Monday, October 29, 2012

Santo Subito: Answering the Call to be a Saint

by Mark Rothe
Master Catechist, Diocese of Arlington

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen. (Apostle's Creed)
Pope Benedict celebrated Mass one week ago for the canonization of seven saints and we are soon approaching the Solemnity of All Saints on November 1. Thus, this is an opportune time to begin a new continuing series on the saints and sainthood.

We are invited in this Year of Faith to rediscover and receive once again the precious gift which is our faith, including studying, meditating upon, and praying in communion with the saints. In this Year, we might seek to learn more about those saints whose names we took in Baptism and/or Confirmation, those saints whose feast day we celebrate on a particular day, those saints for whom we already have a certain affection, and those saints who we know little or nothing about.
By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, whose names are written in the Book of Life (cf. Rev 7:9, 13:8), 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. (Porta Fidei 13)
By their lives and testimony of faith, those saints who reside now in Heaven provide excellent examples for us to follow in addition to interceding for us before God. This is an exceedingly good thing. Yet, at the same time, it does present some difficulties for many people.

Author Sherry Weddell recently spoke here at Blessed Sacrament about the great need to remedy the problem of, among other things, the large numbers of people who have a poor understanding of the faith and/or have left the Church for various reasons. In her book, she writes:
As we listened to Catholics talk about their spiritual journey, we began to realize that many assumed there were two basic spiritual "tracks"; "ordinary Catholic" and "saint." (Forming Intentional Disciples, p. 63)
In making such a distinction, despite the universal call to holiness (Lumen Gentium 39 et seq.), many Catholics believe that sainthood is simply beyond them. They hear the epic stories of the saints and those on their way to canonization, such as Blessed Mother Teresa, and they see larger-than-life superheroes. The prospect is daunting -- fearing that sainthood requires a high level of perfection that they simply could never attain, they do not even seek to live as saints. Moreover, they might even scoff and discourage others from wanting to be saints, accusing them of being arrogant and “holier than thou,” or by being overly technical with the term "saints," insisting that the correct Catholic understanding is that only those in heaven are saints, in contrast to a more Protestant view that anyone who has accepted Jesus is already a saint. At the same time, many of these same people assume that they will just naturally go to heaven when they die.

Of course, the truth is that the canonized saints were not superhuman, they were imperfect human beings like the rest of us. They too were works in progress during their lives, they too needed to go to Confession now and then. To be saints, these men and women needed grace. Besides, as popular saints such as St. Thérèse of Lisieux show us, one can be a saint by performing little things with great love. St. Josemaria Escrivá taught that, by united ourselves to the Lord, the work of our everyday lives could be Opus Dei, the work of God, and thus an occasion for our sanctification. Moreover, proper Catholic teaching is that the communion of saints includes the Church Militant (the faithful here on earth), as well as the Church Triumphant (those saints in heaven) (CCC 823, 946-962). While we are still works in progress and our "yes" to God will not be definitive until the end of our worldly journey -- being imperfect humans, there is always the chance that we will fall in sin -- if we persevere in the grace of the Lord, if we seek His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession so as to be restored to grace when we do sin, then in hope we are already saved, we are already "saints" (See Spe Salvi). So while a measure of humility in considering the lives of holy people is a good thing, we should not go so far as to believe that, because of our limitations, we should not even try to seek sainthood.

Wanting to be a saint is not prideful or arrogant, it is an act of humility. One becomes blessed and obtains the Kingdom of God not by being superhuman, but by being poor in spirit, by putting one’s life into the hands of God, by persevering through it all in His grace. One does not need to be a superhero to be a saint, one needs only to be heroic enough to ask God for that grace. This distinction between “ordinary Catholic” and “saint” is a false distinction. The saints were ordinary people, and ordinary Catholics are called to be, and should be, saints.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bishop Names Blessed Sacrament Church as a Place of Pilgrimage for the Year of Faith

Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde has named our Church of the Blessed Sacrament as a place where Catholics can obtain a plenary indulgence as part of the observance of the Year of Faith. A plenary indulgence is the complete remission of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains,
Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. (CCC, 1472)
The gift of a plenary indulgence takes away temporal punishment so that a person can begin again with a “clean slate,” so to speak, in one’s relationship with Almighty God as well as with our brothers and sisters in the mystical body, the Church. According to a decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which governs the reception of indulgences in the Church, the faithful can obtain the plenary indulgence if one is truly repentant, has received the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion, and prays for the intentions of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, at a place designated by the local bishop. There the person should at least pray with devout meditation and end the visit with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, and any invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the patron saints of the shrine or church. (See the Decree of the Apostolic Pententiary, 14 September 2012)

In addition to the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Bishop Loverde has designated the Cathedral of St. Thomas More and the Churches of Our Lady of Hope, St. John the Baptist, All Saints, St. Andrew, and St.Mary’s Fredericksburg as places of pilgrimage for the Year of Faith.

