Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Prayer: What's Your Percentage?

By Danielle Hetzel
Brass percent
Photo courtesy of the user Leo Reynolds on Flickr.
As part of my celebration of the Year of Faith, I identified November as a month to concentrate on prayer.  I have ideas for other months, but I knew that I had to start with a strong foundation, and nothing is as strong as prayer.

As part of that, I started looking for a Catholic podcast for me to listen to on my commute.  I already listen to some about world news, science, and other things, but I figured this would be a good addition.  After doing some searching, I decided to give Discerning Hearts a try.

There is a lot of good stuff there, but one podcast really stood out in particular.  Mark Hart speaks on the First Commandment.  Beyond just defining the commandment, he talks about really living it in what you do everyday.  He tells us to break down your day into percentages and draw a pie chart.  How much of your day is spent in prayer?

Prayer Candles
Photo courtesy of the user Ame Otoko on Flickr.
I tried doing this, and it was difficult.  Writing it down with your own hand really helps you see how much better you could be doing.  And prayer does not have to mean that you have to stop everything else you are doing.  For example, I listen to the rosary on my drive to work every morning.  Maybe you could do something like that while you do dishes, run, or walk to the Metro.

It can go deeper than that, as well.  I can't always be praying a rosary while I am leading a meeting at work.  But I can still do my work as a prayer.  In fact, I can do everything as a prayer.  I can dedicate everything I do that day to God.  I have found that if I do this, I am more likely to live a Christian life.  If I consciously tell myself that my activities are for the Lord, then I am more motivated to live well.

The catechism has a prayer in it that speaks to this as well:
My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.
My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you. (CCC 226)
Give my all to you.  Giving your all should be reflected in your percentage.  I have a long way to go, but I hope that my prayer will help.
Lord, today I dedicate __________ to you.
Maybe that's my work, my sleep, my commute, my love for my family.  In the end, it should be all of the above.

Danielle is a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament who previously wrote on her son's Baptism for the blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving with the Holy Spirit and Bishop Loverde

by Mark Rothe, Master Catechist

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, our nation's oldest holiday, but the parish of Blessed Sacrament got an early start with the Turkey Dinner we held last Saturday evening.

On Thursday (and on Friday too for many people), we will gather with family and friends for a feast of succulent turkey, gravy, potatoes, stuffing, corn and green beans, cranberry sauce, pies and cookies, delicious wine, and more. Before eating, many will "say grace" and go around saying what they are thankful for.

But even though many gathered around the table do have this tradition of saying what they are thankful for, we do not call this Thankfulness Day, but Thanksgiving Day. Even for nonbelievers, this day is Thanksgiving Day. And to give thanks, rather than being merely thankful, means giving that thanks to someone.

Who is that someone to whom we give thanks on this holiday? Sure, some of the thanks will go to family and friends, but primarily our "thank you" is given to God. (Indeed, the word "holiday," even though used in a civic setting, is derived from "holy day.") "Thank you" not only for the food around the table, but for all of the blessings of our lives, even if we do not recognize them to be blessings.

The word for "thanksgiving" in Greek is, as you may already know, "eucharistia." This is the name we give to the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we receive at the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Bishop Paul Loverde came to our parish of Blessed Sacrament on Monday evening, November 19, for a Eucharistic celebration to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation upon many members of our parish community. Noting his own nervousness that the bishop might call on him when he was confirmed in 1950 at the age of ten, Bishop Loverde sought to reassure the confirmandi that one of the graces received from the Holy Spirit in Confirmation was that of strength and fortitude to not be afraid to give witness to the Lord, especially out there in the world, "where it really counts." In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit would come to dwell within the recipient; He would be a helper, a guide, and thereby transform the recipient into a clearer image of Jesus Christ to others and bind him or her more closely to the Church and her mission to be a witness of Jesus to others in everything we say and think and do.

Being a witness for the Lord in this world will not be easy for the newly-confirmed, Bishop Loverde said, but out there in the world is where this witness really counts, that is, that is where it is so necessary. From the many attacks on the sanctity of life to the scourge of drugs, alcohol, and pornography, to a culture of violence and injustice, and the many other failings or outright evils of humanity, the world is a cold and dark place, and it needs the Light of Christ that can shine through us by our witness of Him. The Holy Spirit is stronger than all the vices and evils of the world and with Him in our hearts, we can be heralds of hope to others. To do that, Bishop Loverde said, all one needs do is open his heart to receive the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and then to allow Him to remain there, dwelling within you.

