What Happens on Good Friday?

Good Friday (today) is the day we celebrate the Passion of Our Lord. Because this is such a solemn feast day, there are some things that stand out as being different. So what’s new?

Well, for one thing, this service is not a Mass. You’ll notice that the priest does not begin this service with the Sign of the Cross, and nor is there a formal dismissal (i.e.: “The Mass is ended. Let us go in peace to serve the Lord and one another.”). There is no consecration at this service, but rather hosts that have already been consecrated are distributed to the congregation. You will also notice that the tabernacle is empty and the altar bare, both of which are meant to symbolize the absence of Christ.

The first thing most people will notice, however, is the Gospel reading because, for one thing, it’s really long, but it’s also divided into speaking parts (this is also done on Palm Sunday). I’m going to post the reading for today below and divide it into the different parts. There is room for some error here, as I’m dividing the parts…but you’ll get the general idea. It’s divided into sections, so I hope that will help everyone read it. It’s pretty involved. The priest will say the lines for Jesus, a narrator will fill in any non-speaking parts, a lector will do single speaking parts (like Pilate, for instance), and the parishioners are the crowd.

From the Gospel according to John, 18:1-19:42

Narrator: Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley
to where there was a garden,
into which he and his disciples entered.
Judas his betrayer also knew the place,
because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards
from the chief priests and the Pharisees
and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him,
went out and said to them,

Priest: “Whom are you looking for?”

Narrator: They answered him,

Crowd: “Jesus the Nazorean.”

 

Narrator: He said to them,

Priest: “I AM.”

Narrator: Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When he said to them, “I AM, “
they turned away and fell to the ground.
So he again asked them,
Priest: “Whom are you looking for?”
Narrator: They said,

Crowd: “Jesus the Nazorean.”
Narrator: Jesus answered,
Priest: “I told you that I AM.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”
Narrator: This was to fulfill what he had said,
“I have not lost any of those you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it,
struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear.
The slave’s name was Malchus.
Jesus said to Peter,
Priest: “Put your sword into its scabbard.
Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”

Narrator: So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus,
bound him, and brought him to Annas first.
He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year.
It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews
that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus.
Now the other disciple was known to the high priest,
and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.
But Peter stood at the gate outside.
So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest,
went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in.
Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter,
Lector: “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
Narrator: He said,

Lector: “I am not.”

Narrator: Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire
that they had made, because it was cold,
and were warming themselves.
Peter was also standing there keeping warm.
The high priest questioned Jesus
about his disciples and about his doctrine.
Jesus answered him,
Priest: “I have spoken publicly to the world.
I have always taught in a synagogue
or in the temple area where all the Jews gather,
and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me?
Ask those who heard me what I said to them.
They know what I said.”
Narrator: When he had said this,
one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said,
Lector: “Is this the way you answer the high priest?”
Narrator: Jesus answered him,
Priest: “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong;
but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
Narrator: Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm.
And they said to him,
Crowd: “You are not one of his disciples, are you?”
Narrator: He denied it and said,
Lector: “I am not.”
Narrator: One of the slaves of the high priest,
a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said,
Lector: “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?”
Narrator: Again Peter denied it.
And immediately the cock crowed.
Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.
It was morning.
And they themselves did not enter the praetorium,
in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.
So Pilate came out to them and said,
Lector: “What charge do you bring against this man?”
Narrator: They answered and said to him,
Crowd: “If he were not a criminal,
we would not have handed him over to you.”
Narrator: At this, Pilate said to them,
Lector: “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.”
Narrator: The Jews answered him,
Crowd: “We do not have the right to execute anyone, “
Narrator: in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled
that he said indicating the kind of death he would die.
So Pilate went back into the praetorium
and summoned Jesus and said to him,
Lector: “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Narrator: Jesus answered,
Priest: “Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?”
Narrator: Pilate answered,
Lector: “I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
Narrator: Jesus answered,
Priest: “My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
Narrator: So Pilate said to him,
Lector: “Then you are a king?”
Narrator: Jesus answered,
Priest: “You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Narrator: Pilate said to him,

Lector: “What is truth?”

Narrator: When he had said this,
he again went out to the Jews and said to them,
Lector: “I find no guilt in him.
But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover.
Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
Narrator: They cried out again,
Crowd: “Not this one but Barabbas!”
Narrator: Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.
And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head,
and clothed him in a purple cloak,
and they came to him and said,
Crowd: “Hail, King of the Jews!”
Narrator: And they struck him repeatedly.
Once more Pilate went out and said to them,
Lector: “Look, I am bringing him out to you,
so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”
Narrator: So Jesus came out,
wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.
And he said to them,

Lector: “Behold, the man!”
Narrator: When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out,
Crowd: “Crucify him, crucify him!”
Narrator: Pilate said to them,
Lector: “Take him yourselves and crucify him.
I find no guilt in him.”
Narrator: The Jews answered,
Crowd: “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die,
because he made himself the Son of God.”
Narrator: Now when Pilate heard this statement,
he became even more afraid,
and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus,
Lector: “Where are you from?”
Narrator: Jesus did not answer him.
So Pilate said to him,
Lector: “Do you not speak to me?
Do you not know that I have power to release you
and I have power to crucify you?”
Narrator: Jesus answered him,
Priest: “You would have no power over me
if it had not been given to you from above.
For this reason the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin.”
Narrator: Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out,
Crowd: “If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar.
Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

Narrator: When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out
and seated him on the judge’s bench
in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon.
And he said to the Jews,
Lector: “Behold, your king!”
Narrator: They cried out,
Crowd: “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!”
Narrator: Pilate said to them,
Lector: “Shall I crucify your king?”
Narrator: The chief priests answered,
Crowd: “We have no king but Caesar.”
Narrator: Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself,
he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others,
one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross.
It read,
“Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.”
Now many of the Jews read this inscription,
because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city;
and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate,
Crowd: “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’
but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.”
Narrator: Pilate answered,
Lector: “What I have written, I have written.”