Blessed Sacrament Church is open every day by 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, by 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays, and 6:30 a.m. on Sundays.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Baptism at Blessed Sacrament - Part 3

By Danielle Hetzel

This is the third part in a series about Baptism at Blessed Sacrament.

On July 8th, my husband and I welcomed our baby boy, Brendan Thomas, to our family. Everyone was healthy and we started to settle into our new lives together.

Brendan Thomas, two days old
Both my husband and I were drawn to the name Brendan. After we did some research, it seemed appropriate because Saint Brendan is the patron saint of sailors and my husband is in the Navy. We chose the name Thomas because I had an Uncle Thomas growing up who died when I was in college. Saint Brendan and Saint Thomas are two great saints of the Church and we ask their prayers as our son grows in his relationship with God in the Church.

We had scheduled the Baptism for August 4 at 9:30 AM and we anxiously awaited getting to see friends and family. More importantly, though, we wanted to welcome Brendan into the Church family.

I highly recommend showing up at the Church at least 20 minutes before the baptism is scheduled. We were able to get prepared, and it eliminated any rush or worry. It was very nice to be in a calm, focused mindset for the ceremony. It also allowed our families to get settled and ready.

Brendan was wearing a Baptismal gown created from his grandmother's wedding dress. They are also available online and at Catholic bookstores. There were three babies getting Baptized that day, and every one had a unique gown.

In the Blessed Sacrament courtyard after the ceremony
As mentioned in the last post, the ceremony started outside of the actual sanctuary. After an initial blessing, we processed in to begin bringing our children into the Church body. The whole congregation was invited to take part in this procession, which was very unifying and welcoming.

The ceremony was similar in many ways to a Mass, which lent a nice familiarity. There were readings and a homily, and the choir sang some lovely songs.

Fr. Dyer's homily was about how Baptism should be the greatest day in your child's life. In his life, he realized that his favorite number, which was the jersey number of his favorite football player, was also the date of his Baptism. That was just one time where he realized that God works in many ways. Perhaps someday Brendan's favorite number will be 84.

The actual Baptism was a very happy and exciting occasion. It was wonderful to be surrounded by friends and family and welcome our son into the Church. He didn't even cry when the water was poured on his head, which was great. Overall, he was very good for the ceremony.

As a remembrance of the day, each family gets to keep the small white garment the child receives after being baptized. The priest presents the meaning by saying, “See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.” You also keep the baptismal candle that the child’s parents and godparents received for the child during the liturgy to symbolize that the light of Christ is kept by the family after the baptism. During the liturgy the priest says, “Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ.” When Brendan is old enough to hear the story of his Baptism, we will have his candle and white garment to show him, along with pictures of the ceremony.

If you are curious about the words of the Rite of Baptism, you can read them online. The iBreviary site provides them in English and Latin.

We were very blessed to celebrate the sacrament of Baptism at Blessed Sacrament. It was a wonderful community experience. We bought a brick commemorating the day to help support Blessed Sacrament's Courtyard Project and so that someday we can show Brendan how important this day was.

Thank you for joining us on our journey of Baptism at Blessed Sacrament. If you have any questions or comments of your own, please feel free to leave it below.
Brendan with his brick in the courtyard at Blessed Sacrament

God bless!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Preparing for Marriage - Part 2

by Nicole (Fernandes) Racadag

“Marriage is a lifelong partnership of the whole of life, of mutual and exclusive fidelity, established by mutual consent between a man and a woman, and ordered towards the good of the spouses and the procreation of offspring.” Marriage is a model institution of the love of God that a couple is called to in the world. The sacredness, trust, and commitment builds a forever capacity to live out the sacrament for the rest of their lives. - The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 1601)

As my husband Ivan and I approach our three-month anniversary, it seemed time to reflect on the events of the week leading up to our wedding on July 21. The weeks before our wedding were a hectic, emotional and exciting time in our lives as we prepared to exchange those vows that six months of pre-marriage counseling had prepared us for. As our wedding day approached, it was so easy to get swept up in the last-minute details and preparations. Would the cake, food and alcohol be enough to satisfy our growing guest list? Would we be able to finish all the place cards in time? Would it be a sweltering 100 degree day that would impede our plans to take photos outside the West Virginia State Capitol?