These graces received in Confirmation are crucial to being an effective witness, including the grace of strength to resist peer pressure to engage in any number of wrongful things that the world tempts us to do and, by having this strength to say "no" to these things, and "yes" to God instead, we provide a witness and example that encourages others to avoid the wrong and do the good, we can be Good News to them.

In Confirmation, we join in the mission of the Church to share the Lord with others, and we should thank the Lord for being asked to serve Him in this way, to help Him in His work of redemption. The word "thanksgiving" is "eucharistia" in Greek. The Lord is our Eucharist, our Grace, and as Confirmed Catholics, we should seek to invite others to our feast with Him and in Him.

The turkey and wine we will eat and drink on Thanksgiving Day will be deliciously good, but they are pale imitations of the real food, the real drink that the Lord invites us to receive to have life in abundance. More than merely saying what we are thankful for, we need to give that thanks to Him, and beyond saying grace, we need to open our hearts to the grace of the Holy Spirit, to dwell within us and be a light of the Lord to others. More than merely inviting others to share turkey on Thanksgiving, we need to invite others to share in our Lord, the fullness of life, in the Eucharist. In love, with the graces of the Holy Spirit we received in Confirmation, we need to invite them to join us at the real Thanksgiving meal, not merely once a year, but to join in the joyous feast everyday of our lives.

See also, The First Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of President Washington (1789)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turkey Dinner Hosted by Knights of Columbus

Parishioners gathered to enjoy a turkey dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus in Quinn Hall on Saturday, Nov. 17.

Tickets for the dinner went on sale weeks before the dinner, but even so, after 5:00 p.m. Mass, the line flowed out the door as people waited to buy their tickets, $10 Adult, $4 Kids, $25 Family (kids under 4 eat free!). Proceeds will benefit Knights of Columbus parish projects.

Families and friends visited each other over plates of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans and plenty of other food, as well.

Dessert, of course, was pumpkin pie!

The dinner was a time to give thanks for the blessing of food and our parish community in this season of Thanksgiving.

O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks. (Psalm 30:13)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Necessity of Faith and the Power of Grace in the Fight for Life

If you ever get the chance to hear Guy Gruters speak, do it. And so it is that people are strongly urged to attend the talk he will give at Blessed Sacrament this Friday, November 16, at 7:30 p.m., "I Fought for Life!"

Guy Gruters at 2010 Men's Conference,
photo credit: Catholic Herald
In addition to being awarded more than 30 combat medals, including two silver stars, two distinguished flying crosses, two bronze stars for heroism, and two purple hearts, Capt. Guy Gruters (USAF, retired) was a guest of the infamous Hanoi Hilton for several years after his plane was shot down in 1967 during the Vietnam War. While there, he was nearly starved, the recipient of constant beatings and torture, and witness to the horrific deaths of fellow American POWs in captivity.

His response to this hell on earth? How did he learn to survive, both during his imprisonment and after his release in 1973?

Forgiveness, as related in this story --
As his friends were tortured and killed just feet away and he was unable to do anything to stop it, a maddening rage began to well up inside him that he said was the fruit of his pride. “Great anger started to grow in me,” he said. “And I didn’t know enough to stop it. I had never been angry at anybody in my life, really. But now I’m really angry. And it developed into a terrible hatred.” . . .

When he first arrived at the prison camp, he thought that God could not be anywhere near a place filled with such evil. Later, instead of looking at the evil that surrounded him, he repented of the evil that was within him.

“I just said the Act of Contrition over and over again,” Gruters said. “And I started saying the rosary even though I didn’t remember the mysteries.” This finally led him, grudgingly, to forgive his captors.

“It took me at least three months before I could even form in my mind the words, ‘Lord, I forgive them,’” Gruters said. “But I didn’t mean it. But I kept saying it. After six months, I would say, ‘Lord, I forgive them and I hope you get them to heaven. I understand that they’re your children. And I understand that you love them just like you love me. I’m with you on this. I want to love them. And I want to forgive them. I’m counting on you —- obviously, I don’t have the strength.’”

