Friday, August 30, 2013

Theology on Tap Comes to Blessed Sacrament!

That's right, in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Dedication of Blessed Sacrament Church, Theology on Tap is here at Blessed Sacrament - or the blog at least.

As summer ends and everyone starts looking to go back to school and back to work, this is a good time to review our lives, assess what is right and what is not so right, and determine where to go from here. Of course, in this Year of Faith, Popes Benedict and Francis have called us to do that with our faith, with our relationship with Jesus Christ, to recognize our need for continual conversion, that is, to constantly be turning toward the Lord, who makes all things new, including us and our faith.

Appropriately, first on tap is our beloved pastor, Father John Cregan, who speaks about "Saying Yes to Christ: Your Call to Serve." He begins with the story of his own vocation, first to the Marine Corps, then to the priesthood. Please click on the link to this mp3 podcast and listen to this powerful witness (right click to save it to listen later).

We are all called by God to some role, to some function. No part of the Body of Christ, of which we are all members, is superfluous. We are all wanted, we are all needed. He asks all of us to serve Him, to serve Him who is Love and Truth. There is none of us who is so lowly or inadequate that he or she cannot serve, especially since He gives us the grace to do what needs to be done. Indeed, it is in serving Him and others that we are made truly free, and it is in humility, in recognizing our lowliness and allowing the Lord to make us His instruments, that we are raised up. And it begins with prayer, in opening our hearts to God and then shutting up enough to allow Him to speak to us.

What is the Lord saying to you? What is He calling you to do? And when He asks, what is your response?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pope John Paul I

Can it really have been 35 years ago?

So it was. It was 35 years ago yesterday that Albino Luciani was elected as Pope John Paul I.

The following day, August 27, 1978, he gave his Urbi et Orbi message.
Placing our hand in that of Christ, leaning on him, we have now been lifted up to steer that ship which is the Church; it is safe and secure, though in the midst of storms, because the comforting, dominant presence of the Son of God is with it. . . .

The Church, in this common effort to be responsible and so respond to the pressing problems of the day, is called to give to the world that "strengthening of the spirit" which is so needed and which alone can assure salvation. The world awaits this today: it knows well that the sublime perfection to which it has attained by research and technology has already reached a peak, beyond which yawns the abyss, blinding the eyes with darkness. It is the temptation of substituting for God one's own decisions, decisions that would prescind from moral laws. The danger for modern man is that he would reduce the earth to a desert, the person to an automaton, brotherly love to planned collectivization, often introducing death where God wishes life.

The Church, admiring yet lovingly protesting against such "achievements", intends, rather, to safeguard the world, which thirsts for a life of love, from dangers that would attack it. The Gospel calls all of its children to place their full strength, indeed their life, at the service of mankind in the name of the charity of Christ.
Cardinal Luciani did not expect to become Pope, and his papacy did not last long, only 33 days. But that does not mean that he did not make an impact. In fact, Pope John Paul I made great contributions to the Church.

It was John Paul the First -- not the Second -- who began the new dawn of the Church, following the stormy night of the 20th century, which we were able to withstand because of the shelter of the Council and bravery of Paul VI. It was John Paul the First -- not the Second -- who began the process of demonstrating that the Church is not old and musty, but ever fresh and alive.

And, John Paul the First made the invaluable contribution of preparing the way for Karol Wojtyla to become Pope John Paul the Second. It was the very briefness his pontificate that led the cardinal-electors to look beyond Italy for a shepherd of the Church. So we should not for one moment think that such a short papacy meant that the cardinal-electors erred in choosing him to be pope. John Paul I accomplished his mission, he fulfilled his role, and prepared the Church and the world for the one who would come after him, leading the Church from the new dawn to the bright day.

One of the Cardinal-Electors, a Joseph Ratzinger from Germany, said of Pope John Paul I,
I was very happy about [his election]. To have as pastor of the universal Church a man of that goodness and with that luminous faith was the guarantee that things were going well. . . . Personally I’m altogether convinced he was a saint. Because of his great goodness, simplicity, humility. And for his great courage. Because he also had the courage to say things with great clarity, even going against current opinions. And also for his great culture of faith. He was not just a simple parish priest who had become patriarch by chance. He was a man of great theological culture and of great pastoral sense and experience. His writings on catechesis are precious. And his book Illustrissimi, which I read immediately after his election, is very fine. Yes, I’m convicted that he is a saint.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review:
Jacques Philippe, Time for God

by Jim Bradshaw

In his book, Time for God, Jacques Philippe presents a convincing account of the critical importance of mental or contemplative prayer. He begins by telling the reader what mental prayer is not. Mental prayer is not a technique. It is not akin to Yoga where the practice depends primarily on the efforts of the individual.

Distinct from the various spiritual techniques and practices of the East, Christian mental prayer is essentially and primarily a freely given gift of God. It is, first and last, a grace where God is the protagonist; God, in pursuit of the soul, reaches down to lift the soul up to loving communion with Him.