We are sure all brides and grooms can relate to this. The feelings of anxiety, anticipation, excitement, etc. We get so consumed with perfecting the details of the wedding that it becomes easy to lose sight of the fact that what we are preparing for is not the “wedding” but the “marriage.”

Ivan and I took time, amidst last-minute catering checks and salon appointments, on the Tuesday of our wedding week to meet with our home parish priest, Father Carlos Melocoton. Father Carlos urged us to slow down and to pray for love, understanding and guidance as we approached the day we would exchange our vows before God, our families and our friends in our home parish church of the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, WV. Although we only met with him for an hour, it filled us with a renewed understanding of the importance of the upcoming event.

We were not going to be bogged down over the minute details of preparing for a day - we were going to plan and pray for every day after that day. In my parents' speech to us at our wedding reception, they said, "Marriage is not a bed of roses." It takes commitment, love and understanding to make a marriage last a lifetime. That's why it is so important to have your hearts and minds centered on that as your wedding day nears and especially on the day of the wedding.

Our advice to soon-to-be-married couples is this: Take time during your wedding week to reflect on the sacrament you are about to participate in. Marriage between a baptized man and woman is a sacrament and it means that the bond between husband and wife is a visible sign of the sacrificial love of Christ for his Church. Remember that your wedding day is simply that - a day. Marriage is a lifetime.

Read Preparing for Marriage (part one) here.

Sherry Weddell on Forming Intentional Disciples

Sherry Weddell, co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute and author of the book Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Know and Follow Jesus spoke at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church last Friday and Saturday about the current state of affairs in the Church in the United States. The talks drew large crowds of people, many from other parishes.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Reed
Ms. Weddell, who gave her talks here on the eve of World Mission Sunday, has been giving similar presentations to parishes and dioceses all over the country, making it her mission to help people to understand their mission of being a fruitful witness of Jesus Christ. In her talks at Blessed Sacrament, she took as her starting point various survey results and statistics (which confirmed what many have suspected all along) showing a disappointing level of knowledge of the faith and involvement in the Church, but more importantly, a failure of so many to understand that our faith is not about simply knowing some religious facts or adopting certain moral and ethical guidelines or about following a bunch of rules.

These survey results demonstrate that, for various reasons, so many people fail to grasp that our Catholic faith is actually primarily about relationship -- having an encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ and establishing and fostering a joyous personal relationship with Him. Our faith must become a living and dynamic lived faith, a faith that reflects that relationship of love that we are called to have with our Lord, and not merely a begrudging or passive faith, much less a joyless or even an antagonistic one.

Accordingly, as Ms. Weddell implored, there is a need for us to become "intentional disciples" of Jesus, not merely for ourselves, but so that we might be better able to spread the light of His love and truth to others. Perhaps this need is most pressing with respect to our brothers and sisters in Christ who have drifted or fallen away or ran away from the Church or those still in the Church but who are at risk of leaving now in favor of something else, either Protestant congregations, secular worldly concerns, or outright agnosticism or atheism.

The summary for Ms. Weddell's recent book describes the situation this way:
How can we transmit a living, personal Catholic faith to future generations? By coming to know Jesus Christ, and following him as his disciples.

These are times of immense challenge and immense opportunity for the Catholic Church.

Consider these statistics for the United States.

•Only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing.
•Fully 10 percent of all adults in America are ex-Catholics.
•The number of marriages celebrated in the Church decreased dramatically, by nearly 60 percent, between 1972 and 2010.
•Only 60 percent of Catholics believe in a personal God.

If the Church is to reverse these trends, the evangelizers must first be evangelized -- in other words, Catholics-in-the-pew must make a conscious choice to know and follow Jesus before they can draw others to him. This work of discipleship lies at the heart of Forming Intentional Disciples, a book designed to help Church leaders, parish staff and all Catholics transform parish life from within. Drawing upon her fifteen years of experience with the Catherine of Siena Institute, Sherry Weddell leads readers through steps that will help Catholics enter more deeply into a relationship with God and the river of apostolic creativity, charisms, and vocation that flow from that relationship for the sake of the Church and the world.