Such was the prayer of a humbled man.

“God converted my heart from total pride to being able to see through the pride and overcome the hatred and to start praying,” Gruters said. “Once that happened then there was the chance of living through the experience.” . . .

When Gruters forgave from his heart the brutal guards that seemed to be sent to him, he felt closer to God than at any other time in his life. “When I would pray for those people, I had this tremendous warmth in my heart. It was wonderful. It was great joy and peace,” he said. “The greatest joy and peace I’ve ever had in my life was in prison camp. Since I got back, ... I’ve never had that time that I had with God up there.”
(‘Lord, I forgive them’: Faith led POW to humility and peace in Vietnamese prison camp, Archdiocese of Indianapolis)
Prior to this speaking engagement at Blessed Sacrament, Capt. Gruters also spoke at the 2010 Men's Conference (mp3 podcast here), and he gave another excellent talk at Theology on Tap in Alexandria in 2008 (mp3 podcast here).

Forgiveness is not always easy. In fact, some evils are so great that it is essentially impossible for any human being to forgive them. Some hurts are just too large, some injuries are just too great (or sometimes we allow ourselves to get so self-centered that even little injuries seem great) that it is impossible for us to forgive. Or, perhaps we should emphasize that it is impossible for us to forgive. But with grace, you can do the impossible. The grace of the Holy Spirit allows us to what we otherwise could not humanly do, persevere in hope rather than give over to despair during times of hardship, suffering, and/or persecution, as well as doing that which is perhaps the most impossible thing to do at times -- forgive the unforgiveable, forgive the debt that can never be paid. Genuinely have love for an enemy. And then you can find peace and healing. The horror can be transformed and you can finally leave that Hell which is anger and resentment and despair.

Also, if you ever have the chance to read the book Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza, do so. She survived the Rwandan genocide while the rest of her family was hacked to death with machetes, along with hundreds of thousands of others. She made a discovery during that experience, as she writes in the Introduction to her book. "It is a lesson that, in the midst of mass murder, taught me how to love those who hated and hunted me -- and how to forgive those who slaughtered my family."

Capt. Gruters will be speaking on the topic "I Fought for Life!" as part of the Defend Life lecture tour. This is a fight we must all join in. Indeed, the battle is forced upon us whether we wish to engage in the fight or not. The Culture of Death continues apace. But we must not lose hope and should instead be encouraged and inspired by the witness of those like Guy Gruters. The battle is joined, but it will not be won by the force of violence, only by the conversion of hearts made possible through the power and grace of love.

--posted by Mark Rothe, Master Catechist

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Holy Mary, Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, Help of Christians

As we vote today and later await the election returns, Bishop Paul Loverde has asked us to pray and have recourse to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, especially under her title of “Mary, Help of Christians.”
Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, how sweet it is to come to your feet imploring your perpetual help. If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children, how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget us?
Grant then to us, we implore you, your perpetual help in all our necessities, in every sorrow, and especially in all our temptations. We ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.
Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners. Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life.
Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians, that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.

--prayer by St. John Bosco
In our reflections and meditations on the saints in this Year of Faith, there is no better place to start than with Our most Blessed Mother Mary.

On Thursday, November 8, 2012, at 7 p.m. in the parish center, Cinema Catechism will be presenting Episode Four of Fr. Barron's Catholicism series, Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast - Mary, the Mother of God, together with further discussion and reflections on Immaculate Mary, the Virgin Mother, assumed body and soul into heaven: the New Eve, Full of Grace, who carries the Lord within her and points us toward her Son while also pointing us toward our true selves, the people that God intended and intends for us to be in the fullness of Love and Truth. Master Catechist Roy Sheetz will provide catechesis and moderate the discussion. Go to the Cinema Catechism website for more information about the series and Mary.