The author goes to great lengths to explain the internal dispositions of heart and soul which are essential to open the individual to this precious grace of contemplative prayer. The most fundamental internal disposition is that we live, and breath and act not by sight, but by faith.

Perhaps, we’ve heard this before, but what does it mean to live by faith?

To live and act, to make choices according to our Catholic faith, means to live out in daily prayer and action the Word of God as taught, professed and practiced by Holy Church. As Catholics we seek ardently to become of one mind with the Church just as we seek to become of one Body with Christ as we grow progressively in holiness by the daily practice of contemplative prayer and in participation in the Sacrament and Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Eucharist.
While the Mass is the “source and summit of the Christian life,” the full fruitfulness of the liturgy is not realized without patience and perseverance in mental prayer.

In Time for God, Jacques Philippe emphasizes that the more time we spend with God, the more time we will want to spend with God. And, the more time we will want to spend in loving service to our neighbor.

Jacques Philippe, Time for God (2008)
Scepter Publishers, Inc.

ADDED: Rev. Jacques Philippe is a member of the Community of the Beatitudes, founded in France in 1973. Also recommended are his other books of interest to modern readers, including the need for prayer, peace of heart, and a correct understanding of freedom. His books In the School of the Holy Spirit and Interior Freedom are also available from Scepter.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Daughter of her Son - the Assumption of Mary

by Mark Rothe, Master Catechist

Today is the Solemnity of the Bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate Mother of God, a "holy day of obligation."

 About this idea of Mass as an "obligation" --

 Yes, this is the Church's own terminology, and it is 100 percent true, but I'll confess I'm not entirely comfortable with the word in our contemporary times. Too many people associate "obligation" with drudgery, a burden, a really big pain, something one has to do when when he would rather being doing something else that is more interesting or beneficial. We're obliged to pay way too much of our hard-earned money in taxes rather than spend it on what we want to spend it on. We're obliged to get up in the morning and have to go to work, rather than sleep in and play all day. In most people's eyes, obligation is the antithesis of freedom. It is a matter of owing something to another, rather than giving it freely and voluntarily.

Well, Mass need not be, and should not be, seen as a burden and a hassle. Instead, it should rightly be seen an an opportunity. An opportunity to be with God and love Him. And the more we love Him, the more we receive from Him, the more we obtain the grace to be truly free, the freedom and power to do good and be the people we want to be, rather than be the slaves of worldly desire and sin. Thus, we can see that the truth of the "obligation" to attend Mass is not something that deprives us of freedom, rather, it is a truth that sets us free. In fact, it so liberates us that, by showing God your love at Mass, you can receive the "medicine of immortality," i.e. the Eucharist. It is hope, the hope by which we are already saved.

 If we love God, and if we want to be with Him in heaven, then we should want to be with Him for a little bit while we are still sojourning down here on earth. Conversely, if we purposely do not go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, we are saying that we do not want to be with God, we do not want to spend a measly one-hour in His presence. Not only does that end up making us less free, making us servants and slaves to worldly concerns and sin, it imposes the enormous burdens and pains and drudgery that are associated with worldly concerns and sin.

 Ultimately, of course, that means that if we do not want to be with God here and now, then we will not be with Him after we have left this earth. Despite the use of the word "obligation" to refer to Sundays and Holy Days, neither God nor the Church will force you to go to Mass, just as God will not force you to spend time with Him in heaven. You are perfectly free to spend your eternity apart from Him in hell if you desire.

 So, go to Mass!

If you have been away for awhile, for whatever reason you left and/or have stayed away, do not be afraid to admit that you are starving. Come home. The Father will slaughter the fatted calf and all of heaven will rejoice and celebrate.

 If it is not proper for you to receive Holy Communion because you’ve done something that you shouldn’t have done and thus are in a state of sin, but you like it and intend to keep on doing it, so that you're not ready to go to Confession yet, don't go up for Communion, but do still go to Mass! Jesus Christ is there!  (And work toward getting yourself to Confession!)

 If the liturgy is poorly done, or if the music is bad, or the homily is boring, or the other people are dressed inappropriately, or the priest/deacon/ministers are too liberal or too conservative or too this or too that, or you stayed out too late the night before, or you don't understand some of the teachings of the Church, or you think you know better and oppose the Church, or whatever million other excuses you can come up with, even when you are fully justified in your dissatisfaction, none of that is God's fault. Don't take it out on Him. He is the remedy to all these problems. He is the priceless pearl. The Eucharist is "the source and summit" of our faith. The Blessed Sacrament is Emmanuel, God with us. No matter how lousy everything else is, do not let that keep you from Him.

Mass is not a burdensome duty, but is an empowering opportunity. It should not be thought of as having to go to Mass, but as getting to go to Mass. An opportunity to be with God and love Him.