Learn about the five thresholds of postmodern conversion, how to open a conversation about faith and belief, how to ask thought-provoking questions and establish an atmosphere of trust, when to tell the Great Story of Jesus, how to help someone respond to God's call to intentional discipleship, and much more.

And be prepared for conversion because when life at the parish level changes, the life of the whole Church will change.
Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Know and Follow Jesus is available for purchase at the Catherine of Siena Institute website (where proceeds will go toward helping the Institute's mission of equipping parishes for the evangelization and formation of lay Catholics for the sake of their mission in the world) or at other places where books are sold. The website also includes the Intentional Disciples Blog, where Ms. Weddell posts and continues the discussion she began in her book and speaking tour.

See also "Called to radiate the Word of truth," Message of Pope Benedict for World Mission Day 2012.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Meet Our New Saints from the United States:
St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Marianne Cope

(Please note that there may be a delay in these videos loading from YouTube to your browser.)

Scenes from the Canonization Mass, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI about St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks

"Kateri Tekakwitha was born in today’s New York state in 1656 to a Mohawk father and a Christian Algonquin mother who gave to her a sense of the living God. She was baptized at twenty years of age and, to escape persecution, she took refuge in Saint Francis Xavier Mission near Montreal. There she worked, faithful to the traditions of her people, although renouncing their religious convictions until her death at the age of twenty-four. Leading a simple life, Kateri remained faithful to her love for Jesus, to prayer and to daily Mass. Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God. She lived a life radiant with faith and purity.

"Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture. In her, faith and culture enrich each other! May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are. Saint Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America! May God bless the first nations!" (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Oct. 21, 2012)
Homily of Pope Benedict XVI about St. Marianne Cope of Molokai

"I now turn to Marianne Cope, born in 1838 in Heppenheim, Germany. Only one year old when taken to the United States, in 1862 she entered the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis at Syracuse, New York. Later, as Superior General of her congregation, Mother Marianne willingly embraced a call to care for the lepers of Hawaii after many others had refused. She personally went, with six of her fellow sisters, to manage a hospital on Oahu, later founding Malulani Hospital on Maui and opening a home for girls whose parents were lepers. Five years after that she accepted the invitation to open a home for women and girls on the island of Molokai itself, bravely going there herself and effectively ending her contact with the outside world. There she looked after Father Damien, already famous for his heroic work among the lepers, nursed him as he died and took over his work among male lepers. At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm. She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved Saint Francis." (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Oct. 21, 2012)
The Pope's entire homily text from today's Mass in Saint Peter's Square highlights the lives of these seven holy men and women.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Snapshots from the Bishop's Synod on the New Evangelization

The Synod of Bishops on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith is continuing its work in Rome through all of next week, concluding on October 28. Vatican Radio has some photographs on its Facebook page providing a nice insider's look on the bishops and Pope in the Synod hall.

On Wednesday, October 17, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington and Relator General for the Synod on the New Evangelization, provided a report on the discussion thus far at the Synod:
For the past several weeks, we have listened attentively to the reflections on what the New Evangelization means and how the Church might best address concerns that have led to this call by our Holy Father for a New Evangelization. . . . These following reflections are intended in some way to help the discussion in the language groups (circoli minori) as they prepare propositions to offer to the Holy Father at the conclusion of our work. With these observations I also include a number of points for development.

In this relatio, I will summarize some of the observations presented under the following headings:
1. The Nature of the New Evangelization;
2. The Context of the Church’s Ministry Today;
3. Pastoral Responses to the Circumstances of Our Day; and
4. Agents / Participants of the New Evangelization.
Read the rest of Cardinal Wuerl's report at Zenit News Service.

Below is a video report about Cardinal Wuerl and the Synod. Please note that sometimes there may be a delay in the video loading from YouTube to your browser.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Year of Faith Internet Resources

Ever want to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but didn't know if you could make it through the whole book? One option to try in this Year of Faith is to receive a daily e-mail with a little bit of the Catechism in your inbox each morning. Sign up by clicking on the link below (it's free!). The e-mails started on Oct. 11, the first day of the Year of Faith:
Did you know the Diocese of Arlington has its own Year of Faith website? Check it out here:
For daily prayer, you can read the daily Mass readings as well as pray the Liturgy of the Hours online here:
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has his own section on the Vatican website.  Go here and then click on the Pope's picture to read his homilies, letters and various documents.
The Vatican also has its own website for the Year of Faith where we can find plenty of handy resources to better understand our faith. Why not try to read a little from the "We Believe" section each week?  Also on this site on Sunday, Oct. 21 you can even watch live coverage of a Mass of Canonization celebrated by the Pope.  Among the soon-to-be new saints are Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who will be the first Native American saint in the United States.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Let Us Pray

by Mark Rothe
Master Catechist, Diocese of Arlington

It begins . . . with prayer. It begins as it should, as it must if it is to be fruitful, with prayer.