Preview of Episode Four of Catholicism:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Living the Faith: Conscience and Election Day 2012

by Mark Rothe, Master Catechist

Tuesday, November 6, 2012, is election day. Part of living the faith -- everyday, in all aspects of our lives -- is the question of how to apply the truths of the faith, most especially the truths of the inherent dignity of the human person, in that part of civil society known as the political and electoral process. (See Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est 28-29)

As with all decisions in life, your ballot should be based upon a properly-formed good conscience and well-informed prudent judgment. However, it must be understood that conscience is not the same as one’s opinions or feelings, and one cannot choose or create his own conscience. That is not the conscience, that is the will. Rather, conscience is a judgment of reason in the application of objective moral truth to a particular case. (CCC 1777-82)

A major objective of the New Evangelization is to explain the faith more effectively, including correcting misconceptions and misunderstandings that might present obstacles to conversion and people fully accepting and living the Good News of Jesus Christ. And one enormous area of misunderstanding in the modern day is this concept of conscience, an error which has led many astray. The word "conscience" comes from the Latin "con-scientia," meaning "with knowledge." Knowledge of what? Knowledge of something other than our subjective selves, something that is beyond the self -- it is knowledge of objective and eternal truth, the "anamnesis" of the Creator who exhorts us to love in truth. Rightly understood, conscience is not the voice of self or the personal will, but is the voice of God within our hearts, our very souls; it is the light of objective moral truth which is given us so that we might make our way in the dark. (See Blessed Pope John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem 43, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 17)

The task of conscience is not to create moral truth, but to perceive it and then apply it, not ignore it. In our perception of such moral truth, we are assisted by the Magisterium of the Church, by the Pope and bishops, who are in turn specially guided and protected from error by the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete promised to us by Jesus Christ. Thus, as Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman noted, a properly-formed good conscience cannot be one that is in contradiction with the teachings of the Church.

Prior to the obligation of conscience is the obligation to properly form one's conscience, or more specifically, "an actual conscience, conscience understood as a 'co-knowing' with the truth," in the words of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (before he became Pope Benedict) in his 1991 talk, Conscience and Truth. If we have a false, improperly-formed conscience, one that is not "with knowledge" of objective truth, but is instead one that is "with ignorance" of objective truth, including knowing contradiction with authoritative Church teaching, including those teachings on the inviolability of human life, then we cannot assert a right to follow it. The obligation to follow one’s conscience is an obligation to follow a good conscience, one that is "with knowledge" of transcendent objective truth, and not a bad or malformed counterfeit "conscience." Conscience is meant to accuse one of error in sin, not justify it; and conscience is most emphatically not a license to delude oneself to truth so as to justify doing, facilitating, participating in, or formally cooperating with that which is intrinsically wrong or mala in se (evil in and of itself). One's "subjective conviction and the lack of doubts and scruples which follow therefrom" are not sufficient, explains Cardinal Ratzinger in Conscience and Truth, "it will not do to identify man's conscience with the self-consciousness of the I, with it subjective certainty about itself and its moral behavior," especially in a relativistic age when so many can no longer see moral fault and sin. (see also Blessed John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 24)

Photo of White Rose from Wikipedia
With this connection to transcendent objective moral truth, in all things, including when making electoral decisions, we have an obligation in conscience, written as law upon our hearts, to do the good and resist evil. (Gaudium et Spes 16) This obligation to follow a good conscience, properly formed in conformity with the teachings of the Church, does not restrict human freedom, but instead calls the person to genuine freedom in truth, for only in truth will one be set free. On the other hand, Cardinal Ratzinger continues in Conscience and Truth, "the identification of conscience with superficial consciousness, the reduction of man to his subjectivity, does not liberate but enslaves. It makes us totally dependent on the prevailing opinions and debases these with every passing day."

From the Pastor of Blessed Sacrament, Rev. John C. Cregan:
Eucharistic Adoration ~ Election Day
Once again, on Tuesday, November 6th, we have the great privilege of exercising our right to vote. Please [click here to read the] letter from Bishop Loverde and Bishop DiLorenzo. The bishops remind us that we are called to be responsible citizens and participate in the political life of our country. Indeed, they point out that participation is more than a privilege, it is a moral responsibility.

I encourage all in our parish who are registered, to vote on election day. It is a fundamental way to contribute to the common good. As people of faith, we are called to apply the principles of Church teaching to the many issues before us.