Narrator: When the soldiers had crucified Jesus,
they took his clothes and divided them into four shares,
a share for each soldier.
They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless,
woven in one piece from the top down.
So they said to one another,
Crowd: “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “
Narrator: in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says:
They divided my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
This is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother,

Priest: “Woman, behold, your son.”
Narrator: Then he said to the disciple,
Priest: “Behold, your mother.”
Narrator: And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
Jesus said,

Priest: “I thirst.”
Narrator: There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
Priest: “It is finished.”
Narrator: And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one,
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken
and that they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs,
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side,
and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true;
he knows that he is speaking the truth,
so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:
Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says:
They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathea,
secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews,
asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus.
And Pilate permitted it.
So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night,
also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes
weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus
and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices,
according to the Jewish burial custom.
Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden,
and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.
So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day;
for the tomb was close by.

There is one more thing you might see. On Good Friday, Catholics all over the world will take part in what is called the veneration of the Cross. I have a picture of it below so that you guys can kind of get an idea of what this is like. Basically what happens is this: a deacon (or priest) will bring in a cross or crucifix. After the deacon and priest have venerated (kissed) the cross, the people are then invited to come up and do the same. Traditionally, the person will kneel or bow to kiss the foot of the cross/crucifix, but some people will just kiss one of the arms of the cross instead.

This man is venerating the Cross. As you can see, the Cross is held up so that the parishioners can easily kiss the wood.

Those are a few things about Good Friday.

Have a blessed Easter!

Reflections for Good Friday

Tomorrow is Good Friday, the day of Our Lord’s Passion and Death. Of course, many people will be trying to find material to use as a reflection for this holy day. So here’s my idea. It’s pretty simple, but when done with love and compassion, I believe it is of great value to Jesus.

During the day, unite yourself to Christ in His Passion. In spare moments when you aren’t working or when you have a break, reflect on His Wounds and suffering. Offer any sacrifices or hardships of the day to Him with love in union with the sufferings He bore for us on Calvary. At 3:00pm, I would encourage you to try to pray, make the Stations of the Cross, or say the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

May God bless you all!

Holy Thursday

“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Master, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.’ For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, ‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.’”

-Gospel reading for Holy Thursday, 2012 (from John 13:1-15)

 

Holy Thursday rolls around once a year…but in our frenzy to get ready for Good Friday and set up Easter baskets, we usually fail to realize what this day is really all about. Sure, we all heard the above Gospel reading in Mass this evening. Sure, we listened (or half-listened) to the homily presented. But do we really get it?

In this scene presented to us by St. John, we see something odd. The God of the Universe is  on His hands and knees with a towel around His waist washing the feet of twelve men. Is that not the complete opposite of what we would expect? Instead of basking in the praise of crowds, Jesus goes off to a mountain alone to pray. Rather than play it cool with the religious leaders of the day, He constantly calls them out. Knowing what awaited Him, He went to Jerusalem. And now, in that upper room, instead of reclining at table with His friends, He crawls around in the dirt and washes their feet.

Do you see?

Jesus gave the disciples a lesson that night that they could never forget. He, the Lord of everything, humbled Himself before them and served them. He taught them humility through this momentous action. Later that same night, Christ would further humble Himself by allowing His creatures to arrest and charge Him. The next day, He would take the sins of the world upon His shoulders and nail them to the Cross. Can we even begin to understand this overwhelming love and humility which Our Lord presents to us here? We would do well to take a lesson from Him.

“Do you realize what I have done for you?”, He asks His apostles. In other words, “Do you understand how much I, your God, have just humbled Myself?”.

I know we are all tempted to look at this Gospel passage and assign it a very specific time in history. In doing that, however, we fail to realize that He is asking us that same question today.

At every Mass, Jesus humbles Himself to come to us under the appearances of ordinary bread and wine. If we truly understood what this meant…our God humbles Himself to come to us as food! What more could we possibly want? He shows us the depths of His love in this Holy Sacrament. The question remains, as with the apostles, “Do you get it?”.

Reader Request: Homosexual Relationships

Question: What’s is the Church’s view on a homosexual relationship?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2357-2359, the Church defines her position on homosexuality in the following way:

“Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’142They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

Footnotes:

141 Cf. Gen 191-29; Rom 124-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10.

142 CDF, Persona humana 8.

The Catholic Church teaches that the inclination towards a person of the same sex in and of itself is not sinful because, after all, we all have the inclination to sin. However, to act on this desire is a sin because a homosexual relationship does not demonstrate the complementary way in which God made human beings: He made them as man and women and joined them as man and woman.

To answer the original question in a line, then, the Church is against homosexual relationships but does say that all homosexuals should be received with love by Catholics.

God Bless!