Most appropriately, the Year of Faith was inaugurated at Blessed Sacrament with that most special prayer which involves adoration of our Lord in the most Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. There is a great need in this Year of Faith, together with the New Evangelization, for a better appreciation of the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, Father Anthony Killian said in his sermon at the Holy Hour on Thursday, October 11. He noted how St. Faustina recounts in her diary when Jesus had sadly told her that, all too often, with respect to the Eucharist, people "treat me as a dead object." But He is alive -- in Him, all things are made new, and we can ourselves be renewed in receiving the living Risen Christ, "the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ." (CCC 1405, quoting St. Ignatius of Antioch)

Renewal in Him and through Him is a major reason for the Year of Faith. It is an exhortation to be renewed, Fr. Killian said, so that we can then joyously take that renewed and reinvigorated faith to others.

It must be a living faith and a lived faith that we take to others, rather than treating our Lord and our faith as if they are dead objects. We must open our hearts to Him, to His Spirit of Love and Truth, and worthily receive His Body in Holy Communion with Him, so that His Light might more clearly shine through us, through our lives and witness of Him.

How might we open our hearts in this Year of Faith? What are some of the activities we might engage in during this Year? How might we better inform our intellects and prepare ourselves for the New Evangelization, for our actively participating in the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to a cold and dark world sorely in need of some good news?

There are and will be plenty of opportunities to renew and grow in your faith this coming year. For example, Pope Benedict chose October 11, 2012, to open the Year of Faith precisely to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Accordingly, this would be a good opportunity to study the Council, including both the texts and understanding why Pope John XXIII was inspired to call the Council, what he sought to accomplish in the Council, and what the Council fathers believed they had done upon its conclusion, so that you might properly read the texts in continuity with the entire 2000-year deposit of faith. One might also take the occasion to read the various magisterial documents implementing the teachings of the Council, as well as reading other encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, etc. on other aspects of the faith.

In addition to reading authoritative magisterial documents, you might also read some of the writings of the doctors of the Church, the early Church Fathers, and other saints. You might read these materials on your own or you might take advantage of the many programs and talks that are offered at Blessed Sacrament and nearby parishes. For example, this coming Thursday at 7 p.m., we are showing Episode Three of Father Robert Barron's excellent Catholicism series as part of our Cinema Catechism program, and there are also showings on Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. On Friday evening at 7:30 p.m., Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples and co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute, will be speaking on New Evangelization in the Year of Faith: "Do We Believe More in God's Love Than In Our Own Weakness?" Ms. Weddell is also giving a talk on Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., entitled "Forming Intentional Disciples: A Workshop for Parish Leaders" (registration is requested).

If you have not already read the Catechism, now is a good time to do so, or re-read it. The Catechism is a precious and indispensable tool to arrive at a systematic knowledge of the content of the faith, Pope Benedict reminds us in Porta Fidei. Of course, you might even think about reading the Bible -- the whole Bible. Find a good and authoritative translation that you feel comfortable with and read it in its entirety.

Beyond personal study, you who are married should be helping your spouse to grow in the Lord and you parents should become more engaged in your children's religious formation. This would also be a good time to become more active in the parish. Outside the parish, you might consider becoming more active in various works of mercy and charity in the community.

However, in all of these various activities that we might engage in during the Year of Faith seeking to renew our own faith, to wake ourselves from our slumber, so that we might be better and more effective workers in the vineyard of the Lord, if we are to be successful, if the vineyard is to actually bear fruit, we cannot do these things on our own. We need help. We need the Lord to accompany us in the field and as we journey through life. In short, we need to pray.

The Year of Faith and the New Evangelization begin with prayer. They must begin with prayer and they must continue to be prayerful throughout. In humble prayer, in responding to the Lord who is already calling upon us, we open our hearts to communication and communion with God. The whole point of the Year of Faith is to grow in faith, which means not simply gaining in intellectual knowledge of various facts about Jesus, but having a closer and more intimate encounter with Him personally. Our knowledge of Him who is Life must be a living knowledge, a knowledge that is alive, and not merely an inanimate acquisition of facts as if He were a dead thing, as if He was merely some historical guy from ancient Nazareth.