Prayerfully reflect this week before election day on the three-part framework provided by the bishops to form a correct conscience:
  • Many issues are important.
  • Not all issues have equal moral weight.
  • When the issue is whether to protect the fundamental right to life, this outweighs other matters.
We are called always to reverence the dignity of every human life, from the first moment of conception until natural death, and at every moment in between. From conception, every human life, conceived in God’s image, is precious and should be protected, affirmed and nurtured.

We are called to prayerfully approach our civic responsibilities in voting and ongoing advocacy. Our voices should be united, powerful and clear in support of life.

In these days as we approach election day, I urge all to prayerfully ask the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May He help us to make informed decisions based on a well-informed conscience.

On election day itself, we will have EUCHARISTIC ADORATION throughout the day (7 am – 7:30 pm). Stop by the Chapel and pray before you vote. Pray for our president and for all who aspire to high office. Pray for our country.
--Fr. John C. Cregan

See also -
Letters from Bishop Paul Loverde:From the USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
From the Virginia Catholic Conference:Doctrinal Note, On Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Human Life and the Obligation of Conscience

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints' Day

Throughout the liturgical year, the Church observes feast days for the various saints individually. We celebrate today the Solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of "Obligation," rejoicing in the Lord with a festival in honor of the entire multitude of the faithful who now live with Him and in Him in heaven, including the canonized saints and those whose names are known only to God.

In our previous post, Santo Subito: Answering the Call to be a Saint, we discuss the universal call to holiness, how we are all called to be a saint. Many people resist this call, believing it to be a great burden, a cumbersome obligation that they are not at all comfortable with. Sure, they would like to go to heaven -- and they expect that they will go to heaven -- but they are rather hesitant to fully embrace the holy life now or even aspire to it; they fully expect to receive God's grace of salvation at the end, even if they are not all that enamored of seeking and accepting His grace now. They believe that the road to sainthood will be too arduous and difficult and deprive them of their freedom.

But the call to sainthood is neither a burden nor a cumbersome obligation. Rather, it is a call to set down one's burdens and to embrace authentic freedom. The call to sainthood is nothing other than a call to be true to the person that you were made to be, one who loves God and others in truth.
Sometimes, people think that holiness is a privileged condition reserved for the few elect. Actually, becoming holy is every Christian's task, indeed, we could say, every person's! The Apostle writes that God has always blessed us and has chosen us in Christ "that we should be holy and blameless before love" (Eph 1:3-5). All human beings are therefore called to holiness, which ultimately consists in living as children of God, in that "likeness" with him in accordance with which they were created. All human beings are children of God and all must become what they are by means of the demanding process of freedom. God invites everyone to belong to his holy people. (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 1 November 2007)
The call to holiness is a call to stop wandering in the desert and finally accept God's invitation to enter into the Promised Land. Yes, it will be difficult (love always is), but it is what were made for, that is the meaning of life: to love and be loved in truth -- a love that is so full that we enter into communion with God and others, and so dynamic and fruitful that life is made ever new in Him.

This Year of Faith provides a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the saints while seeking to be one ourselves by conforming our lives every more closely to the Lord. This might include learning 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.

Here at Adoramus Te, the blog of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, we invite you to provide a personal witness, sharing your thoughts and reflections on the saints. For example: Which saints have had a special impact on you and how? What do you know of the saint whose name someone else gave you at Baptism, if baptized as a baby? Whose name did you take at Baptism, if baptized as an adult, and at Confirmation, and why? If you had the chance to do it again, would you take another saint's name? What saints' names did you pick for your children (or whose name would you pick if you were to have them), and why? Do you call upon certain saints for various things in your life? Do you have religious artwork in your home or prayer cards depicting saints? Tell us of any pilgrimages you have made to the tombs of saints and how it might have impacted you.

Where might one go to learn more about particular saints and sainthood in general?

Many books on the lives of the saints have been published and are available in libraries and bookstores. There are also many sources available on the Internet:
Catholic Community Forum
Catholic Culture (you'll need to know the saint's feastday or do a name search to get the information)
Catholic Information Network
Catholic Online
New Advent
Wednesday Audiences of Pope Benedict, Catechesis on the Saints

Litany of the Saints at the funeral for Blessed Pope John Paul II