We must know Him in our hearts by maintaining communication with Him through prayer, not only so that we might ever be connected with Eternal Life, but so that we might be able to be His witnesses. "It is always important for us to remember that the first condition to speak about God is to speak with God," instructs Pope Benedict XVI (Address of May 24, 2012), echoing what he said before he became Pope, "We ourselves cannot gather men. We must acquire them by God for God. All methods are empty without the foundation of prayer. The word of the announcement must always be drenched in an intense life of prayer." (Address of December 12, 2000)

So, let us seek to improve ourselves in our prayer life. In his homily at last Wednesday evening's Mass, Fr. Killian said that one of the biggest things that people raise with him and other priests is a desire to improve their prayer life. This is nothing new -- the Apostles themselves asked Jesus how to better pray. Especially in this noisy world, where there are all sorts of distractions, and what with all the various hardships that people endure, which might cause us anxiety and restlessness, prayer can be difficult at times.

Perhaps one way to improve yourself with respect to prayer is simply to make a more concerted effort to pray. Every day. Make an act of the will and decisively resolve to set aside one or two times, five or ten minutes every day (or more), perhaps when you first wake up or before going to bed or some other specific time, and simply bring your life to a screeching halt. Call a time-out and just stop all those worldly things that you otherwise would do. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and try to shut out the world. And then pray. Even if the world tries to intrude, just keep going. Speak to God, open your heart to Him, and allow Him to speak to you. Indeed, in prayer, God has already taken the initiative, and we are really responding to Him when we pray.

If your mind is too flustered to pray in your own words, pray with the Church with the standardized written prayers, the Our Father, Glory Be, the Hail Mary, etc., so it is not just you praying individually, but praying in communion with all the faithful. Make this part of your routine, seeking the grace to be able to pray better, so that if you are not able to shut out the world on your own, God will give you the help by grace to do so, and your prayer life will improve. If you are really ambitious, consider learning the prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, where you alternate a selection of psalms with other prayers and readings, and which is ideally said at the given specific times of the day.

Another possibility in improving your prayer life this year might be to go beyond personal prayer and participating in the many prayer groups at Blessed Sacrament or other parishes. One excellent and highly recommended opportunity right now is 40 Days for Life. Beside these 40 days, there are permanent prayer vigils held every day outside local abortion facilities. Also on a permanent basis at Blessed Sacrament are Eucharist Adoration on Fridays, children's Adoration on Fridays, the Legion of Mary on Thursdays, the Padre Pio prayer group on Sundays, the Mom's Rosary Group, and others.

The Year of Faith has begun with prayer. Let it continue with prayer. Let us pray that the Lord stay with us and walk with us. Let us pray, "Credo Domine, adauge nobis fidem!" (I believe, Lord, increase our faith!). In the communion of prayer, let us join ourselves with His Mother, our Blessed Mother, and the other saints, so that they might ever be at our side, guiding us and praying with and for us. With prayer, we keep the soil fertile, we keep the soil watered, and thus we allow the seeds planted in our hearts by God to grow and bear fruit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Holy Hour Opens Year of Faith

All are welcome on Thursday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m. for a Holy Hour in the church with Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament as our parish marks the beginning of the Year of Faith.  Join us for prayers, hymns, a spiritual talk and Benediction (at approximately 8:20 p.m.).
October 11 begins the Catholic Church's celebration of the Year of Faith, called for by Pope Benedict XVI.  Above all, this year is a celebration of our belief in a Person, Jesus Christ, "the leader and perfecter of faith" (Heb 12:2). 

In his Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei ("The Door of Faith") released October 17, 2011 to announce the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us, "The 'door of faith' (Acts 14:27) is always open to us."

The Holy Father wrote, "To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. 1 Jn 4:8)."

"Faith," the Holy Father added, "commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world.  What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end" (Porta fidei, 14).

The Vatican has designated a website -- Annus Fidei -- filled with information about this special year.  The October 11 starting date for the Year of Faith was chosen by the Pope to mark two significant anniversaries, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the promuglation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The Year of Faith will conclude on November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Growing in our faith in Jesus Christ and continually being formed by his Gospel through the Holy Spirit is an important task we all share in this year.  "To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, (cf. Constituzione Apostolica, Fidei Depositum, 116) and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year” (Porta fidei 9).